Topline Trends Tuesday: Preserving: jam, jelly and pickles

June 30, 2009


I’m posting about an hour early today. It’s not that I’m an early bird looking for a worm or that I’m more organized than usual. No, I’ve got camp induced insomnia. My son left yesterday for camp and, although I looked forward to the peace and quiet of the house being an adult sanctuary, the truth is, it’s just not the same without his smelly boy bones cluttering the place up. 1 day down; 27 to go.

Fortunately, I have my work to divert me and that means that you get Today’s Topline Trends Tuesday an hour or so earlier than usual!


Although it’s not a new way to spend time in the kitchen, preserving is back! In fact, it’s difficult to find a publication that doesn’t have a story or feature about making jam or jelly right now. Specifically, I noted articles in the New York Times, the June issue of Eating Well, the May issue of Waitrose Food Illustrated and the June issue of Sainsbury’s. And in cyberspace, ChezPim has been making (and selling!) marmalade all winter while Jessie presented these quick, fresh pickles in her blog.

While the current crop of preserving articles focus on fruity concoctions, I’m pretty confident that pickling and other canning methods will turn up in the late summer and early autumn issues of many national and international magazines, too.I just hope no one gets to Luke Despatie before I do ‘cause I want to pick his brain and post his pickling tips for you guys here. (Luke’s stand out pickles came in second at his local fall fair, which makes me very curious about the winning pickles; I just can’t imagine any better than Luke’s!) And, of course, my long time friend and colleague Jennifer Mackenzie’s new book The Complete Book of Pickling, is going to be at my elbow all season long, too.

What about you? Are you a committed canner? Newly canning curious? Or, do you prefer to buy your jams, jellies, pickles and condiments fully made and ready to enjoy? I confess that when I was a kid, I loved helping my mom strain jelly but as an adult, I rarely make jam or other preserves since there are so many wonderful ones on store shelves.


Perfect weather for grazing

June 24, 2009

I love the extended daylight we have at this time of year. I feel so much more motivated to get out and do things. Unfortunately, it also seems to lead to less impetus to cook a full meal between the hours of 5 and 7 pm. In fact, it’s this time of year when we seem to nibble and nosh pretty much all evening. A yummy salad around 6:30 pm; some grilled Korean short ribs at 7:30 pm (or when Oliver takes a break from shooting hoops in the drive way with his friends); a bowl of strawberries with ice cream at 9 pm…’s an extended meal time pattern that just seems to work at this time of year.

My old friend Julie Van Rosendaal obviously follows a similar pattern. If you read her blog Dinner with Julie, you’ll know that her life is truly hectic.  She has a vibrant media career with crazy hours, a toddler and an abundance of charity commitments that keep her going hither and thither.  Through it all she manages to create, photograph and post some of the yummiest and best recipes in Canada. Besides being part of the new superstar blogger project Good Bite, she’s also just released an updated, newly formated version of one of her books and the timing, for me at least, couldn’t be better. Grazing: A Healthier approach to Snacks and Finger Foods is packed with just the kinds of foods I need for summer. From cheesy black bean dip to hoisin pork lettuce wraps, this collection of snack foods is going to get a lot of use not only next week on Canada Day but all summer long.

I asked Julie what snacks she recommends for this weekend and on Canada Day and she suggestee totally on-trend but still proudly Canadian Dukka Salmon Sticks:

Dukkah Salmon


Dukkah is a fantastic blend of spices and nuts that you could eat out of hand or sprinkle on salads, but its intended serving method is to put it out in a shallow bowl alongside crusty bread and good olive oil; you dip the bread into the oil and then into the dukkah. So since there is dipping action involved, here it is. If there is a snack out there that’s good for your heart, this is it.

3/4 cup hazelnuts or whole almonds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
2 Tbsp. coriander seeds
2 Tbsp. cumin seed
1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. flaky sea salt

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spread the hazelnuts out on a baking sheet and roast for 5-10 minutes, or until golden and fragrant. Transfer them onto a tea towel, fold the towel over and rub them to remove as much of the skins as you can; set aside to cool. (If you’re using almonds, toast them but don’t worry about removing the skins.)

In a dry skillet, toast the sesame seeds over medium heat, shaking the pan often, until golden and fragrant. Transfer to a bowl. Add the coriander and cumin seeds to the pan and toast until they begin to pop; transfer to a food processor with the hazelnuts and pulse until finely ground, then add to the sesame seeds and stir to combine them. Season with salt and pepper and blend well.

Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

Per tablespoon: 55 calories, 5.1 g total fat (0.5 g saturated fat, 3 g monounsaturated fat, 1.2 g polyunsaturated fat), 1.8 g protein, 1.8 g carbohydrate, 0 mg cholesterol, 0.7 g fiber. 76% calories from fat

Honey, Ginger & Sesame Salmon Sticks

To me, these are like candy on a stick; I’d eat the whole lot if no one was around to fight me for them. Salmon is a fatty fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which fight heart disease by lowering triglyceride levels and seem to have a protective effect against some forms of cancer.

1 1/2 lbs. salmon filet
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. lime or lemon juice
1 Tbsp. finely grated ginger
Sesame seeds, toasted, for sprinkling

Cut salmon into big bite sized pieces. Combine the honey, soy sauce and lime juice in a bowl or large zip-lock bag. Add the salmon and stir or shake to coat well. Cover (or seal) and refrigerate for 24 hours, or at least one hour if that’s all you have time for.

When you’re ready to cook them, thread each piece of salmon onto a bamboo skewer that has been soaked in water for at least 10 minutes. Grill over high heat for a couple minutes per side, until just cooked through, or broil for 3-4 minutes. Don’t overcook them or the salmon will dry out.

Place the sesame seeds in a shallow dish and dip one side of each skewer in the seeds to coat, or sprinkle them overtop. Serve immediately.

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen salmon sticks.

Per stick: 95 calories, 2.5 g total fat (0.6 g saturated fat, 0.9 g monounsaturated fat, 0.9 g polyunsaturated fat), 9.5 g protein, 9.6 g carbohydrate, 24.6 mg cholesterol, 0 g fiber. 23% calories from fat

Honey-Mustard Salmon Sticks: add 1 Tbsp. grainy Dijon mustard to the marinade mixture instead of the ginger.

Honey, Garlic & Ginger Sesame Chicken Sticks: add 4 crushed cloves of garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes to the marinade, and use skinless chicken breasts or thighs in place of the salmon. (They’ll take a little longer to cook.)

Dukkah Salmon Sticks: don’t marinate the salmon at all, but cube, brush with a little oil and cook it on skewers as directed. Instead of sesame seeds, dip each piece into a shallow dish of dukkah

Recipe, variations and photo reprinted with permission of the author from Grazing: A Healthier approach to Snacks and Finger Foods (Whitecap 2009).

Win a copy of Dana’s Top Ten Table

June 8, 2009

Dana's Top Ten

Charmian Christie is very graciously hosting a contest where the prize is a copy of my latest book. Drop by and visit her blog for a chance to win!

Topline Trends Tuesday: Kindle – meet your next cookbook shelf

March 3, 2009


Photo credit:

Did I ever mention here that I have a degree in English literature? That many times? Really? Um, sorry.

Anyhow, as a result of my love of books, I became a Lit major; that love continued well into my adult life and led me to amass a lot of books of all kinds. In fact, I’ve had to move my cookbook library out of my house (it now takes up a full room at my test kitchen) and I’ve started to abandon novels that I’ve read and don’t plan to read again in coffee shops. Yes, I know that the library is just around the corner from my house, but as an author myself, I buy books to support my industry.

While I’m sure that I’ll always have more books in my home than the average person, I’m so fatigued by clutter management that I’m very excited about the possibilities the Kindle offers readers and home cooks alike.

While the iphone and Nintendo DS are shouting ‘look at me’ to get home cooks to use these devices in the kitchen, the Kindle is quietly gaining momentum as a portable cookbook storage device that you can take with you and use anywhere. In fact, on Amazon, there are already 2,105 food related titles available for downloading on the Kindle!

I haven’t had a chance to use a real live Kindle yet but I like what I see! In fact, I think being able to consolidate even just my newspaper and magazine reading into a Kindle would be efficient and a great use of the world’s resources since fewer trees would be harmed by my voracious magazine addiction.

Have any of you used a Kindle? If so, did you like it or find flaws people like me need to know about before we lay our credit cards on the shop counter?

Even if you haven’t tried one out, tell me how you feel about this innovation- does it inspire you or get your ire up?

Coping with cookie conundrums

December 12, 2008


Crumbling under the pressure of producing perfect holiday wafers? Worried Santa will turn and run when he sees the snack you’ve left for him? Check out these sources for inspiration, recipes and tips for baking and decorating the best cookies ever!

By the way, for those of you who saw me baking holiday treats on Ottawa’s A Morning and Daytime Ottawa shows today, you’ll find the full recipes at Everyday Celebrations.

Internet Help:
5 Second Rule Cookie Virtual Cookie Exchange
Dessert First
Chicago Tribune’s Cookie Contest Winning Tips

Written Resources:
Canadian Living: The Complete Christmas Book
Field Guide to Cookies: How to Identify and Bake Virtually Every Cookie Imaginable
Great Canadian Cookies
The Good Cookie
One Smart Cookie
Decorating Cookies

Brain food?

November 19, 2008

dsc006521What’s 11 lbs (5 kg) and black and white and silver all over? Heston Blumenthal’s The Big Fat Duck Cookbook!

Word on the street is that no serious foodie should be without this impressive tome. I’ve just got my hands on a copy. It cost $275! (or $25 per pound if you like to think about things in those terms.) Unfortunately, I’ve no time to sit down and take it all in with my eyes this week. Instead I’m going to keep this book on my head, hoping that the info and images somehow sink into my brain. 

I’ll be back with insightful and critical comments and comparisons to the other new books by kitchen scientists when I get a chance. In the meantime, send me referrals for good chiropractors.  (My neck is really sore for some reason).  Also, if you have any spare hair brushes around, send them over to me, too – now that I can see the back of my head, it’s obvious that I need to take my grooming up a notch!


Has anyone else had a chance to crack this baby open? If so, tell us what you think about the book!