Foodie Hotties #2: Laura Calder

“To me, the most important thing to take away from the French when it comes to food (if not everything else) is their passion for pleasure,” says Laura in her latest book. “Putting pleasure first means that we shop better, we cook better, we eat better, and, by extension, we live and love better.Laura Calder

Any woman who speaks about food that way gets a VIP pass onto my Foodie Hotties list (check out the rest in the “Celebrity Chefs” category).  Originally from New Brunswick, 37 year-old Laura Calder hosts the whimsical show “French Food at Home” on Food Network Canada.  This very educated lassie with a masters from the London School of Economics “speaks fluent French, good Italian, rusty German, and reads Spanish”, as described in one biography.

Laura Calder

More importantly, this lady knows her French cooking and she makes it look good.  She wears these body-hugging summer dresses and carries herself with a joie de vivre across her studio kitchen – whippin up dishes like savory tarts, artery-coating beef bourguignon, and mouth-watering sautes.  Check out this interview where she describes “Why the French Do it Better” – some great insights on being “green” and shopping at farmers markets.


How to avoid Safeway addiction?

I grew up in Singapore where weekend mornings are spent in a wet market while mum seeks out the best produce, seafood and meats.  (side note: Singaporeans call grocery shopping – “marketing”.  Or maybe it’s just my family. Weird).

When we moved to Vancouver in 1989,  we were introduced to the Hollywood of Grocery Shopping – the neighbourhood Safeway and Save-On Foods.  Glitz, glamour, coin-operated carts, and bins and bins of nuts.

However, over the last few years, I’ve started to realize that you really compromise on the selection of produce and freshness by shopping at big-box.  You can hardly find any locally produced fruits and vegetables – which means your off-season unripe produce is being shipped, railed and trucked in from Guatemala or somewhere super-remote.

By no means am I a total snob when it comes to shopping at big-box.  After all, I still need to get TP and pit-stick.  I just try when I can to seek out BC-made stuff and I will go a little further out of my way to get fresh fish or meat.

As you may have already noticed in my recipe or restaurant blogs, I love seafood.  So, I thought I’d give some props to the local fishmonger I visit in Kits.  Seven Seas Fish Market on 4th avenue is ironically located directed across from Safeway.  They’re super friendly and will answer almost all my stupid questions.

One of my favorite things to do (which you can’t do at Safeway) is to get a sampling of seafood, e.g., a small fillet of fish, bunch of clams and mussels, a few jumbo prawns and some squid or scallops.  Finely cut up ginger, red chillies, lemon juice and either steam, bbq or pan-sear on the stove.  You can make yourself an awesome meal for one for $6 – $7, or get enough for a dinner date for under $10.

So the next time you feel fishy, check out Seven Seas.  If you have your own local shop you visit, or have any rants about big-box grocery, I would love to hear about your experiences.

Seven Seas Fish Market
2328 4th Avenue West
Vancouver, BC V6K 1P1
(604) 732-8608

Mushroom risotto with pan-seared scallops

I love risotto.  Creamy, wholesome and such a sponge for absorbing flavours.Mushroom risotto with seared scallops

Monday night, I whipped up enough for two portions.  Even though it’s a sin to reheat or let risotto sit, I had leftovers and I know I’m still going love it the second night.

2 cups of Arborio rice
1 litre of chicken stock (just buy the box and add some water, or if you’re hardcore, make stock from chicken bones)
Quarter cup of chopped onions
Shitake mushrooms
Lemon zest
1 cup of frozen peas
2 – 4 scallops
Salt and pepper
Patience (25 minutes worth) – it’s worth it

Simple steps:
1. Heat up the chicken stock to a boil, then reduce to medium
2. Heat oil in a pan, sear the onions till soft
3. Add rice and stir for 2 minutes
4. Add heated stock – a cup at a time.  Stir until the liquid is absorbed before adding another ladle of stock.
5. Patience is key – keep stirring and adding stock every time the rice looks like it’s sticking.   About 25 mins.
6. Add mushrooms, lemon zest and throw in the peas with about 5 mins left.

1. With 5 mins remaining, start a new pan for the scallops.  Dry the scallops. Salt and pepper both sides.
2. Heat some oil and butter (med-high), when the butter starts foaming, put the scallops in.
3. Sear scallops for only about 2-3 mins per side, it should be just firm to the touch. You don’t want to overcook them.


Bbq, fire, beer – the makings of a great camping trip

The closest thing to a summer tradition over the last 3 years has been a camping trip I organize for my close group of friends.  Last year we had 15 people on 3 campsites – which made for some great laughs and great food.  This year however was a tad different – as there have been couples with newborns, a wedding and other stuff, which made scheduling difficult.

I managed to still convince the boys, aka the Singletons, to head south of the border to Larrabee State Park in Washington (only 20 minutes past the border) for much needed R&R.  It’s amazing how little it takes to make me happy – beer, barbeque and a fire.  I’ve attached some pics of the Pacific Ocean sunset and of course food.

Couple simple marinades we threw into a ziploc for our meat:

1) Chicken – dijon, tabasco and cajun-spice (ate this with tortilla wraps and salsa)
2) Beef strip-loins – juice from 2 limes, cajun-spice (ate this with wild rice and stir-fried veges)

I’d love to hear any great camping stories you’ve had this year or tips to eating well while camping.  Coz seriously – unless you’re in the backcountry – why settle for a can of beans?