What do you get if you take two friends, add a 37,000-kilometre road trip, and five months of camping? For most of us this could equal a recipe for disaster. For two Canadian authors, it adds up to a lot of fun.
Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller describe themselves as “Vancouver-based writers, adventurers, wanderlusts and co-creators of Feast: Recipes and Stories from a Canadian Road Trip. The two women spent half of 2013 travelling across Canada collecting recipes and stories, and exploring the country’s sense of national identity as it relates to food. They chronicled the trip on their blog, edibleroadtrip.com. Back at home, they compiled their notes and photos to create the book. It’s a beautiful collection gleaned from chefs, food writers and educators, friends, family and a few Canadian food icons.
Lindsay Anderson is from northern BC, while Dana VanVeller is originally from Sarnia. Both have worked and studied across the country as well as across the ocean. Check out their blog for more tales of their adventures, from Sarnia to Sri Lanka.
Along with the recipes in Feast are stories from each province and territory that the authors visited. Photos are mostly their own and include some haunting images that capture of the beauty of our country, as well as some that bring memories of childhood visits to grandma’s kitchen, wherever that might have been.
I received this book very early in the spring and was leafing through it when I noticed that the rhubarb in my garden was already trying to peek through the snow. A few years ago, in a fit of nostalgia for childhood memories of rhubarb stalks dipped in sugar, I transplanted a bit of the stuff from my mom’s garden. That small cutting became firmly entrenched in my tiny herb garden and now threatens to take over the entire thing. A sensible person would probably just dig it up. But I discovered that I love rhubarb — stewed, baked or added to homemade applesauce. It has become my first taste of spring. So I was delighted to find a recipe in Feast from Canadian Living’s Elizabeth Baird for “Lunar Rhubarb Cake”. This is not the prettiest dessert you’ll ever make but, like so many messy things, it is well worth it. It gets its name from the crumbly topping of brown sugar and butter that makes it look like the surface of the moon (and taste like a slice of heaven).
While I was watching my poor, optimistic snow-dressed rhubarb I noticed that the poor, neglected barbecue had icicles dripping from its cover. Suddenly, Elk Burgers with Blue Cheese and Balsamic Roasted Red Onions were all I could think of making. I’m not sure I can wait until the snow melts. I might try these on the grill pan in the kitchen, using lean beef, until I can find elk meat and get the BBQ ready. In fact, by the time you’re reading this, I may already have the BBQ up and running. I hear that we have a local supplier for elk. I’m heading down the farmer’s market to see if I can find it.
The recipes in Feast are as eclectic as the people who contributed them. Whether you are looking for a new cocktail or a lesson on a classic Canadian dinner, you will find something delightful every time you open this book. Maybe it will even inspire you to dust off the camping gear and take a road trip of your own.
Excerpted from Feast: Recipes and Stories from a Canadian Road Trip by Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller. Copyright © 2017 Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
with blue cheese & balsamic roasted red onions
Serves 4 to 6
When we arrived at his ranch in Kanata, Ontario, Thom van Eeghen handed us a pair of helmets, loaded us into the trailer of an ATV, and drove us out to his herd of elk. We first visited the cows and calves in the field, then made our way over to the woods, where an impressively antlered bull was hanging out on his own. The photo below remains one of our favourites from the trip — what a goofball.
Elk meat is a great alternative to beef. It’s lean, a good source of vitamin B, and ever-so-slightly sweet, rather than gamey. If you don’t have any elk producers nearby, you can easily substitute beef or bison.
1 large red onion (about 220 grams), sliced into ½-inch-thick (1 cm) rings
1 Tbsp (15 mL) balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp (15 mL) extra virgin olive oil
⅛ tsp salt
½ medium red onion (about 80 g), finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
⅓ cup (80 mL) finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp (15 mL) grainy or Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp (15 mL) Worcestershire sauce
¾ tsp (3 mL) salt
½ tsp (2 mL) freshly ground black pepper
1½ pounds (680 g) ground elk, bison, or lean beef
¾ cup (185 mL) crumbled blue cheese (see note)
4 to 6 buns, toasted
Tomatoes, lettuce, mayo, and any other desired burger toppings
Note: You can use any blue cheese you prefer, as long as it’s firm enough to hold its shape when you’re mixing the burgers. Some great Canadian options include Ciel de Charlevoix, Bleu Bénédictin, and Dragon’s Breath Blue.
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
For the roasted onions, add the sliced onion rings to a large bowl and toss with the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and salt. Spread out evenly on a large baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, turn the slices over, and roast again until soft and caramelized, another 10 to 15 minutes.
Preheat the barbeque on medium-high (about 450°F/230°C).
To make the patties, mix the onion, egg, parsley, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Add the ground meat and gently mix with your hands until just combined (over mixing will make the burgers tough).
Add the crumbled cheese and mix again until just combined. Divide the meat mixture into six even portions (or four, if you’d prefer larger burgers) and shape each portion into a patty.
Grill on the barbeque, flipping once, until their internal temperature reaches 160°F (71°C) or they’re no longer pink inside, 8 to 10 minutes.
Serve the burgers on buns with the roasted onions, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and any other toppings you like!
Lunar Rhubarb Cake
This cake, by Canadian food icon Elizabeth Baird, is ridiculously simple and tasty. Because she’s the pro, here’s Elizabeth’s take on it:
Rhubarb is the universal Canadian fruit, growing as it does in Canada’s north, south, east, and west. And yes, it is a vegetable, but in most Canadian kitchens, it’s treated like a fruit. Many years ago I was working on an article for Canadian Living magazine with home economist Sandy Hall. Wyn Hall, her mother-in-law, gave us her recipe for Rhubarb Cake to include in the article. It was a winner — a no-fail butter cake, with chopped rhubarb in the batter and a sugar-cinnamon crumble topping that baked into a crusty crater-like surface. As soon as Sandy and I took it out of the oven, its moonscape top inspired us to rename the cake “Lunar Rhubarb Cake.”
A number of these ingredients need to be at room temperature when you make the cake, so take them out of the refrigerator well before you start baking.
½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1½ cups (300 g) white sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
2 cups (300 g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp (6 g) baking soda
½ tsp (1.5 g) salt
2 cups (500 mL) rhubarb, cut in ½-inch (1 cm) pieces (about 4 large stalks; see note)
1 cup (250 mL) buttermilk, room temperature
1 cup (213 g) lightly packed brown sugar
2 tsp (4 g) ground cinnamon
¼ cup (57 g) unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
Vanilla ice cream
Note: You can increase the rhubarb by another ½ cup (about 70 g) if you like. The cake will work with other fruits — apricots, plums, raspberries, and wild blueberries — but rhubarb is the best. If using frozen rhubarb, measure it while still frozen and let thaw completely. Drain in a colander, but do not press liquid out.
Line the bottom and sides of a 9 × 13 inch (23 × 33 cm) cake pan with parchment paper, or use soft butter to grease the pan; set aside. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and white sugar until smooth, light, and creamy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape down the bowl once or twice during this process. Beat in the egg and vanilla and make sure all the ingredients are combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Scoop out 2 tbsp of this mixture and toss with the rhubarb, then set the rhubarb aside.
Mix the dry ingredients into the butter mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk in two parts. Sprinkle the rhubarb mixture over the batter and fold in. Scrape into the prepared pan and smooth the surface.
For the topping, add the brown sugar and cinnamon to a medium bowl and mash together using a fork. Add the butter and blend together until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the batter.
Bake in the centre of the oven until the fragrance from the oven overwhelms hangers-on in the kitchen and the surface is crusty and golden brown with pink lumps here and there. A toothpick inserted into the centre should come out clean. This takes about 45 minutes.
Let cool slightly. Enjoy warm with scoops of vanilla ice cream.
If making ahead, let cool completely. Double wrap in plastic food wrap and freeze for up to 2 weeks.