Eric Akis: Open a new chapter on your cooking

Eric Akis

If you’re looking for inspiration on what to cook this summer, I have two cookbooks that will give you a pot full of ideas. As a bonus, both focus on using ingredients the Canada Food Guide says we should consume regularly — fruit, grains and seeds. Both books are available in Vancouver Island bookstores and other retail outlets.

Ripe — Local Fruit: Use it Fresh, Preserve the Rest

(Ptarmigan Press, $24.95)

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Ann Kask, owner of Kask Graphics and Ptarmigan Press in Campbell River, created this book with the assistance of the North Vancouver Island Chefs Association (northvancouverislandchefs.com), a non-profit association that represents chefs and cooks from Bowser to the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

Kask came up with the concept, design and a few of the book’s 100-plus recipes, while members of the association, along with a few vendors from the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market (cvfm.ca), contributed the rest — some of their names are noted below.

The book is divided into chapters that showcase 15 types of fruit grown in B.C., such as a variety of berries, stone fruit, figs, apples, pears, kiwis and quince. At the beginning of each of those chapters are tips on purchasing, harvesting, storing and preserving each fruit, followed by a range of inviting recipes that use them.

To give you just a small taste, recipes in the book include kiwi strawberry leather, contributed by Sue Smith; pear and Bleu Claire cheese tart by Xavier Bauby; quince red wine vinaigrette by Laura Agnew; grilled figs by Lesley Stav; harvest chutney by Lia McCormick; and BBQ pork spareribs with blackberry hoisin sauce by Shawn Galway.

As with Kask’s previous cookbooks, all proceeds from the sale of Ripe will raise funds for Team Diabetes, the national activity fundraising program for Diabetes Canada promoting a healthy and active lifestyle.

Awesome Ancient Grains & Seeds: A Garden-to-Kitchen Guide

(Douglas & McIntyre, $24.95)

Michele Genest and Dan Jason co-wrote this book. Genest writes a cooking column for Yukon, North of Ordinary magazine and is the author of two other cookbooks. Salt Spring Island’s Dan Jason is the founder of the mail-order seed company Salt Spring Seeds, and has written bestselling books about growing and preparing food sustainably.

This book, as you can tell by its title, focuses on ancient grains and seeds, and is divided into two main sections — how to grow those foods and recipes that use them.

The first section starts with a chapter on saving the world with grains and seeds, and explores how important these foods have been for millennia, and why they should continue to be.

That chapter is followed by in-depth information on how to grow, nurture, harvest and prepare grains and seeds such as amaranth, buckwheat, flaxseed, quinoa, soy beans, Styrian pumpkin seeds and wheat.

You’ll also learn historical facts and nutritional information about specific grains and seeds, and basic ways to prepare them. The first section of the book also offers a chapter on how to soak and sprout grains and seeds.

The recipe section of the book is divided into chapters that see grains and seeds used in such meals as breakfast dishes, appetizers, soups, salads, main dishes, baked goods and desserts. You’ll find recipes for morning glory quinoa muffins, edamame and black radish pakoras, beet and cranberry borscht with whole-grain dumplings, roasted cauliflower, barley and hazelnut pilaf, flaxseed crackers, and pumpkin seed butter cookies.

The book wraps up with a section listing dozens of sources that will further enhance your knowledge of ancient grains and seeds.

Poké Bowl with Whole Grains, Edamame Beans and Marinated Tofu

This recipe is from Awesome Ancient Grains & Seeds: A Garden-to-Kitchen Guide. Authors Dan Jason and Michele Genest say poké bowls are easy to make beautiful and so, so delicious. They say this one celebrates all the good things that come out of the garden, and you can mix and match with whatever you’ve got growing this season.

Makes: four servings

Dressing

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup lemon or lime juice

2 Tbsp toasted pumpkin seed oil

2 Tbsp toasted sesame seed oil

2 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp maple syrup

2 tsp minced fresh ginger

• marinated tofu

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp Sambal Oelek

1 block firm tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes

Salad

2 cups cooked whole grain of your choice

2 cups cooked edamame (see Note from Eric Akis)

2 cups arugula

1 cup halved and sliced cucumber

2 avocados, pitted and sliced

4 red radishes, thinly sliced

1/2 cup sprouts of your choice

Toppings

1 green onion, finely sliced on the diagonal

2 Tbsp toasted flaxseeds

• 7-spice blend (shichimi togarashi; see Note from Eric Akis)

2 Tbsp crumbled Nori seaweed

1/2 cup sliced Vidalia (sweet) onion

1. Whisk dressing ingredients together in a medium bowl. Set aside one-half to dress the salad.

2. Whisk garlic and Sambal Oelek into the remaining dressing mixture in a medium bowl. Toss tofu cubes in dressing, cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

3. In four deep serving bowls, arrange grains, edamame and arugula in a rough triangle. Top with sliced cucumber, avocado, marinated tofu and radish, ending with sprouts.

4. Sprinkle each serving with toppings and pour reserved dressing around and overtop. Serve immediately.

Note from Eric Akis: The authors say you can cook and shell your own edamame for this recipe. Frozen shelled edamame, sold at most supermarkets, will also work. Thaw before using. The Japanese-style seven-spice blend shichimi togarashi is sold at some supermarkets and at Japanese food stores.

Oven-Baked Salmon

With Cherry-Tarragon

Cream Sauce

This recipe is from Ripe — Local Fruit: Use it Fresh, Preserve the Rest. Avi Sternberg, a member of the North Vancouver Island Chefs Association, created it. He says you can make the sauce ahead of time. When needed, reheat over low heat, stirring frequently, until hot.

Makes: four servings

For the salmon

1 (1.25 kg) salmon, skinned, deboned, cut in four even portions (see Note from Eric Akis)

• salt and black pepper, to taste

3 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp tarragon leaves, for garnish

For the cherry cream sauce:

1 small onion or 2 medium shallots, finely diced (about 1Ú4 cup)

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice and the zest from 1Ú2 medium lemon

12 cherries, pitted, roughly chopped

1Ú4 cup dry white wine, such as Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio

1Ú2 cup whipping cream

1Ú2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 cubes

• salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste

For the salmon:

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment. Arrange salmon skin-side-down. Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle the tops with olive oil.

Bake uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes (depending on thickness of salmon), or until salmon is baked to medium doneness and easily flakes apart.

For the cherry cream sauce:

In a small saucepan, combine onion (or shallots), lemon juice and wine and simmer over medium heat until reduced to a thick mixture, seven to eight minutes.

Whisk in cream and as soon as it comes to a simmer, reduce to low. Add lemon zest and cherries. Heat and slowly whisk in the 8 Tbsp of butter, one at a time, whisking constantly. Salt to taste and remove from heat. Cover with a lid to keep warm until ready to serve.

Plate salmon and spoon generously with the cherry cream sauce. Garnish with fresh tarragon.

Note from Eric Akis: If you don’t know how to clean and portion a whole salmon, you can use four already portioned salmon fillets. They are sold at supermarkets and seafood shops.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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