Cooking Canada, From Coast To Coast

What is Canadian cuisine? From Vancouver to Halifax, we think it's about the people who cook the best of what their home has to offer—and inspire others to do the same.
Cooking Canada, From Coast To Coast

Images (left to right) courtesy of Marie Asselin, Jennifer Pallian, @evergreenkitchen and Anguel Dimov. Photo illustration, iStock photo.

When the Chatelaine team got together to plan a Made in Canada food feature, we got to talking about what makes any kind of cooking Canadian in the first place. There is no easy formula for this: the concept of Canadian-ness itself is a tough proposition when it comes to identity, especially around food. Focusing just on dishes widely thought of as Canadian inventions—butter tarts, poutine, Nanaimo bars—leaves out generations of immigrant communities who've had a profound influence on what and how we cook today. Meanwhile, identifying Indigenous foodways as Canadian instead of traditions uniquely borne out of First Nations, Inuit and Métis cultures is another kind of erasure.

The truth is, any one answer is incomplete. So we decided to get plenty of perspectives instead. We spoke to 10 food bloggers from coast to coast about what they're cooking; they graciously agreed to share some of their recipes with us, and we think you're going to love them. They're by no means the only Canadian food there is—but they're a delicious place to start.

Aimée Wimbush-Bourque’s Springtime Lobster Niçoise Salad

One of the best compliments Aimée Wimbush-Bourque has ever received about her food came from a reader who described her first cookbook, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars, as “so Canadian.” It’s no wonder: Wimbush-Bourque, who writes the very popular Simple Bites blog, has lived in five provinces across the country, including an off-the-grid childhood spent in the Yukon. Years ago, Bourque walked away from a 10-year career as a chef—culminating at Toqué, one of Montreal’s most-renowned farm-to-table restaurants—to focus on her young family and their urban homestead just outside of the city, where they raised chickens and tapped their own maple syrup. She also started her blog. “I left the restaurant world because I lost interest in the manipulation of food,” she says. “I’m more interested in how ingredients come together simply.” Case in point, her Springtime Lobster Niçoise Salad. In 2018, Bourque and her family relocated to a lakeside cottage in Nova Scotia as part of an “intentional slowing down.” (It also didn’t hurt that the entire family loves seafood.) “I’ve always adapted a niçoise to where I live,” says Bourque, which explains the lobster but also the watermelon radishes, sourced from her local farmer's market. It’s been two years since her family moved east, but Bourque says she’s still in the discovery phase when it comes to local ingredients—including dulse, which she recently tried in an “out of this world” chocolate babka. “If I wasn’t excited about the food out here, I probably wouldn’t be living here,” she says. “I have a feeling it’s going to be the biggest food adventure I’ve had yet.”

Get the recipe for this Springtime Lobster Niçoise Salad.

salad, lobster and green beans on a plateImages courtesy of Aimée Wimbush-Bourque and Denis Duquette.

Marie Asselin’s Maple Panna Cotta With Cara Cara Oranges And Pecan-Maple Crumble

As a Québécoise, Marie Asselin grew up visiting sugar shacks every winter. “I often say maple syrup runs in my veins,” says the recipe developer and author of two cookbooks, Simply Citrus and French Appetizers. Maple products are Asselin’s preferred sweeteners; she’s constantly thinking of new ways to incorporate them in classic recipes. “Panna cotta has long been one of my go-to desserts and one day I realized I’d never made it with maple syrup. Now I never make it any other way.” Maple syrup is local and abundant, she says, making it a versatile and affordable ingredient that’s often underused in baked goods. Because it’s a natural sugar, it makes her feel better about using it so much in her recipes. “I think using maple syrup in a classic Italian dessert creates a unique treat, one that can be adapted and served year-round—not just during maple season.” Her panna cotta recipe is elegant and unfussy, making it the perfect dessert for any occasion.

Get the recipe for Maple Panna Cotta With Cara Cara Oranges And Pecan-Maple Crumble.

three glasses of panna cotta with marie asselin's profile imageImages courtesy of Marie Asselin and Catherine Côté.

Eden Hagos’s Teff Bowl

Food had been a big part of Eden Hagos’ life from early on: her parents owned an Ethiopian restaurant for years in Windsor, where she grew up, and it’s still there today, 20 years since her family moved to the GTA. But it was in 2015, after experiencing racism at a Toronto restaurant while celebrating her 25th birthday, that she decided to launch Black Foodie, an online publication that highlights the cuisines of North America’s diverse Caribbean, African and African-American communities and the restaurant owners cooking it. Her Teff Bowl is a perfect example of how culturally specific ingredients can become local. Teff, a gluten-free and iron-rich grain, is commonly used in injera and native to Ethiopia and Eritrea. “It’s popular now in the West because it’s become known as a superfood—and because of that it’s being grown elsewhere from where it originated,” says Hagos, “and it didn’t give the same flavour or texture.” Berhan Teff, the brand she cooks with, sources its teff grain from regional farmers in East Africa, then mills and packages it here in Barrie, Ont. Hagos treats teff like a breakfast grain in this recipe, cooking it with a bit of pecan butter for an extra hit of its already nutty flavour profile.

Get this Teff Bowl recipe.

Cooking Canada, From Coast To CoastImages courtesy Eden Hagos and Bernardson Louis-Jean.

Diala Canelo’s Burrata And Grilled Nectarine Salad

Having worked as a flight attendant, trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Mexico City and lived in three countries, Diala Canelo has learned a lot about the way people cook all over the globe. It’s what informs the recipes she publishes on Diala’s Kitchen, which documents her travelling and working life—and how locales such as Argentina, Italy, the Dominican Republic, Australia and more influences what she cooks for her parter and daughters at home. When air travel became a non-starter at the height of the pandemic, Canelo found pleasure in cooking the best of what grows in the Niagara region, where she lived before moving to Toronto, like this buratta and grilled nectarine salad.

Get this Burratta and Grilled Nectarine Salad recipe.

grilled peaches with burrata and mintImages courtesy of Diala Canelo and Lauren McPhillips.

Kirsten Buck’s Carrot, Beet, And Apple Salad

Kirsten Buck credits her grandfather as a big influence on the way she sees her relationship with food today. “He worked on a trapline near the Churchill River and truly believed and instilled in us that living off the land was the healthiest way to live as Indigenous people.” Buck, who identifies as First Nations Cree, incorporates that belief into her work as a holistic nutritionist and cookbook author in Winnipeg. “Our growing months are so short, so people in Manitoba go out of their way to support local, from the strawberry fields, the small seasonal markets.” Her julienned salad celebrates late-summer to early-fall produce, including hemp—a massive Manitoba crop. “It comes together really fast and you don’t need any fancy appliances. You can use a mandoline if you have one, but I usually cut everything by hand. It takes more time, but it’s easily done.”

Get this Carrot, Beet, And Apple Salad recipe.

julienned saladImages courtesy of Kirsten Buck.

Ashley Fehr’s Mom’s Homemade Buns

High school teacher-turned-food blogger Ashley Fehr started her site, The Recipe Rebel, six years ago, after her friends started looking forward to her “next [kitchen] experiment” and asking how she made it. Fehr—who lives in Manitoba with her husband and three young daughters, not “near any city that most of you would be able to place on a map”—took her site’s name from her “trouble accepting recipes as written.” Her tweaks are almost always to make cooking and baking simpler and to use up ingredients she has on hand: “I bet I can do that in one bowl and it will still be just as good.” Fehr is known for her unintimidating, family-friendly comfort food—her readers love slow cookers and Instant Pots. (Her Instant Pot Pot Roast, which adds in potatoes and carrots towards the end for a one-dish meal, is one of her site’s most popular recipes.) Fehr’s recipe for her mom’s homemade buns showcases one of Manitoba’s most-important crops: wheat. It’s also a riff on one of her own mother’s most-loved recipes. They are, Fehr says, a “perfect dinner roll,” and—true to her site’s name, and her own bent for experimentation—she often swaps in whole-wheat for half of the all-purpose flour.

Get the recipe for Mom's Homemade Buns.

Cooking Canada, From Coast To CoastPhoto courtesy of Ashley Fehr.

Renée Kohlman’s Saskatoon Berry Galette

Nutty, sweet and deeply purple, wild Saskatoons are far superior to cultivated berries, explains Renée Kohlman of Sweet Sugar Bean. “They taste more like summer and nature, they’re just so delicious compared to the tame ones,” she says. As a child growing up on a farm outside Saskatoon, she picked the berries on riverbank walks with her siblings and cousins. Now, it’s a hobby Kohlman shares with her boyfriend, hanging out “covered in bug spray,” with ice cream pails tied to their belts. He’s a farmer who brings her treasures from his root cellar, and inspired her cookbook, Vegetables: A Love Story. It’s a savoury companion to her first, All The Sweet Things, which is where this “fuss-free” recipe comes from. “I always have pastry in the freezer in the summer to make a galette,” Kohlman says. “There’s berries, there’s sour cherries, strawberries, raspberries, so many fruits. Peaches! Oh my gosh, I’m so excited about summer fruits.”

Get this Saskatoon Berry Galette recipe.

a galette sliced into piecesImages courtesy of Renée Kohlman and Lisa Landrie.

Jennifer Pallian’s French Crullers

Pallian, a registered dietitian, studied food science and dietetics in undergrad as a way of starting a career in food. By 2009, she felt as though the clinical approach was pushing her farther away from her love of cooking. “It sanitized the whole food and cooking experience,” she says. She launched Foodess to have the best of both disciplines, using her know-how to develop recipes for the things she wanted to eat and cook, not just the things she felt she should be. A great example? These dainty french crullers, which challenge a home cook to just enough to get better acquainted with choux pastry without getting overwhelmed by the process. “It’s the perfect balance of crispy and fried and just enough sweetness,” she says. “And the glaze is amazing.” Even better: Once you’ve mastered this recipe, related treats such as éclairs, churros, and profiteroles will be cinch.

Get this French Crullers recipe.

freshly iced doughnutsImages courtesy of Jennifer Pallian and Tina Francis Mutungu.

Julie Van Rosendaal’s Bison And Bean Tacos With Cilantro Crema

“Meat is not the star of the plate anymore,” says Julie Van Rosendaal. This may not seem like a revolutionary statement, especially as plant-based eating becomes more mainstream, but it does seem somewhat surprising coming from a proud Albertan. “We’re known for our beef, but our restaurants are more vegetable-focussed than they’ve ever been, and pulses are finally being brought to the forefront.” The Calgary-based cookbook author, writer and Dinner with Julie blogger has been pushing the pulse agenda for years. “People don’t think of lentils and chickpeas as being from the Prairies; mostly they’re from Saskatchewan,” she says, before rhyming off their many benefits, including high protein and fibre counts, low cost and shelf stability. They’re also, she notes, delicious with red meat. (She is an Albertan after all.) For a great example, look no further than her recipe for bean and bison tacos. Bison, which is leaner than beef and also higher in protein, is indigenous to to the high plains of Alberta. It can also be easily replaced with—you got it—beef.

Get the recipe for these Bean and Bison Tacos.

tacos dressed with cilantro and creamImages courtesy of Julie Van Rosendaal and Jeremy Fokkens.

Bri Beaudoin’s Mushrooms On Toast

As a regular visitor to the Vancouver Farmers Market, Brianne Beaudoin has become friendly with many of the sellers there. One trip resulted in a bounty of fungi from Stephanie Carruthers of Wild Foraged, which in turn led to this deceptively simple, very satisfying dish. “We had all these beautiful mushrooms and we wanted something where they could just be the star of the show,” says Beaudoin, who runs her blog, Evergreen Kitchen, with her husband, Anguel. She grew up with a vegetarian father, and “decided to recommit” to plant-based eating around five years ago, when the couple moved from Toronto to her hometown of Vancouver and launched Evergreen. “My husband and I both have very hearty appetites, and our food doesn’t feel like a compromise,” says Beaudoin. It doesn’t have to, in a province that she calls “super abundant,” where food lovers are spoiled for their choice of berries, fruit, greens and mushrooms, of course.

Get this Mushrooms On Toast recipe.

white bean spread on toast with mushrooms on topImages courtesy of Anguel Dimov, Carl Ostberg and @evergreenkitchen.

This post was originally published in June 2020.


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