Toronto is Cooking

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With her new book, AMY Rosen has wrapped the city’s food scene in a very readable package. Toronto Cooks: 100 Signature Recipes from the City’s Best Restaurants is part chef biographies and part ode to what has put this city on the foodie map. Rosen, an award-winning journalist, food editor and cookbook author, has compiled what she considers the city’s best recipes “from 50 great chefs who are multicultural – unabashedly Canadian – but, more specifically, uniquely Torontonian,” she writes.

We asked Rosen to choose a few recipes especially for our readers. Her picks? Mistura’s Bigoli with Lobster, Porzia’s Citrus Salad and Ruby Watchco’s Short Ribs.

Mistura is a longstanding favourite with the discerning (read older) crowd, says Rosen, “for Massimo Capra and his crew’s hospitality, wine list and for their incredible roster of homemade pastas and authentic Italian dishes. The bigoli is a great, doable dish to have in your back pocket for your next dinner party.”

According to Rosen, Porzia is the new face of Toronto in the emerging restaurant row along Queen Street West in Parkdale. “The restaurant dishes out small plates of Italian with a twist, with flavour profiles that spark the tastebuds and imagination,” she says as to why it should be on a Toronto diner’s radar. “This healthy citrus salad is one such recipe.”

And then, there’s the multi-generational aspect of just sitting down to dinner with family and friends. “Meals at the east end’s Ruby Watchco are served family style; always generous and delicious, and there’s no dish more warming than their tender braised short ribs. When you don’t feel like cooking, gather the family around the table here,” advises Rosen.

East end, west end – the fact that there is delicious food in every corner of Toronto is her raison d’etre. “Always has been,” she notes. The book’s photography, by Ryan Szulc, is as mouth watering-inducing as the recipes are. But Rosen takes it a step further, using her editor’s eye, with a D.I.Y. point of view. “With the reader in mind,” she writes, “this cookbook is designed to make fan-favourite dishes from restaurants achievable for the eager home chef.” So, whether you stay in or go out (in Toronto), it’s a win-win. —Vivian Vassos

Porzia’s Citrus Salad

by Chef Basilio Pesce

Serves 6 to 8

12            baresane olives

12            cerignola olives

1 tbsp      bomba Calabrese*

½ cup      olive oil, divided

2              navel oranges

2              blood oranges

4              clementines

1              lemon

2              ruby grapefruits

½             pomegranate
Salt (we use Maldon) and freshly ground black pepper

½ cup
fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

½ cup      fresh mint leaves

Smash olives with side of knife and remove pits.

In medium bowl, combine olives, bomba and half the olive oil. Stir well and set aside to marinate.

Slice the top and bottom off navel oranges and blood oranges. Remove peel and white pith carefully with knife. Slice across cross-sections and set aside. Peel clementines, individually segment slices and set aside.

Slice the top and bottom off lemon and grapefruit. Remove peel and all white pith carefully. Slice each segment from membrane and set aside.

Slice pomegranate in half. Over a bowl of cold water, hit pomegranate with the back of a spoon so each individual seed falls into the water. Remove any white particles. Strain seeds and set aside.

On large flat serving plate, randomly arrange all citrus fruits and segments, and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Spoon olives over fruit and drizzle with remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste; top with parsley and mint. Serve immediately.

*Bomba Calabrese is a spicy Italian chili condiment available in specialty food markets.

Or you can make your own.

Bomba Calabrese

1 cup        chopped carrot

3              cloves garlic

½ cup      pitted Kalamata olives

½ cup chopped canned artichokes, with ½ cup liquid

¾ cup  Italian chili pepper
paste, divided

1½ tsp      salt

¼ cup      white wine vinegar

2 cups     olive oil

In food processor fitted with metal blade, purée carrot and garlic. Add olives, artichokes with liquid, half the chili pepper paste and salt; purée until smooth. Scrape into a large bowl. Stir in remaining chili pepper paste, along with vinegar and olive oil. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until needed.

Ruby Watchco’s Braised Short Ribs with Horseradish Gremolata

By Chefs Lynn Crawford
and Lora Kirk

Serves 4

¼ cup      extra-virgin olive oil

4               beef short ribs (16 oz each)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2              carrots, roughly chopped

1              onion, roughly chopped

2             stalks celery, roughly chopped

5              cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 cups     Barolo or other full-bodied red wine

1              can (14 oz)

diced tomatoes

2 cups     beef stock

4              sprigs fresh thyme

2              sprigs fresh rosemary

2              bay leaves


Horseradish Gremolata

1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

Zest         of 2 lemons and 1 orange

3 tbsp   freshly grated horseradish


In large heavy-bottomed roasting pan, heat olive oil over high heat. Season ribs with salt and pepper and sear for 15 minutes or until deep brown all on sides. Transfer to a plate and set aside. To the pan, add carrots, onion, celery and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes or until browned. Stir in red wine, tomatoes, beef stock, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.

Bring mixture to a boil, return ribs to pan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover with aluminum foil and roast in 375 F oven for 2 hours or until meat is very tender. Remove from oven and set aside.

Horseradish Gremolata

In small bowl, toss together parsley, lemon and orange zests, and horseradish until well combined.

To serve: Place one short rib on each serving plate and top with a little of the pan juices and a small handful of the Horseradish Gremolata. Season generously with finishing salt and serve immediately.


Mistura’s Bigoli
with Lobster
By Chef Massimo Capra

Serves 4 to 6

2 live lobsters (1¼ lb each)

1 lb          bigoli or fresh spaghetti

2 tbsp      extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp      grated fresh gingerroot

1 cup        julienned leeks

2 tbsp      white wine

1 cup tomato fillets (seeded, peeled wedges of tomato)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1              bunch green onions,  julienned into medium-long strips

1 tbsp      butter


In large saucepan over high heat, bring heavily salted water to a boil. Just before you are ready to cook the lobsters, insert tip of a sharp knife straight down right behind the lobster’s eyes and cut through downwards.

Place the lobsters into the simmering water and cook for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a clean sink with lots of ice and water (enough to cover the lobsters). Using tongs, carefully transfer cooked lobsters to ice bath to cool completely. Drain and dry the lobsters. Remove lobster meat from shells. Cut meat into bite-size chunks and set aside. Carefully set aside tomalley (soft green paste) and any juice from the head of the lobster, but discard the intestinal sack from near the front of the head.

In another large saucepan over high heat, bring salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add garlic, ginger, and leeks, and sauté gently for a few minutes or until leeks are soft. Add wine and cook until evaporated. Add tomatoes along with reserved tomalley and any juice from the lobster. Stir well. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Add lobster meat to sauce. Drain pasta and add to sauce. Add green onions and butter and toss well to combine. Serve immediately.

Zoomer magazine, November 2014