The Cutting Edge

We drove down to Halifax this weekend for the Taste of Nova Scotia Cutting Edge Chef Competition, a part of the Saltscapes Expo. What was I expecting to find? A lot of people, great food and wine, and a chance to cook. Ten chefs from around Nova Scotia were competing in the event. Each of us was given a black box containing secret ingredients, and we had 45 minutes to make something awesome. Well, everything went pretty well--yesterday I found out that I won!

My black box ingredients were pork tenderloins, honey, apples and quark cheese. I decided to keep it simple, as usual, so I made an apple-fennel slaw with a couple of greens, drizzled on a quark cheese and white balsamic vinaigrette, threw on a few pieces of crispy double-smoked bacon, seared off that pork, finished it with some honey and cream, and topped it all with a red wine onion confit.

Now, I could never have done it without my fantastic sous-chef who was assigned to me from the crowd. She made a point of telling me that she was not much of a cook, but Jee-whiz was she ever a wizard with the knife! We were both in good spirits and had a lot of fun cooking together. It's always nice to work with people who enjoy food as much as I do. So Jill, wherever you are, thank you!

Also, a big thanks to Alain Bossé and to Christine and all the team from Taste of Nova Scotia for putting together the Cutting Edge Competition and for making it so much fun. Local Food is the best! I owe a huge thanks to Earlene Busch of the Chanterelle Inn, who has been throwing me opportunities left and right. Oh yeah, and thank you Grohmann knives. I now have all top-notch tools!

And here I am, giving a demo; Wild Mushroom and Cheddar Risotto

A couple of people asked me for the recipe of the slaw that I made during the competition, so here it is. Enjoy!

Apple-Fennel Slaw

• 2 small apples, julienned • 1 fennel bulb, julienned • 1 small bunch of cilantro, chopped • 4 tablespoons almonds, roughly chopped • 2 tablespoons lemon juice • 1 tablespoons olive oil • pinch of salt

Mix all the ingredients together and let sit for at least 30 minutes, stiring once or twice. Taste, and add more lemon juice and salt to taste. Serve on top of some greens or salad.

Peanut Slaw

Here's another simple salad. Works great with fish. Over and out.

• 1/2 red cabbage • 1/2 green cabbage • 1 bunch chopped cilantro • 1 cup ground peanuts • 1/2 cup rice vinegar • 3 tablespoons peanut oil • 3 tablespoons sugar • a dash of sesame oil

Finely slice the cabbages either with a knife or mandolin. Mix everything together and let sit for an hour. Serve.