Smoked Oyster, Bacon and Eggplant Pizza

smoked oyster bacon eggplant pizzaMaking pizza is a favorite of mine, and I really hit it out of the park with my latest pizza creation. I can’t explain how good this dish is; to taste would be to understand. Suffice it to say that I was blown away.

This dish relies on three processes: shaping and cooking the dough, making the main topping, and layering ingredients. It’s not a quick meal; it requires a lot of prep and concentration, but it’s well worth the effort.

Ingredients:

1 bag of pizza dough
marinara
1 medium eggplant, sliced into small cubes
1/3 large onion, sliced
3 bacon slices, chopped
1-1.5 cups shredded mozzarella
Parmesan to taste
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
dried basil flakes
red pepper flakes
1 can smoked oysters in oil

Divide the dough in half and press the halves by hand into flat discs, place on baking trays, then refrigerate until they chill (about 30 min.). The chilling makes them easier to work with. When ready, remove from fridge and hand press or roll the dough flatter to make the base for the pie.

Meanwhile, cook the eggplant and onion on the stove top with a generous amount of olive oil until they soften (about 15-30 min.), stirring occasionally. When the mixture is cooked, stir in the bacon and finish off for another 3-5 min.

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F, then bake the dough for about 15 min. or so. You want the crust to be cooked before you put on the toppings to avoid a messy guessing game with cooking time.

When the dough is cooked, remove from oven,  add dollops of desired amount of marinara on the dough,  distribute the eggplant, onion and bacon topping evenly between the two pies, then layer the mozzarella and Parmesan on top. Garnish with tomato slices, sprinkle on basil and red pepper, then distribute the oysters on top of the pies, making sure to pour on the oil in which the oysters were packed. Bake until the cheese melts (about 10 min.).

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BNA Brewing and KRAFTY in Kelowna, BC

BNA Brewing

My snapshot of Kelowna in British Columbia’s wine country wouldn’t be complete without mentioning BNA Brewing, a brew pub downtown in a large, industrial-chic space with a view of the surrounding hills. Come around dinner time and you can gaze out on said hills bathed in a golden glow.

We ordered tasting flights, which comprised beers that tasted great on site–fresh, with a good zing from the carbonation–but when we took home a growler, we were disappointed in the flavor. Maybe the beer just doesn’t travel well.

The food was quite classy for a pub. I’d stay away from the pizza (it was mediocre) and go for the lovely spinach salad (photo above) and chicken parm (a very tender breaded chicken served on a bed of gnocchi with just the right chew).

KRAFTY Kelowna

For a more high-end foodie experience, you can try the popular KRAFTY kitchen + bar, a casual farm-to-table restaurant with hipster Edison lighting. It’s downtown, near the beachfront and across from a well-disguised strip club. To be honest, there are misses along with hits here. The bison tartare appetizer served with grilled sourdough bread was excellent (photo above). But our main dishes came much later after whetting our appetites. When my fried chicken came, it seemed an amateurish take for the high price, and my side salad had greens that were too basic (they were light green leaves without variety). The kombucha vinaigrette for the salad was a creative idea, but the flavor didn’t pop. The crispy pork belly that hubby ordered was a better choice; well executed with plenty of umami.

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BC Wine Country: Kelowna

Kelowna Camelot

Camelot Vineyards, Kelowna

We drove to Kelowna, BC for a long weekend recently and explored the town and its surroundings by hiking and visiting wineries. About a 5 hr. drive from Vancouver (longer if you take the more scenic route), the town is part of the Okanagan Valley, which is British Columbia’s wine country, a region encompassing several towns that partake in local winemaking. The landscape is lakeside mountainous desert, with patches of greenery in the hills. Surprisingly, Kelowna is densely suburban; full of strip malls, big box stores and fast food joints, which contrasts with the romantic nature of the local vineyards. There are big commercial ventures as well as small-batch, even organic wineries, and they typically have tasting rooms. The best wines are predominantly white and fruity; perfect summer drinks. Popular varietals include Gewurztraminer and Ehrenfelser.

Mission Hill

Mission Hill

The most well-known local winery is Mission Hill in neighboring West Kelowna, an artfully constructed property best described as monastery-chic with a Napa Valley vibe. We had dinner one night at the house restaurant overlooking the vineyard. The panoramic view turned out to impress more than the so-so food.

Vibrant Vine

The Vibrant Vine

Among the most charming wineries are the “FabFive”, a cluster of vineyards in the more romantic part of town in terms of landscape: verdant hills and wide open sky, with no hint of suburbia nearby. The Vibrant Vine is particularly funky, with trippy-hippie decor and a lovely yard out back of the tasting room with lounge chairs and a stage for live music.

I also really liked Off the Grid, an organic winery atop a hill in Westbank. We parked in front of the goats’ play pen and cooled off in the tasting room insulated naturally with straw. The wines were crisp and refreshing, and the lady at the counter was chatty and friendly.

For hiking, the Myra Canyon trestle trail is an excellent choice. It’s a short drive, right outside town, and rewards you with spectacular views of Kelowna, Okanagan Lake and the steep-walled canyon where a railway used to run. The trail is flat and goes for 12 km one way. Bike rentals are on site. We hiked for about 6 km, stopped for a picnic lunch overlooking the canyon, then doubled back, always enjoying the view.

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Thai-Inspired Noodles

Thai noodles

This is a riff on pad thai with simple ingredients and big flavors. If you prefer a lighter taste, you can tone down the proportions of the seasonings for a more subtle effect.  It’s a fun experiment in creating a flavor profile, and very easy to put together. You can top with pork, chicken, shrimp or tofu. I use pork in this dish (I had a leftover pork chop that I sliced up). I also use kale for nutrition and color; traditional Thai style is to use bean sprouts. I don’t add the usual egg, and I substitute crushed peanuts with peanut butter.

Ingredients:

1/4 box whole wheat spaghetti
pork slivers (desired amount)
3 kale leaves, stemmed and shredded by hand
3 tbsp. fish sauce
1/2 lime, freshly squeezed
1-2 tbsp. sugar
1-2 tbsp. peanut butter (I prefer all-natural and crunchy)

Boil the spaghetti until it cooks through (I recommend about 15 min.), drain, and set aside. Saute the kale until it wilts,  then stir in the pork slivers. Once the pork cooks (should only take about 5 min.), stir in the noodles, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and peanut butter. Mix thoroughly, turn off heat, let sit for about 5 min., then serve.

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Smoked Sausage Omelette Sandwich

Omelette sandwich

This is a big, somewhat messy sandwich, depending on the amount of sausage and peas you include (I like to include a lot of both, as you can see). I like that’s it unapologetic and hearty. I used half of a Turkish loaf that we picked up from COBS Bread, a local chain; it’s light and slightly salty. You can substitute with ciabatta.

Ingredients:

2 eggs, beaten
1 smoked sausage, sliced (1/2 sausage for a smaller serving)
peas (desired amount)
sharp white cheddar, sliced
1/2 Turkish loaf

Saute the sausage and peas, then pour the eggs over top. Add the cheddar. You can flip the omelette when the bottom half is cooked, or finish it off with steam by covering the top of the pan.

Slice the bread in half and place the omelette in between.

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Smoked Salmon Brunch

Salmon brunch

We took a trip over the border recently and stopped by Trader Joe’s, where we loaded up with a lot of goodies. The smoked salmon we picked up was perfect for a brunch dish. I use whole wheat naan as the base, layer a few salmon slices on top of that, drizzle with olive oil, add arugula, and top with two poached eggs. (You can poach the eggs in boiling water with a bit of vinegar for up to 5 min.). A beautiful, simple meal to start off the weekend.

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Pesto Tortellini With Porchetta

Pesto tortellini with porchetta

Bottled pesto is readily available available at supermarkets, but, when I have a chance, I like to create a homemade version. The aroma and flavor of fresh basil really pop, as do the salty, fresh bits of parmesan. I use cheese-filled tortellini in this recipe, mixed with peas and porchetta.

Ingredients:

1 pack fresh basil
parmesan to taste
olive oil
1 pack of tortellini
1/2 cup peas
4 porchetta slices, chopped
1 Roma tomato, chopped

For the pesto, place the basil and parmesan (I recommend 1/4 to 1/3 cup) into a food processor. Pour in enough olive oil to create a sauce-like consistency for the mix. Grind thoroughly.

Bring salted water to a boil in a large pot and cook the tortellini for about 10 min., then drain. In the pot, saute the peas, porchetta and tomato, then stir in the tortellini and pesto.

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