Toronto prides itself in being a multicultural city. We have our Chinatown, Little Italy, Little Portugal, Greek Town, Little India, two Korea Towns, Little Jamaica, and over the past few years we’ve gladly opened our hearts and bellies to a string of ramen houses, taquerías, and neapolitan-style pizzas. Meanwhile, outside of the GTA there’s a whole heritage of locally sourced foods: the entire Niagara Region, our Ontario ice wines and our Ontario strawberries, quaint establishments in the likes of The Country Apple Store and Springridge Farm, and let’s not forget Oktoberfest in Kitchener-Waterloo. We’re admittedly not as flashy as New York, but in our modest and self-deprecating Canadian way we’re quite alright.
And as you’ll find, you can’t get any more Toronto than the recently released Toronto Star Cookbook.
Written by the Toronto Star’s Jennifer Bain (The Saucy Lady), it’s an eclectic book that covers Japanese yakitoris to Mike Harris’ chocolate cake. Recipes are sometimes from Bain herself, but for the most part they’re from the heart and soul of the hard-working chefs and cooks who make our city and province so great. (Bain fully discloses when the recipes are adapted or tweaked.) Between its pages you’ll find Porchetta & Co’s Rapini, Beast’s Buttermilk Biscuits, Terroni’s Spaghetti with Anchovies and Breadcrumb, Agave y Aguacate’s Lime Charlotte, as well as a myriad of Chinese noodles, Indian masalas, Middle Eastern dishes like babaghanouj and shakshuka, Mexican soup, and Korean kalbi, bulgogi, and pork bone soup!
I’ve made the Toasted Steel-Cut Oatmeal, Canoe’s Broccoli & Russet Potato Hash, Miss Sonia’s Jamaican Oxtail, Joshna Maharaj’s Buttermilk Scones, and Caju’s Brazilian Fish Stew. I’ve enjoyed all of them, finding the recipes simple in the best of ways; they were homely comfort food, the sorts of things you’d make for yourself as part of your week day meals. Admittedly, those of MasterChef abilities will find that since Bain’s aim is to showcase recipes for the average home cook, depth is at times sacrificed for quickness and ease. That’s not to say that flavour isn’t there, because it is, but they’re not the sort of dishes for dazzling dinner guests. Chances are you’ll be able to flip through any page and make what you find that very same day.
Below is a recipe for the broccoli and potato hash. I made it as a side for a family dinner, but I think it’s definitely hearty enough on its own. What really surprised me about the dish was that it managed to impart so much flavour with so little ingredients. (Thyme was the main herb with salt and pepper as seasoning.) It somehow managed to taste very meaty, as if I had cooked it in chicken stock or something. Nonetheless, I liked it a lot! It’d be perfect for a brunch: add some more root vegetables, maybe sweet potatoes (and parsnip and butternut squash), and then top it off with a poached or fried egg.
Broccoli and Russet Potato Hash
Serves 4-6, recipe from Toronto Star Cookbook by Jennifer Bain
1 russet (baking) potato, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 bunch broccoli, stalked peeled and diced, tops cut into small florets
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 sprig thyme
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste
In a medium saucepan, combine the potatoes and enough cold water to cover them. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until the potato is almost tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the potato well, then spread out on a clean towel to dry and cool slightly.
Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the broccoli and cook until very soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain the broccoli well, then spread out on a second clean towel to dry and cool slightly.
In a large non-stick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the broccoli and thyme, and cook, crushing the broccoli with a wooden spoon until the florets and stems are partially crumbled.
Add the potato and cook, stirring gently, until well mixed and heated through. Discard the thyme sprig, and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.
Disclaimer: I received the book for review from Random House Canada. All opinions expressed are my own.