Salmon gravlax and chocolatey granola bars inspired by legendary seaside inn
Julie Van Rosendaal goes through her bookshelf to revisit some recipes from a Tofino, B.C., inn
Since its opening in 1996, the Wickaninnish Inn, on the north end of Chesterman Beach in Tofino, B.C., has been known for its regional, seasonal cuisine.
Their chefs embraced the farm to fork ideology long before the idea caught on elsewhere, considering the source of their ingredients and how the dishes their visitors enjoyed would contribute to the inn's rustic elegance and authentic sense of place.
Some of Canada's best chefs got their start or did a stint in the Wick kitchen, and their first cookbook is a compilation of recipes from many of them, including current chef Warren Barr and past chefs Rod Butters, Matthias Conradi, Mark Filatow, Justin Laboissiere, Duncan Ly, Andrew Springett, and Matt Wilson. The recipes were compiled and edited by well-known Vancouver food writer Joanne Sasvari.
Like the Inn itself, it's a stunning book, with a textured cover that mimics the cedar posts and beams used throughout the property, carved with traditional First Nations tools by master carver Henry Nolla.
Inside, there's a collection of about 100 of the innovative dishes that have helped make The Pointe restaurant so well known around the world.
For the most part, the recipes are pretty chef-y, but still approachable for the home cook. There's plenty of great seafood, chowders, and baked goods and preserves from the Driftwood Cafe downstairs.
Since the inn itself is situated between stunning old-growth rainforests and the Pacific Ocean, the book taps into its west coast surroundings with fresh seafood and foraged ingredients: freshly picked hemlock tips, lichen, elderflower and even cedar, which is used to infuse whisky for cocktails at the bar, and is simpler than you might think to make at home.
It's a special occasion sort of a cookbook, the one you might pull out when you're cooking for friends, want to reminisce about a visit to the west coast or just push yourself beyond your usual repertoire.
I took a few recipes for a spin. Cured salmon gravlax, which can be intimidating, is really quite simple, requiring only spreading a salt and sugar curing agent to a fresh filet of fatty fish like salmon.
It's a great way to use coho or sockeye, which chef Warren Barr suggests, likely because those species are local and have particularly red flesh. Making your own gravlax makes a good summer project, especially when it gets too hot to turn on the oven.
I also gave the Driftwood Cafe granola bars a try, since summertime is all about camping and backpacking and road trip. It's a simple mix of oats, sliced almonds and seeds, bound together with a sticky mixture of warm simmered dates, brown sugar and honey, and topped with chocolate, if you're so inclined.
They're soft and chewy, yet not compromising of your dental work. They're perfect for packing up for a day at the beach, ideally in Tofino.
Wickaninnish Inn salmon gravlax
I found this made far more than I needed. Tthe recipe does say you may have extra. Next time I'll cut it in half, or even a third, for one large filet.
1 cup salt.
1 cup sugar.
Finely grated zest of one lemon.
Finely grated zest of one orange.
Finely grated zest of one lime.
Finely grated zest of ½ grapefruit.
1 tbsp fennel seed, toasted and crushed.
2 sprigs dill, leaves only, crushed.
1 side or filet of salmon, preferably coho or sockeye.
In a medium bowl, combine the salt, sugar, citrus zests, fennel seed and dill.
Remove all the pin bones from the salon.
Rub the cure onto both sides, making sure the flesh is completely covered. I spread a small handful over the bottom of a glass or ceramic baking dish and placed the filet on top, then spread another generous amount over the top to cover it completely.
Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place on a tray in the fridge for six to eight hours.
Rinse off the cure, then put the salmon back on the tray and leave it uncovered in the fridge to air-dry overnight. This may not be necessary in our Alberta climate. I didn't bother with this step.
Slice the salmon thinly, being sure to leave the skin behind.
Serving: Serve with crackers or toasted bagels and cream cheese, capers, thinly sliced red or green onions and pickles or radishes. Makes enough for eight to 10 people.
I made a half recipe, transcribed here, because I don't need the same quantity. In the book, they're pressed into a larger sheet pan. I also found it easier to toast this smaller quantity of oats, nuts and seeds. I added coconut, too. This recipe is adapted from The Wickaninnish Inn Cookbook.
2 cups old-fashioned large flake oats.
½ cup sliced almonds.
1/3 cup sunflower seeds.
1/3 cup wheat germ.
1/3 cup shredded coconut, optional.
¼ cup flaxseed. I used ground.
½ cup pitted, chopped dates.
½ cup honey.
¼ cup brown sugar.
¼ cup water.
Pinch of salt.
½ to ¾ cup dried fruit, such as cranberries and raisins.
3 to four oz milk or dark chocolate chips or chopped chocolate, optional.
Preheat the oven to 149 C/300 F. Line a nine-by-nine inch or nine-by-12 inch baking pan with parchment or foil to make the bars easier to get out of the pan later.
Spread the oats, almonds, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, coconut and flaxseed out on a large rimmed baking sheet.
Toast for about 30 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden and lightly fragrant.
Transfer to a large bowl.
Combine the dates, honey, brown sugar, water and salt in a small saucepan.
Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
Cook for a few minutes, until the dates get really soft and start to fall apart.
Mash lightly with a fork or potato masher.
Pour over the oat mixture and stir to coat everything well.
Press into the parchment-lined pan. Dampened hands work well as the mixture is sticky. Scatter the chocolate chips or chopped chocolate overtop while the mixture is still warm.
Let it stand for a few minutes. I set the pan back in the still-warm oven for a couple minutes to help the chocolate melt, then spread the softened chocolate over the surface.
Cool on the countertop or refrigerate until set. Remove the whole thing from the pan and cut into squares or bars.
Serving: Makes about 12 bars, depending on their size.
Listen to Julie Van Rosendaal's full radio interview about these yummy treats:
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With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.