Taste Canada: Cook the Books

Cook the Books: Culinary Students, Cookbook Authors and a Live Audience

The Cook the Books Student Chef Battle is a program that runs in partnership with Taste Canada and Canola Eat Well, and is an event like no other.

Students from culinary schools across the country are matched up with a cookbook author nominated for a Taste Canada Cookbook Award.  The students take the stage with their cookbook author, prepare a dish from the author’s book while a live audience looks on and a panel of judges critique their every move.  It’s fabulously intense, fun and entertaining.

It’s a way for students to practice their culinary skills and for cookbook authors to see the up and coming chefs create their dishes while incorporating a unique element.

Farm to Stage

Creating farm connections is what we do and so we asked Canadian farmer, Jeannette Andrashewski, if she would host the event in Toronto. Jeannette’s passion for farming is infectious, to say the least!

There’s a real sense of pride that comes with talking with these talented young chefs and explaining that the canola oil they’re using could very well have come from my farm in Two Hills, Alberta. – Jeannette @farminginpearls


Congratulations to all the students who competed in this year’s Cook the Books!

Cook like a chef at home! Here’s one of the recipes students were given from Ottawa Cooks: Signature Recipes from the Finest Chefs of Canada’s Capital Region, by Anne DesBrisay.

Chiles Rellenos

Serves 6

Chile Rellenos - Ottawa CooksIngredients

Lime crema (makes 1 cup)
1 cup full-fat (14%) sour cream
1 tsp white sugar
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground coriander seeds
1/2 tsp green Tabasco sauce
Juice of 1 lime

Heirloom salsa (makes 3 cups)
2 cups diced heirloom tomatoes
1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely minced
1/4 cup finely minced white onions, rinsed well, then drained
1/4 cup coarsely chopped artichoke hearts, drained
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp minced pitted green olives
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley leaves
1 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
1 tsp Maldon sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground white peppercorns (or black peppercorns)

Eggplant filling
1 large eggplant, unpeeled and trimmed
2 Tbsp sea salt, divided
Canola oil, for frying
2 tsp Tajín Clásico seasoning (or 1 tsp each of chili powder, salt and lime juice)
3 cups cooked and mashed peeled purple potatoes (or other non-waxy potato; about 3 large potatoes)
1 cup finely grated Manchego cheese
2 Tbsp thinly sliced dried apricots
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
Pinch of chili powder
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley leaves
2 Tbsp minced fresh chives
Zest of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Sopa de tortilla
2 ancho chili peppers
2 Tbsp canola oil
3 whole Roma tomatoes
1 corn tostada (5 inches in diameter),
broken into pieces
1/4 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves
picked and stems finely diced
1 tsp epazote leaves
1/2 Spanish onion, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, roasted
1 can (28 oz/796 mL) whole peeled tomatoes, with juice

Onion sofrito
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 Spanish onions, thinly sliced
2 poblano peppers, seeded
and thinly sliced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded
and thinly sliced
1 tsp kosher salt, divided
1/2 tsp ground bay leaves, divided
2 tsp coriander seeds, toasted then ground
1 tsp black peppercorns, toasted then ground

Stuffed poblano peppers
6 poblano peppers (each about 6 inches long)
1 recipe Eggplant Filling (see here)
1 Tbsp canola oil (or melted butter)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and coarsely crushed

2 Tbsp canola oil (or melted butter)
6 tostadas (each 5 inches)
Maldon sea salt
3/4 cup Lime Crema (see here)
12 sweet potato chips
Microgreens, for garnish


Lime crema: In a medium bowl, whisk sour cream with sugar, salt, coriander seeds and Tabasco until well combined. Whisk in lime juice.

Heirloom salsa: Set a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl. Place tomatoes in the sieve and let drain for 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine drained tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, onions, artichokes, garlic, olives, olive oil, parsley, cilantro, oregano, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 1 day.

Eggplant filling: Cut eggplant lengthwise into 8 equal wedges. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp of the salt over the eggplant flesh and let rest for about 1 hour to release any bitterness and excess water. Rinse eggplant under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
Line a plate with paper towels. Preheat a deep fryer or fill a heavy-bottomed skillet with about 1/4 inch of canola oil and set over high heat. When the oil reaches 350°F (use a deep-fry thermometer to test the temperature of the oil), add eggplant and fry until golden, 2 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggplant to the lined plate. While eggplant is still warm, season with Tajín. Once it is cool to the touch, chop eggplant into 1-inch pieces and place in a large bowl. Add mashed potatoes, cheese, apricots, cumin, chili powder, parsley, chives, remaining 1 Tbsp of salt, and lemon zest and juice and stir gently until combined. Set aside.
(Can be refrigerated for up to 1 day.)

Sopa de tortilla: Place chili peppers in a dry skillet and toast over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, until blistered. Transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid. Cover with 2 cups of hot water, seal and set aside at room temperature for 45 minutes to rehydrate. With a spoon, remove the chilies from the water; reserve water. With a sharp knife, gently open chilies and cut out and discard stems and seeds. Set aside.
Set a 6-quart heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add canola oil and tomatoes and without turning frequently, blacken heavily on all sides, 12 to 15 minutes. Turn down the heat to medium and add tostadas, diced cilantro stems, epazote leaves, onions and salt. Cover and cook for 5 to 7 minutes. Add roasted garlic, canned tomatoes and their juice, and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 15 minutes.
With an immersion blender, purée the soup until all major lumps are broken down (it will look thicker and more rustic than a regular tomato soup because of the tostadas). Stir in cilantro leaves, and more salt if necessary. Let cool completely.

Onion sofrito: Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in each of two separate cast-iron pans over medium-low heat. Add onions to one pan and both poblano and jalapeño peppers to the other. Add 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp ground bay leaves to each pan. The peppers will cook and caramelize within 30 minutes; turn off the heat. The onions may take twice as long: be patient, stirring from time to time until all the liquid has evaporated from the pan and the onions are a nice rich caramel colour. Stir the onions into the roasted peppers, add the coriander and black pepper, and set aside to cool.
Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Stuffed poblano peppers: Line a plate with paper towels. Bring an 8-quart stockpot of water to a boil. Add peppers, place a bowl on top to weigh them down and boil for 2 minutes. Remove the bowl and, with a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the peppers to the lined plate to cool.
Set the peppers on their sides. With a serrated knife, carefully slice a small portion off the top of the pepper, leaving 5/8 of the body of the pepper for stuffing; reserve this top portion. Gently remove the seeds and membrane from inside the peppers and discard.
Forty minutes before serving, stuff the 6 peppers evenly with the eggplant filling. Place their tops back on and rub the peppers gently with canola oil (or melted butter). Sprinkle with salt and coriander, gently wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 40 minutes so they become less fragile.

To assemble: Remove stuffed peppers from the fridge and allow them to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a small pot on medium-low, warm the sopa de tortilla.
Heat a large cast-iron skillet or an ovenproof sauté pan large enough to comfortably hold all the peppers over medium-high heat. Add 2 Tbsp of canola oil (or butter) to the hot pan. Place stuffed peppers, bottoms down, in the pan and sear for 2 minutes without moving them. Transfer pan to the oven and bake until peppers begin to blister, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let peppers rest in the pan while you assemble the plates.
In each bowl, arrange 2 Tbsp of sofrito down the centre. Place a tostada over the sofrito. Ladle about 1/2 cup of the soup over each tostada and gently place a stuffed pepper in the centre of the soup. Add 3 heaping spoonfuls of the salsa on top of each pepper. Garnish with Maldon salt, lime crema, sweet potato chips and microgreens.

Copyright 2016 by Trisha Donaldson, Ace Mercado. Republished with permission from Figure 1 Publishing Inc.

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