Tricia’s Birthday Dinner…Starter and Main Meal

Tricia is a cool lady.  She and Ed are good friends who have been extremely supportive and helpful during this time of transition. i have mentioned Tricia’s site, Growing Your Gratitude, which has helped me to focus on positive aspects of my life and myself.   That site is here:

And they are pioneer people, living in the bush, at the end of a long, lonely road.  Totally off grid.  No well.  Raise chickens.  Crazy people.  You know.  Here is their site:

When i told Trica i was going to try plating this year and learn how to serve a nice meal.  “My birthday is  coming up.”  she declared, with no small amount of excitement.  Ok…wasn’t planning on jumping in right away, but why not?  i bought some new plates (a four piece setting) from Canadian Tire and got to work.

i do a lot of research before i cook a new meal.  I check recipes all over the net,  Two books i always consult are the “Herb and Spice Bible” and the “Flavor Bible”.  Bibles all over the place here.

This is the main meal.  If i feel up to it, i may have the dessert done today, but more likely it will be tomorrow.

Right up front, i apologize for the pictures.  i’m not really a photographer, and this is my first effort at serving a meal to people at the table.  We were always buffet people.  No way am i plating 10-15 people every night.  No way.  So, at points, i got a little rattled, forgot to take pics and so on.  And i am easily distracted.  There you go.  Kind of like this.

If i leave a step out or something, let me know and i will repair it before too much damage is done.


Enoki Mushrooms with Garlic and Scallion Sauce

Ingredients:  Enoki mushroom, sliced green onion, garlic (sliced thin), 3 Tb light soy sauce, 1/2 ts sugar

Why would i begin with this dish?  When i went to the ValueMart in town, i saw a couple of packages of mixed mushrooms that looked great.  Sometimes veggies can look a little ragged when they get here.  And mushrooms can be touch and go, especially packed in plastic, as these were.  And there was a few enoki mushrooms in there, so what the heck?

I started the meal this way because the dish is unfilling and the first sip is a little shocking, which is what i want.  i do not know what is going on in my guests mouths when they sit down, but i want to grab a little control of those taste buds right away.  This is simple to make and the unami shock is incredible.  Wake up and enjoy the meal!

i’m not out to reinvent the wheel so here is the link for the recipe with excellent directions and pictures.  i’m not out to reinvent the wheel.

Easy peasy.  Basically blanch the mushrooms and then a simple soy/onion/garlic/sugar mix in a saucepan and serve.  Here is how mine looked.  I have new dishes by the way…just for plating.


Linguine in a Tomato and Sweet Potato Sauce

fresh basil (about 10-15 large leaves) …keep a few for plating if you like, and chop the remainder

2 med sweet potatoes, roasted until tender

1 liter of tomato sauce

couple Tb tomato paste

med onion, chopped coarsely

3 cloves of garlic, mashed

can of baby clams

assorted seafood of your choice (scallop, shrimp, pieces of fish)

Sweet potato is wonderful with tomato.  I find it cuts the acidity of the tomato and blends other flavours together well.  And the beauty of this sauce is it in not a lot of work.  You can make it the day ahead, if you like, and then just heat it up and add the seafood just before serving.  This is how my recipes look when i am cooking.  Lots of notes.  The brain thing.  You know.

I roasted the sweet potatoes at the same time as the other veggies.  When they were cooled, i removed the skins and pureed them.

I hope you notice i do not worry about bowls and such for the pics.  We have what we have.

What happened to all those other mushrooms from that package, John? Happy you asked.  There were some King Oyster and Chanterelles.  I cut the Kings into chunks and just trimmed the Chanterelles.  Heat some butter in the pan and when it has stopped sizzling, put in the mushrooms and let them sit there and brown on on side.  Toss them around in the pan and cook until dark brown.

Get your seafood organized.  i used some canned baby clams, frozen cod, frozen day scallops and some large frozen shrimp from the freezer.  It can be a real job to get any kind of fresh seafood up here.  Better flavour with fresh, to be sure.  Mussels would have been a nice touch.  Oh well.






Make sure you drain those clams well and toss them in the pan with your chopped up onion and garlic.  Add a Tablespoon of dried basil.  Cook until the onion is just transparent and add the rest of your seafood, except your large scallops or shrimp for decoration on top of the pasta.   Presentation.  Put seafood in a container and cover.

I can my own tomatoes and make my own sauce and tomato paste.  We have an organic farm down the road, JK Gardens, so i have lots if i am short.  Nothing like a burst of sunshine in the winter.  That is a liter of sauce.

Return your pan to the heat.  Add sweet potato, tomato sauce and tomato paste.   Heat it until it begins to simmer.  Be careful to watch your heat, or it will scorch.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in the seafood.

Sprinkle fresh basil on individual servings.


Blackened Cajun Cod with Roasted Garlic Puree

three thick portions of cod

Cajun spice

two red peppers, cut in half and cleaned

a med onion, mostly peeled and cut in half

a head of garlic

First, we will make our roasted red pepper and garlic puree.  This can be done the day ahead and one less thing to worry about on meal day.  Take your red peppers, slice them in half and put them face down on the tray.  Do the same with a medium onion (peel most of the dry shell off) and a head of garlic.  Roast a lot, because once you taste your own puree you will want it for all kinds of yummy stuff.  I only did a small batch this time.

You want things to char a bit.  A little olive oil on things helps.  This is how things will look when they come out of the oven.  After things cool, peel the skins off the peppers and tomatoes and squeeze the garlic out.

This is my new toy.  i know.  The jokes have all been made.  It is an immersion blender.  It has a few different attachments, so it is pretty cool and much easier and quicker than the food processor.  If you do not have one, consider saving for a good one.  i don’t think you will regret the purchase.

i put it all a a small plastic container and blend it until it is smooth.  This is what it looks like.  I did not add salt and pepper, as it really does not need it.  Do what you must.

I make my own Cajun spice blend.  It do not add salt, as salt can suck the moisture out of meat.  You need the salt, go ahead.  I always salt my meat ahead of time and then add rub later.  Here is my recipe for Cajun rub:


• ¼ cup chilli powder
• ¼ cup Hungarian paprika
• 1 Tablespoon onion powder
• 1 Tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
• 1 Tablespoon dried basil
• 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
• 1 Tablespoon ground coriander
• 1/3 cup kosher salt
• ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 2 teaspoons dried thyme
• ¼ teaspoon cumin
• ¼ teaspoon White Pepper

• Combine  until well-mixed. 

Place the spice mix in a glass jar and seal tightly. Store in a cool, dark place up to 3 months.

Love this stuff!  Good on chicken, pork, fish.

Put some spice on a plate and put then set the cod on top.  Let it sit there for a few minutes.  Press the cod into the spice,  Turn it over and do the same for the other side.  Heat your frying pan with a small about of oil (butter is good, but it can burn).  Put the fish in the preheated pan and let it sear.  Try not to burn the spices.  Cook until the fish is not quite half done.  Flip and cook until just about done.  Remove from pan and plate.  SORRY.  No pics.  The fish should be crusty and almost black.

Take your decorative seafood (large shrimp or scallop.  Sear it in the leftover spices.  Remove and scrape any leftover spices into the pasta sauce and mix.  Plate the pasta and sauce.  Place decorative seafood on top of pasta.

Put some of the puree on the fish.


Eat some more.


Happy eating.


2 thoughts on “Tricia’s Birthday Dinner…Starter and Main Meal

  1. What a incredible birthday gift! Thank you for a delicious meal! It was wonderful to hear all the thoughts that went into your choice and the fun you had during prep. I feel very grateful to have been your first plating challenge. Already have the wheels churning for next year. 😉


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