Canada’s Top Chefs Share Their Favourite Summer Recipes
From fresh salads to creative options for the grill, we ask Canada's top chefs to share some of their favourite summer recipes. Photo: Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriott from Kiin by Nuit Regular
Summer in the true north. Barbecues, campfires, dining al fresco, drinks on the patio. But why not take it up a notch?
We asked a few of Canada’s top chefs to share their warm-weather cooking secrets that go beyond marshmallows and s’mores.
Whether you’re firing up the grill for a barbecue or hosting a dinner party for the Canada Day long weekend, these recipes will get you cooking.
Trevor Lui’s Kung Pao-Style Cauliflower Wings
Lui is a chef, founder of Quell culinary talent agency and the author of The Double Happiness Cookbook: 88 Feel-Good Recipes and Food Stories. highbellgroup.com
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 5 min
Adapting a classic North American Chinese dish to create a gluten-free, vegetarian version turned out to be a greatest hit. This quick, fuss-free recipe has been adapted for home cooks to prepare with ease. The kung pao sauce is a crazy flavour bomb, so don’t hold back!
Kung Pao Sauce
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup local honey or agave nectar
2 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp Sriracha
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1 head cauliflower, broken into 2-inch florets
Canola oil, for deep-frying
Sweet Chili Sauce
1/2 tsp toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
1 spring onion, sliced diagonally, for garnish
Kung Pao Sauce:
Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until smooth and emulsified. Transfer to a small saucepan and keep warm over low heat.
1. In a large bowl, combine cornstarch, garlic powder, cayenne, paprika, and salt. Add cauliflower and toss to coat. Transfer florets to a colander and shake off excess seasoning.
2. Heat oil in a deep fryer or a deep saucepan over high heat to 375°F. Using a metal slotted spoon, carefully lower cauliflower into the oil and deep-fry for 4–5 minutes, until florets are crisp and float to the surface. Transfer cauliflower to a plate lined with paper towel to drain.
3. Place cauliflower in a large bowl, add chili sauce, and toss to coat. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with sesame seeds and spring onions.
Excerpted from The Double Happiness Cookbook: 88 Feel-Good Recipes and Food Stories by Trevor Lui. Photographs by Suech + Beck. Copyright © 2020 by Trevor Lui. Excerpted with permission from Figure 1 Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Nuit Regular’s Grilled Chicken Satay Skewers (Gai Satay)
Chef Nuit heads up the culinary offerings at Toronto restaurants Pai Northern Thai Kitchen, Kiin, Sabai Sabai and Sukho Thai and is the author of Kiin: Recipes and Stories from Northern Thailand.
This famous Thai appetizer is very light and goes perfectly with a peanut sauce dip.
In Thailand, we also pair this with a pickled relish that cleanses the palate between each bite. I like to prepare a few of these and keep them in the fridge. When friends come over, I throw them on the grill, pour out some sauce, and we have a perfect snack. To really enjoy this dish make sure you have some Peanut Sauce on the side.
Note: you’ll need 30 (6-inch) bamboo skewers.
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted
¼ teaspoon white peppercorns
2 tablespoons thinly sliced lemongrass
1 (2-inch) piece fresh turmeric, peeled and thinly sliced
1½ teaspoons sea salt, divided
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons evaporated milk
1 tablespoon + 1½ teaspoons thin soy sauce
1 tablespoon + 1½ teaspoons Thai oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon tapioca starch
1½ pounds (675 g) skinless, boneless
Chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
½ cup well-shaken coconut milk, for brushing
1. Using a stone mortar and pestle, grind the coriander seeds and white peppercorns to a fine powder. Add the lemongrass, turmeric, and 1 teaspoon of the salt and pound to a smooth paste. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the water, evaporated milk, thin soy sauce, oyster sauce, condensed milk, vegetable oil, curry powder, tapioca starch, and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Stir well to combine. Add the chicken and toss to coat well with the sauce. Make sure the chicken is fully coated. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour to marinate.
2. Soak 30 (6-inch) bamboo skewers in cold water for at least 30 minutes.
3. Thread the chicken onto one half of each skewer.
4. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat. Brush the grill with the coconut milk and let sit for a couple of minutes. This will prevent the chicken from sticking to the grill.
5. Place the chicken skewers on the grill and cook until it begins to char,8 to 10 minutes. Turn and brush the other side with coconut milk when the chicken starts to dry out, cooking for another 6 to 8 minutes, until a nice char appears on the meat.
6. Serve with peanut sauce and fast pickled cucumber. (recipes below)
Peanut Sauce (Nham Jimt Sa-Tay)
This peanut sauce is a great dipping sauce for the popular Thai appetizer Grilled Chicken Satay Skewers.
Makes 1 cup
1 cup well-shaken coconut milk
½ cup unsalted roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon + 1½ teaspoons Red Curry Paste
1 tablespoon curry powder
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon thin soy sauce
½ teaspoon Thai fish sauce
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
1. In a small food processor, combine the coconut milk, peanuts, red curry paste, and turmeric, and purée.
2. Transfer to a small pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. When the sauce starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and add the thin soy sauce, fish sauce, and coconut sugar. Stir to mix well and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pot to prevent burning, for 10 to 15 minutes or until the oil rises to the surface.
3. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Fast Pickled Cucumber (A-Jad)
A-Jad actually means “fast pickle relish.” It has a sharp, tongue-tingling pickled flavour from the white vinegar. The simple blend of spices perfectly complements the pickled flavour without being overwhelming. Because it cuts the richness of a dish, we often eat this with Grilled Chicken Satay Skewers or with a very rich curry.
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons Thai cane sugar
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 mini cucumber, diced
1 fresh red spur chili, coarsely chopped
1 shallot, coarsely chopped
1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the water, white vinegar, cane sugar, and salt and bring to a boil. When the mixture is boiling, cook for another minute. Set aside to cool.
2. Add the cucumber, chili, and shallot and stir together. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Excerpted from Kiin by Nuit Regular. Copyright ©2020 by Nuit Regular. Photography copyright ©2020 by Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriott. Published by Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
Mark McEwan’s Seasonal Green Salad Recipe
Toronto-based chef Mark McEwan is also the founder of The McEwan Group restaurants and McEwan Fine Foods, and is a head judge on Top Chef Canada,
½ head yellow romaine hearts washed and torn into desire size. (approx. 100g)
4 to 6 leaves of Bibb lettuce, (approx. 20g)
½ pack of Belgian endive, (60g)
A handful of watercress (20g)
½ pack radicchio or treviso (80g)
10g fresh basil picked
1 cup chef Mark’s Mason jar dressing (see recipe below)
Pinch of Kosher Sea salt to taste
Pinch of Cracked Black Pepper to taste
1. Remove the romaine leaf and Bib lettuce from its core, rinse any dirt and drain any excess water. In the meantime, remove the leaves from the endive, radicchio, and discard the core. Cut all the lettuce to the desired size by using a knife or break it into small pieces by hand.
2. Mix in the watercress and fresh torn basil.
3. Top the salad with the dressing and add salt and pepper to taste. Toss the salad gently and serve.
Mark McEwan’s Vinaigrette Dressing
Chef McEwan typically makes a double batch to keep at home. This vinaigrette tastes delicious on almost anything and will last in the fridge for up to two weeks. McEwan’s seasonal salad recipe includes greens such as yellow romaine hearts, bibb lettuce, Belgian endives, watercress, radicchio or treviso and fresh basil.
4 oz olive oil
3 oz red wine vinegar
Juice 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 garlic cloves minced fine
2 anchovy fillets, minced
Tsp fresh thyme buds
1 shallot, diced finely
1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
Salt/pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a sealable jar and shake (there is no specific order when adding the ingredients). Allow this to sit for one hour to blend all the flavours.
Nicholas Issel’s Smoked Pepper Sauce
The executive chef at the Fairmont Château Lake Louise says this is a great way to add a personal flair for barbecue, burgers and more.
5 pc roast Fresno chili
1 pc roast red pepper
2 pc Thai chili
5 cloves garlic
2 pc shallot
2 tbsp smoked paprika
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 tps salt
1 tps sugar
1. Roast Fresno and red pepper and peel off skin
2. Roast in a pan with the shallot and garlic.
3. In a blender, add all ingredients and blitz until smooth.
Tomato Gazpacho, Dungeness Crab and Avocado Tian
From Hawksworth: The Cookbook, by David Hawksworth, chef and founder of The Hawksworth Restaurant Group of restaurants in Vancouver.
This is based on the gazpacho I made at the Square. It’s very special to me because I wooed Annabel with this soup. She’d be on break at L’Escargot and walk up to Mayfair from Soho. I’d cut out of the back door of the Square with a cup of her favourite summer soup. And we’d meet right there in Berkeley Square, where she’d sip my gazpacho while we caught up. Then we’d each head back to work.
Red Wine Vinegar Gastrique:
25g (2 tbsp) sugar
25mL (2 tbsp) water
50mL (3 tbsp) red wine vinegar
6 very ripe Roma or vine tomatoes 1⁄2 red bell pepper, deseeded
1⁄2 cucumber, peeled and deseeded 1⁄4 red onion
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1⁄4 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped 1⁄4 small jalapeno, coarsely chopped 500mL (2 cups) tomato juice 75mL (5 Tbsp) olive oil
Dungeness Crab and Avocado Tian:
1⁄2 red bell pepper, deseeded
1 recipe Tomato Concassé (page 314) 2 avocados
1 lemon, juice
2 Dungeness crabs (450g/1 lb each) (cooked according to the method on page 23) or 300g (101⁄2 oz) picked Dungeness crab meat
20g (1⁄2 cup) chopped chives
50g (3 Tbsp) Japanese mayonnaise (this is sweeter than regular, but regular is fine)
Serve: Olive oil, for drizzling, 6 sprigs chervil
Red Wine Vinegar Gastrique:
1. Heat the sugar and water in a small saucepan with high sides over medium-low heat until the water has fully evaporated and the sugar becomes caramel with a noticeably golden to dark shade of brown, about 5 minutes.
2. Very carefully add the red wine vinegar—it will bubble up—swirling the pan a few times, until the reduction has thickened to the consistency of thin maple syrup, 3 to 5 minutes.
1. Cut the tomatoes, red pepper, cucumber, and onion into 2.5cm (1 in) cubes.
2. Place in a large bowl or container and add the cherry tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, jalapeno, tomato juice, olive oil, and gastrique.
3. Season with salt and toss to combine. Refrigerate overnight to fully develop the flavour of the soup.
4. Purée in a blender until smooth and strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Season to taste and add hot sauce if you like a little heat. Refrigerate.
Dungeness Crab and Avocado Tian:
1. Using an open flame, or barbecue, char the outside of the red pepper until the skin starts to blister and turn black. Place in a stainless-steel bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, to allow the pepper to steam. This will make it easier to peel the skin off. Remove and discard the peel from the pepper, running under cold water to help as needed. Dice the pepper and combine with the tomato concassé.
2. Slice the avocados in half lengthwise, and remove the pits. Scoop out the flesh and combine with the lemon juice and salt. Using a fork, gently mash the avocados to the texture of a chunky guacamole.
3. Mix the crab meat with the chives and mayonnaise. Season to taste.
4. Create the tians: Place six 5cm (2 in) ring moulds in the centre of 6 serving bowls. Divide the avocado between the moulds and pack tightly. Top with the crab, then the red pepper and tomato mix.
Serve: Remove the ring moulds and pour the gazpacho around the tian. Drizzle with a good-quality olive oil, and garnish each bowl with a sprig of chervil.
Suzanne Barr’s Watermelon Rosemary Greek Salad
Barr is a chef, author, restaurateur and social advocate and a judge on Wall of Chefs.
Serves 4 people
4 cups watermelon, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
1 English cucumber
1/2 cup feta cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
1/4 cup white balsamic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon greek honey
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Garnish: Pea shoot + crumbled feta cheese
1. Add cut watermelon and sliced shallots to a large bowl.
2. Crumble feta cheese into bite size morsels and place to the side.
3. Peel cucumber, cut cucumber in half lengthwise. Using a teaspoon scoop out inside seeds of cucumber. Slice cucumbers into half moon 1 inch pieces and place in bowl with watermelon. Add rosemary and oregano into the bowl.
4. In a separate bowl add dressing ingredients, using a whisk mix dressing until thick consistency is achieved. Pour over top of watermelon, onions, and cucumbers and mix well. Place into a serving dish garnish with pea shoots and feta cheese, Enjoy!
Julie Garton’s Smoked Sparkling Margarita
Julie Garton is the wine director and sommelier at Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel.
1 oz Mezcal
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
1/2 oz agave
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
3oz sparkling wine, such as dry Spanish cava such as Raventós i Blanc Blanc De Blancs – to top
Garnish with smoke-filled bubble (optional)
Chill a coupe glass while building your drink in the shaker. Shake all ingredients except for the sparkling wine together with ice to chill before pouring into the coupe and topping with sparkling wine. Garnish with a simple lime twist.
Summer Tip: I love light crisps whites and rose during the warm summer months. If you are looking for a wine with vibrant flavours but a bit lower alcohol try a Vinho Verde from Portugal, a Kabinet Riesling from Germany, or a Muscadet from the Loire Valley in France. These are all beautiful and refreshing light summer whites.
Pairing Note: The subtle smoked note from this cocktail can add a wonderful layer of flavour and enhance a dish like carpaccio, Tartare, and raw and cured fish. I also love how the drink itself is complemented by the saltiness of a dish such as Tuna Carpaccio – a little salt can really enhance the flavour in the sparkling margarita.
A version of this story was originally published on July 25, 2021.
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