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Toronto Cooks

100 Signature Recipes from the City's Best Restaurants

While I love to eat in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, the Toronto restaurant scene holds its own against this stiff competition.  Since I also like to cook, I was intrigued by this new cookbook.  Don’t want to stand in line for eggs benny at the Farmhouse Tavern?  Now you can make it at home.  I have always wanted to try the Harbord Room’s rhubarb, ginger and olive oil upside down cake with cinnamon ice cream and now I can, anytime I want.  

The selection of recipes is varied –complicated to simple, elegant to comfort food, starters to dessert.  Flipping through the book gives the reader a sense of the global influences that have shaped Toronto cuisine and the city itself.  

Flavours and ingredients are current, the salads a great example:  El Catrin’s Ensalada Destileria, a sweet, spicy and sour mix of grilled shrimp, mango, papaya, chayote and mint in a chili, lime and tequila dressing;  Enoteca Sociale’s shaved zucchini salad with red onions, olives, almonds and ricotta salata.  Grilled peaches with oregano and pistachio pesto and fresh ricotta from the Drake is a sweet and savoury dessert that captures the best of Toronto summer in 2014.

All the recipes I tested were successful but did require tweaking.  I have no doubt that the dishes are excellent as executed by the chefs but I wonder whether there were issues in translating restaurant recipes for home cooks.  Lentil soup with pita croutons and lemon, and garlic shrimp, both from Tabule, had great authentic flavour.  But the soup needed a lot more seasoning than called for and the sauce for the garlic shrimp was a bland soupy mess, which we left in the pan (without the sauce, the shrimp were spot on).  

I also tried Bymark’s grilled buffalo mozzarella sandwich on rosemary focaccia, with cured tomatoes, arugula and charred eggplant-chili puree.  This looked like a winner, and it was, but I would reduce the salt in the tomatoes by half next time, and scale back the seasoning in the eggplant-chili puree.  I love big flavours, including salt, but this was too much.  Lastly, I made Glory Hole Doughnuts’ lemon, olive oil, sesame seed yogurt cake with basil lemon glaze and a basil Chantilly cream.   I am a big fan of lemon olive oil cakes, and the basil was an interesting twist, but I would lose the distracting sesame seeds.  And I added lots more lemon zest and juice to the cake and glaze, as well as salt to the glaze to cut the sweetness.   

Recommended?  For Toronto foodies who like to cook, it’s a keeper.  Great for inspiration and lots of pretty pictures, but not ideal for novice cooks.