In this three-part series, we talk to some of the city’s best chefs to find out what they like to cook for their families

feenieIt seems that Vancouver’s most illustrious chefs aren’t that different than us. When it comes to home cooking, it turns out that three of Vancouver’s award-winning culinary starsDavid Hawksworth of his award-winning eponymous restaurant as well as the more casual Nightingale; Rob Feenie of the Cactus Club Cafe and first Canadian chef to win Iron Chef America; and Mark Perrier, chef and co-proprietor of Osteria Savio Volpe and Pepino’salso crave a pizza or sloppy burger once in awhile.

BCLiving sat down with these renowned chefs to ask them a few questions about their home cooking, fall meals and who inspires them. In this second of three parts, we speak with Rob Feenie and share his recipe for Spinach, Bacon and Blue Cheese Salad With Caesar Salad Dressing (see below).

 

BCL: What are your go-to recipes at home?
Feenie: For the fall, I love using yams, sweet potato and squash to make a hash because it’s simple, and there are so many local products that can be used to create it. My kids love a bit of heat, and my recipe is a combo of heat and sweetness as it has spice and maple syrup. Typically, I serve it as a side with meat or fish. I also cook with a lot of simple Italian recipespastas, pizzas, fish, meat...

BCL: In your opinion, what makes for a perfect fall meal?
Feenie: Fall is my fave time to cook because in B.C. things visibly shift. First, the corn comes up, then you start to see pears, apples and then the squashes. It’s a ​real​ shift in what's available and I just love using these items when I cook on the fall. To answer the question, I like to cook any dish that utilizes seasonal vegetables and fruits like apples, pears, Brussels sprouts and squashes. The possibilities with these simple ingredients are limitless.

BCL: Do you cook much differently at home than you do at your restaurants?
Feenie: Of course, the dishes prepared and served in a restaurant are a bit different than daily cooking for the home. That said, for me the philosophy behind the dishes are the same. I firmly believe in fresh, simple, consistent cooking—this has always been my philosophy on food preparation and recipe creation. I use these principles when I come up with recipes for Cactus Club Cafe and when I cook at home.

BCL: How do you like to entertain at home?
Feenie: I entertain seasonally and simply. If it’s summer, we BBQ; if it’s winter, we roast. I like to stick to products and methods that are in season.

BCL: What are your five must-have ingredients in your pantry?
Feenie: In terms of absolute must-haves, I have four: olive oil (the really good stuff, high quality), salts (Himalayan, fleur de sel, Hawaiian salt), mushrooms and tomatoes.

BCL: Who was your main chef/cooking influence when you were growing up?
Feenie: Locally, it’s Michelle Jacob of Le Crocodile Restaurant. I apprenticed under Michelle and have great respect for him as a chef and a mentor. In Europe, as a young chef, I was mentored by French master chef Johnny Letzer, at Maison Letzer. I learned a lot, ate amazing meals and it really catapulted my career. He is truly one of the most gifted chefs. 

 

Spinach, Bacon and Blue Cheese Salad With Caesar Dressing

CAESAR DRESSING   

  • 1 tbsp anchovies, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced 
  • ⅓ cup of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp grainy Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp capers, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped 
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated 
  • 1 tsp Tabasco sauce
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper 
  • 2 cups mayonnaise

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients until well-combined.
  2. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for 2 days if using homemade mayonnaise, or up to 5 days if using a commercial mayonnaise.    

SPINACH, BACON, AND BLUE CHEESE SALAD   

  • 1 baguette, cut into 2-inch squares
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 lbs fresh spinach, washed, trimmed of large stems and dried
  • 1 cup Caesar dressing 
  • 10 slices of double-smoked bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled 
  • 1 cup good-quality blue cheese, crumbled 
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice   

Instructions

  1. ​Preheat the oven to 375 Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, toss bread with olive oil, Parmesan cheese and garlic. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Arrange bread cubes on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain on paper towels and set aside.
  4. In another large bowl, toss spinach with the dressing. Add croutons, bacon and blue cheese. Sprinkle with lemon juice and season with salt and black pepper.
  5. Divide among 4 to 6 plates and serve immediately.            

Serves 4