by Beverley Ann D’Cruz

The premise was simple. Online culinary encyclopaedia and food community,  Foodista, invited food bloggers to submit a recipe and, if popular enough, it would be published in a one of a kind social media-motivated book. Several entries and eight months later, the Foodista Cookbook was born, combining the voices and recipes of 100 bloggers from around the world.

From Geoduck Ceviche to Adana Keban, a veritable feast of flavours, cultures and personal stories were compiled after being voted on by readers and Foodista/Andrew McMeel Publishing editorial staff. Canada was well represented with nine entries included. We spoke to four winners from the East Coast about their recipe inspiration and why they do what they do.

Blog name: Vegan Visitor
Who: Dayna McIsaac
Location: Toronto
Winning recipe: Cedar Smoked Asparagus Soup
Why do you blog?
I have a few blogs; Vegan Visitor and Food and Photography, are my main food blogs. I started Vegan Visitor first, back in the early days of blogging. My in-laws are vegan and the rest of my family is not, so I had to learn a new angle to cooking and still feel satisfied. The blog was initially to catalogue my vegan creations but the excitement of the odd comment and the sheer creativity of it kept me going and started a little following. Once I’d been at it a while, I realized how much I was enjoying the writing, food styling and photography of the posts I’d written. When I wanted to branch out with some of my more carnivorous ideas, Food and Photography was born.
How did you get involved?
I’d heard about the idea’s inception at a conference the year before. I thought it was a great idea to get some of the, otherwise buried, amateur food writing and recipe development in front of more eyes!
Did you think you could win?
I’ve always loved this recipe! It’s just soup, but it’s incredibly easy yet elegant and delicious enough to share.
How does it feel to be one of nine Canadians that made it into the book?
I had no idea the small number of Canadians in the book, until now. I’m especially ecstatic, knowing that I’m helping to represent our Canadian cooking talent.
What’s so special about the recipe?
My recipe for Cedar Smoked Asparagus Soup, was almost a fluke in the making. Like so many of us now, I try shop locally and seasonally. For this recipe, I happened to be at Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market when they were literally selling asparagus by the handfuls. I cramped my clutches wide and headed home with my reward for a dinner gathering. The menu was cedar planked salmon and grilled asparagus, but even with the best of efforts, I couldn’t fit a fraction of what I’d brought home on to the grill. The extras were tucked into the edges of the cedar plank and a cedar paper to cook. It lent a great new flavour to the already super vegetable but we still couldn’t finish it all.  As a constant recipe developer, I knew exactly what I would do with those leftovers.
What’s you other favourite recipe from the book?
I’m still very eager to get my copy of the book. I’m sure that there are many mouth-watering recipes in there to try, especially those of the other Canadians.
Blog name: Tramie’s Kitchen – Baking At Midnight
Who: My name is Tram. ‘Tramie’ is what my friends call me. I love food. I love to eat, cook and bake. I love even more to see my loved ones enjoy my creations.
Location: Montreal
Winning recipe: Mango Avocado Ice-cream
Why do you blog?
I actually never thought I’d one day have a blog. In summer 2009, I became a sponsor for a Yoga Mala charity event here in Montreal as I donated cookie pops for the goodie bags as well as to raise donations for Amnesty International. So in order for people to know who Tramie’s Kitchen was, I decided to start a blog. And since I’ve always taken pictures of everything I made anyway, everything just seemed to fall into place. The tag ‘Baking at Midnight’ came from the fact that I always found myself putting something into the oven to bake, really late at night. When I see a recipe that I’d like to try, or when I crave to make something in particular, it doesn’t matter what time it is, I cannot help myself, I must do it or I will toss and turn in bed or think about it for days, until I make it.
How did you get involved? I got an invitation to join Foodista and share recipes. Then when the contest came along, I was notified and thought it was a great idea and would be interesting and challenging to give it a try.
Did you think you could win? When I found out that I won, I was at work, and so I compensated my shrieking with jumping up and down to shake out the excitement. It was quite funny because I wanted to win and I ‘advertised’ myself with my friends but I never actually thought that I might win. I entered many recipes and this one was chosen, but honestly I think it stood out from the others originality wise.
How does it feel to be one of nine Canadians that made it into the book? 
I thought there were more Canadians than that in this book. Well, I’m not too humbled about it for sure! That’s awesome!
What’s so special about the recipe? This is one of my favourite recipes, simple and delicious, and pretty healthy.  Obviously, you would have to like mango and avocado for me to recommend it. I’ve made it quite a few times, and it all started a few years ago when I used to blend avocado, mango and lime juice together and eat it cold like a dessert. Adding milk and making it into ice-cream just seemed right.
What’s your other favourite recipe from the book?
I have browsed through to see the other winners, and I’ve been waiting to see them and their recipe in the book. Unfortunately I still haven’t received the book.

Blog name: The Dog’s Breakfast
Who: Robert Lee and David Rollins
Location: Montreal
Winning recipe: Jade Buddha Salmon Tartare
Why do you blog? We worked together as a creative team in advertising for several years and started the blog because we like working together and don’t often have the opportunity. We also both have family and friends who live in other cities and thought a blog would be a way to bring them into our kitchens, to share a kind of virtual hospitality. So we started documenting whatever we were cooking over the weekend, which is when we generally try new things. We try to keep it fresh by keeping up on food culture – reading blogs, magazines, books, eating at new restaurants. But our biggest inspirations are our friends. Eating well is living well, and we try to share good meals with good friends as often as possible. There’s nothing more inspiring than that.
How did you get involved? We joined Foodista as a way to get more involved with the online food community and grow our readership. We also really loved the idea of a crowd-sourced cookbook.
Did you think you could win? We didn’t know what the level of competition would be, but we knew this was a great recipe and felt it stood a chance of getting noticed.
How does it feel to be one of nine Canadians that made it into the book? When we started tracking our readership, we were surprised to find that the great majority of our readers are from New York and California. So yes, we’re surprised that so many people from the Canadian online food community are featured in this book, because we imagine it to be so much smaller than the American one. I guess also because as modest Canadians, we expect to be outshone by our more glamorous US neighbours.
What’s so special about the recipe? This recipe was one of our first truly original creations. We adapt a lot of recipes over time, or try to re-create dishes we’ve tasted in restaurants. This one was pure imagination. And it’s the best salmon tartare you will ever taste.
What’s you other favourite recipe from the book? We haven’t received our copy of the book yet, but are looking forward to seeing what the other winners contributed. We’ll likely try out anything that is seasonal and simple, or recipes that combine flavours in original ways. It’s hard to resist a clever twist on an old favourite.

Blog name: Potato Chops and Boneless Chicken
Who: Beverley Ann D’Cruz
Location: Mississauga
Winning recipe: East Indian Potato Chops
Why do you blog? I’m a journalist by trade with an immense passion for researching, reading and getting involved with all things culinary-related. However, it wasn’t until my husband was diagnosed and treated for a brain tumour and we had to switch his diet around to aid the healing process that the role of food became even more important. Starting a blog to chronicle my new ingredient discoveries, recipes and mishaps seemed a natural extension of my writing, research and photography skills. In a small way I hope to educate readers and inspire them to get into the kitchen and cook.
How did you get involved?
I joined the Foodista community to interact with other food lovers. When the opportunity for the book came up I thought it was a great way for bloggers (most of whom maintain their blogs out of pure love and passion) to be recognised.
Did you think you could win? Honestly, no. There were so many entries and great recipes that I didn’t think there was even a slight chance. I guess I got really lucky.
How does it feel to be one of nine Canadians that made it into the book? Technically, I’m not a Canadian yet as I just moved to Mississauga in March 2009. However, I’m thrilled that it’s been possible for me to highlight one of my community’s favourite recipes and represent my new home at the same time.
What’s so special about the recipe? This recipe is really close to my heart as it’s one of my mother’s specialities and a personal favourite of mine. Think of it as a miniature Shepherd’s Pie – beef mince encased in a layer of potato and fried until golden. It’s a very popular dish in the Indian Roman Catholic community and is always on the table when any celebration is held. As a child, I watched my mother lovingly shaping, stuffing and frying them and always wondered whether I would ever be able make them as well as she did. I’m still in the process of learning how to shape each one perfectly but I’m getting to her level – slowly but surely.
What’s you other favourite recipe from the book? There are so many great recipes that it’s really hard to choose just one. I tend to err on the ‘healthy’ side because of my husband’s dietary requirements so will definitely be looking for those that allow me to swap ingredients easily without affecting the recipe’s outcome too much.

Jade Buddha Salmon Tartare
David Rollins
Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as an appetizer
12    ounces raw salmon, finely diced
2     tablespoons chopped green onion
1     tablespoon chopped chives
1     tablespoon chopped cilantro
1     tablespoon chopped Thai basil
2     teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
Grated zest of 1 lime
Habanero sauce and minced green chile
Salt and pepper
Olive oil to coat
Good squeeze of lime juice
1     teaspoon champagne or rice vinegar

1 Combine all the ingredients except the lime juice and vinegar.
2 Chill for 30 minutes.
3 Add the lime juice and vinegar, adjust to perfect, and serve.

Cedar-Smoked Asparagus Soup
Dayna McIsaac
Serves 4
1     cedar plank for smoking (cooking grade with no varnish)
1     medium bunch asparagus, 20 to 25 stalks
1     teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2     tablespoons olive oil
2     leeks, white and light green parts only, well washed and finely diced
2     cloves garlic, minced
1     medium Yukon Gold or russet potato, peeled and diced
4     cups vegetable stock
scant ¼ teaspoon salt
1     teaspoon lemon juice (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil, basil oil, or leek oil

1 Submerge your cedar plank in water for anywhere from 20 minutes to 4 hours, depending on the thickness of the plank and your timing.
2 Preheat a grill to medium-high heat.
3 Trim the asparagus and lay them on a large sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and wrap the foil to cover. Place the asparagus package on the cedar plank, lower the heat (or move the package to a cooler part of the grill), and close the lid of the barbecue. Grill for 10 to 15 minutes, checking intermittently, until tender.
4 Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large stockpot. Add the leeks and garlic and sweat until soft and translucent but not browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the diced potato and cover with the stock. Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.
5 Remove the best spear tips from the asparagus and reserve for garnish.
6 Roughly chop the remaining smoky asparagus and add to the simmering soup. Continue cooking for another 3 to 5 minutes to merge the flavours.
7 Transfer the soup to a food processor (or use an immersion blender in the pot) and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and lemon juice.
8 Top each serving with the reserved asparagus tips and drizzle with extra virgin
olive, basil oil, or leek oil.

All recipes from Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook, edited by Sheri L. Wetherell, Barnaby Dorfman, and Colin M. Saunders/Andrews McMeel Publishing. Released in Canada on October 16, 2010.