Eat Well Culinary Workshop: Spanish Tapas Feast with Chef Rene Rodriguez


Last week we were invited by Canola Eat Well to attend an Eat Well Culinary Workshop at the Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum. What foodie girl passes up an opportunity to attend a culinary workshop? And get this, it the event featured Chef Rene Rodriguez (Navarra Restaurant) treating us to a feast of Spanish tapas where each dish was created using canola oil.

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Photograph by Nick Ghattas courtesy of Canola Eat Well

This event was one of a 6-part series of Canola Oil-inspired FARM TO FOOD experiences where guests Learn. Create. Make. Take. The Canada Agriculture and Food Museum was the perfect setting for this event and effectively contributed to the Learn component. CanolaEatWell.com is about inspiring you in the kitchen and connecting you to the farm with Canada’s oil, canola oil. We even got to spend time with our good friend Don Chow of FoodiePrints, our host for the evening.

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As we arrived, we were greeted with an elegant glass of Estrella Damm – the Mediterranean beer, the official alcohol sponsor for the evening. We were then invited to go on a tour of museum’s food preservation exhibit. At this all-ages-friendly exhibit, our tour guide explained the history of food preservation, food safety, and the basics of canning and fermentation.

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Photograph by Nick Ghattas courtesy of Canola Eat Well

We learned so much about the history of canola oil, its uses, benefits and how it is grown and harvested. For example, did you know:

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Photograph by Nick Ghattas courtesy of Canola Eat Well

  • Canola oil is a good source of vitamins E and K and is packed with omega 3 fats.
  • Canola oil has the lowest amount of saturated fats compared with other oils—half that of olive oil.
  • It has a neutral flavour and light taste that makes it great for baking and cooking. When you add herbs and spices, canola oil absorbs the flavours making it very versatile.
  • Canola oil has a high smoking point (as high as 242 C/468 F) so it’s great for BBQ’ing.
  • Canola is grown by over 43,000 family farmers on the Canadian Prairies.

Admittedly, I didn’t know a lot about Canola oil before this event but I was impressed by its versatility and its significance in Canada. To demonstrate how farmers check for ripeness and to show how much oil can be extracted from the seed, we all took part in the “Canola Crush” activity lead by Simone of Canola Eat Well. We took a measure of canola seeds and placed them on a strip of tape and then used a roller to crush the seeds. Through the strip of paper and tape, we could see the extracted oil. Crushing stuff is always fun and it was a great activity learn more about canola oil extraction.

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Next, we were treated to a cooking demo in which Chef Rene was challenged to make pinxtos (small one-bite snacks generally eaten usually spiked or skewered with a toothpick) using Pristine Gourmet canola oil. He said he “liked to use canola oil because it has a high smoking point”. He met the challenge and made patatas bravas with an aioli and garlic-stuffed olives sautéed in chili and canola oil. 

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Photograph by Nick Ghattas courtesy of Canola Eat Well

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By this time, we had consumed a lot of knowledge about canola oil and had built up an appetite. Plus it smelled delicious in there. Soon, grand doors opened up to a beautifully decorated table with with a liveband in the background. It was like a trip to Barcelona with food and music to match. I was lucky enough to be seated beside Chef Rene where he talked about a special gift on the table called tortas, a traditional hand-baked Spanish flatbread. It had the texture of a thin cracker with a slight anis flavour to it. Delicious! 

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Photograph by Nick Ghattas courtesy of Canola Eat Well

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With canola used in each preparation by Chef Rene, the menu for the evening included:

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Manchego with Quince | Photograph by Nick Ghattas courtesy of Canola Eat Well

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Chorizo Pintxos with Cider | Photograph by Nick Ghattas courtesy of Canola Eat Well

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Catalan Tomato bread with anchovies | Photograph by Nick Ghattas courtesy of Canola Eat Well

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Patatas Bravas with Tomato and Aioli | Photograph by Nick Ghattas courtesy of Canola Eat Well

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Chimichurri Mushrooms on Crostini with Queso Fresco and Serrano Ham | Photograph by Nick Ghattas courtesy of Canola Eat Well

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Basque Steak Tartare with piquiloo, chives and dried olive | Photograph by Nick Ghattas courtesy of Canola Eat Well

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Serrano Ham with Dates | Photograph by Nick Ghattas courtesy of Canola Eat Well

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Photograph by Nick Ghattas courtesy of Canola Eat Well

After dinner, we were lucky enough to hear a first-hand account of Canadian farming from Tanya, from a third-generation farm in Alberta. She talked about the growing, harvesting and extraction process for canola on the 4000-acre farm she runs with her husband, Glen. As a medium-sized carbon neutral farm, the contribution to Canada’s food supply is significant and actually very high-tech. For example, each year their farm yields:

  • Canola seed that produces 929,000 I Litre bottles of canola oil.
  • Enough wheat for 3 millions loaves of bread
  • Barley for approximately 15 millions bottles of pale ale beer.

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Tanya explaining how much her 4000 acre farm yields each year.

I truly had a great time at this event. The evening was a real immersive experience and a treat to enjoy fabulous food, entertainment and really good company! Thank you to Branding & Buzzing, Canola Eat Well, and the Canadian Agricultural Museum for including me in the evening.

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Photograph by Nick Ghattas courtesy of Canola Eat Well

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Photograph by Nick Ghattas courtesy of Canola Eat Well

For more information, visit www.canolaeatwell.com for recipes, nutrition facts or more information about canola oil. Canola Eat Well is a joint partnership between Alberta Canola and Manitoba Canola Growers. Choose canola oil because it’s local, healthy, versatile!

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Photograph by Nick Ghattas courtesy of Canola Eat Well

Disclosure: Ottawa Foodie Girlz received compensation for this blog post but all opinions expressed are our own.