Renée Kohlman: Dennis Prescott’s new cookbook is a keeper

March 15, 2024

Prescott’s “Cook with Confidence” is a stunning collection of creative yet approachable recipes, accompanied by mouth-watering photography.

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I love it when a beautiful, brand-new cookbook crosses my desk.

The fact that it’s written by a fellow Canadian gets it some serious bonus points, and when I’ve met and had conversations with the author, well, that’s the cherry on top.

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Some of you may know Dennis Prescott from his appearance in Saskatoon at the Word on the Street Festival several years ago, where he was chatting about his first cookbook, Eat Delicious. You might also know him from his Netflix series, Restaurants on the Edge. Or, maybe you’re just one of his close to a million Instagram followers.

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However you know Dennis, you’re aware of just how much he loves to cook. His second book, Cook with Confidence, is published this month, and it’s a stunning collection of creative yet approachable recipes, accompanied by mouth-watering photography.

The recipes in Cook with Confidence reflect Dennis’s extensive world travels as well as his Maritime childhood in New Brunswick. Flipping through the pages, I keep thinking how many things I want to make, whether it’s a snack, seafood recipe, vegetarian dish, fresh pasta, or a grilled meat item.

Some recipes slide into special occasion territory — like the Turkey Roulade with Bourbon, Pancetta, Cranberry, and Leeks — while others are perfect for weekend hangs with friends and family. For this, you’d want to tuck into the Loaded Grilled Chicken Nachos, Sunday Night Lasagna, or Hoisin Pork Meatballs.

I quite like the balance of seafood, vegetarian, and meaty recipes, but if you’ve got a sweet tooth, there are no cookies or cakes here.

Beyond the recipes, Dennis’s book aims to help you become a better cook. It could teach you how to shuck an oyster, or make fresh pasta from scratch, how to choose the best seafood, become one with the grill, or how to stock your pantry with an array of ingredients to add heaps of flavour to your cooking.

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While some of the recipes may have a longer ingredient list, most of the items you already have on hand, or are easily found in larger supermarkets. If you’re looking to get out of a cooking rut and eager to try something new in the kitchen, I highly recommend Cooking with Confidence. I’m inspired by Dennis’s creative approach to cooking and I know you will be too.

Dennis and his publisher, Penguin Random House, graciously shared a recipe (and photographs) with me so I can share them with you. Seeing as spring is right around the corner (it is, isn’t it?!), I thought this salmon recipe would be perfect, and get us in the mood with bright, sunshiny flavours.

Grilled pineapple salsa? Yes, please! But, if you don’t have a grill, don’t worry. Dennis includes steps on how to make this recipe without the barbecue. I like that he’s considered all methods of cooking and what equipment home cooks may or may not have on hand.

It’s just another reason why this book is a keeper.

Salmon recipe from Cook With Confidence, a new cookbook by Canadian author Dennis Precott.
Salmon recipe from Cook With Confidence, a new cookbook by Canadian author Dennis Prescott.

Sriracha Maple Salmon with Avocado Pineapple Salsa

For the salmon:
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sriracha
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
Zest of 1 lime
1 skin-on salmon filet (about 3 pounds)
For the salsa:
1 small pineapple, peeled, cored, and sliced into rounds
1 large ripe avocado, peeled, cored, and diced
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For serving:
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
1 lime, cut into wedges

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1. Prepare the Salmon: In a medium bowl, combine the syrup, soy sauce, vinegar, sriracha, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and lime zest, and mix well. Place the salmon in an extra-large resealable freezer bag (or high-sided dish), and pour over the marinade. Close the bag (or cover the dish with plastic wrap) and refrigerate for six to eight hours, turning the bag every few hours to let the marinade work its magic. If using a high-sided dish, flip the fish every few hours.

2. Prepare a grill for indirect, medium-high heat cooking, or preheat the oven to 400°F. If baking in the oven, line a baking sheet with foil.

3. If grilling, remove the fish from the marinade, reserve the marinade, and lay the salmon skin-side down on the cooler side of the grill grate and cover the grill. Cook the salmon, uncovering the grill every few minutes to brush the flesh side of the fish with some of the reserved marinade. After about 20 minutes, poke the salmon with the tip of a sharp knife. If it easily flakes, the fish is ready; if it seems underdone, cook for five minutes more and check again.

4. If baking, remove the fish from the marinade and place it skin-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Brush some of the marinade all over the top, then transfer to the oven. Cook for about 20 minutes, and then poke the salmon with the tip of a sharp knife. If it easily flakes, the fish is ready; if it seems underdone, cook for five minutes more and check again.

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5. Make the Salsa: Place the pineapple rounds on the hot side of the grill and cook, turning as needed with tongs, until lightly charred on both sides. Transfer to a cutting board, chop into small pieces, and transfer to a bowl. Alternatively, if making this recipe in the comfort of your warm kitchen, char the pineapple in a skillet for a few minutes, until slightly blackened on all sides. Add the avocado, onion, and cilantro to the bowl with the pineapple. Squeeze in the lime juice, add the vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Toss gently to combine, and season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

6. Using two large spatulas, carefully transfer the salmon from the grill (or the baking sheet). Garnish with some cilantro and sesame seeds, and serve with the salsa and lime wedges alongside.

(Excerpted from Cook with Confidence by Dennis Prescott. Copyright © 2024 Dennis Prescott. Photography by Dennis Prescott. Published by Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.)

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Renée Kohlman has been cooking and baking professionally for over 20 years. Her best-selling debut cookbook, All the Sweet Things (TouchWood Editions), received accolades at the 2018 Taste Canada Awards. Her second cookbook, Vegetables: A Love Story (TouchWood Editions), was named one of the top 100 books in 2021 by The Globe and Mail. Renée is often in her kitchen, baking gourmet cookies, which she sells at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market every weekend.

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