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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Errrrrr...flight or bite?

Slip of the Tongue

Getting to know the man who raises the meat I eat has its perks.  In my weekly sojourn to the farmer's market this summer, a slip of the tongue about our efforts to eat nose to tail resulted in a gift of the gab...or, moo.

Barrie presented me the following week with a thick disembodied cow tongue...complete with taste buds and cow spots.  Not only did Barry slip me a tongue, he also gave me his heart - but that will be another post...

I carried my precious cargo home, excited to taste that tongue in my cheek.  The tongue was the size of my forearm and was shrouded in a thick skin.  I simmered in in a stockpot with:

two large onions, peeled and roughly sliced
one head of garlic, peeled and crushed
6-7 bay leaves
1 tbsp of peppercorns
2 tbsp of kosher salt
enough water to completely cover the tongue

1.  Bring to a rapid boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 3-4 hours or until the tongue is very tender.

2.  Cool slightly; remove the thick skin and the rough bits at the bottom of the tongue.
3.  Slice into 1/4 inch rounds and julienne.

4.  Pan-fry until golden brown in some olive oil.

5.  Serve with  warmed flour tortillas, fresh lettuce, tomatoes, salsa verde, cilantro, red onions avocados or other favourite taco toppings.

Verdict:  the meat was surprisingly rich and fatty and reminded me of the consistency of corn beef hash.  It was very beefy and was a perfect foil for the acidity of the salsa verde and fresh vegetables.  The girls gobbled their tacos up without batting an eye lash.  Jian even insisted on helping me to peel it.  It was delicious though Glenn was not as excited as the three of us.

Even the cat wanted in on the action; the cat got my.......nah!!!!!!!!!! See?  I held my tongue on the puns.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Turf on Surf

Sockeye with Parsley Pesto

My dear friend, Connie introduced me this to divine recipe - I believe Connie received this recipe from her dear friend, Hannah.  Everything Connie touches is magic. Food and the ties they reveal are magic too.

How does one make wild Pacific Sockeye even better?  Slather it in a green turf of crushed flat leaf kind of turf and the freshest of surf.

4 ingredients and even the unrepentent landlubber will eat to the gills.

1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, stems discarded and roughly chopped
1/2 head of garlic, skinned, and finely minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 immaculately fresh sockeye fillet

1.  Mix the first three ingredients together.
2.  Spread a thin layer of olive oil in a dish and place fillet, skin side down and slosh around
3.  Smother the orange flesh with the pesto and let rest from 20 min to 4 hours in the fridge.
4.  Heat BBQ to high with lid closed.
5.  When grill is ripping hot, slide the fillet on and close the lid.
6.  Check flesh after 8 minutes and remove when the thickest part is still bright orange (medium rare)
7.  The skin will be crisp and blackened...for those of delicate disposition, the skin can stay on the platter at service.  For those with large ovaries, remove the skin immediately and eat it all before it softens.

***we served ours with brown rice (with butter and soy sauce) and a garden salad.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fe Fie PHO Yum

It has been a glorious summer of beach days, road trips, mountain vistas, pristine lakes, and mosquito  bites.  In the haze of sunscreen and citronella, Glenn, the girls and I lived an organic life: we ate when we were hungry, often times from our little garden.  We packed the Delica and took off on a whim to see the flora and fauna of BC.  Having called this sweeping place home for 30 years, its forlorn forests and verdant foliage still leave me breathless.  
The summer started with a camping trip to Birkenhead Lake, just a little north of Whistler.  It's one of our favourite spots in the province - close enough to home for a quick dash but far enough off the beaten track to avoid those who drink Budweiser and rock to Nikelback.  We also spent a weekend in Victoria, exploring the inner harbour and the Provincial Museum.  We really did have a good time despite the fact that there were moments when hunger turned us into head-biting monsters.  Our friends, Mike and Leigh-Anne, invited us to join them at their family cabin on Salt Spring Island for four days of solid eating and beach-combing.  Mike's cinnamon scented lamb burgers made you forget for a while that you were biting into a cute lil' baby. 
And the big finale  was a spur of the moment road trip to Bella Coola.  The Caribou Chilcotin's vast landscape is dotted with rolling ranchlands, rainbow ranges, sand dunes, and azure rivers. It doesn't get more epic than 10 000 year old petroglyphs, grizzlies, alpine lakes and the sculpted beauty of hoodoos.
This is the first year of my teaching career (it only took 13 years) that I did not head into school for at least a couple of days to prepare for the beginning of the new school year.  I work hard, really hard, during the year and I like working hard.  No matter how much time I spend preparing in August, I always hit the ground panting in September anyhow.  I figured I might as well enjoy every moment of the summer and head into school on September 7, refreshed and rejunvenated.  As I pulled out from the driveway on the first day of school, it was with no regrets.  The summer had been full and I was ready for the year to be full too.  
It never fails that with the return to school also comes the crisp cool days of autumn.  When the weather turns, I want hot, steaming soup, and rich, deep flavours,  I want food that warms me from inside out and wards off the chill of the rain. 
You know my love affair with farmers.  That love was reignited once more when  I found a bag of soup bones in my freezer.  I can't help but feel a deep regret for all the glorious bones that are dismissed and disposed off as worthless.  If an animal's life is going to be taken, we have a responsibility to ensure it has lived a good life and to eat it nose-to-tail

Time is the most important ingredient for this Vietnamese beef noodle PHO recipe, pronounced "feur," rather than"fo." The intense dance of cinnamon, cloves, star anise and ginger turns the humble bag o' bones into gold.

Stock Ingredients
Soup bones, about 5 pounds (pre-boil for 5 minutes and rinse to remove impurities)
1 3-inch  knob of ginger, smashed and lightly charred over flame
2 yellow onion, halved and lightly charred over flame
1/4 cup fish sauce, to taste
3 tbsp sugar
20 cups of water
The following ingredients go into a bouquet garni
1 cinnamon stick
10 star anise, lightly toasted
10 whole cloves, lightly toasted
10 whole peppercorn, lightly toasted

1 package of rice vermicelli, cooked to package directions and drained

Garnishes - let guests add their own
cilantro leaves
green onions, sliced thinly on the bias
paper thin sweet onion
Thai basil leaves (must have - I went out into the garden in the pitch black and cut some basil like items)
bean sprouts (I didn't have any but you'll be more organized)
Thai chilies, sliced thinly
lime wedges
additional fish sauce
1. Add all the stock ingredients and bouquet garnet. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for a minimum of 2 hours or even overnight, add more water along the way.  
2.  Remove the bones and discard any fat.  Shred the meat and set aside.
3.  Taste and add more fish sauce if needed; the stock should be quite salty; this will be tempered once all the noodle and garnishes have been added.  Add one thinly sliced yellow onion to the stock and keep it hot.
3.  Wash and arrange garnish on a large platter, along with a small bowl of fish sauce.  
4.  Put about 1.5 cup of vermicelli into a large soup bowl:  top with some shredded beef and ladle enough stock over the noodles to just cover***
5.  Invite guests to garnish generously from the platter.  Don't forget to squeeze some fresh lime juice over top.  This adds an essential hit of fresh. 
6.  Using chopsticks or a fork, mix the whole glorious bowl together and chow down.  
7.  Wipe fogged-up glasses.
8.  Head out into the cold.  
***you can also slice a partially frozen beef tenderloin into paper thin slices and layer over the noodles.  The hot stock will cook the beef.  
Happy September!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Leap-into-the-Dark Lasagna

Today was clear-out-the-fridge day.  I had no vision of what I was going to make...just went with the flow and here is what I ended up with.  When I cook like this, it's all guts and instinct...but a hell of a lot of fun!

Chickpea Ragu

1/2 chopped red onion
4 carrots, 1/2 inch cubes
5 ribs celery, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 can of chick peas
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 sprig rosemary, chopped
4 bay leaves

1.  Heat oil over medium heat; add chopped vegetables and saute until onions are softend (5 minutes).
2.  Add chickpeas, tomatoes and herbs and cook for 10 minutes - salt and pepper to taste; The carrots should still be crisp and have some bite.
***this was delicious as a hearty stew, topped with some freshly shaved parmesan and sopped up with some crusty bread.
3.  Bang up the ragu a bit with a masher

Bechemel Sauce

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1.5-2 cups milk
1 teaspoon nutmeg - adjust if nutmeg is not your scene - I LOVE nutmeg!
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Melt butter in saucepan; add flour and cook through (2 minutes)
2.  Whisk in milk - add enough for a yoghurt consistency
3.  S and P it

Putting it all together
10 lasagna noodles, out of the box
1 jar spinach cheese pasta sauce - go ahead, tell my nonna...
1/2 large yellow squash - zucchini would work too - seeded and sliced
1.5 C shredded mozzarella
1 tub of ricotta cheese

1.  Spoon some of the jarred sauce on the bottom of a 13X9 dish
2.  Lay out 5 lasagna sheets over the sauce
3.  Spoon on half of the chickpea ragu; top with ricotta and more sauce
4.  Layer on 5 more noodles, ragu, squash, bechemel sauce, rest of sauce
5.  Top with mozzarella cheese.
6.  Cook at 375 until cheese is golden brown - about 25-30 minutes

Verdict: this was surprisingly delicious; the vegetables were still al dente and the nutmeg added an earthy and robust dimension.  The chick peas provided the potent protein.  There was really a variety of textures, from the creaminess of the chickpeas to the smooth gluten of the noodles to the crisp veggies, that made this different from many of the vegetarian lasagnas I've had.

Leap into the Dark Lasagna...not for the weak-kneed.  Have you got the ovaries?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Super Grain

This quinoa salad has been the meal of the summer for us.  Bonus, it is the only grain that provides a complete source of protein.  Our quest to maintain a mostly vegetarian diet means that finding protein without a face is rather a difficult challenge.  So, yeah!

It's a rather mild tasting grain with cute little tendrils that emerge after cooking. Oh, this makes a rather big serving but it tastes even better the next day.

Zest of one lime, finely minced
Juice of 2 lime
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tsp anchovy paste

The Rest:
1 cup quinoa
1 can  black beans, drained
lots of sweet cherry or heirloom tomatoes (bite size pieces)
1/2 cucumber, small chunks
1 cup cilantro, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Mix ingredients for dressing together and set aside
2. Wash quinoa in a sieve very well.
3.  Add quinoa and 2 cups of water into pot; bring to boil; put a lid on and turn heat to lowest simmer for 20 minutes.  Fluff quinoa with a fork and cool. can do the same in a rice cooker.
4.  Toss with dressing; add rest of the ingredients; salt and pepper to taste.

Verdict:  holy cow!  delicious, filling, proteiny, yummers!  Serves about 6-8 as a side.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Gnocchi - who's there

Gnocchi with Sage Butter

Even though we are trying to eliminating meat from the majority of our meals, I can not and will not give up luscious and hearty food. A foodie can not live by parsley salad alone. I love it when I find delicious meals where the meat is not missed or even welcomed.

Delicious meatless fare often has peasant roots, the product of a desire to create full bodied food from humble ingredients.

Gnocchi is as fun to eat as it is to say. Tiny pillows of potato and flour dumplings - delicate but with a little tooth.

2 large Russets
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup butter
parmesan for garnish

1. Drop spuds into water and bring to boil - if you drop them into boiling water, the skin will burst and the glory inside will become waterlogged. Boil for about 20 min or until cooked through.

2. Use a tea towel to cradle the spuds while you disrobe them of their skin.
3. Mash and aerate - keep it fluffy
4. Add 1 cup flour and 1 egg, salt and pepper and work together with the hands - I also threw in some cottage cheese because I had a tad left. Do not over handle this sticky gloop.
5. Dump onto floured counter and knead in remaining flour until JUST no longer sticky, lest you want to make   chewing gum.
6. Roll into ropes and cut into segments - flour the dumplings generously to keeping the stickage down.

7. Drop into salted boiling water - give them a stir.
8. When they pop to the top, they're done.

9. Scoop into shallow tray and drizzle with oil and toss.
10. Brown the butter and add in a handful of chopped sage leaves.
11. Add gnocchi - I let them brown a bit.
12. Garnish with parmesan, salt and pepper to taste and yum.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cooking in the Future Tense

We stopped going to Macdonald's 6 years ago after watching Super Size Me. We started our boycott ostensibly because of the Golden Arches' food and employment practices. The subtleties of social and environmental responsibility is difficult to explain. When Weijin and Jian were younger and asked, we answered in simple terms: we don't go to Macdonalds because it is not a good company. It does not treat people very well and it does not care about the world. Much to our horror ( was blatant amusement!), we overhead Jian (who was 3 at the time) telling one of her playments that "we don't go to MacDonald's because they hit and they swear and they spit." It may not be entirely true but it isn't false either.

At the end of the day, we want the girls to know that there is a responsibility to eating and the choices we make. We want them to have a relationship with food and to see the magic of putting together a dish from beginning to end.

We are having friends over for dinner tonight and Jian and Weijin insisted on making dessert. What you see here are their efforts, with minimal moral and clean up support from their management team.

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs
2 cups self rising flour
few drops red food colouring
3 tbsp cocoa power

1. Preheat oven to 35o F
2. Whip butter and sugar until light and fluffy
3. Add vanilla and eggs one at a time and beat well
4. Stir in flour until just blended
5. Divide into 3 bowls: add colouring to one bowl and cocoa to another, leaving one bowl white.
6. Grease pan
7. Spoon three mixtures into pan and swirl with chopstick
8. Bake 40 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sexy Yeast

The crust bursting and crackling - sharp shards splinter in my eye. Steam wafting like some second rate ghost, hovering and dissipating but sensual and seductive. I want her. Want to sink my teeth into her like a lover and feel her pale soft flesh in the moistness of my mouth - to waver between her coying voluptuousness and the sharp prick of her lusty crust.

This summer, I set out to capture her or, if not, one of her sisters, but was beatened down by self-doubt. Could I have her? Could I fashion her form - from frail and loose powder into a dome, golden and snapping?

I captured the yeast from the air and sealed it into a mason jar, feeding and nursing it, never sure if I was breeding a colony of yeast or hissing bacteria. After ten days of tending to my aloof patient, I took the plunge, dipping the metal measuring cup into the sticky, clinging liquid that drapped and drooled on the sides of the bowl.

There is something incredibly seductive about a loaf of fresh, warm, crackling, luscious sourdough. The crust crackles and splinters, accompanied by the glorious crunch of the bite. The revealed centre is moist and gives up a bit of a fight before yielding to the pull.

Aside from the pure pleasure of eating, is the visceral reaction I have to my yeast colony. Breadmaking is tactile and vigorous and tempermental and alive. When I feel low, my starter languishes and my loaves struggle to rise. I've taken a proofing loaf on car rides and to a friend's house. I commune with it every morning and watch it wake up and dance. It's not an ingredient, it's a relationship.

Last summer's mission was to tame the mighty Coquitlam sourdough. To take what is hovering in the air and make it do some delicious work. Yeast lives all around us; the magic of sourdough is to capture these little lovelies, give them a warm pad to party in and feed the darlings some food everyday.

I captured and started my sourdough colony by mixing 1/2 cup warm tap water to 1/2 part unbleached white flour. Every 24 hours, I dumped half of this mixture away and replaced it with 1/4 cup water and 1/4 flour. The little yeasties toyed with me for the first three days - there was nary a sign of life. But...on the 4th day, I spied some bubbles. On I fed. After 10 days, I had a healthy, sour, living colony of my own Coquitlam Yeast - San Fran can suck it.

If you live in or near Coquitlam and would like to start baking sourdough, email me and I will be happy to share some of my starter with you.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I love farmers

...their bounty, that is.

Cattle farmers are kind of hot. What with their ropin' and hat tippin' and skin patina'd by the open sky...ahem....where was I?

There is a certain romanticism to the idea of a cowboy on the range raising honest food the old fashioned way. It is no wonder that meeting the people who produce my food also happens to make my food taste better because I know where it has come from and can ask questions about how it was raised and the conditions by which it was slaughtered.

I want to meet and know the people who produce what I eat. I want to know the hands that sow, harvest, and husband the food. Food is precious and so are the people who produce it.

It does not hurt, of course, that when we can look the person who produce our food in the eye, it also means that our food is fresher and travelled a shorter distance to reach our table

Coquitlam has a thriving little farmer's market that hops with fresh baked goods, organic greens, farm fresh eggs and a rugged cowboy.

Glenn and I picked up a 1/4 of a cow today from the market from Redl's Home-Grown Beef. Their commitment is to raise their "cattle in an environment that is respectful of the land and of the animal." The Redl family's business continues to run cattle "the old fashioned way: a cowboy, his horse and his dog." Their beef is free from growth promotants, pesticides, herbicides, hormones, antibioics, animal by-products and feed additives, and spend their time grazing on grasses.

Oh, and did I mention that it is deliciously beefy? It tastes...wait for beef. The flavour is full-bodied and robust. We grilled our sirloin steaks naked and topped it with some salt and pepper when it came off the grill and that's it...beef heaven. The meat was sweeter because we know the animal had had a decent life and did not suffer needlessly to feed the industrial beef model.

As our girls dug into their meat, they thanked the animal more than once. Thanks to the animal and the people who help bring it to our table.

Our market fresh menu today:

Fresh fava beans (yum!), marinated sweet peppers and farm veg over our own harvest of rocket (a rocking, nutty, big flavoured green)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A farewell dinner

Glenn's sister and her two kids have been visiting us from Fort St. John. The house has been rumbling with giggles, brilliant ideas of fancy and the occasion tear. Cousins play as enthusiastically as friends but with the added element of blood and genetics.

When they see each other, they pick up where they last left off; the emotions and the play are just as intense and just as unrestrained. Our kids are half Chinese and dark haired; their cousins are blond and blue eyed; they live 1200 kms apart and see each other once a year, and yet their lives connect through the ties of family and history.

Food also brings people together. It helps if the food is delicious but it's really the words and the sentiments shared over a table of food that grounds us all.

Jenn and the kids are leaving for the long drive back home tomorrow; we ate together and feasted on the bonds that connect us. Tomorrow we say good-bye but the meal will feed us until we see each other again.


Salade Nicoise
Verdict: don't mess with Julia

Sage Parmesan Shortbread
2 C flour
1 C butter
1/2 C parmesan cheese
20 julienned sage leaves
1 teaspoon salt

Work ingredients together until dough just comes together.
Roll into 1.5 in diameter log within parchment paper.
Chill for 30 minutes until firm.
Slice into 1/4 inch cookies and bake at 400 F on parchment for about 15 min or until golden brown.

Verdict: holy yumminess...melt in your mouth butteriness in a little bite.

Roasted Peppers and Carmelized Onion Galette
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen's galette recipe)

Do not touch the recipe for the pastry! It is easy to put together, light and flaky and not as obscenely fatty as puff pastry.

For the fillings, I used what I had on hand; I think the key is to ensure that your filling does not have any extra moisture which will render the pastry a soppy mess. Roasted or marinated vegetables work particularly well.

Roast one red and one yellow sweet pepper over a gas flame until blackened.
Sweat in covered bowl then remove blackened skin.
Remove seeds and white membrane and slice thinly.
Marinate overnight with 1/2 sliced red onion, 1/4 C oil, 1/4 C red wine vinegar (great as a filling for sandwiches or wraps with hummus)
Gently fry one sliced onion in 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat for about 15 minutes until golden and carmelized.
Roll out dough to 13 inch round.
Spread carmelized onions, leaving a 2 inch perimeter.
Top with peppers, sans marinade.
Top with feta cheese.
Fold outside edge over filling, leaving the centre open
Brush pastry with egg wash.
Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes or until golden brown

Verdict: this was a hit with the family; I'd chiffonade some basil and sprinkle on top right before serving for that fresh-in-mouth feel. The richness of the pastry and the unctuousness of the filling makes this an unapologetic vegetarian meal that even the most unabashed carnivore will appreciate.

Roasted Potato and Spinach Galette
Dough prep as above...don't mess with this one!
Slice new potatoes 1/4 in thick; toss with oil and 10 sage leaves, chiffonade.
Bake 375 F for about 20 minutes until golden brown
Squeeze all the juice from a package of defrosted chopped spinach.
Spread spinach onto rolled out dough, leaving a 2 in perimeter
Top with Parmesan cheese and then potato rounds, top with more parm.
Fold edge of dough over filling, leaving centre opened.
Brush dough with egg wash.
Bake at 375 F for about 30 minutes until golden brown.

Verdict: a robust and delicious galette filling - hide the spinach under the potato for some iron incognito for the kidlets.
Verdict II:  I've made this several times now and this combo is a winner too:  roasted potato, sundried tomatoes, caramelized onions, blue cheese, zucchini, topped with a light sprinkling of cheddar or mozza.

Peanut Butter Hoisin Noodle Salad

Cook 1 package of thick noodles or linguini according to package instructions - I found Farkay Noodles at Thrifty's that have a hearty al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water.
Saute some minced garlic; turn off heat.  Add equal parts  peanut butter and hoisin.
Add 1/2 part seasoned rice wine vinegar, and a bit of sesame seed oil (take it easy here; a little goes a long way).
Add enough warm water to reach a dressing consistency (add chili sauce if you like it hot)
Mix noodles with enough dressing to cover - if the dressing is too thick, add some more vinegar. Fingers are made for tossing. This can be made ahead.
Top with julienned vegetables that are in season and on hand.
Drizzle with more dressing before serving and garnish with black sesame seeds or peanuts or fried onions or get the picture.

Verdict: a old standby with all the ingredients of a salad roll; julienned carrots, cucumbers, peppers, cilantro and thinly sliced green onions would have been awesome here I think.

Eating the Words

The idea of blogging about the food I'm cooking has been simmering long and slow for years. Today, I do it. My food is honest, fast and furious. I resent the recipe and I cook with instinct. This has lead to disaster and epiphany. I want to blog about food because, aside from my family, it makes up my foundation. When I am stressed or bored or angry, I cook.

This blog also marks our attempts to cook and eat honest food. Most recently, Glenn and I listened to a CBC Ideas podcast called Have Your Meat and Eat It Too. More than any other, this podcast really changed the way we thought about our food. Glenn and I have long toyed with the idea of eating locally and organically and even with vegetarianism, but the ideas always seemed intellectual and abstract until this podcast.

The factory model of meat production accounts for over 51% of all greenhouse emissions. More important than how we travel and what car we drive is what type of meat and how much of it we choose to eat. On average, Americans (and I can only assume Canadians are not as different from our southern cousins as we'd like to think) eat..wait for it...150 times the amount of chicken they did 50 years ago.

More visceral is the ethical question of how the factory model treats the meat before it becomes meat. The conditions under which cows, pigs and chickens are farmed go against everything we know to be right. I will not gore you with the details but do give the podcast a listen. It is enlightening and empowering.

So, what is a meat-loving foodie to do? We resolve to eat meat only as a treat and the meat we eat will be honestly grown.

This is our attempt to document our new food adventure.