What would I do with lentils, I asked myself when I received an email pitching me on the idea of being involved with a campaign on Canadian Lentils? Lentils, I love lentils. Although I don’t cook with them as much as I would like, they are a nutrient and protein rich food, and are a great meat substitute. Or, so I hear because why would you want to substitute for meat, right? Well, you might.
Lentils are a very popular crop in Canada, and Canadian Lentils want you to share your love of the mighty lentil. They have recently launched the site http://www.loveyourlentils.ca/ where you can go to find recipes from some very talented Canadian chefs, and vote on your favourite. You can win a chance to hang out with Chef Michael Smith in his home province of P.E.I for the adventure of a lifetime. Yes, it’s that exciting!
This recipe (as with most of mine) is part science and part guestimating, and personal taste. I made mustard last year, and like the idiot I can be, I lost my notes. It was a full grain mustard mixed from 2 separate recipes, and the result was amazing. Shame. This time I went a totally different route, and did some more research before making this batch. Last time it was too acidic, and a lot of compensating had to be done. I think the problem was soaking the whole seeds in just straight up vinegar, instead of adding some water or other liquids, and over soaking the seeds.
What is a “New Radical? This is the question that I tried to answer when I attended the Terroir Hospitality Symposium at the newly relaunched O&B Acadian Court this April. This 6th annual event came to my attention in recent years, but I had always been able to attend. This year I was not missing it for anything. Armed with a ticket, some friends to hang out with, and an open mind and positive attitude I descended with 400 other eager guests to see what the day had in store for us.
Thanks to my sisters request for a vegetable at our recent Passover dinner (I know, me cooking veggies, what up with that?), I have found my new go to BBQ side salad. This will go amazing with grilled meats, fish, whatever really. Everyone loved this, and it was a nice way to introduce sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) to people who have never had them.
What do you want to tell the people who bring meat to our tables? I have the opportunity to present to this very influential group (Canadian Meat Council) at their conference in May. I want to represent all of us, and give them the answers we want them to hear. I will be presenting on the “Consumer to Retail Perspective”. This is the focus:
“What does the consumer want at the retail store?” What are our food needs are and how can retailers influence their share of our wallets.
“What influences the consumer today on how they approach the shopping experience?” As a consumer this is what I look for when making a purchase decision.
I will be talking to people in the meat industry, government, retailers, academia, and food service, so this is a great opportunity to send a strong message as to how we want to be dealt with. What do you want me to tell them? How can we help these influencers and others to understand us? I know what I want to say, but what do you want to share? Comment!
I can become motivated by the strangest things, and come up with the most odd ideas sometimes. This is one of those cases. As is traditional for the Jewish holiday of Purim I decided to make hamentaschen, a triangular shaped cookie filled with jam, that represents the villain in the story of this holiday. The holiday can be described as a mashup of Halloween and St Patty’s Day. Costumes and drinking! About Purim: http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday9.htm
So, being who I am I decided that I needed to mess with this recipe, and try something savoury. The first batch with jams turned out really well, the only tricky part is making them pretty. Still working on that. I used my homemade jams from last summer, banana, apricot-peach, raspberry, and strawberry root beer. Good stuff.
The plan formulated in my head was to make a versht (salami in Yiddish) or hot dog jam. I didn’t want to do bacon jam, because it has been done and done well, so I played around with a recipe I had for bacon jam and came up with this. As an aside, you can get good hot dogs in Toronto at the following places: Buddha Dog at the Evergreen Brickworks Market from Spring to Winter (or in Picton during the same season), Olliffe, Sausage King, Rowe Farms, Healthy Butcher, Beretta Farms, Toronto Kosher. Some will be organic and some nitrate/trite free. Ask questions when you buy your food if you have concerns. At the end of the day you want something that has good flavour so it will stand out in this recipe.
Are you a banana or an egg, asks Nick Liu, chef and brainchild behind Gwai Lo Asian Brasserie. Along with his second wife, as she is described, the lovely Christina Kuypers, they have endeavoured to help us answer the banana v.s. egg question. White on the outside, yellow on the inside, like the egg, or the opposite as with the banana. Nick describes himself, with some sprinkling of bravado as a masterful crafter of tastes and textures, as the Banana. Being born in Canada he of Asian descent but is white first and foremost, as he was raised here. With his next venture, however, with Gwai Lo he is taking a traditional cuisine and giving it a modern interpretation, which is very refreshing. Straight up, Gwai Lo does mean to grab you by the collar and shake you a bit, but you will be appreciative in the way it is done. Gwai Lo does mean “foreign devil” in Mandarin, but we are being asked to see the humour in this.
Comfort food, no matter what background you come from, or what the food style you are cooking, is the best. Full Stop. Winter is the season that I think most of us associate with the need to eat foods that are not only warming, but comforting, as well. Stews, soups, casseroles, and all other warming rich dishes are busted out in the winter to help us feel better and make our bellies happy and warm.
I often get asked about my favourite food and restaurants, but the thing is that I really don’t like having a single favourite of anything. I eat with mood and craving, so things are always different and changing. This is the way it should be, in my opinion. If I am pressured to narrow things down, it always comes down to something comforting. Talk turned to these kinds of foods yesterday, and I got the idea in my head that I needed to make a Bolognese to go along with some wonderful handmade pasta I had been given, recently. I have been thinking about pasta lately, and it is not something I eat very often, and rarely order when I am out, unless it is handmade, and something special. When I get on the kick, though, watch out. Likely there will be some mac & cheese happening in the kitchen soon, also.
Our ancestors had it right, you are supposed to use all of the animal, and respect your food. What happened, and where did we go wrong? How about we focus on what is going right, and the people that are helping people to understand that the old way is the right way. Our friends at the Group of & Chefs just held an event that was an hommage to the book "Odd Bits", by Jennifer Mclagan. A fantastic book, it teaches us how to cook with offal and to truly respect our food.
Brussels sprouts have a bad rep. Growing up, this was the vegetable that kids dreaded, and would likely try to feed to the dog, sneak into the garbage, or bribe their little sister to eat. I always wondered why people had such a distaste for the "Bastard Cabbage", as I have started to call it. I put together a Sunday roast for some friends recently, and being that some people do eat vegetables I decided to create a recipe that I could prepare in advance, as my oven would be very busy with the meat and the Yorkshire puddings.
Come on, aren't they beautiful little bastards?
I Hacked Alice Waters' Scones. I know, the horror and scandal of it all.
Im at Vickis Veggies with my friend Rossy for a couple of days, and woke up craving scones. We had not eaten much of anything, so away I went to play around with this recipe that Vicki found for me. Love Alice, but had to make it my own.
I invited some of my girls over for holiday drinks, and a meal was requested. It seems with my #BratPack girls that my reputation precedes me, and I needed to prove my skills are legit. Playing hard to get, I gave a solid maybe, and started menu planning. I had been waiting on an opportunity to try out the beef I received at a blogger event put on by Canadian Beef, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get a roast in the oven, and to use the new Lodge cast iron I picked up. Nothing like cooking with good cast iron and roasts are so easy, and satisfying. Best part is that leftovers can be used for so many things (tacos, sandwiches, salads, pastas, etc.). Season the meat, get a good sear on it, pop it in the oven, and forget about it for a while. Easy. I had a piece of meat that was just under a kilo, and I roasted it at 275 for 90 minutes.
Sunchoke & Roasted Garlic Soup
I got this recipe from my friend Ninja, who has been working this season at Vicki's Veggies but is a cook by training. We are always looking for new ways to use the veggies that we sell at the markets, and most people are not familiar with Sunchokes, so Ninja brought this recipe so people could have a way to prepare them, and also buy our potatoes and garlic :)
The Jerusalem Artichoke is actually not related to an artichoke at all, nor does it have anything to do with The Holy Land. Actually, it is related to a sunflower and is we use its tuber as a root vegetable. I find it nutty in flavour, but some people find it is not dissimilar to the taste of an artichoke.
Remember when making soups that any measurements are just approximate, and you should just use your judgment and taste the soup as you go to adjust flavours to your personal taste. I used some garlic scapes that I has sitting around from the spring, and they worked really well in this soup. If you know what you are doing you can be playful with the flavours, and as you can see by my note below I used different herbs based on what I had around (adds "buy dried thyme" to to-do list).
Kyle Demming isn't necessarily a name you know, but if you venture to the eastend at all there is a likelihood that you might have eaten his food. Kyle was the chef of Ceile Cottage, a place that most of us have been, and if you haven't then I suggest you add it to your list. Ceile was always an island of refuge in the east, and a place I would travel too, especially for their legendary St. Patty’s day fests and some good cheer any time of the year.
For a while I had heard a rumour that Kyle and his wife were opening a sausage shop, and to me this is quite exciting. I had never met Kyle, but did have the pleasure this summer to finally connect after much tweeting back and forth. His much anticipated opening sa a few set backs, but he recently was able to open. Queen St east of the DVP has been seeing lots of new food business pop up, and I am finding myself out there quite often these days, which is nice. So, recently when Kyle tweeted that he had made the shops first hot dogs I knew it was time to make the trek to visit.
My commitment to myself: eat seasonally (ie as locally as is possible), and not only participate in the process of getting the food to my table as much as possible, but also to use all of the food I am provided with and to not produce unnecessary waste.
One sunny Wednesday this fall I met a farmer in a seedy back alley behind Queen St., and a deal was done. Sounds unscrupulous, doesn’t it? Scandalous even! What went on in that alley was a long time coming, the result of a post on wellpreserved.ca, from one of my food gurus, and I waited to make as my dish for the yearly birthday party I throw called Meatluck. That’s right, Meatluck. Meatluck is an all meat potluck where I invite 50-60 friends over and everyone brings some booze and a dish containing meat. That is the only rule, at this point, that the dish must have a meat component. I randomly choose which course my friends are responsible for, and leave the rest up to them. Appetizers, sides, mains, and yes even desserts.
I like to do something out of the ordinary for my dish, and use an ingredient that most people would not have been used to, and the first two years I used calf tongue. The first year I just slow cooked it, and served it with challah and a bunch of mustard, while in the second year I cooked it and added it to a sauce of soubise that I learned how to make from Vicki, who learned it from Jaime Kennedy (recipe here). So, back to this years dish and the boar head I was gifted by Fred and Ingrid at Perth Pork Products, where I get the majority of my swine from.
Fall is a time for comforting leisurely brunches with good friends, and to spoil yourself with rich foods that make your belly full and happy. Lately I have had a hard time keeping up with both my old time favourites and all of the new restaurants on the scene in Toronto, and there have been some quality places popping up. A lot of the places that are on my hit list are not open for lunch, and this is when I tend to eat out, so brunch is a perfect excuse to check out one of these places.
My gorgeous and very talented friend Peggy
Art and food are a natural synthesis and have been influencing each other for centuries. A group of chefs who do dinners together all over the city recently decided to use images and create dishes to reflect the story behind them. Brilliant. Calling themselves The Group of 7 also has a resonance to us as Canadians, so that adds an extra element of excitement to the evening that saw 30 diners come together for food, drink, and to be wowed in the studio space of the westend gallery The Department.
One of the things I love about these types of dinners is the camaraderie between cooks, and how they work and joke together like they have been friends since childhood. It is always a good time, and fun to get to hang out and witness the debauchery that happens while magic is being made and canvasses created on a plate.
The food scene in Toronto right now is, as my nephew would say, SICK! So many talented chefs, and great places to eat all over the city, it seems a new hot spot is popping up every few weeks. International influence, local ingredients, focused menus and even some great VQA wine or local craft beer to wash it down. I love our city, I love the talents that make Toronto a food mecca and leader in innovative cuisine. I am lucky to know some of these people, and call them friends, and have opportunities to see what goes on behind the scenes and try off-menu items from time to time. I love my life.
People of the Westend rejoice, because you now have a place to get cakeart. Yes, that’s a thing. You have seen the shows on Food Network, and if you are lucky you have experienced something like this in person. Some times it looks better than it tastes, but your new westend bakery is legit. Cake Star has arrived, and these two sisters have a serious baking pedigree with flour and sugar running through their veins.
Oh baby, I like it raw?
Um, ok maybe that isn’t what ODB meant when he wrote this song, but raw food seems to be a growing trend in the GTA. With the explosion of health conscious people and the trend towards eating less meat you could for certain adapt that song and loop it to make it an anthem of sorts, or not.
I made friends recently with the most wonderful person. She was in the process of changing her business from one of the most successful cleanse delivery services in Toronto, to a full service raw vegan restaurant in Toronto’s east end, catering to the stroller and eastie-hispter veggie friendly crowd of Leslieville. We all know that I am a champion of everything meat, but I have an open mind (these days) and do like to have the odd meal that doesn’t include any animal proteins. Usually, I would just balance my day by eating a package of bacon, or something like that.
I saw a recipe a while back on a Dutch blog on how to make Balsamic salt, and this really intrigued me. The possible use of this salt is boundless, and untested, I mused. A quick Google search didn’t turn up much, so I knew I was on to something here. Fast forward, and now I had the need to actually make this for myself and play around with it. If a few of you are lucky, you might even get a small jar to use yourself. Might.
Here is the original post, translated into English. I used this to see how the method would work, and how much flavour the salt would have in the end. Then, I had to make it my own so it is truly a Community Foodist creation.
I tried both a very coarse salt, and regular Kosher Salt, to be able to measure results and see which worked better with my final method. I prefer the ease of the coarse salt, and it can always be ground to any coarseness for use in the kitchen. The original recipe calls for a syrup, but I found this impractical mostly. If you over reduce your syrup it will not mix with the volume of salt you are trying to cure. It will merely clump, and be pretty useless. Yes, I know this from experience. So, I decided that partially reducing the balsamic, and then adding the salt would likely be the best bet. Then, finish reducing so you can see when it is time to remove from the stove.
Soup is easy, soup is fun, and also it is tasty! Take what you have that you think goes together, clean it all up, roast it, put it in a pot and cover it with water, cook and season it.
Here is a soup I made this week:
Memories of growing up involve memories of comfort food, and regardless of your cultural upbringing there are always some great dishes that bring us back to our childhoods. It seems a common theme on my blog is comfort food, because it is what makes us feel so great, especially when we are down, but even when we are just hungry and don’t know what to make for lunch or dinner.
Things have changed in society, and in my own morality as it relates to my food choices, so sometimes I come to a dilemma. One such debate occurred when I realized that eating non-sustainably fished seafood was not an option for me. What about my beloved tuna melt, and salmon patties, even the much unloved tuna casserole!? Would they be gone forever, or was there an option out there for me?
Was talking to a chef I know, who deals with sustainable fish and we were talking tuna melts. An option was to take a tuna loin, and make a melt out of it, but that didn’t seem very economical. Tuna should be cherished, and not consumed very often, so with a great specimen like when you would get when you bought a loin, it is best for tartare or sushi.
Then someone told me about Raincoast Trading, and the day was saved. Canned sustainable fish and seafood, readily available, and not overly expensive either. I immediately emailed to company to see if they would like to send me some samples, so I could try it and maybe develop some cool recipes to share with my readers.
I paid a visit to a very cool Asian market recently, and picked up some cool ingredients. This had an influence on how I made dinner last night, when I had a craving for salmon patties.
No, those are not peppers, they are stuffing tomatoes. They dont have a tremendous amount of flavour, but are hollow like a pepper, you just have to cut off the top and hollow them out. You could use peppers in this recipe, but it is the end of tomato season, and this is something different.
Been looking at these guys for a couple of weeks at Market, and waiting for an opportunity to work with them. Here is what I came up with:
Shakshuka is a very typical Israeli brunch dish, and a really great thing to eat this time of year (or any time, really). It is basically a stew of tomatoes, onions, garlic and spices, with eggs poached into the mix. Then, it is served with fresh hot pita, or crusty bread. With North African roots, it has great flavours and is very rustic, smple to prepare, and is a total crowd pleaser. Here is how you make it.
I like things a bit spicy, but habañeros are usually off my radar. They are such a gorgeous pepper, it was hard to resist bringing some home from Vickis Veggies at the market last weekend, with plans in mind to create something hot and tasty. I love to share my creations with other people, and I know enough people that like heat, to find taste testers and recipients of a jar of this fiery goodness. This sauce should keep for ages in your fridge in a jar, and can be used to add great flavour to soups or stews, or just rubbed on chicken or sandwiches.