Saturday, September 25, 2010
Whole Wheat and Mint Loaf
Bell Pepper and Onion Marmalade
Plum BBQ Sauce and Dijon Mayo
This delightful sandwich was fun for me. Why? Because I really like to make bread, that's why.
Leg of lamb is always delicious, double plus good when it's from the area of my upbringing.
The leg of lamb was slow roasted to a beautiful medium and glazed with a plum BBQ sauce. I sliced it nice and thin and served it cold on the bun.
For the bread I did a 40% whole wheat and added a bit of butter and egg yolk to give it a great, soft texture that still had a nice crust. I added some mint and rosemary to the mix as well to appease all of those who won't eat lamb with out mint.
A simple Dijon mayo and an equally simple bell pepper & onion marmalade worked as the sauce and garnish respectively. Not to leave the lettuce component out, I put some micro mustard greens in there as well to bring a little bit of fresh heat to the whole diddly bap.
This was just a great sandwich for anyone really. The Peace Country lamb has a really mild flavor in comparison to the Australian or New Zealand lamb which makes it a great choice for those who need to be converted to this meat.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Red Wine Fed Beef Pepperoni
Chanterelle & Summer Squash Ragout
I have made a concerted effort not to be repetitive in my specials this season, and for the most part I have succeeded. When I saw Jon making his already stunning pepperoni with local red wine fed beef the first thing I thought was pizza. Pizza is a bit hard for us to execute in our kitchen with very limited oven space, so as a result the calzone made it's second appearance of the year. No shame in that.
So, just like before, I made a pizza dough and got together all my mise en place so that I could make calzones for the masses. The pepperoni was easy for me, as Jon had already made it, all I needed to do was slice it and steal all his glory. The Chanterelle's were picked locally so I was an extra special joy to work with those as well. I sauteed them with shallots and garlic and then cooked them with pureed tomatoes until a nice sauce consistency was reached. I grilled some summer squash and then dice that up and put it into the ragout once I had removed it from the heat. This made sure that the squash didn't get all soggy and such. Then all that was left to do was pile the Parmesan, ragout and pepperoni in a pizza dough and fold it over.
Served with your choice of soup or salad. I made 20 of them and sold them out to the first 25 customers. Hmmm, perhaps the clientele are telling me something. Anyhow, it was a crappy day out and this was a nice dish to make everyone feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. Oh, and by the way, Jon's pepperoni smelled sooooo good cooking in those calzones. Nice work Jon.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Just a little look at Oliver BC's very own red wine fed beef. This is a rib eye steak, the cattle are black angus, the marbling, texture and flavor are some of the best that I have ever seen. This is not the Sezmu that has become synonymous with red wine beef but it is finished in the same place by the same man. His cattle are marketed under the name of Okanagan's Finest. I'm sure Mr. ODS will fill you all in on the details in the near future.
This is not quite the same glory cut as the rib eye but the marbling on this bottom round is quite spectacular as well.
Not the greatest photo but this is some salt cured beef liver from the red wine fed beef. I, like most people, are thinking that the liver would be the place with the most flavor benefit. I found it to have a much more subtle flavor, not as much of the iron flavor that can be too strong in a beef liver. Great stuff.
Yes, we do try to use all the cuts of this cattle. We see know reason why any piece should not be used. Here are three tongues that were brined and then later on braised. We can then use them for sandwiches or a potato and tongue hash or blah blah blah. The tongue seems to be one of the things that makes people squeemish but it's really quite fantastic.
Tiger Blue Cheese & Salt Cured Beef Liver Dauphine Potatoes
So, this is my second go at running Oliver BC raised wine fed beef as a lunch special. As you may recall, I was not totally please with my performance on the previous attempt. This time was much better.
Now, I must admit that braising a bottom round in a stew is probably not the best way to showcase the beauty of this beef but, in my defense, it was chili outside and a bottom round is a bottom round. I didn't really feel like a shaved beef sandwich applied to the weather outside. With that being said, the flavor and texture of the meat was still outstanding.
I started by searing the cubes of beef and then set them aside until I was ready to add them back into the braise. Then I added my mirepoix(carrots, celery, onion) and sauteed all that in some of Stanley's oh so precious tallow. I added my flour and cooked it to a medium roux. Then I added pureed tomatoes, red wine and beef stock plus a few herbs and such. I let this slowly braise and thicken for about five hours, stirring fastidiously to ensure that the flour never got a chance to burn to the bottom of the pot. Cooking the flour flavor out of a roux thickened braise is extremely important and takes some time and patience to master. Nothing is more disappointing than a sauce that tastes of flour. While all this was going on, I cut up some more mirepoix and sauteed all that off so that I could add that to the stew before serving. The second thing that can ruin a stew is over cooked, flavorless vegetables. The way I avoid this is to strain the stew once the meat is cooked properly. I then pick out all the beef and return it to the braising liquid and discard all the cooked vegetables. The real secret to a good stew is to let it cool down first then reheat it later on when you need it. You know how everyone says that stew and chili is better the second day, well, that's because the meat reabsorbs the liquid during the cooling that it has lost during the braise, making it more tender and tasty. Once I was ready to reheat the stew when an order came in I added the vegetables that I had sauteed of earlier. Perfect stew every time.
Every stew needs a garnish, usually potatoes. I couldn't just put potatoes in this stew, I needed to do something that would keep the goblins asleep. I still wanted to put potatoes in there somehow and I also wanted a blue cheese component as well. Something crispy is always nice, how about dauphine potatoes, yes that would suffice I believe, in keeping those goblins in a deep fryer induced coma for at least 12 hours. Dauphine potatoes are one of, in my opinion, Frances greatest gifts to the culinary world.
Potatoes mixed in about equal parts with choux pastry. Choux pastry which is used to make profiteroles and other delicious pastry, both savory and sweet, is a paste made of milk, butter, eggs and flour, and is of course horribly fatty. So, I mixed the potatoes, choux pastry, blue cheese & salt cured red wine fed beef liver
together into a glory paste and deep fried three of those little ditty's to sit in the stew. The blue cheese was a nice addition but the liver really brought the stew to life. I then finished it all off with a dollop of creme fraiche.
Gotta love those cool autumn days. This feature flew out the doors, it seems like a lot of people were of the same mind as me on this day. Oh, and thanks Bill for all your beautiful local beef. What a joy.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
The other day some strip loins were getting tidied up before they were cut into steaks.
Once all was said and done, there was a total of 15lbs. no longer connected to the strip loins. Mostly fat, but some meat to be sure.
Strip loin...lets say those are $5 a pound (ha ha ha):
15lbs x $5.00/lb = $75.00
Is that really true? Does that kind of thing happen at all kinds of restaurants all over the Okanagan, day in and day out?
I brought the trim home, mostly to use the old school Spong No. 8 meat grinder my neighbour gave me. Good times! Easy too! Why in the world do restaurants buy pre-ground beef? Can we stop that? Can we stop that right now?
Once beef (and beef fat) were ground, it was in to the pot to render.
Of that 15 lbs of trim? 5 lbs of meat, 10 pounds of tallow.
There has been some speculation that my new found zeal for tallow is going to cause my heart to explode. I'm not so sure of that. I think tallow has gotten a bad rap. Sally Fallon, bless her soul, seems to think tallow is a "stable" oil for frying fries. And we all love fries. Best of all, tallow's smoke point is 420 degrees. And I'm not making that up!
Is tallow the only local cooking fat? It is looking more and more like local beef is becoming a reality in the Okanagan--in which instance it would be foolish and totally uncool not to render precious, locally grown beef fat into local beef tallow (with which to make local fries.) That is, until someone finally gets the Okanagan grape seed oil situation happening. Until then, Okanagan Beef Tallow is the only truly local cooking fat available to those of us in the Okanagan who care about that kind of thing.
And there's nothing wrong with that!
Friday, September 17, 2010
foraged mushroom bread pudding
local pear puree
beans with hazelnut vinaigrette
Not every day in a kitchen is a great one, actually far from it. Sometimes extenuating circumstances, such as a motorcycle crash that leaves you with a whole body that aches and throbs with every movement, can really put a damper on an otherwise good day. Today was one of those days.
I finally got the chance to cook with some of Oliver BC's very own red wine beef. Sezmu is the name that is becoming synonymous with red wine beef here in the Okanagan. However, there is another name as well. Okanagan's Finest is also doing red wine fed beef. What is the difference? None really. There will be more on that to come in the next few days as some people who know more about the in's and out's of the operation get to posting on this blog.
As I was saying, today was one of those days. I just wasn't feeling it, I was lacking my mojo if you will. The feature was all there in the flavor components. The skirt steak was by far the most tender skirt steak I have ever had. I did no marinade on it, just salt and pepper before it hit the grill and it was almost melting in my mouth. The flavor was outstanding, usually a skirt steak or flank steak has a great flavor to begin with, but this was something special. As for the rest of the dish, I did a bread pudding with the mushrooms that Shannon and I foraged near Falkland plus the addition of some Chantrelles. I did a pear puree with local pears, pear vinegar and butter. I also did a warm bean salad with a hazelnut vinaigrette to bring everything together.
I wasn't overly happy with the plating of the dish, thankfully the red wine beef was so damn good it spoke for itself and took everything else on the plate along for the ride. Right now in the cooler we have all sorts of offal, rib roasts, top rounds, skirt steaks, short ribs and a few other cuts that I'm forgetting. Pictures and commentary will follow shortly.
Shannon and I took a whole extra day off work to celebrate our anniversary in style this year. We got a little cabin on a lake near the village of Falkland, British Columbia. During our two nights andd three day stay we got up to all sorts of fun such. We ate and drank like royalty in our little cabin, as one might have expected that we did. However, eating alone was not enough to keep us occupied.
We brought our beautiful little beagle Stella along with us, she is a bigger fan of the outdoors than anyone I know so there was no way we could rob her the opportunity of a nature walk. We started off on what was to be a one to two hour jaunt around some old logging roads and knowing Stella, a little bush whacking as well. About 30 seconds into our walk we saw the first of what was about to become a plethora of shaggy mane's. We decided that we would pick some on the way back to the cabin so as not to crush them. I must admit we were rather unprepared for foraging, carrying nothing but a backpack and all. A few zigs and zags led us to a dirt path that seemed to be used mostly by ATV's and such. As we walked along this path we started to really look for mushrooms, and I'm glad that we did. We found all sort, none of which we recognized straight away, that is of course until we started seeing all the Boletus that were peaking through the underbrush.
We are not mushroom experts at all, but I do know what a Bolete looks like and I know that most are edible. The most prized Bolete of course is the King Bolete(Cep, Porcini) and I can say with most certainty that of what we found about half of them were Porcini. Our two hour walk turned into five very quickly, but know one was complaining, definitely not Stella.
We ended up picking just over six pounds of boletes, not bad for an afternoon walk. Before we, or anyone for that matter, got to eating any of these mushrooms we had to get home and find out for sure what we had, so after checking with all our books and double checking on the interweb, plus doing spore prints and the whole nine yard, we determined that they were all safe to eat. So we ate, and I'm here typing now a few days later. Success. It will soon be time for Pine Mushrooms, We are all very excited to get up in the hills and root around on our hands and knees looking for one of autumn's greatest gifts.
Stay posted, hopefully we will have more good finds in the near future. Oh, and if you can tell me for sure if these are Porcini or not that would be great.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
I love corn so much that since corn has been in season I have picked it up personally 3 times just so I can use it in a feature (we don't always have it at work).
I also love saffron but because of the type of restaurant I work at and the fact that saffron doesn't grow here I don't often use it, so I brought some from home.
The feature I made was Fennel Pollen crusted Rock fish, warm Israeli cous-cous salad (which had piment d Espelette, Pistachio Pesto, Heirloom tomatoes, organic cucumber), grilled and glazed vegetables, and a saffron corn sauce.
I have a sort of comment and a question...About a month ago I made the exact same sauce but with no saffron in it, virtually the same ratio of liquid to cobs and corn. The finished product of that sauce was much thicker (more of a thick coulis consistency) but this time It was MUCH thinner. Andrew (a co-worker) suggested that this would be due to the fact that the corn grown during the hotter months (august) has more starch and the corn grew in a colder month (which now is September) has more sugar content. That this would be the reason...Hmmm. Makes sense to me, but I still think that's crazy. Vegetables amaze me. They really really do.
Anyway, the feature was quite nice but unfortunately didn't sell too well, I wonder if it's because it's such a summery dish and it's not so much like summer out? I guess it's back to braised meats and lentils and what not. Which isn't really a bad thing...
we should all cut into a squash now, cook it, and take notes...then in october cut into the same variety of squash, cook it and see if there's a difference in starch and sugar content.
Friday, September 10, 2010
It's cold outside and we, unfortunately, do not have the month of May. Well, not for a while anyway. So in the meantime, lets start with the fall dishes. I didn't want to be doing this before the ides of September but it would appear that I have been left with no choice.
Chicken Stew. That's what you get. Are you happy everyone who's contributed and continues to contribute to global warming? Are you all smiling, rubbing your bellies for stew? Thanks for aiding in irregular seasonal temperature swings. I digress.
Chicken Stew. Everyone loves a good stew, no matter what time of the year, this is a fact, I dare you to prove me wrong...I dare you. The key to any great stew is a great stock. If you are making a beef stew then a beef stock is needed, pork stew = pork stock, chicken stew = chicken stock and so on and so on. Luckily, I happened to have a great chicken stock on hand.
To make the stew I sweated of some onion, celery, carrot, corn cobs and mushrooms in oil and butter. Once all that was nicely cooked I added flour to make a roux, just a french word for using flour added to fat to make a thickening agent. I cooked the flour out until it was a nice dark brown. This adds a nutty flavor and gives the stew a bit more color as well. One thing to keep in mind, the longer you cook the flour, the less thickening property it retains. At this stage I added the cold chicken stock. Why cold chicken stock you ask? If you are using a hot roux and you add hot stock you get a lumpy sauce, that's why. Whisk vigorously to evenly disperse the flour throughout the stock, then use a wooden spoon to make sure all the flour is lifted off the bottom of the pot. Because of the flour, this sauce will want to burn on you, so be diligent with the wooden spoon and keep the temperature at a simmer. Cook this sauce for about 1 hour or until the desired consistency has been reached. Once your there, strain the whole thing through a fine sieve and discard all the vegetables. What!? Throw away the vegetables you say, that's madness. Well, they are mush now and all the nutritional value is gone, so, why not start over.If you are gonna sell stew in a restaurant it had better be better than grandma's, if you know what I mean.
So, for the garnish, I did a nice dice of potato, shallot, carrot, celery, bacon and cut some corn kernels. Because I was putting corn in the stew I made sure that all the other vegetable were cut the same size as the corn. Everyone knows that vegetable taste better when they're all the same size...right? It could just be me trying to put the goblins to sleep. Who knows. If the goblins weren't tired yet I put them to sleep by cooking each vegetable separately to ensure the proper bite in the final product.
To order the chicken veloute was heated up and then the vegetables and bacon added to make sure that they were warmed through but not overcooked and mushy. On top of that a sliced grilled free run chicken breast, some croutons and a drizzle of bacon fat. Oh no he didn't. Ya damn rights I did, bacon fat for everyone. Well, not for me, I have a hereditary heart condition. Bacon fat for everyone but me, yay. Well, maybe not for the people I love and want to see around for a while. Bacon fat for everyone that I don't love, yay.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
If there is one thing that grows in abundance here in the South Okanagan, it is with out a doubt, Chilis. A plethora of peppers, a complete spectrum of capsicum, if you will. These delectable treats come in all shapes sizes and vary in heat. There are the mild bell peppers that we see all the time, and the jalapeno that everyone is well accustom to, and for the most part tolerant to. Then there are all the bananas and the cayenne and the habanero and so on and so on. Then there is the Bhut Jolokia or Ghost Pepper. This is by far the hottest pepper in the world with a scoville rating of over 1,000,000. As a point of reference, a habanero clocks in at anywhere between 100,000 and 350,000 while a Tobasco chili hits a meager 2,500. This bhut jolokia is no laughing matter, as many of us a work found out recently. Come to think of it, it was a laughing matter. It was hot, bloody hot, fire and brimstone hot, if you catch my drift. None of us had the intestinal fortitude to chew on a seed or two and for the first time in my life, there wasn't a single person pulling the "sissy" card on anyone to do it either. Before the burn came a great flavor though, as with a habanero. All of these peppers grow in abundance here in the South Okanagan as I stated earlier, so, buy in bulk, save a few bucks, and stock pile on the hot sauces. People love hot sauce as a gift.
I didn't plant any peppers in the garden this year because I knew that I had visions of grandeur for my hot pepper mash. Last year was the Maiden voyage floating in the sea of fermenting capsicum and it was a smashing success. I made a 1L jar of pepper mash last year and 6 months later I yielded about 500mL of usable fermented hot sauce. That was all well and good but I had to use sparingly all year and that was not ideal for me. This year I went big, not too big, but big enough. I bought 50Lbs of chilis. What fun, what total glee. I was giddy the whole way home and upon arrival got straight to work. My goal was to make a habanero hot sauce for the spice lovers, a standard hot sauce for everyday use and about 15L of hot chili mash. All of which were accomplished in a few hours, even though while the habanero sauce was bubbling away it seemed like the riot police were firing pepper spray though my kitchen window with a fire hose.
Hot sauce is hot sauce. Generally, some onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, vinegar etc, all cooked together and pureed. Mmmmmmm delicious, nothing wrong with that. Hot pepper mash on the other hand is something that proves that delayed gratification is always sweeter in the end. Basically, you weigh your chili's and then measure out 10% by weight in salt. Chop up by hand or in a food processor or meat grinder your chili's, mix with the salt, add a touch of vinegar to prevent molding and your done. Put the mixture in a sterile glass jar or crock then cover with a few layers of plastic wrap right on top of the chili's. What you want to do now is poke a few holes in the plastic to allow for the gasses to escape during the fermentation. There is a problem with this, now that there are holes all sorts of tiny invisible living matter can enter and wreak havoc upon our precious chili mash. Salt makes a great fortification, it allows the gasses to move freely up and out of the pot but prevents any living matter from penetrating. Isn't salt magical?
Now comes the delay portion of our delayed gratification program. Let the mash sit in a cool dark place(like a teenagers heart) for a minimum of 3 months. Avery Island Tobasco sauce ages their famous brew for 3 years in oak barrels, but for most of us 6 months to a year is plenty. I pressed mine after 6 months last year and it was great, this year I did two pots so that I could press one after 6 months and try the other pot after a year of aging.
What is all this pressing that I'm talking about you ask? Well, much like wine, it is the juice you want not the solids. So, when your fed up with the delay and ready to get to the gratification part what you need to do is strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve or some cheese cloth. It's good to go. That's it. You can taste it and see if you want to add any more vinegar to it, I did with the batch I did last year, the salt should be fine. Oh, and don't let the color get you down. I used a mix of red and green chili and my mash looked like mud. I'm sure if you wanna get all anal and use just pretty red ones, you'd probably end up with a much more tobasco looking product.
So there it is, all you need to know about making hot pepper mash. Sooooooo, so simple and so damn good. Hope you all give it a try. Above is the two different pots of chili mash, hot sauce in the larger jars, habanero hot sauce is the little ones on the right and to make sure that there was no waste, I dehydrated the seeds and skin I strained out of the hot sauce to make my own chili powder. Good times.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Grilled Smoked Cheddar & Chili Loaf
Coleslaw with Wildflower Honey Dressing
Fresh Peaches & Peach Mayo
So this feature is just an open faced pulled pork sandwich with a peach kick. I love a sloppy pulled pork as much as the next guy. However, I'm not so sure the people coming to eat at a winery in the South Okanagan necessarily want to have shredded pork cascading down their polo tees and free flowing blouses. With that being said, a little bit of refinement was in order and a fork and knife is always refined, right?
The pork was braised and then shredded before being tossed in a peach BBQ sauce. The sauce was very light, vinegar and mustard based with a lot of peach puree.
As for the bread, Smoked Cheddar from Farmhouse and local chili's. I started with a poolish that was 50/50 whole wheat and white flour. The mix itself was all white flour.
The coleslaw was simple. Cabbage, carrots and onion, with some herbs and a light dressing. The dressing was egg based, dijon, wildflower honey and apple cider vinegar, all emulsified with oil. I hate coleslaw that is bound together with a thick mayo and the pure vinaigrette ones leave me wanting a little bit more, so I find a thin dressing works the best.
The peach mayo was just as it sounds, peaches in mayo. I put some fresh peach slices on as well to add some unadulterated peach love.
I had to plate it all sliding over to make the dish look bigger. I knew that it was enough food, but when I plated it stacked up like a sandwich it looked like it needed to be served with an accompanying side dish. I think it looked good with the slant on it, since it was a slant on a pulled pork anyway. Hmm, my plating was a pun. I'm not sure if I've ever done that before.
I have not done a rabbit terrine since cooking school, so I decided to try another one.
This was somewhat frustrating for me for some reason. I think the main reason was I kind of just wanted to do a quick terrine, but with rabbit it's best to make a farce, wrap it in the loin and skin and poach it, so it's a bit more of a production.
I started out De-boning the rabbit which was fairly easy as I have done this before. The farce as well was pretty simple (lemon verbena, orange rind, pork fat, rabbit meat and fat, seasoning, all grind-ed up).
The hard part came getting the farce into a tight meat log (as sean calls it), he had to help me several times with that, I just couldn't seem to get it quite tight enough. Because it took me so long, and I was over frustrated I left it over night and decided to come back to it the next day.
I was feeling better about it and pounded out the rabbit terrine pretty quick at this point. I wrapped the farce in the loin and skin, wrapped it in cheesecloth (tightly) and poached it in rabbit stock and pork stock.
I brought the terrine up to 147 degrees and let it cool completely in the liquid, the result was pretty good. Next time I will be adding a bit more seasoning and a bit more lemon verbena.
All and all good learning day(s).
Monday, September 6, 2010
Canadian Chefs' Congress 2010: Oceans for Tomorow.
Canadian Chefs' Congress 2010: Oceans for Tomorow.
Canadian Chefs' Congress 2010: Oceans for Tomorow.
Canadian Chefs' Congress 2010: Oceans for Tomorow.
Canadian Chefs' Congress 2010: Oceans for Tomorow.
To the Chefs attending from the Okanagan, knowing that you have a long sustainable bike ride ahead of you, here's some fun things to think about as you pedal your way along on HWY 3.
And you should take your bicycle, partially because it is a glorious drive and also, really now, if it wasn't the year of the oil spill, it was the year of spraying the even more disgusting oil dispersant (presently enjoying a good cherning thanks to Hurricane Earl.)
In that fun spirit, lets start here
Now you've probably all seen that by now, but why not watch it again?
And while you're there, why not watch the "critique" (and then ask yourself with whom would you rather dine?)
So first the premise (and some soft, sensible acoustic guitar strumming with a catchy beat)
The Canadian Chefs’ Congress 2010 on Vancouver Island will focus on chefs and their relationship to the ocean and its current fragile state. We will look at sustainable practices as well as the impact of our actions of today on the oceans of tomorrow.
Of course the first question that arises is "exactly what are you trying to sustain?" But before we get into that, let's watch this--a fun little movie based on Alan Weisman's remarkable book The World Without Us.
Based on this delightful little video, what say "we" all call for a 500 year moratorium on all oceanic commerce? No more oil rigs, no more nuclear submarines spraying sonar shattering the minds of aquatic mammals, no more gigantic fishing ships crusing the oceans. Hands up...anyone? Because if "we're" trying to sustain the health of our oceans, we simply need to stop going in the oceans to do the anti-life death kulture shenanigans that Humans (who live on land) like to perp in places that aren't their own. Simply leave the oceans alone.
A nice long "time out." We can tighten up our local beef/pork/lamb/goat meat and dairy reality in the meantime.
If , on the other hand, "we" are trying to maintain old paradigms in the face of even older challenges growing more and more unmanagable with each passing convulsion of late capitalism then I imagine that is another dicussion that's all together different than one surrounding the far simpler question "how do we do right by the ocean?"
Sometimes I think the fish thing has gotten a little out of hand. Who would benefit from a moratorium on all large scale ocean commerce? Probably the people living 100 miles away from the Ocean.
100...miles...away...from...the...ocean. A diet based on that which is within one hundred miles of your home? Hold on...I think we have something here!
Now don't get me wrong. When I'm within 100 miles of the Ocean I love me some sea food. I become one of those squids that moves through the fish eating for pleasure.
When I'm in the Okanagan, I'm not so much caring about the sea food. In fact, I feel sadness and disconnect when I see Halibut on any menu in the southern interior of BC. (Don't worry, I feel sadder and disconnecteder when I see it on a menu in Minneapolis MN.)
I thought it was neat that there was an abundance of Salmon this year. I do love me some salmon, and now that I've had some local salmon, I'm going to want some year after year...our lakes and waterways are amenable to large salmon runs, right? Certainly we want to keep those clean and functional and free from incinerator debris or nuclear waste or things like that. I'm not saying there should be no fish...I'm just saying it needs to be local, and needs to be harvested responsibly, and all the rest.
The Okanagan has as vibrant and diverse a food shed as any place in Canada without Oceanic fish. The Okanagan needs to exploit that more efficiently (in the form of a functional livestock slaughter reality in the south of the valley...maybe a dairy too). Why not build a regional cuisine upon that which is actually local, and in so doing, actually support the local producers and actually invest in the surrounding land? Save the fish for trips to Van.
Friday, September 3, 2010
Poached Festers Farms Egg
Beans and Tomatoes
Roasted Eggplant Puree
I started the month of September with a special very loosely based on the Nicoise salad. For the most part everything was from the valley, minus the tuna and the potato.
The Albacore tuna is deemed to be Ocean Wise by the Vancouver aquarium. I, personally am a little bit skeptical about just how "renewable" this tuna really is but I am certain that it has not, like its cousin the blue fin or ahi tuna, reached the Peltier rating of Sea Panda just yet. That being said, I think the program it self is great. Anyhow, I grilled it.
The egg was simply poached soft so that it would act as a sauce on the plate. Beautiful eggs with great colored yolks from a local farmer.
The potatoes were confited in roasted garlic and tomato oils and then pan fried all super crisy like to order.
The beans were pre-blanched and then tossed with tomatoes, some herbs & lemon olive oil.
The roasted eggplant puree was simply roasted eggplants pureed with some lemon juice and olive oil.
Very simple flavors that are bound to work well together. I always feel a little bit bad every time I use tuna, but I love it so much, plus if their numbers drop all of a sudden I can always pass the blame over to the Ocean Wise people.
Welcome to September everyone,
Thursday, September 2, 2010
I picked all the remaining tomatoes too...not as impressive. Not really a great year for tomatoes. Not in my back yard anyway.
(Who else is going to have a whole bunch of green tomatoes left over?)
The peppers were prolific, but they just never fully ripened. Some did. Most didn't. I guess this is Canada after all, and we can't expect vegetables that do their best in Mexico to also do their best 5000 kilometres to the north.
But we can do our best, and after Mr. Peltier's inspiring post, here is my best attempt at using what I have (peppers) to get what I want (dinner.)
I do love me a pepper. One of my favorite pepper memories comes courtesy of Frost Restaurant in beautiful Williamsburg Brooklyn. Holy crap I love Frost. Is that a boss name or what? F r o s t ! Of all the Italian restaurants I've enjoyed, and I've enjoyed a hand full of good ones, Frost really stands out--if for no other reason than the first time I ate there, before you even got the menu, they brought out the bread (no butter) and a small pool of olive oil in which bathed a big, beautiful, long, dangling, bright red Italian pepper just daring you to eat it. Marone! (p.s. re-bread, re-oil and re-pepper were free)
Speaking of peppers, I also love me some Indian food...really really spicy Indian food. Another peppery favorite was Punjabi Grocery & Deli. While there were (and are) no end of great Indian restaurants in the 5 borroughs, more than one person of Indian descent told me when looking for authentic Indian food, "just go where there's lots of cabs"--meaning go where the Indian cab drivers eat--meaning Punjabi Grocery & Deli. What's more, you could get the full meal deal at 3:30am after a long and joyous night at the Village Idiot.
While that was about 18 years ago, I remember like it was yesterday--eating what seemed at the time (3:30 am after a long and joyous night at the Village Idiot) to be absurdly, nay, punitively spicy food and asking myself "who are these Punjabi people and why do they make such exciting, delicious food?"
Though not a Punjabi, Rafi Fernandez knows how to bring Indian food to the people. How can you go wrong with a book entitled "Great Indian Dishes"? My favorite recipe in the book is for South Indian Pepper Water, aka Tamatar Rasam. But those are different peppers. Those use the little dried red ones...Ring of Fire is what I think they are called. Go on, double the peppers--we have lots of them in the Okanagan.
Trying to figure out what to do with all these poblanos and cayennes, I grabbed for my trusty copy of Yamuna Devi's Lord Krsna's Cusine...and it wasn't there! Where in Krsna's name did I put it? Where ever it is, I'm here to tell you it's an epic, and once you read it, you'll never look at any food the same way again.
No matter. There's Diana Kennedy. She'll help me. The Essential Cuisines of Mexico...just about sums it up, no? While I didn't find a recipe for Too Many Goddamn Poblano Peppers, I did find a recipe for Chilorio, aka Chile-Seasoned Pork--which I wilfully misread, substituting 1/2 off pork chops from the sell-it-now freezer ($4.05/kg) for the usual pork shoulder. I also substituted fresh poblanos, of which I still have at least 30 for the rehydrated ancho, which I didn't have the patience to rehydrate.
Next thing you know, taco dinner. Yum!
Aside from the avocado and the cumin, (well, and maybe the flour tortillas) it all either did or could have come from the Okanagan.
Now, on to some bread making...
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Chapati is one of the simplest and most common Indian breads. The ingredients are as follows: Flour & water. That's it. Now, some people like to add a little bit of salt and a touch of oil but other than that there is nothing else to it, or so I thought. I made the dough to the exact specifications of the recipe, cooked them the same way as the recipe and in the end was left with something that resembled a chapati but I knew that it wasn't right. A chapati once rolled out, cooked in a griddle and then toasted over open flame should, and I stress the word should, puff up with steam leaving the inside hollow much like a pita. No matter what I did I couldn't get them to puff up properly. I got a little pocket here or there but nothing that would make me happy enough to declare victory. So I tried another batch and another batch with one epic fail followed by yet another. Full of frustration I went to bed.
Upon awakening the first thing I did was think about chapatis. I had a trick of my sleave that I knew would bring me success. Nisha. Nisha is one of our dish washers at work, a lovely Indian woman most likely around my age. She is not a professional cook. However, anyone who likes Indian cuisine knows that the women are the key to it's magic. If anyone could show me the way of the chapati, it would be Nisha.
When I got to work I asked her if she would be so kind to show me how to make Chapatis. With nothing but kindness in her heart she obliged. She made the dough the same way I make my french and Italian doughs, without a recipe. I figured out right away what I was doing wrong. I was trying to make chapati with the same methods I would apply to European breads. The chapati does not need such a vigorous work out, it doesn't need to rest before you shape it and it can be torn off into pieces as opposed to pinched or cut. In no time flat we were making the perfect chapati, the same quality that you would find in the finest Indian restaurant you have ever eaten in. All this, made by our dishwasher. Now, none of this surprised me. I knew when I asked her, she would know how to make it. That wasn't me assuming that all Indian women could make chapati, it was me knowing for sure that all Indian women can make chapati.
This is where the feelings of shame started to creep in on me like diabetes on North American youth. Just to be sure, I asked Nisha if everyone of her Indian friends and all of here family can make chapati, roti, naan etc. " all the women" she replied. Now, I'm not suggesting that all women should be cooking up a storm at home all the time. However, I started to feel very sad for our culture. What is the one dish that every Canadian can cook? Nothing. I asked a few of the cooks at work If they could think of something that everyone knows how to cook. The best answer that I got was from Jeff who said that perhaps two generations ago most of our relatives knew how to preserve fruits and vegetables through the means of canning. I think that that is fair to say, I seem to remember family members having preserves around from time to time when I was a wee little tyke. Now, even that extremely valuable skill has fallen by the wayside. How many people do you know(including yourself) that could just throw together a quick loaf of sandwich bread without a recipe? If you can't name more than one or two do you think that you should be slightly worried? I sure do.
Shannon and I just had her 15 year old brother stay with us for the summer and I was astonished to find that something as simple as cooking pasta noodles or rice or even a fried egg was something completely foreign to him. And I don't think he would be offended by my mentioning that he is a little over weight. How could that even be possible. I think that we as a nation need to start looking toward food education not just for the youth but also for the adults. It seems as though the majority have lost touch on the reality that food is in fact keeping them alive. Food is not just something that should be quickly swallowed and then forgotting about until if leaves us looking the same way that it entered us. Food, water and shelter are the three things people need to survive, or so I've been led to believe. I must laugh at the Irony that people in the west have put such an importance on shelter as status symbol that along the way to gaining enough money to live in lavish homes they no longer have time to cook or even enough money to buy decent food. Convenience, it seems, has a much higher price than many of us had bargained for.
I challenge anyone who reads this little blog of ours, to learn how to make some sort of bread in one week. Chapati is really easy, cheap and healthy. A simple french bread has only five ingredients and one of those is water. Give it a shot, it's liberating to know that if all else in your life comes crumbling down, at least you can make some bread. It has kept starving people alive for a long time and it has kept smiles on the faces of those who can have the luxury of eating it for pleasure. Oh, and if you have a child, please show them how to cook a pot of rice or some pasta if you haven't already, heck, it will even make your life easier.