Monday, December 8, 2008

Goat Sausage

I love breakfast. You might have noticed. I also love these lovely people from Au Fond des Bois who make some really lovely homemade goat cheeses. Recently, their son went to train to butcher goats and is now selling the meat every Saturday at the Dieppe Farmers Market. This week he had sausage!

The taste of goat is unique since it's slightly dry, does resemble lamb somewhat but is milder. Regardless of taste though, it's unique and made by some really nice people. People who will travel over 100 kms through a snowstorm to make sure that market regulars will have their weekly cheese fix. My hats off to them and to all of the dedicated merchants who let me fill my fridge with delicious and natural food every week.

Proper Roast Beef

Growing up, roast beef was some dry crusty grey meat that wasn't even edible even when drenched in gravy. But beef is beef. A roast is no different than a steak. And I don't remember my father eating his beef well well done so I don't know why he treated his roasts that way. Oh well, I know better now.

The inspiration for this traditional meal came from two places: 1) my discovery of an organic beef farmer at the Dieppe Farmer's market who raises his cattle in pastures where they are free to graze and live a chemical free life, and 2) yet another recipe in Jamie Oliver's infinitely useful cookbook, Cook with Jamie. I also took out a meat thermometre, something I don't even think my father knows exists.

Mr. Oliver's recipe calls for roasted beets alongside the beef but seeing as we're past the season of variety at my local farmers markets I made due with root vegetables. I chopped up some ruttabegga, small potatoes, organic carrots (that actually taste like carrots) and the sweetest little onions you've ever tasted. I pressed some of the onions and garlic into the beef, topped these with a handful of thyme sprigs, wrapped the whole thing in bacon, and then slathered it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Propping my beef contraption on some carrots - for a roast mustn't boil - I cooked the whole thing, excluding vegetables, for an hour in a 400 degree oven. I then added the vegetables and cooked the whole thing for another hour, making sure to baste the whole thing from time to time. I also stuck the meat thermometre in at this point. I wanted my meat medium well. Not dry.

Once the meat was cooked, I put it in a bowl, covered it in aluminum foil and let it rest for 20 minutes. In the meantime, I drained the juice from the pan, reduced it and kept roasting the vegetables.

Thin slices of beef with sweet roasted vegetables (the onions were the best since I only peeled them and left them whole) and all deliciously swimming in reduced jus. Very good, very well cooked and very different from what my childhood memories.

My girlfriend even said that this was one of the best things I've ever made. Now that's an accomplishment!

Sausage, Egg and Hollandaise Breakfast Pizza

There's this local chain that we went to recently that really surprised me. I'm not used to being pleasantly surprised by chains. They tend to be bland, umimaginative, poor service, overpriced money pits of consumerism. Now Mikes Restaurants is not an exception. We waited far too long in line before the understaffed staff finally sat us down at a table that had been empty since we'd walked in. But that was the end of our troubles. Our server was great.

All my friends encouraged me to take a breakfast pizza. And, like I said, I was really surprised. The idea of putting everything you would find in a breakfast on a pizza, douse it with hollandaise sauce and melted cheese and place it alongside a bit of fruit and some homefries is simply genius. So being the person who I am, I decided that I would make my own. I'd even make it better. Truth be told, chains aren't very difficult to beat.

First I prepared my pizza dough from scratch...more on that in a later post. I then prepared hollandaise sauce which, it turns out, is egg yolks, butter and lemon juice. Really fattening but oh so delicious. As far as toppings go, I sautéed some mushrooms, onions and sausage after which I scrambled some eggs. Everything went on the semi-baked pizza crust, topped with the sauce, sprinkled with cheese and enjoyed with a tall cup of coffee.

Was it better than what they had at the chain restaurant? Of course. And the victory was as easy as I'd predicted.

Ceramic Coated Frying Pan Rocks

I'm as much of an environmentalist as what I am a foodie. So when the two come together, I'm all atitter with excitement.

There are two lines of environmentally friendly, toxic-free cookware that have come out in our neck of the woods recently: EarthChef and Eco-Chef. Basically, they're the same...ceramic coated cookware that doesn't realease any toxic chemicals into every meal that you cook in them. The frying pan I bought is also made out of recycled materials and has a bamboo handle (actually a grass that reproduces really quickly which makes can sometimes make it a better choice than unsustainably produced wood). Along with a cast iron frying pan, you can't get any healthier than this.

Plus this frying pan is definitely the best I've ever owned. Nothing sticks to it. And you don't have those little black bits that start mixing into the food either.

So go green. Your health and the environment will thank you.

Homemade Pasta At Last!!!

They say that third time's a charm. Well this is the third time that I tried making homemade pasta and I refused to fail. Thankfully, Jamie Oliver's recipe in Cook with Jamie is much more helpful than his recipe in his first ever cookbook where only egg yolks were required. Plus it also helped that I scored some "tipo 00" flour at an Italian deli on a recent trip to Halifax.

The simple recipe calls for 5 cups of tipo 00 or pasta flour with 6 large free-range eggs. The flour should be the finest and silkiest one you can find...apparently, silky flour = silky dough = silky pasta. As for the free-range eggs, I think that if you know that food is unethically raised or pumped full of chemicals then you should stay away. So free-range is common sense.

You must first make a well in the centre of the flour, break the eggs into the well and start working the whole thing together. If you're lucky, you should end up with a nice lump of dough that you could just knead for about 10 minutes making it all soft and smooth. This was the exciting part for me because I knew that I'd finally made pasta dough. When you've got so few ingredients, it's all about texture. So then I just had to wrap it up in plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge for half an hour. Half an hour with a smile on my face.

One thing that I would consider as an absolute must is a pasta machine. It's either that or rolling the whole thing out by hand. Not something I'd enjoy doing. Even when the dough was so smooth and easily worked. So with my huge ball of dough, I divided it up, pressed it flat and then ran it through the largest setting of the pasta machine for a about 6 runs, folding it over every time to work the dough.

Trying to keep the sheet of pasta's edges square (fold the rough edges into the middle and pass it through the machine) all I had to do then was roll the pasta progressively thinner in the machine. Once I had that, I had a few options. The first I tried was cutting it with a sharp knife but this mostly just pressed the dough together thus making it a bitch to seperate every individual strand.

Fortunately, I have an attachement on my pasta machine to cut fettuccini or spaghetti. Fettuccini was on the menu the first day. On the second day of pasta gluttony, we went out and bought a mould to make ravioli. It was so simple. Just press one sheet into the dimples, drop a bit of ricotta or other filling, lay another sheet on top and press. They all come apart beautifully and make a really nice little meal.

I really love the fact that I can make my own pasta. Next time, I'm trying it with semolina since I find the smooth white flour lacked texture. But I really can't complain too much. Making things from scratch is a pleasure in itself. Eating it is only half the fun. Ok, maybe four sixth of the fun. Anywho...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Jamie Oliver's Amazing Potato and Horseradish Salad

So far, Cook with Jamie is a cookbook that has not only never dissapointed me, but constantly impresses me. At first this recipe might just seem like a fancy potato salad. But once you start to eat's beautiful! And this is even considering that I didn't have half the exact ingredients as the recipe called for.

The recipe called for boiling some new potatoes. I don't know what I had exactly, the bag just said mini potatoes...whatever that's supposed to mean. For the sauce, you need the juice of 2 lemons (I used the bottled stuff...major faux pas), the yellow heart of a celery, some chopped fresh parsley (I only had cilantro and a bit of thyme), a few heaping tablespoons of horseradish (I used what was left of the organic root I was given), and 3 heaping tablespoons of crème fraiche or sour cream (I only had the inferior sour cream). Season to taste with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper. You then had to organize the coated potatoes on some bresaola which is basically cured beef. I had cold deli roast beef which wasn't quality nor cured but was the only thing available in my backwoods area. However, it did the trick. I also didn't bother sprinkling some tarragon leaves over the whole thing but I did pour some cold pressed olive oil over the whole thing which is something Mr. Oliver seems to be unable to go without...he pours olive oil on everything...see

This is undoubtedly the best potato salad ever. If you serve this at a dinner party or bring it along with you at a potluck, you will gain immortal fame amongst your friends and family. When you're dead and gone, they'll say "Do you remember that time Jenny brought that gorgeous potato salad? Wasn't that a wonderful salad!" It's true. That's what they'll be saying.

Garlic Shrimp Ravioli

You might have noticed that we eat alot of ravioli. Every week actually. Hell, they're fresh, handmade and will turn you off all other pasta for all time. So what's not to like, especially when you add delicious stuff to them like garlic butter shrimp.

For this particular recipe I can take no credit. This was all my girlfriends doing. So here is what she did. First she melted a good bit of butter in a pan with alot of crushed garlic...we seem to love the stuff...maybe even unhealthily. Once the butter was all nice and garlicky, she plopped in some shrimp, added thyme and oregano. She cooked the ravioli in the meantime, saving a tablespoon or so of the pasta water to add to the butter and then served it all topped with a good heaping mound of grated parmesan cheese.

Beat that Red Lobster!

New Energy Star Windows!

Ok. I know that new windows have little to do with food but for me, food, self-sustainability and environmental responsibility are all interelated. Plus the new windows let alot more light into my kitchen which makes for a more enjoyable atmosphere.

Considering that the windows in my apartment last winter were as good as useless, I was really excited when my landlord told us that he would be changing the windows. Plus he didn't cheap out. He went for the Energy Star rated windows. If you're unaware of what the Energy Star rating system is, you can visit Basically, it means that the appliances or windows or other items bearing this mark are efficient at performing the duty they were meant to perform. Appliances don't consume excessive amounts of energy to get the job done. Windows retain heat and keep out the cold. All in all, one should never buy anything that's inneficient and which contributes to the destruction of our global environment.

Organic garlic and gardening escapades

I think it would be fair to say that for most of us, garlic is just garlic. Unfortunately, our culinary knowledge is mostly formed by what's available in supermarkets so here in North America we are ignorant at the best of times. So you can imagine my surprise when I volunteered at Amarosia Organic garden and was put to the tast of sorting through a dozen varieties of garlic.

That wet and cold day was the first time I've ever been able to chat with my friendly neighbourhood organic gardeners. They're winding down their season now so can finally take a breath only to find themselves blathering on with me about topics as varied as farm economics to long-distance familial relationships. Besides the cold, it was a great day. And Rowena was kind enough to send me home with a knob of horseradish, a few garlic cloves and some Russian cooking tomatoes who's exact name I forget.

Now the catch was that I had to sample the garlic raw in order to really appreciate the different characteristics of each garlic variety. So to the utter displeasure of my girlfriend, I munched on some raw garlic whilst preparing a super garlicky tomato sauce. Here are my impressions of the different varieties I sampled raw: 1) the hot and spicy variety was rather mild with only a slight spice; 2) on the other hand, the roja variety had a good spicy kick and it's taste was reminiscent of green onions; 3) finally, the music variety of large garlic cloves was also spicy with an almost fruity aftertaste which was quite pleasant. As for the other varieties, they went unlabelled so I couldn't really tell you what their individual characteristics are. Best talk to Rowena.

Seeing as I was graced with so much garlic, horseradish and cooking tomatoes, my obvious reaction was to make a tomato sauce for our farmer's market bought ravioli. I first sweated an onion along with some celery, then added the dozen chopped cooking tomatoes, some fresh horseradish, oregano, thyme, a bit of anchovy paste, a splash of white wine, salt and pepper. Now seeing as Rowena had advised me that the garlic varieties lose their individuality once cooked, I chose to "infuse" the garlic into the sauce rather than cook it. What I mean by that is that I cooked the sauce till the tomatoes had broken up and everything was reduced, took the pot off the fire, and stirred the half dozen sliced garlic cloves into the sauce. So they didn't really cook. The sauce was more like the hot water and the garlic was the tea...if that makes any sense.

Along with handmade fresh ravioli, a good handful of grated grated parmesan, capers, and a glug of quality cold pressed olive oil, this was a smashing albight stinky success. I love garlic.

Thanks Rowena.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Kwong's My China: Round 2

Two more of Kylie Kwong's My China recipes were on the menu for this week and they were as delicious as the others. Now before I go on to describe the food, I must first say this: it's rare that you'll get all of the recipes you make from a cookbook to taste good. Now it's either the cooks fault or the authors fault. I lean more towards the latter since a recipe is supposed to guide the cook and too many cookbooks are just thrown together, full of random recipes that are bland and, when you start to think about it, had not been a good idea from the start. So Kwong's book is one of these exceptions, one of those really good cookbooks. Though I still maintain that the prose sections of her book need improving.

The first recipe we made was "Stir-fried Pork with Gai Choy". Now if you're wondering "What the hell is gai choy?" you're not alone. Turns out it's mustard greens, which doesn't exactly help. If you google it, gai choy only look like curly ended bok choy. Knowing that I wouldn't find gai choy in Moncton, I simply opted to replace it with bok choy. There.

So the recipe, like all of the other recipes in this book, is pretty simple. The only non-sauce ingredients are the gai choy or bok choy substitute, pork neck fillet (or whatever cut of pork), ginger and garlic. Basically, you stir fry these in peanut oil, starting with the pork, garlic and ginger, and then add the bok choy. After a good, quick, hot stir-fry, you add shao hsing wine, brown sugar, oyster sauce, sesame oil, brown rice vinegar and white pepper. Cook till it looks like something you'd eat in a Chinese restaurant and there you have it.

Alongside the pork dish I made "Braised Water Chestnuts with Carrots, Lup Yook and Ginger". Yet another weird ingredient, lup yook is dry-cured pork belly which basically means that bacon can be substituted though it won't be entirely authentic. As far as the cooking goes, it's even easier than the pork. Stir fry ginger, garlic and bacon till, I guess, desired bacon doneness. Then add sliced carrot and chestnuts and stry-fry till the chestnuts have warmed through. Remember that your wok should be hot. A bit of brown sugar, a bit of shao hsing wine, soy sauce, vinegar and there you have it. The bacon really works well with the chestnuts and the carrots and the sauce gives it that Asian twang.

All in all, I find Kwong's recipes simple, quick to make, healthy and well worth it.

St-Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale

St-Ambroise are arguably one of the best breweries in the nation. Their oatmeal stout is out of this world...liable to knock Guinness out of their fortified monopoly and establish a Canadian brewery as the world's best brewer of beers. But that's a stretch.

What I do know for sure is that the Apricot Wheat ale is steller. I wouldn't say that it's sweet like some other fruit bears can sometimes be. And the wheat part of the beer isn't too heavy and rich. The beer, I would say, is almost a bit dry, definitely refreshing, and only has a slight aftertaste of apricots; though I did find out the other night that the more you drink, the more you can taste the apricots...bonus!

If you find this beer on your liquor store shelves, buy it. Really good beer.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Naxi-Style Chicken from Kylie Kwong's My China

I got Kylie Kwong's My China from my mother-in-law last Christmas. This is the first time I've made recipes from this book. I'd read it all before and to tell you the truth, the writing which recounts Kwong's culinary adventure through China is kind of bland. The writing feels only like a play by play account of her trip with no real depth of flavour. The same, thankfully, cannot be said of her recipes.

I made two recipes from My China. The first was simply called "Stir-Fried Bean Sprouts, Snow Peas and Garlic Chives". Basically, you chop a bulb of garlic in half, let it sear in a wok in some peanut oil then add snow peas sea salt and shao hsing wine. I had to make a special trip to my local Asian food store to find the cooking wine but it was well worth it. Along with bean sprouts and a dollop of rich sesame oil (I couldn't find any garlic chives) the plate was simple, quick to make and as authentically Chinese as I know authentic Chinese to be. Not this chicken fried rice with deep-fried chicken balls drenched in goopy red sauce like we have in our Chinese-Canadian restaurants.

The second recipe from My China was a bit more complex but not by much. Alot of the recipes repeat themselves in Kwong's recipes which is, to the best of my knowledge, the way Chinese cooks tend to prepare their various recipes. "Naxi-Style Chicken with Chillies, Green Pepper and Peanuts" calls for cubed tender chicken thighs - arguably the best part of the chicken after the tenderloin and the "oysters" - marinated in corn starch for an hour. You then infuse equal parts of shao hsing wine and peanut oil with chillies. I only had Mexican style chillies but the recipe doesn't specify which kind of dried chillies are required or best for the dish. It just says dried red chillies.

Once you've removed the chillies from the oil, you then proceed to cook half of the chicken, remove it, add more oil and cook the rest of the chicken. You then dump the first half of chicken in along with reserved chillies, some ginger, a chopped green pepper and a chopped cucumber. Stir-fry then add brown sugar to caramelize things a bit. After that, you add half a cup of roasted unsalted peanuts, light soy sauce and brown rice vinegar (I only had regular rice vinegar). Stir-fry for 30 seconds in your very hot work and voilà! You've got "authentic" Chinese food.

The best part about these recipes is that their easy, quick and really taste like Chinese food ought to taste like. It's fresh, loaded with vegetables and quite easy to make. Kudos to Kwong even though she has to work a bit on her literary skills.

Ferme du Diamant Strikes Again

I love my farmer's markets. I love the food, the people and I love the fact that I'm now a regular. I walk up to some stalls and the merchants know right away what I'm going buy. At the Moncton market I buy bubbly apple cider every week. He sees me coming and has it already pulled out for me. You wont see that at the supermarket.

One such merchant who I love is the French gentleman of Ferme du Diamant. His ham is the best. His sausages are the best. And considering that he's the only one at the markets who makes terrines and patés, his terrines and patés are the best. But really, they are. I mean I'd even go so far as to say that his creton is almost better than my grandmother's. And that's saying something.

This week, I bought chicken liver paté with prunes and madeira wine. Just the name sounds amazing...and don't knock it just because it contains offal. The paté had the delicious smooth taste particular to chicken livers which was balanced with the sweetness of the wine and the prunes. On toast, this is absolutely the best way to start the morning. That and a good big cup of coffee.

What you see alongside the paté on toast is the Norwegian whey cheese on toast I'd mentionned last week. Nice, sweet, and soft. Yum.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Just Us! Coffee Roasters Co-op

Just Us! is, simply put, really great. Their coffees are delicious and their ethical basis is certainly worth applauding. I mean their products are from free-trade origins, mostly organic and produced by a co-op which believes in people before profits. How could you not support that?! I really have to dwell on the fact that the people at Just Us! think of everything in regards to their business. On the flipside, there is a local coffee roaster here in Moncton that treated me to a rant when I asked if his coffee was free-trade. He argued that it didn't change the taste so he couldn't really be bothered. That is an extremely short sighted view but, then again, businesses tend to be short sighted and disregard any social responsibility. So that's why I'd rather buy my coffee from the Annapolis Valley rather than from right here in Moncton. Ethics trump locally produced.

We visited the Just Us! factory in Grand Pré, Nova Scotia and found it to be a really nice spot worth the stop. They had the café with a whole selection of coffees and teas that we don't get here in Moncton, a really neat little museum about fair-trade and coffee growing processes which was really nice and showcased the thought that goes behind Just Us! coffee. There's also a large window where you can watch the guys roasting and bagging the coffee. Pretty neat.

Now if I hadn't been on a budjet, I would have bought everything in the store. As it were, I limited myself to buying three varieties of coffee that we don't have in stores here, some organic free-trade sugar and rooibos tea. The first coffee, Rainforest Rhapsody, is a light roast and is therefore light in taste. It's a good coffee for someone who likes a mild coffee but I'm into a bit more body; that's why the Jungle Blend or Rise Again coffees are more along my tastes. They're both rich and earthy, each with their own characteristics. But so far - and here I speak of ALL coffee I've ever tasted in ALL of my years of coffee drinking - the Mocha Java is hands down the best coffee ever! It's full bodied, rich and has strong notes of chocolate with an slight aftertaste of fruit. Really a great coffee. I'm going to do my damndest in the next weeks to get the friendly people at Just Us! to ship the Mocha Java to my local co-op food market from now on.

Norwegian Gjetost Cheese

While driving through the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia, we were looking for things to see. We visited the Just Us coffee roasting factory (see next post), a few stores in Wolfville, and Foxhill Cheese House. At first we couldn't get to the cheese factory because a transport had sort of capsized in the ditch. But we went up to the Look Off, couldn't look off because of the fog and then returned back into the valley to find the transport gone. That's when we emerged into the cheese house.

Foxhill makes a bunch of cheeses including some quark (a sort of cream cheese), various havarti, cheddar, gouda, curds and others. To be honest, I wasn't overly impressed by Foxhill's own brand of cheeses. I mean they were ok - certainly better than the crap at the supermarkets- and their curds were fresh, squeeky and what you would expect from quality curds. But their other cheeses were just alright. What really caught my attention were the little samples of brown cheese that they had alongside the samples of their own cheeses.

You can get a full description at but suffice it to say that the Norwegian Gjetost cheese is boiled down whey which caramelizes and ends up tasting like a cross between caramel and cheese. It's really unique and really good. They say that you're supposed to eat it thinly sliced on hot toast which I'll really have to try. So far, it's just good on it's own in big slices.

Another product they had at Foxhill was gelato. Now here is where the cheese house shone for us. Their gelato was rich and creamy but light enough so that you don't confuse it with really creamy ice cream. I had pumpkin to celebrate the season which was nicely flavoured, not overpowering like some pumpkin products can sometimes be. My girlfriend had the coconut flavour to celebrate, um, her love of coconuts I guess.

So to recap, Foxhill gelato good, Foxhill cheese ok. Gjetost really, really cool.

Real Sushi at Hamashi Kita in Halifax

We've eaten sushi before but it usually comes from the supermarket and isn't really closely related to raw fish sushi. These tend to be made with vegetables or fake crab. To our delight, a little day trip to Halifax gave us the opportunity to taste real sushi for the first time.

My girlfriend is warming up to raw food and such previously yucky stuff like salmon roe. I even tested her readiness by ordering a unagi maki roll which contains grilled eel. We've never eaten eel before and to tell you the truth, a slimy aquatic snake-like creature doesn't really wet my appetite. But it was good. The fish wasn't really distinct but it was still good.

For our main course, my girlfriend and I shared the assorted maki combination and the assorted sushi combination (the restaurant's full menu is available through or at In addition to containing raw red snapper, tuna and salmon, these rolls had some nice crunchy stuff - possibly panko - delicious nori and all sorts of other good things. This was certainly a treat for the foodies in us. But it's even better when you consider how healthy sushi is. And the exquisitely crisp Asahi beer certainly helped alot.

The restaurant itself is nice and small, situated in the quaint Hydrotone Market on Young Street in Halifax. There are a small bunch of really nice locally owned shops that make block stores look like the consumer cattle houses that they are. And peppered through these shops are restaurants (we also visited the Spring Garden Road shopping district which is also really nice and refreshing). Everyone in the stores, even young shop clerks, were kind and helpful which certainly includes our waiter who was helpful, non-intrusive and always right on cue.

All in all, Hamashi Kita has made it into my repertoire of "restaurants I like and will always go back to" or in layman's terms, a 10 out of 10.

Caramelized Pears in Crepes

I find it hard to get up in the morning and only have cereal. I mean, it's cold and so unimaginative. As a response, I often make breakfast. Nice and hot.

For this recipe, I simply caramelized pears in sugar, butter and a hot frying pan. I then prepared my crepes in another pan and stuffed them with the pears. Simple yet delicious.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Maple Syrup, Ancho Chili and Rum Caramelized Salmon

Sugar, spice, booze and arguably the best fish ever to swim in water are a match made in heaven. Or in my kitchen.

There's nothing too complicated about this recipe. I fried salmon in a bit of canola oil, flipped it over then poured in some maple syrup, a generous few pinches of smoky dark ancho chili powder, and a splash of white rum (be careful if you have a gas don't want to flambé your forehead). I then turned the salmon in it, letting the edges caramelize as it cooked, making sure not to overheat the sauce thus causing it to burn. Maybe a bit of garlic would have been a good addition. But this worked nonetheless. Simple and yummy.

Mussel, Wine and Tomato Pasta

We bought these nice (and cheap) mussels at the farmer's market yesterday. We had wine on hand but figured it would be better with something a bit more than just a typical wine and herb sauce. So out came the ingredients. And this time it wasn't me who was experimenting. It was my girlfriend.

She started out by frying up some mushrooms, onions, a shallot and some garlic in a frying pan and then dropping a got glass of local white wine and French vermouth. In another pot (don't ask me why she didn't just use one pot) she put in some organic chicken stock (not the bland Campbell's crap), a can of organic crushed tomatoes and the wine soaked aliums and mushrooms. I then advised her to reduce it by at least half and then add some oregano and thyme that we'd picked up at the market. That and cleaning up was my contribution.

She then cooked up some long macaroni while I cleaned and bearded the mussels. We just dropped the mussels in the now sputtering sauce and stired them once in awhile till they opened up and added even more flavour to the sauce.

Everything turned out to be delicious. With a bit of grated parmesan cheese, this simple plate would put to shame any chain Italian restaurant any day. At least our sauce didn't come out of a plastic bag. Plus we got to work together in the kitchen. Which is not alway the case when I'm in charge. I have a "my kitchen, my rules" sort of attitude that's somewhat out of character. I get real posessive about my kitchen sometimes.

Eton Mess

I rarely make deserts. But with all of the egg whites I had left over from my failed attempts at making pasta (Mr. Oliver wanted a half a dozen egg yolks), a meringue was an obvious and delicious choice. Plus it allowed Mr. Oliver to redeem himself from his result-less pasta recipe.

To start, you have to make the meringue. Now this really isn't difficult. All you have to do is make sure that you whip the egg whites and sugar long enough so that the sugar is completely dissolved. You then have to decide if you prefer a spongy or a chewy meringue. By spongy I mean the stuff you find piled a mile high on top of lemon pie (look at me, I'm a poet). I prefer a chewy meringue so I make a flat meringue or many little meringues. Basically, I'm just trying to increase the amount of crust I'll have.

For the Eton Mess, yet another recipe from Mr. Oliver's Cook with Jamie, you need to bash or mush up the meringue (depending on whether you have a chewy or spongy meringue). You then whip some whipping cream up and mix it with fruit and a small bit of balsamic vinegar. You could put vanilla in your cream or in the meringue as well as alot of other flavours but I didn't have any vanilla and I thought that simple would be best. I wasn't wrong.

For the fruit, I had some yellow prunes, pears and grapes. I don't see why you can't make up your own mix. Mash up half of the fruit in with the balsamic vinegar and leave the other in chunks. Then just mix the fruit, fruit mixture and cream together and layer with the bashed up meringue. It's relatively light as far as deserts go but it's oh so delicious.

Cream, fruit and sugar. There's no way you can go wrong.

Zucchini and Goat Cream Cheese Soup

I got the general outlay of this very simple recipe from Laura Calder's French Food at Home on Food TV here in Canada. She used French "vache qui rit" cheese which is a sort of cream cheese whose name means "the cow who laughs". I didn't want to make a special trip to the supermarket for this cheese (I'm a farmer's market convert) so I bought some goat cream cheese from my local goat cheese purveyors.

Though I used the best products, all organic and/or local, zucchini tends to be bland. And Campbell's organic chicken stock doesn't have much body either. So I guess you can say that it's subtlety was what I should have appreciated. But I like my food to whack me around a bit. None of this soffisticated pallet crap.

Oh and if you do want to try this soup out, it couldn't be easier. Onions, zucchini, chicken stock, goat cheese, salt and pepper. That's it. Purée and top with some paprika. Nothing complicated but nothing really special either.

Applewood Smoked Beef Rib Roast with Creole Sauce

What could be better than sitting outside on a cool autumn day reading and smelling a nice rib roast smoke away? Smoking is a long process but the end result is so worth it. That smoky flavour is like cranking your bbq's flavour up 5000 times. Plus with the sweet, mustardy creole sauce caramelized all over the roast, this beef was truly delicious.

I don't have special equipment for smoking. Just my beef on the top rack on the opposite side of the heat and smoke-box where the wet applewood chips slowly charred. I had a meat thermometre stuck into the beef and pulled it out when it was about medium.

Along with some bbq sweet potato wedges, my first serious foray into smoking went alot better than I could have expected. Long live the versatility of the grill!

My pickles are done! And I haven't died of botulism!

September 23rd was the date my pickles were ready. They turned out pretty much exactly how I expected them to. They were a bit mushy in the middle but hopefully, next time, with kosher or pickling salt and not cutting the pickles they might turn out better. And everything stayed sealed. Next summer, I'm canning soup, tomatoes, and who knows what else.

Pickling. It's not just for grandma anymore!

Ravioli with Minted Peas and Lamb

I know you're asking yourself the question. And yes. It was as good as it sounds.

I basically just cooked some frozen peas in a bit of water with the mint. I then drained these and smothered them in olive oil, letting them sit for a bit with a bit of salt and pepper. In the meantime, I boiled my market bought ravioli and pan fried my tiny lamb chops. Nothing magical here.

The fresh, bright flavours of the mint and peas went perfectly with the rich lamb, tender raviolis and salty parmesan. Like I said, not really anything extraordinarily complicated about this dish. But was it ever good.

Plus it was supposed to be made with homemade pasta but that failed. My dough was as stiff as, well, stiff dough. Jamie Oliver's pasta recipe in Cook with Jamie is as useless as any pasta recipe I've come across before. It's the sort of thing that someone has to show you how to do. And the nice little Italian lady at the market was kind enough to give me a few pointers. Even though I pointed out to her that she's helping train her competition. ;)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Amateur Mushroom Hunting

We went mushroom hunting this morning. It's late September and it's been raining for the past few days. Logic says that there should be a tonne of mushrooms in the area. We weren't dissapointed when we visited the first legs of the Dobson Trail in Riverview. However, we didn't venture to cook any of these fungal delights.

The slugs were having a field day amongst almost all of the mushrooms. This bolete was having a particularly bad day.

There were quite a few bracket mushrooms all over the forest but no Hens of the Woods. The trees were mostly conifers so next time we'll try to find a hardwood forest. Or a field where we could hopefully spot some really cool giant puffballs.

I'm pretty sure these last two photos are of false chanterelles. The were orangy-brown, in the funnel shape but their gills were wavy whereas real chanterelles (if I understood properly) are supposed to have well structured straight gills.

The World According to Monsanto: A Review

I thought I'd heard everything there is to know about the horrible chemical and biotechnology corporation called Monsanto. Boy was I short on information.

This documentary produced by ONF, delves into the political manipulations, ecological and not to mention community destruction, and all other nasty things this international regulation-free corporation is responsible for. This documentary will want to make you wish someone would do something drastic to hurt the Monsanto corporation like they've hurt people and the environment and biodiversity as a whole.

Fighting bioterrorism with bioterrorism aside, you NEED to see this documentary. It's a real eye opener. Even for those with their eyes already wide open and terrified.

I'm almost tempted to say that the looming collapse of the American empire is a blessing in disguise for the world as a whole. But I wouldn't want to go too far would I?

The Full Conversion to Fresh Food

This week, I've set myself the challenge of purchasing 100% of my grocery at the farmer's market and supplemented by my neighbourhood natural food store. I'd say that 100% is hard since there is still alot of stuff in my pantry and in my fride that have their origins at the supermarket but still...

The above photo shows a very good example of what shopping entirely at the market could be. Fresh sausages and locally made bread (and supermarket bought sauerkraut and mustard which I'm sure I could find elsewhere). Market corn with GMO free margarine. Sun gold tomatoes with organic olive oil (and supermarket bought balsamic vinegar). Fresh local apple cider. With only a few exceptions like salt, everything on this table is market bought. It's really easy when you just set your mind to it.

I find alot of people who go to the market only go for the treats. Don't get me wrong, I love hot cinnamon buns as much as the next guy, but I also recognise that there's everything at the market for me to eat very well for a whole week. There's bread, cheese, meat, vegetables, fruit, eggs, pastries, wine, beverages, nuts, pasta and even milk. Plus there's the advantage that mostly everything is either organic or locally grown or both. There are only a few stands where there are inported items. But even these include things like walnut oil or dates which can't really be made in our region anyways (except for the oil...but I digress).

The point is that getting your grocery at the farmer's market is good. Supermarkets and their monoculturally grown, 2500 kms travelling products, genetically modified processed foods are bad. The best way to stop the world from crumbling under too much agricultural "progress" (which includes biodiversity killing genetically modified foods and pesticide uses) is to support your local farmer. Call it Slow Food or 100 mile challenge or whatever you like. If it's chemical and coming from halfway across the world, it's bad. For your health and for the environment and for the future.

It's as simple as that. Or nearly.

Roasted Pig's Feet with Wilted Kale and Mashed Veggies

Seeing as I didn't have my girlfriend with me at the market last week, I made a few purchases that I would only have made alone. The blood pudding was the first purchase. Pig's feet were the second.

Looking at the fatty pig's feet, I assumed there would be a fair amount of meat on them. They surely smelled delicious as they roasted for 9 hours. This was based on another of Jamie Oliver's recipes from Cook with Jamie. In the "overnight slow-roasted pork", a pork shoulder is called for. It is to be scroed and rubbed with olive oil, sea salt, and fennel seeds. Uncovered in a roasting pan atop halved onions, carrots, garlic and fennel bulbes (which I replaced with potatoes), the pork roasts at 250 degrees for 9 to 12 hours. Fat side up of course.

You then make a sauce by dumping a whole bottle of white wine and a pint of vegetable or chicken stock into the roasting pan for the last 30 minutes of cooking. The result is a very tender and sticky meat along with nicely roasted veggies and a sauce which, once reduced, makes a nice sharp gravy.

I mashed up the veggies and wilted some fresh organic kale to go along with the pork. The kale was nice and bitter, the veggies were rich and chewy, and the pork was tender, sticky and fennely like the recipe promised. The only problem was that there was little to no meat on the bony legs.

I would recommend this preparation for any roast but I would also recommend using a cut with a bit more meat. I mean, if you're going to cook something for 9 hours, it better be plentiful. Oh well, there's always next time. Maybe a leg of lamb. Or a whole duck. Mmmm...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Blood Pudding and Apple Breakfast Bake

This is a very descriptive title for a very simple dish. Slices of apple go into a small ovenproof dish, is topped by slices of blood pudding (or black pudding, or boudain in French), doused with a bit of maple syrup and baked till the the whole is warm.

This is my second time eating blood pudding. The first time was horrible. Apparently the sulfur in the eggs really doesn't mix with the blood pudding. This apple concoction is my friendly neighbourhood charcutier's recipe. He told me how you're supposed to spin your hand in the blood falling into a bucket so that all the coagulating stuff stick to your hand and all your left with is lumpless blood. Along with other ingredients it makes up what is known as blood pudding. And I have to admit that this was quite delicious. The only thing I'm not too sure about is the texture of the blood pudding. The taste is actually quite delicious. Doesn't really taste like blood although my blood consuming experiences aren't that diverse.

For many, if not most, eating blood pudding is weird and grosse. For me, head cheese, blood pudding, pig's feet and all other parts of animals that we'd rather throw away is a waste and a disrespect of the animal. Two generations ago, nothing was wasted. Now we're so used to excess that we waste more than we actually consume.

Plus, we're programmed to gag on things like worms in apples or tomatoes and blood pudding and all other things that we're tought is grosse. When you don't waste and you produce in an environmentally compatible way this is what you get. Worms, bugs and odd animal bits. I think we should push ourselves to undo the illogical gag factor that has been programmed into us. No more of this "space-age food" as a friend of mine has called it.

I, for one, want REAL food. Vive la revolution!

Beef Stuffed White Pumpkin

I was driving away from the market when I saw a lady walking with two white pumpkins in her arms. I thought that they were so cool that I jumped out of my car (shutting it off first, making sure not to idle) and purchased a nice sized white pumpkin for myself. It was only $1.50. How could I go wrong.

Turns out that the pumpkin was the ideal vessel for other items I'd purchased at the market that day: sweet corn, white carrots, and fresh onions that look like overgrown green onions. I also dropped by my local natural food store, Corn Crib, and purchased some organic vegetable stock and some wild rice. Wild rice, it must be noted, is both native to North America and quite a bitch to cook. Even after simmering in the pumpkin for 2 hours they were still chewy. They're certainly not like their worldly relatives.

Anyways, what I did was lop the top of the pumpkin, scoop out its entrails and prepared the beef mixture. I first dry toasted the wild rice to make it a bit nuttier. That's what you're supposed to do with nuts but I'm not sure that you're supposed to do that with wild rice...maybe it contributed to making it uncookable. I then sauteed the onions till soft, added the beef till brown and then threw in the carrots, corn kernels and stock. At this point I wanted to add other things but I simply didn't have any room left. The contents of my cast iron frying pan just fit into the cavity of the pumpkin with a stick of cinnamon, a few bay leaves and a whole dried chili. Salt, pepper and in she went into the oven at 350 degrees for 2 hours.

What emerged from the oven was very good. The pumpkin had gone soft and the mixture inside was quite delicious albight a bit bland and requiring a bit of help in the form of a chipotle hotsauce. All in all it was a very healthy meal. And fun to make. Maybe it'll be boeuf bouguignon stuffed in the pumpkin next time. Who knows?

Pumpkins are so versatile.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Stilton Borscht

Similar to my experience with coq au vin, making borscht was a matter of knowing what could be done with two large, excessively fresh and earthy beets. Plus both results are purple. But that's just a cool coincidence.

Though there are probably thousands of recipes for this traditional Eastern European dish, I adapted mine from one of my soup & stews cookbooks. Here then is my version of borscht. Note that most of the ingredients were just things I threw in because I had them on hand. Sort of like cleaning out the fridge sort of thing. This recipe is definitely not set in stone. Whatever tickles your own fancy.

Stilton Borscht

1 large onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove
2 medium to large beets, peeled and chopped small (about 2 cups)
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 cup or so of chopped daikon radish (I just had some of this on hand)
500ml box of organic vegetable stock (the stuff I buy is very rich...almost a soup in itself)
1 medium onion, peeled and left whole
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. sweet paprika
spicy chili flakes or powder of choice to taste
1 tbsp. tomato paste or 1 small can of tomato sauce
2 tbsp. dijon mustard
3/4 bottle of amber to dark beer (I used a Scotch beer)
a little less than 1/4 cup's worth of stilton or other blue cheese (goat's cheese would also be lovely and obviously milder)
generous handful of asian greens (I substituted these for cabbage...they look like lettuce but apparently they are related to cabbage)
salt and pepper

sour cream, for serving

1. In a medium pot, cook onions in hot oil till they start to brown. Add all other vegetables and sweat covered, stirring occasionally till vegetables are softened.
2. Add all other ingredients and cook till flavours have developed and all vegetables are soft.
3. Puree the soup with a hand blender (or you can do it the hard way with a regular blender).
4. Adjust seasoning and serve with a very generous dollop of cold sour cream.

This soup can be eaten hot or cold and as with any soup or stew, it only get's better with time. You can even freeze or can this stuff. Plus it looks really cool. I'm sure kid's would have a blast with this...especially seeing as the very healthy veggies are disguised as a Barney coloured puree.

Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Harissa and Ham-Burgers

I'm having real fun with the versitility of the grill lately. Grilled pizzas, fries, veggies, you name it. My aunt in Ottawa does nearly all of her cooking on the bbq nowadays. She even bakes her cakes using the bbq as an oven. Now all I wish I could have access to is a charcoal or brick bbq. No more propane for me.

To make grilled sweet potatoes or regular potatoes, simply toss relatively thick slices of them in oil with salt, pepper and whatever flavouring you want (I added some harissa) and grill till charred on the outside and soft on the inside. It takes a good half hour on medium-high heat but the result is better than trans-fat laden deep-fried fries any day. "Fries" this way are actually healthy.

With the grilled sweet potato I grilled some ham-burgers (ground pork with 25% ham) from the market and a nice simple tossed salad with orange segments, asian greens and bean sprouts. I put spicy jerk bbq sauce on the burgers and sandwiched them in some English muffins which are way better than the crappy air filled burger buns you buy from those cheap bread industrial bakeries.

With a generous dolop of harissa, this meal was nice slow food...meaning that I took the time to select and gather ingredients and then took time cooking and eating it while enjoying my time with my girlfriend. Life is good on the slow side.

Dumpling Squash with T-Bone Steak

As time passes, we've been shopping more and more for our nutritional needs at the farmer's market. We now buy 99% of all our food from either the farmer's market or our local natural food store Corn Crib. This means that almost everything we eat is either 1) locally grown or produced; 2) organic or natural; or 3) both of these. By shopping in the manner and encouraging others to do so, I'm doing my part to stop GMOs, mass-produced food and all other nasty stuff associated with a globalized and industrialized food industry.

In the news I read that certain powdered milk products in China are seriously poisoning young infants. The reason? It's cheaper to produce the powdered milk with the toxin than it is to produce it without it. HOW FUCKING SICK IS THAT?! And don't get me going about battery farming, listeria, avian flu, etc. We're in a real mess if you ask me. So rebel. Eat organically and locally.

Following with my culinary acts of defiance, I've purchased an organic dumpling squash from my friends at Amarosia Organic Farm. They said that it was really sweet and delicious. So what I did was slice the squash in half, smear it with olive oil and apple butter which was already spiced with cinnamon and cloves. Had it not been, I would have gone with cardammom.

As I baked the the squash I fried up some locally raised t-bones in my cast iron skillet. I finished them off in the oven along with the squash. The problem was that my t-bones were well done before my squash was fully cooked. The meat was still very tender - which is one of the reasons I really love buying my meat from this local farmer - but the squash was pasty. If I'd mashed the squash it would have been better but seeing as my timing was already off and the t-bones were cooling down quickly I had to just eat the squash this way. 350 degrees for 45 minutes wasn't enough. Oh well, there's always another time. Hell, there surely are enough pumpkins and squashes at the market in this season to permit trial and error.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Moncton's Asian Garden Indian Restaurant

We went out on Friday night for dinner and a movie. Since our discovery of Zen Garden here in Moncton as well as Saigon Thai and other asian restaurants, we've fallen in love with all things truly asian. Though for some reason I don't automatically assume Indian food when I think of the words asian garden (undoubtably due to some ignorant Western and back-of-the-woods part of me) I can't say that I was dissapointed. We had a fantastic meal at this small restaurant.

We were greated and seated by a very enthousiastic and very outgoing little girl. I convinced her to fetch the waitress when she tried to convince me that she could take my order without writting it down. I'm in the restaurant industry. Can't pull the wool over my eyes.

I had a Kingfisher beer from India (nothing special here) and my girlfriend had a really delicious smoothie like mango drink. We opted for a very generous 3 course meal option which gave you an appetizer, two veg entrees, one non-veg entree, some naan bread, basmati rice, a desert, and an option of chai tea or coffee.

We started with some veggie pakoras which were good. They were what you would expect from pakoras but still very good. The highlight of our meal came at the entree.

Now I love having a variety of things on the table and you can pick a little bit of this and a little bit of that. The Asian Garden definitely delivers on this point. We had fresh hot naan bread (which is equally delicious if not better than fresh tortillas), fluffy basmati rice, a mildly spicy lamb dish, a flavourfull chickpea dish and a sweet pea dish with chunks of cheese (or tofu?). I didn't write the names of the dishes down but I can tell you that they were all very very delicious. They exploded with flavour and made me and my girlfriend exclaim the number one compliment we can make to a restaurant. That is, "I wish we could make this at home!"

Finally, we were served home made saffron scented ice cream with chai tea. My ice cream was mango flavoured and my girlfriend's was pistachio. They were both equally good. And though the chai tea wasn't a total knock out, it was a very nice finish to a very pleasant and tasty meal.

I definitely recommend paying a visit to the Asian Garden on Killam Drive in Moncton.

Shrimp and Shiso Wraps

Based on our success with summer rolls ( and our growing love for asian food, we decided we'd throw some ingredients together in a wrap, make the sweet and spicy sauce for dipping and call ourselves geniuses. It was a couragous attempt. But we came a bit short.

Given that we had a big bag of shiso sitting in the fridge, I though we'd go all asian and buy some various asian produce at the farmer's market. We found some nice knobbly organic daikon radishes, some earthy beets, organic purple shelled Italian beans (delicious raw even though they're obviously not asian), and enoki mushrooms, beans sprouts, chopped peanuts, vermicelli rice noodles and shrimp from the supermarket.

We then simply wetted some rice papers (careful, they're fragile), places all of the ingredients on them with the shiso placed so that it would show through the rice paper, and rolled. Though good, these rolls weren't great. The shiso was a bit overpowering. But most of all, the rolls just didn't have any wow factor. At least they were healthy.

Ground Cherries, Wonderberries, and Shiso

There are three things that are really cool with the above selection of produce: 1) they're all organically grown; 2) they each taste really unique and delicious; and 3) I PICKED THEM MYSELF!

I know the majority of the "civilized" world would not get excited about picking their own produce but I, for one, think it's fantastic. Here I was, back at the organic farm, volunteering my time in exchange for a bit of an education in gardening/organic farming, and I was put to work weeding the spinach beds I'd passed through last week. Although it was fun uncovering the poor little spinach from it's weedy invaders, I was happy when Rowena asked me to come with her to pick some berries.

I started crouched beside some ground cherry plants, trying to find the yellow skinned ones that had either fallen off the plant or easily seperated from it. This plant is quite difficult to manoeuvre around since it groes low to the ground and has long chunky branches which are reminiscent of rhubard. But leafy-er and growing fruit and not red.

Seeing as I was a bit too slow, Rowena traded places with me and I jumped onto the wonderberries. Although they're a berry by name, these little delights are related to the tomato family (if I listened properly). They tasted fruity but you couldn't miss the tomato resemblance. They were, deep down, quite similar in flavour to the ground cherries only that these were slightly more pineappley.

Finally, I was put to work prunning the shiso plants. Now shiso, according to my research, is the same thing as perilla which is part of the mint family. The resemblance to mint is unmistakable. These little leaves, in addition to being beautifully two toned, are quite pungent. Though they are a bit, shall I say, grassy-er than their minty relatives. And they're apparently used in Chinese medicine to stimulate the immune system. So plant a bush in your front yard today. No one would know that your front yard is edible.

Pickled Kobalsa

My girlfriend has fond memories of this concoction. Back home, pickled weiners and pickled eggs are quite popular. They probably are elsewhere as well but I don't know about elsewhere. All I know is that pickled kolbasa would be something you would find in the fridges of the people back home. And with good reason.

Making this is simple. We bought our kolbasa from a German deli counter at the farmer's market and then simply chopped the pungent cured meat sausage in chunks. You top it with a generous amount of onions (as you can see in the above photo) and pour white vinegar over it. You may want to dilute the vinegar with water but that's completely up to you.

All you do now is let the kolbasa and onions steep in the fridge for about 3 days and enjoy. I imagine you could can this if the vinegar were hot but why wait.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Pepper Steak

I had a recipe for pepper steak in Gastropub Classics but I basically just used it as a guideline and as a confirmation that I knew what I was doing. The reason I had a pretty good idea what I was doing was that I'd bought some green peppercorns in brine at the Italian deli I'd visited in Ottawa. Who could have passed up such an opportunity?

My memories of pepper steak involve my father's charred pieces of beef doused with a sauce reconstituted from a package. The idea of a cream and peppercorn sauce isn't something that's really difficult. I knew I'd be using cream, the beautiful little green peppercorns and some dijon mustard probably with whatever else I felt like putting in on the spot. The only thing I added due to my inspiration from Gastropub Classics was some vermouth (she recommended white wine and chicken stock but I only had vermouth) and garlic.

We bought the steak at the market so it doesn't cook the same as a supermarket steak. The meat turns out to be more of a pale colour than the brown of other beef. I don't know if that's a good thing but his meat is always tender no matter how long I forget it in the cast iron frying pan. Plus I've got Gordon Ramsay's steak doneness trick down pat: 1) your cheek is rare; 2) pushing up on your chin is medium; and 3) your forehead is well done. Pocking my steak as many times as I can helps me determine what this is supposed to mean. I'm actually getting good at cooking my steaks properly.