CJSW

Spooning and Forking

Seafood

November 26th, 2012 by Naddine

Why did we decide to do a seafood episode when we live in a landlocked province? A couple reasons, really. A popular pastime in Alberta, I, like many, grew up going camping. Well, I don’t do that anymore, but some of my most memorable stories happened on camping trips. There was that time of the emergency evacuation because of bears. They still freak me out. Getting a scratch on my face when I was on the back of a motorcycle riding through the woods and a tree branch snapped back and slashed my face. I don’t do motorcycles anymore either, but thankfully I don’t have a scar. And the most memorable was the time I caught a fish. I was probably 10 years old, and most likely did not reel it in myself, but I can very clearly remember thinking the eyes were very interesting and trying to pop them out. Before you go thinking I have some sort of latent psychotic tendency, I was fascinated by the colors of the scales, and how alive the fish still seemed although it was dead. I also remember very clearly how delicious that fish was after it was cooked in tinfoil over a campfire with a bit of lemon and some dill.  So we got to chatting one day about getting good sushi in Alberta. Marc Affled, our rockstar producer and News Director at CJSW, mentioned how he had the best sushi of his life at Jasper Park Lodge one time and often wondered what it takes to get the freshest sushi to a place that is hard to get to by car let alone truck, air, or boat. Okay, so you can’t get to it by boat but you catch my drift here. Well, I have a huge affinity for seafood, Marc had the question about getting it here, and then it just evolved to wondering about the demand. And then a few years ago the east coast cod fisheries’ woes happened. Having many friends from the east coast, their industries were basically becoming depleted. So I phoned my friend Eric Geisbrecht, Calgary’s own oysterman and had a great conversation with him. He guided me into the subject suggesting I look further into it other than just Oceanwise. So who did I talk to? Well, of course I spoke with Michael McDermid from the Oceanwise program out of the Vancouver Aquarium about the program itself. Then I heard about this Salmon CSF called Skipper Otto. They started the CSF (Community Supported Fishery), which is essentially the same idea as a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and as of last year expanded their membership into Alberta. That means for the cost of a membership, you can get fresh seafood caught ethically, delivered to your door. I spoke with Shaun Strobel who with his wife and his father have built this amazing idea into a reality. A reality that brings together communities who may not otherwise have access to the freshest and most ethically caught seafood. I then spoke with Executive Chef Kyle Groves at Catch Restaurant in Calgary. I know many restaurants serve seafood in the city, however, there are only a couple known for their seafood. Catch is a seafood restaurant in the middle of a farmer’s field essentially, how crazy do you have to be to put that together? Well, obviously not too crazy because it works. Catch is one of the most popoular restaurants in Calgary, and Chef Groves is as passionate about sourcing a sustainable product as he is about preparing them to be super tasty! Then finally I spoke with Brent Petkau the Oysterman of Cortes Island. I had 2 conversations with Mr. Petkau both of which lasted well over an hour. The man is so passionate about his oysters, the seafood industry and agriculture. Y’all only get to hear a fraction of what we spoke about but you can check out on youtube his 6 minute short film called The Perfect Oyster. Keep tabs on this fellow, beause he is working on some really great things.

After all this, I think I am going to plan a road trip to hopefully go and harvest some oysters on Cortes island one day.  And then eat those little babies up.

November 26, 2012 Follow-Up: Well, I did go up to Cortes Island, and I did harvest some oysters. Wow, were they amazing. The oyster is such an interesting signifier of a life system. It is essentially self-sustaining, as well as environmentally friendly as it cleans oceans. It is delicious, delicate and meaty all at the same time. Adorns the tables of the rich and the poor alike. And, is one of the oldest creatures on the planet. Fascinating.

CSA’s, Canning and Preserving

November 26th, 2012 by Naddine

Fall brings on so many wonderful things: the leaves start to change color, the temperature dips, the air becomes crisp and refreshing even in 20 degree sunshine, people start to slow down a bit and become less manic about getting wasted on patios. You know, that sort of stuff. It is also the time for harvest and a winding down of most vegetable gardens. People tend to go indoors and start preparing for winter. So what did our ancestors do to prepare for winter? They canned and preserved meats and vegetables so that during those frigid winter months they could still eat vegetables and fruits that had been preserved during the spring and summer months. This is not a new craft, not even a little, so when a few years ago my best friend moved out to the suburbs and started having babies. What she also started to do was talk about canning and preserving. I always took it for granted that I would go out to my grandparents place or my parents place and come home with jars of pickles, beets, carrots, jams, jellies, beans, gosh – you name it. So when my friend, who I had known as a young twenty-something living the high life in a very urban setting, started canning, I was sort of shocked into the realization that, ‘whoa. Yea, people do preserve stuff. And it is not only a really cool craft but uber practical’. Alright, fast forward to last year. I met a lady who has a garden near Carstairs. Now this lady is married to a very successful man in the city, they do lots of philanthropic work, and so they don’t have to grow their own food, nor do they have to preserve it. But the story that came out next was how she grows enough food for herself and husband, three grown children who have amongst them 5 children. They get together a couple times throughout the summer to preserve much of the food they procure from a little family-sized garden plot. Thus, I decided to do an episode on Canning, Preserving & CSA’s. So I spoke with Brenda Vrieslaar of Noble Gardens a CSA outside of Calgary, http://www.noblegardenscsa.com/  Bruce Berry of Almost Urban Vegetables just on the edge of Winnipeg, http://www.almosturbanvegetables.com/ about what a CSA is, and really how much produce comes from just a little bit of land. It is pretty incredible.

I wondered what would I do if I had access to all that produce. Well, I think it would be prudent to preserve a lot of it, time permitting of course. So I wanted to find out about canning. I spoke with Brenda Lerner of Jammin’ It, a kiosk at the Kingsland Farmer’s Market  http://kfmcalgary.com/ . Brenda brought in a couple jars of preserves for us, which we have devoured already. I also wanted to talk to someone who has been canning for her whole life as a hobby. Ellen Kelly from the City Palate http://citypalate.ca/ was gracious enough to chat with us about her experience growing up in the Waterton Lake and Calgary areas, and how she learned to can and preserve with her Grandmother. I just loved speaking with Ellen, I felt like I was speaking with a more approachable Martha Stewart.

And then finally, my good friend Geoff Rogers, former Executive Chef at Home Tasting Room, who basically brought back the trend of using preserves in restaurants, chatted with us about how preserves are not just a granny sport or homemaker’s hobby. Chef Rogers is now in the planning and development stages of a new restaurant he is opening on 17th Avenue called Market. It is slated to open in the New Year.

Also, something to note, Julie Van Rosendaal, Geoff Rogers and myself are planning on offering a canning & preserving class.  Truth be told, I will just be there getting in the way most likely, but here is a chance to learn how to can and preserve from the best! Check back for more information.

Unconventional Meat – Horse Meat

June 26th, 2012 by Naddine

It is mentally and emotionally challenging to eat Horse, but so is all meat as far as I am concerned. I think Horse meat is especially hard to stomach because of the companion aspect to it. In North America we don’t eat dog, cats or horses, on a large scale. But many places around the world do. It is common to eat dog in China, Korea, Switzerland. In places like Peru, certain areas of China and Switzerland, you can find cat. And Horse, well, there are many countries that eat Horse. This episode was a hard one to tackle.

So Horse. Did you know that Canada exports horse meat to places like Japan and Europe? Alberta is known for its beef and ranchers. And we all understand that cows get eaten. But what happens to all those horses when they can no longer be ridden? They stop winning blue ribbons? They get tangled in barbed wire, or break a leg? But what happens to retired racehorses and horses that people can afford to keep anymore? Seriously, horses are expensive. The land and the horse are not what make it expensive it is the trailer, the truck, the feed and the veterinary bills that can add up and turn your cash into compost in a very quick time frame.

I had horse meat two ways at Taste Restaurant. Chef Greenwood makes his own charcuterie, which is displayed in this enormous and gorgeous glass faced refrigerator type thing along the wall of the restaurant. On any given day, in this display, you might find a curing pig’s head, bison tongue and a plethora of other charcuterie, along with a crazy variety of rare and stinky cheeses. He prepared the horse two ways for us: horse tartare and horse sausage.  I am a big fan of tartare and will usually try it to compare, however, I am becoming less and less enamoured by truffle oil and most tartare has a hint of it at least. This is a trend that I will be very happy to see go away, but for the time being I will deal. I still love raw meat.

Chef Greenwood uses a chili oil rather than a truffle oil, which enhances the sweet flavor of the meat and gives it a slightly spicy finish. It really is a dance in your mouth. The horse sausage itself was so moist with a really smooth consistency. It was moister than most sausages I’ve had. I like cured & dried meats, sausages and the like, but they are often chewy, which to me brings another level of entertainment to eating. It’s like it is acceptable to play with your food. Only it is a secret play between your tongue, taste buds and teeth.

Also in this episode, I speak with a Horse Meat Inspector from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Dr. Martin Appelt, and the Chairman of the Horse Welfare Alliance, Bill Des Barres, who himself raises horses and eats horse meat. The Horse Welfare Alliance has an amazing website with a plethora of information about this and other concerns within the Horse Industry in Alberta and Canada. Then as far as other unconventional meats, Amanda speaks with a rabbit farmer who not only raises rabbits for meat but also keeps them as pets. And we also speak with Chef John Michael MacNeil about serving brains at one of the finest restaurants in Calgary, Teatro.

If you missed this episode you can download it on iTunes. Or go to www.cjsw.com for links to this and other podcasts. The background music has changed to En Croisiere by the French band called Juanitos. You can now download it for free from www.freemusicarchive.org

Festivals – The living is easy in the Summertime

June 26th, 2012 by Naddine

Recently a friend came into town for the first time and the one thing that I heard over and over during those three days was, “Calgary sure knows how to party”. True story. During the summertime there are so many festivals in Calgary that it is really hard to hit them all. But every Calgarian has her favorites and I was only able to speak with a handful.

First up, Evan Woolley from the City of Calgary’s Food Committee speaks to us about the summertime Calgary Eats. Held in Olympic Plaza on Canada Day this free festival has activities for all ages. The food trucks will be there and you will be able to get a basket to wander around the various food vendors to build your own picnic. Check out www.yycfood.com to see what the Calgary Food Committee is doing.

The next weekend is the famed Calgary Stampede. Held July 6th – 15th this year marks the 100th Anniversary of the Calgary Stampede, so James Radke makes a promise to find out what sorts of food were served at the 1912 Calgary Stampede and serve something similar to those who hit the grounds. In addition to the classic staples, every year they have new food items so Mr. Radke discusses those a bit. Think fried kool-aid.

After you’ve got your yee-haw’s out of your system for one more year, head down to Kensington for the Sun & Salsa Festival. Held Sunday, July 22nd you can try over 40 different salsas. This year they even have a Margaritaville tent! But alas, no margaritas … I asked.

For a little multicultural flair head down to Olympic Plaza on July 21st and July 22nd for Fiestaval. I speak with Alex Pinzon who is heavily ensconced into Calgary’s enormous Latin Community. Many countries can have different dialects depending on the region, look at the accents out East compared to Calgary. Well, the same can be said about empanadas. Empanadas are essentially dough filled with meat, but depending on which country they come from makes the difference in what they taste like. Mr. Pinzon discusses the differences. He also tells you what other delicious sorts of goodies you can find at Fiestaval and that it is way more than just salsa, merengue and tacos. I mean, even if it was just salsa, merengue and tacos – I’d be fine with that.

Arguably Calgary’s largest festival, the Calgary Folk Music Festival, comes down to the studio to chat with us about the food you can find on Prince’s Island from July 26th – 29th.  The Folk Fest as we lovingly call it, is a staple for the summertime. It is by far my favorite festival, even as I have made the switch from attendant to volunteer. So although I will be working at the Folk Fest this summer, the experiences and friendships created are the greatest memories you can have. But, hurry the festival is almost sold out. I know, that seems crazy, but it is honestly one of the greatest experiences you will have.

So now that July is over, we jump into August. Although there are other festivals happening during the month of August, I am limited to time and many of these festivals didn’t get back to me, so I spoke with Sue Van Aalst from Taste of Calgary. Taste of Calgary is held August 16th – 19th at the plaza around Eau Claire Market. During the weekend of Taste of Calgary, you can try food from all sorts of local restaurants, which is really a brilliant premise: you try small portions so you don’t have to commit to an entire evening out without knowing whether you can eat it or not. The example we speak about is the African restaurant, Nubian. Well, the food intrigues me but also scares me at the same time, so Taste of Calgary will be a perfect place for me to try a little in order to make the assessment of whether I can do an entire African meal.

Finally we speak to Debra Wong about BBQ on the Bow. Also held at the Eau Claire Market Plaza, BBQ on the Bow takes place on September 2nd. There are lots of activities, music and food to enjoy while lamenting on how your summer is now over. But what a way to end a summer of festivals.

If you missed this episode you can download it on iTunes. Or go to www.cjsw.com for links to this and other podcasts. The background music has changed to En Croisiere by the French band called Juanitos. You can now download it for free from www.freemusicarchive.org

(check out www.cjsw.com for more information about other festivals not included in this episode)

Foie Gras

June 13th, 2012 by Naddine

Spooning & Forking has moved up in the world … in time that is. And for our first hour long episode I wanted it to be a good one. My co-hort’s at Spooning & Forking wouldn’t touch the subject with a 27 ft. pole but I love to ruffle feathers. And the bad puns begin.

A couple months ago, I was trying to come up with ideas for show topics. I like to do things the hard way and come up with topics that make people think a bit. Basically, I try to get people mad – honesty seems to come out of fury. Seriously, I like to poke a sleeping bear. So I suggested Foie. Not because I love it, because I don’t. No one else on the team wanted to touch it. I started chatting to whomever would listen. And then one day Cam Dobranski from the Brasserie in Kensington sent out a tweet saying he received his second hate mail about having foie on the menu. I was pretty surprised that someone would send a piece of hate mail because of a food item. Then I found out that several other chefs in town received the exact note. So there it was. I took the bait.

Then I had a conversation with JP Pedhirney, Chef de Cuisine of Rouge. JP had heard that I was doing an episode on the subject of foie and explained to me how the birds are anatomically different from what most people think. The digestive and respiratory systems in waterfowl, which are what ducks and geese are, are completely separate. So if you think about it and you replay the image of the duck choking with vomit all over itself, you have to wonder how much photoshop goes into it. If breathing happens independently of eating then how can they suffocate? Hmmm. These were questions I had to find answers to.

Here’s a story: many years ago I went out to dinner with a bunch of friends for a birthday celebration. We chose to go to one of the most delicious restaurants in Calgary – Rouge – where we all ordered the tasting menu. As with all groups of more than 6 you are bound to have finicky eaters. So, one person doesn’t like seafood, another doesn’t like red wine, another doesn’t like white wine, someone doesn’t eat pork, someone doesn’t like onions… Wowsa – I’d hate to be the Chef for a table like ours. Well, at that time, I was not a fan of foie gras but I didn’t say anything. I figured I could pass it along to my partner. I didn’t end up passing the foie to my partner but rather to my friend; and thus every time thereafter, when foie was presented to me, I would pass it along to my friend John. I chose John over my own partner, because I figured John’s wife doesn’t eat foie either and so he would have way less chances to have the foie that he loved so much unless they were with us, and if my partner and I were dining alone he would get foie probably more often than John anyway. There is a little insight into the way my brain works… damn you John Stuart Mill, damn you.

Moral of the story is: foie was just not for me. I know about unethical or inhumane treatment of some animals produced for food, and I will be the first to admit that I cannot look at the horrific images put up on certain websites. I am aware that these things happen.  But, I have spent my whole life around farmers and producers of food and I know that they are not all monsters. The horrific things that groups like PETA or Stop Force Feeding present to the public are egregious examples of the bad side to food production. There is good and bad in everything. I am fine with eating meats that come from animals that are taken care of by people who care about the health of the animal because in the end a happy animal produces a better product, which commands a better price – I won’t pretend to cite an economic theory here but I know there is one in that statement somewhere.

Foie. What is the controversy? Well, you can google it. The gist of it is people are concerned for the well-being of the animals health because of the act of gavage. Gavage is a technique which force-feeds the ducks or geese to enlarge their livers for foie gras. Typically, gavage means that the waterfowl are gathered around and a tube is shoved down their throats where a mash of grains are shot into their digestive systems. Look into it. Type in gavage in a Google search and you will find tons of information. People say that shoving the tubes down the throats for the force-feeding causes discomfort, causes lesions on the throat and esophagus, causes the birds to regurgitate and choke on their own vomit, causes aversion behavior and sepsis. There are a few things wrong with those claims though.

In this episode I speak with Executive Chef Michael Dekker, who at the time was finishing his stint at Rouge.  I also spoke with Chef Xavier Lacaze from Muse Restaurant. Chef Lacaze is from the south of France, which is kind of the modern birthplace of foie gras, and I thought that his experience with foie would be especially insightful.

Then I spoke with the farmer. I love farmers. Seriously. I love them.  Ian Walker from Mariposa Farms in Ontario not only produces a very exclusive foie gras he also distributes it. It seemed that his big thing with the issue of foie gras is that there is a disconnect between the people who produce it and the people who protest it.

Finding a waterfowl proved more difficult. And who came to my rescue? A real surprising hero, actually. I sent an email to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary outlining what I was doing with this episode and I wanted to chat with an expert who could speak to the natural migratory habits of waterfowl as well as their two separate systems: the digestive and the respiratory. Sid Andrews from the City of Calgary Parks department spoke to me about how wild waterfowl do things naturally. Sid Andrews is the Interpretation Coordinator at the Ralph Klein Park south of Calgary.

In my pursuit on this subject, I have discovered several producers who produce natural, sustainable and/or ecological foie gras by trying to mimic or replicate patterns and habits in as natural a way as possible.

I acknowledge that not everyone is interested in eating foie gras and not everyone will like it. Certainly, most people cannot afford to eat foie gras on a regular basis. But, all I am saying is, be open. Try it. Try it a couple times before making your assessment. Basically just open yourself up to knowing where your food comes from. If you make an opinion about something, and take a strong stance, you need to be able to back it up. If you don’t eat it because of the traditional practices of gavage, well then question where it comes from and try the stuff that isn’t traditionally force fed. But if that is your stance, I hope that you also question where your chicken, beef, oranges and red peppers come from.

If you missed this episode you can download it on iTunes. Or go to www.cjsw.com for links to this and other podcasts. The background music has changed to En Croisiere by the French band called Juanitos. You can now download it for free from www.freemusicarchive.org

Some foie gras producers to check out:

Au Goût d’Autrefois – Jacques Legros

Mariposa Farms - Ian Walker

La Pateria de Sousa – Eduardo Sousa

For further reading or just names of people who are speaking about this subject check out the following links:
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1919163,00.html

http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/12/the-physiology-of-foie-why-foie-gras-is-not-u.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1543031/Ethical-foie-gras-from-naturally-greedy-geese.html

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/article54754.ece

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/is-it-ever-ok-to-eat-foie-gras-6289019.html

http://maisonneuve.org/pressroom/article/2010/mar/12/foie-gras-wars/

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/food-and-wine/trends/products/tasty-foie-gras-without-the-burden-of-guilt/article2284409/print/

 

Top Chef Canada Season 2 – Team Xavier

March 15th, 2012 by Naddine

For most of the inaugural season of Top Chef Canada I was out of the country, so I am making an attempt to redeem myself by going to Muse Restaurant every Monday, to cheer on Executive Chef Xavier Lacaze. In addition, I have decided to write up a Xavier-focused recap of the show.  We might have 1 entry or 13, so tune into the Food Network on Monday nights at 10 EST/PST to watch and then check back to the site to read my Xavier recap. I will also speak about the experience at Muse Restaurant, one of the city’s best establishments by far. Then the next week Chef Xavier is going to put the dish he created on the show on offer at Muse, which is what I will be eating.

As the season progresses, I will be offering a few seats at my table to lucky listeners, readers and followers of Spooning & Forking, so keep your ear to the ground. The Muse team have given us a really great table for viewing and you never know who will show up … for the premiere we had local luminaries such as Dan Clapson of Dan’s Good Side, Start from Scratch, and Avenue Magazine; Wendy Peters of Yelp Calgary; Gwendolyn Richards, Food Writer for the Calgary Herald; Heather Wighton – Calgary’s Culture Ambassador, local food enthusiast and Supervisor at Rouge; Chelsea Klukacs graphic designer extraordinaire (she designed the Spooning & Forking logo – thanks again Chelsea); and Geoff Rogers, Executive Chef at Home Tasting Room. Also joining us were some local bloggers: Diane Ng, from Food Salon; Lori Andrews of The 10 Cent Designer; Sarah Ward blogger from Freckles & Ash; and Jacinthe Koddo, of Food with Presence, and Start from Scratch. All their twitter handles are listed at the bottom of this post.

Without further adieu let’s talk about Chef Xavier Lacaze and Top Chef Canada Season 2.

Chef Xavier is the only chef representing the prairies in the second season of Top Chef Canada. I can’t think of anyone better to represent the booming culinary scene of Calgary. For my radio program, Spooning & Forking, I speak with a lot of chefs in the city, and almost always Chef Xavier comes up in conversation. Lacaze is highly respected by his peers, colleagues and clients alike. Why? Because, he is that good.  He has an enormous vault of experience from which to draw when dealing with the pressure and challenges issued on the show. I’m not going to call him a ‘Dark Horse’, because I don’t think he is and he isn’t exactly in hiding, but he is definitely the crown jewel in our culinary scene.

So what happened at Muse? Well before the show got started you could feel the anticipation. There was chatter, twitching, feet tapping, and eyes darting around the room – just waiting. And then it all began: Season 2 of Top Chef Canada with a new host, Canadian actress Lisa Ray. As the 16 chefs flashed across the screen, the entire packed-to-capacity restaurant erupted in a cheer when Xavier was introduced. The episode started with all the Chef’s arriving to the patio of the Bymark restaurant in Toronto. Soon after their arrival the Chef’s were issued the first Quickfire Challenge: to re-purpose the hors d’oevres on offer with a time limit of 15 minutes. We didn’t get to see what everyone put together as there are 16 chefs and only 1 hour per episode. But, we saw a few.  Unfortunately, judge Mark Macewan said that Chef Xavier’s Quickfire Challenge dish of brie cheese & wrapped corinth grape crostini with rosemary honey had “poor presentation”. Hmpf. I’d still love to try it – can you go wrong with brie, rosemary and honey? Not in my world. The winner of the challenge was 30-year-old Sarah Tsai of Toronto. She wowed the judges with her take on oysters and pearls, which gave her immunity going into the first elimination challenge.

In the Elimination Challenge, the judges issued the task to create a dish that is representative of the beginnings of each Chef’s culinary journey. So, in Xavier’s case, although he is representing Calgary, he is originally from France. What does that mean? He put together a classic French dish of organ meats: cornmeal sweet breads, foie gras, mushroom, celeriac purée & veal jus. The judges liked it and placed him firmly in the middle of the pack. So, for my meal next Monday, sweetbreads and foie gras here I come. It’s rumored that Lacaze is a magician with sweetbreads, so I am super excited.

Unfortunately, as with these competitions, someone has to go and 30-year-old William Thompson of Caledonia, Ontario was the first casualty of Top Chef Canada Season 2.

Team Xavier is still in the running for another week!! So join the party to cheer on Chef Xavier Lacaze at Muse Restaurant & Lounge, or their other establishments: AKA Wine Bar, Wine Bar Kensington and The Brasserie.

 

Twitter handles: @xavierlacaze, @muserestaurant, @the_brasskens, @WinebarKensi, @ChefCamD, @TopChefCanada, @SpooningForking, @DansGoodSide, @WightonSpecial, @GwendolynMR, @YelpCalgary, @Chef_Rogers, @Chelscore, @FoodSalon, @DesignerTweets, @mssarahward, @jacinthekoddo

Hashtags: #yyctopchef #topchefcanada #goXavgo

Seedy Saturday 2012

March 15th, 2012 by Naddine

Seedy Saturday happens this weekend at the Sunnyside-Hillhurst Community Center.

What an exciting way to get things going for Spring. I spoke with Janet Melrose of the Calgary Horticultural Society about Seedy Saturday. We also spoke extensively about heritage seeds and why it is important to preserve and propagate open-pollinated seeds.

Go to http://seedysaturdaycalgary.shawwebspace.ca/ to check out all the vendors and presenters who will be in attendance this weekend, March 17, 2012.

Tea Part One

January 20th, 2012 by Amanda

Tea is the biggest topic I’ve yet to tackle on Spooning and Forking.  Learning about tea is akin to learning about bread, or milk, such is its vast and enormous scope and influence and range.  You sit down to a nice cuppa in the afternoon, maybe you have a cookie with it, and you have no idea that inside that one china cup is contained the history of modern man.  Who would have thought the delicate drink was so important!

Really, the only way I could calm myself was to put the kettle on and call up Jonathan Kane, owner of The Naked Leaf tea shop in Kensington.  Jonathon is everything you want out of a tea yogi – he’s friendly, approachable and has the best laugh I’ve ever heard.  If he were to write “LOL” in a text, you would know he meant it.  He also helped break down the world of tea into small sips so I could stop being so overwhelmed and just enjoy it.

If you missed this week’s episode, download the podcast to learn many wonderful things about this wonderful drink.

As with most people this month, I’ve been bed ridden with colds that catch other colds, so I decided that maybe I should exchange coffee for tea.  Mostly because my energy levels better facilitated dropping tea leaves into a mug than measuring and grinding and pressing coffee beans.  Although I will never fully give up coffee, it was really nice sitting in bed sipping on tea.  Whether because of its unique release of caffeine (something Jonathon talks about during the episode) or just the delicate flavours, tea is definitely something to make you slow down and enjoy. I don’t know if it healed my sickness, but it certainly helped me to endure it.

For this week’s recipe, I wanted to try baking with tea leaves!  The bergamot in Earl Grey is the defining flavour in the classic tea and I thought it would taste amazing in cookies.  Martha Stewart seemed to agree.

Earl Grey Tea Cookies – adapted from Martha Stewart

(This recipe makes about 8 dozen, so I would recommend halving it unless you want Earl Grey Tea Cookies to see you through the winter, which you may)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons finely ground Earl Grey tea leaves (from about 4 bags)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
Directions
  1. Whisk flour, tea, and salt in a small bowl; set aside.
  2. Put butter, sugar, and orange zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture until just combined.
  3. Divide dough in half. Transfer each half to a piece of parchment paper; shape into logs. Roll in parchment to 1 1/4 inches in diameter, pressing a ruler along edge of parchment at each turn to narrow the log and force out air. Transfer in parchment to paper towel tubes; freeze until firm, 1 hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut logs into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Space 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment.
  5. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are golden, 13 to 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.

 

Sake

January 20th, 2012 by Amanda

A dintiguishing characteristic of being a post graduate is the ability to see alcohol as more than a means to an end.  Don’t get me wrong, many occasions and drinks still live in that category, but I think sake definitely is not one of them.  Which is interesting, because anytime I mentioned that I was working on this episode people would ineveibtaly bring up sake bombs, or reminisce about a chinese restaurant where someone would drink as a teenager thanks to liberal notions of IDing.

I’m here to set the record straight, and I think this is the perfect time to do so!  There is almost nothing quite so comforting on a very cold winters day as entering a warm house to be greeted by a hot flask of sake.  The flavour, the scent, well the warmth, all conspire to chase away the cold and get you tipsy enough to keep it at bay.  There is something so comforting about the drink you just want to savour it slowly, and the more you do so, the more you realize it’s really delicious.

On a trip to Hong Kong last summer I learned the amazing powers of refreshment the drinks offers on a hot muggy day when served over ice, but I don’t think anyone wants to hear about that right now.

So instead of a recipe this week, I’ll leave you with the suggestion to bundle up and run to your nearest liquor store, and I mean nearest I hear it’s very cold out, grab a bottle and if you don’t have anything else to use, warm it up in a little tea kettle.  Invite over anyone brave enough to leave their houses, because part of sake’s warmth is the tradition of sharing it with others.  Be warmed and happy and hopefully a convert to this lovely beverage.

If you’re interested in learning more about sake, visit Elise Gee’s website, who was our wonderful and informative guest this week.

We also spoke to Helen Wong on this week’s episode.  If you’re not inclined to prepare your own sake flask, nip into her restaurant Blowfish Sushi Lounge and you can enjoy a flask along with some miso soup!

If you missed the episode, check it out here on iTunes.

 

 

100-Mile Holiday Meal

December 24th, 2011 by Naddine

So for our Holiday Meal challenge we decided to see if we could build a traditional holiday meal, using ingredients sourced only from within a 100-mile radius of Calgary. Initially we thought, “Gosh, this could never happen in Calgary. What about cranberries? What about sage, parsley, thyme? What about cinnamon and nutmeg?”

Well, we were correct in our assumptions about the herbs and spices, however, sourcing a traditional meal using local ingredients is not as hard as we thought.

So first we need to define our “Traditional Holiday” meal. There is the classic roast turkey with stuffing, a baked ham, vegetables (carrots, potatoes, Brussels sprouts), cranberries and gingerbread. Personally, I like pie and I tried to get the recipe of the best sweet potato pie I have ever had in my life, but it is Christmas after all, and people get busy. I digress.

We pulled the recipes from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, which can be found online and at the library. And you will note that I put in the recipe for sugar cookies, because, of course, “local” ginger is hard to come by in North America.

Following the recipes are links to Community Natural Foods, Sunnyside Natural Market and Calgary Farmer’s Market. We found all of our ingredients at these three stores. If you would like to make allowances, and perhaps substitute, or incorporate, rutabagas or parsnips into your holiday meal, you can get locally produced parsnips and rutabagas from Blue Mountain in Carstairs, AB.

Here is a list of what you can get at Sunnyside Natural Market and the corresponding prices:

  • Turkey – Winter’s Turkey from Dalmead, Alberta. Free Range – $3.64lb; Organic – $5.47lb.
  • Butter – Vital Greens, Picture Butte, Alberta – $6.99
  • Carrot – Lunds Organic Farm, Innisfail, Alberta. 2lb bag  $5.99; 5lb bag $9.99
  • Bread Crumbs, Lakeview Bakery, Calgary
  • Potatoes Poplar Bluff, Strathmore, Alberta. $3.95 kilo/$1.79lb
  • Milk -Vital Greens, Picture Butte, Alberta. 2litre 1%, 2%, whole  $6.49 and 1 litre buttermilk $4.49; Heavy Cream from Vital Greens, $4.79 and Creme Fraiche $6.79
  • Flour – Variety of flour from Highwood Crossing, Okotoks Alberta. Unbleached White, Pastry, Rye, Stoneground, packages or in bulk.
  • Alberta beets, rutabaga and parsnips from Blue Mountain, Carstairs.
  • Giant locally made candy canes for $2.99 from Olivier’s in Inglewood.

Ingredients from Community Natural Foods are largely the same and very similar in price.

  • Turkey – Dalemead, AB, Winters Turkey Whole Organic Turkey $11.64/kg Whole Free; Range Turkey $7.68/kg
  • Butter – Edmonton, AB (about 180 miles) Saxby Creamery Organic Salted $8.49/450g
  • Carrot – Innisfail, AB    , Lund’s Organic Farm Organic Bulk Carrots $4.38/kg
  • Potatoes – Strathmore, AB      Poplar Bluff Farms Organic Red Potatoes $3.94/kg; Organic Yellow Potatoes $4.38/kg
  • Milk – Edmonton, AB (about 180 miles) Saxby Creamery Varies $2.89 – $6.39
  • Milk – Picture Butte, AB (about 125 miles), Vital Green Farm Varies $5.99 – $6.39 (Organic Sheep 2% also available, 2L $6.39)
  • Flour – Okotoks, AB, Highwood Crossing Varies $7.19 – $10.29

Most of all the rest of the ingredients you need for a Traditional Holiday Meal can be found at several kiosks at the Calgary Farmer’s Market. Innisfail Growers Association stocks seasonal produce, many preserves, and other tasty treats such as flavored honey (we should all know by now how much I love honey).

Then of course, if you want to substitute cranberries with a regional favorite, which also happens to be native to our parts, the Saskatoon can be delicious with turkey, ham, and in pies!

So, friends, happy eating and Merry Christmas!!

Classic Roast Turkey

Servings: Serves at least 15, plus leftovers

Ingredients

  • 1 12-pound turkey
  • Bacon-nut stuffing, may be cooked separately (or the classic stuffing below)
  • 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) butter at room temperature (extra-virgin olive oil may be substituted)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped celery
  • Stems from 1 bunch parsley tied together (optional)
  • Turkey gravy (made from drippings)

Directions

Preheat oven to 500°. Rinse turkey; remove and set aside giblets. If cooking stuffing inside turkey, loosely pack the turkey cavity with stuffing, then tie legs together to enclose the vent. Coat bird all over with butter (or brush it with oil), then sprinkle well with salt and pepper.

Put turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan. Add 1/2 cup water to bottom of pan along with turkey neck, gizzard, any other giblets, onion, carrot, celery, and parsley. Put in oven, legs first if possible.

Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top begins to brown, then turn heat down to 350°. Continue to roast, checking and basting with pan juices every 30 minutes or so; if the top threatens to brown too much, lay a piece of aluminum foil directly onto it. (If the bottom dries out, add water, about 1/2 cup at a time; keep at least a little liquid at the bottom of the pan at all times.) Turkey is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh measures 155° to 165°. If, when the turkey is nearly done, the top is not browned enough, turn heat back up to 425° for the last 20 to 30 minutes of cooking.

Remove turkey from oven. Take bird off rack and make gravy while bird rests; let it sit for about 20 minutes before carving. Serve on a platter garnished with sliced figs and mostarda di frutta and with gravy on the side.

Classic Stuffing

Makes: About 6 cups (enough for a 12-pound bird) -

Time: 20 minutes, plus time to bake

This classic dressing is based on a wonderful recipe by James Beard; it’s amazing with butter, but check out the variations if you prefer olive oil. Also, feel free to use whole grain bread for more flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts or chopped walnuts
  • 6 to 8 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon or sage leaves or 1 teaspoon dried crumbled tarragon or sage
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallion
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

Procedures

  1. Put the butter in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. When melted, add the onion and cook, stirring, until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add the nuts and cook, stirring almost constantly, until they begin to brown, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the breadcrumbs and the herb and toss to mix. Turn the heat down to low. Add the salt, pepper, and scallion. Toss again; taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the parsley and stir. Turn off the heat. (At this point, you may refrigerate the stuffing, well wrapped or in a covered container, for up to a day before proceeding.)
  3. Pack into chicken or turkey if you like before roasting or just bake in an ovenproof glass or enameled baking dish for about 45 minutes at 350-400°F. (Or you can cook it up to 3 days in advance and just warm it up right before dinner.)

Sugar Cookies (from “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman)

  • ½  pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus some for greasing the baking sheets
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups (about 14 ounces) all purpose flour, plus some for dusting the work surface
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking power
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar together until light; beat in egg.

Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl.  Mix the dry ingredients into the butter-sugar mixture, adding a little milk at a time as necessary.  Stir in the vanilla.

Shape the dough into a disk (for rolled cookies) or a log (for sliced cookies) and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or as long as 2 days (or wrap very well and freeze indefinitely).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Cut the dough disk in half.  Lightly flour a work surface and a rolling pin and roll gently until about 1/8 inch thick, adding flour as necessary and turning the dough to prevent sticking.  Cut with a cookie cutter.

Bake on lightly greased baking sheets until the edges are lightly brown and the center set, 6-10 minutes.  Let rest on sheets for a minute before removing with a spatula and cooling on a rack.   Decorate with icing.  Store in a covered container at room temperature for no more than a day or two.

The Basic Dough

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch salt

1/4 cup milk, plus more if needed.

1. Heat the oven to 375. Use an electric mixer to cream together the butter and sugar; add the vanilla and egg and beat until well blended.

2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add half the dry ingredients to the dough, beat for a moment, then add the milk. Beat for about 10 seconds, then add the remaining dry ingredients and a little more milk, if necessary, to make a soft dough.

3. Bake until the edges are brown, about 10 minutes.

Yield: 2 to 3 dozen.

 

To all the people we spoke with for this episode (Darrell Winter, Bonnie Spragg, Leona at Jungle Farm, Kevin at Saskatoon Farm, Chandra at Community, Patty at Sunnyside, and everyone else who helped and guided us to resources): We wish you a very Merry Christmas and all the best in the new year to you and yours.

xo