Chef Lukas Kraczla is excited about the opportunities offered by living so close to the farming and wine making country.
“We really have the cream of the crop to choose from here,” he says, “whether its local produce or wine.”
The young chef grew up in the Niagara region and admits that his heart is still in the wine country. He fell in love with good quality wine, at first, and then realized how beautifully the wine paired with good quality food. This led to a career choice at an early age, a few years of apprenticeship under some very accomplished chefs (at the Diamond Estates, now the Mike Weir Estate Winery) and a determination to create a fusion cuisine that combines the best in local produce with a global inspiration. He has been executive chef at Burlington’s Purple Heather Pub for about a year and a half now.
Kraczla not only cooks, but also grows his own vegetables. He has a garden (“I wish it were a lot bigger …”) where he experiments with heirloom vegetables and fruits and his menu for our up-coming Go Cooking session on July 21st will reflect this practice of “heirloom heritage”. He likes to play around with all sorts of shapes and sizes of vegetables and fruit — one of his favorite vegetables, for example, is a Banana Legs tomato which is bright yellow and about an inch thick with “great flesh.” But he says that he will be selecting the best of each crop for our dinner.
Heirloom vegetables, as you probably know, are from plants that were cultivated at least 25 years ago. (Many of the plants may come from stock or seeds used by farmers from as far back as 100 to 150 years.) The plants were grown in the early years of agriculture, before industrialization, and the seeds and cultivars have been preserved and maintained over the years. Heirloom vegetables and fruits are open-pollinated and contain no GMO’s. They are touted as healthy choices, but the real point of the heirloom plant is the intense flavour. The belief is that, over the years, plants have increasingly been bred to look good, to have high yields, to have uniform sizes and shapes and to be able to withstand long journeys and storage. But there has been a loss of flavour (think of those beautiful, but mealy-textured and tasteless tomatoes we buy — often, sadly, from markets). Heirloom vegetables and fruits may not look so pretty — they may be misshapen and strangely colored, but they deliver on both taste and nutrition.
If you think that this is all a lot of nonsense, our Go Cooking session will provide a chance to do a taste test. Chef Lukas will be preparing a Caprese salad with oven-dried, heirloom tomato vinaigrette, a salsa (to go on pork tenderloin) with a gastrique (a traditional French sauce based on vinegar and sugar) which combines heirloom peaches and jalapenos and a dessert with a ground cherry compote. A ground cherry, by the way, is a most peculiar looking fruit. It is a marble-sized orangey-yellow colored “cherry” that grows in a protective, papery husk, like a tomatillo. Aunt Molly‘s is probably the best known variety; some compare the flavour to pineapple, Chef Lukas says only that it is very tart.
Burlington’s Purple Heather Pub, at the corner of Walker’s Line and Dundas Street, bills itself as a food, music and dining establishment. Yes, you can get all of the usual, well-prepared “pub grub” here, but the menus move the cuisine up a notch to “casual fine dining.” Go Cooking chose this restaurant to serve as an example of one of the many establishments taking part in “A Taste of Burlington‘s” summer programme this year.
Go Cooking is partnering with “A Taste of Burlington“, which runs from July 19th to August 2nd. There are 23 restaurants participating and each restaurant will be offering a prix fixe lunch and/or dinner menu. This is such a fun experience; the restaurants outdo themselves in offering exceptional food and interesting choices. But if you want to take part be sure to make a reservation. This dining is good value and the event is wildly popular. For more information the website is http://tasteofburlington.ca/
And here’s a nice boozy recipe that uses those “oh, so delicious” and “oh, so fleeting”, fresh raspberries that are currently at the market:
Raspberries with Sabayon
4 cups raspberies (1 L)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (125 mL)
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup dry white wine (125 mL)
2 tbsp orange liqueur (25 mL)
1) Place the raspberries in a bowl and sprinkle with 2 tbsp sugar.
2) In a large, heavy pot on low heat, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining sugar until the mixture doubles in volume and holds its shape. Whisk in the white wine and liqueur. Continue to whisk until the mixture is thick and creamy and has almost tripled in volume.
3) Divide the raspberries among six plates. Spoon the warm sabayon over. Serve immediately.
Sabayon is the French name for the Italian zabaglione a sweet, light, custard-like dessert. You can use either dry or sweet wine — I prefer to use something not too dry or oaky — maybe an Italian moscato? You will have to whip for quite a while — try making figure 8’s which add more bubbles more quickly than just a circular motion. And don’t let the custard get too hot or you will end up with scrambled eggs.