Author Archives: gocooking

Kind of Cheesey

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Celtic Blue Reserve from Glengarry Fine Cheese

It was a jaw-dropping moment for me.  I had just finished my annual physical in the doctor’s office and was getting dressed when Dr. B. (a.k.a. “the stick woman”) whisked into the cubicle, and announced, “You need to eat more cheese!”

“Hunh?” was my quick-witted reply, as my brain struggled to assimilate what she was saying.  Dr. B. was holding a document in her hand which turned out to be my latest bone density test and she explained that I have reached the age when bone density becomes an issue for many women and what I was lacking was sufficient calcium.  But my mind was still resisting the message, as I recalled the years of guilty pleasure I had derived from consuming grilled cheese sandwiches, Parmesan loaded pasta and gooey omelettes, not to mention the double cheese pizzas that I insisted upon.  Was she really telling me to “up the ante”?

Then, of course, she spoiled it all by saying, “Well — maybe cottage cheese or skim milk cheese …”

goatsTiffanyAnyway, it was a rather eerie coincidence because just that very morning, I had been to the Burlington Market where I had discovered Tiffany Drong from “Goats in Motion.”  Tiffany was selling her goat meat, but also a whole lot of goat cheese.  I was pleased to see that there was a small lineup at her booth as I stopped by to say “hello” and stayed to try three or four of the flavored types goat cheese that she was offering to customers — garlic, herbs, red peppers, whatever.  And then, it was off to “The Cheeseman” to buy the creamy Macedonian feta that I like to add to the Greek salad that I eat almost daily for the entire month of August.

So somehow, I don’t really think that I am lacking in my overall cheese consumption quota.  But the whole experience got me thinking about calcium so I did a bit of research.

Dairy (milk, yogurt and cheese), not surprisingly, is the main source of edible calcium and, since I do drink skim milk every day, I think that I must be alright.  (I can’t drink wine for lunch or I fall asleep over my desk in the afternoon.)  Other sources of calcium include leafy greens (the dreaded kale contains more calcium than milk — wouldn’t you just know it?), fish that includes little bones — like tinned salmon or sardines, and white beans, black-eyed peas and almonds are all good sources.  Actually many foods now are fortified with calcium – just read the labels.  And then there are the enormous, hideous calcium tablets that I have started taking daily, just to make sure.

Osteoporosis is the culprit that one wants to avoid.  This is a thinning of the bones that leads to all sorts of fractures and frailties and eating a diet that’s low in calcium, along with not getting enough exercise (particularly strength-training), and smoking are all major risk factors in women “of a certain age”. The Dr. explained that there is also a genetic factor and that postmenopausal women are particularly at risk because of their lowered amounts of estrogen.

So I am really happy to report that I live in what must be cheese lovers’ paradise.  Sort of right in the centre of a triangle composed of the wonderful Cheese Shop on Locke, Mickey McGuire’s in Dundas and the Ancaster Village Cheese Shop — not to even mention the downtown Farmer’s Market and Longo’s which has a superb selection of Quebec cheeses.

And this just in:  As reported on Tuesday in the Globe and  Mail, a Canadian blue cheese from Ontario just won Supreme Global Champion at the Global Cheese Awards in Somerset, England (these are like the Oscars of the cheese world).  This is the first time in the 150 year history of the competition that a Canadian cheese won best in show.  The cheese, called Celtic Blue Reserve, comes from Glengarry Fine Cheese in Lancaster, Ontario.  Read the whole story at

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/food-and-wine/food-trends/an-award-winning-canadian-blue/article25926282/

So here’s a recipe that you can try with some really tasty goat cheese.

And I’m going to see if I can find some of that Celtic Blue Reserve — gotta’ stay healthy, you know.

Goat Cheese Toasts with Balsamic and Roasted Tomatoes

adapted from “I am a Food Blog” http://iamafoodblog.com/goat-cheese-toasts-with-balsamic-and-roasted-tomatoes/ 

Ingredients:drfoodblog

slices of baguette or sourdough bread

fresh goat cheese

roasted cherry tomatoes

reduced balsamic vinegar

fresh basil

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1)  Toast the bread in a pan, drizzle with olive oil and heat over medium.  Keep an eye on it and flip when golden.

2) Spread the goat cheese on the toast.  Top with balsamic, basil, a drizzle of oil and salt and pepper to taste.

3)  Add roasted cherry tomatoes on top.

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients:

halved cherry tomatoes

2 – 3 crushed cloves garlic

herbs if desired

drizzle of olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

Method:

1)  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Toss the tomatoes garlic and herbs in a bit of oil and arrange on a lined rimmed baking sheet.

2) Season generously with salt and pepper and roast for 20 – 25 minutes.

My Notes:

Roasting the tomatoes concentrates the flavour.

 

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Making Choices

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Juniper scented, pan seared duck breast with parsnip purée, from The Butcher and the Vegan

There is no simple answer to the question “Should I eat meat.”  It can be an extremely contentious issue and who wants an angry debate to mar what should be a pleasurable event such as enjoying good food and drink with friends around a dining table?

Anyway, whatever your stance on dietary ethics, there is a new restaurant on Barton Street which has been conceptualized in a way that allows us all make our own choices.  Called “The Butcher and the Vegan” (http://www.butcherandthevegan.ca/#about), the restaurant has only been open for two months now, but has already created a whole lot of buzz among Hamilton foodies.  Not just for the fact that “bloodthirsty carnivores” are able to mingle happily with “pale and anemic vegans” (to cite the stereotypes), but because the food is actually so addictive that sharing plates has become a popular ritual among diners.

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James Kayser describes himself as the owner, manager and chief dishwasher at the restaurant.  In fact, Kayser even designed the quirky but comfortable decor and did most of the work himself, using bits and pieces of found objects — an old fence he found in his garage for the bar, for instance — to create a charming and informal ambience.

Kayser is originally from Toronto and has lived in Hamilton for six years now.  He recalls trying to find places to eat with friends and family who all wanted something different.  And so, the idea for the restaurant evolved as a plan to accommodate all shades of opinion.

“There were a lot of places,” he says, “that claimed “vegetarian options”, but, in fact, you would find that there were one or two vegetarian dishes on the menu that demonstrated various levels of blandness.  We’re trying to be more inclusive and also non-judgmental of others.

“What people can agree on is that they have become very health conscious.  They want good quality food — and they’re interested in products that are sustainable, nutritional and organic. I thought about that a lot with the menu and decided that there would be no items such as deep fried food or frozen French fries.

‘But people also want to know where their food is coming from.  They want to know if their meat comes from an animal that has been raised properly and has lived a full and good life.  There is a list of our suppliers on our website and all have been hand-picked and are within a 100 km radius of Hamilton.”

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The restaurant is displaying a very ambitious menu and this may be attributed to a new chef who has been there now for only a few weeks.  Chef Jesse Chambers was formerly head chef at the restaurant in the legislative assembly at Queen’s Park.  One of the important reasons why he has moved back to Hamilton from Toronto was the desire to spend more time with his family — but he also believes strongly in the restaurant’s dedication to seasonal items and local suppliers.

The restaurant has been showing off the new chef’s capabilities with a series of monthly “one off” dinners open to the public and I was privileged to attend one of these dinners with Karen Aquino, our Go Cooking co-ordinator.  Carnivores both, we enjoyed a “woodland herb and maple braised pork belly” appetizer and a “juniper scented pan seared duck breast”.  Kayser says that the “one off” dinners will continue with a variety of seasonal offerings — perhaps a ratatouille, or mushroom pasta and peach and apple crisps.  Anyway, we were so blown away by the food that we are planning to be sharing Chef Jesse’s talents with our Go Cooking guests this fall.

As a footnote, our meal was accompanied by some interesting wines from The Good Earth Winery bandvgoodelogo(https://goodearthfoodandwine.com/).  This is a small winery “nestled at the foot of the Beamsville Bench in the Twenty Valley” and Mike Boland, from the winery, poured us a selection of scintillating options. (My favorite, a tasty and refreshing Viognier which was just right for the sultry summer night.)  The Good Earth wines are exclusive to the restaurant and are part of the plan for serving unique products such as estate wines and artisanal craft beers.

Jim Kayser says that the most popular items, so far, on their menu, are the curry and the beet fries and a tofu lettuce wrap.  He estimates that the menu items have demonstrated about a 60/40 “omnivore to vegan” split.

We’re looking forward to sharing an evening with Chef Jesse this fall and hope you will join us.

And here’s a little recipe for an easy and nutritious dip that will keep in the fridge for a week.

Sweet Potato Hummus

from Michael Smith’s “Fast Flavours”

Ingredients:bandvsweetpot

2 sweet potatoes, washed and patted dry

4 cloves garlic

1/2 cup of tahini

zest and juice of one lemon

1 tbsp of ground cumin

1 tbsp of cinnamon

1 tbsp of toasted sesame oil

1 tsp of salt

1 tsp or more of your favourite hot sauce

1 can (19 oz/540 mL) of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 cup plain yogurt

Method:

1)  Deeply puncture each sweet potato several times with a fork.  Microwave on high until soft throughout, 5 – 10 minutes depending on your microwave.  (Check the potatoes every few minutes by squeezing, poking and prodding them.)

2)  Give the garlic, tahini, lemon zest and juice, cumin, cinnamon, sesame oil, salt and hot sauce a head start in your food processor. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary.

3)  Add the chickpeas and yogurt.  Toss in the sweet potatoes, skin and all, breaking them up a bit first, then purée the works.  Serve and share with some crisp dippers.

This makes about 5 cups — great appetizer for a summer barbecue.

Mood Indigo

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The late comedian George Carlin proposed the reason why there was no blue food.  His paranoid assertion: “Someone is keeping it hidden because it probably bestows immortality.”

Carlin discounts blueberries by calling them purple, but I beg to differ.  Blueberry sauce often has a reddish-purple glow, but blueberries themselves run from a powdery blue sheen, to a very deep indigo.

It’s blueberry season where we live, right now, and for many people eating fresh blueberries is like devouring a bowl full of summer.  (Others tend to eat them all year round since they are available from the American South, Chile, Argentina and even Australia.)  But the best ones are, of course, local and seasonal, and ripe and ready to eat from late July to the end of August.

Blueberries have a very special link to those who grew up in Ontario. The blueberry bush is a native North American species and early settlers hereabouts incorporated them into their diets and medicines.  North America accounts for about 90 percent of the world’s crop according to the Ontario Berry Growers Association website.

Ontario grows two major varieties of blueberry, the lowbush which grows wild and the highbush which blueberrieswildhas been cultivated since 1976.  (Surprisingly acid rain has encouraged the growth of lowbush blueberries by reducing the PH level of the soil.) The lowbush blueberries are often called wild blueberries.  They are smaller and most people seem to agree that their flavour is more intense than in the larger cultivated highbush blueberries.  These lowbush blueberries are “as rare as hen’s teeth”, however.  A quick survey of local berry farms and markets revealed that you can buy them frozen in a couple of places (The Mustard Seed Co-op, for instance).  But the only place I found, that promised to have them fresh was Picone’s in Dundas (they should be coming in, in a couple of weeks).  If you know any other places that sell them, I’d love to find out about it.

Here’s a confession:  I never used to like blueberries and would wonder how anyone could eat them fresh, out of their hands.  I enjoyed them sweetened up — in blueberry muffins, or blueberry sauce, or blueberry pancakes and — especially — blueberry pie.  Then, in a burst of “healthy eating” frenzy, I began to sprinkle them on yogurt — which did help to kill the vile flavourlessness of the plain yogurt.  You see, I had been scouring the Internet and became carried away by the notices of how healthy they are — really a sort of superfood.  For instance, blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits.  Antioxidants are important because they combat something called free radicals that can damage cellular structures as well as DNA.  This means that they have potential benefits for the nervous system and for brain health.  There is even some evidence that they improve scores on memory tests and slow down cognitive problems frequently associated with aging.  They are full of vitamin C; are low in calories — about 80 per cup — and practically fat free; they are loaded with fibre; and they are an excellent source of manganese which plays an important part in bone development and converting carbohydrates and fats into energy.

Phew!

blueberriesand cornBut really, the intense blue of blueberries and the bright yellow of fresh corn, just seem the proper accompaniment to the heat and haze of August in the Ontario countryside.

Here’s the beginning of a wonderful poem by Robert Frost where he uses blueberries as a starting point to say everything there is to say about the economics of a small farming community.

Blueberries

by Robert Frost

“You ought to have seen what I saw on my way

To the village, through Mortenson’s pasture today:

Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,

Real sky-blue and heavy, and ready to drum

In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!

And all ripe together, not some of them green

And some of them ripe!  You ought to have seen!” …

The rest of the poem is at

http://www.daypoems.net/poems/2648.html

And here’s an easy recipe for something good to eat on a long weekend breakfast.

Blueberry Almond Coffeecake

from Gourmet magazine, July 2000

Ingredients:blueberriesalmon

2 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups plus 1 tbsp sugar

2 whole large eggs

1 tsp vanilla or 1/4 tsp almond extract

1/2 cup milk

2 1/2 cups blueberries

1 egg white

1 cup sliced almonds

Method:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter a 2 – 2 1/2 quart ceramic or glass baking dish.

2)  Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Beat together butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Beat in whole eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla.  Alternately add flour mixture and milk in batches, beginning and ending with flour and beating on low speed after each addition until incorporated.  Fold in berries.

3)  Spoon batter into baking dish spreading evenly.

4)  Lightly beat egg with a fork and add remaining 3 tbsp sugar and almonds, stirring to coat.

5)  Spoon topping evenly over batter and bake in middle of oven until golden brown and a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour.  Cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes.

My Notes:

This can be made a day ahead and kept covered at room temperature.  Reheat, covered in a 350 degree oven.

 

On Reading “My Paris Kitchen”

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It’s been on hold at the library for two months, and I finally got to take it home last week.  I know I should have bought it — but I’m chintzy enough to want to take a good look at a cookbook before I actually spend the money.  So I’ve been perusing “My Paris Kitchen” for a week now, and, yes, I’ve decided it’s definitely deserving of a place on my already overstuffed cookbook shelves.

I am not surprised.  The book is by David Lebovitz who is an American chef who spent thirteen yearsmyparisDavid at Alice Water‘s famous Chez Panisse in California and then left the restaurant business in 1999 to write books.  He moved to Paris in 2004 and turned davidlebovitz.com into a phenomenally popular blog.  He is the author of six books (I’ve now read and enjoyed three) mostly cookbooks, but including a funny and fascinating memoir called “The Sweet Life in Paris.”

This cookbook actually got me at the cover — a mouth-watering display of what looks like braised chicken breasts (chicken with mustard, I think) in an enormous copper pan that he bought in the famed cookware shop ( E. Dehillerin) in Les Halles and an inside cover overview of Paris rooftops with a perfect, moody Paris sky.   The photography is by someone named Ed Anderson and it is just as eye-poppingly good as you would expect in a handsome hardcover edition.

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Anyway, this is ostensibly a contemporary cookbook, purporting to show how Parisians eat today, with 100 sweet and savoury dishes that range from appetizers to desserts.  Lebovitz was a pastry cook at Chez Panisse and so the opulent desserts make the most of that skill, as well as his personal penchant for all things chocolate.  A section on ingredients and equipment are the very minimum that are required and that will fit into his tiny Parisian kitchen.  There is also an extra chapter called “The Pantry” in which he presents an assortment of recipes, ingredients that he likes to keep on hand, or in the refrigerator, such as chicken stock, clarified butter, vinaigrette, and so on.  The recipes are clearly stated, simple and sometimes surprising.  For instance, in the vinaigrette recipe, he talks about how in France he discovered that neutral tasting oil was often used instead of olive oil and how he gradually came to realize that cold pressed oils such as sunflower, safflower or canola could be substituted for the EVO with interesting results.

But this is much more than just a cookbook.  Lebovitz has said that “the book is meant to be a story about how I cook in Paris … with a story running through the recipes, text, photos and headnotes.”  So each recipe comes with a narrative accompaniment, or an anecdote and the chapters are interspersed with little essays on everything from the use of salted and unsalted butter, to the difficulty for Americans in pronouncing French words (try saying “moelleux” for instance without making your French friends grimace), or to the idea of “local” in France which often translates into discussions of “terroir” and “le cuisine du marché”.  I particularly love his discussion of the cheese course which we always approach with a certain amount of ambivalence in Canada.  Lebovitz notes that the cheese course comes before dessert in France — or it can come instead of dessert, if the host so desires.  He notices how people in North America often try to put as many different kinds of cheese as they can on the cheese plate so that everyone can try something different.  (Yes, and how they end up with 10 little pieces of wrapped up cheeses that linger stalely in the refrigerator.)  The French, on the other hand, believe that it’s a better idea to have one or two examples of the very best of the genre, rather than loading up with numerous little bits of different kinds where the flavours will cancel each other out.  And the French also do not consider it necessary to tart up their cheese with other elements such as chutneys or nuts or fruit — just crackers or bread.

There are, of course, so many hundreds of cookbooks about Paris, ancient and modern. This cookbook would be a great companion on your shelf to Patricia Wells’ really fine “The Paris Cookbook” which also deals with contemporary cooking in the city.  The difference is that Wells concentrates on recipes from Parisian restaurants, whereas Lebovitz is much more personal.  But I also loved the way that Lebovitz handled the increasing globalization of the Parisian cuisine.  Paris, like all big cities, is no longer purely French but now has a large ethnic component.  Instead of deploring this fact, Lebovitz writes about how the Parisians translate ethnic into French and he includes recipes for everything from baba ganoush to hummus to Indian cheese bread with a Parisian accent.

Anyway, here’s his recipe for croque-monsieur, the first, really French thing I ever ate in France and the precursor to a forty year love affair with French food.

Croque-Monsieur (Fried Ham and Cheese Sandwich)

from My Paris Kitchen, David Lebovitzmypariscroque

Ingredients:

Béchamel Sauce:

1 tbsp salted or unsalted butter

1 tbsp all purpose flour

1/4 cup whole milk

pinch of sea salt or kosher salt

pinch of cayenne pepper

Croque-Monsieur:

4 slices sourdough or country style bread

4 slices prosciutto or thinly sliced dry cured ham or 2 thick slices boiled ham

2 thin slices Comté or Gruyère cheese

4 tbsp salted or unsalted butter

1/4 cup grated Comté or Gruyère cheese

Method:

1) Béchamel Sauce:  melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and stir in the flour.  When the mixture starts to bubble, cook for 1 minute more.  Whisk in 1/4 cup of the milk, stirring to discourage lumps, then whisk in the remaining 1/3 cup of milk.  Cook for about 1 minute more, until the sauce is thick and creamy, like runny mayonnaise.  Remove from the heat and stir in the salt and cayenne;  set aside to cool a bit and thicken.

2)  Spread the Béchamel evenly over the four slices of bread.  Lay a slice of ham over two of the bread slices, top them with slices of cheese and then top with the remaining ham slices.  Finish with the two remaining slices of bread, Béchamel side down (on the inside) and brush the outsides of the sandwiches without restraint with the melted butter.

3)  Turn on the broiler and heat a large ovenproof frying pan or grill pan over medium heat on the stove top.  (Make sure to use a pan with a heatproof handle for broiling later.)  Place the sandwiches in the frying pan, drape with a sheet of aluminum foil and then rest a cast iron skillet or other heavy pan or flat object on top.  Cook until the bottoms of the sandwiches are well browned.  Remove the skillet and foil, flip the sandwiches over, replace the foil and skillet and continue cooking until the other side is browned.

4)  Remove the cast-iron skillet and foil and strew the grated cheese on top of the sandwiches.  Put the pan under the broiler and broil the sandwiches until the cheese melts.  Serve immediately.

Variation:  To make a croque-madame, while the sandwiches are broiling cook a sunny side up egg for each sandwich.  Slide the eggs on top of the sandwiches after you plate them.

My Notes:

Don’t let the “Béchamel sauce” put you off.  This is just a sort of old-fashioned white sauce and it makes the sandwich really spectacular.

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Goin’ to the Country

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You drive west in Dundas, along Governor’s Road, past the occasional strip mall, skirting the lines of condo’s and apartment buildings, until the landscape breaks into open fields and cool deciduous forest; and then, you turn onto the cut-off called Weir’s Lane which opens up on the right.  Keep going along the curvy, narrow roadway and at the top of a hill, on the left, is your destination: Weir’s Lane Lavender and Apiary, a private home and a store, surrounded with fields of purple lavender which, right now, is at its swoon-worthy, fragrant peak.

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I am going to visit Kevin Beagle, the owner of the property, to get some information for the up-coming Farm Crawl which happens on July 18th.  Farm Crawl runs from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and is an event in which 7 (so far) local farms open up their doors and fields to visitors for tours and all sorts of treats.  For more information, a map and to purchase tickets visit the website at http://www.farmcrawlhamilton.ca or call 905/627-9208.

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The store

I arrive early enough to check out the store, which is a lavender paradise for those who like the scent or sight of the purple blossoms (count me in).  You can find candles, lotions, sprays, foodstuffs (lavender honey, lavender tea, etc.) and, of course, the dried flowers themselves.  (Check out the website http://www.weirslanelavender.ca/)  The farm grows both English and French lavender and I was surprised to find out how different they are.

Anyway, by the time I’ve made my purchases, Kevin has arrived and I suggest we do a little interview outside under a tree where there are some chairs, shade and a stunning pastoral panorama of lavender fields, distant hills and a countryside studded with a few large, far-off estates.  It is an idyllic scene – the sun shines, the sky is blue, the birds are singing and the bees are buzzing, and then Kevin tells me that in a few minutes there will probably be more than a hundred people arriving.

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The tourists

Sure enough, the two tour buses pull in and the Chinese tourists, cameras at the ready, pour out of the doors.  (Apparently, Chinese tourists are the farm’s most prolific visitors — Beagle has hired a tour guide who speaks Chinese just to help take them around.)

From this moment on, our interview proceeds like a series of hiccups — but, nevertheless, I do glean much fascinating information:

Beagle and his wife Abigail Payne bought the farm in 2007.  Beagle was in the software business in Toronto and had decided that he needed a lifestyle change from financial markets.  Abigail is an economics professor at McMaster and Beagle says, “I decided that I wanted something completely different — but it needed to be a short commute from McMaster.  When we moved here it was a farm, but not registered as a farm.  We planted some lavender for landscaping and talked to a landscape architect who mused offhandedly, ‘You could use lavender as a business.’  This stayed in my mind for a couple of years and then came back …”

The Chinese tourists — many of them elderly — need to use a washroom.  Unfortunately, there is only one public toilet.  Beagle explains to me that the farm is on a septic system so can only manage one public toilet.  He asks the tour guide on the bus, “Couldn’t they use the toilet on the bus?”  and she answers mysteriously, “Oh, we only use that for  emergencies.” 

We resume talking after Beagle shows the tourists to the public facility.

“I kept coming back to the lavender idea because it made sense on so many levels.  It obviously could be a form of agritourism, it’s a business with a retail store on site and we can do manufacturing on the site as well — everything is made in a room behind the store and in the basement, except for the culinary products which require a certified kitchen and are made at Supperworks.”

Beagle explains to two tourists that there is no restaurant on the property where they can buy lunch.

There are lots of food products available, however — they range from caramel sauce, to chutney, to marmalade, lavender salts and sugars, and I can attest to the delicious flavour of the honey which I bought for myself and for gifts.

Beagle apologizes again, “Oh, no,  they’re going into the house, please excuse me, I have to lock the door …” 

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Dewey and friend

Too late, unfortunately, because the dog has escaped.  Dewey, the family dog, is a vizsla — a Hungarian pointer.  He is a large, calm and noble beast, deliriously happy to be let free to run about in the open air.  Beagle captures him and there is a great deal of camera snapping, smiling and petting and the Chinese version of “ohhing” and “ahhing“.

We move on to the apiary as Beagle continues:

“I have also planted 250 hazelnut trees which should be bearing nuts by 2017 and 2000 sunflowers which we will sell as cut flowers.

“The apiary was a natural addition.  Bees love lavender and so it just made sense …”,

Under the Hamilton-Halton Watershed Stewardship Programme part of the apiary has been developed as a pollinator garden with native species planted — Beagle says it is really to demonstrate the importance of all pollinators, bees, butterflies, hummingbirds.

The bees seem very — busy — and I ask, stupidly, “Do you just keep getting more and more bees?”

Beagle says, “Well, no, we lose hundreds of them every year because of pesticides and herbicides — but I don’t want to get on my soapbox about the importance of pollinators to our food chain …”

As I take my leave, my head is spinning with still more and more questions and I realize the value of the whole Farm Crawl experience.  It’s a chance to really connect, to begin to understand the concept of sustainable agriculture and the value of small farming enterprises and, quite simply, to see how our food gets to our markets and to our tables,  But it’s also an opportunity to talk to the people who produce our food and to find out how very demanding that career choice can be.  So far, I’ve visited three of the farms on the Farm Crawl list and I’m determined to make my way through the rest.

So here’s a recipe that I acquired from the shop:

Lavender Lemonade

from Weir’s Lane Lavender and Apiary goinlavenderlogo

Ingredients:

2 cups water

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup Lavender and Raspberry Infused Sugar

1/4 cup honey

3 heaping tbsp dried Culinary Lavender

2 cups fresh lemon juice

4 cups still or carbonated water

Method

1) In a medium pot over a medium heat combine 2 cups water and sugar.  Bring to a boil and cook until sugar is dissolved.

2) Remove from heat, stir in honey and lavender.

3)  Cover and let steep for 10 – 15 minutes.

4)  Strain out lavender and press buds into the bottom of the strainer to release any syrup left behind.

5)  In a large pitcher, combine lemon juice, lavender syrup and water.  Stir and chill.  Serve cold over ice.

Local Bounty Box: Apple, Radish, Carrot, Beet Slaw

Love this salad recipe using radishes, Apple, Carrot & Beets!!

Hamilton Food Tours

apple beet carrot radish slaw 2

I recently signed up for the Mustard Seed Coop’s Local Bounty Box and I am thrilled to receive a large box filled with amazing, fresh and diverse local produce every other week! It is always a mix of vegetables that helps you get creative in the kitchen.

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Heirloom cuisine

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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.”

Luckas - Purple HeatherThe 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.

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ground cherries

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.

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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

from Lucy Waverman’s “Seasonal Canadian Cookbook” kraczlaraspberrysab

Ingredients:

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)

Method:

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.

My Notes: 

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. 

 

 

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