A Place to Grow...Ontario!

Originally posted on 5/2/2013 This is Prince Edward County, Ontario, rye. It's the first lot of a test crop. The folks at Stonemill Bakehouse are very Zen; they are at once forward- and backward-thinking. Looking to a future of locally-grown and sourced ingredients is a new old idea. You see, we all got dazzled by shiny things from far, far, away and became fossil fuel junkies. And for the blip in human history when fossil fuels have been relatively cheap - if, of course, you don't factor in the cost of all the oil wars and environmental damage - we've enjoyed foods from around the globe...all coming to our shores on waves of fossil fuels. Not a good thing. So now, as we nudge ever closer to

Baking with Bonnie...

...and Chef Michael Smith. I've been working with The Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts for the last little while, and one of Bonnie's top profs shared one of his favourite cookie recipes with me, so I thought I'd share it with you here. Here's what Michael says about this recipe: "These Austrian-style cookies have a delicate, buttery texture – despite the fact they contain no butter! Even those who claim to hate the flavour of licorice should be won over by the subtle anise flavour in these cookies. Feel free to experiment with your favourite spices in this recipe!" Did you get that? A) no butter, and B) Chef Michael is giving us all the green light to play with the spices, so, I'

Hygge in Canada

Why not, we’re Nordic…sort of…plus, I've got a Swedish name, and it’s a perfectly comforting way to usher in fall – and dare I say it? – winter. And, should you care about such things, Scandinavian-Nordic culture is having another moment; especially, from where I sit, in the food department. Folks here have been talking about hygge for a couple of years now. It’s sort of Danish for cozy, though not exactly, and it's more than that too. It’s one of those words that doesn’t have an exact English translation. I wrote about it for The Globe and Mail a while back: “Hygge is a feeling, a way of being, a wintertime warmth shared by firelight, under furry throws, over mugs of hot, boozy drinks and p

An Apple a Day - One Way or Another

Originally posted on 11/28/2012 I was never much of a beer drinker, though I have developed a taste for it of late. My new fave is Radler. I am a real wine lover and I do enjoy a rather old school (yes, I'm a product of the '70s) rocks glass of Dubonnet Red on the rocks. But when I'm thirsty for bubbles and an ice cold refreshing something or other, cider is my go-to drink. I don't think I've met a cider I didn't like, if only a little bit. I used to drink Strongbow; it was just my default cider. But then I read that they use apples grown and juiced in China - the juice shipped to the UK for fermentation - and I balked. Oh bloody hell, I hope I don't get sued! To be clear! This is unverified

Easy, Smokey Clam Chowder

Creamy, proper, clam chowder does not come out of a can. It’s a myth. And, making creamy clam chowder is not hard. That’s also a myth. Most likely propagated by the folks who sell clam chowder in cans. Traditionally, a true chowder must be thickened with potato, not flour. All manner of potato things work, from left over mashers, to instant potato flakes, to diced and simmered spuds. Feel free to use canned clams and their juice, but with a few fresh beauties tossed in to garnish if you wish. [[photo: Colleen Nicholson]] Ingredients 1 small onion, finely diced 2 Tbsp. butter 2 oz pancetta, cubed 2 celery stocks, diced 2 large Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and diced 1 cup 18% cream (you can u

Prairie Cherry

Originally posted on 7/23/2012 The nice folks at Phillips Distilling Company saw fit to present me with a bottle of their new Prairie Organic Vodka. How does one say, "Why, thank you!" in Russian, anyway? Spasibo! I'm of the vodka is vodka school of thought. I've tasted harsh and I've tasted smooth, but the only time I was truly able to detect a flavour - vanilla and grass - it was in bison grass vodka from Poland. Otherwise, nothing. So, I thought I'd take this beautiful bottle and introduce it to a whole bunch of Niagara tart cherries gifted to me by friend, Jennifer Hart, of Flat Rock Cellars. I've put them together - I just know they'll play nice! - and I'll be checking in from time to t

Chicken Myth Busting!

Originally posted on 2/21/2012 Here's a question I hear all the time: "Don't you need a rooster to get eggs?" [[This bad boy was caught by Murray sneaking out of his hen house!]] The answer is a resounding NO. Ladies, do you need a man around to ovulate? No. No you do not. And nor does a hen. It amazes me how disconnected we have become from backyard hen keeping. Up until very recently it was a given. Ever heard the expression "egg money"? That's not money for eggs, it's the little bit of money a housewife or kid made by keeping hens and selling the extra eggs, and it was done continuously since the arrival of Europeans and their hens on this soil. Even longer in Europe and Asia! I've been t

Sunchokes are...

Originally posted on 10/7/2012 Sigh. I've tried, with this terrible photo, to show you how tall my sunchokes have grown. But the yellow flowers are so teeny tiny, they're hard to find in the shot, non? Well, look really hard, and when you do find them, notice that the arbour on the left of the image is over six feet tall, so the tallest of the plants (look at the top right) is close to 12 feet! I've gotta say, I'm impressed with the strength of the stems. They've been blown hard by the wind but there they stand, tall and strong and presumably, busy making all sorts of lovely tubers down under ground. OK, the 101 for folks who don't know these things: sunchokes are also know as Jerusalem arti

A Tale of Two Trees

Originally posted on 6/29/2012 I bet many of you living in Canada have one of these trees in your yard or on your street. And I bet many of you don't know what it is. You might notice the proliferation of berries in late June, you might lament the purple poo on your car or you might be curious. I hope it's the latter. This is a Serviceberry Tree. The fruit is edible and delicious. My Serviceberry grows on a very lumpy, uneven bit of ground - not safe for ladders. So I pick and eat the low-hanging fruit. The birds and (insert profanities here!) squirrels get the rest. The darker they are, the riper, sweeter and softer they are. To me they taste like very mild cherries and when you crunch down

I'm not a Mother, so I Should Shut the F$%K up, But....

Originally posted on 4/13/2012 ...but if I were, this lady - Karen Le Billon - would be my hero, my mentor, my guide. You see, I'm old enough to remember when mothers were not short order cooks. You got what you got and you said thank you. You ate it or you didn't. But if you didn't eat what was 'for supper' then you didn't eat at all...unless you sneaked down to the kitchen for a secret snack. Kids are not genetically programmed to like chicken nuggets. Parents program their kids' tastes. I know grown children (ahem, adults) with sad, stunted palates and I know babies who will eat everything from steamed broccoli to veggie curry - with gusto and glee. If you are a mom, get this book. Read t

Homemade Soup Weather

Originally posted on 4/19/2010 Chopping, sauteing, simmering, and pureeing. I love making a big pot of soup when there's a chill in the air. For me, it's a meditative process, and it's something I do when I feel a deep-down rumbling to reconnect with my home and myself. Sure, it usually starts as an attempted rescue of veggies on the verge, but in no time at all, becomes something altogether more meaningful. This is the beginnings of my Crisper Soup....all the odds and ends that need eating up... But today it was a head of cauliflower that had been lurking in the fridge, stirring in me more guilt than is probably normal. But every time I opened the door, there it was, and there I went, listi

Go, Team Canada!

Originally posted on 4/23/2013 Update: Chef Jason Bangerter is now the Executive Chef at Langdon Hall. And the winner is....Every cheese lover in Canada, that's who! But...not my tum tum. Sooo much cheese for lunch...15 types of cheese...all delicious, but only one grand prize winner. Chef Jason Bangerter of Luma laid on a spread of amazing house-made breads and bowls of raw veggies that remained mostly untouched because we all thought the damn things were centerpieces. See this pile of loveliness? It was just one of four. I'll admit to a moment of panic when the wine, heat of the room and belly full of cheese threatened to turn on me. Granted, the room was full of food nerds who get excited

Of Little Old Ladies and Hen Zen...

Originally posted on 4/13/2012 Hen Zen. The Author has a point, really! The "such-ness of chickens". I'm no Buddhist. Don't know the first thing about it, though I suspect I should. It would probably suit me right down to the ground. Take a second or two to read this - not the journal part - and then, if you can spend some time with a few hens. She's totally on the money. She, being author, Clea Danaan, and the book is The Way of the Hen - Zen and the Art of Raising Chickens, and I'm loving it! Now I always knew there was something so real, so connecting...so engaging about hens, I just never really had the words for it. They enthrall me. I can sit with them or just lose myself watching them

How far Would You go for Real Thai Food?

Originally posted on 9/17/2013 It's a perfectly reasonable question. In fact, one guest at our table of food media types bellying up to the trough delivered the old "I'm surprised I don't have a nosebleed!"...you know, the I-never go-north-of-Bloor nosebleed? In her defense, we were seriously north of where Toronto foodanistas will migrate, unless of course, they're in search of the best Chinese food, and then it's cotton balls up the nose and off to Richmond Hill or Newmarket, no complaining! Instead we were in the liminal space of The Shops at Don Mills. Liminal, as in, not downtown - hell, not even uptown - and not those farther, more noble reaches of the True Foodie North, or, north of H

Now I Have Two Favourite Coffee Brands!...

Originally posted on 9/12/2013 ...And I don't even drink coffee. Much. But I'm thinking of taking it up, now that I'm a believer. ​ My first love was, and still is, Birds & Beans, because even before them, my first, first love is birds. First Brownie badge? Nature, for bird watching. First bird identified? Cape May Warbler, spotted during one spring migration when I had mono and my mother had grown sick of having me in the house. She set me up outside in a lawn chair with a blanket, a pair of binoculars and Peterson's field guide...and that was it, I was in love. And so, what do birds and coffee have to do with each other? Habitat. The songbirds we love to see in the spring up here, winter d

Going Barefoot for Bears

Originally posted on 8/29/2013 All across Asia, about 20,000 bears, mostly moon bears, are living a nightmare that is almost impossible to imagine. Captured as cubs - their mother's are killed to get to them - they are put into 'crush cages' where they will live out their lives with a permanent shunt or drain connected to their bile ducts. They can survive up to 20 years like this. Never leaving this one, tiny cage - not much bigger than they are - constantly wounded, in pain and going mad. The hot spots: China, Vietnam, Korea, Laos, and Burma (Myanmar). ​ Why, you might reasonably ask, does this happen? The bear bile is sold as a remedy for everything from hangovers to cancer. It's illegal

Yes, There is Good Greek Food in Toronto!

Originally posted on 7/27/2013 I hear it all the time. Hell, I used to say it all the time. And for the most part is was true; real, authentic, tasty, fresh, Greek food was just about impossible to find in Toronto. Folks, it's more than souvlaki on a bun! But when you find it, be prepared to pay for it. Estiatorio Volos is the real thing. But don't take my word for it; I'm just a Canadian with Scottish roots who's never been to Greece. No, no, no; I took a Greek gal with me, one who's mother is from Volos, no less! Volos, once a pretty, little, coastal, fishing village, is now more of a pretty, coastal tourist, small city, but fishing is still important here, so, fish and seafood feature on

Never Apologize for Full Fat Cream!

Originally posted on 6/30/2013 ​I can remember the moment I fell in love with Nigella Lawson. Sure, I liked her already; enough to make a point of tuning into her show. But it was during one particular segment - it must have been about putting dinner on the table in a hurry - and she busted out a tin of chick peas and a bottle of instant chicken stock concentrate. Oh, you sexy thing, you! You vixen! You bucker of trendy DIY extremism, you! "Never apologize for tins and instant stock." she said, big brown eyes staring full on into the camera, just daring some crusty old biddy to say something...just one word... Sigh. Oh Nigella, you were my hero. You were, until this sordid episode with that

Simple Seared Scallops with Mango Salsa

A beautifully fresh scallop needs very little adornment. Just a little something underneath, to bring out the sweetness and freshness is all that’s called for. Here, I’ve paired one golden, seared scallop with mango salsa. Searing hot pan, lots of butter and a little bit of time on either side is all you need. Ingredients 2 ripe mangoes, diced 1 jalapeno, very finely diced ½ large purple onion, very finely diced ¼ cup finely minced fresh coriander 1 glove of garlic, finely minced juice of ½ lime sea salt to taste black pepper to taste a drizzle of olive oil is optional 4 large scallops (that’s one per person as an appetizer) ​ Method ​ For the salsa, gently toss all ingredients together, cov

Baked Ricotta with Crunchy Panko Crust

This is just too easy. It's the sort of dish that can be whipped up in a flash without the need for measurements - just a method. Here's how: Use the best ricotta you can find. I used Canada's Grand Prix of Cheese top prize winner from Quality Cheese. It's rich and thick. If you use a lesser sort - and I don't advise it - you may need to strain and squeeze it to get it as dry and thick as you can. Pour a drop of olive oil into an oven-safe dish or butter the dish; it's up to you. I like cast iron. I sprinkled a little coarse sea salt and black pepper on the bottom of the dish, but again, up to you. Then, press in the ricotta, leaving about 1/2-inch gap between the cheese and rim of the dish.

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