Monday, August 31, 2009

Four Season Harvest

I have recently been turned on to the work of Eliot Coleman, who grows lettuce in Maine in December. !!! That's the rub of seasonal gardening in a Northern climate, going from delicious fresh food in September to tasteless veggies with a huge carbon footprint, and an even bigger ethical footprint given the work conditions of most agricultural production in the developing world, in December. Not to mention the price. Coleman has developed ways of extending the season despite snow and freezing temperatures.

I'm loving Google books these days. I've started reading Coleman's book The Four Season Harvest in preview mode. Almost the whole book is available online, which is probably no accident as it requires publisher permission. I'm glad the authors are willing to share their knowledge.


Courtesy/copyright of Lucy Knisley. Her comics make me smile. I first saw her work via Melanie.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I could get used to this.

Meaning I could get used to only buying flour, butter, milk and eggs at the grocery store. It is profoundly satisfying to pick your dinner and then put it in the pan. Chardfest 2009 continues, and we aren't sick of the stuff yet, somehow. I made Green Tomato and Swiss Chard Gratin this evening, and it is fantastic, I don't mind saying. It seemed like a bit of a travesty to pick some of my tomatoes early, considering how few we actually manage to grow ourselves, but it was worth it. Yes, I know my photos are embarrassingly amateurish, but it's all I've got until a new camera falls into my lap. I really wish they looked like the ones in NYTimes... Also -- I should have taken a picture before I dug in, but it wasn't until I'd had some that I knew how good it was! I call this one 'Still life with the things I didn't take out of the shot'.
Also popular this week 'round the urban homestead, Peach Ginger Hand Pies. I had been somewhat intimidated at trying pastry from scratch, but the kitchn writers pointed to Martha Stewart's Pate Brisee recipe which uses a food processor, and I couldn't believe how easy it was. Aside from getting flour on every surface within a two metre radius, but that probably had more to do with my rusty rollin' skills...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lighting a fire in the kitchen

I have continued to learn about the role of the tenzo in zen practice. This
site has some reflections on what happens when you cook with attention and compassion.

"You will practice nonattachment by creating meals that feed practitioners rather than your ego; by planning meals that use what's available and accommodate everyone; and by doing your best with no expectation of return--serving up the meal and letting it go.
Tenzo service is an opportunity for transformation. The kitchen fire burns away ego, attachment, expectation and discrimination."

I am thinking about this because I will help to make the meal for a one day meditation retreat with Calgary Soto Zen in a few weeks. I made some food for previous retreat, and what I remember most vividly was that because we practiced silence all day, from 8 am to 5 pm, I could not apologize for or criticize my food. It helped me to see what a strong habit I have of criticizing my own work. I'm looking forward to finding out what lessons I will learn this time around.

August 30 Canning and Preserving Workshop

Courtesy of the Clean Calgary Association:


Sunday, August 30, 2009 @ 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Enjoy local fruit and veggies throughout the winter by preserving your produce. Pat Ingliss, a food safety expert, will be presenting the best and safest ways to preserve a variety of produce. Recipes will be included in the presentation.



South Calgary Community Association, 3130 16 St S.W.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Seitan Worship

..the title of this post comes courtesy of my witty husband. It was all I could do not to eat this right out of the pan, but I plated it and took a picture for you, dear reader. That's what I'm willing to do for you. This was one of the hottest days we've had all summer, which is not saying much, it was 31 ℃. However the weather had me craving barbecue, and eventually I settled on making seitan.
For the uninitiated, seitan is a wheat based food that has been around for a few thousand years. Sometimes known as 'wheat meat', it is often found in the scary looking fake meat products you see in the grocery store. It used to be made through a laborious process of rinsing wheat flour in water until all that remained was pure gluten (the stuff that makes bread chewy..). These days you can buy pure wheat gluten in the store. And get this, gluten has more protein per gram than red meat.

I followed this recipe: Barbecued Seitan Ribz

It worked out quite well, although I baked mine in mini loaf pans and had to put them back in the oven for a bit longer because they didn't cook all the way through. I made the basic bbq sauce from Martha Stewart's website, and grilled them up on the stovetop in my cast iron grill pan.
This is one of the easier seitan recipes out there, many of them call for boiling, steaming, and frying to get a good texture. That's the key to seitan, if the texture is wrong it ends up too chewy. I go for the easiest recipes most of the time -- not willing to spend hours over the stove. The other handy recipe is Veggeroni (I do apologize for the names...). As Debra at Culiblog points out, why not enjoy seitan as seitan instead of expecting it to be meat. However it does work great as a meat replacement in all those recipes you grew up with. With all the worries over GMO soy, and therefore GMO tofu, seitan is a good local alternative.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Beet Beer

Is it just me or has this blog been a bit booze obsessed lately? Ah well, no need to question that at all.. LOOK WHAT I FOUND! This may be the holy grail of my local foodie aspirations. Beet beer? How crazy is that. Or should I say, wacko. I have participated in beer making, thanks to the ghost of boyfriend past (like the ghost of Christmas past but more awkward on facebook..). It's easier than you'd think. Albeit smelly, or at least grain based-beer is when it's burbling away on the stove. I am getting used to brewing funky concoctions (see kvass, yogurt, vinegar, and kraut..) so what the heck. One day I'll have to take this strange brew on. Also, what a charming website name.. The Local Beet.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Let the onslaught begin..

... the veggie onslaught, that is. This year has not been the best for veg gardens round these parts, sadly, but nevertheless there is more produce in my community than any of us know what to do with. I have the privilege of 'garden sitting' a huge garden this week, with piles of greens to be harvested right now; last night we left with a recycling bin full of kale and chard. Much success with Julie's roasted kale chips recipe.. totally wacky concept but really good in actuality, they taste a bit like popcorn and a bit like pringles, as one blogger pointed out... maybe they will cure me of my potato chip addiction. Maybe.

Here's a recipe to deal with surplus zucchini that will make you many friends. It is a modified version of a recipe from The More-with-Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre.

I grew up with this cookbook, and it contains many of my go-to comfort foods. It was written in 1976, and was a compilation of recipes created by missionaries from the Mennonite Central Committee. Despite my mixed feelings about aid that is attached to religious evangelism, I cannot help but admire the work of the MCC. Mennonites have a long history of non-violence, for example refusing to go to war for nation states, and have pursued peace and social justice according to their convictions. The More with Less Cookbook aims to bring awareness to the realities of world hunger and overconsumption in developed countries. I learned from the MCC website that you can order it online, and that they have a newer title out called Simply in Season.

Zucchini Egg Foo Yung

1 med. onion, finely chopped
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. salt
1/8 t. white pepper
3 eggs, beaten
2 T. flour
2 med. zucchinis, grated

Mix ingredients and fry in 1/2 cup amounts in a hot pan with a bit of oil, like an omelet.

1 c. stock
2 T. soy sauce
1 T. cornstarch

Heat stock and soy sauce in a saucepan. Make a slurry with the cornstarch (mix it with a bit of water until it is smooth) and add to sauce. Heat until thickened.

Can be served with rice or on its own.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I was at Millarville Market this weekend, and had a chance to chat with Cherie Andrews of Chinook Honey Company. Bees have been on my mind lately; just this week I read an article about colony collapse disorder.
I heard Cherie speak about the disorder and its worrisome effect on bee colonies at Local 101. Scientists have concluded that it is brought on by a combination of a pathogen that has become drug resistant, and.. wait for it... pesticides. What a shocker huh. Apparently the pesticides from pollen build up in the honeycombs, which result in weaker bees who are then susceptible to the pathogen.
It's encouraging to know that that scientists have been able to make these connections and track the consequences of heavy pesticide use. Hopefully these realities will result in action by governments and citizens very soon. In the meantime, I try to support local producers like Chinook Honey. Thankfully, they make it easy for me; they produce some really fantastic meads (honey wines) at Chinook Arch Meadery that you have to try to believe. Unlike midieval style European meads, which are a bit thick and funky for my taste, Chinook Arch's meads are light, like a sweet white desert wine.
On Saturday at Millarville, I also picked up a new product, Cinnamon Twist Honey, which is honey, cinnamon, and apple concentrate. It's good enough to eat off the spoon, and it was all E and I could to to stop ourselves from doing just that. Who says local eating is all about deprivation?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Waking up in the kitchen

I am learning about awareness and waking up to the world from Zen teachers and writers. One of them is Dogen, the founder of the Soto school of Japan. He wrote instructions for the temple cook in the Tenzo Kyokun. I plan to read his instructions over the next little while.

He wrote:

Following the midday meal, go to the offices of the prior and comptroller and get the ingredients for the next day's meals: rice, vegetables and so on. Having received them, protect and be frugal with them, as if they were your own eyes. Respect and value them as if they were ingredients for an imperial repast. ... The Rules of Purity say, "When preparing meals, one should reflect intimately on one's own self; [the food] will then itself be pure and refined."

I think that's a wonderful thing to wake up to -- imagine protecting and valuing food as if it were your own eyes.