Archive for June, 2011

For the vegetarians amongst us (who are always welcome here), I ask that you work your way through the story at the top as the analogy is rooted in meat but is an important aspect of cooking as a vegetarian as well…

One of the more exciting food moments of my last year was getting to spend one-on-one time with Fergus Henderson (thanks to our friends at Hooked).  If the name is unfamiliar, Chef Henderson is a British Chef who is largely credited with the resurgence of nose-to-tail eating and transforming the offerings of kitchens around the world by bringing honor back to consuming the whole animal – i.e. tongue, marrow, jowls and more.  His cookbook is a fixture in my kitchen.

Nose- to-Tail is more than simply consuming all parts of an animal.  Many include curing, smoking, animal husbandry and more as part of it’s ethos (I am not a definitive expert).  The one aspect that is sometimes neglected in casual conversation and description is the acceptance that every part of an animal is very different in texture, density and fat and requires different cooking temperatures and techniques.  I saw this first-hand early in 2010 when I watched Chef Mark Cutrara give a butchery demo at his Restaurant, Cowbell (an entire series of posts is here including an odd revelation that changed my uses of vegetables based on the experience).

Chef Cutrara explained that he rarely cut ‘commercial cuts of meat.’  He explained many of those cuts included two or more muscle groups (i.e. a T-Bone) and each required different cooking times and temperatures.  He explained that muscles were separated by layers of fat (sometimes thin, sometimes thick) and that you simply needed to follow the lines of fat to find your way to butcher an animal.  After seeing carcasses of animals for most of my life, this was a profound discovery.  It’s a moment that changed the way I cook, eat and even think of food.

Those moments started out directly thinking about meat, as it was the topic of the evening.  But the decent to madness did not stop there…

The first breakthrough into the world of vegetables was the realization that our compost pile was actually an amazing vegetable stock waiting to happen.

The first transition of using nose-to-tail concepts with fruit and vegetables and preserving came with dehydrating the roots of wild leeks.  These remain one of my most favourite preserves of all-time.

The concept later moved to strawberries.  We preserved 3 parts of the same strawberry different ways:

By using different parts of the berry in different ways, we are able to reduce waste, increase variety and become even more creative in ways to use the bounty that is offered to us.

Which takes me back to that day at Hooked…

Chef Henderson saw a small jar of dried wild leek roots I had given as a gesture of thanks to Dan and Kristen (my hosts).  He was drawn in and curious.  He mentioned he had eaten ramp bulbs which were prepared by his friend Mario (I quickly figured out he was referring to `Batali`) but never heard of the roots being dried.  He asked me where I got the idea.

I meekly explained the idea was loosely from him (Mark Trealout, a friend and awesome farmer actually coined the term `Nose to Tail Vegetables`when he teased me about my approach – I hadn`t made the mental connection).  He asked me to explain and I shared the above, figuring he would humour me at best.

What followed was one of the nicest compliments I have ever received.  It was a very simple British Acknowledgement from one of the top chefs in the world and the man who knows more about Nose-To-Tail than I ever hope to dream, `Brilliant, you`reabsolutely brilliant.`

It was a proud moment and one I`ve kept to myself for unknown reasons.  I`m not sure why today is the day to share it, but it`s as good as any other!

I plan to share some more ideas on Nose-To-Tail Fruit and Veggies in the next little while.  I`m sure that I can learn lots off others (truly it`s the term and not the act of using every piece of a fruit or vegetable that is being discovered here).  I`ll also share some of my favourite people who have similar sentiments, as we`ve tried to do here.

We`d also love to hear your ideas on how you use the most you can out of the ingredients you are provided with!


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Missing My Kitchen…

I`ve been away from home for less than a week and todays trip home is just on time!

When I travel for business I, like most, miss family, pets and friends.  I also find myself (as I`m sure others do here) missing my kitchen.

The obvious reasons for missing my kitchen include the ability to eat what and how I`d like, access to the freshest ingredients, a wonderful pantry and the ability to cook anything I`d like on a whim.

Travelling for business generally means less access to the types of foods I`d value most.  Last night`s dinner was in a restaurant with others and featured spaghetti with canned sauce – certainly not the cruelest fate and it was absolutely palatable.  But it`s not nearly the same as the case of sauce we still have left from last year waiting at home.

Despite that, I can easily live without a full pantry and the options my home kitchen provides with relative ease.  I am not a picky eater and can make do with anything at all and find an appreciation for what I do have.  There are many in the world that would be so lucky as to have that can of sauce that I ate last night and I try not to lose sight of that.

What I really miss is the ability to cook.  Working in the kitchen, to me, is my place of peace and comfort.  I love to work my way through a tested recipe or the experience of trying something new.  The repetition of a single task (like slicing) and the thrill of the senses abound when making a complex dish – or something as simple as toast.

The act of cooking, to me (and many others), is an act which is reserved only to my own home or to the homes of people who are very close to me (and the odd professional kitchen that I get to visit).  Just being in a kitchen is a place of warmth to me, a place of home.

It`s a place you rarely see when you travel for work –  and one that`s easy to miss.

Do you miss your kitchen when you travel?

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The last few days have been some of the most excruciating pain I`ve ever felt.

When I broke my elbow, it took 4 days to go to the hospital because I didn`t think it hurt `that bad.`  I had mono for 5 months before finding out because I thought I was only a `little bit sluggish.`  After unknowingly walking around with a dislocated finger (and doing farm chores for 5 days), I put the digit back in the socket myself.

And yet the last 3 days have been some of the worst pain I`ve ever had.

Gout (once known as the `Kng`s Disease`) is largely related to what you eat.  I have the lucky combination of enjoying some of the problem foods while also having a history of gout in my family.

My Father explains it really well; `Cartlidge cushions your joints from rubbing into eah other.  Got attacks a single joint and turns everything int crystals – th slightest movement of the joint crushes those crystals together and causes pain.`  He takes his hands, press his fingers with his pals pointed towards his chest and moves them like two gears – showing how the crystals (his fingers) connect like mismatched gears on a clock.  His explanation is only part metaphor – crystals do indeed form although it`s not the transformation of cartilage.

Gout typically appears at night and arrives with little warning.  I`ve had minor attacks most of my life but was diagnosed with acute attacks about a year-and-a-half ago and informed I would have an attack about every 18 months.  It`s been 17.5.

The attacks are triggered by consuming foods with high uric acid.  These include foods high in purines such as:

  • beer (some say alcohol in general though there is some debate)
  • cheese
  • red meat
  • mushrooms
  • excess legumes
  • fatty foods
  • asparagus
  • cauliflower
  • consume
  • baker`s yeast
  • gravy
  • organ meat
  • oils
  • and more..

Gout is a form of arthritis and t attacks a single joint – often the big toe, ankle or knee.  The joint becomes swollen, often turns red and is painful to touch (a simple touch of a blanket or even resting your heel on something which subtly puts pressure on the other parts of your foot is enough to writhe in pain – putting a sock on brings one lose to tears).

Treatment includes antibiotics, painkillers and natural helpers including

  • low-fat milk
  • cherries
  • adequate carbohydrates, especially complex carbs such as whole grains, fruits and veggies
  • lots of water
  •  tomatoes, kale, cabbage,
  • Fruit juices, oranges, bananas
  • and more…

Maintaining an ideal body weight is also an important factor in avoiding gout.

I have several lifestyle changes I can adjust to avoid.  We`ve drastically reduced the amount of meat we eat over the last few years and will have to make some more adjustments going forward.

It`s amazing – yet mind-numbingly logical – how much what we eat affects us.  Despite the pain, gout is a relatively minor complication of diet.  What is the addiction of fast food, convenience foods and additions of mysterious chemicals in pre-packaged foods doing in our society at large?

The important disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a scientist; just a dude with a sore foot.  Using the above as medical reference would be very silly, if not dangerous to your personal health.  If you have gout or any other maladies please do not use this article as a reccomendation on how to diagnose, treat or cure your ails.  That would just be a bad idea.

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This photo (the only known photo of Billy the Kid), which is the size of a credit card, sold at auction this weekend for $2.6 million:

The photo was taken in 1879 or 1880.

There`s a lot of confusion on the legend of BIlly the Kid.  He may have killed 4, 9 or 21 people and all or none may have been in self-defence.  My connection to him isn`t intended to glorify the outlaw – more of a connection to a specific time which seems so far ago.

My connection to the man – and his time – can be seen in the photo.

When I hunt, I use a gun almost identical to what he used in the 1800`s.  Mine is slightly different and was manufactured in the 1960`s but one of the gentlemen at our food camp hunts with a gun that`s nearly identical and was made in the late 1800`s.  It is likely that my gun could use some of the parts with the gun in the photo above – it is more likely that his gun could trade all parts with it.

It is amazing how much technology has developed almost everything around us – yet the primary tool that many of us use in the fall harvest is similar, if not identical, to what was used so long ago.  I am struggling to think of anything that has changed less over the same period of time.

The connection may seem like a stretch but it is something we occaisionally talk about when in the woods – the connection our activities have to the past on this land and traditions that outdate us all.

There`s also a design-related angle to the photo above.  Historians had examined the photo and concluded for years that he was left-handed based on how he held his rifle and the holster on his left-side.  Books and movies were made about the left-handed gun slinger.  It turns out that the tin-type image produces a negative (i.e. reverse of what the photographer saw) so those accounts were flawed.

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I continue to learn a lot about making pizza and am mildly obsessed.

As today is a travel day, I thought I`d share a few quick tips that I`ve recently developed that`s helping my homemade pizza reach the next level (pictures and another post on pizza when I get back).  These tips are resulting in the bes pizza I`ve ever made at home (and the second-best outside of Italy that I`ve bever had).  These tips come from a combination of trial-and-error, reading and talking to some amazing Pizza Chefs:

  • `Real`pizza cooks at 1,000 degrees for 90 seconds.  I cook mine as hot as possible at home – bake at 550 degrees with a pizza stone near the top of the oven.  My thin-crust pizza takes 10 minutes in the oven.  It won`t burn.  Pinky swear.
  • You can let the dough raise as long as it needs.  I accidentally let one rise for more than 12 hours last week (the oven was off and the couch was comfy) and it made for a great breakfast pie. 
  • The best rolling-pin is your fingers.  Flatten the pie with your fingers and knuckles, make little dimples in the dough and don`t worry about being perfect.
  • Don`t worry about perfect circles – it`s far prettier when not `perfect.`
  • The best sauce = diced tomatoes and olive oil blitzed with an immersion blender or food processor.
  • Fresh herbs will last in extreme heat for a short duration.  10 minutes is not short.  I blend herb flakes into my sauce and am very liberal with them.
  • Less ingredients = more.  Sauce, cheese and 1 ingredient (I like pickled hot peppers).
  • Heat the pizza stone in the oven for a long time.
  • Smaller pizzas are easier to handle.  I make small pizzas which are about the size of a plate (this is essential to transfer from a cutting board to the hot stone which I do with the help of a spatula).
  • Once you put the sauce on the dough, act like it`s a race.  Each second longer means that your pizza is getting `soggy-er` and more difficult to transfer.
  • Cheese should be applied in chunks – not grated.  The bigger the chunks, the longer it takes to melt and the more that you will have individual pools of cheese and not a solid film covering the entire pie.

A few pizza-related articles tht may help you get up to speed if you`re looking for the fundamentals:

Any other tips out there?  I`d love to hear them.

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As a bit of background – in Canada we have a lot of food labelled as `Product of Canada.`  The legislation is often criticized for confusing the origins of food – i.e food grown on the other side of the world and then shipped here can be labelled `Product of Canada` if the packaging costs more than the actual food.  Other food grown here and shipped to the Southern US or Russia to be produced comes back as this same label.  We also confuse wine purchasers with terms like `cellared in Canada.`  It`s a frequent topic amongst many I know…

I spent a few minutes with a friend today who I find ever-inspiring.  She recently spent hours going through a pile of produce trying to figure out where it`s from. She quoted some of the terms on the packaging that would be so funny if they weren`t actually really on foreign food trying to appear to be more local.

There`s a lot of attention to locally-grown food these days and many people are interested in being included in those conversations.  Perhaps this is why some labeling is confusing.

I thought I`d provide some tongue-in-cheek ideas to help companies who want to make their far-away food seem more local – the comments in the parenthesis are the fine print:

  • Grown locally (somewhere else)
  • Grown with Love in Canada (only the love part has to be Canadian, technically)
  • Contains Canadian Water (that evaporated and fell somewhere else)
  • Grown on Canadian Soil (why not just ship some of our soil somewhere else and farm with it)
  • 100% Canadian Seeds made these veggies
  • Inspired by Canada
  • Mae while thinking of Canada
  • pollinated by Canadian Bees
  • Made in Cda. (Just rename a town somewhere else)
  • Made While Thinking of Canada
  • Made on (a map of) Canada
  • Made Near Canada
  • Canadian Bacon (Made somewhere else)

I understand that the truth is that most of our mass-produced food simply can`t tell us where it`s from because of their scale (that`s scary enough) – but I just wish my food would tell me where it was from and then I could make my own decision from there…

Happy Saturday to all!

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It`s Friday evening or Saturday morning when most of you are perusing this – thought we`d share links to some really neat food-related infographics (we didn`t put copies here due to knowing how much work these are to create).  Each of these 10 graphics are awesome – and great food for thought:

We share infographics a few times a week on the Facebook page because I simply love them.  Come join the party here!

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