Because of the diverse nature of the many different restaurants and chefs Brian Henry has worked under he is highly proficient at a wide range of cuisines.

Brian’s cooking is seasonal, inventive and smart, but in no way unapproachable or fussy. When he is coaxed out of the kitchen and starts talking about food, his passion and knowledge are instantly recognizable.

"Chef Brian Henry cooked a series of delicious appetizers for us as we sat around a table in the kitchen". Thanks

Tony Aspler, Wine writer

“Chef Brian Henry puts one hundred percent of his energy into going all the way.”

Birgit Moenke, Editor Stir Media Read More Reviews

Posts Tagged ‘Algonquin Park’

Gastronomically yours,

October 4th, 2017

Stuffed Acorns

In the coming days many or our refrigerators will become a stockpile of ingredients and provisions that are necessary to prepare Thanksgiving dinner and sustain family and friends over a long weekend that is centered around being thankful and consuming food. With all of the flurry of activity, visiting and eating Looking in your refrigerator the days after the weekend may be akin to an archaeological dig as you unearth all of the remnants of the previous day’s or week’s meals. It’s like an adult version of waking up after a college party and trying to chronologically piece together the recent events of your life. We tend to go a bit overboard with holidays dedicated to feasting which rules with sovereignty like no other.

Acorn Squash Harvest

Presence of mind and the simple understanding that eating is a bodily function, not an Olympic event may assist us in transitioning ourselves and warding off symptoms of withdrawal. Cold turkey is archetypical as a Thanksgiving leftover, which ends up being reincarnated in sandwiches, soups, stews and the ever foreboding casserole for a few days after its sole intended feast. These culinary creations often become littered with bits of ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, or cranberry sauce found sitting in the refrigerator, next to the turkey covered with torn bits of foil and plastic wrap.

Sometime next week you may be forced to make sense out of the leftovers piled precariously in your fridge, garage or out of desperation for food salvation on the back deck. The fate of your leftovers depends on when the food was prepared, how it was served, how long it sat out on the kitchen counter without being refrigerated and how you reheat them. Ultimately it is best not to produce so much food that you have leftovers. If your left-overs were left out on the counter for more than four hours, they are no longer leftovers, they are garbage. If your leftovers were properly stored in the refrigerator and cooled down to an internal temperature of 4°C or colder within 4 hours then you can reheat and serve them but only once. So do not pull out all of the food for leftovers and reheat them, just use what you need. When reheating your leftovers make sure that they reach an internal temperature of 74°C and discard the food if it does not reach that temperature within 2 hours and most importantly never add reheated food to fresh food.

If you haven’t already I suggest you need to purchase a reliable kitchen thermometer and learn how to store, use and calibrate it properly. Use it for more accurate cooking results and as a tool in assisting you to serve safe and healthy foods to your family and friends.
If you are cooking for a small gathering maybe rethink Thanksgiving Dinner and try something like the following recipe.

Turkey Stuffed Acorns
Ingredients:
2 acorn squash, small ones
6 oz. ground turkey
1 yellow onion, minced
½ cup minced red bell pepper

1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp Mexican Kitchen Cartel
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Method:
Cut the squash in half, lengthways, discard the seeds and bake the squash cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet at 375°F until tender, about 30 minutes.
Separately cook the ground turkey in a large, preheated fry pan or skillet, over medium heat until lightly browned. Stir in the onion, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder and cumin. Continue stirring and cooking the mixture until it becomes very aromatic. Finally stir in the tomatoes and beans. Reduce heat to low and let the mixture simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes. Season mixture to taste with salt, pepper and some hot sauce.
Once the squash are cooked, turn them over and fill them with the ground turkey mixture and top with cheese. Return filled squash to the oven and bake for another 5-10 minutes until the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Mexican Kitchen Cartel from The Spice co. naturally

 

Gastronomically yours,

September 28th, 2017

Hearty Bud the Spud Soup

The average Canadian consumes 60 kg or 130 lbs of potatoes annually mostly as fries or chips. Potatoes are indigenous to Peru and since their discovery they have been distributed throughout the world and have become a staple in many cultures diets. The International Potato Center in Peru has over 7 500 known varieties of potatoes 63 of which were developed in Canada. One of the most famous Canadian bred potato varieties is the Yukon Gold. This potato was created at the University of Guelph in conjunction with Agriculture Canada in 1980.

A single medium sized, skin on potato contains more potassium than a banana, 45% of your daily needed vitamin C and 20% of your daily vitamin B6 needs. Spuds are also praised for being cholesterol, fat and sodium free. The unhealthy reputation of potatoes has nothing to do with the potato but everything to do with the amounts of butter, sour cream and salt that we slather our potatoes in before eating them.

Currently last year’s potato harvest has been resting in cold storage deprived of light for a few weeks now. This method of storage promotes a change in the potato’s enzymes creating the perfect balance between the naturally occurring sugars and starches in the potato. This metabolic shift creates a fuller and somewhat fruity flavoured potato.

By spring the extended storage of these potatoes will cause a further metabolic shift in which the starch will further break down and turn to sugar. As these sugars become more concentrated, we will find that these older potatoes will take on a overcooked or burnt appearance especially when we fry them, as the sugars will quickly caramelize and burn on the outside of the potato, resulting in a bitter-tasting exterior and an undercooked interior.

To avoid this situation, one should store potatoes in the dark at temperatures from 7 and 10°c for up to three months.

Potatoes fall into one of two categories — mealy or waxy. Mealy potatoes (russets, purple) have thick skin and high starch content, but they’re low in moisture and sugar. Waxy potatoes (red, new) are just the opposite. They’re low in starch with a thin skin. They’re high in both moisture and sugar. Choosing the right type of potato to cook with can make or break a recipe.

Mealy potatoes are best for deep-frying. Because they’re low in sugar, they can be fried long enough to cook them fully in the center without burning the outside. They’re also the best choice for mashed potatoes because they fall apart easily when they’re boiled which makes them the perfect choice for making the following hearty potato soup recipe.

 

Chunky Potato Soup

Ingredients:

6 slices smoked thick sliced bacon, cut in bite size pieces

1 cup of diced cooking onion

1 ½ cups diced carrot

1 cup diced celery

5 cups peeled and diced Russet Potatoes

2 litres chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tsp. minced parsley

1 cup aged cheddar cheese

 

Method:

In a large soup pot over medium heat cook the bacon until cooked to desired doneness, Remove some of the bacon fat but leave some in the pot and add the onions, carrots, and celery. While occasionally stirring the vegetables let them cook until the onions begin to become transparent about 3-5 minutes. Add the potatoes and continue cooking in the bacon fat for 5 more minutes

Stir in the stock and increase heat to medium-high, letting it come to a gentle boil. Cook the potatoes until they start to get tender and reduce heat to low. Using an immersion blender pulse the soup until it is pureed but not smooth as you still want it to have some chunky bits in it. Stir in milk, cream, and parsley and then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately topped with the grated cheese.

Gastronomically yours,

July 11th, 2017

Counter Culture

I remember my dad used to take me to a restaurant as a kid. It was unlike those you see today as you would sit at what was called a lunch counter, decorated with stainless steel backsplashes and vinyl covered stools that spun round and round. We would sit elbow to elbow with people we may or may not have known, but by the end of our meal we often came to know the stranger beside us as all walks of life would gather at the lunch counter.

My favourite memories of the lunch counter were spinning and twisting back and forth while I waited for my soda or malted shake. The soda tasted fresh and vibrant while the shakes had a velvety texture that I have not enjoyed since. Having the option to flavour your soda with a shot of syrup made for some serious flavour experiments which all ended the day I ordered a cherry soda and discovered what my life had been missing. It was sad day indeed when they tore out the lunch counter and replaced it with booth style seating because my cherry soda was tossed aside at the same time.

Thankfully the summer that the lunch counter disappeared a neighborhood gas bar started selling The Pop Shoppe line of gourmet sodas and I could sit curbside enjoying my Cherry Soda once again while listening to the “ding-ding” as cars pulled up for gas. Nothing like the sweet taste of nostalgia.

There are two basic categories that cherries fall into, sour or sweet. Sour cherries are typically cooked and served in pies, tarts or preserves while sweet cherries are consumed raw, juiced or dried. Ontario sweet cherry varieties include Hedelfingen , Vista, Viva, Vega, Vogue, Viscount, Van, Vandelay, Tehranivee and the Bing variety. Other than the Van cherry, all other cherry varieties that begin with the letter V or end with “vee” were developed for Ontario growing conditions at what is now the University of Guelph Research Station in Vineland, Ontario. The Rainier Cherry was developed at Washington State University and are named after Mount Rainier are often referred to as White Cherries as their flesh is creamy yellow which does not stain your fingers and the skin is yellowish-red blush once they’re ripe. Rainier cherries are a cross of the Bing and Van cultivars.

The Ontario cherry season begins in June when we see the arrival of sweet red and black cherries. In July we welcome in the Rainier cherry which will be followed by the smaller sour cherries.

Once picked cherries will not ripen any further, so choose cherries that are plump and firm with flexible green stems. Store them in the refrigerator uncovered in a shallow paper towel–lined container. Keep them dry and discard any crushed cherries as their juice can spoil the fruit around them.

The following recipe for Cherry Cola Cobbler can be made without the cola which can be replaced with milk or water.

 

Cherry Cola Cobbler

Ingredients:

3 tbsp. butter melted

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 cup milk

¼ cup cola

3/4 cup white sugar

3 1/2 cups fresh cherries, pitted

1 tbsp. cornstarch

1 cup boiling water

1 cup white sugar

 

Method:

Mix the 3/4 cup sugar, butter, flour, salt, baking powder, milk and cola together to form a dough. Place the cherries in the bottom of a 9 inch square pan. Evenly spread the dough over the cherries.

In a small bowl, combine 1 cup sugar and cornstarch. Stir in boiling water and pour the mixture over the dough and place in a pre-heated oven and bake at 350° F for 45 minutes. Serve warm.

Gastronomically yours,

July 11th, 2017

Choosing a wild or tame Strawberry

With summer solstice only a few days away it’s hard not to be excited for the change of season but it will also usher in the local strawberry season and what better way to celebrate the taste of summer than to delve into our local bounty of strawberries.

The wild Woodland Strawberry is native to North America. Its fruits are considerably dwarfed by Ontario cultivated strawberries which are a hybrid of the Woodland strawberry and the European strawberry. Wild strawberries are dainty almost elfin with their conical shape which grow in tight little clusters and have an intense flavor that is fueled by a comparatively higher sugar content with less acidity than cultivated varieties. The wild variety can be seen growing almost everywhere from fields, forests, along streams and even our yards.

Foraging for enough wild strawberries to prepare a modest amount of jam will take about 3-4 hours and another hour or two to hull which will see your harvest shrink by 20% due to the berry to hull size ratio. This is if you do not pop any of these juicy prized morsels in your mouth during this tedious process.

 

Cultivated Ontario strawberries are picked fresh every morning and delivered within a few hours to markets and grocers. These berries are picked only when ripe as they will no longer ripen once harvested which means they are as fresh as you can get and will need to be consumed within a day or two as their thin skin and fragile structure makes them susceptible to quick deterioration.

Comparatively imported berries are usually picked while still green. They are then sprayed with a chemical cocktail that forces their ripening process to occur. This ripening process occurs while the berries are in transport over a couple of days while they cover a distance of often exceeding 4500 kms.  The result is an oversized blood red berry with minimal flavour, a woody texture and often hollow centers.

Farmer’s markets and grocers will soon be gushing with locally grown strawberries as will our forests and field with the wild variety. Whichever berry variety you choose you will be able to preserve their flavor to enjoy year round using the following recipe for

 

Kawartha Strawberry Jam

Ingredients:

3 cups wild strawberries, hulled

1 ¾ cups sugar

1 large lemon, zested and juiced

 

Method:

In a stainless steel or Pyrex saucepan, combine the sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice and simmer gently over low heat until the sugar is dissolved or about 7-10 minutes.  Add the strawberries and continue cooking the mixture over very low heat. After about 20-30 minutes the mixture will gently begin to boil. Stir the jam mixture every so often with a wooden spoon. After about 30-35 minutes of cooking, perform a gel test by spooning a very small amount of the jam mixture onto a well-chilled plate and letting it sit or better yet set for a while to see if it sets up firm in a jam like consistency.

Once it reaches the desired consistency you may choose to pour the jam off into sterilized mason jars and place them in the refrigerator for immediate use or follow proper canning guidelines for long term storage of our seasonal local food harvest.

Gastronomically yours,

July 11th, 2017

When the Road gets Rocky

The month of June can be a rocky road to navigate as we have spent the last 9 months preoccupied with our daily routines and busy family schedules. Now all of a sudden it appears that all hell is breaking loose with graduations, proms, school events weddings and lots of last minute planning with what to do with ourselves, families and children for the next couple of months. It is no wonder that June 2nd is National Rocky Road Ice Cream Day.

Pinpointing the origins of Rocky Road Ice Cream is indeed a rocky road as the stories are all conflicting with a number of people laying claim to be the creator of this classic flavour of ice cream. One such story claims that the ice cream recipe was created by Dreyer Ice Cream after the Wall Street stock market crash in 1929 in hopes that the new flavour would help put a smile on people’s faces while enduring tough economic times.

Rocky road ice cream is typically known as a chocolate flavored ice cream composed of chocolate ice cream, nuts, and marshmallows. The type of nut used in the recipe also appears to cause more bumps in the road but not as much if we ask the question “What is the difference between Rocky Road and Heavenly Has Ice cream?”, as they appear to be identical in their ingredients other than Heavenly Hash is said to be evocative of the holy trinity of confectionary items chocolate, nuts and marshmallow.

Near the end of the Great Depression, in 1937 Jack and Ila Crowe started Kawartha Dairy which is celebrating its 80 anniversary this year.  Kawartha Dairy is still operated by the same family that started it and is a Canadian company using local ingredients.

 

Maybe we all need to simply relax a bit more and stop for some ice cream once in a while. My wife and children are regulars at Lockside Trading in Young’s Point where they scoop up Kawatha Dairy ice cream which we savour as we wander about Lock 27 on the Trent-Severn Waterway. If you insist on making things more complicated than they need to be, you may want to try making your own Rocky Road – Heavenly Hash ice cream using the following recipe using Kawartha Dairy ingredients the following recipe.

 

 

Heavenly Road Ice Cream

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 cups 35% cream

1 cup 5% cream

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

1/4 cup roasted pecans, coarsely chopped

¼ cup roasted almonds, coarsely chopped

¼ cup broken pieces of milk chocolate

1 cup miniature marshmallows

Method:

In a medium saucepan over low heat, stir together the condensed milk and cocoa until smooth and slightly thickened. Remove from heat, and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Stir in the creams and vanilla. Place mixture in the refrigerator until cold. Separately combine all the remaining ingredients in a bowl and place them into the freezer for up to 1 hour.

Pour the cream mixture into the cylinder of an ice cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. Once the ice cream begins to set and take shape add the chilled nuts, chocolate and marshmallows.

Gastronomically yours,

June 25th, 2017

Butter Chicken Finger Lick’en

Thanks everyone who attended yesterday’s barbecue class at Friendly Fires!

As promised, this post/blog is for you and those who wanted the butter chicken recipe…

 

Chickens are domesticated fowl. It is the most widespread domestic animal with an estimated

global population of more than 25 billion.

It is believed that the chicken was domesticated somewhere in the region of India and Vietnam over 10,000 years ago. They were domesticated from the wild red jungle fowl species that still runs wild throughout most of Southeast Asia.

I tested this week’s recipe using chickens from Crazy Acres Farm located in Indian River. They offer farmgate sales of chicken, turkey and pork.  I’ve divided the recipe into two parts: first we must make Tandoori chicken, then we use the Tandoori chicken to make butter chicken. I recommend making these dishes over two days.  On day one make the Curry in a Hurry chicken but double the recipe so that you can produce the butter chicken on the following day using the left over Curry in a Hurry chicken.

Curry in a Hurry Chicken
Ingredients:
Two – two pound chickens
Two tbsp of lemon juice
2 tbsp. Curry in a Hurry
2 tbsp. of canola oil
Method:

Rinse the chicken and the body cavity of the chickens with fresh squeezed lemon juice.  Make small incisions in the breast and leg pieces with a sharp knife.
Stir together Curry in a Hurry and oil.
Rub the chicken with the oil mixture and allow the chicken to marinate a couple of hours in the refrigerator.

Roast the chicken in a pre-heated oven at 400 °f or over a charcoal fired bbq, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 180°f/85°fc Timing will depend on the size of your birds. For faster cooking time; break down the chicken into smaller pieces, keeping the bones in.

Butter Chicken

Ingredients:

2 cooked Curry in a Hurry Roasted chickens

Two pounds tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped

One large cooking onion, coarsely chopped

Two-three tbsp. Minced ginger

Eight cloves of garlic minced

One and one half cups of butter

One tbsp. Sugar

3/4of a cup of heavy cream

One tsp. Curry in a Hurry

 

Method:

With the bones left intact cut the chickens into pieces and reserve. In a medium to large size sauce pot combine the whole spices with the tomatoes, onions, ginger and garlic. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Occasionally stir the mixture and cook it until the tomatoes become soft. Puree the tomatoes into a smooth sauce with an immersion blender. For a very smooth sauce push it through a sieve.  Return the sauce to the stove. Stir in the butter and sugar. Let the sauce simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Next add the chicken pieces and Curry in a Hurry. Let the chicken heat through and finish it by stirring in the cream. Serve over rice.

Gastronomically yours,

March 26th, 2017

Egg-zactley!!
I remember watching Rocky Balboa drink raw eggs while training for his big fight. If Rocky only knew that humans can only absorb about 50% of the protein in raw eggs, whereas the proteins in a cooked egg have a 90% bio-availability he may have had this scene deleted from the movie.

Eggs are one of the most versatile ingredients used in the kitchen. We commonly use eggs from chickens but duck, and goose eggs, are frequently used around the world by many cultures. Quail eggs are considered a delicacy and are commonly used in Japanese preparations where they may be served raw or cooked in sushi. Colombian’s enjoy quail eggs as a topping on hot dogs and hamburgers. Although wild birds’ eggs are edible they are often protected by laws which prohibit collecting or selling them.

Chicken eggs intended for human consumption are unfertilized as laying hens are usually kept without roosters. Fertilized eggs can be consumed as refrigeration prohibits cellular growth delaying the development of the embryo. Egg shell color is determined by the chicken. White feathered chickens typically lay white eggs with the brown feathered chickens laying brown eggs and on occasion a bird will lay both colors.

Egg yolks are often used as a binder or emulsifier in the kitchen. The albumen, or egg white, is high in protein but contains little or no fat and can be aerated to a light, fluffy consistency. Beaten egg whites are used in desserts such as meringues and mousse.

Sometimes when boiled eggs are overcooked, a green ring can appear around the yolk. This is caused by iron molecules reacting with sulfur compounds within the egg. It is not always a sign of the eggs being overcooked as it can also occur when there is an abundance of iron in the cooking water. The green ring does not affect the egg’s taste.

Locally farmed eggs are usually at most a week old compared to those from large-scale producers, which could age up to two months in cold storage. Fresh eggs have egg yolks that will stand up more firmly when cracked open onto a surface and often surpass the grade “A” standard in yolk form and shape, as well the yolk exhibits a richer mango colour.

 

Many residents in the City of Peterborough and outlying areas had their feathers ruffled by city council when they proposed to ban the practice of raising chickens within city limits. The debate was passionately defended on all sides but before questions as to why chickens cross roads, and to whether the egg or the chicken came first, common sense and a contemporary approach in thinking prevailed with everything going to the birds. As many urban centers across Canada allow backyard chicken farming I’m nothing short of confused as to why this became an issue let alone a dramatic discussion. I will forgo entering the cats on leashes arena for all culinary intents and purposes.

The best thing that came out of this political process was that it brought more awareness to urban animal husbandry practices and has increased interest in raising chickens in our own yards and empowers you to control what your chickens are eating and their living environment while producing a perfect source of protein. You will also be able to quickly process your kitchen scraps and lawn trimmings into compost which in turn can be used to propagate your own vegetable gardens. For those of you familiar with Disney’s The Lion King, it’s a circle of life thing Simba.

The daily chores involved with raising chickens is about as intensive as having an unleashed cat, feed them every morning, provide them with plenty of fresh water, let them out in the morning and put them in at night. Every couple of months you will need to change the litter or shavings in the floor of the coop and run. A coop is the house that your chickens will live in which and must be designed to protect the birds from the elements and any predators. Position the coop in a shaded area, allowing 1 cubic meter per chicken.  Nesting boxes could be incorporated into your design as it promotes the chickens laying their eggs in the same spot making them easier to find. If you plan on raising your chickens year round you will need to insulate the coop with a venting system for sufficient air circulation. The floor should be covered with shavings which will need to be changed over every couple of months and will provide your gardens with ample free fertilizer. You will need to have a run attached to the coop which is a fenced-in area that will contain the birds and protect them from daytime predators.  Allow 1 sq meter per bird when constructing the run.

Chickens are highly social creatures so you should have a minimum of three birds. Heritage breeds like Barred Rock, Rhode Island Red, and Ameraucana are easily tamed and will behave more like pets. They are considered to be excellent layers that will begin laying around 4 – 5 months of age where other breeds may take up to six months before they begin laying.  This selection of breeds provide a colourful variety of birds but an even greater variety in egg shell colours which will shift in hues between white, taupe, brown, blue and green.

Incorporating chickens into your urban farming practices is great way to way to educate your family on how are food cycle works and allows for hands on learning in a practical environment and is enjoyed by all ages. All of your chicken supplies and chicks can be sourced from local farm supply companies. They require advance ordering which allows you to plan and build your coop and run in a timely manner knowing when your chicks will arrive.

Gastronomically yours,

March 12th, 2017

Curly or Flat leaf Parsley

Parsley is as synonymous as salt and pepper when it comes to cooking. Recipes often list parsley as an ingredient but rarely suggest whether one should choose from the flat or curly varieties.

Although the curly variety often shows up on plates as a garnish next to a slice of citrus or artfully rained down on a plate of monochromatic coloured food to make it appear more vibrant it is the flat leaf parsley that is preferred to use in recipes as it has a lively peppery flavour that holds up well when cooked. Flat leaf parsley looks very similar to cilantro so be wary as to which herb you are grabbing in the produce aisle because it seems that these two are often mixed together. For gardeners flat-leaf is easier to grow as it exceptionally forgiving to its exposure to varying amounts of rain and sunshine,

Curly leaf has a milder taste than flat leaf, but its flavor diminishes when heated, so it’s best used raw or added at the last minute to prepared food. Its crinkly makes it ideal to use in uncooked salsas, salad dressings and salads. When properly stored; refrigerated, rolled in paper towel and placed in an air tight bag it will stay fresh longer than flat leaf, and it’s easier to bunch into a ball for chopping.

A recipe may list parsley as an ingredient but it rarely will tell you which one to use but regardless of their differences, curly and flat leaf parsley can be used interchangeably.  I suggest you experiment with the two and you will find a difference in textures that can impact mouth feel which for some can be the deciding factor as to which parsley they prefer.

Most people use only the parsley leaves and discard the stems but these actually have a stronger flavour than the leaves and can be minced up before adding them to soups or stocks.

Both parsley varieties require a very thorough rinsing as they are best grown in a sandy soil, which if not rinsed will quickly dull your knife and your teeth.

Every so often you will also come across parsley root which looks like a parsnip but tastes more like a potato with parsley and is commonly found in European preparations of soups and stews. Parsnip is parsley’s closest relative.

Whether you choose to forage your parsley from your herb garden or the grocery store, try both flat and curly parsley in the following easy to make recipe for pesto which is great on pasta or with fish and chicken.

 

Presto Parsley Pesto

Ingredients:

4 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

1/2 cup sliced unsalted, roasted almonds

1 tbsp. Italian Scallion

½ cup chopped fresh chives

¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil

¾ cup finely grated Parmesan

Method:

Meanwhile, pulse almonds in a food processor until smooth. Add parsley, chives, oil, and Parmesan; process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Without heating the pesto simply toss hot freshly cooked noodles in it before serving.

Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days

Gastronomically yours,

February 27th, 2017

Cabbage Curds

The cabbage family is a diverse group of vegetables whose members include Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower. Cauliflower is a variety of the common cabbage that has begun to flower but stop growing at the bud stage. In the 17th century these budding growths were observed as a freak occurrence in wild cabbage, but through selective breeding these plants evolved by the 18th century into what we know them as today.
Culinary historians are uncertain in knowing the regional origins of the cauliflower. It’s modern day name comes from the Latin “caulis” meaning stalk and “floris” for flower and is believed to have been introduced to Europe by Arabs after the fall of the Roman Empire however it was referred to as Cyprus cabbage in France and opens arguments that support it’s Cypriotic origins which predates the Roman Empire.

We do know that cauliflower is a large flower-like growth that is comprised of numerous florets that grow on the ends of a maze of stalks nestled in a base of leaves. We often refer to the floret portion of cauliflower as the head as in a “head of cauliflower” but it is properly referred to as the curd.


North Americans typically discard the stems, core and leaves and eat only the florets in raw, steamed or boiled preparations. Although this may seem like a practical approach in preparing cauliflower it is wasteful as the entire plant other than its roots are edible. The stems and core have a slightly stronger taste compared to the flowers but they contain a significantly higher concentration of nutrients such as vitamin C and iron.
Cauliflower is most commonly recognized as a bright white bulbous vegetable with purple or green highlights with light green leaves, but it is also available in green or purple varieties similar to its cabbage parent plants.
When shopping for cauliflower look for tightly formed curds with small florets that are vibrant in color without spots or discoloration. The leaves should be crisp and green, and are a sure sign to tell how fresh the curd is as the leaves begin to wilt and yellow within a couple of days after they have been harvested. Store your cauliflower in the refrigerator tightly wrapped in plastic or in a sealed container for up to 5 days.


I suggest cooking the white variety with a bit of lemon juice or milk in a non-reactivate metal pot to prevent the cauliflower from discoloration during the cooking process. The green and purple varieties should be cooked without acid but be advised that the purple cauliflower will turn green when cooked. Once cooked store cauliflower in your refrigerator for up to 2 days.
I encourage you to try eating the whole curd in the following recipe which can be prepared on your barbecue or in a Dutch Oven.

Curry roasted Cauliflower

Ingredients:
One whole cauliflower

2 tbsp. melted butter

2 tbsp. Cooking oil

Juice of one lemon

1-2 tbsp. Curry in a Hurry

2 tbsp. chopped parsley

2 tbsp. chopped green onion
Method:
Trim the cauliflower curd of its leaves and cut a large X into the bottom of the stem so that its core will cook more quickly. In a large stainless steel bowl, stir together the lemon juice, curry powder and oil to format a paste. Place the curd in the bowl and evenly coat it with the seasoned oil. Next transfer the curd core side down onto a large piece of aluminum foil and wrap the foil around it so that the foil bunches up around the top of the curd. This will allow the cauliflower to cook inside the foil without dripping out any of the oil. Cook the cauliflower in a preheated oven or barbecue for 30 minutes at 400f. Let the foil cool before un-wrapping the curd. Season with salt and pepper and serve whole or cut into wedges. Yogurt makes for a great topping for this dish.

Gastronomically yours,

March 23rd, 2012

Something to Birch About

 

This winter or more specifically a lack of it has made for easier heating bills and a lot less shoveling but I can’t help but wonder what will happen to this year’s maple sap harvest. For those of you who weren’t aware Ontario maple syrup producers started harvesting this year’s crop three weeks ago.

 Making birch syrup is similar to making maple syrup but you need to be aware of some critical differences in the saps to be able to have a successful harvest. Birch sap harvesting begins right after the maple harvest ends as it requires warmer weather than the maple sap to flow. The birch sugaring season is shorter than maple and only lasts for about two weeks.

 Birch sap contains less than half the sugar found in maple sap. This translates to approximately 100 liters of birch sap being required to produce 1 liter of birch syrup opposed to the 40 liters of maple sap required to produce 1 liter of maple syrup. Also the sugars present in birch sap are fructose and glucose instead of sucrose found in maple sap. Fructose and glucose burn very easily which necessitates birch sap being processed below its boiling point so that its sugars do not burn. Comparatively birch sap is far more expensive to produce as it requires almost 4 times the amount of energy to render it into syrup. This explains why birch syrup costs $275.00 a gallon.

 Birch syrup is easier to digest than maple syrup and has significantly higher amounts of nutrients than maple syrup which is why it has been considered somewhat of an elixir or tonic throughout many cultures living in the extreme northerly regions of the northern hemisphere.

 If are thinking about harvesting birch sap for sugaring you will also need to consider that birch sap is notably more acidic than maple sap. For this reason you should only use plastic or stainless steel equipment to process birch syrup as aluminum and galvanized steel can be dissolved by the sap giving the finished syrup a metallic taste. Also look for Paper birch trees as they have the highest concentration of sugar than other species of birch trees.

  Before setting out in the woods or off to a specialty food store to get some birch syrup you need to be aware that even though birch syrup is used just like maple syrup to coat meats, vegetable and stacks of flapjacks; it’s taste is quite different as it’s sugars give it a roasted caramel flavor with somewhat spicy tones to it. Locally you can find birch trees almost anywhere to tap to make your own birch syrup and try it in the following recipe. Remember that 1 cup birch syrup reads: 100 cups birch sap,

 

 

Birch Syrup Pie

 

1 cup Birch Syrup

1 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup water
2 egg yolks, beaten lightly
2 tbsp. butter
1 8 inch pie shell- made and baked ahead of time

Method:

Gently heat the birch syrup over a low flame in a medium sized, stainless steel sauce pot. Separately whisk together the corn-starch and water until smooth, then whisk the cornstarch slurry into the syrup. Next whisk the egg yolks into the syrup. Continue stirring the syrup mixture while cooking it over low heat until it has thickened and the corn-starch is cooked out.

Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the butter.  Pour the syrup mixture into the pre-cooked pie shell and allow it to cool down to room temperature. Serve warm with ice cream.