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 ‘Blogger’

Gastronomically yours,

April 4th, 2013

Tofu or not Tofu that is the question

Tofu is a highly concentrated form of protein that resembles whose form is similar to cheese. Its origins are disputed as to whether the Mongol’s or Chinese discovered the tofu making process but it is believed that this food staple entered the culinary world somewhere between the 2nd to 10th centuries. It was originally known in Chinese as dou-fu or tou-fu but today we refer to it by its Japanese name tofu or simply bean curd.

The process of making tofu is quite similar to making cheese as it is made from the pressed curds of coagulated soy milk. The coagulation of soy milk proteins happens with the adding of salt, acids and / or enzymes, just like cheese.

From these curds we see four basic categories of tofu. Soft or silken tofu has a high moisture content which makes it ideal to be used in smoothies and sauces as its texture is similar to pudding or custard.

Firm tofu crumbles nicely like feta cheese and works well in casseroles and pasta dishes. Extra firm tofu quite dry and holds its shape well and can be barbequed or pan fried. Dried tofu is also available and needs to be rehydrated for consumption and is often added to soups.

Regardless of what texture of tofu you use its flavour or should I say lack of flavour for the most part is always the same; none existent.  This lack of flavour is what makes tofu such an incredibly versatile ingredient to work with as it readily absorbs whatever flavours you add to it.

Once you have chosen what texture of tofu you want to useit should be stored in the refrigerator with respect to its expiration date. One you open your tofu you will need to drain the water that it is packaged in and change it daily to preserve freshness. Unopened packages of tofu can be stored in the freezer.

Ontario produces about 3 million tonnes of soybeans annually on over 2 million acres of farm land. Most of these protein packed legumes are destined for livestock feed with a small portion of this annual harvest destined for human consumption. Sol Cuisine is an Ontario vegetarian based food producer, who has been using organic, GMO free Ontario grown soybeans since its inception in 1997, to produce its line of soy based products. Sol Cuisine tofu is available at Joanne’s Place in Peterborough.

Regular readers of this column know my appreciation of all animal based sources of protein with a fondness for butter, bacon and all forms of beef. What you may not be aware of is that I have in past lives been vegetarian, owned vegetarian restaurants and to this day offer an extensive list of vegetarian courses and meals for my clients. As such I have learned that introducing tofu into anyone’s menu or diet can be a challenge for a number of reasons. This week’s recipe is one that I have used for over 20 years to assist people in trying tofu for the first time, or for those wishing to have some fun with tofu. I like to call this recipe KFT or Kentucky Fried Tofu as its flavour is reminiscent to the Colonel’s secret recipe. It can be served with hominy grits, corn on the cob, okra and some slaw just to give it a down home kind of feeling.

Be sure to pick up the nutritional yeast needed for this recipe while at Joanne’s too.

 

Kentucky Fried Tofu

 

Ingredients:

1 lb. extra firm tofu

2tbsp. soy sauce

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

3 tbsp. de-bittered nutritional yeast

1/8 tsp. ground sage

1 tsp. thyme leaves, dried

1 tsp. oregano leaves, dried

1 tsp. marjoram leaves, dried

1 tsp. sweet paprika

1/8 tsp. garlic powder

1/8 tsp. onion powder

¾ cup whole wheat bread crumbs

Oil for frying

 

Method:

Drain all of the water from the tofu and slice the block into four equal sized rectangles. Squeeze the rectangles between your palms to remove any water absorbed within it. Slice the tofu rectangles corner to corner to make triangles. Place the tofu triangles on a plate and drizzle them with the soy sauce and set aside.

Combine all of the remaining dry ingredients in a food processor and grind them together using the pulse setting until you have evenly incorporated them into what resembles a flour like mixture. Transfer this dry mixture into a mixing bowl.

Preheat a frying pan over medium heat with just enough oil to cover its bottom. Dredge the tofu triangles in the almond flour mixture, making sure that the tofu is fully coated on all sides and gently place them in the fry pan. Turn the pieces frequently while frying them until they reach a nice golden brown. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

 

 

 

Gastronomically yours,

March 28th, 2013

Gotta Pulse?

 

Legumes are any plant that produces fruits that are enclosed in a pod. Common examples of legumes would be fresh peas or peanuts. Pulses are any member of the legume family whose seeds have been harvested and dried. Chickpeas and lentils are the most common selections of pulses.

Although lentils come in a variety of sizes we generally find the large green lentil and red lentil in the grocery store. When lentils are labelled as split this tells us that the tough seed coat around the lentil has been removed and the embryo or inner part of the lentil has been split in half.  Split lentils cook twice as fast as a whole lentil and are preferred in soup based recipes as they can be pureed where we prefer to use whole lentils in salads or rice dishes as they hold their shape well and have a firmer berry like texture.

Canada exports lentils to over 100 countries making Canada the world’s largest exporter of lentils. Most of Canada’s lentils are grown in Saskatchewan with most production being focused on the large green and red lentil varieties.  Lesser produced varieties include smaller sized French green lentils and Spanish brown lentils.

Lentils do not need to be soaked prior to cooking them but should always be rinsed off. Canned lentils are available in a precooked state and will reduce all recipe cooking times however the flavour of them is somewhat bland in comparison to cooking them yourself.

Some people are predicting that pulses like the lentil will become our planet`s super food as they are high in fibre, protein, iron and B vitamins and are easily grown without the use of fertilizers. Lentils in their dry form have a one year shelf life when stored in a dry, cool and dark environment.

Canadian grown lentils are available on most grocery store shelves throughout our area. I suggest that you use a smaller green lentil in the following lentil soup recipe as they have a slightly firmer texture than other lentils; especially in comparison to the brown lentil which soaks up a lot of liquid and is quite soggy in texture.

 

Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

3 tbsp. canola oil or butter

2 cups peeled and diced yellow onions

1 cup diced celery

1 cup peeled and diced carrots

1 tbsp. minced garlic

1 liter chicken, beef or vegetable stock

1 1/4 cups dry split green lentils, rinsed

4-5 medium sized Ontario Hothouse tomatoes

Salt and Pepper

 

Method:

Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy bottomed soup pot. Stir in the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic. Stirring frequently, gently cook them in the oil until the onions start to brown up. Stir in the stock, lentils, and tomatoes. Increase heat to bring the mixture to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to medium-low setting allowing the soup to simmer for about 30-40 minutes or until the lentils are tender.

For a thick soup pulse it with an immersion blender until you reach your preferred consistency. If you make it to thick, simply thin it out with more stock or water. Season to your tastes with salt and pepper. Serves 4-6.

Gastronomically yours,

March 22nd, 2013

Kelp Caviar

 

I want you to visualize swimming in a lake on a hot summer day. You’re floating freely, looking at the sky completely relaxed when you feel some aquatic plant brush against your leg causing you to thrash about screaming seaweed. I can only imagine how you may react if I served up some seaweed on a plate to you.

Most people aren’t aware but they consume seaweed numerous times a day. More specifically we consume aquatic brown algae known as kelp which has mucilaginous ergo slimy properties which are extracted and used as emulsifiers.  These emulsifiers are used in food stuffs like salad dressings or ice creams to stop them from separating. Kelp is also used in toothpaste, soap and body lotions.

Kelp is harvested from the cold North Atlantic waters with the North Pacific waters producing wakame. Like kelp, wakame is used in a number of culinary preparations but is most famed for being served as seaweed tea known as kombucha in Japan. When kelp is dried and ground into a powder the slimy bits become concentrated and are used as a food thickening agent or emulsifier known as alginate. It is praised by vegetarians as it can be substituted in recipes that normally are thickened with eggs.

Chefs have been playing with gastronomy or the science of food in their kitchens turned laboratories and have created a number of novel new ways of preparing and serving food. One of these concepts is to take two main components from dried ground kelp and separate them. The first being alginate which is rehydrated with a variety of natural ingredients causing it to turn into a firm gelatinous liquid. This liquid is then dropped with a spoon, eyedropper or pumped by a machine through something similar to a shower head producing into a coagulation solution of calcium extracted from the kelp which causes only the surface of the flavoured alginate drops to coagulate into uniformly shaped pearls. The firm surface of these pearls encapsulates the inner free flowing liquid. Simply put the pearls are like a biting into a soft jelly filled candy.

Unless you are Chef Nye the science guy the aforementioned procedure may have sounded exceptionally complex or merely put you to sleep.  Either way I want you to know that kelp pearls are now easy to enjoy at home without any fuss or lab experiments. Kelp Caviar is a Canadian company harvesting Canadian kelp to produce an entire line of flavoured kelp pearls.

I recently discovered this product line at The Firehouse Gourmet in East City where I sampled a few varieties of Kelp Caviar which included wasabi and sturgeon flavours. It was profoundly refreshing in my opinion compared to fish egg caviars. The little pearls popped just like fish egg and tasted mildly of the ocean.

This fat free, all natural gourmet condiment, is loaded with minerals with it being notably high in iodine, iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.  It is further packed full with the following vitamins A, B1, B2, C, D, E, and amino acids, which all contribute to a healthy diet and are easily assimilated in the body.

These tasty little beads would accompany cheese, meats, crackers, potato skins, sandwiches and an endless list of other possible food items. This incredibly shelf stable product will hold for three months in the refrigerator after opening is a must try condiment.

Sometimes it`s hard to find locally sourced foods in the dead of winter, but sometimes if you adventure outside of the normal realms of your culinary universe you might find yourself in East City, eating vegan kelp pearls.

 

@KelpCaviar or www.facebook.com/kelpcaviar

Gastronomically yours,

March 17th, 2013

Sheer Pleasure

Cooking lamb has never really received the recognition it deserves. When it comes to eating lamb, I am always amazed at the number of people who fervently proclaim their distaste for the idea. It appears that many people have memories of eating the strong tasting mutton that was left in the field to graze on grasses a little too long. Pasture fed lamb whose diet includes alfalfa and clover will develop exceptionally high levels of red myoglobin and skatole. The myoglobin forms the pigments that are responsible for making meat red. Skatole is an organic compound that is formed in the intestine by bacterial decomposition and has a strong fecal odour. That explains the taste and odour found in sheep meat of the past.

That has all changed now, with the milder, more delicate flavour of today¹s lamb.
Lamb in grocery stores comes from five to 12-month old sheep.
The flavour is quite mild, especially if it¹s locally raised lamb.
Most local lamb producers are raising lamb that is grain-fed, or finished on grain for a month.
This produces very mild-flavoured meat, while imported lamb is still allowed to graze on grasses, producing a slightly stronger-flavoured meat.

I recently had the pleasure of working with lamb from Ruco Braat’s Golden Fleece Farms located in Bailieboro. I highly recommend trying it whether you are a long-term lamb lover or hater. Ruco’s lamb is available at Country Corners in Peterborough.

The following marinade will work on lamb loin chops, rib chops as well as the shoulder chops featured below. Try serving them over rice with some crumbled feta cheese.

 
Pan-Grilled Lamb Shoulder Chops

Ingredients:
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt,
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Four 8 to 12-ounce lamb shoulder chops
One medium sized cooking onion sliced
One cup white wine

Method:
Whisk the lemon juice, mustard, rosemary, garlic, and salt together in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil and season with pepper.
Transfer the marinade to a large re-seal able plastic bag. Put the lamb chops in the bag, seal, and shake vigorously to evenly coat the meat. Marinate at room temperature for 1 hour or in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
Remove the chops from the marinade and transfer them to a plate. Discard the marinade.
Preheat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Place chops in skillet, and cook until the chops have begun to brown, about 3 minutes. Turn the chops over and reduce the heat to medium low setting. Add the sliced onion and cook the chops until medium-rare, about 2 minutes for medium 3-4 minutes. Remove the chops from the pan and allow them to rest for about 5 minutes. De-glaze the pan with white wine and allow the wine to reduce by half creating a natural pan gravy. Drizzle the chops with the onion pan gravy and serve. Serves 4-6 people

 

Gastronomically yours,

April 22nd, 2012

Indigenous trumps local food

Without question our unstable weather patterns from winter have carried over into spring and this is challenging for those who like to harvest their own food. It has been hard resisting the temptation to plant my vegetable garden as the weather has often felt like summer on many days since February. Although the risk of frost continues until May 24th weekend it is hard to believe that the first long weekend of summer is still almost five weeks away.

 Switching our attention from the garden to the forest might help feed our instinctive hunter-gatherer needs by allowing us to harvest the many foods that are available in nature such as ramps, morels, fiddle heads, elm seeds, nettles and dandelions to name a few of the many .

 These wild and free foods are ahead of schedule and ready to harvest throughout the region. I don’t know of any other way to eat more locally than by eating indigenously.

 I strongly encourage you to know how to correctly identify any foods that you are harvesting from the wild. Always inspect the foods you harvest and discard any diseased or insect infested pieces.

For long term preservation of your forest foraging bounty you can dry the morels, pickle the ramps and blanch/freeze down the extra fiddleheads; there is never a shortage of dandelions so only harvest what you need.

If you are not comfortable with the thought of harvesting these foods on your own then I recommend heading down to the Peterborough Farmers Market on Saturday and forage around the many vendors who are selling these wild ingredients safely in a tame manner.

Where the Wild Things Are Chicken

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
3 tbsp. canola oil
½ cup morel mushrooms cleaned, trimmed and coarsely chopped

1-2 ramps cleaned and coarsely chopped
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp. marjoram
1 tsp. thyme

¼ cup fiddleheads

¼ cup chopped dandelion greens
1 cup light cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Flour for dredging
Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Pre-heat a large sized Dutch oven over med-high heat. Dredge the chicken in flour and shake off excess. Add the canola oil to the Dutch oven and add the chicken to the pan. Do not overcrowd the pan. Allow chicken to lightly brown on each side. Now add the morels and ramps to the pot and continue cooking for few minutes. Stir in the wine, chicken stock and herbs. Secure the lid on your Dutch oven and place it on a lower rack in the oven. Cook or braise chicken mixture for 90 minutes. While waiting for the chicken to cook prepare a few cups of egg noodles.

Once cooked remove chicken from the Dutch oven, and place the thighs over the egg noodles. Skim off any fat from the braising liquid with a large spoon. Stir in the fiddleheads, dandelion greens and the cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the braising liquid over the chicken and serve immediately.

 

 

Gastronomically yours,

April 7th, 2012

Rampage!!

The wild leek known as “ramps” is a wild onion native to North America. This  member of the Lily family is one of the very first plants to push its head out of the ground after the snow melts. They usually appear in late April and can be harvested throughout the month of May.

The wild leek can be recognized by its broad, smooth, light green leaves that grow to about  eight inches in height. The leaves are often tinted with burgundy or purple highlights.  First time ramp hunters need not worry so much about their botanical identification skills for when one pulls up  the strongly rooted  Scallion like bulbs from the ground your nose will confirm your find;  by tearing the plants stem and taking a sniff.  If it the strongly distinctive scent of an onion sears your nostrils then you have hit pay dirt.

Later in the season  ramps develop a yellow flower which only develops after the leaves have dried up and fallen away from the plant. Although they are still edible at this time the bulbs become rather swollen and tough with a woody texture.

 Ramps are adaptable to almost any food style and can also be sautéed or used in soups and stir fries. Substitute them in any recipe that calls for onions or garlic. I enjoy eating freshly harvested ramps raw; however their scent seems to linger for a couple of days on your breath.

 Ramps have made the USDA endangered species list as spieces of concern resulting from its commercial exploitation. Ontario does not have any laws in place to protect ramps but I do recommend that you only harvest ramps when they are abundant, and even then only collect scattered patches or individual plants.

The ramp season isn’t very long but you can preserve harvested ramps by freezing or pickling them.

Ramps grow in moist sandy soil often near streams. I usually stumble upon them when foraging for Morel Mushrooms. Try hunting for both this weekend  and cook them in a quiche with this weeks recipe.

 

Wild Leek and Morel Quiche

9-inch pie pastry
Two tblsp canola oil
Five ounces ramps, washed and coarsely diced
Four ounces fresh morels, split and cleaned
Two ounces bacon, diced
One tsp tarragon
5 large eggs
One quarter cup 35-per-cent cream
One quarter cup milk
Two ounces Monteray Jack
Two  ounce Romano cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Method: Preheat the oven to 325 F. In a medium sized sautee pan heat the oil over medium heat. add the bacon and  morels, season with the salt and pepper. Cook mixture until it becomes fragrant and the mushrooms release some moisture. Add the ramps and tarragon.  Continue cooking until leeks are limp and tender. Remove from heat and check seasoning. Spread evenly on pastry shell and sprinkle with grated cheeses. Beat eggs and mix in cream and milk. Pour mixture into pie shell and bake on the middle rack of oven until mixture sets. Around 20-25 minutes.

 

 

 

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.

 

Kawartha International Wine & Food Festival

March 4th, 2012
 
 
Sunday, April 15, 2012
At The Venue, 286 George Street North,
Peterborough, Ontario

Noon until 8:00 p.m.
$12.00 per person (HST included)
Included 1 Food and Wine Pairing Wine Wheel (retail value $10.)
 
The Venue is proud to be hosting the first annual Kawartha International Wine & Food Festival… Sunday April 15th! Produced by Shari Darling and the Kawartha Entertainment Group, the festival promises to be a one of a kind event that will draw global wine, artisan local beer, spirit and food lovers from all over the Kawarthas and beyond.
 
The Kawartha International Wine & Food Festival’s goal is to put superb wines from around the globe alongside some of Peterborough’s finest fare…Global wine, local food is our mantra! While strolling around the Venue sampling from our incredible list of vendors, you’ll be able to stop and listen in on one of our product seminars which will run throughout the day. Or you may like to book yourself into one of our global cooking demos from local culinary masters Chef Brian Henry and Chef Brian Forsythe. Perhaps a trip up to our artisan micro brew and spirit section may be of interest? We’ll have it all under one roof! Each vendor will charge for samples.
 
This is a truly unique event for Peterborough and the surrounding area. No other event in the Kawarthas will bring such an amazing array or food and wine vendors together to tantalize your palette like the Kawartha International Wine & Food Festival.
 
 
 
Contact Shari Darling for details: shariLdarling@aol.com , (705) 957-0324
 
 
reservation
Chef Brian for Hire
The Spice Co.