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 ‘consulting’

Gastronomically yours,

November 20th, 2012

Nothing cooks like a Deer

Venison is a term used to describe any meat harvested from moose, elk, and caribou. Antelope and gazelles also fall under the name of venison. Venison is a dark red, fine grained meat. It is exceptionally lean and what fat it does contain is quite high in polyunsaturates.

As a child I never did understand why my father and his friends would travel to northern Ontario every year to go deer hunting. Besides the fun he would have and the time spent “in camp” with his lifelong buddies I just never figured out why anyone would expend so much energy on bringing home venison for the purpose of serving it to other people to eat. I grew up fearing dinner at anyone’s home who announced that venison was on the dinner menu. It was always served covered with an unpalatable amount of onions or garlic to cover up its gamey flavour. It was also either cooked beyond recognition in an attempt to make it tender or ground up into sausage with bacon to compensate for venison’s exceptionally lean characteristics.

Now that I’m older and have a greater understanding of foods I have come to appreciate venison and how to properly prepare it. Of all the big game meats, the most extreme variation in flavour does occur in venison. Depending on the species, its age, how and where the animal is harvested from are the main influences on its flavour. Deer that graze in farmers fields on corn are probably a nuisance to the farmer but are my preference to eat as they tend to have a more mellow flavour opposed to those harvested from Northern Ontario that grow up eating twigs, bark and cedar as they tend to taste like twigs, bark and cedar.

With bow hunting season for deer having recently ended you either have a freezer full of venison or as luck may have it you’re deer-less.

If you fall in the latter category or for those of you who are curious about venison Antler Acres is a local producer of antibiotic and hormone free elk. Wild or farmed, Kawartha venison makes for a terrific ingredient in this weeks recipe for an Asian style dumplings.

Venison Dumplings

2 cupsNapacabbage shredded

1tsp salt

1 lb ground elk, or pork

4 green onions minced

2 cloves garlic minced

1 egg beaten

1tbsp ginger grated

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp sesame oil

¼ tsp pepper

 

For the filling:

In a medium sized bowl toss together the cabbage with the salt. Allow the cabbage to rest for 20 minutes. Squeeze the excess liquid out of the cabbage, allowing it to remain moist but not wet. In a large bowl combine the cabbage with remaining ingredients. Mix the ingredients together by hand until evenly incorporated. This yields enough filling for 5 dozen dumplings.

For the Dumplings

2 packages of Chinese dumpling wrappers

¼ cup cornstarch

1 cup of water

Lightly dust a baking sheet with the cornstarch. Using your finger, wet the edge of the wrapper with water. Place 2 tsp. of the filling in the centre, fold the wrapper over and pinch the edges together. Pleat the edge by pinching the wrapper a few times around its edge. Stand the finished dumplings on the dusted baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel.

Dumplings can be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to six hours. You may choose to freeze the dumplings uncovered on a tray, once frozen transfer them to an airtight container and store frozen for up to three months.

The dumplings may be cooked fresh or from frozen by steaming, boiling or frying. My preference is to fry them. Pre-heat a cast iron or non-stick pan over medium-high heat.  Add 3 tbsp of vegetable oil and fill the pan with dumplings but do not allow them to touch. After 2-3 minutes of frying, pour ½ cup of water into pan and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook covered until dry and all splattering ceases. Remove lid and fry until bottoms are golden brown. Serve with rice vinegar, soy and chilli sauces for dipping.

 

Gastronomically yours,

November 17th, 2012

High on the Hog

The North American meat industry took off in the late 1700’s as millions of expatriates immigrated to the New World. Pigs were the primary source of domesticated meat at this time as they were easily processed into foods that could be stored for long periods of time before the invention of refrigeration and refrigerated shipping cars.

It was around this time that the phrase “Living high on the hog” became a way of defining one’s social status with reference to what cuts of pork they dined on. As the loins and hams were praised as finer cuts for their tenderness and naturally became more highly valued.

The less expensive cuts were processed into salt pork, sausages and lard which could be held for extended periods of time without refrigeration. Other cuts like “pork butts” were often packed in brine filled barrels for storage and shipping. Even though the name pork butt might conjure up images as to where this cut is taken from the pigs anatomy; the butt, is taken from the upper shoulder area above the front leg of the pig. They became known as pork “butts” because the barrels that these cuts were commonly packed in were known as butts hence the names pork barrels and/or pork butts.

Butts are a tough cut of pork as it contains a significant amount of connective tissue due to the muscle groups harvested from this area connect to the neck, shoulder blade and upper leg which is why Butts are best braised or ground into sausages.

. Pork cuts like the butt are rarely imported from great distances so most of the pork found in grocery stores is raised in Ontario. Call ahead to any of our local butchers and get a butt to use in the following recipe for braised butt. Be aware that this recipe is a two day process to make with little work involved. You just need to be patient and let it cook. It is perfect for weekends and the recipe can be adapted to use in a slow cooker.

Apple Ginger Braised Butt

Ingredients:

1 boneless pork shoulder approx. 5 lbs.

1 tbsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. ground black pepper

1 pound shallots peeled

1 head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled

2 apples, peeled, quartered, cored

3 cups chicken stock or water

2 cups apple cider

1 cup of ginger beer

3 sprigs rosemary

Method:

Rub your butt with salt and pepper. Tie your butt with butcher twine in ½ inch sections to form a compact tube. Let your tied butt rest at room temperature for an hour.

Place your butt in a large roasting pan and arrange shallots, garlic, and apples around your butt. Pour in the broth, cider, and ginger beer. On the stove top bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Cover the roasting pan with a lid or foil and transfer pan to a preheated oven at 300°f.

Allow your butt to cook for 4 hours. Remove pan from oven and let the meat cool in braising liquid for 2 hours. Transfer pan to refrigerator to sit overnight.

An hour before dinner time, place your butt on a cutting board. Strain the braising liquid through to remove all fats and solids which can be discarded.

Remove twine from the pork and slice it in ½ “thick slices. Return the now sliced butt to the roasting pan and cover with ½ of the strained braising liquid. Re-cover tightly with foil and bake the sliced pork in a preheated 350°f oven for 20-25 minutes.

Pour remaining braising liquid into a sauce pot and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat and reduce the liquid by half to be reserved as sauce. Remove butt from oven and arrange slices on a platter. Pour the reduced sauce over your butt and serve immediately. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Yields: 6-8 portions.

Gastronomically yours,

October 31st, 2012

Smashing Pumpkins

 

The pumpkin has become synonymous with Thanksgiving and Halloween. Beyond the pumpkins symbolism most of us know little about this fruit and leaves most of us reaching for this product in its store-bought canned form when it comes to cooking.

Its symbolic presence of the autumn harvest has made this fruit a traditional staple of the North American Thanksgiving and though it has taken some time; like Linus waiting for the great one to arrive, the pumpkin has come of age and has transitioned itself into a staple of our pantries.

Most of us consume pumpkins in sweet dessert like preparations such as pie, cheesecake and muffins. When ripe, the pumpkin can be boiled, steamed, baked, or roasted. Pumpkins are very versatile in their uses for cooking, from the fleshy shell, to the seeds, to even the flowers.

Pumpkins are the largest berry in the world and are related to other fruits like squash and cucumbers. Pumpkins that are still small and green may be prepared in the same way as squash or zucchini, where a more mature pumpkin might be served mashed like potatoes.

Pumpkin seeds, known as pepitas, are the small, flat, green, edible seeds. Most pumpkin seeds are covered by a white husk, although some pumpkin varieties produce seeds without them. Pepitas are a popular snack that can be found hulled in most grocery stores.

When Pumpkin seeds are roasted one can extract thick oil that is somewhat reddish-green in color and is generally diluted with milder flavored oils because of its vigorous full bodied flavor. It is often drizzled over salad greens, pumpkin soup, potato salad, and even on vanilla ice-cream.

Pumpkin seed oil contains fatty acids which help maintain healthy blood vessels and nerves, and are loaded with essential fatty acids that help to maintain healthy blood vessels, nerves and tissues with its high fiber content helping to aid proper digestion.

Pumpkins are available almost everywhere one would find food for sale right now. It can be fun to go to a pick your own field as well to get your pumpkins. Be sure to save your seeds for this recipe which is a twist on a classic treat of toasted Pumpkin seeds by turning them into a gourmet confection.

Pepita Brittle

Ingredients:

One and one half tsp. baking soda

Two Tbsp. butter, melted

One and one half cups sugar

Three quarters cup water

One quarter tsp. fine grained sea salt

Three quarter cups of hulled roasted pumpkin seeds “pepitas”

One quarter tsp. cinnamon

Preparation:

Stir together baking soda and melted butter; set aside. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper; set aside a second sheet the same size. Butter the parchment on one side.

Combine sugar, water and salt in a medium sized saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low; wash down any sugar crystals on sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Simmer syrup 10 to 12 minutes, until it reaches 240°F. Remove from heat; with a wooden spoon gently stir in the pumpkin seeds.

While stirring, return pan to medium-low heat until the mixture turns a deep amber color and reaches 290°F. Remove from heat; stir in butter-baking soda mixture with wooden spoon.

Pour mixture onto prepared cookie sheet; cover with second parchment sheet. Press the mixture with a rolling pin to 1/4-inch thick. Remove top layer of parchment and allow it to completely cool down. Next crack the brittle and serve the tasty morsels.

Store your pepita brittle between layers of parchment in a sealed container for up to two weeks.

 

Gastronomically yours,

October 24th, 2012

Ghostly

I have to confess that I’m afraid of ghosts. This fear has nothing to do with Halloween being only a couple of weeks away. It has to do with the Naga Bhut Jolokia also known as Cobra or Ghost Pepper.

A pepper’s heat is measured in Scoville units or SKU. For example a jalapeño peppers and tobacco sauce has a SKU rating of 3 500- 8 000, habanero peppers SKU rating is 100 000 – 350 000 and the Ghost Pepper has a whopping SKU 1 000 000+. To determine the amount of scoville units a pepper has the pepper is diluted in sugar water and tested on people’s tongues. It is diluted until the tongue can no longer detect any heat when tasted. This system was invented by Wilbur Scoville in 1912 and is considered inaccurate.

The Bhut Jolokia has been cultivated for centuries in northeastern India and Bangladesh and only made its way to Canada over the past decade. The peppers fiery reputation grew quickly among hot pepper fanatics and has a bit of a cult like following which doesn’t surprise me as eating a Ghost Pepper can be somewhat of a religious experience laden with fire, brimstone and heart pounding apparitions.

What scares me about this pepper isn’t its scoville searing heat but it’s inconsistencies of heat as it depends upon where the pepper is grown as to how hot they can be. Ghosts grown outside their indigenous environment may be less than half as potent as those grown within it.  You can get a Ghost that is considered to be a dud that contains little or no heat effect at all. These irregularities can make for some truly volatile results when preparing dinner.

Ripe Jolokai peppers are distinctly shaped and come in a variety of red, yellow and orange colours. They have an exceptionally thin skin compared to other peppers which is almost semi-transparent when dried.

Ghost Peppers are grown by hot pepper enthusiasts throughout our region. They are available fresh and dried although I have not met any commercial retailers of the peppers as of yet, many backyard gardeners sell ghost peppers on-line. For a more controlled Ghost Pepper experience you may want to visit the Firehouse Gourmet who sells Ghost Pepper powders, extract and sauces.

I obtained some Ghost peppers from a friend in Prince Edward County who grows them indoors and made the following recipe for hot sauce with them.

The Ghost Pepper became recognized as the hottest pepper in the world by Guinness World Records in 2007. It should be noted that the Ghost Pepper is no longer the hottest pepper in the world as the Moruga Scorpion from Trinidad is twice as hot as the Jolokai and has a SKU of  2 000 000 or the equivalent of  law enforcement grade pepper spray

 

Bhut Jolokia Hot Sauce

 

Ingredients:

1/10th of a Bhut Jolokia pepper

2 habanero peppers, stem removed

1 cup Bermuda onion, diced

1 green onion, minced

3 Cloves of garlic, finely minced

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1/4 Tsp. ground cumin

1/3 cup white cider vinegar

1 tsp. sugar

A pinch of salt

 

Method:

This pepper is extremely hot and if not used moderately following the precautions you may encounter physical discomfort and/or pain. Wear gloves when handling peppers. Do not touch your skin or mucous membranes after handling the peppers. Wear eye protection when blending or boiling the sauce.

Wearing protective gear, place all of the ingredients in a blender and place lid on blender. Puree the ingredients until smooth. Pour contents of blender into a medium sized, stainless steel sauce pan. Heat the sauce over medium heat for 15 minutes. Allow mixture to cool and use it sparingly. Sauce will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

 

 

Gastronomically yours,

October 6th, 2012

Turkey Lurkey Time

 

 

Poultry is a collective term used to describe any bird that is domesticated and destined for human consumption. This category of proteins includes chickens, ostrich, duck, emu, and turkey.

The turkey has been flying around our planet for over 20 million years. Wild turkeys and heritage breed turkeys can fly but the domesticated birds can rarely take flight due to their size and weight. With the festive season of over indulgence bearing down on us once again many of us will not be flying around either as we say good-bye to our diet and workout routines while bringing on the carb loaded Turkey Dinners, the home baked goodies and all of the festive vices that give us hallucinations of sugared plums dancing in our heads.

On average Canadian’s consume over 148 million kg of turkey annually. At Christmas we will consume over 4.5 million of these birds. It’s not a wonder that we say gobble-gobble but only male turkeys known as “Toms” make the gobbling sound as the ladies called “hens” just make a clicking noise.

Benjamin Franklin proposed to have the turkey as the United States official bird instead of the Bald Eagle. Benjamin felt that the Bald Eagle had a “bad moral character” and did not reflect the values of Americans. Thankfully they stuck with the bird of prey because in my opinion “Turkey Dinner” sounds better than “Bald Eagle Dinner”.

Roasted turkey is considered to be a comfort food for many of us as we associate it with Thanksgiving, and Christmas; times when friends and family gather. It’s understandable that when Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Aldrin were over 380 000km from home dining at a table for two on the moon they ate roast turkey with all the trimmings out of handy little foil pouches.

In my career as a chef I have personally prepared almost 50 000 individual turkey dinners which would make one think that I’m a pro at it, but I am always just as paranoid now as I was the first time I cooked turkey because it is a challenge to cooking the legs to proper doneness without over cooking the breast meat. An improperly prepared turkey can take the fun out of the holidays due to its susceptibility to cause food poisoning. Often the turkey is the centrepiece of the Christmas dinner table which makes us want to roast the bird whole, personally I prefer to bone out the carcass before cooking it. This allows the bird to cook in about half of the time as a whole bird and lets me roast the bones separately for making gravy.

Regardless whether you choose to roast your turkey with or without bones my only recommended purchase for this years Christmas dinner is a good quality meat thermometer and adhere to the following the guidelines:

Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling poultry, or any raw meat.

Defrost your turkey in the refrigerator or under cold running. Never thaw poultry at room temperature.

Thoroughly wash all utensils, cutting boards, counters and dish cloths that have been in direct contact with raw poultry and its juices.

Cook your turkey until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh reaches 85ºC or higher.

Always prepare your stuffing separately in its own container as it takes longer to heat up and cool down. All stuffing, whether cooked separately or inside a bird, should be heated to a minimum internal temperature of 74°C.

Have a happy and safe holiday season in and out of the kitchen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gastronomically yours,

August 17th, 2012

Santa Clause is coming to town

 

Melons have been cultivated since around 2000 BC with the early varieties being grown throughout the regions between Egypt and India. The finest melons in the world are harvested in Afghanistan as the climate and soil conditions are perfect for this cultivar.  As people moved about the planet so did melon seeds which lead to the melon evolving into the hundreds of varieties available around the world today. Melons fall into one of three categories; Winter Melons are the slow ripening melons harvested later in the season, Netted melons are covered in a web-like lace with typically orange flesh and the Cantaloupe melons named after Cantalupo, Rome which are small in size with a rough surface that is fissured into segments. What Canadians refer to as cantaloupes are actually in the netted family and misnamed.

Melons are a member of the gourd family as are pumpkins and squash. They are eaten as a fruit in western cultures and prepared as vegetables throughout Asia.

The Santa Clause melon is a netted melon that hails from South America and is named after the time of year when they are harvested. These football shaped melons have a very thick rind that is a deep green colour splashed with yellow and light green splotches. It is exceptionally sweet with a flesh similar to the honeydew.

Benjamin Franklin once said “Men and melons are hard to know”. I couldn’t agree more with the latter of this statement as I have observed countless human rituals in the produce section of people testing the ripeness of melons. Some people squeeze the melons, some sniff the surface and others tap or knock on the melon and almost look like they are waiting for a reply from deep inside.
A ripened Santa Clause melon is assessed by feeling its blossom end that should yield to gentle pressure. Its colour should have a lively yellow hue to it as the brighter the yellow, the sweeter the melon will be. The thick flesh of the Santa Clause melon does not allow the melon to give off any aroma so you don’t need to bother sniffing its surface like other melons.

Santa Clause melons come into season in late summer in the Northern Hemisphere but can be safely stored until Christmas because of their thick rind. Specialty melon growers of Ontario have had a great season growing the Santa Clause melon as it prefers a hot dry climate and are being brought to market daily. They can be used in the same manner as a Cantaloupe and pair well with cured meats, soft cheeses, mint, red onion, and citrus juices which is why I suggest you try using one in the following recipe for a variation of Greek Salad.

The Santa Claus melon’s name is derived from its late season harvest, often arriving near Christmas. Regardless of its name it is primarily grown during the hot and dry summer

Greek Santa Salad

Ingredients:

1 cup Santa Clause melon, peeled, seeded and chopped into bit size pieces

½ cup red onion, thinly sliced

¼ cup black olives

3/4 cup red bell pepper, seeded and chopped into bit size pieces

1 seedless cucumber, sliced lengthways and chopped into bit size pieces

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

 

3 tbsp. olive oil

3 tbsp. red wine vinegar

½ tsp. fresh oregano

Juice of one lemon

Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions

In a large salad bowl, combine the Santa Clause melon, onion, olives, bell peppers, cucumber and cheese. In a separate bowl make the dressing by whisk together the olive oil, vinegar,  oregano, lemon juice and black pepper. Pour dressing over salad, toss and serve. Optionally you may add one head of romaine lettuce chopped into bit size pieces to this salad.

Gastronomically yours,

August 17th, 2012

Chef Brian’s $100k Fish Batter Recipe

 

3.5 cups of pastry flour

3 tbsp. baking powder

2 tbsp. salt

¾ cup Buttermilk

3 cups of cold water

 

Sift together all dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Gently whisk in the buttermilk and water until the batter reaches uniform consistency with no lumps. Do not over mix as this will stretch the glutens in the flour and make a heavy, flat batter crust. Use only firm white-fleshed fish. Cod, haddock and skate work best. Dry you fish fillets with paper towel before hand, dredge lightly in flour, then into the batter. Finally gently free float your evenly batter coated fish in a 365-375 degree F vat of oil. Remove when a deep golden colour and serve.

Gastronomically yours,

August 1st, 2012

Vegetable Marrow

 

Squash originated in South and Central America over 10,000 years ago and were cultivated for their seeds which were usually roasted and ground into pastes that were used to flavor and thicken regional sauces’.  These early varieties of squash contained little flesh and were generally hollowed out and used as cooking utensils, musical instruments and beverage flasks once their seeds had been harvested.

 New World explorers appropriated numerous varieties of squash back to Europe where they were defined as fruits that are members of the gourd family which makes them close relatives of cucumbers and melons. As the plants became more popular and the cultivation of them spread, squash were further separated into either summer or winter squash varieties, which refers to how well the squash could be cellared.

 Italian farmers developed the courgette into what we know and refer to today as zucchini; the green or yellow cylindrical fruits that are about 15-20 cm in length which were brought to North America with Italian immigrants in the 1920s and has grown in popularity to rank as one of the top 10 selling Canadian vegetables.

 So if a zucchini is only 15-20 cm in length what is this monstrosity of a zucchini on my kitchen counter? It weighs in at about 3.5 kg and is half a meter in length. I’m sure you are familiar with what I’m speaking of as these zucchini’s are often given out as a gift by neighbor’s who have proudly grown what look like mutated freaks of nature. This style of gardening’s roots are of British origin where growing the biggest anything in your garden has motivated amateur gardeners to compete to created such things as the behemoth zucchini on my kitchen counter in an effort to win county fairs and notoriety.

 Zucchini of this size are no longer called zucchini as they are referred to as vegetable marrow. They no longer taste or have the texture of anything like a zucchini as the flesh has become overly engorged with water diluting its flavor and causing the flesh to rupture into fibrous bundles which also means that you cannot cook vegetable marrow as you would a zucchini.

 So what do you do when your neighbor hands you one of these over-sized, water-logged vegetables? You bake two cakes; one for yourself and one in appreciation of your neighbor.  Vegetable marrow is perfect for baking with as it adds moisture to breads, muffins and cakes as well as nutritional content. This week’s recipe is tried and true and worthy of any locally grown zucchini, courgette or vegetable marrow to be used in it.

 

Chocolate Veggi Marrow Cake

Ingredients:

2 cups grated unpeeled zucchini 

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 ¾ cups sugar

½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3 medium eggs

1tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup buttermilk or milk

16oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped fine

½ cup chopped walnuts

 

Method: Preheat your oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into medium sized mixing bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl combine all of the wet ingredients by creaming together the sugar, butter and oil until.  Add the eggs one at a time to the mixture, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract and buttermilk. Mix the grated zucchini into the flour mixture and then finally mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Pour the batter into the baking pan. Sprinkle the batter with chocolate and walnut pieces. 

Bake the cake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake completely in the pan before turning it out onto a plate for icing.

 

 

Gastronomically yours,

July 10th, 2012

 

 Here Comes the Bride

  The ritualistic trading of nuptials throughout society carries many traditions. From the ring to the veil and the colour of the brides dress all of these traditions have a story behind them. All evolved over time depending on many historical influences.

  Wheat and grains are considered by some to be symbols of fertility. Often wheat sheaths would find their way into the wedding ceremony or grains were tossed in the air over the newly wedded couples heads to promote fertility. Over time as the world evolved we discovered how to use wheat to bake wedding cakes. Some cultures then began to take pieces of the cake and drop crumbs over the bride and groom. As well as tossing grains sometimes well wishers tossed flower petals.

 When the price of grains and flowers began to rise, people switched to throwing confetti and rice at the newly weds.  The novelty of confetti quickly wore off, as it is impossible to clean up the mess. Oh yeah and that guy who got the paper cut on his eye and sued the confetti company for millions is urban legend, but it had an effect on confetti sales.

  Rice on the other hand or should I say in the other hand ?;  thrown at point blank range by an over zealous newly met in-law is enough to make one never eat rice again let alone meet the rest of the family. Rice on church steps is the equivalent of marbles on the church steps.

 Now here is the all time urban legend that has affected the wedding rice trade… Don’t throw rice at your wedding because the birds will eat it and explode.

 I’ve heard this numerous times from all demographics and each time I laugh harder than before. If this were true you would be able to watch wild life shows on migrating birds stopping off for a nosh in patches of wild rice fields and then the poor unsuspecting birds would explode on film. There would be large groups of angry people trying to stop the senseless cruelty of the systematic self-inflicted genocide committed by the noble Chickadee.  We would be hanging bird sized rice cookers from trees in an attempt to reverse the damage caused by years of rice emissions around the world.

 No wonder we can’t figure out which came first, you know the chicken or the egg problem that has plagued the brilliant minds of time we’ve been to busy trying to feed Alka-Seltzer to seagulls which from my childhood experience I can say is urban legend as well.

Manomin is the Ojibway word for wild rice that can be found growing in small lakes and slow-flowing streams of central North America. Wild rice and corn are the only cereal crops native to North America.

 Almost always sold as a dried whole grain, Manomin is easily digestible, high in fibre and has double the protein of brown rice and like other rice varieties contains no gluten.

James Whetung owner of Black Duck Wild Rice harvests manomin in and around Curve Lake using canoes or an air boat to lightly glide into the rice stands for harvesting as they do not harm the rice plants or their sensitive surrounding soil.  Black Duck Wild Rice is wind winnowed and gently roasted, giving it a delicate nutty aroma. It tastes even better after meeting James and listening to his stories and the legacy of manomin and his Anishinabek heritage.

 This truly local and regionally defined grain is available year round and can be found at The Whetung Center in Curve Lake. I recommend trying it in the following recipe.

 

Black Duck Wild Rice

1 tbsp. butter

1/2 cup diced onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup each of diced carrot and celery

1 cup wild rice

1 2/3 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup dried cranberries

½ cup slivered almonds toasted

2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh chives

 

Preparation:

In saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and sauté the onion, garlic, carrot and celery together until softened. Add rice and cook for about two minutes while continuing to stir the mixture.

Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until most of the rice has split open, about 40 minutes. Stir in the cranberries and almonds and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Add the chives and season with salt and pepper to taste.

This recipe can be served hot or cold.  Refrigerated it will last for up to three days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gastronomically yours,

July 7th, 2012

Cucumbers are Cool

 

Cucumbers are one of the oldest cultivated members of the gourd family. They are related to squash and cantaloupes alike.   The cucumbers origins are to have originated in Asia and have been cultivated for over 2000 years.

 The creeping vine of a cucumber yields a fruit that we only consume cucumbers at their un-ripened green stage. A ripe cucumber is actually yellow in color and is exceptionally bitter. Cucumbers are divided into two categories; slicers that are usually eaten raw and the smaller picklers used for making pickles and preserves.

 English cucumbers are a variety of cucumber that can grow up to over two feet in length and has a soft edible skin with very few seeds. An abundance of seeds tends to increase the bitterness of the fruit. Some refer to this variety of cucumber as burpless cucumbers because they have low amounts of cucurbitacin, which increases one’s propensity to burp’ after eating them.  

  Field cucumbers are shorter and thicker in comparison to the English cucumber. They are often sold with wax to preserve freshness. These waxed cucumbers should be peeled before consuming. The skins of un-waxed cucumbers are edible and do not require peeling, but you may find that the Field’s skin is tougher than the English variety and will peel them regardless. Another notable difference is that Field’s are usually half the price of the English variety.

 Cucumbers generally are available year-round and are often grown in hot houses protected under glass. Like all produce though, cucumbers taste best when eaten fresh and as close to their source as possible. Ontario grown cucumbers are best during their peak season of June through August.

 With Ontario’s Caribbean like summers one would appreciate that fresh cucumbers are made up of over 90% water. This makes cucumber’s a naturally cooling food that are best served raw.

 The cucumber sandwich is a refreshing British tradition that was often served at tea and is best enjoyed during the summer months. Although many modern interpretations of this sandwich exist which often incorporate other ingredients like cream cheese, dill or smoked salmon; I prefer the traditional English version.

 This week’s recipe is based on the traditional British style using fresh Ontario grown cucumbers wherever you may find them.

 

Cucumber Sandwich

Ingredients;

Eight thick slices of fresh whole wheat bread

One half cup of butter, softened

Two Ontario field cucumbers

One tbsp olive oil

One tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

Salt and pepper

Four tomatoes, sliced thin (optional)

Four leaves of Boston Bib lettuce

One tbsp malt or cider vinegar

 

Method:

Peel the cucumber or score them lengthwise with a fork.  Slice the cucumber into thin pieces. Place the slices in a medium sized non-reactive bowl. Add the olive oil, lemon juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Let the sliced cucumbers marinate while continuing with the recipe. Butter the bread carefully to ensure that it is evenly coated all the way to the edges of the bread. This will add flavour to the sandwich but also effectively protects the bread from becoming damp or soggy from the juice that will leach from the slices of cucumber. On one slice of bread, arrange cucumber slices in an even, single layer. Then add a layer of tomatoes and finish with a layer of lettuce. Sprinkle the lettuce lightly with either cider or malt vinegar. Finish the sandwich by adorning it with the top slice of bread. Finally the crusts of the bread are cleanly sliced off and then the sandwich is sliced diagonally twice, creating four small triangular tea sandwiches. Serve immediately. Yields four sandwiches.

 

reservation
Chef Brian for Hire
The Spice Co.