mmmMMMmmm…bagel melts. Pretty sure no better breakfast exists in the world. Someone once asked me what my favourite sandwich is and I couldn’t answer but come to think of it the bagel melt must be it. So it’s not really a really real sandwich. All good by me. It’s close enough in my books and consists of three loves of mine; breads, fresh vegies and, of course, cheese. This one’s made with an everything bagel, roma tomatoes, dill, black pepper and mild but wonderfully melty marble cheese but they can be made with just about every flavour combination. Try cinnamon raisin bagels with apple slices and mozzarella or provolone. Or sesame bagels with roasted eggplant, red pepper slices and goat cheese. One would have to try very hard to do any wrong with these…you can even nuke ’em! That said, I strongly suggest the oven method – just slip them onto a broiling pan (I slipped mine onto the pizza stone currently occupying the oven) then into a 450 degree oven. Once in turn on the broiler and leave the oven door open a smidge, not to keep the broiler for turning off (the bagels aren’t likely to be in there for that long) but because the cheese will go golden brown (which is when you want to take it out) very quickly and having the door open tends to make one acutely aware of the fact that there’s stuff going on in there they need to not forget.
black bean & tomato soup May 13, 2008
This is probably the easiest meal we put together in our kitchen on a fairly regular basis. Its roots are found in the CPHA‘s publication, The Basic Shelf Cookbook, which is something I feel every household should have a copy of. I don’t actually own the book right now (and before you call me a hypocrite you should know that I’ve owned the book and given it away at least 7 times.) The contents are brilliant on a fundamental level: simple meals comprised largely of ingredients with long shelf lives which focus on maintaining nutritional integrity. It can be ordered here for CDN $7.50.
My recipe differs from the original by a couple of steps and ingredients but still maintains the inherent simplicity while stepping up the flavour quotient a couple of notches. Oh, and it’s entirely vegan if you omit the cheese or replace it with a soy based cheese.
What you need:
1tbsp olive oil
1 tsp. coriander, ground
1 tsp. cumin, ground
1 medium sized cooking onion, finely chopped (vidalias and reds are my favourites for this soup)
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 cans of diced tomatoes (or jars if you do your own)
1 can of black beans (or soak the dried kind if you want to)
1 can of sweet or baby corn (or use leftovers if you’ve got ’em)
2 cups of vegetable broth (or dissolve 2 cubes/packets of bouillon-esque stuff in your 2 cups of boiling water)
1 tbsp dried or 1/4 cup fresh oregano
1 tbsp dried or 1/4 cup fresh basil
A pretty, fresh herb and some cheese for garnish (I’ve got cilantro and cheddar in the pic above but parsley &/or basil are great alternatives to the cilantro if you don’t have any on hand.
Toast the spices in a large pot over medium-high heat until fragrant. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the tablespoon of olive oil. Once the oil is hot, sweat the onions and garlic in it for 3-4 minutes or until translucent. Add the tomatoes, corn, beans & stock. Up the heat again to medium-high and keep it there, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches a low boil. Stir in the herbs. Move to large bowls and garnish.
umamification of the utility bird May 6, 2008
I know – ‘umamification’ is totally a made up word but, as always, I feel I’ve a firm enough grasp on the English language to indulge myself in bastardizing it here and there. Plus I figure if you can get past that, dear readers, you’re probably at least a little masochistic and look forward to being inflicted with the soap-boxing to come.
The second and third sections of The Omnivore’s Dilemma have done very little to quell the fears about the organic food industry I cited in my first post about the book, though I’m not left with the feeling that all hope is lost, either. Like Pollan, I want my organic food dollars to go to the pastoral ideal of the fertile, self-sufficient, organic farm I hold in my imagination, one like the farm my maternal grandparents have worked for an eternity with chickens running amongst the raspberry bushes, happy pigs slumbering in shade of a shed, cows blocking highway traffic so they can make their trek from one grassy range to another. A farm which, for all intents and purposes, would not qualify for the ‘organic’ label, but follows a small-scale, animal-lead production methodology which allows pigs to be pigs and chickens to be chickens and beef to be beef…and that’s probably the message which resonates most profoundly about this section of the book; recognizing the term ‘organic’ as part of the industrial food chain’s rhetoric, contradictory outside of that context and then being called to either re-appropriate it or drop it altogether…which certainly appeals to my quasi-Marxist sensibilities and my desire for passive resistance through stepping around the industrial food machine, but gives me butterflies in practice as it promises to be a fairly large commitment. I’ll actually have to talk to people, question their practices, let them know when they don’t meet my expectations, let them know what my expectations are…become part of the negotiation and actually seek out chickenier chickens and beefier bovines.
Alright, perhaps that’s a bit dramatic. I already do a lot of that stuff; I’m hardly a label-dependent consumer, and I’ve never really fully developed an apathy bone, but remember my corn-fed cow freak-out from my first post? There’s obviously some room for improvement. It’s understood this section of the book is very much about gaining a more intimate understanding of our food’s life cycle, an appreciation for the alchemy of pastoral farming and setting standards for a food chain which emphasises quality over quantity. This really set the little businessy portion of my brain to ticking; it’s not enough for me to rest on the laurels of ‘buying right.’ If I want that ideal pastoral farm to be the producer of my food stuffs then I need to take a vested interest in its health and welfare, go out of my way to invest in it and promote it, and ultimately to make it part of the business that is me because the cost-benefit analysis of the alternative already looks grim and is terrifying when plugged into a spreadsheet. Now I’m wondering about all of the ways one might adopt a farm and am committed to stretching my political muscles a little further.
All that said, I’m really excited for the next section. It’s all about foods from the forest which is a topic near and dear to my little hunter’s daughter heart.
eco justice challenge April 30, 2008
As is the way of the interwebs, my post regarding The Omnivore’s Dilemma produced a response which lead to an affinity which, in turn, led to a challenge…or something like that. I took the lot of it to the dinner table Thursday night and the mister, the sprogs and myself agreed to rise to the challenge on the basis that there’s always room for improvement. We got over giving ourselves a pat on the back for the things we already have in place and decided to start the challenge with a weekly, one hour blackout (which will be Mondays from 8pmish to 9pmish) and reading/brainstorming session. At 11 & almost 13 I think they’re ready to wrap their minds around the likes of Diet for a Small Planet so I can probe their young, pliable minds for ideas on which steps to take next.
For more information on Emily’s EcoJustice challenge click here.
Wish us luck!
samosas for Todd April 29, 2008
No picture of this as I haven’t had the opportunity to do the frozen versus fresh trial I wanted to as ‘plain yoghurt’ means ‘vanilla-flavoured yoghurt’ in the minds and hearts of my yoghurt buyers. I shall post my recipe for the wonderful nibblies things anyway.
The dough recipe I use comes out of a cookbook called Peterborough Peoples’ Potluck Picks. This amazingly alliterative oeuvre was purchased through a local fundraiser for Canadian Crossroads International back in 1993 and contains simply the tastiest & most forgiving, recipe for samosa dough ever.
What you need for the dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. butter, margarine or ghee
3/4 cup plain (not vanilla) yoghurt (I prefer balkan style for this but anything from fat-free to homemade will work)
Lightly mix the flour and salt in a large bowl then cut in the butter/margarine with a fork or a pastry cutter until the mixture looks all coarse like breadcrumbs. Stir in the yoghurt then mix it all together with your hands. Dough hooks and other gadgets really don’t work well with this dough as part of the pliability of it leans on body heat – avoiding getting your hands dirty will not result in a good dough. You don’t need to knead it, just mix with the hands forming it into a ball as you go. Once that’s done you can set it in the fridge while preparing the samosa guts.
What you need for the innards:
1/2 cup of chopped onion – I like sweet & nutty flavour of vidalias for samosas
3 cloves chopped garlic
3 large potatoes diced – I prefer reds as they wash up quickly and the skins can be left on but usually use 4-5 of these as they don’t really come in large size russets (which is an effective alternative) or other white-skinned varieties do around here
1 cup of fresh or frozen peas – alternatively, that frozen vegie mix comprised of carrots, peas, corn & beans works really well too and allows me to get samosas past people who say they don’t like peas
2 tbsp. margarine, butter or ghee
juice of 2 limes
salt to taste
spices (I’ll get into that in a bit)
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat then melt the butter/margarine/ghee in it. Add the onions, garlic, potatoes and salt and allow everything to brown just a bit. Once slightly browned, reduce the heat to low-medium and continue to cook until the potatoes are fork tender (about ten minutes.) Up the heat to high, add the salt and peas and cook over high heat for another 2-3 minutes. Then it’s time to remove the filling from the heat source and talk about spices.
As you’ve probably been able to deduce, samomas are pretty versatile creatures. As such, there are infinite possibilities for dealing with their spiciness. One could create their own amalgam of spices, toss in a pre-made garam masala or curry paste or keep them minimal and somewhat pirogie-like. If I’m feeling lazy I’ll toss in 1 tbsp of Sybil’s Jerk Seasoning or her Kick Ass Curry Paste (I’m sorry for those of you who don’t live in the area and don’t have access to her wonderfully spicey bounty of deliciousness) but I almost never use a pre-fab curry powder. So when I’m feeling less lazy I mix up a concoction of equal parts cumin, coriander, allspice, nutmeg, tumeric & ground chilies…which I often have on hand as I also almost always make up too much of this concoction. This can all be ground together in a coffee grinder, small food processor or with a mortar & pestle. The important part is to season your filling to taste and mix it well. After that’s done the lime juice can be added and mixed in as well.
The filling should be allowed to chill at least an hour or two before using it with the dough otherwise it could make the samosas fall apart. When you’re ready to fill them, get out the ball of dough and divide it in half, then divide those in half again and so on until you’ve got 32 little balls. Then just roll those little balls out into circles as thinly as you can, add about 2 tbsp of filling, fold the dough over the filling and press the dough edges together with a fork. I always need to experiment with the first couple I make. The beauty of this dough is that it’s very stretchy, the downside to that is that I end up overestimating it’s stretchiness. I’m an overstuffer. Some people are understuffers, and the downside to that is you end up with really doughy samosas.
I like to get at least one other person in on the rolling and stuffing part of the samosa-making process. This allows me to get them cooking as we go which prevents them from sitting and sweating on a surface which doesn’t allow them to breathe and making them more breakable. That generally plays out as me being in charge of the hot oil for deep frying, 1 kid rolling and 1 kid stuffing. If I don’t have an extra set of hands around to help me out I can get around the sweat issue by preheating the oven to 425 degrees, moving the stuffed samosas directly to a lightly greased baking sheet then moving the full-of-stuffed-samosas baking sheets directly to the oven to cook for about 5 minutes (just long enough to dry the dough, but not to brown it) then moving the samosas onto cooling racks. The advantage of going that route rather than directly to deep fry is that they’re easier to store as they can be tossed into freezer bags and then into the freezer then brought out and deep fried at a later date. One could also finish them in the oven and bypass deep frying altogether, but let’s face it, part of the appeal is the crispy, goldenness of these tasty treats.
So there you go. It’s not a complicated process but it definitely can be a long one. I like to justify it by making a double or triple batch so there are some to enjoy immediately and others to be put away for entertaining later.
the machiavellian intelligence of maize April 20, 2008
The mister saw fit to bring back a copy of The Omnivore’s Dilemma from Montreal a couple of weeks ago. As he’s not allowed to read it until he’s fully digested Foucault’s Pendulum I decided to pick it up as my thinking (as opposed to purely entertaining) book of the moment. I finished reading the first ‘chapter’ (section?) over coffee on my front porch this morning and though I’m not prepared to get into a full review of the book at this moment I do have some initial thoughts and reactions I feel the need to air so I’ve chosen to do so here. Perhaps I’ll bore you all with a play-by-play as I read along. The book’s formatting – following four meals back to their natural sources and reminding us of our relationship to the ingredients all the way – is rather conducive to that. Perhaps I just won’t be arsed. We’ll see.
An introduction to a new set of socio-political ideals about food is (apparently) kind of like buying a new car in that one sees it everywhere within the first few weeks after adoption. I think I realised the full effect of the read yesterday while visiting our local farmer’s market determined to bring home an interesting and organic new cut of beef or buffalo or elk to play with. The latter two being out of my price range and offering nothing I considered interesting enough to justify the expense I turned to the many many offerings of the former, all purporting to be ‘certified organic’ but then also listing ‘corn-fed’ as being one of the value-added benefits of their beef. Newsflash – cows aren’t naturally gifted in the processing of corn. They can only do so with the aid of loads of hormones and antibiotics assisting them in converting those precious (and cheap) calories into the steaks we all know and love. While this isn’t news to me, it has been a long time since I’ve thought about it. So the question is begged: what then, is ‘organic’? Who defines it? Who measures it and by what means?
I don’t have immediate answers to those questions, but I’m certainly bloody-minded enough to go searching for them and, though I’m certain the answers will vary from region to region, I’m kind of hoping they’ll be answered later in the book. Or that some clever indices I can follow will be presented at the very least, but more on that later. The thing is that the issue of cows not being able to process corn natural is a mere scratching of the surface of the plant’s place in the global food debate. The real issue is that corn, with human aid, has circumvented all of the laws of natural selection to become a dominant organism on our planet and in our digestive systems. Getting into the nitty gritty of all of that is beyond the scope of this post – just go read the book – this post is about my feeling of betrayal, akin to the betrayal I felt toward my own genetics upon reading The Selfish Gene. Like Dawkins, Pollan is a radical messenger of radical truths who has transformed the favourite summer treat this (quasi) farm-bred girl, raised on the plantable, sustainable, preservable holy trinity of vegetation that is squash, beans and, of course, corn into an alien overlord infiltration of Orwellian proportions. He makes it quite easy to draw the line of responsibility between corn and global warming, poverty, malnutrition, alcoholism and even war. Granted, cow corn is different from people corn. The stuff we buy from roadside tables on lazy Sunday drives is not responsible for all of this as such, but my overactive imagination can’t help drawing the parallels. Mind = blown. I’ve not yet decided what my long-term response to this will be. This section of the book had me checking all of the labels of the all of the jars of all of the products we have in the cupboards and fridges and I can say with some relief that my lack of sweet tooth keeps us away from the onslaught of corn bi-products in the few processed foods that we do keep around the house. We’re hardly every day meat-eaters in this house, we do try to stay fairly low on the food chain and we don’t own a car but even those efforts don’t seem to be enough in the face of this. Needless to say I left all traces of beef at the market yesterday but did come home with organic, corn free, birdseed for our feeders. Damn you, Michael Pollan. Damn you all to hell for making corn my new boogey man.