A delicious meal from a few weeks ago and some other stuff

First thing’s first: a satisfying meal I made early this summer with green pea couscous, a thyme roasted tomato, some creamy humus, and an awesome seared fennel dish with radishes, olives, red onion, feta cheese, raisins, fresh parsley and lemon juice. I served this with a nigella seed pita bread, which is so good. I need to learn how to make different breads…

I’m currently listening to Michael Pollan, of The Omnivore’s Dilemma fame on Heritage Radio Network, a great radio station that focuses on “the full breadth of the food industry.” Their shows hosts range from chefs, to critics, to farmers, to influential food and agriculture advocates; it’s amazing.
Check it out: http://www.heritageradionetwork.com/

A bit of culture:

Last night I watched the Polanski film Carnage. The film is based on a play that was written by the writer Yasmina Reza, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Polanski.

I was going to add a link to the trailer but I think it reveals too much. It’s better to watch it without any knowledge of what the movie is about. The acting and script are phenomenal. It might not pack quite the punch it would like to, but it’s nonetheless a well developed satire about 2 deliriously entertaining couples trying to arrive at a mutual understanding over a violent even that took place between their sons. I, personally, was mesmerized by the unfolding action and the actors. Jodie Foster in particular is a knock out. It’s fun, short and unlike anything I’ve watched recently.

What I’m eating

I really need to take my camera out of the cupboard… Having an Iphone has made me lazy about my food photography. Apologies for the following lackluster pictures. I thought I’d post a few pictures of meals I’ve made recently. Nothing too complicated, nothing heavy-it is the summer after all-and mostly locally sourced ingredients.

I’m becoming less moderate about my eating choices. I can’t continue learning about the food industry without make personal changes to what and how I feed myself. I’ll be elaborating on some of these thoughts over the coming weeks and months: suffice to say, it ain’t pretty. Environmental degradation, animal abuse, increased risks of viruses and diseases, waste, corruption, profit over human rights; the list goes on and on.

I’m taking a serious step in reducing my meat intake(including fish). I plan on only buying from sources I know provide acceptable living standards for their animals, and I will do my best to only frequent restaurants that do the same, unfortunately, there aren’t many. I will occasionally make exceptions, but my hope is that within a few months I won’t have to do that anymore. We’ll see how it goes. To a certain extent, to anyone who knows me, I’m reverting to my vegetarianism. Oh boy… I guess I’ll be cooking more than I already do. Hosting parties will have to be more frequent as well.

I bought porc and beef sausages from Valens farms, a cooperative of smaller farms that is doing its best to provide Quebecers with healthier and ethically superior food options. There were 3 small sausages, but that was enough to last me for 3 meals. One advice I always give to people who are considering cutting down on their meat intake is to prepare dishes where less is needed.

Here are a few things you can easily make at home:

1. A peach, arugula and goat cheese salad. We’re getting Ontario peaches in Québec at the moment and they’re wonderful. Mixing them with peppery arugula, adding a few crunchy and spicy slices of radish, and a tart goat cheese and you’ve got something that’s absolutely delicious. There are some toasted almonds in there too, for extra protein, and the full bodied nutty flavor it adds.

peaches, arugula, goat cheese, radishes

2. I bought these corn tortillas at the supermarket last week. They come in packs of about 30 and I’ve had to eat at bunch of different kinds of tortillas recently. The corn that they’re made of is also problematic, as it’s most likely a GMO crop… I’d rather avoid supporting the companies that produce such products, but I succumbed to my desire for something I hadn’t eaten in a long time. Anyways, these tortillas were filled with brown rice mixed with fresh organic corn I bought from a small farm just outside of Montreal, black beans, the above mentioned sausages, tomatoes and some coriander. The spicy paste I made with dried chipotle peppers I had that I soaked in rhum, and blended with tomatoes, roasted garlic, coriander and cumin seeds and some other things that escape me now. Tasty.

tortillas with spicy paste, and a filling of sausages, corn, black beans, tomatoes and coriander

3. This is a salad I was very pleased with. Simple but the ingredients worked very well together and its acidity provided the refreshing quality I was looking for after a sweltering day biking around town. I sliced apples, let them soak in a bit of lemon juice, added redcurrants, olive oil sauteed pieces of bread, sauteed slices of the sausages, sliced Parmesan and mixed all of it with an arugula and endive lettuce blend I prepared. The dressing was a mix of lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, honey, grain mustard, and sunflower oil.

I was quite pleased with this one: arugula, endive, redcurrants, apples, homemade breadcrumbs, Parmesan and sauteed sausages

4. I wish I had had more Feta for the following dish. It was a quick take on a greek salad: dried oregano, tomatoes, olive oil sauteed bread, red onion slices, kalamata olives, capers and the last remaining feta.

Wish I had had more Feta… pretty good anyways

Protein rich salad with Gizzards(optional ;) )

Lunch!

Ingredients:

Mixed salad greens: ideally something peppery and bitter
Sliced cherry tomatoes: seasoned with capers, salt and pepper, thinly sliced onions and olive oil
Boiled and butter and fresh rosemary sauteed cauliflower pieces
Large Parmesan slices: the bigger the better!
Toasted almonds
Boiled quinoa
Hard boiled egg

Option: thinly sliced confit gizzard. I highly recommend this but they’re not always easy to find, so an alternative of confit duck legs, sauteed chicken livers, braised lamb would work. A rich, full flavored and aromatic meat is best; especially if you find some nice bitter greens like dandelion leaves…

Vinaigrette:
Teaspoon dijon mustard
A bit of fresh thyme
About a tbls of sherry vinegar
About a tbls of olive oil
About 2 tbls of sunflower seed oil

This is a fresh but nutrient rich salad. Even without the meat, there’s more than enough protein in here to please your appetite. I’ve been exercising a lot lately and am looking for simple and fresher alternatives to heavier foods. This was a perfect lunch.

Gizzards:
Part of the digestive system in fowl, it’s an organ that’s not very common but seriously tasty. For those who’ve never tried it, the confit gizzards that I added to my salad bore no organ flavor that might dissuade some from enjoying them. There was none of that metallic and farmy flavor that’s sometimes found in kidneys and livers. They’re a richly flavored meat that’s nicely textured. Explore!

Picture taken from Paprikahead site. Thanks.

Yummy veggie lunch fix

I’ve been quite good at eating less meat recently, and especially good at avoiding meat from large producers where antibiotics and hormones are used, and where the animals suffer in what I feel are unethical environments.

However, I’ve noticed that I haven’t been posting any of the tasty vegetarian food I’ve been eating. So, in the spirit of healthy eating and veggie food, here’s what I ate for lunch.

spinach salad and veggie patty humus cracker
orange, almond, sun dried tomato, spinach salad

I’ll start with the salad because it’s more straight forward and doesn’t need much preparation time.

The salad consisted of:

Spinach
one large orange, cut into wedges
3 pieces of sun dried tomato, thinly sliced
toasted almonds
aged cheddar
(a softer cheese like fresh ricotta, cottage cheese, or a less powerful Parmesan would have been better)
Sherry vinegar
Dijon mustard

I used the orange juice that had emerged from the wedges for a vinaigrette base, in which I added sherry vinegar, salt and pepper, a tiny amount of Dijon mustard, some dried marjoram, and finally olive oil. The rest involves mixing in the rest of the ingredients, aha. Not too hard. It’s a really nice salad, that would be better as mentioned above with a cheese that is softer on the palate than an aged cheddar.

The cracker on the side had a humus spread, caramelized onions and vegetarian patties I had made the previous nice for dinner.

The patties consisted of:

Short brown rice, pre-cooked
Black beans, boiled and ready to eat
A small grated carrot
A small grated parsnip
Pumpkin seeds
Wheat bran
A few dried dates
one egg
salt and pepper

The ingredients for dish were inspired by leftovers and pragmatism… There are unlimited ways to make a veggie patty, and this is just one of them. In fact, I’ve never made any that were remotely similar to these ones.

The brown rice was a leftover, and the black beans I had soaked and boiled for dinner didn’t appeal me as is. Both ingredients, together, contain the necessary amino acids(the building blocks of proteins) to create a full protein, which I wanted for dinner. To this, for some extra vitamins and minerals, I added the grated carrots and parsnip. I added the pumpkin seeds for more protein and for their high content of iron. They also would provide a textural element. Finally I added about 3 seedless dates and an egg for binding purposes. When roughly blended in the food processor I noticed that my mix was too moist. To rectify this I could have used a number of different solutions, popped amaranth for example, but instead chose to add wheat bran as an experiment. It is an ingredient rich in dietary fiber, essential fatty acids as well as protein, vitamins and dietary minerals. It’s also dry, which is what I needed. I shaped the patties, slowly fried them in a small quantity of sunflower oil in a non-stick skillet and finished them off in the oven. They have a really nice texture and taste good.
Today, cold, combined with the humus and caramelized humus, they tasted even better.

Together, the 2 dishes provide a healthy meal that is easy to digest and cheap to make.

Simple navy bean veggie salad

navy beans, sage, tomatoes, leeks, capers, olive oil,

*The radicchio was not yet added in this picture.

Here’s a quick salad recipe that I made last night. We ate it with some leftovers.

Here’s the ingredient list:

Navy beans
tomatoes
capers
sage
leeks
radicchio
olive oil
sherry vinegar
bay leaf

I put the beans in water when I woke up yesterday morning and let them soak for the day. I gave myself about an hour to cook them in simmering salted water in which I added a large bay leaf and a sun dried tomato for additional flavor.

I thinly sliced the whites of leeks and gently fried them in olive oil. When slightly golden I took them out and added sliced radicchio that I cooked and then added to a small amount of salted boiling water with about a tbls of sherry vinegar.

I added fresh sage to the frying pan, using the oil that was leftover and let the herb cook and develop a bit of crispness. When almost ready I added a small quantity of capers to the pan and sauteed them for a moment with the sage before adding both to the beans that were now ready.

I gently squeezed out the boiling liquid from the radicchio and added them to the beans. To finish it off, I seasoned it with salt and pepper and liberally added a high quality olive oil I only use occasionally. I also sprinkled a touch of lemon juice.

The whole thing was surprisingly delicious!

With a bit of organizing I quickly and simply made a healthy and cheap dish that is easy to refrigerate and yummy.

A pasta salad, an espresso and the lachine canal

Things have been moving along at the same moderate pace on the home-front. We’ve gone back to eating without restrictions, which hasn’t been all that unhealthy. It’s simpler to eat out and I’ve spent less time in the kitchen recently, which is a good thing being that the weather has decided to cooperate in the best of ways recently. Warm, sunny and dry. Never overwhelming. Lovely.

I finished the Pablo Neruda biography by Adam Feinstein and started a university history textbook on Latin America, as well as a Julio Cortazar book entitled “Los Premios”, or, in English, “The winners”. I’m reading it in French though, so I’m actually reading a book called “Les gagnants”!

Julio Cortazar in one of his better looking photographs

The textbook is dense and boring but it’s an accurate, researched and as close to objective as can be resource. My plan is to finish it and follow it up with a book I recently found about the fight for aboriginal rights in South America. Sounds interesting. The Julio Cortazar book is what I get to read before going to bed, and occasionally, during the day, when the dense account of 3 centuries of history becomes unbearable.

Anyways, this post is not about books, or reading, or history: it’s about a nice salad and a wonderful day.

Spinach pasta salad

A quick recipe:
1.Spinach pasta– In our case, store bought but fresh.
– Boil, rinse, and let it cool down with some extra virgin olive oil
2.Carrots
– Grate. 🙂
3.Red Cabbage
– Thinly slice
4.Parmesan
– Grate.
5.Olive oil and seasoning
– sprinkle.

That’s it, and you know what, it was great.

Now on to the wonderful day Carolina and I shared on Sunday, when the sun was shinning, the breeze was gentle and the air refreshing.

We woke up early to explore a neighborhood we rarely set foot in called St-Henri. A new coffee roaster, named after the neighborhood, has opened there and I was excited to discover the coffee and space.

Find out more here: www.sainthenri.ca

The space is simple and elegant; with church pews and cute wooden chairs playing off the charcoal and grey tones of the wall, floor and ceiling. The roaster is one of a new wave of coffee makers popping up around North America. Hip, experimental and passionate, groups of (mostly) younger coffee aficionados are going about producing a mini coffee revolution; establishing an alternative to the large corporate hegemony that developed North America’s love for coffee during the 90s and 2000s. More involved in the roasting and picking of the beans, these artisans are offering exciting new options at small coffee shops around the continent. This is the first one of this kind that I know of in Montreal, and they are slowly developing their coffee. It was better this weekend than when I had tried it some weeks ago at the restaurant I work at. Good to see it improving.

Not my picture

Here are a few that you should look into:

Ritual– from San Francisco

Forty Ninth Parallel – From Burnaby B.C

Metropolis – From Chicago

Stumptown – Brooklyn, NY

There are a great many more, but these are a few you can look into.

So, on to the Lachine canal. Running through Montreal, weaving an imperfectly parallel line with the St-Lawrence, is a canal that was used for a number of different purposes over the last centuries. It’s an inland waterway, on which you can plan water activities such as kayaking, and which inspired the creation of a 15 kilometer bike path that follows its gentle meandering current. What a joy. I’m ashamed to say that I had never followed the bike path before, but oh-so pleased to know that it is there for my enjoyment. On Sunday, I felt liberated. I swooned over Montreal and it’s many treasures and I rejoiced in my discovery. One must absolutely bike down the Lachine canal on a nice day. Bring some food, a book, a sporting good, whatever, but make it a mission for yourself. You won’t regret it. For those of you from out of town, there are bike and boat rental stations, as well as small restaurants and a harbor near the end of the bike ride where you can relax and enjoy life. aha. It’s also very family friendly.

a statue at the parc towards the end of the ride
babe
historical leftovers
happy, happy

Food Detox day 3

Day 3 was a good day!

I managed to work on some video projects, make boiled buckwheat, a roasted garlic black bean dip, a tomato, green pepper and fennel salsa and babaganoush! I also made a lovely fennel salad for lunch, and a berry quinoa salad for breakfast.

I’m missing pictures of the breakfast(I seem to remember taking them, but my camera doesn’t…) but it wasn’t that complicated. I had made a vegetable quinoa salad on day 2 of the detox and had kept quinoa on the side to make another salad for both Carolina and I. So, yesterday morning, having bought great big quantities of strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, I mixed them in with the quinoa, some mint, grated ginger(too much actually, aha), freshly ground black pepper, some lemon juice and olive oil. It was a nice way to start the day; with some complete protein and minerals in the form of the quinoa and lots of antioxidants and vitamins from the fruit.

Before going off to edit some video footage I put an eggplant in the oven at 350° for about 45 min for it to roast while I did some work. I also put in a head of garlic covered in some olive oil and wrapped in aluminum foil in order to roast that as well. I simmered some dried black beans and made sure to check on everything every 15 minutes or so. (I once left a pot of boiling barley to cook while I left the house and almost burned the place down…)

Having done some work and snacked on an apple, I went to prep for lunch and dinner. While the eggplant and garlic cooled down, I cut tomatoes, green pepper, fennel, onion, garlic, parsley and toasted cumin seeds for the salsa. I cut it into small even pieces because I prefer the texture that way. I also took out the moist interior of the tomato and put it aside to be used in one of the dips. If you don’t do this I find the salsa contains too much liquid.

I then boiled some buckwheat at a 2 to 1 ratio of water to buckwheat and found out that buckwheat cooked this way really isn’t that great… haha. **It’s been growing on me since, but I’ll need to find some new ways of preparing it. This took not time at all and I left it to rest while going about other business.

I cut my eggplant in half and took out the flesh using a spoon. I squeezed some of the sweet roasted garlic into my food processor, added the eggplant, sunflower seeds, parsley, toasted fennel seeds, chilli powder, turmeric, paprika, lime juice and lots of olive oil. Blended, it made for a sweet and nutty dip with a touch of middle eastern flavors.

After having taken out the eggplant “babaganoush” of the processor, I added the rest of my roasted garlic and added the black beans I had boiled earlier. I also put dried ancho and chipotle peppers in half a cup of boiling water in order to add it to my black bean blend. I added parsley to this as well, some fresh garlic, and the moist tomato insides I kept. Blended, this is my favorite of the dips or salsa I made yesterday. It’s got a biting hot finish from the dried peppers that really complements the pungent roasted garlic that is kept in check by the soft neutrality of the blended black beans…

To all of this I added some store bought humus that fit the parameters of my diet, and I had a wonderful but “mooshy” dish of different foods to feast on. I kept this for dinner at work, where I brought it in a large Tupperware and enjoyed it throughout the dinner service(for those who don’t know, I’m a waiter).

For the fennel salad, I took out my prized sharp chef’s knife and thinly sliced the fennel. I also sliced paper thin pieces of fresh rhubarb and some apples. I toasted some walnuts and mixed all of the ingredients together. I finished it off with fresh mint, some parsley, lemon juice and olive oil. I made myself a dish of the fennel salad, the vegetable salad from day 2, and some of the boiled buckwheat that I had.

Before going to work, I prepared my dips and buckwheat, enjoyed a berry smoothie and had some toasted almonds for good measure. One of the benefits of eating the dips, and things like smoothies are that their soft and liquid forms accelerate the calorie intake and facilitate the body’s use of its energy.

Next up, day 4!