A new twist on a family classic

Growing up in a Hungarian household, we commonly had potato pancakes. It wasn’t the typical “latke” style pancake consisting of shredded potato pressed into a cake and pan-fried. It actually looked like a breakfast pancake. It involved using a blender to puree the raw ingredients and finished in a bowl to finish the batter. This is a buckwheat twist to my family’s recipe.

Potato-Buckwheat Pancakes

250g(1/2lb) peeled and cubed potatoes (about 1-1/4 cups)

1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion

2 cloves garlic

1 Tbsp garlic powder

2/3 cup milk (regular cow’s milk or soy milk)

1 egg (or Flax Egg* for a vegan option)

3/4 cup Gold Forest Grains buckwheat flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

In a blender, add the potato, onion, garlic, garlic powder and milk. Puree until completely smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl and whisk in the egg. In another medium bowl, combine the buckwheat flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually whisk into the potato mixture. Allow to sit for 15 minutes.

On a griddle surface or in a cast iron pan, preheat over a medium heat. Add 1 tsp of oil and ladle 1/2 cup of batter. Spread into a roughly 15cm/6″ circle. Griddle for 2-3 minutes per side, until golden on each side. Repeat with remaining batter. Makes 8-10 pancakes.

*Flax Eggs

1 Tbsp flax seeds

1/2 cup water

In a small saucepan, add the flax seeds and water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the mixture, retaining the liquid component. It should be a thickened “egg-like” consistency. Allow to cool in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before using. This is the equivalent of 1 egg in a recipe. This can be used as an ingredient to substitute an egg in a batter or dough recipe, but not as an “egg” on its own. ie. Cannot be used in place of eggs in an omelette.

Vegan and gluten free? Sounds like fun

I’m neither vegan, nor gluten-free in my diet, but I seem to be talking to more and more people who are one, the other or both. Whether it’s at my workplace, developing gluten-free crab cakes, chowder or salmon burgers, or just people I talk to at the farmer’s market, online, or random strangers down the street, I find myself thinking of ways to do some traditional recipes without wheat or animal products. This is the latest venture in that realm: Apple crumble.

Gluten-free Apple Crumble

Crumble topping:

1-1/2 cups rice flour

1 cup rolled oats (always make sure it wasn’t processed in the same facility as wheat)

1/3 cup Gold Forest Grains flax seeds

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1-1/4 cups Mighty Trio Organics cold pressed flax oil

1/4 cup Coal Lake Honey Farms alfalfa honey

In a medium bowl, combine the rice flour, rolled oats, flax seeds, salt and baking soda. Stir in the flax oil and honey until a soft, wet dough is achieved. Set aside.

Fruit base:

4 cups apples, cored, chopped into 1cm(1/2″) dice.

1/2 cup Coal Lake Honey Farms alfalfa honey

1/4 cup Mighty Trio Organics cold pressed flax oil

2 Tbsp corn starch

1 Tbsp cinnamon

In a large bowl, combine apples, honey, flax oil, corn starch, and cinnamon. Divide the fruit base into 6 individual baking dishes or put all of it into a large baking dish (22cm x 32cm/9″ x 13″). Top the fuit base with the prepared crumble topping and bake in a preheated 190C/375F oven for 30 minutes until the crumble topping firms up and browns to a medium brown colour. Serves 6-8.

Summer Sundays

I was tending to my garden and pulling weeds around my radishes, when I looked at the handful of dandelion greens along with the radish and thought, “That would be a beautiful pesto, peppery, a bit spicy.” And the flavours danced in my mind immediately. As I was formulating the ingredients in my mind, by the time I reached my kitchen the recipe was complete before even starting.

Radish and Dandelion Green Pesto

2 fresh radishes, with greens, cleaned and tougher stems removed.

1/2 cup fresh dandelion greens, tougher stems removed.

1 Tbsp Gold Forest Grains flax seeds

50g(about 2 Tbsp) shredded Smoky Valley Mountain Tomme goat cheese (Note: for vegan option use 1 tsp miso + 1 Tbsp silken tofu).

2 Tbsp Mighty Trio Organics cold pressed flax oil.

1 Tbsp reduced rhubarb juice*

Salt and pepper to taste

* Reduced rhubarb juice is made by running a few stalks of rhubarb through a juicer, or puree it in a blender, then strain it. Place it in a small saucepan over medium high heat and skim off the green particulate matter that comes to the top, leaving a clear pink juice. Reduce liquid for about 7-10 minutes.

In a food processor, grind the flax seeds until coarsely milled. Add the radish and dandelion greens. Shred the radishes and add to the food processor along with the cheese and flax oil. Pulse until a chunky, yet partially smooth paste is achieved. Transfer to a small bowl, stir in the reduced rhubarb juice and season with salt and pepper to taste (about 1/4-1/2 tsp of each).  Serve with pasta, fish, chicken, or as a dip or spread.

Are you assimilated to abuse?-a self parody

Walking through dank doors akin to the darkest Peruvian jungle, you are greeted by the snarling feral cats and emaciated alleyway dogs, gnawing on any available detritus strewn about. Beyond the stench of their collective filth you are ignored by the proprietor until you walk into the view of his single, functional eye. Once you distract him from his hateful, curse-laden rants, you may get the most foul brew made of dried, powdery garbage that he sweeps from the floor beneath his feet. If he’s feeling especially foul, he’ll snort a deep, mucosal discharge into your already filthy cup.

If you aren’t already disgusted beyond measure by his antics, he’ll continue his hateful ranting about his times in various gangs and the military. He never paused to accept any input in the conversation, but shouted as if performing a sadistic soliloquy.

There were never a return of clientele. The proprietor ensured that his own living hell was your own. A few goth kids went as a rite of passage into their circle of friends, but were swiftly shooed away like the rest.

If you don’t find your way to the door with enough expediency, he will grab you from the scruff of your neck and throw you through the greasy front window. If the window is already shattered from a previous patron, which is invariably, he will throw you to the ground and kick your already swollen backside to the gutter. He will clear his nose with a characteristic hollow snort and cover you with his virulent sputum until you run off never to suffer his hell again. This hell’s name? Bizzara.

Can you quantify comfort?

As the Edmonton area develops a degree of  “coffee culture” that entails either the homogenized multinationals (Starbucks, Timmies, etc) or the ultra clique-y coffee nerd (a la transcend) there’s a place that’s more like home than a business. A place that is more akin to a visit to your groovy cousin’s home than a cafe. A place where the owner is a carefree friend more than an entrepreneur. This place is Luzzara.

Whether it’s your first step inside or your millionth, you are welcomed with the same vivacious flair from the ebullient Sarah. She is Luzzara, Luzzara is her. There is no division of business and individual. You can just as freely talk about your day as you could a political or sociological issue. The topics flow freely like the exquisitely pulled espresso. The subject matter ebbs from cerebral to silly as easily as Sarah effortlessly swirls a design in your cappuccino.

You can be in there for mere minutes or for hours and her infectious ebullience always elicits a smile. Amidst the kitschy-cool decor and the myriad of clientele that find their way through the doors, you enjoy a unique experience every time.

The only downside to such a rare treasure on East Whyte is the fact that Luzzara will soon be closing. But like any gem, or twinkling celestial body, it’s all the more precious for its rarity. You treasure every moment of its existence, taking in every detail. You notice the care Sarah takes in her every task. You see the passion she has for Luzzara. It is her home. And for a moment in time, it is your home as well.

Seafood night

Working at Ocean Odyssey Inland, I occasionally get the bounty of the sea when a customer makes an order for seafood, but then subsequently cancels. The product still arrives as ordered, and needs to be used up because it’s usually fresh and/or alive. Tonight I came home with fresh PEI mussels and a dozen Royal Miyagi oysters.

I decided to make a salad with the oysters as a starter and a pasta with the mussels.

Cornmeal Crusted Royal Miyagi Oysters with a Shaved Asparagus, Pepper and Cherry Salad

15-18 Edgar Farms asparagus spears, shaved with a vegetable peeler

1/2 sweet red pepper, sliced into 1/2cm/1/4″ thick slices

1/2 sweet orange pepper, sliced into 1/2cm / 1/4″ thick slices

12-15 BC cherries, halved and pitted

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 Tbsp Mighty Trio Organics flax oil

12 Royal Miyagi Oysters, shucked

3/4 cup cornmeal

1 tsp each garlic powder, sweet paprika, dry oregano

Canola oil for frying

In a medium bowl combine the shaved asparagus, lemon juice and salt. Allow to sit and quickly pickle for 15 minutes. Add the peppers, cherries, black pepper and flax oil. Toss to combine.

Bring the canola oil to a temperature of 350 degrees F/180 degrees C in a medium saucepan.

Toss the cornmeal with the spices in a medium bowl. Dredge the shucked oysters in the spiced cornmeal and fry for 45-60 seconds or until the cornmeal is crispy. Some take longer than others depending on the size of the oysters.

To serve, place a handful of salad on a small plate with a half dozen crispy oysters on top. Repeat with the remaining salad and oysters. Serves 2.

Spaghetti and Mussels in a Spicy Tomato-Sour Cream Sauce

4 lb PEI mussels

1 Tbsp Mighty Trio Organics canola oil

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onions

2 Doef’s Greenhouse red chillis, coarsely chopped

375 mL(1-1/2 cups) white wine

1 Tbsp chopped garlic

1 small can tomato paste

1/4 cup Bles-Wold natural sour cream

Reserved cooking liquid from the mussels

1 lb/450g spaghetti

In a large pot or two medium pots, saute the onions and chillis in the canola oil until softened but not browned. Add the wine and mussels, cover, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 7-10 minutes or until the mussels open. Allow to cool.

Remove the mussels from it’s shell, discarding the shell and set aside with the cooking liquid.

In a large saucepan, saute the garlic in 1 tsp canola oil until fragrant, but not browned. Add the cooking liquid, the tomato paste, and sour cream and simmer over medium low heat for 10 minutes until thickened slightly.

Cook the pasta until al dente (about 8 minutes). Toss spaghetti with the prepared sauce and season with black pepper to taste. Serves 4.