Love: A Way Of Feeling

Love. A single word that can encompass so much or so little depending on how it is uttered. Parents and their children. Friends both old and new. A married couple who have shared a life together. All can say the word love, but is there a common thread between them?

Yes. A shared sensation of togetherness. A shared moment in time. A shared kindness that is effortless.

Some can look at that sensation as a purely physiological response, a hormone surge or a collection of nerves firing at a particular moment, giving pleasure. But love can be greater than that. Love takes any initial sensation and shares the common compassion within us. Love is liberating. Love is complex. Love is simple. Love is the great emotional contradiction of human behaviour. It shows us that we are connected to others around us. Love shows us our harmony with all that is right and natural with the universe.

When you love someone, you give without asking. You give without a greater expectation of more beyond the moment. A needed smile. A longer, lingering embrace. Or something as simple as a meal in the morning. A simple breakfast sandwich. It gives by the simple act of showing that you care how they start their day.

Sweet Pepper and Aged Cheddar Breakfast Sandwich

2 tsp Mighty Trio Organics cold pressed canola oil

1/4 cup Doef’s Greenhouses sweet red pepper, finely chopped

2 Sunshine Organic large eggs

1 Tbsp butter

4 Doef’s Greenhouses cherry tomatoes, cut in quarters

50g/2oz Sylvan Star 8 year old cheddar, shredded

2 BonTon Bakery whole wheat buns

2 Tbsp tzatziki sauce (I usually go to a nice gentleman at my farmer’s market who makes it fresh every market, Theo’s Greek Kouzina)

In a small sauté pan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Lightly sauté the peppers until softened (about 3-4 minutes).

Beat the eggs in a small bowl until well combined, then add to the pan. Bring the edges of the eggs into a uniform rough rectangle on one side of the pan, the pepper embedded within the eggs as they cook. Add the butter, allowing it to melt around the slowly cooking egg. Give the pan a series of small shaking motions to ensure the egg isn’t sticking to the pan, then add the quartered cherry tomatoes to the egg, along with the shredded cheese. Allow the egg to set a little further (about 2-3 minutes), then fold the egg in half. Remove from heat.

Slice the buns and spread with tzatziki sauce. Cut the prepared egg in half with the side of a spatula and split between the two buns. Serves 2.

Adventurous Simplicity

Over the course of Advent, I’ve not only explored food, but elements of my identity. Part of me enjoys dissecting an element of myself or an idea, but another part enjoys the simpler aspects.

Advent to me is more than a piece of a certain religion’s ideology. It has transcended any singular concept. To me, it’s as much about compassion, understanding and sharing with whoever I can. It’s about bringing a moment of joy to whoever I come in contact with. It could be a smile that only takes a second or a conversation with someone whose day would be brightened by that brief exchange.

I often explore my place in my family’s history. It’s a way to connect to the greater part of me that comprised my past and the past of my family before me. I can also relish the simplicity of a dish that brings the most basic of comforts. Some people have mashed potatoes as a trigger for a comforting family meal. I have rakott krumpli, or a heartier version of a scalloped potato.

Rakott Krumpli (Hungarian Scalloped Potatoes with Sausage and Egg)

6-8 medium August Organics potatoes, sliced into 1cm(1/2″) slices (about 8-10 cups total)

3 Sunshine Organic large eggs

150g/6oz csabai (dry cured, smoked Hungarian sausage), thickly sliced

500mL/2 cups heavy cream

Freshly ground black pepper

Peel and slice the potatoes into 1cm thick slices. Place the potato slices in a large pot. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook until just tender without starting to crumble and become overly soft. Drain and allow to cool.

Place the eggs in a small pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for exactly 15 minutes. Immediately run the eggs under cold water until the hard boiled eggs cool completely. Peel the eggs and cut them into quartered wedges.

Cut the sausage into 1cm slices.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

In a large casserole dish or lasagna pan, layer the potatoes over the bottom of the pan. Add a few slices of sausage and a couple of quartered hard boiled eggs. Repeat with more potato slices, sausage slices and quartered eggs. Finish by slowly pouring the cream over the entire layered potato mixture. Sprinkle liberally with freshly ground black pepper and bake in the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes until the top is deeply golden brown. Serve on its own or as a side with any meat dish. Serves 3-4.

 

Compassionate Gathering

When bringing together family and friends, my immediate thought is, “What can I make extra to add to their pleasure of their visit?” While visiting my brother and his family for Christmas, I found out several of his friends will be joining us for dinner. I did some baking for my brother and his family but thought I’d do more with my 9 year old niece.
We had fun playing with chocolate by doing this easy recipe for Peanut Butter Fingers that I posted in an earlier post. She spent all day asking, “Can we form the mixture into fingers? Can we dip it in chocolate? Are they ready to eat?”
I smiled at her exuberance, thinking that passion mirrored my own. Wanting to see the next step. Wanting to taste the result of your labour. I also thought of how else to share while walking through one of Calgary’s farmers markets today. My sister-in-law asked to get some vegetables for side dishes and besides some carrots and other things, I picked up some Brussels sprouts and a locally produced beef bacon. The recipe I’m planning is something I’ve done with bison bacon before. Both are done in more of a back bacon style, so they’re quite lean, more like a ham. I’ll be doing this recipe I’ve done at a number of family gatherings and for myself.

Pan-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Beef Bacon

1 Tbsp Mighty Trio Organics cold pressed canola oil
1 cup Riverbend Gardens red onion, thickly sliced
1 tsp dried red chilli flakes
450g/1lb Brussels sprouts, halved with the core cut off
225g(1/2lb) Hoven Farms beef bacon or Medicine Man Bison bison bacon, thickly sliced
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and chilli flakes and sauté until the onions are softened and the chilli flakes become intensely aromatic. Add the halved Brussels sprouts and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the Brussels sprouts start to slightly brown (about 8-10 minutes). Add the chicken stock, reduce the heat to medium and add the beef bacon. Simmer with occasional stirring for a further 10 minutes until the Brussels sprouts are softer and most of the liquid has reduced. Serves 4 as a side. If you double the recipe, be mindful of the amount of chilli. Add just a little more if doubling the recipe to ensure a pleasant spiciness without being overwhelming.

Culinary Nostalgia

When you eat something and you’re immediately transported to a moment in the past, that is the definition of nostalgia. While visiting my brother and his family, we went to a Hungarian restaurant. Almost everything on the menu immediately evoked moments of pleasurable nostalgia. The chicken paprikaś, the kapostas teszta (Caramelized cabbage noodles), the palascinta(Hungarian-style crepe), all made me close my eyes and feel that familiarity of past family dinners. Seeing my 9 year old niece have the same pleasurable look on her face eating just made that pure familial connection all the more palpable.
With a greatest hits of my childhood on their menu, there were a few dishes not present. There was one key one: goulash soup. My most recent favourite way of preparing it, is with bison instead of the traditional pork.

Bison Goulash Soup

2 Tbsp Mighty Trio Organics cold pressed canola oil
500g/1lb Medicine Man Bison stew meat
2 cups Riverbend Gardens yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup sweet Hungarian paprika
1 small can tomato paste
2 Dof’s Greenhouses fresh red chillis, chopped
5 stalks celery, chopped (about 1-1/2 cups)
3 or 4 Riverbend Gardens carrots, chopped (about 1-1/2 cups)
3 Peas On Earth Organics parsnips, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 cups Riverbend Gardens potatoes, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp prepared coarse, grainy mustard (I make it homemade)
2 Tbsp salt
6-8 cups water

In a large sauté pan over high heat, heat the oil. Add the bison stew meat and sear it on all sides until deeply golden brown in colour. Add the onions and sauté for a further 4-5 minutes until softened and just starting to brown along the edges. Add the paprika and tomato paste and sauté, pan-roasting the tomato paste and paprika with the bison and onions until a toasted aroma starts to rise. Add a cup of water and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any bits stuck to the bottom. Transfer the entire mixture to a slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients, stir to loosen the roasted tomato paste into the soup. Cover and set the slow cooker on the longest setting, about 10 hours.
After 10 hours of low simmering, transfer the soup to a large pot over medium heat then prepare nokedli

Nokedli (Hungarian egg dumplings)

1 cup Gold Forest Grains soft white wheat flour, sifted
1/2 tsp salt
1 Sunshine Organic large egg
1/2-3/4 cup milk

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the egg and work it in with a fork until crumbly. Gradually whisk in the milk until a thick batter is achieved. It should be slightly thicker than a pancake batter.
Place a nokedli maker (in many kitchen stores it’s called a spaetzle maker. Or just use the flat side of a coarse grater) over the simmering goulash soup. Add a ladleful of batter on top of the grater and scrape the batter through the grater with a stiff spatula or flat edged wooden spoon, making small dumplings that fall into the soup. Simmer the dumplings for 5-7 minutes until they start to float. Serve with rye bread. Serves 6-8.

Made by hand

As I age, I realize more and more both I and others want less “stuff.” I’ve focused more on making things for others, and when I can’t, I seek others who can make something unique.
A few months ago, I experimented with doing a Japanese-style Roasted Barley Tea. It was a great way to explore beverage options with locally grown barley. It dawned on me recently that it could be bagged, tied with a decorative ribbon and given as a gift. I was playing around with some Roasted Barley Tea I prepared, earlier today and made a twist on a chai.

Roasted Barley Chai

1-1/2 cups 1% milk
1 tsp Coal Lake Honey Farms mixed honey
1 cinnamon stick
3 or 4 whole cloves
1 tsp crushed dried chilli flakes
1-1/2 Tbsp Roasted Barley Tea

In a small pot, heat the milk, honey, cinnamon, cloves and chillis until just simmering. Take off the heat and allow to steep for 20 minutes. Strain off the spices, put the spiced milk back on the heat. When it has come to a simmer again, add the barley tea, remove from the heat and steep for 5 minutes. Strain off the barley tea and serve in a mug. Serves 1.

Savoury Smile

There are things I go to time again because they bring a smile to my face. Whether it’s a walk in the park or eating a favourite food, I seek moments, however small, that make me smile. When I made the Caramelized Cabbage-Carrot Bruschetta topping the other day, it harkened back to my Hungarian heritage. A new way to feel a familiar comfort.

The greatest pleasures in food usually trigger a memory. Nostalgia is a powerful device to trigger pleasant memories. Every time I have the flavour of caramelized cabbage, I’m immediately transported to sitting around our big family table. The big bowl of “cabbage noodles,” as we called it, the only centre piece necessary on the table that always had my brother at the end of the meal with the wooden serving spoon eating any leftover in the bowl. A savoury smile.

Tonight, I made the Caramelized Cabbage-Carrot topping again and used it as a part of a wintery fish taco.

Cinnamon-Chilli Salmon Tacos with Caramelized Cabbage-Carrot Slaw

1 recipe Caramelized Cabbage-Carrot Slaw

1 recipe Wheat-Flax Flatbreads

For the Cinnamon-Chilli Salmon:

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp dry oregano

1 Tbsp sweet paprika

1 Tbsp dry red chilli flakes

1 Tbsp garlic powder

1 Tbsp chili powder

900g/2lb salmon, skin removed, cut into 2cm/1″ chunks, skin reserved

1 Tbsp Mighty Trio Organics cold pressed canola oil

Cream cheese, mint leaves, cheese curds to serve.

In a medium bowl, combine the salt and spices. Add the chopped salmon and toss to coat completely.

In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the reserved salmon skin and fry until crispy (about 1-2 minutes). Set aside.

In the same pan, add the spiced salmon and turn heat to high. Sear and toss over high heat for 3-4 minutes until golden yet still moist.

To serve, spread a flatbread with 1-2 Tbsp of cream cheese, top with about 1/3 cup Caramelized Cabbage-Carrot Slaw. Add a few pieces of cooked Cinnamon-Chilli Salmon, some torn mint leaves and pieces of cheese curd. Top with a few crumbled bits of fried salmon skin. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Serves 3-4.

Swimming upstream

Everyone gets busy at this time of year and when you work in the service industry, all the more so. I was making a load of crab cakes at work today so the shop would have a good supply to get through the Christmas rush while I go to visit my brother for a week. I make them as a quick takeaway frozen item for people to have an easy meal for later.

While making them, customers invariably have cooking questions and the open concept of the kitchen where I work facilitates customers asking me anything from preparation, recipe ideas or basic health/food metabolism questions (because of my biochemistry background). Today, a customer talked about how she had a chowder at a Christmas party last year and wanted to make it for someone. I prepare takeaway chowder for the shop as well, but I always want to encourage others to make it for themselves, so I shared my recipe I do for the shop for Creamy Seafood Chowder. I told her she could personalize the seafood mix to her liking and it’s easy to make ahead to prevent swimming upstream too vigorously this season.

Creamy Seafood Chowder

For the chowder base:

2 tsp Mighty Trio Organics cold pressed canola oil

3 cups chopped Riverbend Gardens yellow onion

2 tsp salt

In a medium pot, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and salt and sauté for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally until it starts to soften. As the onions begin to brown, reduce the heat to medium and continue to sauté, caramelizing the onions. This may take upwards of 20-25 minutes. If the onions start to stick to the bottom of the pot, add a few tablespoons of water, scrape the bottom of the pan and continue to sauté for another 5 minutes to ensure the added water is evaporated and emulsified into the caramelized onion.

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped fennel bulb

450g/1lb butter

2 cups sifted Gold Forest Grains soft white wheat flour (reserve the bran for another use such as muffins or homemade granola)

3L(just over 3 quarts) 1% milk (or 2L/2qt milk + 1L/1qt cream)

As the onions have caramelized, add the celery and fennel bulb, increase the heat back up to medium high and sauté for a further 7-10 minutes, or until they are softened.

Add the butter, and when melted, gradually stir in the sifted flour until it is smooth and free of lumps. Slowly whisk in the milk a cup or two at a time, stirring, and as it heats, it thickens. When all of the milk has been added, simmer on medium for another 8-10 minutes. If using cream, add it after the milk has simmered a bit.

For the seafood mix:

450g/1 lb halibut

450g/1 lb salmon (any variety of salmon is good, sockeye has the strongest flavour, but Spring/Chinook salmon is the richest in omega-3 oils with a milder flavour, so it’s up to personal preference)

450g/1 lb wild Mexican shrimp or Matane (Québec) shrimp

225g(1/2lb) smoked haddock or other smoked white fish

Chop all of the fish and seafood into 2cm/1″ bite-sized pieces and combine in a medium bowl. Set aside.

To prepare the chowder:

Heat the chowder base up to a simmer, add the seafood mix and simmer for a further 4-5 minutes to cook the seafood through.

If you are only doing a small amount, the chowder base and uncooked seafood mix can be combined, when cool, and cooked in batches as you need it. Serves 6-8 people.

Deeper Warmth

As December moves further along, no matter how mindful I am about keeping up with the various stresses that this month brings, there will always be left turns. I’ve finally done all the baking that I think I’ll need for everyone to get through the holidays and on a day where the pressures ease a little, I seek comfort and warmth.

Lately, when I’ve sought comfort, I’ve harkened back to my childhood and dishes from my Hungarian heritage. Today, I decided to give a childhood favourite, caramelized cabbage noodles, a bit of a twist.

Caramelized Cabbage-Carrot Bruschetta

1 Tbsp Mighty Trio Organics cold pressed canola oil

5 cups Riverbend Gardens green cabbage, finely shredded

3 cups Riverbend Gardens carrots, coarsely shredded

2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

Shaved pieces of Sylvan Star Grizzly aged gouda, for garnish

12 slices light rye bread

In a large pot over medium high heat, heat the oil. Add the shredded cabbage and salt and sauté for 4-5 minutes until starting to soften and dry. As it starts to become golden over the course of the next 15 minutes, reduce the heat gradually to medium. If the cabbage starts to brown too much and stick to the bottom of the pan, add a few tablespoons of water and scrape the bottom. When the cabbage is deeply golden add the shredded carrot. Stir and sauté for a further 7-9 minutes until the carrots soften and start to colour a light brown colour.

Toast the rye bread in a 200C/400F oven until golden. Top with the caramelized cabbage-carrot condiment and garnish with shaved Grizzly aged gouda and a sprinkle of ground black pepper. Serves 4.

Carry Myself

Recently, the element in my oven went out, so I’ve been going from place to place using the oven because I’m in the middle of baking Christmas treats for family, friends and whoever else I come across that would like them. I was at my work, Ocean Odyssey Inland, this morning and afternoon because the shop is closed today and I’d get a greater opportunity to spread out and do more.

In the middle of finishing up one pastry and waiting for my gingerbread dough to rest a bit more in the refrigerator, I decided to make brunch. The shop has products from various local producers so I’m in my element. I usually like to make myself some kind of brunch on Sundays because it’s usually a day I have to myself to unwind after a normally busy work day on Saturday. After a quick perusal of products this is what I made.

Maple Caramelized Surf N Turf

For the Maple Caramelized Onion and Bison Sausage Scramble:

2 tsp Mighty Trio Organics cold pressed canola oil

1-1/2 cups Riverbend Gardens yellow onion, chopped

200g Medicine Man Bison smokies, cut into 1/2cm(1/4″) chunks

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 Doef’s Greenhouses sweet red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1/3 cup butter

6 eggs, lightly beaten

In a large skillet, sauté the onions in oil over medium high heat until starting to soften. As the onions start to brown, stir a little more constantly. Add the bison sausage and sauté for another 5-7 minutes until both the onions and sausage start to brown a little further. Add the maple syrup and stir to coat more completely. Sauté and simmer the maple syrup until the onions and sausage are becoming lightly glazed and most of the maple syrup’s extra moisture is evaporated off (about 7-9 minutes). Add the peppers and butter and sauté for a minute or two. When the butter is almost emulsified with the rest of the mixture, add the beaten eggs. Fold and stir over medium high heat, scrambling the eggs into the mixture, combining it completely with everything else.

For the Crispy Perogies:

20 Luba’s Ukrainian Foods cottage cheese perogies

2 Tbsp Mighty Trio Organics cold pressed canola oil

While preparing the scramble, have a small pot on the back burner full of water. Bring to a boil and boil the perogies for 4-5 minutes or until they begin to float. Remove them from the water with a slotted spoon.

In a skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat and fry the boiled perogies for 3-4 minutes per side or until deeply golden.

For the Pan-Roasted Tomatoes:

20 Doef’s Greenhouses cherry tomatoes

2 tsp Mighty Trio Organics cold pressed canola oil

In a skillet over medium high heat, heat the oil. Add the cherry tomatoes and swirl over the intense heat. As the skin starts to blister and darken slightly remove from heat.

To serve:

250g(1/2lb) Ocean Odyssey Inland small BC wild shrimp, cooked

On four plates, place 5 Crispy Perogies on each, in a radial pattern around the plate. Add 5 Pan-Roasted Tomatoes along the radial pattern with the perogies. Sprinkle cooked shrimp in between. Divide the Maple Caramelized Onion and Bison Sausage Scramble amongst the four plates, placing it in a mound in the centre of the plate. Serves 4.

Small Moments

I spend a lot of time kneading dough: flatbread dough, biscuit dough, bread dough and through that time kneading, I have time to think, reflect, and focus on the singular act. I look down at the dough and see how the minute cracks become smoother. Each motion of my hand moves, carrying a length of dough, only to be folded back on itself again, finally getting to the desired point of smoothness.

I was making both flatbreads and biscuits today and the focus of both eased a week of stress from various things. I used the biscuits in place of a bun for a little twist on sliders. A small moment for small bites.

Red Fife-Gruyere Biscuits

2 cups Gold Forest Grains Red Fife flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup Sylvan Star aged gruyere cheese, shredded

1/2 cup butter, frozen, shredded

3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 220C/450F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and shredded gruyere. Grate the frozen butter into the cheese-flour mixture. Work the shredded butter quickly through the dry ingredients with your fingers. Stir the milk in with a wooden spoon until the dough just starts to come together. Turn out on to the counter and knead only to just bring the dough together. Press out the dough with your hands, or gently with a rolling pin to a thickness of about 2cm/1″. Cut out 5cm(2-1/2″) biscuits with a biscuit cutter or a sharp-edged glass. Flip the biscuit top-side down and lay on an ungreased baking sheet. Re-roll the trimmed dough pieces and cut out more biscuits, placing them on another baking sheet. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until golden.

Chicken-Wild Rice Sausage Patties

1-1/2 cups water

1/2 cup Mona Foods wild rice

1 tsp Mighty Trio Organics cold pressed canola oil

2 cups Riverbend Gardens yellow onion, chopped

2 tsp salt

1 cup Sylvan Star 8 year old cheddar, shredded

1 tsp dried crushed red chillis

450g/1lb Sunshine Organic Farms ground chicken

In a small pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the wild rice, cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 40 minutes or until the wild rice is tender and the water is absorbed. Set aside in a large bowl to cool.

In a medium pot, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and 1 tsp salt. Stir and soften for 7-10 minutes. As it starts to brown, gradually reduce the heat, scraping the bottom of the pan as it browns further. If the browning starts to stick too much, add a few tablespoons of water and scrape more vigorously, stirring the brown bits into the onions as they caramelize. After about 30 minutes the onions should be a deep golden brown. Remove from heat and add to the large bowl with the cooked wild rice.

When the onions and wild rice are cool, add the shredded cheese, remaining salt, dried chillis and ground chicken. Mix together with your hands to combine, ensuring a uniform mix. Pulse the mixture with a hand blender or in a food processor until not quite smooth, leaving noticeable chunks of wild rice. Portion into 1/4 cup portions, forming them into patties. At this point the patties could be frozen on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and frozen for future use. To serve right away, brown in a few tablespoons of oil over medium high heat in a non-stick pan or cast iron pan.

Lime-Flax Mayo

1 cup water

2 Tbsp Gold Forest Grains flax seeds

1 tsp prepared mustard (I use homemade mustard, but any will do)

1/2-1/3 cup Mighty Trio Organics cold pressed canola oil

Juice and zest of one lime (about 3-4 Tbsp)

1/2 tsp salt

In a small pot, heat the water and flax seeds over medium high heat. When it comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer without stirring for 20-25 minutes, until the liquid becomes gelatinous in texture. Strain off the flax seeds, reserving the gelatinous liquid (you can save the “used” flax seeds for a future smoothie or muffin recipe). Cool the liquid in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Add the cooled liquid to a blender with the mustard and lime zest. Blend until the mustard, lime zest and flax liquid are combined. With the blender running, slowly drizzle in the oil. As the emulsion starts to hold tighter, pour the oil a little faster. You will hear the emulsion get tighter by making a deeper sound in the blender. The blender will be spinning slightly slower. Stop the blender to assess the thickness. It should be very thick. If it’s not very thick, continue to blend and add a tablespoon of oil. At desired thickness, add the lime juice and salt, blend it again for another 20 to 30 seconds.

To prepare the sliders:

Slice a biscuit in half, spread with some Lime-Flax Mayo, top with a browned Chicken-Wild Rice Sausage Patty, more mayo and a drizzle of your favourite hot sauce. Top with the top of the biscuit. Repeat with two more biscuits, sausage patties and more mayo. I like 3 sliders in a portion. Serves 5 with leftover biscuits and mayo.