White Elephant – the Recipes

Three weeks ago in the midst of exams, presentations, and papers due I drew up a menu. Not just for fun, though I do that too, but for the biggest dinner I’ve ever hosted. A baker’s dozen, myself included. For Christmas, a week before. For a mismatched squad, one who brings peanut butter to every gathering, one who polishes off casseroles like a legitimate black hole, one who makes killer salads but cannot have tomatoes nor chocolate, one who ran out of luck with lactose but still hasn’t gotten over milk, and a handful more.

When I shared the night’s menu on where else but good ol’ Insta, I received a few inquiries of whether the menu was for a restaurant opening in the new year, or for a pop-up. Unfortunately, neither. At least for the short and foresee-able future.

As for the actual night, three questions passed around the table along with the bread and butter (with my answers) were:

1. What is your favourite Christmas carol?

For those of you who know me, this question basically forces me to pick a piece of straw out of a haystack. I do not like Christmas music, it must be the bells. If I must, I’d probably choose one in a minor key, so Mary Did You Know. Silent Night isn’t bad either. O Holy Night has lots of potential, might be my top pick for next year. But that’s next year.

2. What was your 2017 highlight?

This question had me. 2017 was huge for me. So blessed, so moved, so unexpected. I started the year in Baltimore, managing the most challenging project for which I’ve ever taken full responsibility (at the time), outside of the familiarity that is Canada. In May, with but a week’s time for transition, I returned to Waterloo and began what I thought would be just another term. Little did I know, it was this past summer when I’d meet some of my closest and most inspiring friends. I popped back in Vancouver at the end of the summer, where I was humbled by the amazing work God is doing in the lives of the young adults I used to mentor. Came September, and returning for a second school term in a row, I thought I was headed towards a sure-fire burnout. Instead, I fell in love with a ministry which is so real, so powerful, so alive. In awe at how God has orchestrated every detail this year. Oh, and did I mention that I’ve gotten my degree? Yeah, that too.

3. Do you like eggnog?

I’ve never tried it until the day after the dinner (when I learned, to my surprise, that there were three cartons of the stuff in my fridge). I made it into ice cream, and put it on apple crisp. I liked it that way. Still don’t think I’d drink it straight though. I sneak it into my mum’s coffee. Kevin likes it though, especially with a glug of Bailey’s slipped in.

Now, enough about me. Let’s get down to the grub. All of these were featured on December 18, 2017.

Since God chose you

to be the holy people he loves,

you must clothe yourselves

with tenderhearted mercy, kindness,

humility, gentleness, and patience. 

Make allowance for each other’s faults,

and forgive anyone who offends you.

Remember,

the Lord forgave you,

so you must forgive others. 

Above all, clothe yourselves with love,

which binds us all together

in perfect harmony.

Colossians 3:12-14

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Salt and Pepper Peanuts and Broiled Dates with Prosciutto

Salt and Pepper Peanuts – makes 2 cups

  • 2 cups raw red skinned peanuts
  • 1 large garlic clove, grated to a fine paste
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground five-spice
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  1. In a colander, rinse the peanuts under cold water thoroughly.
  2. Transfer the rinsed peanuts to a large microwave safe bowl and toss to evenly coat with the remaining ingredients.
  3. Microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes. Stir, and microwave 1 additional minute at a time, stirring in between each minute, until completely dry, golden, and fragrant.
  4. Cool completely then store in an airtight container at room temperature. Can be made up to 2 weeks in advance.

Broiled Dates with Prosciutto – serves 12

  • 12 medjool dates, pitted
  • 4 slices prosciutto
  • espresso balsamic reduction*
  1. To make the espresso balsamic reduction, combine 1 tbsp espresso, 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, and 2 tsp honey in a small saucepan until sticky. Cool completely.
  2. Cut the prosciutto slices into four lengthwise. Scrunch each piece up and stuff them into the dates’ cut.
  3. Broil or bake at 425 degrees F until the dates are caramelized on top.
  4. Transfer to a plate, drizzle with the espresso balsamic reduction. Serve immediately.

Young Greens with Yuzu and Grainy Mustard Vinaigrette – serves 6 (double up for 12)

  • 2 tbsp yuzu tea preserves (marmalade will work in a cinch)
  • 1 tbsp good mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 8 cups young salad greens (mesclun, baby arugula, mache, Bibb lettuce, are all good)
  1. In a large salad bowl, whisk together all ingredients except for the greens until creamy and emulsified.
  2. Add the salad greens and toss until evenly coated. Serve immediately.

Butternut Mac and Cheese – serves 12

  • 1 small butternut squash, halved and seeded
  • 1 white onion, peeled and halved
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 200 ml heavy cream
  • dash of grated nutmeg
  • 6 thick slices bacon, diced
  • 2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 500 g rice elbow macaroni (or other fun, short, chunky shape)
  • 300 g extra old white cheddar, grated
  1. Place the garlic cloves, squash and onion halves cut side down on a parchment lined baking tray and bake at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes, 1 hour, and 45 minutes respectively (or until tender). Let cool slightly.
  2. Place the roasted vegetables in a blender with the cream and nutmeg. Blend until completely smooth (add a splash of water if necessary to keep things moving). Season well and set aside.
  3. In a large pan, fry the bacon on medium heat until well rendered. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add the sliced onions to the pan and fry on high heat until browned and soft. Remove from the heat.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to the boil Season heavily with salt and add the pasta. Stir until the water returns to a simmer. Cook until completely tender – 2 to 3 minuted more than the recommended time on the package.
  5. SAVE THE PASTA WATER!!! Fish out the pasta with a slotted spoon and add it to the large pan with the caramelized onions. Add the squash puree and bacon and stir over medium heat, adding a ladle of pasta water at a time until the mixture comes together but is loose, almost risotto-like. (Make sure you have enough liquid in the mixture, otherwise it will be dry after baking.)
  6. Transfer to a large casserole dish and top with the cheese. Bake at 400 degrees F for 30-40 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and golden. If the top hasn’t browned by then, just broil it for 3-5 minutes until it’s crisp and golden.
  7. Serve immediately.
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Maple Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Way Too Much Bacon

Maple Glazed Brussels Sprouts with way to much Bacon – serves 12

  • 3 lb small Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 400 g thick sliced bacon, diced
  • 1/4 c maple syrup
  • 1/4 c balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 c soy sauce
  1. Toss the Brussels sprouts with the oil and sea salt and spread onto a baking sheet. Roast for 20-25 minutes at 425 degrees F until browned and tender.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large pan fry up the bacon until crisp and rendered. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.
  3. Add the roasted Brussels sprouts to the pan and fry for 1-2 minutes on medium heat. Add the maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, an soy sauce. Cook and stir until the sprouts are coated and the glaze turns sticky. Return the bacon to the pan and toss to coat.
  4. Serve immediately.
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176-hr Wind Cured Roast Duck

WARNING: this recipe demands a certain level of commitment. Please proceed at your own discretion.

176-hour Wind Cured Roast Duck – serves 8

  • 1 fresh young duck, (or previously frozen and defrosted)
  • 1 orange, zest only
  • 1 tbsp ground Chinese five spice
  • 1 tbsp szechuan peppercorns, toasted and ground
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup whiskey
  1. Rinse the duck thoroughly under cold water and pat dry with kitchen paper towel. Set aside.
  2. In a food processor, combine the orange zest, spices, salt, and sugar. Pulse until a wet sand forms.
  3. Brush the duck all over with whiskey, then rub generously inside and out with the spice curing mixture. Patting any extra on the breasts and in the cavity.
  4. If temperatures will remain under -4 degrees C, transfer the duck onto a rack and place it in a cardboard box, uncovered, outside, to cure for 7 days. Otherwise, place on a rack on top of a baking sheet in your fridge for a week (this will not be as good, just sayin’).
  5. On the eighth day, take your duck inside. No need to wait for it to defrost. Rinse under cold water and rub off any spices still clinging onto the skin. Pat dry completely and score the skin on the breasts at 1 cm intervals.
  6. Place back on the rack and in a roasting dish. Roast at 275 degrees F for 7 hours. Increase the temperature to 350 degrees for the last hour, the skin should be very crisp and richly browned all over. RESERVE THE RENDERED FAT!!!
  7. Let rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.
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Thyme and Duck Fat Roast Spuds

Thyme and Duck Fat Roast Spuds – serves 12

  • 18 medium Yukon gold potatoes, washed and scrubbed
  • rendered fat from 1 slow-roasted duck (recipe above)
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • fine sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
  • sage pesto, thinned with olive oil (regular pesto recipe, just use half sage half basil)
  1. Place the potatoes in a large pot. Add enough cold water to cover and season the water heavily with kosher salt.
  2. Bring the pot to a simmer and continue for 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes are completely tender. Drain.
  3. Place a potato on a flat surface and press down with the bottom of a plate until the potato is about 1 inch thick. Transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining potatoes.
  4. Season the potatoes with salt, pepper, and sprinkle over the thyme leaves. Top with a spoonful of duck fat.
  5. Roast at 415 degrees F until crisp golden, about 15-20 minutes. Flip the potatoes over, season again with salt, pepper, and thyme, and continue roasting for about 10-15 minutes until the other side is crisp golden.
  6. Top with the thinned sage pesto and serve immediately.
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Sweet Cheese Plate

NOTE: this isn’t really a recipe, just a bunch of things that go well with certain cheeses. Rule I generally go by: a) have odd-numbers of cheese types (1, 3, 5, or 7), b) cut the cheese before your guests do so they have something to follow, c) have at least one cheese that you’ve never tried or you’re sure your guests have never tried.

Sweet Cheese Plate – serves as much or as little as you’d like

  • Chevre or goat cheese – honeycomb, black pepper, candied kumquat, walnuts
  • Manchego – persimmon, roasted almonds, currant preserves, dried cranberries
  • St. Andre – grapes, dark chocolate covered espresso beans, roasted hazelnuts, bosc pears
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Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies and Cardamom Rye Apple Crumble

Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies – makes 24 to 36 depending on size

  • 1 c butter, softened
  • 1 c packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 10 ml vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 3 ml fine sea salt
  • 1 c white chocolate, chopped
  • 1 c dried cranberries, de-clumped
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F on convection bake.
  2. Cream together the butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla until the sugar is no longer gritty.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the creamed mixture to the flour and mix until a rough dough forms.
  4. Add the chocolate and cranberries. Mix, until a dough forms once again. Cover and chill for 2 hours or overnight
  5. Use an ice cream scoop to help with portion size, scoop mounds of cookie dough onto non-stick cookie sheets (or line a regular with parchment paper). Gently press down on the rounded tops so that they are evenly thick throughout.
  6. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes until edges are just starting to turn golden. Let cool for 10 minutes until transferring them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Cardamom Rye Apple Crumble – serves 12

For the apple filling:

  • 3 lbs small local apples, UNPEELED, cored and thinly sliced (my current favourite is Ida Red)
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 2/3 c packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 c corn starch
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt

For the crumble:

  • 1 c butter, softened
  • 1 c oat flour
  • 1 1/2 c dark rye flour
  • 1 c instant rolled oats
  • 1 c packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbsp fine sea salt
  1. For the apples, sift together the brown sugar, corn starch, 1 tbsp cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and 1/2 tsp salt in a large bowl.
  2. Add the apples and lime juice and toss with your hands until evenly combined.
  3. To make the crumble, place all ingredients in a stand mixer and mix on medium low speed with the paddle attachment until clumped and crumbly.
  4. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, with the rack placed in the lowest part of the oven.
  5. Arrange the apple slices as tightly as possible in a deep 9 or 10-inch pie dish. Pour over any juices left at the bottom of the bowl. Carefully pile on the crumble mixture. (This is a ridiculously massive apple crumble, I am aware, but it’s worth it!).
  6. Place the pie dish on a large baking sheet and place on the lowest rack in the oven. Bake for 80-90 minutes, or until the juices bubble over and the top is completely crisp.
  7. Cool for 10-15 minutes before serving, or cool completely. It will stay crisp for at least 3 days at room temperature, so you can definitely make this ahead.

So there, all the recipes that went into one dinner.

To do with eggplant.

This recipe is for the Feed Feed, enjoy!

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Roasted Eggplant with Garlic Tahini Crema, Pomegranate, and Mint

Rice with Turmeric and Currants

  • 1 c rice, rinsed until the water runs clear then drained (long or short grain are both fine)
  • 1 c filtered water
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp dried currants
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  1. In the pot of a rice cooker, combine all ingredients. Add 1 cup of water to the outer pot.
  2. Cook until the rice is tender but well-defined. Fluff with a rice spatula, put the lid back on and keep warm.

Roasted Garlic Tahini

  • 1 c roasted garlic
  • 3/4 c tahini
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • water, as needed
  1. Place all ingredients besides water in a blender and blend until smooth. Add enough water and blend through to adjust the consistency to that of thick yoghurt. Store in a mason jar and refrigerate until needed. Stores up to 3 weeks.

Tahini Crema

  • 1/2 c Roasted Garlic Tahini (above)
  • 1/2 c plain Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • salt, to taste
  1. Stir together all ingredients until smooth. Use immediately.

Roasted Eggplant

  • 2 small eggplant, washed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Slice each eggplant lengthwise in half, and cut off a thin slice from the rounded side of the eggplant so that the slices have a flat base.
  3. Season both sides of the eggplant and brush generously with olive oil.
  4. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes or until completely tender.
  5. Let cool for at least 10 minutes.

Assembly:

  • 1 cup Tahini Crema (above)
  • 1 cup Rice with Turmeric and Currants (above)
  • Roasted Eggplant (above)
  • arils from 1 small pomegranate
  • 2 tbsp crushed pistachios
  • 1 handful torn mint
  • pomegranate molasses, to drizzle
  • pistachio or extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle
  • sumac, to finish
  1. Place the roasted eggplant slices on 2 plates (as main course) or 4 plates (as starter). Spoon over the tahini crema to cover the eggplant.
  2. Add some clusters of rice around the eggplant.
  3. Scatter all over with pomegranate, pistachios, and mint.
  4. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses and oil, then dust with a pinch of sumac.
  5. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Excuse My Political Incorrectness

“History is the running record of mankind trudging like a blind idiot through an endless pile of retrospectively unenlightened shit. Like Mike in Suits, if you will.”

A few mornings ago I woke up to an article from the National Post titled “Everything is offensive: Here are Canada’s other politically incorrect place names” in which the writer Tristin Hopper wittily drew the parallel between many of Canada’s key historical figures and your obliviously racist grandmother. The article was written in response to a dispute last last week brought up by the Ontario elementary teacher’s union to eradicate all John A. Macdonald references in school names.

The reason for this?

JMac, the first Prime Minister of Canada (long dead for 126 years), is now being called ‘the architect of genocide against Indigenous Peoples’ and according to some, should thus be whitewashed from public memory. Felipe Pareja, the teacher who brought up the issue claimed that “it might be difficult for Indigenous students and teachers to go to a school named after someone who he says was complicit in the genocide of Indigenous people.”

While it was ruled that the right to remove or keep the the school names remains with individual school boards across Ontario, this is hardly the first (or last) we’ll be hearing about our ‘politically incorrect’ past. Statues of Confederate ‘heroes’ are being torn down across the US as modern society repaints them as white supremacists, slave-owners, and sexist scum of history. Toronto’s own Ryerson University is also under scrutiny as Ryerson becomes brandished as the pioneer of residential schools designed to assimilate Indigenous children.

It seems that North American societies are dead set on disowning much of its past, retaining only the scraps that are politically correct, which begs the question: what exactly is politically correct?

Practical answer: not much.

Dictionary.com answer: conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated.

(If you had to read that definition more than once, don’t feel bad, I did that too. That sentence structure is pretty convoluted.)

But history is extremely offensive.

History is the running record of mankind (no I will not instead use the word ‘humankind’) trudging like a blind idiot through an endless pile of retrospectively unenlightened shit. Like Mike in Suits, if you will.

We’ve hated, discriminated, misunderstood, persecuted, tortured, feared, abused, robbed, and competed against our brothers and sisters for as long as we’ve existed, and it still happens now. The West’s insatiable appetite for cheap oil has driven us to rob the people of Equatorian Guinea of their access to acceptable standards of living, while pampering the corrupt Obiang clan to insupportable excess. Demand for cheap textiles from countries in Southeast Asia means that women are paid such dismal wages that they are structurally forced to work as prostitutes in order to make a living.

And here we are, making a fuss about something that happened over a century ago. I’m not saying that we should forget about what we have done here in Canada. I’m saying the exact opposite – that we need to recognize that it’s not about being politically correct or incorrect, but rather about reconciliation and advancement. And changing a couple of school names, or all of them as the proof by induction suggests, gets us nowhere near either of those.

Changing ‘British Columbia’ to ‘Province A’ does nothing to atone for our colonial past, to change the fact that Christopher Columbus came with guns and ships, and cheated the First Nations people of their birthright. In fact, changing it to ‘Province A’ might lead us to forget this segment before we can truly address it and make right our wrongs.

Making such a big splash about JMac also drowns out more pressing topics (given our society’s goldfish attention span), such as the lack of clean water in roughly two-thirds of water systems in Aboriginal communities.

Yes, I get it, changing a name is quick and satisfying, quoting how much we’ve spent on infrastructure makes us look big and generous. But these issues are deeper than that, and while it may be out of good intentions that these kinks on the surface, the damage may incur not all that far down the road may have our grand-children thinking we were politically unenlightened buffoons.

Blessed are the peacemakers:

for they shall be called

the children of God.

Matthew 5:9

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Niagara Lavender Peach Crostata with Buckwheat Crust

Buckwheat Pastry

  • 125 g buckwheat flour
  • 125 g pastry flour
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 c cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 2/3 c cold water
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  1. In a food processor, pulse together the flours, salt, and sugar until thoroughly combined.
  2. Add all of the butter, and pulse 3-5 times until you’re left with pea-sized chunks that are coated in flour – do not over-process!!
  3. Stir together the water and vinegar, and drizzle it in while pulsing until the dough comes together into a single mass. You may need a couple tablespoons more depending on the mood of your flour.
  4. Dump the dough out onto a piece of clingfilm spread on a clean surface. Dust lightly and pat into an inch-thick round. Wrap tightly and chill for at least an hour or overnight.
  5. Dust your clean working surface generously with all purpose flour. Take out your dough from the fridge, unwrap it, and dust it on all sides with flour so it doesn’t stick.
  6. Working quickly so it doesn’t soften too much, roll the dough out into a 1/4-inch thick rectangle. With the short edge parallel to your body. Fold the top third down towards the center, and the bottom third up towards the center as well to form 3 layers, gently brushing away any excess flour with a pastry brush. Fold the rectangle in half crosswise so you have roughly a square, again brushing away any excess flour. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least an hour or overnight.
  7. Repeat step 6.
  8. The pastry now has 36 layers, and can either be frozen for up to 2 months, or 1 week in the fridge, tightly wrapped.

Niagara Lavender Peach Crostata

  • 6-8 slightly underripe Niagara peaches, sliced (if you can’t get these in your area, seek out any local peach or nectarine that has a bolder flavour and some acidity)
  • scant 3/4 c sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp water as egg wash
  • white sugar, as needed for crust
  • 1 tsp culinary grade lavender
  • 1 Buckwheat Pastry (above)
  1. Preheat the oven to 365 degrees F, with the rack placed on the lowest level.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the peaches and sugar. Set aside.
  3. Roll out the pastry dough to a 1/4-inch round (it doesn’t have to be perfect). Roll it up gently around your rolling pin to pick it up and drape it onto a 10-inch fluted pie tin with a removable bottom (9-inch works as well, you’ll just have a taller tart). Gently ease the dough into the corners of the tin, leaving the edges hanging.
  4. Fill the lined tin with the peach and sugar mixture. Fold the hanging edges over the filling, pressing gently to hold it in place.
  5. Brush the edges with egg wash and sprinkle generously with sugar.
  6. Place the tin on a baking sheet (to catch any juices) and bake on the lowest rack for at least 60-75 minutes, or until the crust is completely golden brown and crisp when tapped.
  7. Serve warm or cold with cream, whipped to soft peaks with some vanilla paste.
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Niagara Lavender Peach Crostata with Softly Whipped Chantilly

Enjoy!

backcountry roads

 

Forty years

Forty years they walked, they walked.

They had left, an impossible victory

an impossible freedom

but that was

nothing.

 

Nothing

that was, to them.

08.17.17 Never forget.

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Pita with Hummus, Shaved Cucumber, Harissa Fried Eggs, and Feta

Hummus

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained but save the liquid
  • 1 tsp sea salt, or to taste
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp honey, to taste
  • 1/2 c tahini
  1. In a food processor or powerful blender, add the garlic and lemon juice. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. Add tahini, honey, cumin, salt, and drained chickpeas. Add in half of the reserved bean liquid.
  3. Blend on high speed until as smooth as possible, add more of the bean liquid as needed to achieve a light, whippy consistency.
  4. Transfer to a sealable container. Keeps in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Harissa Fried Egg

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large free range egg
  • 1/2 tsp dry harissa
  1. In a non-stick skillet, fry the egg as you normally would on medium-high heat.
  2. When the egg is nearly done, tilt the skillet so the oil pools together. Add the harissa to the oil and spoon the harissa oil over the edges of the egg until crisp.

Shaved Cucumber Pea Shoot Salad

  • 1 medium spiny cucumber (persian cucumbers have too much water)
  • 1 handful young pea shoots
  • squeeze of lemon
  1. Cut off the ends of the cucumber. Slice lengthwise into thin, wide ribbons on a mandoline.
  2. Toss with the pea shoots and dress with a squeeze of lemon. Use immediately.

Assembly

  • 1 pita, lightly toasted
  • 2/3 c hummus
  • 1 harissa fried egg
  • shaved cucumber pea shoot salad
  • 2 tbsp crumbled feta
  • 1 tsp za’atar
  • extra virgin olive oil
  1. Spread the hummus evenly on the pita.
  2. Add the egg and drizzle the harissa oil all over the hummus
  3. Arrange the cucumber salad on the pita around the egg, top with feta, za’atar, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Enjoy!

 

Swipe left

In essence, smart tech enables us to swipe left on life.

A couple of weeks ago, I was driving to Toronto with a close friend and fellow blogger, Helena (who happens to be coming over for dinner tonight to save me from drowning in the beautiful abundance from Henceforth Farm). And as the stifling Torontonian traffic on the  401 ground the wheels of Eggplant (this is the name of my car) to a halt, our conversation picked up – as if to compensate for the loss of stimulus on the road.

I forget who asked the question, as apart from our taste in books, our minds seem to be the other’s mirror image. But the question I do remember.

We tugged at the issue from different angles and distracted ourselves from the drag of traffic with sufficient success. Yet even as I eventually pulled away from the congested stretch behind me at 160 km/h, I couldn’t shake the topic from my head.

When you become a parent, at what age will you give your child a smartphone?

This is more than the (perhaps simpler) question of “Is Technology Good or Bad”, so we’ll start there. As long as you’re not some hypocritical hipster, or paranoid conspiracy theorist, I think we can agree that in general, the gains from technology far outweigh the faults. Or if you’re more moderate, at least you might agree that living sans tech would make one’s life unnecessarily tedious. (Try to plan high school reunion without a phone or computer.)

So technology has been good, in general, to humans. But how does it effect children specifically? Adam Alter‘s Irresistible was rather helpful.

To set the tone, might I cite Steve, as in the Steve Jobs who masterminded the i-suite.

They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.” He was referring to the iPad. And at the time of the interview, neither did is children use the iPhone.

This is more significant than the opinion of one person, albeit a very brilliant one. The i-suite did not happen by coincidence – they were designed, re-designed, engineered, re-engineered, tested, and re-tested until they found the best design in terms of user experience (whoa, buzzword!). All of this was hinged on Jobs’ exuberant obsession with detail and perfection. Jobs knew his products better than anyone – they were his brainchildren, so much so that his resignation on August 24, 2011 then death on October 5, 2011 both resulted in a significant drop in Apple’s share price. (I’m sure Steve was rolling in his grave when Apple launched those wireless buds.)

So what does that mean? It means Jobs knew exactly how an iPad or an iPhone effects the brain, because he was the architect behind every detail of the product – the fit of every curve, the placement of every icon, the smoothness of each swipe of the screen, which ultimately defines effects it has on the user.

And if he’s not giving it to his kid, something’s up.

But then you might say that since technology is so integrated into the daily functions of today’s society, by withholding smartphones from kids, you’re setting them up for isolation, irrelevance, and ultimately failure.

This is a valid concern, and it was certainly the hardest to wrap my mind around. I don’t want to raise a sociopath. I want my kids to be connected to others, to have meaningful relationships. I want them to know what’s happening in the world, to be aware of the times. I want them to have the relevant skills, so that they can be a contributing member of society.

But what do those things really mean? To me, being connected means cultivating meaningful relationships. Knowing what’s happening in the world means having a good set of values and thus being able to formulate a sensible opinion on what they read about. And having the relevant skills means giving them a resilient and curious mind so that they will be never stop learning.

No, a smartphone does not do that for a child.

A smartphone is a super computer that fits in the palm your hand, which makes it a super calculator on three shots of espresso, a bag of Sour Patch Kids, and God knows how many doses of steroids. And as  any math teacher knows, a student should not use a calculator until they know how to do the arithmetic by hand. And financial math textbooks will teach (with proofs!) you the formulas before showing you the instructions for using the presets into your financial calculator.

Similarly, smart technology is designed to make your life easy, to satisfy your wants in as little time as possible, and to reduce the frustration in your life. Google calendar remembers all your appointments for you, sometimes automatically. Wondering where to go for brunch? The most-reviewed restaurant will pop up at the top of your Yelp search. If you want to break up with your boyfriend, you don’t even need to set a time to meet up, just tag him in a meme.

In essence, smart tech enables us to swipe left on life, on the gritty and sticky bits.

It might be hella useful if you already know how to do life and be a functional, likable person. But it’s destructive for kids who have yet to acquire those critical life habits and skills, (which are naturally extremely difficult to learn given life’s unpredictability and our emotional weakness) because it provides a pseudo way out.

I don’t know about the 10% of parents who think it’s a good idea to give their kids smartphones before the age of 5, but I intend to raise a human being who will look me in the eye when I speak with them, who will know the peace of watching a late summer sunset, and will be compassionate enough to cry when a friend cries and laugh when a friend laughs, instead of responding with a pathetic “lol”.

Count it all joy, my brothers,

when you meet trials

of various kinds, for you know

that the testing of your faith produces

steadfastness.

And let steadfastness have its full effect,

that you may be

perfect and complete,

lacking in nothing.

James 1: 3-4

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Radish and Butter Toasts with Caviar

With only 5 ingredients, there’s really nowhere to hide. Use a good bread  – if you’re in the GTA, Blackbird Baking Co. is a no-brainer, otherwise look for a well-hydrated, naturally leavened sourdough. Use good radishes – seek them out at your local farmer’s market. Use good butter – unsalted, preferably grass-fed. Use good salt – I used black salt, because with the pink of the radishes it just looks that much better. Use good extra virgin – go for something creamy and sweet like Colavita, I wouldn’t do a spicy one, just because the radishes have some kick already. And caviar, which is optional, but really rounds out the toast. I used truffled kelp caviar, which is completely vegan and actually tastes really good.

Radish an Butter Toasts with Caviar

  • 2 slices sourdough bread
  • 2 tbsp softened butter
  • finely ground black salt
  • 2-3 radishes (french breakfast, cherry bomb, small turnips also work)
  • 1 tsp caviar
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  1. Butter your toasts right to the edge. Sprinkle lightly but evenly with salt.
  2. Slice the radishes thinly on a mandoline or with a sharp knife. Arrange the slices onto the buttered toasts.
  3. Dot the caviar randomly in small clusters on top of the radishes.
  4. Finish with olive oil.
  5. Serve immediately.

Zucchini Don’t Say Hi

One moment they’re still looking like little runt wieners in ruffled yellow skirts,

yet as soon as the clouds give way to the sun, the fields are suddenly littered as if it rained baseball bats.

This is my second year of signing up for a local CSA share, if you’re still new around here, hop on over to this post either now or later to find out why I started in the first place. Last year, zucchini season crushed me. I did okay with tomatoes, because they’re so damn versatile and especially the ones from ReRoot Farm since they’re so jam-packed with flavour they barely need any help. But zukes are different.

Some people like raw zucchini (zoodles, anyone?). But I think they’re really just trying to convince themselves that it tastes enough like nothingness to the point that it tastes like something else. Something about their spongy-cucumber-esque texture just really makes me miss the unabashed crunch of a real cucumber.

Yet if you will allow it, and if you’re willing to put in a tiny bit of effort, you’d find that they’re one of the unsung heroes of summer.

Here are some of the best traits of zucchini:

They caramelize very well.

Zucchinis, unlike cucumber, have quite a bit of sugar in them, similar to cauliflower and broccoli (which I also loathe when raw). However, in order to properly caramelize them, you’ll need to get the cut surface hot enough that the sugars caramelize before the heat breaks down its cellular structure and releases all the water stored up in each of the cells. In Layman’s terms, this means you want a rippin’ hot pan, so be sure to preheat your cast-iron.

They’re a sponge for salt and olive oil.

If you’re looking for some low-key luxury, literally need only a pound of small zucchini, good extra-virgin olive oil, and some sea salt. Bring a pot of well-salted water to the boil, add the zucchini whole, boil until tender (but not mushy). Fish them out onto a platter and douse immediately with the olive oil. Turn each zucchini so that all sides are coated and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Wait for 5 minutes for the olive oil to soak in, and eat as is, with some crusty bread to mop up any excess oil.

They’re silky, really silky if you do it right.

Yup, like chawan-mushi level. Which is crazy because it is a vegetable. But note the clause, so read on.

For everything comes from him

and exists

by his power and

is intended for

his glory.

Romans 11:36

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Zucchini Bacon Flapjack

This flapjack/pancake/giant fritter/fritatta thing uses zucchini as the basis for most of its body. By grating the zucchini, you’ve already crushed many of the cells in its structure and greatly increased its surface area. This speeds up the salting, whose purpose is mainly to remove the water from the zucchini, but also to add flavour. Last but not least, by incorporating it into the batter the steam generated from the zucchini as the pancake cooks helps the pancake rise, sort of like a souffle, which makes the final product custardy and light if served immediately when piping hot. Leftovers, however, are delicious pan-fried in a small skillet until crispy and heated through.

Zucchini Bacon Flapjack

  • 2 large zucchini, coarsely grated
  • 1 tbsp plus 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 c buttermilk
  • 4 thick slices of dry-cured bacon
  1. In a large bowl, stir together the zucchini and 1 tbsp salt until the juices start to collect at the bottom.
  2. Pour the zucchini into another bowl lined with a kitchen towel or several layers of cheesecloth (if you have a bag you use for straining nut milk, use that). Twist to squeeze out much of the water. No need to stress about getting it super dry, just do it until you’re left with about 2 cups of zucchini.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat your cast iron pan or a 9-inch non-stick skillet on medium low heat. Once hot, add the bacon and tease them to follow the shape of the pan. Flip the bacon a couple of times to lightly crisp them up, but mostly to render out the fat. You want them to be still pliable, as they will cook further later. Take them out of the pan as needed to keep them from becoming too crisp. Keep all the bacon fat in the pan.
  4. When the bacon is almost done, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Stir in the eggs and buttermilk until it forms a thick batter, then fold in the zucchini.
  5. Increase the heat to medium so that the oil is lively and lightly sputtering. Scrape the zucchini batter into the pan over the bacon. Smooth out the top and let it cook for 2 minutes before reducing the heat back down to medium-low. Cover the pan with a lid to trap in the steam.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  7. Once the oven is hot, remove the lid and tuck in the edges of the pancake so that you have a neat disc. Place the whole pan in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
  8. Take out the pan and tip the grease into a small bowl. Flip the pancake over (by inverting it onto a large plate, and be sure to wear gloves as the pan will be hot). Pour the grease back into the pan and slide the pancake back in as well (the bacon should now be at the top). Don’t worry if it rips, just piece it back together.
  9. Bake for another 12-15 minutes, or until golden, the edges and bacon are crisp, and the pancake is puffed up.
  10. Serve immediately, just don’t burn yourself too badly because I definitely didn’t.

Enjoy!