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
In the pot of a rice cooker, combine all ingredients. Add 1 cup of water to the outer pot.
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
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.
1/2 c Roasted Garlic Tahini (above)
1/2 c plain Greek yoghurt
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
salt, to taste
Stir together all ingredients until smooth. Use immediately.
2 small eggplant, washed
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
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.
Season both sides of the eggplant and brush generously with olive oil.
Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes or until completely tender.
Let cool for at least 10 minutes.
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
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.
Add some clusters of rice around the eggplant.
Scatter all over with pomegranate, pistachios, and mint.
Drizzle with pomegranate molasses and oil, then dust with a pinch of sumac.
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.
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
And let steadfastness have its full effect,
that you may be
perfect and complete,
lacking in nothing.
James 1: 3-4
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
Butter your toasts right to the edge. Sprinkle lightly but evenly with salt.
Slice the radishes thinly on a mandoline or with a sharp knife. Arrange the slices onto the buttered toasts.
Dot the caviar randomly in small clusters on top of the radishes.
“Definitions look good only in ink on paper, for midterms, thus implicitly are useless for life in general.”
These days, between fires in a barrage of assignments, midterms, and projects I’ve been burying myself (and possibly my responsibilities) beneath a commendable mound of food literature and documentaries, two of which include Anthony Bourdain’s Layover on Netflix, tand a veg-driven number by chef-turned-farmer-turned-chef Joshua McFadden.
Each of these offers a slightly different perspective on what good cooking is. Considered in isolation, each would appear to be the bottom line.
Bourdain argues that the most genius cooking comes out of desperation, of a need to make ends meet and thereby elevating low-rank ingredients to iconic heights. McFadden simply states that great cooking starts and ends with pristine ingredients.
Is there a right and wrong? You cannot blame a mother for seeking out only the freshest organic produce to feed to her two young children. You cannot say that an age-old dish that has carried its nation through famine and drought is bad cookery. But what happens when you push these to the extreme?
Before that let’s lay down some rules, so that our ‘extremes’ are realistic (oxymoron, but a needed one nonetheless.)
Resources are finite
As a millennial, raised in an era when sustainability, greenness, and the food crisis are all the rage, I understand this intuitively. However, to many in my parents’ generation, the ocean is still bottomless, the soil is still inexhaustible, and they have no idea that a couple of drops in their glass of water probably came from Bathsheba’s bathtub that night David saw her from his balcony.
Rich and poor people exist
I’m not talking about the poverty line. I’m simply saying that wealth and resources are not identically distributed among each person on Earth.
Ingredients are either “high” or “low” end; the sum of both may feed the world.
While my definition of high might not coincide with yours, in this simplified universe everyone’s definition at any given point in time of these terms are identical. We also assume that neither of these categories alone can feed the world. I’m feeling generous, so I’ll say that high end ingredients can feed half the world’s population (the rest is fed by low end ingredients).
At this point if you’re still with me, then you’re basically done the proof.
If in pursuit of great cookery everyone cooks with only high end ingredients, then the poorer half of the world would starve to death. Or they might decide that they’d rather have bad cooking than death, if they’re not such die-hard foodies. Thus one’s ability to produce great cooking is first and foremost defined by your wealth. In other words, great cookery is a privilege, not a right.
I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time stomaching such a conclusion.
Now suppose that great cooking is driven out of desperation, of transforming low end ingredients to palatable dishes. Then yes, the world is fed, but then there would be no need, nor reverence for great ingredients and those who painstakingly produce them. Ingredient quality would deteriorate, and so would production integrity. Soon to follow would likely be a plummet in public health, due to prolonged consumption of degraded ingredients and excess salt, sugar, and fat.
To be honest, a world like this doesn’t excite me at all.
So what to make of all this? I say, definitions look good only in ink on paper, for midterms, thus implicitly useless for life in general. A great dish at the end of the day should be something that moves you – be it because of its history, or the way it connects you to nature, the person who prepared it, or the way it embodies the moment. In other words:
A chef does not qualify the dish, the dish qualifies the chef.
If you’re comfortable with making fresh pasta and have your favourite recipe tucked in your back pocket, this is a dish where it will really be worthwhile to get your pasta machine rolling, just use a higher ratio of egg yolks to whites. If you’re not too keen on the idea, by all means just seek out a good quality dried pasta which you can easily find in any well-stocked grocery. The key here is to toss your pasta in the dandelion pesto while drizzling in hot pasta water until the sauce becomes creamy and coats the pasta entirely. Blanching the dandelion greens and garlic before blending into the pesto helps keep the greens vibrant, tames the bitterness, and extends its shelf..err, fridge life, so don’t skip that step.
1 bunch dandelion greens, ends trimmed
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 c grated pecorino romano
1/2 c almonds, well roasted
1 strip lemon zest
1 tsp sea salt, or more
crushed coriander seeds and chile flakes, to taste
3/4 c good olive oil (one that you’d be happy tasting straight out of the bottle)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl of iced water.
Plunge the dandelion greens and garlic cloves in the pot and stir until all of the greens turn a deep, vibrant green. Drain and shock in the bowl of ice water until completely cold. Squeeze out any excess moisture.
Add the roasted almonds, chile flakes, coriander seeds, salt, lemon zest, pecorino, garlic cloves, and dandelion greens to a blender or food processor.
Pulse on medium speed to roughly chop the ingredients, then with the motor running, dribble in the olive oil until a textured sauce comes together and there are no discernible chunks of garlic or almonds remaining. You may need more or less olive oil, so don’t add it all at once. Don’t use a speed any higher than medium as that could turn your olive oil bitter.
Taste and adjust your seasoning – it be mildly bitter near the back of your palate, assertive with salt, and slightly tingly with the chile.
Spoon into a mason jar, tap gently to release any air bubbles. Pour in a slick of olive oil at the top to seal and screw on the lid. You can freeze this for up at least 3 months, store in the fridge for 2-3 weeks, or enjoy straight away.
Pappardelle with Dandelion Pesto and Small Poached Eggs
1 1/2 lb fresh wide pasta, such as pappardelle, or 1 lb dried
1 cup dandelion pesto
10 to 12 small eggs, or 6-8 large, poached
grated pecorino romano, to serve
chile flakes and black pepper, to serve
extra virgin olive oil, to serve
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook for 2-3 minutes until supple but toothy in the center. (If using dried pasta, cook according to instructions on the box, subtracting 1-2 minutes from the stated cooking time.)
Fish the pasta out of the pot and into a large bowl with the pesto. Toss gently, adding a bit of the pasta water at a time until the sauce emulsifies and becomes creamy, coating each strand of pasta.
Divide among 4 plates, top with 2-3 small poached eggs, or 1-2 large ones.
Top generously with grated pecorino romano, sprinkle on some chile flakes and black pepper, then finish with a flick of extra virgin olive oil.
I say, they’re a fruit. Because the ones that taste like fruit are the best ones.
When you’re looking for a tomato, you’re not looking for a bright green one nor a very firm one. You’re looking for intense reds, (perhaps even oranges, and yellows) with a bit of give when gently squeezed – both are signs for high sun exposure and full ripeness which imply higher sugar content and flavour compounds.
Essentially, we’re looking for all the qualities that make fruit delicious. If deep down we really believed that tomatoes are a vegetable, we would’ve probably select bred the red out of them back when cauliflower became white. By the way, most green tomatoes are actually just unripe red tomatoes. Same goes with bell peppers.
But don’t we “treat them like a vegetable” by roasting them, stewing them, putting them in salads, and/or pairing them with cheese? Last time I checked, we’ve been doing all of the above with apples and strawberries. Guess those two won’t count towards my morning fruit bowl anymore. Pity.
So if you’ve ever found raw tomatoes too raw or bland, you’re probably-very-likely-basically-99% missing the acid-sweet fruitiness and juiciness you’re so accustomed to tasting in red berries, grapes, and plums. I’ve got a few tips for you:
1. Buy fully ripe local tomatoes. Like all fruit, intense color and aroma are signs of ripeness in tomatoes. Give them a little pinch between your fingers – they should feel soft, like they might burst from the tiniest bit more pressure. Sourcing locally guarantees less travelling, which means they are vine-ripened instead of being picked prematurely. Get to know the farmers and vendours, start by asking for their favourite type and a few samples!
2. Season in season. Two birds with one stone here, but first, buy in season. I can’t stress this enough, there’s a time for everything. For tomatoes, it’s July through October here in Ontario. Second, but equally important, season with sea salt and a bit of freshly ground black pepper. I’ve already clarified the perks of salting your fruit.
3. Make the cut. Pretty sure I don’t need to tell you to cut your beefsteak tomatoes, but cherry tomatoes deserve fair treatment also. Remember, you eat with your eyes first, and as soon as they see something red and round like a fruit they start searching for the nectar that’s presumably inside. Know that fact and manipulate it, so slice them tomatoes open and let their juice shine. (Also, salt and other seasonings tend to slide right off uncut tomatoes. That’s no rocket science.)
And let us not grow weary
in doing good,
for in due season
we will reap,
if we do not give up.
I have to admit, the first salad I ever became drawn to since being exposed to western culture was the caprese. Yet, I seldom attempt it simply because it’s so difficult to find truly delicious tomatoes that are bright and robust in flavour. Indeed, there is not a single perfect tomato, but as I was reading Andy and Michael’s Collards & Carbonara one morning with a lovely pairing of coffee that’s cooled significant from when I first poured it, I realized that I needed a variety to cover all the notes I wanted to hit in my caprese (for me those would be a mellow-sweet one, a bright-sweet one, and one that has a strong “tomato-y flavour”) . So don’t be discouraged by a couple of bland attempts! Go try out varieties that are grown close to you, ask for a taste, and choose the ones you loved most. Remember, if you liked it enough on its own, it can only get better from there!
Ingredients for the heirloom caprese, serves 4:
30 g fresh basil leaves
125 ml extra virgin olive oil
450 g local tomatoes (I used zebra cherry, lady finger, cerise orange, sweet olive, and lemon drop)
150 g fresh mozzarella, torn into 4 pieces
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
To make the basil oil, pound the basil roughly with a mortar and pestle (or cup and muddler, whatever to thoroughly bruise the basil), with a drizzle of the olive oil. If you want the oil to stay clear, don’t grind, just stick to pounding. Pour in the remaining oil and let it steep while you slice the tomatoes.
To get the best slice surface, observe your tomatoes. There is a wall of membrane down the center of the tomato that spans across the flatter, slightly pinched-in sides of the tomato. Make your slice perpendicular to that membrane to expose the juicy seed chambers.
To plate, put the mozzarella on four small plates, arrange the tomatoes on and around each. Drizzle with the steeped oil generously (leave out the basil), and season to taste.
Parents are such sources of wisdom. Even if they’re fuzzy on the mechanics of things, they know the outcome. I guess, most of the time, that’s enough to help a kid grow up without slicing their hands open, putting a crater in their cranium, or in my case, scorching off my entire palate.
For that, in particular, I am so grateful.
I figured this out, not too long ago, and was very intrigued. I’m actually so excited to share this with you. Nerdy, whatever.
So let’s start with the basics. Water, that is, pure H2O, cannot stay in liquid form beyond 100 degrees C. Now, add anything, and since we’re in the kitchen, make that anything be salt or sugar. Now that boiling point temperature becomes higher. In other words, a pot of boiling salted water is hotter than a pot of boiling pure water.
Not cool, I know. Caught that? Good. Let’s keep rolling.
So what do you care? Well, that higher temperature is what makes your pasta taste better, as in with a bite that has a bit more bounce. In fact, the higher temperature results in a more quickly denatured (cooked) gluten (protein), which gives it a more resilient chew. On the other hand, you don’t want this to happen to your meat if you’re simmering or blanching it, the extra pinch of salt will make it tough, same principles.
What about sugar, though? Exactly the same. So, coating your carrots with honey, makes them cook more thoroughly, and results in a sensuously tender, rich, and sweet interior. This you cannot achieve by boiling, which adds water to the flesh, making it mushy, not by simply roasting, which takes forever and leaves them dry and chewy (or worse, with an uncooked center).
Yeah, so the 101 of this whole post: honey, squeeze that bottle.
Is not my word like fire,
declares the Lord,
and like a hammer
that breaks the rock
These carrots are basically candied, and would go well with cool, slightly acidic cheeses like labne, quark, or fromage blanc. Of course, an addition of some crunchy bits like toasted baguette slices, toasted pistachios and some coarse salt and black pepper would make these irresistible. Serve these as part of an appetizer or, equally fitting, a cheese or even dessert course. Just be careful, the carrots will literally burn off the insides of your mouth if you eat them straight out of the oven, and even five minutes after. Experience and my mother’s words of wisdom have taught me restraint when it comes to these.
Ingredients for the lavender honey roasted carrots:
450 g baby heirloom carrots (regular ones will taste just as good)
To make the roasted carrots, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, with the rack in the middle of the oven. Toss all ingredients, except for the honey in an ovenproof dish until combined. Roast for 20 minutes, or until starting to brown.
Add one third of the honey and continue roasting until the mixtures appear dry. Repeat until carrots are tender and well caramelized.