Instagram: we’ve been doing it all wrong

In this post tech-bubble ecosystem we are, for an overwhelmingly fat part, bottomless feeders. No, we are not eating nonstop, though we are certainly eating way more than our grandparents did. What we can’t get enough of, however, is that intangible feed that stretches on into the endless abyss beyond the southernmost limit of your screen.

Yet despite doing backstrokes all day every day in this sea of information, we are starved.

Why?

Because the feed is junk.

Yes, Instagram, Facebook, and all those other Gen-Y habitats make information so liquid, so accessible, and so abundant, but with such high traffic, one thing became indispensable – selection. Not in expanding (we’ve already gone off the charts with that), but in narrowing, because too much choice stresses us out and even though getting that tenth like still feels synonymous to touching your toes in the morning, it’s in these platforms’ interest to generate as many likes as possible.

If you’re not convinced, think of the extreme case: if a contributor never got a single like despite consistent postings, would he be inclined to continue? Probably not, because he could probably post on an alternative platform an gain a greater following.

So these platforms got really smart, and learned from the users. Who has their attention? What did they like? What did they search for? Every reaction that results in a click becomes a data point that’s used to generate a feed that’s more in tune with your history of reactions, more interesting to you. But don’t take my word for it, ask Insta.

Now, for anyone who’s at all into statistics (but don’t worry if you’re not, what follows isn’t rocket science), when trying to estimate a parameter from a random sample, the bigger the sample, the better your estimate. In other words, Instagram takes all your clicks, and from those, computes a range for your interests. It then projects you a feed based on that range of what it thinks you’d like. You’re happy too, because you’re seeing all the stuff that you usually like, and you click away in autopilot glee.

This happens over and over again, like the circle of life. And as your collection of likes grows, that range becomes ever smaller and your likes become ever more concentrated around a single subject because that’s all your feed feeds you. This results in an even narrower range. At this point, Insta knows a ton about your preferences and can pretty much pinpoint your sweet spot.

Guess what your feed looks like now?

Yup, everything is what you like. Everything is the same. Everything reflects you.

What you once thought was supposed to broaden our creative minds now projects our very selves back at us. Yup, Socrates would have been all over this.

Is there a way out? I would suggest two, both equally implausible. One: give zero information, so no liking, no following, no searching by hashtags. Or two: be completely unbiased in what you react to, so like everything, follow everything, and search up every word in the dictionary and the urban dictionary. Or three: if you like the way your feed looks that much…

then baby you should go and love yourself.

For if anyone thinks

he is something,

when

he is nothing,

then

he deceives himself.

Galatians 6:3

Honey Lemon Tart with Honey Chantilly and Honeycomb
Honey Lemon Tart with Honey Chantilly and Honeycomb

Honey Almond Pate Sablée

  • 2 c AP flour
  • 3/4 c unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp light honey
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  1. Place the flour, butter, and salt in a food processor and pulse until crumbly.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, honey, and almond extract.
  3. Add the egg mixture into the dry mixture and pulse until a soft dough forms.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and pat it into an inch-thick disc. Wrap tightly and freeze for 20 minutes.
  5. Unwrap the dough and roll it out to 0.5 cm thick, dusting with flour as needed. Press it into a fluted 9 or 10-inch tart tin. Don’t worry if the dough rips – just trim the edges and use the scraps to patch up the tears. After trimming and patching, press the edges against the sides of the tin to push up the dough about 0.5 cm above the height of the rim. Dock with a fork and freeze for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the tart shell directly for 18 minutes, do not blind bake this.
  7. If the bottom has puffed up, gently pat it down while the pastry is still warm. Cool completely.

Honey Lemon Custard

  • zest of 5 lemons, divided
  • juice of 5 lemons
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 c light honey
  • 350 ml whole milk
  • 170 g unsalted butter, cubed
  1. Whisk together the zest of 4 lemons, all the juice, eggs, and honey in a heavy saucepan on medium heat until starting to thicken. Gradually whisk in the milk until well incorporated and the mixture thickens again.
  2. Strain into a bowl, then stir in the butter and remaining zest until smooth.
  3. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Pour the custard into the baked tart shell and bake for 30-40 minutes. The center should still be quite wobbly.
  4. Let cool and chill overnight until set.

Honey Vanilla Chantilly

  • 250 ml cold heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp light honey
  1. Stir together all ingredients in a large bowl, then whisk to soft peaks. Keep chilled.

Salted Honeycomb

  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 c sugar
  • scant 1/2 c light honey
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the sugar and honey in a heavy saucepan and bring the mixture up to a boil. Stir until all the solids have dissolved.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda. Continue to stir until the baking soda completely dissolves.
  4. Scrape the mixture onto the lined baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt. Let it cool completely until hard, then break into pieces.

To serve, slice the tart with a hot knife (run it under hot water then wipe it dry). Top with a dollop of whipped cream, garnished with a few chunks of honeycomb.

Enjoy!

 

salt and bovine cellulite

Rounding up 2014, because that seems like the only appropriate thing to do at this point, it seems that avocados and eggs haven’t exactly been my thing despite that donburi which may well be one of the highlights of the year. At least for me, 2014 has unfurled into a series of flirtations with NaCl and cellulite. While “put an egg on it” has more or less swept over the daily grub scene and transcended the bounds of the a.m., I’ve been frolicking around in salt – just recall that watermelon, that crumble, and that kabocha. That kabocha though…

As I write this I am also noticing that the two things that sum up the year for me are the two things that happen to be the unchallenged pillars of flavour. Coincidence?

Moving on to fat, the woes of this misunderstood substance, especially animal fat, which in my opinion, is perhaps what makes meat appealing. And when you mix fats, it’s possibly the best thing you can do to a dish. Mind you, I am one to buy beef ribs and despite the flashing red sale sign hovering over family packs of tenderloin. Tilapia fillets…did I even touch those? I think I prefer my fish AFAP (as fat as possible) so keep that skin on and hand me that belly trim. Also, um, smoked oyster oil makes the kale nearly arbitrary. Yes, kale, the little black lace dress of the edible dimension in recent years.

Now, to wrap things up, I’m really dishing up the nitty gritty essence of the year in this one plate of a single carrot. Buried in coarse flakes of kosher salt and baked until the natural sugars become concentrated into a candy intensity, the flesh becomes tender yet firm and meaty, then finished with searing beef fat in the cast iron (which is, by the way, so 2014), this is the most tedious, pretentious, and worthwhile dirt cheap bite I’ve made. And with this South Asian wind sweeping across North America, briny notes from plain yoghurt and lentils sort of made sense.

You shall present them

before the LORD,

and the priests shall

throw salt on them,

and they shall offer them up

as a burnt offering to the LORD

Ezekiel 43:24

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Ingredients for the salt baked carrots, serves 4

4 medium carrots, sized like those in bunches, scrubbed clean

3 cups coarse kosher or sea salt

3 tbsp rendered beef fat

To make the baked carrots, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, with the rack placed in the middle. Pour half of the salt into a baking dish. Nestle the carrots into the salt and pour the remaining salt on top of the carrots to cover.

Bake the carrots for 40-45 minutes or until tender when pierced by the tip of a knife.

Let stand for 10 minutes, before breaking off the salt cap and brushing off the excess salt.

Heat the beef fat in a cast iron skillet until hot. Add the carrots and sear on all sides until golden and lightly blistered.

Ingredients for the lentils and garnishes:

1 cup cooked lentils, drained

juice of one lemon

1/2 tsp honey, to taste

Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

1 small garlic clove, crushed

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4 tbsp quark orplain Balkan style yoghurt

small handful baby arugula

To make the briny lentils, combine all ingredients except for the yoghurt and arugula and let stand for at least 30 minutes, or preferably overnight in the fridge.

To serve, divide the lentils into four plates. Place a carrot on each plate, dot with yoghurt, and garnish with arugula.

Enjoy!

(I usually have this with steak, because then I’d naturally have a cast ironful of beef fat.)

 

all in eh?

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the result of other peoples’ thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

-Steve Jobs

It’s that awkward time of the year where the skies are churning thickly with blobs and streaks of saturated grey and the air is heavy like an underground parking lot on a rainy day. In the morning I look out the window and glumly pull out the next season’s clothing, which I didn’t think I’d need for another three weeks.

I slip into brick red jeans, and wiggle my head through the peppered sweater. Two seconds later, both articles of clothing are scrunched and stranded beneath my bare feet as I grope in dull frustration for the familiarity of nude shorts and a faded T.

Such a curiously bland event has happened more times than necessary in this past week. Indeed, summer being washed away by an early arrival of autumnal shower.

There is no time as melodramatic, though hardly sorrowful, as the current: the thriving green of summer sent upwards in vibrant splashes as the heft of autumn’s amber abundance falls into place.

Gremolata and kabocha, there is not a better time for the two of them to marry. Of course, goat cheese would be more than welcome, as always.

Love colour. Send those sparks flying against the walls raining down.

Let no one despise you for your youth,

but set the believers and example

in speech, in conduct,

in love, in faith,

in purity. 

1 Timothy 4:22

 

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Ingredients for the gremolata:

8 almonds

1 lemon, zested

1/4 c extra virgin olive oil

1 c lightly packed flat-leaf parsley

1 large garlic clove

sea salt, to taste

To make the gremolata, combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it forms a textured sauce. Stir in a squeeze of lemon juice. Cover and set aside as you roast the squash and onions.

Ingredients for the roasted kabocha and onions:

1/2 small kabocha squash, seeded and cut into 1-inch thick wedges

2 small brown onions, cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges

3 tbsp avocado oil

sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

few dried rosemary needles

To roast the vegetables, preheat the oven to 410 degrees F, with the rack placed in the middle of the oven and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Toss the vegetables gently with oil, sea salt, and black pepper. Arrange on the baking sheet and sprinkle on the rosemary needles.

Bake for about 50 minutes, or until the vegetables are caramelized and tender.

To serve, drizzle the gremolata over the roasted squash and crumble on some goat cheese, if using, to finish.

Enjoy!

the Original Drive-Thru

It’s always in the simplest, purest of ingredients that you notice the biggest difference. This time, I’m shining the light on a local farm that treats their hens right. And of course, happy hens => happy eggs => happy eating.

What’s even better? I don’t even have to stand in line at the farmer’s market to get them. They have a drive-through right at the farm, and literally all you need to do is “honk for service”. Yup, an egg drive-through. Where do I even come from, right?

Maple Ridge, British Columbia. And the adorable farm is called “Never Say Die” Nursery. See? Adorable.

But back to the eggs, gorgeous doesn’t describe them. And the term #yolkporn disgusts me. Seriously, don’t adulterate something so natural and nourishing. Whenever I come across a good egg it always makes me momentarily breathless. It must be the combination of the yolk’s bright tangerine color (#f28500 hex color code, look it up), the way the yolk stands so proudly in a visibly distinct sac of albumen when you crack it open that inspires me to treat it well.

This time, it’s poaching. There’s something about the tenderness of spring asparagus, the whimsy of sweet peas, and the viridity of a jiggly poached egg that makes them, together, instinctively irresistible.

As for those limp, watery eggs that have a sad, deflated, pale yellow yolk swimming inside of them, hide them in a box-mix cake or something. Do not attempt to serve them in their form. Also, never buy them again, for those eggs are from caged, drugged hens (in the name of mass economical production! oh joy!) and should not even be produced.

Hopefully you’ve seen the light as far as the topic of eggs, now go and convince your taste buds!

Take no part in

the unfruitful

works of darkness,

but instead

expose them.

Ephesians 5:11

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Believe it or not, this is my very first time poaching an egg. So as you can see, it really is nothing to be scared of. To be honest, I was pretty terrified right up to the point I lowered in the egg, but immediately I realized that you are physically incapable of messing this up so long as you follow along this little tutorial. Also, as if I have not drilled it into your kitchen backsplash, a good free range egg is not negotiable – you and your family deserve at least that.

So here goes:

How to poach an egg

Step 1: If your egg has been sitting in the fridge, bring your egg to room temperature by submerging them in a bowl of warm tap water for 5 minutes. Pat your egg dry and crack it into a small bowl. If your egg’s already at room temperature, just crack it into a small bowl. Take care not to break the yolk. (This should not be difficult as fresh free range eggs have very robust yolks!)

Step 2: Add 2 tbsp white vinegar to a large pot of water and let it come up to a rolling boil.

Step 3: Turn off the heat and use a spoon to stir the water quickly in a clock-wise direction to make a whirlpool in the pot’s center.

Step 4: While the current is still strong, gently tip the egg into the middle of the whirlpool.

Step 5: Cover and let it poach for 150 seconds (2 1/2 minutes), then carefully lift it out with a slotted spoon.

At this point you can either serve it immediately, or place it in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process.

Now let’s get on with the recipe!

Ingredients for the Penne with Pan-Roasted Asparagus, Sweet Peas, Pesto, and Caramelized Lemon

serves 4

340 g organic corn penne, or your preferred chunky pasta (I like penne because it’s the same shape as the asparagus)

1 large lemon, scrubbed clean and halved

3 tbsp olive oil

600 g asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch sticks on the diagonal

1/2 c basil pesto (recipe follows)

2/3 c white wine (whatever you have on hand, I used chablis)

1 1/4 c frozen sweet peas

lots of fine sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil to season

To make the asparagus penne, cook the pasta as directed on the package.

Meanwhile, heat your cast iron on the stove until very hot. Place the lemon halves, cut sides down in the hot pan and hold them down firmly for 30~60 seconds, or until the surface is well-browned and caramelized. This will completely change the flavour profile of the lemon and give it a sweeter, deeper dimension. Slice off and reserve the caramelized parts only. (Use the rest for lemon water or something.)

Keep the pan on medium heat, add 1 tbsp of the oil just to coat the bottom and add the asparagus. Season generously and let it sit undisturbed for 20 seconds or so to get some browned, crispy bits. Stir a couple times, just until all the pieces are bright green.

Transfer the asparagus into a large salad/mixing bowl. Stir in the frozen peas to stop the cooking process. By now the pasta should be cooked. Drain and toss it with the vegetables.

Keep the element on and add the remaining oil to the pan and stir in the pesto to wake up its flavour. Deglaze with the white wine and stir until the alcohol burns off. Pour the sauce over the pasta mixture and stir through. Check and adjust the seasoning.

Divide between four plates. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, top with an optional (but definitely recommended) poached egg, and serve with a slice of caramelized lemon.

Enjoy!

To make a vegan pesto, throw 50 g sweet basil, 2 garlic cloves, 3 tbsp toasted pine nuts, 3/4 tsp sea salt, and 1/2 cup olive oil in a small food processor and whiz to a textured puree. Store in a glass jar, pour a thin film of olive oil over top to seal and cover with the lid. This will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks.

 

 

Take a minute

I just realized that I’ve never actually posted a blueberry recipe here before. How do I even call myself a British Columbian right? I do have a handful of blueberry recipes rolled up my sleeve, but it can be tough sometimes to actually go and feature something when you are figuratively swamped by it.

Yeah, yeah, I know this sounds super bratty and ridiculous (like those people who say “sorry, I only have fifties”), but I’m not complaining at all. It’s just that I don’t even bother to do anything remotely (subjectively) worth mentioning or creative with those blues. Most of the time I just eat them like popcorn (I imagine this would be an appropriate comparison though I don’t even eat popcorn), straight out of the bowl.

Thankfully, this post will fix that. And for those of you folks halfway around the world gawking at pictures of fresh blueberries (because you only have mangoes and papayas, you poor souls) you can use frozen blueberries. It doesn’t even matter if they’re small and tart, it actually means you’ll have more fresh blueberry flavour once the cake’s done.

Coffee, anyone? And this is best eaten warm and crisp from the oven, so share!

Whoever has two tunics

is to share with him who has none,

and whoever has food

is to do likewise.

Luke 3:11

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Ingredients for the Blueberry Almond Double-Crumble Coffee Cake, 9-inch:

for the batter:

3 c oat flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1/2 c almond milk or other milk of choice

1/4 c coconut oil

1 large ripe banana

1/2 c packed brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 large lemon, zest and juice

generous 1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (do not thaw)

for the crumble topping:

1/2 c packed brown sugar

1/2 c oats

1/2 c oat flour

1/3 c pure almond butter

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

To make the blueberry crumble cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with the rack placed in the center of the oven. Line the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan with parchment.

Make the crumble topping; mix together thoroughly all ingredients for the crumble in a small mixing bowl. Set Aside.

Prepare the batter; whisk together all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Puree the almond milk, coconut oil, banana, brown sugar, lemon, and vanilla in a blender until smooth. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and stir just to combine. Fold in the blueberries.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. Squeeze a handful of the crumble mixture to let it clump up, then break it coarsely over the  batter. Repeat with the remaining crumble mixture.

Bake for 35-40 minutes if you used fresh blueberries. If you used frozen blueberries, bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the top is browned and toothpick inserted comes out with moist crumbs.

Let it rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing. Don’t fuss over getting clean, beautiful slices (there’s double crumble, so just forget it).

Enjoy with your favourite coffee!

 

 

Caught

Like everyone, I use filters. Oh how we adore them. We filter our lives through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It’s fantastic – it’s like Sephora, except not just for the female visage – it’s for everyone’s cyber avatar (which could arguably be a disturbingly independent, distinct identity from its owner).

But filtering is more than selectively publishing life statuses and photographs. Filters obscure, and make mild of perception. They deceive and dismiss the reality, the rawness of things.

Do you agree, that the heart is felt with more reality, above all else?

Do you agree, that the heart is beautiful?

But we filter the living breath out of it.

I’m far from perfect – I’m me, and I know better than anyone that I am despicable – but I try.

I try to be the person I want to become, and stop trying to become the person I want to be, else I’ll always wallow in self-loathing and self-pity because I will always be a step behind.

Let’s be honest. With ourselves and those around us. (This does not equate with being nasty.)

And keep hashtagging edited photographs with #nofilter. You wanted real, didn’t you?

Therefore let us celebrate the feast,

not with old leaven,

nor with leaven of malice and wickedness,

but with the unleavened bread of sincerity

and truth.

1 Corinthians 5:8

Also, raw is beautiful, just look at this beauty of a feast.

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This is honestly the best fish I ever had, and what’s even better is that it’s part of my 7-Ingredient series. I originally wanted to bake it en papillote, but the four-pound beauty has outgrown the paramenters of my parchment paper by an unsalvageable margin.

What I ended up doing was even simpler. Basically, from what you see above, I just covered that whole thing with aluminum foil, pinched down the sides tightly, and put it in the oven at a really low temperature. The result was phenomenal – the flesh was incredibly buttery and tender. And because I love all parts of fish, I ate the skin too, which was also extremely rich and creamy. That’s not all, the few roasted, sweet lemon slices basically worked magic and managed to permeate the entire fish with their vibrant perfume.

Ingredients for the slow-baked trout:

1 fresh trout, 3-4 lbs, cleaned (I had mine freshly caught and I highly recommend that)

4 tbsp coarse sea salt

1 small lemon, thinly sliced

3 tbsp basil pesto

1 medium zucchini, cut into bite-size half-moons

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

few rounds freshly ground black pepper

To make the slow-baked trout, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F, with the rack placed in the center. Cover the bottom of a large roasting pan with aluminum foil. Drizzle it all over with 1 tbsp of the olive oil.

Meanwhile, prepare the fish. Trout have a slimy protective coating that also happens to be the source of its “fishy” taste. To remove this slime, rub the skin of the trout generously with 2 tbsp of the salt – that’s right, massage it with lots of love. Leave it for 2 minutes and rinse off the trout under cold, running water. Pat as dry as possible with paper towel, and repeat the process again with the remaining salt.

Place the cleaned, dry trout into the prepared pan. Smear the pesto onto each of the lemon slices and fit them snugly, overlapping slightly, into the abdominal cavity. Add the zucchini to the pan and season everything with black pepper and a little more salt. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil.

Bake for 20 minutes, turn off the oven, and let it sit in the hot oven for another 45 minutes, up to an hour.

Serve with boiled new potatoes and/or a light green salad.

Enjoy!