Bulk Possibilities

I love bulk food stores. They always overwhelm me. There are so many things to put in bags, so many snacks to be had, and so many possible combinations. Watching other people shop at bulk food stores can be highly entertaining. People are on personal journeys trying to decide what and how they want to eat. Looks of agony disturb their faces as they hold up bags of god knows what at eye level and try to assess if it’s enough, will I eat it? How much am I  spending? No trip to the bulk store is complete unless you  retrace your steps minimum three times and debate buying a dozen more items. I never go with a list or a plan and I never complete an order without returning home and lamenting something I didn’t buy. I try to buy whatever inspires me and often buy really weird stuff.

About three months ago I bought chickpea flour. Why not? I had never heard of the stuff and wondered how it could be used. I figured Google could provide endless recipes and possibilities. And it did. The recipes that I found are mostly for people who can’t eat gluten. Chickpea flour, it turns out, is a good substitute for other flours that have wheat protein.

Chickpea flour Pancakes is a very popular recipe result on Google search. On this quiet Wednesday, I decide to try it out. Turns out, they are delicious. Not savoury nor sweet, the chickpea flour pancake pairs delightfully with maple syrup and bananas or say,  something savoury such as smoked salmon and goat cheese.

Here’s how to make them. Beat an egg; add ¾ cup of milk or water, ¾ cup of chickpea flour, a pinch of salt and mix. There’s your batter. Now heat a pan (best to use non-stick), add a bit of vegetable oil and start making your pancakes. When you see the little bubbles, it’s time to flip them. Feel free to eat some along the way; there is enough batter for plenty of errors and snacks. 20121206-102845.jpg

Once you have three baseball sized pancakes, smear some goat cheese over them. Feel free to use yogurt, crème fraiche, sour cream, or any other type of cheese instead.

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Next step is to top each pancake with some smoked salmon or gravlax. Zest some lemon, sprinkle some black pepper and chop up some chives for garnish.

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I make a small salad to go along with my pancakes. I use a mandolin to shave thin slices of Ontario radish, carrot and apple. I squeeze a lemon over it, drizzle some honey and top with black pepper and chives.

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As I sit down to eat my meal I begin to think of spelt flour, kamut flour, bran flower, corn flour. I think I’m onto something. Before I know it, another meal alone is over.

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All done!

Kale chips and couch time

I often sit alone on this couch.  I have all this free space to spread my legs and lie down. I also  have a  free nook where I can place a big bowl of kale chips. If these first few sentences made you pity me, then I was successful in my endeavor.

Being alone at night time can sometimes be difficult, but there are ways to make it more enjoyable. Kale isn’t the answer, but I have big bunch left over from the Kale salad I made the other night.

To make kale chips rip the kale leaves off their ribs and place a single layer of them on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt. I also dust a pinch full of cumin or Spanish smoked paprika on mine. Place them in a 350 degree oven for anywhere between 10 and 15 minutes. You will know that they are done when the edges have browned just a tad and the leaves are crisp all the way through.

Make this snack (or any snack) for the purpose of relaxing. Set the stage by turning on something you like to watch or listen to, adjusting the lights, and invite yourself to unwind from your day. I turn an episode of Mad Men and spread out for an hour with no interruption.

A case for Sunday lunch

I hate brunch and I am not afraid to admit it. I am Torontonian and I hate brunch. It seems like an oxymoron. This city loves brunch… loves to layer pulled pork, poached eggs, and hollandaise on big buttermilk biscuits; loves to sneak bacon into doughnuts, waffles, pancakes; loves to use poutine as a foundation to plonk another meal that would have been completely reasonable on its own. I want no part of it.

My ideal Sunday lunch is not a blend of two meals. It comes after breakfast and today I am eating it at home alone. I look through my fridge and cupboards and realize that today will be an exercize is creativity. This is what I’m working with…

I am going to make a warm potato and tuna salad bathed in olive oil, topped with fresh apple and cilantro and garnished with some horseradishy yogurt and lemon zest. I ate a version of this salad at a restaurant in Montreal I love called Lawrence. Walk in on a Saturday around noon and be presented with a menu completely void of brunch dishes. Lawrence serves small tapas style dishes with a couple of bigger options for the hungrier. Last time I went I shared chicken liver toasts, collard greens with goat curd and salad of smoked mackerel, apple, and cilantro in a citrusy, creamy dressing.

Here’s how to construct my version. I boil three red potatoes and reserve two of them for a meal I will eat later in the week. You know your potatoes are properly boiled when you can stick a small paring knife through with little force. While the potatoes are boiling cut up the cilantro and chop the scallions. Mix about a tablespoon of plain yogurt with about a teaspoon and of horseradish and set aside. If you don’t have yogurt, sour cream or cottage cheese work too. The horseradish can be replaced with Dijon or grainy mustard. Don’t cut the apples until the potatoes are nearly boiled to avoid browning. Cut them any which way you desire.

Once the potatoes are boiled cut them into quarters, place them on your plate and douse them in a good olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Top them with canned tuna. I like the Rio Mare tuna in oil. It’s a bit pricier than other tunas, but worth it. It is yellow fin which is a much higher quality tuna and it comes in smaller cans perfect for one. Next, sprinkle scallions, throw on the apple (I use half and eat the other half for dessert) and pile on a good handful of fresh cilantro. Crown your salad with a dollop the horseradishy yogurt and finally dust with lemon zest, fresh ground pepper and salt.

Make a big pot of tea, Put on the radio and sit by the window where you can watch the Sunday bustle.

all done!

A story about eating alone in a foreign country.

A friend of mine told me this story a little while back and it stuck with me, mostly because it accurately depicts the humiliation we often feel when we eat alone. It is heightened because he is visiting France and he is from a small town in Canada.

My friend’s name is Tom. He cooks for a living and going to Paris to eat French Food was the research project themed on extravagance, romance and decadence he always wanted to take.

On the first morning he arrives he waits anxiously to eat lunch. It is 11:30am and although he knows it is a little early, he goes anyway. A bistro in the heart of Paris welcomes him into an empty dining room. Confident that the lunch crowd will be arriving shortly, he asks for a menu. He spots all the dishes on the menu that he came to France to eat. There is an unapologetic abundance of liver, brain, tripe on the menu. It’s the veal kidneys that rouse his appetite. He orders them confidently with seamless French. The waiter nods. But, all of a sudden Tom feels strangely insecure. Did he sense a slight cock in the waiter’s brow? Was that the wrong thing to order? He finds solace in recognizing that he is after all a tourist, and Parisians have been rumoured to be a little cool toward foreigners.

In walk the next two guests. They sit side by side in a banquette and without even a short perusal of the menu they both order the special. The next four people walk in, all working class Parisians on their lunch break. The same pattern occurs. Special. Special. Special. The whole restaurant fills up and everyone orders the special, which is by the way beef bourguignon. There are even people at the door who haven’t even been seated. They all order the special too. Tom was the only one to request a menu

As the lunch traffic passes by his table its like they are slowing down to see an accident on the highway. As much as he tries to enjoy lunch, he recognizes that he has ordered wrong. Without a companion to share the remorse, he keeps one palm glued to his forehead for the rest of the meal. Without dessert or an espresso he pays the bill, gives a half smile to the waiter and boots.

The next day he returns to the same bistro but at noon this time. He marches in and grabs a seat at the bar. After a small hospitable exchange, Tom exclaims proudly to the same waiter, “the special, please”. He waits anxiously for his meal while reading his book (in French). It arrives. “Your veal kidneys,” instructs the waiter. They exchange a knowing smile. Tom exhales deeply and takes the first couple of bites. He looks around the room at everyone eating the same dish as him and with a breath of relief becomes aware of how delicious the veal kidneys are.

Wintery Kale Salad

Did you know that you can eat raw kale? Let me rephrase. Did you know that you might enjoy eating raw kale? Besides maintaining a reputation of a considerably healthy food, kale actually tastes good, raw. A big squeeze of lemon and a little shower of salt make it so. The trick is, once you have lemon and salt on the leaves, you have to give them a little massage to soften them up (just like me).

I made this salad for a friend the other night and she loved it so much she made it for herself every subsequent night until she ran out of kale (she had a lot). I made a slightly different version today with persimmon, scallions, black sesame seeds* and goat cheese. It took a leisurely 5 minutes to prepare.

I bundle up the Kale and cut it horizontally so that I get thin strippy leaves. It’s ok to tear the kale leaves right off their rib too. I squeeze a half a lemon tightly and sprinkle a pinch of salt that is held between all my fingers and my thumb. My best advice is to taste as you go. If you think you need more lemon, you probably do, same goes with salt and olive oil. I used a mandolin to slice the persimmon really thin. I do this because they look like big orange moons in my salad and they slither around in my mouth. If you don’t have a mandolin, just chop ‘em up any which way. Throw some goat cheese, chop up some scallion and drizzle some good olive oil, some honey and sprinkle any seed or nut for some crunch.

This salad is earthy from the kale, the goat cheese gives some creamy tanginess, the seeds give it the crunch, the citrus wakes up your tastes buds and the persimmon and honey add the sweetness. Grab a big slice of buttery toast to go alongside and put on some Bob Dylan.

 

All done!

Other variations of the Kale salad:
-Dried cranberries, walnuts, chives
-avocado, cashews, pomegranate
-corn, feta, red pepper

*black roasted sesame seeds can be found at most Asian grocers

Being Alone

I am 27. I live in the city. I love to cook. Due to my recent past, I have found myself eating alone more often. At first, eating alone was really difficult. Instead of enjoying meals and nourishing my body I was mitigating my hunger. I found it hard to make the time to sit like a civilized person and experience the taste and textures of my meal. Rather, I would shovel down a big bowl of something that was thrown together in minutes. I changed the way I approached my meals. At one time a chore, I now consider eating alone to be an art form.

My method of cooking is inspired by a book called The Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler. Her approach to cooking is simple. With some good olive oil and fresh ingredients, creating tasty dishes can be easy, no recipe necessary. I was born with the skill of knowing how many glugs of oil to put in the pan, how many shakes of salt to sprinkle, and how to apply heat to food to make it better (instead of killing it). My goal is to instruct anyone to do the same in the context of eating alone.

I recommend this blog to the recently heart broken, to the college student, to the post work loner, or to any one that needs help putting some random items in their fridge together for a healthy, comforting meal.

Egg in a little pot

This meal will take no more than 2 minutes to prepare and maximum 15 minutes to bake. If your brain isn’t working, all the better, you don’t need it to make Egg in a little pot.  What you do need is a piece of bread, an egg, and some kind of filling stuff such as tomato sauce, ratatouille, goat cheese or even some stir fried vegetables like mushrooms, wilted spinach, roasted tomatoes. Be creative. You will also need a little oven proof ramekin and some garnish like chopped parsley, scallions, lemon zest, grated cheese, cured ham slices etc.

I use ratatouille today. I just fill the first inch of the ramekin with it and then crack the egg right on top, sprinkle some salt and pepper and pop it into an oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees. If you like your eggs runny, leave it in for 10 minutes, if you like them hard, 15 minutes.  As long as the egg whites have turned white you are safe.

I use some sliced scallions, some grated comte (hard cheese similar to gruyere) and lemon zest as garnish and prepare them while my Egg in a pot is baking. The last 5 minutes that the pot is in the oven, I throw some bread in to toast.

Once the whites are white, and your toast is toasty pull it out and enjoy. I like to butter my toast and make little soldiers for dipping. It makes it a bit more fun. Pour a big cup of coffee and read the comics.

all done!