Thursday, December 31, 2009

NYE Shopping: St. Jacobs Farmers' Market

Happy New Year, everyone! I'm celebrating the dawn of a new year in the greater Kitchener-Waterloo area and decided to take a trip to the nearby St. Jacobs Farmers' Market to do some shopping for a New Year's feast.



The market is a landmark in the St. Jacobs area and is mostly run by Mennonite families who live nearby. In the growing season, there are many local fruits and veggies, whereas this time of year it seems the produce comes mostly from the U.S. However, I did spy these Ontario-grown tomatoes, presumably from a greenhouse.



There are local butchers, fishmongers, cheesemakers and bakers selling their wares, as well as handicrafts and pottery, homemade preserves, pickles and other condiments.



I spied some beautiful veggies in cute woven baskets, although they weren't local, they were still photo-worthy!


















Check out these eco-friendly and creative ceramic to-go coffee mugs. They are perfect for the fair trade coffee they sell in bulk in the little coffee bar at the market.




I was also drawn to these artisan olive oils and their pretty bottles.



Homemade summer sausage is a heavily featured item at the market, and it is displayed in great abundance.



We only left with a local leg of lamb, but we were able to procure some other tasty items at the local grocery store along with items we had at home to plan the New Near's Eve menu. I hope everyone has a fantastic celebration tonight regardless of how you are ringing in 2010 and I wish you peace, love and good food!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Vegetarian Holiday Dish



I thought I'd share a dish our family has enjoyed over the years around the holidays, it's called Broccoli Onion Deluxe. The "Deluxe" part definitely comes from the creamy, cheesy sauce that is poured over the broccoli and onions, making this a dish that is healthy and decadent all at once. This can be a vegetarian dish for the holiday buffet, providing the vegetarian in your crowd eats dairy, although I suppose you could use vegan cheese as well!



Broccoli Onion Deluxe
~Serves 6
*Originally a Better Homes and Gardens recipe
1 pound broccoli
3 medium onions, quartered
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 3-oz. package cream cheese
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup soft bread crumbs

Cook the broccoli in water about halfway so they are soft but not fully cooked. Do the same with the onions. This can be done on the stovetop or in the microwave, whichever you prefer. Drain them both and set aside. In a saucepan, melt half of the butter. Blend in the flour, salt and a dash of pepper. Add milk. Cook, stirring constantly, till thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; blend in cream cheese until smooth. Place vegetables in a casserole dish. Pour sauce mixture over and mix lightly. Top with cheese. Melt the remaining butter; toss with bread crumbs. Sprinkle on top. Bake at 350 degrees until heated through, 40-45 minutes.



The photo above is how it is supposed to look when you are finished! We were too busy enjoying our company to notice that we slightly overcooked our version this year, but the result was still tasty and the cheese was nicely browned.

I hope you enjoyed these holiday recipes, from my family to yours. What do you usually eat over the holidays?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Holiday Breakfast Idea



I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season! Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, it is always fun to make comforting dishes in the winter months. In our home we have always gone with the traditional meal of turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes for dinner, but there have been a few other dishes that have stayed with us over the years, so I thought I'd share them with you!

To begin, I will start where we all start each day -- with breakfast. When I think back to my childhood, one culinary constant on Christmas morning was always "Wifesaver". Although it has a bit of an archaic name, I believe that regardless of who is in charge of cooking in your home, this is definitely a saving grace during the busy holiday season. All make-ahead, comforting and tasty, the "Wifesaver" is a great way to welcome in Christmas morning.



Christmas Morning Wifesaver
~Serves 8.
(pg 33/34 of The Best of Bridge Cookbook)

16 slices white bread, crusts removed
16 slices of Canadian back bacon or ham
16 slices of sharp cheddar cheese
6 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 to 1 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup green pepper, finely chopped
1 to 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 cups whole milk
dash of hot sauce
1/4 lb. butter
Special K or crushed Corn Flakes



In a 9" x 13" glass, buttered baking pan, put 8 pieces of bread. Add pieces to cover dish entirely. Cover bread with slices of back bacon, sliced thin. Lay slices of cheddar cheese on top of bacon, and then cover with slices of bread to make it like a sandwich. In a bowl, beat eggs, salt and pepper. To the egg mixture add dry mustard, onion, green pepper, Worcestershire sauce, milk and hot sauce. Pour over the sandwiches. Cover and let stand in fridge overnight. In the morning, melt 1/4 lb. butter and pour overtop. Cover with Special K or crushed Corn Flakes. Bake, uncovered, 1 hour at 350 degrees. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.



Enjoy this holiday breakfast idea! Next up -- a tasty, cheesy veggie dish!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Edible Art: A Conversation with Edward Pond, Food Photographer



I remember noticing the book on a shopping trip a little while ago. I was instantly drawn to its bright turquoise cover. If you know me, you will know I have always had a long-standing love/hate relationship with the colour turquoise. This time it was love. The bright colours drew me in, and before long I was flipping through. At the time I didn't know who Jeff Crump or Bettina Schormann were, but I figured they had to be pretty great people since they wrote a book called Earth To Table: Seasonal Recipes from an Organic Farm. A seasonal cookbook with a focus on local farmers and real food, written by two Canadian chefs? What could be better? I have since been enlightened, as I am sure many of you have, and learned that Jeff and Bettina are essentially Slow Food pioneers, to put it lightly. They hold court as Chef & Pastry Chef at the Ancaster Old Mill, and their book, Earth to Table, has been applauded by none other than Michael Pollan himself. Now do you want to read the book? More info on Jeff and Bettina can be found here).

As I flipped through page by page, I was struck by the beauty and vibrancy of the photos inside. Each one allowed the natural beauty of the food to shine through, and compelled me to keep reading. I had to know who took these photos!

Edward Pond, that's who. So I set out to find out more about Edward Pond, Food Photographer. My quest lead me straight to Edward himself, who is as passionate about food as he is talented behind the camera. Edward agreed to share his story with After the Harvest.


After the Harvest (ATH): When did you know you wanted to be a photographer, and when/why did your focus turn to food?

Edward Pond (EP): It took me four years of journalism school to realize I didn't want to be a journalist. I preferred playing music and messing about with my camera. So I moved to Toronto to pursue both. In short order, I was assisting a food shooter and learning what it means to really eat. I met all these chefs and food suppliers and I was hooked.



ATH: You really manage to capture the vitality of the food in your photos, providing mouth-watering images. Has your experience thus far changed the way you look at food?

EP: I grew up eating on autopilot. Typical waspy boiled, bleached, boxed diet. And because I'm really thin, I never had any motivation to be careful about what I ate. It just didn't seem relevant. Then in my 20s, I stumbled into food photography and my food awareness exploded. Suddenly I was celebrating every meal and my whole life improved. I'm healthier, more focused and every meal is bliss, even if it's just a bowl of oatmeal. Since food is the foundation of our existence, why shouldn't our day pivot on smart, delicious eating? I know it's a cliché, but look at the French!



ATH: Are there certain foods that lend themselves better to being photographed? Are some more "photogenic" than others?

EP: Now that you mention it, I find the more natural and real the food is, the better it shoots. When you have something simple, made with fresh ingredients, it always looks great.



ATH: What was your experience like shooting the photos for Earth to Table? What did you learn from this experience with respect to local, seasonal cuisine?

EP: Awareness is important in life, especially when shopping and eating. Working with Jeff and Bettina, I learned to take the middle way -- a very Buddhist approach really -- where you do a bit of everything to make a better big picture. Local produce is great, but sometimes it won't have an organic certification. Whereas a big factory outfit might legally be Organic, but it's more industrial. So you need to navigate and stay aware. Every system gets complicated when it goes big. Organics, local eating, vegetarianism, are ideals that get turbulent on a large, commercial scale.

In fall 2008 I decide to go a year without eating meat. I would eat fish and eggs, but no carnage. It was an experiment to expand my food awareness.



But at the same time, I got mountain trail running and then an elite endurance training program. Well! I was starving to death, and all the tofu in the world wasn't going to save me. So I bailed in my 11th month and ordered some chicken soup. At the time, I was at a lunch meeting with a client and I could hardly contain my joy. The flavour of this simple chicken broth was so amazing after a year that I was almost in tears!

















ATH: Your photos from India are beautiful. Are there any other culinary destinations that you are looking forward to shooting in the future?

EP: In the fall I'm spending a few weeks in Italy just cooking, eating and shooting. A bunch of us are renting a big house far from the city where we can buy super fresh ingredients and hang out with the people growing and making it. As for my camera, I always find people welcome my lens into the room when my interest is genuine. When we have a great experience, the photo will follow. Never the other way around.



ATH: Can you share some of your favourite places to eat in Canada?

EP: Faros is a Greek restaurant in Montreal that serves the best Greek salad I've ever eaten. Garde-Manger in Old Montreal is unbelievable too.
In Toronto, I love Foxley Bistro on Ossington, of course Terroni has the best pizza in the universe. I'm lobbying to shoot a book for them. And last week I got to hang out with the owners at Local Kitchen. They make their pasta every afternoon by hand and serve it up. The gnocchi is unreal!

ATH: When you're cooking at home, what are some of your signature dishes?

EP: My signature food is fiddleheads, picked from a secret Pond family patch we've gone to for 29 years now. My brother and I live in different cities, so we meet by the highway and walk deep into the woods by a river to forage these delicious green veggies. Every year, we haul home piles to clean, blanch and freeze. I eat them all year steamed and sprinkled with vinegar or even a bit of soy sauce. Sometimes I cook them into an omelette, but they're too precious to whizz into soup or some other horror!



Sunday for me means roasted chicken. It's delicious, the wonderful smell fills the house, and I get really nice birds from Rowe Farms near my house in Leslieville. I'll often cook one up with lemon roasted spuds and some brussels sprouts. It goes great with a Henry of Pelham Baco Noir and a few friends to help eat it.

Edward is often asked if the food he shoots is actually real! You can see him discussing the answer to this question, as well as describing other aspects of food photography here, in a spot from Bravo TV called "Behind the Camera".

If you would like to see more of Edward's work, please visit his website at www.edwardpond.com. He also holds real estate in the blogosphere at www.edwardpond.blogspot.com.
To be clear, he doesn't just shoot food, as you will see on his blog. Edward records the world around him in all forms, including those that are edible.

Next time you see a gorgeous food photo in a cookbook or a magazine, take a look at the photo credit, it could be the work of Edward Pond. Many thanks, Edward, for allowing After the Harvest to peek through your lens.



All photos by Edward Pond.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Wine Gifting Part 2



I attended some holiday parties on the weekend and they were fantastic! Catching up with old friends, fabulous food and wine, and festive holiday decorations everywhere! I thought I'd suggest some more wines that you can bring to the brave souls who are hosting these events over the festive season:

For the "fashionista" in your life:



We all know them and love them -- the people in our lives who consider shopping to be a sport. They are always one step ahead of the trends, and perpetually looking fabulous, even in their gym clothes on laundry day. For this fashion conscious lady or dude, may I suggest some trendy wines, and of course, some bubbly! I wouldn't normally suggest wines based on their labels, but sometimes it can be fun to gift these wines, and you might end up liking them, you never know...

  • Girls Night Out Merlot-- a Canadian wine with a cute label, $12.95 at Winery to Home
  • Fresita-- Sparkling wine flavoured with strawberries from Patagonia, Chile, $13.95 at LCBO -- often a seasonal product, so grab it while you can!
  • Strut Wines Chardonista-- a Chardonnay from the Niagara Peninsula, $11,95 at Wine Rack.

For the host with the rich palate:



Do you know someone with a rich palate? When I say rich I'm not talking about someone who can afford caviar and truffles, what I mean is the person in the group who loves rich flavours. You know, the one who almost always orders pasta in a cream sauce, the cheese-lover who has a penchant for triple fudge brownies and everything covered in pastry. The friend or family member who probably considers butter to be its own food group. For this individual I would suggest an oaky, buttery Chardonnay or a rich, plummy Merlot. My top picks would be:

  • J. Lohr Chardonnay--a rich, oaky Chardonnay for those California-loving wine aficionados.
  • Barefoot Merlot--a fruit-forward, rich Merlot with a fantastic pricetag of $9.95 at LCBO.

For the man who loves to grill:



For the guy in your life who loves his barbecue more than anything, why not pick up some wines that would go well with a succulent steak, a juicy burger or even a grilled pizza! I'm confident these choices will impress not only the master of the grill, but his grateful recipients of grilled goodness:

  • Casillero del Diablo Carmenere--I've never gone wrong bringing this wine to a party. It's a great match for steak or anything barbecued!
  • Cave Spring Chardonnay Musque--a bright white that would make any party better!$15.95at LCBO.
  • Malivoire Ladybug Rose--A rose I think even a man's man would enjoy. Great with grilled fish!

I hope you enjoyed these suggestions and that your holiday wine gifting has become that much easier to manage.

Happy Holidays everyone!
~Heather


*Photos via Flickr: ChrisHlady, Retrofurs, clowerbrown, ThaddeusGriffin

Friday, December 18, 2009

What I'm Reading...Final Thoughts on The Botany of Desire

Because I've included quotes in my posts about Michael Pollan's book, The Botany of Desire, it has turned out to be a monstrous 3-part post! I suppose that just shows my enthusiasm for Pollan's work.



In the final section of the book, Pollan focuses on monocultures vs. organic varietal farming while discussing the final plant, the potato. When discussing farmers who use pesticides, Pollan describes the process, showing how many chemicals are used:

“Typically it begins early in spring with a soil fumigant; to control nematodes and certain diseases in the soil, potato farmers douse their fields before planting with a chemical toxic enough to kill every trace of microbial life in the soil. Next Forsyth puts down a herbicide – Lexan, Sencor, or Eptam – to “clean” his field of all weeds. Then, at planting, a systemic insecticide – such as Thimet – is applied to the soil. This will be absorbed by the young seedlings and kill any insect that eats their leaves for several weeks. When the potato seedlings are six inches tall, a second herbicide is sprayed on the field to control weeds"(Page 218).



While literally out in the field doing research, Pollan encounters many farmers --some conventional, some organic. When talking to a conventional potato farmer named Danny Forsyth, he uncovers an honest confession that speaks volumes:

“I like to eat organic food, and in fact I grow a lot of it at the house. The vegetables we buy at the market we just wash and wash and wash. I’m not sure I should be saying this, but I always plant a small area of potatoes without any chemicals. By the end of the season, my field potatoes are fine to eat, but any potatoes I pulled today are probably still full of systemics. I don’t eat them"(Page 220).



Pollan then turns to the issue of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and how they are changing the economic structure of agriculture:

“...genetic engineers have discovered how to stop on command the most elemental of nature’s processes, the plant-seed-plant-seed cycle by which plants reproduce and evolve. The ancient logic of the seed – to freely make more of itself and infinitum, to serve as both food and the means of making more food in the future – has yielded to the modern logic of capitalism. Now viable seeds will come not from plants but from corporations"(Page 232).

I will refrain from quoting any more sections of the book, simply because you should just pick it up and read it yourself. The potato chapter is especially the most eye-opening from an environmental, food-safety conscious perspective. However, before you get worried that Pollan's books are only full of political statements, he also provides the most beautiful descriptions of his natural surroundings. In the epilogue, he describes his garden with the passion and fluidity of a poet:

“I hadn’t been in the garden for a couple of weeks, and, as always is the case by the end of the summer, the place was an anarchy of rampant growth and ripe fruit, all of it threatening to burst the geometry of my beds and trellises and paths. The pole beans had climbed clear to the tops of the sunflowers, which stood draped in their bulging green and yellow pods. The pumpkins had trailed halfway across the now-unmowable lawn, and the squash leaves, big as pizzas, threw dark pools of shade in which the lettuces looked extremely happy – as, unfortunately, did the slugs, who were dining on my chard in the squashy shade. The vines of the last potatoes lay flopped over their hills, exhausted."



So, once again, Pollan delights my brain with all kinds of analysis relating to food, plants, and food culture, and I just can't get enough. I know I am behind on my Pollan reading, but next will be The Omnivore's Dilemma. For those of you who are more apt to read the "coles notes" version, he has just come out with a book called Food Rules -- it's a guidebook to eating real food, with one food rule per page, making it easier for all of us to implement his strategy into our daily lives.

*All photos via Flickr: geo3pea, photomato and Meredith James

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Food, Wine & Holiday Themed Coasters!

The talented Wendy of Tiny Brushstrokes has made these fun coasters that would be a great holiday gift for the foodie on your list, or anyone else, for that matter!

Check out these classy wine-themed coasters:





Food inspired designs:





And these would be perfect for that upcoming holiday mixer...



Whatever your poison, it always helps to have a unique set of coasters on hand to rest it on -- not only to prevent those nasty coffee table rings but also to impress the neighbours! I'm sure Santa would also love to set down his glass of milk (or beer in some households) on a Christmassy coaster...

Tiny Brushstrokes coasters can be ordered online at www.tinybrushtrokes.ca.

Gift certificates are also available for custom orders, and they make a great stocking stuffer!

Cheers, everyone!
Happy Holidays to you all and let's all raise a glass to Wendy's fab artwork!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What I'm Reading...Part 2 of 3: The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan

And now for Part 2 of my post about Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire:(Part 1 can be found here)

We left off at Pollan's analysis of the apple and its relationship to the human desire for sweetness. In case you had enough of the apple, Pollan wakes up the reader with some sexual references to the tulip. Sexual references to the tulip? Yes, we've all made the correlation between a flower and a woman's anatomy, but Pollan goes one further and exerts the tulip as a phallic symbol.

“The canonical flowers seem to me almost all female – except, that is, for the tulip, perhaps the most masculine of flowers. If you doubt this, watch next April how a tulip forces its head up out of the ground, how the head gradually colors as it rises. Dig down along the shaft, and you’ll find its bulb, smooth, rounded, hard as a nut, a form for which the botanists offer a most graphic term: 'testiculate'” (page 98).



He goes on to discuss the flower with respect to our desire for beauty, and how it transcends into a philosophical relationship:

"... we gazed even farther into the blossom of a flower and found something more: the crucible of beauty, if not art, and maybe even a glimpse into the meaning of life. For look into a flower, and what do you see? Into the very heart of nature’s double nature – that is, the contending energies of creation and dissolution, the spiring toward complex form and the tidal pull away from it. Apollo and Dionysus were names the Greeks gave to these two faces of nature, and nowhere in nature is their contest as plain or as poignant as it is in the beauty of a flower and its rapid passing. There, the achievement of order against all odds and its blithe abandonment. There, the perfection of art and the blind flux of nature. There, somehow, both transcendence and necessity. Could that be it – right there, in a flower – the meaning of life?”(page 109)

It is a paragraph such as this that reminds me of the brilliance of Michael Pollan's observations. He is not just writing a book about food, or plants or nature -- he seems to connect these subjects to the human experience in a way all his own. In my opinion he is a modern poet, beautifully and persuasively describing the world around him.



And now for the plant you’ve all been waiting for...when discussing marijuana, Pollan actually focuses on its medicinal properties and its stunted research due to the political war on drugs:

"For years Mechoulam* had been intrigued by the ancient history of cannabis as a medicine (a panacea in many cultures until its prohibition in the 1930s, it has been used to treat pain, convulsions, nausea, glaucoma, neuralgia, asthma, cramps, migraine, insomnia, and depression) and decided it might be worthwhile to isolate the plant’s active ingredient. But it was the popularity of marijuana as a recreational drug in the sixties, and the attendant official worries, that freed up the resources to underwrite this kind of work – and a great deal of other cannabinoid research that, taken together, has yielded more knowledge about the workings of the human brain than anyone could have guessed”(Page 152).*Raphael Mechoulam, an Israeli neuroscientist who identified THC in the mid 60s.


The late Carl Sagan, a passionate, brilliant man who loved turtlenecks almost as much as the universe

He even references everyone's favourite cosmic scientist, Carl Sagan, and his relationship to marijuana and its effect on consciousness in his "Mr. X essay", which you can read here.

The most thrilling lightbulb moment I had was while reading about marijuana and its effect on memory. Keep in mind the desire he is focusing on is intoxication, or an altered state of consciousness. He then goes to explain how he realized that we have chemicals in our brain that naturally allow us to alter our own sense of the world around us, without even noticing it. Thus is the case as he describes forgetting as editing.

When referring to a receptor in the brain that THC affects (as discovered by scientist Allyn Howlett), Pollan remarks:

“What a curious thing this is for a brain to do, to manufacture a chemical that interferes with its own ability to make memories – and not just memories of pain, either. So I e-mailed Raphael Mechoulam to ask him why he thought the brain might secrete a chemical that has such an undesirable effect.Don’t be so sure that forgetting is undesirable, he suggested. ‘Do you really want to remember all the faces you saw on the New York City subway this morning?’”(Page 159/160)



He discusses this further:

“’If we could hear the squirrel’s heartbeat, the sound of the grass growing, we should die of that roar’, George Eliot once wrote. Our mental health depends on a mechanism for editing the moment-by-moment ocean of sensory data flowing into our consciousness down to a manageable trickle of the noticed and remembered. The cannabinoid network appears to be part of that mechanism, vigilantly sifting the vast chaff of sense impression from the kernels of perception we need to remember if we’re to get through the day and get done what needs to be done. Much depends on forgetting”(Page 159/160).

Alas I leave you again to ponder the tulip and the cannabis bud. I will see you again when I discuss the potato in Part 3 of this book analysis/appreciation.

On an unrelated Carl Sagan note, check out The Symphony of Science. It will blow your mind.

*All images via Flickr: slimmer_jimmer, ARush4U, deborahwithanh, blank00x.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Holiday Wine Gifting

Happy Holidays everyone! I can't believe it's almost Christmas -- where did the time go? The time of year where you break out the parka, seek out unique gifts, and attend holiday parties! For the many holiday parties ahead, I thought I'd suggest some wines that you could bring along to the host or hostess, depending on the person, of course! There will most likely be a few posts like this, but for now I'll just suggest a few to get you started.

For the "Greenie" in your life:



Go for an organic wine. My pick is Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon. Currently $18.95 at the LCBO, it is made in California, and would go well either with steak or mushrooms -- keeping in mind your eco-friendly host might be a vegetarian.

For the "Wino" in the group:



For the person who seems to be the authority on wine in your circle of friends, I suggest gifting a unique sparkling wine, such as Henry of Pelham's Cuvee Catherine Rose Brut, N.V. Priced at $29.95 at Winery to Home, this sparkling is not only local, but it's also fruity and toasty and is named after the matriarch of the Pelham family.

For the host who likes seafood:



Sometimes it's helpful to think about what foods the host likes to eat, and go from there. Case in point, a host who loves seafood will adore this light, crisp Vinho Verde -- Sogrape Gazela. A Portuguese wine with a great pricetag of $8.95 at the LCBO, you can't go wrong with this one. Interestingly enough, I have noticed that the neck on the bottle is quite small, so you might be challenged with a wine stopper, that is if you don't finish the bottle!

I hope you enjoyed these suggestions, there will be more to come! Like I've said many times before, I am no wine expert, but I hope to impart the bit of knowledge and experience I've picked up along the way to willing readers.

Have fun at your holiday parties,

Heather
All photos via Flickr: JollyGreenGirl, IntangibleArts, alykat