Friday, November 13, 2009

Extra Extra - Starry Fork to Begin Poking into New Areas

Friday the 13th of November, perhaps an auspicious day. So I will at some point very soon have a home computer and start updating much more frequently, but it's been pointed out to me that perhaps I don't need a second/alternative blog for my forays into current events, local politics or popular culture.

The Starry Fork can and will poke into whatever subject is the most fascinating at any current time.

And after all, it's only 90 days now until the Blimpy Shames* arrive on Vancouver's un-sunny shores, I don't think there will be any lack of things to talk about.

In today's news, it is unclear whether Militant Penguin was entirely spared by the fire that razed a group of businesses all housed in the same building. RIP Slickety Jim's Chat N' Chew. I liked your raspberry jam and your crazy menu names. My girl Ange would also like to give a shout-out to the equally dearly departed Kishu - while I personally was not a fan, even from Montreal she is missing your cheapass takeout sushi.

*note: Blimpy Shames is my euphemism for that other thing they will sue you for using the real name of. You know the thing. Big Vancouver party, coming up in February.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Giving Thanks

Hey, I don't know if I mentioned this before, but thanks, dear reader. I'm greatful to have this forum to put out my ideas about cooking and gardening, and food is always better within a community.

One thing I do really love about holidays is the tendency for them to bring families together. We had a Thanksgiving dinner here at my parents' house this year, and though the ever-extending family was spread out over a few different cities, it was really excellent to see the members of my family that could make it. We had an enjoyable evening, with everyone lingering around the table after dinner, satisfied from a wonderful meal, to talk and talk and talk.

Above, you see my mother and I hard at work preparing the stuffing for the turkey. This year we used LOTS of mushrooms (button and shitake), lots of onions, celery that I grew in my garden, some locally baked bread and just about every herb that we have in the garden.

I can take no credit at all for these scrumptious looking pies, which my parents made the day previous. But let me assure you, they taste even better than they look!

Hope that you all had a delicious long weekend as well!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Eggs Flamenco

Behold! Eggs Flamenco! My favourite thing to eat for breakfast. Bar none. (Yes, that does indeed include bacon). It's basically a fresh tomato sauce, with bell peppers, onions and/or garlic, some chili sauce for heat, and the eggs poached right in the sauce. mmmmmmmmmm

It's pretty nice to have access to all this gorgeous homegrown garlic. It's time RIGHT NOW for garlic planting, so if you can, get out there and get it done. It's on my to-do list for tomorrow, I swear. Cook up your onion, get the garlic chopped and ready.

Add some sliced tomatoes. These babies are from the garden, one of mom's and half of one of my dixie golden cultivars, saved from blight and ripened in the nick of time. These don't take long to cook, since you want to keep it fresh. Add the peppers, garlic and chili (we use sambal oelek). Then make little pockets in the sauce, put the eggs in, turn to a lower heat and put a lid on it for about 3-4 minutes.

Which all comes together in a very short amount of time to give you the finished product, all rich and saucey and delicious. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Belated birthday supper

So what became of that fabulous ripe Dixie Golden tomato I grew this year? You'll no doubt be thrilled to hear that I supped on it as a part of my birthday celebrations with my parents this year.

At my request, the menu was steak, and my mom wanted to try the tomato jus I posted about a little while back. I don't think the steaks came out quite as well this time, I may have been crowding the pan a bit, and also the tomatoes were a bit cut-up, so they released a bit more liquid into the pan during cooking than the ones I used last time, which had never even seen a knife.

We also put some green onions into the sauce, which was a nice addition.

Served with stir-fried vegetables. The broccoli was cooked with a bit of chopped tarragon, which lends an interesting effect. Probably better the more you like tarragon...

But without a doubt, my beautiful tomato was the tastiest thing on my plate. Well-grown. Happy birthday to meee.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

An Embarrassment of Tomatoes

Shortly after completing my last tomato post, and smugly satisfied at using almost all my outstanding garden tomatoes, I went out to water my plants.

And came back in with another large bowl full.

Now, don't get me wrong. What with the advent of today's cool grey misty rain, it's clear that tomato season is coming to an end. I'm going to treasure all these little gems, and try not to waste any due to laziness or poor dinner planning.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tomato Envy

Lately it's all I can do to stay on top of eating all the tomatoes that are being thrown at me. Not only are they cheap and fabulous in the stores and farmers markets, but my mom and my cousin's boyfriend are constantly on me to eat the overflow tomatoes from their gardens, and my own dear heritage plant even seems ready to deliver a ripe tomato in the next couple days. ohhhhh yeah baby!

Come with me now, on a tomato tour around the garden and kitchen:

These little yellow gems are from Dan's garden. He has the Italian touch with tomatoes, and all his plants are putting out truly sickening amounts of fruit. (bastard!) But in his favour, he has given me carte blanche to take whatever I want, especially the yellow ones, which he doesn't much like, and were mostly rotting on the plant. The red beauty in the upper left corner is one of my mother's tomatoes, waiting patiently to be used in something delicious.

These guys were just a little bit past their prime, and did not make the cut for breakfast. Back to the compost for you, boys.

Sizzling up in some butter. mmmmm, delicious butter.

Aaand - breakfast. Sautee'd tomatoes, free range eggs, butter and cheesie toast. Amen. Please excuse the messy plating, I was in a rush to eat this awesome-smelling food. But I'm well aware that that kind of shit would not cut it in the real cheffy world.

And now, into the garden:

One of my mom's tomato plants - despite being left untended for like 5 weeks and having no trellis or support, this sprawling plant is producing dozens of big fat delicious tomatoes. Jealous!!

My little heritage plant is finally making some big tomatoes, but the weather is starting to turn, and I'm worried that they'll have to be harvested green.

But one or two of them will definitely be ripe in time. Some interesting pathogen growth on the one on the right there.

Even if I don't get a single other ripe tomato, I feel that this guy here, glowing orange and just about ready to be plucked, will totally have been worth it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Bright Harvest 2 - Back For Breakfast

Alas, it's just about time for me to say goodbye to my delicious garden-fresh lettuce - aboohoohoo. There's just barely enough left for a sandwich, but I'll have to get it quickly before the caterpillars finish it off. I probably could have gotten one more generation of seedlings going if I'd been on the ball a few weeks ago. Ah well, it's back to the pricey store-bought stuff for the winter. I love you lettuce, it's been fun.

Also, check out this big ripe strawberry, which formed the cornerstone of my healthy, well-balanced breakfast yesterday.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bright Harvest

Fruits of evil, fruits of eeevilllll!

No, seriously though... I am pleased to announce that my pepper plant's second set of peppers has now commenced the ripening!!! (the first round having been destroyed by some evil little squirrels)

I have faith that I'll be able to get all of these peppers fully ripe before autumnal rains potentially wilt this little plant. Two of them look pretty much ready to go anytime I want them.

Now I just have to figure out what I'm going to make with them once they're harvested. mwahahahahahaha!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Saucey Steak Sandwich

I love steak. Loooove steak. I always want to order it in fancy restaurants, but unless you're paying $40+ they never seem to make a good enough sauce. Which seems crazy, since it's the easiest thing in the world.

Today I decided to cook the grain-fed new york steak I bought yesterday, and make a steak sandwich for lunch. Starting with my trusty cast iron pan, heated to smoking hot, I quickly cooked the steak for a couple minutes each side, with a handful of strawberry tomatoes along for the ride. After the steak was done, I deglazed the pan with a splash of brandy, squashed one of the tomatoes for juice and added a little knob of butter to finish the sauce. It's as easy as that!

By this point, the steak had rested, so I sliced it and put it on a freshly toasted bun with a bit of mayo and a few of my last little leaves of garden lettuce. I've got a couple of the tomatoes leftover for another day, but other than that I have eaten the lot, and licked the plate clean. And now, now I have the itis.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Good Morning, Good Morning!

It's great to stay up late, good morning, good morning to you!

See, with a plateful like this, I just don't feel the need to bother with toast anymore. Is that heresy? So be it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

People who really LOVE their food

Spent a fun night out eating cheap curry and watching the cooking-centric film Julie and Julia with some wonderful friends. I'm glad I went into the thing stuffed with spicy carbohydrates, because this is not a film to watch hungry. Shot after loving shot of beautiful buttery food reminded me of the reason that I cook (and write about it). Because I love it.

And because it's an act of minor creation, and faith in the process. And because it's something you can do to brighten the lives of those around you in a really concrete fashion.

All this by way of saying, I'm back. And I'm sorry about the hiatus. It's been a trying time, but I've got plenty of ideas to share, and finished products to show off.

Also, all those loving shots of Julia's fabulously outfitted kitchen in the movie have seriously left me with a resounding desire to go fondle some beautiful, beautiful cookware. Ohhh, Le Creuset...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

To Farm or Not to Farm

No time for a full meal, but here's a little excerpt from a great Time magazine article to chew on:

A transition to more sustainable, smaller-scale production methods could even be possible without a loss in overall yield, as one survey from the University of Michigan suggested, but it would require far more farmworkers than we have today. With unemployment approaching double digits — and things especially grim in impoverished rural areas that have seen populations collapse over the past several decades — that's hardly a bad thing. Work in a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) is monotonous and soul-killing, while too many ordinary farmers struggle to make ends meet even as the rest of us pay less for food. Farmers aren't the enemy — and they deserve real help. We've transformed the essential human profession — growing food — into an industry like any other. "We're hurting for job creation, and industrial food has pushed people off the farm," says Hahn Niman. "We need to make farming real employment, because if you do it right, it's enjoyable work."

It's intriguing to think about farming as a future career. It's definitely not what I dreamed of as a kid, but I can't deny that I love plants. I recently read an inspirational story of a Burnaby man who's making a go of a 1-man salad greens growing operation. Makes you wonder if a green roof and a solarium or two could grow what it takes to keep a small cafe or lunch spot in the produce...

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Passage to India

Unfortunately, despite living in Vancouver and loving Indian food, I have not yet been to Vij's, one of the most celebrated Indian restaurants in the world. I have tried a few of his sauces and recipes to great effect, but that's neither here nor there.

But this insanely awesome press release sure caught my fancy - the part of me that would love to travel back in time and visit India or Egypt as they once were. Imagine getting to explore the Rajasthan area with one of the great chefs of our time, staying in out of the way historical areas and learning about the local food and culture and traditions of food collecting and preparation. 

"An over night picnic on thoroughbred Marwari horses to a remote village culminating in outdoor cooking with villagers, retiring in luxury tents, and perchance, participating in an elephant polo match are just some of the extraordinary highlights of this tour. "

My rebuttal: *drooooooooool*

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fruits of the day

So we went to the market again yesterday morning, for the fresh local stuff. Meeting all the area farmers is inspiring, and one of the most outstanding parts is being able to bypass certain purchases because I already have that item I need in my own garden. 

Picked up (as you can see) couple of peaches, pears, three tomatillos and a dark, pointy tomato. Hmmm? What's that other thing? Oh, uhhh, that's just my giant hammer. I heard there might be some zombies around, so I thought I should probably be packing some heat. 

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter Tomato

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the Mortgage Lifter tomato. While this particular tomato is actually a slightly more modern bicolored variant, the Mortgage Lifter was allegedly developed during the Great Depression in the early 30's by a radiator repairman named M.C. "Radiator Charlie" Byles, trying to make an extra buck.

Although never formally trained, he successfully crossbred 4 of his favourite large-tomato-producing plants until he came up with this stable cultivar, marketed as being able to feed a family of six. And people drove from miles away to buy the plants at a dollar per plant.

And within (depending on which version you believe) four or six years, he had his $6000 mortgage paid in full. Thus - the Mortgage Lifter.

It's tough to judge the scale from these photos, but the above specimen has already provided for four big sandwiches, and been bitten by one ravenous Anna, and it's still more than 50% there. Family of six indeed.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Multimedia Bacon

I'm a supporter of the idea of enjoying food vicariously... I mean, some of my favourite writing is food writing. Not only does this give you the pleasure of the surrogate experience, it can also encourage you to do something new and unusual with your regular meals. 

All this by way of saying - HOLY SAINT ANTHONY!! Look what my sous-chef Savage Henry Lee cooked up today down at Starry Industries! A video-film of some delicious bacon!! From frying pan to plate.

**Special thanks for editing out that part in the video where I started singing South Park's "Do What You Wanna Do". aheheh. 

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Mighty Cuke

Just a quick note to say: hey everybody! Look at my enormous cucumber! 
Awwwwww yeahhhh! That's right!

(lower right hand side)


Saturday, August 8, 2009

oh yeah, speaking of BACON!

We made bacon & egg & tomato sammiches for lunch. They were grrrrreat. The tomato was one of the great-smelling heritage guys I picked up today. Picked up and then dropped onto the street after trying to juggle too much produce. So we had to use it pronto. 

I cooked the ill-fated tomato on lowish heat in large wedges in a few knobs of butter, trying not to poke it too much. Added the eggs, which poach/fry nicely in the tomatoey butter sauce. If you're worried the eggs are going to stick, add a couple more little knobs of butter into the pan, where you will be putting the eggs. 

Over easy, garnished with some fleur de sel and a few leaves of arugula, on lightly mayo'd bagels.

With bacon. Always, bacon. 

Mmmmm quality BACON!

When I first bought some of this bacon from the farmer's market a month ago, I fell head over heels in love. Gelderman Farms is in Abbotsford, BC and is a family-run farm. The pigs live in these nice uncrowded naturally ventilated & lit pens. Also, the Gelderman family actually blend their own feedstock for the pigs right on their farm with all vegetable components. Which, y'know... is pretty reassuring, knowing what I know about what most corporations will do to save a buck. 

(Also, the Geldermans totally recycle all the sawdust the pigs sleep in into compost for all kinds of gardening... which is pretty creative and awesome.)

My secret recipe for cooking bacon... just stir it up in a cast iron frying pan. Don't worry about laying it in strips. It'll all cook eventually. It does help to have a fabulous enameled cast iron frying pan, mind you. 

Works every time. And let me tell you, this bacon is absolutely incredible. Sweet, crispy, chewy, perfectionary. I heartily endorse this product, and/or service. 

  • Aug 15 - Location Not Decided Yet
  • Aug 19 - Main St. Station at Thronton Park
  • Aug 22 - Trout Lake Farmers Market
  • Aug 22 - Abbotsford Farmers' Market
  • Aug 29 - Haney Farmers Market, Maple Ridge

Friday, August 7, 2009

Pasta Primavera with Arugula

Welcome to part 3 of my ongoing recipe series. Today we're making pasta sauce with whatever veggies and things in the fridge need to be used up. This sauce smells out of this world. I encourage you to reheat your leftovers in very public places, thus torturing everyone around you with the fact that they don't have any.

First, cook up some diced onion (at least half an onion) in a bit of butter until golden. Because the zucchini takes a little bit to fry up, I added it in before the garlic. Once the zucchini is looking done-ish, add some chopped garlic if you've got it, chopped salami and the carrots.

These just happen to be the veggies I had left over from the farmer's market. As I said, any ingredients are optional, feel free to use what you've got. If you have soft things like peppers, I'd put them in at the very very end so as not to overcook them. Added note: I find all this works better when you use a cast iron saucepan to cook in, rather than aluminum.

And then it's time for the magic - turn the heat down a bit and add a bigass dollop of cream cheese. mmmmmmm. This stuff will melt, but you will need to stir it with vigor in order to get the lumps out of the sauce. Add lots of milk at this stage too, to thin out the cheese and help with incorporating it into the sauce.

Get some pasta on the go. We got penne, as it's great for sucking up lots of sauce.

Some chopped garden chives to go in at the very last minute.

Because my patio garden is so small, I always end up with more seedlings than planting space. Often I'll just stick the extras in a bit of dirt in one of these black tubs you get seedling in for transplanting - and they'll often thrive in these cramped conditions. I harvested a few dozen little arugula leaves from these pots to garnish our pasta dish.

The peppery bite of arugula really cuts through the creamy sauce, and it's the perfect combination with Parmigiano-Reggiano (I'm a total parmesan snob). If you get your timing right and ganbatte (work real hard), you can often crank this dinner out in about 20 minutes.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tomato-watch Today!

BEHOLD! One of the new couple of tomatoes starting to form on my happy little tomato plant. Thus bringing my total number of  tomatoes to three!! I LOVE to count tomatoes. Mwah hah haaa.   

Tomato prime is looking fat and healthy. Is very exciting.