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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Pizza has got to be one of my favorite foods.  Infinitely versatile and adaptable, you can make a pizza suit almost any occasion or mood by shifting up what toppings you have on it.  It can be high-class, or comfort food, or anything in-between.  Too long have people with gluten allergies/intolerance been denied this divine food, so here’s a recipe I found for gluten-free pizza dough!

  • 1C warm (not hot!) water
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2.25 tsp Active Dry Yeast
  • 3C Spelt Flour
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt (fine grain)
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil

1)In a large bowl, gently mix together the warm water, honey and yeast, then let sit for 5 minutes until the yeast starts to foam and activate.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour and salt.

2)Take 1C of the flour/salt mix and add it to the yeast water.  Mix it in with your hands, then add the olive oil and mix it thoroughly (and gently) in.  1/2 a cup at a time, continue adding the flour until it is all incorporated.

3)Sprinkle a little flour on your work surface, and turn out the ball of dough.  Knead it until it’s smooth and only a little sticky (you can add little bits of the spelt flour at a time if it’s too sticky, or 1 Tbsp of water if it’s too dry).  Form the dough into a ball, and drop it into a clean, oiled bowl.  Make sure the ball is coated lightly in olive oil, then cover the bowl so no light is getting in, and place the bowl in a warm spot for an hour.

4)After an hour, the dough should be roughly doubled in size, so you can divide the dough into two, then roll them out to be cooked!

5)Lightly oil the top of the crust and place it –WITHOUT OTHER TOPINGS!– into an oven set to 400 degrees for 10 minutes.  Take it out and flip it over, and *now* you can top it however you want for your own personal pizza!  Give it another 10 minutes in the oven once topped, and you’ll be set!

Once you’ve done the first 10-minute bake, you can also freeze these crusts for up to a month if you don’t see yourself using them all at once.

I really hope this helps a few more people get to enjoy this best of all foods! 🙂

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asparagus

 

Last night we had pork chops for dinner, and since I wanted something nice and light to go with it, I decided to make a little pilaf with some summer flavours!  This dish can be served hot or cold, and can be served plain or topped with a little balsamic vinegar or even (shudder) soy sauce.

  • 1/4 C Butter   (Yes, butter — “Butter is Better”.  Always)
  • 2 C Brown Rice
  • 3 C Boiling Water (or even better, if you have it – chicken or vegetable stock!)
  • 12 Asparagus Stalks
  • 1 Tbsp Basil (dried), or 4 leaves of fresh basil, chopped as fine as you can
  • 1 tsp Salt

1) Slice the asparagus nice and thin – you want the asparagus ‘discs’ to be about the thickness of almond slivers.  Once you get to the “bushy” part at the top, leave those whole, and gather them up with all the sliced asparagus.

2)In a nice and hot sautee pan, melt a little butter (about 1 Tbsp), then add the asparagus and salt.  Keep the pan moving as you sautee the asparagus – you don’t want to cook it down, but you do want to see a little colour starting to happen – should take about 2-5 minutes, tops.

3)Add the remaining butter to the pan, let it melt, then pour in the dried rice and stir it up in the melted butter and asparagus until all the grains have a nice buttery sheen to them.

4)Add in the basil, then the boiling water/stock, give one final stir, then cover the dish with a tight lid or aluminum foil, and place in an oven** set to 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  Be careful taking off the lid, as you’ll get a face full of hot steam, but the rice should be beautifully tender.

** Please be sure your pan is oven-safe, including the handle.  If not, transfer the food into an oven-safe container before covering and placing in the oven

If I were to do this dish again, there are 2 changes I would probably make (depending on who I was cooking for)  First, I would probably add some almond slivers at the same time as the boiling water, just to give a bit of crunch to the dish – extra textures can make the food come alive.  Secondly, after sauteeing the asparagus, a little (1/8 C) white wine (something dry) to splash into the pan to ‘deglaze’ it would add a nice additional flavour.

Several years ago, I attended Culinary School at a small college in northern British Columbia, Canada.  It’s not a school that you’ll find listed in any sort of international database of Great Schools, like the Culinary Institute of America, but rather a compressed ten-month program that was taught by some absolutely brilliant Chefs.  One who was regularly hired to help get new restaurants going in Vancouver – culinary capital of BC.  One who was chosen to travel ahead of the Queen of England, ensuring the food and service at each of her stops on a cross-country tour would be at the standards that She expected.  And one who had worked at some of the finest hotel kitchens in Australia, before teaching in various venues in North America.

That was the sum total of our school’s claim to “culinary fame”.  (I fully expect that will change in time – they gave that program an amazing start, and at least one of the gentlemen I graduated with, Will, is well on his way to becoming a brilliant Chef who’s name will be *known*)  During the program, one of the Chefs recommended me to the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver for my work experience, and I was accepted — this led to an overwhelming three-week period where I learned just what I could be capable of, when motivated.  I shone.  I loved it.  I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and barely keeping my head above water, but oh did I love it.  Then after my work experience month was done, I returned to the college to finish the program, and on the last day, Chef Graham looked at me and said “I expect to hear great things about you.” before walking away.  (I know, I know – sounds like a horrible film cliche, but I swear it happened just like that).

And then I got lost.  Coming out of a program taught by brilliant chefs, with several brilliant fellow graduates around me, I ended up working for a Bar and Grill.  A good one, for the city I was living in, but not what I had trained for, by any stretch.  While there, I had the blessing of working with several excellent Chefs (some Red Seal, some School’O’Hard Knocks, some both), but in the end it still wasn’t what I was looking for.  Where I would shine.   I ended up there longer than I should have been, and I took some knocks along the way even as I gained some hard-won victories (one of *my* recipes loved by my Chef and Corporate Chef!  Wowsers!) but eventually my wife convinced me it was time for a drastic change…. A new city.

So we up and moved, and in short order in this new city I was told I was suddenly over-qualified for the type of job I had been doing.  Then (much to my amazement), I was accepted to one of the Winery kitchens — finally!  Fine dining!  Fresh ingredients!!  Meals served with a glass of fine wine, in a classy environment, where I was encouraged (in theory) to experiment, develop and design my own dishes for our menu.  I had staff coming to me, asking me to take over more of the cooking of the staff meals due to the quality of what I made for them.  I even had one of my staff lunches knock my Chef’s socks off, to the degree that he told me it was going on our feature menu this summer.  Then, Life Happened…

I quit my job at the Winery.  As I was leaving, on my last day, my Chef said “Take my advice, and just go get a job in a pub” with a dismissive tone.  To him, I’m not “Chef” material, because Life Happened and it knocked me off my pace momentarily.

Well, I’m not working in a pub.  Right now, I work part-time at a beautiful luxury B&B where I got to design *my* menu.  Where I get to cook *my* food.  Where I get to see talk with our guests as I prepare their meals, and where I get the feedback on my cooking by watching their faces with each bite they take.  Where each time I prepare a dish, I can put that Of-The-Moment inspiration into it, and elevate it to something different, something passionate, something unique.

I don’t have a kitchen staff.  I don’t have my Red Seal (yet).  But when I walk into that kitchen, take out and true my knives, and then cook for those people, I am living up to the example set by every good Chef I have ever worked with.

I never put out a dish I am not proud of.

I never serve anything I would not want to eat myself.

I let my love and respect for the food show.

Maybe I will never be able to be a traditional Chef in a high-stakes, high-pressure kitchen, but in every way that matters, I’m walking my own path to becoming a Chef I can be proud of.  I just needed to find a different path to being “Chef”

To all my ‘paladin’ friends — yeah, all those of you that will stand up and say or do something when they see someone being treated unfairly — I have a challenge for you. I know, from lengthy personal experience, who much easier it can be for some of us to speak out when we see someone else being treated unfairly, than when it is us.

That needs to change.

Here’s the thing. There is this wonderful push happening in the Western world right now for equality — to stand up and show that “all [people] are created equal”, that we “are all made in God’s image”, or however you want to justify it. This is a good thing. But for all of you people out there who are like me, and find it infinitely easier to stand up for others than ourselves — why aren’t you as equal as the rest. If we’re all truly equal, and you yourself aren’t worth standing up for, how can you stand up for anyone else without being just a little bit hypocritical … against the person you should be supporting the most!

For me, it was an event this week that really brought this topic to the top of my mind again, as I went through something that I just took silently and walked away from (until I could cry to my wife, later), but if I had seen happening to someone *ELSE*, I would have spoken out on the spot. I didn’t stop and think until today, several days later, that how I stood up for myself did not do me any justice. Did not serve any greater purpose. Was not the right thing to do. I stood by in silence and let someone important be put down. So I challenge everyone who has difficulty with this to try this exercise:

The next time someone says something hurtful, dismissive, negative, degrading, mocking, WHATEVER to you… don’t just brush it off. Say to yourself “Do unto MYSELF as I would have others do unto OTHERS!” Stand up for yourself the way so many of you will stand up for your families, your friends, your loved ones, or even strangers on YouTube or Facebook.

Give yourself that same love, that same support, and speak out!

You’re worth it.

I think this picture pretty much sums up how I'm feeling since the move to Kelowna: more than a little swamped, but I've still got my head held high, my new stylin' hat, and Tammy looking out for me. (So hard to do a Jaws impression if she sees you coming...)