March 22, 2012

Minty Grapefruit Coleslaw

We have mint!

It's March going on June here in Toronto (25 degrees today!). And in our back garden I found a wee bit of mint poking its sleepy head out of the ground. I pounced on those little sprigs to make this variation on a salad I have been loving these days. It's inspired by The Big Carrot's grapefruit coleslaw. They put cilantro in their version which is equally delicious. But something about the grapefruit & mint combo is oh so refreshing and perfect for a warm spring day.




Minty Grapefruit Coleslaw
1 small cabbage
2 green onions
A dozen (or more) cherry tomatoes
2 grapefruits
1 small bunch of mint
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Finely chop the cabbage. Slice up the green onions, tomatoes, 1 1/2 grapefruit, and mint. Squeeze the juice from one half of a grapefruit into a bowl. Add olive oil and salt and pepper to make a dressing to your taste (I like a fair bit of salt and pepper in this one). Toss together and voila!




March 16, 2012

Polenta Fries

I have a complicated relationship with corn.

I love corn, but sometimes, it feels like it has taken over our entire food chain. Michael Pollan explains it eloquently in this article, which he prefaces by saying: "If you are what you eat, and especially if you eat industrial food, as 99 percent of Americans do, what you are is "corn." And one of my favourite blogging farmers, Gene Logsdon, puts it this way: "Corn has become a symbol of over-industrialized farming. Corn is sort of like sex. It is such a wonderful thing that it is easy to carry to excess."

Driving through rural Ontario in the summer, you see hundreds of acres of corn, each year more than the one before. It's kind of pretty, in that vibrant green monoculture kind of way. But it's hardly an example of sustainable agriculture. About 12 years ago, I found out that most of the corn grown in Canada is genetically engineered (GE) and I started doing research about it. I didn't like what I found out. It was like opening a sci-fi thriller novel packed with unsavoury details: whistle-blowing scientists fired for sharing their findings about adverse effects of GE foods, superweeds on the rise, high-level cover-ups, bribes, and large multinational companies dictating to our government exactly what kinds of crops we should grow and eat.  Call me weird, but I just don't want to eat foods that have had foreign genes spliced into them by large companies of the likes of Monsanto. Since GE foods are not labeled in Canada, and since most farm animals eat genetically engineered corn and soy, it means there are a whole bunch of foods (including meat and dairy) that I try to avoid unless they are certified organic (which prohibits the use of GE crops). For someone who loves food like I do, it can sometimes be a real pain in the ass having to ask if the corn used in my taco is organic. I never wanted to become one of "those people" that asks too many questions at the restaurant. I kind of resent GMOs for turning me into that person because it's not that I'm a picky eater, in fact I'll eat anything and everything, but I just don't want unknown genes spliced into my sandwich, that's all. This film by award-winning journalist Marie-Monique Robin explains the whole issue better than I could ever put into words, it is really a must-see especially for us North Americans who eat this stuff on a daily basis (to see the film in its entirety, click here):





So, as you can see, when I say I have a complicated relationship with corn, I'm not kidding. But, here's the happy ending / beginning to my story... recently I met someone who made me fall in love with corn again. And in the process, I also fell in love with him. But we'll save those juicy details for another time... What I want to tell you about, is how exquisitely beautiful the corn that he grows is: a deep golden open-pollinated organic variety of field corn called Early Riser. This is what it looks like, isn't it a beauty?!




Recently, this man milled his fall harvest into cornmeal and brought me a whole bag of it. In my books this is the equivalent of a dozen roses. I think I even swooned a little bit. So these days, corn and I are on the mend. And here is what I have been making with this heavenly, GMO-free, lovingly grown and harvested organic cornmeal: POLENTA FRIES!!! These are easy to make and incredibly delicious. Please make them, eat a whole pan, and while you're at it, click here and take 2 seconds to sign a letter against this brand new genetically engineered "Agent Orange" corn that could soon be on your dinner plate if the USDA approves it. (Only you wouldn't know it, because it won't be labeled. And since we're on the topic of online petitions, here's one to sign for the labelling of GMOs)


And one more thing, and then I promise I'll shut up and leave you to eat your polenta fries in peace and quiet. Today is a global day of action against Monsanto, please see ways to get involved here. Here is a great Facebook status update to use... as a suggestion:


Dear Monsanto Staff,
Your services will no longer be needed. Your positions have been "terminated". It has been determined that God/Spirit made everything perfect the first time and no redos are necessary. You will have to find other employment that does not kill & poison the earth & it's citizens. There are many other professions with integrity that might interest you: farming, teaching, janitorial services, etc.
-The Citizens of the World.

Polenta Fries
2 3/4 cups (organic) cornmeal
6 cups water
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/4 cup butter
Chopped fresh sage (or rosemary)
Salt, to taste
Olive oil for baking sheet

This recipe will make a LOT of polenta fries. If you're only cooking for 2 or 3, you may want to half it, but otherwise, trust me, they will get eaten! Bring cornmeal, salt, and water to a slow simmer in a thick-bottomed pot, stirring often for about 20 minutes. Stir in cheese, herbs, and butter. Spread polenta out in a couple of large lasagna-style pan to approx. 3/4 inch depth. Cool in the fridge for 1 or 2 hours. Slice into  fries. Cover a baking sheet with with about 2 tbsp. olive oil and bake your fries in a 425 F oven for about 45 minutes or until nicely crisp and golden on the outside, turning them over halfway through. 



March 03, 2012

Grow your own salad

We're on the last leg of winter and I am craving sunshine and greens like there's no tomorrow! These days, I'm all about microgreens. What is a microgreen you may be wondering? Well, it's tiny and it's cute and it has small tender leaves on it. Basically it's a vegetable seedling that makes a very pretty and tasty salad. They're big in the restaurant-biz. And they're super easy to grow on your own.




I used to grow my own sprouts in a jar through the winter months since it's a great way to keep eating locally at a time of year when most greens are shipped all the way from California (ouch, not so great for the old carbon footprint). But the sad truth is, I really don't actually LIKE sprouts very much. Never have, and probably never will.  Microgreens on the other hand, just a wee step above sprouts in the growing process, are delicious. And as easy to grow as sprouts. All you need is a flat container, some soil, some seeds, and a little spot at your window. It took me just over a week to grow this little salad here. I used rapini seeds but you could grow anything from beet seeds to broccoli, red cabbage, radish,  sunflower seeds...  to name only a few possibilities. I'm no expert yet, so here and here are a couple of great resources if you're interested in trying it out. Plus check out the powerful anti-cancer properties of broccoli sprouts

SPRING IS ALMOST HERE SALAD
1 cup microgreens
1 blood orange cut into small pieces
1/2 avocado cubed
1/2 cup of julienned daikon radish
1/3 cup walnut pieces

Dressing
Olive oil, lemon juice, finely chopped garlic, a little salt and pepper


My rapini greens have bedhead! I overgrew these a little and undergrew the ones in the video. But I've got a batch of broccoli babies going right now which I hope to get just right.
18 days until spring!!!