Chestnut Soup with Crispy Pancetta

Many years ago on a whim I purchased a rather strange cookbook by Lois Anne Rothert dedicated entirely to the various soups of rural France. Normally I don’t pitch in for something so bizarrely specialized but something about this tome’s yeomen charm captured my imagination and it’s survived many cookbook purges over the years when shelf space became scarce.

Now, three months deep into my still-UN-identified illness this book has more than earned it’s keep with such soul-satisfying and sanity-soothing soups as Country Sorrel and Potato, Oyster and Cognac stew, Lentil Potage and this deeply savoury winter soup of pureed chestnuts, aromatics and crispy pancetta. (more…)

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Oatmeal Bread

Despite years of being the “guy who never ever gets sick” I contracted something at the beginning of December which caused my immune system to completely collapse and left me a physical and mental gong-show for the entire month. A month, I might add, in which I was Executive Chef and couldn’t miss a moment of work.

I got vertigo, chest pains, the shakes, heart pounding, random numbness in my extremities and oh yeah, I couldn’t sleep. The few doctors that were available during the holidays couldn’t fix me, hell they couldn’t even tell me what was wrong inside…  So, I just sucked it up and suffered through Merry-‘Freakin Christmas and into the New Year.

Perhaps due to all the Zen breathing exercises that I employed back in December to get my heart rate under control I cracked open my long-neglected copy of The Tassajara Bread Book during a particularly sleepless night and started down Edward Espe Brown’s rabbit hole of sponge-fed Buddhist bread making… It was just something to do at 2:00am. (more…)

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Radish Kimchee

radish-kimcheeEveryone I know has been hiding from the snow (we got a foot and a half! Wtf!?) and pre-Christmas congestion in their kitchens, baking cookies into festive shapes and filling the world with the often-neglected scent of nutmeg. I on the other hand, leave the sweet stuff to Crystal and have spent the last couple weeks pickling and preserving whatever herbs and veg the weather didn’t manage to wipe out.

Its slim pickings… If we were legit homesteaders we’d starve this winter *laughs* I’ve got a handful of radishes left from my mid-August sowing in the ‘ol Zen garden, some chard and a couple knobbly carrots. I’m thinking the chard will get eaten right away while the radishes ‘n carrots will live on, packed into mason jars and swimming in Korean chillies.

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Miso-Roasted Oysters

Oyster MotoyakiI know it seems like I throw miso in everything – like Jamie Oliver with all that damned rosemary – but if you’re a fan of oysters stay with me. If you have friends and family that are a little oyster-phobic this is the recipe that will turn ’em around. It’s that damned good!

And that’s impressive because there aren’t many things that people eat more polarizing than oysters. Shuck a couple and half the people at your dinner party will gag while the other half dig in with wild abandon.  My wife was one of the former (an unrepentant hater of oysters and most other bivalve mollusks) up until only recently. Now she tolerates a few raw oysters now and then but only if they’re the size of a dime and the larger ones get only scornful looks unless they arrive slathered in miso mayonnaise.

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Pickled Red Cabbage

Pickled Red Cabbage 5Walking around the local Megalomart produce section in the depths of a rainy West coast winter is a real lesson in our dependency on other places for our food. Yeah, I’d love to eat strawberries, tomatoes and mangos all year long, but the costs (financially and environmentally) of supporting the industrial mega-greenhouses of Mexico, Argentina and China outweigh my base cravings.

So I obsessively scan the “Product Of…” signs, hoping to hit something Canadian, or better yet, from our own backyard. Drives my wife freakin crazy!

These local eats are often hardier root veggies, or tough fibrous greens that look a bit scrubby next to piles of supermodel red peppers and dragonfruits. The kind of tubers, berries and brassica that need a little bit more processing to be as tender and sexy as the subtropical stuff. (more…)

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