Shark Fin Pledge

July 31, 2009

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When I originally posted on this blog about the cruelty and destruction that the shark finning industry was causing, I got a very mixed response. While most of my regular readers agreed with me that this so called gourmet ingredient was procured at too high a price for our oceans, some pro-shark fin folks found my post and called me all kinds of nasty names. I won’t repeat them, but you can read them here if you like.

I faced another disappointment sticking up for sharks when I wrote a letter to the UN and asked them to intervene in shark finning on an international level. My son, my husband and a handful of other extended family members also wrote letters and not one of us received even a form letter acknowledgment that our letters had been received.

So, when I read a press release (thanks for sending it to me Cheryl!) that said that influential food activist Alice Waters had signed the No Shark Fin Pledge after formerly stating that she’d like to try shark fin soup, I was heartened.

So today, I post on a Friday night because to me, this constitutes breaking news and I hope that everyone reading this post will be caught up in the spirit of Waters’ action and take a moment to sign this pledge, too!

Here’s the link: No Shark Fin PledgePlease share it.

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What to do with Swiss chard

July 31, 2009

Swiss Chard

Looking for yummy ideas that will inspire you to cook the gorgeous bunches of Swiss chard, spinach and beet tops available at the market right now? Try this meatless mélange that features lentils as the protein source.

You can use other lentils but try to get the Du Puy lentils if you can. They are grown in volcanic soil that imparts superior flavour and a firm texture that chefs and gourmets love. If they aren’t available, you can use canned green or yellow lentils, but be sure to reduce the cooking time to 5 minutes since the canned version is already fully cooked.

1 bunch Swiss chard, spinach or beet tops
1 tbsp (15 mL) butter
1/4 cup (50 mL) chopped shallots or onions
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp (1 mL) each salt and pepper
1 tsp (5 mL) grated lemon peel
1 cup (250 mL) sliced oyster or other mushrooms
1/2 cup (125 mL) Du Puy lentils*
13/4 cups (400 mL) chicken or vegetable broth

Separate the Swiss chard leaves from the stems. Wash and pat dry. Chop the stems into 1/2-inch (1 cm) pieces and slice the leaves crosswise into 1-inch (2.5 cm) wide ribbons. Reserve.

Melt the butter in a skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the Swiss chard stems and mushrooms and sauté until mushrooms are lightly browned. Remove the mixture from the pan and reserve. Reduce the heat to medium and add the shallots, garlic, salt and pepper to the pan. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes.

Add the lentils, broth and lemon peel to pan. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes or until most of the stock has been absorbed and lentils are tender but still whole. Stir in the reserved mushroom mixture and the Swiss chard leaves. Cook, stirring, occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes or until the greens are wilted. Makes 2 servings.

*Tip: Du Puy lentils are also sometimes sold as caviar lentils or French-style lentils


Shopping as a form of expression

July 30, 2009

conranOops! I did it again. I’ve fallen in love with another online store. This deep and burning love is to be unrequited for two reasons:
1. I don’t need anything new.
2. I don’t have any extra money sitting around so I can’t even show this site how much I love it by purchasing something. Sigh. This will just have to be an a la distance crush, I suppose.

If I do win the lottery and find myself with money to burn, one of the first things I’m going to do is buy these three fun and fabulous items from Conran’s US Online store to add some fresh personality to my kitchen:

1. Double timer

2. Taxi cab yellow trash can

3. Pepper grinder

Those will be my first purchases. Then, I think I’ll branch out and see what interesting things they have at their Japanese, British and French shops. For instance, I might really, really need this picnic cutlery one day, right? And this light bulb candle is likely to bring me great happiness, too.


Grilling glossary

July 29, 2009

grilling glossary

Label me lazy or christen me clever, but today’s post recycles some of my past links so that you (and truthfully me, too) have a glossary of all my grilling and barbecuing recipes and tips:

Buying and using grills and barbecues
Budget grilling
Grill master quiz
How to buy a grill
Lighting briquette
Winter grilling guide

Smoking and smokers
How to use cedar smoking sheets
How to use smoking briquettes
Matching meats with woods
How to turn your grill into a smoker

Cooking on the grill
Best rib recipe (2008)
Perfectly sticky gooey ribs (2009)
Burgers: basic and beyond
How to grill a steak
Chimichurri steak
Gourmet brie burger & cheeseburger tips

Grill safety
How to calibrate an instant read thermometer
How to use an instant read thermometer

Do you have a great grilling tip or a fabulous, hot-off-the-coals recipe you’d like to share? If so, please post it below. Links are welcome!


Topline Trends Tuesday: Coffee talk

July 28, 2009

iStock_000003030567SmallWhile retail experts expected grocery store coffee sales to grow 2.4% in 2008, the changes in the economy led many consumers to choose a homemade cup of java over a $4 latte. As a result, sales grew by 6% and are predicted to stay as strong as a Starbucks espresso.

In other coffee related news, the makers of Dippin’ Dots ice cream pellets are applying their super cold technology to coffee concentrate so that soon homecooks will have another, hopefully better, instant coffee option.

And, for those who still splurge on coffee shop coffee, a new website and iPhone application from Dunkin’ Donuts now makes placing large orders easier. The person making the coffee run can send out a group alert asking people what they want; then, those people can place their orders online. The person going to Dunkin’ Donuts can print out the order or look at it on his or her phone.

Personally, I’m not a huge coffee drinker. I usually have a cup a day, so buying my coffee from a coffee shop doesn’t have a big impact on my budget. What about you? Has the economy changed your coffee drinking habits in any way?


Green bean dress-ups

July 27, 2009

TracyGreenBeansUsually by mid July my garden is bulging with green beans. This year, due to our sucky Ontario weather, I’ve had to buy green beans for most of July. Now, at last, I have bush as well as French green beans on the vines in abundance.

While I love to eat green beans that have been simply boiled and tossed with butter, salt and pepper, there are a lot of beans in this garden that are going to be ready pretty much all at once. I have a feeling I need to be ready with some alternate ways to serve them. Otherwise, Oliver may take me hostage and demand another vegetable as ransom. Well, no. That’s not truly likely but regardless, I think we’ll enjoy our crop more if I mix it up a bit with a few simple dress-ups:

Gremolata: Toss hot green beans with enough extra virgin olive oil to coat lightly. Add finely chopped parsley and grated lemon zest, a dab of minced garlic and salt and pepper to taste.

Lemon Pecorino: Toss hot or cool green beans with a little grated lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and coarsely cracked black pepper. Stir in a little minced garlic. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and add a handful of finely diced pecorino or asiago cheese. Toss before serving.

Tonnato: Purée some canned tuna with equal parts mayonnaise and olive oil to make a soft paste. Add an anchovy fillet and a tablespoon of capers. Purée, adding lemon juice and pepper to taste. Toss with green beans or spoon over beans and serve on a platter.

Soy ginger: whisk equal parts soy sauce and sesame oil until well combined. Stir in a little minced ginger. Toss with hot green beans. Season with lime juice, salt and pepper to taste. Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds if you like.

Do you have any yummy ways you like to serve green beans that you’d like to share?

Photo credit: Tracy Cox


Crunchy, yummy fried chicken

July 24, 2009

Fried chickenFried chicken. It’s pretty much the quintessential  picnic food, right?

Oliver, my lanky son has been at camp for the month of July on Lake Baptiste so when Martin and I went to visit him Sunday before last, I wanted to bring a yummy, calorie dense picnic. On the menu: fried chicken, fresh rolls with butter, a green salad, a big bowl of Ontario cherries and chocolate cupcakes with dulce de leche & mascarpone frosting. A perfect meal for a boy with a big appetite!

Although I’ve made fried chicken before, it was so many years ago that I felt like I needed to do a bit of research before I started to make it for such an important meal. So, using tips from Ezra Pound Cake’s excellent post about fried chicken as my starting point, I got busy planning. I also perused the fried chicken notes in the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook as well. (Do you know this book? It’s a fantastic reference. I highly recommend it as a basic book to have in your collection.)

In the end, I brined my chicken in a buttermilk and Frank’s Red-hot sauce mixture for an hour. Then, I set my hood fan onto high and heated an electric wok filled with oil. I find the electric wok is perfect for frying food like chicken since it’s easy to control the temperature, deeper than a conventional electric frying pan and much easier to clean than a deep fryer.

The result? Perfectly crisp fried chicken that was delicious eaten both hot and cold. Oliver loved it so I’ll definitely be making it again soon even if we don’t have another picnic planned.

What do you like to pack in your picnic basket?