I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but those of us who eat have been joined in recent times by a polyester-, plastic-, nylon- and other-non-animal-clothed coterie of specialized eaters called vegans. Long of hair and strong of opinion, they look, with some notable exceptions, like cloned 60s hippies without much of the 60s paraphernalia.
Until a year or so ago, I couldn’t even pronounce who they were, and had no understanding of what it meant to be one. Were they vay-gns or vee-gns? Hmm? It was only after Bill Clinton came out as embracing this lifestyle that vee-gn seemed to deserve the nod.
I know it’s inappropriate in a fine food-and-wine magazine like this to even mention a word like vegan, but when the eating habits of a segment of our society are recognized by shelf space in our supermarkets, it must surely be time to write a few words about these friendly types … and perhaps sit and join them occasionally for a red or a white, or at the very least, a tall tumbler of something soy.
This is not actually a piece about veganism — feel free to Google for additional insight — and I’m not about to explain why, in one exceptional bit of dedication to the cause, a vegan friend unloaded his Lexus because it had leather seats! All I will say is that the vegan thing likely began not as a health issue but because someone somewhere took the view that eating animals, robbing bees of their honey, shearing sheep for their wool and milking cows for their milk simply weren’t nice things to do.
For those of us who are yet to cross to the other side, and can momentarily excuse the vulgarities of factory farming, our interest in food is mostly in selecting it and assembling the right stuff to stay healthy. Sourcing good food, even if your hunt is serious, can be difficult. While the supermarkets may sometimes use enticing signage to suggest that certain of their foods came from the right places — the farmer down the road who knows every animal by name, the fisherman who strictly plays by the sustenance rules — it simply doesn’t happen that way too often. Factory farming is a way of economic life, and one thing we can do to counter it is to stay tuned to our local farmers’ markets, and relish the joy, and the tastes, of the close-to-home changing seasons.
Food that we think will help keep us healthy, along with what are the right amounts of exercise and sleep, is a personal, important choice. Our supermarket checkouts are loaded with magazines featuring seasonal recipes designed to keep us healthy. And our shelves at home are stuffed with recipe books, inserts and written notes that bring us back to reunite with foods that, as far as we know, taste good and are good for us. Down deep, we know what’s right to eat. It’s simply a matter of disciplining ourselves to stay on track with recipes that can help in a sometimes-difficult process. Vegan or not.
Several restaurants that are close to the California-Mexican border claim to have been the locale for the birth of the Caesar salad. I got my recipe at a restaurant in Hollywood that also made the claim in the long-ago 50s. It seemed to be authenticated by a now-deceased movie star who was at our table for lunch. This is the place, he said, and this is the recipe. Because I love the snap of romaine lettuce, I’ve kept the recipe and make this Caesar often. Vegans, of course, would find reasons to skip the egg, the anchovies and maybe other things that are theirs to know and for me to someday understand. Or not.
1–2 tsp finely chopped garlic
1 anchovy fillet, mashed
Pinch of coarse salt
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 drops Worcestershire sauce
6 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp grated Parmesan
3/4 cup croutons
1 head romaine lettuce
Freshly ground pepper
Warm the egg to room temperature. To coddle the egg, in a small bowl pour boiling water around the egg, and let stand for 1 minute. Run cold water until the egg can be handled.
Whisk together the garlic, anchovy and salt until blended. Whisk in the lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. Whisk in the egg until the mixture is thick. Drizzle in the olive oil as you whisk the mixture. When well combined, whisk in 2 tbsp of the Parmesan cheese.
Place the croutons in a large wooden bowl. Add one-third of the dressing and toss until the croutons are well coated. Add the romaine and remaining dressing and toss.
Sprinkle each serving with more Parmesan and coarsely ground pepper.
sweet lime chicken
Serves 2 to 4
I don’t think there’s a recipe in the world with the word lime in the title that doesn’t make you at least take a little look at it. In terms of taste and healthiness, lime is one of the cleverest little numbers in the whole flavour family, and as versatile as any in the colourful group of citrus fruit. Lime ended up in this recipe because I had a half-lime left, and like all lonely ingredients, it motivated for me a meal of baked chicken, juicy and full of sweet-tastin’ flavour. Serve in a sandwich or with rice and a green and a red vegetable.
2 chicken breasts, skinless or skin-on
l/2 cup dry white wine
l tbsp orange juice
l tbsp pineapple juice
l tsp chopped fresh basil
l tbsp brown sugar
Freshly ground pepper
Slices of pineapple
l fresh lime
Coat the bottom of a shallow baking dish with butter. Skin the breasts if necessary and place them smooth side up in the dish.
Pour on the wine and the orange and pineapple juices, then top with the basil, the brown sugar and a liberal sprinkling of freshly ground pepper. Place slices of pineapple on top of the chicken, then squeeze on all the lime juice you can from the freshly halved lime.
Leave the lime halves on the chicken to add more flavour during cooking. Cover loosely with foil, and bake in a 350°F oven for 2 hours. Remove the foil, then bake for an additional 20 or so minutes until golden brown.
If you wish, you may add pineapple juice to the gravy, then thicken it a bit more with a teaspoon or so of cornstarch mixed with cold water.
Serve with a parsley garnish.
les graines à vio
Makes 8 to 9 cups
I thank Daughter Tracy for this healthy recipe. She got it from a lady called Violet in Quebec. I have made many batches over the years. Great stuff, and a much better deal than buying granola in a box. It’s a forgiving recipe — it doesn’t particularly matter if you forget something as you load up at the bulk food department, make a bigger recipe, or go heavy on an item you particular enjoy. Use the grains, seeds and nuts that are listed or whatever selection you wish. Choose unsalted and raw, since you will be roasting them. Don’t forget the oil, though. And add the dried fruit after the rest of the ingredients have been roasted or it will burn.
4 cups flakes of oats, wheat, barley and/or rye
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup almonds
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup dried unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup flax seeds, ground
1/4 cup millet
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup canola oil
Raisins, dried cranberries, and/or other dried fruit
Mix together all the dry ingredients (except for the dried fruit), then add a blend of the maple syrup and oil. This amount of syrup and oil should work for 8 to 9 cups of dry mix.
Spread on a cookie sheet and bake at 250°F for at least an hour. Jumble everything around after 30 minutes. Add the dried fruit and crystallized ginger after the baking time.
Enjoy with milk, yogurt or fresh fruit. Or simply as a snack.
braised pork chops with mushrooms and onions
In addition to the magazines and info brochures you find in the waiting area of your doctor’s office, you will have encountered on any number of occasions a Reader’s Digest of indeterminate age. Life’s Like That and Humour in Uniform will keep you momentarily amused, but to come across practical health info (like in a Reader’s Digest) is a good thing, especially considering your environment. In my library of cookbooks, I have the Reader’s Digest Live Longer Cookbook, which presents “500 delicious recipes for healthy living” and a lot more info about what healthy living is all about. Here’s one of the main courses that turns ordinary pork chops “into a French country dinner.”
2 tsp olive oil
2 large yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced (1¾ cups)
1/3 cup chicken stock (low-sodium or regular)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried rosemary, crumbled
1/4 tsp ground sage
4 pork loin chops
Heat the oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, for 20 minutes or until very soft.
Add the carrot and garlic and cook for 5 more minutes. Add the mushrooms, stir to combine, and cook another 5 minutes.
Raise the heat to medium and stir in the stock, salt, rosemary and sage.
Place the pork chops on top, cover and cook for 4 minutes.
Turn the chops over and cover, and cook for 4 more minutes or until the chops are no longer pink on the inside. Serve with one-quarter of the onion mixture on top of each chop. A couple of colourful steamed vegetables will complete the picture.
warm blueberry bisque
I live in a corner of BC, the Lower Mainland, where hundreds, perhaps thousands of hectares of blueberries tone the landscape in July and August, and day after day they beautifully complement morning pancakes and sit round in bowls for healthy snacking. The BC Blueberry Council says that the “blues” may reduce the buildup of so called “bad” cholesterol, and who are we to argue. Want something different? Try this bisque.
2 tsp oil
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 1/2 cups half-and-half cream (12% M.F.)
1 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives
In 4-quart saucepan, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the shallots, and cook until translucent.
Add the blueberries, stock, nutmeg and allspice; cook over medium heat until blueberries soften and begin to burst, 5 to 7 minutes.
Cool slightly, then blend until smooth. Press through a fine sieve; discard solids. Return the blueberry mixture to the saucepan and whisk in the half-and-half.
Simmer, stirring often, for 5 to 7 minutes. Adjust seasonings as needed. In a small bowl, mix the crème fraîche and chives.
Spoon bisque into 8 soup bowls, and top each with 2 tbsp of the chive crème fraîche.