Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Song Has Begun

Can you see it? Look closely.

Hint: It's THE harbinger of Spring.

Okay, here's a close up.

Indeed, it's a beautiful Robin, the very first of spring, seen on Monday, March 24th in the tree outside my home. While there are still several feet of snow on the ground, this happy bird was telling us, look, spring has arrived, get out and celebrate!

What a cruel irony that the weather today looks like this! (Yes, that is snow falling.)

ps We're grilling up some beautiful Ontario spring lamb, anyways.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Too Much Anxiety

Because I read a lot of blogs on food and occasionally write a related one myself, just about every day I learn about someone anxiously trying to make intelligent decisions about what food to feed him or herself and family. Buy local? Organic? Grass-Fed? Vegan? What is my carbon footprint?

I am personally thrilled that this conversation is taking place and believe it will eventually lead to a more balanced playing field, resulting in better tasting, better quality, even personalized food for consumers, recognition and more equitable financial rewards for top-notch producers, and a cleaner environment.

What troubles me is the tone I see emerging from all sides of the debate, a sometimes subtle and sometimes overt air of self-righteousness or moral superiority.

Most of us are pretty new at this and many haven’t yet entered the discussion. People need to feel safe while they learn and make decisions. Plus, there is so much information about food and health, much of it conflicting or emphasized at the the expense of others by one group or another to support their own bias.

Let’s cut people a little slack and act as mentors to each other rather than critics. Transparency and courtesy are a great place to start.

Jay from TheLinkery in San Diego set a perfect example in his response, titled "The Opposite of Universal" to a blog by the founder of WoolyPigs, farmer Heath Putnam, in a blog titled "The Opposite of Universal." Heath had expressed a few counterpoints to the local food movement that proved relatively, er, unpopular. In short, he expressed disappointment that his hand-crafted heritage pork had been turned away from some restaurants or markets because it wasn't deemed "local" enough (he is from Washington, he speaks of some restauranteurs in California).

In my view, what's inane is eating raspberries from California in Toronto and then seeing raspberries from Toronto for sale in California later the same week. Jay takes the conversation to a new level by providing a definition of local that transcends geography and instead supports the idea that eating local means eating food that "comes from somewhere, that introduces you to someone." I like that kind of thinking.

Anyone Know How To Fix That Image?

Why won't the photo in our logo area above align to the left? It used to look just fine but now, well, it's off to the right. If you can help, I'd be grateful :-)

Here's the original photo - 75% Black Angus, 25% Limousin (pregnant) cows from Peace Valley Ranch.

Aren't they gorgeous?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

What's The Point If You Can't Have Fun?

Well, I'm going to be a bit honest here... While my friends in the San Francisco area were enjoying 75 degree weather and enjoying their local farmers' markets, we were busy digging ourselves out from yet another snow storm. Working on breaking a 1939 record or so I hear. We had a blast with our neighbors, who called to say we were all snowed in (thanks to a mean-spirited plowman who left a 3 1/2 foot ridge of ice at the foot of our driveways), let's get together an eat whatever's in our refrigerators. It was hilarious. They brought two pasta appetizers (gnocchi with blue cheese sauce, spaghetti al forno), we had wet-aged Black Angus NY steaks with a balsamic thyme shallot sauce topped with buttermilk battered onion rings plus a green salad with toasted pecans and avocado. For dessert, we had homemade caramel-poached pears on vanilla ice cream. Not bad, eh?

The problem was that we also drank 4 bottles of wine and half a bottle of Grey Goose vodka (neighbor Ron's favorite). Somewhere into the second bottle (and after a lovely shaken martini), I was deep fat frying the onion rings. Unfortunately, I was apparently using a pot that wasn't deep enough for the festivities. Peanut oil spewed out of the pan and onto the stove and floor (and our clothes). Ever the calm one in an emergency, I simply stated "I'll go get the fire extinguisher" to which my husband said, "It's not going to catch on fire." Two seconds go by and.... Whooof. The whole stovetop is aflame. We tamped it down without the extinguisher, what a mess. We're still laughing about it today (while we all shoveled out yet again after another foot of snow).

Tonight, I think we'll have, hmmmm....

Bananas Foster!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Great Steak - Even When Your Grill is Buried in Snow

Okay, a bit of a departure, let's have a little fun.

The problem? A friend in the San Francisco area said it was raining this winter "like he should build an ark....".

In the meantime, we had a related problem. (Yes, I was the one that left the cover off overnight. Found 2 weeks later and 20 feet away after a thaw.)

The Solution? The cast iron pan and this fabulous recipe.

Sugar and Ancho Rubbed Steak with Blue Cheese Tossed Salad

2 NY Strip Loin or Rib-Eye Steaks, at least 1" thick, preferably Dry-Aged*
4 T Demerara or finely ground Turbinado (brown) sugar
1 1/2 t. fresh cracked Black Pepper (Tellicherry if you have it)
1 t. Kosher or Sea Salt (medium to heavy grind)
1/4 t. ground dried Ancho or Chipotle Chili (optional)

Bring steaks to room temperature and pat dry with paper towel. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine the sugar, pepper, salt, and ground chili and press onto both sides of each steak. Do this right before cooking to prevent the sugar from turning syrupy.

Heat cast iron pan on medium high. (An ovenproof non-stick pan will also work, though you may not get as good a crust on the steaks.) Sear the steaks on one side until you get a nice brown crust, about 5 minutes. Flip the steaks to brown the other side, about 2 minutes. If steaks are thicker than 1" thick, finish them in the oven using the same pan. Best served rare (120 degrees F).

Note: Turn on your fan, the steaks can smoke quite a bit. Also, do not touch the brown sugar coating as it gets very hot as it caramelizes.

Remove steaks from oven and let rest on plate or carving board for 5 minutes. Angle slice. Serve with a tossed green salad ideally topped with good quality blue cheese, red or yellow grape tomatoes, and a warmed olive oil, red wine vinegar vinaigrette.

* Of course I recommend steaks from The Oliver Ranch Company marketplace, but no matter, look for a genuinely natural (esp. no growth stimulants) or organic steak from any trusted source. We find this recipe particularly sublime with dry-aged beef but it's also great with beef that's been wet-aged at least 14 days.