March 25, 2019

Got a bag of carrots? Make Tunisian "carrot pesto"!

This recipe is deceivingly simple but so flavourful.

I've written before about the special place my heart holds for Tunisia, my dear friend Synda, and our shared love of cooking. This is a recipe she taught me, many years ago, a Tunisian classic called Ommek Houria. It's kind of like a pesto, maybe more of a spread... some people even call it carrot caviar! You can learn from the pro and watch Synda preparing it on her beautiful online Tunisian cooking show here! I love this recipe because the ingredients are fairly commonplace, but the flavour combination is new and exciting.

A couple months ago, I volunteered to cook a benefit dinner to raise funds for the Madagascar School Project, and for the appetizers, I made little crostini (baguette toasts) with Ommek Houria, and also Slata Mechouia (a Tunisian dish of gilled pepper, onion, garlic, tomatoes all mashed up with spices and olive oil... sooo good). They were gobbled up in a flash!

This is a great recipe at this time of year, when there is not much in the way of fresh produce at farmers market, but still many farmers trying to sell off the last of their winter root crops before the new season begins.

It's been a while since I wrote on this blog. Is anyone still out there?? Between the PBS blog and my film "Modified", I've had my hands quite full lately, and I've missed you!

Last summer, I started a whole new format with my cooking videos. Now, each video features a different farmer or gardener, with a recipe from their kitchen and an ingredient from their farm or garden. It's been such a wonderful opportunity to meet food producers and learn about what they grow and how they cook it. I'm on a little hiatus now until the weather warms again but I'll be back at it soon, with some brand new videos coming your way. Here was one of my favorite videos out of the five I created in the new format:

Some of you have asked where you can see my film Modified. It's been doing the film festival circuit the past year and a half, and showing in theaters and at community screenings and it will soon be released on DVD and for digital online streaming. In the meantime, do check out the list of upcoming public screenings on the film's website, and you can also put in a request to host a community screening of the film. I'm also very excited to announce that the film's first national broadcast (in Canada) takes place this Friday, March 29 on CBC television at 9:00 pm across Canada (9:30 pm in NL). The CBC version of the film is a shorter one, 44 minutes long, whereas the feature-length version is 87 minutes.

I'm not gonna lie, it's felt a little scary and heavy at times to put such a personal film out into the world, especially one that challenges the industrial model agriculture used to produce much of our food. I've recently been reminded of just how toxic the online world can be, with trolls and staunch industrial ag defenders making angry and hateful comments about the film, even without having seen it. It's a reminder of the powerful lobby out there, whose purpose is to defend pesticides & industrialized agriculture at all cost, even when the science clearly shows that the way we are producing our food needs to change. From the catastrophic collapse of global insect populations caused by intensive pesticide use, to the ever-growing dead zones in our oceans and lakes caused by fertilizer run-off, to the massive release of greenhouse gas emissions created by industrial agriculture, the need for change urgently need to be addressed. It's become more important than ever before to support local, organic agriculture, which is trying to take us in a different direction, one that provides more biodiversityhealthier soils, and healthier foods.

PS: One more thing, I'm doing a fun little shampoo bar giveaway this week on my Instagram page! Did you know if every American switched from plastic-bottled shampoo to these little guys below, the manufacture and disposal of 552 million plastic shampoo bottles would be avoided. That's how many plastic shampoo bottles are thrown out each year in the US alone!)

But let's get back to carrots shall we?
And this Ommek Houria.
Here's how it's made:

Ommek Houria (Carrot "pesto"):

8 medium-large carrots
4 to 6 cloves of garlic, finely minced or crushed
1/2 tsp. ground caraway + 1 tsp. ground coriander (or substitute 1 tsp. cumin)
1 tsp paprika
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped finely
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Optional but recommended toppings:

A handful of chopped fresh parsley
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
A good fresh baguette

To begin, cook the carrots. In Tunisia, this is usually done by peeling them, chopping them, and boiling them in water until soft. It's perhaps less traditional but I often like to roast the carrots whole, in a 375F oven, with a little olive oil rubbed on to coat them, because I've read carrots keep their nutritious value more when roasted whole. You can use either method, so long as you end up with carrots that are nice, soft and tender.

Sautée the finely chopped onion in 1 Tbsp of olive oil, on medium heat, until nice and golden.

Now mash the carrots (with a fork, or in a food processor). If using the food processor don't puree them until smooth, they should still be a bit chunky. Now add the cooked onion and all the other remaining ingredients. Mix well. You should have a nice chunky bright orange mash. Taste, and add a bit more salt or spices, as needed.

Traditionally, Ommek Houria is served with toppings such as olives and hard boiled eggs, a good glug of olive oil on top, and a fresh baguette to scoop it up with. It can also be served as a spread on top of toasted baguette, as is shown in the photo. Enjoy!

December 25, 2017

A holiday fruit salad... the way my mom made it

I'm sitting here wondering... is there a limit to how much butter a person can handle? I walked into the kitchen yesterday armed with 2 pounds of butter which somehow instantly disappeared into the parade of my usual holiday concoctions (I tend to think of it as my own little trifecta of holiday doughs... rich and unrestrained): Tourte Milanaise for breakfast (this year I managed to tackle my very own puff pastry thanks to a tattered copy of The Joy of Cooking which expertly guided me through the process), Tourtière for dinner (with an all-butter spelt crust), and of course my mom's boozy, eggy, yeasty, buttery Baba au Rhum...  (my belly is already all warmed up from the most recent one). It would all be fine and dandy but the thing is, this year I'm spending a quiet, snowy, secluded Christmas with my love... which means... there are only two of us... which means... we're well on our way to chowing down, unaided, 2 pounds of butters worth of Christmas baking. Yeesh. We're balancing it out with walks and salads... but still... Luckily, I was brought up with the notion that these cold northern climes call for plenty of fortification and that the pillars of a well-spent winter include a pile of long-postponed books, a few zealous knitting projects, and importantly, heaps of butter (organic and grass-fed, bien sûr) and hearty baked goods.

As you may have gathered from my lack of blogposts this past year, it's been a non-stop race to finish my film, and this blog took the back-burner for a bit. But I've missed it and I'm excited to finally get some days to rest by the fire, browse new cookbooks, gather up fresh recipes to try, and find my way around a warmly humming kitchen again. 

It's been an incredible year and I want to thank all of you who so kindly encouraged me and contributed to helping me finish this film. It was by far one of the most challenging projects I've ever embarked on. I often questioned whether I could pull it off and I never could have done it without your support. In the next few days, I'll be sending out a proper film update to all those who contributed to the film's crowdfunding campaign as well as the Indiegogo perks you've been so patient about (thank you!!) including your very own copy of the film to watch. The film had its world premiere in September and has so far won 5 awards at film festivals, we're on a roll! It will continue the film festival circuit into the new year, as well as theatrical and community showings, so stay tuned for a screening near you (and stay updated by following the film's Facebook page). 

I wish you a restful and joyful holiday season, and a very merry Christmas day to those that celebrate it. I'm sharing my new Christmas video below, and my mom's fruit salad, which she always made around the holidays to counteract that aforementioned butter bonanza. For holiday pizazz, she would adorn her fruit salads with either a few glugs of an aromatic booze or some floral essence, sometimes a bit of dried fruit such as currants, nuts or seeds for a crunchy topping, and a dollop of tart yoghurt. So refreshing between all those doughy delights!

My mom's holiday fruit salad
(Think of this more as a guide than a recipe and customize it to your tastes and what you have on hand. )

The salad:
6 to 8 cups of chopped fruit of your choice (I like to use a mix of grapefruit, orange, pear, apples, bananas and pomegranate)

The perfume:
About 1 to 2 Tbsp brandy or other liqueur, or a teaspoon of orange blossom water

The fixin's:
1/4 cup chopped nuts or seeds (for crunch)
1/3 cup chopped dried fruit (for chew)

The topping:
Yoghurt (or whipped cream)

In a large serving bowl, mix the liqueur or floral water with the chopped fresh fruit as well as the dried fruit. Serve in individual bowls with a generous dollop of yoghurt and a scattering of chopped nuts. Enjoy!


And my latest video... for the Spruce Shortbread recipe, click here!

February 16, 2017

The world is a different place...

Ahoy friends! This is my longest absence yet from this wee corner of the ever-expanding universe of the interwebs. And since I last wrote in August, so much has happened in the world, a reminder that the one thing that's always constant is change, that nothing is certain, and that the world can become a very different place in a very short time. These trying political times certainly call on us for greater engagement in our communities, deeper compassion and understanding, action, vigilance, and resistance! How are you all holding up?

It's been quiet on this little blog because as many of you know, I've been finishing my very first feature film, and it's taken much longer than I ever anticipated. I arrived in Toronto last April, rough cut of the film in hand, the promise of spring in the air, thinking it would take oh, give or take 3 or 4 months to bring the film to completion. Ha, that was a funny little joke I played on myself. Almost a full year later, after countless hours, days, weeks, months of nose-to-the-grindstone unrelenting effort, here I finally am, 2 months away from the film's release in April! In fact, yesterday, I finally delivered (shaky hands and all) my picture lock (my baaaaaby!!) to the post-production house where it will get colour corrected and all polished up and mastered and ready for the world. It's certainly been a long uphill battle, but one that always had the undercurrent of an inexplicably-propelled determination that come hell or high water, I would finish this thing... for myself, and for my mom... and for YOU! Yes, you. Wherever you are, whoever you are, I have a story I've been wanting to share with you. And I'm almost ready to do so.

I want to thank you so much for all the support, the ongoing words of encouragement, the generous contributions to my Indiegogo campaign (where I'm still trying to raise the last of the finishing funds needed to complete). Many of you have asked if I am still making my video recipes and the answer is yes! Albeit on a somewhat reduced basis until the film is released in April, but yes, every month, I'm still making a new video. In case you missed them, I'm posting the latest ones here below. But please know that once the film is fully finished and released, I'll be back to sharing new recipes with you on a much more regular basis. In the meantime, I hope this month of February is treating you well. I leave you with this quote which I've been coming back to again and again lately:

Your heart knows the way.
Run in that direction.

~ Rumi

Click here for the recipe for Crespelle in Brodo

Click here for the Brioche Star recipe

Click here for the Buttercup Squash Fries recipe