March 22, 2012

Minty Grapefruit Coleslaw

We have mint!

It's March going on June here in Toronto (25 degrees today!). And in our back garden I found a wee bit of mint poking its sleepy head out of the ground. I pounced on those little sprigs to make this variation on a salad I have been loving these days. It's inspired by The Big Carrot's grapefruit coleslaw. They put cilantro in their version which is equally delicious. But something about the grapefruit & mint combo is oh so refreshing and perfect for a warm spring day.

Minty Grapefruit Coleslaw
1 small cabbage
2 green onions
A dozen (or more) cherry tomatoes
2 grapefruits
1 small bunch of mint
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Finely chop the cabbage. Slice up the green onions, tomatoes, 1 1/2 grapefruit, and mint. Squeeze the juice from one half of a grapefruit into a bowl. Add olive oil and salt and pepper to make a dressing to your taste (I like a fair bit of salt and pepper in this one). Toss together and voila!

March 16, 2012

Polenta Fries

I have a complicated relationship with corn.

I love corn, but sometimes, it feels like it has taken over our entire food chain. Michael Pollan explains it eloquently in this article, which he prefaces by saying: "If you are what you eat, and especially if you eat industrial food, as 99 percent of Americans do, what you are is "corn." And one of my favourite blogging farmers, Gene Logsdon, puts it this way: "Corn has become a symbol of over-industrialized farming. Corn is sort of like sex. It is such a wonderful thing that it is easy to carry to excess."

Driving through rural Ontario in the summer, you see hundreds of acres of corn, each year more than the one before. The vibrant fields of green are beautiful to look at. But for the most part, they're far from an example of sustainable agriculture. Many years ago, I found out that most of the corn grown in Canada is genetically engineered (GE or GMO) and I started doing some research about it. I didn't like what I found out. It was like opening up a sci-fi thriller packed with unsavoury details: whistle-blowing scientists fired for sharing their concerns about adverse effects of GMOs, increased pesticide use, farmers being sued and forbidden from replanting seeds, scientists banned from studying GMOs without permission from the companies holding the patents, superweeds on the rise, even cover-ups and bribes. It's grisly stuff. Let me clarify that I'm not against genetic engineering, it's a powerful technology that can do some pretty amazing things, especially in the field of medicine and scientific research. But the way it's currently being used in our crops and in our food brings up a lot of concerns. The vast majority of GMOs currently in our food have been engineered to do one of two things: produce their own insecticide, or resist being sprayed with herbicides. Essentially, they make very big profits for a few companies, and not much more than that. Despite much hype, yield increases have been minimal, in many cases yielding less than conventional crops. 

Since GE foods are not labeled in Canada, and since most farm animals eat genetically engineered corn and soy, it means there are a whole bunch of foods (including meat and dairy) that I try to avoid unless they are certified organic (which prohibits the use of GE crops). For someone who loves food like I do, it can sometimes be a real pain in the ass having to ask if the corn used in my taco is organic. I never wanted to become one of "those people".  I kind of resent GMOs for turning me into that person because it's not that I'm a picky eater, in fact I'll eat anything and everything, but I'm just not down with eating GMOs, especially when they're hidden away in there without even being labelled. This film by award-winning journalist Marie-Monique Robin explains the whole issue better than I could ever put into words, it is really a must-see especially for us North Americans who eat this stuff on a daily basis (to see the film in its entirety, click here):

So, as you can see, when I say I have a complicated relationship with corn, I'm not kidding. But, here's the happy ending / beginning to my story... recently I met someone who made me fall in love with corn again. And in the process, I also fell in love with him. But we'll save those juicy details for another time... What I want to tell you about, is how exquisitely beautiful the corn that he grows is: a deep golden open-pollinated organic variety of field corn called Early Riser. This is what it looks like, isn't it a beauty?!

Recently, this man milled his fall harvest into cornmeal and brought me a whole bag of it. In my books this is the equivalent of a dozen roses. I think I even swooned a little bit. So these days, corn and I are on the mend. And here is what I have been making with this heavenly, GMO-free, lovingly grown and harvested organic cornmeal: POLENTA FRIES!!! These are easy to make and incredibly delicious. Please make them, eat a whole pan, and while you're at it, please sign and share this handy dandy petition for the labelling of GMOs). Also, t
oday is a global day of action against Monsanto. Here is a great status update I saw floating around on Facebook:

Dear Monsanto Staff,
Your services will no longer be needed. Your positions have been "terminated". It has been determined that God/Spirit made everything perfect the first time and no redos are necessary. You will have to find other employment that does not kill & poison the earth & it's citizens. There are many other professions with integrity that might interest you: farming, teaching, janitorial services, etc.
-The Citizens of the World.

Polenta Fries
2 3/4 cups (organic) cornmeal
6 cups water
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/4 cup butter
Chopped fresh sage (or rosemary)
Salt, to taste
Olive oil for baking sheet

This recipe will make a LOT of polenta fries. If you're only cooking for 2 or 3, you may want to half it, but otherwise, trust me, they will get eaten! Bring cornmeal, salt, and water to a slow simmer in a thick-bottomed pot, stirring often for about 20 minutes. Stir in cheese, herbs, and butter. Spread polenta out in a couple of large lasagna-style pan to approx. 3/4 inch depth. Cool in the fridge for 1 or 2 hours. Slice into  fries. Cover a baking sheet with with about 2 tbsp. olive oil and bake your fries in a 425 F oven for about 45 minutes or until nicely crisp and golden on the outside, turning them over halfway through. 

March 03, 2012

Grow your own salad

We're on the last leg of winter and I am craving sunshine and greens like there's no tomorrow! These days, I'm all about microgreens. What is a microgreen you may be wondering? Well, it's tiny and it's cute with small tender leaves. Basically it's a baby vegetable seedling that makes a very pretty and tasty salad. They're big in the restaurant-biz. And they're super easy to grow on your own.

I used to grow my own sprouts in a jar through the winter months since it's a great way to keep eating locally at a time of year when most greens are shipped all the way from California (not so great for the old carbon footprint). But the sad truth is, I really don't actually LIKE sprouts very much. Never have, and probably never will.  

Microgreens on the other hand, just a wee step above sprouts in the growing process, are delicious. And as easy to grow as sprouts. All you need is a flat container, some soil, some seeds, a little spot at your window, and a willingness to keep them regularly watered.  

To grow, simply place 1 to 2 inches of nice organic soil in a shallow tray with drainage holes (I often repurpose food packages like styrofoam mushroom containers and salad mix plastic tubs). Generously scatter the seeds on top of the soil. It's ok to plant more seeds than you would if you were gardening because microgreens should grow fairly densely so you get a nice harvest from them. Scatter a small amount of soil to very lightly cover the seeds. Water gently so that all the soil is moist. (Make sure there's something underneath to catch the water that drains out). Place is a warm-ish bright place that receives plenty of daylight. Keep the soil nicely moist by watering regularly, though don't overwater and drench the soil. Your seeds will germinate in 4 to 7 days and your greens should be ready in 2 to 3 weeks. 

It took me just over a week to grow these lovely greens. I used rapini, sunflower, and broccoli seeds but you here are some other seeds that work well for microgreens:

  • beets
  • red and green cabbage 
  • radish
  • arugala
  • mustard
  • spinach
  • any kind of herbs

To name only a few possibilities! I'm no expert yet, so here and here are a couple of great resources if you're interested in finding out a lot more about the process. 

Be sure to check out the powerful anti-cancer properties of broccoli sprouts

(Serves 1 to 2 people)


1 cup or more of microgreens of your choice
1 blood orange cut into small pieces
1/2 avocado cubed
1/2 cup of julienned daikon radish
1/4 cup walnut pieces

1 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 clove chopped garlic (optional)
A dash of salt and pepper

Toss all the salad ingredients together. Shake the dressing ingredients in a lidded jar. Dress, toss, and serve! (Great with a soft-boiled egg)

...My rapini greens got bedhead! (I overgrew these a little and undergrew the ones in the video. But I've got a batch of broccoli babies going right now which I hope to get just right).