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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

World’s Rarest Truffles to Your Door

Is anything worth its weight in gold besides gold itself?

 

Maybe. Deep within the world’s enchanted forests are rare edible treasures prized by gastronomists, epicures, and gourmets everywhere.

 

Well, not everywhere. The taste for truffle is an acquired one, like sushi or blue cheese. Those who loathe them cannot be paid to eat them. Those who love them can and do pay exorbitant prices for  fleeting ecstasy. The rare mushroom’s taste is pungent, but varies with every single batch. The flavours and aromas are nuanced fingerprints, dependent on the fungus’s host tree- oak, hazel, beech, poplar.

 

The truffles depend on exacting climatic conditions and symbiosis with roots of nearby plants. Temperatures must never veer too much in one direction, and soil must be well drained and shaded. Mediterranean woods yield most of our truffles, popular exports from Italy. But the most supreme specimens of all come from Istria, the Mirna River Valley’s Motovun Forest in Croatia. For centuries, this otherworldly land has brought the best and most expensive truffles to tables of kings and queens and other connoisseurs who could afford them.

 

And just as you may recall from folklore and fairy tales, the truffles have been hunted through the ages- and today- by specially trained dogs or pigs who root them out for their owner, the tartufai. Some of the Motovun Forest’s treasure hunters hid their treasure maps to prevent others from discovering valuable caches, and some were traditionally buried with their secrets.

 

The Motovun Forest, in the northwest corner of Croatia, encircled by the clear blue Adriatic Sea, is truly the stuff of those fairy tales. Artists, writers, royalty, and lovers like James Joyce, Casanova, Jules Verne and more were spellbound by the place where time is frozen. Dante wrote his Divine Comedy here. Popes, saints, and hermits made pilgrimages. Istria, the crossroads of ancient culture and commerce, was ruled at one time or another by Ancient Greeks, Franks, Ancient Romans, Goths, Histrians, Venetians, Lombardies, Ostrogoths, Byzantines, the Napoleonic Army, the Austro-Hungarian empire, and the Slavs. Ruins of Kazun homes, 7000 years old, still dot the hills. In the towns, you’ll encounter 2000 of history- a Roman amphitheatre, villas, Byzantine basilicas covered in gold, medieval towers, triumphal arches, Baroque and Gothic palaces…this is the world where the most divine of all truffles grow.

 

Truffles come in black and white, and both are considered to be jewels of gastronomy- black and white diamonds, respectively. But the white truffle is the brightest star of haute cuisine, and the most valuable, simply because it cannot be cultivated by human hands. It grows only by its own volition. Chefs of haute cuisine, or those fortunate enough to indulge at home, know that simple pleasures are the most profound. A modest pasta, egg, meat, fish, or rice dish lets thin truffle slivers take centre stage.

 

Less is certainly more with the deeply pungent truffle - but how much dough are we talking about? Well, the average among us is unlikely going to be able to stop by the supermarket to pick up truffles for dinner. In 2007, one of the largest tartufo biancos, or white truffles- ever found, sold for over $300 000 dollars. It weighed 1.5 kilograms, found in Italy. Prior to that, Guinness Book of World Records lists an Istrian find, weighing over 1.3 kilos. Luckily for 100 people, the finder decided not to sell his treasure, and instead made a feast literally fit for kings.

 

Today, truffles are becoming even more rare than they were, yielding roughly half of what they used to, driving prices up even more. Thanks to the changing climate, more floods, storms, and torrential rains are destroying the conditions truffles prefer the world over. Doubly precious than they used to be, prices vary from around $1000 to $1500 a pound.

 

Good thing a little goes a long way. The heavenly aroma- which detractors and the uninitiated find fetid- is very strong, giving a lot of presence to a little bit of t mushroom. And good thing you don’t have to buy them by the pound, because the chefs of exclusive cuisine do that for you, then prepare mouthwatering bliss that you’ll never forget. The truffle is just not the kind of luxury meant for the home kitchen.

 

Until now.

 

Enter Vedran from Istra Romance, who makes it happen. With Tartufino from Istria and Italy, he imports impossible indulgences. Now you can share this aphrodisiac with your beloved, give an exquisitely rare gift for weddings and anniversaries, or simply pursue your love of beauty and food with friends in your very own home. Tartufino imports bring the treasures of Istria straight to your door, infused in extra virgin olive oil, honey, or butter.

 

While no one would deny that fresh is best, it’s also a fleeting gamble and rare possibility. Now you can drizzle onto asparagus or pasta the taste that transports you into old stone castles- or orgasm- anytime you want. Highlights of the Tartufino collection include preserved whole black or white truffles, pure acacia honey with white truffles, and white truffle infused extra virgin olive oil. You might be adventurous and try the truffle anchovies or polenta. The truffle salsa is just gorgeous.

 

Go on and treat yourself to an historical experience. Taste beauty and royal pleasure, whether it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for you, or a gourmet staple you keep locked in the family vault with your other jewels.

 

www.istraromance.com

646-662-5521


Posted by Lorette C. Luzajic at 12:06 PM  0 Comment(s)


Monday, March 09, 2009

Gluten-Free Guinness?

First the good news: you may be able to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a Guinness draft, even if you have a gluten-free lifestyle.

Now, the bad news. You may not be able to celebrate with a Guinness draft if you have a gluten-free lifestyle.

What the ????

I found this news elating, as it has been one year since I have had beer. And I loved beer, but I especially loved dark beer. I did try rice beer, and I won't be trying that again. Gin will have to do.

However, it must be the luck o' the Irish, because most Guinness brand beers are made with malted barley, not wheat. (The exception is a little known and not very popular "white" version.)

Barley contains proteins called hordein and gliadin. These proteins both affect gluten-sensitive individuals, but their effect is often milder, and some people have zero problem with barley protein at all.

Whether this is good news or bad news depends on how religious your health requires you to be about consuming reactionary proteins. I'm personally going to take the chance on St. Paddy's day, because I will not keel over dead from exposure. I lived for 35 years without knowing, ingesting gluten over and over. Of course, I was sick as a dog and now after one year nearly every one of my more than thirty conditions has disappeared. Strangely enough, I find myself in foreign and surreal situations, such as looking forward to going to the gym, and bounding out of bed without pain in the morning. I sail through menstruation without five days of vomiting, fever, suicidal pain levels, and depression. My blood pressure has gone from coma watch to normal. Needless to say, I do not want to invite these toxic gluten friends back to visit or to stay.

But that said, I would not get sick and die tomorrow if I have toast today. I choose not to, because I like being hemorrhoid-free more than I like toast. (Don't believe the �eat more whole grain/vegetarian bowel cure,' folks. It makes everything much worse. Don't take my word for it, either: read Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Gottschall, or research starch free diet and digestion.) It's not optimal to cheat on the diet because every gluten ingestion means intestinal damage that translates to nutritional deficiency or digestion or immunity issues.

However, I sometimes choose to enjoy the empty calories of ice cream, and last I checked sugar is the deadliest plague of the last century. Also, I have had no issue with oats, and oats have no gluten but are processed in flour plants. So for me, it seems that small variances will not cause symptoms to recur. I haven't tried barley, but I was planning to reintroduce it and see what happened- it would be great to have beef barley soup again. There seems no better time to see what will happen than to have an ice cold Guinness.

Some celiac or other gluten sensitives only have problems with wheat products. Some are not very sensitive and can tolerate minor excursions into dough-land. Some could die from a mis-step. So hopefully you know who you are and listen to your doctor before you listen to me.

If you decide that you can celebrate St. Patrick's properly, know that Guinness is one of the most popular beers in the world. Though it appears black, the beer is actually ruby red, but very dark. It is far and away the best selling beer in Ireland, though sales have gone down in recent years in accord with new varieties introduced and slightly lower intakes of alcohol.

Though the company makes no medical claims, popular lore says Guinness is the good-for-you beer. It's recommended if you're sick, sad, or recovering from surgery (IN MODERATION, FOLKS!) I could neither disprove nor substantiate the rumour that Guinness was once made with pig's blood, which gave it a considerable nutritional profile. But our knee-jerk reaction of yeah, right may be wrong- a great deal of Irish cooking uses blood as an ingredient. Yummy. Regardless, Guinness does contain iron, B vitamins, and serious antioxidants, and it is extremely useful at preventing blood clots, lowering �bad' cholesterol, lowering homocysteine levels, preventing cataracts, and helping with erectile dysfunction. Who would have thought? It also contains fewer calories and carbohydrates than competing beers. Indeed, it contains fewer calories and carbs than o.j. or low-fat milk!

It all began in 1759, making St. Patrick's Day 2009 an extra special 250th anniversary year celebration. By the 1820s, Guinness was being exported far and wide- to surprising markets like Bahamas and Sierra Leone!

Though Guinness has a few varieties, and they come in bottles and cans, the best way to have it is in a pint.

Pouring a Guinness is considered one of the fine arts of bartending. A helpful video from master brewer, Feral Murray, on the brewery website (Guinness.com) makes a quick lesson for the uninitiated, or a review for barmaids who aren't too sure they're doing it right. The ritual must begin with a Guinness brand glass, a firm grip, and your finger on the harp logo!

At a 45-degree angle, begin filling the glass. You should hear the beer hissing on its way in. It should take about two minutes- "good things come to those who wait." When the beer comes close to the harp insignia, straighten the glass. Cease pouring at the harp line. Now set the glass down, and let the beer settle and surge. A nice cream should rise and fill the rest of the pint. If the cream does not rise slightly over the lip, slowly pour in a bit more until it does.

The drinking is also an art, so the barfly needs a quick lesson, too. And what could be more fun that beer drinking school?

"First of all, you never look down at a pint of Guinness. You always look to the horizon. Bring that elbow up," says our teacher. "Bring the glass to your lips, and not you to the glass." That's when you should "break the seal" and "get that cream on your lips."

Now take a big enough sip to lower the beer level to below the rim. This will cleanse the palate and prepare it for the pint-long taste sensations ahead. Apparently, we want to aim for to get the bitterness near the back of the mouth, the sweetness at the front of the tongue, and the "roastiness" to the sides. What's next? "Enjoy."

What about the warm-cold debate? Some purists insist the brew has better "mouthfeel" and fuller flavour at room temperature. But I'm sure not alone in preferring it cold. The opposing camps may actually be on the same team: for room temperature in an Irish beer cellar is not warm, it's quite cool. It is not ice cold, however- and beer lovers agree that �ice cold' is the only way North Americans can mask the tastelessness of new beers.

Either way, as Fergal says, "Enjoy." I say to each their own. Whatever floats your boat. Whatever tickles your pickle. Whatever trips your trigger. Whatever tickles your fancy. Whatever frosts your cookies. Whatever charges your batteries. Whatever pops your cork. You get the picture. Warm or cold, we can all agree on one thing: I want some more, please!


Posted by Lorette C. Luzajic at 11:32 AM  0 Comment(s)


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Even Better Than The Real Thing

Deep Blue Fish and Chips

749 Broadview Ave.

416.463.6789

www.deepbluefish.ca
 

I highly doubt that most counter cooks dream happily of being at work when they aren’t there. But Deep Blue Sea’s Gary Conlin is not your average fish and chips guy. And he does not make average fish and chips.

 

Everybody loves the greasy, wonderful crunchy grime of fish and chips, smothered in vinegar and insane amounts of salt, slathered in lumpy mayo and relish that passes for tartar, with ketchup and oil leaking through the newspaper bundle. But universal love aside, the local fish and fries eatery is not exactly a gourmand’s destination.

 

And nor is it the destination of those sorry masses who must avoid gluten, hence battered fish, at all costs. I didn’t think I would ever have fish and chips again, since learning last March that the culprit behind all my teeth falling out and other fun diseases is gluten.

 

So you’d think I would be overjoyed when I heard about Deep Blue Sea’s gluten-free fish and chips, the only fare of its kind in Toronto, and possibly far and wide. Still, I’ve found so far that substitutions are seldom any cause for excitement or celebration, and unlike most of the gluten-free chatters online, I do not live by substitution. I don’t like the breads, the cookies, their density or flavour, and I don’t think I need to replace an unhealthy grain with other starches when I can fill up on vitamin-loaded vegetables, meats, and fish. As poster child for the beyond curvy girl Plus Generation, I’m not exactly starving for breads. Besides, if you’ve ever tried the gluten free pizzas, available at Pizza Pizza and Magic Oven, you wouldn’t be impressed. They’re okay, but usually I forego pizza and make grilled veggie melt at home if I have to have some gooey cheese.

 

But sometimes a craving hits, and when it did, I headed to Broadview and Danforth. I’ve walked by a million times without knowing I could go in. But I did some research hoping to find gluten-free fish batter in Toronto, and by chance, the only option was just down the street. I was greeted by Gary, the owner and cook. Now here’s a man who loves his fish! He wants to talk about his menu, about how his fish can make you happy. This is a man who wants to be at work, sharing his favourite stuff in life with you. This is no ordinary fish and chips place. This is a place where you can get mango pickle relish for your sweet potato fries. You can get Jamaican-jerk battered fish and grilled asparagus salad with balsamic dressing. The cole slaw could be Granny Smith apple slivers. Then again, it might be tropical fruits and veggies in a tangy mango sauce. You might forego the grease, too, in favour of fresh fish chowder, piping hot, and a side of green pea hummus.

 

Gary Conlin and Robert Joseph, owners, say their objective is simple: to provide local communities with consistently high quality fish and chips. I’d say they go above and beyond, offering up scrumptious stuff like Deep Blue Corn Meal Battered Sea Scallops, or Crab Cake Sandwich with Roasted Red Pepper Aioli, Lettuce, Sweet Potato Fries, Celery Root & Apple Cole Slaw. Or you might try the Cajun Corn Battered Haddock, Spicy Fries, Cole Slaw, with Creole Salsa. All greasy fare is fried in soy-free, trans-fat free oil. Hungry?

 

The big question is, how was it? It was unbelievable! Spectacular! The quinoa-flour gluten-free alternative is fried in a separate batch of oil, so no contamination worries.  This was the best fish and chips I ever had. The texture was crunchier and less oily than anything else, far superior to every fish and chips I’ve ever tried. The homemade tartar was something I could eat by itself with a spoon if no one was looking. The handcut French fries are worth the trip all by themselves. And on top of all this amazing food, the diner is clean and cutesy and would make for a great snack stop on your next date. Indeed, Deep Blue has a date special that includes two fish and chip meals with movie passes for the Rainbow Cinema.

 

I don’t need to go on. Get on your scuba gear and swim over to Broadview as quickly as your little flippers can get you here. Let Gary share his food stories and help you choose something you won’t forget. You’ll be back soon.


Posted by Lorette C. Luzajic at 10:42 AM  0 Comment(s)


Monday, January 05, 2009

The Breakfast Club: Beyond Bagels

The first thing that goes out the window when you give up gluten isn’t gluten- it’s the concept of ‘grabbing’ a meal or snack. There’s not much you can grab on the way to work for breakfast, or on the way home for dinner. While initially this is frustrating, soon you become a pro at having snacks on hand or handy lunch ideas. After some initial whining and complaining, you soon notice an advantage- if you can’t grab just anything, you aren’t putting just anything into your body. No more crappy, chemical-laden, fatty, salty, heavily processed unfoods get past your mouth. Even health conscious people grab way more crap than they think, because there’s always the possibility of an excuse, a ‘just this once’ or a convenience justification. And eating fast food even once a week really isn’t doing you any favours.

So you become an expert in bringing Tupperware wherever you go, so you can order the contents of a sandwich and eat them on the go, or you fill the dish at home with fruit and nuts on your way to work.

Still, you end up with a new nasty habit- skipping breakfast. And there’s just no excuse for this, though I’m guilty, guilty, guilty. What’s the problem? I passed on my funky pink polka-dotted toaster and just don’t feel like pork tenderloin with caramelized onions for breakfast, thank you very much.

But then what? Skipping breakfast is hazardous to your health. It means you screw your blood sugar up- true story. Ever notice that breakfast is the only time that fat people aren’t hungry? That would be me. But our blood sugar and insulin drama will make havoc later and we’ll be ravenous, irritable, and irrational. We may even risk exhaustion tomorrow by putting gluten into our mouths out of desperation. So don’t even think about skipping breakfast.

Get cracking on that morning munch- we’ll start with the obvious, eggs. Forget counting your eggs. Erase all that junk science that says eggs are a terrifying source of cholesterol problems. Don’t take my word for it: take a few million years of the human diet, for which eggs have been a staple. They were easy for hunter-gatherer groups to locate. They contain nearly every nutrient you need (Vitamin C is the only major nutrient missing!). They pack a lot of protein and power into a few calories. If you’re still afraid that you should stick with two a week, rest assured that it’s not just the entire history of all cultures through all time living on planet earth, or an offbeat bohemian foodnik, to say you’re a-okay. You may have missed the tiny articles in the news last year- they didn’t want to make too big a deal of the fact that they were hopelessly, horribly wrong about eggs these past decades. But the scientists reluctantly released the news that after a brief 30 years out of several million, eggs were back on board as nature’s perfect food. Though the American Heart Association is still waffling on what they think the safe level of cholesterol is in food, this is only because it’s embarrassing to state outright that they’ve been way off base and cholesterol in food is actually a vital nutrient. And regardless of the ‘radical’ belief that cholesterol is good for you- it’s now unanimous- eggs have been un-demonized.

Don’t even think about the ridiculous low fat malarkey that told you to toss the yolks and make flavourless egg-white omelettes. Not only are you tossing the flavour, but you are tossing the lutein, selenium, vitamins A, Bs, and D, choline, need I go on. If you’re a vegetarian, I hope you still eat eggs: the lutein in vegetables is difficult to absorb, and super-easy for our bodies to use from eggs- supporting our vision is just one wonderful way eggs nourish us. And it’s easy to find free-range, hormone free eggs for an affordable price almost everywhere.

Of course, one can get tired of eggs, regardless how wonderful they are. That’s why I picked up a copy of The Good Egg by Marie Simmons (Houghton Mifflin, 2006.) You’ll have to skip the recipes with toast or dessert tarts, but that still leaves 170 scrumptious variations on the humble egg. Italian Tuna Stuffed Eggs, Poached Eggs on Hash (as in hash brown potatoes, sorry!), and omelettes of every ilk- including caviar- make eggs a joy again and again. Don’t limit your imagination to Simmons’ hundreds of suggestions, though- the omelette is a vast terrain of specialty cheese options, of spice combos, of vegetable delights. I’ve tried it Mexican-style with jalapeños and chili powder, but I’ve also gone for Thai-style with some green curry and it wasn’t half bad.

Eggs will take care of a good many breakfasts, and they are quick and filling. But even if eggs are your favourite food in the whole wide world, it’s likely you’ll need other options. What then?

You can try all those overpriced gluten-free cereals and breads and bagels available, but I have no recommendations to give. Research gluten-free web sites for consumer reviews of the available choices. I don’t like most of what I have tried- but I’m very much of the mind to make my own food, not to eat it out of a box. If you love oatmeal, you can find special oatmeal for gluten-free diets. Oats don’t have gluten in them- but they are processed in flour plants and you’ll need to find companies that only process oats.

How about crepes or pancakes and fruit? There’s nothing better than pancakes for breakfast. Yes, you can eat pancakes. Make them yourself with tapioca flour. They are wonderfully fluffy. You may need an extra egg for the sticky factor- experiment a bit. You can freeze pancakes and then pop two into the toaster in the morning for a quick breakfast on the go, just like the good old days. Just don’t share your toaster with anyone who eats wheat.

Forget sugar-flavoured yogurt, and opt for fruit. Dust off your blender and toss together a bunch of berries, a banana, pineapple, peach, whatever, with some milk, plain yogurt, ice, or coconut milk. My absolute favourite breakfast on the run is a bowl of plain yogurt drizzled with real maple syrup and a few nuts. This is instant gourmet.

You can also make up a giant pot of chili and freeze breakfast-sized portions in Ziploc bags. Chili is a gluten-free gourmand’s best friend. It freezes awesome, goes well with cornbread which we can still have, has endless variations- try turkey and white bean, or ground pork and lima beans- is filling, delicious, and easily feeds a big crowd. If you don’t think chili goes down nicely for breakfast, you may be pleasantly surprised. It’s probably for the best that you don’t try for the first time chili with fourteen kinds of peppers first thing in the morning. Otherwise, go nuts.

Yes, go nuts. Remember to always have a small container of mixed nuts on hand. If you’re away longer than you expect, or forget to eat breakfast, or find nothing after all at a friend’s buffet- a few nuts will tide you over to safety.

It’s okay to cry over spilt milk or bashed bagels any time: loss is loss, and facing life without bagels is definitely a kind of grief. Just don’t cry for the rest of your brand spanking new healthy happy life, dwelling in the past instead of taking your energy-bursting new body out into that world that is waiting. Once upon a time not that long ago I was sick and tired and running out of hope. If I’d known 30 years ago that giving up toast would save me decades of disease, infections, and dental bills, I would have thrown that toaster out the window a lot sooner. I don’t mind warming up last night’s leftovers first thing in the morning, not one bit. Now that your brain’s not as foggy as it was when it was shredded wheat, you can use your mind and your imagination. There’s breakfast beyond bagels.

Posted by Lorette C. Luzajic at 6:10 PM  1 Comment(s)


Friday, December 12, 2008

Snap Out of It: Baby's First Gluten-Free Christmas

Every year, the best gift of all comes from my brother-in-law Jurgen. He bakes a huge batch of gingersnaps and wraps them up in a nice tin for me. I love getting money, clothes, and bling under the tree, but nothing beats the annual cookie gorge. They are perfectly round, crisp, and chewy, not too sweet, and very spicy. They are heavenly dipped into coffee. I do not need to indulge in sampling many of the other cookies, because Jurgen’s gingersnap is the world’s most perfect cookie.

Now before Jurgie came on the scene, the tradition was already in place. My grandmother always knew what to give me for Christmas. Her gingersnap was pretty much the exact science of my bro’s. When Grandma got too tired to stay up baking Christmas goodies, Jurgen took over. I have not had a snap-less celebration: ever.

Well, there’s a first time for everything and this year is my first gluten-free Christmas. Yes, it will be difficult to navigate, but I rise to the challenge with a positive frame of mind. Maybe I won’t sleep through January this year- I always thought it was the turkey that made me so tired, despite the alleged debunking of the turkey/tryptophan sleeping pill! Perhaps it was the gingersnaps all along….the best part of discovering my gluten allergy has been the instant disappearance of lifelong chronic fatigue. I recall being exhausted in kindergarten, literally propping my eyes open to try to stay awake. I can’t say I suddenly have the energy I should have had when I was twenty, but I’m thankful that I’m not insanely fatigued by ten in the morning anymore. It’s nice to be normal.

Still, how can you be normal over Christmas without wheat? The cover of every magazine celebrates all the wonderful cookies you can make and bake and decorate. The stuffing was always the best part of the turkey! And my annual gingersnap extravaganza is now a dead tradition. What’s a girl to do?

Snap out of it, friends. Just because it’s my first snapless holiday doesn’t mean I’ll be crying over spilt milk and cookies. No, no, this is Joy to the World, this is As With Gladness Girls of Olde. There is more festivity and feasting in this girl than ever before!

So how will we do it? Easy. First think about all the things you aren’t giving up. I know how much it’s going to hurt you to thank Aunt Edna politely for that 64-year old regifted fruitcake and then hand it back to her. So it helps to have a list of yeses to show you what you’ve got.

Big Bird isn’t going anywhere. I’ll ask my sis to make the stuffing separately and I won’t have any. If you can’t live with that, you can call my friend John and thank him for thinking up buckwheat bread stuffing. (Buckwheat is not wheat, despite the name!)We had it over Thanksgiving and it was spectacular! Just use your mom’s favourite recipe but choose gluten-free buckwheat bread loaves. It’s heavy and satisfying, so your family won’t suffer an icky substitute just for you. The reason I’m opting out is because the stuffing ended up costing more than the bird. And that might be fine because you’ll be saving on baking overall.

The rest is gravy. Aww, shucks, gravy.

Maybe you didn’t know that the very best gravy in the world is gluten free. Your mother’s! I had no idea and was skipping the gravy for the first few months of my new diet. That’s when Mom told me that ‘real’ gravy is not made with wheat flour, but with the meat juice and cornstarch. I discovered that THAT is why her gravy is way better than anything in fast food or dump diners. I always loved gravy at home but never liked it at the Golden Griddle. So always ask your Uncle Buck how he makes his gravy, but chances are, it’s already a green light. If it’s not, make your own and bring it along. There are videos on youtube to take you step by step through gravy making- who knew?

Eggnog, we’ve still got you, too!

Every family has a favourite tradition and mine was the “December Excuse.’ That was when my sugar-free ideals went out the window and I felt perfectly justified in eating 31 and a half Christmas gingersnaps in one sitting. But the other is the Christmas Eve fondue. This ends up being even more feasting than the main dinner on Christmas. We fondue seafood, chicken, pork, and beef and dip them into dozens of sauces. This part is by far the nephews’ favourite Christmas ritual, even better than the presents. Coming to Grandma’s and gathering around the table as everyone gets in. We fondue gluttonous amounts of food late into the night, talking and telling jokes, with a blazing fire behind us and a couple of Rudolph renditions from the kids and Grandpa, complete with cherry nose. Matthew loves shrimp and each year tries to outdo last year’s total. Mom makes so many sauces that each morsel has a completely different dip- horseradish, hot sauce, mustards, Creole, BBQ, all kinds of wondrous flavours.  We have a massive Caesar salad in the big wooden bowl used just for this annual occasion. So what will be different this year? Nothing, except that I’ll be passing on the  croutons.

We always loved Grandma’s pancakes on Christmas morning, to tide us over until the big dinner. The nephews camp out in sleeping bags on Grandma’s floor after the fondue, and the next morning we continue the feast with pancakes and the adults have black coffee with nutmeg and cinnamon. I’m not skipping the pancake pandemonium this year- now we make pancakes with tapioca flour. Mom makes them like that now even if I’m not home, because they taste better than ever! Too often gluten-freers substitute rice flour but there are all kinds of wonderful flours to try out. Rice flour is very heavy and dense. But tapioca flour meant my Oma’s crepe recipe, a perfect way to use the extra eggs from the chicken coop, got even more delicious.

See- there’s nothing much to miss out on except the baked goods. Yes, it will hurt a bit to avoid the church bake sale with all those delicious and festive seasonal treasures, all made with tremendous love. I’m going to try my hand at making gluten-free pumpkin pie- but I was never all that good at making pie regardless. Sure, I’ll have to explain myself a few times when skipping cookies and hors d’oeuvres at colleagues’ celebrations. But I’m prepared for those visits, too: I have some funky nut bowls and a nutcracker, and I’ll take assorted nuts wherever I go.

And on that note, I’ll be pulling out the holiday cinema staple: Mixed Nuts, a totally offbeat, wacky  holiday movie with Steve Martin working a Santa hat at a crisis line. Crises, hilarity, and Jon Stewart on rollerblades ensue.

So this year, just ask Santa for a little more imagination this Christmas. Forget about ‘surviving the holidays’ and think about ‘thriving’ them. It’ll be a snap!


Posted by Lorette C. Luzajic at 5:00 PM  0 Comment(s)


Monday, December 01, 2008

Separating The Wheat From The Chaff

Not yet a year into the gluten-free life, I’m experimenting more with different foods, and so I’m quite rigorous about reading every label. Many have suggested that simply avoiding bread and pasta should be enough- do I have to be obsessive-compulsive about a crumb here and there?

 

Well, ideally, yes. Otherwise you may be missing out on the French stick or Haagen Dazs cookie dough ice cream for nothing. While less is certainly more, any gluten at all can keep you sick.

 

Gluten intolerance doesn’t work the same way some other allergies do. You may be lactose intolerant because you don’t have much lactase, an enzyme for digesting milk. So you might get diarrhea or an upset stomach. You may be okay with a small amount but drinking a carton of milk will make you ill. Or maybe you’re allergic to shrimp, and you will die if  you eat some.

 

Gluten sensitivity doesn’t work like either of those. You probably won’t feel sick following the offending foodstuff. Reactions vary from immediately to several weeks after the fact! This is because there is a domino effect in place. First, the gluten hits your gut and you might feel comforted and full- one reason we love bread is because it releases morphine-like peptides in our tummy. Mmmm, morphiiiiinnnne.

 

But the gluten then damages the intestinal villi, flattening them against the wall. These villi look like tentacles or perhaps blades of grass. Nutrients are absorbed through them. But when they are flattened, they can’t do much with incoming nutrients, so in addition to the intestinal damage, other food you eat is now pretty much useless, as your body isn’t picking up many of the vitamins and minerals. It can take days, weeks, or years for the villi to heal properly. This is what they call malabsorption, and it’s not a minor side effect. Why? Because malabsorption causes a whole host of problems. Nutritional deficits can cause symptoms or diseases anywhere in the body- psychiatric, vision, pancreas, skin, metabolic, teeth, bones, and on it goes. This is why the symptoms of celiac disease of gluten intolerance are all over the map. This explains why your teeth are falling out, for example, even though you gave up soda years ago and brush three times a day. Your bones could be like that, too, if your villi aren’t picking up calcium and magnesium signals! (I suggest that anyone who has inexplicable major dental problems be tested for gluten allergy or try the diet on your own. Bad teeth show serious health problems that have been underlying for years, and your bones and organs may have similar damage you don’t know about.)

 

It gets worse. In addition to the ineffective absorption system, the damaged intestine walls develop perforations and weak spots. Food particles slip through here to wander around the rest of you! You’ve heard this referred to as leaky gut syndrome. (Heavy drinking also causes this, which is why you’ve heard that alcoholics are malnourished even if they are heavy or eat well.)

 

Now the vitamins, minerals and chunks of lunch are foreign invaders to the body, and the body launches attacks to get rid of them. This screws up the immune system, which should be busy attacking germs and defending you against prowlers. But the immune system is busy, so you’re getting colds and flues all the time, or you’re just plain worn out. You always have a runny nose. Or worse, you have other immune system disorders that are very serious- thyroid disease, for example. Or even worse than that, ones that are still medical mysteries and are difficult or impossible to treat- multiple sclerosis, lupus, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome. Then there is cancer. We still know nothing about cancer. But we do know it’s best to have a strong immune system and sound nutrition if we hope to avoid it.

 

Understanding all this makes me feel grateful to have finally found the mystery culprit behind everything that was wrong with me. Instead of feeling ripped off about having to eat my sandwiches out of a bowl, I feel so thankful. Sure, I would love to have a beer. Could it really be so bad to support the local brewery from time to time? Yes! Now I enjoy you enjoying your brew, and I enjoy something equally wonderful from the Niagara wineries. If you are off gluten and miserable, it’s time to reread this piece, and change your mindset. Instead of feeling deprived, feel free. Be grateful that you discovered the key to letting your body heal. Knowing how it works means you’ll feel less freaky about reading every label or combing through menus for possible intruders. Maybe your friends or family don’t understand why you are  so compulsive about the odd crumb in the dip. So educate them.

 

There’s a reason why suddenly you’re noticing the gluten-free world popping up everywhere- including the horrible gluten free pizza crust at Pizza Pizza. (If anyone has had a great pizza let me know! I miss pizza…but I also miss my teeth!)

 

The reason? There’s suddenly a market. We were here all along but didn’t know. Maybe you suspect you are one of us. And you may well be. Celiac or gluten sensitivity was considered extremely rare. Now many researchers and experts are discovering it is way more common than we ever believed. Some go so far as believing that most medical conditions could benefit from a gluten-free diet- cancer patients and AIDS patients, for example, can do quite well by giving up grains and sugars entirely. New research is coming together all the time.

 

Celiac was long considered a sort of rare genetic defect making it impossible to digest wheat. Some new researchers don’t feel the allergy is an abnormality- upon examining the human diet for millions of years, we have only been eating grains for less than half a percent of all time! There’s evidence that most of us have not evolved to properly process grains- not just wheat! This line of research is turning up frightening things about disease in anthropology- it seems to follow wherever the ‘paleo diet’ ended and we began farming grains. This stuff is still controversial but is gaining more and more of a medical following as research into our evolutionary diet grows.

 

Is it hard for me to feel Canadian if I’m a traitor to those billowing seas of wheat, our golden export, our bounty for the world? How the hell are poor people supposed to eat without pasta and bread? Isn’t the very essence of civilization built on farming grains, taking us from wandering nomads into great cultures with reading, writing, language? What becomes of my identity when all of history dissipates under this new way of life?

 

I have to acknowledge the emotional impact this change has. It’s difficult to suddenly view everything I knew as true to be harmful for me, and maybe for much of the world. It’s not just about choosing another food group. There are ramifications and repercussions for the way I see the world, and the way it sees me. I don’t have the answers. I only know that for me and many, many others, wheat was making me very sick. And now I’m beginning to thrive for the first time in my life.

 

I guess that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.


Posted by Lorette C. Luzajic at 4:32 PM  1 Comment(s)


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans? Long before Hurricane Katrina destroyed a big chunk of America's history and an even bigger chunk of the world's soul, Billie Holliday and Louis Armstrong were crooning out a song with this title. Missing New Orleans must be a universal grief, like thirst or hunger, because Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans? has been recorded by dozens of artists, including Tom Waits, Fats Domino, and Alison Krauss.

It's been a good decade or longer since I've set foot on that magic soil, that city of love and heartbreak that's more like some kind of mythical kingdom than anything else. Where else do vampires mingle with other types of undead? Where else is the food voodoo and the voodoo food? Where else will old-timers play saxophone under the moon along the Mississippi river?  Where else do the bars serve bourbon sours 24 hours a day?

You can feel the longing for a place like it's tearing your heart right out of your flesh. Or you call up a friend who might carry the same pain, and head down to Markham Ave's Southern Accent. Now, there are a few restaurants in the city that serve Cajun or Creole food, and there's Cajun Corner, a little grocer and deli with lunch and a few important supplies. They're all lovely. But Southern Accent is one of Toronto's most special secrets. Since 1984, they've been bringing a delicious and festive vibe to the city, adding to the broad meaning of multicultural.

Take your credit card along- you will run up a shocking bill. Forget trying to be frugal. The food is so spectacular that it will be a sin not to order everything your little heart desires. You'll have more drinks than you intended, and dessert for a change. Plus, you'll buy some sauces and dressings to take home with you.

Southern Accent's vividly red painted space spans two floors of a cozy old heritage house. The walls are crammed with colourful eye candy, from art to Mardi Gras posters to all manner of New Orleans brick-a-brack like doubloons, jesters, and so on. Zydeco and blues will accompany your dinner and the whole atmosphere is cheery and cluttered and friendly, very campy. Despite the white tablecloths and price tag, it's very casual and you may even find yourself talking with total strangers at other tables, just like the way things happen in New Orleans.

Last night was no exception. My date started her evening with a martini, Streetcar Named Desire, but it wasn't my first time and so I knew there was no question: Cajun Caesar, two in a row. (The bourbon sours here are worth crossing town for.)

Don't even consider skipping the platter of oysters. Last night's were among the best I'd ever had, so fresh I wondered if the sea had come to Toronto while I wasn't looking. For me, oysters should be bear naked with nothing more than a drop of lemon juice or tequila. But I couldn't resist trying the garlic lime hot sauce on a few for variation, and the heat was so damn fine I promptly ordered a bottle of sauce to take home. (And I found that the garlic lime cayenne sauce mixed with sour cream made quite the chip dip.)

I was devastated to skip the calamari this time around- it's my favourite and you shouldn't miss it. It's never rubbery- just perfectly tender chews of succulent flavours. (Skip this if you're wheat-free like me because of the flour in the spice coating.) I had the piquant shrimp instead, which comes with hush puppies- a kind of ball of dough, which I promptly poured some of the divine garlicky sauce over and fed to my date. I didn't cry about the forbidden gluten, however: I simply picked up the bowl where the shrimp had been and drank the sauce down straight. Hardly ladylike, but hey, at least I didn't burp and lick the plate, an old German tradition to show respect to the chef.

M. ordered the beef brisket, a rich dark piece of meat drenched in maple, Chipotle and dark lager. The entrée comes with seared collards greens and garlic mashed potatoes, the ultimate in gourmet comfort food. If you're like me and love to order up a bunch of appetizers instead of a main, you can't go wrong picking a few of the sides available. I also had the seared collard greens and grilled baby bok choy with chili brown sugar dressing.

Ideally the night should end with a spiked coffee and either the pecan pie or the crème brulee. We opted for the crème brulee, which gave our gorgeous waiter a bit of stiff competition for sweetest dish on the menu. Also popular with whisky and bourbon lovers in the bourbon tasting, but this can be fun for people who usually drink wine or vodka. Learn about notes of sour mash and boldly try the “bourbon or reckoning,” – the Knob Creek 9-year Kentucky straight bourbon. What's the wonderful thing about bourbon, folks? All the glutens have been distilled out of it, so unlike beer, which is swimming in the guilty stuff, gluten avoiders can bring on the Jim Beam.

Walking- or weaving- away from the merry strains of zydeco with a belly full of spicy seafood and southern greens fills up that part of you that misses New Orleans. And a few dollars of your tab goes directly to aid the rebuilding of the devastated city, so consider eating there again soon.

Lorette C. Luzajic
www.thegirlcanwrite.net

 

 

 


Posted by Lorette C. Luzajic at 12:26 PM  0 Comment(s)


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Life After Bread

If you fear that there is no life after bread, you’re wrong.

It’s a horrible thing that some who suffer from wheat, gluten, grain or starch allergies don’t bother to try life without them, thinking it will be bland.

For millions of years, we did not have bread, but the health and vitality of those people was unparalleled.

Even crazier, is that millions suffer from ‘hypochondriac’ diseases, or seemingly unrelated symptoms from joint pain to headaches to rashes to malaise, and doctors don’t suggest a gluten allergy.

Now I know that any mystery ailment must be examined on a sugar-free and grain-free diet to see if that ailment clears up, before diagnosing it as a ‘mystery’ or ‘untreatable.’ From dental problems to lupus to cancer, there are hundreds of conditions that are caused by the ‘bread of life.’ Bread of death is more like it.

Yes, I sympathize. Who doesn’t love a gorgeous French stick or chewy pumpernickel? But what if all your suffering could magically be cured, from Multiple Sclerosis to schizophrenia, and everything in between?

It’s not magic. We love bread, but it’s foreign to our bodies. Many, many people retain the inability to use grains and don’t know it. We still have the same DNA and the same systems we had for millions of years, and we’ve only been eating grains for 10,000 years or less.

I myself am furious that no one ever suggested I might have had a celiac disease. I’ve been in and out of shrinks and doctors since the age of four. I was born screaming and didn’t stop until I talked and read. Given words for the distress, I shared it. A long list of diagnoses range from hypothyroid to interstitial cystitis to chronic fatigue to depression to hives to inexplicable skin and bone pain to migraines to insomnia to fibroids to estrogen dominance to untreatable menstrual cramps so severe I was sometimes suicidal to chronic bronchitis to sugar and worse addictions to obesity to low blood pressure and related friends like twin joys varicose veins and hemorrhoids, to ‘irrational’ fear of cancer, to diarrhea and bloating and indigestion to malabsorption of nutrients to bone thinning to cervical dysplasia,  plus a whole host of unexplained, undiagnosed ailments that came and went. I’m 36 years old and half of my teeth have had to be reconstructed, costing tens of thousands of dollars I don’t have. All this despite the fact that my hygiene is reasonable and my sugar intake is next to nil. I missed more than half of elementary and secondary school to illness.

There IS life after bread, folks. On March 11th of 2008 a friend asked if I recognized my symptoms in a book’s chapter on grain-related disorders. The last thing I needed was a new bandwagon, as I’d had so much hope before, and the best results from giving up soy foods and sugar. But anything else I’d tried did little to give hope, and I was sick of false hopes.

But halfway through the chapter, I committed to giving it up for a six-month trial and within days began to notice improvements in every single area I mentioned. It has been seven months and I am getting healthier and healthier. There is life after bread. You owe it to yourself to give it a trial if you have ANY disease.

While it seems unlikely that something so wholesome and innocent as grain can be guilty, think about the irrefutable damage done by refined sugars and flours and chemical foods. Why? Because these un-foods are brand new, nutritionally empty, and foreign to the way nature programmed us. Humans have only been eating rancid processed vegetable oils (‘trans’ or hydrogenated oils) and white sugar/flour and plastic foods for blink in our history. So it is not that farfetched that the most recent addition to our diet before this is also culpable. While it seems we have used grains from the beginning of time, we have actually farmed for ten thousand years, that's actually less than half a percent of our estimated time on earth. Archeology is proving rapidly that the introduction of grains to civilizations is where we began to see cavities, bone and joint disorders, insulin problems, and other diseases.

Also, consider that modern grain is even more foreign to the body than ancient grains, which were always soaked and fermented to reduce natural toxins.

Did you know any of this? Neither did I. But now I’m rapidly getting well and you may be able to also.

If you are healthy, turn the page. But if you have been suffering from any ailment, you might do a bit of research on gluten. Sadly, the first sign that some people get that they are celiac or gluten or grain intolerant is cancer. Cancer feeds on sugar- all those ‘ose’ words like sucrose, glucose, and so on. It does not feed on fat, though unnatural, processed unrecognizable fats to our body like margarine and soy can contribute to them.

You have nothing to lose from six months of gluten-free or grain-free (people with arthritis, obesity, lupus, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and more may not have any tolerance for grain or starch, even the oldest and best kinds.) If it doesn’t help, you have lost nothing.

I have nothing against the bakers and chefs of sumptuous breads or pastries. But plain and simple, not everyone can enjoy those things, and so instead of crying about it, I seek the gourmet worlds I can enjoy and still be well. Not everyone can indulge in wine or eat shrimp. Some don’t do well with spicy foods- not me, thank God!

Tragically, I was in the middle of writing a cookbook called The Girl Can Eat and had no idea that I’d be revamping my enthusiasm for wheat germ, pumpernickel and the goodness of whole grains. So that’s what they mean by rewrite!

I’m so grateful to finally feeling awesome at least some of the time. And I’m fierce and creative in the kitchen, but yes, it has been an emotional hurdle to acknowledge there will never be another piece of pizza or a simple pleasure like a hamburger in my life. So I’ve begun finding alternatives or new ways and met them with relish and gusto. I invite you to join me if you are gluten-free, low-grain, or just exploring for now to see if your health improves. You can join me dining out in Toronto and cooking at home, join me in reading and in detective work for uncovering hidden sources of the culprit.

There are only two occasions, very early in, where I’ve ‘cheated’ because the results have been so dramatic. I don’t feel deprived if friends order a pizza and I eat none of it. Honestly, I feel like some secret poison is out of me and I don’t want it in me. It’s not like ‘cutting down on sugar’ but sometimes having an ice cream at my nephew’s birthday or a chocolate festival when I’m depressed. Even eating the communion wafer at church when I don’t sit it out means itchiness or tooth pain. Giving up beer was the hardest part. Who wants to drink hard liquor all the time? But suddenly I saw why sometimes I had a hangover after one drink. Beer!

Now on a few occasions, I did cheat but by accident. I had no idea the effects would be so stark. One day I woke up with chronic fatigue syndrome all over again. I FELL ASLEEP at my keyboard for THREE HOURS and then had diarrhea for the next three. Nice. This was a clear illustration of what had been happening in my body the whole time.

Your changes may or may not be so dramatic. Relief from fatigue seems to be one of the most common improvements and quite possibly my favourite. I can live life if I’m not falling over exhausted for no bloody reason.

In my Gremolata blog, I’ll be making entries about dishes I’ve tried or invented. I’ll be taking notes on my restaurant trips. I still read all my favourite cookbooks and recipe and lifestyle mags- I can easily omit gluten and you’ll get some help if you follow me. Is there life after bread? It’s a no-grainer- life has just begun.

Visit writer Lorette C. Luzajic at www.thegirlcanwrite.net.

Posted by Lorette C. Luzajic at 12:46 PM  0 Comment(s)


Friday, October 24, 2008

Eat to Live, Live to Eat



My mom’s cookbook collection is vast, spanning centuries of information, and bringing her garden and indeed, the whole globe, right into her kitchen. It wouldn’t be a surprise to find a spiral recipe collection put out as a fundraiser by the ladies of Latvia, or a guide to insect cookery around the world. There is for sure an entire volume on what to do with your Ontario zucchini harvest, a rare English translation of Romany gypsy cookery, and Tony Chachere’s amazing southern American swamp food guide, complete with recipes for raccoon, possum, and gator.

I’m forever sifting through this stunning wealth and jotting down interesting ways to stuff an eggplant, or learning the nutritional content of the oyster and how it got there. I dreamed of having a food library just as vast, but reality was in the way: my tiny urban dwelling, while perfectly adequate, is not a sprawling farmhouse. The kitchen is about three feet by three feet. And so I must be choosy with my cookbooks, to fit them onto the one shelf that they share with my coloured mixing bowls and the coffee maker.

I don’t know the exact science behind the birth of Malcolm Jolley’s Gremolata Magazine, but I bet it’s not that different from me sitting at Mom’s, grazing through her cookery library, washing fresh earth off of the tomato harvest, stirring something simmering and garlicky, and sipping some amazing Niagara wine- from grapes grown across the street. How can we bring this experience into the city? How can we connect the most sacred substance we know of- food- with our newfangled technologies?

Why, with Gremolata dot com, of course: “Our business model is simple. Provide superior content and the ability for people to connect and interact with it. We embrace technology and incorporate it with the traditional values of classic journalism.”

Gremolata is that portal that magically marries modernity to a total emphasis on our local heritage, yet somehow manages to be armchair travel to all corners of the earth. It is a vast library of cookbooks. It is a place to tune in to what’s worth watching on food television. It’s a place to meet the people who grow, prepare, and eat our food. It skims the headlines of the world news, letting us know what we need to about the one topic on which every human being depends entirely. It helps us shop for wine. Yes, there is a time and place for the pages of a cookbook, complete with pumpkin pie stains of past Thanksgivings. Yet the techno-gifts of today’s world are not in competition with these savory saving graces. They can keep us in touch with joy.

Indeed, the five year old web magazine- which as of yesterday evolved into an interactive gathering hub for chefs, writers, relatives and other people who eat – has a very simple and pure soul. Its entire mandate, while dressed opulently in gourmand experiences and contrasting philosophies of what food means, is bare bones basic. “The greatest moments in our day and our life can surround the simplest of pleasures.”

We eat. We drink. We are merry.

What is ‘gremolata?’ Well, technically, it’s a concoction of garlic, parsley, and lemon peel that accompanies a heavy Italian meal such as veal shank. But its meaning transcends its ingredient listing and suggests notions like ‘on the side’ or ‘to go with perfectly’ or ‘a little something extra’ or ‘a morsel.’ The much courser word ‘shmecks’ is a bit off, but not entirely, and the Louisiana “lagniappe” is just about perfect, except the southern ‘little extra’ is not necessarily food, and not necessarily lemon and garlic. Gremolata conjures ‘the simplest of pleasures.’ There’s a vast world of meaning that goes into what we put into our bodies. Our world, our health, our cultures are all dependent on the fact that we need to eat and how we do it. Lucky for us creative humans, we don’t simply run out, grab a bird or a berry, and be done with it. We mix, combine, experiment, and gather together.

Last night hundreds gathered together in celebration of Gremolata’s new direction, which has evolved from a stricter magazine format with scheduled issues to an ever-building and totally interactive portal. The evolution is thanks to our Jolley founder and his colleague James Geneau.  The launch was held at Hart House at the University of Toronto, where the church and academia-architecture was a spirit not lost on me. Upon entering, I surveyed the scene before me, and it was one of total joy. There were food lovers of every ilk, totally relaxed, a sea of garnet wines, and laughter. Gremolata celebrates the heritage of the earth right where we are, and dozens of incredible Ontario food producers were sharing their magic with us.

(In turn, the launch also honoured The Stop Community Food Centre. The Stop is a sustainable ‘food bank’ and education project that grows and gives real food, engaging those who need their services in learning and social involvement. A dazzling 100 percent of food used by the Food Stop comes from local farming. It was worth going just to learn about this amazing place, because I confess with embarrassment that I have never heard of it. It’s not that long ago since I’ve used food bank services, and I always lamented how the crappiest of the crud is what was donated for the poor. The Stop thinks outside the can, and though I would never shun the generosity of an emergency meal, a project like this can help people in a whole different way than just the critical need today. Please visit www.thestop.org to learn more about this incredible food centre.)

The Gremolata experience yesterday was like an edible re-enactment of Thanksgiving- the real one, where we are thankful for our food, not the one where we steal it from those generous enough to share. Is there anyone who does not secretly loath Christmas, preferring Thanksgiving? It’s all the good stuff of the holiday- food, family, and heritage- and none of that consumerist gift crap and heinous mall music. While I once enjoyed Hark the Herald Angels sing as much as anyone did the first forty-eight renditions they heard, I could happily go the rest of my years without ever, ever humming Deck the Halls or White Christmas against my will again. The meals aren’t that far off- turkey, cranberries, and at my house both red and white sauerkraut. I always loved the insignia of Thanksgiving, even if our kindly kindergarten teachers did leave a few massacre details out of the friendly Indian stories. I loved the idea of sitting with a feathered chief, learning how to get the eggplants and corn and pumpkins out of the earth and into the cornucopia!

The autumn harvest couldn’t be a better time for the Gremolata launch, because in its essence, the ‘magazine’ is all about Thanksgiving, all year long. Food and family. Local harvest. Global traditions. Gremolata.com is a cornucopia of friends sharing food.

Some of the food we shared last night caused me to run out of adjectives. Divine, inspiring, succulent, spectacular, delicious, intriguing, bold, charismatic….

This summer, Caplansky’s opened a deli menu at The Monarch Tavern (12 Clinton Street, Toronto). Last night they shared what was by far the best-smoked meat I have ever put into my mouth. Ditto for their crisp, salty pickles. I’ll be making a trek across town on a regular basis for this stuff- possibly even today!

Now, pickles are one of my favourite weaknesses. And so I stopped by Forbes Wild Foods to try something weird- pickled milkweed. WOW! Forbes Wild Foods (www.wildfoods.ca) is as local as you can get. Our ‘ancestors ate wild crafted foods’ that grow freely in their habitats, and ‘do not need watering, fertilizing, cultivation, or spraying.’ What, you mean you just go outside and pick stuff that’s there and eat it? Yes, exactly. Forbes harvests the foods by hand and only uses items that are in abundant supply from Mama Nature! So, what does that mean- dandelions? This imaginative food source sells fifteen or more types of dried wild mushrooms. How about wild rose petal syrup, or birch syrup? Fiddleheads, daisy capers, cloudberry compote…this is seriously radical stuff, taking the meaning of ‘all natural’ down to its purest essence. Why not try one of their gift baskets this Thanksgiving or Christmas?

Soiled Reputation offered ‘temptations from the garden.’ I indulged in about seven types of heirloom tomatoes- purple ones! You can read more about Malcolm Jolley’s visit to this awesome farm (http://gremolata.com/Articles/322-Soiled-in-Stratford-Antony-John-and-Friends.aspx). They grow vegetables throughout the winter, making ‘local produce’ possible all year long.

Finally, I can’t depart without mentioning the Arvinda’s line of spice rubs and seasonings. The most horrible part of going gluten-free- besides, of course, living without beer- was the surprise presence of gluten in nearly every spice mix on the market. While I’m quite adept at mixing my own spices, when you’re trying out other cultures, you can’t just assume your Canadian hand is as skilled as the ones that have made it since time began. For example, Creole or Cajun spice blends were a staple of my chicken making for years, and now I miss them. Arvinda’s impressive line of curry and masala mixtures is entirely gluten-free with no additives! They are totally affordable, and available widely (Sobey’s, for example, or check in with them at www.arvindas.com. The cook in a rush is not always a lazy cook, and even if we’re pressed for time, we deserve to enjoy and serve a delicious menu. I’ll have one of each of these blends on hand from now on for those hasty but tasty occasions.

Of course you will all gather with me from now on, to share and experience food the Gremolata way. (In case you didn’t know, I’m the Gremolata Spice Girl! Don’t miss my column, introducing the history, magic and flavour of one spice at a time.) If you’re new to Gremolata, you can be sure your life is about to get richer, more abundant, more connected to the earth, and to others. Yum!



Posted by Lorette C. Luzajic at 1:46 PM  0 Comment(s)


Friday, October 24, 2008

The Mighty Reuben

There are some things better left for another to cook. Try as I may, Thai always tastes like either nothing, or rubber tires, when I attempt a recipe at home. My restaurateur friend has no issue with the subtleties of Thai broths and chili seasoning: John also makes a spectacular Reuben sandwich. This is something I really only like to order in New York City. I live in Toronto, so it’s not a sandwich that appears regularly on my menus. The odd time I’ve ordered it here at home, it’s either flavourless or sloppy with grease. The one Toronto spot that shone was The Tulip, at Queen and Coxwell. Overall, had John not served me up a masterpiece, I may never have had one again.

Like all great mysteries, the origin of the Reuben sandwich is hazy. Two conflicting legends are circulating, and both involve a Jewish guy named Reuben and a slab of rye bread. I like to go with the classic 1938 account of Arnold Reuben, who slapped together a sky-high sandwich for a New York actress who came into his deli. She said she was famished, and he made a sandwich she called unforgettable. Arnie said he would name it the Anna Selos Special, and she said it should be named The Reuben. The competing story has a 1956 Omaha, Nebraska sandwich recipe contest winner named Reuben as the diner designer. Either way, it seems solid to me that this thing was born in New York. Where else could sauerkraut go gourmet?  


John assured me it’s not difficult to master at home, with major benefits like no charge for half a dozen pickles on the side and stuffing as much of everything as you want into the bread. I was game- I make a mean grilled cheese, and as a German gal, thought a messy sauerkraut sandwich should be a breeze.

 Umm, yeah.

Tuesday afternoon starts out with the search for some corned beef. I already know that ‘corned beef’ means brine-salted brisket. Apparently, the salt chunks used to be called ‘corns’- perhaps salt-corns as to peppercorns, but I’m not sure. I don’t really know what I’m doing at the market because I seldom purchase cured meats for home use. Mainly because I could eat an entire row of fat Genoa salamis in front of a How to Look Good Naked marathon, and I must avoid this type of wurst outburst at all costs.

I can only find one tin, imported from Brazil, and I wonder about the little key attached to the tin. I’ve never used a device of this kind, and the strangely triangular tin seems odd. I know it’s so that the corned beef will slide out easily, so I don’t worry. Until I get home. None of my brute strength can open the damn thing. I rip half of a fingernail off tinkering with the damn can. Then I ruin my most expensive kitchen knife and practically commit suicide by error as the blade slips a dozen times, butchering several fingers, severing a few arteries, and ruining my shirtsleeve. As a modern girl, I head online, only to find that many others have been driven mad by this can and have thrown it out the window. The simplest suggestion is to use a regular can opener, so I do, with great difficulty going around the weird corners, but I manage.

But what is this inside? Lord help us all, it’s dog food. My stomach retches as I spoon a heap of reeking meat. What if it’s not dog food, but DOG? What if it’s not dog meat, but human? I’ve read somewhere that most of us have actually eaten human flesh at least once. In times of extreme poverty, handy corpses have stretched that meat dollar by conveniently fattening up sausages and ground meat. While we are all quick to blame this type of stuff on urban legends with no basis in truth, the truth is that things are always MUCH WORSE than they appear, and that humans are capable of absolutely anything. So I can assume that there is a good chance that those girls who disappeared on a trip to the beaches of Cancun ended up in this tin of Brazilian brisket.


It matters not: I’m adventurous, and millions eat this every day, so it must be good. I scoop it out and bravely lay it on the rye, topping with sauerkraut and Thousand Island salad dressing and Swiss cheese. Authentic Jewish versions call for homemade Russian dressing, apparently, but the popular versions today use Thousand Island and so did my friend John. The grilling bread and cheese smells marvelous, except for the acrid, cat-food stench of the meat rising up from the pan as well. Oh, boy.

Two bites in and I can’t recall ever being so disgusted in my life. I watched my brother eat chocolate covered cockroaches that I bought him for Christmas, and didn’t feel the bile rising. Thanks to this festering funky flesh, I will always loathe rye bread and Thousand Island dressing. I have never had such a disastrous kitchen drama. Stuff has burned, stuff has been flavourless, stuff has been too spicy, stuff has been gross. But never before did I burp barf.

The remedy is simple: never, ever use can-corned. Use deli shaved. Or use tuna, which is what my friend John used, but didn’t tell me until it was too late. I may now be able to make a beautiful Reuben but I will never again be able to eat one. Goodbye, Reuben Tuesday.


Posted by Lorette C. Luzajic at 1:44 PM  0 Comment(s)


Friday, October 24, 2008

Cajun Corner

 

I’m not the only one who pines for Decatur Street’s Central Grocery, home of the muffaletta. No matter that we’re thousands of kilometres away from New Orleans and that it has been more than a decade since I walked the land of vampires and voodoo only to stumble on the world’s most perfect sandwich. I recall clearly every minute detail of that sandwich, how the salami and provolone melded seamlessly together under the weight of olive salad, how the oil drenched the bread, how the saxophonist under the dusky sky serenaded my dinner beside the Mississippi river. They say once you have the water in New Orleans, you will always be there. But I think it’s the consumption of the muffaletta that places the heart firmly in that place- perhaps voodoo is just kitchen science.

 

Bless Toronto’s multicultural cuisine scene- we’ve got our very own Cajun Corner, and the muffaletta is on the menu. It’s not nearly the same, but better than nothing. This shop and café is a sentimental garden of Louisiana hot sauce, spice mixtures, Mardi Gras beads, Cajun cookbooks, zydeco music, and a mouthwatering menu that will bring back the bliss of New Orleans before its sad decimation by hurricane. Order from the daily menu: there’s usually a  pot of gumbo or jambalaya simmering in wait.  If you’re lucky, it will be Crab and Corn Bisque day. The ‘soup Nazi’ can go to hell- I doubt Jerry and friends ever left New York for a bowl of real soup, the way only Southerners can make it. Like the gumbo pot, the specials change daily- schedule your entire life around the occasions when Pecan Roasted Pork is on the menu. But if you miss it, you can’t go wrong with any of the selections, if only for the memories. Dirty Rice and Blackened Chicken and Southern Fried Catfish are superb treats. You can order Po’Boys any day, as well as the Muffaletta. Ask for extra sauce for both- this is Canada, where they skimp on the good stuff, and the buns can be rather dry. Regardless, it’s a treat just to pretend you’re in the south, and where else do you get to say “gumbo ya ya?”

 

While the friendly, N’Awlins-lovin’ staff heaps memories into your takeout bucket, grab a few jars of olive salad from their pantry- you can’t make a muffaletta at home without it, and you’ll want to.  If you haven’t yet discovered Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning, now is the time. Chachere was a self-made millionaire of swamp roots, who retired young and started cooking. He whipped up a jug of his favourite spices so that when he went camping he wouldn’t have to carry a dozen jars, and so the world-famous green shaker of Original Creole Seasoning was born. At our house, we simply call it “Tony’s” and wonder how anyone cooked without it. Competing, similar spice blends from the south pale in comparison, and though they’re all available at Cajun Corner, they’re largely unnecessary. The package promises “good on everything” and we’ve put that to the test at home: yes, yes it is- even on pancakes. It was not good on ice cream, but astonishingly was fine on other desserts. It’s salty, and sprinkling moderately wherever  salt is  needed makes any food perfect. I’ve ditched a number of fancy meat preparations in favour of the glorious, unbeatable subtlety of “plain plus Tony’s”.  You can get Tony’s in extra spicy as the original blend is not for hotheads but for everyone. It’s great, but you’ll still go back to the basic.

 

It’s worth forking out the few bucks for Tony Chachere’s  Cajun Country Cookbook. Though dozens of southern cooking manuals come in and out of vogue, home chefs probably find them a bit challenging and they end up unused. Expect this one to end up grease-stained- you’ll be filling the margins with penned notes to yourself as well. Terrific. The book’s plethora of recipes are something anyone can cook, though I bet no one more than three miles from the swamp will be chopping the head off an armadillo or skinning a raccoon.
 

 Weekends are a special treat at Cajun Corner- order the famous Café du Monde’s chicory blend of java and a plate of hot, powdery beignets- if you haven’t had New Orleans’ famous warm little donuts, this fair attempt will have to do. While sipping this out-of-this-world coffee and browsing, pick up a take-out schedule of the  upcoming menu (also available online at www.cajuncorner.ca). I’m certain that at least one Torontonian has moved to New Orleans after visiting Cajun Corner. If that option isn’t feasible for you, at least we’ve got our little corner of heaven here at home, and you can take some of the paradise back to your own pantry.

Posted by Lorette C. Luzajic at 1:39 PM  0 Comment(s)


Friday, October 24, 2008

Eat, Drink and be Mary

Zelda’s is not your average nosh pit: it’s Toronto’s one and only trailer camp. Keeping camp alive is the name of the game. Queer history keeps writing itself, and we’re integrating seamlessly in a progressive post-Will and Grace-culture. But certain ebulliences of bygone days are necessary complements to our life of Starbucks, Ellen, Utne Reader and the urban dog park (where we’ve never had to sit at the back of the bus!) These include rags like Fab- (because tacky journalism must never die), old-time and heavily powdered queens who remember Shirley Bassey, the feather boa, and the penchant for lisping that neither scientists nor theorists can yet explain but which has such a comforting lull. This is the place where it will always be cool to say “work it, girl” and have fussy pink or purple cocktails. This is the place where no one forgets about Erasure. Think of pink flamingoes and beehive wigs and you’re already here.

 

No matter that no waiter will sashay toward your table in the time it takes you to say “Cher”.  Or, in fact, to read the whole menu and the Fab Boy blurb as well: there is no effing hurry, dahhhling. Now lounge! Zeldatinis like Yeehaw, Bitch Slap, and Sugartits will get you off in the right direction. Hopefully they’ll have karaoke somewhere tonight! Expect your ambience to be swaddled in pink and velvet drapery and gauzes, supremely tacky retro wallpaper, and severed mannequin bits glued all higgly piggly in every manner of boa and Fame-set legwarmer. Yeah, baby, of course the festive and the fey didn’t forget those patio lanterns, tiki lights and buoyant bubbling baubles of light and yeah, order another one of those lip smacking...things with those little umbrellas….

 

If you’re lucky, Donnarama will be headlining tonight. Long live Cher and Shania but the real dame of Church St. is this brilliant female illusionist and her signature performances of Courtney Love. You never know what song or genre or even gender Donnarama will be next: she’s done Barbra, Bjork and Elton John.

 

Truly, wacky drag shows are staples here, one of the things that make Zelda’s so fabulous. The campiest wait staff don’t work here, they ‘work it’ here, or even ‘work it oouutt!” here. Other great stuff: ten years of bawdy, zany, humour, so much more buoyant than mine but still sufficiently twisted to feel at home with. Ten years of heavy community involvement and all kinds of trampy fundraising marathons. Zelda’s cares. It’s not all just face paint.

 

And girl, the gift just keeps on giving, ‘cause Zelda’s has pretty good food. It’s really rather yummy.  The yam frites are by now a classic- gooey fries with a stellar dose of beta-carotene. The Mac and Cheese- well, that’s just tacky ol’ hilly billy food now iishn’t it, slurred Dolli Parton one night and I had to try it. Brandine, you’re just divine- oven baked and like, a half-dozen cheeses? The Billy Bob BLT is best for hangover breakfasts: it comes with maple-smoked bacon, a luuurvely detail. Goes down luuuurvely too with a nice Bloody Caesar- you know, while we’re having tomatoes. Honestly, just order anything. Zelda’s has pub food, from people who care about pub food. The burgers, the pierogies, all damn delicious and there’s always a detail or twist that stands out and there’s even vitamins and minerals in most of the selections. Groovy. The salads are wonderfully fruity, perfect for patio picnicking here with another two jugs- yes, jugs, you know, pitchers? of Jackie-Ohhhhh. The scrumptious and dutifully named Cala-mary the jalapeño munchers, and the Marvelous Meatloaf are all delightful.

 

Did I mention the staff loves to dress up? Go hang more often at Zelda’s- you’ll just be happier overall. You’ll be certain to hit a theme night, cause at Zelda’s, every day is gay Halloween. Which means you, too, can head to that lighthouse in the city in any possible getup without fear of being inappropriate. So c’mon over and have some fun.

 

Zelda’s

542 Church St.

Posted by Lorette C. Luzajic at 1:33 PM  0 Comment(s)


Friday, October 24, 2008

I Dream of Mi Mi's


It seems unanimous from the laminated reviews on Mi Mi’s walls that this garish little orange and coral hole-in-the-wall is cheap, clean, delicious and “undiscovered.” My discovery goes back a year or so, when the search for nourishing noodles and delectable Vietnamese cuisine led me to its humble locale near Gerrard and Broadview. The brown and rust walls boast a glossy panorama of Vietnam and an aquarium with giant fish give a bit of personality that’s sorely lacking among a few round or rectangular glass-topped tables. At the entrance, an altar spilling with oranges gives dues to the gods, and it would be advisable for you, too, to give your thanks when Mi Mi brings its fare to your table. This is outstanding food for the budget-conscious, and even those who can spend more may not care to as this is the best you can buy of Vietnamese in Toronto. There are hundreds of items, and you can go often, as the prices range from a couple of bucks to a whopping $9.50 for the largest platter on the menu.

On a hot day, the lychees with ice sounds a cool and exotic offset for the obligatory steaming tea, and sure enough, it is exactly what is described- a glass full of crushed ice and sweet, delicious lychees. Soup is a sure bet for a starter, but don’t order anything other than small- they’re meals on their own. I tried the shrimp dumplings with rice and egg noodles, but the more adventurous can try lean rare beef with beef balls if they like. There’s at least 30 soup options, so don’t be alarmed if you can’t brave the assortments of balls and tendons or pig organs and pickled cabbage on the menu.  

The shredded pork spring rolls were also huge, rolled in rice wraps with an abundance of fresh mint. I smothered mine in the sriracha chili sauce that sits invitingly on the table. A cool, watery and sweet fish sauce with shredded carrots helped with the ensuing internal fire. Now that I was full, the main course arrived. This time I tried the BBQ beef and BBQ pork with vermicelli and bean sprouts. Most dishes come with rice or with vermicelli noodles- both are wonderful. The BBQ selections are perfectly seasoned and I could gorge myself on nothing but mouth-watering meat, but I’ll leave that to Homer Simpson. Mi Mi’s is famous for Sugarcane Shrimp, and rightfully so. For me, it’s a toss-up with the BBQ fare, but I can readily avoid other authentic homeland options like stir-fired spicy pig intestines and “special assorted meats”- I wish I was braver, because Asian diners are definitely enjoying their aromatic platters, and I know those weird animal parts are packed with nutrients.

Only if you haven’t eaten for a week should you order the do-it-yourself platters. With rice wraps, chopped mint, basil, shredded veggies, vermicelli, peanuts,  and options of sausage, BBQ, shrimp and those “special assorted meats”, you stuff your own roll-ups before stuffing your gut. I enjoyed the ritual immensely, and liked trying the different tabletop vinegars and seasonings on my creations.

After dinner, head across the street to the markets- you’ll want to pick up bok choy, shallots, mint, peppers, rice papers, seasonings, and lychees and more to Do It Yourself at home. The shocking thing is that the stuff is nearly free- I bought two bags of greens and fruits and it came to $2.94. That leaves plenty to squeeze in another trip to Mi Mi’s later this week.

Mi Mi’s Restaurant
688 Gerrard Street East, Toronto

Posted by Lorette C. Luzajic at 1:26 PM  0 Comment(s)


Friday, October 24, 2008

Stratengers at Queen and Leslie


This sprawling behemoth is the local watering hole for east-enders. Film types, serial daters, and down-to-earth east side queers mingle cheerily with heavy metal enthusiasts, heavy smokers, and hockey aficionados.

The patio fence provides a place for Fido to join in the fun. The unpretentious and unhurried enjoy a variety of classic and microbrewery treats alongside harder drinkers who line the bar and spill their stories to the down-home hotties who serve them.

Outsiders strolling past can’t tell that this two-patio, two-storey casual destination spot also has some of the best food in Toronto, and that’s too bad- heading to a pricier, uppity Leslieville destination for dibs may well be disappointing. The breakfast and brunch fare is rivaled only by Okay-Okay across the street, and they are never open so the choice is clear. The pizza has been voted Best Pizza on Queen Street, and that says a great deal considering a zillion pizza spots line the trendier west stretch of Queen. Lovingly perfected in a wood fire oven, the gourmet pies are worth a drive over even if you’re in another part of town.

Strats is suitably dim and dingy for a post-breakup drowning with house jewel Jessie handing over the tequila shots and delivering brew in giant frosted glasses. This gorgeous Georgia peach is actually Irish and often wears green accordingly, and her tough yet tender attention is everything you can ask for in this topsy-turvy world. Once she hands over your Gourmet American slices, oddly topped with tandoori chicken, prosciutto and bocconcini cheese, you’ll be planning the rest of your week around Stratengers’ menu.

You can’t beat the homemade burgers and fries or poutine, either, but patrons return for the unexpected excellence of the Indian-style fare that dominates the second half of the selection. Stratengers never followed the idea of focusing the menu on one outstanding feature- instead, this unassuming mess hall serves up India, North America and Italian with equal aplomb. Snack fare takes you until midnight with satisfying jalapeño poppers or garlic dip with naan if you’ve no room for pizza. The nachos might be the only miss on a menu of hits.

Don’t expect to rush- at times Jessie and friends are serving a huge crowd and you’ll wait your turn (though your draft will be in hand). That’s your chance to converse with friendly locals and yokels on the heated patio upstairs in cooler weather or enjoy the season’s sunshine on a shaded patio at the side. Other times you’ll be at the only occupied table in the joint and marvel at the speed of light service. Stratengers is truly a landmark institution, pairing gourmet edibles and classic pub fare with your liquid lunch. Once you find them, neither the pricier nor the divier establishments nearby will have a chance in hell.


Posted by Lorette C. Luzajic at 1:07 PM  0 Comment(s)


Friday, October 24, 2008

Toronto's Sneaky Dees, Home of the Nacho

It’s doubtful you’ll find better nachos than the ones at Sneaky Dees, even if you traveled far and wide. For 20 years, this local watering hole for artists, ruffians, and indie musicians has served up world famous nachos and cheap beer. They would never skimp on the cheese or sour cream: the plate comes loaded with chopped veggies and ground beef if you want it, and the jalepenos are absolutely addictive. (Vegetarian or vegan patrons don’t need to miss out- the vegan nachos are pretty good.) A nacho platter can serve three starving sailors, and makes a hearty snack for a whole table of tipsy revelers. The drawback is that you’ll never, ever be satisfied ordering nachos anywhere else- they will seem rather pathetic once you’ve had these.

Sneaky Dees, a family-owned operation located at College and Bathurst, is a vast spectacle of graffiti, battered old tables, colourful murals, and loud, cheerful patrons from all walks of life. The crowd is notoriously mixed- families, notebook-toting goth poets, couples kissing or arguing, barely-legals chugging draft, slick producer types with laptops- as is the music performed upstairs and on the speaker systems in the dining area. You might hear some punk, or you might hit Bowie hour or some blues. The service is notoriously slow- there are lots of hungry mouths to feed- so don’t hit busy hours if you’re in a hurry. Sneaky Dees time is not Bay Street time, but plenty of suits head here anyhow for an unrivaled menu.

While Sneaky’s has long been synonymous with nachos and fajitas (half price on Tuesdays), even the basic breakfast somehow tastes better than anybody else’s eggs and toast. Other standouts include the Pepe’s Pocket sandwich, oozing with cheesy goodness, stellar handcut fries, old-fashioned milkshakes, and the best damn potato skins on the planet. These perfectly baked spuds come hollowed out and loaded with your choice of black beans, guacamole, frijoles, veggie chilli and more- and they’re smothered in sour cream and melted cheese. The chicken wings provide a bit of competition for the nachos if you’ve got a jug of beer- but be careful about ordering both unless you can carry a few pounds of take-home. Sneaky’s doesn’t believe that good things come in small packages.

Posted by Lorette C. Luzajic at 1:02 PM  0 Comment(s)


Friday, October 24, 2008

Sunday Soup

Sunday Soup

Making soup on Sunday afternoon is one of my longstanding traditions. This is where I let the spirit guide me and come up with new concoctions. It is also the best method I have found for using up bits and pieces of food that may go to waste, and ensuring a pot of healthy and accessible eating for the week, should money or time be sparse. I can use up things I didn’t get around to including in a menu, or include an item I didn’t quite know what to do with. It’s a kind of “see what happens soup” that teaches me through experiment what kind of things work or don’t. By having a similar appointment in your own kitchen, you will find for yourself that creativity leads to some fascinating brews and you’ll try new things.

Sunday soup usually begins with something basic, like sautéing onions and garlic in coconut oil or olive oil. I add whatever is hanging around that won’t make it to a bigger menu, like a few stalks of celery or a spare carrot. There may be a lone sweet potato rolling around in the pantry, and I will chop that in. There’s a piece of roast left, so I tear it into small pieces. The cilantro or parsley needs to be used up, so in it goes. I don’t have any plans for a turnip or the half cabbage. This is the place to get vegetables into you and your family that you may not usually use. Use them. Don’t be afraid. Buy a weird vegetable that you don’t know what to do with, and get it into your Sunday soup.

Try collard greens or kale, zucchini, eggplant, squash. Scrape the corn off of the one remaining cob. Throw in any leftovers from Saturday’s lunch. Be daring and try something you might not think of- there’s two eggs left in the carton, so mix them with some broth and water and add them to your soup. This adds flavour and protein if your soup is meatless. Soup is the place to sneak beans and legumes in painlessly. Do it. Vary the type of bean every week. Get rid of those small frozen portions of veggies that are left in the freezer.

Your grandmother would never have used a soup cube, and neither should you. They’re made of plastic, flavoured to taste like something, and totally devoid of nutrients. Start picking up bones at a nearby butcher, and get that old-fashioned broth into you. Simmering stock with bones means your soup will contain unparalleled nutritional value. “Science validates what our grandmothers knew. Rich homemade chicken broths help cure colds. Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons--stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain,” writes Sally Fallon in her amazing piece, Broth is Beautiful. (http://www.westonaprice.org/foodfeatures/broth.html). Broth is easy to make and inexpensive, and making it part of your Sunday soup habit will ensure health and flavour!

Sunday soup can be a chunky stew, or blend the whole thing into a nice puree. You can add milk or cream for “cream of vegetable” or a cauliflower to create the creamy effect, or both. No one will know after it’s blended. Or blend part of the soup and leave part of it chunky. This is particularly delicious.

Get some spices and herbs into your soup. Experiment freely here. Use turmeric and some curry if your soup has squashes and potatoes inside of it. If there’s meat, use paprika. Try some caraway seeds. Bay leaves are always a good bet. Try sage, terragon, basil, marjoram, cayenne pepper, dill. Stick with a few at a time, and taste along the way. You won’t ruin the soup- just add sparingly and then increase flavours to taste. If the flavours aren’t melding, throw in a few tablespoons of butter. The vitamin A content and the good fat helps the body absorb nutrients from vegetables and helps to marry the flavours.

Let your soup simmer for a few hours, then stand to cool. Refrigerate over night. Tomorrow you will have a winning soup. Some Sundays will yield a more delicious soup than others, but you will always have a nourishing pot of food. Freeze a few portions so you have ‘fast food’ on hand when you need it. You will learn along the way what works and what doesn’t. This is a quick and invaluable way to gain cooking experience and include vegetables in every week.

Posted by Lorette C. Luzajic at 12:57 PM  0 Comment(s)

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