Monday, November 17, 2008

Whey more to eat

Aren't these pickles beautiful? I packed them yesterday and am patiently waiting for them to ferment so I can have a taste. They are pickled with salt, water and whey extracted from the yoghurt I have been making, a pickling process called lacto-fermentation. Right now, the jar is sitting at room temperature in a kitchen cupboard, pickling away. I get to taste them tomorrow evening.

I got my recipes for pickling from a cookbook called Nourishing Traditions. It's a political cookbook, designed to “challenge politically correct nutrition and the diet dictocrats.” The author, Sally Fallon, argues in favour of a diet high in animal fats, gelatin-rich broths, raw meat and lacto-fermented foods such as pickles and yoghurts to support good health. She explains herself in just under 700 pages, providing not just recipes but loads of references and justification for her version of the ideal diet. Regardless of whether or not she's right, I'm grateful to have found a philosophy of eating that is based on how my ancestors ate. It tastes right.

I have been enjoying eating two other foods lately:

1. Yoghurt cheese
I have been making yoghurt for several months now with my yoghurt maker, a very simple process that yields fabulous fresh yoghurt with no added thickeners or gelatins. Yoghurt cheese (or Greek yoghurt, or labaneh) is simply strained plain yoghurt. I put 500mL of plain yoghurt into a sieve lined with paper towels and let it stand over a bowl on the counter for several hours. The liquid that drips out of the yoghurt is whey, which is high in lactic acid and bacterial cultures and can be used for pickling, so keep it if you're interested (you can also drink it: it's very nutritious). The resulting yoghurt cheese will be thick like cream cheese and can be spread on bread, muffins and pancakes, added to dips and dressings or enjoyed on its own with honey (this is how the Greeks eat it). Two cups of yoghurt strained yields one cup of yoghurt cheese.

2. Chick pea soup
I've been making this recipe weekly for over a month and we don't get tired of it. It's filling and hearty: just the soup for cold fall days. Use vegetable stock or bouillon cubes if you prefer to chicken stock. The resulting soup will lack the animal protein but will be just as tasty.

Serves 4

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1 28-oz can chick peas, drained and rinsed
1/2 28-oz can whole tomatoes
1 L chicken stock
1/2 tsp each dried rosemary and thyme
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot over medium heat, warm the oil and add the garlic. When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the chick peas, tomatoes, stock and herbs. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil then simmer, lid on, for 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and add the oil and parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Chicken Diaries

This is me and Kiyan, fellow chicken lover. I met Kiyan last night on the bus platform at St. Clair West station. He was sitting on the wooden bench with several grocery bags open beside him, eating feverishly. Inside one of the bags was a roast chicken, and he was pulling strips of meat off with his hands and slapping them between pieces of torn baguette before shoving them into his mouth. I could not resist meeting a person I recognized as my doppelganger, someone who shares a primal need for poultry. When I motioned to him that I wanted to sit, he moved some of his parcels aside to make room for me, all without interrupting his consumption. I said, pointing to the bird: “That is my absolute favourite thing to eat in the world,” and without hesitation, he asked me if I wanted some. He must have sensed my sincerity, recognized a fellow compatriot. How could I refuse?

As we ate, we told chicken stories. We shared memories of past chicken feasts. I told him of the divine combination of roast chicken and hummus, along with my Death Row Chicken meal, which he heartily agreed would be his last request as well. We identified our favourite parts of the chicken (he the drumsticks, which he had already eaten; me the oysters on the back, which he graciously shared). He proclaimed his love of Swiss Chalet gravy, only to be intrigued by my tales of St. Hubert, a rare find in this province, and their more subtle, savoury sauce.

When the bus arrived, we moved our meal inside, and continued talking and eating. The woman across from us offered napkins, which proved woefully inadequate in wiping off the grease that dripped off our hands. When my stop arrived, I left, reluctantly. I felt sad knowing that this encounter was rare in our neat, reserved, business-as-usual city. Kiyan, thanks not just for the chicken, but for reminding me that sometimes it's worth getting a bit messy to enjoy the things you love.