Archive for the ‘Grains’ Category

Local Organic Pasta


Bias disclaimer. I think John and his farm are fantastic. There, I’ve said it. If you want to formulate your own opinion on him and his farm, watch the From Local Farms episode about their farm. Yesterday was the FIRST time their farm attended a farmer’s market EVER. Which marked the first time their organic local flours were available on some form of retail level to folks like us. Some well respected bakers around town were hooked up – but now it’s our turn. I’m excited.

Local organic grain is important to me. I’ve often driven around the outskirts of the city, looking at the crops around town, wondering why they didn’t supply our local market with top-end food. Gold Forest Grains is one of the few farmers that are extremely local to Edmonton, which presents a challenge with the inherent high costs of production [anyone notice real estate isn't cheap around here?].

So I left the market with their current lineup: organic whole grain wheat [hard red spring], organic whole grain rye, organic whole grain pastry/pasta flour [soft white wheat], and flax. They also produce legumes, farm-killed organic beef, and other things worth paying attention to as they get their products to the local market.

This morning we tackled whole grain rye pancakes, as John had written about on his blog. Lovely, and I recommend cooking them for quite a bit longer than you would for other pancakes, as the crust that forms on the rye is truly delicious, and they don’t tend to overcook quickly. Quite the opposite. But I had promised John some whole grain pasta from his flour. My daughters would eat pasta with butter and salt exclusively if I allowed it. The potential for their pasta consumption to go 100% local and loaded with fiber and nutrients appealed to my paternal instincts.

First off, Gold Forest Grains‘ organic pasta flour is not what what I’m accustomed to working with. I normally use Divella Tipo ’00′ for pasta. It provides silky awesomeness and feels like air. This stuff, not surprisingly, has fiber. Density. It’s coarser than I’m used to and honestly, I thought I was in for a disaster when I tried to put it through the first thickness of my hand-crank pasta maker. Solution: start it by rolling with a rolling pin. From there, it went far better. I ended on both thickness settings 4 and 6 with equal success, and cut it into a fettucine width with no problem.

Oh. Recipe. Right. 250g flour, 2 Green Eggs & Ham duck eggs, and a couple pinches of salt. Bring it together, and let it rest for a few hours. That’s as ‘recipe’ as I get.

Bottom line on the pasta making: it’s a different beast. I’m going to be messing with a combo of Tipo ‘OO’ to try to regain some of the texture – due to fussy toddlers more than for adult palates. I’ll also be sifting out the bran to make a finer dough – I’ll reserve it for pancakes where it doesn’t have the same mouthfeel impact. I’ll admit I was relieved when the toddlers finished their bowls, as despite all my efforts, they are still fussy little kids, and having them pound back stuff that’s healthful and local is still an achievement. Success, but tempered with room for improvement.

Lastly, ever the cheapass, the economics are necessary to forever prove a point. Cost of flour: $1.32. Cost of eggs: $1.33. Total: $2.65. Would serve 5, or $0.53/head. For organic local food. Not cheap enough? Make the noodles with water, and get to $0.26/head. Point is, organic, local foods need not break the bank. It can be done.

Ethical, Regional, and Cheaper: Flour


A few short years ago, I thought the often ~400% price premium for organics was so ridiculous that I simply wasn’t willing to pay for it, even if it was supposedly better for me. Times have changed, and two things have happened: 1] education has made me willing pay the price and 2] I found ways to not have to pay the price.

The second bit is the better of the two, isn’t it? I think so. Having one’s cake and eating it too feels darn good. The more I source my family’s food outside the walls of a box-store, the more I find opportunities to procure ethically produced, local, and often organic products for roughly what I was used to paying inside those box-store walls. Most certainly at a fraction of what I’d pay at a retail organic store. This is very important to me, not simply because our family can eat better food for little extra money, but because it has proven to me that the price objection I once felt – which I’d wager keeps a lot of folks away from organics - need not exist. There’s a better way to access organic, local food. It is accessible. I do it every day.

For your consideration I offer the following example. Highwood Crossing‘s organic unbleached white flour, of which I just obtained 40kg, with shipping, $38/20kg bag. That’s $1.90/kg. A local-to-me organic producer Sunny Boy, goes for $8/1.8kg bag at retailer, or $4.44/kg. The photo below shows Robin Hood flour at a national grocer at a regular price of $9.99/5kg, or $2/kg. Wait a minute. Isn’t that more than the $1.90/kg for local, organically grown product?!? Why yes, yes it is.

The bottom line is that I’m now happy to pay more for top quality grains from local producers like this. I’m not interested in feeding my kids sprayed grain or encouraging non-sensible agricultural practices in general, if I can avoid it, which I can. But for those resisting local or organic or ethical food based on price as I did for  along time – please know that with some resourcefulness [like joining a local bulk-ordering club, buying direct from farmers, doing some legwork yourself, or any other method of carving out the overhead and profit of middlemen], you can eat better food without spending a dime more. It can be done.

ps – I obtained the Highwood Crossing flour through a bulk order. I’ve also obtained organic grains here at similar prices. I know folks who’ve done it through local bulk buying clubs, which I hope to be able to provide info on soon. And yes, I know you can buy conventional flour for cheaper than in the photo above, but that’s a bit besides the point, imo.

FROM LOCAL FARMS – Gold Forest Grains


Organic grains from just outside the city – a bit of a dream come true for me. I could buy organic bananas and skads of other items grown overseas, shipped, then trucked to me.  I could buy large sacks of organic flour from Anita’s Organic in Chilliwack, BC. But I couldn’t seem to find a good supplier of larger quantities of organic grains from the vast fields of cereal crops surrounding our city.  It didn’t make sense.

Problem solved. These folks are my new source. This episode was shot between Edmonton and Spruce Grove – other than Sundog Organic Farm actually IN the city limits, these folks are about as local as you can ask given the ridiculously high prices for land around the city. And this past spring, they bought a mill and started selling their products retail. Thank God for that.

As you’ll see, John’s very well spoken and informed, and is fighting the good fight supplying locally farmed organic grain retail rather than solely selling it into the international commodity market. He has an informative blog, which is going to allow me to defer to that for more information, and simply leave you to enjoy listening to John talk about who he is and what he does, addressing some of the issues surrounding grain farming – notably the disconnect between local organic feed and local organic livestock producers that came up in the comments of the Nature’s Green Acres episode.

BBQ Oven Action


I’ve posted about this setup before. But then in all my wisdom, I nearly deleted all of my new wordpress blog-post-blogger-transition. I don’t recommend it. So some of the content from that post, well, died. Permanently.

No matter. I had a good friend coming over for lunch today as I live close to his new City TV gig downtown, and figured the garden salad  on the menu might not tide him through his day. I had a bowl of dough in the fridge – Anita’s Organics stoneground ww, and unbleached white. So some tasty flat bread hopped on the menu. Then one thing led to another, and I’m glad I picked up the HD camera throughout, as it made for a good overview of my eccentric, atypical use of my formerly-propane bbq. And yes, this is the same setup I use to smoke and grill – minus the masonry.

Although I still intend on breaking ground on my wood fired oven project one of these days, this setup certainly made me pause to consider the low-cost, easy access, minimum time investment, sufficient, and sensible approach that can be had with free stuff. I heart kijiji.

Don’t burn your house or somebody else’s down trying this at home and blame it on me. I don’t have propane or natural gas attached, near, or even friends with my bbq. I’m just sayin’.

From Local Farms Project Update


This project is getting pretty big pretty fast, and I couldn’t be more pleased. Starting in September, I’m going to have a blog-doc-short episode featuring each of the following biggest and brightest talents in local artisan food production – and the list is growing daily: Sunworks Farm, Nature’s Green AcresSmoky Valley Goat Cheese, En Santé Winery, Serben Free Range, Sparrow’s Nest Organics, Mighty Trio Organics, Gold Forest Grains, Green Eggs & Ham, and Peck N Berry Acres. These are busy people and it’s a busy time of year, so I really appreciate their willingness to have me show you more about who they are and what they do.

How cool is that.

Dinner Party Menu

A breakdown of the menu for some new friends that came by for dinner last night. Excluding the first course – a salad from the garden…forgot the photo. The first three courses were paired with an alsatian riesling, the following 3 with a right-bank bordeaux. Overall, a lovely night:

berkshire tenderloin on white bean purée, crispy sage
pickled whitefish, dill & chervil
seared antelope, fleur de sel, baby italian parsley
korean kalbi-style antelope on rice
camembert on lovely bread our guests made
chocolate espresso swirl cheesecake with vanilla latté

Hardcore Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Jam & Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Icing

My wife love cupcakes. It was her birthday. I do have the ambition to bake quality cakes one day. And there’s no way in hell this cheap-ass is going to splurge at a local cupcake shop on $3 cupcakes – no way, no how. I made two dozen – so…roughly…$72 worth of cupcakes? As if. I respect the entrepreneurial spirit tremendously, but can’t see the business model supporting this many cupcake shops – ESP in this economy.

ANYWAY. Where do you go when you need ideas for a solid cupcake? Here, of course. The request was for this one. With the vanilla bean cream cheese icing from this one. I undercooked them quite a bit and they were more like moelleux, so I filled the crater with home-made raspberry jam prior to icing them. Super rich, super tasty – but needed some work. So the next day I baked another batch, longer this time, and they were far better. The recipe recommends holding rich chocolate cakes overnight for improved quality – and man are they right. The next day, that second batch rocked.

So if you’re ever in the need for a heavy chocolate cake-y and cream cheese fix – this is a pretty wonderful place to start.

Foccacia di Vernazza

Yep. Bread. Again. This time 1/4 whole wheat, and a quadruple batch. I will find out how many kilos of bread my oven can bake at once one of these days.

Fortunately, not all of it ended up in bread loaves. Not sure what to make for supper, I stole some of the dough, and made a quick foccacia. Man was it good. It brought me right back to a moment on the coast of Italy, sitting down to a seafood salad, when the wait staff brought the entire patio of diners some fresh-out-of-the-oven herbed up foccacia, on the house. A nice gesture that did not go unnoticed by the guests, and so economical and tasty. Smart.

Bread dough [how much? let's say this much]
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
scant 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
pinch of herbes de provence
2 cloves garlic
good pinch of grey salt


Preheat oven to ‘hot’ a good half hour ahead. 400+. Roughly slice the garlic, then toss it into the mortar with the salt and herbes de provence and beat it up until you have a paste. Add half the cheese and the oil. Stir until you have a homogenous paste. Line a tray with parchment. On an oiled clean counter, roughly spread the dough out by pushing your fingers of both hands into it – it should leave finger depressions and look like a crude pizza dough. Put it on the parchment lined tray, and add the paste of good stuff. Spread it. Top it with half of the remaining cheese. Toss it in the oven. When it starts to brown, smell and look good, take it out and spread with the last of the cheese. Cut into thin strips, and serve.

Amended Bread Gig

Long ago, I posted about my ‘usual’ bread recipe. It’s the kind of recipe I’ve made so often I have the numbers in my head. But today I realized that for some time, I’ve making the same modifications to it. So why follow the same recipe all the time if I end up tweaking it anyway? Yeah…no good answer there, is there.

Two main changes to my now current bread gig: triple the quantity [I have a big freezer and more mouths to feed], and about 8-9% more flour. Every time I made the dough it would stick all over the place and I ended up adding more to preserve sanity. The ratios below didn’t need any extra flour while kneading.

1300g flour
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp yeast
840g warm water

Laziness. See the details in post linked above.

Why bake your own bread?

Born-Again French-Pastry-Lover

I never thought I’d write this, but I have to admit that ever since a wonderful pastry shop finally opened up in our town [ICS], I’ve been jaded about eating pastries in France. It’s a loss I’m having to deal with. ‘Not bad, but I can get it better at home‘ is a thought I wish upon nobody who loves to travel and eat. Very similar to making pistachio gelato better than I’ve had it in Italy. Blissful disappointment.

That said – France not to be outdone – showed me two new favorites that I had no idea exsited. Starting with #2 favorite: the Suisse. I had many after the one in the photo [Paris], but this one was the best. Kinda creamy [custard?], chocolate chipy, and croissanty. I’m a fan. If anyone knows how to score one in my province, please advise.

#1 spot, however, went to the Religieuse. The one in the photo had been abused by the box. But it doesn’t matter. It’s a marriage of pate a choux classics: an eclair ball topped with a cream puff. Genius. This genius happened to me in Eguisheim, Alsace.

I owe a debt to both of these items and the people who made them. Perhaps I need to go on a gelato quest to restore my faith in that department.