Posts Tagged ‘Home Cooking’

Posted on September 1, 2011 - by

When Waltzing with the Naked Chef, Hold On to Your Seachoice Seafood Guide

Photo: Blue Water Cafe

Today’s guest post is courtesy of Ana Simeon from Sierra Club BC and Seachoice.

You’re watching your favourite cooking show and the chef is putting together something mouth-watering like “Pan-Seared Chilean Seabass” or “Grilled Monkfish with Olive Sauce.”

Enthused, you may be tempted to rush out to get the Chilean seabass. With candles and wine, the meal is a success and your culinary prowess toasted by your family and guests. And then a niggling thought pricks the bubble of contentment: isn’t Chilean seabass on the taboo list? You look up “Chilean Seabass” on your Seachoice iPhone app and, true enough, there’s a long laundry list of crimes against the ocean – from illegal overfishing (over 50% of Chilean seabass on the market is thought to be illegally obtained) to by-catch of internationally endangered wandering albatross and grey-headed albatross. Oh dear, oh dear!

Although many chefs are beginning to take ocean health into account when concocting their creations, this is a process that has taken root most strongly at the restaurant level, but has yet to penetrate the TV networks.

Does it mean you have to stop watching those benighted cooking shows? Not at all. For every red-listed fish there is a delicious, and more sustainable, alternative waiting to take its place. For example, sablefish has been described as the “fish version of chocolate” and its smooth, silky taste (with 50% more Omega 3’s than salmon) more than holds its own against the commercially touted Chilean seabass. To get you started, here’s a recipe for Caramelized Sablefish with Tangy Orange-Tamarind Sauce from Vancouver’s fabled Blue Water Café:

As a cooking show viewer, you’re also in a perfect position to educate chefs and networks about sustainable seafood. Call in or drop them an email – spread the word!

The table below lists ocean-friendly substitutes for red-listed seafood in your favourite recipes:

Red-Listed Species Best Choice Alternative
Chilean Seabass Sablefish(AK, BC)
Cobia (US Farmed)
King Crab Dungeness Crab (Canada; US West Coast)
Flounder or Sole Halibut (Pacific)
Marlin (Blue or Striped) Swordfish (harpoon and handline from Canada,
North Atlantic and East Pacific)
Monkfish Sablefish (AK, BC)
Orange Roughy Pacific Cod (Alaska)
Red Snapper Tilapia (US farmed)

We’d love to hear of your experiences substituting these ocean-friendly choices! Email us at or comment below.

Ana Simeon works as communications coordinator and grassroots organizer for Sierra Club BC and Seachoice, a coalition of five internationally respected Canadian conservation organizations working to shift the market to sustainable seafood. Ana also writes for BC print and online media on environmental topics. Providing social media and online content for Seachoice taps into her passion for local food, food security and all things culinary.

Ana enjoys hiking, bird-watching, and grows a sizeable vegetable garden with her husband Tom. On cold, rainy days, she keeps to her fireside with a book from her extensive collection of 1930 British detective fiction.


Posted on June 19, 2011 - by

Getting Newbie Cooks (and Dads!) into the Kitchen

Man with a Pan

Smoke, fire and sharp knives—I’ve always felt cooking is one of the most awesomely impressive things that men can do. Unfortunately, too many of them shy away from the kitchen. So in celebration of Father’s Day, we’re bringing a great new book on dads and cooking to your attention. John Donohue’s Man with a Pan is a riveting collection of comedic escapades and accidental discoveries as men enter the kitchen. From Mark Bittman‘s lessons on the four stages of cooking to Stephen King‘s tips on using a microwave, the anthology captures the joys of learning to cook, the frustrations of inevitable mistakes, and the rewards of feeding your hungry family.

What about you? Do you know a reluctant cook? Are you inexperienced but willing to try? Inspired by Man with a Pan, we’ve come up with some tips to encourage everyone, from kids to busy parents to granddads, to start playing with fire. Here’s how to start cooking while improving your food, health and family life:

  1. Start with great ingredients.

    It takes little work to develop robust flavors when you begin with high quality ingredients. Be sure to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables, artisanal cheeses and sustainably-raised meats.

  2. Brush up on the basics.

    For a primer on the foundations of cooking, check out Dad’s Own Cookbook. For a more advanced treatment, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything shows you, well, how to cook everything.

  3. Read through the recipe thoroughly.

    Preferably twice. In the beginning, start with simple recipes, the kind with five ingredients and one cooking method. Follow the directions rigorously for a few rounds, then when you’re comfortable, begin improvising with new ingredients.

  4. Work clean.

    Always keep your workspace clean. Have small bowls for sorting ingredients and a larger bowl for trash, so that it doesn’t crowd your cutting board.

  5. Ask your family and friends for advice.

    That mouthwatering pot of rice and beans that Aunt Carla always makes? Turns out the secret is using parboiled long-grain rice. How does your neighbor make his perfectly juicy roast chicken? It might have something to do with the whole lemon he threw inside. What other tricks can they pass on to you?

  6. Keep a stocked pantry.

    Even if you’re in a rush and don’t have time to pick up fresh groceries, you can make a satisfying meal using only dry and canned ingredients. For instance, if you have canned tomatoes, olives, capers, anchovies and pasta on hand, you can easily make pasta puttanesca.

  7. Use your freezer.

    To save time, you can make large batches of food and freeze it in portion-sized containers. This works for everything from bolognese sauce to black beans, as well as soups, stocks, stews and most purees. You can also freeze staple carbohydrates like bread and rice.

  8. Enlist free labor, er, get the kids involved.

    You don’t have to do it alone! Have your kids participate in making dinner with simple tasks like washing vegetables, tearing herbs or peeling potatoes. You may find that picky eaters are more willing to eat foods that they’ve helped prepare.

For more information and recipes, check out Donohue’s site, Stay at Stove Dad.

If this tip was helpful, or you have more suggestions on how to encourage new cooks, drop us a comment below!


Posted on March 28, 2011 - by

D.I.Y. Cooking: Where to Begin and Why

Illustration: Andrew Rae / NYT

A recent New York Times Dining feature called the D.I.Y. Cooking Handbook caught my attention. “How is that different from any other cookbook?” I wondered. “Isn’t cooking in and of itself a D.I.Y. endeavor?”

Apparently not. “What follows is a D.I.Y. starter kit,” author Julia Moskin explained, “small kitchen projects that any cook can tackle.” The 13 accompanying recipes included instructions on making your own fresh cheese, maple vinegar, tomato chili jam, and cultured butter.

These are recipes not for whole dishes, but for ingredients. Most of us pick these things up in boxes or bottles at the grocery store, either too busy or too daunted, never dreaming that we might be able to produce them in our own kitchens at home. In my own case, it’s a little bit of each. Why go to the trouble of making your own butter when you can buy it with so much less effort?

Yet there is something irresistible to me about the idea of relearning the forgotten skills of cooking. Like cracking the code of a dead language or publishing something in samizdat, it feels a little subversive. Dangerous, even.

While none of Moskin’s recipes require canning, curing meat, or foraging for wild food, these are logical next steps for the D.I.Y. cooking enthusiast. And that’s when the whiff of danger associated with producing your own ingredients takes on a more menacing character. Because most of us did not learn at our mother’s knee how to judge whether a pickle jar has sealed properly or what sorts of mold are safe to scrape off pancetta, we fear that we will not be able to tell if something goes wrong. Movies like Into the Wild, where (spoiler alert!) a seasoned woodsman eats poisonous wild potato seeds and dies of starvation, don’t inspire confidence either.

Moskin recognizes this fear of the unknown, and the article’s illustration acknowledges it tacitly too: a placid-faced figurine chops recognizable ingredients on an invisible countertop, reminiscent of instructional drawings on exercise machines. The message is clear: there’s no need to fear because you’ll be guided through every step of the process.

While I don’t pine nostalgically for a return to the days when my ancestors on the Minnesota prairie worked from dawn to dusk just to feed themselves and their sixteen children (I’m not exaggerating), I do envy their skills, if only because there’s something uniquely satisfying about producing nourishment with your own two hands. What’s more, I envy the way kitchen wisdom was passed down then— face to face, spoon to spoon.

So after I’ve made enough batches of kimchee and crème fraîche to feel confident that my experiments in D.I.Y. cooking aren’t going to kill anyone, I’m resolving to teach someone else. The Internet is a wonderful tool, but it’s no substitute for a watchful eye and someone to lick the bowl with.


Posted on November 16, 2009 - by

12 Things Kids Should Learn on their Own about Food

By: Orren Fox
Guest Blogger: Orren Fox is 12 years old and lives in NoBo (North of Boston). He goes to school where there is a greenhouse and a bee hive! Orren has 24 chickens and four ducks (three Call Ducks and one beautiful Mandarin). He is really interested in farming and the ethical treatment of animals. Orren would love to change the way egg layers and meat birds are raised. He says he has a lot to learn. He blogs and tweets about these issues.

There are all sorts of really interesting things to learn about food, actually I imagine you might not have really THOUGHT about food. Maybe someone hasn’t taught you about food. Most kids would rather think about other stuff.

But just for a minute, right now, stop and ask yourself – What did I have for breakfast? Ok now, think – Where did all those ingredients come from? Who made that bagel? What time did they have to get up? Where did that egg come from? Where did the chicken live and how did it live? If you knew the animal was poorly treated would that make a difference? Or not? Where did the orange juice travel from? Florida? California? Have you ever traveled to those states? Is it a long way from California or Florida to your house? How much gas did it use to ship the OJ that far?

All really interesting questions I think.
1. Vegetables taste great with butter and cheese

Honestly, what doesn’t. Even asparagus, really even asparagus. I know there are some people who will say butter and cheese aren’t healthy, but hey I’m a kid and actually I think these are true foods or “real foods.” They aren’t chemically made in a laboratory. They come from recipes not chemical compounds or lab experiments. Maybe that is too harsh. But I understand eggs and cheese, I know where they come from. I don’t know what SODIUM TRIPOLYPHOSPHATE is, so I Googled it (here is what Wikipedia says – Polyphosphates are moderately irritating to skin and mucous membrane because of their alkalinity). Hmm. Not really interested in eating that.

Actually most veggies that you grow yourself or that come from your neighborhood farm taste completely different than those from the buckets in the supermarket. I actually think the veggies in the supermarket don’t really taste like much. A carrot that was harvested yesterday tastes very different from one that was harvested a few weeks ago, then spent the next few days on a truck, then the next few days sitting in the supermarket. I think the flavor must just drain out of everything as time passes. Also in the supermarket there are very few types of veggies or fruits. Very rarely would you see a Green Zebra or a Brandywine, and those are just tomato variations! Each of these variations tastes completely different, we are only really offered one or two types of tomatoes at the supermarket. These two types of tomatoes are the kinds that travel well and that are easiest to ripen or harvest. I actually don’t like the kind in the supermarket, I like Brandywines. They are sweeter.

I think kids might like veggies if they could choose the varieties they like, but they can’t because the choice is so small. I wouldn’t eat tomatoes if I could only eat the kind in the supermarket.

2. Food taste better when you grow it yourself

Food tastes better because your work is in it. I am an impatient gardener, so for me the food tastes great because I have had to wait for it to go from seeds to seedlings to flowers to fruit to ripe fruit. Somehow that makes it taste like you did it. So i guess there is a little bit of pride in those vegetables.