Aug 13

Fava Beans Facts

Did you know? The fava bean or broad bean was the only bean known to Europe until the discovery of the New World. You might have also encountered them under a few other names: broad bean, faba bean, field bean, bell bean, or tic bean.

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And did you know? Fava beans are unusual in having thick, tough seed coats. Blanching them in alkaline water loosens and softens the coat to reveal a lovely and tender pod.


The Good Food Revolution has a quicky recipe for fava beans on crostini.

Jan 12

Did Choux Know?

Did you know?  Choux is the French word for “cabbage,” and choux pastry forms little irregular cabbage-like balls that are hollow inside like popovers. Unlike popovers, choux pastry becomes firm and crisp when baked. It provides the classic container for cream fillings in such pastries as cream puffs (profiteroles) and éclairs, and also makes such savory bites as cheese-flavored gougères and deep-fried beignets, whose lightness inspired the name pets de nonne, “nun’s farts.”

Choux paste was apparently invented in the medieval times, and is prepared in a very distinctive way. It’s a cross between a batter and a dough, and is cooked twice: once to prepare the paste itself, and once to transform the paste into hollow puffs. A large amount of water and some fat are brought to a boil in a pan, the flour is added, and the mixture stirred and cooked over low heat until it forms a cohesive ball of dough. Several eggs are then beaten sequentially into the dough until it becomes very soft, almost a batter. This paste is then formed into balls or other shapes and baked in a hot oven or deep-fried. As with the popover, the surface sets while the interior is still nearly liquid, so the trapped air coalesces and expands into one large bubble.

The technique for preparing choux may seem tediously elaborate, but it’s a brilliant invention. It produces an especially rich and moist paste that the cook can shape and cook into a hollow, crisp vessel for other ingredients. Cooking the flour with water and fat tenderizes the gluten proteins, preventing them from developing elasticity, and it swells and gelates the starch to turn what would normally be a batter into a dough. The subsequent addition of raw eggs contributes the richness of the yolks and the cohesive, structure-building proteins of the whites, and things the dough into a near-batter so that air pockets in the interior will be able to move and coalesce during cooking. During the baking, the fat helps crisp and flavor the outer surface. And both eggs and fat contribute to a structure that resists moisture and stays crisp while holding the cream filling.

From “On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen” by Harold McGee

And for your listening pleasure, here is Corinne Bailey Rae singing her song, “Choux Pastry Heart”.

Jan 12

Blood Oranges

Did you know? Blood oranges have been grown in the southern Mediterranean at least since the 18th century, and may have originated there or in China. They’re now the major type of orange grown in Italy. Blood oranges owe the deep maroon color of their juice to anthocyanin pigments, which develop only when temperatures are low, in the Mediterranean autumn and winter.

The pigments tend to accumulate at the blossom end and in vesicles immediately next to the segment walls, and continue to accumulate after harvest when the fruits are held in cold storage. The pigments and their phenolic precursors give blood oranges a higher antioxidant value than other oranges. The unique flavor of blood oranges combines citrus notes with a distinct raspberry-like aroma.

From “On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen” by Harold McGee

Sep 11

Mochi Mochi

Did you know? This is a mochi cake.

I grew up eating these, but there are many varieties. They originate from Japan but are a popular dessert/snack in other parts of Asia, including my parents’ hometown, Hong Kong.

Mochi is made from pounding steamed rice into a smooth paste, where it might then be flavoured or filled with something sweet like peanuts and sugar (my favourite), or red bean paste perhaps.

It is then moulded into a round and dusted with flour, sugar or coconut.

They are a glutinous texture. Sticky, actually.

So if you don’t like odd textures, it’s best you avoid them.

There’s a spot called Fong on Foods in Kensington Avenue at St. Andrew that makes them in-house. The shop is a bit of a hole in the wall and a little rough around the edges, but a total gem. They also make other rice-products in-house like rice noodle rolls and rice cake, plus tofu and soy milk. Steaming wooden vats line the long and narrow kitchen.

More on mochi here

Fong on Foods Ltd.
46 Kensington Avenue, at St. Andrew

Feb 11

Think of the Bees

Did you know that one in three bites of your food is made by honeybees? That their pollination is necessary to eat lovely things like pears and plums and apples and watermelon? Perhaps not. Perhaps when you think of bees you think of being stung. And did you know that there is something called Colony Collapse Disorder where bees are just dying?

Michael Pollan says that it’s an unmistakable sign that our food system is unsustainable – that bees are an indicator of our earth’s health.

I’ve been lucky enough to be exposed to the fascinating world of apiary because we used to have some hives of our own down at Brick Works. They return to us again this year after some time a way as we were under construction.

When I saw the trailer to the documentary “Vanishing of the Bees”, I knew that our site would be the best spot for a screening. And so here’s the official invite and link to registration. On Thursday, March 17th at 7:00pm we’ll be showing this very important documentary. Panel discussion to follow. Hope you can make it.

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