August 27, 2015

Blackberry Swirl Cheesecake (with a new video!)

I don't know about where you live, but over here the blackberries are insane this year! 

I've talked about my love of blackberries before, and how they always remind me of my stepdad because he is the most dedicated blackberry picker I've ever met. Whenever I go visit him, no matter the time of year, I know I can always count on an amazing blackberry smoothie for breakfast. All I have to do is open up the freezer to find mountains of blackberries in there, memories of late August afternoons spent foraging. 

I'm a bit lazier about picking and I just gobble them all right away for the most part, but this year I did manage to whip up this cheesecake.

In all honesty, there aren't that many blackberries in the cake. It's really all just about making the swirl. Let's talk about the swirl. I've been making a lot of swirls in my desserts this summer and let me tell you, there's something weirdly meditative, calming, mesmerizing, and totally addictive about swirling colors and textures around. 

I was thinking they should make kids (and grown-ups) who struggle with ADD do swirls. It takes all your attention and concentrates it into one glorious action until your brain is nothing but one liquid color melding into another. Totally gnarly. Totally groovy. Have I lost my mind with swirls? Yes, quite probably. You'll just have to try it to see if I'm exaggerating or not. Happy swirling!

Oh yeah, the recipe. Click right here my dear friends. xox

August 05, 2015

Butterflied Grilled Cornish hen (or chicken)

Many moons ago, I went through a painful break-up and found myself very alone with a sore tender heart on Valentine's Day. I decided I would make myself the fanciest meal I could conjure up and enjoy my own company over candlelight. So I bought a Cornish hen and a great bottle of wine. I stuffed that little bird, roasted it up with some veggies, got out some nice linens, and proceeded to wine and dine myself. It was empowering, delicious, memorable. When I think of it now, it makes me think of this video by the marvellous Andrea Dorfman and Tanya Davis:

That was one of the few times I'd ever eaten Cornish hen, mainly because it's hard to find a source of good local, organic ones. But this summer, I've rekindled my romance with the sweet hen. As it turns out, Cornish hen are not so fancy after all (or even necessarily a hen for that matter), they're actually just a younger version of the regular broiler chicken. I learned that from our friends at the farmer's market who have got me hooked on their organically-raised Cornish hen. They also told me about butterflying the bird (also called spatchcocking, though that sounds kind of naughty doesn't it?) to get quick, even cooking and the most tender meat possible. (And that's saying a lot since Cornish hen is already incredibly moist and tender). 

As a teenager, I always had a song that embodied the feeling of each summer, usually whatever song was being played on the radio the most. I still do that. (In case you're wondering, this is my summer 2015 song). In the same vein, there's sometimes one dish that embodies a particular summer. And this summer's is most definitely this butterflied Cornish hen grilled on wood coals.

I feel like I'm only just now emerging from a somber couple of weeks. First, there was the recent passing of the DARK Act in Congress which was like a punch in the stomach. In case you missed my last post, the DARK Act would kill GMO labelling in America, making it illegal for individual states to have mandatory GMO labelling. So if it gets through the Senate, then Vermont, Maine, and Connecticut's GMO labelling laws would be overturned. The bill was heavily sponsored by big food companies (Kraft, Kellogg's, Coca-Cola, etc) and of course, the folks at Monsanto who seem willing to put any amount of money down to make sure the public won't know which foods contain their GMOs. The only hope now is to convince Senators to vote against this un-democratic bill so it doesn't go into law.

Then, the week after the DARK Act passed, our piglets got attacked by what we think was a coyote. One of them was badly injured and we spent several days trying to nurse him back to health. After three long days performing gruesome wound cleanings of the kind I would have never thought myself capable of, and three long nights sleeping in the tent close to their pen to make sure coyotes didn't come back for them, we made the heartbreaking decision to put the little guy down. I spent the whole day in tears, wondering if we were doing the right thing, if we should keep trying to nurse him back to health, or if we should have put him out of his misery much sooner. During those days of tending to his wounds, I got very attached to him and to the hope that he would make a comeback. He was our favorite from the start: the runt of the pack, small, freckled, with ears so floppy we called him Eeyore. I hope he is in a better place now.

It was my first experience with injured farm animals and making such a difficult decision. It made me question how I feel about eating meat since even if little Eeyore had gotten better, he would have eventually been slaughtered for meat. I've always believed that if a person chooses to be a carnivore, they should be aware of where their meat comes from and what kind of life the animal had. Getting to know a living being whose life you are one day going to take raises all kinds of questions about meat-eating that I've long struggled with, even more so now. My rationale for choosing to eat meat boils down to three main things. The first is that animals kill each other for food in the wild, and we are (albeit more and more distantly) part of that natural world. The second is that many vegetarians I know have experienced severe vitamin B12 deficiencies, having to take supplements in order to get better and I'd rather not cut anything out of my diet that could make me deficient in key nutrients. And finally, purely selfishly, because it tastes so damn good. But not all meat is created equal and eating meat should come with a responsibility. The responsibility to source it carefully, from animals that have lived a happy, healthy life outdoors, with access to fresh air and pasture and who have been slaughtered quickly, painlessly, and humanely. Any day, I would choose a vegetarian diet over eating generic factory-farmed meat, especially given this alarming recent development.

During the three difficult days of nursing our piglet, I spoke to a very kind vet on the phone, a guardian angel who talked us through our options. As he said, choosing to end an animal's life is not an easy thing to do, but an instant death is likely preferable to slow prolonged suffering. And when I think about it, that's probably what I would choose for myself if I were so badly injured. What's for sure is that the bacon we'll be eating this winter will be even more appreciated than ever before.

And while we wait for that tasty bacon, you'll find me grilling the world's most juicy tender Cornish hen, thanks to our friends at Common Wealth Farm.

Click here for my recipe.

Make a tiny wish! Cornish hen wishbone...
Three plump Cornish hen!