Author Archives: Charles Macurdy

[Recipe] Canadian Quinoa Stuffed Squash with Sage Brown Butter

07 Oct
Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

A Lighter Take on Fall Comfort Food

 

With Fall, we enter comfort food season. And what is more comfortable on Thanksgiving than a good old-fashioned sage bread stuffing? Some of my most cherished food memories involve sitting down at the holiday table and diving into my mother’s homemade bread stuffing. Gravy, turkey, cranberry sauce, everything else was a means to that comfortable, aromatic goodness.

 

However, that same comforting goodness also tends to make you feel heavy and tired. It also doesn’t make for much of a meal, should you have any vegetarians at the table. Think of the recipe below as a solution to both problems. With the profound aromas of leek, brown butter, and sage, this dish has many of the warm, comforting qualities of an old-fashioned bread stuffing without the heaviness.

 

And for the vegetarians at the table, this dish is packed with protein. Canadian Golden Quinoa by Grain boasts 6 grams of protein per serving and cooked chickpeas offer 15 grams of protein per cup. So this dish allows vegetarians to savour the autumnal comfort of Thanksgiving dinner while also enjoying balanced nutrition.

 

Quinoa Stuffed Squash with Sage Brown Butter

Ingredients

1 Kabocha squash, about 5 pounds

1 tsp butter

Generous pinch Vancouver Island Sea Salt

1/3 cup onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tsp butter

1 bay leaf

1 ½ cups Canadian Golden Quinoa by Grain

1 ½ cups vegetable stock

Pinch Vancouver Island Sea Salt

1/3 cup butter

1 ½ tbl fresh sage, sliced fine

¾ cup leeks, diced fine

1/3 cup carrots, diced

1 bay leaf

1/3 cup raw cashews

1/3 cup raw pistachios, shelled

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1 cup cooked chickpeas

1 tbl red wine vinegar

Vancouver Island Sea Salt to taste

Fresh cracked pepper to taste

Directions

1)       Preheat your oven to 350F. As it heats, take the squash and slice off the top, about an inch below the stem, so that it will make a nice bowl. Scoop it out, place a teaspoon of butter inside and season with a generous pinch of Vancouver Island sea salt. Place the squash on a parchment lined baking sheet and place into the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the butter has melted. Then take the squash out of the oven, spread the melted butter around the interior with a pastry brush, flip the squash upside down, and place back into the oven until roasted, about 45 minutes.

 

2)       As the squash cooks, place 2 teaspoons of butter into a medium-sized pot, along with the diced onion, minced garlic, bay leaf, and a nice pinch of Vancouver Island sea salt. Sweat over medium-low heat until the onion is transparent.

 

3)       Add the vegetable stock, bring to a simmer, and then add the golden quinoa. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the quinoa has absorbed all of the moisture. Fluff the cooked quinoa with a fork, replace the lid, and set it aside.

 

4)       Heat a large pan and add the remaining 1/3 cup of butter. Cook the butter over medium heat until it has finished sizzling and the solids begin to brown. When your brown butter is ready, the milk solids will have taken on a medium brown colour and the butter will give off a sweet, nutty aroma. Remove the pan form the heat, so as not to let it burn, and add the sage.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

5)       Once the sage has finished sizzling, about 5 or 10 seconds, add the leeks, carrots, bay leaf, and a nice pinch of Vancouver Island sea salt. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and sweat until the leeks are transparent and the carrots soften, about 5 minutes.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

6)       Add the cashews, pistachios, and cranberries, stir to combine, cover, and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the vinegar and cook until the liquid has evaporated.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

7)       Add the chickpeas and quinoa, stir to combine evenly, and heat the entire mixture through. Season to taste. Flip your cooked squash upright by grabbing the parchment paper underneath it to lift it gently from the pan.

 

8)       Fill your squash with the finished quinoa mixture, garnish as desired, and serve.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

This recipe serves 6-8 as a side dish or 3-4 as a main course.

 

Prep time: 15 minutes

 

Total cooking time: 90 minutes

 

This blog post and recipe were created by writer and chef, Charles Macurdy (below)

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Lovable local dry goods – Vancouver Island Salt & Saskatchewan Quinoa by Grain

07 Oct

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

Eating local is not all about produce and protein. Sometimes, the most pleasant surprise comes in the form of a locally produced dry good you may never have considered was locally available. 

 

Here are two beautiful, Canadian products which not only boast lower carbon footprints than their imported counterparts, but they also give you a different look at some familiar staples. 

 

Canadian Golden Quinoa by Grain

If you don’t think that you like quinoa, it’s probably because you have only experienced other varieties. The usual white commercial quinoa tends to get mushy. This can make it hard to use because the texture and flavour are working against you.

 

Golden quinoa is a much different product. When cooked, it retains a nice tooth. While it’s not exactly crunchy, neither does it get mushy by the time it’s cooked through. In that sense, the texture is reminiscent of red quinoa.

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

At the same time, golden quinoa also has a pleasant, nutty flavour. The flavour and aroma are distinct from that of red quinoa, even though the textures are similar. Canadian farmers have been cultivating their unique brand of golden quinoa for years, resulting in a product which cooks and eats like no grain you have ever tasted.

 

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

Because it remains fluffy when cooked, golden quinoa substitutes perfectly for cous cous. Not only is this a high protein alternative with a lower glycemic load, but its nutty flavour adds an earthy dimension that cous cous never would.

 

Vancouver Island Sea Salt

 

When you taste this salt, you taste the west coast. If you have ever gone swimming in the ocean here, you will recognize its flavour in this sea salt.

 

One of the first things you will notice about Vancouver Island sea salt is that it appears clumpy. Its texture is due to the unique profile of nutrients found in British Columbia’s waters. When you harvest sea salt, those delicious impurities remain in the salt and leave it feeling almost like wet sand.

 

 

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

 

 

So, while it does not pour like ordinary table salt, neither does it taste like ordinary salt. You can almost taste the entire coastline, kelp-lined shores, and dark green waters of British Columbia. A few grains on your tongue and you have the taste of a summer day, emerging from the ocean after dunking your head below the waves.

 

This also makes it the perfect choice for seasoning some of our beautiful local seafood. What better to season a fresh salmon fillet than salt extracted from the very water where it swam? Its unique, briny character also pairs well with vegetables and fits into almost any savoury application. 

 

You can find these products in our Kitchen Sink new home gift basket (below)

 

Kitchen Sink - New home gift basket

 

 

You can play with these dry goods and make the delicious seasonal entree below: [Recipe] Canadian Quinoa Stuffed Squash with Sage Brown Butter

Photo Credit: Photography By Leah

Eliminating the noise – Canadian chocolate legend Thomas Haas

17 Sep

Saul Good Christmas 2015 6569-EDIT

When we met Thomas Haas in person, he was warm and welcoming. His chocolate shop is a thoughtfully designed space where you can feel comfy and at home. When chatting with him, we discussed how important it is to be yourself and never waste time comparing yourself to other people.

 

 

Being authentic is one of Thomas’ secrets to success. It is interesting that this attitude is extended into how he works with chocolate. We are delighted to feature some of Thomas’ delicacies in our chocolate gifts and we are fascinated by how and why these chocolates are so delicious. The following is a review that dives into the details of Thomas Haas treats – thoughtfully prepared by local chef and writer Charles Macurdy.

 

Thomas Haas practices a very direct approach to chocolate.

 

Consider his dark chocolate bark. It is simply a disc of 79% cocoa dark chocolate, studded with dried fruit and a few nuts. That cocoa mass is substantial enough that you have a very rich dark chocolate, but not enough that it throws the whole thing out of balance.

Saul Good Christmas 2015 6568-EDIT

The orange rind and dried cranberries play off the bitterness in the chocolate, but also emphasize some light, fruity notes which might otherwise go unnoticed. Meanwhile, a few blanched almonds and slivered pistachios help to draw out the more earthy tones. So, at first blush, it might appear a bit simple. But it becomes a more and more elegant presentation of chocolate’s true character the more you eat it. When you have a perfectly handled piece of chocolate like this, all you need is a little something to help the chocolate speak for itself.

 

Letting chocolate speak for itself

 

His hazelnut crisp shows you another look entirely. Here, you have a small bite of exceptionally smooth milk chocolate paired with a big hazelnut flavour. Again, it is a very familiar combination. Anyone who has ever tasted Nutella will understand it immediately. Except that here, the hazelnut is in a crispy praline, so there is a delicate crunch when you bite into it.

Saul Good Christmas 2015 6660-EDIT

The creamy texture of the milk chocolate wraps around the crispy praline and the flavours of hazelnut and chocolate pair with a light caramel flavoured backdrop. Suddenly, a familiar thing has become a subtle surprise.

chocolate gift baskets

And what this all illustrates is the way that a skilled hand can manage chocolate without feeling the need to make it complicated. You can almost hear him saying “I don’t have to wow you. The chocolate will take care of that.”

 

Flavours as a counterpoint

 

His focus is on more familiar pairings, presented in with a delicate and refined touch. Of course, there are still a few surprises, like ginger, cardamom, thyme, and even matcha green tea. But they all seem to make sense.

 

Consider the chai bark. It is basically the same thing as the dark chocolate bark, except that the base is a spice infused milk chocolate. And as you eat it, within the smoothness of the chocolate, the spices of chai present themselves. So as you taste the cardamom and cinnamon, you get an almond or a cranberry and, just like with the dark bark, they round out and counterpoint the other flavours.

 

But as you taste the spices, the chocolate, the fruit, and the nuts together, you start to realize that this is not only the flavour of chai, but the whole thing together starts to take on the character of fruit cake. And once you notice it, you start to see how much sense it makes. Almost like the comparison was always obvious. Simple things, executed with restraint and skill, can make for truly novel surprises.