An excerpt and recipe from County Heirlooms for World Food Day
October 16, 2020
For World Food Day we're serving up County Heirlooms(Invisible Publishing), a cookbook and celebration of food and the food producers making their mark in Prince Edward County. Each contributor offers a glimpse into what fuels their love for food, and what keeps them doing what they do—from cultivating honeybees and growing heirloom tomatoes to cooking for two or for crowds. Read on for a passage from the book and a tasty vegan flatbread recipe from one of the book's contributors: Chef Chris Byrne, whose resume includes gourmet vegetarian, vegan, and raw-inspired cooking, shares about macrobiotic cooking, wild foods, and the vegan renaissance.
Royalties from sales of the book will support
Food to Share, a PEC-based initiative working to address food insecurity.
I grew up in Belleville, Ontario. I had my first vegetarian meal at the Naam, a twenty-four-hour vegetarian restaurant in Vancouver that’s been around since the 1960s. I had home fries with miso gravy, and it was so good. I became a vegetarian very soon after that, and it kind of freaked everyone out. My friends told me, “We’d hang out with you, but we don’t know what to serve you.” So I said, “Invite me over and I’ll cook.” That’s how I got started as a chef.
I ran into the idea of macrobiotics, cooking with the seasons, working with ferments and wild foods. Eventually, I quit my ad executive job to work on organic farms. The whole time I studied macrobiotic cooking. I wrote an essay to my hero, Cornelia Aihara. She was the best macrobiotic chef, and she and her husband, Herman (who was a philosopher), ran the Vega Institute in Chico, California. They invited me to stay with them for a year, and I shadowed her, learning all about Japanese folk foods. I learned about making soy sauce, miso, and pickles—the foundations of Japanese cuisine.
Following that, I moved to Toronto. Fressen was opening, and it was Canada’s first gourmet vegan restaurant. I became the sous-chef there, and worked there for years, developing many dishes and plating techniques. It was so inspiring.
I spent years catering on Vancouver Island, and then decided to move back to the County to be near family. I saw a culinary scene developing here that I felt I could engage with. Then vegan food had this renaissance, and I thought, “This is my moment.”
I think people in the County have always been interested in using local fare. But in the last decade, the production of intriguing food has really come a long way. It always inspires my creativity.
My big focus these days is wild foods. My wife’s an herbalist and we live on a farm where we let lots of wild plants grow. When harvested and prepared properly, these wild foods are unique, delicious, packed with nutrition, and a celebration of our wonderful home, Prince Edward County.
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Socca Flatbread Chris Byrne, Vegan Chef
2 cups chickpea flour
½ tsp salt
2 cups water
1 tbsp olive oil 2 tbsp sunflower oil
4 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp salt About 3 tbsp water (amount varies based on texture of tahini)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 leek, sliced thinly
1 cup mushrooms of your choice, sliced
4 stalks rapini, sliced into 1" segments 1 tbsp lemon juice
Additional topping suggestions include dollops of tomato sauce, pesto, artichoke hearts, diced sweet peppers, grilled zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes, or your favourite in-season veggies or herbs.
To prepare the flatbread, preheat oven to 425°F. Place two 9-inch cast-iron pans into oven. Mix chickpea flour and salt together. Whisk in water until there are no lumps; stir in olive oil. Remove pans from oven, add sunflower oil, and place back in oven for 1 minute. Remove pans again and add enough batter to cover the bottom of both pans; swirl around as if you are making a crepe. Place in oven for 10 minutes.
To prepare the sauce, mix all ingredients together. Add water and stir vigorously until sauce comes together. It should be smooth and the texture of a cream sauce. Spread evenly over flatbread.
To prepare the toppings, in skillet, sauté garlic in oil over medium heat. Add leeks and cook until wilted. Add mushrooms and cook until soft. Add rapini and lemon juice; cook for an additional 15 seconds.
Spread toppings on sauced flatbread and put back into oven for 5 minutes or until toppings are cooked to desired effect. Serves 4. Enjoy!
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