Consumer is King

Well, maybe only if you live in Europe.

Guy Gallet, Secretary General of the Royal Belgian Association of the Chocolate, Praline, Biscuits and Sugar Confectionery Industries (Choprabisco) commented on the number of foreign firms buying Belgium Chocolate Firms said Belgian Chocolate is highly regarded because “It is the heritage, the knowledge, the expertise. The blending and the selection of the cocoa beans. The bean is ground to a very small particle size so it is smooth in the mouth. And no other vegetable fat is used, although it is allowed.”

Regarding those who claim their chocolate has a Belgian flavor or is a Belgian collection, he said “It depends on national laws, but in Europe, you cannot mislead the consumer.” Buying chocolate outside of Europe, check the ingredient list and don’t trust the marketing.

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Crackers

I have been searching for an easy and flexible cracker recipe. After reviewing too many recipes to remember, I have settled on a combination or amalgamation of what works for me.

125 Grams of All-Purpose Flour

3 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 Teaspoon of Salt

60 Milliliters of Water

Preheat oven to 390° F., Convection Bake with a pizza stone on lowest rack.

Roughly mix the first 3 ingredients in a non-reactive bowl, add the water and stir until a shaggy dough appears. Turn out onto the counter and knead for 2 to 4 minutes or until the dough is smooth and shiny. Place the dough bowl in the center of a parchment sheet, cut just big enough for your cookie sheet, roll the dough as thinly as possible to the parchment edges.

Score the rolled out dough into the cracker shapes you want then gently lift the parchment sheet onto your cookie sheet or bake as is and break apart once cooked and cooled.

Place the cookie sheet directly on the pizza stone and bake for 14 minutes, turning midway through. Remove to cooling rack when cooked.

Now there is a happy face
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All simple enough but the flexibility is key to me. Substitute 20 grams of rye or whole wheat flour for the same amount of all-purpose flour. Substitute tomato juice, finely pureed basil or spinach liquid for the water. Substitute basil or other flavored oil for the EVOO. Instead of table salt use kosher salt, fleur de sel, finely ground sea salt, flavored salts, etc. Add in 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of black pepper, smoked paprika, cayenne, finely chopped rosemary, or your other favorite spice. Top the crackers with sea salt, poppy or sesame seeds, coarsely ground fennel or caraway seeds. The combinations are endless.

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Oceanário de Lisboa

In general, I am not a big fan of aquariums but Lisbon’s changed my mind. Absolutely stunning is how I would describe the Temporary Exhibit which looks like it might be permanent given all the talent and expertise assembled to design and construct it. This is the world’s largest ‘nature aquarium’; it holds 12 tons of sand and 25 tons of volcanic rock with 40 different species of fresh water fish.

Temporary Exhibit
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The permanent collection hosts schools of fish and children. It is well organized, easy to navigate and full of the world’s aquatic creatures:

Giant Spider Crabs
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Puffins
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Penguins
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Flat Fish
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Take care as one species of bird in the Puffin enclosure are free to fly and willing to relieve themselves as they want.

 

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Lisbon Street Art

Walking or riding, Lisbon is attractive. They have gone well beyond graffiti to create pieces of public modern art. The fox, below, faces a main thoroughfare along the river and guards a derelict building. You can see through the window that the roof is gone and timbers are falling in.

Lisboa Fox
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Fox Guards a Derelict Building
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The LX Factory is a repurposed abandoned manufacturing area with arts and crafts boutiques and has a great Sunday Market.

Bee at LX Factory
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LX Factory’s Birdman
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LX Factory’s Madonna
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Magi – LX Factory
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Women Facing Cristo Rei at LX Factory
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Riding around the city you discover more eclectic art installations

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Rua Manuel de Jesus Coelho
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The City even creates artistic spaces and it is a pleasure to use their sidewalks:

Lisbon is known for their tile work
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Rua Augusta Pedestrian Mall
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Rua Augusta Pedestrian Mall
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Some art is practical by nature:

WC near Castelo Sao Jorge
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Tomato Soup

I have never met a gardener that hasn’t suffered from a sudden and curiously unexpected abundance, even a poor gardener in a bad year. This year is no different, we have had sufficient rain, plenty of sun and even hot humid weather. The garden is overflowing. I only planted 6 Roma plants this year, I still have plenty of tomato sauce from prior years. I have an abundance, go figure.

I have made fresh tomato soup for many years. Dutifully peeling and de-seeding the tomatoes before dicing and then simmering with toasted garlic and fresh basil. I was always concerned that the pulp surrounding the seeds seemed just too good to throw away but that is what I did when I remembered my sieve and changed methods. Change is good.

The recipe is quite simple:

  • Tomatoes
  • Basil Stalks
  • Garlic
  • Olive Oil

First, go collect your favorite tomatoes; paste, slicing, cherry, low-acid, etc. using an appropriate collection bucket:

Amateur Harvesting Bucket
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Then puree 4, 5 or more garlic cloves in about 1/4 Cup of extra virgin olive oil:

Toasting Pureed Garlic in EVOO
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While that is toasting, harvest a few basil stalks, rinse in cold water and place in large bowl:

Rinsed Basil Stalks
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Next rinse the tomatoes, de-stem and cut into halves or quarters and place in large pot over medium-high heat:

Stewing Roma Tomatoes
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When the garlic is toasted add it on top of the basil and put the sieve over the bowl:

Large Sieve and Bench Scraper
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Once the tomatoes are soft and rendered much of their juice and excess water has evaporated, put a small amount of the boiling tomatoes onto the sieve:

Roma Tomatoes Ready for Pureeing
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Don’t put too much or it will be easy to burn your fingers. Using the bench scraper, press the tomato juice and pulp through the sieve then discard the seeds and skin:

After Pureeing Tomatoes
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When you have processed all the tomatoes, let the bowl cool to room temperature then cover and refrigerate. Remove the basil stalks prior to heating and eating.

Tomato Soup
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Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Use home made croutons to garnish as desired.

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GMO Apples Ready for Market

Okanagan Specialty Fruits has received U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada (HC) approvals to begin marketing their Artic ® brands of non-browning apples.

Expect non-browning apple slices in a market near you from their Artic ® Golden and Artic® Granny varieties. These apples will rot and can suffer from bacterial or fungal infections just like your locally grown natural apples. The GMO part was the removal of a naturally occurring enzyme which aids oxidative browning.

Not sure if this is intended for those folks who don’t know how to slice an apple, scared of sharp instruments, or just cause science is great and really smart people can’t resist toying with natural products.

Posted in Agriculture, Food | Leave a comment

Enough is Enough

There comes a time when tolerance just isn’t acceptable. I can look the other way when the table of kids next to us breaks out their selfie sticks. I can slam on my brakes when the Smartphone Heads Down college age kid doesn’t even look up when walking into a cross walk. I can even giggle a little when they line up at an order entry kiosk to order their meal even though there are people at the counter waiting to take anyone’s order. Who doesn’t realize that the push for self-driving cars comes from the Millennials’ basic lack of driving skills and greater interest in being tethered to their texting device? The added expense for those conveniences are borne by those of us who can parallel park, who actually understand how to set and use the rear view and side view mirrors to avoid blind spots. It is so bad they aren’t even embarrassed, safety in numbers.

But enough is enough. There has to be a GoPro YouTube video with accompanying step by step pictures of how to make and bake a cookie available if not a couple of hundred. Now along comes ChiP a Keurig style, Wi-Fi controlled counter top oven to bake a cookie. Maybe these kids need to move out of their parents’ home, or pay down their student loans instead of wasting their allowance on these gadgets. They are so afraid of making a mistake that they have to buy bullet proof, professionally tested gizmos. True learning occurs in the face of failure. There is no pride in pushing a button; bragging that you know which button to push only reinforces my lack of confidence.

God help us if we have to depend on this generation.

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Gardener vs. Wildlife

It was a tough garden season this year, a lack of rain coupled with an explosion in the number of local woodchuck, deer and other garden pests wrecked havoc on many in the area. Fortunately, I  installed drip irrigation a few years ago and was able to water my garden easily but the wildlife were the major beneficiary.

I planted 24 feet of cucumbers and didn’t harvest a single one as woodchucks chewed the plants to the nub as soon as they started to flower, on one occasion I watched as the woodchuck surveyed the crop before I could chase him off. We did get one meal of green and yellow beans only to find the plants completely shredded the following morning, looked like deer predation. As the tomatoes ripened they would be eaten from the bottom up, initially suspected the woodchuck but as the damage got higher and higher deer and perhaps crows became the suspected predators.

A friend from Wisconsin suggested a simply design for a hoop house:

Garden Netting ©T20R11.com

Garden Netting
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  • 6       1/2″ x 10′ FGG CPVC-CTS
  • 12     3/4″ x 1′ PVC
  • 16     Plastic Clips
  • 33″    3/4″ Netting

I bought the PVC at Home Depot, the Plastic Clips at Staples and the Netting from A M Leonard. The 3/4″ PVC is pushed into the soil at 4′ intervals on either side of the raised bed and then the 1/2″ FGG 10′ sections are simply inserted into the 3/4″ PVC. The netting was left over from another project and was much wider than it really needed to be (12 to 14 feet wide would be sufficient) but certainly effective. The clips didn’t need to be sturdy and are only used to help hold the netting in place. It cost around $60 to protect the 4′ x 20′ raised bed shown above. Next spring I will use the hoops with greenhouse film from Growers Supply to get a jump on the season then switch to netting once the thought of frost has passed then back to film to extend the fall season.

I am afraid the predators are still cleverer than I but perhaps they will move on to easier picking. I don’t need to be the cleverest, just cleverer than my nearest neighbor’s garden.

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Sand Hill Cranes

We recently attended a birthday party for an old friend, even older than my brother, in Madison Wisconsin. This is a nice time of year to visit south central Wisconsin.  Abnormally, the weather wasn’t too hot or humid but they were deluged with rain this year, I have never seen green grass in late August before like this.

We stayed at a hotel in Middleton, Wisconsin very near to our former house and where we worked so many years ago. At breakfast there was a rush to the windows and I turned to see these four walking out of the fog:

Sand Hill Cranes Middleton, WI ©T20R11.com

Sand Hill Cranes
Middleton, WI
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Greatest Value for Price in Paris

Le Florimond reigns as the best value for price in Paris, hands down. They don’t take online reservations, they aren’t on Open Table or The Fork, you have to call 45.55.40.38 for a reservation. The good news is that Laurent speaks excellent English among a few other languages. He also manages the best front-of-the house I have ever eaten in, including multi-starred restaurants.

If you go, tell them that Bubar sent you. It won’t get you any better treatment, Laurent treats everyone as a long-term valued guest in his house, but it will put a big smile on his face. Give him a big hug for me.

Pascal Guillaumin commands the kitchen, turning out perfectly prepared meals using the freshest, most local products available in Paris. There are a few recurring regulars ( his grandmother’s stuffed cabbage) on the menu but the chalkboard changes every Thursday. Last time we were there for lunch, in a packed house, I was the only one who didn’t order the stuffed cabbage; seated by an elderly gentleman who looked at us and said ‘I knew his grandmother’.  Although the restaurant is a favorite in all of the English tourist guides, there is a very local, loyal French group of patrons; they have been in the 7th for over 20 years. Cuisine is spot on and the service is top-notch. They haven’t fallen into the trap of chasing Michelin Stars, the price for value remains one of the greatest consumer values in all of France. I have been eating there for 18 years and hope to eat there for another 18.

Le Florimond
19, avenue de la Motte-Picquet
Paris, 75007
TEL: 33 (01) 45.55.40.38

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