Last Wednesday, I was invited to Berrylicious. Farm Fresh., one of eight FARM TO FOOD canola oil inspired culinary workshop series presented by Canola Eat Well, a joint partnership between Alberta Canola and Manitoba Canola Growers. The interactive event, hosted by Joey Salmingo and led by chef Cory Vitiello of The Harbord Room and Flock Restaurants, provided guests with an opportunity to connect to the farm, learn more about canola oil, and get inspired in the kitchen. This #CanolaConnect culinary workshop took place at the Bosch Luxe Studio on 334 King St. E., a beautiful, posh kitchen featuring professional Bosch appliances.
Chef Vitiello (right) uses canola oil everyday in his roast chickens and salads at Flock, as well as in his famous burger served at The Harbord Room (click here for recipe). Chef Vitiello taught us two recipes that evening: romesco sauce and hush puppies.
Romesco is an almond and red pepper-based sauce that originated from Tarragona, Catalonia, in Northeastern Spain. Ingredients include tomatoes, roasted red peppers, shallots, onion, espelette pepper, almonds, garlic, paprika, sherry vinegar, salt and canola oil. Placed in groups of two, we were encouraged to make the sauce without a recipe, so we all just went with it. We used our instincts, experimented with the flavours along the way, and hoped for the best. After chopping up all the ingredients, we placed everything into a pot to simmer away. I was happy to learn that there is apparently no right or wrong romesco sauce because many variations of the sauce exist out there. Whew!
A friendly competition among us naturally occurred since the winner of the best romesco sauce wins a dinner for two at The Harbord Room! Despite learning that there are many variations of romesco, I also learned that an excellent romesco sauce is one that balances the following three flavour components the best: smokiness (paprika), heat (peppers), and acid (sherry vinegar).
LOBSTER HUSH PUPPIES
While the romesco sauce was cooking away, we moved on to our next recipe, hush puppies. A hush puppy is a small, savoury, deep-fried ball made from cornmeal-based batter. Ingredients include buttermilk, all purpose flour, baking powder, corn meal, eggs, salt, sugar, and canola oil (the glass of white wine at the back is not part of the recipe!). While we were mixing all the dry and wet ingredients together, chef Vitiello prepared a lobster, vegetable and charred corn mixture which he added to our batter. The concoction was then dropped, one teaspoon at a time, into canola oil and fried until golden brown.
LOBSTER HUSHPUPPIES & ROMESCO SAUCE
My romesco sauce didn't win, but surprisingly, the sauce turned out way better than I thought. The crunchy, cornmeal morsels with bits of lobster in them were also mighty delicious.
After our cooking (and snacking) session, we sat down with Jeannette Andrashewski, one of 43,000 farmers who grows canola in Canada. Jeannette and her husband are producers of canola oil in Alberta. They operate a large canola farm which supplies canola oil to not only Canada, but also exports to Japan and Europe. Here are six facts about canola oil that I learned from Jeannette:
🌟 Canola oil is a good source of vitamins E and K and is packed with omega 3 fats. Omega 3 fats are an anti-inflammatory that can help protect against heart attacks and strokes. Our bodies don't produce omega 3 fats, so we need to get them from food.
🌟 Canola oil has the lowest amount of saturated fats. Canola oil has 7% saturated fat, versus 15% in olive oil and and 91% in coconut oil. Saturated fats are bad fats and are linked to heart disease.
🌟 Canola oil's neutral flavour and light taste makes it great for baking and cooking. When you add herbs and spices, canola oil absorbs the flavours making it very versatile.
🌟 Canola oil is great to use on the barbeque because it has a high heat tolerance (as high as 242 C / 468 F). Other oils break down and lose their nutritional value at high temperatures.
🌟 Canola oil is Canadian. The name "Canola" was registered as a trademark in Canada in 1970. The name comes from “Can” as in Canada and “ola” as in oil. It is grown by over 43,000 family farmers on the Canadian Prairies.
🌟 Canada’s canola industry adds $13.8 billion in economic activity to the Canadian economy. The canola industry creates over 216,000 jobs in western and eastern Canada in production, transportation, crushing, refining, food development, manufacturing and service. Buying canola oil supports local!
After our chat with Jeannette, we took part in Canola Crush, an activity for testing the grade of canola.
Canola Crush involves using a plastic tray with indents that fit canola seeds perfectly. This tray is first placed beneath a layer canola seeds and then removed with seeds attached to the indents. Next, we used masking tape to peel the seeds off the tray. Using a tiny roller to crush the seeds, we were then able to test a sample of canola seeds for their canola yield (FYI a canola seed contains 43% canola oil).
The three canola seeds circled in red are high-green canola seeds. High-green seeds occur when frost or hot, dry weather deactivates the enzymes that clear chlorophyll from canola seeds as they mature. Most green seed problems are caused by frost; it damages those enzymes, preventing any further clearing of chlorophyll even if better weather returns. The risk of high-green canola seed counts increases with late and uneven crop maturity. Naturally, a crop with as few high-green canola seed counts as possible are preferred.
We finished our Canola Crush activity just in time for dinner.
Chef Vitiello prepared a feast for us:
PUFFED SQUID INK & TAPIOCA WAFER WITH MARINATED PRAWNS & SMOKED AVOCADO
CHILLED TOMATILLO & CUCUMBER SOUP WITH PUFFED WILD RICE, BUTTER MILK & GUAJILLO
From left to right:
- CANOLA OIL ROAST CHICKEN
- SHAVED SUMMER SALAD WITH ROASTED BEET & CITRUS CANOLA OIL VINAIGRETTE, WHEAT BERRIES & SHEEP'S MILK CHEESE
- SUMMER SUCCOTASH WITH SLOW COOKED ZUCCHINI & SWEET BASIL
- LOBSTER CORNBREAD (made with leftover hushpuppy batter)
A gorgeous combination of colours and flavours on my plate.
STEAMED SUMMER BERRY & CANOLA OIL PUDDING WITH RASPBERRY SORBET & CRUNCHY MERINGUE
A delightful dinner with good company.
Armed with all this new knowledge about canola oil, I cannot see myself buying any other kind of oil now. There are just so many benefits about canola oil. Guys, remember to choose canola oil because it's local, healthy, and versatile!
For more information visit: Canola Eat Well (Twitter & Instagram: @CanolaEatWell, Facebook: Canola Eat Well for Life)
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