Bruce in the Urban Element Kitchen

It is always a pleasure to see our good friend Bruce Wood.  Bruce was a pioneer of the local & organic food movement in Ottawa and is well loved by many in the Ottawa Food Industry.

Bruce in the Kitchen

I first met Bruce when he was co-president of the Slow Food Ottawa Gatineau Chapter. Bruce also had worked in a number of Ottawa restaurants, had taught in Algonquin College’s culinary program, and was the Resident Chef at the Urban Element when they first opened their remarkable business 4 years ago.

Bruce left Ottawa 2 years ago for Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, the jewel of the Southern Gulf Islands. Salt Spring Island is about half way between Nanaimo and Victoria, with the city of Vancouver on the mainland of BC to the north.  There are over ten thousand residents on Salt Spring Island, in addition to several thousand sheep and a sizeable deer population. Salt Spring Island boasts a much milder climate than we have here, and one of the many things that drew Bruce to the island was the availability of locally grown produce throughout a much of the year.

Last night he was torturing us with tales of locally grown quince & figs, an abundance of fantastic cheese makers, and the fact that he wears shorts for 11 months of the year!

Eggplant & Tomato Jam on House Made Pita

Our 3 course meal started with an Eggplant & Tomato Jam on House Made Pita, being plated here by one of Bruce’s young cooks who joined him on this trip East.  The Pita was a simple and fun recipe that tasted divine –  warm from the oven.  Our main course consisted of a breast of chicken stuffed with shrimp and focaccia, served on a white bean & double smoked bacon ragu.  Our meal ended with a beautiful Vanilla Rice Pudding made with arborio rice, cream & egg yolks and accompanied by Salt Spring Island poached quince.

When Bruce arrived in Salt Spring 2 years ago he worked for local restaurants while familiarizing himself with the island and the local farmers & producers.  Last spring he opened ‘Bruce’s Kitchen’, beside the Saturday Market in Ganges.  Bruce serves a counter lunch, take home meals, and every Saturday night a sit-down meal for 20 people, featuring local & seasonal far, accompanied by beautiful BC wines.  The next time you are in the area, look him up.  250-931-3399

Bruce promises to return to Ottawa this fall, and will be teaching & cooking at events to be scheduled at Mariposa Farm and the Urban Element.  It is always a pleasure to see him, and a joy to eat his food!

The most fun recipe of the evening was the Pita Bread.  Here is Bruce’s recipe, compliments of the Urban Element.

Homemade Pita Bread
Chef Bruce Wood

Makes 12x 6 inch pitas

HOT TIP

This bread is best baked on a pizza stone to get a nice crisp crust.  If you don’t have a pizza stone than bake the bread on an inverted baking sheet.

Ingredients

1 – ½ cups warm water
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
3 1/4 ~ 3 ¾ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp sea salt

Directions

1. In large bowl a combine the water & yeast & let stand for 5 minutes. Add one cup of the flour and the salt and mix well.

2. Add the remaining flour one half cup at a time until you have a stiff dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes or until the dough is soft and elastic. Place the ball of dough in a warm place and cover with a warm, damp tea towel. Let the dough rise for one and one half hours.

3. After the resting time turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead lightly. Divide the dough into 12 even balls, cover the balls with saran wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.

4. Pre heat the oven to 400 degrees.

5. Roll out the pitas into circles approximately 6 inches in diameter. Bake the pitas on a stone or pre-heated tray for 5-6 minutes. The pitas should puff up into spheres.

6. Remove to a cooling rack and cover with a clean tea towel.