Monday, 31 March 2008

Cabbage with Salsa

You have to love a recipe with two ingredients; although this is more a way of dressing up cabbage, which can get to be a little too frequent a visitor to the table by the end of winter, than a recipe. I use the salsa that I canned in the summer for this. It is thinner in texture than regular commercial canned salsas, but I don't see why they wouldn't work. You might just have to watch and add a spoonful of water if it looks like it is going to stick.

3 to 4 servings
15 minutes - 5 minutes prep time

Cabbage with Salsa2 cups finely chopped cabbage
1/2 cup prepared salsa

Prepare the cabbage, discarding any thick stems or bad spots. Cook it in a little water until it is a minute or two away from being done.

Drain the cabbage, and add the salsa to the pot. Return it to the stove and cook for a minute or two longer, until the salsa is hot and the cabbage is cooked to your liking.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Sour Cherry Crisp

I'm continuing to work at using the fruit I stashed in the freezer last summer. Sour cherries have a very short fresh season - not much more than two weeks - so it is well worth while to freeze, can or dry a whole bunch of them. Sweet cherries may be better for eating fresh, but the sour ones, as far as I am concerned, are better for everything else. They are just bursting with intense cherry flavour.

In the past, I have pitted the cherries before I freeze, can or dry them, but in the future I think I will mostly only pit them if I am going to dry them. That will speed up the processing considerably, allowing me to preserve more of them, and if it slows down the eating of them; well, that's a good thing. * Cherries are one of the most fabulous foods in existence and deserve to be eaten slowly and really savoured. Plus, many people think that cooking cherry dishes with the pits still in them adds to the flavour.

You could also use a litre (quart) of canned cherries if you like. In that case, you likely don't need to add sugar to them as they will be already sweetened, and you will need to add more tapioca, maybe twice as much, as they will be more liquid, but you will need to exercise your own judgement in both cases. You may wish to add more sugar to the cherries in any case - we like them quite zingy, others may prefer them sweeter.

6 servings
50 minutes - 10 minutes prep time; plus allow time to cool

4 cups frozen sour cherries, pitted or not
2 tablespoons minute tapioca
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup sugar

2/3 cup oat flour
2/3 cup barley flour
1/2 cup Sucanat
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter

Put the at least semi-thawed cherries in a 2 quart (or 2 litre) baking dish. Sprinkle them with the minute tapioca, almond extract and sugar.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Mix the flours, Sucanat and salt. Cut the butter into chunks and rub it in with your fingers, until all the flour is moistened and the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle it evenly over the top of the cherries.

Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes, until browned on top and bubbly. Let cool to at least warm before serving. (And note that it can stay very hot for quite a while.) Ideally, serve it with whipped cream or ice cream.

* If you are preserving cherries to be eaten by the young and reckless, or at least unco-ordinated - under 3, say - you had better pit them, I'm afraid.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Herb Roasted Potatoes

Another simple potato dish with lots of flavour. I'll eat these over French fries any day.

4 servings
1 hour - 15 minutes prep time

Herb Roasted Potatoes6 medium-large potatoes (900 grams or 2 pounds)

1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 tablespoons dried chives
1 teaspon rubbed savory
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Wash and trim the potatoes. Cut them into chunks; about 6 or 8 pieces per potato. Put them in a pot with water to cover, and boil for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, grind the salt, fennel seed, rosemary and pepper together. Mix in the chives, savory, paprika and cayenne. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Drain the potatoes and toss them in a large, shallow baking dish with the olive oil. Sprinkle two-thirds of the herb mixture over, and toss again. Sprinkle the remaining herbs evenly over the tops of the potatoes.

Bake them for 40 to 45 minutes, or until nicely browned. Stir them once during that time.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Vegetable Hash

As ever, I list quantities, but this is not the kind of recipe where you should get too excited about measuring exactly. This is hash, for Pete's sake, which is all about throwing stuff in a pan with lots of oil and cooking it until it gets crusty.

I used love corned beef hash - and by "used to" I mean I still do, I just never make it. It wants that greasy tinned corned beef to be a proper corned beef hash, and it all seems to come from Australia; a place from which they should not be importing beef in tins on account of their arable land and water shortage, or from Brazil; a place from which they should not be importing beef in tins on account of they shouldn't be cutting down the rain forest to raise beef. Not to mention the absurdity of sending beef in tins from halfway around the world to a place that raises plenty of its own beef. There was also the little problem that every time I made corned beef hash, I gained a pound, or maybe even two. Not exactly a low calorie dish. I wouldn't say this is either, but it doesn't seem to go straight to the belly in the same way - although it will fill it up nicely.

I'm calling for freshly prepared ingredients, but if you happened to have a bunch of leftover cooked potatoes, and some leftover cooked cabbage from another meal you'd be half-way done before you even started. Just sayin'.

2 to 4 servings
45 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Vegetable Hash
4 to 6 medium-small potatoes (900 grams or 2 pounds)
1 large onion
2 stalks of celery
2 cups chopped cabbage
3 cups halved or quartered button mushrooms
you could throw in a chopped green pepper if you liked

olive oil, lots; or bacon fat, ditto
salt & pepper
1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 teaspoon rubbed savory
2 tablespoons dried chives, or better, twice as much fresh

Wash and trim the potatoes, and cut them into dice. Put them in a large pot with water to cover and boil for 10 minutes, until just done.

Meanwhile, peel and chop the onion, trim and chop the celery, and chop the cabbage, also the green pepper if you are using it. Set them aside together. Clean and trim the mushrooms.

Sauté the onion, celery and cabbage (and pepper) in a tablespoon or so of oil. When they are soft and slightly browned, remove them from the pan and set them aside.

Meanwhile, the potatoes should be drained once they are ready. Add more oil to the pan, and then add the potatoes and the mushrooms. Cook them over medium low heat, turning them regularly. They should be allowed to get fairly brown and crispy, and they will cook down considerably. When you are happy with their looks, return the rest of the vegetables and add the seasonings to the pan, mixing them in well. When everything is hot and steamy, serve it up. With ketchup if you like, or a poached egg on top.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Maple Flan (or Creme Caramel)

There are a few, faint signs out there that Spring will arrive someday. The birds have changed their tunes from random chatter to cries of "MY tree!" and "Hey, sailor, new in town?", and as I have been driving around the area I see quite a number of blue buckets hanging from the trunks of trees. Maple syruping time! This is a reminder to me that I have quite a bit of syrup left from last year, and it's time to use it up - so I can buy some more, maybe at the Elmira maple syrup festival, which will be on April 5th this year.

One of my all-time favourite desserts, Maple Flan is really quite straightforward to make - once you have the knack for making the caramel. The first few times I tried making flan I ended up with the sugar reverting to sugar - just drying out and refusing to turn to caramel. The secret is not to muck with it. Once it starts to cook, let it do its thing and don't go disturbing it with a spoon. If it does revert to sugar, there is nothing to be done but to discard it and start again fresh. (You shouldn't have a problem with this if you cook the sugar and maple syrup together, but if you are a caramel novice, I suggest you start with just the sugar anyway.)

6 servings
1 hour 20 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Maple Flan or Creme CaramelMake the caramel:
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup maple syrup

There are two ways you can do this. You can put the sugar and water into a heavy-bottomed pot, stir once, then bring to a boil and boil, without stirring again, until the sugar turns a good definite brown (but don't burn it!) at which point, remove it from the stove and add the maple syrup, stirring like crazy. Return the pot to the stove and continue to stir until the maple syrup melts.

Or, you can put the sugar, maple syrup and water into the pot, stir once, then bring to a boil and boil until the sugar caramelizes as above. This is less work, but you have to be able to recognize the moment when the sugars have caramelized, which is more difficult since the maple syrup is already quite brown. There will be a slight change in colour, a slight change in odour (caramel!) and the bubbles will be considerably smaller than when the mixture first started to boil. If you haven't much experience making caramel, you are probably better off using the first method.

Once you have achieved caramel, you must act quickly. Pour it into a 1 1/2 litre (quart) baking dish or 6 smaller baking dishes, and swirl it around to coat the bottom completely, and a little of the sides if possible. You must act very quickly as it will turn solid within not very many seconds.

Make the custard:
6 extra-large eggs
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 2/3 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sherry
a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Whisk together the eggs and maple syrup. Whisk in the milk, vanilla extract, sherry and salt. Strain the mixture into the prepared baking dish or dishes. Put them in a larger baking pan or high-sided baking pan (such as a jelly-roll pan) and put it (them) in the oven. Pour water into the pan - without getting any in the custard - until it comes halfway up the sides of the baking dish(es).

Bake for 1 hour, until a knife inserted in the centre of the custard comes out clean. You may need longer if it is baked in one dish only, say an hour and a quarter.

Let the flan(s) cool. Run a knife around around the sides of the flan(s) to loosen. Set it (or them) into a shallow pan of hot tap water for about 15 seconds or so, then flip each flan onto a serving plate. The caramel should be melted by the hot water and flow over the custard as a sauce.

Happy Spring

Too bad about the fact that it hasn't gotten above 0°C for 12 hours at a time yet, and also that I am a moron.

The kind of moron who puts her hand on a hot burner and pushes*. Ouch. I have a post that will be ready to go up a little later today, but posting may be sparse for a day or two after that.

*Fortunately it had been off for about 3 minutes, so I will have a blister or two, but nothing too, too serious. I am looking forward to moving someday and having a kitchen where everything metal doesn't rattle every time the water heater goes on.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Pea Soup with Smoked Turkey or Ham

Okay, a quick quiz: when are you most likely to burn the pea soup while reheating it?

1.) while it is cold.
2.) while it is warm.
3.) once it is hot and boiling.

If you said "1.) while it is cold." you get a hearty "Well done!" and a gold star. Strange but true; the soup gets so solid that it does not circulate while heating, and the bottom of the pot can be burning before the top has even lost its chill. Stir that soup every minute or two until it is soft and flowing. Yes this is the voice of sad experience speaking, although I'm happy to say not this time. This batch came out just as it should. Good rib-sticking food, for the winter that just won't die. More snow on the way, apparently.

I like to make this soup with smoked turkey, although a ham bone is more traditional, and if you made ham for Easter this is a good way to use it up. Don't carve it too meticulously (until you pick it over for the soup) and maybe keep a slice or two of ham for the soup if you can. The turkey is a good choice for those who don't eat pork, and yields a fairly predictable quantity of tender and tasty meat.

6 to 8 servings.
2 days - 40 minutes prep time.

Pea Soup with Smoked Turkey or HamMake the broth:
1 large smoked turkey drumstick
OR 1 meaty ham bone
2 litres water
2 bay leaves

Put the turkey or ham bone into a stock pot with the water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 to 2 hours. Let cool and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, if there is much fat on top, skim most of it off. Remove the bay leaf. Remove the drumstick or hambone from the stock and cut off all the usable meat. Cut it into 1 cm dice. Return the bones, skin and any other inedible bits to the stock and simmer for another hour. Strain the broth and discard the solids.

Make the soup:
750 g split peas, green or yellow, although I prefer green

2 medium carrot
2 medium onions
3 stalks of celery
1 tablespoon olive oil

salt and pepper
¼ teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon savory

Wash and pick over the peas, and add them to the broth. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.

Meanwhile, peel the onions and carrots, and wash and trim the celery. Cut them all into smallish dice. Sauté them in the oil until soft. Season with salt, pepper, sage and savory, and sauté for a minute or two more. Add them to the soup.

Simmer the soup until the peas are very soft; indeed, falling apart. Stir frequently. Better re-heated the next day. In fact, rumour has it that some people think it is best nine days old.

Friday, 21 March 2008

An Old-Fashioned Canadian Egg Curry

No resemblance to dishes from south-east Asia intended or expected. Actually, curries like this have been made in Canada since Victorian times, when India and Canada were both ententacled by the British empire. By the time curry powder made its way to Canada, its users were inclined to dole it out by the cautious half-teaspoonful, so I have modernized this curry by upping the spice considerably, and by introducing a little coconut milk. The coconut milk can easily revert back to being regular milk though, if you prefer.

And should you open the fridge next week and find yourself eyeball-to-eyeball with a couple dozen hard-boiled eggs in gaudy outfits, this is just the thing to dispose of a few.

2 or 3 servings
15 to 20 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

An old fashioned Canadian Egg Curry6 extra large eggs, hard boiled

2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/3 cups milk or soy milk
2/3 cup coconut milk (OR milk or soymilk)

2 cups frozen peas

Cook the eggs by putting them in a pot with sufficient water to cover them, and adding a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil and boil gently for 1 minute. Remove the pot from the burner and let it sit, covered, for a further 10 minutes. Rinse them in cold water until they are cool enough to handle, then peel them.

Meanwhile, make the curry sauce. Mix the flour, salt and curry powder in a pot. Add the butter and cook, stirring constantly, until thick and pasty. Slowly mix in the milk, a little at a time, to keep a smooth paste. Once it is all in, add the coconut milk. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until thick.

Cook the peas until hot through; drain them and add them to the curry. Cut the peeled eggs in quarters, and mix them gently into the curry. You may wish to keep one or two out to garnish it. Be sure the eggs and peas are hot through, then serve the curry over rice.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Winter Waldorf Salad

A classic salad. In the winter and spring, celeriac replaces the celery, and cranberries provide some colour and zing which I have always felt were somewhat lacking in the original.

4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Winter Waldorf SaladDressing:
the juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup mayonnaise, whisked (light is fine)
2 tablespoons buttermilk, yogurt or sour cream
1/4 teaspoon celery seed, ground
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns, ground
salt to taste

Mix 'em.

6 to 8 leaves of hydroponic leaf lettuce
1 small OR 1/2 large celeriac (celery root)
2 medium apples
2/3 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Wash and dry the lettuce.

Peel the celeriac, and cut it into thin slices, which should then be cut into julienne or other smaller bits. Wash, core and cut up the apple into small pieces. Mix the celeriac, apples, walnut pieces and cranberries, and toss them gently in the dressing. Arrange the salad on the lettuce leaves. If you like, save some of the walnuts and cranberries to sprinkle over the top as a garnish.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Black Radish & Mushroom Salad

This recipe came from Epicurious, and it was a nice clean, crisp and refreshing salad. I have increased the quantities of dressing called for, as I did not find it sufficient. Possible this was because of the greater surface area of grated rather than sliced radishes.

4 servings
20 minutes prep time.

Black Radish and Mushroom SaladDressing:
1/4 cup sunflower seed oil
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt & pepper
1/4 cup finely minced parsley

Mix the oil, sour cream and lemon juice, and season generously with salt and pepper. Mix in the parsley. Toss with the salad.

3 small black radishes
6-9 button mushrooms
4 leaves of hydroponic leaf lettuce

Peel and grate the radishes. Clean and slice the mushrooms. Mix them with the dressing, and arrange them on the washed and dried lettuce leaves.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

English Muffins

Homemade English muffins are quite a different animal from the ones you buy in the store, which tend to be, like a lot of industrially produced food, mere ghosts of themselves; pale, limp and flabby. Real English muffins have heft and colour, a rich flavour of wheat and yeast, and a satisfactorily chewy texture.

Like most homemade breads, they are somewhat time-consuming but not difficult to make. Like pancakes, a little practice is helpful to get the baking time and temperature exactly right, but once that is done they are extremely straightforward. Then ho! for the toaster, the butter, jam and tea! A little moment of civilization is yours.

English MuffinsFor my muffins, I used a mixture of half unbleached hard flour and half lightly sifted Red Fife flour. I served them with butter and Blueberry Jam.

16 muffins
5 hours or more - 45 minutes total work time

English Muffins with Blueberry Jam1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 extra-large egg
2 teaspoons yeast

3 3/4 cups hard whole wheat or unbleached flour
OR a combination of the two
1/4 cup gluten flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ascorbic acid (vitamin C powder)

1 tablespoon sunflower seed oil

Heat the milk and butter until the butter melts. The milk should be warm rather than hot. Beat in the egg and sprinkle the yeast over the milk to dissolve.

Mix the flours with the salt and ascorbic acid.

When the yeast is foamy, mix the flour into the milk and egg mixture to form a rough dough. Turn the dough and any loose flour out onto a clean counter or board and knead it until all the flour is absorbed and the dough is smooth and elastic; about 10 minutes.

Put the oil into a clean bowl, and put the ball of dough in as well. Turn the dough to coat it in the oil, then cover it with a clean cloth and let it rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours. The dough may be made in a bread machine up to this point, using the dough cycle.

Punch down the dough (press it to release most of the accumulated gases) and knead it briefly. Roll it into a cylinder of about 5 cm (2") in diameter. Cut it into 16 equal slices, and lay the slices on an oiled cookie sheet or parchment or waxed paper. Cover them with a damp towel and let them rise until doubled in size again; about 2 hours.

To cook the muffins, heat a large heavy skillet over low heat; just a little lower than you would normally use for cooking pancakes. Bake the muffins for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, turning them once. They should be lightly browned, and the sides should be firm.

To serve the muffins, split them and toast them. Butter, jam and/or honey all go very well with them.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Stewed Lamb & Mushrooms

Here's a simple treatment for stewed lamb that provides a lot of rich gravy, which makes it perfect with mashed potatoes.

3 to 4 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Stewed Lamb and Mushrooms450 grams (1 pound) boneless stewing lamb
OR 900 grams (2 pounds) if bone-in
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups beef or lamb stock
2 to 3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon rosemary, ground
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, ground
2 or 3 small bay leaves
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

450 grams (1 pound) button mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil

Remove excess fat from the lamb. In a large heavy skillet, brown the lamb in the oil, turning it brown all the sides. Put the browned lamb into a stew pot.

Mix the broth, tomato paste, flour, and seasonings, and add them to the lamb. Bring to a boil then simmer gently for about an hour, until the lamb is tender.

Meanwhile, clean the mushrooms and halve or quarter them if they are large. Cook them in the same skillet (no need to clean it) in the remaining oil, until they are nicely browned. Add them to the lamb for the last half of the cooking time.

Serve over mashed potatoes, barley pilaf or rice.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Strawberry-Mango Frappés

Or I suppose you could call them slushies; I don't mind.

This is the time of year when I start remembering that the freezer is full of frozen fruit from last summer and it's time to do something with it. It tends to go into slushies, frappés, smoothies, aguas frescas, etc, etc, as I am not really inclined to make baked desserts on a weekly basis, and thawed out fruit by itself is, let's face it, kinda mushy. These also make such a welcome change from heavy winter food. I want to start thinking Spring, and these definitely do the trick. You may note that these are pretty much the same thing as the Blueberry-Pear Frappés I made last month; just different fruits.

2 to 3 servings
10 minutes prep time

Strawberry Mango Frappe1 350 ml (12 fl. oz.) tin of mango nectar
2-3 cups frozen strawberries
1/2 to 3/4 cup of water

Put the mango nectar and strawberries in a good sturdy blender or food process, and blend until smooth. Blend in a sufficient quantity of water to give it that smooth slushy texture. Pour into glasses and put your feet up... pretend you are on a beach somewhere...

Friday, 14 March 2008

Lemon Sponge Pudding (Or Lime If You Like)

I found a very similar recipe to this in a little old cookbook - "Favourite Recipes [from the] Ladies Aid Society" published by the Rosemont First United Church of Montreal in 1924, which came to me via my great-aunt Alethea, so this is a pudding that has been around for a while. Really, the only differences are that I use half the sugar, half the butter and a little more flour.

I had the recipe already as I had gotten it from the mother of a friend, who served it to me when I came to dinner. I'm glad I got the recipe because I have never been served it since, and if I hadn't had it I might have overlooked the recipe in my little old cookbook, and that would have been a pity. This is sort of like a soufflé, but not quite - the pudding separates into two layers; a soft, lemon curd layer and and a more cake-like spongy layer on top. You can see these in the second picture. You also don't need to eat it right away for fear of collapse, but I do think it is best served warm, which may be why it doesn't get served much anymore, at least not at dinner parties - it does take a little attention to get the timing right around the rest of the meal. It's worth it though; people will ask you for the recipe.

Lemon Sponge Pudding4 servings
35 minutes - 15 minutes prep time - plus about 1/2 hour to cool

Lemon Sponge Pudding
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 lemon OR 2 limes
2 extra-large egg yolks
1 cup milk
2 extra-large egg whites

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter - not with the butter listed above - a shallow 1 quart casserole or 4 individual little baking dishes and set them in a tray with about half an inch of water in it.

Cream the butter and sugar, and mix in the flour. Wash and dry the lemon (or limes) and grate the zest into the bowl. Squeeze and add the lemon or lime juice. Beat in the egg yolks and the milk.

Beat the egg whites until stiff, and fold them gently into the pudding mixture, which will be quite soupy. Ladle it into your prepared baking dish or dishes, and bake for 22 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.

Serve warm.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Carrot Soup with Three Variations

This started out as a recipe from Epicurious, but of course I have meddled. I can never remember to put in the allspice, and I don't think it needs milk; I just use a slightly heavier hand with the beans, which make an excellent thickener. The basic recipe is rather plain in flavour, but I have come up with some variations to make it more interesting. The texture, the colour and the ease of making this are all lovely.

Basic Carrot Soup:
1 litre chicken stock
1 large onion
5 large carrots
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 large bay leaf
1 cup cooked white pea (navy) beans
salt and pepper to taste

Put the chicken stock in a large soup pot, and add the onion, peeled and coarsely chopped and the carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped. Add the thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and simmer until the carrots are tender; about 15 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf and add the beans. Purée the soup in a blender until very smooth. It can be served as-is or improved with one of the following embellishments:

Maple-Ginger Carrot Soup:
1 recipe carrot soup
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground ginger

Reheat the soup with the addition of the maple syrup and ginger. Before serving it, taste and adjust the quantities if you feel it necessary. Bear in mind however, that both the maple and ginger flavours will develop more strongly as the soup sits; the ginger in particular.

Curried Apple and Carrot Soup
Curried Apple Carrot Soup:

1 recipe carrot soup
1 large apple
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon curry powder
sprinkle of minced chives, fresh or dried

Put the soup on to heat up. Wash the apple, core it, and cut it into fairly small dice. Sauté it in the butter until softened and very lightly browned in spots. Mix in the curry and chives. When the curry is well mixed in and coats the apple, add the curried apple to the soup. Serve once it has heated through.

Carrot Soup with Bacon and Shallots
Carrot Soup with Bacon & Shallots:
1 recipe carrot soup
4 or 5 shallots
3 tablespoons bacon fat
250 grams (1/2 pound) sliced bacon
1/2 teaspoon celery seed, ground

Heat the soup over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.

Peel and slice the shallots as thin as possible. Cook them in a heavy skillet with the bacon fat over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown.

Meanwhile, chop the bacon finely and cook it until crispy in another skillet. Blot the bacon bits on paper towel, and add them to the soup with the ground celery seed. When the the shallots are golden brown, blot them on the paper towel as well and add them to the soup. Serve hot.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Pasta with a Zingy Mushroom & Sour Cream Sauce

When we went to the farmers market on Saturday, I bought a 5-pound box of mushrooms, over the faint protests of my sweetie-pie, who claims he is tired of mushrooms. Nonsense, I said; a man who is tired of mushrooms is tired of life. Especially when they are cooked with sour cream and sauerkraut; kind of a light meatless version of stroganoff. He slurped them down and declared them "pretty good." There may be hope for him yet...

Check out Presto Pasta Nights at Once Upon a Feast for more bodacious pasta.

2 servings
20 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

Pasta with a Zingy Mushroom & Sour Cream Sauce
250 grams (1/2 pound) short stubby pasta

450 grams (1 pound) button mushrooms
1 large onion
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup sour cream
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup sauerkraut
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons brine or pickle juice
1 1/2 teaspoons dried dillweed

Put a large pot of water on to boil. When it boils, salt it and add the pasta.

Meanwhile, clean the mushrooms and cut them in halves or quarters. Peel and dice the onion. Sauté the mushrooms and onions in the butter in a large skillet until soft and lightly browned. This should happen a little after the pasta goes into the pot to cook.

Meanwhile, mix the sour cream, chicken stock, sauerkraut, flour, brine, dill and pepper to taste. Add this to the mushroom and onion mixture. Continue cooking over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until thickened.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it well and toss it with the sauce.

Black Spanish Radish

Black Spanish Radishes
The trouble with most storage root vegetables is that they go into storage in the fall in good condition; crisp fresh and juicy. As time goes by, they begin to show signs of tiredness. Still good, but perhaps not quite what they were to start with. Black radish is the opposite. It goes into storage with a rough, pugnacious character, and people recommend treating it with salt and squeezing out the juice to tame its coarse horseradishy flavour. However, by March it will have naturally mellowed to a smoother radish taste. So why not just wait and eat them in the late winter or early spring? Wow, a new veggie in March; I can handle that!

Pick black radishes that are medium sized, firm and solid. The skin is thin, but has an odd dusty quality and is probably better peeled off. They can be a little tough, and so are generally used grated in salads, or cooked like turnips. They don't have the fresh springy quality of red radishes, but after not having had any radishes for months they make a nice change to salads.

Just to make life complicated, as far as I can tell there are two different black radishes out there. One is simply a black-skinned version of raphanus sativus and is closely related to the more common red and white salad radishes; the other is raphanus sativus niger, and is closely related to daikon, lo bak and other oriental radishes. As such, it can get quite large. The black Spanish radish belongs to the first category, and insofar as any black radishes can be said to be common in North America, this is the one. You can expect these radishes to be about the size of a small white turnip.

In eastern Europe they are highly regarded as a tonic for the liver and gall bladder; like many vegetable remedies they should be eaten only in normal portions. Excessive consumption may in fact be toxic to the liver.

Black Spanish Round Radish on Foodista

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Root Slaw

This is a wintery version of cole-slaw, with lots of root vegetables, but the beets make the colour a pretty spring-like pink. The flavours are light and lively too, and help support that feeling that spring may come one of these days. Well, it is supposed to get up above freezing by the end of the week. W00t!

4 servings
45 minutes - 15 minutes prep time (plus 1 hour to cook the beet)

Root Slaw - A mix of cabbage, rutabaga, carrots and beetsSalad:
1 medium beet

1 cup grated raw rutabaga
1 medium carrot
1 cup finely shredded green cabbage

Put the beet in a small saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil until tender; about 40 minutes. Let it cool. This can be done in advance.

Peel and grate the rutabaga and carrot, and shred the cabbage. Mix them in a bowl and toss them in the dressing. Peel and grate the beet, and gently mix it in. Let the salad sit in the fridge for 20 minutes before serving it to allow the flavours to blend.

1 teaspoon fennel seed, ground
1/4 teaspoon celery seed, ground
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper, ground
1/4 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
1/4 cup buttermilk
the juice of 1 small lime

Grind the spices and mix them with the mayonnaise. Mix the buttermilk in slowly to avoid lumps. Mix in the lime juice.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Baked Parsnips Crusted with Nuts & Seeds

Rich and crunchy nuts and seeds set off the sweetness of parsnips very well.

2 or 3 servings
45 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

Baked Parsnips Crusted with Nuts and Seeds3 medium-large parsnips, about 300 grams (2/3 pound)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons mixed nuts and seeds

Peel the parsnips and trim the ends; cut them into thickish slices. (About 1 cm thick.) Put them in a pot, cover them with water, and boil them gently for 10 to 15 minutes, until barely tender. Drain the parsnips and toss them gently with the butter to coat them. This can be done in advance.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Use a mixture of nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or poppy seeds. I used walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and white poppy seeds. Use the food processor to chop them to the consistency of coarse crumbs. Spread a layer of the seed mixture in a small baking dish - about one third of it - and spread the buttered parsnips out over them. Sprinkle the remaining two thirds of the nut and seed mixture evenly over the parsnips and season with a little salt. Bake them for about 20 minutes, until the nuts and seeds are lightly toasted.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Fresh Shiitake Mushrooms Sautéed in Butter & Tamari (Soy Sauce)

These are a yummy treat; they make an excellent topping for steak, chicken, fish or even just plain rice. The mushrooms can be prepared in advance but do not cook them until the last minute - they are done in a flash.

2 servings
10 minutes - 5 minutes prep time

Fresh Shiitake Mushroooms Sauteed in Butter and Tamari2 cups fresh shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon tamari or other good soy sauce
2 teaspoons minced parsley, chives or green onion

Check the mushrooms for dirt (they are usually very clean, since they grow on logs) and trim off the stems. If they are uneven in size you may wish to cut the larger ones in half, but it isn't really necessary.

Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the shiitakes, and stir them around quickly to coat them in the butter. Once they begin to sizzle, sprinkle them with the tamari. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 2 or 3 minutes, until the mushrooms are browned and the tamari and butter absorbed. Serve at once, sprinkled with the parsley, chives or green onion.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Chocolate Pudding

There is no reason - none - to buy pudding mix or, egad!, pudding in a cup. This is a million times better, you can keep all the ingredients on hand until wanted, and it goes together in a jiffy. True, it has to be cooled, which takes a little time, but that is a small price to pay for real pudding.

I'm pushing it calling this an Ontario recipe, but I hope to get by on a wave of milk and cream. This is ridiculously easy and extremely popular, and it never fails to disappear in a flash even if there are just the two of us eating it. You can use low fat milk and make it lighter, or rich milk and make it creamier. I have to admit I generally use soy milk which makes an excellent pudding.

8 servings. Really. 8. I mean it. Okay, give me a little more too.
15 minutes prep time - 2 hours chill time

Chocolate Pudding6 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot
pinch salt
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
4 cups milk or soymilk
1 teaspoon flavouring extract - vanilla, almond, peppermint or orange

a little whipped cream never goes amiss

Sift the starch, salt, sugar and cocoa into a 2 litre microwavable dish or heavy bottomed pot. Mix in the milk or soymilk a little at a time to make a smooth paste. Continue mixing in the milk until it is all in and the mixture is free of any lumps.

Cook it in the microwave on high. I put it in for 3 minutes, stir well, put it in for 2 minutes, stir, then 2 minutes again and a final stir. Depending on your microwave it may need another minute. When it is thick, mix in the flavouring of your choice. Chill before serving.

You can also cook it on the stove top. Use medium-low heat and stir constantly. Again, once it thickens remove it from the stove promptly and mix in the flavouring.

Remember that it will be thicker when it is cool than when it is hot. Once it has noticeably thickened it will not thicken any more, and in fact it may get runnier again if you overcook it. So don't.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Lamb Chops with Roasted Tomatoes & Shallots

Why yes, more lamb chops. One box of chops down; two to go. What a lot of chops from one little lamb, unless I had a box leftover from last year, which is quite possible.

This was richer and tastier than you would expect from something so very simple. Greenhouse tomatoes are so much better than they used to be - they used to be frankly awful. Now, while they are not as good as summertime vine-ripened tomatoes, better greenhouse management and varieties of tomatoes bred specifically for greenhouses make winter tomatoes actually very good.

The ingredients below are per person - just multiply it by the number of servings you wish to make.

1 serving
30 minutes - 5 minutes prep time

Lamb Chps with Roasted Tomatoes and Shallots2-3 small ripe tomatoes
2-3 small shallots
2-3 small lamb chops

a little grapeseed oil
Worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Wash the tomatoes and cut them in half. Peel the shallots and cut them in half. Lightly oil a cast iron skillet or other shallow roasting pan, and toss the tomatoes and shallots in it to barely coat. Make space in the middle to stand the chops up on their fatty sides.

Roast the chops for 20 minutes. Remove them to a serving plate to rest for 5 minutes before serving. You can remove the vegetables at this time as well, or if you prefer them roasted a little more, return them to the oven while the chops rest.

At any rate, just before serving, season the chops and vegetables with a good sprinkle of Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Rhubarb, Cranberry & Ginger Compote or Fool

Pink and cheery and bursting with flavour - another thumb-of-the-nose to old man Winter. I think it's better with the whipped cream, personally. After all, everything that isn't better with bacon is better with whipped cream. We pass this way but once, etc, etc. Besides, you will need those calories to shovel out the driveway yet again.

I put in the larger amount of ginger, but as already noted I am a ginger fiend. Feel free to put in less. This is also not wildly sweet so you may wish to taste it before it cools and add a little more sugar.

4 to 6 servings (goes further as a fool, obviously)
15 to 20 minutes prep time; 2 hours chill time

Rhubarb Cranberry and Ginger Fool2 cups chopped rhubarb
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup minced preserved ginger
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch or arrowroot
1/4 cup pure cranberrry juice

1/2 to 2/3 cup whipping cream (optional)

Put the rhubarb, cranberries, ginger, sugar, cornstarch or arrowroot and cranberry juice into a pot. Bring to a boil and simmer gently, stirring frequently, until the cranberries are softened, the rhubarb is starting to disintegrate and the mixture is thickened.

This can be chilled and served as-is (as a compote) or made into a fool by the addition of whipped cream. In that case, once the compote has cooled to room temperature, beat the whipping cream until very stiff, and fold it into the compote. Serve chilled.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Vegetarian Lentil Paté

Recipe edited May 16, 2010 for clarity.

I want spring, and I want it now. I'm definitely not going to get it now, so I guess I will have to settle for some nice spring-like food. How about red lentil paté?

Vegetarian Red Lentil PateDelicious with crunchy crackers, a few sprouts and tomato slices, or maybe a pickle slice.

20 to 24 slices
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time

Vegetarian Lentil PateCook the lentils:
2 cups red lentils
4 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon sea salt

Rinse and pick over the lentils, and put them in the rice cooker with the water, bay leaf and salt. Turn it on and cook them. Remove and discard the bay leaf.

Be sure the lentils are quite dry; if there is any liquid left from cooking them in them, they should be drained in a colander until it is all out.

Mix the spices:
1/2 teaspoon celery seed, ground
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, ground
1 teaspoon rubbed oregano
1/4 teaspoon rubbed thyme
1/2 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Mix in a small bowl and set aside.

Make the paté:
1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 large carrot
1/2 cup parsley, minced
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sunflower seed oil

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Peel and mince the onion and garlic finely. Peel the carrot and grate it finely.

Mince the parsley finely and mix it into the lentils with the bread crumbs and vinegar.

Sauté the onion in the oil over medium-low temperature until soft and translucent, and just starting to brown a little. Mix in the garlic, the carrot and the mixed spices and sauté for a few minutes more, until everything is soft and fragrant. Mix the onion and carrot mixture in with the lentils.

Press the mixture into an oiled or non-stick loaf pan, and smooth the top. Bake for 30 minutes, until lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature before removing it from the pan and cutting it. If refrigerated, it should be brought to room temperature for serving.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Roast Leg of Lamb in a Spicy Sauce

This is based quite closely on a recipe I found on Epicurious, although of course I made some changes. I didn't have a butterflied leg of lamb - mine was bone-in - and barbequing was not an option. I omitted or changed a few of the spices, and I reduced the amount of olive oil and replaced it with water. Nevertheless, the results were excellent. I am not ashamed to say that I licked my plate like a cat. Don't be put off by the long list of ingredients; the spice rub goes together very quickly.

Roast Leg of Lamb in a Spicy SauceNext time I think I would cover it with foil from the start; the top got a little too brown although it did taste just fine.

Sliced Roast Leg of Lamb in a Spicy Sauce4 to 6 servings
1 hour 45 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

The Spice Rub:
1 shallot
2 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon savory
2 teaspoons black peppercorns, crushed
2 teaspoons cumin seed, ground
2 teaspoons coriander seed, ground
2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce (I used sriracha)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons olive oil
the juice of 1 lemon

Put everything but the olive oil and lemon juice into the food processor, and process to a paste. Add the olive oil and lemon juice, and process again, until smooth.

The Lamb:
1 2-kilogram (4 1/2 to 5 pound) bone-in leg of lamb
1/3 cup of water
Trim the lamb of as much fat as possible. Spread the spice paste evenly all over the leg of lamb; top, bottom and sides. Put it in a fairly snug roasting dish and cover it with foil. Return it to the fridge to marinate; anywhere from 1 hour to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Add the water to the roasting pan. Re-cover the lamb with foil, and roast it for 1 hour to 1 and 1/2 hours, depending on the size of the lamb and how well done you would like it to be. Check it occasionally to be sure the water does not evaporate from the pan. If it does, add a bit more.

Let it rest for 5 or 10 minutes before slicing it. Serve it with the sauce from the pan.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Mint-Glazed Turnips

A touch of honey and mint go well with the bite of turnips.

2 servings
30 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Mint Glazed Turnips4 small turnips
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh mint

Peel the turnips and cut them in quarters. Put them in a heavy-bottomed pot with water to cover, and boil them gently until they are tender; about 15 minutes.

Drain them, and return them to the pot with the butter, honey and mint. Cook them, stirring frequently, until the honey and butter are absorbed, and they begin to brown a little.