Thursday, 31 July 2008

Summer Pudding

Summer Pudding is a classic English dessert. The method is extremely simple, and like all extremely simple recipes it requires the best quality ingredients possible, as there is nothing to distract from the mediocre.

In particular, you need to be careful about the bread. I used a lovely brioche from Golden Hearth Bakery, which was perfect for this. A good challah (egg bread) would be a fine choice. A firm sandwich bread, white or lightly whole wheat is the classic choice. It can't be too dense and heavy, but anything overly soft and processed will be a disaster, and turn to goo. Stale bread will work, but firmness through staleness is not enough - the bread must have character to start with, or it will not hold up, stale or not.

8 servings
20 minutes prep time; 6 to 8 hours to set

Summer Pudding
I made mine in a 9" springform pan, but you can use a shallow bowl or other baking pan as seems appropriate.

Summer Pudding
1 loaf brioche (about 8 slices)
OR other egg bread or sandwich bread

3 cups blueberries
3 cups raspberries
OR 6 cups other mixed berries
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cranberry juice

Line the mold you have chosen as neatly as you can with plastic film. Cut slices of bread to fit the mold, and line the bottom of it with the bread in a single layer. It is your choice whether to include the crusts or not.

Rinse and pick over the berries. Put the blueberries or other sturdy-skinned berries, if using, in a pot with the sugar and cranberry juice and cook over medium heat until the berries burst. Add the remaining softer berries (of the raspberry type) and continue cooking until just soft and juicy - don't overcook. If you are not using blueberries, all the fruit can go in at the beginning. Again, it should not so much be cooked as heated until the sugar is dissolved and the fruit is beginning to fall apart.

Ladle the fruit evenly over the prepared bread, reserving most of the juice for the next layer of bread. Top the existing layer of bread and fruit with another layer of bread cut to fit, and press down gently. Drizzle the remaining juice evenly over the top bread layer, making sure there are no bits left unsoaked.

Cover the pudding with another layer of plastic film, and put a weight on it. Chill it for at least 6 hours or preferably overnight.

To serve, unwrap and unmold the pudding. Serve it in slices with yogurt or whipped cream.

Last year at this time, I made Lentil, Roasted Onion & Spinach Salad, and Potato & Pepper Hash with Corn & Cheese.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Three Sisters' Salad

Which, let's face it, is another bean salad. This is one that I usually make for pot-lucks, as it makes an awful lot of salad. On the other hand, it keeps for several days in the fridge, and is thus handy for lunches on days when you don't want to cook. If you are going to do that though, keep the tomato out of it and add it at the last minute.

12 servings
30 minutes

Three Sisters Salad

2 cups corn kernels (2 or 3 cobs)
1 large tomato, diced
1 medium zucchini, grated
2 medium carrots, grated
3 stalks celery, diced
1/2 cup chives, minced
1/2 cup parsley, minced (or cilantro if you prefer)
1 540-ml (19 ounce) can black beans
1 540-ml (19 ounce) can red kidney beans
1 540-ml (19 ounce) can chickpeas

Cut the corn from the cobs, and cook it in boiling water briefly, about 5 minutes. Drain well and cool.

Mix it with the tomato, peeled and diced, the grated zucchini and carrots, the diced celery and minced chives and parsley.

Drain the beans, and rinse and drain them well. Add them to the salad.

1/4 cup sunflower seed oil
1/4 cup apple-cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon savory
1/2 teaspoon ground celery seed

Grind the cumin and celery seed. Whisk together the dressing ingredients, or shake them together in a jar, and toss into the salad.

Last year around this time, I made Roasted Pepper, Tomato & Bean Salad - no escaping those beans - Curried Russian Salad, and Raspberry Cream & Chocolate Wafer Pudding.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Hodja Nasrudin and the Pilgrim

About a year ago, I delved into the stories of the Hodja Nasreddin, which I found a useful source of material for First Day (Sunday) School lessons. I've had one of them floating around in my head all week, so I'm going to share it here, even though it has nothing to do with food. It sure has a lot to do with my week.

Hodja Nasreddin was a folk character - or maybe he really existed - in middle-eastern mythology, who was a fool and a buffoon - or maybe he was wise and crafty - who lived the simple life of a peasant in a village, although he found time to consult to kings as well. At any rate, the stories and jokes that surround his life are short, simple, pithy and pointed - although amazingly rich and complex in meaning. There are thousands of them, and they are still being made today.

Here is the story of the Hodja and the Pilgrim:

The Hodja* was returning home from Mecca, when he met another pilgrim coming along the road, who was going to Mecca. They stopped to chat, as fellow pilgrims will. The other pilgrim asked the Hodja, "What are the people like in the next town? How can I expect that they will treat me?"

The Hodja scratched his beard. "Hmm, tell me - what were the people like in the last town you were in?"

"Oh, Hodja, they were horrible!" replied the pilgrim. "They were dishonest and cruel. They cared nothing that I was on pilgrimmage. In fact, they were so bad that I was lucky to escape them with my life!".

"Alas!" said the Hodja sadly. "I'm afraid you will find that in the other town they are exactly the same!"

* In fact, that's what Hodja means; it's a title given to one who has made the pilgrimmage, although "The" Hodja seems to be this fellow Nasrudin. (Yes, there are several different spellings.)

Friday, 25 July 2008

Fried Cauliflower, Mexican Style

A dish I remember from my childhood! It makes a great appetizer, and that's a good way to get it to the table in a timely manner. It would also make a good vegetarian main course, served with some rice and beans and green salad.

The cauliflower can be boiled in advance, but the final frying needs to happen right before it is to be served.

2 to 3 servings
25 minutes - 10 minutes prep

Fried Cauliflower Mexican Style
1/2 of a small cauliflower, about 3 cups when broken into florets

1 extra-large egg
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or savory
pinch of sea salt
black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon flour

1/2 cup plain vegetable oil for frying

Trim the cauliflower and cut it in slices, or large florets. If the florets are too large to lie in a frying pan nicely, cut them in half. Boil the cauliflower in salted water until just barely tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well and let cool. You can use leftover cauliflower, but it should not be chilled - bring it up to room temperature before proceeding.

Beat the egg with the seasonings and the flour. Be sure all the lumps are out of the flour. Put the oil in a large skillet and heat over medium heat. While the oil is heating, soak the cauliflower pieces in the egg mixture, turning them to cover them on all sides. Lay them in the hot oil and cook until browned on all sides, turning them as necessary. Pour any remaining egg mixture over them as they cook. They will be cooked in about 5 minutes.

Remove the cauliflower pieces from the oil and drain them on paper towel. Serve hot.

Last year at this time, I made Spaghetti with Pea and Garlic Scape Pesto with Mint, and Not Exactly Graham Crackers.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Almond-Orange Tart with Sweet Cherries

This gets two pictures, because it is just so damn good. I tend to make it just once a year, but it's a tradition and a landmark. I don't do much cooking with sweet cherries; the perfect sweet cherry recipe is to sit out on a shady porch on a sunny day, start popping them in, and spit the pits over the railing. If you can't do that, you can try this instead.

I think it would work well with other fruit; peaches, apricots or plums, raspberries, blueberries; they'd all be good. I haven't tried making this with brown rice flour instead of wheat flour, but I suspect it would be a good candidate for that change, if necessary.

In the past I have always pitted cherries before cooking with them. I have finally rebelled. It occurs to me that I want to spend less time cooking and more time eating - we are both notorious bolters - and that leaving the pits in would help achieve this aim. So far, so good. Just warn people, and I wouldn't leave them in if the tart is to be eaten by very small children.

6 to 8 servings
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time

Almond Orange Tart with Sweet Cherries
You need one of those big, shallow tart pans with a removable bottom, 11" across.

Almond Orange Tart with Sweet Cherries
1 cup finely ground almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup soft pastry flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

2 extra-large eggs
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
4 cups (450 grams, 1 pound) sweet cherries, pitted or not

Butter the bottom and sides of an 11" tart pan. Line the bottom with buttered parchment paper. The cherries should be washed and drained well, and the stems removed before you start. If you wish them to be pitted, you should do that too. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Mix the ground almond, sugar, flour, salt and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Wash the orange carefully, dry it, and grate in the orange zest.

Melt the butter, and set it aside.

In another little bowl, beat the eggs until well blended. Beat in the orange juice. When the butter is cooled enough that it won't cook the eggs, beat it in with them as well.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Scrape the batter into the tart pan, and spread it evenly to the edges.

Scatter the cherries evenly over the batter, and press them down gently.

Bake the tart at 350°F for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown and firm. Let cool before removing it from the pan.

Last year around now I made Dill Pickles by the Jar, Leeks & Spinach, and Broccoli Stem, Cabbage & Carrot Stir Fry.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

A Visit to Shepherd's Watch Hundred Mile Market

Shepherds Watch 100 Mile Market
We were driving through Arthur last weekend, when we saw a sign on a big old barn-shaped building on the main street, that said "Shepherd's Watch 100 Mile Market." Well, you know what that meant! Screeeech!

Shepherds Watch 100 Mile Market
A closer look showed that they were also a café with seats on the front deck which was adorned with baskets of hanging plants.

Shepherds Watch 100 Mile Market
There are tables inside as well. As you may suppose by their name, they have a particular interest in the all the various products that are possible with sheep. The blankets come from Belle Vallee Wools. I suspect that's a bit further than 100 miles, but nice to see anyway - I don't know of any other mill in Ontario producing all-wool blankets with locally produced wool.

Shepherds Watch 100 Mile Market
They also have lots of naturally coloured wools and sheepskins, as well as a judicious selection of interesting yarns from further afield.

Shepherds Watch 100 Mile Market
One of the Belle Vallee tartan blankets.

Shepherds Watch 100 Mile Market
You could have some cosy, colourful toes this winter.

Shepherds Watch 100 Mile Market
Shepherd's Watch is owned by Lynda Sauve and Carol Sampson, who run a farm and sheep dairy of the same name. They produce all-natural sheep cheeses, as well as lamb, milk, yogurt, wool, yarn, blankets, sheep skins, and other wool products. They are available at the Guelph Farmers Market and the Kitchener Farmers Market as well.

Shepherds Watch 100 Mile Market
The 100 Mile Market carries a range of other meats as well, from local farmers. Does all this remind you a bit of the 100 Mile Market in Meaford? Lynda and Carol consulted with the folks in Meaford before opening their store. I hope this is a pattern we will see more often.

Shepherds Watch 100 Mile Market
There was a small but nice selection of vegetables. At the time of this visit, the market has been open for only 2 months. Lynda Sauve and Carol Sampson are continuing to add products as the market becomes more known.

Shepherds Watch 100 Mile Market
Their veggies included these wildly-coloured cauliflowers.

Shepherds Watch 100 Mile Market
Jams from Mount Forest, honey from Fergus, vinegar and apple butter from Wellesley...

Shepherds Watch 100 Mile Market
As well as a good selection from Grass Roots Organics mill in Desboro. They make pasta, which can be hard to find.

We snacked on a freshly-made and tasty sandwich, a very good pepperette and a very rich and gooey butter tart while we were there. (I didn't get a picture, but they had a small but tempting selection of baked goods.)

The Shepherd's Watch 100 Mile Market and Café is located at 211 Smith Street in Arthur. Their phone number is 519-848-2228. They are open Wednesday to Sunday, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Maple Pudding

The final jar of cherries from last year met their end here, and a happy end it was. The tart, zingy cherries were a great foil to the smooth, sweet pudding. If you haven't got any canned cherries, I suggest sprinkling the pudding with fresh berries; raspberries being the ones that come to mind in particular. And of course, there's always whipped cream.

Use the darkest, lowest grade maple syrup you can find for this pudding. In fact, that's the grade you want in general for cooking and baking. It's the only one with a flavour strong enough to be diluted and mixed with other flavours and still come through. It can be damn hard to find though, I'm afraid. When you do find it, you should stock up.

4 servings
15 minutes

Maple Pudding with Canned Sour Cherries
4 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch
2 cups milk or soymilk
pinch of salt
1/2 cup dark maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put the arrowroot or cornstarch into a heavy-bottomed pot, or a microwaveable dish. Slowly stir in the cold milk or soymilk until the starch is completely blended in. Stir in the salt and maple syrup.

Cook the pudding over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Alternately, cook it for 3 minutes on high in the microwave, then stir it. Continue cooking it for a minute or two, stirring each time, until thickened.

Once the pudding is thick, stir in the vanilla extract. Let cool and chill, in a large bowl or individual serving dishes if prefered.

Monday, 21 July 2008

More on Dill Pickles

Dill Pickles - Cucumbers, Beans and Carrots
Don't forget it's time to make dill pickles! I'm sad because I don't think I'm going to have time to make any this year. I may get dis-owned too; I've given pickles to my Dad for Christmas for years now. Anyone want to make me some pickles? Here's the recipe - you can pickle the usual cucumbers, or beans and carrots are tasty and colourful too.

Russian Tarragon Pickles

I know there are some people out there who may not like dill, but do like tarragon. A few years back I was intrigued by this recipe from a 1970's cookbook published by Mir. They pickled nicely, but did indeed taste of tarragon (one of the few herbs I really don't like; yes, I know it's a character flaw, but there it is. Give me dill anyday.)

At any rate, now is the time to be making pickles. If you prefer dill pickles, see the recipe I posted last year for Dill Pickles.

2 quarts
2 hours prep time, not counting 6 weeks to ferment

Russian Tarragon Pickles
2 quarts (litres) pickling cucumbers
4 cups plain white vinegar
3 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons pickling salt
4 to 8 sprigs of fresh tarragon
8 to 12 cloves of garlic
2 to 4 mild red chile peppers

Scrub the cucumbers very well, and set them aside to drain.

Put the jars in a canner, add water to cover them by 1", and bring them to a boil; boil for 10 minutes.

When the jars are lifted out and emptied, add 2-3 cloves of garlic and the pepper (half of one if they are on the large side) to each jar, as well as 1 or 2 sprigs of tarragon. Stuff each jar as full of cucumbers as you can get it.

Make a brine of the vinegar, salt and water, by heating them together until the salt dissolves, and pour it over the cucumbers. Seal with sterilized lids.

Set aside for 6 weeks in a cool dark spot before trying. Keep refrigerated once opened.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

A Woman Cleaning Lentils

A lentil, a lentil, a lentil, a stone.
A lentil, a lentil, a lentil, a stone.
A green one, a black one, a green one, a black. A stone.
Suddenly a word. A lentil.
A lentil, a word, a word next to another word. A sentence.
A word, a word, a word, a nonsense speech.
Then an old song.
Then an old dream.
A life, another life, a hard life. A lentil. A life.
An easy life. A hard life. Why easy? Why hard?
Lives next to each other. A life. A word. A lentil.
A green one, a black one, a green one, a black one, pain.
A green song, a green lentil, a black one, a stone.
A lentil, a stone, a stone, a lentil.


Saturday, 19 July 2008

Kohlrabi & Turnips Sautéed in Butter

Even people who aren't sure they like turnips or kohlrabi may like this mild but flavourful dish.

2 to 3 servings
25 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Kohlrabi and Turnips Sauteed in Butter
1 large kohlrabi
3 small turnips
2 tablespoons butter
salt & pepper
lemon juice (optional)

Put a pot of water on to boil. Meanwhile, peel the kohlrabi and turnips, and cut them into slices. Cut the kohlrabi slices into quarters. You should have about the same quantity of both vegetables. Put them in the boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes. Drain well.

Heat the butter in a large skillet. Add the vegetables in as close to a single layer as you can, and cook them slowly in the butter (over medium heat) until lightly browned on each side. Turn occasionally. Season with salt & pepper and serve hot, with a squeeze of lemon juice if desired.

Last year at this time, I made Broccoli & Mushrooms in Oyster Sauce, and Broccoli & Barley Salad with Feta & Tomatoes.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Canned (Bottled) Cherries

Sour cherries are the best cherries! At least if you want to cook or bake with them, can them or dry them. Their zingy flavour stands up well to those kinds of rough treatment; in fact it just gets better. I love cherries, and this way I can eat a few all winter. They are great on pudding or ice-cream. I won't get to do much canning this year because we are moving, but I insisted on canning a batch of cherries.

10 500-ml jars, if the pits are left in
8 500-mil jars, if the pits are removed
2 hours

Canning Cherries - Pick Over the Cherries
First, the cherries need to be picked over and have all the stems, leaves, blossom bits and bad cherries removed. They should then be washed and drained well.

Canning Cherries - Make the Syrup
While the water heats to sterilize the canning jars, make the syrup.

The Canned or Bottled Cherries
After the sterilized jars are filled with cherries and syrup, they are processed in a boiling water bath, then taken out to seal and cool before being packed away. Below is my last jar from last years' batch along side one of this years' batch. A year is about as long as you should keep canned produce.

A Jar of Cherries From This Year and Last Year
6 quarts (7 litres) sour cherries

Put as many jars as fit comfortably into your canner into your canner, and add water to cover them by an inch at least. Bring them to a boil, and boil 10 minutes.

Make the syrup, and let it steep while you proceed.

Meanwhile, de-stem the cherries, discarding any lingering leaves and old blossoms as well as any bad or damaged cherries. Wash them well. You may pit them if you are so inclined.

Put the lids and rims into a pot, covered with water, and bring them to a boil. Boil 5 minutes.

When the jars are sterilized, remove them from the canner, emptying the water back in as you take them out. Put them on a clean towel or board to work. Fill them quickly with the raw cherries. You should pack them in fairly firmly. Ladle a scant 1/2 cup of hot syrup into each jar of cherries. Seal them with the lids and rims. Put them back into the boiling water canner, and boil for 15 minutes. Remove the jars from the canner, and let them cool before wiping the jars, labeling them and putting them away.

You will need to repeat all this with however many jars you have left to fill that didn't go into the canner in the first batch.

2 cups honey
4 cups water
2 or 3 4" cinnamon sticks
2/3 cup fresh lime juice

Put the honey and water into a pot with the cinnamon sticks, broken up. Bring to a boil and boil for a minute or two. Turn off the pot. Cover and let it steep while the jars are being sterilized.

When you are ready to fill the jars, fish out the bits of cinnamon. Bring the syrup back up to a boil. Add the lime juice.

A Visit to the Brantford Farmers Market

Last weekend we thought we would head off in a direction we rarely go: south. We drove straight down highway 24 into Brantford. One left turn and kink in the road later, we were pulling into the parking lot of the Brantford Farmers Market, on Icomm Drive right opposite the casino.

Brantford Farmers Market
At first glance, we didn't think it looked very impressive. There weren't a lot of vendors outside.

Brantford Farmers Market
However, the vendors turned out to be quite interesting. There were quite a few soft fruits available. These were probably the last regular strawberries for the year, from a local farm.

Brantford Farmers Market
We didn't get there until about 11:00 and a lot of the items listed on this board were just selling out. Nice to see such a good selection of organic produce.

Brantford Farmers Market
There was also a good selection of tree fruits, including sour cherries.

Brantford Farmers Market
And all the local seasonal veggies.

Brantford Farmers Market
I think there must be a number of blueberry farms in the Brantford area. There were blueberries all over the market.

Brantford Farmers Market
The inside of the market was quite large, and full of vendors and customers. The indoor market runs all year, and is open on both Friday (9 am to 5 pm) and Saturday (7 am to 2 pm.)

Brantford Farmers Market
In addition to the usual bakeries, butchers, cheesemongers and fruit and veggie sellers there were a number of crafts and jewelry.

Brantford Farmers Market
When we went home, it was with oak-leaf lettuce, bok choy, peas, eggs, raspberries, bacon, sausage, bluuuueberries and sour cherries. Yumm-o!

Last year at this time, I made Vietnamese Marinated Carrots & Radishes and Currant Catsup.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Stinky Meat

Uh, that would be beef cooked with garlic, soy sauce, Vietnamese style chile-garlic sauce, and did I mention the garlic?

4 servings
20 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

Stinky Meat - Beef with Garlic, Soy Sauce and Chile-Garlic Sauce
450 grams (1 pound) lean boneless stewing beef
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 or 3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
3 to 6 cloves of garlic- as much as you think you will like
1 to 3 teaspoons Vietnamese chile-garlic sauce

Cook the beef slowly in a large skillet in the oil. After it has browned, add the soy sauce or tamari. While that happens, peel and mince the garlic. Add the garlic to the pan. Continue cooking, for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the pan juices thicken and coat the meat. Stir occasionally. Stir in the Vietnamese chile-garlic sauce about 5 minutes before serving.

Serve over mashed potatoes, barley pilaf or rice. Next time I'm going to try it in a crusty roll as a sandwich. Nice with a bit of lemon juice squeezed over top. A salad with lots of parsley might be a good idea. Also, you can get rid of that infused-with-stale-garlic feeling the next day by means of a little vigorous exercise.

Last year on this date I made Baked Mushroom Meatballs, Roasted Baby Zucchini and Corn & Barley Salad.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Salad with Goat Cheese & Blueberries

We bought 3 quarts of blueberries this week, and mostly I've been rinsing them off and putting them into a bowl before shovelling them into my mouth. I love blueberries, and could eat them plain all day and all night. However, I thought I ought to make an effort to do something more inspired - or at least more elaborate - with them. Since I had a nice big head of red oak-leaf lettuce and some goat cheese, this is what happened.

4 servings
20 minutes prep time

Salad with Goat Cheese & Blueberries
1/4 cup raspberry or other fruit vinegar
1/4 cup walnut or other nut oil
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
1/2 teaspoon anise seed, crushed
sea salt to taste

As ever, grind the spices and whisk it all together, or shake it up in a jar.

1 small to 1/2 large head of leaf lettuce
1 1/2 cups blueberries
100 grams goat cheese (chevre)
1/3 cup sunflower seeds

Wash the lettuce and dry well. Tear it up into bite-sized pieces. Arrange it on separate serving plates, or in a shallow salad bowl.

Wash the blueberries and dry them well. Scatter them evenly over the lettuce. Crumble the cheese and do likewise. Toast the sunflower seeds until lightly browned in a dry skillet, stirring constantly. As soon as they are done enough, turn them out onto a plate to cool. Sprinkle them over the salad. Give the dressing a shake again, and drizzle it over the salad or salads.

Last year at this time, well, last year at this time I obviously had time on my hands. I made Raspberry-Currant Jam, Blueberry-Currant Jam, Cherry-Currant Jam as well as posting about Making Jam in general. And since one has to eat, even if one has spent the day making jam, I also posted about Pesto Chicken Salad and Green & Wax Beans in Honey-Mustard Dressing.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Summer Pasta

In Italy, this might be called "Pasta Primavera". In Ontario, though, it's hard to work up a good selection of vegetables before early summer at best. I've been making a number of variations on this theme lately. Some vegetables go into the pot with the pasta towards the end of the cooking time to cook along with it; others get sautéed with some oil and garlic or chopped green onions. You can use whatever vegetables seem good to you, just decide if they are "boilers" or "sautéers". If I'm adding meat, some sausage or chopped bacon gets cooked in the pan as well. Otherwise, when the pasta is drained and tossed with the contents of the pan, some cheese gets thrown in too. Quick, painless, tasty and not too much time spent hanging over a hot stove. You can spend that time hanging over all the great pasta at Presto Pasta Nights instead.

2 servings
20 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

Pasta with Peas, Spinach, Sauteed Zucchini and Feta Cheese

225 grams (1/2 pound) stubby pasta

2 cups peas
4 cups spinach
1 or 2 green onions
OR 1 or 2 cloves of garlic (or both if you like)
1 medium zucchini
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried basil (or a tablespoon or 2 fresh minced)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
100 grams feta cheese, cut in dice

Cook the pasta in plenty of salted, boiling water. In the meantime, shell the peas. Add them to the pasta 3 or 4 minutes before it is done. Wash the spinach, and chop it coarsely. Let it drain in the pasta drainer.

Chop the green onion or mince the garlic. Wash and slice the zucchini. When the pasta is about half done, heat the oil in a large skillet and sauté the zucchini until it begins to brown, stirring regularly. Add the green onion or garlic, and sauté for a few minutes more. Season with the basil, oregano, salt and pepper.

When the pasta and peas are done, drain them through the spinach. Toss the pasta, peas and spinach with the contents of the skillet, and the feta cheese.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Paprika Sautéed Cauliflower

This is a colourful and flavourful way to serve cauliflower, originally found here. You can cook the cauliflower in advance, or even use leftover cauliflower. Vary the type and quantity of paprika according to your taste. I'm calling for hot smoked paprika, but you can use more sweet paprika or smoked sweet paprika if you prefer it milder, or even a wee bit of cayenne if you don't. (Not a 1/2 teaspoon though...)

2 to 3 servings
25 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

Paprika Sauteed Cauliflower
1/2 a head of cauliflower, smallish,
about 3 cups when cut up
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

1 tablespoon sunflower seed oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
OR sweet smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon hot smoked paprika

Wash and trim the cauliflower, and cut it into florets. Boil or steam it until just tender - it should be a hair underdone, for preference. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Meanwhile, toss the cauliflower with the salt and paprikas. When the oil is hot, add the cauliflower to the pan. Sauté for about 5 minutes, until the cauliflower is hot through and begins to crisp and brown at the edges. Add the garlic to the pan after the cauliflower has cooked for about 2 minutes.

Editted: I keep forgetting to post what I made at this time last year. This time last year, I made Butter-Cooked Peas & Spinach and French Dressing. Don't forget to check them out.

Sunday, 13 July 2008


"I have too much stuff. Most people in America do. In fact, the poorer people are, the more stuff they seem to have. Hardly anyone is so poor that they can't afford a front yard full of old cars.

It wasn't always this way. Stuff used to be rare and valuable. You can still see evidence of that if you look for it. For example, in my house in Cambridge, which was built in 1876, the bedrooms don't have closets. In those days people's stuff fit in a chest of drawers. Even as recently as a few decades ago there was a lot less stuff. When I look back at photos from the 1970s, I'm surprised how empty houses look. As a kid I had what I thought was a huge fleet of toy cars, but they'd be dwarfed by the number of toys my nephews have. All together my Matchboxes and Corgis took up about a third of the surface of my bed. In my nephews' rooms the bed is the only clear space.

Stuff has gotten a lot cheaper, but our attitudes toward it haven't changed correspondingly. We overvalue stuff.

That was a big problem for me when I had no money. I felt poor, and stuff seemed valuable, so almost instinctively I accumulated it. Friends would leave something behind when they moved, or I'd see something as I was walking down the street on trash night (beware of anything you find yourself describing as "perfectly good"), or I'd find something in almost new condition for a tenth its retail price at a garage sale. And pow, more stuff.

In fact these free or nearly free things weren't bargains, because they were worth even less than they cost. Most of the stuff I accumulated was worthless, because I didn't need it.

What I didn't understand was that the value of some new acquisition wasn't the difference between its retail price and what I paid for it. It was the value I derived from it. Stuff is an extremely illiquid asset. Unless you have some plan for selling that valuable thing you got so cheaply, what difference does it make what it's "worth?" The only way you're ever going to extract any value from it is to use it. And if you don't have any immediate use for it, you probably never will.

Companies that sell stuff have spent huge sums training us to think stuff is still valuable. But it would be closer to the truth to treat stuff as worthless.

In fact, worse than worthless, because once you've accumulated a certain amount of stuff, it starts to own you rather than the other way around. I know of one couple who couldn't retire to the town they preferred because they couldn't afford a place there big enough for all their stuff. Their house isn't theirs; it's their stuff's...

Paul Graham has more to say about Stuff. Check it out.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Faintly Terrifying

The Back of the House
What you see in the picture above is a small - a very small - part of the backyard of our new house. Yes, we bought the farm.

Okay, it's not really a farm; it's only about 9 acres. Also, and this is important, it's our first purchase of property that isn't an "income property." By definition then, it's what they call an "outgo property." Hence the faint terror.

We're also wildly excited, of course. We are spending lots of time with cockamamie fantasies about just what we are going to do with All That Land. There was a mighty big veggie garden, that we plan to restore. There are a number of fruit trees, new and old, to be pruned and fussed over, as well as increased in number. There are flower beds to be weeded and expanded. Heck, I could have a garden dedicated completely to shrubs if I wanted, and I might. I am busy researching poultry, particularly geese to be used as weeders. The Sweetie is busy researching windmills. In short, we're absolutely bug-nuts crazy out of our minds. We're also going to move, sometime early in September most likely. If I seem a little distracted this summer, that would be why.

I'm looking forward to blogging about our attempts to grow some really, really local food. I'd rather do that than weed, I know that already.

A Visit to the Preston Neighbourhood Markets

I live in Preston, which is one of three towns joined in a shot-gun menage a trois about 40 years ago into the city of Cambridge. It hasn't turned out to be a completely happy union. Cambridge is a very sprawling city, and car ownership is pretty much required. (Add a few traffic bottlenecks, and you get traffic jams to rival Toronto.) In particular, Preston has exactly one and a half small grocery stores; a Zehrs and a Giant Tiger. Neither of them are particularly good at carrying local produce, in fact I don't think the Giant Tiger has produce of any sort. (Well it's a department store, really.) Consequently, there was a lot of excitement when we heard that the Neighbourhood Markets started in Kitchener last year were expanding into Preston.

The following are key facilitators of these mini-markets: Opportunities Waterloo Region, Region of Waterloo Public Health, Lyle Hallman Foundation, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation and Together4Health.

Preston Heights Neighbourhood Market
Here's the one in Preston Heights, staffed by volunteers, as they all are. Produce is purchased at the Elmira Produce Auction, then sold at cost.

Preston Heights Neighbourhood Market
They had a very decent selection of vegetables, some strawberries and a bit of bread from a local bakery. Everything was squeaky-fresh.

Preston Neighbourhood Market My Haul
Here's what I got: strawberries, spinach, new potatoes, green onions, peas already shelled, zucchini and some super fresh garlic.

Preston Downtown Neighbourhood Market
Preston Heights gets less traffic than the mini-market in the park downtown off of King Street. In fact, I heard that the first week they opened, they sold out within one hour. (They are officially open from noon to five.) I got there around 1:30 on their third Friday of business this summer. There was still a good selection of veggies, although they had gone through at least 20 flats of strawberries already, and it looked like they were running low. My impression is that they are bringing more and more every week, but are still having a little difficulty keeping up. It's probably a good idea to get there early. I'm told though, that the Preston Heights market doesn't generally sell out. They close at 4:00 pm, then send their leftovers down to the King Street market, which closes at 5:00 pm.

Preston Downtown Neighbourhood Market
Some of their stacks of empty boxes.

If you are in Kitchener, look for mini markets at St. Mary's General Hospital, the Mill-Courtland Community Centre and the Centreville-Chicopee Community Centre.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Strawberry Cream Cheese Parfaits

These look quite fancy, but are very easy to make. If you use a cream cheese that is low in fat, they are not even all that decadent. Just don't tell anyone and they will assume they are indulging! These have most of the qualities of cheesecake - especially if you use the graham cracker crumbs - but there too, they are much more easygoing than they seem, and aren't nearly as much work as cheesecake.

Strawberries are the Produce of the Month at An Italian in the US. There should be lots of strawberry based goodies there.

When strawberry season is over, make cream cheese parfaits with raspberries, cherries, apricots, peaches or grapes instead.

4 servings
20 minutes prep time

Strawberry Cream Cheese Parfaits
Cream Cheese Topping:
250 grams (1/2 pound) cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
the finely grated zest of 1/2 orange
1/4 cup orange juice

Mix the sugar and orange zest into the cream cheese. Add the orange juice, a little at a time, stirring between each addition to avoid lumps. Keep the cheese mixture chilled until you are ready to assemble the parfaits.

To Assemble the Parfaits:
1 quart (1 litre) fresh strawberries
1/4 cup fine granola, or graham or other cookie crumbs

Rinse the berriesand drain them well. Hull them, cutting any large ones in half. Divide the berries in half, and put one quarter of the first half into each of 4 parfait glasses. Top with an equal portion (i.e. one-eighth) of the cream cheese mixture. Repeat with the remaining berries, and the remaining cream cheese mixture. Top with a tablespoon of granola or graham cracker crumbs.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Pea & Cauliflower Soup

Oh look! It's Gordon Ramsay's Broccoli Soup again for the third time, and the second time without any actual broccoli. It's such a super technique for a fast, easy and tasty soup. I like this combination particularly (but then I say that about all the soups.) The cauliflower makes it a little less intense in colour than the other versions, but all the flavour is there. And yes, those are my favourite soup bowls, as a matter of fact.

This is one of the advantages of seasonal cooking. You don't necessarily have to know a lot of techniques and recipes; just keep using your favourite ones, but with the ingredients of the season and you won't at all feel like you are eating the same thing all the time. You won't be!

2 servings
15 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

Pea and Cauliflower Soup
1/2 of a small head of cauliflower
(about 2 cups when broken up, or a little more)
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup shelled peas (twice as much in the pod)
2 tablespoons walnut pieces (or sunflower seeds)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
a teaspoon or two of butter
OR 4 slices of creamy goat cheese (chevre)

Wash and trim the cauliflower, and break it into florets. Shell the peas. Put the cauliflower in the pot with the water and salt, and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes., then add the peas and simmer a further 4 or 5 minutes, until the vegetables are both tender.

Put the walnut pieces into a blender or food processor, and add the vegetables with their cooking water when they are done. Purée well. Season with pepper to taste.

Serve with a dab of butter on top, or a slice or 2 of the goat cheese.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Moroccan Spiced Lamb Patties

These are loosely based on a recipe from Epicurious. They were fine cooked in a skillet, but I imagine they would be even better cooked on a grill. Using garlic scapes for the garlic was a nice touch, but if they aren't in season, substitute for them with a few cloves of garlic.

4 patties
20 minutes

Moroccan Spice Lamb Patties
Spice Mixture:
1 dried red chile pepper
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons paprika

Grind the chile, fennel seed, cumin seed and coriander seed together, with the sea salt if it is coarse. Mix in the remaining spices.

Lamb Patties:
4 or 5 fresh garlic scapes
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint leaves
450 grams (1 pound) lean ground lamb
1 large egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs or cracker crumbs

Chop the garlic scapes finely, and mince the mint. Mix it with the lamb, the egg, the crumbs and the spice mixture. It is by far the easiest to do this by hand.

Divide the mixture into 4 equal parts, and form into patties. Fry or grill until browned on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side, but perhaps a little longer.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Unbaked Strawberry Pie

There is pie, and then there is this pie.

Some people make their unbaked strawberry pie with gelatine, but I don't think it is nearly as good as this way. It is a little soft and goopy, and doesn't tend to serve as prettily, but that will be forgotten the minute the first bit is taken.

Take a look at that ingredient list. There isn't much there, is there? That means that you must be sure to use the best ingredients, in particular the finest of strawberries. I keep harping on this, but it's vital. Your strawberries must be the freshest, the ripest, and the best bred. None of your big fat "shipper" berries. Hear me sneer? Just don't do it. Look for little ones, perhaps a little darker in colour than you expect. If you aren't sure, ask for a sample.

6 servings
1 hour to make the crust
20 minutes to make the filling
2 or 3 hours to chill and garnish

Unbaked Strawberry Pie

Unbaked Strawberry Pie

1 recipe single pie pastry

4 cups (1 quart or 1 litre) fresh strawberries
1/4 cup arrowroot or cornstarch, or tapioca starch even
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cold water

1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Roll out the pastry on a floured board, and line a 9" pie plate with it. Prick it all over with a for, and bake it at 375°F for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Set it aside to cool.

Rinse and hull the strawberries. Pick out the ripest, best looking half of them, and arrange them in the pie crust. Mash the remaining half in a heavy-bottomed pot with the starch, sugar and water. Mix well.

Tapioca starch will give a firmer but boingyer (that's a word, i'nnit?) texture than the arrowroot or corn starch will; you must decide which you will prefer. It's not as boingy as gelatine, I'll give you that.

Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the sauce turns clear and thickens. Stir constantly. Do not begin to heat the pan until the starch is thoroughly dissolved, to avoid lumps.

Pour the mixture evenly over the strawberries in the pie crust, and chill until firm. Just before serving, beat the cream until stiff with the sugar and vanilla extract. Pile it on top of the pie, and serve at once.

Doesn't keep well. Doesn't have to.

Last year on this date, I visited the Kitchener Farmers Market, and I made Potato Madeleines and Cauliflower and Celeriac Soup with Cheddar Cheese.