Saturday, 30 August 2008

I'm Home But I'm Gone

I'm back from our trip to Nova Scotia, which was great. A week is not enough time to pack in all the things we wanted to do, but we managed to do a lot, as well as spend a fair bit of time with my great-aunt. We saw a lot of our cousins, including two who were supposed to be on the way to London via Zoom; we met them in the airport after they'd been turfed off their plane.

We managed a side-trip to Prince Edward Island, and we ate a lot of seafood, including lobster rolls, fried clams, and lots of fish-cakes with chow-chow. That's a recipe I may try to Ontari-ize, once we move to our new house near the shore of Georgian Bay.

And on that note, I'm signing off for a while. Starting this evening, we'll dismantle the computers and pack them. It is likely to be at least a week before we get them set up again, and even then, we'll be very busy with 3 units turning over back at the apartment, 2 of which will require some major work. I'll try to get back in the groove as soon as I can (if only because I am getting damn tired of restaurant food) but expect few to no posts for about 2 weeks.

Hope to "see" you soon!

Herbed Cream Cheese Spread or Dip

I really enjoy this flavoured cheese spread. Do watch the garlic; it will get stronger as the cheese sits so if you think it will not all get eaten within a day, you may wish to cut it back a little. In my experience though, this cheese disappears frighteningly quickly.

2 cups spread; up to 3 cups dip
15 minutes
prep time - 1 to 24 hours chill time

Herbed Cream Cheese
2 cups light cream cheese
OR 1 cup cream cheese and 1 cup ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon cumin seed, ground
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
3 green onions, minced
1 - 2 tablespoons parsley, finely minced

buttermilk, yogurt or sour cream

Grind the cumin and black pepper, and mix them with the cheese(s), along with the cayenne and salt. Mince the garlic, green onions and parsley, and mix them in as well. Thin the cheese with a little buttermilk, yogurt or sour cream, until it reaches the consistency you like; either as a spread or a dip.

Chill the cheese spread or dip. It is not a bad idea to make it 12 to 24 hours in advance, in order to allow the flavours to blend. The prepared cheese should keep, well sealed in the fridge, for up to a week.

Last year on this date I made Chickpeas (Garbanzos) with Greens & Tomatoes, Greek Style and Fingerling Potato Salad.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Almond Jelly with Peaches & Cream

Almond jelly is one of my favourite dim sum dishes. It's usually (around here at least) a dish of almond jelly squares with tinned fruit salad and condensed milk. I don't quite know why I love it so much given I don't usually like tinned stuff all that much. I guess because it's such a great finish to a meal of rich, greasy starchy stuff.

When I make it at home, I take it back closer to it's British roots (I'm certain it has some) by using real cream and fresh peaches. It's a lovely cool and refreshing dessert, and not at all heavy. Great for hot August days, if we were in fact having any.

4 servings
10 minutes prep time - 4 hours or more chill time

Almond Jelly with Peaches and Cream
2 cups milk, soy milk or rice milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon gelatine
1/4 cup honey
the zest of 1/2 lemon

4 large ripe peaches
1/4 to 1/3 cup light cream

Put 1/2 cup of the milk in the dish in which the jelly will be made. Add the almond extract and sprinkle the gelatine over it.

Put the remaining milk in a pot with the honey and lemon zest. Heat slowly until the honey is dissolved and the milk is steaming. Stir occasionally.

Strain the hot milk into the dish with the cold milk and gelatine. Stir well, to be sure the gelatine is completely dissolved. Chill the mixture until it is set, at least 4 hours.

Cut the gelatine into cubes, and put it in individual serving dishes. Top each dish with a peach, cut into slices, and a generous tablespoon of cream.

Last year at this time, I made Caesar Salad.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Two Fresh Chutneys

Here are two traditional Indian chutneys. I've seen quite a lot of different recipes for the green chutney. Some call for more mint and some for more cilantro, so feel free to change the proportions around as you like and as seems appropriate to the meal they are to accompany. If you like, you could add a little ginger or garlic as well. The carrot chutney came from the book Seductions of Rice originally; I have added some cumin seed just because my semi-Mexican upbringing says that if you are serving a spicy carrot dish, it has to have cumin in it.

Serve these with a plain broiled or sautéed fish, chicken or tofu dish, and steamed rice, although they could go with simple lentil stews as well. I like to make both of them and also serve a little sour cream or yogurt to cool things down a little. Depending on the kind of chiles you use, and how many you use the green chutney in particular can go from having a nice little bite, to blowing off the back of your head: pay attention.

4 to 6 servings of each chutney
15 minutes each prep time

Green Mint and Cilantro Chutney, and Carrot Chutney
Green Chutney (Mint & Cilantro Chutney)
1 cup prepared mint leaves
1/2 cup cilantro
2 to 3 hot green chiles
2-3 green onions
the juice of 1 small lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Wash the herbs and let them drain quite well. Strip the mint leaves from the stems, and discard the stems. Remove the roots from the cilantro. Remove the stems, cores and seeds from the chiles. Trim the onions and chop them coarsely. Put all these into the food processor as they are prepared.

Add the lemon juice, salt and sugar. Process until fairly smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides several times.

Carrot Chutney
1 large carrot
1 Jalapeño chile
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground
the juice of 1 small lime
2-3 tablespoons cilantro leaves

Peel and slice the carrot. Remove the stem, core and seeds from the Jalepeño. Put them in the food processor with the salt, ground cumin and lime juice. Process until fairly smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the food processor several times. Add the cilantro, and process until it is finely chopped.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Celery & Mushroom Soup

A fairly quick creamy soup combining two popular flavours.

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time

Celery and Mushroom Soup
1 small or 1/2 large bunch of celery
500 grams (1 pound) button mushrooms
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon savory
salt & pepper
4 cups (1 litre, 1 quart) chicken stock
2-3 tablespoons sherry
1 cup cream
2 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch

Wash and trim the celery, and cut it in pieces. Clean the mushrooms and cut two-thirds of them into quarters. Cut the remaining third into slices.

Sauté the celery in a large skillet with 1 tablespoon of the butter. When quite soft, put it into a blender with half the chicken stock, and purée. Put the purée into a soup pot.

Sauté the quartered mushrooms in two tablespoons of the butter until tender and lightly browned. Season them with the savory, and some pepper. Purée them with the remaining chicken stock, and add them to the soup pot. Season with salt, according to the saltiness of the chicken stock. Add the sherry and cream with the starch well mixed into it, and heat through. Don't let it boil, but heat it long enough to thicken slightly.

Meanwhile, sauté the remaining mushrooms in the last of the butter. Sprinkle them over the soup as it is served.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Peppers Stuffed with Feta, Barley & Herbs

A nice vegetarian take on stuffed peppers.

2 to 3 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time, not including cooking the barley

Peppers Stuffed with Feta, Barley and Herbs
6 smallish mild green peppers

2 to 3 cups cooked barley
1/4 cup minced parsley
1/4 cup minced dill
1/4 cup minced chives or green onions
4 extra large eggs
150 grams (1/3 pound) feta cheese

1 1/2 cups tomato sauce

The barley can be cooked in a rice cooker; 1 cup of barley to 3 cups of water, with a little salt. I often cook barley ahead of time and keep some in the fridge for a few days, or freeze it.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the stems and cores from the peppers and remove the seeds.

Mix the cooked barley, minced herbs, eggs and cheese, and stuff the peppers. If there is any stuffing leftover, spread it in the bottom of a snug baking dish, and lay the stuffed peppers on top. Drizzle the tomato sauce over the top.

Bake the peppers for 1 hour, until tender.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Leeks Vinaigrette

I always think of leeks as a winter vegetable, but they are starting to show up at the markets already. This is such a simple, classic little dish, and it makes an excellent summer starter or salad. I left the roots on for the photo because I thought they made it more picturesque, but they do need to be cut off and not eaten. You will need a surprisingly sharp knife to cut the cooked leeks, even though they don't seem tough as you eat them.

2 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Leeks Vinaigrette

3 to 4 leeks
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon finely minced parsley
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
salt & pepper
2 tablespoons sunflower seed oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Trim the dark green stems from the leeks, leaving the light green and white tubular portions. Slice each leek in half lengthwise, down to but not through the roots. Put them in a snug roasting pan, dot them with the butter and pour the chicken broth over them. Roast them at 350°F for 1 hour, turning them halfway through.

Meanwhile whisk together the remaining ingredients. When the leeks are done, remove them to a serving dish and pour the vinaigrette evenly over them. Let them sit until they are room temperature or still slightly warm before serving them.

Last year at this time I made Foolproof Banana Cake and Cocoa Buttercream Frosting.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Very Good Taste's Omnivore's Hundred

Okey-dokey. I am not actually around; I am on vacation. In Nova Scotia. Maybe I'll have a lobster, not-Thermidor. But, it was my birthday yesterday and thanks to the miracle of modern Blogger, I can set posts up in advance, and I have taken full advantage of this feature. This is not exactly a Quote of the Week; but I ran across this meme last week, and thought it would make a good little birthday review of my culinary life thus far. The source is here. Items in bold; I have had. Crossed out items, I would not have on a bet, and I would regard at least one as a form of torture. Here goes...

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea (Nettles yes; tea no.)
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses (Had not previously heard of it.)
17. Black truffle (Would somebody like to sponsor me?!)
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese ('Cuz I head straight for the jellied tongue.)
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (Uh, how stupid do I look? Oh, yeah. That stupid.)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda (Should do this. Have had a variety of other fondu type things though.)
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (Clam chowder, check. Sourdough, check. But no. Not going there. Gimmick.)
33. Salted lassi(Salted...MILK??? No. Not gonna. Can't make me. I hate milk, even with salt.)
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (Banned by the Geneva conventions.)
37. Clotted cream tea (In Devon no less! Yes, I am boasting shamelessly.)
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O (By the time you are old enough to do vodka, you are too old to do Jell-o. Srsly. Make one of my good real fruit juice jellies and skip that nasty vodka.)
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects (Whether I want to or not. Bugs think my gullet looks like a good place to be. They are wrong, but by the time they figure it out it is too late. Gag.)
43. Phaal (Had not previously heard of it.)
44. Goat’s milk (It tastes like goat which is fine really. And milk. There's the problem. Must I? Why, no! I am an adult now. Phew!)
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more(Why pay through the nose to suffer?)
46. Fugu (Oh pu-lease. Food for rich morons with a death wish.)
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut (Meh. It was a mass-produced doughnut. No need to repeat.)
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone (Again, somebody want to sponsor me? But I would feel kinda guilty.)
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (I once had one bite of a Big Mac. Sufficient for a lifetime.)
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini(Ugh, booze again.)
58. Beer above 8% ABV (What's with all the phreakin' booze?!?!)
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst (Hey, I know what this is! LOL!)
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs (Although that was before a neighbour made of with Wyatt Burp, our friendly neighbourhood frog. I was very pissed. Eat your own damn frogs.)
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (Ha. All four.)
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette (I'm assuming tripe counts?)
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini (Not necessarily together. Still...)
73. Louche absinthe ('Cuz plain ol' booze ain't toxic enough?)
74. Gjetost, or brunost (Don't bother.)
75. Roadkill(Thought about striking this one out. What animal? Winter or *ulp* summer? And how... old....?)
76. Baijiu(I looked it up. Surprise! It's booze.)
77. Hostess Fruit Pie(Nope. Sorry. Calories get saved for real food.*)
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini (Uh, booze, right?)
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict (Yawn. Not in the last 20 years. Aren't they passée yet?)
83. Pocky (See Hostess Fruit Pies. Yeah, they're exotically foreign. Still junk.)
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. (As ever, now accepting offers of sponsorship.)
85. Kobe beef (Ditto.)
86. Hare (Only if rabbit counts.)
87. Goulash
88. Flowers (Not all of them, duh. A select few. Edible ones.)
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate (Should. Definitely.)
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab (I wish! But I have had shad roe.)
93. Rose harissa (Rose harissa? Sounds interesting!)
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor (Would never eat if I could get a PLAIN fresh lobster! With buttah! Slice of lemon good! And a roll! Corn on the cob? Why, soitenly!)
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee (Uh, maybe, but it's been decades since coffee pretty much went the way of the booze.)
100. Snake

*Mumble, mumble. Some exceptions may apply. Mumble.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Stir-Fried Chicken with Peaches & Peppers

I'm on a kick, swapping out mangoes for fresh, local peaches. This was inspired by a favourite mango chicken dish at a local Vietnamese-Thai restaurant. Simple and tasty, and once everything is chopped, it cooks up in 10 minutes.

2-3 servings
30 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Stir-Fried Chicken with Peaches and Peppers
6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons vinegar or lime juice

4 medium firm-ripe peaches
3 small mild green peppers
1 hot green chile pepper
2-3 green onions
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/4 cup minced cilantro
2-3 lime wedges

Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces, and marinate it in the soy sauce and vinegar or lime juice.

Blanch the peaches in boiling water for 1 minutes. Plunge them into cold water at once to stop them cooking any further, then peel them and cut them into slices. Set them aside.

Core and de-seed the peppers. Chop the mild peppers, and mince the hot chile pepper. Trim the green onions and cut them into 1/2" pieces. Strip the basil leaves from the stems. Discard the stems and coarsely chop the leaves. Mince the cilantro, and set it aside.

Sauté the chicken in the oil, until lightly browned and about half done. Add the mild peppers and the minced chile pepper. Continue sautéing until the peppers are softened and the chicken just about done. Add the green onions, and sauté for a minute or two. Add the peaches and basil, and continue sautéin for just a minute or two more, until the basil is limp and the peaches are hot through. Serve at once, with steamed rice. Sprinkle the minced cilantro over top and pass the lime wedges to squeeze over if you like.

Last year at this time I made Green Beans in Tomato Sauce.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Apricot Mousse

Which was served with the Hazelnut Torte instead of ice-cream. However, it's a very respectable dessert all by itself, and not at all difficult to do.

6 to 8 servings
1 hour prep time - plus 4 hours needed to set

Apricot Mousse
2 quarts - about 24 to 30 - apricots
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons water or lemon juice
1 tablespoon gelatine
1 cup whipping cream

Wash the apricots, and split them in half and remove the pits. Put them - apricots, not pits - in a large pot with the sugar and water. Bring them to a boil, then simmer until very soft, about 15 or 20 minutes. Press the apricots through a seive, or purée them using a blender or food processor.
Meanwhile, soak the gelatine in the remaining water or lemon juice. While the apricot purée is still very hot, mix the gelatine into it. Stir well until you are certain the gelatine is completely dissolved. Let the purée cool to room temperature, or even chill it a little, but do not let it set.

Put the whipping cream in a large bowl, and beat it until it is quite stiff. Beat in a little of the apricot mixture, then fold the rest of it in gently. You can mix it in thoroughly, or leave it with a slightly marbled pattern; whichever you prefer. Put the mousse into a serving bowl or bowls, and place it in the fridge to set; at least 4 hours.

Last year on this date, I made Linguine with Caramelized Onions, Beet Greens and Cheese, and very good it was too.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

White Chocolate Frosting

Another recipe from Epicurious. This is a rich, truffle-like frosting. I would think the amount would be a bit skimpy - even in their proportions - to frost a layer cake completely, but it made an excellent filling for my Hazelnut Torte. Although I'm tempted to roll it in little balls and dip it in chocolate, and skip the cake altogether.

Makes about 2 cups frosting
20 minutes prep time

Hazelnut Torte with White Chocolate Frosting layers and Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting
100 grams (4 ounces) white chocolate
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
milk as needed

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave, using very gentle heat in either case, and being careful not to scorch the chocolate. Set it aside to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, cream the butter and work in the icing sugar, vanilla and salt. Beat in some milk, a few drops at a time, until the mixture is smooth and workable. Fold in the melted chocolate, and adjust the sugar or milk as needed.

The icing can be kept covered and chilled for up to a day; however it must be brought back to room temperature and stirred well before being spread on the cake.

Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting

This recipe came from Epicurious. I did find that I needed to add more milk than called for in the recipe, but other than that it combined the flavours of chocolate and whipped cream to very good effect. This is not the icing for a cake when you think there will be leftovers, but if you expect that the wolves will fall upon your cake and dispatch it with speed and efficiency, give this a try. It has a light, creamy flavour lacking in most frostings and is not excessively sweet as many icings can be, although - alas - I'm pretty sure it has all the usual calories and more.

Makes enough for the outside of an 8" or 9" layer cake
20 minutes prep time - plus 1 to 4 hours chilling

Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting on Hazelnut Torte
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/8th teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk

2 cups whipping cream

Sift the icing sugar, cocoa and cream of tartar into a mixing bowl. Whisk in the milk, until you have achieved a smooth flowing mixture, about the texture of mayonnaise. Cover and chill thoroughly, about 1 hour (or up to 4 hours).

Shortly before you wish to serve the cake, gradually beat the cream into the chocolate mixture. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. Use at once to frost your cake. It can be then kept in the fridge for half an hour or so.

I don't think this would do well as a middle layer in a cake, as it is quite soft, and as already noted, I can't imagine that it would keep at all well.

Last year at this time I made Pasta Salad with Tomato, Zucchini & Corn, and Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato Salad.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Hazelnut Torte

It's our birthday! Almost everyone in my sweetie's side of the family has a birthday in either July or August, so once a year we have a joint party to celebrate everyone's birthdays. I was elected to make the cake this year.

This is probably my favourite cake of all time. It can also be gluten and dairy-free (although the icing is another question, and providing you use oil instead of butter to grease the pans.) To make it gluten free, check your baking powder to make sure yours is gluten free, and then replace the flour with 1 tablespoon arrowroot or cornstarch and 1 tablespoon fine rice flour in each layer. It may come out a little flatter than with wheat flour, but will otherwise be just fine.

You can buy hazelnuts that have been ground already - maybe. I tried to buy some for this cake at Bulk Barn and discovered they only carry them closer to Christmas, so I was obliged to grind my own. I was a bit concerned about this, but I was able to grind them in my food processor without difficulty. I first toasted the hazelnuts lightly in a dry skillet, then rubbed them in a tea-towel to remove some of the skins. Then I measured out 2 cups of hazelnuts and ground them. Somewhat to my surprise, they expanded as they were ground, and I ended up with more than 2 cups of ground hazelnuts, so once they are ground, you should re-measure them.

The hazelnuts after their first grinding
It's vital for this recipe that the hazelnuts be finely ground. If your cake sinks in the middle and it has been well baked, it is almost certain that the problem is that the nuts were not sufficiently finely ground. When I first started making this cake, I could use purchased ground hazelnuts without difficulty. Lately though, I have found that they need to be ground some more before proceeding with the cake.

The hazelnuts reground with the sugar
After the nuts have been ground and re-measured, add the sugar and grind them again. Or if you have bought ground nuts, measure and add the sugar and grind them both together. I find this is necessary for the sugar as well as the nuts since I use organic sugar which is quite coarsely granular.

The decorated hazelnut torte
Not surprisingly, the freshly ground hazelnuts made a particularly tasty cake. I put a layer of White Chocolate Frosting between the layers and on the top, and a layer of apricot purée in the middle. The whole cake was then frosted with Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting, and decorated with some leftover ground and whole hazelnuts and chocolate syrup. I served Apricot Mousse and blackberries with the cake.

12 servings
50 minutes - 20 minutes prep time, does not include time to cool and decorate

Hazelnut Torte served with Apricot Mousse and Blackberries
2 cups ground hazelnuts (125 grams)
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
4 tablespoons unbleached pastry or other flour
2 pinches of salt
8 extra-large eggs

Butter 2 round 9" cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper, butter it as well, then dust the pans with flour. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put half of the hazelnuts, half of the sugar, half of the baking powder and half of the flour, and a pinch of salt into a food process. Process for several minutes - the hazelnuts should be as well-ground as you can get them.

Add 4 of the eggs and process again. Scrape out the batter into one of the prepared cake pans.

Wash and dry the food processor bowl and blade, and repeat the above steps with the remaining ingredients.

Place the two filled cake pans on a tray and place them gently in the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the cakes are golden brown and firm, and toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cool for about 15 minutes, then remove them from the pans to finish cooling.

Fill and ice the cakes as you like - I always seem to use a chocolate icing of some sort from a simple Cocoa Buttercream Frosting to the more elaborate White Chocolate Frosting and Chocolate Whipped Cream Icing I used this time. A layer of rasperry or apricot jam in the middle is good. I think a coffee-flavoured icing would be great, but I have never done it since my Sweetie doesn't like (hates, in fact) coffee.

Chocolate Glazed Hazelnut Torte with Marzipan Flowers
Here's a picture from another time I made this cake. The flowers on it are made of marzipan, rolled as thin as I could get it, then cut out with a simple scalloped flower cookie cutter and pinched into more three-dimensional shapes. Some of them were single cut outs, some two layers and a couple I think were even three layers of marzipan. Get a good Danish or German marzipan if you are going to do that - no sense in wasting time with the cheap stuff.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Pasta with Beans & Smoked Pork Chop Ends

This was a quick dish I threw together with not much, but it was very tasty. Fresh green beans and ham are used in a classic Mennonite soup; this just adds pasta and makes a full meal of it. I used a bag of ends from smoked pork chops, which I got at the Kitchener Farmers Market for a laughably low price. However, you can use leftover ham, or if you don't eat pork a piece of smoked turkey would do very well.

Check out Presto Pasta Nights, this week at Got No Milk. Er, let them eat cream? (Yes, I feel just like Marie Antoinette.)

2 servings
20 minutes prep time

Pasta with Pork and Green Beans225 grams (1/2 pound) pasta
450 grams (1 pound) mixed green and yellow beans
225 grams (1/2 pound) ham or smoked turkey
black peppercorns, crushed
1 cup cream
1 tablespoon arrowroot or cornstarch

Put a large pot of water on to cook the pasta. Do NOT salt it, unless your ham or turkey is low in salt.

Meanwhile, clean and trim the beans and cut them in bite-sized pieces. Cut the ham or turkey into bite sized pieces as well.

When the pasta is half done, add the beans. When the pasta is 2 minutes short of done, drain off most of the water, leaving just as much as you think right to supply some "soup" - perhaps a cup, or a cup and half of water. Return it to the stove with the ham or turkey pieces, and cook until the pasta is done. Mix the starch into the cream, then stir it slowly into the pasta. Cook for one minute longer, until slightly thickened, stirring constantly. Season generously with the black pepper, and serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Grilled Tomato & Zucchini Stacks.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Marinated Beans with Spiced Walnuts

It's been a while since I made this, so I goofed. Lately I've been inclined to serve my beans whole - they look so nice that way. However, it's a mistake with this recipe. They really need to be cut up to absorb the vinegar and so that you get beans and nuts in every mouthful. If you make them with the whole beans, as I did in the photo, you are really eating two different things. Mind you, I think the nuts are more than tasty enough to snack on by themselves, but that's not the point. Cut those beans!

2 servings
30 minutes prep time

Marinated Beans with Spiced Walnuts
Spiced Walnuts:
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1 tablespoon walnut or sunflower seed oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons garam masala OR 5-spice powder

Heat the oil in a small skillet, and cook the walnuts gently in it until slightly browned and fragrant.

Meanwhile, mix the salt, sugar and spice in a small bowl. Lift the nuts out of the oil with a slotted spoon, and toss them in the spice mixture until evenly coated. Let them cool.

Marinated Beans:
450 grams (1 pound) mixed green and yellow beans
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Wash and trim the beans, and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Cook them until just tender.

Meanwhile, Mix the vinegar, sugar and salt in a shallow bowl. Add the hot, drained beans, and let them cool, stirring occasionally. When they are cool and have mostly absorbed the vinegar, about 1/2 hour to an hour, put them in a serving dish and top with the spiced walnuts.

These can be made in advance; just don't combine the beans and nuts until just before serving.

Last year on this date I made Meatloaf Rouladen.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

More Cheesy Cheese Stuff

Dr. Alcott published a book on cookery and housekeeping in 1846, titled "The Young House-Keeper; or Thoughts on Foods and Cookery", and thanks to the miracles of modern technology and old-fashioned copyright, it is available online. Read it and laugh. The sample below will give you a fair idea of what kind of a bloviating, pompous, Victorian (American) male know-it-all wind-bag the good doctor was.

I am particularly fond of the fact that he never lowers himself to provide any proof or documentation of his statements. While it is true that dairy products were often rendered dangerous by unmanaged grazing of poisonous plants by cows during the early years of the nineteenth century in America - Lincoln's mother is believed to have died of such poisoning - I have never heard of arsenic being added to cheese from any other source. Although it is well documented that producers of food used to commit some pretty hair-raising acts of alimentary terrorism, before the days of government inspection and regulation, his assertion that this was done loses a great deal of authority in the face of the fact that his real objection to cheese that it was often made by *gasp* WOMEN!

At any rate, while the entire book should leave you slack-jawed and laughing, I will just quote his chapter on cheese:

"CHEESE is generally considered as quite indigestible, and therefore to be avoided by all those who have not very strong stomachs. If, however, a very little good cheese be taken in conjunction with other proper substances, as bread or rice, as a mere condiment, it can hardly be considered as positively hurtful, to those who are very vigorous. A stronger objection to its use is, that it is too concentrated a substance--or too pure a nutriment.

I have spoken, however, of good cheese only. Bad cheese is among the worst of eatables. Cheese is even sometimes poisonous. I have known nearly a hundred persons poisoned at once by eating from a certain cheese. Other instances of the kind have occurred. I do not know that the cause of this phenomenon has ever been detected. Some have supposed it to be a vegetable poison, as the lobelia or the hemlock, eaten by the cows.

The anatto or otto, so frequently used to give color to cheese, is slightly poisonous; but there is another more striking method of poisoning cheese which has been discovered very recently. Some of our dairy women have fallen into the habit of adding a small quantity of arsenic, (ratsbane,) say a piece half as large as a small pea, to each large cheese, especially when made, in part, of old milk. The object is, to give it freshness and tenderness; and the plan is said to succeed admirably. But it produces, or may produce, great injury to the human constitution; and some persons have been made immediately sick by it.

My greatest objection, after all, to the use of butter and cheese both, grows out of the consideration, that their manufacture involves a great amount of female labor, while no permanent or substantial benefit is obtained. What can be more valuable than female labor, applied to the physical and moral management and early instruction of children?

If cheese is to be eaten at all, let it be eaten rather new than old; and let it be well masticated. Do not eat grated cheese. Nor should it be toasted. Toasting, though with many a favorite process, only renders cheese more indigestible."

William Andrus Alcott

And now, if you will excuse me, I believe I will go off and make myself a nice grilled cheese sandwich, with plenty of hot sauce and extra-old cheddar. I hope it was made by a woman.

Last year at this time, I made Savory Mashed Limas and Apple Crisp with the first apples of the season.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Zucchini & Peppers Roasted with Barley & Cheese

Here's a fairly quick and easy vegetarian casserole, providing you have cooked some barley in advance. It's a meal by itself, but you could serve it with some salad, or it's light enough to squeeze in a dessert as well.

2 to 4 servings
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time

Zucchini & Peppers Roasted with Barley & Cheese2/3 cup barley
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 medium zucchini
2 or 3 mild yellow or green peppers
1 hot pepper, green or red
2 tablespoons sunflower seed oil
black peppercorns, ground
salt to taste
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
400 grams (1 pound) ricotta cheese
100 grams (1/4 pound) Cheddar or Parmesan cheese

Cook the barley in the water until it is tender. I use my rice cooker; this can be done in advance, and I usually cook more barley than needed for this recipe - it is useful to have in the fridge or freezer for salads or other dishes. It should be about 2 cups when cooked.

Wash the zucchini and cut it into thickish slices; in half crosswise if the zucchini too large for this to be reasonably bite-sized. Wash the peppers and core them, and discard the seeds. Cut them up into fairly small pieces. The hot pepper should be minced.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Sauté the zucchini and peppers until softened and lightly browned. Season them with the salt, pepper, basil and oregano. Mix in the barley, and spread the mixture into a shallow casserole or lasagne pan. Cut or crumble the ricotta cheese and spread it over the barley and vegetable mixture. Grate the stronger Cheddar or Parmesan and sprinkle it over as well.

Bake for about 40 minutes, until the vegetables are quite tender and the cheese is beginning to brown.

Last year on this day I made Green Beans & Cabbage "Scandia" - a recipe from my grandmother.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Ontario Chutney

Chutney (or chatni, a more accurate transliteration) refers to a variety of Indian condiments; usually intensely flavoured thick sauces, but they can also be thin, or even dry; occasionally smooth but generally fairly chunky. They often have a bit of sweetness to them. This idea got taken back to Britain, and by Victorian times chutney was firmly established there as a kind of thick, spiced jam to be eaten with meat, possibly curried, for a value of curry also defined by British imperialism.

The idea of chutney as a preserve is one that makes a lot of sense in a northern climate; our fresh fruits and vegetables just aren't around for all that long. Here I have taken inspiration from several recipes for English-style mango chutney - although I think one of them may have staggered through the Caribbean and picked up a little extra spicing - and then I swapped out all the exotic southern fruits for exotic northern fruits. Good stuff.

I ended up with rather a lot of chutney; you could cut it in half quite easily I would think. In which case it will likely not take 45 minutes to thicken up. No problem; turn it off when it's thick, and bring it back up to a boil just before you are ready to can it.

10 250-ml jars
2 hours - 1 hour prep, 1 hour canning

The Chutney iIngredients in the Pot
The chutney ready to start cooking.

The Chutney Waiting to be Sealed
The jars of chutney ready to be sealed, above; and the finished jars of chutney, below.

The Finished Jars of Chutney
1 1/2 cups apple butter
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
2 cups Sucanat
2 cups dried cranberries
2 tablespoons pickling salt
1 1/2 tablespoons cumin seed, ground
1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seed, ground
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves

1 to 3 fresh cayenne peppers
1 cup peeled, minced fresh ginger (about 200 grams/ 1/2 pound)
4 mild green peppers
3 quarts peaches, a little on the unripe side
OR a combination of peaches and apricots

Into a large canning kettle put the apple butter, vinegar, Sucanat, cranberries, salt and prepared spices.

Peel the ginger and trim the stems from the cayenne. Mince them finely - a food processor is the best way. Add them to the kettle. The seeds from the cayenne chiles will add a lot of heat; it is your choice to leave them in or remove them, along with the stems. I left mine in, and I used 3 of them. My impression is that my chutney is pretty hot; you may wish to adjust accordingly.

Put a large pot of water on to boil to blanch the peaches. Fill a large bowl or the sink with cold water.

Wash the mild green peppers, core them, and chop them. Add them to the kettle.

Blanch the peaches by dropping them into the boiling water (in batches) for a minute to a minute and a half each. Remove them to a bowl or sink full of cold water to cool. When cool enough to handle, pull off the skin (it should come right off) and chop them coarsely, discarding the pits. Add them to the kettle. If you are using apricots, don't bother to skin them.

Put the kettle on to come up to a boil. While it heats, put the jars into a canner with water to cover them by at least an inch. Set that on to come up to a boil, and boil the jars for 10 minutes. Total time is likely to be about 45 minutes. Add a shot of vinegar to the water if you have hard water.

Meanwhile, boil the chutney, stirring frequently, until thickened. Conveniently, that should be about 45 minutes.

Put the lids and rings into another pot, with water to cover. About 5 minutes before you are ready to remove the jars from the canner and start filling them, turn the heat on for the lids and rings, and boil them for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the jars from the canner. Empty the water from half of them back into the canner, and empty the other half into the sink.

Fill the jars with the hot chutney, using a sterilized ladle (put it in the top of the canner for a few minutes; the funnel too, if you are using one.) Wipe the rims of the jars with a paper towel dipped in the boiling water. Seal with the prepared lids and rings. They should be on firmly, but don't wrench them - they need to expand and contract as they seal. Put the jars back into the boiling water in the canner, and process for 10 minutes. Allow to cool, check for seals, and label.

Last year at this time I Roasted an Organic Chicken and made Cole Slaw with Lime-Celery Seed Dressing.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Cauliflower in Spinach Sauce with Feta

Cauliflower and spinach - two favourite things. And cheese. Mmm. Serve it over rice or pasta, and I am one happy camper.

4 servings
20 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

Cauliflower in Spinach Sauce with Feta
1/2 of a large head of cauliflower

8 cups raw spinach
2-3 green onions
1/4 cup fresh dill weed
1/4 cup cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot

150 grams (1/3 pound) feta cheese

Wash and trim the cauliflower, and break it up into florets. Put it in a pot with about 6 cups of water, and bring it to a boil. Boil it for about 4 or 5 minutes, until just tender.

Meanwhile, wash and pick over the spinach, and put it in a colander with the green onions, washed and cut in thirds, and the dill weed.

When the cauliflower is ready, drain the water out over the spinach, soaking it and the onions and dill completely. Keep the cauliflower in the pot.

Drain the blanched spinach, etc, then put it in a blender and purée well. Add the purée to the drained cauliflower in the pot along with the cream with the cornstarch blended into it, and heat through, over medium heat, until slightly thickened. Stir frequently. Add the crumbled feta cheese, and heat until the cheese begins to melt.

Serve over pasta or steamed rice.

Last year at this time I made Corn Pudding with Buckwheat, Spinach & Feta Cheese, and Roasted Cauliflower.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Creamed Corn

Here is one of those classic dishes that everyone has had - they think. Unless they have made it themselves, they think wrong. There is no resemblance between canned creamed corn and creamed corn freshly made. (Although I admit to being strangely fond of the canned stuff. Ooops.)

It's not hard or time-consuming to make, although it does dirty rather a lot of implements for a simple veggie dish. However, it keeps and reheats fairly well, so I make a big pot of it - enough for several meals. Or it would be, if it wasn't so darn good!

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Creamed Corn
6 to 8 cobs of fresh corn
1 cup water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 to 1/2 cup cream
1 teaspoon cornstarch or arrowroot
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
1 teaspoon sea salt (half if regular salt)

2-3 tablespoons minced herbs, if desired

Husk the corn, and cut off the kernals into a good-sized pot. Scrape the cobs into a bowl, removing any pulp left attached to the cobs. Then, remove some of the corn from the pot into the bowl, until you have about 3/4 of the corn in the pot and 1/4 of it in the bowl.

Put the corn and pulp from the bowl into a blender with the cup of water, and purée thoroughly. Add it to the pot of corn, and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the corn is tender.

You can continue at this point, or the corn can be prepared ahead of time and reheated just before serving.

Add the butter, the cream with the cornstarch or arrowroot dissolved in it, and the salt and pepper. Reheat the corn, stirring constantly, until hot through and slightly thickened. Serve garnished with a sprinkling of chopped herbs such as basil, dill or chives, if desired.

Last year at this time I made Fish & Pasta with Greens in Saffron-Paprika Broth and Apricot, Cucumber & Feta Cheese Salad.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Tea Whizz

These are great drinks for a hot day. Lighter and simpler than smoothies; they are very refreshing. They're quick to make, but you do have to remember to make the tea ahead of time.

I find there is a bit of an art to matching the right tea to the right fruit. I like an apple-cinnamon tea with peaches or apricots, and a fruity tea with raspberries. Blueberries would be good with an anise or licorice based tea. I don't generally add sugar to peach and apricot tea whizzes, but raspberries are more acidic and I find a little bit necessary. These may separate as they sit, but a quick stir will fix that.

2 tea whizzes
12 hours - to make the tea and freeze the fruit in advance. Then 5 minutes to whizz.

Cold Apricot Tea Whizz

Cold Raspberry Tea Whizz
1 1/2 cups frozen fruit, about
3 cups cold herbal tea
sugar to taste

Put the frozen fruit in a blender with about half the tea. Blend until fairly smooth. Add the remaining tea and blend again. Taste, and blend in a little sugar if you think it needs it. If you have used raspberries, you should strain or decant the tea to remove most of the seeds.

Last year at this time I made Raspberry & Peach Sorbet.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Roasted Green Beans

Beans are very good this way; succulent and flavourful.

2 servings
30 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

Roasted Green Beans
2/3 of a quart basket of green beans*
2 tablespoons sunflower seed oil
sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chiles (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wash the green beans and trim off the ends. Put them in a baking dish. Toss them with the oil, and spread them out in a single layer, pretty much. Season them with the sea salt, black pepper and crushed chiles, if you are so inclined.

Roast the beans for 20 minutes, until tender and showing a few brown flakey spots. Serve hot.

* or, really, whatever quantity you think you are going to eat.

Last year at this time, it was Zucchini & Tomatoes Sautéed with Garlic, and Eggs with Tomatoes, Chinese Style.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Worst. Poet. Ever.

And he's ours, all ours, in spite of his having been born in Scotland. Well, he may be tied with William McGonagall - another Scot, hmm, verrrry suspicious - but James McIntyre emigrated to Ontario at the age of 14, and died in Ingersoll at the ripe old age of 79. In between times he was a farm hand, undertaker, cabinet maker, upstanding citizen and civic adornment to the town of Ingersoll, husband to 3 wives (sequentially, I hasten to point out) and famous Ontario cheese poet. Yes, I said cheese poet. You know; he wrote poems about cheese. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

And he did it... um, hilariously. He had no intention of being hilarious. He was plainly quite deadly earnest, which only makes it all the better, or is that worse? His most famous opus is his Ode on the Mammoth Cheese Weighing over 7,000 Pounds - one of the great classics of cheese poetry - but I thought I would share one of his less well-known works today. I have noticed that there is something of an artisanal cheese-making renaissance happening in Ontario at the moment, and proffer this work in the hopes that it may still be useful to those who would make cheese in Ontario.

Dairy Ode

Our muse it doth refuse to sing
Of cheese made early in the spring,
When cows give milk from spring fodder
You cannot make a good cheddar.

The quality is often vile
Of cheese that is made in April,
Therefore we think for that reason
You should make later in the season.

Cheese making you should delay
Until about the first of May.
Then cows do feed on grassy field
And rich milk they abundant yield.

Ontario cannot compete
With the Northwest in raising wheat,
For cheaper there they it can grow
So price in future may be low.

Though this a hardship it may seem,
Rejoice that you have got the cream,
In this land of milk and honey,
Where dairy farmers do make money.

Utensils must be clean and sweet,
So cheese with first class can compete,
And daily polish up milk pans,
Take pains with vats and with milk cans.

And it is important matter
To allow no stagnant water,
But water from pure well or stream
The cow must drink to give pure cream.

Canadian breeds 'tis best to pair
With breeds from the shire of Ayr,
They thrive on our Canadian feed
And are for milking splendid breed.

Though 'gainst spring cheese some do mutter,
Yet spring milk also makes bad butter,
Then there doth arise the query
How to utilize it in the dairy.

The milk it floats in great spring flood
Though it is not so rich and good,
Let us be thankful for this stream
Of milk and also curds and cream.

All dairymen their highest aims
Should be to make the vale of Thames,
Where milk doth so abundant flow,
Dairyland of Ontario.

James McIntyre

Last year at this time, I made Sautéed Corn with Bacon, Peppers & Green Onion.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Turkish Zucchini Pancakes (Mucver)

Damn, we loved these little darlings. Lordy, but they were good. I'd seen variations of the recipe around a few places in the last few years and I'm so sorry I didn't try them until now.

I made them bigger than they are supposed to be - I only got 7 - but they worked fine. It was what we ate for supper, so it's not like it mattered how many there were. However, I think they are generally supposed to be an appetizer type thing, in which case making them smaller would be a good thing. Although I highly recommend just making a heap of them and chowing down. Did I mention that they're really good?

I want to try these with chick pea flour, which would allow me to serve them to my friends with wheat allergies. I think they might be a little heavier, but I think it would work. If anyone tries this, please let me know!

14 pancakes
45 minutes - all spent working, sorry

Mucver Turkish Zucchini Pancakes
450 grams (1 pound) zucchini (1 large or 2 medium)
2 to 4 green onions, minced
1/3 cup minced fresh dillweed
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil and/or mint
salt and pepper
4 extra-large eggs
1/2 cup soft unbleached flour
150 grams feta cheese
1/4 cup sunflower seed oil

Wash and grate the zucchini. Put it in a colander in layers, sprinkling salt between each layer. Set it aside to drain as you prepare the remaining ingredients.

Wash, trim and mince the green onions, the dill, parsley, basil and/or mint. Put them in a large mixing bowl, and season with the salt and pepper. Beat in the eggs.

Rinse the zucchini and drain well. Then, take it by handfuls and squeeze it thoroughly, into a little ball, being sure to get out as much moisture as possible. Once each handful of zucchini is squeezed dry, add it to the herbs and eggs. It is really important to do this; they will cook much more quickly and evenly. When the zucchini is all in, mix in the flour and the feta cheese, crumbled.

The batter can be made ahead, kept refrigerated and covered until wanted (the same day.)

Heat the oil in a large skillet, or better, 2 large skillets, over medium heat. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Use a 1/4 cup* measuring spoon to scoop out the batter. Place them in the hot oil, then press down to form neat 1/2" thick pancakes with the pancake lifter. They will cook fairly quickly, about 5 minutes per side. They should be a good dark golden brown. As they cook, put them on a plate padded with paper towel in the oven to keep warm. Serve them hot, with yogurt or light sour cream with garlic mixed into it if you like.

* I used a half cup measuring spoon, which is why I got seven.

Last year at this time, I made Chicken Stuffed with Basil, Dried Tomatoes & Goat Cheese.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Blueberry Buttermilk Coffee Cake

Mmm, nice! Not too sweet, but moist and full of berries. I threw in some raspberries because I bought them on impulse as the last of the season at the market, and they did not look like they would keep well.

Blueberries are notorious for sinking to the bottom of whatever baked goods they are put in; the method in the recipe for flouring them and adding them to the batter in two parts helps keep them dispersed throughout the cake. I also used a pastry flour that was about halfway between white flour and wholewheat flour. I don't generally like cakes and breads made with white flour any more. Once you have gotten used to whole wheat flour, products made with white flour seem pasty or chalky.

8 servings
1 hour - 15 minutes prep time

Blueberry Buttermilk Coffee Cake
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 extra-large eggs
the grated zest of 1/2 lemon

2 1/4 cups soft unbleached or whole wheat (pastry) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk
2 to 3 cups fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons flour

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9" x 9" baking dish. Wash and pick over the blueberries, and drain them well.

Cream the butter in a large mixing bowl. Beat in the sugar and the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the lemon zest.

In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt.

Measure out the buttermilk. Toss the blueberries with the two tablespoons of flour.

Beat half the flour into the butter and egg mixture, then half the buttermilk. Repeat with the remaining flour and buttermilk. Gently fold in half the blueberries. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and spread it evenly into the corners. Sprinkle the remaining blueberries evenly over the batter, and press them down gently until they are level with the batter.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until it passes the ol' toothpick test. You could also bake it as a loaf cake, in which case be prepared for it to take an hour and a quarter to bake. I doubled the recipe, and baked it in a 9" x 13" pan, and it took an hour pretty much exactly to bake.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Spinach, Apricot & Feta Salad

Another salad with fruit and cheese. I do like the combo and it makes a great light meal. As such, we ate it all ourselves, but it would probably make up to 6 side-salads.

Apricots are probably one of my favourite fruits, but they are around for such a short time. Put them in everything while you can! In retrospect, this would have been even better with a handful of dried cranberries and chopped nuts added.

2 to 6 servings
20 minutes prep time

Spinach Apricto and Feta Salad
8 cups fresh young spinach
12 to 16 small fresh ripe apricots
150 grams (1/3 pound) feta cheese

Clean the spinach carefully - soak it in cold water, then pick it over, discarding any tough stems or damaged leaves. If the leaves are large, tear them up a bit. Dry them in a salad spinner.

Arrange the lettuce in the serving bowl or bowls, and arrange the washed and chopped apricots and crumbled feta cheese over it. Drizzle the salad dressing over the salad. That's it; you're done.

1/4 cup hazelnut or walnut oil
1/4 cup raspberry or other fruit vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt & pepper
1/16 teaspoon cayenne

Put the above in a jar and shake, or whisk together.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Cold Spinach with Miso & Tahini Dressing

I love spinach, but it's a bit of a bummer how much it shrinks down. You are looking at the mortal remains of 2 quarts of spinach in the photo there - and we licked our chops and looked around for more when we were done with it. This is a very tasty Korean-style dish that we first had in a local restaurant, and found it very easy to duplicate at home.

2 servings
15 minutes prep time

Cold Spinach with Miso and Tahini Dressing
2 quarts (8 cups) raw spinach

1 teaspoon light miso
1 teaspoon tahini
1 tablespoon water

Wash the spinach in plenty of cold water. Drain it and pick it over, removing any damaged leaves and tough stems. Wash it again and drain it well.

Steam the spinach in any residual water left on it from washing. As soon as it is wilted, remove it to a strainer and rinse it in cold water until it is cool. Squeeze it well to dry it. Chop the spinach.

Meanwhile, mix the miso, tahini and water in a mixing bowl. When the spinach is cooled and chopped, stir it into the dressing. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Frozen Yogurt, No Ice-Cream Maker Required

The best way to eat yogurt! I've never wanted to store an ice-cream maker, on top of all my other kitchen gadgets, in my quite small kitchen. A food processer does a perfectly respectable job for frozen yogurt. It's a little more dense than you would get from an ice-cream maker, but very smooth and tasty.

6 servings
20 minutes prep time in 2 stages, plus freezing time

Blueberry Frozen Yogurt
1 1/2 cups plain nonfat or low fat yogurt
2 cups frozen blueberries, strawberries or other fruit in small pieces
the juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tablespoons blueberry, strawberry or other complementary jam
1-4 tablespoons sugar

Prepare the yogurt by putting it into ice-cube trays to freeze. Prepare the fruit by cleaning it and cutting it in small pieces (unless it's berries) and laying them in a single layer on a tray to be frozen. You can also use frozen fruit to start with, of course.

To make the frozen yogurt, put the yogurt cubes, fruit, lemon juice and jam into a food processor. Process until very smooth and well blended; this will take several minutes. Taste the mixture and add sugar as you see fit. Process again until well blended.

The frozen yogurt can be returned to the freezer until serving time; if that is not shortly, you may need to temper it by putting it in the fridge for a short time until it becomes scoopable again. You can certainly put it into a sealed tub and keep it in the freezer for a week or two.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Danish Celeriac Salad

In our house, we say that everything is better with bacon, unless it's better with whipped cream. There are also a few select dishes, generally Danish, which are better with both. This, I think, could be one of those recipes. I keep picturing it with bacon bits... On a more healthy note, I think it would also be nice with a couple tablespoons of minced parsley or finely grated carrot for a little colour. On the other hand, the classic recipe is just fine too.

You may note that the dressing is easily scaled per cup of grated celeriac, although I suspect that much less than the 3 tablespoons called for would be very hard to beat stiff. I used light mayonnaise, pointless as that may have been, just because that's what was in my fridge.

3 to 4 servings
20 minutes prep time

Danish Celeriac Salad
3 tablespoons whipping cream
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt & pepper
3 cups grated celeriac
3 or 4 lettuce leaves (optional)

Peel and grate the celeriac. If it seems tough, you may wish to blanch it briefly by putting it in a colander and pouring boiling water over it. Drain well. If it is new and tender, which it should be at this time of year, it can be left raw.

Put the whipping cream in a small salad bowl, and beat it until stiff. Beat in the mayonnaise and the mustard briefly. Season with a little salt and pepper, then fold in the dry, grated celeriac. Serve chilled, over lettuce leaves if you like.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Yes, but the Clutter

from "Vagabond's House"

When I have my house I will suit myself
And have what I'll call my "condiment shelf"
Filled with all manner of herbs and spice,
Curry and chutney for meats and rice,
Pots and bottles of extracts rare -
Onions and garlic will both be there -
And soya and saffron and savory goo
And stuff that I'll buy from an old Hindu.
Ginger and syrup in quaint stone jars,
Almonds and figs in tinseled bars,
Astrakhan caviar, highly prized,
And citron and orange peel crystallized,
Anchovy paste and poha jam,
Basil and chili and marjoram,
Pickles and cheeses from every land,
And flavours that come from Samarkand;
And hung with a string from a handy hook
Will be a dog-eared, well-thumbed book
That is pasted full of recipes
From France and Spain and the Caribees -
Roots and leaves and herbs to use
For curious soups and old ragouts.

Don Blanding

Well, here is (part of) a poem that is snare and a rebuke to the would-be shop-at-home cook. And yet, this poem, first published in 1928 and meant as a kind of unattainable fantasy, now merely describes the standard contents of a North American fridge and pantry. And as I begin to clear mine out in advance of our move next month, I find that I am very typical; very typical indeed.

In the fridge vegetables and fruit get two shelves, then there are the eggs and milk and a plastic tub with cheese and meat. The rest is a forest of jars, bottles and packets, consumed at a snail's pace in dribs and drabs. Yes, I've bottled quite a lot of it myself: the ketchup (tomato and red currant), the various jams and jellies, the pickles and chutneys. But on top of that there's the mayo and mustard, the horseradish and steak sauce, the roasted hazelnut oil, the mint sauce, the tamarind paste and apple butter, and on and on and on. (No caviar, I'm sorry to say, although I did discover a tiny bottle of white truffle oil that I bought on a whim for $18 and have never used.

! )

The wasteful and ridiculous excess continues in the cupboards. Pasta, canned beans and tuna, okay. But then there's the wheat-free buckwheat noodles (six bucks for a little box! Too expensive to actually eat!) the tapioca noodles, the rice noodles, the bean thread noodles, and the rice paper wrappers. Rosewater, vanilla, almond extract, glycerin (glycerin?) cornstarch, arrowroot, dried shiitakes, three kinds of sea-weed, four kinds of sugar and four kinds of rice. (The flours all get a tub of their own in the freezer.) An entire shelf dedicated to salt, pepper and capsicum products; other spices on another shelf. Dry beans, lentils and barley; all good. But also four tetrapacks of coconut milk, a box of black tapioca (for bubble tea, never made although the minute tapioca and tapioca starch get used somewhat regularly,) hazelnut and sunflower seed butters, white and dark baking chocolate, Ovaltine, and about 20 different kinds of tea; loose and bagged, herbal, green and black. There's more, of course, but you start to get the picture.

I am a hoarder. It is true. Food, uh, issues do run in the family. My father is the son of a woman who was nursed until she was six and suffered from rickets because there was so little food to wean her to, and he was brought up during the depression. These things do echo down the generations. I'm not happy unless there is enough food in the house to withstand a three month seige. But this is ridiculous.

So as usual I resolve that when we move, I am going to pare all this stuff down. There is no sense in having stuff sit in the shelves for years getting stale. We're going to start a new regime, where regularly-used items are bought regularly, in small amounts. Unusual items will be purchase in even smaller amounts, as required by a planned menu.

But you'll have to pry the chipped licorice root, agar-agar, eleven kinds of vinegar, and Iranian saffron out of my cold, dead hands.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Potato & Green Bean Salad

Here's a slightly different potato salad; no mayonnaise and lots of herbs. I'm saying 6 servings, but that would be as a side dish. We tend to eat it all ourselves, as our complete meal.

6 servings
45 minutes - 25 minutes prep time

Potato and Green Bean Salad
6 cups baby red-skinned potatoes
1 1/2 cups yellow wax beans
1 1/2 cups green beans

1/2 cup minced parsley
2-4 green onions, minced
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup minced fresh dill or basil

Wash and trim the potatoes, and cut them in half if they are larger, or leave them whole; the final result should be fairly uniform in size. Put them in a pot with water to cover and bring to a boil. Boil for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender.

Meanwhile, wash, trim and cut the beans into bite-sized pieces. Add them to the potatoes about 5 minutes before the potatoes are done.

Make the salad dressing in the salad bowl. Prepare the parsley, green onions and dill or basil, but keep them separate at this point.

When the potatoes and beans are done, drain them and rinse them briefly in cold water. Drain well and toss them with the salad dressing. Let them sit for 10 minutes or so, to soak up the dressing and cool down. Now mix in the chopped herbs. Serve at room temperature.

1/4 cup sunflower seed oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, ground
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika

Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a large salad bowl.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Jerk Burgers

I didn't actually make these this week, as my crazy times continue, so I pulled this photo from my archive. I sure wish I could have had one though! Would have been great, sitting outside with a burger, some salad and some grilled corn. Soon, maybe...

4 servings
40 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Jerk Burger
Spice Mixture:
2 teaspoons allspice berries
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Toast the allspice berries in a dry skillet until fragrant and lightly browned. Grind them with the black peppercorns, and mix all the seasonings together in a large bowl.

To Make the Burgers:
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup minced chives
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 lb ground turkey or lean ground pork
1 egg
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

By fresh breadcrumbs I mean crumbs you make yourself with stale bread, just not those dusty floorsweepings you can buy in a tub.

Peel and mince the garlic, and mince the chives. Add them to the seasonings with the vinegar, meat, egg and breadcrumbs. Mix well - I find it much the easiest to do it with my hands. Divide the mixture into 4 equal parts, and form them into patties.

Fry or broil them on both sides over medium heat until done (the juices will be clear if you poke them.) The exact time will depend on which meat you use and how thick you make the patties. Turkey will cook quicker than the pork, and be sure not to overcook it or it will be dry.

Last year at this time, I made Hilda's Summer Borscht - a family favourite of my sweetie.