Friday, 31 October 2008

Broccoli with Miso-Mustard Dressing

A simple treatment for broccoli. It could also be served hot, in which case just steam and toss.

4 servings
15 minutes prep time

Broccoli with Miso-Mustard Dressing:
For the Broccoli:
1 head broccoli

Wash and cut up the broccoli into florets. Steam it until just tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Run it under cold water to cool and drain very well. It might not be a bad idea to put it through the salad spinner. Make the dressing (below) and drizzle it over the broccoli. Toss gently.

1 teaspoon dark miso
2 teaspoons strong Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sunflower seed oil
2 tablespoons water

Mix the miso and mustard in a small bowl, then mix in the sunflower seed oil. This will take a fair bit of stirring, but persevere and once it is smooth and amalgamated, stir in the water.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Pie-Spiced Roast Butternut Squash

On my little trip to Quebec that I took on the weekend, I was served a pumpkin or squash soup that was spiced very similarly to a pumpkin pie. Hmm, I thought; why have I never done this? (I think because I was afraid it would be too sweet, too obvious.) To my surprise, I really liked it. The echo was there, but it wasn't like eating liquid pie at all, so I tried applying the same principals to my favourite roast squash. Yep, that works. A little coriander and pepper keeps the parallels from being too obvious.

4 servings
1 hour - 15 minutes prep time

Pie-Spiced Roast Butternut Squash
Spice Mixture:
2 teaspoons coriander seed, ground
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns, ground
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Grind the coriander seeds and pepper. Grate the nutmeg. Mix everything listed above, and set aside.

To Roast the Squash:
1/2 of a large butternut squash (600 to 800 grams; 1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
2 or 3 tablespoons sunflower seed oil

Preheat the oven to 400°F. (Can also be done as low as 350°F, for a little longer.) Peel and deseed the squash as described in this recipe, and cut it up the same way as well. Put the oil in a large, shallow baking pan and toss the peeled slices of squash in it. Sprinkle the squash evenly with about 2/3 of the spice mixture, and toss them again. Sprinkle over the remaining spice mixture.

Bake the squash for 20 minutes. Give it a stir, then bake for a further 20 minutes (or 30 at the cooler temperature.)

Last year at this time I made Mixed Apple Pie. I don't check what I made last year until I post the days' recipe, so I'm always amused to see what kind of echos there are from last year.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Split Pea Curry

There are a lot of recipes around for yellow split pea curry, although I am not at all convinced that the peas used in Indian cooking are the same peas commonly grown in Canada. However, it doesn't much matter - the same yellow split peas usually used for soup make a lovely curry.

I put broccoli and cauliflower into this, but you could put in all kinds of vegetables, depending on what's around at the time. Green beans would be good, or chard (or kale) with cubes of squash or sweet potato. You could use leftover cooked vegetables; just don't cook them any more than just the final simmering. (Any vegetables you use should have their cooking times adjusted as appropriate.)

4 to 6 servings
2 hours - 30 minutes prep time

Split Pea Curry with Broccoli and Cauliflower
Spice Blend:
2 teaspoons cumin seed, ground
3 teaspoons coriander seed, ground
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon rubbed thyme

Grind the cumin and coriander seeds together, then mix with the remaining spices.

To make the curry:
1 cup yellow split peas
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large carrot
1 large onion
3 tablespoons sunflower seed oil
2 cups each broccoli & cauliflower florets (see note above)
2 cups water

Rinse the split peas and put them in your rice-cooker with the water and salt, or if you persist in not having a rice cooker (why!?) you can cook them on the stove. Cook them until they are done, and the water absorbed; i.e. until the rice cooker turns itself off.

Peel the carrot and onion, and dice them. Put them with the oil into a fairly large pot (it will all end up in there eventually) and cook them gently until well cooked but not browned. Add about two-thirds of the spice mixture about halfway through the cooking process and mix it in well.

Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables and cook them in 2 cups water for just a few minutes, until just starting to become tender. Add them, with their cooking water to the onions and carrots, then add the remaining spices and the cooked split peas. Continue simmering for about 10 minutes until the curry has thickened a bit and the flavours are well blended.

Serve over steamed rice.

Last year at this time I made Roasted Sweet Potato "Fries" - which are insanely popular - and Pea (Navy) Bean & Parsley Salad.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Tea-Poached Pears with Honey

Bosc pears really are the best for this, being rather firm. You can use other pears if you like but they should still be on the hard side, although they should be approaching ripeness. These are quite simple - although you must watch them at the end (ahem!) - and I think a lovely light but elegant finish to a meal. Maybe pass some blue cheese and crackers with them if your dinner was light.

2 servings
1 hour - 10 minutes prep time

Tea Poached Pears with Honey
2 large bosc pears

2 cups strong brewed black tea
1/4 cup honey
4 pods green cardamom
1 or 2 pieces star anise

Peel the pears, leaving on the stems. Cut the cores out from the bottom, as much as you can; the vegetable peeler should be the best tool for that.

Place the pears in a fairly snug pot with the remaining ingredients, and simmer them for 30 minutes to an hour, until the pears are just barely tender and the liquid has been reduced to a thick sauce or glaze. I can't be more precise; it depends on the size and ripeness of your pears, and your stove.

Turn the pears regularly as they cook, and watch the sauce closely at the end. Once it has boiled down and is very thick, it will burn quite easily. I took my eyes off mine for about 30 seconds and they got more caramelized than I wanted them, although they were okay. Aim for something a tad lighter in colour than what you see in the picture!

Serve the pears warm or at room temperature, with the sauce poured over them. Custard or ice cream? Why not? (Well not if you are having the blue cheese.)

Monday, 27 October 2008

Broccoli, Cauliflower & Lentil Salad

We had this salad a few days ago, but I did not have time to post it before I went off to Quebec for a family event. It looks like there are all kinds of great food things going on in eastern Ontario, but alas, I did not have time to investigate. Maybe next summer I will be able to get out there and get a taste of what's happening. Meanwhile, I think I may make this salad again. It was very tasty and I have eaten a bit too much rich food. I always figure broccoli and lentils are the antidote to that! You can feel them doing you good with every bite you take.

2 to 6 servings
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time

Broccoli Cauliflower and Lentil Salad
1 1/2 cups brown or green lentils
2 cups broccoli florets
2 cups cauliflower florets
1 large carrot
100 grams (1/4 pound) feta cheese

Cook the lentils until tender in 2 3/4 cups of water, with a pinch of salt. I use my rice cooker for this. When they are done let them cool, or rinse them in cold water and drain well.

Meanwhile, make the dressing. (See below.)

Cut the broccoli and cauliflower into fairly small florets. Steam them until just barely tender, about 5 minutes. Rinse them in cold water to cool them, and drain well. Meanwhile, peel and grate the carrot. Mix the lentils, broccoli, cauliflower and carrot. Crumble the feta cheese and mix it into the salad. Toss with the dressing. This can be done in advance, although next-day leftovers may be a little soggy.

1/4 cup sunflower seed oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspon rubbed oregano

Whisk or shake together the above ingredients.

Last year at this time, it was too much rich food too: I made Cocoa Brownies and Nut Butter Brownies.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Beet & Apricot Salad with Sunflower Seeds

I'm saying two to six servings, because it depends how you eat it. The two of us had it for lunch, with a little bread and butter (and gingerbread pear pudding too if the truth be told) and were sufficiently fed. However, it would also make a perfectly reasonable side salad to a meal, and as such would probably serve six.

Our beets were nice ones, about the size of golf balls, and we used eight. If yours are larger, use fewer; as few as four if they are really big ones. I have to say the carrots kind of disappeared. Once they were soaked in the beet juice they looked like beets, and pretty much tasted like them too. Oh well. But I guess they diluted the beetiness somewhat. We had one chioggia beet and one golden beet in the mix which, with the carrots, accounts for the two-toned effect of the salad. Next time I would be inclined to use them in the reverse proportion as they are a little milder than the dark red beets.

2 to 6 servings
1 hour - of which 40 minutes goes to cooking the beets, leaving 20 minutes prep time.

Beet and Dried Apricot Salad with Sunflower Seeds
6 to 8 smallish beets
2 medium carrots
8 dried apricots
1/2 cup hulled raw sunflower seeds
lettuce, some

Put the beets on to boil, and boil them until tender, about 40 minutes. Run them under cold water until cool enough to handle, and peel them and cut them into bite-sized pieces.

Meanwhile, peel the carrots, cut them into bite-sized pieces and cook them until tender, probably more like 10 to 15 minutes. You can put them into a steamer on top of the beets if you like. Cool them under cold water and add them to the beets.

Cut the dried apricots into quarters, and add them to the vegetables. Toss the salad with about two-thirds of the vinaigrette (see below.)

Wash and cut or tear up some lettuce, however much you think you are going to eat, and dry it well. Arrange it in your salad bowl. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the lettuce, and arrange the beets, carrots and apricots over it.

Toast the sunflower seeds in a dry skillet, stirring often, until lightly browned. Sprinkle them over the salad, and serve.

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons hazelnut or walnut oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt & pepper

Whisk together these ingredients, or shake them together in a jar. Apply as directed.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Gingerbread Pear Pudding

The honey adds a subtle flavour to gingerbread, and the pears on the bottom turn it into a pudding. I served it with a little leftover custard that I had made to go with applesauce.

6 servings
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time

Gingerbread Pear Pudding
The baked pudding above, and the pudding served with custard, below.

Gingerbread Pear Pudding
1 cup soft unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

3 large ripe pears

1/4 cup sunflower seed oil
1/4 cup Sucanat or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon apple-cider vinegar
1 extra-large egg

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Mix the flour, baking soda, salt and spices, and set them aside.

Wash, peel and core the pears. Slice them and arrange them in a shallow 2 or 2.5 quart casserole or glass 8" x 11" baking pan.

Put the oil, Sucanat, honey and water into a pot, and heat gently, stirring constantly, until the honey and Sucanat are melted. Let cool, then add the vinegar and beat in the egg.

Dump the flour mixture into the pan, and mix well. When you have a smooth, thin batter, pour it over the prepared pears, making sure it is evenly distributed. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until it passes the old toothpick test. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Last year at this time it was Sweet Potato & Carrot Soup, and also Quince Jelly & Jam (Paste).

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Potato & Feta Cheese Bake

This should be called "I Don't Wanna Cook". But, as ever, I want to eat, so some semblance of cooking it had to be. It wasn't half bad either, but hey! Cheese, potatoes, potatoes, cheese. Of course it wasn't.

I think of this more as a vegetarian main dish - round it out with a salad - but you could keep the cheese down to a dull roar, and serve it as a side dish as well.

4 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Potato and Feta Cheese Bake
8 medium red-skinned potatoes
2 medium onions
3 tablespoons sunflower seed oil
1 to 3 dried red chiles
2 teaspoons oregano
a little salt
200 grams ( 1/2 pound) feta cheese

Wash the potatoes and cut them into sixths or eighths. Boil them until barely tender.

Meanwhile, peel and slice the onions. Add them to the potatoes for a few minutes just before they are done, then drain them and toss them in a shallow 2.5 or 3 quart baking dish.

Preheat the oven 350°F. Grind the chiles and toss the potatoes and onions with the chiles, oregano and a little salt. Keep the salt down though, because the cheese has plenty. Crumble the feta cheese, and mix it in gently.

Bake the casserole for about 1 hour, until the potatoes and cheese begin to brown.

Around this time last year, I made Broccoli Stem Cole-Slaw and Macaroni & Cheese.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

A Quote of the Week

Well, I don't really have a quote this week either, so I thought I would share a story that I heard from my great-aunt Helen when I was in Nova Scotia in the summer and we were telling all the old family yarns. I was thinking of this story in particular in the wake of the latest election (about which the least said soonest mended, grrrr.)

It seems a while back in the family, there was a mixed marriage. Now, there have been various marriages in the family involving people originating from different continents, and also some gay relationships, but this was a really mixed marriage; the kind I am not certain should be allowed, and which is plainly contrary to good morality and guaranteed to lead to no good. In short, our relative (a Liberal, of course) actually went and married a *gasp* Conservative. The names of the people involved escape me, which is probably just as well.

It all went fine for a while. Every election, she'd go out and vote Liberal, and he'd go out and vote Conservative, and thus they cancelled each other out, electorally speaking. So, one year they agreed they'd save the aggravation, and neither of them would vote. Results; same.


On the fateful day, he had to go out and do some chores in town. And while he was there, he happened to pass by the polling station and meet some of his Conservative buddies, and somehow the next thing he knew he was in there, voting.

And then he panicked.

He knew darn well he wasn't going to make it home before someone peached on him. (And sure enough, someone did. Never think you can get away with anything in a small town.)

So he ran off and spent the night at his brother's house, while his wife hustled off to the polling station - having been duly informed that her husband had been spotted voting without her - and cancelled his vote. Then she spent the night calling his relatives trying to find out where he had gone, but none of them would admit to harbouring the refugee. It seems to me that his priest got dragged into it somehow (I think they had one of those double-mixed marriages*. The Presbyterian and Catholic thing can work just fine, but I'll say it again: a Liberal - Conservative coalition is simply against nature, in marriage as in politics) but the priest didn't give him up either, or perhaps simply refused to intercede on his behalf; I forget.

This skulking existance went on for several days. The longer he stayed away, of course, the worse he knew the storm was going to be when he went home. But eventually he bit the bullet and returned home to face the thunder and lightening, and life resumed its normal course - more or less. It's pretty clear though, that the wife subsequently got an awful lot of milage out of this disgraceful incident, and that the husband had to bear himself in meekness and humility on the subject forever after. And I'm pretty certain they both voted faithfully without fail every election too. No more saving the aggravation for them.

*But this is not the same couple who, also in a double-mixed marriage, pretended to be Jewish when they lived in the U.S. for a couple of years. Different generation altogether, and a different story too.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Raw Beets with Sour Cream

I was invited out to lunch at a friends house late in the summer, and one of the things she served that it had never before occurred to me to eat was raw beets. They're actually very good! Slightly sweet, moist and crunchy. The yellow ones, and the striped chioggia are the best. The regular dark red ones are a bit too strong for my taste, although they are not bad. Pass them with a little sour cream to dip them in. Yum!

2-4 servings
15 minutes prep time

Raw Beets with Sour Cream and Chive Dip
1/2 cup sour cream
1 or 2 tablespoons minced chives
salt and pepper

2-3 medium beets, preferably golden or chioggia
a few greens to put them on, if you like

Mix the sour cream with the chives, and season with a little salt and pepper.

Wash the beets. Trim off the root and stem ends, and any spots on the beets where the skin is tough, damaged, or sprouting roots. Cut the beets in half then slice them into thin slices or wedges. Arrange them nicely on a plate, on top of a few salady greens if you like, with the sour cream as a dip.

Last year at this time I made Buttermilk & Herb Salad Dressing.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Lamb Stew with Shiitakes & Shallots

This is a lovely stew, easily made and without too many ingredients. In spite of its simplicity, I tend to save it for special occasions, as the shiitakes can get a bit expensive. However, while they are available all year they are most abundant right now, and you may find them at a good price.

4 servings
2 hours - 30 minutes prep time

Kanb Stew with Shiitakes and Shallots
500 grams (1 pound) boneless stewing lamb (or beef is good too)
1 tablespoon sunflower seed oil
10 to 12 small shallots
2 to 3 cups fresh shiitake mushrooms
5 cups beef or lamb broth, or water in a pinch
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons tamari
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed

Check that the meat is ready to go; cut in bite-sized pieces and not too much fat. Peel the shallots, and if possible, divide them in half. (They are often half-way there already, with the removal of one more layer.) Trim the stems from the shiitakes and make sure they are clean, which they should be, since they grow on tree stumps.

Heat the oil in a large skillet, and brown the meat and the shallots in it, turning to cook and brown them evenly. Add 3 cups of the broth, reserving the other 2 for later. Cover the pan and simmer for about an hour, until the shallots and meat are both tender, and the broth somewhat thickened and reduced. If you like, you can cool the stew at this point and continue the next day.

Next, add the shiitake mushrooms (whole caps) and continue cooking. Once they are in, mix the flour with the Worcestershire sauce, the tamari, the pepper and the remaining broth. Add it slowly to the stew, stirring constantly, and simmer it for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the sauce is thickened and the mushrooms are stewed.

Serve the stew with mashed potatoes, barley pilaf, or steamed rice.

Last year at this time I made Baked Apples Stuffed with Cranberries & Walnuts.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Cauliflower & Leek Soup

Mmm, soup. I don't know what it is about cauliflower; it's so good in soup. Leeks, too - and shallots and celery never hurt. Without the sour cream, it's pretty dietetic and would make a good starter to a meal. A big bowl, with the sour cream or even a bit of grated cheese and some bread makes a meal in itself.

Makes 6 servings
1 hour 20 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Cauliflower and Leek Soup
1 small to medium head cauliflower
1 litre (1 quart) chicken stock
1 or 2 bay leaves
2 large leeks
2 stalks of celery
4 shallots
2 tablespoons sunflower seed oil
1 teaspoon savory
1/2 teaspoon celery seed, ground
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

sour cream to serve (optional)

Wash and trim the cauliflower, and cut it into florets. Put them in a soup pot with the chicken stock and bay leaves, and simmer them until just tender.

Meanwhile, wash and trim the leeks and celery. Peel the shallots. Chop them all, and give the chopped leeks a good rinse to remove any lingering grit. Sauté the leeks, celery and shallots in the oil over medium heat, until soft.

Remove about a third of the cauliflower from the pot and add the sautéed vegetables. Remove and discard the bay leaves, and add the savory and ground celery seed. Continue simmering the soup until everything is quite tender.

To serve the soup, purée it in batches until very smooth. Chop the reserved cauliflower and add it to the soup. Reheat the soup, season with salt and pepper, and serve it with a dollop of sour cream, if desired. Watch the salt; it will depend on how salty the chicken stock was to start with.

Last year at this time I made Shepherd's Chicken Pot Pie.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Spicy Apple-Butter Baked Acorn Squash Rings

A not-too-sweet and spicy way to serve acorn squash.

Unlike most winter squash, these are really only available in the late summer through the early winter. They don't keep as well as some of the other winter squash varieties. On the other hand, they are not only currently local, but historically local as well, being one of the few vegetables developed in the great lakes region (by various first nations tribes.)

4 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Spicy Apple Butter Baked Acorn Squash Rings
Spicy Apple Butter:
2 tablespoons apple butter
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 small dried hot red chile
3 pods green cardamom
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 1/2 teaspoons celery seed

Mix the apple butter and vinegar in a small dish. Grind the spices together, and remove the green hulls from the cardamom which won't grind well. Mix the spices in with the apple butter.

To Bake the Squash:
1 large acorn squash
2 to 3 tablespoons sunflower seed oil

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Cover a large baking (cookie) tray with parchment paper.

Wash the squash. Cut the squash into rings, about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch thick. Remove and discard the seeds. I just cut the end pieces into quarters and send them along for the ride.

Brush the squash pieces with the oil, on both sides and lay them on the baking tray in a single layer. Brush the tops with about half to two-thirds of the spiced apple butter. Bake the squash for about 40 minutes.

Turn the squash rings over (don't bother with the end pieces) and brush them with the remaining spiced apple butter. Return the squash to the oven for another 20 to 30 minutes.

Last year at this time, I made Rotini with Salmon, Mushrooms & Broccoli in Cream Sauce, and Jalapeño Pepper Jelly.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Roast Prime Rib

Well, I can't say that I have anything particularly original to say about prime rib, but it is what we had for our Thanksgiving dinner, mainly because our beef for the next year has been delivered already but I still had a prime rib roast - also called a standing rib roast - in the freezer from last year.

There are two main schools of thought when it comes to roasting prime rib: either you start it off very hot and lower the temperature thereafter, or you put it in at a lowish temperature to start with and take it from there. I use the single low temperature method because damn, I am lazy and after all it works just fine. I also can't be bothered to brown it; frankly I doubt if anyone really knows or cares in the end. It comes out of the oven brown enough.

4 to 6 servings
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours - 15 minutes prep time

Roast Prime Rib of Beef
Above, as it came out of the oven, and below, the sliced roast.

Sliced Roast Prime Rib of Beef
1 prime rib roast,
- mine is probably generally about 6 pounds and consists of 3 ribs
sea salt and freshly crushed black peppercorns
OR mustard and herbs if you like

If you are starting with a frozen roast, it should be thawed thoroughly first. Allow two days. Then, it should be taken out of the refrigerator an hour before it is to go into the oven. Any meat that goes into the oven partially frozen or with significant differences in temperature between one part an another (especially when there is bone present) is apt to cook very unevenly with the cold, bony parts being still raw or very rare when the outside is overdone.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Rub the meat and fat sides of the roast with crushed salt and pepper; not too much. I loosen the cap of fat on the roast first and put the seasonings underneath it, but leave it in place to keep the roast moist. Then it will be easily removed when you carve the meat.

Put the roast into the oven, fat side up, and roast it until a meat thermometer measures 125°F to 140°F, depending on how well-done you would like it. If you don't have a meat thermometer, allow a minumim of 1 1/2 hours, or 20 to 25 minutes per pound, although I'm afraid the exact time can vary considerably with the thickness of the roast.

Set the cooked roast aside and cover it with foil for 15 to 20 minutes before carving, during which time it will continue to cook a little, and the juices will redistribute themselves so as not to bleed out as soon as you start carving.

To carve it, I remove the cap of fat, then slice down alongside the rib bones. They should then flatten out like a hinge, and you can turn the roast on its side and cut off the remianing bone. The now boneless roast can then be easily sliced.

The ribs, plus any leftover meat are perfect for making soup.

Last year for Thanksgiving, I made roast turkey. There was also a Pumpkin Loaf about that time.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Pasta with Fennel & Sausage

A quick and easy pasta dish with that favourite vegetable of mine - fennel. Since it's pasta, you know what that means: Presto Pasta Nights!

2 to 3 servings
30 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Pasta with Fennel and Sausage
250 grams (1/2 pound) stubby pasta
450 grams (1 pound) plain or garlic pork sausage
1 large onion
1 small head of fennel
1 stalk of celery
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1 dried hot red chile
ground black pepper to taste

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta, and cook it until just tender.

Meanwhile, cut the sausage into pieces and put it in a large skillet with about a cup of water. Bring it to a boil, and boil until the water evaporates and the sausage begins to brown, stirring it once or twice during the cooking.

Once that is going, peel the onion and cut it into slivers. Trim the fennel and cut it likewise. Wash the celery and slice it thinly on the diagonal. Grind the fennel and red chile together. If your sausage isn't garlic, and you want garlic, feel free to slice up a clove or two and toss them in with the rest of the veggies.

When the water is gone and the sausage has started to brown, add the onion, fennel and celery. But check first that there isn't too much fat. You want a little to grease the pan, but if it's sitting there in puddles, drain some off. Sauté the vegetables in the rendered fat from the sausage until softened and lightly browned as well. When the pasta is done, drain it and toss it with the sausage and vegetable mixture.

Friday, 10 October 2008

A Visit to Giffen's Market in Nottawa

After our visit to Creemore last Saturday, we stopped just outside of Nottawa (a village a little south of Collingwood) at Giffen's Country Market. They're at 3827 County Road 124. Through the winter, they are open Monday through Thursday, 8AM - 5PM. Fridays: 8AM to 6PM. Saturday and Sunday: 9AM to 5PM.

Giffens Country Market
There's a large sign outside an otherwise rather nondescript building. At this time of year, though, the eye is also caught by their mounds of pumpkins and bins of apples.

Giffens Country Market
And a nice bright red tractor.

Giffens Country Market
They grow the apples themselves, on their 200 acres of orchards.

Giffens Country Market
They grow the pumpkins and squash, tomatoes, beans, potatoes, rutabagas, beets and other vegetables themselves as well.

Giffens Country Market
Besides all that, they have a kitchen at the back of their store, where you can get soups, sandwiches, burgers and other basic fare, at reasonable prices. They do a lot of baking as well, which gets put up at the front of the store for purchase. Mary Hannan, one of the owners, was proud to tell me that they make their pumpkin pies with their own pumpkins. I looked around but I didn't see any pumpkin pies... I suspect they fly out of there. There are some prepared dishes, such as tourtieres and pot-pies as well.

Giffens Country Market
They also bring in a good selection of cheeses from Millbank Cheese, as well as other meats from the Kitchener-Waterloo area.

Giffens Country Market
A good selection of locally produced jams and preserves.

Giffens Country Market
Mary Hannan with a tray of their lovely pies.

Giffens Country Market
And the menu of the day, inscribed on a door.

Giffens Country Market
If you purchase prepared food to eat right away, they have a few tables available. Alas, I never seem to be passing through at meal time, but this is definitely a good place to stop if you are travelling up to Collingwood. There's a great selection of all kinds of good things, with much of it produced right on the Giffen farm.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Hardy Kiwi Fruit

Hardy kiwi fruit, the size of large grapes
At the 100-Mile Store in Creemore, I found hardy kiwi fruits. Suddenly the old name of Chinese gooseberries for kiwi fruits from before the New Zealanders got hold of them makes a lot more sense. They could also be taken as a kind of strange grape, but if you bite one in half, you will see the familiar bright green rayed flesh and ring of tiny black seeds. Luckily, these little guys are furless with a thin tender skin, as they would be just too tiny to peel. No preparation is required beyond a quick rinse, and perhaps a little rub at the blossom end to remove any lingering stamens.

You should also taste a much sweeter and richer, slightly floral flavour than you will get from the large furry kiwis that come from half-way around the world. It's not that the more familiar large kiwi can't taste great - I had some wonderful ones at a California farmers market once - but as usual fruit picked green (ahem) and hard for shipping just never reaches its full potential. The smaller ones are inherently sweeter as well, although the degree will very according to the variety in question.

Some people make kiwi jam, but I'd like them in a fruit salad with pears and plums - very pretty! - or they could go into smoothies. But there's nothing wrong with just snarfing them down, which was the fate of this batch. Children love them.

Not too many people are growing these around here yet, but I predict that they will become very popular in the next few years. I'm thinking of growing them myself. The plants are a large and attractive perennial vine. They are also dioecious, which means that there are male and female plants. One male plant should be surrounded by a harem of eight fruit-bearing female plants. They require slightly acidic soil, plenty of water, and regular pruning. They should be hardy in my zone 5 garden, but will likely require some protectionn from spring and fall frosts.

Hardy Kiwi on Foodista

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Pear & Fennel Salad

I've made this salad a couple of times in the last week or two. Ontario-grown fennel is horribly hard to find, so I was thrilled to find a bit at the Meaford 100 Mile-Market recently. It may be one of those things you have to grow yourself. Actually, even with imported fennel, this could still reach my 80% Ontarian goal.

Fennel has a sweet, mild licorice-like flavour, and it goes well with the sweet and fragrant fruity flavours of the pears and cranberries. The nuts add a deeper note and a good crunch, along with the celery. This was a very popular salad.

By the way, some grocery stores mistakenly label fennel as anise, which it is not although they both have a licorice-like flavour.

2 to 4 servings
20 minutes prep time

Pear and Fennel Salad
1 head leaf lettuce
1 small bunch rocket (arugula) or watercress
1 stalk of celery
1/2 to 1/3 of a head of bulb fennel
1/3 to 1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 to 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or sunflower seeds
2 medium bosc pears

Wash and tear up the lettuce and rocket or watercress, and dry them well. Arrange them in the salad bowl. Slice the celery and fennel thinly, and arrange them over the greens. Top with the cranberries and nuts, and the pears, washed and chopped into bite-sized pieces.

1/3 cup walnut or hazelnut oil
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
salt & pepper
1 tablespoon currant jelly*

Whisk the dressing ingredients together and drizzle over the salad.

*You could also use currant catsup, ginger marmalade, a runny chutney, or other sweet, tangy preserves - just something to give some sweetness and tang to the dressing.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

A Visit to Creemore 100 Mile Store

On Saturday, I was in Creemore, lured by an art-gallery opening (hi, Mom!) Creemore is a great town for a day-trip visit. It has lots of artists and shopping, a popular brewery, and it's surrounded by beautiful scenery. It now also has a new 100-Mile Store as well.

It's in a charming old shop on Mill Street (the main street) in Creemore.

A pretty little vignette outside the window welcomes shoppers.

Once inside, there is a good selection of products from Grass Roots Organics. The labels are a nice touch; if possible they list the distance from producer to store. See those little green fruits in the front of the picture? They're hardy kiwis - and they're amazingly good! Not at all like those sour green rocks from halfway around the world.

There's a good selection of dairy products and other goodies lurking in the coolers.

Ice creams from Mapleton Organics, and from Mad River Ice Cream. Take a look at that distance... "around the corner"!

The store is owned and operated by Sandra Lackie and Jackie Durnford, who are extremely friendly and knowledgable. They've been touring all kinds of local farms to find products for the store.

In spite of nippy weather and a torn-up street out front, the shop attracted a good crowd while we were there.

Some locally produced breads, nicely displayed to be both protected and accessible.

Jams and jellies, herbs and apples...

Everything was beautifully displayed. Like the 100-Mile markets in Meaford and Arthur, they carry a good selection of foods: meat, cheese and other dairy products, fruit and vegetables, flours and dried legumes, bread and even some prepared frozen meals. Locally made, of course.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Canned (Bottled) Tomato Sauce

I keep thinking my life is getting back on track, and it is, sort of. I think I may even be able to get back to the blogging. The last week has been crazy busy; as soon as we got our apartment finished and handed over to the new tenant, another one gave notice. Yee-haw! Fifteen minutes of serenity in between. Oh well.

That didn't stop us from getting 4 bushels of tomatoes to can. Most of it went into Canned Tomatoes, but I thought I would branch out and make tomato sauce this year as well. I'm very pleased with how it turned out. I didn't want to pressure can it, so the recipe contains vinegar. It does make the sauce a touch acidic, however, if you wish to leave the vinegar out, the sauce must be pressure canned. I don't find the vinegar excessive, and it's then fine with the regular boiling-water bath canning.

I'm describing cooking this in more than one pot at a time, as there is a lot of sauce to cook down. If you can do it all in one pot, more power to you.

Editted to add: I'm slowly, slowly trying to get back into some kind of a routine, and that means sending appropriate links on to Presto Pasta Nights, where there are sure to be lots of variations on the theme of everybodys' favourite food.

22 to 24 500-ml jars
5 to 6 hours - all work, all the time, and divided over 2 days

Cooking the Pasta Sauce
Above; cooking down the sauce, in two pots. Below; a jar of the finished sauce sits next to a dish of sauced pasta.

The Finished Pasta Sauce
16 quarts (1/2 bushel) tomatoes
pickling salt
3 cups grated carrots
3 cups peeled and coarsely chopped onions
3 cups cored and coarsely chopped sweet red peppers
1 head garlic, divided into cloves and peeled (optional)
2 cups vinegar
1/4 cup sugar

Blanch the tomatoes and peel them, cutting away the green cores and any bad spots. Chop the tomatoes coarsely, and put them in a large (large!) pot; more than one if necessary. As you put them in, sprinkle a little pickling salt over each layer. If you have a pasta type pot with a strainer insert, so much the better. The tomatoes should then be put in a cool (but not too cold) place overnight or for several hours to strain. Lift the tomatoes up and out with a slotted spoon, and discard the watery juices that have accumulated at the bottom of the pot. (This will reduce the cooking time to thicken the sauce considerably.)

Prepare the other vegetables as described in the ingredient list. Put them, with as many of the tomatoes as you can, into a large pot, and cook for about half an hour to an hour, until they are fairly soft. At this point, you can either purée them in batches if you have a good blender or food processor until very smooth, or you can run the mixture through a food mill (medium screen) and discard any seeds or skins that won't go through. Return them to the pot (or another one) and continue cooking the sauce. Meanwhile, put the remaining tomatoes into another large pot and bring the to a boil. Cook them until soft, and begin puréeing them in batches and adding the purée to the sauce as it cooks down. At some point, you will also need to add the vinegar and the sugar. Check for salt, and add a sufficient quantity more. Remember though, that salt is not needed to preserve it, so you can always add more once you open your jars and use them. Don't over-do it, in other words. I also didn't add any herbs for this reason. I figure they are probably better added when I use the sauce, and it will be more flexible.

When the sauce is reasonably thick, i.e. as thick as you would like it to be, you are ready to can it, provided you put your jars on to boil about an hour earlier. So put the jars into the canner when the sauce is fairly thick, but not quite thick enough. Expect them to take about 45 minutes to come to a boil, and then you must boil them for 10 minutes to sterilize them.

Remove the sterilized jars from the canner, and dump out most of the water in them to make room for the sauce. Dump some of the water back into the canner to replace water that has boiled off; the idea is that when the filled jars go back in, they should be covered by an inch of boiling water.

Fill the jars with the hot sauce, and wipe the rims with a paper towel dipped in a little of the boiling water. Seal the jars with lids and rims which have been boiled for 5 minutes (according to the manufacturers instructions.) Return the jars to the boiling water bath and process for 40 minutes. You will certainly need to do more than one batch; just make sure that the jars are properly sterilized and the sauce is just off the boil when it goes in.

When the finished jars are cool, check that they have sealed properly, and label them. Hurray! Put 'em away; you've got tomato sauce.