Monday, 31 August 2009

Yellow Plum & Gooseberry Pie

Pie, just what I need to be making (and eating). However I floated the idea before our guest and the idea was received with sufficient enthusiasm that there was nothing to do but go for it.

We had three cups of very late ripening gooseberries that we had picked from the garden. They were also intensely sour. Also, we had bought a basket of plums that turned out not to be very exciting eating. Again, rather on the sour side. I wouldn't normally put a cup of sugar in anything, but given how sour these two fruits were it turned out that it wasn't a grain too much. If anything a couple more tablespoons would have been a good thing. If you have less sour gooseberries and plums you may wish to cut back a bit however. In spite of the fruit not being that great to eat it made excellent pie.

This, by the way, makes a 10" pie. If you wish to make a 9" pie, I would think you could reduce the filling ingredients by a third. (Not the crust. Just have a little leftover dough. The proper thing to do with it is to cut it in pieces, sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar, and bake it on the tray under the pie.)

8 servings
2 hours prep time - but don't forget to allow 2 or 3 hours to cool

Yellow Plum and Gooseberry Pie
Make the Crust:
2 1/2 cups soft (pastry) whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup neutral flavoured vegetable oil
6 to 8 tablespoons ice-cold water

Mix the salt into the flour. Cut the butter into the flour and salt with a pastry cutter or two knives. The less you handle the dough with your fingers, the better. The butter must not be melted into the flour, but distributed evenly throughout in small sand or grit sized pieces. (It should be soft enough to be a bit waxy, but not soft.) Drizzle in a little very cold water while stirring with a fork, until it holds together and forms a ball. Do not use too much water. It is better to encourage the last dryish bits to stick by rounding them up and pressing them into the dough. You may fold it over and press a couple of times, but do not knead it.

Roll about two-thirds of it out on parchment paper and fit it to your pie dish. Be sure to roll it it enough before placing it; if you stretch the dough it will shrink in baking. Put in the filling, and roll out the remaining dough to cover the pie. Pinch it sealed around the edges, and remove any excess dough. Pierce it in several places with a fork, to allow the steam to escape.

Make the Filling:
24 yellow plums
3 cups dark red gooseberrries
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons minute tapioca
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Cut the plums into quarters and put the quarters into a bowl. Put the pits and any flesh clinging to them into a pot with the washed and drained gooseberries. Bring to a boil and boil until the berries burst. Press the mixture through a seive, into the bowl with the plums. Discard the seeds, pits and skins that won't go through.

Add the sugar, tapioca and cinnamon to the plums and gooseberries and mix well. Put in the prepared crust, and cover with the top crust.

Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes, until well browned. As you may see in the picture, this is a bit prone to leaking, so be sure to put a tray under the pie as it bakes. Let the pie cool completely before serving, otherwise it will be so runny as to be soup in a crust.

Last year at this time I made Herbed Cream Cheese Spread, Two Fresh Chutneys, and Almond Jelly with Peaches.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Sunsugar Tomatoes

Sunsugar Tomatoes
Brace yourselves; we're starting to pick significant quantities of tomatoes from the garden, so it's going to be one 'varietal report' after another for a while. These little dolls are Sunsugar, a modern hybrid cherry tomato that ripens to a brilliant shade of yellow-orange. They are intensely sweet and fruity in flavour. The word 'candy' gets used frequently around them. A lot of people just adore these. I'm not usually a fan of really sweet tomatoes, but these have a good flavour in addition to the sweetness. They keep well once picked, at least a week and maybe two. They grow in very attractive trusses; I think it would look lovely to pick a whole truss or three (if you could get them all ripe at once, which is the tricky part) and use them to garnish a platter of cheese or cold-cuts.

The plants are indeterminate, growing 4 to 7 feet tall, and producing many little trusses of 6 to 9 tomatoes. The first ones ripen early in the season and they should keep coming until frost. Ours grew to about 4 feet, in spite of our very poor soil, and has been producing steady quantities of tomatoes. They are advertised as being very crack resistant and I have only seen one cracked one so far, which is impressive given how much rain we've had lately (lots!). Apparently they grow well in containers.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Wax Beans & Beet Greens with Stewed Tomatoes

At this time of year, I want to serve all kinds of vegetables cooked down with a little tomato. This was a particularly successful combination, I thought. You could use other greens than the beet greens, but they added a pink tint to the sauce that I found quite appealing.

3 or 4 servings
30 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Wax beans and beet greeens with stewed tomatoes
2 cups sliced yellow wax beans
3 or 4 cups chopped beet greens (or chard or kale)
1 cup crushed tomatoes
3 or 4 shallots
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon sunflower seed oil

Wash and trim the beams, and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Wash the green, and discard the stems if they are tough. Chop them somewhat coarsely. Peel and finely chop the tomato. Peel and chop the shallots, and mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a medium sized skillet. Sauté the shallots gently until softened and just beginning to brown. Add the garlic, and sauté for a minute more. Add the beans and tomatoes, and cook for about 5 minutes, until the beans are nearly tender. Add the dry chopped beet greens, and cook down.

Last year at this time I made Celery & Mushroom Soup.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Bintje Potatoes

Bintje Potatoes
We actually harvested these a couple of weeks ago. The Eagle Creek catalogue (from whence they came) described them as a late season, heavy setting potato. Assuming that is so, we did not do particularly well with these. They died down early, and we harvested only 12 pounds from the 2 pounds we planted.

The little black spots on the potatoes are simply caked on dirt. For some reason potatoes in general, and some varieties of potato in particular, are prone to these. I wonder if it is caused by juice or sap from the potatoes, which act a bit like glue. They can be scrubbed off fairly easily, but I did not do it for this photo as I was not planning to cook the potatoes immediately afterwards and I was afraid of damaging the skins, which are very thin and delicate.

Apparently this is a common potato in Europe, although it is quite unusual in North America. It is a yellow fleshed potato, a bit like a Yukon Gold, although in my opinion it fortunately lacks the strange and not entirely pleasant (to me) sweetness found in Yukon Gold. They are a good balance between waxy and starchy, and very versatile. Apparently they are particularly good fried.

Bintje was bred in Holland in 1910, and introduced the next year. It was bred as a classroom genetics demonstration interestingly enough. There is more about it here; it's such a complete little article on them that I feel I'm not left with much to say myself.

Speaking of not much to say, we have company at the moment and so posting is likely to be fairly light for the next week or so. I have to say this is a time of year when it's also hard to come up with recipes: not because of lack of produce, but because there is so much available, and much of it is delicious eaten raw or lightly cooked, so that's what I tend to do.

Bintje Potato on Foodista

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Lentil Soup with Pasta & Vegetables

Here's a good, easy soup for early fall. Early fall already! Well, it's starting to feel like it. I love fall, but summer could linger a little longer; I wouldn't mind.

I used some "acini di pepe" pasta for this soup that I got on sale, presumable because no-one quite knew what to do with it. I wasn't actually very happy with it in the other soups I put it in, but it worked perfectly with the lentils, being the same size and shape. So now we know.

8 to 10 servings
2 hours prep time

Lentil Soup with Pasta and Vegetables
2 cups dried lentils
8 cups water
2-3 bay leaves
2 large onions, chopped
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 tablespoons sunflower seed oil
2 or 3 cups diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
1 teaspoon dry oregano
1 cup small pasta shells or other soup pasta
4 cups shredded swiss chard
the juice of 1/2 lemon

Rinse and pick over the lentils, and put them in a soup pot with the water and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and simmer until barely tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and chop the onions. Wash and chop the celery. Peel and chop the carrots. Sauté these in the oil, until well softened but not browned. Add them to the lentils.

Add the chopped tomatoes, the salt, pepper and oregano. Simmer for a further 10 or 15 minutes.

The soup can be made ahead to this point. Before serving, cook the pasta separately in plenty of salted, boiling water. It should be underdone by a few minutes. While it cooks, chop the swiss chard finely, and heat the soup. Add the drained pasta, the swiss chard and the lemon juice to the soup. Serve as soon as the swiss chard cooks down. You may need to add more water - this soup tends to become very thick.

Last year at this time I made Peppers Stuffed with Feta, Barley & Herbs and Leeks Vinaigrette.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Corn Pudding

For some reason we've been eating a lot of corn this summer. I don't know why; it hasn't been a great year for corn what with the prolonged chilly weather we had for the first half of the summer. I'm certainly not eating my own home-grown corn; I was just starting to wonder how I could tell when it was ripe, but now I think I have it figured out. It would have been ripe about 2 weeks after the raccoons ate it. Little bastards. Raccoon-proof corn-bed fence now on the to-do or at least to-be-attempted list for next year.

Anyway, this makes a substantial but fairly simple vegetarian main dish, and would be good for a pot-luck, as it sits fairly well and is good just warm as well as when it is hot. A green salad or simple steamed green vegetable, such as broccoli or beans, will finish the meal off nicely.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 20 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Corn Pudding
6 cobs of corn
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
250 grams cream cheese
1 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 extra-large eggs
1/4 cup milk

Husk the corn. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and put an 8" x 10" lasagne pan or other similar shallow baking dish into the oven, with the butter in it, until the butter melts.

Meanwhile, cut the corn from 4 of the cobs, and scrape the cobs. Put the corn kernals and scrapings into a food-processor with the flour, the cream cheese cut into chunks, the sugar, salt and pepper. Process until well blended.

Add the eggs and milk, and process again. Cut the corn from the remaining 2 cobs of corn, and scrape the cobs.

Take the pan with the melted butter out of the oven, and tilt it to cover the bottom and sides with butter. Pour the batter from the food processor into the prepared pan, and mix in the hand cut corn. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour, until firm and lightly browned. Let sit about 5 minutes to rest before serving.

Last year at this time I made Stir-Fried Chicken with Peaches & Peppers.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Experimenting with Sauerkraut

Okay, this is more of a report than a recipe. I have never made sauerkraut before, although it's been on my to-try list for a number of years. Now that I have a nice cool storage room, which right now is the right temperature for fermenting, there seemed to be no reason not to give it a go. Plus, I found a perfectly enormous, beautiful cabbage at the market for $2.50, and there didn't seem to be a lot to lose. To my complete astonishment, that sucker provided 52 cups of hand-packed cabbage once shredded. That's a lot of kraut (or foul slime if it doesn't work). I sure hope this works.

In theory, sauerkraut is very simple stuff. Cabbage is packed into a salty anaerobic environment where certain bacteria endemic to brassicas can ferment and produce lactic acid, which preserves the cabbage including the vitamin C, and is beneficial to the human gut. That same salty anaerobic environment also keeps out harmful bacteria - if you do it right. It's more or less the same process as making dill pickles, but my general impression is that it is a bit trickier. It's important to keep the top layer of cabbage under the brine, and it's going to want to float. Much ingenuity is employed to find ways to do this, which is why sauerkraut is almost always made in a crock. However, I don't have a crock, or want a crock, so I decided to try making mine in glass canning jars.

Shredded Cabbage to Make SauerkrautThere it is; 52 cups of hand shredded cabbage. I should have used the food processor I suppose, but I didn't think I would like the texture as much. I just chipped away at it off and on throughout the day. Next to it is my jar of pickling salt. Be sure to use either pickling salt, kosher salt, or sea salt. Don't use regular, iodized salt, which also has anti-caking agents in it. These may affect the fermentation process in undesirable ways.

At this point, I'm going to refer you to some of the sites I read before making my sauerkraut, which have lots of good information. There's a ton more info out there about making sauerkraut - it turns out there's sort of a secret cult of sauerkraut makers. Fortunately for those of us who are new to it, it's an evangelical secret cult of sauerkraut makers; i.e. the only reason it's a secret cult is because 99% of the population never thinks about sauerkraut one way or another. The other 1% is plainly obsessed and happy to tell you all about it.

I have to say I was astonished at how much cabbage I could get into one wide-mouthed litre jar. I figure I got about 12 cup of hand-packed cabbage into a jar. By hand-packed, I mean I put the shredded cabbage into a large measuring cup, and pressed it in firmly but without any real pressure.

Cabbage Packed into Jars to Make Sauerkraut
Okay, let's make this stuff:
about 12 cups finely shredded cabbage per litre jar
2 1/2 teaspoons non-iodized salt
1 cup filtered water
small amount of spices as desired (optional)
- caraway seed, juniper berries, dill seed, chile peppers, mustard seed are typical

Shred the cabbage finely, ideally using a mandoline, but a good sharp knife and some patience will do the job. It can also be shredded in batches in a food processor, but you are likely to end up with rather small cole-slaw-y pieces.

Measure the cabbage, and put it into a large non-reactive bowl (or bowls, if your bowls are not as big as your cabbage.) Put the number of wide-mouthed litre jars that you think you are going to need into a canner, cover with water, and sterilize for 10 minutes.

Massage, with clean hands, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt into each 12 cups of cabbage. I added 8 cups of cabbage to my bowl at a time, and as I worked I also tamped it down using the granite pestle from my mortar and pestle. A wooden tamper is what is ideal; again, I don't have one and this seemed to work fine. You want to bruise it fairly thoroughly; it should start to look a bit juicy. Add the spices, if you want some spices in your sauerkraut. I added 3 tablespoons of Korean red chile to what I expected to be the last jar of cabbage, in the hopes of achieving a sort of mock-kimchi effect.

Once this has been done to all the cabbage, and the jars are ready, set them out and start to pack in the cabbage. I added it through the canning funnel to keep things neat, then removed the funnel and packed the cabbage firmly into the jar using the granite pestle again, a couple of handsful at a time. As noted, you will get a perfectly amazing quantity of cabbage in there.

Leave an inch and a half of headroom at the top of each jar. I left about an inch, and I don't think it was really enough. The cabbage will expand a bit while it ferments, they say, and boy howdy.

Finally, sterilize some lids and rings for the jars. They can be re-used lids, but should be in good condition.

While that's happening, make a brine of 1 cup of water and the remaining teaspoon of salt. It can be heated to dissolve the salt, but don't make it too hot. Pour this into the jar of cabbage, until the cabbage is covered by a 1/2" or so. You may not use quite all of it. Use a chop-stick to poke and move the cabbage a bit, so as to release any air-bubbles trapped in it.

Seal the jars with the prepared lid, but don't put them on too tightly. They should just be making good contact with the jar. Set the jars on newspaper in a cool spot (between 18°C and 22°C, or 65°F and 72°F.) The fermenting process will take 2 to 3 weeks, depending on the temperature. A cooler temperature will take longer, but there will also be less chance of spoilage.

While this is happening, you should check your kraut-to-be every day. As I said, the sauerkraut will expand as it ferments. This will cause the jars to overflow, which is why it should be sitting on newspaper. Change the paper once in a while, and open a jar or two to check the kraut. Make more brine in the 1 teaspoon to 1 cup water proportions and top it up if necessary. If any of the lids look bulgy, loosen them slowly and gently to allow the pressure of the built up gasses and liquid to escape. Warning: your room will smell like fermenting sauerkraut. Not an unpleasant odour if you like the stuff, but pungent.

Once the kraut is "sauer", you can keep it in the fridge until eaten. It can also be canned for longer storage. Put the jars, with new lids, into a water bath and bring up to a boil. Once it boils, boil for 50 minutes. Remove, cool, check seals etc. Or so I'm told. I haven't gotten to this stage yet, and likely won't - I'm planning to just keep mine in the fridge, as that will preserve all the trendy probiotics in it. Will report back in a few weeks... wish me luck!

Last year at this time I made Hazelnut Torte, White Chocolate Frosting, and Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting. Oh, and Apricot Mousse. Yeah, birthday cake.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Male & Female Authors, and the Reproduction of Books

I was at Keady earlier this week, picking up supplies to make Pesto and Dill Pickles by the Jar, and I happened to wander by one of the stands selling used books. I was amused and a bit astonished to see that the vendor had divided the books into several sections, one of which was labelled "Male Authors" and one of which was labelled "Female Authors".

I'm darned if I can find the quote, so this is a Quote of the Week without the actual quote, but I'm pretty sure that there was a Victorian writer who advocated keeping works by men and women on separate shelves, for the sake of propriety. I can remember running across mention of this when I was a teenager, and snickering mightily at the thought.

Lately, however, I am not so sure that she wasn't on to something. I mean, where do all these books come from, anyway? Here's my latest theory: I have been letting my books mingle promiscuously, without thought to their subject matter, never mind the sex of their authors. This resulted at first in the arrival of unconsidered stacks, here and there, of leaflets and pamphlets - the charming infants of the book world; I barely noticed them. The next stage after that was when the living room, bathroom and night-table became home to gawky stacks of glossy, floppy, slothful magazines - teenager-hood in printed form, you will all agree. And finally, I got up one day and realized that I was up to my ankles in books pretty much all through the house. Romances, gardening books, and books on Quakerism tend to gather in the bedrooms, though they form cliques and eye each other askance, and giggle. At least the romances do. The books on arts and crafts tend to linger in the basement craft room; oddly, so does the fantasy and science fiction. The cookbooks crowd around my computer desk, peering over my shoulder and giving me advice on cooking. Weightier tomes on geography, history, economics, politics and so forth tend to be loners, but they get around and can be found in just about any room of the house.

I swear, I didn't buy all these books, magazines and pamphlets. They've just been reproducing. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. But I don't know why the book vendor was segregating her books - surely, if you are a book vendor, more books are a good thing?

Friday, 21 August 2009

Slightly Lemony Blueberry Jam

Blueberry jam! One of our favourites. We like it best made with wild blueberries, but the cultivated berries are one-third of the price, and make fine jam too. Using half wild and half cultivated will get some of that wild flavour while keeping the price down a bit.

The lemon adds a bit of tang, and also helps it to set. If you can keep the seeds from 2 or 3 extra lemons, in the day or two before you make the jam, they will come in handy. Just keep them in a jar or bowl in the fridge, with just enough water to cover them. They are full of pectin which will help the jam to set.

10 250-ml jars
1 hour prep time

Lemony Blueberry Jam
4 cups of sugar
the grated zest of 1 large lemon
the juice of 1 large lemon
3 quarts blueberries

Put your jars into the canner, and cover them with water by at least 1 inch. Bring them to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes.

Wash and pick over the blueberries, removing any bad ones, leaves and stems.

Once the jars are close to boiling, start the jam. Put the sugar, lemon zest and juice into the kettle, and bring to a boil. Keep the seeds from the lemon, and if you have a few extra, so much the better. Put them in a tea-ball or tie them into a little packet of cheesecloth, and add them to the pot. Add the well-drained blueberries. Bring up to a boil and boil steadily, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until the jam tests as ready to set. Put a little on a saucer kept in the freezer for this purpose and see if it wrinkles up when you push it. Alternatively, pour the jam off the side of the spoon; it will come off in a stream at first, then it will divide into two streams; when it comes off in a sheet or in multiple streams, it is ready. Remove the ball or packet of lemon seeds.

Put the jam into the prepared jars, wipe the rims with a bit of paper towel dipped in the boiling water, and seal with lids prepared according to the manufacturer's directions, that is boiled for 5 minutes. Return the jars to the boiling water bath, and boil for 5 minutes. Remove to cool and check the seals once they are cold. Label and store in a cool, dark spot. Keep in the fridge once opened.

Last year at this time I made Marinated Beans with Spiced Walnuts.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Warba Potatoes

Warba Potatoes
Warba potatoes were our second crop of potatoes, after the Linzer Delikatess. They were to take 70 days from planting to harvest, but in fact we harvested them after 95 days. They died down a little oddly; most of the plants were likely not far off schedule, but a couple of the plants just kept going so we left them all until the last couple plants died down. We planted 2 pounds of potatoes and dug up 14 pounds; not a spectacular yield I don't think, but not awful either. Again, no question that our soil is terrible and we didn't add any compost. These potatoes are determinate, that is, they produce their roots, then die down, unlike later season potatoes, which will continue to form tubers for as long as you can keep the plants going. Gardeners should note that this is a variety that is very susceptible to late blight, although it is reasonably drought resistant.

These are very pretty potatoes, blocky and indented with a very delicate pale yellow skin blushed pink around the eyes. The flesh is very white and crisp when raw, and mealy when cooked - perfect for light and fluffy mashed or baked potatoes. There is just a faint, faint hint of sweetness to them, and they are quite mild in flavour. As an early, thin-skinned potato, I do not expect them to store particularly well.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Cucumber Relish

This is rather like that bright green member of the popular trio of sloppy toppings for burgers and hot dogs; only not bright green, more of a khaki-yellow. That's because I see no reason to add food colours to everyday foods - the occasional bit of icing is about my limit for that stuff. It's also not loaded with corn syrup, which is likewise a good thing. But by all means, put it on burgers and hot dogs. Also good on grilled cheese, mixed with a bit of mayo to accompany fish, or as an ingredient in what I insist on calling funeral sandwiches*, which I will not doubt get around to posting in a while.

3 250-ml jars
15 minutes to prep, overnight, then about 1 hour to finish

Cucumber Relish
Prepare the Vegetables:
1 quart pickling cucumbers
1 medium sweet onion
1 medium carrot
2 tablespoons pickling salt

Wash the cucumbers very well; they should be scrubbed to get all the grit off. Peel the onion and cut it into wedges, and peel the carrot and cut it into thick slices. Chop the vegetables in a food processor, in about three batches, until finely chopped. Put them into a colander with the salt mixed in, and set them in a cool spot to drain for 8 hours, or overnight.

Note: if you prefer to use 1 small red or orange bell pepper (or half of a large one) instead of the carrot, feel free.

Finish the Relish:
1 teaspoon allspice berries
1 dried red chile
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon hot ground mustard powder
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar

Put the canning jars into a large pot, with water to cover them by an inch. Bring to a boil, and boil them for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, grind the allspice and chile together, fairly fine. Add the celery seed and bruise it. Mix these with the mustard powder and seeds, and place them in a large pot. Add the sugar and vinegar.

When the canning jars boil, turn on the heat under the spice and vinegar mixture. Bring to a full boil.

Put the lids on to boil for 5 minutes about now, in their own little pot of water.

When the brine has boiled for a minute or two, add the vegetables, well drained. Bring them to a boil, stirring regularly. When they are boiling, fill the prepared jars and seal them, according to manufacturers directions (with the lids boiled for 5 minutes, in other words.)

Return the filled jars to the boiling water bath, and boil for 15 minutes. Remove to cool, check the seals and label the jars. Store in a cool, dark spot and keep refrigerated once opened.

*Generally known as ham salad. And yes, this is too damned much boiling for this kind of weather. Sorry.

Last year at this time I made Marinated Beans with Spiced Walnuts.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Fried Whitefish Fingers

Since we've moved to Meaford we have definitely been eating more fish. Must start cooking it other ways besides frying, but this is soo good! (And if well done, it doesn't absorb terrible amounts of oil.) If you wanted a vegetarian version of this dish, I think it would work quite well with tofu cut into fingers, and pressed in paper towel for a few minutes before adding it to the batter, to get out some of the excess moisture.

2 servings
30 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Fried Whitefish Fingers
Make the Batter:
3 tablespoons Mochiko rice flour
1 tablespoon arrowroot or cornstarch
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 extra-large egg
1 green onion, or the equivalent of chives, very finely minced
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)

Fry the Fish:
1 large fillet of whitefish
(about 500 grams, or 1 pound)
oil to fry - about 1/2 cup

Skin the whitefish fillet, by lifting it from the thickest portion of the fillet, where it was cut at the head. Once you get your fingers between the skin and the flesh, you should be able to work it entirely off the head-end of the fillet. Once that is done, you should be able to pull the entire skin off of the fillet. Cut the fillet into pieces of an inch wide or perhaps just a touch wider.

Put the fish pieces in with the batter, and mix them in well, so that they are well coated. Let them rest, in the refrigerator, for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Heat the oil in a skillet that will hold the fish pieces snuggly. Once it is hot, lay in the pieces of fish, spooning the batter over them to be sure they are well covered in it. Fry until golden-brown, about 4 minutes, then turn and fry the other side until golden brown, about 3 minutes more. Drain on paper towel and serve while still good and hot.

Last year at this time I made Zucchini & Peppers Roasted with Barley & Cheese.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Spinach with Celery

This is similar to another favourite dish of mine, Leeks & Spinach, and I think it does very well when you are serving other things that tend to be a bit dry - roast or grilled meats, boiled potatoes, rice or pasta. In fact, with a bit of cheese or bacon, or a poached egg, this would go over rice or pasta for a complete meal.

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Spinach with Celery
4 or 5 inner stalks of celery, with their green leaves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
salt & pepper
1 clove of garlic (optional)
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 large bunch spinach (6 to 8 cups prepared spinach)

Wash the celery, and chop it fairly finely. Heat the butter in a large pot, and add the celery. Sauté for several minutes, then sprinkle over the flour, salt and pepper. Add the finely minced or grated garlic, if using. Sauté for a few more minutes, until the celery is softened, and the flour begins to brown. Add the broth and mix in well, working out any lumps. Cover the pot and reduce the heat, and simmer gently for 10 or 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Meanwhile, wash the spinach well, drain, and chop it coarsely.

Five minutes before you are ready to serve the rest of your meal, turn the heat back up to medium-high, and add the spinach. Mix it in well so it cooks down evenly, turning and stirring it every minute or so until the spinach is done.

Last year at this time I made Ontario Chutney.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

A Road Less Taken

Glenelg Heritage Road
Much as I had seen and heard of the badness of the roads in Canada, I was not prepared for such a one as we travelled along this day: indeed, it hardly deserved the name of a road, being little more than an opening hewed out through the woods, the trees being felled and drawn aside, so as to admit a wheeled carriage passing along.

The swamps and little forest streams, that occasionally gush across the path, are rendered passable by logs placed side by side. From the ridgy and striped appearance of these bridges they are aptly enough termed corduroy.

Over these abominable corduroys the vehicle jolts, jumping from log to log, with a shock that must be endured with as good a grace as possible. If you could bear these knocks, and pitiless thumpings and bumpings, without wry faces, your patience and philosophy would far exceed mine;-- sometimes I laughed because I would not cry.

Imagine you see me perched up on a seat composed of carpet-bags, trunks, and sundry packages, in a vehicle little better than a great rough deal box set on wheels, the sides being merely pegged in so that more than once I found myself in rather an awkward predicament, owing to the said sides jumping out. In the very midst of a deep mud-hole out went the front board, and with the shock went the teamster (driver), who looked rather confounded at finding himself lodged just in the middle of a slough as bad as the "Slough of Despond." For my part, as I could do no good, I kept my seat, and patiently awaited the restoration to order. This was soon effected, and all went on well again till a jolt against a huge pine-tree gave such a jar to the ill-set vehicle, that one of the boards danced out that composed the bottom, and a sack of flour and bag of salted pork, which was on its way to a settler's, whose clearing we had to pass in the way, were ejected. A good teamster is seldom taken aback by such trifles as these.

He is, or should be, provided with an axe. No waggon, team, or any other travelling equipage should be unprovided with an instrument of this kind; as no one can answer for the obstacles that may impede his progress in the bush. The disasters we met fortunately required but little skill in remedying. The sides need only a stout peg, and the loosened planks that form the bottom being quickly replaced, away you go again over root, stump, and stone, mud-hole, and corduroy; now against the trunk of some standing tree, now mounting over some fallen one, with an impulse that would annihilate any lighter equipage than a Canadian waggon, which is admirably fitted by its very roughness for such roads as we have in the bush.

The sagacity of the horses of this country is truly admirable. Their patience in surmounting the difficulties they have to encounter, their skill in avoiding the holes and stones, and in making their footing sure over the round and slippery timbers of the log-bridges, renders them very valuable. If they want the spirit and fleetness of some of our high-bred blood-horses, they make up in gentleness, strength, and patience. This renders them most truly valuable, as they will travel in such places that no British horse would, with equal safety to their drivers. Nor are the Canadian horses, when well fed and groomed, at all deficient in beauty of colour, size, or form. They are not very often used in logging; the ox is preferred in all rough and heavy labour of this kind.

Catherine Parr Trail - The Backwoods of Canada
On Saturday we went out for a drive and to visit Holstein Farmers Market. We have a very detailed map-book and we enjoy driving down different side-roads in search of mild adventure. We found one on this trip when the road we were following crossed another road, and changed in nature. "Glenelg Heritage Road" said the sign; there was nothing to indicate that it was not a through road, nor any sign that it was not maintained in winter.

However, it quickly became clear that what they meant by "heritage road" was that no work has been done on it since the 1880's or so. The trees pressed in on either side; there was no shoulder or verge, and the road was only wide enough for one vehicle.

The road itself consisted of a blend of sand, coarse gravel and stone that I think was simply the underlying glacial till exposed by the removal of the trees and earth to form the road. The hills and dips had not been flattened in any way, and we found ourselves going down to first gear to get up some of them. There was only one cottage that we passed, no houses, and one farm field which I could not tell whether it was still in use or not.

Eventually we reached the point in the picture above. If we had had a 4-wheel drive vehicle we would have continued, but the ford was about a foot deep in spots, and we did not think it prudent to drive our poor abused little compact car through it, so we were obliged to turn back. It was a fascinating spot though; when we got out to look at the water and see how deep it was, a dozen tiny green frogs leapt away from the road, and we saw some campanula americana in bloom along the roadside. I would really like to go back, with some rubber boots, and spend some time poking around.

It's interesting to see how many funny little roads there are out there. Why one road becomes busy and eventually paved, and another dwindles into a track for farm equipment and off-roaders, I cannot figure out. That one factor is fairly large tracts of land that are too poor to farm, and thus there are no farms or traffic on it, is pretty clear; but we travel along several roads that are minor highways and which suffer from the same disadvantages. However, I'm very happy to find these roads less taken, and imagine for a few minutes what travelling was like in the past.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Middle Eastern Pickled Turnips (Torshi Lift)

These are the little neon-pink pickles that come in middle-eastern restaurants, along with a dish of olives and dill pickles. They are crisp and fresh tasting, with a sweet-hot bite, and did I mention the wonderful neon-pink colour? The colour comes from the beet; just a small bit so make sure your beet is small. If you can't get a small one, just put in a slice. Serve them with falafels or anything grilled.

about 1 quart
1 hour prep time, 2 weeks total time

Middle Eastern Pickled Turnips (Torshi Lift)

8 to 12 smallish white turnips
1 very small beet
2-3 cloves of garlic (optional)
2 tablespoons Sucanat or dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup white vinegar

Put a quart jar in a large pot with water to cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel the turnips and the beet. Cut them in quarters, or thick fingers, and pack them into the jar once it is done, with the whole garlic cloves.

Put the salt, water and vinegar in a pot and heat until the salt dissolves. Cover the turnips with the brine, and cap loosely with a sterilized lid. Set in a cool, dark place (not the fridge) for 10 to 14 days until fermentation ceases.

Once open, keep in the refrigerator. They will keep for up to 6 weeks, but they will become less crisp with time.

Last year at this time I made Cauliflower in Spinach Sauce with Feta and Creamed Corn.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Corn & Tomato Soup

Rather oddly, soup seems to be a recurring theme this summer. Here it is again, in a very simple vegetarian version this time.

I'm always going on about this, but as with all my other very simple dishes, be sure to use really excellent ingredients. Super fresh, tender corn and ripe, flavourful juicy tomatoes, because if they aren't terrific, there's so little else there to cover for them. They have to be good. My tomatoes were Stupice, a rather small but early ripening tomato, with good but not too sweet flavour. I used 10 of them, and they amounted to about 2 cups, which I tell you because tomatoes do vary a great deal in size.

8 servings
30 minutes prep time

Corn and Tomato Soup
6 cobs of corn
8 to 12 medium-small tomatoes
3 bay leaves
2 good sprigs of fresh basil (optional)
1 or 2 stalks of celery
3 or 4 shallots
1 tablespoon sunflower seed oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
black pepper

Put a large pot of water on to boil. While it heats, husk the corn. When the water boils, blanch the tomatoes for about a minute to a minute and a half, then remove them to the sink or a bowl. Put the corn and the bay leaves into the same pot of boiling water and cook it for 5 or 6 minutes, until just barely tender - the corn, not the bay leaves.

While the corn cooks, slip the skins off of the tomatoes, and cut out the stem end cores. Put the tomatoes into a food processor, with the basil.

Wash the celery and chop it fairly coarsely. Peel the shallots and slice them. Sauté them in the oil over medium heat, until soft and just starting to brown. Put them in the food processor with the tomatoes.

Once the corn is done, lift it out of the water and put it into cold water until it is cool enough to handle. Drain it well, then cut the kernals from 4 of the cobs of corn and put them in the food processor with the tomatoes, and 1 cup of the cooking water, the salt and pepper. Process until fairly smooth. (This is a soup that will always have a certain amount of texture.)

Measure out and save 3 more cups of cooking water from the corn, and discard the rest. (Keep the bay leaves for the moment.) Add the puréed vegetables and bay leaves to the reserved cooking water, and return the mixture to the stove, and bring it back to a simmer while you cut the corn from the remaining 2 cobs of corn, and add the the corn kernals to the soup. Remove the bay leaves, adjust the seasonings, be sure it is hot through, and serve.

Last year at this time I made Roasted Green Beans and Turkish Zucchini Pancakes (Mucver) which, by the way, I highly recommend .

Monday, 10 August 2009

Mexican Flavoured Corn & Potato Salad

In Mexico, corn is often sold as a street snack; cooked on a grill and rubbed with mayonnaise or crema (like creme fraiche), sprinkled with ground chiles and served with squeeze of lime juice. Soft-crumbly cheese or queso cotija is often sprinkled over it as well. I used the same flavours to make this salad, with the addition of potatoes to give it more substance. We ate it as the centrepiece of our dinner, but it would make a fine addition to a salad buffet.

I cooked up my vegetables fresh for this, and it was lovely, but I see no reason not to use leftover corn and potatoes for it. In particular, if they were leftover from a grilled meal, that would be perfect.

2 to 4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Mexican Flavoured Corn and Potato Salad
Make the Salad:
4 cobs of corn
3 or 4 medium-small potatoes
3 or 4 lettuce leaves
2 or 3 tablespoons finely minced cilantro

Husk the corn, and boil until tender, 6 to 8 minutes, or even better, cook it over a grill until just very lightly charred in spots. Let it cool. Cut it from the cobs.

Meanwhile, cut the potatoes into small dice, and cook them until tender. Again, cool them completely.

Mix the cold corn and potatoes, and toss them with the dressing. Arrange the salad on the washed and dried lettuce leaves, and sprinkle the cilantro over the top.

Make the Dressing:

1/3 cup mayonnaise
the juice of 1 lime
salt & pepper
ground red chile powder
2 or 3 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
OR finely grated Parmesan or queso Cotija

Whisk together the mayonnaise and lime juice, and season with salt, pepper and chile powder to taste. By chile powder, I mean actual ground chiles, not that pre-mixed spice blend consisting to a large degree of salt. Mix in the crumbled feta cheese.

Last year at this time I made Spinach, Apricot & Feta Salad, and Blueberry Buttermilk Coffee Cake.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

A Perfect Vegetable Store

I've been cooking quite a bit with cilantro this week, since I bought a huge bunch of it. Every time I smell it I think of Mexico, but I also think of what used to be my favourite vegetable store when I lived near Kensington market, many years ago. Actually, we lived near Kensington market when I was 6 and 7, and I remember the same store was there then. I think that store is still there, although I haven't been in in a long time.

What made this place the perfect vegetable store wasn't just the vegetables, or the prices, which after all I didn't care about as a child; it was the smell. Oh, what a wonderful, wonderful smell. I loved that smell, because it smelled exactly* like a Mexican market.

So what does a Mexican market smell like? Well, it's a blend of cilantro, way way (seriously way) overripe bananas, a hint of chiles, dust, citrus fruits, slightly fermenty pineapple and no doubt much, much more. I suspect it's a smell that isn't likely to appeal to anyone who isn't instantly transported back to a happy childhood by the first whiff of this odour. On the other hand, that store was (has been?) there for a long, long time, so I can't be the only one who likes it.

*Okay, not completely exactly. No urine odour. No tortillas either, for that matter. But pretty close.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Lemony Sumac Broiled Trout

I doubled this recipe, as there were 4 of us; Dad and his partner have been here for a visit. With some boiled Linzer Delikatess potatoes and steamed spinach, this was a very quick dinner to put together after a day of sight-seeing.

Although Ontario is full of sumac shrubs, sumac the spice is a related but different species from the middle east. It has a delicate zippy, almost lemony quality. It's not a spice that keeps well - it should be stored, well sealed, in the freezer.

2 servings
15 minutes prep time

Lemony Sumac Broiled Trout
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
6 or 8 black peppercorns, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
2 teaspoons sumac
the grated zest of 1/4 to 1/2 lemon

2 225-gram (1/2 pound) fillets of trout
2 teaspoons mild vegetable oil

lemon wedges

Grind the salt and pepper together, and mix with the paprika and sumac. Grate the lemon zest finely and mix it in with the other spices.

Turn on or pre-heat the broiler, if necessary. Brush the trout fillets on both sides with oil, and lay them, skin-side down, on a broiler pan. Sprinkle the seasoning mix evenly over the tops of the trout fillets.

Broil the trout until just cooked through, about 7 to 10 minutes depending on thickness. The flesh should become opaque, and flake easily. The spice blend should be darkened, but not burnt. Serve with wedges of lemon.

Last year at this time I made Cold Spinach with Miso & Tahini Dressing.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Linzer Delikatess Potatoes

Linzer Delikatess Potatoes

Here's our first crop of potatoes! Linzer Delikatess, a fingerling type salad potato originally from Austria. We planted 2 pounds in the spring, and harvested about 15 pounds of potatoes 85 days later, pretty much on schedule - they were said to mature in 80 days, but we did not sprout or chit them before we planted them and likely we could have harvested them a few days ago had we wished. In spite of our poor, acidic soil they did fine. Potatoes actually like acidic soil, but perhaps they would have done a little better if we had added some compost when we planted them. However, we're pleased with what we got. It's hard to find much information about Linzer Delikatess on the internet, but one person said they were a light cropper, and they were also the most expensive seed potato we bought, which also suggests that they are not big croppers.

These are very dainty little potatoes, the largest being not much larger in volume than a golf ball, although considerably more elongated. Many of them are the size of marbles, and a good few were even large pea-sized (although this may be somewhat due to our less than optimum growing conditions.) Linzer Delikatess are generally marketed as "new" potatoes. I don't know how likely you are to find them for sale, but I suspect that if and when you do they will be on the pricey side.

They are a mild, white-fleshed potato with thin golden skins, and a firm to slightly waxy texture. I don't know how well they will keep; as with most small, thin-skinned potatoes, I suspect their keeping quality is likely to be only just fair. It's probably best to serve them steamed or boiled and presented simply, to make the most of their delicate flavour and elfin size, or in the universally recommended potato salads.

Last year at this time I made Frozen Yogurt, No Ice Cream Maker Required.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Tahini Salad Dressing

Here's a nice, zingy little dressing. The recipe doesn't make a lot, but I don't think that it keeps all that well, and it's quite intensely flavoured; a little will go a long way. It's quick enough to put together when you want it.

I served it on lightly steamed and cooled vegetables; red, yellow and orange carrots, and green and yellow wax beans.

Makes about 1/3 cup of dressing
15 minutes prep time

Tahini Salad Dressing on Beans and Carrots
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon finelygrated fresh garlic
2 tablespoons tahini
the juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
1 teaspoon mustard
a little water

1 tbsp minced parsley (optional)

Grate the ginger and garlic into a small bowl. Mix in the tahini and lemon juice until well blended. Mix in the soy sauce and mustard, until the dressing is smooth. If necessary, thin the dressing with a little water - it should be the texture of thick cream. Add minced parsley if you like.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Currant Jelly

There's more sugar than I like to use in jam in this, but it is definitely trickier to reduce the sugar in jelly. Mind you, it's not too sweet; currants tend to be pretty tart. You can use red, white or black currants for this, whatever you like. I did both red and white currants (separately) and was impressed at the difference. The white ones are less acidic, and took almost twice as long to reach the setting point. The jelly also ended up a rich rosy-golden colour, which I didn't expect. It's very nice jelly though, more subtle than the red or black currants, each of which have their own distinctive flavours.

This recipe may be doubled, but no more at one time. Increasing the amount made at one time will increase the length of time it takes for the jelly to cook by a noticeable amount, so be prepared for it. I also like to put in a 125-ml (1/2 cup) jar whenever I am preparing jams or jellies, because they always seem to end up with a somewhat random quantity. These little jars also make great little presents.

2 1/2 to 4 250-ml (1 cup) jars
1 1/2 hours

Currant Jelly
1 quart currants
1 cup water
3 cups sugar

Rinse the currants and remove any leaves or bits of debris, but there is no need to pick them off the stems. Put them in a pot with the water, and bring to a boil. Boil until they have all burst, about 5 minutes.

Strain the juice from the currants, using a jelly bag or a fine strainer. For clear jelly, don't press or squeeze the currants, just let them drip through for some time, overnight perhaps. However, I don't particularly care about clear jelly, I want more jelly, so I squeeze and press to get every last drop. The choice is yours.

Once you have your extracted juice, put the jars into the canner with water to cover them by an inch. Bring them to a boil, and boil 10 minutes. This is likely to take anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour or more, depending on the size of you canner and the strength of your stove.

About 30 minutes before you expect to be able to remove the jars from the canner, start cooking the jelly. Put the juice and sugar in a canning kettle or large, heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a boil. The mixture will expand by at least double as it cooks, so don't skimp on the size of the pot. Boil for 15 minutes to half any hour, stirring occasionally, until the jelly tests ready to set.

How do you know when it's ready to set? You can put a saucer in the freezer before you start. When you drip a few drops on the frozen dish, it should set at once, and wrinkle up when you push against it. However, I prefer just to pour the jelly from the side of the stirring spoon. At first it will just run off. Once it starts running off in two streams it is near, and once it starts running off in a mass or in more than two streams, it is done.

Lift and empty the jars into the canner. Set them on a heatproof surface. Fill the jars with the jelly, wipe the rims with a bit of paper towel dipped in the boiling water and top the jars with lids prepared according to manufacturer's directions, generally boiled for 5 minutes. Return the jars to the boiling water bath and boil for 4 or 5 minutes more to ensure a good seal.

Remove and let them cool. Do not tilt them, turn them, shake them etc. as they are cooling, you may interfere with the setting. When they are sealed and cold, label them and store them in a cool, dark spot. Keep refrigerated once opened.

Last year at this time I made Danish Celeriac Salad.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Cilantro & Tomato Soup with Creme Fraiche

More soup in the summer, but quite a different one than the last one. Even though this is a hot soup (in both senses of the word!) it is very quick to make so won't heat up the kitchen too much. There are a number of cilantro soups in Mexican cooking, many of them creamed. That seems a bit heavy for me, especially in the summer, so I made a clear one, and passed some lovely creme fraiche from Rivers Edge Goat Dairy to tone it down a little. It was lovely, and really quite refreshing. Not a soup that keeps well, because the cilantro is at its best when just added. You could make it in advance though, and just add the cilantro at the last moment before serving.

Yeah, I do have a great big bunch of cilantro. Half of it still to go.

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time

Cilantro and Tomato Soup with Creme Fraiche
4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch
1 medium onion
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1 large stalk of celery
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground red chile, to taste
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed, ground
salt, if necessary
1 cup puréed tomato (about 2 medium fresh)

1/2 to 1 cup finely minced cilantro
creme fraiche (or sour cream, or yogurt) to serve

Put the chicken stock into a soup pot. Take out a little to mix with the arrowroot; mix well and set that aside. Heat the chicken stock slowly over low heat.

Peel the onion and quarter it, peel the garlic, and wash the celery and chop it coarsely. Put them into a food processor or blender and chop as finely as you can.

Heat the oil in a skillet, and sauté the vegetables gently for about 10 minutes, until soft and just showing signs of browning. Add the seasonings about halfway through. Whether salt is required or not will depend entirely on the chicken stock.

Meanwhile, put the tomatoes into the food processor or blender, and purée them. Add the tomatoes to the vegetables above at the end of their cooking time, mix up well, and scrape the mixture into the chicken broth. Simmer for 5 or 10 minutes. Stir in the starch - well mixed - and cook the soup until thickened, a minute or 2 more. Turn off the heat, and stir in the finely minced cilantro.

Serve with a dab of creme fraiche, sour cream or yogurt.

Last year at this time I made Potato & Green Bean Salad.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

A Book of Verses

"A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness--
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!"
Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, translated by Edward FitzGerald

Hope you all are having a nice long weekend. I am not lolling about, but finally planting some clematis I got for 60% off last week, before they die. Mr. Ferdzy is also not fond of "Verses", in a Book or otherwise, and wine gives me indigestion. He does, however, have a bowl full of bread dough rising on the counter and maybe if it's less hot and muggy we will go sit under a bough later and eat it*, with some of the jam I have been making this week and butter, and some lemon-ade. No singing, by request.

*Once it has passed through the oven. By the way, this is by far the most famous translation of this bit of Verse, but it's extremely interesting to click through to the Wikipedia site and see how other people have translated it.