Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Rhubarb Crumble

Crazy, crazy times around here. Mostly we are working on the addition to the house. After being delayed by 10 days as everything waited for the roof to be shingled, we are working again. We actually had to fire the first 2 roofers, but third time lucky. Yikes!

Yesterday was the day Mr. Ferdzy's mom moved in. In addition to the moving truck with three guys the heating and duct guy showed up, along with the roofers and the drywall delivery. We practically needed someone in the driveway to direct traffic.

Meanwhile the rhubarb is getting a little tough, but it's still around and I made this nice little crumble in my spare time (ha). I like a higher proportion of crumb to rhubarb than with other fruit, because of how tart it is, so I put the crumbs underneath the rhubarb as well as on top.

Posting will be light this week, even though the veggies are starting to flow. Lots of snowpeas to pick, chard is ready and zucchini are starting to form. It's summer! Even if I had to put an extra blanket on the bed last night.

1 hour - 15 minutes prep time
6 to 8 servings

Make the Base:

1/4 cup soft unsalted butter
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 to 3 tablespoons fancy molasses
1 cup sugar
2 cups large flake rolled oats
2 cups soft whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix the butter, oil, buttermilk and molasses in a good-sized mixing bowl - the dry ingredients will be added as soon as they are mixed.

Mix the dry ingredients together, then stir them into the wet ingredients until everything is moistened, well blended and forms coarse crumbs. Add a little more buttermilk if needed, but the mixture should not be wet, just moist and crumbly.

Make the Crumble:
4 cups chopped rhubarb
1/3 cup Sucanat or dark brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Wash and trim the rhubarb, and cut it into inch-long pieces.

Spoon about half of the crumble mixture into an 8"x10" glass or ceramic baking (lasagne) pan and spread it out evenly, without pressing it down. Spread the rhubarb over the crumble mixture, then sprinkle it with the sugar. Spread the remaining crumble mixture over the rhubarb, again without pressing it down.

Bake the crumble for 45 minutes, until the rhubarb is soft and the crumble is golden brown. Serve warm or cold.

Last year at this time I made Roasted Garlic Scapes and Strawberry-Mango Preserves. I did not serve them together.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Local Updates

Things have been changing in the local food scene around here!

First of all, Barb Kay has sold the 100 Mile Market. The new owners will keep it in the old location on Trowbridge Street in downtown Meaford, and move it down the road to the edge of town on Highway 26 in the fall once renovations have been completed in the new location, which will be downstairs from EcoInhabit. It's a beautiful - and larger - space in an old barn which will give some scope for a much needed, or at least much wanted, expansion.

On a much sadder note, about a month ago Around the Sound in Owen Sound was destroyed in a fire. There is some hope it may rise from the ashes, but if it does it will be a long, slow and difficult process. There is still the wonderful Farmers Market in Owen Sound but this is a real loss to local eaters in the area.

The other major change that I have heard of is that Grass Roots Organics (Saugeen Specialty Grains) will be phasing out their retail distribution (if they haven't already) and will be selling their grains to the wholesale market. It's sad to hear this, as it will make it that much harder for Ontarian's to get local, organic grains, but I certainly understand how much work it is to run a retail distribution company compared to just selling all your grain to one or more large customers. Sad but true.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Creamy Smoked Trout Casserole

This is a rather rich and correspondingly delicious dish that can be put together in advance. I would normally consider it a little hot and heavy for the summer, but it's been cool and rainy here so it seemed like a good idea. You could make it all year round with frozen peas.

I made the components in advance then assembled them and baked them later. It really broke up the work and made this easy to put together. Not that there's anything hard here; just a little time-consuming. It did take longer to bake than it would have otherwise as it went into the oven cold. That's something you will need to take into account.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 45 minutes - including 45 minutes advance prep

Creamy Smoked Trout Casserole
Cook the Rice:
2/3 cup brown rice
1/3 cup wild rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups water

As ever, put the above ingredients into your rice cooker, cover and turn on. Or, put them into a good-sized heavy-bottomed pot and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat to very low and cook, without disturbing, until the rices are cooked and the water all absorbed; about 45 minutes.

Make the Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
3 cups whole milk or light cream
250 grams (1/2 pound) smoked trout

Heat the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot and add the flour, salt, pepper and lemon zest. Cook steadily, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes. Add the cream slowly, stirring well after each addition. Once it is all in, continue cooking and stirring the sauce over medium heat until it thickens.

Remove it from the heat, and add the trout, skin removed and broken into bite-sized crumbles.

Assemble and Bake the Casserole:
1 quart fresh peas (2 cups once shelled)
3 or 4 garlic scapes, or green onions
2 cups chopped button or shiitake mushrooms
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Shell the peas. Put them in a strainer and pour boiling water over them, then set them aside. Chop the garlic scapes or green onions finely. Clean and chop the mushrooms, discarding the stems if you use shiitakes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Heat the oil in a large skillet and saute the mushrooms and garlic scapes or onions until soft and slightly browned.

Mix the rice, sauce with fish and the vegetables together in a 2.5 quart casserole dish. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or even a little more, until hot through and browned slightly on the surface. Exact time will depend on how hot the mixture was when it went into the oven.

Last year at this time I made Guatamalan Radish Salad.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Garlic Scape Burgers

We are growing 8 different kinds of garlic in the garden this year, which is admittedly excessive. Almost all of them are now starting to send up scapes, so we are about to be inundated with them. The snow peas are a little more behind, although if we get the rain we are supposed to get over the next few days I have hopes that there will be a good flush of them ready after that. I just got enough.

I will be looking for as many ways to use up all those scapes as I can think of, even though I will be sure to freeze a bunch of them. Here's how I started:

6 to 8 burgers
20 minutes prep time

Garlic Scape Burgers
6 to 8 large garlic scapes
1 large egg
1/2 cup oatmeal
450 grams (1 pound) lean ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black peppercorns
2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika

Rinse the garlic scapes and cut them into large pieces. Put them in the bowl of a food processor, and process until fairly finely chopped. Break in the egg and add the remaining ingredients. Process until completely blended, but do not over-process.

Turn out the mixture and divide it into equal portions. Form the portions into patties.

Heat a lightly oiled skillet over medium-high heat, and cook the patties until well browned on each side, and the juices run clear or almost so. Let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

Last year at this time I made Strawberry Cheesecake.

Monday, 20 June 2011

How Our Garden Grows

The garden continues to be a major consumer of our time. Mr. Ferdzy has started making trellises for the tomatoes. We are trying something a little different this year, since last years technique was not entirely satisfactory. This year we are trying posts strung with meshing set at the ends of the beds and between every four tomato plants, which are to be tied and woven through the meshing. We`ll see how this works. I have some doubts, but who knows.

I have been busy working on the weeding. One of the things that this has shown is that we continue to have a lot of trouble with cutworms, hence the large bald spots throughout the carrots, beets, turnips and even one of the onions. They mostly don`t care for onions, but the hybrid onion we planted by popular demand for a mild, sweet onion that could be eaten raw obviously suits the cut worms as well. Bah.

We are seeing if we can control them with parasitizing nematodes. This is somewhat expensive - it will cost about $100 all together - and not a quick fix either, as three applications must be made. We have made the first application, and there will be another in the fall and next spring.

Quite a contrast between the snowpeas, which are starting to form and will be ready to start picking this week, and the latest planted bean bed, which is still in the process of germination.

The leaf beds, mostly brassicas, are not doing to badly although they still look somewhat sparse, expecially now that they have been weeded. However, thing are growing along on schedule.

This is Purple Peacock broccoli, a cross made by vegetable breeder Frank Morton between broccoli and several varieties of kale. It looks a lot like kale, and the leaves can be eaten like kale, but it also produces heads of broccoli! How cool is that! We haven`t tried any yet but this is a vegetable I am very excited about this year. It`s an easy grower like kale too, and that`s a nice bonus.

Swiss chard was such a success last year that we planted more this year. It`s starting to be large enough to pick and sure enough, the birds are picking it. We do expect there to be enough for us too.

Our experiment growing potatoes in a box continues. We have decided that this is as high as we will pile the bin of dirt this year, and see how they do. The potatoes on the right were planted a week later than the ones on the left, and we will add soil on that side until it reaches the top of the sides. After that we will leave them to grow potatoes. Lots and lots of potatoes, we hope. We won`t know until the fall how it has worked and whether it was worth all the effort and huge amounts of dirt that it took. There will be somewhere between 4 and 5 cubic metres of soil in there when all is said and done!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Sauteed Peas with Mushrooms & Green Onions

Found some Ontario peas at a local veggie shop! Mine are not ready yet and won't be for a while since we planted them almost a month late. They are growing like crazy and trying to make up for lost time, though - they really like their new "wet" bed.

In the mean time, something simple seems appropriate for the first peas of the season. The veggie shop had some lovely mushrooms too, and our garden supplied the onions.

2 servings
30 minutes prep time

Sauteed Peas with Mushrooms and Green Onions
1 quart peas in the pod (2 cups when shelled)
8 to 12 large button mushrooms
8 to 12 green onions
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil or butter
salt & pepper

Shell the peas. Clean the mushrooms and cut them in quarters or sixths, if they are very large. Clean, trim and chop the green onions, both white and green parts.

Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add the mushrooms and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, turning frequently, until they begin to soften and brown slightly. Add the white parts of the onions, and continue cooking and turning frequently.

Once the onions have softened, add the peas, along with a teaspoon or so of water. Cook, stirring frequently, until the peas are bright green and the water has evaporated; another few minutes. Stir in the onion greens until they are soft and wilted. Season with salt and pepper and serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Snow Peas & Garlic Scapes, which is mildly embarrassing as it is almost the same thing.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Asparagus & Feta Tart

Asparagus is almost over but I am still working on eating as much as possible! My lettuce is almost done too, as we have had a few very hot days (interspersed with more rather cold ones) and that has been enough to make it bitter and think of bolting, the red lettuces especially.

The dough is one I have used before - halfway between a standard pastry dough and a biscuit. It's one I like a lot: sturdy but tender, flaky but not too rich, substantial but not stodgy.

6 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time

Asparagus and Feta Tart
Make the Pastry:
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups soft whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Let the butter sit out for a while; it should be quite soft. Blend it with the oil and buttermilk, but don't worry about the butter being lumpy. It will be and should be.

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix this into the butter mixture, until it forms a ball of dough. If it does not come together, add a few drops more of buttermilk until it does.

Divide the dough into 2 sections. One should be about 2/3 of the dough, the other should be 1/3 of the dough. Roll the larger section out into a rectangle to fit snuggly in the bottom and up the sides a little of an 8" x 11" shallow (lasagne) pan. I find it easiest to roll it out roughly then press it into the pan with my fingers.

Roll out the remaining dough to fit on top of the tart. It won't cover the whole thing, which is fine. Set it aside for the moment.

Make the Tart:
450 grams (1 pound) asparagus
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk or light cream
2 tablespoons flour
generous grind of black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Clean and trim the asparagus. Cook it very briefly until just tender. Drain well. Lay it across the bottom layer of pastry as evenly as possible - you may have to trim some spears to fit, and fit the pieces in where some of the spears are shorter. Crumble the feta cheese and sprinkle it over the asparagus.

Beat the eggs with a bit of the buttemilk, then mix in the flour. Beat in the remaining buttermilk. Pour this custard over the asparagus and feta. Top with a good grind of black pepper, and lay the remaining piece of rolled out dough over the centre. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until firm and lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Last year at this time I made Bacon, Egg & Asparagus Salad.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Apricot or Peach Sherbet

What's that you say? Apricots and peaches are not in season? Well no, but as usual I am heading into the new fruit season with a freezer full of the preserved remains of the old fruit season. Given how hot it has been, some sherbet seemed like a very good idea.

This is a slightly fancier version of the pure fruit sorbets I have made in the past. I thought I would try to get a lighter texture, and also produce something that could be kept stored in the freezer better than those pure fruit sorbets. It does seem to work quite well, but it will still get frozen pretty solid as it sits in the freezer. However, it definitely softens up to serve much quicker - 10 minutes on the counter should be plenty.

8 to 10 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time, not including freezing time

Apricot Sherbet

4 cups frozen apricots or peaches, preferably in slices
1 extra-large egg white
1/4 cup sugar
1/16th teaspoon cream of tartar

Set the frozen apricots or peaches out to thaw slightly. They should not be allowed to actually thaw, but become a little easier to work with. The time you spend making the meringue should be sufficient.

Put the egg white, sugar and cream of tartar in the top of a double boiler. Turn on the heat, and begin beating with an electric mixer. Continue beating until the meringue is very thick and glossy, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set it aside.

Put the frozen apricots or peaches into the bowl of a food processor. Be sure they are not frozen into large clumps, but in reasonably small pieces. Process them until they are very smooth. This will take several minutes, and you will need to scrape down the sides several times.

Once the fruit is smoothly puréed, scrape in the meringue and process again, until well blended. Turn the mixture out into a tub or dish that has a cover. Cover and place in the freezer, until the sherbet has frozen through again.

Last year at this time I made Spanakopita, of sorts.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Asparagus & Yellow Pea (Lentil) Soup

I made this with red lentils, believe it or not. I was afraid they would make a muddy-coloured soup, but it turned out to be quite a decent shade of green. And very tasty! In my mind I had been picturing it made with yellow split peas but it turned out I didn't have any. I'll have to try that next.

As ever, if you are using commercial chicken stock be careful with the salt - many of them will have enough you don't need to add much if any. Homemade stock will be a different story.

6 to 8 servings
40 to 60 minutes prep time

Asparagus and Pea or Lentil Soup
2 cups split yellow peas OR red lentils
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups water
500 grams (1 pound) asparagus
2 tablespoons chicken fat or mild vegetable oil
3 or 4 green onions,
1 teaspoon cumin seed, ground
2 teaspoons coriander seed, ground
1 teaspoon ground ginger
salt & pepper to taste

Pick over and rinse the split peas or lentils. Put them in a large soup pot with the chicken stock and water. Bring to a boil and simmer until they begin to disintegrate, about 20 to 40 minutes. Stir regularly.

Meanwhile, wash and trim the asparagus. Cut it into small pieces and when the peas or lentils are cooked, add it to the pot. (You may wish to set aside the tips to use as a garnish, in which case they should be cooked separately just before serving the soup.) Continue cooking until the asparagus is quite tender, about 7 minutes.

Trim, clean and chop the green onions, wild leeks or garlic greens. Heat the chicken fat or oil in a skillet and cook them gently until soft and tender. Add the ground cumin and coriander, and the ginger, and cook for a minute or two more. Add them all to the soup. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Purée the soup in a blender or food processor until very smooth; it will likely need to be done in at least two or three batches.

To serve, reheat the soup and top with the hot cooked reserved asparagus tips (if in fact you reserved them.)

Monday, 6 June 2011

Cornbread or Muffins

When Mr. Ferdzy and I were courting - if you can call a single month between meeting and moving in together courting - he invited me to dinner at his co-operative house, and I brought this in the form of a pan of cornbread, in the hopes of seducing him with my culinary skills. It didn't exactly work, since he ate it cheerfully enough but somewhat obliviously. On the other hand it did no harm, and in another month we will have been together for 23 years. Not bad, considering we gave all our parents spasms from the speed at which we moved in together.

I've had this recipe for at least 10 years longer than that, and maybe more like 15, so it definitely comes under the heading of "tried and true". Not tired of it yet either.

The amount of sugar you put in is very flexible. Half a cup will make them sweet and cake-like which may be what you want sometimes. Two tablespoons will give just a touch of sweetness and make them suitable to serve as an accompaniment to a main dish such as chili or stew. For normal breakfast purposes I usually put in about 1/4 cup of sugar.

12 muffins
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time

1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
1 3/4 cups milk or buttermilk

1 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons to 1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg
1/3 cup mild vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line 12 muffin cups with muffin papers, or butter and flour them well.

Mix the cornmeal with the milk and let sit for 10 minutes.

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Beat the egg and oil into the cornmeal and stir in the flour, until just mixed. Do not overmix.

Divide the batter evenly amongst the muffin cups. Bake 25 minutes. You could also put it in a well buttered and floured 9" x 9" pan, but I did not record and no longer remember the time it took to bake. Probably a few minutes longer.

Last year at this time I made Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Spinach Ravioli with Chicken & Mushrooms

Usually I use the fresh spinach pasta to make lasagne, but I thought I would do something else this time. Looks like I'm still on a chicken kick. I actually made a lot more filling than I call for, because I didn't realize how far it would go. I ended up using the extra to make meatballs.

Spinach is probably becoming more widely available right now, but ours is almost over. It always seems to bolt by midsummer. I'm pulling a lot of it out already.

60 raviolis (10 to 12 servings)
1 hour prep time not including making the pasta

Spinach Ravioli with Chicken and Mushrooms
Make the Filling:
2 large green onions, white and light green parts only
1 clove garlic
6 to 8 button mushrooms
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1 teaspoon rubbed basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black peppercorns
250 grams (1/2 pound) ground chicken

Wash, trim and finely chop the white and light green parts of the onions, reserving the green tops for the sauce. Peel and mince the garlic. Clean and chop the mushrooms finely.

Heat the oil in a skillet and cook the mushrooms and onions until soft. Add the garlic, basil, salt and pepper, and cook for a minute or two longer. Turn the mixture out into a bowl to cool.

Add the ground chicken and mix in well.

Make the Ravioli:
1 recipe Spinach Pasta

Divide the pasta into 4 portions, and roll each portion out as thinly as possible. Cut out circles of pasta with a 2" round cutter.

Put a teaspoon of the filling onto half the circles, and top with a second circle. Press the dough circles together around the edges to seal. It will likely be necessary to wet the edges to achieve a good seal. Set the ravioli aside on a clean tea-towel or piece of parchment paper as you make them. They could be kept, well wrapped in the fridge, for several hours before they are to be cooked. They could also be frozen, and thawed before being cooked.

To cook the ravioli, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the ravioli and boil until tender, about 12 to 17 minutes. Drain well and serve with the sauce.

Make the Sauce:
8 cups spinach leaves
12 to 16 button mushrooms
2 large green onions, green parts only
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup light cream

Wash and pick over the spinach leaves, and chop them coarsely. Set them aside to drain well.

Clean and slice the mushrooms. Use the green onion tops from the filling, and chop them in centimetre pieces.

Heat the butter in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Cook the mushrooms until soft and lightly browned. Add the green onion tops and cook them down for a minute or two. Sprinkle the flour over and mix in well. Continue cooking and strring for a minute or two.

Add the chicken stock, stirring well until the sauce is smooth. Add the cream and the chopped spinach, and continue cooking and stirring until the spinach is cooked and the sauce is slightly thickened.

Serve over the cooked, drained ravioli.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Spinach Pasta

I've been meaning to make this ever since I held the birthday party for Dad, since this is the ideal pasta for Spinach Lasagne. I finally got around to it! And then when I was making it, I remembered to take a photo of how it should look before the mixture is pressed into a dough, but forgot to take a picture of the actual dough. Oh well. Sorry. You'll see the finished product tomorrow when I do something with the pasta...

6 to 8 servings
about 2 hours, divided over time

Mixture for Spinach Pasta
8 cups spinach leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 large eggs
about 2 1/2 cups kamut or durum flour

Wash and pick over the spinach, and cook it until well wilted. Drain well and cool. Take it up in handfuls, and squeeze well to remove as much moisture as possible.

Put the dry spinach into the bowl of the food processor with the salt and olive oil. Process until it is very well chopped. Break in the eggs, one at a time, and again process until smooth and well blended.

Put in about 1 1/2 cups of the flour and process again until well mixed. Continue to process, adding in the flour several tablespoons at a time, until the mixture begins to form little beads. Once it does, it can be turned out onto a sheet of plastic film and pressed together into a solid mass. It's important to get the amount of flour just right. Too little, and the pasta will fall apart when cooked. Too much and it will be hard to roll out, and tough. It will take a little practice to get it right. You may wish to take a bit out every so often as you are mixing it, and pinch it together and roll it out to see how it handles.

Once the dough is mixed, wrap the dough in the plastic and leave it to rest for at least 15 minutes.

Divide the dough into 4 quarters and roll each one out as thin as possible with a little of the flour sprinkled onto the board or countertop to prevent the dough from sticking. The dough should be stiff but flexible.

Cut the pasta as desired for lasagne, ravioli, noodles etc.

It should be kept loosely wrapped in plastic in the fridge until you are ready to cook it.

Drop it into a large pot of salted boiling water, as with other pasta. The exact time to cook it will depend on how thin the dough has been rolled - probably anywhere between 6 and 10 minutes. You will need to watch it carefully.