Friday, 26 April 2013

Lentils with Rhubarb

I managed to yank a few bits of rhubarb from the garden, but it's ridiculously premature. I hope I haven't damaged it... Ha! Ha!  It would have been better to have bought some - there should be forced rhubarb still around right now. And I keep telling myself, it won't be TOO long before these spring vegetables are ready.

The rhubarb is surprisingly subtle; it just adds a tart lemony quality to the dish. 

4 to 6 servings?
45 minutes prep time

Lentils with Rhubarb

6 stalks rhubarb
1 medium carrot
2 green onions OR 1 small onion
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1 tablespoon mild curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (about)
pepper to taste
1 cup red lentils
5 to 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth

Trim and chop the rhubarb. Peel and dice the carrot finely. Trim or peel the onion(s) and chop.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot, and cook the rhubarb, carrot and onion in it until soft and reduced in volume, about 4 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle over the curry powder, salt and pepper, and mix in. Mix in the lentils. Immediately add 5 cups of the chicken stock and stir well.

Cook the lentils for 25 to 30 minutes, until soft. Stir regularly, and add a bit more chicken stock if it seems to be getting too dry. The mixture should end up being soft but not too soupy.Adjust the seasonings to taste. Like most bean and lentil dishes, this is better the next day.

Last year at this time I made Celeriac Mash with Blue Cheese.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Arugula Pesto

I'm probably pushing things a bit for most Ontarians, but I'm getting some great overwintered greens out of our hoophouses right now: spinach, arugula and miner's lettuce being the main ones. I hope if you have access to a really good farmers market these will be showing up soon. Arugula is one of the fastest growing greens out there, ready in a little more than a month of growing weather, and it should be available all summer, although best when it's not too hot.

This is a fairly thick, spready pesto, so either spread it, or thin it down with a little water, broth, yogurt, or a little more of the oil to get it to the consistency you would like. If you use all arugula, it will be fairly peppery, but half spinach will make it quite mild.

6 to 8 servings
20 minutes prep time

Arugula Pesto as a spread for bread

4 cups packed arugula leaves
OR 2 cups packed arugula leaves
and 2 cups packed spinach leaves
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

1 head garlic (4 to 6 cloves)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 to 1/3 cup sunflower seed (or olive) oil
salt & pepper to taste

 Wash the arugula well in cold water, and pull off the leaves, discarding the stalks and any tough stems. If you are using spinach, wash it well and pick it over. Drain the arugula (and spinach) thoroughly.

Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, until lightly browned. Stir frequently. Turn them out onto a plate to cool as soon as they are toasted.

Peel and trim the garlic cloves. Grate the cheese.

Put the greens, pumpkin seeds, garlic and cheese into a food processor and process until coarsely chopped. Add the sunflower seed oil, and process again until smoothly blended. Stop and scrape down the sides of the processor as needed.

Serve with pasta, gnocchi, potatoes, or generally use it in the same way you would use basil pesto.

Last year at this time I made Chicken with Herb Dumplings and  Curried Roasted Parsnip & Apple Soup.

Monday, 22 April 2013

When to Plant Vegetables in Ontario

One of the first questions the new gardener asks is, "When should I be planting my various vegetables?" Unfortunately, this is a question that more experienced gardeners wrestle with too. Plant such-and-such a vegetable on such-and-such a date just doesn't work as an answer. Our seasons are far too variable, especially spring, as will be obvious to anyone who compares this spring with last spring.

There are three main methods to determine when vegetables should be planted. They all have their merits, and in fact it's very helpful to use more than one. Here they are:

Work from Last Frost Dates:

In order to work from last frost dates, you need to know the last frost date for your area. That is, what is the date after which there is only a 10% chance that there will be a hard frost? Note, in other words, that this date is not cast in stone and in about one year in ten you can expect it to be wrongity-wrong-wrong-wrong, in the wrong direction. Furthermore, it's likely that different sources will disagree on what that date is for your area. And beyond that, microclimates have a big effect on last frost dates. For example, we live in a largish microclimate in a valley by a large body of water. In spite of its size, it rarely appears on zone maps as they are hardly ever that detailed. But even beyond that, there are micro-microclimates. Things grow very differently on the south side of our black-sided garage, in well drained sandy soil  than they do down in the wet field by the woods.

The best way to determine your local Last Frost Date is to ask around, and get the consensus of your gardening neighbours, the closer the better. They are the ones who will have tested it over time and know the answer as well as it can be known. In general though, for southern Ontario the last frost date is likely to fall somewhere between May 15th and May 21st. I use May 15th; it is both reasonably accurate for me and conveniently located in the middle of the month, making calculations easy.

Which is good, because the next step is to make a chart. Make a list of all your seeds that you will be planting, with the information about when to plant them in comparison to the last frost date, and whether that is indoors or outside. Most good seed companies will list this information, either on the seed packet or on their website; otherwise, the information will usually be fairly easy to find on-line. For example, tomatoes and peppers need to be started indoors, 6 to 8 weeks before last frost date. I find peppers are generally slower to get going than tomatoes, so I would start them 8 weeks ahead, and tomatoes 6 weeks ahead. That means I should be planting my pepper seeds on March 15th and my tomatoes on April 1st. They then get planted out "after danger of frost has passed", or sometime between May 21st and June 1st, depending on how conservative I want to be about it, and also how able I would be to cover them up and keep them warm if there was one last frost after they went out.

Most of the advice given is a bit on the vague side. You really need to do your own research and make your own decisions about when to plant. If you are willing and able to cover things to protect them, they can go out earlier, and the more effective the covering the earlier they can go out. Obviously this is a lot more work, and you need to assess whether it will be something you want to do.

I treat the months as having 4 weeks when I calculate planting dates using the Last Frost Date; again, not particularly accurate but close enough for private sector work.

Sort of like salt and pepper, the First Frost Date is generally given as well when you are looking for the Last Frost Date. This is the date of the earliest (average, expected, more-or-less) frost in the fall, and it is as reliable as the First Frost Date, in other words not very. But it too will be useful in calculating last planting dates for fall crops, and last harvest dates. I call mine October 15th, which is grossly inaccurate and I know it; it is not unusual to get a light frost in the last week of September. However, there is usually then a big gap before the next frost which is indeed usually around the middle of October and a much harder one that will kill things even if they are covered. I can generally cover things up for that first frost and have them keep going until mid October; even the tomatoes, so I use the later date. This is all a matter more of pragmatism than scientific accuracy.

Actually, once I wrote all of the above I remembered that Mr. Ferdzy was all excited last week, when he found that Johnny's Selected Seeds has already written that chart for you; all you need to do is type in your Last Frost Date here, and Bob's your uncle. Or maybe that's Johnny.

Measure Soil Temperatures:

It isn't just the air temperature that affects how vegetables grow. The temperature of the soil is at least as important, if not more so. Some things will germinate in very cool soil, such as peas; others will not, and will not grow at all unless they are very warm, such as sweet potatoes. You can get inexpensive thermometers to measure your soil temperature; we just use the one that we bought as a compost heap thermometer, as it has a nice deep probe. You want to test about 6" to 8" down, in general. The following chart is a good approximate set to use:

  •   5°C  -  Plant spinach, kale, lettuce, bok choi, parsnips, peas, radishes, fava beans
  • 10°C  -  Plant Chinese cabbage, leeks, onions, Swiss chard, turnips, potatoes
  • 15°C  -  Plant beans, beets, brassicas
  • 20°C  -  Tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, cucumbers, squash, melons, corn, peanuts, sweet potatoes
We don't get too hung up on measuring soil temperatures; they will fluctuate somewhat, especially if it's a season when temperatures are going up and down a lot... hello this year. We will measure them occasionally, to confirm that the other methods we are using to determine planting time are on track.

Use Phenology:

That's phenology, not phrenology, which is completely different. Unlike phrenology, which most people have heard of, phenology (which most people haven't heard of) is an actual scientific thing. It means the study of the timing of natural events; in particular, how they relate to each other. So, for example, we look for the first big flush of dandelions to bloom - which happens when the soil is about 10°C - and plant our potatoes then.

There are all kinds of little observed correlations that gardeners pass around for when to plant different vegetables; some of them, like the suggestion that when the oak leaves are the size of a squirrels ear it is time to plant corn, are a bit precious. What kind of oak? (What kind of squirrel? What kind of corn?) Others are more useful; and it doesn't take too long to figure out that most of the suggestions line up with soil temperatures. So, somewhat tentatively, I'm going to put them out as:

  •    5°C  -  crocuses bloom, maple trees flower
  •  10°C  -  dandelions, forsythia bloom
  •  15°C  -  daffodils bloom (not the earliest ones)
  •  20°C  -  bearded iris and lilacs bloom
I think there are a number of advantages over simply using soil temperatures here, although the "daffodils bloom" is not very precise given the range of daffodil cultivar bloom dates. Still, the actual plants living in the actual conditions will take into account the fluctuations in soil temperature, the day length, the air temperatures, the amount of moisture and so forth, that will also affect the growth of your plants and which are too complex and interactive for a mere person to reasonably measure. We've been using the dandelion timing to plant potatoes for several years now and have found it works well. I'm going to start trying to correlate our plantings to the other signs listed and see how they work out.

If anyone has a better signal for the 15°C soil temperature than the daffodils, I'd like to hear it; also any other signs you use to determine planting time.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Barbeque Baked Beans

Well like everyone, I've been hoping for more salady weather, but nope, it's still baked bean weather for sure. These are very easy to make, but quite time-consuming. They make a fair bit, so serve a crowd or remember that leftover baked beans re-heat very nicely.

I made these using our Dolloff beans that we grew last summer - delicious! But you can use white navy beans, kidney or pinto beans as you like. I don't think I would use all hot paprika, but half and half would have a nice bite. Smoked is best, and if you can get a good smoked bacon too, so much the better.  We had ours with a cole-slaw made of green and red cabbages, and grated carrots; a classic with baked beans.

6 to 8 servings
6 hours - 45 minutes prep time NOT including pre-cooking the beans

Barbecue Baked Beans

Pre-Cook the Beans:
2 cups dried beans

Put the beans in a pot with water to cover. Bring to a boil, then cover them and turn off the heat. Let soak for several hours. Repeat, whenever convenient, 2 or 3 more times until the beans are tender. This can be done a day or two ahead of time, and the beans kept in the fridge until wanted.

Make the Barbecue Sauce:
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons smoked Hungarian paprika, sweet or hot, or combo
1 cup tomato ketchup
1/2 cup apple butter
1/4 cup fancy molasses
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

Grind the celery seed and peppercorns, and put them in a small mixing bowl with the remainder of the ingredients. Mix well.

Finish the Beans:
1 large onion
2 heads garlic
1 tablespoon bacon fat or mild vegetable oil
1 cup bean cooking water
250 grams smoked bacon

Preheat the oven to 250°F. 

Peel and chop the onion. Peel and mince the garlic. Yes, I said 2 heads, and that's what I meant. Not 2 cloves. Two heads.

Put the drained beans into a 2 1/2 to 3 quart casserole.

Heat the fat or oil in a large skillet, and cook the onion over medium heat until soft and slightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, stirring as it cooks. Add the onions and garlic to the beans. Scrape the barbeque sauce over them, then use the cup of cooking water to swish out the mixing bowl the barbeque sauce was in, then add that to the beans. Mix gently - because the casserole is probably pretty full - but thoroughly. Lay the bacon in a layer over the top

Bake the beans for about 6 hours. Snip the bacon into pieces and stir the beans before serving.

Last year at this time I made Spinach Kuku.   

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Pasta alla Pierogi

Pasta! We eat lots of it and never get tired of it. It is so convenient for quick meals when we are busy. This version is based on the flavours of cabbage pierogies, but goes together in a fraction of the time. I'd say the yogurt or sour cream is optional, but really, it's what pulls the whole dish together and makes it really seem fairly pierogi-like so I strongly recommend that you use it. I'd also say that egg noodles are the best pasta to use, but I didn't have any. I used a small shaped dry pasta and it was fine.

The amount of mushrooms I used was sufficient, but more would have done the dish nothing but good. The onion and mushrooms get cooked separately just because of space considerations; if you think you can get them all into the pan at once you are welcome to try.

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time

Pasta with the flavours of cabbage pierogis

1 large onion
250 grams (1/2 pound) button mushrooms
4 cups shredded Savoy or green cabbage
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
450 grams (1 pound) lean ground beef
2 teaspoons caraway seed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black peppercorns
450 to 500 grams (1 pound) egg noodles or other similar pasta
2 cups sauerkraut
1 cup or more sour cream OR yogurt

Peel and chop the onion. Clean and slice the mushrooms. Chop the cabbage into fine thin shreds. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Cook the onion and mushrooms until browned and softened, and reduced in volume quite a bit. Remove them to a dish, and crumble the ground beef into the skillet. Cook it until it is lightly browned. Add the caraway seed, lightly crushed, and the salt and pepper. Mix in well. Mix the onion and mushrooms back into the pan as well.

Meanwhile, when the water comes to a boil, add the pasta and stir well. When it has 4 minutes left to cook, add the cabbage. When they are cooked, drain them well and either add them to the skillet of beef and vegetables, or return them to the pot they were cooked in and add the beef and vegetables to the noodles, whichever seems more fitting. Mix the sauerkraut in well and heat through, stirring occasionally.

Serve with dollops of thick yogurt or sour cream.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Maple Sponge Pudding

It seems to be a long slow spring this year, which is a big improvement over last year, when spring - summer, really - came early, then crashed and burned taking most of the early-flowering fruits with it. It also means that the maple syrup season should be a lot better than last year. 

This pudding is a riff on the Lemon Sponge Pudding that has been a staple dessert for us for many years. The timing is a little tricky, because it's best when it's not too hot but still warm. Still if you can get it out of the oven just before dinner is served, it will be just fine. Use the darkest, strongest maple syrup you can get for best results.

4 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time

Maple Sponge Pudding

2 extra-large egg whites

1 tablespoon butter
2 extra-large egg yolks
3 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dark maple syrup
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter 4 small individual baking dishes or one 1 quart baking dish, and set them in a shallow pan of water.

Separate the eggs, putting the egg whites into a small mixing bowl and the yolks into a larger one with the butter. Beat the egg whites until stiff, then set them aside.

Beat the butter and egg yolks together, then beat in the flour and salt. Slowly beat in the maple syrup, then the milk. Fold the egg whites into the pudding mixture. It will be very soupy. Ladle the mixture evenly into the baking dishes.

Bake for 22 to 30 minutes, until lightly browned and firm on top. Serve warm.

Friday, 12 April 2013

First Spring Garden Post

Well, here it is; the first post about the spring gardening season. Yeah. Well... not too much to say besides the obvious: this is already shaping up to be a very different season than last year.

We got 2 beds of peas planted in the week between the main snow melting and this incoming batch of snow. One is here, in the lower "wet" beds. We covered it with light row-cover cloth in the hopes of both keeping it a little warmer and keeping the rabbits out. The deer fence we installed last year seems to be working very well. We have not seen any signs of deer in the yard in the last few months at all. Rabbits are another story though, and the veggies in the wet beds are particularly susceptible, being closer to their woodland home.

I was feeling like this was waaaay later than last year for planting peas, but in fact it's only 3 weeks later. Only 3 weeks, but it's still very cool compared to last year when we were working in short sleeves.

It's also a lot wetter than last spring. Last year we had hardly any snowcover and had to start watering right from the start. This years snow was not epic by any means, but there was a reasonable amount, and it's been raining off and on this spring so we are off to a much better start in terms of water. Of course, we always have this one spot that sits as a puddle of water all through the spring after the snow melts. I don't know how to get rid of it or even if I should try.

A couple of years back we got our hands on an old ice-cream freezer which no longer works. We always intended to use it as a mini-greenhouse, but this is the first time we have filled it up and planted it. Last year there just didn't seem too much point, given how hot it got so fast.

Inside it, we've planted lettuce, broccoletto (new to us; don't know what it's like, except that it's a fast grower), baby bok choy and vivid choy, also new to us, but a chinese green with bright coloured stems. These are all fast growers and I hope they will provide us some fresh greens while we wait for things to get moving in the main garden.

We've started sprouting some of our sweet potatoes. This is a bit earlier than last year, when we didn't start them until about the 20th of April. This year we started them in late March, a month earlier, which I think is much better timing. If it doesn't start warming up soon though, they'll have to go out under hoop-houses to get them growing in June.

Tomatoes are all up and growing nicely. We've gone overboard, as usual. Peppers are much slower and spottier and I worry that we won't have enough. I worry about that every year, but we always have plenty.

We're growing a lot of onions this year. In addition to 5 named varieties, we are growing an unknown type of multiplier onion, some of our own saved seed from several varieties I let go to seed together, and seeds from both of the shallots that crossed with each other. And leek seed, which we got from Turkey.

The other thing I have big plans for this year is melons. I worry though, that if the bugs are half as bad as last year, they may not work very well. Last year was perfect melon growing weather, which is partly why I got so excited about them. The bugs, though; the bugs... our harvest was not nearly as good as it should have been because of them. I hope the colder winter has managed to cut them down to manageable levels this year. At any rate we will be planting all the cucurbits (melons, squash and cucumbers) at the end of the month - they grow quickly, should go out later than the tomatoes, and be smaller plants when they go.

And that's about it for the moment. We're trying to wrap  up a few indoor projects before things really get going outside, but other than that we're just waiting around for the weather to warm up. We'd be happy to have that happen any time now... waiting... waiting...

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Tomatoes Stuffed with Egg Salad

This is more about the presentation than a dish that breaks any new culinary ground. Still, it's a very nice presentation and the combination of eggs and tomatoes is classic for a reason.

 At this time of year, it's greenhouse tomatoes, of course. I'm looking forward to doing this again with real tomatoes from my garden, but in the meantime greenhouse tomatoes are much better than they used to be and this makes a lovely spring lunch.

Look for tomatoes that appear to be about the right size to hold an egg easily, no duh. Although if you wanted to serve these as an appetizer or as part of a buffet, you could prepare 2 or 3 small tomatoes per egg, which would make them a reasonable finger food. These larger tomatoes will definitely need to come with a knife and fork.

Variations? Add a pinch of curry powder to your egg salad, along with some small chopped salad shrimp. Or instead, perhaps season the egg salad with your favourite devilled egg ingredients. Or, I'm wondering about replacing the mayonnaise with a tablespoon of ripe, mashed avocado. Mm, yeah; I think I'm going to try that.

per tomato; 1 tomato per serving
20 minutes prep time, plus 15 minutes to boil the eggs

Tomatoes Stuffed with Egg Salad

First, Boil Your Egg(s):
1 large egg per tomato to be stuffed

Put the egg(s) into a pot with water to cover. Bring to a boil, and boil for one minute. Turn off the burner and cover the pot. Let sit for 10 minutes, then drain the egg(s) and rinse in cold water until cool. Set aside until wanted; these can be done a day ahead and refrigerated.

Prepare the Tomato(es):
1 tomato per serving

Cut the core from each tomato to be stuffed, and discard it. Then, cut into the tomato around the top, so that the insides can be scooped out leaving the walls of the tomato to form a bowl. Here is where a grapefruit spoon would be handy, if I had one. Chop up the scooped out tomato bits, and put one tablespoon of this per tomato into a mixing bowl. The remaining tomato flesh can be added to some other dish; soup, stew, pasta sauce, etc. Salt the insides of the tomatoes generously and set them aside while you make the egg salad.

Make the Egg Salad:
2 teaspoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives, parsley or dill
salt & pepper to taste

As before; quantities are per tomato to be stuffed. Peel and mash the eggs with the reserved tomato bits. Mix in the mayonnaise, herbs, salt and pepper.

Rinse the salt from the tomatoes and turn them upside down to drain for several minutes. When they are reasonably dry, fill them with the egg salad.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Spicy Cucumber Salad

Here is a very simple little salad. It's getting to be the time of year when I want to start eating lighter, salad-y things, but materials to make them are definitely a bit sparse. Fortunately, there are lots of greenhouse cukes around. This is about as simple a thing as  you can do with them, bar picking them up and eating them, but Mr. Ferdzy, who got rather an overdose of cucumbers in Turkey, ate this with enthusiasm after the first oh-no-not-more-cucumbers bite. As is usual, the amount of chile-garlic sauce you put on will depend on your taste, and that of the chile-garlic sauce.

4 servings
15 minutes prep time - plus 15 minutes rest time

Spicy Cucumber Salad

Prepare the Cucumber:
1 long English type greenhouse cucumber
1 teaspoon salt

Wash the cucumber and peel about half the skin off of it in alternating strips. Cut it in half lengthwise, then in half again, into quarters. Cut the quarters into slices.

Put them in a strainer and sprinkle them with half the salt. Stir them, and sprinkle with the remaining salt. Set aside over a sink or bowl to drain while you make the dressing.

Make the Dressing:
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/8 to 1 teaspoon chile-garlic sauce; to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Put the dressing ingredients into a small bowl - from which the salad can be served - and stir them until they are well blended.

Rinse the cucumbers, and drain them well. Stir them gently into the dressing. Let them sit in it for 15 or 20 minutes before stirring again, and serving.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Turkish Red Cabbage Salad

We ate this salad a lot in Turkey. Whenever you ordered any döner (rotisserie grilled meat) meal in Turkey, the odds were about 9 out of 10 that some version of this would arrive on the side.

The other main salad consisted of chopped lettuce with chopped cucumbers and chopped (greenhouse, at this time of year) tomatoes, and which was called - wait for it - chopped salad. For me, the out of season tomatoes made it meh, and the cucumbers made it inedible so I would always try to be sure we were getting this salad, instead. It's really very simple, as you can see - three main ingredients. The cabbage is softened and marinated in lemon and oil, which is what takes it from being three raw veggies put on a plate to being a salad I could eat every day and never tire of.

The marinated cabbage will keep, covered, in the fridge for several days, so it can be added to your salad whenever you want it, making it very convenient. You can also eat it all by itself. Actually, I've got some sauerkraut in the fridge and I'm going to try mixing it with that... the technique for this is kind of like the way sauerkraut is started, but without the fermentation.

In Turkey this was always made with romaine (Cos) lettuce, but of course if you are making this here, now, it will have to be hydroponic lettuce if you want it local. In the late summer and fall, though, you can make it with romaine. 

4 to 6 servings
2 hours - 20 minutes prep time

Prepare the Red Cabbage:
4 cups finely shredded red cabbage
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
the juice of 1/2 lemon

Trim the white core from the cabbage and chop the rest finely; you will need about half of a small head. Put it in a bowl and massage in the salt thoroughly. Turn the cabbage into a strainer and leave to drain in the sink for about half an hour to 45 minutes. Rinse and drain it well.

Toss the cabbage with the olive oil and lemon juice. Cut the lemon in half lengthwise; then the other half can be used as wedges to be passed with the rest of the salad.

Finish the Salad:
1 small head Bibb (Boston) lettuce
OR 4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
2 cups grated carrots
1/2 of a large lemon, cut into 4 wedges
extra-virgin olive oil
salt & pepper

Wash the lettuce and drain it well. Chop it quite finely and arrange it on either a large serving platter or individual salad plates. Peel and grate the carrot and arrange a pile of it on or next to the lettuce, along with a similar pile of the prepared red cabbage.

Pass the salad with extra olive oil and wedges of lemon, as well as salt and pepper. 

Last year at this time I made Cranberry Marshmallows.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Liver Albanian Style

Liver Albanian Style was a common dish in the Turkish restaurants we ate at during our trip to Turkey. Like a lot of dishes, we never seemed to get it any hotter than lukewarm, but in my Canadian opinion this is best still hot out of the frying pan.Serve it with rice and salad as a meal, or pass it with toothpicks as an appetizing tid-bit. I much prefer lamb liver for this, but if all you can get is young beef that will do. Be sure the liver is well trimmed of veins, tubes and other gristly bits when you cut it up. The amount of red chile pepper will depend on how hot yours is and how much you like it, but just a little bite in the background is the aim. My aim, anyway.

3 to 4 servings
15 minutes prep time

Liver Albanian Style

1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon hot red chile

1 large onion, sliced
500 grams (1 pound) lamb liver OR baby beef liver
about 1/2 cup mild vegetable oil to fry

1 lemon, cut in wedges (optional)

Mix the flour, salt, paprika and chile to taste in a shallow bowl.

Peel and slice the onion. Cut the liver into bite-sized pieces, and blot them on a piece of paper towel.

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet; it should be large enough to hold about half the liver in a single layer at one time, but no larger. While the oil heats, put the liver into the bowl and flour and mix in well, until the liver is completely coated in flour.

Remove about half the pieces of liver from the dish of flour, shaking off any excess flour, and drop them carefully into the hot oil to fry. Turn them after about a minute to finish cooking then remove them at once with a slotted spoon to a fresh piece of paper towel. Repeat with the other half of the liver pieces.

The liver will cook very quickly; the exact time will depend on the size of the pieces but unless you take a giants'-eye view of what constitutes "bite-sized", they will be done in two minutes or less. Seriously: NO longer.

When the liver is all done, put in the slices of onion in a single layer, and cook and turn them as well until they are softened and slightly browned. They will fall apart, that's fine. Blot them on the paper towel as well and mix them in with the liver. Serve at once, with wedges of lemon to squeeze over it, if you like.

Last year at this time I made Endive & Mushrooms au Gratin and Gingerbread Brownies.