Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Purslane with Yogurt & Garlic (Yoğurtlu Semizotu)

You know the routine by now - it's the usual salted and garlicked Turkish yogurt and vegetable meze dish, this time with purslane. Our garden is churning out the purslane, if nothing else, so here it is. We also just pulled the garlic so the garlic is fresh and lively. 

2 to 4 servings
you'd better allow at least an hour for all the messing around;
about 10 or 15 minutes actual prep time

Purslane with Yogurt & Garlic (Yoğurtlu Semizotu)

1 cup purslane leaves
1 cup thick yogurt
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 small clove of garlic
2 teaspoons olive oil
pita or baguette

Collect the purslane. It should be soaked in cold salt water for 15 minutes, then remove and keep all the tender leaves in good condition, as well as the tender tips of the stems. Discard the roots, tough stems, and any damaged leaves. In my experience, this means I need to start with about 4 cups of purslane plants to get 1 cup of usable leaves. Drain very well.

Strain the yogurt for half an hour, discarding any liquid extracted. The best way to do this is in a sieve lined with a couple of coffee filters.

Meanwhile, peel and mince the garlic and mix it with the salt in a small bowl. Add the strained yogurt and the dried purslane. Add a teaspoon of olive oil and mix well. Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle the final teaspoon of olive oil over the yogurt. Serve with bread.

This is probably better for being made an hour or two in advance; keep it cool until needed but it should not be chilled when served.

Last year at this time I made Mid to Late Summer Hodge-Podge.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Raspberry-Mint-Tea Slushie

Hot and muggy, isn't it!? Slushies to the rescue. I put in the lower quantity of honey, and the result was tart, astringent, and very refreshing. I wouldn't have complained about a bit more sweetness, though, and you should sweeten it to your taste.

You will need a good sturdy blender to crush the ice. Don't over-load the poor beast, and if you must, transfer the ground ice to a bowl and keep it in the freezer as you crush more, then add it back in once the extract goes in.

4 to 6 servings
15 minutes to make extract
10 minutes to make slushies

Raspberry-Mint-Tea Slushie

2 cups water
1 to 3 tablespoons honey, to taste
2 cups raspberries
1 orange pekoe tea-bag
1/3 cup washed mint leaves, stripped from the stems
OR 1 teaspoon orange pekoe tea, in a tea-ball
about 3 trays of ice cubes
mint sprigs to garnish

Put the water, honey, and raspberries in a pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer until all the raspberries have broken down, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the tea-bag and the mint leaves. Cover and let steep for 4 minutes, then strain through a sieve, pressing to extract all the liquid and discarding the solids. You can keep this extract in the fridge until ready to proceed. Don't forget to check that your ice-cube trays are full!

To make the slushies, put 1/3 to 1/2 of an ice-cube tray worth of ice-cubes into a sturdy blender and run until it is fairly fine crushed ice. Add 1/2 the extract and blend again. Shake or stir the extract before adding it. Once smooth, add more ice cubes and process until you have the texture and strength that you would like. I found 1 1/2 smallish ice-cube trays worth of ice made 2 reasonably large slushies.

Garnish the slushies with a sprig of mint and serve with a straw.

Last year at this time I made Summer Fish Cakes.

Friday, 26 July 2019

An EFAO Workshop on No-Till Growing at Persephone Market Garden

Wednesday afternoon saw us out, standing in a field, as we were given a tour of Persephone Market Garden by farmer Kristine, for members of the EFAO. This was a workshop on how they are transitioning to no-till market gardening. Our garden isn't a market garden, but it's big and unwieldy, and no-till definitely interests us.

What you see in the photo above is literally the foundation of this technique - a big pile of composted sheep manure. Kristine and Thorsten keep a small herd of sheep mostly for this manure, although they also provide some meat and wool.

Once we were past the manure we walked up a slight slope to the upper garden. There are at present four quadrants of about 1/4 acre each to the garden, with the potential of up to six sections. Tomatoes are a major crop for Persephone, and Kristin plants a 100' row of tomatoes, then a row of something else, then another row of tomatoes in this section. Here you see watermelons (Crimson Sweet) in between the tomatoes. Other rows were of onions, carrots, salad green, etc. They are all heavily mulched in chopped straw.

Kristine plants varieties in multiple locations throughout the garden, so that localized problems don't necessarily mean the loss of the entire crop. 

One of Kristine's garden helpers checks for ripeness. This section is mostly peppers, with hoops in place to cover them when the weather requires it in the fall. Persephone Market Garden is in between Owen Sound and Sauble Beach, on the Bruce Peninsula, and frost comes in September.

You can see that the rows between the vegetables are covered in landscape fabric, weighted with old tires. The first step towards no-till is to remove as much of the existing weeds as possible, usually by smothering/heating them under a barrier cloth or plastic. You can see an open field beyond the planted section, where Kristine is, in fact, still tilling the ground to eliminate as many weeds as possible, especially persistent running grasses. Once a no-till situation has been established, maintaining it is quite do-able; the hard part is getting there. I know from our own garden that twitch grass just regards a plastic ground cover as a kind of blanket, and gets cosy.

There was a very good turn-out for this workshop. People came from as far away as (nearly) North Bay, from as far south as near Lake Erie. Most of them are also market gardeners. 

No-till gardening requires the tolerance of a certain level of weeds. The idea is to keep the ground covered, with mulch or landscape cloth if necessary, but preferably with plants. Once the ground is clear enough, a layer of compost (that sheep manure, augmented with horse manure from another local farm) is placed, and seedlings transplanted into it. Mulch is added, and as plants are harvested the process is repeated.

Kristine has adopted the no-till system used by Singing Frogs Farm, in California, who were pioneers in the technique. The goal is improved soil health, including a complex of beneficial microrrhizal interactions, and the retention of organic matter and, crucially, water. I noted that in spite of a very hot, dry summer (at least this latter half of it) plants looked green and healthy.

Actually, the farm struggles with some water issues generally. They are located on the lower slope of a drumlin, and water from the near-by road which is not plowed in winter settles  onto the upper part of the garden where it is held in place by the clay sub-soil. To alleviate this situation, drainage ditches have been dug between the lower edge of the field and the driveway. Future plans involve installing a water-collection pond near where the compost pile in the first photo sits, which would direct water from the upper fields, keep it for irrigation and possibly even moderate early frost effects on the garden.

The plants that end up in the fields start here, for the most part. Only a couple of crops, such as carrots, are direct seeded. This is a new greenhouse installed in the last year, dug into the ground for temperature moderation in both hot and cold seasons, and with large water tanks under shelves of plants also for temperature moderation.

In the summer, the greenhouse is covered with shade cloth to keep it from getting too hot. Beyond it you can see a field of asparagus. I was surprised and intrigued to see that the flock of sheep was in that field - I presume they eat everything but the asparagus. How convenient!

Here is a better view of the greenhouse layout. We hear that in the spring it has the bonus of being canoe-able...

The building to which the greenhouse is attached is where vegetables are sorted and packed. There is an out-door wash area, roofed but otherwise open, with steel sinks, spray faucets, and a mesh table for drying off the washed veggies. Then they come in to this roller-topped table set up where orders are packed in tubs.

Finally - well, not actually finally, but finally for the tour - we had a look at the tools used to form the soil blocks in which vegetables are started, in a mixture of seed-starting mix and compost. After that, the real final part of the tour was a lovely pot-luck dinner, of which I took no photos because I was too busy eating and chatting. A good time and good food was had by all, until dusk, mosquitos and long drives home required us to leave. Many thanks to Kristine and Thorsten for this tour. I hope Mr. Ferdzy and I will be able to incorporate some of the ideas into our garden. 

Addendum: Thorsten sent a photo of the attendees gathered for the pot-luck!

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Stir-Fried Beef with Yellow Beans & Garlic Scapes

The flavours of this pared-down stir-fry were simple but so was the technique - no marinating, minimal chopping - and simple flavours don't mean that they didn't pull together like a champion team. This was the last of our garlic scapes - they may be a little hard to find now, but I hope they are still out there - and the first of the beans. I've always thought garlic scapes look like little beans and it isn't just the colours, flavours, and textures that work well here; the shapes were also made to go together.

You could put hot pepper flakes into this instead of black pepper, but I liked the pepper fine. I used lots, and ground it coarsely. We had it with steamed rice, as seems right and proper.

2 to 4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Stir-Fried Beef with Yellow Beans & Garlic Scapes

250 grams (1/2 pound) yellow wax beans
250 grams (1/2 pound) garlic scapes
375 grams (3/4 pound) round or other steak
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
freshly ground black pepper, generously (but to taste)

Wash, trim, and cut the yellow wax beans in half. Wash and trim the garlic scapes, keeping only the tender stems. Cut them in pieces of about the same size as the beans. Leave them in a colander and scald them by pouring a little boiling water over them. Drain well.

Cut the beef into thin, bite-sized pieces.

Heat the oil in a wok or large, heavy skillet over high heat. Add the steak and stir until just seared. Add the beans and the garlic scapes. Stir fry until the meat is cooked and the vegetables are also cooked and starting to brown in spots. When just a minute or so prior to being done to your liking, add the soy sauce, sesame oil, and pepper, and mix in well. Serve as soon as the soy sauce has been absorbed.

Last year at this time I made Turkish Style Stuffed Zucchini.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Pasta with Swiss Chard & Feta Cheese

This is a kind of hybrid dish, with the flavour profile of spanakopita, but more or less the method of spaghetti carbonara. We enjoyed it very much, especially since I have decided that pasta is now only an occasional treat. As such, it's a little fussier then most of the pasta recipes I make, but only in that the herbs and vegetables take a certain amount of time to chop. I decided to get the herbs dealt with before I even turned on the stove, and I think that was a good plan.

I used capellini which meant that I put the Swiss chard stems and leaves into the boiling water before I added the capellini, as it cooks in only 2 minutes. Most types of pasta will take longer though, and should go in first.

2 or 3 servings
30 minutes prep time

Capellini with Swiss Chard & Feta Cheese

Prepare the Vegetables:
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh dill
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh mint
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
3 or 4 green onions or 1/3 cup finely chopped chives
225 grams (1/2 pound) Swiss chard

Wash, trim, and mince the herbs and set them aside together in a small bowl.

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.

Wash, trim and shred the Swiss chard finely, setting the stems and leaves aside in separate piles.

Prepare & Finish the Pasta:
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
generous quantities of freshly ground black pepper
225 grams (1/2 pound) spaghetti
2/3 cup finely crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Whisk the eggs with the oil and pepper in a slightly generously sized bowl and keep to one side.

When the water boils, cook the pasta until tender according to package instructions plus one minute. About 4 minutes before the pasta is done, add the chopped Swiss chard stems to the pot. About 2 minutes before it is done, add the Swiss chard leaves. Stir in well after each addition.

When the pasta is cooked, remove 1/2 cup of the cooking water to the eggs and whisk it into them. Drain the pasta well and return to the pot, over medium heat. Mix in the herbs at once, followed by the whisked eggs etc. Stir until the eggs cook enough to form a creamy sauce. Mix in the two cheeses and serve at once. You could keep some of the Parmesan out and sprinkle it over the top, if you like.

Last year at this time I made Apricot Panna Cotta.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Hot, Dry, Grumpy, & Behind - A Midsummer Garden Update

It's evening in the garden. A few light chores to be done, and then we will pack it in until tomorrow. Here, we have just transplanted a few cabbages and planted some cabbage seedlings started in pots and Mr. Ferdzy is watering them in. We should have large, developing cabbage plants at this point, and there are a few. But they have been devastated by some kind of bug - quite possibly cut-worms, although we couldn't find any - and at least half of them are barely sprouts or missing entirely.

Those big plants in the foreground are volunteer potatoes. Now that I shouldn't eat potatoes very often, I am finding their tendency to pop up anywhere they were planted in the last 5 years as volunteers really annoying. We are about to go away for the weekend, but those ones are getting pulled as soon as we come back. However, so far the potato volunteers seem to be much the healthiest potatoes in the garden.

Tomatoes are looking... okay. It isn't going to be an early or a bumper year, I would say. Still, they are doing. There are a reasonable number of green tomatoes forming and plenty of blossoms at the moment.

Zucchini went in late and are late, but they are about to roar into action. There are lots of blossoms and a few small squash to be seen. Yay, something!

Carrots are a disaster. They are always fraught, but this year they just won't germinate. Actually, I suspect they are germinating adequately well, but are being eaten by something just as fast. We have made our third and final attempt for the year - we are rapidly running out of seed, if nothing else - and will keep our fingers crossed. Normally we cover them to keep them damp as they germinate but we are leaving the cover off and watering 3 times a day in the hope that this will discourage whatever pest is eating them. (May just be slugs - I think the long damp spring really coddled them ).

The potatoes look pretty good from a distance; up close you can see that about half of them have some sort of virus in the leaves. Half the potatoes are named varieties, and half are ones we grew from seed and are growing on for further assessment. The virus appears to be throughout the entire bed, with equal numbers of named varieties/seedlings affected. One of the most prolific seedlings seems quite affected, but another one of the most prolific seedlings seems pretty immune. A little research shows this is probably potato virus Y, which is a virulent form of mosaic virus that has been causing a lot of havoc for potato growers in the last few years. One of the insidious things about this virus is the leaves may not look very affected but the potatoes can be really rotten so the ones I think are doing well may not be. FUN. Looks like when we return from our week-end away we'll be pulling out a lot of potatoes.

Watermelons! I had to discard (well I have them, but I'm not growing them) last years' seeds because an orange melon got in with the golden-rind project. The 2 year old seed had some trouble germinating - it was not great last year either, but once things got going it was fine. This year I am going into the season with even fewer plants and more of them than I like from the melon that volunteered and was almost-but-not-quite golden rinded. Well, we'll see. They are also all so late that I am hoping more for viable seed than good melons this year.

We are only growing the golden-rind melons this year as watermelon is not something I should be eating very much of these days. At least that assures that there will be no cross-contamination in this batch.

Another view of the potatoes, with the very very last of the peonies off to one side. This is the first peony I ever got and I wish I knew the name... it's very common in Ontario gardens and while it is generally late, it is unusual for it to be the last one blooming. If anyone has an idea, I'd love to know it. It forms seeds but never has a speck of pollen, and I believe it was a bit darker pink in my previous garden.

On the other side of the potatoes, the onions are doing well apart from the fact that I mixed my leek and Rose de Roscoff seed together by accident and now have much fewer of each than I wanted, if you don't count the large number of substitute leeks I planted when I couldn't find the seed I wanted. GRRR. Garlic beyond them, doing okay and tomatoes in the background.

Early peas (Knight and Norli) are going to seed and may in fact be pulled out by the time I hit "publish", apart from 2 sections left for seed. We missed most of the Norli peas when we went to Toronto for a family Bat Mitzvah, and got a lot of rather starchy peas from the Knight for the same reason. Really, a July week-end should have been safe to leave the peas, which should have been mostly over! Oh well. We will be getting more seed than usual which will hopefully be a good thing next year.

Lima beans are slow, slow, slow, although now that it is finally hot it looks like they will take a great leap forward. Beans otherwise are looking very good, apart from the fact that it looks like bean mosaic virus is starting up. We've had it before, it's not the worst thing, although what it will do in combination with the anthracnose remains to be seen. We are doing a big grow-out of several crosses including a Blue Lake - Cherokee Trail of Tears cross which I hope will give us a Blue Lake type bean with better anthracnose resistance. The Amish Snap and other pole peas in the next bed over are doing well, but they are going to ripen in extremely hot weather, so we will see how well they do... this may be a big "seed" year for them too, sigh.

And to end on a more cheerful note, we have a lot of this lettuce volunteering all over. Which is good, because it is the ONLY lettuce that has stayed edible in the heat and dry weather we have been having! It came into the garden in a packet of "Morton's Mix" seeds from vegetable breeder Frank Morton in 2011. I always assumed it was a variety he bred but when I check his site, the only lettuce it resembles is "Waldmann's Dark Green" (I've been referring to it as "Dark Green Frilly" for the last 8 years). It is an old variety that he carries because it is one of the most popular commercial varieties. Well, sometimes things are the standard for a reason. I've been very thankful to have *some* edible lettuce this summer - most of it really isn't now that the weather is hot - and the lettuce has gotten big enough to eat. Yes, even my attempt to end on a cheery note reminds me that is ONE OF THOSE YEARS.  It is. One of those years.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Eggs with Purslane & Garlic Scapes

And cheese. Don't forget the cheese.

This made a nice change from our usual, uh, egg cheese and bread breakfast. This is, oddly enough, a traditional Mexican dish although purslane is eaten enthusiastically all over the world and one of the first things it seems everyone does with it is cook it with eggs. I've made some changes. The Mexican version seems to involve onions and perhaps peppers, but neither of those are ready yet and meantime I have all these garlic scapes sitting in the fridge. If you don't have them, onion greens will do very well.

I always feel like this is a difficult time in the garden and this year is particularly bad. The lettuce is so done with us even though we would really like to continue the relationship, the first peas are finishing up and the next wave hasn't really gotten going, and I can see baby zucchini but they are still a few days away. Purslane to the rescue! It's not one of the early weeds go get going - it likes hot, dry weather - but once it starts it grows very rapidly. I used to grumble about it but now I have smartened up and am diverting it to the kitchen with a smile.

Purslane does take careful picking over. Those little leaves can hold some debris, and there is some kind of leaf miner that likes it very well. Also, stems can get tough. It took me about 4 cups of loosely packed plants to provide about 1 1/2 cups of cleaned leaves for our 4 duck egg breakfast.

Traditionally, this is served with tortillas and salsa. I had one last jar of green salsa in the cold room, but the bread was mini pitas. No hay problema - deliciosos. 

per serving
20 minutes prep time, mostly fiddling with the purslane

Eggs with Purslane & Garlic Scapes

1/4 to 1/3 cup purslane leaves and stems, washed and picked over
1 garlic scape
1 large duck OR 2 large chicken eggs
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons crumbled feta or cotija cheese
2 teaspoons mild vegetable  oil

Wash the puslane well, then pick them over, discarding any damaged leaves, tough stems, or roots. Drain well. Trim and mince the garlic scape.

Whisk the eggs with a spoonful of water per egg, and season with salt and pepper to taste - go lightly with the salt; the cheese will provide quite a lot. Crumble said cheese, and have it standing by.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat; just enough to cook the vegetables and keep the eggs from sticking. Add the garlic scapes and cook for a minute or two, stirring occasionally. Add the well-drained purslance leaves and mix them in and cook until just wilted; another minute or two. Add the eggs. Sprinkle the cheese over them. Let cook for a minute to partially set, then gently stir them to break them up and allow raw egg to flow to the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking and gently mixing until the eggs are just set. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Zucchini & Ricotta Phyllo Roll. We are definitely one, if not two, weeks behind the expected schedule this year.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Sour Cherry Jam with Lime

Why yes, I am not feeling too inspired. All the veggies are quite behind, except for the weeds which are doing fine, thanks.  I do hope to post something I made this year, soon. Meanwhile, I made this last year...

Is this the best jam ever? I think it quite possibly is the best jam ever. I mean, sour cherries! Yet they seem to be harder and harder to find every year. Their season is so short that you can blink and miss it anyway. Perhaps that adds to the sense that this is a rare treasure. That, and the fact that 9 cups of painstakingly pitted cherries, not to mention the sugar, etc, cook down to 4 little pots of jam. This jam is for you, is what I am saying, and only the very dearest of your nearest. Hide it.

In the photo, the jam is served on my favourite Oatmeal Farls and butter.

4 - 250 ml jars

Sour Cherry Jam with Lime

9 cups sour cherries
1/4 cup water
the zest and juice of 1 large lime
2 1/2 cups sugar

Wash and drain the cherries, and remove any debris from them. Put them in a jam kettle or other broad, heavy-bottomed pot with the water and bring to a boil. Simmer them until they begin to fall apart. Let them cool enough to handle, then remove the pits. You can put them through a food mill, but I find it easiest to do this by hand.

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

Meanwhile, bring the cherries back up to a boil as well, with the lime juice and zest added. Add the sugar and boil for about 20 minutes, until the mixture thickens and shows signs of setting (see notes on making jam here).

Put the lids and rings for the jars in a small pot of water and bring them to a boil; boil for 1 minute.

Ladle the jam into the prepared jars and seal them with the lids and rings. Return them to the canner and boil for 10 minutes. Allow them to cool, test seals, and label. They will keep for up to a year in a cool, dark spot, although good luck with that. 

Last year at this time I made Chinese Style Chicken Salad. Good idea! Looks like a stinker of a week coming up, heat-wise.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Herby Feta, Quinoa, & Snow Pea Salad

What I have coming out of the garden right now is lettuce, snow peas and other peas, and herbs. Lots of herbs. Oh, and garlic scapes. They all come together in a vaguely Greek or Turkish flavoured salad which is pretty much a meal in itself. Since the quinoa needs to be cooked in advance and so do the snow peas, it does take a little advance planning, but it's very simple to put together. Leftovers will keep overnight in the fridge in reasonable quality, which is nice because this is a fairly big batch of salad.

I did put in 4 garlic scapes and you could definitely tell. Garlicky! Mr. Ferdzy kept commenting on how garlicky, but he was not complaining. Still, you should adjust your scapes accordingly. I also had a very heavy hand with the black pepper and I think that is a very good plan.

If Mr. Ferdzy would eat them, I would have garnished this with some olives. A few cherry tomatoes for some colour would have been nice, but mine are all still flowers. Radishes would have made an excellent and seasonal contribution, but mine are all over-ripe, if that's the word, and might as well have been carved from wood. This is why I have mostly given up growing radishes and stick to buying the little dears. Only I didn't. If you are better organized, by all means chop up a few and toss them in.

4 to 6 servings
cook the quinoa 2 hours or more in advance
30 minutes prep time to finish the salad

Herby Feta, Quinoa, & Snow Pea Salad

Cook the Quinoa & Snow Peas:
1 cup quinoa
1 2/3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
225 grams (1/2 pound) snow peas

Put the quinoa, water, and salt into a rice cooker. Turn on and cook. Once done, remove the pot from the cooker andl let the quinoa cool completely. This should be done at least an hour and up to 24 hours in advance. Keep it refrigerated once cool, if not using it right away.

Meanwhile just before continuing with making the salad, top and string the snow peas, and steam or blanch them until just tender - 2 minutes to blanch, perhaps a minute or so longer if steaming. Rinse immediately under cold water to stop them cooking any more and drain them well. 

Make the Salad:
2 to 4 garlic scapes
1/4 cup finely minced cilantro
1/4 cup finely minced parsley
2 tablespoons finely minced mint
2 tablespoons finely minced dill
150 grams (5 ounces) feta cheese
the juice of 1/2 large lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 to 12 lettuce leaves

Trim and finely mince the garlic scapes. Wash, dry, and mince all the remaining herbs. Put them in a mixing bowl with the crumbled feta cheese. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, and pepper. Mix well.

Loosen and fluff up the quinoa and stir it in. Gently mix in the cooked and cooled snow peas. Serve the salad over the lettuce leaves, which should be washed and well dried first.

Last year at this time I made - oh, huh - Cheesy Pea & Pasta Salad. Apparently I really like those pea, carb, and dairy salads (and that's a true fact).

Friday, 5 July 2019

Tiramisu alla Fragole - Strawberry Tiramisu

I'd say this is something that can be made in advance, but it is more the case that it must be made in advance. Yes, it's another dessert. We had company, okay? I did keep the sweetener down as much as I could - other people might want to double the honey in both the berries and the cheese filling, and I'm sure it could handle it.

I had a little trouble getting the right size dish for this, and in the end I borrowed one from Mom. Hers probably held about 1 1/2 quarts; it's possible I might have squeezed it into a dish that held 1 quart but it would have been a squeeze. The ideal dish is probably 1 1/4 quarts (5 cups) and who makes one like that? The big thing is that the lady fingers should go into the space in 2 neat layers, with ample but not excessive space around them to allow for all the other ingredients. The wrong container will make it less glamorous, but it will be absolutely delicious regardless, so don't let it keep you up at night.

You know, this has been another instalment in the series "Desserts which didn't have strawberries in them are greatly improved by replacing the usual flavouring with strawberries". Long may it prosper.

6 to 8 servings
30 minutes prep time
PLUS 2 hours to macerate the strawberries
PLUS 30 minutes chill time

Macerate the Berries:
2 cups strawberries
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sherry

Wash, hull, and slice the berries and put them in a container with the honey and sherry. Keep chilled for several hours.

Make the Tiramisu:
1/2 cup 10% cream
3 large egg yolks
1 large egg white
a pinch of salt
2 tablespoons honey
225 grams (1 cup) mascarpone 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon sherry
about 1 cup strawberries
12 lady fingers
2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped shelled pistachios

Whisk the cream, egg yolks, egg white, and salt in the top of a double boiler. Heat the mixture over simmering water; while it heats add the honey. Whisk regularly until the honey melts and the mixture begins to thicken. Whisk constantly once it starts to thicken, then remove it from the double boiler as soon as it is thick. Whisk in the mascarpone, 1/3 at a time, until the mixture is smooth, then whisk in the vanilla and sherry. Let cool.

Hull the remaining strawberries and slice them in half.

Smear some of the filling on the bottom of your chosen dish and lay half the ladyfingers in it. Drizzle half the macerated berries and their juices evenly over them. Drizzle half the mascarpone filling evenly over them. Top with the remaining ladyfingers, macerated berries, and mascarpone filling in the same way. Garnish with the halved unmacerated berries over the top, and sprinkle any exposed filling evenly with the finely chopped pistachios.

Refrigerate for at least half an hour before serving to allow everything to meld together. 

Last year at this time I made Stir-Fried Zucchini.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Chinese Style Pork & Tofu Meatballs

We enjoyed these meatballs very much. The flavour is delicate and mild, but not bland, and the texture is soft and tender but not mushy.

I did find them a little fragile - they required fairly careful handling while they cook. I made them twice, actually; the first time I made a version with no egg and less flour, but they really didn't hold together well at all. I also didn't drain the tofu the first time. The recipes I referred to called for "firm tofu" but I suspect that there is much firmer tofu out there than what is sold at the local grocery store under that name. At any rate the eggs, extra flour, and draining the tofu made them hold together much better the second time.

This also makes a lot of meatballs. I don't know how they would freeze, but I think it would be worth trying. In theory, you could cut the recipe in half, but since tofu and ground pork tends to get sold in the quantities listed below, you would still be left with half a package of each. Might as well make the meatballs.

6 to 8 servings
40 minutes prep time
PLUS 1 to 2 hours to drain tofu

Chinese Style Pork & Tofu Meatballs

420 gram (14 ounces) firm tofu
1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/3 cup finely chopped green onions
500 grams lean ground pork
1/4 cup barley or other flour
1 large or 2 small eggs
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white or black pepper
a little oil to fry

Use a fine sieve, or line one with coffee filters. Crumble the tofu into it very finely, then set it to drain for 1 to 2 hours. When it is done, squeeze it a bit to drain out some more liquid. When it is quite dry, transfer it to a mixing bowl.

Trim, wash, dry, and mince the cilantro and green onions. Add them to the tofu, along with the pork, barley flour, eggs, soy sauce, sesame oil, and pepper. Mix very thoroughly; I find it easiest to do it by hand. You can be quite rough with it and even knead it. This will give the meatballs a slightly chewy texture and help them stick together.

Form the mixture into meatballs using about 2 tablespoons of the mixture each. Heat enough oil in a skillet to cover the bottom of the pan generously. Fry the meatballs for a minute or two on each side; for a total of about 6 minutes each. The heat should be medium-high; they can get reasonably browned but slowly enough to allow them to cook through. If you are cooking the entire mixture you will almost certainly need to do them in batches. They can be kept in the oven at 200°F to keep warm as they are done. However, the mixture will keep, covered, in the fridge for up to 2 days and can be cooked up as needed.

Serve with rice or noodles; these could also go into soup.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Haskap Raisin Pie

Another dish from last year as I froze it then baked it at my leisure in the winter, not likely to be repeated. Alas! This was delicious, and an excellent thing to do with all those haskaps. I just picked almost 3 quarts of them, and now I am at a bit of a loss as to what to do with them all - they are so sour they really do require dishes with sugar in them, unless you are just having a small handful in a salad.

At 8" this is one of the smaller pies I've made. I still recommend cutting it into 8 slices though, as it is extremely rich and intense. It has an almost mincemeat-like quality, but with the strong tart fruitiness of the haskaps.

8 servings
2 hours - 1 hour prep time, 1 hour bake time

Haskap Raisin Pie

Make the Pastry:
2 cups soft whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
1/4 to 1/3 cup buttermilk

Measure and mix the flour and salt. Cut the butter into it with a pastry cutter, until it is the size of small peas. Mix in the vegetable oil and 1/4 cup of buttermilk. Stir with a fork until everything is moistened and starting to stick together. Use your fingers to press it into a ball; if necessary add a few drops more of buttermilk until it does so. Cover and set aside until the filling is made.

Make the Filling & Finish:
2 cups haskaps
2/3 cup water
2 cups raisins
1 tablespoon rum (optional)
the finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour

Wash, drain, and pick over the haskaps. Put them in a pot with the water, raisins, rum, and lemon zest. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes until the haskaps begin to fall apart and the raisins are soft. Remove from the heat, cover, and let cool.

Mix the sugar and flour well, then stir into the cooled haskap and raisin mixture.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Divide the pastry into a slightly larger and a slightly smaller piece (60%/40%). Roll out the larger piece on a piece of parchment paper, lightly flouring the paper and the rolling pin as needed. When it is large enough to line an 8" pie plate, use it to do so.

Put the filling into the pie crust, and spread it out evenly. Roll out the remaining pastry to cover the pie. Lay it over the pie and peel off the parchment paper. Pinch the edges sealed, and trim them; cut some holes for steam to escape.

Bake the pie for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, until well browned and the fruit is bubbling. On which note, this is a good candidate for baking on a tray unless you like cleaning burnt sugar off the bottom of the oven - mine did not overflow but it looks distinctly possible.

I did not bake this right away, but froze it. Later I thawed it overnight then baked it, with excellent results.

Last year at this time I made Pasta with Sausage & Turnip Greens