Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Chicken or Duck Salad with Wild Rice & Cranberries

The only plate I have that is big enough to hold this salad is my turkey platter, passed down through the family from my great-aunt Alethea to my mom, to me. It's a festive and special salad so that seems perfectly appropriate.

The wild rice is a little expensive, and it and the chicken need to be cooked in advance, but otherwise it's no harder to make this than any other salad. The festive occasion I made this for was our weekly dinner with my mom, but I'm thinking I might make it again around Christmas. If I could find some skin-on but boneless duck breasts I think they might be even better than the chicken. I used to be able to get them around here, but no more. Too bad. Still, chicken is perfectly fine and it was eaten with gusto.

Since the cranberries were raw ones, and I didn't use any sweet element in this salad, I thought they would do better chopped up. Next time, though, I would save a few whole ones to garnish the top. You could use dried cranberries if you think the raw ones would be too tart, but once chopped we thought they were fine. 

4 to 6 servings
45 minutes prep time, plus time to cook the rice and cool it - at least 2 hours

Cook the Wild Rice & Chicken:
1 cup wild rice
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast OR 4 boneless chicken thighs
   (approximately 600 grams or 1 1/3 pounds)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 to 3 teaspoons 5-spice powder

Put the wild rice, water, and salt into a rice cooker. Turn on, and cook. Remove the pot from the cooker and let the rice cool. Keep refrigerated once cool until needed. This can be done up to a day ahead, and should be started at least 3 hours in advance.

Make sure the chicken pieces are flat and thin. Arrange them on a heat-proof pan. Sprinkle one side with half of the soy sauce and half of the 5-spice powder. Broil for 5 to 6 minutes until the chicken is half done. Turn it over, and season the other sides with the remaining soy sauce and 5-spice powder. Broil for a further 3 to 5 minutes, until the chicken is done. The exact time will depend on just how thick the chicken is, and how close it gets to your broiler, so you will need to use your judgement.  Let it rest and cool for at least 10 minutes. Once it is cool, it can be sliced into bite-sized pieces and refrigerated until needed; again this can be done up to a day in advance.

Make the Salad Dressing:
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1/4 cup apple cider OR rice vinegar

Finely grate the ginger into a small bowl or jam jar. Add the remaining ingredients and mix or shake together.

Make the Salad:
2 to 3 cups finely chopped lettuce
2 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, grated
1 cup fresh cranberries, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped chives

Wash, trim, and chop the lettuce. Drain well. Put it in a large mixing bowl. Wash, trim, and shred the cabbage finely. Wash, trim, and chop the celery. Peel and grate the carrot. Wash and chop the cranberries. Wash, trim, and chop the chives. Mix all these in the bowl, with the wild rice.

Toss the salad with the dressing.  Arrange it on a large platter or individual serving plates. Top the salad or salads with the  prepared chicken.

Last year at this time I made Apple or Pear & Ginger Mincemeat.

Monday, 28 October 2019

Kohlrabi Soup

Here is a simple, unadorned soup; very straightforward. We thought it was lovely. The kohlrabis give it a mildly sweet flavour and have a somewhat unusual crisp-firm texture.

They can be rather hard to find, but maybe at a farmers market. If they are small, you will likely need 4 of them, but you take what you can get. Mine were quite huge and I actually used 1 1/2 which, yes, was 500 grams. The larger they get, the more the skin gets thick and tough, though, so better to get slightly smaller ones if you have the choice. You may not. Ours were quite tender in spite of their size.

You could replace the sour cream with coffee cream or yogurt if you like, i.e. have it instead. 

4 to 6 servings
45 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Kohlrabi Soup

500 grams (1 pound; 2 or 3 medium) kohlrabi
1 large carrot
a medium onion
1 large stalk of celery
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 or 2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon rubbed savory OR thyme
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 cups unsalted chicken OR vegetable stock
1 teaspoon potato starch OR arrowroot
1/4 cup sour cream

Peel the kohlrabis and cut them into dice. Peel and dice the carrot. Peel and chop the onion. Wash, trim, and dice the celery.

Heat the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat until melted. Add the vegetables and seasonings and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes,  until quite soft but not browned. Watch the temperature; they should really be simmering in the butter but, as noted, not enough to brown them.

Mix the starch into the stock and stir it into the vegetables. Mix well. Simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix in the sour cream, and let the soup come back up to steaming hot, but do not let it simmer (to avoid curdling). Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Brocc-a-Leekie Soup

Friday, 25 October 2019

Roasted Chile-Garlic Broccoli & Tofu

Roasting green vegetables has been very popular for the last few years. It is not my favourite way of preparing them, but once in a while I will give it a go. It does have the advantage that most of the prep work is in advance, and very little attention is required while cooking.

It's also been a while since we have had any tofu. Since baked tofu has a chewy-crispy texture that I really like, this seemed like a good plan. This is two-thirds of that old hippie triumvirate; brown rice being the only missing element and it needn't be missing at all if that's what you make to go with this. We had quinoa and it went along very well.

This is not in any way a difficult thing to make but you must allow enough time to drain then marinate the tofu, also the baking takes some time. 

2 to 3 servings
1 hour 45 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Roasted Chile-Garlic Broccoli & Tofu

Press & Marinate the Tofu:
350 grams (12 ounces) extra-firm tofu
2 tablespoons tamari OR soy sauce
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

Slice the tofu about 1 cm thick, then into bite-sized pieces. Arrange it in a shallow sieve, and put a weight on it. Press it for about 30 minutes (over a bowl to catch the liquid).

Meanwhile, mix the remaining ingredients. Put the drained tofu into a container and pour the marinade over it. Stir gently, then marinate for about 30 minutes.

Prepare the Broccoli, Etc:
1 head (1/2 bunch) broccoli
4 to 6 shallots
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil

While the tofu marinates, wash and trim the broccoli. Cut and break it into small florets and other bite-sized pieces. Peel the shallots and cut them in quarters. Toss them both with the oil and arrange them on one side of a large baking (cookie) tray, lined with parchment paper if you like.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Roast the Broccoli & Tofu:
3 to 4 tablespoons potato starch
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon (to taste) chile-garlic sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Drain the tofu - drizzle any unabsorbed marinade over the broccoli. Pat the tofu dry with a paper towel and put it in a sieve. Sprinkle the potato starch, a tablespoon at a time, over the tofu pieces. Shake and turn them after each spoonful to get them as evenly coated as possible. Once they all have a thin coating of starch, put them on the other half of the baking tray, spread out in a single layer.

Bake the broccoli and tofu at 400°F for 20 minutes. While they bake, peel and mince the garlic. Mix it with the chile-garlic sauce and the soy sauce.

Turn the tofu over and drizzle the prepared sauce over the broccoli. Stir and turn the broccoli gently. Return the tray to the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes.

Mix the tofu into the broccoli and serve at once, with rice or noodles (or quinoa pilaf, as I did).

Last year at this time I made Beans & Sausage with Peppers & Onions.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Stocky Red Roaster Pepper

The pace at which I do varietal reports is definitely slowing, as we have more and more tried and true varieties and also grow out more of our own crosses. However, we did try a couple of new peppers this year, one of which was this Stocky Red Roaster. A very plain, descriptive name of exactly what it is.

This is an Italian type roasting pepper, selected by Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seed. The plants are reasonably compact but sturdy (stocky, in fact) and bear a plethora of mid to small (quite a useful size in the kitchen) straight-sided, thick-fleshed red peppers. The thick flesh makes them very suitable for roasting, and most of ours ended up roasted, peeled and seeded, and packed into the freezer to go into soups, stews, casseroles, pasta sauce, etc, in the winter.

This wasn't quite what we were aiming for. We were looking for a pepper to go into our Canned Tomato Sauce which is a staple for our winter cooking. The trouble is that while the plant is a compact, sturdy and good grower, the fruits have a very long days to maturity score. We got the seeds from Hawthorn Farm, who says 85 days to maturity. I note Frank Morton says 102 days to maturity, which is quite a spread. I suspect that in a normal Ontario summer, the 85 days to maturity is reasonably correct, but we had what would probably have been a more typical Oregon type summer this year - meaning that the 102 days to maturity was more accurate. Even at 85 days to maturity we would have been pushing it to have the pepper ripening time overlap with our tomato ripening time. We decided not to make very much sauce this year, and were able to use the earliest ripening individual peppers so it worked out okay, but plainly we shouldn't count on it.

Having said that, I would have to conclude that their very long growing season is the one flaw of this pepper (and if you are looking for fresh peppers in October, that's not even a a flaw). They grew very nicely, had a lot of peppers for the size of the plant, the peppers are very well flavoured - I wouldn't say mild, but there are no strong bitter or astringent flavours as peppers sometimes have - that keep on the counter for quite a while and cook up well; tender but with some substance to them. In addition to roasting and freezing them, we dried some and while we haven't tried them yet, they dried quickly and look and smell good. I'm planning to eat a certain amount of Turkish Pepper Paté this winter. We don't have much trouble with pests or diseases in the peppers, but these did not have the few troubles we have, i.e. slugs or moth larvae boring into them and making themselves at home; or sometimes peppers get mouldy spots going on in the membranes around the seeds which left unchecked will spoil the pepper. None of that. These were very healthy and I suspect the thick flesh helps keep the pests out. The plants also have good leafy coverage which prevents sun scald and also helped keep the peppers in good condition once we had to cover them with plastic to protect them from chill.

I love having things like steak or smoked sausage served with a big pile of fried peppers and onions, maybe mushrooms, on top and I've been doing that with the stocky red roasters a lot this last month. We've had a hard killing frost and I've pulled the plants, but it looks like there are enough peppers still ripening on the counter for another few weeks worth of meals. In conclusion, this is not the pepper to go into our tomato sauce but we will definitely continue to grow it anyway - it is an excellent pepper and merits some space.

Monday, 21 October 2019

Pakistani Beef Kofte

Meatballs! Just about everybody has some version, and they are always popular. These look like they should go on spaghetti but rice will be a better choice, I think. We had these with Vegetables Sabzi and thought they made a great combination. I kept the vegetables fairly mild and piled on the heat in the meatballs, but you can of course adjust them how you like.

This looks like a huge long recipe, but it's easy and the steps can be broken up. Mix up the spices a day or two in advance, if that helps. The meatballs could also be formed, covered, and stored in the fridge for a few hours before cooking. The actual cooking is simple, straight-forward and doesn't take all that long.

6 servings
1 hour 45 minutes - 1 hour prep time

Pakistani Beef Kofte

Mix the Spices:
3 or 4 pods green cardamom
1/2 teaspoon allspice berries
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon chick pea flour

Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Toast the whole spices (cardamom through peppercorns) until fragrant but barely showing any change of colour. Turn them out at once into a shallow dish to cool. 

Crush the cardamom pods and remove and discard the papery green hulls. Grind them with the rest of the whole spices until quite fine; I find it easiest to sift them half way through and regrind the coarse bits. Mix in the ground spices and chick pea flour and set aside until needed.

Make the Meatballs:
500 grams (1 pound plus) lean ground beef
1 small onion OR 3 shallots
2 large cloves of garlic
2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chick pea flour
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon hot red chile powder

Put the ground beef into a mixing bowl. Peel and finely chop the onion or shallots, and add it to the bowl. Peel and mince the garlic and add it to the bowl. Wash, dry, and chop the herbs; add them along with the eggs, salt, chile, and half of the prepared spice mixture.

Mix well by hand. Form into meatballs; you should get about 24 of them. Place them on a plate not quite touching each other as you make them.

Make the Sauce & Cook the Meatballs:
1 large onion
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
2 cups chopped or crushed (canned) tomatoes
1 cup water
2 bay leaves
the juice of 1/2 lemon
1/3 cup yogurt

Peel and chop the onion. Peel and grate the ginger, and peel and grate or mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven type casserole dish over medium-high heat. Cook the meatballs until lightly browned all over. Add the onions and continue cooking, and stirring carefully so as not to break the meatballs until the onions are softened and reduced in volume. Add the remaining spice mixture, ginger, and garlic and cook for another minute or so.

Add the tomatoes, water, and bay leaves. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir very gently occasionally to prevent the meatballs from sticking. Add the lemon juice and yogurt and simmer for a further 10 to 15 minutes, until the sauce becomes smooth; continue to stir regularly.

Serve the meatballs with steamed rice or naan bread. Vegetables Sabzi make an excellent dish to serve with them.

Last year at this time I made Turkish Broccoli & Carrot Salad.

Friday, 18 October 2019

Rye Apple Brown Betty

Oo, dessert! I am still finding a way to have a few. This one worked very well, although I think next time I will crumble the breadcrumbs more finely. That will be a very minor tweak, though.

Apple Betty is a very old fashioned dessert; you hardly ever see it any more. It's another excellent thing to do with old bread, though, and now that I am willing to use a bit more butter than I used to be (as it turns out butter isn't the problem; it's the carbs) it's turning out better for me. Don't be afraid to use enough to get those breadcrumbs crisp and buttery. 

Otherwise this was a little zingy, a little sweet, and altogether tasty as a follow-up to a salad based meal. I used Empire apples which worked nicely and they are widely available. I like that they have quite a bit of tartness, and soften up without losing their shape.

You could use other bread than rye and have a more generous hand with the sugar, but I have to say that rye bread works really well with apples, and I thought this was quite sweet enough. The rye bread was a dark but light textured (Viking dark rye, to be precise).  

4 to 6 servings
1 hour - 40 minutes prep time
allow a little time to cool to warm

Rye Apple Brown Betty

6 medium-large cooking apples
4 to 6 green cardamom pods
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons Sucanat (dark brown sugar) or coconut sugar
150 grams (6 small slices) stale rye bread
4 tablespoons butter

Peel the apples, core, and slice them. Cook them in a saucepan over medium heat with a tablespoon or so of water until soft. Stir gently occasionally.

Meanwhile, crush the cardamom pods and discard the green papery hulls. Grind the seeds well and mix them with the cinnamon and the Sucanat. Cut the bread into small cubes then gently rub them to reduce them to coarse crumbs. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Melt the butter in a shallow casserole that can go into the oven (and which will hold all the ingredients). Add the breadcrumbs and toss them in the butter, then cook them over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until lightly toasted and saturated with the butter. Sprinkle the sugar and spices over them, and mix in. Cook a minute or so longer then tip them out into a mixing bowl and replace them in the casserole with the apples.

Spread the apples to cover the bottom of the casserole evenly. Spread the sweetened, toasted breadcrumbs over the apples. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are crisp. Serve warm.

Last year at this time I made Pasta with Spinach, Roasted Squash, Shallots & Ricotta.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Personal Update on Pre-Diabetes

(Photo is of Sunflower Vegetable Paté, which I made for Thanksgiving with minor adjustments to use as a dressing/stuffing substitute.)

Last week I had my blood sugar measured again (A1C, I believe it is called). It came in at 5.8 compared to the last time 6 months ago, when it was 6.2.

What does that mean? It means I've done well! I gather that ideally it should probably come in between 5.0 and 5.5, but this is a considerable improvement and I am no longer quite on the edge of the precipice. I've also lost about 9 to 10 kg (20 to 22 pounds) in the last year. Obviously, I am not going to celebrate by going out and eating* all those things that I gave up to achieve this. It's a long term project. However, it's nice to see that the changes I've made are on the right track and that I am, for the most part, finding them reasonably do-able.

There is still some fine tuning to be done, and I expect to find things a bit easier once the gardening season is over and I'm spending more time inside. It turned out summer was a bit difficult of a time to start a new diet plan - there isn't a lot of time or energy to cook, and I don't necessarily want much hot food anyway. Unfortunately, that traditionally has  meant that we eat a lot of sandwiches and pasta in the summer (well, year round really, but summer is particularly bad). I'm still working on finding things to replace them with that don't require a lot of advance preparation and cooking.

I'm trying to come up with a plan that takes a number of factors into consideration. I don't tend to worry about calories too much. My feeling, though, is that I am eating more (calories, not volume) than I was and yet losing weight, albeit fairly slowly and still with the assistance of the 5-2 diet. Sugars, carbs, and fibre levels of ingredients are the main things that I am now checking, but they don't tell the whole story. Really low-carb days make me feel frantically horrible, so I'm aiming for "right carb" days. I try to check on glycemic index and glycemic load information, when I can find it. My nutritional counsellor through the local hospital gave me a blood glucose meter, and the proof of the blood sugar pudding can now be measured.

Here are some of the things I've been doing:

1.) Pasta: it's now whole wheat nearly always, and once a week only.

2.) Rice: it's now brown basmati or brown converted (which is a bit odd, but better than the white converted. More about converted rice lower down.) In theory it's on the menu once a week as well, but in practice we seem to having it about half that often.

3.) Quinoa: I have been making Quinoa Pilaf (without the rutabaga in it) quite often. One half gets eaten hot at dinner then in the next day or two the other half gets made into a salad. I do this about every second week, so on average, again, about once a week. It's a bit carb-y but better than rice or pasta.

4.) Sweet potatoes and squash: get served often as the "carb" portion of a meal. In the winter rutabaga will show up here too. Unfortunately, corn, beets and parsnips are going to be very occasional treats. I'm eating a certain amount of carrots, peas, and onions, about the same as I ever was.

5.) Dried beans, lentils, peas, etc are going to be eaten a lot. Two meals based on them per week is the rock bottom minimum, and I'm aiming for at least four. I have not eaten a lot of barley over the summer, but as we head into the fall I'd like it to appear on the menu once or twice a week. I'm also aiming to eat more wild rice and buckwheat.

6.) Bread: I was very frustrated by the selection of bread in local grocery stores, and by local I mean from Owen Sound to Thornbury. Owen Sound and Thornbury have, in theory, a much better selection than the local store, but in practice it was annoyingly common to drive 15 minutes or half an hour and discover they were sold out of what I wanted. Thanks to the arcane and frankly extortionate system of getting products onto the shelves of grocery stores, I was not able to place a standing order for bread either. However, I'm happy to report the problem has been solved: you can order directly from Dimplfmeier's on line and they mail it to you! It means we will be stuffing our freezer full of bread every 2 or 3 months, but it will be the bread I actually want. I'm selecting bread with fewer than 20 net carbs per slice, mostly rye flour, and no calcium propionate or other propionates. Dimpflmeier's is about the only widely available bread line that has some types to fit this profile.

7.) Natural sugars and artificial sweeteners: I've always avoided artificial sweeteners just because they all seemed to have a nasty, tinny aftertaste that spoiled whatever they were in. The good news is that there are now some that are not too bad. The even better news is that these are some of the ones with what appears to be the best health profiles. In particular, I find myself using stevia with erythritol or stevia with monkfruit. These are not the most artificial of artificial sweeteners - erythritol is a sugar alcohol and stevia and monkfruit are both sourced from plants - but they are highly processed and I am still treating them with a lot of caution. If calorie-free sweeteners prevented diabetes and weight gain, they've been around long enough and widely available enough that we ought to be seeing them making a difference. Instead, levels of weight gain and diabetes are higher than ever. They all contain carbohydrates even if they register as non caloric, and if I use them I am careful to treat the carbohydrates they contain as part of my daily allotment. That makes them only somewhat better than sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc. I find myself using natural sweeteners in combination with an artificial one, and neither in large quantities nor often.

8.) Potatoes and resistant starches: Well, here is an interesting thing. Potatoes are terrible for blood sugar! Except, if you cook them in advance, cool and chill them, then reheat them, they're not! Same with pasta, and I guess, a number of other starchy foods. We did an experiment where I ate freshly cooked potatoes, chicken and vegetables at a meal, and then ate the same thing except with reheated (pan fried) potatoes the next day. I measured my blood sugar both times and there really was a significant difference (lower) after the reheated potatoes. We did the same with a pasta meal. The difference wasn't quite as pronounced, and re-heated pasta isn't as pleasant as fried potatoes. Still, it means things like fried potatoes, pasta salad, and fried rice are going to have a place in the diet. Also doing a little cooking with potato starch is more reasonable than it might look at first glance. (Those Cocoa Crepes, for instance!) This creation of resistant starches by heating and cooling starchy foods explains why converted rice has a much better glycemic index than untreated rice. It's a bit annoying, because like re-heated pasta, converted rice isn't all that great. Still, it's better than no rice, I guess.

So now what? I'll continue to fine-tune the diet over the winter. I need to get more exercise - that's a big factor in avoiding diabetes and I haven't managed to maintain a good level of it yet. But the diet seems to be mostly under control so it's time to turn some attention there. I have a few recipes that I am still refining but which are turning into regular diet items and will probably get posted over the winter. I have added a "Diabetic Friendly" tag to the list on the side, and over the winter I will go through my recipes and add the ones I think are good for that. And so, onward and bon appétit to us all. 

* I reserve the right to make a big chocolate cake and eat it too, if and when Donald Trump is evicted from power.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Plum Sauce

This is a zingy, tart sauce with just a touch of sweetness to it, making it a good foil for the richness of the meat.  It's also quite a simple sauce, easily finished up while the meat rests after cooking.

I say to pit the prunes, but I was able to get some nice little damson plums, so I left the pits in as they are hard to remove. Since they are small pits they did not interfere too much with straining the sauce. If the pits are easy to take out though, it's better to do so right at the beginning.

I served it with a quinoa pilaf (without the rutabaga) and plain boiled broccoli. I've been making that quinoa pilaf quite a lot lately; it's lower carb than rice or pasta. We eat half of it hot at dinner then the rest gets made into a salad the next day.

4 servings
1 hour - 45 minutes prep time

Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Plum Sauce

2 cups diced pitted prune or damson plums
3 to 4 shallots
2 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons bacon fat OR mild vegetable oil
2 medium (about 500 grams/1 pound each) pork tenderloins
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sherry
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Wash and chop the plums. Peel and chop the shallots. Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and grate the ginger.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. 

Heat the bacon fat or oil in a skillet or shallow casserole that can go from the stove top to the oven, over medium-high heat. Season the pork tenderloins with salt and pepper, and brown them on each side. When they are done, add the plums and shallots, and mix them in to coat them in the fat. Place the pork tenderloins on top of them, then put the pan in the oven and roast for 20 minutes.

Remove the tenderloins to a serving plate and cover them with foil. Leave to rest for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the skillet back on the stove over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger, and mix them in well for a minute, then add the chicken stock into which the starch has been stirred until completely dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring and scraping up the bits sticking to the pan until the plums have fallen apart and the sauce is thick. Press it firmly through a strainer into a bowl, discarding any solids.

Slice the pork and arrange it on the serving plate. Drizzle about half the sauce over it, and pass the remaining sauce in small pitcher or gravy boat.

Last year at this time I made Beet & Carrot Salad with Spicy Lemon Vinaigrette

Friday, 11 October 2019

Acorn Squash with Wild Rice & Mushroom Stuffing

These were rather good, but I must say that acorn squash take a ridiculous amount of time to cook. I actually baked mine at 375°F to start with and after an hour they were not even close. So I'm calling for you to bake them at a hotter temperature, but it's hard to be precise about how long it will take since I didn't actually cook them at that temperature to start with. It will also vary a bit depending on how large and how thick they are. I wonder if mine took a bit longer than I expected because this was such a dry year and they were low in moisture; all kinds of factors come into cooking times.

The stuffing is a little salty on its own; you should be careful to mash it into the squash as you eat it to get just the right balance. 

4 to 8 servings
1 hour 45 minutes - 45 minutes prep time

Acorn Squash with Wild Rice & Mushroom Stuffing

Pre-Cook the Wild Rice & Squash:
1/2 cup raw wild rice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
2 large acorn squash
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Put the wild rice into a rice-cooker with the salt and water. Turn on and cook until done.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds and loose strings. Rub them with the oil, and place them face up in a baking tray. Bake until there is only slight resistance when pierced with a fork; should be about 40 minutes to an hour.

Make the Seasoning Mix:
2 tablespoons chick pea flour
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon rubbed thyme OR savory
1/4 cup water

Measure everything but the water into a small bowl and mix until well blended. Add the water, a little at a time, and stir it in until you have a smooth sauce.

Make the Filling & Stuff the Squash:
4 large shallots
1 large stalk of celery
6 to 8 large button mushrooms
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Peel and chop the shallots. Wash, trim, and chop the celery. Clean, trim, and chop the mushrooms. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook the vegetables until softened and slightly browned, stirring frequently. Mix in the cooked wild rice for the last few minutes of cooking.

When the squash is about 80% cooked (as described above) divide the filling between the four half squash pieces. Divide the seasoning mix evenly between the squash, drizzling over the filling.Add enough water to the pan the squash are in to cover the bottom of it by about 1/4".

Return the squash pieces to the oven and bake for a further 30 minutes or so, until the filling is lightly browned and the squash is completely tender. Cover with a tea-towel and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

If you decide you have put the filling in too early, and the squash needs more time to bake, you may wish to add a bit more water to the pan, and cover the squash with foil to keep the filling from drying out.

Last year at this time I made Lo-Bak Pancakes.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Loaded Baked Cauliflower

Oh look, it's cauliflower again. Not a problem, we love cauliflower. We're awfully fond of bacon, cheese, and chives too - usually brought together on baked potatoes. Potatoes are not a good idea for me any more, but that's okay. These toppings do just as well on cauliflower. And we love cauliflower!

This is substantial enough to be a main dish. I hate to say it just needs some carbohydrate to round out your meal, but it does. Serve it with brown rice or quinoa pilaf and there you go.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 45 minutes prep time

Loaded Baked Cauliflower

6 cups cauliflower florets (1 medium cauliflower)
1 red or orange pepper OR 6 button mushrooms
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup chopped chives OR green onion
350 grams (3/4 pound) bacon
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup sour cream
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika (optional)

Put a large pot of water on to cook the cauliflower. Trim the cauliflower and break it into florets. When the water boils, add it to the pot and cook for 6 minutes. Drain very well, and if not proceeding at once, rinse the cauliflower in cold water until cool first.

Core, de-seed, and chop the pepper or clean and chop the mushrooms. Peel and mince the garlic. Clean, trim, and chop the chives or green onions. Chop the bacon.

Cook the bacon over medium heat in a medium-sized skillet until fairly crisp. Lift it from the fat and put it onto a plate covered with a paper towel to drain. Drain off most of the fat - save it for some other purpose - and cook the peppers or mushrooms until softened. Add the garlic, mix it in well, then transfer the vegetables to another plate.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Grate the cheeses.

Oil a 2-quart shallow baking (lasagne) pan and spread the cauliflower in it.  Dot it with the sour cream, then season with the pepper and paprika. You may wish to add a little salt, but be very careful - the bacon and cheeses will have lots. Toss the cauliflower gently with the sour cream until coated, then sprinkle half the cheeses and half the chives or green onions over and toss gently again. Sprinkle the bacon and peppers or mushrooms over the cauliflower. Sprinkle with the remaining cheeses. Cover the pan with foil (or a lid, if it has one) and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil (or lid) and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Basque Chicken Terrine.

Monday, 7 October 2019

A Visit to Cedar Down Farm

Another farm tour day with EFAO! This one was Innovation on a Vegetable Farm, the vegetable farm in question being Cedar Down Farm, near Neustadt. This seemed a little similar to the event we attended at Persephone Market Garden, but since it was nearby we decided to go. Nearby is relative; it was still an hour drive away. Southern Ontario is big! Like Persephone, Cedar Down supplies vegetables through a CSA plan, as well as to a few restaurants.

We gathered in front of the barn where vegetables are cleaned and stored. Note the equipment lined up against the wall of the barn. Cedar Down is a larger operation than Persephone, with 4 workers, aiming to become 4 1/2, versus 1 1/2. One of the big differences the degree to which Cedar Down uses mechanization.

We started with a tour of the garden, in particular the four big greenhouses, 2 of which are moveable. This one contains tomato plants. Leslie Moskovits, one of the farmers, was very excited about a system from Qlipr, a Dutch company, that supports the tomatoes and is very easy to install and move - it's a bit like suspending tomatoes from coat-hangers, which slide around and can be lifted off the support string for access to the top of the plant, no ladders required. .

Leslie and Jeff Boesch, her partner, have been experimenting with grafting tomatoes for increased production and longevity of the plants. There is a fairly steep learning curve involved - or at least it's a rather chancy operation - but grafted tomatoes do deliver, and they will continue to work with them. The root stock supplies the plant with disease resistance, but the tomatoes are still exactly the type which gets grafted onto it.  

This greenhouse contains pepper plants, and a third contains cucumbers. The greenhouses are used for early spring greens, then changed to other plants as the regular garden season commences. Unusually, Cedar Down has three CSA seasons: spring, summer, and winter meaning that customers can choose what time of the year they want to receive vegetables from the farm, up to all of it.

Leslie talks about the ins and outs of the greenhouses. Mostly they are fairly simple, but there are complications. Two of them move on ski-like bases, and the cucumbers require a system of fans to prevent them from succumbing to mildew.

Moving a greenhouse requires that the ends be removed, and the greenhouse braced to prevent it from flattening out as it is moved. It is locked in place with metal posts which are detached for moving. Then it is pulled to the new position, where another set of metal posts await it. Those are locked in place, and the ends replaced. 

Here, squash cure in one of the smaller greenhouses, which also has greens started for late autumn into winter crops.

There are about 6 acres of vegetables in the fields each year, with about the same planted in a cover crop. Unusually, the fallow fields are kept in cover crops for 2 years. Jeff and Leslie use a no-till system as much as possible, but they do till around the edges of the fallow fields, lest they shrink - quite considerably - due to the incursion of weeds.

I mentioned that this is a more mechanized farm than most small market gardens. Here is a piece of equipment which allows three people to be planting rows at once. The tanks put water onto the seedlings so they go into the ground well watered.

I was amused by the vegetable washing station, which consisted of two re-used bathtubs and some plastic laundry baskets. Looks like it works very well, though, for the investment.

Leslie talks to the group about the running of the farm. They raise no animals on the farm, other than a few family chickens, but they fertilize extensively with Biofert, as well as feather meal, fish based fertilizers, and gypsum.

Vegetables at a cleaning station in the barn await storage in one of several cold rooms. Later they will go into winter CSA boxes - a bit of a rarity in the Ontario market gardening world.

Friday, 4 October 2019

Updated Lentil Loaf with Carrots

I made a few changes and took a much better photo for this old recipe:

Lentil Loaf with Carrots

Best with a bit of gravy or ketchup, but really this is a very serviceable and pleasant recipe. It fits in well with my new diet and I'm going to be making it quite often.

Pasta with Sausage, Pepper, & Onion Rosé Sauce

I love the combination of fried peppers and onions - served over steak or chops, with beans and sausage, or as here, with pasta and sausage.

The sausage can be whatever kind you like, although I don't think I would go for anything sweet. The seasonings I suggest give it a hot Italian vibe, which you should likely not do if your sausage is already hot Italian.

I was greatly dismayed when I added the tomato sauce to the cream sauce, because it promptly broke (curdled, that is to say) even though I was being very careful to keep the heat low. I guess it was acidic enough it didn't matter. Fortunately, as it thickened up it pulled itself back together and was smooth enough to be fine by the time I was ladling it over the pasta. So don't worry if yours does that too. It will be okay in the end. 

4 to 6 servings
45 minutes prep time

Pasta with Sausage, Pepper, & Onion Rosé Sauce

2 medium green peppers
2 medium red peppers
2 medium onions
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
500 grams (1 pound) raw pork sausage
1 teaspoon coarsely ground fennel seed (optional)
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes (optional)
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups 10% cream
2 cups tomato sauce
330 to 500 grams (10 ounces to 1 pound) stubby pasta

Wash, core, and cut into small strips the green and red peppers. Peel the onions and cut them into slivers. Peel and mince the garlic.

Cut the sausage into small bite-sized pieces.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the sausage, with a little water to cover the bottom of the pan if required to keep it from sticking as it gets started, until browned all over and mostly cooked. Add the seasonings towards the end, taking very much into account how much and with what the sausage is already seasoned.

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

Remove the sausage to a bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving the drippings in the pan to cook the peppers and onions. If there is not enough fat you can add a little more bacon fat or oil to make it sufficient. If there is too much, remove the excess but I suggest the longer term solution would be to change your source of sausage.

Cook the onions and pepper over medium heat until softened and greatly reduced in volume. They can brown a little but don't let that happen too quickly. When they have but a minute or so to cook before you would call them done, add the garlic and mix in well.

This is probably the time to add the pasta to the boiling water, assuming it requires 10 to 12 minutes to cook.

Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and mix in well until it is evenly distributed and no white powder is showing. Pour in the cream and mix very well. As soon as it begins to thicken, mix in the tomato sauce. Add the sausage back into the sauce. Continue simmering gently and stirring regularly until the pasta is ready. Drain the pasta and put it in individual dishes or a serving dish, and apply the sauce to it as you will.

Last year at this time I made Turkish Eggplant & Potato Kofte.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Broccoli & Mushroom Pasties

Do you remember Pepperidge Farm broccoli puffs? I used to love them back in the '80s. Maybe they even still make them, I don't know; although I haven't seen them in years. They were always a little hard to find and I could rarely afford them since that era coincided with my poor student days.

Anyway, I got a bee in my bonnet to make them myself, and since frozen puff pastry is reasonably available and good quality, it makes these fairly simple to make. The only real trick is to have enough self-discipline to not over-fill them. Also, the filling holds its shape better if it is cool when you fill the puffs. So allow plenty of time to make these - they can sit a bit once formed.

I made 8 puffs. You may wish to make smaller ones as appetizers or hors d'oeuvres. In either case, if you wish to add cheese, put no more than 2 teaspoons in a large puff or 1 teaspoon in a small puff.

8 or 18 pasties
1 hour 45 minutes - 45 minutes prep time
plus time to thaw pastry and cool

Broccoli & Mushroom Pasties

1 medium head of broccoli
1 small carrot
100 grams (1/4 pound) button mushrooms
2 large shallots
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon rubbed savory or thyme
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup unsalted chicken stock
1/4 cup 10% cream
450 grams (1 pound) prepared puff pastry
about 1/2 cup grated old Cheddar cheese (optional)

Don't forget that if you are using frozen puff pastry it must be thawed in advance - allow at least 2 hours. 

Put a small pot of water on to boil for the broccoli florets. Cut the stem from the broccoli. Peel and grate it. Peel and grate the carrot. Cut the broccoli florets into small pieces and cook them in the boiling water for about 3 minutes, until just barely tender. Drain them very well and set them aside.

Clean and chop the mushrooms finely. Peel and mince the shallots.

Heat the butter in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and mushrooms, and cook gently, stirring regularly, until softened and reduced in volume - 2 or 3 minutes. Add the grated broccoli stem and carrot. Continue cooking and stirring for another couple of minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture. Season with the salt, pepper, savory, and mustard. Mix well.

Begin to slowly stir in the chicken stock, 1/4 cup at a time until the mixture is smooth. Let it simmer for a minute or two, then stir in the cream. Let it thicken back up for a minute or two, then remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for 15 minutes, enough to work with. This can all be done a day in advance and the filling refrigerated, if desired.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper.

Gently open and roll out the puff pastry. Cut each 1/2 pound sheet into 4 even squares (or 9, if you want smaller pasties). Dollop an evenly proportionate amount of the filling onto each square, but be careful not to over-fill them. Wet the corners and sides of the pastry with cold water, and fold all 4 corners up into the middle. Pinch them together, along with the sides as well as you can. Don't worry about doing it well; steam needs to escape and in any event they are likely to split open in baking anyway.

Bake the pasties for 35 to 40 minutes until the pastry is light brown and the filling is bubbling. Let cool at least 10 minutes before serving, warm or at room temperature.

Last year at this time I made Pollo alla Romana.