Archive for April, 2010

Isn’t She Lovely? Isn’t She Wonderful?

Challah!

This is a 6 strand braided challah, doubled over to technically make it a 12 strand.

Isn’t it beautiful?  I made it all by myself.

That is all.

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I Came, I Saw, I Ramp-ed It Up

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Ah, ramps.

What has this year been debated as one of foraging’s most overrated bounties are nonetheless one of my most cherished harbingers of spring.

There’s no doubt that I also adore other seasonal offerings like fiddleheads and asparagus, but in my overall stratosphere they aren’t really locally accessible just yet.  Ramps typically come first, signalling my springtime appetite to perk itself up a bit.

And so, I continue to content myself with ramps until others come along, their pungent edible bulbs so funkily sweet and tender.

As I mentioned on Monday, my first ramp preparation of the year was a fragrant ramp butter mixed into a batch of saltwater potatoes.  Delicious as it was, I was confident that even better dishes were yet to come, I just wasn’t certain what those dishes would be yet.

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You Don’t Know Gorp

Granola

Until about 6 months ago, I never really understood all of the hoopla about granola.

Granola bars are alright I suppose, but even they aren’t something I ever get a craving for.  Granola always seems too sweet, too greasy, too dry or too flavourless to merit any time in my mouth, not to mention that I’ve often associated it with old people, specifically my dad.  For lack of a better explanation, it just reeks of aging hippies crunching on tofu, muesli and bean sprouts, which I know is a very stereotypical thing to say, but the mind thinks what it wants.

But, about 6 months ago, Pierre Lamielle (of Kitchen Scraps fame) changed all of that.

You see, I was reviewing his cookbook during my stint at Taste T.O. and one of the recipes I opted to test was his granola ratio.  Once I got over the concept of granola having a set recipe, I freed myself up to start making a concoction I could actually enjoy.  Since then, I’ve been making a batch of granola every 2-3 weeks to keep the Everyman and myself in crunchy breakfast heaven.  In my case, it’s served over a thick, strained whole yogurt, but the Everyman prefers to eat his nut-free version plain.  Our versions are nearly identical, but in his the omission of nuts is replaced by extra raisins and the occasional bittersweet chocolate chip.

This gorp is so hunger-inspiring that you might even want to try making some yourself.  My version (replete with alterations and substitutions) is detailed below, but you can also find the original in the Kitchen Scraps cookbook.

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Not Too Late To The Party

Leaves Of Plenty

Though it’s not yet May, this year I’ve often worried that I might have missed the window for Ontario ramps and wild fiddleheads.

With a warmer than normal March and April, these edible delicacies have been popping up much earlier than usual, which leaves me without farmer’s markets to buy them from, since all of the markets in my area don’t start up until mid May or June.  Last year we found them at The Cheese Boutique several times, but given my tendency to grossly overspend every time I cross their threshold, I wasn’t keen on the idea of heading over there just to get a couple pounds of ramps.

But then, on the way home from the Green Living Show yesterday, the serendipitous happened.

As I was walking along Dundas West, huddled against the wind and the rain, I noticed a lone sandwich board announcing a grand opening.  It turns out that Provenance Regional Cuisine has rented out some space in the existing Palmerston Cafe and is now a mini pop-up style grocery store.  I walked in to investigate, but since the Everyman and I were about to hurry off to a Cowbell brunch, I only made the most cursory glance of the products on offer.  Promising the counter staff that I would return, several hours later the Everyman and I did.

And what a bounty we found.  Not only is the place gorgeously curated, but it finally offers a place to buy local, sustainable meat that’s only a 3 minute walk from our house, as opposed to the 20 minute jaunt it takes me to get to The Healthy Butcher.  After a few minutes I managed to procure a bundle of ramps, as well as some homemade crostini, dried cranberry beans, sweet potato flour and more.  With the ramps firmly in hand, all that was left was to devise how to use them. (more…)

How To Cook Everything: App Style

Anyone who’s been reading this blog for any length of time surely knows how much I am a fan of Mark Bittman.

But (full disclosure time) I’ve never really cooked many of his recipes, if only because I don’t generally use recipes.  You probably wouldn’t know considering how many recipes I publish on this website, but 9 times out of 10 I’m just throwing stuff together off the top of my head and trying to write recipes after the fact as best as possible from memory.  As a sidebar on my recipes, you may also have noticed that I never tell anyone to season their food with salt and pepper, which is because I assume that’s a given and you’ll season it to your liking (just sayin’).

The reason I like Bittman is because he does keep things simple, and because the intros to his podcasts are oh-so-hilarious (seriously, you must watch them!)

So, when I heard that How To Cook Everything was coming to the iPhone as an app, it only took me 2.5 seconds to download the thing and start messing around with it.  For the introductory price of $1.99 (I know, I sound like some sort of corny infomercial) it really is quite the steal.  I read somewhere that the app encompasses all 2000+ recipes from the book, which in a sense seems like a terrible marketing idea, but could also be considered very shrewd.  For people who don’t already have the book, you’re potentially losing the customer base, but for ones like me who have the book but are lazy and like flashy, shiny things, we’ll buy it even though we already own the book anyway.

I test drove the app while making a few dinners last week, and it proved to be quite the workhorse.  On Wednesday night I made a version of pad Thai (though not the exact same as the one published as the NY Times Minimalist recently) that was only passable moreso because I had to make so many substitutions than owing to the character of his recipe.  To test it again a few days later, I made one of his streamlined tagines for Friday night supper.  One of the features of the app that I loved outright was the linkage within recipes to other variations on that theme.  Also, the easier to digest screen by screen separation of instructions make any challenge seem much less daunting.  Though I’ve since decided to leave pad Thai to professionals, we were quite taken with the chicken and chickpea tagine served alongside homemade wholewheat pita bread and will definitely be making it again.

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And He Made It All By Himself!

Roasted Tomato Soup

As I’ve mentioned before, I do 99% of the cooking at home.

But several years ago, I got fed up with this arrangement and inferred that the Everyman should cook at least one of our meals a week.

Don’t get me wrong.  Out of the 21 meals we typically eat weekly, I wouldn’t say I prepare all of them.  On the occasional night that I don’t feel like cooking, the Everyman will suggest ordering in rather than cooking anything himself.  Then there are times when we go out to dinner or brunch, at least one of which generally happens once or twice a month.  I don’t go out of my way to cook things for lunches, but I am the one who packs up all of the leftovers with extras in the morning.  To put it simply, I do quite a bit and sometimes the balance seems more than a little unfair.

For a while the Everyman was cooking dinner on a fairly regular basis, and we even christened Thursdays as “survive the Everyman’s cooking” nights, since he’s such a fan of Survivor.  But for the last 9 months or so he’s been taking night school, so these survival dinners fell by the wayside and were more often than not replaced by a suggestion of takeout.  Obviously, not the ideal situation for either of our health or waistlines, not to mention takeout can get boring really fast.

As of this week, the Everyman is finished with his night school courses, so I was only too eager to chide him into returning to this weekly slot in the kitchen.  After a few gentle prods he obliged, so I give you the inaugural meal from “survive the Everyman’s cooking” 2010: roasted tomato and garlic soup!

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You Win Some, You Lose Some

Briliant Gojis

Sometimes, you own the plants, and sometimes, the plants own you.

After nearly a month of exposure under the indoor lamps, some of my tiny seedlings are flourishing and others are struggling not to shrivel up and die.

One of the most surprising survivors is the goji berry plant pictured above, which has exploded with a riotous stand of sprouts from one tiny, wrinkly seed.

Conversely, many of my tomato seedlings have not been having a great go of it thus far.  You see, the problem with growing rare, heirloom plants is that they often aren’t as easy to germinate and when they do, they still have trouble maintaining their growth through to a viable stage.  Some people will tell you that these kinds of finicky plants were weeded out of our general food supply for a reason, but I like a challenge.  As such, last weekend I reseeded nearly 30% of the tomato varieties to make another attempt.  When I plant these heirloom seeds, I do plant several seeds to a pot, but after they sprouted the first time, I got overzealous and thinned them out before they’d actually developed their true leaves, after which many of them chose to spite me and die.

To hopefully speed up the process, I’ve installed several more lamps for the plants to provide something even closer to daylight for them.

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Turning Over A Greener Leaf

Sweetish Slaw

Here at Foodie And The Everyman, we’re always trying to find new ways to incorporate more healthy and environmentally responsible meals into our life.

Being virtuous ain’t easy though, and after a tough day at the office, mostly I just want to inhale a cupcake or a juicy steak.  Unfortunately, one can’t live on cake or steak alone, so every now and then I need to boost my vegetable intake to compensate for one too many edible indiscretions.

As part of that, I’ve recently adopted the idea of participating in Meatless Mondays at home.

Normally, my concept of meat-free eating is firmly rooted in either a tofu preparation, one of my hand-rolled vegetable pastas or occasionally a hearty soup.  And since the Everyman is allergic to nuts and won’t eat eggs or seafood, I am somewhat limited in the options available to me, so it seemed important to expand the vegetarian repertoire.  That it would be good for our health and also the planet are somewhat of an added bonus.

However, for the inaugural Meatless Monday, I had no tofu in the house, and I’d already packed pasta leftovers for our lunches, which meant that another pasta meal was out of the question.  Thus our first Meatless Monday supper would require a slightly more elegant solution.  After brainstorming for a little bit, I decided to concoct a veggie burger with homemade buns, mashed white beans, flax seed and piri piri sauce for a little bit of kick.  Once mixed together and grilled, the patties proved tender and delicious, if a little sloppy to eat.  Next time I’ll most definitely have to experiment with other ingredients to make the patties firmer.

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Shepherd, Meet Cottage Pie

Mega Pie

When I was a child, shepherd’s pie was one of several dishes that my dad could make relatively cheaply and easily, so it was one we had fairly often.

I’m not sure what it was about shepherd’s pie exactly, but for years I’ve mercilessly decried its very existence.  If I had to guess, I’d say it was likely the whole frozen pea/carrot/corn blend that caused me to hate it with a passion, because I’ve had too long and varied a love affair with mashed potatoes for them to be the cause.

That negative connotation stuck with me even after all of these years, and though the Everyman is quite a fan of shepherd’s pie (categorizing it as one of those dishes he never craves but whenever he ingests it he wonders why he doesn’t eat it more often) I have never so much as considered making one.

But, then I concocted that delectable chicken pot pie recipe.  And it got me thinking – why limit a shepherd’s pie filling to that sad, sloppy mess of frozen veggies and ground beef?  Having just recovered from a bout of food poisoning (where the only things I could ingest were mashed potatoes or peanut butter on toast) I had a gigantic bowl of creamy buttermilk mash left over but no semblance of a plan for what to do with it.

Before I knew it I was mentally mapping out a shepherd’s/cottage pie hybrid that had the filling of a chicken pot pie, but was topped with pillowy mash instead of golden puff pastry.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that having all that mash on top meant I should omit the chunks of potatoes from the filling and replace them with something else.  My pot pie recipe typically consists of a carrot, celery, pearl onion and potato blend, and having nothing else in the house I opted to just beef up the other quantities.  To make the hybrid version that much more complete though, next time I would replace the potatoes with those ubiquitous frozen peas and corn instead.

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Do The Math – Remembering The Hungry Years

Having spent a fair number of my formative years living on the meagre amount of support doled out by the government to my father, I can heartily sympathize and relate to the plight of people struggling to live off the small allotment for food on social assistance.  While many argue that allowing people on social assistance more money only encourages them to stay on aide longer, I believe there is something to be said for allowing the dignity of having a healthful, satisfying meal without automatically assuming that money is being funneled to drink or drugs, etc.

The Stop, one of Toronto’s foremost community advocates is currently promoting their Do The Math challenge, in which 10 high profile Toronto residents attempt to live on the contents of their standard 3 day emergency food hamper for as long as they possibly can.  You can read about the participants’ efforts on this blog, and also in this article by The Star’s Corey Mintz.

As someone who has lived at or below the poverty line at times I feel quite strongly about it, thus I urge you to check it out; hopefully it will be a stepping stone to bring about the seeds of change.

Until next time…

Dippity Do

Roasted Carrot Dip

My mother in law is the queen of the newspaper recipe.

Because they often have 3 of the 4 local papers in the house, it’s not unusual to find her kitchen at home or at the cottage littered with clippings of recipes she is longing to try.  She’s pretty open minded, but definitely has a soft spot for Lucy Waverman’s weekly column.  Generally speaking, I don’t usually find recipes for my kind of food in the paper (with the exception of Bittman, that is) so you can imagine my surprise when we all (myself included) immediately fell in love with a dip she’d cribbed from the paper over Christmas.

If I’m not mistaken, the original recipe was also a Waverman, but I can’t confirm because I’ve been unable to find it online.  The recipe in question was for a rather festive roasted red pepper and artichoke tapenade, made unique by the fact that it didn’t actually contain any olives.  I know, it’s technically not a tapenade without them, but I kind of think of it along the same lines as the universe basterdizing hummus.  At any rate, this tapenade was SO good that all of us spending Christmas at the cottage were hooked and slurping it up like crack.  Since then, I’ve regularly made it twice a month in 3 cup batches and find it as a welcome addition to a lunch basket.

However, while recently peeling and turning a 5 pound bag of carrots into sticks, I started to wonder what would happen if I started messing around with the proportions of veg in the recipe.  Before I knew it, I was steaming a handful of carrot sticks and collecting the rest of the ingredients I wanted to play with on the counter.  By the time I was done, the recipe bore little resemblance to the original, but still had the same raw, sweetly pungent bite that the roasted pepper variety had.  The lovely thing about the dip is that it gets better and better the longer it sits, as the flavours have time to meld.

Foodie’s Roasted Carrot Dip

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Have Foodie, Will Travel

Pirate Booty

I doubt it would surprise any of our readers to know that whenever I travel, one of my favourite things to do is seek out a local grocery store.

Regardless of whether I happen to be in another province (like our trip to Quebec City last year) or another country, I get an inordinate amount of pleasure out of rooting around to find out what other people like to eat.

Of course, our trip to Aruba last week was no different, so we headed to the store.  Being that it’s a Dutch island, it also happens to be influenced by a cuisine that is popular in Holland; Indonesian.  Thus, much of what I brought home has a slightly Asiatic tinge.

The various products I smuggled in my suitcase included Isinglass (which I think is some form of gelatin thread and according to the package is used in a drink called Irish Moss), something called Gourmet Powder (whose ingredients are salt and MSG), a small jar of sambal oolek, tiny dried shrimps, Pickapeppa sauce, Indonesian flavour paste (which I now think is boullion), tiny cups of something called Tamarindo en Vasil El Liberatador, a block of guava paste, and a massive whole nut Dairy Milk bar that my hungry self succumbed to while perusing duty free.  Also procured but not shown was a bottle of sipping tequila called Milagro, and several bottles of the elusive in Toronto (but utterly delicious) Godiva chocolate liqueur.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my haul yet, but all in all, I think it’s a pretty impressive stash.

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Lost In Paradise

Purple Toes

Today I had intended to regale you with stories about all of the fun the Everyman and I have been having (and noshing) while in Aruba during the past week.

However, because the charter company that flew us down to Aruba went out of business while we’ve been away, we were put onto another, later flight and are travelling today instead of yesterday.  I can hardly complain about an extra, mix-up imposed day in paradise though, can I?

Thus, I will leave you with a photo taken from my lounger.

It’s nice here, isn’t it?

Until next time…