Archive for June, 2010

Peas Please

Pea Shell Pesto

I don’t like to see good food go to waste.

So whenever I buy some from my local farmer’s market or get a delivery from our farmshare, I’m always hyper aware of the imaginary ticking timer that hovers above all of our food.  Each and every time I open the fridge is a reminder to use it or lose it, which is probably as much a holdover from my hungry years as a desire not to be flippant with my finances.

Recently while shelling a few quarts of peas I thought it seemed like such a shame to throw away close to 80% of the veg (the pod) and thus decided to explore ways to repurpose them.

But the bag full of cleaned empty pods sat in the crisper of our fridge for a few days while I tried to work something out, taunting me with the possibility of spoilage daily.

And then it hit me… if I just steamed the empty pods a little, their fibrousness would break down enough to make friends with my high powered blender.

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Time Lapse

Potato Blossom

These pictures are now about a week old (whole lifetimes ago in garden time), but I’m posting them as part of a time lapse retrospective of this year’s garden.

West

In the west elevation above is the row of pea and bean plants, reaching for the sky.

South

The southern elevation plays host to my mixed potato and sunchoke garbage can, a large planter of baby lettuces, a fledgling pot of rainbow chard and myriad colourful beets.

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This One’s For You, Kid!

Japanese Cotton Cake

A favourite girlfriend from my office is in the middle of rather exuberantly expecting her first child right now.

And while I am sad that she will be leaving us at the end of this month, I was more than willing to use her departure as an excuse to shower her with well wishes and presents from the lot of us.  But man, keeping all of those bits and pieces in the air but still a secret for a few weeks sure was a ton of work!

Because she is special to me, I wanted to make sure that everything about the shower was just perfect, right down to the sugary confection I was planning to serve.  Not knowing her to be much of a dessert person though, I had to enlist the help of another kindly coworker to do a little low level industrial espionage in order to ascertain her preferences without sending up red flags.

The combination he reported back to me was cheesecake and pudding and I’ll admit, when he first ran it by me I was a little concerned about pregnancy cravings gone awry.  But, the more I thought about it, the more it started to come together into some semblance of a plan.

Since it’s summer, I decided not to do a traditional cheesecake, which is typically heavy (albeit creamily orgasmic) and a bit of a downer for a party scheduled right after lunch.  Instead I opted to make a Japanese (cotton) cheesecake, which is kind of like cheesecake and angel food’s awesome lovechild.  It’s puffy, light and airy, with a soft crumb and a pleasant hint of cream cheese that I envisioned would be well matched with a few of my homemade compote/jams.  To top it all off, I remembered a bottle of raspberry chocolate truffle creme that the Everyman had bought me around Mother’s Day that coincidentally had a texture similar to pudding, and thought that would make the guest of honor’s cheesecake complete.

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A Collaborative Effort

Veggie Risotto

Though it didn’t start out that way, this week’s Meatless Monday dinner ended up being an incongruous amalgamation of several ideas and recipes.

Firstly, I wanted something relatively quick that wouldn’t heat up the kitchen too much.  That immediately put my original plan of revisiting last week’s awesome potato salad out of the running because the spuds needed to be oven roasted.

Next, I considered peas because I’d spent all that time shucking 2 quarts of them on Sunday, so I might as well use them before they went bad.

From there my mind wandered to risotto, and initially settled on a light spring pea and parmagiano version.

But before long I started to recall the delightfully nutty braised fennel I’d made courtesy of a Serious Eats recipe (initially sampled for a pared down version of the pizza minus anisette cream, which by the way makes one outstanding pie!).

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Like Drinking A Mud Puddle

The Mud Puddle

It was a long weekend.

Between attending 2 separate (and unequivocally delicious) food festivals, on top of our usual weekendly chores, by Sunday night I was looking for a little liquid refreshment and a well deserved wind down.

While sitting at the dinner table shucking the 2 quarts of shell peas that I’d forgotten about in the fridge and enduring the sweltering heat from a pan of oven roasted veggies destined for stock, the Everyman offered to fix me a drink that would be good for what ailed me.  I didn’t know what I was in the mood for, so I just asked him to surprise me, something I’ve come to realize he is quite adept at.

The resulting cocktail was delicious, even if it did slightly look like I was drinking a mud puddle.  Honestly, I think that might be part of the appeal, though.

Moreover, I’m really quite starting to like this Domaine de Canton stuff.  Here’s hoping that the LCBO doesn’t delist it too soon.

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Tastycakes

Praline Buns

Lately it’s felt like the season of cakes around these parts.

Above, these scrumptious cinnamon and struesel-topped praline buns were an addictive favourite of mine.  You can top pretty much anything with struesel and I think I would eat it, though.

Sally Lunn Cake

There was also this Bath, England-born Sally Lunn cake.  It had a texture similar to poundcake, but an airier crumb and a dusting of sugar on top.  This one was spectacular with whipped cream and jam.

Nut-free Kugelhopf

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The Accidental Salad

Warm Salad

For Meatless Monday this week, the Everyman was out of town on business, but flying home late that night.

I promised him I would set a plate aside for him, so the obvious question became what could I make that would keep relatively well for an indeterminate period of time?

After pondering for a little bit, I recalled 2 things.  One was the warm potato salad that we both loved at last year’s Outstanding In The Field dinner and the other was a potato and bean salad that I tested while reviewing Earth To Table.  I couldn’t remember much about either, except that a) they were warm, b) they both contained potatoes and c) they came with light, yet creamy dressings.

Given that I was in no mood to excavate my way through the stacks of cookbooks in my house to find Earth To Table (you know you have too many books, when…) I decided to improvise.

Both dishes used fingerlings but I didn’t have any, so instead I cubed a few yukon golds and quartered some shallots and tossed them in some coffee olive oil, then roasted in the oven for an hour.  When they were getting close to being done I melted a little high milkfat artisan butter in a pan until it foamed, then quickly sauteed half a pound of chopped asparagus until it turned emerald, then left it to get slightly blistered and browned.  Removing the pan from the heat, I sprinkled close to half a cup of freshly shelled peas in and let the residual heat of the pan turn them bright green, too.  Next I combined all the veggies in a bowl and tossed with a simple white wine dijon vinaigrette made puckery tart by the addition of a splash of barley vinegar.

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Chutney Is A Tasty Sauce; You Can Have It With Your Poppadums Or With Your Main Course

Kitchen Sink Chutney

It occurred to me the other day that despite the fact that I’ve spent several years perfecting my doubles technique, I’ve never really given much thought to the condiment that fits so naturally with a double; the chutney.

For a long time, chutney was just a saccharine sauce to compliment curries, top a roast or become a sticky compote on which to rest a chunk of cheese.  So, after my most recent dinner of double-y goodness, I began to consider the idea of crafting my own chutney.  Not being a huge fan of mangoes though, I knew it would not be a chutney in the traditional sense, but rather a more interpretive version.

After much thought, what I came up with was a melding of the exotic and the everyday, combining the traditional mangoes with some spring rhubarb, a spare banana and several hibiscus flowers in syrup.

It might be light years away from what any self respecting Indian would consider chutney, but I think it suits my purposes perfectly.

Foodie’s Kitchen Sink Chutney

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The Gin-zing

The Gin-zing

This past Friday brought the first of a summer’s worth of shortened afternoons at my company.

One marked improvement over my past place of employment is the option of banking 2.5 hours during the week in order to leave 2.5 hours early each and every Friday June through September.  But since the Everyman and I commute together, last year I spent most of my afternoons off shopping, running errands or checking out the local farmer’s market until he finished work.

The first one this year was true to form.  After hightailing it over to the closest passport office to get myself renewed for an upcoming trip, I strolled back to the mall and made a pit stop at the LCBO.  I relish a trip to our province’s liquor control board as much as I do my rare jaunts to the grocery store.  Wandering aimlessly from aisle to aisle taking in the newest trends in libations, I often find myself getting inspired.  Since months can go by without a visit to the liquor store, nearly every time I go I find something new.

This time was no different.  Just north of the Vintages section in the cabinet full of premium spirits I found an interesting and new blend called Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur.  Encased in a stylized frosted bottle reminiscent of a thick stalk of bamboo, the spicy sweet liqueur was too unique to pass up.  I’m pretty sure Canton has been sold in the US for some time, but this is the first I’d ever seen or heard of it north of the border.  It didn’t take me long to decide that it should come home with me too, though it squeezed out the purchase of a bottle of 3 Olives Rootbeer Vodka due to space and upper body constraints.

Once home, the Everyman and I collaborated on a drink I’ve christened The Gin-zing because the ginger-based bevy has an unexpectedly flavourful kick.
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Sweets For My Sweet

Galub Jamun

We’ve had quite a few exotic sweets floating around our house lately.

Though I enjoy desserts quite a bit, I find that when I’ve spent so much time making them, I don’t have a taste for them once I’m done.  So, when an overage of pastries presents itself, I normally send the excess to work with the Everyman, which often makes him quite popular around the office.  Many a time he has taken the rest of a batch of cookies, brownies or bars to work after I’d satiated my desire for a serving or 2.

Pain au Raisin

In the last few weeks he’s had a few trays of pain au raisin, a pastry cream filled glazed raisin pastry (shown above).

Bombolini

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I’m Kind Of A Big Deal (I Kid, I Kid!)

Lame

Soooooooo…

On a weekend not too long ago, I was interviewed by Dakshana Bascaramurty for my take on the whole artisan bread in 5 minutes a day/no knead trend.  A few days after that happened, a photographer from The Globe & Mail showed up at my door to take pictures of me making bread for an hour while posing in all sorts of unnatural ways.  Because I’ve hated being photographed for a very long time (thanks to my Dad and his incessant cameras), I felt like I was incredibly unphotogenic that day.  So I was really glad when I saw that they decided to only use a picture of my hands kneading dough.  But what lovely hands they are (sic)!

Who’da thought I’d ever be on the other end of an interview?  Not me!  It’s really quite a strange feeling being on the non-inquisatory end.  Most of the time I sat there hoping I wasn’t making myself sound like an absolutely idiotic ass.  Now that I’ve read the story, I’m fairly comfortable that I didn’t, but I’m sure that some people will disagree.  Ah, well.  My opinion and a buck might get you a coffee these days, and being a free country, I’m entitled to it.

Anyhoo, if you’d like to check out the story, the article can be found here.  In case you were wondering, the baguette I decided to make for the shoot was a porky red fife number I invented myself.

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Prickled Pink

Prickled Pink

This past weekend while I was out and about, I happened to notice a wall of posters announcing the return of one of my favourite mixing tequilas to the Ontario liquor market.

Hornitos, which is made by the giant Sauza conglomerate is a better than average tequila that I fell in love with during my early 20′s.  Unfortunately, several years ago the LCBO delisted it, so the only way I’ve been able to stock our bar has been to bring a few bottles back whenever we go on vacation.  In a strange but unrelated coincidence, when we bought our condo back in 2007 our real estate agent (knowing I liked tequila) presented us with a bottle of Hornitos when we closed, though he’d had no clue what a fan I was of that particular variety.  I also brought some back from duty free when we were in Aruba, but I’m excited to know that I’m free to bring back some of the other stuff I’ve been after (the elderflower flavoured St Germain, for instance) when we go to the US this summer.

Since I didn’t have to be as cautious with rationing the Hornitos anymore, when the Everyman asked me if I would like him to fix me a drink yesterday, I asked him to see what he could cobble together using the Hornitos and some pomegranate elderflower sparkling water he’d purchased for me the other day.  The resultant cocktail is the faintly tinged, headily perfumed drink you see above.  It’s a silent but deadly mix that is just the ticket for sipping on a swelteringly hot day in the sun.  Be careful though, since they go down easy before you know it you could be dancing on a table.

The Prickled Pink

1.5 oz Hornitos tequila

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This White’s Alright

The White Stuff

Around this time last year I vaguely recall coming across Annemarie Conte’s glowing description of something called white barbecue sauce over on The NY Times Diner’s Journal that apparently “transforms chicken”.

I am nothing if not an equal opportunity barbecue fanatic, so at the time I eagerly filed it away under the yummy recipes bookmark folder I keep, and then proceeded to forget all about it for the next 9 months.

On Thursday morning, I was trying to decide what I wanted the Everyman to make for our weekly dinner ritual (having already mentioned the possibility of chicken when he asked me the day before) and for whatever reason, I woke up thinking about this white barbecue sauce.  I don’t know why; honestly, I hadn’t given the recipe even a passing thought since I read it last year, but all of a sudden, only the promise of white barbecued chicken would do.  I floated the idea by the Everyman and he seemed game, so I went about retrieving the recipe.

Of course, oddly enough when I went back to the bookmark, the see additional recipe section (which contained the actual white barbecue sauce recipe) was inexplicably missing.  The only recipe I had was for the brine the chicken soaks in, while the hyperlinks to the barbecue sauce recipe had completely disappeared.  Immediately, my heart sank.  After nearly half an hour dejectedly sifting through Google, I finally came across a cached version of the recipe, followed by the discovery of several other variations on the theme.  It was then that I learned that white barbecue is a regional style characteristic of Alabama, one that is distinctly different from the ketchup, mustard or vinegar-based barbecue sauces that people are generally more familiar with from regions of their own around the south.  Sensing that there was no one true recipe, I decided to amalgamate several recipes that looked good into one and hope for the best once it was all done.

That night, the Everyman soaked a package of meaty chicken legs in Conte’s suggested brine, while I offered to tinker with the sauce.  After a few additions and taste tests, I arrived at a white sauce that was rich, tangy, creamy and fairly spicy that was unlike anything I’d ever tasted before.  At that point I knew we were on to something.  After our meat had marinated a bit, the Everyman threw the brined legs on the barbecue and cooked them until they achieved a nicely crisped and crackled crust.  Pulling the chicken legs off the heat, I immediately dunked them into the white sauce and went in for the taste test.

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