Archive for July, 2010

Curiouser And Curiouser

Multicolour

One of the neat things about being a novice gardener is that I am constantly filled with wonder at the simplest things.

This pea plant us just one such instance.

As you can see, it has 4 separate blooms near the top, but for some odd reason (which you may not be able to clearly discern from the photo) the blooms themselves are several not all the same colour.  One of the blooms is fuchsia pink, while another is a royal purple, and yet a third is a light lilac.

For some reason this intrigues me to no end.  Here, a close up look at the lilac bloom.

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The Orca Bean

Orca

Quite possibly the strangest and most beautiful bean flowers I’ve ever seen.  It’s rare to see true black in nature, but this here is it.

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Mana’ From Rana

Manakeesh

Though I’d heard of the middle eastern spice mix za’atar many times before, it wasn’t until earlier this year that I truly started to see its potential.

Za’atar is a blend of spices generally comprised of sumac, toasted sesame seeds, thyme, cumin and salt, though recipes differ depending on where in the middle east they come from. Back when I was reviewing Good Food For All for Taste T.O. one of the dishes I sampled was a za’atar-spiked chicken burger, which (incidentally was fantastic) left me with a cupful of the blend to continue using afterwards.

But as much as I enjoyed using za’atar in western preparations, it wasn’t until a Lebanese friend educated me about her culture and food that I learned some of the ways that they would use it traditionally.  One afternoon when we ordered food from a Lebanese restaurant, I fell head over heels in love with a flatbread-like object called manakeesh.  Slathered with labneh and sprinkled with za’atar, it was a doughy delight unlike any I’d ever tasted before, sort of like a cross between a pizza and a toasted bagel slathered with cream cheese.  Ever since that moment I have craved these za’atar and labneh manakeesh on nearly a weekly basis, but the restaurant is a fair distance from my house.

But on Meatless Monday this week I decided I wanted to make something to accompany our asparagus, fig and parmagiano salad, and I happened to have a ball of my frozen pizza dough on hand, so I thawed it out and stretched it into a large round.  It didn’t take long to connect the dots and add the strained yogurt that I normally eat for breakfast and a liberal amount of za’atar to the unbaked pie.  A quick rest in the oven was all it took for it to get puffy and golden brown.  It wasn’t a purist’s manakeesh by any stretch of the imagination, but man, it was still freakin’ gold.

I think Rana would be proud.

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All The Flavours Of The Rainbow

The Flavour Thesaurus

When I was out the other day buying that ridiculously overpriced ice pop maker, I also happened to be in the neighbourhood of The Cookbook Store which was coincidentally just the place where I had a birthday gift certificate from my mother in law burning a hole in my wallet.

Knowing my habits fairly well, I have never allowed myself to set foot inside their store before.  Since I already own several hundred cookbooks (and counting) going here even semi-regularly would just be a really bad idea.  But, I had the gift certificate and I was in the area so I figured I might as well kill 2 birds with 1 stone, right?

Just as I suspected, The Cookbook Store was a beautifully curated room devoted to nothing but books on epicurean delights.  It was pure heaven for a food/print nerd like me.  After perusing the store languidly for nearly half an hour, I was in the unenviable position of finding way too many books to take home with me.  Standing firm, I decided that I would only choose 1.  Of course, I couldn’t decide which one it should be, so I put down the whole pile and begrudgingly prepared to leave.

Out of the corner of my eye I spied this colourful tome sitting atop a stacked table and hesitated.  After quickly paging through The Flavour Thesaurus I immediately knew that this was the book for me.  Aside from the vibrant colour wheel on the cover and the fuchsia-tinged pages, the concept of the book resonated with me.  Since I don’t often cook from actual recipes, being able to easily identify clever flavour pairings is right up my alley especially when they’re collected all in one handy reference place!

Author Niki Segnit divides the book into 16 central flavour profiles, such as woodland, marine, bramble & hedge, sulfurous, etc and then divides each group into several pertinent subsections (i.e. sulfurous contains cabbage, brussels sprouts, eggs, etc).  Each subsection then lists ingredients that pair well with the highlighted base foods in a manner reminiscent of a textbook entry.  Some suggestions, such as artichoke and lemon or broccoli and cheese will come as no surprise to even the most casual reader, but more subtle pairings such as anise and rhubarb and parsnip and banana definitely intrigued me.  Proving that the book is also on the pulse of the culinary world, the au courant chocolate bacon marriage gets a nod, too.

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This Novelty Will Not Wear Off

Zoku

It’s been hot in Toronto recently.

Not just h-o-t hot, either.  More like h-a-w-t exclamation point hot.  With the humidex, most days last week were hovering in the mid 40′s, which when I did a conversion for an American co-worker turned out to be about 109* F.  This is generally much warmer than we’re used to around here, so please excuse me while I bitch and moan about it a wee bit.

Anyway, all of that heat percolating around us demanded that I find a touch of sweet relief.  At first that meant hauling out the ice cream maker for a few churns (lemon blueberry and fig ice creams were the frosty scoops du jour) but after a few days something a little different was on my mind.

A while back I’d read a product review on Serious Eats for the Zoku Quick Pop Maker and at the time (I’ll be honest) the idea of it did nothing for me.  But, thanks to The Atlantic’s food channel and its spate of ice pop-related stories, the idea of crafting artisanal ice pops began to pervade my subconscious and gain a fair amount of traction.

Before I knew it, I was asking the Everyman (by way of justifying its potential existence in my already overstocked kitchen) if a machine that freezes ice pops in only 7 minutes was an unnecessary extravagance.  I should have known the answer before I even asked the question (in case you’re wondering, it was that may be the very definition of unnecessary extravagance) but after mulling it over for a few more days, I ended up buying one anyway.  They can be had by visiting your local Williams-Sonoma, though if you’re in Canada I would suggest hopping across the border to get one, because the exchange markup  is brutal.  Alternatively, you could just buy the old fashioned frozen pop makers, since they clearly also get the job done.

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See You (In September?)

Paradise

Hello, gentle readers of the internest!

As the primary contributor to Foodie and the Everyman, I wanted to inform you that I will be taking some much needed time off this summer to focus on gardening, reading and other things unrelated to either writing or food, and also just to generally try and sharpen my focus.

Occasional updates may still occur, but they likely won’t happen nearly as often as you’ve become accustomed to.  But trust me, when I have things to share, they will be good, I promise.

I might only be off for a few weeks, or I might hold out until the beginning of September.  Either way, just know that I will be coming back to check in on all of you soon.

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The Unsung Hero Of Saturday Morning Breakfasts Of Yore

Galette

There are a lot of things I don’t remember about my childhood.

The names of favourite candies, toys, friends and places, etc elude me, owing (I assume) to me having blocked out a fair number of memories after my parents got divorced.  Or maybe they just weren’t worth remembering… who can say?

At any rate, one thing I do remember is learning to make galette.  The provenance of said recipe is debatable depending on whether you ask me or my dad.  I seem to recall being gifted with it after going on one of those super boring but educational field trips that are all too common during your formative years; the ones where you learn how pioneers darned socks and churned butter, etc.  My dad, on the other hand, seems to think this recipe came about during the years I was in Brownies (the Canadian equivalent of the Girl Scouts and younger feeder group for the Girl Guides of Canada).  Both stories are plausible, but where the recipe comes from doesn’t really matter.

In either case, once my dad got hold of the recipe, it became a tradition in our small household, one that he also recalls from when he was a boy and my grandmother would make galette for her 12 hungry children.

Every Saturday morning hence, my dad would get up, put on his stovetop espresso pot and start to work on making galette.  The quick bread ingredients were all tossed together in a zippered plastic bag and then water was added to moisten them, then the bag was sealed and passed off to me for a good bit of kneading.  Once he thought the ingredients were suitably combined, the bag was turned inside out and the contents mooshed onto a foil lined cookie sheet.  After 20 minutes or so of me impatiently peering into the oven, he’d deem them to be ready, and I’d eagerly split mine apart, not minding that I was burning the tips of my fingers.  I’d generously cover both sides with margarine (the only thing my dad would keep in the house) or occasionally jam and then dig in until my belly was contented and full.

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I Can’t Believe I Made These With My Own 2 Hands

Butter

Now that I know how to make real croissants, the bakeries in my area may become obsolete.

Having never been to Paris before, I really had no idea how different a full butter, freshly baked croissant would taste, but having sampled my fair share now (and probably your fair share, too) I can honestly say they’re like night and day in comparison.  So much of what I’ve had to date has been greasy with a faintly bitter aftertaste.  I now know that’s probably because they were made with something colloquially known as rolling fat instead of good old fashioned butter.  Nothing says delicious like the words rolling fat, you know?

At the top are a tray of crescent shaped plain butter croissants, which I’ve been told (but have been unable to verify) in France that shape denotes an inferior product made with rolling fat instead of butter.  I guess they take their croissants pretty seriously over there.  Mine were just crescent shaped because I thought it was pretty.

Choccy

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