Archive for the ‘Preservation’ Category

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.


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


Panino Sinestro (Or, I Give You The ‘Nduja Burger)

'Nduja Burger

Ever since I made ‘nduja back at the beginning of May I’ve been playing the waiting game while it fermented, cured and hung in my kitchen window, taunting me.

During that time my friends Larbo and Scott of This Little Piggy and The Sausage Debauchery (respectively) have been churning out all kinds of wondrous delights made with their versions of the piquant spread while I’ve been quietly biding my time.  In fact, Larbo’s probably been the most prolific, creating ‘nduja di bufala, ‘nduja pate and most recently an ‘nduja mortadella to make us all jealous and drooling.  Once I work through some of my own ‘nduja reserves I fully intend to build on his pate idea, but for now I’m holding those cards close to the chest.  Lest you think that Scott’s some sort of slouch, let me tip my hat to him for single-handedly starting up a mail order business to bring ‘nduja-making supplies (and other imported Italian goodies) to the masses.  As you can see, our combined aim is to completely blanket the planet in ‘nduja fever!


In an attempt to keep mine somewhat traditional, I’d let the ‘nduja hang for as close to the year I’d originally intended as I could possibly wait.  Some of it will surely see a 1 year anniversary since my first attempt was a double batch, leaving me with close to 6 kg of ‘nduja hanging around waiting for inconspicuous consumption and culinary inspiration to strike.

This very weekend was the first time since I stuffed the ‘nduja that I’d had an occasion to cut down a finished link and give a taste, and words cannot express how truly excited I was.


Larding The Pantry

Pure As The Driven Snow

As some of you may recall, late last year I embarked on an attempt to cure my own prosciutto.

And now, as the first stage of that nearly 2 year process draws to a close, we’ve come to one of the more time-consuming and arduous tasks.

Having been rested in a salt and herb coat for quite some time now, the prosciutto is nearly ready to be smeared with a mixture of lard and black pepper and hung to be aged until it’s magically delicious.

Of course, to get to that point, one has to have a fair amount of lard.

Lucky for me I bought half a pig last summer, which came with its own lion’s share of fat.  As you may know, fat can eventually be rendered down into lard.


Lookin’ For Some Hot Stuff (Baby) This Evening, I Need Some Hot Stuff (Baby) Tonight

Eye-searing Paste

I’ve always loved hot sauce.


From the way I used to rain Tabasco down on just about everything I cooked, to my bizarre desire for sriracha on ice cream, it’s clear that hot sauce holds a warm place in my heart.


When Life Gives You Green Tomatoes…

Salsa Verde

For close to a month now, I’ve been patiently waiting for Indian summer to set in.

I’ve optimistically/delusionally put off closing up the garden in the hopes that some unseasonably warm weather would drop by and bring the masses of tomatoes on my vines to fruition.

But, with the Everyman and I leaving for a week’s vacation at the cottage, it appeared I would have no such luck, so rather than hoping for the best while we were away and potentially losing all of the tomatoes to frost, I sucked it up and stripped the plants bare over the weekend.

The damage?


Meatycake, Meatycake, Butcher Man


Day by day, it’s getting colder and colder, and becoming more and more apparent that summer is long gone.  With that shift in seasons, we spend a little less time cooking outside on the grill, and a little more time indoors baking, braising and stewing, etc.

One of the indicators that typically signals the arrival of fall for me is my willingness to spend time making homemade stock.  Such a steamy, sweaty endeavour would be out of the question during the dog days of summer, but in the fall when days are brisker and nights hold a chill, warming the air with rich, meaty scents sounds like a wonderful, reflective idea.  It also happens to appeal to my waste-not-want-not mentality.  Each time I make stock, I continually marvel at the amount of flavour you can extract from little more than kitchen scraps.  And with such a small amount of effort, you can improve just about every dish you add it to.  Bored of rice?  Simmer it in stock.  Making mashed potatoes?  Boil those in stock first, too.  Deglazing pan juices?  Stock can do that.  In just about any cooking application where you would use water or wine, stock makes a flavourful stand-in.

But, before we get to the meat of the matter, a few “suggestions” about making stock that will make life a little easier.

1) Be organic – I try to buy as much organic food as possible, mostly because I think it tastes better, but also because it’s better for me and the environment.  I usually try not to preach to others about why they should too, because I understand that some things about food are very personal matters.  In this case I’m breaking my rule, though.  If at all possible, try to use organic food to make your stock.  With something as simple and elemental as boiled bones and veg, imperfections easily come through, so starting with the best product possible will automatically put you ahead.

2) Save, save, save – If you roasted a chicken, save that cleaned carcass in a ziploc bag in the freezer.  Once you’ve amassed a few, you’ll be well on your way to a flavourful stock.  And don’t hesitate to add vegetable trimmings to the bag either, as long as they’re cleaned first.  Carrot peels, onion skins and celery leaves all make great additions to a stock base.


Time For The Feats Of Strength (And Meat) And Fortitude


I’ll be the first to admit that my family does have some rather odd traditions.

For instance, when my sister and I each left the proverbial nest, we’d invariably guilt my mom (a now-retired professional chef) into making our favourite Trinidadian delicacies whenever she’d pop by for a visit, which in my case meant the labour-intensive but delicious dhalpouri roti.  Or on my dad’s side of the family, there’s a yearly Kris Kringle exchange that is more like ultimate gift fighting, with the intent being to steal as many gifts from the people who want them as possible.

Of course, this is nothing in comparison to the Everyman’s family’s tradition of celebrating Festivus “feats of strength” more often than I care to remember.

The Raw (Literally) Ingredients


We Can Rebuild It; We Have The Technology

Choco-Rosemary Bacon

That niggling chill in the air meant that yesterday morning I pulled the final mini slab of vanilla pink peppercorn bacon out of the freezer after I’d used the last thawed bits in a crockpot of fall-appropriate baked beans.

Thus, it seemed like as good a time as any to get started on my next batch of bacon.  Since bacon requires a 7 to 10 day lead time before you have finished product, it was imperative that I get it curing, lest I run out of delectable home-cured porkiness.

Magical Ingredients

While considering the next methods of flavouring, it occurred to me that I hadn’t yet gotten on Scott and Larbo’s choco-bacon train (though I’ve been meaning to).  Being a rabid consumer of my chocolate-covered guanciale toffee, I knew there was serious potential in the choco-bacon combo, but I wanted something more.  Leave it to me to prove that nothing exceeds like excess.  Recalling a dessert that I love at one of our favourite local haunts (Czehoski) formed the basis for this inspiration.  The chef there makes a rich and melty chocolate ganache flavoured with rosemary that is out of this world, so my mind immediately thought chocolate + bacon = good and chocolate + rosemary = also good, therefore chocolate + rosemary + bacon must = out of this world good.  And of course because I never do anything by half measures, it also occurred to me that a little pure Ontarian maple syrup might not be a bad idea either.


Snatchy Snatchy

Just One Of The Two Bushels

As nothing more than an honorary Italian, I decided some time over the course of the summer that this year I wasn’t going to “do the tomatoes”.

We still had plenty of canned whole romas and sauce from last year, and the bruschetta recipe I’d canned turned out to be one big, mushy failure, so it didn’t seem necessary to go through all of that dirty, steamy work again this fall.  But, as with all of my best laid plans, more exuberant intentions got firmly in the way.

And so, that was how on the 1st of October I found myself reaching out to every resource I could for advice on where to procure a few bushels of roma tomatoes.  The time of year coupled with our supremely awful growing season left me with some pretty slim pickins’.  Even my old standby, Fiesta Farms was completely sold out of their cache of bushels, with every grocery store I contacted between here and Mississauga all but laughing at me.  One gentleman from Highland Farms was particularly morose, simply stating the the tomatoes were all done, in a manner similar to one used to inform someone of a death in the family.

But, nobody can ever say I do things by half measures.

Wracking my brain for alternatives, I remembered the many organic grocers we’d tested out prior to settling on Bob a few years back.  After a few more calls, I found that Front Door Organics had two bushels of organic local tomatoes left, and in that moment I decided I was taking all of them.  Last year I processed close to 150 pounds of tomatoes.  This year, I was going to have to make due with 40.  Of course, the one catch to the situation was that in order to buy the bushels, I had to order one of their weekly “fresh boxes”, because you can add to an order, but a fresh box is mandatory.  Total cost for 2 bushels of tomatoes plus a fresh box?  Just slightly above $100.  However, I was only personally using 32 of the 40 pounds of tomatoes, and the fresh box replaced my weekly jaunt to the farmer’s market, so the actual cost for 32 pounds was $55.  Still steeper than last year’s $15/bushel, but these were organic tomatoes, and it was the end of the season, so I’m sure the price was reflective of supply and demand.


A Figgy Trifecta


A few days ago, I kindly coerced the Everyman into taking me over to Fiesta Farms after work.

Aside from being a really beautiful, locally-focused grocery store, it’s invariably the place I turn to when I’m in need of large quantities of foods that Italians tend to be passionate about.  For instance, a few of the bushels of tomatoes that I canned and sauced last year were procured from their garden centre.

Plump, Fresh Kadotas

On this particular visit, I was in search of a flat of figs.  You see, this past weekend I was standing in front of my shelf full of canned edibles in the sunroom, admiring my handiwork when I realized I was down to my last two 4 ounce jars of fig jam.  Horrors!  I’ve been making fig jam for several years now, but the Everyman’s relatives are such fans of it (being the lovers of cheese that they are) that inevitably I end up gifting at least half a batch to them each time it’s made.


A Stroke Of Luck

Textured Jam

Just when I’d all but given up on ever finding a real live elderberry in the flesh, wouldn’t you know my favourite stand at the farmer’s market started selling them by the tubful?

Of course, since I intentionally go to the farmer’s market each Saturday with only a specified amount of cash on hand, (usually $40-$50) thus ensuring I don’t purchase more than we can possibly eat in a week, I would have to slightly alter my plans if I wanted those berries.

I couldn’t possibly forgo the succulent yellow watermelons ($4) we’ve become so accustomed to eating for breakfast, nor could I deny myself the joys of heirloom cherry tomatoes ($10).  The melon lady suckered me into buying some of her corn ($4), but the Everyman had told me he didn’t care for the mixed greens ($7) and sunflower sprouts ($5) from the the salad ladies, so they were cut out.  With the tomatoes came a basket of beans ($4), which left me with exactly $21.  2 litres of elderberries ($11) and one pint of strawberries ($6) later, my carry bag and purse were filled to the brim and I only had $4 left.  I knew I didn’t have quite enough strawberries to round out my breakfasts for the week, but it did not occur to me until I was on the way home to trade up to the 2 for $10 berry baskets rather than taking the one for $6.

Crushed Berries


Culinary Recycling

2nd Gen Pickles

A while back I read about an interesting idea over on Grant’s blog, Charcuterie Sundays.

It had to do with the potential inherent in re-using a pickling liquid over and over again so that it would end up resembling a complex melange of flavours, similar to a 100 year old sourdough starter.  I’ve pretty much bastardized the retelling of his intent, so if you’d like, you can check it out word for word here.  I didn’t realize exactly how long ago it had been until I went to look for it…

This is an idea I’ve toyed with before, particularly last year after I’d made a batch of gherkins and had a fair bit of brine left over.  I threw together a bunch of mixed veg (carrots, cauliflower and broccoli) and started poured over the steaming hot brine.  I probably would’ve had something really awesome if I weren’t for the white, wriggly caterpillars that took that opportunity to disengage from wherever they were hiding in the nooks and crannies of my CSA share cauliflower.  Being somewhat squeamish about bugs, I tossed out the whole batch without even getting the chance to test drive the recycled brine idea, but I swore that the next time I made pickles, I would do just that.

Harvested Celery