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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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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