Saturday, 30 June 2007

Peas & Radish Salad

I bought some rather enormous radishes at the farmers market today. I thought they were some kind of exotic beet when I first saw them. In general, it isn't a good idea to get such huge radishes - like strawberries, they are better small. However, although one or two of these were spongy inside, at least none of them were woody. And they were most impressive! I also bought something I have not seen before; fresh but already shelled peas. Not sure what I think of them. They were better than frozen, for sure, but I did not think them quite as good as those I shell myself. Next time I make this salad, I think I would like the radishes and carrot chopped more finely than I did.

4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Peas & Radish SaladSalad:
2 cups (450 grams) fresh, shelled peas
12 large radishes (I used 7 humongous ones)
1 small carrot
1 leaf of red cabbage

Rinse the peas well (if you have purchased them already shelled) and put them in a pot with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain in a colander, and run cold water over them until they are cool. Drain well.

Wash, trim and slice the radishes. Peel and chop the carrot finely, and wash and shred the leaf of red cabbage. Mix the vegetables together.

Dressing:
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill leaves
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns

Mix the dill, buttermilk and mayonnaise in a small bowl. Grind the salt and celery seed together, then add the black peppercorns and grind them as well. Add the seasonings to the dressing. Mix well then mix the dressing into the salad.

Beets in Mint-Anise Dressing

Lively flavours go well with the earthy sweetness of beets.

2 to 4 servings
1 hour - 15 minutes prep time

1 large beet (250 grams)

Boil the beet until tender, about 45 minutes. Let cool and peel. This can be done anywhere up to a week in advance. Keep well wrapped and chilled in the fridge until wanted.

Dressing:
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh mint
1/4 teaspoon anise seed
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix the lemon juice and honey. Add the very finely minced fresh mint. Grind the anise and salt together, and mix in. Marinate the beet in the dressing for 1 hour to overnight. Serve cold, on a bed of lettuce.

A Visit to Cambridge Farmers Market

Well for once no plans for the morning, and we got out of bed at a passably decent hour. I made a list and we headed out to the Cambridge Farmers Market.

This is the first time we have been since they started building a monstrously ugly and as far as I can see completely unneccesary city hall right next to the market, losing about 3/4 of the parking and the same amount of the charm as it is now much harder to see the older buildings. My impression is that the attendance is down by a lot. Although, it is a long weekend so who knows.

The original market building is quite attractive, although most of the action is outside.

Another angle.

Inside there are a lot of meat vendors, as well as a very popular cheese stand, where I got some lovely 2 year old cheddar. There are a couple of bakeries, but one is a chain from Toronto. The other is a British bakery, with a sincere dedication to the white, bland and pasty - it doesn't make me sorry to have to pass it by. Eggs at the far end, as well as Southern Charm Poultry, which carries an impressive range. Look here for ducks, quails, and "capon sized" chickens.*

As well as the cheese, we got some eggs, but as I said, most of the action was outside. We bought some of these beautiful cauliflowers and broccoli, the first of the season.

And a flat of strawberries, probably the last of the season. However, cherries, raspberries and currants are poised to take their place.


The haul. Oh boy, that looks good. Peas... cherries... spinach... mutant radishes... there are some carrots buried back in there too, also the first of the season. I found some basil (but alas no mint, parsley or dill.) Look for these goodies coming soon to a food blog near you!


*Some of our food-labelling rules are mighty stupid.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Roasted Lamb Chops

My sweetie-pie came up with these when, believe it or not, he was too lazy to sit and watch a panful of lamb chops cook. Imagine my annoyance when they turned out to have been even better than if he had hovered over them. These chops, by the way, are some of our delicious lamb from Meeting Place Organic Farm.

2 servings
30 minutes - 5 minutes prep time

Roasted Organic Lamb Chops4 medium lamb chops
1 teaspoon coarse sea-salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Your lamb chops should be removed from the fridge enough before you cook them, that they warm up to a coolish room temperature - they should not be deeply chilled. Crush the salt and pepper together, and season the chops on both sides. Place the chops in a cast iron skillet, on their edges with the fatty sides down. Use them to prop each other up. Cover loosely with foil.* Roast for 12 to 15 minutes, then put the prepared pan of gnocchi and asparagus into the oven, assuming you are making them as well. At any rate, remove the foil from the chops at this time.

Continue roasting for another 5 to 7 minutes; i.e remove the chops from the oven when you turn over the asparagus. Let sit in the pan for another 5 or 6 minutes to rest while the asparagus and gnocchi finish.

I suppose I should mention that I didn't use seasonal Ontario salt for this; I used a French sea-salt, which I must confess I love for use with meats, or anything where the salt maintains a certain prominence.


*You don't have to cover with foil: it's better for the chops not to cover them, but to let them brown. However, it is better for the state of your oven to cover them. Your call.

Roasted Gnocchi & Asparagus

For some reason, I have been thinking of gnocchi lately. A little research revealed that they are best made with old potatoes - hurrah! An excellent use for the last bag of potatoes I bought, which are plainly no spring chickens, so to speak - the new crop will begin to appear within the month. I try not to eat wheat though, as it makes me break out into a rash. Hence the hunt for a different flour. These, I thought, were fair to good, being tender, if a little plain and with a distinct taste of barley to them. Fine with me; I like barley. I roasted half of them; the rest have been put in the fridge for another occasion. They look like they should keep for a day quite well.

2 servings of asparagus; 4 servings on gnocchi
1 hour 15 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Roasted Barley Gnocchi with AsparagusPotato & Barley Gnocchi:
500 grams old starchy potatoes (3 large)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup potato starch
1 cup barley flour

Bake the potatoes at 375°F until tender, about 45 minutes.

Let cool a few minutes, but as soon as they can be handled, peel them and put them through a food-mill. Alternatively, they can be grated or mashed.

Mix in the salt. Mix in the two flours, then turn out and knead until well amalgamated. Don't over-do it. These will not develop the sticky, bouncy quality of gnocchi made with wheat, so use a melonballer or spoon to form dumplings, and treat them gently.

Boil in plenty of salted water. Once they float to the surface, boil for two minutes more, then remove them with a strainer. They can be served with sauce now, or incorporated into roasted or sautéed dishes.

Final Assembly:
500 grams asparagus
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Wash the asparagus and break off the tough ends. Drizzle the olive oil in a large roasting pan. Gently toss in the asparagus and the boiled gnocchi. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.

Roast at 450°F for 12 to 14 minutes, turning the asparagus once in the middle.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Sydney Smith's Salad (Dressing)

"To make this condiment, your poet begs
The powdered yellow of two hard-boiled eggs;
Two boiled potatoes, passed through the kitchen sieve,
Smoothness and softness to the salad give;
Let onions atoms lurk within the bowl,
And, half suspected, animate the whole;
Of mordant mustard, add a single spoon;
Distrust the condiment that bites so soon;
But, deem it not, thou man of herbs, a fault
To add a double quantity of salt;
Four times the spoon with oil from Lucca crown,
And twice with vinegar, procured from town;
And lastly, o'er the flavoured compound toss
A magic soupcon of anchovy sauce.
O, green and glorious! O, herbaceous treat!
'Twould tempt the dying anchorite to eat;
Back to the world he'd turn his fleeting soul,
And plunge his fingers in the salad bowl;
Serenely full, the epicure would say,
"Fate cannot harm me, I have dined to-day.""

Sydney Smith, 1839

This is probably one of the most famous recipes ever written; but no-one ever seems to make it. I decided I would give it a go. The instructions are poetically vague; so how like this is to the original Victorian result, I do not know.

How big are "two boiled potatoes?" Two tablespoons? Two cups? Let us not even consider the vexed question of what type of potato. I used a pretty standard supermarket potato, but in general, I would say they should be on the starchy side, rather than waxy.

At any rate, here is what I came up with. It's not bad; however the verdict is that we DO deem it a fault "to add a double quantity of salt", especially if that soupçon of anchovy sauce is of any higher dosage than a homeopathic remedy. (I suspect that if I were English, I would know exactly what is meant by anchovy sauce, right down to being able to purchase the same brand as used by the Reverend Dr. Smith. Since I could not find anything by that name in Zehrs, I settled for a little anchovy paste.) At any rate, the salt could be cut in half quite easily.

There's a certain amount of speculation out there that this should be mayonnaise-like, but it isn't; at least mine wasn't. Perhaps it might have been if I had beaten it with an electric mixer, which I was tempted to do, but I refrained on the grounds that the good reverend certainly did not. I took the injunction to "plunge (...) fingers in the salad bowl" quite literally, and so served it with an assortment of whole lettuce leaves, which we then smeared with a little dressing, and topped with chopped-up egg white (where'd that come from?) and parsley.

There is some left over, so I shall try it next as a more standard dressing, tossed with torn up greens.

4-6 servings
45 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Sydney Smith's Salad Dressing from the poem2 egg yolks, from hard boiled eggs
1/4 cup mashed boiled potato
1 tbsp minced onion
½ teaspoon hot mustard (I used Colman's)
1 teaspoon salt (or, I suggest, less)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
anchovy sauce - I used 1/4 inch of anchovy paste from a tube

Your hard-boiled egg yolks and potato should be cool, so have them cooked in advance. Press the egg yolks and potato through a quite fine sieve. (Mine was not very fine, and the texture was not as smooth as it should have been, I don't think, even after quite vigorous whisking.)

Add the onion very finely minced - or chives would be good instead- the mustard, salt, olive oil and vinegar. Whisk well until smooth. Taste and add a little anchovy sauce or paste, if you like.

I arrived at the amount of potato, by adding as much as would absorb the oil, without making the dressing stiff. I suspect this is indeed the aim, and you may wish to add the potato last, whisking as you go, and adjust the amount as needed.

I expect it to keep, well covered, for a day in the fridge. It does tend to separate, so just give it a stir before serving.

Addendum:

Sydney Smith's Salad Dressing from the poem, tossed

A little stiff for tossing, and absolutely: less salt required. Actually, I thinned it with a little water to make tossing easier. Still, an enjoyable lunch.

Strawberries with Sour Cream & Sucanat

Honestly, yes. This is a recipe. And a very fine one too, if you use very fine strawberries, very fine sour cream, and Sucanat, which is far better than regular brown sugar.

1 serving
10 minutes prep time

Strawberries with Sour Cream & Sucanat (Brown Sugar)strawberries; about a cup, say
2 tablespoons sour cream, more or less
1 teaspoon Sucanat, or to taste

Rinse, hull and cut in half the quantity of strawberries that you propose to eat. Top with sour cream and a sprinkle of Sucanat.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Birchermeusli

Okay, it's happened. It's too darn hot for cooked oatmeal. Here's an alternative. This particular batch was made with strawberries and an Empire apple.

2 to 3 servings
20 minutes prep time

Birchermeusli (Bircher Meusli)1 cup yogurt
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup rolled oats (quick cook are probably the best for this)

2 cups mixed berries
1 large apple, washed and grated
sweetener if desired

Mix the yogurt, water, lemon juice and rolled oats.

Prepare the fruit: if using strawberries; rinse, hull and slice; if using other berries a quick rinse and pick-over will be enough. Wash the apple and grate it with the peel. Mix the fruit into the meusli.

This can be made the night before and kept covered in the fridge. Serve it with a little cream and sucanat, if desired. If you like a sweeter breakfast, or if your fruit is rather on the tart side, you may wish to add a little honey, maple syrup or sugar to the meusli. Nuts or sunflower seeds are also a popular addition.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Devilled Eggs with Smoked Paprika

One of our favourite summer meals consists of devilled eggs, potato salad and a tossed green salad.

12 half eggs
30 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Devilled Eggs with Smoked PaprikaBoiled eggs:
6 large eggs
1 tablespoon salt

You know how to boil eggs, don't you? I thought I did, but I have learned some new (to me) tricks to make it easier and to not end up with cracked, leaky eggs that won't peel.

First, get your eggs to roomish temperature, either by taking them out of the fridge 20 minutes before you cook them, or what I always end up doing which is to cover them in warm tap water for 5 minutes.

Then put them in a not-too-large pot with cold water to cover. Add the tablespoon of salt - this will make them much easier to peel, it really will. And no, they don't seem to absorb much, if any. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 8 minutes. Alternatively, let them boil for a minute, then turn them off. Leave them on the stove, covered, for 12 minutes. Drain and cover with cold water until cool enough to work with.

Filling:
3 tablespoons mayonnaise (light is fine)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika

Once peeled, cut the eggs in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks to a small bowl. Mix in the mayonnaise, salt, mustard and paprika until smooth. Scoop back into the half eggs using a 1" melonballer. Chill until serving time.

Horseradish Potato Salad

A great summer meal when served with devilled eggs and a tossed green salad. You will likely need to check the amount of horseradish; it varies considerably in strength depending on brand and freshness. This recipe is an adaptation of one published by Epicurious.

8 servings
45 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

8 cups diced boiled potatoes

1/3 cup light mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup minced parsley
1/4 cup minced chives
3 or 4 tablespoons horseradish
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed

Wash and dice the potatoes, and cook until tender. Rinse them in cold water until cool if using at once and then drain them, or drain well, let cool for five minutes and store, covered, in the fridge until wanted.

Mix the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, and then mix in the potatoes.

Oatmeal Cooked in a Rice Cooker

Well, the last few days have been an endless blur of eating out, partly for pleasure and partly for duty. The one thing that has been constant has been that we have our morning oatmeal! We probably eat oatmeal 350 mornings a year, or pretty close. Sometimes I feel like a change and sometimes it gets too darn hot. But right now, this is what we do...

2 large servings
20 minutes - 2 minutes prep time

Oatmeal Cooked in a Rice Cooker
1 cup oatmeal
pinch of salt
2 cups water

Put in rice cooker. Turn on. When the rice cooker turns off, let sit 5 minutes before stirring well and serving, with the toppings of your choice - raisins and rice milk for us. Use the cooking period to wash and get dressed, or otherwise prepare to face the day.

Rough, eh? I feel the need to say more about this: this is just the start. You can add fruit; fresh or dried. You can boost it with bran or flax seed, although I usually just sprinkle a little flax seed over the top when I am serving it. If you want nuts, I think they are better added afterwards as well - keep them crunchy.

Also, note that in general our rice cooker doesn't work well with less than 1 cup raw grain. You can make it work down to 3/4 cup, but add a little extra water. Lower than that and I cannot guarantee results.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Spinach & Strawberry Salad with Buttered Almonds

Crisp, sweet-tart and refreshing.

4 servings as a side salad
30 minutes prep time

Dressing:
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons almond or hazelnut oil
1 teaspoon tamari or soy sauce

Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl or jar.

Salad:
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds

4 to 6 cups prepared young tender spinach leaves
2 cups strawberries
black pepper to finish

Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a small skillet, and add the almonds. Toast, stirring constantly, until the almonds are a nice golden brown. Remove at once to a dish lined with a paper towel to cool. Set aside.

Wash, pick over and dry the spinach leaves. Rinse the strawberries, hull and slice them. Arrange the spinach on serving dishes and arrange the strawberries over the spinach. Sprinkle with the almonds. Drizzle the dressing over the salads, and finish with a grind of black pepper.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Pasta with Mushrooms, Bacon & Onion

And ham. Although I threw that in mainly because it was kicking around in the fridge, looking sad, lonely and a bit old. You could just up the bacon quotient, if you liked. Can you tell that when I don't know what to make for dinner, I make pasta?

2 or 3 servings
20 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

Pasta with Mushrooms, Bacon, Ham and Onions - Farfalle Pasta
250 grams farfalle pasta
1 large onion
4 cups quartered button mushrooms
4 slices good, lean bacon
4 slices good lunch ham
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns, coarsely crushed

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil, and when it boils add the pasta and cook until tender.

Meanwhile, peel and chop the onion. Clean and quarter the mushrooms. Chop the bacon, and the ham, but keep them separate. Mince the parsley and crush the pepper.

When the pasta has been added to the boiling water, turn on the stove under a large skillet. Add the bacon, and as soon as it begins to cook add the onions and mushrooms. Sauté gently, stirring often, until all are cooked and well amalgamated. I had to add a little oil as my bacon was very lean, but only do this if everything looks like sticking to the pan.

A minute or two before the pasta is done, stir in the ham.

Drain the pasta when it is done, and return it to the pot. Mix in the hot cooked meat and mushroom mixture, and stir in the parsley.

Strawberries in Mint Syrup

This might be nice served with little sponge cakes to soak up the syrup, and a dab of whipped cream, but it's good as-is too. And what do you think about a tablespoon of rum?

4 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Strawberries in Mint Syrup1/2 cup torn up mint leaves
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar

1 quart fresh strawberries

Strip the mint leaves from the stems, and tear them roughly. Measure 1/2 cup, firmly packed. Put them in a small pot with the water and sugar.

Bring to a simmer and simmer for 1 or two minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, and let sit while you prepare the strawberries.

Rinse and drain the strawberries, and hull them. Cut them in halves, or slices if they are large. Put them in a serving dish, and strain the mint syrup over them, pressing the mint leaves lightly to extract it all. Cover and chill for 1 hour (or a little more is okay) before serving.

A Report From The (Strawberry) Field

We got up at an ungodly hour this morning (8:00 am!) and headed out to a local pick-your-own strawberry farm. We had heard at the farmers market (oh, 'scuse me. They're calling it the "Saturday Market" these days, 'cuz they can't round up many actual, you know, farmers) that the strawberry crop this year is dismal. It was certainly confirmed when we visited the farm.

For the first time in 29 years of farming strawberries, this farmer has been having trouble with grubs eating his plants. Apparently, last summer he noticed his plants wilting. He irrigated, but this did not really improve the situation, so he pulled out some plants, and discovered that the roots were being eaten by grubs. He speculates that the winters have not been cold enough recently to kill a large number of the grubs and keep them from being a major pest. Add in a late cold spring, followed by instant heat wave and drought and, well, it's not a pretty picture. He doesn't expect to be open for more than a few days more - just a little past half his usual picking season of 25 days. Even now in what should be the peak of the season, we had to pick three long rows to get about 9 pounds.*

Not surprisingly, the farmer is thinking of retiring. After all, he's been at it for just about 30 years, and this is hardly worth the effort. I'll be sorry, though. I've liked going to this farm. It's close, and although it isn't organic, the farmer takes a minimalist approach to the application of chemicals. Also, he provided me with one of my favourite food quotes of all time, when he told us a few years back, "The big strawberries are in this field - the good strawberries are in that field." Obviously, a man who knows his berries, even if he also knows that there are a lot of people out there who will go for instant gratification over quality. Unfortunately, I think the plants he are growing now are just the big ones. It's hard to say, because thanks to the lousy weather, they were not that big.





* Just for fun, I worked it out. The difference between buying ready-picked and pick-your-own worked out to a "pay" rate of about $4.25 per hour, each. Which isn't why we go, of course. But still, interesting...

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Peas, Pasta & Bacon Salad

This is at its best in June and July when you can get tender young fresh peas, but it is pretty decent all year round made with frozen peas.

4 servings
30 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Peas, Pasta & Bacon Salad
250 grams pasta shells or macaroni
1/2 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
1 teaspoon dried mint
1/4 teaspoon cumin seed
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
3 stalks of celery
2 cups shelled peas
250 grams sliced bacon

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water.

Meanwhile, put the mayonnaise into a mixing bowl and add the mint. Grind the cumin seed, celery seed and pepper, and add to the mayonnaise.

Wash, trim and chop the celery fairly finely, and add to the mayonnaise.

When the pasta is about half done, add the peas. (If you are using frozen peas, add them just a couple minutes before the pasta is done.)

Chop the bacon, and fry it until well rendered and quite crisp. Drain it on paper towel, and add it to the mayonnaise and celery.

When the pasta and peas are done, drain them and rinse for a minute or two under cold water to cool them. Drain very well, and toss them in the salad bowl until well coated in the mayonnaise.

Cream of Asparagus Soup

6 servings
30 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

Cream of Asparagus Soup

2 cups water
1 stalk celery
1 540 ml (19-ounce) tin white navy beans
750 grams fresh asparagus
½ teaspoon fennel seed
¼ teaspoon celery seed
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon green peppercorns
1 teaspoon dillweed

1 cup light cream, or sour cream to garnish if desired

Wash and cut up the celery and put it in a large pot with the water and the canned beans, including the packing liquid from the beans. Heat to a simmer.

Wash the asparagus, and snap off both the tough ends and the tips. Grind the spices and add to the soup. Add the asparagus stalks and ends to the soup and simmer until quite tender; about 10 minutes. Reserve the tips.

Remove the tough stem ends from the soup and discard. Puree the soup thoroughly in a blender. The soup may be made ahead up to this point; it should keep in the fridge for 24 hours.

To serve, add the cream (if using) and reheat the soup gently. Steam the reserved tips separately until tender.

Serve the soup garnished with the steamed tips, and with a dab of sour cream if you didn’t add the cream.

German Radish Salad

4 servings
15 minutes prep time

German Radish Salad with Sour Cream Dressing

12 large red radishes
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 to 4 lettuce leaves
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons sour cream
salt & pepper


Wash, trim and slice the radishes. Wash and mince the parsley very finely. Wash the lettuce leaves and arrange them on a serving plate.

Mix the radishes, parsley, vinegar, sour cream, salt and pepper. Arrange the radishes over the lettuce.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Strawberry-Banana Smoothie

These are great in season, but can be made all year with frozen berries.

2 large smoothies
15 minutes prep time

Strawberry-Banana Smoothie with Soymilk1 quart strawberries
1 ripe banana
1 1/2 cups strawberry soymilk

Rinse strawberries, and hull them, removing any bad spots. Put them in a blender with the peeled banana and the soymilk. Blend until very smooth, and serve over ice.

This can be done in a food processor as well, but purée the fruit by itself first, then add the soymilk once the fruit is already smoothly blended.

Rotini with Feta, Snap Peas & Tomato Sauce

This is a "Cook's night off" type of dish; in other words, I don't get a night off, but I was less engaged by the cooking process than I usually am. Of course I still expect to be engaged by the eating process! I was helped by the fact that this dish highlights the feta cheese very nicely, and I just tried a new-to-me feta from Shepherd Gourmet Dairy, made with sheeps milk. Lovely! I bought a kilo of it, and now I'm really looking forward to using it again.

2 or 3 servings
20 minutes

Rotini Pasta with Feta Cheese, Snap Peas and Tomato Saucex
250 grams rotini
1 large onion
300 grams snap-peas, cleaned and trimmed

200 grams feta cheese, cut in dice, rinsed and drained well
1/2 teaspoon rubbed dried basil
1/2 teaspoon rubbed dried oregano
1 19-ounce tin good but plain tomato sauce

Cook the rotini in a large pot of salted boiling water. Meanwhile, peel and chop the onion coarsely and clean and trim the peas.

When the pasta is about 5 minutes away from being done, add the onion and peas.

When the pasta and vegetables are tender, drain well and put in a serving dish. Quickly pour the tomato sauce into the now-empty pasta pot, and return it to the stove to heat through.

Sprinkle the basil and oregano over the pasta, and toss in the cubed feta cheese. As soon as the tomato sauce is hot, pour it over and about the pasta. Serve at once. Twice the amount of fresh herbs, if you had them, would probably be better.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Early Summer Vegetable Medley

I served this vegetable medley with steamed rice, cooked in the rice-cooker of course; as soon as it turned itself off I broke in 4 warmed eggs, and covered the rice cooker to let the rice rest for 5 minutes, more or less, and poach the eggs. A very quick, easy and delicious supper.

2 servings
25 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Early Summer Vegetable Medley of Spinach, Asparagus and Peas1 small bunch spinach
300 g asparagus
200 g snow peas OR sugar snap peas
2 green onions
½ cup water
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons tamari
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Wash and pick over the spinach, removing any large tough stems, which generally means most of them. Wash it again, and drain well. Wash and trim the asparagus, and snap each spear in half. Wash the snow peas, and pinch off the stem ends, pulling off the strings as you go. Trim and chop the green onions fairly fine.

Heat up the water and butter in a skillet over high heat, and add the asparagus and green onions.If using snap peas, add them now as well. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tamari and vinegar.

Add the snow peas, if using, continuing to stir frequently.

When the asparagus and peas are just short of done, stir in the spinach until wilted.

Remove the vegetables to their serving dish with a slotted spoon.

Reduce the liquid left in the pan to a thick syrup, and pour it over the vegetables. Serve at once.

Balsamic Strawberries & Lime-Minted Cucumbers with Cottage Cheese

This can be mainly made ahead, and assembled just before serving.

4 to 6 servings
1 ½ to 3 hours - 30 minutes prep time

Balsamic Strawberries & Lime-Minted Cucumbers with Cottage Cheese SaladCucumber:
1 large greenhouse English cucumber
1 tablespoon salt
the juice of 4 key limes
a pinch of key lime zest
1 tablespoon very finely minced fresh mint
1 tablespoon honey

Peel the cucumber and cut it into dice. Sprinkle it evenly with the salt and set aside. After 15 minutes or so, rinse well and drain thoroughtly.

Mix the lime juice, lime zest, honey and mint, and toss into the cucumber. Cover and chill for 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Strawberries:
1 quart strawberries, hulled, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Rinse the strawberries carefully, and drain well. Stem them and slice them. Toss in the sugar, pepper and vinegar. Cover and chill for 30 minutes. (The strawberries can be prepared up to 3 hours in advance, except don't add the vinegar until 30 minutes before serving.)

Final Assembly:
500 ml cottage cheese, or more as desired
6 to 12 leaves of lettuce

Wash and dry the lettuce and arrange on serving plates. Spoon a mound of cottage cheese into the middle, and arrange the strawberries and cucumbers around it. (Both the berries and the cucumbers are apt to be rather soupy - don't transfer too much of their marinating liquids to the serving plate.)

Coconut Macaroons with Preserved Ginger

You will note that the recipe says they should be golden-brown - the picture as shown has them rather darker than they should be. That's because when the timer went off, I turned off the timer. Five or more minutes later, it occurred to me that I was also supposed to take the cookies out of the oven. However, even at a deep golden-brown, they were very tasty.

20 macaroons
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time

Coconut Macaroons with Preserved Ginger1 ½ cups shredded unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons brown rice flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 egg-whites
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup minced preserved ginger

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Mix the coconut, sugar, and other dry ingredients. Mix in the egg-whites, almond extract and preserved ginger.

Let sit for 10-15 minutes. Scoop out macaroons with a melon-baller and place on the parchment paper.

Bake for 20 minutes, until firm and golden brown. Let cool. These will keep, well-sealed, for up to a week.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Radish & Potato Salad

I'd have put a little parsley in this, if I'd had it. You definitely want young, tender radishes for this, as they are quite prominent.

4 servings
45 minutes - 20 minutes prep

Radish & Potato Salad4 medium-large potatoes
12 large red radishes
1 stalk of celery
1 green onion

¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup buttermilk or thinned yogurt
½ teaspoon salt (or perhaps a little less)
½ teaspoon dried mint
½ teaspoon dried dillweed
¼ teaspoon celery seed, freshly ground

2 or 3 lettuce leaves for serving

Cut the potatoes into dice, and boil them until tender. Cool under cold water, then drain well. This can be done a day ahead, and the potatoes kept covered in the fridge until wanted.

Chop the radishes, finely chop the celery, mince the green onion and mix them with the cold potatoes.

Whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk and seasonings. Toss the salad in the dressing, and serve on a bed of washed lettuce leaves.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Asparagus with Shiitake Mushrooms

I think this is my favourite hot asparagus dish... I feel obliged to describe it as 4 servings, but the two of us have no problem finishing off the lot.

2 to 4 servings
20 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

500 g fresh asparagus
150 g fresh shiitake mushrooms

¼ cup water or stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
¼ teaspoon savory
¼ teaspoon thyme
salt & pepper

Wash and trim the asparagus. Cut them into bite sized pieces; 3 or 4 each depending on how large they are.

Remove and discard the stems from the shiitakes. Slice them in strips about as wide as the asparagus.

Put the asparagus in a skillet with the water, and bring to a boil. The water should fill the skillet to about 1/4" depth; add a little more if needed. Cook, stirring frequently, until the water is just about evaporated.

Add the butter, oil, mushrooms, savory and thyme. Sauté, stirring frequently until the mushrooms and asparagus are cooked and lightly browned in spots.

Remove to a serving dish, and grind over a little salt and pepper. Serve at once.

Quick & Dirty Sautéed Chicken

Is this a recipe? Hardly; it's just what I do with the chicken when I don't know what to do with the chicken.

2 or 3 servings
15 minutes

Spicy Sautéed Chicken½ teaspoon coarse good sea-salt
½ teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
½ teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
½ teaspoon savory

1 tablespoon olive oil
4-6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
OR 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

Crush the salt and pepper together, and mix in the paprika and savory.

Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, and add the chicken pieces. Sprinkle half of the spice mixture evenly over the chicken. Cover with a lid and cook for 5 or 6 minutes.

Turn over the chicken, and remove the lid. Adjust the temperature, if the chicken seems too brown or not brown enough. Sprinkle the remaining spices evenly over the chicken pieces, and cook for 5 or 6 minutes more, until done. Turn the chicken pieces over for a minute, then remove them to be served.

Barley Pilaf with Saffron & Chives

Use less chicken stock for drier, al dente barley and more for a softer result.

4 servings
1 ¼ hours - 15 minutes prep time

Barley Pilaf with Saffron & Chives made in the rice cookerI love my rice-cooker! You'll see this wonderful little appliance called for often here... for much more than just rice.

1 stalk of celery, finely chopped (optional)
1 cup barley
2 to 2 ½ cups chicken broth
a good pinch of saffron (1/8 teaspoon)
salt as required

2 tablespoons minced chives

Wash and chop the celery finely, if using, and put it in a rice-cooker with the rinsed, drained barley and the chicken stock.

Add the crumbled saffron and the salt, the quantity of salt depending upon how salty your stock is. I used a moderately salted stock, and added another 1/4 teaspoon.

Turn on the rice-cooker and let cook. Expect it to take about an hour.

When it is done, mix in the chives well. Let sit for about 5 minutes, then serve.

Mushroom Soup

Not remotely like that slightly-flavoured-wallpaper-paste-inna-tin stuff.

8 to 10 servings
45 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Mushroom Soup without Cream (Sour Cream Garnish)
Cream of Mushroom Soup4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped

5 cups chicken stock
600 g white button mushrooms, wiped and sliced
150 g fresh shiitake mushrooms, wiped and stems removed
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon savory
½ teaspoon black peppercorns, ground

salt as required
¼ cup good sherry
2 cups cream OR 1 cup sour cream

Put the chicken stock in a large pot, and set aside.

Gently sauté the onions in ½ the butter and oil, until soft but not browned. Remove them to the soup-pot.

Add the remaining butter and oil, and sauté the mushrooms gently until quite soft. Add them to the soup-pot with the pepper.

Simmer for 30 minutes.

Let cool a little, then purée the soup until very smooth.

Just before serving, mix in the sherry and cream. Reheat (do not let the soup boil once the cream has been added) and adjust for salt.

Alternatively, instead of adding cream to the soup when reheating it, just add the sherry, and put a dollop of sour cream in each bowl when serving the soup.

This keeps quite well in the fridge for several days.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Bean Salad

Bean salad is a staple in our household, in one form or another. It's always exciting when the first fresh green beans come into season.

2 to 8 servings
30 minutes prep time

Bean SaladSalad:
1 19-ounce tin of red kidney beans, or black beans, or other beans
300 g fresh green beans
1 cup frozen corn
2 stalks of celery
1 green onion, or equivalent amount of chives
1 medium carrot

Drain and rinse the tinned beans, and put them in a good sized bowl.

Wash, trim and slice the beans, and steam them until tender.

Just before the beans are done, add the corn to cook briefly.

Meanwhile, chop the celery and onion or chives. Peel and grate or finely chop the carrot.

When the beans and corn are cooked, rinse them in cold water until cooled, then mix with all the other salad ingredients.

Dressing:
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/4 teaspoon savory
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seed

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together in a jar or small bowl. Pour over the salad and toss.

Leftovers will keep, covered in the fridge, for about 24 hours.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Strawberry Tapioca Pudding with Custard

I love puddings, custards, flans, jellies and the like.

6 servings
1 1/2 hours - 30 minutes prep time

Strawberry Tapioca Pudding with CustardCustard:
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
2 extra large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Mix the starch, sugar and salt in the top of a double boiler, and beat in the eggs. Make sure there are no lumps of cornstarch left.

Beat the milk slowly into the egg mixture.

Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened.

Remove from the heat at once and beat in the vanilla.

Divide the custard evenly amongst 6 small serving dishes.

Tapioca:
4 cups fresh strawberries or frozen strawberries
1 cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 pinch salt
3 tablespoons minute tapioca
1/2 small lemon, the juice of or 1 lime, the juice of

Mix the strawberries, water, sugar, honey, salt and tapioca in a large pot and bring to a boil. Stir frequently.

Simmer until the tapioca is clear, the strawberrries are soft, and the mixture is somewhat thickened.

Stir in the lemon or lime juice.

Spoon the strawberries evenly over the custard. Chill until set.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Red Spicy Chicken

Lots and lots of lovely sauce! Best with rice, but you could serve it with barley.

2 -3 servings
30 minutes -- 10 minutes prep time

Red Spicy Chicken1 cup yogurt
2.75 ounces tomato paste (1/2 small tin)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon red chile powder (or to taste)
2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
½ teaspoon crushed black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds

1 tablespoon olive oil
4-6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
2 ginger-garlic cubes


Mix the yogurt and tomato paste until it is evenly one coloured. Mix in the spices.

You may leave the chicken pieces whole, or cut them up smaller. In either case, sauté them in the oil until lightly browned.

Add the thawed ginger-garlic purée, and mix in well.

Add the yogurt sauce mixture and reduce the heat. Continue simmering the chicken, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes, until the sauce thickens and coats the chicken. It will seem curdled at first, but it will re-solidify as it cooks.

Serve over steamed rice, with a steamed green vegetable on the side.

Garlic-Ginger Cubes

These are very handy little objects to keep in the freezer. I expect to post a number of recipes that make use of them.

1 cup peeled garlic cloves
3 cups peeled chunks of fresh ginger
1/4 cup flavourless olive oil

Prepare the garlic and ginger, and purée it with the oil in a food processor or heavy duty blender until very smooth.

Scrape out the purée and put it in ice-cube trays. Freeze until solid. Remove from the ice-cube trays, and put loose in sealable freezer bags. Then, bag them again in a larger sealable freezer bag - you can put a bunch of smaller bags in one larger bag - unless you don't mind everything in the freezer reeking of ginger and garlic.

To use them, remove one or two as required and let thaw (45 seconds to a minute in the microwave will also do the trick) then use as directed in the recipe.

Asparagus, Feta & Pumpkin Seed Salad

Pumpkin seeds can be found at Bulk Barn. However, if you can't get pumpkin seeds, use sunflower seeds.

2-4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Asparagus, Feta & Pumpkin Seed SaladSalad:
1 bunch of leaf or Boston lettuce
500 g fresh asparagus
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
200 g feta cheese

Dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon tamari

Wash, pick over, dry and tear up the lettuce.

Trim the asparagus, and steam it. As soon as it is cooked, plunge it into cold water to stop it from cooking any further. When it is cool, cut it into inch long pieces.

Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they "pop" and turn light brown. Turn them out at once to cool on a plate.

Cut the feta cheese into 1 cm cubes.

Mix the oil, vinegar, tamari, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, cumin and celery seed.

Arrange the lettuce in a salad bowl. Arrange the asparagus, cheese, and pumpkin seeds over the lettuce, and drizzle the dressing over the salad immediately before serving.