Sunday, 27 January 2008

A Trip to the Guelph Organic Conference Trade Show

The 2008 Guelph Organic Conference was held at the University of Guelph from January 24th to January 27th. This was their 27th annual conference, and as usual, there was a trade show on the weekend which was open to the public. Since it wasn't too far away, we decided to go.

Guelph Organic Conference 1We arrived bright and early on Saturday at 8:00 am. The last few stragglers were still setting up their booths, but the place was already bustling.

Guelph Organic Conference 2I was impressed by the number of suppliers of organic vegetable, herb and flower seeds that were there, and by what a large selection they all had.

Guelph Organic Conference 3Organic Meadow had a booth. This is the organic milk brand that is most readily available around here, and I buy their products fairly regularly. They have a good, large basic range of milks, yogurt, butter and cheese. They are a good-sized farmers' co-operative.

Guelph Organic Conference 3Harmony Organic Dairy, their main competitor was right across the aisle. They are notable for the fact that you can get their milk in glass bottles, and they also produce quite a range of flavoured milks. I had a little of their chocolate milk, which was delicious. Full fat and not too sweet, mmm, mmm, mmm.

Guelph Organic Conference 4Pfenning's are a big name in organic produce locally. They have been around for a long time. In addition to growing a wide range of vegetables, especially winter storage vegetables, they retail imported organic produce and have a box delivery service. I stocked up on leeks and turnips. I eyed their red sauerkraut with considerable interest, but since I already have a jar of regular sauerkraut I need to use, I restrained myself.

Guelph Organic Conference 5Canadian Organic Growers have been promoters of, well, Canadians growing stuff organically since way back when.

Guelph Organic Conference 6This was a booth with products I had not seen before, and they look very interesting. Pleno Empanadas is a company producing a line of empanadas (little Latin American filled pies) with a variety of flavours, as well as selling ready-made pastry. What is particularly interesting is that they have developed a pastry with low/healthy fats.

Guelph Organic Conference 7More seeds!

Guelph Organic Conference 8Mapleton's Organic Ice Cream. That's a place that's not too far away... must get out there when the weather warms up.

Guelph Organic Conference 9L'Ancêtre cheese, made in Quebec with raw milk. Fabulous, fabulous stuff. It's a sad truth that there are no great Ontario cheeses. It galls me to admit it, but until Ontario cheesemakers are allowed to make raw milk cheese, they are relegated to the ranks of the rather good at best.

Guelph Organic ConferenceHomefield is a Guelph company which delivers door-to-door in the region. Their list of available products changes (slightly, I expect) weekly and can be accessed and ordered on-line.

Guelph Organic Conference 10I have not seen Tradition Miso before, but I was quite excited to see it. I have often wondered why soy sauces and misos have not been produced in Ontario on an artisanal level, when we have so many soy bean growers.

Guelph Organic Conference 11Live Green Food Ontario had very cute little sprout growing kits, as well as seeds for sprouting. Can't get more local than your windowsill!

Guelph Organic Conference 12Saugeen Specialty Grains, also known as GrassRoots Organics was a name I did recognize. I discovered their products this summer at the Meaford Farmers Market. They're the ones that are producing puffed grain cereals, as well as rolled oats, flours, barley and popcorn.

Guelph Organic Conference 15There were quite a few other booths, some of which didn't interest me that much (farm equipment, big ag, or stuff from too far way, etc) and some of which did interest me but which I was not sufficiently together to record. From opening time at 8:00 am to the time we left - and well beyond, I'm sure - the place was jam-packed. It was a very worthwhile way to spend a Saturday morning, and it was exciting to see how much is happening in local organic circles.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Fish in Leek & Carrot Sauce

I do like things that are simple to do, and can be done at least partly ahead, provided of course that they are also delicious. This lovely little sauce fits the bill very well. I used it on the splake I bought at The 100 Mile Market, but it would be fine on any white fish, or chicken for that matter. Splake is a cross between brook (SPeckled) trout and lAKE trout; hence the name.)

It made quite a lot of sauce for our piece of fish, and although the two of us had no problem finishing it off, it would stretch to three servings quite easily, and maybe even four if people are restrained.

2 to 3 servings
50 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Fish in Leek and Carrot Sauce1 large leek
1 medium carrot
1 shallot
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon smoked sweet or hot paprika
salt & pepper
1/4 cup sour cream

500 grams (1 pound) white fish fillet, or more

Wash and trim the leek, and cut it in thin slices. Rinse them again, and drain well. Peel and dice the carrot and the shallot.

Put the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot, and add the vegetables. Cook, covered, over low heat, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are fairly soft but not browned; about 15 to 20 minutes. Add the chicken stock and simmer for a further 10 or 15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and most of the chicken stock absorbed.

Purée the sauce. At this point you can proceed at once, or keep the sauce covered and refrigerated until wanted.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Rinse the fish and lay it in a lightly oiled pan. Bake for about 10 minutes, until cooked through.

Meanwhile, re-heat the sauce and add the paprika, salt and pepper, and sour cream. The sauce should be hot through, but do not let it boil. Serve the sauce over the cooked fish.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Wild Rice Pilaf

This is a fairly simple pilaf, which I served with fish. Since the fish was sauced, I did not want the pilaf to be too assertive, while still setting off the lovely, subtle flavour of the wild rice.

4 Servings
1 hour - 15 minutes prep time

Wild Rice Pilaf3/4 cup wild rice
2 tablespoons barley or brown rice
2 tablespoons red rice
2 cups chicken stock
salt

2 small stalks of celery
100 grams (1/4 pound) button mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon savory
1 tablespoon dried chives

Put the rices in a rice cooker, and add the chicken stock. Season with salt, keeping in mind the saltiness of the chicken stock. Turn the rice cooker on.

Clean and trim the celery and mushrooms. Dice the celery fairly finely, and cut the mushrooms in halves or quarters. Sauté them in the butter until the celery is soft and translucent and the mushrooms lightly browned. Season with the savory and chives. Add the mushrooms and celery to the rice cooker. When the pilaf is cooked, stir well to distribute the mushrooms and celery throughout the rice mixture.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Sweet Potatoes with Bacon & Shallots

Bacon makes everything better. Not lower in calories, but better. Enjoy!

4 servings
1 hour - 15 minutes prep time

Sweet Potatoes with Bacon and Shallots4 medium sweet potatoes
5 to 7 shallots
250 grams (1/2 pound) bacon
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Wash the sweet potatoes, and trim off any bruises or damaged skin. Cut them into 1" chunks. Put them in a large, shallow roasting pan. Peel the shallots, and cut them in halves or quarters. Add them to the sweet potatoes.

Cut the bacon into 1" pieces. Separate the pieces and toss them in with the sweet potatoes and shallots. Season generously with pepper, and cautiously with salt, as the bacon is likely to be salty.

Roast the sweet potatoes for up to 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender and the shallots and bacon are browned.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Carrot Pudding - An Old Canadian Recipe

For Christmas this year I was given a modern printing of a little cookbook that was originally published in 1906: "CULINARY LANDMARKS: Recipes collected by the ladies of St. James Church, Port Colborne, Ont". I have been interested in old Canadian cookbooks since I was a teenager, and I can remember inflicting some distinctly hair-raising concoctions on my long-suffering family (Apple Rice Pudding. Had apples. And rice. Um, that was it. Yes, it was bad; why do you ask?)

But I'm digressing here; what I'm getting at is that I have read an awful lot of older Canadian cookbooks, and I know all the usual inhabitants therein. This is one of them. In fact, this one shows up in the 1877 Canadian Home Cookbook, and it was still showing up in cookbooks published in the 1960's, although by then it was presented more as a historical curiosity than as something many people would want to make. CULINARY LANDMARKS had 25 pudding recipes. This was 3 of them. (The editing in CULINARY LANDMARKS was absolutely classic: there wasn't any.) The thing is though, the recipe survived that long for a reason - it's pretty darn good. It's not quite as rich and complex as a Christmas plum pudding, but it's fairly similar and some people would say that it being a little lighter is a good thing.

Here's one version of the original recipe:

"1 Cup brown sugar, 1 cup suit, chopped fine, 1 cup raw potatoes, grated, 1 cup raw carrots, grated, 1 cup raisins, 1 cup currants, 1 teaspoon soda sifted in flour, 1 teaspoon each cinnamon and cloves, flour to make a stiff batter. Steam 3 hours. "
Mrs. Wm. Hawkins

Most of the versions I've seen vary a little from each other, but this is fairly typical. Mrs Hawkins, by the way, does not mean that you should start shredding your navy pinstripe; she means that you should use the fat found around the kidneys of cattle, or as it is also known, suet.

I've made some changes, of course, and I don't just mean elaborating the instructions. The first thing I did was to ditch the suet. Good suet is hard to find, and frankly I'm not sure why you would want to. It's noticably solid at anything lower than steam-bath temperature, and I've heard some pretty astringent commentary about how it sticks to the teeth, and leaves a long-lasting tacky film on them. This is not from some namby-pamby modern eater such as myself, but from my Great-Aunt, who as someone who grew up in the large, poorish, rural household of a clergyman, was accustomed to eating what was put in front of her and liking it. She didn't care for suet though, and I can't say I blame her. A plain vegetable oil works just fine. I also add a grated apple, which is something that showed up in later versions of this pudding.

12 servings
2 hours 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

I made this pudding at the same time as I made Boston Brown Bread, and so my steamer was quite full. I could not get the lid on, with items on both tiers of the steamer, so I sealed it as best as I could with foil, which worked very well.

Carrot Pudding, An Old Canadian Recipebutter

1 cup Sucanat or dark brown sugar
1 cup flour (I used half buckwheat and half brown rice)
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (I used rye crackers)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup raisins

1 cup grated carrot (1 medium-large)
1 cup grated apple (1 large)
1 cup grated potato (1 medium)
1/2 cup mild vegetable oil

Butter a 6 cup pudding mold, or 3 500-ml wide mouth canning jars.

Mix the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Peel the carrot and grate it. Wash and grate the apple to the core. Wash and grate the potato. Add these to the dry ingredients with the oil. Let the mixture sit for 15 or 20 minutes.

Divide the mixture equally between the canning jars, or press it gently but firmly into the single mold. Cover the mold or jars with parchment paper and foil, and hold it in place with string, or the outer rings for the jars. Put the puddings into a large steamer with water coming halfway up jars. If the steamer does not have a lid, seal the top with foil.

Bring to a boil and boil for 2 hours. Check regularly and top up the water with more boiling water if it is needed. (The water level can drop, but don't let your pot boil dry - disaster!)

These kinds of puddings are often made in advance and re-heated. I find the microwave best for that; otherwise you are essentially re-steaming them for another hour to get them hot through to the middle, whereas 5 minutes in the microwave should do it, at least for the smaller ones. However, unlike traditional plum puddings, this was meant to be eaten promptly. Because of the use of fresh vegetables, it will not have the keeping qualities of plum pudding.

Serve the pudding with a pudding sauce - my favourite is hard sauce, which is basically a butter cream icing made with lots of booze - or with custard.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Chicken with Leeks and Barley - An Anglo-Saxon Recipe

I found this recipe on the internet, although it comes from The British Museum Cookbook by Michelle Berriedale-Johnson, and is adapted from a 7th century British recipe. It sounds very plain, but it is surprisingly good. The leeks, vinegar and sage combine very well. I used a good bit more barley than called for, and even so, I wouldn't say it makes 6 servings. I've made a few other tweaks as well, and I suppose I should also confess that I prefer it made with dried sage. I find fresh sage to be just too overwhelming in flavour.

4 servings
2 hours - 30 minutes prep time

Chicken with Leeks and Barley, An Anglo-Saxon Recipe3 large leeks
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
3 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken pieces

3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups pot barley
4 cups (1 litre, or 1 quart) chicken stock
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 bay leaves
salt & pepper
1 tablespoon dried sage, or 2 to 3 tablespoons minced fresh sage

Trim the leeks, chop them, and rinse them well. Peel and mince the garlic. Cut the chicken into pieces, if it is necessary.

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet, and sauté the leeks until soft. Add the garlic, and sauté for a minute or two more. Put them in a large pot with the barley and the chicken stock.

Heat the remaining butter in the skillet, and sauté the chicken pieces until nicely browned on each side. Put them in the pot with barley and leeks.

Add the vinegar, bay leaves, salt and pepper, and simmer, covered, until the barley is tender; about 1 hour. Stir very gently if it seems to be sticking, otherwise don't bother. Add the sage about 15 or 20 minutes before the barley is done.

Serve garnished with a little parsley, if you like and if you have some.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Haystacks - An Unbaked Cookie

Here's another popular old recipe. Once a month I need to supply a dessert for a group that meets at my house. This is what I make when I really don't have much time to make anything. It's safe to say though, that nobody feels fobbed off with something makeshift - on the contrary, people cheer when they see these.

The only real difference between this recipe for Haystacks and a lot of the other recipes out there is I use WAY less sugar - at least half and up to two-thirds less - than most of them. Which is a little scary, because these are still more like candy than cookies. I also like to add a mixture of dried fruits or nuts to them. Chopped dried apricots, dried cherries or cranberries are favourites.

24 cookies
30 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

Haystacks, An Unbaked Cookie1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup Sucanat or dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup shredded dessicated coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup nuts, raisins or other dried fruit, chopped (optional)

Put the butter, milk, sugar, and cocoa into a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to a boil and boil steadily for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Stir to mix as the butter is melting, but after that an occasional brief stir will be sufficient.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the oats, coconut, vanilla extract and nuts or raisins if desired.

Drop the mixture by spoonfuls onto a sheet of parchment or waxed paper, and let sit for 20 minutes to half an hour, until set. Keep the cookies well-sealed in a tin, for up to a week or two - if you can.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Pasta with a Creamy Mushroom, Celery & Leek Sauce

Gnocchi are what I always think should go with this sauce, but I was not up to wrestling with gnocchi, so it's plain old dried pasta again. Nobody's complaining; it's still very good stuff. For the mushrooms, I like to use a mixture of button mushrooms and fresh shiitake mushrooms, but I would think that pretty much any mixture of mushrooms would be good.

This would make an elegant pasta course in a multi-course meal. It's definitely on the rich side, so if it's not served in smaller portions as a starter, I would suggest pairing it with a light green salad. I would also suggest checking out Presto Pasta Nights at Once Upon a Feast for a ton of great pasta ideas.

4 servings
25 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Pasta with a Creamy Mushroom, Celery and Leek Sauce450 to 500 grams (1 pound) dried pasta

2 to 3 cups diced mixed fresh mushrooms
2 stalks of celery
1 medium leek
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme (or fresh is better if you have it)
salt & pepper

1 cup light cream
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.

Clean the mushrooms and dice them fairly finely. Wash and trim the celery and leek, and chop them finely. Mince the parsley and grate the cheese.

This sauce is ready in about 8 minutes, so don't start cooking it until the pasta is sufficiently far along that they will be ready at the same time.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and sauté the mushrooms, celery and leeks until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir regularly. Sprinkle the vegetables with the flour, and season with the thyme and salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly for another minute or two.

Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the cream, cheese and parsley. (If you like, reserve a little of the cheese and parsley for garnishing.) Stir constantly until the sauce is well mixed and thickened.

Toss with the cooked, drained pasta and serve at once.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Boston Brown Bread

Boston brown bread is the classic accompaniment to baked beans. You don't see it much anymore though. It was mostly made at home - it's easy and it doesn't keep terribly well - so unlike the beans, there is no well-known commercial version. I love the stuff: the dense, moist grainy texture, the sweetness of the molasses and raisins, with plenty of butter or cream cheese.

In spite of being called a bread, Boston brown bread is in many ways more like a pudding in the traditional meaning of the word; i.e. a boiled or steamed grain and fruit dish, formed by a mold, cloth or casings into a ball or loaf shape. I wonder if it is perhaps the very youngest member of that family; a return to old techniques of cooking when early American cooks had to adapt to a lack of good yeast and ovens and wheat flour for bread, combined with the use of the New World grain corn, and the New World leavening agent baking soda.

Although it is easy it can be a bit intimidating if you haven't made it before. Two hours of steaming requires some planning ahead and also decent ventilation. You also need to save up some tins, if you are going to make it in the traditional way. Coffee tins used to be called for, but we don't drink coffee, and does it even come in tins anymore? At any rate, tomatoes or pumpkin purée purchased in 796-ml (28 ounce) tins will give you the right sized cans for this; you will need two. I am also experimenting with cooking the bread in 500-ml wide-mouthed canning jars. In this case you will need four of them. I think you will need less time to steam them (maybe an hour and a half) but I'm not completely clear about that yet. I'll update this recipe once I know. As usual, I made mine without wheat, so instead of the traditional cup of wheat flour I used half buckwheat and half rice flour. That works fine.

Serve it with Baked Beans with Pork or with Navy Beans with Herbs and Tomatoes. It's also great for breakfast with a good, tangy cream cheese.

2 to 4 loaves - 24 slices
2 hours 30 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Boston Brown BreadThis is the loaf out of the 28 ounce food tin, which gives it its customary round shape.

Boston Brown Bread with Butter1/4 cup soft butter to grease tins

1/2 cup buckwheat flour
AND 1/2 cup brown rice flour
OR 1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup dark rye flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup raisins

2 1/3 cups buttermilk
2/3 cup fancy (light baking) molasses

Use the butter to generously grease the tins; either 2 28-ounce (796-ml) food tins OR 4 500-ml (2 cup) wide-mouthed canning jars. If they aren't wide-mouthed, you won't be able to get the bread out.

Put all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Add the buttermilk and molasses, and mix well. Divide the mixture equally into the prepared tins or jars. Put a layer of parchment paper and aluminum foil over the top, and hold it in place with string or a large elastic band (tins) or the screw band (jars).

Put the prepared tins or jars into a steamer, with water coming half-way up the sides of the tins or jars.* Bring to a boil, and boil for 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours, until done. You can use a toothpick to test it. Check the water level regularly, and add more boiling water if needed.

The best steamer I have found is a pot set that was sold for cooking pasta, which has a large deep pot, a perferated insert of similar size, and a steamer tray that can go on top of that as well as a lid. I never use it to cook spaghetti, but it's a great steamer.





* Do not bring the water to a boil before adding the prepared tins or jars. Especially don't do that with the jars. They will likely break. Ask me how I know this, duh.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Creamed Onions

In my family, these are known as Aunt Florence's creamed onions, although at one point they were a very common winter dish, and a staple at Christmas. They seem to have fallen somewhat by the wayside in recent decades. Perhaps people are startled by the idea of treating something as plebian as the onion to a rich cream sauce. I think they are delicious, and enjoy them very much. The smaller the onions you can get, the better; but there is no need to go looking for tiny pearl onions or the like, unless you really want to. Regular cooking onions are just fine.

4 servings
40 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Creamed Onions8 to 16 small onions (about 500 grams, or a good pound)

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup rich milk or light cream
salt & pepper
nutmeg

Peel the onions and boil them gently until tender. They should be put in the pot so as to stand on end, and be packed in fairly tightly, and boiled quite gently. This will help to keep them whole.

Drain them into a strainer, and return the pot to the stove. Put in the butter and flour, and mix well. Slowly mix in the milk or cream to make a smooth sauce. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Return the onions to the pan and heat through, occasionally stirring very gently. I like to sprinkle over a little more nutmeg when I serve them.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Sherried Sweet Potatoes

I found this recipe in an old German cookbook, and it's been a favourite way to serve sweet potatoes since then.

4 servings
1 hour - 15 minutes prep time

Sherried Sweet Potatoes4 medium sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons light cream
3 tablespoons good sherry
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the sweet potatoes until tender, 30 to 45 minutes. (The heat is a little flexible, and can be adjusted to the requirements of other dishes, from 325°F up to 400°F. Just remember to also adjust the baking time.)

When you remove the sweet potatoes from the oven, turn up the heat to 450°F. Handle the cooked sweet potatoes through an oven mitt or tea-towel; they are hot. Cut them in half, and scoop out the flesh into a small bowl. Mash it with the butter, cream and sherry. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Spoon or pipe the mixture pack into the shells and bake for 5 minutes at 450°F.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Smoked Trout & Rutabaga Chowder

Here's a very quick and simple soup with rich simmered-all-day flavour. I used my smoked splake (which is a form of trout) from The 100-Mile Market and it was fine - very good in fact - but I do think smoked salmon trout is better for this if you can find it.

6 servings
45 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Smoked Fish and Rutabaga Chowder450 grams (1 pound) smoked trout, preferably salmon trout
1 litre (4 cups) water
1 bay leaf

2 cups diced rutabaga
2 cups cooking water

1 large leek
2 stalks of celery
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
salt & pepper
sour cream

Put the fish in a soup pot with the litre of water and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes, until the fish has softened. Remove it from the stock, allow it to cool enough to handle, then remove the skin. Break the fish up into flakes, removing any bones, and return the flaked fish to the broth.

Meanwhile, peel and chop the rutabaga, and cook it until tender in water to cover. Mash the rutabaga coarsely and add it to the fish with 2 cups of the rutabaga cooking water.

Clean and chop the leek and celery, and sauté them in the butter. Sprinkle the flour over them, and season with salt and pepper. When the vegetables are soft and translucent, and the flour starting to brown, ladle a little of the soup over them. Mix well and bring up to a simmer. Scrape the bottom of the pan well, then add the contents of the skillet to the soup. Season with salt and pepper. Allow the soup to simmer for a few minutes for the flavours to blend, or the soup can be cooled and re-heated just prior to serving. Actually, like a lot of soups, I think this is better re-heated.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Monday, 14 January 2008

The 100-Mile Market in Meaford

I found myself in Meaford on Saturday, and I took the opportunity to visit The 100-Mile Market at 55 Trowbridge Street West. This is a store run by the owners of Stoneyfield Farm, as a means to keep selling their products in the winter when the Meaford Farmers' Market isn't running, as well as farm products from other farms and small producers in the area. They can be reached at 519-538-5096. Their hours are Thursdays and Saturdays 9:00 am to 6:00 pm; Fridays from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm.

The 100 Mile Market in MeafordThe building is a handsome old one with a green mansard roof, just a block south-west of Sykes Street (Highway 26.)

Okay, lets go in. That's my Mom. "Hi Mom!"

The store occupies about 1/3 of the main floor of the building, and still maintains a slight air of the old-fashioned front and back parlours.

In addition to local food, they carry a few cards and other artwork. Like me, they are prepared to make room for some imported stuff providing it's really good... here's a sweet display of maple syrup and some very nice looking chocolates.

They had some lovely looking breads as well as a fair selection of flours and puffed grains from Grass Roots Organics, a mill in Desboro.

There was a wide range of frozen and refrigerated meats, including their own elk, chicken, and a line of locally-produced frozen prepared meals. There was also a good selection of dairy products including ice-cream, yogurt, cheeses and eggs.

And a decent selection of vegetables, considering the time of year.

A steady stream of customers came in and out while we were there, and at one point it was positively standing room only.

Besides succumbing to the chocolate, they had fair-trade coffee, which was locally roasted. Also a large selection of jams and other preserves.

A few funny-looking veggies (but believe me, I've seen funnier) free to a good home.

Our loot. I got frozen plain splake, and smoked splake. I can still hardly believe they had celery, even though I promptly snatched it up with my own hot little hands. Some more prosaic carrots, onions and cabbage, as well as eggs, elk pepperettes (which were delicious,) popcorn and Red Fife wheat flour.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Cinnamon Cocoa Applesauce Cake

What the hell am I doing making cake? I'm supposed to be on a diet. Mind you; I could do a lot worse. This does not have a terrible amount of fat and less sugar than a lot of cakes. It's still all good cakey eating, though. When I used to make cakes more often, I frequently used soft whole wheat flour, and always found it worked just fine.

Cinnamon with chocolate is a particularly popular combination in Mexican desserts.

12 servings
1 hour 10 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Cinnamon Cocoa Applesauce Cake2 1/2 cup soft wheat (pastry) flour
1/2 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup mild vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
2 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce (purée)
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 9" round cake pans with parchment paper, and oil them well.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, soda, cinnamon and salt.

In a larger mixing bowl, mix the oil and sugar. Beat in the eggs and the vanilla extract. Mix in the applesauce.

Mix in half of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk. Mix in the remaining flour, and then the remaining buttermilk.

Divide the batter evenly between the 2 cake pans, and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle test clean.

Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then remove them to cool completely.

Ice with Seven-Minute Frosting or other icing.

Seven Minute Frosting

This is an old-fashioned frosting, with a fluffy marshmallow texture, that is has stayed popular for a long time. It uses less sugar than most icing recipes (and no fat!), but it still seems extremely sweet because there is so little else in it besides sugar. It is fairly flexible about flavouring; you can replace some or all of the white sugar with brown sugar or Sucanat for a caramel flavour; or use lemon or orange extract with lemon or orange juice in place of the water. Mint extract would work, and probably coffee would work as a flavouring as well. I'm told that you can fold in an ounce of chocolate, melted, once the frosting comes off the stove, for chocolate frosting, but I have never tried that.

This single egg-white recipe makes just enough to frost the top and middle of a 9" 2-layer cake. If you want to frost the sides as well, you should double the recipe. I find it so sweet that in most cases the single recipe will be plenty, if a little less glamorous, and of course if you are only making a single layer it will be enough.

Don't frost the cake too long before serving it if you can help it. I noticed that the middle layer of frosting got absorbed into the cake after it sat for a day.

Chocolate Cake with Seven Minute Frosting3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
a pinch of salt
3 tablespoons cold water
1 extra-large egg white

1 teaspoon vanilla or other flavouring extract

Combine all the ingredients except the vanilla in the top of a double boiler (or in a metal bowl that will be supported by the rim of a pot without touching the water in it.)

Bring the pot of water to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Put the top of the double boiler, or the metal bowl, over the pot and begin beating the contents with an electric mixer. Continue to beat for 5 to 7 minutes, until the frosting is stiff enough to stand in peaks. Have a spatula standing by, and scrape down the sides occasionally.

Remove the frosting from the heat, and beat in the vanilla or other flavouring extract. Continue to beat the frosting for a minute or two. Let the frosting cool somewhat before icing the cake. This icing is best put on the cake just before it is served, and can be kept chilled in a covered container for up to 24 hours, although it may become ever so slightly sandy in texture if kept that long. It should be at room-temperature in order to spread.

This recipe may be doubled; but you should also increase your pan size; not just in depth but also in width in order to ensure that the mixture cooks evenly. It is possible that it may take a minute or two longer to be done.

Making Seven Minute FrostingThis photo shows an improvised double boiler. There should be room for an inch or so of water in the bottom of the pot, and the water should not touch the metal bowl. The bowl does need to be metal; other materials will respond too slowly to changes in temperature.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Cheesy Lentil Loaf

Well, dang. Just when I wanted it to particularly cooperate as it come out of the pan, my lentil loaf split in half. Did it know I was taking a picture? I think I could have baked it a few minutes longer, and also I did not let it rest in the pan very long. However, I patched it up and it tasted just fine.

This tends to be a more popular lentil loaf than this one; mainly because everyone loves the cheeeeeeese! (Me too, even though I really like the other lentil loaf.) Even non-vegetarians like this one. To really win friends and influence people, you could up the cheese to 2 cups, although I think it's fine as-is.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time - but not counting the time to cook the lentils

Cheesy Lentil Loaf1 cup green or brown lentils
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 medium onion
1-2 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 cup rolled oats or bread crumbs
1 1/2 cups grated old cheddar cheese or other firm cheese
1 extra-large egg
1 cup tomato sauce or ketchup
1 teaspoon rubbed basil
2 teaspoons rubbed savory
1/2 teaspoon rubbed thyme
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
1/2 teaspoon celery seed, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt

Put the lentils in your rice cooker with the water and salt, and cook until done. I like to do this the night or morning before I want to finish the loaf, just to break the job up a little. Also, if you plan to make this after being out all day, it's good to have this step done ahead of time. Using the rice cooker means they don't have to be watched, but you could also cook them on the stove if you need to.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Peel and chop the onion. Peel and mince the garlic. Heat the oil in a skillet, and cook the onion until soft and translucent. Add the onion and cook for a minute or two more.

Coarsely mash the lentils and mix in the onion and garlic, the oats, the cheese and the egg. Mix in the tomato sauce or ketchup (I tend to use a mix of whatever tomato-y products are hanging around in the fridge) and the spices. I like to let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes at this point as I use old-fashioned rolled oats, and they need a bit of time to soak up some of the liquid.

Press the mixture into an oiled or non-stick loaf pan. Brush the top with a little more ketchup if you like. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the edges of the loaf are nicely browned. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges, then unmold onto a serving dish. It tends to look a bit plain by itself, so serve it garnished with whatever vegetable you are having with your lentil loaf.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Oven Barbecued Onions

A good side dish to serve with roasted chicken, pork or beef, since it can go into the oven at the same time. The exact sauce is flexible and if you have one you particularly like, you could use a slightly thinned prepared BBQ sauce instead of the one I have given.

4 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Oven Barbecued Onions4 or 5 medium onions (500 grams; 1 to 1 1/4 pounds) onions
4 allspice berries (optional)
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon hot mustard powder
OR 1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/4 teaspoon thyme (optional)
salt & pepper

Put a good-sized pot of water on to boil. Peel the onions, and cut them in thickish (1/2 cm) slices. When the water boils, add the onions and boil them for 5 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Toast the allspice berries in a small skillet until fragrant, shaking them regularly. Grind them and put them in a shallow baking pan. Add the honey, butter, water, ketchup, mustard and thyme to the pan. Put the pan in the oven until the honey and butter are melted, then remove it (with oven mitts!) and mix the sauce ingredients together. Mix in the drained onions. Season with a little salt and pepper.

Return the pan with the onions to the oven and bake for approximately 1 hour, until the onions are soft, dry and golden-brown.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Rutabaga with Peas & Mushrooms

Here's a nice all-in-one vegetable dish. It's is my take on this recipe here.

4 servings
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time

Rutabaga with Peas and Mushrooms3 cups diced rutabaga
2 cups frozen green peas

2 cups diced fresh button mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter

1/4 teaspoon rubbed thyme
1/4 teaspoon rubbed savory
salt & pepper

Peel and dice the rutabaga, and put it in a pot with water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil steadily for about 30 minutes, or until tender.

Meanwhile, clean and dice the mushrooms. About 5 minutes before the rutabaga is done, add the peas to the rutabaga and heat up the butter in a skillet. Sauté the mushrooms until nicely browned all over. Season them with the thyme, savory, salt and pepper.

Drain the rutbaga and peas well, and mix with the mushrooms in a serving bowl. Serve at once.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Apple Butter or Date Squares

These were always made with dates when I was growing up. I'm sure that anyone over a certain age - 40, say, or even 35 - has had these. Every comprehensive cookbook published in North America right up to 1970 was certain to have this recipe. You still see them in old-fashioned bakeries. They were called Haystacks in our family, from their similarity to the old rectangular bales of hay. (Our family were not much in the agricultural line, and our grasp on the terminology was a little vague.) For some unknown reason, they were also not uncommonly known as Matrimonial Cake.

It occurred to me that they could be made more Ontarian by replacing the dates with apple butter. I don't know why they weren't made with apple butter in the first place; but look through any old Ontario-published cookbook from the 1860's on to the 1940's, and by the number of recipes calling for dates, you would think that date palms waved their fronds in the breezes of Lake Erie. Besides being a local product, apple butter makes these absurdly quick and easy to put together, because it eliminates the necessity of cooking and cooling the date paste. If you want to make the date version, replace the apple butter with 1 cup chopped dried dates cooked to a paste with 1/2 cup water or orange juice, and cooled sufficiently to handle.

Makes 16 to 24 squares
45 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Apple Butter or Date Squares1 cup flour (I used a mix of brown rice, barley and arrowroot)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup Sucanat or dark brown sugar
2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup butter

1 cup (250 ml) apple butter

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Mix the flour, soda, salt, Sucanat and oats in a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into 1" cubes, more or less, and toss them with the mixture, then rub it in until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. This will not stick together like a dough, nor should it. There should be no dry flour apparent, but the mixture will be crumbs.

Put half the mixture into an 8" square pan. Press it firmly and evenly over the bottom of the pan. Put in the apple butter and spread it evenly over the base layer.

Sprinkle the remaining half of the crumbs over the apple butter, trying it get it as even as you can right off the bat. The top layer must be pressed into place much more gently than the bottom layer, to avoid disturbing the apple butter. However, it too needs to be pressed firmly and evenly into place.

Once that is done, bake the squares at 350°F for 25 minutes, until golden brown. Allow them to cool completely before cutting them, with a wet, hot knife to avoid it getting too sticky.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Growing Mint Inside During the Winter

Growing Mint Inside During the WinterIn the past I have tried to grow various herbs inside during the winter without success. Here is my first successful venture. I rooted this from some mint I bought during the fall, by simply putting it into a glass of water on my plant shelf until roots had formed. Then I potted it up.

Mint likes a lot of water - in nature, it will grow right up to the edge or even into the shallows of small streams or ponds. So I just water it whenever I pass by and think of it. On the other hand it's pretty tough stuff - My sweetie was doing some painting, and for a month in the late fall my living room was so full of scaffolding, drop cloths, paint cans, etcetera, that I could not get anywhere near my plant stand without a considerable amount of acrobatics. I think it got watered once during this period. It wasn't happy, but it survived. I'm also going to give it a little fertilizer soon, which is something that is a good idea with any plant that produces a lot of leaf growth, especially if you are nipping some of it off on a regular basis.

My plant stand has fluorescent plant lights, and this has also contributed to the health of the mint. Even with a south-facing window, some extra light is a good thing during the darkest days of the winter.

Now that I have successfully managed to grow mint, I'm looking forward to trying some other herbs again.

Sprout Nest Salad with Tomato "Eggs"

This is a fairly plain and simple salad - it's just sprouts in vinaigrette, with tomatoes - but the presentation makes it very cute. Just don't ask me what kind of bird would lay such gaudy eggs.

2 servings
20 minutes prep time

Sprout Nest Salad with Tomato Eggs
Dressing:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon wine or balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt & pepper

Whisk these together in a small bowl.

Salad:
6 small greenhouse cherry type tomatoes
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1/2 cup broccoli sprouts
1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts
1 small carrot, peeled and finely grated

Wash the tomatoes and remove the stems. Set them aside.

Rinse all the bean sprouts, then dry them in a salad spinner lined with a paper towel. If the roots of the smaller sprouts have gotten matted together, you may wish to snip them off. (The broccoli sprouts in particular may have roots that are greyish and matted; not appealing.)

Peel and grate the carrot, and mix it with the sprouts.

Mix the dressing into the sprout and carrot mixture. Toss gently but well. Divide the salad in half, and form each half into a nest shape on a suitable plate. Put the tomatoes in the middle arranged like eggs in a nest. I garnished mine with a little mint.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Navy Beans Baked with Herbs and Tomatoes

On Saturday night as I was lying in bed I realized I needed to bring something for a lunch time pot-luck the next morning. Fortunately, I still had a bunch of cooked but unfinished beans in the fridge. On Sunday morning I flung them into a casserole with a few other things, and took them to Meeting to bake in the oven there until wanted. I did not bring my camera and photograph them as I was not considering them a serious recipe. Of course, 2 people promptly said they wanted the recipe, so now I must try to reconstruct what I did, and there is no photo. (If someone makes these, and wants to send me a pic, it would be appreciated!) I have to say, they were pretty good for something completely off the cuff! Updated: I made them again, so now there is a photo.

Makes 8 servings
2 days - 20 minutes prep time, divided

Navy Beans Baked with Herbs and Tomatoes2 cups (450 grams, 1 pound) dried pea beans (navy beans)

1 large onion
1 796-ml (28 ounce) tin of diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 teaspoon rubbed savory
1 teaspoon celery seed, finely ground
2 or 3 tablespoons dried chives
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 or 3 bay leaves
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Rinse and pick over the dried beans. Put them in a pot with water to cover generously. Bring them to a boil, then turn off the heat and let the beans soak overnight. The next morning, drain off the water and cover them with fresh water. Bring to a boil then reduce them to a simmer, and simmer until tender, about 1 hour or perhaps a little longer.

When you are ready to bake the beans, put them in a fairly deep casserole. They should have some cooking liquid with them, but they should not be swimming in it. If there is too much, drain it off until it is about an inch or so below the level of the beans. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Peel and chop the onion, and mix it into the beans with the tomatoes and their juice. Mix in the seasonings. Drizzle the oil over the beans.

Bake the beans uncovered for 2 hours, more or less, until the sauce is thickened. You may wish to stir them once or twice.

Ham & Mushroom Orzotto (Risotto)

This is probably my favourite thing to do with leftover ham and ham stock. I've made it for a number of years as a risotto, but in the interest of more local content, I tried it as an orzotto this time. All that means is that I replaced the rice with barley. I was very happy with how it turned out.

If you want to make this as a risotto, don't pre-cook the rice. Use twice as much arborio rice as barley (2 cups) and put it into the pan once the vegetables have gone in and have softened and cooked down a little. Sauté the rice until it is opaque and perhaps even very lightly browned, then start adding the stock and proceed following the rest of the recipe.

Precooking the barley is perhaps not necessary, but I think otherwise it will take a loooong time for the orzotto to be ready, and you will likely need more stock or water. If you want to put the raw barley straight into the skillet without pre-cooking, be sure to use pearl barley and not pot barley. Pot barley was what I used. It has a lot more fibre and nutrients than pearl barley, but it definitely requires a lot more cooking.

4 servings
2 hours - 30 minutes prep time

Ham and Mushroom Orzotto or RisottoPrecook the barley:
1 cup pot barley
2 cups ham stock

Put the barley and ham stock in your rice cooker, with a pinch of salt if you think it is warranted, and cook the barley.

Cook the orzotto:
3 shallots
1 large leek
2 stalks of celery
2 cups diced mushrooms
2 or 3 tablespoons ham fat or olive oil
4 cups ham stock
6 large dried shiitake mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup diced cooked ham
salt

Peel the shallots and dice them. Wash, trim and chop the leek fairly finely. Wash and chop the celery. Clean and dice the mushrooms.

Put the stock in a pot with the shiitake mushrooms and the saffron threads, and heat until it steams. Keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat the fat or oil in a very large skillet. Sauté the leek, shallots, celery and mushrooms until softened and cooked down a little. Add the cooked barley and about 1/2 cup of the ham stock. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Let cook, stirring regularly, until the stock is absorbed.

In the meantime, fish the shiitake out of the stock and let them cool enough to handle. Cut off and discard the stems. Chop the caps and add them to the orzotto.

When the first round of stock has been absorbed, add another 1/2 cup or so to the orzotto. Continue until you have added all the stock. Stir frequently. Prepare the Parmesan cheese and parsley to finish.

To finish the orzotto:
1/2 grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup minced parsley

When the orzotto has absorbed most of the stock and is thick and cream-soupy in texture, stir in the Parmesan cheese. Serve with the parsley sprinkled over the top.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Sprout, Cabbage & Walnut Salad

Lots of great crunch here. I debated whether to add an apple to this or not. Since we had a mostly apple salad not long ago, I decided to leave it out, but this would be good with a chopped apple added. If you don't have any raspberry vinegar, cider vinegar will work too.

Salad:

1 cup finely shredded cabbage, preferably savoy
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1/2 cup broccoli sprouts
1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Shred the cabbage and put it in the salad bowl. Wash the three kinds of sprouts, and dry them in a salad spinner lined with a paper towel. Mix them in with the cabbage. The sprouts will be inclined to be clique-ish; gently separate them and encourage them to mingle. Mix in the walnuts.

Dressing:

1 tablespoon apple butter
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons hazelnut, almond or walnut oil
3 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

Whisk the salad dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Toss into the salad.