Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Croissant Pudding with Cinnamon Streusel

I catered a small event on the weekend, and as usual I got far too much food. These were such good croissants (they came from Golden Hearth) that it was impossible to even consider throwing them away, so I made this pudding. It turned out very well, rich and flavourful enough to make again on purpose. Not inexpensive to make, but if you can find day-old croissants it would help.

8 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time

Croissant Pudding with Cinnamon Streusel
8 stale croissants
4 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
8 extra-large eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup ground cinnamon
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup Sucanat
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Slice the croissants and layer them in a large casserole dish.

Put the milk and sugar in a large saucepan, and slowly heat until the sugar is dissolved and the milk is steaming hot, stirring occasionally. Do not overheat or the milk may curdle.

Beat the eggs with the almond and vanilla extracts. When the milk and sugar are ready, whisk a little bit into the eggs. Continue adding a little hot milk to the eggs and whisking between additions until the milk is all in; doing it slowly will prevent the eggs from cooking as they come in contact with the hot milk. Pour the milk and egg mixture over the croissants and let them soak as you prepare the streusel topping.

Mix the cinnamon, flour and Sucanat. Mix in the softened butter, until it is completely blended and the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle it evenly ove the pudding. Put the pudding dish in a deep tray and place it in the oven. Add water to the tray so the pudding dish is well surrounded. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool; serve warm or chilled.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Marinated Mushroom Salad

This simple little salad came to me from Julie, via a family cookbook assembled a few years back. Julie is my, um, second cousin? Once removed? First cousin twice removed? Not removed at all? Look, she's a cousin, okay. I admit I had to check the handy-dandy family tree in the front of the cookbook to determine even this much, but I can tell you the salad is very nice, and I make it quite regularly.

4 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Marinated Mushroom Salad
1/4 cup sunflower seed oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 green onion, minced
1/4 cup minced parsley
1/4 teaspoon each salt and sugar

2 cups sliced button mushrooms
lettuce leaves to serve

Mix the oil, vinegar, minced green onion, minced parsley, salt and sugar. Clean the mushrooms, and slice them fairly thinly. Toss them in the dressing and marinate, covered, in the fridge, for 1 or 2 hours. Serve the salad on lettuce leaves.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Fruit & Carrot Salad

People tend to either love fruit in salads, or hate it - it should be pretty clear which camp I fall into by now. Fruit is good, says I. As for this being another carrot-based salad; it is probably the last one for a while. I used the last of my local carrots making this. It's possible I will be able to find some more but they have become pretty scarce.

You could throw some nuts into this, if you liked. You can also use lemon juice instead of orange juice, mixed with a little honey counteract the sourness. You can change the fruit around as well, although I always like to have apples or pears, and some sort of citrus. And pineapple. The pineapple is pretty indispensible; you could use tinned in a pinch though. I regard the prospect of banana without great enthusiasm in this instance, but you could if you wanted to, I suppose. I don't usually put in any kind of fresh berries, because I do tend to think of this as a winter/spring salad, providing lots of simultaneous juiciness and crunchiness when they can be otherwise a bit hard to come by. You can practically feel the vitamins rushing into your body when you eat this. I used to put some oil in this - sunflower seed oil would be good - but I've decided it can do without it perfectly well.

6 servings
30 minutes

Fruit and Carrot Salad
Make the Salad:
3 large carrots
1/4 of a pineapple, peeled and cored
2 medium apples, washed
1 large valencia orange
1/3 cup dried cranberries

Peel and grate the carrots. Cut the pineapple and apples into bite sized pieces. Peel the orange and break it into bite sized pieces. Mix the carrots, pineapple, apples, orange pieces and cranberries together.

Make the Dressing:
the juice from 1 or 2 valencia oranges
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon each, or to taste, salt & pepper

Whisk the mustard and salt and pepper into the orange juice. Toss the salad in the dressing. Serve chilled.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Peanut Butter Cookies Loaded for Bear


It's a party in a cookie, which made me think it was a good entry for The Great Peanut Butter Exhibition cookie contest. Every bite brings a slightly different balance of flavours - all them yummy. We usually just refer to them as "Everything Cookies" around here, and they are guaranteed to vanish like snowballs in July.

Edited to add: 2nd place! Allright!



36 cookies
30 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

Peanut Butter Cookies Loaded for Bear, or Everything Cookies
1 cup chopped peanuts
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup finely chopped preserved ginger

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup Sucanat or dark brown sugar
1 extra-large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup soft unbleached or soft whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt*

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 cookie trays with parchment paper. Measure out the first 5 ingredients and set them aside.

Cream the butter and beat in the peanut butter. Beat in the Sucanat, the egg and the vanilla. Mix the baking soda and salt* into the flour. Mix the flour into the peanut butter mixture to form a smooth dough.

Mix the first 5 ingredients into the cookie dough. Scoop the dough out with a 1" disher or other small scoop and arrange the cookies thus formed on the prepared cookie trays. Give them room, but they won't spread extravagantly. Flatten the cookies slightly. Bake them for 9 to 11 minutes, until lightly browned. Let them cool for at least 5 minutes on the tray before attempting to remove them to finish cooling.






*The peanut butter I used was so purely peanut that it didn't even contain salt; neither were my peanuts or butter salted. Consequently, I added a teaspoon of salt and it was right. However, if you are using salted products, you may need to adjust the quantity of salt downwards, considerably.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Quiche Whatever

Real men most certainly eat quiche, although back in the seventies when it was first introduced to our family's table, the recipe came from a friend of my father in the form of "cheese pie", and it didn't contain any of that wussy vegetable stuff. Whatever cheese was in the fridge at the end of the week, plus milk and eggs, salt, pepper and a grind of nutmeg; bunged in a frozen pie shell, stuck in the oven for half an hour, and called - cheese pie. It was quiche, though, and it's better with some vegetable matter and some appropriately matched seasonings.

1 9" Quiche - 6 servings
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time - not including pastry making

Spinach, Mushroom and Cheddar Quiche with Tomato, Basil and Goat Cheese Quiche
1 9" prepared single crust pie shell, made or purchased

2 extra-large eggs
3/4 cup rich milk or light cream
salt & pepper
200 to 400 grams (1/2 to 3/4 pound) chopped meat or cheese
3 to 4 cups chopped prepared vegetables

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Prick the bottom and sides of the pie shell all over with a fork, and bake it for 8 to 9 minutes, until about three-quarters done. Set it aside to cool.

Prepare whatever vegetables you would like to go into the quiche.

Use things such as chopped leeks, onions, shallots, green onions, mushrooms, or peppers, which should be sautéd in a little oil until soft, then set aside to cool and drain - especially mushroom, which may release quite a lot of fluid which may interfere with the setting of the custard.

Things such as broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, chard, kale, or asparagus should be steamed until three-quarters done, then cooled enough to handle. (They can cool completely if you like, in fact they can be - shh! - leftovers.) If they were frozen, they should be thawed. Drain them well, and chop or slice them in fairly small pieces. Leafy greens in particular should be squeezed, really quite hard; again to rid them of any liquid that would interfere with the custard setting.

Tomatoes can go in raw. They should be peeled and sliced or chopped, salted lightly, and set to drain for about 20 minutes to keep them from exuding too much juice; same problem as above.

Fresh herbs should be cut in chiffonade or chopped fairly finely.

Prepare the cheese or meat. I don't like large chunks of definite meaty meat, but things like bacon bits, ham, smoked fish, smoked turkey bits would work. Any kind of cheese that enjoys being melted is fine.

I am not being precise about quantities, because there is some flexibility, and also pie shells vary more in size than you might think. I bought some ready-made pie shells for these as I was making quiche en masse for a group event, but I noted that they seemed smaller than I expected. A little comparison showed that the purchased 9" pie shells measured 9 inches from the outer rim of the foil plate to the outer rim of the foil plate, whereas my glass pyrex 9" pie plate measures 9 inches from the inside of the rim to the inside of the rim. It seems a touch deeper, too; it would certainly have held more than the low end of the figures listed above, which are more in line with what I used in my purchased pie crusts.

Note that if you wish to fill a 10" pie plate, you will need to add 50% more to my listed quantities; i.e. in particular another egg and and a generous 2/3 cup of milk or cream, plus more of the, um, inert content.

Finally, preheat the oven to 350°F. Whisk the eggs with salt and pepper to taste, and any other seasonings you wish to use, then beat in the milk or cream. Ladle this over the quiche, and bake it for 30 minutes at 350°F.

For the quiches above: in one I used 4 medium-large button mushrooms and 2 green onions sliced and sautéd together, with cheddar cheese and cooked spinach, seasoned with a little dill; the other contained Mornington goat cheese curds, diced tomatoes, and shredded fresh basil.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Cabbage, Carrot & Avocado Salad

This is a very simple salad, and yes, the lack of local veggies is showing. However, throwing in some soft, rich avocado balances the crunchiness of the carrots and cabbage very well.

6 servings
15 minutes

Cabbage, Carrot and Avocado Salad2 large carrots
4 cups finely chopped savoy cabbage
2 medium avocados

the juice of 1 large lemon
1/3 cup sunflower seed oil
salt & pepper

Peel and grate the carrots, and chop the cabbage finely. Peel the avocados and cut them in dice. Mix the veggies with the lemon juice, sunflower seed oil, and salt and pepper to taste. That's it; you're done. Bon appetit.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Maple Layer Cake

This recipe started with a 'Dark Layer Cake' recipe in the 1911 Canadian Farm Cookbook. I tried it because it had been submitted by a relative, and found that it was a good, moist cake, but that the molasses it called for was far too strong for my tastes. So, I thought I would try it with maple syrup instead, and when I found some maple sugar for sale at the Tastes of Woolwich, I decided to replace the sugar with maple sugar as well. With the Maple Syrup Boiled Frosting, it's an all-maple cake.

It's probably best to make this cake the day before. I find desserts made with maple syrup and sugar taste a little disappointing right out of the oven; the flavour needs time to redevelop somehow.

Again, thanks to Amy Wai for the picture.


2 8" cake layers
45 minutes - 20 minutes prep


3 egg yolks
3/4 cup maple sugar
3/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups sifted unbleached pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Line 2 8" round cake pans with parchment paper, and butter the paper and the sides of the pans. Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Beat the egg yolks with the maple sugar and the maple syrup in a mixing bowl. Mix the soda into the buttermilk. Sift the flour and the salt together.

Mix the buttermilk and the flour alternately into the egg and maple mixture. Divide it equally between the 2 pans, and smooth it out. Bake the cakes for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean.

Let cool, and frost the cake with the frosting of your choice. I used the Maple Syrup Boiled Frosting, but I can see this being very good with a mocha buttercream as well.

Maple Syrup Boiled Frosting

This is, of course, a variation of Seven Minute Frosting, made with maple syrup instead of sugar. When I made the Seven Minute Frosting, I did not get enough to cover the sides; this time I had ample. I suspect that with the Seven Minute Frosting my egg white was skimpy, and that with this batch it was unusually large.

You may note that the picture is rather better than usual. That's because it was taken by my sister-in-law, Amy Wai. Thanks, Amy!

enough to frost 1 8" cake with 2 layers
15 minutes


1 extra-large egg white
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup water

Put the egg white in a mixing bowl and beat it until fairly stiff. Set it aside while you cook the maple syrup.

Put the maple syrup and water into a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil, and boil steadily for 5 minutes. It will boil up quite high, and as it cooks it will want to boil up even higher, so watch it, and monitor the temperature of the stove to be sure it does not boil over.

After 5 minutes, begin beating the egg white again. Pour the maple syrup into the egg white in a slow steady stream, beating constantly. You can stop to scrape out the pot, but otherwise continue beating constantly for 5 minutes, until the frosting is cool.

Just as a note, I have found that many cake recipes, providing they call for an egg or two in the first place, will take an extra egg yolk with no harm done.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Mashed Potatoes & Celeriac with Chive Oil

Chives from my garden! Yes, they are up, and adding a lovely touch to stored potatoes and celeriac. We could eat this for dinner all by itself - in fact we did - but it is an excellent accompaniment for most roasted or grilled meats. If you are going the it's-a-meal route, you might want to add some grated cheese to the mash.

4 to 8 servings
45 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Mashed Potatoes and Celeriac with Chive Oil
Make the Purée:
4 to 6 large (900 grams, 2 pounds) potatoes
1 medium to 1/2 large (450 grams, 1 pound) celeriac
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
salt and pepper to taste

Scrub the potatoes and cut them into chunks. Peel the celeriac and cut it into chunks. Put both the potatoes and celeriac in a large pot with water to cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for about 20 to 25 minutes, until both are tender.

Drain the vegetables and mash them with the butter, buttermilk and salt and pepper.

Make the Chive Oil:
1/3 cup minced chives
1/2 cup sunflower seed oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon celery seed, ground
1/2 teaspoon green peppercorns, ground

Once the potatoes and celeriac have been put on the stove to cook, make the chive oil. Mince the chives finely and mix them with the sunflower seed oil. Grind the salt, celery seed and green peppercorns, and mix them into the oil. Let steep for at least 20 minutes.

When the vegetables are cooked and mashed, spread them in a shallow serving serving dish. Put the oil into a mesh strainer, and press it through with a spoon, either directly over the vegetable mash, or into a bowl from which it can be served. Discard any chive bits that won't go through.

You can make the chive oil as you cook the potatoes, or for a stronger flavour you can make it a few hours ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until wanted.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Local Berries Are Expensive. There Is A Reason.

And here it is:

"In a lengthy and stinging ruling, judge details near-feudal conditions endured by immigrant workers harvesting produce:

ROBERT MATAS

From Saturday's Globe and Mail
April 19, 2008 at 1:02 PM EDT
VANCOUVER

In a stinging 801-page ruling on an employment insurance scam, a federal Tax Court judge says widespread exploitation of Indo-Canadian berry pickers in fields outside Vancouver is reminiscent of scenes from John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

"When a 65-year-old grandmother leaves her village in India, travels nearly two days to Vancouver and is hired within a week by a labour contractor who transports her - at dawn and back at night - in a crowded van for up to eight hours a day so she can earn eight hours pay at minimum wage - or less if paid on piece rate - something is radically wrong with certain aspects of the federal family reunification program and also the berry and vegetable industry in British Columbia," Dwayne Rowe, a Tax Court of Canada judge, stated in a ruling issued this week.

Read more."

There is an old saying that "if it seems too good to be true, it is too good to be true." And I'd like to say that the conditions described in this article are an aberration, but in fact they are pretty standard wherever "cheap" food is produced.

For a long time, the prices we have been paying for our food have been too good to be true. They have been, quite literally, a form of theft. Theft from the workers who grow, harvest and process our food. Theft from the farmers who can't make a living competing against what is essentially slave labour. Theft from the earth itself when soil is depleted far faster than it can be re-built, and the accumulation of billions of years worth of carbon is pumped into the atmosphere so we can eat out of season strawberries for a couple of decades. Theft from our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who will struggle with a poorer world, greatly diminished and scarred by our thoughtlessness and greed.

I think it is urgent that we rethink and rebuild our connections to the earth, to our food, and to each other. I tend to want to use the carrot rather than the stick; that's kind of the purpose of this blog - to encourage people to discover that buying, cooking and eating local foods are neither difficult nor unpleasant things to do. On the contrary! They bring a variety of pleasures in the form of a deeper connection to the rhythms of the seasons and the communities around us; a strengthening of local economies - which will certainly include our own; an ordering of the important things in life; and, oh yeah, some pretty damn fine grub. It just won't be cheap. That's good. The world can't afford "cheap" anymore. It's too expensive.

I hope that Judge Rowe's call for criminal charges to be laid against those who have apparently counselled people to make false statements under oath, created false documents, committed forgery and falsified employment records will be heeded. The efforts of individuals to seek a just and humane food system will not bear fruit without effective social and legal backing.

Garbanzos Deliciosos - Delicious Chick Peas in a Tomato-Paprika Sauce

The first time I made this dish was 2 years ago, as we prepared to leave for our pilgrimage to Spain; I was cleaning out the fridge and cupboards as much as I could before we left. These were such an unexpectedly tasty dish made from so little that I have made them regularly ever since, and even though we are no longer about to go on pilgrimage, they still seem to carry a lingering flavour of anticipation and of delightful surprise.

I have to say I was delightfully surprised to open a bag that had been in the bottom of the vegetable crisper since about January, and discover not a puddle of slime, but 2 perfectly servicable if slightly dried out little leeks. They will otherwise be hard to find just about now; although if you grow them in your garden you will know that they overwinter very well, and can be picked in the early spring before they go to seed. Good luck finding them at market though.

6 or 8 servings
2 days - about 20 to 30 minutes of actual work

Garbanzos Deliciosos - Chickpeas with leeks in a tomato-paprika sauce
3 cups dried chickpeas (garbanzos)
water in large quantities
2 teaspoons salt

6 stalks of celery
2 large leeks
3 tablespoons olive oil

1 596-ml (28 ounce) tin of diced tomatoes
1/2 of a 156-ml (5.5 ounce) tin of tomato paste
1/2 cup tomato ketchup
3 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
2 teaspoons hot Hungarian paprika

Put the chickpeas in a large pot with plenty of water to cover. Bring them to a boil, remove them from the heat and let them soak overnight. The next morning, change the water and bring them to a boil again. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and simmer the chickpeas until tender, adding the salt when they are about three-quarters done.

Chop the celery and the leeks, rinsing and draining the leeks well. Sauté them in the oil until soft and slightly browned. Add them to the undrained chickpeas with the rest of the ingredients. Simmer for half an hour to an hour until well amalgamated. Serve with crusty bread or over steamed rice.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Stovetop Honey-Mustard Chicken

Haven't had any chicken in ages, but Costco had some thighs on sale this week and I succumbed. We both really like this, and it's so quick and easy to make. I usually serve it with steamed white rice and a steamed veg, and the whole thing is on the table in half an hour - very good for a weeknight supper.

2 or 3 servings
30 minutes
- 10 minutes prep

Stovetop Honey-Mustard Chicken
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
3/4 cup to a cup of chicken broth (a tin, even)
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, ground

Peel and chop the onion finely.

Heat the oil in a large skillet, and sauté the onion gently, until translucent and a little golden. Add the chicken and turn up the heat a little, browning it on both sides.

Add the chicken stock, and turn up the heat to high. Add the honey, mustard and pepper. Cook until the stock is reduced to a thick sauce, stirring regularly.

Reduce the heat again, and continue cooking until the chicken pieces brown and the mixture begins to caramelize - usually just a few minutes more. Turn the chicken pieces to brown both sides, but remove the pan from the heat once the sauce is as dark as you want it to be.

This has a fairly mild mustard flavour; stir in a little more just before serving to get more of a bite.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Versatile Vegetable Patties with Apple Butter Chutney

These were inspired by pakoras; I thought I would prefer something more substantial and less greasy. A little experimentation came up with a dish I make quite often. The "batter" is simple to make and will keep in the fridge for up to a week, making a hot lunch very quick and easy.

I am keeping to the pakora theme here by serving them with Apple Butter Chutney, but in fact these are surprisingly good in a toasted bun with lettuce, tomato, pickle, mayo, etc, etc; whatever you like to have on a hamburger, although of course there is no resemblence at all in looks, flavour or texture to a hamburger.

Chickpea flour can be found at Bulk Barn, or any Indian grocery store, where it will likely be called gram flour. Feel free to change the seasonings - I often skip the ginger and jalapeño pepper, and add a teaspoon of curry powder. The vegetables you use are also very much up to you. I have favourite combinations, of course. This one consisted of frozen corn, peas and spinach with grated carrot. I also often use grated carrot and zucchini with green onion. How about potatoes , carrots and cabbage - very seasonal at the moment. You could even use, dare I say it, leftovers...

8 to 12 patties
45 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Versatile Vegetable Patties Vegetable Patties:
1 1/2 cups chickpea flour (gram flour)
1 teaspoon cumin seed, ground
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 fresh or tinned jalapeño chile, minced
2 to 3 tablespoons minced parsley or cilantro
2/3 cup water, or a bit more

3 to 4 cups grated or chopped assorted vegetables, raw or cooked
thawed if frozen
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

Mix the chickpea flour, ground cumin, salt, ginger, minced jalapeño, and parsley or cilantro in a large bowl. Mix in the water to form a fairly smooth, thick paste. Mix in the vegetables.

If the mixture is very stiff, loosen it with a little more water. It does tend to depend on what kind of vegetables you use. The mixture should be batter like - easy to stir but not flowing.

This should be made an hour or more in advance, but you can cook them at once if you want. As noted, you can also keep it, well sealed, for up to a week in the fridge.

To cook the patties, heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Cover the bottom of the skillet with the olive oil. Spoon the batter in to form patties, spreading and pressing down to get a good shape and thickness - they should not be much thicker than 3/4", or they may not cook through by the time they are well browned. (Should you discover that yours are not done after they are removed from the pan, don't worry - stick them in the microwave for a minute or so, but if you keep them passably thin it won't be a problem.) They cook quite quickly; 2 or 3 minutes per side. Turn them over when they are golden brown. Serve them hot, with the chutney if you like.

Apple Butter Chutney:
2 to 3 tablespoons apple butter
1/2 teaspoon or so cumin seed, ground
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon hot sauce

Mix the above in a small bowl; the exact proportions being quite flexible according to your taste.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Lamb Meatballs Stewed with Chickpeas (Garbanzos)

It may be spring - in fact it was a beautiful day yesterday and I discovered that my puschkinia and my tulipa sylvestris were both in bloom* - but it's not so hot by any means that a stew like this won't hit the spot. There are likely to be a number of meat-heavy dishes posted here for the next little while. One of the sure signs of spring is when I look in the freezer and realize I still have a bunch of roasts and stewing meats, and that I had better use them before the weather gets too hot for me to want to either cook them or eat them.

You could use tinned chickpeas for this. You would need 2 596-ml tins, and as ever when using tinned beans be a bit cautious with the salt as they have lots already.

4 servings
1 to 1 1/4 hours - 20 minutes prep time (not including cooking the chickpeas)

Lamb Meatballs Stewed with Chickpeas
Cook the chickpeas:
2 cups raw chickpeas
water to cover
1/2 teaspoon salt

Pick over the chickpeas and put them in a pot with water to cover them generously. Bring them to a boil, then turn them off and let them soak over night. The next morning, change the water and simmer them until tender. When they are about three-quarters done, add the salt.

Meatballs:
450 grams (1 pound) lean ground lamb
1/3 cup cracker or bread crumbs
1 extra-large egg
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dill seeds, ground
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, ground
1/2 teaspoon celery seed, ground
1 tablespoon olive oil

Mix all these ingredients except the oil together in a medium sized bowl. Form the mixture into meatballs, and brown them in the oil, turning them to brown them all over.

To Assemble the Stew:
the chickpeas and their cooking water
the meatballs
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup water or broth
salt & pepper

parsley
sour cream

Purée one cup of the chick peas with the paprika, tomato paste and the water or broth, and a little of the chick pea cooking water. Put the purée in a good-sized pot and add the browned, drained meatballs and the remaining chick peas.

Bring the stew to a boil then simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce is somewhat reduced. Stir gently but regularly! Adjust the seasonings; I added a little more salt and pepper, but if you used canned chickpeas you are unlikely to need any more salt.

Serve the stew over rice with a dab of sour cream and a good sprinkling of parsley.





*Odd, that. Normally the puschkinia bloom quite a bit earlier than the tulips but we are having a somewhat compressed spring since the snow lasted so long.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

A Visit to "A Taste of Woolwich" - An Evening of Local Food in St. Jacobs

On Monday we headed out to "A Taste of Woolwich", an evening dedicated to foods produced in Woolwich County. It was held in the Woolwich Community Centre, in St. Jacobs.

Tastes of WoolwichThe agenda for the evening, posted on the door.

Tastes of WoolwichWoolwich County is Mennonite country - if we hadn't known that already, the cloakroom would have made it clear.

Tastes of WoolwichWe went with a friend, who had been there last year. She said there were a lot more people there than last year - perhaps twice as many. We quickly gave up on trying to hear the speakers - there was just too much noise and bustle in the rest of the room, and all the seats had been taken early, so we couldn't get close enough to the stage to really follow the speakers. Pity, as the snatches we did hear sounded interesting.

Tastes of WoolwichAn uncharacteristic open space gives a good view of a table full of maple syrup. The little pastries by the vendor are mini ice-cream cones filled with maple taffy. I had one; wow! Rich and sweet. It was delicious, but one was more than enough. Pure maple taffy right to the bottom.

Tastes of WoolwichMartin's is a very large local producer and processor of apples. You don't have to be local to find their apples, but they also have an outlet on their main farm, just outside of St. Jacobs.

Tastes of WoolwichSheep cheese - it's the next big thing, or rather has been for a couple of years and is just getting bigger. This table is from Monforte Dairy; their flyer indicated that they make pecorino fresco, halloumi, Bauman's smoked (a version of oscypek), ricotta fresh and smoked, "sheep dip", plain and flavoured chevre as well as yogurt and cottage cheese. I tried a firm cheese flavoured with chive blossoms, which I don't see on their list but which was delicious. I'll be back for more!

Tastes of WoolwichWoolwich County is full of market gardeners, Bowman's Organic Produce being one of them.

Tastes of WoolwichThere was a table for the Elmira Produce Auction. This is a very important conduit for local produce. Farmers who don't want to or can't get to farmers markets can sell their produce here; conversely, many sellers at local farmers market buy their wares here. Farmers who sell their own produce also often use it to expand the range of products they are able to offer at the farmers market.

Tastes of WoolwichThe OK Egg farm was represented here. They are important locally because they not only produce eggs, but grade them. Ungraded eggs cannot legally be sold anywhere but at the farm gate, so they process eggs for many small local egg producers.

Tastes of WoolwichAnd finally, a few more eggs. These are from Stone Meadow Farm in Maryhill, where they raise a selection of standard and heritage breeds of chickens and ducks for both meat and eggs. Their petting zoo showed how the eggs vary in size and colouring.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

A List of Ontario Available Produce by Month

So the birds are singing; the bells are ringing; the grass is riz or at least we can see it, brown and patchy mess that it is; the rivers are flooded and everything else is sodden; and in general Spring is here. Sing fa-la-la, etc. The tide has turned and now it's time to say good-bye to endless cabbage and root veggies as we are in a new season of fresh local Ontario produce, right?

Wrong.

The second half of April through most of May are the hardest months of the year to stick to Ontario grown produce. Not only are you tired of all those root veggies and cabbage, but those root veggies and cabbage are either gone or pretty darn tired themselves. Asparagus, lettuce, spinach and other early greens are not really going to be around until the end of May, and that's assuming the weather is reasonably co-operative. I do see more and more market gardeners looking at extending the season with simple greenhouses, so I have hope that the situation will improve. In the meantime, you can buy a few of those imported items with a reasonably clear conscience.

This seems like a good time to try to put together an overview of what is in season in Ontario, and when, month-by-month. If you can see any errors or omissions, please let me know! I will add to this list and make corrections as they come in. I know I am missing quite a few greens, especially the Asian ones, mustard greens, and???

All Year:

Belgian Endive or Witloof (Peak in February through May?)
Cucumbers (Greenhouse)
Lettuce (and spinach?), hydroponic
Mushrooms, button
Mushrooms, shiitake (peak in the fall)
Peppers (Greenhouse)
Sprouts, mung bean
Sprouts, alfalfa and other small seeds
Tomatoes (Greenhouse)

May:

Apples (stored)
(?) Arugula (fresh)
Asparagus (fresh, but not until late in the month)
Beets (stored - but few)
Carrots (stored - but few)
Celeriac (stored)
Fiddleheads (fresh)
Herbs - chives, Welsh onions, dill (fresh)
Lettuce (fresh)
Onions (stored)
Potatoes (stored - but few and noticably reduced in quality)
Radishes (fresh)
Rhubarb (forced greenhouse)
Rutabaga (stored)
Spinach (fresh)

June:

Apples (stored - but few and noticably reduced in quality)
Arugula (fresh)
Asparagus (fresh)
Beans, green & wax (fresh, but not until late in the month)
Beets (stored - but few)
Broccoli (fresh, but not until late in the month)
Cabbage (fresh, but not until late in the month)
Cauliflower (fresh, but not until late in the month)
Celeriac (stored)
Cherries, sweet (fresh, but not until late in the month)
Cucumbers (fresh field, but not until late in the month)
Herbs - chives, green onions, garlic scapes, dill, parsley, cilantro (fresh)
Kohlrabi (fresh)
Peas (fresh, but not until late in the month)
Radiccio (fresh)
Radishes (fresh)
Rhubarb (fresh)
Rutabaga (stored? fresh?)
Strawberries (fresh, traditional varieties, should appear in mid-month)
Turnips (fresh)

July:

Apricots (fresh)
Beans, green & wax (fresh)
Beets (fresh, with or without greens)
Blueberries (fresh)
Broccoli (fresh)
Cabbage (fresh)
Carrots (fresh)
Cauliflower (fresh)
Celery (fresh)
Chard (fresh)
Cherries, sweet (fresh)
Cherries, sour (fresh, can also buy prep'd and frozen)
Corn (fresh)
Cucumber (fresh field)
Currants (fresh)
Gooseberries (fresh)
Kohlrabi (fresh)
Lettuce (fresh)
Onions (fresh; often sold with the greens)
Peas (fresh)
Plums, Yellow (fresh)
Potatoes (fresh)
Radiccio (fresh)
Rapini (fresh)
Raspberries (fresh)
Rutabaga (fresh)
Spinach (fresh; hard to find as really prefers cooler weather)
Strawberries (fresh, traditional varieties)
Tomatoes (fresh field, but not until late in the month)
Turnips (fresh)
Zucchini/Other summer squash (fresh)

August:

Apples (fresh, but not until mid to late month)
Apricots (fresh)
Beans, green & wax (fresh)
Beets (fresh, with or without greens)
Blueberries (fresh)
Broccoli (fresh)
Cabbage (fresh)
Cantelope (fresh)
Carrots (fresh)
Cauliflower (fresh)
Celery (fresh)
Chard (fresh)
Corn (fresh)
Cucumber (fresh field)
Eggplant (fresh)
Garlic (fresh)
Grapes (fresh)
Kale (fresh)
Kohlrabi (fresh)
Leeks (fresh)
Lettuce (fresh)
Muskmelon (fresh)
Nectarines (fresh)
Onions (fresh; often sold with the greens)
Onions (should start seeing some of the storage types again)
Peaches (fresh)
Pears (fresh)
Peas (fresh)
Peppers (field, fresh)
Plums, yellow (fresh)
Plums, purple (fresh)
Potatoes (fresh)
Radiccio (fresh)
Rapini (fresh)
Raspberries (fresh)
Rutabaga (fresh)
Shallots
Spinach (fresh; hard to find as really prefers cooler weather)
Strawberries (fresh, day-neutral varieties)
Tomatoes (fresh field)
Tomatillos (fresh)
Turnips (fresh)
Watermelon (fresh)
Zucchini/Other summer squash (fresh)

September:

Apples (fresh)
Arugula (fresh)
Beans, green & wax (fresh)
Beets (fresh, with or without greens)
Blueberries (fresh, mostly wild from up north by now)
Broccoli (fresh)
Brussels sprouts (fresh)
Cabbage (fresh)
Cantelope (fresh)
Carrots (fresh)
Cauliflower (fresh)
Celeriac (fresh)
Celery (fresh)
Chard (fresh)
Corn (fresh)
Cucumber (fresh field)
Eggplant (fresh)
Garlic (fresh/stored)
Grapes (fresh)
Kale (fresh)
Kohlrabi (fresh)
Leeks (fresh)
Lettuce (fresh)
Muskmelon (fresh)
Nectarines (fresh)
Onions (fresh/storage)
Parsnips (fresh)
Peaches (fresh)
Pears (fresh)
Peas (fresh, but getting to be noticably fewer)
Peppers (field, fresh)
Plums, purple (fresh)
Potatoes (fresh)
Radiccio (fresh)
Rapini (fresh)
Raspberries (fresh)
Rutabaga (fresh)
Shallots (stored)
Spinach (fresh)
Squash, winter (fresh)
Strawberries (fresh, day-neutral varieties)
Sweet Potatoes (harvested at end of the month)
Tomatoes (fresh field)
Tomatillos (fresh)
Turnips (fresh)
Watermelon (fresh)
Zucchini/Other summer squash (fresh)

October:

Apples (fresh)
Arugula (fresh)
Beans, green & wax (fresh)
Beets (fresh, with or without greens)
Broccoli (fresh)
Brussels sprouts (fresh)
Cabbage (fresh)
Carrots (fresh)
Cauliflower (fresh)
Celeriac (fresh)
Celery (fresh)
Chard (fresh)
Cranberries (fresh)
Eggplant (fresh)
Garlic (stored)
Grapes (fresh)
Kale (fresh)
Leeks (fresh)
Lettuce (fresh)
Onions (stored)
Parsnips (fresh)
Pears (fresh)
Peas (fresh, but getting to be noticably fewer)
Peppers (field, fresh; will disappear with first frost)
Plums, purple (fresh; a few; mostly gone)
Potatoes (fresh)
Raspberries (fresh)
Rutabaga (fresh)
Shallots (stored)
Spinach (fresh)
Squash, Winter (fresh)
Sweet Potatoes (stored)
Tomatoes (fresh field - will disappear with first frost)
Tomatillos (home stored)
Turnips (fresh)
Zucchini/Other summer squash (fresh)

November:

Apples (fresh/stored)
Beets (fresh, with or without greens)
Broccoli (fresh)
Brussels sprouts (fresh)
Cabbage (fresh)
Carrots (fresh)
Cauliflower (fresh; not many though)
Celeriac (fresh)
Celery (fresh)
Chard (fresh)
Cranberries (fresh)
Garlic (stored)
Grapes (fresh)
Kale (fresh)
Leeks (fresh)
Lettuce (fresh)
Onions (stored)
Parsnips (fresh)
Pears (fresh)
Potatoes (fresh)
Rutabaga (fresh/stored)
Shallots (stored)
Spinach (fresh)
Sweet Potatoes (stored)
Turnips (stored)

December:

Apples (stored)
Beets (stored)
Broccoli (fresh; maybe, depends on weather)
Brussels sprouts (fresh)
Cabbage (fresh/stored)
Carrots (stored)
Celeriac (stored)
Celery (fresh)
Cranberries (not many at this point)
Garlic (stored)
Grapes (fresh; not many and only early)
Leeks (stored)
Onions (stored)
Parsnips (stored)
Pears (fresh)
Potatoes (stored)
Rutabaga (stored)
Shallots (stored)
Sweet Potatoes (stored)
Turnips (stored)

January:

Apples (stored)
Beets (stored)
Brussels sprouts (stored)
Cabbage (stored)
Carrots (stored)
Celeriac (stored)
Garlic (stored)
Leeks (stored)
Onions (stored)
Parsnips (stored)
Pears (stored; Bosc only)
Potatoes (stored)
Rutabaga (stored)
Shallots (stored)
Sweet Potatoes (stored)
Turnips (stored)

February:

Apples (stored)
Beets (stored)
Cabbage (stored)
Carrots (stored)
Celeriac (stored)
Garlic (stored)
Leeks (stored)
Onions (stored)
Parsnips (stored)
Potatoes (stored)
Rhubarb (forced)
Rutabaga (stored)
Shallots (stored)
Sweet Potatoes (stored)
Turnips (stored)

March:

Apples (stored)
Beets (stored)
Cabbage (stored)
Carrots (stored)
Celeriac (stored)
Garlic (stored)
Onions (stored)
Parsnips (stored)
Potatoes (stored)
Radishes, black (stored)
Rhubarb (forced)
Rutabaga (stored)
Shallots (stored)
Sweet Potatoes (stored)

April:

Apples (stored)
Beets (stored)
Cabbage (stored)
Carrots (stored)
Celeriac (stored)
Onions (stored)
Parsnips (stored)
Potatoes (stored)
Rhubarb (forced)
Rutabaga (stored)
Shallots (stored)
Sweet Potatoes (stored)

Sour Cherry & Apricot Food Processor Sorbet

At this time of year, I am assuming you are using fruit you froze last summer, or at least that you have purchased already frozen. But for future reference, if you are freezing the fruit as part of making this recipe, I find it best to lay it out an a cookie sheet or plate covered in plastic wrap to freeze. Keeping the pieces of fruit smallish and well spread out to ensure you don't end up with a single massive lump 'o frozen fruit is also useful.

This is basically the same recipe as Peach & Raspberry Sorbet, but I will keep posting it in various incarnations, because, honestly, this is one of the best things I have ever come up with, and I don't want it to slip anyones' mind. Such modesty. But there it is.

4 to 6 servings
15 minutes - plus freezing time

Sour Cherry and Apricot Sorbet made in the food processor
2 cups frozen, pitted sour cherries
1 cup frozen apricot pieces
the juice of 1/2 lemon or lime, or some liqueur if you prefer
1/4 cup sugar

Put it all in ye handy-dandy food processor, and process.

That's about it, really, although I suppose I should note that it's a good idea to take the fruit out of the freezer about 5 minutes before you start to let it soften up slightly; especially the apricots. You will need to stop regularly to scrape down the sides and stir up the mixture a bit, and it will likely take about 5 minutes of processing to reduce the fruit to a fine frozen mush - which is longer than you think. However, eventually you should have a smooth, ever so slightly slushy mass, also known as sorbet.

You can serve it at once, or put it in a freezer container and return it to the freezer. In that case, it should be tempered before serving - 5 or so minutes on the counter, 20 minutes or so in the fridge.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Maple Cream Puffs

So rich and decadent I'm not sure they're even legal.

A lot of people think that cream puffs and eclairs must be difficult to make, but they're not. The pastry is ridiculously easy in fact, and can be filled with all kinds of things besides maple cream. The maple caramel will be the only bit that may be a little tricky; and it will simply be firmer, or softer, according to what degree you have cooked the syrup. Unless you actually burn it, it will always be delicious.

12 to 14 cream puffs
45 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Maple Cream Puffs
Choux Pastry:
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/8th teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons rice flour measured out into a small bowl
2 extra-large eggs

Put the water, butter and salt in a heavy-bottomed pot and bring them to a boil. Dump in all of the rice flour, and stir like mad, until the dough is lump-free and forms a ball. Remove the pot from the stove and let it sit for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the batter is smooth. Use a 1" disher to scoop the batter out onto the prepared cookie sheet. Be sure to keep them well spaced.

Bake for 17 to 20 minutes, until firm and golden brown. Let them cool before slicing and filling.

Maple Caramel Topping:
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons butter

Put the syrup in a heavy bottomed pot. Bring to a boil and boil steadily for about 2 minutes, until the syrup seems on the edge of caramelizing: there should be a slight change in the aroma, and the bubbles will become quite small. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Let cool for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice the puffs horizontally about three-quarters of the way through.

Dip the top of each puff in the caramel. You will need to tilt the pan by the end to ensure good coverage on each puff. Place them back on the parchment paper as each one is done. When they are all covered, if there is any extra caramel, scrape it out and drizzle it over the puffs, with particular attention to any that don't seem to have full coverage.

Maple Cream:
1 cup whipping cream
2 to 3 tablespoons maple syrup

Beat the cream until fairly stiff. Add the maple syrup and continue beating until the cream is quite stiff.

Put one tablespoon or so of cream into the sliced centre of each cream puff. Ideally, they should be served at once, although they will wait for up to an hour. Any longer and the shells are apt to get a bit soggy. If they must be kept, it is best to put them in a cool spot, but not the fridge.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Scottish Potato Scones

I used to always make these with wheat flour, but when I was not eating any wheat I found they worked very well with barley flour. It definitely lends a nice subtle flavour to them, and I suspect that historically, it was at least as traditional as wheat flour in these.

These are called scones, but they are more like a flatbread or thin dense pancake.

If you have left-over mashed potatoes, you can certainly use them; it will cut the time to make these way down. You will likely need to adjust the salt and butter in that case; i.e. if you put much in your mashed potatoes you can leave them both out. Taste the dough before you cook it to make sure the salt is right. If you want to you can add the butter too; they will just be a little richer.

8 scones
1 1/2 hours including cooking the potatoes - 1 hour active work (prep)

Scottish Potato Scones
2 cups mashed potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup barley flour or wheat flour
plus a little for rolling

Wash and boil the potatoes - about 3 medium ones. When they are cool enough to handle, peel them, mash them, and measure out 2 cups. Mix in the salt, the butter and the egg.

Mix the baking powder into the flour, then stir them into the potato mixture. When the dough is well mixed, divide it into 8 equal portions. Roll out each section into a 1/4" thick circle on a clean, floured surface.

Bake them on a lightly greased griddle or skillet at the same temperature that you would cook pancakes, for about 5 minutes each side. They should feel dry but pliable, and have some light brown blisters. Keep them warm in a damp towel in the oven as they are cooked. Serve hot.

If you are cooking them all at once, you probably want to use two skillets or they will take rather a long time to all be done. Otherwise, they can be kept raw in the fridge between sheets of waxed paper in a plastic bag. They can also be cooked all at once; leftovers can be reheated in the oven or the microwave.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Shaker Baked Carrots

This recipe didn't come from my new Shaker cookbook; I got it many years ago from my great-aunt Alethea.

Cooked carrots are not a great favourite in this household. We eat a ton of them raw, and I often grate them and put them into pasta sauce and other cooked dishes where they will provide nutrition but fade into the background. There's no fading into the background here though since this dish is about 95% carrots. However, this is one of the few cooked carrot dishes I can serve and know they will be hoovered up in no time. A touch of sweetness, a touch of ginger, and a little butter - suddenly cooked carrots are hard to pass up. These are great to serve with baked fish or chicken; if you are going to have the oven on you might as well get several things in there.

2 to 4 servings
45 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Shaker Baked Carrots
4 cups grated carrots
2 or 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon Sucanat
1/2 teaspoon salt

Peel and grate the carrots. Set them aside. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Put the butter in a 1 quart or litre casserole dish, and put it in the oven to melt.

Meanwhile, peel and grate the ginger. When the butter is melted, add the carrots, ginger, Sucanat and salt to the casserole dish. Toss well to mix, being particularly careful to break up any clumps of the grated ginger.

Cover the casserole with a lid, or foil if it doesn't have one, and bake for 30 minutes.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Making Fruit Juice Jellies

I've already posted about making Cranberry Jelly. Fruit juice jellies are one of our favourite desserts around here, and certainly one that I'm inclined to make more often than many others; the fat content is (usually) nil, the quantity of sugar is reasonable and there is actually some nutritional value to be had from them.

Most juices are not so intense and acidic as cranberry juice, so I am lumping all the rest of them in here. Although it is impossible to give an exact formula that will work with every juice, there is a range of measurements that will work very well. The amount of sugar you add can vary from none to quite a lot, and you may or may not wish to use some water to cut the juice. The main thing to remember is that you need to use 1 tablespoon of powdered gelatine to every 2 cups of liquid; the amount of sugar doesn't affect this.

Most people nowadays associate jelled desserts with Jell-O, and other little packets of sugar, gelatine and chemicals. Homemade jellies are so much better. I was going to say they leave Jell-O and its ilk in the dust, but frankly they are left so far behind I don't think they even know there is any dust. Except in those little packets, of course.

I made this striped jelly with blackberry pulp, passionfruit pulp, and coconut milk. The coconut milk turned out to be a great idea; the fruit juices caught me by surprise with just how acidic they were, and the coconut milk really mellowed them. Mind you, that's why I said the fat content was usually nil; this is the exception. Still, jellies are pretty moderate desserts as desserts go.

4 servings (per 2 cups)
3 to 4 hours - 5 minutes prep time

A fruit jelly made with blackberry juice, coconut milk and passionfruit juice
2 cups fruit juice or fruit juice and water
1 tablespoon powdered gelatine
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar

The first step is to taste your juice, and decide whether to use it straight, or to mix it with water. I find pure, unsweetened juices such as blueberrry, raspberry, currant or cherry juice do better being cut. I usually use 1 part water to 2 parts juice. If the juice is sweetened or from a milder fruit, I am more likely to use them undiluted. Sometimes I add a little lemon or lime juice to the mix to add a bit of brightness and complexity to the flavour. The other time I add a little water is simply to be sure I end up with an amount of liquid that doesn't require elaborate calculations to figure out the amount of gelatine to use. i.e, if you are using a 14 ounce container of juice, don't fight it - add two ounces of water and get 2 cups. Unless you like your jelly really boingy.

If you are using water, don't mix it with the juice. Put it in a pot on the stove. If you are not using any water, put about 1/3 of the juice in the pot. Either way, put the (remaining) juice in a mixing bowl.

Sprinkle the gelatine over the juice in the mixing bowl to soften; add the lemon or lime juice if using.

Add the sugar to the water or juice in the pot. Bring to a boil, stirring to be sure that all the sugar has been dissolved. Mix the boiling water or juice into the juice and gelatine mixture. Be sure all the gelatine is dissolved.

You may wish to taste the juice at this point again. If it is not sweet enough, you can add a little more sugar, making sure it too is dissolved.

Let the mixture cool. Refrigerate until set, usually 3 to 4 hours.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

A Visit to the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival

After a long, snowy winter it was time for the first community agriculture-based festival of the year around here: the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival. They bill themselves as the world's largest one-day maple syrup festival, and I believe it. Some friends of ours are volunteers there, and as we walked around they reckoned that there were likely more than 100,000 people there today, which would, we think, be a record. They had been expecting a more typical number; about 60,000. However, the weather has been so bad right up to now that people came out in droves for the first beautiful Saturday of the year - practically the first beautiful DAY of the year. A festival in the beginning of April gambles with the weather; we've been here when it's been -20°C, and when it's been 20°C. Today's temperature of about 11°C was very comfortable. We've also been here when the sleet was coming in sideways, but today was so bright and sunny. Perfection!

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
I'm pretty sure it started at 7:00 am. Since we are a couple of sleepyheads, our efforts to get there at a reasonably early hour saw us walking into the downtown at around 8:30 am.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
We slipped into town on back roads, and parked at our friends' house, as we knew from previous experience that the main road into town would be crazy. However, that meant we didn't get to park on the outskirts and ride into town on a haywagon pulled by a tractor.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
We sussed this place out right away as the place we wanted to get lunch. Those are smoked turkey drumsticks on the grill, but they had lamb, beef or chicken pitas as well. The smell was tantalizing.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
So far, at 8:30, the crowds are manageable.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
The main street of Elmira is filled with booths selling food, food products and crafty things; some of them local clubs and organizations raising money, some of them local suppliers, and some of them folks who make the rounds of various fairs and festivals as their business. Even a few maple syrup vendors there. The food is definitely a lot more interesting than the crafts, I would have to say.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
This is the line-up for the pancakes. We didn't go for them. They are pretty ordinary pancakes, however good the syrup. Plenty of people do have them though; they serve about 15,000 pancakes and 725 litres of maple syrup.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
We had these pancakes instead. The line-up was much shorter!

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
Stemmler's is a local producer of cold cuts and other processed meats. They had a booth serving food to eat on the spot, as well as this one, selling meats to take home.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
Another syrup vendor.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
Funnel cakes! There were several people selling these, as well as apple fritter sellers. You could have gotten a deep-fried Mars bar here, if you wanted. I saw a few people walking around with them. A little scary if you ask me!

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
Local bee-keepers with honey and beeswax candles.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
Here's a picture of a few of the cooks at the main pancake kitchen. They have quite the assembly line going...

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
...they are at just one of about 4 or 5 long griddles.

Elmira Maple Syrup FestivalHere's the line-up stretching back - first you get a ticket at the red booth, then you line up to collect your pancake.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
The line-up from another angle.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
And from another angle...


Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
By now the crowds on the main street were extremely thick. I could have taken a version of this picture over and over, everywhere on the street. It was pretty much standing room only.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
Dill pickle onna stick! C.M.O.T. Dibbler should try his luck with these! At $1 per ginormous pickle, they struck me as one of the better deals and a great antidote to all the greasy and sugary food around.

Elmira Maple Syrup FestivalDo you see the end of the street? Barely? That's where this line up turns the corner and you board a bus for a tour of a maple bush. Always assuming you remembered to line up elsewhere and get your ticket first. We decided we would rather go look at the antiques - although we could have looked at crafts and quilts if we preferred.

The festival goes on to about 5:00 pm, or until people go home (much earlier during bad-weather years) or when everyone runs out of food. We declared ourselves stuffed, broke and worn-out after lunch, and so headed home for a quiet afternoon of digesting.

p.s! Don't forget to look under Maple and Honey in my index to the right for some maple syrup recipes.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Cabbage & Bean Sprouts with Shiitakes

I'm sad to see I am nearly out of garlic! It has held up very well, and I didn't store it carefully at all. Next year I will have to be sure to stash some more.

This sounds a little complicated, but it's all just a matter of keeping things apart until the right moment - it's really very fast and easy to make - just a quick side dish with lovely crunchiness, and how can anyone not love garlic and shiitakes?

4 servings
20 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

Cabbage and Bean Sprouts with Shiitakes6 to 8 dried shiitake mushrooms
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce

2 cups shredded cabbage
3 cups bean sprouts

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves of garlic

Put the shiitakes with the 1/2 cup of water into a pot, and bring to a boil. Cover and remove from the heat. Let sit 10 minutes. Lift out the shiitakes and reserve the soaking liquid. Cut the stems from the shiitakes and discard them - that would be stems, not shiitakes.

Meanwhile, mix the starch with the tamari in a measuring cup and set it aside. When the shiitake soaking liquid is cool, add it to the measuring cup with enough cold water to make 1/3 cup.

Peel and mince the garlic, shred the cabbage, and rinse and drain the bean sprouts.

Cook the cabbage in a little water until crunchy-tender. Drain it and set it aside. Put the oil in the pot and sauté the garlic until fragrant and just starting to colour. Add the bean sprouts and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until they are hot and softened. Add the cabbage and the shiitakes, and heat through, stirring regularly.

Stir up the starch mixture, and pour it over the vegetables. Cook them for a minute or two longer, still stirring, until the sauce thickens.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Spinach & Celeriac with Bacon

Celeriac keeps well into the spring, and on Saturday I found some greenhouse-grown spinach at the market. New and old together with bacon - and everything's better with bacon.

2 to 4 servings
20 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

Spinach and Celeriac with Bacon6 to 8 cups (2 quarts) fresh baby spinach leaves
1/2 small or 1/4 large celeriac, peeled and grated
(equal to 2 or 3 cups)
3 or 4 slices of lean bacon
salt and pepper

Pick over and wash the spinach, and drain it. Peel and grate the celeriac; there should be about 2 cups. Chop the bacon into dice.

Cook the bacon bits in a heavy-bottomed pot until they begin to crisp, then add the celeriac. Continue cooking for 4 or 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the celeriac has softened and shrunk down. Add the spinach, and cook until it is wilted down, stirring to make sure it cooks evenly. Season with pepper, and a little salt if the bacon is not too salty.