Saturday, 31 January 2009

Beet & Horseradish Sauce for Beef

This can be mild and salad-like, or hot and bitey, depending on the proportions of the ingredients. The proportions of the ingredients are completely up to you...

4 to 8 servings
15 minutes prep time

Beet and Horseradish Sauce for Beef
1 small to medium beet
horseradish
sour cream

Peel the beet, except for the top leaf-scab area, which you can hang onto as you grate. Grate the beet finely, and discard the aforementioned top.

Mix 1/2 to 1 cup of the grated raw beet with with 1 to 4 tablespoons of horseradish, depending on how hot your horseradish is, and how hot you would like the resulting condiment to be.

Mix in sour cream, just enough to moisten everthing, or enough to make it quite pale and creamy... this is completely up to you... what do you want?

Serve it on top of steak or roast beef.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Seedy Wild Rice, Apple & Cranberry Salad

I used 1/3 of a cup of red rice in this, just because it was sitting there looking lonely and insufficient to cook on its own. That was, I think, a very good proportion to the wild rice which is fabulous and could be certainly eaten straight, but which is not exactly cheap.

I thought this salad was excellent, but then I would; it's full of my favourite things.

6 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Seedy Wild Rice Apple and Cranberry Salad
Cook the Rice:
1 cup wild rice
OR a mix of wild and brown rice
pinch of salt
water

Cook the wild rice in the rice cooker, with three cups of water and a pinch of salt. If you use a blend of wild rice and brown rice, allow triple the measure of the wild rice in water and double the amount of brown rice in water. Let the rice cool before making the salad.

Make the Dressing:
1/3 cup raspberry vinegar
1/4 cup sunflower seed or nut (hazelnut or almond) oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste

Shake in a jar or whisk together in a small bowl.

Assemble the Salad:
2 medium carrots
1 cup dried cranberries
2 large apples
1 cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds, or a combination
1 head (hydroponic) lettuce

Put the cooked wild rice in a large bowl and add the carrots, peeled and grated. Add the cranberries. Wash the apples, core them and chop them. Add them to the salad.

Toast the pumpkin or sunflower seeds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until lightly browned. If you use a combination, start the pumpkin seeds before the sunflower seeds. They should be about half done when the sunflower seeds go in. Stir them constantly to avoid scorching. Once they are done, turn them out onto a plate to cool. When they are cool, they can be added to the salad.

Toss in the salad dressing and serve over the lettuce leaves, which should be washed and dried.

If you wish to make the salad in advance, keep the toasted seeds aside, and don't add the apples. Cut and add the apples just before serving, along with the toasted seeds. It might not hurt to keep the dressing separate until then too.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Irish (Potato Skin) Nachos

There's nothing Irish about these, except of course for the association of Ireland with potatoes. As far as I can see they originated as bar food in Texas. However, they make a nice light lunch with soup or salad, or serve them as an hors d'oevre or appetizer.

Basically, these are stuffed potato skins with nacho toppings. You can put on them whatever you would normally put on nachos. I tried to keep it reasonably light, although I just couldn't pass up on some sour cream.

I call for russet potatoes, which are your classic baking potato. I actually used red skinned potatoes, on account of how I have a 75 pound bag* of them in the basement. They worked fine, and were very well received.

4 servings
2 hours - 30 minutes prep time

Irish or Potato Skin Nachos
4 or 5 large russet potatoes

1/4 cup olive oil
150 grams (1/3 pound) Monterey jack cheese
- ideally with Jalapeno peppers in it
1 cup prepared salsa (you did can some salsa last summer, right?)
5 or 6 button mushrooms, sliced
sliced pickled peppers or green olives or other nacho toppings if you like
about 1/4 cup sour cream

Wash and prick the potatoes with a fork, and bake them at 400°F for about 1 hour, until well done.

Let them cool enough to handle, and cut them in quarters lengthwise. As you work, cut out most of the potato flesh - at least three-quarters - and set it aside for another use. Put the skins on a large baking tray.

Brush the skins, both sides, with the oil. Put them back into the oven at 400°F for 10 minutes, to brown a little. They should be spread out in a single layer.

Meanwhile, slice the cheese and mushrooms. When the potato skins are ready, top each with a slice of cheese, a teaspoon or so of salsa, and a mushroom slice or whatever other toppings you are using. Return the potato skins to the 400°F oven for 5 or 10 minutes until the cheese is melted. Pile them up on a plate and dab them with the sour cream.

Enjoy! Get 'em while they're hot.





*For which I paid the ridiculous sum of $10. Somebody needs to take those Mennonite farmers aside and introduce them to the concept of "inflation".

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Japanese Carrot Salad Dressing

I've seen a number of versions of this dressing around, and have been interested in trying it for a while. I didn't quite do any of the recipes I saw, but picked out the features I thought most appealing from several different ones. Some of the recipes called for up to a cup of oil, but I was interested in the ones that didn't call for any, except a little sesame oil for flavour.

The light miso is fairly important; otherwise the dressing will be a dreary brown instead of a reasonably good orange colour. (If you want an even brighter orange, omit the soy sauce and add a bit of salt instead.) Other ingredients that you could add include a bit of lemon zest, a bit of mustard and honey, or green onions or chives. I don't know that I would add all of them; one at a time maybe.

If covered, this should keep for a few days in the fridge, which is good; it makes a fair bit of dressing.

8 servings (about 1 cup)
15 minutes prep time

Japanese Carrot Salad Dressing
1 cup grated carrot
1 cubic inch peeled fresh ginger root
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons light miso
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Peel and grate the carrot. Peel the ginger root, and slice thinly across the grain.

Put all the ingredients into a blender and blend until very smooth.

Um, that's it. Serve it on a nice light green salad. I used hydroponic lettuce, savoy and red cabbage, and mushrooms.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Vegetarian Sauerkraut Soup

Here's a nice light but filling soup, loaded with vegetables. There are a lot of meat-based sauerkraut soup recipes out there, so I thought I would go for a vegetarian version just for a change. Besides, it's January and we are all trying to eat a little lighter, right? If you feel deprived a little dab of sour cream should cheer you right up.

8 servings
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time

Vegetarian Sauerkraut Soup
4 cups water
2 cups sauerkraut
2 cups crushed tomatoes
2-3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon caraway seed

2 leaves of savoy cabbage
1 stalk of celery (optional)
1 small carrot
1 small leek
10 to 12 button mushrooms
4-6 shiitake mushrooms
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

Put the water, sauerkraut, tomatoes and seasonings in a large soup pot. Check the sauerkraut first; some is more "sauer" than others. If you think yours is a bit strong, you may wish to rinse and drain it first.

Wash and chop the remaining vegetables (peel the carrot first) and add the carrot and cabbage to the soup. Sauté the mushrooms in the oil until lightly browned, then add the celery (if using) and leek and sauté for a few minutes longer. Add these vegetables to the soup as well.

Cover the soup and simmer for about an hour. If you think the soup is too jam-packed with vegetables, you may wish to add a little more tomato and water.




Last year at this time I made Fish in Leek & Carrot Sauce.

Friday, 23 January 2009

No-Bake Puffed Barley Squares

I was really pleased with how these turned out.

I had bought a bag of puffed barley that came from Grassroots Organics (Saugeen Specialty Grains). They are the only small organic mill I know of in Ontario that makes puffed cereals. However, they have sat around for a while as I don't really tend to eat puffed cereals - I stick to my oatmeal, with the occasional outbreak of pancakes. So, I decided to adapt a recipe traditionally made with puffed rice cereal to use these up.

Did I say they turned out really well? I cut back the sugar, and replaced corn syrup with honey as well as swapping out the puffed cereals. The result has far more depth and gravitas than any mere rice crisp could achieve. You can't just stuff these down, you need to nibble them slowly, and savour them. Preferably with a nice cup of tea.

It wasn't just the rich, mellow flavour of the barley (do rice crisps even have a flavour?) but also the honey was a local one, of which we have just bought a gigantic tub. I have to say I find the honey from the Bruce Peninsula/Georgian Bay area/Muskoka to be exceptionally good. Some fingers got licked during the making of these squares, and I just about floated off to heaven right then. Wow, really fragrant.

25 squares
10 minutes - not including the time to set

No-Bake Puffed Barley Squares
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 3 1/2 cups puffed barley

Lightly oil an 8" x 8" baking pan.

Put the cocoa, sugar, butter and honey in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil, stirring well to prevent lumps. Once the mixture comes to a boil, boil it for 45 seconds to one minute, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Yes, the timing is that precise, so watch it.

Remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the vanilla extract. Stir in the puffed barley, until it is well coated in the mixture. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes, then scrape it into the prepared pan. Press it out evenly over the bottom of the pan. Once the mixture has set - half an hour will do it - cut the squares and remove them from the pan.




Last year at this time I made Wild Rice Pilaf and Sweet Potatoes with Bacon & Shallots.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Lemon-Apricot Carrots

As I've remarked before, we don't tend to eat a lot of cooked carrots by themselves, as a side dish, even though we often go through an average of a carrot a day in this household. They are more likely to go into salads or be unobtrusively blended into soups, stews and casseroles. However, there wasn't much in the way of vegetables in the fridge when I got back, so carrots it had to be.

The good news is that these were really tasty - I'll do them again, even when I have a choice of other veggies.

3 to 4 servings
15 minutes - 5 minutes prep time

Lemon-Apricot Carrots
3 medium-large carrots
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
the zest of 1/3 of a lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons apricot jam

Peel the carrots, and slice them. Actually, I think I might cut them in julienne next time. Put them in a small pot with the water, butter and lemon zest.

Cover them, and cook them for about 5 minutes. Remove the lid, and continue cooking them until the water has pretty much evaporated. Give them a stir once in a while.

Add the lemon juice and apricot jam, and continue cooking for a minute or two longer, until the sauce is thickened.




Last year at this time I made Chicken with Leeks & Barley - An Anglo-Saxon Recipe, and Carrot Pudding.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Beef with Multiple Onions

Including shallots, which are "multiplier" onions, but that wasn't what I meant.

Well, I'm back in Ontario, after a quiet family visit in Victoria. I was there a day longer than planned, as my flight couldn't leave - couldn't arrive, actually - because of fog. The next day was clear though, and I had a most fabulous view from the plane of the sunrise coming up behind Mount Baker. Almost, I say almost, worth getting up at 5:00 a.m. to see. Once we got home I checked the pantry, and there seemed to be an awful lot of beef and onions. Why fight it?

4 servings
2 1/2 hours - 1/2 hour prep time

Beef with Multiple Onions2 medium onions
1 large leek
4 to 6 shallots
3 cloves of garlic

450 grams (1 pound) boneless stewing beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups diced canned tomatoes
2 or 3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
black pepper to taste
12 allspice berries
2 or 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Peel the onions and cut them in half, then cut each half into quarters. Clean the leek, and chop it into similar sized pieces to the onions. Peel the shallots, and cut them in quarters. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat one tablespoon of oil in a large skillet, and brown the beef well. Put it in a large stewing pot with the tomatoes, the bay leaves, the salt, paprika and pepper.

Heat the remaining oil in the same skillet, and add the onions and the allspice berries. Sauté them for about 5 minutes, until they begin to brown. Add the leeks and shallots, and continue to sauté gently for another 10 minutes or so, until they too are slightly browned. Add the garlic and sauté for another 2 or 3 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant. Add all the onions to the stew.

Cover the stew and simmer for about two hours over low heat. After about an hour, add the vinegar. Serve hot with potatoes, crusty bread, pasta or rice. Like a lot of stews, this will be better re-heated the next day.




Last year at this time I made Boston Brown Bread, Pasta with a Creamy Mushroom, Celery & Leek Sauce, and Haystacks - An Unbaked Cookie.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Making Carrot Marmalade - A Tutorial

Since I'm away, I thought I would post a revised version of a step-by-step pictorial recipe for Carrot Marmalade I did a few years ago. This requires a Seville orange, (or 2 if you want to double it,) the traditional orange for making marmalade but which is only available in January and February. Other places have their seasons too!

This is adapted from a recipe in the Canadian Farm Cook Book of 1911, of which I am so fortunate as to have a copy. The Canadian twist to this marmalade is the addition of carrots. I like it better than straight-up orange marmalade, which I find just too strong in the home made version - and I like a marmalade with lots of oomph. The lemon makes it a little more subtle too. You don't actually taste the carrots; they just mellow it. All in all, if you like marmalade you should give it a try. It's not hard to make, just a little time consuming.

Most canning recipes should NOT be changed in size as they will likely not set up in a reasonable (or even unreasonable) amount of time. This recipe is an exception. Since the original recipe only makes 3 jars, I generally double it and it has always worked out fine for me. That's what I did here. I also used 3 oranges as the ones I could find that year were all unusually small. They should be the same size as the lemons, at least. Seville oranges, by the way, have a rough and bumpy texture compared to most oranges, and are too bitter/sour to eat raw. Great for cooking, though.

Sorry for the quality of the photos. If you think it's easy to cook with one hand and photograph with the other, well, ha-ha! Think again.

3 250-ml jars
2 hours. 3 hours? Something like that... no, really it's 2. It just feels longer.

Making Marmalade - the ingredients
The ingredients await.

Making Marmalade - collecting the seeds
Keep the seeds! They have the pectin!

Making Marmalade - cutting the peelI prefer to cut the peel by hand for better control of the sizes of the pieces. You can try using a food processor if you like, but be prepared to pick through them and re-cut some pieces. Cut up the fruit, too; but do it separately from the peel. Be sure to save all the juice.

Making Marmalade - the seeds provide the pectin
The sliced fruit, juice and peel go into the canning kettle with the water. The seeds go in too. Put them in a spice-ball or tie them up in muslin, otherwise you willl never get them out again. The seeds are full of pectin; they ensure that the marmalade will set.

Making Marmalade - start cooking
Start cooking the marmalade.

Making Marmalade - grate the carrots
Meanwhile, peel and grate the carrots.

Making Marmalade - adding carrots and sugar
Add them, with the sugar, to the marmalade.

Making Marmalade - not done
Testing for done-ness: nope, not even close.

Making Marmalade - testing done
Okay, this looks more like it.

Making Marmalade - hot spattering marmalade
Watch out! This stuff is hot!

Making Marmalade - filling the jars
Pack it into the sterilized jars.

Making Marmalade - wiping the rims
Wipe the rims.

Making Marmalade - putting on the lids
Put on the prepared lids.

Making Marmalade - sealing with the rings
Seal them... and once they go back into the canner briefly, you're done. Mmm, marmalade!

Making Marmalade finished
1 organic lemon
1 Seville orange
2 cups water

2 cups grated carrots
2 1/2 cups sugar
pinch of salt

Wash the lemon and orange carefully and shred them finely. Keep all the seeds from both, and put them in a clean new tea ball, or sew them into a scrap of cheesecloth or thin muslin.

Put the lemon and orange in a pot with the water, and the seeds, and boil for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash, peel and grate the carrots. Add the carrots, sugar and salt to the marmalade pot.

Put the canning jars into the canner and cover them with water to an inch above the tops of the jars. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes.

Continue boiling until the marmalade is thick and looks inclined to set, about 30 minutes from the addition of the carrots and sugar. Fish out the seeds, draining them well.

Ladle the marmalade into sterilized jars, seal and process in boiling water for 5 minutes.




Last year at this time I made Smoked Trout & Rutabaga Chowder.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Potato Pancakes

Pancakes again! But I had about 2 cups of leftover mashed potatoes, and this is one of the things I do when I have leftover mashed potatoes. The resulting pancakes are moist, soft and potato-ey, but definitely pancakes and not pan-cooked cakes made of potatoes, if you follow me. Not at all like latkes, for example.

Still, they would be as good for brunch as for breakfast, or could be served alongside soup instead of bread. We had ours for breakfast, with applesauce, which is another classic accompaniment for potato pancakes. They are cooked with more oil than regular pancakes, and they take longer. I prefer not to serve any butter with them because of the oil. On the other hand, if you want to you could add a little chopped onion. Blanch it with the grated potato.

Makes 10 to 12 pancakes
1 hour - work, work, work

Potato Pancakes
1 large raw potato, grated
boiling water
2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
2 extra-large eggs
1 cup soft unbleached flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 cups buttermilk

cooking oil

Scrub and grate the raw potato, and put it in a colander. Pour boiling water over it until it is well soaked, then rinse it in cold water until you can handle it. Squeeze it as dry as you can, then put it in a mixing bowl. Add the leftover mashed potato, and beat in the eggs.

Assuming cast iron skillets; put two on the stove to heat over medium to medium-low heat and turn the oven on low, with a couple of plates in it to catch the finished pancakes.

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt, and add them to the batter alternately with some buttermilk. The exact quantity of buttermilk will depend on how moist your potatoes were, both the leftover mashed and the grated raw. You want the typical pancake batter; thin enough to spread easily over the pan but not too runny.

Once they are mixed, try not to stir them again.

Put a bit of oil in each of the pans. There should be enough to generously cover the bottom of each pan. Use a 1/3 cup measure to scoop out the pancakes into the pans. Spread the batter out a bit, and cook until the tops of the pancakes look mostly dry and many bubbles have formed. Turn the pancakes over and finish cooking on the other side. As you remove cooked pancakes, add more oil if the pan looks dry before adding more batter.

I find I need to keep the heat a hair lower than for other pancakes, and they take a bit longer to cook. These probably didn't take an hour to make, but they did seem pretty slow.




Last year at this time I made Cinnamon Cocoa Applesauce Cake and Seven Minute Frosting.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Gone Away

Thanks to the fact that you can schedule posts ahead of time on Blogger, I'm able to keep some posts going this week, even though I am not around. I have abandoned my sweetie to the apartment building to finish the painting and cleaning by himself, while I gad off to visit my uncle in Victoria. Yes, I feel mildly guilty, but this was booked months ago. I intend to have a good time. However, once I get back we will be within 2 weeks of the closing date on our apartment building and I expect to be running around like an hysterical automaton. Not cooking or posting much, is what I'm getting at. Apologies in advance for the slim pickings. I'm looking forward to February, when things should get back on an even keel.




Last year at this time I made Cheesy Lentil Loaf. Check it out - it's still good stuff!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Sweet Potato Waffles

I've had this recipe for a long time, but this is the first time I tried them. I was afraid they hadn't worked out well when I looked at them - they were rather thin and floppy, for waffles - but they tasted excellent.

The recipe came from The Canadian Woman's Cookbook, originally published sometime in the 1920's although my copy dates from the late 1930's. Their idea was that these were to be served as a vegetable/starch side dish, and you could, certainly; although I thought they were just fine for breakfast. They would be a good way to use up an extra sweet potato baked accidentally on purpose for dinner the night before. My sweet potato was a bit more than a cup when mashed, and I put it all in. In retrospect, I should have measured more carefully. I enjoyed them though!

If you haven't got a waffle maker, I would think the batter would make good pancakes.

4 large waffles (12 small)
45 minutes - 10 minutes prep time; not including time to bake the sweet potatoes

Sweet Potato Waffles
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 extra-large egg yolk
1 cup mashed cooked sweet potato
3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 extra-large egg white, beaten stiff

Cream the butter and sugar, and beat in the egg yolk and the cooked mashed sweet potato.

Mix the baking powder and salt into the flour. Mix the flour alternately into the sweet potato mixture with the milk.

Beat the egg white until it is stiff, then fold it into the batter.

Cook the waffles in yer handy-dandy waffle maker, according to manufacturer's instructions. Generally, it should be heated up then brushed lightly with oil between each waffle. Check for doneness when the amount of steam coming out of the waffle iron lessens. Keep finished waffles warm in the oven.




Last year at this time I made Rutabaga with Peas & Mushrooms and Oven Barbecued Onions.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Savoy Cabbage au Gratin

This mild, creamy cabbage went really well with the Apple Butter Spare Ribs, as it would with any other more spicy main dish. Baked potatoes rounded out the meal. With two things in the oven, I could spend a little more time on the vegetable dish, which is good as it has to be admitted this is a little fiddly.

You may think the technique is a little odd, but I got fed up with making the white sauce for it in a separate pot. Three dirty pots is too many for a side dish. Have pity on the poor old scullery maid (or boy, as the case may be.)

4 to 6 servings
40 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Savoy Cabbage au Gratin
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
6 cups finely shredded savoy cabbage
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
salt and pepper
1/2 cup rich milk or cream
1 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Put the finely chopped cabbage into a pot with the chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cream the butter and flour in a small bowl, then mix in the lemon zest and salt and pepper. Watch the salt; if your chicken stock has much you may wish to leave it out.

Grate the bread crumbs and set them aside. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

When the cabbage has cooked for the requisite 5 minutes, quickly stir in the mixture of flour and butter, until thoroughly dissolved and the sauce thickens. Stir in the milk or cream.

Put the contents of the pot into a shallow quart (or litre) casserole dish. Top with buttered bread crumbs. You can rub the last tablespoon of butter into the crumbs with your fingers, or you can spread the crumbs over the cabbage and just dot the butter around over the. The former is more effective; the latter is much less greasy on the fingers.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes at 400°F, until the crumbs are nicely browned.




Last year at this time I made Sprout Nest Salad with Tomato Eggs and Apple Butter or Date Squares.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Apple Butter Spare Ribs

I started off with the idea of apple butter spare ribs a few years back, but never felt I had the sauce quite right. I started off trying to make an apple butter flavoured barbecue sauce with quite a long list of ingredients. Since then I've been putting less and less into the sauce besides the apple butter as this recipe continues to evolve, and the fewer other things I put in, the better I like it. Although I think I've hit some sort of balance here; lots of sweet apple butter flavour, but with a bit of tang and bite. Very easy too, although they do take some time to bake.

2 to 4 servings
2 1/4 hours - 15 minutes prep time

Apple Butter Spare Ribs
Make the Sauce:

2/3 cup apple butter
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger

Mix these together in a small bowl and set aside.

To Bake the Ribs:
450 to 700 grams (1 to 1 1/2 pounds) pork side ribs

Preheat the oven to 325°F

Cut the ribs into pieces; either individual ribs or portions for each serving. Lay them in a shallow baking dish, e.g. that good old glass lasagne pan for me. Spoon half of the sauce evenly over the ribs. Bake them for 1 hour.

Turn the ribs over, and spoon the remaining sauce evenly over the ribs. Return them to the oven for 1 hour, until they are very tender.




Last year at this time I made Ham and Mushroom Orzotto and Navy Beans Baked with Herbs & Tomatoes.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

News Update

Uggh.

Had a dream this morning about repairing drywall in an apartment. It started with me going around with a gicky tub of drywall putty (which someone had gotten some tar into) and a putty knife (the wrong size, and broken) and fixing little holes in the wall of a very grubby apartment. In spite of the fact that I was working on fixing the place, there already seemed to be a number of tenants littering the place. As I worked (between being interrupted by tenants) I discovered that the drywall was in worse and worse condition, until finally, it ended three-quarters up the wall in ragged, crenellated line, and what was there was as punky as cardboard. Being a dream, it never occurred to me that I could rip it all out and start again. One of the tenants came by and offered to fix it for $2000.00. "Are you nuts?!?" I shrieked, and woke up.

Ahh, good old stress dreams. How I love 'em.

In real life, we went round last weekend to collect rent from the last tenant to collect rent from, and couldn't find them. I phoned them and they said, "Oh, yes. We moved out."

Huh.

How about that.

Of course, their last act before moving out was to paint the living room dark brown and the kitchen scarlet.

So, instead of having a relatively peaceful month, we are going to be spending it painting. Again. Which is where I am at the moment, if anyone is wondering.

The good, the exciting, the terrifying news is that this is the last month we will have to do this. We have sold the apartment building. We're retiring! I hope this means I will have more time to do all kinds of things: gardening, hiking, this blog... we'll see!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Braised Whitefish with Ginger & Green Onions

Now that we live up on Georgian Bay it is much easier to find local fish products, and I expect I'll be cooking a lot more of them. I really like this very simple treatment, and boy is it fast, providing you have the fish thawed out and ready to go - take it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge as you clean up from dinner the night before.

Next time I make this in the winter I may replace the green onions with shallots, which unlike the green onions, are local at the moment. I just happened to have some green onions from another dish that needed using up. They do add a little touch of colour.

2 to 3 servings
15 minutes - 5 minutes prep time

Braised Whitefish with Ginger and Green Onions
1 fillet of whitefish, enough for 2 - say about a pound, perhaps
2 or 3 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
2 or 3 tablespoons water
2 or 3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Put the fish in a pan wide enough to hold it in one layer, and which has a snug lid.

Add the chopped green onions, the grated ginger, the water, soy sauce and sesame oil. Cover the pan.

Turn the heat on to medium-high, and cook the fish for about 10 minutes, until the thickest part is firm to the touch. If you are my sweetie, who happily eats raw fish sushi, you like your cooked fish really cooked; in which case allow about 15 minutes - no more or it may end up dry.

That's it! Slide it out onto a serving plate and send it to the table.




Last year at this time I made Sprout, Cabbage & Walnut Salad.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Cream of Rutabaga Soup

A small amount of carrot will add a little bit of colour; otherwise the soup will be rather pale. (I didn't add any this time.) This is another one where my sweetie said, "Pretty good, for rutabaga." Sheesh. Rutabaga is dee-licious stuff so of course it makes dee-licious soup.

6 to 8 servings
50 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Cream of Rutabaga Soup
1 medium rutabaga, about .8 to 1 kilo (2 pounds)
1 small carrot (optional)
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons soft unbleached flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black peppercorns
2 cups milk
grated nutmeg

Peel the rutabaga, and cut it into thin slices. Put them in a large pot with enough water just to cover them, and the bay leaves. Add a few slices of peeled carrot, if you like. Bring to a boil, and simmer until tender, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the butter, flour, salt and pepper together in another pot until well amalgamated. Lower the heat, and add the milk, a little at a time and stirring constantly to prevent it from forming lumps. Once the mixture is thick, set it aside until the rutabaga is done.

When the rutabaga is done, put the white sauce into a blender or food processor with the pieces of rutabaga, which should be lifted out of the cooking water with a slotted spoon. Purée the rutabaga and white sauce until very smooth.

Put the soup back into a pot - how about the one that the white sauce was in. Put three cups of the cooking water from the rutabaga into the food processor, and whizz it around to clean the sides. Pour this water into the soup, and stir well until smooth. Grate a little nutmeg over the soup, and mix it in.

Reheat the soup just before serving. Serve garnished with parsley, chives or a little more grated nutmeg.




Last year at this time I made Baked Bean Style Bean Soup.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Buttermilk Pancakes

I do get tired of oatmeal for breakfast sometimes. When we make pancakes, we tend to eat breakfast late and skip the whole lunch thing entirely because we eat the lot, no problem. (Of course then we need afternoon tea...) You could cut this recipe in half, or freeze leftover pancakes to be re-heated in a toaster.

10 to 12 pancakes
30 to 40 minutes prep time

Buttermilk Pancakes
2 cups soft unbleached flour (actually, I used whole spelt flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons butter
2 to 2 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 extra-large eggs
a little oil

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Put 2 large, lightly oiled skillets on the stove over medium heat to preheat. I'm assuming cast iron here, which takes a few minutes to warm up. Also, turn on the oven as low as it will go, and put the plates in the oven to warm up and to catch the finished pancakes.

In another bowl, melt the honey and butter. Beat in 2 cups of buttermilk and the eggs.

Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just well mixed. Add a little more buttermilk if the batter seems too thick.

DON'T stir the batter again; you'll lose your "lift".

I use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to dollop out pancakes into each pan. Spread them around gently, and cook them until the tops form lots of bubbles and begin to look dry. Loosen and flip the pancakes, and finish cooking them on the other side, which will not take as long. If they don't loosen easily, they are not ready to flip.

Put the finished pancakes in the oven to keep warm, and continue making pancakes, adding a little oil to the pan as needed. You'll need to scrape out the bowl with a spatula at the end.

Serve the pancakes hot with plenty of butter and maple syrup, or however you like: my father favours them rolled up with peanut butter and jam. Honey is great, and if you want something a little less sweet how about applesauce?





Last year at this time I made Pizza.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Prune & Apricot Whip with Custard

Unfortunately, unless you dried them yourself last summer, the prunes and apricots are not going to be local. I don't know why no-one is producing dried fruit in Ontario. (Anyone...?) Now that I have the space, one of the things I would like to acquire is a good sturdy food drier. They really do come in handy for a lot of things, but we've already burned out 2 or 3 of the cheaper versions. Next one is going to be top quality.

Anyway, this was a favourite dessert from my childhood. Actually, Mom just made it with prunes. I think the apricots make it a little lighter and more complex in flavour. It doesn't seem very common anymore, possibly because people are iffy about the raw egg whites. If you think that may be a problem, this is not the dessert for you.

If you use a lighter milk and reduce or omit the butter, the results are not as good (duh) but on the other hand, this becomes quite dietetic.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour prep time - 4 hours or more to chill

Prune and Apricot Whip with Custard
The Prune & Apricot Whip:
1/2 cup prunes
1/2 cup dried apricots
2 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon gelatine
the juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 extra-large egg whites

Stew the prunes and apricots in the water until they fall apart. Remove the pits, if any. Give them a quick whizz through a food processor or blender. Add the sugar.

Meanwhile, soak the gelatine in the lemon juice and vanilla extract. Stir the hot fruit purée into the gelatine mixture. Stir well to ensure the gelatine is completely dissolved. Allow the mixture to cool, but not to set.

Beat the egg whites until they are very stiff. Fold them gently into the cooled fruit purée. Spoon the mixture into a large bowl and chill until set. It may be unmolded, or served straight from the bowl. With custard, of course, which is where those 3 egg yolks are going to go.

Custard:
3 extra-large egg yolks
1/4 cup of sugar
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch or very fine flour
1 1/2 cups light cream or rich milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In the top of a double boiler beat the egg yolks with the sugar, salt and starch or flour. Slowly beat in the cream or milk until it is all in and the mixture is very smooth.

Now turn the heat on medium, and cook the custard until it thickens, stirring frequently to start and constantly as it shows signs of getting hot and thickening.

Once it is thick, remove it from the stove and stir in the butter and vanilla extract. Serve warm (but not too hot) or cold over the Prune & Apricot Whip. This is a runny custard, so it will not get wildly thick. As with all custards, once it has thickened, it is done - do not cook it any longer or it may curdle, lump or thin out. It will be thicker cold than hot.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Apple, Beet & Walnut Salad #2

A simple but refreshing salad. I do like anise with beets I must say, and it goes with the apples perfectly well too. At this time of year, the lettuce will need to be hydroponic. If you are not serving the salad immediately, it is best to toss the apple pieces with a bit of lemon juice before putting them on the salad.

1 hour 15 minutes - 15 minutes prep time
4 servings

Apple Beet and Walnut Salad
Make the Dressing:
2 tablespoons walnut oil
2 tablespoons apple cider or juice
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
a pinch ea salt & pepper
1/4 teaspoon anise seed, ground

Grind the anise seeds, and whisk or shake together all the dressing ingredients.

Assemble the Salad:
2 medium beets, cooked
2 medium tart apples
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1 small head Boston or other leaf lettuce

Wash but do not trim the beets. Boil them until tender and remove them to cold water. When they are cool, peel them and cut them into 1 cm cubes or small slices.

Core and chop the apples. Wash, dry, and tear up the lettuce. Arrange it on plates or in a salad bowl with the apples, beets and nuts over it. Drizzle the dressing over the salad.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Rabbit Ragu

I've had rabbit in restaurants, and always enjoyed it, but this was my first ever attempt at cooking it. I used the recipe for Rabbit Ragu from Epicurious, and followed it pretty exactly. I used more carrot than called for, omitted the butter and reduced the amount of oil, used dried herbs including a bay leaf, replaced the onion with shallots, added more tomato, and puréed about half of the sauce. Also I just used a good-quality but regular bacon, not pancetta. And I doubled the recipe, as there were 8 of us. Well, for me that's about as pretty exactly as it gets.

Also, one can only snicker at their injunction to use "1 (3-lb) rabbit, boned by butcher and meat cut into 1-inch pieces (1 1/2 lb boned)". Good luck with that. Hereabouts, you will take your rabbit whole or not at all. It is not the easiest thing to find, although I know you can get it fresh at the Kitchener Farmers Market. Frequently, it will be frozen, but they are small enough they should thaw out in 24 hours in the fridge. I jointed mine, sautéd the pieces a fair bit longer than called for, then stewed them with the bones in. I made the ragu a day ahead, and the next morning I boned the rabbit pieces and returned the meat to the ragu. This was surprisingly quick; I did two rabbits, and the whole process took about 20 minutes.

There was a reasonable amount left over, which I added to some of my canned tomato sauce from the summer; an excellent combination.

4 servings
2 hours - 1 hour prep time


Rabbit Ragu
1 rabbit, 1.5 kilograms (3 to 3 1/2 pounds)
125 grams lean bacon
4 medium shallots
2 medium carrots
1 stalk of celery
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 teaspoon whole rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse gray sea salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup dry red wine
3 to 4 cups crushed tomatoes


Thaw the rabbit overnight, if frozen. Remove the liver and kidneys (if included) and use 'em for something else; I have no suggestions, sorry. Cut the rabbit into sections - I cut off all the legs, and then cut the torso in half. Rabbits are small boned, and it was easy to do this. I also cut open the rib-cage, but I'm not sure that was particularly helpful.

Chop the bacon finely.

Peel the shallots and carrot. Dice the carrot, shallots and celery.

Sauté the bacon in a large skillet until the pan is nicely oil and the bacon lightly crisped. Add the rabbit pieces and sauté until lightly browned on each side. When you turn them, add the prepared vegetables and the seasonings, and sauté them as well. Add the olive oil as needed - there should be enough to keep things generously lubricated but not swimming.

If your skillet is big enough, I suppose you can just keep going in it. I found it easier to remove everything to a large stew pot at this point. Add the wine and the tomatoes. Simmer the stew gently for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Let the stew cool enough to refrigerate, and refrigerate overnight (or for several hours at least.)

Pick out the rabbit pieces, and remove the meat from the bones. Nothing like fingers for this. While the meat was out of the sauce, I also puréed about half of it, which I think was a good idea. It made the carrots less prominent and the sauce saucier. Once that's done, add the now boneless meat shreds back into the sauce.

Whenever you are ready to eat, the ragu has only to be reheated. It's traditionally served with pappardelle, or polenta, but I served good old mashed potatoes. I bet it would be great with Clapshot.