Friday, 21 July 2017

Snap Peas with Chive & Dill Dressing

I wanted to make a snap pea salad, highlighting the fresh sweet flavour and crisp texture of one of our favourite early summer vegetables. I didn't like the first version I made all that much. Mr. Ferdzy and I did eat it, critiquing it as we went. Our conclusion was they are just so mild and delicate that almost everything I had added overwhelmed them. So for the next version I left out the radishes, the onions, the everything-else I had put in. There isn't very much left now besides the snap peas.

But of course, that's what made this so much better a salad and exactly what I had been picturing to start with. You could serve it on a bed of lettuce, I suppose, if you had some.

Be sure the peas and herbs are completely dry; you don't want any water left on them to thin the dressing. 

2 to 4 servings
20 minutes prep time

Snap Peas with Chive & Dill Dressing

2 cups snap peas
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh dill
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh chives
2 tablespoon thick yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (light is fine)
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put a pot of water on to boil for the snap peas. Wash the snap peas, and top and tail them. When the water boils, drop them in and boil for 3 minutes, then rinse them in cold water until cool. Drain them very well.

Wash, dry, and mince the dill and chives. Mix them in bowl that will hold the peas with the yogurt and mayonnaise. Blot the peas completely dry, and mix them in. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Last year at this time I made Gooseberry Chutney & Jam.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Devillish Broccoli & Egg Salad

For a sweet, simple, little salad this required an annoying amount of advance preparation. I thought it was worth it though, and none of it is hard. You just have to plan ahead.

It's not really a side salad; it's pretty close to  meal in itself. It's light enough that I suggest a really nice roll and butter to be served with it, or possibly serve it as part of an assortment of salads. A potato or grain salad would add that little bit of heft that is lacking. I really like a salad bar type menu for summer entertaining and this would fit into that very nicely.

If you don't eat bacon you could replace it with something else to provide that little hit of salty something. Roasted salted pumpkin or sunflower seeds would do the trick quite nicely.

2 to 4 servings
45 minutes prep time in 2 separate sessions
30 minutes advance cooking, 15 minutes final prep

Devillish Broccoli & Egg Salad

Advance Cooking:
4 large eggs
6 slices bacon
1 bunch broccoli

Put the eggs in a pot and cover them with water. Bring them to a boil and boil for one minute, then turn off the heat but leave them, covered, in the pot for a further 10 minutes. Rinse in cold water until cool and set aside until needed.

Cut the bacon into small bits and cook in a skillet over medium-high heat until quite crisp, stirring frequently. Remove them to a sheet of paper towel to drain and cool. Set aside until needed.

Put a pot of water on for the broccoli. Wash, trim, and chop the broccoli fairly finely - small bite sized pieces. When the water boils, add them and cover the pot. Cook for 3 minutes then rinse in cold water until cool. Drain very well and set aside until needed.

Make the Dressing:
1/2 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon horseradish
freshly ground black pepper to taste
the finely grated zest of 1 lemon
the juice of 1/2 lemon

Mix the mustard, horseradish, pepper and lemon zest into the mayonnaise until smooth and well blended. Add the lemon juice and mix again. Taste the dressing; you may want to add just a little more of the mustard and/or the horseradish, keeping in mind that the dressing will taste much less strong once it is tossed with the salad.

Finish the Salad:
1/2 cup chopped sweet Spanish onion
a bit of salt
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
a sprinkle of sweet, spicy, or smoked Hungarian paprika

Peel and chop the onion. Place it in a colander and sprinkle it with a little salt. Let it drain while you prepare the rest of the salad. (I actually suggest doing this just before you make the salad dressing.) Wash, drain, and chop the parsley.

Mix the broccoli, bacon bits, and parsley in a salad bowl. Rinse and drain the onion thoroughly, then mix it in as well. Toss in the dressing.

Peel and cut the eggs in eighths. Mix them in very gently. Sift a bit of paprika over the top of the salad if you like.

Last year at this time I made Beet Salad with Berries & Nuts.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Rocdor Bush Beans

Rocdor is a very popular yellow (wax) bush bean. Gardeners like it because it is one of the earliest to start producing, at about 50 days to maturity. It is tolerant of germinating in cool soils, meaning you can plant it a little earlier than beans usually go in, getting even more of a head start on the season. We planted ours alongside all our other beans though, and it is still the first to be ready by what looks like will be at least a week and possibly 2 weeks. Mind you, all our other fresh eating beans are pole beans. I was reminded as I picked these why we don't often grow bush beans for fresh eating, even if they are ready sooner than the pole beans. Oh, my back!

Yields are very respectable, for a bush bean, and the flavour and texture are good. They have a rich deep beany flavour and nice crisp texture. The beans are very attractive, growing mostly straight and thin and having a lovely pale yellow colour. As with a lot of yellow bush beans, the seeds are black.

More reasons that gardeners like them: they are not only tolerant of cool weather - and they have been holding up to this cool, rainy summer very well - but also of heat and high humidity. They are said to be resistant to anthracnose and bean mosaic virus, both of which we have had in the garden at various times, so we shall see. Not yet though; the beans have generally been healthy so far this year. I have noticed, though, that if they suffer a physical injury such as a bird peck or poop landing on them or even just the tip dragging on the ground, that they are less likely to scab over but instead to develop mould and rot. This has not been a big problem, but I discard or at least have to trim 4 or 5 beans from every quart I pick.

This is usually described as a French heirloom. The French part is correct; they were introduced by Vilmorin seeds. However, that was apparently in 1982 so they are not a particularly old bean.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Curried Baked Chicken Thighs

I've been making these all spring, with either the spice combination listed below or some of the Madras curry powder I mixed up a while back. I'm actually pretty happy with how that curry powder has turned out. The chicken is very good both ways.

I like putting the paste under the skin because that way you get crispy, crunchy, tasty skin, and also the paste is right on the meat. That way those annoying people who promptly peel off the skin and discard it when served roasted chicken (you know who you are!) still get the benefit of the paste as well.

These got a little overly brown because damn, it takes a long time to shell enough peas for 3 people. Next time I will have to start sooner.

Since I only wanted 4 chicken thighs cooked I put half the paste into a little tub and froze it. That's where the next round of chicken thighs are; I will just take them both out to thaw at once, making the next Curried Baked Chicken Thigh dinner very easy and straightforward. Unless I serve peas.   

6 to 8 servings
1 hour 20 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Curried Baked Chicken Thighs

Make the Sauce:
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
2 teaspoons coriander seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1/4 cup peeled, sliced, fresh ginger
4 to 6 cloves of garlic
the juice of 1 small lemon or large lime
1/4 cup thick plain yogurt

Make the curry powder according to the recipe, or grind the coriander and cumin seed. Put them into a food processor, whichever you are using; all the spices if not the curry powder. If your food processor has a smaller bowl, so much the better; use it.

Peel and slice the ginger and garlic. Add them to the bowl of the food processor and process until quite smooth. Scrape down the sides as needed.

Once you have a reasonably smooth paste, add the lemon or lime juice and process again. When smooth, add the yogurt and process again. Scrape down the sides as needed.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Finish the Dish:
6 large or 8 medium skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs

Carefully lift the skin along one edge of a thigh, pulling it away from the meat all over but leaving it attached at the edges as much as possible. Using a large spatula or shallow spoon, spoon in 1/6th or 1/8th of the curry paste, depending on the number of chicken thighs you have. Spread it to the edges as much as possible, but don't worry about it too much - it will tend to spread a bit on its own. Put it into a shallow baking pan of sufficient size to hold the thighs fairly snugly. Repeat with the remaining chicken thighs. You can cook them at once, or cover them and return them to the fridge for up to 24 hours; take them out to warm up a bit when you turn the oven to preheat.

Roast the chicken thighs for approximately 1 hour, until golden brown and crispy, and cooked through.

Last year at this time I made Lentil Salad with Peas & Purslane. 

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Turkish Style Zucchini in Yogurt Garlic Sauce

Apparently my head is still in the eastern Mediterranean. From Lebanon we move on to Turkey, where they douse everything in garlic-infused yogurt with generally delightful results. We certainly liked this one.

I have to say this summer is developing a definite theme, and the theme is herbs. I have been using them in everything, starting with that massive patch of chervil in the spring and moving right along. I didn't plan it! It's just happening.

2 to 4 servings
20 minutes prep time

Make the Sauce:
1 clove of garlic
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup yogurt

Peel and mince the garlic very finely; I minced it then mashed it with the side of the knife. Mix it into the yogurt with the salt. Set aside.

Prepare the Zucchini:
2 or 3 medium zucchini, sliced (500grams; 1 pound)
2 or 3 green onions
2 or 3 tablespoons finely minced fresh mint
2 tablespoons olive oil or sunflower seed oil
1/4 teaspoon ground Aleppo pepper
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash and trim the zucchini, and cut it into slices. Wash, trim and mince the onions and the mint; set them aside keeping them separate.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini and sauté until softened and lightly browned on both sides. Turn regularly. A minute or so before they are done, mix in the green onions and season with the Aleppo pepper, and salt and black pepper to taste. Just before it is done, mix in the mint and cook until just wilted. Remove the zucchini etc, to a serving dish at once and spread it out to cover it evenly.

Let the zucchini cool for 10 minute or so, then top with the garlic sauce. (This should be served with a little warmth left in it, but really neither hot nor cold.)

Last year at this time I made Chilean Style Beet (or Other) Greens.

Monday, 10 July 2017


When we were in Windsor recently we got a fattoush salad from a take-out restaurant and enjoyed it. I was already thinking about making some fattoush when I saw this recipe for it at The Guardian. This was quite different from the one we had just had which, lets face it, was mostly lettuce. But apparently a lot of people just don't put lettuce into fattoush at all, and that suits me fine. Our lettuce has all gone bitter. I am not a big fan of lettuce and tomatoes together in a salad, and I think this is part of the reason - they are just not at any kind of peak quality at the same time; one or the other is bound to be not good.

Felicity Cloake does not douse her pita breads in za'atar but the version we had in Windsor did, and that's what made it a good salad even if the rest of it was pretty heavy on the lettuce.

So, lets talk about the sumac, which is one of the things that makes fattoush distinctive. It's a hard thing to get around here. It is also a spice that doesn't keep well. Once I get my hot little hands on some I wrap it well and keep it in the freezer. I also tend to call for it with a heavier hand than most recipes, mostly because it is likely to have faded some in flavour before I get it. If you can get fresh sumac and think I am calling for too much, by all means cut it back.

I was amused to see that purslane is a traditional ingredient. I was putting purslane and cucumbers into salad this time last year, although nothing so elaborate as this. Reinventing the wheel, as they say. I've still got purslane even if it isn't as far along this year as it was last year, but I expect it will get big fast now that it seems to be warming and drying up some.

We 2 ate it all with a few cold cuts and some cheese on the side, but it would serve up to 6 as part of a more elaborate meal.

2 to 6 servings
40 minutes prep time

Fattoush Salad

Prepare the Bread:
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 teaspoons ground sumac
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 pita breads, stale is fine
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Mince the thyme and mix it with the sesame seeds, sumac, and salt in a small bowl.

Put the pita breads on a baking tray, possibly lined with parchment paper. Brush olive oil all over them, both sides, and sprinkle with the herb mixture (za'atar) on both sides. Put the tray in the oven and toast until the breads are lightly brown and quite crisp. They may bend a little but once they are out and cool they should crisp up. Brush them with a little more olive oil - both sides again - when they come out of the oven.

Let them cool then break them  up by hand into bite-sized pieces. You can make the dressing while they cool.

Make the Dressing:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ground sumac
1 clove of garlic, peeled and minced
the juice of 1 medium lemon

Mix all of the above in a jam jar or small bowl and shake or whisk until blended.

Make the Salad:
2 to 3 small middle-eastern type cucumbers
2 large ripe tomatoes
1 small white onion, with greens attached
6 to 10 radishes
1 cup purslane leaves (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves

Wash, trim, maybe peel, and cut the cucumber into chunks - in half or quarters lengthwise, then into thick slices. Peel (if you like) the tomatoes, and cut them into similar chunks. All this is getting tossed into a mixing bowl as  you go...

Wash trim, and slice the onion. If it is strong, sprinkle it with a little salt and set it aside as you do the rest, then rinse and drain it and add it. You can chop up the greens finely and add them too. Wash and trim the radishes, and cut them in quarters.

Wash the purslane and pick it over carefully, removing any roots, debris, and tough stems. Add to the salad. Rinse and mince the parsley and mint, again discarding any tough stems.

Toss the vegetables. Then, just before serving, toss in the pieces of pita bread. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve at once. 

 Last year at this time I made Cucumber & Purslane Salad.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Strawberry Upside Down Cake

I had a lot of trouble with this recipe. I had to make it 4 times to get it just right! The thing is though, we enjoyed eating every one of those almost-but-not-quite cakes. There aren't too many cakes I would like to eat 4 times in a row but this is definitely one.

It's still not as glamorous as I think Strawberry Upside Down Cake ought to be, but oh well. Such is life. Also, I'm afraid the careful lining of a square pan with parchment is an important part of the recipe, so do not neglect it. On the other hand, this is a very quick and easy cake to make, and is really delicious.

One of the things I tested was how much arrowroot to toss with the strawberries. When I used 2 tablespoons, they stayed on the bottom of the pan making a better layer of strawberries on the top once the cake was turned over. When I used just one, the cake sunk down more into them as they baked, and it didn't look as nice. However, the texture of the berries was softer and nicer. You will have to decide whether to go for looks (such as they are) or flavour. I suggest that flavour rules, but it is up to you. 

8 to 12 servings
1 hour 20 minutes - 20 minutes prep time; also allow time to cool

Strawberry Upside Down Cake

Prepare the Pan & the Strawberries:
3 cups strawberries
1 OR 2 tablespoons arrowroot
3 tablespoons sugar

Wash and hull the strawberries, and drain them well.

Line a 9" square cake pan, bottom and sides, with parchment paper folded neatly into the corners. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Toss the berries with the arrowroot and sugar, and spread them in an even layer in the bottom of the prepared pan. They should cover it pretty completely.

Make the Batter & Finish the Cake:
1 1/3 cups soft whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mild vegetable oil
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Measure out the flour and mix in the baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Cream the oil and sugar in a mixing bowl. Beat in the eggs and the vanilla extract. Beat in the vanilla extract.

The batter will be both fairly stiff and apparently skimpy; do your best to spread it out evenly over the strawberries without disturbing them. I get it to within about a quarter inch of the sides of the pan, and that is okay as it will spread to them as it cooks.

Bake the cake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Let cool for at least 15 minutes in the pan before attempting to remove it. Let it cool completely before turning it over and slowly, gently, peeling off the parchment paper.

Last year at this time I made Minestrone di Piselli.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Cooking a Beef Tongue; Tongue Tacos

It has been a long time since Mr. Ferdzy and I have stocked the freezer with meat, but we committed this week to buying a whole lamb and a quarter cow. Freezer currently being defrosted! In the meantime, I was able to get a beef tongue from the beef farmer (it was Bluewater Organic Farms) which is an amazingly hard thing to get hold of nowadays.

Of course, Mr. Ferdzy was seriously not enthused. This is one of the reasons it is so hard to get beef (or any) tongue nowadays - not just him, but all those other people who are not enthused. Seriously not enthused. I'd say fine, more for me! But somehow it doesn't seem to work out that way.

If you want tongue and can track it down, it will either be very inexpensive (mine turned out to be free because it had been kicking around in the freezer long enough to get a little freezer burned) or it will be very expensive; this is what happens when a product is in both low supply and low demand.

Mr. Ferdzy declared 2 reasons for lack of enthusiasm, and they are pretty typical. One is just stupid: he "knows what it is". Yeah; it's tongue. That steak he likes so much better is a chunk of leg; deal with it. Mind you, he did agree to try Tacos de Lengua, which is to say Tongue Tacos. This is in fact a traditional Mexican thing, and since he loves tacos it seemed the best bet to try and generate some interest on his part.

The other reason is fair enough: he doesn't like the texture, he says. Even though tongue is not an organ meat in the usual sense - it's a muscle, just like that chunk of leg meat - it does have a different texture than most muscle meats. It has more fat and collagen distributed throughout, and so ends up with a softer texture, slicker and a little gelatinous. One of the few ways tongue may still occasionally be available is in gelatine, as a cold cut. I used to be able to get this at the Kitchener Farmers Market, and this was the only way Mr. Ferdzy had previously had tongue. (I hope you can still get it there; I just haven't been able to go there in years.) Meats in gelatine or aspic are about as far out of fashion in North America as it is possible to get and people here are just not used to them and tend not to like them when they do try them. On the other hand this texture is popular in Asia and apparently tongue is a valued ingredient in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese cooking.

If you want to try tongue, it is very easy to cook. First it gets poached for several hours, then it gets skinned. After that it is ready to be incorporated into recipes. So what did Mr. Ferdzy think of the tacos? He found them acceptable, and he was willing to eat them. It won't ever be his favourite meat, but hot in a taco it was sufficiently different from the cold jellied slice of tongue he so disliked, to be something that he could enjoy to a reasonable degree. Me, I enjoyed them very much.

Tongue Tacos or Tacos de Lengua

Cook the Tongue:
1 beef tongue, 1.5 to 2 kg (3 to 5 pounds)
3 to 4 bay leaves
1 medium onion, peeled and coarsely sliced
2 stalks of celery
1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 head garlic, peeled
2 litres of water
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons black peppercorns

Pretty easy! Rinse off the tongue and put it in a large stock pot with the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil then simmer gently but steadily for 3 to 4 hours. Turn it over once or twice to ensure even cooking.

Remove it from the stock and let it cool. While it is still warm, peel off the skin that covers the tongue. Discard the skin. (A lot of people suggest feeding it to your dog, if you have one.) The tongue is then ready to be used in further recipes.

The cooking broth should be strained, and the solids discarded. It is a light but useful beef broth, which you can use right away or freeze. Maybe make some tongue soup with it.

Tongue Tacos:
corn tortillas
chopped cilantro
chopped lettuce
mild salty cheese, such as feta OR sour cream
tomato or tomatillo salsa

sliced avocado (optional)
sliced or shredded prepared beef tongue
bacon fat or lard (or other fat for frying)

Quantities cannot really be given; it's all a matter of what you think appropriate for the number of people and their appetites.

Around here if  you want edible corn tortillas you have to make them yourself, which is what I did, according to the package instructions; although I made them bigger and thicker than they suggest. If you have a Latin American grocery near you (lucky you!) ignore the "fresh" corn tortillas and buy them from the freezer. Check that they are not full of preservatives as the so-called fresh ones always are. They will taste so much better without them. Thaw the tortillas and be prepared to briefly heat them just before serving.

Wash and prepare any vegetables to be served; cilantro is traditional and lettuce or cabbage will also work. I mixed a little cilantro and lettuce together. Dice or crumble some cheese, have tomato salsa, and sliced avocado if you like; arrange these all in bowls and set them out on the table.

To serve, heat the bacon fat or lard and cook the prepared beef tongue in it until hot through and browned and crispy about the edges. Meanwhile heat the tortillas briefly in another hot skillet, just a few seconds on each side. Keep them warm in a covered dish.

Let diners assemble their own tacos at the table.

Last year at this time I made New Potatoes with Garlic Scapes & Parsley, and  Strawberry Poke Sponge Cake.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Midsummer Garden Update

It's been a while since I've given a garden update. To cut to the chase, this has been a very frustrating year. Between the rain (nearly constant) and the critters things are on the whole below average to bad. It has been nice not to have to water, beyond one dryish week that pretty much coincided with our planting the bulk of the seeds, but the weeding has been stupendous. We had deer getting in for a while in the earlier spring but Mr. Ferdzy got up early one morning and caught one in the act. He was able then to find where it was getting in and out and reinforce that bit of fence, and we haven't had a deer since. Rabbits, oy.

Above are peanuts, looking okay from a distance. They are not actually doing too badly in spite of having been nibbled by marauding rabbits. It has been cool enough and wet enough we expect to keep them covered off and on all summer, hence the hoops and plastic to go over them.

Those carrots sure look lush! Especially the front half which is seed I saved from last year. This is one of the few times I have managed to save carrot seed. The bad news is I have a horrible fear that the father of all of it may be Queen Anne's Lace... time will tell. The garlic looks good but I am seeing signs of possible virus in some of them. Or maybe they are just in danger of drowning. IT HAS BEEN SO WET. Fortunately (or unfortunately in dry years) our soil is sandy and fast-draining. But still. SO WET.

The section next to the garlic looks good, but it's mostly weeds. There are a reasonable amount of parsnips in it, but the beet seed hardly germinated. I will try replanting it again this week; fortunately they are fast enough that they should still have time to mature.

Tomatoes are in and trellised and mostly growing well; ditto the squash, melons, and cucumbers. We had some problems with rabbits (?) nibbling on the tomato plants and killing a couple. Fortunately we had replacements still on hand - we always grow extra plants, most of which we hope to compost - and they are a little behind but at least there.

This bed looks pretty bad, but in fact it's good. This was our weedy horrible mess, now cleared out. We expected an immediate regrowth of weeds and there is some but not as bad as we feared. If we can keep it clear we will plant peonies all down the middle in the fall.

That one big clump of green at the far end is my sorrel; it survived this attempt on its' life and is recovering nicely.

Mr. Ferdzy now has all the previously unfinished inner walkways dug out and ready for gravel. We will be travelling next week to visit relatives, but after that he plans to order gravel and get it moved in. That will finish the gravel paths (for now at least) and will be a momentous occasion!

Because we hope to be away all next winter in Spain we are growing peas and beans more for seed saving and breeding purposes than eating, freezing, and drying purposes. We are growing small quantities of lots of different things, including quite a lot of crossed peas and beans saved from the last couple of years. I will be excited to see how these turn out if not eaten by rabbits. We are also trying 3 different kinds of Lima beans.

Mr. Ferdzy got fed up with how much work it is to string all these trellises and experimented with some lathing instead but I think his conclusion was that it is faster to put up but has other problems.

The 2 carrot plants above are self sown. I am starting to be able to tell the difference between Queen Anne's Lace (wild carrots) and domesticated carrots. The one on the left is a domesticated carrot, with slightly sparser, much more upright leaves. I suspected the one on the right of being a wild carrot, because the leaves were fuller and tended to spread out lower.

I scraped away enough soil to determine the carrot on the left was a real orange carrot, and pulled up the other one. It looks like a wild-domestic cross; that's a wild type root but larger and fuller than usual. It isn't guaranteed that the sparser leafed, more upright plants are domestic carrots, but I have yet to see a spreading or branching specimen that wasn't a wild carrot.

Peas and beans are trellised; again we had some problems with them being nibbled on by rabbits. We seem to be having a real outbreak of them this year. They have occasionally wandered in in the past but it's been rare that they've been persistent pests. We have been putting out traps for them but no luck. Not surprising. Why go into a trap to eat tired picked vegetables when there is an all-you-can-eat buffet of fresh, living vegetables all around you already? We may try a sonic device to keep them off if they persist.

That last bed on the right was also a disappointment. We grew chick peas successfully for the first time last year, but we didn't know when to pick them and they stayed in the garden too long, got rained on and went a bit mouldy. Not good enough to eat but I saved the best for seed. However the germination rate was just terrible. I seeded several times, hundreds of seeds each time, and we have have about 30 plants. Good enough to keep us in seed I hope, providing they are not nibbled to death by rabbits, a possible outcome it has to be admitted.

Our peas for freezing are a bit of a mess this  year. In addition to the rabbits, the deer were breaking in for while and wreaking havoc. Plus we were short on seed and they were spaced at 6" apart and not 4", our preferred distance for packed beds like this. Six inches allows way too much room for weeds and we have 'em. Plus I got so absorbed in weeding I forgot to pick the peas and the first batch got a little over mature. *sigh* Good thing a certain amount of this was intended for seed anyway.

On the right are onions from last year, going to seed; the seedlings for this years onions are behind them. The sweet potatoes and peanuts are big heat lovers and benefit from being covered with plastic whenever it's anything less than outright hot.

And that brings us full circle around the garden. We are resigned to the fact that this is going to be more of a make-progress-on-infrastructure year than a great vegetable year, but at least we are making a lot of progress on the infrastructure and re-jigging of the garden. I have booked 2 days of help to come in September and pull out and move or discard a lot of plants. Then we will seed over those old beds with grass and probably have about 20% to 25% fewer beds going forward. We love our garden except its sheer size has been burning us out, and we want some time off to rest and pursue other interests on occasion. Overall in spite of the frustrations of this year we are happy with the longer term direction of the garden for the first time in several years and the end of garden infrastructure construction seems to finally be in sight.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Happy Canada Day!

Here; have some peonies.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Haskap Frozen Yogurt

I've made frozen yogurt before, but usually I use raw but frozen fruit in it. Haskaps, I've decided are better for being cooked and sweetened, so I did. This worked very well. I used a blueberry honey for the sweetener, and the flavour really worked well with the haskaps and came through quite strongly, perhaps because the haskaps have a bit of a blueberryish quality themselves. 

4 to 6 servings
15 minutes prep time
24 hours freeze time
another 15 to 20 minutes to finish

1 cup haskap berries
1/4 to 1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup water
3 cups yogurt

Wash and pick over the berries, removing any green stems. Put them in a pot with the honey and water, and bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the berries burst. Set aside to cool. When cool, mix in the yogurt and spoon the mixture into ice-cube trays. Freeze overnight or up to 24 hours until solid.

To serve, put the cubes into a food processor and process until the mixture is smooth and soft but not melted.  Scoop into serving dishes and serve at once; or transfer it to a tub with a cover and return to the freezer. Let temper for 10 minutes or so in the fridge before serving in that case.

Last year at this time I made Haskap Vinaigrette.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Sorrel & Ricotta Bread Pudding

I know I like sorrel but I am always a little taken by surprise by just how much I like it. You could make this with spinach and a squeeze of lemon juice if you can't get any sorrel, I suppose, but sorrel really does make this a delightful and unusual treat.

As you can see, my sorrel has survived the weeds left to engulf it for the last few years, although it is looking a little subdued. I will probably not pick much more of it this year but hopefully next year it will be churning it out.

Half a pound of sorrel is a good big bunch - 5 to 6 cups loosely packed, anyhow. Like most greens it is pretty light. I did not use as much as I am calling for (I didn't have it) but I believe the larger amount would have improved this dish. It comes across like a rather solid soufflé and a salad was just the thing to round out the meal.

4 servings
1 hour - 15 minutes prep time - add a few minutes to rest

Sorrel & Ricotta Bread Pudding

225 grams (1/2 pound) fresh sorrel
3 or 4 green onions
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
6 cups cubed stale bread
450 grams (1 pound) ricotta cheese
1 cup milk
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon rubbed rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
150 grams (5 ounces) old Cheddar cheese

Wash, trim and chop the sorrel. Wash, trim and chop the onions. Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, and add the sorrel and onions when it is melted and bubbling. Cook briefly, stirring frequently, until the sorrel has all turned colour and wilted down. Remove the sorrel and onions from the pan and spread them out to cool.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.  Lightly butter an 8" x 10" shallow baking (lasagne) pan.

Cut the bread into cubes. Mix the ricotta, milk, and eggs in a mixing bowl with the rosemary, salt, and pepper. Stir in the bread crumbs and the cooled vegetables and spread the mixture in the baking pan.

Grate the Cheddar and sprinkle it over the top. Bake the casserole for 45 to 50 minutes, until puffed all over. Let rest a few minutes before serving.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Haskap Sauce for Broiled Fish or Chicken

This quick little sauce to liven up plain fish or chicken was very nice! Rather like the Cumberland sauce I made a while ago, but a lighter more summery version. Yes, we're picking haskaps! Actually they have a very short season and will be done within the week. Good thing they freeze well. 

2 to 4 servings
15 minutes prep time

Haskap Sauce for Broiled Fish or Chicken

1/2 cup haskap berries
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch
2 tablespoons port or sherry

Pick the stems off the haskaps and generally pick them over. Rinse them and drain them.

Put the haskaps, honey, vinegar, Cayenne, salt, pepper, and mustard into a small pot and bring to a boil. Simmer steadily for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the berries are all popped/dissolved.

Once the sauce is started, put your fish or boneless chicken pieces on to cook; I assume it will be done in the 10 to 15 minute range.

Mix the starch into the port or sherry and stir it into sauce once the berries have broken down. Remove from the heat as soon as it thickens and turns clear.

Five minutes before the fish or chicken is done, take it out and spoon the sauce over it. Return to the oven for 5 minutes.

Last year at this time I made Haskap & Dried Apple Pie.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Seasonal Ontario Food's Top Ten - Canning & Preserving

There are only 64 recipes under the heading "Canning and Preserving". And yet they have had more page views than the rest of the blog put together. In fact, I think my most popular recipe from this section might have more page views just by itself than the rest of the blog put together. All that means, I suppose, is that people look for canning and preserving recipes more often than they do other recipes. That, and that one recipe was linked at a much more popular site than mine.

And there we are; the highlight of ten years of blogging. Now, having spent a week celebrating, I need a break. I'll probably post a few things - certainly a garden update - but mostly I am going to take the rest of the month off. (I thought these would be quick posts to put together, but no. It would have been much faster just to cook something.)

I would still love to hear from people - what have you made? What worked, what didn't work, what would you like to see in the future?

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Seasonal Ontario Food's Top Ten - Desserts!

Oh goody! Desserts! Not really what I try to make this place about, but I love 'em and so do most people. I try to keep the fat and sugar down to a dull roar when I do make a dessert, and to put fruit (in season!) front and forward. They sure do break down to a lot of categories I'm afraid; but perhaps that isn't really a problem as I can choose more... I still can't quite count to ten but whatever.

I had this idea that I don't make a lot of pies but apparently not true.

I have a little expression, "The cook is never a fussy eater." Meaning the cook is just as fussy as anybody, but since they get to choose what gets cooked, it's always what they like. My desserts fall into that category. I think I make the best desserts ever, but I will have to concede that that is because they are so exactly tailored to my tastes, not through any extraordinary talent. I hope they suit some other people too. 

Friday, 16 June 2017

Seasonal Ontario Food's Top Ten - Breakfasts, Yeast & Non-Yeast Breads, & Sandwiches

I basically went down the list of breakfast entries, going, "Oh, that one... oh, that one..." I think that breakfast dishes may be my favourite of all. I could only squeeze one waffle recipe in; I'm not sure I think it's my favourite but the cornmeal makes them a bit unusual. I love waffles far more than this list suggests.

I think of myself as not a big bread eater but I got all misty-eyed putting together this list. Maybe it's just because it's a diet day, but I think that actually I love good bread. It's just that the way to get good bread is to make it yourself, mostly, as with so many things. I haven't made much bread the last couple of years as family life went all to pot; maybe I can start  up again. I hope so.  

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Seasonal Ontario Food's Top Ten - The Heart of the Blog - Vegetable Side Dishes

Here are the recipes that to me define the purpose of this blog. There is any amount of information out there about cooking meat based dishes, vegetarian cookbooks abound, and the making of desserts is an art and a science and yet a good dessert is easily had. But damn, it can be so hard to find a nice, simple vegetable side dish that isn't swimming in butter, cream, cheese, bacon etc, and yet has that special touch that makes it stand out. I get all excited when I come up with one. (But you'll also note that I'm don't exactly turn down the butter, cream, etc when it seems like a good idea.)

Ten recipes won't cover my enthusiasm for these, but ten recipes for each vegetable seems excessive, so I'll go with breaking them down by season. That's admittedly a very crude division. Some things are available for months, with others if you miss the week they are available they are gone. Still, here goes...

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Seasonal Ontario Food's Top Ten - Meat, Poultry & Fish Main Dishes

More main dishes, the meaty ones this time. In spite of how much I like vegetables I have to confess I could never be a vegetarian. I'm a little surprised to review things and see how much pork we eat, and I'm definitely shy on the fish recipes. I think that's because I am perfectly happy to eat it pretty plain. Judging by this list I also have a taste for the classic dishes, and braising is a favourite cooking technique. Sounds about right, I have to say.

And apparently meat dishes get put on my oval Chinese platters. Huh, okay.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Seasonal Ontario Food's Top Ten - Vegetarian Mains - Beans, Eggs & Cheese

Another day, another set of lists. Today I am celebrating the vegetarian main dishes; the ones that take centre stage and fill you up. I've broken them down into 3 groups but of course they are not as cooperative as all that and some could have gone in a couple of lists.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Seasonal Ontario Food's Top Ten - Appetizers and Hors d'oeuvres, Soups & Salads

Ten years of blogging! There's been a whole lot of food under the bridge in that time. I thought I'd try to narrow down some of my favourites, and some of the most popular recipes from Seasonal Ontario Food. So, some LISTS, every day for the rest of the week. I'll start at the beginning with Appetizers and Hors d'oeuvres, Soups, and Salads. These are in order of publication, no other order intended or implied, although I am going to put in my most popular post of each category.

AND HEY! I want to know - what ones are YOUR favourites?

Sunday, 11 June 2017

10th Blogaversary! - Best Outings & Rants

Today is Seasonal Ontario Food's 10th Blogaversary! Seasonal Ontario Food is 10 years old today!

It all started when repairs were being made to the stairs in our apartment building and I had to make a choice to go out all day, or to stay in all day. I opted to stay in, got bored, and the rest is history. Little did I know what I was getting into.

I went back and perused my earliest recipes in a fit of nostalgia; some of them were awfully simple. Simple is a theme of this blog but I posted things then I wouldn't post now. On the other hand, my very first recipe was a salad I really enjoyed then and still regard as very fine (and it's in season at the moment!) There are also some recipes from the early years that have not been noticed as much as they should have been, as I had next to no readers in those days. Today and tomorrow I am going to highlight some of my favourites from over the years, including some of those early ones.

In keeping with the idea of simplicity I have tried to avoid buying new dishes or gadgets just to have new props for the blog. Consequently people will recognize the dishes and table cloths that show up again and again. I also don't make food just to "pose" it. You see it; we ate it. Sometimes it's hard to get the light right and set things up nicely when everybody is already sitting at the table, forks in hand, waiting, waiting...  I also went with the plainest blog design and have kept photos a very similar size/proportion to keep a simple and unified look. Too plain? Maybe, but it's my style, and I was and remain an amateur in both senses of the word.

Still, right from the beginning I wanted to get out of my own kitchen and post about what other people were doing with Ontario food. The last few years I have struggled to be able to do that, as family obligations have kept me close to home. I still hope that I will be able to do more jaunting about and sticking my nose in other people's business in the future. So today I am going to revisit 10 of my favourite outings. I'm also going to link to a few of the rants I've gone on, which I think help illuminate my philosophy of food. As for the future... well, I hope there will be one. I admit that I don't find myself too wildly optimistic about much at the moment, including the future of local food.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Spinach Cake with Matcha-Lime Frosting

Is this blog about the vegetables? Or is it about cake? Sometimes, it can be about both!

Why yes, we are celebrating - I'll have more to say on Sunday.

When I spotted a few amazing green spinach cakes on Pinterest I had to make my own. After the first attempt, I thought it needed a bit more in the way of flavour. "Can't tell it's spinach" said one poster, and it's not immediately obvious, I have to say, although it comes through in the finish.

Since I was already thinking green, I went with matcha and lime, to echo and sharpen the earthy, leafy flavour of the spinach. Into the frosting too. The result was a treat for the eyes and the tastebuds.

I have to admit I used frozen spinach as the deer have eaten all the fresh spinach. Still, that means this could be made all year round...

12 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time
plus time to cool and frost

Spinach Cake with Matcha-Lime Frosting

Make the Cake:
150 grams (5 ounces) blanched spinach - could be frozen
the finely grated zest of 1/2 lime
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon matcha
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup mild vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 1/3 cups soft unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wash, clean, and blanch the spinach for 1 minute. Squeeze as much liquid from it by hand as you can, then weigh it carefully. Or, you can use frozen spinach, in which case it too should be thawed, squeezed to reduce the liquid, and weighed. 

Line an 8" spring form pan with parchment paper, and butter or oil the sides. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put the spinach into the bowl of a food processor, with the lime zest, lime juice, matcha, and vanilla. Process until very finely chopped, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary.

Add the sugar, vegetable oil, and eggs and quickly process again until just smooth.

Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. Scrape in the wet ingredients and stir until well blended. Scrape into the prepared spring form pan, and spread the batter out evenly.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until firm to the touch or a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry.

Let cool before frosting.

Make the Frosting:
1/4 cup softened unsalted butter
the finely grated zest of  1/4 lime
2 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
a little milk or water to thin the frosting if needed

Cream the butter and lime zest, and mix the icing sugar and lime juice into it until the icing is a good, spreadable consistency. You will likely need to add a little milk or water to achieve that. You could use more lime juice, but the frosting will then be a bit too strong and overwhelm the more delicate flavour of the cake. 

Last year at this time I made Taco Salad.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Buttermilk Buckwheat Waffles

I looked at a number of buckwheat waffle recipes before I made these, and wasn't quite happy with the looks of any of them. Mostly because they weren't plain enough. That sounds odd, but sometimes - okay, quite often really - what I want is something that just tastes of itself. I like the flavour of buckwheat and it marries perfectly with maple syrup or honey. These very simple waffles were exactly what I wanted, and my mother said "best waffles I've ever had". Admittedly, she is very partial to buckwheat but you can't beat that! 

12 waffles
45 minutes prep time

Buttermilk Buckwheat Waffles

2 cups dark buckwheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
3 large eggs
2 1/3 cups buttermilk
a little more oil to brush the waffle iron

Heat the waffle iron.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the oil, break in the eggs, and add the buttermilk. Whisk well.

Pour a little oil into a small bowl and use a pastry brush to brush the waffle iron with it in between baking waffles. Pour a sufficient quantity of batter into the hot waffle iron to fill it (for me that is approximately 1 cup of batter, but your iron may vary), close, and cook until firm and golden brown; about 7 to 9 minutes.

Leftover waffles can be frozen and reheated in the toaster; in that case it is best to not cook them to too dark a shade of brown as they will get darker in the toaster.

Monday, 5 June 2017

German Radish, Cucumber, & Apple Salad

I came across this simple little salad here, and decided to give it a try. The combination is a little unusual, and also only works for fairly short periods of the year. Now there are greenhouse cucumbers and stored apples to go with the first radishes of the year. Then through the summer, when stored apples are gone, it will have to wait until August when the first fresh apples reappear. After that it can be made until the radishes disappear from the markets. Sometimes this is surprisingly late; into October at least.

For once, I made very few changes to the recipe. My proportions are slightly different - what am I going to do with half of an apple left over? - and I used chives rather than green onions, because I think they are a little more delicate in flavour and also they are growing right outside the door.

This was a lovely little salad, and very quick and easy to make. Next time I think I would like it with the components chopped a little finer than what I did, but that is a quibble. Still; one to take note of.

4 servings
15 minutes prep time

German Radish, Cucumber, & Apple Salad

6 to 8 radishes
1/3 English cucumber OR 3 to 4 mini cucumbers
1 large apple
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped chives OR green onion
1 tablespoon sunflower seed oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash, trim, and slice or dice the radishes (not too large!) Peel (or not) the cucumbers, and cut them into slices or cubes of similar size to the radishes. Wash, core, and slice or chop ditto the apple. Mix them with the finely chopped chives or green onion, and toss them with the oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Arrange them in a nice bowl and so serve it forth... done already.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Chervil or Other Herb Vinegar

Oh look, more chervil! This really will be the last though; it's either pulled out or going to seed at this point.

You could use other herbs for flavoured vinegar too. I keep meaning to try it with chive blossoms, which I'm told make a nice pink vinegar. This one was pink too - you see some occasional red leaves on the chervil plants, but I was surprised that my vinegar turned pink as all the ones I used were green.

Tarragon is another herb suggested for flavouring vinegar, as are rosemary, basil, thyme, or mint.

I recommend using plain white vinegar for flavouring. When I first tried making flavoured vinegars I invested in pricey fancy wine and other vinegars. I expected them to add subtlety and richness to the flavour, but in fact I thought they just tasted muddy. Too much going on, flavourwise, especially if you then plan to blend your vinegar into a salad dressing.

2 cups (2 125 ml jars)
2 weeks - 20 minutes prep time

the infused vinegar waiting to be strained

The infused vinegar waiting to be strained, above. The chervil really shrinks down, so don't be shy about packing it into the jar. Below is the finished vinegar.

the finished vinegar

4 cups lightly packed chervil leaves
2 cups plain white distilled vinegar

Wash the chervil very well, and cut off and discard the roots and any damaged or discoloured leaves. Wash again and drain well - it should be quite dry. Pack into a clean 1 litre/quart jar; fill the jar, in other words.

Pour the vinegar over the prepared chervil. Cap loosely (finger tight) and set aside in a dark spot for 2 weeks.

Before straining and bottling the vinegar, run through the dishwasher: the jar(s) into which you are going to put the strained vinegar, the lid(s) thereto, the strainer, a canning funnel (or other funnel that will allow you to transfer the vinegar to your jar), and a broad spoon possibly slotted.

Using these utensils, strain the vinegar into the jar(s). Use the spoon to press the chervil leaves and extract as much vinegar as possible. Cap them with the lid(s). Keep the vinegar in a cool, dark place; given the relatively small quantity I made I'm keeping mine in the fridge.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Sorrel, Chive & Mustard Salad Dressing

Here's one that's short and, well, not sweet. Zingy, sour even, but very lively and refreshing on crunchy greens. So far it looks like being a great early summer for greens and we have mad quantities of lettuce coming along in the garden, much of it self-sown. Lots of moisture and not too much heat will keep it tender and delicious.

And here's my annual entry in my ongoing argument that you should eat more (some!) sorrel. I'm happy to report that when we cleared out the overgrown bed in which our sorrel resides, a reasonable quantity had survived. We've re-settled it, and while I don't expect a bumper crop this year I hope next year it will be back to normal.

4 servings
15 minutes prep time

Sorrel, Chive & Mustard Salad Dressing

1/2 cup packed sorrel leaves
2 tablespoons packed chives
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup mayonnaise - light is fine
1/4 cup yogurt or buttermilk
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash and roughly chop the sorrel and chives. Drain well and put them in the bowl of the food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and process until the herbs are finely chopped. Scrape out into the serving container and pass with a tossed green salad. Half an hour in the fridge before serving to allow the flavours to blend is not a bad idea.

Last year at this time I made Stracciatella with Sorrel & Spinach.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Rhubarb-Almond Crisp

Fruit crisps are so simple to make but such very satisfactory desserts. This one is particularly nice, with almonds and sherry. (If you don't want to use sherry, use some fruit juice instead but I have to say sherry and rhubarb really go together beautifully.)

We all agreed that this would have been amazing with some vanilla ice cream, but we managed to choke it down without it. It was a bit on the zingy side - I used the half cup of sugar in the rhubarb but if you prefer things a little sweeter you could add a bit more. I also didn't put in the minute tapioca and found it just a tad on the juicy side. I think it would help to add a bit, but if you don't have it, don't worry about it.

I think this topping would be lovely on other fruits too: apricots, peaches, plums, cherries, well yes all the stone fruits really, pears, blueberries... yes, okay; almonds go with most fruits. Note too that if you get the right oats this could be gluten free, if that matters to you.

6 to 8 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time
plus a little time to cool

Rhubarb-Almond Crisp

Make the Topping:
1/2 cup Sucanat or very dark brown sugar
1 cup ground almonds
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup chopped or sliced almonds

Mix the first 4 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add the butter, which should be soft enough to work easily, and cut it into the mixture until it reduced to the size of small peas or smaller. At some point I tend to use my fingers to work it in; also sprinkle over the almond extract and work that in too. Mix in the chopped or sliced almonds.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Finish the Crisp:
6 cups sliced rhubarb
1/2 to 2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup sherry OR apple cider OR orange juice
1 teaspoon minute tapioca

Wash, trim, and slice the rhubarb. Put it in a shallow 8" x 10" baking pan. Toss it with the sugar, sherry, and tapioca. Spread the topping evenly over it.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes until the rhubarb is tender, the mixture is bubbling steadily around the edge, and the topping is lightly browned.

Last year at this time I made Leeks & Asparagus.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Asparagus with Onions & Mushrooms

This was very simple and straightforward; also very good. I only used half oyster mushrooms, and half regular white mushrooms, but the oyster mushrooms were particularly good and I recommend using all oyster mushrooms if you can. They are admittedly more expensive. For all its simplicity, though, I think this is a rather special dish.

Like Carrots & Asparagus with Sesame or Sunflower Seeds, this has a foot in 2 seasons; the onions are from last year and won't be around much longer but the asparagus is so new and fresh. Cut the onions fairly large, as they should be as prominent in the dish as the asparagus and mushrooms. They may be getting old but they still have what it takes.

4 servings
15 minutes prep time

Asparagus with Onions & Mushrooms

500 grams (1 pound) asparagus
225 grams (1/2 pound) oyster mushrooms
2 large onions
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons water

Wash and trim the asparagus, and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Trim the mushrooms and cut them into slices. Peel and cut the onions into coarse slivers.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for a minute or two, until they have all separated and softened slightly. Add the mushrooms and turn up the heat to high. Continue cooking, stirring the vegetables frequently. When they are about half cooked, add the asparagus. Pour in the soy sauce and water, and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the asparagus is just tender and the liquids have evaporated. Serve at once.   

Last year at this time I made Pork Loin Stuffed with Spinach & Mushrooms.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Spring Cilantro Soup

You could make this all summer, but it is particularly appropriate for right now. And yes, this is my third recipe for cilantro soup. I'm not quite sure what the fascination is, other than cilantro makes a very tasty soup. So do lots of other things! This one is lighter, simpler and more suited for spring than the other two.

I somehow managed to ignore the fact until this year, but cilantro is about the earliest herb to sprout. The first wave is quite mature and even looks like bolting soon. That supposedly early spring herb, dill? I'm starting to see sprouts big enough to identify, provided I'm sticking my nose right in the bed. The chervil started up about the same time as the cilantro, as did the parsley and chives, but I haven't even planted basil yet. I suppose I could, but it won't go outside for another week or two at any rate. Summer savory, likewise. It's funny, I always think of cilantro as being a late summer herb, to go with tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and all that crowd. It does pop up in waves so it will be in the garden then too but in the meanwhile it makes a zippy spring green.

4 servings
30 minutes prep time

1 medium onion
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon bacon fat OR vegetable oil
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups unsalted chicken OR vegetable stock
1/3 cup dried corn OR 3/4 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 cup yogurt
the juice of 1 lime

Peel and chop the onion. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the bacon fat or oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes, stirring, until softened. Add the garlic, flour, Cayenne, and salt. Continue to cook and stir, until the flour is well absorbed coats the onion pieces. Slowly mix in the chicken or vegetable stock. Stir in the dried corn and let the soup simmer for 10 or 15 minutes, stirring occasionally (reduce the heat to medium).

Meanwhile, wash, dry, and chop the cilantro.

Just before serving the soup, whisk in the cilantro, yogurt, and lime juice. Bring the soup back up to steaming hot, but do not let it simmer. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Cheesy Rhubarb (or Raspberry) Bread Pudding.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Salmon or Trout & Spinach Pie

Well this is the last of the spinach, I'm afraid. The deer broke into the garden the next day after I made this and ate the lot. Fortunately we had picked and frozen about two thirds of it at that point but I am still annoyed.

Not too much to say about this otherwise. It was really delicious and well received by all, and leftovers heated up very nicely. We had some lovely asparagus from the garden (the deer don't seem to like it, hurrah!) with it, but a good soup or salad would also go well. It's a pretty complete thing in itself, though, which is good because it is a bit time consuming. On the other hand, it's one pound of fish to feed 6 people, again. Which at the price of fish can only be a good thing.

6 servings
2 hours - 45 minutes prep time
also allow a little resting time (15 minutes)

Salmon or Trout & Spinach Pie

pastry for a double pie crust
500 grams (1 pound) fresh spinach
3 green onions
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup 10% cream
2 large eggs
450 grams (1 pound) raw salmon or trout

Make the pastry and set it aside, wrapped up in parchment paper, until wanted.

Wash and pick over the spinach; wash it again and drain it well. Chop it. Set it aside. Wash, trim and slice the green onions.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and flour and mix in well. Add the green onions and cook, stirring constantly, until the onions are soft; 2 or 3 minutes. Add the spinach and cook it until it has wilted down completely. Slowly stir in the cream, a bit at a time, to make a smooth sauce.

Once it has thickened a bit, remove the pan from the heat. Let it cool down while you roll out about 60% of the pastry on a sheet of parchment paper or a floured board to fit the bottom of a 9" pie plate.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Beat the eggs into the cooled spinach filling. Chop the fish into large bite-sized pieces and arrange half of it over the pie crust bottom (now in the pie plate). Scrape the spinach filling over it, then arrange the remaining fish on top.

Roll out the remaining pie crust and place it over the pie; pinch the edges sealed and trim off any excess pastry. Cut some slits or poke some holes in the top crust with a fork.

Bake the pie at 350°F for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the pastry is nicely browned. Let the pie cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Good warm or at room temperature.

Last year at this time I made Chicken, Asparagus & Mushroom Casserole with Wild Rice and Wild Leek Chimichurri.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Oatty Apple Butter or Jam Turnovers

I've had this recipe for so long I no longer remember where I got it, but I'm pretty sure it came directly out of one of my antique Canadian cookbooks. (Directly apart from the fact that I had to fiddle around a lot to figure out the correct quantity of buttermilk, which wasn't given and took me a number of attempts to determine. Also I cut the original recipe in half - it made enough for an army.)

I certainly consider this a classic of old(ish) time Ontario cooking. Originally, it was made with dates, and if you want to use half a cup of dates cooked to a paste with the same amount of water instead of the apple butter or jam, you absolutely can.

There are still a few (not very good) commercial versions of this kind of cookie around, but they are not nearly as common as they used to be. It's also too bad that they don't seem to be made at home very often any more either. They seem pretty plain, I guess, compared to the chocolate-laden goodies that tend to prevail nowadays. I really like them though, and recommend them highly. They are more cakey than crunchy (they don't contain the amounts of butter or sugar required for that) and are fairly substantial. I would absolutely eat a couple for breakfast, I have to admit.

They are also very quick to make, in spite of what looks like a slightly fiddly technique. The batter couldn't be simpler, and you just spoon things out in layers to get the apple butter (or whatever) partially covered, giving the effect of a slightly sloppily made turnover.

24 to 30
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time

Oatty Apple Butter or Jam Turnovers

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup soft whole wheat flour
3/4 cup Sucanat or very dark brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large egg beaten
1/2 cup apple butter or other jam

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly butter two cookie trays or cover them with parchment paper.

Stir together the dry ingredients. Beat together the cooled melted butter and eggs, then beat in the buttermilk. Mix into the dry ingredients.

Drop about two thirds of the dough by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared cookie trays. Space them well apart. Place a teaspoonful of apple butter or jam over each cookie. Spoon the remainder of the dough over the cookies.

Bake at 325°F for 20 to 23 minutes. Let cool and keep in a cool, dry tin for a few days. They will freeze quite well for longer keeping.

Last year at this time I made Wild Leek Chimichurri

Friday, 12 May 2017

Potato, Onion & Cheese Casserole

Quite a lot like the classic Scalloped Potatoes, but this has rather more onion flavour, especially if  you add the chives. You could be even a bit more generous with them if  you like.

I used the last of our German Butterball potatoes for this, and they were very appropriate for it. Russets would be fine though.

As with Scalloped Potatoes, this can be assembled in advance and baked just before wanted. Be prepared for it to take a fair bit longer to cook in that case. Par-boiling the potatoes does speed up the baking some, but this is still a slow dish to make. Nice for a cool spring day, but it looks like we are finally about to warm up.

6 to 8 servings
2 hours - 30 minutes prep time

Potato, Onion & Cheese Casserole

1 kg (2 pounds) potatoes
500 grams (1 pound) onions
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon rubbed savory
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon mustard
2 cups whole milk or light cream
300 grams (10 ounces) old Cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 to 1/2 cup finely chopped chives (optional)

Wash the potatoes and put them in a pot with water to cover them well. Bring to a boil, and boil for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on their size. Transfer them to the sink and run them under cold water until they can be handled. Peel them and slice them.

Meanwhile, as the potatoes cook, peel and slice the onions. Heat the butter in a very large skillet, and cook the onions gently until softened and translucent. Do not let them brown much. Season them with the savory, salt, and pepper, then mix in the flour. When well combined mix in the mustard, and the cream a little at a time to make a smooth sauce. Simmer for a few minutes until thickened. If this is done before the potatoes, remove it from the heat. Actually, remove it from the heat whenever it is done.

Grate the cheese and chop - mince, really - the chives, assuming you are adding them. Unless you just can't get them, I would suggest you do.

Layer 1/3 of the potatoes in a shallow casserole dish, such as a 8" x 10" lasagne pan. Spread them with 1/3 of the onion sauce. Sprinkle evenly with 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, finishing with the final layer of cheese.

Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned. Let rest 10 minutes or so before serving.

Last year at this time I made Jerusalem Artichokes with Bacon, Onions, & Mushrooms.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Asparagus in the Style of Peas

There are definitely threads of ideas that lead me from one recipe to another. This one is basically the same sauce as I used for chicken a few days back, but this time it is used on asparagus. The good news - no chervil. I do like this technique for making a sauce, although it is rich, no question.

I based this dish on the recipe I found here; Asparagus Disguised as Peas. I've simplified it a bit. In particular I adapted it to be made in one pot. I also thought the amount of liquid was too low to cook the asparagus but my sauce was a bit too thin, so I am calling for more like the original amount. Nobody really minded it being thin though, and if you serve it with something to soak it up it will especially not be minded. I can see this being served over toast, for instance. If there are enough leftovers, I would suggest running them through a food processor and serving them as soup. Not likely though.

4 servings
15 minutes prep time

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon rubbed savory
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup 10% cream
450 grams (1 pound) skinny asparagus
2/3 cup water or chicken stock 
1 green onion
2 sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf

Cream the butter, flour, savory, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.

Whisk the egg yolks and cream together in a another small bowl. Set aside.

Wash and trim the asparagus, and cut it it into pieces about as long as the stalks are wide (short, in other words).

Bring 2/3 cup of water or chicken stock to a boil with the washed and trimmed green onion, parsley, and bay leaf in it. Add the asparagus and cook until just tender; about 4 minutes.

Lift the asparagus out to a serving dish with a slotted spoon. Remove and discard the onion, parsley, and bay leaf.

Mix a spoonful of the cooking liquid (stock) into the bowl of butter, flour, etc to form a smooth paste. Then mix it all into the cooking water, stirring constantly until it thickens. Whisk in the egg yolks and cream. Continue cooking and whisking until the mixture thickens; don't let it boil though. When it thickens add the asparagus back in, and mix in well. Bring back up to steaming hot, and serve.

Last year at this time I made Rhubarb Chutney.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Poached Chicken Breasts with Fines Herbes Sauce

Fines herbes: that's just a fancy French way of saying "more chervil".  Yes, when I get a bee in my bonnet it buzzes around for a while; also most of what is currently growing in the garden is chervil. Fortunately some parsley and chives too, and between them that is 3 out of the 4 herbs in the classic French combination. The fourth is tarragon, which it will not amaze you at all to hear, I don't have. Not sure it would be up now, even - maybe someone who does have some could enlighten me? Never mind; I declared my 3 herbs to be a quorum and proceeded.

This sauce is a fairly classic supposedly French sauce too, although I've mostly found versions of it by perusing 19th century English cookbooks. On its own, it's rich but fairly bland. Just what the Victorians ordered. The fines herbes give it some oomph, but they are still subtle. I served it with chicken breast; other options would be a nice, firm white fish, salmon, or salmon trout, or I could see it served over poached eggs on toast for a kind of creamy Eggs Benedict. (Use a vegetable stock to keep it vegetarian, if desired.) Ours went over noodles and (from frozen; our peas aren't that far along) peas.

2 servings
30 minutes prep time

Poached Chicken Breasts with Fines Herbes Sauce

Organize Yourself:
4 teaspoons unsalted butter
4 teaspoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup each finely minced fresh chervil, chives, and parsley
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh tarragon, optional

Cream the butter, flour, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, and set aside. Wash and pick over the herbs, drain them well, and chop them very finely. Set them aside as well. 

Get Cooking:
2 150 gram (5 ounce) skinless boneless chicken breasts (OR equivalent white fish)
1 cup unsalted chicken (or fish) stock
2 bay leaves
1" piece of lemon zest (no white pith)
1/2 cup 10% (coffee) cream
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons lemon juice OR tarragon vinegar

Put the chicken pieces and chicken stock (or fish, etc) into a largish pot with the bay leaves and lemon zest, and simmer gently for about 10 to 12 minutes, until cooked. Use this time to cook your noodles or generally get ready whatever else you plan to serve.

Remove the cooked chicken to a serving dish. Remove and discard the bay leaves and lemon zest. Be sure the chicken stock is just simmering gently, then mix a spoonful of stock into the bowl of butter and flour. Mix well to a smooth paste, then whisk it into the chicken stock. Let it simmer for a minute as you whisk the egg yolk into the cream. Whisk that into the chicken stock as well. Watch and gently whisk the sauce as it thickens; do not let it boil or even simmer again. Once it is thick and steaming hot, remove it from the heat and whisk in the herbs and the lemon juice or vinegar until the herbs are just wilted. Pour it over the chicken and serve at once, preferably over some starchy thing that will soak it up a bit. Noodles, toast, or rice all seem appropriate. I am less certain about mashed potatoes, but maybe.

Last year at this time I made Buckwheat Porridge.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Spinach with Chervil

This is just a dish of sautéed spinach, but the addition of chervil and chives or green onion gives it a surprisingly different and unusual quality. Apart from the fact that you will probably have to grow the chervil yourself it is very easy...

2 servings
20 minutes prep time

Spinach with Chervil

4 to 6 cups fresh spinach leaves
1 or 2 green onions or equivalent amount of chives
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh chervil leaves
1 tablespoon butter or bacon fat
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash and pick over the spinach, and let it drain; chop it if you want it in fairly fine pieces. Clean, trim, and chop the onions or chives. Clean, trim, and chop the chervil.

Heat the butter or bacon fat in a large skillet. Add the spinach (which should be fairly dry but with a bit of lingering dampness; if not, throw in a tablespoon of water) and the green onions (if using) and cook until wilted, turning frequently. Once they are done to you liking, mix in the chervil and the chives if that is what you have instead of the onion. Mix them in until just wilted, and serve at once. The whole cooking process is not likely to take more than 5 minutes - most of the prep time is in the cleaning of the spinach.

Last year at this time I made Buckwheat Porridge.