Sunday, July 31, 2011

I Do Everything Amy Tells Me To


Fold over elastic? Check.
Homemade caramel sauce? Yep.
Socks with sandals? Why not?
Vintage Gunne Sax dresses? Hey, I already own one of those!

I love the idea of wearing the dresses with black stockings and shoes-genius.

I should be embarrassed to admit, this was my High School graduation dress. Less embarrassing, it still fits...well, it is about four sizes too big. I plan to wear it as a drop waist dress and take in the sides. I'll be sporting black tights and shoes of course. I really never thought it would get dragged out and worn again. It cleaned up OK, but has some yellowing. I think that just adds to the charm. I don't know what became of the satin sash.

Now, to go dig out the mint green, ruffled polyester dress from my 8th grade graduation. That's some serious vintage there. It still fits as well. I kind of, "grew into my body" as I got older.


I can't wait to wear this to go grocery shopping!

That's Not Legal

I watched The French Connection with Danny tonight. In a scene where Hackman is beating the hell out of a suspect, Danny looked at me, and noted that it isn't legal to kick the crap out of someone that is already handcuffed-and that he never read him his rights.

That had me wondering when the movie was made, and when the Miranda decision came down. The movie was from '71, and the Miranda decision was '66. Danny was correct, they should have read him his rights.

Other great moments watching with Danny:

In the beginning where the Frenchman is going into the lobby of his apartment with a baguette tucked under his arm, and gets shot.

"That's a waste of a perfectly good baguette."

Indeed.

Assorted Salads

Clockwise-carrot salad, pickled onions, radish/cucmber salad, pickled cherries.

I made more of the radish/cucumber salad just to show you how beautiful the colours are. The carrot salad is interesting as well-celery seed, dill seed, a bay leaf, vinegar, oil, salt, honey, powdered mustard. Simple enough, but wonderful results.

Drying the Bounty



Sunflower heads and shallots. I still have plenty of sunflowers outside for the birds-I hope they don't mind if we dry a few seeds for our own use. They seem like very polite birds-they hardly ever poop on my windshield like the city birds are wont to do.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

How Do I Look?

Trying on a new header and colour scheme. Complaints? Compliments? Indifference?

Pickled Cherries

I had a handful of cherries looking lonely in the fridge-so I pickled them with cider vinegar, salt, mixed pickling spice, and a cinnamon stick. I served a few at dinner and the boys liked them. I think it will be better in a few days.

Cucumber/Radish Salad

I should have taken a photograph as this salad had the prettiest pink/green colour. Because of the salting and soaking, it takes on an almost transparent appearance

You Will Need:

1 bunch radishes sliced very thinly
1 large cucumber, halved lengthwise and sliced across as thinly as possible
1/2 cup cider vinegar
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon coarse salt
Pinch dried tarragon
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Water to top off jar

In a bowl, arrange the radishes and cucumbers in a shallow layer. Sprinkle with salt. let stand 30 minutes. Rinse, and drain well. In a dishtowel, squeeze out any moisture. The radishes and cucumber will look slightly shriveled. Mix remaining ingredients well. Place vegetables either in a jar or bow. Pour over marinade.If vegetables aren't covered with liquid, top off with a bit of water. Cover. Let stand a few hours before serving, but it will be better next day.

Canada

Conversation:

Papa: Here Danny, you can use the dinner plate with the doggie on it.
Danny: I hate dogs, all they do is pee on the floor.
Papa: Well bears eat people and pee on the floor, but you like them.
Danny: Well no one keeps a bear as a pet (pause) well...maybe Canadians.


I bought a loofa today called, Upper Canada. I mean, it was made in China, but the company is headquartered in Mississauga, which isn't all that Northerly, but OK-it is north of where I'm sitting.

Is this really a marketing point? Can you imagine anyone standing in the store trying to decide between the Regular old, unnamed loofa, or the exotic Upper Canada variety? I mean sure, winter is a bitch up there, and I suppose if anyone knows a thing or two about scraping flaky dead skin cells off their legs it would be Canadians-but Upper Canada? I mean, you'd have to strip off all those caribou hides to even get at your legs, and then really, you'd have to melt the water before bathing, and gosh that's a fuss when there probably isn't anyone around for miles. But it isn't from Upper Canada. It isn't from one of those Arctic islands, no this is a cheap loofa made in China, and distributed by some clever businessperson in Mississauga, but damn, it sure does make me want to scrub the hell out of my skin for that "right off the dogsled" glow.

It will probably give me a rash.

The Dummy Lane

At The Supermarket:

Cashier: Do you remember how much the milk is? It won't scan.

Me: I'm not positive-I don't typically shop at this location.

To The 70-ish woman behind me:

Me: I'm sorry, I seem to have a knack for finding every item in the store that won't
scan.

Pensioner: Oh, that's OK it isn't your fault.

Me: My mother always called it, "Getting in the dummy lane" because some dummy
would always hold up the line counting out pennies, or unloading 500 coupons that would undoubtedly be expired. (feigning horror) Oh god, I'm the dummy in the
dummy lane.

She laughed. I did too...sort of.

Fudge Cake


This is a very old recipe, and I had to do a bit of interpretation with the recipe. I'm not sure I would describe it as fudge, thought it is quite dense and moist. If anything, it reminds me of the fad for "pudding cakes" in the 60's and 70's. I thought the frosting was a waste of good butter, though the boys both really liked it. Overall, I wasn't wowed enough to have more than a small forkful of this cake. The boys however, were perfectly willing to eat my share.

From the Wenham Teahouse Cookbook


You Will need:

1 2/3 cups AP flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs (I used large)
1 cup sour milk (I soured mine with lemon juice, but you could use vinegar)
2 ounces unbswetened chocolate

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup regular milk
1 cup granulated sugar
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Grease and flour a 9x13 pan. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift flour, baking soda, and salt together. Cream 1 cup of the brown sugar with shortening until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time until well combined. Add flour and sour milk alternately, mixing well after each addition. Combine two ounces chocolate, remaining cup of brown sugar, and milk in saucepan. Cook until chocolate is melted, stirring frequently. Stir into creamed mixture. Bake 30 minutes or until cake tests done and pulls slightly away from sides of pan. Cool completely before frosting. Keep cake in pan (I learned that too late-it does not unmould easily).

Combine sugar, chocolate, water and cornstarch in a saucepan. Cook until chocolate is melted (I did this over medium heat) stirring frequently. The recipe says you can beat in the vanilla and butter at this point, but don't. Cook it a few minutes longer until it begins to thicken. Remove it from the heat, then beat in the butter and extract. I also let it cool slightly before spreading it on the cake. That said, the butter still separated a bit, though no one complained about globules of butter shimmering atop the frosting. I think the boys consider that some sort of bonus. Still, I wasn't delighted with the effect, and I would probably ditch the frosting in favour of a simple butter/sugar/ chocolate glaze. Do as you like.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hey You Damn Kids, Stop Learning Advanced Subjects!

If you needed a good reason to homeschool, THIS might be helpful.

Baking Day


I wanted to take advantage of a rare day under 90 degrees F.

You Know Your Parents Are Nerds When...

...your mother carries a slide rule in her handbag (I do), and your father brings this home from the library sale...




Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Earl Grey Chocolate Ice Cream

I used four teabags to infuse 2 cups of milk/cream. That's probably strong, but I needed it to stand up to the dark chocolate-which it did. If you despise Earl Grey (which I do) this ice cream won't change your opinion. If however, you have a youngster at home that simply adores the vile, vile brew-you can win points towards your Mother of the Year award by making a batch of this during a heatwave. It will also use up that box of tea that has been stinking up your cabinet for the last month.

You Will Need:

4 Earl Grey tea bags (or about 2 tablespoons loose tea)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup dark cocoa powder, sifted

Heat the milk, cream and tea until steaming. In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar. Slowly whisk in the milk. Return to pan and cook to 175 degrees F. Strain into heatproof bowl. Whisk in cocoa. Cool. Process in machine or freezer tray. Makes a bit more than a pint.

Rum Raisin Ice Cream

For years, I've complained about the disappearance of rum raisin ice cream (along with tutti-frutti, butter brickle, and the like) from stores, and yesterday I resolved to try making some. I wasn't working from a recipe, but I figured rum, raisins and a rich custard based ice cream would do it-oh did it ever! Why didn't I make more? I need to make more-quickly!

Really, I'm not fanatical about ice cream as I rarely eat it. I make it often enough as the boys are rather fond of the stuff, but personally I prefer sorbet. Well that's all changed since I tasted my latest ice cream experiment. How could something this delicious fall out of favour with consumers? What the hell is wrong with Americans? (OK, I didn't put that out as an invitation to actually begin listing what's wrong with Americans because anyone who has looked at a newspaper of late, knows exactly what's wrong with Americans-and it isn't the collective taste in ice cream.) Could you make this with rum extract rather than rum? Probably. I can't encourage you to do so, but I'd be interested to hear how it works if you try. I used a very small amount of rum, and most of it was drained from the raisins and used to baste my stored Christmas cakes. If alcohol is an issue for you, there might be acceptable alcohol-free extracts to use, but I don't know of any from my own experience.

I used the cheap rum for this. Cruzcan, I think it is called. It was under ten dollars a bottle. Good enough for ice cream and feeding Christmas cakes anyway. Mr. ETB says it is acceptable, and he's more of a rum connoisseur than I, so let's go ahead and take his word for it. I wouldn't use the white rum (for anything actually, that stuff is disgusting) or the spiced stuff for this.

One last point-I read people grumbling on their blogs about the time consuming nature of making a custard due to cooling before processing it. I have two words for you-Ice Bath. You can stick the whole damned thing in the fridge to hurry the process along. It rarely takes more than fifteen minutes to cool a custard enough for making ice cream-so really I don't know what everyone is on about. If you have a temperamental ice cream maker, perhaps letting it cool longer helps, but I never found that to be the case. I no longer use the maker preferring the texture I get from a freezing tray, but it still does not take forever to cool a custard base. Ice cubes-what will they think of next?

You Will Need:

3 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk (I've been using 2% milkfat without anyone noticing)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup raisins
Enough rum to cover raisins

Soak the raisins in the rum for at least three hours, then drain. You don't stir them in until the end, so you have plenty of time while the ice cream is freezing, but if you plan ahead they can keep overnight.

Heat the milk and cream until steaming. In a heat-proof bowl whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until combined. Slowly whisk the milk/cream into the eggs/sugar. Return to pan and cook, whisking one in a while until it reaches 175 degrees f. Strain into a heatproof bowl through a fine sieve to catch any bits of cooked egg. Place bowl in an ice bath and stir occasionally. You can add a bit of vanilla extract if you like at this point.

Process either in an ice cream maker or a freezer tray. When ready, stir in the raisins. The alcohol will keep the raisins soft in the ice cream.

Sweet and Salty Tofu


Think salted caramel with a strong hit of molasses.

I had no idea what to make tonight, but I started chopping the vegetables I had early this morning, and I figured by 5 PM something would suggest itself. I had a busy day at home organising books, culling books for donation/storage, and assembling lesson plans for the Fall semester. Between all this, I'd take fifteen minutes, to chop a few carrots, remove corn from cobs, and chop parsley. Somehow I filled a gigantic carton with books for donation (how I plan to move said box to the car, I haven't quite worked out but I suspect it will begin something like, "Dearheart? Can you do me a favour?") washed and hung the laundry out, and deposited dinner on the table. I tried my best to get into the garden, but the 98 degrees F. heat with a heat index of something like 107 convinced me that I'd be happier inside sorting books.

Yes, as a matter of fact my back does hurt, but it is from sitting on the floor sorting books-not standing on my feet. It shouldn't surprise anyone that I'm contrarian right down to the way my body aches.

I discovered something interesting going through Danny's books today-we had a number of duplicate titles. I suspect both Mr. ETB and myself share the same taste in books, and ideas about what the boy should be reading. Consistency is good for children, I guess.

Right, so you want to know about this beautiful tofu dish, don't you? Very well, but feel free to use whatever vegetables you have at home (I mean within reason-I don't think this would be very good with beets, or collard greens).

For The Tofu:

(This can be made ahead and kept chilled until you are ready to assemble dinner)

1 block extra firm tofu
1 few tablespoons cooking oil
2-3 tablespoons brown sugar (I mix dark molasses with cane sugar which is a bit deeper flavour than store-bought brown sugar, but anything will do)
Salt

Press the block of tofu dry between kitchen towels. You will need a large stack of towels (at least five) as tofu can really soak up moisture. Slicing it into 4 pieces is also a good way to press out extra moisture. Weight it with a book or something if you can. After about 30 minutes of pressing, you should be ready to cook.

Heat a pan over medium/high heat. Add the oil a tablespoon at a time-you don't want to deep fry the tofu, just fry it until it colours. Cut the tofu into cubes and fry in batches, turning with a fork until all sides are golden. Normally I would have you drain the tofu, but this time, remove it to a bowl. When all the tofu is fried, mix the salt and brown sugar into the bowl with a small bit more oil. Use more oil on the pan to keep it from sticking if you need to. Return the sugared tofu to the pan over medium high heat and cook, stirring carefully so you do not break the cubes, but moving quickly until it is golden and carmelised. Remove to a plate and chill until needed (or use right away).

The vegetables should be seasoned to offset the sweetness of the tofu. I used dry mustard, sweet paprika, salt/pepper, red pepper flakes, thyme, and fresh parsley (about a cup). I cooked the brown rice with a large bay leaf in the pot.

The vegetables used here were:
Carrots
Corn
Scallions
Parsley
Purple runner beans

I cooked them quickly in a bit of olive oil. In the last few minutes, I mixed in the reserved tofu just to re-warm it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hilger Popcorn


This is not a sponsored post, and I am in no way being compensated for this review. I paid for the product (purchased at Hy-Vee at Peony Park), and the opinions expressed are entirely my own.

I don't go through much popcorn-a couple bags a year perhaps, but this is the popcorn I will be buying from now on. Produced locally (well, sort of locally-I think Bellwood is out near Columbus) grown without insecticides or herbicides, and not that much more expensive than the big, corporate brand (also produced locally, but with less of a 'feel-good about it" vibe) this is really excellent popcorn.

I pop mine in a large kettle with oil (gasp! the horrors! the calories!) and using this method I get very few unpoped kernels from the Hilger popcorn. That's not something I can say about most popcorn. I also don't need to lay in a supply of dental floss to deal with the after effects of a bowl of popcorn. The popcorn stands up nicely to caramel coating, butter, being shaped into popcorn balls, or any other thing I subject it to, without getting soggy or crumbling. That seems like such a small detail, but I'm the sort of person that cares about those things because I'm the sort of person that likes to Hoover the carpets every day because I get a deep sense of satisfaction from seeing the lines all going in the same direction. So yes, I do get some excitement into my otherwise predictably stable, boring life on the farm when my popcorn kernels all pop, and don't break into pieces when subjected to boiling hot caramel.

I don't know if Hilger popcorn is available outside of Nebraska, or the Midwest, but it is worth purchasing if you see it. While you may have better ways of bringing excitement into your life than admiring the beautifully popped corn in the kettle, I trust you can still appreciate something that tastes delicious, and is a good value for the money.

That's His Dad's Side of the Family Speaking

I made rum-raisin ice cream today, and had a good half cup of soaking rum left after draining the raisins. I used it to give the stored Christmas cakes a refreshing. Yes, I made them last October, and they are still perfect. That's what good storage and strong booze will do for candied fruit. I keep them wrapped tightly in cheesecloth moistened with either brandy or rum, and then wrap them tightly again in foil. I made all the candied fruit myself, and I'm curious to see how it holds up at the one year mark. Anyway, Danny walked into the kitchen as I was brushing rum on the fruitcakes.

Danny: Mama? Are you frying tonight for dinner?

Me: Yes, we're having battered fish.

Danny: You should batter and fry hunks of Christmas cake.

Me: That's just your Scottish ancestry speaking. You should go lie down until it passes.

How To Fry Fish

That's beer battered cod, onion rings, and mushy peas. yes, I did make the peas from scratch boiling dried peas beyond recognition. I added some food colour because I have to meet the expectations of my family-expectations based on tinned peas. I used to be able to find dried packets of marrowfats, but those seem to have dissappeared from the import aisles at the market. These were simple enough to do, but I'm left with an awful lot of peas. I'll probably make croquettes and deep fry them tomorrow. Kidding. Sort of.




I've done posts on cornmeal coated fried fish, but it seems I've neglected batter.

Everyone has their favourite batter-sourdough toss-off, beer batter, yeast raised. Honestly, technique is more important than what you coat it with because if your fish is soggy, or overcooked, it won't make a difference if you had some elaborate way of casing it.

Use a halfway decent fat to fry in. You don't need to use fresh oil each time you fry, and you don't need to spend a fortune on something claiming health benefits and vitamins (you're frying for god's sake-get a grip and do a few extra sit-ups tomorrow) but it should at least be clear enough that you can see through it...sort of. OK?

Now that you have your kettle filled with oil-heat it properly. Use a thermometer because you really do need to get the fat hot. If you're accident prone, keep a box of bicarb and the lid nearby. Watch the kettle-different oils have different smoking points which you never think of until it begins smoking. Funny how that happens. Oh, and don't leave the room. No really, don't. If you have a child at home, put up the toddler gate in the doorway and should you need to fetch said child-turn off the heat. The heat will recover. better to lose whatever you're frying than burn down your home.

When I fry, I keep a rimmed baking sheet with a rack over it next to where I'm working. This not only provides a good draining spot for the fish (draining on paper will make the fish soggy) it gives you somewhere to rest your tongs and slotted spoon. Yes, you're going to need both.

As you fry, particularly if you are also doing chips, or onion rings, you'll need to keep things warm. Have a baking sheet in an oven on the lowest setting ready to hold food as it drains. As with most things, it helps to be organised.

If you are making chips, it really is worth the bother of soaking them in cold water in the fridge for a few hours, then rinsing them and patting them completely dry. I know it seems like overkill for potatoes, but the end result really is wonderful.

Chill your batter for at least an hour before using it. Most beer batters can be made 2-3 hours ahead. Wash your fish and coat it in AP flour lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. Set the fish on a plate and chill it as well. The flour will help the coating to stick, and chilling everything makes it crunchier. Cold fish, cold batter, hot oil. Make that your plan.

Here's the batter I used tonight. I like it quite a bit, and you'll notice that I use a really inexpensive beer. I don't know if a four dollar bottle of ale would make this better, but I wouldn't do that. If I had a religion, it would be against it. Four dollar bottles of ale do not belong in the frying kettle. I use a perfectly acceptable Canadian beer that I wouldn't hesitate to drink . Oh, go on, I know the beer snobs are aching to make jokes, but as far as I'm concerned (and I'm the one doing the shopping, cooking, and cleaning up) there's nothing wrong with Moosehead, though I wouldn't volunteer to drink one warm.

You Will Need:

1 cup AP flour
1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarb)
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
1 large egg
1 cup beer

Lightly beat the egg. Pour in the beer avoiding foam if you can for the sake of measuring. Whisk dry ingredients together in a large, non-reactive bowl. Whisk in the beer and egg until smooth. Cover, let rest 2 hours at room temperature. Chill 1 hour before using. I used the same batter for the onion rings.

You don't get a smile like that from frozen fish fingers. No, really you don't. Yes, he does need a haircut, thanks for noticing.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Community Radio and International Dating Advice From a Six Year Old

Every Monday afternoon, Danny dances me around the kitchen while we start cooking the evening meal and listen to Buenos Tangos on KZUM. We've been doing this for a while now, and I've managed to work the programme into our curriculum for both music and history. Great show, and you can listen on the web. You can also send KZUM some money because god knows, they need it-and we need community radio.

Actual Conversation today:

Danny: Mama? You know what?

Me: What?

Danny: If you want to romance an Argentine lady, you had better know how to tango. (pause). Oh, and speak Spanish.

Me: That would be helpful.

Cherry Savarin



I'm conflicted over this savarin. While it turned out beautifully, the method I followed for making the dough is so incredibly wasteful, I am not going to recommend it. You can make a perfectly delicious savarin following the recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, or any of the variations by James Beard, or a million others out there that do not call for soaking a sponge of dough in 3 cups of milk which are later discarded. Did it make a difference in the completed dessert? I can't say, unless I did a side-by-side tasting, but even if it did, I cannot justify that sort of waste, and I should have read the recipe more closely before I began. Organic milk isn't exactly affordable in this area to begin with-pouring it down the drain (it had yeast soaking in it, so I really couldn't think of what to reuse it in) really disturbs me. The recipe I used came from Raymond Oliver's, La Cuisine. A fine cookery book otherwise (and the recipe was wonderful-just wasteful).

Right, so you find a savarin recipe you like, bake it, and then I'll tell you what I did from there-OK? Swell.

You'll need a syrup. I had cherry puree in the freezer, so I put it into use. You probably don't have cherry puree, but you might have a bottle of kirsch. Use that. Or rum. Or brandy. I used cherry puree and vanilla extract so the kid could eat it.

2 cups water
1 cup sugar
Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, stir in about 1/2 cup of rum or brandy-a bit less if using kirsch. Cool to tepid. While you're waiting around with your thumb up your arse, strain half a cup of apricot preserves and stir in a bit of brandy, rum, kirsch, or vanilla extract. You'll need that later. If the jam is really stiff, microwave it a few seconds before straining. Resume standing about with your thumb up your arse (just you know, wash it before proceeding).

After you have removed the savarin from the oven, let it rest 5 minutes before unmoulding it onto a rack. You will need 2 racks to re-invert it so the bumpy side is up (yes, that is a pain in the arse, but do it anyway). Grab a skewer and poke the top all over. Place the rack over a pan with a rim and pour the syrup over the savarin. Using a baster, generously coat it time-to-time for 1/2 hour. Let it stand to dry another 30 minutes.

Re-invert the savarin onto a plate. Brush it with the apricot jam, and decorate as you like. I soaked some fresh cherries in the remaining syrup from the pan and placed them in the centre (find a glass that fits, and they will stay neatly in place).

Israeli Casserole


This is another recipe from Jewish vegetarian Cooking by, Rose Friedman.


You Will Need:

1 aubergine
Salt/pepper
2 onion, chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
Vegetable oil for frying
4 medium potatoes parboiled in their skin, then peeeled and diced
1 1/3 (1/2 pt) (285 ml) cups vegetable stock (heated)
6-8 ripe medium tomatoes, skinned and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Peel the aubergine removing as little flesh as possible (easier said than done, I know). Cut the aubergine into thick slices and layer in a colander salting each layer lightly with coarse salt. Leave them at least an hour. The recipe says 30 minutes, but trust me on this-an hour. Wash the slices well, and pat dry. Cut into small dice.

Saute the onion, pepper and garlic in a bit of oil until soft-about 5 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (180 degrees C) .

Add the aubergine and potatoes and cook until softened and beginning to brown. Transfer to a casserole dish with a lid. Pour the stock, tomatoes, and parsley into the casserole. Adjust seasonings. Cover and bake 30-45 minutes or until potatoes are tender. The casserole is quite liquid when served.

Gemuse Kugel


If there were a prize for unattractive vegetarian food, this dish could win. This is not a very nice looking thing to bring to the table, particularly if you plan to convince non-vegetarians to partake. No, I suspect most people would politely decline. Detailing the ingredients probably won't help sway anyone as it contains an odd mixture of vegetables, fruit, and whole wheat flour. It has no binder such as egg, and really, it is nearly miraculous that it is not only edible, but good. I certainly didn't have any great hopes for it.

Danny's been a bit under the weather, and I'm avoiding dairy today-just in case his stomach goes all unhappy again. I think, "Unhappy" pretty well sums that up, don't you? We're not vegan, and dairy is a good part of Danny's diet, so I really had to scour the old cookbooks looking for something suitable, yet familiar enough that he would actually eat it. Vegetable kugel sounded promising.

The recipe comes from Jewish vegetarian Cooking by, Rose Friedman. I've been pleasantly surprised over the years with how well the recipes in this book work, and how willing the boys have been to eat them. As my husband likes to point out, "This is the sort of thing you'd get in London in the 70's if you could find vegetarian food that wasn't Indian." I'd say that's pretty accurate. That's not a bad thing, but I mention it in case you have seen enough cauliflower doused in soya cheese, and baked with some sort of wheat germ to last the rest of your life (not that there's a recipe for that in this book, but you get the idea). Personally, I always liked the rubbery cauliflower doused in soya cheese, and baked nearly to death-but that's me.

I have no idea how this will re-heat tomorrow, but I'm fairly certain no one will wish to try it cold. The spices seem odd at first, as does the combination of fruit and vegetables, but we're rather accustomed to using cinnamon and fruit as savouries, though I did reduce the amount of cinnamon called for as a teaspoon seemed like overkill.

Give the Ugly Duckling kugel a try some time when you're feeling adventurous, or in need of something a bit less fatty, but still substantial enough to make you feel like you've actually consumed food (how do people live on salads anyway?).

You Will Need:

2 eating apples, peeled and cored
2 medium carrots, peeled
2 medium potatoes, peeled
2 courgettes (yeah, well I warned you it was 70's cooking)
2-3 tbsp. raw cane sugar (adjust if you don't have it)
1 cup (4 oz.) (115 g) wholemeal flour (I used the finely ground stuff, but coarse would probably be better)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used 1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
Salt/Pepper
1/4 (2 fl oz) (60 ml) cup sunflower oil (I actually had it, so I used it, but any light vegetable oil will do)
1-2 tbsp. sesame seeds (I omitted these)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. (180 degrees C)

Grate all the fruit and vegetables finely, then mix in the sugar, flour, and spices. Season to taste with salt/pepper and mix well. Stir in oil and mix well again. Pour into a greased baking dish (you can go thicker or thinner depending on your tastes. I wouldn't go smaller than 8x8 or larger than 9x11). Cover with foil and bake 1 hour. remove foil and continue baking another 10-20 minutes or until it is golden brown.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Links

I need to update my links as many are now defunct. Should I delete someone, or omit someone you think I should include-feel free to let me know. I don't think anyone follows my links anyway, but still. There are a good many of you with blogs I should have given reciprocal links long ago, and I apologize for being lazy.

Anyway, there's always the possibility I will make some grave html mistake and the whole thing will go to hell-so bear with me.

And The Cole Slaw Recipe

Thanks for reminding me, Page!

All amounts are approximate-adjust as needed.

About 6 cups finely shredded cabbage (I use a really sharp knife and cut by hand, but a box grater will work too)
4-5 medium carrots, grated on the large holes of a grater
1 heaping tablespoon dried onion (it won't start to stink like fresh onion after a day)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon oil (if desired-you really don't need it)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
Salt/Pepper


You can blanch the cabbage first in boiling water and then drain, but if the cabbage is reasonably fresh you can skip this step. I've been lucky enough to have a steady supply of beautiful cabbage from a farm in Iowa, and it is quite tender. If you blanch it, drain really well-you can even give the cabbage a squeeze to get out the excess.

In a really large bowl (because you will need to toss the slaw to mix) combine the cabbage, carrots, and onion. In a measuring cup, combine the vinegar, oil (if using) basil, sugar, water and salt/pepper. Mix well to dissolve the sugar (but if you can't get it all dissolved, don't fret, it will break down in the slaw). Pour over vegetables and mix well. Here's the important part-cover it and save for the occasional toss, leave it alone in the fridge for 24 hours. Sure, you can eat it earlier, but it is better if it sits.

*Have picky eaters that insist on creamy cole slaw but hate mayo? Try whipped cream. Really, it makes an excellent cole slaw dressing, and holds up pretty well.

Quick Chickpea Salad

I know I've posted this before, but it is too quick, easy, and delicious a dinner during this awful heat-so I thought I'd re-post.

1 tin chickpeas
2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried sage, crumbled (or a few fresh leaves if you have them)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
Pinch cinnamon
Black pepper
Juice of half a lemon or about 1 tablespoon

In a pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Cook the garlic and spices until fragrant-about 2 minutes. Stir in chickpeas. Remove from heat, sprinkle with lemon juice. Serve warm, or at room temperature. Good with a crusty bread, or over rice.

And In Other Garden News...

...the Glads have started blooming. None of them are actually standing straight, but what the hell-I'm barely standing straight myself.

The Aubergine isn't dead. It seems to enjoy the heat.

A tomato plant from last year self-seeded in my raised bed, and is alive and healthy. Still can't tell what variety it is, but it is flowering.

The cherry tomato is actually some sort of dwarf Roma tomato. Good labeling there, Earl May garden centre.

I harvested some of the leaves from the Bay Laurel. I used one to make rice this evening. Have you ever used a bay leaf in a pot of rice? My husband taught me to do that. I thought he was mad until I tried it, and had to admit he was right.

The Million Gold survived. I had given them up for dead, then suddenly as the weather warmed, they doubled in size and brightness.

The ground cherries that self-seeded like mad last year have created a carpet of plants all over the front of the house. With any luck I'll get to them before the critters this year.

The curry plant is thriving. I keep cutting it back, but I have no idea what to do with it (I mean, other than curry-duh).

I have two squashes growing out of my compost heap-flowers and all. As it is at the edge of the heap, we've been turning ever-so-carefully to protect the fruit.

No blooms on the Moonflowers or Four o'clocks yet-but the vines look healthy.

And that's about it. We had borlottos and lima beans from the garden tonight for dinner, my salad mix keeps giving us greens every other day, and Danny's parsley has yet to bolt in the heat. I suppose I ought to start thinking about planting my late-harvest items soon...just not this week.

Sunflowers

The Mammoth Russian sunflowers are mostly ready for harvesting. I planted a very large stand of them, so there will be more than enough to leave for our friends the finches. I saw one perched on a flower head the other day-adorable.

In a dry climate, you can slip a paper bag directly over the head and let it dry outdoors-but that will never do here. I'll hang them in the kitchen with a dehumidifier. Hopefully that will do the trick, but really I didn't expect to have any seeds survive the birds anyway.

I did get them in the ground rather early, but it does seem too soon for harvesting. What crazy weather we've had this year.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

How Is Everyone?

We had our first break in the heat today-it only went up to 93 F. After eight days stuck indoors, we ventured into Omaha early, before the sun had a chance to break through the rainclouds. By noon, the heat and steam were returning.

You see it on people-the effects of prolonged indoor living. The wrinkled clothing, unkempt hair, the eyes adjusting to natural daylight. We're like great armies of moles, emerging to forage and quickly retreat to the comfort of our homes. We give each other looks, nods of understanding. Yes, the ironing will get done when the heat breaks. Hair will be tamed with heated instruments. The mud that is everywhere will at last be scraped from between the grooves of driving shoes that are currently walking shoes. Trudging shoes. Carrying water to the plants before they die shoes.

Everyone is bloated like the frog I caught in a window well when I was ten. The frog I unintentionally killed when I stuck it in a plastic bucket with a lid on a hot Chicago afternoon. Sort of the childhood equivalent of leaving your baby in a car on a hot day, but with less emotional suffering, and legal consequences. It didn't explode exactly, the frog...it was more of a swelling, and leaking of internal organs. At any rate, not something I'd want to see again, yet everyone is walking about, skin stretched so taught it shines like buffed wax, moments from what's internal going external-and you can't sweat this swelling away. This swelling doesn't evaporate. One of those odd things like staying in the tub too long shriveling your toes rather than plumping. Eight days into a heatwave, you stop appealing to your intellect and think, "Fuck, I'll bet this is the work of witches." Or conservatives.

The worst heat-related sickness I ever endured was the summer of 1990. I was doing survey work on a site that was to be developed, but had to get the go-ahead from a team of anthropologists first (to make certain there weren't any burials or items of cultural importance nearby). We dug a few test pits, didn't find anything save that the maps furnished to us by the USGS were so far off, we had to re-survey and map the entire site. There was a drought that summer. Have you ever tried digging a test pit in clay-like Midwestern soil when it hasn't rained in weeks?

I wasn't wearing a hat. Peering down into the transit, I would read the idiot stick being held by a graduate student and shout out the numbers for someone to jot down. I never had to look up. I suppose this was where the problem was brewing unnoticed. By the time I did look up-a good hour later, everything began spinning, I had a cold sweat and awful headache. Those salt-tablet things you're supposed to use out in the field? Yeah, I wasn't using them, along with a hat or sunscreen. I was really ill for a few days, but probably fortunate not to have died. Best I can recall, I never felt hot, or had any indication i was going to fall over. Don't fool around in the heat-you don't get prizes for endurance, it isn't a contest.

Everyone is slow. So terribly, horribly, painfully slow. The forecast for the next seven days looks just as awful.

So, how is everyone holding up in this heatwave?

Blueberry Cheese Coffee Cake




Rich poundcake-like base, a pint of blueberries, cream cheese centre, and a crumb topping. But hey, the blueberries have antioxidants. So yeah, you'd better go back and cut a larger slice.

Disclosure-I can't eat this sort of thing. I took a taste of each part, and while pleasant, I knew it wouldn't be worth it to eat any more. This is a very rich cake. If you can tolerate dense fats, then this might be the cake for you. Danny and Mr. ETB certainly tucked-in. What I did try was a handful of blueberries earlier-and they don't taste like anything. These were from New Jersey-I'm not sure if the Michigan ones will be better when they hit the shelves, but I don't think the East coast ones were having a good year. We never even see Nova Scotia berries anymore. Anyway, my point is that this cake has so many expensive ingredients (butter, cream cheese, berries) that it might be worth the effort to locate flavourful fruit beforehand.

This now brings the total to seven, if you're keeping track of the recipes I've made from the quickbreads book. It is ridiculous how well tested these breads are-I should have had something go wrong by this point, but haven't.

Meatless Toad in the Hole

Yes, as a matter of fact, I am still working my way through the quickbread book. This recipe turned out quite nicely.


I made this with vegetarian sausages. Mr. ETB really liked it, Danny was less impressed, but picked the sausages out to eat-so no one starved.

Yes, that is fat bubbling up at the top. Some people consider this the, "good part."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Vlad Was Here

-or there's something going on in Nebraska causing people to impale themselves.

Here.
Here.

As I was making dinner I heard yet another story about a kid getting impaled on a stick playing Ninjas or something. That wasn't in Nebraska. He had some good advice though, "Don't play with sticks."

Yow! That's gotta hurt.

Spinach Pancakes


I'm still working my way through the quickbreads book. As I've already posted three recipes, I feel it is only fair at this point to send you off to buy the book for yourself. You can own your very own copy for under four dollars US.


Were it not for this ungodly heatwave, I wouldn't be preparing griddle breads on a daily basis (I am not baking until we hit 80 degrees F.) but they have all been wonderful, and my kitchen has remained cool. I cannot say enough nice things about this volume. It is so rare to find a book where some thought and testing went into the recipes. Hooray. Now go get yourself a copy as this heat doesn't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

So what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Black Bean Pancakes-Beth Hensperger

I wonder how much Mr. ETB could sell his lunch for at work? Sometimes I'm embarrassed to send him with this elaborate of a lunch, but there wasn't enough for a second night's dinner, and I wasn't going to toss it out. Pictured are: Black Bean Pancakes, homemade salsa, cole slaw, rice salad with lima beans. Oh yeah, there's sour cream and some cheese because he needs the fat. The coleslaw was really excellent-someone remind me to post that recipe some time.



This is the third recipe from The Best Quick Breads I've made and again, it was met with rave reviews. I had to use a handful of pinto beans to total the amount needed in the recipe for black beans, and i used shallots rather than green onions (because I had them) but otherwise I followed the recipe with great results. The book is getting quite a workout during the heat wave as I refuse to light the oven. If it can't be cooked on the hob, it isn't getting cooked. I've made several batches of crumpets this week ;)

The recipe makes twelve 4 inch pancakes

1 clove garlic, minced
1 bunch green onions white part and 1 inch of green part, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/3 cups black beans, rinsed and drained-divided
1 pickled jalapeƱo, minced (I omitted this)
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds toasted in a dry pan, and crushed in a mortar (I used ground)
3/4 cup cooked brown rice or steamed barley at room temperature
2-3 tablespoons fresh snipped cilantro (I omitted this as well)
1 cup yellow cornmeal for coating
Sour cream and salsa for topping

Saute the garlic and onion in the oil until soft but not browned. Puree 1 cup of the beans in a food processor (I just mashed them well)Place in a bowl with remaining beans and mash with a fork. Add onion, garlic, pepper, powder and cumin. Mash to combine. Stir in rice and cilantro. The mixture will be stiff enough to form into patties.

Coat the patties in the cornmeal and flatten it with a spoon. Both sides of the pancake should be coated with cornmeal.

* at this point, I chilled mine on a plate as I made them a couple hours ahead-this worked just fine.

Lightly coat the bottom of a nonstick skillet with some olive oil (I used cast iron) and place over medium/high heat. Fry a few at a time, turning to brown on both sides. Add more oil as needed. Serve hot.

Popcorn Balls

These popcorn balls are a bit on the Spartan side. They come from The New York Times Heritage Cookbook, and are clearly not the sort of thing children would eat today (well, MY kid would, but he'd drink dark molasses straight from the bottle if I'd let him). I say this not to discourage you from making these, but to point out these are not the sort of thing most people associate with popcorn balls.

My candy mixture began burning before it got to 290 degrees F. It was already threading, so I pulled it off the burner and used it. You'll need to watch it-this could be my burners, my thermometer, or just too high of a temperature in the recipe. After you get to 200 degrees F. watch the pot and pull it off at the first whiff of smoking-it will still form the balls just fine.

I wear gloves to do this sort of thing as I have some nerve damage that keeps me from feeling hot and cold as I ought to. Generally speaking, it probably isn't a bad idea anyway, though traditionalists will insist you should just oil your hands well and get right in there. Do as you see fit. Far be it from me to tell you how to handle your balls.

You Will Need:

1 cup dark molasses (I used full flavour-not blackstrap. I think mild would be OK as well)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (bicarb)
3 quarts popped corn

Mix the molasses, sugar, water, vinegar and butter in a large heavy pot. Bring to a boil stirring just until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring until it reaches 290 degrees F. on a candy thermometer (but watch and smell for any burning). Stir in the baking soda. Pour the mixture over the popcorn in a heat-proof pan (I used my roasting pan). Let stand to cool, then form into balls. When cool, wrap in wax paper. Makes about 2 dozen balls (but you can make them smaller or larger of course).

Fresh Salsa-in a hurry

You can have this made in under five minutes.

2 large, ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 teaspoon dried basil
Juice of a lime
Salt/Pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground coriander

Mix well, store in a jar in the fridge.

Brown Rice and Lima Bean Salad

This is another recipe inspired by what I had growing outside. I lightly steamed the Lima beans, and as with broad beans, removed the filmy skin covering the bean. That was a bit of work, but the salad turned out quite nice. I don't see any reason this could not be made with frozen Lima beans, save for cost (they are quite expensive where I live).

You Will Need:

2 cups cooked and cooled brown rice (I had short grain, so I used it)
1 heaping cup lightly cooked fresh or frozen Lima beans
1 tablespoon chopped preserved lemon peel (or the grated zest of 1 small lemon)
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 heaping tablespoon dried onion flakes (they are less assertive than fresh and I did not want to overpower the beans)

Dressing:

1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
Pinch sweet paprika
Salt/pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Mix well and toss with ingredients above. Serve well chilled.

Three Bean Salad


I used both the purple bush beans and the young Borlotto pods growing in the garden. The kidney beans were purchased, but it does have me thinking of growing them next year.

This salad is best a day after you make it. Feel free to substitute the standard green bean/wax bean combination-or go wild and add chick peas, favas, or whatever. As my beans were fresh, I steamed them lightly before making the salad. You could just as easily open a tin.

You Will Need:

2 cups cooked beans (I used a combination of Borlotto and purple bush beans)
1 tin red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup corn oil
4 tablespoons sugar
Salt/Pepper
1 small red onion, chopped
2 small bay leaves

Combine, cover and keep chilled a day before serving. Makes about 1 quart.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Potato Latkes-Beth Hensperger's Recipe


The boys liked these better than my usual pancakes with grated apple and carrot. They certainly were simple enough, though they have baking powder and would not be acceptable for Pesach. Otherwise, these will probably go into regular menu rotation around here. This is the second recipe I've made from, The Best Quick Breads. Something makes me think this will soon become a favourite cookbook. I really like that it only calls for 1 egg.

You Will Need:

1 medium onion
2 large Russet potatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs.)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4-1/2 cup AP flour
Salt/Pepper
1/4 cup oil (she suggests canola, but I used corn)

Peel and grate onion and potatoes using large holes on a grater. Place in a bowl and immediately add the egg. Add baking powder, salt/pepper, and staring with 1/4 cup of flour, add until you have a medium thick batter.

Heat pan over medium heat and add oil. Drop by spoonfuls into pan and flatten lightly. Fry until golden, flip and fry other side. Serve hot.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Frozen Treats

The weather is showing no sign of breaking soon. That's OK-I have a freezer filled with sorbet, gelato, and ice cream. I also have a new fridge (that I hate as the crisper bins don't have any space, and the shelves are spaced oddly-but that's another post) which has a separate temperature control for the freezer-a great improvement over the last model. I cranked it up, and now I have five pints of glorious frozen treats, all churned out in an 8x8 glass pan. Seriously, I no longer use an ice cream maker as I prefer the results I get from stirring in the pan with a fork.

The method I use for fruit-based sorbets and ice cream is a bit more time consuming than whirring it all in a blender or food processor-but I'm a devoted fan of the Foley Food Mill, and whether I'm making mashed potatoes, pureeing soup, or mashing cooked fruit for sorbet-it never fails me. Few appliances are as reliable as old Foley. You can use a blender of course, but then you really should take the extra step of straining through a sieve to get out the tough skin.

Peach Puree for sorbet, ice cream, or gelato:

5 large, ripe, peaches-pitted, peels left on
Juice of 1 lemon (no need to strain out pips
A small (1/4 cup at most) splash of water if peaches are dry
Sugar

In a large pot, place peaches, lemon juice, and water (if needed). Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Cook gently until fruit is soft-about 10 minutes. Run through a food mill until all that is left are pips and peel.

Measure your fruit puree. For each cup, add 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Return to pan over medium heat and whisk in sugar just until it dissolves. Remove from heat and cool completely before using.

At this point, if you're making sorbet, whisk in a tablespoon or so of brandy (or bourbon if you prefer. You can now proceed with freezing. The alcohol will help keep it slushy, but you can omit it as there's enough sugar to keep it from freezing too hard. Give it a stir once every 30 minutes with a fork (chopping up the hard bits around the sides) until firm. Chill several hours to further firm.

If you are making something else, combine it with the pulp at this point. I like to make both ice cream and sorbet, so I divide the pulp for two batches of treats. Strangely, just stirring in an equal amount of heavy cream (skipping the eggs, milk, and custard base of ice cream) works really well with richer fruit puree. You won't need additional sugar either, though I would omit the alcohol and use a splash of vanilla extract instead-but that's just me. Some caramel sauce swirled in at the end of the freezing time is excellent as well.

You can apply this same method to cherries, but I'd substitute Kirsch for the sorbet, and vanilla extract for the ice cream.

For Grapefruit Sorbet:

4 large grapefruit (I had pink, not overly sweet. You may wish to decrease the sugar for Ruby Red variety, or increase it for white).
Sugar
Water

Juice the grapefruit. Measure. For each cup of fruit you will need 1 cup water, and 1 cup granulated sugar. Combine the water and sugar in a pan and whisk over heat just until dissolved. Cool. Whisk into juice. Freeze. You can of course add alcohol here (anything anisette would be lovely) or you can use fennel seeds, or star anise in the simple syrup, which you will strain before combining. A slice of fresh ginger is nice as well. If you have any tarragon growing in the garden, that can be nice I'm told. I left mine plain and omitted the alcohol, and it was just delicious-like frozen grapefruit juice.

Double Chocolate Ice Cream That Is So Delicious It Will Make Your Head Spin:

This is the best thing I make according to my family. Who am I to argue?

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk (I've been using 2%-I don't think I can tell the difference)
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup very dark cocoa powder (I use Hershey's Special dark baking cocoa which is really excellent for the price (no, I'm not getting paid to say that)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ounces either white chocolate, or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped (The cocoa is already so strong and bitter, you need a sweeter chocolate as a balance)

Heat the cream and milk until steaming. In a large heatproof bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until combined. Add the milk/cream, slowly to eggs whisking as you go. Return the mixture to the pan and cook to 170 degrees F. whisking to ensure it does not cook to bottom of pan. Strain into a bowl to catch any remaining egg whites. Whisk in vanilla and cocoa powder. Chill in an ice bath until cold enough to begin freezing. In the last ten minutes of freezing/stirring, mix in the chopped chocolate. Chill several hours to firm up.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bastille Day. 2011

Happy Bastille Day.







Bastille Day, 2010.

I'm going to keep doing these things because_______________________ (fill in the blank).

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Links To Cool Things

I haven't done one of these posts in a while. I'm not sure why, as there's some really great stuff out there.



"Hey, are you checkin' out me bird?" That's OK, we want you to check out the Nebraska birds at Nebraskabirdlibrary.org Expect to spend several hours clicking your way through. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Did you hear about that dumbass Gwyneth Paltrow spending $100,000 to educate young Apple in ancient Greek? Psst, don't tell Gwynnie, but you can get the materials, and even forums on teaching-for free. HERE. Kale-juice smoothie not included. Because she drinks those-to stay slim or something. I know it must be true, I read it in the Daily mail.

You'll hate me for this, but click over to Mod Cloth. The clothes are surprisingly affordable, and there's some great stuff in the sale category. The vintage stuff goes really fast-you need to pretty much stalk the site to get the deals.

How could I not link to a recipe for something called, Schneeballen? You're welcome. I'm so impressed with these, I'm not even going to make a German joke. I want to, but I won't-just this time.

Got an allergic kid, and all the cool cake decorations are made in factories that process nuts? Yeah, that pisses me off too. Fear not! Thanks to THIS recipe, you can make your own jimmies. Seriously, you can make your own. How badass is that?

Something to do with leftover bread crusts (yes, just the crusts).

Classic children's books-free on line.

Ethnocentrism in action via a 1922 cookbook for social workers.

Best Blog Name ever.

Big Other

Bangable Dudes in History (in case you are the last people alive that haven't heard about this site).

For the weather nerds-make your own barometer.

Salmon Patties II


This is my new favourite way to make salmon patties. I always broiled them as that was how my mother made them-but truthfully, I never liked her salmon patties-they were dry, and hard. Look, she's been dead for twenty years, I think it is OK to finally confess that I didn't care for her salmon patties. I think I didn't like that she stretched the salmon with tuna. *Shrugs*.

I realise the secret ingredient here is probably not available to all readers, so feel free to go ahead and substitute store-bought parsley in the recipe. You see, Danny planted a large container of curly parsley. I understand the curly variety has fallen out of favour, but if the curly parsley in supermarkets tasted as fresh and delicious as the stuff kiddo is growing in the yard, it might have a resurgence of popularity. In fact, the bunnies in these parts have much fresher breath than they used to. You know how sometimes you're sitting in the garden talking to the rabbits and you think, "Dear god, that bunny has dandelion breath-he should go eat some parsley." So you tell the bunny, "Hey, go try some of Danny's parsley-it'll take care of your rank dandelion breath" and the bunny is all like, "Well I just came from Ms. Rabbit's Bunny Hitch and she wasn't exactly complainin'." So you try to convince the bunny his lady friend was just being polite by asking if her nose was all wrinkled-up-n-stuff and twitchy, and he's all like, "Well yeah, it was all wrinkled up and twitchy caus' she's a bloody rabbit, and her eyes were pink too." But then, when you've given up trying to persuade old bunny breath about the parsley, he hops over, takes a nibble and is all like, "Wow, check out the chlorophyll. My mouth feels so fresh." and you nod knowingly because friends, this isn't some supermarket parsley we're talking about here. Still, feel free to substitute whatever you've got.

Yeaaaah, as Mr. ETB likes to say, "If you don't like her writing, just go to Google and type in, 'recipe" that should get you something straightforward.


You Will Need:

1 small tin of salmon (I used red, wild Alaskan which sounds like more fun that it is)
1 tablespoon finely chopped preserved lemon peel (or the grated zest of 1/2 lemon)
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
Salt/Pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup chopped, fresh parsley
1 large egg
Enough dry breadcrumbs to make a mixture that will stick together-about 3/4 cup (I had very coarse, almost crouton-like sourdough crumbs that worked really well)Don't overdo it or they well be dry.
Oil for the pan

Heat a frying pan over medium heat. I used olive oil for cooking these, but you could of course use any kind you like, or butter for that matter. Cook them until they are nicely browned on both sides. My family likes their salmon cold (I mean, they're practically religious about it) so make them well ahead if planning to serve them chilled. If your family lack these peculiar ideas about salmon, feel free to serve them warm. A tarragon mayo goes nicely here as well, provided your family will eat it, which mine will not. Instead, I mixed sour cream, paprika, dill, and some olive oil together for a sauce. It worked.

Cheese Blintzes



This is a nice way to use-up half a package of cream cheese and some cottage cheese nearing the expiration date.

For The Crepes:
(This is basically the Julia Child recipe)

1 cup cold water
1 cup cold milk
4 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups AP flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter melted, and cooled

Whisk together the water, milk and eggs. Whisk in salt and flour working out any lumps. Whisk in the butter, and whisk until smooth. Cover with cling film and chill at least two hours before using.

Heat your pan, lightly butter it (you will only need to do this once) and pour on about 4 tablespoons of batter. Tilt the pan to coat it, and cook until underside is lightly browned. Flip it, give it another minute, and stack crepes on a large platter as you work. You should end up with about 1 dozen 6 inch diameter crepes, but I got 14, but I think I do mine a bit on the thin side.

For the filling:

2 cups cottage cheese, sieved
4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg white (or whole egg if you wish)

Mash together really well with a potato masher. You can beat it with a whisk if you like, but don't overwork it-the filling will be on the runny side to begin with.

Take a crepe and at the bottom, centre a dollop of filling. Roll up from the bottom folding sides under. Place in a well-buttered baking dish. When all are made you can either dot them with additional butter and bake immediately in a 350 degree F. oven for 30 minutes or until browned-or, set them in the fridge until you are ready to cook. They can also be pan-fried in butter if you prefer. This makes quite a few blintzes, and despite the cheesy filling, they freeze remarkably well. Wrap the uncooked blintzes in freezer paper and seal tightly. This is handy when you want a single blintz for lunch or a snack.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Gateau d' Helene



This is a cake that needs to be made a day ahead-sort of like a high-class fridge cake, except you actually have to bake a cake rather than using biscuits. A very dry cake, but still cake nonetheless.

The recipe comes from Simca's Cuisine. I did not cut mine into three layers, nor did I use the ungodly amount of brandy the recipe called for. I also substituted lime for orange. I otherwise followed the recipe. Mine sank in the middle. I filled and frosted it anyway. Coconut cake is really forgiving that way, and whipped cream fills dents rather well.

I was pleased that this recipe let me use the dried-out bag of coconut in the back of my fridge, the last of the whipping cream approaching the use-by date, and exactly enough cake flour left in a bag I'd long forgotten. Don't you love when recipes end up needing exactly what you have? I hate having a handful of flour left in a bag, or not-enough of something to use, but too much to combine in a new package. I also hoover the entire house on a daily basis because I like the way the carpet looks when all the lines are going in the same direction...but let's keep that a secret, lest people think I'm some kind of weirdo. I really do hoover the house every day for 30 minutes, but it is more to deal with allergies and dust from living on a farm...and because it looks so nice and orderly when all the lines in the carpet are...yeah, OK so the cake. Who wants cake?

The day before making the cake, spread out 2-3 cups coconut to dry on a tray. As mine was already pretty dried out from being shoved half open in the back of the fridge, I went ahead and skipped this step. The recipe called for "canned" coconut. In my part of the world, that sort of thing disappeared around 1975, but if you can find it, go ahead and use it, just don't forget to set your, "Way Back Machine" to the present as you don't want the cake overbaking when the timer goes off and you and Sherman are in the Galapagos stuffing finches with Darwin (I mean "stuffing" in the taxidermy sense. God, you people are sick).

For the cake:

Butter and flour an 8 inch cake pan. Place a round of parchment in the bottom. Grease and flour that as well.

12 tablespoons softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 orange (or 2 limes)
3 large eggs
1 cup cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt

Cream the butter and sugar until light. Grate the peel of the orange, and juice the orange. Add the peel to the butter and sugar and reserve 1/4 cup of the orange juice. Beat the eggs in 1 at a time. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add and beat until smooth.

Pour into prepared pan and bake in preheated 375 degree f. oven for 35-40 minutes (mine took 30). Cool on rack in pan 20 minutes, then unmould and cool completely.

Apricot/Coconut Filling:

1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup rum
1/2 cup apricot jam
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups coconut from day before.

Mic orange juice and rum. Slice cake into 3 layers (I did 2) and prick each layer in several places with a fork. Sprinkle each layer with 1/3 of the juice/rum mixture. Then, spread each layer with some apricot jam leaving some reserved for the top. I suggest using about half the rum and drinking the rest yourself. Let your tastes (or desire for alcohol early in the morning as you assemble cakes) be your guide.

Whip the cream over ice and add the vanilla. When almost stiff, beat in the sugar and whip until stiff. Place 4 tablespoons of whipped cream in another bowl and stir in 5 tablespoons of the coconut to make a thick mixture. Build the cake spreading the coconut cream on the frost and second layers. Cover the top layer with remaining jam. Then, neatly coat the top and sides with remaining whipped cream, making a dome on top. Sprinkle entire cake with remaining coconut. Chill cake until ready to serve. best made a day a head.

My Kid's Doodles


Oh look, a circuit. Positive and negative charges, a switch, wires, bulbs.

Twenty bucks says this kid installs a dimmer switch in his bedroom before he's seven. Wager, anyone? I'm confident he'd kill the power before trying...unlike another idiot I know.

Meatless Cabbage Rolls With Lentils and Wild Rice



I had leftover wild rice from the pancakes last evening, but not enough to do anything requiring more than a couple cups. I don't really follow a recipe when I make this sort of thing, but rather I look around and use what I have. In this case, I also had a gigantic, locally grown cabbage. Really, I should have photographed it-the thing was monstrously large. I now have enough cabbage rolls to get us through the weekend without doing any cooking (hooray!) and everyone seemed happy enough to tuck-in. I steamed the first potatoes from the garden and served them tossed with some parsley/garlic butter-that really made the meal.

A Recipe of Sorts for Wild Rice Cabbage Rolls:

Remove as many leaves as you can somewhat intact from a large head of cabbage. Blanch them in boiling water for a couple minutes. Drain. Set aside.

Make Filling:

Combine cooked lentils, cooked rice (wild, brown, white-whatever) shredded carrots, chopped parsley, salt/pepper, 1 or 2 eggs depending on how many rolls you are making, and enough dry bread crumbs to hold it all together. Roll filling in cabbage leaves and layer in a deep casserole. For the liquid, I use 1 large tin of tomatoes, juice and all (crush the tomatoes quickly in your hand before tossing them in) 2 cubes of veggie soup base, shredded carrot, chopped garlic, chopped onion, a couple bay leaves, and a good grinding of black pepper. Pour this over the cabbage rolls. If there isn't enough liquid, add water, or a small tin of tomato sauce. If you like, drizzle with a bit of oil or dot with butter (some people really need that fattiness in a cabbage roll, or they feel deprived. I don't do this, but if you were trying to transition from meat to meatless, it might help). Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes. Remove foil, bake another 30 minutes, basting occasionally when the tops look dry.

That's pretty much it. They re-heat well in a microwave. As they are meatless, the rolls are pretty good cold as well.

First Potatoes (and other stuff too)

Potatoes and branch of bay laurel.




Like Make Way For Ducklings...with potatoes. I hope they don't try crossing the street.




Tender, early Borlotto beans ready to be eaten whole in the pod.



That was the only potato plant that looked ready for digging, so I think we're a bit of a way off from a large harvest. Still, it is really satisfying to wander out to the garden, and pick my dinner.

I hope everyone has a nice weekend.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

My Favourite Plant This Year


Nasturtiums. I wish I'd planted more-they're delicious. Both the flowers and leaves are edible. Next year, I'm going crazy with these.

Blackricots


Yeah, I bought one. News at eleven. Anyone else try these yet?

Wild Rice Pancakes With Hearts and Puree of Artichokes



Artichokes are a forgiving vegetable. You can boil the hell out of them, take a phone call, do a load of laundry, mow the lawn...and if you haven't boiled the pot dry, the artichokes will probably still need a few more minutes of cooking. While I might have disagreed with my mother's choice of low-fat margarine as a dipping sauce for artichokes (and in later years, non-fat Italian salad dressing-I flat-out refused to eat that one) it was the one and only vegetable she was incapable of ruining (pity the poor cabbages that had the misfortune of ending up in our grocery carriage). Unfortunately, I never enjoyed eating them as it took forever to peel all those leaves away, and make an attempt at scraping the flesh from them with my teeth. By the time I was done fiddling with all that nonsense, the best part at the centre was dead cold-and no amount of low-fat margarine was going to rescue that. If you think I'll have my child suffer the same artichoke traumas of my youth, you are mistaken. No, I've worked out a way to have the best part of the artichoke, without wasting the leaves. You can still boil the daylights out of them, but you're going to need a food mill to deal with the puree at the end.

When the boys sat down to dinner, Mr. ETB said this was the sort of meal you would get at a nice resort. As he's never actually taken me to a resort, (unless you count that dive in the Poconos that had a hot-tub in the room, and we didn't have anything to consume there except cheap sparkling wine and brandy) I have to assume it is some memory from his youth where his parents dragged the kids around the world. I went to the Catskills once, but I can assure you they weren't serving wild rice pancakes with artichoke puree. I do recall some cheese blintzes though. Right, so this is what Mr. ETB considers a "fancy" meal. I don't know whether to laugh or cry, but I have the memory of making a goose confit, all manner of things encased in home made puff paste, and he's impressed by pancakes. Sort of related, Danny said, rather out-of-the-blue today, "Mama? If you ever don't know what to make for dinner, you could make that corn pie again. You should make that every time you don't know what to make." So again, pancakes and shoving vegetables into pastry seem to be the way to impress my family. I'll make a note of that.

The vegetables I served with the pancakes and artichokes are a combination of what I had in the garden, what I had in the larder, and a very tame selection of spices. Because artichokes and wild rice both have such strong, grass-like flavours, I didn't want to use garlic, or rosemary, or anything that would compete with it. I had a very mild red onion, but shallots would have been fine as well. I used the tiniest bit of tarragon and some thyme, along with parsley from the garden. Salt and pepper rounded it out with a bit of chopped, preserved lemon. Use whatever vegetables and beans you have, but keep the seasonings a bit on the plain side.

I have been using very small, tender Borlotto beans as I would a green bean. Once they develop past a couple inches, you can use the beans inside fresh, or dried, but the tender pods are so nice, I wonder if any of my beans will reach maturity before I pick them all. They loose the pretty speckled colour when they are cooked (much like purple bush beans) but that's a small price to pay for such wonderful beans.

The recipe for the pancakes comes from The Best Quick Breads by, Beth Hensperger. I wondered if it was worth the $3.50 I paid for it used, but based on the reaction to the pancakes, I think I got my money's worth. The wild rice I used was not actually wild, but cultivated. I followed the cooking instructions on the package, but that varies by brand, so I suggest you do the same. Cook the rice well ahead as it needs to be cooled.

You Will Need:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, minced (I used about 3 tablespoons finely minced red onion)
1 cup AP flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups cooked and cooled wild rice

Melt butter in a skillet, add shallot and cook until soft. Set aside to cool. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and shallots, eggs, and milk. Beat until just smooth. Stir in rice.

Heat a griddle over medium heat until hot. Lightly grease and ladle about 2 tablespoons batter into pan. Cook until bubbles form on surface. Turn, cook about another minute on opposite side. keep warm in a 200 degree F. oven, or serve immediately.

For The Artichokes:

2 large artichokes
2 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
Salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
(about) 1/4 cup heavy cream

Cut the stems from the artichokes and reserve. Cut the tops from the artichokes until you have exposed the "choke" part. Leave this in place. In a large pot of boiling water, add the 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, the trimmed artichoke hearts, and the stems. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to a quick simmer and cook for about 40 minutes or until tender. The stems may take longer, so leave them in if you must. Let the hearts cool, then trim away the choke leaving the hearts. Chill until needed. Meanwhile, in another large pot with the remaining lemon juice, gently the reserved leaves in a covered pot until they are very tender. You will need to scrape them clean with a spoon, so if in doubt, pull one from the water and see if the flesh will scrape. if not, keep boiling. This may take about an hour.let them cool until you can handle them, then carefully scrape them out. Reserve this in a bowl along with the cooked stems. At this point you can peel the stems (discard the peel), and chop-up the insides.

Place the pulp from the leaves and the stems in a small, heavy saucepan with the butter and oil. Cook over medium heat, mashing with a wooden spoon as you go. The pulp should begin to look fibrous. That's OK. Remove from heat and run it through a food mill to remove the fibre. You will probably have about 1/4 cup of pulp. This seems like a lot of work for so little, but it is quite concentrated in flavour. Return it to a small pot, add cream slowly over medium heat, whisking until you have a not-too-thick consistency (this is more a matter of taste). Adjust salt and pepper. Return the reserved hearts to the pot, cover and heat until just warmed through. Serve with sauce over and alongside the hearts.