Saturday, September 24, 2011

roasted red peppers

Sheppard peppers are everywhere right now: those long, red sweet peppers that are probably on sale at a fruit market or farmer's market near you. The best way to preserve them? Buy a whole bunch, and make roasted red peppers. You can store roasted red peppers in the fridge for a week or so, covered in a bit of olive oil, or separate them out into jars or zip locks, and freeze them for up to 6 months. 

Roasted Red Peppers

Red peppers
Olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425. Halve peppers and remove seeds. Toss with oil, salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until they just start to blacken. If you want a smoother texture in whatever you're making with your peppers, then you can remove the skins. Place the peppers in a bowl, cover with saran wrap or a lid, and let them steam for a few minutes. The skins will peel off very easily. Otherwise, you can just store them however you like. 

What to make with those peppers? Put them on pizzas, throw them in pasta, make soup or sauce. Here's some recipes to get you inspired:

Roasted Pepper, Tomato and Bean Salad from Seasonal Ontario Food

Sunday, September 18, 2011

millions of peaches

com-pote   (noun) /ˈkämpōt/
1. Fruit preserved or cooked in syrup.
2. A dish consisting of fruit salad or stewed fruit.  

Ok, so what's with all the names for cooked fruit? There's jam, jelly, compote, stewed fruit, fruit preserves, curd, chutney, coulis...

This one is definitely a compote. You could eat it on pancakes, waffles, french toast, yogurt, ice cream, or all by itself. Make a bunch, and freeze some for the depths of winter. 

Go, run to the market! Buy baskets and baskets of peaches! Because in a few weeks, they'll be replaced by apples, and the only peaches available will be hard, mealy, and have a hefty environmental price tag. 

Peach Compote

4 cups peeled, sliced peaches
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

Combine everything in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer for 15 minutes. The compote will thicken more after it cools. It will keep in the fridge for about a week, or for a few months in the freezer. 

the mysteries of pie dough

It worked! It seems so difficult, so complicated, something left to pastry chefs and grandmas, but don't let that pie crust fool you: it's not so hard, and it will make you look like an expert. Plus, it will  always taste a million times better than that freezer pie crust (with its perfect scalloped edges and cardboard flavour). 

Was this the key to my success? The ice water? Who knows, but I followed the recipe exactly, and it made a crusty, flaky and light crust. Here's what went in the crust: a Leek and Kale Tart, from fiveandspice on Food52

Leek and Kale Tart
(This time I used the cornmeal crust from the original recipe, but it's pretty labour intensive, so next time I might use another, quicker crust, or even make it crustless. Try a mashed potato crust, recipe here.)

3 leeks, thinly sliced, light green and white parts only
1 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch of kale, stemmed and chopped into ribbons
3 cloves of garlic
1 cup gruyere cheese, grated
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup yogurt
2 eggs
salt and pepper
prepared pie crust

Preheat oven to 350. Heat oil in a pan. Add the leeks, and sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes. Turn heat down, and continue to cook the leeks for another 10 minutes. Add kale and garlic, and a 1/4 cup of water. Cook another 5 or 10 minutes, until the kale is cooked. Remove from heat, and stir in cheese, lemon juice, yogurt and eggs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Put filling in pie crust of choice. Bake for 35 minutes. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

rye and honey

Forcing yourself to do something every day- maybe it's sketching, practicing an instrument, or taking a photo- can be annoying but rewarding. Making yourself try new recipes can be just like that; sometimes not the most fun, but the only way to expand your repertoire and become a better cook. I picked this recipe for the rye flour, which I've never cooked with before. 

It's from the gorgeous Food52 website (here's the original posting), and it's a homely, not-too-sweet cake that would be delicious with some butter and jam and some English Breakfast tea. Think of it as a cake/quick bread hybrid, with some rye flour thrown in for a rich, hearty flavour. It's dense and moist, and will keep well for quite a few days - an excellent snack or dessert to take for lunch. 

Rye and Honey Cake

1 cup rye flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
1/2 cup honey
2 large eggs
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
1 cup prunes, chopped

Preheat oven to 350. Combine all dry ingredients and mix. Add honey, eggs, butter and milk, and stir until combined. Fold in chopped prunes. Line a 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper. Pour in batter, and smooth out around pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a fork comes out clean from the centre of the cake. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

dinner for one

While my significant other is off travelling the world, I'm stuck making meals for one. It can be daunting (and so tempting to resort to eating things out of a bag... or the freezer... or just getting take out). Here's a solution that can be gourmet, delicious and only takes as long as your favourite pasta takes to cook.

Switch it up, and use whatever's in your fridge. With some tasty cheese and fresh herbs, any pasta dish can be restaurant-worthy.

Linguine with Kale and Tomatoes
Handful of linguine
Kale, stemmed and torn up
Olive oil
A few garlic cloves, minced
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Olives, pitted
Basil and oregano, chopped
Salt and pepper
Parmesan reggiano

Cook the pasta in well-salted, boiling water. While the pasta is cooking, heat some olive oil in a pan. Add garlic, and cook 30 seconds until fragrant. Throw in the tomatoes, olives and herbs, and cook for another few minutes. When the pasta is almost done, add the kale leaves to the pasta water. Drain pasta and kale, and add to pan with tomato mixture. Toss, season with salt and pepper. Top with cheese! Only fifteen minutes to a gourmet meal for one.

save your seeds!

Every fruit and vegetable has a hidden history. Some come from far away, some were crossbred and cultivated for strange reasons (a monarch's favourite colour, for example), while many others mirror human stories of slavery and destruction (bananas come to mind).

These are Matt's Wild Cherry Tomatoes. This little tomato has a happy story: it comes from Eastern Mexico, which is the region where tomatoes were first domesticated. The wild seeds were brought to North America a few decades ago, and these tasty, tiny tomatoes have become a popular staple in many gardens. They're tiny, sweet and prolific. Since buying a package of seeds four years ago, I've been saving seeds from my favourite plant each year. That investment of 3 dollars for that first pack of seeds has turned into thousands and thousands of delicious, tiny tomatoes. What a bargain!

It's fall, and that means it's seed saving time. Don't forget to take a few minutes to save some seeds from all your favourite plants. Or, you can pick out some favourites from the market - save the watermelon or squash seeds from your favourite vendor, and next year you can grow your own.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

feasting in the county

This weekend I went to Prince Edward County! My friends have a farm, right near Sandbanks park. It's a beautiful place, filled with lots of beautiful food. (You should  check out their blog, Argos Acres.)

There were lots of animals,  

... and I visited a cheese factory. 

My friend has a sprawling garden, and this chard got cooked with some chickpeas, lemon zest and onions, and it was a part of a ...

... feast! There's corn, tomatoes, pears, caramelized onions for the burgers and tofurky sausages, quinoa salad, and sun-dried olives with orange zest. 

There were pears from a back yard and cherry tomatoes,

and olives galore!

Also, the largest mushroom ever - a puffball, a kind of wild mushroom, that got sliced up, marinated and barbecued. 

And the food went deliciously with local cider and barley beer. 

Don't forget the watermelon from the stand down the street, 

and lots of corn!

It was all made in the outdoor kitchen, the best place to cook in the summer, 

and there were marshmallows to end the evening, of course. 

once in a while...

... you need some deep fried food. My annual visit to the CNE was filled with delicious delights!

This needs to be recreated at home - two waffles, still warm from the waffle maker, and a slice of vanilla ice cream. Soooo good. 

My boyfriend requested I bring home a two dozen donuts. He got lucky and got twice that amount. 

I would never buy or eat this. But it's a fascinating idea, and apparently many other people thought so, judging by the very, very long line up.  

making jam

There's only one thing to do in the late summer when there's an abundance of fruits: make jam! If you're scared by the idea of canning, with the sterilizing, and the jars and the equipment you need, then try freezer jam. All you need is fruit, sugar, lemon juice and liquid pectin. Look for recipes online, or on the instructions that come with the liquid pectin.

(also in the picture - spiced apple pear jam)

Blueberry Freezer Jam
4 1/2 cups crushed blueberries
4 cups sugar
2 pouches of liquid pectin
2 tbsp lemon juice

Crush the berries with a potato masher, in a food processor, or with your hands. Add the sugar, stir, and let sit for 10 minutes. Add pectin and lemon juice, stir, and let sit for 3 minutes. Fill containers with jam (glass canning jars can be put in the freezer). Put lids on, and leave containers for 24 hours at room temperature to set. The jam will keep in the freezer for up to a year, or thawed in the fridge for a month.