Category Archives: Eat

Conversation and Kale Salad

Last night’s union talk and dinner at our home was crazy-successful….. an event that started out early and went late, ending with some hot-tubbing and cherry pie at midnight. About twenty people crammed into our small living room, and it was apparent to me that disenchanted as some of our activists may be, there is still a deep desire to explore the possibilities a new union and/or union movement…We already have agreement from someone to come and talk in September, so we will be working out the details of that shortly and going ahead with a little intimate series of discussions (and dinners) in our home.

Dinner last night was burgers (beef, lamb and veggie) with all the fixings, potato salad and pickles… plus a new kale recipe that I whipped up in an effort to use up the snow peas from the garden that were about to get too big for their own good. This turned out to be a definite keeper:

Conversation and Kale Salad

2 cups of shitaake mushrooms
5 garlic scapes
5 mid-sized curly Kale leaves
1 pound of snow peas
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
black sesame seeds

Dressing: rice vinegar, sunflower oil, sesame oil, juice of one orange

In advance, cut into pieces and cook the shitaake mushrooms and garlic scapes in sesame oil and a touch of soy sauce. Let cool.

Kale leaves should be cut very thin, with the ribs taken out. Snow peas may be cut into two or three sections.

Mix cooled mushrooms and scapes, shredded kale leaves, snow peas and sunflower seeds in a big salad bowl.

Mix dressing to your taste – the base is rice vinegar and sunflower oil with sesame oil being added in very small quantity for flavoring.

Toss the salad in the dressing, sprinkle black sesame seeds and a little salt on top – and you will have a pretty amazing salad to go with your summer grilling!

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Dinner Ideas: Summer Pizza!

Our friends Blaine and Maureen showed up last night for dinner and an overnight stay (they live in London these days) – which is a pleasure we get about every six months when they are home visiting family. Even more exciting than the dinner was the new tech project they demonstrated for me last night (he is a programmer, she a poet – this is some interesting terrain) – but sadly I am not at liberty to share anything about that project right now, as its launch is still a few weeks off and I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

What I can share with you, however, is the pizza we ate for dinner – all local from the farmer’s market, the fishmonger and our garden – with fresh-picked, in-season ingredients.

The first pizza involved shredded mozzeralla for the base, topped with fresh basil, stawberries and bocconcini slices (pictured below). Once it was baked (in the oven for about 40 minutes at 375 degrees), I topped it with a balsamic reduction that set off the sweetness in the strawberries and went wonderfully with the melted cheese.

The second pizza had a caramelized onion relish base, and was topped with kale and maple-smoked salmon (also known as indian candy) and fresh-grated asiago.

Both of these pizzas were a lovely blend of sweet and savory and I honestly can’t tell you which one I liked more (well, maybe the strawberry one – but the smoked salmon was so good!)

Drinks: sparkling white wine with rhubarb-apricot cordial and beers.
Side: Ceasar Salad (romaine from our garden)
Dessert: Cardamom ice cream with saskatoon berries and raspberries on top.

It was all very pleasing…. but as I said, the conversation still outshone the food… which I will tell you more about as soon as I am allowed. In the meantime, think summer ingredients for pizza – a nice alterantive to BBQ and easy to make vegetarian!

Early summer menus…..

I’ve been dragging my feet on updating for the past week, for no real reason other than I haven’t felt much like writing. I was in Victoria for a couple of days at union meetings, have had some grievance hearings, and a lot of work piling up. Plus I have been working on a wedding present for two friends, and that has been taking up all my creative energy (but I can’t share it yet for fear they might see).

The garden is doing remarkably well and I am regularly harvesting radishes, lettuce and greens, gai lan, turnips and as of last night, garlic scapes! I have to acknowledge that while everyone has been complaining bitterly about the grey June, I’m convinced that all the water and the slow-warming soil has been good for many things. Nothing is growing super-fast, but it’s all looking healthy and lush – much better than last year which was colder and made for a later-starting season.

Probably the best thing about the last week has been a succession of amazing dinners. It’s farmer’s market plus garden season, not to mention that spring motivates me to clean out my canning cupboards and use up as much as I can before we are back into harvest season. Here are two menus both seasonally-inspired and amazing!

Early Summer Dinner Menu #1 (Grad School Catch-up)

Appetizer: Triple-Cream Brie and Crackers
Drink: Prosecco with Apricot-Rhubarb Cordial (or gin and tonic with same)
Garden green salad with Kashkaval cheese
Pork Roast wrapped in Pancetta (Apple-maple jam as condiment)
Spinach and Mushroom bake
Gnocchi with swiss chard, garlic and kale
Desert: Chocolate

Early Summer Dinner Menu #2 (Father’s Day)

Chicken Biriyani
Spinach-Chickpea curry with coconut milk
Condiments: Tomato Chutney and peanuts
Wilted garden greens
Strawberry Shortcake served in mason jars. See here for an example of what I mean. See here for a sponge cake recipe.

Now that I’ve broken this streak of not-writing, I plan to be back regularly with more actual stuff to say. It’s all about getting over that first post after an absence after all.

Recipes to invoke the sun.

I promise no talk about the weather except to say that it is grey in Vancouver at the moment – much like it is every year in early June – and instead of moping about it I have devised the perfect recipe for bottling sunshine. Inspired by this recipe, some so-so canning from last year, and a hailstorm on the weekend – I introduce to you:

Rhubarb-Apricot Cordial!

12 cups chopped rhubarb (mine was flattened by hail necessitating a harvest)
5 cups of home-canned apricots plus their syrup (The apricots I put up last year were too soft to be used for anything but sauce)
6 cups of sugar, plus more to taste

  1. Put prepared rhubarb in a stainless steel pot and sprinkle a cup of sugar over. Leave for an hour or until the rhubarb starts releasing juice.
  2. Strain the apricots, reserving the liquid.
  3. Add the apricots to the pot and turn the heat on medium.
  4. While the rhubarb/apricot mixture is cooking down into a mush, prepare a colander with a cheesecloth or another clean straining cloth (I just use a thin cotton table covering that would otherwise be cut up for rags). Pour the reserved liquid from the apricots through the strainer and let drip.
  5. Once the rhubarb/apricot mixture is cooked into a mush, take it off the oven and let it cool a bit. Then dump that into the colander. Leave overnight to drip through.
  6. The next day, prepare your boiling water canner and sterilize your jars. At the same time, put the strained juice into your stainless steel pot and add five cups of sugar. Turn the heat onto medium until the sugar melts. Bring the mixture to a boil for one minute or so after that, and then turn down the heat again. The thicker you want the cordial mixture, the longer you cook it. In my case I only cooked it for about 10 minutes total.
  7. Pour into canning jars and process for 10 minutes. This recipe makes 2 1/2 quarts (five pint jars worth)

Also! Another recipe from yesterday involves fresh, local strawberries and basil – both of which showed up at Donald’s Market this week:

Strawberries and basil

2 cups sliced strawberries
5 large basil leaves sliced small
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup sugar

Mix all ingredients together, let sit on the counter for an hour or more to macerate. Serve over vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt. Amazing!

And finally, while we are invoking the sun here on the west coast, I direct you to the Ray Bradbury short story All Summer in a Day which encapsulates so much of what rainforest life is like on a deep psychic level. RIP Ray Bradbury – your stories have nourished our fantastical and darker impulses for all these decades and you will be missed.

Rhubarb ketchup and other recipes.

My stove at 8:30 this morning.

It’s rhubarb time and I have been bit by the canning bug for another year running. As always, I don’t do things in half measures and if I’m going to get all that boiling water going in the canner I want more than 3 jars at the end of it…. so this morning I am trying three new recipes:

So far I can report that 1) the marmalade looks stunning and 2) the ketchup tastes like store-ketchup. Since I just threw the onions into the cast-iron pan, I have nothing to say about that recipe at the moment except that I’m excited by the concept of having canned caramelized onions around as a condiment.

I still have a boatload of rhubarb coming in out back (and there will be another crop by fall), so besides a rhubarb chutney/victoria sauce I plan to make at the end of the summer, I think this year might also yield a rhubarb liqueur.

Also mentioning that I made this rhubarb cake yesterday and it went down very well among my visiting lady-friends.

 

Lemon-crazy

I think the prospect of growing lemons of my own has turned my attention in the direction of lemon and lime recipes lately. Just tonight I put up a batch of these “Glamorous Preserved Lemons” and I’m plotting to find some time this weekend to do a small batch of Meyer lemon and sage marmalade in addition to whatever I do with the rhubarb forest growing in the backyard. I am definitely feeling a great need to start the year’s canning even though it is way too early for anything local. It’s making me experimental to say the least.

Look though! Aren’t they purty?

Incredible Spring Menus

Gin and Tonic cake – recipe from How Sweet It Is – I will warn you now that putting limes on the top like this and letting it sit slightly corrodes the gin icing, causing it to run and pool at the sides of the pan. This makes for some very strong pieces of cake!

I have to share two incredible menus with you (along with recipe links) because it’s been a veritable gorge-fest around our place lately what with Brian’s birthday and our BBQ.

First, there was Brian’s birthday dinner with friends at Lake Mesachie. Morning was cake-baking time, and then I spent a great part of the afternoon lazily making the two appetizers (served one, made the other – timing was beautiful) after which there was lots of time before the steaks went on the grill so no one was too full from the appies.

All of the linked recipes are really worth a try, and the lemon cream is unbelievable. As I mentioned in a previous post, I made the angel food cake twice because it fell and was undercooked the first time….. but second time was a charm.

This past weekend, we had a BBQ in honour of almost-summer. Of course, being Vancouver, it rained. But no matter because we have a studio, a tarp set-up and a hot tub which means anytime of year can be outside time! For this grand occasion we asked people to grill their own, and provided on the side:

Those were pretty much all new recipes I’ve seen and wanted to try – which is the reason I invite people over in the first place since I can’t possibly justify something like gin and tonic cake otherwise. And by the way – the cake was nothing short of amazing and I have to thank How Sweet It Is for experimenting to discover such goodness in baking! I am currently soaking limes in gin (for the next four weeks or so) to kick it up one more notch (lime-gin and gin-soaked limes dredged in sugar!) the next time I make it, which will be as soon as I have an excuse to.

Lest you think I am a crazy eater – when not hosting people I tend to resort to eating things like the following (my favourite Friday night dinner):

  • Lightly seared tuna steaks (by which I mean 10 seconds on each side, no more.)
  • Asparagus sauteed in butter
  • Shitake mushrooms cooked with garlic and red wine
  • One square of dark chocolate

Which ain’t so shabby either!

Recipe: Double-bacon, maple-whiskey, oven-baked beans.

Ridiculously long title, I know – but somehow there is no other way to ensure you are going to try these beans without telling you upfront that there is something really special about them: ie: double-bacon. This recipe is the result of a happy accident in following this recipe as well as the addition of whiskey, as well as an amended cooking time to ensure that the beans were actually the right consistency (the recipe I just linked to will only result in soupy, thin beans I’m afraid, I don’t know what they were thinking on the cooking time). And yes, I used a stock photo of baked beans (probably those canned Heinz beans) even though mine are far superior – because there was just no way for me to attractively photograph the beans I made last night.

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups great northern or other small white bean, soaked for 4 hours
  • sea salt
  • 18 thick slices of bacon, cut 9 slices into 1/4 inch strips
  • 1 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 shots rye whiskey
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark unsulfured molasses
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. mustard powder
  1. Rinse your beans after soaking. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 2 hours; or just cook them however your normally do until they are done, but still a little firm. Drain the beans, reserving 4 cups of the cooking liquid. Rinse the beans in a colander. Transfer the beans to a large, deep baking dish. (If you want to do this step the night before, which I did – you can reheat the beans by plunging them into a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes).
  2. Preheat the oven to 375°. In you cast-iron fry pan, cook the 1/4 inch bacon strips over medium heat until they are cooked but not crisp – about five minutes. Add the onion and cook until the onion is soft (if you want to go for caramelized, turn the heat down and go much longer).  Stir in the apple cider vinegar, shots of whiskey, brown sugar, molasses, crushed red pepper, black pepper and 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt and heat through until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Pour your frying pan full of goodness over the beans along with the reserved bean cooking liquid. Cover the beans with foil and bake for 3 and a half hours, checking every 45 minutes or so on the consistency. Most of the liquid should be gone by the time they are baked like a bean should be.
  4. While you are baking the beans, mix the maple syrup, wine vinegar and mustard powder. Arrange the remaining 8 bacon slices on a rimmed baking sheet, and generously brush them with the maple syrup mixture. Bake the bacon in the same oven as the beans for about 25 minutes, basting 3 or 4 times and turning the bacon three times, until richly glazed. Transfer the bacon to a plate.
  5. Pour 1/3 cup of water onto the baking sheet and return it to the oven for about 3 minutes to dissolve the caramelized syrup. Uncover the beans and stir in the syrup.
  6. Cut the glazed bacon into pieces and stir them into the beans. Put the whole thing back in the oven to stay warm until ready to eat. Or eat them right away after letting them sit for fifteen minutes out of the oven. They are awesome.

Under Pressure!

I am a little embarrased to admit that more than a year ago, my co-worker “leant” me a pressure cooker which has remained under my desk all this time – manual, weight, and all. Now, my co-worker has downsized and since she hasn’t asked for it back (it’s one of those loan until I need it kindof things), I think this summer it is time to bring that sucker home. Because this is going to be my year of pressure-canning! At least, I hope it is.

See, I’ve been canning for about fifteen years – not long after moving to Vancouver I decided to make jam for gifts even though I didn’t have a very large pot, or any canning implements. For a few summers, that’s basically what I did – a little jam, perhaps some Chinese plum sauce (we had a plum tree in my first Vancouver house), and that was all. But increasingly, the canning bug grew and since meeting Brian (an earnest partner in food storage it turns out) I (we) process up to 300 pounds of fruit and veggies in the summer. We do a little at a time throughout the season (I will be doing rhubarb next week most likely), but late in August we take a few days off work and we really go at it all day and all night until it’s done.

As much as I get cranky about it mid-process (by day three usually I am asking why? why? would I bother to do this much work when a supermarket with canned goods exists just down the way) – I am positively in love with the larder that is always offering up what I need during the fall, winter and spring. Pickled beets, salsas, pie filling, jam, chutneys, stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce – we use it all, and give lots away too (canned goods make a great hostess gift!). I could go on and on at how glad I am that this is a part of our practice.

But up until now, it’s been all boiling water canning – a method that requires no special gear, but also requires that everything be acidic in order to kill off any possibility of botulism. Fruit-bases are fine, but anything like vegetables, meats or legumes must be brined in order to be safe….. or…… Pressure canned!

I think this summer I am ready to go to the next level. Dried beans could be canned and ready for eating, fresh salmon can be chunked up and processed in its own oil, stews and soups can be cooked in the pressure-canner, ready to be heated and served. And what is the point exactly? Choosing one’s own ingredients, steering far clear of the food production industry, and keeping the chemical flavourings and colourings out of our food. Not to mention that it’s a lot cheaper than shelf-ready food – and it tastes more like you think it ought to.

So I’m on the lookout for anyone’s favourite pressure canning recipes – as I plan to make small batches of a number of things in hopes that I learn what I like and don’t like this year. I know from years of boiling water canning that sometimes you *do* throw out batches of things because they didn’t work, or for some other reason…. which I’m sure will be the case with learning to pressure can. So let me know if this is something you do and you have something to share!

What life is all about…….

Things have gotten busy around the Urban Crow in the past two weeks and I’ve just decided to throw up my hands and go along with it rather than fretting too much. Birthday, tenant-move that went sideways (for us), yard sale coming up, freelance work due today, and because we got a good deal on a painting quote (early in the season doncha know) – we’re also going ahead with that. Not to mention gardening, and hosting a BBQ this weekend.

Totally not what I thought Brian’s 40th birthday would look like as we are full tilt dealing with everything at once since returning from our little holiday with friends on Mesachie Lake over the weekend (that was my gift to him). Between fixing the suite (Brian’s job) and getting everything ready to yard sale (my job) – we’ve got all our free time booked! On a more positive note however – by the end of this month we’ll have a completely refreshed suite, a newly-painted home, a ton of junk moved out of our house, and a garden that is summer-worthy.

Sadly, I am all out of writing energy this late in the day, so I will leave you with a few photographs of the last few days of activity:

On Wednesday and Thursday we got all the plants in that were waiting for the end of the fence construction. We’ve got more to do, but we think this is enough work for this spring!

On Friday, we travelled over to Mesachie Lake (right beside Cowichan Lake) and hung out with some friends from the island for the weekend. You can see from this picture that it was an amazing location and we had a fabulous time:

On Saturday, I baked Brian’s birthday cake – twice – because the first one fell and turned out to be undercooked anyway. This is the successful version and the first Angel Food cake I have ever made from scratch (lemon angel food cake with lemon cream – totally fabulous in the end):

And last night, Mica came home from school early and spent two hours making fajitas with all the fixings for Brian’s actual birthday dinner. Seriously impressed and thinking she should do that more often: