It seems as if almost every post I have written lately begins with some sort of apology for my infrequent blogging. A year of school, days in the garden, summer holidays… lots of reasons and excuses, but enough is enough already. I officially graduate in less than a week so school isn’t an excuse, the garden is (almost) ready for winter, and I’m attending a blogging conference just days from now. Gulp. Let me repeat that, the woman who has averaged about a blog a quarter is attending a conference. For food bloggers. Filled with people who write (and publish!) for a living. Double gulp. With that looming motivation in mind I pulled out my notebook and started looking at the list I’ve been keeping of topics I want to turn into brilliant, informative, funny or tasty stories. But where to start? Continue reading
I love summer. It really is the best time of year. The heat, the humidity, the sun, the fresh vegetables – heaven! The only downside I can think of is that it is usually (hopefully!) too nice to want to spend much time in the kitchen. I want to be at the pool, in the garden or playing bocce with friends. When I do step into the kitchen I want to create meals that are fast, seasonal and adaptable. Like potato salad. Now I’m not talking the mayonnaise loaded salad of our youth but a fresh, zingy, loaded with vegetables one that is a full on meal in a bowl.
I remember as a kid we always seemed to be fundraising for something. Girl Guide cookies, raffle tickets or boxes of citrus for band trips. I was never a massive fan of the fundraising but was a huge fan of the arrival of those big boxes of Florida oranges and grapefruit. Growing up in Ontario, Florida was a pretty common winter vacation spot for most of my friends. Maybe my friends got their fill of citrus on holiday, but the closest I ever got, or have been, to Florida was getting those big boxes of oranges and grapefruit. Makes me, almost, miss high school band…
I was a lot older, when I first saw grapefruit growing on a tree. I could not believe my eyes. Tree after tree so overloaded the fruit was falling on the ground around me. I gourged myself on that first trip. It was divine.
Potlucks. Do you love them or hate them? My feelings are mixed. In some ways they make things easier – you don’t have to cook as much, there is less clean up and there are more options for picky eaters. But, it is also possible to end up with a table full of desserts or five macaroni salads. So what’s a girl to do? How do you decide what to bring?
We’ve all heard of the actor who is an overnight success despite the fact that in reality they have been slaving away in summer stock, movies of the week, and children’s theatre for decades. Kale is kind of like that. Relegated for years as one of those vegetables that the “healthy” types eat, over the last few years it has been making a resurgence and, dare I say it, become rather trendy.
Hmmm….there’s a lesson in there. Just keep doing your thing, work hard, keep your head down, be honest and genuine and it will happen for you. Like the actress. And kale.
I love kale (which is a good thing since it seems to be the one thing I can reliably grow in my garden) and eat it quite frequently. I steam it, make chips and add it to soups and stews. Lately though I’ve been eating it raw. My favourite variation to date is in a simple chopped salad with beans and a spicy peanut dressing. It has shown up so frequently at meal times lately I might even be tempted to call it an overnight success.
How do you eat kale?
For the dressing:
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 4 Tbsp. crunchy peanut butter
- juice of 1 lemon
- 4 tsp. Braggs (or low sodium tamari)
- 4tsp dried ginger (or grated 1″ piece of fresh)
- red pepper flakes to taste
- Optional: splash of fish sauce
Simply mix all ingredients together in a mason jar (or other sealable container). Refrigerate. Remove from fridge at least one hour prior to use to allow peanut butter and coconut milk to liquify. The dressing will keep in the fridge for up to a week.
For the Salad:
- 1 bunch of mixed kale, cored and chopped
- Gado gado dressing
- Sprouted chick peas
- toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds
Wash, rinse and finely chop kale.
Place kale and chickpeas in bowl and lightly toss with dressing.
Sprinkle with seeds. Add salt, pepper and chili’s to taste.
Zucchini, it is kind of an odd vegetable. Okay, maybe not that odd, but kind of odd.
Think about it. It often looks like a cucumber but is in actual fact a member of the squash family. It can be eaten cooked or raw and while it is most definitely a summer vegetable it is just as comfortable on a winter table. I don’t quite get it. I mean seriously? You can even eat the flowers. Now, it’s not as if the zucchini is some sort of “out there” esoteric vegetable. Quite the opposite. It is actually pretty common. It’s just that other than zucchini bread, for years it didn’t figure that high on my radar. And even then only if someone else made it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always eaten it and known it was good for me. It’s high in potassium, vitamin A and antioxidants. I have never disliked it, I have never quite understood how to use it so it’s not just one of those boring, good-for-you kind of vegetables.
Until last summer.
That was when thanks to the magic of a summer holiday, a recipe from one of my favourite cookbooks and a friend more well versed in the subtleties of squash than I, it happened. I fell in love with this humble little vegetable.
If you’re a glass half empty kind of person you’re may be kind of miserable right now. After all, the longest day of the year has come and gone and we are already in the slow slide to winter (perish the thought!).
I try to be a glass at least a quarter full person most of the time so after a mini-moan about how we haven’t even really had summer yet this year I tried to get in the spirit and celebrate. Not so surprisingly I did it with a meal.
There is an old Muppet sketch that goes something like this …. (for full effect read it with a Groucho Marx/Fozzy bear kind of voice while using a carrot as a cigar)
“Do you know how hard is it for vegetables to break into show business?”
“Yeah, when we first started out, the audience used to throw people at us!”
(wocka wocka wocka!)
Imagine how hard it must be if you are a unique looking character
actor vegetable? Surrounded by all the brightly coloured “pretty” vegetables it must be easy to be ignored. You work hard, you do your job, but no love. For the average cook, the good thing about many of these vegetables is you can get them for cheap. A lot of value for a little money.
(insert commentary on film industry here….)
I seem to have taken a bit of a shine to odd vegetables lately. Sunchokes, kale and most recently, jicama. Jicama is a funny vegetable. Sometimes called yam bean root, it’s one of those vegetables that I know I’ve had before, and have certainly read recipes that incorporate it, but it has only been lately that I’ve introduced it to my kitchen on a regular basis.
Reading. I can’t imagine a life without it. Books, magazines, anything.
I’m one of those people who always has a least 3 books and several magazines on the go. A good book (the kind that might have won an award), a trashy book (the kind you could accidentally drop in the tub) and a work type of book (the kind that needs a highlighter). I especially love reading food magazines. You know, the kind of magazine you read “just for the articles”. Food porn so to speak. I’ve been struggling with my writing lately. But reading? I seem to be doing just fine.
Last week I walked into the kitchen to plan dinner. I had just been reading some of the great book by Dianne Jacobs Will Write for Food and contemplating how to describe food with different metaphors and similes. Coincidentally I happened to be eating some candied ginger (this is connected, trust me). I opened the fridge. Wow. What a random bunch of ingredients. As I perused the available produce I recalled a salad I had tried and discarded. A few months ago I had discovered a recipe in one of my many piles of magazines for a celery and fennel salad dressed with just olive oil and salt (my apologies that I absolutely can not seem to find the article so am unable to give credit). We had tried it and thought average. Not good, not bad, just there. Light and refreshing, but no zing. Suddenly however I had all of these creative juices swimming around in my brain (and ginger zinging around my mouth) and thought I can make this better. The result was a celery, fennel and radish salad with a candied ginger and meyer lemon dressing. It’s still a work in progress, but I think it’s pretty good. Better at least than my similes and metaphors.
The lightness of it makes it work well as an accompaniment to a heavier meal. But, I think it works best as something to build a lunch around. Add chickpeas, quinoa or white beans and toss it in a container for work. Saute some fresh shrimp with some ginger and lemon, add it to the salad and serve over some spinach or arugula. Or try mixing it in with some tuna salad served in a pita or wrap.
While I go work on my writing please enjoy. Happy reading.
- 6 stalks celery
- 1/2 bulb fennel
- 5-10 radishes
For the dressing:
- 2 meyer lemons (regular lemons will work too)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 5 small pieces of candied ginger, finely chopped
- 1/4tsp dried ginger
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Chop celery and fennel into, relatively uniform, bite size pieces. Slice or chop the radishes. Place all vegetables in a bowl.
To make the dressing squeeze the juice of the lemons into a jar (I like mason jars). Add the remaining ingredients. Put a lid on it and shake.
Combine dressing with vegetables. This salad is ideal if the flavours can meld at least for a few hours.
New years resolutions. Goals. Affirmations. Call them what you will, it’s pretty hard at this time of year to avoid them. Whether you make them or eschew the whole idea, it’s fairly common following the holidays to want to eat a little healthier. After the excesses of the last few weeks, like it or not, most of us could stand to dial it back a bit on the fat/richness/carb factor in our meals.
One of my continued goals in 2012 is to eat locally sourced food as often as possible. The problem is that the one thing I always want at this time of year is citrus. Which of course couldn’t be less local for me if it tried. Now I confess, I eat lemons like they are going out of style all year, but come the winter months I crave ruby red grapefruit and oranges. I blame it on all the ordering of Florida citrus we did as band fundraisers growing up (is that an Eastern thing?)