Category Archives: appetizers

summer salad, oops.

Okay I am really horrible and it’s October and here is the salad I ate all summer and, really, I can’t believe I am quite this bad at blogging, but maybe this salad will make up for all my shortcomings. It would not be the first time I have fixed a problem with avocado, nor will it be the last.

This salad comes via Mark Bittman’s 101 simple salad recipes. I sometimes think Bittman is a bit much, but I do agree with his stance on lettuce (thumbs down!). Lettuce is overrated, and you don’t need it to make a delicious salad.

Basically, this salad tastes like summer and takes maybe eight minutes to make if you have a difficult can opener. It tastes better with fresh, boiled, corn, or, if you are the luckiest, with barbecued corn, but I usually use a can of corn. It works.

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  • 1 can corn
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 handful cilantro, diced

for the dressing:

  • 2 limes
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (This stuff is way easier to find than you’d think, and it is so, so good.  New staple!)
  • a bit of olive oil

This is a salad.  So, you know, toss the ingredients and then add the dressing.  I promise this is such a great salad but also works as a salsa-type condiment, I think I put it on a burger at one point and really congratulated myself on that one.  I guess it’s a bit late for barbecue season but next year, next year.

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pickles

I love pickles.  Making pickles has been on my to-do list forever, but higher on the list is “not die of botulism” so I kept not making pickles.  But, then!  I found a lovely book on quick pickles at Good Egg, and the main selling point was not speed and ease, but the lack of botulism potential. Basically, because these pickles are not canned, you have to eat them within two weeks, which is a fair price to pay for life. I know that the likelihood of getting botulism is low, but I am unwavering in my fear, so this book is the best.

Okay, enough about botulism. I made pickles! This book is also pretty exciting because it gave me lots of exciting pickle possibilities. This first round, I made smoky pickled corn. The book is a bit overwhelming because the recipes call for a lot of ingredients, but then you look at it closely and see that 8 of them are spices, so it’s okay.

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  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 8 cloves of garlic, peeled, whole
  • 2 red peppers, sliced
  • 2 yellow peppers, sliced
  • 1 onion, cut in rings
  • 4 tomatillos, quartered (take off the paper skins!)
  • 4 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 4 cups white vinegar (this was supposed to be white wine vinegar, but I misread it)
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons coriander seed
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 4 dried fresh chilis, sliced
  • 4 ears of corn, cut into chunks

Heat the oil in a skillet and add the garlic, peppers, onions and tomatillos until everything is softened.  Don’t brown them!  Set them aside, then bring all the other ingredients except the corn to a boil in a really big pot.  Boiling vinegar smells crazy, you might cry.  Add the corn once everything is boiling, and then let it simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the rest of the veggies and bring to a simmer.  Turn the heat off and let everything cool.  Keep these in the fridge and eat them for 2 weeks, no more!

I had many fake ploughman’s lunches with these pickles, and was pretty into it.  Eat the corn rounds like corn on the cob, they are pretty spicy but pretty delish, I think.

delicious salad!

Spring is here and I’m pretending it’s summer. Basically, this means bare legs even though it’s too cold, subbing gin and tonics for whiskey, and eating salads so happily. Last week I made this delicious chick pea salad, and then I made it again, and then Annie made it for our cookbook club, and it just keeps getting better. The recipe is from Falling Cloudberries, which is beautiful but, as we decided, very liquidy. Annie and I both judiciously decided to substitute a tablespoon or two of oil instead of using a cup of oil. It works, for real.

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  • 1 can chick peas
  • 1 red onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 3 hot chili peppers
  • 3 scallions
  • handful coriander
  • handful parsley
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 handfuls of feta
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Salads are salads and I don’t really believe in serious measurements when it comes to salad.  Add more of anything you love, and you will probably love it more.  Fry the diced onions, garlic and peppers, season them and let them cool as much as you can.  Add in the chick peas (the author recommends peeling the skins off but that feels like a lot of work for a meal that would otherwise take ten minutes), the chopped greens, the feta and the lemon juice.  I think feta is kind of a lame cheese, so I subbed in oka once, and do not recommend it.  Stick with the feta!  This is a good salad!

ricotta

Lindsay made ricotta last summer and brought it to Ashley’s cottage, and I’ve been meaning to do it ever since.  In my mind, it was hard and sciency, but it was actually neither of these things.  Basically, all you need is a cheesecloth, and I love making things with cheesecloths. Super easy, but then felt compelled to eat it all on top of a pizza. Next time, I guess I’ll try to not eat it in one night…

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I used the recipe from the very pretty Salt & Fat, and I probably should have followed it more carefully. I was nervous that the sciency part wasn’t happening, so I kept adding more and more lemon. Maybe, don’t do this.

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (seriously)

Prep the cheesecloth by putting it in a bowl or colander, so it’s ready when you need it.  Bring the milk, cream and salt to a running boil on medium high, making sure to stir it pretty often so nothing burns.  Once it’s boiling, add the lemon juice, stir it in carefully, and turn the heat down to maintain a simmer.  Keep stirring for a few minutes, watching for everything to separate, and don’t be alarmed if it looks like it’s not going to yield much of anything.  Just wait, ideally without adding more lemon juice…  Let it drain for about an hour, I like to tie it up over a bowl so things happen quickly.  I hope to try again this with some flavouring, but I’m not totally sure what would work…

panzanella

I used to work at Chez Piggy in Kingston, and learned lots about cooking and working in kitchens.  The big thing for restaurants is trying hard not to throw out food, but at the same time serving fresh food. Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential tries to do a big exposé on daily specials and how they’re just ways to sell ingredients that are about to go bad, but it’s pretty much common sense and you can be the lowly dessert girl (and, later, the lowly line cook) and still see how this works. Or, you know, you can just think about it. Anyway, bread was a hard one at Chez Piggy, there was a sister bakery, where I later worked, that made all the buns and breads for the restaurant, and so there was basically always too much bread. And day-old bread didn’t cut it. One of the ways to get through this was panzanella, a pretty delish bread salad. Sometimes I want this bread salad so much that I can’t wait for my bread to go stale. This happened this week, so I toasted slices of a baguette to dry them out.

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The recipe is easy and quick, but made better if you take some time with it.

  • dry bread (I always vote for a ciabatta, it’s crusty and soft, but this time I used a demi baguette and it was better than okay)
  • two bell peppers
  • tomatoes
  • jarred artichoke hears
  • capers
  • red onion
  • garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar

If you’re using fresh bread, toast it, rip it into pieces (rustic!) and leave it out as long as you can.  If you have time, slow roast the tomatoes as long as you like.  I used grape tomatoes, and roasted them with olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper for about an hour and a half.  For the last fifteen minutes, I threw in a splash of balsamic vinegar.  Grill or roast the sliced peppers and onions.  Chop the artichokes.  Mix everything together in a bowl.  The oil and vinegar from the tomatoes should be enough to coat everything, but you really want a lot of sauciness.  Add more oil and vinegar if you want more.  I also threw in half an avocado and some cheddar, because everything is better with avocado and cheese.

This gets better after a day or so, and would make a great picnic.  The weather has been amazing lately, so maybe maybe this is a possibility for next week!

black bean soup, again

I love beans.  I love this black bean soup recipe, from the Moosewood cookbook, that uses orange juice to make everything tangy and delicious. But when I saw a recipe for black bean soup on the Kitchn, that claimed to be the best ever, I had to try it. They are totally different soups, different textures, different flavours, and I’m really not sure which I prefer. This one is smokey and so not vegetarian, thanks to the ham hock. Also, I can’t lie: ham hock looks kind of gross. But you really don’t end up eating it, just stealing the porky, smokey flavour.

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  • 2 cups dried black beans, soaked overnight
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Soak the beans overnight, exciting if you’re me and this is the closest you ever get to science.  Drain the rehydrated beans and add enough water so that they are covered with an extra inch of water.  Add the onion and pepper, the minced garlic, the olive oil, pork hock and a bit of salt and pepper.  Bring everything to a boil, skim the froth off the top and then let it simmer for four or five hours.  Add more water if you think it needs it (I didn’t, because I wanted a very thick soup and because the hock was bigger than I expected and I was running out of space in my pot…), and just stir it when you think of it.  After it seems basically ready, add the vinegar and let it simmer for fifteen more minutes.  Pretty, pretty delicious.  I ate this as a soup on its own, which is a lot of beans, seriously, but it was thick so I brought some to family fajita night and we ate them as a dip for chips and possibly as a spread on fajitas, too.  Versatile beans!

wedding! tomatoes!

Emma and Tiff got married!  It was the best!  So fun, so pretty, so delicious, so wonderful!  Again, the best!  They are two of the most fun people ever to cook with, and they probably had the most fun making a gillion jars of tomato butter for wedding favours.  There are a few important things to know about tomato butter: 1) it’s delicious. 2) there is no butter involved. 3) it is especially delish with grilled cheese.  So good!

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The recipe comes from the Pan Chancho cookbook, and is pretty easy.

  • 3 whole cloves
  • 3 allspice berries
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • 2 28 ounce cans of diced tomatoes (with juice!)
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • pinch cayenne
  • 1 cm-long stick of cinnamon

Put the cloves, allspice, and peppercorns in a big tea ball, and put it, along with everything else in a saucepan.  Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce the heat and boil gently for 30 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low, and simmer stirring pretty often, for about an hour and a half.  Take out the cinnamon stick, then cook for another 3 to 3 and a half hours, until the mixture is thick and jammy.  Cool the butter, and put it in a pretty pretty mason jar.

Thanks Emma and Tiff for such a fun wedding!