29 June, 2011
21 June, 2011
Icing on a spoon.
Having been to my fair share of preschool birthday parties this year I've noticed that very few kids eat the cake when served to them. Sure, they are beyond excited when you take them away from their play with a call for cake. They eagerly sing Happy Birthday and watch the star blow out the candle. Then using fingers or fork or just their tongue all the icing disappears from the cake. All that's left is a soggy, messy pile of crumbs.
It doesn't matter that you stayed up until 2 am to make them the princess or pirate cake they begged for. It doesn't matter that you baked a gorgeous vanilla cherry cake with a recipe from Martha or Dorie Greenspan. All they want is the icing, or frosting, if that's what you call it. And then it doesn't matter if it is a gorgeous buttercream or from a can.
Instead of having wasted cake, get proactive. Just give them the icing on a spoon. Trust me, everyone is happy with this solution. Well, except maybe some parents who get worked up about sugar. But they are counterbalanced by those who are eager for a spoon of their own.
You might still need a cake because I haven't solved the problem of where to put the candles. Besides, they'll always be that one kid who hates icing.
With great thanks to some of my Twitter pals for the influence and egging on my icing only idea.
And Happy Birthday to my Mom, Brother, Brother-in-Law, and Sister-in-Law's Mum this week!
17 June, 2011
When it is in season we eat asparagus constantly. Just like we eat corn daily, strawberries, and tomatoes for their short seasons. Needless to say, I'm always on the look-out for ways to enjoy our favourite spring vegetable. Here is a round-up of recipes, both mine and others, that showcase this great green stalk.
--- Asparagus Risotto (Backseat Gourmet
--- Asparagus and Cherry Tomato Pizza (Simple Bites)
--- Shaved Asparagus Caesar Salad (Sassy Radish)
--- Stir Fried Chickpeas and Asparagus with Brown Rice and Lemon Tahini Dressing (Dinner With Julie)
--- Asparagus Soup (Use Real Butter)
--- Pickled Asparagus (Food in Jars)
Go forth, gather, and eat while the eating is good.
16 June, 2011
They say that when in doubt, cook foods together that grow together. As we trundled along on our tractor ride at the most recent Asparagus Festival I couldn't help but become obsessed with the idea of asparagus and rhubarb together. There they were, in neighbouring fields and sharing space in my Edgar Farms bag on the way home. They begged to be joined in holy cookery.
The only problem with this idea is that rhubarb, no matter how you cut it, is a rather tart thing. And asparagus is far more mellow and sweet. It isn't always a case for opposites attract. But when it doubt, throw them in a roasting pan together. A little spice, a little sweet and sweat, and beautiful things can happen.
Roasted asparagus, however, isn't that great to eat. The texture is rather, um... pasty with a side of string. Not giving up on this relationship, however, the rhubarb transformed when it became a sauce to slink over and envelope the roasted asparagus. It also did well when covering pork tenderloin, but I'm not telling you about that. The asparagus would be upset to know the rhubarb went behind his back.
Asparagus with Roasted Rhubarb Sauce
Serves 4-6 as a side dish
1 bunch asparagus
2 large stalks of rhubarb (the pinker the better)
5 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp Chinese 5 spice powder
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp orange juice
salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
2. Clean asparagus. Trim rhubarb into roughly 4 inch lengths. Place on a cooking sheet lined with parchment paper.
3. Combine 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp honey, 1tsp Chinese 5 spice powder, and season with salt and pepper. Toss the asparagus and rhubarb with this dressing. Roast for 10 minutes.
4. When the rhubarb and asparagus are done roasting, blitz the rhubarb with the remaining 4 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tsp Chinese 5 spice powder, and orange juice. Season to taste.
5. Pour rhubarb sauce over roasted asparagus and serve immediately. Reserve leftover sauce for a pork tenderloin, but shhh.... don't tell the asparagus.
15 June, 2011
My Mom used to live in Texas. That isn't useful information to anyone, really. It does, however, explain how I came to know of Pico de Gallo. Until I went and spent my last university spring break with her in South Texas I thought that what you scooped up with nacho chips was salsa. In fact, at that point in time nachos were only served in bars, drenched in cheese, olives, and green onions with a side of insipid salsa and sour cream.
Oh how South Texas showed me the way.
First off, nachos are indeed what they serve in the bar. Fried tortillas are what nachos pretend to be. The tortillas that didn't get eaten that morning get cut into triangles and fried for snacks. Pico de Gallo is a bowl of finely chopped and uncooked tomatoes, onions, hot pepper, garlic, and lime. Pico de Gallo is always served with those fried tortillas. Sit on the beach in South Texas where you can order any beer and it will come with fried tortillas and Pico de Gallo. It is about the most perfect bar food, beach or not.
I'm nowhere near a sandy beach and I'm pretty sure any Texan would shoot me for this addition, but here you go: Asparagus Pico de Gallo. I was craving the spice, I had the fried tortillas, and I was staring at a large bunch of asparagus in the fridge. All that was left was the beer. And, of course, the beach.
Asparagus Pico de Gallo
Makes 2 cups
10 stalks asparagus (choose the skinny ones)
2 plum tomatoes
1/4 medium red onion
1 clove garlic
1 jalapeno pepper
1-2 tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)
1. Steam the asparagus for 1 minute, if you prefer not to eat it raw.
2. Finely chop the asparagus and tomatoes into 1/2 dice or smaller. Keep the tips of the asparagus intact. Finely chop the onion, garlic, and pepper. Toss them all together in a bowl.
3. Juice the lime and add the juice to the vegetables. Add cilantro if you're using. Stir once more and serve.
14 June, 2011
Eggs are always a go-to meal in our house. We always have an abundance from our biweekly delivery from Elmar, the Eggman. With asparagus at its peak right now the two ingredients combine well for a great, easy family dinner. This crustless quiche is perfect for a weeknight dinner or weekend brunch
While asparagus has a unique flavour, it is a mild green taste. That means it pairs well with so many other flavours. You could turn this into nearly any other flavour combination. Try asparagus with lemon, parmesan, and pancetta, or tomatoes and provolone. Perhaps cheddar, ham, and green onions with the asparagus. Or salmon and lemon. This time around I chose feta and dill, family favourites in my house.
Asparagus, Feta, and Dill Crustless Quiche
Serves 6-8 as a main course
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 bunch of asparagus
1 cup milk
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
1 cup crumbled feta
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Butter a deep dish pie plate. Toss the bread crumbs into the plate and roll around to cover the sides. Pat in an errant crumbs.
3. Clean and chop the asparagus into 1 inch pieces. Place in a small pot, season with salt, and add about 1 inch of water. Cook on high heat, covered, for 1-2 minutes. Drain immediately. Pour into a bowl and leave uncovered while you prepare the rest of the quiche.
4. Crack the eggs into a large bowl. Add the milk and whisk well. Season with pepper, a little bit of salt (the feta is salty, so you don't have to add that much). Add the 1/2 cup feta, dill, and the asparagus. Pour into prepared pie plate. Top with remaining feta.
5. Bake for 40-45 min until the top is puffy and golden. Let cool for 5 minutes before you serve.
13 June, 2011
It's the quintessential spring time food - Asparagus.
A fern poking from the ground. Fields that look like dirt with some random spikes reaching for the sunshine. The taste of green, of peas, of spring. The marking of the season in a land where winter lasts for bloody ever.
This week I'm going to showcase one of my favourite foods. Asparagus recipes, tips, and links.
Here on the Prairies asparagus grows. Some might even argue that it thrives, if you treat it right and treat it as a perenial. That means you treasure it in the spring then let it rest. It goes to fern, filling the fields with a froth of green, over the summer. It survives the winter, it really does.
It takes 3 years for an asparagus crown to produce edible product. That means 3 years of patience and care. Then, with annual tenderness you have a lifetime of asparagus. Or, if you were my Mom's family, a lifetime of front yard decoration.
Pick the stalks right from the ground. Let them be at least 6-8 inches tall before you snap them.
If you have the pleasure of visiting an asparagus farm, make sure you check out their pickers. These low-riders will take you throw the fields, saving your back, as pickers gather precious bunches for us lucky consumers.
Contrary to expectations, you can easily and enjoyably eat asparagus raw. It tastes mildly of peas when raw (which means that is my least favourite way to eat it).
Often grown in sandy soil, asparagus can carry dirt to the dinner table. Fill your sink with some cool water and swish the stalks around to loosen any sand and dirt. If your asparagus has been sitting around for a bit then cut off the bottom ends and cook away. If your asparagus is fresh then don't bother trimming off the ends and wasting that precious veg.
The most important thing with asparagus, like nearly any vegetable, is to NOT overcook it. Steam it for a few minutes, grill it, roast it, or even boil it. Just don't overdo it.
With a slight tinge of purple on the heads, green asparagus is the most common kind we see.
More frequently, however, we see white asparagus in the markets and on menus. White asparagus isn't actually any different of a plant. It it regular asparagus that grows covered by dirt. That means that the plants are denied light and do not colour.
Sometimes you can find purple asparagus, although it is rare.
The rest of this week I will share with you three new recipes from me for asparagus as well as some links for more gorgeous recipes. Grab a spear and enjoy.
08 June, 2011
My 3 year old sat at the table an hour for every year the other night. Just because she wouldn't drink her milk. And because we told her she couldn't leave the table until she did just that.
She cried, she took a bathroom break, she fussed, she tried to play, she desperately worked us for conversation and entertainment. We continued on with our evening - working, cleaning up, putting The Monster to bed (even though she couldn't sleep because she is quite used to her sister in the room), and I even made caramel corn. For 3 hours she sat there. At that point I subbed out the milk with a cold glass. She spilled that one. I cleaned it up and gave her another one. With a nonchalance that belied the battle of wills she simply picked it up and drank it.
Right now you either think we are cruel parents or are filled with admiration for our stick-to-it-ness. Or you think we're dumb. I'm going with all three myself.
A rule is a rule. We don't care if they don't eat all their dinner. As long as they've tried everything on their plate, they can eat as much or as little as they like. But they have to drink their milk. (Very lovely goat milk, I might add.)
As for us parents, our rule is that if we start down a path we don't cave. If the other says something we don't contradict. So even though we had a pile of things to do and actually needed the dining room table, we worked around her. It was exhausting, I'll admit. I'm proud of all of us for sticking to it. And the caramel corn went really nicely with a scotch once it was all over.
(I used this recipe, but subbed the syrup for maple syrup, added pecans instead of peanuts, and crumbled in some cooked bacon with the popcorn.)
And don't tell the kid, but I'm impressed with her. That stubborness will do her well as an adult, if she makes it there.
What are some of your dinnertime rules? What's the longest you've had to go to enforce a rule?
01 June, 2011
Hubby took me to a very fancy schmancy restaurant in the mountains for my birthday and this is the only picture my camera took.
We had a 7 course meal: the most amazing fois gras I've ever had, two things I'd never heard of before (compressed melon and dehydrated milk), wines that I'd never think to drink, a goose broth that needs to be bottled and sold as liquid gold, and a glorious sunset over the mountains. And I didn't take a single picture of it.
Don't get me wrong, it was gorgeous food. From artful but real presentations to sublime tastes to inventive techniques. It was a very memorable meal.
The memory will only live in my head, and maybe in my husband's. I did not photograph such a stellar experience because sometimes I just want my dinner to be my dinner. I have no intention of becoming a restaurant reviewer, so that documentation isn't necessary. And I have no intention of documenting everything I eat, Twitter is bad enough for that.
What I do intend to do, and this dinner practiced that intention, is to simply enjoy my food, enjoy my experience. Food writers need breaks too from thinking about writing about food. We want vacations and the only way we'll get them, since we always have to eat, is by putting down the camera and not composing sentences in our head as we chew.
Instead, I'm going to think how awesome my husband looks with the sun setting behind him and the look of joy on his face as he devours his favourite food. I'm going to pinch myself that I experienced such a luxurious treat in the midst of some stressful times. I'm going to look at my sous vide rhubarb and think it's cool, instead of wondering how they did it. I'm just going to eat.