Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I am here, really.

I have been a bad little blogger lately but things will be picking up. Well, they have to because I have a bunch of pictures tucked away that need to see the light of day. This was dinner the other night:

Mr. is horrified by this picture. It's a lobster, not a terrifying surgical procedure.

This was all part of hanging with the family. Yep. Off eating lobster instead of blogging. I can live with that. :)

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Market

A chili oil from Tangled Garden. The whole table is simply a work of art.

This whole week has been a little out of control. My lovely sister-in-law and niece came for a short visit and the past few days have been jam-packed with lovely family type things. Just before that a mini-cold rippled through the house in the most passive-aggressive way, that's how colds roll. That means I have been busy making comfort food but also lazing in a miserable little heap.

As a treat, Mr., The Boy and I made a trek up to the Halifax Farmer's Market on Saturday morning. We used to sell Eastern European baked goods at this very market. Mr. and I would bake like maniacs for two days and nights and then bundle The Boy and the many, many containers of deliciousness and head in at 5 am every Saturday.

Dobos Torta, in the midst of being individually packed. Mmmmm, buttercream icing.

The Boy still has loads of friends there that remember when he was just super tiny. Now, he goes and stomps around in his rain boots and eats half the muffins before we even leave. I don't blame him, Anna from Acadiana Soy has superb muffins. The muffins go perfectly with a cup of coffee that is actually brewed by the cup:

The market is always really fun with a very eclectic and energetic vibe. Around every corner a musician is tucked away, playing either ukulele or a fiddle. We used to set up our table with Maureen from Little Dorset Farms and her son Tristan would play at the market. If you are in Halifax, you should check him out, Tristan is all kinds of fun!

Beautiful basket of shallots at the Hutten farm table.

The farmers are just starting to trickle back into the market. Soon, the building will be full of plants and tables heaped with spinach, fiddleheads, carrots and if you get there early enough, an incredible selection of salad greens from the Hutten farm.

For right now, it means a lot of jam and bakeries. I'm okay with that.
Mannette's Homemade Jams. A mesmerizing selection.

A jar of Bing cherry jam came home with us from this stand. The selection is incredible, Mannette's has everything from pineapple strawberry to a whole row dedicated to various marmalades. A number of the jams/jellies are also made from local produce. Bonus!

I am happy to say that there 2-3 gluten-free bakeries at the market now! When Mr. and I were selling we would sometimes make a fabulous wheat free apricot cake but there really wasn't much. But, now? Check out breakfast:

This is a cherry danish from Crumbs gluten-free bakery and it was delicious. It had just the right amount of sweetness and the cherry filling was perfectly tart. I wouldn't mind another one right now. Plus, the ladies from Crumbs are incredibly sweet and very helpful.

It was wonderful to be back at the market and now that Girly's dance class is on a bit of a break we should be able to get there a little more often.

Pistachio Chocolate Crisps

These cookies are the best cookies in the entire world. Really. It all started with me finding a tremendous bag of pistachios in the cupboard and Girly wanted to make sprinkle cookies. Our pantry is constantly all over the place which is shy almost all of our recipes are some form of improvisation. This is a nice way of saying I didn't have a speck of gluten free flour because I used the last of it making mediocre tea biscuits. When I could eat wheat I made kick ass tea biscuits. They were light and fluffy with just a hint of buttery goodness. Now? Little dry lumps that make me cranky. The perfect gluten-free tea biscuit is out there. I know it.

Let's forget the tea biscuits. On to the best cookies ever! I shelled approximately a million pistachios in order to have about 160 grams of finely ground nuts. I also grated a whole bar of dark chocolate with flecks of sea salt from Sugah. The babies love Sugah because well, it's a candy store with Andy Warhol dishes.

The pistachio shells mixed with bits of flying grated chocolate to make a momentous mess but it was entirely worth it. I actually do not have a picture of a baked cookie because they barely lasted.

My parents went on a cruise around the Panama Canal about a month ago and they brought back a giant bottle of vanilla. It is so rich and dark that it darkens the butter and I can barely contain myself from just eating it with a spoon.

See how the vanilla makes the butter simply caramel?

It is really important that you get the pistachios ground very fine. Also, make sure a sneaky shell doesn't mess with anything. Shells are like that, they are kind of jerks. A tiny piece of shell can ruin it. When I ground my pistachios I ended up with a few lumps because of the fat in the nuts and the general heat put off by the coffee grinder. Don't fret, just break it up with a fork.

The Recipe:

160 g finely ground pistachios
196 g sugar
one egg
15 ml vanilla
30 g butter
one bar of dark chocolate, grated (I used this one: dark chocolate & nova scotian sea salt)

1. Cream butter with sugar and vanilla.
2. Add the egg. I always use a spatula (a blue one, in fact) to make the mix incredibly creamy. I sometimes find that eggs don't always mix well with the butter.
3. Fold in the ground pistachios.
4. Mix in the chocolate.
5. Pipe onto a cookie sheet abut 1.5 inches wide, maybe 3 inches apart? These babies will spread.
6. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.

Keep an eye on them because you really don't with these cookies to brown. A gorgeous shell forms and cracks and this shell (hence the crisp name) shelters a delightfully chew centre. The consensus is that these cookies are a keeper.

I promise to take a picture of the final result next time.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Zucchini and Onion Mini Quiche

I really love working with eggs. It is amazing what you can do with them, eggs can rise to epic proportions, support almost any flavour combination, emulsify into a thick and creamy sauce or add a unique richness to almost anything. To top it off, eggs are inexpensive particularly if you build a dinner around the little wonder ovals. A fairly quick but really nutritious meal are mini quiches (you could also just bake it in a 9" pie pan but this is a lovely way to switch it up). Plus, little people really like feeling special and to have their very own little bowl of "cheesy and eggy in a pie crust, not really like pizza" (every try explain quiche to a 4 year old who asked for pizza for dinner?).

Quiche is so wonderfully versatile - you can go all out and really impress friends with a perfectly puffy and crisp quiche with artisan cheese, or you can feed it to your kids for a nutritious, protein-rich and inexpensive dinner. It is totally up to you. Once in the oven (where it will stay for only about 30 minutes) you can tidy up the kitchen or throw together a really quick salad. My children love carbs and eggs so, eggs in a crust? Brilliance. They eat it every time.

A few months ago I got it in my head I wanted to make a quiche. The only quiche I had was when I was 17 and it was horrible - a thick block of dense egg and cheddar cheese. As I have become more comfortable with my own cooking I am now trying to make up for all the crap food I have ever eaten. This was my attempt to make up for that cold sliver of cheesy hell. Helping me along the way was this fantastic recipe: Bacon-Onion Quiche from Mari at Once Upon a Plate. Her quiche is quite indulgent because of the heavy cream, bacon and gruyere, and I am not objecting to that (I think it's obvious I like rich food) but for an everyday dinner? Not so much.

Dinner with your family needn't always be an event with plated gourmet food that takes hours to prepare and every dish in the kitchen. It also shouldn't be laden with so much processed food that you only need to flit through the kitchen to grab a couple of plates. Give those cranky little wild animals you call children (not everyone does that? huh.) a good meal ... how you teach your children to teach their body is a gift. Don't make them resent it.

As always, the crust I will be using is gluten free.

The Crust*

128g gluten free flour - 1/2 white rice, 1/4 potato starch, 1/4 corn flour
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup olive oil
pinch of kosher salt

*This recipe is really a gluten-free version of Mari's which you should really check out. She is fantastic with quiche!

1. Mix together and divide into 4 equal amounts.

2. The dough is very soft so just gently pat it out and spread it up the sides of the bowls.

3. Mari advises to brush with a bit of dijon mustard and she is spot on. It adds just a little bite and depth to the quiche.

Quick! This crust needs eggs, stat!

The Eggs

4 eggs
1 cup soy milk
1/2 tsp. hungarian paprika
pepper and salt to taste
sauteed onions and mushrooms
handful of fresh baby spinach
chevre* (make sure it is really cold)

*use whatever cheese you feel like. We tend to use a lot of chevre because of dairy issues. Make sure your cheese is grated unless it is an unripened soft cheese.

1. Heat a pad of butter until it foams up then add your onions. Soften but don't brown and drop in the sliced mushrooms. I would slice them fairly thin because you really don't want them to dominate the dish.

2. In a bowl whisk together the eggs, soy milk, paprika and salt and pepper. Whisk until the whole mix is entirely incorporated and an even creamy spring yellow. The reason why you want the chevre cold is that it is much easier to crumble whereas if you took it out of the fridge when you started, you are mildly screwed. Chevre also wears a cream cheese cape ... Supercheese! So, crumble and mix into your egg mix.

3. In the individual crusted bowls spread a layer of the onion/mushroom mix, spinach and finally pour the egg mix over top. Make sure the spinach has a definite layer of egg over it, otherwise it will scorch in the hot oven.

4. Pop them into the oven (I placed all four bowls on a pizza sheet for stability) at 425 for about 25 minutes. The centre will puff up and become an enticing golden brown. When they are finished very gently take them out of the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes. Quiche is not nearly as temperamental as a souffle but you don't want to do any cartwheels on the way to the table.

All puffed up and strutting it's stuff.

5. Feel free to garnish with just a touch of cheese or sauteed mushrooms. Enjoy!

The zucchini and endive salad with cracked pepper and a light drizzle of honey!

Hot Banana Benny

This recipe was borne out of a craving for orange and spice. Do you ever have a craving for a flavour combination and it just won't let go of you? ... I was thinking of breakfast and at the same time I really wanted orange, chilli peppers and cheese. The flavours are pretty diverse and to incorporate eggs at this point? Could have been reckless and disastrous or simply daring and a thing of beauty. To really throw a wrench into the whole thing, we were completely out of butter.

The Hollandaise

1. Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a double boiler. Before you even start the next step make sure that you have the rest of your ingredients ready. You will need it because you are emulsifying the egg yolks. Believe me, those suckers can develop little lumps in about 2.3 seconds.

2. Add egg yolks and begin the whisking.

3. Add a bit of milk to thin, always whisking. Making hollandaise with oil instead of butter is a little bit more touchy and you will need a steady hand when adding the milk.

4. Add a dash of paprika and about a teaspoon of orange zest.

5. Just before it is finished, add three tablespoons of goat cheese and continue to whisk until the goat cheese is completely incorporated.

6. Pour over eggs poached in honey water. Add a touch of white vinegar to the boiling water so that the egg will stay together.

The Heated Bananas

1. Heat olive oil in a pan.

2. Slice down the centre of a chilli pepper and add to the pan. Sauté the pepper until it take on a roasted appearance.

3. Add bananas that have been sliced on the bias. If you dust them with just a smidge of potato starch the banana slices will crisp.

4. Sprinkle the bananas with sugar, wait just a few minutes and remove from the heat.

The Breakfast:

Poking out from beneath that feathery egg is a piece of seared salami. For an added sweetness, spread creamed honey on your toast or english muffin and garnish with a bit of orange zest. Food bliss.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Vanilla Honey Cupcakes with Rosewater Mint Icing (GF!)

Vanilla Honey Cupcakes

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 liquid honey*
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk (I use soy milk and it's lovely!)
2 tsp vanilla
256 g gluten free flour**
pinch of guar gum
15 g baking powder
1 tsp. salt

* I used liquid honey from Cosman and Whidden, a beekeeping farm in the Annapolis Valley that produces the most fantastic honey.

** I must be honest here. I have tried gluten-free flour mix recipes and they are usually crap, mostly because the measureInstead, I just pop a bowl on the scale and mix the flours. Generally I will use mostly white rice flour for baked goods and then add sorghum, corn or potato to make up about a third of the total weight. I am sure this goes against the canon of gluten-free baking but sometimes I like to be reckless.

1. Cream the room temperature butter and add: sugar, vanilla and the honey. The colour will be a rich caramel and if I didn't know what it was I might want to eat it on ice cream.

2. Combine and weigh your flours, then add the rest of your dry ingredients.

3. To the creamed butter mix alternately add the dry mix and milk in equal parts.

4. Fill a lined cupcake pan and bake at 350º for 12-15 minutes. I baked mini cupcakes, if making standard-size bake for 20-25.

Rosewater Mint Icing Recipe

5 fresh mint leaves
2 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp. white wine

2 tbsp. butter
1.5 cup icing sugar
.5 tsp rosewater
This is not a very stiff or thick icing because the mint water is quite hot. I made the mint essence because I didn't have any, what that also means is that there is a bit of trial and error with this recipe.

What I did: Brought the mint, sugar and water to a boil and let it simmer. To bring out the mint flavour I splashed in the wine. What I didn't foresee (and I begrudgingly admit this) was that I would make candied mint leaves with a liquidy candy. The liquid ended up making clear little cracks of mint candy throughout the icing, and while it was delicious it didn't really look as appealing. I might do it again this way simply to experiment with colouring the mint candy.

The candied mint:

What I think I should have done: Boiled the mint leaves with the wine and water and then add the sugar at the end. Possibly.

What I probably should have done: Bought mint essence.

1. Cream the butter with the rosewater, add the sugar and mix well.

2. If you decide to do the candy experiment, add it at the end when the icing is almost mixed. Whip it quickly.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Kitchen Beauty, courtesy of an Etsy artist

I simply want to own every last piece of artwork in Yevgenia's Etsy shop. Check out the 2 in 1 hand-painted green carafe designed with grass roots:

Isn't this just stunning? The smokiness of the purple gray glass is evocative of summer thunderstorms, the kind that roll in majestically and drop the water so fiercely it can barely penetrate the ground. Just as these storms roll in, they disappear, sucked back into the atmosphere. I don't suppose you would be drinking your wine that quickly, but wouldn't it be lovely to lounge outside in the fresh air of spring with this set?

What caught my eye originally was this sake set. Gorgeous:

I used to work at a sushi restaurant that served a lovely plum wine and if I had this set I would drink a bit of that wine every day, just for a bit of light. Beautiful. Everyone needs to visit the artist's shop at Etsy. Rightthissecond!

The peas are growing!

Check out these babies! Soon, I will be transplanting and they can stay out over night. All by their lonesome. Brave little peas.

Gratuitous orchid porn:

I love the look of orchids and with the right amount of neglect and super diligent care and these idiosyncratic plants will flourish. I have yet to figure out the ratios, so I figured I better get photographic evidence of a living specimen that is still in my care.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Seared Pork Loin with Caramelized Shallot Curry

I do not have a lot of experience cooking meat. I was a vegetarian for 14 years and there is a serious learning curve when it comes to cooking meat. I broke my vigilant vegetarianism because of lamb. How ironic is that? We all know that lamb is, well ... it'd kind of be equally ironic if I ate veal. And, I have.

Meat has a texture like no other. Some people will tell you that portobello mushrooms have a similar texture to ... burgers, maybe? I'm not sure. Marinated portobello mushrooms are a fantastic meat replacer in sandwiches but there is no way you could sink your teeth into the mushroom and emphatically declare it meat. Even if you were blindfolded and a little drunk. Meat, of all kinds, really has a texture like no other. For this reason, I hate beef. The first time I had a steak I chewed and after approximately 3 hours wondered while it was still so damn chewy. This was a good cut of steak, too and it was most definitely not overcooked. Beef weirds me out.

But, this post is not about beef. It is about pork. Delicious, delicious, pork. I tend to like sauces or a significant rub (particularly with lamb) with my meat dishes.

You will be needing:
3 shallots, sliced (maybe four... up to you.)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
tbsp. butter (like usual, it's goat butter.*)
salt and cracked pepper to taste

2 pork loins
apple cider (the cider from Ted Hutton at the Halifax Farmer's Market is utterly brilliant)
dry white wine

1. Heat pan for about 4 minutes on medium heat. When you add your pad of butter it should foam up.

2. Add shallots. Sear them at medium ad the turn down to low. Add a dash of salt and shake it every once in a while to coat. Let caramelize for about 10 minutes. This is the real way to caramelize, slow and steady.

3. The pork should be waiting for you, pert and seasoned. Hike the heat on the pan so you can sear that pork for about 30 seconds on each side. This will lock in all the juices and flavour.

4. To actually cook the pork add the cider and wine. Crack a good amount of pepper and sea salt over the pan and cover. Turn down the heat to low so nothing burns and cook for about 5 minutes.

5. Once the pork is completely cooked remove and allow to rest for about 5 minutes. And, don't be afraid to stick a knife in it to check. You can allow the smallest smidge of pink in your pork. Pork must not be served rare but it should be juicy. Dry meat is no fun for anyone.

6. For this part you will need the Coconut Apple Wonder Sauce prepared. Or not. But it adds such a great dimension. Add about 1/4 cup and reduce.

Spoon the Caramelized Shallot Curry over the pork and drizzle the Wonder Sauce around the pork and through the curry. Make sense? Maybe not. Here's a picture:

Obviously, with 2 pork loins it serves 2. Math is my thing, can't you tell? You can always make your own adjustments. I won't be offended.

Coconut Apple Wonder Sauce

Oh, it really is wonder sauce. I would think that you would be able to do so many incredible things with this sauce. I used it with pork for a very savoury and spicy effect and I am already dreaming of a pastry with a sweeter and less spicy version. Perhaps some marzipan and stewed clementines with that pastry? Mmmmmm...

So, The Recipe:

curry paste
1 apple diced
1 clementine (get some of the zest off of it before you peel it apart - the zest will make a beautiful garnish)
1/2 bottle of alcoholic cider (if you are in NS, definitely use Stutz! Definitely, definitely, definitely. You will not regret this decision.)
3-4 sesame leaves
1 Thai chilli
can of coconut milk
creamed coconut *optional
1 clove garlic finely chopped
salt to taste

1. Simmer the clementines, garlic, apple, cider, chilli and sesame leaves. Leave the chilli whole so you can get it out of there without any trouble. These peppers are hot little suckers and you want your friends to still like you after dinner. Cook long enough to allow the apple to break down. Calling it names won't work, just time on the heat.

2. Add coconut milk and allow milk to heat. Once heated, remove the pepper and the sesame leaves.

3. Use an immersion blender to blend until smooth and add the curry paste.

4. You can simmer it with the curry paste to allow that curry to come forward. Remember, the curry will get hotter the longer you leave it on the heat. Imagine. You could add the curry with all the other ingredients but it really might become to hot.

Serve with the Seared Pork Loin and Caramelized Shallot Curry. Or, with whatever you want. I think you should do loads of fun things with this sauce. I want to.

Argh. I forgot to take a picture of this. I'm sorry. The sauce is beautiful, too. Figures. It ends up being really soft yellow and creamy. Then again, I used local golden delicious apples and left the peel on. Red delicious would obviously give you a vibrant (or a soft, gentle) red.

Curry Mint Lentil Soup

Curry Mint Lentil Soup

I always cook dried lentils for this soup because, well canned lentils are unappetizing. Plus, it is significantly more economical to buy a bag of dried lentils instead of the usual can of slimy, salty lentils.

It really depends on you how spicy this soup will be, my four year old who will randomly change her mind about her favourite foods really loves this soup and it is totally adaptable. Play with it.

1 cup of lentils
1 cup of stock
500 mL of coconut milk
1 tsp. dried mint
1 tsp curry paste
onion, sliced thinly
tbsp butter
fresh mint
tbsp creamed coconut

1. Heat a pot on medium heat (you could just as easily use a pan but since this recipe calls for using two pots already, why bother with the extra dishes?) and toss in the butter when sufficiently hot. Add the onions and caramelize. This will take about 3-5 minutes unless you want to do it properly and turn the heat down really low to allow the sugar in the onion to really come out and cook. If you are in a hurry, or just feeling lazy feel free do a quick and dirty job of getting the onions browned.

2. To liven up the onions splash some balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with sugar. Reserve the onions.

3. Boil your lentils in the stock until soft. The stock will no doubt boil down, this is okay because the cocunut milk is filling the role of liquid. But, you already knew that. Use the pot that was used for the onions so that you don't inadvertently mar the colour of the coconut milk.

4. Simmer the coconut milk with the curry paste. You do it this way so you don't have little devils of curry paste scattered in the finished soup, the paste will completely break apart as you simmer. The longer you let it simmer the more the curry will come forward and just bloom into a really rich flavour ... that also means it will get hotter. This step is somewhere in between the onion an boiling of lentils stage. Since the heat level is up to you, use your judgment. I'm helpful like that, just do it whenever you want.

Oh! You should definitely add a few sesame leaves to your coconut milk. They add this beautiful smokey citrus flavour. I bought mine at Pete's Frootique and they were mis-labeled as curry leaves. So, if from Halifax and at Pete's, apparently you will be looking for curry leaves. Unless of course, Mr. W.P. was mistaken when he was squinting at the google images page.

5. Combine it all. Stick an immersion blender in it for a couple of seconds the mix up the texture. Soup! *

6. Eat. Enjoy. Repeat.

*Reserve some of your caramelized onions for presentation, you can also add a little sprig of mint.

The orange bits in my soup in the picture above (they might be hidden by the general yellow hue of the picture) are carrots! I added some chopped carrot to the lentils when they were almost done boiling. This way, the carrots retain their crunch, colour and nutritional value. Hm. The alliteration kind of stumbled on that one.. :)

You can add anything you want to this soup, any vegetables. Just don't boil the hell out of your vegetables, I beg of you. We can't be friends if you over cook your veggies. Seriously. Add them when there is about 3 minutes left of boil time for the lentils.

Alternatively, you could add tomatoes and even straw mushrooms to the cocunut milk so they are immersed in those flavours. Add the tomatoes early if you want them broken down and really soft. This is not an exception to the overcooked vegetable mandate as tomatoes are fruit. Kind of. It depends on who is asking.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Gluten-free Mint and Chevre Raiffe!

I adapted this recipe from Sarah Brown's utterly stunning World Vegetarian Cookbook.

Disclaimer: If you are from Morocco and expecting an actual gluten-free Raiffe out of this, I'm sorry. It is an absolutely stunning and delicious dish but it is more of a reject-latke biscuity thing of wonder and yumminess.

Raiffe Dough

2/3 cup cornflour
1/3 cup potato starch
1/3 cup potato flour
1/3 cup quinoa flour*
pinch of guar gum
1/4 tsp coarse sea salt
2 oz. butter (I always use goat butter.)
100 ml warm water
1 tbsp olive oil

Minty Cheese

5 oz. chevre
1 tsp. dried mint**
pinch of kosher salt

*if you don't want a gluten free version use 300 grams of wheat flour. I'm sure you will have a pastry of beauty. Gluten free baked goods are great, in their own way. Gluten free food is kind of like that weird girl from you grew up with. She's weirdly pretty and will introduce you to your favourite folk band but maybe she wears too many cardigans. I just really miss wheat pastry. Sob.

**I just thought of this: if you wanted just a smidge of sweetness, add a bit of liquid honey. Not too much, you don't want it to leak out and scorch.

1. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until it becomes a soft crumb mix.
2. Mix in the olive oil. Use a fork and it just generally adds to the crumb-like consistency.
3. Incorporate the warm water.

If this was a regular wheat flour dough you would simply knead until it forms an elastic ball.As it is gluten-free you will try to do this (if you are me) and come to doubt all of your home-culinary skills until you realize you are using exactly one million flours and not one has any gluten in it. Did you know that gluten forms strands in the dough and that is what makes wheat pastry flaky?
Try your best not to freak out and mix it until it is together.

Form the dough into about 8 balls and allow to rest.

4. Flatten the dough. This is not specific. Just load it up with the cheese mix and fold it back together until the cheese is entirely covered. Wing it if you have to.

5. Fry in heated oil until a crisp golden brown.

They will kind of look like over-sized reject latkes. Don't be fooled.

Serve it with the sage and garlic aioli and you are set!

Sage and and Garlic Aioli Recipe

Sage & Garlic Aioli

Adapted from David Lebovitz. Way, way back - you know, in the first post- I wrote about an aioli I made that would have been better if I simply had fresh sage. Well, I have fresh sage now. Excellent.

olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic
very coarse sea salt
3-4 sage leaves (to taste!)
1 egg yolk (extraordinarily fresh!)

1. Crush the garlic with sea salt until creamy.

2. Add sage and a pinch of sea salt and really mash it up until the sage is broken apart. Really mash the hell out of it.

3. Add egg yolk. (This will end up satisfying two, if you would like more add another egg yolk.)

4. Whisk! Whisk! Whisk!

5. Add just a drizzle of oil.

6. Whisk! Whisk! Whisk.

7. Repeat steps 4-6 until desired consistency.

The aioli will continue to thicken as you add more oil. If you had warm, fresh (like, fresh from the chicken fresh) eggs it would be great to make this minutes before you eat it. Ooohhhh- kay. Yum. I'll go wallow for a bit.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Let the planting begin!

Containers with virgin green leaves that poke out of soggy peat pots are scattered throughout our living room, straining to soak up any stray probe of sunlight that creeps through the window. It is still to chilly at night to let these babies out to fend for themselves.

It was just a couple of weeks ago that we scurried outside onto out less than balmy balcony to poke seeds into the peat pots. We have the unique opportunity to garden in containers meaning we don't have an actual garden, just a million planters of various sizes dispersed over our two small balconies. Last year I was almost flattened by a rogue tomato plant that simply fell out of the board of the deck above. Our landlord was kind enough to replace the balconies this winter so venturing into the great outdoors at three stories up should be safer.

I have always been around the growing of food my entire life, at least in some capacity. My grandfather was a farmer and my mom is a prolific gardener. When I was a child we raised chickens and pigs and had a modest garden. I love being surrounded by plants. I'm not very good at keeping them alive (it takes a great amount of coaxing to get Mr. W. to buy me a live orchid) but I do love plants. Farming is magical -yes, yes, yes, I know it is a hell of a lot of work- but to see a plant grow from a tiny seed and into a big beautiful plant that could even provide you with food is mystical. Origins are fascinating.

Balcony gardening is more about the experience than it is consumption. From all of the beautiful pea plants we grew last year (seriously, they are gorgeous! We have pictures of these plants on the wall!) I think we only yielded about 15, maybe 20 pods. Really. We would starve if left to rely on my gardening skills.

We have the usual assortment of peas and tomatoes but this year we added purple carrots and an herb garden. Sweet Little Person #2, overzealous little farmer that he is, toppled the starter tray when he was trying to check on the freshly planted seeds. Everyone is safe but the neat little rows of chives, sweet basil and cilantro are all over the place. The cilantro is definitely cheating on the sweet basil.

Here's to another year of balcony food!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cold Sun, Spring Dreams

As the inaugural post to this new blog I thought it would be appropriate to write about the first quasi-spring afternoon in the Northern Hemisphere. The winter was strange this year. My first winter in Nova Scotia a few years ago was horrific: snow upon snow upon snow and it was actually -20 to -30 for three weeks straight. Not the kind of weather a kid from southwestern Ontario is accustomed to, but this winter was different (read: warm and only one nor'easter!). And, as March is chugging along into spring there have been more sunny days than not.

Saturday was a wonderfully lazy day. The babies were off to the grandparents and it was just Mr. White Plates and myself at home (and a cat who was showing off her majestic scowl to the sun). We had decided to forgo a lunch of sushi out, mostly because I was out of soy sauce and we forgot to pick some up at Pete's (wonderful grocer!). I should mention that I am intolerant of gluten which is why we tend to eat at home a great deal or make various sacrifices when out. A recurring theme will no doubt be my lamenting the loss of French pastries in my life ...

Moving on, lunch! I love lazy, wine filled lunches. I shouldn't say wine-filled because I don't like to be woozy from too much wine in the middle of the afternoon but two glasses makes the world a little bit more gentle and rosy, doesn't it? We had some left over roasted chicken from Friday night's dinner so what started out as a simple chicken salad salad turned into a scrumptious lunch.

The ultimate part of this lunch was the aioli. I adapted the recipe from the always wonderful David Lebovitz, although, I added a dried sage to accompany the chicken. Fresh sage would have been incredible but none was to be found. The result though, was delicious. Whisking the egg yolks is quite the feat but the result is so much better than any jarred mayonnaise.

To accompany the open-faced tomato chicken sandwich I blanched a few spears of asparagus and tossed the vivid green asparagus with goat butter, sea salt and cracked black pepper. Mr. White Plates was particularly fond of the asparagus, it was perfectly firm without being undercooked. I cannot wait for fresh spring produce from the Farmer's Market. The Halifax F.M. is an absolute treat on Saturday mornings!