Sushi Nights & Wasabi Fights


Back when I was younger and maybe a little more daring, dinners at home were sure tear jerkers.

My room mate and I at the time would frequently bring home or make our own sushi. In fact, it was our equivalent to most other twenty something’s macaroni and cheese.

About a bottle of sake later, the games would begin….
Starting with a fleck, then working up to a gob, we would up each other’s wasabi intake. For those unfamiliar with the powers of the great green Japanese horseradish, wasabi most closely resembles a spicy hot mustard sensation.

Serving our sushi with it’s typical Wasabi-joyu, soy sauce combination for dipping, we embraced the festivities, upping the ante with the additional blob atop the sushi itself. You see, when wasabi is a even a little over loaded, the sensation is nothing like the burning tongue of a pepper. Starting with a tingle, it continues, flurrying up your nasal passage, stopping only at the bottom of your eye, usually finishing with a tear and a jolt of adrenaline.

Watching someone suffer is not only entertaining, but addictive, which, I suppose is why we did it. As juvenile foodies, I’m sure there is much more mischief we could have been getting ourselves into. But oh, it hurt so good.


Continue reading Sushi Nights & Wasabi Fights

Preserving The Summer


Wouldn’t it just be the way, when I was confronted with this and a box of dusty, old canning jars:
“I’m presuming I can finally recycle these?”

We were down in the basement purging of it’s overwhelming accumulation to free up movement to the laundry and the like. By the dust streaks, one could obviously conclude I hadn’t done much in the way of preserving for some time. As fate would have it, upon conceding to the disposal, my neighbour showed up with more jars. Then the strawberry season was heavenly, peach baskets were sweet and overflowing and the Mennonite farmer at the market, had the crispest, greenest basket of miniature cucumbers I’d seen.
They were calling my name – I swear to you, they were.

As far as I can remember back I’ve been a bit of a pickle connoisseur. Kosher Dills, Polski Ogorkis, Baby Dills, Cornichons… I even remember the market unveiling of Vlasic’s extra crunchy pickles.
Man, what a breakthrough.
I can clearly recall a monstrosity of a pickle found, I believe Strubs. Being about six, it was probably the size of my foot, I kid you not. This of course encouraged me to dig this, the largest pickle I’d ever seen, out from the jar. Besides, if anyone was going to go down as conquering this cuke, it would be me. Slowly but steadily, I devoured the soft, briney interior. My temporary embalming only ceased by my bedtime and the numbness in my mouth. I even recall carefully wrapping that treasure, carefully, and storing it away for morning.

Since then, the best pickles ever were from the same family who sold me the cucumbers this year to begin with. Even with pickles, good ingredients are still important. Size is also important, as I’ve long since abandoned volume for numbers. A perfect pickle is garlicky, dilly, crisp, small and must applaud all grilled cheese sandwiches they accompany flawlessly.
I’m just beginning to be able to open my stock of pickles and enjoy the harvest. Preserving is great fun. It’s really not the mess you’d imagine it to be. Plus a payoff that continues months on, is so worth it.

If you’d like to read of other savory preserved summers, visit The Passionate Cook for a round up of sealed greatness.

Last Summer Weekend


Last of glamping, at least for me this year.
The days are beautiful, but let me tell you, these late summer nights can get c h i l l y.
As lovely as the morning dew and hikes with trees hinting of crimson are, that’s all folks, until next year anyway.
We just returned from a group camping trip. A trip to cook or not to cook could be the question, but what we did do was Eat For Freedom. The task for the weekend, if you’d want to call it that, was to cook only once, but to cook for the group. The trick was, at it’s high point the crowd was pushing 40+ people.
Sure, some could opt for the easy route out, cracking open a dozen cans of beans, but these guys were pretty hard core. I was told about successful curries, fresh pies, even home made gnocchi but I think the burritos topped for my favourite. Easy, delicious and vegan, fit to satisfy the 90% carnivorous crowd.

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Peperiti Risotto With Asparagus and Shitake Mushrooms


I’m constantly searching for new ways to make a “risotto” dish. I’ve of course used arborio and tried different grains like barley and quinoa but when I saw these delightfully tiny peperiti staring up at me at the grocers, I knew it was next. That and it’s Presto Pasta Friday, how could I resist?

Besides the fact that my kids typically turn up their noses at most things I make, other than macaroni and cheese or pancakes, I figured this actually being pasta, I would use this as an opportunity to feed them shallots and, of course, asparagus.
Like my other attempts, I made this with my “standard” risotto recipe. I knew it would be quick. I really thought the creaminess from the starch would be higher, but the pasta had a great texture, stayed very light and absorbed so much flavour from the stock it’s instantly become a favourite around here.

What a super pasta, give it a try. Use different stocks and vegetable combinations and let me know.

PEPERINI RISOTTO WITH ASPARAGUS AND SHITAKE MUSHROOMS

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Shallot, minced
2 Tablespoons White Wine
3/4 Cup Peperini
2 Cups Vegetable Stock
1 Bay Leaf
6 – 8 Stalks Asparagus, or equal to 1/2 Cup chopped
4 – 6 Shitake Mushrooms, or equal to 1/2 Cup chopped
Zest of 1/2 Lemon
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to taste
1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan, optional for vegetarians

In a saucepan, heat the stock with the bay leaf.
Mince 2 of the cloves of garlic and the shallot.
In another, large saucepan, heat the oil to a medium high heat. Sweat the garlic and shallot until translucent.
Add the wine and allow it to cook down for about a minute.
Add the peperini; stir well.
Ladle over about 1/3 of the stock and continue to stir often enough to keep it from sticking.
Once the pasta has absorbed the stock by half, add another ladleful and continue to stir.
Rinse and chop the asparagus into 1″ pieces.
Add the last of the stock, stir, add the asparagus and cover.
Wipe, trim and slice the mushrooms.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a sauté pan.
Mince and add the remaining clove of garlic and mushrooms.
Sauté until golden and remove from heat.
Stir the peperiti add the lemon zest and cheese, if using.
Serve and top with mushrooms.

Serves 4

Summer Fresh Tomato Sauce


Can’t you just imagine the tomato flavour? Pure as the day it was grown, this no cook sauce is a cinch to make and creates a perfect way to highlight light or stuffed pastas.


FRESH TOMATO SAUCE

2 Tomatoes, skinned and seeded
1 Clove Garlic, Puréed
pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Bring a large pot of water to boil.
Prepare a bowl of ice water.
Score the bottom of the tomatoes and drop them into the boiling water for about 1 minute.
Remove and plunge them into the cold water.
Core the tomatoes and remove the skins; slice and remove the seeds.
Mash the tomatoes with a fork and add the puréed garlic, salt and olive oil; mix well.

Earth Food – What Are You Doing To Spare The Planet?


Recently, Meeta over at What’s for Lunch, Honey posed that very question.

I thought about it and figured this should be easy. I’m sorry… but I recycle – a lot, I compost my food waste, we’ve even changed over our light bulbs. But I’m no savior. I would assume that for every good thing that I do, I’m probably doing something energy sucking in return, like drive a car and run the dishwasher – often. Seriously, the stress from saving the planet could almost be too much to handle.

Then it hit me. While feeling guilty driving around, dragging my kids to from farmer’s market to farmer’s market, I realized that I am a local food junkie. Nothing tastes better than a fresh, seasonal, real tomato and when you buy a bushel of them to dry or jar for later, you can enjoy real flavour all year long – without the transport exhaust.

With all the buzz, I decided to do a bit of research, to back up some of my claims, I came across one of the most interesting statistics. Rated #31 on the Climate Crisis Solution lists being vegetarian, better yet, vegan as more beneficial for the planet than downsizing your vehicle(s).

According to a study done by the University of Chicago, the amount of pollution created by animal related methane gas and transport pollution would be greatly reduced by how “… close you can be to a vegan diet and further from the mean American diet, the better you are for the planet. It doesn’t have to be all the way to the extreme end of vegan. If you simply cut down from two burgers a week to one, you’ve already made a substantial difference.” (I’m assuming “mean” = average American diet :)

Think about what you eat and where it comes from. Your food will taste better and you’ll save the planet at the same time. Easy and delicious.

On that note, it’s August and the Farmer’s market is bursting with tomatoes and CORN!
I could post an exhausting instruction about how to roast corn, but it’s not hard. If it’s fresh like now, usually picked a few hours before getting to you from the market, the silks will still be moist, soft and light. If it’s older you can usually tell the same way. If the silks are browned and drier you don’t have super fresh corn may have to peel the only dry loose husks from the corn and soak it for a minute or two – but when it’s fresh bring it home and put it right on the grill – the sooner the better since the sugar in corn begins to turn to starch just about as soon as it’s picked. The natural moisture should be enough to steam the corn over a steady medium heat. Turn the corn regularly so the outside husks char evenly. Once it’s grilled on all sides, about 5 – 7 minutes, remove it from the grill. Once it’s cool enough to handle, peel the husks and the typical stray silks will glide right off.
I served mine with a dollop of Lemon Thyme Spread made from 1/4 Cup of vegan margarine with about 1 Tablespoon of Fresh Thyme and the zest of 1 lemon.

GRILLED POLENTA WITH FRESH TOMATO SALSA CRUDA

POLENTA

3 Cups Vegetable Stock
1 Cup Fine Cornmeal or Polenta
pinch of salt & a crack of fresh pepper
Cooking Spray or olive oil

In a large saucepan, bring the stock to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer.
Using a whisk to combine, pour the polenta into the heated stock in a steady stream.
Reducing the heat to low, continue to stir frequently with a wooden spoon.
Polenta should come away from the edge of the pot and the spoon should be able to stand up in the center, or your arm will feel like it’s had a full workout, once it’s thickened.
Spray a 9″x13″ pan with oil and pour in the polenta. Flatten the polenta to the edges with a rubber spatula, dipping it in water, if necessary, to keep it from sticking, and cover with plastic wrap.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until very firm.
Heat grill to medium flame.
Cut the polenta into portion size servings and remove from the pan.
Brush with olive oil and grill for a few minutes each side or until crisp and golden.


FRESH TOMATO SALSA CRUDA

2 Large Field Tomatoes
1/2 Yellow Bell Pepper
1 Clove Garlic, minced
2 Scallions, chopped
3-4 Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped
2 Tablespoons Cilantro, chopped
1 Chipolte pepper, minced, optional
salt and pepper to taste
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Core and roughly chop the tomatoes.
Remove the seeds from the pepper and roughly chop.
Add the garlic, scallions, chopped herbs and chipolte pepper, if using.
Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Top grilled polenta, drizzle over olive oil and serve immediately.

Photo courtesy of WeirdFood.com.