Dandelion Jelly


Has it been a month already? Time to post!

All kidding aside, the spring weather has been pretty balmy and our world rapidly grew green again and dandelions dotting most of the nooks between each blade of grass it could find. Luckily, with most of my lawn converted to garden, there isn’t much space for them to grow. Besides, snapping up each golden specimen has been a relaxing hobby of mine for years, so they don’t stand much of a chance with me. My new neighbour to the south however, near blinded us with his yellow lawn and my family and I soon found our neighbourly side, down on our hands and knees. While pulling the dandelions from their roots, we shared stories, a glass of rosé and generally got better acquainted. It was quite a sight.
Our conversation turned to curiosity as our bucket bulged with weeds.

We’d each seen little old ladies with their protuberent bags, walking along dandelion dotted roadsides and parkettes. What do they do with all that weed?

Dandelions are good for you, I know that. Vitamin and potassium rich, the whole plant can be used. I’ve made salads myself.
I have the tea and heard the roots can provide a locavore their coffee fix. Plus, I know that wine can virtually be made from anything. But it wasn’t until I recently received my newsletter for this week from one of the city’s farmer’s markets did I read of one of the vendors selling, you guessed it, dandelion jelly this week.

Now, I wouldn’t be the so-called foodie I claim to be if I didn’t look a little deeper. Of course I was intrigued, as were others. There were the B&B’s and a few homestead posts, but it wasn’t until I’d come across the recent article in the New York Times, that I’d realized foraging is cool!

It’s easy and fun to make. The colour is like lemon drops and sunshine, which is a pretty nice thing to say about dandelions, I think. It tastes a bit floral and honey-esque. Certainly not what a I thought a bitter weed would taste like, spread over my morning toast.

DANDELION JELLY

2 1/2 Cups Dandelion Petals, packed
3 Cups Water
Juice and Zest of One Lemon
2 1/2 Cups Granulated Sugar
1 Pouch Liquid Pectin

Find a trustworthy lawn, free of pesticides and doggies, or raid your neighbour’s like I did, and behead about 4 cups of dandelions.
Separate the petals from the green bud or “receptacle” and collect the petals in a measuring cup, pressing down gently until you have 2 1/2 cups.
Transfer the petals to a saucepan, add the lemon zest and cover with boiling water. Bring it to a rolling simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until the water in well infused and coloured.
Strain the liquid from the petals, pressing down if necessary, into a measuring cup and compost the petals when you’re done. There should be about 2 1/2 cups of liquid, if not add water to top it up.
Return the infused liquid to a saucepan, add the lemon juice, about an overflowing tablespoon, and the sugar, bringing everything to a hard boil.
Finally, add the pectin letting it return to a boil for two or so minutes, while you set up your jars, then remove it from the heat.
Pour the hot jelly into steralized jars with 1/4″ headspace. Screw on lids and process in a near boiling simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
This recipe will make four 125ml jars of jelly.
Enough to share with the neighbours you stole dandelions from.

Whole Garden Gnocchi


Who knew I could feed myself from a front yard garden alone? Other than the flour, I grew everything for this dish in my small, urban yard; potatoes, garlic, chard, tomatoes and squash.

I may have mentioned my front yard transformation last spring. With the help of a great neighbour, a dumping of dirt, a seed catalogue and some eager kids, we transferred lawn into an edible space.

Less the brussels sprouts and the chard, most of the garden now harvested. There were the three varieties of potatoes; Peruvian Reds, Blue and Russian Fingerlings, Rainbow Swiss Chard, Butternut Squash, sweet Yellow Pear Tomatoes just for this dish alone. (It doesn’t even hint at the edamame, peas, beans, beets, asparagus, blueberries, herbs, okra, cabbages, zucchini, pumpkins… corn… wow!)

After digging up a surplus of potatoes, I needed a few ideas on what to do with them. With BBQ season pretty much a thing of the past, potato salad wasn’t topping my list as much as the gnocchi. Besides, I just had to when I saw the light pinkiness of the potatoes and the great texture that was perfect for such a thing.

Feeding yourself all on your own, that’s local.
Now, that’s something to be thankful for!

PERUVIAN PINK POTATO GNOCCHI

1Lb Potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed (you can use other starchy potatoes, like Russetts as well)
1 Cup All Purpose Flour, plus more for rolling.
1/4 teaspoon Salt

In a large bowl, finely mash the cooked potatoes so they are lump free.
Add the salt and half of the flour then add 1/4 cup at a time stirring to combine and bring everything together in a smooth dough. You may not need it all.
Depending on your work surface, third or quarter the dough. Take one piece and cover remaining pieces.
Roll the dough into long “snakes” and cut into 1″ pieces.
Roll each piece off the back of a floured fork and repeat finishing all of the dough.
Drop into salted boiling water and cook gnocchi until they float; about 3 – 4 minutes.

While the gnocchi were boiling I made the “sauce” of tomatoes, chard, squash and garlic.
I cubed the peeled, cleaned squash and sautéed it, covered in a large, lightly oiled pan. Once the pieces began to soften, I removed the lid to let the stem escape and pieces brown.
I added two cloves of finely chopped garlic and the chard to cook for another two minutes.
Once the chard had wilted, I added 1 cup of sliced yellow pear tomatoes, salt, pepper and a palmful of chopped basil.
Simple and delicious.

Rose Infused Strawberry Sorbet


Surrounded by strawberry season, I over thoughtfully tired my search for something outstanding and creative to present for more than just shortcake post of yesteryear.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, strawberry shortcake is such a classic it’s even got a scented doll named after it — I just wanted more. Unconventional combinations like balsamic, basil and black pepper have been surfacing for some time. and recently, I was confronted with a pastry chef’s attempt at combining all three. Not something I wanted to re-create, unfortunately.

I could have almost come full circle with homage to most people’s Nanas’ Summer Strawberry Pie but let me tell you, it’s been so hot and muggy these past couple of days, just the idea of boiling water made me want to sweat.

Naturally in this heat, only Yours Truly would hit the strawberry patch at high noon. There’s something pretty spectacular about sneaking a warm, so perfectly ripe summer strawberry. Even tasting like the homemade jam it will soon become, I couldn’t help imagining a slip n’ slide ride to get my overheated self back to the stifling car.

I’ve guessed that my designated, appropriately red, strawberry picking bucket can hold about 10 or so pounds of berries. We like the berries, but whatever can’t get consumed by the masses within a couple of days by the periodical snack or stuffed crêpes for breakfast, will end up hulled and frozen on parchment for bagging and later enjoyment.

To my delight, I found that a medium Ziploc bag holds about 1 Lb of frozen berries. Perfect for making one of the tastiest and simplest strawberry treats concocted to sooth the heat. Really. Don’t let the rose syrup be your deal breaker, it’s really quite easy as long as you can get your hand on a rose. It’s a wonderful combination that’s tips this sorbet over the edge of great and frozen berries are everywhere, so you don’t even have to pick and hull them yourself.

ROSE INFUSED STRAWBERRY SORBET

1 Lb Frozen Strawberries
3/4 Cup Rose Syrup

Add strawberries to food processor, pulsing at first to chop. Scrape sides with a spatula.
With the motor running, add the rose syrup through the feed tube, stopping to scrape the sides as necessary, blending until smooth.

If not serving immediately,  transfer sorbet into a low sided container, cover tightly and freeze.

Curried Carrot Soup


I am one of those people who like cilantro. Cilantro is a love it or hate it kind of thing. Thankfully the herby leaf it offers to 50% of the population who enjoy it, also comes with a seed. Coriander, which the seed more commonly goes by, lends a refreshing and slightly citrusy flavour. Blended with other spices, coriander is perfect and essential for milder curry combinations.

Common yellow curry is the key to this soup. Spices like coriander, along with tumeric, cumin, mustard seed, cloves, red pepper and fennel might seem like a lot but the complexities of each spice together make for a wonderful flavour combination added to so many dishes, including the humble winter carrot.

Earthy and dense, these bright reminders of a summer past wait anxiously in the root cellar to come alive again. Flavour packed and vitamin rich carrots along with the zip of curry does us a great justice to blasting the February blahs.

My father in law is a master at soup and a farmer’s market frequenter. With a constant variety of seasonal vegetables, he has shown me tons about eating locally. This is an adaptation of the soup I’d recently devoured at his home.

CURRIED CARROT SOUP

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion, finely chopped
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 Stalks Celery
8 cups of Water or Vegetable Stock
3 Lbs Carrots, about 6 large ones, grated
1 Tablespoon Yellow Curry Powder
1/2 teaspoon Fennel Seed, ground with a mortar pestle
1/4 teaspoon Ground Red Chilies, or to taste
1 teaspoon Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
Juice of 1 Lemon

Heat the oil in a large stock pot.
Sauté the onion and garlic over medium-high heat until soft, taking care not to scorch the garlic.
Roughly chop the celery stalks into thirds and add to the onions along with the grated carrots.
Pour over the water, bring to boil.
Add the curry powder, ground fennel, chilies, salt and pepper.
Simmer for approximately 20 minutes.
Purée using a immersion or traditional blender, in batches until smooth.
Stir in the lemon juice and readjust salt and pepper, if necessary.
Top with chopped cilantro. (If you like it.)