Wednesday, September 22, 2010


After several months of feeling very meh about posting anything online, I’ve moved my cyber self over to tumblr. This will likely result in less pontification and more linking to what I see going on around me, which is much more my speed right now. Keeping it simple.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sour Pickles

I've got a peck of pickles in my cupboard. Every time I grab a cookbook I get a whiff of dill flowers! Before hot bath canning came along, there were sour pickles. Like sauerkraut, they are preserved using salt and lactobacilius. You make a brine (which means a mix of water and sea salt), put garlic, dill flowers, spices and cukes in a large jar, weigh the pickles down with a smaller jar, and cover them with the brine. Then you let it burble away in a dark place for a week or two. Everyday, I check on them and skim off the scum that forms on the surface (old style fermentation is not for the faint of heart, or the scum averse..). I got the ratios for brine and the instructions from the book Wild Fermentation. They are almost done, I'll be sure to report with a taste test.

What I wish I had to add to the mix is grape or horseradish leaves, which improve the crunchiness of the pickles. Horseradish is definitely on my 'to-grow' list. Check out this article on growing horseradish. I think this qualifies as gardener-foodie porn..

The garden grows, finally... it was a late start. But now there are cabbages for future kraut, and green tomatoes for future green tomato relish. MAYBE they'll become red tomatoes before the season is over, we'll see.

I've started some more greens, after a blessed season of arugula, chard, lettuces, and spinach. I planted mizuna and mache, and plan to put in some kale soon, for my fall cold frame experiments. I am going to a seminar on extending the growing season to learn more about using passive solar heat. I've got to figure out a way to harness the energy in our compost too. We bought a compost thermometer (keeping an eye on the temp can help you to speed up the process in certain ways), and last night at 8:00 pm it was 30 degrees C in the centre of the pile.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Jardin des Plantes

I'm not in a blogging mood so often these days. It seems like a sacrilegious activity in my free time given how gorgeous it is outside, and given that my day job requires me to be attached to the computer for the most part. Recent highlights include a meal of Manitoba pickerel I bought at Kingsland Farmer's Market and several glorious weeks of arugula salad from the garden with Little Creek Dressing, or as it is known affectionately in my household, Little Crack. I do love arugula. It has a wonderful horseradish-like kick. I'm looking forward to trying mizuna in the fall, another spring/fall crop that does best when things cool down. It is another spicy green. The pickerel was pricey, but GOOD. I guess that must be because it was flash frozen. The texture was the best I think I've ever had from frozen fish. In Paris there was no messing around with frozen fish of course. My favorite meal was fresh grilled sardines.
Another contender for best meal of the trip was salmon tartare. It was flavored with sesame, and served with a crunchy coleslaw that was a great contrast to the fish. E had grilled trout. The meals were all very simple and so, so tasty.
Here are some pics from the beautiful Jardin des Plantes in Paris, the national botanical gardens.
As you can see, it is huge. There is even a zoo. I was very sad to find out that they phased out the last of the potager (food) gardens three years ago. I'm guessing the trend toward more decorative gardens will turn back to food eventually, but for now I had to content myself with the traditional medicinal plant garden. I saw many of the plants that traveled with my ancestors to North America.

Stinging Nettle: Good for treating hay fever and inflammation.
I tried the Salvia, alas no exciting effects. Actually this is Salvia officinalus,
(common sage) and is much less dramatic than its Latin American cousin.
Nevertheless, it has been used as medicine throughout history and
the name is derived from the Latin 'to save'.

It's nice to be back to enjoy the garden and the wild world coming into bloom. I am starting to think of preserving already, as all the plants come into flower and fruit. It has been a long wait! But finally, the season of walking in the park and having dessert at the same time (the Saskatoons are amazing this year due to all the rain we've had..) is here.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Where to begin with Paris. We had a terrific time, despite being there in the hot, muggy season because we were attending a wedding during our trip. Good food and relaxing days were our main goals, as my husband and I had both previously been in Paris when we were younger and had done the tourist thing. We had the pleasure of staying at the apartment of a friend of E's parents. She apologized in advance for how small her place is, which is funny considering the size of my apartment in Korea (see below..). It was one room. Yes, that's the kitchen and washing machine in the front hall.

Instead we found ourselves in a beautiful classic French apartment, with the requisite three flights of narrow stairs, huge shuttered windows, and a bustling cafe below. Dreamy.

We were a bit outside of the city, which meant a 30 minute commute in, however this had its advantages, namely friendly shopkeepers who were patient with our rusty French (a more elusive quality in the city..). I had read about the different markets in Paris at Chocolate and Zucchini, and so we set off to track down the 'bio' (organic) market that takes place on Sundays. It was pretty easy to find, it's located in the 6th arrondisement, at Boulevard Raspail, between rue du Cherche midi and rue de Rennes.

The market was also dreamy.

This stall amused me given my blog name.. she was selling limited edition organic perfume, scented with carrot and coriander. It was very nice, but it was also $120 euros. Non merci.

I should have taken more pictures but I was busy soaking it all in! I bought some terroir honey, and some orange leaf tea, which I haven't tried yet, but given how much I like neroli (orange flower essential oil) I suspect I'll enjoy it. We also bought some olives, a vegetable tourte and some cheese. The cheese was the only miss. It was called chevre sec (dry goat cheese), and I picked it because it was small. Turns out it was small because it was hard as a rock, and was a bit of a punch to the face taste-wise. Like an extremely funky goat parmesan. Not exactly what we were looking for. But the tourte and the olives were great (the olives tasted incredibly fresh, like they had just come off the tree..), and were even more enjoyable in the park.

More dispatches to come!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Calgary Blogger Bake Sale

How fantastic is this picture. Real safe, right? I wish I could say it was me.. it's from the website of the camp I spent summers at as a kid, dated 1985. Odds are I was there that year, covered in bug bites and high on candy bars. I loved the air rifle range...

I just dropped off my contribution to a Calgary blogger bake sale this evening, set up to raise funds for Meals on Wheels. I went with S'mores Bars, because I've been reminiscing about summer camp lately. I hope I'll get the chance to volunteer at a summer camp at some point in the future, it was such a great experience as a kid. For a good decade, I spent a week or two every summer at a church camp near Calgary, and it was good times. Running around playing tag, chasing boys, food fights, staying up late, singing around a campfire and, in a time before helicopter parents and lawsuits, shooting an air rifle. What more does a ten year old need really.

The bake sale is on at the Market Collective this weekend, Saturday 10-6 and Sunday 11-5 at the old Ant Hill Fabrics building in Kensington. Vincci organized it, what a great way to inspire us all. There will be some amazing treats by very talented local foodies, some much more gourmet than marshmallows and chocolate. But then, those are good too sometimes.

Some of the participants include: