Friday, July 31, 2009

Garlic Scapes and Rhubarb Cordial

One of my favorite culinary discoveries while traveling was scapes. They were sold at the hippie grocery store on Galiano Island, and looked so delightfully out of control on the shelf. I had read about them online previously but had never had the pleasure myself.

We grilled the scapes on the barbecue. They were really nice, although I only ate half of what I had served myself as they are pretty potent. They have the texture of asparagus or beans, with the punch of spicy garlic flavor.

Right before I left, I harvested the rhubarb plant so that it would come back up while we were away. I found this recipe for Rhubarb Rosewater Cordial. The big breakthrough with this recipe is not having to strain the rhubarb -- which I did last year -- what a mess. Instead you put the fruit in jelly bags. I didn't have any rosewater on hand so just went for plain cordial. Compared to past attempts, this one was easy, not sticky, and done in 20 minutes.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Apricot kernels

Whoa, forget what I said about apricot kernels. Apparently they are a miraculous cure for cancer, according to some, but on the other hand consumption tends to lead to death from cyanide poisoning. The crazy thing is, I got the idea after seeing a package of them for sale at my local health food store. Won't be trying those as a snack any time soon...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My hands hurt

... from pitting cherries. Lesson #1 of this year's season: Never try to pit 20 lbs of cherries by hand. I have a pitter that looks like a pair of scissors; and after a few dozen cherries my right hand was hurtin'. I am nursing it with Forbidden Fruit Plumiscuous Wine, a new discovery that makes me very, very happy. I got hooked on plum wine (aka SeolJoongMae) when I lived in Korea. My friend Nessa and I drank the stuff by the bottle while comisserating about our love lives and other foreign worker drama.

It, like Plumiscuous, is 'fortified'. Good times.
When I came back to Canada the plum wine from local liquor stores was pretty bad. Syrupy and not the mildly tart kind I was used to, so I gave it up. Enter Forbidden Fruit. Their plum wine is gorgeous, and tastes like summer. Highly recommended. I have seen thier wines at Silver Springs Liquor Store in Calgary. Pearsuasion is also really good.

Bonus: no headache! I discovered, thanks to a good friend and booze afficionado, that organic wines don't have added sulphites (a preservative) and therefore result in little to no headache the next day. In the past I had headaches from even one or two glasses. Some sulphites exist naturally in wines, but the quantities are much lower than in the non-organics. This is a good reason to also buy organic vinegar, by the way... sulphites are added to almost all non-organic ones. We didn't make it to The Vinegar Works in Summerland on this trip, but will be sure to drop by there sometime. My husband's mom bought Gerverstraminer vinegar there last month. Yum.

Lesson #2 from this season: Plan fruit buying carefully. E and I were so happy to see cases of affordable organic fruit that we took home more cherries than we could eat, and I realized when we got back that they don't can well. Also we are not big into sweet stuff, we don't eat a lot of jam or desert, so it's hard to know what to do with so many. (Did you know that most pies are made with sour cherries not sweet ones? Um, neither did I.) Ah well, we soldiered on, it was so difficult, stuffing our faces with fruit all week.. Also I froze a bunch and made Amaretto Cherries (because sweet cherries do preserve well this way, aparently..).

The apricots were much easier to figure out. I froze some, dried some, and made nectar, which was a bit of a handful in my tiny kitchen (wash, pit, slice, puree, cook in giant pot, add sweetener, cook again, spill some on the floor, put through food mill to strain, heat up jars, hot water bath.. ta-da!) but the result was great. I got 10 1/2 cups of concentrate from 3 1/2 pounds of apricots. The nectar can be diluted for drinking or used in recipes. Also, I threw the leftover pulp in the dehydrator (which has been whirring for two days now..) and made fruit leather. I'll provide an update when I figure out what to do with the pits, I hear you can split them and eat the kernels like almonds.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Where to start?

I have had a fantastic couple of weeks with many highlights. Evan and I went on a honeymoon of sorts; we drove out to the coast, visiting relatives along the way, and enjoyed a blissful week on Galiano Island, an alternate universe where no one wears a watch and you are welcome to bring your dog into the pub. I have about two months worth of foodie posts, and since we filled the car with fruit on the way back I am trying to preserve it all in the shrinking window before it goes off, so I don't have time to write just yet. In the meantime, here are a few pics of our adventures.

On Heffley Lake. We woke up to loons warbling that morning.

Garlic Scapes!
Garlic Scapes on a plate!
Sheep (and a goat with four horns..) on a ferry!
Ok I'm done with the exclamation points now.
Hera meets the ocean. Showed her prairie upbringing
by not allowing her feet to leave
the ground when she was in the water.

One of the bantam chickens that live at the B & B we were at on Galiano.
As you can see we were roughing it.
Fruit! Did you know that the Similkameen Valley has
the largest concentration of organic farms in Canada? We celebrated
this new found fact by buying a case of apricots.
Wine! I guess I'm not done exclaiming. It was a delightful trip.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


The strangest season of Calgarian summer is upon us.. when all the food shoots out of the ground at once and we have more than we could hope to eat! It is wonderful and flies by in a flash. Of course it happens at a crazily busy time of year, and I find myself blanching spinach at 11:00 at night in my pj's, remembering that I ran out of frozen greens in November last year. Our garden has been a mixed bag this year, great weather but things haven't come up very quickly. I suspect we need to do more to build up the soil. As much as I wince at the thought of paying for compost, we don't have the capacity to produce a lot of it ourselves at the moment. I am just beginning to learn about green manure and such, so I'm looking forward to applying more permaculture techniques next year. Luckily for us, the neighbor has too much chard and spinach, and has begged us to thin it out for him. Well, if we must. Actually the pic above is the thinnings from our beets, aren't they purdy.. also in the frame: spice rack built by Evan's dad, spice labels courtesy of martha stewart's website.. on the left in an old salad dressing bottle, a bit of that white wine vinegar I made a while back. I highly recommend giving vinegar making a try, the end result is really nice and is adding a lot to the endless salads of this month. A good way to deal with old plonk. The beautiful red and white enamel collander was given to me by my step-grandmother, Candace.

Speaking of pretty things, here I attempted to take a pic of the current pride of the kitchen, goose measuring spoons given to me by my dear friend Kathy. Even though I try to practice non-attachment I must admit I am rather attached to these. Especially since they get along so well with the squirrel holding acorn salt and pepper shakers. Just pretend this is a proper photo instead of a terrible point-and-shoot atrocity. Curse you glossy red wall paint.. one day I really will learn how to take proper photographs.

Friday, July 10, 2009

100 Mile Challenge

I was happy to find that foodtv has the 100 Mile Challenge reality show available online (in Canada at least..). This is especially exciting as we don't pay for cable... Yes it is oversimplified etc. for television, but it still makes for good free tv :)

Episode 1

There are some good recipes and other resources on the show website:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Big Day

I don't have my hands on many of the pics from the big day yet.. but thought I'd share the one I do have. Here is Evan thanking everyone for a terrific day. We had tons of support from friends and especially from family. Everyone was accommodating of our wishes for a relatively waste-free wedding, even if it meant lugging crates of rented dishes and glasses around. Impressive. We had a beautiful wedding cake with red currants from the bushes in the garden behind us (the reception was in Evan's parents' back yard). We ate quiche made from local free range eggs and spinach from the garden, wine from the Okanagan (that's as close as we can get, ah well..), and even some Ethiopian-style home brew mead. A good time was had by all.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Just saw this article at Grist on how convenience foods take about the same amount of time to make as unrefined food, contrary to what you might expect. I had just had a conversation along these lines at the dinner table. I wondered aloud.. 'Why would anyone buy prepackaged food when you can make this is 20 mins?' We were having my go-to comfort food, a riff on al olio and arrabiatta pasta. Evan pointed out that the individual ingredients did take time to get our hands on; cheese from the italian store, tomatoes from the organic store, olive oil from The Light Cellar. But once you have the staples, it takes no time at all.
When you are hungry and need dinner now, try..

olive oil medium low
4 cloves of garlic minced
a shake of hot pepper flakes

cherry tomatoes sliced in half
bread crumbs
grated parmesan or cubed feta
artichoke hearts

Boil up some fettucine, toss it in with the garlic, bada bing bada boom.

Monday, July 6, 2009


Can you believe some people don't like rhubarb? It's a mystery. It's high season for rhubarb at the moment, and the scramble is on to make good use of it before it gets too woody and overgrown. Cheryl at Backseat Gourmet's post brought back memories of eating it straight up as a kid. These days, I prefer it cooked. Evan made a giant batch of stewed rhubarb last week.

We have it with yoghurt in the mornings, or in smoothies that made us both very happy. On Sunday, I put a pan half full of stewed rhubarb in the freezer and stirred it every 30 mins until it was frozen. Voila, sorbet. It was easy and a hit at dinner. Next I'm going to have to try Rhubarb Curry. Sounds wacky but potentially good. I imagine that it might work really well to replace the tang that tamarind brings to many curry dishes.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The preserving begins..

Time to get started preserving. I already have offers of spinach from friends and neighbors. I am going with my so far successful method of blanching and packing in half litre milk cartons for freezing. It works well for soup and veggies -- if I am organized I can let them thaw on the counter, if not I just tear the cardboard off and throw it in a pot with an inch of water. While searching for graphics for wedding stuff, I have stumbled upon the wide world of DIY graphics and paper crafts (who knew?) and found this Martha Stewart template for freezer labels that will make things easier.

At the moment I have a relatively empty freezer after eating all the food in it over the winter season. I read somewhere along the way (including at Lifehacker) that empty fridges and freezers are really inefficient. I read that you can use boxes full of insulation to fill the empty space, but it just ocurred to me the other day to put the pile of styrofoam packaging I have (which is not recyclable in Calgary and I cringe to toss in the garbage..) in the freezer. I guess I can add that to my list of green micromovements (as SARK would call them).

Post Script: My friend Jodi passed along this gem -- Food in Jars