Wednesday, June 27, 2012

To try in T.O.

I have completed my time in Ottawa and finally, finally, finally get to move back (and back in with my husband) to Toronto! I have missed the never ending supply of new markets, new ingredients, new restaurants, and new food people to meet! This little country girl has fallen in love with the city.

With that in mind, here is a list of things I can't wait to do/eat in Toronto!

1. Barrel-aged Cocktails: Although this concept has the potential to really rock, I feel like the commercial version will be lacking (and expensive). Perhaps I'll DIY it!

2. Hot Beans is an amazing burrito place in Kensington Market. I have been there twice (on various weekend trips to the city) and it's gosh-darn-tasty! It's also uber cheap and filling. Hot Beans is a perfect stop before walking around the market! I hope to be back regularly!

3. ONoir: This has been on my list since long before I moved to Ottawa. I hear the food is only mediocre, but the experience is awesome.  

4. The Hogtown Vegan: You had me at Pulled Unpork Poutine. The website is pretty but sparse. Check out their facebook page for more details.

5. Memories: Walking to the Junction, renting movies from Big Daddy's, ordering the Tofu Caesar Salad from The Beet, and drinking a peanut butter hot chocolate from Delight.

Here's to old memories and new traditions!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Guest Post: Fox in the Pine

I am Cat over at Fox in the Pine and am thrilled to be guest posting today! I love this time of year because I can make fresh pesto. But, because basil can be pricey, I find that I don't make it as much as I'd like. Even growing my own basil, I find that I never have enough to satiate my hunger for this delicacy. To remedy this, I use stinging nettle leaves instead of basil for our pesto. You can exclusively use stinging nettles, or you can mix the two (stinging nettle and basil) so that you can make a larger batch. Nettle can also be a great substitute for cooked spinach in foods like ravioli, gnocchi or omelettes.
Stinging nettle is an amazing multi-vitamin and is mineral rich, providing Vitamins A, B, C, E & K along with minerals like iron, calcium, potassium, silicic acid, manganese and copper. It stimulates kidney excretions making it the perfect detoxifying tonic and is also amazingly helpful for skin conditions such as eczema and can re-stimulate hair follicles on your head and get rid of dandruff. It is known to help relieve premenstrual symptoms and also counter arthritis, rheumatism, tendonitis and other disorders of the muscles and joints. It will also increase milk production in lactating women. I could go on, but the list is LITERALLY unending.
You are probably wondering why this magic leaf is not in everything we eat. This is because the plant protects itself with little stinging hairs that cover its stems and leaves. For this reason, nettles must be picked with thick gloves and put straight into a bag. You should also make sure that your arms and legs are well-covered as you might accidentally brush up against a plant with your legs. Nettle leaves can also be purchased at your local farmer's market, but in the Northwest nettle grows any place that is not regularly gardened. Look for nettles well-away from roadsides (where they are at risk of being sprayed by chemicals or otherwise contaminated by car emissions). Nettles thrive in the same conditions as blackberries and can often be found competing with them for territory.
To make nettle pesto, you can use your own pesto recipe and just replace the amount of basil leaves with nettle leaves. Or, you can use the recipe below. Since it is difficult to accurately measure the amount of nettle leaves used, the amount of ingredients may need to be tweaked with each batch.

Recipe for Nettle Pesto:


1 cup pine nuts (or walnuts)

Coarse salt and ground pepper

6 cups of cooked (blanched) nettle leaves

4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1/4 - 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
The nettle leaves must be blanched in order to get rid of the sting to render them safe to touch and eat. First, wash the leaves in a strainer or in your sink. Then, transfer the washed leaves from the sink to a large pot. Add just enough water to cover and bring to a light simmer and blanch the leaves for 10 minutes.
Once done, drain them in a colander and put these cooked leaves into a food processor (or a blender). Add the pine nuts, grated cheese, and chopped garlic and blend these ingredients together. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Depending on the amount of leaves used, and the amount of water left in and on the leaves, you may have to tweak some of the ingredients bit-by-bit to perfect your batch of nettle pesto.
If you want a creamier recipe, with butter and cream, follow this link (and remember, just replace the amount of basil with nettle).

Enjoy this healthy and delicious, foraged find!
Note: If you do get stung, don't panic! The hairs contain formic acid, serotonin and histamine. So it is a little painful and a little itchy, but this all can be remedied by making a paste with some baking soda and a tiny bit of water. Put the paste where you have been stung and you will feel instant relief. If you don't have baking soda, aloe vera will work as well.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Recipe Testing: Why?

I have been a recipe tester for several cookbook authors over the past three or four years. I have tested for individuals with a traditional book deal and for individuals self-publishing. I volunteer for recipe testing because I have aspirations to someday write a cookbook. Therefore recipe testing for others is a way for me to gain insight into the process.

I view recipe testing as a personal favor to the author. I was therefore surprised to have only once received a 'Thanks for testing' email. Most authors don't acknowledge receipt of my testing notes. I find this to be rude. None of these authors are super-famous (otherwise they would pay for testers). They are NOT too busy to send a quick 'Thanks for your feedback' email.

It appears that cookbook authors expect overwhelming positive reviews. One author had a two tiered system of testers and only those individuals that gave positive feedback continued to the second phrase of testing. One would think that in order to develop the best possible recipes a mix of positive and negative critiques would be required.

There is a certain amount of novelty associated with recipe testing. It's fun to be on the 'inside' of a cookbook, especially from a well-known author. If you are committed to the process of testing you will inevitably try recipes that you may have otherwise passed over.

Most authors insist on strict adherence to the original recipe. However, I would want you to use the recipe as you would if it was in a cookbook that you owned. Cooks are intuitive. If you don't have x, substitute with y. If you don't like x, substitute with y. If you like flavor/herb/spice y more than x switch it up. A good recipe needs to be fairly flexible. Recipes should still work with slight changes made.

When/if I ever employee recipe testers I plan on:
a. thanking each individual who did me the favor of testing my recipes
b. allow/encourage a degree of substitution (making a note of vital ingredients)
c. encourage constructive criticism
d. thanking each individual who testing for me - oh wait, did I say that already!?!?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Soup in the Summer

Yet more seasonally inappropriate food! However if you make this soup you won't be disappointed. It's one of the best soups I have ever made! The black salt adds something divine to this dish. It makes the beans creamier and the flavors really pop! I picked up the black salt at a Russian market in Toronto for super cheap.  

Bean Soup
2 cups white beans
3 medium onions
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons berbere (mine was from Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food)
Black salt to finish

Soak beans overnight. Simmer in fresh water until tender. Drain. Thinly slice onions into half medallions. Cook until tender and translucent in oil. Add the berbere and stir until the onions are coated. Add drained, cooked beans. Add 4 cups water. Simmer 10-20 minutes, until flavors blend. Finish with black salt.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Dough: Dried Sourdough Starter

My sourdough starter is almost one year old! I want to transport it to a friend but did not want to have to feed it during my journey. I had read that you can dry it and reconstitute it. I googled how to do it but its mad simple. If your starter is really thick, just thin it out with extra water. Then spread it out on some parchment paper. It will dry in a day or two. Break it up. I then crushed it in a mortar and pestle. It's supposed to stay viable for years, which is kinda cool. I'll update you when I reconstitute it!  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wordless Wed: Picnic View

In which I bike to buy Bobo tea bubbles in bulk, but have to buy them in regular size.
Depression sets in, which is sated with green tea biscuits and coconut water
And also this view. This pretty view.
My first picnic of the season, and my first bicycle ride of the season.