Category: Condiment

Rhubarb Ginger Shrub

I LOVE this time of year. I love that my garlic is already a foot tall. I love that my herbs are sprouting new stalks. I love that the blueberry bushes are full of flowers. And I love that my rhubarb practically yells at my from the back yard, “PICK ME! PICK ME!”

And I have! I’m on my fourth picking of the rhubarb and there is still a bounty! I’m running out of new ideas of what to do with it but today’s idea was one of the best. I made a rhubarb shrub!

If you’ve been anywhere near a cocktail bar in the last couple years, I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Shrubs are basically fruit, sugar, and vinegar. A sort of simple syrup on steroids. And they’re delicious. You can use them in cocktails (this rhubarb one is amazing with gin) or simply stir a tablespoon or two into a glass of sparkling water and add a sprig of mint for a refreshing sipper on a sunny afternoon. You can even whisk a couple tablespoons with some olive oil and voila, instant salad dressing! The spent fruit doesn’t have to go to waste either. Add it to any loaf or muffin recipe (I use it to replace half the oil)… yummy!

The combination below is an attempt to use my delicious rhubarb before it disappears but most fruits will work. Try using blueberries and red wine vinegar, or peaches with white wine vinegar and thyme, or strawberries with apple cider vinegar and black peppercorns. Your only limit is your imagination.

For me, this is the ideal blend of sweet and sour (I’m not fond of overly sweet). You should adjust it to your liking. Taste the mixture while it’s still hot and add more vinegar or sugar if you wish. This makes one generous cup. Feel free to double or triple the recipe, you won’t regret it.

1 pound of rhubarb, sliced about 1 cm thick
4-6 slices of ginger
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
pinch of red pepper flakes

Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb has broken down, about 10 minutes. Pour into a fine strainer over a bowl and let sit for about 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has been released. Bottle the shrub (I used an old mini whiskey bottle) and store in the fridge indefinitely.





Quick & Dirty: Caesar Salad Dressing

It’s been hot here on the West Coast and I am loving it! I have been eating salad after salad chock full of lovely garden tomatoes, cucumbers, legumes, with tons of herbs and bright, zesty vinaigrettes and they have been yummy! I don’t know why but Caesar salad never seemed like a summer salad to me. When all the fresh vegetables have faded away and the cold, damp days of winter move in, that’s when I think of that heavier, cheese laden dressing that will smack you across the head with just the right amount of pungent garlic and creamy mayonnaise.

But it’s +28C outside today and I’m still craving a crispy romaine Caesar salad, with some cold chicken folded in and topped with crunchy croutons and fried caper flavour bombs. Eat your heart out, Winter! :)

1 clove garlic, minced (or more, depending on your taste)
1/2 tsp dry mustard
lots of pepper
1 1/2 tsp worchestershire
2-3 TBS fresh lemon juice (depending on your taste)
1 tsp anchovy paste or 1 anchovy filet mashed with a fork (optional but HIGHLY recommended)
1 tsp Knorr Aromat or Accent seasoning (optional)
1/4 cup good fruity olive oil
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 oz grated fresh Parmesan (about 1/2-3/4 cup, depending on size of grate)

Combine first 7 ingredients in bowl. Slowly whisk in olive oil until emulsified. Fold in mayonnaise and fresh Parmesan. You may only need a portion of the dressing for your salad depending on the amount of greens you have. The rest will stay good in the fridge for 3 or 4 days.







Rhubarb Compote

My rhubarb patch is absolutely bursting and besides giving away several pounds, I’ve made numerous galettes, muffins, and I have a scone recipe waiting in the wings, but it appears that the simplest preparation is sometimes the most favoured.

At Husband’s request I have been making homemade yoghurt (“I miss the tangy yoghurt in Mallorca” he lamented… *insert rolling eyes here*) and a few weeks ago he was craving dessert so I suggested he stir a couple of tablespoons of rhubarb compote into his yoghurt…

And I have been struggling to keep up with the making of the yoghurt and rhubarb compote ever since.

There are tons of things you can do with this compote. Spread it on toast or on top of a bagel with cream cheese, dollop on to grilled or fried pork chops, add it to whipped cream, serve over ice cream or pavlova, add to your morning oatmeal, fold it in to berries for shortcake, and of course, stir it into plain yoghurt. We like it not too sweet so I use 3/4 cup of sugar but you can start with that and taste and add more sugar throughout the process. And don’t be afraid to use a pinch of hot pepper flakes, it won’t make it spicy, it will just give it a deeper, rounder flavour.

2 pounds (about 7-8 cups) fresh rhubarb, 1/2 inch slice
3/4 cup sugar (you can add more at the end if you like it a bit sweeter)
6-8 thin slices fresh ginger (about 1″ total)
1 TBS balsamic vinegar
pinch of hot pepper flakes (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy bottomed pot and let stand for at least 30 minutes until the fruit has released some liquid.

Place pot over medium-high heat until liquid comes to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Stir every minute or so until rhubarb is very tender and starting to break down and the compote starts to thicken, about 10-12 minutes is perfect for us but you can decide what texture you want. Taste and adjust sweetness by adding in another tablespoon or two of sugar if you wish. Remove from heat and let cool.

I store mine in a large glass jar in the fridge. It will keep for a few weeks but ours usually disappears before then.







Instant Pot Beef Stock

While prepping my ingredients for dinner yesterday I discovered that my supply of frozen homemade beef stock had disappeared (what the?!?!) so I spent some time in the afternoon making another batch. I keep telling you guys not to use that terrible canned/tetra pack stuff but have never told you how EASY it is to make your own beef stock in an Instant Pot (or other stove-top pressure cooker). It takes a few hours but most of that is hands off, and what you end up is so much more than the sum of its parts.

I save all my beef bones and scraps in the freezer, and supplement them with bones from the butcher. I think I pay around $10 for 6 pounds of organic beef bones and once I supplement with a couple pounds of bones and scraps from dinners here and there I have enough to make 2 batches of stock. Very economical considering the quality.

You may notice I don’t add any salt to my stock while making it but that’s just a personal choice. I like to wait to season the stock so I can customize it to whatever dish I’m using it in but you can season with salt at any time. Remember this when you taste the final stock from the pressure cooker. You’ll think, OMG it needs salt! Yes, yes it does! :)

4 pounds of beef bones and scraps
8 cups of water (my general rule is 2 cups per pound of bones)
1 TBS tomato paste
1 onion, unpeeled but rinsed and quartered
1 TBS apple cider vinegar
1 tsp whole peppercorns

Optional add ins:
5-6 thin slices ginger, or 1 piece star anise
1 carrot (cut into a few chunks)
1 stalk celery (cut into a few chunks)
1 bay leaf

Blanch the bones by placing in a pot and cover completely with cold water. Bring to boil and let simmer for a couple minutes. Dump the water and rinse the bones. This gets rid of any impurities and makes a cleaner final stock.

Heat oven to 400F. Place blanched bones and any meat scraps on a large cookie sheet. Brush bones with tomato paste. Add quartered onion (with peel, this helps colour the broth) and ginger, carrot and/or celery (if using) to the tray. Roast for 30 minutes.

Once roasted, place the entire contents of the tray in your Instant Pot. Add apple cider vinegar and peppercorns. Pour in 8 cups of cold water. Pressure cook on high for 30 minutes and then let natural release for 20 minutes. Repeat twice more but let the pressure naturally release on the final cycle until the pin drops. Your final cooking time for the stock will be 90 minutes on high with 20 minutes of natural release between each cycle, plus about an hour at the end for the pressure to release naturally (about 3 hours altogether). Sounds weird, I know, but this cycling of the pressure makes a much more flavourful stock than just simply cooking for 90 minutes straight.

Strain stock pressing on solids to extract as much flavour as you can. You should get about 8 cups (7 cups after you have skimmed the fat). I sometimes put mine in the fridge overnight which makes it very easy to lift off the fat (remember to save that fat in your fridge for all your delicious frying needs!) If you had a good mix of bones and cooked it long enough you should have a wonderful jelly-like stock once it has cooled. The jelly means you have achieved greatness… give yourself a pat on the back. :)

I freeze the broth in 1 and 2 cup containers, plus one ice cube tray (throw the frozen cubes into a plastic freezer bag for easy storage). Those itty bitty broth cubes (standard size ice cub is 1 ounce or about 2 TBS) are great for recipes that call for a small amount of broth. You can also throw into stir fries, use to make pan sauces, or add to water when making rice or beans for another level of flavour. (You can even throw a cube into your dog’s water dish as a special treat… who, me?!?!)







Marinated Cheese (yes, you read that right)


Happy New Year (almost)! I have a little gift for you. Marinated cheese! Ummm, helluuuu?! MAR-I-NA-TED CHEEEEEESE! It’s like the best thing ever. Spices and aromatics steeped in silky goodness and poured over cheese? Are you with me??? YES? YAAAAAYYYYY!

You probably have the ingredients for this in your fridge right now! It takes just a couple minutes to throw together. Quick enough to include with your New Year’s appetizers tonight! Set this cheese out by itself alongside some slices of baguette, crackers or warm pita, or place on a cheese and charcuterie platter with lots of other goodies. Or, if you’re some people (ahem), it may not even make it out of the fridge before fingers are dipping into the jar. NOT ME!

Ok, me.

This is a great way to dress up inexpensive cheese. I used a plain old supermarket brand of soft goat cheese but I think almost any cheese would work. Something mild will let the marinade ingredients shine but I’m dying to try it with feta. I used canola oil as the base. You can use olive oil if you would like but I find the fruitiness of the olive oil clashes a bit with the Asian flavours here. However, you could do an olive oil marinade leaving out the Asian spices and instead add some sun-dried tomatoes to the jar. Oh oh OHHHH, and when you set it out sprinkle it with toasted pumpkin seeds!!! There you go, a new idea is born! Let me know how it turns out!

UPDATE: Sigh. Do you see what I did there??? While writing about my first batch of cheese I got all excited about doing an olive oil marinade and I just happen to have a big ol’ piece of pepper jack cheese in the fridge (mine is monterey jack with jalapeños but any pepper jack will work, or any other cubed cheese that you like), so I had to do a second batch of cheese. Yup. Sheesh. So, Part 1 and Part 2 below. You’re welcome. :)

PART 1

250 grams plain goat cheese

Marinade ingredients:
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 star anise pods
10-15 whole peppercorns
1/2 – 1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
couple thin slices of fresh ginger
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns

To finish marinade:
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp white wine vinegar


To make the marinade, add all the ingredients together in a small saucepan and bring to simmer. Turn heat down keeping a very light simmer and let cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and add in kosher salt, sugar, and white wine vinegar. Let cool.

When the marinade is cool, break up cheese into bite size pieces and put in jar with a tight-fitting lid. Pour over marinade, cap and let sit in the fridge at least a few hours or overnight, turning once or twice. Will keep for a week (or more!).

PART 2

250 grams pepper jack cheese (or try it with your favourite cheese)
small handful sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
toasted pumpkin seeds sprinkled on to finish

Marinade ingredients:
1/2 cup olive oil
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
couple pieces of thinly sliced fennel
10-15 whole peppercorns
1/2 – 1 tsp dried red pepper flakes (optional, if your cheese is already spicy like mine, you can omit this)

To finish marinade:
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 slices lemon peel (with as little pith as possible)

To make the marinade, add all the ingredients together in a small saucepan and bring to simmer. Turn heat down keeping a very light simmer and let cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and add in kosher salt, sugar, lemon peel and white wine vinegar. Let cool.

When the marinade is cool, cube cheese into bite size pieces and put in jar with a tight-fitting lid along with the sun-dried tomatoes (Ummm and wouldn’t olives be a great addition here as well???). Pour over marinade, cap and let sit in the fridge at least a few hours or overnight, turning once or twice. Will keep for a week (or more!). When you set this out a final sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds adds a very festive flair.







Quick & Dirty: Quick Pickled Beets


I made a lamb tagine for dinner last night and decided a zingy side dish would be the perfect finishing touch. Remember those beets from my garden that I have stored in my garage? Boom!… I whipped up a batch of pickled beets and I think it’s about time I share this easy, quick recipe with you. Isn’t that what “Quick & Dirty” is all about?! I know I just shared another beet recipe with you a couple weeks ago, but they’re just so darned tasty!

It’s the same marinade I use for my pickled rhubarb but with a touch less sugar. These pickled beets are a delicious side to almost any meat dish and are especially good alongside stews as a “sweet and sour” palate cleanser. They also add a nice punch tossed in almost any salad.

Cook the beets any way you like. I did mine for 15 minutes in my Instant Pot. You can steam, boil or roast yours. Let cool enough to handle, peel and then chop into bite-sized pieces and put them in a jar (I used an empty pickle jar). Heat marinade ingredients together in a small saucepan to a simmer. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Pour over beets and let sit for a couple hours. Congrats!… Pickled beets! They will keep in your fridge for at least a week or so.

1 1/2 – 2 pounds beets (about 5-6 medium-large)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 whole star anise
5 whole cloves
10 whole peppercorns
1/2 cinnamon stick
pinch of red pepper flakes
pinch of salt







Quick & Dirty: Snow Pea/Garlic Scape Pesto

I KNOW! I, too, am afeared that I am taking this whole pesto thing to extremes, but hear me out! I argue that… hmmm, well, I don’t really have an argument except if it tastes good…

AMIRIGHT?!?!

Yes, I’m right.

I planted 3 different kinds of peas this year. I never have to worry about what to do with shelling peas because, ahem, they never make it to the kitchen (they are eaten right in the garden). Snap peas, those crunchy little delights are thrown straight into salads or eaten as a raw crudité with dip! Snow peas, they are more of a conundrum for me. I love them in stir fries or fried rice but that’s more cool weather food. Snow peas have all the delicious fresh pea flavour but they are, well, floppy. How to solve the flop?… pesto those suckers!*

I added mint to the pesto because I had a minted pea soup in Paris a couple years ago that I still can’t get over, and garlic scapes instead of garlic because they are yummy and I need to use them up (as I did in my carrot top pesto). I didn’t use nuts because I forgot (something for which I am infamous… forgetting to add ingredients into dishes). Soooo, here’s my the Quick & Dirty but feel free to try a different herb, add some toasted nuts, use garlic instead of scapes. Just experiment. It’s all good.

4 ounces of snow peas (a large handful), strings removed
small handful of mint
3 garlic scapes
1-2 ounces grated Pecorino or Parmesan (to taste)
1/3rd cup good fruity olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

Blanch mint for 15 seconds (to keep the lovely green colour, otherwise your pesto will be muddy) and plunge into cold water. Blanch peas for one minute and plunge into cold water. Drain both. Roughly chop peas and garlic scapes and put in food processor, pulsing a couple times to break up. Add the rest of the ingredients and continue to pulse, then process until you get the texture you want. Taste and adjust seasoning.

I tossed my pesto with hot pasta. You could also smear it on grilled bread and top with cherry tomato, or buffalo mozzarella, or both! Use it as a base for pizza, dollop on roasted vegetables, or use instead of sour cream on a baked potato. The possibilities are endless… come join me. :)

*(If you’re an English major, yes, I know “pesto” isn’t a verb. And if you’re Italian, yes, I know I’ve completely bastardized real pesto. But the point of my website isn’t to be exactingly authentic. The point is to encourage people to cook at home and try new ideas, think outside the box with respect to food. I hope you agree with me that that’s a good thing :) ).







Quick and Dirty: Preserved Lemons (and a good tip about avocado in salad)

I love cooking most days but it takes quite a bit of extra time and effort to measure the ingredients exactly and take pictures of every step to post a recipe. And let’s be real, that is not the way most people cook anyway. Much of the time it’s throwing in a pinch of this, a bit of that, and using up the tail ends of whatever is in your fridge. So many times I have wanted to share a good dish with you but because I haven’t measured the ingredients exactly and photographed every step I am hesitant to post it as a “recipe”. So I’m starting something new… Quick and Dirty (Q&D) where I will tell you briefly about a yummy thing I’ve made and I hope to inspire you to try something similar with what you have on hand. This can mean switching out vegetables, spices, herbs, grains, and even types of meat depending on what you feel like eating and what is in your cupboards.

Oh, and I have a totally random quick tip to share with you as well! I learned a new trick from Melissa Clark, food writer for the New York Times. She says when you’re making a salad with an avocado in it, salt the avocado when it’s on the cutting board before it goes in the salad or it never gets enough salt. I, of course, don’t cut an avocado on a cutting board (does anyone??) so I just salt the top half before I scoop out the pieces with a spoon. Voila! :)

So my Q&D today isn’t even really a Quick & Dirty. See?!?! I’m already veering off course because this is not a dish but something that will make many of your dishes better! I’m talking about preserved lemons. If you haven’t tried them, you’re in for a WHAM POW treat! It’s the peel of the preserved lemon that is gold and there are so many uses for these bright, salty, flavour bombs.  Simply run a knife along the inside of the peel and remove/discard the flesh. Dice up the peel and throw it in at the end of cooking to brighten soups and stews, mix into salads (potato salad!) and sprinkle over grains (couscous with feta!), top cooked vegetables (roasted broccoli with a pinch of red pepper flakes is especially good), scatter over hummus to give it a bright salty lift, and even run a sliver of peel around the edge of a cocktail glass and use it as garnish. You could process the entire pickled lemons into a paste and keep it in the fridge to mix with mayonnaise as a dip for fish. Add a bit of olive oil to that and you have an instant salad dressing. Once you get used to using preserved lemons you will be tossing them in everything!

I prefer to use Meyer lemons for this method because they have a thinner pith but regular lemons work just fine as well. Most recipes I’ve read say these lemons will last 6 months to a year in the fridge. I made a huge jar about 3 years ago and am still eating out of it but I am down to my last couple lemons. Not much bad can grow in that salty acidic environment so don’t be afraid.

10 Whole lemons (more or less)
3/4 cup kosher salt
1 TBS granulated sugar

Trim the end of the lemon where it hung from the tree. Split each lemon lengthwise into quarters almost all the way through to the bottom. Lemon quarters should still be connected at the base. Sprinkle the inside of each lemon with 1 tsp salt. Transfer to a large bowl or container. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar to the remaining salt and sprinkle over the lemons. Cover and let sit on your counter or in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day the lemons should have released a lot of liquid. Transfer the lemons to sterilized glass jars (one large or several smaller). If you are trying to fit them into a smaller jar feel free to cut them in half. Pack the lemons in tightly and divide the liquid among the jars. You can top off the liquid if you want with extra fresh lemon juice but don’t use that stuff in a bottle unless it’s absolutely pure, fresh squeezed lemon juice and NOTHING ELSE. The liquid is supposed to cover the lemons but mine don’t always, although I turn the jar upside down for a day or so every week so everything gets a chance to ferment. Seal and store in the fridge for at least a few weeks (I think they start getting good after a couple months) and up to a year (or 3 if you’re me).

 

 

 







Confit Tomatoes

tomato confit3Winter is coming.

Sigh.

I am trying desperately to hang on to the last days of summer and preserve some of its goodness to take with me into the dreary cool days ahead. My garden is bursting with at least 5 different varieties of beautiful little tomatoes that are as sweet as candy! Sungold, Sun Sugar, Black Cherry, Sweet Baby Girls, and Indigo Rose… those are the ones I planted this year. Then there are the ones I can’t identify from last year. While we were away the tomatoes ripened, fell and rotted into the garden and magically I had about 376 (not exaggerating) “volunteers” pop up this spring. I pulled about 370 and let the remaining ones live just to see how they would do. Guess what? They did just as well as the ones I had babied from seed under grow lights since March. (I’m tempted to use this method to grow ALL of my tomatoes next year.)

Anyway, we have been eating bowlfuls of these bursts of sunshine every single night but we can’t keep up. I first tried this method of preserving tomatoes about 3 years ago and now wouldn’t do anything else. A slow roast in the oven melts those puppies into a glorious mess of sweetness and softens and mellows the garlic… mmmmmm, sorry, drooling all over my keyboard here.

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Chili Scallion ummm… Stuff (Condiment)

chili scallion oil2Remember last week when I told you about those soba noodles I made with the chili scallion oil?… No??? Hmmmm. It was very tasty. Cook soba noodles, rinse in cold water and drain, toss with soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil, throw in thinly sliced raw veggies and then top with chili scallion stuff! Mmmmmm.

The leftover chili scallion stuff has been hanging around the fridge for about a week and I’ve used it a number of times; this morning to dollop on top of a very lazy fake frittata (saute rapini and garlic, pour in lightly beaten egg, put under broiler until top is set. Ta DA!).

Ok, I’ve sort of just given you two recipes but just “sort of” because those aren’t the point… this is the point. Chili scallion stuff!

Use it as a topping for any egg dish (fried, scrambled, omelet) as I did this morning, or dollop on fried potatoes, grilled vegetables, pasta, grilled prawns or squid, stir into soup or just dip some bread into it… gosh, the possibilities are endless. The sauce has an amazing depth of flavour from the ingredients which are heated and then left to steep in the oil until they are melty and sweet. It is quite spicy so only use a little at first. If you want it less spicy, I would amp up all the other ingredients rather than reducing the red pepper flakes because, believe me, more is better and it will keep for several weeks in the fridge.

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 scallions (green onions), thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 star anise pods
1 TBS crushed red pepper flakes
1 TBS chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
1/2 tsp sugar

chili scallion oil1

Add all ingredients except sugar to small saucepan and heat over medium-high until oil just starts to simmer. Cook, swirling or stirring every minute until ingredients are just starting to caramelize (about 3-5 minutes). Remove pan from heat, stir in sugar and let steep until cool. Pour into clean glass jar with a lid. You can pull out the star anise pods at this point but I leave them and just eat around them. Store in refrigerator.

chili scallion oil3