Eat My Cake

Ramblings and musings on foodstuff and life

Monday, November 06, 2006

The new store in town

We've been hearing rumours of a new grocery store in town for weeks now: a brand-spanking-new, 24-hour A&P. I've been threatening to switch allegiances for some time since the store located a couple minutes away from my house has disappointed me time and again with their lack of fresh produce and general inventory. Finally last night, my husband and I decided to stop in on our way home from dinner at my folks' for the week's lunch stuff. We should have known it wouldn't have been a quick trip.

Aisles and aisles of perfectly-shelved items, rows and rows of gorgeously fresh and varied vegetables. A bakery to die for, with a self-serve bread slicer with which you can choose your desired thickness of slice! You get to pick between thin, medium, thick, thicker, and thickest!

The trip aside though, I started thinking how funny it is how accustomed you become to your regular store; I shop regularly at 1-2 stores and know the brands and layout like the back of my hand. In fact, I write my grocery list by aisle. So it was a bit like being in a foreign country where the labels and food are familiar, but it still takes you a while to absorb all the items you're not used to seeing.

I hope I'm not in the minority here, but surprisingly, expecting a well-stocked market with plenty of brands and qualities to choose from at a store that charges more than your average market, is too much to ask for in my neck of the woods. I'm afraid I've become infamous, bitching to neighbours and staff and customers in-store when I go to buy a basic item like jalapeno peppers and there are none in sight. I usually get an odd look, then maybe a half-hearted acknowledgement that perhaps they've had difficulty finding something themselves on occasion, yet I think my overzealousness on the topic startles some.

Oh well. I'm just happy I have a place to depend on when I need dried lobster mushrooms, kohlrabi, and more than one brand of soy sauce... and HAVE IT GUARANTEED TO BE IN STOCK!

Did I mention the A&P was in a new plaza that also houses my town's FIRST Starbucks? My Saturday afternoon shopping cycle is now complete!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

What to Expect When You're Expecting Dinner

I thought this was oh-so fitting and so very true!!
-b

From Sept 13 New York Times

What to Expect When You’re Expecting Dinner
By NORA EPHRON

WE would like a bottle of Pellegrino. The waiter brings the Pellegrino. There are four of us at the table. The waiter brings glasses for the Pellegrino. The glasses happen to be extremely tall. Tall glasses are not necessarily the best glasses for Pellegrino, but before I can say a word on this profound subject, the waiter pours the Pellegrino into the tall glasses.
When the waiter is done pouring, there’s a tiny amount of Pellegrino left in the bottle. My husband takes a sip of his Pellegrino, and the waiter is back, in a flash, with the last drops of our Pellegrino. He tops off my husband’s drink.
The first bottle of Pellegrino is now gone. We’ve been at the table for exactly three minutes and somehow we’ve managed to empty an entire bottle of Pellegrino.
“Would you like another bottle of Pellegrino?’’ the waiter says.
I haven’t even had any of this one!
I don’t actually say these words.

I love salt. I absolutely adore it. Occasionally I eat at a place where (in my opinion) the food doesn’t need more salt, but it’s rare.
Many years ago, they used to put salt and pepper on the table in a restaurant, and here’s how they did it: there was a salt shaker and there was a pepper shaker. The pepper shaker contained ground black pepper, which was outlawed in the 1960’s and replaced by the Permanent Floating Pepper Mill and the Permanent Floating Pepper Mill refrain: “Would you like some fresh ground black pepper on your salad?” I’ve noticed that almost no one wants some fresh ground black pepper on his salad. Why they even bother asking is a mystery to me.
But I wasn’t talking about pepper, I was talking about salt. And as I was saying, there always used to be salt on the table. Now, half the time, there’s none. The reason there’s no salt is that the chef is forcefully trying to convey that the food has already been properly seasoned and therefore doesn’t need more salt. I resent this deeply. I resent that asking for salt makes me seem aggressive toward the chef, when in fact it’s the other way around.
As for the other half of the time — when there is salt on the table — it’s not what I consider salt. It’s what’s known as sea salt. (Sea salt used to be known as kosher salt, but that’s not an upscale enough name for it any more.) Sea salt comes in an itty-bitty dish with an itty-bitty spoon. You always spill it trying to move it from the dish to the food on your plate, but that’s the least of it: it doesn’t really function as salt. It doesn’t dissolve and make your food taste saltier; instead, it sits like little hard pebbles on top of it. Also, it scratches your tongue.

“Is everything all right?”
The main course has been served, and the waiter has just asked us this question. I’ve had exactly one bite of my main course, which is just enough for me to remember that, as usual, the main course always disappoints. I am beginning to wonder whether this is a metaphor, and if so, whether it’s worth dwelling on. Now, suddenly the waiter has appeared, pepper mill in one hand, Pellegrino in the other, and interrupted an extremely good story right before the punch line to ask if everything is all right.
The answer is no, it’s not.
Actually the answer is No, it’s not! You ruined the punch line! Go away!
I don’t say this either.

We have ordered dessert. They are giving us dessert spoons. Dessert spoons are large, oval-shaped spoons. They are so large that you could go for a swim in them. I’m not one of those people who like to blame the French for things, especially now that the French turned out to be so very very right about Iraq, but there’s no question this trend began in France, where they’ve always had a weakness for dessert spoons.
One of the greatest things about this land of ours, as far as I’m concerned, is that we never fell into the dessert-spoon trap. If you needed a spoon for dessert, you were given a teaspoon. But those days are over, and it’s a shame.
Here’s the thing about dessert — you want it to last. You want to savor it. Dessert is so delicious. It’s so sweet. It’s so bad for you so much of the time. And as with all bad things, you want it to last as long as possible. But you can’t make it last if they give you a great big spoon to eat it with. You’ll gobble up your dessert in two big gulps. Then it will be gone. And the meal will be over.
Why don’t they get this? It’s so obvious. It’s so obvious.

Nora Ephron is the author, most recently, of “I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts About Being a Woman.’’

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Pink is the new soup

I feel horribly lame for not writing all summer when cooking is at its peak! I've been doing a lot of it in recent weeks, esp. with all the organic produce we've been getting in our weekly food box. Stuff I might have heard of but certainly never cooked before. My ultimate new obsession: beets! Who knew how spectacularly wonderful they can be when they're not all pickled and preserved (although I love those too)!

I've been mainly boiling them in a touch of vinegar (sans - gasp!- skin! I know! They lose their glorious colour! I've learned!), then tossing them with butter, red wine vinegar and salt. Simple! Delicious! I've also been lucky to get the beets with their leaves - a rarity if bought in the grocery store, and have been sauteeing those with some olive oil, garlic and soya sauce. The leaves have a wonderously green, ever-so-slightly bitter-ish taste - you can taste it, is what I'm saying. Normally I mix them with other greens I'm also getting, like kale, swiss chard and collard greens. Yum!

But I'm getting off track. As I mentioned in my last post, I decided to switch it up a bit and try out a lovely-looking Nigella recipe found in my favourite cookbook Forver Summer, something she calls "Spiced Pink Soup". And indeed with a shade like that, it makes one happy just looking at it, although I begrudgingly had to admit to my husband that even I could not eat too much of it and retain my happiness. Maybe because of mediocre chicken stock?

So after roasting the beets in the oven for, like 200 hours (OK, 2.5) IN THE SKIN, came the fun part of peeling off the skin. Don't do this without gloves if you don't feel like explaing to everyone you meet for the next day or so why your fingers are tinged a deep burgundy. (I, personally, do not mind).

I post the recipe here, although I do warn you that edits might need to be made. #1 of which, if you're stock-fussy like I am, don't use the tinned stuff! I have a perfectly good homemade batch in my freezer that for some reason I didn't utilize.

And although it sounds complicated, it's really not. Roasting beets takes hardly any effort, and the rest you blitz in the food processor. Then you cool and serve it in a lovely clear pitcher so everyone can admire your handiwork!

Spiced Pink Soup

Ingredients

3 medium raw beets
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
7 cups heated chicekn or vegetable stock
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 scallions, halved lengthwise
1 cup + 2 tbsp sour cream

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400F. Wrap each beet in foil and bake for 1.5 to 2 hours. Unwrap and peel once cool to touch. The skins come off easily at this point. Cut into chunks, if needed, and put them in the food processor with the juice of the lime, the cumin and coriander. Blitz to a pulp while adding stock down the funnel. Careful - this will probably splash and stain.

Taste for salt and pepper and pour into a large pitcher. Add halved scallions, cover with plastic wrap, and put in fridge to cool. (Can stay in fridge for up to 3 days).

Just before serving, remove the scallions, and, for a creamy base, blitz again while adding the sour cream, 3/4 cup first, then to taste. Pour back into the pitcher, then serve in teacups or bowls.

Serves 6-8.

Eating like a single person

So tonight's my night to cook without worrying abut the husband's persnickety palette... usually happens once a week when he works late, but normally I stick with left-overs. When I got home tonight, I didn't particularly feel like the mediocre beet (pink!) soup I made the day before, and we'd grilled burgers two night in a row, thanks to the over-sized pack of hamburger buns we felt we should use up. I was feeling something meat-free.

I looked around my kitchen...and saw tomatoes everywhere! My 8 tomato plants out back are certainly keeping me in stock, plus I'm getting the most delicious heirlooms from the CSA box. I had some just-picked organic garlic and decided to go with my favorite "me" meal...spagetti with olive oil, chili flakes and garlic (tomatoes are only occasionally thrown into the mix). My basil and parsley plants got some use here too, as did some feta and pecorino romano cheeses I had in the fridge. Thus I present! A fabulous, late summer meal, made with the simplest of ingredients that let each flavour shine through in all their delicious glory!

Spagetti flecked with garlic, chili flakes & cherry tomatoes

Ingredients

Handful of spagetti

3 tbsp EVOO
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp (or to taste) dried chile flakes
24 cherry tomatoes, halved
Fresh basil, chopped
Fresh parsley, chopped
3 tbsp feta, crushed
Romano pecorino cheese (to taste)

Some direction

Salt and boil the water - cook spagetti.

When spagetti is a few minutes away from being done, heat olive oil, garlic and chile in small pan, stirring to prevent garlic from burning, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, stir to coat.

Reserve 1 tbsp spagetti water; drain the rest. Put cooked spagetti back in pot.

Toss with oil and tomato mixture; stir in reserved water, feta and herbs. Top with percorino romano and pepper, if desired, and serve!

I've made this in the dead of winter without tomatoes, when nary a decent-tasting tomato can be found. You could use canned, diced tomatoes, but it's tasty without them too!

Serves 2 (or 1 gluttonous single person)

Inspired by a recipe by my favorite cookbook author Nigella Lawson

Thursday, June 22, 2006

My Summer of Organic Bounty

Fresh, seasonal fruits and veggies at the grocery store and farmers' stands is a sure sign that Ontario's growing season is offically here. Yesterday marked the summer solstice, also known as the longest day of the year, and today I picked up my first box of locally-grown, organic produce from a local CSA that we're supporting throughout this year's growing season.

In addition to encouraging people to buy local, CSA, or Community Shared Agriculture, is a fantastic way to get back to basics with your food. Consumers essentially buy shares in local farms that ensure they receive a regular bounty of fresh crops on par with the growing season. It ensures you a direct connection with the farmer and the food source; you know exactly where your food is coming from.

I signed up for a partial share, which is enough to last a family of two for the week. I'll be posting my weekly food box contents and recipes on a regular basis. I'm told the box gets fuller as the season progresses!

Here's what was in my box this week.
  • Mixed lettuce
  • Mizuna
  • Mibuna (what is this??)
  • Burgundy mustard greens
  • Swiss chard
  • Beet greens
  • Pak choi
  • Peas
  • Radish
  • Dill
  • Nettle (stinging)!
  • Garlic scapes
  • Lovage
  • Tarragon
  • Italian parsley
  • Mint

Of course if it's a particularly bad season, you also share the downfall, a risk we were willing to take if it meant a pretty good chance of fresh produce all season long! Lately I've been having some major issues with my grocery store's wilted, exported produce...sometimes I wonder if it's where I shop.

I must admit, Brian and I had to get out the old trusty laptop to tell us what some of this stuff was. Lovage, mizuna/mibuna, etc. We finally identified everything, read about the best ways to cook them, and got to work. I decided to steam some of the greens with a bit of garlic, tamari and a spritz of lemon; the salad consisted of mixed greens, mizuna/mibuna (common in mesclun mix), and my new favorite - garlic scapes, which definitely took some time identifying - long, curly and crunchy - the taste was unlike anything I'd ever had.. like a cross between the freshest garlic and chives. Finally I decided to boil the beet greens by themselves when I read about how tasty they were on their own, then sauted them with olive oil, garlic and lemon. A pretty spectaculour summer meal, from ingredients picked no more than 5 km of my house and no less than the day before.


Mixed greens

You can use any kind of greens; I've made this with kale and bok choi with tasty results.


Mixed Greens with Tamari and Lemon


1/2 lb greens, such as:
Mustard greens
Swiss chard
Pak choi
Radish greens

1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp chicken broth (or more to taste)
1 tsp tamari or soya sauce
Lemon juice to taste

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in wok over medium heat. Add crushed garlic, saute for 1 minute. Add greens, cover and saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chicken broth, cook, covered, for 4 minutes or until broth is absorbed. Add tamari and lemon and stir over heat until evenly distributed. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper before serving.

Bon appetit!

Garlic scapes

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Starbucks, you pain my heart!

UPDATE: 1:22 p.m.
So after writing this, I made the trek across the street to see what was up. Apparently the girl who was supposed to open up had slept in. Like 3 hours?! When I mentioned the sheer pandemonium that had gone on outside the locked doors, the cashier/guy/barista shrugged and added that she was in love; what else could they do. In my zombie state, what can I do but be amused? I am sipping my very hot, very black Americano, and slowly I feel the life-blood coming back to my veins.
P.S. After re-reading my earlier post, I realize that there are parts of is that may be misconstrued and sound perverted. This was not my intention; it was written in sheer innocence. But I cannot help but wonder what my subconscious was thinking of as I wrote it. You'll see.

-------------------------------
I'm really tired today. I had a hard time sleeping last night for some reason. I tried napping on the train, but even that was difficult! And to top it off, the Starbucks I go to every morning was CLOSED when I got there. It was 9 a.m. and the doors were locked! I have never seen such a thing in all my life! I was stunned; me and another decaffeinated patron waiting for me to open the door could do nothing but stare at one another in stupified bewilderment for about 10 seconds, before I walked off in search of a decent brew.

I sadly cannot function without a Grande Americano in the morning, even though I have finished my Breakfast Blend, brewed at home, an hour before. I think the BB just lubricates my throat for something real. Something black, and strong, and so perfectly exquisite. And so I was forced to get my Americano at the crappily-run Second Cup in my building, made by students who haven't the foggiest idea of what to do with an espresso machine.

Last week, I had a "Black Apron" Coffee Master expertly preparing my Americano (she is nowhere to be seen this week -I think they just brought her in to show current average Green Apron basistas a thing or two... Not that I'm dissing the green aprons!); this week, it seems, they have gone to shit.

Parsnip thief alert

What the...?? I am speechless and saddened.

From wasted blog

Parsnips Dug Up And Stolen From Concord Farm
(CBS4) CONCORD Concord police are investigating the theft of two hundred pounds of parsnips from a non-profit farm.

Farmers from Gaining Ground, a nonprofit organic farming group, told the Concord Journal the vegetables were dug up and hauled off their property.

The quantity and the methodic way in which the carrot-like vegetables were dug up, led farmers to believe this was not the work of any creatures.

"To take every one of them and without asking, we were more than a little heartbroken," farm coordinator Verena Wieloch told the Journal.

Concord police Lt. Paul Macone said no arrests had been made, but that the matter was still under investigation.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Grow your own meat!

How sick does this sound?
-b


Scientists forecast meat grown on kitchen counter
Last Updated Mon, 27 Mar 2006 14:06:12 EST
CBC News

Scientists are trying to develop an industrial process that grows meat tissue from a few cells in a lab – or even at home, in a device like a bread maker.

Instead of being cut from a farm animal, the beef, pork or chicken would be grown in incubators from a few starter cells, a growth medium and some hormones to get the cells to divide.
The first attempts by scientists who grow animal muscle tissue in the lab have been small in scale. But researchers are looking forward to the day when meat could be cultivated in industrial bioreactors or even in a device sitting on a kitchen counter.

"Right now, the scale that's being used in the research is about one-half of a litre for ... the incubator the muscle is grown in," said University of Maryland researcher Jason Matheny.

Lab-grown meat could have less fat, diseases
He said a device similar to a bread maker could one day be used to manufacture meat in the home.

Matheny said muscle produced in an incubator could have reduced fat content, and the process would do away with problems such as bacterial contamination and mad cow disease.

While he hasn't tasted engineered meat himself, Matheny said others have.

"It has the taste and texture resembling the ground meat products that are already available," such as hamburger or chicken nuggets, he said.

"Producing a steak or ... a whole chicken breast is a much more difficult task, technically," said Matheny.

Grown frog muscle tasted like jelly, scientists say.

Researchers in the Netherlands have grown mouse meat and are now working on pork. Australian scientists served grown frog muscle tissue with apple brandy sauce at an exhibition in France in 2003. They said the meat tasted like jelly on cloth.

American researchers, funded by NASA, grew goldfish meat in 2001 as part of an experiment to see if fish could be grown to feed astronauts on long space missions.

While the idea of growing meat for space travel is fairly common in science fiction novels, NASA has since pulled funding for lab-grown meat.

Vladimir Mironov, a tissue engineer at the Medical University of South Carolina, said NASA's decision cut off an important source of funding for his work.

Mironov said producing cultivated meat could be difficult to achieve and expensive in the short term. People would have to pay more for cultured meat than for the genuine article.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Finger-Licking Disturbing

Weird news from the U.K., and disturbing on so many levels. How entrepreneurial of him to write a cookbook! Will definitely be on the lookout for it at my local bookstore.


It's Finger-Licking Good!
Sky News
Tuesday January 31, 2006


Hedgehog carbonara, badger sandwiches and even labrador are meat and drink for Arthur Boyt.

The retired civil servant from Cornwall has spent a lifetime eating roadkill animals.

He is so keen to share his enthusiam for the delights of weasel, fox, sparrow and - more conventionally - pigeon and deer, that he has written a cookbook.

Mr Boyt, 66, says his recipes are perfectly safe as long as the creatures are skinned and cooked properly and he has never been ill.

"It's good meat for free and I know nobody has been messing with it and feeding it hormones," he insists.

"It adds to the pleasure of a meal to know I haven't paid for it."

Mr Boyt says he can use virtually all of any whole animal he finds in the countryside near his Davidstow home.

Most go into casseroles which cook for a long time and tenderises the meat.

As for the labrador - it was said to taste like lamb.

The dog had no collar or identification so Mr Boyt could not trace the owners.

So he ate it.