Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Abundant August

August is almost over but this week seems to be the peak time for harvesting of all the fruits and vegetables that have been cultivating beautifully over the perfect summer we have been having in North Van. My own vegetable patch that I planted at the end of June has been producing lots of lettuces, one (perfect) strawberry and some amazing fragrant basil to date. Today's inspection noted the following:
-many lettuces still going strong and growing scarily large considering all they have had is water and no pesticides or fertilizer
-Several green strawberries and one turning red
-loads of deliciously fragrant basil
-carrots growing well but still tiny
-zucchini flowers and some small zucchini (I planted them late from seed direct in the soil)
-spinach growing well but being crowded by cucumber plants which are growing a lot bigger than I expected
-4-5 medium sizes tomatoes, still green but heavy and weighing down the plants

I am mightily impressed seeing as it really has required very little work to produce all this lovely fresh produce and it will supplement my supermarket runs for at least another month.
Seems everyone else's gardens are also peaking this week too. When I got to work on Monday, I was presented with fresh cherries from a co-workers cherry farm (the full to the brim box of deep ruby fruit looked like a chest of jewels), fresh zucchini and grape tomatoes from another co-workers garden, glorious figs from an unknown source (they were on the staff room table with a note saying "eat me"), and then a 5lb box of blueberries from a regular patron of the gym. Quite an impressive haul before it hit lunchtime!so nice of everyone to be so generous with their growings... thank you all!
I'm taking in some fresh basil tomorrow for a patron of the gym that I was chatting with on Tuesday. She was detailing her recipe for Italian meat sauce and I was salivating at the thought of it although the weather is still too fantastically warm to contemplate cooking anything rich and intense like this dish. I told her I had lots of fresh basil and would bring her some in. I really love sharing my crop too and am always keen to hear how people will use it.
I'm afraid I have no new recipes to add as I have basically spent summer "assembling" rather than cooking and anything I have cooked is either already detailed in the blog or is a variation of that. However, I'm itching to try some new recipes once this hectic week is over and have a few things in mind, ideally using my homegrown goodies and those of anyone else I have the good fortune of sampling.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

New Noshings

This post will consist of several random updates, mainly because my cooking/eating has been very random lately, not always a good thing! The past few days I've been working to reconnect with my fridge, kitchen and making meals that take preparation rather than assembly. I enjoy my meals so much more when I've had to do some work to make it. This is why I love making risotto. It's one of my favourite dishes to make because you have to be with it, right in it, from start to end. I also love chopping foods in preparation, but apparently not everyone else does. I find it very interesting to learn about other peoples connections to the food they eat. I should write a blog on that sometime.

So despite the chaotic schedule and hectic-ness that is my life for the past 6 weeks, I have managed to try out some new techniques with some foods that I would love to share with you.
Firstly, you may be able to tell from my previous posts that I LOVE avocado. Well, I should clarify, I love perfectly ripe avocados. Anything less that perfectly ripe will promptly be spat out in disgust. I eat avocado every day, usually in one of the following forms:
1) avocado sushi roll
2) in it's natural state in pretty much any salad I prepare
3) guacamole
4) avocado chocolate pudding.Click Here for recipe link
I now have a new method of preparation to add which I saw on another food blog "Diet, Dessert and Dogs". It's very in-depth blog with many raw, vegan and allergen free recipes. I lazily scrolled though, mainly drawn in by the photos which are of far superior quality to mine and each one reminded me how I really should get on and learn some decent photography skills and purchase a camera to go along with them. One particular photo caught my eye, the familiar and mesmerizing pale green flesh of a perfectly ripe avocado.Click here to go straight to the post. But wait! There was a difference! The soft, rich flesh was criss-crossed with grill marks! I have never heard of or tried grilled avocado but I knew right away, it would change my life forever! So far, I have grilled some avocado and spread it on rice cakes which was good but I want to add some other layers of flavour to this very basic snack. It definitely needs to evolve a lot more and I think it could go both sweet or savory. The other version was just putting it in to a salad while it was still warm. It does get a bit mushier but the flavour and texture and quite different to cold or room temperature avocado, in a good way! Grilling brings out the buttery taste more, makes it melt in your mouth more and creates another level of flavour that is nuttier.
Another update is on steak preparation and cooking. A co-worker, Mr N, and I, amongst other topics, discuss food. This is a common theme with pretty much all my friends and co-workers....and pretty much anyone else too. I was telling him that I had bought some steak for my dinner that night and he told me he used to work in a butchers shop and as a result got a lot of free meat and over time, honed his steak preparation to perfection. Luckily for me and my steak, he was willing to share his patiently learned technique with me. Firstly, he said, you must bring the steak up to room temperature. It's essential. If you don't have time for it to warm, place it in a ziploc bag and put in a bowl of warm water. He then suggested melting some butter and brushing it over both sides of the steak and then seasoning with salt and pepper. You can kill 2 birds with one stone and put some butter in the ziploc bag and it will melt due to the warm water. Finally, before cooking, you must have a decent pan ( I have a heavy based frying pan which is perfect for steak) and it must be hot! finally once cooked to desired degree, for me this is medium rare, you must let the meat rest for a few minutes. I've been letting meat rest for a few years now and it absolutely makes a difference with the taste. I followed Mr N's instructions perfectly with my ribeye steak and it was good.Actually, it was REALLY good. This may just be my technique of choice from now on. Or until someone else tells me another cool technique I am inspired to try.
I had bought enough steak for 2 portions with the plan to have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. I had to resist very hard, the urge to eat both portions right then and there. Always a sign of a well cooked meal. Or maybe just a very hungry girl.
My final update is to tell you that I am currently working on formulating my own personal foodie philosophy. I'm brainstorming at the moment and in the early stages of just throwing around key words and concepts and as it mulls in my brain daily, I will start to put it together in a series of sentences or bullet points. The key words right now are:
Whole, balanced, natural, flavour, nourishment, nutritious, taste, energy, recovery, slow, conscious, green,variety, local.....the list goes on.
It's pretty raw (haha) right now and will be more specific around certain foods as it evolves. It will have elements of organic eating, the Thrive diet, some raw eating, elements of veganism and vegetarianism but I will still eat meat and fish as I feel my body needs that at this moment in my life. I have contemplated and even attempted vegetarianism before but 100% compliance is not a choice I'm making right now although I do want to eat more vegetarian/vegan and make ethical food choices in general. I understand that my philosophy will and should evolve as I personally evolve and I learn more about the world of food. I'm very open to hearing and learning about other people's food philosophies too so please feel free to share with me if you want!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Camping Creations

Earlier in July, I had the extreme pleasure of going camping with one of my fave peeps and a fellow foodie, Ms. P. The weather was perfect and we spent Friday gathering our gear and getting ready while also squeezing in time for a quick look around a clothing store. Just as we set off I decided I needed a green tea for the road as I was driving and was quite tired so we nipped into Bean Around the World at Westview and I ordered my tea. It was a hot day so I asked for unsweetened ice tea. Apparently this is not easy to get hold of! lots of coffee shops have sweetened ice tea ready to go but unsweetened is clearly not popular so most places look at me quite blankly when I ask. This particular barista was especially perplexed so I explained I would like her to make the green tea as usual with hot water, let it steep for a bit and then add some ice. Some places make the tea with cold water and then add ice, resulting in tea that actually has less taste than plain water. After the explanation I was hopeful until no less than 30 seconds later, a cup with cold water and ice in it was handed to me...oh well, I'll just have to deal with it! So while I attempted to let my tea steep, Ms P and I sat reading the paper when the barista called out "anyone want a free Americano?" there was only one other person in the store, clearly she had messed up that order too! So Ms P was in luck and walked out with a large free coffee...the weekend was off to a great start!
Food wise, we decided that Bratwurst hotdogs were the order of the day. We stopped in Squamish to get supplies and hit the store at the perfect time as there were lots of samples. We chose out Bratwursts and picked up onions, buns as well as marshmallows for dessert. I have a bit of an onion specialty dish that I discovered during a previous camping trip and now it's impossible not to have them when I camp. I slice the onions very thin and put them in the pan with some olive oil. You can also add honey or balsamic vinegar if you like. Then slow cook the onions over the fire for about an hour until they caramelise. I leave the lid on the whole time and stir them occasionally. Taste them regularly until they have sweetened and softened enough. Add to perfectly charred hot dog...YUM!
The trip resulted in another creation too. We had a mango leftover from the salad earlier and so I cut it into chunks, added a bit of honey then wrapped it in foil and placed on the fire to heat and caramelise. Once the mango had caramelised, I added some marshmallows on top, re-wrapped and put in back on the fire for a minute or so to melt them. We weren't quite sure what to expect when we opened the package....dessert heaven or a complete waste of perfectly good marshmallows? We opened it up and the marshmallows had melted about 90% so had a perfect gooey texture. We literally dug in right away (with our camping sporks!)and O M G it was the best camping dessert ever! It quickly was devoured and conversation flowed about what other combos this style could work for...banana is the fruit of choice on the next trip...I can hardly wait!