Category Archives: General

Citrus Juicer

Juicing limes to make a cocktail called The Last WordThis is my citrus juicer.

It belonged to my grandma Suddaby.

It’s made of something called Depression glass, a tinted, translucent glass that was manufactured from (roughly) the 1920s to 1940s, hence the name.  It came in several colours, but most commonly funky neon green, or pastel pinkish orange.  Those are terrible colour descriptions, but that’s why I cook for a living instead of naming new shades of paint.  I imagine these colours were hyper-modern in the 1930s, though I have no source to confirm or deny this.  Depression glass was mass-produced and most often distributed as a free gift for people buying groceries or attending a show.  In other words it was Depression-era swag.  I asked my parents if … Continue reading.

Because Flavour Dynamics

Background:  I work for Elm Café.  We make sandwiches (herein referred to as “sammiches”).  Today we made one that I was particularly excited about, so on my personal Twitter account @allansuddaby I tweeted: “Just sampled an @elmcafe sammich: beef shortrib, Brie, port-soaked plums, rutabaga, red wine reduction. Will cure what ails you.”  National Post columnist and local wit Colby Cosh responded: “Sounds like the Incredibly Random Sandwich Generator came up with a winner!” at which I literally lol’d.  Then it dawned on me that the ingredients in this sandwich are emphatically not random.  I thought it would be interesting to explain why they make a great sandwich.

 

Because Flavour Dynamics: The Sammich Apologist

The sandwich in question is Continue reading.

Drying Herbs

A basket of dried herbs“Fresh is best.”

Armed with this maxim many chefs spurn dried herbs.  I’d like to go to bat for dried herbs.  Not the dried herbs that have been in your pantry since Harper took office, and certainly not the dried powdered herbs you buy in one pound bags from a bulk store, but the dried herbs that you make from the plethora of fresh herbs you have languishing in your autumn backyard.

I take for granted that you have a plethora of fresh herbs languishing in your autumn backyard.

You should, because it’s important to use lots of herbs in cooking, and paying $4 for a 28 g packet at the grocery store is crazy.  You can buy an entire … Continue reading.

On Cooking Resinous Herbs

Last night I ate out at an Italian restaurant, one of them new-fangled Italian joints that have hardly any tomato sauce on the menu, and nary a checkered table-cloth or plastic grape vine in sight.  I had a bowl of squash tortelloni with brown butter and sage, a classic dish from the hallowed kitchens of Emilia-Romagna.  The sage was raw.

People usually freak out over raw chicken, not raw herbs, but eating those fuzzy, grey, acrid sage leaves was at least as unpleasant as contracting salmonella.

Chefs distinguish between fine herbs and resinous herbs.  Fine herbs are delicate and usually eaten raw.  Examples are basil, parsley, chervil, and tarragon.  Resinous herbs are more robust and are usually cooked.  Examples are … Continue reading.

Herb Oil

Tarragon oil floating on pear and parsnip soupHerb oil is a powerful tool to have in your culinary belt.

It is a fantastic way to preserve a glut of herbs, especially a glut of herbs that are past their prime, for instance basil that is starting to get moist and speckled.  This less-than-attractive basil still has loads of flavour.  And parts of the herb that are usually discarded, say the thick, woody stem of a basil plant, are also full of flavour, and make great herb oil.  Herb oil keeps for weeks in the fridge and months in the freezer, and if made properly it is a stunning, concentrated, lustrous, fluid version of the plant it is made from.

My herb oil process is ripped directly from … Continue reading.

Stewed Rhubarb

A ham sandwich with stewed rhubarbAt home I call this preparation stewed rhubarb, a name that has all the sex appeal of a cactus.  At work I call it rhubarb compote or jam to trick other people into eating it.  It’s not a compote because there aren’t any large pieces of fruit.  It’s not really a jam either, because it hasn’t been set with pectin.  It’s just stewed rhubarb.

Stewed rhubarb is rhubarb cooked with sugar.  It’s a preparation so basic that it doesn’t need a recipe, though as a ballpark ratio you can start with 2 parts chopped fresh rhubarb and 1 part white sugar by volume.

Cook this mixture over medium-high heat.  Soon liquid will pool on the bottom of the pan.  With … Continue reading.

Making Soap with Lard

Homemade soap in a mold.If you had told me five years ago that one day I would make soap I would have scoffed with self-righteous indignation.  Being a very serious chef and a bit of a dink I eschewed the “arts and crafts” that took precious space away from food at the farmers’ market.  I don’t feel that way anymore: I appreciate the pottery and the quilts and the pysanka, and even the beeswax candles.

For the past few years I have been rendering lard from sides of pork.  Now, I think I eat more lard than most: I use it in pie dough, I make spreads like Grammelschmalz and Schmalzfleisch, and use it as an everyday cooking fat.  Even so, I can’t … Continue reading.

Roast Pumpkin Seeds

A lil' bowl of roasted pumpkin seedsRoast pumpkinseeds are a very rustic North American snack.  While pumpkin seeds are relished in several far flung parts of the world, including central America (pepitas) and Austria (kurbiskern), I think ours is the only civilization that eats pumpkinseeds in their shell.  Pumpkinseed shells are woody.  Frankly they are just barely edible, and certainly not digestible.

But I do like them.  Lengthy chewing promotes contemplation.  Rumination, even.

And though you can eat pumpkins throughout the fall and winter and into early spring, growing up I only ever ate roast pumpkin seeds at Hallowe’en.

A nifty trick for separating the seeds from the stringy pumpkin guts: throw the whole mess in a large pot of water.  If … Continue reading.

Vermicomposting

This is a guest post by the Button Soup Sr. Backyard Correspondent Lisa A. Zieminek.

 

My name is Lisa.  You might remember me from such posts as “Candied Lilac” and “What to do when your boyfriend hides food experiments all over the basement” (link not available).  Today I’m here to talk to you about worms – not the kind that you get from eating street food in Thailand; the kind you use for composting. That’s right, we’re going to talk about vermicomposting.

Vermicomposting is a fancy name for putting worms in a bin and letting them eat your food scraps.  It’s a great option for people who live in apartments or don’t have space for an outdoor … Continue reading.

Herb Vinegar

Resinous herbs can easily handle lights frosts, so this time of year we still have a good deal of thyme, rosemary, and other robust herbs in the garden.  Thankfully there is an entire repertoire of methods to preserve them before the snow falls.  You can collect them in large bouquets and hang them in your kitchen to dry, for instance.  Or make salted herbs.  Or pack them into a jar and pour vinegar over them.  This past week I racked a couple gallons of cider vinegar from a healthy vinegar crock, so herb vinegar seemed the best way to save our thyme.

The aromatic components of herbs are called essential oils.  They more closely resemble fats, ethanol, and … Continue reading.