Category Archives: Vegetables

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.

Quick Pickles

Quick-pickled cucumbers, carrots, and beets.Quick-pickling is simply cooking vegetables in vinegar, in contrast to traditional pickling methods that require fermentation or canning.  Quick pickling is generally done to small pieces of vegetable, such as sliced onion or carrot, as opposed to large pieces like whole cucumbers.  The cut vegetables, raw or par-cooked, are exposed to a hot brine of vinegar, sugar, and salt, then left to infuse for a greater or lesser amount of time depending on the vegetable and how it has been cut.  Since the vegetables have not been fermented or extensively heat-treated, the pickles are not shelf-stable and need to be stored in the fridge. The specific process changes from vegetable to vegetable, but I always use the following recipe for … Continue reading.

Sprouts for the Spring Gap

clover_sprouts.JPGMaking your own sprouts is simple business.

Frankly most sprouts aren’t too flavourful, but I think they’re good for the spring shoulder season, when we’re starting to crave fresh vegetables, but nothing has popped up in the garden yet.  When we pull out the seed box to sow the veggies that will be transplanted, we also make some clover or alfalfa sprouts.  Clover seems especially appropriate around St. Patrick’s Day.  Both are great accompaniments to the Easter ham.

How to Make Sprouts at Home, from Seeds.  You can buy or make proper “sprouting bags”.  We use one quart mason jars and cheesecloth.

  • Soak the seeds at room temperature overnight. Two tablespoons of small seeds like clover or alfalfa will
Continue reading.

Sour Cabbage Heads

A homemade sour cabbage headThis happy fellow at left is a sour cabbage head, sauerkraut in whole-cabbage form.

You can make sour cabbage heads simply by burying little cabbages throughout your sauerkraut crock after you have liberally salted and mixed your shredded cabbage.  The mass ferments together, and at the appointed time you can prod through the conventional sauerkraut til you find the whole heads of cured cabbage.  It’s rather like an Easter egg hunt only with more lactobacillus.

It didn’t cross my mind to make sour cabbage heads this season until about a month after I had started my large crock of kraut.  Lisa had bought some pretty little savoy cabbages.  I stole one.  Then I dug a deep well into the centre … Continue reading.

Braised Cabbage

Rendering lardonsBraised cabbage is wholly satisfying: warm and hearty and comforting in a way that vegetables usually only achieve in soup form.  I guess it doesn’t hurt that there’s lots of pork fat in it, but the flavour of the cabbage is the star.

With slaw and sauerkraut, braised cabbage forms what I call the trinity of cabbage preparations.  It is a cherished dish at Thanksgiving, and any wintry night.

Cook some type of fatty pork – bacon, loose sausage, and jowl all fit the bill – until it is golden brown and has rendered some golden fat into the pot.

Cook sliced onions and garlic in the pork fat until starting to turn translucent.  Add the cabbage and cook briefly, … Continue reading.

Radish Pods

I have to admit that this summer came with many, many gardening disasters.  “Gardening lessons” maybe is a better way to think of it.  There were, for instance, some hard lessons in soil fertility.

Last summer we got some trees cut down and we were left with a staggering amount of mulch, mulch that I slowly and laboriously transferred to our many garden beds.  At the time I thought that since I was adding organic matter to the beds I was improving the soil.  I planted chard, onion, kale, spinach, and potatoes in those beds, but only the potatoes became proper plants, and even then they produced small, scant tubers.

It turns out by adding all that mulch I built … Continue reading.

Slaw

Coleslaw with honey mustard dressing and caraway.Recently I was shocked to discover that many people have bad childhood memories of “creamy” coleslaw.  I was raised on chopped cabbage in mayonnaise, a creamy slaw that we called cabbage salad.  Many detest this side dish so much that they have given up slaw all together.

I’d like to vouch for a different style of coleslaw, one that has more in common with the German Krautsalat than the classic mayo-bound North American slaw.

The main difference is that it’s dressed in a vinaigrette, instead of mayonnaise or buttermilk.  But before we discuss dressing, there’s a very important technique to consider.

Lightly Curing Cabbage for Slaw

There are very few vegetables that I truly enjoy raw.  Good carrots, radishes, and … Continue reading.

Salad Days

…I was gladdened to find, at last, hard scientific evidence that lettuce is an unsuitable food and that a craving for lettuce is evidence of a diseased brain.

-from Jeffrey Steingarten’s essay Brain Storm

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

-Ecclesiastes 3:1

 

Blushed butter oak lettuceFor many chefs there is a discrepancy between what they want to serve and what will please their customers.  As a chef I want to take seasonality seriously, but in most restaurants the owners and clientele find it unacceptable to not offer a green salad, even in the dead of winter.  I deeply resent this.

Don’t misunderstand me: I like green salads.  They’re refreshing. Personally, I like … Continue reading.

How to Eat a Triffid

I love creating plates that feature different components of the same ingredient: roasted beets with wilted beet greens, for instance, or pork loin and pork belly side by side.  The truth is that no creature is capable of offering more variety at the dinner table than the triffid.

About Triffids

Triffids are interesting creatures.  They are genetic hybrids, part animal, part plant.  The precise intentions behind their development is uncertain, but researchers soon discovered that their oil is extremely useful and relatively cheap.  Triffid oil has many industrial applications.  It is also edible, and delicious.

As they are part animal and part plant, we can harvest a shockingly diverse set of food from triffids.  Let’s talk anatomy.

The “Animal” BitsContinue reading.

Relish – The Post-Pickle Blitz

Chopped vegetables, for piccalilliThe following post is either going to blow your mind or convince you that I’m stupid.

I don’t eat a lot of relish, but every now and then it goes well with charcuterie, or maybe a steamed wiener on a sweet white bun.  For the past few years I’ve been trying to make relish and other condiments like piccalilli by chopping up a bunch of vegetables and canning them with a sweet and sour pickling liquid.  I haven’t been entirely happy with the results.  Maybe I chopped the cucumbers too coarsely, and the condiment didn’t have the semi-fluid, spreadable consistency I was looking for.  Or perhaps, since the chopped vegetables have to be completely submerged in the pickling liquid for … Continue reading.