Category Archives: Vegetables

Chives

Chives emerging in early spring.Chives are prized for their pure allium flavour, blessedly devoid of the harsh burn of raw onion.

Here are some other awesome things about chives.

They are hearty perennials, which means they re-appear every spring and require very little attention.  In fact, they grow as weeds in many parts of Edmonton, including downtown parking lots.  I don’t mean that you should harvest them from downtown parking lots; I just offer that as evidence of their gumption.

They are one of the first edibles to appear in spring.  This year the spring thaw came early, and my chives were a few inches tall by the end of March.  It was seeing this enterprising green growth that inspired me to … Continue reading.

Introduction to Soup

Split-pea soup with ham hock and crème fraîcheThere is something medieval about soup.  It is often made from bones.  It takes time to prepare, and to eat.  Soup is slow and simple and primordial and the opposite of modern.

I consider the promulgation of soup a personal mission.  Most of the formal meals that I prepare for friends or at work include a soup course.  Burns supper, for instance, begins with Scotch broth, Thanksgiving with squash soup, Viennese dinners with pancake soup.

Types of Soup

This is the kind of rant I usually relegate to the footnotes of a post, but I want to talk about soup classification.  In culinary school our standard text was called Professional Cooking for Canadian Chefs (PCCC).  I learned a lot from … 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.

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.