Originally published August 17, 2011.
If any food can be described as ephemeral, it’s squash blossoms. They’re only around for a short while, and once picked they deteriorate rapidly, which is why you usually can’t get them at grocery stores, only farmers’ markets and neighbourhood gardens.
Squash plants actually produce two different types of flowers: male and female. The male flowers grow on the end of long, slender stems. The female flowers grow on thicker stems that buldge where they meet the flower. This bulge is what will eventually become a squash.
Generally there are more male flowers than female. The male flowers can be picked without affecting the production of fruit, so long as a few are left behind … Continue reading.
The gnarly root pictured at left is horseradish.
Horseradish is a hearty plant; it can flourish almost anywhere in our fair city. I remember when I was in culinary school I would catch a bus at the intersection of 118 Avenue and 106 Street, and there was a perfectly healthy horseradish plant living in a crack in the sidewalk.
Horseradish could in fact be described as invasive. It doesn’t spread too fast, but once it’s established, it’s nearly impossible to remove. I hack enormous chunks out of the root system of my plant and it always recovers.
The root has a pungent flavour very similar flavour to its relatives mustard and wasabi. (Actually most of the “wasabi” that you’ve eaten … Continue reading.
For most applications the inside of a bell pepper, the pale membrane holding all the seeds, needs to be removed. In my experience most home cooks do this by cutting the pepper in half, then scooping out the seeds with their fingers. Frankly this is barbarous: it’s a slow, clumsy method that will always leave seeds behind.
Your knife is faster and more fastidious than your fingers. Here’s a quick and thorough way to separate the core from the flesh.
How to Cut Bell Peppers
Cut the top and bottom off the pepper.
Make a vertical cut through the wall of the pepper, then run your knife along the inside of the wall, like so:
In this manner you can … Continue reading.
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.
There 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 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-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.
Making 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.
This 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 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.