Sunday, 18 June 2017

Seasonal Ontario Food's Top Ten - Canning & Preserving

There are only 64 recipes under the heading "Canning and Preserving". And yet they have had more page views than the rest of the blog put together. In fact, I think my most popular recipe from this section might have more page views just by itself than the rest of the blog put together. All that means, I suppose, is that people look for canning and preserving recipes more often than they do other recipes. That, and that one recipe was linked at a much more popular site than mine.

And there we are; the highlight of ten years of blogging. Now, having spent a week celebrating, I need a break. I'll probably post a few things - certainly a garden update - but mostly I am going to take the rest of the month off. (I thought these would be quick posts to put together, but no. It would have been much faster just to cook something.)

I would still love to hear from people - what have you made? What worked, what didn't work, what would you like to see in the future?

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Seasonal Ontario Food's Top Ten - Desserts!

Oh goody! Desserts! Not really what I try to make this place about, but I love 'em and so do most people. I try to keep the fat and sugar down to a dull roar when I do make a dessert, and to put fruit (in season!) front and forward. They sure do break down to a lot of categories I'm afraid; but perhaps that isn't really a problem as I can choose more... I still can't quite count to ten but whatever.

I had this idea that I don't make a lot of pies but apparently not true.

I have a little expression, "The cook is never a fussy eater." Meaning the cook is just as fussy as anybody, but since they get to choose what gets cooked, it's always what they like. My desserts fall into that category. I think I make the best desserts ever, but I will have to concede that that is because they are so exactly tailored to my tastes, not through any extraordinary talent. I hope they suit some other people too. 

Friday, 16 June 2017

Seasonal Ontario Food's Top Ten - Breakfasts, Yeast & Non-Yeast Breads, & Sandwiches

I basically went down the list of breakfast entries, going, "Oh, that one... oh, that one..." I think that breakfast dishes may be my favourite of all. I could only squeeze one waffle recipe in; I'm not sure I think it's my favourite but the cornmeal makes them a bit unusual. I love waffles far more than this list suggests.

I think of myself as not a big bread eater but I got all misty-eyed putting together this list. Maybe it's just because it's a diet day, but I think that actually I love good bread. It's just that the way to get good bread is to make it yourself, mostly, as with so many things. I haven't made much bread the last couple of years as family life went all to pot; maybe I can start  up again. I hope so.  

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Seasonal Ontario Food's Top Ten - The Heart of the Blog - Vegetable Side Dishes

Here are the recipes that to me define the purpose of this blog. There is any amount of information out there about cooking meat based dishes, vegetarian cookbooks abound, and the making of desserts is an art and a science and yet a good dessert is easily had. But damn, it can be so hard to find a nice, simple vegetable side dish that isn't swimming in butter, cream, cheese, bacon etc, and yet has that special touch that makes it stand out. I get all excited when I come up with one. (But you'll also note that I'm don't exactly turn down the butter, cream, etc when it seems like a good idea.)

Ten recipes won't cover my enthusiasm for these, but ten recipes for each vegetable seems excessive, so I'll go with breaking them down by season. That's admittedly a very crude division. Some things are available for months, with others if you miss the week they are available they are gone. Still, here goes...

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Seasonal Ontario Food's Top Ten - Meat, Poultry & Fish Main Dishes

More main dishes, the meaty ones this time. In spite of how much I like vegetables I have to confess I could never be a vegetarian. I'm a little surprised to review things and see how much pork we eat, and I'm definitely shy on the fish recipes. I think that's because I am perfectly happy to eat it pretty plain. Judging by this list I also have a taste for the classic dishes, and braising is a favourite cooking technique. Sounds about right, I have to say.

And apparently meat dishes get put on my oval Chinese platters. Huh, okay.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Seasonal Ontario Food's Top Ten - Vegetarian Mains - Beans, Eggs & Cheese

Another day, another set of lists. Today I am celebrating the vegetarian main dishes; the ones that take centre stage and fill you up. I've broken them down into 3 groups but of course they are not as cooperative as all that and some could have gone in a couple of lists.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Seasonal Ontario Food's Top Ten - Appetizers and Hors d'oeuvres, Soups & Salads

Ten years of blogging! There's been a whole lot of food under the bridge in that time. I thought I'd try to narrow down some of my favourites, and some of the most popular recipes from Seasonal Ontario Food. So, some LISTS, every day for the rest of the week. I'll start at the beginning with Appetizers and Hors d'oeuvres, Soups, and Salads. These are in order of publication, no other order intended or implied, although I am going to put in my most popular post of each category.

AND HEY! I want to know - what ones are YOUR favourites?

Sunday, 11 June 2017

10th Blogaversary! - Best Outings & Rants

Today is Seasonal Ontario Food's 10th Blogaversary! Seasonal Ontario Food is 10 years old today!

It all started when repairs were being made to the stairs in our apartment building and I had to make a choice to go out all day, or to stay in all day. I opted to stay in, got bored, and the rest is history. Little did I know what I was getting into.

I went back and perused my earliest recipes in a fit of nostalgia; some of them were awfully simple. Simple is a theme of this blog but I posted things then I wouldn't post now. On the other hand, my very first recipe was a salad I really enjoyed then and still regard as very fine (and it's in season at the moment!) There are also some recipes from the early years that have not been noticed as much as they should have been, as I had next to no readers in those days. Today and tomorrow I am going to highlight some of my favourites from over the years, including some of those early ones.

In keeping with the idea of simplicity I have tried to avoid buying new dishes or gadgets just to have new props for the blog. Consequently people will recognize the dishes and table cloths that show up again and again. I also don't make food just to "pose" it. You see it; we ate it. Sometimes it's hard to get the light right and set things up nicely when everybody is already sitting at the table, forks in hand, waiting, waiting...  I also went with the plainest blog design and have kept photos a very similar size/proportion to keep a simple and unified look. Too plain? Maybe, but it's my style, and I was and remain an amateur in both senses of the word.

Still, right from the beginning I wanted to get out of my own kitchen and post about what other people were doing with Ontario food. The last few years I have struggled to be able to do that, as family obligations have kept me close to home. I still hope that I will be able to do more jaunting about and sticking my nose in other people's business in the future. So today I am going to revisit 10 of my favourite outings. I'm also going to link to a few of the rants I've gone on, which I think help illuminate my philosophy of food. As for the future... well, I hope there will be one. I admit that I don't find myself too wildly optimistic about much at the moment, including the future of local food.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Spinach Cake with Matcha-Lime Frosting

Is this blog about the vegetables? Or is it about cake? Sometimes, it can be about both!

Why yes, we are celebrating - I'll have more to say on Sunday.

When I spotted a few amazing green spinach cakes on Pinterest I had to make my own. After the first attempt, I thought it needed a bit more in the way of flavour. "Can't tell it's spinach" said one poster, and it's not immediately obvious, I have to say, although it comes through in the finish.

Since I was already thinking green, I went with matcha and lime, to echo and sharpen the earthy, leafy flavour of the spinach. Into the frosting too. The result was a treat for the eyes and the tastebuds.

I have to admit I used frozen spinach as the deer have eaten all the fresh spinach. Still, that means this could be made all year round...

12 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time
plus time to cool and frost

Spinach Cake with Matcha-Lime Frosting

Make the Cake:
150 grams (5 ounces) blanched spinach - could be frozen
the finely grated zest of 1/2 lime
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon matcha
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup mild vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 1/3 cups soft unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wash, clean, and blanch the spinach for 1 minute. Squeeze as much liquid from it by hand as you can, then weigh it carefully. Or, you can use frozen spinach, in which case it too should be thawed, squeezed to reduce the liquid, and weighed. 

Line an 8" spring form pan with parchment paper, and butter or oil the sides. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put the spinach into the bowl of a food processor, with the lime zest, lime juice, matcha, and vanilla. Process until very finely chopped, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary.

Add the sugar, vegetable oil, and eggs and quickly process again until just smooth.

Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. Scrape in the wet ingredients and stir until well blended. Scrape into the prepared spring form pan, and spread the batter out evenly.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until firm to the touch or a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry.

Let cool before frosting.

Make the Frosting:
1/4 cup softened unsalted butter
the finely grated zest of  1/4 lime
2 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
a little milk or water to thin the frosting if needed

Cream the butter and lime zest, and mix the icing sugar and lime juice into it until the icing is a good, spreadable consistency. You will likely need to add a little milk or water to achieve that. You could use more lime juice, but the frosting will then be a bit too strong and overwhelm the more delicate flavour of the cake. 

Last year at this time I made Taco Salad.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Buttermilk Buckwheat Waffles

I looked at a number of buckwheat waffle recipes before I made these, and wasn't quite happy with the looks of any of them. Mostly because they weren't plain enough. That sounds odd, but sometimes - okay, quite often really - what I want is something that just tastes of itself. I like the flavour of buckwheat and it marries perfectly with maple syrup or honey. These very simple waffles were exactly what I wanted, and my mother said "best waffles I've ever had". Admittedly, she is very partial to buckwheat but you can't beat that! 

12 waffles
45 minutes prep time

Buttermilk Buckwheat Waffles

2 cups dark buckwheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
3 large eggs
2 1/3 cups buttermilk
a little more oil to brush the waffle iron

Heat the waffle iron.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the oil, break in the eggs, and add the buttermilk. Whisk well.

Pour a little oil into a small bowl and use a pastry brush to brush the waffle iron with it in between baking waffles. Pour a sufficient quantity of batter into the hot waffle iron to fill it (for me that is approximately 1 cup of batter, but your iron may vary), close, and cook until firm and golden brown; about 7 to 9 minutes.

Leftover waffles can be frozen and reheated in the toaster; in that case it is best to not cook them to too dark a shade of brown as they will get darker in the toaster.

Monday, 5 June 2017

German Radish, Cucumber, & Apple Salad

I came across this simple little salad here, and decided to give it a try. The combination is a little unusual, and also only works for fairly short periods of the year. Now there are greenhouse cucumbers and stored apples to go with the first radishes of the year. Then through the summer, when stored apples are gone, it will have to wait until August when the first fresh apples reappear. After that it can be made until the radishes disappear from the markets. Sometimes this is surprisingly late; into October at least.

For once, I made very few changes to the recipe. My proportions are slightly different - what am I going to do with half of an apple left over? - and I used chives rather than green onions, because I think they are a little more delicate in flavour and also they are growing right outside the door.

This was a lovely little salad, and very quick and easy to make. Next time I think I would like it with the components chopped a little finer than what I did, but that is a quibble. Still; one to take note of.

4 servings
15 minutes prep time

German Radish, Cucumber, & Apple Salad

6 to 8 radishes
1/3 English cucumber OR 3 to 4 mini cucumbers
1 large apple
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped chives OR green onion
1 tablespoon sunflower seed oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash, trim, and slice or dice the radishes (not too large!) Peel (or not) the cucumbers, and cut them into slices or cubes of similar size to the radishes. Wash, core, and slice or chop ditto the apple. Mix them with the finely chopped chives or green onion, and toss them with the oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Arrange them in a nice bowl and so serve it forth... done already.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Chervil or Other Herb Vinegar

Oh look, more chervil! This really will be the last though; it's either pulled out or going to seed at this point.

You could use other herbs for flavoured vinegar too. I keep meaning to try it with chive blossoms, which I'm told make a nice pink vinegar. This one was pink too - you see some occasional red leaves on the chervil plants, but I was surprised that my vinegar turned pink as all the ones I used were green.

Tarragon is another herb suggested for flavouring vinegar, as are rosemary, basil, thyme, or mint.

I recommend using plain white vinegar for flavouring. When I first tried making flavoured vinegars I invested in pricey fancy wine and other vinegars. I expected them to add subtlety and richness to the flavour, but in fact I thought they just tasted muddy. Too much going on, flavourwise, especially if you then plan to blend your vinegar into a salad dressing.

2 cups (2 125 ml jars)
2 weeks - 20 minutes prep time

the infused vinegar waiting to be strained

The infused vinegar waiting to be strained, above. The chervil really shrinks down, so don't be shy about packing it into the jar. Below is the finished vinegar.

the finished vinegar

4 cups lightly packed chervil leaves
2 cups plain white distilled vinegar

Wash the chervil very well, and cut off and discard the roots and any damaged or discoloured leaves. Wash again and drain well - it should be quite dry. Pack into a clean 1 litre/quart jar; fill the jar, in other words.

Pour the vinegar over the prepared chervil. Cap loosely (finger tight) and set aside in a dark spot for 2 weeks.

Before straining and bottling the vinegar, run through the dishwasher: the jar(s) into which you are going to put the strained vinegar, the lid(s) thereto, the strainer, a canning funnel (or other funnel that will allow you to transfer the vinegar to your jar), and a broad spoon possibly slotted.

Using these utensils, strain the vinegar into the jar(s). Use the spoon to press the chervil leaves and extract as much vinegar as possible. Cap them with the lid(s). Keep the vinegar in a cool, dark place; given the relatively small quantity I made I'm keeping mine in the fridge.