I was on a bit of a roll with all the posting for a while, wasn't I? Then the full force of summer came along and walloped me.
Back in the spring, I was busy imagining all the oodles of free time I would have with J gone away this summer. I planned a lot of little projects for myself, and made lists of all the chores I've been meaning to do and some of the places in Edmonton I've been meaning to visit.
But that isn't quite what happened. It turns out I am quite good at entertaining myself and becoming rather busy on my own. The time has passed far more quickly than I thought it would, and the few moments in a week when I have nothing planned and nothing to do are getting rare. Not that I mind too much - I like being busy, and spending time with friends is so important. But summer feels like a bit of a whirlwind lately. Especially now that it is so gorgeous outside, I am wishing for a little piece of back yard, a soft blanket, an ice-cold lemonade and some time to lie about.
(Actually, what I'd really like is a stretch of white sandy beach and warm ocean, walking in the sand and on the red cliffs back home. I didn't know how much I'd miss PEI this time of year.)
In any case, all of this means that I have really been slacking on my photo project. I missed several days in the past few weeks, but I vow to get back on track and keep reminding myself to take that daily shot. So instead of the weekly group, here are some of the photos I've snapped recently, in no particular order.
July 24, 2009
I was on a bit of a roll with all the posting for a while, wasn't I? Then the full force of summer came along and walloped me.
July 16, 2009
Here are some of the photos I took at the ARTery. Sorry it’s taken ne a while to get them up!
Julianna and Sarah at the market, talking to Jennifer from Sundog Organics.
A basket of goodies.
Tiny spring onions from Sparrow’s Nest Organics.
Smoked ham and cheese sandwich with mustard on ciabatta.
Have you ever seen a yolk so big and so yellow?
Eat at the ARTery happens every Saturday at noon. Be sure to visit soon!
July 12, 2009
When I started working on my cookbook series, I decided I wanted several of the books to be by Canadian authors. In my search, I came across Everyday Indian, written by Bal Arneson, who lives in Vancouver. When I found it was a cookbook about simple, healthy Indian food, I was sold.
I love all the kinds of Asian food I’ve eaten, and Indian is right up there. But I’ve never cooked Indian food at home, so I was intrigued.
The design of the book is clean and simple – just like the food. Arneson has been teaching cooking classes for years in Vancouver, introducing her cooking philosophy to her students. Now the rest of the world can learn too.
Arneson emphasizes cooking with no butter or cream, using simple ingredients, and making recipes that don’t take much time. I had never really looked at an Indian cookbook before, so everything was interesting to me. I can make my own rotis? My own chutney? My own garam masala? Awesome!
Arneson begins the cookbook by introducing many of the spices essential to Indian cooking. But she also says that in her village in India growing up, her mother used two spices: garam masala and turmeric. When she came to Canada, she couldn’t believe all of the exotic spices and ingredients that were at her fingertips.
The book includes recipes for several different spice mixes, including garam masala, chat masala, and chana masala. I decided to make the garam masala spice mix, and see how it compares to store-bought mix. I also made the chat masala mix, although I haven’t used that one yet.
To buy my ingredients, I visited the Spice Centre for the first time. It’s an Indian grocery in Little India here in Edmonton, over at Calgary Trail and 34th Avenue. I spoke with the owner, Amrit Bindra, who was more than helpful and explained many of the different spices on my list. I bought things I’ve never cooked with before: fenugreek seeds, asafoetida, mango and pomegranate powder, and dried curry leaves. I also picked up a few more familiar things: cumin and coriander seeds and cinnamon sticks.
At home I roasted a mix of the spices in the oven and ground them up in my spice grinder. It was a strong, heady blend. Rough and dark brown, it was miles above the bland, fine-textured store-bought garam masala. Even taking a sniff out of the jar was delicious.
The yam and cauliflower dish I made with the store-bought garam masala was delicious, don’t get me wrong. But the Sunshine Organics chicken breast chunks I sauteed with garlic, ginger and my own garam masala was divine. One of the most flavourful things I’ve ever cooked in my life. Hands down. After mixing it with fresh mango and setting it on a bed of lettuce, the mango chicken salad was a refreshing, aromatic lunch. I kept stealing bites of the chicken-mango mixture from the refrigerator over the next 24 hours. That’s as long as it lasted.
There are plenty more recipes in this book I want to try (I have a feeling that after spending the summer discovering new cookbooks, my cookbook shelf will be a lot heavier and my wallet a lot lighter). The baked samosas, homemade paneer, no-butter chicken (made with yogurt), and homemade Chai are at the top of the list.
This book was just released this Spring, so I’m not sure if it’s hit bookstores in Edmonton yet. But you can definitely buy it online or borrow it from the library. And trust me – if you have time for a trip out to the Spice Centre, making your own garam masala is so worth it.
You can hear more about Everyday Indian on the second instalment of my cookbook series tomorrow on CBC Radio One, 740 am, 93.9 fm, or click here to listen live. It’s on Radio Active, between 3 and 6 every Monday afternoon.
July 9, 2009
Sometimes you are given a gift of time. A special, perfect day that you will remember forever. I can think back to several of these days throughout my life. But they don’t usually happen when I’m working.
Last Saturday was this kind of day. I had the extreme pleasure of doing a radio story about one of the newest food ventures in town, Eat at the ARTery. Every Saturday since mid-May, Julianna Mimande and her sous-chef and friend, Sarah Patterson, have been cooking lunch at the ARtery. There are a only a couple of menu choices, plus dessert. The food is local, simple and delicious, the atmosphere is DIY, and the price is right: ten dollars a plate.
We started the day bright and early at the downtown farmers’ market. From wandering the market to prepping in the kitchen to serving the beautiful plates of food to hungry people, the whole experience was probably the most fun I’ve ever had while on the job. Not just that - some of the most fun I’ve ever had. Period. Keep in mind, this kind of story is a dream for someone like me. I get to spend the day talking to cool people about local food and yummy ingredients. What more could a budding food journalist ask for?
Julianna and Sarah welcomed me into their lives for the day and didn’t mind when I peppered them with questions. Hanging out with them in the kitchen as they chopped, talked, laughed and tasted was a ball. And the atmosphere at the ARTery was a wonderful thing. It’s not like a regular restaurant, and there was no real difference in mood between the kitchen and the dining room. Everyone was relaxed, grooving, and having a good time.
The only sad part about the day was the fact that I couldn’t eat any of the gorgeous food. Damn you, cleanse! The ham and cheese sandwich, potato salad, and especially the rhubarb crumble with Pinocchio’s ice cream looked so tempting and divine heading out the kitchen door on plate after plate.
(I took a ton of photos throughout the day but unfortunately I forgot to take them off the CBC camera today. I will post some up in the next few days so you can see for yourselves how good it looked.)
These women deserve a huge hand for what they are doing with Eat at the ARTery – providing a place for people to come and eat delicious, local food at a reasonable price.
For more information on Eat at the ARTery, you can join the facebook group and get weekly updates about the menus. Next Saturday’s lunch sounds amazing - they’re cooking a Ukrainian Perogy bowl.
For more on my day at the ARTery, you can listen to my radio piece tomorrow (Friday) on Radio Active on CBC Radio one. It will be on sometime between 3 and 6. Lots of great market and cooking sounds!
July 5, 2009
I’m doing a summer cookbook series for CBC Radio that starts tomorrow. Needless to say, I am quite excited about it. Any excuse for me to research cookbooks at work is pretty amazing.
The first book I chose is Bonnie Stern’s new cookbook, Friday Night Dinners. My friend emily in Toronto (of the Palacsinta) told me about it. Her mother had bought it and she couldn’t stop raving.
Cookbooks instil a certain kind of love in me – I’m sure some of you know what I’m talking about. When I went to pick this up from the library I literally clutched it to my chest and grinned. I was so excited to take it home and browse through it.
Friday Night Dinners is lovely, rustic and cozy, and most of the recipes are simple with easy ingredients and steps. Bonnie Stern’s focus here is on family meals, so the book is divided up into many kinds of dinners. There are different types of ethnic cooking, South African and Australian being the two I found the most intriguing. There are celebration and holiday dinners. And there are a few extras, like Nostalgia Dinner and Al Fresco Dinner. Personally, I love it when cookbooks break away from the standard Soups, Salads, Poultry, Vegetables etc. chapters. It makes the book a lot more interesting to read. And the index is great if you are looking for a specific ingredient.
I made the red lentil soup with caramelized onions, the roasted asparagus, and the green salad with sweet Israeli dressing. All of them were delicious. I never have the urge to make soup, and whenever I make it I find it lacks flavour. This red lentil soup was the opposite. It’s extremely easy to make – a blend of caramelized onions, lentils, carrot, celery, garlic, water and spices – but the taste is deep and full. I think a lot of it is because of those onions. They take time but it’s worth it. A sprinkle of chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lemon on top also adds freshness.
There are so many more recipes in this cookbook that I’ve bookmarked to make. But I think they’ll have to wait. The next book in the series is already calling my name. I’ve chosen Everyday Indian by Bal Arneson. It’s also a new book (although I’m not only doing new cookbooks) and Arneson is from Vancouver. It looks very exciting, and I can’t wait to attempt her samosas, her no-butter chicken, and her spice mixes.
You can hear my cookbook series tomorrow and every Monday after that on CBC Radio one (740 am, 93.9 fm) on Radio Active, from 3 to 6. It should be on at about 4:10. I’ll also post the link to the audio file here once it’s up.
Do you know a cookbook you think I should profile as part of the series? Let me know in the comments!
July 4, 2009
July 1, 2009
Some of the food I’ve been making on this cleanse feels very autumnal. Roasted acorn squash rings. Roasted sweet potato fries. Lentil soup.
I have been eating lots of salads, lots of asparagus, and lots of avocado too, so there’s definitely a healthy dose of spring on the menu. But I wouldn’t usually be roasting squash or making applesauce at this time of year.
This applesauce, however, is a perfect blend of spring and fall. I love rhubarb, and when I saw the beautiful red and green stalks appear at the market a few weeks ago I couldn’t resist them. But I usually use rhubarb in cakes or crumbles, and I haven’t been doing a lot of baking lately. So I tried to figure out how to cook with it as the stalks got limper and limper in my crisper.
I scoured the internet for “rhubarb no sugar” recipes and somewhere along the way, I got the idea to blend applesauce with stewed rhubarb. The apples act as a natural sweetener, and that’s pretty much all you need.
Thankfully, rhubarb is a hardy vegetable. It looked limp and defeated when I plucked it from the drawer, but after I chopped it up and stewed it down with some vanilla and spices, it fell apart beautifully.
I think the rhubarb makes ordinary applesauce a lot more interesting. It adds a tangy note, and the vanilla flavour really came through, especially in my first batch. You don’t need to stew it with anything but water, though, if you don’t have the other ingredients on hand.
This sauce was one of my treats for the first few weeks of this cleanse. Spooned into a bowl and topped with a shake of cinnamon and maybe a few sunflower seeds, it makes a great snack that I often craved more than a piece of fruit.
The last of the fall apples are still at the farmers’ markets, which makes this recipe almost completely local too. Always a bonus!
For a summery variation, I think this could also work with strawberries or raspberries instead of the rhubarb. And it would be delicious spooned over vanilla ice cream …
About 5 0r 6 apples, unpeeled, cored and cut into eighths
One bunch rhubarb
Half a vanilla bean
5 whole cloves
3 cardamom pods
Honey or sugar (optional)
To make apple sauce, put apples in a heavy saucepan with about a ¼ inch of water in the bottom. Cover the pan and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until the apples are soft enough to blend easily. If there is too much liquid left, leave the pot to sit off the heat for a few minutes and it will evaporate.
Blend the apples using a food processor or immersion blender. You could probably use a potato masher or a fork too for a chunkier sauce.
Meanwhile, chop the rhubarb into bite-sized pieces and put it into a heavy pot with just a splash of water. Add the half-vanilla bean, cloves and cardamom pods. Cover the pan and cook over medium heat for about ten minutes until the rhubarb is soft and falling apart. Remove the seasonings, then blend with a fork.
Stir the two sauces together. When I made it I think I had about equal ratios between the two fruits, or more apples, maybe two-thirds to one-third. Taste for sweetness, and add honey or sugar if you think it is too sour.