Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dark Days Week 8: Pea soup and homemade bread

This week, in keeping with the 'theme' of soup/one-pot meals, I made a Quebec staple: split-pea soup with ham. I took it a step further as well and, after the soup had been done, used the same dutch oven to make a loaf of freeform bread. I let my San Francisco roots come out a bit here and made it a sourdough loaf ;)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bonus use for leftovers

If you haven't tried the Spinach Bechamel recipe from the Green Door restaurant, you really should. It's spinach-y and cheesy and comforting. And if you need extra incentive, how about this: the leftovers (assuming there are any) make *amazing* filling for an omelette!!! :D

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dark Days Week 7: Raw milk

This week I ventured into new territory, for me at least. I was able to score 4 litres of raw, local milk, which was far more exciting to me than dairy should be ;) Only problem, neither B nor I really drink milk. B is lactose-intolerant, as I've mentioned before, and while I have milk/cream in my morning coffee, that's about it. So, what the hack could I do with a gallon of extremely fresh and extremely perishable milk!?

Why, make cheese, of course!

That's a lot of butter...

Out of curiosity, I flipped through the Baking with Julia cookbook last night to get familiar with what things I'll be making during this challenge. As I did, I tallied up the amounts of flour and butter required by the recipes. Including the breads, pastries, fillings and icings (and one massive wedding cake, though I may skip that one :P ), by the end of this challenge I will have used roughly 75 pounds of flour and 40 pound of butter.

Let me repeat that last bit.... 40 pounds of butter. Dear lord. I think I need to go do some sit-ups...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Almost-local tea

When I started on the Dark Days challenge, B made it quite clear there were some things he would not give up, such as crates of clementines, chocolate, and tea. We're both big fans of DavidsTea (as I've mentioned before), and while I don't expect to find anything local on their shelves, I am usually pleased to see the number of organic, fair trade and charity-supporting items they sell.

Recently, however, I've come across a couple of their teas that are almost local... or as local as I'm likely to get with this particular item ;) 
  • Organic Northern Lights is made with ingredients that all come from north of the border, such as apple pieces, peppermint, juniper berries, and raspberry leaf. While I am not a juniper berry fan (I blame it on my childhood home that was surrounded by big, dusty juniper bushes. I was constantly losing toys and balls in them and either had to brave the cobwebs and bugs to retrieve them, or just give them up for lost), it works well in this tea along side the peppermint and the sweetness of the apple pieces. 
  • Wintergreen Woods is another herbal blend made from Canadian ingredients, this time decidedly more 'woodsy': wintergreen leaves, cedar green, white pine needles, red sumac berries. I don't particularly like the taste of spearmint or wintergreen, so this one isn't really favorite, though it was nice to have after a heavy dinner. That said, it is interesting steeping a mug of tea from what looks like a handful of stuff picked up off a forest floor ;)  
  • Oh Canada is the least local of the bunch, but it's sweetened with maple syrup, so I love it anyway ;) (plus the maple leaf candies are cute)
  • There is also Northern Delights, which is produced by a non-profit organization to help support the Inuit communities in Nunavik (not associated with DavidsTea), who produce a variety of interesting Arctic teas made from ingredients indigenous, and important, to the arctic tundra. 
While supporting local is certainly a good thing, tea (like coffee and chocolate) is one of those far-flung vices that I'm still happy to indulge in ;) 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Baking with Julia challenge

Well, I said I wanted to learn how to bake better (especially yeast doughs), and it seems the universe has given me an opportunity to do that. I will be participating not only in the on-going Dark Days challenge, but also in the newest challenge over at Tuesdays with Dorie in which we will work our way through the book, Baking with Julia starting next month.

I was hesitant to sign up, telling myself I was getting in over my head, it would be too much to take on, etc etc. However, we will be doing only 2 recipes a month (one every other week)... if I can't handle cooking 2 recipes a month, then I've got bigger issues to deal with :P Also, I had the same hesitations for the Dark Days challenge and I've been doing just fine with it so far. Plus, the rules are very minimal, and it will be a great opportunity to improve my baking skills!

That being said, I'm still a little intimidated... I remember watching PBS when I was younger, and whenever Julia Child was on, she would always make a fantastic mess (but have a hell of a good time) in the kitchen and end up with some ridiculously elaborate end result. I particularly remember her making a Buche de Noel in which she flings sugar syrup around to make 'moss' to drape over her finished buche:

The messy bit is around the 23:00 mark, it's worth a watch. As an aside, in re-watching this snippet to post it here (I probably haven't seen this video since my early teens), I realized where I get something I say constantly when cooking: "It's better to have too much than too little". :D And I never realized how unappetizing food is in black and white... yish.

Anyway, the first set of recipes will be White Loaves (yay, bread!) and Chocolate Truffle Tartlets. My mantra for this challenge shall be "Quality, not quantity"... I want to improve my skills and learn new ones, not just make a ton of fattening foods ;) Perhaps B will help remind me of that, and drag me out for the occasional evening walk so I don't end up weighing 300 pounds by the end of all this. Very anxious/excited to get started on this...!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dark Days Week 6: Ducks and dairy

I'm really getting into this challenge a bit more each week, and I'm finding it both easier and harder to stay within the 'rules' i set myself at the start. I've become more aware of what options are open to me for local goods, and am finding some surprising sources, but I'm also finding it tougher to get clear documentation on some of it. There seems to be a fair amount of 'greenwashing', and just plain ol' lack of information, when it comes to food and food labelling... it's amazingly easy to buy something that seems local and/or organic at first glance but when you dig a bit deeper, find otherwise.

For example, in researching local, organic grains and flours, I found what seems to be an excellent option that is sold at the bakery at the end of our street and a few of the markets in the area. Their website offers flowery declarations of their mission statement and what they're doing to promote organic farming in Quebec, and they are apparently certified by a European company, but I can't find any info on their being certified organic here in Quebec or Canada. Yanno, where we're located!?!? That I find slightly odd... but i'll keep researching. They're the best option I've got for grains and flours at the moment, so I guess it's better than nothing ;)  (*correction: I've found they are also certified organic (and kosher) by the OCIA which is a non-profit organization) 

Anyway! On to the food... this past week we continued to eat leftovers from the holidays, and I am now quite sick of them. ;) I also made a lovely duck ragu, following a recipe over at The Kitchn, that we both enjoyed quite a bit. I used the last of the Quebec wine I'd bought a few weeks back, as well as some local kale and parmesan cheese and of course the Lac Brome duck I boned at Christmas. (I also took the opportunity to dig out the carcasses and make duck stock) The end result was this:

Friday, January 6, 2012

To Do for 2012

I'm not big on resolutions (they never seem to last long for me), but as B can attest, I'm a big fan of To Do lists ;) So for 2012, I'm not 'resolving' to accomplish anything in particular, but rather looking ahead to things I'd like to do this year in the kitchen.

In 2012, I'd like to:
  • learn to make/knead yeast bread and pizza dough properly
  • cook rabbit
  • cook with fresh sardines
  • host a local cheese tasting
  • put together a proper home bar
  • improve my food photography skills
  • make souffle
  • make risotto
  • make nut butter
  • make ghee with local, organic butter
  • make Shoofly Pie
  • make homemade mustard
  • make homemade hot sauce
We'll leave it there for now... though I'm sure I'll come up with plenty more to try ;) 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Dark Days Week 5: A very local Christmas

First of all, happy new year to all! This Little Monkey turns 1 year old today... here's looking forward to a tasty 2012 :)

I managed to have two SOLE-ful meals over the holidays this year, and am quite pleased with how they turned out. We usually do Christmas eve at our place with my mom, which we keep fairly simple (being an only child, the holidays were fairly low-key for me growing up) and Christmas day at B's family's zoo house which is a much more elaborate (and noisy) event.

For Christmas Eve, I chose to make :

To start, butternut squash and apple soup, garnished with cider cream and roasted squash seeds

And for the main course, seared Lac Brome duck breasts with roasted beets and carrots.