Friday, August 23, 2019

Mediterranean Salad for One

Dinner tonight is this incredible Mediterranean Salad for one, packed with all the garden's produce (including dried oregano from last year, Egyptian onions and garlic scapes from N) and dressed simply with Alaea salt, black pepper and fresh lemon juice. Light yet filling for those Summer nights!

As much as I love living in Canada, one of the things I don't love is that our growing season starts late and ends early. Summer break being what it is (July / August), we don't really see much of the garden bringing forth their glory until at least halfway through, if not later. That said, late is better than never, and since the cukes and tomatoes arrived at the same time this year I figured what better way to enjoy them than in a simple, chunky salad?

I love Mediterranean flavours, and this salad is not lacking in them! In addition to the garden cucumbers and tomatoes, I tossed in dried oregano and dill (from last year), Egyptian onion bulbs (from the Sputnik-like plant out back) and garlic scapes from my fiance's garden that I roasted using this recipe (cutting the time to 15 minutes). For protein, I tossed in a handful of chickpeas (my favourite bean) and sprinkled on lemon juice, coarse pepper and a Hawaiian Alaea salt. If you had told me 15 years ago that I would be eating salads for dinner (and enjoying them!) I'd have called you crazy. But now, I don't want summer to ever end!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Major Grey's Chutney - Toast Topper #84

Major Grey's Chutney is full of spice with a delicate tropical undercurrent thanks to mango!

Major Grey's Chutney

Chutney is definitely a go-to condiment in my household. Mom puts any incarnation of it in stir fries, with grilled meat and even steamed veggies and rice! I, on the other hand, enjoy it - just not to the extreme. In any case, we always have a jar or two on hand, and making up a batch is a great way to use up spices and various fruit and veggies laying about.

We had bought some mangoes on sale with the aim of making fruit trays for company, however (as always seems to happen) we overbought. Who could tell how many cubes one mango yielded? Anyways, I was given the remaining, almost-overripe mango to use in "whatever", and since I didn't have any pectin on hand, I knew jam was out. However, a quick perusal of the internet led me to Saveur, who had a recipe for one of the most famous chutneys out there - Major Grey's! I have no idea what the background of this condiment is other than it being an English - Indian hybrid served with aged cheese, but since it was full of ingredients we knew and liked I decided to give it a whirl.

One thing about making this - and any - chutney is that it is one of the most fragrant recipes you'll ever make. The heat blooms the spices, perfuming the kitchen for hours even after it's long been bottled. The vinegar is the first thing to make your eyes water, but the sweet, spicy and woodsy aromas soon rush in. The mango adds a subtle floral sweetness, but in the end it doesn't taste distinctly like the fruit - it is part of a greater whole. At any rate, this went exceptionally well in Mom's usual applications, as well as dolloped on crispbread over cream cheese and with Black Bread and old Cheddar. Next time mangoes go on sale, I may buy some extra just for this!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Black Bread

Dark and dense black bread is flavoured with caraway and rye, with a hint of sweetness from molasses and grated carrots. Smeared with cultured butter, it's a perfect lunch side.

One of the things I love about mid August is that all the market produce is in full swing. While it may have been the case for ages south of the border, where we are in Toronto it's only about this time when the bulk of the garden and farms start producing en masse. As always, I planted an array of heirloom root veggies (carrots and beets this year) and the first round is ready for pulling, much to this veggie-head's content! Of course, just because we have some produce in the backyard doesn't mean we don't go a wee bit overboard at the farmers' market too - especially if we're inspired by either the veggies or the prepared foods on display!

This bread came about as a combination of both of those inspirations - both of the markets Mom and I (and now N) attend in the summer have artisan bakeries as well as the normal produce stands, and I always get Mom to look and see what kinds of loaves tickle her fancy. She'll buy one, of course - instant gratification and supporting local vendors is the name of the game - but the second choice is mine to recreate. This time she spotted a super-dark, dense rye bread on display, topped with seeds, and after scouting around the good old blogging world for a bit I settled on a recipe that would not only recreate the loaf but use some of the carrots we bought too! Not only does the dense dough stay moist and tender due to the molasses, but shredded carrot subtly infuses it's natural sweetness and colour as it bakes. The colour comes from a combination of espresso powder, cocoa powder and molasses, while the rye and whole wheat add not only a ton of flavour but nutrition too.

While I didn't get to enjoy this loaf, I do have it on good authority that it is well worth the (albeit minimal) work involved. Mom preferred to enjoy it "ploughman's style" with butter, cheese and crudites, although she also admitted it made a mean corned beef sandwich too. Either way, it was a great addition to a lighter summer lunch!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Gluten Free Pizza Crust #BreadBakers

Proof that a gluten free diet doesn't mean a lifetime of bland, cardboard like baked goods! This pizza crust is chewy, sturdy enough to hold up to toppings but flexible enough for a great eating experience. Flavour wise, chili and herb infused olive oil gives each bite extra punch.

I cannot think of the last time I ate a slice of pizza. I have nothing against the food, in contrast I find a well made pie a thing of absolute decadence. However, the oil and fat of classic pizza recipes doesn't play well with my digestion so I have bid fare-thee-well to it. However, I have a friend who had given up on pizza for two different dietary restrictions - gluten and dairy. Let's face it, a lot of gluten free pizza crusts have a lot to be desired, and the ones that do taste good are prohibitively expensive! Thankfully, it's relatively easy to whip up a good-tasting, chewy pizza crust at home without the gluten, especially if you (like me) have an array of gluten-free flours to play with. I'm truly lucky to have a bulk store near me with a great cross-contamination avoidance strategy and I have never had a problem, however if this isn't the case near you the ingredients are fairly commonplace online for good prices!

The crust "dough" is unlike any "normal" bread dough out there. There is no kneading, no stretch and folds, no punching down and no tossing in the air. Instead, the mixture resembles a slightly elastic cookie dough, and is really easy to work with when your hands are damp! If you're feeling fancy, add some herbs or spices to the dough, or toss in some ground flax for extra flavour. Since I was making and freezing the crusts for my friend to enjoy on his own, I kept the flavour pretty simple with an herb and garlic oil. However, even without adornment, you'll find no off-putting flavours or textures with the crust. He told me that one of the two rounds actually turned into focaccia style wedges topped with bruschetta for a party, so that option exists for them too!

Gluten free baking is not as straightforward as standard baking, however I do find it enjoyable to craft food for people who otherwise may not have the opportunity to indulge like "everyone else". With a little patience and practice (and a good recipe!) your next pizza party can have a whole new flair!

Check out all these other great gluten free breads from the Bread Bakers!

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all of our lovely bread by following our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated after each event on the BreadBakers home page. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Chai Asian Pears

Asian Pears in Chai Syrup. Perfect for parfaits, porridge or spooning over ice cream for a spicy, warming treat.

I'm going to let you in on a secret - I hate Chai tea. I know, in the day of suave millennials enjoying spicy black tea in various forms, I just can't stand it! However, I am in the minority, and with a gaggle of coworkers who regularly drink Chai in the winter months I knew I had to make something for their Christmas baskets that they would appreciate.

Last year when I made these the first time, I had come into a glut of almost-overripe Asian pears thanks to a super-sale at the local Asian market. I had made carrot cake with some of them (using shredded pear in place of the pineapple) but was interested in seeing if they could be preserved too. I came across a recipe that looked promising by Jo Ebisujima and figured I'd give it a shot, swapping out the water for a strong mug of Chai. It worked, sort of - the flavour was good (the pears did something to mellow the Chai-ness) but the pears don't break down like "normal" pears and thus didn't create a jammy consistency. However, the syrup and infused, tender fruit was too good to pass up, so a quick re-branding later and I had four jars of a perfect fruit topping. My coworkers told me that it was fantastic on everything from ice cream to oatmeal, and one of them even ate it with a spoon straight up!

If you're looking for a unique preserve to add to your pantry, give these syrupy Asian pears a try. Versatile and darn delicious, it's hard to go wrong!