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Recipes

I know I haven’t posted much by the way of recipes recently, but I experimented my way into this variant of a Monte Cristo sandwich the other day, and I love it, so here it is –

Take whichever bowl is closest to hand and squirt in a healthy amount of Japanese mayo (it probably has an official name, but that’s what we call it around our house, and that’s how we ask for it at the store downtown). Add about two thirds the amount of oil (I’ve used olive and grape, and both worked fine). Add lots of minced garlic (don’t skimp on garlic, ever). Add a bunch of minced fresh parsley. Add salt and pepper. Grate into this mixture a nice strong, hard Swiss cheese (I use Emmentaler), enough that the mixture gets nicely spreadable.

Spread this mixture thickly onto two slices of bread. This is not the time to get health conscious. Thickly. Put some fresh shaved ham between them.

Preheat a skillet. While you wait, crack a couple of eggs into a bowl, and whisk with some milk. Pour the egg mixture into a shallow pan until it’s about the height of your bread. Dip your sandwich into the egg mixture on both sides. It shouldn’t be much trouble, because the cheese mixture holds everything together. Fry it until it’s beautiful and golden on both sides.

Eat.

I made this soup for a church function the other day, and people have been pestering me for the recipe, so here it is. As usual, I didn’t actually measure the ingredients, and I am giving much reduced proportions here, but I know that many of the people who asked for the recipe would prefer me to be as precise as possible, so I did my best.

First saute in butter a large chopped onion, two-inches of grated fresh ginger, two tablespoons of grated orange peel, a teaspoon or so of ground nutmeg, and some salt. When this is all very soft and browned, add about four cups of chopped carrots and continue to cook over a medium heat, stirring frequently, until the carrots begin to soften. Then add four cups of chicken stock (or just enough to cover the carrots) and cook until everything is very tender. Then blend everything and add enough heavy cream to make the mixture the thickness you want.

I think coriander and cinnamon would go very well in this also, though I haven’t tried. It tastes very good cold as well. I made some for my vegan (sort of) wife that substituted more chicken stock for the cream (we didn’t talk about the butter), and it was good but not great, because cream is, well, cream.

We picked our first real crop of cherries this year, probably a quarter of a bushel, so we have been eating cherries at every opportunity, putting them in cereal and on icecream, and I used the ones with bird bites in them to make a cherry pie.

Yesterday we also picked our chokecherries, the second year now that we have had enough to make them worth picking.  Their sour taste keeps them from being edible fresh (though my youngest son was not at all deterred), but they make great jelly.  I prefer no-pectin recipes, and they are not always easy to find, so I thought that I should post mine:

Just cover the chokecherries with water in a pot, including some unripe ones for flavour and added pectin.  Boil them until they are very soft, then mash them lightly.  If you want your jelly to be clear, strain the pulp through cheesecloth, but do not squeeze or press it.  If you want a more jam-like jelly, press the pulp through a sieve.  Either way, combine the juice with equal amounts of sugar and about a tablespoon of lemon juice per cup of chokecherry juice.  Small batches tend to jell better, so work with amounts of  three to five cups of chokecherry juice at a time.  Bring the batch to a boil, stirring often, until it reaches jell stage.  Pour into canning jars.  Water bath for five to ten minutes.  Let cool.  Check that the jars have sealed.  Store the jars in a cool and dark place.  Eat the jelly often, especially on icecream.

My boys and I have come up with a variation on the traditional cucumber sandwich.

First, cut a fresh bun in half and smear both sides thickly with garlic butter.  Cover both with cheese, as much as you can fit, and then bake until everything is melted and beautiful.  Lay cucumber slices into the cheese on both sides.  Salt and pepper the cucumbers liberally.  Spread a creamy sauce over the cucumbers (ranch or Caesar dressing will both do, but we generally use a three cheese dressing that we buy at our local grocer).  Lay a thick piece of chicken schnitzel on one side of the bun, and put the other side of the bun on top.

Enjoy the garlicy, cheesy, creamy, schnitzely, cucumbery goodness.

Due to unremitting popular demand, here is the pumpkin soup recipe that I made for the last Dinner and a Doc.  You need not worry too much about being precise with the measurements.  I am only estimating them after the fact anyway.

Cut two sweet pumpkins or squash in half and bake at 350 degrees for forty-five minutes or an hour, until the flesh is very soft.  You should have six or eight cups of pumpkin puree after you have let the pumpkins cool and removed the skins.

Melt four tablespoons or so of butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Saute a couple of chopped yellow onions and a whole bulb of minced garlic until soft.  Add two or three teaspoons of curry powder, a teaspoon each of ground coriander, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Add the pumpkin puree and about an equal amount of broth, either chicken or vegetable.  Blend the soup until it is smooth, bring it to a boil, and then let it simmer for fifteen minutes or so.

Reduce the heat to low.  Add half a cup of brown sugar and salt to taste.  Stir in two or three cups of heavy cream, until it reaches your desired consistency.  Eat it with a nice heavy bread spread thickly with butter.

I harvested my garlic scapes today, along with a whole bunch of chives, and enough mint to get my mint patch under control.  My problem is that I grow garlic on a mass scale, something like four hundred plants, so I end up with far more garlic scapes than any one family is likely to use, even in a family as extended as mine.  The scapes do not dry well, becoming tough and fibrous, and though they last quite well if they are kept cool, they become dry and unusable long before I can use even a small portion of them.  I looked to the internet for ideas on how to preserve them, but it was mostly useless.  There were any number of recipes for garlic scape pesto, which can be frozen into ice cubes and thawed throughout the year, and I have made this kind of thing before, but I can only eat so much pesto.

So, I determined to see whether I could adapt the idea of the frozen pesto cubes, only without the pesto.  I roughly chopped the scapes, put them in a blender with some olive oil, ground them into a paste, and put them into ice cube trays.  This approach worked well, but I found that I was using a fair amount of olive oil to get the moisture content high enough for a smooth paste, so I tried adding a little water instead, and found that this was a much better option.  The scapes pureed better, froze more solidly, and will probably last longer in the freezer.  They do tend to stick in the ice cube trays a little, but some warm water on the back of the trays gets the cubes free quite quickly, and then they can be bagged and kept in the freezer until needed.

By the time I was finished experimenting, I had settled on proportions of something like two tablespoons of water for every quarter pound of roughly chopped scapes, but this will likely differ a little depending on how fresh and how moist your scapes are.  My suggestion is just to add water in small increments until the paste is smooth, and to pour off any excess water that collects in the bowl.  It should not take long to find proportions that work for you.  Of course, if you do not have four hundred garlic scapes that need processing, and you are not interested in finding some just to make garlic scape ice cubes, you can always come over and sample mine sometime.  I assure you, I have more than enough for everyone.

As my children have already posted, our family visited Loonsong Garden while we were on Manitoulin Island this past weekend.  Loonsong is a farm that grows organic cereal crops and grinds whole flours.  It also grows vegetables for a local Community Shared Agriculture program.  My mother first introduced us to Loonsong at Christmas, when she brought us four of their flours as a Christmas gift.  My wife, who has begun breadmaking much more seriously, has really enjoyed using them, particularly the Red Fife Wheat flour, which has a really beautiful flavour.

Red Fife, as the owners of Loonsong will tell you, has a story of its own that is well worth telling.  Myth has it that Red Fife began as a single hat full of grain sent on to Canada from Glasgow, and that the whole first crop was destroyed by rust except for a single plant that must have been an accidental hybrid of some sort, and that this single plant was the parent of all Red Fife grown today.  It was robust enough to thrive in the sometimes difficult Canadian climate, resistant to rust, and did not require nitrogen rich soil to grow, so it was used to breed many new variations.  These newer strains and other wheat varieties were often bred for higher yields, however, so the original Red Fife was gradually replaced, until there was little of its seed remaining.  Only in the last thirty years or so has it become used more widely again, especially by organic farmers for whom its resistance to rust and ability to grow without chemical fertilizers are highly desirable, despite its relatively low yields.

The flour that Loonsong makes from Red Fife is also distinct from commercial flours in that it is truly whole grain.  Most flours include only the endosperm, the carbohydrate heavy part of the wheat seed that provides nutrition for the growing wheat germ until it can grow leaves and photosynthesize for itself.  Commercial whole grain flours include the bran, the outer coating of the seed, which adds needed roughage but not much nutritive value to the flour.  Loonsong’s flours, however, include literally the whole wheat seed: the endosperm, the bran, and the germ.  The benfit of this is that the flour contains the many nutritious oils and proteins of the germ, but at the cost of a shorter shelf life, since these oils will make the flour go rancid more quickly, so whole flours do need to be refrigerated

Loonsong’s whole grain Red Fife flour is really beautiful.  It is far more nutritious than most flours, and it is delicious, with a flavour that is mildly suggestive of nuts.  It also makes great bread, though it is too heavy to be used in most bread machines.  It works best in old-fashioned recipes, since many of these recipes were made with hand ground whole flours in mind.  The following is one that we have been enjoying lately:

Jaya’s Bread

Mix 2 cups of stone ground whole wheat flour, 2 cups of rye flour, and 2 cups of unbleached white flour.

Warm 1 pint of buttermilk and 1 cup of water to about 30 degrees Celsius.  Stir in 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of dark molasses, and a dash of salt.  Stir in 2 rounded tablespoons of dry yeast and let it proof.

Gradually add 4 cups of the  flour to the wet ingredients to form a stiff batter.  Add 3/4 cups of melted lard or shortening and knead until the dough is smooth.  Let the dough rise to about double its size.

Knead in the remainder of the flour.  Let the dough rise until roughly double its size.  If the dough is too sticky, add unbleached white flour until it reaches a good consistency, as much as 4 cups.

Beat the dough down and divide it into three parts.  Shape each part into a loaf and place in a loaf pan.  Let the loaves rise to about double their size.

Bake at 350 degrees Celsius for about an hour.  Remove the loaves from the pans and let them stand until cool.

The result is a heavy, nutty, whole wheat bead that is great for almost any purpose, but best, at least in my opinion, when sliced thickly, toasted lightly, and eaten with nothing but butter.

If you would like to know more about Loonsong and their products, you can phone them at <705-368-0460> or email them at <loonsong@vianet.ca>

I have just had another request for my Bev Stroganov recipe, so rather than keep writing it for people individually, I thought I might just post it here where I can direct people as I have need.  This is one of those recipes that I first made when I still lived in my parents’ home and have been experimenting ever since.  I very rarely make it exactly the same twice, but the following is the gist of the dish.

Bev Stroganov

Make a paste with three tablespoons of ground mustard, three or more teaspoons of ground pepper, two teaspoons of sugar, a pinch of salt, and a little water.  The paste should be wet enough that it is smooth but dry enough not to be runny.  You can experiment with different varieties of mustard here, but I would recommend that you use preground mustard or use an electric grinder rather than a mortar and pestle for your whole mustard, just to be sure the mustard is ground finely enough to make a good paste.  Let this paste rest at room temperature.

Thinly slice four or five cups of yellow onions into rings.  Thinly slice a pound or so of mushrooms.  I use brown mushrooms most often, but I have used shitake and oyster mushrooms also, so experiment as you like.

Take a two or three pound fillet of beef.  Cut it first across the fillet into rounds that are about a quarter inch thick.  Then cut each round into quarter inch strips, this time cutting with the grain.  This process will make strips of beef that will be tender and easy to chew.  If you cut the stripe so that they go with the grain with both cuts, you will just get long bits of whole muscle that will be much less tender.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in a heavy skillet over very high heat.  Wait until the oil begins to haze over the pan.  Add the mushrooms and onions, then immediately reduce the heat to low.  Cook for twenty or thirty minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetable have softened, then drain them through a sieve and set aside.

Heat two or three more tablespoons of oil in the skillet over high heat until the oil is hor but not smoking.  Add just enough meat to cover the bottom of the skillet and brown it, then transfer the meat to a bowl and set it aside.  Repeat this process until all the meat has been browned.  Stir in the mustard paste.  When it is well combined, stir in four cups of sour cream.  Cover the mixture and cook until the sauce is well heated.  Taste the mixture and add mustard, salt, and pepper as necessary.

Serve over egg noodles or, if you want to be a little more authentic, over thinly sliced and very crisp French fried potatoes.

I was asked to bring a dessert to a potluck party tonight, a farewell gathering for friends  of ours who will soon be heading to Chile.  I decided to make one of childhood favourites, Oranje Cooke.  It is a recipe that our family learned in the Dutch church that we attended when I was a child, and the recipe in my book claims to be from the kitchen of Tina DeVries, a woman I vaguely remember, so I never questioned my family lore about the dish, though much of it now seems to me a little questionable.  We were always told that Oranje Cooke was Dutch for Orange Cake, which may well be true, but it raised the question of why the recipe does not actually contain any oranges.  This was because, we were told, the name of the dish actually refers to the colour orange as a symbol of Holland’s royal family, which descends from Willem van Oranje, or William of Orange.  Again, this explanation seems plausible enough, only the icing that was put on this cake, every time I can remember eating it, whether it was made by my own family or one of the Dutch ladies from the church, was pink.  There was no explanation at all for this inconsistency.

So, today, as I got the recipe out of my book for perhaps the fiftieth time, and as I wondered about why there should be pink icing on an orange cake for the fiftieth time also, I decided to answer this question once and for all.  Unfortunately, the internet solved nothing.  I can find no results for Oranje Cooke recipes that look anything like mine, no results that are even without oranges.  A search for Dutch Spice Cake, which I think more accurately describes the dish, returns any number of recipes, some more or less like mine, but none very similar, and none that specify pink icing, or even orange icing for that matter.

All of this makes me feel much better about the fact that I have been altering the recipe as long as I have been making it for myself.  Despite all the reasons that I was given as a child, I grate orange rind into it, and I make the icing orange as well.

Oranje Cooke

Mix together, in a very large bowl, a pound of shortening, four eggs, three cups of brown sugar, and a teasponn of vanilla.  Stir in a tablespoon of anise seed, two or three tablespoons of grated orange rind, and about two teaspoons each, more or less depending on your taste, of ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground allspice, ground cloves, and baking powder.  Stir in four cups of flour, which should produce a heavy, sticky dough.  Press the dough about half an inch thick into an edged cookie pan.  Bake it for ten minutes or so in a 450 degree oven.  Let it cool, then spread it it with orange (or pink) butter icing.  Cut it into squares, and enjoy.

I have had a bunch of Spy apples sitting around for the last week or so.  They were meant to become pie filling, but the pumpkin pies went further than I thought they would, so the apples have remained, unneeded and unloved, on top of the refrigerator.  Something had to be done with them before they went bad, and that something, I decided this evening, was that I would make stewed apples, one of my favourite holiday recipes.  I know that it is not yet December and that I should still be resisting the onset of the commercially prolonged Christmas season, but it was an emergency, and this way you all get the benefit of a recipe that you can use when Christmas actually comes within reasonable celebrating proximity.

Stewed Apples

Melt half a pound or so of butter in a good sized stock pot.  Add the finely chopped peels of 8 or 10 clementines or the zest of 4 or 5 large oranges.  Add several sticks of cinnamon, several roughly cracked whole nutmegs, and two dozen or so each of whole cloves and whole allspice.  Saute this until the peel has had time to soften and the pot starts to smell amazing.

Add 8 or 10 pounds of cooking apples, peeled and sliced.  Cooking apples are those that resist falling apart when you cook them.  Northern Spys are a great choice because they have so much flavour.  Cortlands are good too because their flesh does not brown like most apples.  Ida Reds are another of my favourites.  Add enough brown sugar to sweeten the apples, but not enough to overwhelm them.  This will differ according to the tartness of the apples you are using.  Use your judgement, but err on the side of too little.  Simmer everything, stirring frequently, until the apples begin to soften.

Add two or three cups each of raisins and dried cranberries.  Keep simmering.  As the raisins and cranberries rehydrate, you will likely find that you need to add some fluid, again depending on the apples.  Apple cider is a safe choice, but rum works very well also.  You could also use orange juice, cranberry juice, or whiskey.  Feel free to experiment, but add the liquid gradually.  You want the mixture to be moist but not swimming.

When the apples have softened and the dried fruit has rehydrated, remove the pot from the heat.  Alternatively, you can also choose at this point to add a healthy dose of heavy cream and cook everything a little longer.  Either way is good.  You may eat it immediately after it is finished, but the flavours will only intensify if you leave it cooling on the stove overnight or let it rest even longer in the refrigerator.  It is great both cold and reheated, both as a breakfast or snack in itself and as a topping for cake or icecream.  I have never tried to can it properly, but it lasts quite a long time in jars in my refrigerator, and it tastes like Christmas whenever you happen to bring it out, even in November.