Sunday, January 10, 2016

kimchi soup

You might not dream about soft tofu bobbing around in your soup bowl.

But I do.

Somehow, soft tofu is the perfect thing in this hot Korean soup. There's cabbage and rich spicy broth and pieces of meat floating around . . . but it's the silky-soft tofu cubes that make the best spoonfuls.

We discovered this soup at our favourite Korean restaurant in Jasper a couple years ago. Over the Christmas holiday, I knew it was time to learn how to make it myself.

I love the idea of fermenting things  that the air has little organisms that can keep food instead of spoiling it  so of course I had to make the kimchi base myself. (You don't have to. But it sure is a lot of fun.)

After a week of sitting on the counter in jars, my kimchi was bubbling away and smelled like an exotic fermented witches' brew. It was ready for soup.

Kimchi goes into the fridge after sitting on the counter for a week

You'll see the whole recipe below  thank you, New York Times  but the very best part is cutting the soft tofu into big wobbly cubes. They slide in just before serving. We liked our bowls of soup with lots of fresh green onion on top and a mound of Japanese rice on the side to soak up the broth.

This was our lunch almost every day between Christmas and New Year's. Sitting at our dining room table with the watery sunlight streaming in and a pot of rooibos tea on the counter, it was a very fine lunch indeed.

one year ago: peppermint lavender balm and we eat well in edmonton
two years ago: jane's pecan puffs and chipotle and rosemary spiced nuts
three years ago: carrot and fennel soup

kimchi soup
adapted from the new york times
serves 6  8

1 lb. (454 g.) pork rib roast or pork shoulder, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. fish sauce
2 tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, cut in half, sliced lengthwise and cut in half again
2 c. kimchi, squeezed dry and chopped*
1 tbsp. Korean red pepper flakes**
 2 c. kimchi juice
8 c. chicken or beef broth
8 oz. (222 g.) soft or silken tofu, cut in large cubes
8 green onions, chopped, for garnish
Japanese rice, for serving (optional)

Get a bowl out and toss the pork with garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil and fish sauce. Marinate for 10 minutes.

Put a heavy-bottomed soup pot on medium heat. Melt the butter, then add the pork mixture. Cook gently for 5 minutes. Stir onion in and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat up to medium high and add the kimchi and red pepper flakes. Simmer for 2 minutes.

Pour kimchi juice and broth in. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a brisk simmer and cook 20 minutes. Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning if you need to.

Right before serving, add the tofu and stir gently. When the tofu is hot, ladle into bowls and garnish generously with green onion. If you like, serve alongside Japanese rice.

* You can buy the kimchi or make your own. Here's the recipe I used.
** Buy red pepper flakes at a Korean grocery store or in the Asian section of a regular grocery store. They are not hot (spicy).

Thursday, December 3, 2015

wish list

December, for me, is bundling up in the dark and following little paper lanterns through the Japanese garden to find hot apple cider and carolers huddled around the fire pit.

It's a choir concert in a 100-year-old Anglican church with my big coat just over my shoulders.

It's taking out my favourite wooden reindeer and setting it on the mantel.

It's eating as many treats as possible that feature marzipan.

And it's thinking about those I love and what they might like for Christmas. Maybe, a soft white camisole from Germany for a friend or the present that Scott always wants: wool socks.

What are your favourite things to give and receive at Christmas?

Here are a few of mine. A good number of the companies are based in Edmonton (because this city makes a lot of wonderful things), but they're almost all available online.

Beautiful, beautiful wooden lamps handmade in a little studio in South Carolina. Watch this New York Times video for inspiration.

Earrings from Prairie Smoke Glassworks. I have a little pair that are white glass studs with tiny blue squares and they're one of my favourite things. I found them at Tix on the Square in Edmonton, which sells a lot of local artists' work.

This belt solves so many problems: it lies flat against my jeans and is ethically made.

You might shop local for groceries, but have you thought about where your underwear comes from? I've just discovered this little Toronto company and they're fantastic  and fun.

A pure white beeswax candle, or a lavendar honey soap from Meadow Sweet Honey. (Find them at the Old Strathcona Farmers' Market.)

Passion paradou. Raspberry noir. Apricot caramel. Sometimes, I think that all I really want for Christmas is one huge box of these chocolates. They're handmade with a short shelf-life, so go to the shops in Calgary and Edmonton.

It still surprises me that aprons wear out. There seem to be a lot of nice denim ones around lately. I especially like the Japanese style that crosses at the back . . . but my favourite seller on Etsy stopped making them. Seen any other good ones?

The Swedish coffee and baking book, Fika. Full of simple line drawings and ideas for the most important snack of the day.

Everyone likes thinking about houses and how we make them into homes. The Not So Big House is my favourite book about this.

Finally: a splurge. This looks like a gorgeous leather bag made by Edmonton shoe company Poppy Barley. Can you imagine how lovely it would be in brown?

one year ago: shortbread peppermint pattie cookies
two years ago: annie's sun-dried tomato dip
three years ago: cheese ball!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

granola no. 3

It appears that certain food bloggers have a problem with posting granola recipes.

And by problem, I mean we just can't stop ourselves.

Back in January 2011, I brought you Naomi's granola, full of dried blueberries and cranberries with a whiff of almond.

Then last November, I had to tell you about Megan Gordon's genius hazelnut cacao nib granola.

You probably thought that was enough.

But no. I can't stop. I eat granola almost every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning. I like a bit of variety in my life.

Although, the funny thing is that this granola is quite plain, and that's what keeps me coming back to it. It's the perfect combination of lightly toasted oats and nuts and it's not very sweet, which I find is a good thing these dark mornings when I sip my black tea desperately and am barely awake enough to make eye contact with the husband across the table.

It's plain, easy-going and perfect for most mornings. I first made it last February, although Molly posted it almost a year earlier. I've made a few adjustments to proportions  I like more oats, less coconut and fewer nuts  but the essence is the same.

Molly calls it "Granola No. 5" because it's the fifth granola recipe she's posted. After careful consideration, I'm calling my version "Granola No. 3." You can do the math.

one year ago: hazelnut cacao nib granola
two years ago: japan in pictures and japan in food
three years ago: potato chip cookies

granola no. 3
adapted from orangette's granola no. 5
bakes a lot of granola, maybe 12 cups

750 g. (about 7 1/2 c.) rolled oats*
65 g. (about 1 1/4 c.) coconut flakes or chips
300 g. (about 2  3 c.) nuts,** chopped
2 tsp. Diamond kosher salt (or 1 tsp. regular salt)
240 ml (1 c.) maple syrup
160 ml (2/3 c.) olive oil

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line one large or two regular baking sheets with parchment paper.

Get out your biggest bowl and mix the oats, coconut, nuts and salt together well. Add the maple syrup and olive oil, and stir until everything is coated. Spread it evenly onto the baking sheet(s).

Bake for 20 minutes. Take it out and stir carefully. Bake for another 15 minutes. Stir and decide if it's done enough for you. You'll probably want to bake it for another 5 or 10 minutes. Look for the coconut and nuts to toast, and the oats to be lightly golden brown. (Remember, it will bake and set a bit more as it cools.)

Let cool completely on a rack. Store it in an airtight container on the counter. Molly says that if you want to keep it longer than a couple weeks, you could freeze some of it  but we've never needed to.

* If you're making this for a Celiac, make sure you use oats that are labelled "wheat-free" or "gluten-free."
** I like a combination of hazelnuts and walnuts and often throw some almonds in. You could also use some seeds here. I find seeds are often too adventurous in the morning.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

ginger meringues

I grew up with the German Kaffee time  usually around 4 o'clock on a weekend or summer afternoon. If the weather was good, we'd get out a blanket and sit under the cherry tree out front. The adults would drink coffee and everyone would eat slices of cake.

It's a good tradition, and I follow it pretty religiously when we visit Germany and Austria. Even at home in Canada, we often have coffee, tea or hot chocolate around that time on weekend afternoons.

So when I heard about a new book called Fika  about the Swedish coffee time  I had to check it out of the library. It's a bewitching little book full of lovely illustrations . . . reminding me yet again how the right illustration can say so much more than a photograph.

I've got my eye on quite a few recipes, including oat crisp chocolate sandwich cookies, hazelnut coffee cake, chocolate buttercream almond rounds, and a sticky chocolate cake with poppyseeds (!) on top.

But last weekend, Scott brought orange sorbet home from the grocery store, and I remembered the ginger meringues. Almost before he put the groceries away, I was in my corner, wiping the stainless-steel mixing bowl with a slice of lemon and separating eggs.

The meringues were incredibly easy to make and their beauty  whipped clouds with tiny flecks of ginger if you looked hard  was so satisfying.

We ate them that night with the sorbet, and the ginger and orange soon became good friends. But the next day, we had them as part of a lazy Sunday afternoon with coffee and tea. Of course, they were perfect for fika or Kaffee.

P.S. If Fika showed up in my stocking this Christmas, that would be one smart Santa. Just sayin'.

one year ago: chard salad with feta and capers 
two years ago: three-nuts chocolate torte
three years ago: homemade ricotta cheese

ginger meringues
fika by anna brones and johanna kindvall
bakes 15 large or 30 small

slice of lemon
3 egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 c. (148 g., 5.25 oz.) white sugar or natural cane sugar
1 tsp. ginger, grated

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit (95 degrees Celsius). Take out one very big or two regular cookie sheets and line with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

If you have a stainless-steel bowl  or a regular grease-free bowl  wipe it with the lemon. Discard the lemon. Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the sugar and keep beating until it's glossy and you see hard peaks. Beat in the ginger.

Use a tablespoon to plop the meringue batter onto the cookie sheet. About 1 tablespoon makes a small meringue and about 2 tablespoons make a large meringue.

Bake 1 1/2 hours for small and 2 hours for large. They should feel crisp on the outside and sound hollow when they're done. Leave them in the oven to cool down after you turn the oven off.

Store in an airtight container for a few weeks.

Monday, October 12, 2015

eating squash pasta and talking over dinner

A couple weeks ago, I read this article by Sherry Turkle in the New York Times.

It talked about solitude and conversation and phones.

For me, it was exactly just right.

My friends know I'm already pretty old-fashioned: I refuse to text and I just joined Facebook a few months ago  for this blog.

Mostly, I don't like being interrupted. I like concentrating and listening and being listened to. And I think you can't do that very well with a phone (or two) between you.

But I do see that everywhere around me, everything is changing.

At work, students walk across campus, heads down, reading and typing. I walk into an office to ask something and the person across from me feels the pull of the keyboard and screen to keep typing and scanning while I talk. A good friend has her phone on the table, upside down, while we're meeting other friends for dinner.

In the name of efficiency  in the name of distraction  we can't concentrate on each other.

This article also looked at solitude and I suddenly realized I've been interrupting my solitude just as much. When did it become wrong to stand in a line up and look around, instead of looking down at a phone? Why do I need to check my phone on the bus or at home in the evening?

I dearly love my solitude and if I want to accomplish something more than I am right now, interrupting myself won't help. It'll just be satisfying for those 10 seconds when I see there's a new message.

I am not missing anything.

For me, at least, it's time to make very deliberate decisions about when to turn the phone off. As a rough rule of thumb, let's say more often than not.

I made this new squash and pasta dish from Luisa around the same time I read the article.

I roasted the squash with Korean red pepper flakes and olive oil, and caramelized the onions slowly in apple cider vinegar and maple syrup. Mashed together and mixed with a bit of pasta water, scooped next to corn on the cob, and showered in parmesan, it was a perfect fall meal  with not a phone in sight.

one year ago: fresh plum kuchen
two years ago: leek gratin
three years ago: beet salad with honey-horseradish dressing

squash pasta
slightly adapted from The Wednesday Chef and The New York Times

2 1/2  3 lb. orange squash, such as butternut, peeled, seeded and cut into small pieces (about 1/8  1/4 inch thick)
3 tbsp. + 3 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 teaspon Korean red pepper flakes or dried chile flakes
3 tsp. kosher salt (1 1/2 tsp. regular salt)
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. maple syrup
a good amount of parmesan or asiago, grated, to top
optional: scoop out the squash seeds, toss them with olive oil and salt and roast them in a small pan while you're roasting the squash flesh.

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Take out a cookie sheet and line it with parchment paper. Stir the squash, 3 tablespoons olive oil, chile flakes and 2 teaspoons kosher salt in a bowl. Spread onto the prepared pan, and cook, stirring once, about 15 minutes  until it's tender and a bit coloured. (You may wish to also roast the squash seeds at this point.) Take out of the oven.

2. In the meantime, set a heavy pot over medium-high heat and heat the other 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir in the onions and remaining teaspoon of salt. Stir often, and cook until the onions are very soft and getting darker, about 10  15 minutes. Then pour in the vinegar and syrup and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until it gets almost syrupy and the onions break down, a bit like a jam.

3. Put the squash and onions in a bowl and use a fork to mash them together. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

4. Boil your pasta  preferably penne or rigatoni  in lightly salted water until al dente. Near the end, set aside 1  2 cups of the starchy pasta cooking water. Strain the pasta and then stir the squash-onion mixture in, also using some (or all) of the reserved pasta water to thin it. Serve with grated parmesan to go on top, and roasted seeds, if you made them.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

summer: austria

Salzburg. Boozy cake, fresh apricot juice and castles on hills.

Gondola way, way up above St. Gilgan to hike along the mountaintop and down to the valley bottom. Stopping for cake and tea along the way. Swimming in the Wolfgang See.

Hiking in the dry heat of the Kamptal wine region. Going underground to wine cellars monks built 900 years ago. Finding warm plum cake at coffee time.

Vienna in a heatwave. Salads for lunch, with fresh Grüner Veltliner grape juice.

Vineyards in Vienna city limits. Taste-testing a Zweigelt grape.

Last day. Hiking above Vienna. Looking at the Danube River, where we swam the day before.

one year ago: mt. harris trail mix
two years ago: rocky mountain climb and green beans with garlicky tomato concassé
three years ago: beet hummus
four years ago: parsley lentil pasta
five years ago: mrs. doucet's apple chutney

Monday, September 14, 2015

summer: germany

Spotting ships on the Rhine River.

Ahr Valley vineyard trails.

Medieval town squares.

Cycling to the garden house by the lake. Swimming.

Cake and coffee late afternoon.

There's a reason why German hand creams have chamomile in them.

Hazelnuts. On road sides, in front yards, nestled up to chocolate.

Breakfast, or even dinner. Fresh buns, cheese, meat on the table in the backyard.

Cologne Cathedral with the main train station as its churchyard.
Train to Austria . . .

one year ago: summer: nova scotia
two years ago: warm salad of crispy chicken thighs
three years ago: ode to victoria and little house on the prairie
four years ago: salmon for dinner and  hop & go fetch it: germany edition
five years ago: black & blue scotch berries and a taster menu from gluten-free girl and the chef

Monday, September 7, 2015

summer: amsterdam

Painter's light.




Roomservice Café at Hotel Droog.

Husband waits while wife shops in De Negen Straatjes.

Ferry to cycle on Amsterdam Noord.


one year ago: vietnamese noodle and chicken salad and summer: prince edward island
two years ago: snack chronicles: super fudge and summer: british columbia road trip
three years ago: tarragon three-bean salad and cherry peach jam
four years ago: german groceries
five years ago: rote gruetze on ice cream, rosemary corn butter and peach crisp