When hemp gives you the munchies… Sweet chili lime shrimp salad

Apologies for not blogging for a while, friends! I don’t know what’s with me these days. My husband and I are nearing the end of Breaking Bad (the show, not any kind of illicit activities) so our evenings have been munched up by the TV more than usual.

But speaking of illicit activities and munching…

Hemp oil

 

How could I resist this dangerous food when I saw it in the grocery store the other week? Oh, the potential for blog jokes…

So here’s what you need to know. It’s green. In colour and nickname.

Green hemp oil

It needs to be refrigerated or it goes rancid easily. It smells and tastes quite like how the ganja smells, but without the same stink. Not that I would know what pot smells like, because whenever I smell it I run in the other direction of course. If you have never smelled it, I’d be willing to wager quite a bit of $ that you’ve never walked around Vancouver, but that might be slightly off-topic.

Back to what you need to know. It’s made from the hemp seeds of plants that have low THC (this puts the “wacky” in the “tobacky”), but the leaves can get mixed in here and there through processing, which does leave teensy residual bits of THC. In Canada, the concentration needs to be less than 10ppm for food and is usually around 4, but this varies by country. If you’ve hit this food blog by accident and tend to listen to a lot of Bob Marley or Snoop Dog, you might want to Google “hash oil,” which is made from mature leaves and flowers. There are probably recipes you could apply there too – maybe I’ll do a baking post on that subject when Justin Trudeau is Prime Minister and laws here have changed slightly.   I predict a giveaway? Hmmmm…

But more about what you need to know. You don’t want to heat it if you can help it, because it has a low smoke point, which means that the oil begins to break down and stop being good for you (remember my post on ghee, that has a high smoke point and so is better for frying). And yes, you heard me right! Hemp oil is medicinal! Well, not in the way that you’re thinking. It has a 3:1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 essential fatty acids, which is the exact balance required by the human body. We can’t make these fats ourselves, but we need them to fight inflammation and basically nurture everything we need to be healthy, like mood, behaviour, and cellular processes. I’m thinking that if you ate a few tablespoons a day you might be able to stop chowing down on salmon and almonds. But then you might get munchier thanks to the hemp, so you’d wind up eating more salmon and almonds – Omega fat snowball effect. Ha, “fat snowball.” Sorry, distracted there for a second. Not sure how good hemp is for concentration…

Anyway. I had a hankering for shrimp and all things fresh because I’m dying for spring to show up, so I made the hemp oil into a honey shrimp glaze as well as a ginger lime salad dressing. Yes I know I told you not to cook the hemp oil but I really wanted shrimp and you don’t need to cook it for long, so I went with it. Don’t judge, mon.  Here are the recipes:

Sweet shrimp avocado salad ingredients

  • Crispy-fresh boston leaf lettuce
  • Red pepper
  • Avocado
  • Chives
  • Shrimp
  • Snow peas

Honey shrimp marinade ingredients

  • 1/2C honey
  • 1/4C soy sauce
  • 4Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 4Tbsp hemp oil
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2tsp ground coriander
  • 2tsp paprika

Hemp miso ginger lime salad dressing ingredients

  • 4Tbsp hemp oil
  • 1/4C lime juice
  • 2Tbsp honey
  • 2Tbsp miso paste
  • 1 inch ginger, chopped

Miso dressing

Directions: Marinate shrimp for at least 1/2 hour in fridge. Assemble remaining salad ingredients and make dressing. Fry shrimp with snow peas lightly, until just pink, and add to salad.

Results:

Honey glazed shrimp saladThis salad hardly tasted like marijuana! The honey gave the shrimp a delicious light char, and the ginger and chili worked well for a little extra zip. A great spring salad with exceptional medicinal properties. Rating: 4 Yums Woody Harrelson would eat this salad all day long.

Wheaten is good eatin’

I nearly left the apostrophe out of this post’s title, but then I just couldn’t do it. Because that would be wrong.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Here is a picture that my husband’s cousin who lives in Dublin and Belfast sent us today (she kind of does live in both, although not usually at the same time).

Thanks yourdailymedia.com

Thanks yourdailymedia.com

Awesome. My husband’s parents were born outside Belfast, and so although I have distant roots in the Emerald Isle, we’re lucky to be able to visit close family members over there relatively frequently. Whenever we’re able to go, we hop back and forth between Dublin and Belfast being very graciously hosted by many warm family members. When I say warm I mean friendly, because even on a good day Ireland isn’t so very warm. But as Phil always says when they start apologizing for the rain, we don’t go for the weather.

Thanks theferalirishman.blogspot.ca

Thanks theferalirishman.blogspot.ca

We go for the wheaten bread.

That’s right all you Irish relatives reading this, you’ve found out my secret. I pretend to like you and all, and I do enjoy all the tea, so thanks for that, even though I horrify you by putting sugar in mine. But mostly I come for the bread, because you just can’t get wheaten here. You can’t even find good recipes when you Google it, and I am an exceptional recipe Googler.

Let’s let that news sink in for the relatives for a moment and I’ll bring the rest of you non-Irish up to speed, in case you haven’t experienced the diversity of Irish breads. Apparently in the 1800s, Ireland couldn’t grow the “hard wheat,” needed for good yeast leavened bread, so the introduction of baking soda as a leavener was a game changer, allowing the Irish to make good breads with their softer wheat flours. This is where “soda bread,” comes from, and “wheaten bread,” is a variation that uses whole wheat flour. Wheaten may be a more Northerly delicacy, but I might only believe this because it’s on every Belfast relative’s table through the day. We find it a more satisfying, filling, healthy (if you still feel that whole grain is a bonus) toast than anything Wonderbread-ish from here. They’re not even in the same league, actually. The closest I can compare it to is an unsweet, ungreasy, dense bran muffin loaf.

I’m not even finished with the allure of the Irish breads. Again in the North (because it’s St. Patrick’s Day after all. Ahem), there’s something called an “Ulster Fry.” Basically this is a breakfast where each delicacy could cause a coronary in its own right. You’re thinking, “But that’s true of my own breakfast, right here in North America, Ann.” Oh, okay, cheeky. Does your breakfast have at least three types of bread, one of which is potato, and many of which are fried in a pan? Are these graciously accompanied by all the fried eggs you can eat? Multiple types of sausages? Puddings? (Which are kind of also sausages…). You get the picture. I ate an Ulster Fry at a gas station the last time I was there. At a gas station.

But back to why good Wheaten is elusive unless you’re in a place with really cute accents and lots of rainbows (and I’m not talking about Church and Wellesley). Irish flours are still different than what I can get here. Maybe they’re still working the “soft flour,” over there, but if they are they seem to have perfected any 1800s handicaps. My husband’s cousin Heather gave me a recipe for Wheaten some time ago but I was afraid to try it because it included two kinds of wheat flour. We only have one wheat flour here and I’m not convinced I have the luck of the Irish in the flour department. 

On my last trip over, though, I found another kindred foodie in Emma who shared a bunch of her cookbooks with me, making a special trip back over to loan them for the remainder of our trip. I had high hopes for this one

Click for Amazon

Click for Amazon

which had a similar Wheaten recipe in it to Heather’s, but with only one kind of wheat flour. I finally got around to trying it today. (The rest of the book rocks too, but is crazy expensive to ship from Europe so I bought it on Amazon as an ebook. E-cookbooks suck, BTW – too hard to flip through them quickly – but they’re cheap!)

And now for the recipe! Amounts translated and directions paraphrased, some ingredients tweaked.

Multi Seed Wheaten Bread

(Makes 2 banana bread sized loaves)

  • Butter for greasing pans
  • 3 1/2C all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2C whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2C wheat bran
  • about 1C seeds – I used sunflower, poppy and sesame)
  • 1/4C butter, cubed
  • 2Tbsp honey
  • 2Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1L buttermilk

Directions: Preheat to 350 and grease pans. Mix dry ingredients in a very large bowl, reserving a healthy handful of seeds. Add butter, and rub it into dry ingreds with your fingers. Make a well in the middle and pour in remaining ingredients.

Reid and buttermilk

Mix, and add to pans. My batter was quite dry, but Neven says goopy. Mine still worked. Sprinkle tops with reserved seeds.

Wheaten

Neven’s directions say to “bake for hours,” which is not highly specific, and I was testing out my new convection fancy-schmantz, so I can’t even tell you how long to let it go either – about an hour on convection.

Kids

But here’s what to watch for – wait until it starts to go brown, and then stick a knife in which should come out dry. Dump loaf onto a plate and tap the bottom and it should sound hollow (Neven’s directions). I think you can cook this lepre-loaf for a good long time without damaging it. And then eat it within one or two days because I have a funny feeling it might turn into the blarney stone fast.

Results: 

Wheaten

Well, I guess I won’t be seeing you Irish relatives again. It was great! Argh, but then there are still those Ulster Frys. I might just have to return after all. :) (Miss you guys). Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all!

And on another note…

Question for you. Let’s just say you’ve been remodelling your kitchen due to a broken pipe thanks to your useless neighbour who shares your wall and nearly burned your house down in a prior incident. And let’s just say that your husband is far from being a backbencher, so every decision takes in-depth negotiations. And then let’s just say you’re finally nearing the finish line and he has ordered the final component – lights that took a bedroom peace accord to decide on. And let’s keep in mind that he already got his hand slapped for taking it upon himself to choose the knobs without checking with me, because to anyone else they look like they like the girl version of phallic.

Nipple knobs And then let’s say this is the pattern in the rest of the kitchen. Silver kettle (Irish. Tea. But with sugar)…

Kettle Silver stove, as seen previously (Convection. Plus kids enjoy the light). Silver toaster (with cheeky magnet. Can I say cheeky any more often in this post?)…

ToasterSilver nipple knobs… And then this. We agreed on the red part.

Red lightI’m not being grumpy when I say they have to go back, right? I was looking forward to having a grown up kitchen where things matched. Sheesh. Almost at the finish line. He’s lucky he’s Irishly cute.

It’s Joanna’s virtual shower! And a bunch of dangerous baby foods!

Today’s post is an extra special one. You see, my Internet friends, Joanna and her husband Mike from way on over there at http://midwesternbite.com/, are expecting a baby. So sweetheart Aly from way on over there at fudgingahead.wordpress.com (also expecting a baby) suggested we throw Joanna a virtual baby shower. Fun! And this way, we don’t even have to have a bunch of old women yelling, “Save the bows, save the bows, bikini time!” Score. So welcome to your shower Joanna!!!

I’m new to virtual baby showers, but from what I gather, everyone surprises Joanna with their posts at the same time, usually with a recipe or something special and baby related. Since my blog rep is to try out weird, creative foods, I made a special trip over to the weird food Mecca, T&T, on a hunt for some interesting foods that were baby sized. Or actual babies. I wouldn’t put it past T&T. Anyone ever read Jonathan Swift, circa 1729? Anyone, anyone? Bueller…

“I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.”

Right now everyone reading is thinking, “Who invited her.” No worries, there will never be any actual cannibalism on this blog.

But I did find lots of interesting foods that were babyish. Baby-sized, mostly. Let’s start with the fruits. First up, we have a picture of my cat Rudy lounging with a baby watermelon. Rudy is not impressed, if you couldn’t tell, but his needs have kind of taken a back seat in recent years. Joanna, this watermelon will be about the size of the baby you are about to give birth to, if you’re lucky. I birthed two watermelons, each with no drugs. My kids are not nearly grateful enough. I’ll be including a watermelon recipe at the end of my gripping commentary, so hang tight.

Baby watermelon

Next, some baby honey mandarins. They taste pretty much like regular mandarins, but they’re cuter. Cut them into quarters for kids and they gobble them up. The mandarins are pictured with one of my two ungrateful watermelons.

Baby mandarins

The watermelons are cute, though, no?

Next up, some baby bananas. You see, when a mommy and daddy banana love each other…

Baby bananas

And now let’s move on to more dangerous baby foods (although I wouldn’t suggest feeding them to actual babies unless pureed). I haven’t cooked many of them yet – feel free to suggest recipes. My next number of posts will grow from this one, highlighting a few of the following.

Here are some baby dried shrimp. I’ve always seen these in China town and wanted to experiment with them. They’re small enough to be water bugs. Sea monkeys, if you will.

Small dried shrimp

Next, some lotus rootlets. I had never heard the word “rootlet,” but as soon as I did I was sold.

Lotus rootlets

And now for two things that I might actually bring to a shower. I did once bring biltong to my cousin’s baby shower, but I sheepishly snuck it back out again from the pinkified pinkness without a reveal. Anyway, I grabbed these cute red bean bunny buns. My kids never would have gone for a red bean bun, but they gobbled the red bean bunny buns. Easy – steam for 15 minutes.

Red bean buns

Just be careful how you plate them…

red bean bunny buns

And I also got some short ribs. You might argue with me that “short” is not exactly babyish, but have you ever seen a tall baby? I think not.

Short ribs

I decided to marinade the ribs to prep for dinner tomorrow, and chose a recipe from “Weber’s Real Grilling,” which I just mentioned on Joanna’s most recent post where she discussed her cookbook obsession and asked for our favourite cookbooks. Funny story. I went to one of my three cookbook shelves hunting for Real Grilling, and I started to get panicky because it seemed to be missing.

Cookbooks

I hunted for it for a while, only to find out that I had taken it off the shelf two minutes prior to when I lost it, and that it was on the counter in front of me. Cooking with wine when there isn’t any wine in your cooking has its drawbacks, people.

Funnier story. Looking at that picture made me realize how many Jamie Oliver cookbooks I have. I like Jamie Oliver. I mean, I really like Jamie Oliver. Go ahead and judge, but who else am I going to go for, Emeril? Although secretly I do think he’s kind of cute too. Anyway, once I had a steamy dream with Jamie Oliver. Right when the dream started to get interesting, I stopped Jamie Oliver and said, “Hey, if you’re cooking with hot peppers, do you throw the seeds in too?” We all have our priorities.

Who invited her??

I’ll finish with the Weber recipe for the short rib marinade, as well as a simple recipe for watermelon mint salad. But before I do, I want to say a hearty congratulations to Joanna and Mike. As I’m sure you’ve learned from Sweetie Petey, kids are amazing. I wish you both the greatest happiness with your family, and you, Joanna, the best of luck with welcoming your watermelon into the world. From our family to yours, here is a picture of some pizza love we had for dinner tonight that we’ll send your way (the love, not the pizza, unfortunately). I value your long distance friendship, and look forward to hearing about your kid adventures!

And for anyone else reading this, please comment with some cute parenting advice for Joanna. 

pizza love

Mint watermelon salad with feta (serves 4)

  • 1 baby watermelon, cubed
  • 1 English cucumber, diced
  • Good hunk of feta cheese
  • Handful of mint
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Pepper

Prepare everything, adding mint and feta just before serving.

Bourbon marinade

Combine the following ingredients. Makes about 1 cup.

  • 1/2C bourbon
  • 1/4C ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Who knows? A giveaway!

So here’s a first.

My loyal fans know I cook weird stuff. I find it, slay it (or at least charge it, usually with the “tap,” if you must know), research it, cook it, and then feed it to some lucky victim … I mean … friend or family member.

There’s a certain part of this process that gives me great joy, besides watching the terrified faces of my victims when trying an odd food creation. The grocery checker part, prior to the tap, is always lots of fun. You see, weird foods aren’t often labelled well. For some reason, they don’t have stickers. They’re usually all jumbled up in the same section as all the other weird foods, so even when they do happen to have a header card thingy, you can never be sure what is labelling what. Most times I take a picture of the name sitting above the weird food display for two reasons. 1. I’m pretty sure the memory section of my brain is the size of mulberry, so if the label is right I’ll be needing it when I get home  2. The grocery checker often says, “Um, what is this?” and because my memory is the size of a mulberry as already mentioned, I show them what I think the weird food is and then I don’t have to store the odd probable-name in the mulberry.

Ninety percent of the time, the checker person says, “Um, no, it’s not that. Don’t you know what it is? You’re buying it, right?”

Then I greatly enjoy saying, “No, I don’t know what it is. I like buying foods when I have no clue what they are.”

Then checker person says something along the lines of, “Vern to cash four please. Vern,” into their microphone, and that store’s inventory expert food nerd, who I have just anointed, “Vern,” shows up and says, very matter-of-factly, “It’s a blah blah blah.”

Checker person does a dance of joy because they can take my tap and chug ahead with their line, I make a note of the chosen name in my phone (mulberry), and the rest of the weird food order of business can proceed.

Until the other day, when there was a first. I nabbed two of these:

Mysterious food

Weird food 1-IMG_6006

To my great delight, the Vern was called in, and he/she said, “That’s a lotus root.”

I Googled lotus roots, and here’s what the insides look like:

Thanks justhungry.com

Thanks justhungry.com

And here’s what the insides of my veggie and/or fruit looks like:

Odd foodAnd folks, coincidentally, for this, my one hundredth blog post, for the first time, I’ve come across a food that I can’t figure out what it is. I’ve Googled until my Google finger was sore. I’ve sorted through pictures. I’ve searched, “Kind of like an artichoke,” because it peels like one, and “tropical edible tree fruit” and “common South Asian edibles,” and everything else I can think of. And I’m coming up empty.

So I cooked it up anyway. Butter and garlic, can’t go wrong with butter and garlic. And I ate it. I tried some raw, and some cooked. And then I left some leftovers on a plate on the table in case I dropped dead at my son’s swimming lesson and Dr. House’s people had to break in and do an investigation (those guys are smart, but I don’t think they’d know what it was either).

And I created a contest and giveaway, in honour of my one hundredth blog post, and also in honour of a really sweet review and giveaway my blog friends at Midwesternbite.com are doing for my YA romantic comedy novel. I’m really taken aback by the support they’ve given me. So here is how this contest is going to go:

1. You need to follow @midwesternbite on Twitter or subscribe to www.midwesternbite.com to be eligible. As per the really great support they’ve provided to me. While you’re at it, if you’re a chick, go subscribe to www.thepurplefig.com too – more BFFs, and you’ll love the stories. Hey, and don’t forget about me either! That’s a lot of subscribing, but I know you can do it.

2. You need to take a guess at what the heck this weird food is and tell me in the comments. I’ll give further observations to help with your research after I finish the contest rules.

3. If the weird food has already been guessed in the comments by someone else, you need to provide one serving suggestion in the comments. The first person to guess what the food is will get TWO ballots to win, and everyone else who follows the rules will get one.

4. Sorry, but you’re only eligible if you live in North America. I still love you if you live across an ocean or way down south, but it’s expensive to mail crap to you.

And as for the crap that’s getting mailed… (Kidding, this is one of my favourite cookbooks, obviously)…

odd_bits_cover_l

And now for the further details about this odd fruit or vegetable:

1. Apparently I’m not allergic to it, nor is it lethal, neither cooked, nor uncooked.

2. Its protective leaves are kind of like corn husks. Which might make them husks and not leaves. You tell me.

3. I think it’s some kind of super food, because I’m still awake and it’s after 10pm.

4. Its inner leaves are soft and downy, like a monkey’s paw. Or a kitten’s paw. Or a kangaroo’s paw. (I Googled each of these and it’s not that either, FYI)

5. It goes well with beer. And wine. This, I can say for sure.

6. It kind of tastes like a cross between an almond and an artichoke heart. I Googled almondichoke, but no dice.

7. It helps with virility. Wanna know how I know? Ha ha, not really, but I’ve been waiting all day to make that joke.

 

So that’s it!! Best of luck! And if it’s something really silly, like a carrot, you may never see this post again (and it won’t just be the memory part of my brain that’s the mulberry). Oh, and the contest closes March 1, 2014.

Apres School, and the Sapodilla

Know what I’m not any good at? Skiing. But it’s not for lack of trying.

Okay, maybe it actually is for lack of trying. When I was in high school, my friend decided to teach me how to ski. We went on a bus trip to a hill, she taught me to do some turns, and then she got bored on the little hills and decided I was ready to graduate (you could argue that all hills in Ontario are little, and you would most definitely do this if you are reading this from the West coast, but they weren’t little to me). I went with her, but each time I lined up for the lift, I thought to myself, “Hm, I wonder if I’ll die this time.” I wasn’t good enough to keep up with the turns and I quickly picked up speed, so my strategy was just to lock my knees and yell at people to get out of the way. Thankfully, it worked that day, but I swore to be grateful that I had walked away with a pristine neck and never to try that again.

Years later, I took a few lessons, and by a few I mean five. I found this cold, and not particularly enjoyable. They never granted me the privilege of poles.

And then I married a snow bunny.

Thanks blog.lakechamplainchocolates.com

Thanks blog.lakechamplainchocolates.com

That wasn’t him (but it might as well have been).

Thanks swoonworthy.net

Thanks swoonworthy.net

That wasn’t him either. Sorry about that, went on a bit of a Googling tangent. I’m back now. And you’re welcome, ladies.

Anyway, my point is that although my husband would love for me to be good at skiing, it does not happen to be one of my strengths. He is still encouraging me to learn, but I find it at waste of time and money at this point, and also it completely stresses me out. So although I love learning new things, as far as skiing goes, I’ve drawn a line in the snow and said that I have no need to learn to hurtle my body down a hill at high speeds. There are days this makes me feel like a quitter, and a jerk for not being more optimistic and team-player-ish. And I know there will be great numbers of ski trips in my future, because my kids are already becoming great little snow bunnikins. But now we’re finally coming around to my dangerous food point.

I am very adept at apres ski.

Sapodilla

That’s my friend Jackie. We did zero skiing the day she posed with these, but it was frigid cold out, so my sapodilla smoothies with brandy went down just as nicely as if we had tamed some Alpine slopes (is that the lingo? I wouldn’t know). As with apres ski, I am also very good at apres school. You don’t need to actually go to school to do apres school. In general, I think there should be more “apres” activities where you don’t take part in the activity. Life is too short not to celebrate not taking part in something.

Anyway. Sapodilla fruit.

Sapodilla

Thanks tropicalfruitnursery.com

Thanks tropicalfruitnursery.com

They taste a lot like a brown sugar coated pear, and their sap was the original source of chewing gum. I highly recommend them for snacking on straight up after every activity you’re not participating in. But even better, you can take this website’s advice and make brandy smoothies on a blistery cold winter’s day. (Or you could try a brandy smoothie with another soft sweet fruit, like a peach or even ripe persimmon if for some odd reason you can’t find sapodilla).

Brandy sapodilla smoothie (serves two)

1 cup milk

1 Tbsp honey

1/2C brandy (I increased the brandy from the pitiful 1Tbsp the original recipe called for)

1 cup sapodilla pulp

4 cups ice

Place the ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth.

Results: A great winter warm-up (although it’s mostly cold). This is tropical snow in a drink. I would buy sapodilla if I came across them again. Rating: 2 Yums

I’ll close with another picture of Jackie where I messed up depth of field (I played with some effects with it too). See Cinnamon, I really need to practice this month’s Snaptoit photo challenge on depth of field. Thanks for answering my question!!

Wait, instead I’ll close with a question for everyone else (it’s my blog and I’ll pivot on a whim if I want to). Make me feel better – name one thing in your life that you have given up on learning to do, but that you think to yourself, “I’m actually fine and dandy not to know that, thanks.” This is like the anti-New-Year’s-Resolution.

Cheers to winter!Jackie2

A New Year’s winter radish salad

For some reason, this post has me thinking about New Year’s. I’m a titch early, I know, but I was early for American Thanksgiving when I posted about Canadian Thanksgiving, so maybe being ahead of schedule is my new thing (in all parts of my life. Yeah, that’s it. Ahem. Please keep these intentions in mind when you get my Christmas card January 15).

I think it got me onto a New Year’s theme when I was thinking about kale. Did it seem like kale was everywhere in 2013? I guess it’s better for everyone’s health than the year of the Krispie Kreme donut was.

Anyway, I was thinking about kale because I grabbed some winter radishes at the market

Winter Radishes

for my next dangerous food, and I decided to serve them in a kale salad inspired by the recipe of a blogger chef whose hot cookbook I learned about in 2013. Thanks Emma from Dublin for introducing me to her! You should put this cookbook on your Christmas list if you haven’t seen it –  accessible but delicious recipes. And I love that she started as a blogger. Role models, you know?

Smitten kitchen

But then I had nothing more to say about New Year’s or radishes. Until I remembered the kid’s story about people struggling to pull a radish from the ground. Which, when Googled, turned out to be Russian folktale about people struggling to pull a turnip from the ground. But help me out here and let’s just say it was a winter radish they were trying to pull.

Thanks turniptime.co.uk

Thanks turniptime.co.uk

In case you haven’t been around young kids in a while and are unfamiliar with the story, the end is that it’s only with the help of the tiniest creature that the mission is accomplished. It takes everyone’s help to get the job done.

So in keeping with a New Year’s theme, I’ve decided to retell the winter radish story using personalities who were newsworthy in 2013. And after you read the story, you should make the kale salad to get ahead of any food resolutions you’re going to make New Year’s Eve because it’s super delicious and healthy and it’s good to stay ahead of schedule. And then you’re going to stay out of my spin class if you’re not a regular because it’s really annoying when Jan 1 rolls around and suddenly I can’t get a bike but then it’s open season again in March.

But I digress.

The 2013 winter radish story

One day, there was a big fat winter radish growing in the garden, and Ann needed to pull it up so that she could take lovely photos of it for a delicious kale salad that she was going to put on her award winning blog about dangerous food. But try as she might, she couldn’t get it out of the ground. She silently told herself that she should start going to more spin classes to improve her strength and fitness level.

But luckily, Miley Cyrus came along. At first she tried to swing from the radish and use her giant white tongue to pull it out, but then she reluctantly helped Ann pull, hoping it would become a photo op.

Next, baby North West came crawling by. She was late helping out because she was filling out paperwork to rename herself “Jane,” but after she finished that, she became excited at the prospect of having a normal life as a farmer living out of the spotlight, so she began to tug at Miley.

Prince George crawled onto the scene, sympathizing with North’s wish to become a regular person. He helped out, but he did keep whispering “commoners” under his breath as he struggled.

Soon Nelson Mandela and Pope Francis arrived. Everyone thought they might not help because they had better things to do than hang out with tabloid people, but neither could resist being helpful, so they jumped in immediately.

Edward Snowden strolled through but didn’t help, just texting the Russians to tell them that celebrities were hijacking their folk tale.

And then, finally, Rob Ford arrived. Because it takes absolutely no brains but significant girth to pull out a radish, he was successful, although he swore throughout the process and the babies had to cover their ears. Then he asked “Hey, what’s a radish and can I smoke it?”

The Moral? Don’t be like Rob Ford. Eat your radishes.

Kale salad with winter radish

Winter radish kale salad

(I don’t add amounts below because it depends on how many you’re serving for. I like a salad heavy in the “toppings”)

  • Kale, washed carefully and chopped, with the central spines sliced out and discarded
  • Walnuts or pecans
  • Dried cherries or cranberries
  • Soft goat or feta cheese
  • Honey mustard dressing with ingreds below – home made is easy!
  • 3Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp honey

Directions: Make your salad, then add the dressing at least 15 minutes before you’re ready to eat it – kale dressing needs to sink in to make the kale more tender.

Results: This is one of my very favourite salads! Helpful hint – nuts, fruit and cheese are always a winning salad combination. Winter radishes taste kind of like the red spring ones, but earthier. Rob Ford might even enjoy this dish. Rating: 4 Yums

 

Cou(s) cou(s) for Coconut Water

I’m such a genius at maximizing my titles’ search engine potential.

Remember how I blogged about the Toronto Wine and Food Show a few weeks ago? You may recall my friend frenching an ice sculpture while we were there…

Meet Trish, Editor-in-chief of The Purple Fig

Meet Trish, Editor-in-chief of The Purple Fig

She loves when that pops up as the preview picture on Facebook.

Anyway, there was one product we got a super sales pitch on that I didn’t mention in that post (and they haven’t given me any dough to talk about it neither). Bloggies, (as in, since I’m a blogg-er, you’re a blog-ee) I would like to introduce you to Elton John’s coconut water.

Jax coco

Yup, the sales guy at the show, who was super into it, said that Elton John tasted it and fell in love with it, buying into the company. So here’s the question I had to ask myself. Is Elton John my beverage role model? I mean, probably if he was endorsing a certain piano or even a pair of platforms it might be worth stopping to listen, but drinks? Sales guy probably could have twisted my arm if the coconut water was spiked with something, but otherwise, I didn’t really give a crap what Elton John was drinking.

But then sales guy started telling us about actual crap!

In part two of his pitch he said that his coconut water was better because – and let’s see if I get this right because I couldn’t corroborate with any Google results – they wash the coconuts before they pasteurize them, removing fecal matter before they harvest and pasteurize the milk. He said other coconut waters are treated, but sometimes you can see the poo in the bottom of the bottles, and that even though there’s no longer any bacteria, you can sometimes taste it as an aftertaste. Can I get an Ew? I kind of forget where he said the poo comes from, but let’s not think about it too hard, because I just typed a couple of scenarios but had to erase them because it traumatized me and I wanted to protect you from the same imagined mental anguish, dear bloggie.

So of course I bought some of the man’s coconut water. The guy had given two very creative arguments about why I should purchase it, and he didn’t even mention that coconut water was used as blood plasma in WWII when they didn’t have enough, which I just found out in my Google quest. Three odd arguments for why I should drink this stuff is more than enough to wrestle my five bucks from my pocket.

(FYI, it’s also supposed to rehydrate you like a natural sports drink which is why it’s all the rage right now, and it isn’t the same as coconut milk, which usually includes the fattier pureed coconut meat).

So tonight I gave it a go with a quick-and-dirty (although less dirty than other brands) couscous recipe. I made up this recipe with what happened to be in my fridge and pantry, and it was very easy, quick, cheap, and healthy.

Coconut Water Couscous with apple, carmelized onion, and black pepper

  • 1C poo-free Coconut Water
  • 3/4C couscous
  • 1Tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thin
  • 1/2 large apple, diced
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • 2Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • black pepper

Directions: Boil coconut water in medium pot. Add couscous, stir, cover, and turn off heat. Meanwhile, melt butter in a frying pan. Add onions and cook slowly over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onions brown.

Not done yet...

Not done yet…

Squeeze lemon over diced apples, fluff couscous, and add apples, onions, and cilantro to the pot, and then go a little mental with the pepper.

Coconut Couscous

Results:  I served ours up with sesame tuna. Awesome! I’ll make this as a regular side dish for sure. I was able to taste the flair of the coconut water, and the pepper with the apples and sweet onions was fab. SO easy. The plain coconut water was fresh and wasn’t sweet – a great alternative to boring old water or unhealthy pop. Rating: 3 Yums

Apparently Rocket Man wasn’t such a bad drink role model after all.

Mr. Burns thinks sea urchin is excellent

There are two big associations I have with this next dangerous food, one from long ago, the other more recent.

Long ago: My first job after university was working at a telecommunications consulting firm as a report writer. The president of the firm, the guy who hired me, was quite a character. He was a bit like Mr. Burns at times, but not as old and more fun-loving (can we tell I’m taming this description down a bit in case he should happen to stumble across my blog?).

Thanks greytheblog.com

Thanks greytheblog.com

He was smart, driven, and occasionally slightly crazy, but in a mostly good way. Once he freaked out because I had decided to take the subway instead of a cab, so he couldn’t reach me underground. “I. have. been. trying. to. reach. you. for. ONE. HALF. HOUR!!!” he said, very uncalmly. After I explained that I had taken the subway because it was a short trip and I wanted to save the company money, he said, “Do you realize that I bill out at $350 an hour? Trust me, a cab is more reasonable than the time I’ve wasted trying to get you.” He would call me in on a Sunday night because he needed something immediately and keep me until 12am. One line I still laugh about with friends was when another young 20-something made a smart remark to him, and he said, “Make no mistake my friend, if anyone in this conversation is going to be clever it will be me.” Ah, Cliffy. Miss him.

Anyway, a big benefit to working closely with Cliff was that he liked to go out for lunch, and he lived large, always filling the table with more than you could eat. The sushi days were my favourites, because you got to try everything on the menu, all at once. I always left mourning the half-full table of food we couldn’t possibly eat.

But one of the first things he always ordered at a sushi place was uni. And not just uni, but uni with a quail’s egg. And he generously ordered enough for everyone. Without asking them.

Uni

Now I firmly believe, and maybe he even told me after I got to know him, that because Cliff was Cliff, he did this to watch people squirm. He was quite an intimidating character, and he was a president, and when you’re eating with a person like that you’re not going to say no to anything at a meal. As mentioned, he wasn’t dumb – he understood these dynamics, and uni was a good time for him. You can’t even bite these into two pieces, you just have to suck it back. Even for me, it was pretty fun to watch every time a new person came along.

I always refused the quail egg (yay me for not giving in to the Cliff) but even the uni itself was a force to be reckoned with. Uni is sea urchin. Let’s imagine me sucking back my first one, and finding my mouth completely full of the fishiest, squishiest food I’d ever tasted. At first I thought it was wretched and that I might puke all over Cliff – then I found myself craving it in the middle of the night weeks afterward. Like blue cheese, coffee, pate and beer, sea urchin is an acquired taste, but once you have a taste for it, there’s no going back.

This brings me to my second sea urchin association. One of my Twitter BFFs (yes, that’s a thing, and it’s cool), @justlovefood from Scotland (taught me how to cook haggis, coordinated the egg award that I participated in), posted a picture and recipe of sea urchin that they prepared over an open fire.

sea-urchin-photo-for-blog

It was so gorgeous that I knew I had to give it a try, and although I thought I would find urchins at my favourite multicultural superstore, I didn’t have any luck. Until last week, when I found these

Sea urchin

Not quite the gorgeous shells that were included in @justlovefood’s preparation, but they would have to do. Plus, theirs were cooked over an open fire, and … well … backyard fires are kind of frowned upon when your yard is a teensy square where two nearby houses have burned down semi recently. So I went with a BBQ and little clay pots my mom the potter made. To quote a tweet from @justlovefood: “Go with your instinct and palate, recipe is there just as a guide, cross fingers, will be delicious!”

And she was right! Here’s how it went down. It’s basically grilled crab and sea urchin, topped with your favourite mini version of cucumber salad.

Grilled sea urchin with crab, ginger and cucumber (serves 4 as appetizer or first course)

  • 4 heatproof (or possibly expendable) mini clay pots
  • 1.5 Tbsp crab meat per person
  • Sea urchins, three per pot
  • Olive oil, salt, pepper
  • 1/2 english cucumber, finely diced (serving 4)
  • 1 inch ginger, finely diced
  • 8 Mint leaves, finely shredded
  • Solid pinch of chives, shredded
  • Good glug of white wine vinegar. @justlovefood used lime juice, but I mistakenly thought I had some and then was trapped in solitary confinement with my children and so had to use what was on hand, which worked fine

Directions: Preheat BBQ to 400. Add crab meat to each pot. Layer three sea urchins overtop, and pour olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Sea urchin

Put pots on grill over indirect heat and cook 10 minutes, until urchin is slightly less squishy to the touch.

BBQ crab

Meanwhile, prepare the cucumber topping with remaining ingredients

Cucumber salad

Add topping to pots, and you’re good to go

Sea urchin and crab

Results: Cliff would have enjoyed this urchin thoroughly while barking at someone out of the other side of his mouth. What was most shocking to me was that it wasn’t at all fishy – coincidentally, last week at the Food & Wine Expo we tasted something with sea urchin in it, and it was fishy. With an aftertaste. Make sure your uni is fresh. This dish tasted creamy and rich, and the ginger and mint complemented the dish beautifully. It certainly wasn’t @justlovefood’s “Sea Urchin and Velvet swimmer crab & rhubarb and cucumber” over open fire, but it was a very acceptable variation on what I can imagine was a stellar recipe. Rating: 4 Yums

Challenge: In the comments, briefly describe the best story you have of a memorable boss

Silkie smooth chicken

Ebony and Ivory. Perfect harmony.

Silke chicken

Jungle Fever? I never actually saw the movie, but the poster was pretty awesome.

Thanks wikipedia

Thanks wikipedia

Silke chicken feet

Yes, I’m nearly as weird as the foods I cook.

The more unconventional of the two chickens above, my friends, is something I’ve been eyeing at the T&T grocery store for quite some time. I decided that my mother’s birthday celebration was the perfect time to experiment with my latest dangerous food – the silkie chicken. (She loves me, so it’s not like she could leave. Not without her gifts, anyway, so that meant hanging tight until dessert no matter what).

Silkie chicken

It looks quite different with its feathery coat

Thanks mypetchicken.com

Thanks mypetchicken.com

She’s a bit of a princess, no?

The silkie is smaller and obviously more pigmented than chickens we’re used to – even its bones are jet black. This is because it has a gene that causes pigment cells to replicate a lot, which means that even their organs are black. It also has high doses of carnosine, meaning if we eat it, we can increase our muscle mass, fight aging, and reduce diabetes and autism symptoms. The sad thing I learned about them is that they’re the friendliest of the chickens, making good pets, and that they’re happy to adopt other birds’ eggs, making good mothers. Even though this little lady was tender and tasty, you might not find me chomping down on one again. :(

Now you may have noticed something else uncommon about my pictures above, which becomes immediately evident to anyone shopping at T&T.

Headon chicken

I’m not sure whether the head costs extra, but I began to wonder why it would be left on at all. I deduced that the only possible reason must be that it’s a useful addition culinarily, if that’s a word. And so, my Sherlock Holmsian reasoning, if that’s a thing, brought me to the following video that you may find interesting. If you’re not vegetarian. And if you aren’t beginning to think of your newly acquired backyard chickens as pets rather than protein (talkin to you, http://www.midwesternbite.com – don’t watch if feeling squeamish).

Yes, this is a dangerous food blog, but I just can’t bring myself to follow this chickita’s lead and cross the brain barrier. Organs in general are still tough for me to swallow. Call me chicken I guess. So I pitched the heads. And feet. I’ll give chicken toes a nibble some day, sure, but at a high end dim sum place where they know what they’re doing. I do recommend buying chickens with heads and feet, though, because I think it’s good to be reminded that your meat was once an animal. Probably you’ll eat it less often, and won’t throw out as much when you do.

Now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, here are two of my favourite chicken recipes, to be used as Part A and then Part B – brine, and roast. They worked like a charm on both of these chickens last night, melanin challenged or not. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s dry chicken breast, so PLEASE take the trouble to brine if entertaining no matter what you’re doing with your birds afterward. Works for turkey too.

Lemon Honey Brine with Rosemary (Based on a recipe in “Weber’s Real Grilling”)

    • 4C water
    • 2 lemons, thinly sliced
    • 1 1/2 cups honey
    • 3/4C kosher salt
    • 1/2C thinly sliced shallots
    • 1Tbsp roughly chopped rosemary
    • Chicken parts including skin, to a maximum where all are submerged – two chickens had enough room. You can use parts or whole, whatever final recipe calls for. If whole doesn’t fit in pot, like for a turkey, use a food grade plastic bag in a pan
    • 8C ice

Directions: Combine all except chicken and ice in a large pot. Bring to boil and let it bubble away for five minutes. Add ice to cool. Add chicken. Put a lid on and refrigerate for 4 to 24 hours (12-24 is optimal). Here’s our guy lounging in his cold bath.

Chicken brine

And now for the final chicken recipe from “Smitten Kitchen,” that I’m kind of in awe of because she’s a super popular food blogger. Just like me. Ahem. But how good are her chicken head photos? Probably pretty good, actually.

thanks seriouseats.com

thanks seriouseats.com

Harvest Roast Chicken with Grapes, Olives, and Rosemary

  • 3 pounds chicken parts with skin and bones (previously brined)
  • Chicken parts
    • 1C seedless grapes
    • 1C pitted calmata olives
    • 2 small shallots, thinly sliced
    • 1/2C dry white wine
    • 1/2C chicken broth
    • 1Tbsp finely chopped rosemary

    Directions: Preheat oven to 450. Dry the chicken with paper towels and season well with salt, pepper, and rosemary. Heat a good amount of olive oil to med-high heat in an oven proof frying pan. Fry chicken in batches, 5 minutes a side without fussing with it. Return all chicken to pan and sprinkle with the olives and grapes. Roast in the oven 20 or 30 minutes, until juices run clear (brined meat is always pinker than you’re used to when cooked, but if there’s no bloodiness, you’re good). Remove chicken and cover with foil to keep warm. Add wine and chicken broth to pan and heat to boiling on stovetop, scraping brown bits, and boil until reduced by half, for just a few minutes. Pour over the chicken and serve.

Rosemary chicken with grapes and olives

 

Results: This chicken was deliciously tender, and the blend of the sweet grapes and salty olives was fantastic. A brined chicken is still delicious as leftovers, so there wasn’t a bite of chicken left today, just the day after I made it. I found the silkie chicken even more flavourful than the traditional, although as I mentioned I’m not really into eating pets. Or their heads. Rating: 4 Yums

PS  If you happen to be a chef, I’d pay a good penny for “black chicken wings,” as a fancy schmancy appetizer. Let me know if you ever give it a try!

PPS  I recently entered @midwesternbite’s Great Chicken Naming Contest of 2013, where she chose a lucky winner to name some of her new backyard chickens. I didn’t win being allowed to name the first one, but I’m still in the running for the other two. So far. Let’s hope new poultry farmers don’t take offense to cheeky photos of recently deceased poultry. Because I really super definitely would like to name a chicken.

Pretty cauliflower makes pretty ok pizza – Romanesco Cauliflower

Hey, you know what’s fun to do if you’re babysitting someone’s kids? It’s kind of a good time to experiment on them.

I was watching two super cute little lab rats … I mean … yeah … this weekend. They were super happy watching Scooby Doo with my younguns, and I was super happy messing about in the kitchen. It was a win win.

A few days before, I had picked up this lovely looking fractal from our neighborhood organic grocer. That’s a math inside joke I guess – the little bits are microcosms of the whole or some such thing. I seem to remember a lecture about that from a science degree I’ve almost entirely forgotten.

Roman cauliflowerAt first I thought it was a broccoflower, and since I had never tried one, my weird food antennae perked up. I thought that finding a broccoflower there was odd, though, since making a broccoflower requires a love connection between broccoli and cauliflower, and that didn’t sound very organic to me. The organic lady assured me that no, it was just a different type of cauli. Who knew that they naturally come in orange, purple and green, and that the more colours the better, nutritionally speaking. It figures I’ve been eating the white bread of cauliflower my whole life.

Anyway, back to the cute little guinea pigs. I’d heard from gluten free types that you can make pizza using a cauliflower crust. I was suspicious. Those types often struggle to make food that tastes good, even though they swear it’s identical. You know you’ve had a chewy muffin or two. Yeah. So I figured I’d try it, and if kids couldn’t tell the difference, I’d apologize to any and all gluten frees I’d ever met. Maybe I’d even convert. Chug the gluten free koolaid.

Luckily for my love of wheat, the romanesco cauliflower pizza wasn’t the best thing since sliced bread (its name also does zero for my search engine rankings). It stuck horribly to the foil I cooked it on, even though I oiled it first. As for the taste, my daughter gagged. I was kind of proud, actually – let me know I haven’t been a failure as a mother in my attempts to shove vitamins down her throat previously. She can sniff them out and reject them immediately, no matter how they might be disguised. My other kid house guests showed zero interest in the pizza, even though it looked quite like pizza and was covered in cheese. Maybe I had sabotaged it with the appetizer of chocolate chip cookies. I’m a very good babysitter, BTW.

The romanesco cauli was pretty cool looking, but it tasted pretty much like a normal cauliflower. Use it for other cauli recipes. I like to deflower cauli (ha), toss it with a lot of olive oil, kosher salt, pepper, and a tbsp of curry powder in a bowl, and then roast it on a baking sheet at 400 for about 45 minutes.

Here is the recipe I used in case you want to try it yourself. For what it’s worth, when the adults got home they all ate the pizza and loved it. Here is the recipe I was looking for at Midwesternbite (one of my fav blogs) but couldn’t find at the time I was cooking for some reason. And here are the pics!

Oh yeah, forgot my highly scientific rating system Rating: 1 Yum. It didn’t completely suck, but if I’m going to indulge in a pizza, I might just give Domino’s a call. Which is a lie, because as far as I know, no one around here actually eats Domino’s, but I thought it was an appropriate pizza common ground that any reader might identify with.

1-IMG_5053

Cauli as a grain (post processor)

Cauli as a grain (post processor)

Baked cauliflower crust

Baked cauliflower crust

Oil your pan, people

Oil your pan, people

Kid friendly romanesco cauli pizza

Kid friendly romanesco cauli pizza