Friday, August 29, 2008

Back from my Carnivale Lune Bleue trip

More soon. I have been away for a few days. I went to Carnivale Lune Bleue on Thursday night and did some camping in the area, carrying my camping gear on my back like a snail (I took pretty much everything I needed to go camping for 3 days on the train to Ottawa, walked about 3km to a car rental place with the 35 lb. cache on my back and then drove it all to the campsite.... and then the same in reverse). My train just got back and I'm tired! I am probably going to do a 2-part post: one about the trip and one about just the carnival.

I enjoyed the carnival, and it was a good trip, although I may have some disparaging things to say about university students from London when I get around to it!

[ update: I've created a Flickr photo set ]

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A peace offering: my first large garden tomato of the year

Today, I picked my first large red garden tomato of the year! Here is a picture of me offering it to the wall as a peace offering (after all, walls can hurt you if they fall!).

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Oven-roasted chicken drumsticks and potatoes

Today, I realized that chicken drumsticks and potatoes both benefit from roughly the same time in the oven at the same temperatures, so I put them together with success. In the process, I began to feel a bit less Northern.

Here's what's required for this particular incantation:
  • 4 medium-sized potatoes: these were from the Whole Circle Farm CSA. They look like white new potatoes to me. Don't peel them, if you know what's good for you!
  • 2 chicken drumsticks: leave the skin on, of course!
  • olive oil
  • rosemary
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • salt, salt, and more salt
  • pepper
  • lemon juice
About 4 hours prior, I put the rosemary into a mortar and bashed it up a bit, then added some salt and bashed a bit more. Then some olive oil and mashed everything together, and then added some pepper and a few squirts of lemon juice. This mixture went in a Ziploc bag with the drumsticks, was rubbed all over the drumsticks, and put in the fridge for 4 hours.

When ready, I pre-heated the oven to 425F with a cast iron skillet inside and boiled enough water for about 4 medium-sized potatoes at the same time. I cut the potatoes into wedges that were roughly 3/4" thick at the thickest part of the wedge. I put these in the boiling water for about 10 minutes. While this was doing, I peeled 4 whole garlic cloves (leave them whole).

Once the potatoes were boiled, I drained them. I took the skillet out of the oven, added about 3 tbsp. olive oil, and put the potato wedges into the skillet. Then, I threw in the garlic cloves and tossed everything in the skillet, seasoned the wedges with ground pepper, and then tossed again.

Next, I pushed the potatoes to the edges of the skillet to make a space in the middle for the chicken. I put the two drumsticks with at least a small gap in between them in this space in the middle (try to put as much as you can in direct contact with the skillet, but the potatoes may stack a little bit due to space limitations) and put the skillet back in the oven.

These should cook for 25 minutes in total. After 15 of the 25 minutes was up, I took the skillet out and turned the drumsticks and disturbed the potatoes.

After the whole 25 minutes was up, I removed what you see in the above picture from the oven and ground some salt over the potatoes.

You might want to take the salt cellar with you when you eat -- the potatoes will need a bit more salt now and again. Otherwise, this seemed to turn out really well from my perspective, and because the cooking times are similar, it doesn't really take that much attention once it's in the oven.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Local beef stew in the Schlemmertopf

Hmmm... what could be inside the Schlemmertopf? Well, I already gave away the secret.

The Schlemmertopf is an interesting cooking method, though. It has two halves: a internally-glazed bottom half, and a porous top half. You soak the top half in water for about 20 minutes (which is about the same as the ingredient prep time), throw in your ingredients, and cook it in an unpreheated hot oven, where the lid releases steam inside the pot as it heats up. Clay holds heat very well, so it gets very hot in there. A beef stew cooks in about 80 minutes. The bottom glaze makes cleaning much easier (or probably possible at all). After coming out of the oven, it takes about an hour for the clay pot to cool down so that you can touch it without gloves.

So, here's what went into this beef stew, from a local perspective:
  • 1 lb. stewing beef: from the supermarket, and fresh, so I assume it was at least Ontario beef
  • 3 tomatoes: the yellow and red tomatoes that I picked yesterday from my garden, plus one more that I went out and picked this morning.
  • 3 green bell peppers: from the supermarket; Ontario-grown.
  • 2 small onions: these were my Whole Circle Farm CSA onions from this week and last week, so they were grown in Acton (20km away).
  • 6 new potatoes: also from Whole Circle Farm CSA
  • 5 small/medium carrots: from Whole Circle Farm CSA
  • 5 sprigs of thyme: a combination of regular thyme and lemon thyme from my garden
  • 1 tsp. curry powder: imported from India, sadly
  • 2 tbsp. salt: unrefined grey sea salt from France
  • pepper: don't know where it's from, but it's not local
  • 2 dried bay leaves: don't know where these are from

So, I think that's pretty good when judged from a local perspective! Except for the seasoning and spices, it is completely local. Seasoning and spices are so light and small that I don't think foreign sourcing is a problem.

This isn't a recipe post, so I won't bore you with the preparation details.

Here's the result below. Note that no liquid or oil was added to the above ingredients. The juices and liquids were released from the foods within during cooking.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Vegetable garden update, mid-August 2008

Pole beans. These are all being grown in half whiskey barrels filled with regular garden soil and a bit of my own compost. The last picture in the bean set is an in-ground experiment that hasn't produced any beans yet. The soil used there was some soil I had delivered this year. I think it needs more organic matter added to it, so I'll add a fair amount of my compost to all of these beds next year.

Various tomato varieties. We've had a lot of rain this year, and enough sun (although we could probably have done with a bit more). For these tomatoes, I dug a trench following a trellised suntrap and filled it with garden soil, manure, my own compost, and peat moss. I mulched it with cedar mulch. I haven't used any fertilizers. I've had to water it about 5 times this year because we've had rain almost every other day.

Today's harvest: a yellow tomato variety, a couple of medium-sized red tomatoes, and a couple of handfuls of a small tomato variety.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Two surprises: stone crock and Miley Cyrus's new album

In St. Jacobs, I found a 3-gallon stone crock in an antique shop and it wasn't that unreasonably priced, which surprised me. It should be great for flour, once I get a lid for it.

58+ mosquito bites from the associated camping trip didn't surprise me, though: there seem to be a lot of them this year. It has been a wet year.

The other surprise was that there are few very good pop songs on Miley Cyrus's new album "Breakout". "The Driveway" is interesting in its occasional use of teenage half-speak to get a point across, and for its sonic variety. "Goodbye" is a very good ballad, done in a country crossover style but better than most in that category. If she really did have a significant hand in writing these songs, as claimed, it is impressive.

Miley Cyrus isn't a great singer. There's a lot of evident tonal correction in the vocal tracks, and she sustains talks with a few vocal flourishes more than she sings. Far better than all rap music out there, though.

There are a few other tracks of note: she covers Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" which is a bit strange because Cyndi Lauper wasn't safe, whereas Ms. Cyrus is very safe. "Fly on the Wall" is also quite fun and interesting sonically and sounds a bit like it could be a Halloween song and we need more of those.

They could have tried a bit harder with the instrumentation, since I bet this was a big budget album. While I liked the song, "Goodbye" uses what sounds like an arpeggiated synthesizer guitar for accompaniment; "Fly on the Wall" doesn't even use real hand claps as far as I can tell because they also sound synthesized.

This isn't Morrissey or Tori, but, at the very least, the two songs mentioned above are good pop music.

Two other music-related things: my CD most listened to ever is Morrissey's "Vauxhall & I". My CD most listened to this year is Royal Wood's "A Good Enough Day".

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The 100-mile roast chicken salad

Maintaining the theme of my previous post about the possibility of a 100-mile pizza, this roast chicken salad is much closer to being 100-mile:

So, what's in this? Let's look at the main ingredients:
  • 7-8 leaves lettuce: from the Georgetown Farmers' Market, and it was from a local farmer
  • 6 small tomatoes: from my garden -- the ultimate in local
  • 3 chicken drumsticks: also local

The rest of the ingredients are minor but still very important:

  • 2 sprigs rosemary: this is local
  • 1 clove garlic: this is local, from the Whole Circle Farm CSA
  • flax seeds: not local, but it is Canadian
  • salt: French unrefined grey sea salt, so this isn't local. Obviously, regular salt could be used
  • pepper: pepper won't grow in local climates, so this isn't local
  • olive oil: of course it's not local
  • Parmesan cheese: from Italy, so not local
  • white wine vinegar: I think it is Italian, but there's no reason why it needs to be

So, this is much more local than the pizza was This one turned out well, so I'll post the recipe in case I ever need to find it again.

Marinate the chicken

Pick the leaves off the sprigs of rosemary and put them in a mortar and bash them a bit with a pestle to bruise them. Then, add about 3 tbsp. olive oil and about 1 1/2 tsp. salt and a similar amount of pepper. Bash and grind everything together with the pestle until a greenish paste results (the rosemary leaves won't disintegrate and may stay whole).

Pour the marinade into a Ziploc bag and put the chicken drumsticks in the bag. Seal the bag and rub everything together from the outside to make sure the chicken is properly and well coated.

Put the bag in the fridge and wait at least 4 hours (I marinated for about 24 hours, for no particular reason other than convenience).

Cook the chicken

Pre-heat the oven to 425F with a cast iron frying pan inside. When the frying pan is very hot, tip the drumsticks into the frying pan and put it back in the oven. Let cook for about 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes is up, turn the drumsticks and cook for another 10 minutes.

After the 10 minutes are up, put the drumsticks onto a paper towel and wrap them up to soak up some of the fat and allow them to cool a bit. Meanwhile, prepare the salad.

Prepare the salad

Wash and spin the lettuce leaves, tear them up with your hands, and put them into a bowl. Cut the tomatoes into pieces and add them to the lettuce. Mince a small garlic clove and add it to the salad.

Drizzle about 1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil over the salad and then about 1 1/2 tsp. white wine vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste and then use your fingertips to gently mix everything together.

Next, remove the chicken drumsticks from their paper towel and use a knife to separate the meat from the bone. Chop up the meat into bite-sized pieces and add it to the salad.

Again with your fingertips, gently mix the chicken with the salad.

Grate some Parmesan on top of the salad, to taste.

That's all!

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Toward the 100-mile pizza

Since I'm on holiday this week and can afford to spend more than an hour making lunch, I made pizza with as many local ingredients as I could.

Obviously, I named this post after the "100-mile diet" idea. This pizza isn't all that near being made from entirely local ingredients, but it's going in that direction:
  • bread flour: 400g Bob's Red Mill bread flour, which is probably from the US
  • semolina flour: 100g semolina flour, and I don't know where this came from
  • other dough ingredients: yeast, salt, olive oil, water. The yeast may be made locally and the water came from my tap, but the rest aren't local
  • Balderson cheddar cheese: I think this is made in Winchester, Ontario, which is 450km away
  • fresh mozzarella cheese: this is made in Toronto, so can be considered "local"

Not doing too well so far, but it gets better after this:

  • tomato sauce: the olive oil obviously isn't from here, but the basil is from my backyard and the tomatoes I used to make it are a combination of Whole Circle Farm CSA tomatoes (20km away) and tomatoes from my own garden. The garlic was also from the CSA, but the salt and pepper were likely not even from North America.
  • mushrooms: Ontario mushrooms, so probably local since you grow them indoors
  • zucchini: local (from the Whole Circle Farm CSA)
  • swiss chard: also from the CSA
  • tomatoes: from my garden

So, could this be a locally-made pizza? Mostly, I think it could. The parts that couldn't be are the pepper and olive oil. Cheese can be made anywhere; salt could probably be produced locally; wheat is grown in Ontario, although I'm not sure about semolina flour (but this is an optional ingredient and could be replaced with wheat flour).

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Roasting the fruits of the Whole Circle Farm CSA: pork with roasted vegetables

The Whole Circle Farm CSA has been giving out a lot of beetroot and carrots lately. This is one of the main reasons I was interested in the CSA: to force myself to try vegetables that I normally might not try. I've always eaten carrots (has anyone not?), but beetroot are something I usually only eat sparingly and are usually pickled in a jar when I do have them.

So far, I've steamed beetroot and then mixed them with goat's cheese, apple, olive oil, salt, and pepper to make an apple & beetroot salad. I've steamed them and eaten them as a straight vegetable, and below is the new method.

Our friend on the left is pork. On the right are beetroot (this should be very obvious!). And at the top, and underneath some of the beetroot, are carrots. There are some garlic cloves in there, too. The CSA gave uncured garlic for a couple of weeks, which I'd never used before. The supermarket garlic is normally dry cured; the uncured stuff is more difficult to separate into cloves.

Roasted carrots & vegetables
To begin with, I parboiled the vegetables for about 5 minutes.

In one bowl, I mixed some olive oil, the juice of one orange, salt, pepper, and thyme, threw in the parboiled carrots and tossed the whole lot to coat the carrots.

In another bowl, I cut the larger beetroot in half and tossed them in a mixture of olive oil, salt, a few whole garlic cloves, white wine vinegar, and thyme.

The contents of each bowl went, as separately as possible, into a roasting tray which went in the pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes at 425F.

I went and got the pork this morning on my bike. The supermarkets are getting really silly with meat fat these days. I wanted a piece of pork with a nice rind of fat, but it was quite difficult to find. I don't get it: most of the taste of pork comes from the fat, but most of the fat had been trimmed. In the chicken section, it's even difficult to find anything other than chicken breasts in the Superstore near here -- drumsticks are the height of adventure in that place.

Anyway, I found a pork chop with at least a bit of fat on it.

I first pre-heated the oven to 425F with a cast iron frying pan inside.

While that was doing, I scored the rind of the pork chop with a knife (what else?) and salted and peppered both sides of the pork. When the oven was at temperature, I took out the frying pan and put a bit of olive oil in the bottom and then put the pork chop in the frying pan, and the frying pan into the oven.

And then everything roasted for about 15 minutes. After about 7 or 8 minutes, I turned own the oven temperature a bit -- to around 350F -- because the cast iron frying pan holds a lot of heat. With 5 minutes left, I threw the roasted vegetables into the frying pan to finish cooking in some of the pork juices.

And, that's about all. This tasted really good to me -- no sauces or dressings necessary.

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