Ale Battered Asparagus by Elgin Harvest
Just in time for the first long weekend of the season, Relish Elgin has just published their late Spring 2013 issue and lo and behold it features an incredibly, delectable spring treat fit for a king (or queen): Ale Battered Asparagus. Recipes and photos by yours truly! You can pick up a hard copy of the publication at many local retailers and libraries. Once the magazine is available online for viewing I will edit this post to add a link. If you're out and about Saturday morning, pick up the latest issue of Relish Elgin, stop in to the farmers' market for some local asparagus and then head on over to the brewery for a beer or two. It is 'May 2-4' after all. Cheers! Edit: May 18, 2013 The magazine is now available online.
Think of granita like an Italian grown-up version of a Sno-cone. Not as smooth as ice cream and not as dense as sorbet, granita can be full of small or large ice crystals in just about any flavour you can imagine. The basic formula for granita is to make a syrup from any fruit and/or liquid, slightly sweeten it to taste, then freeze in a flat pan in the freezer. By using a fork to grate the granita frequently, the ice crystals are constantly broken and re-aligned making a spoonable, frozen treat. After about 3 hours the granita will be frozen completely and can be served or stored in a sealed container for later use.
Granita makes a fantastic palate cleanser during a meal (after the main course but before dessert) or can be the dessert course itself. Serve in paper cones, glass bowls, margarita glasses with a sprig of mint, small cookies, crème fraîche, or even a wee nip of your favourite liqueur.
When you think about the simplicity of the ingredients and equipment required to make granita, it's easy to imagine the unlimited flavour combinations available and vessels to serve it in. Don't have any fresh, local fruit available? Substitute local frozen fruit instead.
Cucumber mint, strawberry balsamic, coffee, orange creamsicle, lemon basil, lavender, almond raspberry, coconut banana...just a few ideas to get you started as the seasons progress.
I had the honour of preparing the hors d'oeuvres for a cocktail reception/appetizer dinner held this past week on the far end of the county at The Arts & Cookery Bank
. Unfortunately, I was rather focused on the food preparation instead of snapping pictures and I only have a few shots of the wonderful event.
Located in a heritage 1914 Bank of Montreal and an 1883 timber frame barn on the main street of West Lorne, Ontario, The Arts & Cookery Bank offers up culinary and photographic experiences for all ages and abilities. It really is an inspiring kitchen to work and I am very thankful for the opportunity to have cooked for some like-minded food-lovers and culinary enthusiasts. The Menu (as much local as possible): Smoked trout with horseradish cream Wild leek tarts with Crossroad's cheddar cheese Deviled quail eggs with preserved lemon Seared beef tenderloin and Bearnaise sauce Ale battered asparagus with lemon aioli Steamed buns with braised pork belly and kimchi Rhubarb Granita One-bite s'mores Four-layer coconut cake
Spring Asparagus Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
There is no stopping it now - spring has sprung. First there were ramps, then fiddleheads, and there may be morel mushrooms popping up today after last nights rain but it's the King of Spring I've been waiting for.
Asparagus is (finally) among us!
The growing season for local asparagus doesn't last very long in Elgin County so it's a mad rush to consume and preserve as much of it as quickly as possible. I have plans to attempt some fermentation experiments with the spears in the coming weeks (asparagus kimchi, anyone?) as well as gorging on it grilled & caramelized hot off the barbeque.
For my first taste of the year though I prefer a simpler preparation full of freshness and green: blanched and refreshed then combined with other vegetables and dressed with a lemon vinaigrette. Serve this salad with a poached egg, grilled chicken, and/or toasted bread for a light spring fling with the king (I couldn't resist the rhyming).
The finished goods: grapefruit, ginger & coconut kefir. This glass may or may not have a splash of vodka added to it.
Lacto-fermented sauerkraut usually takes anywhere from 3-4 weeks to fully ferment. May 7 was a delicious morning as my first batch of kraut was ready!
I was anticipating being able to return to the Horton Farmers' Market for this years opening weekend but unfortunately it's not going to work out. I will get there - it just won't be on Saturday.
In preparation for the new season, I had started several different ferments and cultures so that I would have some healthy and delicious probiotic products available for sale on Mother's Day. I've been sharing pictures and my progress on my Facebook page but I've neglected to post updates on the blog.
For my lack of sharing with non-Facebook users I apologize.
Along with water kefir tonic beverages, I've fermented sour pickles (using Ontario greenhouse cucumbers), another batch of kimchi, a ginger bug for preparing sodas, purple sauerkraut, and my proud achievement of the week: a successful batch of sauerkraut.
Harvested and cleaned wild leeks (ramps)
Before asparagus, before rhubarb, and before morel mushrooms there are wild leeks. If asparagus is the King of Spring then the ramp (aka wild leek) is the Prince. A prince more like Harry then William with a wild streak that just loves to bare it all in the naturalness of its surroundings. Strong and stately, with leaves that stand above the forest floor, the ramp is the first vegetation available for harvest after the winter thaw.
The ramp, formally known as Allium tricoccum is also known by many other names including: wild leek, forest leek, spring onion, or wild garlic. As you can guess, ramps look and taste like garlic and onion. A much sought-after occurrence in the food-lover world, the hike alone to find these spring temptations is worth adorning rubber boots and an orange safety vest. I forgot my small spade on my first day foraging but on the second day I was ready for digging. I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful spring morning.
Summer berry trifles with sponge cake and vanilla pastry cream - in a jar
Since I still haven't found an inspected kitchen to work out of on a full-time basis, I've been spending my time trying to put together some sort of plan to move forward with Elgin Harvest. I still want to cook, experiment, write, eat, share, laugh, and grow. I don't ever want to stop because if I did, I know I would really lose a big part of who I am. That actually makes me tear up a little bit thinking about it.
I may not have a commercial kitchen to do all the things I would like, and I may not be the best at what I do, but I will continue to share and encourage anyone who is listening to prepare and eat real food again - with as much of it locally sourced as possible.
The culinary arts are a fascinating topic to study, practice, and eat. For over 15 years I have been working professionally with food and I am continually learning skills and experiencing new flavours and food combinations to his day. In the beginning days of working, attending school, and completing my apprenticeship, I took the opportunities presented to me to build a very broad and strong foundation in regards to all manners of food. I'm met some fantastic characters along this road I've traveled and I've learned a tremendous amount by listening, watching, tasting, reading, asking questions, and by doing. One memorable lessen I remember quite vividly happened way back in 1998.
One of the first cookbooks I purchased: 'Chocolate' by Nick Malgieri 1998
Sometimes the oddest food cravings seem to come out of no where. If those cravings involve a real food item, I generally always give myself the go ahead to consume it. I feel it's my body and minds way of telling me I'm lacking something in my diet. Other times my food cravings are directly related to an idea, an emotion, a smell, a spoken word, or more often - an image. When my jaw dropped/eyes widened while viewing a stunning photo in the latest issue of Saveur magazine
at the same time a hankerin' for dried apricots hit, chocolate turtles became my must-have on a rainy afternoon.
For those who don't know, Turtles are a chocolate confection/candy prepared and sold by Nestle. Full of chewy caramel, toasted pecans, and milk chocolate, Turtles get their name from the shape of the candy. The nuts peeking out the sides resemble feet, tail, and head while the rounded chocolate top resembles a turtle shell.
To satisfy my cravings, I decided to skip putting money into Nestle's pockets and prepare my own version of Turtles instead. If you're comfortable preparing a homemade caramel sauce, the flavour combinations you can create are endless and more importantly - delicious.
Nori rolls with pickled ginger, tamari, and wasabi.
It's zesty, snappy, spicy, sweet, and sour. It's pickled ginger!
Used as a condiment to Japanese food, pickled ginger is usually served with sushi, sashimi, or bowls of rice. The purpose of the condiment is to cleanse the palate with its acidic and bright taste in between bites.
Did you know you can easily make your own pickled ginger at home - skipping the unnecessary use of aspartame and artificial food dyes that many jars contain? A homemade jar will last months (and if around long enough - years), in the fridge and can be served with more than just raw fish if that's something you don't have a taste for.
Keep reading for the recipe.
Maple, walnut & banana Pavlova
Pavlova may seem like an exotic, complicated dessert to make for the novice cook, but rest assured it is really quite easy to prepare and will leave your guests thinking you are a culinary superstar. Not only can the dessert components be prepared in advance leaving you time to mingle with friends and family on this long weekend, the toppings can be easily adapted to suit the season and specialty diets. Because maple syrup is in its glory days this time of year, it is only fitting to use the liquid gold in an early Spring inspired dessert.
If you don't want the extra sweetness, feel free to omit the cascading syrup and instead add a little to the whipped cream. Don't like bananas? Substitute sour cherries or lightly stewed rhubarb instead. Allergic to nuts? Skip 'em! Can't have dairy? Whip coconut milk instead of heavy cream. Gluten sensitivities? There isn't any gluten in this recipe. Have some fun in the kitchen this Easter and don't forget to send me a picture of your finished desserts to Cindy@elginharvest.ca
This week we celebrated my mom's 65th birthday. When I asked her what she wanted for her birthday dessert, she said, "Something chocolate, decadent, rich." With the permission to not hold back, I knew this was the cake to make. Full of flour, sugar, commercial marshmallows, malted milk powder, chocolate, and butter, this Malted Chocolate Layer Cake was prepared with 5 separate components.
As much as I would like to take credit for this recipe, it's actually inspired from Momofuku Milk Bar in New York. Don't even attempt to count the calories when you are devouring a piece of this cake - just make sure you have a big, black coffee to wash it down with.