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When I saw Tigress post about Kimchi soup I became very curious.  I’ve been meaning to cook up her recipe but didn’t really get around to it (which is foolish because my feline friend can cook).  It was one of those things that just slipped back into the depths of my mind until about 5:00AM this morning.

I’ve been in an odd habit of surfing Instagram at 5:00AM.  I search for food tags and I’m fascinated.  Since most people upload content to the app as they take it, Instagram kind of lets you travel the world at any given moment.  Searching “#FOOD” at 5:00AM Eastern reveals very few North American pictures and a slew of posts from the other side of the world, mostly in different languages.  I LOVE IT!

My early morning food trips generally take me to Asia.  This morning I saw a picture of Chigae which is the Korean name for Kimchi stew and I was reminded that I had to get me a bowl of some sour soup.

My recipe is a bit of a riff on tradition – it fuses the flavours of Ontario that I happen to have in abundance including my cabbage and carrot kimchi, leeks, garlic and maple syrup.  It’s not for purists but it is fantastic!  It’s salty, filled with umami, sour and has the slightest touch of sweet.  The tofu is welcome relief from the heat of our kimchi (thankfully we both enjoy spicy things) and the rice adds some additional texture.

This is also a very fast and super convenient meal for a busy evening.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups kimchi with some of the brine
  • 1-3 leeks
  • garlic (as much as you like)
  • water
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons of sesame oil or 5 tablespoons of tahini
  • 0.5 -1 package of firm tofu cut into cubes and pat dry.
  • Oil or lard for frying tofu
  • Rice (we did 2 cups)

Yield: enough for 4-6 people.

Directions

  1. The rice takes longest so cook it first (we put it in a rice cooked with 3+ cups of water and stir once).
  2. Place tofu on the side.
  3. Place remaining ingredients in a large pot.
  4. Cover the ingredients with water.
  5. Gently simmer for 25 minutes.
  6. 10 minutes before the simmer finishes, warm a heavy pan over medium-high.  Add oil and continue to heat till nearly smoking.
  7. Fry the tofu taking care not to crowd pan (you may need to do two batches).  Don’t worry about making it crispy – this is adding colour (when you add it to the soup it will lose any texture gained from frying).

Serve in large bowls either topped with rice or place rice on side.

Notes:

  • You can add the green part of your leeks to the rice as it cooks, just remove before serving.
  • You may wish to add hot sauce or chile flakes to your taste.  Our kimchi is very hot and needed none.
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I’m really pleased to share this news:

My excitement is not without it’s bias – we’ve been honored to have been included in the book alongside many chefs and some of our favorite bloggers/ recipe developers who share a similar passion for ramps (wild leeks).

When we were approached by St. Lynn’s Press, they started their introduction to the project about their approach to sustainability and how it would be included in the introduction (although people are having some success replanting ramps, most of the ramps harvested will not grow back and the importance of responsible harvesting is shared by all who choose to eat them).  Without their strong focus on sustainability, we would not have joined the project – but were thrilled to see they were of like minds.

The book is just over 100 pages and includes recipes by (this is a partial list):

The book is broken into 7 sections:

  1. Sides and Main Dishes
  2. Salads and Soups
  3. Ramps & Eggs
  4. Biscuits & Muffins, Etc.
  5. Sauces, Dips, Etc.
  6. Juice & Jam
  7. Year-Round Ramps

I was able to include a mention of Chef Mark Cutrara who has inspired my approach to vegetables (somewhat ironic since his restaurant, Cowbell, features Nose-To-Tail dining).  We provided the content for the year-round ramps section and had the opportunity to share our passion for nose-to-tail vegetables and showcase different methods of preserving for different parts of the leek.

Ramps have started to appear in Ontario already (and, according to Twitter, are abundant through the Northeastern US right now).  This book is filled with ideas on what to do with them.

We’re just over 2 weeks away from the next Home Ec event!  It’s been a while since we’ve shared what Home Ec is all about, so here’s the blow-by-blow:

  • It’s a free event held in a small bar in the east end of Toronto (The Avro).  Because of liquor licenses, it is 19+
  • It is a non-competitive gathering of strangers who are interested in food.  The crowd is friendly and approachable.
  • Each event has a one-off badge (a pin) like Boy Scouts or Girl Guides.  The pin is generally associated to some form of challenge and a theme for that month.
  • We team up with The Avro to create a one-off cocktail that melds some form of preserving with their wicked knowledge of mixology.
  • It’s held the last Monday of the month from 8-10 (though some come early and even stay late!)

Here’s the theme for April:

We’ve just found out via a friend (thanks Nat!) that it’s also the kind-of one-year anniversary of the Royal Wedding (Part 2) – it’s gotta be fate!

Be as literal or as inventive as you wish.  Arrive with small serving (there are generally less than 30 people there) of finger sammies.  Be inspired by high tea, the Queen or the last time everyone stood around in dark clothing sharing a few bites!  We’ll have a small form so each person can fill out the details of what’s in theirs so you’ll know what you’re biting into in advance.

We hope to see you there – although there is a core group of people who have become regulars, there’s always newcomers and, so far, everyone has been really friendly.  You can RSVP on Facebook (optional but it helps us plan).

Here’s the recaps from the last 3:

We hope to see you there!

When I was young I remember teachers saying they didn’t pick favorites.  They’d swear that all the kids were equal but different and each had a special place in their heart.  I could say the same thing about my recipes – but I’d be lying.  Some things just work out better than others.  And I’m crushing a little inappropriately on fermented mustard.

If you’ve never made anything fermented before, this is a great place to start.  If you’re unsure of the term lactofermentation, check this out.

The final product is spicy (almost at a horseradish type of heat), sweet and sour.  It’s thicker than store-bought mustard (my seeds were  still fairly coarse after grinding); you could thin it out with more water but I love the consistency and texture that comes from all of these fermented bits.

As far as taste, there’s an underlying sour that can only come from fermentation (think of  kosher deli pickles as opposed to those made in vinegar).  It’s full of flavor and it will continue to improve over the coming weeks even though it’s ready to eat now.

I fermented it with an airlock (that link tells the story) but you could likely get away with a lid though pressure will build up in the jar over the first few days if it’s not vented.  If you don’t have access to an airlock, you could use a balloon like Kaela from Local Kitchen describes here.

I really hope you’ll make this.  And I really hope you’ll let us know what you think!

Ingredients

  • 0.5 cups of whole mustard seed
  • 0.25 cups of water (if your tap water is chlorinated it’s essential you leave the water in a large bowl for about an hour to let the chlorine evaporate or it will hamper fermentation)
  • 2 tablespoons whey (it’s a bi-product from making Greek Yogurt)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 0.5 dried hot pepper (optional)

Instructions

  1. Using a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle, crush the mustard into powder.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a bowl (this keeps the sides of the jar clean)
  3. Using a jar funnel, pour the mustard into the bottom of a clean jar.
  4. Place airlock on top and leave the jar in a warm place for 3-4 days (the top of a cupboard is great as it’s out of the way and heat rises).
  5. You can eat at any time from this point onwards though the flavor will continue to develop; put a lid on it.  Placing it in the fridge will slow fermentation and leaving it on the counter will allow the process to continue which is good – until a point (that point, specifically, is mold).

There’s not much to it – but it’s a condiment that’s unlike any you’ve ever had.  It may, in fact, be the Teacher’s Pet.

Today marks a milestone for me; 1,200 posts written since December 27, 2008.  There are more posts than that here but this number seems somehow magical to me.  Perhaps it’s the first time I feel like we’ve hit any sort of milestone since our 1,000 consecutive days (a streak that continues through today) or perhaps it’s because I didn’t expect to feel that there were more milestones left.  At any case, it feels worth mentioning – and it feels good, if not surprising.

A really giant thank you and hug to those of you who read and follow this project.  Your support has inspired us – and others – as we’ve stumbled and fumbled our way along.  An even bigger thanks to those of you who comment, share and attend events and say hi.  I wish there was more time in a day to interact with the comments we get and if I had a magic wand that’s the one wish I’d be gunning for.  Thanks as well to our members on Facebook and Twitter; it’s been a lot of fun to hang out with you there and thank you for sharing all that you do (of ours and others that inspire us) as well!

This post isn’t so much about patting myself on the back though (I’m an awful self-promoter who is guilty of sometimes forgetting to promote myself while others times accidentally over-promoting and not even knowing I’m doing so).  It is about sharing some of the things I’ve learned the hard way that might save others some steps along the way.  These are the types of posts formed of good intent that I often cringe at years later realizing how much more there was to learn and if there’s one thing I know more than ever, that’s it.

Bigger hair and beard than normal:

Here’s a few other lessons learned on the way (completely subjective based only on my opinion):

About Food

  • Eating real food, slow food, locally and seasonally is not nearly as difficult, expensive or time-consuming as I once feared.  It’s a natural progression and something that gets easier every year.
  • Meeting others and sharing experiences is the quickest accelerator in learning to eat more like our foreparents did.
  • Our food system is in trouble.  It’s important to know what’s happening within it and within your food supply.
  • Eating is political and each meal is a vote.  Many of my votes are aligned with my beliefs and ethics but I still make missteps.  A 5% shift from large agriculture to small farming would force radical change.  Every meal you make is a vote.
  • Don’t trust labels.  Better yet, try to buy food without them.
  • There are so many resources, people, blogs and groups who can help you learn more.
  • We need to encourage the changes we want to see.

About Blogging

  • Writing daily forces me to learn something every day.  That’s the magical reason ‘why’ I blog.  Know why you’re writing or the motivation will be lost quickly.
  • Know your audience.  I still feel guilty when I admit that the main person I write for is me.  I have no doubt that I search WellPreserved more than anyone else – just to find out how to do stuff I already did and forgot how to.
  • Put yourself out there; fight against trying to make it perfect.  I’m partially dyslexic and struggle with reading and writing.  I’m far better at speaking than writing (and adore public speaking).
  • You can’t please everybody.  We’ve received a few tough comments this year and I’ve learned that I can’t possibly please everyone.  Heck, I look back at some of the thoughts I had on food 3 years ago and am not exactly pleased with myself!
  • The format is going to be challenging in the next little while.  As blogging matures and becomes read by larger audiences, the pressures and temptations to bend ethics are mounting.  There’s no single code of conduct and there’s more opportunity than ever for websites like this one to do things that traditional media would have considered unethical.  As a writer, the only thing I have to offer is my integrity; but that’s just my view.  Offers for secret payments or other ‘hidden’ incentives in exchange for posts are becoming more frequent in the blogosphere.  I’m hopeful transparency will be the norm; for now there’s room for improvement.  This could be an entire series of posts and perhaps it will be one day soon!
  • Have friends that do it, share with them and learn from each other.  There are many who are in this category formally and informally and I have learned a pile from each of them.
  • Have fun.  If it ain’t worth doing, it ain’t worth doing.

What would you add to the list?

Today started with one of those phone calls.  You know the type – the ones that ring in the middle of the night and launch you into hyper awareness.  By noon I had driven almost 700 kilometers (about 400 miles) and I’m now back home.  For now I’ll leave the reason as personal but let’s assume it’s been a tough day.

There was a time in my life that I couldn’t find a silver lining.  I’m now guilty of chronically looking for it.  One of the benefits of a late night- early morning drive into Northern Ontario is that you get to see spectacular sunrises like this one:

That picture was taken early this morning on a surprise trip to our hunting cabin.  I wasn’t there very long but I did have a chance to see these:

Our garlic is starting to peek through the soil and reach for the sun!

I would have normally thought that this was neat or cool or exciting.  Today I found it remarkably comforting.  To see food grow and to be part of the process is a vivid reminder of how connected we are to the planet, that sunrise and each other.  And, some days, that feeling is all you need to take the next step.

Sorry to be vague; but the point here isn’t my rough day – but rather the comfort that’s brought by being connected to something that’s growing and new.

We’ve been sharing a lot of recipes lately – this happens every April as we have the lowest supply of local food available and the highest need to go through our pantry to prepare for the spring bounty that’s on its way.

My Father went ice fishing this winter.  Though he was unsuccessful, he was given three lake trout – and gifted one to me:

The fish was cleaned, scaled and sans head.  It was frozen right after processing and we let it defrost in the fridge for several days.  This was an absolute treat.

This picture is far from our best and makes the final product look greasy when in fact it wasn’t at all:

This was an awesome meal – seared trout on a bed of veggies and pureed celeriac.

Cooking trout is simple – eating it is as well.  Just trace the backbone with your knife (after cooking) to remove a fillet.  There’s not a lot of small bones though you’re bound to find a few.

Ingredients

  • 1 or more trout
  • 0.25 cups olive oil + 2 tablespoons of oil for the veggies
  • salt and pepper to season
  • 1 jar (or can) of tomatoes (if they’re whole, chunk them roughly)
  • oregano (I use about a 0.5 teaspoons)
  • 1 onion chopped into large pieces
  • 3 or 4 carrots chopped into large pieces
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 0.25 teaspoons celery seed (you can use 0.4 cups of rough celery if you have it – or add some of the celeriac chopped small)
  • Cumin (I use about 0.5 teaspoons)
  • Pureed celeriac

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil until it nearly smokes in a large oven-safe pot (it must fit the fish comfortably).  A dutch oven is perfect though not necessary.
  3. Add all veggies and spices other than the tomatoes.  Cook until the onions are semi-translucent and soft (but not brown).
  4. Add tomatoes and place pot in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring once.
  5. Place a cast iron skillet (or heavy frying pan) on the stove and place on medium-high with 2 tablespoons of oil.
  6. Pat the fish dry and season liberally with salt and pepper.
  7. Just as the oil begins to smoke, carefully add the remaining oil and the fish.  Sear for 90 seconds (and no longer).
  8. Carefully flip the fish, sear for an additional 90 seconds.
  9. Working with caution, add the fish and any remaining oil (it’s full of flavor) to the veggies (just lay it on top) and place in oven for 7 minutes.
  10. Remove and rest for 3-5 minutes before serving (stir the veggies to incorporate any olive oil into the flavor).

This was a fantastic meal making the most out of what we were able to get seasonally as well as using a bit of magic from our pantry.

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