Waist Deep – Milking an Almond

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Almost everyone I know has at one time or another milked a cow. Not because they neighbour a family farm – most of that land has been replaced by monolithic suburban builds. It’s thanks to a curriculum mandatory primary school trip to “Pioneer Village,” where every 11 year old, between fighting off hormones and crushes, learns the age-old domestic traditions of moulding beeswax candles, spinning yarn and of course, milking a cow. Besides having no choice, but to recall candle making skills of recently, as $36 candles are causing me to go broke, I have yet to try my hand at the other two since. Truthfully, the experience of milking that cow has always stayed with me. The undeniable reality that this personal connection between man and animal rarely exist and is nothing more than a nostalgic veneer used to fulfill an educational standard set more than 50 years ago. Sigh.

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Shortly after that I chose to stop eating meat and not too long after that my stomach also put up protest, causing unfavourable side effects every time I drank milk. My love affair with nighttime cookies and milk went on hiatus, that is until non-dairy beverage products made it to the masses. It started with soy milk, then almond and suddenly almost anything was milk-able…even a flax seed. I quickly went back to old vices- gooey chocolate chip cookies straight from the oven, dipped into ice cold ‘milk'; bits fallen to the bottom, only to be guzzled up as a consolation prize. It was ideal. That is until I turned the box around and noticed what exactly was inside. A list of hard to pronounce additives and preservatives. I wanted to just turn blinders on and enjoy, but I couldn’t help but associate it with guzzling a household cleaning product from under the sink.

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During this time a penchant for do-it-yourself was becoming highly popular – people growing their own vegetable gardens, making cheeses and even cleaning products (so non toxic you could drink it)! I knew there had to be something for making your own almond milk. A couple minutes of online sleuthing and I came upon an article on making your own and couldn’t believe how easy the steps were. Buy almonds, soak almonds in water, drain, process and squeeze with cheese cloth. I quickly grabbed my tub of raw almonds and shovelled a cup into two cups of cold tap water. Then waited…and waited. I couldn’t see anything happening so I tossed a clean dish cloth on top and went about my day. 24 hours later, my thirsty almonds had soaked up almost all of the water. I drained the excess water and put them in the food processor with water on high. I got a little too excited and dumped the whole thing into the cheeses cloth, tied the top and started ‘milking’ the bag – unfortunately the same principle to milking the cow does not apply to miking a cheese cloth bag (or maybe I’m just out of practice). Bits of almonds chunks were oozing from every corner, the milk had no focused exit point and sprayed in every possible direction. My 1 cup of almonds yielded maybe 1/4 of a cup of milk. I was exhausted and defeated. But like everything, it takes practice and maybe a bit more reading to get it right.

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The next time went off with a hit. This time I soaked the almonds for an extra day as the longer you soak them the thicker and richer the consistency. The first time I used a food processor to blend as I was worried the blender wouldn’t be able to handle the quantity, but this time I decided to risk it on the blender and it resulted in a much smoother consistency and less gritty pieces. The trick is also getting a good quality cheese cloth and then placing it on a food strainer (mesh kind works great) and then placing that on a bowl or large measuring cup that the strainer can balance on. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to push the liquid out before you hand squeeze. You’ll have a lot of pulp left over, which is great for smoothies, baking and even dog cookies. If you have no use for it now, bake it on 295 for 1-2 hours until dry and freeze until ready to use.

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The milk will last for 3-4 days, but you can also pasteurize it by boiling it to add a few days, but that takes a lot of the amazing nutritional elements out of it. I try to keep a rotation so that when I’m on my 2nd last day of almond milk I soak the almonds for two nights and prepare them two days later so it’s ready to consume when the batch previous is reaching it’s last day. I rarely buy almond milk or any other dairy free milk from the store anymore. The taste is far richer and sweeter, without any sweetener added, although that is optional. It also brings me back to drinking the real kind of milk, which I thought would be impossible to imitate. Although milking an almond may not be as cathartic as the special bond you may make with a cow, making real food that you don’t have to play a guessing game with is truly empowering.

{ HOMEMADE ALMOND MILK }

Yields about two cups of almond milk and 1 cup + of meal

| INGREDIENTS |

  • 1 cup of raw almonds
  • 2 cups of water (more for soaking)
  • Optional – sweeteners, honey, agave, coconut sugar etc to taste

| TOOLS |

  • food processor
  • Cheese cloth
  • mesh strainer
  • spatula/wooden spoon
  • measuring cup
  • a Mason Jar

| DIRECTIONS |

  1. Soak 1 cup of raw almonds in 2 cups of water for 1-2 days – Cover the almonds with enough water so that they are covered by an inch. They will soak this up and should be plump and squishy after 24 hours. Let stand at room temperature, very loosely covered with a clean tea towel.
  2. Drain and rinse the almonds – remove excess water and very quickly run water over the almonds. The almonds should feel squishy to the touch. If not, soak for another 6-12 hours.
  3. Place in food processor  or blender with 2 cups of water – First pulse a couple times and then blend for up to 2 minutes or until it is a fine meal. The water will be opaque white. If you decide to use a food processor you may want to leave it on for another 2-3 minutes until there are no obvious gritty pieces.
  4. Strain the almonds – place the cheese cloth on to the strainer which should be sitting on top of a bowl or cup that allows the strainer to rest there without movement. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to press the liquid out.
  5. Milk it – Once most of the liquid has been released, gather the ends of the cheese cloth and tie it at the top, by twisting and making a not, being sure that all almond meal is at bottom of bag. Squeeze and press in a downward movement until you have extracted about 2 cups of liquid. You have the option to sweeten at this point.
  6. Reserve almond meal and prepare as directed above
  7. Refrigerate almond milk – store the container, tightly sealed in refrigerator. It should last for 3-4 days.

The Nutty Trail Granola Bar

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Back in the day, when I was a more adventurous, less fearful, anxiety amped individual, I would always go camping in the great outdoors of Algonquin Park. This was before water proof tents,  wondering about cell reception and those convenient plastic barrels with back straps and gel support. You almost always ran into a bear, got lost in a storm with a canoe that only proved to sink more with every down pour and whoever was carrying the wooden barrel, likely peed their pants by choice; the idea of removing it and getting it back on was far worse.

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Canoe trips were always about the food for me. Nothing glamorous. Garbage bag salads, thick slices of cheese on wonder bread and hot dog stir frys. The food, for the most part has remained the same as they key to successful camping is keeping the meals simple and compact. My friend Amanda, the best tripper you could ask for, has mastered the art of camp food. Her peach cobbler oatmeal crumble on open fire is worthy of a cookbook. So although menus have changed slightly, there are a few things that have remained the same. One of them has been making an appearance since the 80s and for our next canoe trip, I plan on getting it off the menu.

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What does a tripper feed a young camper in the 90s as a snack, that they would write home to their parents about and reveal how they ate healthy food that summer? Granola bars. Oats, maybe some nuts and chocolate chips – healthy right? It was the healthiest option at that time and I would inhale 2 maybe 3 in one sitting, thinking I was getting all of my nutrients for the week in a couple of bars.

Granola bars have been the dressed up junk-food for the past twenty-thirty years and they continue to get re branded, fooling buyers into thinking this is the answer to their goal of loosing weight and eating healthy.  Nature Valley, Special K, Fiber 1… They all promise, less calories, enviro boxes and lower grams of fat. If you turn the box around. they’re the same old granola bars: filled with colourings, corn syrup, sugar, sugar and more sugar. I stopped eating granola bars all together as there wasn’t anything I could find that didn’t have additives in it. A couple health food stores carry all natural granola bars, but unless you’re ready to part ways with $4 for a 5 gram bar, you might stick to eating a handful of nuts.

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I’ve been recipe testing different granolas, playing around with a variety of nuts, seeds, grains to see how it would change the flavour and texture. Not too long ago I made my first sugar free (no sweetener besides fruit) and gluten free granola – the flavour was just as good as the store bought. I’d sprinkle it on yogurt, eat handfuls at a time or even scoop a bit on to some ice cream. I noticed that my pockets and purses were filled with granola crumbs and knew there had to be a more compact solution to eating it…The Granola bar of course! I went to the drawing board and pulled all of my favourite ingredients from the pantry and endured trial and error. I was really worried I would end up with a bar that still fell apart as I didn’t want to rely on too much sugar to hold everything together. I took it out of the oven and had to force my hand to my side to avoid picking from the corners. It should be cooled to harden as it will be soft when you first take it out. When it was finally time, I cut an edge off, which revealed a crunchy exterior, with a soft chewy inside.  It’s perfectly sweet and I didn’t need to sacrifice health for flavour. They’re 100% natural, gluten and wheat free, with natural sugar and no additives. There’s no degree of separation from each ingredient. I loved it so much I decided to make two a time this round as the one never made it past the first few hours in the house.

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The question now is, will they be able to withstand the rough terrain of a canoe trip itinerary or better yet, will they survive past the car ride with a car load of hungry bingers.

{ THE NUTTY TRAIL GRANOLA BAR }

Yields two large pan size bars to be cut into 6 bars each.

| INGREDIENTS |

  • 15 Medjool dates (pitted and chopped)
  • 4 tbsp of wild honey
  • 1/4 cup of coconut sugar
  • 1/2 cup of maple syrup
  • 1/2 of cool water
  • 4 tbsp of coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cup of old fashioned wheat-free oats
  • 1/2 cup of millet puffs
  • 1/2 cup of black quinoa  (not cooked)
  • 1/2 cup of white quinoa (not cooked)
  • 1/2 raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 3 tbsp of flax
  • 1/2 cup of coconut pieces
  • 1 tsp of kosher salt

| DIRECTIONS |

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Combine honey, maple syrup, chopped dates, coconut sugar and water in a sauce pan and bring to boil over medium heat.
  3. Bring tempertaure down and cook until dates have softened 8-10 minutes
  4. Meanwhile, combine all ingredients in a bowl
  5. Once dates have softened, add coconut oil and stir until melted. Using a hand blender or a pastry cutter, try to soften dates even more.
  6. Slowly add liquid mixture into dry ingredients and mix until all dry ingredients are covered. If some areas look dry, add a little extra maple syrup or honey, but try not to add too much as we want to keep the sugar down
  7. Place 1/4 of the mixture into one loaf pan and press firmly with a spatula to compress as much as you can. Add the next 1/4 on top and compress again until it is flat on all sides, even and tightly packed. Do the same for the other loaf pan.
  8. Bake loaf pans in centre of oven for 45 minutes, being careful to watch for burning. I recommend setting the time for 20 minutes and then tenting both pans with foil and decreasing the temperature to 325 to avoid burning. Once ready. Remove from oven and let cool for 15-20 minutes in pans. Then remove and place on wire rack to let cool completely and to harden.
  9. If you prefer crisp, hard bars, cut loaf into strips and lay on parchment lined baking try. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 until further browned and let cool.
  10. Can last for 5-7 days. Keep tightly wrapped at room temperature.

Those Gregarious Greens – Sweet Greens Smoothie

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I grew up in a really awkward time for food and health regulations. The 80s.

*STAR WIPE * My parents, children of the 50s & 60s, were bombarded by ads of frozen dinners like Swanson & Sons; or branded meals in a can – hamburger meat or ready-to eat pasta. Of course, their parents, being from the ‘old world’ and having one parent staying at home, wouldn’t dare to buy a pre-made crust or pre-pared soup stock. Yes, my mother did grow up believing that peas and carrots were the same vegetable, but that and canned pineapples were the only packaged foods that made it into their homes.

Now fast forward to the 80s. My mother and father, both working professionals and attempting their hand at raising three children. Life was getting way too busy and at times they felt they couldn’t keep up. But wait. Those commercials: A woman perfectly pampered and fashioned in her best knits, unloading the contents of the can with just a flick of the wrist and a can opener. POOF. Dinner is served.

And so, the food industry entered North American kitchens and the conscious of our eating sensibilities. Shelves and fridges lined with preservative ridden foods that promised affordability and speed. Lunchables, zoodles and kraft dinner weren’t uncommon pantry staples in my home, but I’m not giving my mom enough credit. She cooked almost every meal, but did rely on these ‘brandified’ staples when time got tight. “Healthy,” hadn’t made it into the mainstream until the 90s, so there were a few years of unregulated eating . Even when it did, ‘being healthy’ was misguided: saturated fats, calorie counting and fats of all kind, being the topic of conversation (rather than sugars, chemicals and preservatives). Sending the children of the 80s and 90s on a fallacious adventure of learning what being healthy meant. No, margarine is not healthy – even though that commercial of pastoral imagery of farmer and daughter tending at the land and how a simplistic, slower life could be yours too with the purchase of Becel.

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I bring all this up because it wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I actually re educated myself and slowly started to empty the contents of my fridge of low fat salad dressings, almost 100% juices and margarine; replacing it with greens, probiotics and anything I could find that was fresh and 100% natural – not just a brand that called itself that.

My obsession with greens began. I was only familiar with broccoli, asparagus, romaine lettuce, cucumber and peas. Then a whole world of leafy greens became accessible: swiss chard, dandelion greens, kale, purple kale, eating the leaves of beets and so on. I’d throw them into a sauté, steam them, eat them in a salad, but on days where I too was busy and wanted to get a green kick, the smoothie felt like the perfect home.

When I was a teenager smoothie meant something from Yogen Fruz and consisted of a sugary block of frozen yogurt and frozen sugared fruit. So when I started hitting the blender four years ago, I found myself dropping whatever sweet fruit I could get my hands on into there. And it was delicious, how could it not be. It’s SUGAR! I quickly realized I still wasn’t getting all of the vitamins, antioxidants, folics, iron and magnesium I probably could get, taking advantage of a blender. So I dropped in some kale one day and…It wasn’t good. I mean the thought that it was healthy forced a smile on my face as I tried to encourage my roommates to give the thumbs up so I could continue enjoying greens in my smoothie, but I had no idea what I was doing. Then I realized, the greens need to be curated. Thought through, and so recipe testing began, finding just the right balance of greens to fruits that wouldn’t compromise overloading on sugars and also would taste good.

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Then one sunny afternoon, when the vegetables and fruit didn’t ‘fall far from the tree,’ I had a breakthrough. The Sweet Greens Smoothie. It’s packed with greens and just the right amount of fruit to give it a sweet aftertaste. I have a couple different renditions on this one, but the one I’m sharing today is almost 100% green, besides three things. Greens like to stick together. One is never enough. Look in your fridge for anything green: celery, cucumber, brocolli, kale, the leaves from the rutabaga and even parsley. Toss them in together and then add a couple sweet fruits like kiwi, pear, pineapple or apple. A couple kicks of some antioxidants like turmeric, lemon and flax and even some bonus add ons like a probiotic, chlorophyl, ginger or cinnamon.

The smoothie and juicing trend has officially kicked off in Toronto and I think it’s fantastic to have options at almost every corner, but it’s incredibly empowering to curate your own smoothie and be the keeper of your health, straight from the fridge. Not only do you save money, but you get the opportunity to re educate yourself on eating and understanding the way how real foods can make you feel as you play around in your kitchen. It’s a chance to kick the food industry in the ass and get their nails out of ‘brandifying’ every one of our food experiences and hopefully in some way , if it’s not too big of a leap, seed some money back into our farmers to make fruits and vegetables more accessible and affordable for all.

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{ THE SWEET GREENS SMOOTHIE }

yields two large servings

| RECIPE |

  • 1 cup of packed washed and trimmed kale
  • 3.4 cup of washed spinach
  • 1/4 cup cucumber
  • 1.4 cup of celery
  • 1 whole kiwi (skin on is fine as most of the fibre is there)
  • 1/2 of a granny smith apple
  • 1/2 cup of chopped pineapple
  • juice from half of a lemon
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 tsp of turmeric
  • 3/4 cup (+more if you want a looser consistency) of coconut water

| DIRECTIONS |

  1. Trim and wash kale and spinach and place at bottom of the blender. The greens are usually the hardest thing to process, so you if you don’t have a top of the line blender it’s best to get these going first so you’re not left with large chunks of green stuck in your teeth
  2. Chop cucumber and celery, remove core from apple, half kiwi and roughly chop pineapple and place all in blender
  3. Squeeze juice of lemon and sprinkle turmeric on.
  4. Place banana on top, add coconut water and blend on high speed for 2 minutes, or until everything is evenly incorporated.
  5. Poor into your favourite cup or a mason jar if you’re on the run and enjoy. In a few hours you’ll feel your working in ways you haven’t felt before and a couple hours after that (GRAPHIC), you’ll see the results.

** If you decide to save some in the fridge or come back to it later, make sure to give it a good shake as the liquid tends to settle at bottom and fibre floats to top.

Open Face Portobello Sandwich – BONUS cashew cheese and miso marinated tofu recipe

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When you’re a kid, you tend to take on some of your parents personal angst or habits. Some more willingly than others (my tendency to reach panic mode at the slightest of situations is definitely not one I chose willingly). But others, albeit strange, I consciously took on. In this case, I’m speaking of my past detest towards mushrooms. My dad hated them, so at the tender age of 6, when I was old enough to choose what would go on my plate, I decided mushrooms would be no friend of mine.

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I mean who wouldn’t be a little turned off at first – alien looking, squeaky and can’t help but associate it with that strange orange puss looking one growing on your tree. So I stayed away. That is until one day at a friends bat mitzvah, a day where she was taking the careful steps towards becoming a woman in the Jewish faith, I too had a moment of wisdom and growth. Under a set of heating lamps was a thin crust pizza – oozing cheese, glistening caramelized onions and lying on top, that familiar brownish looking species. I was starving and with no other options I plugged my nose and shoved the pizza in my mouth…to my surprise, it was delicious. After three slices I realized I had been living a lie all this time and that in fact, I loved mushrooms. Afraid to let my father know I had departed from the ‘I hate mushrooms fan club’ I ate my mushrooms in privacy. Until my love was impossible to hide and if my father loved me, he’d have to learn to love my love for mushrooms too. So I came out…

I LOVE MUSHROOMS…portobellos, oyster mushrooms, buttons, shiitakis, creminis, chanterelles…. Each has their own flavour profile, texture and endless creative options on how to use them.

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A few years back I was blown away by a new method that I hadn’t seen done anywhere until then. Stockyards, Toronto’s most popular BBQ restaurant was serving up a meatless option for their vegetarian loyalist. Albeit vegetarian, I wouldn’t call this healthy – a portobello mushroom and slab of cheddar deep fried and tossed between a milky bun and covered in a tangy slaw. It was eye opening. A portobello fashioned as meat…no way? But yes way. I haven’t ventured back to have it since as my body is still working to remove the slick of oil from my organs, but since then, I’ve been using portobellos as a meat substitute.

I had the hankering for a meaty sandwich this week, but after  binging on baguettes for a couple of days I thought best to take a hiatus from gluten. Also, not being much of a lunch-meat kind-of-gal I knew I had to get creative. I had whipped up a batch of cashew cheese the night before and thought how good that would be with portobellos. I personally enjoy eyeing the contents of my sandwich so I decided to make this the open face kind that encourages you to eat with a fork a knife. So I give you, Open Face Portobello Sandwich with cashew cheese, miso marinated tofu, sun dried tomatoes, avocado and onion sprouts.

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A vegan goes on vacation in Sicily and has a fling with a Japanese man in an almost ready to harvest vegetable patch – that’s how I’d explain this dish. It’s unexpected, but magical.

The cashew cheese is extremely easy to make and you can marinate your tofu overnight or even for a few hours before.  Once those steps are finished, a quick sear of the portobello (2 minutes on each side) is all you need and then you build the sandwich. Each portobello sandwich is high in protein and therefore filling and satisfying.

As much as I wanted to savour this sandwich slowly, another one of those ‘less willing habits,’ had me swallowing it whole in a matter of five minutes. Thanks dad.

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| RECIPE |

  • Four medium to large portobello’s washed and stump trimmed
  • 8 sun dried tomatoes
  • whole avocado
  • cashew cheese (see recipe below)
  • marinated tofu (see recipe below)
  • handful of onion sprouts
  • handful of cilantro
  • 1-2 tbsp of olive oil

| DIRECTIONS |

  • Prepare cashew cheese the night before. See directions and recipe below
  • Prepare miso marinated tofu. See directions and recipe below
  • Clean and scrub portobellos. Remove stub and rub in olive oil or other oil of choice.
  • Heat large skillet with a slick of oil. Once hot add portobellos and sear two minutes on each side until mushrooms is soft and sweating.
  • Allow portobello to cool slightly. In the interim, slice sun dried tomatoes into thin strips. Cut avocado to desired size and wash cilantro.
  • Begin layering ingredients. Cashew cheese, tofu, avocado,  sun dried tomatoes, onion sprouts and cilantro .

Cashew Cheese

  • 1 cup of raw cashews, soaked over night
  • 1/3 cup of nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp of tahini
  • 1 tbsp of water (only add a bit of a time until it reaches desired consistency)
  • pepper to taste

| DIRECTIONS |

  • Soak cashews in cool water overnight.
  • Drain water and add to food processor. Add all ingredients above, holding salt and pepper until ingredients have been pulsed for at least 10 seconds.
  • Add water slowly until it reaches desires consistency. I prefer to have mine similar to a ricotta and not too smooth.
  • Taste than salt and pepper. Pulse once more to combine.

Miso Marinated Tofu

  • half a block of firm tofu cut into 8 thin slices
  • 1 tbsp of miso
  • 2 tsp of mirin
  • 2 tsp of sesame oil
  • 1 tsp of agave
  • salt and pepper to taste

| DIRECTIONS |

  • Slice tofu 1/4 of an inch thin.
  • Create marinade by combining all of the ingredients above. Taste for salt and pepper then add tofu in.
  • refrigerate overnight or for at least 3-4 hours.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Pot of Simmering Memories

In my early years, every other week, my father would come pick us up from my mothers and like clockwork, a knock on the door would send my brother into an arm sprawling, head spinning fit, refusing to leave the house. I on the other hand would be skipping to the car, my Carebears backpack stuffed with irrelevant weekend items and definitely not enough pairs of clean underwear. As my mother, exhausted from a day at work tried to peel my brothers fingers, as if trying to peel the skin of a coconut, from the door frame, I sat patiently, bouncing my feet against my fathers driver chair. These weekends were a vacation for me; new sheets, a different view, chinese food for dinner and most importantly, a visit to the bookstore, where I would have my choice at any book from the children’s section.

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Over the years this became a ritual every time I was with dad. From anything Shel Silverstein, the whole ‘choose your own adventure’ Goosebumps series to Canadian youth literature that I have already forgotten most of the titles too or the Chicken Soup for the Soul Series, which I was obsessed with and literally had 10 different versions of. There was something all absorbing about these books whether it was, ‘for the lovers soul’, ‘the teenage soul’ ‘ the dog and cat lovers soul’ or the classic, just ‘chicken soup for the soul.’ Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hanson became household names for me. Their collection of stories, defining a lot of important emotional awakenings for me. I hear myself saying this and realize how ridiculous I sound. Especially when coupled with these books. Listen I was 11, post divorce and looking for any emotional experience I could latch too.

As I got older, I grew out of reading these books, especially when they were being pushed out faster than a conveyor line of commercial burgers, pumped with more additives and fillers than meat; the titles ridiculous and so long, it took two breaths to say them.

It’s been probably 15 years since I last read A Chicken Soup for the Soul, but every time I prepare a chicken soup I can’t help but think of one story: the one about the puppy that no body wanted. He was thin, frail and less beautiful than the others. One day, a boy comes in and asks to see this puppy and the owner of the store tries to encourage him to look at the others that are stronger and more playful. The boy asks again and the owner continues to give reasons as why this puppy would be no good for him. The boys request the puppy again and the owner  frustrated says he can have it for free if he wants it so bad. Upset, the boy comes back at him and says he will pay the same for this puppy as he would for the others; that he was worth it. The owner shocked, counters and says, “this puppy is no good, he can’t play, jump or run like the others.” The boy then steps back, pulls up his pant leg and reveals a badly twisted leg, hugged by a metal brace. He looks up at the store owner and says, “I don’t run well either and the puppy will need someone that understand him.”

I can’t tell you how long I cried for after reading that story. And I find it strange, that while straining my broth, I think about this maybe fictional boy and whether he’s made it through life okay and what kind of life his puppy had.

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Food is a vessel of memories. Staring into the reflective broth I see illustrations of my former life, each spoonful reacting with emotional triggers to my past. As I stir the gurgling pot with one hand I see my bubbie, her back towards me humming some TV show tune that I can’t make out. Or as I taste for flavour and a little drips from my mouth, I think about the times I was sick as a kid, my mother home from work, warming up a hot bowl of it and checking my temperature.

I share a recipe that is a family tradition. One that has been shared over sickness, celebrations, holidays and even in grievance. Chicken soup is for all of life’s ‘soul’ or moments. This recipe is slowly simmered, carefully watched and with, thoughtfully selected vegetables. The trick is to keep it simple. It doesn’t need to be cluttered with a variety of spices or veg. Let the chicken speak for itself. I typically add matzo balls into this soup, but thought I’d keep it simple this time. This is the perfect soup to take you into the cold months, build up your immune system and can be frozen for a later date.

| RECIPE |

  • 1 one whole chicken (cleaned and cut into 8 pieces with bones)
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 3 medium size carrots cut into rings
  • 2 medium size parsnips cut into rings
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • 1 bunch of dill
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt
  • pepper

| DIRECTIONS |

  1. Take whole chicken or cut up chicken by butcher and clean under hot water for one minute. If not cut, use a sharp wide set knife and cut the chicken into 8 pieces. I discard some skin, but leave half on for flavour.
  2. Take a large pot and fill will cold water to 3/4 of the way. Add chicken and 1 tbsp of salt. Bring to a boil and reduce to med low., skinning the top, until no more frothy foam appears.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and bring to boil again, then simmer for 2 hours.
  4. Remove from heat and let cool.
  5. Strain soup and put back pieces of chicken without bone, carrots, parsnips and pieces of onion. This means you wont have that crystal clear broth, but I don’t mind that mine is a bit cloudy, results in a better flavour as all the ingredients swell overnight in the fridge.
  6. Heat preferred amount on stove top and serve and season with salt and pepper to your taste. This soup freezes very well.

Burnt Eggplant Soup and some late fall customs

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This past month we were spoiled with an Indian summer. When most would be bundling up in their favourite wooly cardigan, lacing up their distressed leather boots and tying it all together with an oversized cotton scarf, the city saw a second wave of jean cut offs and extended patio hours. As I usually do, I adapted to the Indian summer a little late, already too cosy in my favourite fall hoody to find the gumpchen to expose my unmanicured toes.

I eventually gave in, revelled in the warm fall sun and even kicked back a few afternoon brews on a patio. But late into October, those warm afternoons have since gone and my abandoned, perfectly worn in hoody, has found its way back on my skin for maybe a few too many days in a row…(working from home is a dangerous slippery slope to full time afternoon moomoo).

My backyard has started shedding its fall colourful coat, blanketing the ground in a sea of glowing red embers. I’m tempted to jump in, but decide to indulge in another late fall ceremony that I could equally enjoy and not break my back over. Soup! This soup is up there with my Bubbie’s Chicken Soup, which I’m a little worried admitting as I don’t think she’d care to share the spotlight. But I can’t deny the truth.

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I’m not sure if you’ve had a chance to pick up the Jerusalem cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi, but it is spectacular. Everything that I have cooked from those pages has turned out perfectly. I’m so tired of buying cookbooks that have failed recipes, but you can be rest assured that every page in this cookbook has been recipe tested – sitting down to any of his meals, you truly feel like you’re experiencing the smells and tastes of a busy street in Jerusalem.

I’ve borrowed his recipe for Burnt Eggplant & Mograbieh Soup to share with you. The first time I made this soup and tasted it I wanted to cry. It’s rich without the use of cream. Each bite is deep in earthy and sweet flavours; your spoon already dipped in for another mouthful before you can swallow the first. The slowly stewed tomatoes paired with the burnt eggplant is the ultimate in a satisfying soup combo. The mograbeigh adds another level of texture. This truly is an amazing soup.

fallsoupupclose

This evening, my toes (still unmanicured) and I will get cosy under a blanket, turn on some cheesy pre Christmas movie in syndication and savour this late fall custom of soup.

| RECIPE |

  • 5 small eggplants (2 1/2 lbs total)
  • sunflower oil for frying
  • 1 medium to large onion sliced
  • 1 tbsp of cumin seeds freshly ground
  • 1 1.2 tsp if tomato paste
  • 2 large tomatoes (field) skinned and diced
  • 1 1/2 cups of vegetable stock (could also use chicken)
  • 1 2/3 cup of water
  • 4 cloves of garlic crushed and minced
  • 2 1/2 tsp of sugar
  • 2 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 /3 cup of cooked mograbieh (can also use israeli giant couscous)
  • 2 tbsp of shredded basil
  • some dill for flavor (optional)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

| DIRECTIONS |

  1. If you have a gas range, start by lining your stove top with aluminum foil to avoid a mess. Turn gas on high and place 3 of the 5 eggplants on top. Turning every couple minutes for event charring. Once blistered and very soft, remove. Let cool and then spoon inside into a bowl.
  2. Cut the remaining eggplant into 2/3 of a inch. Heat about 2/3 of oil in large saucepan over medium high heat until hot. Add eggplant fice and fry for 10-1 5 minutes, until soft and coloured all over. Remove from pan and place in colander to drain. Sprinkle with salt.
  3. Now with 1 tbsp of oil in pan, add onions and cumin and saute for 7 min, stirring frequently. Add tomato paste and cook for another minute. Now add tomatoes, stock, water, garlic, sugar, lemon, 1 1/2 tsp of salt and some pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes. Watching to make sure it doesn’t burn on bottom.
  4. Now bring a small saucepan with water to boil and add mograbiegh or altnerative. Cook until al dente. Should be 15 minutes or a little longer. Drain under cold water.
  5. Transfer burnt eggplant flesh to soup and blitz to a smooth consistency. Add mograbieh and pieces of eggplant and simmer for a few more minutes. Drizzle with some good olive oil and add basil or dill garnish.
  6. Soup is best the next day after its had a night in the fridge to absorb all of those flavours.

Fall…into Pumpkin Pie

pumpkinlensflare

Quite literally, if I had the opportunity to fall face first into an oversized bowl of perfectly set, creamy and sweet pumpkin pie filing, I would do it. That’s how much I love it.

I hate to pick favourites and although I am slightly partial to spring (when a car hitting a puddle at 100km/hr doesn’t bathe me and my new pair of of suede booties in cloudy street water), fall is right up there with it. There’s a quintessential smell to fall, that if possible, I would bottle and covet. Stealing sniffs in the off seasons. It’s the one time of year you can step into a congested city, cars hurling down the streets, garbage percolating on a sidewalk and still be able to take in a lung full of that, fresh, crisp fall air.

photo (2)

Being an adult with a bad case of the “I don’t want to grow up” fits, I find ways to soothe my penchant for childhood nostalgia. Fall is one of the ideal times. So like every year, my mother (whose excitement for apple picking matches that of a pre pubescent teenage girl seeing Bieber is concert for the first time) and I drag our family to an apple farm and pumpkin patch.

We ended up at a beautiful orchard outside of  Milton and were floored by this years offerings. Last year there was an awful frost in spring, causing all of the buds to wither and not blossom. Meaning, no apples. It was devastating. But this year the apples came back twice as strong: swollen, bright and bursting in flavour. Running through the orchard, I had to find the perfect apple. The one on the highest branch – so red it might just drip colour. This obviously annoyed everyone around me, and they kept reminding me that the ones just a few branches below were just as good. I still insisted on a boost.

pumpkinside

All of this apple picking and pumpkin foraging got me in the mood for a taste of that one thing that embodies fall for me: pumpkin pie. I decided to play around with the crust, using my fail proof all butter crust recipe and to kick it up a notch, added some spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. I found an incredible recipe through the one and only, Smitten Kitchen for making an ethereally smooth filling and followed suit, switching up a few ingredients and methods here and there.

pumpkin pie_whole

I’m going to share a few pumpkin pie commandments with you that have helped me in my own journey.

  1. Always use the utmost freshest ingredients you can get your hands on.
  2. If using pumpkin pie filing from the can, make sure it’s the only ingredient in there. No added sweeteners, spices or preservatives.
  3. Spice and taste where possible. Spices like nutmeg, cardamon or anise are very particular flavours and the amount preferred  is up to the taste beholder.
  4. Pre-bake your crust before adding filing
  5. If it is still wobbly in the oven after the suggested bake time, hold it in there until mostly stiff.
  6. Let it set for at least 30 minutes on the counter
  7. Enjoy with whip cream, a glass of cider and maybe another person if you’re willing to share ; )

| INGREDIENTS |

PIE CRUST:

A half recipe of all-butter pie crust but add the following

  • 1/2 tsp of nutmeg
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice

FILING:

  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon table salt

| DIRECTIONS |

  • Whisk milk, eggs, yolks and vanilla together in medium bowl.
  • Combine pumpkin puree, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in large heavy-bottomed saucepan.
  • Bring to a bubbling simmer over medium heat. Should take a total of 5-8 minutes.
  • Continue to simmer pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly, creaming the mixture against the side of the bowl until smooth and continue this, until thick and shiny. 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Remove pan from heat. Slowly, whisk in cream mixture until fully incorporated.
  • Let sit and come to room temperature. Re-whisk mixture and place in fridge overnight or for 8 hours.
  • Make pie dough before or after and also leave in fridge overnight.
  • Next day, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Remove pie dough and pie filing from fridge.
  • Roll out dough on generously floured work surface to make 12-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang all around pie plate.
  • Working around the pie plate, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Refrigerate 15 minutes.
  • Trim overhang if needed to 1/2 inch beyond lip of pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; edge should be flush with edge of pie plate.
  • Using thumb and forefinger, flute edge of dough. Refrigerate dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes.
  • Remove pan from refrigerator, line crust with foil and fill with pie weights or  hard beans or penniless. Bake on rimmed baking sheet 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights, rotate plate. Bake 5 minutes more until starts to take on golden crust.
  • Take out of oven and slowly pour filing into partially baked pie crust. Replace back into oven and bake for 10-15 minutes.  Return pie plate with baking sheet to oven and bake pie for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 degrees. Continue baking until edges are set, 20 to 35 minutes longer. May need more time and if so, leave it in until either thermometer reads 175 degrees in centre or pick/knife comes out clean.
  • Transfer pie to wire rack and cool to room temperature, for 30 minutes-2 hours. It’s good to leave longer as the pie finishes cooking with resident heat. Makes sure pie is at room temperature or cool before placing in fridge.

Root Vegetable Tarte Tatin

tartewhole

The past few weeks have been a little crazy ever since I took on an apprenticeship at a bread bakery. Early mornings, long hours and a diet of mostly sourdough bread has thrown me from my regular routine of cooking, clean, fresh and healthy meals. It’s tough. How can you say no when you come home to a hearth baked bread sitting on your counter, made from the palms of your hand that day and next to it, a cube of room temperature butter melts under pressure and begs to be spread thick. You just give in and before you know it you’re already two-three slices deep, getting full and feeling shammed, as it’s also what you ate for breakfast and lunch that day.

squashwhole  squashhalf

To make matters worse, when I’m not baking at the bakery I’m baking at home. Testing out recipes for scones, croissants, cakes and other by the dozen treats. I decided to shelf the baking cookbooks scattered across my kitchen and take a walk to the local grocer to get inspiration for a recipe I could make for dinner that didn’t involve just butter and sugar. 

Grazing the aisles of colourful produce I notice that a bundle of freshly plucked squash and other root vegetables are ripe for the taking. Their earthy flavours lend themselves to so many dishes and are a true testament of fall. As I was weening myself off of this pastry kick I was on, I knew that one can never go cold turkey, so I would combine my love of butter and clean seasonable produce to create a dish that would be the perfect introduction to fall.

tarteangle

A Root Vegetable Tarte Tatin. Butternut squash, heirloom tomatoes, tri-colour carrots, red onion and eggplant, check boarded on top of a light puff pastry. Sautéed leeks scattered on top would balance the sweetness with its natural smokiness and savoury notes. I had to cheat a little and not make the puff pastry from scratch as it takes a good few hours and if I wanted to keep myself from falling victim to another binge I had to move fast. I cut up all of the vegetables to about a 1 1/2 inch thickness as I wanted them to be the main component of the dish and the pastry just a base to hold it up. The butternut squash brings this classic to a whole other level of satisfaction. The natural sweetness heightening the flavours of the other vegetables. The dish is extremely easy to prepare if you’re not making the puff pastry  it should take you 1 1/2 hours from start to finish. It makes about six generous portion sizes or eight smaller ones and could be a great dish to take you through the week or to cut up and serve at a dinner party. 

tartecorner

| RECIPE |

  • 1 whole eggplant cut into large cubes
  • 1 whole butternut squash peeled and cut into large cubes
  • 1 whole medium red onion cut into cubes
  • two dozen baby heirloom tomatoes cut in half
  • 4-6 medium size tri colour carrots cut into medium size chunks
  • two leeks sliced thinly
  • 3/4 cup of sugar (or brown)
  • 3 tbsp of water
  • 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp of rosemary finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp of thyme finely chopped
  • salt and pep to taste
  • olive oil to eye
  • 14 oz of puff pastry (either made from scratch and frozen in freezer or frozen store bought variety)

| INSTRUCTIONS |

  • Pre heat oven to broil.
  • Cut up all vegetables into a 1 1/2 inch cube, trying to be as even as you can. Lay them out on a baking sheet and cover with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Bake the eggplant, carrots and squash for the first 15 minutes. Flip vegetables and then add baking sheet of onion and tomatoes. After another 10 minutes switch the trays and flip vegetables again. Check after another five minutes and if vegetables are soft enough where the fork pierces all the way through, take them out and allow to cool.
  • While vegetables are in oven, wash and slice two leeks thinly and sauté in skillet until tender. Remove from hear and set aside.
  • Seat oven to 375 F.
  • Meanwhile, place sugar and water into pan and stir until liquid and slightly browned. Should take around 3-5 minutes. Remove from hear and add balsamic. Quickly pour into a 15 x 10 inch pyrex and sprinkle leeks and herbs on top.
  • Create a checkerboard or whatever design you prefer with the vegetables, placing the most attractive side down.
  • Roll out puff pastry to 1/4 inch thickness and lay on top of vegetables. You may need to use the whole package of puff pastry to cover the entire dish.
  • Place in oven and cook for 20 minutes. Reduce temperature for the last 5-10 minutes if top is getting too golden but pastry hasn’t puffed enough. Keep in oven until pastry is cooked all the way through and puffed 5x it’s original size.
  • Take out of oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Invert on to a cutting board and cut into squares to serve.

Stocking Up: Pickles, Preserves & Mental Foibles

jarslinedup

Although I am at times plagued by a tendency to slip into the negative, I try in each of those instances, to latch on to some kind of zen vibe; mentally envisioning positive reinforcements like: raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, or any of those other timeless things that seemed to keep Julie Andrews from dancing off the edge of those sweeping mountain cliffs. I mean her character’s strife’s were a bit more dramatic and life threatening than the one’s that slip into my thoughts from time to time. Like the one I’ve been having for the past week, which I’ve just become a bit ashamed to even mention, when measuring against escaping Nazi soldiers; having to pick up your life from everything you know and move to a whole new country; changing your identity; and having to endure watching your children perform a musical act in front of a bunch of armed soldiers, who at any moment might lift their barrel and shoot if one of the children mistake a two-step for a three-step, exposing the families plan for escape! Man that movie was heavy. Or at least that’s how I remember it.

spearsinhand

I really hate to be one of those people who talk about the weather as their fall back conversation, but I haven’t been able to help it this whole summer. I mean, it’s been a highlight in most of my posts over the past four months, but I think, fairly so. We were really cheated this year from a summer. Days with rain and murky skies lingered for far longer than invited, like that guest who stays late after  your party ended, who drags on about all of their life’s ailments and misfortunes, while you try to clean your kitchen and send as many obvious hints that you want them to leave, but even banging your head against a wall doesn’t seem to work. Well, that has been what this summer has felt like. Keeping me in the grey clouds for far too long and as a way to torment us further, showering us with high digit sunny days right at the tail end, when you’ve already put your cut off jean shorts into hibernation and haven’t bought a new razor to tend to those Amazonian legs.

lemonsonboard

lemoninquarter

So yes, I’ve been feeling a bit low, letting the small things get to me easier when I think I’m just feeling a bit cheated out of that good old Vitamin D. Reminds me of when I would go to the mall to ride on of those mechanical horses, that were supposed to give three minutes of unadulterated fun for 0.50 cents, but it would always stop short because some kid never came to fix it, or the owners felt they could make a bigger profit if they cut the rides time in half.  WARM WOOLEN MITTENS! Moving on. Never less, although I have to say goodbye shortly to a harvest of fresh local goods like: peaches, green beans, leeks, concord grapes and so much more, it invites a yearly tradition of taking all of these amazing gifts from summer and preserving them into jars. Comforting us in those winter months; tasting summer in small batches.

cucsinstrainer

I could probably fix all of this mental torment if I just packed up and moved to a warmer climate. I’m not saying I have seasonal depression or anything, but I know when I can’t see anything beyond the grey clouds, a switch gets jammed in my head and I go on negative auto-pilot mode. So moving could help, but life just probably wouldn’t be all that interesting. So instead, I feed on the therapy of healing through canning and so give to you some of MY favourite things and other such delectable delights. See below for recipes and menu.

ON THE MENU

  1. Old Fashioned Dill Pickles
  2. Pickled Asparagus Spears
  3. Preserved Lemons

* For all recipes prepare a boiling water bath canner and  jars. Place in pot and boil for 10 minutes, leaving in water to cool, while you prepare your below recipes, but remove 10 minutes prior to placing in jars. You do not want your jar to be an extreme temperature difference. Place lids in a small pan of water and bring to a bare simmer.

| INGREDIENTS |

  1. Old Fashioned Dill Pickles

cucsinjar

  • 1 quart water
  • 4 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 pound Kirby cucumbers
  • 4-5 peeled garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tbsp of red peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons dill seed
  • 1 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 bay leaves, crumbled

| INSTRUCTIONS |

  • In a medium pan, combine water and salt. Bring to a boil and heat until the salt is fully dissolved. Set aside and let the brine fully cool before using
  • Wash Kirby cucumbers well and trim the ends.
  • Pack them into the clean pint jars with the garlic cloves and the pickling spice. Pour the slightly cooled brine over the cucumbers.
  • Tap the jar gently on your counter to settle the cucumbers and to remove any air bubbles.
  • Process jars in a water bath of boiling water for 10 minutes.
  • When time is up, remove jars from canner and let them cool on a folded kitchen towel.
  • Let them sit for at least a week before eating.

| INGREDIENTS |

  1. Pickled Asparagus Spears

spearsinjar

  • 3 pounds asparagus, trimmed to fit your jars
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups filtered water
  • 2 tablespoons pickling salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp of ground pepper

| INSTRUCTIONS |

  • Combine apple cider vinegar, water and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  • Remove jars from the canning pot and drain. Divide garlic cloves, crushed red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper evenly between jars. Pack asparagus spears into jars.
  • Pour pickling liquid over the asparagus, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Tap jars gently to remove any air bubbles. Add more liquid to return headspace to 1/2 inch, if necessary.
  • Wipe rims, apply lids and rings, and process jars in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.
  • When time is up, remove jars from canner and let them cool on a folded kitchen towel.
  • Let them sit for at least a week before eating.

| INGREDIENTS |

  1. Preserved Lemons

lemoninjar

  • 5-6 lemons
  • 1/4 cup (plus more if needed)
  • 1 quart jar sterilized

| INSTRUCTIONS |

  • Trim the ends off lemons, being careful not to cut into the flesh, then slice the lemons as if to quarter them – keeping the base of the lemon intact.
  • Sprinkle the bottom of mason jar with 1/2 an inch of sea salt.
  • Then sprinkle the interior of the lemons with sea salt then layer in your mason jar. Squeeze each layer down with a wooden spoon and sprinkle another layer of salt. Eventually the rinds of the lemon begin to soften and the lemons release their juice, which with the salt create a brine conducive to the proliferation of beneficial bacteria.
  • Continue mashing, salting and mashing until your lemons fill the jar and rest below the level of the brine. If it doesn’t try to squeeze some juice from an extra lemon.
  • Ferment at room temperature for three to four weeks. Shaking daily to make sure that liquid is evenly distributed. Lemons can be kept for one to two years without refrigeration.

* After some reading, I found that the best way to extract the juice is to boil the lemon in water for two minutes, and allow it to cool before squeezing.

Waist Deep: Curing & Smoking Salmon

salmon_slices

Jews have a lot of bragging rights when it comes to food. Ethereally chewy bagels pipping hot from the oven; steaming cuts of pastrami meat free falling from a carving machine; crunchy pickles that echo on every bite; and sizzling discs of salami, mixed into fluffy eggs with sweet onions. These are the foods I grew up on. Every Sunday morning, my mom would be busy at work in the kitchen; a full service deli or dairy right in the middle of our home. One week it would be salami slices with yellow mustard, a side of eggs and toasted challah or on another week thinly sliced lox with bagels, cream cheese and all the fixings; and on special weekends, when my Bubbie was over, sweet bubalas’ and blintzes’. While Friday’s represented a holy day for Jews around the world, it was Sunday that defined my relationship to my culture, as I was always curious about our foods and flavours and Sunday, highlights some of our best.

Around 17 years ago, I made a pledge to stop eating red meat. Understanding very well that I’d be turning my back on flavours I had come to understand as being apart of me: pastrami and salami more specifically. At times, when those coaxing smells would slap me in the face, shaking me senseless to throw convictions in the air by ordering a mile-high piled corned beef sandwich, I didn’t waver; staying true to becoming a red meat celibate. I eventually came to accept that I would never feel the sizzle of a pastrami seasoning on my tongue or the perfect medley of fat and salt that you only get from smoked meat. So I buried my emptiness through dry turkey sandwich after dry turkey sandwich. Eventually, I grew to not even need to visit deli’s, placing all of my Jewish eating energy into dairy; consuming more lox than probably recommended.

salmon_cuwhole

Then one day, not too long ago, I had an epiphany. I felt like I was seeing for the first time. How could I have missed it all along when it was right in front of me all these years. I would marry two of my favourite Jewish dishes, without sacrificing my pledge to meat celibacy…Smoked Pastrami Salmon. Smoked salmon cured in that wonderful sweet, salty and tingly pastrami rub. I felt like a genius. I finally understood what inventors like, Marconi and Bell must have felt like on their first discovery. With a search on google, my ego was quickly deflated, as it so happens, I’m not the first to think of this. Regardless, of who gets ‘creator’ bragging rights, the idea of making my own smoked salmon dressed up as a juicy slab of pastrami meat (sans juicy slab of meat part, but still boasting the pastrami flavour part ), got me so excited and overwhelmed that I didn’t do anything about it for over a year. That was until two weeks ago.

I was flipping through Mile End’s cookbook, salivating over all of their beautiful pictures, when eventually I came upon the pastrami page. That weekend I went to the local fish monger for a slab of Wild BC Salmon and started my rub the next day. The whole process almost took close to a week, including watching a BBQ for 2.5 hours straight. Once the pellets were out and the flesh a dark orange/red hue, I knew it was time. I could hardly wait. I grabbed a knife and fork, and hovered over the fish, looking for the best first cut. It cut like butter and a slight smell of smokey pastrami wafted through the kitchen. I lay the strip of smoked salmon on my tongue and let the memories permeate. Each bite, bringing me back to childhood and where my love for Jewish food all began. Flavours are flexible and anything can be re invented. If you’ve decided to cut out butter recently, but miss the taste of butter tarts, well, don’t have butter tarts. Kidding.  I’m sure there’s a way to re invent those too without butter. All in all, don’t let your taste buds linger for as long as mine did. If there’s a flavour you love, but you always thought it was sworn to one kind of dish, well that’s just bs.  Laugh in the face of danger, take those flavours and apply it to something new.

salmon_infocus

Smoked Pastrami “coffee talk” not w/ Linda Richman

  • Like a good pastrami sandwich you always are thinking about the quality of the meat. It’s no different for salmon. This isn’t something you’ll be making all the time so don’t be stingy with the quality of fish you get. I got a Wild BC Salmon as the fish monger recommended it for making smoked salmon.
  • Pickling Rub: You can make your own depending on how much you like of each spice, but I found one at the local spice store and liked that it had cloves. There’s a lot you’ll be doing here so you’re probably best to keep these parts simple.
  • Cold Smoking: Cold smoking is a process of smoking fish without any heat. You can make your own cold smoker for under $20 and have it for life. All you need is a tin can, some wood chips (flavour of your choice), a BBQ that has a closed lid and Soldering Iron, which you can pick up at any hardware store for under $15.
  • Patience is a virtue. Your fish needs the proper time to cure so it can soak up all of those amazing flavours. This can take anywhere from 4-7 days.
  • Be Safe. We’re working with raw fish and you really want to make sure it gets enough salt in that first cure so that the salmon stays preserved and safe during that cold smoking period.
  • I decided to only use dry ingredients in my cure and rub and it was my first time and didn’t feel comfortable having other ingredients that start to spoil like shallots, which many people used.
  • See below for Cold Smoke 101

| INGREDIENTS |

Salmon Pastrami

Cure:* if using half the amount of fish, just cut recipe in half

  • 160 grams salmon filet
  • 33 grams kosher salt
  • 20 grams white sugar
  • 10 grams brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pickling spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic or 1/2 of fresh garlic
Pastrami Rub:
Equal parts:
  • 20 grams Coriander seeds
  • 20 grams Fennel Seeds
  • 20 grams Black Peppercorns

*if you need more, combine equal amounts again and use.

| INSTRUCTIONS |

  • Clean salmon with cold water and pat to dry
  • Combine the cure ingredients in a bowl and dredge skinned salmon filet in cure until all surface area is covered.
  • Seal is a food saver bag, or plastic wrap and a ziploc. Keep it wrapped tightly for four days
  • Remove from cure. Rinse and pat dry.
  • Let it dry out for an hour
  • Grind rub ingredients to desired texture either in a mortar or spice grinder. I didn’t have either so I used forks, spoons and whatever else I could fine to crush it down.
  • Coast salmon file and let dry dry for a couple hours
  • Refrigerate for 1-2 days
  • Prepare Cold Smoke and apply for 2-3 hours at a steady temperature of 85F, trying not to go over 90F.
  • Chill overnight in plastic wrap or serve right away.

COLD SMOKE 101

Fish, meat or even cheese are smoked at varying levels and in a variety of different ‘houses’. For those who haven’t built a backyard smoking house, your weber BBQ (or any BBQ) will suffice and can easily be turned into a smoker for cold smoking.

Cold Smoking is the process that is quite commonly used for smoking fish. Since there is no heat, it results in a much smoother texture, resembling that of uncooked food. Because the fish isn’t cooked before, they are salted to ensure that bacteria doesn’t grow during the cold smoking process. Typically Cold Smoking is done in colder climates, but it can be managed in warmer ones, with proper attention and some tricks.

You will need the following:

  1. A BBQ with a lid
  2. An outlet
  3. A soldering iron
  4. A tin can
  5. wood chips filled 3/4 of the way

The Process:

  •  Open a tin can 3/4 of the way, leaving one end attached. Clean out contents well and dry. Poke a whole in the bottom, large enough for your iron to squeeze in half way.
  • Fill with favourite wood pellets or chips about 3/4 of the way.
  • Plug in soldering iron and allow to heat up on the base.
  • Prepare grill, by placing a grill sheet on with salmon and tray of ice cubes either below or beside,
  • Place soldering iron in can and put into BBQ, closing lid tightly on cord.
  • Let smoke for the next 2-3 hours, until flesh is quite red or smoke pellets run out. You’ll know it’s ready by the texture of the salmon. Be sure to keep tabs on the temperature and replacing ice if necessary.

* I decided to take advantage of this cold smoke and slap a piece of butter on there. Smokey butter…So good.

Here is a great tutorial on cold smoking if you’d like visuals