Monday, May 22, 2006

Hazelnut Crunch

One of the things I picked up the other week when I went to Whole Foods was this Hazelnut Crunch, toffee covered with coarsely chopped hazelnuts. Quite tasty, though I found Whole Foods to be very expensive. The concept of an Organic Supermarket I approve of highly, yet I wonder if this is not more about Marketing than it is about being Organic, as most of the things for sale seemed quite expensive. Even things that I normally buy at Health Food stores or other markets, ended up being 10-20% higher. Though, I understand this particular Whole Foods lies next to the rich part of town, these people presumably can afford the high prices for premium products. But, hopefully, this kind of store will bring about more stores like it, I can see that a lot of Supermarkets are beginning to stock Organic products, a few and limited variety, nonetheless, and have Health Food sections too. A trend I approve of and hope will continue to expand, so that the prices will begin to drop as more and more people start to buy these products and begin to demand more variety. Farmers Markets are beginning to gain popularity too, another trend that I like, eating locally grown foods is good for the ecosystem and these goods tend to be fresher and tastier.

Simple Carrot Salad

This dish brings me back to my teenage years, when my mother would occasionally specially make this for me. Only 3 ingredients, the hardest part is grating the carrots. We used one of those grinders with the multi-purpose attachments, you can get one for your Kitchen-Aid as well. So simple, the sourness of the lemon and the sweetness of the sugar complement the carrots. Enjoy!

Simple Carrot Salad
4 medium carrots
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar

Peel and grate the carrots coarsely. Pour the lemon juice over the grated carrots in a bowl, then sprinkle the sugar all over. Toss until the sugar is dissolved.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

My favourite flower of all

These are dwarf purple irises, which grow in the rock garden along my Dad's driveway. Unfortunately, they do not last very long, no more than two or three days, but they are beautiful blooming.

Moros y Christianos (Moors and Christians)

I really like black beans, and when I came across this recipe by the Frugal Gourmet, a popular cook in the 1980's who was very popular for a while on PBS stations, I had to make it. This is a Cuban dish, the Moors are the black beans, while the Christians are represented by the white rice. I distinctly remember making this dish the first week of my new job 14 years ago.

Moors and Christians
1 pound dried black beans, rinsed
4 cups water
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 medium green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1/4 pound salt pork, chopped
1 pound smoked ham hocks, cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces
2 tsp paprika
3 tsp ground cumin
2 bay leaves
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Wash the beans and place them in a 6-quart stove-top casserole with 4 cups water. Cover and boil 2 minutes; shut off the heat and let stand 1 hour. Add the remaining ingredients, except the vinegar and salt and pepper, cover and simmer 2 hours until the beans are tender. You may have to add a bit of fresh water to the pot as the beans should be just covered with water when you begin the second cooking stage. At completion, debone the hocks, chop up the meat and return it to the pot.

Add the vinegar and the salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and heat all through.

Serve with white rice.

Long Jing (Dragon Well) Green Tea

My sister and her husband spent a week in Hangzhou with his parents. This is a popular vacation spot in China, especially in Spring when the trees blossom. They had a good time. Another place to visit when you are there is where they grow Long Jing green tea, called Dragon Well in English. The green tea is picked by hand, the tender young green leaves, where they are dried using a huge wok. Of course, drinking the tea is just as interesting as finding out how it's produced. Cold well water is heated to the proper temperature, not boiling!, and the long jing tea leaves are steeped, and the first steeping is thrown out (though you are supposed to breathe in the fumes, the first steeping is thought to be bitter and not good). A second lot of water is put to steep the leaves again, and this time the resulting tea is sweet and excellent tasting. Well, I was surprised to receive a lot of this tea last week, when a coworker returned from a visit to Beijing and Shanghai, he had met my sister and her husband there. The tea was excellent! Even better than the batch I had received earlier that year. Perhaps because it was fresh.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Some Flower Pics from the Weekend

I went out for a bike ride on Sunday, the weather was quite glorious! There were lots of Spring flowers to take pics of, I ended up stopping several times by the side of the road to take them. The marsh marigold pic was particularly difficult to get, I ended up with scratched legs because of some brambles. The trilliums are out early this year, the earliest that I've seen them blooming.