>Thursday Basics: Soup Stock

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Through commercial advertisement children learn to enjoy simple and overly sweet flavours, like strawberry, grape, fruit punch and as they get a little older: The dreaded bubblegum. It’s the beginning of the candy phase. And, if these one dimensional flavours are dumped upon them over time, we end up with picky eaters.


The other night neither mr. or I felt like cooking dinner so we grabbed a bit of sushi on the way home from the park. Halifax has been unseasonably warm for March and I have started wandering upstairs to stash to winter coats until next year. It might be too early, but I digress. The Boy effectively ate more than anyone else. He gobbled down (in his hufffy way) salmon sashimi, tuna nigiri and he was eyeing up the unagi but his sister was quicker. My children have unique palates because we encourage them to explore food. We don’t assume they will not like a food because it isn’t a frozen chicken finger or flat pizza. This isn’t about food elitism, it is about teaching our children. It is about a legacy (monsters are [possibly] going to come out of the sea about this).
A few years ago I was listening to the radio and the featured expert stated that this coming generation will be unable to make their own soup stock. That is entirely unacceptable. That is a disservice to our children and ultimately devastating (particularly considering 2012 is right around the corner).

It doesn’t have to be like that; you don’t have to assume your children will only eat folded pepperoni pizza things because chain restaurants have decreed it so. Good food does take time. Delicious, nutritious food that is creative and beautiful takes time. And, the way you have to start thinking about food is different. That will work itself out. Want to know the reason why the coming generation won’t know how to make soup stock?
Their parents aren’t teaching them.

The Stock:

vegetable knobs (leftover bits)
bones (no humans.)
inner garlic cloves, ginger
wine
water

You know all the ends of carrots, pieces of leftover onion and chicken bones that are always left over after cooking a meal? Keep ’em. store all of it in a sizeable container that is freezer safe. That is, instead of composting. Throw in all the small pieces of garlic, the kind that are so small that your fingertips hurt if you even consider chopping them. Beet ends give the end result a sweet and mysterious tang.

When you have filled that container dump it all in a pot with water and a hefty shot of white wine and season it with salt and pepper. Bring it to a boil then let it simmer for a few hours. All the yummines in your magic container of vegetable bits will be drawn out and make for an incredible basic soup stock.

That’s it.

Steps (just to break it down.):

1. Collect the container of leftover chopped up vegetables and bones.
2. Bring to a boil in water and wine. Basically the ratio is 1 part wine to 5 parts water.
3. Simmer for a few hours.


A bit bizarre looking, it’s the stock working its magic.

Once you have your stock guess what you can start doing? Anything! All those recipes that call for stock to infuse an extra layer of flavour .. guess what you have? Exactly. Forget that awful dehydrated yellow stuff, besides, if you are gluten-free you will be staying away from it already. It takes no time at all to collect your stock-fixings which means you theoretically won’t run out. Too often, unless you are like us and have at least two containers in the freezer. Go. Have fun.
(A note: It is somehow appropriate that the very first Thursday Basic post inadvertently went up on Wednesday because I am completely incapable of figuring out my time zone. Isn’t that perfect?)
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>The Market

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A chili oil from Tangled Garden. The whole table is simply a work of art.


This whole week has been a little out of control. My lovely sister-in-law and niece came for a short visit and the past few days have been jam-packed with lovely family type things. Just before that a mini-cold rippled through the house in the most passive-aggressive way, that’s how colds roll. That means I have been busy making comfort food but also lazing in a miserable little heap.

As a treat, Mr., The Boy and I made a trek up to the Halifax Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning. We used to sell Eastern European baked goods at this very market. Mr. and I would bake like maniacs for two days and nights and then bundle The Boy and the many, many containers of deliciousness and head in at 5 am every Saturday.

Dobos Torta, in the midst of being individually packed. Mmmmm, buttercream icing.

The Boy still has loads of friends there that remember when he was just super tiny. Now, he goes and stomps around in his rain boots and eats half the muffins before we even leave. I don’t blame him, Anna from Acadiana Soy has superb muffins. The muffins go perfectly with a cup of coffee that is actually brewed by the cup:



The market is always really fun with a very eclectic and energetic vibe. Around every corner a musician is tucked away, playing either ukulele or a fiddle. We used to set up our table with Maureen from Little Dorset Farms and her son Tristan would play at the market. If you are in Halifax, you should check him out, Tristan is all kinds of fun!

Beautiful basket of shallots at the Hutten farm table.

The farmers are just starting to trickle back into the market. Soon, the building will be full of plants and tables heaped with spinach, fiddleheads, carrots and if you get there early enough, an incredible selection of salad greens from the Hutten farm.

For right now, it means a lot of jam and bakeries. I’m okay with that.

Mannette’s Homemade Jams. A mesmerizing selection.

A jar of Bing cherry jam came home with us from this stand. The selection is incredible, Mannette’s has everything from pineapple strawberry to a whole row dedicated to various marmalades. A number of the jams/jellies are also made from local produce. Bonus!

I am happy to say that there 2-3 gluten-free bakeries at the market now! When Mr. and I were selling we would sometimes make a fabulous wheat free apricot cake but there really wasn’t much. But, now? Check out breakfast:


This is a cherry danish from Crumbs gluten-free bakery and it was delicious. It had just the right amount of sweetness and the cherry filling was perfectly tart. I wouldn’t mind another one right now. Plus, the ladies from Crumbs are incredibly sweet and very helpful.

It was wonderful to be back at the market and now that Girly’s dance class is on a bit of a break we should be able to get there a little more often.

Pistachio Chocolate Crisps

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These cookies are the best cookies in the entire world. Really. It all started with me finding a tremendous bag of pistachios in the cupboard and Girly wanted to make sprinkle cookies. Our pantry is constantly all over the place which is shy almost all of our recipes are some form of improvisation. This is a nice way of saying I didn’t have a speck of gluten free flour because I used the last of it making mediocre tea biscuits. When I could eat wheat I made kick ass tea biscuits. They were light and fluffy with just a hint of buttery goodness. Now? Little dry lumps that make me cranky. The perfect gluten-free tea biscuit is out there. I know it.
Let’s forget the tea biscuits. On to the best cookies ever! I shelled approximately a million pistachios in order to have about 160 grams of finely ground nuts. I also grated a whole bar of dark chocolate with flecks of sea salt from Sugah. The babies love Sugah because well, it’s a candy store with Andy Warhol dishes.
The pistachio shells mixed with bits of flying grated chocolate to make a momentous mess but it was entirely worth it. I actually do not have a picture of a baked cookie because they barely lasted.
My parents went on a cruise around the Panama Canal about a month ago and they brought back a giant bottle of vanilla. It is so rich and dark that it darkens the butter and I can barely contain myself from just eating it with a spoon.

See how the vanilla makes the butter simply caramel?
Yum.

It is really important that you get the pistachios ground very fine. Also, make sure a sneaky shell doesn’t mess with anything. Shells are like that, they are kind of jerks. A tiny piece of shell can ruin it. When I ground my pistachios I ended up with a few lumps because of the fat in the nuts and the general heat put off by the coffee grinder. Don’t fret, just break it up with a fork.
The Recipe:
160 g finely ground pistachios
196 g sugar
one egg
15 ml vanilla
30 g butter
one bar of dark chocolate, grated (I used this one: dark chocolate & nova scotian sea salt)
1. Cream butter with sugar and vanilla.
2. Add the egg. I always use a spatula (a blue one, in fact) to make the mix incredibly creamy. I sometimes find that eggs don’t always mix well with the butter.
3. Fold in the ground pistachios.
4. Mix in the chocolate.
5. Pipe onto a cookie sheet abut 1.5 inches wide, maybe 3 inches apart? These babies will spread.
6. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.
Keep an eye on them because you really don’t with these cookies to brown. A gorgeous shell forms and cracks and this shell (hence the crisp name) shelters a delightfully chew centre. The consensus is that these cookies are a keeper.
I promise to take a picture of the final result next time.

>Zucchini and Onion Mini Quiche

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I really love working with eggs. It is amazing what you can do with them, eggs can rise to epic proportions, support almost any flavour combination, emulsify into a thick and creamy sauce or add a unique richness to almost anything. To top it off, eggs are inexpensive particularly if you build a dinner around the little wonder ovals. A fairly quick but really nutritious meal are mini quiches (you could also just bake it in a 9″ pie pan but this is a lovely way to switch it up). Plus, little people really like feeling special and to have their very own little bowl of “cheesy and eggy in a pie crust, not really like pizza” (every try explain quiche to a 4 year old who asked for pizza for dinner?).

Quiche is so wonderfully versatile – you can go all out and really impress friends with a perfectly puffy and crisp quiche with artisan cheese, or you can feed it to your kids for a nutritious, protein-rich and inexpensive dinner. It is totally up to you. Once in the oven (where it will stay for only about 30 minutes) you can tidy up the kitchen or throw together a really quick salad. My children love carbs and eggs so, eggs in a crust? Brilliance. They eat it every time.
A few months ago I got it in my head I wanted to make a quiche. The only quiche I had was when I was 17 and it was horrible – a thick block of dense egg and cheddar cheese. As I have become more comfortable with my own cooking I am now trying to make up for all the crap food I have ever eaten. This was my attempt to make up for that cold sliver of cheesy hell. Helping me along the way was this fantastic recipe: Bacon-Onion Quiche from Mari at Once Upon a Plate. Her quiche is quite indulgent because of the heavy cream, bacon and gruyere, and I am not objecting to that (I think it’s obvious I like rich food) but for an everyday dinner? Not so much.
Dinner with your family needn’t always be an event with plated gourmet food that takes hours to prepare and every dish in the kitchen. It also shouldn’t be laden with so much processed food that you only need to flit through the kitchen to grab a couple of plates. Give those cranky little wild animals you call children (not everyone does that? huh.) a good meal … how you teach your children to teach their body is a gift. Don’t make them resent it.

As always, the crust I will be using is gluten free.
The Crust*
128g gluten free flour – 1/2 white rice, 1/4 potato starch, 1/4 corn flour
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup olive oil
pinch of kosher salt
*This recipe is really a gluten-free version of Mari’s which you should really check out. She is fantastic with quiche!
1. Mix together and divide into 4 equal amounts.
2. The dough is very soft so just gently pat it out and spread it up the sides of the bowls.
3. Mari advises to brush with a bit of dijon mustard and she is spot on. It adds just a little bite and depth to the quiche.

Quick! This crust needs eggs, stat!
The Eggs
4 eggs
1 cup soy milk
1/2 tsp. hungarian paprika
pepper and salt to taste
sauteed onions and mushrooms
handful of fresh baby spinach
chevre* (make sure it is really cold)
*use whatever cheese you feel like. We tend to use a lot of chevre because of dairy issues. Make sure your cheese is grated unless it is an unripened soft cheese.
1. Heat a pad of butter until it foams up then add your onions. Soften but don’t brown and drop in the sliced mushrooms. I would slice them fairly thin because you really don’t want them to dominate the dish.
2. In a bowl whisk together the eggs, soy milk, paprika and salt and pepper. Whisk until the whole mix is entirely incorporated and an even creamy spring yellow. The reason why you want the chevre cold is that it is much easier to crumble whereas if you took it out of the fridge when you started, you are mildly screwed. Chevre also wears a cream cheese cape … Supercheese! So, crumble and mix into your egg mix.
3. In the individual crusted bowls spread a layer of the onion/mushroom mix, spinach and finally pour the egg mix over top. Make sure the spinach has a definite layer of egg over it, otherwise it will scorch in the hot oven.
4. Pop them into the oven (I placed all four bowls on a pizza sheet for stability) at 425 for about 25 minutes. The centre will puff up and become an enticing golden brown. When they are finished very gently take them out of the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes. Quiche is not nearly as temperamental as a souffle but you don’t want to do any cartwheels on the way to the table.

All puffed up and strutting it’s stuff.
5. Feel free to garnish with just a touch of cheese or sauteed mushrooms. Enjoy!


The zucchini and endive salad with cracked pepper and a light drizzle of honey!

Hot Banana Benny

>This recipe was borne out of a craving for orange and spice. Do you ever have a craving for a flavour combination and it just won’t let go of you? … I was thinking of breakfast and at the same time I really wanted orange, chilli peppers and cheese. The flavours are pretty diverse and to incorporate eggs at this point? Could have been reckless and disastrous or simply daring and a thing of beauty. To really throw a wrench into the whole thing, we were completely out of butter.


The Hollandaise


1. Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a double boiler. Before you even start the next step make sure that you have the rest of your ingredients ready. You will need it because you are emulsifying the egg yolks. Believe me, those suckers can develop little lumps in about 2.3 seconds.

2. Add egg yolks and begin the whisking.

3. Add a bit of milk to thin, always whisking. Making hollandaise with oil instead of butter is a little bit more touchy and you will need a steady hand when adding the milk.

4. Add a dash of paprika and about a teaspoon of orange zest.

5. Just before it is finished, add three tablespoons of goat cheese and continue to whisk until the goat cheese is completely incorporated.

6. Pour over eggs poached in honey water. Add a touch of white vinegar to the boiling water so that the egg will stay together.

The Heated Bananas


1. Heat olive oil in a pan.

2. Slice down the centre of a chilli pepper and add to the pan. Sauté the pepper until it take on a roasted appearance.

3. Add bananas that have been sliced on the bias. If you dust them with just a smidge of potato starch the banana slices will crisp.

4. Sprinkle the bananas with sugar, wait just a few minutes and remove from the heat.

The Breakfast:

Poking out from beneath that feathery egg is a piece of seared salami. For an added sweetness, spread creamed honey on your toast or english muffin and garnish with a bit of orange zest. Food bliss.

>Vanilla Honey Cupcakes with Rosewater Mint Icing (GF!)

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Vanilla Honey Cupcakes


1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 liquid honey*
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk (I use soy milk and it’s lovely!)
2 tsp vanilla
256 g gluten free flour**
pinch of guar gum
15 g baking powder
1 tsp. salt


* I used liquid honey from Cosman and Whidden, a beekeeping farm in the Annapolis Valley that produces the most fantastic honey.

** I must be honest here. I have tried gluten-free flour mix recipes and they are usually crap, mostly because the measureInstead, I just pop a bowl on the scale and mix the flours. Generally I will use mostly white rice flour for baked goods and then add sorghum, corn or potato to make up about a third of the total weight. I am sure this goes against the canon of gluten-free baking but sometimes I like to be reckless.

1. Cream the room temperature butter and add: sugar, vanilla and the honey. The colour will be a rich caramel and if I didn’t know what it was I might want to eat it on ice cream.

2. Combine and weigh your flours, then add the rest of your dry ingredients.

3. To the creamed butter mix alternately add the dry mix and milk in equal parts.

4. Fill a lined cupcake pan and bake at 350º for 12-15 minutes. I baked mini cupcakes, if making standard-size bake for 20-25.




Rosewater Mint Icing Recipe

5 fresh mint leaves
2 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp. white wine

2 tbsp. butter
1.5 cup icing sugar
.5 tsp rosewater
This is not a very stiff or thick icing because the mint water is quite hot. I made the mint essence because I didn’t have any, what that also means is that there is a bit of trial and error with this recipe.

What I did: Brought the mint, sugar and water to a boil and let it simmer. To bring out the mint flavour I splashed in the wine. What I didn’t foresee (and I begrudgingly admit this) was that I would make candied mint leaves with a liquidy candy. The liquid ended up making clear little cracks of mint candy throughout the icing, and while it was delicious it didn’t really look as appealing. I might do it again this way simply to experiment with colouring the mint candy.

The candied mint:



What I think I should have done: Boiled the mint leaves with the wine and water and then add the sugar at the end. Possibly.

What I probably should have done: Bought mint essence.

1. Cream the butter with the rosewater, add the sugar and mix well.

2. If you decide to do the candy experiment, add it at the end when the icing is almost mixed. Whip it quickly.





Success!

>Kitchen Beauty, courtesy of an Etsy artist

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I simply want to own every last piece of artwork in Yevgenia’s Etsy shop. Check out the 2 in 1 hand-painted green carafe designed with grass roots:
Isn’t this just stunning? The smokiness of the purple gray glass is evocative of summer thunderstorms, the kind that roll in majestically and drop the water so fiercely it can barely penetrate the ground. Just as these storms roll in, they disappear, sucked back into the atmosphere. I don’t suppose you would be drinking your wine that quickly, but wouldn’t it be lovely to lounge outside in the fresh air of spring with this set?
What caught my eye originally was this sake set. Gorgeous:
I used to work at a sushi restaurant that served a lovely plum wine and if I had this set I would drink a bit of that wine every day, just for a bit of light. Beautiful. Everyone needs to visit the artist’s shop at Etsy. Rightthissecond!