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February, 2009:

Quick Pickle I: Jalapenos

Jalapenos 1

In order to capture more dollars from the discount-savvy shopper the Loblaws grocery stores that we shop at have started making “not so fresh” produce available at 50% of the original price.  This has become less of a great deal than when it first strated because they have begun packaging in larger quantities that usually include at least a couple specimens that I wouldn’t buy individually.  Also, certain items just aren’t practical in large quantities because we don’t use them often enough to keep a big bagful in the fridge.

Jalapenos are a great example.  Half-off is great but what is one to do with a bag of twenty jalapenos when most recipes call for one or maybe two?  Simple: Make pickles.


Lettuce is for Lovers

As I mentioned in my post about starting the parsley, last year seed starting began on St. Patrick’s Day.  This year I’m more experienced, ambitious, and have more space for growing and so things got started even earlier.  In a somewhat random nod to this new tradition I started part of a  packet of lettuce seeds in the “windowsill greenhouse” (pictured below) on St. Valentine’s Day.

Lettuce seeds sprouting on the windowsill

Lettuce seeds sprouting on the windowsill

If these stick to schedule and are ready to be transplanted before the middle of April they will probably never end up in the garden but instead will go into a window box and provide the occasional salad garnish for meals in the city.  I’m a bit disappointed that the germination rate seems to be so spotty.  I started with the cells on the right with bigger seeds (this is mixed packet of different lettuce seeds) and one seed per cell.  By the time I got to the cells on the left and the much smaller seeds laziness kicked in and I just poured four or five seeds into each cell.  Do bigger seeds take longer to germinate?

Review Radar: Black Hoof

I can’t wait to try (and write a review of) The Black Hoof charcuterie restaurant.  BlogTo has a good review already up and there is a good discussion of this restaurant on Chowhound.  Best of all the chef has a behind-the-scenes blog that I’ve added to the list of links on the right.  This blog is a rare insider view that is obviously written by an insider before he is told to do so by his publicist.  Check it out.

I also have the upcoming Seedy Saturday event on my radar.   Last year it was a great opportunity to find some of the seeds that eventually became a big part of my garden.  I’m glad to see that the venue has changed for this year (it was very crowded last year) and that it is a bit earlier (this Saturday, February 28).

Memories of Summer: Mead

Winter cooking (and to a more limited extent winter gardening) is enjoyable in its own right but realistically I spend more time thinking about the summer during the wintertime than the other way around. Therefore, this post is devoted to one of my favourite food experiments of last summer: Ethiopian Honey Wine (a.k.a. T’ej, or Mead).

Four Flavours of Mead: plain, blueberry, honey ginger, and peach

Four Flavours of Mead: plain, blueberry, lemon ginger, and peach

Sandor Katz’s book Wild Fermentation was the inspiration for a lot of what I prepared (“cooked” is the wrong word because almost all fermented food is raw) last July and August.  I’ll probably deal with each of the fermentation experiments and likely the book itself in separate posts but when scrolling through photos from last summer I came across this one and remembered just how good the mead was to drink as well as to look at.


Review: Smoke’s Poutinerie

Last Friday I joined seven friends at Smoke’s Poutinerie for an outing of our restaurant club.  The menu is simple and straight to the point: They take poutine–the quebecois combination of fries,  fresh cheese curds, and gravy–and add a variety of themed toppings.

Hog Town Poutine

Hog Town Poutine

I had the Hog Town Poutine ($8.95) which features sausage, bacon, mushrooms, and sauteed onions on top of the usual poutine.  It was pretty close to perfectly executed.  The fries are (apparently freshly cut on a daily basis from Yukon Gold potatoes) just the way I like them; crispy but slightly soggy just like  KFC’s and Swiss Chalet’s fries were twenty years ago.  Smoke’s cheese curds are much better than average but mine didn’t really squeek.  The bacon is unbelieveable; the mushrooms and onions are par for the course; and the sausage accurately mimics the Toronto street meat that I’m pretty sure it is meant to evoke.  Chowhound has hosted some debate on whether the strong note of thyme in the gravy is a good thing or not.  I liked it  because it is out of the ordinary and went well with the toppings on my poutine.   The gravy could use a stronger, more meaty base though. (more…)