Category Archives: Ruminations on the Edible

Food inspired writing

What Am I? Need Help Identifying Mystery Kitchen Tool!

My friend Johanne (of fashioninmotion fame— would add fortune but not sure if fortune has happened yet) emailed me with this photo.

This ceramic beauty was abandoned with some great plates in a box behind a now defunct Leslieville kitchen store.  It now has a home but no identity.

So I ask for your help–do you know what this is?  Please pass on, or PIN on Pinterest and together we can Nancy Drew ourselves out of this mystery.

It’s two pieces btw, and Johanne says  it makes the most awful screeching sound of ceramic on ceramic when you move the top piece along the shaped ridges,  quite horrific,  so the idea that maybe it is used for grinding spices/pesto/herbs makes Johanne shudder.

Here are a few other photos or our ear-piercing, door knobbish friend-

I don’t know why the pictures are uploading crooked and it is 4 am so I am just not worrying about it.

(4am is when all mysteries become so mind-boggling that they must be posted right away)

This is over $20 bucks worth of something useful.  Potentially.

Nice manicure Johanne.

Any and all guesses are welcome!

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It Doesn’t Get More Local Than This

We often drive by Strickland’s Choice Meat (Greenwood and Gerrard) on our way south to Queen Street.  Recently we noticed it was closed until March 21.

Why?  Well, let’s take a closer look:

Len is having surgery.  Basically the sign is saying, “the whole neighborhood knows who Len is and knows him well enough to be privy to the fact that he’s having surgery.  And to care.”

And I bet if you stopped someone in the neighborhood they could tell you what kind of surgery poor Len needs.

I hope Len is OK.   I’ve driven by the sign enough times that I’m starting to wonder if he’s in good hands, if the surgery went well and is it too soon to expect him back in a mere 3 weeks?

Get well soon Len!

May 3, 2012:  Here is a bit of history about Stricklands (thanks Lisa!) :   from the Beach Metro news

One feature for history buffs is a butcher and meat shop called Stricklands Butcher Shop. This shop was located at different locations on the Danforth and other places for close to 80 years. The current shop on Greenwood Avenue is still run by two jovial Strickland brothers, who also happen to carry the Beach Metro News in their store.

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Supernatural Brownies still Supernatural after 5 years in drawer

I had offered to bring a dessert to a friend’s house this weekend (she was making dinner) and needed something that was both adult and kid friendly.  In my drawer of recipes I rediscovered this one for “Supernatural Brownies” clipped from the New York Times in 2007.  I  made them many times in 2007 and then kind of forgot about them (either that or I’ve been in a chocolate coma and just woke up in 2012).  Other than the fact that they’re not dairy-free (my friend Meredith can’t eat dairy–and I totally forgot that too) they seemed perfect.

To avoid being a total dessert jerk I brought Meredith some Mango Gelato from Ed’s Real Scoop (I know a pretty feeble gesture) while the rest of us enjoyed these brownies which turned out as moist, chewy and chocolatey as I remembered them.  So I thought I would share the recipe or rekindle your memories of it if you too had once loved–and lost– it.

This recipe originally come from a piece in the New York Time by Julia Moskin  which included 3 brownie recipes (French Chocolate Brownies and New Classic Brownies).  I stopped trying alternate recipes after I tried the Supernatural recipe as it seemed there was no point in exploring further.

This is the NYT’s recipe, as adapted from “Chocolate: From Simple Cookies to Extravagant Showstoppers,” by Nick Malgieri (Morrow Cookbooks, 1998).

I got chocolate on the dish. Messy picture. Sorry!

1. You need to butter a 9 x 13 ” pan and then line the bottom with parchment, and butter that.  Now preheat the oven to 350 °F.

2. In a double boiler or a stainless steel bowl set over a wide pot, melt 8 oz bittersweet chocolate with 2 sticks of unsalted butter.  You can give it a stir once in a while. then  when melted and combined set aside to cool slightly.  (you can melt theses  in the microwave as well)

3. Now you’re going to put your eggs in a large bowl and whisk them lightly with a hand blender and then add in 1 cup white sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, 1/4 tsp salt and 2 tsp vanilla.

4. Pour the chocolate mixture into the egg batter and whisk the two until combined.

Brownie worlds collide.


5. Now add 1 cup all-purpose flour and gently fold it in with a spatula until just combined.  Don’t over mix.

6. Pour the batter into the greased dish and bake for about 35-40 minutes.  Until the top is just cracking and becoming glossy.   Remove and allow to cool before slicing.

I prefer to cut the pieces smaller as they are very rich.  And it sounds better to allow your self two rather than one, or a dozen rather than just six. (Once you eat more than 6 you should consider it a meal.)

The final brownies will be shiny and cracking on top with a rich, mist and chewy middle.

And here is your shopping list of ingredients:

2 sticks (16 tablespoons) butter, plus extra for greasing pan
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour

Other than the baking and cooling, preparing this is fast and simple.  A good one for potlucks, birthday parties or Apocalypse planning sessions.

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Filed under All Recipes, Cookbooks, Magazines (+recipes from), Ruminations on the Edible

Lemon Icebox Pie Recipe (nope, there’s nothing better)

I wish I could post this bigger, please CLICK on it to really get your mouth-watering.

Have I mentioned how much I love whipped cream and lemon and pie and being frozen?

Actually I hate being frozen, ask my toes, they where frozen on many a Vermont ski lift in – 25 C° when my dad would insist the weather (howling wind, sleet) was perfect for a full day of skiing.

ANYWAY, I now know how to ski thanks to my dad.  And I  know how to make Lemon Icebox Pie thanks to the  SAVEUR 100 2012 issue which I downloaded on the iPad— and will continue to do so-love how easy it was to access everything.  (Fromage Fort is in the top 100 by the way, recipe and blog here.)

Amongst the many recipes included in the magazine was a picture of the above dessert.  How could I refrain from making it?  It’s billowy and loaded sky-high with luscious whipped cream and dense lemon filling all situated on a thick buttery graham crust.

You start by combining melted butter, graham crumbs and sugar in a food processor and pack that  into a 9″ deep dish pie dish.

Once this is done you can set it aside and begin juicing your lemons.  About 8-10 lemons make for 2 cups fresh juice. I find the easiest way to juice lemons is by twisting the lemon around a fork, gets as much juice out as possible.

You then combine the lemon juice with 2 cans sweetened condensed milk and 2 egg yolks.  Best of all–you get to scrape out and lick the remaining condensed milk off your fingers.

Then beat til frothy, about 5 minutes.

And pour into your graham crust after many tastes to ensure everything is A-OK.  You are a perfectionist after all.

The pie now goes into the oven for about 20 minutes at 400 F°.

Admission: I altered the recipe as this pie dish was the only one we had and was obviously not deep enough for all the lemon filling.  So I halved the lemon filling in the version I made.  I then only baked it for 10 minutes to adjust for the thinner lemon layer.  You want to just set the filling and get the crust golden.  It will finish setting in the freezer.

Once out of the oven settle the vanilla wafers around the edge and in the dense filling.  Allow to cool completely.

Now into the freezer.  The recipe says minimum 2 hours or overnight.  We had it in there for about 6 hours.  It was quite frozen when we removed it but softened quickly–maintaining a great CHILL in the mouth.

in freezer in case it looked like it was in a giant, metal press

Once out of the freezer add your whipped cream (3/4 cup).  You can serve immediately or put the pie in the fridge until you can’t stand to be without it any longer.

While whipping the cream,  I questioned the lack of even a teeny bit of sugar but held back and only add the suggested vanilla.  Ultimately, the creamy naked whipped cream top was perfect with the sweet lemony basement layer.

And if you do spill some sugar during this whole process….be creative with it.  Especially if you’re almost three and this is your birthday pie….

Happy Birthday Will!!!

Here is the link to the actual recipe for Lemon Icebox Pie, it’s ridiculously simple to make and people will be Mmm, Mmm, Mmming like mad.

THANKS to my brother Dave for taking all these pictures.  Check out his macro photography.  It’s unbelievable.

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Dundee, Omaha: Free fresh bread and a Wall of Scotch

Time to move to Dundee

Our first full day in Omaha we walked up to Dundee,  a mile away from where my brother and his family live.  When you move to Omaha you should also try to be walking distance from Dundee.  According to a short pieceI found on-line, Dundee was an early Omaha suburb, built at the end of a streetcar line.  It’s a cozy and cool little community.

We headed first for some free bread at the Great Harvest Bread Co.  School kids stop here on their way home for a slice of their choice with some butter and honey.  Our goal was their Cheddar Garlic Loaf (a whole loaf mind you) plus the snack size slice.

The choices that morning were the Red, White and Blue Berry Bread (thick white loaf with dried cranberry and blueberry, a whole wheat cinnamon raisin and gluten-free version and fresh white bread.

That is my brother ready to load on the butter.  It’s a genetic trait in the family.  Butter-love.

We had walked by a place called Beer and Loathing earlier and I asked what it was…

Dave replied, “it’s a meat market” and I said, “oh, charcuterie!” to which he said, “no, college kids.”  Yes, I’m an idiot.

You can easily get distracted by places like the eCreamery

With Ice Cream Flavour names like Scoops of Thanks and Anti-Aging Cream.

Then you can saunter down to get some affordable designer jeans at Scout where they buy, sell and trade modern and vintage clothes.  Great selection.

In the background you can see the sign for PITCH pizzeria.  Check out their amazing menu

And if you’re into Scotch you will want to head to the Dundee Dell.

.

If you click on no other link–check out the Scotch menu….

And finally, if you really like bread as we do, you’ll want to bookend your excursion with a stop for a French baguette, croissants, pain au chocolat or sour dough at The Bread Oven.

Oh, or some French style butter.  Less moisture, more butterfat.

And I have nowhere better to take you than this butter.  Other than a walk home on a sunny day.  With a rather full dough belly.

And this quote from The Bread Oven blog:

“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water,

is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.”

M.F.K. Fisher–

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Filed under Restaurants and Products, Ruminations on the Edible, Travel and Food

Happy Valentine’s Day to Me (and you of course)

Happy Valentine's Day

I hope everyone is having an enjoyable Valentine’s Day–meaning that you’ve been showered in chocolates, furry stuffed bears and wet kisses (if you’ve been hoping for such things), or that you’ve had the satisfaction of hating this horrible, commercial holiday that compete’s only with New Year’s in terms of hollow and impossible expectation settings.

If you’re panicking (from either scenario) remember this:

This was a Valentine’s message from my friend Joanne at fashioninmotion.com, which should actually be cheeseandfashioninmotion, but too late now.

Yet, good or bad, Valentine’s Day always invites one to think about having a special meal–cheesies, Diet Dr. Pepper and gummies in front of Four Weddings and a Funeral  (where you can throw cheesies at the TV whenever Andie McDowell appears) or some fancy schmancy meal–in your house or out on the town.

I had the latter–last night-actually (we live on Australia time).  No, I have a class tonight so my husband made me a delicious dinner on the 13th.

And I will share it with you:

The appetizers came from T&T and were so delicious, I must apologize for my terrible lighting and staging of the plate but I’m not about to set up a light and worry about camera angles in the middle of a romantic meal (though apparently I will think about my blog for at least 10 minutes).

We had fishballs, and veggie gyoza and sweet and sour daikon with some salted mustard greens in the back.

Next we had a surf and turf thing going on with steak and tilapia in a Yuzu sauce with lots of fresh pepper.  The tilapia was tender, sweet and delicate.

And with that a warm mushroom salad.  Mushrooms perfectly cooked–not over cooked–and in a light Hoisin sauce.

Here is a close-up–

wow–I wasn’t kidding when I went close with this–perhaps I was eating straight from the plate with my mouth?  It was lipsmacking delicious.

And finally some fresh papaya and mango tofu.  I am slightly addicted to mango tofu since our babysitter started buying it for our son.  I am sure it is not healthy at all.  But it SOUNDS healthy!

And then, just to top off my perfect night at home–an hour long Valentine’s episode of 30 Rock!!  And, since it was PVR’d, no commericals and Tad even made sure to start the show again at the end of the preceding commercial  (I hate missing even a second of a scene).

Which reminds me, I have some Valentine Day payback to think about….

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Oh Dough Scraper: You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Til It’s Gone

Thank God I found you again under the meat tenderizer, lodged inside the medium size whisk

I wanted to make bread on the weekend and I could not find my dough scraper.  It does often get lost in my messy “tool” drawer as it is white and thin and discrete but usually I pull it out after a couple minutes of desperate searching.  But this day I really could not find it.  Squelching panic I decided, no biggie, I can forge ahead yet soon realized that bread making life was nowhere near as comfortable without ol’ Scrapey.  Scraps I sometimes call him–or “stupid piece of plastic” if I’m mad.  (Those are all lies, we never speak)

Anyway, a bread scraper or a pastry scraper can also be called a bench scraper (although a bench scraper is a bit different, stainless steel with a straight edge).  This simple tool is all about manipulating dough.  A spatula or your hands can’t lift soft dough well and some cases just plain rip up the dough –plus if the dough is wet–forget about it.

So moving onto irritation 1:  Without my scraper I could not do this:

Scraping out Rios Jr, my sourdough starter is a neat and efficient job with a scraper and is messy, sticky and maddening without.  Wide, flexible and rounded-the scraper gets in all the corners.  (Also great for scraping under a pie crust that has gotten a little sticky or been rolled too thin.)

After not being able to do THAT….I then could not do this:

And nothing scrapes down a mixing bowl quickly like you-know-who.   You also like it on hand to then gather your slightly damp, sticky dough and remove it from the mixing bowl.  See below:

I hope you get the idea. It was near impossible to take the picture and lift dough!

And finally, on the cutting board, the scraper lets you lift, roll, move the dough around and scrape up any sticky bits left on the counter or work surface.  There is serious satisfaction in efficiently flaking dough bits away and leaving a smooth, clean surface.

Again, one handed demo with other hand on camera, apologies it is not more action packed.

And as mentioned earlier you can then also portion your dough into smaller loaves or buns with the scraper (which I did in the Fougasse recipe) but in this case I was just making my usual two loaves.

In hindsight, knowing how much I need him, I give at least 35% credit to my plastic bread scraper for any loaf I have ever made.    I love you man.

Dedicated to a lost (and found) kitchen essential and sidekick.

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Filed under Blogs with cooking tips, Ruminations on the Edible

Mrs. Neumann’s Chocolate Chip Cookies (they’re the cat’s ass)

Do they look right Mrs. Neumann?

It’s taken me quite a few tries and some misses (I tried substituting butter for shortening) to get the technique of these cookies just right.  For as we all know, a recipe is just ingredients and the magic is in the hands that make it.  Or in the oven you’re using, or the type of fat (as I discovered).  Or just the fact that you don’t have to make it yourself.

my little angels

When I think of chocolate chip cookies I think of 33 Snowshoe Crescent and Mrs. Neumann’s chocolate chippers.  Some crumble but a chewy centre and the sweet balanced with a perfect hit of saltiness.

And if you’re thinking, “of course you can substitute butter crazy lady”, well, here’s the problem.  In a pinch you can but  you have to adjust the oven temperature. Butter melts faster than shortening and so at 350 °F the cookies just deflate into thin patties, becoming crispy and to brown.  So the last time I had to use butter I rolled the cookies and put them in the fridge to chill while the oven preheated.  I took the temperature up to 375 °F rather than 350° F to speed up baking and not allow them to spread so much.   And I baked them for 9-10 minutes.  They turned out better, did taste buttery, but I couldn’t get the same chewiness.

(One tray I baked for 15-17 minutes as I was checking email and finally the “DING DING DING” of the timer made it through my consiousness and I ran into the kitchen to find sadness in the oven.)

So embrace the shortening cookie lovers.  At least this one time.

(courtesy of Mrs. Neumann though now that I think of it I never really asked if I could use it.  Please still make me cookies for my birthday!!)

Mrs. Neumann’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup all purpose flour

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 cup chocolate chips

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 350 ° F.

2. Combine the shortening, white and brown sugar, egg and vanilla and cream with a hand blender until light and fluffy.  (do not just combine it–you want light and fluffy!)

3.  In another bowl add the flour, salt and baking soda and stir well to combine.

4. Add the dry to the wet and blend well with a spatula.

5. Add the chocolate chips.  (Resist the temptation of adding a zillion extra chips or the consistency of the cookie will be off.  DO EAT a zillion extra chips).

6. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment.  Roll the dough into about 24 little balls (they’ll be about 1 1/2 inches diameter) and divide them between the trays.  They will look small, resist making them super-size.

7. Press down lightly on each cookie with a fork until you leave an indent.  (I wet the fork in water between cookie so it doesn’t stick.)

8. Bake on middle rack  (do each sheet individually if you can’t fit both).  The recipe says 9 minutes (which is pretty right on)  but in my oven sometimes I go up to 11 minutes.  You want them browning on the edges but they will still be pale-ish on top.

9. Remove from oven, cool and eat them! Eat them all!

Then imagine if you made them with THESE.

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Is Life worth more than Crisco?

I'd post a real picture but...

I want to make chocolate chip cookies.  Lois’s Chocolate Chip cookies but I have no shortening.  And they don’t turn out the same with butter.  They just don’t.

But the weather is dicey. Slippery.  Don’t drive if you don’t have too.   So I am torn–how badly do I want the cookies?

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Foodie meet Library

Momofuko has been well worn

I would rather tell you how many shoes I have in my closet than how many cookbooks I own.  And actually, it’s not about how many I own, but how many I use regularly.

And when I say use, I obviously mean for recipes (my current 4-5 favourites rotate in and out of the kitchen) but also the books that I love to look at, that remind me of somewhere I travelled or just tell a good story or the books that I WILL use when I finally get around to doing some pit cooking in my backyard.

Pit Cooking (www.primitiveways.com)

But, if you love and use cookbooks you also know that, like an uncomfortable shoe, there are disappointments.  Recipes that never work or are too vague, purchases that were spontaneous “yes! I WILL be an expert confectioner!” and the trendy stuff  (how many Jamie Oliver cookbooks does one house need?).

I also do not mean to imply you have to cook out of a cookbook to enjoy it.  Not at all.  But, at least for myself, now that I know what I like I have a better idea what is a worthwhile investment of money and shelf space. And it forces me to look and flip through and appreciate the book right away as I will have to return it sooner or later.

THUS I INTRODUCE FELLOW COOKBOOK ADDICTS TO THE LIBRARY.

I myself forgot about the library for many years.  With amazon and ebooks downloading in a flash, it seemed troublesome to go somewhere to physically check out a book.  In fact, it did not even occur to me that the library had modernized since I was 12 and is now (gasp) on-line.

I got myself a card and now I just log on, put a hold on the cookbooks or books I want and I am sent an alert when it arrives at the branch of my choice.

Sometimes it takes a day or two and sometimes a few weeks (but how exciting when the email arrives saying Happy Day! The Art of Living According to Joe Beef is mine!! ).

Test Drive Potential Cookbooks

Now with cookbooks I borrow them.  I read them and maybe try a recipe or two.  And generally have a clear sense of whether I need this particular book at my fingertips at a moment’s notice.

And I feel a little more satisfied when finally making a purchase.  Yes, I took the book for a test drive.  It performed as I’d hoped.

And while you’re at the great place called The Library you can also get books such as this:

Or, something beautiful and simple such as this:

And all in all, the place just smells like books and pages and everything is organized and you can hide in a corner where no one knows you reading the latest issue of The New Yorker.

Or just looking in fashion magazines for shoes to buy.

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Filed under Blogs with cooking tips, Cookbooks, Magazines (+recipes from), Ruminations on the Edible