Eat a Gulf Island
Good food! Living on a southern gulf island in the Salish Sea, I have been lucky enough to grow many vegetables and fruits, and to have access to fresh fish. In a lifetime of enjoying cooking, I have also created lots of recipes. Many are vegetarian or vegan. Years ago, as the editor of the Slow Food Vancouver newsletter, I began to write down my best recipes so other people could make them, too.
CLICK on the name here of the photo/recipe to go directly to it.
Fruit juice made into a jelled (vegan) dessert is comforting in winter if you’re not feeling up to much, and it’s cool and fun to eat in summer. It takes about 4 minutes to make from scratch. I use AGAR, a powdered flavourless seaweed that is better than gelatin: it dissolves more easily, jells faster, doesn’t need refrigerating to set, and it’s not an animal product. Agar is available at Asian grocery stores. I use a Thai brand; one small packet of 25 grams with a picture of a trophy cup on it jells a lot. The only measurement to remember is that 1 measured teaspoon of powdered agar will jell 1 cup of liquid. Scale up from there.
EQUIPMENT: Juicy stars are made in a cheap silicone mold, the same kind as for chocolates, ice, soap, or candles. You could make juicy hearts or bears or santas. If you don’t have a cute mold, or you have extra, just pour the liquid into a pan, and cut it after it’s jelled into sparkling little cubes.
JUICE: You can use orange or any tasty blend OR a diluted smoothie. You can intensify the flavour of a thin juice like orange by adding a bit of lemon or lime and honey or sugar. With a blender, you can be creative and make your own juice with a can of pineapple or pears or blend some fresh melon or mangoes plus water..
1 cup fruit juice
1 tsp. agar powder
optional: 1 tblsp. lemon or lime juice + 1 tblsp. honey or sugar
First find out how much liquid is needed to fill up your mold or pan, by pouring in a cup of water. After emptying it out, no need to dry it. Use the ratio to figure out how much you will make. If you are adding lemon juice and honey, place it in the bottom of a measuring cup, and fill with juice to make 1 cup.
HOW TO: Put your liquid in a saucepan and stir in the agar powder. Bring it to a boil on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn it down and let it cook a few more minutes, stirring, to dissolve the agar. If you pour it back into a spouted container, it will be easier to fill the mold. If your silicone star mold is flimsy, place it on a small rack. Slowly fill each star of your mold or your whole glass or ceramic pan. Let it cool on the counter briefly, and then, for quick jelling, place it in the fridge. Make it not long before you start preparing dinner, and it will be ready for dessert. To turn out the stars, turn the mold upside down over a plate and push each individual one inside out (very satisfying.)
Do you need a fruit plate as a special dessert, or to serve with champagne? Try Sun, Moon, and Stars plates: arrange on each plate a sliced orange circle, an apple eighth, and some mango Juicy Stars.
Push each star out of the silicone mold.
Juicy Stars look great in a glass dish.
A pile of jiggly Juicy Cubes is fun.
sandwich spread & side-dish
Surprise #1: Vegetables taste very different when cut differently. If you peel your carrots, discard the skins, and then KEEP PEELING, you will have delicious carrot curls to eat (and leftover carrot cores for soup). They don’t taste like grated carrots or carrot coins. Use big old carrots and you get nice big shavings like thinly sliced cold cuts.
Surprise #2: This BBQ sauce is simple and you don’t need to simmer it long. You don’t need a grill. BBQ carrots are the best topping for any kind of burger, and a great veggie side-dish, and their own signature sandwich with avocado or cream cheese.
Surprise #3: If you put your garden to bed for the winter under a blanket of leaves and you didn’t dig up the carrots, you may have a great surprise in spring. The vintage carrots that overwintered down there may be short or have crossed their legs, but they will still be edible, and extra sweet.
3 loosely packed cups of carrot shavings
½ cup any tomato sauce or stewed tomatoes
½ cup water
2 tblsp. sugar
1 tblsp. molasses or honey
1 tblsp. vinegar
1 tsp. EACH cumin, oregano, garlic powder, and smoked paprika
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
good dash of salt & white or black pepper
optional: ½ tsp or more of your favourite hot sauce
1 tblsp. lemon juice
Combine all the ingredients except the lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring it to the boil, then keep the lid ajar and simmer for about half an hour, stirring occasionally. When the sauce has almost coated the carrots, add the tblsp. of lemon juice, and simmer uncovered until there’s almost no liquid left. Serve at any temperature. Store in the fridge.
All images and text on this website are copyright Julie Emerson. Enjoy making the recipes. If you use my images or text, you are stealing.
very adaptable, dairy OR vegan (V), no egg, handmade
The best scones are light and fruity. These scones can be made with whatever fruit you have on hand. I suggest fresh or frozen blueberries or raspberries or strawberries OR dried fruit such as raisins, currants, cherries, or apricots. If you use fresh blackberries, you will regret your purple hands and purple counter.
An apple gives the scones moisture and body, and so does a zucchini half, (as in zucchini bread). Both create a tender dough that seems “short” but doesn’t have a lot of fat. I don’t peel the apple or zucchini, but I like all the colourful flecks - peel them if you prefer. You can use a medium hand grater or a food processor if you are afraid of grating your fingers. You don't need any other appliance to make these.
The flour measurement is not fussy but do not scoop it into a cup and level it off. Pour or spoon flour into your measuring cup with a light hand and aerate it a bit. I like 2/3 all-purpose unbleached white flour and 1/3 whole wheat flour. In Canada, I like organic flour from Cedar Isle Farm or Anita’s.
½ a zucchini (not a monster hidden under a leaf) OR 1 apple
3 tblsp. butter, frozen, OR (V) solid cold coconut oil
3 cups flour, all white OR 2 cups white flour + 1 cup whole wheat flour
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
1 ½ tsp. baking powder OR 1 ½ tsp.cream of tartar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 pinch salt
3 tblsp. honey OR 2 tblsp. sugar + 1 tblsp. juice or water
½ cup yogourt OR ½ cup any kind of dairy milk OR (V) nondairy milk + 1 tsp. lemon juice
¼ cup frozen or dried fruit
Preheat oven to 400F. If you are using dried fruit, cover it with water to soften.
Grate the zucchini or apple. Right on top, grate the frozen butter and/or solid coconut oil. Put these in the fridge. Cold ingredients make a light dough!
In a big bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt, and sugar (if using it).
Pour in the yogourt OR other liquid. If using honey, add it and mix it in. If you used sugar, add 1 tblsp. juice or water.
Now gently mix the grated ingredients into the bowl. You can start with a fork, then use your hands. Squeeze the mix together lightly so it coheres into a rough mass, a shaggy dough. Transfer it to a lightly floured counter. Pat the dough down with floured hands OR place wax paper on top and roll it out to about 8-10 inches.
Drain your choice of fruit well; cut it into bits if you like. Place the fruit on top of the dough, in the middle. To incorporate the fruit, lift up the edges all round towards the centre. Turn it over. It will get slippery; just tuck any escaping fruit back into the dough. Now pat it into a chubby circle, about ¾” thick and 8” around, cake pan size.
If you have a sweet tooth, you can sprinkle the top with some cinnamon sugar.
Cut it in half. If you cut each half into 3 triangles, you can make 6 big North American-style scones. If you want more delicate UK-style scones, cut each side into quarters so you have 8 scones.
Spread out the triangles artistically on ungreased parchment paper on a baking sheet. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or til they are a bit golden. Cool for as long as you can wait.
These are delicious plain, or with butter, or with traditional accompaniments like jam and cream. If wrapped individually, Greater Scones do not get stale the next day. You can also freeze them.
I deployed my Greater Scones as shortcake below, and covered them with strawberries and cream.
The strawberries started out like this in my garden.
They are everbearing strawberries so there were still a few ripening in October!
In these scones, I used whole wheat flour and some dried cherries. I soaked them in water, then added them
along with (believe it or not) zucchini.
Giant Rosemary Cracker
Spring is the time for sky-blue flowers on rosemary plants. Both the flowers and leaves are edible and distinctive. This is one free-form crisp cracker to snap and share. No spread is needed. A giant cracker is just the thing with a bowl of soup.
1 cup unbleached white flour
2 tblsp. olive oil
3-4 tblsp. water
3-4 inches of a young fresh rosemary stalk
1/8 tsp. salt (+extra)
Preheat oven to 400. Cut a piece of parchment paper and a piece of wax paper, each the size of your baking/cookie sheet. Strip 3-4 inches of rosemary leaves off the stalk and chop half into bits.In a bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and oil, rosemary, and 3 tblsp. water. Mix with a spoon, then with your hands, kneading in the bowl. Add up to 1 more tblsp. water to make a smooth dough. Roll the dough into a tube and place it on the parchment on the counter. Place the wax paper on top. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin (or wine bottle) to about 1/8” thick so it covers almost the whole parchment. No problem cutting and piecing the dough to make a rough rectangle, and ragged edges are fine. Transfer dough and parchment to the baking sheet. If you love salt, sprinkle more on top. Bake for 15-17 minutes. Check after 15 minutes. It will be a light golden colour. Almost immediately after it’s out of the oven, you can snap off pieces to eat.
variation: use 1 tblsp. poppy or cumin seeds instead of rosemary
Our green conure Nocturne thought he could lever the whole cracker off the plate, steal it away, and eat it all. Yes, Polly wants a cracker!
All images and text on this website are copyright Julie Emerson. Enjoy making the recipes. If you use my images or text, you are stealing.
with Pepper Gingerbread
My gingerbread recipe is a fusion. Historically, Dutch and German gingerbread and French pain d’épices included honey and pepper. American gingerbread features molasses. Mine has molasses and honey, lots of spice, no sugar and no butter. It’s as rich as chocolate. Use fresh ginger root, sweet and pungent, and also dried ginger, mild and spicy. It’s convenient to measure all the dry spices and put them in a small container together. The cool, sweet and slightly sour rhubarb is a good contrast to the warm, spicy pepper gingerbread. Make this very easy compote first, as it needs to chill.
rhubarb: 4 large stalks of rhubarb, if they are huge mutant-celery size, or 8 stalks if they are skinny
¼ cup honey
¼ cup water
a pinch of cinnamon
Cut the rhubarb into 1” pieces. Put ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down to simmer and cook uncovered until the slices have broken down but not disintegrated completely. Cook about 15 minutes, stirring a few times, but not much. It will thicken on cooling: put it in the fridge as soon as possible. Even the night before is a good time to make the rhubarb, so it can chill. A bowl of it straight up is like applesauce in heaven.
Preheat the oven to 350. You can make this in a bowl or a blender or a food processor. Really, the brute force of a blender is best, since in this cake you are not creaming butter and sugar. Add these ingredients, in this order, and mix or blend well:
¼ cup oil
½ cup molasses
½ cup honey
2 tblsp. grated fresh ginger root
½ cup water
Blend in, but do not overmix:
1 ¾ cups flour (all white or part whole wheat)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tblsp. ground dry ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cardamom (or well-pounded whole)
½ tsp. ground cloves or allspice
¼ to ½ tsp. white pepper, if you like
Finally, blend in 1 tblsp. vinegar. It will react with the baking soda, causing it to rise right away. The batter will be very liquid. You remembered to add that water, right? Bake in an oiled 8” square glass or ceramic pan at 350. Stick a skewer in it at 35 minutes. It may need 5 more minutes or so. When it’s cool, you can cut the gingerbread into 6 extra large or 9 small pieces. Tightly wrapped pieces keep very well. The flavour mellows. You can keep extra in the freezer. Serve a piece of gingerbread with a dollop of rhubarb compote on top, or sidling up to it. A large mound of plain yogourt or whipped cream is also good.
Yes, you can make these without dandelions, with other cooked greens instead, but dandelions combine well with kale or chard or collards or parsley or nettle. Mix them with what you have available. Identify your dandelions. Not hawkweed, which has multi-branched stems and smaller flowers. Not growing in city sidewalks or city parks. Pick leaves without dark edges or spots. Rinse them well at home, and keep them in a bag in the fridge. Dandelions are wonderfully nutritious; they are pulling up the calcium and other minerals from compacted soil, and when their big leaves stand up, they’ve done their job. If there aren’t any dandelions around, use any fresh greens except spinach. This makes 6 (vegan) samosas.
a mixing bowl full of greens (a heaping bowl if it’s frilly kale)
a red or yellow onion
2-3 garlic cloves
olive oil or mild oil
2 very big or 3 small potatoes
1 tsp. each ground cumin and ground coriander
optional: some fennel or nigella seeds
ground cayenne or other chili pepper to taste
salt and black pepper
paprika, smoked or sweet
3 plain wraps or flour tortillas
plus your hot sauce or garam masala
Turn on 1 pot of salted water to boil for the greens. Preheat the oven to 375.
Quarter the potatoes and put them in another pot of cold salted water; cover, bring to the boil, and simmer until potatoes are fork-tender, not mushy. Run cold water over them. Slip off their skins.
Peel and chop the onion and garlic. Put 1 tblsp. oil and a few tblsp. water in your frying pan. Fry the onion and garlic, adding the spices and seeds too. Add a bit more water if it starts to stick.
For kale, chard, collards, and dandelion, cut off and discard the ends of the stems. Stir all the greens into the boiling water. After it boils again, cook 5 minutes or less, until the greens have turned dark. Drain them in a sieve under cold water, then press down firmly. To chop them very finely, and avoid long stringy green things, I prefer to whirl them in a food processor, but you can also slash them vigorously on a cutting board.
Add the greens to the frying pan with the rest and mix well.
Cut the potatoes roughly and add to the pan. Leave some chunky, and press a fork down on some to blend them into the green mixture. Stir it. Now taste. Add more spices, your hot sauce, or garam masala - or nothing more.
Cut your 3 tortillas in half.
Place the half moon on your (left) palm, round side at your wrist. Spoon a mound of green mixture into the middle, shaping it into a gentle triangle pointing up. Fold up the round lower centre to make a flap holding the green mixture in. Fold the right point over it, and tuck its lower edge under. Then fold the left side across and tuck that in. You’ve made a triangular packet.
Make 5 more. Don’t cram them with greens; if you have extra, save a bowlful of it for later. Place your samosas, foldover side down, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Put a tsp. of paprika, preferably smoked paprika, in a small bowl. If you want a surprise when you bite into the samosa, add some cayenne pepper to the paprika. Stir in a few tablespoons of water (not oil). Use a pastry brush to brush this on top of each samosa for some colour.
Bake about 15 minutes at 375.
Serve with optional hot sauce or juicy tomato salad as a side.
I like dandelion flowers, too. They require a bright day to open, and that response to light is called photonasty! When it's cloudy or it's night-time, they shut because the lower petals grow faster than the upper petals, so the flowers close up.
All images and text on this website are copyright Julie Emerson. Enjoy making the recipes. If you use my images or text, you are stealing.
Quick Pink Pickles
Cuisines as different as Japanese and Lebanese feature pickled vegetables that are very quickly made. I've made the pink pickles that accompany falafel and decorate tabouli salad. The ordinary white turnip, appreciated in Europe as one of the Forgotten Vegetables, makes a crunchy pickle. The pink is from the extraordinary staining power of half a red beet.
1 large white pink-topped turnip
OR 5 small hakurai white turnips
½ raw red beet
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. fresh grated ginger root
1 tblsp. sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
2/3 cup water
yield: 1 pint jar or 2 half-pint jars, ready overnight
Pour boiling water into the jars to sterilize them. Peel the turnip(s) and the beet. Turnip peel doesn’t absorb the pink colour well, so get rid of it. Cut the turnip into batons – I used a zigzag cutter, but straight little sticks are fine. Cut the beet into very small pieces. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Push the turnips in and let them cook for only 1 minute. Drain and run very cold water over them to stop the cooking; set them aside. This will eliminate any bitterness in the turnip. Combine all the other ingredients in a pot, bring to a boil and simmer a few minutes until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Let it cool completely. Clean the jars by pouring boiling water in them, then emptying. Pack the jar(s) by putting some beet pieces at the bottom, then insert the turnip sticks vertically, then more beets. Pour the cool crimson-coloured pickle juice into the jars. Put the lids on and refrigerate overnight!
It happened that my peony flowers were blossoming when I made this jar of Quick Pink Pickles.
Artichoke Olive Tapenade
This tapenade is about the Mediterranean flavours of olives and artichokes, with capers and lemon juice and olive oil. I love artichokes, but my garden produces just a few, for a very short time, so I use canned artichoke hearts to make this spread, year-round. Use any type of pitted green olives you like: ordinary small or large cerignola or pimento-stuffed or garlic or extra spicy olives. Three important flavours in this tapenade are garlic, parsley, and oregano. They're all in my garden, but dried oregano is fine. If you have fresh oregano, tie up a bouquet of it to dry upside down in the shade or in the kitchen.
Pile the tapenade on bread, especially a flatbread like focaccia or ciabatta or pizza bianca. You can also stir it into a bowl of pasta, as you would with basil pesto, though tapenade contains no nuts or cheese. Eat the tapenade on a sunny day outside and remember it’s the same sun in Italy.
You need artichokes:
1 can artichoke hearts in water (usually contains 7) (14 fl. oz or 398 ml.) OR 1 large jar (314 ml.) OR 2 small jars artichoke hearts marinated in oil
½ cup pitted green olives
1 to 3 tblsp. capers from a jar, to your taste
1 large garlic clove
a small handful of washed parsley leaves, flat or curly, no stems, about 1 cup
fresh oregano leaves stripped from one long stalk OR 1 tblsp. dried oregano
lemon juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup olive oil
In a strainer, rinse and drain well the artichoke hearts and capers. Rinse off as much of any oil marinade as possible. If you want to avoid raw garlic, simmer your peeled garlic clove in the olive oil for a few minutes. Buzz artichokes and garlic in the food processor briefly with 2 tblsp. of the oil. Add olives, capers, parsley, oregano, and juice from the lemon half. The ingredients should be in bits, not homogenized. Scrape down the sides. Add the rest of the oil, as you need it, while you’re blending the tapenade so it is spreadable but not smooth. Serve and store in small cups or jars.
Well, its too late to eat the artichoke heart from my artichoke, but it has a truly beautiful blossom, which is always alive with bees. That's why you can just use canned artichoke hearts.
Apricot Walnut Balls
Fresh apricots are seldom available here, so I use dried, and organic dried apricots have a particularly rich flavour. Walnuts are so much tastier when they’re toasted. If you want to try toasting them, directions are below. You will prefer walnuts this way. Raw or toasted walnuts are good in these treats. Makes about 20.
½ uncooked quinoa
16-18 whole dried apricots
¼ cup honey
½ cup water
grated rind of ½ lemon
1 ¼ cups walnuts halves or pieces (*note: 1 cup of walnuts is about 100 grams / 3.5 ounces)
Cook ½ cup raw quinoa in 1 cup water 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let it steam covered a few minutes, then scoop it out to air dry on a plate. While the quinoa cooks, plump the apricots by boiling them with honey and water in a saucepan, loosely covered, stirring a few times, until the liquid is almost gone. Take it off the heat before it becomes a dark caramelized brown or burnt. Cool it by plunging the pot in a bowl of cold water.
Process ½ cup walnuts until ground into still visible bits. Pour them on a flat plate you will use for rolling the balls. When the apricot mix is cool, process it until it is smooth, adding the lemon rind. Add the quinoa a third at a time. Don’t process it into mush. Add 3/4 cup walnuts and whirl briefly to chop them, so they are incorporated but haven’t disappeared.
Trowel the mixture into a bowl. Refrigerate it for a short time or overnight to solidify it.
Sit down and chill or chat. In front of you will be this mixture and the plate of walnut bits to coat them and some containers to line up your apricot walnut balls. Line containers with wax or parchment paper. Take a big tablespoonful of mixture and roll in your hands into a ball, then roll it in walnuts. Keep these in the refrigerator or freezer.
There are two steps. Normally, walnuts are dusty. The first step is to rinse them in running water well. Then soak them in a bowl of water with a big pinch or tablespoonful of salt. You will see the walnuts discolour the water, release the dust, turn pale, and plump up. Soak them for a minimum of two hours up to overnight. Drain and wrap them in a dishtowel. Remove & place them on a baking sheet in a preheated 350 oven for 20 minutes. They should get golden brown, not dark brown. If they are not quite crisp, put them in the open cooling oven to finish drying. When they’re crunchy and dry, store them in a glass jar. Added to baking or served alone as a snack or with fruit, they are fabulous.
Blackberry No-Bake Summer Cake
Here’s the easiest cake ever. If you don’t have any blackberries now, take a look at this recipe and you’ll remember next summer when you have an abundance of blackberries. In the UK, where any dessert is called a pudding, this is a type of Summer Pudding. Depending on the amount of berries you pick, you can adjust the amount of bread and honey. The general ratio of blackberries to bread and to honey is:
1 cup blackberries to 2 slices of bread,
1 cup blackberries to 5 teaspoons honey.
Here are the easy amounts for a small-medium cake.
1 loaf white bread, day-old or several days old. (I prefer a pre-sliced white sourdough.)
5-6 cups blackberries
½ cup honey
optional: 1 tblsp. fruit liqueur
Cut crusts off bread. Divide into two piles. Cut one pile of bread into halves.
Heat blackberries in a pot with honey about 10 minutes until lots of juice forms. The liquid level should be higher than the berries, but you’ll have lots of whole berries too. Cool it off the stove; you can put the pot in a bowl of cold water. Add liqueur if you like.
Prepare a mixing bowl with a narrow bottom. You will invert it later, so the bottom will be the top of the round-domed cake. Lay 2 long pieces of plastic wrap crosswise, and press them down into bowl to fit in and cover it completely, leaving extra on top.
Using a slotted spatula or spoon, dip a whole slice into the blackberries so it absorbs enough to become totally purple. Place it, and the berries clinging to it, on the bottom of the bowl. Dip four half slices into the berries, and arrange them around the base to form a shallow bowl. Continue with whole slices in the middle and half slices around the edges, flattening it gently with the spatula. When you reach the last of the berries in the pot, add water if needed and smash the bread into them so they’re all purple.
Place a piece of plastic wrap closely against the top, and a plate that fits down into the bowl on top. Weight it with two cans to press it down.
Keep it in the fridge overnight or all day. To unmold, remove the cans, plate, and top plastic wrap. Put a large rimmed plate over it and turn it over. Discard the plastic cover. Tidy up any drips on the plate. Slice it into triangles and serve topped with fresh blackberries, yogurt or cream. Keep it in the fridge. Leftover individual slices can be frozen for a different type of treat.
Lemons are pickled whole in North Africa and the south of France. The delectable part of these lemons is the peel, not the mushy centre, so I use only the peel. Buy organic lemons for the peel, as they are not sprayed or coated with wax. You can preserve the lemon peel so that it keeps its yellow colour and tart flavour, and it keeps in the fridge for months. I use it in savoury salads - any vegetable salad with tomatoes or parsley, since it has the saltiness of olives, and it also brightens any fish salad. It's perfect in the celery root and potato salad (recipe follows). After it sits on your counter for 5 days, it’s preserved. Lucky you if you live near a lemon tree or you have lemon verbena in your summer garden, but this is how I enjoy the taste of lemon all year.
2 organic lemons
2 or 3 more organic or cheap lemons
¼ cup salt
Wash and dry the lemons. You’re going to take the peel in longish lengthwise strips from the organic lemons. You can use a carrot peeler or a sharp knife. You can include some of the white pith, but not too much. Set aside all the peels from those 2 lemons. Then cut all the lemons in half and squeeze enough to produce ¾ cup lemon juice.
Rinse a clean ½ pint jar and lid with boiling water. To avoid any contact between the acidic lemon and a metal lid, place 2 layers of plastic wrap or wax paper under the lid.
Pour the ¼ cup salt and ¾ cup lemon juice into the jar, put the lid on, and shake to start it dissolving. Add the peels, pushing and curling them down, and tighten the lid. The peels may float, and all the salt may not dissolve - that's fine. Put the jar on your table or counter and try to shake it twice a day for 5 days. (I write “Shake Me” on it.) Then refrigerate the jar. To use, rinse the salt off 1 big or 2 small pieces of peel in cold water and finely slice or mince.
All these lemon halves in the sink were from a double batch of preserved lemons.
Potato and Celery Root Salad
Choose waxy potatoes to cut into chunks, rather than russet starchy potatoes that flake. Choose any ugly knob of a celery root (or celeriac – if you can pronounce it).Lemon is the star flavour in this potato salad; use preserved lemon if you have it. If you don’t, make the dressing with lemon juice instead of vinegar.
4 or 6 waxy white or yellow-skinned potatoes
½ or 1 whole celery root
a few pieces of preserved lemon (peel)
the dressing ingredients:
oil, lemon or vinegar, a spoonful of mustard from a jar, a spoonful of fresh chopped or dried dill weed, a pinch of salt, a pinch of sugar or honey
Cut the potatoes in half, put them in a pot of salted cold water, bring to a boil, and cook until fork-tender. While they’re boiling, get out your biggest knife and attack the celery root: cut off all the outer skin, and all the roots. Put a bit of lemon juice or vinegar in a bowl of cold water. Slice the celery root up into thin slices or batons, placing each one in the bowl so it stays pale.
Drain the potatoes, cool, discard the potato peels, slice or chunk potatoes roughly.
Boil a pot of salted water and put in all the cut & drained celery root. Bring it back to the boil and cook for no more than 2 minutes. Drain and run cold water over the celery root.
Combine potatoes and celery root in a bowl. Rinse 1-2 slices of salty preserved lemon with water, then slice or chop very finely. Scatter it over the salad.
The easiest way to make the dressing is in a jar with a lid. Adjust the amount to the size of salad. Use these proportions: Use 2 parts oil to 1 part lemon juice or vinegar. Add the rest of the ingredients and shake. The mustard will emulsify the oil with the vinegar. Dress the salad and let it rest after all that activity. Cold potatoes are unappetizing, so serve at room temperature.
variations: If you want protein, add a chopped hard-boiled egg. If you can’t find celery root, use a few celery stalks. First break each celery stalk in half and peel the loose outer strings down and off the stalk and compost them. Then slice the stalk halves into very thin C-shapes.
I put the ugly celery root in my grandmother's champagne flute.
Cranberry Date Bars
Cranberries are festive, and Western Canada has BOGS of cranberries, and BAGS of cranberries appear every fall. You can freeze cranberries and use them frozen for baking. The mysteries of dates: When I was a child, I liked the Date Squares my mother made from a box. What did she have to add? Fat? Water? I didn’t know why other people sometimes called them Matrimonial Cakes. I was surprised to find that dates are themselves a sweetener. So you don’t have to add sugar to them. Then I realized that you could use the dates as the sweetener, and add other, more deluxe fruit. Medjool dates are the biggest and stickiest, Mazafati dates are smaller and softer, and Deglet Noor are the dryish pitted ones sold in bags or blocks. Use different amounts depending on the variety. I make Cranberry Date Bars in the fall and winter, and Blueberry Date Bars (see the variation at the end) in fresh blueberry season. Both Bars are cut into 9 squares, and individually wrapped, they keep for a long time in the fridge or freezer.
1 bag (340gram OR 12 oz.) cranberries
9 Medjool dates OR 12 Mazafati dates OR approximately 10 Deglet Noor dates
¼ cup water
1 petite Mandarin or Clementine Orange OR ½ navel orange
Pit the dates as needed. Discard orange peel and seeds; cut it into chunks. Place all filling ingredients in a saucepan. Boil, partially cover, turn lower, stir it up from time to time so it doesn’t stick, until most cranberries have popped and the dates are mush. Cool it fast by placing pot in a bowl of cold water. Scoop the cool filling into the processor and buzz until it is smooth.
1 ¾ cup rolled oats
1 cup flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ cup mild oil
¼ cup honey or maple syrup
2 tblsp. water
Preheat the oven to 350. Oil an 8” square baking pan. In the clean food processor, place only ¾ cup of the total oats, all the flour, cinnamon, and baking soda. Pour your oil into a measuring cup, then the honey. Add those to the processor and blend until combined. Then add the remaining 1 cup oats and blitz them quickly a couple times so you can still see those whole oats. Add a tblsp. of water or more – just enough so the mixture clumps together. It should stick together lightly so you can spread it out in the pan with your fingers. Cover the base of the oiled pan with about half of it – no problem if you use a bit more than half. Trowel out a thick layer of the cranberry-date filling. If you have extra, it is fab on toast or pancakes.
Then sprinkle the rest of the oat crust over the the filling. Distribute it as you can - don’t worry if you can see enticing bits of cranberry. Bake it at 350 for 20-30 minutes. I have an old oven, you may have a fan-assist convection, whatever - just take it out when the top is getting golden and firm. Let it cool completely before you cut it into 9 squares.
VARIATION: Blueberry Date Bars
The crust is the same. Fresh – not frozen - blueberries for the filling. Here are the summer ingredients:
3 cups fresh blueberries
5 pitted Medjool dates or more of other varieties
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tblsp. cornstarch OR arrowroot starch
In a saucepan, combine only ½ cup of the total blueberries with the rest of the ingredients. Boil until the blueberries have popped and the starch has begun to thicken the mixture (which will bake). Take it off the stove and stir in the 2 ½ cups remaining (raw) blueberries. Cool it. Spread this generously on the bottom crust in a thick layer. Top with remaining crust. Bake as for Cranberry Date Bars. Enjoy with yogurt or cream.
Plum Apple Chutney/Mincemeat
This is spicy-sweet as a condiment with holiday food, or on bread, or in a tart. It’s a fruit chutney, though it’s not hot. It’s mincemeat good for mini-tarts – though it has no meat. This recipe makes 3 half-pint jars or medium plastic containers, perfect for this season: one for Thanksgiving, one for Christmas, and one to give away. You can freeze it.
10 dark plums
5 cups of apple chunks, any variety or mixed, unpeeled
1 organic lemon
1 small onion
1 clove garlic
100 grams (3 oz.) candied ginger
½ cup raisins OR currants OR cranberries OR salal berries
¾ cup cider or wine vinegar
¾ cup honey
½ tsp. each of cinnamon, ground cardamom, and ground ginger
Pit the plums. Peel and halve the onion and garlic. Cut the outer yellow peel off the lemon, chop it into ½” bits and reserve. Squeeze all the lemon juice into a food processor and add the onion, garlic, and plums. Process the mixture to break it up some, and the plums will release some juice. Cut the candied ginger into bits. On cooking, the raisins or currants will stay whole and give interesting texture; cranberries will dissolve. If you happen to have fresh or dried salal berries, lucky you! Place all ingredients including the reserved lemon peel in a pot set above a larger pot of boiling water OR use a proper double boiler. Use the double pot because you don’t want to scorch the bottom, but it’s boring to stir it constantly for 45 minutes. Just occasionally. It will turn dark purple-brown and thicken eventually. Let it cool and then spoon it into your 3 containers.
Lunch after the holiday was Plum Apple Chutney/Mincemeat on bread, with apple slices alongside or on top, optional cream cheese.
This is the crumb texture, some lumps and crumbly. (Fingers aren’t part of the crust.)
For cooking, I am not using the best eating apples! Just wash them well and pare off the spots and bruises.
Wild salal berries in August in the Pacific Northwest. (Don’t substitute blueberries.)
Bluebell fabric by William Morris, for blueberries.
Shallots and Dried Cherries
This is a wonderful winter vegetable, tasty at room temperature. Once I forgot to add the cherries; so I mixed the braised shallots with strips of roasted red peppers and a bit more vinegar for a soft vegetable compote. The substitute for star anise is a cinnamon stick and fennel or anise seeds. They need to be enclosed because they would be impossible to pick out of the sauce or your teeth, so break up a cinnamon stick and stash it and the seeds in a tea strainer.
shallots, eight or enough to fill a frying pan
dried cherries, as many as you have halved shallots
1 tblsp. oil
1 tblsp. vinegar
1 tblsp. molasses
pinch of salt
2 star anise OR a cinnamon stick (ideally soft Ceylon cinnamon) + 1 tsp. anise or fennel seeds
Chop off just the end of each shallot. Some are round, some are long teardrops. Check to see if it’s two cloves together. If so, separate them; if not cut the shallot in half vertically. Peel them. Put enough shallot halves in your frying pan to fill it loosely. Add the same number of dried cherries, or if you love cherries, add more.
Pour the oil, vinegar, and molasses and some salt in the pan, and add enough water (lots) to fill it halfway. They will absorb the water, braise, and darken. If you have star anise, add 2. If you don’t, break up 2 cinnamon sticks and stash them in a tea strainer with 1 tsp. fennel or anise seeds.
Cook the shallots at medium heat in the covered pan for 30 minutes and ignore them. Then turn them all over. Continue cooking covered for 10 to 15 more minutes, until a smear of dark brown sauce is on the bottom. Reserve the star anise for decoration (or remove the strainer of substitute spices.) Good with rice or noodles or meat or a dark green bitter vegetable like kale, gai lan, or broccoli raab.
Some shallots are roundish and some are teardrop-shaped. Raw, they are red-violet.
Braised shallots and dried cherries turn brownish red. The slight sweetness was good with these salty spicy kale chips and mild white sushi rice.
Hedgehog Buns - chocolate or cheese-filled
Hedgehog buns are one of my favourites. I’ve eaten hedgehog buns in Japanese and Chinese and Australian bakery-cafes. The texture of steamed buns is bouncy on the inside and soft on the outside, whereas my favourite French-style baked buns have a chewy crumb inside and a crisp crust. So I created a recipe for hedgehog buns that is yummy either steamed on top of the stove OR baked in the oven. Baked, mine are light, and not sweet or buttery (unlike pain au chocolat), rather more like sourdough. The addition of millet provides crunch and nutrition. If you don’t have any millet, replace it with flour. Cornstarch or arrowroot preserves the texture, especially if steamed.
Asian hedgehogs are often stuffed with red bean paste. People say it’s so good that it tastes like chocolate, and I’d say it has a chocolatey mousse-like texture. But I’d also say why bother when you can just have chocolate. So you can fill these hedgehog buns before cooking with some bits of dark chocolate, or some hard cheese. If you find it too weird to cut open a hedgehog to eat its innards, these buns are very tasty unfilled. This recipe makes 6 or 8 plump spiky buns. I make 8 if I’m going to steam them or 6 if I’m going to bake them for adults. (The Cuteness Quotient = the smaller, the cuter).
2 ½ cups unbleached white flour (stir it up loosely in the measuring cup)
6 tblsp. arrowroot flour or cornstarch
2 tblsp. raw millet (or flour if you don’t have millet)
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. instant (quick-rise) yeast
½ tsp. salt
2 tblsp. oil
½ tsp. vinegar
up to 1 cup warm water
a bit of molasses or honey in water for the topcoat
FILLING: dark chocolate from a good quality chocolate bar (orange flavoured chocolate is especially good), OR some hard Dutch or Swiss cheese – all chopped into bits or chips
HEDGEHOG EYES: raisins or currants or allspice or dried cranberries
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. If you don’t have any millet, add 2 tblsp. more flour. If you use cornstarch instead of arrowroot flour, sift it in. Add oil and ¾ cup water slowly. Mix to incorporate, adding up to ¼ cup more water to bring it together. Knead in the bowl until it’s a nice ball, easily malleable and not sticky. Put in an oiled bowl, cover, let rise 2 hours.
Turn out on your floured counter, punch it down, roll into a tube, cut into 6 or 8 pieces. If you want to fill the buns with chocolate or cheese, cut each in half. Smash the halves into ovals. Place small squares or cut-up bits all down the middle of one oval. Place the other dough half on top, and pinch them together all the way around. OR You can roll out each of the 6 or 8 buns into a wide circle, place your filling down the middle, then bring the sides up, pinch it closed all along the top, and turn it over so that crease is on the bottom. Place the hedgehogs well apart on one parchment-covered baking sheet.
Narrow one end of each bun into a snout, making a more teardrop-shaped bun. Leave them to rise for 1 hour.
If you want to steam them, lightly oil your top steamer colander. If you want to bake them, preheat the oven to 400.
Now, each hedgehog gets eyes. Put some allspice or raisin halves or currants in water. Use a wet skewer to poke 2 holes in the head, on either side of the snout. Push the chosen eyes in firmly. I don’t usually indicate the tip of the nose, but if you like, add one more raisin half or dried cranberry half at the snout. Use your knife point to cut a tiny horizontal slash to open the hedgehog’s mouth.
To create the spines on the back, use a sharp knife point or your fingers to lift up a bit of dough. With two fingers, squeeze it one way and then the other way to create a small point. Make spines all over the back, or til you get tired.
Drip a bit of honey or molasses in a saucer of a few tblsp. of water. Brush this liberally on the hedgehogs. To steam them, place them carefully over boiling water, and steam 12 minutes. For the oven, bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on their size. These are good warm (melted chocolate) or cold (chocolate bits). They can be frozen and then defrosted on a rainy day.
These hedgehog buns were baked.
These are in my steel steamer. They will plump up and stay a creamy white.
You can use tweezers or your 2 fingers to squeeze the dough into little spines.
Cut up bits of dark chocolate or cheese to put inside the hedgehog buns.
Cut a slit below the snout so there's an open mouth.
Beehive Cookies or
James Webb Space Telescope Cookies
Happy Hexagons! If you make Beehive Cookies (from a 2.5” hexagon template), this makes about 22. How to Make a Hexagon is below. If you have a space telescope cookie cutter, this recipe makes about 18. They fit on 2 baking sheets. The recipe is easily halved. No baking soda because you don’t want them to rise. Beehive cookies are of course made with honey. They’re like sugar cookies, so they look sparkly and taste great with sugar sprinkled on top before baking. These are sturdy (they’re going to space!), not soft or chewy, good with tea or coffee, or any fruit.
½ cup butter or coconut or other mild oil or plant-based butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup honey
1 tsp. turmeric
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. lemon rind
choose the spice you like: 1 tsp. ground anise seeds OR ground ginger
3 cups flour
for rolling, some extra flour and lemon juice
optional: white sugar or stevia or maple sugar
Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the butter/oil and honey well with a mixer. Slowly add the turmeric, lemon rind, ground anise or ginger, and flour. Beat well enough so the golden turmeric is well combined. Add 2 tsp. lemon juice to make a cohesive dough. Make 3 balls and refrigerate wrapped in wax paper 30 minutes or so. Take out one ball at a time. If it’s dry, pat it together with a bit more lemon juice. Place wax paper on top and roll it with a rolling pin (or sealed wine bottle) into a flat shape about ¼ ” thick. If it’s damp, or you have a space telescope cookie cutter, flour the top and the cutter, renewing the flour between cuts. If you’re making Beehive Cookies, place your paper hexagon template on top and cut around it with a knife tip. Then, when you lift it off with your spatula, flip it onto a plate you’ve covered with a thin layer of sugar. Lift it by pressing 3 fingers on top, and place it sugar-side-up (always a good rule) on the parchment-covered baking sheet. Bake them on a high rack in a 350 oven. You do not want a toasted bottom. For small cookies, bake about 10 minutes. For telescopes, up to 15 minutes. Cool on a rack. They can be stacked and wrapped, and, if you eat them in a few days, do not refrigerate them. They also keep well in the freezer.
The bright yellow dough turns honey-coloured after baking. Cut around the hexagon template card with a sharp knife.
Made with a Space Telescope cookie cutter!
how to make a perfect hexagon from a square
The length of one side of your square (eg. 2.5”) is the same as the distance from one point across to another point of the hexagon you make. (eg. 2.5”)
Start with the square paper as a diamond pointing up.
Fold the paper diagonally left to right. Unfold.
Fold the paper diagonally bottom point to top point.
On your triangle, fold the east point up to meet the top. Unfold, leaving a halfway mark line on the right side.
Fold the top point down to meet the halfway mark. The left edge meets the halfway line.
Again, fold the left side over to meet the halfway mark line. Unfold. The right side has 4 fold marks.
Place your finger on the vertical fold at the triangle base. Locate the third fold mark from the top right. Fold the right side to the left at those points. The new triangle points NW.
Fold the left side to the right over the last fold so the left edge meets the right. Adjust those folds so they are equal.
You have a kite with a three-point crown. You will cut off the whole crown. Turn it over. Start your cut from the east point on the right side of the kite, and cut straight across to the left side. You’re left with a cone. Now unfold it and you have a hexagon. You can use this as a cookie template, or for a firmer one, trace around it on a piece of cardboard.
Fava beans are easy to grow and easy to eat. In some places they’re called broad beans, but they are never lima beans. They have a firm texture and a full nutty taste. They’ve been grown since around 6000 BCE. You can plant them in the spring or summer or fall, and they will work hard fixing nitrogen in the soil. The plants are cute and some bean pods grow almost straight up. In Japan, they’re called Sky Beans (soramame) because they point to the sky. When the plants are old, the pods will shoot up at soil-level, and when the plants are tired of producing beans, they will grow pods that are just cushions inside. Fava plants are a cover crop to enrich the soil, so chop the finished ones right in. My early crop I planted with buckwheat seeds; both bloom with white flowers, and eventually I turned both under as cover crops.
The great advantage cooking home-grown fava beans is that when you pick them fresh, their inner seed coats are light and smooth and you don’t need to peel them off. Just break them out of their pods, put the whole beans in boiling water for a few minutes, rinse, and eat. If you buy them in a store, boil the pods briefly, shell them, remove their whitish inner coats and then boil the beans a few minutes until they’re bright green.
Can you eat them raw? I assumed you couldn’t, but once my husband and his friend were sitting at the table talking before dinner, and I handed them a bowl of fava pods and green pea pods from the garden. I asked them to shell them. When I returned, they had eaten all the raw fava beans and peas. I quickly did a search of whether the uncooked beans would lead to a stomach ache or worse: it seems not, and the guys were fine.
A sky bean fritter, kakiage, a lacey tempura, was made by Ayako, chef and friend in Tokyo. She created a light batter of only flour and beer for the mixed seafood and fava beans, and quickly deep-fried the mixture.
An easy salad is fava beans plus a Mediterranean salad of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and feta cheese, with some fresh oregano or mint. I also like them in a salad of raw chopped carrots, with sliced fresh basil leaves. Both salads are good with a simple dressing of 2 parts olive oil and 1 part lemon juice or vinegar, plus dashes of salt and sugar.
Pinwheel Sandwiches & Pink Dill Spread
M.F.K. Fisher was a wonderful creative writer on the subject of food. Her accounts of her travels in France and appreciation of food began appearing in the 1940s, and much later, they inspired me. In the 1920s, at her mother’s tea parties in California, Mary Frances made and served pinwheel sandwiches with nasturtium leaves, garnished with nasturtium flowers. Nasturtium are quite edible: the leaves have a peppery taste like watercress and the flower petals are bright and slightly crunchy. She used white sandwich bread. Today you can make pinwheel sandwiches easily with plain flour tortillas. When they’re rolled and sliced into rounds, even kids know they look like rolled sushi. In the spirit of Fisher’s pinwheel sandwiches made 100 years ago, I make them with bakery bread.
Fisher spread her bread lavishly with butter- especially creamy French butter. I like either cream cheese or pink dill spread. The pink dill spread requires advance planning. You can use it in any sandwich, or as a dip. You’ll need to buy the bread in a bakery: an unsliced loaf of white or whole wheat. You’re going to do the tea party technique of removing all the crusts and slicing the whole loaf horizontally, and you’ll cut the pinwheels after the rolls have chilled.
If you grow nasturtium and they have no aphids and haven’t been sprayed, pick some shapely leaves and flowers and place in a shallow tray with a bit of water in it, in the fridge.
Other fillings you can use are: asparagus, cucumber, watercress, or shrimp and avocado.
Pink Dill Spread
1 cup raw unroasted cashews
1 small beet
2 tblsp. lemon juice
2 tblsp. honey or sugar
¼ to ½ cup water
½ cup fresh feathery dill leaves
Cook the beet (boil it or roast it, or better: use a leftover cooked beet).
Pour boiling water over cashews. Then drain and place them in a bowl and cover with fresh cold water. Soak them all day or overnight.
Drain the cashews and put them in a processor with the beet, lemon juice, honey, and ¼ cup fresh water. Turn it on, process, scrape down the sides, keep processing and adding a bit of water at a time until it’s smooth.
Sprinkle with salt and taste it; salt it to your taste. Take your bunch of fresh dill, strip the feathery leaves from the stems and press the leaves down into your measuring cup to make about ½ cup. Add them and whirl it around briefly so they are still visible in the mix. Scoop it out. Serve as a spread on bread or as a dip for vegetables or crackers.
Pinwheel Sandwich assembly
Place your bread on a cutting board. With a long serrated knife cut off all the outside crust. Or you can cut off the crusts in strips as you go. (The crusts can be cut up and baked for croutons, fresh or frozen.) Place the naked loaf on its side and cut nonstop across the bread so you have one big slice, about 1/2” or 1 cm. thick. Cut big slices of the whole loaf.
Roll each slice with a rolling pin to make it flatter and more malleable. To make pinwheels, you can use one bread rectangle or put together two in a square: Overlap them in the middle and press all along the join with the tines of a fork. I like to combine white with whole wheat in this way. Spread with soft cream cheese or Pink Dill spread.
Nasturtiums: Dry them on a towel. Trim the stems off the leaves. Disassemble the flower petals. Arrange them atop the spread.
Asparagus: Trim to fit the width of the bread, and alternate tops and tails.
Cucumbers: Slice very very thin. Or cut thin batons, bypassing the seedy core, and place across the bread.
Shrimp and avocado: Use small shrimp or cut prawns horizontally into thin Cs. Place avocado slices across the bread.
Ready to roll? Roll the slice along the length, as compactly as you can. Roll it up tight in wax or parchment paper and twist the ends. Chill in the fridge. The cold will meld the spiral.
Ready to eat? Unwrap the rolls, place on the cutting board and saw them slowly into pucks, about the thickness of big maki sushi. Even irregular spirals look arty and taste good.