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Food & Cooking

Make your own candied ginger!

candied ginger recipe

I found myself in need of candied ginger the other day, so instead of driving all the way into town (bleah) I decided to make my own. Turns out it’s really easy and inexpensive, and you end up with extra bonus gingery sugar lumps. Win win win!

There are a bunch of step-by-step photos at the end of the post!

candied ginger recipe

Candied Ginger

There are only three ingredients and the process is really simple, but it does require some patience while you wait for the magical part at the end where the sugar syrup recrystalizes.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh, peeled ginger root
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 lb granulated white sugar

Method

  1. Put a cooling rack over a cookie sheet. This is where you will spread the ginger out to cool. Alton Brown suggests spraying the rack with non-stick spray, but it’s not really necessary.
  2. Peel the ginger root and slice into 1/8″ rounds. As with many things, your knife work here doesn’t have to be super fancy — I ended up with some thinner pieces, some thicker pieces, some weird little chunky end bits, etc. Doesn’t really matter — it all works out in the end.
  3. Dump the ginger into a mediumish sized pot with the water, bring to a boil, then reduce to a high simmer for 30-40 minutes. The ginger will end up a bit more tender, but won’t fall apart. Your house will smell amazing.
  4. Reserve 1/3 cup of the now-deeply-ginger-infused cooking liquid. Drain the ginger and dump it back into the pot. Add the sugar and the reserved cooking liquid.
  5. Bring this a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to medium/medium-low. This is the part where you need to have some patience. Cook the ginger & sugar syrup, stirring frequently, while the syrup continues to reduce and reduce. For me, this part took maybe 30-40 minutes.
  6. Then magic will happen! At some point the syrup will lose enough water that it will start to recrystallize. Keep stirring and let it get clumpy, then take it off the heat.
  7. Spread the sugary gingery bits out on the cooling rack, separating them so they don’t clump together.
  8. Let cool, then store in an airtight container. Rescue all the extra sugary bits that fell through the cooling rack, and store those in a separate container. Those are now magical ginger sugar lumps, and are good for baking or tea or ice cream or whatever.

Tips

  • If you examine the ingredients list carefully, you’ll note that the recipe calls for the same weight of sugar as peeled ginger. You can scale this recipe down! Or up! Whatever you need!
  • Original recipe source: Alton Brown’s Candied Ginger.

Pictures – step-by-step

candied ginger recipe
All sliced up. Nothing fancy here, just lots and lots of fresh ginger.
candied ginger recipe
Into the pot! Water just to cover (the recipe says 5 cups, I used about 4.5).
candied ginger recipe
Burbling away. Your house will smell incredible. Super gingery.
candied ginger recipe
Sugar! Just use equivalent amounts of sugar and peeled ginger if you don’t want a whole pound’s worth.
candied ginger recipe
All stirred up and back in the pot.
candied ginger recipe
Candying! This part goes on for a while.
candied ginger recipe
Continuing to burble away. The syrup is reduced by about half here. Keep going! Magic is coming!
candied ginger recipe
Magic! The sugar syrup is reduced to the point of recrystallization. Science!
candied ginger recipe
Spread out to cool. Bonus lumpy sugar bits.
candied ginger recipe
Et voila! Candied ginger (after I’ve eaten really too much of it), and a half pint of ginger sugar lumps.
Food & Cooking

Zucchini Apple Ginger Chutney

zucchini apple ginger chutney

As I mentioned earlier, I am on a quest to preserve as much of my unexpectedly-abundant zucchini harvest as I can. Inspired by a friend’s off-hand comment, I decided to try my hand at making Zucchini Apple Ginger Chutney for the first time.

zucchini apple ginger chutney

For those of you who are unfamiliar with chutney, there are roughly a billion different types and recipes, ranging from mild herby yogurt chutneys through crazy pickley spicy chutneys. The zucchini-apple-ginger chutney I made this weekend is a rich, sweet, jammy, tangy, and heavily spiced (also hot-spicy) fruit and vegetable-based relish. It will be an amazing accompaniment for a zillion things — meats, curries, cheese, savoury pastries, etc etc. I expect we’ll have it first with roast pork or curried beef. And we’ll definitely bust it out for Thanksgiving and Christmas, as it will go insanely well with grill-roasted turkey.

zucchini apple ginger chutney

Zucchini Apple Ginger Chutney

This recipe made exactly eight half-pint jars, which I processed for 20 minutes in a water bath. If you have no idea what water bath canning is, here’s a straightforward introduction. It’s easier than it sounds, I promise.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups onion, diced
  • 2 cups apple, diced (I used granny smith)
  • 8 cups zucchini, diced
  • 1 cup dried black currants (or raisins)
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • Juice from one lemon (1/4 cup or so)
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 3 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 4-5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper (this is spicy, adjust as needed)

Method

  1. Toast and grind your spices if that’s the sort of beautiful genius you are. Bonus points for making your own garam masala.
  2. Dump everything into a good-sized pot, bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Stir occasionally (every 20 mins or so).
  3. Let this simmer down for 2 hours or so…it will cook down considerably and thicken as it goes (see photos below)
  4. Following standard water bath canning procedures, pack the chutney into clean, sterilized jars, leaving a half-inch of headspace. Wipe the rims, cap with lids and rings, then process at a roiling boil for 20 minutes.
  5. Let the jars cool, then label (including the date) and you’re all done. Ideally let them sit at least two weeks. Unopened they will last for a year, but once opened you should use it up within a couple of months.

Tips

  • I diced the onions, apples, and zucchini all to a roughly half-inch dice. You don’t have to be fancy with your knife work here…it all gets cooked down into a soft, delicious goopy mass anyhow.
  • If your zucchini are big enough to be sort of squishy in the middle, scoop out the seeds so there’s just firm flesh left.
  • If at all possible, buy fresh whole spices (coriander, cumin, etc), toast them for a few minutes in a dry pan until fragrant, and grind them yourself. It takes only minutes and is so, so worth it. And look, you can even make your own garam masala!

Photos!

zucchini apple ginger chutney
After about 15 minutes.
zucchini apple ginger chutney
An hour of simmering.
zucchini apple ginger chutney
Almost done!
zucchini apple ginger chutney
Boil and bubble. This is what water bath canning looks like. Pretty straightforward.
Food & Cooking

Garam Masala

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In my quest to preserve as much of my zucchini harvest as I can, I decided to try my hand at making chutney. The recipe calls for Garam Masala, which is a complex blend of spices that is insanely good when made fresh, particularly if you take the time to roast the whole spices and grind them yourself. Which is what I did.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with chutney, there are roughly a billion different types and recipes, ranging from mild herby yogurt chutneys through crazy pickley spicy chutneys. The zucchini-apple-ginger chutney I made this weekend is a rich, sweet, jammy, tangy, and heavily spiced (also hot-spicy) fruit and vegetable-based relish. It will be an amazing accompaniment for a zillion things — meats, curries, cheese, savoury pastries, etc etc. I expect we’ll have it first with roast pork or curried beef. And we’ll definitely bust it out for Thanksgiving and Christmas, as it will go insanely well with grill-roasted turkey.

Anyhoo…I’ll post the chutney recipe on Wednesday. This post is about Garam Masala.

garam masala recipe

Garam Masala recipe

This is really easy to throw together — it takes maybe 10 minutes all told, including 5 minutes to let the spices cool down.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup coriander seeds
  • 1/4 cup cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp green cardamom pods
  • 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp whole cloves
  • 1″ piece of cinnamon bark, broken into pieces
  • 1 dried red chile
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground mace (optional)

Method

  1. Put everything except the nutmeg and mace into a dry pan and place over low heat. Stir the spices until they’re toasted and very fragrant — this usually takes 3-4 minutes.
  2. Transfer the now-toasted spices on to a plate to cool for a few minutes, then put everything (including the nutmeg and mace) into a spice grinder (mine is just a simple coffee grinder I repurposed). Grind to a fine powder.
  3. Transfer spice blend to an airtight container (such as a mason jar). This blend will store for 6-8 months if it lasts that long!

Tips

  • I break cinnamon sticks by placing them on a cutting board, covering with a layer of dry dish towel, and whacking it with the back of a chef’s knife.
  • If you don’t already have mace on hand, don’t bother getting it for this recipe since you use so little — just augment with a bit more nutmeg.

I’m about an hour into cooking down the chutney, and our house smells ridiculously amazing right now. Oof. This is going to be so great.

garam masala recipe

Food & Cooking, Gardening

Garlic dill pickles

garlic dill pickles

It’s been a while since my last update, but life has been pretty busy. In addition to the ongoing chaos of renovations, I had to travel back to Ontario for a week to take care of some stuff, and since I’ve returned it’s been a whirlwind of busy-ness: yardwork & gardening & setting up the new (functional-but-not-quite-finished) kitchen & trying to get back into a work routine, etc etc.

While I was away, the garden went bonkers and I am now wading through a glut of zucchini and cucumbers. So this weekend I am working on preserving some of that excess, starting with my first round of garlic dill pickles.

Garlic Dill Pickles

garlic dill pickles

The recipe is super simple: cucumbers are chunked up into thick slices & packed into pint jars with dill seed, peppercorns, hot pepper flakes, mustard seed, coriander seed, and garlic cloves, then topped with pickling brine and hot-water-bath processed for 10 minutes.

Pickling is shockingly easy, guys.

Growing up, I remember my Mom doing huge batches of canning and pickling — dozens of jars in dozens of batches, taking days at a time and filling up shelf after shelf in the basement. It was an epic process that would destroy the kitchen and make a gawdawful mess. I was never interested in it — it seemed like so much work and planning and mess and chaos.

It was a revelation when I discovered that this isn’t how it has to be. It turns out that it’s possible to do small batch canning — prepping and preserving just a few jars at time, easily done on a lazy weekend afternoon. This made canning feel sane and achievable, something I could do in my small city kitchen to make use of some of the amazingly cheap & just-picked produce from the farmer’s market at the end of our street in Toronto. It was easy and fun, and that summer I made some of the best pickles I’ve ever had.

Book recommendations!

My go-to small batch canning books are Food in Jars and Preserving by the Pint, both by Marisa McClellan. Lovely books with excellent recipes and great photography. I strongly recommend picking these up if you’re even remotely interested in doing your own pickling and preserving.

I have other books to recommend, but those will be for another day. Right now I’m going to start today’s pickling extravaganza, which, if all goes well, will include Zucchini Sriracha fridge pickles, Zucchini-Apple-Ginger chutney, and maybe some Sweet and Spicy Zucchini Relish. We’ll see how it goes.

Food & Cooking

Turkey chili with black beans and sweet potatoes

turkey chili with black beans and sweet potatoes

I love chili and we make it a lot in the autumn and winter. Sometimes you need to try something different, however, maybe lighten things up, eat less red meat, cram in a few more superfoods? That’s where this turkey chili came from, and it’s really delicious.

Turkey chili with black beans and sweet potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 med onions, coarsely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 (or more) whole fresh jalapenos, seeds removed, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1.5 tsp dried oregano
  • 2-2.5 tbsp chili powder
  • 0.5 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1.5 lb ground turkey (extra lean)
  • 2 28oz tins of diced tomatoes w/ juices
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into a rough dice (half inch pieces or bigger, don’t be fussy)
  • 2-3 cups of black beans (pre-cooked or tinned, drained and rinsed)
  • 1 tin corn niblets
  • Grated cheese, chopped cilantro and diced avocado to serve.

Method

  1. Heat olive oil in the bottom of a large (6qt) dutch oven or heavy pot. Saute onion over med-low heat for 5 mins to soften. Add garlic and jalapeno and saute for another 5 mins.
  2. Add cumin, oregano, chili powder and pepper. Stir and saute for 2-3 mins. The pot will seem really dry at this point, but it’s ok. We’ll fix that in a minute.
  3. Add tomato paste and stir, then toss in uncooked ground turkey. Stir occasionally until turkey is cooked through. This can take 10-15 mins on med-low.
  4. Add one and a half tins of diced tomatoes with their juices and bring to a boil, then lower to simmering. Let this simmer for 15-20 mins. Hang on to the rest of the tomatoes, you may need them
  5. Add the diced sweet potatoes and stir to combine. When this comes back to a simmer, cover and let cook over low heat until the sweet potatoes are almost cooked through (25-30 mins).
  6. Add beans and corn, stir to combine, then let simmer for another 10-15 mins over low.
  7. Add the rest of the tomatoes if it seems too dry.

At this point the turkey chili is technically done, but it will sit indefinitely and will just get better with time.  Eventually the sweet potatoes will disintegrate, but that’s no big deal.

Serve with crusty bread and butter, top with cheese, fresh cilantro, and some diced avocado.

This isn’t super spicy (unless you’ve used a hot chili powder), so feel free to add hot sauces or whatever if you like.

Food & Cooking

Sausage and vegetable pasta

sausage and vegetable pasta

We’ve made a few billion variations of sausage and vegetable pasta over the years, but this is one version I actually took the time to write down. It’s a simple and filling weeknight meal that is perfect any time of year, and is a great way to use up leftover grilled sausages.

Timing depends a lot on how much you want to cook down the tomatoes, but you can speed this up by using a simple (ie: tomato/basil) pre-made pasta sauce if you’re in a hurry.

This version is a very generous meal for two. Feel free to adjust the garlic and red pepper flakes as you see fit. We really, really, really like garlic.

Sausage and vegetable pasta

Ingredients

  • 2-3 mild or hot Italian sausages
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1-2 tsp hot red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 med zucchini, chopped into rough chunks
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped into rough chunks
  • 1 med red onion, chopped into rough chunks
  • 1-2 tsp fresh oregano (or 1/2-1 tsp dried)
  • 1 large tin diced tomatoes (796ml, 28oz)
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Penne or other chunky pasta
  • A goodly pile of freshly shredded parmesan to serve

Method

  1. Grill or fry the sausages until fully cooked. Slice into rounds.
  2. Put the sausage rounds into a saute pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Toss in the minced garlic, shallot, and red pepper flakes. Saute that all together for a couple of minutes.
  3. Throw in the zucchini, pepper, and onion. Saute those for a couple of minutes, then add the oregano and a few gratings of fresh pepper. Stir a few times, then add the diced tomatoes with all their juices.
  4. Bring up to a boil then reduce to a lowish simmer. Let it simmer for 20-25 mins…the idea is to let the tomatoes cook down and become more of a sauce. This is a matter of taste, really, so you can cook it for as long as you like, just don’t totally overcook the veggies.
  5. While the sauce simmers, bring a big pot of generously salted water up to boil and cook your pasta when the sauce is almost done.
  6. Serve in big ol’ bowls with lots of parmesan cheese and fresh pepper.

We make up variations of sausage and vegetable pasta as we go, so feel free to riff on this using whatever vegetables you have on hand. Sometimes I’ll add a tin of white kidney beans, or other vegetables (broccoli rabe works insanely well), etc. The sauce will keep in the fridge for a few days, so make extra if you like leftovers as much as we do!

Food & Cooking

Soba noodle salad with edamame and tofu

soba noodle salad

Mark Bittman did a soba noodle salad in his Minimalist article a while back, but his version was a little weird and involved entirely too much lime juice. I modified it a bit, and this is what I came up with.

Soba noodle salad

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1.5 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 4 oz soba noodles (dry weight)
  • 1 c edamame (out of pods)
  • 1-2 tbsp peanut oil
  • 1/2 package of firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 c green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 c baby carrots, shredded
  • 2 tsp white or black sesame seeds

Method

  1. Whisk together oils, vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, and ginger. This is really just a basic vinaigrette with soy and ginger. I just dump it all into a mason jar and shake like hell. Taste and adjust as necessary — I tend towards the vinegary end of the spectrum, so you might want to check.
  2. Cook the soba noodles in lightly salted boiling water until they’re at the texture you want. These are fast — usually no more than 3-4 minutes. Test after 3 minutes to check. When the noodles are cooked, rinse under cold water until cool.
  3. Cook the edamame — I just cook it from frozen with the soba noodles (they take about the same amount of time). Similarly, rinse the edamame under cold water until cool.
  4. Put the peanut oil into a shallow pan and heat to medium-high. Dump in the tofu and fry ’til a bit crispy – usually 2-3 mins per side. This part is optional, really…you don’t have to fry the tofu, but it adds to the texture. Let cool.
  5. Divide noodles into two big ol’ bowls, top each with edamame, tofu, green onions, and carrots. Pour 2-3 tbsp of the vinaigrette over each and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.

And that’s the extent of it. Soba noodle salad is a healthy, filling and delicious meatless recipe which is super quick to throw together once you get the hang of it. Double the recipe and you’ll have leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch, just leave the dressing off until you’re packing your lunch up in the morning.

I always feel amazing after eating this (and it’s way cheaper than freshii).

Food & Cooking

Baked salmon with lemon and tomatoes

baked salmon

This is one of my favourite ways to make baked salmon for a weeknight dinner. It’s fast and crazy simple — start to finish it takes about 40 mins, including prep time. You can change this recipe up in a bunch of ways, but this is how we’ve done it the last few times. This version feeds two, but it can easily be doubled.

Baked salmon with lemon and tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 salmon filets
  • 1 lemon
  • 12-16 cherry tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • fresh ground pepper
  • a pinch of salt
  • fresh herbs if you’re feeling fancy (tarragon or dill work really well)

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 375.
  2. Lay the two sheets of tinfoil out and pour a bit of olive oil in the centre of each.
  3. Place the salmon skin-side-down on the oil.
  4. Sprinkle fresh ground pepper and a bit of salt over the salmon — not a whole lot.
  5. Cut the lemon so you have 8 slices, not including the end bits. Put 4 slices across the top of each filet.
  6. Slice the tomatoes in half lengthways and put those on top of the lemon slices, cut side down.
  7. Carefully fold the tinfoil up to contain everything, and tightly seal the edges so steam and liquid won’t escape. It’ll end up as a sealed packet with air inside over the salmon.
  8. Place these on the baking sheet and bake for 20-25 mins — the salmon should be opaque all the way through, but not crazily overdone. Don’t worry about it too much.

That’s it. If you want to get fancy you can toss in a sprig or two of tarragon or dill, or maybe some thyme or a couple of basil leaves. Serve your baked salmon with a side of buttery steamed spinach or a simple salad, and some short grain brown rice.

Food & Cooking

Mango salsa

mango salsa

In celebration of the beginning of spring mango season, Rob and I made mango salsa which we served alongside plank-grilled steelhead salmon and grilled asparagus. Seriously great and incredibly simple.

If you don’t know how to select or cut mangoes, Mango.org has some handy articles:

And now, the recipe…it’s inexact in terms of measurements, really — just fiddle with the ingredient ratios until it looks extra delicious. Don’t skip the salt, but also don’t use too much — just a pinch does the trick to bring out the flavours.

Mango salsa

Ingredients

  • 2 small mangoes (or one medium-largeish one), diced
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 jalapeno, finely diced (more if that’s your thing, we did 1.5 jalapenos)
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped (we don’t use the stems, but that’s your call)
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1 pinch salt

Method

Pretty simple: put it all in a bowl, mix it all together & let it sit for at least half an hour (or make ahead by up to a day, covered and in the fridge).

Serve with anything you want, but it was extraordinary with grilled salmon. Smokey mangoey deliciousness.