Friday, July 25, 2008

Birch Syrup

O.K. , everyone has heard of and/or tasted maple syrup. This tree produces sap that can be reduced 40:1 and taste sweet and wild. Birch sap has much less sugar content and must be reduced 120:1. It cannot be reduced by boiling, as it will be burnt. It is reduced by a much more tedious process of reverse osmosis. The result is a sweet syrup with a taste like no other. It can be used in small amounts to drastically improve a sauce. I'm sure it will never rival the sales of all the high fructose products we see everyday. I'm sure that the producers have no interest in even trying.

For a few drops of magic in your sauce, try this product.
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Pink Pepper

I don't usually steal from websites;this is an exception. This quote comes from :"Pink Pepper is unrelated to the black pepper. They come from the Bales Roses, a small tree that has numerous compound leaves with slender, symmetric, leaflets on each side of the leaf. They have a brittle, papery skin enclosing a hard irregular seed a lot smaller than the whole fruit. The flavor is quite delicate. They are pungent and slightly sweet aroma rather than spicy, but not nearly as flavorful as the real thing.
They are reminiscent of a mild citrus zest and sweet berries. Pink peppercorns go especially well in fruit sauces, vinaigrettes, and desserts. These peppercorns have a rich rose color that adds a elegant appearance to any cuisine.
Usage- Pepper is best ground directly on to food. With hot food it is best to add pepper well towards the end of the cooking process, to preserve its aroma. White pepper is used in white sauces rather than black pepper, which would give the sauce a speckled appearance. Green peppercorns can be mashed with garlic, cinnamon or to make a spiced butter or with cream to make a fresh and attractive sauce for fish. Pink peppercorns are called for in a variety of dishes, from poultry to vegetables and fish."
These berries are readily available and add a great taste to sauces and meats.
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Besan Batter

In recent posting, Elizabeth described the delights of Indian pakoras. These are vegetables dipped in a chick pea flour (besan) and water batter (about 1:1) with a pinch of salt and pepper and then shallow fried. To try this out I coated pieces of cauliflower and blackberries and fried them in canola oil for about 5 minutes. They were mildly crunchy on the outside; the sweet berries went really well with the savoury cauliflower. I guess the only mildly difficult part of this dish is finding besan.
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In an earlier post I mentioned that the store Culinarium featured a large variety of foods produced here in Ontario. One of these is garlic flowers, or scapes. Both the stems and flowers have a mild garlic taste. They can be chopped directly into a salad or softened up a bit in a stir-fry. I will now buy them every year when they are in season. A great find!
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008


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Our Neighbourhood

Some months ago a new store opened in our neighbourhood, a store with a difference. The store is called Culinarium and features only foods produced in Ontario. The foods are as diverse as our province and includes local fish, cheeses, and meats. Fresh produce as well as a rich assortment of preserves is also featured. It has a policy of making most things available for tasting before purchase. It was this policy that induced me to buy Birch Syrup - a wonderful, wild syrup I'd never heard of before. Because garlic scapes are available now, they go into all our salads and stir-frys.
The store has a website at: Not only is it an exciting store, it also looks cool (see photo above).

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

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Bob Dylan

Some time in 1963 I bought the album "Freewheelin' Bob Dylan". As I was only 13 at the time and didn't come home until close to midnight (I'd spent the day in Toronto - we lived some 50km away) my mother had sat up and waited for me. Instead of scolding me for staying out so late, she asked what I'd bought. I plugged in my mono Seabreeze and played the album - she insisted on hearing the whole thing. She thought Bob was cool.

I remain a fan of Bob Dylan. Over the 45 years since, I've followed his many changes. One particular highlight was his DVD
13 years ago called "Bob Dylan Unplugged" (see photo above).