Not making this up….

IMG_2658Yes, it’s Birthday Cake flavour OREO cookies. Tuffy P is out at a work event this evening, but she was thinking of me…there was a healthy salad in the fridge….and a bag of these babies on the counter. If you’re wondering, yes they are very very very sweet. .

Love those scotch bonnets

Over the years we’ve developed a taste for spicy foods, and at a certain point we found those dried red chiles to be way too bland. It happens I have a dehydrator I use for drying wild mushrooms, and it turns out it’s great for chiles as well.

IMG_2413I put on a pair of latex gloves and slice up a batch of good hot chiles. Currently I’m using a mix of mostly scotch bonnets with a few cayennes thrown in to give the mix a redder colour.  They dry in the dehydrator in 24-30 hours.

IMG_2415I grind up the dried chile mix in a coffee grinder. We keep a batch in a little clay pot in a cupboard by the stove (with a back-up batch stored in a plastic container), and we sprinkle it on all kinds of foods.

If you try something like this at home, be sure you don’t touch the chiles then touch your eyes because it will burn. Also, be sure you grind the chiles in something that doesn’t let much fine power out as you grind or you will find yourself coughing from the strength of the chiles in the air.

Pasta with morels and fresh sage

IMG_1337First, go find some fresh wild morels. Then….heat your pasta water and while that is happening, roughly chop up a pile of morels and more finely chop up some garlic and a few sage leaves.

While the pasta is cooking….
…..heat up a big cast iron pan, add a little oil and the garlic and the sage and the morels and let them cook up for a while.

While the morels are cooking….
…grate some cheese (I used Parmigiano but I bet several other choices would be tasty too).

Before the pasta is done….
add some white wine to the morels, garlic and sage. I also added a cup of milk. Heavy cream would have been way richer but I try to stay away from it. Stir it all up and let it simmer.

When the pasta is cooked, strain it then add it right into the morel/sauce mixture and toss it around. Let it all cook together in the cast iron pan for a couple minutes.

Shut off the burner, then toss in the cheese, a sprinkle of salt, some fresh ground pepper and if you like a few chile flakes. Add some fresh parsely. Toss it all together, and enjoy.



Charcoals of the World

In my travels this weekend I stopped in at Ontario Gas BBQ. My friends might think this is odd behaviour for me since I don’t own a gas or propane grilling unit, but in fact this place also sells an amazing selection of equipment and fuel for the charcoal bbq fanatic as well.

In fact they have an entire room dedicated to charcoals of the world. You might say charcoal is charcoal, right? There is even a website dedicated to charcoal reviews. I’ve tried a few different ones over the years, and I’ll say some charcoals might be better for slow bbq and others might be better for when you need very hot heat – there are definite differences in density of various charcoals available for the bbq freak. As well, some charcoals tend to arrive at the store in bigger chunks while others come all smashed up. I find bigger chunks give me the kind of air flow I want for hot grilling. Overall though, I’m not too fussy. I usually buy Maple Leaf charcoal, a quality Canadian brand, and it serves me very well.

I should say that I have nothing against cooking with gas grills. I know lots of people like them a lot, especially those swanky units with the side burners and bun warmers and who knows what else, and they’re very satisfied with the results they get. If it works for you, great. Go for it. If I’m going to cook outside though, I want the results I can get with real charcoal (and I’m not talking about those weird pre-fabricated briquets. What’s in those things?).

Do you cook outdoors?




Delicious savoury pies

Tuffy P brought me dinner today from The Pie Commission, located near Queensway and Islington here in Toronto. Check out their menu!  Tuffy brought me two of these small pies home for dinner, a chicken cheddar bacon mash pie and their special today, a pulled pork pie. The chicken cheddar bacon mash pie was excellent but the pulled pork pie was total smokey paradise. Perfect!

The Pie Commission gets the 27th Street seal of approval. 935 The Queensway, entrance at rear off Queen Elizabeth Blvd. Serious pie action.

The Comfort Food Diner

When is a poblano not a poblano?

In our area, I rarely see poblano chiles in our grocery stores, so when I saw them at Starsky’s the other day, I bought a bunch of them. Some went into last night’s soup and the rest I popped into the dehydrator. Dried, poblanos are called anchos, and they’re great in just about anything. I sampled a few of the dried ones and they’re tasty as snacks. I was surprised at how variable the heat is from one chile to another. Some are totally mild, others have a bit of heat, and a few of them offer up more heat than you’d expect.


Cooking lobster mushrooms

I’ve noticed, looking at the stats for this blog, that quite a few people have been searching for ways to prepare lobster mushrooms. Here’s one way – the way I prepared them for dinner tonight in fact.

Lobster mushroom and sausage omelet

You need:

  • lobster mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • two or three eggs
  • some tasty sausage (I used Goralska Polish sausage)
  • grated awesome cheese

In a cast iron pan, sautee the mushrooms with a little vegetable oil on medium heat. Lobsters are very firm mushrooms that hold their texture. As well, they don’t shed water in the cooking process the way some other mushrooms do. After a few minutes in the pan, add some chopped up sausage and let it cook together. You want the sausage to start to crisp up and the mushrooms to start turning a nice golden colour. When this is ready, transfer to a non-stick pan. I know you’re going to say, aw c’mon, do I have to use two pans? The answer is yes. I like the way the mushrooms and the sausage cook up in a cast iron pan, but in the end you’re making an omelet and non-stick pans are great for omelets. So, you transfer the sausage and mushrooms to a non-stick pan. With the transfer, they’ll bring along enough oil for the omelet. Heat up the pan to the high side of medium. While that’s happening, beat up your eggs with a fork. Some people add a little splash of milk. You can do that if you want. I usually don’t. When the pan is hot, pour the mixture over the mushrooms and sausage and move the pan around to spread around the eggs. When the eggs are just about done, toss some of your awesome grated cheese on top (tonight I used an old gruyere). Let it melt on there for a moment, fold two sides of the omelet to the middle and serve it up, maybe with a spoon of good salsa and some fresh ground pepper and just a wee bit of salt. There are a million variations. If you have some fresh herbs, chop them into the egg mixture before pouring it onto the pan.


If you want something even simpler and still super-delicious, sautee the lobster mushrooms in your cast iron pan until they get nice and golden. Add salt and fresh ground pepper and maybe a wee bit of some ground hot chiles and spoon loads of the mushrooms onto toast. Just that simple.

The Mushroom Hunters

The Mushroom Hunters – On the Trail of an Underground America, by Langdon Cook, explores a foraging culture the extent of which I had never imagined. The massive extraction on tasty edibles from the woods of the mountain west is driven by popularity of local foods in so many restaurants. The morels in that sauce have to come from somewhere.

The book introduces us to pickers and buyers and gives us an insider’s view of mushroom camps that are more like temporary villages, complete with competing buyers who set up their buying tables right in the camps. Pickers pull out dozens of pounds of mushrooms. Some of these pickers pull more mushrooms out of the woods in a day than I’ve picked in local woods in the years I’ve been foraging. The quantities are staggering. Some of those western woods are mushroom factories.

If I lived out there and knew that all the best mushroom spots were overrun with commercial pickers I might not be so happy (although I’d be happy to find a forest with a fraction of the tasty fungi those characters pull out of the forest). Here in Ontario I’ve never seen those quantities of mushrooms. Maybe there are areas where people can pick commercially, but I haven’t found them.  In the areas I forage, if one other picker has been around, it’s time to go to another forest. There just aren’t that many mushrooms to go around.

The Mushroom Hunters is a fascinating insight into a world most of us did not know even existed. It’s a compelling book that focuses on the author’s interaction with a few people who make their living foraging. I think that people who are interested in nature and food and unusual occupations would really enjoy this book. You don’t have to be a mushroom-hound to read it.

Autumn in the Air

You can tell it’s getting into fall when roasting veggies becomes a regular activity here on 27th Street.