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.

Chanterelle Omelet

IMG_1724First go to a forest and forage around until you gather a basket of primo chanterelles. If you find a few hedgehog and lobster mushrooms and an bolete or two, no problem. It’s all good.

Clean your mushrooms then saute them in a little vegetable oil. The mushrooms will release fluid and then take it up again. At that point they’ll start to colour up nicely.

Crack 3 eggs, add a splash of milk, and beat them for a minute with a fork. Add the eggs to the mushrooms. While the omelet cooks, grate a little hard cheese. I carefully chose the only hard cheese in the fridge. Use what you like. IMG_1725Sprinkle on a few hot chiles and grind some fresh pepper and add a pinch of salt.

IMG_1728Meanwhile, put some bread in the toaster. You’ll want some toast. Open a cool beer. Fold the omelet and slide it onto a plate. Serve with toast. You could chop up some chives or a little parsley and sprinkle it on top. If you squeeze a little ketchup on top, I won’t tell anyone.

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.



Paska Wars

As we were busy making paska today, friends in Mississauga texted to say they were making it too….and the paska wars were on. Long Branch vs Mississauga. Tuffy P drove our entry west out of Long Branch to the exchange, a parking lot at Southdown Rd and Lakeshore.

IMG_0940Here are the entries….

…..and then Mississauga throws us a curve ball by including a container of super-delicious ravioli….paska + pasta!


IMG_0954Looks pretty good, that Mississauga paska…

IMG_0948And tastes damn fine too!

The judges have deliberated and declare it……a tie!


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?




More comfort food…

The veggie stew I featured in my last post is an excellent main course, but a small bowl of it also rocks as a side with a roast beef and raw red onion sandwich and some roast potatoes. I roasted this small roast with a bunch of small potatoes in a cast iron pan.

White bean stew with kale

I’ve never been a big kale fan, but this veggie stew featuring white beans and kale is fantastic. It uses:

  • shallots
  • carrots
  • celery
  • garlic (I used some of my brother’s home grown garlic – awesome)
  • white beans
  • kale
  • white wine
  • crushed tomatoes
  • veggie stock
  • sprigs of thyme
  • bay leaf

Sautee shallots and garlic for a couple minutes in a dutch oven or heavy pot, add in carrots and celery, chopped roughly. After a few minutes, add a cup or so of white wine. Pour a glass of wine for yourself at this point. Let everything cook down and reduce the liquid to about half. Add white kidney beans (canned ones work fine for this). Add the kale. Add a few sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf. Add your stock + about a cup or cup and a half of crushed tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Let it simmer for 45 minutes.

It’s that time

My best memories of Christmas have everything to do with the food. Mom would make pierogi and cabbage rolls and patychky, or meat sticks, as we liked to call them. She’s long gone now, but I try to keep up some of the food traditions by making at least one of them on the high holidays.

Yes, I’m making meat sticks. We’re going to my sister’s place Christmas Eve and on Christmas day, Tuffy P’s family are joining us for dinner here in Long Branch (I’ll be doing the cooking). intotheroasterSunday I’m going to venture out in between ice storms to buy my meat, which I’ll marinate overnight and then Monday I’ll make them. Just about every Christmas I’ve republished my recipe, and when I looked at my stats today I saw that post has had 10 hits, a good reminder that it is time to re-share. So this is how I make them (it’s not quite the same way mom did….I’m going to come out and say I think mine are actually better), although I admit my sister’s meat sticks are also most awesome. I’ve taught Sister-in-law Viv to make them along the way, and hers are just as good as mine.

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.