a true thirty minute recipe…


This is my plate of makarOnia me kaftO vOUtiro that I made last night.  Well, I must confess… I didn’t eat the entire plate.  And, I had to make a separate version for JJ, but more about that later. 

All this to say – this is, in my estimation, the best “less than 30 minute” recipe that one can have in their arsenal.  So, I’d like to share it with you.  I don’t want to turn you off, but the Greek literal translation is “macaroni with burnt butter”.  However, read on… if you like butter and cheese, you’ll love this.   And it’s quick and cheap. 

Instructions

1.  Get out your favourite Greek cooking beverage before you start, as you might get thirsty.  Here are my recommendations: 

Lux orangeade and/or Lux sour cherry pop.  However, you can divert from this instruction and pick your own beverage, such as this one:

2.  Put on a large pot to boil water for pasta, then find your pasta:

(Note: you don’t need this yuppified pasta to make the recipe with success.  However, as much as I rail against consumerism, I do love my Italian pasta.  This one is called “spaghetti alla chitarra”, meaning “spaghetti guitar-style” – meaning that it was double length spaghetti and was bent in the bottom of the package.  I, of course, broke it in half.  Go figure.)

For this purpose, use 250g (just under 8 oz) for two people or 500 g (just over a pound) for four. 

3.  When you have put your pasta in the boiling water (with lots of salt, and without any oil – you don’t need oil in the boiling water as long as you give the pasta a good stir while it is still boiling), get out 1/2 pound of butter (or 1/4 pound if you are making the recipe for two people). 

You can use either salted or unsalted butter – but if you’re not a salt addict like me, think about buying the unsalted.

Put the butter in a heavy saucepan as you see above, on low.   

4.  Grate some cheese to put on the pasta. 

You can use any grating cheese for this, to your taste – parmesan, romano, etc.  However, if you want to be authentically Greek, try to get your hands on some dry mizithra.

You can find this at most Greek stores, and I imagine you could find something similar at any Middle Eastern shop.  It is a dry version of ricotta cheese made with sheep’s milk.  The closest easily available equivalent is romano cheese, but romano is a bit more tangy tasting.  Still guid, though. 

Anyway, grate up a bunch of your cheese – this is about the right amount:

Let’s say 120 g/4 oz worth. 

5.  By the time you’ve grated your cheese, the butter should be getting along.  It takes about 10 minutes over low heat to get to the “burnt” stage.  First, it will start foaming and look like this:

Then, it will start even more foam and look something like this.

Don’t get scared – let it foam.  It needs to start looking something like this in order to be ready:

When you see the browned bits start to appear at the top with heavy foam, take it off the heat. 

6.  Drain your pasta (which, by now, has cooked).  Put a bunch of the cheese on the bottom of a big serving plate.  Grate some nutmeg over it:

…not very much, four or five gratings worth will do.  Put some of your hot pasta over all of that. Repeat cheese/nutmeg/pasta until you’ve run out. 

7.  Pour over all of the brown butter, mix a bit and serve.  Make sure you have some of this on the side, though:

Easy as pie!!!

Except, of course, that JJ had to complicate my recipe because today one of his girlfriends on the Food Network did spaghetti with burnt butter and a twist:

That recipe also included this:

… and this was the end result:

Not too bad either, if you can ignore the baguette buttered with margarine on the side (this being a very odd household, I bring in butter as needed and typically only for burnt butter spaghetti!)

The recipe for the variation: 

– 4 T burned butter, as above. 

– 1 heaping T balsamic vinegar. 

– parmesan cheese to taste. 

It was also quite lovely, I must admit.  However, being Greek, only the original spaghetti with burnt butter recipe will do. 

Anyway, try either of the recipes.  You won’t regret it.  I’ve put many people here onto the Greek burnt butter one and they have cursed me afterward because they are now eating too much.  Always a good sign for a little Greek Canajan like me!

Happy weekend!


election day!

For some reason, as the 15th election day in the last two years (just kidding – but it feels as though we’re going to vote once a month up here) dawned, I started getting anxiety attacks about ignoring my Super 10 stash.

Don’t let the cheery colours fool you – the yarn itself looks very forlorn.

All my fault, I know – especially since I haven’t had it living in the best of conditions:

Too busy to knit?!?  you frown, questioning my sanity.  In fact, I haven’t even been out shopping for yarn in the past… um… since the early summer!

To be fair to myself, I’ve been busy with a number of things, including trying to start up an award-winning foodie company.

Actually, I’m just kidding about that.  But don’t you love this lovely flavoured olive oil I made this weekend while at my mother’s?  She gave me some fresh rosemary, and I just couldn’t resist:

It tastes as good as it looks, too – I couldn’t wait the two or three weeks for it to infuse, so I did a quickie hot infusion instead.

I’ve also been clearing out the deep freezer and the (rather appalling) vegetable (hah!) crisper by making chicken/pork/chorizo stock:

… and even more stock – duck this time.  Fancy sounding, I know – but the duck, an impulse buy while doing some “shopping while hungry” at Loblaws (an ill-advised move):

And, of course, some more infused oil – using dried mint, which had, until recently, been growing until recently in my mother’s garden:

But the fear dread abject stupidity inevitability of another Conservative government…

(led by our Fearmongeringless Dictator Prime Minister, pictured here with yet another of his hapless – and choiceless – victims – and since when do you read to cats anyway?!?!?!)

…has caused me to break out into a perpetual cold sweat.  Which, in turn, has caused me to start knitting again!

For now, no lacy fripperies for me, though.  My goal is to get through all of the Super 10 stash pictured at the top of this post by 28 November, our moving date – making log-cabin blankies.

(Originally, I had thought about trying my hand at a fabulous mitered-square blanket, as inspired by Amy’s fantastic work-in-progress.  But hell.  I’m just too lazy.)

Think I’ll manage?

At the very least, it will give me something simple to do during the five or so hours tonight while we’re crying in our beers hurling the vegetables which were too rotten to put into the stockpot at the television watching the election returns.

Now, off to exercise my patriotic duty at the polls (and, in case you’re wondering why I’m posting at 1 in the afternoon, I always feel that election day is worth a day off and a few pints – in memory of the days when they still closed the bars on Election Day, if for no other reason.)

Happy Tuesday!

bubble bubble toil and… yum!

OK, OK, so it’s not a direct quote, and it doesn’t even rhyme. But it reflects how I spent a good part of the Labour Day long weekend…

Yup. The Mad Princess of Preserves is at it again, folks.

You see, I made the mistake of going to Loblaws on Saturday for…oh, toilet paper and other boring things. But for once they had some local Ontario produce going!

So, I had to buy about 20 pounds of plum tomatoes and 10 pounds of these Shepherd peppers. I’ve never really noticed these before – they taste like red bell peppers, but sweeter and better. So, my first thought was to try for some flavoured booze:

This, in about three weeks, will be Shepherdised Tanqueray gin. I have no clue whether this one will taste like anything you’d wanted to drink, but I had a bunch of Tanqueray left over from the recent party, so thought I’d give it the old college try.

This, on the other hand, I can hardly wait to crack open:

Iceberg vodka with Shepherd peppers and ten jalapenos with the seeds left in. Better stock up on those ulcer meds… I love pepper vodka!

I also decided to make some infused rice vinegars, one with the peppers and one with lemon and lime:

Then I decided to roast the hell out of the rest of the Shepherd peppers:

…and start making some real stuff. First, I made a whole lot of tomato sauce with roasted pepper, roasted garlic and onion puree:

That took care of about half the peppers. So, what to do with the other half?!?

Initially I wanted to try to make some tomato/roasted pepper low sugar jam. Unfortunately, however, I made the mistake of musing about this aloud, at which point JJ overheard and suggested very reasonably that I not make any more jam until some of the stuff I made some weeks back was gone.

When I say “reasonably”, I mean this of course in the Scottish fashion:

Ye daft wee lassie, what on God’s grrrrreen airrrrth would possess ye to make more jam?!?! Every time ah open the cupboards, ah almost get murdered by a flyin jar of jam. And ye doan’t even eat the stuff! Ye should go tek a long harrrd look in the mirror…

He did, however, have a point. So, instead I made…

… salsa! Three bloody litres of the stuff. It has tomatoes, the peppers plus a third major secret ingredient. I first premiered the secret ingredient salsa at my party to great accolades (I must say I was shocked – I had only come up with it at the last minute when I realised I had 5 million bags of nachos and no salsa as I had dumped all the salsa into the slowcooker with IKEA swedish meatballs in a panic…). That version, however, did not have roasted peppers.

If it turns out at all good, perhaps I will post the recipe here. Or, perhaps I’ll just send it to the Food Network and wait for the telephone call offering me my very own programme.

I also made a V8/coriander jelly:

… and rehabbed some former jellies I had made which hadn’t set properly, including this bell pepper one:

So, I think that was a guid weekend’s work, don’t ye?

Off now to premiere the fabulous new salsa with the colleagues work.

Happy Tuesday, all!


when do I get my programme on the Food Network, anyway?!?

Now, I’m the first to admit that I can become rather obsessive about hobbies – none more than food prep right now, apparently.

This was my haul from my raid on the local library the other day. Sigh. My knitting has been suffering from this latest revival of Kristina Does Food… and More Food… and Still More Food.

The obsession leads me to do very odd things – like boiling vats of stuff for four five hours in 30C weather:

This was a cauldron of beef stock I made on Sunday after our little $230.00 foray to Fiesta Farms, my new favourite supermarket too (and, I hasten to say, JJs – he was personally responsible for about $150.00 of the acquisitions). They cater to Europeans like me, which means (among other things) that at any given time there are lots of humungous and dirt cheap cuts of meat intended for soups and stews, like the Tyrannosaurus Rex beef knuckle shown above at the top centre of the pot. Two beef knuckles cost $2.25 – and now I have four litres of stock, 14 consomme ice cubes and at least three cups of shredded meat for soup.

Mmmmm.

Now, while at Fiesta Farms I promised myself I would not buy anything to preserve this week as it was too hot. And – I didn’t! However, when excavating the fridge to find room for the new purchases, I found an embarrassment of berries which were past their prime.

So, what was a frugal food obsessive to do?

Why, make jam, of course!!! I call this KBs Secret Cherberry Jam. The “secret” bit is that little white blob, which is cheesecloth containing fresh rosemary and pink peppercorns. Yes, rosemary and peppercorns.

The household jury of one (JJ, of course – because you know what? I don’t even EAT jam!!) has rendered his verdict – two thumbs up. He didnae know about the rosemary – when I told him after he tried it, he said “That’s just weirrrrrrd, lassie”. I note, however, that this did not stop him from polishing off the better part of a 250 ml jar yesterday, though).

I was actually thinking of adding some of this instead of the rosemary:

Now, that would have been really weirrrrd, I decided. Also, I’m giving some away for gifts and I’ve found that rose water is something that people either love or detest. I’m sure some of this will find its way into some jar at some point, though – stay tuned!

Anyway, the recipe (my adaptation of a blueberry jam recipe in the Bernardin Guide to Home Preserving):

Put four cups of crushed berries (I used strawberries, blueberries and cherries – and yes, I know cherries aren’t berries – I’m trying for pithiness for once, OK?!) in a saucepan. Add one 57 g packet of fruit pectin, three tablespoons of lime juice, two large sprigs fresh rosemary and 20 pink peppercorns, and one half vanilla bean. Bring to a boil over high heat. Mix in three cups of sugar and bring back to a rolling (i.e. big raging) boil and let boil one minute. Pour into sterilized and heated 250 ml (one cup) preserving jars. You can either keep this in the fridge for up to one month or process by boiling for 10 minutes. Yields six jars.

But hark! Is that something else in a jar that you spy in the back row at the left? Why, yes. Having ranted on last week about crazy hot foods, I decided to try to make my very own hot sauce.

Basically, I boiled about one litre of leftover white wine I had let go to vinegar (my frugality knows no bounds. How do you think I pay for all that yarn?!), about an inch worth of rice vinegar I’d had sitting around for some time, and a cup of white vinegar for about 5 minutes or untit it reduced back to a litre (four cups, approximately). I kept it hot and put the following things into a heated 1 litre mason jar:

  • seven fresh long red hot chili peppers (I imagine you could use any type of pepper, really). The peppers that were too long to fit in the jar, I cut in half and then split both halves down the middle to release the seeds.
  • four cloves of garlic, cut into slices
  • four sprigs of fresh thyme
  • four green onions, cut to fit into the jar (just the bulbs and some of the green part)

I’m going to let this sit for three weeks or until it all turns red, whichever comes first. We’ll see what happens. But it looks purdy, though – doesn’t it?

Any day now, I reckon I’ll get a call from the Food Network offering me my own segment on how to recycle food. I promise I won’t forget my friends, though. Really.

Happy Wednesday!

Felted Clogs!!!!

Hey!! Wait a minute!!! I just finished both pairs of Felted Clogs and already they’re walking away?

Man alive!

Ingrates!

You're grounded!!!!

You're grounded!!!!

Ah, no… not really. You see, I like my new clogs very much – and JJ is well chuffed too. He was prancing around in them breaking them in most of yesterday evening.

After a few setbacks, the knitting of the clogs went swimmingly. Mine were slightly easier than JJ’s – I can’t decide whether that’s because I preferred my colourway to the one I picked for him, or because they were smaller. Hmm.

I highly recommend this pattern to anyone looking for fabulous slippers – it’s very clever as it incorporates a double sole. Who needs Air Soles, anyway?! And, I knitted my pair in just one evening!

JJs were men’s medium (size 11 US/Cdn), mine were size small (6 US/Cdn – quite a bit smaller than my true shoe size, so thanks to Amy for the tip to knit a size smaller than I needed.

Yarn for both was by Brown Sheep. JJs were made with two strands of Lamb’s Pride Worsted, one Turkish Olive and one Kiwi. Mine were made with Lamb’s Pride Bulky, so I only had to use one strand – the colours are Lotus Pink and Limeade.

(If you’re planning to make these and can get ahold of Lamb’s Pride Bulky, I would highly recommend it. It’s great for felting and I found it easier to work with the one strand.)

I used 9 mm needles for both.

Actually, I’m thinking of wearing mine to work tomorrow as I happen to have matching accessories:

Then again, it might be a tad hot. But they’d look really fancy at the Summit of the Tenant Advocates planned for tomorrow after work – and yes, I know it’s Monday. Is there some rule that you can’t go drinking on Mondays?

In preparation for the toll that deep fried spring rolls and copious amounts of Moosehead will inevitably take, I made sure and got my Vitamin C all day yesterday with my new favourite summer thirst quencher: salted lime drink or “Indian limeade”.

I know that might sound odd. Try it. Miles better than Gatorade or Lucozade for killing thirst. This drink originated in India and I first tried it years ago at an Indian buffet place – and loved it. However, I never actually thought to try making any myself… until I came across a recipe for it in an excellent cookbook by Sybil Kapoor called Taste. (This book is fabulous – she combines all sorts of tastes you wouldn’t even dream of mixing, to great results.)

I’m now making it in litre jugs – approximately one cup of fresh lime juice to three cups of water. Then add salt to taste (I probably put in two teaspoons per litre, but I’m addicted to salt). Chill and serve over ice. Ms Kapoor suggests grinding in some black pepper – an excellent suggestion.

So, I’m now feeling all cool, comfy and exotic with my new beverage and my fabulous clogs!

Happy Monday!

a fable and some very pithy recipes

A wee introductory note

Well, it’s finally Friday!  And, because I’m feeling dragged out and rather lazy I thought I’d post a couple of blasts from the not-so-distant past.  Below, you’ll find – respectively – a little fable about some food-crazed Torontoian… and some of my special “Recipes in 25 Words or Less”.  They were both previously published on a food blog I set up one day when bored at work feeling even more inspired than usual.  I posted a few times on that blog and then remembered that I was, in fact, a lazy@$$ and didn’t feel like doing two blogs.

So, here it is – and my apologies to any of the three people who actually visited the other blog and have already read this crap.  See you next week with some brand-spanking-new stuff!

An Urban Fable

Once upon a time, there was a little girl living in a village. She grew up learning the Greek-Canadian art of How to Cook a Meal in One Week or Slightly Less at her mother’s knee:

So, it’s not all that surprising that she moved to the Big City as soon as possible and became a bachelor.

She never even needed to cook, as she was constantly surrounded by fabulous prepared food in abundance.

But, one day, the inevitable happened. She met someone. And that someone was not happy living on chips alone (very surprising, considering that he was from Scotland).

So, our heroine had to learn to cook again from scratch.

And although the Guy From Scotland was very happy with what she made (particularly with the beanz), she kept losing the can opener. Plus, she started to miss the foods from her home village.

However, being a busy person, especially given her predilection for ranting on and on, she did not have hours on end to prepare the feasts of her ancestors:

So she started reading food magazines and watching shows about food on TV to get some ideas. However, she was not the Ideal Hausfrau, and thus she ended up becoming completely depressed by her lack of kitchen perfection and shortage of high end kitchen gadgets:


Something had to be done, quickly. She was slipping back into her bachelor ways and – worse – losing her sense of humour.

Then, one fine day, she came across a vintage cookbook:

… and realised that her cooking could actually be a whole hell of a lot worse than it actually was.

This cheered her up. I mean, why make stuff that takes hours and look like this:

…when she could make stuff in 15 minutes that actually tasted pretty good?

So, our heroine started to see the light. She could now pass the high-end without bursting into tears…and actually started to go in and giggle at all the silly gadgets. She stopped coveting $50 balsamic vinegar and truffle oil.

And now, she’s become so confident with her anti-chef status that she would like to start sharing her inspirations tips and secrets with you, gentle reader. You, too, can have fun and turn out edible meals in less time than it takes a TV chef to depress the hell out of you.

And if your family doesn’t like it? Just tell them to get off their lazy @$$es and cook for a change.


Recipes in 25 Words or Less

In which Brouhaha starts trying to achieve her lifelong goal of publishing an entire cookbook on 4 double sided sheets of paper…

Soups

  • Tortellini soup: Put stock in pot. Bring to boil. Throw in tortellini. Simmer six minutes. Turn off heat. Add frozen veg and let sit three minutes. Enjoy.
  • variation: use v-8 juice instead of stock.
  • click here for the full Anti-chef recipe
  • Cock-a-leekie: slice and saute three leeks. Add three cups chicken stock and 1/4 cup barley. Simmer 45 minutes. Turn off heat and add frozen veg. Tasty.

Appetizers

  • Hummus: Blend one large can chickpeas, 1/4 cup each tahini (sesame paste) and lemon juice, one teaspoon cumin, one-half teaspoon smoked paprika, cayenne and salt.
  • Saganaki: slice kefalotiri (or romano) cheese 1/4 inch thick. Dredge with flour. Fry in lots of butter until golden. Serve with lemon wedges and bread. Opa!
  • Spicy Peanut Sauce: mix one cup chunky peanut butter, one tsp each cumin, hot paprika, and chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, salt.  Add hot water to desired consistency.
  • Garlic Puffs: cut one sheet puff pastry into squares.  Brush on garlic-flavoured olive oil.  Sprinkle lots of parmesan over.  Bake 20 minutes at 400 F.

Salads

  • Greek Surprise: chop one red onion. Let sit in lime juice 1/2 hour. Cube watermelon. Add feta, kalamata olives, fresh herbs, salt, pepper. Pour onion/lime over.
  • Fennel Citrus: slice one bulb fennel. Add one tin mandarin oranges with juice, one quarter cup white wine vinegar, salt, pepper. Dress with edible flowers.
  • Moroccan Chickpea: mix one can chickpeas; red bell pepper; carrot; one teaspoon each cumin, coriander; 1/4 teaspoon cayenne; two scallions; garlic; olive oil; lemon juice; salt.  Zippy.
  • Village Greek: cut tomatoes into wedges; salt heavily; let sit.  Add sliced English cucumber, three cloves garlic, chopped onion, cubed feta, kalamata olives, pepper, oil to taste.

Entrees:

  • Lamb Shanks Youvetsi: place lamb shanks in ovenproof casserole.  Add two cups stock, one large can tomatoes, one teaspoon cinnamon, chopped onion, garlic. Cover.  Bake two hours. Hearty!
  • Pasta with Burnt Butter: Heat four tablespoons of butter per serving of pasta in heavy sauce pan until it foams then turns brown. Remove from heat.  Pour over pasta.
  • Chicken a la grecque: Brown boneless chicken breasts. Add sauce grecque (one can cream of chicken soup, half can water, lemon juice, oregano, salt, pepper). Simmer half an hour. Yum.
  • Desperation Curry: Saute one pound ground meat with soy sauce, pepper, onion and garlic (powder will do), red wine vinegar and BBQ sauce. Serve with rice.
  • Perogies: Chop onion and bacon – saute ten minutes. Meanwhile, boil perogies in salted water until they float to top – drain. Saute perogies in bacon mixture. Mmmm.
  • Ribs Like Mom Used to Make: Cut ribs into pieces. Simmer in water with an onion for one hour. Brush with favourite BBQ sauce, cover, bake in hot oven 20 minutes.

Desserts

  • Boozy Trifle: cut stale cake or muffins into cubes. Put in bowl. Soak with booze of your choice. Mix in pudding or custard and fruit or jam.
  • Decadent Delight: got cookies and pudding packs? Crush cookies, layer with pudding in bowl. Mix in whipped cream or cool whip and freeze 20 minutes. Mmm.
  • Lemon Squares: crush shortbread cookies.  Add eight tablespoons melted butter, 1/4 cup sugar, some salt.  Pack into pan and let sit 1/2 hour.  Cover with lemon curd.

Bonus: Baklava in 50 words or less!!

  • Baklava for Lazy People: shred half pound phyllo into large pan. Mix in two cups nuts and half pound melted butter. Bake at 350 degrees 20 minutes. Let cool.
  • add syrup: bring one and a half cups honey, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup orange juice, two cinnamon sticks to boil. Pour over cooled pastry.
  • (I know this one’s a bit of a cheat… but I couldn’t resist!! And everyone loves baklava!)

food – a suicide mission?

This morning, whilst at the Fresh and Wild(ly Expensive) Shop getting my bagel (the cheapest thing in the place!) I spotted a new hot sauce:

In case you can’t read the printing on the label, it’s called Blair’s Death Rain Nitro. Now, I don’t know about you, but to me the concepts of “food” and “nitro” don’t really mesh.

But there’s more! If you want to buy the stuff off their website, you have to read this disclaimer first!

Product Disclaimer

Purchaser of this product hereby acknowledges the intense heat factor of this product and the element of danger if misused. This product is over 100 time hotter than a jalapeno pepper and is a complex blend of fresh peppers and extracts. This product is not a sauce but a food additive and should be used as such only. Furthermore, it should be clearly understood that this is used strictly at the purchaser’s risk.

Purchaser hereby releases Blair’s Sauces and Snacks from all liability, indemnifies and holds harmless Blair’s Sauces and Snacks with respect to any claims of damages or injuries resulting from the use, consumption, ingestion, and/or contact with respect to this product.

Now, ordinarily I would chalk this up to American protectionism against increasing numbers of frivolous lawsuits, or to marketing hype. However, with this Blair’s stuff I actually believe that it could harm you. This is the “heat meter” for this product:

I had seen this guy Blair on the Food Network one time when he won the “Hottest Sauce of the Year” Contest. This contest involved a bunch of masochists misguided gourmands people going and sampling many, many excruciatingly hot chilies, sauces, etc and deciding which one caused the most pain.

Shortly thereafter, they began carrying some of his potato chip line up here. Now, as you all know I am a chip monster. I saw a bag marked “mild” and thought that I should be able to handle those as I do like hot food and I have no taste buds left from all my smoking, anyway.

Well, it is the first time in recorded history that I could not finish a bag of chips. Seriously. These ones nearly killed me – and that was the “mild” version!!

This, perhaps, is not surprising when you note that most of the food products on Blair’s website come with descriptions like this:

This is Mad…Blair has made his Mega Death Sauce in a Dry form. This 1.5 oz Shaker Bottle is Full of Hell…Pure Extract has been Sprayed on Habanero Powder …Feel Alive and Good luck! [emphasis added]

I don’t think I’ve ever been told “Good Luck” before eating something – one should think it wouldn’t be necessary. But, apparently not when it comes to “extreme food”.

So, I ask you – what is this fixation with “extreme” food, anyway? Does everything have to be a contest? Millions throughout the world don’t have enough to eat – but we have so much that we can choose to render it inedible by sprinkling the equivalent of a five alarm fire onto it, then eating it anyway to prove how macho we are?!

That’s enough to leave a sour taste in my mouth, I tell you.

Now, the closest I get to lusting after “extreme food” is drooling over photos of food that looks extremely good. Take, for example, my version of ladenia – Greek pizza:

If you want the recipe, it’s available here at Peter’s blog. I cheated and used store-bought pizza dough, though – so easy! And not a Scoville unit to be found!

And if, like me, you’re into salivating over photos of fabulous food, in addition to Peter’s blog, check out Greek Food Recipes and Reflections by Sam. Both guys are greek-canadian like me, by the way, and they may just be the only two Greek men in the world who like cooking! Where were they, I ask you, before I decided never, ever, ever to marry a Greek guy?!?!? Why did I make that decision again, exactly?

Oh, yeah.

Happy Thursday and don’t let your tongue get burned off. You need it to talk, after all!

preserving my (in)sanity

Well, an update in the weather that I know you’ve all been waiting with virtually bated breath to hear…

(By the way, what is “bated breath”, exactly?  I think I smelled some on the tram today… does “bated breath” mean that something crawled into your windpipe and died and is now being exhaled as you snort and cough all over the pole that I’m hanging on to?!?)

Yesterday was so hot that the charcoal in our new easy light charcoal BBQ (prohibited, by the way, by virtue of my tenancy agreement.  Oh well.) ignited by itself!!!!

JJ: Stop exaggeratin’, lassie!!! Don’t ye think these blog readers already know yer a wee bampot?!?

Yeah, ok, ok… I lied to you.  Actually, those are the remains of the big souvlaki feast we enjoyed last evening…courtesy of Loblaws who had a big sale on these premade things when I popped in Wednesday evening (not as guid as mom and dad’s, but for $1 a stick and no work on my part, they did just fine):

What they did not have at $#&*($&*@#($#@* Loblaws, however – and what I had popped in especially to get – was any local produce.

And herein starteth the rant.  American friends, believe me, I have nothing against your fair country – nor against Peru, nor against South Africa.  However, one might just expect that in Ontario in mid-July one could go to the grocery store and buy… let’s say, local strawberries.  But no.  The closest to “local” I could find there was New Jersey (for those as geographically challenged as I, some 500 clicks/335 miles from here at closest.  This means at least five hours bumping around in some truck just to get here to Toronto, never mind to my local Loblaws from wherever they keep their secret huge warehouse!!!).

Sheesh!!

So, I had to limit my purchases to souvlaki, smoked sausage, four litres of vinegar and sugar.  And no, this is not the fixins for some esoteric greco/scottish summer stew.  Rather, I needed the vinegar for… you guessed it!… more preserves.  And then I hit Bari fruit market for some decent local stuff.

Wednesday’s obsession product was infused vinegars.  From the left: strawberry and vanilla bean, blueberry and lime, ginger and chilli, and Europe’s Best Zen Garden frozen veg mix (I boiled too much vinegar and sugar.  What can I say?)

There are also various other permutations and combinations on the above.  And, if I actually liked salad, I might have been able to tell you some day how they all worked out.  But I don’t like salad.  So, I will have to rely on JJ and other friends to let me know how these all taste – on salad, anyway.  I have been known to dip bread (which I do like, in quantity) in vinegar – yes, yes, I am a wee bampot, I know.

Why all this zeal, especially when it’s not all that prudent to keep a big pot of water boiling for three hours, making it 500 million C with the humidex in my apartment?  Well, I read this article in the Globe and Mail on Wednesday at lunch, which will give you some ideas for fancy flavoured vinegars if you’re so inclined.

I also bought two kilos of “last day special” plum tomatoes at Bari, which I also canned after boiling them in some V-8 juice.

Then, just when I thought I’d had enough, JJ made the mistake of mentioning that he was glad I’d brought in more strawberries, because the ones we’d bought at the weekend had gone somewhat dry…

So, six more 500ml jars of vinegar – three strawberry/mint (at left) and three balsamic/strawberry (at right).

What’s that you say, JJ?  I should learn to like salad, should I?

But why, when there are chips to eat and bread to dip in oil and vinegar??? Huh? Huh?

Oh, and by the way, the sour cherry jam has been a big hit so far with the man of the house:

Wishing you all a lovely Friday and a happy weekend.  Tonight we will be heading out to meet some landlord rep friends (eeek!!!) at an indian restaurant, followed by a pub crawl.

And what does the weekend hold?  I’ll be seeking out some more sour cherries, I suspect…

she likes it hot hot hot…

How do you like this glorious tropical colour?!

Fitting, given that it was so hot today that the thermometer on our balcony cracked!

(This is what you get for buying delicate instruments at the Dollar Store, I guess.)

However, JJ has been busily tending his newly laid balcony garden, and the results are starting to show well:

Don’t ask me what these are. I can tell you, though, that these are little baby marigolds…

… and that this is what they look like when they grow up.

The purple ones in the front are pretty too, no?

I particularly like this one:

Come to think of it, the only plant that is not looking so… ahem, hot… is the one that is in my charge:

It’s a cactus. My colleague L kindly gave me a cutting of it and told me it was impossible to kill. However, she didn’t know that she was consigning a piece of her plant to Kristina the Ripper. The door above the entry to my apartment should read “Abandon hope all ye greenery who enter here”, really.

Also, that lazy@$$ Mr. J “Ah’m rrrretired nou and ah don’t need tae do much of anythin’!” J has completely forgotten to plant my herbs which I put into his capable hands…

So, apparently it’s a very very guid thing that I decided, despite the fact that it was 5 million degrees C/7 million degrees F (10 million degrees C with the humidex), to stop at the shops on the way home and get some more stuff to preserve – otherwise we’d starve this winter, no doubt.

Stay tuned. Knitting progress photos, alas, will have to wait until next week. Despite the fact that I steamed up the apartment all last evening with boiling vats full of jars, I’ve decided that it is simply too hot to knit

Did I ever mention that I detest eggs, by the way?!?

A very, very happy, healthy and humidex-free Thursday to you all!

Marketing 101

Oh, and before you go and hit the back button on your browser – no, not that kind of marketing.

This is just my shorthand for saying that JJ and I hit the shops and markets today… but, as a result, no doubt I will be announcing yet another career change shortly. I intend to become a master purveyor of fine preserves.

(JJ is sceptical.  But I don’t think he’s yet clued in that, as a newly retired person, he will be the ideal free labour force I need to start up my venture.  Do me a favour and don’t tell him – he doesn’t go on the internet, and so can just remain in blissful remote-control-commanding oblivion for the time being, I reckon.  I’ll give him a couple more weeks off…)

We hit Crappy Tire today on a quest for a canning maching. Once we arrived, I realised I don’t actually need one. I just needed this stuff:

…and this:

… and this:

(Oops – sorry – wrong photo… but then again, what Master Chef doesn’t need a little liquid inspiration from time to time?! And those who tell you they don’t – they’re lying.)

But I actually meant to say… and these:

JJ was a bit worried about the acquisition of three dozen mason jars. While we were in Crappy Tire, he had the nerve to ask me if I was planning to convert the contents of our burgeoning deep freezer into canned “guids”. I had no choice but to remind him that it was his bright idea to get a deep freezer in the first place, and that it is his wee fixation on “buy two roasts, get the third free”, family size bags of frozen potato products, and trips to the Scottish butcher that keeps the freezer overflowing.

And besides, I’ve already used six of the jars for my sour cherry jam – so all is not in vain!!!

JJ: Well, lassie, we don’t know if it’s in vain yet air noawt… as ah cahn’t even try the jam for another 24 hours!!!!

KB: Oh, skase (“shuddup” in Greek. The only three words that JJ knows in Greek are skase, skasmos [“shut the $#&*(@$ up”], and s’aghapo [“I love you”]. Not necessarily in the order listed, I hasten to say.)

I got the sour cherries for the jam at this local farmers’ market we checked out – a 10 minute walk from here, Saturdays 2-5.

I was also very, very excited to find huge bunches of basil at the market!

It was so fresh I couldn’t help but process it right away.   If you don’t have a recipe for basil pesto, feel free to use this one.  Six packed cups of leaves from the above (or two huge bunches), and 3/4 cup of these lovely pine nuts (I recommend toasting them in the oven at 350F for 5 minutes – NO MORE):

(oh, and if you’re me, you then add a pinch for guid luck!), and one and a half cups of this stuff:

(I hasten to say that ordinarily I have both this and the regular olive oil in stock in 3 litre metal cans.  But I’m almost out, and Loblaws wanted too much for the large quantity today – so I had to resort to their house brand which was on sale.)… and 10 cloves of this stuff:

(and don’t give me that “what do you mean, 10 cloves?!?!?” bit??  Try it – you’ll like it.  You’ll see.)

Blend it all together in a blender or food processor.  Oh, and you might like to try a dash of this stuff:

(And yes, I do appreciate the irony of making pesto from ultra-fresh basil then adding bottled lemon juice.  But Loblaws today was demanding $1.09 PER LEMON.  Thieves!!!  I refuse to pay those prices, especially when the lemons in question have skin thicker than that of your average elephant.  Welcome to Canada, where the citrus comes from Vanuatu or some such place at this time of year, and the shops charge the gas price for the entire shipment in one $&#*(@* lemon.)

Oh, and don’t forget some of this, to taste

You will end up with approximately three cups of this lovely stuff:

…which, with the addition of parmesan, romano or asiago cheese and some pasta, gets very easily converted into this:

(I know, I know – the photo isn’t that appetising.  But it tasted so good I ended up eating it out of the saucepan.  All of it.)

So, it’s been a very guid day.  We even ended up with this stuff:

Good old Sandy McTire!!  The only downside is that, when having spent all my money before I bought new hair dye, I tried to use this at Shoppers, they wouldn’t accept it!! Bastards.  I got a haircut yesterday, and all the dye is now gone and I need some more quite desperately.  But, no go today.

So, with trepidation, I bring to you a very very rare photo of me with my natural hair colour:

I actually don’t mind this photo, as it doesnae show all the grey at the back.  Stay tuned for my new hair colour choice next week!

Happy rest-of-the-weekend!!