Along the Grapevine


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Sunchoke and Cauliflower Pizza Crust

If you happen to have any Jerusalem artichokes in your garden and you know where they are, now when the top layers of soil have finally thawed is the best time to harvest them. If you don’t have any of your own, you might find some at your local farmers’ market. This is a picture of my patch just before the snow melted – just a few dried up stems from last year.DSC01937

And here is what I dug up last week. DSC01960 DSC01963

Once I scrubbed them, sliced and dried them in a dehydrator at 135 degrees F for about 4 1/2 hours until they were crispy dry, I ground them, first in a food processor and then for a finer grind in my coffee grinder. This is what the resulting flour looks like. It would be lighter in colour if I had peeled them, but since they were freshly dug and the peels still very thin and light coloured I just prepared them skin on. DSC01819

This is an excellent way to store and use Jerusalem artichokes (or sunchokes). It keeps well and can be used in all sorts of savoury recipes and as a flavourful thickener for sauces and stews. In this form, they are less likely to cause any of the awkward digestion problems that cause some people to avoid them all together. I decided to make a gluten-free pizza crust with this batch combined with dehydrated cauliflower. By drying the cauliflower too, you get a stronger flavour from the vegetable and no juices to extract. Just rice the cauliflower and set your oven or dehydrator to a low temperature to dry it gently as with the Jerusalem artichokes. Once dried, grind it into a flour. For the pizza dough I used: 1/3 cup sunchoke flour 1/2 dried cauliflower 3 Tbsp coconut flour 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed 1 cup water Simply mix it in a food processor and form into a bowl. Roll out into the size and shape you want. Add whatever toppings you want and bake it in the oven as you would for any pizza until the edges start to turn a golden brown. DSC01825

I used pesto, grated cheese and some dandelion capers, but then I still had my cast on my arm and wasn’t going to make it complicated. I could not fool anyone into thinking this was a bread crust, but then why would I want to? The taste of artichoke and cauliflower combine to make a very light and easy to eat crust, and when you want to take a break from the wheat for a bit, this is a wonderful solution. I am sharing this novel pizza with all the party-goers at Fiesta Friday, graciously hosted by Angie from The Novice Gardener, co-hosted by Ginger at Ginger&Bread and Loretta at Safari of the Mind.


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Maple and Date Upside Down Cornbread Muffins

DSC01948 It seems only fitting that I post one more maple syrup recipe as maple syrup is what is happening at our place. There is still snow in the ground and while a few green edibles are just barely visible, there is nothing but sap for us to harvest. DSC01946 Besides enjoying our own syrup, I had a chance to try some butternut syrup – a much appreciated gift from a sister. Made the same way as maple syrup, it takes four times as much sap, but if you have butternut trees I would say it is well worth the effort, especially since it is not available at the supermarkets. It has a buttery, fudge-like flavour and on pancakes or waffles is second only to maple syrup.

For Angie’s 63rd Fiesta Friday, which I am pleased to be co-hosting this week with Julianna at Foodie on Board, I made gluten-free cornmeal muffins with a buttery, maple date sauce. I hope you will drop in and see what Angie’s other guests have prepared. If you have a recipe you’d like to share, just follow the guidelines – so easy!

Since most cornbreads are served with butter, I made these with a generous amount of butter in them. That and the sticky sweetness from the dates and the syrup means they are good just on their own.

Maple and Date Upside Down Cornbread Muffins

Ingredients 2 cups cornmeal 1 tsp baking powder 1 tsp salt 3 eggs, beaten 2 cups milk 3 Tbsp melted butter 1/2 cup butter plus 3 Tbsp 1/2 cup maple syrup plus 3 Tbsp 9 medjool dates

Method Mix the cornmeal, baking powder and salt in one bowl and in another the eggs, milk and melted butter. Combine the two mixtures well and allow to stand for about 10 minutes. Divide the butter into 18 pieces, one for each muffin, and place in muffin tins. Do the same with the syrup. Pit the dates and cut them in half lengthwise. Place them on top of the butter maple mixtures with the cut part facing up. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins. Bake at 450 degrees F for about 12 minutes, or when they spring back when pressed. Remove from the oven, loosen with a knife and invert then onto a rack to cool.

DSC01949 These could be made just as well in a cake or loaf tin. If you don’t have maple syrup, another sweet syrup or honey can be used.DSC01954


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Foam-enting Interest in Maple Syrup

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Here in Ontario maple syrup season is in full swing, and for the second year we are beginning to boil down the sap from our sugar maples and a few Norway maples too. The latter don’t provide as much sap, and it will not be as sweet, but once we’ve set up the apparatus, may as well make use of what is available to us.

We managed to find some second-hand metal buckets which I like much better than the blue plastic ones we already had from last year.

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We also have a new sugar shack, which is actually the now-empty wood shed.DSC01938

We are following the same process as last year which you can read about here.

My blog has been dormant for a while. We were off in Spain for a couple of weeks, and my arm still keeps me from doing much in the kitchen, so as I cautiously resume my adventures in backyard foraging, I wanted to bring something pretty special to Angie’s Fiesta Friday. This recipe is special because it uses the most iconic of all Ontario’s products, but in a way which is thoroughly innovative, fun, and Delicious.

I got the idea from an esteemed fellow blogger, Poppy, at Bunny Kitchen who shared an extraordinary idea for making a fluffy chocolate mousse out of the liquid from unsalted canned chickpeas. It seemed a bit risky to me, but her gorgeous pictures convinced me I should give it a try. Since she’d already proven the technique with her own chocolate version, I had to try it with maple syrup, and lots of it.

I used dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked them in the usual way. Once cooked, I chilled them, then poured off the liquid. From about one and a half cups of peas, I had one cup of liquid which, as it turned out, was plenty.

Using a hand mixer I beat the liquid for about ten minutes. I then added 1/2 tsp guar gum, 100 ml of sugar (I used maple), and gradually added 250 ml maple syrup, beating all the while. This is what it looked like – about two litres in all.

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As promised, this made a super light and delectable mousse. With all the maple, no hint of bean flavour came through, and the maple flavour was strong but the sweetness somewhat tempered. Perfect for so many things!

On its own, it was a delicious dessert, but I also wanted to see how else I could use it. Here are 3 ways I served it.

1. As a garnish for a fruit pie.

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2. As icing for cupcakes.

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3. As a dessert layered with banana walnut cake and topped with some violet syrup I had from last spring.

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I also tried freezing it to make ice cream, adding a little more syrup to make a swirl, but it didn’t really freeze – just got colder.

Some tips to consider when making this dessert.

  • A little goes a long way. Try to calculate how much you’ll actually need. The topping on the cakes has kept well beyond a day, but what was left in the bowl began to separate and lost some of its frothiness. Beating it again solves the separation problem, but it is no longer as airy.
  • The mixture is too thin to make a heavy frosting capable of holding its shape, so allow for some runnyness.
  • Any sweetener would work with this. Just add gradually and taste as you do so.

There are plenty more possibilities I can think of for using this technique and I expect to have some fun with it. I hope you do too.


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Spiked Crabapple Cheesecake

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I don’t often bake cakes these days, but am always happy to oblige when there is an occasion – especially when I can use some foraged ingredient from my backyard. I had two constraints in choosing what kind of cake I would bake. First, the birthday girl wanted something gluten-free and second, I have one arm in a cast due to a recent mishap leaving me less dextrous than usual. So what to make with no gluten and one hand? Cheesecake was the perfect solution. I just needed some help with cracking eggs! I still had some crabapple preserve in the freezer, and frankly I don’t think there are many fruits that pair any better with cheese than a nice tart apple. If I had any Calvados, that would have been my choice of liqueur, but brandy seemed a good alternative. I used an 8 inch spring form pan, placed it in a larger pan which was placed in another larger pan filled with water. I believe that prevented the cake from having any cracks on the surface when baked.   DSC01830

Spiked Crabapple Cheesecake

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 1 1/2 hours
  • Print

Ingredients

1 cup almonds

1/2 cup hemp hearts

4 oz butter

a pinch of salt

1 cup plain yogurt

8 oz cream cheese

1/2 cup honey

3 eggs

1 cup crabapple preserve

1/4 cup brandy

Method

Grind the nuts and add hemp hearts and butter and salt. Press the mixture into an 8″ spring form pan lined with parchment paper. Blend the next 4 ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Pour on top of the nut mixture. Bake at 325 degrees F for about one hour, until the custard has set. Meanwhile heat just to mix the brandy with the preserve. Allow to partially cool and pour over the cooled cheesecake.

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The result was a little uneven looking due to my one-handedness, but delicious nonetheless. I think some toasted almond slices on the sides would have made it prettier but I can’t think that the flavour could have been improved at all.

Featured at Fiesta Friday.


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Highbush Cranberry Toffee

Making up recipes with foraged ingredients in the winter usually means a little foraging in the pantry for all that is dried, pickled, frozen or fermented. I never actually expected to find fresh edibles well into February in this area, and certainly not juicy berries. But here is one little shrub, much overlooked and maligned, which is at its best in late winter. highbush cranberries #1highbush cranberries #2 Highbush cranberry (viburnum trilobum) is not a cranberry at all but a deciduous shrub which can grow to 4 meters in height. Its leaves are similar in appearance to maple leaves. Clusters of white blossoms appear in the spring, and the green berry turns to orange and then a bright red in October or November. No wonder it is often used as a decorative landscaping plant, standing out particularly in winter months where the berries afford a beautiful contrast to the snow. It is an easy plant to identify with its clusters of berries measuring about 15mm in length and 12 mm in width. They have a single, flat white seed, and a pungent smell which is less strong in the winter after a few freezes and thaws. Rich in vitamin C, it is maybe a too bitter for many palates, but like many bitter foods has a good flavour once sweetened. DSC01817 Further to my experiments with cooking with these wild cranberries, I decided to make a vegan toffee using just sugar and coconut milk with the berries. First I pureed 1 cup berries. If you want a very smooth puree, pass them through a food mill to remove all the seeds and skin. DSC01821 This was added to 2 (400 ml) tins of coconut milk and 2 cups of sugar. Cook the mixture on a low heat until it reaches 270 degrees F on a candy thermometer, or between the hard and soft ball stages. This took approximately one and a half hours. DSC01818 DSC01820 Once cooked, pour into a 9 inch sq. pan lined with parchment paper and allow to cool completely. Cut into whatever size and shape you like and store in a very cool place. They are quite sticky when at room temperature. DSC01836 The flavour reminds me of a tamarind sweet – very creamy and soft. I will be taking these to Fiesta Friday – do drop by to see what the other guests have brought.


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Baby Beaver Tails

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Before you leave, please don’t think I have been doing unspeakable things to baby beavers. Most residents of this region would know what I am referring to, but for the rest of you let me explain. Beaver tails are a fried yeast dough, popular especially at this time of year. They were first introduced in the Ontario town of Killaloe in 1978, and have since become a de rigueur winter treat, especially when out skating, especially on Ottawa’s Rideau Canal.

I was inspired to make some for two reasons. First, I am contemplating going skating on the Canal, the world’s largest outdoor, natural skating rink in a couple of days, and thinking I would have to have a beaver tail. After all, in this cold weather a 7.8 km skate calls for something, and that is what you get on the canal. That and hot chocolate.

The second reason is that tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday. It is traditional to eat pancakes on that day, but I figured a lot of other people would be making pancakes and I had nothing new to offer, so with my skate in mind I thought of beaver tails. I have made baby ones because the enormous ones they serve on the canal are just too much. Also, more small individual ones means more types of toppings. And the toppings are where it gets interesting. As soon as they come out of the pan, they are often sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, but maple sugar, jams or preserves can also be used to sweeten them. Alternatively, savoury toppings like garlic butter or strong grated cheese are popular. I just sampled a couple with my own backyard fare – a sweet sumac butter on one and maple butter on the other.

Baby Beaver Tails


Ingredients

1/4 cup warm water

2 Tbsp sugar

2 tsp yeast

1/2 cup warm milk

1 egg

2 Tbsp melted butter

2 3/4 cups flour plus flour for rolling

1/2 tsp salt

oil or lard for frying

Method

Dissolve the sugar in the water and add yeast. Let stand a few minutes until it becomes foamy. Mix the yeast with warm milk, egg and melted butter. In a large bowl combine flour and salt. Add the wet ingredients and combine well. Turn out onto a well floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes. Place in a clean bowl, brush with a little oil or melted butter, cover with a cloth and allow to rise to double the size, about two hours.

Punch down and form into balls about the size of a small egg. Roll each one into an oblong shape about 1/4 inch thick. Fry in hot oil or lard about two minutes on each side or until they are nicely coloured. You can deep fry them, but I used about 1/12 inches of oil in a small pan to reduce the amount of oil, and that worked fine.

Drain and sprinkle or spread liberally with whichever topping you choose. Serve warm.

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Be sure to roll them fairly thin as they do puff up a lot when fried. The result is a fluffy light pastry with a crisp exterior, something like a cross between a do-nut and a pancake. They can be frozen and reheated, or you could freeze the dough after its first rising in its punched down state and fry them the next day – especially if you plan to have them for breakfast.

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Have you had a beaver tail? If so, what flavour do you prefer with it?


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Pine Pasta

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This is not the height of foraging season. We have loads of snow and the ground is frozen and completely inaccessible. Yet there is a surprising amount of wild edibles that can still be found and used at this time of year – mostly from trees. The other day I had the pleasure of being invited to hike through a private woods with well-marked snowmobile tracks. Among all the evergreens, apple, oak and birches there were a good number of white pine trees.

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I chose this particular tree because first of all it offers needles which are not only edible but have a very pleasant flavour in small quantities. The other reason I prefer to use them in this space is they are so easy to identify. Their long soft needles are arranged in bunches of five – the only tree with this particular characteristic.

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I pick only the needles at the end of branches where they are less likely to be covered with any of the sap. Of course I choose trees which are easy to reach, but mature enough that the needles are good and long as in the picture above. Make sure that the area where you pick has not been treated with chemicals.

Once picked, remove the brown tip at the base. To dry the needles thoroughly, place them in a dehydrator or oven at about 50 degrees C or 130 degrees F for about ten hours, until they snap when bent. Then they need to be ground to a fine powder in a coffee or spice grinder.

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Like this, they can be stored in a cool dark place for several months and used in baking, marinades, sauces etc.

I decided to blend them in a pasta recipe. I used spelt flour, but you can substitute plain white flour in the same quantities.

Pine Pasta


Ingredients

2 cups flour

3 eggs

2 Tbsp oil

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp pine powder

Method

Mix the flour, salt and pine powder. Make a well and add the eggs and oil, mixing this together with the flour and blending in the flour bit by bit. Or do as I did and just mix it all in the food processor. Once the dough has all come together, remove it and knead on a floured surface for about five minutes until it is smooth and elastic-feeling. Wrap it in a damp towel or plastic and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.

Divide into four pieces or more, roll out very thin and cut in strips.

Put the noodles into boiling salted water for about four minutes or until the pasta feels al dente.

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I found the taste of these noodles very pleasant and not at all overpowered by the pine, which did impart an interesting and delicate flavour. Any of your favourite pasta sauce recipes would work well with this, but I went for a non-saucy mixture of vegetables and chicken. I first fried some onion and portobello mushroom, a few pieces of roasted chicken and then added greens (dandelion and Chinese broccoli) just long enough to wilt them. Tossing the whole mixture into the pasta, I then seasoned it generously with my sumac pepper.

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Served with a glass of sumac mead and followed with a dessert of maple walnut baklava, it was the most foraged dinner I have ever served – and all this in the dead of winter.

Pine Pasta on Punk Domestics
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