Along the Grapevine


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Snow Kachang

We are just now getting our first real blizzard of the season. It has been snowing all day, and tomorrow we may just be snowed in. This is what it looked like yesterday when we went for a walk on the lake.

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And this is what it looked like today in the early hours of the blizzard.

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So what do we do when we are getting snowed in? We make snow kachangs.

Actually, I’ve never made one before, but decided to give it a try for the second part of Angie’s Fiesta Friday first anniversary celebration where we have been invited to bring a main course or dessert.

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This recipe is based on a favourite sweet dish of mine that I used to enjoy in Singapore called Ice Kachang, usually spelt kacang. It was a while before I had built up enough curiosity to try it, but once I did I thought it the best way to cool down when on the town, and something that I would have to recreate when back home in Canada. It has taken me a long time.

When I first saw it, I was not impressed. All I could see was a tall pyramid of shaved ice, with 3 or 4 garish coloured syrups poured over it. I’m pretty sure the green colour was made from pandan, but have no idea what the others were. When I finally ordered one, I found that this pyramid covered a delicious mixture of adzuki beans, sweet corn, little cubes of agar agar or jelly and a very sweet brown sugar syrup. Sometimes other things like tapioca or coconut milk were added making a kind of sweet pudding salad. Of all the pictures I have found on line, none resembles what I had in Singapore. The original recipe is Malaysian, and seems to have a lot of the pudding on top of the ice shavings. Other pictures show all the ingredients including the ice mixed together. I am sticking with the pyramid shape and only syrup on top.

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For my recipe I used snow, of course. It takes quite a bit of the white stuff, and I failed to make a really tall pyramid. But as I assembled it outside to give me time to get pictures, my fingers were becoming numb with the cold and harvesting any more snow was out of the question.

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I intended to use adzuki beans, but was unable to find any, so settled for small kidney beans. I figured with the syrup everything would be sweet enough anyway, and I was right. Besides beans I used sweet corn, cubes from the pealed leaves of my aloe vera plant, and our own maple syrup.

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Once these ingredients are assembled in any proportion you like, just pile on the snow. The syrup I used to drizzle on top was some wild grape syrup I had lingering in my fridge, but any sweet syrup will do, preferably one made of fruit or berries, or pandan if you are lucky enough to have any.

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The result, which we did bring indoors to eat, was every bit as good as the Singaporean version but with a distinctive Canadian touch. This is a recipe you can make your own with whatever local ingredients you have, and ice shavings if you don’t have clean snow available.

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Thanks to Angie at The Novice Gardener as well as this week’s co-hosts, Nancy at Feasting with Friends and Selma at Selma’s Table for managing this event, and to everyone else, enjoy the party!


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Fermented Sunchoke Dip (Vegan) for Fiesta Friday’s First Anniversary

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It’s Friday, and that means it is time to head over to Angie’s place at The Novice Gardener for Fiesta Friday. This week is even more special though, since it is the 52nd, thus completing a full year of fun, recipe-sharing and meeting dozens of talented bloggers who all contribute to making this such a popular and successful event. To mark this milestone our fabulous hostess Angie is dedicating two weeks to the celebration. This first week we are asked to bring the starters, i.e. drinks and appetizers, while next week we will present the main dishes and desserts. I have noticed there has been a lot of buzz over the past few days, so I expect it is going to be a smash. You are welcome to join us and bring an original dish of your own by Wednesday. Just follow the simple guidelines as outlined here. If you haven’t prepared anything, you are still welcome to come and join the party where you will see what all the buzz is about.

As co-host, along with my compatriot from the west Julianna at Foodie on Board, I will try to make myself useful, so if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

I would also like to extend a big thank you to Angie for organizing this weekly party. She has been such an inspiration, and provided a venue where we have been able to make new friends, share ideas and support for one another, and jolly up the whole blogging experience for so many. I therefore suggest we help ourselves to a drink and toast our dear host before going any further!

And now for my offering to the celebration. It is an appetizer to be served with crackers or vegetables, inspired by that ever so popular recipe for artichoke dip. I have made mine with fermented Jerusalem artichokes, a rich (creamless) creamy dip with lots of flavour and healthful at the same time.

I have been using Jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes, quite a bit, but some readers are still not convinced to eat them. I took the recipe for the ferment from this post where the problems of sunchokes are candidly outlined, and it seems that fermenting them resolves the problem. I believe it!

If you are not familiar with this odd little vegetable, this is what it looks like.

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Once I fermented a jar of them, the dip was simple enough to make.

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I used one part sunchokes, 1/2 part raw cashews soaked in water, and 1/4 part steamed and chopped greens. I used Swiss chard, but spinach, kale, arugula, or just about any green would work well. I blended the drained nuts and sunchokes until smooth, and then mixed in the greens. There is enough flavour and seasoning in the ferment that you need add nothing else, other than perhaps a little garnish of paprika or sumac powder.

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Beans with Sumac (Two Versions)

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Many people keep sumac powder in their pantries to add some lemony tang and colour, particularly to Middle Eastern dishes. I see it being used in an increasing number of recipes, and am happy that this versatile and tasty spice is catching on. What many people don’t realize is that our local staghorn sumac in Ontario, as well as neighbouring provinces and norther states, is the same product. It is plentiful, easy to identify and gather, has a long shelf life, and is easy to turn into powder or liquid. For information on its nutritional value, I recommend looking at this article.

It has been a tough year for gathering sumac in this area – just too much rain. The rains tend to wash away the tasty bits, so I only collect sumac after a long dry spell. The good thing about winter here is there is little or no rain, and the sumac is still good for picking, so I set off last week to restock my pantry. A full five minutes of picking off a few clusters of berries was sufficient to fill a sack to be dried or soaked.

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I have figured out a few things about preserving sumac.

First, when drying, it is simpler to dry the whole cluster. It doesn’t take any longer, and the berries are easier to remove when dry. Just pop them all in a single layer in a low oven or dehydrator and leave them until they feel completely dry, about five hours. Each cluster is made up of several small cones, so if you just pull them apart, you can easily rub the berries off right down to the centre stalk.

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The dried berries need only be ground (I use a coffee grinder) and then sifted.

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The second thing I learned is if you want a liquid infusion, just covering them with tepid water and letting them soak for anywhere from 10 minutes to a couple of hours. Strain off the liquid through a cloth. I then repeated this process with more water and the second batch was as dark and tasty as the first. I prefer this method to simmering them, which although gives a deeper infusion, will destroy the vitamin C. If cooking with the infusion anyway, this is not a problem, but when I use the product raw, it is best to preserve its full nutritional value.

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Now that I have a good stock of sumac, I will be posting more recipes using this super local super food. Meanwhile, I did make a recipe for baked beans I have been meaning to get to for some time now. A ridiculously easy and satisfying dish for the winter months, it needed a bit of a makeover to move with the times. The addition of sumac gives it a mildly fruity flavour and richer colour than the original recipe. It is as easy to make a big batch as a small batch, and any extra can be frozen for later use without losing any of its original flavour or texture.

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I divided the recipe in half – to make one vegan and the other with meat. For the meat version, I used pork crackling left over from my lard rendering, but bacon, pork or sausage, raw or cooked, would work just as well.

Beans with Sumac


Ingredients

3 cups cooked navy beans

1 cup onion, chopped

1 (or more) clove garlic, chopped

1/2 cup pork crackling (for a meat version)

1/2 tsp dried mustard powder

2 tsp chili powder

2 Tbsp sumac

1 tsp salt

1 cup pureed tomatoes

2 Tbsp dark molasses

1 cup sumac juice or water

Method

Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan or slow cooker. Bring to a boil and then simmer gently, covered, for 3-4 hours. Add more liquid if they become too dry.

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I am bringing this hearty winter dish to Angie’s 51st Fiesta Friday. You are cordially invited to drop in and join the party, with or without a contribution of your own. You are sure to meet some talented bloggers and find some original and tantalizing recipes. Hope to see you there!


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Fish Pate with Toasted Almonds

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The only local fish I have been able to acquire has been walleye, sometimes called pickerel, which is why all my fish recipes so far have been on this one particular species. It is a freshwater fish, very versatile, with a mild flavour. That is why whenever a kind fisherman offers me some of his catch, I gladly accept it and try and create a new recipe to do it justice. Since I have been making pates and potted meats lately, I decided to try a fish pate – something I could use for quick meals and for serving guests on short notice. It is also a perfect party recipe to bring to the fiftieth Fiesta Friday event. DSC01615

Most fish pates call for smoked fish. I have yet to take up smoking, although a smoker is on my wish list. For the time being, I did add a few drops of liquid smoke, but the recipe does not require it – just an afterthought for those of us who like the flavour. I did find a recipe which resembled what I had in mind to start with, except with toasted almond slivers added which seemed a good idea in terms both of flavour and augmenting the quantity of the final product. Here is the recipe I referred to for fresh trout and almond pate. DSC01616

And here is my own recipe I used combining my own idea and the toasted almonds.

Fish Pate with Toasted Almonds

Ingredients

1 lb walleye

1/2 cup slivered almonds

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

juice of one lemon

1/2 cup sour cream

1 Tbsp each of fresh dill and parsley

salt and pepper to taste

a few drops of liquid smoke to taste (optional)

Method

Poach the fish in a little water in a 350 degree oven until the fish is cooked right through. While this is cooking, brown the almond slices in a skillet with 2 Tbsp of the butter. Set aside. Once the fish is cooked, remove from the oven, pour off any liquid (and keep for some other use), cool and remove any skin and bones. Put the fish in a food processor along with the remaining Tbsp of butter, the toasted almonds in butter and all the other ingredients. Process until it everything is evenly blended. Pour into a serving dish and/or in jars to be frozen for later use. Serve at room temperature on crusty bread, crackers or with salad.

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Related articles:  https://alongthegrapevine.wordpress.com/2014/03/07/pickerel-in-grape-leaves-with-mushroom-zaatar-sauce/


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Maple Chestnut Nog (Vegan)

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This is the time of year when we really can make the most of the maple syrup we made in the spring. Not much of it gets used during the summer months, so I find I still have a good reserve to experiment with. Of course, there are always the tried and true recipes, but using it as a sweetener for much more than baking and pancakes/waffles has become one of my favourite challenges during the winter months.

So for this first Fiesta Friday of 2015, I am bringing a vegan version of egg nog to drink a toast to all my friends at this event – especially to the ever gracious hostess, Angie @thenovicegardener  and her two co-hosts this week. Mr Fitz @CookingwithMrFitz and Kaila @GF Life 24/7.

I often choose to pair maple with walnuts – an easy match for so many recipes. For a change, I used chestnuts. They are rich and creamy, and I believe the sweetest of all the nuts. They are no longer grown in this area, and it is difficult to find really good ones, but I made use of what I was able to find. A vegan milk, such as almond, a hint of spice, maple syrup and possibly a splash of dark rum make this a wonderful alternative to the traditional drink.

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If you don’t have fresh chestnuts available, you might find tinned chestnut puree in specialty shops, or use unsalted cashews in their place.

If using fresh chestnuts, you will need to roast them first. Simply score a cross with the end of a sharp knife through the shell on the flat side. Roast them in the oven at 350 for about 45 minutes, until the nut feels soft when pierced with a knife. Allow to cool and peel off the outer shell. Pour boiling water over the nuts and leave for a couple of minutes. Cool under cold water, and the papery layer under the shell should slip off easily. Then chop and measure.

For this recipe, I used 3/4 a cup of chestnuts, hot water to cover, 2 cups of almond milk, two Tbsp maple syrup and 2 Tbsp of dark rum. This last ingredient can be omitted, in which case you might want a bit more syrup to taste.

Once chestnut mixture has cooled, put everything in the blender and process until it is completely smooth. Chill and pour in glasses. Sprinkle a little nutmeg on top.

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