Along the Grapevine


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Wild Cranberries

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The highbush cranberry (viburnum trilobum) is a fruit I only recently discovered, and happily so. It not only provides beautiful, easy pickable fruit, it is also a good landscaping plant, with white flowers in the spring, and burgundy leaves in the fall. The berries begin as orange and turn to bright translucent red when they are ripe. They are best after frost, and stay on the vine well into winter, unless animals and birds get desperate enough to eat them.

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Their survival is probably due to their bitter taste. Although they resemble cranberries in colour and flavour, they are actually a member of the honeysuckle family. They can be used much the same as cranberries, and if you like the strong flavour of cranberries, you are likely to appreciate these.

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There has recently been much written on them on the internet. I will just say that, as with any new plant, you should approach it with some caution, and make sure you don’t have any reaction to it before consuming a large amount.

Like cranberries, they make good sauces and jellies, particularly for festive occasions such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. I have so far made three recipes with these, and frozen some for later use. After they are removed from the stems and rinsed, they can be frozen as is.

Dried Wild Cranberries

Sprinkle the berries liberally with cane sugar. Place on parchment in a pan and put them in a 200 degree F oven for three to four hours, until they are dry but still soft (like raisins). They are good on their own, or used in baking, with cereal, or wherever you like to use dried fruit.

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They have one flat, soft, heart-shaped seed in them, but they are chewy and do not interfere with the enjoyment of them.

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Wild Cranberry Liqueur

Place berries with roughly an equal weight of white sugar in a non-metal receptacle with a tight fitting lid. Pour vodka over the fruit to cover. Stir it once a day until the sugar dissolves, and allow to age for one month. Strain and bottle.

Wild Cranberry Sauce

Mix berries in a saucepan with 1/2 the same volume of sugar. I used two cups of berries and 1 cup sugar. Gently heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Continue cooking until the sauce is a good consistency and the berries are well cooked. They take considerably longer than cranberries. You may add a little citrus zest or any spices you like, but no liquid, as this will only extend the cooking time and result in overcooking of the fruit.


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Falafel Chips

DSC_0157I came across falafel chips in Trader Joe’s when I visited San Francisco last year. Not knowing where to buy these here in Canada, I decided I had to come up with a recipe for them, and even considered starting a falafel chip enterprise. Recently, while still trying to work on my own recipe, I came across another brand of falafel chips in a general store in Sydenham, Ont., so my idea of commercialising my own was dashed. Nonetheless, I am pleased that someone else is doing it, even if they are imported. They are made by a company called ‘flamous’ (sic) and are sold as Falafel Chips.

Even if you can buy these, or the ones from Trader Joe’s, you might be interested in making them yourself. They are cheaper, fresher, and you can alter the recipe to your own taste and according to what is available. They are excellent on their own, or served with hummus, guacamole, or whatever you fancy.

The recipes I have come up with are not so much recipes as ‘a method’. As long as you have chick pea flour (besan) cumin and water, you can make these. You only need to make sure the dough is not too sticky but sticky enough to stick together. The method of rolling them out is suprisingly simple, as long as you remember to oil the parchment paper. Sometimes I add oil, sometimes not, it seems to make little difference. The more herbs and spices you add, the more complex the flavour, so feel free to come up with your own variations. The first recipe contains dried dandelion leaves, which give them those green speckles, and the second one contains tomato paste and some cornmeal.

FALAFEL CHIPS I
2 cups chick pea flour
2 Tbsp dried vegetables (greens or root vegetables, such as onions, carrots, turnips)
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 large clove garlic, minced (or dried garlic)
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp water

Mix together all the dry ingredients. Add water until the mixture holds together, but is not sticky.
Lightly grease two sheets of parchment paper and put small dobs (about the size of a grape) of batter spaced about 2 inches apart.
Place the other piece of parchment over this, and roll out with a rolling pin, until the chips are thin enough that when touched with your finger, you can feel the hard surface below.There should be no squishy feeling of the dough.
Peel off the top layer of parchment, place the chips, still on their paper, on a cookie tin, and back in a preheated oven for 20 minutes at 275 Fahrenheit.
The chips should be an even gold colour. Store in a container with a tight-fitting lid to keep them crisp.

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FALAFEL CHIPS II
1 1/2 cups chick pea flour
2 Tbsp dried onion
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin 2 tsp coarse salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed, or equivalent dried garlic
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp tomato paste or 2 Tbsp tomato puree
1/4 cup + water.
Follow the same procedure for the first recipe.