Archive | September, 2010

Creamy Chowder on a Chilly Autumn Day

28 Sep

by Amanda Halfpenny

My last guest blog post described a cool refreshing smoothie that I made on a hot day this summer and so I thought it would be highly appropriate if my next post be on a warm autumn dish.  I spent my summer eating mostly salads because I wanted to avoid turning on my stove or my oven in the suffocating heat! Now that fall weather is clearly here to stay, I have found myself fantasizing about warm creamy comfort food. Although other librarians on this blog have already posted their suggestions for yummy soups, in the autumn, you can really never eat too much soup so when I saw this recipe for a Broccoli, Red Pepper, and Cheddar chowder posted on a friend’s Facebook page, I knew I had to try making it myself! Since today was my first autumn day wearing gloves (it was extremely chilly and rainy in New Brunswick today), it was so much fun to make this creamy chowder that succeeded in filling my apartment with a cozy warmth and flavourful smell.

chowder

Broccoli, Red Pepper, and Cheddar Chowder

You might also note in the picture that I am reading (Heat Wave by Richard Castle) while enjoying my meal. With delicious chowder and great reads who cares if the autumn weather outside is chilly? Happy eating and reading!

Check out Amanda’s bio on the Contributors page.

A is for autumn, A is for apple

25 Sep
(and X is for waXing philosophical)

The hordes are back at school, the suits are out in full force downtown, and the air is crisp – summer, alas, is waning.

Autumn is my favourite season. Can you smell it? It smells like a fresh start, a clear head, a sweater, a pile of leaves, a freshly-stoked fireplace. It tastes like turkey, fresh cranberries, gourds of various shapes and sizes, and apples.

Always, apples.

One of the (many) strange (and in this case, lovely) things about being the child of an Anglican minister (well, of two Anglican ministers, but let’s just let that go for now, ok? Ok…) is that you get to discover new communities every time your parental unit is moved to a new parish. Thus we moved from the wilds of Laval (it was the wilds back then, sort of) to walks along the riverfront in Verdun, to fireworks in St Lambert, to the rolling hills of the Montérégie.

We lived in Otterburn Park, nestled at the foot of Mont St. Hilaire (a mountain I climbed several times during our three years there). Were you to jump in a car and drive along Chemin de la Montagne, hugging Mont St. Hilaire’s south peak (as we did every Sunday), you would reach Rougemont, one of three points in my mother’s parish, and the heart of Quebec’s apple industry.

No place ever spoke to me like Rougemont did. Granted, the small town had all the right Alex ingredients: a deserted, romantic graveyard, a picturesque, tiny church, a host of eccentric characters, and (let’s be honest here) horses. It also, of course, had orchards: orchards as far as the eye could see, leading up in pin-straight rows or haphazard zigzags to the Rougemont mountain itself. I learned a great deal about farming in those years: I saw early mornings and late nights, biting frost and blighting sun. I, less so than my mother but still enough to make an impression, was invited into the old farmhouses of Anglophone rural Quebec: butter churners and rocking chairs, wooden stools and hiking boots. I ate fresh corn on the cob, I bore witness to the most magnificent Thanksgiving altar displays; singing the hymn “Come Ye Thankful People Come” never had such humble significance. I also got my first shock from an electric fence, but never mind that now.

I picked apples: up ladders and down. I ate apples: fresh apples, cooked apples, apple crisp, apple pie. I grew to love and respect the trees and their fruit; I could identify dozens of types of apples by smell and taste.

I am lucky enough to still have a Rougemont farmer in my life; one of the lesser blessings is the bags of apples he brings me every autumn. I’ve moved from Otterburn, to Bedford, then Pointe Claire, and Montreal (2 apartments; 1 condo), and now Ottawa; the bags follow. There are few more happy phrases uttered than, “Alexandra, I’ve got some Cortlands for you!” Cortlands remain my favourites: their tart, crisp, clear white insides, and the way their red skins bleed a little when you cut them, are a constant marvel (wait, that sounds weird, doesn’t it? Have I been watching too many criminal dramas?). My mother favours Paula Reds; my husband likes Spy apples (which I turn my nose up as an Ontario apple). I hate nothing more than the wax they put on apples to give them a shine in the grocery store: those things look to me like the fruit equivalent of someone with a fake tan: why take a good thing to extremes? I am also a local cider fiend: the best, in my book, is Covey Hill’s own Mystique. An excellent article about the cider route in Quebec is here, featuring Rougemont’s most well-known cider-making resident, Michel Jodoin.

In a life somewhat geographically schizophrenic, nothing takes me back to lazy teenage days in the country quite like a fresh bag of apples, tied tight and stowed in the car, promises to future autumn afternoons.

Some apple factoids to crunch on:

  • Apple saplings came over to the New World with Champlain
  • That cad, Sir George Simpson, turned up on the shores of the most westerly HBC fort with apple seeds tucked into his vest pocket
  • McIntosh apples are as Canadian as, well, I’ll let you fill that blank in…: Every McIntosh can trace itself back to one discovered in 1811 by John McIntosh in Dundas County, Ontario.
  • Did you know that Canadian researchers analysed eight popular types of apples and found Red Delicious, Northern Spy and Ida Red had the most antioxidants? Guess I should play nice, then.
  • Apples should be stored in a cool, dark, slightly moist place: I put mine in the crisper drawer of the fridge, with a dark, wet tea towel completely covering them (yes, I chortle when I tuck them back in).

My favourite apple crisp recipe (adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be A Domestic Goddess  Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking and The Yoga Cookbook: Vegetarian Food for Body and Mind, by the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres):

Filling ingredients:

  • 4 large apples, sliced into eighths, skin on
  • 25 g raisins
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

Topping ingredients:

  • 60 g chopped walnuts
  • 2 1/2 cups granola (I swear by this stuff)
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 2/3 cups honey and/or maple syrup (I like to mix both)

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Mix the filling ingredients together and transfer into an 8-inch square baking dish. Combine flour with butter, then honey and/or syrup and mix well. Stir the liquid mixture into the granola. Spoon the topping over the filling. Bake for 45 minutes.

Too much lettuce? Make soup!

18 Sep

by Jill Boruff

Each week we receive a lovely basket of organic veggies from a local farmer. Most of the time, we manage to eat the deliciousness before the next batch arrives the following week. However, in the past two weeks, we received three heads of lettuce–more lettuce then two people can possibly keep up with. I love big green salads, but there are only so many that I can handle in a week. I certainly didn’t want the lettuce to go to waste. A colleague at work had mentioned lettuce soup, so I turned to the Internet, and found the following soup recipe in the New York Times. Though I was a little skeptical at first, the soup turned out to be really good. It is much like a leek and potato soup, but with the taste of lettuce coming through instead of leek (obviously).

If you want to see the original recipe (and much better food photography) check out the original article.

The author says that this is a good way to use up the tough outer leaves of a head of lettuce. I am not sure that I agree. I cut out the extremely tough and woody parts of the lettuce and only threw in a few of the tough outer leaves. They didn’t purée as well, and I am not sure what the soup would have been like if it had been made with all tough leaves.

Also, it doesn’t really matter how well you chop things, as it is all going to get puréed at the end.

lettuce soup

lettuce soup

Lettuce and Potato Soup (adapted from Martha Rose Shulman in the New York Times)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, roughly minced

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and roughly diced

6 cups water

Three long springs of fresh thyme, rinsed (a bay leaf would be nice, too)

Salt to taste

5 ounces or about 4 cups lettuce leaves, washed and coarsely chopped (I think I added a bit more)

Freshly ground pepper

1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the potatoes, water, and thyme, and bring to a simmer. Add salt to taste, cover and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes.

2. Stir in the lettuce leaves and continue to simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes. The potatoes should be thoroughly tender and falling apart.

3. Using an immersion blender, or in a blender blend the soup until smooth. Add lots of freshly ground pepper, taste and adjust salt. Enjoy!

Check out Jill’s bio on the Contributors page

Breakfast for dinner with ice cream for dessert

13 Sep

In my experience, grad school introduces heightened drama into the least suspecting of adult lives. For those of you pursuing an MLIS or other graduate degree, I offer the following antidote: breakfast for dinner with ice cream for dessert. Here is how it’s done.

First, assemble friends. In my time of need this summer, I was lucky to have two fabulous fellow librarians-in-training at the ready to lend a hand (and share the spoils) in this important mission.

Next, set the table. Despite being students on a tight budget, we had some lovely placemats at our disposal, plus a stand-out bowl from Anthropologie, which we used to hold our grapes. Note how these contribute to the final spread:

Crepes, fruit, ice cream

On to the breakfast, crêpes or pancakes being my preferred choice. If you’re without a favourite recipe, I recommend my grand-maman’s crêpes or Williams-Sonoma’s Blueberry-Buttermilk Pancakes. Whip them up and keep them warm while you tackle the ice cream, or prepare both in tandem with your pals.

Crepes cooking
In order to create a homemade version of the treat you thought you simply loved but are about to discover you can’t live without, I suggest that you beg for, borrow, or buy an ice cream maker. You’ll need to freeze it for a full 24 hours before pouring the combined ingredients into it. Sound high-maintenance? Trust me, it’s worth it. Beyond the unparalleled taste of homemade ice cream, there’s the thrilling process of watching liquid ingredients slowly transform into this beloved standby of comfort foods before your very eyes thanks to the freezing and mixing mechanisms of the maker.

Here’s a breakdown, with visuals:

1) Prepare the fruit and other ingredients (we relied on a simple recipe for Strawberry Peach Ice Cream that came with the mixer, using both puréed and chopped fruit for added flavour and texture)

Preparation of ice cream ingredients

2) Pour the combined ingredients into the frozen ice cream maker

Pouring the ice cream mix into the mixer

3) Mix the ice cream, slowly and gradually (oh, the suspense!)

4) Monitor the texture, which will indicate when the ice cream is ready to be served

Ice cream frozen to perfection

Then comes the best part…

Eat.

Crepes

Observe how goodness wipes badness away.

Eat some more.

Ice cream

Count your blessings.

Repeat.

♥ ♥ ♥

With special thanks to Aliya Dalfen and Judith Logan

The joy of soup

6 Sep

By Jennifer O’Donnell

This summer it’s been one great farmers’ market salad after another – garnished with delicious strawberries, raspberries, apricots, peaches and plums. But amidst all of my salad making, I hadn’t really noticed the vegetables so much.

That changed a few days ago when I started reading Anna Thomas’ Love Soup. I’d been inspired when I heard about her on a blog – specifically, that the recipes for Love Soup had been created when she found herself living with a teeny tiny kitchen for several years while her house was being renovated.

But in this time and teeny space, she continued to entertain her friends with homemade vegetarian food – especially soups.

This resonated with me because my own kitchen right now seems so very small. I rushed out to get Love Soup (from the public library, of course). Anna’s recipes all look wonderful and she speaks so lovingly and passionately about farmers’ markets. The next day, bags in hand, I headed off to get the ingredients for her Basic Light Vegetable Broth and Sweet Corn Soup. Last night, I made the broth (along with an incredibly tasty dinner, but that’s another story). I’d forgotten my shopping list, but with a few minor substitutions, the broth smelled amazing.

And today, I made the Sweet Corn Soup. I couldn’t believe how easy it was! All I had to do today was chop an onion and slice the kernels off the ears of corn. Seriously! Oh, and then I had to sauté the onion while the corn simmered in the broth. The bulk of my ‘cooking time’ was spent sitting, reading, and listening to the rain fall gently outside while the soup cooked. It was a little slice of heaven.

I must admit that for a moment I was rethinking the wisdom of spending so much at the farmers’ market in order to make the broth and soup. After all, I still have student loans and am on a tight budget. “I’m just throwing the veggies out after the broth is made.  It seems like a waste,” I thought. “Maybe next time, I’ll just get less expensive veggies from the grocery store to make the broth…”

But then… I tasted the soup. I had figured it would be good because it had so many fresh ingredients. It seemed too simple: the only things I’d put in the soup today were caramelised onion and corn kernels. Oh, and the broth. But my goodness, I wasn’t expecting such a rich, full-bodied taste! The flavours are blended together in the puree, and yet it seems as though I can detect each of the distinctive flavours of the soup and broth.

True, I’ve only tried two recipes so far, but I can’t help but love Love Soup. I love Anna’s love of farmers’ markets. I love that her recipes are grouped by growing seasons. I love the detail in her recipes. I love that the recipes are all vegetarian (and that 66 of the 100 soup recipes are vegan). I can’t wait to try more. As I pack up the vegetable broth and Sweet Corn Soup to freeze, I can’t help but think what I’ll make tomorrow. I’m thinking Zucchini and Basil Soup.

Hmmm… now to find a way to meet people in my new home town. These wonderful soups should definitely be shared!

Check out Jennifer’s bio on the Contributors page.

Eat, Read, Blog

4 Sep

Listen up, you canning, pickling, and otherwise resourceful-with-the-harvest librarians: your facebook status updates and tweets are making me drool and I must have details. What did you preserve or prepare? How did you do it? Were books involved?! Surely, these questions are worthy of a response in the form of a blog post.

Contributing to DigLibDig is easy, fun, and way more affordable than a quest for self-discovery through Italy, India, and Bali. Just send an email to diglibdig at gmail.com with:

  • your post, including a title
  • a picture (or several) to accompany your article
  • a 2-3 line bio (including links to your online life)
  • some suggested tags
  • an invitation to dinner ( j/k, sort of)

For inspiration, read up on our current contributors and peruse our posts, though we encourage you to break whatever mold you identify in doing so. We’ve had over 2000 hits since we went live on July 15, btw. Real people read DigLibDig!

With thanks to librarian Cabot Yu and apologies to author Elizabeth Gilbert for the title.

Really love your peaches, wanna shake your tree.

1 Sep

By Jessica Roy

Peach season is here. It’s time to peach it up people! Of course, fresh local peaches are lovely all on their own but, like many things in life, they are even better when pizza is involved. Perhaps, like me, you are skeptical, having had a similarly bad fruit-pizza experience that you’d rather soon forget. Or, maybe you are concerned that I am unwittingly leading you into the wacky world of dessert pizza. Rest assured that peach pizza is nothing like these botched pizza experiments. I suggest that you brush your favorite thin crust homemade pizza dough with olive oil (if you like it crunchy like how I like it) and top it with thinly sliced peaches (marinated in a little lime juice and brown sugar), fresh basil leaves, arugula, bocconcini cheese and fresh ground pepper. I promise you won’t regret it and, afterwards, you can make peach and basil sangria with the leftover ingredients.

This is what the end of summer tastes like. Pretty darn good.

Peach pizza

Peach pizza

Check out Jessica’s bio on the Contributors page.