Foodie Finale

I’ve had a lot of fun writing this Savoury Staycation blog! I got to try new foods, take some pictures, and gain 4 lbs all in one fell swoop. I’d call that a job well done. 🙂

A few things really stand out for me…

  • The oils and vinegars (8 bottles at last count!) from Evoolution have become part of my daily cooking routine. I like all the different flavours and what they add to almost any dish.
  • The black Russian rye and Oka crème that I talked about yesterday are a match made in heaven.
  • I should cook more fish.
  • Mmmm, cheese.

A few people have asked me if I’ll continue this blog in the new year, but all I can say right now is “maybe.” I’ll be back at work in a couple days and I definitely won’t be able to post every day like I’ve been doing. And between Christmas dinner, leftovers, and this blog, I feel like all I’ve done lately is eat. It’s not the worst problem in the world but I’m a bit tired of recording and describing everything. On the other hand, I only made it to about half the stores I wanted to visit. I plan to visit the rest as time and whim permit, and if I find some gems I might come back here and write about them. If you subscribe to the blog using the “Follow” button at the bottom of the screen, or using the RSS feed, you’ll receive any new posts if and when I write them.

Right now – and most importantly – I thank all of you for reading this blog! Thanks to everyone who commented, taste tested, and joined me on my journey. It’s been fun and I learned a lot, which for me is the whole point of taking on a project like this. I hope you had fun and learned some things too.

Happy foodie new year!

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Five Faves

Today I’m highlighting five foods that I tried for the first time during my Savoury Staycation – ones that I really liked but that didn’t get their own posts. My staycation is winding down and I want to give these items a mention.

Fig Jam

$6.79 from the fancy Sobeys on 104

Sobeys puts this jam in the same display case as the fancy cheeses, and for good reason: this stuff goes great with any and all cheeses. The next time I have occasion to prepare a cheese plate for a party or other event, I’m going to include a bowl of this jam along with a little spoon so people can have a dollop of fig jam with their cheeses. I had it a few times with toast and cheese, or as a chutney on the side of a savoury dish. At almost $7 – a bit steep for a small jar of jam – I wouldn’t have bought it if I didn’t have this blog as an excuse to try it. But I like it! It’ll be more of a special occasion item for me, but I’ll definitely get it again.

Fig jam

What’s left of the fig jam.

Black Russian Rye

$4.59 from the Italian Centre

I have a love affair with dark, dense breads, and this is the best one I’ve ever tried. No exaggeration. I usually prefer pumpernickel but I’m tossing pumpernickel to the curb and going with black rye all the way, baby. I especially like this bread toasted, which turns some of its chewiness into a more crispy texture. (That’s a little foodie tip BTW – if you don’t like dense breads, try toasting them to change them to a lighter texture.) I used slices of this black Russian rye in place of a hamburger bun one day and LOVED it. I still have half the loaf sitting in my freezer, whispering “eat me” whenever I open the door. And I will eat you, black Russian rye, oh I will.

Black rye

Dense and delicious black Russian rye.

Mexican Hot Sauce

$1.50 from Paraiso Tropical

This is the find of the century! Or maybe just the week, but I’m delighted with this inexpensive little condiment. I made tacos a few days ago and used this instead of the chunky salsa sitting in the back of my fridge, and I may never go back. This sauce has a medium-low heat level, just enough of a kick to brighten up the dish, and because it’s a sauce it doesn’t overload a small taco the way that salsa does. I’ve only used this on tacos so far but I can see me adding this to lots of dishes to perk them up. Paraiso on 118 is a bit out of my way but it’s worth the trip – I’ll head back there soon to pick up a few more bottles of this sauce. Yum!

Hot sauce

Mexican not-too-hot sauce.

Tacos

Tacos made with goat cheese and hot sauce.

Danish Blue Cheese

$5.29 from Save-On

I medium-enjoy blue cheese but it has two problems that keep me from enjoying it more: (1) it’s crumbly and messy, and (2) it’s often too pungent for my liking. This Danish blue cheese solved both problems because it’s mild and pre-sliced! (There’s with wax paper to keep the slices separated.) Sliced blue cheese is the best thing since sliced bread. This cheese was especially good with the black rye and fig jam above.

Danish blue cheese

Danish blue cheese – sliced!

Oka Crème Cheese

$5.49 from the fancy Sobeys on 104

I didn’t like this cheese at first until I realized what was bugging me: it’s a bit Cheez-Whizzy. But then it occurred to me: this is made from real cheese instead of petrochemicals and orange dye, so enjoy! After that I liked it a lot; in fact this Oka creme disappeared into mah belleh within a few days. I didn’t even share it with anyone. I used it like I would use cream cheese, and I lurve me some cream cheese. It was divine with the black rye and fig jam above, or on toast with porchetta.

Oka creme

Small tub of Oka crème cheese.

These two cheeses, like the fig jam above, are a bit pricey for everyday but I’m sure I’ll find some excuse to get them again. 😉

Rye sandwiches

1. Danish blue cheese, fig jam, black rye.
2. Fig jam, Oka crème, black rye.
3. Strawberry jam, Oka crème, black rye.
4. Porchetta, Oka crème, black rye.

Honorable Mention…

White Corn Tortillas

$6.50 from Paraiso Tropical

This pack of 50 tortilla shells is a great price, and they’re made fresh locally, which is a plus. I’m still figuring out how to cook these properly. I tried heating them in a frying pan either dry or with a little oil, and both ways they turned out chewy and tough. I put them in the oven with some olive oil and cinnamon sugar but they turned out crispy and chewy and tough. I’ve had some luck recently, though, by toasting them in the toaster oven, and then using them for pizza (see yesterday’s post), tacos, or as a crispy flatbread. I still have more than half the pack left and I’ll have to freeze them before they go bad, but for now I’m still having fun experimenting.

Corn tortillas

Fresh, locally made corn tortillas.

My Savoury Staycation blog wraps up tomorrow – stay tuned!

Mustard Marmecue

I make a killer mustard barbecue sauce. The only problem is, my brain keeps switching up the letters – every time – which is very annoying and I keep calling it bustard marmecue or mustard marmecue or, when I’m really aggravated, just bastard sauce. These days I just call it marmecue sauce.

Mustard seeds and other spices

Marmecue ingredients.

Marmecue sauce is super easy to make. There are lots of ingredients but it’s fun breaking out all the spices I don’t get to use every day. It’s like playing with a really delicious chemistry set.

Marmecue ingredients

Marmecue ingredients.

Here’s how I did it.

1: I made homemade mustard from my friend Wade’s recipe. I used a combination of red and yellow mustard seeds, I added whole dried rosemary (Wade’s suggestion – it helps tone down the mustard’s heat), and I used red apple balsamic from Evoolution. At the end I didn’t bother putting the mustard in the fridge to thicken – it’s not needed here.

Finished mustard

Finished mustard.

2: I made the barbecue sauce from a recipe my friend Gwen gave me. The recipe isn’t online but I just put all of the following into a large saucepan:

  • The entire batch of mustard (approx 1 cup)
  • Large can (369 mL) of tomato paste – you could use tomato sauce or a mix of both if you want it thinner, but I like this sauce super thick
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp berbere (Ethiopian spice mix; sub cayenne or chili powder if you can’t find berbere)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne

I put it on medium heat until the butter melted, then low heat for about half an hour, stirring occasionally. Done.

Marmecue sauce cooking on the stove

Marmecue sauce cooking on the stove.

It makes about 4½ cups of marmecue sauce.

Marmecue sauce in jars

Marmecue sauce in jars.

The sauce keeps well for about a month in the fridge, although mine never lasts that long. I put it on everything and I’ve even convinced he-who-does-not-like-to-try-new-things to eat it. Occasionally. 😉 I’ve been known to spread a centimetre-thick layer of this sauce on a hamburger. Add a couple pickles and a bit of cheese and you have the world’s best burger. Anywhere that you would use mustard or barbecue sauce or ketchup, you can use marmecue instead.

BTW while writing this post I decided to try something new. I made two little pizzas using the corn tortillas I got from the Latin grocery store as the crusts. Then I slathered on some marmecue sauce. Then I topped them with the last of the porchetta and provolone that I got from the Italian Centre.

Marmecue pizza

Marmecue pizza. OMGYUM!

Verdict: Dude! This is holycrapdelicious! OMGYUM! This is why food was invented! I’m writing this at 9 pm on Dec 28 and I can tell you this is probably the most delicious thing I’ve eaten all year.

This entire Savoury Staycation was totally worth it on account of these little pizzas. I have lots of tortilla shells left, and lots of marmecue sauce, now I just have to go back to the Italian Centre and get more porchetta and provolone. Who’s with me? 🙂

Spice Sleuth

A few weeks ago I ordered some spices from Silk Road in Calgary. When the package arrived, they included a small extra packet of a mystery spice for me to try.

Unfortunately, I had no idea what it is. I tried googling the name on the label but wasn’t sure what it says. Pana Poram? Pand Poran?

Mystery spice

Mystery Spice:
If you wanna be my supper,
you must reveal your blend.

Eventually I smartened up and (1) opened the packet, and (2) looked on the Silk Road website.

By smelling I immediately knew it was an Indian spice blend with fennel and some other seeds. By poking around on the website I learned that it’s actually called panch poran and is a salt-free blend containing nigella seeds, fenugreek, fennel, cumin, and mustard seeds.

I have a trick for trying a new spice to see if I like it: I slice a potato, lay the slices on a sheet pan, and brush both sides with olive oil. Then I sprinkle on the spice and cook at 400°F for 25-30 mins. Easy peasy!

So I ground some panch poran in my (world’s smallest) mortar and pestle…

Mortar and pestle

Mini mortar and puny pestle.

… and sprinkled it on potatoes. Et voilà!

Panch poran potatoes

Potatoes à la panch poran.

I think this seasoning would do better in a sauce than on potatoes, but I like it. It’s liquorish-y from the fennel and has a nice earthy bite to it. I didn’t add any salt to these potatoes because I wanted to taste just the spice blend, but I would add a little kosher salt next time to bring out the flavour a little more. I also think this spice blend would be fantastic on sweet potatoes.

BTW this Turkish marash pepper is one of the spices I ordered from Silk Road:

Marash pepper

Marash pepper.

Months ago I read an article about how versatile this spice is, so I looked high and low for it in Edmonton with no luck. I was thrilled to find it in Calgary, and even more thrilled to try it. I love this stuff! It has a bright, almost sweet heat to it. I highly recommend it… if you can find it. 😉

Clever Curds

Meyer lemons, if you haven’t used them before, are sweeter and juicier than regular lemons. I bought a bag of Meyer lemons at Sunterra a few days ago, and used some of them in my white sangria. I decided to make lemon curd and lemon tarts with the rest.

Meyer lemons

Much like these Meyer lemons I am both sweet and tart.

I had never made lemon curd before but it was pretty easy (I doubled this recipe). I zested and juiced the lemons. Then I set up a double boiler (first time I ever did this!) and stirred together eggs, sugar, and the lemon juice. The hardest part comes next: you have to stand there are stir it for 10 minutes. (The next time someone says “That was a stirring rendition of the national anthem” I’m going to say, “Really? Then it must have been a very boring rendition of the national anthem and  the performer should show more respect for their country” or something crabby like that.) For me, right around the 8-min mark, the mixture suddenly turned from liquid-y to thick. It was pretty cool – it transformed in an instant. After that I removed the mix from the heat, stirred in some butter and the lemon zest, and let it cool with plastic wrap on top so it wouldn’t form a skin. Done!

Lemon curd cooling

Lemon curd cooling.

BTW, I would have taken more photos during the process but everything happened pretty quickly and I couldn’t free my hands long enough to snap a pic.

I didn’t measure it but I think I made about 800 mL of lemon curd (over 3 cups). At first I found it too cloyingly sweet for my liking – too much sugar and butter, not enough tangy lemon – probably because of using Meyer lemons. Over the next couple days it mellowed out, though, and the flavours became more balanced.

I used the curd in a few ways. First I made lemon tarts, which were ridiculously easy. I took frozen tart shells…

Frozen tart shells

Ooh, diagonal.

… baked them, cooled them, and filled them with lemon curd. I even added some of the candied citrus I made earlier.

Lemon tarts

Curds in array.

Unfortunately, the three elements in these tarts didn’t quite work together; there were too many flavours and textures going on. I ate them by eating the candied citrus first, then licking out the curd, then eating the tart. Messy but yummy.

Next I simply used the curd as a spread on muffins (I made a fantastic coconut oil banana muffin recipe) and toast (I used the extraordinary black Russian rye I got at the Italian Centre).

Lemon spread

This counts as a serving of fruit, right?

These applications of lemon curd were my favourites – amazingly delicious. I still have about 300 mL of curd left and I’m thinking some whole wheat pancakes are in order. Mmmm, pancakes.

Lemon Leftovers

As I mentioned yesterday, I wanted to use the leftover citrus fruits from the white sangria. I looked at a few recipes for candied citrus slices and decided that boozy candied citrus was worth a try!

All the recipes called for boiling the slices to soften the rind and take the bitterness out of the pith. After sitting in wine for 3 days, I figured my citrus could skip this step. I went straight to boiling them in sugar and water for a couple hours.

Citrus slices

Citrus slices simmering in simple syrup.

Pro tip: When you’re simmering alcohol-infused fruit on the stove, turn the overhead fan to HIGH. I had it on LOW and then had a little incident when I turned on a second burner:

Burnt oven ring

I extinguished a burning ring of fire.

Remember to keep baking soda handy at all times, duckies.

Once my pulse returned to normal operating parameters, I dried the slices on a cooling rack for 24 hours.

Candied citrus on the drying rack

Rack of lime.

The next day they were still really sticky so I put them in a very low-heat oven (with the door ajar to release any remaining alcohol vapours, and the overhead fan running) for about 5 hours. That helped but they were still gooey so I went for the blunt solution: coat them with sugar. I ran granulated sugar through the Magic Bullet first to make it a finer texture, then tossed the citrus with the sugar.

Candied citrus in sugar

Candied citrus in sugar.

And bingo! They’re delicious. Only took 2 days. 🙂

By now the alcohol is pretty much burned off but they still have a hint of the wine they were in originally sitting in. They’re pleasantly chewy but not gooey.

Finally, I took the sugar water that the citrus slices had simmered in and poured it into a bottle to be used for lemonade (citrusade?) later.

Citrus syrup

Citrus syrup.

The syrup is fairly viscous, but with a little stirring I was able to turn it into a decent citrus soda that still has a hint of white wine. Not bad for being the byproduct of a byproduct.

One last pic just because:

Citrus in syrup

Pretty.

Sangria Sequel

First, thanks to everyone who made suggestions in the comments or offline about my first attempt at sangria! For my second attempt I’m making a white sangria.

The wine is a Canadian pinot grigio. I don’t know what “pinot” or “grigio” mean but there was a sign in the store saying that this was a fruitier, citrusier wine… or something. Whatever it was, it sounded good. 🙂

Pinot grigio

Pinot grigio

I sliced up some mandarin oranges, meyer lemons, and key limes:

Sliced citrus

Sweet.

Then I added the citrus, some sugar, and the wine to my Official Sangria Jar™:

White sangria

Sublime.

After letting the sangria sit for a few hours, it was delicious! Perfectly sweet – basically just boozy lemonade.

However, over the next couple days it became increasingly bitter and I had to add more and more sugar. Even then it wasn’t so great. I think this would be a great beverage to serve at a party if you make it a few hours ahead of time and then serve the whole thing. It’s just no good later on.

Glass of sangria and club soda

Sangria & soda.

BTW, if you recall, I tried cooking down the leftover fruit from the red sangria and it was pretty revolting. But I wanted to try it again with the citrus slices from this go-round – it just feels like a waste to throw out all that fruit. I actually had some success this time but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to read about it. Stay tuned!

Culinary Codruple

I bought some salt cod a few days ago that I soaked and rinsed and soaked and rinsed and soaked and rinsed (and soaked and rinsed). Then I cooked it four different ways: a culinary codruple!

Salt cod

Are you there, cod? It’s me, Louisa.

1. Fried cod with onions

This was super easy. I fried half an onion and two cloves of garlic in olive oil, then added the cod fillet. I didn’t know how long it was supposed to take so I just cooked it until it looked done (approx 10 mins). It wound up being a tad overcooked but not too bad. However, it was very salty. The salad (dressed with just oil and vinegar) was the perfect accompaniment since the freshness of the salad balanced out the saltiness of the fish. The fried onions and garlic were delicious, as fried onions are garlic are wont to be. Can’t say the same for my breath after eating them. 😉

Cod the first

Cod the first.

2. Salt cod casserole

This casserole recipe is pretty simple: make layers of sliced potatoes, cod, onions, and potatoes again. Then make a mix of tomato paste, olive oil, garlic, and some spices, and spread that on top. Bake. Eat.

I soaked the cod longer this time so it was less salty, but this dish was still unrelentingly savoury due to the onion and garlic, which weren’t cooked all the way through. It was also greasy – I overdid it on the olive oil.

Cod the second

Cod the second.

3. Salt cod casserole leftovers: stir-fried with sweet/spicy sauce

Since the casserole was greasy, I didn’t want to heat the leftovers in the microwave – that would just turn them to oily mush. But it occurred to me that stir-frying them would (a) make good use of the oil that was already in there by crisping up the potatoes, and (b) cook down the onions and garlic further, bringing out their sweetness.

I put them over medium heat until warmed through, then turned up the heat to get them crispy. I also added some of the Jamaican sweet and spicy sauce I got from Kasoa.

The result was so fiery-spicy hot I could barely taste it, but the texture was perfect!

Cod the third

Cod the third.

4. Salt cod casserole leftovers: stir-fried with rosemary

Ok I finally got this right. Stir-frying was definitely the way to heat these leftovers, and a generous portion of whole, dried rosemary added aroma and texture without overpowering the dish. With a little side salad it made for a nice meal.

Cod the fourth

Cod the fourth.

Bonus: Salmon filet

While we’re on the subject of fish, I also cooked up the beautiful little salmon fillet I got from Sunterra. I mixed a bit of maple syrup with balsamic, garlic salt, and pepper, then poured that over the salmon. I cooked it at 400F for 15 mins. It was OMGYUM but the maple mixture that sat in the bottom of the dish burned a bit. The part that didn’t burn was delicious and caramel-y.

Salmon

A book of salmon and a heart of maple-balsamic sauce.

Incidentally, I’ve never been very successful at cooking fish but these meals were (eventually) successful. This is a WIN for the Savoury Staycation! I’ll cook and eat more fish in the future.

Delectable Daleks

Check it out: I made little disembodied Dalek heads from Pfeffernussen cookies…

Cookie Daleks

I’ll take “Things that look like blind albino frogs smoking a cigarette” for 200, Alex.

How cute is that? I used tic-tacs for the antennae and toothpicks for the eyestalks. The eyes at the end of the eyestalks are made from a single unit of quinoa attached with a tiny drop of Marmite.

This is pretty much the coolest thing you’ll ever see on this blog so you might as well stop reading now.

Just kidding! Don’t leave. I’m going to make lemon curd and it’s going to be a disaster. You don’t want to miss that. 😉

In the meantime…

Dalek Marmite

Dalek Marmite is an unsavoury character.

Dalek Marmite

Aww, look. He’s all by his little lonesome.

Dalek Fig Jam

Dalek Fig Jam is a sweetie.

Dalek Acetaminophen

Dalek Acetaminophen prefers to be called “Ace” and will exterminate your headache, yo.

Dalek Crystal

Dalek Crystal feels empty.
So empty.

Dalek Ginger

Dalek Ginger wants to know what you really, really want.

Dalek Quinoa

Dalek Quinoa is pretty seedy but keeps all the bitterness bottled up.

Ok, I’ll stop. 😉

…I’ll just casually mention that the Space channel is airing a Doctor Who marathon on Christmas Day which is pretty much the best Christmas present ever. Bring on the fish custard and weeping angelfood cakes!

Snack Snobbery

I have this theory that all foodies have a particular food that they love and makes them feel superior to everyone who doesn’t love it.

For example: have you ever noticed that people who like olives are really proud of it, like they’ve accomplished something special? I call them Olive Snobs. I could write an entire post about Olive Snobs but suffice to say they’re insufferable. (You know who you are.)

My snob food is Marmite. I come by my Marmite fandom honestly, having been born in England. Marmite is pretty much pablum to British babes.

If you’ve never tried Marmite, I urge you to find someone who has a jar of it in their house so you can try a bit of it. Don’t spend $5 on a jar until you know you like it. It looks like molasses but tastes salty and bit sour. You want to start with a tiny amount and build up your tolerance.

I like it with unsalted saltines (or as they’re properly called, ines) and cream cheese. The cream cheese mellows the sharpness of the Marmite. I recommend a crackers-and-jam chaser to help your taste buds recover.

Marmite on crackers

Not pictured: moral superiority.

What do you think of my food snob theory? Are there foods you like that make you feel superior to people who don’t eat them? Durian fruit? Fermented fish? Beer?