Thursday, May 23, 2013

Recipe: (Sophisticated) Cheese and Crackers

I recently shared a leisurely weekend lunch with my Clementine Dipple.  As is our way, we each brought several items to share.  My contribution was cheese and crackers.  I know what you are thinking, “cheese and crackers?!?  Really?!?!  How inventive! (*sarcastic*)” But this was not the dry-as-the-Sahara saltines and neon orange cheddar of your youth.  I put a twist on this childhood staple to make it a bit more sophisticated and, of course, infinitely more satisfying!  This was just a weekend snack for us, but it could form the cornerstone of a delicious, unforgettable weekday lunch!  In fact, Clementine liked it so much, she asked to write a guest post on it.

I have an announcement! Throw out all of the (inferior) grocery store honey you have purchased! Have you done it yet? I'm serious, life is too short to waste on one-note saccharine amber goop!
This weekend, I had a picnic (indoors because it was 10C on Saturday!) and my Hunk-of-Man was tasked with bringing dessert. He revealed two baggies and two tupperware containers. The contents: Georgia pecans (uncracked), crackers, Toscano cheese (from Monforte Dairy) and (la piece de resistance) RAW  HONEY WITH HONEYCOMB (from Savannah Bee).
How do all of these components come together to make the most mind-blowing snack ever??? 
  1. Take a cracker in your hand (Choose a cracker that is plain and thin.  This is just the vehicle, not the star.  Let the other ingredients do the talking)
  2. Add a slice of Toscano cheese (Manchego would be a comparable cheese)
  3. Cut off a piece of the honey comb (the wax is edible and delectable) and spread it on the cheese like one would a jam or preserve
  4. Sprinkle with pecans
  5. Then you either try to take dainty bites (and get honey all over your hands and face) OR you shove the whole thing in your gullet and chew (the shards of cracker will cut into your face BUT it's worth it).
Honey has always been a staple in my kitchen. We use it in drinks mostly (lemon and honey with tea or just hot water) and cooking occasionally. It's an ingredient that we don't really think about. It's a nice natural alternative to white/brown sugar. I have been tempted by vendors at local farmer's markets but I've never taken the plunge because “what could be so different that Billy Bee hasn't perfected?” In fact, after having tasted/ smelled the fragrance of Savannah Bee's raw honey, I am now convinced that it matters greatly who produces the honey and from where it originates.
When we opened the tupperware, the room filled with its floral bouquet. Literally, it was like someone brought us fresh flowers. The honey was flaxen in colour (the colour of honey changes according to the season in which it is harvested because of the different flowers that are available. Honey in the spring is lighter in colour than in the fall). The taste: light and a hint of sweetness. It was a flavour that was happy to sit in the background while the pecans and cheese flexed their taste muscles.
The honey was SO delicious that we scoured the internet for local vendors almost immediately because, sadly, Savannah Bee doesn't ship outside of the US (probably to do with import/ export regulations). Coincidentally, we have a friend of a friend who is an apiarist but she doesn't have the type of equipment (yet, I hope!) that allows for the extraction of the comb. Meanwhile, we have found that Ontario has a Bee Keeping Association. Summer challenge: find Ontario's MOST DELICIOUS honey offerings. We shall call this challenge: Operation BUZZ.
Finally, if there's a lesson in all of this, it's that this is exactly the type of special snack one would pack in their lunch to treat oneself! It's gonna be messy but your day will be infinitely brighter for it.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Recipe: Hummus

I made this hummus for the lovely Clementine Dipple and her friend to positive reviews.  These are the proportions I like, but feel free to play with the amounts of lemon juice and zest, garlic, cayenne, and tahini to make this recipe your own!
·         1 19oz. can of chickpeas (drained)
·         Juice and zest of ½ lemon (the zest is the key)
·         1 clove of garlic (for hummus, I like to grate the garlic on a microplane rather than chopping it or using a garlic press.  This makes the garlic a fine paste to ensure it is evenly distributed throughout the hummus and you will not bite down into a big chunk of garlic)
·         4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
·         2 Tbsp tahini (be careful, tahini can overpower the other ingredients so use it sparingly)
·         ¼ tsp cayenne (not enough to make it hot, just enough to make it hum)
·         1 tsp salt

·         Place the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed.
·         If it is too thick, add water a tablespoon or two at a time and blend until the desired consistency is reached.
·         This hummus is great spread on pita, but is also a great dip for vegetables.  Clementine Dipple says this hummus is good enough to cover up the taste of gross carrots.
·         Welcome additions: try adding roasted garlic instead of raw.  If you want to be really fancy, make a small well in the middle of the hummus when it is in the serving dish and garnish it with 3 chickpeas held in reserve, a dusting of sumac, and a small drizzle of olive oil. #pro

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Recipe: Ginger Lime Chicken Salad

Chicken salad is great because it is a blank canvas.  Starting with the basic combination of chicken and mayonnaise, you can add whatever flavours appeal to you.  This is my take on Golden Jubilee chicken, which was served at the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2002.
Makes two servings

·         1 ½ Cups chopped cooked chicken (an excellent use of leftover chicken)
·         1 apple peeled (or not), cored, chopped to roughly same size as the chicken (I prefer granny smith apples)
·         ½ cup mayonnaise
·         Zest and juice of ½ lime
·         A few drops of sesame oil (not too much or it will overpower the other flavours)
·         Soy sauce and ginger to taste (the easiest way to use ginger is to freeze it and grate it on a microplane)
·         Mix the ingredients in a bowl.  Taste and add more soy sauce and/or ginger if needed
·         Ideally, prepare the night before and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator so that the flavours marry
·         Can be eaten in a sandwich, on crackers, or even on its own
·         Welcome additions: Chopped celery or green onions.  Chopped toasted nuts are excellent as well, especially almonds.  Just be sure to add the nuts just before eating so that they stay crunchy.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Introducing The Plowman's Lunch KW

I love food, but for as long as I can remember, I have hated weekday lunches.  What one can eat at school or work is limited by constraints such as portability or the finite amount of time one has to prepare/procure, and consume it.  When I was in school, my lunches generally consisted of sawdust-dry sandwiches or some type of canned food in a thermos.  Unlike camping where this can be rationalized as a charming part of the experience, the result is all too often uninspired, insipid meals that serve to compound the drudgery of the workday. 
The goal of this blog is to rescue readers from lunchtime boredom by providing recipes and reviews of restaurants in Waterloo Region.  Both will consider matters that are specific to workday lunches.

Recipes will be…
·         Portable – because a roast turkey with all the trimmings, while delicious, is unfeasible at work
·         Require little prep at work – because not everyone has access to a microwave at work and who wants to waste time waiting in line if you have one?
·         Able to be made the night before and for multiple servings – thus saving you precious minutes in the morning to get a bit more sleep or just relax before getting down to work
·         Satisfying – so that you aren’t feeling faint from hunger by 2:00pm
Reviews will consider…
·         The breath mint factor – Your clients and coworkers may not appreciate your garlicky lunch as much as you did
·         The napkin factor – A giant mustard stain is not business casual
·         The in and out time – is it always busy?  Is the service slow?  A long lunch is nice but not always practical
·         The type of occasion – Is it perfect for grabbing a quick bite to refuel?  A Mad Men style three martini lunch? A brief indulgence to help get you through a tough week?