lemon jelly

Let me take you down…
June 29, 2008, 7:24 pm
Filed under: food | Tags: , ,

We picked and ate so many strawberries today. I’m at a loss for what to do with all of them. Kate and I made a lovely, if a little structurally unsound, strawberry-rhubarb pie while the others played Settlers of Catan at the kitchen table, but there is still quite the surfeit of bright, sweet berries sitting in the fridge now. This wouldn’t be such a dilemma if I weren’t going back to my wicked litttle town tomorrow, but I am, and strawberries in any form but jam won’t survive the train trip. I may just end up freezing what doesn’t get eaten tonight for another day. I can’t imagine making another pie any time soon. If anyone has any ideas for what to do with loads of strawberries, do share. I’m experiencing strawberry overload and need a nap.


The Indulgent Egg Salad Sandwich
June 27, 2008, 11:46 pm
Filed under: food, recipes | Tags: , ,

Student budgets and principled food consumption can make for some very creative moments in the kitchen. Even before vegetarianism and organics overran my culinary life, I was still fairly adamant about eating whole foods and leaving nothing to waste. Since I was cooking for one more often than not, this meant that I was limited in my stock of fresh ingredients to cook from for the week and, as a result, eating much of the same thing day after day. I’m sorry to say, but zucchini, farafalle, and spinach in combination have only so many incarnations.

Now tack on the cost of organic dairy and free-range eggs, and things get even more interesting (or less, actually). If I’m going to justify eggs at $4.85 a dozen or yogurt at $4.65 for a 750 mL tub, then I better have ideas for that many eggs or that much yogurt, or they aren’t happening at all.

Of course, I do have some overly indulgent moments at the grocery store, and these are where I end up with little luxuries like goat cheese. I do adore the stuff, but what am I supposed to do with an eight-ounce log? I can eat only so many fig and spinach salads with a little crumbled over top, and cheeses have an unfortunate tendency to get mouldy in my fridge, no matter how I store them.

The solution? Add goat cheese in small measures to just about everything and see what happens. Haphazard though it was, my little culinary adventure didn’t end that badly. In fact, it set off the beginnings of a week-long revolution in egg-salad-sandwich making. It started with the thought: “Instead of mayo, why not goat cheese?” and ended about a dozen eggs later with my new standard egg salad sandwich.

The Indulgent Egg Salad Sandwich

For me, egg salad is usually reminiscent of bland academic functions and blander lunches, but this, I promise, is something different. Everything adds a little complexity to the mix – crunch, sweetness, heat, richness, zip.

  • 2 eggs, free-range please
  • half a medium celery stalk, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp red onion, finely diced
  • 2-3 tsp semi-soft organic goat cheese
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp ground thyme (haven’t had any fresh on hand, unfortunately)
  • cayenne pepper to taste
  • a pinch of salt
  • fresh-ground pepper, liberal twists of the pepper mill
  • the slightest, slightest bit of mayo
  • 2 slices of toasted whole-wheat bread (I like flaxseed)
  1. In a small saucepan, sit eggs in 1-2 inches of water and heat covered on high. When the water boils, turn off the stove immediately and leave eggs for exactly 7 minutes – this will get you bright yellow, creamy yolks rather than powdery, green-hued ones. At the 7-minute mark, either transfer eggs to a bowl of ice-water or run them under the tap for a few minutes to stop them from cooking further. Crack them and remove shells.
  2. Add eggs, celery, onion, goat cheese, mustard, thyme, cayenne, salt, and pepper to a small bowl and mash with a fork – everything should be well-mixed, creamy, but not soggy. Add the mayo with discretion. It’s really only for a touch of flavour because the goat cheese has already done the job of binding.
  3. Spread egg salad on one slice of toast, top with the other, and serve immediately.

Serves one.

A Family Affair
June 26, 2008, 12:05 pm
Filed under: food, philosophy | Tags: , ,

Tomorrow is a bit of a big day. I’m hopping on the train after work to visit my parents for the long weekend. Since they will try to overfeed me as parents are apt to do, I will have to tell them at some point that I am no longer eating meat or animal products obtained in factory-farm conditions.

It’s quite possible that I have a penchant for melodrama, but I don’t think that this will go over well. I would never say that my parents are small-minded people, but I do think of them as being rather set in their ways. It’s not as if they’ll treat my new dietary restrictions as a moral affront or a challenge to their own lifestyle, but I’m afraid that they won’t understand where I’m coming from or even consider it a viable alternative to how they live. I expect a string of protests concerning my health and well-being and then many efforts to persuade me to eat some meat at least once in a while. It shouldn’t be a terrible affair of cursing and door-slamming, but I anticipate some pain on my part.

Of course, it doesn’t quite have to be this way. In a sense, I’m under no obligation to explain myself to them. Understanding isn’t in fact required on their part, only begrudging acceptance. However, I’m not a big fan of this kind of thinking. It smacks of teenage brattiness and bellowing things like “It’s my life, and I can do what I want!” It is unreflective self-assertion at its worst. Yes, as a free and rational individual, I am entitled to make my own decisions and to conduct myself as I will without the interference and interjections of others. At the same time, I think that that very free agency entails a responsibility to offer a rational account for the choices I make. So, just because my diet is well within the domain of personal choice doesn’t mean that it can’t be subjected to scrutiny or that it doesn’t require defense on other, more objective grounds.

Tomorrow, then, I will sit down with my parents at dinner and tell them that I’m no longer eating meat and a large variety of other animal products. I expect much dismay and maybe even some disappointment, but I won’t leave it at that. I will try my best to get them to understand that I have made a personal and moral commitment to recognising the interests of non-human animals and why this means that I won’t be eating the way that I used to. Then and only then is free choice a legitimate trump card.

Of dreams and debuts
June 25, 2008, 11:40 pm
Filed under: food, nutrition, recipes | Tags: , ,

There are just some weeks at the end of which there is nothing in the pantry except maybe a couple of pitiful yellow onions and in the fridge a few lacklustre carrots. I admit that my financing skills probably leave something to be desired, but the usual reason behind my scraping together meals out of very little by Thursday or Friday night is that I spent five days in San Francisco this spring and fell in love with the idea of spending a few glorious and itinerant years just traveling and writing and drinking in the world.

This little escape was the first real bit of travel that I’ve been able to do entirely on my own terms, and now I can’t wait to do more. Naturally, this means that the money I don’t spend on food, coffee, or the occasional beer by the end of the week gets plunked into an old jam jar sitting on a shelf in my room. Hence the sparse pickings – either I relish the idea of sticking another twenty in the jar on Saturday morning, or I opted for pints and half-remembered, half-dreamt conversation earlier in the week and can’t bear to blow the weekly budget completely.

Last week was one of those weeks. I had a couple of onions, a bag of organic carrots, some beluga lentils, and not much else lying around that would make for a substantial meal. What I ended up with wasn’t so terribly bad – a pan full of honey-roasted carrot matchsticks and onions with some belugas on the side. It was a passable meal with some potential. I thought that, with some work, it might even be worthy of more distinguished company than just me and my current read, Multicultural Citizenship.

Tonight, my lovely and much-missed friend Islen popped over the border for a visit, and together, we worked out something simple that called for seconds. Presenting, the debut recipe:

Ginger-glazed Carrots and Onions

  • 1 lb carrots, scrubbed, peeled, and cut into sticks
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • generous pinch of salt
  • fresh-ground pepper, liberal twists
  • 1 1/2 tbsp honey (I happened to have wildflower on hand)
  • 1 1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Toss carrots and onion in olive oil, salt, and pepper on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  3. Roast vegetables in the oven for about 20 minutes or until they begin to brown, turning once for more even colouring.
  4. In the meantime, heat honey in a small sauce pan on medium-low heat and stir ginger into the honey. Add lemon juice to the honey glaze.
  5. When the 20 minutes is up, pull the vegetables out of the oven and drizzle with half of the glaze. Return the vegetables to the oven for another 5-7 minutes. Then, remove them again, give them another toss, drizzle them with the remaining glaze, and return them to the oven for a final 5-7 minutes.
  6. Serve vegetables warm with your favourite legumes, a salad, and some crusty bread.

Serves 2 generously.

Note: I keep a bag of peeled ginger root in my freezer at all times. When I need some, it’s just a matter of going into the freezer for a piece and grating it directly into wherever it’s needed.

Nutrition: No, this certainly doesn’t make a meal in itself, but carrots are a bargain as far as fibre and vitamin A go.

Pleased by Peas
June 21, 2008, 5:55 pm
Filed under: food, nutrition | Tags: , ,

The Saturday routine looks something like this: I wake up, scour grocery fliers and cookbooks and blogs, write a shopping list around some meal possibilities for the week, and then head out to the wide world of edible goodness. A friend lent me a copy of Becoming Vegetarian: the Complete Guide to Adopting a Healthy Vegetarian Diet earlier this week, so I was particularly intent this morning on grabbing some wholesome items to make up for the nutrients that I’ve relied on meat for in the past. I picked up some green lentils, the usual whole wheat and flax bread, and some other key items, but my favourite find for the week was definitely the English peas from the farmers’ market – moderately iron-rich and protein-packed and still in the pod.

The few that I snacked on raw I found to be mild and sweet but with a lingering bitter aftertaste. About 25 seconds in boiling water, as per Heidi Swanson’s instructions, took that edge off and made them verdant and wonderfully sweet. I don’t know what I’m going to do with the rest yet. I added some to whole wheat pasta with asparagus, red onion, and roasted garlic, but I wasn’t particularly pleased with the result. I think the peas need a creamier accompaniment, and maybe brown rice would complement them better than the pasta. I don’t know; I’ve had a thing for brown rice lately.

The Vegetarian Odyssey
June 20, 2008, 11:46 pm
Filed under: food, philosophy, Uncategorized

I had a prof who once explained the Aristotelian notion of a first mover in terms of a lemon jelly doughnut. “Motion,” he said, “begins with desire.” While the details of the Metaphysics are largely lost on me now, it’s still true that little makes me happier than food and philosophy.

Up until recently, any intersection between the two was incidental. Brownies were an afterthought – a little something to keep us going while we poured over a semester’s worth of notes on qualia and consciousness or identity politics. We may have talked shop as we beat eggs or melted butter, but the confections themselves were never really central to the conversation.

Food and philosophy, of course, are not mutually exclusive matters, and this is old news. It’s just taken a bit of time to register with me. Plenty has been written on the ethics of modern food production and consumption already, and with menaces like BSE and world famine hitting the press, there’s bound to be plenty more. My interest here, then, isn’t in finger-wagging and moralising. Rather, I want to document my experiences as I go about changing the way I eat and, of course, share some recipes.

After twenty odd years of eating meat – everything from my grandmother’s turkey pies to frog innards served in a papaya – I’ve decided that it really isn’t a practice I can justify continuing. Factory farming, environmental damage, and slaughter, at least in my mind, weigh quite heavily against gastronomic pleasures. With the help of some friends and philosophers, then, I’ve set out on the first few steps of what I’ve termed my ‘vegetarian odyssey’.  In keeping consistent with my moral convictions, this means at minimum (1) no more meat and (2) no animals products that were obtained in cruel or inhumane conditions.

Of course, there are other considerations that come along with this change – namely, health, grocery bills, and delicious food. Since I am still a health-conscious and food-loving but impoverished student, I’ll be keeping all of these in mind as I write and cook here.