Salad of the Year!

After fruit, vegetables are definitely my favourite food group, but oddly, I find few salads hearty enough for a meal. This one isn’t hearty enough either, but it’s closer than most, and is very delicious. An addition of a nice chick pea dish, some homemade bread, and a glass of un-oaked chardonnay and I’d be good to go. 

The impetus was from my two of favourite food bloggers, who, like I, were a little nonplussed by  Bon Appétit’s recipe of the year. A vegetarian dish as recipe of the year? Bring it on! Three of my favourite people (yes, Nancy, you’re one of them) are vegans. But something so easy? Sad. Where’s the challenge? But this is still delicious, so I’m calling it the best salad of the year, and one I think I could modify for vegan visitors. (Yes, Nancy, a hint). It will be a staple in our kitchen. It’s delicious, it’s easy, and going back to my main point, delicious enough to be craving worthy.

Nomnivore’s policy is not to pretty up our dishes with photos from other sites, because we want to be transparent about our product. We used baby kale, which was absolutely delicious, but not very pretty once cooked, and by that I mean: it looked like the skin from the creature of the Black Lagoon. We sincerely regret not cutting off the stems first (they were kind of nasty), but we ate every crumb of this salad. 

To start off with, we shaved gorgeous local beets razor thin (they really do need to be razor thin, or the magic is lost, and yes, Urban Herbivore, I’m talking to YOU).Image

Here are the pretty pics.
ImageImageWe then added layers of arugula, homegrown cucumber, hot peppers, and the dressing. We topped it with the kale chips.

Here is our none-too-pretty but plenty-delicious salad of the year.
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I venture that this will be a good way to introduce one of the most delicious and nutritious foods, kale, to kids, in a way they’ll love. I’m planning on trying it for the world’s cutest critic of Stephen Harper, and perhaps her sister, one of our favourite dinner guests and people. Image

 

Thanks, Bluebarry, for the excellent photos!

Hot Stock Tip

You may as well start making stock this way, because I think you’re going to end up doing so sooner or later. Pressure cooker stock has been around for decades… like so many things that are now in fashion (canning, foraging, bread making). It is now being popularized by the new generation of “modernist” cooks: it appears in the massive, multi-volume Modernist Cuisine and its forthcoming little brother, Modernist Cuisine at Home, as well as Heston Blumenthal at Home.

In this case, I think the attention is well deserved. I’ve made half a dozen batches of stock this way, and it has several advantages over the standard method:

It takes less time to produce great stock: two hours rather than several
It takes much less energy (gas or electricity)
It doesn’t fill the kitchen with heat and steam
It keeps all of those aromatic molecules in the pot
There’s a lot less hands-on work (skimming)
It forces the ingredients to give up everything they have
It produces a clearer, cleaner looking stock more easily

The downsides?

You might not own a pressure cooker, and really good ones (stainless steel rather than aluminum) are not cheap
Unless you buy a seriously expensive pressure stockpot, you won’t be able to make more than 2 or 3 liters at a time
You miss out on some of the sensory pleasure of stock-making: the tending of it, the sight of it bubbling away, and the house-filling aroma. The pleasure of opening the lid and suddenly: “whoa, it’s stock!” has its merits, but it’s not exactly traditional.

When push comes to shove, though, I’m more likely to spend a little time making stock a few times a month rather than a whole lot of time making it once a month. This is something that’s going to result in me making more stock, and better stock.

Bonuses: pressure cookers are obviously good for a lot more than stock. For dried beans and grains, in particular, I find the pressure cooker makes the difference between never cooking them, and being generally happy to cook them even on a weeknight. And a really good pressure cooker is also a really good standard pot: our Kuhn Rikon ‘cooker is a heavy beast that’s never going to warp.

Heston Blumenthal’s White Chicken Stock

1.75kg chicken wings
150g peeled and finely sliced onion (approx. 2 medium onions)
150g peeled and finely sliced carrot (approx. 2 large carrots)
100g finely sliced button mushrooms
60g finely sliced celery (approx. 2 sticks of celery)
50g cleaned and finely sliced leek, white and pale green parts only (approx. 1 leek)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and bashed with the flat part of a knife or by hand
10g flat leaf parsley (stalks and leaves)
6 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
5g black peppercorns

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The precise ingredient amounts might seem a little obsessive, but it’s worth paying attention to them the first couple of times – you’ll then develop a good sense of what 50g of leek looks like.

Method:

Blanch the wings: put them in the pot, cover them with cold water, and bring them to a boil, skimming any scum that rises to the top. Strain them out, rinse them thoroughly under cold running water, clean the pot, and return the wings to the pot.

Cover the wings with cold water, and bring them up to pressure. Cook under high pressure for one hour. Let the pressure come down naturally.

Open the lid, and add the vegetables (but not the herbs). Bring the pot up to pressure again, and cook for 30 minutes. Let the pressure come down naturally.

Now, add the herbs and spices and cover the pot, but keep it off of the heat. This extracts the delicate flavours without cooking them away.

Strain the stock through damp muslin or several layers of damp cheesecloth. Cool it rapidly in a sink of ice water, and refrigerate. The following day, scrape off the fat. There you have it: truly excellent stock.

Weeknight kitchen: Pasta with Fennel and Roasted Tomatoes

It’s not all pickled rosehips and sous vide, chez Nom’s. Here’s something that we concocted last night that makes good use of the end-of-summer bounty.

Get yourself some plum tomatoes; about 4 per person. Halve them lengthwise, and lay them cut-side-down in a roasting pan you’ve coated with a few generous glugs of olive oil. Roast them in a 450’F oven for about half an hour, till their skins have bubbled and browned like this:

Meanwhile, chop some red onion or shallot (about 1/3 cup for 2 people) and slice some fennel (half of a large bulb or its equivalent in tiny ones, as below) lengthwise into 1/4-inch batons.

Take a couple of thick slices of bacon or the equivalent in pancetta or guanciale, and slice it into 1/4 inch batons as well. I just finished making some cured-but-unsmoked bacon, so I used that. If you’re using bacon, you might consider blanching it for 30 seconds in boiling water to remove some of the smokiness and help it crisp up.

When the tomatoes are browned and happy, remove them from the oven. Wait a couple of minutes, the slide the skins right off and discard them. Start boiling your pasta water. Get yourself a big saucepan and add a film of olive oil. Fry the bacon over medium heat until it’s crispy. Remove the bacon and drain all but 2 tablespoons of the fat. Now add the fennel and onions and a little salt, and crank the heat to get them a bit brown. Then lower the heat and back to medium and continue cooking until they’re tender-crisp. Add maybe 1/4 cup of dry white wine, boil that down to a syrup, and dump the pan contents into a bowl. Replace them with the the tomatoes and the olive oil / tomato juice liquid from the roasting pan. Crush them a bit, then add the fennel, onion and bacon back to the pan. You can add some chopped fresh thyme if you like, and some black pepper and chili pepper flakes.

Drain your pasta, first reserving a half-cup of the pasta water. Use it to water down your sauce if it looks too paste-like. Introduce the pasta to the sauce, let them bubble together for a minute or two, stirring frequently to coat the pasta with the sauce. And plate, being sure to splatter the sauce around. It’s a weeknight, after all.

Top with grated parmesan, and enjoy.

Flower Power

I’m nothing if not persistent. Last winter, I promised not to be caught cooking from Noma in the absence of rose hip vinegar.

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Being a hardcore urbanite with no vehicle and even less of an idea of where to forage, I emailed various eco-florists asking for non-insecticide-sprayed hips. A few weeks later, one of them remembered my email when he took delivery of some sticks loaded with the red berries. Thanks, Joseph @ Eco|stems!

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Plucking the berries is a simple matter of avoiding the thorns. At the blossom end, there’s a nodule that needs to be removed to make it easier for the vinegar to penetrate. This can be removed with a fingernail or small knife.

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A quick wash, then into the vinegar they go. And that’s it. Most recipes say to use apple vinegar. I figured that Noma would use the most hardcore hippie raw unfiltered cider vinegar, so I went with that for most of the hips. To hedge my bets, I made tiny batches with clear cider vinegar, and with white wine vinegar.

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I hope it turns out. Right now, the raw cider version looks like something that needs to be sent to pathology, stat