Archive for August, 2009

Zucchini pesto noodles

As I’ve said earlier, I’ve been experimenting with raw food lately, and one cool new tool I’ve picked up is a spiralizer, which slices vegetables into noodle shapes. It’s very cool if you’re into fun gadgets and I finally pulled it out this evening to make zucchini noodles for dinner, served with pesto and sliced tomato and orange pepper from my garden (the basil was from the backyard too). Excuse the fuzzy picture, I think the black bowl confuses my camera.


Served with corn on the cob and steamed okra, all from the market. Delish!


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This is so not local, but I’ve had a couple of requests so I’m going to post a recipe for raw vegan coconut “ice cream”. But first a digression: while I started this blog mainly to share tips on local eating in Toronto – and especially what to do with CSA veggies in the winter – I’ve been experimenting with raw foods lately, which is harder to do locally because so many of them (especially desserts) rely on tropical ingredients like coconut, avocado and bananas.

So I want to emphasize that while I believe strongly in eating locally as much as possible, both for environmental reasons and to help local farmers, I don’t like to be a fanatic about it. I don’t like to be a fanatic about any eating philosophy, because following a strict set of rules is boring, way too simplistic, and prevents you from having to think about your food. I’ve been vegetarian since I was a teenager – no meat, no poultry, no fish – but I’m not going to freak out about a bit of fish sauce in a restaurant meal, or my grilled eggplant sitting next to someone else’s grilled chicken. Life’s too short, and really, neither of those affects any of the reasons I chose to stop eating animals.

In the same way, while I refuse to buy strawberries out of season (they don’t taste good, anyways), I’m not going to refuse them if someone serves them to me. And supporting Ontario peach growers doesn’t have to mean depriving yourself of bananas. I try to buy things locally if they’re grown locally, but sometimes, I want fresh pineapple, too.

Which brings me to the coconuts. Young coconuts are an amazing food, and extremely versatile when it comes to creating dairy-free desserts. Coconut water is high in electrolytes, making it a perfect post-exercise (i.e., post-sweating) drink, and the meat blends up nice and smooth and creamy.

And besides, even though they’re shipped from Thailand to my local Chinatown, it’s not impossible that they have a lower carbon footprint than locally produced dairy – especially if it has sugar added. (I made the recipe below with local honey.) After all, as the Washington Post reported on last week, “a study out of Carnegie Mellon University found that the average American would do less for the planet by switching to a totally local diet than by going vegetarian one day a week.” That’s food for thought.

But back to the coconuts… as I said, I bought them in Chinatown, 3 for $5. These are the ones that you can get in the Caribbean with a straw in to drink the coconut water, and now that I know how amazing the coconut meat is, I’m appalled at how many get thrown away there and here after the water is drunk. You can find tutorials online for opening them, but basically, you chop them open, drain the water, then split them in half and scrape out the meat. I would estimate that you would need two or three to make this recipe, and if you don’t have access to coconuts, you can make it with dried coconut and regular water. A regular blender worked fine for me, and I used honey instead of agave syrup. I don’t have an ice cream maker so I made it with the first set of directions.

The recipe comes from the cookbook Ani’s Raw Food Desserts, but I got it from a British raw food magazine called Get Fresh (I get an electronic subscription).

Ani Phyo’s Coconut Ice Kream
(makes 4 servings)

1 cup cashews
1 cup filtered water or coconut water
1/3 cup agave syrup (I used honey)
1/4 cup shredded coconut or 1 cup fresh young coconut meat
1/4 cup liquid coconut oil

Combine the cashews, water, agave syrup, coconut and oil in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Scoop the mixture into a container and place in the freezer for 3 to 4 hours. Every hour or so, remove and mix well. Place back in freezer to chill. Repeat until you achieve the desired consistency (5 to 7 hours).

To make in an ice cream maker, chill the mixture in the freezer for an hour or two, until cold. Scoop the chilled mixture into the ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Will keep for several weeks in the freezer. Variations: swirl in a sauce, like raspberry or chocolate, or try folding in a fruit, like blueberries or chopped strawberries.

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Bananas are certainly not local in Toronto. But I had to interrupt your regular programming to share this amazing recipe that’s been circulating lately, from choosingraw.com (but I discovered it via Plentiful Plants).

Take a couple of bananas, frozen and in chunks. Put them in your food processor. Process for a few minutes, scraping the bowl down as needed. Devour.

This stuff is creamy and sugary like ice cream, but with none of the guilt. And it’s made my food processor suddenly the most popular appliance in the kitchen. I’ve tried it plain and drizzled with melted chocolate (which hardens again – so good!).

So… how to make it local? Well, I read one blog where the author added peanut butter to the bananas. And… check out what I found at Karma the other day! Local peanut butter! (I believe you can order it online as well, but that’s not as much fun.) Guess what I’m having for dessert tomorrow night?


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Last weekend I went berry picking with a friend of mine at an organic place up in Markham. Our goal was raspberries but we were also hoping they’d have blackcurrants, which are my favourite. As has been typical this summer, thunderstorms were threatening that day so we were hoping the rain would hold off until we could pick enough.

And, in fact, we got in over four hours of picking before the skies opened. Between us (and her husband’s help for part of the time), we gathered two baskets of blackcurrants (they are slow picking!) and 12 of raspberries. Check out the haul (including some green beans and butter tarts we bought from the farm stand):


As I’m lacking in the deep freeze department I made all of my blackcurrants and many of my raspberries into jam, which for some reason I took no pictures of. Blackcurrant jam is super easy, as they’re naturally high in pectin so you don’t need to buy any Certo to help them set (which is what I usually use for other jams). I used the recipe from my Edmonds cookbook but with less sugar. I ran out of sterilized jars so also did a jar for right-away eating of a blackcurrant-raspberry blend, which is pretty damned good.

I froze some of the raspberries for later, but I also made some amazing raspberry “breakfast” bars from Smitten Kitchen (of course). They’re easy to make and travel well, so they’d be good for a potluck or party. As far as adaptations go, they worked with part whole wheat flour and if I were to make them again, I’d use more raspberries (maybe an extra half?) and cut back a bit on the crust. They might be messier that way but I think they’d be more flavourful. I also cut the sugar out of the raspberry layer completely and cut the sugar in the crust to 2/3 cup.

And now that I look at her picture, her raspberry layer looks thicker than mine did. I measured the berries by weight as suggested, but for reference, it was just over 2 cups that I used of slightly crushed berries.

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Sour cherry clafoutis

My blogging is backed up because I’ve been busy cooking, but here’s a quickie I wanted to share. Clafoutis is a French dessert I’ve been meaning to make for ages, and had never gotten around to until a couple of weeks ago. Don’t make the same mistake – it’s so easy and so delicious that it should be part of your regular repertoire.

Classic clafoutis is traditionally made with cherries, pit in, but they’re commonly made with all kinds of stone fruit too. I made mine with cherries as well as it’s what’s been in season. This afternoon I picked up a giant bucket of pre-pitted Ontario sour cherries from Fiesta Farms – run over and get one too! I’m going to can most of them but I made a clafoutis for dessert tonight as well.

The recipe I used is from the blog ceres & bacchus, via Smitten Kitchen, reproduced, Canadianized and slightly modified below. It’s a very eggy batter and the taste is more akin to a crepe than a cake. Don’t make it in a springform pan like I did the first time – it will leak out the bottom and you’ll end up with a tasty but messy layer below the pan.


Sour cherry clafoutis

3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
Optional: 1 tbsp rum
2 cups cherries (pitted or not: your call)

Pre-heat the oven to 400 F. Beat the sugar and the eggs with a wire whisk until they turn lighter in colour. Gradually add the butter, beating to incorporate. Add the flour all at once and whisk until the batter is a homogeneous mixture. Next slowly pour in the milk a little at a time. Add the vanilla, and the rum if you are using it, mixing well. The batter should be very smooth and shiny.

Place the cherries in a buttered glass or earthenware baking dish, cake pan (9 or 10 inches in diameter) or skillet that can go in the oven. (I used an 8-inch square baking pan.) Pour the batter over the fruit. Bake in the pre-heated oven, approximately 30-40 minutes, until slightly browned and almost completely set in the middle. Let sit at least 15 minutes before turning out onto a plate and serving. (But if you’re in a hurry, you can dig it out sooner.) Serve warm or at room temperature. Leftovers are excellent for breakfast.

This is good served with whipped cream (unsweetened) or plain yogurt.

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