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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bacon Soap

This is just too good to pass up. One of my friends laughed at me and my comments about bacon fat. But, if she's not careful, this will be her Christmas gift.

Bacon soap ... I love it!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Moose Lips

My lunch lately has consisted of sandwiches with grilled vegetables. Grilled zucchini and eggplant with fresh tomatoes. They are very summery sandwiches. I opened my lunch yeasterday and you know what two grilled eggplant slices look like when they hang out of the sandwich?

Moose lips.

Moose lips have been on my mind lately.

I read Hilary Clintons biography, which I enjoyed immensely. She wrote about the time she attended a Russian dinner and was served a soup with gelatinous moose lips floating in the broth. She wrote "I tasted a lot of unusual food for my country, but I drew the line at moose lips” She couldn't eat the moose lips for her country ... or for Boris Yeltsin.

After that passage, my dreams had been filled with wormy looking purply lips floating in my lunch time soup.

But, unlike Hilary Clinton, I know that I could eat moose lips for my country. After all I've practiced on eggplant.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Zucchini Heaven

I am awash in a sea of zucchini. It is a modern miracle because no zucchini has followed me home from the grocery store recently and my garden is a barren wasteland thanks to some fat neighbourhood raccoons. My suspicions are turning to some of the most kind generous and sneaky neighbours on this side of the Rockies.

After some long lazy summer days, we had been chatting with our neighbours and catching up with each other’s lives. In one of these casual conversations I innocently mentioned that my family and I love zucchini. Not long afterward zucchini began anonymously appearing on my doorstep. One behemoth weighed five pounds! We are thinking of saving it for Halloween and carving it instead of a pumpkin or adopting it as the youngest member of our family.

There are only two approaches to cooking zucchini. The first is a favourite among zucchini lovers. It not only enhances zucchini flavour, it puts zucchini on centre stage. The secret is to brown, grill or fry the zucchini at high heat and salt it so the flavour is accented. The second approach is the slight of hand where you sneak grated zucchini into other dishes and deny that it ever existed.

Zucchini gratin, zucchini fritters, stuffed zucchini and battered zucchini cause my family to drool with anticipation. Chocolate zucchini cake, zucchini muffins and chili with zucchini are my way of making healthy food that I’m sure my children appreciate. To be honest, I’m forced by the sheer magnitude of the zucchini wave lapping at my doorstep to invent new and interesting ways to serve zucchini. I’m resorting to sneaking it into every dish and hoping that no one notices.

As he was handing over a few zucchini, one of my neighbours admitted to me that his opinion of cows has been elevated to new levels since he discovered that…NOT EVEN COWS WILL EAT ZUCCHINI…. since he is obviously not a zucchini lover, I sent my daughter over with chocolate zucchini cake in an anonymous brown paper bag marked with a big “Z”. We also have new neighbours moving into their home this week. I’m thinking it would be mighty neighbourly of me to share the bounty.

For others in zucchini distress, I’m including one of our favourite methods of serving zucchini. Feel free to experiment as much as you like; zucchini is a forgiving palette. Just make sure your oil is at the right temperature and fries everything to a golden colour.

Zucchini Fritters

1 lb of grated zucchini 1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder 2 chopped green onions
Handful of fresh sage – chopped (whatever herb you like best)
1 egg

oil for frying
wedges of lemon

Mix together the first six ingredients. Pour oil to a 1 cm depth into frying pan and heat on the stove top. Test the oil temperature by putting in a small drop of zucchini batter. If bubbles form around the mixture and it puffs and becomes golden; your oil is hot enough. Drop dollops of zucchini into the oil and flatten them slightly to make small patties. Turn over once they are golden on the bottom. When they are golden brown, remove them to drain on a paper towel. Sprinkle them with salt and serve with wedges of lemon.

If you are wondering, yes, I still love zucchini. I’m thankful for each one that appears on my doorstep. However, just in case anyone is interested, what I REALLY love is seafood and chocolate.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Greek Zucchini Salad

August really should be zucchini month because they multiple like rabbits and appear spontaneously.

Greek Zucchini Salad

4 small zucchini
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped finely
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Small clove garlic, finely minced or crushed
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese or strong salty cheese such as pecorino
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cut zucchini into paper thin slices. It helps if you have a mandolin but just watch your fingers if you don't. Combine lemon juice, olive oil and garlic. Drizzle over the slices of zucchini. Garnish with mint. Toss to combine. Add feta cheese. Taste and add salt and pepper to adjust seasonings.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Pita Footballs

A Year in Bread is a fantastic website dedicated to baking bread. Three bakers provide recipes and gentle teasing of each other over each recipe. It makes bread baking accessible. I've been neglecting to make any bread from the website lately because the heat and humidity are overwhelming. We have no air conditioning and my baking is limited by my families tolerance to heat.

Besides, since I followed the recipe for Bacon Buns from the website I've run out of bacon fat.

But I haven't run out of stories and since A Year in Bread is asking for bread stories here is one of my first experiences with bread baking.

I have been baking bread, well experimenting for a long time. My parents indulged my cooking experiments with the hope that each experiment would be better than the previous one. The first bread recipe I remember trying was for pita bread. How I even came across the recipe is a mystery. I had never seen a pita. Nonetheless, the recipe seemed very clear and I worked my way through the directions.

Everything was going swimmingly. The dough seemed easy enough to work. In the oven the bread cooked beautifully and puffed with hot air. When I took them out of the oven, I piled them on a platter. It was a little difficult since they were still puffed and would skitter off each other. Naively I thought they would eventually deflate. I left the platter in the middle of the table for everyone to admire.

My father came home and looked at the pile of puffy pita and said "What is that?" The pitas never flattened. They were still a high pile of hollow pita footballs. By this time the pitas were crispy and hard just like delicate hollowed out Easter eggs.

My pitas may have been a storage nightmare but if you carefully burrowed a hole in one without shattering it, they were easy to fill.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Lime Roasted Corn on the Cob

Corn season is here and we are enjoying corn on the cob from the local farmers market. Corn season where I lived as a child meant "Corn Roasts". There would be huge pots of furiously boiling water and a stream of fresh corn cobs plunged into the water and fished out onto paper plates. It would be served steaming with a generous dollop of butter then sprinkled with salt and pepper. There was also a side of cold beer. But I was just a kid and beer wasn't on my menu.

The droopy plate was carried back to the picnic table; all the kids did their best not to let the steaming cob roll over the edge and onto the ground. We would alternate the fingertips that held the cob so each finger would be scalded in turn. A water and butter mixture dripped down to our elbows. Every bite would leave corn stuck between our teeth.

The years that I had braces were agony for me.

My husband was surprised when he came to Canada since like many Europeans, they considered corn on the cob food for animals. But now he appreciates it just as much as I do. He loves his cob slathered in butter. Since I'm an adult now I have my corn cob roasted and served with a wedge of lime and side of Corona.

Lime Roasted Corn on the Cob

1 lime cut into wedges
Sea salt, pepper
Corn on the cob, left in the husk

Oven mitts!!!!

Soak the unhusked corn, in a bucket of water or sink full of water. Light your barbecue and put the wet corn directly onto the grill. The husk will prevent the corn from burning and becoming tough. You must remember to turn the cobs since it is still possible to burn the corn. The husks will dry out and blacken. Check one of the cobs by opening slightly. Remove from the heat and leave in the husk until you are ready to serve. They will stay warm in the husk for a few minutes.

Rub a wedge of lime on the corn and sprinkle with salt.

Put another lime wedge in your Corona and enjoy.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Raccoon Plumbing ... Plumming

No plums this year. This poor tree has been decimated by raccoons once again.

Almost every evening last week a family of raccoons would amble up to our sliding patio door. They would peer into the glass and chirrup for a bit of supper. When they spied us coming to the door they would come closer but we would chase them away. Raccoons are cute but very destructive. Besides, they are not very discriminating gourmands. They will just as readily dive into an unattended a garbage can as rush to watch us smoking our barbecue.

So the raccoons were pretty miffed because we weren't providing take out meals. They weren't used to be given the cold shoulder. I suspect that a few people think they are really cute and toss them a few victuals. Hence, the raccoons turned their attention to our poor plum tree.

Last year when we came home from vacation our tree looked as if a mad hacker had cut off a third of the branches. The cuts were so sharp I even asked my neighbour if he had been trimming our tree at night. That's not such a strange request since our neighbour is very skillful with the hedge trimmers. Skillful yes but nuts no.

The idea of raccoons chomping on the branches never crossed my mind. Until one night I heard loud chewing. I grabbed the spotlight and pointed it toward the tree. Raccoons were swinging from the branches, chewing the branches and dropping them to the ground. Once the branches dropped, the racccoons would eat the fruit off the branches from the ground.

This year I hoped it would be different. But the tree was battered once again. You would think I could pick the plums before they were eaten but they weren't ripe.

I hope they get the runs.

I apologized to my neighbour.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Let's Play Tag

I've been tagged by Bliss and Vinegar and I jumped in saying Yes! Of course I'll play! I'm always up for some fun and some of the random facts that other bloggers post are really funny.

... but, ahem, I didn't know how to play so it's taken me a bit of time to get everything together. So here are the rules first than the facts, nothing but the facts...


1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.

2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.

3. People who are tagged need to write on their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.

4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.

Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Eight Random Facts

1. The day I vowed to learn Italian was the day my mother in law spoke Italian in front of me. It was Christmas and she was discussing my Christmas gift with her family. Since I understand Italian today I tell her that she can talk behind my back like any good mother in law should.

2. I will try any new food once. Except bugs. Can't do bugs.

3. I love the smell of cigars since it reminds me of my grandfather.

4. Since I'm Canadian I'm bilingual. I speak metric and imperial.

5. After Art school, I studied two years of chemistry and the experiments I remembered were the ones that related to food.

6. In the past year and a half, I've seen 7 live moose. Before that, I had only seen one. Every time I see one I think it's pretty cool even for a Canadian.

7. Before I was thirty I had never seen a soccer game. The first time I played soccer I didn't know you couldn't touch the ball with your hands. This could have been funny and maybe charming if I had been five years old ... but I was thirty. It wasn't cute and it wasn't hockey.

8. My husband used to affectionately call me "Ciccia". When I learned to speak Italian I discovered Ciccia meant chubby. I punched him in the arm.


Here are a few blogs that I've been reading and I hope they'll play too.

Apron Strings and Simmering Things

Basting Away in Margaritaville

I Spend Most of My Life in the Kitchen

When My Soup Came Alive

Food Destination

What's On My Plate

A Taste of Tina

Dinner A' Deux