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garden: patio style

i love my outdoor space.
i don’t have very much of it, although my patio is large for condo standards, it’s still just a patio.
but i make do with what i have to work with and try to squeeze in every last bit of space into something functional.

and as such, i don’t feel i have much time for flowers.
i just really don’t care that much.
i’m a plant girl.  i like the green.
but i’ve been making an effort to incorporate a little colour this year.
and these are some of the fruits of my labour.


what i really enjoy is growing the “useful” plants.
herbs and vegetables and fruits and things i can eat.

this years herb garden is coming along nicely, although i think i’ve gone overboard on the basil.
somehow i’ve ended up with 5 pots of basil.
so clearly, pesto is imminent.

but this year i’ve also go some rosemary, thyme and tarragon.

and then i get into the really useful plants.
in the past i’ve always tried to grow tomatoes.  but this year i’m just accepting defeat and not wasting my money.  tomatoes just do not want to grow on my patio.

but in turn, i’m trying a few new things.
like dwarf zucchini plants that i can grow in a pot.  and yellow wax beans.  and kale.

and then of course, the good old standby – strawberries.
i’ve had my strawberry plants for 4 years now and they’re still going strong.

in fact, if this is the only yield from my patio this year…
well, i’m okay with it.

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food: nicoise salad

i don’t know if this is in any way unusual or noteworthy, but until last night neither my husband nor i had ever had a nicoise salad.
i mean… we’re not french… but we do like salads.  and seafood…. so… ya.

anyways.  in addition to working on paring down everything about our lives, the food budget is definitely a giant blinking light on the list.  we like food and 100% believe its worth the money to buy quality food.
but we also are living on the BC working man’s paycheque.  which means it can’t be all sablefish and spot prawns.

canned tuna and canned salmon are two things we’ve really taken a shining to lately.
it’s economical, relatively speaking, although you pay a premium for the ethically caught options, but its worth it…
and it’s tasty, fast and easy for those times when standing over the stove just isn’t your idea of a good time.
but one can only eat so many fish cakes (untrue – that shit is delicious) and so we’ve been hunting around for new ideas.

this nicoise salad really made itself.
my husband came home with bags of produce on monday and among them were lovely green beans, little red potatoes, baby heirloom tomatoes and 2 giant heads of romaine…
and also this genius idea.

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we made a dressing of olive oil, anchovy, olive brine, lemon and white wine vinegar with some tarragon and garlic for flavour and whisked it together by hand.
the cooked potatoes and blanched green beans were tossed in it and the rest was drizzled on top.

for the tuna, we used one can packed in water and drained and one can packed in oil with jalapenos in it and mixed them together so it had oil, but not too much.

garnished with perfectly hard boiled eggs sprinkled with a few grains of coarse salt, tomatoes, olives and capers and it was ready for eating.

except for for mine, of course.  thats my husband’s plate above.
mine is the picky and much smaller plate below.
which was still equally as delightful.

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food: new and exciting

i’ve been eating solid food for over 30 years now.  and while i wouldn’t call myself an “adventurous eater” necessarily, i’d say with confidence that i’ve eaten or am least aware of eating a wide variety of food.

so when i’m presented with something that i’ve never seen eaten, but it makes total sense, i do a facepalm and an “of course!”

we live in a very chinese neighbourhood.  well, that could be said for most of the metro vancouver area, but in our area of coquitlam, there is definitely a very large asian community including japanese & koreans as well, but mostly folks of chinese decent.
which means a few things, including a delightful presence of pretty authentic chinese, japanese & korean restaurants… but also grocery stores stocking ingredients that you otherwise wouldn’t see in a “western” grocery store.

we also have a solid persian community here.  which again, means persian markets and a handful of restaurants.
which is awesome.  because persian folks that i know have informed me of some little culinary secrets, like that halal meat is grass fed.  so all those months i spent feverishly searching for grass fed meats, they were right under my nose for cheaper than i thought.  although halal is not a guarantee of quality of life for the animals (and there is a very divided view on the slaughtering of the animals), so my preferred purchases are still from the farm, but in a pinch, its good to know there’s options.

we try to soak up as much knowledge as we can… whenever we see a vegetable thats unknown, we also whip out our phones and try to figure out what it tastes like and how (or if) you cook it.
vegetable adventures are fun to me.  because at the very worst, its just a vegetable.
i can’t claim to be *quite* as adventurous when it comes to mystery animals found in the exclusively asian targeted grocery stores.
frankly, i’ve come to the conclusion that in many other parts of the world, asia in particular, people will eat parts of animals that us north americans just haven’t quite wrapped our heads around yet.  and i’m not entirely sold that we need to, lol.
organ meats in particular just don’t jive for me.  *shudder*

but i digress,  because this is a story about vegetables.

over the past year, i can think of 3 new vegetables that we’ve “discovered” that i had previously never known.
one was a whole new thing altogether and the other 2 were just other parts of plants i already knew.

brand new to me: fenugreek.

i was familiar with fenugreek as a spice, but until last year had never seen (or noticed) it being sold as a vegetable.
so, thanks persians in my neighbourhood!

apparently fenugreek has long been used as a milk stimulant in lactating mothers and a libido enhancer.
but i just ate it as a tasty vegetable.

we enjoyed it in salads and also cooked down by lightly sauteing with butter, garlic & lemon.
it was peppery, flavourful and cheap.  and entire big bag of fenugreek leaves was about $1.50 and lasted us for several meals.
so while this is a very prevalent ingredient in persian cuisine,  it was totally new to me.

brand new to me last year: garlic scapes.

hello gorgeous!
i LOVE garlic scapes.  LOVE THEM.
contrary to what they may look like, they’re not super curled green onions.
think of them more like a fresh green bean or asparagus with a mild garlic taste.  aka – fucking delicious.

we came across these last spring at the farm market and bought them on the advice of the vendor.  he said to chop them and saute them in butter and nom down.
so we did.  and we’ve never looked back.

now they’re one of those items that if we see them, we buy up as many as possible.
they’re extremely seasonal.  and you’d only ever see them if you shop at good farm markets.  this is certainly not a big grocery store item.
and sadly for me, garlic scape season has passed with the spring.
but next year i’ll be prepared – i’m going to grow my own.

anyways, it seems that most people (on the internets) use the scapes raw in a pesto.  i liked mine raw too, but one of my favourite methods was to rub them with a bit of olive oil, salt & pepper and throw them in the bbq like i do my asparagus.
you end up with a very similar texture, but a yummy garlic flavour, like you’d seasoned them.

they’ve proved to be as versatile a vegetable as the asparagus to me.
when raw, they can be slivered and added to salads, soups, as garnish, whatever…
and they saute, steam, roast or grill wonderfully.

if you’ve never had them, i can’t recommend them enough.
and bonus – they are also pretty cheap.  usually $1.50 to $2 a bunch.

and lastly, brand new to me as of 2 days ago: pepper leaves.

yes.  like the actual LEAVES of a pepper plant.
and here’s my internal self conversation:  “you can eat those?  of course dummy, why *wouldn’t* you be able to eat them?”
it was just not a thought that had ever occurred to me.
but those clever and waste-less folks at the local chinese owned produce market schooled us on them.

this is information i wish i’d had years ago.
i’ve grown many pepper plants over the years.  and while my actual pepper production has been spotty… there were always at least leaves.
and i wish i had known they could have been eaten.

my husband was at the market and picked up a bag of dark green leaves and asked “what are these?” and was told by the staff that they were pepper leaves and were really good.  he asked if you eat them raw and they kind of chuckled at him and said “no, we saute them, like stir fry them.”
so alright.  home they came.

last night we chopped them up and used equal parts pepper greens and kale and sauteed them with a touch of butter and coconut oil, garlic and lemon juice.
and they were GOOD.
slightly spicy and peppery (duh) but with a nice spinach meets kale texture.

this whole pepper leaves thing especially is now making me question my garden.
what else could i be eating that i’m not?
how much is hitting the garbage that should be hitting my plate?
this may require some further investigation.

food: latkes & other delights

the other day my husband came home with an idea for smoked salmon & latkes.  because let’s face it, that shit is delicious.
i’ve never actually made a latke… and my understanding was that we’d need some sort of flour to make it hold together… but thanks to the magic of google, i managed to find a way to make it happen.

we started with some baby yellow potatoes.  in truth, larger ones would have been far easier to grate.  but you make do with what you’ve got.
so i grated about 8 to 10 of those little guys…
then in a blender (because i have no food processor – yet.) i blended 1 white onion and 4 whole potatoes.
here’s the fun part… you have ring that out and get all the moisture you can out.  so i combined the grated taters and the blended mix and hung it in a cheesecloth for about 15 minutes.  i squeezed out all the water i could, then put the mix in a bowl.
added 1 egg, salt & pepper and 1 tsp of baking powder and 1 tbsp of cornstarch and mixed.
i formed them into patties and fried them until brown in lots of butter/oil and then let them cook through in the oven on 350 for about 15 minutes while we prepped everything else.

i should have taken a latkes only picture.  they were real pretty.

then we soft poached some eggs, piled on the smoked salmon, topped with a dollop of sour cream, micro greens, green onion & capers.
voila!

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i was pretty excited about the micro greens.  they make all my meals look like fancy restaurant eats.  thanks trader joe’s.

this was pretty much a perfect meal.  so many flavours and textures going on… the crunchy potato cake, the soft salmon & egg… creamy yolk & sour cream and the finishing fresh taste of the greens.
yup.  good call husband.

 

here’s something else i’ve been eating like it’s going out of style…
cauliflower.

if you cut cauliflower into bit-sized pieces and toss them in olive oil, garlic salt, salt & pepper and roast it at 400 for a few minutes until they’re golden and delicious, you have one of the best snacks ever.
for all you lovers of kale chips, you should add this shit to your repertoire.

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