Thursday 10 July 2014
July 2014 Update
Hi there. There hasn't been much action on the blog recently. Just wanted to check in. I'm still alive! lol. It's amazing. I have had all these plans in store for the blog and things keep going wrong or I get very busy. There's a particular kind of meat that I've been trying to order from my butcher but there have been all kinds of delays. I made one dish and totally screwed it up so I decided not to use it (that happens now and then). Also I have been eating very healthy, routinely and boringly lately. I try to make this blog more about food and less about me, but I'm working at getting in good shape this month. There is an annual event here in Toronto called Caribana (well, it's officially been changed to "Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival" but everyone still calls it Caribana). It's the largest street festival in North America and celebrates everything about Caribbean culture. Every year it is a huge party and attracts tourists from all over. At every Caribana there is a parade, also known as Grand Mas, where participants "chip down the road" so to speak in elaborately colourful, feathery, fantasy-inspired costumes. Most of which are rather skimpy. I'm in the Grand Mas parade this year and I'm basically going to be shirtless, so I've been working on my fitness.
For breakfasts I've been eating granola with plain yogurt and fresh blueberries. For lunches I've been eating a lot of raw, vegan, hearty salads and for dinner I usually vary it up. For example the past two nights I've had chicken and salad. I'm snacking less but when I do it's usually on nuts, seeds or fruit (fresh or dried) or veggies with hummus. I found this great coconut-almond butter that I'm kind of obsessed with at the moment so sometimes I just nosh on a big spoonful of that. I don't eat like this all the time, every day, but it's been frequent. I'll share with you one of the "hearty, vegan salads" that I've made. It's nice because it's basically just prep work and you're done but you still end up with a colourful, flavourful, nutritious dish that you can pick at for a few days.
It's a mix of chickpeas, black beans, cucumber, red pepper, green onion, grated carrot, pomegranate, fresh Genovese and opal basil (because I have a ton of it), ground habanero powder, sea salt and pepper. Yum!
For those of you who followed the first season of MasterChef Canada, I'm going to be in the Grand Mas parade with Narida and Marida Mohammed! So not only is it going to be a fun party with friends but it will also be a mini MasterChef reunion. We'll be representing Trinidad and chucking up deuces! lol.
What other updates can I give you... my herb garden is doing stupendously well. It's been almost seven weeks since I first planted my herbs this year. They are a little crowded but everything has grown so much. I am having to pick flowers off of all three varieties of basil, thyme, mint and oregano. If I don't, then the plants will successfully end their life cycle and die. I don't want them to die. I want to eat them! So there's a good tip: if you're growing herbs of your own, be sure to pick off any flowers (the flowers are edible though and can make for some very elegant garnishes).
Here's a shot of my mint, Genovese basil, opal basil (or purple basil), Thai basil, and parsley.
Here are my woodier herbs: oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme.
I've been having lots of fun with these. I love summer. I can't say it enough.
You may remember I also planted some scotch bonnet peppers. I am happy to report that over the passed couple of weeks they have been flowering a lot and many of those flowers have already transformed into fruit! They will not be mature and edible until they are a reddish colour. For now I just have a few, small green ones. Although everything is going smoothly and according to plan.
Also, I'm making a tamarind chutney. Traditionally an East Indian condiment that I first had in Trinidad but it blew me away. So good! Tamarind are pods from a tree of the same name which encases a fibrous, pulp and large seeds. The pulp is edible and produces a sour and mildly sweet flavour. What I love about tamarind is that there is no bitterness to it whatsoever (like how lemon and lime are both sour and bitter) tamarind has a very clean, sour flavour. I had tamarind pulp from a purchase I had made weeks earlier. You can buy it in hard, blocks. In order to extract that flavourful paste from the tough fibers, all you need to do is break the tamarind pulp into pieces and then pour just enough boiling water to cover them and leave it to soak for 15-20 minutes. During this time the tamarind will soften. Then it's just a matter of draining the tamarind and pushing it through a fine mesh sieve with a spatula. The paste will pass through the sieve leaving the tough fibers behind.
The tamarind paste is just thicker than the consistency of apple sauce and can be used to add flavour to a variety of dishes (a popular example is Pad Thai). All I've done so far is extract the paste but I'm going to use it to simmer in some water with sugar and spices and try to replicate the Indian condiment I had in Trinidad. Wish me luck!
That about does it for now. Sorry I haven't had any new recipes or techniques to share in a while but there will surely be more to come. I hope everybody is enjoying their summer (and I hope winter is being kind to my readers near the other polar extreme of the world).
See you again soon!