Friday, September 05, 2014

Zucchini Noodles Recipe

My love of pasta is no secret, but I’m cutting back. An article in the New York Times covering the latest research about the benefit of low carbohydrate diets has me rethinking my noodle consumption. I won’t give them up completely but now and again I can see trying something different. Something like zucchini noodles. 

For a long time I’ve wanted one of those spiralizer type tools. But they are rather expensive and I just wasn’t sure how much use I’d get out of them. There is actually an easy way to make “noodles” out of zucchini or other vegetables using a box grater. You just lay the grater on its side like a mandoline! But I’ve just recently tried out the Microplane spiral cutter and it’s an even better option. At $14.95 it’s a lot less expensive than some of the other tools and takes up very little space. It also has two sizes so you can shred larger or smaller vegetables. 

The downside to using this gadget is that it takes some time to get used to it, and to figure out how much pressure to exert to get the thickness of noodles you like. It also leaves a little stubby core of the vegetable. But it’s relatively easy to use and clean once you get the hang of it. 

I don’t like raw zucchini, but by cooking the zucchini noodles in a pan sauce, you get a lovely texture and the zucchini does seem to absorb a bit of the sauce. You can also blanch the "noodles" quickly in boiling water to take off the raw edge and then toss them with a cool sauce like pesto. I’ve only begun experimenting with zucchini noodles but I’m enjoying them so far. While not chewy, they do have a lovely slippery feel. 

Zucchini Noodles with Fresh Tomato Sauce 

Makes 2 servings 

2 Tablespoons olive oil 
1 cup cherry tomatoes


2 medium zucchini 
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced 
1/3 cup peeled small to medium raw shrimp, optional 

Trim then shred the zucchini using the large holes on a box grater or using a “spiralizer” tool. Heat a skillet and add the olive oil. Add the tomatoes and cook gently until they begin to break down and become saucy.

Add the zucchini and garlic and cook until the sauce reduces by about half. Add the shrimp, if desired, and cook just until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, the time will vary depending upon the size of the shrimp but probably no more than a minute or so. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Enjoy! 

Disclaimer: My thanks to Microplane for providing me with the spiral cutter to test. 

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Peameal Bacon of Toronto

On my first trip to a city I always try to experience the things that the place is famous for, especially the food. Recently I was in Toronto which is a very diverse city with all kinds of food, but the peameal bacon sandwich is one of its most iconic specialties. 

Toronto was once known as Hogtown, thanks in part to the vast stockyards where in the mid to late 1800’s cured pork products like bacon were sent to the United Kingdom, where there was a shortage at the time. In 1900 over half a million pigs were processed for export in Toronto. 

So what is peameal bacon exactly? It’s what we call “Canadian bacon” in the US. It’s made from pork loin, rather than belly, so it’s much leaner than typical bacon. It’s brined and cured, not smoked. It was originally rolled in ground dried yellow peas to help preserve it, but cornmeal became much more widely available in the 1900’s and also preserved the meat better. 

Peameal bacon, also sometimes called back bacon, is juicy and salty but not nearly as salty as streaky bacon. It’s served sliced and makes a very fine sandwich. 

One place to try the famous peameal bacon sandwich is at the St. Lawrence Market. You can see peameal bacon in the cases of butcher shops and there are at least two places that serve the sandwich, Paddington’s Pump, a full service sit down restaurant and Carousel Bakery, a market stall. The Paddington’s Pump sandwich features thinly sliced peameal bacon and comes on a crusty roll with tomato and lettuce and some slaw and pickle on the side. At Carousel Bakery the sandwich is served on a hamburger bun with thick cut peameal bacon. You can also get the “breakfast on a bun” with peameal bacon, a fried egg and cheese. 


After you try the peameal bacon sandwich, I recommend trying the eggs benedict at the classic diner, The Senator which is Toronto’s oldest restaurant. It’s two poached eggs on peameal bacon with hollandaise sauce on a homemade biscuit. Both are so good that I'm not sure which I prefer!

Disclaimer: My thanks to Tourism Toronto for hosting me on this trip. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pack a Lunch! Cookbooks

It’s back to school and that means bag lunches. Or maybe like me, you don’t have school age kids, but still want to start packing lunch to take to work. It’s easy to get in a rut, but these three cookbooks offer many ways to jazz up your lunchbox. 

The Banh Mi Handbook is the latest book from Andrea Nguyen. In the past she has written about Vietnamese food, dumplings and tofu, perhaps convincing you to make your own. But I had to wonder, when I can get a terrific banh mi sandwich for just a couple bucks, would I want to make my own? The answer is YES because Nguyen goes well beyond what you might find at a Vietnamese sandwich shop. 

What I absolutely love the most about this book in addition to the versatility is the focus on ease and simplicity. There are lots of shortcuts and no shame if you choose to buy bread or mayonnaise or doctor some liverwurst to make a tasty pate. The book offers the basics and traditional recipes for fixings like carrot and daikon pickles, headcheese terrine and Chinese barbecue pork but also offers tons of non-traditional options too to keep things interesting. Go vegetarian with coconut curry tofu or an edamame pate. I know I’ll be making the warm sardine and tomato sauce sandwich and the oven fried chicken katsu. These are sandwiches that will make your mouth water! 

Mason Jar Salads, a slim volume of lunch and breakfast worthy recipes includes why-didn’t-I think-of-that ideas that are perfect for when you want to bring something delicious from home. The book includes smoothies, soups, dips and more. But salads are the main event and author Julia Mirabella comes up with very creative layered ones like spinach, blueberry and blue cheese, or barley and zucchini salad and even a layered cobb salad. Dressing layered on the bottom of the jar keeps everything from getting soggy and makes shaking the new tossing. So smart! This book will give your lunch a jolt.


A traditional Japanese lunch is bento, or box lunch. As someone who loves variety, I go crazy for bento boxes, especially the ones they sell at railway stations in Japan. They often contain 5 or 6 small nibbles like flavored rice balls, pickles, salads and all kinds of meats and vegetables. They might look complicated but they don’t have to be. That’s the message behind Effortless Bento. This book shows you how to make ahead over 300 items so you can create a tasty and exciting lunch in no time. The full color pictures really help to show how a few items come together to make a meal. There are single dish bentos too like dry curry bento. 

As long as you have access to a refrigerator, you can make all kinds of delectable vegetable and meat dishes, many can even be frozen ahead of time. The one caveat about this book is that the recipes are Asian, though not all Japanese, some do require a trip to an Asian market for specialty ingredients like burdock, dried shrimp or lotus root. But plenty of recipes use only 3-5 very basic ingredients.

Disclaimer: These books were provided as review copies and this post includes affiliate links. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Peach Ketchup Recipe & Ball Brand Giveaway!


I can, can you? Sure you can! Canning is not hard to do at all, especially if you pick a really easy project like canning fruit. This year I received a box of luscious peaches from Washington state. They were perfectly ripe, but a bit crushed in spots due to poor handling in transit. Instead of canning slices or halves, I used the fruit—some perfect and some not so perfect—to make peach ketchup! 

Peach ketchup is a lovely peachy color, but it tastes very much like tomato ketchup. Taste it before you can it, and adjust the spices and sugar to suit yourself. Use really great tasting fruit, it should not be brown or overripe, but if it is soft in spots, that's ok. Use the tangy sweet and sour ketchup just as you would regular tomato ketchup. It’s particularly great on potatoes. 


As in years past I am proud to be a  “Canbassador” for the Washington State Fruit Commission and to tell you about the Can-It-Forward event, sponsored by Ball Brand. 

Check out this site for a live webcast of canning demonstrations with chefs, as well as recipes and tips 

A go-to resource for canning and freezing stone fruits, offering how-to-tips, recipes, health information, customizable canning jar labels and more

Here are more of my picks for great canning resources:

A community site with recipes and tutorials for canning, preserving, cheese making, foraging, drying and dehydrating and pretty much anything that is culinary DIY 

This is kind of the “bible” for learning how to safely preserve food at home, there’s even a self study course 

AND NOW THE GIVEAWAY! 
This year Ball Brand is offering one lucky reader a fabulous prize package of:

·   New Limited Edition Spring Green Heritage Collection Jars, these limited edition jars commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the Ball brothers’ “Perfection” Jar and come in a beautiful green tint.  These are being produced only in 2014 and are available in both pint and quart varieties.  (Pint retail value: $9.99 per case/ Quart retail value $12.99 per case)
·   Fresh Herb Keeper is an ingenious container to keep herbs fresh for up to two weeks. (Retail value: $12.99)
·   Dry Herb Jars are a perfectly-sized solution for storing your dried herbs. Great for storing seasonings, spices and rubs too! Stackable, low-profile design makes pantry or drawer storage more efficient than old, mis-matched containers. (Retail value: $4.99)
·   Frozen Herb Starters preserve your fresh seasonings in ready to use cubes filled with butter, oil or other liquid for easy and flavorful meal starters. (Retail value: $11.99)
·   5 Blade Herb Scissors  with stainless steel blades to gently cut and evenly slice herbs like basil, parsley and cilantro. (Retail value: $9.99)
·   Ball Blue Book with 125 pages that will guide you while you learn about preserving, this book provides information on equipment, instructions for the preserving method and recipes! (Retail value: $6.49) 
Leave ONE comment telling me what you'd most like to can or preserve and I will choose a winner at random on Wednesday August 20th, 2014. In order to win you must have a US mailing address and you must include your email in the field where it is requested (it will not be publishes and no one will see it but me). 

Peach Ketchup 
Makes 8 1/2 pint jars

5 lbs fresh ripe peaches, pitted and peeled and cut into chunks*
2 - 3 cups brown sugar (start with 2 cups and add more to taste)
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 Tablespoon kosher salt 

In a large pot, bring peaches, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, seasonings to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer about until peaches are very soft about 15 minutes. 

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the peaches to a blender or food processor. Process until pureed and return the peach puree to the pot. Gently simmer and reduce for hour and mixture is thickened. 

Transfer peach ketchup to hot sterilized canning jars. Wipe rims and seal with clean lids and rings. Process 15 minutes in a boiling water bath or according to manufacturers' instructions. Let cool to room temperature and store. Open jars should be stored in the refrigerator, just like tomato ketchup. 

*To peel the peaches you can score, blanch, and shock the fruit, but I find a very sharp vegetable peeler also works great and is much less bother. 

Enjoy! 

Disclaimer: My thanks to Washington State Fruit Commission for the fruit and Ball Brand for the canning and preserving supplies.