Saturday, August 31, 2013

Canning Herbed Tomato Sauce

My bounty is as boundless as the sea, my love as deep. The more I give thee, the more I have, For both are infinite. – William Shakespeare

Sauce for the winter. Guess I'm an ant rather than a grasshopper. (Aesop's fable)

I can’t believe that August is gone. I hope my directions are clear today. It’s 6am and I haven’t had my coffee yet.

The time of bounty has come in the garden. The tomatoes are ripening. Since we can’t keep ahead of them some have to be made into sauce. It takes a while, but it’s quite satisfying.

If you’re making sauce – which does take some effort – I suggest making more than I did. Twice as much actually. Same effort, twice the yield. But this was our first real “run” of tomatoes, so I only had 5 pounds.

This sauce is a combination of cherry and Roma tomatoes. If you're buying, go for all Roma. They have more "meat."

I “put up” in 500 ml jars. The jars you buy in the store are larger, but I always find I don’t need a full jar. The remainder sits in the refrigerator only to be thrown out weeks later. Yuck. So 500 ml it is for us.

This is a pretty basic sauce using a handful of fresh picked herbs. There’s plenty more combinations for sauce that you can do, which I probably will, like spicy or olive or mushroom. It’s essentially up to you what flavours you end up with.

The thickness is up to you as well. Don't make it too watery. I ended up with two and almost a full third jar. Better a little thick than a little thin.

The most important thing to remember is to process them in hot water afterwards if you want the sauce to keep on the shelf.

The lids HAVE to snap down when cooled to be sealed. If they don’t it only means those jars have to be refrigerated. But if you start with clean, sterile jars it shouldn’t be a problem.

I have written in the directions to place something in the bottom of the canning pot to keep the jars from direct contact. It can be anything. You don’t have to buy a canning set and lifter. I used a collapsible silicone colander.

Leave adjusting the salt to the very end. Since the sauce cooks down in volume, what is salty enough halfway through cooking can very well turn out to be too salty when reduced down.

There will be more tomato sauce in my future. And pickles for any leftover green ones. But that is a different post.

Herbed Tomato Sauce
Time: at least 3 hours  |  Yield: 1.5 L (approx.)
2 tbsp olive oil
5 lbs Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 large sweet onion
6 garlic cloves
1/4 cup red wine
1 cup chopped basil, with some rosemary and oregano
salt to taste (1 tsp first, then adjust at end)

Place all the ingredients in a large pot with a heavy bottom. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and place cover on the pot slightly ajar.

Let the mixture cook for 2 hours. At the end of the 2 hours, purée with a stick emulsion blender until smooth. 

Then allow to cook until the sauce is thickened to your liking. Stir often during this step so it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pot. Taste for salt and adjust.

Sterilize three or four 500 ml canning jars (always best to have too many ready than not enough) and place the piping hot sauce in the jars. If you end up with a jar not completely full that's OK. You can always use that one within a week.

Wipe the rims to make sure they're clean. Screw the lids on the jars “finger tight.”

Place the jars in a large enough pot to hold them with 1” of water covering the tops. Put a trivet (or something else) in the pot bottom to keep the jars slightly lifted off.

Bring to a boil and cook for 35 minutes. Remove the jars and let cool. You will hear the bump on the lids lids “snap” down as they cool. (This may take 1/2 hour or more.) Retighten the lids.

Any lids that don’t snap down must be refrigerated and used within a week because they didn’t seal properly. Others can be stored on a shelf through the winter.

Don't forget to label the jars so you know what it contains (herb, mushroom, etc...).


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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Pork, Corn, Rice & Chillie

Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise. – Anonymous

Risky refrigerator raiding? No. Quick and healthy? Yes.

This is my 1,000th post. Wow. I seem to have a lot to say, eh?  :-)  – Docaitta

Sometimes you just don’t have time to fuss over dinner, right? So wouldn’t it be nice to have a recipe that you can just stick on the stove and let go – all within less than 1/2 hour?

This one’s it. Stir, cover and go do something else important. Not that dinner isn’t important. You still have to put something nutritious on the table. But what if your dinner problem is compounded by having leftovers to deal with? No problem there either.

We barbecued some boneless pork chops a few days ago and made too many. It’s difficult to buy chops on sale for two. Luckily there are many uses for pre-cooked pork. And barbecued adds a nice, smokey flavour.

I have to admit, I took a risk and made this recipe up on the spot. I had the chops, an opened jar of tomato sauce, and some local corn I had purchased a few days previously. Things had to be dealt with.

This one’s a good recipe. It has all the flavours of Tex-Mex food, with the addition of rice right in it to extend it to a one-pot meal.

If you know what you’re doing you can steer almost any dish towards a certain region’s cuisine. I’ve mentioned this before – what makes something Italian, Greek, French, etc. All it takes is sone chutzpa.

The lesson I learned from all this? Don’t let “leftover” bits in your fridge deter you from culinary bravery, or a good dinner your family will enjoy.

This could just as easily have used beef or chicken. So if you have barbecued leftovers, perhaps think about bringing them in and putting them in a pot with some rice and corn. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how good, and filling, "leftovers" can be!

I love one pot meals. I'm dishwashing averse.
Pork, Corn, Rice & Chillie
Prep: 10 min  |  Cook 20-25 min  |  Serves 4
300 g pre-cooked cubed pork (2-3 chops)
3 ears corn kernels
1 cup long grain rice
1 cup tomato sauce (or thin salsa)
3 cups water
1 med onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 or 2 jalapeños, diced
1 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp thyme, ground
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
salt and pepper, to taste
sour cream and hot sauce, optional at table

Combine all ingredients (except for the sour cream) in a large pot. Bring to a simmer, cover and reduce heat to medium low. Let cook for 15 minutes, then remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes more.

Serve with sour cream and hot sauce at the table.


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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

“Champagne” Pizza Crust

A smile starts on the lips, A grin spreads to the eyes, A chuckle comes from the belly; But a good laugh bursts forth from the soul, overflows, and bubbles all around. – Carolyn Birmingham

Who doesn’t like bubbles? Especially fine delicate ones rising in racing lines up the sides of your champagne flute.

Just mixed.
I have to say no champagne was harmed in the making of this crust, although if you did have some “hanging around” you could substitute the water for it. No harm, no foul.

My recipe's name comes more from the bubbles and structure in the dough.

You could also substitute beer, for that matter. Both are listed as options in this recipe. Both would give a slightly different result. But don’t crack a bottle of Dom for this. (Although I’ve never really liked it as much as other cheaper champagnes. Guess I’m plebeian. To each his own.)

This crust was a bit of an experiment. I had a little time before dinner (2 hours to be exact) and had fixin’s in the fridge for pizza. You can make thin crust or regular, but what about something in-between. Low-ish and light?

Quite the rise.
The day I made this was humid and warm so bread rose spectacularly in the kitchen. I would hazard a guess the same result would be able to be obtained once the heat kicks on in the house in the not too distant future. Sigh... heating bills.

As far as toppings, the world’s your oyster. This crust, although looking very delicate will stand up to it. The result is quite unexpected. It has a great crumb and a satisfying crunchy sound when you cut it and bite into it.

I’m assuming, from past experience, that you could do the first rise when you’re at work in the fridge. So even if you do this through the week, there’s not a lot of work to make a great tasting pizza from scratch.

I’m supplying the crust recipe. Now the rest is up to you!

Very, very bubbly. Dimple it down with "determination.
“Champagne” Pizza Crust
Time: 1.5 hrs  |  Yield: 1 large crust
1-1/4 cups water, 110°F (or cheap champange, sparkling or even beer)
2 tsp yeast
2 cups flour
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Proof the yeast in the warm water until it is frothy. Then add the remaining ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon.

Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let rest until doubled in size, about 1 hour. The dough will be quite “liquidy.”

Oil a pizza pan (up to 12x19) and spread out the dough. Let rest again for about 30 minutes. It will become very bubbly.

Using sone force, dimple the dough down with your fingertips before adding your favourite toppings. Bake for 25 minutes at 425°F.


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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sweet Flax Seed Bread

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough, A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou, Beside me singing in the Wilderness—Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow! – Edward Fitzgerald

Had a very “large” day with my husband yesterday. “Large” in Nova Scotia means a wonderful day full of fun activities. We left the house yesterday at 11am and didn’t get back until 10pm and 350 km later.

We’re in the middle of Queens County, NS. So what can you get up to down this end of the province? Quite a lot actually, and for us it included three activities we had never done before.

This hemlock isn't 300 years old, but it was cool.
We first struck out to Kejimkujik National Park. We wanted to see some trees. Old growth hemlock, to be exact – some in excess of 300 years old. Adult day passes are $5.80 – do whatever you want all day until midnight. Our Bouvier Henry was free.

The old growth hemlock walk is 5km in total, through some beautiful undisturbed forested area, all well marked and interpreted. We were in the middle of nowhere, so good signage is a comfort. The boardwalk through the old hemlocks was stunning. The 5 km was a snap – and we don’t really walk all that much.

From there we headed for Digby and the Tiverton Ferry to Long Island. We were on a mission to see the scenic balancing rock, a 20 foot high piece of basalt rock precariously balanced on an outcropping on the shore. It’s been that way for 200 million years, or thereabouts...

It was even fun to take the ferry to Long Island, although it was only a 5 minute quarter mile trip. The ferry ride was $5.50 round trip. It runs every hour, 24 hours a day.

Balancing rock.
If you do want to see it, be aware there’s about 235 steps down to the water. Take your time. Henry was able to manage them. It’s worth it.

Backtracking, we walked the Digby waterfront. It was charming and way more than I expected. The people are friendly – even the tourists! My husband Mike got some nice shots of the famous Digby fishing fleet. A stunning, blue sky day.

Dinner was even a revelation. I had a club house sandwich at Irving’s Big Stop in Digby, but instead of turkey it had lobster! Lots of lobster. I’m making that at home. Best lobster "sandwich" I ever had.

For such a full day you would think that we would have started earlier. That’s my fault. Before we left I had to make bread for the week. 

There’s nothing like starting your day’s adventures with warm, fresh bread in your belly.

I’m so lucky. Good food, fantastic adventures, a wonderful dog (who probably regrets all the walking...) and a husband that is my heart’s twin. Can life get better?

Sweet Flax Seed Bread
Prep, including rises: 3 hrs  |  Bake: 35 min  |  Yield 1 loaf
2 cups water, 110°F
1 tbsp yeast
1 cup red fife or whole wheat flour
4-5 cups unbleached flour
1/3 cup fancy molasses
1/2 cup flax seeds
1 tsp salt

Proof the yeast in the warm water for 10 minutes until bubbly.

Before and after rising – doubled in bulk.

Mix in the red fife, 4 cups of the unbleached flour, molasses, flax seeds and salt. Bring together and try to knead on the counter. Only add enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that is still just slightly sticky.

Knead for 5 minutes. Oil a bowl, plop in the dough and let rise until doubled – between 1.5 and 2 hours. (Wrap the bowl in plastic wrap and then place a towel on top.)

Punch the dough down, roll into a log by folding it over and place in a well oiled 9” x 5” bread pan to rise again. Second rise should only take between 1/2 and 3/4 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400°F with a pan of water on the bottom rack to hydrate the oven.

Bake the oven for 10 minutes, remove the water and then bake for an additional 25 minutes. The loaf is done when it is nicely browned and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped with your fingers on top.

Let cool slightly, remove from the pan and then let cool until you can’t wait to try it!


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Friday, August 23, 2013

Red Chinese Pork Chops

When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves. – Viktor E. Frankl 

Soy, honey, rice wine, five spice powder... plus more.

Well, the weekend is here again. So it’s time for the barbecue.

It’s hard to imagine that there is only this, and next, weekend before life returns to normal again, whatever normal may be for you and your family.

For mine there are significant changes afoot. In a little over a week my husband is packing up to be a student again. Off to NSCC in Dartmouth. I’m very proud of him. Luckily we’ll see each other on weekends. I will be doing my part to keep costs down by sending back some meals to defray costs. It's hard to cook for two, let alone one. Watch for some interesting stuff from the "Docaitta Kitchen." He's living with a vegetarian friend. Challenges = opportunities.

I am writing this at an ungodly hour – 5am. I woke up 4:45am with the unpleasant sensation of being chilly. Yes, the weather is slowly turning to... I can hardly bring myself to say it... fall. I guess that’s a situation I cannot change, though.

We’ve accomplished a lot over this summer, with lots more to do, and I’ve learned some very valuable lessons about myself in the process. I’m a work in progress, as we all are.

One of the unexpected things that sprang upon us was needing to put in a well, which destroyed half a flower bed. Oddly, besides getting better, reliable water, it also let us start afresh in that area. It looks better now than it did before. It looks “planned.” Funny, that.

We also now have a fairly large egg-shaped beach stone standing upright among the new flowers. I’m quite proud of that. Thanks to my husband for the muscle to lug it up over the bank to the truck.

Yesterday started early with rock collecting to build a second flower bed spiral. Then the requisite wheelbarrow loads of the dirt and transplanting of some other rescue plants from areas of our yard where they weren’t doing as well as hoped. Those two new beds have transformed the garden.

Then there was a trip to town, watering in the new grass seed, installing solar lights (now on sale), etc., etc., so it was a busy, hot day. It’s good to have a barbecue on your deck so your kitchen doesn't overheat the house at end of day.

It’s also good to have options for on that BBQ. I like Chinese pork. Unfortunately in our small village we don’t seem to have a Chinese grocery, so one must be creative.

This marinade imparts some of the flavours I love so much. It’s also a great change of pace from the more usual BBQ fare. It also was extremely tender.

As far as side dishes, it also opens up possibilities for a mutltitude of Asian-inspired accompaniments. We had bok choy, cucumber and tomatoes tossed in a sesame oil and rice wine vinaigrette. I should have added sesame seeds.

Give this recipe a try. You’ll be amazed at how much Chinese barbecue flavour a little marinade can impart!

Red Chinese Pork Chops
Prep: 5 min  |  Marinate: 1 hr  |  Serves 4
8 pork shops
4 tbsp honey
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine
1 tsp five spice powder
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
10 drops food colouring

Mix together the marinade ingredients. Marinate the pork for at least 1 hour on the counter, turning twice.

Broil or grill until the internal temperature reaches 160°F. Let rest for 5 minutes and serve.


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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Italian Layered Eggplant

Recovery is something that you have to work on every single day and it's something that it doesn't get a day off. – Demi Lovato

Serve with rice or pasta if you wish.

My cousin hates eggplant. He wouldn’t like this dish.

Actually, as my mother (a former teacher) would say: “You can’t ‘hate’ an inanimate object.” So he must only dislike it. I wonder if you can love something inanimate? This is pretty tasty.

I was on a “plant run” yesterday to purchase on-sale items to fill the destroyed flower border, caused from when we had our well drilled. I felt the urge to perform some important recovery work to the poor thing before fall.

I brought back a sh8tload. So the gist is, I had little time to fuss over supper if I wanted to get the plants in right away.

By the way, I got about $120 worth of plants for around $50 at The Village Nursery in Pleasantville, just outside Bridgewater. The 3” pots that you buy as starters in the spring are fully mature and in bloom. Good deal, and instant garden.

But back to dinner... So I had no time, and wanted to be outside while dinner was being “made.”

The answer is in your oven, or will be if you make this. It also has very few ingredients. Some simple layering, pop it in and out you go.

Simple. No-fuss. Delicious and healthy.

By the way, besides now having the garden back from the dead, we also put down about half of the grass seed needed to cover our exposed dirt. In a few weeks we should be closer to back to normal in our yard!

Italian Layered Eggplant
Prep: 10 min  |  Bake 1 hr 0 min  |  Serves 4
4 tbsp olive oil
1 lg eggplant
1 lb hamburger
2 cups tomato sauce
2 tbsp fresh oregano (2 tsp dried)
1 tbsp fresh rosemary (1 tsp dried)
1 tbsp fresh thyme (1 tsp dried)
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Slice the eggplant into 1/4” thick pieces. Chop the herbs together. Place 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a 9x14, or similar, ovenproof pan and place 1 layer of slices on the bottom. Leave enough of the big ones to cover the top.

Then crumble the raw hamburger on top, followed by the pasta sauce and the herbs. Salt as you go.

Top with the remaining eggplant, sprinkle with the remaining oil, some more salt and some pepper. Be generous.

Cover with foil and bake in the hot oven for 1 hour. At the end of the hour, remove the foil, layer with the cheese and bake uncovered for 20 more minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and browned.


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Monday, August 19, 2013

How to hide a drilled well pipe

I have come to accept the real me. I have come to love the real me. I now celebrate the real me. – Charice Pempengco 

Lilies, shasta daisies, poppies, gentian, bleeding heart, hosta, anemone,
sweet peas ...all rescued from the digger.

That quote holds a lot of significance for me. There are some things we all have to accept and build from there. It's like Don Quixote trying to joust with a windmill. It ain't gonna happen.

It also has the word “celebrate” in it, which makes sense to use as an intro because I’m going to talk about something no one thinks to celebrate. I wish I had seen this post before I wrote it. That doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it.

What I mean is I wish that the info in this post was available to us when I went looking for solutions to a un-celebratory property problem: the drilled well pipe. You know, the pipe that sticks at least 18” out of the ground after you water well has been put in.

A lot of people want solutions to hide it. Luckily, after a well is drilled, the ground for yards around is fair game. It’s obliterated. Unluckily for us we had to run our pipe to the house right.through.our.flower.bed. Yup. Half of it – gone. 

And we only had recused it from the weeds this year. Sigh...

If you go looking for solutions to hide this metal and plastic monstrosity you don’t find much that’s – shall we say – classy. There’s hollow windmills to put over it, or fake wishing wells, or even hollow fake plastic rocks. Shudder.

10 feet at the widest point.
You have to be careful what you do to it because you can’t just bury it. And whatever you do has to have ready access or can be easily removed. It has to be available for servicing if the pump ever needs replacing.

So what do you do? Well fear not. Here’s a solution that not only hides the blasted thing but also makes it a feature. If you have a pimple, put some eyeliner on it and make it a beauty mark.

Our solution? Make a low rock wall around it, fill it with dirt and plant it. Its a simple as that. It won’t hide it four-seasons if you’re in our climate, but it will for the length of time you constantly use your yard. It also serves as a "distraction," giving you something else to look at.

Fo ours, I made a nautilus shaped spiral out of “found” rock about 10-12 inches high with the dirt a few inches lower inside. There’s still plenty of pipe above ground. Over the pipe I put a metal garden trellis where I have planted perennial sweet peas. So not only will the pipe be covered, but it will be in full flower.

You don’t have to make a spiral. Make a circle, oval or square, or whatever shape you want. Tie the rock into something existing. The point is to have plants growing up around it to make it less noticeable.

This is the sunny side. I moved five lavenders to a position against it.

Interestingly, this little structure also creates a slight microclimate. So if you have any borderline zone plants tuck them up against the rocks where they’ll appreciate the shelter and extra heat. I moved out lavender to the sunny side of the wall.

The pictures of my creation are a little sad because the plants are what we salvaged before the well digger came in. They have been sitting in water for over a week. They needed planting. In a few days I expect to see either some life or new growth on many of them.

Cost? I scavenged the rock, the dirt was out back and the plants were saved. I tally that as 0 dollars. A little sweat equity, but not much.

So there’s my solution. Don’t hide it. Celebrate it. It's better than trying to fight something you can't.


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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Grilled Dijon Chicken

Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work. – H. L. Hunt

I have to start with apologies. I’m sorry for not posting as much over the last week, which is usually daily. But more importantly I have to apologize for posting too much, at the detriment of my life off this keyboard.

It’s easy to get obsessed and I’m guilty of that – in spades, to the detriment of the far more enriching parts of life. But no more. It’s not that I’m going to disappear, but perhaps half as much as I have been doing is a better way to live. So that’s why I have been “lax” the last week. I've been thinking.

It’s not that I don’t find doing this rewarding, but there are more important things and relationships in life. Doing this is a heavy time investment.

Every post takes me about an hour and that’s not the constant planning, cooking or gardening, and photography. So you can see why It’s time, after 2-1/2 years constant, for me to back off a little. I/we need a life.

Keep all that dedication in mind when you read blog posts. They don’t drop from the sky. They’re a lot of work. So comment. Comments make it worth the time all bloggers invest in what we share.

But enough of that discussion with you, my readers. Let’s talk chicken on the barbecue, briefly. :-)

If you’re anything like me you’re probably sick to death of barbecue sauce by now. If you’ve been using your barbecue you’ve been slathering the sugary, red stuff on everything.

Here’s a different take on things. It’s a mustard marinade that you use to baste as you barbecue. The taste is amazing, herby with a distinct sweet/wine/mustardy flavour.

Two words of caution: first, because of the fat, chicken tends to flare up and burn on a barbecue. So keep an eye on it. Second, only marinate chicken on the counter for 2 hours at maximum, and make sure it’s chilled to start. You don’t want to get sick.

This recipe was a nice change. It didn’t hurt that we had fresh steamed chard from the garden to accompany it.

Grilled Dijon Chicken
Prep: 5 min  |  Marinate 2 hrs  |  BBQ: about 30 min  |  Serves 3-4
6-8 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup dijon mustard
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano

Mix the marinade ingredients together in a baking dish big enough to hold the chicken. Nestle the chicken into it, turning to coat well. 

Alternatively, pour the marinade over the chicken in a zip-lock bag and rub well.

Turn, or rub, the chicken at least twice during marination.

Fire up your barbecue to medium low and cook until internal temperature reaches almost 180°F. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes. It will reach 180 while resting.

Serve with whatever sides you prefer.


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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Indian Pipe, an exotic and unusual plant

If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary. – Jim Rohn 

Indian Pipes with their turned down pipe bowls. Photo: suzn80, Flickr ccl

I was up to the beach with Henry last evening to do some thinking. It's nice to have a calm place to think. While I was there I saw the Indian Pipes were still in bloom. I thought they had passed. This post, a year old, talks about them. - Docaitta

Here’s an interesting post today, or at least I hope you find it so. It’s about one of the more unusual plants that grow in Nova Scotia. You would think it’s a fungus, but it’s not.

I just caught some specimens near the end of their growing season. That's why the beauty shot is from Flickr.

The plant in question is called Monotropa uniflora. We locally call it Indian Pipe. It’s interesting because it produces absolutely no chlorophyll and therefore is completely white, or nearly so.

As the plants age the "pipe bowls" straighten and face upward.
This being a plant is unusual because chlorophyll is the pigment that is crucial for plants to photosynthesize light and grow. It uses a completely different system to generate energy.

Indian Pipe, also known as Ghost Plant or Corpse Plant is a herbaceous perennial plant. It is native to temperate regions of Asia, North America and northern South America. It is fairly rare in occurrence.

Indian Pipe is usually seen from June to September and is usually found near rotting wood or on very compost-rich forest floors. Its height varies greatly from 2-3 inches to upwards of 10. It is unmistakable because it is very white, the stems have small leaves more accurately called “scales” and the bowl-like flower top crooks over in the shape of a pipe.

The colloquial name is quite possibly due to it being used medicinally by Native Americans to treat eye conditions. I have no idea how it was used in that manner.

Its rarity is due, in part to the special circumstances it needs to grow. It needs two specific helpers in close proximity. Also because of these circumstances, unlike green plants, Indian Pipe can grow where there is very, very little light, like in dark forest floors. But it is almost impossible to replicate those conditions in a home garden.

How it grows
Indian Pipe has to receive nutrients from other sources since it doesn’t photosynthesize sunlight. Its roots tap into the mycelia (root-like threads) of Russula and Lactarius mushrooms. The Indian Pipe takes nutrients directly from those fungus. 

In turn, those fungi's mycelia tap into tree roots for their energy – because they have no chlorophyll either. Many fungi and trees have this type of relationship. The fungus gives nutrients to the tree and the tree gives nutrients to the fungus. Both organisms help each other out.

Indian Pipe doesn’t supply any nutrients to either. It is therefore a parasitic plant.

Can you eat it?
Well, yes, but… It’s mildly toxic when raw, but apparently not so when cooked. References say it tastes like asparagus when cooked. 

I have heard references that it’s “palatable” but not “choice” (to use mushroom-speak). By that I mean people don’t go out and search it out like cranberries, blueberries or chanterelle mushrooms. There’s not a lot known and all the references seem to link back to one source.

At the end of their lifecycle the stems turn black and dry out.
That source was from a local scientist’s book written at the turn of the 1900s. The author’s name was W.H. Prest, of Bedford, Nova Scotia. He wrote Edible Plants of Nova Scotia. In it he informs about much of the local flora of Nova Scotia and their degree of edibility.

He wrote: “Monotropa uniflora L. Indian Pipe, locally ‘Death-Plant.’ White semitransparent stalk 2 1/2 in. to 5 in. high, with highly organized flower of five petals, without smell, stalk with thin transparent scales or leaflets, tender and almost tasteless. Parboil, then boil or roast, comparable to asparagus. In dry or moderately dry soil in thick woods, June to August. Generally distributed and abundant.”

He thought it was abundant. Maybe in 1905, but not so much now, or at least not in my experience.

I believe the reference to “death plant” is more to do with its ghostly looks than any overriding toxicity. But, as with all things, caution should be exercised if looking for this to eat.


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Monday, August 12, 2013

Roquefort Burgers with Basil Mayo

A hamburger by any other name costs twice as much. – Evan Esar 

Tasty, blue cheesy burgers.
This post was originally written June of 2012. But since we still have lots of barbecue weather I thought it was worth sharing again – Docaitta

“Gourmet” burgers are all the rage right now in restaurants. It’s sort of odd when you think about it. Hamburgers are about as ubiquitous a food as you can get. Perhaps one rivals it – pizza.

Both pizza and hamburgers were meant to be quick, no fuss meals that didn’t cost much and fed many people. Now you can get a hamburger topped with foie gras. DB Bistro in New York introduced one in 2001 that cost $27 USD. (It also had short ribs and truffles…)

You still need to see chunks of cheese.
And it’s not only what’s on top that differs from what we were used to when we were young. The inside has fallen victim as well. How about burgers stuffed with curry chicken, wild mushrooms or steak and swiss cheese?

Of course there’s just *plain* cheese stuffed burgers (sort of an inside out cheeseburger), but I’ve always thought of them as slightly dangerous. Who appreciates searing hot melted cheese running down their chin?

There is an alternative that gives you the cheese, but not in one molten lump. Crumble or dice cheese and mix it in with the meat. This technique gives the entire burger a delicious cheesy flavour.

To top it off, the cheese in recipe is blue cheese. When I’m serving blue cheese with grapes I opt for a soft and flavourful cheese, like cambozola. That’s  a style of cheese that has camembert combined with gorgonzola. It's delicious.

I would suggest you don’t go that route with these burgers. Choose a blue cheese that is fairly firm – not creamy. A creamy cheese will just leak out of your burgers and disappear when fried or grilled. 

Step 1 of shaping. Arrange on waxed paper.
That’s why I chose roquefort. It’s affordable (as cheese goes…) and maintains chunks when broken up. Surprisingly, basil pairs wonderfully with the blue cheese. My best way to introduce it? A basil mayonnaise (just basil chopped up in mayonnaise).

To form the patties I went back to my days making burgers at the Firemans’ Canteen in my home village. To keep the mess to a minimum, divide the meat into balls and arrange on waxed paper. Top with another sheet and flatten with your hand. The waxed paper makes transportation – or freezing individually – a breeze.

Burgers with “additions” in the meat should be chilled for a while. This helps the meat gain some stability so they have less chance of breaking up when cooking.

If you’re in the mood to throw a curve to your friends at your next backyard fête, try these burgers. I’m sure you’ll be asked for the recipe.

Step 2 of shaping. A second sheet on top, and flatten
with your hand. They're allowed to be freeform.
Roquefort Burgers with Basil Mayo
Prep: 10 min  |  Chill: 30 minutes  |  Cook 8 min  | Makes 8 burgers
1 lb lean ground beef
125 g roquefort cheese
1 egg
1 tsp dry mustard powder
1/2 tsp hot sauce
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
sliced onion
8 basil leaves
1/2 cup mayonnaise
thick sliced bread (or hamburger buns)

Make the basil mayonnaise first. Chop the leaves coarsely and place in a blender with the mayonnaise. Pulse until the basil is very small. Remove to a small dish.

Mix the beef, egg, mustard powder, hot sauce, Worcestershire, salt and pepper together in a bowl. Use your hands. Crumble the roquefort on top and mix again until just mixed through. You still want visible pieces of cheese.

Divide the burger mixture into 8 equal balls and arrange on waxed paper sheets. Top with waxed paper and press down to make patties. Place in the freezer for 1/2 hour to “set.”

Fry the burgers in a non-stick pan (if possible) on both sides until browned and the juices run clear. Some of the cheese will be oozing out.

To serve, place some lettuce on the bottom bread (or bun), place 1 patty on top, and add onions and basil mayo to taste.


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