Archive for October, 2013

herbs and spices

IMG_3669This year the herbs in the garden grew beautifully. I think the compost tea really made a difference. I hang them all upside down on the clothes drier rack and after two or three weeks the herbs are dry and ready to be put away.

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Fall is the perfect time of year to check your herbs and spices. If you’re running low and you don’t have your own herbs to dry, the farmer’s markets are the best place to stock up on some freshly dried spices. The Jean Talon Market has a huge choice of dried herbs grown locally or Olives et Epices, owned by Ethné and Philippe de Vienne who travel the world in search of the best spices. This little gem is filled with oils, vinegars, olives, spices and all kinds of accessories from all over the planet.

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Spices and Herbs

Club House FAQ’s

What is the difference between a spice and an herb?

Spices and herbs are aromatic natural products that are used to flavour food. Spices are the dried seeds, buds, fruit or flower parts, bark, or roots of plants, usually of tropical origin. Herbs are the leaves and sometimes the flowers of plants, usually grown in a climate similar to the Mediterranean.

How can I tell if my spices and herbs are fresh?

There are three ways to determine whether spices and herbs are fresh: appearance, smell, and taste. Visually, you can check your spices and herbs to make sure that their colour has not faded. Loss of colour is an indication of flavour loss. A fragrant, intense aroma is characteristic of fresh spices and herbs. Crush the spices and herbs in your hand. If you do not smell the aroma, or if you taste them and the flavour is not apparent, it’s time to replace your spices and herbs.

Do spices and herbs spoil?

Spices and herbs do not spoil, but they do lose their strength. Old seasonings will not flavour your meals the way they are intended to.

What is the shelf life of spices and herbs?

The shelf life of properly stored spices and herbs is approximately 3-4 years for whole spices and seeds, 2-3 years for ground spices, 1-3 years for leafy herbs, and 1-2 years for seasoning blends.

For more information please visit our School House Section.

Can I freeze spices and herbs?

Spices and herbs should not be stored in the freezer. Freezing does not extend the shelf life of regularly used dried spices and herbs. If stored in the freezer and repeatedly removed for use, the bottles may develop condensation, which can accelerate loss of flavour and aroma.

How can I preserve the flavour and quality of my spices and herbs?

Replace the lid on bottles right after use. Measure seasonings in a bowl and then add seasonings to the pot. Do not sprinkle spices and herbs directly from the bottle over a steaming pot. Steam introduced into a bottle will hasten the loss of flavour and aroma. Steam will also result in caking. Make sure the measuring spoon is completely dry when you dip it into the spice bottle. The added moisture may cause caking or flavour loss.

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japanese wagashi (sweets)

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These Japanese sweets are from our favorite pastry shop in New York. Delicious and unique, they are a real delicacy. Once you taste them, you will always want to stop and pick some up on your next visit. The picture above is of a Green Tea Chocolate Mochi, so soft like on a cloud.

The pastry shop is Minamoto Kitchoan. Every creation is a work of art.  They bring the pastries in from Japan, so you’re getting something really authentic. Perfect gifts. The only problem is that you will not want to give these away.

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Everything about Minamoto is special. From the moment you walk in you feel like you’re in a Japanese pastry shop. The taste of the pastries is unlike anything I’ve ever had, creamy, silky, not too sweet. And the packaging and presentation is second to none. Minamoto is perfection.

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gnocchi and meatballs

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orange beets salad

IMG_4609I love beets in every color, especially the deep red ones. However, they could be quite messy to prepare as well as digest. So the next best color is orange. I could eat these with nothing on them. Delicious, easy to prepare and no mess. I use every method to cook them, roasted, boiled, stir-fried, raw, steamed and pureed. They always come out beautiful and delicious.

Above I boiled them with the skins on. When cooled down, the skin comes off by sliding your thumb gently across. Cut them up the way you like, season them with your favorite herbs and spices and enjoy alone or as a side dish.

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herbivor soup

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The markets are now full of last harvest produce. Take this opportunity to buy a little extra and freeze for use on those cold winter days, when fresh garden tomatoes, peppers and herbs can make a great starter for just about anything.

I called this dish “herbivor soup” because 90% of the veggies are from Herbivor Farm. I visited the farm a few times this summer and even got my hands dirty planting and picking. Not only did I enjoy the experience, but when the time came to cook all these beautiful vegetables, I realized that I was preparing and cooking stress free. I didn’t worry about where these vegetables were grown or if they really are organic, or if they snuck in some pesticide at the last minute.  Lisa and Justin prepared some beautiful and plentiful baskets for their CSA clients (picture above shows items for one basket). Unfortunately for me, the farm is in Ottawa, so I am not able to sign up for a basket.  However, I will definitely visit more often next year.

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Stir-fry some chopped onions and green onions until translucent.

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Add some cut up zucchini, peppers, carrots and cherry tomatoes.

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These are the last string beans from my garden.

The big ones I cooked separately for a side dish and the small ones I added to the soup.

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Let everything cook for about ten minutes, before adding beet tops, swiss chard and Chinese cabbage.

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Add a jar of tomato puree and all your liquids. Here I added the water from the beans and 8 cups of chicken broth

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Add cooked beans at the very end.

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Add a handful of fresh herbs like parsley, basil, celery leaves, kale, dill and whatever else you have left in your garden.

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Let the pot come to a full boil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Other spices can be added also.

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