Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Green Peppercorns ~ Poivre Vert

'Madagascar Green Peppercorns' by Moulin
'Green Peppercorns' are the unripe berries of a tropical, flowering, vine plant, Piper Nigrum. Because they are perishable, they are usually freeze dried, preserved in brine or pickled in vinegar. The harvested green peppercorns are packed in brine, vinegar, or salt soon after they're picked. They are mild and soft and can be eaten whole. In dried form, they don't last very long and must be used quickly.

They are true, unripe, black peppercorns, the same berries are processed to make black pepper. Green peppercorns have a milder, much suppressed pepper flavor but are more complex and fresh flavored than their black counterparts. In their various preserved forms, green peppercorns are popular in French, Thai, and other Southeast Asian cuisines.

Not all brands have the same quality and texture. I have found some packed in small glass jars, sold in grocery stores, that have a firm texture and unpleasant mouth feel. My preferred brand is in the photo, called 'Madagascar Green Peppercorns' by Moulin, a product of France. They are found in tins, available in 2 sizes; 71ml and 212ml. These small tins are a great stocking stuffer for foodie friends and family. They are delicious added to sauces and gravies for meatloaf, tourtierre, roast meats or turkey. To use them in my Gluten-Free Gravy recipe; after whisking in the brown rice flour and simmering for 15-20 minutes, strain the gravy, add the drained green peppercorns then serve immediately. Discard the brine -- do not cook the gravy after the green peppercorns are added.
Gluten-Free Green Peppercorn Gravy, Braised Red
  Cabbage, Steamed Broccoli, Hasselback Sweet Potato

You can find 'Madagascar Green Peppercorns by Moulin' at Runge's Imports and Delicatessen, 347-4th Street, Courtenay.  

There is no substitute for green peppercorns in brine. A substitute for dried green peppercorns are pink peppercorns which aren't true peppercorns, but they have a very mild, peppery flavor.

Till next time... thank you for your support and encouraging comments!
Season's Greetings, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Bon Appétit! 

Photos by Sally Rae

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Winter Veg with Fruity Vinaigrette

Another traditional side dish for the holidays is winter squash, in various preparation... baked, mashed, roasted etc. The braised recipe below with added kale, mushrooms and a fruity vinaigrette is a colorful addition for your Christmas Dinner Menu. It is a hearty, almost zero mile dish with winter squash stored from your summer garden harvest and fresh kale from the winter garden.  
As for harvesting your winter kale... the hardy leaves of kale will freeze solid in temperatures of -5C. If the leaves are frozen solid, wait until the weather has warmed up and the leaves have thawed out before you harvest. When it is safe to harvest, pick the outer leaves first. They are less hardy than the younger leaves in the center of the plant.

For variety of the fruit vinaigrette, there are a few local Oil and Vinegar Tasting rooms in the Comox Valley. If you have not tried this new specialty, go with a few girlfriends and guaranteed you will leave with some new favorite flavors and a few Christmas gifts for the foodies on your list. I have gathered a good selection from 'Signature Oil and Vinegar' near the new Thrifty Foods. My favorite two Olive Oils are: Butter and Whole Fruit Lemon. As for the vinegar; I can't live without Blackberry-Ginger Dark Balsamic, and the White Balsamic Cranberry Pear and White Balsamic Coconut are good enough to drink! The helpful staff will guide you through tasting and choosing flavors that appeal to individual taste, usage and preference. I started with 8 different flavors in 60ml bottles and graduated to purchasing the 200ml size of my favorites. 
'Signature Oil and Vinegar' is now located in the Crown Isle Shopping Centre at 207B - 444 Lerwick Road Courtenay and Tyee Plaza, Shoppers Row in Campbell River.
My current collection from 'Signature Oil and Vinegar'
There is a wide variety of fruit infused vinegar and oils available. Substitute your favorites in the vinaigrette.
The Fruity Vinaigrette:
2 1/2 Tbsp. seedless raspberry or blackberry jam
2 Tbsp. Raspberry or Blackberry-Ginger Dark Balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2-3 Tbsp. Whole Fruit Lemon Olive Oil (or extra-virgin olive oil)
1/4 tsp. granulated garlic
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

Whisk together the jam, vinegar and mustard until smooth. Add olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, whisk again. Taste and adjust seasoning. Refrigerate in a jar, stir before using. This can be made a few days ahead of time.

The Veg:
6 large, organic, crimini mushrooms -cleaned and cut into chunks
1 medium white onion -large dice
3-4 Tbsp. butter or Butter Olive Oil (or extra-virgin olive oil) -divided
3 cups peeled -cubed Ambercup or Buttercup squash
A bunch of fresh garden kale
1/2 cup whole, roasted pecans

Strip the kale leaves off the stems and slice into strips about 1/2 inch wide, set aside. Chop the kale stems into 1/2 inch long bits, keep separate from the leaves.
In a medium sauté pan, melt half of the butter, add diced onion and mushrooms. Sauté over medium heat until lightly browned, remove from the pan and set aside. 

Melt the remaining butter in the pan and add the squash cubes and kale stems. Quickly brown the squash lightly, turn the heat to medium/low, add the kale leaves, cover the pan and braise for about 8 minutes or until the squash is cooked through but not mushy. Check it every few minutes. Add the cooked mushroom mixture and drizzle with about half to two thirds of the vinaigrette. Mix and taste, add more dressing for desired flavor. Serve the remaining vinaigrette on the side. Sprinkle with pecans. Serve warm immediately. 

Till next time... Bon Appétit!

Recipe and Photo by Sally Rae

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Hasselback Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes are a traditional side dish for Thanksgiving and Christmas. In a previous Blog, 'Sweet Potato or Yam?', I wrote about the different colors of these tubers and history of the term 'yam'. I have added a new 'Label' for 'Sweet Potato' to my Blog. Click on the label for a quick reference... from recipes all the way to DIY slips and information on growing them.

Hasselback potatoes are commonly prepared using white fleshed potatoes. For anyone avoiding the nightshade family this is a delicious substitute. You may even find you prefer this easy, sweet and crispy version instead!

Use 2 wooden spoon handles

Use the dark orange flesh variety of sweet potato. They remain moist and sweet when baked. 
If you are not confident in your knife skills, use either two chop sticks or the handles of two wooden spoons to prevent slicing completely through. I have heard specialty kitchen shops sell a gadget for cutting hasselback potatoes but these methods will work just fine. 

Sweet and moist on the inside and crispy on the outside. These sweet potatoes are the perfect side to serve at any festive occasion!

4 medium sweet potatoes
1-1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme 
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
1/4 tsp. sea salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Make a series of 1/8-inch slices along each potato, slicing 2/3 of the way through. (*See notes above using wooden spoon handles or chop sticks as a guide.)
Stir together the melted butter, oil, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the potatoes all over with the mixture, getting in between the slices.
Place on the baking sheet and roast until the center of the potatoes are tender and the outside is crisp, 50 minutes to 1 hour. 

Halfway through the roasting time, remove the potatoes from the oven and run a fork gently across the tops of the potatoes, using light pressure, to fan the slices and separate them from one another. 

Till next time... Bon Appétit!

Roasted Hasselback Sweet Potato

Photos and Recipe by Sally Rae