June 16, 2016

Fresh Mint and Chocolate Ice Cream: A Special Collaboration!

I am generally a bit of a hermit blogger, tucked away in my rural corner of the east coast doing my thing. So it’s not too often that I get to meet other food bloggers. But I’m in Toronto for a few months this summer and I decided it was time to get to know some fellow bloggers whose mouth-watering blogs I follow with a big appetite. My first “blind blogging date” was with Alanna of One Tough Cookie. Meeting up reminded me a bit of online dating... Would we recognize each other? Would she like me? But put two food lovers in front of each other and there’s no shortage of things to talk about. I instantly felt a kinship with Alanna and we slipped into easy banter about food photography, and wwoofing, and Italy... and cake. We also talked about more intimate things too, like losing our moms, and how profoundly that impacts your life, in ways you sometimes don't even realize.

My next blogging date was with Sofia of From The Land We Live On and since she is a fellow gardener, I thought it would be fun to collaborate on something together and feature her making a special recipe from her garden. 

We spent a glorious day together and I’m so grateful that she graciously let me follow her around with my camera. Filming in her kitchen was a dream come true because she had just finished renovations (which she and her husband took on all on their own which makes them my heroes! see the photos here). Their renos involved installing a stunning new Lacanche stove that had me swooning and dreaming... one day, perhaps. Every angle of the kitchen was beautiful to look at. And that stove, I could sit and gaze at it all day long. I forgot to take photos of it but you can see some here on Sofia's blogyou'll also see some sweet fleeting glimpses in the video! The brass knobs. Enough said.

Taking a filming break to lick the ice cream paddle, one of life's great joys.
Photo credit: Sofia Eydelman

We got so carried away with filming that we almost forgot to eat but Sofia quickly whipped up an elegant lunch of rice pasta salad with garden pesto, peaches, and slivered almonds. She paired that with some beet crackers and the silkiest homemade hummus I've ever had, beautifully presented with za'atar and olive oil. The girl has style.

At the end of it all, we enjoyed her delicious homemade ice cream in the garden, where the whole adventure started. As you can see in the video, we had a very earnest, tiny helper. My latest heart throb. 

You know it's good when ALL the tongues are sticking out

Get Sofia's recipe and read all about what makes this ice cream so extra-special in my post on PBS Food (ok fine, I'll give you a few clues in case you don't have time: two types of chocolates! tapioca instead of egg yolks! and fresh garden mint instead of mint extract!)

Happy mid-June my friends xoxo.

Photo Credit: Sofia Eydelman

April 14, 2016

Candied Lilacs and spring delights!

For those of us in the great white north, it's still a little early for lilacs, but they really are just around the corner. 

My latest video recipe for Lilac Coconut Cream Tarts is truly an unabashed lilac fiesta, and if you want to go all out with it, then I'm afraid you'll need to make some candied lilacs to plop on top for a fancy flourish! 

But first, here's the video of the tart-making in its full spring glory (I filmed it last year so I could release it just a little ahead of lilac season this year):

For the Coconut Lilac Cream Tart recipe, go to my post on PBS Food.

As for the candied lilac, they're really quite simple to make and there are two main techniques I'd like to share with you. One age-old method involves dipping the blooms in an egg white wash and then then dipping the flowers in sugar. But I know some people feel a bit squeamish about raw egg whites, so the other option is to make a basic sugar syrup instead of using egg whites. (Alternately, you can use powdered egg whites mixed with water). I've used both methods and either one is fine. As an aside, this will work for violets as well as most edible flowers.

Fresh, unsprayed lilac blossoms (stems removed)
1 egg white
2 tsp water
1/4 cup fine granulated sugar (not powdered sugar)

Be sure to use freshly-picked, unsprayed flowers and remove any green bits as they will give an off-taste. Whisk the egg white and water together. Using tweezers, dip the flowers in the egg wash (or for more control, paint the egg wash on with a small paintbrush) and then sprinkle the sugar on top of the flower, making sure you cover every side of the flower. Allow the flowers to dry for around 12 hours. You can use them right away or store them in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

Fresh, unsprayed lilac blossoms (stems removed)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup fine granulated sugar (not powdered sugar)

Be sure to use freshly-picked, unsprayed flowers and remove any green bits as they will give an off-taste. Cook the sugar and water until it reaches 220F on a candy thermometer. Allow mixture to cool fully before dipping in the lilac blossoms. Sprinkle the sugar on top of the flower, making sure you cover every side of the flower. Allow the flowers to dry for around 12 hours. You can use them right away or store them in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

In other news, spring seems to have FINALLY arrived in Toronto where I'm based for the next couple of months, madly scrambling to finish a documentary film and graduate research. (More about that very soon!) And yesterday, I had the great privilege of interviewing the one and only Dr. Jane Goodall who is just simply one of the most delightful human beings to walk this earth. She is so full of love and wisdom that you can't help but come away feeling a renewed sense of hope and determination to make the world a better place. Here is a snapshot after our interview (I think I might be professing my undying love here):

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” 
                                                                                                                           ― Dr. Jane Goodall

March 31, 2016

KoMo Flour Mill Giveaway!

Many of you who follow this blog and my Instagram feed have inquired about the beautiful wooden flour mill that I use to freshly mill my grains into flour. 

In fact, there has been so much interest in the mill that the wonderful folks at Pleasant Hill Grain - the American distributor of the KoMo grain mills and flakers - have offered to give a gorgeous KoMo Classic mill to a very lucky Kitchen Vignettes reader. I'm beyond excited that one of you will get to have your very own flour mill and experience the pure joy of fresh-milled flour because there really is nothing like it!!

When we were looking around for a portable flour mill to mill our homegrown grains, we shopped for quite a while and the KoMo mill stood out for many reasons. Aside from being impeccably crafted, it has a powerful and solid motor that quickly turns whole grains into flour of any texture. By simply rotating the hopper, you can adjust for the texture of flour you want, achieving everything from roughly cracked grains, to very coarse flour, to ultra-fine flour. So not only do you have a great degree of control over the milling process, but the mill is also incredibly simple to operate: you just pour the grains into the hopper and out comes the most fragrant, sweet-smelling, fresh flour.

Unbeknownst to a lot of people, much of the whole grain flour we buy has been shipped long distances and left on store shelves for far too long. Many packaged flours have gone rancid even before we purchase them! I'm always surprised how often friends and family don't notice when their flour has gone rancid. I think it's because we've actually become accustomed to the taste of rancid flour and we don't consider flour as a living product with a shelf life. While whole, unmilled grains have a shelf life of many years, as soon as they are milled into flour, the flour becomes perishable and can go rancid within just a few months' time. In fact, some of the vitamin content begins to diminish within just days of the flour being milled. The most important reason I use freshly-milled flour though, is because it makes the best-tasting bread and baked goods. So I'm a huge advocate for home-milling (or sourcing) fresh flour whenever possible. The milling only takes a few minutes and it's incredibly satisfying.

If you’re new to the KoMo Classic mill, here’s the low-down: the mill is built in Austria and beautifully handcrafted out of native beechwood or new American Walnut with finger-jointed corners. All dry grains can be ground in it, including soft or hard wheat, oat groats (dehulled oats), rice, triticale, kamut, spelt, buckwheat, barley, rye, millet, teff, quinoa, amaranth, sorghum and dent (field) corn. It will also grind lentils, dry beans (pinto, red, garbanzo, kidney & more), and dried, non-oily spices. (It isn't suitable for herbs, oilseeds like flax or sesame, popcorn, or fibrous materials). 

For people who wish to mill gluten-free flours, Pleasant Hill Grain sells an interchangeable insert that allows the mill to grind different materials without cross-contamination. Using this accessory, your KoMo mill can be used with gluten-containing grains (such as wheat) as well as gluten-free grains (such as teff), without the risk of getting any gluten into your gluten-free flour. The insert is not included in this giveaway, but it can purchased separately here.

Having access to a grain mill really makes you fall in love with the magnificent world of whole grains and the incredible diversity of nutritious and tasty flours that can take your cooking and baking to a whole other level.

You can see the KoMo mill at work in several of my Kitchen Vignettes videos, including the one for Roasted Squash Cornbread where I mill fresh cornmeal from whole field corn kernels and this one for Whole Wheat Groaning Cake. And here's my latest, featuring Rye Crepes:

The KoMo giveaway will run all through the month of April and Rafflecopter will randomly choose a winner on May 1st - just in time for Mother’s Day (hint hint! this would make a wonderful present for any bakers in your life!) The model that Pleasant Hill Grain is giving away is the KoMo Classic grain mill and the winner may choose between the American Walnut or native beechwood housing. 

*Please note that this giveaway is only open to residents of the United States. You may also enter the giveaway on my Facebook page. Once you log-in to enter the giveaway, you will see 5 different choices of actions you can take. For each one you do, you will get 5 points, for a potential total of 25 points, increasing your odds of winning. Some of the options can even be repeated each day throughout the giveaway, such as tweeting or visiting the Pleasant Hill Grain website, to increase your odds even more. Good luck everyone!