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2014/06/26 / Shanan

SUGARED FLOWERS

Since it’s now (officially!) summer and the days of pretending that I’m this cool, unencumbered babe who spends her days swanning around parks armed with nothing more than a pretentious novel and a tall iced coffee are long gone, I’m kind of embracing the twee.

As in: patterned paper straws, cute miniature food, and gleeful hand-holding of a twirling three year old wherever I go.  Because that’s what parenthood on the internet is all about these days, no?  It was with this in mind that Theo and I decided, a few weeks back, to spend our afternoon making sugared flowers.  You know, for a lark.

The lilacs were in full bloom and I was informed that they were in fact edible.  Off to the Martha Stewart site we skipped, and a ton of adorable little flowers did we sugar.

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Have you ever done this?  The process is about as ridiculous as it sounds — you use a teeny tiny brush to paint egg whites onto the individual blooms and then dip them in superfine sugar and let them dry.  It was quite messy and labour-intensive but the results were VERY cute and quite tasty (a subtle crunch and a sweet floral flavour). And sometimes cute is just what you’re looking for.

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Here’s the sugared flower recipe we used, courtesy of Martha (natch).  Be sure that the flowers you are using are edible (!!!) and either grown in your own garden or harvested wild where they won’t be covered in pesticides or car exhaust.

We decorated a Victoria sponge cake, the recipe for which I dug up from Nigella Lawson’s near-classic How To Be a Domestic Goddess.  I think this was the first baking book I ever bought?  We filled it with lemon cream (the recipe is here) and store-bought raspberry jam.

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Can I say cute just one more time?  Let’s hear it.  Bye bye, “street cred.”  All photos by The Symmetric / Shanan Kurtz.

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2014/05/14 / Shanan

RAMP IT UP

The weather has all of a sudden become irresistibly warm and I keep finding myself surprised that I don’t need to wear a jacket, or scarf, to spend time outside anymore!  Many, many, ohhhh so many consecutive cold months will do that to a person.

We took our first spring family hike a few days ago and though the trees are still pretty bare, we managed to catch the trilliums in bloom and the ramps in abundance.

Have you ever tried a ramp?  It’s basically a very small but strong-tasting wild leek; they grow in forested areas around here, are considered a delicacy and, most importantly, a true beacon of spring.  We brought a mini trowel along with us and filled a shopping bag with ramps (you can imagine how fantastic pungent the car-ride home was with these babies nestled in the back).

foraging for wild ramps leeks spring ontario

Last night I made a ramp pesto to go with spaghetti and I’m going to attempt to pickle the rest.  Here’s how to identify wild ramps and here, my friends, are a few more photos from our afternoon (full disclosure: I got lazy; we didn’t bring our camera which I immediately regretted, so this was my first time snapping pictures in a pinch with my phone and you know what? They turned out… eh, passable?  The trees kind of look like a digital backdrop).

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(not a ramp)

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Snack break.

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Chris, forager extraordinaire.

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The bounty back home.  Beauty.  Now to start in on our own garden…  xx Shanan

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2014/03/20 / Shanan

THE DYSTOPIAN BOOK CLUB: PART 2

Spring, you say?  Not around these parts.  We are still raging with cabin fever, so let’s sneak in another instalment of The Symmetric’s Dystopian Book Club before we get all, ahem, happy again.  If you missed the first one, we’re reading contemporary dystopian fiction and pairing it with a stiff drink.  Because if ever there was an excuse to get shit-faced, it’s with a book club (or, you know, while reading depressing stories about future societal downfall).

THE BOOK:  Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (Vintage International, 2005) is a subtle but disturbing favourite.  It tells the story of three friends who meet at a private school in England, and follows them from childhood through to their ultimate fated ends.  The novel unfolds slowly, and I wouldn’t want to give away too many details — we gradually learn that the story is taking place in a dystopian society in the 1990s, and that it involves the breeding of human clones.  It’s a heartbreaker.

THE DRINK:  I’ve paired it with a spiked punch recipe suitable for sharing with friends. ‘Mother’s ruin’ is the old British slang for ‘gin.’  Here’s the original from Food and Wine.

Mother’s Ruin Punch (makes 8 servings)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup chilled club soda

1 1/2 cups gin

1 1/2 cups fresh grapefruit juice, plus 3 thinly sliced grapefruit wheels, for garnish

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice

3/4 cup sweet vermouth

2 1/4 cups chilled Champagne or sparkling wine

In a large pitcher, stir sugar with club soda until dissolved. Stir in the gin, grapefruit and lemon juices and sweet vermouth and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

Transfer the punch to a large bowl. Gently stir in the Champagne and float the grapefruit wheels on top. Serve in punch glasses over ice.

Just a note: the movie version of Never Let Me Go, with Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley, was actually okay but if ever there was a time to skip the Coles’ Notes and go for the real thing, this is it. I love this book.  Have you read it?

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2014/01/29 / Shanan

THE DYSTOPIAN BOOK CLUB

I’ve never actually been part of a book club before, but I hear they often involve, like, your mother-in-law and a lot of red wine. And a book!  Sometimes there’s a book.

With this classic model in mind, I wondered if perhaps we could up the ante a little by deliberately pairing a novel with a tipple?  In the service of highlighting appropriate literary themes, of course. The bleakness of this current winter is mitigated only by my penchant for dystopian fiction – you know, the kind of novel that practically drives you to drink – so I hereby call to order The Symmetric’s first meeting of the Dystopian Book Club.

THE BOOK:  The Circle by Dave Eggers (Knopf, 2013) describes a digital near-future where a seemingly benevolent tech conglomerate feeds on the public’s desire and complicity for constant communication, connectivity, and affirmation, leading to a world wherein social media participation is mandatory and privacy is essentially nullified. The story follows Mae Holland, new hire at The Circle, and her assimilation into the cult-like company’s culture and philosophy. The novel is not exactly subtle, but it’s a pretty enjoyable plot-driven read that will probably make you squirm the next time you go to hit the ‘like’ button on your friend’s latest baby photo posted on Facebook.

THE DRINK: We’re pairing the book with an alcoholic beverage that goes down easy –  if it tastes good enough you probably won’t realize you’re getting drunk (and/or essentially having your private life stripped away), right?  We’ve deemed it “Ultimate Transparency” for both its see-through appearance and Mae’s decision to “go transparent,” having her every move filmed for the world to watch.  Here’s how to drink (and make) the Kool-Aid, so to speak:

Ultimate Transparency

1 shot orange vodka

1 sugar cube

blood orange juice squeezed from half an orange

ice cubes

old-fashioned glass

Fill glass with ice and pour vodka over top.  Dip sugar cube in blood orange juice and place it on top of the ice. The sugar cube will slowly break apart and insidiously seep into the rest of the cocktail, infusing its flavour (is the metaphor working here? Gosh I hope so).

And now, to discuss:  Have you read The Circle? Holy sh*t do you think all that could really happen?? Do you have a favourite novel you’d like to see given the Dystopian Book Club treatment here?  Pray tell, my friends.

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2014/01/15 / Gillian

WEEKNIGHT CROWDPLEASER INDIAN RECIPE

So, I’m a child of the 70s. My mom was a full-on, real-deal, granola-loving flower child who owned a whole foods store when I was little. I was raised on sprouts, nut butter and chickpeas. When I was six and we moved from the country to our new digs in Toronto, she floated around the neighbourhood handing out squash from her garden to the yuppies on Cottingham Street. Big hit, right?

It will come as no surprise, then, that I was brought up with the Moosewood Cookbooks. As an adult, I still have a sentimental fondness for this hippie-loving vegetarian collective. My favourite edition from them is Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant: Ethnic and Regional Recipes from the Cooks at the Legendary Restaurant. Eighteen countries are featured in the collection, as well as tips on “cross-cultural menu planning” and an extensive guide to ingredients.

I’ve tried many dishes from this book, but the dal with rice and raita that we’ve coined the “Crowdpleaser Weeknight Indian” recipe is by far the biggest hit in my household (and now Shanan’s!). Without further ado…

dal rice raita indian moosewood recipe

DAL (serves six)

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups of red or brown lentils, yellow or green split peas, or hulled mung beans (I use beluga or French lentils for their firmer texture)

4 cups water

2 dried whole chiles (I omit when I’m making this for my kids)

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2-1 tsp garam masala

ghee or oil

Make it

1. In a medium pot, cover the lentils with cold water and add the whole chilies (if using), turmeric and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until very tender (about 30 mins for red lentils, 45 for peas or an hour + for mung beans). Add small amounts of water if necessary.

2. Meanwhile, heat the ghee or oil in a small pan, add the cumin seeds and cook for 10-15 seconds. Stir in the onions and ginger and cook until onions begin to brown, about 5-10 mins.

3. When the lentils are tender, remove and discard the chilies. Stir in the onion mixture, lemon juice and garam masala, and extra salt to taste.

easy indian recipe dal lentil raita rice moosewood

COCONUT RICE (I usually just wing this in terms of quantities!)

Ingredients

white basmati rice

coconut milk

chopped cashews

cumin seeds

black mustard seeds

unsweetened shredded/grated coconut flakes

ghee or oil

Make it

1. Cook rice as directed, using coconut milk instead of water (or do half and half).

2. Meanwhile, heat ghee or oil in a pan and add cashews, cumin seeds and mustard seeds.  Saute for a few minutes and remove from heat. Lightly toast coconut in the same pan, stirring frequently. Stir coconut and cashew mixture into rice and serve.

easy dal raita rice indian recipe moosewood cookbook kid friendly

CLASSIC RAITA

Ingredients

1 medium tomato, diced

1 small cucumber, peeled and chopped

1 scallion (white and green parts), finely chopped

1 teaspoon finely chopped mint (or cilantro – equally tasty)

1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 1/2 cups yogurt (I like to use goat yogurt for its richness and more savoury flavour!)

salt and fresh ground pepper

Make it

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, chill for 30 mins before serving.  Enjoy the raita alongside the dal and rice.