Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A useful weekend

Pottering weekends are ideal for playing in the kitchen. A tray of roasted tomatoes makes good seasonal sense right now, for adding to nearly anything you can imagine, as does a jar or two of pesto. Relishes, condiments, accompaniments. I’m rather fond of the delightfully old fashioned word tracklement. Said aloud, working your ear around those first syllables, it’s a beauty. Tracklements, condiments, call them what you will, they are the pepper and salt that make cooking, and indeed eating, exciting.

Mid week meals are made that much simpler by having a jar of this or pot of that, ready to spice up your cooking life. To transform staples into something new, something fresh. Preserved lemons are a constant in my fridge – I can’t imagine not having their cheery yellow-ness in there. They sit next to the last jar of Anglo-Indian chutney and another of seriously wobbly olive oil mayonnaise. I like these familiar things as much as anything else, but new jars are welcome, too. Here are three new additions to this year's collection.


Tomato pesto: At some stage during the 1990’s, the leathery sun-dried tomato, rightfully, fell out of fashion. The semi-dried tomato on the other hand, a softer and more luscious creature, has made a tentative comeback. Used judiciously, they can make a meal, and a girl, sing.

Roughly chop 1 bunch of chives (or the leaves of 1 bunch of parsley or basil) and whiz to a paste in a food processor with 2 cloves of chopped garlic. Add ½ cup of pine nuts and ½ cup of packed semi-dried tomatoes which you have snipped into smaller pieces with a pair of kitchen shears. Whiz again and trickle in 2/3 cup (about 150ml) of extra virgin olive oil with the motor running. Get out the Good Oil for this, especially if cheese ain’t your thing. Tip into a bowl and stir through ½ cup of grated pecorino cheese if you like and season to taste. Keeps for about a week if covered with a film of oil. Very useful.


Makes one jar. Purists may deny this little mixture the title of ‘pesto’, but does that stop me? In the words of someone I’m missing, no, it does not.

Beetroot, pear and ginger relish: I now add beetroot to my growing list of vegetal love. This beetroot relish is incredible with cheese despite the outrageous hue.

Set the oven to 180 C (375 F). Cut all but 2cm (3/4 inch) of the stalks from 400g (just less than 1 lb) of beetroot, wash them, dry them and wrap tightly in foil. Bake for 1 ½ hours. Meanwhile, peel and coarsely grate 3 pears, any kind, 2 onions and a thumb of fresh ginger. Put the pears, onions and ginger in a large, heavy based saucepan and pour in 1 cup (250ml) of white wine vinegar, a teaspoon of sea salt and 1 ½ cups of sugar. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Peel and coarsely grate the beetroot when ready and add to the simmering saucepan for a further 5 minutes. Spoon into clean, sterilized jars, seal and invert. Keeps for 4 months, unopened.

For the adventurous, the ‘Nori Condiment’ is a difficult thing to explain. In some ways, it could be described as a darker, muscular version of creamed spinach. Free of dairy, it’s lighter, too. But whereas a large dollop of creamed spinach on the side of nearly any plate I care to imagine is sheer heaven, a similarly sized serve of this wouldn’t be nearly as nice. It’s wonderful in its own, odd way; smooth and creamy, but not exactly pretty. I’m now quite partial to its Creature of the Black Lagoon shade of deep green, but then, perhaps things are just getting a bit eccentric around here. While I enthusiastically tackled the recipe, based on one in this book, The Artist was busy building a large nest with twigs in the backyard.

Tear 4 or 5 sheets of toasted nori into pieces. Cover with 1 cup of water in a small saucepan. Soak for 10 minutes. Heat the saucepan, add 2 tablespoons of tamari, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, ½ a small onion which you’ve finely chopped and a crushed clove of garlic. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often. Grate a small pile of ginger. Squeeze it hard over a small bowl to extract as much juice as possible. Discard the pulp. Add this juice and a few drops of toasted sesame oil, lower the heat right down and continue cooking and stirring for a further 10 minutes. Season to taste with wasabi or Dijon mustard. Keeps for 3 days, jarred and refrigerated.


Try it. I wouldn’t offer something this obscure without some ideas, so: it’s exquisite with potatoes (surprising yum), nice dolloped on egg-based dishes, and makes a great vegan, mineral-rich dressing for pan fried tofu. Think ‘sushi’ fillings and you can’t go wrong. I spread the last of it on crackers. Quite good – weird - but good.


A very useful day.

24 comments:

grocer said...

mmmmm hmmmm mmmmm
i is with you

less vegetarian, but we also spent a weekend of slow cooking - braising meats & veg for pies, slow braised longrain beef, etc...

Today roasted eggplants en masse, and will probably do same with tomatoes this week also.

It's a nice time of year to bundle up inside and indulge in domesticity.

A beautiful post!

Mevrouw Cupcake said...

Oh Lucy, I just love it that you love beetroot and keep sharing these amazing recipes with us! I'm already eating the relish on a nice creamy, but piquant Dutch farmer's cheese! YUM!

Ricki said...

Lucy! All three are calling to me (even the nori)--I must try them! Coincidentally, I just roasted some tomatoes yesterday, though of the grape variety. Would never have thought to add beets to a pear and ginger relish, but it sounds good to me. And now I have something to do with all those nori sheets I have leftover when I buy them for sushi and use only two sheets! Fabulous.

Wendy said...

Hey, busy bee! Sounds like a productive Sunday to me. I'm with you on the tomato issue. Sun-dried actually offend me but the semi-dried ones are lovely.

The artist was building a nest?

winedeb said...

You are a busy gal these days! Cool weather must have set in as you seem to be in the kitchen more! This post of yours is so packed full of great information that I will be returning to jot down some of your recipes. I make a sun-dried tomato pesto that I use with a pasta dish that I adore. The tomatoes really give the pesto some personality!

Suganya said...

Beetroot and pears? Thats something I have to try. Do you make semi-dried tomatoes at home?

Tina said...

Beautiful photos!

Another Outspoken Female said...

The nori looks really interesting - well the whole shaboodle looks amazing really. I feel slothful just reading about your industriousness :)

Lucy said...

Grocer, it's the perfect weather. You know, much as I don't miss flesh itself per se, I do miss the beautiful fragrance of a long-cooked meaty stew. Thanks, darls!

Mari, I'm rather shocked by all the beetroot around here myself of late. It's good with soft cheeses in particular - glad you like the combo. Also good straight off the spoon as the stepsons are doing this morning...

Ricki, I knew I wasn't alone in buying packets of nori and, um, not using them. The nori is unusual, but great once you get to know it. In the same way as, say, tofu is a bit of an 'acquired taste'! And, of course, it's exceedingly good for you. I just happened to leave that part out...

Wendy, the dreaded SDT! God, I hated them, all hard and chewy...urgh... Who knows why he's building a nest? All I know is it's big and time consuming. Will introduce it when it becomes recognizably 'nest-like'.

Deb, I can't get enough of the pesto (we're onto a second jar now). I have been busy - I can only put it down to cooler nights. Delicious.

Suganya, I often do, but these little beauties were both organic and unsulphured. I couldn't say no!

Thank you Tina!

AOF - the nori...it's right up my alley and, I suspect, yours too. Uber healthy, but it's got something else about it as well. Worth playing with if you have leftover sheets of the stuff lying around.

Carson said...

:)@ "weird but good"

Lisa said...

Sun-dried tomatoes are often featured in my kitchen, though I only use the leathery kind. I soak them for about 20 minutes before using them. This pesto sounds divine.

But it was the beetroot relish that really got my attention!

Johanna said...

Lovely photos and colours! I now really really want to make that gorgeous beetroot relish - but really can't come at the nori condiment!

I have never heard of tracklements before - great word!

And I am curious about how you use your preserved lemons - I have a jar that is being sadly neglected

Squishy said...

Sun Dried tomatoes are just to over powering. I have not tried preserved lemons as yet. I want to but for some reason they intimidate me. Silly isn't it? Great blog you have here.

michelle @ TNS said...

tracklement is my new favorite word, and i'm going to try to use it as much as possible. tracklement tracklement tracklement.

i have no love for sundired tomatoes, but the beetroot relish is gorgeous! stunning color, and what an interesting flavor combo.

Callipygia said...

I am a fan of World Wide Words & now of "tracklement" too. Would have thought it was food for fish, kept in a tracklebox...As for the nori goop, speechless really. I have a slightly similar hijiki caviar recipe. But the texture of your creation...oohh, impressive!

shula said...

Well, if that's the way you feel about it...

then I guess I better go and write a blog post.

xo

Susan said...

"Tracklements" (an amazing word, steeped in British arcana!),sounds like something served in public school mess halls. Personally, I would rather dine with "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" than anyone wearing a rep tie.

Jars and bottles of glorious comestibles, Lucy. Zing go the strings of my heart!

katiez said...

I've been getting into beetroot lately - and the relish, with a bit of ginger, sounds wonderful. I make pear-ginger in the summer, I'll add some beetroot to the mix this year...
My pear crop is going to be pretty small, I'm afraid....sigh...

Nora B. said...

Dear Lucy, a very useful (and productive) weekend indeed! I wish I could say the same for myself. It was more of a social weekend for me.

I just wrote you an e-mail, just though I would let you know since my e-mail added up in your "bulk folder" the last time.

xx nora

Another Outspoken Female said...

I meant to nip back last week with an ode for the maligned sundried tomato. The trick is to dip them in a bowl of hot water for a minute (longer if they are really dried out) this also removes a lot of the oil. Some of the Italian ones are quiet plump and tasty and at $14 for the hugest jar very good value in the off season.

vegeyum said...

I so want to make the beetroot relish, but haven't got there yet. Hopefully next weekend.

Lucy said...

Glad I made ya smile, Carson!

Oh, Lisa, I love them too, but there was a time in the 1980's and early 1990's when I thought I would vomit on the next plate I was served that featured them! Due for a comeback, for sure.

Johanna, the nori is for the die hard seaweed fans (of which I am...almost). Preserved lemons? In lots of dishes. Lentils, especially the green (Puy) variety, sliced in while they are still warm; cooked in trays of roasted vegetables; I make a tagine of root vegetables in winter with fat green olives and wedges of the lemons and, at the moment, I love them minced finely and added to salad dressings (great with sturdy leaves, especially Chinese cabbage (Wombok)).

Hi Squishy - don't be afraid of the lemons. They are the easiest thing in the world to make. Thanks!

Hi Michelle - tracklement is a faulous little linguistic find. Thanks for stopping by - it led me back to you. Love it!

Callipygia, now why didn't I think to describe it as 'goop'? It's odd, but worth a try. I find hijiki too strong for me (weird, I know, but there you have it) and prefer arame...but I'm intrigued...

Shula, lovely Shula. Get posting. I do miss ya.

Susan, you would, of course be right, but I cannot help but love words that drop off the radar. I wonder if The Creature eats vegetarian food. You know, I've never seen the film. Perhaps he's an aquatarian!

Katie, why will your crop be so small I wonder...do try it. It will at least extend your pear harvest!

Thanks, Nora - I'm busy at the 'mo, but will get to it. Thanks so much for letting me know...bloody Yahoo!

Ah, AOF, I agree and love them, but do you remember being served them on every plate and foccacia and pasta? I think they are ready for a comeback of some kind, but only when as softened as yours!

Vegeyum, enjoy a weekend of cooking!

Antonia said...

What great looking treats to have stashed away in the fridge - I think the word 'tracklements' sounds good too!

maybelles mom said...

Lovely weekend, it sounds like. And wonderful post with great pictures.