Thursday, September 29, 2011

Indian Summer


It feels like summer in London. The mercury is expected to reach 29°C (84°F) this week-end, just to make up for the absentee summer they’ve had over here. My sources say that Indian Summer is early in Eastern Canada as well, so there you go: just as we thought that it was all coming to an end, we get a pleasant surprise. Those late-ripening tomatoes can stay on the vines just a little bit longer.


Last night’s dinner was a simple affair. I am gradually discovering the beauty of a minimal kitchen. A good chef’s knife, a cutting board (to preserve your kitchen counters and your blade), a frying pan and a fork are all you need to whip up a lovely slaw and mushroom toast.


I put an emphasis on ‘good’ knife: if you do not already have one, you need to invest in as good a knife as you can afford. It’ll make chopping a breeze, and it won’t strain your wrist. Just remember that, despite having a sharp edge, knives from the store need to be properly sharpened before you start using them. Good knife sharpeners are becoming increasingly rare, so ask around to find one near yourself.

Although plastic cutting boards are cheap and readily available, I prefer wood or bamboo boards, as they are less damaging to blades and last practically a life time. Ideally, the board should be large enough to allow you to get a lot of prep work done, yet small enough to fit in your sink to wash. And yes, you can wash a wooden board; you can even give it a good scrub with a soapy brush. Just don’t let it soak in water.


I’m trying to stay away from non-stick cookware, but find it really difficult as they are everywhere. If you are also on the market for new cookware, try to avoid Teflon as it off-gasses at high temperatures. The fumes are highly toxic and persistent in the environment. If not buying non-stick isn't an option, be on the look-out for products that are free of PFOAs: several kitchenware companies are voluntarily phasing out these scary chemicals. If, on the other hand, you are attached to your non-stick ware, just be advised that they should never be used at high temperatures: that means no stir-fries (I am always puzzled when I see non-stick woks), and no char-grilling. High temperatures -anything higher than medium-high- trigger the off-gassing of PFOAs, and actually damage the non-stick finish.


With a good knife and a nice cutting board, you can julienne root vegetables, a red pepper, and a knob of ginger to add pizzazz to this beet slaw. The ginger was a last minute addition, and it takes the earthy slaw to a whole new level. Next time, I might try adding some candied ginger for extra zip and a touch of sweetness. A fork and a bowl will suffice to make the dressing. That same fork can be used to stir-fry slivers of garlic and a handful of mushrooms in some brown butter. Throw some sliced bread in the toaster (or in the frying pan), slather on some mustard, top with the mushrooms and a sprinkle of herbs.

Dinner.



Bon app’!



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