A Head Start on Summer: Super-Simple Refrigerator Pickles!

With the snow just-melting into memory, thinking about food for the warmer months ahead may seem premature. But when the temperature hits 30°C, the last place you’ll want to be is standing over a hot stove. Trust me - I have stories. 

So today, I’m sharing a summer-worthy recipe that you can make today and enjoy into the days when the sun rises before you do.

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I’m talking about those cool, crunchy, bathing suit-friendly summer sides; the ones that show up in burgers, salads, and sometimes - rather oddly - on sticks: pickles!  

Store-bought pickles are expensive for what you get - cucumbers and water, mostly - and tend to be one-note: salty or sweet. Where I live, only one out of three of us bothers eating them. And rarely.  

Homemade pickles, on the other hand, are supremely inexpensive, are complex in flavour, and unabashedly loved by all (“the bomb”, says Rob). And, when you use the refrigerator pickling method, they’re also super-simple to make. 

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Unlike fresh-pack/quick-process canning - the kind you associate with holiday gifts and bygone eras - the refrigerator method doesn’t require that you sterilize, boil, and seal jars in the name of food safety, or else. Instead, all it requires is an acid (or alcohol), a fridge, and a few easy minutes of your time.  

True, your pickles will only keep for a couple months rather than a couple years. But while the summer sun is rising and pickling-worthy produce is coming into season, my guess is you’ll want to spend your time doing things other than boiling jars and worrying about botulism. But let’s talk again in the fall.  

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The recipe below will leave you with crunchy, not-too-tart, sweet-and-sour cucumber pickles. But keep scrolling, and you’ll find links to awesome recipes for all sorts of simple, summery refrigerator pickles, from classic cucumber dills, to ginger-infused pear and plum dessert pickles, and savoury pickles made from watermelon rind. 

Make a few batches over the next month and, come summertime, you’ll be sitting - and snacking - pretty!
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Kinda Sorta Sour Pickles
Adapted from Alton Brown
Makes 3-4 cups of pickles

Ingredients
Cucumbers - about 6-8 mini or 2 medium - thinly sliced or cut into spears*
1/2 onion, thinly sliced 
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1 cup of water
1 cup of cider vinegar
1/2 cup of champagne vinegar (I couldn’t find champagne, so I used white wine vinegar)
2 tbsp + 2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp celery seeds
1 tsp pickling spice**
1/4 tsp ground turmeric 

Directions
1. Tightly pack*** cucumbers, onions, and garlic into a clean mason or spring-top jar.**** Combine all other ingredients in a saucepan (not copper or aluminum), bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 4 minutes to draw the flavours from the spices. Remove liquid from heat.  

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2. Carefully pour/ladle hot liquid into the cucumber jar, filling it to the brim.***** Allow contents of jar to cool to room temperature, then top jar up with any extra liquid (if there’s space), screw on lid and refrigerate. Pickles are ready to eat after a week, and will keep in the fridge - submerged under the liquid - for roughly two months.  
 
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*For ultimate crispness, use the freshest cucumbers you can find! To make spears, cut pickles width-wise to be a bit shorter than your jar, then cut the cylinders into wedges length-wise. 
**Pickling spice is a sweet-and-spicy whole-spice blend made from things like allspice, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, pepper, and mustard seeds (plus or minus a few others). Buy it prepared or make your own
***Packing the cucumbers tightly will help keep them submerged under the preserving liquid and thus keep them fresh longer. Using a narrow-mouthed jar and wedging a few spears of cucumber or sturdy chunks of onion just below the mouth will also help keep your veggies in place. 
****I used two 500 ml jars and divided the ingredients evenly between each, using three thinly-sliced mini-cucumbers in one and three spear-cut mini-cucumbers in the other. 
***The liquid may stain light-coloured surfaces, so choose your pouring area wisely! 
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Pickles Abound!
Want to try your hand at a different kind of refrigerator pickle? Check out these tasty recipes:  
- Classic spicy dill or bread-and-butter pickles. 
- Sweet, crispy, pickled red onions and pickled beets - serve in salads, on burgers or sandwiches, or simply with a piece of no-knead rye bread and good cheese (I’d go with sharp cheddar for the onions and creamy goat cheese for the beets). 
- Dessert-y pickled plums and pears - I’ll be trying these with ice cream!  
- Savoury watermelon rind pickles - a bit more labour-intensive than the others, but so unique! 

Your Kind of Awesome: No-Knead Bread to Suit You!

Want to know something crazy? 

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Remember that incredible no-knead bread recipe I posted back in January? You know, the one that lets you make amazing bread at home with pretty much no effort? 

The guy who came up with it - Jim Lahey - wasn’t a $20,000-per-semester-culinary-institute-educated superhero baker when he started nailing down the method. He was just a guy willing to experiment; to view a less-than-perfect loaf not as a failure but rather as an opportunity to learn and improve. Because of that attitude, he was able to do something amazing.  

And you can too! Today, I want to encourage you to take a page from his book and experiment. Start with a no-fail recipe for super-easy no-knead bread and, with a bit of creativity, you can create an incredible loaf that’s perfectly suited to anything

To get you started, here are a few ideas on how to come up with a no-knead bread that’s all your own: 

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1. Harness the power of flour! 
Swap flours and the taste and texture of your bread will change dramatically. Keep it simple and swap a bit of white for an equal quantity of whole wheat or rye, or get creative and add a bit of cornmeal, oatmeal, or multigrain cereal to the mix (check out the recipe below for a good ratio!). 

 

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2. Mix in something delicious!
At the same time you whisk together the dry ingredients, toss in herbs, spices, seeds, nuts, fruit, chocolate, cheese, olives, sun-dried tomatoes - whatever you want! And don’t feel like you need to skimp; Lahey’s book, My Bread, includes variations that call for a cup of nuts, or 2.5 cups of cheese. 

Keep in mind that the characteristics of your additions - like salt, sugar, and moisture levels - will influence the way the dough tastes and rises. If you want to do something drastic - like add an ingredient that has a lot of extra salt, sugar, or moisture - you may want to check out a no-knead bread book for some guidance. Of course, you’re always welcome to drop me a line too! 

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3. Dig out your pots and pans. 
While the original Lahey recipe has you bake the bread in cast-iron pot, you can achieve entirely new textures by stretching the dough over a pizza pan, popping it in a loaf pan, or shaping it into buns or baguettes and baking them on an oiled baking sheet. Depending on what you do, you may need to bake the dough for a bit more or less time - just keep an eye on it! 

4. Try a new no-knead base.
While Lahey’s recipe is probably the most popular one around, there are lots of no-knead recipes out there. Test out a few to find your favourite! Pop the term “no-knead bread” into your library search page, amazon, or a search engine and see what you find!

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Below, I’ve given you a recipe that does it all: swaps flours, incorporates additions, skips the cast-iron pot, and uses a new recipe. But there’s no need for you to do what I did; do whatever you want!

And remember: if your experiment doesn’t turn out exactly as planned, don’t be discouraged, be intrigued. If you keep track of the surprises - desirable and not - you’ll start to understand how bread works (for a quick primer, you can check out Lahey’s book). Keep at it and you’ll find a new favourite and maybe even your name in bakery lights. Lahey did
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Whole-Grain, Fruit & Seed, Sandwich-Style No-Knead Bread
(That’s a mouthful, hey? So is the bread!)
Adapted from Michael Smith
Makes 1 dense, delicious loaf

Ingredients
3 cups all purpose or bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup multigrain mix*
1½ tsp salt
1/2 tsp yeast (instant or active dry)
1½ cups mixed nuts, seeds, dried fruit, or other tasty additions (bite-sized bits are best!)**
2¼ cups warm water  

Directions
1. In a large bowl, whisk together all your dry ingredients (everything but the water). Add water and mix - with your hands or the handle of a wooden spoon - until you’ve incorporated all of the dry flour into the sticky dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and let rest in a warm, dry place for 18 hours or until dough has doubled in volume and its surface is dotted with bubbles.  

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2. Once dough has doubled in volume, squish it around a bit to knock the air out of it, then toss it with a drizzle of oil - just enough to lightly coat it. Form the dough into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan and let rise for 2-3 hours or until doubled in size. (It’s ready to go when an indent made in the dough doesn’t spring back into shape.) 

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3. When the dough is nearly ready to go (i.e., when it stops springing back), preheat your oven to 425°F. Once the oven is hot and your dough has finished rising, pop the loaf in the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until crust is golden-brown.*** Remove from oven and allow to cool - out of the pan (it’ll get soggy otherwise) - completely before slicing!   

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*You can use all sorts of stuff here: oatmeal, cornmeal, multi-grain flour, or a multi-grain cereal mix. Fun! 
**I used 1/2 cup each of: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and dried cranberries.
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This post goes out to my snazzy pals, Chris and Jordan, who believe in eating good bread but not in their ability to make it. You guys can totally do this! It also goes out to my wonderful aunt Lynda, who’s always ready to share with me great meals, new recipes, and unique ingredients. It was on her suggestion that I added the seeds and cranberries to this loaf; toast has never been so good!

An Edible and Unusual Adventure: Part 2!

Today we wrap up our avocado adventure and, as promised, our destination is dessert:  

The Isle of Avocado Ice Cream.

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Now, I’ve got to be honest: what started off for me as an adventure quickly became a science experiment.

Not content with throwing things in a blender and hoping for the best, I wanted to manipulate individual ingredients, batch by batch, to find out what worked best: lime juice versus orange, sugar versus honey, milk versus cream versus yogurt versus…well, you get the picture.

So did I, and I realized that if I went down that road, I’d be making ice cream forever. Certainly not the worst thing in the world, but I think you and I both would bore of me pretty quickly.  

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So I made three very different batches, shared with friends, and drew from the best bits of each batch to come up with the recipe below. I’ve gone with:

- Whole milk: the avocado provides enough richness on its own and, with summer on the (distant) horizon, I figured you guys would be up for something more refreshing than rich. 
- Orange juice: more mellow than lime, it doesn’t compete with the avocado flavour and steers the result in the direction of dessert rather than dip.
- One avocado and a good dose of sugar: The ratio, I think, will leave you with a dessert that tastes like avocado ice cream and not icey avocado (as was the case with one batch; oops).

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But if it doesn’t sound right up your alley, let me know, because I have three other recipes kicking around. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can always lead an avocado expedition - or experiment - of your own! 

Either way, I hope you’ll give it a try and find out why avocados are considered dessert-worthy by so much of the world. With a bit of bravery and creativity, you may find that you not only churn out a conversation-worthy dessert, but also a willingness to explore the unconventional possibilities of all sorts of ingredients. Pretty cool (pun mostly not intended) for an ice cream, I’d say! 
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Avocado Ice Cream
Makes ~2 cups 
Note: I chose to share this batch because I think it will have the widest appeal. However, because most of you (like me) are probably new to avocado-y desserts, I’ve kept the quantities small so that, in the event you don’t like it, you’ve only got a little bit to get rid of (read: hand off to an avocado-loving friend). I’d say give the mixture a taste after you’ve done the blending and, if you’re digging the idea, double everything up! 

Ingredients
1 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted (~1 cup)*
1 cup of whole milk (~3%)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp freshly-squeezed orange juice
Pinch of salt 

Directions
1. Pop everything in a blender and whirr until smooth. If the mixture isn’t super-cold, put it in the fridge for half an hour, then give it one last whirr. 

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2. Pour chilled mixture into your ice cream machine** and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.*** Once it’s done in the machine, transfer ice cream to a freezer-safe container and freeze until it’s firmed up to your liking (I like this stuff on the softer side). If your ice cream freezes quite hard, give it a few minutes to warm up before you start scooping.

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*Not sure how to peel and pit an avocado? Check out this post
**No machine? Check out the tips at the end of the post to see how to make ice cream without a machine!
***This stuff will freeze quickly - it only took about 10 minutes in my machine, compared to the usual 20-30 for most ice creams. 
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To make ice cream without an ice cream maker: 
These instructions come from David Lebovitz, ice cream inventor extraordinaire! 

1. Chill mixture until very cold.
2. Pour in a shallow, freezer-safe dish and pop in the freezer.
3. Once edges start to freeze (I’d check after 30 minutes or so), give the mixture a vigorous stir to break up any ice crystals. A hand-held mixer will provide the best results, though a spatula or whisk will work too. Repeat every 30 minutes or so over the next 2-3 hours or until ice cream is frozen. And now you have ice cream! 

How to Cut an Avocado with Ease!

Avocados can be incredibly confusing. Choose the wrong one, and you’ll have on your hands either a tasteless green rock or a smokey grey sludge. Cut it the wrong way, and you’ll be forced to turn the edible bits to sorry mush to free them from the stubbornly-secure pit.

But if you know how to navigate avocados — you’ll see it’s not difficult! — they’re simply incredible: rich, buttery, packed with vitamins and happy fats, and — at their best — so flavourful that you’ll want nothing but to eat them unadulterated. All the time.

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To help move everyone into the second camp, I explained last week how to test for ripeness. (I’ll update this post later in the week to include that information. But for now, to save you from having to read old news, I’ll skip right ahead to the new stuff!)

And today, I want to show you what to do once you’ve found your perfectly-ripe avocado. Below you’ll find instructions on how to remove the pit and peel with ease, as well as a few simple, tasty serving suggestions. Now let’s get to it! 
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How to Cut an Avocado
Note: You can use your free (i.e., non-camera-wielding) hand to cradle the avocado as you carefully work your way through the steps. Your palm should make contact with the avocado in the same place that my cutting board does. If you want to take your kitchen safety to a new level (never a bad idea), place a tea towel between your hand and the avocado; if you make any slips along the way, the knife will hit the tea towel rather than your hand! 

To Remove the Pit: 

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1. Position the avocado so that long side is touching your cutting board/palm.
2. With your knife parallel to your cutting board/palm, cut through the avocado until your knife hits the pit. Don’t cut through the pit - it’ll make the pit hard to remove, and you’re likely to cut yourself in the process! 
3. Maintaining contact between the knife and pit, make a continuous cut lengthwise around the avocado. Do your best to keep the top and bottom halves the same size. 
4. As you finish cutting, do your best to make your final cut line up with your initial cut. 

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5. Gently twist halves in opposite directions and pull apart. Set pit-free half aside.
6. Carefully strike your knife against the pit firmly enough that the knife sticks in the pit (Again, if you’re using your hand, it’s a good idea to cover it with a tea towel in case your knife slips.)
7. Twist the knife to loosen the pit from the flesh. 
8. Lift knife with pit attached, and discard pit. 

To Remove the Peel:

Option 1: Scooping
Note: Below, I’ve shown you how to dice the avocado while it’s still in the peel. If you don’t want to dice your avocado - or want to dice it after you’ve removed the peel - you can start at Step B and remove the entire half intact. 
 
Step_3_#.jpgA) To dice the avocado while it’s still in the peel: make a series of evenly-spaced horiztonal and vertical cuts in the flesh, taking care to not cut through the peel.
B) To remove flesh from the peel: Insert a small spoon at the point where the flesh and peel meet. Maintaining contact between the spoon and peel as best you can, scoop out flesh.

Option 2: Peeling
Note: This is my preferred method, as I find that the scooping method tends to muck up the flesh a bit. The scooping method is more common though, and does allow you to remove an entire half intact. 
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A) Cut avocado-half in half. 
B) Starting at the end without the stem, use your fingers to gently peel off the skin.
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And that’s it! Now you’re free to use your peeled avocado however you like!

Need some ideas?
- Make awesome guacamole!
- Try your hand at assembling a meal-worthy Cobb salad
- Make a standard sandwich - like grilled cheese or BLT (or egg, lettuce and tomato!) - more exciting by adding a few slices of buttery avocado. 
- Keep it simple and mash - or slice, if you’re not a fan of squishy things - your avocado with a bit of salt and pepper and eat it on toast (this is my favourite!).
- Stay tuned and try out the avocado-based dessert that I’ll be sharing soon! 

An Edible and Unusual Adventure: Part 1!

Today, we set sail!
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Aboard our buttery-green boat, The Avocado, we have our sights on steering our vessel through uncharted (for me, at least!) waters: the sweet seas of dessert.

(What’s that you say? Avocado-based dessert? Aye aye, friends!)

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But like any trip worth taking, it’ll be some time before we reach our final destination. So today, our avocado adventure begins elsewhere:

Guacamole.

No doubt, this is some of the most familiar territory there is when it comes to the North American use of avocados. And for good reason: guacamole is delicious! But there’s more to it than that.

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Here’s why I think you should get on board with guacamole:

1. Making guacamole really is a taste adventure. On paper, guacamole is just a few fresh ingredients mixed together. But because those ingredients are chosen with care to provide contrasting textures and flavours, the result is so much more than the sum of its parts. If you pay attention to the way the flavours and textures change as you make adjustments to your guacamole - what does lime juice do to the sweetness of the tomato, or the general saltiness of the guacamole? - you’re definitely going to learn

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2. Store-bought guacamole is kind of like the Venice in Vegas: a masquerade of the real deal, bulked up with all sorts of things that just shouldn’t be there.

3. For those of you who don’t have the stomach for long boat rides and unusual desserts, I don’t want you to miss out on all the fun! And, as I’ve mentioned, if you take the time to taste and experiment - use the recipe below as a starting point, but see where your taste buds will take you! - you’re going to have fun too!   

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4. And, finally, what’s a good pita chip without guacamole? 

Keep scrolling, and you’ll find a recipe for guacamole - again, think of it as a good base with which to experiment - along with a few tips and a couple of happy shout-outs!

I’ll be tinkering with avocado desserts over the weekend and, with any luck (and a lot of taste-testing help from friends!), I’ll have something for you on Monday that’ll be worthy of an expedition to the grocery store, at least!

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Guacamole
Inspired by Gourmet and allrecipes.com
Makes ~3.5 cups
A note on spiciness: Want your guacamole to have some kick? Stir in a good pinch of cayenne or a finely-diced jalapeno (with the skins and seeds removed, unless you want something really hot) when you add the onions, tomatoes and cilantro. 

Ingredients 
3 ripe avocados, pits and skins discarded*
1 large clove of garlic
3/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp fresh lime juice 
1 medium tomato, finely diced
1/2 cup onion, super-finely diced** (red onion is nice, though white works in a pinch!)
3 tbsp cilantro, chopped

Directions
1. In a mortar and pestle, bash up garlic and salt to a paste.*** In a medium bowl, use a fork to mash avocados with garlic paste and lime juice until the consistency is to your liking. Add remaining ingredients and stir to incorporate. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt and lime juice as necessary. Store in the fridge for an hour to let the flavours to if you can manage to wait that long!

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*To check for ripeness: give the avocado a gentle squeeze; if it gives slightly, it should be good to go! And while the skins of avocados often turn black as they ripen, the colour test isn’t as sure of a thing as giving the avocado a gentle squeeze. As for how to cut and pit an avocado: photo instructions will be up this weekend! If you just can’t wait that long, check out this rather safety-conscious video
**Not sure how to dice an onion? Check out last week’s post!
***You’re fine to simply mince the garlic, though bashing it with salt will draw out a lot more flavour!
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Finally, I want to give a big shout-out to Mel, the source of inspiration for this series! It wasn’t until Mel requested, as part of last month’s Recipe Request, I make an avocado-based dessert that I gave any thought to sweetening avocados. A big thanks too to Andrea for taste-testing my first-ever avocado-themed dessert and for giving it the review I needed to have the confidence to barrel ahead with this. Thank you both! :)

Near-Instant Nostalgia: Cinnamon-Sugar Pita Chips!

I made these this weekend to share with friends. And as we stood in the kitchen, catching up and popping chip after chip, we weren’t saying:

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These are good considering how easy they are to make; or, 
These are good considering they’re whole wheat; or,
These are good considering they’re barely oiled and only briefly baked. 

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No, though all of those things are true - these are speedy, easy, and, in the world of chips, relatively harmless - what we were saying was simply this:

These are awesome. Period.

Try one of these and, more than anything, I think you’re going to smile. Because these crunchy little chips, dusted with a handful of sparkling cinnamon sugar, are sure to remind you more than a little of that childhood favourite, Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Except that you made these. With four ingredients. In 15 minutes. 

But again, that’s not what’s going to be on your mind.

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Take the time to sprinkle cinnamon sugar to the very edge of the pita and every bite will be as delightfully nostalgic as the last. And make lots. Because I promise, between snacking and sharing - a surefire way to make everyone smile - they’re going to disappear quickly. 

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Below, you’ll find the recipe for the cinnamon-sugar chips, as well as some quick tips on how to easily adapt the recipe to make all sorts of savoury chips. Both are great recipes to have in your repertoire, but there’s definitely a reason I’ve listed the cinnamon-sugar version first.

I mean, there’s a reason why Cap’n Cayenne and Cumin Crisp never made it into the cereal aisle, right? 

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Cinnamon-Sugar Pita Chips
Makes 8-9 cups
Note on quantities: I used pitas that were roughly 12 inches wide - pretty big for a pita! If your pitas are a different size, you may want to adjust the quantitites of oil and cinnamon sugar a bit. For medium (~8-inch) pitas, a total of 1.5 tbsp of oil, 3 tbsp of sugar, and 1 tbsp of cinnamon (about 3/4 tsp oil and 2 tsp mixture per round) should suffice! If you need to make more cinnamon sugar mixture, just use a ratio of 3 parts sugar to 1 part cinnamon. 

Ingredients
3 pitas (whole wheat or white)*
2 tbsp neutral-flavoured oil (canola, vegetable)
1 tbsp + 1 tsp cinnamon plus 4 tbsp sugar, mixed together

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. 

2. Using your fingers or a knife, split edges of pita, then gently separate pita into two rounds. Lightly and evenly brush coarse side of round with roughly 1 tsp of oil, then sprinkle evenly with 2-3 tsp of cinnamon-sugar mixture, or enough to coat the pita. Repeat for all pitas.  

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3. Stack 3-4 rounds on top of one another, then cut into desired shapes using a pizza wheel or a sharp, flat-bladed knife.** Repeat for all remaining rounds. Place pita pieces on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes or until crisp and golden.   

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*Once you’ve added all of your seasonings, I doubt anyone’s going to know whether your pitas started off as whole wheat or white. So I’d say do yourself a favour, and go with the whole wheat! Whatever you decide to go with, make sure it’s thin and mild-flavoured (nothing too pita-y), to ensure that your chips crisp well and the cinnamon-sugar flavour really comes through! 
**If you’re using a knife (my preference), I’ve found that applying firm pressure to the knife to cut straight down through the pitas works best! To cut in triangles, cut pitas as you would a pizza. To cut into squares, cut pita into 1.5-inch strips, then cut strips into 1.5-inch squares. 
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Savoury Pita Chips
If you want to make savoury pita chips, follow the instructions above and simply change up the seasonings. As a starting point, substitute a neutral-flavoured oil for a more flavourful oil (like extra virgin olive oil) and season chips with a big pinch of salt (use whatever kind you like best!) instead of cinnamon sugar. 

 

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Bake them as is, or get creative and add your favourite dry, ground spices (like chili powder, paprika, cumin, or even garam masala!), dry or fresh herbs, a bit of grated parmesan cheese - whatever you want, really! Not sure how much to add? Start with a light dusting, then slice off a bit of pita and give it a try! The pre-baked pita should be as flavourful as you want the final product to be.

How to Dice an Onion like a Pro (It's Easy!)

Whether your goal in the kitchen is to go pro or get in and out as quickly as possible, this is something you need to know how to do!   

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Because this super-speedy professional technique is going to save you loads of prep time. And that means you’ll have more time to get on to more fun things, culinary or not! 

It’s also going to make your food taste better. Because this technique is designed to give you an even dice - that is, an army of evenly-shaped and -sized pieces of onion - your onions are going to cook more evenly. So long, sad medley of soggy, raw and burnt bits!  

It’ll save you a lot of stress! We think of onions as being pretty simple vegetables, but between being round and full of loose layers, onions can be a nightmare to navigate with a knife. This technique makes it super-easy to produce wonderfully-predictable results every time! 

Finally, it should also take some of the punch out of those pesky irritants that bring on the onion tears! (Check out the end of the post to find out why!)  

Red_onion_new (1 of 1).jpgSo do like the pros — because if there’s anyone who needs to bust out awesome food, fast, it’s a professional chef — and get your dice on! 
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How to Dice an Onion like a Pro
Note: When you dice an onion, you should use your free (i.e. non-camera-wielding) hand to keep the onion in place. To see how to hold the onion stable and keep your fingertips safe, check out the hand-modeling photo near the end of the post!  

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1. Grab an onion (that bit’s crucial).
2. Cut onion in half, root to tip. Peel off the skin and any not-so-nice-looking layers.
3. Place one half cut-side down, and cut off tip. Leave the root end - the end with the roots - intact!   

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4.
 Starting at the tip, make evenly-spaced horizontal cuts in the onion. End cuts close to the root, but don’t cut all the way through the root! 
5. Again, starting at the tip, make several evenly-spaced vertical cuts. And again, end cuts close to the root, but don’t cut all the way through! 
(The goal with Steps 4 & 5 is to make your cuts carefully so that your onion is held together in one piece by - you guessed it - the root. Do that, and the next steps will be super-easy!) 

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6. Cut the onion width-wise, top to bottom, starting at the tip end.
7. Repeat until you’ve reached the root end. Discard the root and marvel at your even dice! 
 

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To change up the size of your dice:  
Simply adjust the number of cuts you make in Steps 4, 5, & 6! For a coarse (larger) dice, make fewer cuts; for a finer (smaller) dice, make more!

The cuts you see below produced a fine dice, while the cuts you see in the main instructions produced a coarse dice. To really get a sense of the difference in size, check out the photo at the top of the post!

Fine_dice.jpg

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Oh, onion tears: 
- The tear-inducing irritant in onions is released when the cells of the onion are damaged. According to Wikipedia, the root of the onion holds the greatest quantity of these potential irritants. If that’s true, the root-avoiding technique above should help reduce the potential of running into those pesky irritants! (And I’ve got to say, I didn’t shed a tear in preparing this post!)
- According to Alice Waters, the dicing method shown above does less damage to onions than chopping. (Not sure what the difference is? Dicing is all about making precision cuts that produce pieces of an even shape and size, while chopping is a rougher method that produces pieces of irregular shapes and sizing.) And less damange means fewer tears!
- You’ll also do less damage - and keep the tears at bay - if you use a super-sharp knife. (And a sharp knife will make prep in general a whole lot easier!)
- Still not satisfied that your onion won’t wreak havoc on your eyes? Well, there are always onion goggles.

Bonus #3: Mango Lassi + Mango Lassi Frozen Yogurt!

Today concludes the saga of bonus posts designed to take your next curry-themed feast to a whole new level of awesome! 

And what better way to go out, I thought, than with a dessert-themed double bonus? 

That is, one easy recipe: two awesome results!

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The inspiration for today’s post comes from the mango lassi: the rich, golden-hued, yogurt-based drink commonly served alongside Indian curries to act as a sort of culinary fire extinguisher. But we’ve always found lassis quite rich, and have instead served them alone as a dessert. 

So with my thinking cap on and my apron tied, I thought: why not make a lassi that really stands in as a dessert? Why not make mango lassi frozen yogurt? 

And, after a bit of tinkering, it worked. Really, really well! 

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So today I’ve got for you a recipe that you can either: 

1. Whir up with a blender (or bowl and whisk) and serve lassi-style; or,
2. Pop in an ice cream machine
 and turn into incredible mango lassi frozen yogurt. (No ice cream macine? Check out the machine-free instructions at the end of the post!)

And while I’d really encourage you to try out the frozen yogurt - the chilliness factor makes it even more refreshing - either option will leave you with a cold, creamy and intensely mango-y treat perfect for rounding out a spicy meal.  

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Or any meal, really. Like, er, breakfast. Which sounds scandalous, but in the world of dessert, this really isn’t half bad for you.

Now, would you call that a triple bonus? Or just rationalizing?

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Mango Lassi + Mango Lassi Frozen Yogurt
Makes roughly one litre

Ingredients
2 cups canned mango pulp*
1 cup plain yogurt**
1/2 cup half and half milk
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp white sugar
1 tsp rosewater (optional)***

Directions

1. Place all ingredients in a blender or large bowl and blend/whisk until smooth. If necessary, chill the mixture until super-cold and give it one last whir/stir. If you’re making a lassi, you’re done! If you’re making frozen yogurt, continue on to Step 2.

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2. Pop chilled lassi mixture into your ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once it’s done in the machine, transfer frozen yogurt to a freezer-safe container and freeze until it’s firmed up to your liking (this might take a few hours). If the frozen yogurt freezes quite hard, give it a few minutes to warm up before you start scooping. 

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*Look for mango pulp in the Indian aisle of your grocery store. I used “Rellure Kesar Mango Pulp”, which unfortunately was pre-sweetened (not drastically, but still), so you may need to add a bit more sugar if you’re starting with unsweetened mango pulp. Not sure if it’s sweet enough? Taste as you go! 

**I’ve used both 3% yogurt and richer, creamier Balkan-style yogurt (with 7 grams of fat per half cup as opposed to the 4-ish grams you’ll find in 3%), and the Balkan version was the hands-down winner; it provided a just-right level of richness, was easily scoopable straight from the freezer (the 3% version froze quite hard), and was slow to melt. If you’re concerned about fat content you can certainly use a lighter yogurt, but I’d recommend sticking with a fuller-fat variety and simply eating less - truly, it’s worth it! 

***Rosewater - a clear liquid that tastes like the scent of roses (cool!) - is typically sold in glass bottles in the Indian aisle of grocery stores. While it’s not essential here, I think it adds a lot to the end result!

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To make ice cream without an ice cream maker: 
I’m passing along instructions from David Lebovitz, ice cream inventor extraordinaire! I haven’t had a chance to test them out yet, but I’ll report back when I have! 

1. Chill mixture until very cold.
2. Pour in a shallow, freezer-safe dish and pop in the freezer.
3. Once edges start to freeze (this’ll take 45 minutes or so), give the mixture a vigorous stir to break up any ice crystals. A hand-held mixer will provide the best results, though a spatula or whisk will work too. Repeat every 30 minutes or so over the next 2-3 hours or until ice cream is frozen. 

That’s it! Easy, hey?

Bonus #2: Homemade Garam Masala!

Today, we continue our quest to make an already-awesome curry even more amazing! Any guesses this time around?

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High-five if you guessed garam masala!
 
Garam masala - or “warm mixture” - is a rich, aromatic Indian ground spice blend made from coriander or cumin (or both!), and warm, sweet spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, and pepper. It also happens to be one of the ingredients in Monday’s curry! 
 
And today, I want to show you how to make your own. Because while there’s nothing wrong with using pre-made garam masala (it’s convenient and tasty enough), if you take the time - and you only need a bit! - to make it yourself, you’ll end up with:

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1. Way more flavour! 
Let’s start with some simple spice facts:
(1) Whole spices stay fresh much longer than ground (years longer, some say!);
(2) Toasted whole spices are much more flavourful than untoasted (stand over a pan of toasting spices for seconds and you’ll see what I mean!).
 
So by making your own garam masala - simply toasting whole spices, then grinding them yourself - you’re guaranteed to end up with a blend that’s way more flavourful than the pre-ground, typically untoasted stuff you’ll find at the store. And, because it’ll be so flavourful, you’ll need to use less of it when it comes time to cook - and that means you get to keep a few extra pennies in your pocket.
 
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2. A blend that’s customized to suit your tastes.
There’s no right way to make garam masala; it’s meant to be tweaked to suit your taste! So if you gravitate towards curries with particular flavours - maybe you’re like me, and like a good dose of cinnamon - you can customize your garam masala to incorporate your favourite flavours. I’ve given you a recipe that’s fairly inclusive - it includes both coriander and cumin, and lots of different warmer, sweeter spices - just so you can get a sense of what sorts of things you can use. Feel free to adjust quantities and include fewer, or more, kinds of spices; now’s the time to experiment! (Experiment with the finished product too - there’s no need to limit its use to curries!)
 
Note: If you don’t want to invest in a lot of spices, keep it simple and stick to versatile whole spices like cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, and one or two more of your favourite sweet spices (like nutmeg or cloves). Buy in small quantities, and between cooking, baking, and making garam masla, you’ll have used them up in no time!
  Korma_Mar20 (10 of 35).jpg3. A fun time!
Spend a few dollars, and you’ll be in possession of ingredients once so prized that they led to events that played a huge part in shaping the world we live in today. (Ever heard of that guy who sailed around the world in search of spices?) And as you gather up your jars and tins full of dried seeds, barks, berries and leaves, and start measuring, mixing, heating - drawing startlingly intense aromas from such tiny things - and blending, you’re bound to do a bit of mental time travel and find yourself in the shoes of an old apothecary. (And don’t you look snazzy?)

Korma_Mar20 (11 of 35).jpgSo let’s review: with a few dollars and a bit of time, you’ll end up with a hugely flavourful, custom-made, time-traveling spice blend that’s sure to take your curry to the next level of amazing.

I’m in!

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Garam Masala
Adapted from Epicurious, where it was sourced from Suvir Saran’s American Masala

Ingredients
1/3 cup coriander seeds
1/4 cup cumin seeds
1 tbsp green cardamom pods
1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
1 tbsp fennel seeds
2 teaspoons whole cloves
1 dried red chile
1 1-inch piece cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 

Directions

1. Turn a fan on! As the spices toast, they release a pretty powerful aroma that - without a fan going - will likely make you cough!

2. Heat all ingredients except nutmeg in a medium skillet set over medium-high heat, stirring often, until cumin browns and spices are fragrant, about 2.5-5 minutes (it’ll depend on the thickness of your pan). Transfer all ingredients - nutmeg included - to a spice grinder and grind until you’ve got a relatively fine powder.* Store in an airtight container for up to six months! 

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*Alternatively, you can bash everything up in a mortar and pestle. It’s definitely more work, but it’s also a lot of fun (and adds a lot to the apothecary experience)!

Bonus #1: Coriander & Cilantro Flatbread!

So team, any guesses as to what it’s going to be? 

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It’s flatbread! (High-five if you got it right!) 

Because curry without flatbread is…well, actually, it’s still quite delicious.

But these bonuses are all about taking your curry night to the next level. And having warm, homemade flatbread on hand to soak up all of that delicious coconut-infused korma broth - that’s definitely next-level material.  

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When you go out for Indian food*, you probably order either roti - the thin, unleavened, tortilla-like whole wheat bread cooked on a griddle - or, more likely, naan - the popular, puffy, yeasted bread cooked on the wall of a super-hot tandoor 

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But naan, alas, is hard to recreate at home (but if anyone has an extra tandoor they’re not using…) and roti, though delicious, is a bit plain. So I’m going to give you something different. 

Something far from plain.
Something that won’t leave you lamenting that it doesn’t quite taste like the real thing. 
Something you can put together, start to finish, while your korma simmers away.

 

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Coriander and cilantro flatbread. 

In the world of flatbread, this is easy stuff. Easy stuff that puffs up while it fries (!), and leaves you with a stack of warm, fluffy, perfectly-salted flatbreads perfumed with the lemony scent of ground coriander.

And - again, cilantro-haters rejoice! - I imagine the recipe takes well to substitutions, so if you want to swap coriander and cilantro for other spices and herbs, go for it! (We’ll be testing out a green onion, sesame seed and sesame oil version in the next few days!)

 

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And while these were an awesome accompaniment to our korma, there’s no need to consider them a curry-only side dish. Try them with hummus, raita, or even alone, brushed with a bit of butter or extra virgin olive oil, and you’ll definitely be getting your food-happy on. 

Bonus indeed!
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Coriander & Cilantro Flatbread
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Makes 8 

Ingredients
1½ cups all purpose flour**
2½ tsp ground coriander
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt 
⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¾ cup plain yogurt
Olive oil 

Directions

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together first five ingredients, then stir in cilantro. Add yogurt and stir with a fork just until flour clumps together. Knead dough in bowl just until it holds together. (Dough should be soft and sticky; if it’s not, add extra yogurt one tablespoon at a time.)

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2. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead just until it’s smooth, about one minute. Cut dough into eight equal-sized pieces and roll each piece into a ball. On a floured surface, roll out each piece of dough until it’s roughly 4.5 inches in diameter.

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3. Coat a frying pan generously with olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add as many flatbreads to the pan as will comfortably fit (I did two at a time) and fry until breads are golden and puffy, about three minutes per side, adjusting heat as necessary. Brush warm flatbreads with a bit of melted butter or extra virgin olive oil, if you so desire!*** 

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*Note that korma, according to Wikipedia, actually hails from both India and Pakistan. I say “Indian food” here simply because that seems to be what people in Edmonton go out for! (As an aside: if anyone knows of any good Pakistani restaurants in Edmonton, I’d love to hear about them!)
**I swapped a 1/2 cup of all purpose for a 1/2 cup of whole wheat. Wild!
***The flatbreads are best when warm, so either serve them straight out of the pan, or keep the cooked ones warm in a 200°F oven while you finish frying the rest. And though they’re best day-of, you can warm up un-oiled/un-buttered leftovers in a cinch by popping them in a toaster.  

Fun fact: Coriander and cilantro are botanical brothers! The term “coriander” typically refers to the seeds of the coriander plant, while “cilantro” is reserved for the leaves of the plant. Try the two out to see if you can spot the family resemblance!