good stuff #7- spice blends

spices are the soul of cooking. they are deep and rich and complex, with the ability to infuse the simplest and blandest of ingredients with a deep and authentic taste-of-place. if you’ve never made your own spice blends before, it’s as easy as anything. think of chili powder and curry powder, or herbs de provence. these blends have become so familiar that you can buy them at every grocery store, but do you know what is in them? what if you like your blend a little spicier, or like to go easier on one spice or another? i accept i’m a tad weird but i adore the alchemy of making spice blends. i can taste and smell each component and know exactly what spice is adding a sweet or hot or earthy note.

making your own also guarantees a higher level of freshness, and if you have a mortar and pestle, or a small electric spice grinder, even better: you can keep the blends whole and grind as needed. i guarantee you will notice a big difference in flavour from pre-ground spices.

ras el hanout
1 broken up cinnamon stick  – 1 tsp sesame seeds 1 tbsp ground ginger  15 black peppercorns – 1 tsp. ground nutmeg – 1 tsp. fennel seeds – 1 tsp. coriander seeds – 8 whole cloves – 8 allspice berries – 8 cardamom pods – 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes – pinch of ground mace

 

this is the beautiful and aromatic blend from north africa that gives moroccan tagines their fragrance. the name translates to “top-shelf”, meaning these are the best spices the merchant has to offer. use in the aforementioned tagine, or stirred into couscous or rice. i especially love to make a moroccan-style salad of cucumber, tomato, mint, and ras el hanout.

 

 

berbere
5 tsp. chili flakes – 1 tsp. ground ginger – 4 cardamom pods – 1/4 cinnamon stick, broken up – 1/2 tsp. each fenugreek, ground nutmeg, black peppercorns, coriander seed, allspice berries, ajwain, and whole cloves – 5 cassia buds

similar to ras el hanout, baharat is used in turkish dishes and very often mixed with olive oil as a marinade. i like to rub it on tofu steaks or add a pinch to hummus, and it’s great with any eggplant dish.

 

 

berbere is one of the distinctive spice blends of ethiopian cuisine, a rich, dark-red blend that gives shera wat and other slow-cooked dishes their fire. also try it tossed with fried potatoes alongside your morning eggs, or mix up with olive oil and tumble some cauliflower before roasting.

 

 

baharat
1 tsp cardamom pods – 3 tsp allspice berries – 3 tsp whole cloves – 4 tsp. black peppercorns – 4 tsp. cassia buds – 3 tsp. coriander seeds – 4 tsp. cumin seeds – 3 tsp. ground nutmeg – 6 tsp. ground sweet paprika

 

 

similar to ras el hanout, baharat spice blends are used in turkish dishes and very often mixed with olive oil as a marinade. i like to rub it on tofu steaks or add a pinch to hummus, and it’s great with any eggplant dish.

 

 

 

 

andalusian spices
equal parts smoked paprika – fennel seed  cumin seed – coriander seed – granulated garlic – peppercorns – oregano leaves – crushed bay leaves – and a pinch of saffron threads

 

 

in spain, tapas-sized skewers of meat called pinchos are rubbed with this blend before grilling, but it’s also a wonderful seasoning for short grain rice, or rubbed with olive oil and lemon juice on peppers and tomatoes before roasting or grilling.

 

 

 

chinese 5-spice blend
equal parts cinnamon bark – star anise  sichuan peppercorns – cloves – fennel seed

 

 

it seemed that for a while there, 5-spice had a bit of a bad name. it had been over-used and the powdery blends at the grocery store were truly bad. but freshly made 5-spice is great, perfect for dusting on fried tofu or seasoning rice.

 

 

 

 

shichimi togarashi
equal parts red chili flakes – ground sancho (japanese red pepper) – dried orange peel  black sesame seeds – white sesame seeds  brown sesame seeds – hemp seed – ground ginger – dried nori

 

i use this japanese pepper blend everywhere. it’s used in this recipe for tofu with spicy salt, and i scatter it over rice and noodle bowls, or sprinkle it onto kale leaves massaged with olive oil and baked for kale chips. you can buy it, but it comes in such small little containers, it’s much more worthwhile to make your own.

 

 

 

 

 

panch phoron
equal parts fennel seed – nigella seed – fenugreek – black mustard seed – cumin seed celery seed

this spice blend is found in bangladeshi, bengali, and nepalese cooking. it’s always used in it’s whole form, and a common dish is simmered lentils made with this blend. it’s aromatic and distinct; i love opening the jar and freeing it’s lush aroma! one of my favourite things to do is heat some ghee, toast a teaspoon of these spices and cook until they “pop”, before adding peeled cubed potatoes and some coconut milk, and simmering until done. so good.

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good stuff #6: finds from the road to key west

Avocado Toast at the Collins Quarter

happy sunday friends!

returned from vacation and happy to back at ebta. guelph –> nyc –> key west –> savannah was such a wonderful break. we met some lovely people and for some reason, a disproportionate number of lovely dogs!

the combination of 33 degree celsius weather and a bunch of margueritas got me all philosophical. when i travel i do so as frugally as possible, driving, bringing food for the road, and staying with friends. but i’m really grateful for these little getaways, and for my lot in life in general.

working with food you realize that, like moments in a southern getaway, by its very nature its pleasure is fleeting. once it’s made and consumed, it’s gone, and never to be seen again. documenting it on a blog doesn’t count! remembering all the food i’ve had the pleasure to enjoy, i wonder if i have the right to things that are so good, so good for me, filled with warm colours and spice and soul. my wish for today is that everyone, everywhere, gets to taste even a fraction of the bounty i enjoy daily.

a few discoveries from the road

  1. the wednesday market a the pier in st. augustine, florida. i’ve been to the saturday market at the ampitheatre but this one was a surprise we found after a cat-nap on the beach. after driving all night we used the outdoor shower at the beach and wandered down to find fresh strawberries, bluegrass musicians, and the best shrimp and grits for breakfast. i’m a bad blogger for not getting the name of the chef at this booth but i will!

  2. kitchens on the square in savannah, georgia. the cutest little kitchen boutique ever. hard-to-find and vintage kitchen stuff, all in beautiful colours and quirky patterns. picked up some great props and the prettiest tablecloth ever.

  3. speaking of savannah, we had breakfast outside at the collins quarter and it was perfect. breaking news: avocado toast is not dead. again with the shrimp and grits for my special brit friend, but when you’re in the south it’s what you do. awesome food and service all around.

  4. fishs eddy in NYC. i’ve browsed this shop online but for all my time in NYC i’d never been until now. purveyors of every fantastic dish, glass, and platter you can imagine. stocked to the gills with new and old, including old hotel and food service dishes. cutlery from an old prison, anyone?

  5. key west. if you’ve never done the one-lane drive over the ocean from the top of the keys to the bottom, do it! i was driving, so no photos, but at the end of the year we’re heading back and sailing to cuba and the camera is coming. this is where the car’s thermostat hit 33c in march. oh yes.

  6. the paris market in savannah. there’s a cafe, but then attached to it is a collection of new and old, french-inspired bric-a-brac, jewelry, soaps, french market bags, silk shawls, and treasures from the sea. one section sells loops of silk velvet ribbons for $2.75 a yard and bags of vintage costume jewelry for $7.00. my brit friend scored a sweet pair of mis-matched enamel-inlay cufflinks for a few bucks. so much more online too.

  7. and finally, the housing works in NYC. this organization champions for those affected by hiv/aids and homelessness through its many programs and services, including the operation of 13 upscale thrift shops across the city. i love to get behind social justice champions, and they truly have really great stuff. a woman i was chatting with picked up two french country chairs upholstered in pink for $20, and  a few pieces of mismatched rose-patterned noritake china are going to be making some appearances under some of my food very soon.

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good stuff #5: thriftlove

Palais Royale plate with kumquats

happy lovely sunday to you.

today’s edition of good stuff is dedicated to thrifting, the art of spotting and repurposing those discarded gems. i’m never short of amazement at what i come across in thrift and charity shops. finding beauty in the everyday is a big theme here at ebta, and it’s especially fun to plan posts and photos around items i’ve sourced for next to nothing. it gives me an excuse to slowly browse the aisles of mish-mash and see what reveals itself to me.

always the robust thrifter, a large part of my personal style comes from combining objects from various sources and price points.  sometimes i’m looking for a specific piece, but more often i spot something that just speaks my language, and when it get it home, it fits. sometimes it turns out that i’ve stumbled upon something valuable, but the value for me is how much i love it. 

something really interesting about thrifting: when objects are placed out of the context of a professionally styled environment, it allows you to see their potential in a way that is not curated by someone else, and i like that!

most of what you see in my food photos are props i’ve sourced when thrifting, and in the random shots of my ever-evolving space. here’s a quick smattering…

xx

  1. gourmates chrome tray with bakelite handles ($1.99). i love the post-war modernity of this little tray, and i can see it being very versatile for serving. it was made in montreal and still has the original label on the bottom.

  2. macrame plant holder ($3.99). macrame is indeed a thing again. i love plants, and in my light-challenged house this will make better use of my one sunny window. i also love the fact that someone made this, probably in the 70’s, and it’s getting new life.

  3. old pastry blender (.99 cents). a purely practical purchase, since i do a lot of small pastry jobs in my food processor, which recently caught fire. oh, the gripping excitement of food blogging! this is in mint condition with a smooth wooden handle, perfect tines, and a really comfortable thumb-grip. i’ve used it a few times, and i’d forgotten what it was like to blend butter into flour by hand.

  4. vintage florist vases used as salt cellars. (50 cents/$1.00 each). the shape of these grabbed me, so i flipped one over and it had a “ftd” label on it. back in the day, when you had a floral arrangement delivered, it came in a really beautiful container. these are heavy, and a lovely opaque white. a good wash and dry and they make the perfect salt cellar.

  5. tea jar with bird lid ($2.99). this is a piece of cheap japanese export porcelain from the middle of the last century. the thing is, a lot of mid-century japanese porcelain wouldn’t be called “cheap” by today’s dollar-store standards. they often have beautiful coloration and fine detail, like the bamboo branches and little birds on this footed jar, perfect for tea or little cookies.

  6. curvy white plate (.99 cents). worthless, but not to me, because i love this little plate for its oblong shape and curvy border.

  7. johnson bros. ningpo china ($9.99 for 25 pieces).  it’s not often you see china in these colours of clear grass-green, yellow, and orange, some of my favourite colours. so i grabbed the lot of cups and saucers, plates, and bowls for ten bucks, and now i use them almost every day. a quick search of the pattern at replacements.com revealed what i have to be worth several hundred dollars. score!

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good stuff #4: kitchen goodies

a bunch of aqua

kitchen goodies

as you can imagine, my kitchen is my kingdom. i spend a lot of time there, so it needs to be functional.

i’m a bit nutty for kitchen equipment. when i’m in a groove and the absolute perfect tool is at my disposal, there is no better feeling than having a well-made object that’s right for the job. many people who tell me they hate cooking are working with old junk they haven’t replaced in years, or using tools that they think will make life easier, but actually don’t. like a garlic press.

the kitchen also happens to be the hub of the house. everyone winds up there. so warm, comfortable, and good-looking is also a priority. it needs to have beauty and brains.

this week, a peek into my aga-less, but happy kitchen. and a few cool gadgets that have recently crossed my path.

happy sunday and happy week.

xx

  1. this mushroom brush. mushrooms are little sponges and shouldn’t be washed. i love the shape and gentle bristles of this iris hantverk brush for nice clean mushrooms. for when i make things like this. i bought it online from quitokeeto.

  2. tiny bundt pan. the other day i came upon this little 9″ pan from guardini of italy. it’s perfect for making dainty cakes and the non-stick surface worked really well on a sticky cake i baked up. the orange enamel is a total bonus.

  3. this art. this bare wall was asking for something big and dramatic. art in the kitchen, why not? i found this beautiful limited edition block print by bobby rosenstock of just a jar design press at the toronto outdoor art exhibit, framed it up and put it above the stove. (a stove which, as you can see, is clearly not an AGA.)

  4. this scoop. chefs use them for portion control, i use them for sanity control. trying to coax muffin batter from bowl to muffin tin with a spoon is not fun. for cookies, muffin batter, and veggie burgers, these make perfect portions and life a lot easier. the handles are colour-coded so you always grab the right size.

  5. this awesome little knife by k sabatier. i needed a razor-sharp little knife for fiddly jobs, and this one, with its lovely olive-wood handle, is perfect.

  6. this collection of aqua stuff. lately i’m loving anything aqua. it works really well in my light orange kitchen and is reminiscent of a tropical sea.  when a good friend of mine moved to hawaii, she gifted me the le creuset large roaster (yeah, she’s that kind of friend). ikea raskog cart. vase and casserole dish from homesense)

  7. this paint colour, “orangery”, farrow and ball. one day i just decided to paint my kitchen this creamy orange colour, and i never looked back. it’s amazingly versatile and is dreamy in dimmed light in the evening. although i suspect this colour has been archived, as it’s no longer available to view on the website.

  8. this upcycled island. this was an old buffet/hutch combo that my special brit friend keenly spied at our favourite junk shop. i think it’s from the 40’s. we removed the shelves, painted it out in this platinum shade of melamine paint. i found the marble top as a scrap at the stone yard and shamelessly asked for some man-muscle to get it home. all in, it cost under $200, and i have a perfect place to roll pastry, store extra bowls and linens, and shoot my food photos. score. the toleware chandelier was also a score, $40 at a junk store. i put it on a dimmer to make an inviting spot for drinks and snacks in the evenings.

  9. these containers for utensils. old garden urns and ice buckets make interesting and quirky catch-alls for all those cooking tools. one is never enough. luckily they are easily found in thrift shops.

*please note, i do not work for and am not paid by any of the above companies. this is my unbiased sharing of things i like. thanks!

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good stuff #3

bra grejer

i love canada, i really do. our kick-ass landscape, free health care and enviable collection of wildlife species are pretty great. last week i ate a butter tart. i also ate one the week before that. what a country!

this week, as we slowly transition into spring, i’m sharing the warm minimalism of scandivavian and nordic style, looking to the distinct cold-climate aesthetic of sweden, denmark, finland, and norway for inspiration. theirs is a perfect blending of the historical and the deeply modern, an appreciation of craftmanship, natural materials, and simple, functional, but beautiful design.

and what about hygge? in denmark, this sort of vague word, loosely translated, describes the feeling of well-being we get from a warm, candlelit room filled with books and good food, and people to share it with, while the snow falls heavily outside. that feeling can happen in warmer weather, too, when a picnic blanket on soft grass is laid with beautiful food on a well-designed dish, and you know you have the afternoon off. it’s kind of blissful, no? a perfect concept for a cold-climate country like canada, too.

let’s not forget, sweden is the birthplace of that most beautiful of hygge-inducing stoves, my still-coveted AGA.

while i’ll never be a true minimalist, i love how nordic and scandinavian style seems to mix it up just right. i hope you find some inspiration too.

happy sunday xx

p.s…that phrase above? swedish, for “good stuff”.

  1. this cookbook, the new nordic, by:

  2. photographer and chef simon bajada is on my list of new books to buy. beetroot carpaccio with goat’s cheese and minted pea relish will be one of the first recipes i try. (photos: simon bajada)

  3. this roros tweed blanket, made from the wool of norwegian sheep. i’m inspired by those blocks of colour to knit a colourblock throw in homage to this lovely design. available at MJOLK, in the junction, toronto. (photo: MJOLK.com)

  4. this glass and brass vase, made in sweden by eva schildt. perfect to hold simple branches or dried seed heads in celebration of the stark beauty of winter. at MJOLK, above. (photo: MJOLK.com)

  5. these marttiini knives from finland. i would love to unsheath this and use it daily. available at the finnish place. (photo: the fnnish place)

  6. lotta from stockholm clogs chefs wear closed-toe clogs in the kitchen because they are durable and comfortable. now you can get the ultimate in man-repelling footwear to go with just about everything. i discovered lotta from stockholm on instagram and love everything they post. these black t-bars are begging to be worn with a cute dress and tights, or flared denim. (photo: lotta from stockholm)

  7. this funky mug by iconic designer maija isola in the unikko pattern, in production since 1964. love that yellow. (photo: the finnish place)

  8. this gorgeous bowl. if i can’t afford an AGA, i cant afford this bowl but wow, is it beautiful to look at! from a selection available in the online shop of the kitchen designer, susan serra. (photo:scandinavianmade.com)

  9. era 66 furniture located right here in guelph, makers of drool-worthy new furniture inspired by danish modern and mid-century design. (photo: instagram, @era66furniture)

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good stuff no. 2

good morning lovely people, and a very happy sunday to you.

this week’s good stuff roundup is inspired by simplicity. i’m loving the slightly minimalist theme going on.

check my instagram feed for today’s post, and to follow our listmakers and see even more of what they do.

with love,
xx

as if i don’t love crocheting enough, it would be even better if i had one of these hand-carved crochet hooks with sweet crown tops from bqueen collection. available in singles or in sets, each one is ergonomic and made from domestic and exotic woods. that tulipwood one though! (photo: BQueen Collection)

i came across the good drink on instagram, and am now officially in awe of Colleen Jeffers recipes and photography. i need a Salted Melon Lassi with blonde rum, like, immediately. (photo: Colleen Jeffers)

what i’m loving about blooms and flora florist in guelph is their selection of slightly 70’s style potted plants. you can have a peace lily in a funky white textured ceramic pot delivered to your door for $35, or go all out and snag this stunning split-leaf philodendron. they also carry the cutest little succulent pots that make me crave some macrame hangers. now to not kill them…. (photo: Blooms and Flora)

Sue Bradbury is the woman behind EllainaBoutique, her etsy shop and home to simply designed tops, dresses, and scarves all designed and sewn by Sue. my favourite is this simple white top, but her colourful dresses with pin-tuck bodices are gorg. (photo: Sue Bradbury)

so, coffee. it’s pretty much my favourite thing in the world, so how happy am i to see filtr company joining a pretty enviable array of coffee places in town. although they are much more than a coffee shop. they deliver simple, fresh food, cold-pressed raw juices from galt juice company, and their espresso and slow-bar features small-batch beans from Monigram Roasters in Cambridge. even if you don’t live here, visit the website and peruse the deliciousness. (photo: Filtr Co.)

oh, and by the way, was it a fabulous dream, or did AGA Living really post a photo of this luscious pink number for valentine’s day? yes, yes they did. sigh. (photo: AGAliving.com)

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good stuff no. 1

“the road is hard, love softens it.”

we have the late great poet Steven Levine to thank for that perfect quote on this day of love.

love of all kinds makes life softer. a favourite song, a cat in your lap, a warm muffin to enjoy with your latte, or a new ball of yarn in a colour you admire, soft, and full of promise. we give love out and we receive it, to ourselves, and others through little bits of beauty every day. do you agree?

it’s been a rough week of battling the flu and being unable to do much in the way of creating, but a few simple pleasures have made life bearable while i recover!

let’s end the week with some bits of beauty for you.

with love
xoxo

  1. rhubarb-rose syrup. i made this with some pretty pink rhubarb frozen from the summer, sugar, water, and rosewater. mixed with soda for a refreshing way to get enough to drink. (a splash of vodka or even whiskey would not go unappreciated either)

  2. moments in love, the art of noise. the lush and spectacularly romantic 10+ minute version on vinyl purchased when i was 16 is one of my favourites to listen to.

  3. this double tourmaline ring by Attic Gold. the more i see this, the more i think how perfect it is. more on Attic in a later post.

  4. gold lace-up espadrille shoes from Soludos. these will be perfect for my trip to key west in april. also available in a slip-on style.

  5. modern love. we may have lost david, but his legend will never die. this photo my terry o’neill was taken in 1974, and hangs in my living room.

  6. this glorious new yarn by Purl Soho in ballet pink. flax down comes in 12 sublime colours, and having spent my illness crocheting little graphic squares, i can attest to its beauty to work with. stay tuned…

  7. this vase by ceramic artist Thomas Aitken. i discovered his work at the clay and glass museum, and was taken first by the colour of his glazes. this little vase is perfect for small blooms.

  8. love in the time of cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. if you haven’t read the story of Florentino and Fermina, it’s worth a read (or reread).

  9. artist Frances Hahn this little painting on wood (can you guess who it is?) measures just 3×4″ and is part of an amazing 100 little works. i’ve always admired Frances’ work for is simplicity and her command of colour. beautiful!

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