Saturday, October 24, 2009

Making Apple Cider

Apples, apples, apples. It's a good thing there's so many ways to prepare them, because they're going to be a staple for the next few months. In the past few weeks I've made apple/cherry applesauce, baked apples, apple and walnut stuffing, apple and cheddar grilled cheese, squash and apple soup... the list is endless. I bought a peck of Spy apples two weekends ago, and they're disappearing fast from their basket in my closet (I know, weird, but it's cool and dark, perfect for storing apples). It seemed like a large amount at the time, but in retrospect, I could have gone for the bushel.
Last weekend I went to Hart House Farm. It was a delightful chance to get out of the city, and included stealing apples from an orchard (just one!), getting lost on the bruce trail, sitting in the autumn sun next to quarry ponds, and helping make apple cider!

Mulled Apple Cider

4 cups apple cider
2 0r 3 thin slices of orange
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a pot. Over high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove orange slices and cinnamon sticks and serve!

Baked Apples

6 apples
1/8 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup melted butter
1/2 cup trail mix (I used a mix with pecans, raisins and sunflower seeds)
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
about 1 cup of apple cider

Hollow out apples - the easiest way I can figure is to cut a cone shape down into the top of the apple, then use a melon baller to take out the rest of the core. Just be sure not to go right through the apple; leave a thin layer at the bottom. Then, use a paring knife to score a circle in the skin around the centre of the apple. This will prevent the apple from bursting through it's skin.

Combine butter and sugar. Add trail mix, cinnamon and salt. Stuff each apple with this mixture. Put apples in a baking pan. Pour over apple cider, until there is about a 1/2 inch of liquid in the pan. Bake for 40 minutes. If you let the apples cool somewhat, the liquid leftover in the bottom of the pan will thicken, making a delicious sauce. I served the apples with plain yogurt. You could be decadent and have them with vanilla ice cream.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Spinach, Roman Style

Last Thursday, I picked up some interesting looking spinach at the East Lynn Farmer's Market. It was shaped like large arugula leaves with deep red stems, reminding me of beet greens. I tried to find out what it's called - and found an interesting plant called Malabar spinach, which isn't really a spinach at all. I'm going to look into growing it next year. It's a hot weather plant that forms long vines, and tastes like a mild spinach.

Anyway, that wasn't the plant I bought.

The spinach I bought might be Bordeaux spinach. It's a F1 hybrid, bred specifically for those green mixes. Presumably the idea with to add some colour to the plastic boxes of gas-treated salad mixes? Anyway, it was delicious in a fritatta with roasted red peppers and goat cheese, and it was even tastier as the spotlight in this dish. I've fallen in love with pine nuts, and started adding them to everything I eat.

Roman Style Spinach
(adapted from a New York Times article from the 80's. The original had raisins in it, which sounded... different? I'll be brave and add them in next time I make this.)

1 small bunch of spinach (about 5 or 6 cups), washed, dried and coarsely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/8 cup of pine nuts

Heat olive oil on med-high heat in a saute pan. Add garlic and pine nuts, cook, stirring often, until browned, about 1-2 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 3 or 4 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

I enjoyed this with polenta and leftover mushroom gravy from thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Soups for rainy weather

Leek and Potato Soup
(with special appearances by corn and red pepper)

There's chunky, broth based soup, and then there's ultra -smooth, pureed soup your grandma would love. Sometimes I feel like something in the middle! Removing and pureeing just a bit of the soup can make it extra creamy without adding cups of milk or cream. My lactose intolerant boyfriend also appreciates this.

(this soup disappeared to fast to be photographed. Here's an ingredient instead.)

A note on leeks: they can by sneaky vegetables, hiding dirt and sand in between their leaves. I cut off almost all of the green part (and feed it to my compost worms), then slice the leek lengthwise in half. Then I rinse it, making sure to check between the layers.

2 tbsp olive oil
2 large or 3 small leeks, cleaned and sliced thinly
4 fist sized potatoes, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, finely diced
salt and pepper
6 cups of vegetable broth
1 cup milk or cream (leave out for a dairy-free soup, just add 1 more cup of broth)
2 cups of fresh corn (about 2 cobs)

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Cook leeks for 5 minutes, then add potatoes and pepper and saute for 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add broth, and simmer soup for 20-25 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Remove 1 cup of soup and puree with an immersion blender (or other blending device). Return pureed soup to pot, add milk (if using) and corn. Simmer (but don't boil!) for another 5 minutes, until corn is cooked to your liking.

I enjoyed this soup with grilled cheese: some gluten-free cinnamon raisin bread with spy apples and aged cheddar. Mmmm. Finished leftovers the next day with my new favorite crackers - Mary's something or other, made out of rice and quinoa. 

Curried Pumpkin and Apple

Here's a creamy vegan soup I invented for one of my New England Pie pumpkins. 

1 pie pumpkin, halved with seeds removed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 apples, diced (no need to peel, the skin will break down)
salt and pepper
2 tbsp curry powder
4-5 cups of vegetable stock 
1 can coconut milk

Preheat oven to 375. Rub pumpkin flesh with 1 tbsp olive oil and place face down on a cookie sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, or until soft. Remove from oven and let cool. Then scoop the flesh into a bowl. 

Heat other tbsp of olive oil in a large pot. Sautee onion and apples for about 10 minutes, until soft. Add curry powder, salt and pepper and saute for 1 more minute. Then, add cooked pumpkin and stock, and simmer for 10 minutes. Finally, puree soup until smooth, then add coconut milk and heat through. The end! 

Monday, October 5, 2009

gardening update

Almost time to clean things up for the winter - ripping up plants, throwing around compost, pulling up bamboo rods and stacking pots. By some divine miracle, the tomato plants are still thriving. Here's some harvest from last weekend: 2 New England Pie pumpkins, some potatoes (actually, the only two potatoes my plant produced), and three tomato varieties: Juliet, Green Zebra and Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes.

For the first time this year, I'm saving seeds! It's about time, I'm kicking myself for not saving some Montreal Tasty tomato seeds from last year. There are numerous containers of fermenting seeds on my kitchen table. I should probably let my roommates know what they are before someone throws them out. Here's what I'll have for next year - planting and trading:

Matt's Wild Cherry Tomatoes
Juliet Tomatoes
New England Pie Pumpkin
Butternut Squash
Marketmore Cucumbers

And - look! I grew fruit! Somehow more exciting than carrots and beets, this year I grew gooseberries and 'Hearts of Gold' melon (below).

Also, I just realized I like blackberries. Usually, I'm lured towards the raspberries and blueberries and give the blackberries a pass, but last week I read a recipe for blackberry sauce in the book Gluten-free Girl (also an awesome blog), and picked some up at St. Lawrence. I only used 1/2 pint for the sauce, and was forced to eat the other half. How have I lasted this long without realizing how delicious they are?

Blackberry Sauce
adapted from Gluten-free Girl

I used this sauce for my once-monthly fish extravaganza - it's delicious on a pan-fried salmon fillet. I used up the rest in some plain yogurt, and I imagine it would be amazing on ice cream, too.

1/2 pint blackberries
1/4 cup water
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Just simmer everything together for 10 minutes. Shauna's recipe suggests straining the sauce, but I like the crunchy seeds, so I left it as is.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

return from the land of very good and very bad food.

It's been a while since I wrote. A very, very long time. It's not without trying - I can count on the fingers and toes of all the people I live with (which is a lot) the number of times I've made something and thought to myself "I have to write down this recipe and post it!" As far as food is concerned, this has been a summer of extreme highs and lows. I feasted on strawberries, rhubarb and asparagus here in Toronto; I ate loaves and loaves of bread with pasta and vodka sauce in New York City; I devoured a whole watermelon to myself beside the Hudson River; I singlehandedly cooked a local dinner for a party of 30 at my graduation; I made cupcakes that looked like penguins. Those were good. The bad? My favorite two weeks of the year at Trafalgar Castle: camp! Let's just say, the food has never been great. This year the cafeteria provider Armark sunk to new lows. Note the piece of art we made out of stale fortune cookies and a sweet and sour sauce that had the consistency of Jello and the colour of, well, Jell0.

too cute to eat.

food art!
sprawling children's vegetable garden in New York City Botanical Gardens, the Bronx

Addiction to farmer's markets intensifies when the berries begin to appear.

first real food at camp: a giant tray of sushi.

more cupcakes: nests for the penguins!

my boyfriend's not so healthy choice. he regretted ordering a large coke.

But now the weather's getting colder, and I'm back at my computer. Also, no more gluten excuses. From now on, all my recipes will be without gluten: wheat flour, rye, oats, barely soy sauce, etc, etc. It's time to start writing down recipes again. So here we go:
Oven Roasted Tomatoes

I'm not going to lie, I actually got sick of eating tomatoes. I know I'm going to hate myself when January comes, but it's true. My Juliet, Wild Cherry and Green Zebra plants were so prolific that the tomato bowl on my counter was never empty, July to September. This week I gave up and threw them all in the oven for later in the winter.

olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 300. If using cherry, juliet or plum tomatoes, cut them in half. Anything larger and you'll want to cut them in wedges or slices. Lay out the tomatoes on parchment lined cookie sheets. Drizzle with a very small amount of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3 or 4 hours at 300, the turn the oven down to 200 and cook for a few more. Just keep checking them - you'll know they're done when they're completely dried and shriveled up! Watch out if you're cooking different types and sizes of tomatoes at once, they will be done at different times.

Duche de Leche

Here's a simple, easy thing I was first introduced to, strangely, by my diabetic friend. It couldn't be easier if it tried. If you've never had it, it's kind of like caramel sauce, but thicker and more delicious. Try it in crepes, with apple slices, or on top of ice cream. I even used some as a filling in some gluten-free brownies.

1 can of sweetened, condensed milk

Bring a large, deep pot of water to boil. Add can of milk, unopened. Boil for 3 hours. That's it! Just be sure to keep adding water, making sure the can is always covered. Store in a sealed jar in the fridge. I've read that it keeps for a month, but it would never make it that far in my house. I've also read that this method is dangerous, but no cans have ever exploded in my kitchen, and I know a bunch of people who make it this way with no problems.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Local eating, figs for spring

         I'm a local eater in a big way. Two weeks ago I bought my first strawberries since last summer, and truly, absense does make the heart grow fonder. And the fruits of waiting are very sweet.

            Once in awhile, I just have to eat something from far away. I've spent the last few years sorting out my own personal food choices - and food choices are just that -incredible personal (and political). There's a few things I'm not willing to give up, for example, bananas and chocolate. But for foods like these, it's possible to be fair and environmental. Fair trade, organic bananas are available at quite a few places in Toronto. It's a step up from organic, where farmers are free from harmful pesticides, but are still only paid around a dollar per box. Fair trade means the farmers are getting fair market prices: around 8 dollars a box. The difference to us? Actually the same price as organic bananas, around $1.29 a pound. That's where the personal choice comes in. Am I in a position to spend 40 cents more than commercial bananas to ensure what I'm eating is not harming farmers, and that those farmers are getting enough money to reasonably make a living? Chocolate? Same deal. Cocoa Camino is my favorite organic fair trade brand, but there's a bunch out there.

           So here's something I eat a few times a year. Figs have a unique taste. And, along with bananas, they were one of the first plants to be cutivated for human consumption, around 11,000 years ago. Here's a fig salad, surrounded by some local ingredients.

Strawberry Fig Salad
makes 2 servings
8 figs, sliced crosswise across the top (see picture)
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup goat cheese
1/4 cup toasted walnut pieces
2 tbsp grapeseed oil (or olive oil)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup
salt and pepper

         Combine strawberries and figs in a bowl. Crumble goat cheese and walnuts over top. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Drizzle over salad.

          This is what I ate with the salad. I had all the fixings for an awesome pizza, but I have yet to tackle gluten-free pizza dough. Instead, I made a big giant rosti (recipe here) and then broiled it for a few minutes, covered in sliced tomatoes, basil leaves, kamalata olives and raw milk feta. It was delicious.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

gardening in the rain

My garden's been slow to get going this year - cold May weather, too much work, too much graduating and partying. Yesterday I finally had a whole day to weed, plant, mulch and tidy. At least a hour of that was spent wading through the lamb's quarters that were engulfing my snow peas and beets. 

The squirrels and cats have been (mostly) foiled by large amounts of chicken wire covering every possible surface. Something small is still getting in, but it definitely isn't my 15 pound cats. They aren't that agile.

Foraging in the recycling bin has become a habit - containers for seed starting, toilet paper rolls for protecting tomato seedlings, water and pop bottles for make-shift cloches. 

Also, I've discovered the joys of gardening in the rain. No bugs, no sun, nice temperature, and soil so easy to work with! Nice spring surprise- (below) I'm overjoyed to see that my cosmos and cilantro both re-seeded themselves!

Visiting farmer's markets over the past month, I've been tempted by a few tasty-sounding tomato plants. Along with the five Matt's Wild Cherry I grew from seed, there's a Green Zebra, two Purple Cherokees, four Candy Cherries, two Golden Cherries, and a giant Plum - with tomatoes growing already! I'm also growing peppers for the first time - Marconi Long Red and Purple Beauty.   

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Rhubarb four ways

I have a confession: I have never bought, cooked, grown or eaten rhubarb (I'm not counting bad, store-bought strawberry rhubarb pie). But I'm trying something new. Inspired by all these posts about rhubarb (at Seasonal Ontario Food and Tea and Cookies), I spent the week cooking these four recipes:

Rhubarb Compote

1/3 cup sugar
1/2 lb rhubarb (about 10 to 12 thin, long stalks)
1 tbsp butter (or coconut oil)

Cut rhubarb into small cubes. Toss with sugar. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low. Add rhubarb. Let cook for 2 minutes without stirring, then cook for 10-12 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Possible experiments: today I stuck with plain old white sugar, but I'm going to try going all local with honey or maple syrup next time... not sure how the maple would taste with the rhubarb, but it can't be bad! I'm sure the rhubarb would overpower. I'm also going to try a vegan version using coconut oil instead of butter. And finally, I'm going to try using less sweetener. This one was delicious, but I would love it to taste even more tart.

Enjoyed on: vanilla ice cream, custard, yogurt, pancakes, potato rosti, toast and on spoon, straight from the jar.
Variation - Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
Exactly the same as above, just add some halved strawberries after the rhubarb has cooked for 5 minutes. You might want to add less sugar - the strawberries get mighty sweet when cooked. This compote is a lot runnier than the straight rhubarb - great for waffles, pancakes or ice cream!

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

*Note - This is a new crumble recipe for me - it's gluten free! I'm a big fan of crumbles with oats in the topping, but the almonds in this recipe make an awesome, crunchy crisp. This makes a rather tart crumble (according to my mom and boyfriend- I thought it was just right). Increase the sugar if you want a sweeter taste. Serve with delicious real, local, organic whipped cream!

1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/3 blanched almond flour (usually in the fridge in health food stores - like the big carrot)
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp cold butter (coconut oil or vegan margarine for a vegan version)
dash of salt
2 cups strawberries, hulled and halved
4 cups rhubarb, diced
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp lemon juice

Spread sliced almonds on a baking sheet (I used whole almonds and chopped them roughly). Toast in oven at 350 for 8 minutes. Throw almonds, almond flour, brown sugar and salt in food processor and grind into a fine meal. Transfer to a bowl, and cut in cold butter, making a chunky, cornmeal-like mixture. Set aside. Leave oven on at 350 for later.

Combine strawberries and rhubarb in a bowl. Toss with sugar and cornstarch. Sprinkle lemon juice over fruit.

Grease a 9 by 9 in. baking dish. Spread fruit in bottom, then sprinkle crumble topping evenly over fruit. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until fruit is thoroughly cooked and topping is browned.

Rhubarb Applesauce

*Note- use 2 or 3 types of apples if you can. This makes any applesauce taste better. Also, if you're using organic apples, leave them unpeeled (if you don't mind a few bits of skin - and if you're using some sort of red apple, it will turn the sauce a pretty red colour).

5 or 6 apples, cored and chopped
5 or 6 stalks of rhubarb, diced
2-3 tbsp maple syrup

Combine apples and rhubarb in a pot with a few splashed of water. Cook on medium/low heat, stirring and smushing occasionally, until everything is soft and mushy to your liking (anywhere from 20-40 minutes). Stir in maple syrup to taste.
Along with the rhubarb, here's my finds from the market this week: cabbage, cornbread, bok choy, a cucumber. apples and delicious kalamata olives. Mmmmm. 

In 4 months, this vine will be bursting with New England Pie pumpkins... I'm already thinking of the delicious things I'm going to bake.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cheap & easy dinner, plentiful & bountiful asparagus

Potato Rosti with grilled asparagus
*this makes delicious dinner for 2. For one person, just make a smaller rosti, cutting amounts in half.

3 large potatoes
1 onion, peeled
salt and pepper
3 or 4 tbsp olive oil
1 lb asparagus
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350. Grate potatoes (leave skin on) and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a skillet (one that can go in the oven - no plastic handles!). Make sure pan is coated well with oil to avoid rosti mishaps. Pile grated potato and onion mixture in skillet, pressing down and forming a huge, pan-sized potato pancake. Cook on medium heat for 7 or 8 minutes. Run spatula under edges to loosen, then place a large plate face down on the rosti. Flip the entire thing onto the plate, then slide the rosti back onto the pan (now cooking the uncooked side). Put the skillet in the oven for another 7 or 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, perhaps while the first side of the rosti cooks, break off the tough ends of the asparagus. Toss on a baking pan with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. When you put the rosti in the oven, throw in the asparagus. They'll be done the same time as the rosti! (8 minutes). Roll them around once for even cooking.

Meanwhile, while asparagus and rosti are in the oven, fry two eggs.
Serve each rosti piled with asparagus, topped with an egg (maybe with a side of homemade applesause for the rosti).

Cheap, cheap dinner. The whole thing costs between 2 and 4 dollars, depending on whether you're using organic ingredients. Use butter instead of olive oil and you have yourself a 100 mile dinner, possible much much closer, especially if you're lucky enough to have an asparagus bed in your backyard. No excuses for that woody, tasteless asparagus from Peru right now - everywhere has Ontario asparagus, from No Frills to Dufferin Grove to St. Lawrence Market.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

cooking on earth day

Sweet Curried Carrot Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
2 small onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp ginger, minced
2 tbsp thai red curry paste
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 apple, peeled and diced
5 carrots, peeled and diced
6 cups water
1 bouillon cube
1 can coconut milk
more coconut milk and arugula to garnish

Saute onions in olive oil for 5 minutes, until soft. Add garlic, ginger and curry paste, stir and cook for a few more minutes. Add sweet potatoes, apple, carrots, water and bouillon cube. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Puree in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Add coconut milk, and heat for 5 more minutes. Serve with a spoonful of coconut milk and a few pieces of arugula.

*Note: Clearly, I spent earth day cooking. What better thing to do than to cook up some tasty food with some local, organic produce? Onions, garlic, sweet potato, apples and carrots, all from less than 100 miles away. I remade my last recipe - the cornbread quiche - because it was just so good.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

wonderful experiments!

Cornbread Quiche

Here's some almost-local quiches. I used gluten-free cornbread from Dufferin Grove market (locally made, some non-local ingredients). The wild garlic and mushrooms come from just outside of Toronto, and eggs, yogurt and feta cheese are available from numerous organic farms around the GTA all year round.

*Note - this makes 4 mini quiches. They keep well for a few days in the refrigerator, and reheat in the toaster oven.

4 slices of cornbread
4 tsp olive oil, more for sauteing
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1 stalk wild garlic, minced
3 eggs
1/2 plain 3% yogurt
1/4 crumbled feta cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350. This is a three part recipe. First, the vegetables. Saute the mushrooms and wild garlic in some olive oil in a pan. 

While the vegetables cook, make the crust: oil four muffin tins with olive oil. Press slices of cornbread into muffin tin, creating 4 mini crusts. Don't worry about crumbling or squishing the cornbread - just mold and press, then cook for 3 minutes. 

Meanwhile, the custard: combine the eggs, yogurt, feta, salt and pepper in a bowl. Whisk with a fork. 

Combine everything: take the crusts out of the oven, fill with mushrooms, then top with the egg mixture, and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the egg is set. Remove from the muffin tins.

You could really make these with any vegetable filling you like, or switch up the cheese! Say, tomatoes and basil with mozzarella, or broccoli and cheddar. Also, you could try using plain old whole wheat bread, or even filo pastry for the crust. 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

100-mile salad

Here's an easy salad for spring. It's all 100-mile (sans dressing and olives), and can be all year long, using Ontario greenhouse cucumbers and tomatoes. I can't wait to make this with the Matt's Wild Cherry Tomatoes and Marketmore Cucumbers from my garden. The feta cheese I used was this delicious stuff I found at Dufferin Grove Market today. Other purchases? Gluten-free corn bread (best darn gluten free bread I've ever had), 3-bean sprout mix, and wild garlic!

Mediterranean Salad
2 tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, diced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
big handful of kalamata olives, pitted and halved
crumbled feta (however much or little you want)
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 or 3 tbsp olive oil
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Combine all the vegetables and feta. Sprinkle with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Keeps well for a day or two in the fridge. I served my leftovers on top of a big handful of sprouts - there's more than enough dressing to go around, especially after the tomatoes have been marinating for a day. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

more beets...

I swear this is the last post about beets. I roasted a bunch to put in salad, but instead, I found this recipe from Seasonal Ontario Food. I'm finally using up the last of the cranberries I had frozen in the fall. This is my favorite new recipe since... well, in the past few weeks, and I have been cooking a LOT. My favorite part about thanksgiving is the cranberry sauce, and this recipe is definitely healthier than the usual way I get my cranberry fix - eating leftover sauce in spoonfuls, straight from the fridge. The beets, apples and cranberries go great together. It's delicious hot or cold.

Cranberry Apple Beets

4 or 5 cooked beets
1 cup frozen cranberries
2 apples, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp grated ginger
1/2 cup apple cider or apple juice

Peel and dice beets. Put in a pot with all the other ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes, until the cranberries pop and everything is softened to your liking. Eat!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Beets beets beets

I've been eating a ton of beets recently. It's just that time of year, the lull before April asparagus. Let's see - beet and romano cheese risotto, a simple apple and beet salad, roasted beets, delicious beet and goat cheese salad, and the giant pot of borcht I made last week! It took me... a while to get through it, but I easily pawned some off on my mom. Freeze some for a suprise a month or two from now.


The amounts in this recipe are approximate. This is a clean out your fridge kind of soup, don't use what you don't have, add things like cabbage or tomatoes if you have them!

3 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 or 3 stalks of celery, chopped
3 beets, peeled and chopped
1 potato, chopped
2 apples, chopped
2 bay leaves
8 cups of vegetable stock (I used 2 boullion cubes with 8 cups of water)
sea salt and pepper to taste

In a large, heavy bottomed pot, saute onions in olive oil for 2 minutes. Add celery and carrots, and saute for 5 mintues more. Add beets, potato and apples, bay leaves and stock. Simmer for 30-40 minutes, until beets are cooked through. Remove bay leaves, season with salt and pepper. Puree in a food processor to desired consistency - add more water if needed. I used my immersion blender for the first time! I left some chunks for texture. It was delightfully easy!

Some new food I've enjoyed recently! First a disclaimer: I have a general distaste for anything spelled with a "z." Not as in zebra or zap, but added z's, especially in food product names: such as "T-ribz," a vegetarian version of the carnivorous food. I never would have bought this product because of the aforementioned "z," if not for the friendly sample woman at the Big Carrot. However, now I know the deliciousness of t-ribz, I think I can manage to get past the name. I have no idea what actual t-ribs taste like, since the last time I ate them I was 9, but these are an amazing, generally healthy vegan fast food! They're made by Sol, whose whole line of prepared tofu and veggie burgers are vegan AND gluten free. Basically, they're strips of firm tofu covered in a tomato paste/tamari/barbecue-style sauce. I fried mine in a bit of olive oil and at them on a bed of quinoa, but the sample lady told me to try them for breakfast with potatoes! I might try recreating the sauce at home sometime, but for now, in the middle of exams, it's a great fast food.

So, my birthday party a few weeks ago! I hapily feasted on leftovers for at least a week, but no one bought me a crock pot, which I'm a little disappointed about... just kidding! My boyfriend gave me an immersion blender AND a bike! Soon, I will be carrying around tupperwares full of pureed soups and sauces on my new green Miele road bike. For party food, I tried out a bunch of new recipes - not a great idea right before you invite 20 people to eat at your house - but they all worked out great! Here's one of my favorites:

Corn and Avocado Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa, cooked
1 cup cooked corn kernels (frozen or leftover corn on the cob)
2 green onions, sliced
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 red pepper, diced
1 avocado, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper

What is quinoa you ask? A delightful ancient seed - it's technically not a grain - that comes from South America, but is also grown in Eastern North America. 6,000 years ago, it was one of the most important food sources in South America, but was scorned by Europeans during the conquest of South America, who thought of it as 'Indian Food.' It's a complete protein (meaning it has all essential amino acids), is gluten-free, and high in iron and magnesium. Plus they have these cute little tails once they're cooked - I think it's the endosperm.

Rinse your quinoa! Most important step for tasty quinoa! I soak mine in warm water for 10 minutes, then give it a few rinses in fresh, cold water. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add drained quinoa, reduce to low heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. Let quinoa cool.

Meanwhile, prep veggies. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper. Pour over veggies in a large bowl. Toss to coat. Add cooled quinoa, stir and fluff. The end! (If you're making this ahead, leave out the avocado until right before you serve it so it doesn't get all brown and mushy).

PS. check out my new lists of cookbooks and other books, with reviews to come. also, here's two of my kitties - they're looking forward to helping out in the garden (read: lounging in the sun while I do all the hard work).

Monday, March 9, 2009

forgotten vegetables:

Celariac root, jerusalem artichoke, dandelion greens, tatsoi, rapini- those weird vegetables you pass by at the farmer's market every week. Don't cast them aside just because they don't show up in cookbooks. How do I cut it open? Is the skin edible? What the heck does it taste like? And why is it called a Jerusalem Artichoke? Google it! The answers are all there...

Rapini is maybe a better known vegetable, but one I always forget about. Is it broccoli? Is it spinach? Anyway, here's a recipe from Vegetarian times I made the other night; it's super simple, with minimal ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen.

Rapini with Beans and Cherry Tomatoes

1 bunch rapini, washed and coarsely chopped
olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 cup cooked navy beans or white kidney beans (aka cannellini beans)
Parmesan to taste
salt and pepper
Cook the beans (or use canned). Heat the olive oil in a big pan (I used my wok). Add garlic, cook for 30 sec. Add the rapini before the garlic starts to burn. Saute for 5-7 minutes, until the rapini is cooked. Set aside on plate. Add more olive oil to the hot pan, then add cherry tomatoes and saute until blistering. Add beans, cook for 2 or 3 more minutes until the beans are heated. Season with salt and pepper. Pile (nicely) on top of the rapini. Grate lots of cheese on top! Or, sprinkle with tasty bread crumbs for a vegan version.

I ate this along with some delicious maple-soy glazed mackerel, and it was the tastiest (and prettiest) meal I've had in a long time. Speaking of mackerel, I've started eating fish in the past month, after reading Tars Grescoe's Bottomfeeder. It's a very interesting book about the state of the world's fisheries. You would think that after reading about cyanide bombs in coral reefs and collapsing fishery dates set for 2050, I would have no interest in fish whatsoever. But ever since I went vegetarian, I've been craving seafood, sneaking in some smoked salmon at a party once a year, maybe some cocktail shrimp at a free function.
However, after reading Bottomfeeder, I've decide to be educated in my fish choices and go for it once or twice a month. Never again will I fall for Atlantic smoked salmon or cocktail shrimp, which might as well be the factory farmed meat of the sea. Atlantic Salmon is raised in environmentally disastrous fish farms, and most shrimp come from chemical filled in-land ponds in India or the Philippines, which are responsible for poisoning local food sources and clear-cutting mangrove forests. Instead, I'm sticking to fish closer to the bottom of the food chain, such as mackerel, a fish that matures in only 2 years (versus some large fish that can take 10-20 years). It also comes from nearby - there's a large mackerel population that spawns in the St. Lawrence. Check out the book for more information, or websites like Sea Choice or Seafood Watch to find out what fish are an ethical and environmental choice. Here's a tasty mackerel recipe!

Maple-soy glazed Mackerel

1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup soy sauce (tamari for the gluten-free)
1/8 cup red wine

Preheat oven to broil. Combine all 4 ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, then turn down to medium heat. Simmer for 7 or 8 minutes, until the liquid has reduced to about a 1/4 cup of thick glaze. Set 2 mackerel fillets in on some foil in a baking pan, skin side down. Brush 1/3 of the glaze on fish, then broil for 2 minutes. Remove fish, brush another 1/3 of glaze on, then broil for 1 more minute. Repeat once more (for a total of 4 minutes cooking time, using up all the glaze). Eat! This glaze can turn any food into amazingness. I tried in on broiled tempeh this week. 

PS. Almost planting time! I'm starting off my tomato and squash seedlings next weekend!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I finally borrowed Veganomicon from the library! It's an awesome vegan cookbook; beautifully designed, clear and conversational. And, the whole thing is available on Google Books! Anyway, here's the first recipe (of many) that I tried out, with a few minor changes. It's wheat free, and obviously, vegan. Don't let this turn you off - I brought them to school and fed them to a bunch of non-vegans with no complaints. Actually no complaints AND enjoyment and delight! (Although dancers are pretty much always eating, you can feed them anything sweet and free and they will be happy.)

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies (wheat-free chocolate chip cookies in Veganomicon)

1 1/2 cups oat flour (just throw some rolled oats in a blender or food processor)
1/4 cup oatmeal (I added this for some extra texture)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground flax seeds
1/4 cup soy milk (or rice or almond or chocolate soy milk - that's what I used)
1/4 brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup chopped dark chocolate (try a flavored chocolate - orange or mint)

Preheat your oven to 375 (my oven is a little over-excited, I turned it down to 350, but I don't have a thermometer to check the real temperature). Whisk together the oat flour, oats, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the flax seeds and soy milk. Add both sugars, canola oil and vanilla and whisk until the oil in emulsified, about 1 minute. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together, then fold in the chocolate chunks. Spoon tablespoons of batter onto a slightly greased sheet - be sure to leave at least 1 1/2 inches between the cookies - they spread! Bake for 8-10 minutes, then let them cool a bit on the sheet. Don't let them completely cool on the sheet though! My first batch glued themselves to the sheet.

I used Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Mint, but you could use any dark chocolate bar well-chopped. My next batch will be with Cocoa Camino's Dark Orange, maybe with some pecans thrown in. Can you tell I'm a big fan of dark chocolate? Sorry for the lack of picture - they were gone too fast to photograph!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

seedy excitement

(Sad, sad kale, but still putting new leaves out after being abandoned in december. Kale is a biennial, so I'm hoping it will come back to life with new vigor when it comes out of its deep freeze.)

Last Thursday I was wandering around Dufferin Grove Market, picking up some sprouts and carrots, when I happened upon a beautiful oasis (in the form of a seed display set up by Urban Harvest). I completely forgot they were going to be at the market this week, and was SO excited. I'm sure my friends will mock me at the excitement I felt to see rows and rows of growing possibilities, but after I started my first full-size garden last year, I really just can't wait to get back outside and dig my hands into the dirt. The only thing that gets me through the dreary, dreary Toronto January-March hump is dreaming about new varieties of winter squash and lima beans. Especially when all that beautiful white snow has turned into frozen grey banks filled with cigarette butts. Spring is less than a month away! Soon my garden will look like this again:

(salad greens from last year's garden) 

Here's the seeds I picked up:

Cape Gooseberries - I've never even eaten gooseberries, so this will be a surprise! They're a member of the tomato family, have husks, and look kind of like tomatillos

Hearts of Gold Melon - a heirloom from 1895, with 1kg fruit

Christmas Lima Bean - I only bought this because the woman selling them told me to. She had me hooked on "tastes chestnutty and has the texture of baked potatoes." Heirloom from 1840. I needed something to replace my Kentucky Pole Wonder Beans from last year - which were ok, but not my favorite.

Marketmore Cucumber - dependable. I haven't grown cukes before, but the butternut squash last year was so easy, I can't wait for more vining plants.

Tatsoi - a green with an interesting name! use it in salads, or by itself.

Matt's Wild Cherry Tomato - the possible precursor of the modern day tomato! tall vines, many tomatoes - apparently they taste like raspberries. I will get back to you on that. You hear about this tomato everywhere, and I can't wait to start it off in a few weeks. Dates to 1889!

New England Pie Pumpkin - I have recipes already planned for these babies: some gluten-free pumpkin waffles, a delicious pumpkin loaf my mom made me last year, and some of those nifty pumpkin-as-soup-tureen recipes. You cook the soup/stew right in the pumpkin! From 1860.

Mammoth Melting Sugar Snow Peas - Don't heirlooms just have the best names? Seriously, they can make the vegetable-hater just want to give it a try. Mammoth melting? Who wouldn't want to plant these? My peas were not the most productive last year, but I have my fingers crossed.