Thursday, November 22, 2012

kabocha squash and chickpea stew

This stew is a little spicy, a little sweet, a little warm and a lot comforting. I've got a big weekend coming up, so I wanted to make something that keeps well in the fridge for a few days - veggie stew is great for that. You can eat it with couscous, quinoa, rice or pita bread. Kabocha squash is a Japanese squash with smooth, sweet flesh. You could substitute an acorn squash or a small butternut squash. Next time you're at the market, try a new squash! Here's some varieties to get you started.

kabocha squash and chickpea stew
Inspired by this recipe. Makes 4 large servings.

1 kabocha squash
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 dried chili
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can whole tomatoes (san marzano or fire roasted would be great)
1 bunch spinach, rinsed and chopped roughly
handful of cilantro, chopped

1 cup couscous
1 cup boiling water
salt, olive oil
plain yogurt, to serve

Preheat oven to 400. Peel and chop squash into 1 inch chunks. Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper, and spread on a cookie sheet. Roast for 30-40 minutes, until squash is golden and tender.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pot. Add diced onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add minced garlic, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Crumble dried chili in as well. Cook 1 minute, stirring. Add chickpeas, tomatoes and juice, crushing the tomatoes with your hands as you add them to the pot. Bring to a simmer, then cook for 20 minutes on low heat.

When the squash is done, add to the pot. Add chopped spinach and cilantro, and cook for another 5 minutes, until greens are wilted.

To make the couscous, pour boiling water over couscous. Cover, and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and drizzle with olive oil and salt. Fluff again.

Serve stew on top of couscous, with a scoop of plain yogurt on the side.

(Here's some other things I've been cooking lately: Cocoa Meringues from Martha Stewart, Fried eggs in a waffle maker, inspired by the Waffleizer site, I'm rediscovering toast soldiers and soft boiled eggs, and a great invention from last week - buns stuffed with sautéed apples, onions, maple mustard, maple syrup and fennel seeds.)

Monday, November 12, 2012

pomegranate margaritas

Sour, salty, sweet:  everything you want in a margarita. When you shake this drink in a martini shaker, the pomegranate seeds bruise and release their juice, turning the whole thing a lovely shade of pink!

pomegranate margaritas
makes 2

juice from 4 limes
3 oz simple syrup
4 tbsp pomegranate seeds
3 oz tequila
salt for salt rim

Combine all ingredients in a martini shaker (or a jar with a tight fitting lid) with a few handfuls of ice. Shake vigorously, and taste. Add more simple syrup or lime juice to taste. Prepare two glasses with a salt rim (I had some pink salt lying around that looked real pretty). Strain into glasses and serve! You can gently float a few pomegranate seeds on the surface for garnish.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

in my kitchen this week...

I've had a lot of free time lately (read: time for cooking and reading). I can't keep up with posting all the recipes I've been trying out, so here's a nice list to peruse. Prepare yourself for an onslaught of links.

Thai Cold Salad Rolls with Tofu and Peanut Chicken: I love these - I make them constantly! All you need is rice paper rolls, an assortment of veggies, rice noodles, and a protein: Martha Stewart's Peanut Chicken for my friend, and Marinated Tofu for me. As a bonus - if you make extra peanut marinade from the Martha recipe, it doubles as a dipping sauce. And if you have leftover fillings, they make an awesome salad the next day (the only thing I actually photographed - I was too busy watching election results and drinking wine!) Here's two recipes for salad rolls with beautiful photos to get you inspired - Munchin with Munchkin and Citrus and Candy.

Acorn Squash, stuffed with Almond, Pomegranate and Couscous Salad:
I bought some beautiful pomegranates: the first one got eaten straight, but I thought I'd head the Morrocan direction with the second one, and look through Yotem Ottolenghi's cookbook, Plenty, for inspiration. I combined this recipe for Middle Eastern Bulgur Salad with 101 Cookbook's Bulgur, Celery and Pomegranate Salad. Then I stuffed it all in a roasted acorn squash. Why not? It's a bowl waiting to happen.

Pot Pie, Vegetable and Chicken: I make an awesome version of chicken pot pie with tons of cream, but I was already covering it with butter pastry, so do I really need to fatten myself up for winter? I'm not a bear. I swapped the cream for cannelli beans, pureed with some roasted garlic. We'll see if the boyfriend notices. Then there's carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, and white beans for me, poached chicken for him. I used these two recipes for inspiration: Easy Chicken Pot Pie from Epicurious and Healthy Vegetarian Pot Pie from Green Lemonade.

Crunchy Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies: My friend was over and wanted a gluten-free treat for dessert (and to soothe election nerves). A perfect excuse to break out my favourite cookie recipe from Veganomicon: Wheat-free Chocolate Chip Cookies. I threw in some chopped dark orange chocolate instead of chocolate chips. No photo. Too good. All gone.

Inside Out Apple Pies: I had leftover scraps from my Pot Pie recipe, and I'd run across this gorgeous post a few days ago: Baked Fruit over on A Beautiful Mess. I couldn't help myself from modifying - I added a pat of butter to the cavity on each apple, then rubbed them with a combination of brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and lemon zest. They served up nicely with a scoop of yogurt and an episode of Downton Abbey.

Vegetarian Poutine: I made this at the cafe where I work. Pan fried potatoes, cheese curds and this recipe for Mushroom Gravy from Epicurious. So good, especially at 7AM on a Saturday, at the beginning of a long cooking shift.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

roasted beet, garlic and apple soup

Here's a soup I made for the cafe I work at on the weekends (which you should come check out on Saturday mornings at The Stop's Farmers' Market). I just loved the soup so much I had to make it a second time. I got this gorgeous bunch of beets from the market - just pulled from the ground, firm, with fresh and healthy looking greens. After I roasted them (and their skin just fell off, perfectly), I was in danger of eating them all. Plain. But I managed to save a few for this soup. And a delicious accompaniment? A hearty piece of toast topped with with olive oil and sautéed beet greens. 

roasted beet, garlic and apple soup

Remove tops from four medium beets. Wrap each beet in foil, and bake in the oven for one hour at 400. When the beets are halfway done, toss together two onions, peeled and cut in 6 or 7 wedges, two apples, peeled, cored and cut in quarters. Season with olive oil, salt, pepper and a handful of crushed fennel seeds. Spread on a baking sheet, and throw in the oven with the beets. Also, chop the top 1/2 inch off a whole head of garlic. Drizzle it with olive oil, and wrap in tinfoil. Throw in the oven as well.

When all the veg are done (one hour total for beets, 30 minutes for everything else), remove from the oven. Peel the beets (under cold water), and roughly chop. Combine beets, roasted apples, and roasted onions in a pot. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of its skin, into the pot. Cover with 3 or 4 cups of water, and bring to a simmer. Puree, and add more salt and pepper if needed. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve with a big scoop of plain yogurt.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

orange, brown butter and almond granola

Usually I make my granola with a almond-fruit juice-maple syrup mixture (like in these two posts). I thought I'd switch it up this time and use a recipe from Super Natural Everyday - with melted butter! I'm out of maple syrup, so I used honey instead, and decided to brown that butter, because everything tastes better with brown butter. It's a magical cooking technique that turns regular old melted butter (delicious all ready), into something nutty and complex - it reminds me of caramel and hazelnuts. In french cooking, it's called buerre noisette, literally 'hazelnut butter.'

Heidi's version in Super Natural Every Day has walnuts, currants and coconut. I went in a different direction, with almonds, currants and orange zest (actually, clementine zest, which was what I had). It tastes like christmas! Next time, I'm going to go decadent with walnuts, orange zest and chocolate chunks. Crazy. 

(There's just something about clementines - wooden crates, finding my winter coat pockets filled with dried-out peel, filling a bowl with the cheerful little fruit for my kitchen table. I know it's still technically fall, but as soon as I peel my first clementine, I know it's gonna be christmas soon... soon-ish.)

orange, brown butter and almond granola
adapted from Super Natural Every Day

4 cups rolled oats
1 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup wheat germ
3 tbsp flax seeds
1/2 tsp sea salt
zest from 1 orange (or 2 clementines) 
85 grams unsalted butter (just over 1/3 cup)
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup currants

Preheat oven to 350. Combine oats, almonds, wheat germ, flax seeds, salt and zest in a large bowl. Melt butter over medium-low heat. Continue cooking butter, about 5 minutes, until it browns and begins to smell like hazelnuts. Watch it closely, it can go from being browned to burnt very quickly. Add honey to butter, stirring until it's melted and combined. 

Pour honey/butter over the oats, and stir to coat the oats evenly. Spread on two parchment paper covered baking sheets and bake for 40-50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden and crispy. Let cool completely on baking sheets, then stir in currants. Store in jars at room temperature. The granola will keep for a couple of weeks. 

Eat simply with milk, sprinkle on top of yogurt and fruit, or stuff into baked apples.  

baked oatmeal with raspberries and toasted almonds

As I've said before, breakfast is hands down, my favourite meal of the day. That's all well and good on the days when I work evenings - I can turn on the radio, laze around in my pyjamas and take my time: break out the waffle iron, turn on the oven, make some coffee. What about those mornings I have to leave the house before it's light out? I'm not a morning person, and I don't function well in the early morning: breaking things, pouring juice on my granola instead of milk, salt instead of sugar in my coffee. 

Early mornings are the reason I cook batches - I make a triple amount of waffles or pancakes, wrap them up, and throw them in the freezer. I toast up a giant batch of granola on the weekend, leave it in a jar on the counter. Or I make this fabulous oatmeal, from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day

But here's my latest version of the recipe. I like to change it every time I make it - it's just asking to be modified. Right now, I'm really missing summer berries, so I dug a bag of frozen raspberries out of the freezer. You can change up the fresh/frozen fruit, add dried fruits, use honey, maple syrup or different sugars, vary the type of nuts you use, or throw in other spices (nutmeg, citrus zest, ginger). Also, this recipe is almost vegan - you can replace the butter for oil (as I do anyway when I'm too lazy to melt butter) and replace the egg with 1/2 a mashed banana or a flax egg.

baked oatmeal with raspberries and toasted almonds
Adapted from Super Natural Every Day. Serves 6. 

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup almonds, chopped and toasted
1/3 cup demerara sugar, plus 1 tbsp for sprinkling
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 cups milk
1 egg
3 tbsp melted butter
2 tsp vanilla 
1 cup frozen raspberries

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a baking dish (9x13) or 5 or 6 small ramekins. I used an assortment of sizes - and canning jars are great here too. 

In a bowl, mix together oats, almonds (save a few tbsp for topping later), sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, melted butter and vanilla. 

Put the 3/4 of raspberries in the bottom of the baking dish (or ramekins). Top with the oat mixture, then pour the milk mixture on top. You might have to give the dish a few whacks on the counter, to help the milk move down through the oats. Top with the rest of the berries, the rest of the nuts, and a sprinkle of sugar. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the oats have set and the top is golden. 

This oatmeal keeps great in the fridge for a week. Just reheat it, perhaps with a bit of milk and maple syrup to help revive it. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

coconut tapioca (again) with strawberry preserves

It seems wrong, but so right. Opening a jar of strawberries in the middle of windy November, the best taste of summer, perfectly preserved. In July, I bought a flat of strawberries, and made four kinds of strawberries preserves, all from Canning for a New Generation: Strawberry butter, Strawberry-Mint Syrup, Low Sugar (all fruit) Strawberry Jam and (the best of the bunch) Whole Strawberries in Syrup.

I've been trying to save them until the middle of February, when I will drown my winter blues with jars of summer fruit. However, I found myself with (yet another) batch of tapioca pudding, and I knew the only topping better than caramelized bananas (see this post), would be those dreamy, unbelievable strawberries.

Now I've made you jealous, because you don't have these perfect strawberries in your fridge. Sorry. Use a scoop of your favourite jam instead, or if you have some frozen berries, cook them down with some honey.

This tapioca recipe is from the back of the Bob's Red Mill package - a traditional English-style tapioca pudding. If you're looking for a more Asian style pudding, or a vegan version, try one of these posts.

Coconut Tapioca Pudding with Strawberry Preserves

1/3 cup small pearl tapioca
3/4 cup water
2 1/4 cup coconut milk (you can use one whole can and top it up with another type of milk)
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Strawberry preserves, or other cooked fruit or jam.

Soak tapioca in water for 30 minutes. Add milk, salt, and egg yolks and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then turn down to low heat. Simmer, stirring often for 15 minutes. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites and sugar until soft peaks form. Fold a few spoonfuls of hot tapioca into the egg whites, then fold the whole mixture back into the tapioca. Cook over low heat for 3 minutes, stirring often. Let cool for 15 minutes, then add in vanilla. Serve warm or cold, with fruit on top.

(I've been sorting through my cupboards, making sure all my jars are labeled, and trying to use up old ones from last year. So many delicious preserves - vanilla peaches, rhubarb orange jam, caramelized onions, plums in honey syrup, dilly beans and so much more!)

Friday, November 2, 2012

chai time

Chai (or cha) means tea in a whole bunch of different asian languages. Indian-style tea, which most people mean when they say 'chai tea,' is also called Masala Chai, literally 'mixed-spice tea' (according to wikipedia). You probably already knew, but every time people say chai tea, they're saying tea-tea. Kinda funny. 

Don't get me started on Starbucks or Second Cup's 'chai tea lattes.' That sickly-sweet syrupy flavour? It comes from a carton, and it ain't got nothing on this chai. Make a big batch, and store it in the fridge. To serve, you just heat it up with your choice of milk - cow, soy, almond, rice - whatever! If you have a milk frother, you can go crazy and make your own latte at home. Also, adapt the spices to your own liking - don't like liquorice flavour? Leave out the star anise. Love ginger? Add more. 

This is perfect for curling up with a wool blanket and a novel. A cup of chai, some music by Ravi Shankar and a novel set in India are the closest I'm getting to the Taj Mahal (until my next travel adventure, hopefully). May I suggest an epic novel by Vikram Seth or Rohinton Mistry? My two favourites are A Suitable Boy and A Fine Balance. (I think I've wanted to go to India for a long time - here's a drawing from one of my high school sketch books.)

Masala Chai Concentrate
Adapted from these three recipes. Makes 4 cups of concentrate, which equals 8 cups chai. 

4 cups water
6 whole cardamom pods, crushed
6 cloves
6 black peppercorns
1 piece star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 3-inch piece of ginger, sliced
zest of 1 orange
1 vanilla bean, split in half
6 black tea bags
1/4 to 1/2 cup of honey (depending on your taste)

Bring water and spices (everything except the tea and honey) to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and add the tea and honey. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let steep 5-10 minutes. Strain, and store in the fridge. To make, combine 1 part chai concentrate with one part milk and heat.

Friday, October 26, 2012

onion brown sugar jam

Make this! It will take you minutes of actual work (then a few hours of sitting back and waiting), and your friends will be like 'why is this so delicious? I love this! I'm going to eat it straight from the jar!' What can you do with these delicious onions? Stir them into mac and cheese, spread them on a grilled cheese sandwich, serve them on a cheese plate, put them on pizza, or throw them into a salad. (My lovely friend Jessica served me a tasty salad with these onions, walnuts and goat cheese - yum!)

Caramelized onions are the simplest thing on earth to make, yet like most delicious things, they take quite a bit of time. Time where you just have to sit back and let the onions do the work, while you go and catch up on Jamie Oliver's new television show.

onion and brown sugar jam
This is really just a fancy name for caramelized onions, a recipe I found in Food and Drink, entitled 'brown sugar and onion marmelade.' I refuse to call it marmelade - marmalade is for citrus, period. I'll stick with the jam title though, because surprise (!), you can process them in jars and make them shelf stable.

1 tbsp olive oil
6 lbs onions
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt

Cut your peeled onions in half, then in slices, around 1/2 inch thick. Don't be too careful - it's all going to cook down into a large, delicious mess. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot, add the onions and stir for a minute. Add the brown sugar and vinegar, and stir to distribute. Leave on low heat, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so. The onions will collapse and cook down a lot. Finally, turn the heat up to medium high, and cook off most of the liquid, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.

You can freeze this, or keep it in the fridge for 3 or 4 weeks. Alternately, you can can them in half pint jars, using these instructions, processing for 30 minutes.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

apple sauce, apple butter, apple jam

One day, I dream about living somewhere with apple trees, where I can walk through the rows of small trees, crunching on leaves and fallen apples, reaching up to pick a sweet, incredibly crunchy apple straight from the tree. I know people grow and eat apples all over the world, but to me, they just feel like such a Canadian food, full of childhood memories of apple juice and the first recipe I learned how to make: apple crumble. This year, those usually abundant apples are much more precious, after an early frost meant Ontario apple farmers lost up to 90% of their crop. I'll be savouring each apple that much more.

Here's what you can make from a half bushel of apples. It's about 25lbs of apples, which is around $25 at most markets. All but one of these recipes is from Food in Jars, an amazing preserving website with an equally amazing book

The first three of these recipes are can-able. Instead of explaining the canning process here, I'll just direct you to the official USDA canning site. Alternately, you could freeze any of these recipes instead, or just eat them fast - they'll all keep in the fridge for 3 or 4 weeks.

If you want to read more about canning, there's lots of useful websites. Well Preserved is a Canadian site with lots of canning recipes, plus dehydrated food and booze infusions. Another useful one is the very official National Centre for Home Food Preservation. Canning Across America is great, and of course, don't forget Food in Jars.

spiced applesauce with nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon
From this original recipe, makes 4 pints.

4 pounds apples
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
sugar (I used 1/2 cup of honey. Add anywhere from 1/4 to 1 cup of sugar, honey or maple syrup, depending on your taste, and the tartness of your apples.)

Quarter and core the apples. Don't bother peeling. Put in a large pot with water, cover and bring to a simmer. After 15 minutes, mash with the back of a spoon or a potato masher. Keep cooking until it reaches the consistance you want. You can either fish out the skins with tongs, or put your applesauce through a chinoise or food mill. I did this, and it created a great, silky smooth apple sauce. If you are straining the sauce, return it to the pot after straining, and add the spices and sugar. Proceed to canning! Process 15 minutes for half pints and pints, and 20 minutes for quarts.

apple, honey and almond conserve
From the Food in Jars cookbook, makes 2 half pints. 

4 cups peeled and chopped apples
3/4 cup grape juice
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped, toasted almonds

Combine apples and grape juice in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Simmer, covered, for 10-20 minutes, until apples have softened. Mash the apples with the back of a spoon or a potato masher until you have a chunky sauce. Add honey, sugar and cinnamon, and turn the heat up to medium-high. Stirring often, cook for 10-15 minutes, until mixture is thickened. Add the almonds. Proceed to canning - process for 15 minutes.

tart apple cranberry butter with maple syrup
Adapted from this recipe, makes 8 half pints. I reduced the sugar slightly, because I looooove tart food, but go ahead and add up to 1 cup of maple syrup or sugar. This, just like the applesauce recipe, is a safe recipe to adjust the sugar levels, because the acidity levels are so high.

7 cups (1 1/2 lbs) fresh cranberries
5 lbs. apples, cored and quartered
1 cup water
3/4 cup maple syrup or sugar

Combine apples, cranberries and water in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Simmer for one and a half hours, stirring every 10-15 minutes to help move around and break down apples. Now, put your apple mixture through a mesh strainer or chinoise to remove the skins. At this point, I moved my butter to a crock pot, where I left it for about 8 hours on low heat, stirring every hour or so. Alternately, you can cook down butter on the stove. Make sure you have it on the lowest possible heat, and in a wide pot, only partially covered - more opportunity for evaporation and reduction. It will take quite a few hours. Basically, just cook it until it's reduced to your liking - you're going for a dark, thick and spreadable butter. Finally, proceed to canning - process 20 minutes for a 1/2 pint.

pumpkin and apple butter with warm spices
From the Food in Jars cookbook. I reduced the amount of sugar. Usually, you should stick to official canning recipes, because they have been tested for PH levels - only highly acidic food is safe for water bath canning, hence why you can't can soup or meat unless you have a pressure canner. But, since this recipe is not suitable for canning (pumpkin is low acid), and going to be frozen, it's fine to play around with the ingredients. Makes 5 half pints.

5 cups applesauce
3 cups pumpkin puree (I used a mixture of pumpkin and butternut squash)
1 cup sugar
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger

Combine apples and pumpkin in a heavy bottomed pot. Bring to a simmer, then cook at low heat for 1 hour. Add sugar, lemon juice and spices, and cook for another hour or two on low heat, until it's reached a thick, spreadable consistency. Alternately, you could cook this in a slow cooker. Just add the sugar, lemon juice and spices after an hour of cooking, and cook on low heat for a couple of hours.

Again, this recipe's not safe for canning, so either freeze it, or keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

a peanut butter and jam sandwich... cookie.

It's not a sandwich, it's a sandwich cookie. And it's vegan. And it passed the test of a garage full of hungry mechanics at my boyfriend's work (I told him not to talk about the vegan part).

This recipe makes a great, crisp-chewy peanut butter cookie, and you could stop right there and have a perfectly good dessert. But I think you should go the extra step and throw some jam in the centre. Use any kind of jam you like; a classic grape jelly, a tangy raspberry jam, or an apple butter. I like to make the little sandwiches about an hour before I serve them - the jam sinks into the cookie and makes it get soft and gooey. But a day later, and you'll have a soggy cookie mess (which is still delicious, but kind of falls apart as you eat it). 

Want another flavour of sandwich cookie? Try a gingered sugar cookie with apple butter I made a few months ago. Or, Martha Stewart's zucchini nut bread cookie sandwiches. It's a mouthful. Martha's also got this cute peanut butter and jelly cookie cake- they look like tiny sandwich triangles! Now I can't stop - what about this brownie cookie with salted caramel filling? So many cookie sandwiches, so little time.

peanut butter and jam sandwich cookies
Cookie part adapted from peanut ginger sesame cookies from the Veganomicon cookbook. Makes 24 sandwich cookies. 

2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegan shortening (or butter)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup brown rice syrup (or honey)
1 1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup soy milk (or regular milk)
1 tsp vanilla

1-2 cups jam of your choice

Pre-heat oven to 350. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat shortening with an electric mixer until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add peanut butter, brown rice syrup, sugar, soy milk, and vanilla and beat another 3 minutes. Stir in the flour. Keep stirring another 3 or 4 minutes. The dough will become hard to stir - keep going! Scoop out two inch balls onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, leaving quite a bit of space between each. The cookies will spread and double in size. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes on cookie sheet before moving to a rack to cool.

When cookies are completely cool, and about an hour before you plan to eat/serve them, spread jam on one cookie and top with a second cookie. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

the caesar: redux

At the camp I work at every summer, myself and my fellow counsellors have a mascot. He's a stuffed lobster, and he sings 'Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot' when you squeeze his claw. Many inside jokes aside, we decided to create a cocktail that might reflect Pinchy's tastes (yes, the lobster's name is Pinchy). Then we went a little nuts and created not one, but two deluxe cocktails. Here's the first one.

A note: I'm not a big caesar person. Did you know the second ingredient in Clamato is glucose/fructose? And there's that clam juice issue, not to mention the MSG. I also hate vodka. So caesars aren't looking so great for me. However, I love the idea of a vegetable-based cocktail, something with a fancy salt rim and endless possibilities for garnishes!

Here it is: a truffle salt rim, pickle juice, sriracha, gin, a tomato juice base, and enough garnishes to keep you snacking throughout the whole drink. It's not a casear anymore - which means it's my kind of caesar.

The Garden Pinchy
Makes four delicious cocktails.

1 lime
1/4 cup truffle salt
juice from pickle jar
sriracha sauce
8 oz. gin
4 cups tomato juice
8 olives
4 dill pickle spears
toothpicks and tiny umbrellas for garnish
4 tall rocks glasses

Cut the lime into 8 wedges - the bartender way. Cut it in half, lengthwise, then make a 1/2 inch cut into each side, crosswise. Then, slice each half into 4 wedges. You should have a handful of wedges with a small cut in them, so you can easily slide them on the edge of a glass. Set four aside for garnish.

On each glass, take a lime wedge and run it around the rim. Pour the truffle salt in a saucer, and twist each glass in the salt, creating a salt rim. Toss a handful of ice in each glass. Pour a splash of pickle juice in each glass. Next, add a tiny bit of sriracha to each glass. Add 2 oz of gin to each, and top up with 1 cup of tomato juice. Stir each glass to combine. Stick a pickle spear in each glass, add a few olives on a toothpick, an umbrella, and a lime wedge.

Too much garnish? You can tone it down if you like, but I like snacks built into my beverages. It's like a salad in a glass.

Friday, October 12, 2012

hot chocolate

It seems like just yesterday I was wearing shorts. Now, they're being packed away, along with all my other summer clothes. I'm going through my boxes of tea at an alarming rate. And it's harder and harder to leave the warmth of my duvet in the morning.

The perfect cure for the chills: hot chocolate. I love it with whole milk, but you can use low-fat, soy or almond. Also in the picture? Almond cake my friend made, from the cookbook Canning for a New Generation. A most satisfying combination. I couldn't find the exact recipe online, but here's a similar one from Jamie Oliver. I just can't get enough of him lately, which is why I'm seeing him in person (!) next week at Massey Hall.

hot chocolate
makes 2 large mugs

60 g dark chocolate (about 1/2 bar)
3 cups milk
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp sugar (or other sweetener - honey, maple syrup)
pinch of salt

Melt chocolate in a heavy bottomed pot on very low heat. Add milk, cocoa, sugar and salt, and bring to a simmer, whisking to combine ingredients. Enjoy with delicious baked goods, or throw it in a thermos for consumption after fall hikes or winter sports.

roasted cauliflower fritters

Welcome to the wonderful world of fritters. There's corn fritters, zucchini fritters, broccoli fritters, and now - cauliflower fritters! Any vegetable (and sometimes fruit) can be combined with flour, egg, sometimes cheese, and some seasonings. Wikipedia says a fritter is basically anything fried in batter, from pakoras in India to apple fritters in the USA. Well then! Get frying!

cauliflower fritters
These are inspired by a delicious Broccoli Fritter recipe from Smitten Kitchen. If you think they sound delicious, then head over the the Wychwood Barns Farmer's Market, where they're on the menu tomorrow morning at the Stop Cafe!

1 large head of cauliflower
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tbsp curry powder
1 egg
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup grated cheese (I used a strong cheddar)

Preheat the oven to 425. Cut cauliflower into florets. Toss with oil, salt, pepper and curry powder. Spread on a baking sheet and roast 20-30 minutes, until browned. Pulse cauliflower in a food processor until it resembles small crumbs (you might have to do this in batches). In a bowl, beat egg. Add flour, milk and cheese, and mix to combine. Add cauliflower and stir.

Shape the dough into 3-inch patties. Fry fritters in olive oil, until browned, about 3 minutes each side. Try serving with spiced yogurt  (yogurt with salt, pepper, lemon juice, chopped parsley and paprika).

Thursday, October 11, 2012

carrot cake for a windy day

I can't say no to overripe bananas. So here's a carrot cake. With bananas. It's got no refined sugar - surprise! Just that fructose hiding in the dates and bananas. The recipe is from 101 cookbooks.

Carrot Cake

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
3/4 cup walnut pieces
4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup dried dates, very finely chopped into a paste
3 ripe bananas (1 1/4 cups), mashed well
1 1/2 cups grated carrots (about 3)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 eggs, lightly beaten

6 oz. cream cheese (just over 1/2 a block)
3 tbsp maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and walnuts in a bowl. In a small bowl, stir together melted butter and dates. In a large bowl, mix together mashed bananas, carrots, yogurt and eggs. Stir in butter and dates. Add flour mixture, and stir until just combined. Spread batter into a loaf pan or 9x9 pan, lined with parchment paper. Bake 50-60 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Meanwhile, beat together room temperature cream cheese and maple syrup. Spread over the cooled cake.

(My cat loves to photo-bomb, especially when there's cream cheese involved.)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

making things fancy

There's nothing wrong with a handful of raw almonds for a snack. But what if those almonds could be toasted and flavoured with maple syrup and rosemary? I'll be honest, I have a fair quantity of free time these days, so I'm taking full advantage by turning everything I eat into a fancy, flavourful feast. I'm really enjoying La Tartine Gourmande lately. Here's another recipe from her website.

Toasty Nuts
Originally from The Sprouted Kitchen's new cookbook. Egg white acts as a binder in this recipe - you can change the recipe by mixing any number of flavours into the beaten egg white, like different sweeteners, herbs or spices.

1 egg white
2 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups unsalted mixed nuts
2 tbsp flax seeds
3 tbsp millet or quinoa
1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary

Preheat oven to 300. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, beat egg white until frothy. Beat in maple syrup, cayenne, pepper and salt. Add nuts, flaxseeds, millet and rosemary. Toss to combine. Spread out evenly on the baking sheet, and cook 25-30 minutes, until browned and toasted.

Other things I've been making this week:
Jamie Oliver's blueberry cake - upside down and flavoured with citrus zest.
Not Without Salt's hot fudge pudding cake - just like that boxed pudding cake, but better.
The Sprouted Kitchen's chocolate oatmeal shortbread cookies - mmmmmm.
Also from The Sprouted Kitchen - spiced lentil soup.

Monday, October 1, 2012

more raspberries. MORE!

I just can't get enough. Here's one more raspberry recipe, which would work equally well with any berries you might have stashed away in your freezer. I can also imagine them sans berries, with some citrus zest, or a small piece of chocolate in the centre. These tiny cakes are gluten-free, and full of delicious, nutty brown butter. They would be perfect for a fancy tea party, or a afternoon coffee break.

The original recipe, on La Tartine Gourmande (one of the most beautiful food blogs around), uses ground pistachos instead of almonds, as well as a mixture of berries. She also uses muffin tins for a larger cake, but I was taking the cakes to a potluck, so I tried mini-muffin tins.

Also, I've started using a scale in my kitchen. So many European cookbooks, blogs and magazines use weight measurements - it was about time! A scale really is essential for bread and pastry making, and now I can finally be able to stop guessing what 3 lbs. of potatoes really looks like! Mine is a tiny Starfrit scale- one of the most useful presents I've received in a long time from a lovely baking friend.

brown butter raspberry cakes

5 1/2 tbsp (80 g) unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, split open and seeds scraped out
2/3 cup (70 g) almond meal (grind whole almonds in a food processor into a fine meal)
2 tbsp gluten free flour mix (if you're not concerned about gluten, just use all-purpose)
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup (50 g) white sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 pint of raspberries (around 1 cup)

Melt butter in a heavy bottomed pot. Continue cooking over low heat until butter turns brown and nutty flavoured, around 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla seeds. Let sit for 15 minutes to steep. After butter has steeped, strain through a fine mesh to remove any solids.

Preheat the oven to 400. Grease muffin tins. Stir together almond meal, flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat together egg and sugar. Add the dry ingredients to egg and sugar, and beat to combine. Stir in melted butter, then buttermilk.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter, then press berries into each cake. Bake for 10-12 minutes for mini-muffin tins, and 20-25 minutes for large muffin tins. Let cool before removing from tins. I dusted mine with demerera sugar before serving (the large, crunchy brown sugar).

Makes 18 small cakes or 6 large cakes

Sunday, September 30, 2012

the end.

The end of what? Well, a lot of things. The end of shorts, the end of swimming in lakes and dancing with sparklers. The end of sunglasses and sundresses. The end of excuses for vacations. The end of wandering to the market and picking out a pint of berries, peaches and plums. I'm going to give one of my favourite summer fruits a grand send off. Go find the last of the summer fruit and bake something worthy of a last supper (summer?), then bid them a fond adieu until next year.

But wait! Fall is a lovely season. The chunky sweaters and rosy cheeks, the crunching leaves and thanksgiving feasts, warm soups and warm spices. I'll try and remember these while I mourn the end of the raspberries.

baked vanilla custard with raspberries
I adapted these from an old Food and Drink magazine. The original recipe used whipping cream, but I substituted 18% cream for a slightly lighter dessert. I've also included instructions for homemade raspberry jam, but you could use any thick jam you have in your fridge. These little guys remind me of fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt from my childhood, but a whole lot better. Did you know you can bake things in mason jars? As long as they are the kind you would use for canning (tempered glass), they are safe for the oven, and make a great substitute for ramekins.

1 pint raspberries
1/4 cup honey

2 cups 18% cream
1/2 vanilla pod
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar

extra raspberries and mint leaves for garnish

Combine raspberries and honey in a heavy bottomed pot. Heat over medium heat, stirring to mash berries. Turn heat to low, and cook until thick and jam-like, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 300. Meanwhile, bring cream to a simmer over medium heat. Split vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape seeds into cream, and add pod as well. Remove from heat and let steep for 15 minutes. Beat together egg yolks and sugar. Add a small splash of warm cream, and beat to combine. Add the rest of the cream, and whisk together. Divide raspberry mixture between 6 small ramekins (or mason jars). Gently pour the cream on top. Put ramekins in a ovenproof baking dish, and add hot water to halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 1 hour. Remove, and chill in fridge for at least 2 hours. Serve with raspberries and mint leaves for a garnish.

Makes 6 1/2-cup ramekins or mason jars

Thursday, September 20, 2012

banana coconut cream pie

I wanted banana pudding. I ended up with a coconut pie with a graham cracker crust, and I threw some bananas in for good measure. This is adapted from the Lost Coconut Custard Pie from Veganomicon. It's sweet, but light - not a heavy, egg-based custard, but a coconut milk and agar custard. Agar powder (or agar-agar) is a gelatin substitute used in Asian cooking, made from seaweed. Don't get grossed out, if you've ever eaten commercial ice cream, you've already eaten agar. You can find it at any Chinese grocery store, in small packets by the puddings and desserts.

graham cracker crust
From Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook, makes one, regular-sized pie crust.

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp coconut oil
4 tbsp soy milk

Preheat oven to 350. In a bowl, combine coconut, graham crumbs and sugar. Add coconut oil, and toss to combine. Add soy milk, one tablespoon at a time, stirring with your hands until mixture holds together when you give it a squeeze. Press the crumbs into a 9-inch pie plate, forming a crust. Bake 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. Set aside to cool. 

Banana coconut cream pie
From Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook, makes one delicious pie. The custard part of this recipe also makes a great pudding - make it without the pie crust, and pour into bowls, and let cool for 2 hours in the fridge. 

1 cup soy milk
2 tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp agar powder
1 (14-oz) can of coconut milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
3/4 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
3 bananas
1 graham cracker crust (previous recipe)

In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of soy milk and the cornstarch. Set aside. In a heavy-bottomed pot, whisk together the other 1/2 cup soy milk and agar powder. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Let it boil for 1 minute, then reduce heat to medium low. Give your soy-cornstarch mixture another whisk (the cornstarch will have settled), and pour it into the pot in a slow, steady stream, all the while whisking constantly. Add coconut milk, lemon juice and sugar, and cook over medium-low heat for another 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and add vanilla, salt and coconut. 

Slice two bananas, and arrange slices in the bottom of the cooled pie crust. Pour custard on top. Let pie cool at room temperature for 15 minutes, then transfer to fridge. Leave the pie for at least 2 hours to set. Before serving, slice the other banana, and arrange slices on top. I added some shaved chocolate for fun. 

scrumptious salads

Salads in Paris. Where to begin? For a vegetarian, the salad selections of Paris are almost as exciting as the pastries (I said almost). At home, I'm used to two options in a conventional restaurant - caesar and mediterranean. If it's an upscale restaurant, you might get lucky with an uninspired beet salad, or if it's a health-minded place, there might be some quinoa or cous-cous. But Parisians? They know how to turn a salad into a meal. There's goat cheeses on toasts, the salads have the perfect amount of dressing, the vegetables are fresh and perky, plates are large and overflowing, and there's not an unripe tomato in sight.

I came home from my vacation with a brick of blue cheese. Then I ate blue cheese salads for a week. I'm not complaining.

apple and blue cheese salad
This makes dressing about 3 cups of greens - a nice size for a main course salad for one. Increase if you're sharing.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp maple mustard
salt and pepper
salad greens of your choice
pickled peas
toasted walnuts
apple slices
blue cheese

In a largish bowl, combine oil, vinegar, syrup, mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk together with a fork, and add your salad greens. Toss with your hands to coat the leaves. Top salad with peas, walnuts, apple slices and crumbled blue cheese.

*A note on the pickled peas. You probably don't have any, so just leave them out. But, if you feel like making them, I would definitely suggest it next spring! I used the recipe from Canning for a New Generation, a highly recommended canning book, but here's a similar recipe on Smitten Kitchen.  Popped out of their pods, they're lovely and crunchy, a nice combination of sweet pea flavour and tangy pickle. I also threw in some of the pickled shallots from the jar.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

food with friends

One of the most enjoyable parts of my vacation was food - but specifically, sharing it with other people. I live with my boyfriend in Toronto, and I love cooking with and for him, but it's nice to have a new, larger audience - and I certainly had that, whether it was dinner for a handful of friends, or a wedding of over a hundred (I helped cook some of the food at my friend's gorgeous country wedding).

I'm not a storyteller, I'm not a great performer, and I don't make new friends very easily. But I've discovered my favourite way of communicating with people is through food. I'll turn to one of my favourite culinary authors, Julia Child, to put it more eloquently: "Dining with one's friends and beloved family is certainly one of life's primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal." There's nothing better than seeing the satisfaction in someone's eyes as they eat something you put time and effort into - something you carefully chopped, mixed together, roasted, stirred, tasted and seasoned.

(clockwise, from top left) I took a break from writing down recipes on my vacation, but here's some of the most delicious, from memory.

Tofu dip (tofu, tahini, herbs, nutritional yeast) and peach bellini (peach puree, champagne).
Rosemary lemonade with cherries from Not Without Salt.
Summer corn at a lovely farm house.
Pizza party at camp with this pizza dough.
Vegan waffles with Martha Stewart's Bourbon Poached Peaches.
My favourite hangover breakfast - oatmeal with caramelized bananas.

Here's another recipe I made on vacation, with some eggplants from my boyfriend's mom's garden. Serve it with raw vegetables, or this delicious flatbread recipe I found over on Smitten Kitchen. You already have the oven on - why not roast some eggplant and make some flatbread? Both recipes are super easy and fast.

Roasted eggplant and garlic dip
This dip would also make an awesome sandwich spread. Makes about 1 cup.

1 large eggplant, sliced in half, stabbed a few times with a fork
1 head of garlic, top 1/2 inch cut off
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste (try buying paste in a tube, Italian style - it keeps for months in the fridge, much  
        better than those annoying tiny cans when you need a small amount)
squeeze of lemon

Preheat oven to 425. Arrange eggplant and garlic in a roasting tray. Rub with a few tablespoons of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 30-45 minutes, until eggplant and garlic is soft. Scoop out eggplant flesh into a food processor. Add garlic, by squeezing the cloves out of the papery skin. Add another splash of olive oil, tomato paste and lemon juice. Puree, taste, and adjust seasoning. Serve warm or cold.

Rosemary Flatbread
From this recipe on Smitten Kitchen.

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp chopped rosemary
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil
more salt, oil for brushing

Preheat the oven to 425. Combine flour, rosemary, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre, and add water and oil. Stir together until dough forms. Knead 4 or 5 times in bowl, and divide dough into three pieces. Take out one piece, and leave others in the bowl, covered with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel.

Working on a large piece of parchment paper, roll out the dough with a floured rolling pin. You want a very thin, 10-12 inch circle. And you really don't need a perfect circle - you're probably going to break up the flatbread to serve it, anyway. Transfer the parchment paper to a large baking sheet, and brush the dough with oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden and crisp, but not too browned. Remove from oven, set aside to cool, and continue with the other two balls of dough.

Keeps for a few days at room temperature, in a sealed container.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pastries and Paris

Paris - where to start? Every single thing I ate here was delicious. There's a cafe on every corner, with a long list of cheap beer and wine, and a selection of salads that would make any vegetable lover swoon. You can't walk more than a block without passing a drool-worthy window display of pastries. The corner stores are cramped, with aisles that wouldn't fit an overweight American tourist, but they offer chilled champagne, brie and olives.

But seriously, let's start with the most important part of my trip: the desserts. I ate them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I ate chausson pomme while walking past the Eiffel Tower, shared an upside-down pineapple cake with a lit sparkler poking out of it late at night in the Latin Quarter, and conquered a mountain of whip cream with the best coffee ice cream hiding underneath on a sidewalk patio. Here's some of my other favourites:

(clockwise, from top left - click on the picture for a larger version)

Creme caramel, at a bistro near our apartment. Marzipan-filled pastry, from a patisserie our hosts recommended. Eclairs, washed down with 1664, overlooking the Seine and Notre Dame. Berthillion ice cream - banana and espresso - from the store on Ile Saint-Louis. Strawberry jam beignets on the hill at Sacre Coeur. So many Chausson pommes, a french apple turnover.    

I would leave you a recipe, but nothing I bake could ever live up to the quality and richness of these desserts. Something that comes close? This chocolate pudding I made a few months ago, from Bon Appetit. Meanwhile, I'm on a bit of a pastry break after this binge - can you see why? I ate my body weight in butter in only five days in this magical city.

Next up - something a little healthier, the salads of Paris.

Monday, September 17, 2012

cheesy egg bake + oatmeal brown sugar scones

I love breakfast - almost as much as this blog I just discovered - xo breakfast. Let me count the ways... maple syrup, fruit, oatmeal, pyjamas, mimosas, coffee, sunshine, radio, sleeping in, warm baked goods, old episodes of the colbert report, orange juice, waffles, jam, butter. I could go on. It's my favorite meal of the day, hands down.

cheesy egg bake
You can switch up the vegetables and cheese for whatever you have available. Serves two, increase for more people.

olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup mixed peppers, large dice
handful of kale, stemmed and torn into chunks
handful of mixed herbs, chopped (I used lemon thyme, parsley and oregano)
2 eggs
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

Heat a swirl of olive oil in a pan. Preheat the oven to 400. Cook onions and garlic in olive oil, until translucent. Add peppers and kale, and cook another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and stir in chopped herbs. Turn off heat. Grease two large ramekins with olive oil (the 2-cup kind is best). Divide the vegetables between the two ramekins, and make an indentation for the egg. Crack the egg into the indent, and top with grated cheese. Bake for around 10 minutes, until the egg is cooked to your liking.

Alternately, you could make this in a cast iron frying pan - just cook the veg in the pan on the stovetop, make indentations for eggs, then transfer the whole thing to the oven. (I just love the individual ramekins for purely aesthetic reasons.)

oatmeal and brown sugar scones
From this post on xo breakfast. Makes 6 scones.

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c cup + 2 tbsp rolled oats
1/4 cup brown sugar plus extra for sprinkling
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425ºF. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt together. Use your fingertips to rub in the butter until the mixture looks like large crumbs. Stir in the milk. Turn the dough out onto the pan and pat it into a rectangle. Cut in six and spread them out about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes.

I ate mine with Blueberry Ginger Jam from Food in Jars, and Ginger Butter (crystalized ginger + butter pulsed in the food processor).

cauliflower macaroni and cheese

Only four more days of summer! Here's a big dish of comfort food, made slightly healthier and lighter with the addition of cauliflower. It's inspired by these recipes - Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese over on Vegetarian Times, and Jamie Oliver's Macaroni and Cheese

cauliflower macaroni and cheese
I made this gluten-free and low lactose by using rice pasta, soy milk and gluten-free flour - but I couldn't get rid of the real cheese. Make a more decadent dish by using whole milk, white pasta and all purpose flour (and don't forget the butter). I made mine with only 2 cups of cheese, but you could increase this to 4 cups if you want a richer, cheesier dish. Or, you could go in the other direction and make it vegan by adding some grated vegan cheese. Makes 6-8 servings.

1 large head of cauliflower
2 cups dry macaroni (regular or rice pasta)
1 tsp kosher salt

1 shallot, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
olive oil or butter

2 tbsp olive oil (or butter)
2 tbsp flour (gluten free or all-purpose)
2 cups milk (whatever kind you like)
2 tsp mustard powder
salt and pepper
2 cups grated mozzarella (up to 4 cups for more cheesiness)
large handful of parsley, chopped

3 slices of bread (gluten-free or regular)
2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
salt and pepper
olive oil or butter

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Remove leaves from cauliflower, core and break into large pieces. Add cauliflower and macaroni to pot, and cook according to pasta package. When done, drain, and refresh under cold water. Set aside.

Meanwhile, saute shallots and garlic in oil. When soft, remove from pot, set aside, and heat pot again. Add 2 tbsp of butter or oil, let it get hot, then add flour. Stir for one minute, until flour is browned. Slowly stir in milk, whisking until smooth. Bring to simmer, stirring frequently. Add mustard powder, salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring often for about 5 minutes, or until sauce is thickened. Stir in grated cheese, add the cooked shallots and garlic and remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 400. Toast bread slices (unless already stale). In a food processor, combine bread (torn into chunks), rosemary, salt and pepper. Pulse, until it reaches a fine crumb. Set aside.

Now, the assembly: grease a large, ovenproof casserole dish with a splash of oil. Add pasta and cauliflower, and use a potato masher or the back of a spoon to break up the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces. Pour the cheese sauce and chopped parsley over, and stir to combine. Finally, sprinkle the rosemary crumbs evenly over the top, and then dot with butter or drizzle with oil. Cook for 10 minutes on the top rack of the oven, until the top is crisp and the pasta and cauliflower are hot. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

banana pancakes on a saturday morning

Before I get into all that delicious food I ate on vacation, here's what I've been enjoying about being home: my kitchen, which may not always be perfectly organized, but has the ingredients and equipment I need in the perfect place. I missed making breakfast in my pyjamas to CBC radio. I missed late night popcorn recipe inventions. I missed cooking in my favourite pots, on my perfect gas stove that almost never burns anything. I missed preparing food with my favourite cat buddies, Pipi and Luna.

Vacations are great, but it's always nice to come home. Here's yet another pancake recipe (and if it's not what you're looking for, try these: banana walnut pancakes, raspberry lemon pancakes or raspberry flax pancakes).

simple banana pancakes - makes around 10 3-inch pancakes

These are adapted from Jamie Oliver's 2012 Recipe Yearbook, a magazine special I picked up in England. I changed the all purpose flour to whole wheat pastry flour, and substituted half of the milk for yogurt, to add some tang (or maybe I had just run out of milk - but it tasted great).

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup yogurt (or just another 1/2 cup milk)
oil for cooking

2 bananas
2 tbsp butter
splash of maple syrup, plus more to serve

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add egg, milk and yogurt, and stir until just combined (some lumps are ok). Heat oil in pan, and cook pancakes in batches. Meanwhile, melt butter in another pan. Add sliced bananas and a splash of maple syrup, and saute until golden. Serve pancakes  with butter and more maple syrup.

vegan version: substitute 1/2 mashed banana for the egg, and use 1 cup soy milk. Cook the bananas in grapeseed or canola oil.

PS. I'm in the middle of redesigning the blog, so expect some changes. I loved the last layout, but it wan't the easiest to navigate or read.

PPS. You know it's a good day when you still haven't left bed, but you've gotten through brunch, four episodes of Seinfeld, AND posted a recipe!

Friday, September 7, 2012

returning home

I'm back! My vacation was indescribable, exceptional and unbelievable. It was FILLED with food: from late night bowls of mussels in the Latin quarter of Paris with my boyfriend, to cold glasses of peach cider overlooking the Waupoos bay with some of my favourite ladies, every day was filled with culinary delights that totally blew my mind. In the next few weeks I'll post some of my favourite meals, some of the best recipes I cooked with/for friends, and some drool-worthy food photos. Meanwhile...

Unpacking is always difficult, especially when accompanied by some post-vacation blues. It's bittersweet going through all the keepsakes, souvenirs and trip detritus that fills my backpacks - so many amazing memories. Still, every time I use a certain plate, drink from a glass, or wear a dress, I can think about the most amazing summer ever. Here are my favourite finds from Paris, London, Prince Edward County, and everywhere in between. But it's Monica-style - I like to stick to the open-air markets, the stores the locals recommend, and of course, thrift and antique stores.

(Clockwise, starting at top left)

1. Antique drinking glasses from Old Spitalfield's Market in London, and a few Penguin classics (the new designs in paperback!)  

2. Giraffe scarf, bird dress and anchor shirt, all from Brick Lane Market in London

3. Botany time! A bat skeleton, from Trafalgar Castle in Whitby, a butterfly from Prince Edward County, fossils from Sandbanks, and a fossilized anemone from Beachy Head, UK (looks like a gum-ball). I collected everything here myself.  

4. Antiquing in the county - orange Le Crueset pot, Crown canning jar, assorted dishes, and an apron (with 'Muriel' written inside).

(clockwise, starting at top left)

1. It's always nice to match. My camp friends and I love to buy matching outfits: Zebra dress, and two pairs of earrings (to celebrate that I finally got my ears pierced last year!)

2. Had to buy delicious food in Paris: Praline dark chocolate, raspberry vinegar, lemon sardines, lime and coconut tuna, olive oil, red wine, raspberry liquor, and a nautical theme skirt from a second-hand store. 

3. Souvenirs from my friend Katy's county wedding: pink striped robe (I'll wear it ALL the time), her wedding favour - vanilla peaches, extra wine I stole (no! got given), and a great antique tray she gave me - it's covered in Morpho Butterfly wings! 

4. Finally, my favourite pile of stuff: things I didn't buy. Photos from my action-sampler of all the people I love, a journal from camp, candles and sparklers leftover for next year's festivities, a copyright infringement myself and the other counsellors got served with by our campers, and a portrait drawn by a 6 year old (I'm going to start spelling my name Monyca).