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.