Choco Shake

October 21, 2010

Choco Froth

I am thrilled about this shake. I concocted it the other day when I was hungry and yearning for chocolate ice cream. The trick is to use a frozen banana, it makes it cold, of course, and gives it a rich thickness. It reminds me of when I was a kid and for a chocolate-y treat I would scoop out a soup bowl of ice cream and dump lumpy spoonfuls of cocoa over top. Then, in front of an episode or two of Scooby Doo, I would mash together the melty ice cream with cocoa. The end treat was a cross between a mall malted and chocolate ice cream. Little did I know then that cocoa was rich in antioxidants and minerals. I probably wouldn’t have cared but I do now.

Makes 1 yummy glassful

1 date, soaked briefly to soften in boiling water

1 frozen banana

3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 heaping tablespoon good quality cocoa powder

2 tablespoons protein powder, I like this one in vanilla almond

The method is elementary: drain the water from the date and discard and put everything into a blender. Blend for two minutes, pour into a tall glass and try not to guzzle. Or stick a straw in for a soda fountain effect.

Gem Squash

October 14, 2010

 

Barley Stuffed Gem

 

I bought some small gem squash at the market last weekend, not entirely sure what I was going to do with them. Sometimes you can’t predict. I like the dated presentation I went with. It’s corny for sure, but it’s also practical. Especially if you might be having friends for dinner. All the work is done ahead of time and they can roast away while you prepare the rest of dinner. They’ll keep hot and well in a low oven.

Makes 4

4 gem squash, each about the size of a hardball

a tablespoon or two of olive oil

sea salt and pepper, to taste

1 shallot, minced

1 stalk of celery, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced

3 brown mushrooms, finely chopped

6 brussels sprouts, halved and shredded

1/2 cup cooked pearl barley

Preheat your oven to 400º. Behead the gem squash. That is, carefully chop off the top quarter – it’s both the size and hardness of a hardball so execute with some care. Scoop out the guts with a soup spoon. I discarded, but by all means sort through the carnage to extract the seeds to roast, if you like. Lightly olive oil inside and out and sprinkle with some sea salt. Put the cap back on and slide into the oven to roast for about half an hour. Meanwhile, heat a medium pan over medium heat and add a splash of olive oil. Saute the shallots and celery together for two or three minutes and then add the garlic and mushrooms and a pinch of sea salt. Cook down for a few minutes and then stir in the shredded brussels sprouts and barley. Heat through, check for seasoning and add a bit more sea salt and some freshly ground pepper, I made mine pretty peppery. Remove from heat and set aside. Pull the par-cooked and not-so-hard-anymore squash from the oven. Upon removing the lid, small puffs of squash-y steam will huff out. Pack each cavity with the brussels sprouts and barley mix, pop the cap back on and return to the oven for another half an hour or so. These are lovely to eat, each scoop of hearty barley comes smeared with a bright dollop of creamy squash.

Early Bird Gets the…

August 30, 2010

I Can

… spicy pickled cauliflower. If you live in Vancouver, or not too far away, I will give away a jar to the first six of you who recommend a new favourite song to me. For the rest of you not so early risers, here is a superb recipe for canning your own. I have adapted it from a recipe that appeared in Fine Cooking magazine a few years ago. Some of my friends have, both flatteringly and surprisingly, consumed an entire jar in one visit. I have also heard “When are we canning cauliflower?” a million times from a couple of you. This doesn’t mean you’re not welcome to come over and can just because you have the recipe, you are. Anytime. Just let me know. Bring your own cauliflower and jars and we can can together.

Makes six pint jars

one large or two small heads of cauliflower, cut into small florets

two medium carrots, peeled and sliced into angled coins

six Thai bird chilies, split, optional

2 teaspoons mustard seed

2 teaspoons coriander seed

1 teaspoon cumin seed

2 cups water

4 cups apple cider vinegar

1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced

10 cloves of garlic, peeled and slightly smashed

3/4 cup agave

1/4 cup coarse sea salt

2 teaspoons black peppercorns

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

Prepare your clean jars for canning by sterilizing, I like to do this in the oven. Meanwhile, fill a canning pot 3/4 full and bring to a boil. In a small pan, heat lids in almost simmering hot water until ready to use. Have screw bands clean and ready.

Make your brine by toasting mustard, coriander and cumin seeds in a large pot over medium heat until fragrant, about two minutes. Add water, apple cider vinegar, onions, garlic, agave, sea salt, peppercorns and turmeric. Increase heat and bring brine to a boil. In the meantime, prepare your vegetables and then pack into hot, sterilized jars. When brine is at a rolling boil, remove from heat and carefully ladle into jars over vegetables, leaving about a half inch of headspace. Make sure to evenly ladle in the onions, garlic and spices with the brine. The cauliflower will stain a gorgeous acid yellow and your eyes will water from the incidental onion and vinegar facial. Take a clean chopstick and poke it into the jar, between the vegetables and the glass. This will release trapped air bubbles. With a clean cloth, wipe down the jar rims so that they are sparkling clean. Lift lids one at a time from their hot water bath and place on top of jar and then secure in place with a screw band, fingertip tight.

The water in the canner should be boiling. Carefully set jars onto the rack and lower into the boiling water. Process for ten minutes and then remove onto a tray or surface covered with a tea towel. Let sit undisturbed overnight. Store the pickles for at least two days before enjoying. I like to have them cold from the fridge. They won’t last long. With that in mind, this recipe is easily doubled.

If You Can’t

Maybe you think you can’t. Or you might not want to bother with buying/owning/storing a canner and jars. You simply want spicy pickled cauliflower and you didn’t get up early enough. Or we don’t have the same taste in music. This is what you can do: Put all vegetables into a large heat-proof bowl. Cover with hot brine, cool and store in fridge for at least two days. And you thought you couldn’t can. They’ll keep in the fridge for two weeks but, again, they won’t last for that long.

Pucker Up

Borscht

January 21, 2010

Vegetarian Borscht

Vegetarian Borscht

Incredibly, this rich-tasting, jewel-toned soup is made with just vegetables. Isn’t it a gorgeous garnet colour? It’s not a true borscht, but it’s close enough.

Makes about 8 cups

4 small beets, peeled and cubed

2 carrots, peeled and cubed

1 yam, peeled and cubed

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 medium-sized onions, chopped

1/2 red cabbage, shredded

1 small tin of tomato paste

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1/2 teaspoon dried dill

1 tablespoon agave

2 – 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Place beets, carrots and yam into a medium-sized pot and cover with four and a half cups of cold water. Bring to a low boil over medium heat and simmer for about half an hour, or until vegetables are almost tender. Remove pot from heat and set aside. Meanwhile, stream olive oil into a large, heavy-bottomed pot and heat over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often, for about ten minutes. Add shredded red cabbage, tomato paste and bay leaves, continue to cook until cabbage wilts down. Add sea salt, dill and reserved, slightly cooled vegetables with their broth. Bring to a simmer, lower heat and add agave and vinegar. I add up to four tablespoons of vinegar, I like my borscht fairly tangy, but start with just two tablespoons to begin. You can taste the soup and see if it suits and add the full amount to taste. Simmer for about half an hour.

Beautiful Beet

Bead-Like Beans

September 1, 2009

Bead-Like Beans!

UBC Beans

I could not resist buying these beautiful, fresh beans from UBC Farm on Saturday. They looked ready to be strung onto a jeweler’s cord to make a long necklace, one that can be wrapped about your neck two or three times and worn with a chic, fitted black turtleneck, full skirt and long boots. I resisted – eccentricity must be avoided whenever it arises. As it is I succumb to sequins more than I ought to. So instead of accessorizing with these lovely beans – I think they’re scarlet runner beans but I’m not positive – I made a fresh and flavourful bean soup.

Serves 6 – 8

2 1/2 cups fresh scarlet runner beans*, simmered in lightly salted water for about 20 minutes, drained

1 poblano pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced**

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium cooking onions, diced

1 carrot, peeled and diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons toasted, ground cumin seeds

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika

2 ears of fresh corn, stripped

1/2 jalepeno, minced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 cup cooked brown rice, optional

1 ripe avocado, diced

lime wedges

Swirl extra-virgin olive oil into a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add diced onions and sweat for about five minutes, stir in carrots and cook for another five minutes. Add garlic, cumin, oregano, sea salt and paprika, let cook for another two minutes, the contents of your pot will now be pungently fragrant! Stir in corn, jalepeno, red pepper and add four cups of water. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Add the cooked beans, roasted poblano and cooked brown rice and heat through. To serve, garnish with diced avocado and a generous squeeze of lime. And don’t hesitate to have a firm word with me if you ever catch me wearing a market ingredient as an accessory. I think eccentricity can sneak up on a person.

Bean Soup

Bean Soup

* Use another type of bean, fresh or dried, if you can’t find these ones – try pinto or black beans. You could even open up a tin if you want to save some time.

** Also, no poblano? No problemo, just up the smoked paprika from 1 teaspoon to 2, or even 3 teaspoons.

Smoked Tofu

August 20, 2009

Smoked Tofu

Smoked Tofu

There are a lot of tofu-haters out there. Perhaps because there are a lot of poor examples and preparations. Not to mention the fact that we have gotten carried away with soy products over the last several years – there is soy everything – soy milk, soy fake meat, soy this, soy that. So what the hell? Is it good for you, bad for you? Perhaps if it’s over-processed, genetically modified, sprayed with loads of pesticides and you consume it all the time then it’s probably not good for you. If you eat it in moderation, and it’s local, and organic, and non-GMO and it’s lightly, delicately, deliciously smoked then it’s probably not so bad for you. In fact, tofu can be a good source of protein and quality carbohydrate. I love Soya Nova Tofu Shop’s Westcoast Smoked Tofu. I heard about it from Andrea, a talented chef and friend, and she knows her food. I love that it’s from Salt Spring Island. I told my friend Courtney about it, she was a tough sell. She’s a tofu-hater and a vegetarian. And then she called me and demanded “Why didn’t you tell me it tastes like Gouda?!” Because it kind of does taste like smoked Gouda. And the reason I didn’t tell her that is because I didn’t want to blow this smoked tofu out of proportion. Then she would have expected creamy, decadent cheese. And it’s not. It’s smoked tofu. Use it in a salad, throw it in a stir-fry, or place it between the triple cream and Saenkanter on the cheese plate at your next cocktail party. Well, maybe it’s not that good. Now I’ve gone and blown it out of proportion.

Good Stuff

Good Stuff

Veggie Burger

July 10, 2009

Half-Pounder

Half-Pounder

My friend Courtney is always on the hunt for a super-delicious veggie patty. Most of them are missing something – maybe it’s meat? Also, many of them are loaded up with sodium and preservatives, their list of ingredients is sometimes extensive. This is my first attempt at a veggie patty. It is lacking meat, being a veggie patty and all, but it’s pretty good. Courtney and I fixed our burgers with sweet balsamic onions, radicchio, avocado, mizuna, tomatoes and a light smear of Dijon. The bun I made is yeast-raised, super-easy and free of the usual bread ingredients. The recipe follows if you’re so inclined, or you could serve the patty over a warm salad* or garlicky greens.

The Patties – makes 10 – 3″

1 cup dried adzuki beans, cooked in 2 cups of lightly salted water for about 45 minutes, or until tender, drained and cooled

1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice, cooled

2 teaspoons + 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, minced

4 cloves of garlic

10 mushrooms, I used cremini, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1/4 cup ground flax

2 tablespoons water

Heat a skillet with 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for a few minutes, then add the garlic, mushrooms and salt and let cook for two minutes. Stir in the spices – the smoked paprika, cumin and garam masala. Remove from heat and let cool while you pull out your food processor and toss in the adzuki beans and brown rice. Okay, the onions et cetera have cooled enough, add all remaining ingredients and process until well-combined. You might need to scrape the bowl of your food processor and then pulse to make certain that it is all mixed together. I didn’t process too, too much. There should be some texture remaining, don’t process into a paste. Now form into patties. I used a regular-sized ice-cream scoop (mmm… ice cream), two scoops per patty. If you’re wondering “Well, how big is a regular-sized ice cream scoop?” I measured it, and it’s two ounces per scoop. You’re welcome. Now you can just sear off the patties for your burger. I did mine in a pan, but I see no reason why you couldn’t grill them on a barbecue. This is kind of a lot of work for a burger, a lot more than whipping through a drive-through, so make the whole batch. You can give some to Courtney or another pal, or freeze them, or invite all your desperate, vegan, celiac, healthy, fitness freaky friends over for dinner.

Sweet Balsamic Onions – enough for 10 burgers

4 sweet onions, such as walla walla, sliced into rounds

1 – 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

two or three pinches of sea salt

good splash of balsamic vinegar

Heat a large skilled over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add sliced onions and sea salt and cook, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes. Drizzle in a little more olive oil as needed, if needed. Onions will shrink down and become a light, fragrant, golden brown. Add the balsamic vinegar, give another stir and let cook for a few more moments until the balsamic reduces and turns a bit syrupy. Remove from heat and set aside until you’re ready to assemble your burgers.

The Buns – makes 10

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Flour

1/2 cup sorghum flour

1/4 cup whole ground flax seed

1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

2 teaspoons xantham gum

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons tepid water

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for lightly oiling baking ramekins or tins

1 teaspoon agave nectar

2 tablespoons sesame seeds for sprinkling on top of buns, optional

Lightly oil ramekins or small baking tins with olive oil. In a medium-sized bowl whisk together all of the dry ingredients, set aside. Combine all the wet ingredients in a smaller bowl, and then pour over dry ingredients. Stir together with a fork – dough will be thick and sticky, kind of paste-like. Divide dough evenly amongst your prepared tins or ramekins, and press into shape with damp fingertips. If you’re using sesame seeds, sprinkle them over the buns now. Drape with a damp tea towel and let rise for about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 350º for the last 15 minutes of rise. Slide buns into oven and bake for 25 minutes.

Veggie Patty

Bunless

* here’s the veggie patty lounging on some sautéed mushrooms and bright yellow kale buds

Care For a Dip?

June 25, 2009

A Hurried Dip

A Hurried Dip

Hummus – such an easy and great dip for fresh vegetables. I like to sauté my onions and garlic before pureeing everything in my food processor, it sweetens the bite, and somehow makes for a more savoury dip. When there’s hummus in the house I eat more vegetables. I always seem to be in a hurry when I’m craving hummus, so I use canned chick peas instead of taking the time to cook them from dried.

Makes about 2 cups

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste

1 tin of chickpeas, drained

3 tablespoons tahini

1 lemon, juiced

1/4 teaspoon sweet or hot smoked paprika*

Heat a medium-sized pan over medium heat. Add one tablespoon of olive oil with chopped onions and sauté for about five minutes. Add garlic and sea salt, and toss pan to combine. Cook for another two minutes. Just so you know, this is called sweating. Often, when writing a recipe, I think the word sweat but invariably use the word sauté, it sounds more appetizing, don’t you think? Sweaty onions. Where was I? Right, set aside sweaty (see?) onions to cool a little. Haul out your food processor and add remaining two tablespoons of olive oil, chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, paprika, and slightly cooled onions and garlic. Whir together for a few moments, you will probably need to scrape down the bowl. Whir again. If your hummus is impossibly thick, drizzle in some extra olive oil. Taste. Season – you might like to add another pinch of sea salt, or an extra sprinkle of paprika, another squeeze of lemon, or some more olive oil. I like my hummus on the creamy side, so I process for another few moments and, if you must know, add another glug of olive oil. Don’t judge me, I like fat. Then, to finish, I pour a drizzle of pretty pumpkin seed oil on top and a tiny sifting of paprika.

* This brand of paprika offers three types – sweet, medium, and hot. Go get some, you will find lots of uses for it.

This is the smoked paprika that I love

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

June 22, 2009

Oven-Ready

Oven-Ready

I feel impatient for tomato season, even though it’s right around the corner. Heirloom tomatoes in late summer from the farmer’s market have me ruined, and I don’t often buy them out of season. A few weeks ago I caved, and bought some on the vine Campari tomatoes. That’s another conversation, the strange marketing genius of selling tomatoes still attached to its vine. Anyway, they weren’t very good, and began to look forlorn and squishy, abandoned and unappreciated. With some wooing – an olive oil bath, gentle sea salt massage, and a long, warm, slow bake in a low oven – the tomatoes yielded. They emerged, four hours later, sticky-sweet and a little puckered. So good, in fact, that I bought some more to roast, and wasted no time in turning on my oven and giving them my full attention.

Coaxed and Slow-Roasted

Coaxed and Roasted

Pre-heat oven to 200º. If your oven, like my oven, doesn’t go so low, simply prop door open about an inch by wedging some tongs between the door and the frame. That should keep the heat very low. Also, no point in roasting just a few tomatoes, do a pan full. Once they’re cooled, store them in the fridge. Use them where you might usually use fresh – throw them into a salad, have them as a side dish, or use to create a deep, rich sauce.

one dozen tomatoes, at least, halved

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

fresh or dried herbs, such as thyme, use what you have, optional

a few twists of black pepper, optional

Place tomato halves in a medium-sized bowl. Toss gently with olive oil and salt, and any optional ingredients. Carefully tumble tomatoes onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, and scrape any extra oil, juices and seasonings over. Slide onto the middle rack in your oven, and prop open if necessary. I roast tomatoes, depending on their size, anywhere from two hours, up to four. Check periodically. They should resemble my tomatoes in the photo above – dark red, slightly wrinkled, and syrupy with juices.