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.

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Corn Off the Cob

October 7, 2010

 

White Miso Yellow Corn Green Onion

 

You know, I really hate that I’m that person. That person who takes an unreasonably delicious, flawless recipe and attempts to make it almost as good but healthy. What a load of crap: you simply cannot remove half a pound of bacon and its drippings plus two tablespoons of butter from a recipe and have it taste anywhere near as good as the original. But in the name of ever intertwined vanity and health I did and here it is. It’s a knock-off of Momofuku’s badass original Roasted Summer Corn with Bacon and Butter. You might want to try this soon as there’s not much time left for cobs of corn at the market.

Serves 2 or 3 or 4

4 cobs of corn, stripped

pinch of sea salt

2 tablespoons white (shiro) miso paste

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock

6 green onions, chopped

ground black pepper

You’ve shucked and stripped your cobs of corn, right? Right, then in a small bowl mash together the miso paste with one tablespoon of olive oil and set aside. In the original recipe you cream together softened butter with the miso, creating a brilliant! miso butter. However. Heat a large-ish frying pan over medium-high heat with the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil. Add the corn kernels with the pinch of sea salt and cook for a few minutes, tossing or stirring. Scrape in the miso olive oil paste and break apart, add the stock and heat through. Remove from heat, add a few twists of black pepper and the green onion. Serve. You can pretend you know nothing about the original and thoroughly enjoy.

Pickled

September 30, 2010

Pickle Plate

Oh my goodness. This is one of the best plates of pickles I’ve ever consumed, it’s from Momofuku Ssam Bar. It’s inspired me to want to pickle more things. A couple of years ago I had a memorable plate of pickles in Japan. Pickles are one of the things that I love about Asian cuisine, there’s such great variety and they make a fairly healthy accompaniment. More healthy than whipped lardo.

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

Garden Pearls

June 28, 2010

Classic

This is the time. Buy pods of fresh English peas at the market, shuck them and extract pretty green pearls. Next, heat a pan over high-ish heat with a splash of olive oil and tumble in your bowlful of jade peas. Toss a few times, they will sizzle and spit a little. Sprinkle some sea salt over and eat hot right from the pan for your 3 o’ clock on a Sunday snack. It’s hard to believe, if you haven’t tasted, how good these are. Crisp, sweet, salty and fresh.

Garden Peas

Morel Mushrooms

May 24, 2010

Magic Morel

Morels look as though they’re from another planet. They’re an outer space and alien mushroom. And, not unlike asparagus, they cost the earth. I bought a small paper bag of them at the market on Saturday for $10. I didn’t have any plans for them in particular, I just wanted them. And so I was restrained in some other purchases. I passed on an aromatic and Pepto-Bismal pink bouquet of lilacs and treated myself to a homely bag of morels that smelled of the woods. When I got home, this is how I cooked them. I ate them piping hot straight out of the pan, standing at the stove. A simple, satisfying and greedy late-afternoon lunch for one.

Serves one

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 shallot, minced

about 2 cups fresh morels, brushed clean and roughly chopped (I halve them lengthwise to ensure that there aren’t any critters residing inside – there were none, but it can happen)

3 cloves of garlic, minced

fresh thyme, a few stems

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a medium sized pan over medium-high heat, swirl to cover the pan bottom. Make sure your pan is not too small, you don’t want to crowd and steam them. Add the shallots and let them sizzle, stir them about so as not to scorch. Add your chopped morels, turn the heat up a little bit, if you like. Cook them down for a few moments, then add the garlic. A lovely woodsy, garlicky, heady perfume (who needs lilacs?) will fill the air. You may need to add another small swirl of olive oil. Strip the stems of thyme over the morels, and then generously salt and pepper. That’s it. You can do as I did and spoon the mushrooms right from pan to mouth or, if you’re a tad more civilized, there are a million things you can do with them at this stage. Shall I list a few? You could: add a splash of apple cider vinegar and scatter them warm through a spring salad; toss them with a little more olive oil and stir into brown rice pasta; roll into a butterflied and (gently) pounded breast of chicken and bake; mix them into steamed greens, such as kale; top a grilled steak. In some of these other preparations, you will find that they feed more than one.

Local Asparagus

May 20, 2010

Speared!

Last Saturday Julie and I went to the Trout Lake Farmer’s Market. I bought some gorgeous salad greens and a bundle of asparagus spears. I was excited to see the asparagus, there was no price on the bin, and I’m alarmed that I spent $11 on it. The guy weighed it and told me the price. I asked him to repeat it, even though I heard him the first time. I was on the verge of saying “No, thanks, that’s a little too much for me.” I had a little mini war with myself as I was standing there. I want to support local. And I can’t even imagine how much work it is to grow fruits and vegetables to make a living. I heard that asparagus, once planted, can’t be harvested until the third year. Good grief, I would charge a lot more. But, still. It was a lot. I had every intention of cooking it immediately when I got home, but things happened and it’s sitting in my crisper drawer. Now I’m alarmed that I paid $11 for some asparagus that’s shriveling in the fridge. Tonight. I will cook it. I’m not sure how, but I am leaning towards grilling it and showering it with Maldon salt. Or maybe, because it’s tender spring asparagus, I should just steam or blanch it and douse it with olive oil and some freakishly delicious lemon vinegar. (Thanks Katie!)

Lemony Deliciousness

g

May 13, 2010

little green salad

This is a recipe post for gluten-free tabouleh. But first, completely unrelated, I want to tell you about this little and extraordinary team of people that I manage at work. I call them Team g, with a little lowercase g, because that’s our logo. I’m not sure where to start, or what exactly it is about them I want you to know. They are a quirky group, with not much at all in common with one another. But it’s kind of magical, they way they work together, and how hard they work. As I’ve never been a manager, I was completely unprepared. I am really lucky to have hired each and every one of them. We opened a cafe, not a little one, in Coal Harbour. They (well, we, but not really me) make some of the best coffee in town, and pour beautiful lattes. You know those lattes, with pretty rosettas or hearts? Anyway, this little g team of mine just kills me. You should come by, as you sometimes do, for a Sugar Bun and a coffee. You know you shouldn’t have a Sugar Bun (so bad but so good). We serve these at the cafe, so maybe that’s a better choice.

I have no segue from describing my gem of a team to this post on a little green salad. It’s a tabouleh of sorts, made with quinoa instead of bulgur, so it’s gluten free. It’s loaded with chopped parsley and mint, so healthy. I made it last night, lots of it, while thinking about Team g. It’s one of those dishes, packed with flecks of green, that demands a wide grin and a mirror directly afterwards.

Makes about 8 cups

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

1/3 cup lovely olive oil

2 lemons, squeezed

1 small clove of garlic, finely grated

1 bunch parsley, finely chopped

1/2 bunch mint, finely chopped

about 2 dozen cherry tomatoes, halved (I know, it’s not tomato season yet. But I found some pretty good local hothouse ones.)

3 green onions, minced

1 serrano chile, optional, seeded and minced

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

Bring water to a simmer and add the quinoa. Turn the heat to low and simmer, stirring it every now and then, until most of the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and cover. Meanwhile, measure your olive oil into a mixing bowl and squeeze the lemons over. Finely grate the garlic clove into this mixture. Check your quinoa, all the water has probably been absorbed, so turn it out onto a large plate to cool a bit and set aside. Add, to the olive oil and lemon, the parsley, mint, halved cherry tomatoes, green onion, chile, if using, and salt. Toss together and then turn in the still-warm quinoa. Grind some fresh pepper over, taste, then eat.

Spring Green

May 10, 2010

Spring 2010

I bought some local arugula this afternoon. There are many names for it: rocket, roquette, Italian cress, rugula, rucola. And there are many ways to prepare it. You could make a simple salad. Or arugula pesto. Lightly steam and top with a poached egg and Maldon salt. Saute with garlic. Its pepperiness is most pleasant. And, just think, this is just one of the spring greens. There are a million more!

Stir Fry

May 6, 2010

Fry Fix

The other evening I was dragging myself home from work. I don’t mean to overstate it but, if one could, literally, drag one’s self around, that’s how I got myself home. There was no lightness in my step and I was exhausted. Between work and home there are about 598 little restaurants, they are hard to resist. Everything from ramen to curry, sushi and deep fried. How easy to sit down and order something not very healthy. I needed a fix, some energy, some colour, something to combat the scurvy. With great effort I hauled myself into a little produce shop and was wowed by the bright reds, yellows, greens and oranges. Okay, I could do this. Maybe just pick out a few things and make… Oh, God… What? This was taking too much energy. Okay, okay. Maybe I could just chop up a few things and… Of course, I could make a stir fry. Toss some tofu in for protein. Yes, good idea. It’s been ages since I’ve made a stir fry. So I picked out some bright vegetables and brought them home (in a somewhat less draggy mood) and started chopping. And chopping. I, as usual, got a bit carried away. A stir fry has a way of becoming huge in no time at all. Soup does that, too. To make a stir fry you don’t particularly need a recipe. Here’s what I did, if you particularly want a recipe.

Serves: A small crowd, or two for three days

1 tablespoon grape seed oil

2 medium onions, slivered

2 ribs of celery, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 cups of broccoli florets

4″ piece of ginger, slivered

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup chicken stock

1 small zucchini, chopped

4 mushrooms, sliced

1 small head of sui choy cabbage, shredded

1 red bell pepper, sliced (I forgot to add mine, I found it later by the side of the sink. The red slices would have looked pretty in the photo. Bummer)

2 large handfuls of bean sprouts

1 lemon, zest and juice

1 block of medium tofu, cubed

1 teaspoon tamari soy sauce

drizzle of sesame oil

toasted sesame seeds or nuts, such as toasted almond slices, optional

1 dollop of roasted chili paste, optional

Heat grape seed oil over high heat in a large frying pan or wok. When oil is just beginning to wisp and shimmer, add onions and celery, they will sizzle and crackle. Add carrot slices and continue to sizzle, tossing continuously. Add broccoli and ginger. Now the pan will be full of crisping vegetables and the smell of fresh ginger will hit the air, maybe some of the vegetables will scorch and stick to the pan, just scrape them off. Throw in the sea salt and add the stock, it will simmer quickly. Toss in the zucchini, mushrooms, shredded cabbage, red pepper (should you recall that it’s sitting patiently by the sink) bean sprouts, lemon zest and juice. Stir fry for a few more moments and carefully turn in the cubed tofu. Stir together gently with the tamari soy sauce. Turn off heat, everything should be hot and crisp, the vegetables will be releasing their liquid. Now, drizzle in the sesame oil (one of the best, most intoxicating smells ever: close your eyes, lean in and inhale the waft of toasty sesame oil scented steam) and add the sesame seeds or nuts, if using. Man up and add a dollop of roasted chili paste. Serve immediately. Eat the next day and the day after that, cold, for lunch. And stop dragging yourself around.

PS – By all means, use lots of garlic. I didn’t buy any and mine at home had turned spongey from neglect, so I didn’t use it. But I would have if I had some. Add it along with the ginger.