Hello, Pumpkin

October 28, 2010

Pumpkin Bar

Don’t you just love pumpkin? I think pumpkin pie is my favourite pie. And don’t you find at this time of year, if you’ve made Thanksgiving pie or cheesecake (I noticed pumpkin cheesecake was particularly popular this year) that you have a small quantity of leftover pumpkin puree? I bet a lot of you have some pumpkin puree kicking around in a frozen state. I did, and that’s what inspired me to make these bars.

Makes about 12 – 4″ x 1″ bars

36 dried dates

1/2 cup whole almonds

1/4 cup pecans

1/2 cup pure unsweetened pumpkin puree

1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, chopped

Soak the dates in enough boiling water to cover, set aside. In the bowl of a food processor measure in almonds and pecans and pulse briefly a few times to crunch them up. Drain dates, discard water, and add to the nuts along with pumpkin puree, melted coconut oil, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and sea salt. Run processor off and on until mixture begins to clump. Add the sunflower seeds and pulse once or twice to combine, they add nice texture if you don’t obliterate them into the mixture. Turn into a plastic-lined rectangular tart pan or container and pat neatly down. Sprinkle the chopped pumpkins seeds evenly on top, over wrap with plastic wrap and press seeds gently into the bar. Place in fridge for a few hours to firm up and then portion into bars, wrap individually and store in fridge. They make a fine fall four o’ clock.

Have you ever?

October 25, 2010

Watermelon Red

Have you ever seen an apple this beautiful? It’s kind of like the blood orange of apples. The outside of the apple is nondescript, it’s no crapple, but there’s nothing alluring about it. I would have passed right by it except for the sign on the apple bin declared it a Red Fleshed Apple. Huh? I asked “Is the flesh of this apple red?” I know, right? Sometimes my mouth speaks before consulting my brain, it’s not a good short cut. A quick google shows that there are many types of red fleshed apples, with fitting names such as Hidden Rose and Grenadine. Just lovely, a little shock of colour on a grey and rainy morning.

Smart and Pretty

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.

Mushroom Soup

October 18, 2010

Chunky Soup

‘Tis the season, my friend Holly said, for mushroom soup. She emailed me last week to request a mushroom soup recipe. I am happy to oblige, especially as her request was accompanied by loads of compliments. In case you didn’t know, flattery gets you everywhere with me. I made a mushroom soup last year that I didn’t bother posting because it was merely edible. It was a puréed version without cream and the texture was blah. This year’s is chunky, and some things are better chunky, such as soups and sweaters.

Makes about 3 litres

3 tablespoons of olive oil

2 medium sized onions, chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1/3 cup pearl barley

6 cloves of garlic, minced

250 g cremini mushrooms, aka brown mushrooms, chopped

250 g shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, chopped

250 g chanterelle mushrooms, chopped

1 small stem rosemary, or 1 teaspoons dried

2 tablespoons fresh thyme, or 2 teaspoons dried

1 litre of stock – beef, chicken, vegetable or, in my case, turkey

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

sea salt and pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions, celery and carrots and let them sweat it out for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the pearl barley, mix it in, and then add the garlic. Stir and allow to cook for a few more minutes and then add the mushrooms, it’s an awful lot of mushrooms, probably as much as 16 cups, but they will cook down. Stir them occasionally and when they have reduced in volume add the rosemary and thyme. Isn’t it lovely how earthy this pot of soup to-be smells? Forest damp and woodsy. Now pour in the stock, obviously the different stocks will give different depths of flavour. If I had had some beef stock on hand, that would have been my first choice. However, given the season, I happened to have turkey stock in my freezer. Reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the barley is tender with a slight chew. Stir in the parsley and season with sea salt and pepper. Mushrooms are one of those things that take kindly to salt and pepper, so add, taste, add again. That said, you can always add more salt, or pepper, but you can’t take it out. And there you have it – chunky mushroom soup for dinner and a week of autumn lunches.

Wooden Mushroom

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.

Hugs & Kisses

October 11, 2010

 

This is Love

 

For years I have been pining for XO sauce. I was given a jar several years ago and at the time I thought it was some type of chili sauce, and searches for a recipe proved fruitless. That was because it was XO sauce. Mike and I used it sparingly, portioning it out as though it were flakes of gold, watching one another like hawks to ensure that neither took more than his or her fair share. If you think I’m exaggerating that’s because you’ve never met us. The jar was eventually scraped clean and the sauce lived on in our hearts and taste memory.

Last week I made XO sauce* and I want to share the love with you. I am aware that this is supposedly a blog on clean eating. And I realize that this is almost as dirty as a recipe can get as it calls for one and a half cups of oil. Bear with me, because XO sauce is fabulous. It makes clean eating, yes, a little dirty. It’s good on almost anything. It adds heat and funk and savour to the most unwitting boiled egg or uninspired steamed greens. A little goes a long way and will last in your fridge for months, if you don’t end up giving it all away. So here it is, from me to you with love.

xo Dawne

Makes about 2 cups

2 ounces dried scallops

2 ounces dried shrimp

heaping half cup of peeled garlic cloves

1/2 cup sliced and peeled ginger

1 Oyama pork chop, removed from bone and roughly chopped, or 1 cup of salt cured ham

1 1/2 cups peanut or grape seed oil, divided

1/4 cup chili flakes

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped raw cane sugar (from a block)

Place dried scallops and shrimp in a small bowl and cover with super hot tap water. Set aside. Put the garlic cloves and sliced ginger into your food processor and buzz into a fine chop and then scrape into a bowl. Drain the dried seafood, discard the stinky water, buzz up finely and then scrape over top of the minced garlic and ginger. Add the chopped pork chop or ham to your food processor and, you guessed it, whir that into fine bits. Meanwhile, heat half a cup of oil in a large, wide frying pan over medium heat and add the blitzed pork or ham. Crisp it up in the hot oil, it will take about five minutes, maybe a bit longer. Add the chili flakes and continue to cook. This pan full of spicy pork will be foaming and fuming beautifully. Reduce heat to as low as possible and add the dried seafood, garlic and ginger. Okay, wow. The smell is instant – powerful and amazing and reeking and almost offensive. YUM. Continue to roast in pan for about one hour, stirring here and there. Ensure that it is not sticking to the bottom of pan, or getting too dark. Add a little more oil if necessary during cooking. Once you deem it done, and the sauce is a rich, foxy red-brown, remove from heat and let cool. When it’s cool enough to taste, stir in the coarse sea salt and raw sugar. Add the remaining one cup of oil, you made not need to add all of it, though you want enough to saturate. I think, when I have the opportunity to make this again, that I will tweak the recipe a bit more. I’m considering adding half a cup of shallots with the garlic and ginger, and maybe more pork and less seafood. But that won’t be for a while. I think I have enough XO to get us through the winter.

* I was inspired by XO recipes from Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking and Momofuku