Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Squash season!

Before I get started with my recipe this week, if you're feeling like you're not making the most of your herbs, don't forget about my herbed rice recipe.  I made home-made GMO free falafels the other night and stuffed them in pitas with rice that was cooked with cilantro, parsley and a splash of lime juice.  It's as simple as just chopping it up, tossing it in and letting it sit for a minute and serving.  Brightens up rice so quick and easy!
Butternut squash are one of my favorite foods.  It's such a toned-down version of squash, but with that smooth, creamy texture that makes soups and roasted squash so good, and autumn one of my favorite times of year to cook.
The other thing I like about this recipe is that it showcases apples, which at this time year are so fresh and so good.  And although I don't usually stress too much about the price of food at the grocery store I can't be the only one who has noticed the price of apples has jumped significantly over the last few months.  That's why I love September and making our annual trip to Beamish's Orchards- the only organic orchard on PEI!  We stock up and the apples last so long and are so crisp and like summer-in-fall good.

One butternut squash, peeled and diced
2-3 crisp apples, diced.
1/2 cup nuts (almonds, walnuts or whatever you like)
a small handful of chopped parsley

Toss diced squash with: 1/4 cup oil
                                        2 tsp. honey
                                       salt and pepper
Spread squash on baking sheet, roast at 300 degrees until tender, but not too soft (30 mins-ish).
Allow to cool.
Combine with other ingredients.
Whisk together:
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. balsalmic vinegar
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper if needed, to taste.

Toss is all together.
The one fault of this salad is that there's a fine line between letting it sit to soak up the flavours of the dressing and having things turn slightly less bright.  Although I've had it sitting in the fridge overnight now and the flavour has gotten better and the apples are still crisp and the nuts still crunch, so I have no complaints.

I think next time I will add some finely chopped onions, or maybe try some different herbs.  It was really too heavy to be a 'salad' in my view, but was a delicious savory dish I will keep in my recipe box for a side to a chicken soup or something warm and cozy.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Red Cabbage, Lentil and Walnut Salad

 So I made this post almost a week ago and then forgot that I hadn't actually posted it.  So, sorry Jen and anyone waiting for a new recipe.  And now since I've discovered that it didn't make it, I've since made more batches of roasted tomates and cauliflower soup, so I caught a couple pictures to go with last week's post (or two weeks ago now).
 Gorgeous tomatoes, drizzled in oil, nestled with garlic and ready for action!
 With my subsequent batches I discovered that more than 5 hours is actually better because all that liquid that seeps out of the tomatoes concentrates and makes things thicker.  There was no need for a slotted spoon with my other batches because the liquid had become more of a paste and was soooo flavourful!  I now have a few batches frozen in ziploc bags in the freezer, ready for tasty sauce this winter.
This is just a picture from when we were making the Cauliflower Soup I posted last time and I thought this shot of my carrot cutting fairy was too cute not to share. Everyone should have one of these kitchen helpers that flutters in to lend a hand! :)
So onto the recipe!
I realize that red (or purple) cabbage may not have been in your share this week, but I doubt if I'm the only one who had a cabbage in their crisper from previous weeks that would look at them each day and say, "are you going to eat me today or what?"  This recipe is for you and it couldn't be easier.

Dressing: 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
                1 tbsp. dijon mustard
                2 tbsp. olive oil
                salt and pepper
         1/2 red cabbage, chopped fine(ish)
          1 15oz. can lentils
         1/2 shallot, chopped extra fine
         1/4 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted if you have time.
         a handful of raisins (this is very optional and not in the original recipe, but if you'll notice, raisins are the bacon of salads around here and usually mean that everyone will at least give something new a try).
The recipe also called for 2 cups arugula, but I left that out.  It would certainly add some pretty green, but my kids have adapted my arugula aversion (yes, I know it's my fault), so we left it out.
This salad is crisp and the dressing is bright.  It was better after some of it sat in the fridge overnight and cabbage is great for maintaining its crispiness so would be a good potluck recipe.  You could of course cook raw lentils, but Eden Organic has really good canned lentils in the health food section and they're a pantry staple for us around here.

Now, since I've finally posted this one and it's already time for another one, I've got a great new butternut squash recipe coming up for this week.  Stay tuned shortly!


Friday, September 13, 2013

Roasting and Soup, autumn is here!

This has been Lucy's first week of kindergarten and although she's striving in the environment, she brought home the inevitable first cold to everyone in the house so my meals have been slightly lacklustre in the creative department and more focused on the warm soups and comfort food.  I also failed to take any worthwhile pictures so you'll have to use your creative mind and just imagine my two offerings this week.
   Didn't get a picture of the food because I was too busy getting a picture of my little kindergartener!

Again, with a Jamie Oliver recipe, adapted slightly for the sake of fewer dishes and simple ingredients.  The proper Oliver title is "Cauliflower Cheese Soup" but for the sake of my cauliflower-resistant kids, I just called it Cheese Soup.  They like cauliflower, but only raw, so this soup is a great way to stretch it a bit farther and get it onto their menus.

Like most good soups it starts with a simple mirepoix of carrots, onions and celery, cooked down until the carrots are starting to soften and the onions are golden.  Along with the mirepoix, add 2 cloves garlic and a large head of cauliflower, separated into rough florets and cook all together for about 10 minutes.  Add enough broth to cover the vegetables and bring to a boil. Simmer for another 10 minutes.
Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper to taste.  Here's the important part: Add a good big handful of cheddar cheese and a good squeeze of mustard.  Now puree the whole thing (immersion blender is perfect tool for this.)
Serve with some nutmeg. 

I think the mustard is the kicker in this one, and making sure it's pureed well.  I really love this simple soup and with some crunchy croutons or some bacon bits, this is the perfect lunch on these cooler, wet days of September.

Picture-less recipe #2 is a new one for me, but so far, I LOVE IT!

I've been stock piling some tomatoes for this Slow Roasted Tomato recipe.  It's so simple, but the roasting adds such a richness to the tomatoes I'm having a hard time deciding how to use them to make the most of them.  I think I'll keep it simple and combine with some of Jen's amazing basil and some good quality parmesan over home-made pasta.
Anyway, it's as easy as preheating the oven to 250 degrees.  Half or quarter tomatoes according to size and place cut side down on a baking sheet drizzled with olive oil.  Distribute the cloves from one head of garlic around the tomatoes and sprinkle with salt.  Roast for 5 hours or until tomato skins start to get too dark for your liking, although keep in mind that you will pluck the skins off anyway (and they literally pluck right off leaving the perfectly roasted tomatoes).

You can do this recipe and take them out after only 45 minutes- 1 hour, but the extra roasting adds so much flavour.  I got nervous about burning at the 4 hour mark so I took mine out then, but once they cooled and I picked the skins off I realized that I probably could have left them in longer.  Then I just used a slotted spoon to scoop half of them into a dish for the fridge and half into a freezer container so I could have a taste of summer during those dark days of winter.

Back in living colour next time!


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

You say paste, I say PESTO! (with my best Italian accent)

You will notice a few recurring themes in my cooking.  Pasta might just be the most common one.  It's easy, quick and a serious crowd pleaser in this house of majority young children.  Because we eat pasta so often (3 times a week at least) I usually buy in bulk from Speerville Mills and get 5 kg of organic "veggie spirals" which are made with vegetable juices for added nutrition (and colour!).  The kids don't know or care, but I like knowing that the red colour in my food actually comes from beets and not a numbered bottle somewhere along the line. 
Anyway, once again I bring to you a pasta dish that can be made in 20 minutes, and that also uses Jen's amazing broccoli.  Is it just me or does her broccoli have wayyy more flavour than any other, ever?  I'd even use the word 'strong' to describe it, which doesn't usually come to mind with that sad broccoli I get at the grocery store in the winter.  Broccoli is a universal favorite here and generally gets snapped up the minute it comes in the door (with some dip of course-the Lighthouse brand organic ranch dressing is soooo good! REAL chunks of tiny onion!), but I managed to tuck some away for this recipe, that I've played with a few times and haven't really failed at yet aaand it uses the whole head of broccoli, not just the florets.

It's a pretty close adaptation of another Jamie Oliver recipe, with a few changes.
I call it Broccoli Pesto Pasta.  (I'm no linguist, but I want to believe that the word pesto doesn't have anything to do with basil and is rather some italian root word for paste?)  So maybe I should call it Broccoli Paste Pasta.  Not quite the same eh?)

  • A couple small heads, or a big head of broccoli, separated into stem(s) and florets.
  • 1 can of anchovies OR a large squeeze of anchovy paste (I finally found some at the 'new' Sobeys in Charlottetown). It would sound more appetizing to call it 'anchovy pesto' wouldn't it? ha!
  • good pinch of dried chili flakes
  • 3 cloves of garlic (or more if you like)
  • Jamie Oliver recommends heaped tbsp. capers, but they aren't an ingredient I keep on hand, and I didn't miss them, but if you've got 'em, toss some in!
Blend the broccoli stems and these ingredients together, setting the florets aside for now.  The food processor should make a nice paste (or pesto!) with this.  The can of anchovies would have oil in it, so I added a good glug of olive oil when I used the anchovy paste instead.Once you have a nice paste, add it to a good sized pan on the stove with another good glug of olive oil and a splash of water to loosen it up.  Heat on medium while the pasta finishes cooking.  (If you've got thyme around add some of that to the pan as well.)
At the last few minutes of pasta cooking time, add the broccoli florets to the pasta water.

Drain it all, but keep a little of the pasta cooking water if you can, in case you need it to loosen up the pesto.
Add the drained pasta and broccoli to the pesto pan and toss. 
Add a really good pile of parmesan cheese and toss some more, adding that cooking water if need be. 
I've got this new obsession with bread crumbs and I found adding a handful of fine breadcrumbs during the last toss really added some nice texture.


I've made this without the anchovies and the capers and it was still quite good, but not nearly as good as when I included our fishy friends.  Bacon would be a fine substitute if you're not ready to get on the anchovy train just yet.
 The key is the garlic, chili flakes and parm.  The broccoli has so much flavour that everything else is really secondary.