Happy Accidents – Braised Kale with Coconut

I am not sure about the rest of you, but man….I hate Sunday nights. Monday morning and the school-lunches/can’t find my keys/stockings have a run in them/Mom-I-forgot-to-tell-you-but-I-need-ten-dollars-in-small-change is undeniably imminent.

In an effort to combat the Sunday night blues, I like to end the weekend with a meal that allows for some quality time in the kitchen – something that takes a bit of effort but pays big dividends. This week’s cooler weather had me in the mood for a hearty curry so out came my copy of Vij’s cookbook. I have made his recipe for “Family Chicken Curry” so many times that the book now obediently opens to that page by itself.

Suffice it to say that the curry was lovely, as was the cauliflower rice pilaff that I made to go with it. A totally unexpected surprise, however, was the kale. Now, this is where I should be telling you a cautionary tale about reading through the entire recipe before you make it. Had I read through the instructions, I would have realized that a) the spices and kale needed to be steeped in the coconut for 4 hours and b) that I was to grill the kale on a BBQ. Neither were going to happen at 6:00pm on a very chilly/windy Sunday night. This time my terrible habit of rushing headlong into things paid off as I improvised a bit with delicious results.

Coconut Braised Kale

Braised Kale with Coconut
based loosely on Grilled Coconut Kale by Vij

  • 2 bunches of kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 250 ml coconut milk
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • juice of half a lemon

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CousCous with Dates, Almonds and Roasted Lemon Dressing

Do meals call to you? An occasion presents itself  and from somewhere in your stack of cookbooks or your grandmother’s recipes, you hear a meal…calling to you. Perhaps it is Eggs Benedict for a lazy Saturday brunch? BBQd ribs for the 4th of July? Spaghetti Carbonara on Wednesday? For me, it is quite frequently a chicken I hear calling for Sunday dinner. In the spring, you can poach it in milk, a la Jamie Oliver. In the summer, I like to butterfly the bird and grill with some lemon and rosemary. When the weather turns colder, it is a nice roast chicken with crispy skin straight from the oven that I hear.

In all honesty, this particular meal has called to me a lot over the years so I find myself looking for ways to mix it up a bit. A few Sundays ago, I tried a Moroccan roast chicken that I found on-line. It sounded so lovely…a paste of paprika and herbs rubbed under the skin with some  lemons quartered and tucked away in the roasting pan. I am not sure if it was the recipe or user error, but let’s just say that this dish won’t be calling to me for a while. However, all was not lost as I salvaged the roasted lemons and turned them into the most beautiful dressing for my couscous…a true lemonade out of lemons occasion.

CousCous with Dates, Almonds and Roasted Lemon Dressing
or what I fondly refer to as the “1/4 cup salad”

  • 1 1/2 cups of couscous
  • 3 cups of water
  • small pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup of pitted dates, cut into smallish pieces
  • 1/4 cups of dried cranberries/blueberries/whatever you like
  • 1/4 cups of slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup of diced green onions
  • 3/4 cup of chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • the juice from one roasted lemon (see above)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp white sugar
  • pinch of cinnamon (optional but yummy)

Instant Classic – Creamy White Beans with Leeks

I just learned that I am going to be a bachelorette for ten days…ten whole days. I have decided that since I have no one else’s culinary preferences to consider, I am making this for 9 of those ten days. Did I say ten days yet?

Creamy White Beans with Leeks
Inspired by Jamie Oliver

  • 4 mid-size leeks, washed thoroughly and chopped into fine slices
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp-ish of fresh thyme
  • glug of olive oil (times 2)
  • 1 tsp-ish butter
  • 1/2 c. white wine
  • 2 cans of white beans, drained and rinsed (I used canellini with delicious results)
  • 2 Tbsp-ish of creme-fraiche (perhaps sour cream would work here…let me know if you try it and what the results are).

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Maple Roasted Butternut Squash with Rosemary

When it is really hot and sweaty outside…say mid-July, I find myself reminiscing about cooler weather and all the food that goes along with it. Thick and hearty stews, braised meats and yes, roasted vegetables. I swear that you can roast anything with a great result (I am going to be experimenting with beets this weekend if all goes well).

Here is one of my favourites…butternut squash with rosemary and maple syrup. You can serve this as a delicious side or it can also work as a filling for some beautiful stuffed pasta.

Maple Roasted Butternut Squash with Rosemary

  • 1 or 2 butternut squash, depending on how many people you are feeding
  • large glug of olive oil
  • coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1/8 – 1/4 c. maple syrup (depending on how much squash you are using) + 1 tsp.
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh ginger, grated (optional…also optional to add more if you love it)
  • 4-6 sprigs of rosemary

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Fancy Veg – Carrots Glazed with Marsala

When I sat down to write this post, I realized that despite having eaten my fair share of carrots in my life, I know relatively little about them. I decided to do some research. It turns out there are four main types of carrots; Imperators, Nantes, Danvers and Chantenay, which are determined by the size and the depth that carrots grow. Carrots also come in various shapes and sizes; from the long, taper like shape that most of us are familiar with to completely round balls. You may also see their glory in shades of orange, white, yellow, purple and the very rare black. Wow…a whole new world of carrots for me.

Now, here is a recipe that is guaranteed to be wonderful with any shape or size of carrots that you choose. It is my favourite combination of elegant and easy.

Carrots Glazed with Marsala

  • 2 bunches of whatever type of carrot you like, washed and sliced on the diagonal
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/3 c. marsala
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • large pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped (optional)

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Heavenly Veg – Roasted Broccoli with Fennel & Garlic

Believe it or not, broccoli is one of the few vegetables that my children enjoy. Like most kids, they refer to it as “trees” and prefer it steamed with a generous amount of fresh lemon juice on top. I have also added cheese sauce to the repertoire as, unbeknownst to me until recently, this is de rigeur and I have been denying my children all of these years. Who knew?

Despite all of that, their favourite way to eat broccoli is roasted. For Christmas dinner this year, I jazzed up the dish a bit in honour of the festive occasion, but it remains simple to put together and ultimately delicious.

Roasted Broccoli with Fennel & Garlic

  • 3 crowns of broccoli; washed, trimmed and separated into “trees”
  • healthy glug of olive oil
  • large pinch of coarse salt
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 head of garlic, separated and peeled.
  • 1 lemon

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Thanksgiving Alternative – Potato Gratin with Olive Oil and Thyme

Potatoes are one of my favourite vegetables. At first blush, this may sound really boring but I believe the opposite. You can dress these fine tubers up in a hundred different ways….in a soup, roasted, steamed, mashed, baked…the list goes on and on.

Speaking of potatoes, I had decided that I would forgo the mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving this year and turn to something a little less traditional…potato gratin. Normally, I stuff as much creamy goodness into a gratin as I can but, as one of my guests is lactose intolerant, that just wasn’t going to work.

After a bit of research, I came across this recipe in an old issue of Fine Cooking (which you can find here). I dressed it up a bit with some caramelized onions and voila, a nice dish that wouldn’t make my guest ill for the rest of the night.

Potato & Olive Oil Gratin 3

Potato, Thyme and Olive Oil Gratin with Caramelized Onions (For Aunt Jen)

  • 6 Tbsp olive oil (divided)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 3 lb yellow potatoes (I would recommend Yukon Gold)
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • coarse salt & ground pepper
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (divided)
  • 1/2 c. chicken stock

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Cranberries with Port and Rosemary

Although Canadian Thanksgiving has come and gone, here is a recipe that my American cousins might find helpful. I like this sauce because it is a beautiful balance of sweet and tart. Like all cranberry sauces, it only takes a few minutes to prepare. I should also add that I found an excellent use for the left overs…use it as a spread in a Cambazola and Proscuitto sandwich (in fact, it’s worth making this sauce for that purpose alone).

Craberries 1

Cranberries with Port and Rosemary

  • 1 bag of fresh cranberries, washed
  • 1/2 c. ruby port
  • 1/4 c. sugar (you may add more if you feel your sauce is too tart)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, leaves picked off the stem and coarsely chopped
  • pinch of coarse salt

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Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta, Pears and Walnuts

The truth of the matter is I don’t like brussel sprouts…at all. However, as an act of love and devotion I promised to make them for my husband who does like them….on one condition. If I was going to cook them I was determined to take these green devils as far from their cabbage-y roots as possible. Hence the pancetta, pear and walnuts. The addition of this triple threat (in combination with the fact that the sprouts came nowhere near a pot of boiling water) almost made me forget my antipathy towards this vegetable.

Brussel Sprouts 2

Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta, Pears and Walnuts
(or “6’s dressed up as 9’s)

  • 1lb of brussel sprouts…it’s good to pick ones that are roughly the same size
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • glug of olive oil
  • 1 pear
  • 5 slices of pancetta…ask the deli counter person for a medium slice
  • 1/2 c. walnuts

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