I am not one for a big list of New Year’s resolutions. Frankly, the only change I am capable of making after a week and a half of too much food and too much wine is my socks. Assuming I can still see my toes when I bend over, that is.
Instead, I like to reserve a bit of time at the end of the year imagining what a successful new year will look like. My vision of 2014 included, among other things, bread. Made by me. All by myself.
This recipe is a perfect introduction to the world of yeast and flour. It is easy, quick, and delivers ridiculously delicious results.
Honey Oat Bread
Originally published by Bon Apetit
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.
Each year, two of my very good friends and I host what has come to be known as “The Julia Dinner”. As you might have guessed, the menu is chosen from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The first couple of years, we vowed to follow her instructions religiously and for the most part we did. Now in year four, we have found ourselves adapting slightly as we go; sometimes to suit our more modern palates but mostly to reduce the staggering amounts of butter that a 5 course meal accumulates.
This year, we went with a bistro themed menu. Mushroom Soup, Steak Tartare, Steamed Mussels and Crepes Suzette were among the offerings. Needless to say, it was a lot of food. Underscore a lot.
I tell you this because after nights like this, I need to make a peace offering to my digestive system. Something simple and healthy. Something that doesn’t take 16 steps to make. Something with no butter.
This recipe comes courtesy of Melissa Clark. I modified it only slightly – adding a bit of zest during the cooking to bring out the lemon flavour and saving the salt to the end, as I have found that seasoning lentils with salt prior to cooking can affect their texture.
Lentil Soup with Lemon
3-4 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for finishing
2 medium onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 large carrots, diced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp cumin powder
pinch of ground cayenne/paprika/chipotle (whatever your favourite flavour profile)
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
I have noticed, after many years of subscribing to (ahem) many cooking magazines that there seems to be recurrent themes that run throughout the year. You can count on the BBQ issues in your mailbox in late June or early July and the Thanksgiving dishes are on display in October (for which we Canadians are truly thankful). April delivers delicate dishes with things like pea tendrils and salmon fillets and November’s issues are guaranteed to include some very impressive holiday desserts. January has a theme too; it’s all about the new. New year, new trends, new ingredients, and so on. There is also a heavy dose of atonement for all of the over-indulging you did over the holidays, but that is sort of a separate post, isn’t it?
Sesame Noodles (with Chicken)
Normally, I don’t pay too much attention to their proclamations (Pie is the new cupcake…pass it on!) but there is one trend that I feel is worth paying attention to; flexitarianism. Wikipedia describes it very succinctly with this definition; “a term used to describe diets that are not vegetarian but include less meat than typical diets”. Many cooking magazines have been exercising this concept by showcasing dishes that are wonderful with/without meat. This is one of those dishes…just as great with or without the chicken. Be on the cutting edge, and try it out both ways.
Sesame Noodles (with Chicken) adapted from Gourmet Magazine
2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (optional)
1 bell pepper (pick your favourite colour)
1 bunch of scallions, green and white parts chopped and separated
2 Tbsp sesame oil
Sesame Sauce (can also be used for sate….omit the water)
1/2 c smooth peanut butter (or you can try tahini, if you would like)
1/4 c soy sauce
2 Tbsp cooking sherry (or you can use red wine vinegar)
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?
On most days, I will freely admit that I have drunk The Kitchn’s koolaid. I love their blog and generally find it packed with fresh ideas, interesting ingredients, kitchen wisdom and great design. So, imagine my horror when I came across this post. To even suggest that Potato and Leek soup is not loved by all of humanity…I could barely read on. OK…I am being a bit melodramatic, but I do really love this soup. I believe it is a combination of its mellow flavours and some pleasant childhood memories. It might also have something to do with my deep love of potatoes. Regardless of the reason, I thought I would share my take on this winter classic with you. I find the slow roasted garlic really adds the flavour.
Creamy Potato & Leek Soup makes a lot
6 big potatoes (I generally use russet)
3 leeks, washed – white and light green parts only
3 ribs of celery, chopped
6 c. organic chicken stock
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
1 c. low-fat sour cream
1 Tbsp. flour
2 c. milk
1 head of garlic
glug of olive oil
SUGGESTED TOPPINGS to further jazz this up: sauteed pancetta, grated Gruyere cheese, a drizzle of herb-infused olive oil, diced red peppers and scallions, roasted pumpkin seeds, crumbled sausage (cooked of course) and so on and so on.
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)
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
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”