Hi there. I was going to write a sentimental post about how much I loved my girl’s weekend away on the island but, for those of you who know me and those of you who can make an educated guess, that goes without saying. Instead, I am going to tell you about this fantastic dish we concocted to go along with some steamed halibut….
Stir-fried Eggplant and Bok Choy with Miso and Walnuts
(entirely bastardized from Ottolenghi’s recipe which you can find here)
2 Tbsp white miso
1/2 c. veggie stock or dash
1 Tbsp mirin
1 Tbsp soya sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp sake (I used Chinese cooking sherry in a pinch) – this is optional
2 Tbsp sunflower oil (could use canola here, I am sure)
6 baby bok choy separated into leaves, rinsed well and patted dry
1 Tbsp frech ginger (read ahead – you will need some for the garnish too)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 large shallots, diced
1/8 c walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1/2 cucumber, seeded and cut into matchstick pieces
3 spring onions, cut into thin strips and then placed in ice water (they get very crispy and curly)
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.
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?
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”
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, 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)
As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I am attempting to cook more vegetarian dishes (good for us, good for the earth). My traditional hesitation in abandoning meat is the concern that the dish won’t be filling enough; that we will all be left wanting more.
This dish easily addressed my concerns. The combination of the earthy taste of the mushrooms, the rich and creamy cheese and the hearty gnocchi was both delicious and hearty enough to satisfy. Again, it is a very simple dish…good for weeknight cooking.
Gnocchi With Mushrooms, Sage and Parmesan
1 lb of mixed mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and sliced
1 Tsp. butter
glug of olive oil
small bunch of sage leaves, ripped up into pieces
1/2 c. chicken stock
1/2 c. cream
1 package of gnocchi
1/2 c. grated Parmesan
small handful of toasted pumpkin seeds (optional, but really great if you have them)
This dish is a like a nicely tailored suit….versatile and easy, with a touch of elegance. I served this with Chicken Marsala with Gorgonzola but I have also used it as an accompaniment for roasts (lamb, beef and pork). I try to choose the herbs I use to compliment the main dish I am serving it with.
Braised Potatoes with Herbs
2 lb of potatoes…I prefer fingerlings for this dish, but you could use any type of waxy potatoes
2 Tbsp. butter, divided
several springs of fresh herbs…(in this case, I used thyme to compliment the chicken, but you could use rosemary, parsley, oregano or a combination thereof) plus 1/2 tsp. of chopped herbs
Do you recall the “5 a day” campaign, which set out to encourage us to get at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day? After consulting the Canadian Food Guide, I discovered that the recommended daily servings of fruit and vegetables has been increased to an average of 8 servings per day (depending on gender and age). We all have the best of intentions in meeting these goals but sometimes it’s not that easy.
I often turn to stirfrys and curries to sneak in all of the vegetables my family needs. They are quick, easy and adaptable which is ideal for weeknight cooking. Feel free to alter recipe this in any way you see fit…a few suggestions would be to swap out the asparagus for green beans (which are in season right now) or add some mushrooms. The idea is that this recipe caters to whatever is in your vegetable crisper at the moment.
Chicken & Prawn Stirfry with Black Bean Sauce
The whole idea of this dish (aside from the veggies) is for it to be quick. Therefore, I turn to purchased black bean sauce. My favourite comes from our local farmer’s market but there are several good ones out there. In fact, you should let me know your preference, as the farmer’s market season is coming to an end in October and I will have to find a new source.
Glug of canola oil
1 tsp. sesame oil (can be eliminated if you don’t have it on hand…it simply adds a bit more flavour)
2 large chicken breasts (skinless)
However many prawns you feel like peeling
1 large crown of broccoli
1 bell pepper…yellow or orange are great for visual appeal
1 bunch of asparagus, washed and trimmed
1 c. (250 ml) of your favourite black bean sauce
1/2 c. grated carrot
1 bunch of scallions, white and light green parts only