Since my handsome Mr GL started Horticulture Industries, our apartment has been slowly filling up with precious little gem he’s picked from the school garden. Huge red peppers so sweet they taste like they’ve been dipped in honey, red onions so potent your eyes water when you merely glace in their direction and carrots big enough to knock a grown man out with.
Recently, the class harvested the garden and I was the proud recipient of a massive garbage bag bulging with a kaleidoscope of colourful produce. It was one of the more exciting things I’ve seen in the last little while and I greedily dove into the bag, yanking out vegetable after vegetable, dirt coating the countertops and floors leaving clean outlines of the carrots I’d pulled out first. Never before have I been so excited by the contents of a garbage bag.
The most prized vegetable pulled from the santa-sack of goodies was the behemoth butternut squash. I’ve seen a few home-grown squash but nothing like this before. When I asked Mr. GL what they did to have such success in the garden, he claims it’s because it’s all organic. My guess is that they have secret elves that tend the garden around the clock to protect it from the squirrels, drought & heavy winds we’ve been burdened by this summer. I know I’m right.
I made these toasts with that elf-grown squash as well as an onion from the Algonquin College garden. These are perfect for a light dinner with a nice glass of wine, or as an easy appetizer that’s sure to put a smile on your Thanksgiving/Holiday season guests!
Caramelized Onion, Butternut Squash & Apple Toasts with Aged Lankkaster & Balsamic Syrup
makes 6 toasts (10-12 if using a baguette)
Aged Lankkaster is sold at The Red Apron, a gourmet food shop whose focus is on getting families back to the table by creating healthy, homemade meals delivered right to your door. Lankkaster is a local cheese, but you can buy an aged gouda if you’re unable to find it. Alternatively, a well aged cheddar would work nicely.
1 medium sized yellow or spanish onion, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter (alternatively, a 3rd tbsp of olive oil instead of butter)
1 medium sized butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
2 granny smith apples, peeled (optional) and cut into 1” chunks
1/8 tsp nutmeg, fresh ground if possible
pinch of allspice, optional
salt and pepper to taste
6 slices of light rye or whole wheat bread
1/2 cup crumbled Aged Lankkaster
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp fresh sage, thyme or rosemary, chopped (for garnish)
Heat the butter and olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. When melted, add the onions, stirring every so often, until starting to turn golden brown. 10-15 minutes. Add the diced squash, apple, nutmeg and pinch of allspice and stir into onions. Let cook until squash and apples are fork-tender, another 10-15 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt to taste.
When you’ve got about 10 minutes left, pour the balsamic vinegar into a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a low boil and let simmer until reduced by half, about 7-8 minutes. It will thicken up a touch when it cools. Drizzle the sliced bread with olive oil and toast in the oven until golden brown.
Spoon vegetable mixture over toasts, sprinkle with crumbled cheese and a drizzle of the balsamic syrup. Garnish with fresh herbs.
I realize I’m on a mad-posting binge this week. I hope you’ll forgive me for not posting like this every week going forward. It’s just been one of those months where I have so much to share with you. I don’t want you to feel left out, you know.
Today I was incredibly lucky and honoured to be able to make my television debut! How odd it sounds to say that. No, I wasn’t on the Food Network or anything like that, but I may as well have been since it was just as cool. The local news station, CTV Morning Live, asked a few weeks back if I’d ever be interested in coming on to do a cooking demo and chat about the blog. Like there was even a question of if I’d do it. I jumped at the opportunity without so much as a thought. If you’re interested in the video, it can be seen here!
Since I know everyone goes cuckoo for anything bacon related these days, it wasn’t hard for me to come to the decision that I was going to make Bacon Jam on the show. Of course, I knew people would be excited about the recipe, but I also sort of hoped that they’d be so excited that they wouldn’t notice how terribly nervous I was. I mask it well at times, but I’m paralyzingly shy in some situations. This was one of those times. I promised myself that I’d do more things that made me scared and uncomfortable this year, and this was probably the biggest one.
Nerves aside, I was so happy to be able to show you all how to make the jam at home. It’s such a wonderful recipe and yields a savoury condiment that is surpassed by none. Spoon it over eggs, or a warm baguette, stuff pork or chicken with it, serve it on the side of a cheese plate, fry up with perogies, mix with ricotta for a pasta-filling….or simply spoon into your gob as I tend to do whenever I make it. It never lasts long enough to be able to serve it with something in this house. I admit, it’s not the prettiest of foods, but what it lacks in appearance, it more than makes up for in explosive flavour. If you’re stretched for some last minute gift ideas this holiday season, it also makes a very unique gift that any bacon-lover would be thrilled to receive. Do yourself a favour and cook up a batch as soon as humanly possible. Your life isn’t complete until you’ve tried it.
And just so you have something extra delicious to serve them with, I’m going to share a recipe for Cheddar and Caramelized Onion scones. Slather the warm jam on one of these guys for a heavenly little treat.
Chipotle Bacon Jam
adapted from Homesick Texan
I’ve provided a sweet-maple variation at the bottom for those who don’t like or can’t have things too spicy. It’s uses are just as varied as the chipotle version.
You can purchase the Chipotles in Adobo in the Mexican aisle of most grocery stores or specialty Latin stores. If you can’t find them, you can use ground chipotle peppers in a pinch.
Remember when you were a kid and you used to sit at the adult table, looking on in disgust as your parents and their friends drank their smelly beer/wine, eating their odd looking food, and thinking to yourself “Ewwww, I will never eat or drink that stuff.”
That was me. I wouldn’ say I was picky, but every so often I would see or smell something that I wanted nothing to do with. Oysters, liver, kidneys, blood sausage, veal… those sorts of things. Things that typical hot-dog and chicken finger eating children are not exactly comfortable around.
Two of those things in particular are oysters and mussels. I remember watching my dad eat a big bowl of mussels once, my eyes wide as he pried them open, loosening the tiny muscusy creature inside. I’m not sure I even knew they were living until much later in life. What did I think they were? I have no idea. I never thought about it long enough to ask the question. I just wrinkled my nose, made a gagging face to my sister and took another bite of my Kraft Dinner.
It wasn’t until recently that I gave some of my most feared foods a second glance. I’ve only been really adventuous food-wise in the past couple years. So as I sat at The Whalesbone Oyster House last year, staring directly into a selection of chef-selected oysters, my mouth was not exactly watering. But, much to my delight, they were no where near what I thought they would be. They weren’t as slimy as I thought, they tasted completely different than I had imagined, and I actually, gasp, enjoyed them! I guess this means I owe my dad apologies for years and years of turned up noses.
I figured recently, that if I liked oysters, how much could I really hate mussels? It was about time I gave them a shot. So I invited my best friend over for a dinner of food I didn’t know if I would like, from an ingredient I had never cooked. Obviously, I didn’t let her in on that information until she was already over with a glass of wine in her hand.
This recipes features mussels in a broth of caramelized onions, chorizo and a Spanish wine called Rioja. The chorizo and onions pack a punch of flavour on their own, but when the wine is added, it takes it somewhere completely different. And I strongly urge you have some crusty bread at the ready to sop up all the broth at the bottom of your bowl.
I should also mention that the mussels from T&T Superstore were delicious. If you’re looking for seafood in the Ottawa area, these guys are tops.
Rioja Steamed Mussels with Caramelized Onions and Chorizo
adapted from Claire Robinson’s recipe.
Claire’s recipe calls to add the wine and mussels at the same time, but I wanted to be sure all the alcohol cooked off so you didn’t get hit with that smell or taste before anything else.
Note: while you’re cleaning the mussels, be sure to discard any that are already open. As well as any that haven’t opened in the cooking process.
2 large Chorizo links, about a pound
1 large or two medium Spanish onions, sliced or diced thin
Salt and pepper
2 lbs black mussels, cleaned and bearded
1 bottle Rioja (LCBO carries a few nice ones)
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, loosely chopped
Remove the chorizo from the casings and add to a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Cook until the fat has rendered and the meat is browned, about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the onions and let cook, stirring occasionally, until they are deep golden brown. About 10-15 minutes. Add the chorizo back to the pan and pour in the bottle of wine. Bring to a boil and let it cook for a minute or two or until the alcohol taste/smell has disappeared. Add the mussels, cover with a lid and cook until the mussels have opened, 4-5 minutes.
Serve in a big bowl, topped with parlsey and served with a hunk of bread.
And just you try not to love them. I dare you.
I WAS ON VACATION, OK?! And then my camera wasn’t working. And then and then and then…. excuses excuses. Once again, it’s been a while since we last talked. I guess we’re out of the honeymoon stage….it’s to be expected I suppose. I do still love you - I’ve just been working so hard on my itty bitty baking business [Shameless plug: NOSHfood] that I can no longer devote all of my blood, sweat and tears into our relationship. I will try to be a better life companion. I promise.
So here I am, pleading for your forgiveness in exchange for a delicious dish. It’s worth it, I guarantee.
I was going to do a butternut squash and sage risotto for dinner tonight… but I’ve already done that and I really wanted to update with a banger. Something new to sink your teeth into.