"You always have the best dinners! I wish I had the time."
I hear this so many times. So, so many times. People tend to think I eat like a king most nights of the week. Big, extravagant meals that I’ve been pouring over for hours and planned for days. Get real, guys! I don’t have the time for that, either.
The truth is, if I’m not blogging it or making it for a group of friends or family, I’m eating whatever is fast and satisfying. Many times that means eggs and toast or tabbouleh with hummus and pita. If I can find the time to make a big pot of soup over the weekend, that’s what I’m feeding on every day until it’s gone.
When Hillshire Farm approached me about creating a 15-minute meal with their sausage, I was jazzed at the task. This is, afterall, about as much time as I have on most weeknights to make myself and Allan a meal - and I jam as much flavour, colour and texture into these meals as possible so they stay interesting, nutritious and satisfying. The soup I chose to make with Hillshire’s Smoked Sausage is hearty and perfect for the season change we’re going through right now. Having a few of their sausages in the fridge has been such a treat the last few weeks - meals just come together when you’re starting with something that’s flavourful and spiced to perfection already. I’m used to adding chicken to most soups but this is way faster and convenient when you’re stretched for time.
Smokey Sausage, Kale & Sweet Potato Soup
makes 4 servings with lunch leftovers
This soup is so flexible that it works with whatever you have on hand. If you don’t love chickpeas, use cannellini, black or kidney beans. Or, take them out altogether. If you don’t like kale add swiss chard or spinach. Feel free to switch up the spices if you prefer something a bit tamer.
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
1 large sweet potato, diced small (skin on or off)
3 cups Hillshire Farm Smoked Sausage, sliced into 1” rounds or cubes
1 (19oz) can chickpeas (optional)
1 tsp paprika (sweet or smoked)
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt (more if needed)
6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
4 cups kale or spinach
feta or goat cheese, to garnish (optional)
fresh ground pepper, to garnish
Drizzle a large pot with a few glugs of olive oil and turn the heat on to medium. Add the diced onion and sweat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, sweet potato, sausage, chickpeas, spices & salt and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring once or twice. Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer. Let cook for 10-15 minutes or until sweet potato has softened. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if needed. Add the greens and stir for 1 minute. Ladle into bowls and top with cheese, if using, and fresh ground pepper.
This is a sponsored post. Hillshire Farm sponsored it and compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
I’ve been struggling through the last few weeks. Struggling to find sense and purpose in some days, feeling angry that I’m not where I thought I would be at this point in my life, crushing under the [self-induced] pressure of my late 20s (which, I know, is still very young and leaves plenty of time for change). It seems everyone is on a path these days, travelling towards their light at the end of the tunnel. Some days it feels like I’m a hamster running in a wheel. Constantly spinning, exhausted, but not going anywhere. It’s hard to remember that despite this feeling, I am on a path even if it’s not the one I intended to be on. I struggle constantly with the decision to start over. To take a giant leap into the unknown not knowing where my feet will land and what will be there to cushion my fall, if anything. Life can be so scary sometimes. But through all the nerves and anxiety, I can still hear that meager voice challenging “…but isn’t it better to be happy?” and I’m starting to feel like, yes, it probably is. To be happy and terrified, or comfortable and miserable. It’s a question that’s not so uncommon with my age group, it seems. And though the answer appears so simple, it just isn’t that easy.
I’m trying to take each day as it comes. To enjoy and embrace all the little things, as fleeting as they can sometimes feel. I’m lucky, selfish as it sounds, to have friends who are dealing with the same fears and struggles. It’s comforting to talk to someone that understands what it’s all about, how irrational and weighing those feelings can be.
Oh, the dramatics of it all. I hope I’m not the only one moaning and groaning over this – surely you’ve been (or are currently) there, too. I choose to believe you have and it brings us closer together as a result. See! That’s a nice way to look at it. You’ve always been so understanding. And to thank you for listening, I’ve prepared some Chickpea Melts. That’s right. Chickpea. Melts. A creamy, dill-pickley, slightly spicy chickpea salad schmeared over a piece of grainy bread and topped with greens, tomatoes and lots of gooey mozzarella. If that doesn’t solve all the world’s problems, or at least whatever you’re struggling with today, I don’t know what will. So go ahead, feed your problems away and smile. It could always be worse.
Spicy Chickpea Salad Melts
inspired by Madison at Mad Faux Cheese
makes 4 open-faced sandwiches
1 1/2 cups (approx. a small can) canned chickpeas
1 celery stalk, diced
1/4 red onions, diced very fine
2 tbsp Greek yogurt OR mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 large dill pickle, diced
1/2 clove garlic, minced or pressed
2 tbsp fresh minced basil
juice form 1/2 lemon (or a whole lemon if you like it tangy!)
1 tbsp sriracha (+/- depending on heat tolerance) OR 1/2 tsp (+/-) cayenne pepper
6 slices crusty multigrain bread
greens of your choice (I like torn kale)
1-2 cups shredded mozzarella (or fresh, torn mozzarella)
fresh ground pepper
Pour rinsed chickpeas into a flat, high sided dish, drizzle with a few glugs of olive oil and mash with a fork or potato masher until mixture starts to stick together. No need to be fussy, it’s even tastier when you get a whole chickpea in a bite.
Add in the celery, red onion, mayo, Dijon, pickle, garlic, basil, lemon juice, sriracha or cayenne and a good pinch of salt. Mix and taste for seasoning. Add more lemon, salt or cayenne if needed.
Preheat oven to 400.
Slice your bread, lay on a baking sheet and top each with 1/4 of the mixture. It may seem like a lot but trust me. Just trust me. Top the chickpea salad layer with some greens, a layer of tomatoes and mozzarella. Sprinkle with pepper and pop in the oven for 10 minutes until golden. If necessary, turn the oven on to broil to brown the cheese in the last minute or two.
My brains are taking a brief sabbatical today, taking time to decompress and enjoy the long weekend, but I wanted to share this recipe with you before I start melting into a sunny chair on the deck with a cold glass of riesling in hand and my best friend to my side.
I hope Sunday is treating you kindly and feeding you well.
Baba Ghanoush Bowls with Pomegranate, Mint and Mozzarella
serves 4 as a snack, 2 as a main
I make this dish every so often when I want something decadent, rich but still healthy enough. The flavours are big and bold, but mellowed with the creamy, mild mozzarella, which may seem like an odd combination, but trust me. Just trust me.
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large eggplants
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon)
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
pinch ground cumin (1/8 tsp)
fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup pomegranate perils
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup mozzarella, pulled into bite size pieces
1/2 tsp sumac, optional (gives a lovely tartness)
Toasted Pita, to serve
Preheat the oven to 450.
Prick each eggplant about 10 times all over with a fork (this helps prevent them from exploding in the oven… a mistake I’m sad to say I made a mere day ago). Rub eggplants with olive oil and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, turning every 10-15 minutes, until flesh is very tender, 45mins-1 hour.
Let sit until cool enough to handle. Scoop the flesh from the skins and place in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Scoop into a bowl and add the garlic, salt, lemon juice, paprika, cumin and a few grinds of pepper and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Spoon into 1 large serving dish or 4 personal sized ones. Can be made 1 day in advance. Keep in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
When ready to serve, distribute the pomegranate perils, almonds, mint, mozzarella and sumac among the bowls and drizzle with olive oil. Scoop up with toasted pita or naan bread.
At the start of the 2012 season at the Ottawa Farmers Market, I embarked on a fun project with them that we titled the “Farmers Feast”, in which I would receive a mystery basket of ingredients, chosen by Tara Simpson - their events coordinator, each month to create a recipe with and share with you all. It started as a bit of an experiment to see if we all enjoyed the outcome of the project and as you can imagine, we did! It was such a treat receiving a different bundle of ingredients, some I had to take a second look at as I wasn’t sure what they were, and develop a recipe using as many of them as I could. We did a full season and were thrilled to start again this year. Needless to say, we couldn’t share the farmers feast if it weren’t for all the hard working farms, artisans and producers who dedicate themselves to growing, feeding and sharing with our city. Maybe you can give them a quiet, two-finger round of applause!
A few weeks back, I went and grabbed my basket from the market. It was literally errupting with great stalks of rhubarb, leafy, emerald green garlic and ramps, thick, meaty asparagus, curly, tangled pea shoots, eggs and a big hunk of mennonite sausage (which could be my new favourite addition to a cheese plate). All of these wonderful things were tucked into a stunning hand-carved bucket with a rope handle from Les Seaux Gadi. I highly recommend checking Claude’s wares out, their uses are endless and they would look so lovely in any home.
The kind, hard-working farmers who donated goods for this first-of-the-season Farmers Feast are:
Avonmore Berry Farm - Ramps
Acorn Creek Garden Farm - Green Garlic
Bearbrook Game Meats - Mennonite Sausage
Just Farms - Asparagus
O’Grady Farms - Pea Sprouts
Needhams Garden Market - Rhubarb
Reinink Farms - Eggs
Glengarry Cheese - Big Brother cheese
Les Seaux Gadi - Bucket
The wonderful thing about spring/summer produce is that you don’t need to mess with it a lot. I decided to throw together a very rustic frittata filled with just about everything from the basket (the rhubarb I saved for something else coming soon!) and it turned out wonderfully. The pungent green garlic and ramps with the earthy asparagus and savoury sausage - everything married so well and came together with the addition of the creamy cheese. I highly suggest using these products, but understand that you’re not all located in Ottawa. So if you’re not in these neck of the woods, I hope you’ll at least take a trip to your local farmers market and seek out something similar.
This season, we’ve decided to give away some market bucks to one lucky guy or gal. Details on how to enter are below, and if your name is chosen, you’ll get to pick out one ingredient/product from one of the vendors who donated goods to this month’s basket (excluding Les Seaux Gadi).
1. Leave a comment below telling me what you would do with one (or all) of the ingredients above.
For extra entries (leave a new comment for each)
1. “Like” Ottawa Farmers Market on Facebook (1 extra entry)
2. Follow @OttawaFarmMkt on Twitter (1 extra entry)
We will pick a winner at random this coming Saturday, May 25th. And now, for the recipe.
Ramp, Green Garlic & Asparagus Frittata with Mennonite Sausage
serves 4-6, depending on appetite
2 good glugs olive or canola oil
1 cup chopped ramps (green and white parts)
2 tbsp chopped green garlic
1 1/2 cups chopped asparagus spears
1/2 cup mennonite sausage, diced
1/2 tbsp lemon zest, optional
8 large eggs
1 cup Glengarry Big Brother cheese, 1/2” cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Lemony Pea Shoots
2 cups pea shoots
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Turn the oven on to broil.
Drizzle a good 2-second pour of canola or olive oil in a pan. Turn the heat on to medium and add the chopped ramps, leeks, asparagus and sausage. Sauté until starting to soften, 5-6 minutes. While that cooks, crack the eggs into a large bowl and whisk gently until combined. Add the cheese to the egg mixture. Pour the eggs into the vegetable mixture and fold gently to combine. Let cook until almost set (the top and center will be runny still), about 4-5 minutes. Place in the oven and let broil until golden brown and puffed up, 3-4 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes, slice and serve topped with the Lemony Pea Shoots (recipe below).
For the Lemony Pea Shoots
Toss the shoots with the olive oil and lemon and top the frittata with them for some added crunch and a way to cut the richness.
[photo provided by Les Seaux Gadi]
Disclaimer: Farmers Feast is a partnership with the Ottawa Farmers Market. I am not compensated beyond the ingredients given from the market. Opinions expressed are mine.
There is something ominous lurking around.
A dirty, nasty cold/flu that seems to be knocking my friends and family out one by one. I woke yesterday with a sandpaper throat and what felt like two corks in my sinus’. Immediately I started trying to knock it out before it did me in.
Water (a lot of water), raw garlic (mashed into yogurt), oil of oregano and two full glasses of Green Juice later, and I seem to have come out victorious. I had plans to share a galette today, but in the spirit of health, I thought I’d share the recipe for the green juice that I’m adamant saved my ass from this TKO cold.
Spicy Kale Ginger Lemonade
based on Café My House's version
The ingredients are pretty rough here. Taste and adjust based on what you like best. This method is for those not lucky enough (like myself!) to have a juicer. It takes a little more time but it’s well worth it.
1 bunch kale (curly or lacinato), rough chopped
1 large apple (2 small), skin on, cored and rough chopped
Juice from 2 lemons
1/2 english cucumber, rough chopped
large handful flat-leaf parsley
2” ginger, peeled and rough chopped
1/2 - 1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 - 1 cup water
Place all ingredients in a blender with the 1/2 cup of water. Blend until everything is combined in a sludgy mess. Place a mesh strainer over a bowl and pour the contents of the blender into the strainer. Using a spoon or a potato masher (I have the best success with the masher, but it’s whatever works for you) and work the juice out of the pulp until it’s fairly dry. Taste and add more lemon if needed. Chill the juice or pour over ice and serve.
My past with food isn’t as glamorous as I sometimes wish it was. I didn’t learn to mix, knead and roll pasta with my grandmother on Sundays and I wasn’t teetering on my tip toes, nose barely reaching the counter, while my Dad taught me how to break down a chicken, sear it to a golden brown and simmer it in tomatoes and capers, olives and hot peppers. It wasn’t my reality. There are times I feel nostalgic for the stories of those whose family and food lives were wrapped around each other like a sturdy vine, but I forget that I, too, have a past in food, glamorous or not.
The older I get the more I remember the things I did learn about food from my family. They may not be the stories I longed for or the romantic ones some of my friends and peers can tell, but they were the ones that shaped me. My Dad passed along his fearlessness towards all food. Mold? Just cut it off and carry on. Leftovers there for a while? Details, details - just eat it. Expiry dates? A mere suggestion. He joked endlessly about liver and onions, terrifying my sister and I at the thought of having to join him at the table. He ate any cut, any way. If there was something on a menu that he hadn’t heard of before, there was an 80% chance it would arrive in front of him minutes later. At the time I may not have appreciated his ways with food, but theses days I embrace them. He made me a fearless eater, never one to turn anything down, never afraid to try anything at least once. Especially creamy, mayonnaise-filled items like chicken salad, egg salad, any kind of canned meat… I was my fathers daughter and it made me proud to say that I liked what he liked.
Years later, when it was just my mom and I living in her place, I learned how to cook the first meals I made for my friends and first real boyfriend. Meaty spaghetti sauces studded with big hunks of tomato (something that made my sister squirm in disgust), tomato soup jazzed up with a hit of Worcestershire sauce, tabasco and melted cheese slice that I still crave today when I’m under the weather, dreamy whipped mashed potatoes that I can still claim as the best I’ve ever had and still make today, much to Al and my friend’s delight. She taught me that cooking for people made them feel special and showed them how much you cared for them. It was a high I still haven’t come down from despite not getting into cooking until I was about 24. Sunday dinners at her place brought us all together so we could slow down, laugh hysterically and tell our stories from the week. I still relish her cooking and it always makes me feel important and loved when she cooks for us.
My best friend, Amanda, is Lebanese. She comes from the kind of food background that I’ve always longed for. Her mother cooks everything from scratch. When I used to go there, back when I was only just learning to love cooking, I remember seeing hot peppers from her garden drying on the window sill. Amanda explained that she would grind them and use that as seasoning in her dishes. That nearly blew my mind. Do people do that? Don’t spices come from a clear jar with a sage-green lid in the spice aisle? She would feed us labneh, a soft cheese made with strained yogurt (also homemade) and I would sit, bewildered at her dedication to feeding her family ingredients that she pulled from the garden or created from a few humble items in her fridge. Her cooking is a nudge to her past, rich with tradition and memories of Lebanon. I remember Amanda always felt a bit weird about her entirely ethnic lunches (at least to suburban kids who ate french fries or peanut butter sandwiches for lunch), and I would be lying if I said we weren’t all a bit put off by them in the high school cafeteria, but those are the meals I now hope I can feed my kids someday. Meals rich in culture and tradition, meals that have a past and a story to them. Meals and ingredients that I made with my two hands. Ones that I might even be able to say Mary Melhem, your Aunt Amanda’s mom, taught me about when I was just a bratty 10th grader.
All of these stories shaped the way I cook, the way I eat and my relationship with food. Though I longed for more then, I realize now that I couldn’t want for any more. Fearlessness and an open mind, the knowledge that cooking equates to loving and that making a meal for someone is the best way to show them you care, and a dedication to create meals from scratch for my family and share the tradition and stories behind them.
Egg salad always reminds me of my Dad. He liked his creamy and mayonnaise-filled (expired or not) and studded with green olives. I haven’t eaten egg salad in a long time but when I do, I prefer mine a touch healthier and with plenty of flavour from tarragon, pickled celery and hot sauce. I still thought of him as I spread it thick on bread and took a monstrous bite as the salad pushed out the sides like toothpaste.
Healthier Egg Salad with Pickled Celery and Tarragon
makes 4 sandwiches
Though this recipe is mostly mine, I did use Smitten Kitchen's idea of picking the celery. This adds such a welcome kick of sour bite to the salad without having to bite down on a pickle. Unless you're into that sort of thing, in which case - add a few pickles diced really tiny.
Hard boiled egg method courtesy of 101Cookbooks. Follow it to the tee and you’ll have perfect eggs every time.
1/4 cup (2 stalks) celery, diced
1/2 cup pickle brine (from dill pickles, sweet gherkins, pickled jalapenos)
6 hard boiled eggs, method follows
2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp fresh tarragon, minced
1 tbsp Tabasco sauce (or favourite hot sauce)
1 tsp dijon
1 tbsp caper berries (2 tbsp if you really like them)
1/2 tsp salt
plenty of fresh ground pepper to taste
sliced whole wheat bread
romaine, kale or greens of your choice
Place the diced celery in a pickle brine of your choice. I used jalapeno because I wanted that spicy kick. Let it sit in the brine for at least 45 minutes up to overnight.
Have a bowl of ice water ready. Place your eggs in a pot and cover by 1-2” with cold water. Bring to a gentle boil, turn off the heat, cover and let them sit for exactly 7 minutes. Plunge into the ice water and let cool for at least 3 minutes to stop the cooking process.
Peel the eggs, place in a big bowl with the celery, greek yogurt, tarragon, Tabasco, dijon, capers lots of pepper and salt. Mash everything together, paying most attention to the eggs, until you’re left with a well combined, coarse textured salad. Taste and adjust to your liking. Spread a nice, thick layer onto bread and top with greens of your choice. Place the second slice of bread on top and take a big, messy bite.
Was your childhood ripe with tradition and history in food or did you have a past similar to mine?
I keep coming here with the intention to write a big long spiel about stuff and things and life… and then I get here and just stare at the page, pick at my cuticles, sigh heavily, and walk away.
I’m not sure if it’s a result of a busy few weeks or if I’m actually just getting really boring. I’m hoping it’s the former, because my cuticles are pretty ravaged. The thing about writers block is that it doesn’t just go away… at least not in my case. I tend to just write through it despite not having all that much to say. This isn’t always beneficial when you have readers who expect a certain caliber of writing… so I apologize in advance for the lack of intelligent thoughts, but I promise that block or no block, I’ll always share recipes that make up my shortcomings.
So, like, you know… here are some falafel. They are really good. So good that I ate about 6 of them in one sitting, popping them into my mouth like they were grapes. The creamy, citrus-spiked buttermilk and avocado dressing, which has all the texture of a decadent dressing but is relatively healthy if you’re not afraid of good fat, was perfect with the earthy, herbed falafel. I dunked them into the dressing and enjoyed them as simply as that. But you can absolutely stuff them into a pita or a lettuce wrapped filled with your favourite produce, herbs and sauces.
So make a batch this weekend. And have an intelligent conversation on my behalf, because I will probably be fumbling over my words for a few more days.
Almond Mint & Arugula Falafel with Lemony Avocado Buttermilk
recipe adapted from Green Kitchen Stories
makes 1 dozen falafel
1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
2 cups loosely packed arugula leaves
1 cup toasted almonds
2 cups canned chickpeas
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ small red onion, diced
pinch red pepper flakes, optional
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp flour (whole wheat works!)
1 tsp baking powder
Creamy Buttermilk-Avocado Dressing, recipe follows
Lemon wedges, to serve
Place the herbs and almonds in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until herbs and chopped and almonds are almost ground, a little texture is good.
Add the chickpeas, garlic, red onion, red pepper flakes, olive oil, cumin, flour and baking powder to the bowl and blend until well combined. It’s ok to have some texture and chunks of herbs/chickpeas/onion etc. No need to be TOO picky.
Preheat oven to 350.
Roll about 1 1/2 tbsp scoops into an oval shaped ball and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cook for 15 minutes, turning every 5 minutes so they brown evenly on all sides.
Serve on their own with the dressing, or stuff into pita or lettuce wraps with tomatoes, extra herbs, dressing and extra avocado. Serve with extra lemon wedges on the side.
Creamy Buttermilk-Avocado Dressing
1-2 tbsp lemon juice, depending on taste
1/4-1/3 cup buttermilk
salt and pepper to taste
Add all ingredients to food processor and blend until smooth. Add a bit of water (or more buttermilk) to thin, if needed. Taste and add more salt or lemon, if needed.
I always imagine what chef’s and other food writers eat when no one is looking, when their fridges are almost empty save for a bit of produce and pantry basics. In my mind, they use these few ingredients to whip up extravagant dishes, the way MacGyver might tunnel his way out of a sticky situation with nothing but a paperclip and coffee spoon.
After interviewing a few chefs for other publications and learning that the meals they have once their aprons come off are less than gourmet, I realize that maybe I’m not alone in my pursuit for simple, but satisfying meals when the rare downtime happens. Eggs typically play a primary role in most of my quick meals, but while I was prepping to make lunch last week and realized the fridge was egg-less, I felt a little panic in the pit of my gut. What does one DO without eggs?! A thought I’m rarely faced with. I peered into the crisper and saw the bundle of broccoli rabe I’d purchased a few days ago and figured that, some greenhouse cherry tomatoes and a few leftover anchovies would have to suffice. What I didn’t realize was that this meal would become one of my favourites to date. The salty, rich anchovy butter, spicy-sweet tomato jam and bitter rabe make for a a mouth explosion I really wasn’t expecting. I’ve made it twice since and it’s still not let me down. This is one for the books and I hope you agree!
Anchovy Butter Toast with Spicy Tomato Jam & Broccoli Rabe
serves 4 as an appetizer or snack
I used a white country loaf because I had it on hand, but Rye bread would be a nice substitution, too!
4 thick slices of crusty country bread
2 tbsp Anchovy Butter, recipe follows
4 tbsp Spicy Tomato Jam, recipe follows
1/2lb garlicky broccoli rabe, recipe follows
Fresh ground pepper
Parmesan cheese, shaved into big pieces (optional)
Preheat oven to 400.
Spread 1/2 tbsp anchovy butter on each slice of bread. Top with tomato jam. Place on a baking sheet and bake until bread is crisp and golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and top with rabe.
Top with fresh ground pepper and Parmesan shreds.
3 anchovy filets (packed in oil), strained
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
In a food processor, add the anchovies and give it a couple whirls so they break down. Add the butter and blend until anchovy is well incorporated into the butter. Keep at room temperature until you’re done with this recipe, and then put it in the fridge for anytime you want a salty, savory bite.
Spicy Tomato Jam
3 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups grape/cherry tomatoes
generous pinch red pepper flakes
salt, to taste
drizzle of honey
Add the olive oil and tomatoes to a heavy pot over med-high heat. Cook until tomatoes start releasing their juice and slumping down into a sauce-like consistency. Add the red pepper flakes, salt and a squeeze of honey and let cook until the sauces reduce and it’s slightly thickened., 10 minutes. Spoon into a sealable jar and set aside for toast. The rest will keep in the fridge for a week or two (and makes a great accompaniment for eggs - surprise, surprise!).
Garlicky Broccoli Rabe
1/2lb broccoli rabe (rapini, broccolini)
1 clove garlic
salt, to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Trim the thick ends of the rabe off and cut into small tree-like piece. Plunge them into the boiling water for 30 seconds, remove and drain.
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, cook for 30 seconds. Add the drained rabe and toss until fragrant and bright.
I’m sorry… did I go to Mexico or was that just a sublime delusion?
I blinked and it was over. Days on days of burying my nose in My Berlin Kitchen, romancing over a life that wasn’t nearly mine, sipping piquante bloody mary’s or mojitos while observing a motley crew of intensely-hued tropical fish swim circles around my ever-browning toes, kissing dolphins on the nose (which made me squeal in an octave I’m not sure has been identified by humans yet), standing still while spider monkeys crawled around my head, tangling sesame seed shells into my salt-crusted hair, sipping mimosas while kayaking around a lagoon and yelping that the electric-coloured crabs would jump 6 feet to our boat (unlikely…I realize) and finishing each evening recounting our day over red wine and Jacuzzi baths (guys. seriously. the Cadillac of Jacuzzi tubs sat a mere two feet from our bed). It was a trip not filled with much culture or adventure, but one rich in relaxation, time together reconnecting, and plenty…PLENTY…of sub-par dining options. As most resorts tend to excel in.
On our last day, I started thinking of what I would cook when I came home. I needed something rich in colour, vegetables and zingy, bright flavour (everything we ate was rich and salty….but not balanced with any sort of citrus or acid). I spent much time during our week away immersed in the Donna Hay Magazine spring issue. Every recipe had my mouth literally puckering and drooling like a toddler, and I anxiously dog-earred pages, knowing full well that the second I got home, I would drop my bags and sprint as fast as I could to the nearest store for produce and ingredients to make these dishes my reality. I returned home the day before my birthday and while most wishes I received directed me to have someone else cook for me on my day, the only thing I was wishing for was to have my feet planted firmly in front of my cutting board; chopping, whisking, marinating, searing… the words I’d missed so genuinely that had been replaced with “room service” and “buffet” and “Me gustaría pedir…”. I love my kitchen. It is heart and home as much as my bed, my Allan, my animals.
This dish is vastly different than the one in the magazine in preparation. The ingredients are identical, but because I bought flank instead of rump, I decided to marinate it in the coconut mixture that was only used to soak peanuts and cook broccoli in the original. It produced a savoury, rich marinate AND sauce for the dish that I can’t wait to experiment with again. I hope you enjoy making it as much as eating it, and relish in the act of chopping and searing, as I did.
Coconut Flank & Broccoli Salad with Peanuts and Basil
adapted from Donna Hay Magazine
1 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp fish sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
2lb flank steak, trimmed of excess fat
1/2 cup peanuts, roasted & unsalted
4 cups thinly sliced broccoli florets (or broccolini)
1/3 cup basil leaves
In a large sealable container (or zip bag), add the coconut milk, brown sugar, fish sauce, soy, lime and oil. Stir to combine and tuck the flank steak into the mixture. Seal, chill and marinate 3 hours, up to overnight.
Place a large cast iron skillet or grill-pan over high heat with a bit of neutral oil (veg or peanut) in it. Remove the flank from the marinate, shaking to remove excess marinade, and place on the pan for 4-5 minutes on each side for medium-rare. I don’t recommend cooking past med-rare as flank tends to get tough if over cooked. Remove and wrap in tin foil to rest.
Pour leftover marinade and peanuts into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and add the broccoli and toss around a bit. Cover and cook just until bright green but still crunchy in the center, 2 minutes. Remove and set aside. Let coconut marinade continue to simmer until reduced and deep brown. It should coat the back of a spoon.
Slice flank into very thin slices, cutting against the grain, and at a slight diagonal so that the slices are wide. Toss the meat with the broccoli and thickened coconut and peanut mixture, taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. Spoon onto a platter or serving dishes and top with basil leaves and extra lime wedges. I serve with lots of spicy Sriracha as it tends to go well with these flavours.
To stretch the dish out and provide something a bit more filling, serve with rice or rice noodles.
This is my last post before I head to Riviera Maya, Mexico with my handsome man for a week of bun-sunning, toes-in-sanding, coconut-drinking, hammock-laying and maybe some tequila-drinking (FYI: “Maybe” means “absolutely, definitely, 100% a lot of tequila drinking”). We head there tomorrow morning and I haven’t quite had a chance to get excited yet because work and life have been so incredibly packed with things to do. I won’t keep you long, but I wanted to share this recipe with you before I go. And I really hope you’ll make it while I’m gone and maybe, if it’s not too much to ask, take a picture and send it to me so I can look at it and remember how much I love and miss you all (ok, I’m only going for a week which isn’t long AT ALL, but still, guys. Just do it, ok!?)
This stew is ridiculously simple. Nothing but a few pantry items involved, but I will insist that you buy really good quality fresh chorizo. That’s the flavour-maker in this stew and it needs to be a product that’s made with big, powerful flavors that haven’t been sitting around in packaging for weeks (or months). If you can’t find a high quality chorizo, than I’d suggest going with another high quality sausage of your choosing (an Italian would be lovely here – especially if you can find a good spicy one). As well, a good homemade stock, or at least one you’d be willing to sip on its own, makes a big difference in the overall flavour of the soup. Because the ingredients are so few, finding the best ones becomes paramount for an impeccable finished product. The creamy white beans, bold crumbly sausage and savoury broth swimming with onions will melt you right to your core.
I was feeling slightly under the weather (err… hungover) last Sunday and this stew got me right back on track. Warmed my tummy, filled my body with nourishment, and the fattiness from the sausage never hurts a hangover now, does it? Short of a super spicy Bloody Caesar, this might be the next best hangover cure!
Chorizo and White Bean Stew
adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves 2-4 depending on how hungry your tummies are
I used Seed to Sausage chorizo in this dish and highly recommend you do the same if you’re able to find it in your grocer/market. And if you can find it at your market, I suggest you stock up on EVERYTHING because once you taste it, you’ll want to try everything Michael McKenzie and his crack team of butchers and chefs puts out. It’s just that good.
1lb fresh Chorizo
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed well
2 cups good quality chicken stock
1/2 tsp Smoked paprika (more if desired)
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
4 big handfuls of baby spinach
Drizzle about 1 tbsp of oil into a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and let it cook to a golden brown on all sides and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove the sausage to a plate. Turn the heat down a touch to medium and add the onion. Cook until golden brown, 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for another minutes. Add the beans, stock, paprika and a few pinches of salt and fresh ground pepper. Use the back of your spoon to crush some of the beans and thicken the stew slightly (option, but gives nice texture). Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Slice the sausage into bite-sized chunks while the stew cooks. Remove from heat, fold in the spinach and sausage until spinach is just wilted. Spoon into bowls and drizzle with moe olive oil and a sprinkle of smoked paprika.
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