Heart & Home [Coconut Flank & Broccoli Salad with Peanuts and Basil]
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.
Get your vegetables out of here! [Beef Shoulder and Black Bean Chili stuffed Baked Potatoes]
I’m not crazy about chili. I don’t know why, but it’s not something that sets me off the way it seems to everyone else. Granted, I’ve been served plenty of chili that’s bland and flavorless, under-seasoned and made with pre-ground meat that doesn’t offer the tender, beefy texture a real chili should have.
While I’m sure some of you swear by the addition of a whole crispers worth of vegetables, lots of beans, tomatoes and grains (you healthy buggers!), I’m just not there with you. Chili is meat. Meat, a pantheon of fresh ground spices, beer, coffee, golden brown onions and one type of bean, if any. I like it pure, untarnished by outside flavours, rich and filled with chunks of slow-braised beef shoulder. And if one bite of celery, or god-forbid KALE, gets in the way of my meat, I’ll be none too impressed. Vegetables have their place and time and dagnabbit, it’s not in my chili!
This recipe is chili the way I like it. It’s deep brick red in colour, impossibly rich and creamy and rather than a full crisper, it packs almost a whole spice cabinet’s worth of flavour. The chocolate may seem off if you haven’t added it to your chili before, but it gives the it a creaminess and richness that will explode your world.
Stuffing this chili goodness into a baked potato isn’t totally necessary, but it IS totally delicious and makes the meal a little rounder. If you prefer the chili on it’s own, I guess I can accept that.As long as you promise to pile it extra high with toppings. I’ll sleep better at night knowing that.
Beef Shoulder and Black Bean Chili stuffed Baked Potatoes
Fresh spices make a world of difference in the flavour department here, but if you’ve only got pre-ground that’s perfectly fine, too.
3lbs well-trimmed beef shoulder (blade steaks/chuck roast), cut into 1/2” cubes
2 tbsp flour
salt & pepper
2 large onions, diced
5 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
2 tbsp dried oregano
3 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp (or less) ground chili pequín or cayenne pepper
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup strong brewed coffee or espresso
1 330ml bottle stout
1 cup beef stock or water
2 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 can black beans, rinsed and pureedor whole (optional)
2-4 tbsp favourite hot sauce
Manchego, Old Cheddar, or Sovrano cheese
Thin-sliced green onions/chives
Sour cream or Yogurt
Minced red onion
Extra hot sauce
Set a dutch oven or large heavy-bottom pot over med-high heat and add a few turns of canola oil. In two batches, toss cubes of beef with flour and a few pinches each of salt and pepper and throw into the hot pot. Let beef brown all over, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate.
Once meat is all browned and removed from the pot, add another drizzle of oil and the onions. Cook until nice and golden, 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add all the spiced and the tomato paste and cook until paste is caramelized, 10-12 minutes. It will be extremely fragrant at this point (which is a really, really good thing!). Add the meat back to the pot with the coffee, beer and stock (or water) and chocolate. Bring to a boil scraping the stuck-on flavour at the bottom of the pot. Add the black beans and hot sauce and turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook for 3 hours or until beef is extremely tender. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if needed.
If you’re stuffing baked potatoes; Preheat oven to 375 and wrap 4 russets in foil one hour before chili is finished. Pop into the oven and forget about them for an hour or until a fork goes easily through the potato. Cut the tops off, scoop out a little of the fluffy potato goodness and stuff those suckers with plenty of Chili.
A Shift in Comfort [Chermoula Chicken with Toasted Almond Couscous & Coriander Yogurt]
And just like that, winter came. And liked us so much it decided to stay for 4 long months.
As the nipping air blows into town and we wrap our bones in layers over layers like flaky croissant dough around a piece of rich Swiss chocolate, I find myself feeling a constant power struggle in the kitchen. Comfort vs. Health. Does there need to be such a decision? Can’t we have it all?
The short answer is yes! We can! But there needs to be a bit of a shift in the way you prepare and buy ingredients for your favourite comfort foods. If you love macaroni and cheese, add the cheese to a pureed cauliflower or squash base instead of the classic butter-filled bechamel and use whole wheat pasta. Take time to learn how to adjust your seasoning with herbs and spices instead of salt. It’s not only healthier, but you really learn how to use all those little jars collecting dust on the shelf. Love a gooey lasagna? Try using thin slices of eggplant to replace the noodles, or place a spoonful of meat sauce at the end of an eggplant slice and roll it up like cannelloni There are so many simple ways to make the dishes we crave most when the temperature drops just a little bit healthier, we just need to be a bit more mindful of how we shop and what goes into our meals.
The dish I’m sharing today might not bring visions of couch-snuggling, wine drinking or cozy evening movie-watching to mind initially, but to me it’s as quintessentially comforting as a bowl of noodles and broth. The couscous with toasted almonds is surprisingly satisfying, the fiery chicken with it’s array of warm spices can take the chill out of any frigid evening, and the cooling coriander yogurt really brings everything together. All of these flavours of lemon, yogurt, coriander, paprika and cumin compliment each other so wonderfully your mouth won’t even realize you’re eating something packed with nutrition. I chopped up all the leftovers and tossed them together in a salad for lunch that I just happen to be eating RIGHT NOW. And let me tell you, if it tasted good the first day, you’re going to be blown away by day 2! And it’s lovely cold, as well.
Invite a few close friends over and serve this up family-style over the holidays. It’s a meal that’s meant to be shared and enjoyed together. And since you’ve already saved yourself a few calories, why not have an extra glass of wine with dinner? Live a little! I give you my permission.
Chermoula Chicken with Toasted Almond Couscous & Coriander Yogurt
adapted from Fork Magazine
6 sweet red peppers (if you can find the long skinny ones, those are best)
6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
For the Coriander Yogurt
1/2 cup coriander (cilantro), minced
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
Juice + zest of 1 lemon
salt, to taste
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
Stir all ingredients until combined. Taste for seasoning and add more if needed. Place in the fridge until ready to eat. Can be made 1 day in advance.
For the Chermoula spice:
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp whole cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 small red chilli, chopped & seeds removed (substitute: ½ tsp cayenne pepper)
1 small bunch of coriander, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
Place all ingredients in a bullet or food processor and blend until smooth. Can be made a few days in advance and kept in the fridge until ready.
For the couscous:
3 cups cooked couscous
1 cup toasted almond flakes or slivers
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt & pepper, to taste
Stir all ingredients except for salt and pepper. Add a few pinches of salt and fresh ground pepper and taste. Add more if needed. Keep warm in a pot over low-heat on the stove, stirring every so often.
For the Chicken and Peppers:
In a large container with lid (or a food-storage bag), add the chicken and Chermoula spice. Squish around until the chicken is coated and place in the fridge for 3 hours up to overnight. The longer you leave it, the better the flavour the chicken will have.
Bring a grill pan or cast-iron skillet with a couple glugs of vegetable oil to high heat until sizzling. Add the chicken and cook for 6 minutes on each side or until juices run clear. Keep the pan on the stove and remove the chicken to a plate to rest for a few minutes. Place the whole peppers, 3 at a time, on the pan and let the skin blacken and blister slightly, 3-4 minutes. Flip and let the other side blister. Alternatively, you can move your oven rack to the top ledge and cook the peppers under the broiler. Remove and slice the peppers into thin strips and place them in a serving bowl.
Pour the couscous onto a large serving dish. Sliced the chicken and serve over the couscous. Serve with Coriander Yogurt and Grilled Peppers.
Hangover Hero [Braised Brisket Ragu with Penne]
While many of you are spending your weekends busily cleaning house, running errands, driving kids from ballet to soccer, studying, working overtime or catching up on your reading, I’m suffering through a hangover from an overindulgent night spent with the best of friends. Or so was the case last weekend.
We celebrated the inaugural issue of Herd Magazine, for which I contributed to, last weekend and soon after found our bellies pressed against the bar at Union Local 613, downing bourbon-lemonades and stuffing our faces with the world’s most delicious deviled eggs (yes, I mean this with all my heart. Best in the world. More on Union here).
I awoke Saturday morning feeling foggy, bones aching and head pounding. We’d invited some friends over for dinner that evening and though my current state made me question my commitment, my want to see them far outweighed my squeamish gut. I just had to make a meal that would do all the work for me while I recovered tucked between my wrinkled sheets and cozy comforter.
Slowly simmered beef brisket forgotten in the oven for a few hours turns a tough slab of meat into a rich, flavourful ragu suitable to top any pasta, potato or bun you have on hand. Throw a few simple ingredients into a stock pot, cook for 2 hours while you rest (or while you’re being responsible and tackling things that need to get done… either way) , and all that’s left for you to do is figure out what you want to blanket this sauce over. My weapon of choice was some penne, because we already had it, Parmesan cheese, olive oil and a bit of basil. Who looks like a hero and gets to enjoy the company of good friends and a hearty meal after sleeping all day? This guy. There’s still time for you to be a hero today, too! Get to it.
Braised Beef Ragu with Penne
adapted from Donna Hay
4-5 lb beef brisket
2 tbsp all purpose flour
3 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow or brown onion, halved & sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups stock, beef or chicken
1 cup water
1 lg can whole plum tomatoes
3-4 bay leaves
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp honey or raw sugar
1 lb penne or other shortcut pasta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn
good quality olive oil
red pepper flakes
Preheat oven to 350.
Cut the brisket into 4 pieces. Warm 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a heavy saucepan (with a fitted lid) over med-high until sizzling. Toss the beef with the flour and after shaking off excess, brown pieces 2 at a time in the pan until browned on both sides, 2-3 minutes per side. Set aside. Add the other 2 tbsp olive oil and the onion to the pan and cook until just starting to brown. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the red wine, scraping all the bits stuck to the pan up, and cook until liquid has reduced by half. Add the stock, water, bay leaves, tomatoes (break them up with your hands as you add them in), tomato paste and honey/sugar. Stir to combine and add the beef back. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for 2 hours, until beef is easily shredded with fork in the preheated oven. Remove the lid and cook for another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and shred the meat using 2 forks.
With 20 minutes left, cook the pasta until al dente according to package instructions. Serve the ragu over pasta and finish with parmesan, basil and olive oil. Add red pepper flakes if you like a little spicy kick.
Last Sigh of Summer | Farmers Feast #4 [Propeller ESB & Chipotle Braised Lamb Shank Tostadas]
I’m a season pusher. The crazy person wearing a wool sweater and heavy boots the second the mercury drops below 20 degrees. If it could be between +5 and +15 all year round, I’d be pleased as flaky apple pie (you know, because it would be apple season year round!)
I’m ready for fall and tired of summer. Tired of being a sweaty mess wherever I show up. Totally over wearing shorts and tank tops. Exhausted from one too many nights spent awake misting ourselves to cool down. Ready for a change - boots, sweaters, mittens and cold noses. Wrapping fingers around hot mugs of tea, pulling out the quilt we regretfully tuck into the wooden trunk each spring, longer, tighter hugs and the unmistakable sound of leaves crunching beneath feet.
It’s not all bad, though. I swear I’m not a total curmudgeon and I definitely will miss certain aspects of summer. Sitting on the balcony late into the night under the cover of winding bean vines, spending my lunch hour reading on the patio at work, dangling my toes in the water while I sip sangria at Mr. GL’s parents, sheets drying in the sun, but mostly I’ll miss the food. Terribly so. Fresh produce from the market, eating salsa that’s still warm from the just-picked tomatoes, the way a cucumber tastes when it’s plucked right from the plant, bright flavours and citrus-heavy crudo. Those are the things I find myself nostalgic for during the dark winter months.
As I perused the Farmers Feast basket this month, packed with vibrant yellow beans, lamb shanks and a metric tonne of fragrant shisito peppers (among other things), my mind started moving in the direction of a curry. Something comforting and heavy. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to stretch the days of summer and cook the way I have been the last three months. So I made myself a compromise. I could do a heavy braise so long as the flavours were balanced out with something light and citrusy. And you know my penchance for anything taco/burrito/tostada related, right? I’d pretty much trample my own mother for a bite of a taco. Don’t tell her! (Sorry Deb!). It wasn’t long before I was braising the lamb in a savoury mix of extra special bitter beer and Chipotle while zipping up a sweet and spicy salsa.
As usual, I was blown away by the incredible ingredients that came in the basket. Many, many thanks to the Farmers who provided this month’s feast & the Ottawa Farmers Market;
Yellow beans – Just Farms
Ground Cherries – Needhams
Lamb – Stevenson Farm
Amber Mustard – Somerford & Hall
Peppers & Eggplants – Roots Down Organic Farm
Propeller ESB & Chipotle Braised Lamb Shank Tostadas with Roasted Shisito, Tomatillo & Ground Cherry Salsa
makes 4 tostadas
I used Propeller ESB because it’s Canadian and because I love it. You can use whatever ESB is available to you, but if you can find Propeller in your city, I highly recommend it!
Chipotle in Adobo can be found in the Mexican section of most grocery stores. They’re usually tucked in with the pickled jalapenos/refried beans. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also make your own at home.
Braised Lamb Shanks
2 lamb shanks (about 2-3lbs together)
1/2 bottle Extra Special Bitter beer
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tbsp amber-ale mustard (something on the milder side)
1 canned Chipotle (in adobo) + 2 tbsp adobo sauce
salt and pepper
Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat and drizzle in a tsp or two of oil oil (enough to coat the pan). Pat the shanks dry and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, place the shanks in the pan and brown on all sides (2 minutes per side). Take your time here, getting good colour on the shanks ensures the best flavour.
Preheat oven to 325.
In small bowl, mix the beer, adobo, orange juice and a pinch or two of salt. Place the browned shanks in a roasting pan and cover with the braising liquid. Cover in foil and secure it tightly around the edges so no steam escapes.
Place in the oven and braise for 2 hours or until meat pulls away from the bone really easily.
Remove shanks and meat and set aside. Skin fat from the braising liquid and poor into a sauce pot. Bring to a boil and let reduce, stirring frequently, until sauce coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat.
Use aa fork to shred the meat from the shank and place in a big bowl. Poor the reduced sauce, a little at a time, over the shredded meat and toss to coat. You might have left over sauce - feel free to serve that on the side.
Roasted Shisito, Tomatillo & Ground Cherry Salsa
Makes 1 1/2 cups
If you’re unable to find shisitos, a sweet Japanese pepper, feel free to simply add another jalapeno or milder pepper of your choice. Perhaps a cubanelle.
3 shisito peppers, cut in half, seeded/deveined
1 jalapeno pepper, cut in half, seeded/deveined
1 1/2 cups tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed well
3/4 cup ground cherries, husks removed and rinse well
1/2 small red onion, rough chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
juice from 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp sugar
Turn oven on to broil.
Cut tomatillos in half . Place Shisito, Jalapeno and Tomatillos on a baking sheet (skin side up) and place under broiler for 1-2 minutes until skins blister and start to get charred. Remove from the oven and dump into the food processor along with the cherries, onion, garlic, cilantro, lime, sugar and a pinch or two of salt. Process in quick pulses so it still has some texture to it. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.
4 corn tortillas
Sour cream/Mexican Crema
Manchego or Feta
pickled pepper rounds
In a dry pan over high heat, place one tortilla at a time and let it bubble and brown on each side (about 30 seconds per side).
Place a crispy tortilla on each plate and top with lamb, salsa, sour cream, cilantro, cheese and a squeeze of lime. Take a quick second to say a thanks to the hard working farmers who made this food possible, and then dive in!
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 and mine alone.
Humble Comforts [Roasted Tomato & Carrot Soup with Mozzarella-Thyme Croutons]
Isn’t it remarkable that a certain smell or taste can instantly whisk you away to a time tucked deep in the cobwebbed nooks of your memory? One bite and you’re somewhere else, summoning thoughts and feelings as thought you’re right there, living through them again. Food is a wondrous thing, and the memories and traditions we craft around the table and share with friends, family and guests can stick with us for a lifetime.
Grilled cheese and tomato soup is a meal that, for myself and many of my peers, beckons childhood memories of warmth and comfort. Lowly Kraft singles, oozing from between two crispy, butter-slicked slices of Wonder bread like lava, dunked into a once-gelatinous bowl of Campbell’s Cream of Tomato Soup. That is my childhood on a plate. It fondly greeted me at many lunchtimes and was the answer to far too many “what should we have for dinner?” queries growing up (if you’re asking my mom, that is. We were quite happy to eat it any time of any day). It’s a meal that takes me back to lunches shared with my sister over our antique kitchen table, both laughing so hard we could hardly eat and ultimately ending in my parents “turning on the timer” (if you didn’t finish eating before the timer went off, you had to go to bed - it’s hilarious now that I’m an adult, but terrifying when we were younger). Though my tastes have become slightly more refined as I’ve grown up (they probably haven’t), I still find myself yearning for the humble comforts of tomato soup & gooey grilled cheese.
Though there are still times I find myself reaching for that familiar red and white can I cherished so fondly, there is nothing quite like a bowl of rustic, real, homemade tomato soup. Chunky and thick, it has character and texture that just can’t be found at the bottom of a tin. In the recipe I’m sharing today, I’ve roasted heirloom tomatoes and colourful carrots, which impart a gentle sweetness to the soup, and pureed them all up into the perfect bowl of happiness. And because you can’t (no way, no how, absolutely impossible!) have tomato soup without some version of grilled cheese, I topped the soup with big, grainy croutons sprinkled with deep, woodsy thyme and mild, gooey mozzarella. It truly is a bowl of happiness, so if you make it, and I hope you do, breathe it in deep and let it wrap it’s warm, inviting arms around you until everything feels like it’s going to be alright.
Roasted Tomato & Carrot Soup with Mozzarella-Thyme Croutons
adapted from Sprouted Kitchen
serves 2 as main, 4 as starter
Despite the fact that the tomatoes are roasted, you still want to buy the best ones you can find, which shouldn’t be too hard right now – there are road side stands, farmers markets, community gardens – all filled with summer fresh tomatoes of all shapes and sizes. Carrots should be of high quality, too. No baby or pre-packed carrots – they should be fresh and dirty and peeled by your own two hands. I don’t get overly strict on ingredient buying too often, but there is so little to this soup that it’s necessary.
4-5 cups fresh tomatoes (any medium-large variety will work)
4-5 medium-large carrots, peeled
½ medium onion, sliced into large wedges
small head of garlic, cloves peeled and separated
2 sprigs fresh thyme
coarse sea salt
freshly ground pepper
2 cups high quality chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp paprika (hot or sweet)
grainy baguette (1 slice per bowl)
2 sprigs thyme, leaves removed from stems
fresh mozzarella (1 round per bowl)
Preheat oven to 350.
Slices tomatoes in half and place on baking sheet. Add the onion wedges, garlic cloves, and whole carrots to the pan. Drizzle with just enough olive oil to coat and sprinkle it all with salt, pepper and thyme leaves (removed from the stems).
Roast for 30-40 minutes or until tomatoes have reduced in size by half and carrots are easily pierced with a fork/knife. While the pan cools, add your stock to a soup pot and bring to a low simmer. Scrape everything from the baking sheet right into the pot, including any brown bits or juices (that’s where all the best flavours lives!).
Let it simmer for 10 minutes. While it simmers, take sliced baguette pieces, drizzle them with olive oil and top with a round of mozzarella. Place the cheesy toasts on a pan, set oven to broil and pop them in. Let them broil for 2 minutes (peeking after 1 to make sure nothing is burning). Remove and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves.
Sprinkle the paprika into the soup and puree everything in the pot up with a blender (immersion or otherwise) until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Ladle into bowls, top with your big, cheesy croutons and finish with fresh ground pepper.
It should be noted that this soup is best enjoyed in your cosiest sweatpants and slippers.
Farmers Feast #3 [Warm Caramelized Corn, Shiro Plum & Patty Pan Salad]
Another month, another Farmers Feast.
This time, it was all about the corn. The beautiful, golden yellow and satisfyingly sweet corn. With the recent drought still causing uncertainty and stress for our farmers, I worried that I might not get the opportunity to go about my usual late-summer addiction to the succulent golden beauties.
Imagine my sheer elation when I spied 4 perfect cobs of corn tucked away inside my surprise basket from the Ottawa Farmers Market. I showed up earlier than usual this time, and found Tara zipping around thoughtfully filling my take-away basket full of shiro plums, peppy yellow patty pan squashes, cobs of corn, fragrant tomatoes, pungent purslane & red Russian garlic, Red Deer pepperettes and spiky artichokes. This was going to be a fun one.
I ultimately decided on a warm, caramelized corn salad packed with all things sweet, savoury, creamy and crunchy. I wanted to do something that was simple and speedy to make in the extreme heat we’ve been having lately. It was nearly impossible to add everything from the basket into the salad, but I tried to use as much as was possible without overdoing it. Rest assured, everything else found a happy home in my tummy.
The vendors who graciously provided this month’s Farmers Feast:
Warner Farms – plums
Kiwan Farms - purslane
Acorn Creek Garden Farm – artichoke
Needham’s Garden Market– sweet corn
Trillium Meadows Red Deer & Wild Boar Farm – pepperettes
Hoople Creek Farm– red Russian garlic
Jaquemet Garden – tomatoes
Bergeron Gardens - Paddy pans
Oh, and while we’re yakking about the market, I want to make sure you all know about Savour Ottawa’s Harvest Table event. This year it’s being held on August 19th at the Ottawa Farmers Market (Brewer Park) and it’s going to be a delicious day. Tickets are $60 ($75 for cream of the crop tickets, which include a tour of the market and some tasty sampling) and include a 5 course menu prepared by some of Ottawa’s most celebrated chefs and local beer and wine. The market will be in full swing as usual, bringing diners and shoppers together for one giant celebration of local food and drink. For more details on restaurants and beer/wine companies involved, have a look at the link above. I really hope I’ll see you there, it’s going to be a fantastic day!
Warm Caramelized Corn, Shiro Plum & Patty Pan Salad
serves 4 as a side, 2 as a main course
If you’re unable to find patty pan squashes, zucchini will do in a pinch. The same goes for plums - use red plums or even peaches in place of shiro plums if you’re unable to find them.
3-4 cobs of corn, kernels sliced off the cob (about 1 1/2-2 cups)
2 tbsp olive oil (or 1 tbsp oil + 1 tbsp butter for extra indulgence)
4-5 patty pan squashes, cut into bite-sized piece
4 shiro plums, pitted and sliced in quarters
3 large tomatoes, cut into 1/2” rounds
1/4 large red onion, minced
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, minced
1 tbsp fresh lime juice + slices for serving
1 tbsp good quality olive oil
Good, aged Lankaaster or Parmesan cheese, crumbled
sea salt and pepper
Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil (and butter, if using) into the pan until melted. Add the corn to the pan and spread evenly. Let it sit to brown for 2 minutes. Stir, spread evenly and repeat for another 2 minutes. Add the squash and cook with the corn, stirring occasionally until it’s tender but still has a nice bite to it, about 6-7 minutes. Stir in the red onion, cilantro, lime juice and olive oil. Toss to coat. Taste for seasoning, add salt if needed.
Place 2-3 tomatoes slices on your plate (or in a serving dish). Spoon corn salad over the tomatoes and top with crumbled cheese, a few grinds of pepper and another squeeze of lime.
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 and mine alone.
Seasonal Delicacies [Drunken Spot Prawn Ceviche Tostadas]
It’s been hot and steamy in Ottawa lately, and not in the sexy way, either. In the whine-endlessly-while-laying-in-a-starfish-on-the-hardwood-floors sort of way. I admit, I’ve been known to turn into a temper-tantrum-throwing 4 year old when the mercury rises above 28 degrees. I simply can’t handle our weather in Ontario some days. Most days. All the time.
Not that the heat has ever stopped me from plowing through a plate of pasta or reaching for another serving of my mom’s creamy, buttery, whipped mashed potatoes, but if meal selection was chosen solely based on temperature, I would be eating anything and everything citrus for the full 3 months of heinous, humid, Eastern Ontario summers.
Ceviche, the process of cooking raw seafood in citrus juice, is one of a handful of dishes that I could never, ever tire of. Ever! There are so many easily adaptable recipes that suit every taste, seasonal ingredient and budget, that there is no excuse to not make it at home (if it’s your cup of tea, of course. I won’t peer pressure you into making ceviche… but you should… immediately. Or else.)
Since it’s nearing the end of Spot Prawn season and I hate to miss out on seasonal delicacies, I decided to get my paws on a bundle of fresh prawns from The Whalesbone Sustainable Retail & Fish Shop. They were a stunning shade of rosy, blushed coral and smelled fresh like a salty gust of ocean air. I knew in a heartbeat that they would make the perfect ceviche to top some crispy corn tortillas.
Say it with me now; Whether it’s prawns, white fish, salmon or scallops - ceviche is your favourite summer friend. Repeat that 10 times fast and I think you’ll make it through the parching summer.
Drunken Spot Prawn Ceviche Tostadas
makes 6 tostadas
A note on buying and handling from Wild BC Spot Prawns;
When buying live Wild BC Spot Prawns look for lively, almost translucent prawns. The tail should be straight in line with the head. The head should be firm to touch, with no black colouration.
Wild BC Spot Prawns come from cold Pacific waters. After buying your prawns, immediately get them into a cooler or on ice. This will help prevent the prawn meat from deteriorating. Wild BC Spot Prawns harvested “live” should be cooked immediately or have their heads removed as soon as possible. After the heads are removed the tails should be thoroughly rinsed. Spot prawns have an enzyme that begins to permeate through the tail and turns the meat mushy. Removing the head and rinsing the tail keeps the flesh firm. The head of the prawn can be removed from the tail by swiftly turning it and pulling it away from the tail.
16 spot prawns, heads removed
Juice + zest of 1 lime
2 tbsp tequila
1 cup cucumber, cubed
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed and diced
small bunch (2 tbsp) mint leaves, minced
2 tbsp red onion, minced
6 corn tortillas
vegetable oil, to fry
2 avocados, diced
2 green onions, sliced thin
1 lime, cut into wedges
Holding the prawn tail, lift the shell up and away from the body to remove. Discard or save (freeze) to make stock at a later date.
Cut the prawns into bite sized pieces and put them in a medium size bowl. Add the lime juice and zest, tequila, cucumber, jalapeno and half the red onion. Give everything a good toss and place in the fridge, stirring often, for 30 minutes.
10 minutes before you’re ready to serve, heat 2 tbsp of oil in a heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Test the oil by flicking a little water into it - if it sizzles, it’s ready to fry some tortillas! Place tortillas, one at a time, into the oil and fry until lightly browned in spots, 40 seconds. Flip and fry the other side. Repeat with all 6 tortillas.
Place 1 tortilla on a plate, top with ceviche, avocado, green onion, red onion and a squeeze of lime. And please, for the love of god, enjoy them with an icy margarita!!
Simple Dishes for Entertaining [Spanish Chicken & Chorizo with Potatoes & Cauliflower]
I’ve been so completely all over the place lately that I forgot completely we were having some friends over for dinner last night.
Not daring to ever serve guests take-out at my house (the reason for that is much less pretentious than it sounds, I just REALLY like takeout and want it all to myself) I opted for one of those marvelously simple one-pot-dinners. They save me from a life of Kraft Dinner on a pretty regular basis these days. A little protein, some starch, and veggies all thrown in a roasting pan with spices and out pops a fragrant and satisfying dinner good enough to serve dinner guests. Doesn’t that just sound like the bees knees? It really is. Let me show you!
Since there are so few ingredients in this dish, try to buy the best quality you can afford. The chorizo should be fresh, the produce and chicken organic, and your wine glass full. Wait. What? There isn’t any wine in this dish, you say? That’s no reason no to have a full glass anyways. You’ve had a long day, I’m sure.
One-Pot Spanish Chicken and Chorizo with Potatoes and Cauliflower
adapted from Life is Great
I found the hunks of chorizo to be quiet tough to chew on so I’m going to recommend you cut them up a bit smaller so your guests don’t hurt their mouths. No one likes to be beat up by their dinner.
We served a simple salad of Arugula, Roasted Golden Beets, Toasted Pecans and Piave Vecchio cheese and some crusty bread to sop up the beautiful bright orange sauce on the side.
8 large bone-in chicken thighs, skin on
1 large piece Chorizo (8-10”), cut into bite sized pieces
1 bag baby potatoes (about 2 1/2 cups)
1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into 2” florets
2 tsp dried oregano
zest or 2 oranges
4 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
1 small red onion, rough chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400.
Dry the chicken with a clean towel (or paper towel) and salt on both sides.
Pour the potatoes into a large roasting or jellyroll pan. Toss in the onions. Nestle the chicken thighs on top and tuck the cauliflower and chorizo around them evenly. Throw in the garlic cloves and sprinkle the oregano and orange zest evenly over everything. Give the whole pan a good drizzle of olive oil.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the chicken is cooked to 170. Spoon onto plates and serve.
Wasn’t that the easiest? Why don’t you have another glass of wine to celebrate?
Expanding my Taco Horizons [Crispy Shrimp Tacos with Tomato Broth and Quick Pickled Vegetables]
Did you just get so excited? I know I did.
The word ‘taco’ brings about emotions in me that food shouldn’t be able to. I get excited from the pit of my tummy to the tips of my toes when I hear that sacred word. TACO! It happened again. Oh god I love them so much.
Whenever my mom asks my sister or I what we want for our birthday dinners (yes, we still get to pick whatever we want even though we’re both well into our 20s) its consistently a resounding “TACOS!” or “FAJITAS!”. We do love our Mexican food so very much. So much, in fact, that Mr. GL doesn’t much like to be around me when I’m eating Mexican because I turn into a rabid dog focused only on stuffing as much of everything-on-the-table as I can in one tortilla. Often I fill my tortilla so full that I end up eating it with a fork and knife, defeating the whole purpose of tacos all together. Oh, what a life.
Over the summer I had the pleasure of dining Ottawa’s SideDoor Contemporary Kitchen & Bar a few times and was amazed to learn that there was more to tacos than Old El Paso had told to me. How pathetic, right? Somehow I believed that tacos were a thing of merely taco seasoning and ground meat. I feel ashamed to tell you this, but we’re friends. And friends tell each other the truth. My eyes were opened. And tacos have never been the same. Not that I plan on wiping Old El Paso from regular rotation around here, that will never happen, but I shall be expanding my taco-horizons.
When I accidentally stumbled across a recipe for crispy shrimp tacos this week, my world came to a sudden halt. A doughy taco shell, stuffed full of a cumin-spiked tomato, shrimp and cilantro mixture and then… get this, are you ready? Rolled up and DEEP FRIED. The resulting roll is somewhere between a taco and a taquito, bursting with this extremely bright and fresh filling. It was a game changer. A life changer. A WORLD changer, if you will. I know you won’t be surprised to learn it’s a recipe from White on Rice Couple’s stunning blog. They are the cat’s ass, Diane and Todd. If you haven’t been for a visit, I’ll wait here while you go and take a look. Go ahead. Right now. I insist!
See what I’m saying? Brilliant. And those photos? Forget about it. I can only dream of being that kind of talented some day.
These tacos are so good I didn’t even sit down to eat them. I stood there, hanging over the counter, tossing them back as fast as I could. What a pretty picture that paints. I served some quick pickles alongside to contrast with the rich filling and they were a perfect addition.
Crispy Shrimp Tacos with Tomato Broth and Quick Pickled Vegetables
adapted from White on Rice Couple
The recipe calls for corn tortillas, but my market had run out the day I went in to grab some. I urge you to try and find some at your Latin Market, their flavour is so much better than flour tortillas, I find.
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 jalapenos (or chilies of your choice), diced
1 tsp ground cumin
3-4 medium sized tomatoes, diced
1lb shrimp, peeled, de-veined and cut into 1/2” pieces
3 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
Oil for frying, enough to fill 2” in your frying pan (preferably peanut or Grapeseed oil)
8-10 corn tortillas
Tomato Broth (recipe follows)
Quick pickled vegetables (recipe follows)
In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and let them sweat until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, chilies and cumin and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes and shrimps and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is about ketchup-consistency. It shouldn’t be too watery. Stir in the cilantro, remove from heat and let cool.
Roll and Fill the Tacos;
Fill frying pan with oil to a depth of about 2”. Heat the oil to about 350-375 or until a drop of water sizzles when you flick it in the oil.
Two at a time, drop the tortillas in the oil for 1 second just to soften. Place on paper towels to drain.
Lay tortillas flat and spoon 2-3 tbsp of the mixture onto one side of the tortilla. Roll them up tight (ends open) and secure with a tooth pick. Repeat until no more filling remains.
Place tacos, 3-4 at a time, into the hot oil for 1.5 minutes. Flip over and cook for another 1 minutes until golden brown.
Place fried tacos on paper towels to drain. Serve with tomato broth and quick pickles.
3-4 tomatoes, rough chopped
1/2 sweet onion, rough chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed
In a blender, puree all ingredients until smooth.
Pour tomato puree into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced by about 1/3. It should be a soupy consistency.
1/2 cup cauliflower florets
2 jalapenos, sliced into rounds
2 carrots, cut into thing strips
1 small daikon, cut into thin strips
1 1/2 cups white wine vinegar
1 3/4 cups warm water
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
large pinch of salt
Large mason jar
In a bowl, add the vinegar, water sugar and salt. Whisk until sugar dissolves
Place half the cauliflower and jalapenos into the bottom of the jar. Add the carrot/daikon strips, and finish with the rest of the cauliflower jalapenos. Pour pickling bring over until the jar is filled and vegetables are submerged. Place the lid on the jar and let pickle for at least an hour in the fridge. These will keep for 1 week.