A Panicked Moment [Curry Roasted Cauliflower Dip/Spread]



Sometimes it’s the moments of panic that surprise you. The final 40 minutes before you head out the door to a friend’s house when you realize your tiny bowl of hummus and pita chips doesn’t look like much of an offering. And so you panic; repeatedly opening and closing the fridge, hoping something in there will jump out and inspire a simple dish, you check the pantry to see what sort of beans are in there (none? Frig!), you dig through the crisper and spice drawer like a certifiable maniac.

 
And then you see the head of cauliflower. It’s browned around the edges but nothing a few swipes of the knife can’t fix. You look in the fridge again to see that same container of Greek yogurt you’ve been avoiding all week (in place of bagels and croissants) and some curry powder left out on the counter from last week. This is good, these things can make something edible. I know it!

I roasted, pureed and finished with a drizzle of grassy olive oil and cayenne pepper, stuck it in a paper bag (because we’re also out of any sort of kitchen wrap, tin foil or anything normal people usually keep their kitchen stocked with – it’s been a busy week and we’ve neglected our shopping duties) and hauled ass out the door. Much to my surprise, my girlfriend Ashley (hi Ashley!) enjoyed this panicked, cooked-by-the-seat-of-my-pants dip more than my hummus, which is typically highest on her list of requests whenever that fateful question, “What can I bring?”, comes up. I must admit, I was pretty pleased with how it turned out, too. The combination of warm spices, Greek yogurt and roasted garlic make for a decadent dip or spread that’s hearty without the calories of your typical creamy dip. Whether you’re dragging a pita chip through it, spreading a thick layer on a sandwich with fried eggplant and peppers, or simply scooping it up with your hands (guilty), I think you’ll be pretty tickled that so few ingredients can result in such a tasty eat-the-whole-bowl-by-yourself-without-feeling-bad sort of snack.

She asked that I share the recipe so here we are. If you’ve got an old head of cauliflower and a few other basics on hand, you can whip this up in 30 minutes.



Curry Roasted Cauliflower Dip/Spread
makes approx. 1 1/2 cups

1 head cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets
4 cloves garlic, whole
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
pinch or two cinnamon
salt
Olive oil
1/4-1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1-2 tbsp lemon juice, depending on taste
cayenne pepper, to garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 375. 

Place the cauliflower, spices, garlic cloves and two generous pinches of salt into a large bowl. Drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat everything. Toss onto a baking sheet and roast for 10-15 minutes, until edges of florets are golden brown. Flip the cauliflower and roast another 8-10 minutes until everything is golden and fork-tender. 

Place into a food processor/bullet with the greek yogurt, lemon juice and a good drizzle of the olive oil and blend until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Spoon into a large bowl and drizzle with a touch more olive oil and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper. Serve with veggies, pita, bread or spread on sandwich or panini of your choice. 

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A Change in Season [Bulgur & Chickpea Salad with Cranberries, Toasted Almonds + Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette]



Let me start by saying, I am speaking to you all from a seat on the balcony tonight!

I know, I know, it’s only 14 in Ottawa, but colour me a season-pusher. I’m not in my shorts or anything. Or am I? (I’m not. I swear. Totally in jeans, a giant sweater and thinking about getting a scarf - but I’m outside!!). 

With the thrilling arrival of warmer weather in Ottawa,  that insatiable ache for slow braises and creamy sides has started to waver, and is slowly being replaced with cravings for fresh, light and colourful dishes. That’s how you know Spring is truly on it’s way. [Though, if we’re being honest here, I’d like to go on the record and state that I am SURE we’ll still be getting more snow. I hope I’m wrong.]



Feeling especially inspired by the beautiful, mild weather the other day (though not inspired enough to run out to the store), I raided the fridge and pantry in hopes of finding everything I needed to make a simple grain salad that was small on fat and high on flavour. 

The resulting bulgur salad was exactly what I was hoping for. Healthy, packed with colour and texture, and the perfect balance of sweet, tart and savoury. I ate it four days in a row for lunch and didn’t once get tired of it… which is a MEGA feat for those who know me. 

Bulgur is one of those power-horse grains. It’s a quick-cooking form of whole wheat that has been cleaned, parboiled, dried, and ground into particles. It’s got a long shelf life, and is teeming with nutritional benefits; high in fibre and good carbs, rich in B vitamins, iron, phosphorous and manganese. Pair that with the well-known nutritional profiles of cranberries, almonds, and chickpeas and I’d say you’ve got yourself a little bowl of perfection. I suppose I’m biased, though. 




Bulgur & Chickpea Salad with Cranberries, Toasted Almonds + Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette

Though I’m a bulgur-backer, if it’s not your cup of tea you can substitute quinoa, brown rice or even some potted barley

Salad
2 cups water
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup Bulgur Wheat
1 cup chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup dried unsweetened cranberries
1/4 cup almond slivers,
toasted
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 scallions, sliced thin crosswise 

Vinaigrette
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup good quality olive oil
pinch salt and fresh ground pepper

Bring the 2 cups of water and salt to a boil and add the bulgur. Turn down to a simmer, cover and let cook for 12-15 minutes until water is absorbed and bulgur is soft but still has a bite to it. 

 Toss all the salad ingredients in a big bowl until combined. 

In a small bowl, add the vinaigrette ingredients and whisk until smooth. Pour half of the dressing over salad and stir to coat the salad in dressing. Taste and add more dressing as needed. 

I enjoyed it warm but it’s best after it sits in the fridge for an hour or two. 



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Clean Eating for the Over Indulger [Fattoush Salad with Zaatar Baked Pita Crisps]



Happy Post Canada Day to all my Canadian friends! 

I hope you’re all recovering from what I assume was a long day (or if you’re like us, perhaps even 2 days) in the sun, filled with good food and drink and of course, great friends and family. 

We celebrated Canada Day in our usual manor. Mr GL’s parents welcome us and all of our friends into their home where we barbecue, swim, eat everything in sight, and enjoy seeing friends we haven’t been able to see in a while. It’s always one of my favourite days of the year. 

Being my favourite day of the year, I often over indulge on just about everything. Sun, food and especially drink. To make matters worse, we’re both lobster red and I managed to get mosquito bites on every square inch of my body (and somehow Mr GL came out with just one or two) making the day-after-indulgence pain feel just a touch more uncomfortable. 

I went in search of some lunch today in my hazy post-party state, and though my semi-rotted tummy is calling out for burgers and fries or anything dunked in grease, I know what I really need is clean food. So when I opened the fridge and found leftover salad from the other night, I knew it would make my mouth just as happy as my stomach. 

Fattoush is a Lebanese salad traditionally containing high-water-content summer vegetables (which makes it especially appealing in this warm weather), a whack-load of fresh herbs, toasted pita bread and za’atar. It’s as refreshing, crisp and cool as a salad can get. The use of Za’atar makes this salad especially bright. If you’ve never heard of it, or worse yet, tried it, you’ll be amazed at how wonderful this spice blend is with salad, sprinkled on pita bread or over fresh sliced tomatoes, or even on roasted root vegetables. The uses are endless. Seriously. Endless. Everything can be made better with a little sprinkle. 



Fattoush Salad with Zaatar Baked Pita Crisps
adapted from My New Roots

It’s important to know that the herbs in this salad are not simply for garnish. They are vital to the salads flavour and texture the way lettuce would be so the quantities are quite large. 

Salad:
2 red bell peppers
2 medium cucumbers, with skin
3 cups grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 large red onion, thinly sliced with a mandolin
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, rough chopped
1 cup chopped mint, rough chopped
4 tbsp za’atar, recipe follows


Cut the peppers and cucumbers into bite sized chunks and toss with the rest of the ingredients in a large salad bowl.  



Fattoush Dressing
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon 
1 tsp. agave nectar
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
a couple pinches of sea salt
a pinch of black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. 

Zaatar Baked Pita Crisps
5 large Lebanese-style pitas
2 tbsp zaatar
olive oil

Preheat oven to 325. 
Tear or cut pitas into chip-sized pieces. Brush each chip with olive oil and sprinkle with zaatar spice. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool.  

When you’re ready to eat, throw half the dressing into the salad and toss. Add more until desired sauciness is achieved. Spoon onto plates and crumble pita crisps over the salad. 


Za’atar
makes about 1 cup 

1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
1/4 cup sumac
4 tbsp dried thyme
2 tbsp dried oregano

Stir all ingredients and pour into a glass jar. Store in a cool dark place.  

 

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No Bake Takes the Cake [Lasagna Caprese]



I came home tonight with full intentions of sharing a Frozen Lemon Soufflé with you. But given the circumstances, that can wait. Who cares about delicious light-as-air frozen lemony desserts, anyhow? (I do. A LOT. But it can wait one or two days, can’t it? CANT IT!?)

While I was sitting at my desk this afternoon, day-dreaming as is common after lunch, an idea popped into my head. Lasagna. But not just any lasagna. Caprese lasagna. Say it again with me, Capreeeese lasaaaaagna! Nice. Now if you’re like me, you’ll need to pick your jaw up off the floor before we continue. And I don’t mean to sound as though I’m tooting my own horn. But I totally am. I’m sorry.


(For some reason I have a much easier time copying recipes from my cookbooks to a notebook before cooking. It’s an OCD thing. And one that keeps my cookbooks free of stains)


Caprese salad is an Italian classic from the region of Campania that’s made up of tomatoes, basil, mozzarella and finished with a drizzle of of fruity olive oil and some fresh cracked pepper. That alone is enough to make me and most others weak in the knees, but with the addition of soft lasagna noodles and the ingredients layered between them, it was, in a word, perfect. Fresh, colourful, simple and packed full of flavour. It’s also a wonderful dish to use up all the tomatoes and basil you’ve no doubt planted and are starting to pop up right this second.

The only unauthentic part of this dish is the switch from fresh basil to basil pesto. I was hesitant about adding a sauce or dressing, but was worried the dish might feel a little dry. The pesto is the perfect compromise and helps it feel creamy and smooth. Plus, the look and colour of the pesto make me feel swoony.


(I wasn’t going to post this picture, but I had to because it was so funny. I started pouring the olive oil and taking a photo at the same time and thought I was oh-so-coordinated before I realized I was pouring olive oil everywhere. Turns out I’m not nearly as talented as I seem to think)


Because there are so few ingredients in the dish, it’s important you get the best ones you can find. Ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, and high quality cheese and olive oil are all majorly important in making this lasagna as delightful as it is. If you’re ever going to spend a little extra on something, now is the time.

Perfect for an evening thats too hot too turn the oven on, and even better paired with a hunk of grilled meat or tofu on the side.

Lasagna Caprese

I assembled this on individual plates the way you would a typical Caprese, but it would be just as lovely served family style from a glass casserole pan. If you’re planning on doing it that way, don’t worry about folding the noodles. Just layer them, add a thin layer of pesto, tomatoes and cheese etc etc.

The pesto recipe here belongs to Marcella Hazan and is from her brilliant book
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. She approves of the food processor method, so I feel safe in saying it is absolutely authentically Italian. So there.

2 cups tightly packed basil leaves, plus a few leaves to garnish each plate
3 tablespoons pine nuts, plus 2 tbsp to garnish
1/2 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped fine before being added to the processor
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons grated Romano cheese
3 tablespoons butter, softened

12 lasagna noodles, boiled according to package instructions
4 large vine ripened tomatoes
1 1/2lbs fresh mozzarella
the best olive oil you can afford, to garnish
balsamic vinegar to garnish (optional)
fresh cracked pepper

Put first 4 ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blend until creamy. Transfer to bowl (or leave in food processor bowl, but it’s a bit of a pain) and stir in cheese and butter. This gives it a nice rustic texture.



On each serving plate, place two slices of tomato. Top with one lasagna noodle, letting one half of it extend over the tomatoes. Spread 1 - 1 1/2 tbsp pesto over the half of the noodle that tops the tomatoes. Fold the noodle back over itself so it covers the pesto. Place two rounds of mozzarella on top of noodle. Place another noodle on top, spread with pesto and fold over. Repeat steps one more time ending at the mozzarella. (tomato, noodle/pesto, mozza, noodle/pesto, tomato, noodle/pesto, mozza = voila!)

Top each plate with a few basil leaves, a good drizzle of olive oil, some pepper and a little balsamic (if you like balsamic).



See? How easy was that? Almost too easy, am I right?

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Golden Globes [Beet Salad with Almonds and Goat Cheese]



In the days since we last spoke, my dearest laptop fell ill and I was forced to lay her to rest. We had good times, her and I, but in her last days she was keeping from my favourite thing. That, of course, would be chatting with you. So, how are you?

It’s Good Friday today and oh how good it is. We slept late (ok, I slept late), moved slowly, and arrived at Mr GL’s parents place to have a quick afternoon visit and some dinner before heading out to see one of our favourite bands, The Acorn, play this evening in Wakefield.



Of course, I couldn’t, in good concience, enjoy the sounds and sights without coming here, tea in hand, and telling you about a yummy little salad I came across this week.





This warm salad is a small adaptation on one I stumbled across on The Kitchn recently. My eye was quickly drawn to the brilliantly yellow golden beets, but quickly shifted when I read of the addition of garlicky beet greens, toasty almonds, and some tangy goat cheese. A home run of a salad, made a little more toothsome with some hashed Brussels Sprouts I had in the fridge, silently begging to be used. This makes the perfect side salad for poultry or fish, and makes a great light lunch or dinner, as well. Might I also suggest digging in while you sit on your stoop, sockless and squinting from the sun, beside a handsome man. It tastes really nice that way, too.



Golden Beet Salad with Greens and Almonds
adapated from The Kitchn

Feel free to add your own pantry favoruites and make this salad your own.

Golden beets are much sweeter and milder than their red cousin, but if you can’t find any golden ones, red will do in a pinch.


1 bunch beets, both tops and roots
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
a few pinches red pepper flakes (optional, but gives a nice little kick)
2 handfuls Brussels sprouts, grated or sliced thin
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
2/3 cup toasted almonds (slivers, or chopped)

Preheat oven to 425.

Rinse beets and greens to remove any clumpy dirty. Remove greens from beets and set aside.

Place beets in a large pan, whole, and roast until easily pierced by a fork, about 60 minutes.

While beets are roasting, remove the stalks from the beet greens right up to where the leaf starts. Cut leaves into bite-sized ribbons. 

Coat a large pan over medium-high heat with olive oil until it glistens. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the beet greens and hashed sprouts to the pan and stir so the leaves are all coated with oil. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the leaves are tender. The Brussels will still be slightly toothsome, so if you like them softer, add them a few minutes before the greens.



Once beets are cooked, remove from the oven and set aside until cool to the touch. Using a paper/dish towel, rub the skins off the beets. Cut them into bite sized pieces and toss with the greens and almonds.



Spoon into serving dish and top with crumbled goat cheese with plenty of fresh cracked pepper.

Sending you all best wishes for a relaxing, food-filled Easter weekend! Have an extra slice of turkey for me, as I will be greatly deprived of it this holiday.

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Politics and Bacon [Bacon Fried Wild Rice with Asparagus & Pea Shoots]



Let me open by saying I am going to keep this short and sweet. It’s the Canadian Leaders Debate and I’m trying my hardest to focus and take it in.

Because we’re friends, I’m going to level with you. I abhor politics. I know it’s important to be an informed citizen. I know. You need not wag the finger of shame at me. I do vote, and I try my best to make informed decisions. But when it comes to reading articles about corporate tax breaks or costly F-35 fighter jet purchases, I just can’t help but bob my head in an effort to stay awake. So I’m trying to make a valiant effort tonight. Though, since we’re being honest, my writing at the same time as ‘watching’ is probably not the best way to stay focused. But um, I’m trying? Assuming something shiny doesn’t catch my eye, of course. I should also mention that, in my case, ’watching’ can be defined as ‘making fun of outfits, accents, and chuckling about leaders trying to relate with the 20-something generation’. I’m a very responsible Canadian. (Please don’t deport me).

I was so excited to share this dish with you that I don’t even care that it’s another wild rice recipe. I hope you feel the same way once we’re finished here. It’s a perfectly easy, not-especially healthy take on fried rice. Bacon fried rice, actually. Did your heart jump there? Maybe just a little? If not, maybe we shouldn’t be friends. Ok, we can still be friends. But you owe me. I rounded out the recipe with some lightly roasted asparagus and raw pea shoots. The fresh flavour from the asparagus and shoots really helps cut the rich bacon flavour which I loved.

Vegetarians, feel free to use a vegetable oil in place of the bacon fat. Some browned tofu would be lovely in place of the bacon.

This would make a great side dish, but is equally satisfying as lunch or dinner.



Bacon Fried Wild Rice with Roasted Asparagus & Pea Shoots

3 cups cooked wild rice
6 slices bacon, cut into 1” pieces
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2+ tbsp dark soy sauce, based on personal taste
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 egg
1 small bunch asparagus, cut into 1-2” chunks
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 handfuls fresh pea shoots + extra for garnish
3 green onions, sliced diagonally

Preheat oven to 350. 



In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the bacon and stir occasionally until crisp. Reserve 2tbsp of the bacon drippings and discard the rest. Let bacon drain on paper towels until ready to use. 

In a roasting pan, add the chunks of asparagus, and a good drizzle of olive oil, and a pinch or two of salt and pepper. Roast 5-6 minutes, just until it’s bright green but still has some bite to it.

In a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat, add the 2tbsp bacon drippings and diced onion. Cook until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the rice, soy sauce and sesame oil and cook until warmed through. Make a well in the centre of the rice and add the egg. Whisk slightly with a fork and toss with the rice until cooked through, 5-6 minutes. There shouldn’t be much liquid left in the pan at this point. Taste for seasoning and add more soy sauce or sesame oil as needed.

Add in the bacon, asparagus, pea shoots and green onions. Toss briefly until combined and serve garnished with fresh pea shoots.



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The Woes of Dietary Restrictions [Wild Rice Salad with Cashews, Cherries & Feta]



Isn’t it funny how your views on age change as you get older?

We were heading to Cornwall this weekend to celebrate my Dad’s 60th birthday. I remember when my Grandparents were in their 60s and I thought they were old. Now that it’s my dad that’s 60, and both his parents are still alive and well, it doesn’t seem as old anymore. I can’t even picture turning 60 and still having my parents around. He’s lucky, my Dad. I can only hope we’ll be that fortunate. Unless of course he’s crotchety, as we suspect he might be. But that’s the fun of getting older, isn’t it? You get to do and say whatever you damn well feel like without consequence. Man, I can’t wait.

I was asked to bring a salad to the celebration that would feed everyone, including my Nana with Celiacs disease, which in short is an intolerance to gluten. My first response to this request is usually to panic. I start thinking about all the things she can’t eat, rather than focusing on the things she can eat, which is still quite a bit. I find my usual reaction to dietary restrictions is usually to panic first. Which is funny since most restrictions are pretty easily worked around. Unless you’re one of those people who can’t have gluten, dairy, meat etc, etc. Then I’d have to ask you to eat before you come over. I’m kidding. Sort of.



Some of the acceptable staples in a Gluten-Free diet include: rice (including flour/bran), quinoa, millet, flours from nuts/beans/seeds, and chickpeas. It’s really not the worst thing in the world. If nothing else, it forces you to be a more concious eater, which we could all benefit from immensely. If you don’t want to buy the expensive gluten free dressings, vinagrettes, sauces etc, then take the extra 5 minutes and learn how to make them at home on your own. That way you know exactly what is in them. The same thing could be said for non-gluten free items, as well. Knowing whats in your food is important and you should be paying attention as often as you can.

After taking a quick peek through Gluten Free Girl’s archive, I decided on a nutty salad based around her Wild Rice Salad recipe. She combines wild rice, chanterelles, sour dried cherries, and toasted cashews. I bet your mouth is watering after hearing that line up isn’t it? The dried cherries were enough to get me stuggling not to drool all over my keyboard. I opted out of the chanterelles since I’ve been on a bit of a mushroom kick lately and needed a break. I also decided to add some feta for a bit of a salty kick. It played perfectly well with the cherries and cashews, while the wild rice pulled it all together for the perfect crunchy, chewy, sweet, salty, nutty bite. It got the seal of approval by my Nana and the rest of the clan, as well as Mr GL, who even enjoyed a small serving.



I had the leftovers for lunch yesterday and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it both cold and hot. I usually have a strong preferance one way or the other, but this was just as lovely cold as it was warm. This would make a perfect pairing with poultry or a vegetarian main course, as well as on it’s own with a poached egg or some fried tofu.

I should also make quick mention of how easy this salad is. With no dressing to worry about, the hardest part is waiting for the rice the cook. I don’t know that I’d even call it a recipe, just a list of ingredients and some suggested amounts. Use your imagination and make it your own by adding greens, herbs, roasted veggies or dressing of your choice. I had bought some tarragon to add in at the end for some fresh flavour and colour, but forgot to add it after all. My brain is kinda doughy these days. Forgive me, will you?



Wild Rice Salad
based on Gluten Free Girl recipe.

You might have a hard time finding cherries at your grocery store, but most bulk-stores or health-food stores will carry them. Substitute dried cranberries in a pinch.

If you feel inclined to add a dressing, a light lemon vinaigrette might be a good option.


3-4 cups cooked wild rice, cooked according to package instructions
1 cup toasted cashews
1 cup dried cherries, rough chopped
1 cup feta, cut into small cubes
small red onion, diced fine (optional)
1/2 cup herb of choice, tarragon was my choice (optional)

Are you ready for this?

Toss everything together.
Get yourself a fork or spoon.
Scoop up salad.
Eat salad. 

You can also go ahead and wipe your brow. I know how much you must be sweating after all that hard work.

Why don’t you get yourself a glass of wine or sparkling water, and have a seat.







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You will eat Brussels Sprouts, You will eat Brussels Sprouts…

I think I told you a while back that I was done forcing Brussels Sprouts upon you. I’ve changed my mind. Stop being so stubborn and just eat them! GOSH! They are delicious and they are good for you. I bet you haven’t even tried them since you were a kid, have you? I didn’t think so. 

Most of the sprouty recipes I share with you take the utmost care to transform the shaggy, bitter tasting greens into something mild, sweet and packed with flavour. Not like your moms boiled sprouts cooked well past their prime. Honest! Friends don’t let friends eat boiled sprouts.  I wouldn’t do that to you. And I wouldn’t do that to myself or my family members, either. Another thing to keep in mind with sprouts is seasonality. Just because they can be found year round, doesn’t mean they are at their tastiest year-round. The sweetest, best tasting ones come to your grocery store/farmers market after the first frost and throughout the colder months.

Today’s recipe showcases the little green orbs hashed up with a lemon dressing spiked with white wine, poppy seeds and topped with crispy prosciutto. The crunchy texture of the quick-sauted sprouts and prosciutto are my favourite part of this dish. Bring it to your family’s Christmas table and I assure you, they’ll be transformed just like you are. And you are, aren’t you? You better be.  

Hashed Brussels with Lemon Dressing and Crispy Prosciutto
based on Orangette’s recipe

4-5 slices of prosciutto, cut into ribbons about 1/2” thick
1 Tbsp olive/veg oil

1 1/2 lbs Brussels sprouts
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp poppy seeds
1/2 Tbsp lemon zest
¼ cup white wine
¼ tsp salt

In a large pan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and heat until almost smoking. Add the ribbons of prosciutto and cook until crispy, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels and set aside to cool.

Cut the stems from the Brussels sprouts and remove any blemished leaves. Halve each sprout lengthwise, and slice each half into thin slices. Don’t worry about being too meticulous. Toss the lemon juice with the sprouts.







In a large pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and garlic. Cook the garlic as the oil heats up but don’t let it burn. Stir in the sprouts, poppy seeds, lemon zest and salt. Add the white wine and cook until the sprouts are bright green and the wine has reduced slightly.



Taste to be sure you’ve seasoned appropriately.

Serve topped with some shaved parmesan and prosciutto (optional for the veggies/vegans).



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More Praise for the Braise!

I’m not entirely sure, but I think I may have a problem.

I’ve just eaten my 4th of 4 seperate squash dishes in two days. TWO. I think someone oughta call Jeff VanVonderen from Intervention. I’m not far from rolling the golden buttery flesh up and smoking it. This is my formal cry for help.

[I can almost hear Jeff and his trademark Intervention kick-off speech: ”As far as I can tell there’s just a whole lot of folks here that just love you a whole bunch…and they feel like their loosin’ya.” Oh Jeff, where are you when I need you!]

The most recent dish, eaten with dinner tonight, was one I had to tell you about…even if it meant outing my dirty little squash secrets.

Now, I’ve had squash just about every way it comes, but for some reason I had never thought to braise it. Which is a little surprising given my heart-achingly passionate feelings towards The Braise. This squash is slightly comparable to a mashed-potato type side dish rather than a vegetable dish. It’s rich and heavier than just a butternut squash mash. Which only makes sense given the addition of cream. If you prefer to use milk, I’m sure it would turn out just as delicious (well…almost as delicious!)

Next time you’re in the market for something creamy, smooth and full of flavour, give this a try instead of your normal mashed potatoes. And for me to suggest anything over mashed potatoes is a big deal. I just really want you to know this is serious business we’re talking about here, folks. Simmered in cream. Alright?

—-

And just because I can’t not say anything…

Allan brought home the biggest butternut squash I’ve ever seen in my life. Are you ready?

8lbs of pure gold.

Mixed Squash Braised in Thyme Cream
Adapted from The Kitchn’s Recipe

Feel free to use whatever type(s) of squash you prefer. I used butternut and swan white acorn.

3 to 4 pounds winter squash
Olive oil/Butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tbsp thyme, pulled from the stem
1 1/2 cups cream
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Peel, clean and cube the squash*. 

Add enough olive oil or butter to coat a large deep pot. Heat over medium and add garlic, letting it cook until fragrant (about 4 minutes). Add the thyme and let it cook for a minute. Add cubed squash and heat through, about 2 minutes. Add cream and stir everything to combine. Let come to a boil, turn the heat to medium and cover.

Let simmer fo 10-15 minutes or until squash is tender and breaking down. If you like your squash a little less mushy and a little more toothsome, check it after 8 minutes and stop cooking when you’re comfortable with the texture. I was happy with a mixture of both.

*Heidi Swanson of 101cookbooks has a great tip for cleaning up a butternut squash:

"For a recipe like this I’ll take a medium butternut squash, lob off the little stem end so it is flat, cut off the entire neck - so, now I am dealing with a cylinder shape. I stand that on end and run a knife top to bottom to peel it. Then I cut the 1/2-inch disks - it’s easy to cube from there. With the big bulb part, I’ll just halve it, clear out the seeds, drizzle some oil and a sprinkle some salt, roast, and use that as the basis for a simple soup. No waste, minimal fuss, all ten fingers intact in the end. If you are dealing with a particularly long "neck" try cutting it into two cylindrical shaped pieces."

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