"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 promised myself I would picnic more this summer. Spend more time outside, feeling the breeze dance on my skin and the sounds of passing voices buzz in my ear, pack up a cooler filled with cold soups and icy drinks, sandwich-making ingredients and snacks and remember what it was like to not have deadlines breathing hot against my neck, or obligations too important to pass on.
So far this summer, I’ve managed to fit one picnic in – I’m not all that successful at keeping my word to myself. That said, it was a very lovely one where we gathered with friends at a dog park nearby, one brilliantly green and lush with weeping willows and an abundance of grassy spots to laze about during the seemingly infinite days of summer. We drank cold beers (illegally – gasp!) and used a pocket knife to gnaw hunks of Piave cheese onto waiting apple and pear slices. We watched the dogs, tails thwarting back and forth, up and down in cheerful celebration, and rubbed their bellies when they came by for a drink of water and a slice of fruit. It was everything a picnic should have, and could have been. I want more days like that. I vow to make time for them before the absolutely endless days of winter arrive again.
When I arrived at Pascale’s shop to pick up the Farmers Feast basket this month, she explained that she and Tara went with the theme of “green” for the basket, the sides of the it draped in leaves and stalks of every shade from emerald to forest green. It’s always such a treat poking through the ingredients, marvelling at the freshness of them and gently dusting the dirt from their roots. It was hard to ignore the only non-green sparks of colour from the purple kohlrabi and the crimson radish orbs.
Typically, I try to incorporate the Farmers Feast basket into one meal using as many of the ingredients as possible. This time around, Tara and Pascale decided that maybe it would be neat to create a few different dishes using the ingredients. Never being one to turn down a challenge, I got to work thinking of how I wanted to tackle the box and eventually came up with a theme of my own – a picnic lunch! I started out working off a soup and sandwich concept and came up with a cold, creamy and refreshing soup made with avocados and cucumbers (and topped with salty kohlrabi chips!) and an open faced rye crostini with a kicky garlic scape labneh (salted, strained yogurt that turns thick – almost like cream cheese, but way better), a fava bean/sweet pea/mizuna spread that was sweet and bright and just a tiny bit bitter from the greens, and some thinly sliced radishes to add crunch, colour and a bit of a spicy bite. Everyting married so well - each bite offering creamy, tart, spicy, crunchy, sour and savory. My mouth was happy, my stomach even more so. It’s been absolutely been my favourite Farmers Feast to create, and potentially one of my favourite recipes to post on the blog (which says a lot because I’ve been kicking around here for some time).
The key here is that you don’t have to put all the recipes together. You can just make the spread or the labneh, or you can just make the soup on its own. Use what you have in your garden and at your farmers market to decide what you’re able to make, and adapt the recipes based on your produce availability. If you don’t have garlic scapes for the labneh, add half a clove of fresh garlic or even some fresh herbs instead. If you don’t have fava beans, make the spread with just sweet peas. It’s that easy! This is just a guide to what you could be doing with all the greens that summer’s throwing at us right now.
The wonderful, tireless farmers that provided the ingredients for this month’s Farmers Feast are:
Mizuna – Jambican Studio Gardens
Bok Choy – Roots & Shoots Farm
Apple Cider Vinegar – Hall’s Apple Market
Kohlrabi – Luxy Farms
Cucumbers & Radishes – Linda’s Garden
Sweet Peas – Limeydale
Belarus Garlic – Acorn Creek Garden Farm
Fava Beans – Waratah Downs Organic Farm
We’ve started giving away some market bucks for those of you in Ottawa and this month is no different! See below on how you can enter to win one free item from one of this month’s participating farms.
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)
3. Subscribe to the monthly newsletter and let me know you did in a separate comment (1 extra entry)
We will pick a winner at random this coming Tuesday, July 9th.
Toasted Rye w Labneh, Fava/Sweet Pea/Mizuna Spread + Cold Avocado & Cucumber Soup
toast recipe adapted from La Tartine Courmande
For the toasts:
1 1/2 cups Fava, Sweet Pea & Mizuna Spread, recipe follows
1 cup garlic scape labneh, recipe follows
4 slices rye (or bread of choice), toasted
4 radishes, sliced thin
pea shoots, optional
raw sweet peas, optional (for garnish)
fresh cracked pepper
Slather each slice of toasted bread with the labneh. Spoon a heaping mound of the bean/pea spread on top. Garnish with radish slices, pea shoots and raw sweet peas.
Fava, Sweet Pea & Mizuna Spread
makes 2 cups
1 1/2 cups cooked fava beans, shells removed
1 1/2 cups blanched sweet peas, out of the shell (save about 2 tbsp to stir into the finished spread)
2 tbsp chopped mint
1/2 cup chopped mizuna (a bitter leafy green)
Juice from 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp salt
1 clove garlic
Place ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the dip is spreadable but still has a few chunks to it. Stir in the 2 tbsp of cooked sweet peas.
Garlic Scape Labneh
makes 1 cup
1 1/2 cups plain, full fat yogurt
2 garlic scapes, minced
1/2 tsp salt
Stir ingredients to combine. Place in a colander lined with a few layers of cheesecloth and let drain over night in the fridge. In the morning, pull the corners of the cheesecloth together and give the labneh a little squeeze to release any extra moisture. Scrape into a dish. Will keep covered for a week.
Chilled Lime, Avocado & Cucumber Soup
1 ripe avocado
4 baby (1/2 large) cucumbers, rough chopped
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 jalapeno, seeds removed and diced
Juice of 1 lime (1/2 if you like it less tart)
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup plain yogurt
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup cold water
Place all ingredients except for the water in the blender and blend until smooth. If it’s too thick, add water a little at a time until desired consistency. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or lime if needed.
makes about 1 cup of chips
2 large kohlrabi, stems removed and sliced thin on a mandolin
Preheat oven to 250.
Toss kohlrabi with oil and a few pinches of salt and place on a rack lined cookie sheet so the heat can evenly bake the chips. Bake for 30-45 minutes, turning the pan every so often, until golden brown and crisp.
Spring may be inching closer, but that doesn’t mean the lingering chill in the air can’t be battled with a warm bowl of bright, fragrant soup.
Today’s meatless Monday dish has spent many cold, winter nights wrapping my bones in a blanket of steaming hot, vibrant red soup made rich with the addition of savory caramelized fennel and roasted garlic. The splash of lemon at the end brightens the deep flavours and balances everything out. It’s a lick-the-bottom-of-the-bowl sort of soup and one that’s especially well-received when there is little in your fridge to make a meal out of, as seems to be my case lately.
If your evenings are cool and you need something soothing, this soup will fit the bill wonderfully.
Caramelized Fennel, Roasted Garlic and Tomato Soup with Lemon
serves 2 as main, 4 as sides
1 large bulb fennel (about 1 1/2 cups), diced
1 head of garlic, roasted*
1 can (1/2 cup) tomato paste
4 cups chicken or veg stock
1 cup water
2-4 tbsp fresh lemon juice, depending on taste
salt and pepper to taste
fennel fronds, optional
Drizzle a pan over med-high heat with a few glugs of olive oil and let it get hot. Add the fennel and a few pinches of coarse salt and let it cook, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until deep brown and caramelized around the edges, 20-30 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and roasted garlic cloves and cook until the paste has deepened in colour and become very fragrant, 6-7 minutes. Add the stock and water, bring to a boil and stir, scraping the bottom of the pot to release all the flavourful bits of fennel and tomato paste. Turn down to a simmer and let it bubble away for 20 minutes. Puree if desired (I like it smooth, but there is nothing wrong with a chunky soup). Add lemon juice, 1 tbsp at a time and taste to see if you’d like to add more. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Ladle into bowls and garnish with fennel fronds and a drizzle of olive oil.
cut top off garlic, drizzle with olive oil and salt, wrap in foil and roast at 400 until golden brown, 30-40 minutes. Let cool, squeeze cloves out into soup.
This recipe comes at just the right time. When our bodies are craving warmth and solace from the bitter cold. The mercury seems to be on a never ending nose dive into the 30 belows and as it makes it’s decent, our bones stiffen, muscles tighten and groan as we reluctantly emerge from our blanket-covered indentations on the couch. We need to melt, to thaw our winter-permeated bones and come back to life.
This soup will do just that. Every blistering spoonful, oozing like lava with sharp, buttery cheddar warms the soul from the inside out. I like to eat it when it’s so hot that it will likely leave your tongue slightly burned - a price I’m happy to pay for a soup that battles this unwavering chill.
French Onion Soup takes very few ingredients to construct and you’ve likely got most of them on hand right now. At it’s core; stock, onions, bread, cheese. But I’ve pumped it up slightly with a deep, dark, bitter porter. You can buy Trafalgar Cognac Aged Porter at some LCBO but if you can’t find it, substitute for another high quality porter that you enjoy drinking (that’s important!). Use a good quality stock, preferably homemade, and a cheese that’s sharp and melts to a rich, gooey consistency.
Portered French Onion Soup with Île-aux-Grues Cheddar
serves 4-6, depending on portion size
You can buy Île-aux-Grues Cheddar at The Red Apron in Ottawa. If you want to give this another dimension of flavour, a smoked porter would be a lovely addition.
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
5 large onions, sliced thin into half moons
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups porter
6 cups high quality beef stock
2 sprigs fresh thyme
8 thick-cut slices of baguette
1 1/2 cups grated aged cheddar
Let the butter/olive oil heat up in a large dutch oven over medium heat. When sizzling, add the sliced onion. Cook, stirring every few minutes, until onions are deep brown and sweet. Be patient with this step, it should take about 30 minutes to get them a beautiful, rich brown.
Once the onions have turned to a buttery soft consistency, turn the heat up a notch and add the porter. Cook, scraping the bottom of the pan to get all the little stuck-on bits of onion up, until reduced slightly, 5 minutes. Add the stock and sprigs of thyme, a few pinches of salt and fresh ground pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and let it cook until reduced by about 20%. It should be deep brown, shimmering and taste rich and full.
Turn your oven on to broil. Ladle soup into oven-safe ramekins or bowls and place 1-2 slices of baguette on top of the soup. Sprinkle bread with a generous (GENEROUS!) amount of cheese. Broil until cheese is bubbling brown and baguette has toasted lightly around the edges.
Serve HOT. The steamier, the better. But eat carefully - I can’t promise you won’t burn your tongue.
If you live in Ottawa, as I do, you know there is no shortage of soup or sandwiches in the downtown core. Whatever you do, and wherever you do it, there is a small to medium shop that sells the basics, and a few that even go far above and beyond the minestrone and ham sandwich. And then there are the ones that are delicious and varied enough that going back every day doesn’t seem so bad at all.
Last week, I tucked in out of the snow and into the warm and inviting lobby of the Westin Ottawa to try out a new lunch offering at Daly’s at the Westin. Typically I would shy from grabbing lunch at a hotel because I prefer to get more for less, and that doesn’t ever seem to be the case with hotel food. I was assured, by someone whose opinion I wholeheartedly trust, that this was not the case with Daly’s. And I was glad that I trusted her in the end, because my meal was filled with so many delicious things.
A little over a month ago, Daly’s decided to start a new lunch venture that would offer quick and simple options to both it’s guests and the general public. It was an opportunity to offer something slightly less posh than their dining room menu, and something they could offer up to shoppers in the Rideau Centre that wanted something healthy, fast and under $15.
Westin (Starwood) hotels are the first to offer a signature “superfoods” menu, which consists of carefully paired ingredients that cultivates “food synergy”. All the things your body needs, teamed up so you can get the most out of them.
Now as much as I appreciate the science behind healthy eating and why it does what it does for our bodies, I can’t get down with it unless it tastes good. Really good, preferably. And Daly’s Express absolutely came through there. I sat down to a veritable feast of sandwiches, soups, an amazing green tea granola parfait, Starbucks latté (all the coffee at Daly’s is Starbucks! Bonus!) and impeccably iced and colourful cupcakes. I left worried that I might have to take a 15 minute catnap on a bench in the mall, but out of fear of having my leftover cupcakes stolen, I trucked on, full up to my chin with delicious fare.
Before I could even see Chef Matt Bedard coming out with plate upon plate of scrumptious, lightly toasted paninis and sandwiches, I could smell the herbs and spices from the toasted bread wafting into the dining room. And then, right before me, was a mountain of sandwich heaven. Each one served on carefully chosen artisan bread, crafted specifically to pair with the ingredients of the sandwiches. From a beautiful tender roast beef sandwich with gooey, melted Swiss cheese, to a smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich, a toasty club with a wonderful creamy guacamole, impeccably spiced roasted chicken with prosciutto and brie, and even a vegetarian sandwich stuffed with blanched asparagus, tofu, and tender mushrooms. Between bites, I sipped on a creamy, balanced Coconut Chicken Curry soup, which I instantly fell in love with, and a comforting beef and barley soup. We finished off the gut-busting lunch with a granola green tea parfait, and very pretty cupcakes.
If you don’t find something that strikes your fancy on the menu, executive Chef Kenton Leier & Chef Matt Bedard said they don’t mind helping you create something just the way you’d like it!
Daly’s Express is open from 6:30am-2pm 7 days a week. If you go into the Westin Ottawa front door, you just head up the escalator to the 3rd level, and you’re there! Because I want you to know just how tasty everything from Daly’s Express was, we want to give away a gift certificate that will get you and a guest (or two meals for you!) soup, sandwich and a drink, valued at $25.
Tell me in the comments which sandwich you think looks most delicious!
For extra entries:
1. “Like” Westin Ottawa on Facebook (1 extra entry)
2. Follow them on Twitter (1 extra entry)
Leave an extra comment below for each Twitter and Facebook follow letting me know you’ve followed/liked.
Winner will be chosen at random Monday, December 10th by 11am.
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. The Westin Ottawa sponsored it and compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. Regardless, I only recommend restaurants or products I use/enjoy personally and believe will be good for my readers.
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.
You’ve got to hand it to the Mexicans; they can do food like nobody else. Better than the French (Désolé mes amis), better than the Spanish (Lo siento mis amigos) and better than the Italians (Spiacente miei amici)… at least as far as my gut is concerned. Their colourful plates are amass with vibrant produce, umpteen varieties of tongue tingling chilies, slow braised, barely holding themselves together cuts of meat, cobs of corn slathered in butter and rich mayonnaise infused with a Cajun mix of spices, lusciously creamy posoles and mole, cemitas filled with potatoes, tender cactus & stuffed with Oaxacan cheese, crispy chiles rellenos loaded with smooth Mexican-style ricotta……have I lost you yet? Because I’m suddenly filled with the urge to hop a plane to Oaxaca. Truly, my love of Mexican cuisine knows no bounds. Even something as simple as a plate of rice and beans serves as one of my most sensuous meals in recent memory.
There is something truly magical about the textural varieties of Mexican food that makes me coo with delight upon seeing a giant plate of toothsome corn tortillas charred lightly and stuffed with tender carnita meat, creamy avocado, tart Tomatillo Salsa and pickled jalapenos.… there lies the perfect bite of crunchy, smooth, creamy, hot, spicy, cool… nothing is missed, nothing is without balance. This seems to be a constant in most of Mexico’s historic cuisine. Though sussing out a spot that respects the traditions and authentic flavours of Mexico isn’t always a task easily completed. We’ve only recently started to see a movement in truly authentic Mexican cuisine in Ottawa, but it’s still a far cry from the hole-in-the-wall joints you might find in bigger cities. Making dishes at home seems to be the only way to experience all the flavours and colours of Mexico without being bombarded with the sometimes tacky, overly Americanized Tex-Mex cuisine.
To celebrate Cinco de Mayo, I decided to make something that hadn’t made it’s way into my kitchen before. Sopa Aztec; a chili-spiked tomato broth, acidic and ever-so-lightly spiced, topped with cubed avocado, melty cheese (usually queso fresco, Chihuahua, or Asadero), fried tortilla strips and more crumbled chilies if desired. It’s one of the most comforting soups I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. And of course, since it was a recipe I adapted from the KING of Mexican cuisine, Rick Bayless, it’s no surprise that it came out as tummy-pleasingly as it did. He truly is a master of his craft.
Whip up a batch of this sopa, don your most colourful sombrero, shake your mariachis and sip on a citrusy Margarita (on the rocks or bust!) this May 5th, Cinco de Mayo! It’s time to throw down!
Sopa Azteca with Cilantro Pesto
adapted from Rick Bayless
I wasn’t able to find epazote or Pasilla chilies on such short notice, so I left out the former and opted for a dried ancho chili instead. I also couldn’t find any authentic cheese, but I usually use a simple goat mozzarella in my Mexican dishes. I love the flavour.
1 large dried pasilla or ancho chile, stemmed and seeded
One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice ( fire-roasted if you can find them)
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1 medium white onion, rough chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 quart chicken broth
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large ripe avocado, pitted, flesh scooped from the skin and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups queso fresco, oaxaca or goat mozzarella cheese
1 corn tortilla per person, sliced into thin strips
1/2 cup Mexican crema, sour cream or creme fraîche for garnish
*cilantro pesto (recipe to come)
1 large lime, cut into 6 wedges, for serving
Start by placing the dried chile in a dry pan over med-high heat and press down with a heavy pan or a fork until lightly toasted. Flip and repeat.
Place the chile and tomatoes in the blender and puree until smooth.
In a large pot over medium heat, add the oil, onions and garlic and saute until golden, about 6-7 minutes. Scoop up the onion and garlic in a slotted spoon, leaving as much of the oil in the pan as possible. Toss the onions and garlic into the blender with the tomatoes and puree for another 10 seconds or until smooth.
Bring the pan back to medium-high heat and add the tomato mixture. Let the liquid evaporate while stirring almost constantly, until the mixture is almost as thick as tomato paste, about 10-12 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken and let it cook, about 10 minutes.
Taste for salt and add if needed.
While the soup is simmering, toss the tortilla strips with a small amount of oil, just enough to coat them. Place on a foil/parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 325, checking halfway through.
Ladle the soup into bowls and top with avocado cubes, cheese, cilantro pesto and tortilla strips.
2 healthy handfuls of fresh cilantro
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
Place in food processor or blender and puree until smooth.
Is there anything better than a simple bowl of ramen noodles? I’ve asked that
question before and I’m pretty sure you all agreed that no, no there isn’t. Unless we’re talking about millions of dollars. That might be better… because you could buy LOTS of bowls of noodles with that.
After a wildly indulgent weekend in Prince Edward County [post to come!] stuffing our faces with just about anything in sight (no, really), I needed something a little more gentle. Something warm and easy on the stomach. Something slurpy and noodley and spicy. And preferably something I didn’t have to simmer, rinse, simmer, rinse, simmer for 8 hours, skim etc etc.
Cheating on stock is not something I’m proud of. I cringe at the idea of telling you to use box stock and bouillon for a simple soup where flavour really counts, but it’s just necessary sometimes. Unless you’re one of those people who thinks ahead and has homemade stock in the freezer… if you are, I’m not worthy. Please, look away. Avert your eyes!! Granted, the stock was pumped up with lots of extra flavour. So… you know.. it’s not SO bad. Right?
BUT ITS DELICIOUS! I promise you that. And I wouldn’t lie to you about taste - never, ever about taste, my dear friends. So make yourself up a pot of this 30-minute miso ramen soup and see for yourself. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Red Miso Ramen with Soft Boiled Egg and Shiitake Mushrooms
Inspired by Steamy Kitchens
half an onion
2 inches of ginger, sliced into thick rounds
8 cups beef or veggie stock [homemade or good quality boxed]
2 tsp instant dashi**
3 tbsp red miso paste
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
12 oz dried ramen noodles
Extras; use them all, use a few, or add your own
1 egg per person, soft boiled*
fresh bean sprouts
baby bok choy
Shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, cleaned and sliced
Preheat oven to 425.
Place the half-onion (still in one piece) and ginger rounds onto a cast iron or cookie sheet and bake until charred, 10 minutes.
Cook ramen noodles accordingly to package directions. Place noodles into serving bowls.
In a large pot, add the stock, onion/ginger, dashi and soy and bring it all to a boil. Let it simmer for 7-8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the miso. Taste and add more miso if needed.
Place the baby bok choy and shiitake mushrooms, if using, into the serving bowls with the ramen. Ladle stock over top.
Finish the soup with a sprinkle of bean sprouts, fresh herbs, sriracha/hoison, scallions and finally, place your soft boiled egg on top. Enjoy!
*To soft boil an egg:
Bring a small pot filled with water to a boil and turn the heat down to a gentle simmer. Carefully lower the egg into the simmering water using a slotted spoon. Set the timer for 9 minutes. Remove the egg and place right into an ice bath to cool it. Peel the egg and slice in half (carefully) and place in soup.
Dashi is Japanese bonito fish stock. You can find it in specialty stores and sometimes in the Asian Food section of your grocery store, depending on how well stocked it is. La Fuji Mama can show you how to make your own, too!
Every so often I need to be reminded.
That food is to be enjoyed, each bite relished in - not rushed through so I can edit photos and start writing. Meals are to be made because you want them - not because it’s been thismany days since you posted a recipe with thiskind of ingredient. Food is a gift - not a given. This article was my reminder. And a thought-provoking, somewhat shameful one, at that.
Blogging, as many of my peers know, can be a daunting task at times. It’s hard not to get wrapped up in the process of the planning, the cooking, the editing, the writing, the sharing… and somewhere in there the act of the eating gets lost. The simple pleasure of enjoying the meal just for the sake of enjoyment is a task I find myself pushing aside more and more often. To put the fork down and taste, really taste each bite fully - something I never thought I’d have to remind myself to do - is a practice in self-control.
I’m trying to be better. To be more quiet and thoughtful in the presence of a meal. To appreciate the act of simply eating. And with that said, I’ll let todays simple, earthy mushroom soup speak for itself.
Cream of Mushroom Soup
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1oz dried wild mushrooms
3 cups hot water
¼ cup olive oil
3 sprigs of both thyme and sage, tied together
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp red pepper flakes, optional
1 pound button mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and sliced
1 pound shiitake mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and sliced
1 cup dry white wine
Salt & fresh ground pepper
3 cups organic or homemade beef stock
¼ cup table cream
2 tbsp. butter
Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl and cover them with hot water for 30 minutes until plump. Remove the mushrooms and strain the mushroom water through a coffee filter set in a bowl to remove excess grit. Set mushrooms and soaking liquid aside.
In a large pot over medium-high heat, add the oil and bundle of herbs. As the oil heats up the herbs will start to infuse it with flavour. After 2 minutes, add the onions. Cook until just starting to brown, 5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, if using, and cook for another minute.
Turn the heat up to high and add the sliced mushrooms. Cook for 10 minutes or until they have released all their moisture. They will shrink considerably. Once browned, add the white wine and cook, scraping up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pot, until reduced completely. Add the rehydrated mushrooms and their liquid, beef stock, a few pinches of salt and pepper and simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes. Remove the herbs and stir in the cream and butter. Using a blender (or immersion blender), puree until smooth and serve with a drizzle of good olive oil, fresh thyme leaves and crusty bread.
I love bread.
I love the way a fresh loaf’s crust shatters like glass when you pull a warm, doughy piece from it. I love it’s comforting, alluring smell as it emerges from the oven, golden brown and imperfect. I love how unpretentious a rustic peasant loaf can truly be. I love that it rises from merely three modest ingredients. Simple or complex, dense or light, flattened or round, I love everything about it. Everything.
The dilemma lays in this; I am a dreadful baker. Heavy handed, overly fussy, impatient and imprecise. None of those equate to scrumptious bread. Or at least they didn’t use to.
Enter No-Knead Bread. The savior to all incompetent bakers. I’m certain there are some real bakers out there who might see the no-knead method as cheating, but for all of you out there like me, who dream of being able to slice into a fresh, warm, yeasty loaf - this is, without a single doubt, the greatest thing to happen since…well…sliced bread. You CAN make this bread. And you will. [this is me sending you subliminal message to pull out your flour, yeast and water…. you’re getting sleeee.. no wait… baaaaakey]
You know as well as I that fresh bread is not complete without something to slather on it or dip it in. I decided to go with the latter and whip up a batch of soup with a few things I had kicking around. Surprisingly, it was one of the better soups I’ve made.
The perfect marriage of sweet and savoury exists between the roasted squash and Asian pears. I really appreciated the depth that roasting them created and the subtle sweetness that bathing them in a mixture of vanilla, cider and just a hint of cayenne for background heat, provided. Simple and unpretentious but entirely delicious.
Of course, you don’t have to make both soup AND bread… but I found they really went wonderfully together. Mr. GL claimed that the bread made it a meal and even he, the handsomest of picky eaters, devoured his bowl with a big grin on his face. So do try them both at some point, if not together.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Asian Pear Soup with Vanilla
I love the way the soup turned out initially, but it was a little on the sweet side. I found the addition of ricotta to really help balance it out.
I garnished the soup with some lightly roasted squash seeds that were dusted with chili powder. You are welcome to do that or you can top with a little yogurt, some olive oil, fresh herbs, toasted croutons or nothing at all.
1 large (2+ lbs) butternut squash, sliced in half and seeded
2 large Asian pears, peeled, sliced in half and cored
coarse sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cup pure, high quality apple cider
3 cups water
1/4-1/2 vanilla bean
pinch or two cayenne pepper
1/2 cup ricotta or Mascarpone (optional)
Preheat oven to 400.
Place the squash and pears cut side up, in a roasting pan or cookie sheet. Cut a few slices in the squash and rub it and the pears with some olive oil. Give the slices a good sprinkling of salt and pepper. Roast for 40-60 minutes until a fork is able to go through both squash and pears without any resistance. The pears might be done sooner than the squash so check them after about 40 minutes.
Remove squash and pears from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes. While cooling, throw the diced onion in a large soup pot with a few glugs of olive oil. Turn the heat to medium and let the onions sweat until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
Throw in the pears and carefully scoop out the squash flesh and toss it into the pot. Add the cider, vanilla bean and water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer for another 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the ricotta and cayenne pepper and puree with an immersion blender or in a stand blender until creamy and smooth.
Ladle into bowls and top with whatever you please.
No Knead Crusty Bread
adapted from Honey & Jam
Makes 3 small or two good sized loaves
This bread is simple in preparation but impressive in flavour and texture. It’s yeasty and dense, crunchy and satisfying. The perfect pairing with soup.
Please read instructions before you start so you can ask any questions you might have before go-time.
3 cups of lukewarm water
1 1/2 tbsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 tbsp coarse salt
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
In a very large mixing bowl, add the water, yeast and salt. Let it sit for about 5 minutes, it’ll just be starting to get frothy.
Dump in all the flour, don’t be shy, and use a sturdy wood (or otherwise) spoon to mix it until no flour streaks remain. I didn’t mix mine enough and had a rough clump in one of the loaves, so don’t be shy.
Cover the bowl with saran wrap and let it rest in a warm spot for 2 1/2 - 3 hours or until it has risen and started to deflate.
If you’re ready to bake the bread right away - flour your hands and tear off a chunk about the size of a grapefruit. Round the loaf out by pulling some pieces from the sides of the dough, rotating as you go, and tucking them underneath the loaf. It doesn’t have to be perfect, this is a rustic loaf. It shouldn’t take you more than 1 minute to tuck the sides under.
Place the small loaves on a counter top or board dusted with cornmeal and let them rise for another 40 minutes, no need to cover.
20 minutes before cooking time, preheat oven to 450. While preheating, place a skillet or pizza stone in the middle rack and a cookie sheet in the lower rack.
When the dough is done it’s final rise, give it a quick drizzle of olive oil (optional) and place it on the preheated pizza stone. Immediately pour 1 cup of water in the cookie sheet that’s in the lower rack of the oven. Close the door quickly to trap that steam in. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
If you have more will power than I, you’ll let it cool for 15 minutes. But not much longer than that as you have to have a slice of it warm with butter. I insist! (…and when I insist, you must listen)