Adventures In Eating


Omnivorous or not, a trip to Chicago without a dining destination might leave you a little stumped.
While I’m sure the city is drenched in fabulous restaurant choices, left on your own without a little guidance one might only find an pierogi, an all dressed hot dog or a deep dish pizza on the menu.

Naturally, it was long before Oprah tried her hand at veganism, I’m sure there were options, although hidden, throughout her Windy City. Stumble upon Fox & Obel, or carefully read through some menus and you might find some contributions to the herbivore fare like grilled vegetable paninis and some very interesting, but tasty salads, like this one inspired by the Corner Bakery Café.

Sweet, with the only zip pretty much coming from the flavour of the ginger and finishing with a hint of cilantro, it was a great salad all on it’s own, but it did go well with that crisp panini and I’m sure anything grilled for summer as well.

Perfect flash of colour for your July celebration table.
Happy Canada Day everyone.

EDAMAME SALAD

Edamame (Soy Beans), about 1 cup podded
1 Large Carrot, Coarsely grated, equivalent to 1 cup
1 Sweet Red Bell Pepper, diced
1/2 English Cucumber, diced, about 1 cup
3 Scallions, finely diced
2″ Piece Fresh Ginger, peeled and finely grated
Fistful of Fresh Cilantro, finely chopped, about 1 Tablespoon
Fistful of Fresh Basil, finely chopped, about 1 Tablespoon
2 Tablespoons Orange Juice
1 Tablespoons Agave Nectar
1 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pinch Salt

Finely grate the ginger using the fine grater of a box grater or a zester and squeeze excess juice from any stringy remains.
Add the ginger and juice to a food processor or a wide enough cup to handle an immersion blender, along with the agave and olive oil. Mix well to emulsify.
Steam the beans or boil in their pods for about 3 – 4 minutes.
Drain the beans and blanch under cold water briefly to cool.
Finely dice the cucumber.
Peel and finely dice the scallions and coarsely shred the carrot on the large hole of a box grater, or cut into matchsticks.
Shell the beans, discarding the pods, and add, along with the other vegetables into a large bowl.
Wash, dry and finely chop the basil and cilantro.
Pour over the dressing and sprinkle over the herbs, tossing to coat everything well.

Thankful


On a recent trip to the country side, it was easy to absorb the surroundings and be thankful for what we have. The warm autumn days have brought with it a tremendous bounty.

While on the road, we were fortunate to experience one of the more remarkable pumpkin patches of recent memory. Flooded by the sea of orange, we washed up by the barn only to be further delighted by the classy heirloom varieties our hosts, the Nauman’s, had so knowledgeably grown over the past 100 days or so.

Beautiful and rarely seen French and Italian heirloom pumpkins soon filled my cart once only destined to carry orange carvers. Pink, red, blue and green classics, fit for a princess’s coach were on their way into my life to nobly, and tastily end theirs.

During the purchase of my great pumpkins, I naturally dreamed of creamy, spiced pies but thoughts shift creatively with vegan visitors and Thanksgiving at your doorstep.

Cracking into my vibrant Rouge Vif D’Etampe, I couldn’t help but imagine it’s outcome. This stunning, old French heirloom is also known as Cinderella’s Carriage, as it was used as the artist’s model in the Disney classic. It’s lovely, dense, creamy orange interior yielded about 5 cups of puréed intention. Ideal for baking, the Rouge Vif is smooth and easy to relieve of any excess liquid. This pumpkin easily puts any Holiday can of pie to shame and is well worth the small, extra effort.


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Last Summer Weekend


Last of glamping, at least for me this year.
The days are beautiful, but let me tell you, these late summer nights can get c h i l l y.
As lovely as the morning dew and hikes with trees hinting of crimson are, that’s all folks, until next year anyway.
We just returned from a group camping trip. A trip to cook or not to cook could be the question, but what we did do was Eat For Freedom. The task for the weekend, if you’d want to call it that, was to cook only once, but to cook for the group. The trick was, at it’s high point the crowd was pushing 40+ people.
Sure, some could opt for the easy route out, cracking open a dozen cans of beans, but these guys were pretty hard core. I was told about successful curries, fresh pies, even home made gnocchi but I think the burritos topped for my favourite. Easy, delicious and vegan, fit to satisfy the 90% carnivorous crowd.

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White Bean & Arugula Tortellini



Thank you to all the people before me; all the Nonnas in Italy, Mark Bittman, Jamie Oliver, Ruth, Marta

I was inspired to make pasta from scratch and although I’d been intimidated by the idea enough to keep me from ever buying a pasta machine, I finally made my attempt today. I had great fun! The dough was simple. The visions of a flour mountain with a mined out centre for wet ingredients was replaced by my beloved food processor. It was fast simple and quick – my kind of cooking.

Kneading dough, I find, is so therapeutic that there almost wasn’t enough of it. (But I made up for it with the unraveling of the fettuccine I chose to attempt.) Without a pasta machine, I cut the dough into small, workable balls and got to work with my rolling pin. As I rolled, I thought the dough would fight back like most others, but it just worked with me, never sticking, only stretching as thinly as I wanted it to go. It was so incredibly fun for a Presto Pasta Friday and this was, again, my first try!

Really this attempt was the least I could to for the vast amounts of pasta consumed in this house. I was forewarned that homemade is better, almost addictive, and so much better than store bought fresh and my oh my am I ever a convert now.

Once I realized that even the smallest tablespoon of my already made Sundried Tomato Pesto could transform this delicately firm pasta into a definition all it’s own— I wanted to stuff it. Crazy, since the test fettuccine was almost too tasty for a sauce, but I am a tortellini junkie so this is what came to be.


Now, I hope that you don’t feel intimidated by the length of what follows.
It’s detailed, but broken up. It really didn’t take long at all to make, honest.

SUNDRIED TOMATO PASTA

1/2 Cup Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Semolina Flour
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoons Sundried Tomato Pesto
1/3 Cup HOT Water

In the bowl of a food processor, add the flours and salt; mix to combine.
With the motor running at a medium to low speed, add the olive oil then the pesto through the feeder tube.
Drizzle 1/4 Cup of the water to begin. As the dough begins to form and appear crumbly, slowly add small amounts of the remaining water, as you may not need it all.
When the dough comes together in a full ball, turn off the food processor and remove the dough to a slightly floured board to knead.
Knead the dough until it is stretchy but not sticky. Cut it into workable pieces, 3 or 4, which ever you are most comfortable and set all but one aside in a covered bowl.

WHITE BEAN WITH ARUGULA FILLING

1/2 Can White Kidney Beans (260g)
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Cup Arugula, packed
3-4 Fresh Basil Leaves
crack of freshly ground pepper to taste

Drain and rinse the beans. Add them to the bowl of a food processor to purée.
With the motor running, add the olive oil, salt and garlic, followed by the arugula and basil; mix until well combined and smooth.
Scrape sides, adjust seasoning, if necessary and add fresh pepper to taste.

ASSEMBLY OF THE TORTELLINI

With a rolling pin, begin to roll the pasta dough using flour only when necessary to prevent sticking and roll the dough as thinly as possible, about 1/8″ or less.
Trim the edges and cut the dough into 2″ squares.
Drop the filling by scant teaspoonfuls into the centre of the squares.
With fresh water, use your finger to moisten two adjoining sides and fold the pasta over the filling to form a triangle.
Remove any air bubbles and seal the edges. Bring two opposite corners together and secure by dampening and a squeezing slightly.
Set finished pasta aside in a single layer (to keep them from sticking to each other) until ready to cook.
Repeat with remaining pasta and filling.

FRESH TOMATO SAUCE

2 Tomatoes, skinned and seeded
1 Clove Garlic, Puréed
pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Bring a large pot of water to boil.
Prepare a bowl of ice water.
Score the bottom of the tomatoes and drop them into the boiling water for about 1 minute.
Remove and plunge them into the cold water.
Core the tomatoes and remove the skins; slice and remove the seeds.
Mash the tomatoes with a fork and add the puréed garlic, salt and olive oil; mix well.

FINITO!

Bring a large pot of water to boil, drop in the finished pasta and stir. Once the pasta floats and the water has returned to a rapid boil, about four minutes, check that the pasta is al dente.
Toss with the sauce, garnish with shredded basil and serve immediately.

Glamping Meals



Have no idea what I’m talking about do you?

I think I could say I’ve been glamping for years but it’s finally fashionable to go camping in style without baked beans from a can. Honestly, it’s the only way I know how to camp and now there’s a name for it.

Having just returned from my first camping trip in over five six years, I can safely say that we are all unscathed. A few mosquito bites richer but certainly not any hungrier, our almost rain-out of a weekend finished up a sunny success.

Expecting an onslaught of this glamourous “Glamping” camping, I began to imagine froufy pink Gucci tents, pocket dogs with their own inflatable beds and a/c adapters for hair drying in the wilderness. Being not much of that myself, I thought more about the food. We pitched our tents with another two families, so there was certainly no shortage of it! There was Portabella Pasta Alfredo, Red Pepper Fajita’s, Campfire Roasted Baba Ghanouj and Cast Iron Fritata and that was just the first day – kidding.

All this gourmet glamping almost, just almost made me long for that can of beans and a hot dog on a stick – but not quite.

BLACK BEAN & FRESH CORN QUESADILLAS

1 Can Black Turtle Beans
1/2 White Onion, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Cup Filtered Water
2 Tablespoons Ground Cumin
1 Tablespoon Ground Coriander
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper, to taste
8 Soft Tortillas
2 Cobs of Corn
1 Tablespoon Sugar
Tomato Salsa

Set a pot of water to boil.
In a sauté or cast iron skillet, heat the oil and add the onion.
Once the onion has softened and become translucent, add the garlic.
Drain, rinse and add the beans.
Sprinkle over the spices and add the water allowing everything to absorb and simmer for about 3 – 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat.
Mash the beans with a fork, potato masher or a hand blender until they are smooth but recognizable.
Set aside.
Drop the freshly husked corn into the awaiting pot of boiling water and sprinkle over the sugar.
Once the water returns to a rolling boil, remove the pot from direct heat. Let the corn sit for 5 minutes <only> then pull it out of the water.
With a chef’s knife, cut the kernels from the corn cobs.
Lay out 4 of the tortillas and spoon over a thin, even layer of the bean mixture,dot with salsa and sprinkle with the fresh corn before topping with the 4 remaining tortillas.
Place the tortillas in a heated skillet, or on a grill over the campfire coals.
Cook until golden and crisp. Flip and repeat.
Slice into wedges and serve with additional salsa or guacamole.

Samosas


Aloo Chana, also known as potato chick pea curry… and the other night’s dinner. No matter how hard we try, there never seems to be a proper ratio of basmati steamed to the amount of curry in the pot. (Let alone room in our stomaches.)
So needless to say, it’s great for a community meal but when it comes to left overs, there’s never enough to justify making a whole new batch of rice. Conundrum? No way, it’s an excuse to make this little awesome appetizer of samosas!

Super simple with a spoonful the leftovers sealed in a spare won ton or gyoza wrapper.
Served up with something sweet to cut the heat, like tamarind or mango chutney.