Heirloom Tomato Soup



My wonderful father in-law, one of the two lovely in-laws who’ve inspired this blog, also inspired my garden this year. For Christmas, I was presented with the most thorough catalog of seeds I’ve seen in some time. With not enough space to go pumpkin crazy, I opted for rewarding tomatoes. Six varieties to be precise and would you think that would stop my seed gift? No way, he even planted, sprouted and babied these specimens until they were ready to head to earth.

With a late start to the summer and a bit of a back problem, these little babies soon grew into towering providers. Eight feet of unstretchable plant has blossomed into hoards of tomatoes that now, so close to the first of fall, have finally begun to ripen; all at once.

With the more than occasional rain and cooler nights, I’ve summoned my three year old farm hand, who has no trouble crouching, to help with the over abundant harvest.

The soup, I could handle. It was pretty simple and very delicious.

CREAMLESS CREAM OF TOMATO SOUP
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Small Onion, diced
3 Cloves Garlic, minced, about 1 1/2 teaspoons
2 Lbs Assorted Heirloom Tomatoes, I used Black From Tula, Snow White Cherry, Roma & Riesentraube, diced (or one large 300z can)
1 Bay Leaf
1 1/2 Cups Vegetable Broth
1 teaspoon Brown Sugar
1 Slice of Bread, crusts removed, torn
3/4 teaspoon Salt, more or less, to taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, optional, to taste
Fresh Basil, chopped, optional for garnish

Heat the oil in a large pot.
Dice and add the onion, minced garlic and bay leaf.
Sauté over medium until the onions are soft and translucent but not browned.
Add diced tomatoes and cook for about 10 – 15 minutes or until the tomatoes have softened, released their juices and lost their skins.
Stir in the sugar, bread and broth, then bring the soup to a boil then reduce it to a simmer.
Once the bread is soft and begins to break down, remove the bay leaf.
Using a hand immersion blender, mix the soup until smooth.
In batches if necessary, pass the soup through a mesh strainer and return to a cleaned pot.
Reheat as necessary.
Add salt, and pepper if desired. Seasoning to taste.
Garnish with fresh basil.

Serves 4

Whole Garden Gnocchi


Who knew I could feed myself from a front yard garden alone? Other than the flour, I grew everything for this dish in my small, urban yard; potatoes, garlic, chard, tomatoes and squash.

I may have mentioned my front yard transformation last spring. With the help of a great neighbour, a dumping of dirt, a seed catalogue and some eager kids, we transferred lawn into an edible space.

Less the brussels sprouts and the chard, most of the garden now harvested. There were the three varieties of potatoes; Peruvian Reds, Blue and Russian Fingerlings, Rainbow Swiss Chard, Butternut Squash, sweet Yellow Pear Tomatoes just for this dish alone. (It doesn’t even hint at the edamame, peas, beans, beets, asparagus, blueberries, herbs, okra, cabbages, zucchini, pumpkins… corn… wow!)

After digging up a surplus of potatoes, I needed a few ideas on what to do with them. With BBQ season pretty much a thing of the past, potato salad wasn’t topping my list as much as the gnocchi. Besides, I just had to when I saw the light pinkiness of the potatoes and the great texture that was perfect for such a thing.

Feeding yourself all on your own, that’s local.
Now, that’s something to be thankful for!

PERUVIAN PINK POTATO GNOCCHI

1Lb Potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed (you can use other starchy potatoes, like Russetts as well)
1 Cup All Purpose Flour, plus more for rolling.
1/4 teaspoon Salt

In a large bowl, finely mash the cooked potatoes so they are lump free.
Add the salt and half of the flour then add 1/4 cup at a time stirring to combine and bring everything together in a smooth dough. You may not need it all.
Depending on your work surface, third or quarter the dough. Take one piece and cover remaining pieces.
Roll the dough into long “snakes” and cut into 1″ pieces.
Roll each piece off the back of a floured fork and repeat finishing all of the dough.
Drop into salted boiling water and cook gnocchi until they float; about 3 – 4 minutes.

While the gnocchi were boiling I made the “sauce” of tomatoes, chard, squash and garlic.
I cubed the peeled, cleaned squash and sautéed it, covered in a large, lightly oiled pan. Once the pieces began to soften, I removed the lid to let the stem escape and pieces brown.
I added two cloves of finely chopped garlic and the chard to cook for another two minutes.
Once the chard had wilted, I added 1 cup of sliced yellow pear tomatoes, salt, pepper and a palmful of chopped basil.
Simple and delicious.

Beans, Beans. They’re Good…


We all know the rhyme. Even my kids refuse to take them for lunch at school and I don’t blame them. It’s because of the curse that I refused to go near them throughout my entire teenage years.

Quite possibly just a myth, we all got over it with this latest batch. I’ve tried the classic Boston version and never one to be too much into the tomatoey version, I’ve always been partial to the sweet Canadian maple variety.
However, I’m getting BPA picky and costofevenacanofbeans choosy, so I ventured out for another home try.

At literally pennies for a cup of beans, dried are so the way to go for so many reasons. Cheap yes, but they really aren’t as intimidating as one would think. After simply soaking them in water, in the same pot I would later cook them in, they were tender and ready to go into the crockpot in about the same time as it took me to prep and get everything else together!

GREAT WHITE NORTHERN BEANS

3 Cups Great Northern Beans, soaked overnight
1 1/2 Tablespoons Oil
1 Small Onion, finely diced (about 1/2 Cup)
1 Apple, peeled and finely diced (about 1 Cup)
1 Cup Ketchup
1/3 Cup Maple Syrup
1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Dry Mustard
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
2 – 3 Cups Water, reserved from the beans

Once the beans have soaked overnight, make sure they still have about 3 inches of water covering them and bring them to a boil in a large stockpot for about 55 minutes or until just tender.
Meanwhile heat the crockpot to high. Add the oil diced onion and apple. Cover and let it begin to cook and soften.
Measure off the ketchup in a large, pourable measuring cup.
Add the mustard, salt, brown sugar and vinegar, stirring to combine.
Once the beans are soft, drain, reserving the liquid.
Add the beans to the crockpot along with the onion and apple.
Pour over the prepared ingredients and the maple syrup.
Add 2 1/2 cups of the reserved bean water and stir to combine well.
Cook on high heat setting for about 5 hours or low for 8 hours until beans are quite soft and very flavourful.
Add more liquid as necessary and adjust salt to taste.

Strawberry Breakfast Cake


Seems late for strawberries, but this year the weather went from hot to cool and rainy then back again. It may leave me with not being able to pack my long pants away but at least I have more time to visit the strawberry field. Usually the year’s weather will determining the look (and taste) of the strawberries for the season, however this year they were all over the map. I suppose you could say, kind of like that weather.

The cooler sunny days seemed to make them smaller, sweet and abundant. Of course you won’t hear any complaints from me.

After picking several pounds of them, I naturally feasted, making full meals while hulling sinkside. I revisited my recipes of past years, I even shared a few baskets. With my last two pints in the fridge, I wanted some for snacking but I was also left craving something a little less sweet and perfect for a Sunday morning, or anytime. This is strawberry season of course.

STRAWBERRY BREAKFAST CAKE

1 Cup Self Rising Flour
1/3 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/3 Cup Quick Oats
1/3 Cup Semolina
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
¼ teaspoon Salt
3 Tablespoons Sugar
1 ½ Cups Soy Milk
1 Banana, well mashed
3 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 Tablespoon Orange Zest, about 1/2 an orange
1 Pint Strawberries, divided

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Prepare a 9” round cake pan with oil and a dusting of flour.
Hull the strawberries and roughly dice half of the pint, equally 1 Cup.
Slice the remaining strawberries and reserve for serving. Macerate strawberries in orange juice, sugar and Contreau, if desired and it’s brunch, not breakfast:).
In a large bowl combine the flours, oats, semolina, baking powder, soda, salt and sugar.
In a pourable measuring cup, mix the soy milk, mashed banana, oil and vanilla.
Add the milk mixture to the dry stirring just to moisten and combine.
Fold in the orange zest and chopped strawberries then pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a cake tester can be removed cleanly from the centre of the cake.
Cool to remove from the pan and serve with reserved strawberries.

Rhubarb Compote


It’s springtime, and even though I might have a bad back, I’m a die-hard gardener.
Some of the most simple and rewarding treasures of a garden are the ones taken for granted. Possibly because they are so easy to grow they are often over-stepped. Take rhubarb, it’s one of the first things up and it doesn’t need any tinkering, thank goodness it’s so big and bright I get a red reminder to pick some and make something like this for breakfast. Although, I’m sure if you have leftovers, rhubarb is one of those great flavours that can pair really from sweet to savoury. Give it a try. Today I did with breakfast!

RHUBARB COMPOTE

2 Cups Chopped Rhubarb Stalks
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Water
4-5 Cardamom Pods
Small 1/2″ nub of Ginger, peeled and minced
Juice and Peel of one Tangelo (of course you could use an orange)
Pinch of salt

Add rhubarb, sugar, water and cardamom pods to a medium sized saucepan and bring it to a simmer.
Scrub your tangelo, then using a vegetable peeler, remove the outmost peel, leaving the bitter pith.
Add the juice, peel and a pinch of salt to the rhubarb and return it to a boil.
Reduce it to a rolling simmer and cook for about 10 minutes until the rhubarb is tender, but not mushy and the liquid has reduced and thickened.
Set aside to cool then remove the cardamom pods, and the peels, if desired.

Celebrate Life With National Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Day



Who knew?

When I saw that reminder on Twitter, I couldn’t help myself but to think that I may not have been celebrating enough lately.
How about you?
Life a little busy? Preoccupied with everything?

I had a pineapple sitting, waiting for someone to enjoy it, so when I saw this, I just couldn’t help myself… plus I made it small. Perfect for date night or a celebration of one.

Every time I think of pineapple upside-down cakes, I think of my nana or some other 50’s era mom baking this for some backyard bbq but apparently this cake has been around for at least another generation than that. Either way, it’s quick, it’s retro and it’s fun.

Why not celebrate?


VEGAN PINEAPPLE UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE

1/4 Cup Vegan Butter, like Earth Balance – softened
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
3 Tablespoons Pineapple Juice
1 Cup Self-Rising Flour
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Cup Soy Milk
1 teaspoon White Vinegar
1/4 Cup Shredded Coconut, optional
1/2 Cup Fresh Pineapple, thinly sliced, about 1/8″thick
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Lightly spray one 9 inch or two 4 inch spring form pans.
Evenly sprinkle over the brown sugar and fan out the pineapple slices in one layer.
Sprinkle over coconut, if using.
Meanwhile, cream the butter with the granulated sugar, then add the juice.
In a pourable measuring cup, combine the soy milk with the vinegar and stir.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda and salt.
Alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk to the batter.
Pour the batter over the prepared pineapple pans, dividing batter equally, if using the two 4 inch pans.
Set pans on a cookie sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes for the 4 inch pans and 40 minutes for the 9 inch or until a cake tester comes out clean from the centre of the cake.
Cool, invert and release from the spring form pan.

Oh, and just to be interesting, I made these cupcakelettes for the kiddies. Same idea, only easier.
Sprinkle of brown sugar on the bottom of the mini- silicone “papers” with a thin slice of pineapple.
Topped with the same cake batter, I just lessened the timing and baked these for about 12ish minutes.
Way more kid friendly and so fun for party popping.