Apple Lollipops



You know, the apples with sticks, or at least this is how candy apples are commonly known around my house. We can’t get through October without bobbing one of our fresh apples from the orchard in molten sugar.

So quick and fun, this autumn carnival snack is a must do, especially if you have kids or, of course, if you still are one.


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Late Summer Harvest Market Mystery – Granny Smith’s Kohlrabi Salad



If you’ve read any part of this blog in the past, it’s certainly no mystery that I frequently troll local farmer’s markets. Or if they’re local to you, trust me I’ll drive.

There’s something about people with dirty fingernails offering me food. I would never dream of it anywhere indoors, but along a strip of folding tables, with the sun warming my back, that’s a entire other story.

It’s something to give food a life cycle and appreciation to the soil stained person who cared for it up until the moment of exchange. It not only makes me want to continue to do the food justice but it’s very nice to have an outlet that can still remind us where real food comes from.

The late summer market is filled with just about everything you can imagine. The hardy vegetables are out as well as the return of some of the cooler spring like produce. You’d think that I’d know what to expect, but from the same vendor with the beets, came a wonderful, alien like surprise.

I’ve had the green variety but the purple kohlrabi that greeted me at her table was delightful. Considering my purchasing patterns at the market in the past, I was destined to take this bulbous, multi-stemmed, crazy leafed, vegetable home for my very own. The stems some what reminding me of dragon fruit, kohlrabi, directly translated is cabbage-turnip. I would say it resembles a red cabbage the most, but with a much milder, less peppery flavour. It might look a little bit on the alien side with it’s tentacle like stems, but to let the scary appearance break your nerve. These vegetables are actually quite delicate and versatile. I chose to incorporate them raw into a salad, but I’ve read roasted, sautéed and steamed recipes and they all sound great.
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A Toast To The Tomato



The farmer’s market is quickly getting over populated with produce. Corn, carrots, beans, autumn strawberries, bushels of cucumbers, peppers, romas and the last of the over sized heirloom tomatoes.
These are enormous visions of beauty. Flavours of my childhood garden, only in colours, I never then could have imagined.

I kind of feel for the end of the summer tomatoes. Not quite yet, but soon, their leaves swill lightly yellow and the once primped, fawned plants will begin to limp as the luscious fruit rests towards the ground. They’ll never the chance to fully ripen, just slowly producing age spots from the neglect of an over consuming August.

As a perfect accompaniment to summer and just about any dinner, a simple, rustic tomato salad is so quick to make; a few tomatoes, torn basil, balsamic vinegar and a dash of salt and pepper, is all it takes to celebrate this end of an era.

Sweet Potato Ravioli


I’m not sure when I first had a sweet potato with tomato, but I do know I’ve always liked it.
The sweetness combined with the slight tang of tomato sauce creates such a delicious balance.

When I first decided I was going to make this for presto pasta night, I was dreading the idea of laborious ravioli when I remembered a gift from my cousin in Poland. Years back, she was here for a visit and in my typical, true form, I wanted to learn whatever she’d share about her favorite traditional and classic meals from home.
Upon her return, she sent me a gift. In it contained a cookbook of tripe, boiled potatoes, battered pork chops and borscht and a set of pierogi makers.

Not one to throw anything away, yes I still have the book – it is a conversation piece after all, I dug out the pierogi maker, rolled my dough and set to seal some sweet potato.
It was so easy and quick, honestly, I was finished making the ravioli faster than my pot of water could boil. And, as expected, homemade pasta wins again!

SWEET POTATO RAVIOLI

1/2 Cup Unbleached Flour
1/2 Cup Semolina Flour
1/3 Cup Hot Water
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Tomato Purée, Optional
1 Sweet Potato

Bring a pot of water to boil; peel and dice the sweet potato and add to the water.
Once the sweet potato is softened, drain, mash and set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flours and salt.
With the motor slowly running and the feeder tube removed, add the oil, tomato purée and slowly drizzle in the hot water.
At this point the dough should come together into a ball, if it doesn’t add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time.
Remove the ball of dough from the food processor and divide in half.
Roll each piece as thinly as possible and using the pierog/ravioli maker, cut as many rounds as possible from the dough.
Place one circle of dough into the maker and add about a teaspoon of the mashed sweet potato.
Seal and repeat with the remaining dough.
Bring another large pot of water to boil and add the finished pierogi.
Cook to al denté. Remove when they begin to float, after about 3 – 4 minutes.
Serve with a primavera tomato sauce or a fresh tomato sauce.

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.

Spinach & Beet Lasagna



I may have insulted one of the growers from the farmer’s market once. She was explaining how she has an heirloom variety of beets and how they had tasted different than regular beets, although she wasn’t able to fully articulate how. Apparently I wasn’t able either when I asked if the difference was this variety tasting any less like earth. She was notably speechless. I didn’t choose to buy the beets and she didn’t pursue it. Yet somehow, either by guilt or curiosity, I’ve ended up, a few weeks later, with a bunch of fresh beets in my crisper.

With this surplus of beets and an urge to make pasta, I set forth to make one of the prettiest pastas most people get a chance to see. Beet pasta is an unmistakable, vibrant pink which even for those who aren’t crazy for beets, and I know you’re out there, must be tempted to try. The beets tend to lend more colour than flavour to the pasta, but that’s alright, that’s what all those layers of the lasagna are for.

I wanted to keep this Presto Pasta dish to the point and make it quickly. Surprisingly the preparation didn’t take all that long at all. Using a food processor everything, except the dishes, was a breeze.

The recipe’s got it’s layers, but it really did only take about 30 minutes to prepare.

FRESH BEET PASTA

1 Red Beet, Medium Peeled
1/3 Cup Hot Water
3/4 Cup Unbleached, All Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Semolina Flour
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt

Peel and roast or boil the beet. Add it to a blender or a food processor along with the hot water.
Purée the beet an strain, reserving the hot liquid.
To the bowl of a food processor, add the flours and the salt.
With the feeder tube open and the motor running, add the oil and the hot water.
Stop the food processor when the dough comes together to form a ball.
If the dough doesn’t come into a ball quickly, you may need to add very small amounts of water, 1/2 teaspoon, at a time until it does.
Remove the ball of dough. It should be moist and pliable but not sticky. Cut it into quarters and cover.
Using a pasta maker or a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface, roll each quarter as thinly as possible.
Trim into long workable strips or leave whole.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil and drop the pasta sheets in for about 1 -2 minutes. Drain and lay flat until ready to use.

TOFU RICOTTA

1 Package Firm Tofu
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon thyme, dried
1/2 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast Flakes, optional
2 Cloves Garlic or 1 teaspoon, minced
Small Sprig of Oregano (about 8-10 leaves), finely chopped
4 – 5 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A good grinding of black pepper

Place the tofu into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to mash the tofu until it is small and evenly crumbled. To it, add the nutritional yeast, garlic, oregano salt and pepper.
Drizzle over the olive oil making the mixture come and hold together when held or pressed with a fork.
Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

BÉCHAMEL SAUCE

2 Tablespoons Margarine
3 Tablespoons Unbleached All Purpose Flour
2 Cups Soy Milk
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
Pinch of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon Fresh Black Pepper

In a large saucepan, melt the margarine on a medium heat. Add the flour, stirring well to incorporate and cook.
Once slightly paste like and golden, remove from the heat and whisk in the soy milk.
Return and reduce heat to low. Add the salt, pepper and garlic, stirring occasionally to incorporate and thicken the sauce.
Adjust seasoning as necessary and remove from the heat. Set aside.

SAUTÉED SPINACH AND BEET GREENS

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 White Onion, finely diced
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Bunch Beet Greens
4 Cups Baby Spinach leaves, packed
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash and trim only the brightest and crispest stems from your bunch of beets; chop into 1/2″ lengths.
Heat the oil over a medium high heat in a large sautée pan.
Add the onion and garlic, cook until soft and transparent.
Add the trimmed beet greens, cooking until tender, about 3 – 5 minutes.
Rinse and add the spinach leave; tossing occasionally until bright and wilted.
Remove from heat and set aside.

ASSEMBLY

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Spoon a thin coating of the béchamel over the bottom of a shallow baking dish.
Add one layer of the pasta and top with an even layer of the tofu ricotta.
Add another layer of the pasta, topping it with another thin layer of the béchamel, followed by the spinach and beet greens mixture.
Cover everything with a thin layer of the remaining pasta and top with what is left of the béchamel.
Thinly sprinkle over nutritional yeast flakes, if desired and bake for about 30 minutes or until the top has evenly browned.

No Hot Soup For You.



Cold soup? Ew. I never would have thought to eat something like THAT.

But that was before a trip to New York where I’d stood in a line, a long line; could you even imagine, in New York?
However, I was prepared, I had my money ready, but I still couldn’t decide. I was at Al’s Soup Kitchen International, so the last thing I wanted was someone shouting the theatrical “no soup for you” at me.
It was hot and I was next. I love lobster and after a night before at City Crab, I was eying the lobster bisque. The stress and unseasonable warmth made my cash moist in my clutched hand. I swallowed hard when I heard the famous and firm “next” and before I knew it my brain made a quick decision and I blurted out for the gazpacho.
This was my voice – I heard it. What had I done? I wanted the bisque not the cold vegetable soup. But obeying the signs, I had my money ready and moved immediately to the left after ordering.
I paid, I moved and waited – briefly.

I found a rock in Central Park where I could perch and people watch. In the few blocks it took to walk there, I’d decided to embrace my gazpacho like a true New Yorker, I owned it. It was mine now, so I was going to like it, no matter what.

All perfect in a brown bag, it had come with bread, fruit, napkin, cutlery, even a little chocolate – how sweet. This guy couldn’t have been as bad as everyone made him out to be. It looked good. It smelled good. But cold, raw and fresh just didn’t seem like soup and I just couldn’t get my mind around the notion. Tomato soup is so with a grilled cheese in November, at least in my mind.

I’d closed my eyes and hoped for the best. And, by God, it was one of the best, most perfect things I’d could have ever tasted. The shock it sent my mouth into was utter craziness. It was refreshing for the hot spring day but it still had enough kick to make me sweat, as the spice of the peppers warmed up my mouth. It was awesome.

Soup has always been an amazing food. It’s comfort food, scrap food, soul food – personal food. It’s a dash of this and a use up of that, it’s taste it then add a bit more. I’ve been trying to recreate that flavour of Manhattan on a hot day all to myself and up until now, I never really could.

It was still a bit of this taste and try some more of that but I just knew when I went for that first taste and I still closed my eyes trying not to forget it was cold. I’m still always nervous eating cold soup. I know now that it can be good it’s just that my brain is being played such a trick as I occasionally find myself blowing on it before slurping the spoonful.
It had the fresh heat from the tiny crunch of the slivered jalepeño and the soothing burst of cool from the flecks of cucumber and tomato making this soup, so summer perfect.

Next.

SUMMER GAZPACHO

1/2 White Onion
1 Clove Garlic
1/2 Jalapeño Pepper, seeded
1 Yellow Bell Pepper
3 Large Field or Beefsteak Tomatoes
1 English Cucumber, seedless
1 – 28 oz Can of Diced Tomatoes with juice
3 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Fresh Italian Parsley
1 Tablespoon Fresh Oregano
1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
1 Avocado, diced

In a food processor, finely chop the onion and the garlic, followed by the jalapeño pepper.
Core and chop the tomatoes, add to the processor.
Roughly chop the cucumber and seed the yellow pepper; add the 3/4 of the cucumber and pepper to processor.
Add the remaining tomatoes with juice, cucumber, yellow pepper, vinegar, oil, herbs, salt and pepper; pulsing only to combine, leaving some finely chopped vegetables.
Taste and add salt, if necessary.
Chill prior to serving.
Garnish with the diced avocado.

Serves 8