Wilted Greens & Wheat Berry Salad


wiltedgrainsalad

Another quick-ish meal that’ll get you going, keep you full and make you forget about needing meat to complete a meal.  I’m a junky of all things green and grainy, so I’ve been into wheat berries lately. A super grain, and not too carby of a carb, they’re chewy, firm pods of whole food goodness. Plus, if you can boil water, they’re pretty much a cinch to cook.

The wheat berries are easily cooked in advance and stored for up to a week in a sealed container. They can also be subbed for quinoa for a gluten-free option.

WILTED GREENS + WHEAT BERRY SALAD WITH MIXED MUSHROOMS

4 Cups Mixed Mushrooms, sliced – I used Shiitake, and crimini
1 Cup Soft Wheat Berries
Zest + Juice of One Lemon
6 Cups Assorted Field Greens, Spinach & Arugula, or any combination you have and like
2 Tablespoons Italian Parsley, chopped
1 Tablespoon Cilantro, chopped (optional – if you’re one of those people:)
1/4 Cup Olive Oil, divided
Salt + Pepper, to your taste

Soak the wheat berries for 20 -30 minutes. Rinse the wheat berries well and drain.
Boil 3 cups of lightly salted water and add the wheat berries. reduce the heat to medium and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook for 1 hour, checking after 45 minutes for doneness and if your water has been absorbed. (If it almost has and the berries aren’t quite tender, reduce the heat to medium-low and finish your cooking time.)
Pick over and wash your greens, spin to dry.
Heat a sauté pan with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
Add the mushrooms and sauté until golden. Remove from heat, then add the parsley and cilantro.
Fluff the wheat berries with a fork, add the lemon juice, mushrooms, remaining oil and toss to combine.
Divide the greens between 4 servings and top with the wheat berries, lemon zest, salt and pepper.

Don’t Toss those Radish Greens.


It’s now June, the sun is warm and the garden is in. I thought I had the itch last year, ripping out spaces in the yard to add more life, but it must have been the tomatoes that inspired this year’s dig.

I live on your typical, smallish urban yard with a street out front and a patch of grass for sinking my toes into and a bit of Joneses decor. The house is west facing so I wake with the sun and enjoy the cool shade the houseprint leaves in the backyard during the afternoons. The only thing was the tomatoes weren’t loving the dark, temperate breezes. For those of you who have had the luck to enjoy a warm summer tomato, you will understand my next move.

As a late birthday gift to myself this spring, I shocked the next door neighbour and ordered a few loads of soil. With it’s blazing sunshine and ample room for my tomatoes, the front yard just had to go. As I poked and turned the earth, I found a new plot for my tomatoes and I was left with the cool spaces in the back garden. Room now for things I hadn’t grown before. Direct from Monticello, are the heirloom peas, a few rows red carrots, spinach, rocket and White Hailstone Radishes.

I’m not infatuated with radishes, especially the spicy, red and mealy grocery store variety I grew up on, but when they’re fresh, topping buttered bread with a little salt? Yum. With this little space and reading that radishes can grow from seed to harvest in about three weeks, I couldn’t resist to try. After a few days of rain, the row billowed and I could see the hail sized spheres pushing from the ground. I didn’t think I’d be able to eat that many tea sandwiches in one sitting, so after a nibble I snipped the tops and pickled the bottoms in a drowning of rice wine vinegar, salt and sugar. But, don’t any of you dare think that I’m going get my hands dirty, poke seeds into the ground, water and baby these tiny vegetables just to toss the tops. No, no.

I’d once read that, although most greens are discarded, they are mostly all edible. Radishes are no exception. Blessed with the spiciness of their in-ground counterparts, I figured they would be tasty in a quick sauté or a soup.

Unbelievably simple, this soup was amazingly tempting.

RADISH GREENS SOUP

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Large Shallot, finely chopped
2 Cups Radish Greens, roughly chopped, packed
2 Cups Vegetable Stock
1 Tablespoon Fresh Mint, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley, finely chopped
Sea Salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper
Fresh Chives for serving

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat; add finely diced shallots.
Sauté, stirring often, until shallots are soft and translucent.
Add the radish greens and wilt, then add the stock.
Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Add the chopped parsley and mint. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Remove from heat; purée with an immersion blender or in blender, in batches.
Top with with freshly chopped chives just prior to serving.

Makes 4 servings.

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.

Sheppard’s Pie


Usually I’d be eating something like this in the dead of winter not the first of Spring.
I’ve been doing my best to enjoy a salad every day, plus, just posted about digging up those Sunchokes, for goodness sake!
But it’s snowing!! Not a lot, but too much. It’s cold and dreary and it’s not supposed to be spring again until Thursday.
I’ve had to go back into the storage and dig out the surrendered mittens and while I was there, I couldn’t help but stumble upon the big pot and and idea.
Sweaters = Comfort Food.
If I have to endure this never ending flurry of winter, then I’m getting a few of my favourite things out of it in the process.
…And one of them would certainly be this.

VEGAN SHEPPARD’S PIE

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion, finely diced
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 340g Package Veggie Ground Round OR 1 1/2 Cups Chopped, Prepared Seitan
1/2 teaspoon Dried Rosemary, crushed
1/4 teaspoon Dried Thyme
1/2 Cup Button or Crimini Mushrooms, finely chopped (optional)
2 1/2 Cups Vegetable Broth or Water
1 1/2 Tablespoons Arrowroot Powder
Salt & Pepper to taste

About 4 Large (Russet) Potatoes, peeled and diced
Soy milk and vegan butter for mashing

A few big handfuls (1 heaping cup) of Frozen English Green Peas

Heat the oil in a large stock pot and add the chopped onion.
Stir the onion frequently until it is soft and translucent. Add the garlic, ground soy, herbs and mushrooms, if using.
Stir to incorporate, then cover everything with the vegetable stock. Heat to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer and cook gently for about 20 minutes.
Sprinkle over the arrowroot and stir it in well with a fork. Remove from the heat to thicken.
Taste, adding salt and pepper, if desired. (My ground soy came seasoned, so I completely skipped this part.)
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. (If you’re eating now… this can be made in advance and frozen, covered, for later.)
Meanwhile, boil the potatoes, drain and mash (and season as you normally would with soy milk or the like etc.) until you get a smooth consistency.
To assemble, use a deep casserole pot, which preferably has a lid. First add the prepared soy mince, then top evenly with the frozen peas. Finally dot the top with the mashed potatoes and smooth with a spatula.
Cover and heat in the oven for about 20 – 30 minutes. The gravy sides should start to bubble around the edges.
Uncover for the last 10 minutes in the oven if you’d like a browner, crisper top.

Maple Syrup


When I was a kid I used to spend every school holiday up with my grandparents. They lived at the “cottage”, but to a kid it was paradise, specially for a city kid. They had killer tobogganing hills, skating, snowmobiles and nature as far as the eye could see. I was allowed to play with fire, build stuff and wander in the woods but best of all, every March Break, my Grampa would tap his maple trees and start collecting sap.

Ever since I’ve been about 10, I’ve wanted to learn the process from start to finish however the call back to school usually had other plans taking me away from the best part, the final product.

Now with years gone by, Grampa had put the maple gear into storage.
I have my own kids, flexibility and a food blog. It may have taken a few years of urging, but Greatest Grampa, how he’s now referred, dusted off the sap buckets and handed down one of the most awesomest candy thermometers I’ve ever seen.

In playing the role of Mom, I was able to take the kids out of school a few days before the break to head up north. The weather was ideal, so after packing too many clothes and boots for the changing of the seasons, we were off for our my long awaited visit with Greatest Nana and Greatest Grampa.

We were eagerly greeted by my Grandparents with scrubbed buckets and boots on. The weather had been cold the night before but was warming up nicely in the soon to be spring sunshine; ideal weather to get the sap running…

Since there aren’t any leaves, we were amazed at the knowledge and accuracy my grandfather, whom I’ve always thought was a genius anyway, was able to identify the Sugar Maples from the at least twenty varieties of trees he has growing in his quite diverse forest. With a drill and a spiel, we tapped the trees and hung the buckets, which were quickly chiming off a delicate symphony of drips into the galvanized pails below.

Next, we had to wait. Greatest Grampa had only brought down ten buckets, but after listening to the rapid drips of sap filling our buckets, we had caught the bug. We found water jugs and ice cream pails, you name it. If we could drill a hole into the side of it, it was soon hanging from a tree. All in all we doubled our collection and headed off to the local Maple Syrup Festival to pass the time. The kids saw, and tasted what was about to come their way.

By the end of the second day we’d collected enough sap to begin our first boil.

Sap is mostly water, so it takes about 40 times the sap to make one part syrup.
Thinking it had to by much more complicated than it was, I was sure that there had to be more to it when we were told that we “Just cook it.” I will cook just about anything and so we continued onward this adventure in syrup making. We were given a large soldered pan, which I’m sure my Grampa must have manufactured himself all those years ago.

When we started the cooking process, we realized we were soon referring to the boiling sap as, “Our Baby”. How precious it became as we watched our heavy sap just evaporate into the air. Slowly but surly it cooked down, only to be replenished by more sap until the last liter of the batch had been added. Shadowed through the bright sunshine we watched as the nearly clear liquid gave way to a light mapley shade of amber. The smell of cooking sap is amazing. The sweet steam warming our chilled cheeks, faintly reminded me of Shrove Tuesdays past. Finally we tasted, pondered and, of course, tasted some more.
Once we had deemed it worthy, we packed a sips worth into a cup and trotted up from the cottage, through the bush to Greatest Grampa’s house in the forest.

Anxious. “Maybe a little underdone.” We were told. But better under than over, as we learned. Apparently syrup is quite forgiving… phew.

Of course, pancakes were made to celebrate. Certainly a sweet success.

Baby Spinach Greens With Grilled Pears and Caramalized Onion Dressing


Of course this time of year just about any spring greens from the market will be great, but baby spinach is something I always have on hand.
Where it’s not exactly your throw it together tossed salad, the onions are pretty much low maintenance to caramelize and this dressing is worth the wait.


CARAMELIZED ONION DRESSING

1 Onion, thinly sliced
1/4 Cup + 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil, divided
Pinch Salt
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 Cup Water
1 1/2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup

Turn heat to medium. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sliced onion to a sauté pan. Once they begin to sizzle, reduce the heat to medium-low, toss and add salt.
Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, sticky and golden; 20-30 minutes.
Add the balsamic vinegar and reduce slightly, about 3 minutes.
Remove from heat and cool.
Add onions along with the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil, maple syrup and water to a blender or a food processor and blend until smooth. (If your onion was large and you find that the mixture is too thick for your liking, you can add more water about 1 tablespoon at a time to thin.)
Taste and add additional salt if desired.
Serve from a squirt bottle, if you have one

Preheat the grill to medium.
Slice 2 bartlett pears into wedges and lay onto the grill, cooking for about 1 minute.
For the fancy-schmancy grill marks, rotate the pear slices 1 quarter turn, cooking for another minute.
Flip and repeat for the other side. Pears should be hot but not cooked through.
Toss greens, adding a handful of walnuts and dried cranberries. Top with the grilled pears and drizzle over prepared dressing.