Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini



Where have I been having vanished with the summer?
Sheltering from the rain, I’d replaced my passé front yard with an edible garden.
I tried my luck with a few heirloom seeds and a few more old stand-by vegetables.
Summer may have squeaked by, but not without leaving me with a few baseball bat sized zucchinis.

I took company coming as the perfect opportunity to eat up the biggest one.  Of course there were cakes and something savoury for lunch as well.

We managed to eat half. (That was even with seconds!)

QUINOA STUFFED ZUCCHINI

1 Tablespoon Oil
1 Shallot, minced
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Cup Red Quinoa
1 Large Zucchini, very large in my case
1 Cup Yellow Pear Tomatoes
A big handful of herbs of your choice. I used mostly basil, some parsley and thyme, finely chopped
salt+pepper

Rinse the quinoa well and leave it to soak in a mesh colander for about 3 minutes.
Combine the drained quinoa with 2 cups of boiling water in a medium saucepan.
Cover and reduce to a simmer for about 7 minutes.
Lift the lid and check in on the quinoa. The water should be mostly absorbed and appear fluffy. If not, cover again and continue to cook for a couple of minutes more.
Once the water has been absorbed, fluff with a fork and leave it to cool while you prepare the remainder of the stuffing.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
In a large frying pan, heat the oil and sauté the shallots. Once they’ve softened, add the garlic but be careful not to burn it.
Half the zucchini lengthwise and remove the seeds. Trim the ends and remove the bottom of one half just so it will sit without toppling over. Dice the other half until you’ve measured 2 Cups. (If there’s still some left, here’s a recipe for scones.)
Add the chopped zucchini to the shallots and continue to sauté until it’s softened.
Slice the tomatoes and add them to the zucchini.
Remove from the heat and add the prepared quinoa and chopped herbs.
Combine well and add a good amount of salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Place the seeded, trimmed zucchini half in a baking dish which has been lightly oiled.
Pack the stuffing into the crevice. Drizzle with olive oil and cover lightly with foil.
Bake for approximately 1 hour or depending on your zucchini’s size and thickness, until it’s tender. (Begin checking at 40 minutes if it’s more of a slender forearm size:)

Mixed Bean Minestrone



Autumn harvest getting you going? Or is it the threat of frost? I’m not exactly sure which it is for me personally, although I really didn’t mind scrambling to pick the last of my tomatoes and transfer them into the window.

I’m currently vacationing at the beach and even here, the weather’s got a Northerly blow. In fact, it’s down right chilly and where I’d love to return to a summer salad and berries, I’m finding myself craving soup.

Soup is one of those wonderful things that make the change in the weather a better transition. It’s comforting and easier than succumbing to putting on my first pair of socks of the season.

Quick and soothing, minestrone soup is the best way to using up a smattering of harvest vegetables. I just use whatever I have on hand at the time, including those tomatoes in my window sill. To make it a bit more substantial of a meal, I’ve also used up the bottoms of my pantry jars of kidney, red lentils, great northern, pintos and black eyed beans, before running out to restock for the winter, but really you could use any assortment of quicker cooking beans or just add a rinsed can of them at the end.

MIXED BEAN MINESTRONE

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Onion, diced
1 Clove Garlic, minced
1 Carrot, finely diced
1 Stalk Celery, diced
4 Cups Tomatoes, chopped – about 4-5 medium
1 Potato, peeled and diced (optional)
8 Cups Water
1 Cup Mixed Dry Beans, Pinto, Kidney, Red Lentils, or one 15oz can drained and well rinsed.
2 Bay Leaves
1 teaspoon Fresh Rosemary, finely chopped
1 Sprig Fresh Thyme, stemmed
1/2 teaspoon Salt, or to taste
1/2 Cup Frozen Green Peas (optional)

For quicker & softer beans, soak them for at least a few hours or over night.
Peel and dice the onion, then chop the carrot and celery.
Heat the oil in a large stockpot. Or if desired, a slow cooker on high.
Add the onion, carrot celery and minced garlic to sauté.
If you’re making the soup in a stockpot, once the onion has softened, about 3 minutes, add the potato, tomatoes, water, soaked dry beans, bay leaves and herbs. Otherwise, add everything to the crock-pot.
Cover with water and bring to a rolling simmer. Or reduce the heat to low in the crock pot and leave to cook for the day; 8-10 hours.
Once the carrots and beans are tender, add the frozen peas, salt and canned beans in lieu of the dry if using.
Adjust seasoning, adding freshly ground pepper.
Remove the bay leaves prior to serving.

Serve with fresh bread and freshly grated parmigiana, if desired.
Freezes well.

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.

Cedar Smoked Asparagus Soup


Cedar planks, not just for salmon anymore. Really.
Our last guest came with the spring and with that, sparks the BBQ. It might still be a bit early to eat outside, but who can resist the flame that is the official call of nicer weather?

Having grilled on cedar planks before, I’m already fond of the fantastic smell and extra flavour it lends to food. They seem to be gaining in popularity so finding a board isn’t nearly as difficult anymore asmost grocery stores with a fish department tend to carry them.

The idea for the smoked asparagus soup came a little haphazardly. I was planning on grilling the asparagus with a drizzle of balsamic and olive oil but as it was the first grill of the season the flames were uneven and the safest place not to char my freshly picked spears was up on the board.

The flavour was subtle and amazing, a perfect enhancement for an already pretty great vegetable. The soup came from the left overs of the greedy three bunches that I decided to cook up for a dinner of four. After tasting it, I’m not only going to be trying this asparagus in other things like quiche, but with other vegetables too!

SMOKED ASPARAGUS SOUP

1 Bunch of Asparagus, 20-25 medium sized stalks, trimmed
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar
2 Leeks, white and light green parts only, well washed and finely diced
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
4 Cups Vegetable stock
1 Medium Yukon Gold or Russet Potato, peeled and diced
scant 1/4 teaspoon Salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon Lemon Juice or to taste, optional.

Submerge your cedar plank in water anywhere from 20 minutes to 4 hours, depending on the thickness and your timing.
Preheat the grill over a medium high heat.
Trim asparagus and lay in aluminum foil.
Drizzle over balsamic vinegar and 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil; wrapping the foil to cover.
Place the asparagus package on the cedar plank, reduce the flame and close the lid of the bbq.
Grill for about 10 – 15 minutes, checking intermittently until tender.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large stockpot to sweat the leeks and garlic until soft and translucent but not browned; about 3 – 5 minutes.
Add the diced potato and cover with the stock.
Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are softened.
Remove the best spear tips from the asparagus and reserve for garnish.
Roughly chop the remaining smoky asparagus, add to the simmering soup.
Continue for another 3 – 5 minutes to cook through to merge flavours.
Transfer soup to a food processor or using a immersion blender, combine until smooth.
Season to taste with salt. Stir in lemon juice, if using.
Top each serving with reserved asparagus tips and drizzle over extra virgin olive, basil or leek oil.

HHDH: It’s Cheeseless Pizza


Who doesn’t like pizza? I am yet to meet a single soul who would turn down a slice….
Except when it was going to be me with the notion of no cheese.

I was always of the mindset that pizza had but one basic construction – a crust (perfect blend of thin and chewy ), sauce (very important) and cheese. – Everything on top of that is really up to an individuals discretion and craving.

That was until I had a bite of my first “real European” pizza experience. Being 15 and at the height of my pizza connesseur training, I was in the south of France on exchange. My host mother would pack my lunches complete with a little Mom note, a chocolate and something often mysterious to try; there was infrequent PB&J in Provence. While out in the countryside, our group was left to remark on the construction of Romanesque Aqueducts. Removed from any civilization able to spare me of my brown bag filled with cold and cheeseless pizza with peppers and black olives (with pits!) Starving and only armed with my Orangina, I dug in and discovered a new, old, delicious world of pizza. From that moment, my eyes were opened, my pallet was cleansed and my nose had been lifted to new a pizza snob height never known before; and I was yet to arrive in Italy!

Flashing forward 15 some odd years, when trying to capture the best vegan version, I knew that one of those important and very expected elements – cheese, would be missing. Making up for the lack of gooey dairy was actually easy and created a more flavourful pizza than I’d usually eat. The secret of a good crust is always important and the hint for vegan pizza is just to pre-bake the crust a little longer to insure the crispness and then you’re free to go to town on virtually any topping you could imagine.

Pizza for breakfast? Check out 80 Breakfasts, who is hosting HHDH. I’m sure it will be quite the round-up.
Continue reading HHDH: It’s Cheeseless Pizza

Magic Soup


My ever problem solving daughter is always creating new suggestions for dinner and desserts; favourites like Mialita, Chuchetta and the like. Her recipes, with the addition of marshmallows, ketchup and eggs kind of remind me of that show that aired around here in the 80’s I always wanted to go on, “Just Like Mom” But this morning, when I rolled out of bed complaining of still feeling under the weather from the night before, she suggested Magic Soup.

Magic soup is something that we’ve made before and she will eat it. All of it, as if it were well, like, magic.

First she’ll tell me onion, then a carrot, some tomatoes maybe a little celery if she’s daring and somehow this soup is normal… soothing and delicious, kind of like Minestrone.

Although my barren stomach felt it couldn’t handle much more than the thought of dry toast, her idea of this to make me better was just what I needed.

Like the kiss on the forehead you’d get from your mom when you were sick, I got one from my five year old and her bowl of soup.
Continue reading Magic Soup