Friday, February 11, 2011

Roasted beet salad with lemon

Print Friendly and PDF Maybe it's because I'm Ukrainian, but I LOVE beets. I love borscht(especially the way Judy makes it at Prairie Cottage Perogies), and pickled beets ( especially the way my friend BB does them), and roasted beets. This beet salad is a riff on one that we used to make when I worked at Delitalia. It was always one of our most popular salads. We even switched it up, by adding chunks of carrot.
I roasted a couple of beets the other day, and left them in the refrigerator, because I didn't have any lemons. When I did buy some lemons, I peeled the beets, and put this salad way:

Roasted Beet Salad with Lemon:

2 med to large beets, roasted with the skins on.
Juice and zest of a whole small lemon
enough olive oil to make a dressing
salt and pepper
chopped flat leaf parsley

Peel and cut the beets into 1 inch cubes. Zest the lemon, and add to the beets. Juice the lemon into a bowl, and add salt and pepper. Add a bit more salt than you think you should, it really balances out the acidity of the lemon juice. Pour the olive oil into the dressing in a slow stream while whisking. The dressing should emulsify. Pour over beets and mix. Chop parsley and add to beets. Mix again and refrigerate. This salad is best served at room temperature.

I thought I used too much salt. I thought I used too much oil, and the dressing didn't really come together. None of that mattered. Roasting the beets in the oven gave them such a delicious, deep sweetness, that the Briny, lemony dressing worked perfectly. This salad is delicious...It's just another way to LOVE beets!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Bosc Pear

Print Friendly and PDF
I was getting into a bad grocery shopping/cooking habit. I was buying too many fresh vegetables at a time, and preparing and eating some of them when they were clearly past their prime. If good health is something you aspire to,as I do, there are multiple studies on what percentage of nutrients are lost,the longer produce sits in your refrigerator. I decided to break my former habit,and create a new one. I have been trying to eat my produce within 2 to 3 days of bringing it home. I have been buying less, and have been going to the produce market with an idea of what vegetables I plan to make for that day. This week I was reading a food blog by Angie Quaale,owner of Well Seasoned Gourmet Food Store in Langley, and came across her post on roasted vegetable with pears. I thought I would check the market for a butternut squash,and a couple of pears. An hour or so later, roasting happily in the oven was:

Butternut Squash and Pears:

1 small butternut squash, unpeeled and chopped into 2 inch pieces
1 large Bosc Pear,unpeeled,cored and thickly sliced
Salt, pepper, olive oil and fresh much as you like

Place vegetables on a foil lined tray sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme, and add enough olive oil to lightly coat vegetables. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes or until vegetables are cooked to your liking.

I served these vegetables with pork chops and brown rice. I over cooked the pork chops, but the brown rice and roasted vegetables were PERFECT! Besides the fact that the apartment smelled like warm roasted fruit, the P-Man noticed the pear right away. He thought it was a delicious addition to the squash, and I completely agreed. I found the crispy sweet skin with it's slightly charred edges addictive, LIKE CANDY! I LOVE butternut squash, but have never like pears. It's quite amazing how a little heat can change your opinion on something as simple as a pear.

Pea Soup with Vegetables

Print Friendly and PDF
I have been making a lot of soup lately. It is technically still winter and a nice hot bowl of soup makes a warm and satisfying meal. I bought a package of yellow split peas, and found them in the cupboard. It got me thinking about pea soup. Split Pea and Ham soup was a soup that we made at least once a week when I worked at Delitalia. It was also one of my favorites. With that in mind, I created:

Pea Soup with Vegetables:

3 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water
1 cup dried yellow split peas
1 cup frozen green peas
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 a red onion chopped,finely
1 carrot chopped, finely
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
handful of fresh thyme

In a pot, add the chopped bacon, onion and garlic to fry. Once onions are soft,add stock and water, split peas and carrots and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer, and simmer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, add green peas and corn, salt and pepper, and fresh thyme. Simmer for another 20 minutes or until all vegetables are cooked. Re-season, and serve hot.

I liked the chunky texture of this soup. I also liked how the split peas changed the texture from a broth to a chowder consistency. The bacon added a nice salty body, that gave the soup it's heartiness. It was fast and easy, and tasted even better the next day. The green peas added a glimpse of Spring...A soup for all seasons!

Mushroom Ravioli- Laura Calder Style

Print Friendly and PDF I have been craving mushrooms. I recalled seeing Laura Calder make a sort of 'deconstructed' ravioli with mushrooms and decided to try it. The recipe was incredibly simple. Just an assortment of mushrooms sauteed with some garlic in a bit of olive oil, adding stock to create a sauce. I started cooking everything too early, anticipating the P-Man's arrival from work. He was about a half an hour late. I think the dish suffered from being not quite as hot as it should have been. By the time he got home,the sauce had thickened considerably and should have been reheated with more stock to make it a mushroom sauce, rather than a filling. The ravioli could have been further moistened with browned butter poured over the top, as the original recipe suggested. I just couldn't bring my 'Weight Watchers Self' to do it! Despite all of the above, We were pleasantly surprised by the flavours and texture of the dish. I loved the earthy sweetness of the mushrooms, combined with the silky pasta. Laura's photo is far prettier than mine, so don't let my photo put you off! I would definitely make this again.
I found Laura Calder's recipe on a super cute blog called:

Living in the kitchen with puppies.

Have a look, her substitutions sound tasty. I stuck with the original recipe, my only substitutions being parsley instead of dill, a few Shitake mushrooms thrown in for extra flavour, and a handful of fresh Thyme.

For a meatless meal, I found it comfortably filling. It succeeds in showcasing the flavour and texture of mushrooms in the best possible way.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Aunty Ann's Kick-Ass Coleslaw

Print Friendly and PDF I had 3 Aunts on my Mother's side. They were all good cooks. My Aunty Nancy was the least good cook. But in her defense, it is hard to cook with a cigarette in your mouth, the smoke wafting into your scrunched up eye. Another problem, was the inch long finger of ash, threatening to fall into the pot of whatever CAN she had just emptied into a pot to warm up. Her last problem was the difficulty stirring the pot,because her stirring hand was usually wrapped around a cold bottle of beer!

My Aunty Mary was the next best cook. I remember HUGE family meals at her place. Perogies, cabbage rolls, mushrooms in gravy, roast pork. Aunty Mary had a bad heart, a bad back, and an ulcer. I remember her swigging whipping cream out of the carton, in hopes of soothing her stomach full of acid. She also never slept. She loved to read, late into the night, so when I visited, I always remember her getting up for snacks. One of our favorites was a thick roast beef sandwich, on rye bread, slathered with yellow mustard, and sour dill pickle slices. Looking back, it's a miracle, I never got an ulcer!

Aunty Ann was the best cook. My mom used to say that she never used a recipe. When they lived on the farm, as girls, Ann would spend all day in the kitchen, rather than working outside, on the farm. I remember eating all kinds of meals at Aunty Ann's. I don't remember when she showed me how to make this coleslaw...but I have made it for more than 20 years now...and this last batch,that I made day before yesterday, was absolutely KILLER!! I'll try to give you the recipe...but it's really more of a method. The thing you have to remember, The most important that you have to mix it with your HANDS. You have to squeeze it and scrunch it with your hands. The dressing can't sit on top. You have to work it in. You know you have mixed enough, when it looks like you have less cabbage than you started with. You also can't use too much garlic and onion. If you are the kind of person who worries about having smelly garlic breath...this is NOT the recipe for you. The P-Man insisted on taking some to work with him today. I really feel sorry for anyone he has a conversation with, AFTER lunch! I made this coleslaw 2 days ago, and it is in my fridge, in a bowl wrapped with plastic wrap. As I was unloading my dishwasher this morning, I could smell it, THROUGH THE FRIDGE DOOR!! You will Thank I Thank Aunty Ann, every time I make it.

Aunty Ann's Kick-Ass Coleslaw

Finely shredded white and purple cabbage (I just used white...but it needs to be
3 large carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
1 large onion, coarsely grated (in the Spring and Summer I use a bunch of green onions finely sliced)
4 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
white sugar, to taste (a generous sprinkle over the top, at least a 1/4 cup)
salt-kosher, at least a good handful (it helps break down the cabbage)
black pepper-lots
cider vinegar- a good splash ( at least a 1/2 cup)
canola oil- at least 1 cup ( the oil should be neutral- olive oil is WAY too strong)

Take off your rings, and wash your hands well...get under your nails! put all the vegetables into a VERY LARGE BOWL. Add the ingredients in order, and start mixing with your hands. This should take at least 3 to 5 minutes. You should have NO LIQUID at the bottom of the bowl. If you do, drain the liquid into a smaller bowl, and mix vegetables for another minute. Now you have to taste it. Take a nice big forkful, and chew it well. It should be BALANCED. You should taste sweet and sour, and salty. Nothing should be overpowering. If it is, start adding the other ingredients, mixing and tasting, until it tastes good to you. Leave it out for another 1/2 hour or so, and then taste it again. If it's good now...cover it, and place it in the fridge, and don't eat it again until tomorrow. This coleslaw is meant to be eaten at room temperature. So if you are having it at supper, take it out at least an hour before you are ready to eat, and mix it again,(just use a big spoon) and taste it before serving. This recipe makes a huge bowl, and after a couple of days, there will be juice at the bottom of the bowl. Don't worry about that...feel free to mix it will just add flavour!