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My mom’s no-meat pie

I didn’t think this was possible but my mom has improved her no-meat pie recipe! This is a traditional dish around here at end of year and her recipe is quite simply the best I’ve ever eaten. The texture is great, the taste is great and paired with her home-made green tomato chutney it is out of this world!

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Mom's no-meat pie and chutney

Mom’s no-meat pie and chutney

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Ingredients

  • pie crust
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) millet
  • 350 ml (1 ½ cup) water
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) sunflower seeds
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) pumpkin seeds
  • 400 ml (1 2/3 cup) cooked drained lentils
  • 120 ml (½ cup) corn meal
  • 120 ml (½ cup) Red Star nutritional yeast
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) tamari
  • 15 ml (1 Tbs) virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 5 mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1 potato, grated
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 onion, minced
  • Dijon mustard
  • dried oregano
  • pinch cinnamon powder
  • pinch clove powder
  • pinch nutmeg powder

In a medium sauce pan, bring water to a boil and add millet. Cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes and drain.

In a medium size bowl, combine millet, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, lentils, corn meal, nutritional yeast and tamari and mix well. Reserve.

Heat oil in a pan over medium heat, add garlic and cook 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook 3-4 minutes. Add onion, carrot and potato and cook 5 minutes or until the mixture begin to colour. Add seasoning and cook 2 more minutes.

Combine the vegetables and the millet mixture. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Reserve.

Roll out and put half the pie crust in a large well oiled pie plate. Spread the Dijon mustard on the crust.

Fill the pie crust with the vegetable and millet mix and spread evenly.

Cover with the second rolled out pie crust. Pinch  the edges of the crust to seal. Bake at 175 °C (350 °F) approximately 30 minutes or until the pie is a nice golden colour. Serve.

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Cold and rainy night… We’re having a very traditional winter meal. A homemade seitan roast stuffed with a carrot, leeks & mushroom brunoise, with oven roasted maple glazed root vegetables, potato purée and a simple pan juice & amontillado sauce. We’ll pair this with a simple musclum salad with dill & lemon zest and a lemon & olive oil dressing. And we’ll end things with an apple crisp, my favourite ordinary desert!

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roast meal

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Ingredients

For the seitan

  • 225 ml (1 cup) wheat gluten flour
  • 175 ml (3/4 cup) white mushrooms
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) porcini mushrooms
  • 1 small onion
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) powdered onion soup
  • 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) rosemary
  • 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) thyme
  • 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) smoked spanish paprika
  • 1.25 ml (1/4 tsp) nutmeg
  • 1 glove garlic
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) strong vegetable stock
  • 2 litres (8 cups) strong vegetable stock for poaching

For the stuffing

  • 1 carrot
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) white mushrooms
  • 1 leeks (white part only)
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) vegetable oil

For the veges

  • 4 carrots, quartered lengthwise
  • 1 small rutabaga, cut in 1 cm wide sticks
  • 4 parsnips, quartered lengthwise
  • 2 small onions, quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) maple syrup
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
  • salt to taste

For the purée

  • 1 kg (2¼lbs) potatoes
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) salt
  • 200 g (7 oz) cold vegan butter, in small chunks
  • warm vegan milk, to taste

For the sauce

  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) amontillado wine
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) vegan butter

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roast stuffed & tied

roast stuffed & tied

roast & veges ready to go in the oven.

roast & veges ready to bake
roast & veges ready to bake

To make

First make the seitan. In a large food processor finely chop the onions, garlic and mushrooms. Add flour and seasoning and pulse a few times. Add just enough stock to get a very firm dough. Process until smooth. Reserve.

Make the stuffing. Brunoise all the veges. Heat the oil in a sautéing pan, sauter the carrots for a minute, add leeks and mushrooms and sauter a minute more until vegetables are tender and golden. Reserve.

Roll out the seitan into a large rectangle about 1 cm thick. Stuff, roll and seal the edges with water. Tie the roast well.

Poach the roast in a large pot of strong vege stock for 10 mins. Remove and drain.

Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F)

Place roast in large roasting pan, brush with oil and seasoning.

In a bowl toss the vegetables with oil, maple syrup, crushed garlic and salt & pepper to taste. Arrange the veges around the roast. Bake for 45 mins or until veges are done and roast is golden brown.

While roast is baking, make the purée. Peel, slice and rinse the potatoes. In a large pot of water simmer potatoes until soft. Drain and rice the potatoes over a bowl containing the cold butter. When you are ready to serve reheat the purée very gently while gradually whisking in a little warm milk.

When the roast is ready, remove it and the veges to a serving plate. Put the roasting pan on the stove, medium high heat, and deglaze with amontillado, scraping the pan with a spoon to dissolve all the fond. Reduce by 1/3. Remove from heat. Adjust salt and pepper. Add butter a little at the time, stirring well after each addition to incorporate it. Keep warm.

Plate and serve.

Serves 4

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Here’s the beginning of lunch today Pho being my go to cold weather fastfood…

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Almost a recipe here.

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Mushroom risotto and grilled asparagus, you’ve seen this before, it’s one from my classic repertoire! This version uses wild boletus picked earlier in the day and locally grown asparagus.

Wild harvested boletus risotto with grilled asparagus.

For the risotto

Ingredients

350 ml (1 1/2 cups) short grain rice preferably Carnaroli or Vialone Nano
750 ml (3 cups) homemade vegetable stock (or best store-bought, might have some left over)
115 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine
1 french shallot, finely chopped
500 gr (1 lb) fresh boletus, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
15 ml (1 Tbsp) olive oil
vegan cooking cream (not coffee creamer!)
freshly ground nutmeg to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a small saucepan bring stock to a simmer and keep hot.

In a medium size heavy saucepan, cook the shallot and mushrooms in the oil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally for 10 to 15 minutes until mushrooms are done. Add rice and nutmeg and cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Add white wine and simmer until evaporated. Raise heat to medium high and add hot stock gradually in small amounts while stirring gently, almost constantly. After approximately 17 minutes, when rice is tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, take off the heat, add soy cream, salt & pepper and stir well.

Cover to rest 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately after.

The asparagus were sprayed with olive oil and grilled a couple of minutes on each side.

I’ve plated this with thyme and nasturtium flowers from the garden and a sprinkle of Maldon salt.

Serves 4

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With this tropical weather I’m craving tropical food. This simple and refreshing combo is prepared quickly and requires no fussing at all. And as the satés are BBQ, no need to fire up the oven and warm up the house further.

 

 

Green papaya salad and smoked tofu satés with peanut dipping sauce

Tofu satés

Ingredients

  • 2 packs of smoked tofu, cut lengthwise in 1 cm thick slices

For the marinade

  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) kecap manis
  • 30 ml (2 tbs)  soy sauce
  • 30 ml (2 tbs) fresh lemon juice
  • 30 ml (2 tbs) vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk fresh lemongrass, trimmed, smashed and cut into pieces
  • 15 ml (1 tbs) fresh ginger, grated
  • 5 ml (1 tsp)  ground turmeric
  • 5 ml (1 tsp)  ground cumin
  • 5 ml (1 tsp)  ground coriander
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the sauce

  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) crunchy natural peanut butter
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) unsweetened coconut milk
  • 60 ml (2 tbs) light brown sugar
  • Pinch cayenne

12 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 20 minutes

  1. Combine all the marinade ingredients.
  2. Arrange the tofu slices in a single layer in a large and shallow dish, cover with the marinade and refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hres.
  3. Remove the tofu from the marinade and thread the slices on bamboo skewers.
  4. Grill over hot coals until golden brown, turning once.
  5. While the satés cooks, put the sauce ingredients in a small sauce pan and warm gently stirring to combine well.
  6. Let the satés cool slightly and serve them with the peanut sauce for dipping.

Green papaya salad

Ingredients

  • 1 liter (4 cups) green papaya, shredded
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 15 green beans, cut in 2 cm pieces
  • 2 Thai chili peppers, finely chopped
  • 75 ml (1/3 cup) vegan nước chấm
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • juice of 1 ½ lime
  • 45 ml (3 tbs) palm sugar
  • 60 ml (4 tbs) toasted peanuts, chopped
  1. Peel and shred the papaya using a grater with medium to large sized holes. Reserve.
  2. In a large bowl, combine chili peppers, vegan nước chấm, garlic, lime juice and palm sugar and mix until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Add the cherry tomatoes, green beans and green papaya and mix well.
  4. Top with peanuts and serve.
Serves 6

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Grilled spring onions to me equals fiesta! Mexican Cambray onions or Catalan Calçots, spring onions with their slightly bulbous base and tender, delicious flesh are the perfect thing to trough on the grill. I buy mine at my local Mexican grocery. They’re the perfect snack or side. You’ll see it’s so easy to make, this hardly requires a recipe.

Freshly picked Cambray onions

Ingredients

  • 20 Cambray onions
  • 1 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • coarse salt to taste
  • 1 lime, cut into 4 wedges (to garnish)

Prepare your grill.

Clean the onions and trim the ends, leaving about 15 cm (6″) of green stalk and coat them with oil and salt.

Grill over glowing coals for 5 to 7 minutes, or until softened and lightly charred, turning them a few times (Alternatively, you can broil then for 10 to 12 minutes.)

Serve immediately, garnished with lime wedges.

Serves 4

The sweet, lightly charded onions would pair well with simple German Riesling, but then again, what doesn’t!

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A paella is always a festive meal. It’s also fast and easy to make and party friendly. Give it a try!

Paella ready to be served

Ingredients

1 onion, chopped
2 large Portobello mushrooms, cut into thick slices
1 fresh fennel bulbs, trimmed, cut into 8 wedges
3 small zucchinis, halved lengthwise
4 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
500 gr (1 lb) asparagus, trimmed
1 yellow pepper, cut into thick slices
6 fresh baby artichokes, trimmed and halved (or substitute canned)
125 ml (1/2 cup) fresh peas
125 ml (1/2 cup) fresh baby lima beans (or substitute frozen. Do not used canned)
60 ml (1/4 cup) piquillo peppers, cut into strips (or substitute roasted red)
500 ml (2 cups) bomba rice or other medium-grain rice such as arborio
1 L (4 cups) homemade vegetable stock
250 ml (1 cup) dry white wine
60 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
15 ml (1 tbsp) smoked spanish paprika
5 ml (1 tsp) saffron threads, crushed
salt to taste
18 olives
90 ml (1/4 cup + 2 tbsp) fresh parsley, chopped
1 lemon, cut in wedges, to garnish

Preheat oven to 230C (450F)

Finely mince 1/4 cup parsley and garlic together. Transfer to small bowl. Stir in paprika, saffron and salt.

Heat 60 ml (2 tbsp) oil in paella pan or a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and parsley mixture; stir while cooking 2 minutes. Stir in the stock and wine; bring to boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer 10 minutes.

toasting the rice

Add the mushrooms, fennel bulb, zucchinis, tomatoes, yellow pepper, baby artichokes, fresh peas and lima beans. Transfer the paella to the oven and bake, undisturbed, for 20 minutes. Turn off the oven.

add the stock than the veges
and more veges

Top the paella with pequillo and olives, cover and let rest in the oven for 15 minutes more or until the rice is tender.

Adjust salt. Sprinkle with remaining parsley, decorate with lemon wedges and serve.

 

Serves 6

Pair with a fresh and crisp spanish white such as a 2007 Casal Novo Godello Valdeorras

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Are you baking your own bread yet? If not, you’re all out of excuses. This method requires a big 5 minutes of your time and is pretty much fool-proof. Try it right now.

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This is really leftovers in disguise. I had some rice ready-made in the fridge and mini pumpkins which needed to be eaten. Combine that with a can of black beans and some dried mushrooms and you have a fast and easy dinner.

Mini pumpkin stuffed with a brown + wild rice, black beans and wild mushrooms mixture spiked with lemon zest. Served with a toasted hazelnut-parsley-pomegranate gremolata.

Here’s how to assemble it.

Cut the top off the pumpkins and clean them.

Rehydrate the mushrooms in hot water. Drain and reserve soaking water for an other recipe.

Sauté some minced onion and garlic. Add the mushrooms and cook 5 minutes untill the onions are golden brown. Remove from heat and reserve.

In a bowl combine the previous mixture with cooked rice and cooked beans. Season to taste with herbs (I used thyme and sage), lemon zest and salt & pepper.

Stuff the pumpkins with this mixture and bake in a 175°C (350°F) oven for 40 minutes or until the pumpkins are done.

Serve sprinkled with gremolata.

The variation possibilities are endless here, various squashes would work well. Just adapt this recipe to use what you have on hand.

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Cassoulet isn’t a spur of the moment thing but a labour of love. There are several steps involved and you can’t really cut corners. And unlike most of the recipes I’ve posted here, cassoulet isn’t light either. The classic version is a real pork and duck fat fest, coming up with a satisfying vegan interpretation was a little challenging but I’m quite pleased with the result. Here’s a very flavourful, winter, stick-to-your-bones sort of dish and a delicious one at that too.

So if you feel so inclined, this is how I did it.

The finished cassoulet being served.

Step 1 make the

Tempeh bacon

Ingredients

  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) maple sugar
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) smoked salt
  • 30 ml (1 tbsp) smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1.25 ml (1/4 tsp) cayenne pepper
  • 16 oz (2 packages) tempeh, thinly sliced
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) canola oil

In a large dinner plate, combine the maple sugar, smoked salt, paprika and cayenne pepper. lightly brush the tempeh with oil and dredge the slices one by one, stack them on a separate plate. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day,  smoke the bacon for 30 minutes before you bake it. (Optional. To improve the smoky flavour. This step requires a special smoker)

Lay the tempeh slice in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet. Bake at 150°C  (300°F) for an hour or until crispy, turning once. Remove from oven and reserve. (Note: You cannot eat all of this before in goes into the cassoulet).

making the tempeh bacon

 

Step 2 make the

Roasted Tomato Confit

Ingredients

  • 6 plum tomatoes
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) extra-virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) fresh thyme, minced
  • 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) sugar

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 100°C (215°F). Halve tomatoes lengthwise and place, cut-side up, on an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, pepper, sugar and thyme. Roast until tomatoes are golden brown and semi-dried, about 4 hours. Let stand until cool and reserve.

making the roasted tomato confit

Step 3 make the

Smoked tofu confit

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp smoked salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • coarsely ground black pepper
  • 225 gr (8 oz) smoked tofu, cut into bite size
  • 500 ml (2 cups) vegetable oil (approximately)

Preheat the oven to 100°C (215°F). Arrange the tofu in a single layer in a baking dish. Season with salt, garlic, thyme and pepper. Cover with oil and cook for 2 hours. Remove from oven and reserve.

smoked tofu confit

For the cassoulet

Ingredients

  • 225 gr (8 oz) smoked tofu confit
  • 225 gr (8oz) tempeh bacon
  • 450 gr (1 lb) dried Tarbais or cannellini beans, picked over and rinsed
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil (I used oil left over from the tofu confit)
  • 6 roasted tomatoes confit
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onions, finely diced
  • 3 small celery ribs, finely diced
  • 1 head of garlic, unpeeled and left whole
  • 30 gr (1 oz) dried porcinni mushrooms
  • 2 L (8 1/2 cups) strong mushroom stock
  • 1 bouquet garni: 6 parsley sprigs, 4 thyme sprigs and 2 bay leaves, tied with string
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) smoked Spanish paprika
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) cup fresh bread crumbs

Soak the beans over night.

Drain the beans and put them in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until the beans are done but still firm. Drain.

In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Add the carrots, celery and onions, cook over moderate heat stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden, about 7 minutes.Add the head of garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the broth, dried porcini mushrooms, bouquet garni and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

 

the cassoulet ready to go into the oven

 

Remove from heat. Pick out the head of garlic and reserve. Discard the bouquet garni.
Preheat the oven to 165°C (325°F). Transfer the liquid mixture, the beans, tomatoes and tofu to a large earthenware casserole. Squeeze out the cooked garlic cloves and stir the paste into the ragout. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake the cassoulet for 1 hour.

Gently stir in the skin that has formed on the cassoulet. Add the tempeh bacon and top with bread crumbs, sprinkle with smoked paprika. Bake the cassoulet for 1 hour longer, until it is richly browned on the surface. Remove from oven and rest for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Serves 8

 

Wine pairing suggestion

In Toulouse, where Casoulet originates, the locals pour hearty, tannic reds to accompany cassoulet. But has this version isnt as fatty and contains no meat I would suggest you go with a lighter red such a Cinsault/Grenache/Carignane blend from the Languedoc-Roussillon region or more for a more unusual combination, try a lush and smokey german riesling. Its high acidity and touch of residual sugar will pair well with this rich tomatoey dish.

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Fruitcake, after the holidays… You think I’m nuts and well, you’re right. See, I didn’t have time to make this before the holidays and I needed a little fruitcake in my life. This one is moist, rich, dense and sweet like most fruitcake yet it is relatively low-fat and low-sugar. Obviously if you’re one of them fruitcake haters well, don’t make it!

To reduce the sugar further you could replace the maple sugar by unsweetened orange juice concentrate. Adding candied orange peel and candied ginger would be a good variation.

This cake would easily keep a week if you didn’t eat it all way before that. It also freeze well.

Ingredients

  • 235 ml (1 cup) orange juice
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) rum
  • 235 ml (1 cup) carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 235 ml (1 cup) raisins
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) maple sugar (or sub vegan sugar of your choice)
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) pomegranate molasses
  • 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) ground cinnamon
  • 1.25 ml (1/4 tsp) ground cloves
  • 1.25 ml (1/4 tsp) ground cardamom
  • 1.25 ml (1/4 tsp) ground mace
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil (I use canola)
  • 470 (2 cup) whole wheat flour
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) baking soda
  • 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) baking powder
  • 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 470 ml (2 cup) mixed dried fruits, coarsely chopped (I used cranberries, figs, apricots)
  • 235 ml (1 cup) dried currants
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) hazelnuts
  • zest of one orange

Combine orange juice, rum and raw carrots in a blender and process until puréed. Put this mixture in a sauce pan with the raisins, maple sugar, pomegranate molasses, and spices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 165°C (325°F) and spray two 1L (1 quart) loaf pans with oil.

In a large bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the dried fruits and nuts and combine. Add the liquid mixture and the oil and mix well. Pour into the loaf pans and bake for 75 minutes. Invert on racks to cool.

Makes two medium size cakes.

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Today is a cleaning out he fridge sort of day. Plus it is freezing cold and I crave simple comfort food, so I made a casserole as one does in these circumstances…

Ingredients

1 large eggplant, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
2 medium zucchinis, sliced
170 gr (6 oz) mushrooms, sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
445 ml (15 oz) tomato sauce
235 ml (1 cup) homemade vegan ricotta
30 ml (2 tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil
355 ml (1 1/2 cup) non dairy milk, warmed
60 ml (1/4 cup) flour
1.5 ml (1/4 tsp) freshly grated nutmeg
1.5 ml (1/4 tsp) smoke Spanish paprika
15 ml (1 tbsp) mixed fine herbs (dried. more is using fresh)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
60 ml (1/4 cup) breadcrumbs

In a casserole, layer eggplant, onion, zucchinis, mushrooms and tomato sauce, alternating. Sprinkle generously with garlic, herbs, salt and pepper every 2-3 layers. Cover and bake in a 175°C (350°F) oven for 40 minutes.

While this is cooking make a thick bechamel. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Cook until the mixture turns a light gold color, about 5 minutes. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil and cook over medium-low heat 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Season with salt and nutmeg, and set aside until ready to use.

Remove the casserole from the oven. Top with vegan ricotta, bechamel and breadcrumbs. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake 15 minutes more uncovered. Finish under the broil for a couple of minutes until the top is golden and crispy.

Serves 6

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The perfect quick and easy soup to warm you up. Unlike other legumes, lentils cook super fast and do not require pre-soaking, so you can whip up a batch for lunch in minutes.

Prepping the ingredients

Ingredients

  • 2 L (8 cups) mild vegetable stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 small onion,  coarsely chopped
  • 500 ml (2 cups) masoor lentils
  • 2-3 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 ml (¼ tsp) turmeric
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 2.5 cm (1 inch) piece of fresh ginger
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) mandarin orange zest
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) mandarin orange juice
  • salt to taste
  • fresh coriander, chopped for garnish (optional)

Rinse lentils thoroughly until water runs clear. In a large pot, bring the stock to a boil. Add onion, lentils, lime leaves, turmeric, garlic and pepper and bring to a boil. Turn heat to medium-low and simmer until lentils are cooked (about 25 mins). Add ginger and mandarin orange zest and process with an immersion blender until smooth. Simmer 5 more minutes. Adjust salt to taste, add mandarin orange juice, stir well and serve.

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Steamed artichokes with a mustard vinaigrette

Shaved fennel, blood orange and black olive salad
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2007

King oyster mushroom “osso bucco” over orecchiette drizzled with truffle oil
Cantina dei produttori Nebbiolo di Carema, Carema Riserva 2005

 

Sorry for the radio silence, I will put up real updates in the coming days.

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Today looks and feels like the first sunday of fall. I warded off the end-of-summer-blues with 2 fail proof anti-depressants: pasta and amontillado. I used orecchiette but linguine or spaghetti would work well too. And try to get your hands on Pioppino mushrooms, their nutty flavour works real well here, otherwise porcini or other hearty wild mushrooms will do.

Ingredients

  • 450 gr (1 lb) pasta
  • 225 gr (8 oz) Pioppino mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • 225 gr (8 oz) brown cultivated mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) canola oil
  • 1o ml (2 tsp) fresh thyme, minced
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
  • 150 ml (5 oz) Amontillado Jerez

for the cream

  • 170 gr (6 oz) soft silken tofu
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
  • 1,25 ml (1/4 tsp) nutmeg
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) agave nectar
  • fresh black pepper to taste
  • salt to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente.

During this time, make the soy cream by combining all the cream ingredients in a blender and processing until smooth and thick as crème fraîche. Reserve.

Heat the canola oil in a sauteing pan over medium-high heat, add mushrooms and sauté until golden brown. Add shallots, garlic and thyme, sauté for a couple of minutes. Deglaze the pan with Amontillado and continue cooking until most of the liquid is evaporated.

Turn the heat down to minimum, add the soy cream, stir and simmer 2-3 minutes. Add the cooked and drained pasta, toss well to coat with the sauce. Serve garnished with minced fresh parsley and pine nuts parmesan.

Serves 4

Wine pairing

Try a lightly oaked Chardonnay from Alto Adige. If you must drink red go with a Alto Adige Pinot Nero.

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Here’s a simple Japanese inspired dinner tonight. I’ve posted variations of most of these recipes before. They’re all very simple and quick, perfect for week night.

The menu:

Baked shiitake & pleurote w sesame oil, garlic and lemon juice
Spicy sautéed green beans
Fat and tender okra roasted with yaki glaze
Cold cha soba w garnishes and dipping sauce

We paired this with Akitabare koshiki junzukuri “Northern skies” saké  which went very well with the mushroom dish but something sweeter would have been better the beans and okra.

Spicy sautéed green beans

Ingredients

  • 30 ml (2 tbsps) peanut or canola oil
  • 500 gr (1 pound) green beans, trimmed, washed, dried
  • 3 dried hot chilis, cut up
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) ginger, minced
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) chili with garlic sauce
  • 10 ml (2 tsp) rice wine vinegar
  • 60 ml (4 tbsps) mirin
  • 10 ml (2 tsp) sugar
  • 45 ml (3 tbsps) tamari
  • 15 ml (1 tbps) toasted sesame oil
  • salt to taste
  • 30 ml (2 tbsps) toasted sesame seeds, to garnish

In a wok on high heat, heat 30 ml oil until hot. Add the dried chilis, garlic and ginger. Stir briskly for about 30 seconds. Add the string beans and cook 4-5 minutes until done but still crispy. Then add the vinegar, wine, sugar, chili sauce and salt, and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the soy sauce and sesame oil, stir, and serve sprinkled with sesame seeds.

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To be happy I need a generous daily dose of straight up greens, relatively unaltered and preferably raw. Here’s what it looked like today.

Kale and wakame salad.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch kale, chopped
  • 20 gr wakame seaweed, rehydrated and drained well
  • 3 scallions, sliced thinly
  • 30 ml raw tahini
  • 30 ml toasted sesame oil
  • 30 ml wheat free tamari
  • 45 ml rice wine vinegar
  • 60 ml water
  • 15 ml sriracha hot sauce
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 cm piece of fresh ginger
  • 45 ml sesame seed

Clean and chop kale. Rehydrate wakame in plenty of warm water until tender. Drain well. Thinly slice scallions. Combine these 3 ingredients in a large salad bowl.

Put tahini, sesame oil, tamari, rice wine vinegar, water, sriracha, garlic and ginger in a blender and process until creamy and smooth. Pour the dressing on the salad, adjust seasoning to taste and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Let sit for an hour for flavours to combine.

Unlike many other salads, this one keeps well in the fridge overnight.

serves 6

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Do you see a pattern emerging here?… What can I say, tomatoes are in season and my tiny urban garden is bursting with them! This salad was homegrown except for the crunchy little Persian cucumbers. Grow your own food, it tastes so much better!

Cherry tomatoes and Persian cucumbers salad.

Ingredients

  • 500 ml (2 cups) cherry tomatoes
  • 500 ml (2 cups) persian cucumbers
  • one handful fresh lime basil leaves
  • one handful fresh mint leaves
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) Extra Virgen olive oil
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) apple cider vinegar
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Trim and cut the cucumbers in quarters length wise then slice across thickly. Cut the cherry tomatoes into halves. Roll up the basil leaves tightly and cut into thin strips. Repeat with mint. Combine all ingredients into a large salad bowl. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve.

Serves 4

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I’ve been reading up about Puglia and apparently it’s influencing my food choices… Doesn’t get much simpler then this.

Pasta with roasted stem tomatoes, garlic scapes and bush basil.

Ingredients

  • 500 gr (18 oz) orecchiette pasta
  • 20 small vine tomatoes, left on the stem
  • 115 ml (1/2 cup) garlic scapes, chopped
  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) fresh bush basil leaves
  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) very good Extra Virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 200 °C (400 °F).

Put the cleaned tomatoes, still attached to the vine, on a baking sheet and roast in the over until done, about 20-30 minutes. Keep warm.

While the tomatoes are cooking, boil pasta in plenty of water until al dente. Drain, reserving 115 ml (1/2 cup) of cooking water.

In a large skillet, heat up 15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil. Sauté the garlic scapes for a few minutes until tender. Add pasta and reserved water and cook for a minute. Turn off heat when most of the water is evaporated. Add remaining olive oil, basil, salt and pepper. Toss to combine well and serve immediately.

Serves 4 as a main dish.

Wine pairing

Try a simple and good value Salice Salentino from Puglia.

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I had been craving zucchini blossoms for weeks and could not find them at all. It always blows me away when I can’t fin something in NYC. I mean seriously, this is NYC how could it not have XYZ?!? Specially food stuff. Why can’t I just reach for puntarelle, zucchini blossoms, chestnuts, preserved lemons, vin jaune, pain poilâne, vegan crème fraîche, ok maybe that last one is pushing it a little but you get what I saying.

Anyway, I finally found zucchini blossoms last weekend at the Grand Army plaza market. This is what came of it.

Stuffed zucchini blossoms with fava beans and garlic scapes
(sorry for the crappy photo, there was no light left at all)

For the Fava Beans

Ingredients

  • 1.5 kg (3 pounds) unshelled young fresh fava beans
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) garlic scapes, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup water
  • black pepper, freshly ground
  • salt
  • lemon juice

Shell, blanch and peel the fava beans.

Sauté the garlic scapes in the oil until for a minute. Stir in beans, add water and simmer, covered, for 8 to 12 minutes until the beans are tender.

Add salt and pepper, turn up the heat and cook uncovered until the last of the water has evaporated.

Remove from heat and reserve.

For the stuffed zucchini blossoms

Ingredients

  • 18 zucchini blossoms
  • 350 ml (12 oz) beer
  • 75 ml (5 Tbsp) flour
  • 15 ml (1 Tbsp) corn starch
  • 60 gr (2 oz) firm tofu
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • one recipe of vegan ricotta
  • vegetable oil for frying

Trim the stems, remove the pistils and very gently wash and dry of the zucchini blossoms.

Prepare the batter by combining the beer, flour, tofu and salt and pepper. Process in a high power blender until creamy. Keep aside.

Use a pastry bag (or a small ziplock) to fill the blossoms with cheese. Reserve.

Heat the oil to 175ºC  (350ºF).

One by one, dip each stuffed blossoms in the batter and drop them in the hot oil. Fry in small batches until golden brown.

To plate

Put a few spoonfuls of beans on each plates. Drizzle with more olive oil and lemon juice. Top with blossoms. Serve right away.

Yields 6 mains or 10 appetizers.

Wine pairing

I would suggest a dry Italian white. Be adventurous, move away from the standard Pinot Grigio and try an herbal Sauvignon Blanc from Friuli, a more floral Vernaccia di San Gimignano or a crisp, mineral and citrusy Vermentino or Trebbiano d’Abruzzo instead.

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Here’s an other one from the country vacation folder. As usual it’s easy to make and can quickly be thrown together.

Pissaladière is a Niçoise onion tart eaten as an appetizer. The classic version does not have tomatoes and takes longer to prepare as you need to compote the onions first. Here I’ve made it with store-bought puff pastry which I had lying around but bread dough is more traditional.

Roma tomatoes over puff pastry, topped with homegrown golden oregano.
Just out of the BBQ.

Ingredients

  • store-bought puff pastry dough
  • 3 onions, sliced
  • 6 Italian plum tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 20 oil-cured black olives, sliced or left whole
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) fresh oregano
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) fresh thyme
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Pre-heat BBQ on highest setting.

Thinly roll out the dough and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet.

Spread the garlic, tomatoes, onions, olive and herbs out evenly on the dough. Spray with olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Reduce heat to the lowest setting and put the Pissaladière in the BBQ. Bake with the lid closed for 15 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Serve hot or cold.

Serves 6-8

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Bean tostada

Here’s an other “it’s too hot to bother with cooking” summer meal.

The tortilla was crisped in the oven instead of fried then topped with homemade bean chili which was kicking around the back of the freezer. I added chopped up lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and onions then some chipotle salsa and garnished it with fresh cilantro and a wedge of lime. Vegan crema or cheese could be added but I didn’t feel the need.

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Here’s a first one from this year’s country vacation folder…

As my country place is off-the-grid and I do not have a “real” oven, all baking is done in the BBQ, at least until a build a proper bread oven. When baking, I put 4 recycled fire bricks on the grill to defuse the heat and prevent scorching. Once the bricks are in, I light up the BBQ and let it heat up for at least 15 minutes on the highest setting, then I turn the heat down to the minimum. The baking dish goes right on the brick. Keep the BBQ lid closed and resist opening it up to check on things, you want to keep the heat in!

As for the strudel, I made it with store-bought vegan puff pastry. I’m not great at making dough and honestly, out here, I have plenty of other stuff to do… Gotta pick your fights!

Assembling the strudel.

Ingredients

  • 6 apples,  peeled, cored and sliced
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) maple sugar
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) cinnamon
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) almond slivers, toasted
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

Preheat BBQ as explained above.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place apples in a large bowl. Stir in maple sugar and cinnamon; set aside.

Roll out puff pastry into a long rectangle. Arrange apple filling down the middle of the pastry lengthwise, top with almonds and a little more maple sugar. Fold the pastry lengthwise over the apples and seal edges using a little water.

Put the strudel on the lined baking sheet. Brush a little vegetable oil onto top of pastry. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

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Not much of a recipe here, just a beautiful cauliflower roasted to perfection. I find that roasting cauliflower brings out its sweet nuttiness. And it looks great too.

Clean the cauliflower and leave it whole. Spay an oven proof dish with a little olive oil, put the cauliflower in it and spray with olive oil as well. Sprinkle with salt and roast in a 200°C (400°F) oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown but still firm.

Delicious served with a sage brown “butter” or a bechamel sauce.

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I love baby artichokes! Specially the tiny purple artichokes from Provence called “Poivrade”, so tender they can be eaten raw. They’re hard to find on this side of the ocean but so worth the hunt. Here’s a simple recipe that lets them shine.

Spaghetti with crispy baby artichokes, lemon, capers and parsley.

Ingredients

  • 16 baby artichokes
  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) capers, drained
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
  • 3 shallots, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 60 ml (4 Tbsp) olive oil
  • 500 gr (1 pound) spaghetti
  • juice of one lemon
  • zest of one lemon, grated (organic and untreated)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 60 ml (4 Tbsp) fresh parsley, chopped

Have a bowl of water with the half the lemon juice standing by. Pull off the outer leaves from each artichoke, leaving only the inner, light green ones. Cut off the sharp tips and trim the stringy parts from the bottoms. Drop the trimmed artichokes (still whole) into the water & lemon juice mix, so they don’t discolor.

In a large frying pan, heat 30 ml (2 Tbsp) olive oil and sauté the garlic, shallots and capers until lightly browned. Season with sea salt and pepper. Remove and set aside, leaving the seasoned oil in the pan.

Using a sharp knife, slice the artichokes into 1/4-inch slices length wise. On a medium-low heat sauté until crispy brown on both sides. Work in batches, removing the finished slices to a paper towel to drain. Drizzle the pan with more olive oil as needed.

Cook the spaghetti in salted water. When you drain the pasta, reserve 2 cups of the pasta water.

Deglaze the pan with 30 ml (2 Tbsp) olive oil and 1 cup of the pasta water. Put the capers-garlic-shallots sauté back in the pan. Mix well and reduce the volume of the liquid by half. Add the spaghetti and toss to coat. If the sauce needs more liquid, add a little more pasta water. Add the lemon juice and zest. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste and toss well.

Serve the pasta topped with the crispy baby artichoke slices and chopped parsley.

Serves 4

Inspired by a New York Times recipe.

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