Thursday 31 October 2013

Sundried Tomato and Roasted Pumpkin Seed Dip

I discovered the great combination of sundried tomatoes and roasted pumpkin seeds in the summer with a pesto that I used on both a pasta and pizza.  A lot of pasta sauces seem to make equally good dips (well, I can think of a few anyway).

A food processor will make quick work of this dip.

In a food processor, combine a small jar of sundried tomatoes (with some of the oil), 2-3 Tbsp roasted pumpkin seeds and a can of white kidney beans (drained and rinsed).  Add additional olive oil (or oil from the jar of sundried tomatoes) as needed to ensure a smooth mixture.   As an option, add 2-3 Tbsp of feta cheese into the dip or use as a garnish.  And add salt to taste.

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Lamb and Barley Soup with Mushrooms

Week #4, Soup #4.  I promised to do something different other than the three pureed vegetable soups made in the past few weeks:

Week 1: Ginger Carrot Soup with Coconut and Miso
Week 2: Broccoli Soup with Blue Cheese Toasts
Week 3: Acorn Squash Soup with Bacon and Sage Crisps
The combination of lamb, barley and mushroom makes for a cozy, fall day kind of meal.

To make the stock:

1 lb lamb shank
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
5 springs each thyme and parsley
12 peppercorns, 1 bay leaf
6 cups water

Remove some of the fat from the shank if possible.  Put all stock ingredients into a medium sauce pan.  Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer for approximately one hour when the lamb should be tender.  Remove lamb shank.  Strain liquid into another container.  If you didn't remove enough fat from the shank at the beginning, you may want to take a break at this time and refrigerate the stock.  The fat will rise to the surface and can easily be removed.  Otherwise, proceed directly with soup (as I did).

Remove the meat from the shank and shred or dice it.  Set aside.

The Soup

1 shallot, diced
1 small carrot, diced
 4 oz shiitake mushrooms,diced
8 oz cremini mushrooms, diced
Red wine vinegar
Diced / shredded lamb
1/2 cup pearled barley
Additional stock as required

Heat a soup pot and add 1 Tbsp of olive oil.  Saute the diced shallot and carrot, approximately 7-10 minutes.

In a separate pan, add 1 Tbsp olive oil and the mushrooms.  Allow mushrooms to brown on one side then stir and add some salt (1/2 tsp).  When brown on the other side, add a splash of red wine vinegar and stir to pick up any bits that have stuck to the pan.  Once the vinegar has cooked away, add mushrooms to the soup pot along with some thyme leaves (leaves from about 3-4 sprigs).  Cook 1-2 minutes.

Add the lamb pieces and reserved stock, simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add barley and cook until tender, 45-60 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the barley thickens the soup too much, add additional stock to your preference.

Monday 28 October 2013

Lamb Stuffed Cabbage


I was involved in a cabbage roll cook-off a bunch of years ago where many variations were produced, including the usual ground beef.  My version was vegetarian with roasted red peppers and feta cheese, but my favourite (not made by me) had a mushroom filling that was so delicious! I wish I could remember the ingredients.  No matter the filling, each type was made with already cooked rice.  I generally prefer cooking the filling first so I can be sure it is seasoned properly.  But I thought I'd give the raw rice method a go as that is how my mom had made them growing up (regular beef cabbage rolls, that is).  Although slightly undersalted as the raw lamb prevented me from properly checking the seasoning, they came out great and it certainly reduces the time required.  I really enjoyed the lamb in this dish; the cumin and just a pinch of cinnamon are just enough to enhance the flavour of the meat.

I would have preferred using savoy cabbage (looser, more flexible leaves) but I don't ever see it being sold around here.  And I'm too cheap to buy napa cabbage.  So good old green cabbage worked just fine.

1 head cabbage
1 lb minced lamb
1/2 cup arborio rice, uncooked
1 egg
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp pine nuts
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp cumin
Pinch of cinnamon
1 lemon
3 cups chopped tomatoes with juice
Vegetable / Chicken stock
Feta (optional)

Saute onion and garlic until onion is translucent.  Add pine nuts and cook for 1-2 minutes to lightly toast.  Add fresh parsley, cumin, cinnamon as well as some salt and pepper.  Cook for 2-3 minutes to blend the flavours together.  Remove from heat, squeeze in juice of one lemon and let cool.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Combine cooled onion mixture with lamb, rice and egg to form the filling.

Remove the core from the cabbage, cutting at least 2 inches down.  This helps the leaves loosen from the head.

Place the head of cabbage into the pot of boiling water then drop to a simmer.  Remove leaves as they separate from the head.
While preparing the rolls, heat the tomato juice with about 1 cup of vegetable stock.

Take a single leaf of cabbage and cut away the thickest part of the vein.

The amount of filling used will change as the leaves get smaller.  I use about 2 heaping Tbsp for the largest leaves.  Place the filling near the thick end of the leaf and roll once.  Fold in the sides, then continue to roll.

Place each roll into a casserole dish until you have a full single layer (I doubled up with just a few extra, but generally a single layer is preferable).   Toss in the leftover lemon skin for added flavour.  Pour over the heated tomato sauce ensuring the rolls are fully covered (add stock, tomatoes or water, whatever so long as the rolls are covered).

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 1 1/2 hours.  Cut into a roll to ensure meat and rice are cooked.  Serve hot with some of the tomato sauce, and crumbled feta cheese.

Saturday 26 October 2013

Eggs in a Basket

I remember seeing V making this breakfast for Evey in "V for Vendetta" and have always wanted to try it (and a good reminder to watch that movie again!).  In fact, I had tried it before, but it turned into more of a french toast kind of vibe as the egg white oozed out all over the bread.

To do this properly, the hole in the bread really needs to be able to hold the egg, so thickly sliced bread and the right size of egg is the trick.  I used one large, thick slice from a buttermilk round loaf and two medium eggs (some still oozed out during cooking).

The rest is like grilling a sandwich ... either put a bunch of butter in the pan or butter the bread itself (both sides if you are taking this approach).  And because it might take a while for the egg to set, best to keep a medium heat on the stove.

Grill one side of the bread then flip.  Immediately crack the eggs into the holes then cover the pan and continue until the eggs are set to your preference (in my case super soft) and the bread is grilled.

Friday 25 October 2013

Veggie Chili

I've made this chili so many times, it's hard to choose a variation for the recipe.  Sometimes I use the Yves veggie ground round, sometimes not.  I think TVP (textured vegetable protein) is disgusting, but the Yves veggie products are pretty good.  I always use black beans, but the second type of bean can just as easily be chickpeas or red kidney beans.  Corn and zucchini are great additions as well. 

This is a very simple version.  The brand of chili powder I used was flavourful, but not overly spicy.  I've added cayenne pepper here, but it all depends on your preference.


1 large red onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, medium diced
2 carrots, medium diced
1 package Yves veggie ground round
2 Tbsp ground cumin
4 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 Tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 can 540 ml black beans
1 can 540 ml white kidney beans
5 cups tomatoes
1 cup veggie stock or tomato juice
1 large sweet pepper, diced
Lime juice (1-2 limes)

Saute the chopped onion in 1-2 Tbsp olive oil for a few minutes.  Add the garlic, celery and carrots and continue until onion is translucent and carrots have softened.  Add the veggie ground round.  Since it is not actually meat, no browning is required. Add in the spices and cook for several minutes.

Add beans, tomatoes and stock/juice and let simmer 10-15 minutes to mingle the flavours and cook away some of the liquid. 

Add the sweet pepper and cook another 10 minutes.  Squeeze in juice of 1-2 limes to taste.  Adjust other seasonings as required.

Serve with garnishes including green onions, grated cheese, sour cream and quartered limes.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Potato and Chickpea Roti

What I miss most about living in Toronto (and Vancouver before that) is the easy access to so many different cuisines.  I used to work near the Eaton Centre and would often get take-out from a caribbean fast food place in the food court - usually callaloo with rice and beans.  I later discovered some of the roti shops like Bacchus Roti and developed a mild addiction.

There are a couple of places to get roti in Ottawa but not very convenient for me.  Besides, my favourite filling, chickpeas and potato, is the easiest thing to make so why not just make it at home?  Because of the roti shells!  The shells (dhalpuri roti) used are so soft and delicate; an absolutely integral part of the dish for me (they can easily be replaced by a tortilla or other flatbread but that is so not the same thing!).  Not only are the shells extremely thin, but each shell is actually two layers of thin dough with a layer of ground split peas in between.

Since I lack patience, I knew I needed to buy the bread rather than attempt to make it.  For some reason, I thought it would be so hard to find that I never bothered ... until this week.  The first caribbean store I visited (Savannah Afro-Caribbean Products on Bank Street) had frozen shells.  I cannot believe I waited so long before looking!

Mmmm ... craving has been satisfied for now.  But that won't last for long.  Next time I'll try a curried goat filling.

1 medium onion, diced
Ginger (thumb-size piece), minced
1 fresh chile pepper, minced*
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp Garam Masala
2 tsp ground cumin
3 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 potatoes, diced
Swish chard or spinach
Water as needed

*I used a jalapeno chile as that is what I had on hand although maybe a scotch bonnet is more common?  Obviously it depends on how hot you want the filling.  Either way, a good roti always requires a side of Frank's Red Hot Sauce. 

The roti can be served in the usual style with the filling rolled into the roti shell or the shell can simply be served on the side.

Heat a large pan with a small amount of vegetable oil.  Add diced onion, ginger, chile pepper and garlic.

Saute until onion softens, then add spices.  Cook for 2-3 minutes until spices are fragrant.

Add potatoes, stirring to combine with the onions and spices.  Add about 1/2 cup of water or more if necessary.  Cook for about 7-8 minutes.  Add chickpeas and continue to cook until potatoes and chickpeas are fully tender (at least 30 minutes on low heat), adding water as needed.  I probably used about 2 cups of water in total.

I had some swiss chard and cilantro from the garden available, so I tossed a handful in with the chickpeas.  Spinach would also work very well or you can leave this step out.

When the potatoes and chickpeas are tender and the liquid has been absorbed or cooked away, you are ready to roll!  Place some filling on the lower half of a roti shell, fold bottom up, sides in, then toward the top.


Tuesday 22 October 2013

Acorn Squash Soup with Bacon and Sage Crisps

I've made it to week three of my once-a-week soup recipe plan.  Yes, I know, I've seen the pattern; three weeks and three pureed veggie soups (week one: Ginger Carrot Soup with Coconut and Miso and week two: Broccoli Soup with Blue Cheese Toasts) and now the acorn squash.  If I manage a week four recipe, I'll have to try something different.

It's just so easy with the wonderful fall veggies available this time of year (and available right in my own garden ... well, cold storage now).  In addition to the acorn squash that I grew, the sage was picked fresh from the herb garden.  And these crispy sage leaves?!  Sooooo delicious.  I'll remember to make extra next time as I had nibbled several on their own before the soup was served.

3 lbs acorn squash, halved and seeded
3 slices bacon
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced
Fresh sage leaves
Vegetable stock

Bake the squash at 350 degrees F until tender, 30-40 minutes. When cool enough to touch, peel and cut into chunks.

Cook the bacon until crisp in a frying pan.  Set aside bacon to use as a garnish, then transfer 1 Tbsp of bacon fat (or olive oil if you prefer) into a dutch oven or other soup pot.

Saute onion, garlic and carrot until onion is translucent.  Add in squash, 7-8 sage leaves and 3 cups vegetable stock.  Simmer about 30 minutes.

Remove all but 2 sage leaves and discard.  Puree soup mixture.  Season with S&P.  If soup is too thick, add more stock (I added another 1 cup).

Sage Crisps:  Reheat bacon fat (or heat 2 Tbsp olive oil).  Fry fresh sage leaves about 1-2 minutes, until they turn dark green. 

Serve soup hot with crumbled bacon and sage crisps.

Sunday 20 October 2013

Pasta with White Wine, Lemon, Basil and Tomato

The basil plants are definitely done for the year. They survived a couple of light frosts a week or two ago but have simply been neglected lately.  I did manage to get in one last taste of the fresh basil in one of my favourite pasta dishes not long ago.  This light and summery pasta was perfect during this recent bout of warm weather we’ve been having.  And I suspect it’s the last of the tomatoes as well, although I have a single cherry tomato plant that continues to offer a few gems every day or two.

A friend way back in my Vancouver days made a similar pasta dish for a few friends and I remember thinking how delicious and fresh-tasting it was.  And that was with store-bought tomatoes and basil … it is taken to a whole new level with produce straight from your backyard.

Her version had angel hair pasta which is great with such a delicate sauce.  I prefer spaghetti, and I’ve added lemon zest and likely a lot more garlic.

Makes 3-4 servings.

3 large garlic cloves, minced
½ cup white wine
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
1 fresh large tomato, diced
Basil leaves, at least 1 cup loosely packed
Parmesan cheese, grated

The dish comes together very quickly.  Start your pasta water boiling, and once the pasta has been added, then start the sauce.  

Heat a large sauté pan and add 1 Tbsp of olive oil.  Add garlic and sauté very briefly.  You do not want it to colour at all, so after just a minute or two, add in the white wine.  Allow to cook down to about half its volume, then add the lemon juice and zest.  At this point, just let it simmer away for a few minutes while waiting for the pasta.

When pasta is ready, add to the pan along with the diced tomato and basil leaves.  If needed (to be sure you have enough sauce) add some pasta liquid.  Add S&P and toss to mix it together.  Sprinkle in a handful or two of parmesan cheese to taste.  Serve immediately.

Saturday 19 October 2013

Winter Storage 2013

Aside from some Brussels Sprouts that have yet to mature, and spring onions and swiss chard that seem to want to grow forever, I have pretty much wrapped up the vegetable harvest for the year.  

The last item was the potatoes which I finally got around to digging up last weekend.   

I think I did okay for my first year at this property … but not great.  In the past, I’ve tended to rely on good old nature to make things happen.  And although I will never grow vegetables other than organically, I know there are plenty of methods I can follow or natural fertilizers I could be using. 

I would certainly appreciate any useful tips for improving yield organically (in an Eastern Ontario environment) if anyone out there has good experience.  And I’ll be studying up on this throughout the winter.

The potato plants that I grew in containers in the greenhouse were semi-successful.  Because I started earlier in the greenhouse, I had an even earlier harvest of new potatoes – and I wasn’t expecting large potatoes in the containers since I harvested them early.  But I did not get very many in each container.  And I was definitely expecting the potatoes in the garden to be larger. 

These, for example, were harvested just a few weeks ago so not exactly early.  This is about 6 pounds of already cured and very small Blue Russians and Red Chieftains.  Yes, they are sitting in egg cartons, that's how small they are!

Fingerling Potatoes Curing

And I have another pound or two of those plus some Yukon Gold still drying out. I also have a few pounds of fingerlings.  Fingerlings are absolutely my favourite potato.  And as much as I like eating little baby fingerlings, they do grow bigger and taste just as good.  However, these were only harvested last weekend and stayed fairly small.

So I have about 10 pounds of potatoes for winter storage and I recently gave away 3 pounds to a friend.  I’m sure I’ve eaten several pounds as well over the past few months.  But I had over 30 plants and should have had a much larger yield than this!  

Winter Squash
As with the potatoes, I had a reasonable amount of winter squash to eat and give away with some left for storage that I can use throughout the winter.  But as with the potatoes, I only have this many because I had so many plants.  The fact is only about 6 pumpkins made it to harvest out of 12 plants (pathetic, right?).  Acorn squash was much more productive, but it still took 6 plants to get about 14 squash.  Butternut was kind of in between – 6 plants and 10 squash harvested.  Not even 2 per plant!  And really small too.

Summer squash: 15 1-cup bags of grated zucchini in the freezer;
Borlotti Beans: Didn’t have many plants, so was thrilled just to have the 2 cups or so that are in the freezer;
Hot Peppers: I have a few dozen in various stages of drying.  Most were used fresh or pickled;
Okra: Didn’t grow enough to eat but grew them to produce more seeds for next year;
Onions: Complete failure, didn’t even have any to eat (aside from a handful of scraggly looking things);
Strawberries: Several pounds of frozen berries bagged up.

I canned various fruits and vegetables over the past month couple of months.  I wish I'd had more cucumbers for pickling and the amount of salsa I made won't last a few months let alone to next year's harvest.  But overall I'm pretty happy with what I accomplished.
List of 2013 Preserves (and links to the blog post):
Stewed Onions and Tomatoes