Category Archives: Vegetables

Smoked Paprika Roasted Squash

2 platters 1We’re all familiar with the concept that small changes can add up to big differences. The internet abounds with lists that I seem powerless to resist clicking on. You know the ones I mean; 7 Small Changes That Will Make a Big Difference in Your Life, 10 Small Changes Which Make a Big Difference11 Small Lifestyle Changes That Can Make A Big Difference In Your Health & Happiness.

Last week I made a small change of my own, which, by the way, I have yet to see on any of these lists. We eat butternut squash at least once a week in our house. I always prepare it the same way. I cut it into sticks like french fries, drizzle on olive oil, salt, pepper and smoked paprika and  roast it at 400°F for 45 minutes.

As I peeled the squash a crazy thought flitted through my brain. What if I changed the way I usually cut the squash?  Wild, I know! I went rogue and cut thin circles.slicing squashThose lists always advise you to take it slow and not to make too many changes at once, so I kept it consistent and mixed the squash with my usual combo of olive oil, salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Smoked paprika, if you’ve never used it, is fantastic. I won’t go so far as to say it’s life changing, but it is pretty damn amazing. It makes everything taste better. I put that shit on everything.salt pepper and paprikamixing bowl and baking sheet2 baking sheetsI was actually surprised at how different the squash turned out from when I cut it into fries. The slices baked up more tender on the inside and crisper on the exterior. My squash fries never got golden brown like this. They were either limp and pale after 45 minutes or if I left them in longer, they burned. These circles were consistently golden brown with an outstanding texture.dipping in chipotle mayoI’m not a scientist, but I think the reason for this difference is that the amount of surface area that was exposed to the heat of the oven was greater when the squash was cut into circles, vs. the fry shape, so the squash had better chance to release all its moisture before crisping up.

If you’re serving this to company, scatter a few pomegranate seeds on top and whip up a dip. Mix one small chipotle chile in adobo sauce (seeded and chopped fine) into 1/2 a cup of regular or light mayo. (Don’t use fat free).

Here’s a tip for what to do with the remainder of the chiles in the can. Take a few minutes to seed them all. Puree the seeded chiles in the food processor and then spread the paste out on a parchment lined baking sheet. Put it in the freezer until firm and then break it up into large pieces and store in a ziploc bag in the freezer. It will keep for months. Just break a small piece off whenever you need it. It defrosts very quickly. it’s great on chicken, fish and in rice.platter on white table

Click here to print recipe for Smoked Paprika Roasted Squash.

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Zucchini with Corn and Ricotta Pasta

serving pastaZucchini and I have a complicated relationship. She and her sister, summer squash and her cousin, the adorable pattypan squash, lure me with their shiny skin and vibrant colours. I bring them home from the farmers market, bathe them in olive oil, honey, salt and chile flakes and grill them for a few minutes. Sadly, I am always disappointed by their bland flavour and watery texture. yellow and green zucchinipattypan squash Then I saw a recipe in the June issue of Bon Appetit for Summer Squash and Basil Pasta and I was convinced to give zucchini another chance. Apparently, if you sauté the heck out of the zucchini, for over 15 minutes, it becomes jammy and saucy. That’s when the flavour transformation happens. All the water evaporates out of the zucchini and the flavour becomes concentrated and delicious.

This is my take on the Bon Appetit recipe. I have adapted it slightly.

Slice up lots of garlic and start frying it gently in some olive oil. The original recipe leaves the sliced garlic in the final dish. I don’t love crunching down on big bits of garlic so after the garlic is lightly golden brown and has imparted its gorgeous perfume to the oil, scoop out the sliced garlic and discard it. slicing garlicsauteeing garlicZucchini needs salt. Lots of salt. Don’t be afraid. adding saltOnce the zucchini has wilted down, add some raw corn and keep cooking until the zucchini deepens in colour and gets all jammy. Don’t forget some spicy heat. I used red pepper flakes.zucchini cooked down to jammy consisitencyI finished the dish with some grated Parmesan, fresh mint, basil and a big dollop of ricotta cheese. If you happen to have any homemade ricotta hanging out in the fridge, even better. big bowl of pasta

Click here to print recipe for Zucchini and Corn Pasta with Ricotta.with a scoop of ricotta

 

Broccoli, Raisin and Olive Salad with Pine Nuts

with all the mix insfront of mugThis is my favourite mug. The weight and shape of it feel just right in my hand. It is part of my comforting morning ritual. If  you’re wondering, the mug is from Anthropologie,. Sadly, they don’t make them anymore. I bought a bunch of them with the initials of favourite family members and friends so they would feel welcome when visiting. Now I can’t make any new friends, unless their names start with certain letters that I already have on the shelf. Such a dilemma! It would be awkward to serve my new friend Xavier a latte in a letter M mug.back of mugHere is my mug from the rear view. With the small chip in the base it’s not quite as attractive as the front view. (Most of us look better coming rather than going) Despite this flaw, the mug is still quite functional, so I refuse to replace it. I am also flawed but functional, so my mug is a perfect analogy for me.

This broccoli salad was created the week before we moved. I had been trying not to shop for any groceries and use up what was in the house, so that we would have less stuff to haul. A lonely bag of pine nuts escaped the freezer purge earlier in the week, so they were added for crunch. A jar of raisins survived the pantry purge, so in they went for sweetness. The top shelf of the fridge held a few Kalamata olives and some leftover pickled shallots. don't throw out the stemsPlease don’t chop the florets off your broccoli and discard the stems. Once you peel the outer woody skin, the inside is quite tender.

I had some help in styling this salad from the talent behind the fabulous Instagram account   @bowlsand beats (where health and hiphop collide). Full disclosure, she’s my daughter and she was home visiting for the weekend.

This was my first try at styling the salad. I wasn’t thrilled with the composition so I called her in to help.salad on white oval plate 1She immediately grouped all the little elements together for greater impact. bowls and beats stylessalad on white oval plate 2Better but not quite satisfied, she suggested we try a round bowl instead. styled by bowls and beats 2Perfect. We shot it with my iPhone for her Instagram page and then we ate!Instagram it

Click here to print recipe for Broccoli, Raisin and Olive Salad with Pine Nuts.

 

Roasted Butternut Squash and Israeli Couscous Salad

in white round bowlHope life is treating you well this week. We are in full-on purge mode around here. We’re planning to downsize shortly. It’s amazing the amount of junk you can accumulate in 23 years.  Getting rid of stuff is not my husband’s forte. He still has all his high school essays. (He got an A+ in his Family Studies paper on “The cost of setting up a home for newlyweds” – it was the 70’s!) He kept all the cards from our wedding. We have been married for over 30 years. He also kept every birthday and father’s day card from me and the kids.

I wasn’t hopeful that he would be able to dispose of very much. But once he began shredding, he couldn’t stop. And then he discovered Kijiji. Things have been flying out of here at an alarming rate. It has become quite cathartic for him. I’m afraid that if I stay still for too long he might put me up for sale on Kijiji. I can just imagine the ad:

“Pre-owned, but very well-maintained wife for sale. All parts original. A little slow to start up in the morning, but motor begins purring after an extra-hot latte.” Will accept any reasonable offers.”

This salad was inspired by a forgotten bag of Israeli couscous I discovered sitting at the back of my pantry in a cleaning spree. The addition of roasted butternut squash is the clever idea of Daniel Gritzer over at seriouseats.com. Start by toasting the uncooked Israeli couscous in a bit of olive oil.Toasting cous cousAdd boiling water and salt and cook couscous.adding boiling waterI recently learned that squash is an excellent source of potassium. Apparently acorn squash is the champion, but butternut is a close second, and I find it much easier to peel. All those ridges in acorn squash scare me. If you need a primer on peeling and cutting butternut, check out the video in this post.chopping squash Toss squash with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Add some smoked paprika too, because everything is better with smoked paprika.ready for roastingA jolt of freshness is provided by lots of green (scallions, mint and parsley) and yellow (lemon).lemon and herbsready to assemble

Click here to print recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash and Israeli Couscous Salad.

in white oval bowl

 

Grilled Asparagus and Farro Salad

On blue oval platterAs parents, I believe one of our most important jobs is to create memories for our children. Certain aromas or sounds can instantly evoke specific memories or feelings. It only takes a shake of Ajax cleansing powder and a squirt of Joy dishwashing liquid to transport me right back to the kitchen of my childhood. The combo of Ajax and Joy was my mom’s special recipe for disinfecting the sink after dinner each night. The scent was sinus clearing and most certainly  responsible for the loss of a few brain cells. But we had the shiniest sinks in the neighbourhood.

If you were to ask my children, undoubtedly, they would tell you that the annoying whir of my cobalt blue Braun immersion blender was the soundtrack to their childhood. Each morning, they were roused from a deep sleep to the sound of their mom frothing milk for her morning latte. (This was before Nespresso machines with milk frother attachments) No need for alarm clocks in our house.

I hope that I have created other memories for my children, that were perhaps a bit more pleasant.3 platesLast weekend was the start of cottage season and we had a full house. My youngest son was there as well as my daughter and 3 of her friends. A few days earlier the girls had decided that they wanted to eat healthy for the weekend, so I was instructed to please not bake anything tempting. I made this salad for our lunch on Friday. It was met with rave reviews. It’s not really a grain salad, as the farro only plays a supporting role. The real star of this salad are the fat spears of sweet asparagus, charred to perfection on the outside but still maintaining a bit of crunch in the center.

The inspiration for this recipe came from Melissa Clark, over at www.cooking.nytimes.com. She roasted the asparagus in the oven, but I wanted to officially start grilling season. I like fat spears of asparagus and I peel the bottom third of each spear because that’s how I was taught to do it at my very first restaurant job.peeling asparagusready for grillinggrillingThe dressing for the salad packs a flavour punch. Lime juice, garlic, soy sauce and olive oil are whisked together and mixed with the cooked farro. This is a great make ahead salad as the farro can sit in the dressing for several hours. The asparagus and green onion can sit for about 30 minutes before serving. Lime Soy DressingI decided on a bed of peppery arugula and bitter radicchio. Toss the farro with the salad greens and top with the grilled vegetables. Using a vegetable peeler, shave thin shards of Parmesan cheese over the top of this salad. close up

Click here to print recipe for Grilled Asparagus and Farro Salad.

2 plates