As 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.Last 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.The 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. I 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.
I am not exactly a fully immersed and loyal subject of the social media kingdom. While I do have an Instagram account, I came late to the game and don’t post very frequently. Like all social media, it sometimes leaves me feeling just a teeny bit jealous. Like when I see posts like this, this, and this.
Local asparagus, rhubarb or spring peas have not yet arrived in my neck of the woods, but I am still craving something fresh and crunchy. Enter the humble carrot. Much like that shy kid you knew in school, carrots possess way more charisma than we give them credit for. One of mother nature’s most versatile creations, they can be juiced, braised, stir-fried, roasted, pureed, whipped and baked. Equally at home in savoury and sweet applications, carrots are an unsung hero in the kitchen.
Bonus points if you can find rainbow carrots, but regular carrots will be equally delicious. Start with a quick pickling of a shallot and some raisins. If you have some fancy champagne vinegar in the pantry, now’s the time to bust it out. If not, regular white wine vinegar will also work. Give the vinegar, sugar and salt some time to do their magic and get on with the rest of the salad. Julienning carrots is a breeze if you have a mandoline. If not, here’s the perfect time to practice your knife skills. I made a video showing you the safest and quickest way to do it. If you can’t be bothered to julienne, simply shaving the carrots with a vegetable peeler would be a good alternative. I just prefer the crunch that you get with julienned carrots.
Mint and Italian parsley add the verdant freshness I am craving this time of year. This salad touches all the bases. The raisins and honey add a welcome whisper of sweetness. Bitter radishes and spicy red pepper flakes punch back at that sweetness. Pistachios add a satisfying crunch. And bonus! This salad tastes even better the next day.
There are certain things I am powerless to resist. Cuteblackjumpsuits (only my daughter knows how many I own, and I’ve sworn her to secrecy), anything coconut on a dessert menu, smelling the head of a newborn baby and rainbow carrots with the tops still on.
Whenever I see them, I buy several bunches. I love them roasted. This is a simple recipe I found in Bon Appetit a few years ago. Harissa, is a spicy North African chile paste. I buy it in a tube, that keeps for quite a while in the fridge. Maple syrup tempers some of Harissa’s heat.
I think this marinade will also be fantastic with roasted squash or parsnips, and I am excited to try it on grilled zucchini this summer.
Here’s a few other ideas for using up that tube of Harissa. It is spicy, so a little bit goes a long way.
Blend a spoonful into meatloaf or burgers
Swirl a bit into some mayo for a spicy sweet potato fries dip
Mix a dollop into humus for a spicy kick
Stir some into your favourite BBQ sauce for grilled or roasted chicken
On the 6th night of Chanukah I made Sweet Potato and Brussels Sprouts Latkes. I could never make these on the first night of Chanukah. They would not be well received by my family. On the first night our family insists on traditional latkes. (I think it might actually written in Jewish Law somewhere!!). But feel free to let your freak flag fly and make these unorthodox latkes when Chanukah is almost over and everyone has had their fill of classic potato latkes.These latkes are based on a Japanese savory pancake called Okonomiyaki. I learned about them in the November 2016 issue of Bon Appetit magazine. As I read the recipe I was inspired to adapt it and create latkes using these ingredients.The Brussels sprouts must be thinly sliced. The thin slicing blade of the food processor will do the job quickly. A sharp knife will also work. The sweet potatoes need to be cut into 1/8 inch thin matchstick pieces. A mandoline will do this quickly. If you don’t have one, cut the potatoes to fit the feed tube of the food processor and thinly slice potatoes first. Then stack them up and cut across with a sharp knife into matchsticks.
Eggs and flour act as the glue to hold everything together. Fry until deeply golden brown and crispy. Serve them with some chipotle mayo and a squeeze of lime or go traditional and top with applesauce. Savory, deeply crispy and very delicious, these latkes are sure to please even the most die-hard traditionalists.
At some point over the holidays you know it’s time to rein it in. Eating a sleeve of Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Joe Joes (insiders tip: they are even better frozen!) with a chaser of prosecco and calling it dinner can’t go on for too many days in a row. I find it’s best to do it before January 1st. Everyone knows that New Years resolutions don’t last.
I’m not talking about a kale and quinoa salad or an almond milk-frozen banana- spinach smoothie level reining it in. That’s hard core and way too severe for late December. I’m just suggesting that you prepare a meal that contains some protein, complex carbs and perhaps something green, and that requires you to actually sit down and use a knife and fork to eat it.
This recipe was inspired by NYT Cooking editor, Sam Sifton. Every Wednesday he writes about cooking without a recipe. On October 12 2016, he suggested roasting chicken thighs with sweet potato fries and jalapeños. I have made it several times, tweaking the procedure and quantities so you don’t have to cook without a recipe!
This sheet-pan chicken dinner is the perfect way to ease you back into a healthy routine. Start with cutting some sweet potatoes into a julienne shoestring fries shape. A glug of olive oil and a judicious sprinkle of Kosher salt and coarse black pepper to coat the fries is all that is required for seasoning.Season some boneless skinless chicken things with more salt and pepper and a light dusting of smoked paprika (mild or hot, your choice). Roast for about 40 minutes in a hot (425°F) oven. Squeeze some fresh time juice over the chicken, scatter with thinly sliced jalapeño peppers (pickled jalalpenos are really good too!) and some cilantro and call it dinner. One frozen dark chocolate covered peppermint joe joe is a sensible dessert. It’s too soon to go cold turkey. Save that for January 1st!