Category Archives: Vegetables

Winter Squash and Arugula Salad

plated 2 625 sqBig sisters have a very important job to do in this world. It is their mission to pave the way for their little sisters, teaching them the ropes and ensuring that they do not stumble through life’s little land mines along the way. My big sister taught me where babies come from, (I didn’t believe her!), how to shave my legs, and, with instructions whispered through a locked bathroom door, how to use tampons. She taught me how to hide cigarettes from our mom as well as how to sneak out of the house, late at night, when boys came calling, by throwing pebbles at our basement bedroom window. Sadly, I never had to use that last one. I was a late bloomer and the boys only came for her!

Now that we’re all grown up, she is still passing on lots of valuable lessons. She works for the popular blog, “Yummy Mummy” and is quite knowledgeable about the business side of running a blog. She is always going on about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and how important it is for my blog.  SEO is the practice of improving and promoting a web site in order to increase the number of visitors the site receives from search engines.

She explained that the title of your blog posts is of utmost importance. Beginning the post title with a number assists in making the post’s content more actionable. It also reassures those readers, whose attention span matches that of a gnat, that they can scan through your list post quickly if needed. My sister also emphasized the need to use exciting adjectives that promise audacious results.

As I was writing this post, I thought about some of her tips and tried to put them into action. “Seven mind blowing ways to roast winter squash.” Or, “Four essential steps to cutting squash without hacking off your finger.”  (On that note, check out this very helpful video on cutting winter squash) Somehow, they just seemed too sensationalist, and not really very “me.” However, I do promise you a delicious squash salad, that while perhaps not exactly mind blowing, will make dinner time at your house a very happy place to be.cutting squashready to assembleI was inspired to make something with winter squash after a visit to my neighbourhood Farm Boy store. If you don’t have Farm Boy in your city, I am just a little bit sad for you. Entering the store you are heartily greeted by a life-size animatronic singing Farm Boy and his dog Barndoor Buddy. (Not sure if it’s just me, but some days it feels like he’s mocking me!) Perched in the produce section, resides a mischievous monkey who performs endless backflips over the banana display. Rounding the corner into the dairy section, you will encounter Lulu the cow who moos every time you open the dairy case to get milk and Rusty, a crowing rooster, standing guard over the eggs. My kids and I spent a lot of time there when they were little. It was the lazy mom’s version of taking your kids to the petting zoo. And, it had the added bonus of not stinking like a zoo.

The produce bins were overflowing with a myriad of winter squash. Unable to decide what to get, I excitedly filled my cart with about 35 pounds of assorted varieties. As the cashier was ringing me through, her curiosity got the best of her. She just had to know what I was going to do with all these squash. When I told her I was going to take their picture she looked at me like I was a bit crazy. And yes, perhaps you might agree, when I confess that I spent the better part of a very happy afternoon, arranging squash.assortment 3

Click here to print recipe for Winter Squash and Arugula Salad.close up

 

Peach, Green Bean and Pickled Onion Salad

Oval Blue Platter 2 625 sqWhen Mother Nature shows up at the farmers market flaunting her peaches (and beans), you don’t mess around too much with perfection like this. Keep it simple!peaches in collander 2beans in basket 1I have made this salad four times already this summer. The first time I made it, it was part of a celebratory dinner* for 12. (Big football game victory – Go RedBlacks!!) Luckily I had a wonderful sous chef with me in the kitchen that day; my niece Samantha was visiting. We have collaborated in the kitchen before, on a 6 braid challah, so I knew I had some exceptional assistance.

As the afternoon wore on and we continued our prep, I noticed the level of blanched beans in  the colander was diminishing. My niece could not stop eating them. She told me that her beans never tasted like this, and asked what I had done?  I explained that they were fresh from the farmer’s field and I that I had heavily salted the cooking water. (almost 1/4 cup Kosher salt for a big pot of water). This seasons the beans perfectly and they do not taste “salty”.

Sautéing the peaches in a bit of vegetable oil for just a few minutes really enhances their natural sweetness. The pickled onions add a welcome piquant note. This is a beautiful fresh summer salad. two plates with prosecco 625 sq

Click here to print recipe for Peach Green Bean Pickled Onion Salad.

close up* If inquiring minds are curious, we rounded out the feast with Flatbread and Dukkah, Rib Steaks, Smashed Roasted Potatoes with Smoked Paprika and Rosemary, Arugula, Corn, Tomato and Avocado Salad, Blueberry Coffee Cake and Hazelnut Almond Waffle Ice Cream Sandwiches.

Crunchy Green Beans2

625 sqIf the view outside your window is anything like mine, you may be wondering if winter will ever end.icicles 2Hey, don’t get me wrong. I love fall root vegetables as much as or even more than the average joe out there. I mean, they really are the unsung superstars of winter produce. There is no end to the culinary magic that you can perform with carrots, parsnips, squash and potatoes. But seriously, I am sick of roasting, mashing, sauteeing and frying those suckers.

I am longing for something fresh and green and crunchy. I am craving baby green peas. Those tiny swollen little pods that, when shucked, give birth to tiny green peas. I miss that satisfying little pop when you bite into them. I am longing for local asparagus. Those grassy sweet spears that tell me spring is here. Sadly, those first green shoots of asparagus have yet to spring forth from the frozen ground and there are no fresh peas ready to pop anywhere near where I am any time soon .

So, it’s green beans to the rescue. Although they are not local , they will stand in as a green crunchy substitute until I can get my hands on the first produce of spring.Green beans in colanderThis green bean recipe is called Crunchy Green Beans2, because the beans get added crunch from two different sources. The first is from toasted hazelnuts. I just love that slightly bitter tanic zing you get when you first crunch a toasted hazelnut between your teeth. Then there is a follow up flavour of slightly browned butter. So complex for such a little nut.

The second crunch source is Panko breadcrumbs. Panko breadcrumbs, if you are not familiar with them are special Japanese breadcrumbs. The biggest difference between panko and regular breadcrumbs is that panko is made from bread without crusts. The crustless bread is coarsely ground into airy, large flakes that give fried foods a light, crunchy coating. The flakes tend to stay crispier longer than standard breadcrumbs because they don’t absorb as much grease.toasting panko and hazelnutsPlease, take the time to salt the water before boiling your green beans. I added about 2 tablepoons of kosher salt to the water. This does not make the beans overly salty, it just seasons them perfectly so they do not taste bland. You can not get the same effect from salting after cooking. Please salt the waterboiling beansAfter boiling for several minutes, give your beans an ice water bath. I just place the colander of drained beans right into a large bowl of ice water. Once they have cooled, just lift the colander up and leave all the ice cubes behind in the bowl.  No need to fish ice cubes out of your green beans.chill in ice bathSome butter or olive oil, or a little of both is added to the toasted crumbs and nuts and the blanched beans get a toss in all that crunchy goodness until they are heated through. tossingHot or at room temperature, these are a little bit salty, a lot crunchy and so satisfying.ready 1

Click here to print recipe for Crunchy Green Beans2

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Pomegranate Molasses Glazed Carrots

ready to eat 2 625 sqYou know it’s January because every food blogger worth her salt is writing about the joys of vegetables . Those sweet food porn days of December are long gone, buried under the 5 pounds of butter and sugar, tucked oh so discretely under a layer of skin, in my case, just below where my waist used to be.

Although we squeal with delight and burble over with joy at summer produce (remember wild blueberries?), winter in the produce aisle can produce some gush worthy moments as well. It just requires a bit more work.

Carrots are often bypassed as too pedestrian, but in deft hands, carrots can be magical. These carrots were way too pretty to leave behind at the supermarket.carrots in a circle 2I have a secret ingredient that turns ordinary roasted carrots into something quite special. It’s pomegranate molasses. Not actually molasses at all, but just pure pomegranate juice, and a bit of sugar boiled down and reduced to a thick, syrupy reduction. Dip your finger into this thick, garnet coloured syrup and you will be instantly transported back to your childhood! sweet tarts fIf you are of a certain age you will remember with fondness that powerful puckering of your lips from these candies. Pomegranate molasses has that tart/sweet quality, but in a grown up way. It adds an intense earthy depth of flavour to so many things. I have been using it in a chicken sauce for years now, and everyone who eats it always asks, “what is in this sauce?” It can be found in many supermarkets now, as well as in Middle Eastern specialty shops. If you can’t find it, here is a recipe from Alton Brown to make your own pomegranate molasses.

 

The idea of roasting carrots with pomegranate molasses came from Melissa Clark’s book “In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite.” The first time I made them, I found the flavour to be delicious but the carrots were a bit shrivelled in appearance and leathery in texture. As I thought about how to avoid this issue, I remembered that I boil potatoes for a few minutes before roasting to get a crispy not leathery skin. I wondered if the same treatment with carrots would work? I peeled them and cut them on the diagonal, to increase the surface area that would come into contact with the roasting pan. peeling carrots They got a quick 2 minute dip in boiling salted water. Then I drained them on paper towels for a few minutes before roasting.boiling carrotsdraining carrotsI tossed them with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne and roasted them in a hot (425°F) oven for about 45 minutes. I added the pomegranate molasses and some honey during the last 5 minutes of roasting as I did not want them to burn.ready for oven

pouring glaze on carrotsThe finished carrots were crispy without being leathery. The pinch of cayenne added a nice kick and the pomegranate molasses added an amazing sweet tart punch. I gilded the lily and sprinkled on some pomegranate seeds. They glistened like little jewels.

Click here to print recipe for Pomegranate Molasses Glazed Carrots.

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Crusted Acorn Squash

baked 3I don’t like Halloween. There, I said it. Please don’t hurl a pumpkin at me. I know it’s an unpopular sentiment but I have to lay it all out there. What’s not to like, you may ask? Adorable children dressed in costumes, tons of candy and a great party atmosphere. How could anyone hate that? I think most of my enmity stems from the pumpkin.

Pumpkin guts kind of unnerve me. Cut the top off the pumpkin and I become perturbed. I do not want to handle those slimy seeds. Sure, you can carve an adorable face, but the next day, after all the fun and games, someone has to deal with the  leftover carcass. It has to be cut up and composted or put in the garbage. November 1 is just so depressing!

Add to that the fact that, by the time the big day arrives, I have eaten roughly half my body weight in miniature Kit Kat and Coffee Crisp chocolate bars. I thought I had come up with a clever way of handling the calorie loading by trying to outsmart myself, and only buy chocolate bars I didn’t like. (There are very few of those!) I started buying Mr. Big bars.Cadbury_Mr_Big_Label94_enlThat led to a whole other problem. Once word got out that we were giving out full size candy bars, vans started pulling up to the house, unleashing hordes of kids from other neighbourhoods. Now, not only did I have to smile and pretend to be happy to see my neighbours and their kids, I had to spend the evening interacting with random strangers! Plus, I discovered that, say… I do like Mr. Big bars after all.

Luckily for me, and all our neighbours, my husband loves Halloween. He buys and carves the pumpkin and answers the door and makes small talk with everyone. God bless him!

So, when I came across a recipe for Crusted Pumpkin Wedges in Yotam Ottolenghi’s fabulous book, Plenty, I immediately crossed out the pumpkin and proceeded to make it with acorn squash! There was also an adorable butternut squash at the market that day, and I bought it as well. It looked like it wanted to hug the acorn squash. I have nothing but love for squash!butternut hugs acorn 2I left the acorn squash unpeeled and sliced it. They looked like flowers.sliced squash The topping is made from dried breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, lemon zest, garlic, parsley and thyme. I had no Panko breadcrumbs so I made breadcrumbs from some rye bread that I had in the freezer.

rye bread crumbsgrating cheese

chopping parsleybrushing with oilThe topping gets applied quite thickly to the squash, and then it is pressed on to help it adhere.ready for oven The baked squash was so delicious. The sweetness of the tender squash was perfectly balanced by the salty crunchy topping. I would probably even love this with pumpkin! baked 2

Click here to print recipe for Crusted Acorn Squash.

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