Category Archives: Vegetarian

Roasted Squash Wedges with Pomegranate, Chermoula and Tahini

3 platesPeople tell my husband all the time how lucky he is. They imagine that being married to a food blogger is heaven, with something fresh and exciting for dinner every night. I’m here to dispell that image. I like to shoot in natural light. The optimal time for shooting in my kitchen is between 11 am -2 pm. By dinnertime, the food is cold and has been manhandled so much, nobody would want to eat it.

Often he will arrive home to a kitchen that looks like a tornado went through it. When I’m shooting, I try out different plates, bowls, and assorted props to get the right look. Those dishes pile up on the counter and in the sink. He generously and uncomplainingly washes those dishes. Curiously, he is opposed to drying dishes. He just likes to pile them up to let them air dry. But I’m not criticizing.

On days when I’m not shooting a new post, I’m just like you. I have a small repertoire of meals that I make on a weekly basis. Roasted squash is one of those items in the rotation. I either cut it into french fries or round circles. I always use butternut squash. I’m in a squash rut.

On a visit to the market last week, I was inspired to up my squash game and try some different varieties. Assorted Squash The jade green ones with the light green stripes are Kabocha squash. They are a Japanese squash that is fairly new to North America. Kabocha squash has a delicate honeyed sweetness and a smooth, almost fiberless texture. No need to peel this baby as the skin is very thin and roasts up crispy and delicious.

The deep orange ones, that look like they are topped with a Turk’s turban are aptly named Turban Squash. They have so much personality. The taste is quite mild and the texture is floury, making it perfect for soups. Mostly it’s used as a decorative squash because it’s just so cute.

The smaller orange and yellow squash are known as Sweet Dumplings. Diminutive in size but mighty in flavour, these little guys are sweet and delicious. Bonus points because the skin is edible and you don’t have to peel them. I sliced a Kobacha and a Sweet Dumpling into wedges and removed the seeds.cutting turban squashThe October issue of delicious magazine was the source for this gorgeous dish. I adapted it slightly. spices

ready for roasting Once roasted the dish is garnished with toasted salted pumpkin seeds and pomegranate. I added some salty ricotta salata cheese, but feta or goat cheese would also be great.Pomegranate There are two sauces to drizzle on top. The first is a chermoula sauce, a spicy herb sauce often used in Moroccan cuisine.The second sauce is a tahini-based mixture. While you could certainly serve this without the sauces, they really elevate the dish to something special.

Click here to print recipe for Roasted Squash Wedges with Pomegranate, Chermoula, and Tahini.

1 plate

 

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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“Grate” Tomato Sauce

forkful of pasta 2Last week, it occurred to me that my husband has become much more sociable, while I am have become considerably less so. It seems like every few months he comes home regaling me with a tale about a recently acquired friend. Our kids joke about dad’s new BFFs.

I don’t think I have made a new friend in over 25 years, unless you count Kelly Rippa. My daughter tells me that Kelly is only my friend in my mind. I believe that Kelly would really like me if only she knew me. We have so much in common. Both of us fly into a rage when our husbands chew fruit in close proximity to our ears. It’s a documented disorder, check it out.

I was reading an interesting article about how smartphones have destroyed a generation and it got me thinking about what constitutes a real friend. Do you have to have face to face contact to be real friends? Over the past few years, I have gotten to know a fellow blogger, Wendy (The Monday Box) through reading and commenting on each others blogs. I consider her to be a new friend.

Last weekend, one of my husband’s new friends came to visit us at the cottage. He and his wife arrived bearing a huge basket of vegetables from their garden. It was such a thoughtful gift. I have been cooking with it all week. There were 4 huge heirloom tomatoes in the basket and a few bulbs of garlic. I was inspired to make a batch of quick tomato sauce. When mother nature gives you gorgeous produce, don’t mess with it too much.

I have only made my own tomato sauce once, and that was many years ago with my friend Marla. We bought a few bushels of plum tomatoes from the market and spent all day peeling and seeding them and then proceeded to cook them down for hours. The kitchen looked like a crime scene. There was red pulp and juice everywhere. It cured me of canning forever.

When I saw in Bon Appetit magazine, how Raleigh chef Ashley Christensen makes her tomato sauce, I was encouraged to try making it again. No peeling or seeding. She just grates the tomatoes on a box grater and cooks them very briefly. No fuss or muss.grating tomatoes A generous amount of garlic and olive oil meet in the pan for a few minutes. A few sprigs of rosemary are added and then in goes the grated pulp from 4 large tomatoes. Make sure to salt with abandon. Tomatoes and salt are best friends and depend on each other to shine. sauteeing garlic and rosemarycooking tomatoesI added a small squeeze of Mike’s Hot Honey. I seem to be possessed with a desire to add it to everything I can. Chef Ashley finishes her sauce with 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter. I whisked in just 2 teaspoons and felt it was delicious with just that small amount. Enriching tomato sauce with butter is Marcella Hazan‘s trick and it’s glorious. spagettiI kept it simple and added just a few tiny fresh tomatoes, basil and Parmesan cheese.tomatoesbasil

3 bowls of pasta 2

spagetti and sauce in bowl 2Click here to print recipe for _Grate_ Tomato Sauce.

stick a fork in it

 

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

 

Halloumi, Arugula and Dried Strawberry Salad

one plate I wouldn’t characterize myself as a greedy person, but something takes over me when I drive by a farm stand or visit a farmers market. I always buy way more than I can possibly eat. It happened to me last week with local summer strawberries. Winter strawberries trick you into thinking they will be good, but when you cut into them, the white centres are so disappointing. These local ones were deep crimson, inside and out!Baskets of strawberries_1Bowl of strawberries_1I needed to use these up fast before they spoiled. No to pie, cobbler, crisp, galette and jam. Been there, done that. I wanted to make something new. And then this recipe for oven dried strawberries popped up in my inbox. Unlike dehydrated strawberries, which are quite dry  and leathery, these oven dried strawberries are chewy, with a plump, juicy consistency. The roasting really concentrates the berry flavours.

Halved strawberries are mixed with a bit of sugar and allowed to macerate for about 30 minutes. Spread them out on a non-stick silicone baking mat and cook at 200°F for about 3-4 hours, until dried at the edges, but still juicy in the center. Once dried, they will keep in the fridge for about a week.strawberries ready for roastingstrawberries roastedThese berries made their way into a seriously delicious salad. The sweet strawberries play beautifully with the bitter arugula and salty halloumi. Toasted hazelnuts bring the crunch.Salad on r and w stripe clothFried halloumi is one of the cheese world’s greatest inventions. If you’ve never tried it,  you’re in for a treat. It’s kind of hard to describe. Salty and squeaky/firm on the outside and creamy and melty in the center.

 

Mike's Hot HoneyThe finishing touch was a drizzle of Mike’s Hot Honey over the fried halloumi. Sheer perfection. I met creator Mike Kurtz about 4 years ago on a NYC pizza tour. He pulled a bottle out of his bag on our third stop and offered us all a little squirt on our pizza. I was hooked! Sweet heat with cheese is fantastic. I buy mine online here in Canada from The Vanilla Food Company.

Click here to print recipe for Halloumi, Arugula and Strawberry Salad.

half eaten