Tag Archives: Melissa Clark

Roasted Squash with Smoked Paprika, Maple Syrup and Sage Salt

Roasted squash 2 625 sqWhile home for a visit last weekend, my daughter observed the mess on our dining room table and expressed the opinion that perhaps I may have developed a bit of a hoarding problem. “Don’t you think you’ve acumulated enough food photography props mom?” she asked.DR tableClearly she doesn’t understand. Those are all spring/summer props. Now I need to start acquiring appropriate fall/winter props. While some parents turn their kid’s vacated bedrooms into gift wrapping quarters or perhaps an extra closet to store off season clothing, it is entirely possible that her bedroom may be converted into my props closet, if I continue collecting at my current rate.

Of course it doesn’t help when my sister sends me these charming bowls. They were intended as nut bowls, but they are just perfect as mise en place bowls for a photo shoot!  I let out a squealed with joy when I opened my gift. I have an extreme fondness for bowls! The colour combination of these little vessels is just gorgeous. little bowlsShe found them in Toronto at The Cookery Store. I have since discovered you can also get them online at Fishs Eddy.

I had a glut of winter squash after a recent photo shoot, and I needed to use them up before they went bad. My go-to ingredient for roasting vegetables is smoked paprika. It just makes everything taste better. The inspiration for this roasted squash hails from Melissa Clark’s book, Cook This Now. She mixed smoked paprika with olive oil and honey and smeared it all over squash before roasting. I swapped out the honey for some maple syrup, because that’s just the way we Canadians roll!ingredients

brushing squashMelissa suggests finishing the roasted squash with a sprinkling of homemade sage salt. So simple to make; just bake some fresh sage leaves for about 10 minutes, until crispy. Then crumble them between your fingers with some coarse sea salt. Earthy, and slightly bitter, sage makes a perfect partener for sweet squash. A final sprinkling of toasted pumpkin seeds adds a welcome crunch.

Click here to print recipe for Roasted Squash with Maple Syrup, Smoked Paprika and Sage Salt.

Roasted squash 1 625 sq

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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Rhubarb Curd Strawberry Tart and Some Surprising Discoveries

For those of you who have been following my blog for the past little while, you know that I have been suffering from some disc problems that landed me flat on my back in bed for about 8 days. I’m pleased to report that I am continuing to feel much better. But while I lay in bed, in agonizing pain, I became quite anxious about the fact that I was unable to do any of my regular forms of fitness (treadmill, elliptical, weight training and yoga).

I have come to rely on exercise as a stress reliever, as well as a way to allow me to control my weight. A mentally balanced sane person would be more concerned about the errant disc fragment lodged in her spine, pressing on the nerve that connects to her left hip flexor and quadriceps. Yet, I seemed to be more concerned about weight gain.

Surprising discovery # 1: Shockingly in the past 3 weeks I have actually lost 5 pounds! I am not quite sure how that happened. It may have something to do with muscle loss (muscle weighs more than fat) or it could have something to do with the fact that I was unable to get down the stairs to my kitchen, where we keep the food, for 9 days. Now don’t misunderstand me here.  I didn’t starve for 9 days. The lovely family members in my house did bring me food and water at regular intervals. It’s just that perhaps my regular intervals are a bit more frequent than theirs!

Again, a mentally balanced and sane person would look at this weight loss and begin planning healthy meals of quinoa, kale and lentils, so that the pounds do not creep back on. However, I saw a loss of 5 pounds and immediately started planning what I would bake and blog about next.

I knew I wanted to be seasonal and bake something with rhubarb. Of course the obligatory strawberry rhubarb pie was a possibility, but I am not really a pie lover, unless it involves coconut cream. Searching for inspiration I turned to Melissa Clark’s “Cook This Now.” And sure enough, in the May chapter, she had a recipe for a Rhubarb Curd Tart. As I read through the recipe, I made surprising discovery #2: Curds are not just for lemons anymore! You can make a curd from any fruit juice you fancy.

While I love the tangy flavour of rhubarb, I find the stringy texture a bit off-putting. Melissa had come up with a genius way to get all the tang of rhubarb, without the texture. Puree the raw rhubarb in the food processor and then strain the pulp and squeeze out the juice. Use this juice instead of lemon, in the curd. Brilliant!

For the tart crust, I wanted to try a recipe from Anna Olsen. She has a new show called Bake, on the Food Network (Canada). This week’s episode featured desserts made with Pate Sable (tender tart dough). As I watched Anna prepare the dough, I made surprising discovery #3:  A hardboiled egg yolk contributes greatly to the texture and richness of Pate Sable. This European way of making tart dough was created by French pastry chef Pierre Herme.

The final tart was perfect. The crust was reminiscent of shortbread; crumbly and just a little bit sweet with the richness of butter (and egg!). The curd plays tricks on your mind. You see the yellow curd and you think lemon, but once you take a bite your mouth immediately recognizes the tart and tangy taste of rhubarb. Balanced by the sweetness of strawberries, this is one perfect bite. I think that should Anna and Melissa ever meet, they would be quite proud of their collaboration!

The secret ingredient to the rich crust is the yolk of a hardboiled egg! Butter and icing sugar are creamed together. The hard-boiled egg gets sieved and added. Additions of vanilla extract, salt, raw egg yolk and cake and pastry flour  complete the dough. I like to roll out the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper. Transfer to tart pan with removable bottom. If the dough cracks while transferring, don’t sweat it. It’s a forgiving dough and is easy to patch. Trim off excess dough by running the rolling-pin across the tart pan. Line with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans to bake.

While the tart is baking, prepare the curd. The idea that any juice can be turned into a curd has just blown my mind. I’m not sure why I only thought curd could be made with lemon. I guess I’m just not an out of the box kind of thinker, but now that I know, the possibilities are endless. I am planning a pomegranate curd tart for the fall! I always associate pomegranates with my mom. She used to make us strip down to our underwear and  go outside in the backyard to eat pomegranates, because the fruit stained so badly. Luckily, these days you can already buy the fruit juiced.

When making the curd, Melissa says to stand at the stove and whisk constantly for 18-20 minutes. I did not. I walked away for several minutes at a time and everything came out just fine. Although, I must admit, when I strained the curd, I did see a few bits of scrambled egg in the bottom of my strainer.

This tart would also be wonderful with fresh raspberries, but strawberries seemed like the right choice today.

Click here to print the recipe for Rhubarb Curd and Strawberry Tart.

Chile-Coconut Braised Beef Short Ribs

Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d hear myself utter. “I’m one blog post away from being considered a stalker.”  When it comes to the blogsphere, I don’t think there is an official definition of when you have crossed the line from fan to stalker, however, this is my third blog post where I gush about Melissa Clark and her genius book, Cook This Now. I think if I give away any more of her recipes or continue to fawn over her, she may have me arrested.

Trouble is, every recipe in her book really does scream to you, “cook this now.!!”, and I just can’t help myself from blabbing to everyone I know about Crisp Roasted Chicken with Chickpeas Lemons and Carrots or Double Coconut Granola.

I actually made these short ribs over three weeks ago, when it was still actually still  winter here in Ottawa, and you wanted to eat hearty beef ribs. I just got a bit distracted and am only getting around to posting about it now. Kind of bad timing for me to post about them when today’s record high temperature reached 28°c (82°F for any non Canucks reading this), and the only kind of coconut you may be wishing for is the scented sunscreen kind! However, just file the recipe away for next week, when no doubt we will be freezing once again.

Click here to print the recipe for Chile-Coconut Braised Beef Short Ribs.

Double Coconut Granola

I have a confession to make. I have a bit of a cookbook crush. I’m not sure there is such a thing, but if there is, I have it. Melissa Clark’s new book, “Cook This Now”, is aptly named. As I leafed through this book, I felt compelled to run to the kitchen and create almost every recipe in the book, immediately. This is not a glossy photo filled coffee table book. There are some colour photos, but the stories she tells, the descriptions of the food and the recipes themselves make glossy photos totally unnecessary.

I have come to be a granola lover fairly late in life. When it comes to breakfast, I am a creature of habit. I tend to eat the same breakfast every morning for several years in a row, until I start to feel bored. First it was Cheerios and bananas. Sometimes I would get a little wild and crazy and have multi-grain Cheerios instead of the original. Then I switched over to Rideau Bakery rye bread, toasted, with salted whipped butter and sour cherry jam. Next, it was Quaker Oats Squares, with blueberries in the summer and bananas in the winter. From there I moved onto oatmeal, sweetened with a hint of maple syrup.

And then, everything changed when fat-free plain Greek yogurt became widely available at my local supermarket last year. I mixed the yogurt with some berries and then crumbled a Dad’s oatmeal cookie on top. The crunch and sweetness of the cookie was a wonderful complement to the creamy, tangy yogurt. A new breakfast routine was born.

Then, last fall when I was away on holiday in Italy there were no Dad’s oatmeal cookies to crumble on my yogurt. I sprinkled some granola on top and was shocked at how good it was. This granola had big clumps and was chock full of almonds, seeds, oats, raisins and coconut. When I tried to get the recipe I discovered it was not home-made, but was Kellogg’s Fruit and Nut Granola. I was unable to find it at home and have been dreaming about it ever since. I frequently save different granola recipes to try out, but then when I look at them again, they just don’t appeal to me.  But when I read through Melissa’s granola recipe I thought I might have found a contender.

To be honest, she had me hooked when I read the title. DOUBLE COCONUT! My girlfriend Sandy says that coconut is one of those polarizing ingredients. People either love it or hate it. I happen to love it. Without a doubt, Joanne Yolles’ coconut cream pie from Scaramouche restaurant in Toronto would be my last meal request.

The first coconut in this granola recipe comes from what Melissa calls “Coconut Chips”.  Essentially, these are just large flakes of unsweetened dried coconut. Shredded won’t be the same, you need to seek out the large flakes. I buy mine locally at the bulk food store.

The second form of coconut is coconut oil. Melissa calls for virgin coconut oil. When I went shopping I just picked the first coconut oil off the shelf, which was organic expeller pressed coconut oil. Upon doing a little bit of research, I learned that Expeller Pressed Coconut oil is less expensive than Virgin Coconut Oil, and because it goes through a steam deodorizing process the taste is very bland, unlike Virgin Coconut Oil which retains the odor and taste of fresh coconuts. If you don’t want the coconut flavour to be overwhelming, go for the expeller pressed. I used the expeller pressed, but will definitely seek out the virgin for my next batch, to really amp up the coconut flavour.

I was really shocked (and thrilled) to learn some of the health benefits of coconut oil, not the least of which is that it aids in weight loss. Apparently it contains short and medium-chain fatty acids that help in taking off excessive weight. Not that I really understand what short and medium chain fatty acids are, but I am happy to be delusional in thinking that eating large handfuls of this granola will help me lose weight! Coconut oil also contains lauric acid, which is a key ingredient in breast milk. Now really, could you get any healthier than mother’s milk?

The coconut oil is solid and must be melted before using. To be honest, it looks more like a cream to rub all over the body for moisturizing. The original recipe called for pecans but I used almonds instead.

Rolled oats, pumpkin seeds, dried cherries, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt round out the ingredient list.

Use your hands to toss everything together, then spread it out on a baking sheet.

It takes about 40 -45 minutes to bake, and you should toss it every 10 minutes for even browning.

This granola is like a party in your mouth! It has the perfect balance of flavours and textures. Slightly salty with great crunch from the almonds and pumpkin seeds, some chewiness from the dried cherries and coconut, and a hint of maple and cinnamon, this granola makes me very happy! Mornings just got a whole lot better around here!

Click here to print the recipe for Double Coconut Granola.