Saturday, July 12

Chard and beet green tart

Even though I don't usually cook from recipes, I am often inspired by recipes when making a new dish. As I've written before, I often check out my favourite cookbooks, blogs and chef's sites for the perfect blend of ingredients to make a dish. Then I modify these into the one recipe I will use.

Lately though, I've been just been pulling recipes straight out of my head. And they've been working! I suppose it's all the time I have now, you know, being on vacation and all :)

Earlier this week I made a Vietnamese tofu bun, complete with my own sauce, which brought me back to the days when I was a student in good old Toronto. Those were the days. Waking up late, subway to school, a little Vietnamese for lunch ( link) and a stroll through the ROM in the afternoon. I often picked up dinner ingredients from mom n' pop shops in the Bloor West Village (where I lived) and made some delicious eats for one. Evenings spent out with friends for drinks, a movie or a show. Or window-shopping. Oh, the shopping.

That bun tasted like my favourite Vietnamese joint in Toronto, so much so that I'll have to make it again and write down the quantities so I can share with you all.

In the meantime, I'd like to share a recipe for a tart I made a couple of nights ago. Ian's verdict: "Delicious! It's like getting the vegetables for free!" And his follow-up tweet: "Even better than free. Most people would pay to take veggies away." Aww, I love my husband.

I created this recipe just as it was happening, and I'm happy to say, we enjoyed it so much, I will make it again. I also used a fancier setup for the photos, which took longer, but since the tart needs to rest before cutting, the timing worked out well.

As always with my recipes, I invite you to use what you have. I made my own pastry, but if you wanted, you could use frozen pie shells as a short-cut (I did this my entire life until I recently bought a tart pan and now have the time to make my own!). I had left-over garlic butter (from garlic bread a few days before), so I used that to flavour the greens. But you could just use olive oil, or butter, or butter with a bit of chopped garlic.

You can also replace the shallots with one medium red or white onion. If you don't have the same kind of cheeses we did, just use what you have - it'll work! I promise! Finally, we used Andouille sausage from Oyama Sausage at the Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver. You could use any kind of left-over meat: Italian sausage, roasted chicken, bit of left-over ham. For a vegetarian version, replace the meat with more mushrooms, or even sauteed herbed tofu.

Since this recipe comes together in separate parts, I recommend you season each part as you cook it. In fact, I like to season each ingredient as I add it. Just a little salt and pepper for each, then taste and modify if needed. That way, the flavours will build in layers and you will get nice depth of flavour throughout the entire dish.

"Free Vegetable" Savory Tart

for the pastry (modified from The Best of Baking <-- everyone should own this!)
- 1 cup unbleached white flour
- 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
- pinch salt
- 7 tbsp butter (about 4/5 of a stick, or 100 g)
- 1-4 tbsp ice-cold water

for the filling
- left-over garlic butter
- one large bunch Swiss chard
- one large bunch beet greens
- 3 shallots, sliced thinly
- 7 button mushrooms, sliced thinly
- 1 foot-long Andouille sausage
- salt and pepper
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 6 tbsp softened cream cheese
- 4 slices feta, crumbled (about 1/2 cup, maybe?)
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for top
- 6 chives, finely chopped

1. For the pastry, mix flour and salt in a food processor (or by hand if you're not lazy like me). Add the chopped butter and pulse until it resembles bread crumbs. Add the egg and pulse. Add ice-water in 1 tbsp intervals until dough has enough "stick" to it to easily come together (I used 2 tbsp in my climate).

2. Dump it onto the counter and push it together into a disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30-45 minutes. When ready to use, lightly flour a surface and roll into a circle (obviously!). Gently lay into a tart or pie pan without stretching. Press into sides. Leave the excess for folding over, or cut off excess.

3. While the pastry dough is resting, clean the greens, dry and chop them. I chopped the chard into roughly inch-long pieces, and the been greens into ribbons. But you decide how you like it. Also, slice shallots and mushrooms thinly.

4. In a medium saute pan on medium heat, melt a tsp of butter and saute chard with a bit of salt, then set aside. Then saute beet greens (add bit of salt) and set aside. More butter or oil, add shallots for 1 min, then add mushrooms, and season with salt and pepper. Saute until most of the moisture has evaporated out of the mushrooms. Add sausage and heat through for another 2-3 minutes.

5. Mix greens and mushroom mixture in a bowl and set into fridge to cool a bit. In the meantime, beat the eggs and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl, adding salt and pepper to taste.

** Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. **

6. Roll out tart and lay into pan. When tart is ready, combine the greens and egg mixtures. Place solids into tart, distributed evenly. Pour liquids over top, and jiggle the tart to distribute liquids. Grate a bit of parmesan over the top. If you have left-over pastry edges, fold them down on top of the tart.

7. Put a sheet pan or some foil under the tart pan to catch drippings. Bake for 40-50 minutes until pastry is golden brown. Let the tart rest for 10 minutes before cutting. Serve generous pieces with salad or by themselves.

This made a great dinner, but I could also see this as an awesome brunch or lunch item too! Enjoy!

Saturday, July 5

Breakfast cookies

When zipping out the door in the mornings at 6:30 or 7 a.m., we tend to forget about breakfast. I know it's unhealthy, but it's just the reality of a busy life.

To combat that, every few weeks for the last year I have made two loaves and a pile of muffins of some sort of breakfast-type healthy breads. We portion them off into tupperware and zip-top bags and freeze individual portions. This way, we can grab one from the freezer the night before to defrost, and voila - healthy breakfast on the go!

Some weeks the flavours are zucchini-carrot, other weeks it's banana-walnut-cranberry. I basically use what I have and strive to make this a healthy quick meal in one. I add plenty of nuts and seeds, and always use fresh veggies or fruit. There is often only 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/3 cup oil in the whole batter! (that's for two breads and a dozen muffins). The rest of the sweetness comes from honey, maple syrup, applesauce or cranberries and the breads are moist as a result of prune puree, yogurt or applesauce.

But lately I've become tired of eating these breads. Even though the flavours vary, the texture and shape remain the same and have started to bore me. So last week, I decided to modify my recipe into a seedy and dense breakfast cookie. That's right, a cookie for breakfast.

I was quite surprised at how well these turned out and will most definitely make them again. In fact, these would be perfect as road trip snacks (which we had on our recent trip to Vancouver!), as power boosts during a hike or as a mid-morning snack to hold you over if you have a late lunch. I'm also going to try spreading the batter into a square pan and cutting power-bar-like shapes as an easier and faster alternative to placing and spacing cookies.

Breakfast cookies
(an original recipe)

- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup kamut flour (can use spelt, whole wheat, or white)
- 4 tbsp freshly ground flax seed
- 1/2 cup wheat germ
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda

- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/8 to 1/3 cup Demerara sugar (depending on your sweet tooth)
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 cup old fashioned oats, soaked in 1 cup hot water for 5-10 min

- 1/3 cup shredded coconut (I used sweetened, but if you have unsweetened, add more sugar)
- 1/3 cup sesame seeds
- 1/3 cup chopped pecans (or other nuts that you have)
- 2/3 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350F/175 C. Line a cookie sheet with a silicon mat or coat with butter.

1. Put on 1 cup of water to boil and place oats in a small cereal bowl. When water is boiling, pour over oats and cover with a plate. Let stand until you're ready for them, 5-10 min.

2. In a medium bowl, stir all dry ingredients together.

3. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, and incorporate with a whisk. Stir in vanilla and milk.

4. Drain any excess water from oats. Stir in dry ingredients into wet, alternating with adding oats. Be sure that you stir quickly after each addition of the hot oats so eggs don't cook.

5. Stir in the mix-ins, making any substitutions you like, but keep the entire quantity the same (just over 2 cups). Spoon onto cookie sheet, flatten, and bake for 12-15 minutes until the tops brown slightly.

I wanted substantial cookies, so I made 7 large cookies in each batch for a total of 14 cookies. If you make normal sized ones, you could probably get 20 cookies out of this batter.

Sunday, June 22

Fresh summer pasta

On Saturday mornings, Ian and I like to go to the Saskatoon Farmer's Market. We have supported it since we arrived in Saskatoon. Then, it was located in a street in front of City Hall, but now it has its own building and market square on the riverfront.

As the general population becomes more conscious about being 'green' and eating local, the market has become busier and busier. It makes sense: to really know what you're buying, it helps to buy from the producer. I particularly like our city's market because it has a strict 'sell your own stuff' policy:
Members must make, bake or grow whatever they are selling. It is not permitted to buy and re-sell at the market. Each individual...must be personally present to operate their stall.
At the Saskatoon Farmer's Market, I can talk to Clifford, the flour guy, about his ultra-clean grains and to Wally, the urban gardener, about his micro-greens. I'm able to ask re-planting advice for the herbs I bought from Helga and am instructed on the benefits of local honey to help curb allergies from the Bee Lady.

The first Saturday of summer (yesterday) started off with a trip to the market and a decision to make 'green' pasta. That is, pasta made with green, local, seasonal, ingredients.

It mostly worked: the kale, zucchini and lemon were from Dad's, and the salt, pepper, onion, cheese and oil were imported. But the rest were all bought from the producers at the market.

Fresh Summer Pasta
- 3 servings fresh linguine
- small bag micro-arugula
- 4 stalks green garlic, minced
- 7 stalks asparagus, chopped into inch-long pieces
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 zucchini, sliced
- 2 leaves kale
- half an onion, chopped roughly
- zest and juice from half a lemon
- parmesan cheese to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- olive oil to taste

1. Boil water for the pasta. Generously salt the water. Meanwhile, prepare all the vegetables.

2. Heat as large an amount of olive oil as you like in a large pan (2-3 tbsp) on med-high heat. Saute the onion and garlic, seasoned with salt and pepper, until translucent. Add zucchini and cook long enough so it gains some colour.

3. Meanwhile, remove the kale from the stock and roughly chop into small-ish pieces. Add asparagus, kale and thyme leaves to the pan.

4. Drain pasta in a colander when ready and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and grated parmesan.

5. Combine pasta with sauteed vegetables, lemon juice and zest and arugula. The arugula will wilt from the residual heat of the pasta and pan. If you like, add more oil and parmesan for a creamier texture.

Serves 3 very hungry people as a main course, or 5 as a side dish.

Saturday, June 21


February 20.  The date of my last post here.  

It's been a while friends.  This past semester has been difficult with two new preps, a few behaviourally-challenged students, and unfortunately, many nights of eating out or ordering in.  But exam week is over now, and in one short week - SUMMER! The time of lazying around, planting herbs, experimenting with our new-to-us-but-used barbecue and mid-morning yoga classes.  I can't wait.  Of course, summer also comes with new blog-updating-resolutions.  
Having a little more time this past week allowed me to pick up some locally-grown and handpicked fiddleheads.  These are the curled fronds of a young fern plant.  If you've ever seen them growing, they start off looking like a violin scroll, then unfurl into a fern plant.  I tried them for the first time one year ago in New Brunswick - actually, I tasted them off a plate of one of my fellow-conference goers.  Interesting texture: crisp on the outside with a soft middle.
Even though I had time to pick these up at a specialty store, apparently I didn't have time to research their proper and safe preparation.  Don't worry, we were all fine, no one got sick.  But as I was checking out the details for this post, I found out my method of cooking was not the most safe - oops!  I've modified the recipe to include what I would do next time:
Sauteed Fiddleheads
- 1 bag fiddleheads - I had enough to serve 3 as a side dish
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp butter (or more!)
- pinch salt
- few cranks fresh ground pepper
1.  Boil some water in a medium saucepan.  Meanwhile, clean the fiddleheads, cutting off any black/brown parts, and washing the fronds of dirt.
2.  Blanch (that means throw into the boiling water) the fiddleheads in the water for 7-10 minutes (this is the part I didn't do!) until crisp but not soggy.  Shock them by placing in a bowl of ice water.  Insert a sieve first for easy retrieval.
3.  Melt butter in saute pan on medium heat and cook garlic for 1 min or until fragrant but not burnt.  Meanwhile, pat dry the fiddleheads with paper towel or clean dish towel.  Add the dry fiddleheads, salt and pepper to the butter and saute until heated through, about 2-3 minutes.
I served these with trout and mashed potatoes adorned with chives from my garden.  Yum!

Wednesday, February 20

Easy lunch

Yesterday Ella and I made a quick and light salad for lunch. I'm almost embarrassed to call this a recipe - it was that easy.

Smoked Salmon Salad

Arrange smoked salmon on a large plate and grate some lemon zest over the top. Dot on some goat cheese, sprinkle with baby arugula and top with a generous amount of capers. Drizzle on fresh lemon juice* and eat!

*If you like, you can also drizzle with good quality olive oil, but we found the salmon already quite oily so omitted this step.

Tuesday, February 19

Stupid internal clock

I am now on our annual February Break. To clarify, that doesn't mean I don't work, just that I work from home and get to wear pajamas. Last Saturday was my first Saturday off. Guess what time I got up on that first Saturday morning off? You won't believe me, but I swear it's true: 5:30 a.m.

Stupid internal clock.

I was fully awake and ready to take on the day. I guess when I wake up that early every day (sometimes I sleep in till 6 a.m...), I am just physically unable to sleep in. Finally today, a full four days into the break, I slept until 8 a.m. Whoa, I'm outta control now!

So what do I do when I wake up at 5:30 in the morning on my first Saturday off work? Why, make Sticky Cinnamon Pecan Buns of course! The original recipe comes from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. I found it via Jaden, who inspired me by her gorgeous photographs and quick wit. The book has already been put on hold for me from our local library, so all you Saskatoonians who read this blog will have to wait at least another three weeks :)

The basic idea is this: you make a huge batch of Master No-Kneed Dough and keep in your fridge for two weeks or so. Anytime you wish to have Artisan Bread (or Sticky Cinnamon Pecan Buns), you just rip off a chunk of dough, preheat your oven, do 5-10 minutes of prep, and you're 30 min away from eating delicious, essentially no-work, bread.

Sticky Cinnamon Pecan Buns
From Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

I changed a few things from the original found here.

Dough - instead of using 7 cups white flour, I used 6 cups white, 1 cup spelt (next time I'll add more spelt)

Topping - instead of brown sugar, I used organic Demerara sugar (next time, I'll use less butter)

Filling - instead of white sugar, I used some local honey and more Demerara

Method - I used two chunks of the Master Dough which essentially doubled the recipe. I didn't double the amount of topping or filling though. When it came time to roll, I rolled the dough pretty thin because I wanted small buns. (next time, I'll try to roll bigger buns)

We had them for breakfast and they were delicious. And look - here's Adam's Food Negation Theory coming into effect: 4 sticky buns followed by a quarter of a honeydew. STICKY BUNS NEGATED.

Saturday, January 26

Happy '08 + Kulfi

I figured I better get a post in before the end of January so that I can still say Happy New Year to you all without feeling too embarassed:

Happy 2008 to all my readers! May your year be filled with delicious food experiences, stimulating conversations and exciting adventures - do something crazy and unexpected this year!

Now after the uncomfortable-ness of those first few lines (sorry I've been away!), I bring you the kulfi recipe that I promised a few months ago.

Kulfi is an Indian frozen dessert that isn't quite like ice cream. Ice cream is typically churned to inject air and produce a creamy texture. Kulfi is made with flavoured boiled milk that reduces and thickens naturally. The milk is cooled and frozen, resulting in quite a dense texture.

I don't have time or patience for that. Sitting there for hours waiting for the milk to boil and reduce, all the while watching that it doesn't scorch the bottom of the pan? Come on. There's no way. And once you burn the milk, you'll never overcome that burnt taste. That batch is going to have to be dumped. Not to mention that your kitchen will smell like burnt milk for hours. Gross.

It's much easier to use my method adapted from here. Here's the secret ingredient. Can you guess what it is without scrolling down? :)

Yup, cubed white bread.

This adds in some of that denseness without having to stand over the stove boiling the milk for hours.

My adaptations grew in a large part from my desire to have kulfi whenever I wanted. So, I've multiplied the original recipe by approximately 2.5.

As such, we have now re-christened the frozen orange juice drawer in our freezer as the kulfi drawer.

"Where's the frozen spinach?" husband asks.

"In the kulfi drawer," I reply.

Here's the final product. Hey, it's hard to take photos of frozen things!

adapted from Mercedes at Desert Candy
  • 3 cups whole milk (use the rest of the carton to make your own paneer or ricotta cheese!)
  • 2 cans evaporated milk, 370mL each
  • 2 cans sweetened condensed milk, 300mL each
  • 8 slices white bread, crusts removed (use the rest to make stuffing!)
  • 3 tsp cardamom seeds, slightly crushed
  • 10-20 cardamom pods (I love cardamom, so I add lots!)
  • 3 inch-long cinnamon sticks
  • pinch saffron strands (optional)
  • pinch salt
  • 4 tbsp finely ground pistachios, plus more chopped pistachios for serving

1. If you have saffron, sprinkle it into 1 cup of the whole milk and let it sit while you ready the other ingredients.

2. Combine rest of milks, cardamom seeds, salt, 4 tbsp pistachios in a large pot. Use an herb ball or tea ball to hold the cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks. If you don't have such a contraption, just add these in loose but make sure you've written down how many pods and sticks you have to fish out before blending.

3. Add in saffron-infused milk. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring and being careful to not burn the milk.

4. Fish out the herb ball or loose cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks. Cube white bread and add it in. Let sit for 5 minutes while the bread gets heavy with the milk mixture. It should look lumpy like this.

5. Time for the power tools. Transfer to a blender, and blend, baby, blend! Note: with my quantities, I do this in two batches.

6. Ladle carefully into any molds you can find in your house. We use espresso cups, various ramekin sizes, small tea cups, and shot glasses. I figure that using a variety of sizes allows me to choose the amount of decadence I want. Although, inevitably, the larger containers go first, then we're left with the measly shot glasses. The photo below shows the quantity that this recipe makes, plus another 7 kulfi "popsicles" that I'd already put into the freezer.

7. Let cool, then transfer to a freezer drawer (or set on a tray), covered with plastic wrap. The smaller containers will be ready in 4 hours and the larger ones will be ready the next day.

8. When ready to eat, either sprinkle with chopped pistachios and eat out of the mold, or loosen the kulfi with a hot water bath and invert onto a plate, then garnish.

Note: kulfi will be very hard right out of the freezer. I usually set it out to soften for 10-15 minutes before serving. That way, my spoons don't get all bent up!

C'mon, take a bite!