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Archive for October, 2010

Today I’m going to share a recipe with you that came from the lovely Ms. Emily Bennett, who right now is likely writing one of the many (and i mean many) midterms that she has this week at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. She recently moved to the country, and now I miss her even more than when she moved out of the house we shared but was still living in the city.  This is a recipe she introduced me to within the first few months of us living together in Toronto, and one that we made many times that first winter on Lansdowne, and that I’ve made many times since.  I’ve never seen an actual written recipe for this dish, but somewhere down the line in the past I think there was one (an old roommate of Emily’s made it, I think?) and in many ways this is exactly what I like about it.  It’s so easy, and satisfying, and I’ve passed it on to other friends as well.

Here’s what you need to make this:

1 Onion, a bunch of Kale, a can of Chick Peas, Tahini, a clove or two of Garlic, Lemon Juice or a few fresh lemons, Brown Rice.

In the world of vegetarians, most of these ingredients are pretty common to have on hand, which is also why I’ve made this for dinner so often – it’s a pretty good “I don’t know what to eat tonight” meal.

First thing, put some rice on to cook.  I use a rice cooker, because frankly I’m not very good at cooking rice and also I generally prefer to have the stovetop space free for other things other than grain-cooking.

So, you chop your onion.  Saute it in a large frying pan (I use my trusty wok) in some olive oil.  I like to keep the onion in big pieces so you get nice caramelized-y bites in the finished product.  As far as I’m concerned, the more onion the merrier in this dish.  After a little while, you throw in your chick peas.  Basically a whole can works well, but if you want less you can use less.

Now, here’s the thing: try not to stir those chick peas too much.  This is extremely difficult for me, it’s like the cooking equivalent of my restless leg syndrome.  The first few times Emily and I made this she had to say things to me like “Now Liz, this is one of those things you want to try not to stir” in a kindergarten teacher-like voice. It’s true! You want your chick peas to get crunchy and crispy from sitting on the pan.  Try not to stir them!

Once your chick peas have started to crisp up and brown, you can throw in your chopped kale.  If you want, you can also toss in a clove or so of minced garlic at this point – I’ve never been able to decide whether I like this more with garlic cooked in with the veggies or raw in the sauce at the end, so I tend to do a little combination of both.  Now you want to let your kale cook – you can cover the pan if you want to let it steam a bit, or just stir it around and let it wilt gradually.  Honestly, I think that the first time Emily made this for me was probably also one of the first times I’d eaten kale, like, ever. Weird, right?

I know that using fresh lemons is way better than bottled lemon juice, and I used to always have many lemons on hand, but lately I’ve been relying way more on the bottled stuff pictured above.  This is probably because I haven’t been buying much produce in grocery stores to begin with lately (since getting the CSA) and because of my new found penchant for making whiskey sours at home.  Like, regularly.  I have homemade simple syrup in the fridge and then I just use this lemon juice.  Sour mix, ta daaaa! And it’s not from concentrate, so it is still delicious and not weird.  But I digress.  While your stuff is cooking on the stove you want to mix up a little sauce. Throw in some raw garlic (unless you’re raw garlic-averse), some lemon juice, and a hefty bit of tahini.  Season it with salt and pepper, throw in a bit of hot sauce if you like, sometimes I add a dash of tamari. Ultimately this is a creamy tahini sauce, but you want the lemon juice (and maybe a teensy bit of warm water) to thin it out and to round out the flavour.

Once your kale is cooked to your liking (I like it to still have a good bite to it, I don’t like sloppy soggy steamer greens), you want to throw in all your cooked rice.  Mix all the veggie stuff in and then drizzle in your tahini sauce.  Add the sauce a bit at a time so you  know how much you want – but I like this to be pretty saturated with the tahini sauce.  It makes the meal really creamy and hearty.  And that’s it! You eat it!

The thing is, when Emily first made this for me I remember being pretty skeptical.  I was still a fairly new vegetarian and had not really been eating particularly healthy in general.  Emily had been vegetarian for basically her whole life and was always improvising meals with whatever she had – I was always someone (and still am, I suppose) who wanted to eat what I was CRAVING and not just whatever was around.  And this meal seemed so healthy when she was making it, that I was sure I wouldn’t like it.  And I loved it! The onions and the crunchy chick peas and the creamy tahini sauce.  I honestly crave this all the time.  I’m craving it right now. And the thing is, it’s totally healthy.  I think it’s probably one of the best meals I eat, especially as a vegetarian who always needs protein.  Chick peas are awesome for protein, and so is tahini.  Brown rice is obviously healthy, and kale is a superfood!  So go forth and make this for dinner! You won’t be sorry! Just try not to stir the chick peas.

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Alright, you heard about the pie, now I’ll tell you about the savoury things we ate before we ate the pie.

Most notably, I’ll tell you about the potatoes.  Sorry, I meant THE potatoes.  These potatoes have a reputation, and it is simultaneously good and bad.  Good reputation = they are delicious.  Bad reputation = they are totally disgusting (but not taste-wise).  I’m talking about the one and only Mormon Funeral Potatoes.  Some of you have eaten these potatoes, and some of you have probably heard of them, and others still have likely never heard of them at all and are wondering what that name is all about.  Well, I’ll tell you.  I am fairly sure I had an incarnation of these potatoes made by my Granny Hastings, on my Dad’s side, at many family gatherings when I was really little and we’d all eat in the living room off of TV-trays.  I always loved them then but never knew exactly what they were.  Then, when I was in high school, my mom and stepdad and I went to Utah to visit my aunt and uncle and cousins there.  They live in Utah, but are not Mormon, unlike basically everyone else.  They served us these potatoes with a big ham dinner, and told us that they were called Mormon Funeral Potatoes because they were an old standby dish for funerals in the LDS Church – they’re cheap and easy and a crowd-pleasing comfort food, basically perfect to go along with a ham or some other such relatively cheap thing you can serve a crowd of people that may or may not be in mourning.

In classic church-lady comfort food fashion, this recipe (likely created sometime in the 40s or 50s I imagine) involves condensed soup.  Oh yeah, condensed soup.  TWO CANS.  The recipe is as follows, or is about this as far as I can remember:

500ml Sour Cream

2 cans of Campbells condensed “Cream of” soups (I use one can cream of mushroom, one can cream of celery, because they’re both vegetarian and seem like a good combo in this dish)

a generous amount of grated cheddar (about a cup and a half I’d say)

some diced onion (in the past I’ve used real onion as well as green onion, this time I used a leek)

1/3-1/2 cup melted butter

1kg frozen hash brown cubes (go with Cavendish brand – McCain ones have about a million ingredients, including beef fat and all kinds of scary preservatives)

Basically you mix all the “liquid”-like ingredients together – the sour cream, the soups, the melted butter – then mix in the onion and the cheese, then the hash browns.  Spread all of this in a greased 9 by 13 pan and top with crushed cornflakes that have been mixed with about a tablespoon of melted butter.

 

Carly takes on the fun job of crushing cornflakes - she crushed the perfect amount!

 

Then, you bake it.  For about half an hour, at about 350.  Then eat, and discuss among yourselves how likely you may be to have a heart attack after eating them.  Or, you can talk about how some people have said that it is active church involvement that is making many Americans fat! Too many funerals and church gatherings! TOO MANY FUNERAL POTATOES! Because, much as I love these potatoes, they are totally disgusting, and while mixing up the condensed soup mixture it is not uncommon to have second thoughts about the dish.  But unlike many people, I don’t go to church, and I really almost never eat these.  For awhile my family used to make them with a ham on every Boxing Day, but we haven’t done that in a few years.  The last time I made these potatoes myself was for Thanksgiving 2007 in Montreal.  So, I think my health will survive the occasional indulgence.

In addition to these potatoes I made some vegetarian stuffing in Kat’s crockpot – Paul’s suggestion as this is how his family always does the veggie stuffing, and it’s totally brilliant! Baking it in a dish both dries it out AND takes up precious oven space during these kinds of feast-preparing days.  My mom usually handles the stuffing and leaves me to merely break up the bread pieces, so this was my first crack at it.  I bought store-bought bakery croutons from the Sobeys near my house (cheater!) and basically sauteed mushrooms in butter, set them aside, and then sauteed onion and celery in butter until nice and soft, and seasoned them with lots of fresh sage, thyme, a bit of savoury, a tiny pinch of nutmeg, and salt and pepper.

 

Have you noticed yet that I've been mixing things in my stockpot?

 

Toss all of that with the bread cubes and mushroom and throw in some chopped parsley and add broth.  Most recipes for stuffing say to add about a cup of broth, but that stuffing is going to be cooked in a juicy turkey, so I wasn’t sure how much liquid I needed to add to compensate.  I put about 2 cups of broth in and then added a bit more water once I got it in the crockpot.  To be honest, it was a bit wetter than I’d like, so I probably would have been fine without adding the extra water at all, and maybe using a touch less broth.  But you do want to check on it in the crockpot, because you don’t want it to dry out and burn.  I turned the crock to high for awhile, and then down to low.  Then basically I just checked on it all afternoon, with my trusty thermometer I acquired in my Food Handler’s Course.  When it was really really hot, I’d turn it off for awhile, and then if it started to get too cold, I’d turn it back up to keep it at a safe holding temperature.  Working in a kitchen really means you get crazy about these things.

Lastly, I roasted some veggies and chick peas.  I have a lot of carrots and beets and winter radishes and a turnip from my CSA, so I chopped them up small and put them in a pan with chickpeas, tossed them in some olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper and thyme and roasted them at about 400 for 20-30 minutes or so.  Delightful.  Covered almost everything on my plate with a mushroom miso gravy and gobbled up.

See you next year, Thanksgiving!

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So, I love thanksgiving.  I suppose I don’t get quite as giddy about it as I do about the Christmas season, but Christmas gets extended over many more days usually (food-wise, drink-wise, and fun-wise) and thanksgiving is just a concentrated, one shot deal.  I love thanksgiving because for the most part (and in Canada, at least) the holiday doesn’t have any real religious basis, and is mostly about giving THANKS for the harvest.  I love the harvest!  I also love autumn, and thanksgiving falls during the perfect part of autumn where it’s not so cold yet (how do Americans do it?!) and there’s often still these warm sunny days, but with the crisp breezes and leaves that fall brings.  I have spent many a thanksgiving in Bright’s Grove going for a bike ride along the lake while the turkey is in the oven.

But I digress, the point is, that I love thanksgiving because it seems to exist for no other purpose than to bring family and friends together for good hearty food and drink.  Which is basically what I want to do, like, every day. This year my parents went away (wah!) and to Savannah, Georgia no less (double wah! i wanna go!) and so I stayed in Toronto and made a mini vegetarian thanksgiving on Monday.  I will post part two of this meal tomorrow, but today I want to tell you about The Pie.

See that? That’s the pumpkin that made it into my pie.  “Huh?!” you say? It doesn’t look like a pumpkin? Well, I know.  But it is. I went to pick up my CSA on Friday and intended to get a pie pumpkin when I was there.  But when I got there, I couldn’t see any of the lil’ cuties there.  So I asked if they had any, and Shannon (one of my trusty CSA peeps) told me to look in the bushel at my feet and pull out the long green squashy thing.  She told me it was a pumpkin, and that it actually makes the best pumpkin pie.  It’s an heirloom variety called the “long pie pumpkin” and she’d only had pie made with a long pie for the first time last year, but said that she can never go back now.  The internet also told me that puree made from a long pie has a tendency to be much less watery, which is great because I was not really in the mood to have to go buy cheesecloth and strain my pumpkin glop overnight in the sink, you know?

I already sort of talked about how to cook a pumpkin when I talked about the curry I made a couple weeks ago, but basically chop it up, steam it, slip the skin off, and then in this case, puree it in a food processor.  I did the pumpkin cooking and pureeing on Saturday evening, and kept the puree in the fridge overnight, tightly covered.

On Sunday morning, before work, I actually made the pie itself.  I took the pumpkin puree out of the fridge in the morning to warm up a bit, because it seemed like it should be more like room temperature than ice cold.  I basically followed the recipe for pumpkin pie from my Joy of Cooking book, though I didn’t pre-bake the pie shell at all, because it seemed like a lot of trouble and we never did that growing up.  I did put the pie shell (once rolled out and in the pie plate) in the fridge for a good half hour before adding the filling to bake it.  If you don’t pre-bake or chill it then I suspect you’ll end up with a bottom crust that is total mush.

The filling is basically 2-3 eggs, beaten, 1 1/2 cups evaporated milk (or cream), 2 cups of pumpkin puree, some white sugar and some more brown sugar (i used about 1/3 cup of each I think) and your spices.  Generous amounts of ground ginger and ground cinnamon, and then smaller amounts of nutmeg, allspice and cloves.  I used the smallest spec of ground cloves because I share my mother’s aversion to clove-flavour, but wanted to make sure I got the all-round pumpkin pie flavour.  Create your tinfoil crust protection space pie thing (see above – this is how you avoid burning the edge of your crust – you can take it off for the last little bit of the bake time) and put that baby in the oven.  Carefully, because it’s gonna slosh.  Probably best to put the pie on a baking sheet before pouring the filling it so that it’s easier to carry over to the oven, but I didn’t do this and I survived.  Bake at 375 for 45-50 minutes. Basically until firm, which means that if you give it a jiggle it doesn’t look really sloshy.  It’s still going to be moist, and it will definitely continue to cook a bit more in the pie plate once it’s out of the oven.  So PLEASE, don’t make the same mistake I made last year and let your mom and aunt watch the pie for the last little bit, after they’ve insisted it’s still undercooked, only to come back downstairs and have them tell you that they wrecked your pie and that they saw the pie filling literally BOILING in and bubbling in the dish in the oven.  Blackened pumpkin pie is NOT Southern delicacy, nor a Northern one.  (Sorry Mom and Glenda – how could I talk about this year’s pie without mentioning last year’s?)

Isn’t she cute? On Monday we had this for dessert (alongside hot toddys for Carly and I, and tea for the teatotalling Kat and Mara) and it was totally good.  We’d been reading and laughing and making fun of this cookbook of mine that has awful non-puns and anecdotes, and someone starting calling the author a “chocolate slut” and then Mara bit into her piece of pie and said “This is really good! You’re no chocolate slut!”.

An unorthodox compliment, but a good one, and I’ll take it.  I wish I had 3 more of these pies.  More Thanksgiving stuff to come tomorrow…

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Alright, I could make a million excuses here again for why I haven’t posted as frequently as I’d like, but I don’t really have any good excuse.  Except that I got a kitty cat and I’ve been spending more of my spare time throwing crumpled up balls of paper down the hallway for her to chase! But I’ve still been cooking and taking photos, and have a backlog of things to tell you about.  I will try and post a lot in the next few days to get up to date and also since this weekend is Thanksgiving there’s sure to be some delectable treats being made in this lil’ apartment.

So, onwards! First off, I canned some tomatoes! See?

I won’t go into too much detail about it, but it’s exciting! I used Roma tomatoes, which are the best for canning since they’re meatier and not as watery, and I only got three 500ml jars out of them, but I’m excited to crack them open in the dead of winter to make something really delicious that tastes like summer.

Next up, I made a delicious pumpkin curry with a pie pumpkin from my CSA.  I’m very excited to actually make a pumpkin pie this week from an ACTUAL PUMPKIN because I’ve never done that.  We always used canned pumpkin – not pumpkin pie filling, don’t insult me! We spiced it ourselves and all that, but never bothered with actually starting from a real pumpkin.  I don’t think I realized that there was such a thing as a pie pumpkin, but there is, and they’re much smaller than regular pumpkins.  As soon as I realized that pie pumpkins existed and that I didn’t have to try and cut a giant pumpkin in half, I was all for it!  But trust me, trying to work with a full-sized pumpkin is nutty – my mom and I once made a pumpkin risotto that was amazing, but had to enlist Jeff solely for the purpose of cutting the pumpkin because it was insanely hard to do.  Anyways, a few weeks ago I used a pie pumpkin for something other than pie, and made a curry with it!  This is not a recipe from a blog or a book, I just sort of made it up as I went along.  First, you cut the stem off of your pumpkin, cut it in half, and scoop out all the seeds and guck with an ice cream scoop.  Save the seeds, so that you can burn them later on in the oven! Then you cook your pumpkin.  I steamed mine, since it seemed like the method that was both the least time consuming (rather than roasting it) and the least gross (as opposed to microwaving it for 30 minutes – microwaves should not be left on for that long!).  It was super easy to steam it, and then once it’s cooked and cooled, you can easily slip the skin off.  Or, if you’re impatient like me, you can slip the skin off while it’s hot and burn your fingers a hundred times.

Then I cut the pumpkin into cubes (very mushy cubes) and brainstormed what to do with it.  A curry, I thought!  I figured a curry would also be a good way to use up a bunch of the CSA veggies that I’m always working to get through.  Actually, to be honest I think I used store-bought swiss chard in this curry, and then a few days later got the HUGEST bunch of swiss chard in my CSA share and struggled to use it all up.  But bygones.  All good curries start with onion, garlic, and ginger.  And, ideally, a chili pepper, but I didn’t have one so I skipped it – but I was sad that I did! You want to saute your onions and garlic and ginger until they’re looking really good and translucent, and then add a spice mix.  I’m no expert at Indian spice mixes, but I’m starting to get the hang of what you want in them – a bit of turmeric, a bit of cayenne, a lot of cumin, a lot of coriander, some garam masala – all good things to have in there.  I think this is basically what I used, and probably added in some cumin seeds as well.  Saute the spices with your onions – it will be really dry and gummy, but let them cook for a few minutes, and then add a bit of water or broth to it and scrape up the brown bits from the pot.  Then, add some tomatoes.

Basically, once you’ve got the tomatoes in there, you can add all the stuff you want, let it simmer, adjust your seasonings to your taste, and play with it until you’re ready to eat.  In this case we threw in some potatoes (which we boiled separately to start) and chick peas, along with the pumpkin and then, in the last moments of cooking, some chopped swiss chard.

It looked pretty much like this, which is to say, glop:

But, you know, glop is basically what I want out of my Indian food – I am fairly sure Paul and I remarked that it was the perfect consistency.  You want something that is saucy enough to be good on rice, but not so soupy that it’s, well, soup.  This was pretty successful, particularly for a made up recipe.  And pumpkin, like all squash really, is a delicious addition to curry.

Lastly, I will just quickly tell you about the potato leek soup I made – the first such soup that I’ve made without an immersion blender, since I no longer have one and absolutely refuse to puree soup in batches in a blender or food processor.  I did that once a long time ago, and frankly, it’s not worth the effort.

So, potato leek soup goes like this: you chop up some leek.  You saute it in butter, and season them a bit with salt and pepper and whatever else you’d like, such as thyme.  Then, you add a bunch of chopped up potatoes, Yukon Golds work best, and that was what came in my CSA (with the leek and the thyme) so that is what I used.  Add some water or broth until the potatoes are just covered, and boil away until they’re nice and tender.

When the potatoes were good and tender, I just mashed them with a potato masher, in the pot.  Mash away, until desired consistency – it will never be perfectly silky smooth, unless you blend it.  But I liked the hearty texture of it – it made it feel more like a meal then when it is pureed.

Once your potatoes are all mashed up, add more liquid until it is the consistency you’d like.  I added a bunch of milk, and also some buttermilk, because it seemed like the right thing to do.  Adjust your seasonings (i.e. add salt) and serve! Best if topped with grated aged cheddar and alongside some toasty buttery delicious bread.

That’s all for now, but stayed tuned for more catch-up posts in the next couple of days before I create a small feast on Monday for Thanksgiving!

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