Archive by Author

Too much lettuce? Make soup!

18 Sep

by Jill Boruff

Each week we receive a lovely basket of organic veggies from a local farmer. Most of the time, we manage to eat the deliciousness before the next batch arrives the following week. However, in the past two weeks, we received three heads of lettuce–more lettuce then two people can possibly keep up with. I love big green salads, but there are only so many that I can handle in a week. I certainly didn’t want the lettuce to go to waste. A colleague at work had mentioned lettuce soup, so I turned to the Internet, and found the following soup recipe in the New York Times. Though I was a little skeptical at first, the soup turned out to be really good. It is much like a leek and potato soup, but with the taste of lettuce coming through instead of leek (obviously).

If you want to see the original recipe (and much better food photography) check out the original article.

The author says that this is a good way to use up the tough outer leaves of a head of lettuce. I am not sure that I agree. I cut out the extremely tough and woody parts of the lettuce and only threw in a few of the tough outer leaves. They didn’t purée as well, and I am not sure what the soup would have been like if it had been made with all tough leaves.

Also, it doesn’t really matter how well you chop things, as it is all going to get puréed at the end.

lettuce soup

lettuce soup

Lettuce and Potato Soup (adapted from Martha Rose Shulman in the New York Times)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, roughly minced

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and roughly diced

6 cups water

Three long springs of fresh thyme, rinsed (a bay leaf would be nice, too)

Salt to taste

5 ounces or about 4 cups lettuce leaves, washed and coarsely chopped (I think I added a bit more)

Freshly ground pepper

1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the potatoes, water, and thyme, and bring to a simmer. Add salt to taste, cover and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes.

2. Stir in the lettuce leaves and continue to simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes. The potatoes should be thoroughly tender and falling apart.

3. Using an immersion blender, or in a blender blend the soup until smooth. Add lots of freshly ground pepper, taste and adjust salt. Enjoy!

Check out Jill’s bio on the Contributors page

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The joy of soup

6 Sep

By Jennifer O’Donnell

This summer it’s been one great farmers’ market salad after another – garnished with delicious strawberries, raspberries, apricots, peaches and plums. But amidst all of my salad making, I hadn’t really noticed the vegetables so much.

That changed a few days ago when I started reading Anna Thomas’ Love Soup. I’d been inspired when I heard about her on a blog – specifically, that the recipes for Love Soup had been created when she found herself living with a teeny tiny kitchen for several years while her house was being renovated.

But in this time and teeny space, she continued to entertain her friends with homemade vegetarian food – especially soups.

This resonated with me because my own kitchen right now seems so very small. I rushed out to get Love Soup (from the public library, of course). Anna’s recipes all look wonderful and she speaks so lovingly and passionately about farmers’ markets. The next day, bags in hand, I headed off to get the ingredients for her Basic Light Vegetable Broth and Sweet Corn Soup. Last night, I made the broth (along with an incredibly tasty dinner, but that’s another story). I’d forgotten my shopping list, but with a few minor substitutions, the broth smelled amazing.

And today, I made the Sweet Corn Soup. I couldn’t believe how easy it was! All I had to do today was chop an onion and slice the kernels off the ears of corn. Seriously! Oh, and then I had to sauté the onion while the corn simmered in the broth. The bulk of my ‘cooking time’ was spent sitting, reading, and listening to the rain fall gently outside while the soup cooked. It was a little slice of heaven.

I must admit that for a moment I was rethinking the wisdom of spending so much at the farmers’ market in order to make the broth and soup. After all, I still have student loans and am on a tight budget. “I’m just throwing the veggies out after the broth is made.  It seems like a waste,” I thought. “Maybe next time, I’ll just get less expensive veggies from the grocery store to make the broth…”

But then… I tasted the soup. I had figured it would be good because it had so many fresh ingredients. It seemed too simple: the only things I’d put in the soup today were caramelised onion and corn kernels. Oh, and the broth. But my goodness, I wasn’t expecting such a rich, full-bodied taste! The flavours are blended together in the puree, and yet it seems as though I can detect each of the distinctive flavours of the soup and broth.

True, I’ve only tried two recipes so far, but I can’t help but love Love Soup. I love Anna’s love of farmers’ markets. I love that her recipes are grouped by growing seasons. I love the detail in her recipes. I love that the recipes are all vegetarian (and that 66 of the 100 soup recipes are vegan). I can’t wait to try more. As I pack up the vegetable broth and Sweet Corn Soup to freeze, I can’t help but think what I’ll make tomorrow. I’m thinking Zucchini and Basil Soup.

Hmmm… now to find a way to meet people in my new home town. These wonderful soups should definitely be shared!

Check out Jennifer’s bio on the Contributors page.

Really love your peaches, wanna shake your tree.

1 Sep

By Jessica Roy

Peach season is here. It’s time to peach it up people! Of course, fresh local peaches are lovely all on their own but, like many things in life, they are even better when pizza is involved. Perhaps, like me, you are skeptical, having had a similarly bad fruit-pizza experience that you’d rather soon forget. Or, maybe you are concerned that I am unwittingly leading you into the wacky world of dessert pizza. Rest assured that peach pizza is nothing like these botched pizza experiments. I suggest that you brush your favorite thin crust homemade pizza dough with olive oil (if you like it crunchy like how I like it) and top it with thinly sliced peaches (marinated in a little lime juice and brown sugar), fresh basil leaves, arugula, bocconcini cheese and fresh ground pepper. I promise you won’t regret it and, afterwards, you can make peach and basil sangria with the leftover ingredients.

This is what the end of summer tastes like. Pretty darn good.

Peach pizza

Peach pizza

Check out Jessica’s bio on the Contributors page.

A few words on gluten-free (G.F.) cooking

28 Aug

By Nancy Bertolotti

Before you start preparing G.F. food there are some things you need to know.  First, if a product is not labeled “gluten-free” you may still be able to use it but should always check with the manufacturer to find out if it contains gluten.  Some products may not say they are gluten-free on the label but may be.  Others won’t.  Be wary because you also need to watch for contamination.  Anyone who bakes knows that flour has the ability to ‘fly’ around the kitchen and end up in places you would never suspect. For a person with celiac disease this is a problem.  Many of them can’t even have a crumb.  A gluten-free label means a product was processed or prepared in a separate facility where there is no possibility of contamination.  Another thing you need to be aware of if you are purchasing products that are not labeled gluten-free, is that suppliers of the ingredients for prepared foods often change.  In other words, one batch of something may be gluten-free while another may not.  The manufacturer of the prepared food should be able to tell you its status.  Check with them often.  Don’t just assume because you purchased this product before and it was gluten-free that it still is.

Is it necessary for you to have a completely gluten-free kitchen?  No, it’s not, but I do recommend you clean all utensils just prior to use.  And if you are baking items that are not gluten-free on the same day, bake the gluten-free ones first.

If you are on a gluten-free diet or you want to cook for someone who is, try this tasty Zucchini Bread.  You and they will love it!

G.F. Zucchini Bread

It’s zucchini season!  Every day I find a new zucchini ready to be picked from my garden and sometimes I find oversized ones that have been hidden under the large leaves of the zucchini plant.  The optimum size for picking is around 6 inches, but if your plants should get away from you, this recipe might help you use some of those extra large zucchinis.  It is an adaptation from a book I can’t recommend highly enough called The Gluten-Free Kitchen by Roben Ryberg (2000).

Gluten-free zucchini bread

Ingredients

1 egg
3 tbsp. oil
2 tbsp. butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup potato starch
3/4 cup cornstarch
1 tbsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup milk
1 cup grated zucchini
optional:  chopped walnuts  (Don’t forget to check with the manufacturer of the nuts.  Sometimes they use flour when roasting them.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In large bowl mix egg, oil, butter, sugar, and vanilla.  Add all remaining ingredients except zucchini and nuts.  Mix more – it will be thick.  Then add zucchini and nuts.  Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes.  Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.

You will notice that baked goods that are gluten-free are a little more crumbly than non-gluten-free goods.  You will also want to wrap this shortly after cooling so it doesn’t dry out.  This loaf does freeze well and you may even want to cut it into pieces before freezing and then just extract the number of pieces you need when you need them, microwave them from frozen for 15 to 30 seconds and you have a ready-to-eat dessert for your guests who require gluten-free food.  This recipe also passed the test with family members who do not need to eat gluten-free.

Enjoy!

Check out Nancy’s bio and a link to her food blog on the Contributors page

Tofu with shōjin ryōri mushroom sauce

11 Aug

by Megan Fitzgibbons

I am a very lucky woman. My husband cooks for me nearly every day, and we usually eat dishes drawn from “homestyle” Japanese cuisine.

This is the first recipe that my husband tried from a beautiful shōjin ryōri cookbook called The Enlightened Kitchen by Mari Fujii (limited preview on Amazon). Shojin ryori is the traditional cuisine of Japanese Buddhist monks and does not include any animal products (although this book calls for yogurt in one dish). The diet has been explained with the principle that the monks do not eat anything “that flees when chased.” The food is based on seasonal vegetables and spices that nourish the body in accordance with the season: to warm, cool, or fortify against the cold.

The author’s expertise in temple cuisine is due to being married to a Buddhist monk (convenient!) in Kamakura, an ancient city that we visited during a trip to Japan in 2008. For a  lovely review of the book, visit Maki at the Just Hungry blog.

I was surprised that many of the recipes involve frying food and frequently call for copious amounts of sesame oil, maple syrup, and peanut butter. In other words, the dishes are not all necessarily low-calorie. Other staples include miso (soybean paste), kombu (a type of seaweed), and kanten (agar-agar powder).

We cheated a little on the concept of shojin cuisine by eating a dish intended for another season. According to the book, this “nutritious tofu is served with a sauce of fall mushrooms, a dish to warm the body as the days grow cooler.” Oh, well, it was delicious in summer as well.

As the name suggests, this dish is simply boiled tofu topped with a mushroom sauce. Simple instructions follow.

tofu with mushroom sauce

tofu with mushroom sauce

The base for the sauce is kombu. My husband made a special trip to get Japanese kombu at Miyamoto Foods in Westmount, a place off our usual path. A single strip of dried kombu was needed for this recipe, and it was soaked in water for a few hours beforehand to make the stock.

Ingredients:
1 block silken tofu (400 grams)
50 g mushrooms, assorted types (e.g., shitake, button, shimeji) (1 3/4 ounces)
40 g carrots (julienned) (1 1/4 ounces)
400 ml konbu stock (1 2/3 cups)
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sake
2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp water
Chopped raw green onions (garnish)

The tofu is simply cut into four chunks, boiled in plain water, and drained.

To prepare the sauce:
1. Bring kombu stock, soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar, and salt to a boil in a frying pan or pot.

2. Add thinly sliced mushrooms and carrots and simmer for a few minutes.

3. Lower the heat and mix the cornstarch slowly into the liquid to thicken the sauce.

4. Pour the sauce over the tofu.

The recipe recommends garnishing the tofu with strips of blanched green beans, but we used chopped raw green onions instead.

Final judgment: simple, satisfying, and extremely yummy.

The next day, I ate the leftover sauce poured over rice. I had packed my lunch container the night before, and by the time I ate it, the sauce had soaked into the rice, softening the texture and adding a rich flavour.

Megan Fitzgibbons

Check out Megan’s bio and a link to her food blog on the Contributors page

A Taste of Charlevoix

5 Aug

by Jill Boruff

I like knowing where my food comes from. My recent trip to the Charlevoix region of Québec was an excellent opportunity to get up close and personal with the origins of my lunch.

The tourist office has an excellent guide to food in the area called the “Flavour Trail.” It helps you find many farms and local producers of food in the region. We made a point of visiting several of these sites during our stay.

Our first stop was Boulangerie Rémy. Not only do they bake bread, but they stone-grind the flour in a restored grist mill. We had a tour of the mill, where we got to see the waterwheel and the stones in action.

mill at Boulangerie Remy

mill at Boulangerie Rémy

Of course, we had to buy bread (and flour!). They are most known for the “Batard de Charlevoix” which is a sourdough loaf using a mixture of wheat and rye flours. It was delicious! We loved it so much that we went back for two more loaves. We were amazed at how long the bread stayed fresh and chewy without getting mouldy.

Batard de Charlevoix sourdough

Batard de Charlevoix sourdough

Our next stop on the Flavour Trail was La Maison d’affinage Maurice Dufour to gather some local cheese for our picnic. Before buying the cheese, we got to meet the sheep who produce the milk for some of the cheese. The cows were in a different pasture, so we didn’t get to meet them. I really enjoyed seeing the animals and where they lived.

We chose two cheeses for our picnic. The first one was a firm cow’s milk cheese called Le Migneron.

Le Migneron

Le Migneron

The second cheese was a runny cow-sheep milk mixture called Le secret de Maurice. This one was so runny that you had to eat it by cutting a hole in the top of the cheese.

Le secret de Maurice

Le secret de Maurice

For our second picnic on another day of visiting the region, we visited La ferme basque. Here, we were quite charmed by the women and girls running the little shop and giving tours of the duck farm. The girls, the daughter of the farmer and her cousin, who were only about 11 or 12, were so excited to show us the newborn ducklings that had arrived that very afternoon. They also showed us around to the other duck pastures, for lack of a better word.
ducks

La ferme basque

La ferme basque

We were able to taste many of the duck products in the little shop, and we finally chose duck rillettes to add to the leftover cheese and bread for our picnic. All of their products were made in small batches the farmhouse and were absolutely delicious.

rillettes

rillettes

It was so satisfying to meet the people (and the animals) who were feeding us. I only wish that I got to do it more often.

Jill Check out Jill’s bio on the Contributors page

Life is just a bowl of cherries…complete with pits

4 Aug

by Jessica Roy

cherry clafoutis

cherry clafoutis

Cherry clafoutis, for those of you who’ve never had the joy of eating some, is a French,
 not too sweet, puddingish dessert that is summer’s answer to winter’s fruit cobblers.
Usually I follow a super easy recipe that calls for sour cream and ricotta resulting in
 something that is more like a cheesecake. While this is quite yummy it is not very 
traditional.

This time around, I used a more standard recipe from The Essential Mediterranean
 Cookbook, which is one of my favorite cookbooks. It has never let me down and the
 photos are designed to drive your appetite absolutely wild. On this occasion, however,
 it evilly had me pitting 1 lb of fresh cherries by hand. It turns out that there is really no 
need for this. In fact, it’s better if you don’t. I’m pleased to report what various internet
 sources confirm; that the fine folk of Limousin (who happily invented this dessert) bake
 their cherries pits-in. They claim that this laissez-faire method actually adds a subtle
 almond like flavour. This appeals to me on so many levels. First, it’s authentic. Secondly,
it’s simple. Pitting cherries is a stain making, painstaking task I’d rather avoid. You
 can buy a weird little cherry pitting device but honestly, who needs another piece of
 equipment cluttering up their kitchen drawers waiting for the one day a year you might
 actually use it to pit some cherries? Not me. When it comes to clafoutis, I’m pits-in all
 the way.

Pits weren’t my only problem though. As this was a late night emergency dessert 
situation, I found myself low on staples and having to make a few questionable
 substitutions, such as whole wheat for regular flour* and soy milk for cow’s. Plus,
there was no thick cream and no suitable thick cream substitute on hand. I know, not
 very French. It wasn’t a total clafoutis fail though. In fact, it was really so very good.
 It was a little denser and heavier than usual (think bread pudding) but, still good.
 Also, the bing cherries were dark, plump and sweet, which helped. As for the much-
anticipated almond flavour, well, it was incredibly subtle but totally worth spitting pits 
for.

Also, if you’re like me, you’ll be singing this song the whole time you’re making cherry 
clafoutis. Fair warning.

*Epicurious suggests you blend almonds into your flour! Just thought everyone should
 know about that.

Check out Jessica’s bio on the Contributors page.