Monday, 27 February 2017

Grilled Cheese à la French Onion Soup

I made some French onion soup for Christmas, and I still had a hankering for more. I didn't want to get into the whole soup-making thing again though, so I thought of this way of getting many of those delightful onion soupy flavours. It's still awfully time-consuming to cook the onions so not something I would go to the trouble for if I wanted just a single slice. Although I would think you could prepare the onion topping in advance and keep it in the fridge, toasting up slices of bread as you wanted them, for up to a week.

The cheese you use should be whatever you think most appropriate for French onion soup. Usually that will be a Gruyère or Emmentaler. If I had Gouda I would try it, but Mozzerella is too mild, I would think. I might try Friulano (Montasio) but it's not the usual. (I actually have some in the fridge at the moment, so I probably will try it... especially since this recipe was greatly approved.)

Note this recipe is per slice; multiply it by the number of slices you wish to make. Mind you, my slices of bread were pretty large and you could probably stretch this amount of topping out over 2 smaller slices.

per slice
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time

1 small onion AND 1 small shallot
OR 1 medium onion
1 small clove of garlic
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
50 grams (2 ounces) melty cheese - Gruyere, Emmentaler, etc
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
OR 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
a pinch of rubbed savory or thyme
1 large slice good sturdy sandwich bread

Peel the onions (and shallots). Cut them in half lengthwise, then lay them flat and cut them into thin slices across the width. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the butter in a skillet of the appropriate size over medium heat. Cook the onions in it until they are very soft and slightly browned; about 40 minutes. In between times is a good time to slice the cheese.

About 5 minutes before they are done start toasting the bread under the broiler until it is lightly toasted on both sides.

Add the garlic and balsamic vinegar or Worcestershire sauce, and the savory or thyme, to the pan of onions and cook, stirring frequently, for a few minutes more.

Pile two-thirds of the onions onto the pieces of toast, evenly divided, and spread them out to cover the toast. Top with the slices of cheese, and spread the remaining onion mixture over the top of the cheese. Return the toast slices to the broiler, and cook until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Last year at this time I made Kasha with Potatoes, Mushrooms, & Cabbage.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Cucumber Waldorf Salad

Greenhouse cucumbers are readily available right now, and this variation on the classic Waldorf salad (usually made with celery) suits them very well. You could add a little celery if you like, but I didn't miss it. It would have been nice to have served it on some lettuce leaves, if I had had any.

Greenhouse cucumbers vary quite a bit in size, which is why the recipe is so vague; however you want just a slightly larger pile once chopped than the apple.

2 to 4 servings
10 minutes prep time

Cucumber Waldorf Salad

2 to 4 small greenhouse cucumbers
1 large apple
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
2 tablespoons sour cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
hydroponic lettuce (optional)

Wash the cucumbers, trim them, and cut them into dice. Wash, core and chop the apple. The volume of chopped cucumber should be just a little more than that of the chopped apple.

Toss the cucumber, apple, and walnuts in a small bowl, then add the lemon or lime juice, sour cream, and salt and pepper. Toss gently to combine.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Split Pea & Wild Rice Soup

In some ways this is a typical split pea soup, but the wild rice makes it a little different. This makes 4 meal sized servings (with toast or a sandwich) but if you wanted to serve it as a starter for more people, I would thin it with a little more chicken stock. It got pretty thick. I also used whole peas because we grew them, but I can't help but think they would have been better split. Maybe next time I will try putting them through the blender and see if I can't "split" them myself.

If you wanted a vegetarian version, I would suggest using 1/2 cup of wild rice and 3 1/2 cups of water to cook the peas and rice; omit the meat and use vegetable oil. If you just wish to avoid pork, smoked turkey makes an excellent substitute.

This will keep well in the fridge for up to a week, and it should also freeze well.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time
not including cooking the peas and rice

Split Pea & Wild Rice Soup

Cook the Peas & Wild Rice:
1 cup dried split green or yellow peas
1/3 cup wild rice
3 cups water or stock
1 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves

Put the above ingredients into your rice cooker; turn on and cook. You could also do this in a pot; in which case bring them to a boil then reduce the heat to very low and cook for about 40 to 45 minutes; remove from heat when peas are tender.

This can and should be done a day in advance. Keep the mixture in the fridge or cool spot until wanted. 

Make the Soup:
4 cups unsalted ham, chicken, or turkey stock
1 large onion
1 medium carrot
1/2 cup peeled, diced celeriac OR 1 to 2 stalks celery
2 to 3 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon bacon fat or mild vegetable oil
1/2 to 2/3 cup diced cooked ham or diced smoked turkey
1 teaspoon rubbed savory or thyme
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put the cooked peas and wild rice into a soup pot. Add the stock and bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, peel and chop the onion. Peel and dice the carrot. Peel and dice the celeriac (or trim and chop the celery). Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the fat in a medium sized skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot and celeriac, and cook for 5 or so minutes, stirring regularly. When softened and slightly browned in spots, add the garlic and savory, mix in and cook for another minute or two. Add the vegetables to the soup, along with the ham or smoked turkey.

Simmer the soup for 30 to 40 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally. At some point check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

Last year at this time I made Cream of Tomato Soup.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Ham, Cheese & Belgian Endive in Buckwheat Crepes with Mushroom Sauce

Admittedly this is a bit complicated; not an everyday dish by any means. However it would be ideal for entertaining, as the crepes and the sauce can both be made in advance, leaving the assembly and baking for just before serving, and both of those are very straightforward. 

Note that I first list the crepes under "Finish the Crepes" but they need to be made ahead of time. They can be done a day ahead if you like, and kept wrapped in the fridge until needed. Heat the sauce (in the microwave is easiest) until it's just hot enough to spread easily. The number of crepes used is not a full recipe, but with a full recipe you should have no trouble getting the number of nicely formed ones that you need. Leftover crepes are very easily disposed of, after all.

The number of servings depends on whether people will eat one filled crepe or two; and that in turn depends on appetites and what else is being served. I'm inclined to think a nice crisp salad is what is needed to finish this off.

3 to 6 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 45 minutes prep time
not including making the crepes

Ham, Cheese & Belgian Endive in Buckwheat Crepes with Mushroom Sauce

Make the Mushroom Sauce:
300 grams white mushrooms
3 to 4 large shallots
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon rubbed thyme or savory
1 cup ham or chicken stock
1 cup light cream

Clean and slice the mushrooms. Peel and mince the shallots. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat; when melted add the shallots and mushrooms. Cook for 10 minutes or so, stirring regularly, until the mushrooms are lightly browned.

Sprinkle the flour and seasonings over the mushrooms and shallots and mix in well; cook for a minute or two longer. Slowly mix in the stock, stirring well to prevent lumps, and simmer for a few minutes until thickened. Mix in the cream and continue stirring and cooking until thickened once more. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Finish the Crepes:
1 recipe buckwheat crepes, made ahead
 - you actually need 6 to 8 crepes
6 to 8 medium or 3 to 4 large heads of Belgian endive
6 to 8 slices smoked ham
3 to 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
8 ounces smoked Cheddar or Gruyere
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Put a pot of water on to boil, and blanch the endives for 2 minutes. Rinse them in cold water to stop the cooking and drain them well.

Spoon a little sauce into a 9" x 13" shallow baking (lasagne) pan and spread it out.

Take a crepe, and lay a piece of ham in the middle. Trim an endive, and slice it in half. Use half an endive or a whole one per crepe, depending on their size. Lay the endive piece(s) across the ham to cover most of the crepe from side to side. Sprinkle with a little balsamic vinegar. Add the cheese, sliced to cover the ham and endive from side to side. Spoon over a little of the mushrooms sauce. Basically, you are placing a rectangle of fillings across the middle of the crepe, with the ham no doubt spreading out further. Roll up the crepe - I didn't bother to tuck in the sides - and place it in the prepared baking pan, snuggly against one short end.

Repeat with the remaining crepes and fillings until they are all done and the pan is full. Try to use about half of the mushroom sauce in this process, reserving the rest to spread over the top. Spread the remaining sauce over the top, and sprinkle it evenly with the Parmesan cheese.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until lightly browned and bubbling.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Caramel Apple Pudding

Here is a very simple milk-based pudding, made rich and unusual by the caramelized apples folded into it. The caramelized apples are also quite easy to do; the one thing I would note is that you should be careful not to let the caramel get too dark before the butter and apples are added - it will continue to darken for a number of seconds more, which given how quickly caramel goes from perfect to burnt is a consideration. Let there be definite brown colour throughout, but don't let it go further than that. 

As ever, whipped cream would have been fabulous with this. Next time I might also soak a few raisins in rum and add them to the caramelized apples for the last few minutes that they cook, but this was certainly just fine as it was.

4 to 6 servings
40 minutes prep time

Caramel Apple Pudding

Make the Caramel Apple Sauce:
4 medium apples
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Peel, core and slice the apples.

Put the sugar and water into a fairly large (2 quart) heavy-bottomed pot. Heat over medium-high heat without stirring, until the sugar caramelizes. Do not let it get too dark; it will continue to cook a little as the butter and apples are added. So; add the butter and apples and stir well. Be careful - it will foam up and may splash about. Once the apples are well mixed in and the caramel is dissolved in their juice, let it simmer, stirring regularly, until the apples are tender and perhaps starting to fall apart. Remove from the heat and set aside. 

Make the Pudding:
4 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon rum (optional)

In a similar pot, mix the starch, salt, cinnamon, and sugar. Slowly mix in the milk. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. Remove from the heat; if you want to flavour it with the rum stir it in now.

Mix the caramel apple sauce into the pudding and divide the pudding amongst 4 to 6 individual serving bowls (nappies).

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Three Sisters Stew

If you have a food dryer, and use it to dry corn when it is in season, you will have a very handy and easy winter food. It reconstitutes to be just as good as frozen or canned corn, but takes much less energy (and trouble) to make and store. It has to be simmered a little longer to reconstitute it, but that is hardly anything.

I left this simple combination of three traditional native vegetables fairly plain; I wanted all the flavours to speak for themselves. You can certainly spice them up if you like. We ate some of it plain, and added chile-garlic sauce to some. This is a great use of (planned) leftover roast squash; fire up the beans while you are roasting it, and this goes together in no time the next day.

Makes 4 servings
30 minutes - 10 minutes prep time
NOT including cooking the beans and squash

Bean, Squash, & Corn Stew; A Kind of Succotash

Cook the Beans & Squash:
1 cup dried beans
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 medium (750 grams; 1 1/2 pounds) butternut squash
a little mild vegetable oil to rub the squash

Pick over the beans and put them in a pot with plenty of water to cover them. Bring them to a good rolling boil and then cover them and turn them off; let them soak for several hours to overnight.

Add the salt and bring the beans back up to a steady simmer. Simmer until tender, stirring regularly.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds and stringy bits. Rub the squash with a little oil and roast it until tender, about 1 hour on a baking dish or tray. Let it cool, peel it, and cut the flesh into bite-sized cubes.

Both of these can (should) be done a day in advance.

Assemble the Stew:
2 cups crushed tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups dried corn
OR 3 cups frozen corn
1 medium onion
3 to 4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put the tomatoes and bay leaves in a large soup pot, and add the cooked beans along with about 2 cups of their cooking water. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer gently.

Meanwhile, peel and chop the onion. Peel and mince the garlic. Heat the oil in a small skillet, and cook the onion until softened, translucent and reduced in volume. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or 2, then add them both to the beans. Add the dried corn, and the salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the corn is tender. Add the chopped squash and heat through.

Last year at this time I made Ham & Potato Dumplings.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Now What?

So now that all your most childish adolescent fantasies are coming true, and it's up to YOU to save Civilization As We Know It... well, uh, how exactly?

I expect to be wrestling with this question for some time to come myself, but the ideas I'm coming up with so far seem to fall under three general headings.

I'm also giving another plug for Bob Altemeyer's The authoritarians, and Jane Jacob's Systems of Survival. Long reading, but those two books have really clarified and directed my views of society for at least the last decade, and are both highly pertinent to the situation we find ourselves in. Like, seriously, written for it. If you do nothing else, please read those two books.

Continue to Educate Yourself:

No Time to be Nice  Naomi Shulman

On Being Good The Belle Jar

These times require a new language... William J. Barber II (NOTE: contains religious language)

Intolerant Liberals Tucker FitzGerald

Fight Fascists with Mockery not Violence David Neiwert

All of the above and the first 2 links in particular are important, it seems to me, to understanding the reality of being a resister. The point that every-day fascist followers are frequently nice people (as opposed to the political leaders who clearly aren't) is vital to understand. The mere fact of being a nice person may, in fact, lead you to behave in ways that support fascism. It is really hard to stop being a nice person when you have been trained to be one for your whole life. This is particularly true, I think, for women.Making the decision to stop being nice and start being a fascist resister requires working some mental muscles that most of us have not exercised too well.

In my experiences as a landlord, I found pretty much everybody, without exception, was absolutely frightened of any conflict and would go out of their way to avoid any interaction with others that could be interpreted as even mildly critical or confrontational. People would come to me, of course; full of complaints and wanting me to deal with it, whatever it was. So I've had a certain amount of training in telling people things they don't necessarily want to hear. Admittedly I was approaching people from a position of power, but it's notable that nobody ever responded to me with violence, and rarely with threats or insults. It can happen, of course, especially in these times when the nasty are emboldened. But people are generally much less prone to such responses than seems to be the general idea. Stand up for yourself; stand up for others. The more you do it the easier it will become, and it is a genuine contribution to a better world.

Take Actions:

Does going to demonstrations and public meetings actually do any good? YES, IT DOES. Go to demonstrations and public meetings:
Rise Up: This is not complicated

It may take only 3.5% of the population to topple a dictator...

We Can't Let Trump Go Down Putin's Path

Contact your government and engage in public discourse. As Canadians, we don't have much input into the American situation, but there is plenty going on here that is wrong and dangerous; now is the time to keep on top of that stuff and contact your MPs and MPPs as appropriate. Give 'em an inch; they'll take a mile. Fight back now.

This one is for Americans, but Canadians should read it too, and consider the equivalent possibilities:

Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda

Next up, don't buy products made or sold by companies that are damaging the world, as much as that is possible. In a way, that's always the central message of this blog. And as with local food, I try to be in it for the long haul and don't worry about being perfect or complete in my avoidance of products made by suspect companies. A million people eliminating 80% of their purchases of products produced by companies of ill-will would likely be a lot more effective than 10,000 who achieve perfect avoidance - if such a thing is even possible, and I'm not sure it is in the modern world.

We are so much more than consumers, but there are an awful lot of powerful people who regard us as nothing but that... the least we can do is be mindful and careful consumers.

Grab Your Wallet Boycott Tool

In particular the above focuses on companies dealing with the Trumps and so many of them aren't here in Canada. But I do note some that Canadians may have dealings with: Amazon, Bed Bath and Beyond, Hudson's Bay, Walmart, and a fair few others as well. Check it out.

Cultivate Connections:

Don't Be a Bystander  BCRW Videos

Here is a short little video about responding to the public bullying that happens more often when fascists are emboldened. People are often paralyzed by the fact that they have no mental preparation for dealing with shocking breaches of usual public behaviour. Having an idea about how you might act in advance really helps you deal with it if you are there when it happens. (If you prefer, there is a transcript here at Shakesville where I first saw it.)

Other possibilities; look for your local interfaith group and check out what they are doing.

Volunteer for something, somewhere. It's not enough to fight back against what is wrong; it's important to be building what is right as well. It doesn't have to be "political". When Mr Ferdzy got horribly distressed and depressed about the state of the world a few years back, I told him to stop complaining and do something. To my surprise, the thing he chose to do was to go volunteer at a programme that helped autistic and other developmentally delayed children get ready for school, and so once a week he would go off and wrangle 3 and 4 year olds for an afternoon. It was not just a socially useful thing to do, it also really helped cut his feelings of powerlessness and isolation, even though in the greater scheme of things it was a very small action and had nothing to do with the things that originally were distressing him so much. 


This doesn't seem very well organized or well written to me, but it's what I have at the moment. I have some more ideas that are still percolating; we'll see if I manage to do anything with them.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Gado Gado

Gado-Gado was one of the first explicitly vegetarian dishes I was introduced to as a teenager back in the '70s. My vague memory is that I thought it was okay; but I never felt much need to pursue it. However, when I was wracking my brains for a crunchy winter salad the idea came back.

In fact, a well-made Gado-Gado is delicious! Sweet and sour coconutty peanut sauce over crunchy vegetables with eggs and tofu? Yes indeedy. It's possible that that first Gado-Gado I had included tempeh, which I have to admit I have loathed from my first meeting with it. It's moldy soybeans and no-one will convince me otherwise. Feel free to use it if you like it, though, as well as or instead of the tofu.

This was a bit time consuming, what with cooking everything in advance. It can be simplified; if you live in the right place you can buy both tofu and shallots pre-fried. The shallots at least won't be local in that case, but there goes three-quarters of the work right there, which is worth considering. Otherwise, without much effort, the potatoes and eggs can be plan-overs from the day before. After that, everything is fast.

I say the fish sauce and cilantro are optional, but really they are the 2 ingredients that do the most to make this taste like something exciting from tropical lands, so please do include them if you possibly can. I talk about draining the tofu in the second part of the instructions, but it should be started the very first thing.

4 servings
1 hour 15 minutes prep time

Indonesian Mixed Salad with Peanut Dressing

Make the Peanut Sauce:
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
2 to 3 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon chile-garlic sauce
2 tablespoons apple butter
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce, optional
3 tablespoons soy sauce
a little finely grated lime zest
the juice of 1 large lime
2/3 cup peanut butter
2/3 cup coconut milk

Into fairly small bowl grate the ginger. Peel and finely mince the garlic and add it. Add the chile-garlic sauce, apple butter, apple cider vinegar, fish sauce, and soy sauce. Grate in just a little of the zest from the lime, then add the lime juice. Add the peanut butter and coconut milk. Mix everything together gently (you will need to work the peanut butter without splashing other things around) but thoroughly. Set aside until wanted. 

Prepare the Cooked Ingredients:
200 to 225 grams (1/2 pound) firm tofu
8 shallots
3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
125 grams (1/4 pound) potatoes
2 or 3 large eggs

Cut the tofu into 8 thin slices, and put them on a perforated tray or shallow strainer, and weight them to remove as much liquid as possible. Let rest for 30 minutes or so - do this just before you make the Peanut Sauce.

Peel and slice the shallots into rings. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium skillet over medium heat and add the shallots. Cook, stirring regularly, for about 30 minutes until crisp and golden. If they show any signs of browning too fast, reduce the heat. Turn them out onto a plate to cool.

While the shallots cook, heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the slices of drained tofu for about 30 minutes, turning them as needed. They should be lightly browned and crisp on the outside when done. Turn them onto a plate to cool. Chop them roughly. 

Wash and trim the potatoes, and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Put them into a pot of water with the eggs, and boil until tender; about 15 minutes. Remove the eggs at the 10 minute mark and cool them in cold water.

Finish the Salad:
2 cups finely shredded green OR green and red mixed cabbage
2 cups bean sprouts
1 large carrot
1 or 2 small greenhouse cucumbers
1 greenhouse tomato (optional)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
1/2 cup finely chopped roasted peanuts

Wash, trim, and shred the cabbage. Rinse and drain the bean sprouts well. Peel and finely grate the carrot. Wash, trim, an slice the cucumbers. Wash, core, and chop the tomato, if using. Wash, dry and chop the cilantro. Chop the peanuts.

Toss the raw chopped vegetables together and spread them out on a platter. Arrange the cucumbers, the cold boiled potatoes, the shallots, the eggs peeled and sliced or quartered, and the tofu over them. Sprinkle with the cilantro and the peanuts. Serve with the peanut sauce.

Last year at this time I made Pink Fir Apple Potatoes Fried in Duck Fat.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

My Favourite Vegetable Varieties - A Retrospective

When we first started gardening we tried lots and lots of different varieties. That's part of the fun of getting started gardening, and we still like to trial at least a few new (to us) things each year. As time has gone on though, certain varieties have moved into the position of being regulars, or even "the one".

While I hope my sharing this list with you will be helpful when you make decisions about varieties for your garden, keep in mind this is a personal list. It's the varieties that suit our garden soil, our climate, our exposure, our gardening habits, our cooking style, and our personal tastes both in vegetables generally and specific varieties in particular. One persons ideal garden may look absolutely nothing like anothers.

We lean towards heritage varieties, and things that are indeterminate and need support. Partly this is determined by our personalities (we both like to do work up front to save labour later), our locality (short tomatoes don't produce for us, due to septoria leaf spot fungus in the garden), and our tastes (many people including us think pole peas and beans produce better-tasting vegetables). Our near-by gardening friends prefer f1 hybrids as a matter of their personal culture, and short, determinate plants due to their exposed hilltop location - anything staked is likely to blow down pretty quickly, and the list of varieties we each grow has hardly any overlap at all.

Something else to keep in mind: when you grow a variety for a while, you form a relationship with it. You learn how to grow it, how to store it, and how to cook it. Some varieties that have been disappointments to us may have been so because we don't understand them and what they need. I will mention a few things that I suspect fall into that category. 

Still, now that we've been gardening in this site for nearly 10 years, we can tell you what works for us and to some degree, what doesn't, and why. Of course this is a work in progress, and our garden will continue to evolve. Some of these are obscure and hard to find; for that I apologize. Most of them are sold by at least one Canadian seed house. For now though, these are our favourites:

Monday, 6 February 2017

Pasta with Mushrooms & Dried Tomatoes

A while back I came across several versions of a dish called "Pasta Milano" which on investigation seems to be people's take on a dish served at a popular Italian-American chain restaurant*. It generally seemed to consist of dried tomatoes and mushrooms in a cream sauce, on pasta, with or without chicken added. The original (which no longer seems to be on the menu) was, as far as I can find out, without chicken added to the pasta, but was served alongside a thin breaded chicken cutlet. Thin breaded chicken cutlets are a genuine Italian dish - Polla alla Milanese, in fact - which gives this thing a bit of a family tree, even if the pasta and sauce part seems to be a purely American invention.

Do I care? Not really! I saw mushrooms - a favourite winter vegetable - and dried tomatoes, of which I have the back-log of years, and pasta, which we will eat any time any place, and said, "I'M IN!"

I didn't bother adding any chicken, but you could - a chicken breast or so cut into bite sized pieces and cooked with the shallots should do the trick. I served it with green peas frozen from our garden, but any green veg you like will finish off the menu.

2 to 3 servings
30 minutes prep time

Pasta with Mushrooms & Dried Tomatoes

Cook the Pasta & Tomatoes:
225 - 250 grams linguini, spaghetti or spaghettini
1/2 cup snipped dried tomatoes

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Add the pasta and cook until tender according to the time suggested on the packet; stir frequently. Add the dried tomato pieces when there is about 5 minutes left for the pasta to cook. 

Cook the Sauce:
4 to 6 cloves of garlic
3 to 4 large shallots
300 grams (10 ounces) white mushrooms
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon rubbed basil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoon soft unbleached flour
1 cup light cream
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
plus a little more to sprinkle over when serving, if liked

Meanwhile, peel and mince the garlic. Peel and chop the shallots. Clean and slice the mushrooms.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the shallots. Cook for several minutes, stirring regularly, until softened and reduced in volume. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, stirring regularly, until they too are softened, reduced, and lightly browned. Season with the basil, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the flour over and mix in well. Add the garlic, mix in well, and continue cooking and stirring for several minutes until the mixture has thickened. Slowly stir in the cream to make a smooth sauce. Simmer very gently until the pasta and tomatoes are ready.

Drain the pasta and tomatoes thoroughly once cooked. Add the Parmesan to the sauce and toss the pasta with the sauce. Place it in the dish or dishes from which it will be taken, and sprinkle with a little more Parmesan if you are so inclined.

*Macaroni Grill - nevah hoid of it (previously).
Last year at this time I made Deli Style Creamy Coleslaw

Friday, 3 February 2017

Bean & Carrot Salad with Lemon-Mustard Dressing

We've been enthusiastically growing dry beans for about 4 years now, but we haven't been keeping up with eating the beans. This year I am determined that we will eat our way through at least last years and the year before's. Yeah. That's how much we haven't been keeping up. So far we've been doing quite well as we are now eating bean soup at least twice a week. Time for a change, though, so here's a nice bean salad.

The sweet and mild beans, carrots, and cooked onions make a great foil for the stronger, rougher flavours of mustard, lemon and endive. Serve this as part of a salad medley, or as a meal in itself. Some good bread and butter or some toast would be all that might be needed to round it out.

4 to 6 servings
20 minutes prep time, not including cooking the beans

Bean & Carrot Salad with Lemon-Mustard Dressing

Cook the Beans:
1 cup white, yellow, kidney, or pinto beans
1 teaspoon salt

Rinse and pick over the beans, and put them in a pot with plenty of  water to cover them. Bring them to a boil, then cover and turn off the heat and let them soak from several hours to overnight. Add the salt and bring them back to a boil. Simmer gently until tender.

This should be done a day in advance.

Make the Salad:
1 large onion
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup sunflower seed oil
a pinch of cayenne
1 teaspoon rubbed savory
freshly ground black pepper to taste
a grating of lemon zest
the juice of 1 large lemon
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 large carrots
2 medium heads Belgian endive
1 cup peeled, diced celeriac (1 or 2 stalks celery)

Peel and chop the onion. Peel and mince the garlic. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet, and gently cook the onion until quite softened and slightly browned; about 10 to 15 minutes. While it cooks, add the cayenne, savory, pepper, and lemon zest. Stir regularly.

Mix the lemon juice and mustard together. Drain the beans well and put them in  your salad mixing bowl. Peel and grate the carrots, and add them, and trim and chop the Belgian endive. Peel and dice the celeriac (or chop the celery). Toss the beans and vegetables together.

When the onions are cooked, add the garlic and stir it in for a minute. Add the mustard and lemon juice, and mix well. Scrape the onions etc into the salad and toss well. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Last year at this time I made Scotch Broth with Dried Peas & Barley.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Coffee Brownies

I actually made these for Christmas, but it took 2 batches to get them just right - so sad - plus I had a lot of other sugary things posted, so I have saved them to post just in time for Valentine's day. This was probably the most popular thing I baked for Christmas - and I baked a lot - even though there were a number of definite coffee haters around. The people who liked them, realllly liked them is what I am saying. You can count me in that number.

If you want to avoid Nestlé products - and why wouldn't you? - Ten Thousand Villages carries instant coffee powder.

These are a lot sweeter than most of the desserts I make, but damn it, they're brownies. And good enough I think I'll be making them once a year. This make a big pan of brownies; I would think you could cut it in half and make it in an 8" x 8" pan. The baking time might require minor adjustment.

48 brownies
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time, including brewing the coffee
15 minutes later to frost and cut

Coffee Brownies

Make the Brownies:
2 1/4 cups soft whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup honey
2/3 cup very strong brewed coffee
3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
3 large eggs
2/3 cup softened unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Don't forget to brew your coffee before you get started. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 9" x 13" baking pan with parchment paper.

Mix the flour, soda, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl. Mix the honey and coffee - if the coffee is not hot, heat it in the microwave or on the stove until it is hot enough to melt the honey but not really hot. You don't want to set the eggs when you mix them. Mix in the instant coffee until dissolved.

Add all the wet ingredients - the coffee and honey, the eggs, the butter, and the vanilla extract - to the dry ingredients and beat well (by hand). When the batter is smooth, scrape it into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly.

Bake for 25 to 27 minutes until it springs back when lightly touched in the middle; you can use ye olde toothpick test if you like. Let cool before frosting and cutting.

Make the Icing:
1/4 cup softened unsalted butter
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
2 cups icing sugar
4 tablespoons very strong brewed coffee

Work the butter in a mixing bowl until smooth and creamy with the coffee powder. Work in the icing sugar as much as possible, then start adding the brewed coffee a spoonful at a time until the whole thing forms a nice smooth consistency.

Spread it evenly over the pan of brownies, let set for a few minutes, then cut into squares - 6 on the short side and 8 on the long side. They keep quite well in a tin - at least a week - and freeze well.

Last year at this time I made Beer-Can Duck.