Spaghetti with Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce

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Heat oven to 350.

Roast 2lbs of cherry tomatoes with 1/4c olive oil, 1/2c rinsed capers, 3 cloves of sliced garlic, 1/2tsp red pepper flakes, salt and pepper for 35-50mins.

Chop 1/4c of kalamata olives, toast 1/3c pine nuts and shred 1/2c parmesan.

Set water to boil. In the last 10 mins of roasting, add 1lb of spaghetti to the water. I used whole wheat and it turned out well.

Drain pasta when al dente and put it back into the cooking pot. Take the cherry tomatoes out of the oven and dump them into the pasta. Toss.

Serve with olives, pine nuts and parmesan.

 

*I think you could roast the tomatoes on the stovetop with a nice big pan and end up with the same style of sauce.

Food for Travelling

This week my partner and I are off to Iceland, then Amsterdam. We’re doing the mini stopover Icelandair keeps advertising. Hurray for Icelandair!

That said, there is apparently no complimentary food served on Icelandair. Even if there were, I’d have doubts. The only decent meal I can recall on board an aircraft is a curry I ate on Air India. The snacks on Porter flights deserve an honourable mention.

Our flight leaves around 9pm tonight and airport food is notoriously bad and/or overpriced. So, this trip I’ve gone all out and packed enough for dinner. 

Here is what is in my carry on:

  • Veggie sticks
  • Cumin seed and garlic crackers
  • Roasted garlic and white bean dip
  • Quinoa and black bean salad with a miso-lime dressing and crunchy chickpeas

Yummmm. And no worries about food spoilage. 
I’ll post my cracker and white bean dip recipes when I can. B and I will be on the road.

Nanaimo Bars

Each year my sister makes Nanaimo bars for my birthday treat, but this year, she wasn’t around. So, three weeks post-birthday, the craving was becoming pretty unmanageable. I mean, I’ve had Nanaimo bars every year for more than a decade at this time of year. Things were dire. It was time to take action. Not to worry, I have that trusty custard powder in the cupboard for occasions such as this.

But, as I began to research recipes, I started getting a little icky feeling. I’d rather put good butter into cake, not blend it with icing sugar. And I’d have to go buy icing sugar. Which meant I’d have to -walk- to the grocery store. The desire to stuff my face with Nanaimo bars, and the need to walk to the grocery store don’t align. So I kept digging, wondering if others were making Nanaimo bar filling in different ways. And oh boy, did I hit the jackpot.

These Nanaimo bars are nowhere near the butter and icing sugar filled sweets of my youth. Instead of feeling mildly ill after eating one, I can now eat at least three (I’d say the whole pan, but I haven’t yet tested this) in one go! I don’t feel sick, but I do feel satisfied. Let me know what you think if you make them.


The recipe

Nanaimo Bars

Makes: 1 9 inch sq. pan of bars.

Ingredients

Base:
1 1/4 cups of graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup walnut pieces, broken small
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup cacao powder
2 tbsps hemp hearts (optional)
1/4 – 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted

Filling:
1/2 cup dry red lentils
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 – 1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup coconut oil
2 – 3 tbsps custard powder

Topping:
300 g dark chocolate
1 tbsp coconut oil

Method

  1. Rinse lentils well. Add lentils to small pot, with one cup of water. Bring it to a boil, then simmer 10-15 minutes, until most water is absorbed and it has a porridge-like texture.
  2. Grease a 9 inch square pan.
  3. Mix together dry ingredients for base. Add in coconut oil slowly, stirring well. If you pick up some of the base and squeeze it together, it shouldn’t crumble. Rather, it should hold together. If required, add additional coconut oil.
  4. Press the base into the pan, packing it down well with your fingers. Refrigerate.
  5. Add the unsweetened shredded coconut to a food processor. Blend at high speed for a minute, or until fine. Add the cooked lentils, maple syrup and coconut oil. Blend 2-3 minutes, until creamy and smooth. Add  2 tbsp custard powder and blend again. Add additional custard powder if you like. I did!
  6. Spread the filling onto the chilled base. Refrigerate.
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  7. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, or very carefully in the microwave. Add coconut oil. Drizzle over chilled filling.
  8. Chill bars for at least 2 hours. Score the chocolate topping where you plan to slice the bars half an hour into chill time.
  9. Slice the bars with a hot, sharp knife. The first one out is always a mess. The rest come out fine, usually.

The best bolognese

Currently, I’m at my kitchen table, alternating between devouring a bowl of sauce with pasta and typing up this post.

But before I get to this sauce, which is the most delicious bolognese I’ve ever made at home, I want to tell you what else we’ve been cooking and how that bread turned out. It turned out really well, see?

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A nice thick, crisp crust, lots of air bubbles, showing off the rise created by less than a quarter teaspoon of yeast. The bread tastes buttery and wasn’t too dense or damp.  We ate it with olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper. This is my favourite way to enjoy this kind of bread. In my opinion, sourdough doesn’t lend itself to carrying the flavour of olive oil as well. Too many competing interests.

Speaking of bread, my partner made pizza dough this weekend. You’ll have the recipe for that eventually. It’s also by Ken Forkish, and we never split this one in half. There is always room for more pizza. Plus, any leftover dough can be used for focaccia the next day. Last summer, we made a tomato passata and canned it. We’ve been cooking it down to use as pizza sauce whenever we need it. Yum.

Yesterday we fried up a basa filet in a beer batter. We loaded up the filets with guacamole, pickled red onions and pico de gallo. My kind of lunch. A few days before that I made Nanaimo bars, but if you can believe it, they weren’t really junk food. I wouldn’t eat them for breakfast, but they certainly weren’t too bad for a snack (recipe coming soon).

Back to today’s adventure: bolognese. This recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated magazine, and if you’d like to learn about the science behind cooking and baking, the folks who contribute are the people to go to. For example, the reason you’re mixing baking soda into the ground beef is that “the alkaline baking soda can raise the meat’s pH, helping it retain moisture (without affecting the sauce’s flavour).” (p 8, Cook’s Illustrated vol 144). It’s fun to read, and the recipes are foolproof.

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bread in oven

An overnight white bread

This week I’ve been re-balancing my routine, and even though I’m not working a lot of hours at the moment, I feel so busy! I’ve been to the gym every day, gone on a long walk or two with the bean (aka the dog), plus my usual volunteering and buzzing about. I also need to get my passport renewed so I waltzed over to Chinatown for pictures.

A walk in the Don Valley!
A walk in the Don Valley!

This bread, and tonight’s dinner are comfort food. A broth-y soup, along with a crusty bread are a winning combination. The bread is a bit complicated, so we’ll start there. The soup recipe will come later on this week, but I’m already soaking the beans.

Pinto beans soaking in water.

This bread recipe is one I’ve adapted from Flour, water, salt yeast: The fundamentals of artisan bread and pizza by Ken Forkish, and it isn’t a fermented dough. I’ll run a post or two on different kinds of shorter ferment based bread doughs, but true sourdough isn’t in the cards for now. My partner and I experimented with keeping a sourdough culture alive last year, and we made a lot of delicious bread, pancakes, waffles and muffins (you can pretty well throw it into anything). Still, it wasn’t enough to justify all that delicious rye flour on feedings. We fed once per week, so really, we should have been baking once a week to make it worthwhile. We let our little culture die. If we decide to run another sourdough project, you’ll be the first to know.

This bread doesn’t involve a pre-ferment and it’s similar to the No Knead Bread recipe made famous in the New York Times. It is a little more laborious, involving some folding. Still no kneading though! I’ve split the recipe to create only one loaf, baked in a 4qt Lodge Dutch oven.

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Blackberry cornmeal muffins

I’ve made one past attempt to mix cornmeal, all purpose and whole wheat flour to make a healthier cornmeal muffin. These were… lacklustre. A quarter of the batch went uneaten.

But these muffins; they smell delicious, taste delicious and I love love love the texture. They’re made with two grains (corn and spelt), and almond meal, giving them a sort of nutty quality. This was also my very first time using chia rather than egg in a baked good, and I was pleasantly surprised. They weren’t heavy, or overly moist, which I have found happens when I’ve swapped in banana as an egg replacement.

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Chia is one of those ‘superfoods’ you keep hearing about, but really it’s just like any other food trend: great in moderation. I do want to give a quick comparison of egg to chia, so here it is.

I’ll use 1tbsp of chia because combined with 3tbsps of water it is considered the equivalent to 1 egg in baking.

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Last night’s dinner

Last night, my partner cooked dinner while I worked on a high school chemistry class I’ve been putting off. I’m trying to get into a compressed nursing program. I’m three years into my current career, and I’ve figured out that a desk isn’t for me. At least not all the time.

The soup she made was delicious. The recipe is from a cookbook she bought me for my birthday last month, At home in the whole food kitchen, by Amy Chaplin.

It’s the second we’ve tried, and both used ingredients common in Japanese cooking that are unfamiliar to us. A visit to T&T was called for.

This past Monday evening, we pored over the rows of seaweed offerings in the Japanese foods aisle, and then even more in the Chinese aisles. Many of the labels were in Japanese or Chinese, so it’s lucky for me that an English ingredients label is required by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Eventually, we found most of what we needed.

Dried seaweeds can be chock full of health benefits. I’m a label nut, so I always check out what I’m buying. Looking at the wakame it’s got some iron and calcium. But the main event for wakame is the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a key omega-3 fatty acid. Fatty acids can help reduce inflammation, and actually lower blood fat (triglyceride) levels. If you’re curious about supplementing with omegas, talk to a nutritionist or naturopath about what type to take in order to make sure you’re absorbing what you’re paying for.

And even though I’m very wary of soups that call for water rather than broth, I kept mum and B followed the directions for the most part. I’m glad she did, since the combination of ingredients created an incredibly rich broth. The only changes we made were:

  1. A few extra shiitake mushrooms, because they’re delicious.
  2. No carrot, because we couldn’t buy a bulk bag of carrots at the grocery store. We eat so many carrots that we only buy them in bulk.
  3. We used a kabocha squash.
  4. We used about 3 tbsp of ginger juice, because I love ginger.

I’d cook this again (or have it cooked for me) in an instant.


The recipe:

Hearty Winter Miso Soup, with adzuki beans, squash and ginger

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients

1/2 cup adzuki beans, sorted and soaked 12-24 hours in 2 cups of water
8 cups water
3 dried shiitake mushrooms
2in. piece kombu
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 medium onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, halved and thinly sliced
2 cups winter squash, cut in 1/2in. dice
1 cup thinly sliced kale leaves
2 tbsps dried wakame, either instant or soaked (5-10mins), drained and chopped
3 tbsps + 2 tips dark miso, either barley or brown rice based
3 tbsps chickpea or mellow white miso
4 tsps of fresh ginger juice*
Thinly sliced scallions, to garnish

Method

  1. Drain and rinse adzuki beans. Place in a medium-large pot.
  2. Add water, shiitakes and kombu; bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 30-35 minutes, or until the adzuki beans are soft and creamy.
  4. Remove from heat. Remove kombu and compost. Remove shiitakes, and once they’re cool enough to handle, remove the stems and compost them. Slice the caps thinly and return these to the pot with the beans.
  5. Warm sesame oil in another large pot over medium heat; add onions and saute until translucent. Stir in carrots and squash and cook another minute. Add the adzuki beans and kombu broth. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  6. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked.
  7. Store in kale and wakame. Simmer for one minute.
  8. Add misos to a medium strainer and place over the pot so the bottom sits in the soup. Stir to dissolve miso.
  9. Store in ginger juice and remove from heat.
  10. Serve with scallions scattered over.

* For ginger juice: finely grate fresh, unpeeled ginger root. Place in your palm and squeeze over a cup or small bowl. 2  1/2 inches of ginger root will yield about 4 tsps of juice.