Sweet & Still

With nothing to cling to I rest in the community of my kitchen table.
Surrendering to the storm, I was dishes with silence.
Emptied of all understanding my only knowing is this;
Food is the sum of the earth’s urge to continually begin anew, fused with our compulsion to cultivate and carve into beautiful forms, morsels that will never be consumed again.
Over and over, we are nourished by these offerings, like prayers that lift into the air, molding love into momentary manifestations of all that is sacred and fleeting.
As long as I keep loving there will always be communion around my kitchen table, and every night dirty dishes will fill the sink.

Sweet Potato & Warm Spinach Salad
with fennel, chilli and rosemary
Yields 4 servings

2 medium sweet potatoes cut in half lengthwise
½ cup water
4 handfuls (or one bag from the CSA box) of clean spinach torn into pieces
1 apple finely diced

Dressing:
1 medium-large onion sliced into half moons
2 heaping tablespoons of minced garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp dry rosemary
2 tsp fennel seeds
¼ tsp chili flakes
½ tsp sea salt
3 tbsp balsamic style apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp maple syrup
3 tbsp olive oil

  • Preheat the oven to 400°.
  • Put the sweet potatoes in a baking dish facing down. Add the water and cover with a lid or foil. Bake for ½ hour or until tender.
  • In the meantime prepare the spinach and set it aside in a mixing bowl
  • In a large pan on low heat add 2 tbsp of olive oil, onions, garlic, spices and sea salt. Caramelize until the onions are soft, then add the apple cider vinegar and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the maple syrup and let simmer for another few minutes. Then add the olive oil and turn off the heat.
  • Drizzle the hot dressing over top of the spinach. Gently toss together as the spinach wilts.
  • Make a small trough in the cooked sweet potato, fill it with the spinach and top with chopped apples.
  • Serve as an appetizer or a side dish.
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Walk In Beauty

“Only a person who has grasped the art of cooking, washing dishes, sweeping and chopping wood, someone who is able to laugh at the world’s weapons of money, fame, and power, can hope to descend the mountain as a hero. A hero like that will traverse the waves of success and failure without rising or sinking. In fact few people will recognize them as a hero at all. “
-Thich Nhat Hanh

Simple Salad

Cooked beets chopped into bite size chunks or match sticks
(The easiest way to prepare beets is to put them in a pot of boiling water. When they are cooked peel the skins off with your fingers or the edge of a spoon and rinse them with cold water).
Carrots grated or cut into match sticks
Apples chopped into bite sized chunks or match sticks
Baby field greens

Dressing:
This is a foolproof way to make a tasty dressing with what ever you have.

1 part oil (olive, sesame, sunflower, hemp, flax, pumpkin, avocado etc. or a mixture of various kinds)
1 part acidic (apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar, ferment juice, lime, lemon or a mixture)
.5-1 part sweet depending on taste (honey, maple syrup, date paste, agave syrup, apricot purée or a mixture)

Combine everything in a blender, whisk in a bowl or shake in a jar.

The following are some optional seasonings that can be added to the basic recipe:

  • Blueberries & mint
  • Curry (use maple syrup as the sweetener)
  • Ginger & cilantro
  • Red or green Thai curry paste (use a little sesame oil in the oil part)
  • Orange juice and zest with rose-water (use honey as the sweetener)
  • Chopped basil (use some balsamic vinegar as the acidic part)
  • Caramelize onions (reduce balsamic vinegar and maple syrup while caramelizing onions)
  • Cranberries and ginger
  • Raspberries and lemon balm

Open Up Your Heart And Let the Sun Shine In

Spring is in the air, but not quite here. The pavement heaves and sighs impatiently, waiting for April showers to wash away the grey and grit. Bare branches stir with restless anticipation for little buds to form and delicate leaves to unfurl. Longer days radiate on my skin, dreams are more vivid, starlings flutter and chat in the garden, sun streams over my bed, and I taste a hint of honey on the breeze.

The food box is still stocked with stodgy winter vegetables and it will be quite some time before succulent strawberry juices and bitter dandelions tickle my tongue.  This stew captures all the cozy goodness of being tucked away for winter while reminding us of the  sweetness of the summer to come.

North African Inspired Winter Vegetable Stew
Yields 6L. Requires a 7L crock-pot. Cut recipe in half for a regular sized crock pot.

4 tbsp coconut oil
4 large onions chopped
2 cups of dry chickpeas
1½ cups leeks finely chopped
2- 796ml cans of organic tomatoes
1- 170g. package of creamed coconut
1 L. chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup organic unsulphered dry apricots
1 cup organic unsulphured raisins

The following vegetables washed and chopped into bite sized pieces:
2 cups potatoes
2 cups carrots
4 cups squash
5 cups sweet potatoes (white and red)

Spices:
3 tbsp cumin seeds toasted and ground
1 tbsp coriander seeds toasted and ground
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp ground dry chipotle peppers
1 tbsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp ginger powder
2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp cinnamon

  1. Soak the chickpeas for 6-12 hours. Rinse well and then boil. When cooked (soft yet firm) strain all cooking water away and rinse well in a colander. This method helps with digestion and eliminating gas.
  2. Put the onions, coconut oil and spices in a crock-pot on high heat.
  3. Wash and chop all the vegetables, and dry fruit. Add them to the pot with the broth. Cover and cook on high heat for about 4-5 hours.
  4. When the vegetables are cooked add the tomatoes and chickpeas.
  5. Chop up the creamed coconut in a glass measuring cup. Add boiling water until you reach 1.5 cups. Let sit until the coconut begins to soften. Stir and squish with a fork until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add to the pot and stir well.
  6. Add more tomatoes, broth or water for desired consistency.
  7. Eat right away and store some in mason jars for lazy days.

Pie In The Sky

This pie seemed to mysteriously form itself.  I just kept cooking, putting one hand in front of the other, chopping, roasting, blending, mixing, tasting; as if in a trance. Life seems to be that way these days, happening despite me. There is a stirring deep in the soil; moving me forward even when I think I am lost. It’s as though tears have woken dormant seeds, hidden in cool darkness, quietly waiting for the suns rays and the weight of the snow to leave.  Beauty and sadness have a way of fusing together, helping us to stay still and grow deeper.

Sweet Potato Parsnip Pie
With Mushroom Sage Gravy

Yields 4 servings
Requires a food processor and an 8 or 9 inch pie pan.

½ c millet
¼ c French lentils
2 c vegetable broth (I used water and one cube of organic vegetable bouillon)
4 parsnips cut into quarters lengthwise with the core removed
4 big cloves garlic (with skins on)
1 lg sweet potato- cubed
1 tsp dry rosemary

Gravy:
1 tbs butter or coconut oil
1 med-lg. onion
½ tsp sea salt
2½  c chopped mushrooms
2 tsp dry sage
3 tbs olive oil
3 tbs cooked millet and lentil mixture
¼- ½ c water

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°
  2. In a small pot combine the millet, lentils and broth. Bring to a boil, cover and let simmer until cooked. (the water will be gone and the grains will be light and fluffy).
  3. In the meantime toss the parsnips and garlic in a little bit of oil and a pinch of sea salt. Put them in a pan and roast them in the oven till they’re gooey and sweet.
  4. Toss the sweet potatoes with a little oil, a pinch of salt and the rosemary and put into a different pan. Roast until soft.
  5. In a frying pan, heat  the butter on medium- low heat. Add the onions and cook until soft. Add the mushrooms, salt and sage. Cook until the mushrooms are soft.
  6. In a food processor blend the cooked mushroom mixture and the remaining gravy ingredients. Add the water last using only enough to give you the desired thickness.  Put in a small sauce pan and keep hot on low heat.
  7. Press the millet and lentil mixture into the bottom of a pie pan to make an even base.
  8. In a food processor purée the roasted sweet potatoes and spread the mixture over the base. (you can add extra butter to make it more creamy)
  9. Place the roasted parsnips on top of the sweet potatoes as if they were spokes on a wheel. Put the roasted garlic in the middle.
  10.  Serve with the gravy and a green salad or a winter root salad.

Turned Up Turnips

So I’ve graduated from hiding out to high-fiving myself.  That’s right, it’s just me and a turnip here and I’m feeling pretty damn fine.

Due to working a regular market shift on Saturdays, my ability to procure the finest seasonal produce has been a bit compromised. Thankfully I still get Ted’s CSA box every week, otherwise this little locavore would be hooped.  Whenever I find myself in a situation that seems limiting I often like to play a game where I make it into a challenge and take it to another level (like the time I decided to stop using a fridge). So here I am, hungry with not much besides those damn turnips I keep avoiding in favor of other more promising vegetables. Well I did decide that I was only going to create recipes with what I had in my fridge (ie mostly what came from Ted’s food box), so this is what I came up with today in approximately 15 minutes. Once you taste it you’ll be high fiving yourself too! Here’s a tune to accompany such a wonderful activity.

Tangy Turnip Salad
2 servings, makes a delightful light lunch

Requires a mandolin and a food processor or mortar and pestle
3 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp fresh ginger
1 big handful of washed and dried cilantro (not local but in my fridge)
The juice of half a lime (also not local..)
½ tsp sea salt
1/3 c sunflower or other light oil
½ turnip peeled
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds (lightly toasted)

  • Slice the turnip into long thick match sticks with a mandolin and set aside. A mandolin is a kitchen gadget for making thin slices, match sticks and, french fries; super fun for making salads look awesome and for those of us not very adept at wielding a knife. If you don’t have one of these kicking around try a spiralizer (equally as obscure if not more) a turning apple peeler and corer, or just get busy with a really good sharp knife.
  • Blitz all the garlic in a food processor and remove 2/3.
  • In a large pan sauté 1/3 of the garlic and half of the turnip match sticks on med. heat. Cover with a lid and let the turnips soften and brown slightly. Turnips are already sweet and edible raw so they don’t need much cooking. They should be aldante with a slight crunch.
  • In the meantime lightly toast the sesame seeds
  • Pulse the ginger in the food processor with the remaining 1/3 of the garlic until finely minced. Then add the cilantro, lime juice, sea salt, and pulse until everything is evenly chopped.
  • When the turnips and garlic are finished cooking remove from the pan and toss with half of the cilantro mixture.
  • Cook the second batch of turnips and garlic and dress them also.
  • Serve immediately

How To Make An Awesome Soup With Whatever You Have

Do you ever wonder why your soup is a little blah or just doesn’t seem to be flavorful enough? Or maybe the flavor just seems out of balance. I’ve eaten soup at almost every restaurant in town and I’m usually disappointed, there is always something missing. Dang it! What could it be? I finally got the answer from one of my greatest culinary inspirations (my little brother) and it was so easy and has proven over the last three years to work every single time. I’ve been saving this for when we’re in the dead of winter, nothing is going very well, and all we have is a few onions and root vegetables to cling to. It’s at this time; when we wake up crying and we hide inside, that we need the nourishing warm hug of a damn good cup of soup.

This is more of an art then a science but if you get the basic principle you can apply it to whatever you have.

1. Start with a large pot without a lid. Then start cooking very slowly on low heat 4-6 cups of onions with a few tablespoons of oil and butter (coconut oil is the most stable for heating). If you have lots of onions do more, the more the merrier really. Lots of fat is good too. Don’t skimp, this is where the over arching goodness will come from.  Add some mushrooms if you have them, lots is fine, however optional. Sprinkle with about a tsp. of sea salt. Let the onions and mushrooms cook ever so slowly so they become sweet and tender. When they are translucent add about ½ – 1c of good white wine and let it cook until the alcohol evaporates completely.

This is the basic flavor foundation to make your soup taste awesome; sweet, salt, fat and zing. If you add the mushrooms you get a little natural MSG too, which in this form is fine.  When you add the wine, the oil emulsifies and everything becomes creamy rather than oily. The alcohol breaks up the fat particles and disperses them evenly, while at the same time adding a little tartness or zing. You need this to balance the sweetness, (which by the way comes from the slow cooked onions). In a pinch you can use beer or a small amount of vinegar. Over time you’ll find some great combinations. Once you have this base, puree it with an emersion blender or transfer it to a blender or food processor.

2. Next add whatever kind of pureed vegetables and seasoning that you have. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Squash, sweet potato or carrots with chipotle, cumin and lime
  • Beets with tarragon, thyme and white pepper
  • Sweet potato with orange rind, cinnamon, cumin, curry and peanuts
  • Potato with coconut cream, green curry paste and lime

Technically you can puree the base and then just add the cooked vegetables and puree it all together. To get the desired consistency use coconut milk, a vegetable broth, or if you want to take it to the next level, a homemade chicken or beef stock.  Now you should have a nice creamy super flavorful base.

Here are some hints on seasoning. You need a balance between salty, sweet and tart, in addition to the herbs and spices of choice. It’s really easy to over do salty and tart so add these flavors carefully. Most local vegetables have enough sweetness on their own. Here are some salt and tart suggestions.

Salt options: tamari, fish sauce, sea salt, umeboshi vinegar, dulse, kelp
Tart options: lemon, lime, umeboshi vinegar, apple cider vinegar (be very judicious with vinegar, it can ruin the whole thing), sorrel, tamarind, reduced wine, lemon grass, tomatoes

To give the base an extra kick, add fresh grated ginger or garlic at the end. A little goes a long way. I never understand why so many recipes ask for garlic and ginger at the beginning, it basically kills all of the flavor and you end up using so much. Of course, only use ginger if it goes with the seasoning, garlic usually fits most places.

To give the soup a warm and spicy appeal without making it too hot, add ground toasted cumin seeds; they have a way of really balancing the flavor.

3. Once you have a super flavorful pureed soup you can eat it as is, or you can make it extra awesome by adding some chunks of cooked vegetables or meat. Then when the flavors have mingled nicely, add fresh herbs or greens and let them wilt in the hot soup, no need to really cook them.

Here are some combination suggestions:

Coconut Seafood Chowder
Base: Potatoes, coconut milk, green tai curry paste
Add ins: chunks of cooked carrots, sweet potatoes, chives, red pepper (not in season right now but gives it a Thai flavor) and haddock or other good local seafood.
Greens: cilantro, basil and bok choi

Beet Borsct
Base: beets with tarragon, thyme and white pepper (optional: homemade beef  broth)
Add ins: lightly sautéed purple cabbage and leeks, cooked carrots, brussel sprouts
Greens: Russian kale

North African Stew
Base: sweet potatoes, squash, diced tomatoes and/or chicken broth, turmeric, cinnamon, orange rind and juice, star anise, clove, cumin, curry, garlic, cardimon, organic peanut butter
Add ins: Cooked chunks of carrots, sweet potatoes, chicken, lentils or chick peas, whole roasted garlic cloves,
Greens: cilantro

Leek and Potato Soup
Base: leeks and potatoes, white wine or ale, cumin (small amount) sage and thyme
Add ins: Chunks of roasted fingerling potatoes, leeks
Greens: Spinach

The Three Sisters Soup (ie. squash, corn and bean)
Base: Squash and or sweet potato (add sweet potato if the squash is a little bland) with chipotle, cumin and lime
Add Ins: Black beans or adzuki beans, frozen organic corn
Greens: cilantro

Hopefully this will help you on your way and keep you experimenting in the kitchen until the snow melts and we can all emerge from our little hovels. Feel free to post if you find some great combinations.

Some purposeful music to get you going:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeUhNC9E6Mw

Mushroom Leek & Brassica Tart

I love the rustic aesthetic of little individual savory tarts. I don’t use flour or milk if I can get away with it though, and I didn’t even have a tart pan; not a great start. So this was the result of that idea with a parchment lined loaf pan, no pastry and no milk. I did use nice goat cheddar though which I don’t usually splurge on. Something had to give!  In the end I had 3 nice savory squares that I could wrap up for lunch or serve fresh with a winter salad.

Yields 3-4 servings

1 tsp coconut oil
1½ c leeks: chopped and cleaned*
1½ c mushrooms: sliced
1 c brussel sprouts: remove outer leaves and cut in half
2 lg. cloves garlic: chopped
¼ tsp. sea salt
1 tsp dry sage
1 tsp dry thyme
1 c grated goat cheddar or other goat cheese

Custard mixture:
5 eggs
5 tsp water
pinch salt, pepper and nutmeg

* To clean leeks, chop them into small pieces and place in a large bowl of cold water. Agitate them to loosen any dirt. Let them sit until the dirt sinks to the bottom (about 10 min). Scoop the clean leeks off the top and rinse again in a colander. Let drip dry in a colander.

  1. Pre-heat the oven or a toaster oven to 350°. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. The easiest way to do so is to butter the pan and then insert the parchment in strips cut to fit the pan. The butter will stick to it and hold it nicely in place.
  2. Saute the brussel sprouts in an oiled pan, covered on med heat for about 10 minutes. When they are soft add the leeks, mushrooms, garlic, sage, thyme, and salt. When the mushrooms are soft and flavorful take off the heat and set aside.
  3. Put the custard ingredients in a food processor and mix till light and frothy or beat with a mixer. Fold in the cheese and cooked vegetables and pour into the loaf pan. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.
  4. Cut into 3 or 4 pieces and serve with a fresh salad.