Saturday, April 15, 2017

Trying Something New in our French Onion Soup

One of Suzy's favourite things is French Onion Soup. With beef broth as the base it has sadly been off the menu since she became a vegetarian last spring. However, this past winter her mother, Marilyn, mistook our vegetable stock for beef stock and the thought occurred... Why not make it with vegetable stock? Even an ancient recipe (it features in Apicus' 4th century treatise De Re Cucinare) can be fiddled with! Good Friday seemed to be just the right occasion to try it out as part of a meatless feast with the usual suspects. Their verdict? So delicious that everyone has asked for recipe. Without further ado here it is!

Peel, halve, and finely slice:
16 medium onions (about three pounds)
In a large dutch oven over medium-low heat add:
4 tbsp of butter
4 tbsp of olive oil
When the butter and oil is hot add the onions and stir to coat them. Cover the pot and allow to cook for 15 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat to medium, and add:
2 tsp of salt 
1/2 tsp of sugar
Continue to cook until the onions are a rich golden-brown, stirring frequently, about one hour.  When the onions are ready add:
1/4 cup of all purpose flour
and stir constantly for 3 minutes. Add:
3 liters of vegetable stock made from roasted vegatables
1 cup of dry french white wine
1/4 cup of cognac
Pinch of thyme
Bring the soup to a simmer, cover partially, and reduce heat and cook for another 30 minutes, stirring and skimming periodically.While the soup is simmering Preheat the oven to 325 dgerees and cut:
1 baguette into 1/2" rounds
Arrange them on a parchment covered baking sheet and toast them for 15 minutes in the oven. Take them out and brush both sides with:
Olive oil
and rub them with
1 clove of garlic, cut in half.
Toast them for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and switch it to broil. Distribute the soup into oven-proof ramekins or french onion soup bowls (use a canning funnel to keep the bowls clean) and add
2 toasted rounds of baguette 
to each bowl.  Arrange the bows on a baking sheet and distribute
8 oz Gruyere, grated
across the bowls. Place the sheet under the broiler and cook until the cheese is bubbling and just beginning to brown. Carefully serve the hot bowls!

P.S. We use very little salt when we make our stock. If you use salted stock please check before you add any more salt!

The Secret to Great Vegetable Stock

The last time my mother-in-law, Marilyn, came for dinner we served a homemade barley stew. She thought it was great and said to my vegetarian wife, Suzy, "But you used beef stock!" 

"No, its vegetable stock!" Suzy replied. 

The best news of all is that it is easy to make stock that will keep everyone guessing. Start to finish a batch of vegetable stock takes two hours. Meat and bone broths can take the better part of a day. The secret to giving your vegetable stock the same richness as its meaty counterparts is roasting the vegetables. A little bit of oven imbued caramelization is all it takes. It is also important to make a big batch. Eight liters of stock takes just as long to make as one, so go big!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Take:
24 stalks of celery (about 2 stalks)
24 medium carrots 
24 small onions, skin on
2 heads of garlic, skin on
and chop into roughly equally sized chunks. Toss in a large bowl with
1/4 cup of olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
Spread the vegetables on two 3/4 sheet pans and roast in the oven for 20 minutes. Stir and swap the sheet pans and roast for approximately another 20 minutes. The vegetables will be fragrant and brown at the edges, and the onion and garlic skins crispy when they are ready. Transfer the vegetables from the pans to a large stock pot one at a time. Deglaze the sheet pans with some:
Boiling water
And scrape the brown bits from the pan into the stock pot and add:
6 bay leaves
48 peppercorns (or therabouts)
A bunch of parsley or a half cup of dry parsely 
Boiling water to cover
And bring to a simmer (never a boil!) for one hour. Decant the pot through a sturdy strainer into a large bowl.  Mash the vegetables in the strainer to get as much richness into the stock as possible. Decant the stock from the bowl into liter mason jars through a fine mesh strainer to remove any grit. Use immediately or let them cool and you can store the jars in the fridge for up to a month. The jars also make it easy to decant into a one liter freezer bag for long storage!

We also keep a stock bag in the freezer with the trimmings from our day to day cooking and add them to the pot when we make stock. Waste not, want not!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Drawing Down Stores: Wild Mushroom and Rice Casserole

It is amazing how buying food in bulk, drying, and preserving can catch up with you. We realized recently we were running out of room in the pantry, cupboards, and cold cellar. Time to draw down on stores, and when better than the heart of winter? The most enjoyable part is figuring out what to make out of the accumulation of things in jars, boxes, and bags.  Most recently it was a large jar of dried wild mushrooms that was hiding in the spice cupboard. Every time we had a few mushrooms left over we would slice and dry them.  Before long we had  seven ounces of chantarelles, shitakes, hedgehogs, lion's manes, morels, and so forth. That might not seem like much until you consider a pound of fresh mushrooms dries down to 3 ounces. It was a lot of mushrooms! A little Google-fu and a few options presented themselves: soups, stews, and so forth. Then I saw a wild mushroom and rice casserole.  I cannot remember when or even if we have ever made a casserole. We also had a 2 liter jar of wild rice in the pantry. before long a few random ingredients and an idea unfolded into this recipe!

Wild Mushroom and Rice Casserole

10-12 servings

7 ounces of assorted dried wild mushrooms 
in hot (but not boiling water) for 45 minutes. While the mushrooms are soaking combine:
3 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
1.5 cups of wild rice
1/2 tsp of basil
1/2 tsp of thyme
12 tsp of salt 
in a medium dutch oven and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce to a simmer and simmer covered for 40 minutes. After 20 minutes preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt
1/2 cup of butter
In a medium casserole over medium-high heat on the stove top. Add
2 medium onions, finely diced
and saute until they are golden brown (about 10 minutes). Drain the mushrooms and add them to the casserole. Saute the mushrooms and onions until they are tender (about 10 minutes). Add the rice, any remaining liquid, and:
1 cup of table cream
2 cups of cooked brown rice
1/4 tsp of fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp of salt
To the casserole and mix them evenly. Cover the casserole and put in the oven.  Cook in the oven for thirty minutes.  Remove it and add:
1/2 cup of fresh parsley, chopped
and serve!

Serve it with a chick pea or bean salad to make for a whole protein vegetarian meal as well. Remember to save the water the mushrooms soaked in. The make a good base for stock or pea soup.

Monday, July 4, 2016

A Twain of Tasty Tarts

Suzy was inspired to try something different by a bunch of local asparagus the other day.  Some puff
pastry, Gruyere, asparagus, olive oil, tarragon, salt, and pepper later she produced this delightful little treat for our neighbour's farewell barbeque.  We will miss you Adam and Lucy!

A couple of days later inspiration knocked again. An old roll of puff pastry from my mother's freezer, some Beau's Cheddar, pesto, and four farm fresh eggs became Canada Day brunch for us and friends on our northern adventure.  

The principle is simple, the recipe not much harder... roll out pastry, score, baste with oil or pesto, bake, add cheese and stuff, bake some more, and voila!  However, good instructions make everything simpler. Here they are in a little more detail...

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured surface roll out:
1 package of thawed puff pastry
Score the pastry all the way around an inch from the edge. Prick all over inside the lines with a fork and brush with:
Olive Oil.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden.  Remove the pastry from the oven. Spread
4 tablespoons of pesto (optional)
inside the lines and sprinkle the pastry with
6 ozs of grated cheese (whatever will grate and suits your fancy)
Top with items of your choice
1.5 lbs of asparagus laid out and brushed with olive oil (20 minutes)
4-6 whole eggs (15 minutes or until the whites are firm but not the yolks)
and sprinkle with fresh or dry herbs.

Share and enjoy!

These are just a couple of examples we have tried.  We would love to see what you make of this recipe!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Have you ever tried to Barbeque a Pizza?

Suzy and I were surprised to find we had a $100 store credit at our go to kitchen store, IQ Living. A baking stone has been at the top of our list for a while, and this was all the excuse we needed to finally pick one up.  Aija asked for us to make pizza at home for some time, and the new stone was the perfect excuse to try barbequed pizza.  We had first seen it at a lovely evening at Daryll Irwin's house, but had never tried it ourselves.

Suzy got picked up a fresh batch of pizza dough from, well, Dough on the Danforth. I made up the sauce from the last of the San Marzano's from Jim Hayward we put away last fall. Aija grated together a three cheese mix from Montfort Dairy.  Pesto from our recent batches were on had as an alternative to tomato sauce.  Kale from Ben and Jessie Sosnicki, Canadian bacon from Fresh from the Farm, home cured olives from Briar Jansons, and other treats came from the usual suspects.  All we had to do was cook these tasty treats.

Abby Heidebrecht's experience proved invaluable, and she prepped
crusts while I headed up the barbecue. Barbequing them proved to be simple as can be: fire up the charcoal, drop the stone on the grill, then cook the pizzas for 12 minutes (or a little longer as the barbecue cooled down.  We made half a dozen different pizzas in no time at all.  A beautiful summer like evening made the whole thing a perfect al'fresco experience!

When will you try to barbeque your own?

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Kale Sunflower Seed Pesto

While the Kale revolution is fairly recent, we have enjoyed this robust green for years. We were first introduced to it well over a decade ago by the King of Kale and his Queen, Tom and Ruth Uschold. It is an excellent addition to pea soup, braised dishes, and all the rage for salads these days. Kale's leaves are also versatile, and make for a quick, fresh spring pesto well before the basil is ready. Make sure to separate the leaves of the ramps and wash thoroughly because grit will lodge against the stalk. 

Combine in a food processor:
1/2 lb of baby kale
6 wild ramps (stalks and leaves)
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp kosher, coarse, or sea salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Process until the the mixture is smooth and even consistency.

You can serve the pesto immediately or store in the refrigerator in a sterile jar virtually indefinitely. Use anywhere you would normally use pesto, or just take a dollop with cheese and bread!

A Sure Sign of Spring

Evergreen Brickworks held their first outdoor market today.  If there was ever a sure sign of spring this is it.  Market-goers, cyclists, runners, hikers, and dog-walkers were only a few examples of those who took advantage of a lovely day to get away in the valley. Suzy, Aija, Nyls had a bit of an adventure and trekked up the west bank trails before we descended on the market.  The farmers we habituate: Ben Sosnicki of Sosnicki Organics, Mark Trealout of Grass Roots Organics, Jim Hayward of Haystrom Farms, and Jens Eller of Marvelous Edibles, patiently endured being interrogated by Aija on what type of soil they had at their farms.  Jessie Sosnicki had great news as well; she's expecting their third baby!

Once we were done catching up with the people who've provided so much of the food we enjoy we picked up a few of the early arrivals as well: radishes, lettuces, baby kale, spring onions, carrots and various other treats.  They all ended up on the table for a simple dinner with a couple of things I whipped up.  Kale Pesto and Chick Pea and Quinoia Hummus accompanied a St. John`s Bakery baguette, a cheddar from Ruth at the Montfort Dairy all accompanied by wild ramps foraged by Seth Goering from Forbes Wild Foods.  All in all a perfect start to what finally seems to be spring!

What did you make on this lovely day?