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?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Fondue Pot

When I was a boy the fondue pot would often appear when my parent's closest friends visited. Savoury fondues of cheese or meat accompanied by good wine and better conversation were the norm.  We would be arranged carefully around the table; men and women in alternation. The excitement ran high when a piece of bread went astray in the pot.  The men would rise to refill the glasses if the errant crumb was theirs.  My mother would always laugh nervously before she kissed the man next to her despite having known them all for decades.

Somewhere along the way the fondue pot fell by the wayside.  The last time I can recall seeing the simmering away on the table was in the eighties.  I am fairly certain Flock of Seagulls was still popular at the time. It just softly and suddenly vanished away, never to cross my mind again... Until this morning.  Toby Stevenson and I had planned an afternoon to experiment in the kitchen while Suzy and Toby's wife Lisa took the boys to the hockey game.  Suzy and I were discussing what Toby and I might make over tea this morning when the word appeared.  Fondue. The word was good. It bore with the scent of smoky cheese, beef simmered in oil, and echoes of laughter.

If only we had a fondue pot. Suzy opined that Toby and Lisa would have one if anyone did. I texted Toby.  No luck! Undeterred, I set a menu.  It was too early to call, but IQ Living was certain to have a pot for us!  That afternoon Toby and I set forth.  The Liquor Store was first. The Meat Department was our next stop for their excellent local grass fed beef.  We ordered a couple of pounds of sirloin cut into small cubes.  The trip got better when they offered us a half pint of local ale while we waited for the meat to be cut.  Then it was off to Alex Farm Products to sample the new arrivals and pick up a piece of cheese. IQ Living set us up with a fondue pot as expected, and also let me know that Suzy and I had a hundred dollar credit on our account.  The day kept getting better and better!

Back at the Hotel Cavell Toby and I cleaned up and prepared the food and equipment.  The boys were fed and went off to play, and we set our plan in motion. The table was set.  Pickles, fruit, sauces, bread and cheese were laid out to accompany the pot of simmering oil and cubes of fresh, red, local beef.  We talked. ate, drank, and were merry. Memories of other times and other friends were refreshed by the laughter and scent of beef in hot oil.

When we had all had our fill and the table was cleared I called me parents.  My mother, Sylvie, answered the phone. "Guess what we had for dinner!" I said.

My mother said, "Well, I don't know." She paused. "Fondue?"

Oh how I laughed!  "How did you guess?"

"Guess what we're having for dinner!" was her reply.


It was indeed.  Coincidence though it may be, my heard grew light with memories of good times past and present.  Some things are as good as you remember.

P.S. I could not help but notice how long it has been since my last post. It is good to be writing again after a long hiatus, and I hope to share more in the weeks to come.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Roast Provencal Chicken

The roasted chicken was another hit of yesterday's memorial dinner.  Even my cousin Lee, a lifelong vegetarian, was briefly tempted by the aroma.  We roast capons. The bigger bird makes for generous portions.  It also takes longer to cook.  If you flatten it, as I described in this post back in January, you can marinate it more readily and the cooking time is dramatically reduced.  This time round we made two. Nyls and I prepared the marinade, I flattened and marinated the birds, and my father, Nick, manned the barbeque!

Prepare the the marinade several days in advance to allow the herbs and garlic to infuse the oil. Combine:
Zest of 3 lemons
2/3 cup of lemon juice (approximately 3 lemons)
3/8 tsp of pepper
1/2 head of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon of dried herbs (Herbs de Provence, rosemary, or the classic parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme)
in a Mason jar. This is enough for one chicken.

On the night before or the morning of:
Flatten a 7 pound chicken
Rub with:
Coarse, kosher, or sea salt.
Place the bird in a large baking dish and pour the marinade over the bird. Marinate for up to 24 hours, turning occasionally. If you start the marinade the night before you should cover and put it in the refrigerator.  If it is the day of you can do it at room temperature.

When you are ready to cook the chicken pre-heat the grill to 400 degrees.  Have one side of the grill on and leave off on the other.  Place the bird on the unheated side and close the lid.  The cooking time is approximately 10 minutes per pound.  Baste the bird with the marinade every fifteen minutes or so.  Do not flip the bird or you will break up the delicious, crispy skin!  Remove, cut into pieces, and serve!