Goodbye Summer Corn Chowder with Coconut Milk and Chile

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I’m sure you’ve heard the news.  People aren’t really talking about it, but it’s true.  Summer.  Is.  Over.

Now let’s pretend for a moment that we actually had a summer to begin with, but if you live in Toronto you can sympathize with me that this was not exactly a dog-days-of-summer kind of season.  We had rain, we had cold temperatures, and we had infrequent appearances of the sunny blissful days we all hold our breath for.  Okay, my rant is complete.

One thing I have stayed committed to despite the uncharacteristic weather is eating like it’s summer:  Local peaches and berries, heirloom tomatoes, and lots of sweet Ontario corn have graced my table just the same.  I adore sweet corn and eat it any way possible for as long as Mother Nature will allow it.

This soup is a perfect dish to ease into the transition of colder months.  It celebrates the summer with fresh flavors and nutritious seasonal ingredients but is warm and fulfilling at the same time.  It’s texture is creamy from the potato and coconut milk with lovely bursts of whole corn kernels and it gets freshness from the cilantro and lime with a kick from the chile.  This is pretty much the ideal September meal.

While my days of cooking with fresh corn are coming to a close, I will drag my feet as long as possible to ward off winter.  I believe in the power of taking a stand for our seasons and telling the climate to slow down a bit, sort of an “If you cook it, it will come” mentality.  I am doing my part for the masses.

 

Goodbye Summer Corn Chowder with Coconut Milk and Chile

Yield: 8 Servings

 

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 large red onion, diced

3 carrots, peeled and diced

2 stalks celery, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

fresh corn kernels from 8-9 cobs of corn

2 large red potatoes, peeled and diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 jalapeno, minced

5 cups low sodium vegetable stock

3 cups light coconut milk

1 teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

Lime, for serving

Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

 

Heat oil in large stockpot over medium heat.  Add carrots, celery, red bell pepper, jalapeno, garlic, and onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally, 5-7 minutes.  Add chili powder and red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper.  Cook an additional 5 minutes, stirring as needed.

Add potatoes and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the corn and season with salt.  Add stock and coconut milk and increase heat to high to bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are tender and flavors have melded.  Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.  Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Working in batches, blend half of the soup in a blender until relatively smooth but still holding some texture.  Add the blended soup back into the stockpot and stir to combine well.  Serve with a squeeze of lime and garnished with the cilantro.

 

**My Two Cents:  If you prefer less heat, leave out the jalapeno.  The red pepper flakes will provide enough of a kick for a mild soup.

** Like any soup, this is even better the next day so don’t worry about having too much.  Your lunches will be increasingly tasty.

 

 

Summer Corn Salad with Avocado, Queso Fresco, and Lime

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Corn is one of the great gifts of summer produce.  While you can source good quality frozen corn any time of year for things like soups, nothing beats the sweet, starchy goodness of fresh summer corn.  I love it in so many things:  A cold soup like this one, a quick sauté with shrimp, chiles, and herbs, and even in ice cream.  Yes, I said ice cream.  One of my favorite ice creams on the planet is Jeni’s Sweet Corn and Blackberry Ice Cream.  if you haven’t gone down this road I highly recommend it.

But I digress.  Last weekend my boyfriend and I threw a barbecue for friends visiting from Geneva.  We knew that we needed to welcome these chaps with a proper North American barbecue filled with foods and flavors they were sure to enjoy but were likely unfamiliar with.  Saucy, slow roasted and charred baby back ribs were a must, as were truffle mustard potato salad and simple and fresh bites like crostini with whipped feta, tomatoes, and basil.  We would finish with a buttermilk vanilla bean pound cake with strawberry coulis.  With the menu we had planned it would have been hard for an ordinary corn salad to stand out.  Luckily, this is no ordinary corn salad.

Boiling the corn kernels on the cobs is my favorite way to cook them as the cobs hold an incredible amount of flavor.  Tossing the corn with the milky, tangy kick of queso fresco is a great idea; the mild cheese pairs well without overpowering the delicate sweetness of the corn.  The bright acid of fresh tomatoes, lime, and cilantro accompanied by creamy avocado take it to a place that is far greater than the sum of its parts.  You will make this again and again and again.

Happy grilling, happy eating, and happy summer friends!

 

 

Summer Corn Salad with Avocado, Queso Fresco, and Lime

SERVES 8

 

8 ears fresh corn, shucked and silks removed

2 limes

2 scallions, thinly sliced on a bias

¼  cup cilantro leaves, chopped

1/3 cup queso fresco or cotija cheese

1 avocado, pitted, shelled and diced

2 cups grape tomatoes, halved

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper

 

 

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the corn for 5 minutes until just tender.  Drain and plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and to set the color. When cool enough to handle, cut the kernels off, cutting as close to the cob as possible.  I like to do this right into a large serving bowl to catch the kernels as they fall.

To the corn add tomatoes, queso fresco, cilantro, scallions, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Toss gently.  Add the avocado and squeeze the limes directly on the avocado to both dress the salad and help the avocado keep its color.  Toss one last time and finish with cilantro leaves.  Serve, or hold this in the refrigerator for a couple of hours but bring to room temperature before serving.

 

**My Two Cents:  You can find queso fresco in most grocery stores in the refrigerated section, but if you cannot, pecorino or even goat cheese can be substituted.

 

**  This will keep for leftovers for a day or two, but the avocado will start to brown over time as it is exposed to air.

Strawberry Buttermilk Scones

Strawberry scone

 

I had never been a scone person.  I didn’t care for them.  Not only did I not care for them, but I wondered why ANYONE would be a scone person when they could be a muffin person, or a banana bread person, or a cinnamon bun person.  The scones that I tried were often too dry and crumbly and required copious amounts of coffee or tea to wash them down.  Scones were mature and refined, practicing restraint in both flavor and texture, and that was a sort of sophistication I just wasn’t interested in.

And then came Tartine.

Tartine, the famed San Francisco bakery and mecca of all things sweet and bready, entered the scene with a scone unlike any I’ve tasted.  What we have here is buttery and flakey and barely sweet, almost more of a biscuit than your average scone, with a crackly, sugary top and pockets of melted fruit.  It is a complete game changer.

The classic Tartine recipe uses currants, but my mother has made this with blueberries and I’ve now made it with local strawberries while they are still in season.  Note that I freeze the strawberries briefly to prevent them from releasing too much juice while baking, and I find it does the job nicely.

You will love this recipe, and more importantly, your scone-skeptic friends will love this recipe.  Chances are, you’ve got them.  We all do.  When they come to your house and sheepishly mutter, “I don’t really care for scones,” just say “Me either” and hand them a plate.

 

 

Strawberry Buttermilk Scones

Adapted from Tartine

Makes 12-16 Scones

 

4 ¾ cups all purpose flour

1 Tablespoon baking powder

¾ Teaspoon baking soda

1 ¼ Teaspoon salt

½ cup granulated sugar

1 cup plus 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, very cold

1 ½ cups low fat buttermilk

1 Teaspoon lemon zest

½ pint strawberries, hulled, quartered, and frozen in a single layer for 1 hour

 

For the topping:

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Turbinado sugar (you can substitute granulated if that’s all you have)

 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment or silpats.   Whisk together flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add sugar, salt and lemon zest and stir to combine. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and scatter the cubes over the dry ingredients. Using a pastry blender or the back of a fork, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the butter lumps are about the size of peas.

Add the buttermilk all at once along with the strawberries and mix gently with a wooden spoon until the dough holds together. If the mixture seems dry and has trouble holding together, add a little bit more buttermilk.  I add 4-5 Tablespoons more myself.

Dust your work surface with flour and turn the dough out onto it. Pat the dough into a rectangle about 18 inches long, 5 inches wide, and 1 1/2 inches thick. Brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.  Cut the dough into 6-8 rectangles depending on how many scones you want, and then each rectangle into two triangles so you end up with 12-16 scones.

Carefully transfer the triangles onto the baking sheets.  Don’t worry if they are uneven and a bit patchy, scones are meant to be rustic and a bit imperfect!  Bake until the tops of the scones are lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool briefly, and serve.

 

**My Two Cents:  These are so flavorful and delicious that I like to serve them with nothing but tea and coffee, but if you really want to, a bit more soft butter on the side wouldn’t hurt anyone.

**This is a wonderfully versatile recipe and is delicious with raspberries, blueberries, or the Tartine classic:  currants.

**Scones freeze beautifully, making this a perfect offering for last minute breakfast guests.

My Favorite Summer Lunch: Quinoa Chicken Bowl with Blistered Tomatoes, Corn, and Pumpkin Seed Pesto

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In the year that I have worked for Indigo here in Toronto, I can count the number of times I have bought my lunch on two hands.  This is not a bragging right, or an opportunity to shame the take-out enthusiasts, it just makes a lot more sense to me than buying.  Assuming I’ve taken the time on Sunday to prepare for this week long commitment (blanching vegetables, cooking grains and beans, mixing dressings and relishes), throwing together a satisfying and healthy lunch the night before work is a snap.  I love productive Sundays and I make them work for me.  The ritual of weekend food prep has become a time I now look forward to, and frankly, there are better things for me to spend my money on than a mediocre salad or sandwich that I could have had a better hand at making.  This is, perhaps, maybe, I’m pretty sure, my favorite grain bowl of all time.  It’s got it all.  It is especially good at highlighting summer’s bounty so I don’t eat it in the cooler months, but come June it’s the first thing I want to make for lunch.

The sweet acid from the blistered tomatoes along with its melted interior provide great contrast to the chewy quinoa and kale.  The corn adds great color and vibrancy and the chicken makes this even more protein rich and satisfying.  Top all of this with a pungent, herby pesto and this feels like anything but a sacrifice.  I have yet to eat a take-out lunch that I enjoy so much.  True story.

The added bonus of making your own lunches is that you get to take a moment midday and remind yourself that you are worth caring for.  In the midst of urgent emails, complicated projects, and to-do lists that never seem to dwindle, you can take a breath and remember a time that your hours were your own.  You can remember having jazz on the stereo, warm breeze through the windows, and plenty of space to be creative.  I call that Sunday, and is there any day so worth remembering?  By noon on Monday it always feels miles away.

Here’s to smart Sundays and healthy Mondays.  Cheers.

 

My Favorite Summer Lunch:  Quinoa Chicken Bowl with Blistered tomatoes, Corn, and Pumpkin Seed Pesto

SERVES 4-6

 

For the pesto:

1 large bunch of basil, leaves only, washed and dried
2 medium cloves of garlic
one small handful of roasted pumpkin seeds
¾ cup freshly grated parmesan
A few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

 

For the quinoa bowl:

1 shallot, minced
3 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
1 1/2 cups kale, sliced crosswise in a chiffonade
2 cups cooked rotisserie chicken breast, shredded

Fine sea salt

1/3 cup pumpkin seed pesto

¼ cup garlic scapes or scallions, minced

Extra virgin olive oil
1 cup cherry tomatoes

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

 

Put all dry pesto ingredients in a small food processer and pulse to combine.  Add olive oil and a dash of salt and pulse 10 more times or until smooth.  Set aside for later.

Next, prepare the blistered tomatoes: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut each tomato in half and arrange in a large oven-proof baking dish. Mix together a big splash of olive oil, a spoonful of sugar, and a few pinches of salt – pour this over the tomatoes. Gently toss and place in oven to bake for 30-40 minutes, until they shrivel up a bit and release their sweetness. Remove and set aside.

In a big skillet or pot heat the olive oil and salt over medium-high heat. Stir in the shallot and cook for a minute or two. Stir in the kale and sauté for 5 minutes, seasoning with salt to taste. Add corn and continue to heat until cooked through. Remove the skillet from heat and transfer the vegetables to a large bowl. Add the quinoa, shredded chicken, pesto, and garlic scapes or scallions. Toss well to distribute the pesto, then add the cherry tomatoes. Toss gently, season with salt and cracked pepper to taste, and serve.

**My Two Cents:  Feel free to swap the pumpkin seeds out for almonds, walnuts, or pine nuts… whatever you have on hand and prefer.

**  You can use arugula in place of the basil for a different, but lovely, flavor pesto

 

Roasted Eggplant with Pomegranate, Thyme, and Buttermilk Sauce

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An eggplant is an interesting creature.  It has practically no appeal in its natural state with tough, crackly skin and flesh that tastes and feels like one of those Mr. Clean sponges you use to erase marks from your floorboards.

I’m not doing much to sell this dish, am I?

Well, I probably don’t need to tell you that this humble vegetable finds its glory and then some when properly cooked.  For me, this means lots of high heat, lots of olive oil, and liberal seasoning.  This recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s famed London eatery does eggplant very, very proud.  If you have ever seen eggplant look so gorgeous, you are free to call me at any hour to tell me about it.  It just doesn’t get prettier than this.

Woodsy thyme perfumes the dish top to bottom while tangy buttermilk and sweet pomegranate elevate it to something truly unique and elegant in a rustic, non-boastful way.  This is the kind of dish that begs to be served at a casual dinner party, and one that will surely get people talking.

I do want to stress the importance of allowing the eggplant to cool, as any heat will thin out the sauce and make it runny rather than the bold, creamy topping you want.  Other than that, it’s practically foolproof and turns the patient eggplant into a stunning show stopper.

Ya know, like that nerdy boy you went to high school with who comes to the reunion with a PHD and a stunning, bronzed socialite for a wife.  We all deserve our moment to shine.

 

Roasted Eggplant with Pomegranate and Buttermilk Sauce

Adapted from PLENTY by Yotam Ottolenghi

Serves 4 as a starter

 

2 large and long eggplants

1/3 cup olive oil

1 ½ tsp thyme leaves, plus a few whole sprigs to garnish

Sea salt and cracked black pepper

1 pomegranate

1 tsp za’atar

 

Sauce:

9 T low fat buttermilk

½ cup Greek yogurt

1 T olive oil

1 small garlic clove, crushed

Pinch of salt to taste

 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise, cutting straight through the green stalk (the stalk is for appearance, do not eat it).  Use a small, sharp knife to make three or four parallel incisions in the cut side of each eggplant half, without cutting through to the skin.  Repeat at a 45-degree angle to get a diamond-shaped pattern.

Place the eggplant halves, cut side up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush them with liberally with olive oil to allow the flesh to absorb it.  Sprinkle with the thyme leaves and some salt and pepper.  Roast for 35-40 minutes, at which point the flesh should be soft, flavorful, and nicely browned.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

While the eggplants are in the oven, cut the pomegranate into two horizontally.  To release the seeds you can either hold one half over a bowl and use the back of a wooden spoon to knock the seeds out, or submerge in cold water and scoop out the flesh and seeds with a spoon.  Either way, you will need to take an extra step to remove all membrane from the seeds.

To make the sauce, whisk together all ingredients and taste for seasoning.  Keep cold until needed.

To serve:  spoon plenty of buttermilk sauce over the eggplant halves without covering the stalks.  Sprinkle za’atar and plenty of pomegranate seeds on top and garnish with the thyme springs.

 

**My Two Cents:

Ottolenghi calls for lemon thyme, which would be ideal, but traditional thyme is easier to source and is a very suitable substitute.

If you do not have or do not wish to buy za’atar, you can sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds and lemon zest on the eggplant or leave out altogether.

Eggplant Caponata

Caponata

I recently joined a CSA here in Toronto and am so pleased it’s a little embarrassing.  I practically skip on my way to pick up my share, it’s like that.  CSA stands for Community Shared Agriculture, and there are programs like this available in almost any region these days.  While each one has different guidelines and fees, they generally offer a weekly supply of local and organic produce for a good price and can often be delivered to your door.  For those of us living in urban areas where gardening is a challenge, it’s a fabulous resource to access fresh and seasonal produce.  One of the reasons I encourage a program like this is that it will get you to try vegetables that may be foreign to you.  It was a CSA in New York that introduced me to kohlrabi, and I’ve been thankful ever since.

Last week’s bounty brought me everything from pea shoots to leeks and some beautiful purple eggplant.  With the weather just starting to turn the corner up here, I felt like something healthy, refreshing, but still soul-warming.  This is Canada, after all.

This traditional Sicilian eggplant stew has a beautiful sweet-and-sour thing happening and can be served as an appetizer with grilled bread, alongside roasted meats or fish, or with sliced cured meats and cheeses for a delicious lunch.  You can also eat this with a spoon behind an open refrigerator door, as I have often been known to do.

This traditional caponata is not so traditional in my use of maple syrup.  I know, don’t tell my mother’s side of the family… they would surely disapprove.  But I love maple syrup as a sweetener for its deep flavor and luxurious texture and think it is great here.  If you’d prefer, you can be more conventional and use a tablespoon of sugar.  No problem there.

This is a recipe that gets better with age so make a big batch, keep it in the fridge, and enjoy it all week.  If you’re in the area, check Fresh City Farms.  If you’re anywhere else, which most of you are, simply google CSA for your area and there is sure to a program for you.  Random thought of the day:  What did we do before Google?  I mean, seriously.

 

Eggplant Caponata

Yield: About 4 cups

 

2 medium eggplants, trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes

4 Tablespoons olive oil, more as needed

1 small onion, diced

1 ½ cups canned whole tomatoes and juice, tomatoes crushed by hand

½ cup green olives, pitted and sliced in half

3 Tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

1 Tablespoon anchovy paste, or 2 salt-packed anchovies rinsed, filleted and chopped

¼ cup red wine vinegar

1 ½ teaspoons pure maple syrup

¼ cup basil, rough chopped, for serving

 

Season the eggplant cubes with salt and put into a colander to drain for 15 minutes.

In a heavy pot over medium heat, warm 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil.  Add enough eggplant cubes to cover the bottom of the pan and sauté until golden.  Remove and continue sautéing the eggplant in batches, adding more oil as needed.

Once the eggplant is cooked, add a bit more oil along with the diced onion.  Cook, stirring as needed, until soft and translucent, 7-9 minutes.

Add the crushed tomatoes and juice and cook for another 7 minutes.  Stir in the eggplant, then add the olives, capers, anchovy, red wine vinegar, and maple syrup.  Cook for a final 10 minutes, then taste and add more salt, vinegar, or maple syrup to your taste.

If serving that day, bring caponata to room temperature and serve topped with the basil.  Caponata is even better the next day, so I encourage you to refrigerate it and hold off… IF you can practice restraint.

 

**My Two Cents:  I use anchovy paste here as I always have a tube of it in the fridge.  It adds a salty, briney punch to everything from salad dressings to fresh herb sauces.

** If you prefer kalamata olives, feel free to swap them in for the green.

** Fresh parsley can be substituted for the basil, and while it will steer this away from its Sicilian roots a bit, it will do the trick to brighten it up.

Homemade Chicken Stock: Something from Nothing

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A while back I read Tamar Adler’s affecting book An Everlasting Meal.   There is so much for modern day cooks to learn from this old-school philosophy of utilizing every part of our food.  Using more and wasting less is not only good for the environment, but it’s good for our spirits, our wallets, and our waistlines.  Those carrot peels and celery leaves we throw away are meant for so much more than being tossed aside.  Those greens on the tops of beets are pungent and delicious when sautéed, the rind of that wheel of Gruyere would add delightful depth to minestrone, and that stale heel of bread begs to be turned into breadcrumbs to fold into meatballs or coat fish.

Food has been made so quick and convenient that we often overlook ingredients already in our kitchen.  All it takes is a little creativity and patience, and it’s worth challenging ourselves.

This stock is one of my favorite ways to use up chicken bones left over from roasts and bits of vegetables that I have laying around.  If I don’t have stock in the freezer, I have bones there waiting to be turned into it.  Besides the fact that homemade stock is much more delicious than store bought, it is simple and costs almost nothing.

A big “thank you” to all artisans who remind us to be considerate cooks and grateful eaters.

 

“Great meals rarely start at points that all look like beginnings. They usually pick up where something else leaves off. This is how most of the best things are made – imagine if the world had to begin from scratch each dawn: a tree would never grow, nor would we ever get to see the etchings of gentle rings on a clamshell… Meals’ ingredients must be allowed to topple into one another like dominos. Broccoli stems, their florets perfectly boiled in salty water, must be simmered with olive oil and eaten with shaved Parmesan on toast; their leftover cooking liquid kept for the base for soup, studded with other vegetables, drizzled with good olive oil, with the rind of the Parmesan added for heartiness. This continuity is the heart and soul of cooking.”

Tamar Adler, An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace

 

 

Chicken Stock:  Something from nothing

Yield:  About 3 Quarts

 

Carcass, bones, and bits from two 3-4 lb. chickens

3 large yellow onions, unpeeled and quartered

5 carrots, unpeeled and havled

4 stalks celery and/or handful of celery leaves

2-3 handfuls of herbs (parsley, thyme, dill, etc will all work)

10 cloves garlic, unpeeled and smashed

2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

2 Tablespoons kosher salt

 

Place the chicken parts, garlic, vegetables, herbs and peppercorns in a large, deep-bottomed pan. Add cold water to cover vegetables by 1 inch and bring to a boil, skim, then turn the heat down to a low simmer.

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Continue to simmer uncovered for 3-4 hours, skimming as necessary, then pass the stock through a fine sieve. Allow to cool for about half an hour, then refrigerate. I usually divide it into plastic containers at this point and freeze it. It will keep in the fridge for about 4 days and in the freezer for 3 months.

 

 

Clean Eating: Black Rice Salad with Edamame, Red Grapefruit, and Walnuts

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Interestingly enough, the two seasons of the year I cook the least are summer and late winter.  The summer months keep me consuming fresh produce, flash-seared fish, and cold soups for the obvious reason that the oven is so hot and food is so fresh:  no brainer.

January through March, though indisputably cold, is a time of renewal and cleansing of my mind, spirit, home, and body.  I keep things simple and clean with a seasonal fruit breakfast, lots of nuts and grainy crackers for snacks, and meals that consist of grains, beans, vegetables, and a bit of protein like in this lunch favorite.  I appreciate the chewy texture of the wild rice against the crisp green vegetables and juicy citrus.  With huge flavor from a sprinkling of fresh herbs, sharp scallion, and buttery toasted nuts, only a drizzle of fruity green olive oil and white wine vinegar is needed.  Of course, a sprinkling of crunchy salt is desirable, as it is with most things I consume. I always feel best taking the month to refocus my energies and turn off the indulgence switch.

Truth be told, the initial New Year’s resolution attitude can only last about three weeks as I leave for multiple food shows starting in late January where I am forced to consume my weight in innovate confections, chocolates, and baked goods.  But again, I try to live an organized life in all aspects and this includes my eating.  I prepare for and embrace periods of dietary surrender because it is one of life’s ultimate pleasures, I am active in both eating and physical activity and I keep a bit of an inventory to keep it real.

It’s like organized gluttony.  That doesn’t sound like such sacrifice now does it?

 

Clean Eating:  Black Rice Salad with Edamame, Red Grapefruit, and Walnuts

SERVES 4-6

 

1 cup black rice

½ cup walnuts

2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

4 oz. green beans, blanched and thinly sliced

1 cup grape tomatoes, haved

1 large ruby red grapefruit

1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed

3 scallions, thinly sliced

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cook rice according to directions (typically in a medium saucepan of salted boiling water for 30-35 minutes).  Drain and let cool in a single layer on a baking sheet.

On a small baking sheet, roast walnuts for 8-10 minutes, allow to cool and chop.

To segment the grapefruit, first use a paring knife to slice off all of the rind and as much pith as possible.  Slice between the membrane and remove segments of the grapefruit until all the fruit is off.  Reserve.  In a small bowl, ring out the membrane to collect all juice as you will use this to dress your salad.  To the juice, add honey, vinegar, and olive oil and whisk gently.  Season with a pinch of salt.

Toss rice, walnuts, scallions, tomatoes, edamame, green beans, grapefruit, and vinaigrette in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

 

**My Two Cents:  If you don’t care for grapefruit, orange segments are a nice substitute.

**  If you have trouble finding black rice, brown rice would definitely work here.  This is a good base salad and you can feel free to play with different vegetables, fruits, and nuts to keep this in rotation all year long.

Spicy Pork and Greens Soup with Sichuan Peppercorns, Rice Noodles, and Chili Sauce

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Last week I was feeling very under the weather.  That may sound rather anti-climactic but considering the fact that temperatures in Toronto barely broke the -10 degree C mark, it’s a powerful statement.  I did not feel well.  At all.

The thing about your garden variety cold is that you just have to wait out… try to get some sleep, drink fluids, rest, repeat.  If you have had a mother, you know the drill.  Soup was all that appealed to me, so I figured I’d better make it good.  What I didn’t count on was it being so, so, so good.

The caramelized meat, the bitter greens, the tender noodles and briny broth flecked with spices and chile are a perfect combination.  Drizzle your favorite hot sauce on here, grab some chopsticks, and dig in.  No sickness required.

 

Spicy Pork and Greens Soup with Sichuan Peppercorns, Rice Noodles, and Chili Sauce

SERVES 4-6

 

¾  lb. ground pork

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tsp. finely grated peeled ginger

1 tsp. Sichuan peppercorns, crushed with the back of a spoon

¾ tsp. crushed red pepper flake

½ tsp. cumin

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

4 cups mustard greens

1 handful beet greens (from the tops of a beetroot)

4 scallions, thinly sliced

2 Tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

2 tsp. fish sauce

8 oz. wide rice noodles

Kosher salt, and fresh cracked pepper

Your favorite chili sauce (I use Sriracha) for serving

 

Mix pork, garlic, ginger, Sichuan peppercorns, red pepper flakes, and cumin in a medium bowl.  Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat and add pork mixture, seasoning with salt and pepper as it starts to cook.  Cook for 8-10 minutes until cooked through, periodically breaking the meat up with a spoon.

Add broth and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until flavors meld, 10 minutes or so.  Add greens, scallions, soy sauce, and fish sauce and cook, stirring occasionally until greens are tender, 5-7 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhie, cook rice noodles according to package directions, drain and reserve.

To serve:  divide noodles among bowls, ladle soup over, and drizzle with chili sauce.

 

**My Two Cents:  If pork isn’t your thing (no judgement… okay no extreme judgement) ground chicken or turkey would be very good here.

** If you can’t locate Sichuan peppercorns, simply omit them.  You’ll get sufficient heat from the red pepper flake and chili sauce.

Roasted Curried Cauliflower with Sweet Paprika, Red Wine Vinegar, and Herbs

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You may have noticed that I like cauliflower.  I like it a lot.

It’s such a diverse vegetable, taking an equal liking to being blended into a beautifully creamy soup as it does being married with pungent cheese and gently coaxed to softness in a gratin.  This, however, may be my favorite way to eat this lovely vegetable.

With the perfect blend of pungent spices, ample olive oil, wine vinegar to encourage caramelizing, and high heat roasting I get gorgeously crispy, tender cauliflower that is so satisfying I happily eat a big bowl of it as dinner.

After the initial meal you can surely find me days later, picking at it cold from the fridge in my robe and slippers.  I suspect it gets even better with time, but it never lasts long enough to hypothesize that theory.

This is just one of those.

 

Roasted Curried Cauliflower with Sweet Paprika, Red Wine Vinegar, and Herbs

SERVES 4 as a side or 2 as a main course lunch

 

1 ½ teaspoons curry powder

1 ½ teaspoons sweet paprika

¼ teaspoon coriander

¼ teaspoon cumin

1 medium to large head cauliflower, cored and cut into florets

1 small red or yellow onion, cut in a large dice

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 ½ Tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

 

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Combine the curry, paprika, coriander, cumin, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl.  Stir to combine.

Place the onion and cauliflower florets in a large bowl and toss with the olive oil.  Sprinkle in the spice mixture and toss well, coating the vegetables completely.  Add the vinegar and toss again to combine.

Roast the cauliflower and onion in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Roast for 30-35 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes, until the vegetables are nicely caramelized and tender.  Shower the vegetables with the chopped parsley, toss to combine and serve.

**My Two Cents:  This is as tasty at room temperature as it is right out of the oven.  It’s also even better after a day or two in the fridge.

** If cilantro is your thing, add it in with the parsley or replace the parsley altogether.