Cottage Cooking Club – October 2014

There was no mistaking it this month. We’ve moved out of our summer repertoire of recipes and are solidly into winter vegetable territory.

If this month’s recipes are any indication, however, that’s not such a bad thing.

Carrot, Orange, and Cashews

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On the rare occasion that I find myself supreming an orange, my mind always turns to this:

Am I the only one? Probably.

Sectioning the oranges aside, this was a very simple salad, flavoured with a little cumin and cider vinegar, but really playing on the flavour combination of orange, carrot, and cashew. It’s got a vibrancy that a typical carrot salad lacks and the juice of the orange manages to intensify the carrot’s flavour without itself disappearing.

I was out of cumin seeds, so I used ground cumin, but I don’t think the salad suffered. This dish provides a nice contrast to the usual heavy fare of winter and would brighten any casual gathering, both in colour and taste. Something to keep in mind as the rainclouds make Vancouver their winter home.

Vegeree

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Eggplant and zucchini are my partner’s two favourite vegetables, but he likes them served very plain. And separate. So, I was mostly on my own for this one.

I like the idea of this dish more than the execution – roasting the vegetables together left them a little underwhelming, I thought. If I make this again, I’d roast the eggplant whole, while caramelizing the onion on the stovetop. Then, I’d add cubes of zucchini to the onion to soften a little. Finally, I’d toss them with chunks of the roasted eggplant and the rest of the ingredients. I think this would add some depth of flavour that I found a little lacking in this dish.

Broccoli Salad with Asian-Style Dressing

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This is a perfect lunchbox salad. You could make it the night before and refrigerate it, then pull it out and let it come to room temperature before lunch. You’ll just need to remember to pack two little containers containing the toasted sesame seeds and the slivered green onions, so you can dramatically strew them over your salad before digging in. Lunchroom theatre.

This one’s definitely on my ‘make again’ list. I especially liked that the dressing was complex without being too assertive.

Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon and Paprika

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This dish is another simple treatment for a brassica. Florets of cauliflower dusted with smoked paprika and roasted with lemon wedges. I could eat this every day.

Intrigued by this month’s recipes? Buy the book and join us.

Here are the links to the rest of the group’s posts for this month. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

Happy Birthday, Dorie! A French Fridays Celebration

Happy Birthday

Today’s French Fridays with Dorie assignment has been set aside for a celebration. Not only are we wishing Dorie Greenspan the happiest of birthdays, but we’re also baking from her soon-to-be-released cookbook, Baking Chez Moi. This celebration has been orchestrated by two of our fabulous French Fridays collaborators, Liz and Susan, who gave us four recipes from the new book to choose from.

I chose two, but the good news is that I’ll be baking through the entire book with Tuesdays with Dorie, starting in November – and you can, too. All the details are in this post on the TwD site.

Paletes de Dames, Lille Style

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These little cookies manage to be elegant and homey all at once. The cookies themselves are flavoured with vanilla and have a cake-like quality, while the icing has a few drops of lemon juice and sets in that shiny, smooth, pastry shop way. They can be dressed up with tinted icing or some sanding sugar, but really I think they’re perfect just as they are.

Brown Butter-Peach Tourte

Peach Tourte

One of the things I love about French baking (well, besides all the butter) is that a good number of the desserts are far less complicated than the results would suggest. This tourte, with its free-standing crust and its sparkling surface, looks like it requires effort and expertise to carry off. The truth is that once you’ve mastered pâte sablée, the rest is easy. And if you have Dorie’s instructions for pâte sablée (or sweet tart dough), that part’s easy, too.

I used some of the last of this year’s peaches to make this tart, but I think it would work equally well with any juicy tree fruit. In fact, I think I might try it again with mango this winter. I think it made an admirable stand in for a birthday cake and might be even more welcome than cake at the height of peach season.

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It’s been an amazing four years cooking and baking with French Fridays and I’m looking forward to the last six months or so of working through Around My French Table. I’m also starting to get excited about getting my hands on Baking Chez Moi and working through it with the Tuesdays with Dorie brigade.

So, again, happy birthday to you, Dorie. I’ve learned so much more about cooking and baking in these last few years, thanks to your work. I deeply admire your love and enthusiasm for food and the community it creates – you write about it beautifully.

Below you’ll find the full line up of posts for this French Fridays celebration. (Click on the name of the dish to find the recipe, so you can join in on the fun, too.)

Mini Cannelés

Chocolate Cream Puffs with Mascarpone Filling

Paletes de Dames, Lille Style

Brown Butter-Peach Tourte

From Soup to Nuts – A French Fridays Catch Up

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I wandered down the Drive this evening, armed with an umbrella and a needlessly puffy raincoat, taking one final look to see if Jerusalem artichokes had shown up in the market.

This is what I found:

  • Fresh, fragrant chestnuts, hazelnuts, and walnuts;
  • Persimmons, fresh figs, quince, and softball-sized Okanagan apples;
  • Cauliflower in white, orange, and purple, carrots in a rainbow of colours, beets across the red spectrum, and mounds of homely, dun-coloured celery root.

Not a sunchoke in sight.

So instead, I’m giving you a triple-barrelled catch up post.

Provençal Vegetable Soup

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Waaaay back in July, our lovely administrators Betsy and Mary allowed four of us to pick the recipes for that month. I chose this quintessentially summer soup. But before I could make it and post about it, I developed a flu and a sinus infection that kept me out of the kitchen for quite a while.

So finally, here it is, end-of-summer soupe au pistou presented to you when it’s cold and dark and rainy. My soup included some of the last of the beans, tomatoes, and zucchini from my garden and I had just enough basil left to make the pesto (but not enough for a garnish). I skipped the pasta and added extra potato instead. I also threw in a can of mixed Italian beans along with the chickpeas for extra heartiness. I kept it vegan for Kevin, so no pesto for him. My bowl had a healthy dollop of pesto and more than a pinch of Parmesan, which immediately melted into the hot soup. My soup wasn’t as clear as a traditional soupe au pistou because of all that extra potato, but it was awfully delicious all the same.

I don’t think it’s entirely inappropriate to be showing you this in October, actually. Like Smitten Kitchen’s Fall-toush Salad, this soup can be adapted for colder weather. At the end of every summer, I’ve always got a stock of frozen homemade pesto in the freezer – this year it’s mostly radish leaf pesto, because my basil harvest was unusually stingy. I think a swirl of summer in a bowlful of fall or winter vegetables sounds like a very good idea.

You can find the rest of the Doristas’ seasonally appropriate takes on this recipe here: Provençal Vegetable Soup

Rice Pudding and Caramel Apples

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Now, for something you’d expect to see in October.

I love rice pudding, but it’s something I’m used to making when I’ve got leftover rice to use up. This rice pudding is doubly different from my usual practice – it’s made fresh on the stovetop and it uses arborio rice. The pudding is creamy with whole milk and from the rice itself. It’s flavoured only with vanilla, which plays beautifully against the caramel apples with their hint of lemon.

My caramel was a little thin, so next time I think I’ll do as Liz did and pull the apples out when they’re tender so that I can cook the caramel until it’s thick. We still loved it, though. The layers of caramel, apples, and pudding were so satisfying and the whipped cream added just the right taste and texture to make this dessert elegant and comforting all at once.

You can find the recipe on Epicurious and you can see everyone else’s posts here: Rice Pudding and Caramel Apples

Caramel-Almond Custard Tart

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And finally, a dessert that made me very popular at our housing co-op’s general meeting this week. I made Dorie’s pâte sablée, or sweet tart dough, for the first time in a very long time recently. I’d forgotten just how good it is, so when we had a gap in food provision at the meeting this week (our co-op is so big on feeding its members that we wrote it into our Mission, Vision, and Values statements), I decided to catch up on this tart. It’s a good thing I waited until now to make it, because it’s so easy I’d have been popping it into the oven on a far too regular basis.

Who knew that par-baking a tart crust, toasting a few almonds, making a creamy caramel, and whisking up a custard could add up to something that (almost) looks like it came from a pastry chef? I think this is the recipe I’m going to pull out next time I really need to get someone on board with something.

Here’s the link to more posts about this beautiful tart: Caramel-Almond Custard Tart

There will be plenty of roasting vegetables in the oven this weekend – the markets are full of root vegetables, brassicas, and squash. But, I’m not exactly sure when sunchokes will show up here. The grocers I’ve asked so far can’t remember exactly when they start coming in, either. Whenever they do, I’ll be making this week’s dish, along with the Jerusalem artichoke soup that’s coming up in the rotation in the next month or two. Catch ups are my thing, apparently.

Now, if you’re curious about what the rest of the French Fridays crew got up to this week, you’ll have to look here: Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes with Garlic

Inequality on the rise in Canada – Blog Action Day 2014

BlogAction

Today is Blog Action Day and bloggers across the world will be discussing inequality.

Last night a friend of mine and I were talking, after a meeting where the agenda was dominated by ideas promoting the sustainability of the mixed-income housing co-operative in which we both live. Our conversation turned to the BC teachers’ strike, which we agreed was a lost opportunity to focus public attention on the real issue plaguing the province’s education system, the steady loss of equality of education. These discussions share more than concern for the well-being of systems we rely on; they are connected to the growth of inequality across Canada.

Much of the conversation about inequality centres on the concentration of wealth that’s on the rise here. But that’s not the whole story, as the focus of our public infrastructure is changing to mirror those shifts in income. Our system is starving the institutions that benefit all, while promoting those that are accessible only to those who can pay.

Canada is in danger of losing its social safety net and any hope of equality of opportunity for future generations. Exercises like the CCPA’s Alternative Budget show potential for a way out of these inequalities, but it’s going to require the political will of ordinary Canadians.

You can see more posts from around the world on inequality via Blog Action Day’s participant list. One of their partners, Oxfam, has a stream of some of the best posts in Storify. There’s even a WordPress daily prompt round up.

FFWD – Sablefish with Double Carrots

Sablefish

One of the things you learn when taking part in a virtual cooking club is that there’s no such thing as universal. I don’t just mean time zones or even seasons, though our southern hemisphere friends have had to put up a valiant effort in the face of a schedule based on North American food cycles. Whether or not you’re able to complete the week’s assignment as written can depend on whether you’re urban or rural, on the coast or in the interior, near the equator or near the permafrost line.

We’ve had lively discussions about whether or not certain vegetables would be available when we wanted them and the substitutions we’ve seen give us insight into the personalities of our fellow cooks as often as they teach us about the regions where they live.

I’ve been pretty lucky in finding the ingredients I need, but it seems in the fish category there are a lot of Atlantic choices that don’t appear regularly in West Coast markets. This week’s dish called for monkfish, a fish that needs to clock a lot of food miles to find its way to Vancouver. I decided to look for a sustainable alternative and asked for some advice.

Twitter

There was some nice BC sablefish at the fishmonger, so I went with that. It was a good choice for this dish – the flesh is rich and stands up well against the intensity of the carrots. Carrots cooked in carrot juice sounds a little strange, but the result is tender medallions in a sauce boosted with butter and fresh rosemary. This would have been nice with mashed potatoes or celery root purée, and that’s what I’d serve it with for a dinner party. Tonight, though, I was more than satisfied with the fish and carrots. I suspect the bits of bacon added at the end were what made me feel I had a well-rounded meal.

Back-of-the-Card Cheese and Olive Bread

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This quick bread is the reason this week’s post became a French Saturday entry. After dinner, I really wanted to bake something. Baking is an excellent antidote to a busy week for me. So, I took a look at my catch up list and got to work on this one. I had some Asiago cheese in the fridge to use up and I made a vegan tapenade (for what it’s worth in a loaf full of milk and cheese), but those were my only deviations from the recipe.

There’s so much Asiago packed into this bread that I’d nearly classify it as a bread-studded olive cheese, rather than a cheese and olive loaf. It’s full of Mediterranean flavours, with the tapenade and lemon zest providing bright notes against the sharpness of the Asiago.

My only regret is that I don’t have any bubbly wine to accompany this loaf. I urge you to pick some up before you attempt this recipe, which you can find on Dorie’s website.

Herea are the links to the rest of the French Fridays crew’s posts on this week’s recipe: Monkfish and Double Carrots. And go way back to June of last year for a look at everyone’s Back-of-the-Card Cheese and Olive Bread.

Cottage Cooking Club – September 2014

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When I was in elementary school, we went to Salt Spring Island for a week called Outdoor School, where we stayed in cabins, ate in a mess hall, and did experiments in streams, on beaches, and in the woods. By then, I was the shortest and shyest of all the kids in my class and with a little bad luck, I was assigned to the cabin farthest away from the big hall where we ate our meals. Inevitably, I was late for almost everything. It didn’t help that I’d brought a precariously high stack of books along with me for the week. At the end of camp, the teachers held a just-for-fun awards night and I came away with a key chain that said, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”

As you can see, this still suits me to a T – here I am, a week late with my Cottage Cooking Club post. And it’s not for lack of interest. This month’s selections were a huge success for us.

Pinto bean chili

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One of the best indicators for me that I’m going to be going back to a recipe over and over again is how many notes I’ve written in the margins and white space on the page. It means that it’s versatile and customizable and that the base recipe is solid. This chili is exactly that. We’re given two variations, one for winter and one for summer, but you can get creative with what’s in season and what’s on hand. I chose the summer recipe, as the last of my zucchini was just ready and the markets were full of peppers of all varieties. I swapped out the bell pepper for pimento pepper (as you can see in the photo at the top of this post) and used one fresh cayenne pepper in place of the green chiles and cayenne powder. I served it vegan for Kevin, but grated a bit of Parmesan on mine. I needn’t have – it was flavourful enough on its own.

Puy lentil and spinach soup

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Vancouver is famous for its cold, wet weather, as Seattle is, too. We Cascadians keep recipes for warm, comforting soups close to hand and this soup fits the bill. French green lentils are a staple for us and this soup, thick and almost stew-like, showcases them perfectly. I suspect we’ll be eating this regularly all winter.

Oven-roasted roots frittata

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I was on my own for this one, but that was fine with me. I love frittata and this root vegetable variation, baked in the oven, was easy and delicious. It’s just the sort of thing I want to have waiting for me when I’m working flat out on a project and need lunch to be easy. Easy, delicious, and nutritious, that is.

Runner beans with tarragon and lemon

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I skipped the butter in this dish and used Earth Balance instead. I’m still not convinced that it’s anything more than a pricey margarine, but using it meant that this dish was vegan. Margarine or no, the beans were delicious, and included some of the last of this year’s bean crop from my garden, along with some of the tarragon I’m digging up and trying to overwinter indoors this year. The combination of flavours was lovely.

Now, save for a summery French Fridays catch up or two I’ve got to find time to post, we’re well into the flavours of autumn. I suspect I’m going to love our October Cottage Cooking selections as much as I did September’s – I promise you’ll see the results a little sooner next month.

Here are the links to the rest of the group’s posts for this month. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

The Bounty of the Valley

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I attended the Fraser Valley Food Show as a guest on a media tour, but had no obligation to review or write about any aspect of the show. All opinions are my own.

I grew up in the Fraser Valley, in a typically suburban neighbourhood, with 1/4 acre lots, corner stores, and tiny drive-in shopping centres that housed things like the local library and bank branches, along with bakeries, hardware stores and a Greek-Italian steakhouse or two. If we hopped on our bikes, we could ride out to where the farmland began, but it was mostly hobby farms and horse barns. The working farms were farther away.

We weren’t completely divorced from those farms, though. We were lucky enough that there were what we called ‘farm markets’ at intervals along Fraser Highway, stocked with local fruit and vegetables. My parents preferred to shop there over the supermarket, while also keeping an eye out for seasonal goodies like Chilliwack corn, fruit stands, and ‘U Pick’ berries. So, long before farm-to-table became de rigueur, we knew how lucky we were to live in such a fertile place.

But the Fraser Valley has more to offer than just the building blocks of good meals. From charcuterie to chocolate, from bread to beer, there are more and more businesses offering the kind of food and drink that’s been celebrated in hotbeds like Brooklyn or Portland. And the Fraser Valley Food Show does a good job of showcasing the range of what this region has to offer.

Sausage

I went on Saturday, just in time to beat the line for the Oktoberfest Sausage Tasting. I found it hard to choose amongst the nine or ten sausages I tried – they were all wonderful, some with a slow heat and others with a meaty savour. I certainly would have hated to be one of the three judges for the competition round. They had to sample 112 different sausages before coming to a decision about handing out multiple ribbons and trophies. You can see a list of the winners here. I suspect it might make a good basis for a self-guided tour of Metro Vancouver sausage makers.

Competition

The rest of my day was spent exploring the stalls, listening to speakers, and sampling, sampling, sampling. The Gluten Free Living show was particularly interesting to me, as my partner has celiac disease and we’re always looking for good gluten-free staples. There were lots of great prepared foods there, of course, but there were two things that really impressed me. First, all the exhibitors at the Food Show were knowledgeable about whether or not there was gluten (or allergens) in their products, whether they were in the gluten-free area or not. Secondly, there were some interesting ingredients on offer, like Nextjen gluten-free flour mix. It’s great to be able to buy a box of gluten-free cookies or pasta, but for someone who likes scratch cooking and baking, base ingredients that are safe and easy to use are an exciting development. And buying local makes it even better.

As for all that sampling I did, well, I’m going to give you a short list of some of the things that stood out for me this year. It won’t be comprehensive, because there was a lot of good stuff to eat, drink, and buy.

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Eat

ChocolaTas’ Chocolate Ganaches

JD Farms’ turkey sausages

Fire Belly’s pepper sauces

Drink

Shuswap Infusions’ teas

Parallel 49’s Schadenfreude Pumpkin Oktoberfest beer

Glutenberg’s Chestnut Brown Ale

Campbell’s Gold mead and melomel

Learn

I don’t know about you, but whenever I go to an event like this, I find myself a little intimidated by the line in front of the All You Need is Cheese demonstration area. I don’t know if it’s because we got to the Food Show a little early, but there was only a short line on Saturday. So, I ducked in with Mary from Vancouver Bits and Bites and Cathy Browne. (It was so nice to meet you, ladies.) In a short time, we had a tasting of seven different cheeses across several categories. Many of them were BC cheeses, too. I learned a thing or two and my taste buds were primed for heading over to the Wine, Beer, and Spirits Tasting.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Ned Bell’s presentation. He spoke about his cross-Canada cycle trip in support of sustainable seafood and then he showed us how to break down a salmon, while giving us tips and information on how to work sustainable seafood into our diets. I wasn’t aware that land-based fish farming is one source of sustainable seafood and I certainly hadn’t thought about the cost savings involved in buying a whole salmon, breaking it down, and freezing it in portions. You can find out more about Bell’s ride at Chefs for Oceans and here’s a link to my go to resource for information about sustainable seafood, Ocean Wise.

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My only quibble with the show is that I’d like to see them showcase more local restaurants in their Bite of the Valley category. I’d love the opportunity to sample small plates from any of the great restaurants that put the food produced in the Fraser Valley to such good use. It would make the show a complete journey from farm to plate.

FFWD – Celery-Celery Soup

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Four years ago this week, our first French Friday posts went up. It’s hard to believe that halfway through our fifth year of cooking together, we’ll have completed Around My French Table. Personally, I think we should all meet in Paris for gougères and champagne.

And I wouldn’t mind a bowl of this soup, either. Celery and celery root, with a hint of apple and a base of onions. I flavoured mine with thyme and rosemary, and added some shallots to the mix, but it’s Dorie’s bonne idée that makes this dish for me. The cubes of curried apple she suggests added a touch of complexity that I really enjoyed. I made a vegan version of this soup, but Kevin wasn’t that fond of it, so I think I might pick up some crème fraîche tomorrow. Then again, I might not – it stood up well without the addition of dairy.

The recipe for this week’s recipe is on Dorie’s website.

Fresh Tuna, Mozzarella, and Basil Pizza

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I’ve been meaning to catch up on this one for a while, but I didn’t really want to make a gluten-free version of it. It sounded too good with puff pastry. I finally found an excuse to make it last weekend, when my mother and sister-in-law came into town for a hockey game. I used puff pastry vol-au-vents rather than using a sheet of the stuff to make little pizzas – no squashing of flaky layers involved. (For a look at the virtues of flattening puff pastry, see Tomato-Cheese Tartlets.) I did follow the rest of the recipe, arranging thin slices of the ingredients in the vol-au-vents (and their lids) before sliding them back into the oven for a very short time.

It’s a surprising dish – there are so many flavours bursting through, including ginger, tomato, onion and radish, but they all complement each other. These were elegant, delicious little treats. And totally appropriate for a pre-game snack, right?

And now, on to the last six months or so of this cookbook. I can’t tell you how much I’ve come to appreciate my fellow cooks in this adventure. I hope you read through their posts; they’re a lovely bunch of folks.

Find links to the rest of the French Fridays crew’s posts on this week’s recipe here: Celery-Celery Soup. Then check out what Fresh Tuna, Mozzarella, and Basil Pizza looks like when you follow the recipe.

Happy Swoktoberfest

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Steam Whistle Brewing provided me with an entry ticket to their Oktoberfest party on September 20th, along with a keepsake stein. However, I received no compensation and all opinions in the following post are my own.

Vancouver has become a craft brewing hotspot over the last few years and it seems natural that our cultural scene would find ways to celebrate the diversity and quality of the beers we have available to us now.

Take Oktoberfest – unlike Ontario celebrations, Oktoberfest was limited to small German cultural centres for a long time in Vancouver. But in the last few years, Oktoberfest celebrations have sprung up in restaurants, bars, and even downtown. I was given the opportunity to check out one of the first of this year’s events by Steam Whistle Brewing, who held their 2nd annual Oktoberfest party at The Imperial on September 20th. They debuted this year’s reusable steins, got folks into Bavarian alpine hats, and threw a party.

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Bestie was there, with sausage, saurkraut, and pretzels (and amazing mustard sauce, I might add). Polka music was provided by the Rheinlander Oom-pah Band, while the Austria Vancouver Club Edelweiss Dancers showed off German folk dances. Many of the guests got into the act, too, and there were some impressive traditional German costumes all around the room.

The best part of this Oktoberfest, for me, was how well the event catered to patrons young and old. It wasn’t just a university crowd – there were people ranging from their early twenties to well over sixty and you could tell it was a family evening out for many of them. And Steam Whistle’s pilsner is delicious – which is something coming from a stout and ale lover. (Steam Whistle is one of the early entries into better Canadian beer, having been around since 2000 and concentrating on their pilsner exclusively.)

You can get a stein and try their beer for yourself throughout October at Donnelly Group locations.

Now tell me, have you been celebrating Oktoberfest this year? There are plenty of options – what’s been your favourite?

FFWD – Vanilla Vegetable Salad

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After a summer of salads comprised of whatever the garden’s got on offer, it seems like time to examine the shelves and stalls at the market a little more closely. There are still some remnants of the summer’s harvest on the shelves, but now there are also apples upon apples, winter squashes, root and cruciferous vegetables – things that speak of roasting or stewing, not the quick-dressed freshness of hot-weather meals.

Still, there’s one last summer salad for French Fridays and luckily the markets easily yielded the ingredients. Well, more or less. I haven’t seen a yellow zucchini for a few weeks now, so I opted for a small green one. And since the colour scheme was already in flux, I picked up some heirloom purple carrots in place of orange. For the greens, I chose an herby mix that I thought would counterbalance any dissonance I might experience from the vanilla in the dressing.

Yes, vanilla. There’s a lot of olive oil and lemon in this dressing, with only a touch of vanilla extract, but the flavour is transformed by it. I made the dressing by eye, since I was halving the recipe, so I may have been a bit conservative with the amount of vanilla I used, but the flavour was definitely there. My first taste was surprising – I didn’t even register whether I liked it or not. It was just something new to me. Then, I simply enjoyed it. Kevin told me that he liked it, but didn’t love it. (He’d eat it again, so I consider it a win for him.)

I’d love to try this dressing in a salad that’s already a mix of sweet and savoury, one with strawberries or figs, perhaps. There’s still a little time before cold-weather eating fully sets in.

Find links to the rest of the French Fridays crew’s posts here: Vanilla Vegetable Salad