Cook the Book Fridays – Buckwheat Crêpes With Ham, Cheese and Egg

Prisma-styled buckwheat crêpe

For many of us, buckwheat flour is one of the ingredients in a pancake mix. Growing up, there were usually only three flours in my parents’ pantry: all purpose, whole wheat, and pastry. Occasionally rye flour would make an appearance, if someone had gone on a bread-baking spree.

Now, after a decade of living with someone who has celiac disease, my definition of pantry staples has shifted. In fact, there is a whole shelf devoted to gluten-free flours. Quinoa? Right there. Coconut? Two jars down. Oat? Let me grind a little for you. Garfava? It’s sitting there, a little unloved, at the end of the row.

So, sourcing buckwheat flour wasn’t the most challenging part of this week’s assignment for me.

Surprisingly, neither was making the crêpes. I put together the batter last night, but wasn’t able to start cooking until this evening. The batter held up well. My pan is only eight inches wide, so mine were a little small, but they were lacy, golden brown, light, but resilient. Nearly perfect.

Buckwheat crêpe

My woes began with the egg. My stove is ever so slightly a-tilt. Something I forget until carefully placed food starts sliding to one side. On my first attempt, the egg skated over the surface of the crêpe, settling against the side of the pan. I managed to move it back a few times, but then it burst. The crêpe was a little too Pollock to photograph, but it was delicious.

On my second attempt, I built a little wall of grated cheese around the centre of the crêpe and trapped the yolk inside. This time, my problem was folding the sides of the crêpe – I’d been a little too enthusiastic in my wall-building and the crêpe was over-filled with cheese.

As you can see, it prevented me from making a perfect square, which was probably not helped by the fact that my crêpes were a little smaller than they should have been. But, again, it was delicious and there was nothing to regret about the extra cheese.

My next attempt at this recipe will involve the purchase of a proper crêpe pan. In the name of science, of course.

Buckwheat crêpe with ham, cheese and egg

You can read through everyone’s posts here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David LebovitzMy Paris Kitchen.

Cook the Book Fridays – Raw Vegetable Slaw with Creamy Garlic Dressing

Raw Veggie Slaw with Creamy Garlic Dressing

What better time for a classic summer salad than a weekend bookended by two national holidays? Slaws are classic picnic and barbecue food and this one stands up to any I’ve tried. This recipe is also a blueprint for enjoying slaws year-round, with an host of suggested vegetables and fruits to complement its garlicky dressing. This time, I chose red cabbage, green onions, radishes, flat-leaf parsley, and some tarragon fresh from my balcony garden. In winter, I might choose broccoli or Brussels sprouts, carrots, beets, and red onion.

The dressing is truly garlicky, calling for two full tablespoons of garlic to one cup of mayonnaise. I made a vegan version, using vegan mayo, and it translated quite well. Vegan mayos have improved immensely over the last few years, I’ve found. I quartered the dressing recipe, made half the quantity of salad, and still had some dressing left over. It will be gone quickly – it’s so good, it could serve as a dip. It’s a terrific combination of garlic, red wine vinegar, and Dijon mustard.

Raw Veggie Slaw

I’ll be adding this dressing to my regular rotation. I can’t remember the last time I bought a bottle of salad dressing. There are so many great scratch recipes for them and I like being able to make dressings in small quantities – that way, they never go to waste, unlike past bottled dressings that expired long before I could finish them.

I hope my Canadian and American friends are enjoying their long weekend and those in other parts of the world have a relaxing weekend, too.

You can read through everyone’s posts here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David LebovitzMy Paris Kitchen.

Baking Chez Moi – Rice Pudding with Spiced Hibiscus Syrup

Vanilla bean rice pudding with blueberries and spiced hibiscus syrup

I’ve had Dorie’s rice pudding before, with lemony caramel apples. It’s different from the rice pudding I grew up with, which was all about making leftover rice delicious. (Though even that kind of rice pudding can put on some party clothes.)

Dorie’s rice pudding uses arborio rice, which is simmered in whole milk and flavoured with a little sugar and half a vanilla bean. It’s simple, rich and delicious, the perfect backdrop for flavours in every season.

In summer, she recommends spiced hibiscus syrup and fresh strawberries. We’re well into blueberry season here, so I used those instead. They’re just as nice a pairing for hibiscus as strawberries and they’re what was freshest at the market today.

Spiced Hibiscus Syrup

As a bonus, there is plenty of leftover hibiscus syrup. I mixed a tablespoonful into some cold Pelligrino earlier today, but there are endless cocktail and mocktail possibilities for this jar of simple syrup. Or, I could just spend the rest of the week drizzling it over ice cream.

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this recipe here or here, along with posts about this month’s other selected recipe, Rose Frasier.

“Line them up right here.”

East Van Foliage

It’s been quite a week, with the implications of Brexit to decipher, Vancouver developers making the most of the perfect spin on our housing crisis, and the end of that most perfect corner of the Internet looming.

East Van Flowers

Next week, it’s all cookbook clubs all the time, but I’ll have a little something more for you the week after that.

East Van Corn

In the meantime, enjoy a few photos of my neighbourhood’s gardens. I’m going to return to watching my way through the Thin Man movies. Nick and Nora’s cocktail-fuelled shenanigans are a welcome oasis in a complicated world.

Cook the Book Fridays – Poulet Crapaudine

Spatchcocked chicken

This chicken took a circuitous route into my kitchen. I don’t cook a lot of meat at home, to spare the vegan and because I’ve always been comfortable with a mostly vegetarian diet. So, when this dish came up in the rotation for Cook the Book Fridays, I decided to hand off the cooking to my parents. They have some beautiful chickens in their freezer that they got from a friend’s farm. This recipe adapts perfectly to the barbecue, which they’ve already got fired up for the summer season. I thought I’d send my mother home with the harissa paste in my freezer and enjoy this dish vicariously through their photos and descriptions.

But things didn’t go as planned. First, I completely forgot about the harissa paste, so my mother settled on sambal oelek instead. My brother spatchcocked the chicken for her and she put together the marinade, bagged the chicken, and refrigerated it.

Spatchcocking and marinating the chicken

And then she remembered she was going away to a conference, so she brought the chicken over to me. It needed another day in the refrigerator, which brings us to today. I put it into my Dutch oven, weighed it down with some Corningware, and cooked it on the stovetop. I lost some of the skin, but it worked rather well. Then, I transferred it to the oven, where it took about half an hour to finish. I was happy with how it turned out in the Dutch oven, but I think I’ve got to invest in a larger cast iron frying pan. I think it would have been easier to work with and the chicken wouldn’t have taken quite so long to finish.

The results were tender and juicy, a little spicy, and very flavourful. I only had a taste tonight, but I’m looking forward to having some more tomorrow, with coleslaw and roasted potatoes. The rest is going into the freezer, so that it can travel back to my parents’ house. It wouldn’t be right to exclude them from enjoying this chicken, would it?

I’ve titled this post Poulet Crapaudine, which is French for spatchcocked chicken, but David Lebovitz calls it Chicken Lady Chicken, in honour of the woman who inspired the recipe. I hope if you try this dish, your chicken doesn’t have to commute quite as much as mine did.

You can read through everyone’s posts here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David LebovitzMy Paris Kitchen.

Honey Dijon Lamb Meatballs

Lamb meatballs with rosemary roasted potatoes and sauteed greens

Mustard does something magical to lamb. Slather it on a leg of lamb before roasting and it forms a beautiful crust. Add some to a shepherd’s pie and it will marry the flavours of all the seasonings. Dollop a tablespoonful into a meatball mixture and it will add tenderness along with flavour. I enjoy the pairing so much that I sometimes forget that there are other flavours that can complement lamb. I suppose it’s not surprising that when Maille Canada kindly sent me a sample of their famous Honey Dijon mustard, I started making plans for the ground lamb in my freezer.

Maille’s Honey Dijon is already a favourite of mine, but their squeeze bottle packaging was new to me. It’s meant for outdoor eating, so I wanted to make something that would showcase the flavour of the mustard, but would also translate easily to the barbecue.

Our weather has been a little spotty of late, so I roasted these meatballs in the oven. But, they will roast just as beautifully in a grill pan on the barbecue. I make my meatballs with rice, which means I don’t have to exclude gluten-free eaters. You could easily replace the rice with another grain or quinoa. I cooked the rice in a tomato-rich vegetable broth, but you could use chicken broth, lamb broth, or plain water, instead.

These meatballs get their tenderness from the mustard and a bit of yogurt, with a tiny bit of extra piquancy from some finely diced cornichon (a trick I picked up from Dorie Greenspan). They’re great on their own, or with a bit of tomato sauce. They’re lovely in soup and I suspect they’d elevate a meatball sandwich, especially if you served them on a baguette with cultured butter and a generous slathering of honey Dijon.

Honey Dijon Lamb Meatballs

Makes 15-20 meatballs

  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1/2 cup cooked basmati rice
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp plain French-style yogurt
  • 1 tbsp Maille Honey Dijon Mustard
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cornichon, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary (or 1/2 tsp dried)
  • zest of 1/4 lemon, grated
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • a good grinding of black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Or, use a grill pan and cook on the barbecue with the lid closed.

In a large bowl, gently but thoroughly mix all ingredients. Shape into balls of 2-3 tablespoons of the mixture and place on lined baking sheet.

Bake for about 25 minutes, until nicely browned and cooked through. (If you’re using a meat thermometer, cook to 160°F.)

Serve immediately. Leftovers can be gently reheated in broth or tomato sauce, or added to soup. Or, place them on a tray and freeze them, then transfer to an airtight container or freezer bag. They’ll keep for 3-6 months.

Maille Honey Dijon Mustard

Maille sent me two squeeze bottles of their Honey Dijon mustard. I’ve been working my way through one of the bottles, using it for sandwiches, salad dressings, and marinades. And now that summer’s about to begin in earnest, I’m glad to have a container of gourmet mustard that’s picnic-safe. The other bottle was sent home with my mother. My parents grill all summer long and they were eager to add it to their condiment arsenal.

I think this packaging is going to be a hit. People are seeking out higher quality sausages and cured meats for their al fresco meals these days. It makes sense that they’d want to elevate their condiment selection, too. Maille is certainly confident that’s the case – beginning this month, you’ll be able to find their honey Dijon in supermarkets, as well as gourmet stores. Barbecue culture is growing up.

I received two bottles of Maille’s Honey Dijon Mustard from Maille Canada, but received no other consideration. All opinions are my own.

A Late Start

A fig sprouting

It’s been so long since I’ve written about my garden. Perhaps that’s because I’ve hardly been able to attend to it until now. Three days after our annual soil delivery, I sprained my ankle rather badly and lost five weeks of backyard time. Luckily, I had planted tomatoes and strawberries in containers on the balcony, along with pineapple sage and tarragon, so I’m not as behind as I’d otherwise have been.

Yellow Brandywine tomato flowers

It’s only this week that my ankle has been strong enough to do some real gardening. Much of my time is spent battling morning glory, blackberry cane, buttercups, and nightshade – so much so that it’s almost become a refrain as I work. I’d cleared the worst of it in March, but by the time I got back to the garden properly, they’d all made riotous progress.

The hostas are flowering

I spent a day clearing blackberry cane and morning glory, pulling blooming shoots from the centre of the long-suffering bay tree at the corner of my yard. Then, I finally tilled the soil in my vegetable garden with a claw and a new-fangled hoe that my father found that looks more like a weapon for the zombie apocalypse than it does a garden tool. It was very satisfying. All I’ve got to do now is top up and mix the soil, mark off my square foot sections and plant. I’ve got lettuce, peppers, celery, and cucumbers waiting in pots, but I’m also going to take my chances late-sowing radishes. It’s perfect timing for my Tante Vivienne’s beans, which have been saved over generations, and I’m looking through my stash of seeds to see what else I can manage this year.

Wild carrot, with pollinators

Then, I’ll tackle the flower beds, though I’m leaving as many wild carrot plants intact as I can. I know they’re considered weeds, but I’ve seen at least eight different species of pollinator feasting on them. Maybe that makes me a bad gardener (along with the dandelions I leave in place in early spring, for similar reasons). Perhaps I’ll think of myself as a good host, instead.

Cook the Book Fridays – Fattoush

Fattoush

I don’t think of salads as diet food. It’s what I was raised to do, but the days of wan supermarket lettuce, with its limp produce aisle cohorts are long gone. These days, lettuce is early summer fare, along with freshly-dug radishes and scallions. It’s not quite time for tomatoes and cucumbers, but today’s fresh market offerings are better than the supermarket fare of yore (yore being the late 20th Century).

Salads are a broader category for me now, too. Shaved Brussels sprouts or cabbage might go into a winter salad, roasted tomatoes and eggplant into a high summer version. But right now, salads look a lot like the ones in my elementary school picture books – lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, radishes, carrots – they’re all fair game.

Fattoush with za'atar

Tonight’s salad is fattoush, which adds a healthy dose of flat-leaf parsley and mint to a mix of romaine, onion, radishes, and cucumbers. It’s tossed in a lemony, garlicky, mustardy vinaigrette and finished with grindings of black pepper and a sprinkling of sumac. I’m out of sumac, so I substituted za’atar. I’m glad I did, because there’s lots of sumac, but it also adds a burst of thyme and sesame.

My bowl included pieces of pita that had been brushed with olive oil and crisped in the oven. The gluten-free version included crispy rice crackers instead. Both were full of flavour.

There will be many more summer salads this year, but I’ll be revisiting this one regularly, perhaps as soon as tomorrow.

Fattoush on a wicker tray

You can read through everyone’s posts here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David LebovitzMy Paris Kitchen.

A Wishlist For a Rainy Friday Night

Poppies in bloom

These poppies got a battering from today’s rain showers. I hope they survived it. We’re having a quiet evening in tonight, all the better to avoid a rain-battering ourselves.

It’s left me with lots of time to think on what I’d like to see happen in my community and beyond.

Here are a few wishlist items:

I’d like the City of Vancouver to give housing co-operatives a break on property taxes. They provide the kind of mixed income, diverse housing that the current council wants to see. And while we’re at it, let’s have the federal government provide grants to co-operatives who want to expand, especially in underserved categories like one bedroom, three and four bedroom, and accessible suites.

Oh, for some walkable, bikeable, human-scale development in the Fraser Valley. Langley’s Brookswood neighbourhood is being eyed by real estate developers, who’ll likely replace the quiet grid of half acre lots with condo blocks, shopping malls, and eight lane arterial roads. Instead, they could use subdivision to create density, then line the busier streets with midrise buildings that encourage the kind of businesses and street life that are being lost in the Vancouver neighbourhoods threatened by condo tower annihilation.

And then, a restructuring of our transit system might be in order, with low cost light rail serving neighbourhood hubs and fare structures that encourage drivers to abandon their cars, while ensuring youth, seniors, students, and the poor can get where they’re going.

I’d also like a patisserie to go into the vacant storefront at the end of my block, in case any entrepreneurs are feeling malleable.

What’s on your wishlist?

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Food Revolution Day 2016

Food Revolution 2016

Since 2013, I’ve been celebrating Food Revolution Day with a group of bloggers that met when we worked through Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. We’ve all moved on to other projects, together and separately, and added new blogging colleagues along the way.

Today, we’re convening again to contribute our voices to Food Revolution’s mission: to talk about how “children access, consume and understand food” and to ensure they have “access to good, fresh, nutritious food for generations to come.”

Our celebration is taking place across two cook-along groups started by alumni of French Fridays with Dorie: Cook the Book Fridays and The Cottage Cooking Club. We have one Food Revolution Ambassador in each group, Mardi of eat. live. travel. write and Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness, and each had a unique take on this year’s Food Revolution Day theme, which is #FeedtheFuture. Jamie Oliver released ten recipes to learn and share that he believes can teach you all the skills you need to feed yourself for the rest of your life. Using this as a template, each of our Food Revolution Ambassadors came up with challenges appropriate to the book their group is working with.

Cook the Book Fridays: Ham, Blue Cheese, and Pear Quiche

Ham, Blue Cheese, and Pear Quiche

Mardi has taken the lead on Food Revolution Day, first in French Fridays with Dorie and now in Cook the Book Fridays. She chose David LebovitzHam, Blue Cheese, and Pear Quiche from My Paris Kitchen for the group to prepare this week, as a “must know” recipe. Quiche is almost infinitely variable, and can accommodate gluten-free, vegetarian, and even vegan diets, with some simple ingredient substitutions.

It’s a dish that highlights a skill that’s just as important for a healthful diet as the ones covered in Jamie Oliver’s “starter pack” of healthy recipes – baking. Knowing how to make your own crusts, breads, and pastries can empower you to choose the best ingredients and use them in delicious and healthy proportions.

Quiche is also a great dish to help you avoid food waste – nearly anything in your fridge that needs using can be put into a quiche. And if you get into the habit of keeping savoury tart doughs in your freezer, it’s easily a weeknight meal option or a last minute potluck solution. I’m exemplifying this tonight – the quiche is in the oven while I’m writing this post.

I decided to follow Mardi’s lead and “minify” this recipe. I made muffin-tin servings of quiche, which are easy to share. I made the full recipe of tart dough, freezing half. My quiche crust is an interesting colour – I used organic blue cornmeal in place of yellow cornmeal, as that’s what I had on hand. It’s ground to a fine texture, which is a plus for a crust. Cornmeal can often lend a gritty texture to doughs like this.

I halved the quiche filling, though. I’ve only got so many taste-testers available this weekend. I didn’t vary David’s recipe and I’m glad. This is a rich, sophisticated quiche. Ham, blue cheese, and pear are classic flavour partners. That said, I’ll use this quiche recipe as a jumping off point whenever I have some cream cheese hanging out in my refrigerator. As I said before, a world of possibilities can be contained in the crust of a quiche.

You might notice there aren’t any photos of my quiches. It was dark by the time I finished my post, so I’ll add some tomorrow, so you can see them at their best.

Three mini quiches

You can read through the Cook the Book Fridays crew posts for this Food Revolution Day here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David LebovitzMy Paris Kitchen.

The Cottage Cooking Club

Since we just wrapped up cooking our way through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall´s River Cottage Veg, Andrea took a different route for this group’s challenge. She asked us to choose up to ten recipes from the book that qualify as “must know” dishes and to share the techniques and skills we learned in making them.

My mind turned to categories, rather than specific dishes, so I’ll share a few of the things that River Cottage Veg helped improve in my own kitchen.

Roasting deepens flavour

Roast until fabulous

If you were brought up the way I was, most vegetables got roasted alongside cuts of meats or as a part of stews. Otherwise, they received a stove top or steamer treatment. But, roasting brings out the best in many vegetables and several of Hugh’s recipes are oven-roasted improvements on stove top staples.

Oven Roasted Roots Frittata

Oven Roasted Ratatouille and Roasted Tomato Sauce

Roasted Roots with Apple and Rosemary

Homemade sauces and condiments are easy and delicious

Dressings and Condiments

You really don’t know how good something can be until you’ve eaten it fresh out of the kitchen. Condiments and dressings are easy to make and so much better than the ones you can buy at the supermarket. Besides, you’ll improve your knife skills when you process all those beautiful aromatics.

Lemony Guacamole

Mojo Sauces

Tomatoes with Thai Dressing

Great flavour starts at the base

Depth of flavour

When you work at creating a delicious flavour base, whether that’s a scratch curry paste or an infusion of dried mushrooms, your dish will be more than the sum of its parts. It doesn’t take long to add flavour, so there’s no reason to skip steps.

Eggplant and Green Bean Curry

Mushroom “Stoup”

Over the last two years, our group picked up or refined cooking skills, encountered new ingredients, and learned new approaches to familiar ones. However, the greatest gift that working through this cookbook gave us was to reinforce the truth that vegetarian and vegan eating can be flavourful, varied, healthy, and more than enough. I think that qualifies as a Food Revolution, don’t you?

You can find the rest of the group’s Food Revolution posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for healthy, delicious eating.

And you can join in on the Cottage Cooking Club’s next adventure, cooking through one or both of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall´s River Cottage Every Day and Love Your Leftovers – you can find the details, here.

World food waste statistics

I believe that people need access to safe, affordable, whole foods; access to the skills and techniques to prepare foods; and access to the housing, income, and safety that will allow them to cook. This will ensure the health of future generations and the planet, reducing the waste of food, packaging materials, human potential, and environmental resources that an industrial, processed food system can enable. Participating in initiatives like Food Revolution Day can only help those goals along.

You’ll find plenty of posts, photos, videos, and more if you search the #FeedtheFuture and #FoodRevolution tags on your social media channels, encompassing a huge range of perspectives on what it means to bolster food security for coming generations.