Cottage Cooking Club – October 2015

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This month’s theme for the Cottage Cooking Club is Oktoberfest. I didn’t make it to any Oktoberfest celebrations this year, but as you can see, I did enjoy a seasonal pumpkin lager. I also enjoyed all the harvest vegetables. Thanks to El Niño, the produce stands are full of a variety of early to late autumn produce, which makes delicious eating easy.

Along the way, I prepared two of this month’s CCC selections and both were wonderful.

Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry

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You know a recipe is a keeper if you’re being asked to make it again as soon as it’s gone. This curry lasted us three meals and kept getting better each day.

It’s also a healthy dish, full of fresh garlic, onion, and ginger, with spices like tumeric and cumin – all things that are being touted as immune boosters. There’s only a little fat in it and it’s vegan to boot.

We’ll be having this dish whenever cauliflower looks good at the market.

Roasted Parsnip, Green Lentil, and Spinach

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The recipe in the book uses watercress, but it’s something that I find can be elusive around here. It’s one of those things I try to buy when I see it, as I never know when I’ll run across it again. This month was not a lucky one for me when it came to watercress, so I used wilted spinach in its place. The only other deviation from the recipe I made was to dice some of the onion cooked with the lentils and mix it back in, along with the dressing. It’s a trick I learned from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table.

Fearnley-Whittingstall’s dressed lentils are another favourite from this book. The lemon and mustard dressing suits lentilles du Puy perfectly and pairs well with the wilted spinach and roasted parsnips, too. Ah, I thought of another change I made – to make the dressing vegan, I substituted a little sugar for the honey.

I made more roasted parsnips than I needed for this dish, as it’s my favourite way to eat them and I wanted leftovers. Which reminds me, I added in a few sprigs of fresh rosemary when I was roasting them – I promise, that’s the last tweak I made to this recipe.

We’ll be repeating this dish, too, though given what I’ve written above, I’m not sure it will ever be exactly the same twice.

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.

Cottage Cooking Club – September 2015

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It’s autumn, time for warming meals and bottomless cups of rose-infused lattes (this one’s from Chau Veggie Express).

It’s also harvest time and this month’s Cottage Cooking Club motto is to make the best of what’s seasonal and local. September was a make-up month, so we could choose from any of the recipes that we’ve missed, or revisit a favourite.

I caught up on two recipes this month. They were July picks, but they were perfect for all the garden vegetables that were still at their peak this month.

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Ribollita

I made this early in the month, using some fantastic tomatoes. This is a rich soup, full of vegetables. I used some kale that was the nicest thing at the market the day I made it, but it would have been equally as good with any cruciferous green.

Instead of toasted country bread, I served this with rosemary crostini for me and gluten-free toast rubbed with garlic for Kevin. This soup makes a hearty vegan dinner. We’ll be having it often over the winter.

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Kale and Ricotta Tart

The second dish I made is vegetarian and a dairy-lover’s dream. I used kale (again) in this dish, instead of the beet greens or chard called for in the recipe. It’s all about what’s freshest at the market, right?

I managed to pack a lot of kale in this tart, so it’s definitely health food, regardless of how much ricotta and heavy cream fill the all-butter crust.

Speaking of the crust, it’s not my favourite tart crust to work with and it’s not as pretty as my go-to from Dorie Greenspan, but it’s tender, tastes terrific, and is sturdy enough to contain the filling. It won’t replace my favourite, but I will use it again.

I’ve started testing recipes from the cookbooks I’ll be reviewing in my holiday cookbook series, so I haven’t gotten to as many River Cottage recipes as I’d like. Don’t let that fool you, though. This cookbook is one I’ll be working through and revisiting for a long time to come.

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.

Cottage Cooking Club – August 2015

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May I say that I’m glad this summer’s coming to an end? We’re expected to get more rain over the weekend than we’ve gotten all summer long. It’s a relief. Drought doesn’t look good on Vancouver. At any rate, autumn is harvest time, so there’s a lot to celebrate. I’m looking forward to cooking with squash and root vegetables again.

In between bouts of languishing in the heat this month, I managed a couple of warm-weather dishes for August’s Cottage Cooking Club.

Tomatoes with Thai Dressing

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I made these at the same time I made Tomatoes with Herbs. It’s hard to know which of these was my favourite. I just know that both are lovely ways to celebrate summer tomatoes. This version, with its Thai flavour profile, would make a nice addition to a rice or noodle bowl, or a side for a coconut curry.

Summer Garden Lentils Niçoise

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I learned to love French green lentils while participating in French Fridays with Dorie. There wasn’t much learning to do, to be honest, as I fell in love with them immediately. I use proper lentilles du Puy on occasion, but the Canada-grown French green lentils that I can buy at my local food co-op are organic and delicious. They’re what I use regularly. Is it wrong to say that I don’t notice the difference? Please don’t tell France.

Okay, so I’m not totally over summer. I’m happy to eat my way through the abundance of tomatoes, cucumbers, beet greens, peppers, and everything else that’s on offer right now. Really, I’m just glad it’s finally raining.

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.

Hot Weather Eating – A Cottage Cooking Club Catchup

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I’ve been eating simple meals all summer – we’ve had dry, hot weather and it’s been hard to contemplate using the oven or the stove much. Next year, I think I’m going to add a small grill to our outdoor equipment, because cooking outside is all I’ve been wanting to do.

Luckily, summer is full of fruit and vegetables freshly harvested and perfect for simple preparations. The salad at the top of this post is typical of what I’ve been eating lately, along with some very lightly prepared accompaniments.

New Potato Salad “Tartare”

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One of my favourites this summer has been this salad, which gets away from the mayonnaise-soaked version you so often get in Canada and the U.S. Instead, it relies on herbs, cornichons, and a mustardy vinaigrette for flavour. It’s refreshing to have a bracing sourness underlying the dressing on a hot day.

Tomatoes with Herbs

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I had so many cherry tomatoes that I made this two ways, one of which I’ll tell you about at the end of the month. This is the simplest way to enjoy tomatoes, with fresh herbs from the garden, a little balsamic, and a good olive oil. I had enough to satisfy us, share with our neighbours, and still had some to spare. I slow-roasted those and froze them. They’ll be brightening up my winter meals.

Tomorrow is going to be cloudy and mild (fingers crossed for some much-needed rain). I’m going to take the opportunity to put my oven and stovetop to work. So, you’ll be seeing a few more catch up recipes on the 28th of this month, along with August’s Cottage Cooking Club selections.

I’ve missed cooking along with all my CCC colleagues and I’m looking forward to catching up on your blogs.

Cottage Cooking Club – March 2015

Stir fry

We’ve reached the halfway point of the Cottage Cooking Club’s exploration of River Cottage Veg and the group is taking this month to catch up on recipes they may have missed in previous months. As for me, I’m just glad my new copy of the book has arrived. Inexplicably, my first copy of the book disappeared during the great re-piping project in January and no amount of looking has turned it up. I suspect that I will find it, now that I’ve got another copy. At least I hope so, because I have a lot of notes in the margins of the original.

As a result, I missed last month and this month I’ve only got one recipe on deck – Winter Stir-fry with Chinese Five-spice. This is the sort of recipe I’d like to say that I make regularly, but really need a reminder to undertake. I used to make stir-fries all the time in my youth. Now I spend so much time exploring new recipes, that I forget about the kitchen skills I’ve carried for years. To be fair, in those days I also spent a lot of time on political marches, taking university courses, and dancing in clubs.

Things change, though perhaps we shouldn’t leave so much behind. There are political matters that are just as urgent today, life-long learners get more satisfaction from their lives, and those who dance into their twilight years seem happier than the rest of us. Stir-fries, too, shouldn’t become just the stuff of dinners out – they are the epitome of the healthy, well-seasoned home cooking that’s being encouraged by food advocates everywhere.

Seasoning is the key, along with paying attention to how much cooking each vegetable requires. Some of my youthful attempts at stir-fry were a little ham-fisted and needed a little more care than the lashings of soy sauce and lemon they suffered. It took time and practice to get the hang of it and I think that helped me to become a better cook overall.

This stir-fry is simple, relying on five-spice powder, soy sauce, and rice wine for flavour, with a finish of fresh lime juice. It’s also a good choice for that in-between season when spring gardens are only just being planted. Carrot, parsnip, and mushroom give substance to the dish, while shredded Brussels sprouts are nice alternative to the usual wilted greens.

Easter

I’d also like to say thank you to Andrea, our fearless and talented leader, who blogs at The Kitchen Lioness. She was kind enough to send participants an Easter gift and you can see some of the lovely ornaments she included, above. This group has been a wonderful way to connect with more talented and interesting bloggers. It’s also been a great way to explore my partner’s newly-vegan diet with him. We choose from each month’s offerings together and the group’s recipes have become staples in our everyday eating.

I’m looking forward to cooking through the rest of the book, barring any more disappearing cookbooks.

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.

Cottage Cooking Club – January 2015

Early spring

Spring is a few weeks ahead of itself here. The blooms that start popping up in February have been appearing everywhere around the neighbourhood over the last two weeks. It’s a welcome sign of renewal.

I’ve been experiencing renewal in a slightly less pleasurable way since the turn of the year. Our building was completely re-piped over the last few weeks and it was disruptive enough to throw off my blogging schedule (among other things). Half of my kitchen’s contents were piled on the other half and the rest of our place was uneasily accommodating the contents of our storage and coat closets, along with the substantial contents of a big built-in bookshelf.

There are no more holes in the wall and in their place, there are bright new coats of paint. We’re slowly organizing and putting away the things we’re keeping and working on getting rid of the rest. (One of the advantages of this sort of project is that it inspires you to purge unneeded belongings.) One of the disadvantages of work of this kind is that it saps creative energy, so we’ve been existing on some pretty utilitarian cooking lately and writing inspiration was a little hard to come by.

But that’s all over with, so I’m back in the kitchen and at my desk and will be catching up on some promised posts soon. For now, I’m glad I only committed to one Cottage Cooking Club selection this month, though all of them looked like things I’d love to try.

Curried Bubble and Squeak

Bubble and Squeak

Just before the chaos began, I made a big batch of this bubble and squeak. The traditional version has been a comfort food favourite of mine for many years, but one that I don’t often remember to make. This curried vegan version, which uses leftover cooked cabbage and potatoes, is economical and delicious. (And as a bonus, it reminded me that simply sautéed shredded cabbage is a delicious side dish all on its own.) I added chickpeas to the dish, for a little protein and fibre boost, but otherwise followed the recipe. My only quibble is that curry powder is such an imprecise description. I’m going to be playing around with curry spices as I make this dish again, until I get a combination I really love.

I also made the fennel and celeriac soup with orange zest, which was delicious, but that was when the work in our kitchen began and I neglected to get a photo. I love this sort of soup, especially when the weather is cold or rainy. Citrus and fennel have bright notes that help to make up for sunless days and celeriac has the same sort of earthy heft as potatoes, which braces against the cold. A perfect winter soup.

Now, we can move on to February. It’s a cold and dark month in many places, but here in Vancouver, it’s often full of spring.

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.

Cottage Cooking Club – December 2014

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One last hurrah from the year that has passed, with some deeply warming winter dishes that were a contrast from the frivolity of much of the holiday food we consumed all month. It’s the time of year for drinking endless cups of tea and thinking about healthy winter eating. These two dishes are great examples of vegan choices that will warm and nourish you.

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

This soup was quick and simple, perfect for a month in which I’d bitten off a little more than I could chew, while trying to fit in all the holiday fun I could manage. I usually think about Thai flavours when I use coconut milk, but this soup reminded me that it is equally wonderful with Indian spices. I skipped the yogurt (to keep it vegan) and the cilantro (because the stuff in the store was wan and unappetizing), instead dipping toast into my bowl. Kevin just ate it straight up and loved it, though he’s usually not a fan of sweet potatoes.

The sharpness of the lime and ginger, the smoothness of the coconut milk and pureed sweet potatoes, and the spiciness of the curry and chiles make for a balanced and delicious soup. There’s also a variation listed for curried red lentil soup. I think that one might be on the agenda soon.

Roasted roots

Roasted Roots With Apple and Rosemary

Roasted roots are something I always think I should make more often, so I was glad that this dish was one of the choices. I used carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, and parsnip, but any winter root will do. They are roasted until they are softening and starting to brown, then apple wedges and fresh rosemary are added for the final fifteen minutes or so. The results are as good as a holiday stuffing, but more substantial. It’s meant to be a side, but I ended up making my lunch from the leftovers. I won’t be forgetting about roasted roots for the rest of this winter.

I was also planning on making the Leek risotto with chestnuts, but December just got away from me and there was no more time (nor has there been since). January is going to be another hectic month and then I’m hoping there will be a little breathing room thereafter.

How is your 2015 shaping up so far?

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.

Cottage Cooking Club – November 2014

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On this last day of November, it really feels like the holidays are approaching, with the chill in the air – there’s even snow on the ground. It’s the time of year we associate with soups and stews, but it’s also time to enjoy as much of this year’s harvest as possible, before the long wait for spring. This month’s Cottage Cooking Club selections suited this late harvest, early winter season perfectly. I made four of the selections, but you can click the link at the bottom of the post to see the rest.

Quinoa Salad with Herbs and Walnuts

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The star of this salad isn’t really the grain, in my opinion, which is a good thing, since I substituted quinoa for the Israeli couscous called for in the recipe. I think it’s the fennel that makes this salad. Its crunchy brightness makes this salad a perfect antidote for the winter rains we endured for much of this month. With toasted nuts and spices, handfuls of herbs, and a splash of lemon, this is going to be a lunchbox favourite for us all winter long.

Belgian Endive, Pears, and Salty-Sweet Roasted Almonds

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This simple, pretty salad could serve as an appetizer at a dinner party, but I like it better as a weekend snack. It’s got the same kind of crunchy freshness as the couscous salad, but the flavours don’t blend as much as serve as counterpoints to one another. If you’ve got the vinaigrette made up in the fridge, it’s easy enough to put together and addictive enough that you might snack yourself right out of needing to worry about dinner.

Chestnut and Sage Soup

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I wasn’t sure I should try this one, since the Chestnut-Pear Soup from Around My French Table was such a success for us, but I’m glad I did. I think I like the flavour combination of chestnut and sage best of the two and that’s saying something, because I loved the chestnut-pear soup. I stirred a spoonful of sour cream into my bowl, but I’d made the soup itself vegan and it was really lovely without any dairy at all.

Right now, it’s time for fresh chestnuts in the market, so I’ll be taking advantage of those while I can, but I also think that vacuum-packed chestnuts are going to become a staple in my pantry, so I can enjoy chestnut soup year-round.

Swede Speltotto – Make that Rutabaga Risotto

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This is the only recipe this month that wasn’t entirely a success for us, simply because the rutabaga was a little bitter. I made risotto, instead of using spelt, so that I could share this meal with Kevin (since he was in a lapsed vegan, cheese-eating phase). I added a couple of Gruyère rinds along with the rutabaga and Arborio rice and used only vegetable stock for the liquid. I finished the risotto with Parmesan and parsley and it was delicious. It was a bit of a letdown that the rutabaga didn’t measure up. I think I’d substitute another root vegetable in its place next time, or roast the rutabaga cubes and add them later, to give them some caramelization and sweetness.

November was a busy, eventful month and December promises to be even more so. There will be a lot going on the blog, but I’m looking forward to seeing what our Cottage Cooking Club selections will be, because I think a little vegetarian goodness will serve as a nice antidote to the holiday feasting that’s fast approaching.

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.

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.

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.