Cook the Book Fridays – Fresh Herb Omelette

Vancouver's "Snowpocalype" was pretty at times.

Happy New Year! I hope 2017 brings plenty of good things, though it’s sure to be a challenging year, as well. My December was hectic and celebratory and my blog schedule suffered as a result. I don’t regret it at all, but I did miss keeping up with my friends at Cook the Book Fridays. So, I’m catching up on most of the dishes I missed in December, along with posting about our very first selection of 2017.

Fresh Herb Omelette

Fresh Herb Omelette

After all the complicated dishes, rich holiday favourites and baking, baking, baking, a simple omelette was a wonderful way to usher in a new year of cooking together. I’ve often skimped on butter when making omelettes, but faithfully using the quantity specified in this recipe gave this omelette the kind of crust and soft, fluffy interior I’m only used to at restaurants. No more skimping on butter for me.

Pissaladière

Pissaladière

I first made Pissaladière when I was cooking through Around My French Table with French Fridays with Dorie, way back in 2011. It’s a dish I don’t revisit often enough, so I was glad to have a reminder of how much I like this onion, anchovy, and olive tart. I’m not sure I can choose between the two versions. I like them both, though it is convenient that David’s dough doesn’t require an egg – with the number of eggs I ran through during holiday baking, that was probably more important than it would be in the summertime.

This is something I like to make for company, but I was on my own for it this time around. I didn’t “minify” it, though. Instead, I made the full recipe, pulling it out when it was fully baked, but not as browned as I like it. I cut it into squares, put one back in the oven to brown, and put the rest into the fridge in a covered container, once they’d cooled. That gave me several days’ worth of this delicious treat, each slice of which was just as good as the first, once it got its second round in the oven.

Grated Carrot Salad

Grated Carrot Salad

This is another dish that was also tackled by the French Fridays crew when I was cooking through Around My French Table, but this version skips the raisins and nuts, focusing on carrot, herbs, and a lemon-mustard dressing. I’m all in favour of that. Simple salads that go with almost anything else you’re serving aren’t just the stuff of January resolutions – they’re year-round necessities that make meals shine.

I’m looking forward to catching up on everyone else’s posts from December and I’m also looking forward to what’s in store on the blog in the next few weeks. There will be a chocolate tasting to tell you about and a risotto recipe or two to share. I’ll be updating you on the progress of my spider plant and making good on my intention to share more about community this year. In these times, I think it’s good to celebrate the ways in which we come together, don’t you?

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 Lebovitz‘ My Paris Kitchen.

Dorie’s Cookies – Pfefferneusse

I can’t seem to stop baking lately, with cookbook reviews, craft fairs, cookie swaps, and family get-togethers whisking me through November at a faster pace than I care for. The compensation is that the holidays are just around the corner and all that baking will go to good use. 

Well, except that some of it was donated and almost all the rest was shared and shared again, until I realized that I’d only managed to stash away some biscotti in the freezer. Everything else was gone.

Which sounds like a sad story, but honestly, I’m happy to have a reason to bake more. It’s my favourite way to gear up for the holidays.

These Pfefferneusse (or pepper nuts) were a great way to start. They’re full of spices and pecans, Christmas staples, and they can be dipped in chocoate or dusted with icing sugar, making them pretty and even tastier.

I’ll be sharing these Christmas week, so I left all but a few plain and popped them into the freezer.

However, I’m considering making another batch, so I can share them a little sooner. They’re this month’s Cookies and Kindness selection. Dorie has shared the recipe and you can make some to make someone’s day.

This week’s Dorie’s Cookies goodness can be found here, along with posts about the other Tuesdays with Dorie selected recipe for December, Christmas Spice Cookies.

Cook the Book Fridays – Butternut Squash Crumble


Holiday dinner season starts this weekend in Canada, just in time for the markets to start filling with this year’s autumn harvest. Growing up, we always had yams or squash on our holiday table, but they were never the storied candied yams with marshmallows that I heard about from other families. My mother preferred to roast them and mash them with just enough butter, brown sugar, and nutmeg to enhance their natural flavour. It’s my favourite way to eat them still.

So, I looked at this week’s recipe carefully, worried that it skewed to the dessert on the dinner table side of things. But, this recipe makes the most of butternut squash’s savoury affinities, while using its sweetness to balance the dish. The crisp is a mixture of bread crumbs, Parmesan, and polenta, seasoned with sage and held together by butter and egg. Underneath, the squash is infused with homemade chicken stock and flavoured with thyme and shallots.

As much as I like sweet crumbles, with almost any sort of fruit, I’m excited to have met its savoury cousin. Now that I’ve given it a test-run, it can graduate to prettier baking dishs and shine on holiday tables this year, and I suspect, for years to come.

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 Lebovitz‘ My Paris Kitchen.

Ginger Snapped

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Every year during the holidays, there’s always one treat that outshines the others. Some years it’s sucre à la crème, other years it’s Nanaimo bars or butter tarts. This year, it’s ginger cookies that everyone wanted. Early in the season, I resurrected a recipe from the copy of Company’s Coming: Cookies that I received as a gift when I moved out of my parents’ house oh-so-many years ago. I’ve been making batches nearly weekly, ever since.

It’s one of those old-fashioned cookbooks that are worth hanging onto, like the Five Roses or Betty Crocker ones. Though I won’t touch the cake-mix based recipes with a ten-foot pole, there are many reliable, delicious cookie recipes to be found there.

These cookies are sugar and butter bombs, with a deep molasses and ginger flavour and a crisp-but-tender texture that makes them perfect for dunking.

I’m going to keep making them as they are, but I’m curious to see if I can come up with a healthier version, too. Some of my favourite cookie-eaters can’t partake in something quite so indulgent. So, I’m adding it to my investigation pile, along with the perfect gluten-free, vegan peanut butter cookie. Watch this space for developments.

You can find the recipe online if you Google, but it doesn’t look like anyone’s gotten permission, so I won’t link to it here. I’d head down to your local library to check out the Company’s Coming books, instead. A librarian friend of mine says they’re some of the most perennially popular cookbooks they circulate. You might even surprise yourself and buy a copy – sometimes it’s the old-fashioned recipes that satisfy the most.

A Little Cheer

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I think it’s high time I shared a holiday round up, don’t you?

Craft Fairs

It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for craft fairs. This time of year they are at their peak. I’ve got a selection of favourites for you.

Make It! is big, comprehensive and worth an afternoon’s browse.

Toque is a fundraiser for Western Front, so it’s not surprising that the wares on display have a fine arts sensibility. It’s always a hit.

Got Craft? still sets the bar for what’s indie and in when it comes to craft fairs. This year, they’re taking the show to North Vancouver.

Shiny Fuzzy Muddy is organized by some of my favourite artists and it’s a small, curated show full of beautiful art, jewellery, and apparel. If you’re thinking about buying yourself a present this year, do it here.

Markets

It’s not all about crafts, though. Holiday markets are a pleasure all their own.

The Baker’s Market is back, just in time for the holidays. It’s a one-stop shop for indie sweets purveyors, so prepare to get all your stocking stuffers out of the way.

The Vancouver Christmas Market imports (literally) the Germany holiday tradition and is always popular. Go hungry.

Speaking of hunger, the Vancouver Farmers’ Market Holiday Market is a great place to shop when you’re hungry, too. There are goods of all sorts, though, so you just might polish off your gift list.

Tourist in Your Own Town

Your condo may be too small to safely install even one string of outdoor lights, but luckily, there are thousands of lights for you to enjoy across the city. Then, work off the hot chocolate at the ice rink.

VanDusen Botanical Garden‘s Festival of Lights is bigger than ever. Tour the grounds, then go for a meal or hot chocolate – they’ve got everything from snacks to fine dining.

See the Capilano Suspension Bridge in a whole new light – well, hundreds of thousands of lights.

Or, keep it simple and go skating at Robson Square. It’s surprisingly magical.

Performance

There are a bewildering number of great performances happening around here at this time of year, so I’m just going to highlight a few.

This year’s East Van Panto is Hansel and Gretel. They’re always hilarious, topical fun.

A Christmas Story, The Musical sounds like fun, too, as long as nobody puts an eye out.

Christmas at the Chan is going to be majestic – five choirs in that space!

It’s the 50th anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas. So, why not celebrate with the The Vancouver Chamber Choir?

And finally, Vancouver Cantata Singers are performing at Holy Rosary Cathedral. Experiencing the gorgeous acoustics there should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Have you checked out my holiday cookbook review series? There are copies of 5 great cookbooks up for grabs. You can find the links to the giveaways (as they go live) here.

Cookbooks galore!

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Things are getting festive around here – I just attended the first cookie swap of the season and on Commercial Drive, my local high street, there was a tree-lighting ceremony and festivities.

We’ve also reached the mid-point of my holiday cookbook review series – there are seven books this time around, so close enough. There are giveaways for five of the books, so I thought I’d post links to those posts here, so you can make sure you’ve entered.

Two of the giveaways are open to readers from Canada and the States, while three are (sorry U.S. friends) just for Canadian readers.

For Readers in Canada and the United States:

True to Your Roots will make you want root vegetables at every meal. The recipes are healthy, vegan, delicious.

Decolonize Your Diet is full of wonderful vegetarian recipes for healthful, modern Mexican-American food.

For Readers in Canada:

Pierogi Love takes this delicious dumpling in directions you’ve never imagined. It also offers the very dangerous knowledge that pierogies are really easy to make, once you know how.

DIY Vegan will have you filling your pantry and everyone else’s with their delicious staples, sauces, and treats.

Made In India is making Best of 2015 lists for good reason – it’s full of delicious recipes, great advice, and beautiful writing.

After that, I have two more cookbook reviews. Any of them would make great Christmas gifts – it’s been fun to read and cook through them!

Before the end of the year, I’ll also be talking to you about the Vancouver Tea Festival, reviewing a fine dining restaurant hidden away in a spectacular garden, hanging out with the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers for some spectacular holiday desserts, and bringing you at least one more G-W Portraits interview.

Sounds like a nice finish to the year.

Holiday Book Reviews – True to Your Roots

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I received a review copy of True to Your Roots from Arsenal Pulp Press. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

I’ve always thought of myself as someone who loves root vegetables, but it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve realized I haven’t made the most of them. There’s a whole world of recipes beyond mashed potatoes, roasted roots, or even celery root purée.

I’ve been trying to correct that over the last while, discovering that sunchokes are fantastic whether they’re roasted or puréed in a soup, roasting radishes or shaving them paper thin onto baguettes thick with butter, shredding beets and carrots for hippie salads or baking them into cakes.

I’ve also been turning to cookbooks for inspiration. Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty and Plenty More are favourites and include ideas for working with root vegetables, as does Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy. But Carla Kelly’s True to Your Roots focuses directly on root vegetables, providing a variety and creativity that’s usually reserved for showier fruits and vegetables. It’s also a vegan cookbook.

I’m not vegan, but I’ve striven to make the majority of my meals vegetarian or vegan for most of my adult life. When you’re trying to eat more meatless meals, it can be frustrating to find recipes for vegetable soups, mains, or side dishes relying heavily on meat stocks, eggs, or dairy. Until fairly recently, it was also hard to find vegan recipes that moved beyond a 1970’s palate. True to Your Roots solves both problems.

This is Carla Kelly‘s fourth cookbook – so far, she’s created vegan handbooks to bake sales, slow-cooking, and picnics. This book’s focus on a class of ingredient gives Kelly the freedom to roam across meals, cuisines, and techniques. She includes flavours from across the globe, while providing a range of familiar recipes alongside ones that twist expectations or go in entirely new directions.

I especially appreciate her guides to using vegetables that are often unfamiliar to home cooks in Canada and the U.S. It’s important to know that yuca and tropical yams should never be eaten before they’re fully cooked and it’s useful to know that horseradish is at its best when used shortly after being grated.

Kelly’s recipes go beyond root vegetables’ reputation as heavy, calorie-laden, comfort food material, but there are definitely comforting dishes included in the mix. Her potato biscuits are fluffy and satisfying, her burgers are substantial and flavourful, her soups are rich and homey. I couldn’t resist sharing her twist on a comfort food favourite of mine. Now, I’m thinking about mashing more potatoes just so I can make it again.

KALECANNON & AVOCADO

(gluten-free)

Kalecannon

This is my take on the traditional Irish colcannon. Adding avocado may seem strange, but it’s really yummy and gives a creamy richness to the dish. (If you’re not a fan, simply leave it out.)

Makes 2 servings

 

 

1 tsp neutral-flavored oil
1/4 cup (60 mL) sliced onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) shredded kale
1 cup (250 mL) leftover mashed potatoes, at room temperature
1/2 ripe avocado, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large frying pan on medium, heat oil and saute onions and garlic for 5 minutes until lightly browned. Add kale, cover, and steam for 3–5 minutes, until bright green and tender.

Add potatoes and stir to combine. Cook for 5 minutes, until just lightly browned, stirring so potatoes don’t stick or burn. Remove from heat and stir in avocado. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Next time you have mashed potatoes for dinner, cook extra so you’ll be ready to make this dish the next day.

RECIPE CREDIT: True to Your Roots: Vegan Recipes to Comfort and Nourish You by Carla Kelly. Published by Arsenal Pulp Press, 2015.
PHOTO CREDIT: photo by Tracey Kusiewicz | Foodie Photography

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I served the kalecannon with stuffed portabella mushrooms, which made a complete and filling meal. The twist of using kale in place of cabbage brings freshness to a familiar dish, while the addition of avocado makes it creamier and richer than dairy ever could. The avocado didn’t overwhelm the other flavours, as I’d feared. Instead, it subtly melded all the flavours together.

I had some left over, which I heated up in a frying pan the next day. I think I liked it even better – the extra caramelization of the potatoes was especially nice.

TrueToYourRoots

Arsenal Pulp Press has been generous enough to offer a copy of True to Your Roots to a Canadian or American reader. You can find the giveaway here and enter until December 17th: Win a copy of True to Your Roots*

I feel as though I’ve just scratched the surface of what this book has to offer. I’m looking forward to trying condiments enriched with root vegetables (Sesame Horseradish Dipping Sauce), world cuisine favourites reimagined (Yuca Empanadas with Avocado, Plantain & Black Beans), and familiar foods with a twist (Celeriac Brownies).

Gift Giver’s Guide: For the root lover, the root-nostic, the root-phobic, and anyone who wants to eat closer to the earth.

Come back next week for a review of a book that’s full of pockets of goodness.

*Terms & Conditions: This giveaway is open to residents of Canada and the United States. You must have a Canadian or US mailing address. Any Canadian winners will be required to answer the following skill testing question: 5 X 3 =_____ This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. Entrants must provide a valid email address where they can be reached. Each of the winners must respond to the email announcing their win within 48 hours, or another winner will be chosen. No purchase of any product is required. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!

Vegan Easter Dinner with a Ricardo Cuisine Recipe

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I was provided a subscription to Ricardo Magazine for review, but received no other consideration for this post.

The best part of any holiday is sharing food with family and friends. Sometimes, that means making sure that family favourites are on the table (like my mother’s five cup salad). Sometimes, it means experimenting with new dishes that may just become favourites for the next generation. In my house, it always means making sure that everyone has enough food to enjoy, no matter what their dietary restrictions or aversions.

That can get a little tricky these days, with so many folks suffering from allergies, while others follow diets restricted for health reasons or ethical considerations. It’s not impossible, though, and today’s table offers people much better fare than that dished out when I was growing up.

Back then, a vegetarian was lucky if they got a baked potato with some vegetables on the side, unless they brought their own meal. Now, greater awareness ensures that there are staple dishes to satisfy vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free folks, with no one thinking twice about it. Some of them are even favourites for everyone at the table.

When I was asked to review Ricardo Cuisine‘s Easter recipe collection, my thoughts naturally turned to finding ones that would work for my gluten-free and vegan partner. He has celiac disease and has recently begun eating a completely vegan diet, as well. So, finding holiday dishes that satisfy his requirements and are enjoyable for everyone is always a priority.

Right away, I landed on Ricardo’s Roasted Fennel and Fingerling Potatoes recipe. It’s the kind of dish that’s likely to become a yearly tradition, because it’s more interesting than the usual starch and vegetable sides. This roasted vegetable combination relies on the onions and fennel for flavour as well as fibre. So, it makes a good complement to other dishes at Easter dinner, then the leftovers become a great base for more meals. I like to make this sort of recipe in larger quantities than I need, for just that reason.

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This dish will satisfy the vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free, but it’s also a nice choice for diabetics, because it combines the starch of potatoes with the fibre of onions and fennel, while avoiding the heaviness of many butter and milk rich potato dishes. And the unrestricted omnivores at the table will be happy it’s so delicious.

Combined with other dishes, like Ricardo’s Asparagus with Lemon Gremolata or a vegan version of his Maple-Braised Endives, you’re well on your way to happy guests. Just add a protein – like a really good slice of lentil loaf – and you’ve got a complete meal for those who aren’t partaking in the Easter ham or roast.

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You can find more of Ricardo’s Easter recipes here. You’ll find some to suit any of your Easter guests, from the appetizer course through dessert.

I’ve been a big fan of Ricardo since my Francophone mother introduced me to his French language television program years ago. Though I can follow along with the French instructions reasonably well, I’m happy that he’s expanding his English language presence, too.

Ricardo Cuisine was kind enough to let me reproduce their recipe here. Once you’ve tried it, I predict it’s going to become a staple at your holiday table and perhaps year-round, too.

Roasted Fennel and Fingerling Potatoes

Preparation time: 25 min
Cooking time: 1 h
Output: 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 675 g (1 ½ lb) fingerling or baby potatoes
  • 2 bulbs fennel, each cut into 8 wedges
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) olive oil
  • 3 small onions, cut into 1.5 cm (½-inch) thick slices
  • Salt and pepper

PREPARATION

  • With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 200 °C (400 °F).

  • In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the potatoes until cooked but still slightly firm, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

  • In a non-stick skillet, brown the fennel in half of the oil (30 ml / 2 tbsp). Set the fennel aside in a baking dish. In the same skillet, brown the onions for about 2 minutes. Add to the fennel with the potatoes and the remaining oil. Toss well. Season with salt and pepper.

  • Bake for about 30 minutes or until the fennel and potatoes are cooked tender. Serve with the Pork Roast with Maple Sauce.

 

Smoked Salmon Waffles – A French Fridays Catch Up

Waffles

It’s not Christmas dinner I most look forward to, but Christmas brunch. There are fewer rigid expectations and an opportunity for playfulness that you don’t get at the more formal meal. This year, I made a bûche de Noël and smoked salmon waffles. Another year (actually, more than one), I made cardamom bread.

I bought a waffle iron a few months ago, in anticipation of making smoked salmon waffles for Christmas brunch. My brother caught and smoked a salmon himself earlier this year and my mother had some stashed in the freezer. Christmas morning waffles seemed like a great way to use some of the salmon and celebrate the season.

I loved how easy the batter was to put together and the waffles came off the iron without any trouble at all. (I sometimes wonder why people buy boxed mixes for waffles and pancakes, when making them from scratch is so easy and gives you much better results.) The savoury flavours of smoked salmon and green onions made these waffles the perfect accompaniment to our brunch, especially with a little dollop of cream on top.

They could also easily be elevated to cocktail snack or appetizer presentation by making them smaller, as Dorie gives as one option, and topping them with crème fraîche and salmon roe. Then, they would make a nice part of a New Year’s Eve spread.

Happy 2015, everyone! My blogging goals for this year include improving my photography (as you can see above, I’ve been a little complacent of late) and concentrating more on the quality of my writing. What are your goals for this year?

Find links to the rest of the French Fridays crew’s posts on this recipe here: Smoked Salmon Waffles. Then, see how everyone fared with this week’s recipe Simplest Breton Fish Soup.

Baking Chez Moi – Bûche de Noël

buche de noel

My mother’s sister, Lorraine, always brought a bûche de Noël to Christmas dinner. They were traditional chocolate logs from a bakery, but I remember them as being rich, delicious, and perfect. She died when I was an adolescent and bûche de Noël was only an occasional part of our holiday celebrations thereafter, but they’ve been a symbol of the season for me ever since.

I’ve always wanted to make one, so I was happy that one of the recipes chosen for our second month of baking through Baking Chez Moi was Dorie’s Gingerbread Bûche de Noël.

There are a lot of steps in making this dish, but some of the most intimidating parts of the process are also surprisingly easy. The pecan praline wasn’t at all difficult, the cream cheese filling was a snap to whip together, and the marshmallow icing was quite straightforward, once I’d braced myself for the task of pouring hot liquid sugar into the bowl of a running mixer.

My particular Waterloo on this dessert was the making of the sponge. I can’t seem to get sponge cakes quite right. This one didn’t turn out horribly and was quite tasty, but as you can see in the photo below, the cake is about half the height it should be. The batter deflated a lot more than it should have when I folded the butter mixture in. I guess it’s just a matter of getting some more practice, but I admit I was disappointed.

Slice

Luckily, the filling and icing made the bûche look beautiful, even with the imperfections in the cake. I’m going to try again with sponge cake and I think one of my few resolutions for 2015 will be to conquer the roulade. Next year’s bûche will be looking much prettier, I swear.

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this recipe here: Bûche de Noël. And you can find more Tuesdays with Dorie catch up posts at this link.