rainbow ratatouille

this pretty version of ratatouille is called confit byaldi, made famous by that chef of beautiful masterpieces, thomas keller. here, my version, maybe a bit less impressive but still quite edible! thinly sliced vegetables are layered in a spiral pattern over super-easy oven-roasted tomato sauce, and slowly baked. i finished mine with chopped garlic and fresh thyme, both sprinkled on top before baking.

the result is meltingly delicious, and despite it’s complicated appearance, the only skill needed is to slice the vegetables thinly. i bought my plastic mandoline for $29.99 at my local asian grocery 8 years ago. It’s still razor sharp. you can also use a sharp knife or the slicing attachment on your food processor.

i made this up in a large, straight-sided stainless steel pan. this way, i could bake it up, then put it over a flame to reduce the juices, which I found a little too thin for my liking at the end. i finished it with a little vinaigrette made with some of the sauce mixed with olive oil and vinegar, which added a nice acidic hit.

ratatouille is essentially a peasant dish, so don’t be too finicky about the presentation (unless you want to be). i would also think it would be delicious to finish the plate with a bit of gremolata or a drizzle of pistou sauce.  Next time.
we ate this up with some sage/garlic buttered baguette, loaded with some good mozzarella and broiled until crispy, and ate it on a cloudy sunday. and despite the fact it wasn’t baked in a lovely aga, it was pretty perfect!

rainbow ratatouille

rainbow ratatouille

1 recipe oven roasted tomato sauce
1 large green zucchini
1 large yellow summer squash
1 large eggplant
3 tomatoes (i used a mixture of green, orange, and red from the garden)
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

make up the sauce, or pull a jar you’ve already made. heat oven to 450f. using a mandoline, thinly slice the zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, and use a sharp knife to thinly slice the tomatoes. spoon sauce into a large, straight sided stovetop and oven-safe pan, and arrange the vegetables in concentric circles, making sure they are tightly fitted, and standing up straight, leaving only about 1/8 inch of each slice exposed. sprinkle chopped garlic and thyme over the vegetables, and drizzle with the 2 tbsp. of olive oil. bake for 20 minutes. reduce oven to 350F, and cover pan. bake 1 hour longer, or until vegetables are tender. uncover and bake for 30 minutes more.transfer pan to stovetop and bring to a boil. reduce liquid until it nicely coats the back of a spoon. remove 2 tbsp of the sauce from the ratatouille and place in a small bowl. whisk in oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper. to serve, remove nice stacks of the vegetables and arrange in a pasta bowl. drizzle vinaigrette around plate.

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almondos

almondos

happy monday all!

kicking off #bakingmonday with this easy raw cookie recipe i call almondos, and a bit of a backstory.

at one point i had nine laying hens who provided more eggs than we needed, and a friend of mine knew someone who was looking for fresh, organic and uncaged hen eggs. i happy happy to share our surplus, so every week or so, liz would stop by and pick up a dozen fresh eggs, and every time she came she would bring something lovely in return! one day she brought these wonderful little cookies. at that time, raw cookies were not something i had really given a fair try, but they were an instant hit. i’ve adapted it a bit, and now this recipe has become a standby around here. this is one of things i love about food, how it naturally bridges gaps and builds community and fosters friendships and sharing.

these super-crunchy, gluten-free, vegan and egg free (!) cookies are the perfect protein-packed snack on the go and i always keep one or two in my bag. they are best kept well-chilled.

sometimes i make them a bit bigger to have with some fruit for breakfast. feel free to change up the nuts and nut butter to your liking.

almondos

almondos

2 1/4 cups raw unblanched almonds
1 cup almond butter
1/4 cup raw, organic coconut flakes
3 tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup hemp hearts

set aside 24 almonds, and place the rest on the bowl of a food processor. pulse to chop very coarsely. add almond butter, coconut flakes, honey, and almond extract, and pulse until the mixture comes together, but the almonds are still nicely chunky.

scoop out 2 tbsp portions and roll into a ball, then form into a small disc, and roll the edges in the hemp hearts. press a whole almond and 3-4 chocolate chips into the top of each cookie. chill until firm. makes 24.

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giant lima beans with crispy crumbs

giant lima bean ragout

gigantes, or giant lima beans, are very different beans from their little green cousins. i actually love all lima beans, but if you are one of those who declares they hate limas, may i gently suggest you give these a try? gigantes are fat and meaty, with an almost creamy texture and pair up with a flavourful sauce like nobody’s business. cooked up in this zingy ragout, they turn rich and satisfying.

this is a fast and delicious vegan meal which is on heavy rotation around here, a) because it’s really good and b) it only takes 30 minutes to make. it starts with humble ingredients (corn and beans) which are elevated by a few sophisticated ingredient additions. fennel seeds add a lovely licorice note to the saucy tomato broth, and the simple breadcrumb topping gets extra flavour and crunch from using panko crumbs and a few toasted pine nuts. i’ve thrown in some moroccan olives at the end for a smoky, salty kick. the ragout gets even better after a day or so and makes a great next-day lunch. we love it paired with some simple crusty bread and a side of wilted rapini or a kale salad.

giant lima bean ragout

giant lima ragout with crispy pine nut crumbs

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 19-oz cans giant lima beans, undrained
or
4 cups cooked dried limas +1 1/2 cups reserved cooking liquid
3 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
1 tsp. whole fennel seed
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
pinch red chili flakes
1 cup passata (tomato puree)
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup moroccan oil-cured olives, pitted and roughly chopped

crumbs:
4 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. pine nuts, roughly chopped
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup panko crumbs
1/4 tsp. salt
grated zest of 1 lemon

in a large pan, heat the 1/4 cup olive oil to medium. add the onion and garlic and cook for 4 minutes, stirring here and there, until softened and fragrant. increase heat to high. add lima beans and reserved liquid, corn, basil, marjoram, fennel seed, pepper, chili flakes, passata, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a healthy simmer, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until sauce is just thick enough to lightly coat a spoon. taste and add salt if needed, which you may not if you used canned beans. stir in olives.

meanwhile, in a small frying pan, heat the 4 tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. add the pine nuts and green onion, then the panko and the salt. reduce heat to medium, and toss the mixture until the crumbs are light golden brown. remove from heat, dump into a small heat-proof bowl, and stir in the lemon zest.

serve ragout in a shallow bowl, and top with a generous sprinkling of the crispy crumbs.

serves 4-6

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steel-cut oats with ginger-roasted figs

steel cut oats with ginger roasted figs

i recently posted a photo of figs on instagram and someone commented that they were adorable. aren’t they though? figs are truly the cutest of fruits! with their perfect shape, smooth aubergine-hued skin and varying shades of pink/ruby/berry inside, they may be my favourite little fruit to eat and photograph. don’t even get me started on kumquats. kumquats deserve their own post entirely.

i’ve written before about how i’m really not much of a morning person or a breakfast person, but damn if this blog isn’t making me one. it’s a fun process to develop interesting breakfast recipes that don’t make me shudder at the thought of eating before 2pm.

steel cut oats, also called irish oatmeal or pinhead (har!) oats are so far removed from those gloppy pouches of instant oatmeal. they are both oatmeal the way a can of pop and an 1869 chateau lafite are both drinks.

so why not make the lafite of oatmeal? ok i’m ahead of myself, you can decide if these are that good, with their luscious, juicy roasted figs, honey, ginger, and the secret ingredient, balsamic. don’t be weirded out! a few drops mellow the sweetness of the figs and honey and make the resulting saucy juices really pop. a scatter of toasted pecans hemp seeds adds texture and a hit of protein.

so don’t be a pinhead (like me). eat some breakfast!

steel cut oats with ginger roasted figs

steel-cut oats with ginger-roasted figs

1 cup steel-cut oats
4 cups water
1 lb fresh figs, cut in half
4 tbsp. honey
2 slices candied ginger, slivered
3 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup toasted pecans, chopped
2 tbsp. raw hemp seeds

prepare the steel cut oats. (this can be done the night before*). in a medium pot bring the water to the boil and add a pinch of salt. stir in the oats. bring back up to the boil, cover, remove from heat, and let stand for 1 hour.

preheat oven to 400f. in a small glass roasting pan, toss together the figs with the honey, balsamic, and ginger. cover tightly with foil, and bake for 20 minutes. remove foil and cool to warm.

spoon oats into a bowl, top with 1/4 of the figs and some of the lovely oozing juices. scatter pecans and help seeds on top.

*you probably already know you can use this method to prepare your oats the night before. i did not make this up. what you will likely find in the morning is a very greeny-blue substance on the surface of your oats. people have asked me,

“what the hell?”
“is this mould!?”
“i left the oats out all night, and they’ve gone bad!”
“am i going to die??”

yes, you are going to die, we all are. but not from the green stuff on overnight oatmeal. they haven’t gone bad and mould can’t grow that fast. it’s a result of a chemical reaction and completely harmless. scrape it off and move on.

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salted macaroon granola

salted macaroon granola

i have great, great news for you. this salted macaroon granola is somewhat healthy. unlike commercial granola it isn’t fat laden. it’s full of whole grains and  contains only a small amount of unrefined sugar as well as a good handful of cacao nibs, a bona-fide “superfood” and other things that are closer to the good side of the food spectrum. okay, so it’s not broccoli, but it’s not brownie cheesecake either. i don’t think enjoying something sweet and tasty should (always) make you feel dirty after.

there are times i really crave chocolate. like right now. also, 5 minutes ago. that’s when i grab a little handful of this yummy stuff. thanks to the triumvirate of cocoa power, cacao nibs, and a smattering of vegan chocolate chips, this is REALLY chocolatey. it should be noted that i never use caps. not even when i spell my own name, so this is like, huge. there are also coconut chips and sliced almonds, mingling amongst the big clusters of oats, kamut, rye, and bran, so it goes without saying this granola packs a decent crunch.

all bliss-inducing chocolate dreaminess aside, the cacao nibs are pretty special. they are a source of powerful antioxidants and release euphoria-inducing neurotransmitters. a chemical in cacao called PEA sharpens you up and makes you feel more alert. (i know this to be a true and undisputed fact, because it’s 1 am and i came up with the word “triumvirate”).

sprinkled over some greek yogurt or doused with almond milk, it’s breakfast. mix a bit up with some air-popped popcorn and it’s snacking gold. or just crack the jar and stick your hand in there. now is good.

salted macaroon granola

salted macaroon granola

4 cups of a mixture of rolled oats, kamut flakes, rye flakes, barley flakes, etc. (any combo you like)
1/2 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup sliced raw almonds
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup liquid honey or brown rice syrup
3 tbsp. cocoa powder
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1 cup organic cacao nibs
1 1/2 cups raw, organic coconut chips
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips

preheat oven to 350f. line a large baking sheet with parchment. in a large bowl, mix together the grains, wheat bran, and almonds. in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat, melt the coconut oil with the honey or brown rice syrup until runny. remove from heat. whisk in the cocoa powder and salt until very smooth. scrape out of pot into the bowl with the grains. toss well to combine (i usually just use my hands).

turn out onto prepared pan. bake for 1/2 hour, stir once, and bake an additional 15 minutes. remove from oven and allow to cool completely. it should not be the slightest bit warm.

when cooled, gently break up the granola so that some large chunks remain. toss with the cacao nibs, coconut chips, and chocolate chips. store in an airtight container or glass jar. eat with reckless abandon.

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white bean gumbo

gumbo is a thickened soup from louisiana that always puts me in my happy place. i can’t help eating bowl after bowl…it’s so satisfying!

this gumbo starts with a dark roux, a very different flour and fat mixture than you would use for a white sauce. this one gets cooked a long time, until it’s very dark brown and nutty. the result is a toastiness that is one of the signature flavours of gumbo. once you’ve made the roux, the rest is easy.

it’s not that roux is difficult, but it needs your attention. roux while it’s cooking is extremely hot. you’re essentially deep-frying flour, so don’t walk away. don’t check your instagram feed. just, don’t. it will take about 4-5 minutes to get the roux to the right stage. it will turn golden, then become curdled and lumpy, and finally smooth and deep brown. just stand there and give it 100% attention and stir it and you’ll be fine. a dark roux like this doesn’t really thicken too much, but it makes the soup shiny and full of body.

gumbo usually contains chicken, sausage, shrimp, crawfish, or any combo of these. since ours is vegan, i’ve added some white beans. you could also throw in some vegetarian sausage, which i sometimes do.

the final thickening comes at the end, when you add the okra. i think okra is a beautiful vegetable. if you’ve never tried it, do! it gets a bad rap for it’s slightly slimy texture, but it’s no different from a banana, and it thickens this soup so nicely. 

a recipe for gumbo spice blend follows. when i’m not using it for gumbo, it gets sprinkled on roasted cauliflower, or pan-fried potatoes for breakfast.

DSC_2870.NEF

white bean gumbo

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup flour
3 stalks celery, diced
2 red bell peppers, diced
2 onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can plum tomatoes
8 cups water
2 tbsp. gumbo spice blend
2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 cups cooked white beans such as white kidney or navy beans (2 19-oz cans, drained)
2 cups sliced okra
1/2 lemon
hot cooked rice
fresh chopped parsley

place the chopped celery, bell pepper, onions, and garlic in a bowl. open the tomatoes and dump into another bowl. crush them with your hands, breaking them up well.

in a large pot heat the oil over medium-high heat. add the flour, turn the heat down to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until it turns a rich, dark brown colour and just begins to smoke, about 5 minutes. add the bowl of vegetables, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. add the gumbo spice blend, salt and pepper, and pour in the tomatoes. give a quick stir, then add the water. increase heat to high. bring to a boil, then reduce heat back down to medium and cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the soup has thickened. add the cooked beans and the okra. cook for another 15 minutes. squeeze in the juice of the half lemon.

place a mound of rice in a bowl. top with the gumbo, and sprinkle with parsley. serve with hot sauce on the side.

gumbo spice blend

2 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp. hot smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. thyme leaves
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. quatre epices
1 tbsp dried oregano leaves

mix everything together and store in a glass jar.

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vegan barley-millet breakfast bowl

barley millet breakfast bowl

i’m not much of a breakfast person. when i get up, all i want is coffee. my eyes don’t work. playing with fire or knives would be a bad idea.

what i do find though, is if there is something available, i’m more likely to eat it. i guess i could have made a long story short and just said, i’m lazy in the morning, which is true, and i’ll freely admit it. so when i’m full of energy at night, i’ll make a few breakfasty-type things to have on hand, like cooked grains.

millet is an underused little seed that i love! it’s nutty and crunchy, easy to prepare, and makes a tasty addition to this breakfast bowl.

i had some leftover barley after making this. you can use quinoa, wheat berries, kasha, whatever you’re feeling.

barley millet breakfast bowl

vegan barley-millet breakfast bowl

1/2 cup millet
1 cup water
1/2 cup cooked barley
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 banana, diced
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup toasted almonds*
1/2 cup almond milk

place the millet in a small saucepan and heat to medium, shaking the pan to toast the millet. the grains will start to pop and when they just start to give off a bit of smoke, are turning golden, and smell toasty, carefully add the water (carefully – it will sputter and spit at you). Bring to a boil. Cover and turn heat off. Allow to stand for 20 minutes, or until millet has absorbed all the water. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool completely. stir in maple syrup.

for each bowl, place 1/4 of the millet and 1/4 of the barley. top with 1.4 of the bananas and berries, and sprinkle with almonds. pour over a little almond milk, and drizzle with a little more maple syrup, if you like it a little sweeter.

*i used whole, unblanched, raw almonds and chopped them roughly before toasting in a dry pan.

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fennel caponata

Fennel Caponata

what a lovely dish caponata is…

this sicilian treat is a mixture of vegetables, each cooked to perfection, and married together in flavourful sweet/sour/spicy tomato-based sauce.

i took some creative licence, added fennel and zucchini, and left out the raisins (i’m not a fan) and the anchovies, so it’s vegan.

it’s a bit time-consuming, but the recipe is voluminous enough to make a good batch, the added bonus? caponata only gets better as it sits. having this on hand with other antipasto ingredients and some crusty bread is the most effortless way of enjoying a saturday with friends, or a lazy day at home with family.

fennel caponata

fennel caponata

1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2″ dice (about a pound)
sea salt
1 large fennel bulb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 red onions, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 small zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 cup pretty good good olive oil
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
4 tsp. sugar
1 cup brine-cured olives, pitted and slivered
one small jar capers (about 1/2 cup)
pinch of chili flakes
1 tbsp whole fennel seeds
1 28-oz can good plum tomatoes, drained, and juices reserved (i use san marzanos)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

place eggplant cubes in a colander placed over a bowl and sprinkle liberally with salt (I used about 2 tbsp). allow to drain for 1 hour, giving it a stir here and there. after an hour, give it a quick rinse to remove the excess salt, drain, and dry well with paper towels. Set aside

in a food processor or blender, puree whole tomatoes and set aside.

In a very large skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil. add the fennel and celery and cook over medium heat, stirring, for 10 minutes. add the onions and zucchini and cook another 10 minutes, until everything is soft and lightly golden. transfer to a bowl. heat the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and over high heat, saute the eggplant cubes and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly golden. return the fennel/celery/onion/zucchini mixture to the pan and add the vinegar, sugar, olives, capers, chili flakes, fennel seeds, and tomato puree. taste for salt, and add more if needed, as well as a few grindings of fresh black pepper. bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and stir often for the next 15 minutes. stir in pine nuts. cool to room temperature, then chill until ready to use. take it out to warm up before you eat it, as caponata tastes best at room temperature. sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

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laotian vegan barley bowl

laotian vegan barley bowl

back in the 90’s, i saw an episode of the excellent cooking show, taste, where David Rosengarten made larb, the minced meat salad of laos. ever since, i’ve wanted to create a vegan version of this fresh and flavourful salad, and by george, i think i’ve done it. the combination of clean flavours from the vegetables and herbs, combined with the barley and a zippy dressing, is outstanding. every time i make this and eat it, i’m amazed at how good it is. i just have to share it with you!

i sometimes make this with veggie ground round, and it works great if you a craving something “meaty”. but i don’t want to eat a lot of processed fake meat, so i started making it with barley. it absorbs the flavours so well and makes a satisfying meal of this salad.

check out the hands-off method of cooking barley too.

vegan larb 1

laotian vegan barley bowl

3/4 cup uncooked barley
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. canola or peanut oil
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. tamari or soy sauce
1 thai chili, thinly sliced (or a pinch of dried red pepper flakes)
salt and pepper
juice of 1 lime
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 sweet red pepper, julienned
1/4 cup each torn basil, mint, and cilantro leaves
4 cups torn lettuces, greens, kale, or sprouts, or a mixture
1 tbsp toasted rice powder*
2 tbsp toasted cashews or peanuts, chopped

dressing

1 tsp. almond butter
juice of 1 lime
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1/4 cup canola oil

place barley in a medium saucepot and cover with 2 inches of water. bring to a full boil. turn off the heat, cover, and let stand 1 hour (you can do this the night before too). you should have about 1 1/2 cups barley.

make the dressing by whisking together all ingredients. thin with a small amount of warm water so it is drizzle-able.

in a medium pan, heat the canola or peanut oil. add the garlic and chilis and cook for a few seconds. add the barley, sugar, tamari, and lime juice. remove from heat and dump into a large bowl. add the onions and peppers and toss. allow to cool to room temperature, then add the torn herbs. taste and add salt and pepper.

divide the greens among large salad plates. top with barley mixture, drizzle with dressing, and sprinkle with the toasted rice powder and toasted nuts.

*tip: toasted rice powder is available at asian markets, or you can make your own by toasting 2 tbsp. white rice in a dry pan until golden, then buzzing in a spice grinder

*tip: for a hands-on appetizer, use romaine lettuce cups and fill with filling. use the dressing as a dipping sauce.

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spicy red lentil soup

a very quick, simple red lentil soup that’s rich and full of warm spicy flavour. i do all the vegetables in the food processor for ease.

a blitz of the finished soup in the blender makes for a silky finish, but it’s not essential.

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spicy red lentil soup

2 onions, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, scraped and diced
2 stalks celery, finely minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups red lentils
8 cups water or vegetable stock
6 plum tomatoes, mashed, with their juices (i use my hands and squish them in a bowl)
2 tsp. ground cumin seed
2 tsp. ground coriander seed
1 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 tsp. sea salt
Fresh pepper
juice of 1 lemon

in a large pot heat the oil to medium. add the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery. cover and cook 10 minutes, or until vegetables are softened. add the lentils, stock or water, tomatoes, and spices. bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally at first, and more frequently at the end, until lentils have broken down, about 30 minutes. taste, and check seasoning. finish with a squeeze of lemon. puree soup in a food processor, blender, or use an immersion blender, and if you like, garnish with a swirl of natural yogurt and cilantro leaves.

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