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We all need emergency meals some days. I’ve been eyeing this – a soupy sort of one pot pasta that’s a staple in Rome, and the sort of humble home-cooked meal that intrigues me most about visiting such a place. (Although yes, I would also make the trip just for the pizza.) As with most staples of this kind, there are as many variations as there are people who make it. This particular version is cooked quickly on the stovetop, pasta and all, which allows the starch from the pasta to thicken the sauce. It works-truly. I brought it in to CBC this morning as an example of the sort of last-minute I-don’t-know-what’s-for-dinner emergency meal you can rummage through your pantry for and eat in 20 minutes rather than give in to take out.

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If I had one of those weekly menu calendars – meatloaf Mondays, taco Tuesdays, pork chop Thursdays – some version of this would be on my roster. I tend to gravitate toward it every January, when I sit down and make a list of dishes made up of mostly vegetables that I really, truly love to eat, and decide that I’m going to make an effort to eat them more often, rather than always load up on bagels and toast. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that… there are just too many things right with it.) This salad of sorts is also the perfect example of how we don’t always need a recipe per se, sometimes all you need is a general guideline. I can definitively say I’ve never measured out feta for a salad, but just crumbled some over, measuring by eyeball. Yes, I picked up some lacinato kale (the smooth dark green kind, also called Tuscan or dinosaur kale) and a thick-necked butternutContinue reading

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Is it too much of a cliche to jump from bread pudding and cinnamon knots to a veggie-heavy curry in the early days of January? I crave stewy, spicy things after so many weeks (OK, months) of butter cookies and Toblerone. And I inevitably get all excited about the piles of gnarly squash over the winter and buy more than I get around to actually using. Sometimes it’s because I go for the bumpiest beasts, the ones you have to tackle with a cleaver to access the insides of. Sure, you can go for smooth-skinned butternut with thick necks, or even buy a bag of squash cubes – in fact, they work extra well here, cooking down quickly into a curry. But if you have a bit of a monster on your hands, one that refuses to be peeled, simply hack it into pieces and roast them in the oven until the flesh is tender enough to scoop or peel away from the skin andContinue reading

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Thankfully in the midst of a near-daily Stampede fried food extravaganza, my fridge is full of greens. They grow so well here in Alberta at this time of year, and so that’s what my CSA box was full of when we picked it up this past weekend. Bok choy, rapini, gai lan (I think!) and other bags of greens we couldn’t quite identify but are nevertheless tasty. I chopped some of them up with the head of bok choy, which makes for a great salad in that one end is thick, watery and crunchy, like celery, and the other is dark and leafy – it’s like getting two veggies in one. I added some other greens, the entire bunch of cilantro, some chives from the garden and grated carrot to break up all that green, and doused it in an Asian-inspired vinaigrette made with oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger and garlic. (Lime would be good too.)

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Falafel is not something I grew up with, but something I grew to love. Like most of us, I fell for it at street stalls and takeout joints – it’s not the sort of thing I thought to make at home, until about five years ago, when I discovered it’s about as easy to make as a batch of hummus. Truly! If you have a food processor, you can make falafel in about five minutes. It requires a can of drained chickpeas (cheap), some garlic, onion, cilantro, salt and spices – go by taste and pulse it all into a mulch, adding a few tablespoons of flour to help bind the mixture together. (Any kind, really.) You can make them perfectly smooth, or leave some texture, which is what I do. A bit of baking powder lightens them up a bit.

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I feel a little sheepish offering this up as a recipe – most of the time you don’t need a recipe for a salad – but I still struggle with creative salad combinations, and so here it is. It’s getting to be the season for winter salads made with kale, Brussels sprouts and winter squash, and I particularly love roasted squash in just about anything – not least of all doused in something vinegary. And I love bowls filled with a jumble of tasty things, and having some cooked quinoa in the fridge to turn into lunch at my desk, and how brilliant pomegranate arils look scattered over just about everything. I’m having a wee panic that we’re a week (A WEEK) into November already, and am trying to resist calming my nerves with copious quantities of raisin toast. Delicata has a thin skin you can eat, so there’s no need for peeling – you can swap in just about any squash, roasted by theContinue reading

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The squash are here! Oh all the piles of squash, arriving during the second week of school, at precisely the same time leaves start falling, some so big you have to cradle them under one arm like a small child. Sometimes, there’s such comfort in predictability. Especially when it necessitates wooly socks. I called this butternut squash soup, but it doesn’t have to be butternut, which is familiar and easy to handle, readily available, smooth and far more clean and manageable when it comes to peeling and cubing than the gnarly monsters you see in farmers’ market bins at this time of year. But feel free to use any kind of winter squash you like – even if you can’t identify it. And because peppers are piled high at this time of year too, it seems fitting to deliver a double whammy of beta carotene. Also? I’m trying to cut back on my caffeine consumption, and I’m hooked on having something warm to sip outContinue reading

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These are a few (OK, two) of my favourite things: 1) When friends adopt me for the day (or hour, or afternoon) and let me cook with them and their families, and I get to pull up a stool and sit in their kitchen and watch their moms make dishes they learned from their moms. 2) When what they make is unfamiliar to me, and I learn something entirely new, like the joys of a fresh coriander chutney sandwich on buttered white bread. I’ve since learned these were the sandwiches of many friends’ childhoods – just the chutney, on squidgy white bread, with butter. It’s apparently a thing. I now know this thing, and although I didn’t grow up eating them, I can start now, and I’ve learned to make coriander chutney the likes of which I’ve never tasted before from someone who knows.

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The first of the locally-grown greenhouse tomatoes and cukes and romaine are here! We’ve even eaten our first asparagus stalks. In April! So crazy, this year. I know you probably don’t need a recipe for a salad, but you might like the idea of it – fattoush is a Mediterranean toasted pita salad that’s easy to assemble and makes the most of spring greens and those first pops of mint in the garden. Romaine is typical, as is cucumber, tomatoes and purple onion. I like making mine with ribbons of cucumber – simply use a peeler to cut it into thin ribbons – and fresh cilantro. And instead of the usual croutons, you bash up toasted pitas into the mix, adding a satisfying, toasty crunch.

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