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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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It’s funny how people have this thing about parsnips, like it’s one of the world’s most unrecognized (and despised) root vegetables, yet when you mention a recipe with parsnips people say oh! I love parsnips! I figured I’d best get this recipe in before the imminent onslaught of butter, sugar and mincemeat. This was my contribution (along with all of the photos!) to the latest Soup Sisters Cookbook, this one geared toward families and getting your kids into the kitchen. Soup is, after all, the ultimate starting point for the beginner cook – measurements don’t need to be precise, and you can play around with ingredients that are in season or whatever you happen to have in your fridge, and if veggies were wrinkly going in, no one will know. I’m a particular fan of soups you can purée and sip at your desk or take in your insulated to-go cup when you’ve had altogether too much coffee. And you’ll feel like you’re winning atContinue reading

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I’m all about pie these days. It’s the fall food, isn’t it? Although it’s time for stone fruit pies, like peach and plum and apricot and cherry and rhubarb (still) and yes, it’s almost time for apple, but while it’s still late summer, with all the ripe tomatoes and the last of the corn, this pie is it. It comes somewhat indirectly from one of my favourite food writers, and it’s really a pie unlike any other – layers of ripe tomatoes, corn, aged cheddar, fresh basil and chives, doused in lemony, garlicky mayo, wrapped up in a buttery biscuit crust, which is brilliant in itself. You roll the biscuit dough as thin as you would pastry, but it bakes up like a biscuit, only thinner. It’s all crunchy top and craggly edges – the more rustic and haphazardly you throw it together, the better. I don’t bother crimping, just tuck and fold the edge over any old way. There are no eggs or anythingContinue reading

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Yes, you can totally grill lettuce! Not just romaine. And it’s stunning. Such a fun alternative to the usual summer salads. I got a shipment of living lettuce from Inspired Greens last week – gorgeous heads of lettuce grown in Alberta greenhouses and harvested in their pots, sold not in clamshells but in sturdy thin plastic cones, with their roots attached. They’re grown to adolescent size – a bit bigger than baby lettuces, so they stay fresh for ages, especially if you store them in a short glass of water in the fridge. Honestly, I try growing greens in my garden and patio containers with limited success every year – they wilt and bolt and never grow to be big and full and robust – and this is a bit like having a micro-garden on a shelf in my fridge. Far less frustrating.

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Not sure about you, but my fridge is currently loaded to overflowing. So many things coming out of the garden (and the CSA box, and the neighbour’s garden) with greens on top that almost take up more room than the things themselves – the beets and carrots, mostly. I manage to cook beet greens sometimes, and always hate throwing the carrot tops away, but once in awhile I manage to turn them into a batch of pesto. Yes! They’re green and good for you.

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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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We’ve been traveling around Alberta a lot lately, discovering new places we didn’t know existed. This past weekend, we found ourselves in Elkwater, a tiny camping-cabin community in Cypress Hills interprovincial park, which overlaps the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan. In Elkwater there’s an eatery called Camp Cookhouse and General Store, which is just the best place ever. Exhibit A. Exhibit B.

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