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I’ve been cooking out of Olia Hercules‘ cookbook, Mamushka, this past week. This warm kidney bean salad jumped out, and I made it (with the last of the dried red kidney beans in a jar on my shelf. (I simmered them straight from dry, no pre-soak, in salted water with a bay leaf. They took a little over an hour to tenderize.) I also roasted wedges of cabbage and onion to chop and stir in, and it was wonderful. Some feta crumbled in would be delicious too, I think. Lobio means “beans” in the Caucasus region – Olia calls for a can of red kidney beans, which would certainly streamline the process. This salad was wonderful warm, but is equally delicious cold — and beans always benefit from some time in the fridge to allow them to marinate. As I was out of fennel seed, I used a small-batch Kadhai spice blend (that includes coriander and fennel) from chef Aman Dosanj — if you don’tContinue reading

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I make falafel all the time, and keep meaning to write up a recipe to share. The truth is, I make them so often I don’t really measure anymore – I add a bit of onion, some garlic, a bunch of cilantro stems, a bit of heat in the form of a jalapeño or pinch of chili flakes, and some baking powder to lighten them. Sometimes I add a spoonful of flour — any kind – which isn’t necessary, but will help them hold together a bit. Some people refrigerate their falafel mix overnight to let the texture and flavours develop, so really this is a great make-ahead kind of thing that you can cook quickly, without even having to preheat the oven. And yes, you could use canned chickpeas, but the falafel will have a softer texture, and there is a chance they will fall apart in the oil… I’ve never had a problem with them falling apart but a few people have inContinue reading

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I had this squashy dal on repeat last fall – it was something I made one day to use the roasted squash I’m in the habit of having in the fridge at this time of year, and I became totally hooked on it. In the fall, when all the giant gourds are in the farmers’ markets, I often poke one with a knife and roast it whole, directly on the oven rack, while something else is baking. It takes about an hour for a large one to soften and start to collapse in on itself – once cool, it’s easy to cut open, scoop out the seeds, and then scoop the soft flesh in spoonfuls into things like soups and stews and curries and dal.

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August is truly tomato season, and I seek out any opportunity to eat them- in sandwiches, on toast, in a pie with corn cut straight from the cob and a biscuit crust, and in tarts, like this one I made for the Globe and Mail two falls ago. Tomatoes are perfect in shallow tarts and galettes, and can be paired with all kinds of things you might rummage from your fridge or pantry – pesto, olive tapenade, ricotta, goat cheese, Boursin… everything goes with a tomato.

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Gnocchi is one of those dishes that can feel fancy and intimidating until you learn how to make it – and if you grew up with your family making it from scratch on the regular, and perhaps your job was to sit at the counter and roll little nubs of dough into gnocchi like it was for my good friend Emily Richards, it’s not intimidating at all, but a meal you can make quickly on any regular night. Emily is truly one of the best people I know.. and also one of the most knowledgeable when it comes to cooking. She comes from an Italian family, and is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to pastas and sauces and gnocchi, which she mastered at the side of her mom, aunts and grandmas.

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Fava beans are here! They are some of spring’s first arrivals, along with asparagus and fiddleheads, and are well worth seeking out in their fresh state while you can find them. If you’re not familiar with the fava (or faba, or broad) bean, they’re the big, spongy, cartoon-like beans you see in farmers’ markets in the late spring, and they require a little more effort to access their buttery goodness, but are well worth the effort. I kind of like food you have to work at, or can sit around outside and peel + eat.

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I’m growing potatoes again this year, in a few condos (collapsable vinyl containers and a two dollar plastic laundry basket-it doesn’t look as terrible as it sounds) in the back. I adore potatoes in all their forms, but particularly now when you can pick up small new ones at the market, or dig them out of your own dirt. A year ago, Dirty Food went to print, and in it a fairly classic technique for boiling, crushing and roasting potatoes topped with garlicky oil and Parmesan cheese. It’s one of my favourite things to do with potatoes, and one of the most versatile, if you consider how many flavours you could add to the oil or sprinkle over the spuds as they roast.

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Pasta and beans (pronounced pasta fazh-e-ohl-eh, and sometimes referred to as pasta fazool) is a classic Italian dish that couldn’t be much faster, easier or more inexpensive; it can also be made without precision, and you can take liberties with the ingredients: a bit of sausage with the onion, carrot and celery is delicious, you could add some thyme, rosemary or Italian seasoning to the pot, and though small pasta shapes are traditional, a diced potato or even some rice or other grain would be tasty as well. With more stock, tomato juice or other liquid, it’s more like minestrone; with less it’s a thicker, stewier pasta dish. If you happen to save your Parmesan rinds, this is a good use for it.

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I’ve been at two events in the past two weeks that served plates of this whipped feta topped with roasted beets and dukkah – both were celebrating the launch of the new Calgary Eats cookbook, a collaboration between 40 Calgary restaurants including Ten Foot Henry, whose chef, Steve Smee, contributed this recipe. I have a bowl of roasted beets in my fridge (you can do them in the slow cooker!) and is there a better combo than beets and feta or creamy goat cheese? Wait – how about whipped feta you can drag through with soft flatbread instead of relying on a green salad as delivery vehicle? This is going directly into my regular repertoire.

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