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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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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’ve been in rugelach mode all weekend, making batches of sweet versions (dark chocolate-tahini! apricot-pecan! apricot-chocolate! Nutella! pistachio paste! cinnamon-sugar! for a couple virtual cooking classes (these ones were fundraisers for the CBC Calgary Food Bank Drive), and then doing a shortbread Instagram live bake with Amy, she mentioned having made everything bagel rugelach… and thus the seed was planted.

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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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Dill pickle soup seems to me a dish that came about out of necessity—perhaps in the bleak prairie midwinter, when someone out on a farm in a snow-driven landscape looked in their pantry and decided to turn the pint jars of dill pickles into soup—but it’s no longer made merely out of necessity because it’s completely delicious. And yes, it’s just as it sounds-made with dill pickles, chopped and/or grated, along with a healthy pour of the pickle brine. At its base, there are basic veggies (onion, celery, carrot, potato), but a sausage sliced or crumbled in at the start is also common, and it would also be delicious with wintry beets or cabbage. Sometimes it’s finished with cream, or a dollop of sour cream on top-that’s the beauty of soup… rarely do you need to follow a specific recipe.

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