And the Winner Is: Curry! (Plus a Bonus!)

Recently, I came to you with a question: I asked you what YOU wanted to see on FoodHappy.

And you - to my delight! - offered up a culinary kaleidoscope of suggestions. From the practical to the whimsical, the simple to the complex, and the familiar to the exotic, you guys thought of it all!

So today, I’m getting started on bringing you recipes for the things that you want to see. And, as promised, I’m kicking it off with the dish that got (by far!) the most votes: 

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Curry. 

And not just any curry. 

To satisfy the six requests for curry that came my way (via comments and in person), I needed to find an intensely flavourful, coconut-based dish, packed with veggies and with enough protein-based oomph - preferably in the form of tofu - to satisfy vegetarians and omnivores alike. Oh, and it couldn’t be too hard to make. 

So, friends, here’s what I’ve got:  

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Korma. Delicious, wonderful korma. 

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Here’s why: 

1. It fits the bill!
As is, the recipe below provides everything that Team Curry collectively asked for: it’s rich, fragrant, hugely flavourful, packed with tons of veggies, tofu and two kinds of coconut, and is easy on the hard work (most of the work is prep, and simple prep at that - stuff like measuring ingredients and washing veggies). Success! 

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2. You can make it as easy or complex as you like!
Want to toast spices or make (awesome) curry paste from scratch? I’ve got you covered! Not so sure? I’ve got you covered too! (Though you should totally make the curry paste - all you’ve got to do is toss some stuff in a food processor and give it a whirl for 30 seconds. You can do that! I believe in you!) 

3. It’s infinitely adaptable. 
You guys all have different tastes, so I’ve chosen a recipe that can be easily adapted to suit you! Make it as is, and you’ll get an intensely flavourful, mildly spicy curry full of easy-to-find veggies and protein-rich tofu. But don’t be afraid to: 

  • Swap tofu for legumes (like chickpeas). Or use both!
  • Use different vegetables. (Just remember: some veggies take longer to cook than others, so give some thought to when each veggie should be added to the pot. Not sure what to do? Just ask!)
  • Make it more or less spicy by adjusting the amount of cayenne and the number of chiles. (Remember: the heat in chiles comes from the fluffy white membrane and not the crunchy flesh.)
  • Swap almonds for other nuts (cashews would be awesome!).
  • Omit - cilantro-haters rejoice! - the cilantro from the korma and curry paste recipes. I’ve done it before, and it was still delicious!  

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4. You don’t need to go into the spice trade to make it.
Oftentimes, curry recipes call for a lot of different spices. And for someone who’s new to curry, or who doesn’t have time to track down obscure stuff like asafoetida, those recipes - however delicious they sound - can be intimidating. So I’m giving you a recipe that calls for four dry spices at most, all of which are super-easy to find! And the rest of the flavour? That comes from fresh ingredients. And, wouldn’t you know, they’re easy to find too!  

(Spice junkies, have no fear: I haven’t forgotten you; I’m one of you. Later this week, I’ll share with you a fun way to get your spice fix.) 

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THE AWESOME BONUS
I’ve been misleading you. How is that awesome, you ask?

I’m not going to just give you a curry recipe. Over the next week, I’m going to share with you a bunch of cool recipes that’ll help you take your next curry-themed feast to the next level.

But first, we need curry, so let’s get down to it! 

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Vegetable Korma 
Inspired by Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution (which, by the way, is an awesome book. From the premise - encouraging people to cook, together! - to the design, to the recipes, it’s great! I’d highly recommend it to anyone - novice or not!)
Serves 6-8

Ingredients
Olive or vegetable oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated or finely-chopped*
1 small bunch of cilantro, leaves and stalks separated and stalks finely chopped
1 small pat of butter 
1 lb firm or extra-firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 lb cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch rounds 
1 14-oz can of coconut milk
2 heaping tbsp unsweetened dried shredded coconut
1 heaping tbsp sliced almonds, plus more for serving
Roughly 1 cup of korma curry paste**
3/4 cup of water
1 cup of frozen peas
Salt to taste
Plain yogurt and fresh lemon for serving (optional) 

Directions

1. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or pan over medium-high. Once oil is hot, add onions, ginger, 2 tbsp of chopped cilantro stalks and butter and stir to coat. Cook until onions are golden, stirring frequently to prevent burning, roughly 10 minutes. 
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2. Stir in tofu, cauliflower, carrots, coconut milk, shredded coconut, almonds, curry paste and water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until veggies are tender (you want little bubbles popping here and there, but not giant bubbles exploding all over the place). Check every 10 minutes or so, giving it a stir and adjusting the heat and/or adding a bit of water if it looks like it’s drying out.*** 
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3. Once veggies are tender, stir in frozen peas, give them a minute to heat up, then remove curry from the heat. Taste and adjust with salt. To serve, ladle curry over cooked rice. Top with reserved cilantro leaves and slivered almonds, along with a dollop of plain yogurt and a squeeze of lemon, if you’re so inclined! 
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*I keep my ginger in the freezer - when frozen, its stringy fibers are no match for a grater (it also keeps for longer)! But if you’re using ginger that isn’t frozen, I’d recommend finely-chopping rather than grating (otherwise you’ll have a mess of fibers on your hands).
**Either use the curry paste recipe below, or substitute a store-bought coconut curry paste. Jamie Oliver, interested only in getting you to cook good food, recommends using Patak’s mild curry paste (Patak’s is tasty stuff!). If you go that route, start with 1/2 a cup of curry paste and adjust upwards until you’ve reached the level of flavour you’re after. 
***I kept mine at a simmer and didn’t need to add any water. But if yours looks dry, don’t be afraid to add a splash or two! 
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Korma Curry Paste
Adapted from jamieoliver.com
Makes ~1 cup (enough for one batch of korma)
Note: The original korma recipe calls for only 1/2 cup of curry paste, but I find that the end result is too mild for my taste, so I use all of what the recipe below - a doubled and tweaked version of the original - makes. If you like milder curries, I’d recommend you make the recipe below and initially add only 1/2 cup of paste to your korma. Give the korma a stir, taste, and add more paste until you’ve reached a level of intensity that suits you!

Ingredients
4 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
4 cloves of garlic, skins removed
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 jalapeno, half of the seeds and membranes removed (don’t use your fingers to remove the seeds, or you’ll burn yourself!)
1 cup of packed cilantro leaves
2 tbsp tomato paste
4 tbsp oil (peanut, vegetable, or olive - nothing wild and crazy)
6 tablespoons unsweetened dried shredded coconut
4 tbsp ground almonds*
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp sea salt (or a scant tsp regular salt)

Directions

1. Toast cumin seeds and coriander seeds in a dry pan over medium-high heat until fragrant and starting to brown (roughly 2-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of your pan). Grind seeds in a food processor, spice grinder or mortar and pestle until powdery.** Add the remainder of the ingredients to the processor and process until smooth.
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*If you’ve got almonds on hand, you can grind them yourself using a food processor or spice grinder.
**Spices that you’ve toasted and ground yourself will be more flavourful than pre-ground spices. But you can certainly skip the toasting and grinding and use pre-ground spices instead. I toasted whole spices…and then forgot to grind them. Next time though!

That’s a wrap for today. But remember: keep tuning in this week for cool curry-esque recipes that’ll take curry night to the next level! 

Time's Up!

The clock just struck midnight. 

You know what that means?

(And no, the answer is not “your horse and carriage will now turn into a shamrock”.) 

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It means that the suggestion box for next week’s Recipe Request post is now closed, and we’re only days away from a post designed entirely around YOU!

I want to say a HUGE thanks to you guys for taking the time to submit such awesome suggestions. I had a ton of fun reading them (I’ll definitely be drawing on them more than once!), and I’m super excited to get down to it this weekend! 

So check back on Monday for an epic post created just for you! 

And in the mean time, I hope you have a great day celebrating all things green, gold and Guinness. Cheers! 

Dinner at Long Last: Ribollita

Ah, mothers. The keenest of observers. 

Whether it was the, uhh, few pounds I gained while studying in Italy or, worse, a typo on the blog, my mom has always been quick to pick up on the things it takes me much longer to notice.  

(Who, I ask, has time to think about how tight their pants are getting when there’s coconut gelato to be had?)

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So when I called my mom to run a few post ideas by her, I shouldn’t have been surprised at her response:

Those are good”, she said, “but you know, you may want to consider making a main dish”. 

Nearly two months in, and I have yet to post anything that would qualify as dinner. Or even lunch. Huh. 

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This being the same conversation that led to the creation of Project: Healthy-Eating Ideas for Mom and Dad, I figured I’d try to kill two birds with one stone (figuratively speaking, of course) and make a healthy, tasty meal that my parents - and you guys! - might want to make too. 

Enter: Ribollita!  

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Once again, here’s how I imagine the conversation playing out:  

DAD: Ribo-who?
ME: Ribollita! Italian for “reboiled”, ribollita is a classic Tuscan white bean and vegetable soup that got its start as a tasty and resourceful way to use up whatever people had on hand. Leftover vegetable soup would be reboiled (hence the name), and white beans, inexpensive veggies, and stale bread would be tossed in along the way. It’s history! It’s tasty! Cool, right?  

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DAD: Whatever you say. But vegetable soup? I mean, sure it sounds healthy. But is it really a meal? 
ME: Sure is! Because it’s full of veggies, fresh herbs, white beans, and tomatoes, you’re right to think that it’s good for you. But this isn’t just any healthy vegetable soup. See, by simmering a bit of parmesan along with the veggies and beans, and tossing in a handful of stale cubes of bread just before serving, you also get a soup that’s satisfyingly savoury and hearty enough to stand on its own as a meal. 

(Although, let’s be honest here, I wouldn’t say no if you offered me a piece of the bread to go with it.)  

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DAD: But do I need to make soup, let it cool, reboil it, and then add everything else in? That sounds like a lot of work.
ME: Nope! The idea behind that process is that it gives the flavours in your soup more time to develop and meld. But the recipes I looked at didn’t require that you do that (most didn’t even mention it), so I didn’t bother and it still turned out great! Plus, the recipe makes lots, so the flavours will have lots of time to meld before you tuck into another bowl the next day! When it comes down to it, this is easy stuff: all you need are a few easy-to-find ingredients, a bit of chopping, one pot and some time, and you’ve got yourself a great meal.  

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DAD: Well, I’m sold.
ME: I thought you would be.  

So there we have it! Dinner, at long last. 

Next on my list: conquering the typos. 

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Ribollita
Inspired by recipes from a bunch of sources (including Bon AppétitCookie, and Jim Lahey’s My Bread)
NOTE: Other recipes add in all sorts of stuff: garlic, other herbs, potatoes, fennel, additional greens, and generally more or less of this-and-that. The results may not be “authentic” (and I’m sure the recipe below isn’t, in some way or another), but from what I gather the idea is to make something that works for you. I’ve tried to give you a good base to work with, so run with it and have some fun! 
Serves 4-6

Ingredients 
2 tbsp olive oil 
1 medium red onion, peeled and roughly chopped (roughly 1 cup)
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped (roughly 1 cup)
2 stalks of celery, roughly chopped (roughly 1 cup)
1/2 tsp red chiles
4 cups of kale, stems and ribs discarded and leaves roughly chopped
1 15-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes 
2 15-ounce cans of white beans (cannellini, navy, or Great Northern), rinsed and drained
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, woody stem removed
1 2-inch square of Parmesan cheese rind (or cheese, without rind, if you don’t have a rind)
3.5-5.5 cups of water or vegetable broth* 
1.5 cups stale bread, cut or torn into roughly 1-inch cubes**
Salt

Directions
1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add onion, carrots, celery, chiles and 1/2 tsp salt. Saute until vegetables start to brown, stirring frequently, about 15-20 minutes. Add kale, cover pot and let kale wilt a bit, about 5 minutes. (Initially the kale filled my pot nearly to the top but, with time, it wilted down, as you can see below!)

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2. Add tomatoes, beans, rosemary, cheese rind and water and stir. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for at least an hour.*** 
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3. Discard cheese rind (if there’s any left). Gently stir in bread cubes (try not to smush them to bits) and allow to soften and absorb broth for a couple of minutes. Taste and adjust with salt.**** Serve with a bit of fresh grated parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (optional, but tasty!). 

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*I used about 3.5 cups of water, which made for a ribollita that had very little broth. If you want something soupier, use more water/broth. Keep in mind too that the bread will soak up some of the broth. 
**If your bread cubes aren’t super-stale, you can dry them out on a baking sheet in a 250°F oven for 10-15 minutes, or until they’re crumbly.
***According to Jim Lahey, now’s the time you’d let the soup cool and refrigerate it to allow the flavours to develop (he doesn’t specify for how long, but I imagine you could do anything from a couple hours up to a day), after which you’d reboil it and carry on with the directions.
****I don’t want to give you an exact amount, as the salt content of your water/broth, tomatoes, beans, cheese will vary considerably depending on what you use. To give you an idea though, I used water, unsalted tomatoes and salted beans and ended up adding about a 1/2 tsp of salt at the end. After you’ve added the bread, taste and adjust until it tastes great to you! 

Don’t forget: today’s your last day to get your suggestions in. Have a great idea? Head over to the suggestions page

A Little Cake with Big Talking Points

So here it is:

A single-layer buttermilk coffee cake.

A cake you can throw together using pantry staples and about 10 minutes of active prep time, and have a slice on your plate within the hour. A cake that’s easier and quicker to put together than a batch of cookies. 

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Doesn’t it just sound…well, a bit boring?

Truly, it’s anything but.

Because this isn’t just a cake. 

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This is a light, tender, vanilla-scented cake, studded with bits of your favourite fresh fruit, all nestled under a sweet, crunchy, golden crust. One layer; three distinct components. Additional embellishment unnecessary and unwanted.  

A cake that rises so substantially as it bakes that it envelops the fruit, turning its location into a sweet discovery to be made with each bite. A cake whose surface sparkles.

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A cake that doesn’t require a special occasion to make, but that will certainly make any occasion more special. That won’t overwhelm you with its size, or make you feel like you’ve overindulged. 

A cake that reminds you that sometimes, simple is best.  

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A cake that’s 100% Scooter-approved. 

And when it comes down to it, surely that reason above any - sorry for this - takes the cake


Buttermilk Coffee Cake
Adapted from Gourmet

Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk*
1 cup fresh fruit**

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter and flour an 8- or 9-inch cake pan (the cake rises a lot, so go all the way up to the edges of your pan). Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper (see the directions at the end of the post!) and lightly butter the parchment paper.Step_1.jpg

2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer*** on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes, or until butter and sugar are light and fluffy. Add vanilla and beat to incorporate. Add egg and beat to incorporate. 
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3. With the mixer on low, incorporate one third of dry ingredients into the butter mixture, then half of the buttermilk, another third of the dry ingredients, the remaining buttermilk, then the remaining dry ingredients. Mix just until the last batch of your dry ingredients is incorporated. (Note that I’ve left one round of dry ingredients and buttermilk out of the photos.) 
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4. Using a spoon or spatula, spread batter evenly in your prepared pan (it’ll be quite thick). Distribute fruit evenly over batter and press into batter slightly. Sprinkle remaining 1.5 tbsp of sugar evenly over cake. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean (it should be moist, but not covered in sticky batter). 
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5. Cool cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Use a knife to loosen the edges of the cake from a pan, then remove cake from the pan and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes more. 

*No buttermilk? Put 1/2 tbsp of white vinegar or lemon juice in your measuring cup, then add enough regular milk to reach the 1/2 cup line. Stir and let sit for five minutes or unitl milk has become buttermilk-y. 

**The original recipe recommends using raspberries or other berries, but any slightly tart fruit should work. I used a peeled and thinly-sliced Granny Smith apple (next time, I’ll dice it - bite-sized pieces are more fork-friendly). I’ve also made a version - our favourite thus far - using a cup of frozen pitted sour cherries, and almond extract in place of the vanilla. Have fun with it! And if you want fruit in each bite, bump up the quantity to a heaping cup. 

***You can also use a stand mixer, but I’ve found that a hand-held mixer works better. Because the volume of butter and sugar is so small, our Kitchenaid paddle didn’t have enough to grab onto to properly whip air into the mixture. But maybe it’ll work better for you! 

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How to cut parchment paper to fit a cake pan:  
1. Cut a sheet of parchment paper large enough to cover the bottom of the pan.
2. Fold parchment it in half width-wise.
3. Fold parchment in half, length-wise. 
4. Fold the horizontal edge over the vertical edge to make a triangle. Parchment_1_high.jpg

5. Repeat Step 4 to make a triangle half-the width of your original triangle.
6. With your pan upside down, line the tip your your triangle up with the centre of the pan and grab yourself a pair of scissors.
7. Cut off any parchment that hangs over the edge of the pan. 
8. Unfold your triangle and - ta da! - you’ve got a parchment circle that’ll fit perfectly inside your pan. Nice work! (Don’t forget to toss the leftover bits of parchment in the recycle!)  Parchment_2_high.jpg

FoodHappy is Taking Your Requests!

Today, it’s about you.  

Today, you get to tell me what to make.

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WHY

1. You’re great!
Simple as that. You’ve stopped by, said hello, and - my favourite part - tried things out. Great!  

2. I want to help you. 

I’m hugely passionate about food. I’m also hugely passionate about people. So when it comes to helping people with food, I’m so there. Some of you are talented cooks, and some of you are just starting out. That’s totally fine. Because I believe that good food shouldn’t be defined first and foremost by the level of skill it requires. I believe that good food - food that keeps you physically and mentally healthy and happy - can be made fun and accessible to everyone.

 

So I want to know: how can I help? What do you want to know how to make? What do you want to learn?

 

3. Sharing is awesome.

Everybody knows that food is best when it’s shared. So while I’ve been posting, and you guys have been leaving awesome comments, I thought: why not take this sharing-over-the-internet thing a step further? If I could share with you guys an idea that originated out there, with you guys, wouldn’t that be cool? 

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YOUR JOB
 

Easy. Leave me a comment telling me what you’d like me to post about.

If you’re shy - and there’s no need to be! - send me an email. Either way, feel free to suggest a recipe (or two!), an ingredient, or a technique - however vague or specific - anything goes! 

(A quick note that, while I don’t eat meat, you’re definitely welcome to suggest a dish that typically requires meat, as long as you’re cool with me adapting it to be vegetarian-friendly! Just for clarity’s sake: I do eat dairy, eggs, and butter and the like, but don’t eat beef, pork, chicken, and fish. I’m pretty handy at finding good substitutes for them though!) 

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MY JOB

I’m here to do the heavy (and happy!) lifting. I will: 

  1. Read your suggestions and choose one (at least!) to make: If there’s one thing that keeps popping up, I’ll go with that. If there isn’t, I’ll choose a suggestion that I think you guys will find interesting and fun.
  2. Do the research; 
  3. Get the groceries;
  4. Make the mystery item, take the photos, write the post, and; 
  5. Report back to you!  

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THE TIMELINE

Submit your suggestions by midnight on Wednesday, March 16. (I’ll post other stuff in the mean time.) 
I’ll post the results - photos, recipes, stories, whatever else is relevant! - on Monday, March 21. 

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THE OUTCOME

If you guys have fun doing this, we can work it into the rotation. If you don’t dig it, it’ll be a blip in history. Either way: you’re always welcome to drop me a line to give me suggestions and ask questions!

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That’s my spiel. I’ve got my oven mitts on and my whisk at the ready. 

 Now the ball is in your court. So, let me ask you:  

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Kale Chips: A Simple, Healthy & Highly Addictive Snack Solution

When it comes to the world of food, there are few things I enjoy more than helping people out. Ask me a question about food, and I won’t rest until I’ve given you an answer. Or a tour of the grocery store. True story.

So when my mom mentioned the other day that she and my dad had designs on eating better, I was all ears.

Kale_chips_new2 (1 of 1).jpgGiven that they live on Prince Edward Island - the province known for its amazing potatoes - I can’t blame my parents for having a soft spot for chips. But let’s face it - too much of a soft spot and you’ll end up with, well, a soft spot.  

So my first task in Project: Healthy-Eating Ideas for Mom & Dad was to find a healthier, easy to make, and satisfyingly salty and crunchy substitute for potato chips.

The solution?
 
Kale_chips (14 of 17).jpgKale chips! Here’s how I imagine the conversation playing out: 

DAD: But are they healthy?
ME: Yessir! Super-healthy kale - the new spinach, some are saying - is tossed in just a bit of oil and baked to a glorious crisp. And because kale is a bit salty-tasting on its own, you’ll need to add only a bit of salt (if any!) to satisfy your craving. Nice!
 
Paprika.jpgDAD: But are they easy to make?
ME: You bet! Tear, toss, sprinkle and bake. The end. Happy snacking!

Kale_chips_new (1 of 1).jpgDAD: But are they really tasty?
MEAddictively so.  Salty (briny, even), intensely savoury, and with a surprisingly satisfying crunch, you’ll have a hard time not eating the whole batch. And I don’t say that just for effect. The batch in the photos was devoured within minutes of coming out of the oven by salty-plus-crunchy-snack connoisseurs (read: Lauren and Rob). And in this case, devouring the entire batch probably isn’t a bad thing in the least. 

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ME: Bonus! It’s economical! These days, a small bag of chips can set you back a couple bucks. At the grocery store I frequent, a bunch of kale costs a mere 98¢ and will yield about 10 cups of chips. Plus, with kale chips, there’s no non-recyclable packaging to deal with. Beat that! 

So regardless of whether you’re trying to develop healthier eating habits, make some kale chips! But in the interest of your mental health, I urge you: check your teeth before you leave the house. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Kale Chips
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Makes lots - at least 10 loosely-packed cups - but it’ll disappear quickly!

Ingredients
1 bunch of kale (any kind - I used curly), rinsed and dried
1 tbsp olive oil
Seasonings like salt, pepper, paprika, sesame seeds, etc. (optional)

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 250°F. 

2. Using a knife or your hands, separate the leafy parts of the kale from the ribs. Discard ribs (here’s where a composter comes in handy!). Cut or tear leaves into bite-sized pieces and put in a large bowl.  

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3. Pour oil over leaves and toss to evenly coat.* Spread leaves in a single layer on two unlined baking sheets and sprinkle 2-3 large pinches of your seasonings of choice over each sheet.** Bake for 28-35 minutes, or until chips are crispy (try one!). Allow chips to cool before serving.***

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*You may need to massage, rather than simply toss, the leaves to make sure they’re evenly coated with oil, especially if you’re using the curly stuff. 
**As kale can be a bit salty-tasting on its own, you may want to go easy on the added salt to start - 2-3 big pinches per baking sheet should do it. Once the chips are out of the oven, if you find that you’d like them to be saltier, add another pinch or two.  
***If you manage to have leftovers and find that they’ve lost their crispness overnight, you can, as reviewers of the original recipe have recommended, re-crisp them by popping them back in a 250°F oven for 5 minutes. I haven’t tested this out yet, as we’ve never had leftovers!

Garlic Bread, the Italian Way

Today I want to share with you a recipe that goes back to my university days, when I had the good fortune of spending a semester in Tuscany.

Everything there - the friends, the food, the wine, the art, the landscape, the I-could-go-on-with-this-forever - was wonderful.

Everything, that is, but the bread.
 
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You see, in Tuscany, the bread is made without salt. (A throwback, we were told, to a time centuries ago when Pisa, in a tiff, cut off Florence’s salt supply). Doesn’t sound like a big deal? 
 

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We struggled. I’m certain that with time we would have come to appreciate the Tuscan bread, unsalted but full of history and pride. But we were only there for a short time and, being surrounded by immediately-delicious things, we passed over the bread - which showed up nearly everyday at breakfast and dinner - in favour of other things.  

Except when they made this.

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Through the simple act of rubbing a clove of garlic over its freshly-toasted surface, then drizzling bottle-green olive oil and sprinkling salt into its cragged crevices, the Tuscan bread was transformed.  

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One bite of this Italian-style garlic bread - we called it simply The Bread - and we were hooked. 

Whenever it was served, we knew we had done something right. Or maybe our resident chef just wanted to use up all that leftover bread. Either way, we were happy.

Here it is: The Bread.

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The Bread
Consider this: my ingredients will undoubtedly be different from yours. My slice of bread may be larger, my clove of garlic smaller, my olive oil and salt more or less flavourful. So adjust the quantities until you’ve got something that tastes great to you! Just remember: better quality ingredients will yield better results. (And I’m not going to insist that you use unsalted bread.) 
Makes 2 servings*

Ingredients
2 pieces of bread, cut ¾-1-inch thick
1 clove of garlic, cut in half 
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Two good-sized pinches of sea salt (I used Maldon)

Directions
1. Toast your bread until it’s golden-brown. A toaster, toaster oven, broiler or grill will do just fine!
2. As soon as the bread has toasted, rub half a clove of garlic - cut side down - evenly across the surface of one piece of bread. You want to use enough pressure that the clove wears away, transferring to the surface of the crispy bread. Repeat with the other half-clove and piece of toasted bread.
3. Drizzle 1 tsp of olive oil and sprinkle 1 good pinch of salt over each slice of bread. Eat while it’s hot!

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*If you want to make a bunch of slices at once, work in batches or get someone to help you, as the garlic transfers to the bread best when the bread is still hot. 

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P.S. A big shout-out to my sister, Lauren, for baking the lovely loaf of bread you see in the first photo, and my brother-in-law, Rob, for passing me a magnifying glass and an idea. Thanks guys!

Introducing: Superslaw!

Carrot and fennel slaw, that is.

So what makes it so super?  

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1. It’s easy.  
Grate, chop, shake, wait and you’re done! 

2. It tastes like summer, but uses ingredients that easy to find in the winter. 
Why try to coax a bit of summer out of those rock-hard tomato-impostors lurking around the grocery store when you can get it easily using ingredients that actually taste good? Carrots, fennel, lemon, parsley and sun-dried tomatoes (now there’s a tomato I’ll eat in February) make for a salad that’s clean, bright, fresh, and easily attainable even when it’s -30

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3. It’s good for you.
Unlike the mint-green mystery slaw you’ll find at a company picnic (in July), this slaw is packed full of veggies, light on the dressing and there’s no mayo or green food colouring in sight. 

4. It will expand your culinary horizons.
According to Gourmet, this slaw applies the Algerian method of using ingredients as spices. Briny olives provide the bulk of the saltiness, while carrots, fennel and sun-dried tomatoes provide sweetness. Cool, hey?  

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5. It stays fresh for a long, long time.
Unlike green salads, which tend to wilt shortly after they’re dressed, this slaw stays crunchy and fresh for days. I made some on Monday, and it was still crunchy on Thursday (and then it was gone!). And that means you can make a big batch all at once and get on with things! 

Like I said: Superslaw! 

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Carrot and Fennel Slaw with Olive Dressing
Adapted from Gourmet 
Makes about 4 cups 
Note: Each ingredient in this Algerian-style slaw is meant to add something different to the dish. Naturally then, higher-quality ingredients will give you a tastier slaw (so it’s probably a good idea to leave those pimento-stuffed olives that are in the back of your fridge for something else).  

Ingredients
1 large fennel bulb (with fronds, if possible)*
5 carrots, peeled
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Spanish green olives, chopped**
3/4 tsp dried Aleppo chile or Espelette pepper flakes***
6 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and thinly sliced
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tbsp olives, pits removed and olives torn into 3-4 pieces

Directions
1. Chop enough fennel fronds or basil (whichever you’re using) to measure 3 tbsp and set aside.

2. Coarsely grate carrots. Cut fennel into matchstick-sized pieces: cut off base and tip of bulb, then cut bulb in half lengthwise. Place bulb-half cut-side down, and cut lengthwise into thin slices. Turn slices on their sides and cut lengthwise into matchsticks.**** Toss carrots and fennel together in a large bowl.

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3. In a lidded jar, combine lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, chopped olives, and chiles (or whatever you’re using in place of the chiles). Close jar and shake vigorously until ingredients are combined. Taste and add salt if necessary. Pour dressing over carrots and fennel and toss to coat. Cover bowl and chill for at least 30 minutes to let flavours develop.

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4. After at least half an hour, add fronds/basil, sun-dried tomatoes, parsley, and additional olives to salad and toss to combine. Serve!

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*If your fennel is frondless, use basil - which has a similar, licorice-y flavour - instead. I didn’t think to add basil until after I took the photos, so the version you see here is basil-free. 
**I used good-quality green and black olives, as that’s what I had on hand. Next time I’ll go for the recommended Spanish green olives. 
***If you can’t find either of these things (I couldn’t), you can substitute in any of the following: 3/4 tsp sweet paprika plus a big pinch of cayenne, 3/4 tsp ancho chili pepper, or 3/4 tsp of another flavourful crushed red pepper. But use the aleppo if you can find it. From what I’ve read, it sounds like its flavour - bright, fruity, and complex, with a brief burst of heat - makes it worth the investment. 
****Next time, I’ll grate the fennel as well - it works just as well, and saves a bit of time. But if you want to practice your knife skills, matchstick-away!

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Serving Ideas
If you’re looking to bulk this up to eat as a meal, you could: 

Add toasted nuts: like toasted slivered almonds. 
Add cheese: like a crumbly goat cheese or a soft feta. If you use feta, you may want to reduce the level of salt in the salad, either by using fewer olives or reducing the amount of salt you’d otherwise use in the dressing. 
Put it in a pita: on its own, or with some grilled veggies, crumbly cheese (see above) or a mild, spreadable yogurt cheese
Stir in a cooked grain: like quinoa or whole wheat couscous. If you do this, you’ll probably want to double the dressing. Make the salad as directed, then stir in the cooked grains and add extra dressing until you’ve achieved the flavour you’re looking for. 
Some combination of any of the above! 

How to Make Speculoos


Specuwho?
 

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A few short weeks ago, that’s what I would have been saying - eyebrows raised - if you had brought them up in conversation (as you so often do, right?). 

But then, I saw them. Four times in as many weeks: Speculoos

  • First, in a cookbook: hailed as the perfect, crunchy accompaniment to lucious lemon ice cream.  
  • Then, in a movie: a pantry staple offered to comfort a troubled friend.
  • Again! On a blog: described as the French equivalent to gingersnaps. 
  • Finally, in the news: as the cookie that inspired a spread so popular it sparked multiple lawsuits and may come to rival peanut butter in popularity.  

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Now, when the universe hits you over the head with something like that, you listen. So I did some research (ahem, Wikipedia) and found out that: 

Speculoos (or speculaas) are thin, crunchy, Belgian spice cookies, traditionally baked in cookie molds (think: the most impressive animal crackers you’ve ever seen) in celebration of St. Nicholas’ Eve.

Then I did some baking, and found out that:

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Speculoos are delicious

They reminded us of these, only so much better - as homemade cookies always are. Plus, they’re easy to make, fun to decorate (think of the possibilities!), and if anyone in your house bakes, you probably already have all of the ingredients on hand. 

So please don’t wait until you’ve heard about them three more times to make them. I promise: the universe knows what’s up.

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Speculoos
Adapted from Bon App
étit*
Makes six dozen  

Ingredients
2¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 large egg

Directions
1. In a medium bowl, sift together first six ingredients, then give the sifted stuff a quick whisk to make sure everything is evenly incorporated. In the bowl of a stand mixer**, beat together butter and sugar until well-blended. Add egg and beat until incorporated.
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2. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, and mix until dough clumps together. Place 1/3 of dough on a large sheet of plastic wrap and shape the dough into a disc (I use the plastic wrap to help me out here). Repeat with each remaining third of dough. Chill dough for at least two hours.  
Step_2.jpg3. Preheat oven to 325
°F. Remove dough from the fridge and allow to warm up for 5-10 minutes. Unwrap dough, place on a lightly-floured sheet of parchment or wax paper and roll out until 1/4 - 1/5-inch thick. If the dough starts to stick to your rolling pin, dust the rolling pin with a bit of flour. Cut out cookies using a ~2-inch cookie cutter or a knife***, and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet (as always, I used a Silpat). Gather dough scraps, roll out, and cut. Repeat until you’ve used all of the dough. 

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4. Bake cookies for 10-15 minutes or until edges are golden (the baking time will vary depending on how thin you’ve rolled your cookies, so keep an eye on them once you hit the 10 minute mark). Cool cookies on baking sheet, and store in an airtight container at room temperature.  

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*This recipe was originally intended to make cookies AND a tart crust, so it makes a lot of dough. Rather than try to scale it down (who wants to try to use half of an egg?), I made the full batch and put two of the three discs of dough in the freezer for another time. Each disc should yield about two-dozen cookies. 
**No stand mixer? No worries! You can use a bowl and either a hand mixer or a wooden spoon and some elbow grease.
***I cut mine into 3 cm x 7 cm rectangles (as per this recipe), and then pressed designs into the tops using knife and a circle-shaped bit of plastic - not necessary, but fun!

Serving Ideas
Not that you need anyone to tell you how to eat a cookie, but speculoos have been served in some peculiar ways, so I thought I’d share.

  • with the usual suspects: tea, coffee, milk, espresso - speculoos are perfect here! 
  • with fruit compote: dunked in poached/baked/stewed apples, strawberries, rhubarb, or plums - they’d all be good (credit to: Chocolate & Zucchini)
  • with ice cream: crumble them overtop, dunk them in, or use them to sandwich together ice cream. We dunked ours in homemade sour cream ice cream. And we were happy.
  • as a tart crust: check out the tart recipe I based the cookies on - it sounds super tasty! 
  • make a paste? find out what all the fuss is about, and whiz up some cookies with oil. Let me know how it goes.
  • as sandwich cookies: I imagine these would be pretty tasty rolled thin, baked, and used to sandwich together some melted chocolate or ganache.  
  • in a sandwich: according to this article, speculoos sandwiches used to be popular among workers who couldn’t afford to put cheese between their bread. Different times, hey? 

 

5 Reasons Why You Should Make Your Own Fries

1. They’re easy. 
I’m talking three ingredients kind of easy. 

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2. They taste amazing!
Unless you dig the potato out of the ground yourself, these are pretty much the freshest fries you can get. And they’re good

3. They’re healthy (in the world of fries, at least).  
Baked in the oven, these fries use cups - cups! - less oil than their deep-fried friends. Which means not only are they better for you, but they also won’t make you, and everything you own, reek of oil. And, speaking from experience, you will only realize that your coat smells like it’s been laundered in a deep fryer once it’s too late for you to go home and change.  

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4. They’re fun to make!
You’re in charge, so experiment! Switch up the variety and cut of potato, swap a bland oil for something tasty, and add salts, seasonings (cheese, anyone? Keep scrolling!), and sauces to your heart’s content.

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5. They’re cheap.
As chips. For real. Some quick mental math tells me that the inputs for a batch of salted fries will set you back less than a dollar. Let’s take a moment to think about that. A dollar!  

6. Bonus!
I’m making it extra easy for you. Keep scrolling and you’ll find:

  • A great recipe for oven-baked fries.
  • Two easy recipes that took our lunchtime batch to the next level.
  • Tasty tips on how to make these fries all your own.

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Bistro Fries
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients
4 medium russet potatoes* (~1¾ - 2 lbs), washed and unpeeled
2 tbsp oil (I used olive, but canola, vegetable, or peanut would also work)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 425°F. 
2. Prepare potatoes: to keep potato from rolling around, slice a small amount off one of its long sides and place potato cut-side down. Next, cut potato lengthwise into ⅓-½-inch-thick slices. Cut slices into ⅓-½-inch-thick sticks (these are your fries!).

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3. Toss potatoes with oil. Spread in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet (I used a Silpat). Bake for around 45 minutes or until fries are turning golden, tossing every 10-15 minutes to help them brown evenly (if you’re not sure if they’re done, let one cool, then try it!). Season with a couple big pinches of coarse salt or sea salt. 

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*Yukon Golds and sweet potatoes should work really well here too!
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Parsley & Garlic for Bistro Fries
Adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients
¼ cup fresh parsley
2-3 cloves of garlic
Coarse salt

Directions
1. Finely chop garlic and parsley, and mix together with a couple big pinches of coarse salt. Sprinkle mixture over fries immediately after they’re out of the oven, and toss to coat. Season with more salt if necessary. 

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Honey-Mustard Dressing
Adapted from Gourmet
Makes ¾ cup

Ingredients
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped and smushed to a paste with ¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp grated ginger root*
2 tbsp red-wine vinegar
½ tsp soy sauce
½ cup neutral-flavored oil (I used olive, but the recipe recommends vegetable)**
1 tbsp fresh herbs (thyme, parsley, rosemary - whatever you’ve got around), chopped 

Directions
1. Place all ingredients in a small lidded jar. Secure lid, and shake jar vigorously until mixture has emulsified. Adjust with salt, honey - whatever you think it needs - to taste. Store in the fridge and shake before use. 

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*Store fresh ginger in the freezer - it makes it much easier to grate (no stringy bits to worry about!), and keeps it fresh for much longer. 
**Note that this is a salad dressing recipe, so it’s not particularly thick. If you want more of a dip, I imagine you could scale the oil back by 1/4 cup. 
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More Seasoning Ideas!  

dried spices and herbs: add ~2 tsp of your favourite dried spices and herbs when you toss unbaked fries with oil. 
fresh herbs: toss hot fries with 1/4 cup of finely chopped fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, cilantro, etc.!).
finishing salts: swap coarse salt or sea salt for a finishing salt. Note that the level of saltiness may be different from what you’re used to (if you’re not sure, taste it!), so adjust the amount accordingly. 
cheese: a bit of fresh parmesan cheese finely grated overtop fresh fries - delicious! Or, you know, there’s veggie poutine. 
dressings, dips, condiments: ketchup, vinegar, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, truffle oil (pricey, but a little goes a long way and the results are delicious!), legit aïoli, quick aïoli or chipotle mayo, the list goes on!  
some combination of any/all of the above!  

You can also try different shapes (wedges, shoestrings, rounds). Just remember to adjust the baking time!