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delicata squash + lime tabbouleh


What is it about seasonal change that is so emotional?

This hunch seems especially true for fall, but especially pertinent in my little nook of Canada. Another 6-7 months of briskness is coming. The booties have been dusted off and wooly scarves have cozied around my neck on more than one occasion already. We seem to brace ourselves and turn into each other so readily. The community feels strong wherever cold winds sweep through and my dwelling spaces have been no exception.

I heard a rustle of slowly decaying leaves from the apple tree in the middle of our garden at dusk and I swear it was fraught with emotive… like, vibrational THINGS. You know?! The fallen fruits laying in the dampness, some rotting and sunk in, kind of threw me. I was taken aback by the whole scene. Strange beauty in the cool mud before dark.

Mark and I were in Montreal a couple weekends ago and passing by an old church in the morning hours, I could hear the choir of voices inside just slightly muffled by ages-old bricks and mortar, the congregation’s joy barely contained. I felt like my chest would explode, just walking on by.

I’ve been laughing harder too. So many things giving me that riot of hearty laughs where the sides of your eyes are all misty wet and crinkled from the inability to contain that big, smiling mouth. Just one little gesture or phrase from Mark and I’m senseless with that gasping-for-air-kind of laugh, face blindly pointed to the sky trying to catch a moment, a breath, only to fall into it again.

Needless to say I’m drinking this atmospheric goodness up fairly greedily. That lushness seems abundant all around. I’m gently savoring it in some ways; the slower sipping of morning coffee, lingering over a book or magazine in a warm spot of the house, craving anything that can possibly be roasted or caramelized… In other ways, I’m much more eager to get my fill with a sense of haste; spontaneous road trips, all kinds of indulgence, permitting myself some laziness on a whim. It’s all keeping me in the moment.

My appetite has been pretty strong through all of this, as per usual. I wanted to make something that would serve as a very complete side dish at dinner that could gracefully turn into a perfect lunch addition for a few days longer. Leftovers. I wanted some damn good leftovers to eliminate any  doubt around lunchtime for a bit. We had some gorgeous delicata squash forming in the garden, one of my favourites.

I started thinking about a sort-of tabbouleh salad with roasted squash and super sweet, sun-ripened tomatoes, barely clinging to the dried up vines at this point. Lots of herbs and citrus in the form of a whole lime vinaigrette is in the mix, an awesome technique I’m borrowing from Brooklyn Supper. You get the acidity of the juice and all the fragrance of the zest in a couple little blitzes of the blender. It’s the perfect accompaniment to sweet, roast-y squash, cracked wheat and a bounty of parsley and mint. This comes together so easily once you get the squash roasting, which is completely by design. I wanted to leave you with plenty of time to fill your heart up with the excitement of change and coziness :)


delicata squash and whole lime tabbouleh
vinaigrette from Brooklyn Supper
serves: 6-8
notes: Make sure you let the cooked bulgur cool down completely before tossing it with all of the other ingredients to avoid major grain-clumping. Feel free to use quinoa or millet for a very similar gluten-free option too. Don’t eat grains? Try some cauliflower pilaf technique.

salad:
1 medium delicata squash, split in half lengthwise, seeds removed
2 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sea salt
black pepper
1 cup dry bulgur
5-6 roma-sized tomatoes, cut into small wedges
8 sprigs flat leaf parsley, leaves chopped roughly
8 sprigs mint, leaves chopped roughly

vinaigrette:
1 lime, halved and chopped into smaller pieces
1 clove of garlic, peeled
1 tbsp agave nectar
1/3 cup grapeseed (or olive) oil
1/3 cup water
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Slice the delicata halves crosswise into 1/2 inch thick half moons. Toss them with the 2 tbsp grapeseed oil, ground coriander, salt and pepper. Arrange on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast for 25 minutes or until squash is tender and lightly browned. Remove and set aside to cool.

While squash is roasting, combine bulgur and 1.5 cups water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 7-10 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Add a splash of oil and stir it around at this point to prevent clumping.

Combine the chopped tomatoes, parsley, mint, roasted squash and cooked bulgur in a large bowl.

Make the vinaigrette: Combine the chopped lime, garlic clove, water, oil, salt and pepper in a blender pitcher. Blend on medium-high speed until lime is liquified and you have a creamy, homogenous mix. Taste for seasoning.

Pour vinaigrette over vegetables and bulgur. Stir to combine and add any salt or pepper if you like. Serve at room temperature or cold.

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Kittee-Bee Berns27/09/2012 - 11:29 pm

heck, this looks so great i’ll be making this with quinoa just as soon as i get my hands on a delicata. super brilliant

xo
kittee

Hannah28/09/2012 - 12:14 am

Laura this is perfect! Those last sweet tomatoes meet fall’s fairest harbinger, the delicata. I love it. And leftovers, yes, yes.

You can put those seeds in the toaster oven and sprinkle a nice crunchy topping over it all too, you know. Just sayin’ ;)

Kathryn28/09/2012 - 4:18 am

I love this; I feel almost giddy about fall at the moment. As much as I love the summer, I walked home from work last night in the dark and the rain and the cold and I couldn’t believe how happy it was making me. This kind of hearty salad is perfect for this time of year. Delicious.

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar28/09/2012 - 11:39 am

This salad is stunning! Awesome photos :)

Stacy28/09/2012 - 12:13 pm

This is a beautiful essay, and, per usual, you have crafted a unique and delicious-looking dish. This is on my dinner list, to be sure!

Kasey28/09/2012 - 3:26 pm

Hi friend! I totally know what you mean about the emotional nature of seasonal change. I absolutely adore this time of year..when the air gets crisp, and the leaves turn, and all those beautiful squashes come into play in our kitchens. This sounds like a fabulous dish -delicata is probably my favorite fall squash! xo

Kelsey28/09/2012 - 10:07 pm

Emotional is right. Holy moley. I can imagine you laughing to the sky, and it makes me smile. One day, one day. This looks crazy good, btw.

sara30/09/2012 - 2:36 am

you! so good! the photos on this one are magnificent, my dear. can’t wait for fall squash foods once it cools down around here!

Jacqui02/10/2012 - 2:24 pm

I’m right there with you on the seasonal mood shift. I’ve been loving it. And this dish is definitely on my must make soon list, I love the list of ingredients!

Cookie and Kate07/10/2012 - 11:06 pm

Gah, so with you on this one. The change in seasons has been an emotional one for me, for sure. I’m not so happy about the brisk weather. I would be very happy eating this salad, however. It looks perfect and I love that you used Elizabeth’s lime vinaigrette technique. That was a great night.

Elisa mcfarlane19/04/2013 - 12:09 pm

Love the fresh look and I am presuming great taste

Reeve25/07/2013 - 7:54 pm

so excited to have found your beautiful blog. I mean, seriously excited! But sad that this recipe isn’t in season right now:( Any suggestions for making a summer version?

Laura Wright26/07/2013 - 8:38 am

Hi Reeve,

Thanks for leaving such a kind note! I would probably grill or roast some summer squash in place of the delicata to make the dish more summer appropriate. :)
-L

Hannah20/09/2013 - 1:45 pm

This looks gorgeous and your words so perfectly describe this time of year!
You say you had this as a side – I’m intrigued what flavours it matched with?

P.s. I love your site so so much thank you for sharing so much deliciousness!x

The Big Salad: November28/11/2013 - 9:39 pm

[…] was inspired by the Delicata Squash Tabbouleh at The First Mess, but ended up making some significant substitutions, such as millet for the […]

[…] First Mess Delicata Squash Tabbouleh – A love letter to the seasonal changes written by Laura, a good gracious greenylicious rock […]

chocolate hazelnut grahams + lowbrow snacks


This gluten free cookie recipe has lowbrow-inspired roots despite its sophisticated looks and healthy-happy ingredients. Sort of shamefully lowbrow. Confession time is upon us. Deep breath.

We took a trip over to the USA last week (I live super close to an American border crossing-hey neighbours!) and brought back a certain brand of cookies, featuring certain little worker elves occupying a suspiciously chocolate-equipped treehouse/cookie factory. These were tagging along with some bottles of my favourite kombucha to keep it all in balance of course. Anyway these cookies were good. Too good. Thick cut graham-like crackers covered in fudge-y chocolate. Very simple goodness flavour-wise that unfortunately DID NOT translate to a simple ingredients list. Hydrogenated whatnots, probably 5 forms of sugar, the white flour, preservatives etc. Oy. And I ate how many? Too many.

Since I’m not one to dwell on less-than-virtuous eating incidents (I eat for pleasure first and always), I started dreaming up a healthier version of this crack-cookie as it were. There would be coconut oil for fat, hazelnuts for body (and to give off a bit of a nutella vibe), wholesome sweeteners, healthy garnishes for fun deliciousness and the like.

And it all worked out! I made my own hazelnut and coconut flour/meal in the blender and threw the dough together in the food processor. You could grind the flour in the food processor too, saving yourself some extra dishes/appliance usage. When grinding the nuts/coconut, you’e looking for the consistency of almond meal. A few stops short of nut butter does the trick. It should hold together when you pinch it, but still feel dry.

The dough will actually seem like a failure right from the outset. You’ll wonder how this sticky goop will become cookies-cookies that will actually be pleasant enough to eat at that. Flatten it out, stick it in the oven, maybe cross your fingers a bit and whoa! Spiced vanilla hazelnutty-molasses goodness that will take a bath in chocolate and get all smothered in sea salt, chopped nuts and cacao nibs. Oh. Yes. Protein, healthy fat, grain-free, sugar-free, satiating, vegan, tasty pretties… all that good stuff for wholesome, fancy-lady tea time. Sorry sweet little elves. Today, I win.


chocolate covered hazelnut grahams
serves: makes around 12 or more
notes: These will not taste exactly like graham crackers! They’re a bit more pillowy, nutty and complex.  Having said that, these would be amazing with a smooshy, molten marshmallow on top.

grahams:
1 cup + 2 tbsp hazelnut flour (roughly 1 cup of nuts ground in the food processor)
1/4 cup ground coconut meal (throw it in with the hazelnuts to make life easy)
1 tsp arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of sea salt
1 tbsp maple syrup (or honey, agave, brown rice syrup etc)
scant 3 tbsp coconut oil, room temperature to cool (it should be soft, slightly cool, but not at all liquid)
1.5 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp non-dairy milk
splash of vanilla extract

chocolate ganache:
1/3 cup non-dairy milk
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate (chips or chopped from a bar)
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp coconut oil

garnishes:
chopped hazelnuts
flaky sea salt
cacao nibs
etc (crushed lavender buds would be dope)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place a rack in the middle of the oven.

After you’ve processed the hazelnuts and coconut, add the arrowroot powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and sea salt. Pulse a couple times to combine.

Add the maple syrup, molasses, coconut oil, non-dairy milk and vanilla to the dry ingredients. Place the lid back on and pulse until the dough starts to form a solid mass. If it isn’t clumping together, add hazelnut or coconut meal in tablespoon increments until it starts forming a ball as you pulse the machine.

Remove the blade and scrape the dough onto a piece of parchment paper. Place a big sheet of saran wrap on top of the dough and flatten the dough out with a rolling pin. You want it fairly thin, around a 1/4 inch thickness. Transfer the parchment sheet with the dough to a baking sheet large enough to hold it all. Bake for about 12 minutes or until edges are quite brown and dough feels dry. Cool completely.

Cut giant graham into whatever size cookies you like, removing the super brown edges.

Make the ganache: In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to a boil. Lower it to a simmer and add the chocolate chips, maple syrup and coconut oil. Whisk until chocolate is fully melted, about 3 minutes. Keep warm until ready to use.

Line another baking sheet with parchment. Using a small spatula as a chocolate dry-walling tool of sorts, brush the ganache onto the cut grahams. Lay them on the parchment-lined sheet and garnish with whatever you like while they’re still wet. Repeat with remaining grahams. Place in the fridge to set chocolate more rapidly.

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Kathryn20/09/2012 - 8:07 am

Why am I at work when I could be at home making these?!? It’s everything that I love in a cookie.

Emma20/09/2012 - 8:28 am

It just shows your normal making an unhealthy choice once in a while! Your cookies look gorgeous. Just bought some hazelnuts so these have risen to the top of the “to-make” list!

Ashlae20/09/2012 - 8:38 am

I know those elves and their cookies all too well (I used to be a huge fan of the ones that look like wheels, with squiggleys on top).

Love these, and the thought of eating them during fancy lady tea time. But I really want to dunk one in my morning coffee.

sarah20/09/2012 - 10:42 am

Gorgeous!! I wish I would have seen these an hour ago – I have a friend coming over in 15 who can’t eat gluten or dairy, and I was just racking my brain what I could make her. This, of course. Maybe we can make them together.

Also, I love your honesty. Makes me feel a teensy bit better about that bag of combos that somehow makes it’s way into our car on road trips. {ha}

Shanna20/09/2012 - 10:51 am

I am so impressed!

Emma @ Poires au Chocolat20/09/2012 - 10:56 am

These look so delicious. I have no idea what the originals you bought are like (and actually, have never tasted an authentic graham cracker) but I definitely want to try these. It’s so much fun recreating and updating treats you can buy.

Stacy20/09/2012 - 1:30 pm

This is wonderful. Excellent work health-ing up a lowbrow treat, and, I imagine, improving it in the process — I can’t imagine the elves would ever use lavender buds…

Kasey20/09/2012 - 3:25 pm

Love the feeling of success when I can recreate something super tasty (and usually super unhealthy!). These look positively divine, lady!

Courtney20/09/2012 - 3:51 pm

Oh those tricky elves and their cookies. I would go for your version hands-down, any day of the week. These look awesome and now I’m drooling all over my keyboard… Guess I’ll have to make these this weekend!

Jess20/09/2012 - 5:05 pm

Beautiful as always! Love the molasses incorporated into the biscuit, gorgeous. Could easily munch away on these with a dandy cuppa. Nom nom.

Heidi @foodiecrush20/09/2012 - 8:11 pm

I’ve never tried making my own grahams, but if it involves crack, and a healthier version than the dirty elf version, I’m down! Thank you!

la domestique20/09/2012 - 9:41 pm

Those elves totally put crack in the cookies! I am not gluten free, but your chocolate covered hazelnut grahams look friggin delicious!

brighteyedbaker22/09/2012 - 4:45 pm

Looks like a yummy recipe! I don’t think you can go wrong with that classic combo of hazelnuts and chocolate. Kudos to you for making a guilty-treat not so guilty. :)

Sophie22/09/2012 - 5:41 pm

I’m trying to quit chocolate and you are making it impossible! These beauties look absolutely delicious!

Elizabeth23/09/2012 - 10:29 am

These sound seriously wonderful. I was bracing for some kind of earth-shattering confession, so “I’m human” was a funny surprise (I think we’ve all accidentally done our time with something by those elves. I recently did battle with a box of Cheese-Its and managed to only eat three). Sadly, I’m allergic to hazelnuts, but I wonder if there’s a way to make this with coconut and pumpkin seeds, or both?

Barbara | Creative Culinary23/09/2012 - 10:32 am

These are gorgeous…and despite having to field the question a MILLION times, I’m not a Keebler, I’m a Kiebel and just as well. I’ll scarf some store bought cookies in a pinch but I don’t look at the ingredients; it would ruin the experience. I would rather have these in a heartbeat!

victoria23/09/2012 - 1:38 pm

Have you ever attempted making your own kombucha? It is super cheap and super satisfying!

Laura24/09/2012 - 9:58 am

Victoria,

I want to try making it for sure! I definitely spend too much money on my addiction to kombucha at this point :)

-L

Jacqui24/09/2012 - 8:34 pm

I haven’t had one of those cookies in year’s! I like the sound of yours much better though : )

Cookie and kate25/09/2012 - 11:25 pm

I’d forgotten how tasty those little elf cookies are until now. Yours look way better, though!

Kelsey26/09/2012 - 12:25 pm

Elves ain’t got nothing on this stuff ;)

Katie @ figgyandsprout05/10/2012 - 8:38 am

I’m dying to try these! Sounds like the perfect project for the weekend. They look absolutely gorgeous, Laura :)

[...] Chocolate Covered Hazelnut Grahams [...]

Melissa26/03/2013 - 11:45 am

I have a batch of these cooling right now, have tasted the end pieces and OH MY GOD! They are delicious all by themselves without anything added to them! Thanks so much for this gorgeous recipe – I will use it many times!

[…] Adapted from The First Mess […]

[…] her culinary school and restaurant endeavours, combined.  I just loved her gluten free and vegan chocolate hazelnut grahams. And then there’s my favourite, Aran Goyoaga, allergic to gluten, she began […]

sweet corn + caramelized tomato farrotto


Guys, summer isn’t over and I’m going to prove it to you. How? Over a healthy bowl of farro risotto with tons of sweet corn, juicy caramelized tomatoes and fresh herbs. Our garden is exploding with goodness right about now. Pumpkin and apples can just wait.

Much as I love the season of turning leaves, blushing summer fruits and full flavour veggies are at their peak in my little corner of southern Ontario. Time to get virtuous with the resources and do the right thing: eat it all. Pinterest is kind of exploding with pumpkin spice things and braises, hot toddies, pictures of cold mist washing over mountains, wool sweaters, ruggedly handsome dudes in puffer vests, ankle booties and the like. Resistance. Peaches. Iced tea. Summer. Forever.

I won’t deny the cool breeze floating around in the evenings though. This recipe is made for that coolness, that whisper of things to come. It’s a warm and hearty bowl-food kind of recipe that makes you feel good just knowing that it’s going to come about. There is toasty farro stirred in a risotto style with a bunch of summer veg, shallots, a heavy drizzle of white wine and the sweetest, most delicious thing ever: corn stock. Stock made from corn cobs. So simple. So game-changing.

September brings out the “clean it up, get resourceful, and move the hell on” side of me. It’s something fierce. I’ve been working a lot, so spending that precious leisure time in a cloud of clutter was making me somewhat grumpy. It was time to remedy that in a serious way. Along with getting all enterprising and such on those corn cobs, I’ve been on a bit of a clean-up tear.

There was a slight closet purging, major recycling efforts, a pantry consolidation (“Oh neat there’s farro in the back of this cupboard!“), a solemn promise to hold a yard sale (and an equally solemn promise to be more discerning on kitchen and book-related purchases) etc. How have I amassed so much stuff? It’s overwhelming, but I’ve been taking some giant steps, making it all happen and feeling way better. Room to breathe and move around. It feels good, friends. Like a shinier, sparklier, less hindered version of yourself emerging. All that and a bowl of farrotto. Summer can stick around a while longer as far as I’m concerned.


sweet corn and caramelized tomato farrotto
serves: 4
notes: If you don’t want to wait for a homemade corn stock to come into fruition, using a pre-fab vegetable stock should yield some decent results. You could go for the traditional arborio rice if you have a gluten allergy too. Oh, and a pro tip: Have everything at the ready on the counter beside your stove once you’re about to start stirring it all up.

4 cobs of corn, kernels removed and set aside and cobs saved
1 cup of farro, soaked for 30 minutes
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 tsp + 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 large shallot, fine dice
1 sprig of thyme, leaves minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 sprig of basil, leaves finely sliced (or dill, parsley, any other leafy herb)
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted and lightly chopped
optional: big handful of grated pecorino cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Make the corn cob stock: place the cobs in a large pot. Add a few dices of celery, onion and carrot if you like. Pour 6 cups of water into the pot over the vegetables. Place pot on the stove and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Strain stock through a sieve. Return stock to the large pot. Keep warm. There should be about 4-5 cups-worth.

While stock is simmering, line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Place whole grape tomatoes on the paper. Toss tomatoes with the 1 tsp of oil and some salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until slightly browned and shriveled. Remove and set aside.

Drain and rinse the farro, trying to remove as much water as possible. Set aside. Start simmering the strained corn cob stock on a back burner.

Heat the 2 tbsp of oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the diced shallot and minced thyme. Saute until the shallots are translucent and browning slightly. Add the drained farro. Stir it around until it’s thoroughly coated in oil and starting to smell toasty. Add the wine. It should bubble up quite a bit. Stir the farro around until most of the wine is absorbed.

Add a 1/2 cup of corn stock. Stir the grains around until most of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process with the stock until the farro is just about cooked. I added about 3 cups of stock (in 6 additions) before I got to this stage. When you bite into a kernel of farro, it should yield to the tooth, but still have a bit of chew.

Add the corn kernels and one more 1/2 cup of stock. Stir vigorously to activate the starch in the corn. Once most of the stock is absorbed and the mixture appears creamy. Add the roasted tomatoes, basil, pine nuts and pecorino (if using). Season with salt and pepper and stir gently to combine.

Serve hot with more chopped basil on top if you like.

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Kathryn12/09/2012 - 1:06 am

Firstly, I think farrotto is probably the best word I’ve heard in a long time. Love. And secondly, yes, I so know what you mean about stripping back, cleaning up and moving forwards. I am itching to get home after a few weeks away to start that very process.

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar12/09/2012 - 7:05 am

This is simply beautiful!

Elizabeth A.12/09/2012 - 9:04 am

Wow, Laura, this is a game changer. The corn broth, the caramelized tomatoes, and I love that you call it farrotto

Ailyn12/09/2012 - 9:28 am

Great recipe, love the photos and keep the Resistace!!!!

kelsey12/09/2012 - 11:21 am

Holla!!

Eileen12/09/2012 - 1:31 pm

That looks perfect for the end of summer harvest! I love risottos made with other grains–barley is the favorite at our house, but it sounds like farro is a top contender too. :)

Erin12/09/2012 - 4:06 pm

So glad I have a fellow corn/summer supporter! I super love the corn cob broth- I’ve added cobs to simmer soups before but never thought to make broth. Perfect!

Sarah B.12/09/2012 - 4:55 pm

Laura, this looks so bomb and so flavorful. You captured the beautiful colors and essence of a transition in this dish perfectly. Party!

Hannah13/09/2012 - 12:19 am

Love this! My husband hails from Amish country (though he himself is not … ) where corn stock is a. big. deal. !! It is in our wedding cookbook. We love it. This application is perfect – like you, we are experiencing an explosion of tomatoes right now.

That said, there’s no resisting a ruggedly handsome man in a puffer vest. Even in summer.

Lindsay16/09/2012 - 8:27 am

I’m with you: long live summer! I’m not ready to retreat into fall quite yet. This recipe looks divine!

Vegan Corn Risotto | Coco & S17/09/2012 - 7:55 pm

[...] made this recipe from The First Mess last night. It worked out very well. As per usual with vegan recipes, we manages to sneak in some [...]

Weekly Top 10s | 80twenty28/09/2012 - 11:54 am

[...] Delicious farrotto! [...]