Bold claim: classic panzanella is my favourite salad ever. Juicy summer tomatoes, pungent vinaigrette, tons of fresh basil, heavy pinches of salt and the bread, oh man the bread. Little toasted cubes slightly softened by all the luscious tomato juice and that sharp dressing. Too good. I could eat an 8-serving bowl all by myself. It’s not just the flavour/texture aspects that really get me either…
The dish itself represents the kind of food that I love to make/eat and the philosophy behind it. The bread is cubed and toasted up because it’s leftover from yesterday and I am so not about throwing away something that requires such skill to craft. There’s too many tomatoes and heaps of herbs in the garden that need to be ate because of all the hard, dirty work that was put into their raising. We have shallots, cold pressed virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar in the pantry always because we’re just cool like that… I’m thoroughly convinced that this is a lifestyle thing. Once you’re there, it’s a taste revelation wrapped up in easy rusticism. I wish you could all just come over, rummage in the garden, make it with me in a sunny kitchen, drink some crisp rosé, laugh, catch up and eat outside on a big blanket in the cool grass before the day turns to night. That is some certified, undeniably good living.
But it’s March! I can’t even talk about tomatoes (although our seedlings are coming along nicely) or eating outside yet. Despite the crazy summer-in-spring temperatures we’re having (twenties!), there’s limited local produce available. So I took the aspects of panzanella that I loved and applied them to what I can work with now. The softening of croutons from vinaigrette and vegetal juiciness is the big “whoa” in this salad, which is easy enough to achieve with the help of some extra vinaigrette. I roasted leeks, apples, fennel and radishes to add substance. Chives, sunflower sprouts, shallots, and parsley fill out the rest. The sprouts addition was out of a sheer need for green stuff. My local grocer is now selling amazingly fresh, still potted sprouts. The tangled little shoots and confetti of herbs on a heap of heavy, winter vegetables is perfect. Winter and spring. Transitional side dish extraordinaire. Lots going on, but it all works out in the end.
roasted vegetable panzanella for early spring
notes: Use whatever sprouts/shoots you have access to/preference for. After tossing all of the ingredients together, I would allow the salad to sit for 15 minutes so that the flavours marry and the croutons can soften up a tiny bit.
1 large leek, white and light green part only
1 small fennel bulb
8-10 radishes, trimmed and cut into quarters
1 large apple, cored and diced
2 cups bread cubes (3-4 slices of bread)
1/4 cup-ish grapeseed oil, divided
5 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
large handful of sprouts (sunflower sprouts and pea shoots are my favourites)
10 blades of chives, minced
5 sprigs of parsley, chopped fine
salt and pepper
1 small shallot, minced
2 tsp grainy mustard
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup (or honey, agave etc)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line one baking sheet with parchment and set aside along with a ceramic/glass baking dish.
Cut the leek in half lengthwise. Clean thoroughly, removing any grit in between the layers. Slice halves on the diagonal into 1/2 inch pieces. Place in a large bowl.
Trim tops from the fennel bulb (save these for stock). Cut bulb in half from the cut side down through to the base. Remove core and tough outer layer. Cut halves into lengthwise slices. Place in the same bowl as the leeks. Toss these vegetables with half of the thyme leaves, half of the grapeseed oil (2 tbsp), salt and pepper. Dump vegetables into ceramic/glass baking dish. Set aside.
In the same bowl, toss diced apples and radishes with remaining thyme, 1 tbsp of the oil, salt and pepper. Dump these onto the parchment lined baking sheet.
Place all vegetables into the oven on the same shelf and roast. The leeks/fennel will require a mid-way flipping to achieve even browning. The apples/radishes will take about 15 minutes, while the leeks/fennel will take 20-25 minutes. When vegetables are softened and coloured a bit, remove them from the oven and allow to cool.
Line another baking sheet with parchment. Toss the bread cubes with the remaining oil, salt and pepper. Dump onto the baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Remove and set aside.
Make the dressing: in a medium bowl, whisk together the shallots, vinegar, lemon juice, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Add the oil slowly, whisking quickly to combine the dressing. Set aside.
Combine the cooled roasted vegetables, dressing, chopped chives, parsley and half of the sprouts in a large bowl. Toss to combine. Garnish finished plate with remaining sprouts. Serve.
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The sun just shines on and on. I always have to remember that. We’ve been having unseasonably warm and pleasant weather in my pocket of the world. This is concerning in a lot of ways, but it’s also kind of nice. We’ve done some grilling, had time in the sun, gone for longer walks, little green things are poking up in the garden, and most importantly: sandwiching ice cream between cookies has become a bit of a thing. Happy spring days for all. The earth seems to wake up a little bit and give us all a sign of the miracles that lie beneath. A wave hello, amazement, brilliance, life, smiles, everything…
In general I admire everything that cookies represent: portability, preparation, variety, adaptability, staying power, loving gestures and a bit of sweetness. I’ve always gravitated toward cookies like these little wonders: sort of energy bar-ish, lots of stuff in them and oat based. They’re lovely to take on a hike, bike ride, scenic walk etc. and frantically(!) nom at the end of it all. Delicious, wholesome, nutrient dense, gluten free, vegan and surprising.
I made these with coconut sugar, my new sweetener obsession of choice (I’m toting packets of it in my bag for coffees on the road now). It’s derived from coconut tree sap and is kind of brown sugar-ish with a bit of complexity. You can swap it 1:1 for any dry sweetener (like sugar, brown sugar, sucanat etc). I also used a pre-fab gluten free flour blend for these cookies as an experiment. Typically I’ll mix up my own depending on what I’m making, but I realize that this step isn’t for everyone. Convenience won this round and the results were delicious, a perfect everyday cookie. A little rough and textured, yummy surprises within, nicely sweet, a bit complex, open to change/interpretation and particularly wonderful with ice cream. That’s living! Cookie metaphors? You bet we’re going there.
adapted from here
serves: makes 2 1/2 dozen
notes: Give the flax and water some proper gelling time (like a good 5 minutes) to achieve that egg-like consistency. Also, whatever GF flour blend you use, make sure it has potato or some other type of starch in it to hold things together.
3 tbsp ground flax seeds
3/4 cup water
1 cup gluten free flour blend (I used Bob’s Red Mill GF All Purpose)
1/4 cup almond meal
1 cup gluten free oats
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
2.5 cups add-ins (I used pumpkin seeds, dried sour cherries, chopped walnuts and dark chocolate chips)
1/3 cup soft coconut oil (not liquid, but not crazy hard either)
1/4 cup grape seed oil
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Mix the ground flax seeds with the water in a small bowl and set aside, stirring here and there. It should be thick and gel-like by the time you’re ready to use it.
In a large bowl, mix the gluten free flour blend, almond meal, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, xanthan gum, sea salt and various add ins. Set aside.
In the bowl of a mixer, combine the soft coconut oil and grapeseed oil. Mix on medium speed until combined. Add the flax and water mixture. Mix on medium speed until a thick mixture is achieved, about 1 minute. Add the coconut sugar and maple syrup. Mix on medium for another minute.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and add the dry ingredients. Mix gently with a spatula until thoroughly combined and there is no visible flour left in the dough.
Drop the dough onto the lined baking sheets in heaped tablespoonfuls. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through the process. Remove from the oven and cool thoroughly on the sheets.
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I get overwhelmed sometimes. Not in a debilitating way, just in a mind-racing, go read 20 books and a jillion web pages on the subject-kind of way. If my curiosity is piqued, out of boredom or fear or whatever, I’m a slave to information, detail and know-how. All consuming. I have to know more and get to the bottom of it.
Lately I’ve been puzzling over a few things. Small and big stuff. Whether I should be working in the field that I’m in, should I really be taking vitamin D?, the public’s perception of “fine dining” (Is it just another place to put food in their mouths? The idea of it and some of the pretensions are troubling to me…), how totally fine I felt after taking a little social media/computer break, general iffy-ness on the celebrity chef phenomenon and its effect in kitchens, WHY do I even use pinterest?, the enormity of this post and on and on.
When it all hits that crescendo of too much at once, I kind of panic in a quiet way. Unsure of what to do, I essentially do nothing. I read about the issue(s) at hand a bit more, take in more ideas, criticisms, strategies, opinions etc. Then when it’s time to move on to the next scheduled thing in my life, I feel ridiculous. The ratio of concern to productivity doesn’t match up and now I have to go to work or meet up with a friend. Without any answers. Feeling sorta shitty. What needs to happen at that point?
I make plans to dwell in the kitchen and do something, anything. It could be constructing a layer cake, it could be carrot sticks, doesn’t matter. It re-instills that feeling of capability, confidence and adaptability in the face of adversity and confusion. It’s doing something; not to take yourself away from the concern, but to pursue it in a different way. It’s mindful moving on and it brings me back into the light. New perspective, clarity and a meal.
This dish makes for a bit of (totally mindful) prep work, but it’s still relatively easy to put together. I wouldn’t say that these are authentic empanadas (“authenticity” is another thing I could go on about). It’s a pocket meal enclosed in dough that can be eaten any time of the day for sure. Mine have a chickpea flour-based dough and slightly spicy, sweet and citrus-y filling that’s hearty with tempeh and sweet potatoes. A more wholesome and actually tasty hot pocket perhaps? I’m okay with leaving it at that.
Oh, and just as a little experiment, I’ve started a facebook page. You can like it if you want (or if, you know, you actually like it).
spicy tempeh and sweet potato empanadas with pepitas and spinach
serves: makes 7-8
special equipment: a rolling pin
notes: The woman who taught us pastry at culinary school told us to start our pie dough in the shape that you want to end up with. Similarly, with this dough, you should shape it into a tight circle before rolling it out. Also, other flours like whole wheat, spelt, brown rice, GF all purpose etc would work in place of the chickpea.
3 cups chickpea flour
pinch of salt
4.5 tbsp olive oil
1/3-1/2 cup water (depending on how your dough feels)
1/2 block of tempeh (125 grams)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, fine dice
1 cup grated sweet potato
1 fat clove of garlic, minced
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and chopped
1 tbsp (or less if you want!) chili flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp dried oregano
2 handfuls of spinach, rough chop
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted and roughly chopped
1/4 cup raisins
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Cut the tempeh into 1/2 inch cubes. Bring some water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add the tempeh cubes and simmer for about 20 minutes. Drain the tempeh and set aside.
While tempeh is cooking, make the dough. Place the chickpea flour and pinch of salt in a large bowl. Add the oil and 1/3 cup of water. Stir to combine. Begin to knead the dough, adding more water as necessary to bring it to the right consistency. The dough should feel slightly tacky and dense. Form dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and set aside on the counter at room temperature.
Make the filling: Heat the 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until soft and translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the grated sweet potatoes and saute for 1 minute. Add the drained tempeh and start mashing it up with the back of your spoon. Add the garlic, thyme, chili flakes, cumin, lemon zest (not the juice yet) and oregano. Saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes, keep mashing/breaking down the tempeh. Remove pan from the heat. Add spinach, pumpkin seeds and raisins. Stir to combine. Season the whole mixture to taste and set aside.
Cut the dough into 7 or 8 pieces. Form one piece into a circle, trying to avoid little cracks in the dough on the sides. Dust your work area and rolling pin lightly with chickpea flour. Roll out the circle evenly to 1/4 inch thickness. Spoon about 1/4 cup of filling onto the circle of dough, slightly off-center. Fold the dough over the filling, pinching the dough at the widest point of the circle. Fold all of the edges of the dough over each other to enclose the filling. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Place finished empanadas on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush a little olive oil on top if you like. Bake for 20 minutes or until edges and bottoms are slightly browned and dried.
Serve hot or at room temperature.
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Guys, I love french fries. When we’re at a place that takes pride in their little, crispy, golden batons of creamy potato goodness, I’m pretty eager to order them, knowing that I’m in for a delicious, salty treat. It’s a simple dish, yes, but a lot of cooks manage to screw them up. They might use icky oil. The potatoes could be cut too thick, rendering the fry impossibly hot in the middle and not very crisp overall. The cook doesn’t apply enough salt when the potatoes come out of the frier. They aren’t cooked long enough resulting in a heap of slightly soggy and pale fries. Or the worst offense: they resort to frozen, par-cooked french fries. So many things wrong with that. Simple does not equal easy. Or quick. Or thoughtless.
I would call my overall cooking style simple in that I love to bring out the best in any particular ingredient I’m loving at the time. It speaks to eating with the seasons, which seems natural to me. I’ll roast a whole, sweet squash with hearty herbs at high heat for at least an hour. Similar to the long and hot cooking time, the squash takes a whole, humid summer to fully develop and the herbs I pair it with can grow right alongside the whole time. Gorgeous ripe tomatoes appear after about 7 weeks and taste perfect just sliced with salt and quick-growing fresh basil torn on top. They both love sandy soil and hot summer days. These preparations are simple in that they just make sense. There’s a thought process behind them that comes from experience. The approach is one of care, reverence, awareness and love. That is the heart of simple food.
So with that I give you these delicious and reasonably healthy frites made in the oven (less than a tablespoon of oil per serving! I know, right?). 2 potatoes, a bit of oil and a good pinch of salt gives you some pretty crispy and convincing little potato sticks of joy. I’ve learned a few basic principles of perfect french fry-making over the years. When I started working for a Canadian chef that was known for his version of my favourite dish, you have no idea how stoked I was to take in some of that knowledge. In brief, I’ve learned that cooking the potatoes in two stages, one to soften the interior and one to crisp the outsides, is key. Soaking the potatoes to get the starch out, a thorough in-between drying and tossing the finished product with salt while still crazy hot are all important components of french fry success. I figured the same wisdom would translate from fryer to oven and surprise, it kinda did.
And the mayonnaise! Originally the idea of dipping something so perfectly crunchy in the stuff grossed me out. I was eventually shown the way through (repeat) consumption of a clean tasting apple cider mayonnaise. Mine has a pine nut base, some garlic and smoky paprika thrown in for good measure. It’s a tangy and delicious compliment. But feel free to stick with classic ketchup or malt vinegar if you want to take refuge in crispy, golden and beautiful simplicity.
Oh, and thank you for all of your lovely birthday wishes last week. Big hugs!
oven frites with smoky paprika & garlic mayonnaise
special equipment: a blender for the mayonnaise
notes: This is an exercise in knife skills! Getting those potatoes into little matchsticks is so key.
2 large potatoes (russett or yukon gold are great)
1.5 tbsp neutral oil (grape seed, sunflower etc)
5 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts, soaked at least 4 hours (or cashews, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds etc)
1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
juice of half a lemon
1 clove of garlic
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 1 large baking sheet with parchment. Fill a large bowl with water and set aside.
Peel the potatoes and wash them. Slice them lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices. Julienne the slices lengthwise, placing the matchsticks into the water as you finish. Allow the potatoes to soak for at least 15 minutes.
Make the mayonnaise: combine the pine nuts, dijon, water, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, salt and paprika (if using) in a blender pitcher. Gradually bring the speed of the blender up to high. Mix on high until thoroughly pureed. Scrape sides of pitcher down if necessary. Once smooth, scrape mayonnaise into a container and place in the fridge to set up a bit.
Drain the potatoes and dump matchsticks onto a clean kitchen towel. Fold excess towel over the potatoes and dry them thoroughly. Toss the potatoes in a large bowl with the 1.5 tbsp oil and a fat pinch of salt (you’ll be salting them once finished so exercise moderation). Place the coated potatoes on the prepared baking sheet, ensuring that they aren’t too close together. Cook in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are very soft and just starting to brown on the edges. Remove tray from the oven.
Bring the oven temperature up to 425 degrees F. Place tray back in the oven once up to temperature. Cook for another 15 minutes, flipping the frites at least once. Remove from oven when potatoes are golden brown and crispy.
Using the same bowl (with a thin coating of oil remaining on it), toss the hot frites with another fat pinch of salt and the minced thyme. Serve immediately with the mayonnaise.
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It was my birthday this past weekend! We ran to the city for a couple of days and had a really wonderful time. A cozy and delicious dinner here, some craft cocktails, lots of coffee, my favourite pizza in the world here, picked up a really great new magazine and popped into some favourite shops. The air is getting a bit warmer all around, I just started a new job (complete with a crazy-hectic opening week) and I’m another year older. Change is all about. It feels sunny and welcome.
I don’t usually aim for a fancy to-do on the big day. Several years have seen a snow storm on the exact day or right around it anyway, ruining much anticipated childhood birthday parties (and much anticipated birthday cakes for that matter). A good meal, time spent with people I like and some sort of treat with a candle in it makes me pretty happy. And so my adult birthday celebrations have gone, fairly quiet with minimal fanfare. Generally some cozy brunch is involved too. There’s a certain warmth and intimacy to that kind of celebrating, just a little elevation above the norm. I find life is pretty amazing on any given day, so I’m grateful for every little bit within and around the ordinary.
And in the vein of being grateful, I’m bringing you a recipe inspired by the best raw dessert cookbook ever. Cafe Gratitude’s book is my go-to for healthy and mind-blowing desserts. I’ve made countless variations of their treats to rave reviews and total bedazzlement every time. Everything is gluten, sugar, refined flour and animal product free and so, so luxurious. I will offer a little tidbit straight up: this cake isn’t cheap to make. About 5 cups of raw nuts total, virgin coconut oil, dried sour cherries, raw cacao, lots of vanilla… I know, I know. Considering the occasion, I opted to wallow in a bit of abundance.
Thinking about this cake as an investment in your health wouldn’t be too much of a stretch though. It’s a much more wholesome alternative to traditional cheesecake. Rich in healthy fat, protein from the nuts, natural sweeteners, plenty of fruit (fresh and dried) and some antioxidant action. Instead of feeling lethargic, you can relish in the surprising amount of energy and clarity you feel post-dessert. That is truly something to celebrate.
raw chocolate cherry mousse cake
serves: makes one 8.5-9 inch round cake
special equipment: a 8.5-9 inch spring form pan, food processor and a blender (you might be able to do the filling in the food processor too)
notes: I think the cashews could get pulverized enough in a food processor. I haven’t tried it, but it seems likely. Omit the diced beet if you’re using the processor for the filling though (it’s mostly for colour anyway).
2.5 cups raw almonds
1/4 cup raw cacao powder
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/3 cup dried sour cherries
8-10 pitted medjool dates
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
2.5 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight
1 2/3 cups almond milk
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil, warmed to liquid
1/2 cup raw honey (or maple syrup or agave nectar etc.)
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 cup frozen pitted cherries, thawed
1 small beet, scrubbed and small diced
Lay overlapping sheets of plastic wrap inside the ring of a spring form pan. Place the bottom disc on top of the wrap and snap the ring into place. Set aside.
Make the crust: place the almonds in the bowl of the food processor. Flip machine to high to break the nuts a bit. Stop the machine. Add the cacao powder, salt, sour cherries, dates, vanilla and coconut oil. Pulse the mixture a bit to begin the mixing. Flip the machine to high until the almond pieces look quite small and the dried fruit is evenly chopped up/distributed throughout the mix. Stop the machine and pinch some of the mixture together with your fingers. If it holds, you’re set.
Dump the crust mix into the prepared spring form pan. Spread it around evenly and start applying pressure to firm it into the pan. I use the bottom of a measuring cup to make the crust a bit smoother. Set aside.
Make the filling: Combine the cashews, almond milk, coconut oil, honey (or maple syrup), lemon juice and salt. Bring blender to high slowly. Blend the mixture on high until smooth and liquified. Pour all but 2 cups of the mixture into the prepared spring form pan. To the remaining filling, add the pitted cherries and diced beet. Blend on high until smooth. Pour remaining mixture quickly and confidently into the centre of the cake. Then, with about 1 cup of filling left, start to lightly drizzle the hot pink filling around, creating a marble effect within the cake.
Cover the cake with plastic wrap (it will be quite liquid at this point) and gently slide it into the freezer. Let it firm up for about 2 hours. Transfer to the fridge once solid so that it’s ready to serve whenever the craving strikes.
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