I inadvertently took a week off from this little spot, oops. But I’ve made up for it with 287438634972 words worth of text and a lovely spring salad with farro and grilled stuff. Oh yes, get ready.
I caught myself doing something really weird the other day (not like in a feel-super-awkward-after-reading kind of way, don’t worry), but ultimately I laughed at the whole thing. I do a little bit of photography for a food magazine here and there. Just little jobs, yes, but something to take a bit more seriously and work at, which I love. Anyway, I had made one of the dishes they requested, plated it up, brought it over to my lighting rig (a giant window with a tinfoil-ed sheet of bristol board–super advanced), and set everything down.
Then I started meticulously fluffing a pristine, bright white kitchen towel gathered next to the dish, as if it were a pillow on a sofa. And then I placed a serving spoon just so on top of the towel, gleaming from the vinegar polish I gave it prior to–purely for appearance. The whole thing was getting tupped (term of endearment for placing food in tupperware) immediately following this exercise. Looking at a few initial shots, the image seemed bare so I considered a casually calculated placement of some raw ingredients or knick knacks in the background. But did I have enough perfect-specimen raw ingredients left? Do I even have knick knacks that are rustic-chic enough? I do not want to look like a try-hard with, like, anything remotely new-seeming and non-antiqued. My kitchen twine is pure white! Not even remotely burlap-y and how am I going to even fray this stuff for a picture and… WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME.
Actual life situation: None of my kitchen towels are virginal white. Nor are they ever fluffed/futzed with pre-service. Sorry in advance if you were looking forward to that. They hang haphazardly on the oven door handle, like everyone else’s. Oh, and they generally have a couple of avocado fingerprints on them, you know, the ones that start bright green and then change to gross brown in 5 minutes. My serving spoons probably all have water spots. I say probably because a soup spoon seems to work fine for serving on most nights. I’ve never made a habit of artfully arranging raw ingredients on the dinner table to fill in the white space between plates so that my peeps can get a real sense of the meal’s contents. “Can you pass the roasted potatoes, but PLEASE! DO NOT adjust those thyme sprigs and lemon slices nearby. Dude, I spent a lot of time arranging those to enhance your dining experience!!” I don’t own knick knacks. I do not aspire to own knick knacks.
Not that there is anything wrong with having clean kitchen towels, polished silverware, sprawling food-based arrangements and rustic-chic-but-slightly-modern-urban-sophisticate items in the home. There really isn’t! I honestly have a bit of envy for that dedication to ambient, gorgeous home-dwelling, but I’ve accepted that it will never work for me in a practical way. It’s not an accurate reflection of what happens in our warm, slightly disorganized and sunny kitchen, so it will never appear that way in this space, which is essentially a food-focused journal of sorts. It’s a little bit of life right here.
I like imperfections in a non-lazy way, realness if you will. After being annihilated (in the best way) by this post, I started thinking about that a lot more. I started a blog because I wanted to make-contagious my love of cooking whole food at home, however clumsy or ho-hum at times; not to make home cooks feel like shit because they couldn’t stack, drizzle and present table-side something in the exact manner that I did. I want the cooking masses to have reverence for leafy greens, ripe fruit in season, and whole grains like I do. Seriously. There’s a vibrance in spring time, when out from the cold dirt comes fresh and delicious things we can all eat together to remind us of greater systems at work. It evokes the big mystery that you can’t always explain with words but you feel completely. I know that antique cans wrapped in twine with blossoms inside, food props and perfectly clean and pressed table linens with adorably quaint non-hemmed edges (beautiful as they are) don’t bring me to that place. A garlic scape just poking out of some straw-covered dirt in the shadow of a decidedly unglamorous tractor shed is always ready for its close up around here and I hope you can appreciate the honesty in that as much as I do.
And today’s recipe? It’s pretty awesome if you’re a super-bitter greens lover. You can throw the salad portion together well in advance, then grill the endives last minute, drizzle the reduction on top and you’re golden. This makes a wonderful lunch or a side attraction to some protein, maybe a maple and hot mustard glazed piece of tempeh, a couple of poached eggs, whatever you like. It’s nice to have outside on the still slightly cool evenings, all bundled in a warm sweater, with wine or a beer or whatever. I love the chewiness of farro, but since we’re all about approachability you could use any grain that you have lying around. That principle applies to all of the other add ins as well. Go wild and go forth with realness.
farro and white bean salad with grilled endives
notes: I really mean it on the bitterness, the grilling brings out that strong flavour in the endives, kind of bringing it into love or hate territory. Also, I like to slightly undercook the farro to retain some of the chewiness and deep brown colour. If you like your grains softer, cook about 10 minutes longer than I’ve specified.
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (doesn’t have to be baller-level quality)
1 cup farro (whole grain spelt or spelt berries), rinsed
1 cup cooked white beans
1/3 cup raw almonds, toasted and chopped
1/3 cup dried currants
2.5-3 ounces arugula, chopped
1-2 belgian endives (probably 2, mine was crazy huge), trimmed of rough outer leaves and cut in half lengthwise
1 head radicchio, trimmed of rough outer leaves and cut into quarters
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
salt and pepper
juice of 1 orange (about 1/2 cup-worth)
splash of apple cider vinegar
1/2 shallot, minced
1 tbsp maple syrup
salt and pepper
1/2 cup grapeseed oil (or olive, sunflower etc)
Place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until vinegar is reduced by half and it coats the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. Once adequately reduced, remove from the heat, scrape into a separate container and place in the fridge to set up.
Place farro in a medium saucepan with 2.5 cups of water over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until slightly tender but still chewy. Drain, rinse with cold water and dump into a large bowl. Set aside.
To the cooked farro, add the white beans, chopped almonds, currants, chopped arugula, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Make the dressing: whisk together the orange juice, apple cider vinegar, shallots, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in the oil while quickly whisking the mixture. Taste for seasoning. Pour over farro and bean mixture and toss to combine.
Heat a grill to medium high. Brush the endive and radicchio pieces with the grapeseed oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place the endives on the grill on their cut sides. Grill for 2-3 minutes or until you see some charring/browning of the leaves. Flip them over and repeat cooking process. Remove from the grill when charred a bit on all sides and slightly tender to the touch.
Place dressed farro and bean mixture in a serving plate. Arrange grilled endive pieces on top. Drizzle balsamic reduction over the whole thing and serve.
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I would love for you guys to think that I churn out some pretty fabulous meals with just a sharp knife, some pots and pans, wooden spoons, a heat source and a baking sheet here and there. Doing more with less. Staying rustic and true to tradition, exercising and improving abilities over time, really working for the meal etc. I would say a majority of our food goes down in that sort of way. Treating ingredients simply often yields the most wonderful possible result. Minimal fuss and good seasoning = delicious eats. I do enjoy problem solving and contemplation, but when I get a bunch of fresh radishes I’d rather act out of instinct so as to enjoy immediate gratification. Buttered bread, the radishes thickly sliced, coarse salt all on top. Sit back and aaah. Didn’t really have to think about it, minimal dishes to wash up, happy days for sure.
Having said all of that, I own a few single-use/make-complex kitchen wares: a dehydrator, 2+ HP blender, food processor, rice cooker, immersion blender, mandolin slicer, cherry pitter, ice cream maker and most importantly, a waffle iron. A good chunk of these were gifts, but I do use them, and with great joy and gratitude I will add. Modern conveniences are well… convenient and can ramp up the game of any home cook at any level. Instead of using a mortar and pestle for hours, one can make a large batch of pesto in minutes by dumping everything in a food processor, instantly improving a bowl of pasta, a crust of bread, a salad dressing, a plate of roasted veggies etc. Similarly, instead of making pancakes (which almost any home cook can do), one can slap a similar batter into a waffle iron and whoa. Deluxe breakfast at home is ours at last and you don’t even have to flip them over.
That brings me to today’s recipe. There’s so much coconut in these and with the sweet maple syrup in the batter, it really reminded me of a macaroon, with the crisp chewiness and everything. The almond meal really helps with that crisp exterior… just so surprisingly good. And while these waffles are super delicious, vegan, gluten free, wholesome etc, they were actually quite challenging to develop. I will say that making them isn’t a total cake walk. While a waffle iron is a very cool, modern convenience, some of the most crushing defeats I’ve had in the kitchen were at the hands (irons?) of this thing. The anticipation is just so great, you only use this appliance for one delicious purpose, the whole thing is shrouded in mystery, then you open it up and the batter is sticking everywhere, separating, the machine doesn’t stop beeping, the steam! smell of burning and on and on. Once I figured out that I had to use exactly a 1/2 cup of batter and grease the irons every time, it was all good. Deluxe brunch heaven was here for the day, I wiped off the machine, lovingly wrapped it up and put it away for another couple months.
banana coconut waffles (or pancakes)
serves: makes 6 waffles
notes: As stated above, the precise 1/2 cup measure of batter and in-between iron greasing is very important here. When lifting the finished waffles out of the machine, be gentle. A simple fork helps quite a bit with this. Also, I think you could work these as pancakes without any adjustments.
2 tbsp ground chia or flax seeds
1 large banana, mashed well
1 1/4 cups non dairy milk
1/4 cup melted extra virgin coconut oil + more for greasing
2 tbsp maple syrup + more for serving
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup almond meal/flour
1 cup gluten free oat flour (grind gluten free rolled oats in a food processor/coffee grinder)
1/4 cup sweet sorghum flour (rice flour or a GF blend would work too)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tbsp arrowroot powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
pinch of salt
Plug in your waffle iron and preheat to desired doneness setting. I like these more on the dark side. Line a baking sheet with parchment and preheat your oven to 225 degrees F (to keep waffles warm as they finish).
Whisk together the ground chia/flax, mashed banana, non dairy milk, oil, maple syrup and vanilla extract in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, oat flour, sorghum flour, baking powder, arrowroot, cinnamon, coconut and salt. Stir together until thoroughly mixed together.
Give the banana mixture a stir before adding it to the flour mixture. Fold it into the flour until you have a homogenous stiff batter-like mixture.
Open up the waffle iron and grease the irons lightly with coconut oil. I usually just dip a wadded up paper towel into the oil and rub it onto the irons quickly. Pour a 1/2 cup of batter into the middle of the bottom iron. Don’t spread it out. Close the lid on top and wait. All waffle irons differ on cooking times. Mine took about 4 minutes each.
Remove the waffle carefully and place it onto the parchment lined sheet. Place sheet into the preheated oven to keep warm. Grease the iron again and repeat until all batter is used. Enjoy with maple syrup, more shredded coconut, fruit etc.
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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