Archive | December 2012

Tomato Arugula Focaccia

Foccacia 10
You all know that my absolute favourite food in the world is pizza. I have mentioned previously that I could eat it three times a day and not tire of it. I absolutely love it for breakfast served cold straight out of the fridge. Unfortunately, given that cheese is loaded with saturated fat, I limit my intake. So, what do I do when I’m craving my favourite food, but want to avoid the cheese? I default to focaccia, any and all kinds.

Focaccia is in no way inferior to pizza. However, because it doesn’t contain the cheese to mask all other flavours, it is absolutely essential that your toppings, albeit less, are of top quality. I love this tomato focaccia mainly because it allows my mother’s homemade tomato wedges to shine. Most people will try to tell me that the cheese makes a pizza. I disagree profoundly. For me, it’s the tomato sauce. Any cheese, even crappy cheese, is edible and a good mask for other even more inferior quality ingredients.

I always make my own pizza dough, but there are plenty available for purchase. What differentiates a pizza dough from the focaccia dough for me is the double rising. I normally let my focaccia dough rise twice. This always renders a higher and less dense dough. I can make this dish during the week because when I make pizza dough, I normally triple it up and freeze it for the next occasion.

The colours and juxtaposition of the charred tomato red and the vivid arugula green are visually striking. Quite Christmasy now that I think about it. There are two incredible combinations at play here: the sweetness of the tomato wedges is balanced by the peppery arugula, which both sit on a bed of hearty nutty spelt, versus the baked pizza (hot) and fresh arugula (cold). (In many ways, I prefer the fresh toppings over the cooked ones on pizza.) These interplays are all enveloped by a generous drizzle of a good olive oil somehow tying them all together. This is a perfect example of a dish in which the main ingredients, in this case, the tomatoes, olive oil, and arugula remain distinct, but somehow also combine for a greater (or at least great) good. This is Italian cooking at its best: a few simple ingredients, simply combined, all delicious in their own right, but somehow and even better together.

This is a quick and easy week night treat (if not making your own dough).

Serves 4


 Dough, pizza, spelt  1
 Tomato, wedges, drained  16 oz
 Oregano, dried  2 tsp
 Basil, dried  ½ tsp
 Olive oil  3 tbsp + more for drizzling
 Garlic, cloves, crushed  2
 Parmesan, grated
 Black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Place tomato wedges in a strainer and let stand for 10 minutes until most of the water has drained.
  3. Grease a pizza sheet.
  4. Combine tomato wedges, salt, oregano, basil, olive oil and garlic thoroughly.
  5. Roll out dough and spread onto pizza sheet.
  6. Spread fresh tomato sauce over pizza dough.
  7. Sprinkle generously with grated Parmesan cheese.
  8. Sprinkle some black pepper over pizza.
  9. Drizzle with more olive oil.
  10. Bake pizza for 20-30 minutes.
  11. Meanwhile, place arugula in a bowl and toss with a little bit of olive oil and salt.
  12. Remove pizza from oven. Allow to cool slightly.
  13. Top pizza with fresh arugula and serve.

Mushroom Stew & Spaghetti Squash

Mushroom Stew

My husband took a look at the final product on Sunday and sounded surprised when he said, “It looks like a real stew!” I didn’t take offence because I knew what he meant. Vegetable stews tend to be lighter in colour, but this one looks dark, chunky, and dare I say meaty?

I give full credit for this recipe to the over-sized spaghetti squash I purchased at the grocery store last week. I love spaghetti squash, so am always looking for new and interesting ways to jazz it up. I also happen to detest the go-to combination of spaghetti squash and tomato sauce.

I thought it would be nice to top the spaghetti squash with a hearty, mushroom stew. The delicate, sweet taste of the spaghetti squash is offset by the earthy, creamy mushrooms that in this case act more like a ragout or sauce than a stew. With every bite you’ll dive deeper into the rich accents of the red wine, sherry, and mushroom broth. The chunks of seitan pack a protein punch and add a chewy texture that is substantially gratifying. It’s not meant to be a mushroom chestnut stew, but sparingly used, the roasted chestnuts provide a scrunchy bite. The whole thing is draped literally in mounds of leeks and tonnes of garlic. Delicious to say the least. A feast no doubt, especially when the stew and squash are thoroughly mixed into one big conglomeration.

The stew would work equally well over some spelt pappardelle, roasted potato wedges, polenta, or even served over a rustic chunk of bread. Delicious and satisfying!!

Serves 4


Squash, spaghetti 1
Black pepper
Olive oil
Mushrooms, dried, chanterelles 1/2 oz
Water 2 cups
Olive oil 6 tbsp
Mushrooms, assorted 1.5 lbs
Leeks, large, sliced thinly 2
Garlic, cloves, crushed 6
Rosemary, fresh, chopped 1.5 tbsp
Flour 1 tbsp
Sherry 1/3 cup
Wine, red 1/2 cup
Broth, mushroom (reserved from soaked dry chanterelles) 2 cups (approximately)
Black pepper
Seitan, cut into chunks 7 oz
Chestnuts, roasted, whole 10
Parsley, fresh, chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut spaghetti squash in half. Remove seeds. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Place squash halves on lined tray and bake for approximately 45 minutes (until the squash is tender).
  3. Remove squash from oven. Allow to cool enough so that you can handle the squash. Using a fork, scrape squash length-wise to remove the spaghetti squash from its casing.
  4. Transfer to a bowl. Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil, and season with salt and black pepper.
  5. Meanwhile, bring two cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove saucepan from heat. Add dried mushrooms and soak for approximately 20 minutes. Using a slotted spatula remove and rinse mushrooms. Strain mushroom broth using a sieve. Reserve mushroom broth for later use.
  6. Trim and rinse the mushrooms. Half larger mushrooms. Regular sized mushrooms can be left whole.
  7. In a medium pot, heat olive oil.
  8. Add mushrooms and saute until they release their moisture.
  9. Once most of the moisture has evaporated, add leeks and sauté until both the mushrooms and leeks begin to caramelize.
  10. Add garlic and rosemary and cook for 2 minutes.
  11. Sprinkle flour over mushroom mixture and cook for 2 more minutes.
  12. Deglaze the pot with the sherry.
  13. When the sherry has evaporated, add the red wine and mushroom broth.
  14. Bring to a simmer and cook until the stew begins to thicken approximately 7-10 minutes.
  15. Add seitan and season to taste with salt and black pepper.
  16. After 5-10 minutes (after the seitan is heated through and takes on the flavours of the mushrooms), remove pot from heat.
  17. Stir in parsley and roasted chestnuts.
  18. Serve over spaghetti squash.