Archive | March 2013

Peas & Mushroom Bundles

Peas & Mushrooms 2

On my last grocery trip, I came across the most beautiful white button mushrooms, which were on sale for $0.88 a half pound. Though white button mushrooms are not my favourite, they instantly brought me back to my childhood. It seemed that at every big family function or celebration, the peas and mushroom dish made an appearance. The dish was introduced to the family by my cousin, Felicia. It was loved by all, so much so that it appeared so often that it became a classic dish. I’m not sure I can call it a classic Italian dish, but we were Italian and we made it often enough, so it definitely became a classic for this Italian family.

I haven’t made it in years, not because I don’t enjoy it, but because for most, it would serve as a side dish. In fact, the dish could easily be incorporated into a main meal given that peas and mushrooms together make a complete vegetable protein. So, my challenge was turning this into a presentable main dish.

In the fridge, I had a package of bean curd sheets, which I had picked up, without knowing what I was going to do with it, on our last adventure to T&T. I love visiting T&T. I can easily spend a couple of hours there carefully exploring each and every aisle, discovering new products, and stopping for lunch, of course.

The idea came to me on my way home from groceries. The bean curd sheets would work beautifully as a pouch. A nice low carb alternative to the traditional puff and phyllo pastry types. It crisps up ever so slightly when cooked, is delicately seasoned with the tamari, and has the most satisfying, chewy, texture. Stuffed of course, with the peas and mushrooms, sweet and creamy, and served over a nice, thick steak of roasted acorn squash, also delicately sweet, but with a depth of flavour that far surpasses any other squash, including the butternut squash.

Such a beautiful main vegan dish that’s loaded with so many levels of flavour – and protein! The bean curd sheet alone has approximately 12 grams of protein! I was so stuffed from eating this dish that there was no snacking for me that afternoon!

My husband and I took very different approaches in how we tackled eating this dish. I’ll leave that part up to you.

The dish brought me back to those wonderful big family celebrations and fond memories of my cousin, Fel, who has long since moved away. It’s a new twist on an old family favourite!

Serves 4 (with some extra peas and mushrooms & acorn squash as leftovers)

Ingredients:

Acorn Squash:
Squash, acorn 2
Olive oil
Salt
Black pepper
Peas & Mushrooms:
Olive oil 4 tbsp (3+1)
Onion, small, chopped 1
Garlic, clove, large, minced 1
Mushrooms, button, white, quartered 24 oz (1.5 lbs)
Peas, fresh or frozen 4 cups
Oregano, fresh, chopped 3 tbsp
Salt
Black pepper
Bean Curd Sheets:
Bean curd sheets, cut into squares or rectangles, approximately 3 oz each 12 oz
Tamari 1/2 cup
Oil, canola
Onions, green 2

Directions:

Acorn squash:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Cut the acorn squash in half, remove seeds, brush with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and black pepper.
  3. Roast squash in oven for 45 minutes, or until tender.
  4. Remove from oven and cool. Cut lengthwise into 1-inch slices. You should end up with at least 4 large rings. If the squash is large enough to get 4 thick slices, you may only need one.

Peas & Mushrooms:

  1. Heat 3 tbsp of olive oil in large pan over medium heat.
  2. Sautee onions until tender, approximately 5 minutes.
  3. Add mushrooms, salt and black pepper and increase heat to medium-high.
  4. Cook mushrooms until their moisture has released and evaporated, approximately 15 minutes. Cook for 2-3 minutes more until mushrooms begin to brown.
  5. Add garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.
  6. Add the frozen peas, fresh oregano, and one additional tbsp of olive oil. Cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until tender. If you are using fresh peas, you’ll need to par-boil/steam them in advance.
  7. Check and adjust seasoning to taste. Remove from heat.

Bean Curd Sheets:

  1. Cut bean curd sheets into 4 rough squares or rectancles.
  2. Brush lightly on each side with tamari.
  3. Heat a little bit of canola oil over medium heat in the same pan you cooked the peas and mushrooms. You will require very little oil to avoid sticking. Do not deep fry them.
  4. Cook each bean curd sheet one at a time for a couple of minutes on each side until golden. Be careful not to over cook them or the sheets will become too brittle to work with.
  5. Remove sheets from heat and set aside until they are all cooked.

Green Onions:

  1. In the same pan, sautee the green onions for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat. Cut in half lengthwise to make them more pliable for tying.

Assembly:

  1. To assemble, measure 1 cup full of peas and mushroom mixture onto each cooked bean curd square. Fold each of the four edges to the center bringing all four sides together. Tie corners together using a green onion. If you require additional support, use a toothpick.
  2. Place one slice of roasted acorn squash on each plate. Top with a bundle of peas and mushrooms. If in season, a nice addition is a scant drizzle of scape pesto.

Roasted Asparagus & Parmesan Quiche

Roasted Asparagus Quiche

Asparagus bundles are popping up all over the place and they are brimming with freshness! Asparagus and eggs are a classic combination and a perfect way to celebrate the start of asparagus season. The fresh, fragrant sage ups the sweetness of the roasted asparagus and then you taste the salty parmesan cheese, melted and creamy. These flavours burst in your mouth not unlike popping kernels. It’s by far my favourite of all the quiches I make.

Serves 4 (with a side salad)

Ingredients:

Pie dough, quiche (prepared), 9-inch 1
Asparagus, spears, thin, roasted 20-24
Olive oil 1 tbsp
Shallots, chopped 2
Sage, fresh, leaves 10
Eggs 4
Milk 1/4 cup
Salt 1/2 tsp
Pepper 1/4 tsp
Parmesan, shavings 10

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Sprinkle asparagus with salt and black pepper and coat with olive oil.

3. Roast in the oven for approximately 30 minutes. (These were thin asparagus spears. Thicker ones will take longer to roast.)

4. Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium pan.  Add shallots and cook gently about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

5. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, milk, salt, and black pepper.

6. Line the pie shell with cooked shallots.

7. Follow with half the asparagus spears.

8. Layer half the fresh sage leaves next.

9. Follow with half the parmesan shavings.

10. Repeat except for the shallots.

11. Pour in egg mixture.

12. Cover piecrust edges with foil paper (remove foil after 25 minutes).

13. Bake for 35 minutes until custard is set and browned on top.  Cool 10 minutes before serving.

14. Serve with side salad.

Chocolate Banana Cake Two Ways

Chocolate Banana Cake 1

Chocolate Banana Cake 2 Chocolate Banana Cake 4 Chocolate Banana Cake 3

Given the choice between chocolate and vanilla, I’ll choose any and all things vanilla, anytime. However, I live with a choco-holic.

This treat started out like all other banana cakes around here, because we had overripe bananas to salvage. John just recently finished his muffin stash, so I was due to bake muffins and since I do very little baking with chocolate, I thought I’d treat him to something chocolate.

I’ve had this recipe in my dessert binder for years. It arrived in the mail, as a leaflet booklet, in some magazine, from the Robin Hood kitchen. I looked for the recipe online, but it is not available. The opportunity presented itself, so I finally gave it a try. I’ve made only one small adaptation to the original; I’ve upped the chocolate by an ounce.

Wow!! This is the absolute moistest cake I have ever tasted! Though chocolate cake isn’t my favourite, there’s something about the combination of chocolate and banana. Not only does the banana add much needed sweetness, but its intense flavour stands up beautifully to the richness of the chocolate to combine to produce a brownie-like abyss, in which you don’t sink, but dive deeper, ultimately surrendering with each bite.

Then you top it off with more chocolate, which happens to be combined with creamy peanut butter. Need I say more? How many classic combinations are at play here? Chocolate and banana, banana and peanut butter, peanut butter and chocolate… “Mmmmm” was the only thing my husband could say with his first bite. Most of the desserts I bake end up at John’s work, but he was extremely reluctant to share this one. In fact, he outright refused!

This dessert is so quick that it’s great for those occasions in which you are required to bake during the week (bake sales, potlucks). It’s a one bowl batter that literally takes 10 minutes to prepare and only 30 minutes to bake.

I call it banana cake two ways for two reasons. It was so quick to prepare that the minute I placed the cake in the oven, I took that same bowl and whipped up (literally) another batch to make muffins. If you are using this recipe to make 4 large muffins, they require 35 minutes in the oven.

The second reason is because upon sampling this cake, I knew it would lend itself beautifully for vegan-izing. Mainly because it was so moist, it didn’t require milk, only used one egg, and was already employing bananas (I added a little bit extra as an egg replacer).

Both versions are good, but I’ll admit, I actually prefer the vegan one (my husband does too). It’s also healthier, less guilt involved. In this version, I used cocoa powder instead of semi-sweet chocolate, I upped the chocolate, replaced the sugar with maple sugar (a more natural sugar), replaced the white flour with spelt, and to produce a less cliche option, replaced the peanut butter with almond butter producing the ultimate deep, rich, velvety chocolate experience. Brigitte, this one’s for you.

I’m not a chocolate lover, but do love this cake (in any form)!

Ingredients:

Vegetarian Vegan
Oil, canola 1/3 cup 1/3 cup
Chocolate, semi sweet 3 oz X
Cocoa powder X 1/3 cup
Water 3/4 cup 3/4 cup (boiling water)
Bananas, mashed 1/2 cup 3/4 cup
Sugar 1 cup 1 1/4 cups (maple sugar)
Egg 1 X
Flour 1 1/4 cups 1 cup (spelt flour)
Salt 1/2 tsp 1/2 tsp
Baking Soda 1/2 tsp 1/2 tsp
Vanilla 1 tsp 1 tsp
Glaze:
Chocolate, semi sweet 2 oz X
Cocoa powder X 1/3 cup
Water, boiling X 4 tbsp
Peanut butter 1/3 cup 1/3 cup (almond butter)
Maple syrup X 5 tbsp

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Line an 8 inch (2 L) square cake pan with parchment paper (all the way up all 4 sides).

3. In a double boiler, combine oil and chocolate until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Vegan option: Bring the water to a boil (3/4 cup). Remove from heat and combine with cocoa powder. Mix well until smooth. Allow to cool slightly.

4. In a medium bowl, combine: chocolate mixture, water, bananas, sugar, egg, flour, salt, baking soda, and vanilla. Mix by hand until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Vegan option: In a medium bowl, combine: chocolate mixture, oil, bananas, sugar, flour, salt, baking soda, and vanilla. Mix by hand until smooth, about 2 minutes.

5. Spread batter evenly in pan.

6. Bake vegetarian version for 30 minutes and vegan version for 35 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool. Remove from pan.

7. To make the glaze, in a double boiler, melt chocolate and peanut butter until smooth.

Vegan option: Bring the water to a boil (1/4 cup). Remove from heat and combine with cocoa powder. Mix well until smooth. Allow to cool slightly. In a double boiler, melt almond butter. Add chocolate mixture and maple syrup . Remove from heat.

8. Spread glaze evenly over cooled cake.