Archive | December 2013

Mushroom & Kale Melt

Mushroom & Kale Melt

I recently visited Fresco Bistro with colleagues for a holiday lunch and had their open-faced mushroom melt consisting of leeks, baby spinach, portobello, cremini and oyster mushrooms, goat cheese and truffle oil. I rarely go to Italian restaurants, but do enjoy Fresco’s food from time to time and love that it always has a vegetarian option. My only complaint is that the portions seem to be getting smaller…

I’ll admit, I selected this option because it was the only vegetarian sandwich on the menu. I was excited because it is very common for Italians to feature cooked leafy greens in sandwiches, but have to admit that I had my doubts about how exciting this sandwich would actually be. I was pleasantly surprised. The sandwich was delicious, perfectly seasoned and my only complaint was that the portion was modest leaving me wanting more. The upside was that it left room for tiramisu!

So, here it is on my menu plan for the week for two reasons: I had 2 bunches of kale in my fridge from my veggie box delivery and because I couldn’t stop thinking about the flavour combinations.

My husband was not pleased when I forgot to defrost his meat inclusion for this sandwich, but surely went back for the second half… 🙂

Where do I begin with this sandwich other than to say it leaves you wanting more in spite of the fact that it is extremely filling. Mushrooms, kale, and gruyere are robust flavours that stand up to each other, but also work very well together. I am always looking for new ways to eat Kale and apart from Kale chips, which is my absolute favourite way to enjoy Kale, this is a close second. As tempting as it may be, be sure not to overload on the gruyere. I used it sparingly as a binder, to boost the protein content, but mostly as a flavour enhancer and coupled with the little hint of truffle-infused oil, this sandwich is pretty incredible.

Sandwiches have always been a challenge for me, as a vegetarian, but this one is big and bold and it rivals most traditional options. Thank you Fresco Bistro for the thought and consideration you give to creating your vegan/vegetarian options. The restaurant scene, though not fully there, is improving for us vegees. As much as I enjoyed my sandwich at the Bistro, I do prefer it with the kale and gruyere.

Serves 4 (with a side salad or 2 hungry people)

Ingredients:

Olive oil 4-6 tbsp
Mushrooms, oyster/cremini/king, sliced 2 lb
Leeks, chopped 2
Garlic, cloves, minced 4
Rosemary, fresh, chopped 1 tbsp
Salt
Black pepper
Kale, Dino/cavolo nero (not curly) 2 bunches
Gruyere, shredded 150 g
Baguette, multi-seed 1
Truffle-infused olive oil 4 tbsp

1. In a large saute pan, over medium heat, heat olive oil.

2. Add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms release their juices and most of the juices are evaporated.

3. Add leeks, garlic, rosemary, salt and black pepper and continue to cook until mushrooms and leeks are caramelized, approximately 10-15 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil, season with salt and add kale. Reduce to a rolling simmer and cook for 4 minutes or so until the kale is cooked. Strain the kale and allow to cool. Once cooled, press out any excess water. Chop kale with a knife and set aside.

5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut baguette into 3 pieces diagonally. Slice 2 pieces in half lengthwise. Reserve third slice for another day. Toast baguette for 5-10 minutes until you reach desired crispness. Remove from oven and drizzle a spoon full of truffle-infused olive oil on each half slice of toasted baguette.

6. To assemble, divide the kale into 4 and top each toasted baguette with the kale. Place a little bit of the grated cheese on top of the kale. Follow with a good serving of the caramelized mushrooms. Finish with another sprinkle of cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

7. Place sandwich halves on a baking sheet in an oven preheated at 375 degrees until cheese is melted, approximately 2-4 minutes.

Winter Salad

Winter Salad

You’ve heard me rant about leafy winter greens, especially those consumed raw in salads. Even when you do manage to get them in pretty good condition, they don’t quite taste the same, understandably so. They’re not in season.

Does that mean I stop eating salads in the wintertime? Absolutely not! It just means I need to think about salads a little differently.

I made this recipe for my mom during her visit and she loved it, so much so, that upon returning home, she went out and bought yellow beets, kohlrabi, and carrots to replicate the salad. It was nice to hear my mom say that as much as she loves salads, she gets tired of eating the same thing all the time. I love the classic Italian salad (olive oil and red vinegar with dried oregano and a touch of salt), but I too need variety. There hasn’t been a salad that I have experimented with that my mom hasn’t liked. I take the opportunity to try new ideas out each time she visits.

So what makes this salad special? The crunch and the robust distinctness of each of these hardy vegetables. Having removed the leafy greens entirely, it’s literally a play of crunch, greatly enhanced by the different cuts (mandolin slicing, strings, and sticks), and the interplay between the unique flavours of the select hard vegetables.

Over the week, I presented this salad in many ways, but my favourite was on a long plate in bunches by vegetable. It really allows you to appreciate the specialty of each vegetable; the salad gets lost in a melange. So, you can eat by bunch of vegetable or by bite by vegetable. Either way, savour the distinctness of each vegetable.

Each of these vegetables has a unique personality, so the only vinegar that could stand up to the collective robustness of the vegetables was the crispness of champagne vinegar (white wine vinegar works well too) and the only other thing the veggies needed were the sweetness of the chives and the little hit of heat from the chill pepper.

This is one of my favourite salads. Consisting mostly of root vegetables, it is not only satisfying, but yummy crunchy!

Serves 2

Ingredients:

Fennel, bulb, sliced (preferably with a mandolin)  1/2
Endive, leaves  10
Beets, orange, medium, sliced (preferably with a mandolin)  2
Carrots, small, cut into swirls  2 (or 1 large one)
Kohlrabi, medium, cut into sticks  1
Chive Vinaigrette:
Olive oil 4 tbsp
Vinegar, champagne 2 tbsp
Mustard, Dijon 1/2 tsp
Chives, chopped, sprigs 10 + more for garnishing
Pepper, chile, small, hot, chopped (seeds removed) 1
Garlic, clove 1
Salt 1/4 tsp
Black pepper 1/4 tsp

1. Using a hand blender, combine all vinaigrette ingredients until the chives and chili pepper are pureed.

2.  Slice and chop all the veggies. Divide ingredients in half and display vegetables in a pile separately on a plate. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Garnish with chives.

Crunchy Cabbage

Crunchy Cabbage

I love spending time with my mom, especially when she visits. I took the week off to do the things that we love to do together.

The week was filled with good food, of course, with my mom doing most of the cooking. It’s the only time I become the sous-chef in my own kitchen and gladly. I still learn so much from her.

She came up with bags full of veggies even though I warned her I didn’t have a lot of room in my fridge and reminded her I don’t have a cold storage space. Her bags included an extra large bag of rapini and one of equal size of broccoli and two 5-lb cabbages! I just looked at her and before I could say anything she asked me not to be upset with her. I can’t imagine what she would have brought up if I hadn’t issued the warning. I couldnt complain too much. She fed us for two weeks. It was nice.

She made all the classics: rapini and potatoes, broccoli and pasta, macaroni in pomodoro, breaded chanterelles, pizza, fennel, chickpeas and pasta, and crunchy cabbage. Yes, lots of carbs – it’s the only way she knows how to cook vegetarian for me. I’m a few pounds heavier, but it was well worth it.

I had forgotten how much I loved crunchy cabbage. That’s why this is the recipe I am featuring this week. My mom was quite pleased that I was sharing one of her recipes, non-recipe actually. She looked at me strangely when I pulled out my kitchen scale to weigh the cabbage and had to think about it when I asked how much of the white beans I had to pre-boil (you may use canned beans). It was cute when she asked, “even the oil you have to measure”? Such a foreign concept for her, but the measure of a true cook.

So, you have my mom to thank for this week’s recipe. It’s southern Italian cooking at its best. Five simple ingredients and a cooking method so versatile you can interchange most leafy vegetables. I think it’s my favourite way to enjoy cabbage, caramelized, sweet, and crunchy good.

A celebrity chef once said that Italian peasant food is fit for queens and kings. Like most other things, I think it’s food at its best because it is understated and unpretentious.

Over her two week stay, I got to do some cooking for her: squash couscous, minestrone, Spanish tortilla, winter salad, and probably the best pancake breakfast I have ever made. My mom loves pancakes and no visit is complete without a big pancake feast.

We also took her to our other favourite breakfast place, Baker Street, and to Pinelopi’s Greek Kitchen one night.

She noticed my current knitting project is practically complete and went out and bought some yarn for my next project, a scarf for her. I just smiled.

We visited a nursery with a friend out in Carleton Place, played in its Christmas store and then all enjoyed a piece of pumpkin pie at the Good Food Company.

We made gnocchi one afternoon, and lasagna sheets, as well as tagliatelle another afternoon, all by hand. I know how to make these things, but I wait for her visits, so we can make them together. These are the moments I love best with my mom. The stories that she recounts, the memories shared, the laughter, and the time spent together, so precious.

We watched “Gone with the Wind”, one of my all time favourite movies, and shopped of course.

I treasure these moments with my mom and look forward to her visits each year; they are extremely dear to me.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Cabbage, green, ex-large, cut into 1- inch thick slices 5 lbs
Salt 4 tbsp
Olive oil 1/2 cup
Bread, day-old, whole wheat, cut into small half-inch pieces 5 oz, approx. 1/3 of a baguette
Beans, white, pre-cooked 2 cups

1. Slice cabbage into 1-inch strips.

2. Bring a medium pot of water to a medium boil, add salt and cabbage and cook cabbage for approximately 20 minutes, or until cabbage stems are cooked through.

3. Strain cabbage and set aside.

4. In a large and deep frying pan, add bread squares, boiled cabbage, and olive oil. Bring pan to medium heat and cook until the water from the cabbage begins to evaporate, approximately 10 minutes, until the bread soaks up cabbage juices and is soggy. Stir occasionally.

5. Add beans and raise the dial by one and continue to cook cabbage over medium-high heat until golden. Every 2-3 minutes , stir cabbage until most sides are golden and caramelized approximately 25-30 minutes.

6. Check seasoning. Remove from heat and serve on its own, as a side, or with sausages.