Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: The Great Pumpkin Search

In a pumpkin patch, one must always dress well and consider the options.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Broccoli and Toasted Lentils

Broccoli and Toasted Lentils

I am always struck by the self-discipline it takes for people to develop or even join a movement of weekly posts and actually stick to it. I am so frazzled with our lives to the point that I always think, why the hell am I stressed out and then I start listing the reasons in my head just so that I will feel justified in having a cup of tea and watching copious amounts of crime drama instead of cleaning the kitchen. Imagine my delight when last night I discovered this tweet by Emily about a new post at her blog well fed, flat broke and I thought: I like broccoli. I like tofu. Holy crap, I also like peanuts! And tonight's dinner was nurtured in my head at 2:00 in the morning.

Turns out, we didn't have tofu or peanuts, or any of the spices Emily used; instead, I just opted to run with whatever we had in the fridge and pantry and this dish was born. This is inspiration, you see an image, a smell comes to you as you walk through your neighbourhood or you realize your favourite vegetable is in season a few weeks earlier than expected. Last week we received a full head of broccoli in our CSA from the Hutten Farm and it was a lush, deep green that begged for a great dish for it to flourish. The toasted almonds combined with the toasted lentils add warmth to the dish, completely contrasted by the subtle lemon from the cooking process. Served on a bed of brown rice, this is a full meal in only two dishes and within 30 minutes. I am guessing at the time because I was making stout brownies at the same time and for about 15 minutes everything got a little jumbled before the brownies made their way into the oven.

It may seem like there are a lot of steps associated with the broccoli and toasted lentils but it's mostly because you will be adding different things in stages to preserve their texture and flavour. There is nothing worse than overcooked vegetables and a sure way to achieve mush is to add everything at once.

Broccoli and Lentils, close

The Rice

brown rice
pinch of salt

Note: Don't freak out. There is a reason for my lack of measurements.

1. Layer rice in the bottom of your pot - remember, brown rice seriously fluffs up. I generally cover the bottom with an inch of rice.

2. Add water, cover the rice, shake the pot to settle the rice and add another inch of water above the rice.

3. Cover and bring to a boil then turn it down to low. Cook until the water disappears and there are holes down through the bed of rice. It should take about 35-40 minutes.

Broccoli and Lentils

handful of slivered almonds
one onion, diced
one apple, chopped
1/4 cup blue lentils - these hold their shape
the florets of one head of broccoli
cupped handful of chopped yellow beans
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
red curry paste*
S&P to taste

1. In a heated pan, gently toast your almonds. This should take about 3-5 minutes and the almonds should turn to a golden brown, almost the same colour as light brown sugar. Set aside.

2. Toast your lentils and if you are like me, forget about them for a solid 7-8 minutes then hurriedly toss in 3 tbsp of lemon juice and enough water to lightly cover them. They should not be submerged. Cook for 15 minutes. Reserve.

3. Heat olive oil. Add the diced onion and cook on medium-low until the onion is translucent. Add the apples and about 3 teaspoons of lemon juice to break down the apples. Cover.

4. Add the broccoli and yellow beans. Lightly saute until the colour in both vegetables becomes vibrant. Add the lentils.

5. At this point, add the red curry. Use your judgment. I used the opposite end of my wooden spoon to take out just a hint and then mixed it in, I did this about 5 times. Children were eating the dish so it couldn't be spicy but know that red curry offers more warmth than a punch you in the mouth heat.

6. Add those beautifully toasted almonds and season to taste.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Kale, Pork and Spaetzle, oh my!

What does it mean to eat healthy? We think it's important to offer our children and our selves healthy options, to fill our plates with whole grains, fresh vegetables and carefully selected portions of lean meat. You may visit the farmer's market or your local grocer and fill your cloth bag with a bounty of delicious fruits and vegetables. Your children can sniff those vegetables, smile shyly at the farmer and help you cook of all that into wondrous meals that you all eat and enjoy. Or so you think. It does not matter how healthy you strive to be or portend to be if there are little people (or even you) in your house who push the vegetables away to get to the noodles. It seems like a simple equation, doesn't it? Sometimes it isn't. Sometimes you will be told by a very apologetic doctor that your son, the one with pneumonia who has been sick for two weeks and barely eating that his iron is low and he will need a supplement. The doctor will be kind and gentle as he asks you questions about your sick child's diet and though he is satisfied that the problem is that the little guy's iron is low precisely because he's beens so sick; there will be nagging doubts that you didn't and have not been feeding your child properly. It just may send you into a tailspin of doubt about all that food you prepare. All those hours in farmer's markets and in the kitchen will seem as if for nothing.

As a family we went home and regrouped, which means to return to the kitchen, our dining room table and the market. Bubs and Miss N went back to running around the farmer's market on Saturday morning and sneaking plums and tomatoes out of baskets as I talked to Ted at the Hutten farm table so that I would be cajoled into buying them the pilfered goods. It was also opportune to have our rainbow kit from Kia at Today I Ate a Rainbow! as it gives us a chance to actually measure those green vegetables Bubs has apparently been feeding to the cat. It is also important to also eat food that is delicious, familiar and in the case of this aromatic soup, a healthy emulation of a not so healthy dish. The soup, though basic is flavourful and filling because of the large amount of kale which is why you only need a small amount of pork for each bowl.

The pork for this recipe came from a cheap cut but that does not mean it lacks in quality or protein and there are a lot of things you can do with those cheap cuts of meat - talk to your butcher or farmer at the local market, they really can help you. The kale came out of our CSA, making it local and no-spray and as with any leafy green vegetable, wash it well lest you end up with a gritty dish! I gave up using powdered stock a while ago because those things are filled with sodium and monosodium glutamate, otherwise known as MSG and I'm just not comfortable feeding that to my kids, if that is what you have on hand, I promise not to shun you. We do a fair amount of stovetop sears for our meat and then finish in the oven so it's imperative to have at least one pan with a snug fitting lid with a handle that won't melt all over the bottom of the oven.

Quick note: this is obviously not a vegetarian recipe but if you were to swap out the chicken stock for vegetable stock and use tofu (in the same spices) and you are golden for your veggie friends!

The Soup

Total cooking time: 30 minutes

3 cups/750 mL chicken stock
2 cups/500 mL hot water
2 onions, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 apple, finely chopped
bunch of kale, cut into ribbons
handful of spaetzle
olive oil

1. In a large pot heat olive oil until it easily slips across the bottom of the pot when tilted, at this point add the onion. At this point you could sip on a glass of wine and chat with your significant other while the onions slowly caramelize at a low setting or you could speed things up at medium heat because the kids are hungry and circling.

2. Add the garlic and apple and stir to mix, heat for a 3-4 minutes. At this point add the kale and stir around to gently wilt.

3. Add the hot water and stock - to save time it's important that your liquid is hot as opposed to using cold where you would have to wait for the entire thing to heat up.

4. Once the whole pot is simmering away, add your spaetzle. I used only a small amount because the soup is already hearty due to the kale. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

5. Season to taste with salt and cracked pepper.

The Pork

1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tbsp. sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp. 5 spice
3 tbsp. coarse salt

pork back rib tips

1. Mix together first seven ingredients and poor over the pork rib tips, store in the fridge to marinate. This was Mr.'s part of the meal - he marinated for a couple of hours but ideally you could whip this together in the morning and leave throughout the day to stew in deliciousness.

2. When ready to cook, heat a pan on medium high heat with a tablespoon of olive oil in the pan. Sear the pork - should take about 3 minutes.

3. Pour the liquid into the pan and cover so that you can finish in the oven at 350ยบ for 30 minutes.

4. Slice thinly and top the soup.