Fresh food fast: frittata

On the weekend, I wanted to make quiche for lunch, but realized the crust would take a half hour between prep and rest.  So I made the next best thing; a fritatta!  I make frittata’s often, mainly in a fry pan, but this time I made it in a pie plate.  Fry pan is faster for sure, but I wanted the nice browning of the top that you only get from the oven.

So here is my no-recipe/recipe…remember the quantities are up to you for the most part; in cooking there are no mistakes, just lessons or preferences for the next time.

Broccoli  Spinach and cheddar frittata

Turn oven to 375.

In a medium size bowl whisk together 6 eggs and 1 cup of 1/2 and 1/2 cream.  Add a few turns of the pepper mill and a few more of the salt mill(if you prefer leave out salt for individuals to add at the table)

In a 10 inch fry pan on med heat, add a glug or two of olive oil( I prefer butter for egg dishes),  along with chopped shallot or one small onion.

Add 2 cups chopped broccoli, toss it around a little bit, and add nutmeg.  It will settle and the fresh seasoning will mellow a little bit.  Turn to med/low and add a lid.  This will allow you to steam the veggies a little bit before you put into the frittata.


SECRET INGREDIENT! Fresh nutmeg!!!! This is a classic seasoning for quiche, but especially if using broccoli…I guarantee that people will notice something different but not know what it is:)  It makes a big difference if you use fresh and so I will grind up about 3/4 tsp.  Use your gut though, add more if you are loving the smell, a little less if you are unsure….or, taste a florette after you have seasoned  and adjust.

Meanwhile, grate 1 cup of old cheddar cheese(or any combination of cheddar, gouda, swiss, edam..)


Remove Broccoli from the heat toss with a hand full of fresh, some chopped green beans (that I had as a leftover)  and some lightly chopped spinach. Place into bottom of pie pan.  Move around ingredients to make even in pan.

Add the cheese and finally the egg mixture.  I added some tomato slices to add colour.

Place in oven for 30 min…  depending on dish and oven.  I  keep an eye on it after 20 min.  The centre should be cooked through and you will notice the edges rising slightly.

Serve with green salad or kale chips(from last weeks post!)  Yummmmm!

Prep time: 10 minutes, cooking time: 30 min

Fresh food, fast: kale a la Gwyneth Paltrow

I am really trying to be charitable here….but when someone names their kids Apple and Moses and they don’t live in a commune, extract juice from a tree,  or make their own clothes out of hemp; –it is therefore difficult for me to take the beautiful, love-child Gwyneth seriously.  I will admit that she is a good actress, o’k and she is an Oscar winner and I am more like an Oscar weiner, but none-the-less whenever I hear her interviewed she sounds kind of silly(unlike me of course!).

All this has changed as of last night, when I decided to take her advice and crisp up kale like a potato chip.  We eat a lot of kale in this house because it is deemed a superfood, packed with all sorts of vitamins, minerals, is a natural detoxifier, and allows for greater absorption of Calcium.  I heard Gwyneth interviewed and she said that she makes kale chips all the time for her family.  I decided to try it because Pat and I love chips and I was hoping that this might be a really good alternative…and it is!!!

Simply pull the leafy part away from the stem of the kale and wash

Toss in olive oil and bake on a cookie sheet for 10-15minutes at 350(depends on your oven).  When done add sea salt and serve.  They are really yummy, even my dearest Pat said that he would like them regularly as a snack.  So there you have it, I am expanding my world view on food and  of Ms.Paltrow.  I am officially humbled by kale and Gwyneth Paltrow;)

Fresh food, fast! Tomato basil soup

I am a huge fan of soups and right about now we have plenty of yummy ingredients showing up at farmers markets and supermarkets.  Here is a soup that will be in your bowl in 15 min.  


Again, when I do my food posts, I call them my no recipe/recipe.  You decide the quantities:) It’s not rocket science, contrary to so many cooking shows…cooking is free form, unlike baking.  It is an art.

Gather up your ingredients: 4 fresh large tomatoes (or if you are stuck, canned), 1 small onion, fresh basil, 1 carrot, 1/2 cup of veg.stock (or water)

Core tomatoes and chop coarsely

Chop coarsely onion and carrot

Sautee onion and carrot in a glug or two of olive oil for about 5 min….they shouldn’t drown, just be allowed to glide around

Add tomatoes and veg.stock.  Bring to a boil, then turn to med/low for 15 minutes.  All you are doing is allowing the carrot to cook through.  If you like your soup thick, just simmer a little longer and the extra water will evaporate out of the soup.


Remove from stove and either use a hand blender right in the pot, or use food processor(do small batches, so you are not overheating the vessel), or pass through a food mill.  All work, all give different textures, and all vary in time required to use and clean.  I love to use the hand blender because it is so easy to use and clean.

Puree until desired consistency.  Throw in a good bunch of basil and pulse to combine.  If you like, you can add a little bit of 35% cream.

Serve in bowl with sprig of basil to garnish.  I still eat mine the way I ate it as a kid…a whole bunch of crackers in the bottom of the bowl, with soup over top.  Yummmmmm!

SECRET* The secret ingredient to this soup is the addition of the carrot.  Carrots contain natural sugars that reveal when cooked, that’s why roasted carrots are so delicious.  The carrots add an element to the soup that softens the acidity of the tomatoes and naturally sweetens.  I learned this from an Italian friend:)…ps. use carrots in you tomato sauce as well, it makes the sauce soooo rich tasting.

 

 

 

PS. substitution:  use rosemary instead of basil, but because of its natural intensity, throw it into the pot when sweating onions and carrot.

BON APPETIT!

Fresh food fast: chicken, prosciutto and sage on bed of greens with apple

This is what I made for dinner tonight, and it was awesome!  Simple inspiration came from the abundant supply of fresh sage…

This is my continuation for the  “no-recipe/ recipe”….keepin’ it simple:)

Pre-heat oven to 325 .  Two chicken breasts(bone in, skin on…why? 1.cheaper to buy.2.tastes so much better, even if you don’t eat the skin, it preserves moisture and adds flavour.

Simply lay fresh sage over the prosciutto, then “sandwich” the sage with more prosciutto….slide underneath the skin(there is a natural pocket between the meat and the skin)

Salt and pepper the skin and underside, as this too adds flavour and seals in juices while cooking.

Brown the breasts skin side down for 5 min.  on med/high heat.

Flip, and toss in any extra sage leaves…they will crisp up and be part of the dish!  Trust me, it is soooo good, and good for you.  Place pan in pre-heated oven for 45 min.

Remove and let stand for 5 min. so that you can handle the chicken.

Salad:  Place greens in deep wide rim bowl, or plate.  Make dressing combining olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon and salt and pepper.  A general rule of thumb is 2/3 oil to 1/3 acid.  Make it the way you want, just taste it to make it work for you…drizzle over greens

De-bone breasts; it’s easy!  Just pull the meat from the bone…sounds icky and odd, but the whole breast will fall from the bone, then its easy to slice…Otherwise, just put on the greens as is, and eat it off the bone:)

Slice and arrange on bed of greens.  Slice up wedges of apple and arrange any way you want!  Throw on the fried sage and enjoy!

PS*the apple provides a fresh contrast to the saltiness of the prosciutto and sage.

Fresh food fast, summer lovin’

If you are up for it, here is a little fun video to get you in the mood;)

It is not hard to create inspiring and delicious meals.  Until recently the art of cookery was passed down through generations by hands-on work, verbal instruction and sometimes, though rarely, written.  Exact recipes is a new phenomenon considering human history.  In my food posts, I am honouring that humble tradition of rote.  Learning through repetition and simplicity. This is a weekend dinner with friends.  Peaches from Niagara…blueberries…corn…tomatoes…onions…smoked ham roast, greens and apple pie from local Mennonites… Becomes glazed ham, caramelized onions, grilled peaches with blue cheese, all on a bed of greens; slow roasted new potatoes, and boiled corn.

Voila a humble and delicious feast!

Here is my no- recipe/recipe!

GLAZED HAM: oven set at 325.  Ham glazed with maple syrup, dijon mustard, and orange juice…. for about 2 hours, or until thermometer reads 165…tent with foil to let juices relax within the roast…if you cut too soon, the juice will immediately run from roast

CARAMELIZED ONIONS:easy!  slice up two medium onions(or whatever you have), with heat on med/high, throw a little olive oil in fry pan,  add onions, let the onions start to colour, then stir regularly to brown evenly…turn stove down to med. heat and slowly let onions come to colour and you will notice they will be rich and somewhat glazed looking…this is the natural sugars of the onions being released..caramelizing is a slow process(about 20 min.) where as frying is very fast at a high heat…caramelizing gives a softer texture and milder flavour, frying is crispier and more intense.

GRILLED PEACHES: wash and cut peaches in half.  To remove pit simply twist the peach halves in opposite direction and it will release…be sure to cut length-wise.  Lightly cover flesh with olive oil and place on hot grill.  When peaches scored nicely,(about 8-10 min) on 450 grill, remove and place on platter.  Crumble blue cheese on top..this will melt nicely!

CORN: I like to boil for 4 min., then turn off heat, let sit in boiled water until last minute and ready to serve. (the peaches and corn are ready at the same time!)

ROASTED NEW POTATOES: Simple, simple, simple!  Wash, cut in quarters or leave whole if baby new, toss with olive oil and fresh sea salt(helps to crisp the skin:), in oven for final hour as ham cooks.  If you have some fresh herbs like parsley, rosemary, thyme or chives, by all means throw some in! Food sustains us in so many ways:  it is art, it is a spiritual connection to our land and those that grow our food, and it is a way to honour our bodies and family.  Cooking is  best when shared with those you love:) 

A GOOD SMILE TO LEAVE YOU WITH:

SEX IS GOOD, BUT NOT AS GOOD AS FRESH, SWEET CORN.”  GARRISON KEILLOR….

o’k I love corn, but either he gets corn that I haven’t come across yet, or his sex-life is a bit weak;)

How about….”ONE OF THE VERY NICEST THINGS ABOUT LIFE IS THE WAY WE MUST STOP WHATEVER IT IS WE ARE DOING AND DEVOTE OUR ATTENTION TO EATING” Luciano Pavarotti….

Much better….until next time!

fresh food fast:pizza two ways

Pat and I have had a weekly ritual since once living in downtown Toronto 25 years ago…it all started when we were dating and every Sunday night we would go to a local pizzeria called Il Fornello.   Il Fornello is the go-to place in Toronto for authentic Napoleonic pizza.  By that, I mean a crisp thin crust that supports any manner of fresh, seasonal ingredients.  It was there, that our passion for great pizza started.  Check them out at http://www.ilfornello.com .  Then, when in Toronto, check them out in person!

When we moved from Toronto, we decided to continue the event in our own home.  We went from dough-in-a-box to frozen pre-made dough to where we are today: homemade dough baked on a pizza stone!  If you make pizza, but don’t have a stone they are worth every penny.

It is rare to have someone cook for me(other than Pat), but last night Emily and her boyfriend Rob did just that!  It was fun to sit back and watch these two novices;) throw together two stellar pizza’s in under an hour…oh right, they had made the dough earlier in the day.  They did however, grill chicken, zucchini, peppers, red onion, and pineapple in that time, which I thought was impressive.

Pizza number one: BBQ Greekish pizza
Pesto base
fresh mozzarella and feta…
prosciutto
grilled chicken,  zucchini, red peppers, red onions
fresh rosemary
Yummmm!

The second pizza was a winner as well.  They put their own take on a Hawaiian pizza.
Cherry tomatoes, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper in food processor to coarsely combine as base
Onto that they put prosciutto, bbq pineapple, fresh mozzarella
finished with wasabi arugula and balsamic reduction


Food is art…each person will approach the same task in a unique way….that’s why I love to eat out, or have foodies cook for me; either way I have the opportunity to be surprised!

fresh food fast: corn zucchini griddle cakes

I love Anna and Michael Olson….not that I know them, but I feel like I do!
 My dear husband,Pat,  happened upon Anna’s shop Olson Foods and Bakeshop in Port Dalhousie, Ontario a couple of years ago and purchased some treats; including this cookbook…
Anna even inscribed the copy for me…which is kind of like we are now close friends:)
See what I mean?!
Anyway, off I go again…last night, staring at a couple of fresh zucchini, I wanted some inspiration beyond my usual zucchini bread, or ratatouille.  This book is always on hand, whether just looking for a quick idea, or a full recipe.  I like the way the page is presented with clear unfussy directions and sharp photos that actually do the job intended; make you want to cook and eat everything in the book!
I had just finished up some fresh corn, but had a can of niblets on hand so I used it.  The process took 5 minutes to put together the ingredients and another 8 to cook the griddle cakes….giving enough time to put together a quick salad.
CORN ZUCCHINI GRIDDLE CAKES
2 cups shredded zucchini
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter
Stir zucchini, corn, flour, egg, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  Allow batter to rest 10 minutes.  Heat the butter until it foams in a large skillet( I use cast iron for this ).  Drop spoonfulls of the batter into the butter and fry over medium heat for 4 minutes per side until golden brown.
I made a simple vinaigrette with olive oil, orange juice, dijon and maple sirup to toss the mixed greens.  I added a few nummy bits to the salad including; dried cherries, toasted walnuts, apple and feta.
I feel bad that I didn’t take the picture with the griddle cakes on top…I think that I was preoccupied with the prospect of eating!  It was a great summer dinner.  I also made a few extra griddle cakes to freeze to have on hand for another night…perhaps reheated with some grilled peppers and goats cheese…MMMmmmmm.  Happy Friday:)

Fresh Food, Fast: Easy Summer Pasta

One can’t help but be giddy(if you are a foodie!) with market offerings as spring rolls into summer.  Now delivering week after week, richly nutritious, psychedelic fruits and vegetables.  You don’t have to do much to make beautiful food when we have access to such valuable fuel.

Here is a fast and easy pasta dish, that as you can see is all about the veggies.
Ingredients: peas, heirloom tomatoes, kale, onions, garlic, green olive tapenade, bacon, and whole wheat spaghetti.
Method: I cook my pasta for about 6 min. in salted water;  so that it has a bite to it, but will still hold up for a few minutes at the end, when it gets re-introduced to the main ingredients. p.s….cooking in salted water adds great uniform flavour to the pasta .
Mise en place:(pronounced meez en plas) everything in place.  I like to have my ingredients close so that I don’t forget anything.
At this point I have just introduced the onions, garlic, bacon and kale to the pan with olive oil.  I have the stove on medium heat.  Once there is nice heat, I turn it down to med-low, add a glug of olive oil if necessary, then put a lid on.  This allows the kale to steam.

I throw the tomatoes, tapenade, pasta and peas in, more to warm up slightly than to cook…another 4-5 min on med/low.

I used lots of peas, but you can vary the quantity of each ingredient as to your preference.  There is so much texture and freshness in this dish, with of course, a little smokey boost from the bacon.

This is why I love cooking so much, it is deeply personal to the cook and for those they feed.  There are few rules in cooking, but all will agree that food tastes better when prepared with gratitude and love for the offerings and for those we choose to share it with.  It is no wonder that breaking bread is a spiritual endeavour.

food and love: go big or go home

When I had my cook-shop and cafe, my walls were painted “chalkboard green”.  Onto which, I wrote whatever I felt like: descriptions of cookware, food specials of the day, and interesting quotes.  The following is the first quote that I scribbled on my walls and endorse whole-heartedly;)!

“Cooking is like love.  It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”  Harriet Van Horne

On that note; the following is just one of my versions of a “grown-up grilled cheese”…perfect casual lunch— the title is humble, but the ingredients stellar.

It all starts with the cast iron pan.…I fried up the bacon in it before adding the sandwiches.  Simple: artisanal bread(this was called rustica olive). Onto which I spread smoked red pepper jelly, on the other side I placed chopped spinach and local old cheddar, then finally the bacon.  The sandwich was fried crisply and slowly to allow the cheddar to melt into the bacon and spinach.

This is a basic grilled cheese that has been elevated by the ingredients.  No more are the days of the Kraft slices prematurely oozing out of the bread before it had browned nicely, we now have access to creamery’s that produce traditional nutty cheddars, and beautiful breads that provide the texture and foundation of the dish.  Add to it a chutney or savory jam, and against my husbands wishes, add some green.  There is a balance of sweet,salty and savory against the backdrop of the old-world style bread.  Ooooohhhh la la!  While I don’t cook/eat like this every day; when I do, I make it count!

friends, souflees and grace

When we moved back into our home after the explosion,  the first people that we invited out were our dear friends Scott and Mary Jo.  I was still not in the best of shape, but wanted to bring some normalcy to our lives and much needed laughs.  I wanted our dinner to be special, so I chose one of my all-time favorite recipes; “Twice Baked goats cheese Souflee”.  I served it on top of a bed of fresh greens with a simple vinaigrette.  It takes no more that 15 minutes to prepare and it is a winner.  Chef Chris Squire of London developed this one.  I have included a “post-script” at the end of this post to sum up the evenings blessings.

2 TBSP unsalted butter
4 TBSP hazelnuts, finely chopped

5 TBSP bread crumbs
3 TBSP all purpose flour
2/3 cup milk
2 egg yolks
1/2 pound chevre
salt and pepper to taste
8 egg whites
1TBSP lemon juice

1. Butter eight ramikens
2. Combine the finely chopped(or grind them) hazelnuts with the bread crumbs and coat the ramikens
3. Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Add the flour to make a roux(thickening agent) and cook for 2 minutes.   Add the milk and whisk to combine.
4.Remove the mixture from the heat and beat in the egg yolks…it will take on a nice glossy sheen

5.Add 3/4 of the cheese mixture and season with salt and pepper

6.Beat the egg whites with the lemon juice and gently fold into the mixture.
7.Half fill the ramikens.  Sprinkle the remaining goats cheese over the mixture.  Cover with the remaining souflee mixture.

8.Bake in bain marie(hot water bath) at 375 for 10-15 min…until risen and a light brown top forms.  Remove from oven, cool and un-mold….just take your time, use a knife to loosen and spatula to lift out.
9. You can either refrigerate to use the next day or, pop back in the oven and cook for another 5 minutes..it will rise again in the oven.  Serve on a bed of greens.  Enjoy!

Substitutions: you can substitute almonds for hazelnuts and other cheese like blue or cheddar.  This recipe is best served as a light lunch.  For dinner I like to serve it with grilled lemon chicken.

GRACE
We had a great dinner with Scott and Mary Jo, but it never occurred to me to offer anything else to eat; there were no hors d’oeuvres, nothing to accompany the soufflees!  Not even any dessert!  Many months later,  as my brain started re-booting, I realized that they certainly would have gone home hungry. Grace, that night, our hands held and heads bowed, delivered not so much for the food before us, though that is always a blessing; but Grace, that night, revealed by the presence of our friends.