We have a new steel chalkboard in our kitchen – floor to ceiling with lots of space to capture grocery lists, homework assignments, you name it. I put a quote up the other day from Parker Palmer, a wonderful thinker and beautiful writer. “Spring teaches me to look more carefully for the green stems of possibility,” he said. He’s so right whether you’re talking about relationships, work or new ways of doing things, or asapargus, chives and ramps. This pie embodies the latter, with a helping of lemon thyme and fresh chives as well. All early spring plants that infuse this simple pie with … well, green stems and possibility.

For Single Crust Pâte Brisée:

1  1/4 cups pastry flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

3 – 3 1/2 tbsps water, iced

For Filling:

1 pound firm tofu

2 tbsps lemon juice

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp dijon mustard

1/2 tsp sea salt

pepper to taste

For the veggies:

2 tbsps olive oil

2 shallots, chopped

3 bunches ramps, chopped

2 bunches asparagus, chopped

bunch lemon thyme, leaves removed

bunch chives, chopped

For the pâte brisée, whisk the flour and salt together in a mixing bowl. Add the shortening by cutting it into small pieces and then, using your hands or a pastry cutter, blend it into the flour working it into pea-sized pieces until it resembles a coarse crumb. Add the iced water, beginning with only 3 tablespoons, mixing enough to form a ball (do not over mix or your pâte will become stiff). Add more if you need it but it might not be necessary. Flatten the ball into a disk shape, wrap it, and chill the dough until ready to use; at least a half hour.

Once your pâte brisée has chilled, remove it from the fridge and roll the dough out to 1/4″ thickness with a floured rolling pin. Transfer it to a 9″ tart pan with a removable bottom. Shape it, trim the excess dough, leaving a 1/2″ overhang, then fold the overhang over the pastry sides and press against the side to reinforce the edge. Pierce the bottom with a fork a few times and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes until it’s firm.

While the pâte is chilling pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

After the pastry has chilled, line the chilled shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake until the pastry is set and pale golden along rim, 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights.

Meanwhile, put tofu, lemon juice, balsamic, dijon, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add chopped shallots and chopped ramps and sauté until soft and translucent. Once done, add asparagus and thyme and sauté until the asparagus is just slightly soft but still bright green. Don’t cook it too much or it will get overdone. Transfer the asparagus mixture to a bowl. Add tofu mixture and chopped chives and stir well.

Transfer filling with the vegetables to the pie shell. Put in the oven and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown and a inserted knife comes out clean. Serve with a green salad and a rosé bien frais.

We try our best to eat as seasonally as possible, within reason. Now that we’re into mid-March the pantry is getting a little low on stuff but we still have delicata squash, winter kale, and root veggies like parsnips. But how much can you really do with them? Well, quite a lot in fact. I made this tower of winter vegetables – delicata squash, steamed kale, parsnip sage risotto, baby beluga lentils, toasted squash seeds, and micro-greens – for a nice dinner the other night with friends in front of the fire. It’s not complicated but there are a number of steps so it’s best made when you’ve got a little extra time and you want to make something special. I put some absolutely outstanding squash jam with lavender on the side. It’s made by Stasis Preserves in Toronto and might just be one of my new favourite condiments.

For the sqaush

1 delicata sqaush

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

sea salt

Cut delicata squash into 1 – 2 inch slices. Scoop out the sqaush seeds and set the seeds aside. Place sqaush in a heavy-bottomed, oven-friendly frying pan. Drizzle with olive oil, nutmeg, and salt. Roast in a preheated oven at 375F until soft and slightly browned. Once done, remove the sqaush from the pan and set aside.

Clean the squash seeds. Pat dry with a tea towel. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in the same frying pan used for the squash over medium-high heat. Add the seeds and sauté them until they are crispy and nicely toasted. Let cool.

For the steamed kale

1 bunch of curly kale or other greens like chard, collard greens, spinach

1 tbsp lemon juice

sea salt

Clean the kale thoroughly. Tear it into large chunks and place in the top of a steamer. Steam over high heat until the kale is softened but not gone totally flacid. You want it to have some texture and presence to it. Once done, transfer to a bowl and season with a little lemon juice and sea salt. Set aside.

For the parsnip sage risotto

2 tbsps olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 large parsnips, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1.5 cups of arborio rice

4 cups of veggie stock, heated

1 cup white wine, heated

a small bunch of fresh sage, chopped finely

sea salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed dutch oven. Add the onion and sauté until tender. Add the parsnips and minced garlic and sauté another minute or two until the garlic is fragrant. Add arborio rice stirring constantly until evenly coated. Begin to add the stock and wine slowly. Remember, the key to good risotto is to 1) start with heated stock and wine, 2) stir constantly, and 3) add the liquid slowly until the rice is just covered. Let the rice absorb the liquid and then add a little more, again, until the rice is just covered. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Once the rice has reached the perfect state of al dente-ness add the sage and toss. Season with good sea salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

For the baby beluga lentils

1 cup baby beluga lentils

1 carrot, quartered

1 celery stalk, quartered

1 onion, quartered

1 bay leaf

olive oil

sea salt

Clean and rinse lentils thoroughly. Place them in a saucepan with the carrot, celery, onion, and bay leaf. Cover with twice as much water, about 2 cups. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, turn the heat down and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 20 – 25 minutes. Once done, remove the bay leaf and vegetables. Drain the lentils. Put them back into the saucepan and drizzle with a little olive oil and sea salt. Set aside.

To assemble

Start with the roasted squash. Put it on the plate you are going to use to serve. Fill the cavity with risotto. Next, on a cutting board, pack the steamed kale into a circular cookie cutter about the same diameter as your squash. Use a wide knife to lift it off the chopping board and gently place on the squash. Do the same with the risotto – pack it into the cookie cutter and place it gently on the kale.

Next, add some squash jam or other condiment (onion confit, red pepper jelly) beside the squash in a nice presentation. Then drizzle the whole dish with the baby beluga lentils and toasted squash seeds. Finally, top with some micro-greens and serve with pride and a smile on your face.

 

 

vegan onion tarte, alsatian onion tarte, tarte a l'oignon, vgourmet, Ruth Richardson,

I’ve had a hankering for this dish for awhile, dreaming of being in a quaint little Parisian café about to dive into the sweetness of onion, the pungency of nutmeg, and the flakiness of pâte brisée. But how to veganize it without losing all that the French stand for in their cuisine? I can just hear it now, spreading like a whisper across an outraged city of lights, “Mais non! Ce n’est pas possible.” The travesty of it all. Well, now having made this heavenly version, I can say with confidence (and trying my best to put on those French puckered lips) “Mais oui mesdames and messieurs. C’est possible!” Franchement.

Single Crust Pâte Brisée

1  1/4 cups pastry flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup  vegetable shortening (I use organic, non GMO, Earth Balance shortening)

3 – 3 1/2 tbsps water, iced

Onion Filling

1/4 cup olive oil

7 or 8 medium-sized  onions, sliced thinly

2 tbsps all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 cup white wine

1/2 cup rice or soy cream

sea salt and pepper

vegan onion tarte, alsatian onion tarte, tarte a l'oignon, vgourmet, Ruth Richardson,

Putting it together

For the pâte brisée, whisk the flour and salt together in a mixing bowl. Add the shortening by cutting it into small pieces and then, using your hands or a pastry cutter, blend it into the flour working it into pea-sized pieces until it resembles a coarse crumb. Add the iced water, beginning with only 3 tablespoons, mixing enough to form a ball (do not over mix or your pâte will become stiff). Add more if you need it but it might not be necessary. Flatten the ball into a disk shape, wrap it, and chill the dough until ready to use; at least a half hour.

Once your pâte brisée has chilled, remove it from the fridge and roll the dough out to 1/4″ thickness with a floured rolling pin. Transfer it to a 9″ tart pan with a removable bottom. Shape it, trim the excess dough, leaving a 1/2″ overhang, then fold the overhang over the pastry sides and press against the side to reinforce the edge. Pierce the bottom with a fork a few times and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes until it’s firm.

While the pâte is chilling pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

After the pastry has chilled, line the chilled shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake until the pastry is set and pale golden along rim, 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights and bake the shell until it’s golden all over, 10 to 15 minutes more. Transfer the shell to a rack.

Turn the oven down to 350 degrees.

While your pasty is cooking, prepare your onions. Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed dutch oven. Add onions and stir. Cover to cook over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes or until the onions have started sweating and have become quite soft. Remove the lid and cook for another 15 minutes until onions start to brown a little. Stir often to make sure they don’t burn and you cook them all evenly. Once cooked, add the flour and nutmeg and stir thoroughly so all the onions are coated. Let simmer over medium to low heat for another 3 or 4 minutes. Deglaze the onion mixture with the wine. Let simmer for a minute or two. Add rice or soy cream and stir until the mixture thickens. Add sea salt and pepper to taste and let it bubble away for about 15 minutes more.

Once the onion filling is cooked through, taste the mixture for seasoning. Adjust if necessary. Place it into the tart shell and spread it out evenly. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until the top sets and the filling binds with the sides of the dough. Let cool for a good 15 minutes or so before removing from the pan to let it set up a bit. Slice and serve.

While a nice large tart looks lovely, this recipe also lends itself to small individual tarts. Simply line large muffin tins or ramekins with the pâte brisée, and continue the process.

Wine: Pair this baby with a lovely grüner veltliner (a white wine variety grown primarily in Austria with a reputation of being a particularly food-friendly wine) or look to Alsace for a full pinot gris or gewürztraminer.

Christmas is quickly approaching and I’ve been working on my holiday menu. My good friend, and most avid v:gourmet fan, Glenn, sent me a recipe awhile back for cauliflower steaks which I’ve kept tucked away until now. Good thing I pulled it out and experimented with it because it’s going to be on the table on the 25th for sure. The cauliflower steaks themselves give you something “meaty” to cut into, with a great “mouth-feel” as they say. The accompanying purée adds a wonderful complexity and depth of flavour with a combo of apples, shallots, leeks, and thyme. Put it next to mixed quinoa – red, black, and white – and some rosemary tomato skewers and you’ve got a gorgeous plate full of goodness. I’ll be amping it up a bit (’tis the season) with wild mushrooms parcels, roasted squash, and other goodies.

1 large, or 2 small, head of cauliflower

olive oil

2 shallots, sliced

1 leek, chopped coursely

2 small apples, peeled, cored, and chopped coarsely

1/2 cup dry white wine or sherry

a few sprigs of fresh thyme

sea salt and pepper

At the largest part of the cauliflower heads, cut a cross-section to create four to six 1-inch steaks. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. BBQ steaks over medium-high heat or sear the steaks in a frying pan over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a frying pan. Add chopped shallots, leeks, the remaining cauliflower “off-cuts” from the steaks, apples, and thyme. Sauté until everything is tender and cooked through. Add white wine or sherry and reduce for 5 minutes or so on low-heat. Add sea salt and pepper to season. Purée in a blender until smooth.

Serve the cauliflower steaks bien-placé on the apple shallot purée and accompany with quinoa, vegetables, or whatever else tickles your fancy.

Ratatouille is a traditional French Provençal stewed vegetable dish, originating in Nice. Polenta is known to have been eaten by the Roman legions; known as pulmentum they would eat it in either a porridge or in a hard cake like form. A happy Mediterranean marriage, this recipe brings the two together in a meal that harkens to the good-ole-days when vegetables were fresh, food was simple, and everyone enjoyed the comforts and pleasure of the table with good friends and the gifts of the gods.

Ratatouille

4 large tomatoes

8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 cup chopped fresh parsley

20 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 lb eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 1/4 teaspoons sea salt

2 large onions, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise

3 red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 medium zucchini, cut into chunks

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Cut an X in bottom of each tomato with a sharp paring knife and blanch together in a 4-quart pot of boiling water 1 minute. Transfer tomatoes with a slotted spoon to a cutting board and, when cool enough to handle, peel off skin, beginning from scored end, with paring knife.

Coarsely chop tomatoes and transfer to a 5-quart heavy pot with garlic, parsley, basil, and 1/3 cup oil. Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes break down and sauce is slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.

While sauce is simmering, toss eggplant with 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large colander and let stand in sink 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook onions in 3 tablespoons oil with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer onions with a slotted spoon to a large bowl, then add 3 tablespoons oil to skillet and cook bell peppers with 1/4 teaspoon salt over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer peppers with slotted spoon to bowl with onions. Add 3 tablespoons oil to skillet and cook zucchini with 1/4 teaspoon salt over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer zucchini with slotted spoon to bowl with other vegetables.

While zucchini are cooking, pat eggplant dry with paper towels. Add remaining oil (about 1/4 cup) to skillet and cook eggplant over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 10 to 12 minutes.

Add vegetables, remaining teaspoon salt, and black pepper to tomato sauce and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender, about 1 hour. Cool, uncovered, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Polenta

6 cups water

1 tsp sea salt

2 cups organic corn grits

In a large, deep pan over high heat bring water and sea salt to boil, gradually stir in the polenta. Reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring frequently to prevent sticking until the mixture is very thick (about 30 minutes). Stir in more salt if needed. Oil a square medium-sized pan or loaf pan, spoon in polenta, and let set for 10 minutes. Invert onto a flat plate. The polenta will unmold and hold its shape.

Cut polenta into thick slices and serve hot, smothered in ratatouille and chopped rosemary.

two potato vindaloo

July 27, 2011

You probably know that vindaloo is an Indian curry dish. But you probably didn’t know that the name vindaloo is derived from the Portuguese dish “Carne de Vinha d’ Alhos” which is a dish of meat, usually pork, with wine and garlic. Crazy, no? The dish was originally modified in Mumbai by the substitution of vinegar for the wine, and the addition of red Kashmir chillies. It then evolved into the vindaloo curry dish in Goa, with the addition of plentiful amounts of traditional spice. The following recipe is plentiful, indeed, on the spice front so if you don’t have all of them, go out and get some. They are worth the time and effort – for all sorts of recipes, not just this one. I’ve adapted this recipe from Ottolenghi to streamline it a bit and modify the balance of texture and flavour! It’s sweet. It’s spicy. It’s hot. It’s satisfying. It’s great on a heap of freshly cooked plain rice.

8 cardamom pods, seeds extracted and crushed

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp cloves

1/4 tsp turmeric

1 tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tbsps olive or safflower oil

12 shallots, sliced

1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds

1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds

25 curry leaves

2 tbsps chopped fresh ginger

pinch red pepper chili flakes, in line with your tolerance for heat

6 ripe tomatoes, chopped, or a can of whole tomatoes

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 3/4 cups water or stock

1 tbsp sugar

sea salt

3 cups baby potatoes, quartered

2 red bell peppers, roughly chopped

2 – 3 cups sweet potato, cut into chunks

cilantro, chopped

Heat oil in a large heavy pot or dutch oven. Add the shallots with the mustard and fenugreek seeds. Saute on medium-low heat until shallots are brown. Stir in all the spices, curry leaves, ginger, chili flakes and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes. Next, add the tomatos, vinegar, water, sugar and some sea salt. Bring to a boil, then leave to simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes.

Add the potatoes and simmer for another 20 minutes. For the last stage, add the sweet potato and bell peppers. Make sure all the vegetables are just immersed in the sauce (add more water if necessary) and continue cooking, covered, for about 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Remove the lid and leave to bubble away while sauce thickens a bit. Add a healthy portion of chopped cilantro. Serve on plain rice and garnish with a bit more cilantro or some mint.

tian

July 24, 2011

According to wikipedia, a tian is a tall, conical earthenware cooking vessel used in the Alpes-Maritimes area of France, with most of them  being produced in the town of Mougins. It is traditionally made from red clay and used to cook a traditional braised vegetable stew also called tian. Today, the modern version of vegetable tian is not a stew, but a freeform composite of roasted vegetables baked in a shallow dish. What wiki failed to mention is that it’s damn yummy.

2 tbsps olive oil

2 large onions, sliced

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 cup white wine

sprigs of thyme

1 small eggplant, sliced

2 red peppers, sliced

4 small zucchini, sliced

2 large tomatoes, sliced

a bunch of basil

1 tbsp cane sugar

sea salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet. Add onions and saute until they start to get soft. Add garlic and thyme and continue to saute until garlic becomes aromatic. Add white wine and cook down until you are left with a onion stew. Place onion mixture in the bottom of a casserole. Start to add your layered vegetables, starting with eggplant, then adding peppers, then adding zucchini. Before adding the final tomato layer, add a layer of basil. With each layer, brush vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. After adding the final tomato layer, sprinkle the tian with sugar. Bake in an oven at 400 degrees for 1 hour. Serve hot or warm.