beet soup

This is a recipe I found in Epicurious magazine. It called to me on this wintry day because soups are so hearty and warming, and beets so nourishing, and coconut milk and ginger so tasty together. It seemed the perfect concoction on a cold, snowy day. I used chioggia beets – also known as candy cane beets – which are an heirloom beet from the 19th century from the town of chioggia near Venice. You can use any beet you find or have or desire. The colour will change but the taste will be as earthy and sweet regardless.

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp finely chopped ginger

4 large red beets, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces

4 cups vegetable stock

1 can (14.5 ounces) coconut milk

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

parsley, minced for garnish

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté onion, 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger; cook, stirring often, 5 minutes. Add beets and stock; bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until beets are fork-tender, 20 minutes. With an immersion or regular blender, purée soup. Return to pot. Stir in coconut milk, salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley. Serve hot with some crusty bread.

roasted parsnip soup


My favourite holiday read was “An Everlasting Meal” by Tamar Adler, so favourite in fact that it’s going to become required reading in this house for her simple, creative, poetic, completely authentic approach to food and cooking. This soup – sweet from the tomatoes, spicy due to the hints of coriander, cumin, turmeric and mustard seed, earthy from the parsnips, and entirely satisfying – didn’t come from Adler’s book but was, in part, inspired by her. She’s a big proponent of finding what’s in the fridge, roasting it, and making something good with a big glug of olive oil, pinch of salt and some pepper. That’s what I did with this soup, and good it is.

Which brings me to one of Adler’s insights, which she sprinkles like parsley through the pages: “There is great dignity in allowing oneself to keep clear about what is good … Whether things were ever simpler than they are now, or better if they were, we can’t know. We do know that people have always found ways to eat and live well, whether on boiling water or bread or beans, and that some of our best eating hasn’t been our most foreign or expensive or elaborate, but quite plain and quite familiar. And knowing that is probably the best way to cook, and certainly the best way to live.”

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seed

½ tsp ground turmeric

½ tsp mustard seeds

1 large onion, cut into 8 chunks

2 garlic cloves

2 lbs parsnips, diced

2 plum tomatoes, quartered

4 cups vegetable or tomato stock

1 tbsp lemon juice or red wine vinegar

sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the oil,  spices, and vegetables and give them a good toss. Spread them out on a parchment-lined baking sheet and put them in the oven. Bake until they are tender and slightly browned on the edges, about 30 minutes.

Once the vegetables are done, spoon them into a food processor with half the stock. Pour them into a saucepan or small dutch oven with the remaining stock. Bring them back to the desired temperature and stir in the lemon juice or vinegar. Add seasoning to taste. Serve with good crusty baguette or boule and enjoy the good, simple pleasures of the table.


seedy crackers

November 29, 2014


There is a beef in my house which is flying things unnecessarily from around the planet that we could easily get and/or make here. Fizzy water is one. Mustard is another. Crackers are high on the list as a third. So when Rebekah found this recipe for seedy crackers on My New Roots blog, which she loves, I thought I’d give them a try. They are kind of a cross between a cracker and a granola bar – full of oats and seeds and seasoning. The rosemary, garlic and smoked sea salt could be left out or replaced with any other seasoning that tickles your fancy. And with a little veggie pâté, hummus, or sun-dried tomato pesto, they eat like a feast.

seedy crackers

1 cup sunflower seeds

½ cup flax seeds

1/3 cup pumpkin seeds

¼ cup sesame seeds

1 ½ cups rolled oats

2 tbsps chia seeds

4 tbsps psyllium seed husks (3 tbsps if using psyllium husk powder)

1 ½ tsps fine grain sea salt

2 tbsps chopped fresh rosemary

¼ – ½ tsp garlic powder

1 tbsps maple syrup (for sugar-free diets, use a pinch of stevia)

3 tbsps melted coconut oil

1 ½ cups water

smoked sea salt, to taste

In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients, stirring well. Whisk maple syrup, oil and water together in a measuring cup. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix very well until everything is completely soaked and dough becomes very thick (if the dough is too thick to stir, add one or two teaspoons of water until the dough is manageable).

Divide the dough roughly in half. Gather half the dough into a ball and place it between two sheets of baking paper. Using a rolling pin, firmly roll out into a thin sheet. Remove top layer of baking paper and using the tip of a knife, score the dough into shapes you like (I chose large rectangles but it’s up to you). Repeat with remaining half of dough. Let sit out on the counter for at least 2 hours, or all day or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Using the baking paper, slide the dough onto a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Remove cookie sheet from oven, flip the whole cracker over (if it breaks a bit, don’t worry!) and peel the baking paper off of the back. Return to oven to bake for another 10 minutes, until fully dry, crisp, and golden around the edges.

Let cool completely, then break crackers along their scored lines and store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

salad and carrots

Ottolenghi has a new cookbook out: Plenty More. Run, don’t walk. It’s full of amazingly creative, fabulous, vegetable-centric dishes. Ottolenghi has, in some people’s opinions, single-handedly given vegetables their rightful place. From a non-vegetarian perspective. He’s not preachy. Or holier-than-thou. Just a lover of plant-friendly cooking. This recipe features his honey-glazed carrots as the main act for a salad with tahini dressing and slow-roasted tomatoes. It’s really that easy.

For the carrots:

Scant 3 tbsp honey or maple syrup

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted and lightly crushed

1 1/2 tsps cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed

3 thyme sprigs

12 large carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4 by 2 1/2-inch/2 by 6-cm batons (3 lb/1.3 kg)

salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Place the honey, oil, coriander and cumin seeds, and thyme in a large bowl with 1 teaspoon salt and a good grind of black pepper. Add the carrots and mix well until coated, then spread them out on a large baking sheet and roast in the oven for 40 minutes, stirring gently once or twice, until cooked through and glazed. Remove from the oven and set aside.

For the tahini dressing:

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp sea salt

2 tbsps lemon juice

2/3 cup water

1/2 cup tahini

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well with a whisk.

Toss carrots, salad greens and slow-roasted tomatoes with a good dollop or two of tahini dressing and serve. Alone. With other things. Doesn’t really matter. It’s tasty and healthy. And satisfying.


upside down onion tart

October 18, 2014

upside down onion tart

This recipe is from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg which is a current favourite. He says it’s a “cupboard’s bare” kind of recipe, as if the onions had nothing to do but hang out in their sweat pants and stained t-shirt. Pish posh. I say this recipe holds out its hand to onions and asks if they want to get all dolled up and head out on the town. Put on a little balsamic, a spritz of thyme, puff a little pastry, step into the heat of the kitchen, and whoop it up a little. So what if it takes no time and works with what’s in the cupboard? No saying you still can’t have a little fancy and footloose.

upside down onion tart

About 200g of ready-made puff pastry

3-4 medium onions

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsps of balsamic vinegar

few sprigs of thyme

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the pastry to a 3–4mm thickness and cut out a 9 inch circle on floured surface. Set aside.

Peel the onions and slice each one into 6 or 8 wedges, keeping them attached at the root end. Heat the oil in an oven-proof 9 inch skillet or cast-iron pan over a medium heat. Add the onions, arranging them roughly in a concentric pattern. Sprinkle with thyme leaves, salt and pepper and cook for about 15–20 minutes, turning once or twice, until they are fairly tender, and starting to caramelize around the edges.

Trickle the balsamic vinegar over the onions and cook for a couple of minutes more, so the vinegar reduces a little. Remove from the heat and make sure the onions are fairly evenly spread around the pan.

Lay the pastry disc over the onions and put the pan into the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, until the pastry is fully puffed up and golden.

Invert the tart on to a plate, so the sticky caramelized onions are facing up, on top of the crispy pastry. Serve straight away.


Every fall season needs its own version of minestrone made up from whatever is in season or happens to be in the pantry, as it has been for centuries. Some of the earliest origins of minestrone soup pre-date the expansion of the Latin tribes of Rome, “when the local diet was vegetarian by necessity.'” Marcus Apicius’s ancient cookbook De Re Coquinaria described polus, a Roman soup dating back to 30 AD made up of farro, chickpeas, and fava beans, with onions, garlic, and greens thrown in.

Like many Italian dishes, minestrone was probably originally not a dish made for its own sake – the ingredients were pooled from whatever happened to be in the pantry. There are two schools of thought on when the recipe for minestrone became more formalized, the details of which are confusing. Suffice it to say there are a number of theories with dates and reasons, and rationales, and so on.

Let the argument rage on. It’s no matter to me. If I had to choose I would go with an organic-use-whatever-is-available approach as I did with this minestrone. This version is made from vicki’s veggies awesome delicata squash, leeks, beans, slow roasted tomatoes, onions, and garlic from the farmers’ market yesterday – and fresh arugula for the salsa verde which adds an amazing spiciness, zip and zing to the soup. On a chilly autumn day you can’t beat it.

1 pound dried navy or cannellini (white kidney) beans (or canned beans)

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for drizzling

2 large onions, finely chopped

4 small leeks, white and pale-green parts only, finely chopped

4 small celery stalks with leaves (from celery heart), chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

sea salt, freshly ground pepper

1 squash, delicata or otherwise (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, cut into 1/2″ pieces

10 cups veggie stock

1 pound green beans, trimmed, cut into 1″ pieces

1 cup slow-roasted tomatoes (or just fresh tomatoes if necessary)

1 pound small pasta (such as tiny shells or pipette)

small bunch of thyme, leaves removed

Place navy beans in a large pot; add cold water to cover by 2″. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand 1 hour.

Heat 1/2 cup oil in another large heavy pot over medium-low heat. Add onion, leeks, celery, and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 20 minutes.

Add squash, navy beans, soaking liquid, and stock to pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; reduce heat to low, cover, and gently simmer until navy beans are tender, 1 1/2–2 hours.

When soup is almost finished cooking, add green beans, slow-roasted tomatoes, pasta and thyme leaves. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is al dente. Adjust seasoning. Serve with a big dollop of salsa verde.

salsa verde

2 plum tomatoes

1 garlic clove

3 cups arugula leaves

1/4 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon capers

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more

Mix tomatoes, garlic, arugula, breadcrumbs, capers, and vinegar in a food processor. Pulse on low until just roughly chopped. Quickly mix in 3/4 cup oil so it stays roughly chopped but well mixed. Transfer to a bowl and pour a little oil on surface to keep salsa from discoloring.


fricassee chanterelles

I’ve decided that there should be a rule that if you find fresh chanterelles you have to just buy them and do something with them – soup, sautéed on top of risotto, whatever. The season is so short, the taste so subtle and sublime, the preparation so easy – why wouldn’t you? I found some in a local grocery store the other day and scooped up a big bag instantly. On a gorgeous late summer Saturday with a chill in the air, it seems only fitting to do something simple but warming and comforting. This fricassee on smashed potatoes was a perfect lunch. And since the chardonnay was open as a key ingredient, we poured ourselves a small glass to accompany what ended up being true comfort food.

4 small baking potatoes

3 tbsps olive oil

2 small onions, sliced

2 large cloves garlic, minced

3/4 cup white wine

1 cup cream, soy or otherwise

1 big bag of fresh chanterelles, bottom of stems removed and mushrooms torn into pieces (this allows for uneven edges which soak up the sauce better)

handful of thyme sprigs, leaves removed

sea salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Clean the baking potatoes and poke each one a couple of times with a fork. Once the oven is heated, place potatoes in the oven and bake until done, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Turn the heat down and add the minced garlic. Sauté, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn, for about 2-3 minutes. Turn the heat up slightly and add white wine. Bring to a boil and simmer until the wine has reduced by about 1/2. Add the soy cream and mix thoroughly. Add torn chanterelles and thyme. Simmer until chanterelles are soft and have had time to meld with the other flavours, about 5 – 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place cooked potatoes in the bottom of a bowl or on a small plate. Smash with a fork and smoother with the fricassee. Serve with a side salad and a crisp glass of white.

grilled brussels sprouts

September 12, 2014

grilled brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts, as we know them now, were grown possibly as early as the 13th century in what is now Belgium. They say that before that, the forerunners to modern Brussels sprouts were likely cultivated in ancient Rome. They came to North America in the 18th century, when French settlers brought them to Louisiana, which is a good thing because Brussels sprouts, as with broccoli and other brassicas, contains sulforaphane, a chemical believed to have potent anticancer properties, not to mention that they contain good amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid and dietary fibre. When boiled they loose some of their amazing healing power so why boil them? Grill them on the BBQ instead with a little thyme lemon dipping sauce on the side.

1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed, cleaned and halved

2 tbsps olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup lemon juice

3 tbsps maple syrup

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tsps fresh thyme leaves

Preheat the BBQ. Thread halved Brussels sprouts onto metal or wooden skewers. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Grill over medium-high heat until still firm but tender and nicely browned, about 5 minutes each side.

While the Brussels sprouts are cooking, whisk together lemon juice, maple syrup, olive oil, and thyme in a small bowl. Set aside.

When ready, arrange sprouts on a platter. Serve warm with the dipping sauce at the ready.


asian slaw

September 5, 2014

asian slaw

This is a new slaw recipe to add to the others on v:gourmet: traditional slaw and stinging nettle slaw. One can’t have too much slaw in one’s life. This one is from River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. If you don’t have this cookbook, it’s well worth a trip to your local bookstore. It’s got fantastic recipes, and his philosophy is bang-on. As Fearnley-Whittingstall says of his new approach to food and cooking, “The object of the exercise is, unambiguously, to persuade you to eat more vegetables. Many more vegetables. Perhaps even to make veg the mainstay of your daily cooking. And therefore, by implication, to eat less meat, maybe a lot less meat, and maybe a bit less fish too. Why? We need to eat more vegtatbles and less flesh because vegetables are the foods that do us the most good and our plaent the least harm. Do I need to spell out in detail the arguments to support that assertion? Is there anyone who seriously doubts it to be true? Just ask yourself if you, or anyone you know, might be in danger of eating too many vegetables. Or if you think the world might be a better, cleaner, greener, place with a few more factory chicken or pig farms or intensive cattle feedlots scattered about the countryside. Surely it’s close to being a no-brainer.” Well said Hugh. Bring on the slaw.

1 bunch of green onions, trimmed and sliced

4 carrots, peeled

1 small green cabbage

For the dressing

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or rice vinegar

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon clear honey

1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

A handful of cilantro, coarsely torn

Lime juice

Put the sliced green onions into a large bowl. Cut the carrots into fine julienne with a mandolne or grate them coarsely and add to the bowl. Remove any blemished outer leaves from the cabbage, then quarter and cut away the core. Shred the leaves as finely as you can and combine with the green onions and carrots

For the dressing, whisk together all the ingredients, making sure the honey is dissolved. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss thoroughly. Leave for 10-20 minutes to soften and “relax.” Serve the coleslaw scattered with cilantro and sprinkled with lime juice.

cobb salad

August 27, 2014

cobb salad

I’m not even sure what a cobb salad is and, in fact, I become a little less certain with each recipe I look up as each one is totally different. Wiki says that it came about in the 1930s at the Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant, where it became a signature dish, named for the restaurant’s owner, Robert Howard Cobb. The legend is that Cobb had not eaten until midnight, when he mixed together leftovers he found in the kitchen, along with some bacon cooked by the line cook, and tossed it with their French dressing. Who knows? I figure if the legend is true than a good cobb salad includes any leftovers in the fridge, typically presented side by side, not mixed, with a good dressing to throw on top. At the height of August, when sweet corn is at its peak, we seem to always have leftover cobs not eaten. They were my inspiration behind this non-authentic vegan version. But in my book, what recipe is 100% authentic anyway?


For the salad

1 handful of salad greens

1 fresh summer tomato, diced

1 avocado, diced,

1/2 red onion, finely diced

1/2 cup toasted, salted cashew nuts

2 cobs corn, cooked, niblets removed

For the dressing

1 cup veganaise

1 clove garlic, minced

1 shallot, minced

1 tablespoon fresh dill

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh chives

On a platter, spread the fresh cleaned salad greens. Place piles of your veg ingredients on top in nice rows or messy piles.

In a small bowl, mix the ingredients for the dressing and stir well until everything is combined. Serve alongside the cobb salad so everyone can add dressing to their liking.