Mmm! Potatoes

September 17, 2009

cookstownpotatoes

Photo credit: James Tse

Last night I made a dinner that I was really proud to serve. My son liked it, too. In fact, we were just tucking in, enjoying our beet salads and talking about how great the beets have been this year when in walked Kayne West. He swept the salad bowl off the table and as it crashed to the floor in a million pieces he declared that while the beets had been good this year, the potatoes were the very best they’ve ever been! He said we could finish the beets that were on our plates but we just didn’t have the heart to continue. Truthfully, the moment was gone.

Now of course, this didn’t happen, but I do feel like I’ve been swooning over the very deserving beet crop an awful lot lately. Maybe it’s time that I shine the spot light on another root vegetable? So, without further ado, here goes….

Did you notice how great the potatoes are? Although we didn’t have the great summer weather that makes vacationing in Ontario a treat, somehow the potato crops have been fantastic this year! The corn has been great, too. In fact, I combined these two starchy veggies in a potato salad for a party weekend before last and it was a tremendous hit!

How do you like to prepare farm fresh new potatoes? Do you leave the skins on or peel ‘em first? And, almost more importantly, how do you think Kayne would like his potatoes prepared?

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Cardamom-ginger beets

September 11, 2009

cardamom ginger beets

A few weeks ago I was looking for a new way to enjoy all the fantastic beets at the market and I came up with this yummy warm salad:

1 tsp (5 mL) curry paste
1 tbsp (15 mL) each minced fresh ginger
 and cider vinegar
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each honey and minced fresh garlic
1/8 tsp (1 mL) ground cardamom
3 tbsp (45 mL) canola or extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper
6 cups (1.5 L) warm or room temperature cooked beets
1 baby English cucumber, thinly sliced
1 green onion, thinly sliced

Blend the curry paste, honey, ginger and vinegar together until smooth. Stir in the garlic and while whisking, drizzle in the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the beets, cucumber and green onions. Toss to combine.

How do you like to prepare beets? Are you big on borscht or pleased by pickles?


Produce panic part one: peach and tomato salad

August 13, 2009

peachtomatosaladThis salad was the result of a panic attack: I looked at the counter and realized that I had way too many ripe peaches and tomatoes. The solution? Transform them into something fast!

I can’t seem to resist over-buying when I’m in the produce aisle at this time of year – everything looks so fantastic; it’s local; it’s good value and I just want it all! The downside to buying peaches and tomatoes by the basket instead of two or three at a time when you’re a family of three is that you have to eat a lot of produce quickly to avoid the guilt of wasting the best fruit you’ll taste all year long.

Peach and tomato salad

3 peaches
Balsamic vinegar
1 beefsteak or field tomato
4 fresh basil leaves (approx)
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
4 handfuls mâché or another tender, small leaf lettuce

Blanch and peel the peaches. Cut them into wedges and toss with enough good quality balsamic vinegar to coat all over. Slice the tomato into wedges and add it to the bowl. Thinly slice the basil leaves and sprinkle over the fruit. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Toss gently.

Taste and add more vinegar, oil, salt or pepper as needed. Toss with the lettuce and serve immediately.


Dill crowns: show them some love

August 10, 2009

Dillcrownsbest

Dill crowns are like Alec Baldwin before Tina Fey asked him to be on 30 Rock. What I’m trying to say is that everyone acknowledges that dill crowns are great in pickles or in the broth used to cook up crayfish but they don’t get starring roles nearly often enough. I want to be dill crowns’ Tina Fey and you, gentle readers, will determine my success not by giving them an Emmy nomination but by letting me know if you’ll use them sometime soon in one of your recipes.

Compared to younger dill fronds, dill crowns have a stronger flavour that leaves a pleasantly perfumy, lingering aftertaste. Dill crowns are already famous in Scandinavia where they are used in all kinds of concoctions for beef and fish. Personally, I love adding dill crowns to sautéed potatoes and onions for the last few minutes of cooking. They are also sensational stirred into warm, roasted beets. Dill crowns are even lovely when simply torn into bits and tossed into mesclun mix to add texture and flavour to a green salad.

Have I convinced you to give dill crowns a starring role on your table? Hope so!


What would you eat for a month straight?

August 6, 2009

bakedsandwichesBLOGWhat food could I eat three meals a day for a month? This article about Matt McClellan, a Florida pizza restaurant owner, encouraged me to ponder this question.

You see, McClellan is pulling a publicity stunt where he will eat nothing but pizza for a month. His intention is to bring not only attention to his own pizzeria but to prove that he can improve his health by switching to pizza and cutting out his other menu staples: Taco Bell and Burger King.

Criticizing McClellan’s plan would be so easy, but that’s not what this post is about. No, it’s about what food do you like that is flexible enough in its execution to actually be palatable for a month?

While pasta, soup, stir-fry and risotto seem to offer as much flexibility as a pizza, I think I’d opt for sandwiches since they really do have limitless variations.

What about you? Is there a food category that you could enjoy for 90 meals in a row?


Hot weather cooking: easy shellfish salad

June 25, 2009

shellfish salad

It’s so awful, but for me, good food is sometimes a burden. For instance, the other day we needed clams and mussels in a bowl for a photo shoot. They were to serve no other purpose than to be themselves for 5 minutes.

At the end of the day they were up for grabs on our food trolley (we basically do a little grocery shop on our way to our cars each day, taking the food that was made between 9 and 5 home for ourselves or others). No one, including me, wanted the seafood. I’d eaten enough during the day and really, I just couldn’t see myself cooking them up into a chowder. But I felt guilty about wasting these creatures for the sake of a 5-minute TV segment so I took them home, steamed them and shucked the meats from the shells and made this little salad. Then, I packed it into a plastic container and put it in the fridge.

Sabrina and I ate it the next day for lunch and you know what? My efforts were well worth the pay off. And, given how hot it is here in Ontario right now. I can see myself making this salad again late one evening so that I have a cold, yummy, protein dish on reserve for dinner.

Here’s how to make one yourself:

Steam a combination of clams and mussels in a large pot of salted water.
Drain cooked shellfish in a colander and refresh under cold running water
Remove meats from opened shells and discard any unopened shellfish.
Pat the shucked shellfish dry on paper towel.
Combine drained shellfish, diced red pepper and a handful of chopped parsley in a bowl.
Drizzle with lemony-dill dressing; toss and let stand for at least 15 minutes.

What are your hot weather entree favorites?


Jazz up iceberg lettuce

June 11, 2009

gingersoy

I grew up eating iceberg lettuce and liking it. In fact, I’ll admit to loving the stuff when I was little. Then, I became a chef and iceberg lettuce joined white bread, squeeze cheese and a roster of other childhood favourite foods as items that were too gauche for my shiny, new gourmet palate.

Recently, I’ve reconsidered my stance on iceberg lettuce. Truth be told, no other lettuce can rival it for crispiness and it does have a nice, sweet, mineral-edged flavour. So, today iceberg lettuce, I take this opportunity to tell you personally (if you can read, that is) that I was too harsh in my criticism of you. You are a noble vegetable that deserves my respect and support.

To make amends to this ubiquitous and inexpensive salad staple, I offer an update on the classic wedge salad that I hope will tempt you to give this maligned veggie a chance on your table.

Ginger Soy Dressing

2 tbsp (30 mL) rice vinegar
1 tbsp (15 mL) soy sauce
1 tsp (5 mL) sake or mirin
1 tsp (5 mL) grated ginger
1 tsp (5 mL) brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 mL) vegetable oil

Whisk the rice vinegar with the soy sauce, sake, ginger and sugar. Whisking constantly, drizzle in the oil. Shake or whisk well before using.

Makes just under 1/2 cup (125 mL)