Monday, September 30, 2013

Four-Day Farro

Don't worry, it doesn't take four days to make this.

A few months ago, I was visiting my parents for the weekend, and made this recipe from the River Cottage Veg cookbook.  A few days later, my dad called me and told me that they were eating the leftovers for the fourth day straight, AND that he now likes farro better than brown rice, which is saying a lot, trust me!

For those of you who are also new to farro, it is an ancient Italian wheat variety.  It is chewy and nutty and falls somewhere between brown rice and wheat berries.  The recipe below is my variation on the recipe that was initially published in the River Cottage book.  You may also want to use the basic structure of the recipe and play around with the vegetables you add depending on the season.  In my opinion, this dish is perfect for fall.

This recipe serves 6 - 8 generously.


1 onion, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 garlic cloves, crushed with back of knife but left whole
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup dry farro, cooked according to package directions (make sure to rinse first)
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed (or 1/2 cup dry and cooked)
Juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp toasted slivered almonds
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt, pepper


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Mix butternut squash, fennel, onion, and garlic with olive oil.  Bake for about 30 - 40 minutes stirring part-way throughout.  You want it to be caramelized and brown, but not burned.

3. In the meantime, cook the farro in salted water and drain it.  It's okay if it sits at room temperature until the squash mixture cooks.  Also, if you are using canned beans, heat them through in a pot of water.

4. When everything has finished cooking, mix the farro with the mixture out of the oven including any oil/juices in the pan.  Add the lemon juice, dill, parsley, almonds, parmesan, salt, and pepper and mix thoroughly.  Enjoy!


1. I like to add half a golden delicious apple, tossed in lemon juice, that has been finely diced.  It adds a really nice crisp freshness that contrasts nicely with the rich cheese.

2. Apparently when my parents got to day four of leftovers, they decided that it was time to change things up a bit, so they added diced yellow peppers that had been roasted on the barbecue.  Apparently, the results were pretty fantastic.

Shopping Tips:

1. The best way to buy farro, in my opinion, is in a vacuum-sealed bag/box from an Italian store.  When bought this way, it is very inexpensive and fresh.  You can also buy it from an organic or health store, but it will be much more expensive.  If you buy an imported from Italy brand, buy one that says "semi-perlato or semi-brillato", which means that it is semi-pearled and will cook much more quickly, usually in about 20 - 30 minutes.

2. One of the best kitchen purchases I ever made was my lemon reamer.  This very inexpensive tool will juice a lemon faster and more effectively than any fancy gadget you can find.


1. Obviously this lasts for quite a while in the fridge.

2. You could also mix in a bit more cheese and some egg, form the leftovers into patties, and shallow fry them.  Serve on top of dressed lettuce for a nice lunch.

Buon appetito!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sausage, Kale, and Sweet Potato Soup

Fall is definitely here, so it is time for soup!  Soup is actually one of my favourite parts of fall.  It's easy to make, there are an infinite number of variations, it freezes well, and it tastes even better with a piece of crusty bread.

This soup is my favourite way to eat sausage because you can enjoy the flavour without eating a lot of it. It's also one of my favourite ways to eat kale because it melts nicely into the background against the spicy sausage and the sweet potato.  If you're not sure about kale, try it in this recipe, and I guarantee you will like it.

This recipe is an adaptation of a Williams Sonoma recipe, and it serves 6 - 8.


2 lbs sweet potato (about 2 medium)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lb spicy Italian sausage
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp fresh thyme
2 litres chicken stock
1 bunch kale
salt, pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Cut the sweet potato into 1/2 inch cubes.  There is no need to peel it.  It is more nutritious to leave the skin on, and it is a real pain to peel it.  Toss the sweet potato cubes with 1 Tbsp of the olive oil, spread in one even layer on a baking sheet with parchment paper.  The parchment paper keeps the sweet potato from sticking to the pan.  Sprinkle with salt and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

3. In a large soup pot or dutch oven, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil and brown the sausages on all sides.  When the sausages are browned, remove from the pan and set aside on a paper towel lined plate.  It is not necessary for them to be cooked through.

4. Sauté the onion with a sprinkle of salt until translucent.  Add the garlic and thyme and sauté for another minute.

5. Slice the sausage into coins and return them to the pot.  Add the chicken stock, heat to a boil, and cook on a low simmer for another 10 minutes.

6. Remove the kale leaves from the inner ribs and chop into one inch pieces.  Add to the pot with the roasted sweet potato and heat through for about 2 minutes.

7. Season with pepper and additional salt, if needed.  I added about another teaspoon of salt.

Shopping Tips:

1. It is important to use a good quality chicken stock because you will really taste it in this recipe.  If I am not using homemade, I prefer to use an organic boxed variety.


1. I really encourage you to try this with kale at least once, but you can make it with spinach if you prefer.

2. You could make this with chicken sausage, but it is really best with something spicy, so add some crushed red pepper flakes when sautéing the onions.

3. For an even healthier vegan version, omit the sausage altogether.  Instead, use a can of drained and rinsed white beans and the following spices:
     1 tsp paprika
     1 tsp oregano
     1/2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
     1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Don't forget to use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock if you want this to be vegan.

The hot afternoons and cool evenings make it a perfect time to dust off the old soup pot.  Happy September!

Monday, September 16, 2013

"I Hate Beets" Beet Salad

I actually don't hate beets, but I have converted at least two people who do with this very recipe.  Every autumn, this salad makes its way back into the rotation and onto my table at least three or four times.  I don't know why I have it pegged as something that can only be eaten in fall since all of the ingredients are available year-round, but I guess now is the time when beets are plentiful in gardens and farmers markets alike, so now is the time for the "I Hate Beets" Beet Salad.

If you do not like beets, please do not pass this one over.  Give it a try just once, and if you still don't like beets, well then, I guess you don't have to try one ever again!

This recipe is quite quick and easy to prepare, but it does take some advanced preparation, so make sure you start it at least 3 hours before you want to eat it.

This recipe was inspired by Jeff Crump's recipe in "Earth to Table" and serves four as a side.


4 large beets
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp red onions, diced (you can also use shallots)
1/2 a small tub of feta cheese, crumbled
2 handfuls of arugula or mixed greens
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Put the beets in a baking dish with a bit of water in the bottom, cover with foil, and bake for 30-60 minutes depending on the size.  They are done when a skewer can be inserted all the way through with no resistance.  This is the crucial part if you don't like beets because under-cooked beets have a much stronger flavour than tender ones.  When the beets are finished cooking, peel them, slice them into wedges, and set them aside.

2. In a heavy dry pan, toast the pumpkin seeds over medium heat until puffed and slightly brown.  Remove them from the heat and mix with a tiny bit of olive oil and salt.  Set aside.

3. Whisk together the olive oil, sea salt, red wine vinegar, honey, and red onions.  Pour the vinaigrette over the cooked beets and marinate in the refrigerator for 2-12 hours.  If you leave them in for longer, it's fine (this is actually a very good recipe to make ahead), but the olive oil might solidify a bit in the fridge.  If that happens, just let it warm up at room temperature until it melts again.

4. In a bowl or on a plate, spread the mixed greens around, top with the drained beets, feta, and toasted pumpkin seeds.  Drizzle some of the remaining vinaigrette over top.


1. I really like to include cooked wheat berries into this recipe.  They have a nice nutty chew and make it a more substantial recipe.


1. If you keep the beet mixture separate from the greens, feta, and pumpkin seeds, this salad will last a few days in the fridge.

Shopping Tips:

1. If you buy your beets at the store, you will probably only have the choice of red beets.  But if you are at the farmers market, you will probably have the choice of golden yellow beets as well.  This salad is great with a mix of both, and I actually prefer the yellow ones because I find them milder in flavour - perfect for someone who thinks they don't like beets!

2. Your beets might come with or without greens on top.  If they come with the greens, cut them off before roasting them, leaving about 1/2 inch of the stem attached to the beet.  The greens are edible and tasty, so you might want to fry them up in a pan.

That's it!  Easy, peasy.  I hope I've convinced you that beets aren't that bad and maybe this salad will make it into your winter rotation as well as your fall one!  Enjoy!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Last Taste of Summer Fish Tacos

Last week, Scott came home from work and said, "You can feel the cooler breeze in the air. This kind of weather puts me in a much better mood!"

For those of us a little less gung-ho about the end of summer, this recipe, requested by my aunt in Ontario, will help eek out the last drops of summer before turning to cooler weather fare.  Hopefully you will have one of those beautiful, hot autumn evenings this weekend so that you can close your eyes, ignore the leaves that have already started to turn, and pretend it's still July!

Yesterday, my dad was complaining that it takes too much time to cook and that he needs something he can make quickly after golf.   Well, your wish is my command - here it is! (I wonder if my family members will stop talking to me once they realize their off-handed comments are fodder for this blog...)

You can make both the slaw and the salsa a few hours ahead of time (i.e. before golf), and then quickly grill the fish at the last minute.

This recipe makes enough for 4 small tacos, which served the two of us just fine.


1/4 head of red cabbage, sliced as thinly as you can
1 Tbsp honey
Juice of 2 limes
pinch of salt
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1 cup of mango (I used frozen mango, thawed, since I couldn't get fresh), diced
Half an avocado, diced
1 Tbsp red onion, diced
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of half a lemon
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Fresh jalapeño, minced (as much as desired, optional) I used 1 tsp...

2 pieces flakey, white fish (I used tilapia because it is firmer than some others)
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cumin

4 small soft tortilla shells.


1. Mix the honey, lime juice, salt, and olive oil together.  Pour it over the sliced cabbage.  Cover and refrigerate.

2. Mix the mango, avocado, red onion, cilantro, and jalapeño together.  Pour lemon juice and olive oil over top.  Cover and refrigerate.

3. Mix the olive oil, salt, pepper, cayenne, and cumin together.  Rub this paste over the fish.  Cover and refrigerate.

4. When you get home from golf, cycling, jogging, etc, grill the fish on a preheated grill plate on the barbeque, or cook it on a baking sheet under the broiler in the oven.   Watch it carefully so that it doesn't overcook.  It will only take 5-8 minutes.  Flip it over halfway through cooking.

5. Top each tortilla shell with the cabbage slaw, half a piece of fish, and the mango/avocado salsa.  Enjoy!


1. You will have half an avocado leftover.  Look here for suggestions.

3. With the leftover cabbage, the New York Times did an entire article on red cabbage recipes for health.  Personally, I like to eat it raw...

Shopping Tips:

1. Remember that avocado should be just soft to the touch (like a peach) when it is ripe.  The smaller, darker Hass variety are more flavourful than the ones that are larger and lighter in colour.

2. Jalapeños are actually quite mild, so don't be afraid of trying some fresh chilli in your salsa.  The seeds and the white membrane are the hottest, so if you want less heat, just use the flesh.  Also, make sure you wash your hands immediately after cutting them and avoid touching any sensitive areas!

Here's hoping that you have the chance to enjoy a wonderful whole fresh and delicious dinner outside...

Monday, September 2, 2013

Cauliflower and Kale Barley Risotto

 Risotto is something that I always thought was hard to make - until I learned how to make it. It is not something you can get in a restaurant - at least not the traditional kind because it has to be stirred quite frequently in order to get its telltale  "creaminess".  This creaminess comes from developing the starches when you stir.  Restaurants usually cheat and add cream instead, which adds unnecessary calories and fat.  Even traditional risotto is made with white arborio rice, butter, and parmesan cheese.

This recipe does not use butter and substitutes barley instead of rice for added fibre and nutrients.  There is also an option to use nutritional yeast instead of parmesan cheese, which will significantly cut calories and add great nutrition.  Nutritional yeast is an inactive form of yeast that is a by-product of molasses manufacturing.  If that scares you, the smell is reminiscent of the "cheese" packets that come in a box of KD - something I'm sure we are all familiar with.  Nutritional yeast is also high in protein, vitamin B-12, fibre, and folic acid.  It tastes great, too.

This recipe will serve two as a main course or four as a side.  Total cooking time is 30 - 40 minutes, but don't let that deter you - it's well worth the wait!


2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small head cauliflower
Half a small red onion
1 clove of garlic
2/3 cup of pot barley
1/4 cup of white wine
2 cups or a bit more of low-sodium vegetable stock
4 kale leaves
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast (or 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese)
2 Tbsp fresh dill
salt, pepper

1 baking sheet, 1 small pot, 1 medium pot


1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Warm the vegetable stock in a small pot.

2. Cut cauliflower into florets.  Place on baking sheet with space between each floret (if you crowd them, they will steam instead of brown).  Drizzle with 1 Tbsp of the olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Turn once and bake for another 10 minutes.

3. Dice onion and, in a medium sized pot, sauté in 1 Tbsp olive oil until translucent but not brown.  While this is happening, mince the garlic.

4. When onions are ready, add the dry pot barley and stir for about 30 seconds so that the barley soaks up the oil.

5. Add the minced garlic and white wine and stir until the wine is almost gone.

6. Add one ladle full of the warm vegetable stock  and stir until the stock is almost gone.  Continue to add ladles of stock one at a time while stirring frequently.  Wait until each ladle full is almost gone before adding the next one.  Don't be afraid to stir vigourously.

7. While the barley is cooking, cut the stems out of the kale and then slice the leaves into ribbons.  Chop the dill.  Keep going back to the stove and stirring the barley and adding more stock.  When the stock is about 2/3 gone, add the kale to the barley pot.

8. During this time, the cauliflower will finish cooking.  Let it cool for a couple of minutes, and then chop it into small bite-sized pieces.

9.  After you have added all the stock to the barley, taste it to see if it is tender (it will take about 25 - 30 minutes to add all the stock).  It will be chewy, but it should be the same consistency throughout.  Don't worry about whether or not it is the right consistency, ask yourself if it is the consistency you want to eat it.  If it is not, cook it some more.  If you need more liquid, just use some warm water.

10. After you add the last bit of liquid, do not let it reduce all the way, the final consistency should be a bit runny.  If you accidentally reduce it too much, no sweat, just add a bit more warm water.

11. Turn off the heat.  Add the nutritional yeast (or parmesan cheese), cauliflower, and dill.  Enjoy!


1. If you are not familiar with kale, don't like kale, or don't want to buy a bunch of it for only four leaves, you can use spinach instead.

2. As stated above, you can use parmesan instead of nutritional yeast, but I would really encourage you to try it.

3. You could use the same amount of arborio rice instead of barley if you want a more traditional risotto.

4. Again, if you are not drinking white wine with your meal and don't want to buy a bottle for just a small amount, you can use vegetable stock instead (although the taste will be slightly different).

5. If you don't have a red onion, you can use a regular white or yellow one.  You could also use shallot instead.

Shopping Tips:

1. The cauliflower in my pictures is purple, obviously.  I get it at the farmers market and like to use it because it has more antioxidants than the white kind, and it is prettier.  The taste is the same.  They also have an orange variety, which tastes the same, but has the added benefit of betacarotene.  The green variety is a hybrid with broccoli, so it shares a few of the same benefits, but it also shares some of the flavour, so it will definitely change the taste of this dish.  If you can only find the white variety, use it!

2. Pot barley is less refined than pearl barley, so it is more nutritious.  Hulled barley is 100% whole grain, but will take twice as long to cook, so it is better for soups and stews.

3. Buy the same kind of wine that you are going to drink with your meal.  Do not buy cooking wine!  I don't drink very often, so I buy a bottle of alcohol-free wine from the grocery store and keep it in the fridge for cooking - it lasts a long time that way.  It also saves me from having to make a special stop at the liquor store.

4. The kale you see in my pictures is flat-leaf kale that I got at the farmers market.  If you buy it at the grocery store, it will probably be curly. You may have a choice of green or purple kale - it doesn't matter what you buy.

5. Nutritional yeast is usually sold in the bulk section of health stores, but you may be able to find it in the organic/health food aisle of your grocery store.  Do not look in the baking section - you will not find it there!


1. If you have leftover risotto, you will have to reheat it on the stove by adding more stock.  If you try to reheat it in the microwave, it will probably end up gummy and gross.

2. With the leftover kale, you can sauté it, add it to soup, or make kale chips - there are tons of recipes online.

3. The nutritional yeast can be saved in an airtight container for a very long time.  It is also very good sprinkled over popcorn...

If you haven't noticed already, this recipe is vegan.  Don't tell anyone, though.  It is so good that they will never notice!