Saturday, April 19, 2014

lentil soup with chorizo croûtes

This marks the first year that I've celebrated Good Friday by going cross-country skiing.

You might think: Oh, she went away to the mountains for the long weekend; how nice. 

Um, no. I'm still here in the middle of the Prairies and I went skiing by the river that's five minutes' drive away from my house.

Let me tell you about April in Edmonton. First, the snow melted. Second, my tulips started poking up in front of the house. Third, it snowed again. Fourth, the snow melted again and my tulips grew some more. Fifth (Good Friday), it snowed again, so we went skiing, made a big pot of soup, and (hopefully) drank our last hot chocolate of the season.

I thought I'd be into spring recipes right now, but I've got to be true to the season where I live. Believe me, there is no rhubarb or stinging nettle growing here.

Anyway, I don't really mind because I do love this soup.

You take fun lentils  like du Puy or beluga  and cook them up with herbs, carrots and onions until they're tender enough to be puréed. A couple whirs of the immersion blender and they're lovely and smooth.

But you don't stop there. You fry thin slices of chorizo sausage in good olive oil until they curl and become just slightly crispy. This also gives you a pretty, red oil that you swirl on top of the soup (because who doesn't like making things look fancy?).

The chorizo croûtes float on top of the soup, just waiting for your spoon to find a treasure of salty, chewy goodness amongst the smooth, earthy lentils.

You see why I like this soup? It's also pretty quick to make after dinner. Even if you forget to soak the lentils, that just adds an extra ten or twenty minutes to the total cooking time, while you're washing dishes or setting the table.

Winter, you're not so bad. (But I'm still looking forward to spring.)

more lentil love: parsley lentil pasta, spiced red lentil stew with greens and lemonred lentil coconut curry soup
one year ago: stinging nettle soup
two years ago: gouda and roasted pepper dip
three years ago: a baked banana revelation
four years ago: butterscotch pudding and chocolate cheesecake

lentil soup with chorizo croûtes
via french taste by laura calder
serves 4

1 c. (200 g.) beluga or du Puy lentils*
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 good-sized thyme sprig
4 c. (1 litre) chicken stock
salt and pepper
juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon
about 3 tbsp. (45 ml) olive oil
1 cured chorizo sausage, sliced thinly

Soak the lentils in cold water for 2 hours.** While your lentils are soaking, put your onion, carrot, bay leaf, thyme and chicken stock into a good pot with a heavy bottom. Drain the lentils and stir them into the pot. Cover and simmer until the lentils are very tender, about 30  45 minutes.

Turn the heat off and, remove the bay leaf and thyme. Once it's not simmering, purée with an immersion blender. If you're using a traditional blender, let the lentils cool a bit and then purée in two batches. Stir half the lemon juice into the soup. Taste and season with salt and pepper. It's also possible you'll need more lemon. Reheat gently.

In a small, heavy-bottomed frying pan, heat the olive oil. Fry the chorizo slices until they just curl, about 30 seconds. Flip and fry another 15 seconds. Remove to a plate lined with paper towel.

Ladle soup into bowls. Swirl a little chorizo oil on top of each soup. Top with chorizo croûtes.

*Laura says that any bean will work, including chickpeas and white beans, but I haven't strayed from lentils. However, the lighter colour of chickpeas and white beans could be especially pretty with the red chorizo oil.
**If you don't have time, don't worry about it. Just soak them for a few minutes while you prepare your carrot, onion, and herbs. Your lentils will just take a bit longer to cook through.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

spicy salmon broth

We like to think of Nick Nairn as our resident Scottish genius. His book, New Scottish Cookery, sits on the bookshelf in our living room and we're constantly pulling it out to cook or look for ideas.

He came up with this spicy salmon broth, and my half-Scottish husband Scott found it there.

Scotland, I thank you. Even though this is pretty much as Asian a recipe as you can get.

Whatever nationality it truly is, it's brilliant because it comes together quickly say 30 to 45 minutes and is an excellent way to stretch salmon when you're on a budget.

You start by softening ginger, garlic, hot chillis and lemongrass in a bit of oil. Then you stir in the stock, fish sauce and fresh lime juice.

Then, for a mere two minutes, you add the shallots, green onion, cilantro and thinly-sliced pieces of salmon. The salmon cooks in a flash, and stays tender and aromatic in the soup, while the herbs stay fresh and the shallots keep their crunchy goodness.

Ladle it into bowls with some tattie scones on the side and you're in fusion heaven.

Now, a couple of notes.

I used to be afraid of fish sauce because it stinks. Then Mark Bittman told me that it only smells like old socks until you cook it. This is true and it's a flavour not to be missed. Don't be scared of fish sauce.

If you live in Edmonton, most grocery stores don't carry fresh lemongrass. However, I have found it at Save On on 109th St. And, of course, the Asian stores would have it. If you live in Victoria, Thrifty carries lemongrass. Otherwise, you could try peeling a lemon (just the yellow, not the white pith) and chopping it finely for a similar effect let me know if you try it and how it works.

one year ago: chocolate peanut butter mice with licorice tails
two years ago: zeppelin pancakes
three years ago: gumdrop cookies
four years ago: red lentil coconut curry soup

spicy salmon broth
slightly adapted from new scottish cookery by nick nairn
serves 6

2 tbsp. neutral oil
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
4 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 large green jalapeño chilli, seeded and minced
1/2 1 red jalapeño chilli, seeded and minced*
2 lemongrass stalks, tough outer layer removed and minced
about 10 c. (2. 5 litres) chicken stock or fish stock
6 tbsp. Thai fish sauce
2 tbsp. soy sauce (light if you've got it)
juice of 2 3 limes
2 shallots, minced
6 green onions or chives, sliced finely
400 g. (scant 1 lb.) salmon fillet, cut into 5 mm (1/4 inch) slices
6 tbsp. cilantro, roughly chopped
freshly ground pepper

Set a heavy-bottomed soup pot over low medium heat. Heat the oil. Add the ginger, garlic, chillies and lemongrass. Stir often for about 8 minutes until softened.

Stir in the stock, fish sauce, soy sauce, and the juice of 2 limes. Once it boils again, simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the shallots, green onions, salmon and cilantro. Simmer for 2 minutes or until the fish is just cooked. Taste and season with pepper. If needed, add more lime and possibly more stock.

*Nick's original recipe calls for a fresh red chilli and a bird's eye chilli, seeded and cut into matchsticks. I am a heat wuss, so adapted it to use the more moderate jalapeños.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


This is my new favourite thing.

It's called a brigadeiro and I think I could eat about ten of them in a row.

(The only reason I haven't tried is that I need to save some for book club on Tuesday.)

I know, it looks like a plain old chocolate ball with plain old chocolate sprinkles on top.

That's what I thought, too.

But appearances can be deceiving. This is actually a little bit of dark-chocolate-dulce-de-leche heaven.

I know. Where have brigadeiros been my whole life?

In Brazil, it appears.

Apparently they're always served at children's birthday parties but while the adults say they're making them for the children, they're actually making them for themselves.

I found the recipe while I was madly hunting the internet for dessert recipes from Brazil.

You see, we're reading State of Wonder at book club and it's mainly set in Brazil. So we've got a Brazilian theme for the treats. (I suggested we all speak Portugese, too, but that idea doesn't seem to have taken off.)

So I found this recipe for brigadeiros and decided to make it because I already had all the ingredients in the house. That's pretty easy with just four ingredients: cocoa, sweetened condensed milk, butter and chocolate sprinkles. I also unearthed little tinfoil cups that I bought years ago on a whim  obviously foreshadowing my brigadeiro discovery.

The recipe itself is also simplicity in a heavenly form: cook the cocoa, sweetened condensed millk and butter together and watch magic happen.

The sweetened condensed milk caramelizes and almost becomes dulce de leche, even while it's binding with the chocolate and butter to create a whole new soft ball of deep, dark enchantment.

The final texture is so soft it almost melts but just manages to maintain its shape with the chocolate sprinkle coating and it is so, so good that the brigadeiro might just become your new favourite thing, too.

one year ago: night circus mice
two years ago: lemon gum drops
three years ago: up island
four years ago: sophisticated marshmallow squares

from cynthia presser 
rolls 30 35 small balls

2 tbsp. butter
300 ml. (10 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
3 tbsp. cocoa powder
chocolate sprinkles for rolling
little tinfoil cups for holding the brigadeiros

Get out a dinner plate and spatula, and set it aside.

Put the butter, sweetened condensed milk and cocoa in a medium pot with a good heavy bottom.  Turn the heat up to medium, and whisk often while it comes to a boil. Once it's boiling, set the timer for 10 minutes and keep stirring often to prevent it from sticking. Turn it down slightly if you think it's sticking but you want it to cook between a simmer and a rolling boil. The mixture will thicken, and by the end of the cooking time big bubbles will come to the surface as it boils.

Quickly use your spatula to scrape the mixture onto the plate. Set in the fridge for a couple of hours to cool and firm up. It will never get that firm, but it will be firmer by the time you go to roll the balls.

Put out a small bowl with chocolate sprinkles and set out about 30 foil cups. Butter your hands so the brigadeiros don't stick. Take a teaspoon of the mixture and roll it to make a bowl. Roll the ball in the sprinkles and place it in a little foil cup. Repeat, until you've made all your brigadeiros. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate until needed.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

salted butter break-ups

The salted butter break-up is like no cookie I've ever eaten.

I thought about calling it French shortbread, but that's not quite right.

Instead, it's like a crisp but still tender cookie shot through with layers of butter and salt.

Can you kind of see what I mean?

I am torn about the best part of the salted butter break-up: the taste or the process.

The taste, of course, is buttery with a haunting hint of sea salt. The crumb both shatters and gently releases itself in your mouth. (You see, I really can't decide if they are crisp or tender.)

And the process! Well, you roll out a big messy rectangle of dough, brush on some egg glaze, and bake until it puffs into a golden expanse of firm but slightly springy dough.

Once that big cookie is cool, you literally(!) break it up!

Seriously. You just break corners and work your way into the middle until you have pleasing shards of cookie that are perfect alongside your afternoon tea.

Or  if you make this for a dinner party  you can just bring the whole big cookie to the table and let your guests break it up. How fun is that?

All my gratitude goes to the lovely Isabelle from The Little Red Kitchen, who first gave my Celiac husband a little container of these break-ups and said I could eat one, and who also converted them to be gluten-free. And, of course, many thanks for introducing me to Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table, from which these break-ups originally come.

one year ago: spiced red lentil stew with greens and lemon
two years ago: cheddar corn chowder
three years ago: grand forks borscht
four years ago: canadian boterkoek

salted butter break-ups
via the little red kitchen 
adapted from around my french table by dorie greenspan

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
     or gluten-free:
     127 g. (4.5 oz) tapioca starch
     42 g. (1.5 oz) sweet rice flour
     42 g. (1.5 oz) sorghum flour
2/3 c. sugar
3/4  1 tsp. sel gris* or kosher salt
9 tbsp. (127 g./4.5 oz) cold butter, cut into 18 pieces
 5 tbsp. cold water
1 egg yolk, for the glaze

Pour the flour(s), sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. Drop the butter in and pulse until it loks like coarse meal with pea-sized and smaller pieces. While the machine is running, slowly add some of the cold water. Only add enough water to make a dough that almost forms a bowl. It will be very malleable.

Move the dough onto a big clean cutting board and form it into a square. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for about 1 hour (or up to 3 days).

When it's time to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and make sure your rack is centred. Line your baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Roll the dough out between sheets of plastic wrap until it becomes a rough rectangle that's about 1/4-inch thick and about 5 by 11 inches. Peel it onto your prepared baking sheet.

Whisk the egg yolk with a few drops of cold water, and use a pastry brush to brush the dough with the egg glaze.

Bake 30  40 minutes, or until golden. It should be firm to touch, but with a little spring when you press its centre. Dorie says the perfect break-up is crisp on the outside and still tender on the inside. When it's not too fragile, transfer it to a rack and let it cool to room temperature.

*Dorie says sel gris is "a moist, slightly grey sea salt with crystals that are large enough to be picked up individually." I used Maldon sea salt flakes and loved it.

Monday, March 3, 2014

eating out in japan

This is a bowl of udon noodle soup from a counter in Arashiyama, near Kyoto. It was good and cheap, and I happily ate it for lunch often while I was in Japan last October.

But I want to tell you about one particular lunch in Tokyo that my mom and I will always remember. (One particular lunch where I didn't bring my camera.)

We got off the subway under Mitsukoshi,* an expensive department store in the chic Ginza shopping district. It was Sunday afternoon and we had clearly joined the rest of Japan, who were also there to browse and shop.

I remembered Lonely Planet saying there were good food halls under Japanese department stores, and sure enough, we soon found ourselves amongst dozens of vendors and thousands of hungry shoppers.

My stomach growled and I saw gyoza. Six hot little dumplings were quickly packed into a clear plastic container, along with chop sticks and dipping sauce.

I turned around and saw my favourite Japanese vegetable  the lotus root  in salad incarnation. A big scoop was pushed into another clear plastic box, and I knew we just needed a drink.

Sure enough, there was a bottle of special green tea that you had to shake to release the green tea into the water. We paid for it and started looking around for a place to sit.

There was literally no corner that wasn't taken up by vendors and shoppers standing and buying food. I asked the man who sold me the green tea and he said to take the elevator up to the ninth floor.

We found the microscopic elevator and a clutch of 15 other people already waiting for it. Growing hungrier by the minute, we resigned ourselves to it.

Eventually, the elevator came and we packed ourselves in, arms and bags held as close as possible. At the next floor, we packed in as many people again and all rode up to the ninth floor together.

It was well worth the wait and the cramped ride up. Suddenly, we were out on a rooftop terrace with park benches and children running across patches of grass.

We found a bench and tore into our ten-dollar lunch. The gyoza squirted hot pork juice and the lotus root crunched in our mouths. We watched the children and looked out at the sunny Tokyo skyline and it couldn't have been better.

All that to say: I have finally added my favourite Japanese restaurants to hop & go fetch it. If you're visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima or Kasugai, these were my favourite places to eat.

* It appears that Mitsukoshi started in 1673 to sell kimonos. It sure sells a lot more than that now.

one year ago: panna cotta with red wine syrup
two years ago: caramel chocolate mousse
three years ago: grand forks borscht (the most popular recipe on this site!)
four years ago: yellow split pea dahl

Saturday, February 22, 2014

gluten-free crêpes

Saturday breakfast was suddenly interrupted.

There we were, lazily rolling crêpes with maple syrup, and then maybe with bakeapple syrup or Saskatoon berry syrup. We were piling warm raspberries and blueberries on top. We were cutting the bacon and sailing it through the extra syrup.

And then

I really try not to let taking photos get in the way of good, hot meals, but I was just struck by the fact that I hadn't shared my gluten-free crêpe recipe with you yet.

And that needed to be rectified before they were all eaten.

It was almost like a commercial break.

I think I had the photos done in about 30 seconds, and we were back to the rolling and syrup pouring.

I'd like to thank my dad for the original recipe, which had wheat flour. Dad would make these crêpes Sundays for lunch out of the cookbooks that contained all his breakfast specialities, like waffles and pancakes and a deep Swedish pancake.

These crêpes are lovely weekend morning food, because they're quick and roll up perfectly with just about any syrup you can think of.  

Now: back to breakfast.

one year ago: korean food in jasper
two years ago: eating out in vancouver, vancouver island and edmonton
three years ago: turnip puff to the rescue!
four years ago: olympic nanaimo bars

gluten-free crêpes*
makes about 15 9-inch crêpes
serves 4

35 g. chickpea and garbanzo bean flour

15 g. sorghum flour
35 g. brown rice flour
35 g. tapioca starch
35 g. potato starch
4 eggs
1 1/3 c. milk
2 tbsp. oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
butter to cook the crêpes

Heat a cast iron skillet or your
crêpe maker to medium or 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whisk the flours and starches together. Set aside. 

In another bowl, beat the eggs, milk and oil together. Add the flour slowly and blend well. Whisk in the salt and vanilla. 

Melt a pat of butter and spread it around your pan. Ladle in enough batter that you can tip the pan and swirl it to cover (that's about 1/4 cup for my 9-inch skillet). After a minute or two, the
crêpe should look cohesive and slightly drier. Wiggle your flipper under and edge and turn it over. Let it cook another 30 seconds to one minute, and remove to a plate to keep warm. 

Repeat with the butter and make your next
crêpe. And so on until you're out of batter. Serve.

*If you'd like to make this recipe with regular wheat flour, just substitute 1 cup (140 g.) wheat flour for the gluten-free flours.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

chocolate coconut macaroons

I am very picky when it comes to macaroons.

In fact, I often won't even try them because when I do, I find that the coconut is too dry and the whole cookie is too meh to fill the cookie-shaped hole in my stomach.

My poor husband has to eat them all the time because they're often the only gluten-free cookie he can get at a coffee shop or bakery. While I'm happy he has a cookie option, I'm sorry they're macaroons.

Which is why you could now knock me over with a feather, because all I can think about is when I can reasonably make another batch of these macaroons. I even bought an extra can of condensed milk and two bags of flaked coconut at the grocery store last weekend so that I'd be ready.

It all started when my friends Corey and Gina brought some over for a little party celebrating Scott's 40th. I didn't get to try any that night, but I stashed a few before I sent them home. After all, I had never eaten anything Corey baked that wasn't amazing.

The next morning, I thought I'd try one. It was so good that I ate another.

That was before noon. I ate another one right after lunch and then cut myself off.

The macaroons were fudgy and intensely chocolate-y. In fact, it was almost like eating a really good chocolate that was chewy and the size of cookie. You can see why I fell hard.

I begged Corey for the recipe and made them as soon as I could. So should you.

This is a macaroon I can whole-heartedly recommend. I would never feel sorry for anyone who had to eat this macaroon.

In fact, I would ask him to share it.

P.S. It's dollop of cream's four-year anniversary! I am going to make more macaroons to celebrate.

one year ago: chocolate ginger cookies and dutch babies
two years ago: gumdrop cake
three years ago: whisky marmalade and bacon-wrapped dates with almonds and olives
four years ago: muesli, lemon loaf and olympic nanaimo bars

chocolate coconut macaroons
adapted from diana rattray
bakes about 30 cookies

1 can (398 g./14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
3/4 c. (72 g./2.5 oz.) cocoa powder
2 tbsp. vegetable shortening
1/4 tsp. salt
2 2/3 c. (227 g./8 oz.) flaked coconut*
1 tsp. vanilla extract
a handful of chocolate chips to top the cookies

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Stir condensed milk, cocoa, shortening and salt together in the top of a double boiler, or bowl suspended over boiling water. Stir often until it's all melted together. Take it off the heat.

Mix the coconut and vanilla in well.

Drop rounded tablespoons of dough about 2.5 cm or 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheets. Press about 3 chocolate chips onto the top of each cookie.

Bake for about 12  14 minutes, until the cookies look set. Let cool on a wire rack.

*I'm really into flaked coconut right now because I like the texture so much better than shredded coconut. But I'm sure shredded would also work. Flaked should be right next to the shredded at your grocery store.

Monday, January 27, 2014

nuts and bolts

Well, I think you know how I feel about retro recipes.*

So how about some nuts and bolts?

My mother-in-law made a big batch of these at Christmas and every time she put a bowl out, we'd dip in and keep coming back until, in very short order, the bowl was completely empty.

I don't think I should even contemplate how many I ate on our day trip down to Seattle . . . but let me tell you, they are a perfect car snack. They're not messy, but they're super tasty and you've got at least two food groups with all the cereals and peanuts.

My mother-in-law made them gluten-free and my husband was so pleased that I knew I'd have to repeat them again soon at home.

And you know what?

They're a cinch. Basically, just mix a bunch of cereal with some oil and spices and bake.

I couldn't resist sampling a few before they went in the oven and they were darn good, but what happened in the oven was magical. The bolts slowly crisped and transformed themselves from separate cereals into one golden, cohesive snack mix.

I know you might be skipping down to the recipe now and might be astonished by the amount of oil called for . . .

What can I say?

This is a retro snack. I actually cut the oil from two cups to one and a half and it still tasted great. And this recipe makes a tonne of nuts and bolts (think: two of your biggest Tupperware containers overflowing).

So I don't think there's very much oil per serving. And the oil is, I truly believe, essential to create that lovely, golden, crisp finish.

Just try it. All the cool retro kids are doing it.

* That would be very, very positive.

one year ago: pan de yuca (colombian tapioca cheese buns), carrot and fennel soup
two years ago: tomato sauce with onion and butter, lemon syllabub
three years ago: naomi's granola, rosemary gruyère baked eggs

nuts and bolts
this makes a lot of nuts and bolts  enough to fill an industrial-size cookie sheet
all of these cereals  Chex, Cheerios and pretzels  are available gluten-free  

1/2  3/4 box Chex*
1 box Cheerios
1 bag pretzels
1 1/2 c. neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. celery salt
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 can roasted, salted peanuts

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour the cereals onto an industrial-size cookie sheet, or even two if you don't like nuts and bolts escaping onto the counter as you carefully mix them.

Whisk the oil with the Worcestershire sauce, celery salt and garlic powder. Alternately pour and mix them with the cereal until it's all mixed in. Don't worry if some spices are hanging out at the bottom of the bowl. Just scrape them out and put them on the cereal. This is a very forgiving recipe.

Stir every 15 minutes or so and bake for a total of two hours. When cool, toss with peanuts and eat.

*I used three-quarters of a 365 g. box because I love Chex. But the original recipe called for half a box.