Wednesday, July 16, 2014

oatmeal chocolate cherry cookies

Oh, the power of a humble little cookie.

I work at CBC Radio and with all the government cutbacks over the last little while, morale is low. One Thursday a couple weeks ago, we were all bracing for yet another lay off announcement.

But that morning  before the announcement  we couldn't help but smile. My colleague Niall got up early and made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. He passed his "gratitude cookies" around with little napkins that thanked us for our hard work and said our work was valued.

It was such a small thing but also such a big thing.

It was a reminder that we are still doing good work and that people do care.

Also, his cookies were really good -- warm and comforting in the way that only oatmeal cookies can be. They reminded me how much I love making oatmeal chocolate chip (not raisin) cookies.

Now, making a chewy cookie gluten-free is not an easy feat. I dug out my favourite old Martha Stewart recipe, which I first came across back in 2004. You know, back when it seemed like Martha Stewart was the only reliable recipe provider on the whole world wide web?

This recipe also has the added bonus of calling for dried cherries and toffee bits. I didn't have the toffee bits, but I did have a leftover piece of marzipan calling my name, so I grated it up.

I pulled out my scale and weighed the gluten-free flours and hoped for the best . . .

And you know what?

They baked up chewy and rich, full of comfort and chocolate and cherries and marzipan. A small victory, but I'll take what I can get.

one year ago: asian slaw and silken chocolate mousse
two years ago: salmon with warm tomato basil oil and balancing tofino and the plane
three years ago: kristina's nuss kuchen and german zucchini soup
four years ago: honey orange cream and loganberry jelly

oatmeal chocolate cherry cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart
bakes about 24 3-inch cookies

1 1/2 c. wheat flour
     or gluten-free flours:
     60 g. sweet white sorghum flour
     40 g. pure oat flour*
     60 g. sweet rice flour
     50 g. tapioca starch
     1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 c. butter, room temperature
3/4 c. white sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. oatmeal
1 c. dried cherries, chopped
1 c. dark chocolate chips or pieces
1/4 c. marzipan pieces or 1 c. toffee pieces**

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line your cookies sheets with parchment paper.

Stir the flour(s), salt and baking soda together and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 2  3 minuets. Mix the egg in well. Follow with vanilla extract and make sure you scrape the sides of the bowl down. Slowly add the flour mix and stir until it's fully integrated. Stir in the oatmeal, cherries, chocolate and marzipan/toffee pieces.

Divide the dough into 3 and use plastic wrap to roll 3 logs that are about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Cut into 3/4 inch pieces and place fairly far apart on baking sheets. (I only put 6 on my regular cookie sheets because they like to spread.) If using gluten-free flours, chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

Bake until golden-brown, about 8  10 minutes. Let cool on the pan for a few minutes before removing to a rack.

* I make oat flour by grinding rolled oats in the food processor. Make sure you use "pure" oats, which are not grown near wheat or contaminated in processing.
** You should find toffee pieces in a bag next to the chocolate chips at the grocery store.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

summer salad template: warm asparagus kale salad

Salad doesn't interest me very much.

Usually, I just think, hmmm, fresh vegetables, nice. At home, we make perfectly nice lettuce salads with a simple vinaigrette . . . but I almost never go back for seconds.

Occasionally, and I mean occasionally, a salad makes me sit up straight and look at the big blue glass salad bowl to make sure I can eat some more.

Tonight, we happened upon one of those salads.

We had tender young kale and some local asparagus that needed to be eaten stat. I ripped up the raw kale and tossed it in the bowl, while I set the asparagus to boiling in salted water.

While the asparagus was simmering away, I pulled out a mug and made the vinaigrette. I wanted fairly strong flavours since I knew the asparagus would be sturdy and assertive.

I pulled out the Japanese ume plum vinegar from the back of the cupboard because it has a special kind of round salty flavour to it. Put a splash of that in the mug  maybe one tablespoon? Pulled out the grainy mustard and dropped in a teaspoon or so. Ground salt and pepper over. Drizzled as much maple syrup as I could get from the end of the syrup bottle  maybe three teaspoons?

Whisked it all together and started drizzling in fruity olive oil. I would say I used about three tablespoons of oil all together. Tasted and added another teaspoon of grainy mustard. Tasted again.

When the asparagus was bright green and tender-crisp, I chopped it into inch-long lengths and threw it on the kale. Spooned some vinaigrette over and sent it to the table.

It was absolutely heavenly. Suddenly we had a new summer salad template: raw kale with something steamed or boiled or roasted thrown on top and mixed with vinaigrette. I remembered to take a picture about 30 seconds before we ate it all.

With our bumper crop of kale, we will do this throughout the summer. I think you should, too.

You can make endless variations on the vinaigrette. Start with some kind of vinegar  red wine, sherry, rice  and mix it bit with a bit of mustard and something sweet, like maple syrup, honey or sugar. Grind a good amount of salt and pepper over it. Then slowly whisk in any kind of oil you like, about three times as much as the vinegar you used. Taste, season again, and toss with your summer salad.

Here's to summer salads!

Bonus photo!
North Saskatchewan River at 10:15 p.m. on the summer solstice.

one year ago: chewy granola bars and longest day link love
two years ago: hop & go fetch it: pacific rim edition and penne with sausage and greens
three years ago: tomato cheddar soufflé with asparagus and kathleen claiborne's hot cakes
four years ago: chilli pasta

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

quick zucchini sauté

I first learned to cook zucchini this way last November.

Now   boom!   I can't seem to cook it any other way.

I was hosting a book club potluck dinner where we were reading (that means cooking) Deb Perelman's recipes from Smitten Kitchen. I already make lots of Deb's recipes (hello, dilled potato and cucumber salad!) but I wanted to try something new for the potluck.

At the same time, I was short on time and ingredients. I was also busy cleaning the house and setting the table for eleven. I had a zucchini in the fridge and found what looked like the easiest recipe on the site.

I was doubtful. I mean, four ingredients and you think it will be amazing? I threw it all together on the stove as the first book clubbers trickled in and set up their dishes.

It took all of five minutes and it changed my world when it comes to zucchini. I don't quite know how to describe it but to say that just a few slivers of toasty almonds really set off the zucchini and the shavings of parmesan make it feel very chic.

It is a very pleasing dish and possibly the best part   besides how it tastes   is that it's equally good at room temperature. That's right: you can make this a few minutes before your guests arrive for a dinner party and you will all be happy campers.

one year ago: chewy granola bars and longest day link love
two years ago: hop & go fetch it: pacific rim edition and penne with sausage and greens
three years ago: tomato cheddar soufflé with asparagus and kathleen claiborne's hot cakes
four years ago: chilli pasta

quick zucchini sauté
via smitten kitchen inspired by the red cat, nyc
as deb notes, you don't really need to measure anything here  just throw it in

  2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. sliced almonds
  2 small zucchini, chopped into small matchsticks
salt and pepper
a few shavings of parmesan cheese*

Heat your skillet or heavy-duty frying pan over medium. Add the olive oil and swirl to warm it up. Stand back (in case the oil spatters) and throw in the almonds. Give them a few stirs. Cook for 1   2 minutes until toasted. Throw in the zucchini and grind a bit of salt and pepper over it. Give them a few quick stirs and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending how big your zucchini is: you're really just warming the zucchini, not cooking it.

Serve hot or at room temperature with a few thin shavings of parmesan cheese.

*I find a sharp vegetable peeler works very well for shaving the parmesan

Thursday, June 12, 2014

penne with smoked trout and asparagus

Thirty-six minutes.

I timed myself twice and that's how long it takes me to make this dinner.

I hope it's still asparagus season where you live, so you can see if you can make it in 36 minutes, too.

And if it's not, maybe you could cheat and buy some California asparagus?

I won't tell.

I would never have thought of combining asparagus, smoked trout and dill with horseradish, but let me tell you: it works.

It all comes together in a tasty, summer-is-so-close-I-can-feel-it kind of way. And did I mention the 36 minutes?

Now, perhaps like me, you're also new to the world of smoked trout.

Good news! We discovered smoked trout at the grocery store a few months ago because it's half the price of smoked salmon . . . and turns out to be equally good with cream cheese on bagels. It also freezes beautifully (yes, I am turning into my mother), so we usually use half the package and freeze the rest.

Turns out, half a package of smoked trout is exactly what you need to make this for dinner. Tonight. In 36 minutes.

one year ago: asparagus and cheese sauce on toast
two years ago: chinese-canadian lettuce wraps and loganberry vinegar
three years ago: oregon hazelnut salad and blueberry rhubarb rum jam
four years ago: chocolate peanut butter oatcakes

penne with smoked trout and asparagus
slightly adapted from canadian living
serves 4

450 g. (1 lb.) asparagus
340 g. (12 oz.) penne
1 c. frozen peas
1 c. (about 115 g./4oz.) smoked trout or smoked salmon, chopped 
1/4 c. fresh dill or parsley, minced
2 tbsp. prepared horseradish
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 c. thick plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
splash of white wine

Snap the old ends off the aparagus and cut into 2.5 cm (1 inch) pieces. Set aside.

Bring a big pot of water to a boil and salt it well. Cook the pasta for about 9 minutes, until it's about 2 minutes from being cooked to al dente. Throw in the asparagus and peas; cook until the pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes. Scoop out 1 cup of the cooking water and set aside. Drain the pasta, peas and asparagus and put back in the pot.

Stir in the reserved cooking water, trout, dill, horseradish, olive oil and yogurt. Add a splash of white wine and stir in. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

buttermilk cookies en route to calgary

I firmly believe that road trips should involve at least one small tub of homemade cookies.

Poppyseed rugelach have been a favourite, as have salted chocolate cookies. Right now, I'm really into buttermilk cookies.

These cookies are pale-gold and soft, with a smear of just-sweet buttermilk glaze. I think of them like a muffin in my ideal world, even though they are not like a muffin at all. I mean that they're small, and they taste good, and they feel just a little bit virtuous, like they're a legitimate snack. You know? (If only real world muffins lived up to those ideals.)

So, we needed cookies for a road trip to Calgary and these are the cookies we ate. Calgary is just three hours away from Edmonton, due south down a highway that boasts rolling grain fields and speeding black SUVs.

Now that we live in Edmonton we're not supposed to like Calgary. In fact, I staunchly defended Edmonton as the much superior city in Alberta . . . until I actually visited Calgary last weekend.

Of course, Edmonton is still the best but Calgary, well 

There's that mountain-blue river winding along next to downtown.

There's that friendly little diner that is so amazing we ate there twice in one weekend.

There's that perfect meat  specifically, tuna conserva, roast chicken and steak with chimichurri sauce.

There's that fantastic shoe store and all your friendly people . . .

Calgary, I just might need to visit again.

See how happy I am at this diner?
I believe I could live here, sipping cream of assam tea.

one year ago: cauliflower and mull cheddar soup
two years ago: mango love on oahu
three years ago: dutch marzipan cookies (also an excellent road trip cookie)
four years ago: asparagus on pizza and chocolate nut balls

buttermilk cookies with lemon zest
slightly adapted from Orangette adapted from Gourmet
bakes about 40 little cookies

for the dough
1 1/2 c. wheat flour
     or gluten-free:
     60 g. sorghum flour
     30 g. almond flour
     60 g. sweet rice flour
     60 g. tapioca starch
     1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
85 g. (6 tbsp.) butter, at room temperature
130 g. (3/4 c.) sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
80 g. (1/3 c.) well-shaken buttermilk

for the glaze

3/4 c. icing (confectioner's) sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tbsp. well-shaken buttermilk
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Prepare two big cookie sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whisk the flour(s), baking soda and salt together. Stir in the lemon zest.

Beat the butter until creamy, and then beat the sugar in until pale and fluffy. Beat the egg in. Mix the vanilla in. Alternate between stirring the flour mixture and the buttermilk in. Your dough should end up smooth and pale yellow.

Make small cookies by dropping tablespoons full of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 4 cm (1 1/2 inches) spaces between. If you used gluten-free flours, chill for at least 10 minutes in the fridge.

Bake one sheet at a time for about 11  15 minutes, until the cookies have puffed up and they look slightly golden around the edges (or are golden on their undersides). Let the cookies cool for a minute on the tray; then transfer them to a wire rack.

While the cookies are baking, prepare the glaze. Whisk the icing sugar, buttermilk and vanilla together until it's very smooth. Use a teaspoon to spoon the glaze onto the warm cookies.

Leave cookies on the rack until they're cooled and the glaze is set. Store in an airtight container for a few days or in the freezer for longer, layering with parchment paper.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

may link love

My garden: brave tulips!

A few good things we've been eating lately:

Caramel apple granola. Yup.

I devoured Megan Gordan's Whole-Grain Mornings like a novel, and now I'm cooking my way through it. I have eleven (!) recipes bookmarked. So far, I'm loving the oatmeal with oats toasted in butter, honeyed ricotta and homemade hazelnut milk.

To enjoy the last bit of cold weather: three-cheese lasagna with Italian sausage.

To usher in spring: this pasta with creamy yogurt, peas, feta cheese and pine nuts.

For dessert: flourless chocolate peanut butter cookies. Bet they'd also be good with hazelnut butter.

one year ago: iranian desert figs and spring in a jar: rhubarb syrup
two years ago: grilled chicken sandwiches with avocado and havarti
three years ago: sour cream coffee cake
four years ago: swedish tea cookies

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 work. 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.