Tuesday, September 25, 2012

beet hummus

Do you ever get beet fatigue?*

You know, when you look at your bag of cute little multi-coloured beets  from the farmers' market, no less  and catch yourself thinking that you've already eaten enough roasted beets this month?

And then you realize it just officially turned autumn four days ago and you'd better buck up and deal with it because these beets aren't going away for at least two more seasons?

Right, so that's how I felt while I was contemplating dinner tonight. Whiny and spoiled, with an over-abundant supply of baby beets.

Until I remembered this recipe I'd just read about for beet hummus. Like magic  like all the vitamins I would probably ingest from these very beets had already got to work  I perked right up.

I mean, look at this:

It's practically electric pink! Just the thing to cheer you up in the fall. And the winter. And the spring.

Also, it tastes like it looks: bright and smooth and I-need-more-on-my-cracker-right-now-ish.

The original recipe calls for pine nuts, but I only had pecans  which I roasted first  and threw in. Having tried it this way, I don't think I'll be able to try it any other. And if you save a few extra pecans, you can put them on random beet-hummus-crackers to make little nut buttons. How cute is that?

Beet hummus: the cure for beet fatigue.

*Beet fatigue is a more specific symptom of root vegetable fatigue. It should not be indulged until the spring greens start shooting up.

one year ago: parsley lentil pasta
two years ago: mrs. doucet's apple chutney

beet hummus
slightly adapted from laura calder
yields about 2 cups

2 small-medium beets
1/3 c. pecans (or pine nuts)
250 - 300 g. (about 1 1/2 c.) cooked or canned chickpeas
1/3 c. tahini
2 garlic cloves, crushed
juice of 1 large lemon, to taste
salt* and pepper
1/3 - 1/2 c. olive oil

First, roast the beets. Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Wrap each beet in aluminum foil and put it on a casserole dish (in case it leaks bright red beet juice into your oven). Roast 25 - 35 minutes, until tender and you can poke a sharp knife through them easily. Let them cool, then dice them.

While the beets are cooking, you can roast the pecans in the oven. They should take about 8 minutes  keep a careful eye on them. (Nuts love to burn!) Set a few aside on a plate.

Put the diced beets, roasted pecans (except the ones you've set aside), chickpeas, tahini, garlic and lemon juice into a food processor. Blend or pulse until smooth. Taste and add salt and pepper. Add the smaller amount of the olive oil and blend. Taste. If it's not loose enough, add more oil. Once you've got the right texture, taste again and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Don't be shy with the pepper and salt: they help temper the lemon and garlic (and salt tastes good!).

Spoon onto a serving dish and poke a few pecans on top, if you're feeling artsy. Serve with crackers. Keep extra hummus in the fridge.

*I used kosher salt, but you can use whatever you like.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

little house on the prairie

I find that Alberta is quite flat.

That's the Prairies, I guess.

As the sun goes down, it seems more west than west. The sun keeps dropping and dropping over the flat land, with no mountains to block it (just a flat little housing development).

I love this view.

I am working at home this month. Well, technically, I am working at our friends' home until we can get into our rental house in October.

We're out on the far western edge of Edmonton, and I sit at the dining room table pretending to work . . . but really I'm just looking out at this view.

Driving around today, I thought it would be the first day when I didn't need to pull over, check the map and turn the car around while careening my way around this foreign city. Then I almost drove the wrong way down a one-way street. So I guess I still have a lot to learn.

Gas station pump . . . They obviously have a sense of humour here.

But – with the help of friends – I have discovered a few sweet spots that are already helping Edmonton wiggle its way into my heart. 

There's the Swiss sandwich shop where I had the Italian Bride sandwich (so called because of a great circle of soft bocconcini) on a pretzel bun with prosciutto so thick I thought I couldn't possibly eat it all. But I could.

Then there's sweet little Mandolin, with a miniature café tucked into a used bookshop. They have a cookie that I believe is called "chocolate overdose." I ate it twice in two days and I didn't OD. In fact, I could eat it again right now.

And then there is the house where we're staying. The owners are wonderful gardeners and I wandered around this afternoon in the sunshine (again, while I was "working"), eating bits of lettuce and the last three raspberries of the season. I even discovered a whole row of carrots along the side of the house, just waiting to be pulled up and eaten.

Then I sat down again at the table and looked out the window.

I hope to show you a new recipe soon. But right now, it is enough to be settling in.

One year ago: pan-fried salmon with sugar and salt rub and hop & go fetch it: German edition
Two years ago: salted chocolate shortbread

Saturday, September 1, 2012

ode to victoria

Heidi's lemon poundcake

This is it.

Tomorrow, we cross the border from British Columbia to Alberta and start a new life.

We've been in a kind of summer vacation/limbo land for the past week and half, with visits to family outside of Vancouver and in Kelowna. We've made it half-way across the province, and now – and only now – it's sinking in that we're leaving so much behind in Victoria.

Last lunch at home in Victoria. Note the deluxe packing paper placemat.

I will miss Saturday mornings in Victoria. Going to ballet class* and then walking half a block to Habit, where I would look through the big glass windows and spot Scott reading the Saturday Globe. I would stare at him intently and wave madly and he wouldn't notice me at all. (This might be best, as I intend to stare and wave for the rest of our lives and this is probably a good coping mechanism. I have no shame.)

Then I would walk a couple of blocks in the other direction to Italian Food Imports to pick up tallegio and olives and rosemary ham for lunch. Oh, and one slice of provolone to snack on. (Scott says my favourite saying is: "Mmm. That was a good snack.")

Or, if we were feeling adventurous, I would pick up my husband and a chai tea to go at Habit, hop in the car (hopefully before we got a parking ticket), and drive out to Sooke to eat lunch at the Edge. Scott always got a deconstructed hamburger and I cycled through the other hot sandwiches: smoked tuna melt, housemade salami, you get the idea.

In a typical Victoria forest: Garry oaks, arbutus, big leaf maples

Then, we'd go for a walk on the boardwalk over Sooke Harbour and watch the crabbers. Sometimes, we'd drive a bit further to scramble along the rocky shores at East Sooke Park.

Some Saturday afternoons, I would meet my friends Heidi and Margot for afternoon tea – at the White Heather or, if we were very lucky, in Heidi's backyard.

And I will miss Sunday afternoons in Victoria. Packing a water bottle and snacks and driving 20 minutes in any direction to get completely out of the city and up a mountain or down to the water.

We'd often pick a hike near Smyth's farm, so we could pick up loganberries and leeks and corn and apple-pears and catch up with farmer Brett.

Shiro plums from Brett's farm

During the week, I will miss the rare morning when I could make my way to Fol Epi and Caffé Fantastico in Dockside Green. Sitting out on the patio and sipping Option B tea while I watched giant excavators move gravel from pile to pile along the inner harbour. Trying to slowly eat the very best pain au chocolat in the world. (I have not been to France and eaten pain au chocolat there. But I am confident Fol Epi would still have the best pain au chocolat. With fair-trade chocolate, no less.)

And lunch: I will miss going to Pure Vanilla with friends from work and trying to read the chalkboard menu while keeping an eagle eye for a table to open up.

Swartz Bay

Or going downtown for lunch at Relish. My friend Jenn introduced me to the crispy chicken bowl at Relish on the Thursday before we moved . . . But I still managed to get back there on our very last day in Victoria. I had the crispy chicken again because once you've tried it, it's hard to try anything else – even though the other parts of the menu did look intriguing.

And finally, I will miss the sweet, tucked-away Parsonage where it smells like fresh coffee and bacon frying, and the orange-date muffins are always warm out of the oven.

Victoria, I will miss you.

A ferry ride away

*Lest you think I'm a prima ballerina . . . I am very comfortable in the beginner ballet class. So much so that I've taken it more times than I would like to number on a public blog.

one year ago: pan-fried salmon with sugar and salt rub
two years ago: black & blue scotch berries and plant yourself some garlic (Edmontonians – how do you grow garlic?)