Sunday, November 25, 2012

pea soup

As I write this, I have as background, 2 boys building a lego warship and tank, complete with conversation about ships and airplanes and other stuff important to 6 year old boys (poo figures prominently - why?). I'm trying to stiffle my giggles from time to time so they don't realize I'm listening.

Lego warship
Onward to the recipe. I've been trying to clear out my fridge and freezer as recently they both were full to bursting and it was beyond ridiculous. And in a few weeks (gasp!) it will be Christmas and I will need to stuff a whole lot of food into both so I've been on a kick to clear out both. I discovered 3 bags of frozen peas in the freezer - apparently 2 were so well hidden that I bought more thinking I was out. So this week I made pea soup. The recipe is from America's Test Kitchen. I've made it before, when I had people over for lunch and was going to make broccoli soup but mysteriously the broccoli bits I thought were in the freezer were not, and all I managed to find was peas, so made pea soup from the same recipe as the broccoli soup recipe.

It is simple and quick and just the thing for a cold, wet November evening with a loaf of herby, garlicy french bread and a salad.

Pea Soup (from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

2 tbsps butter
1 onion, minced
2 tbsp flour
4 c low-sodium vegetable stock
1 1/2 lbs frozen peas, pulsed in a food processor
1/3 c heavy cream

Melt the butter over medium high heat in a saucepan. Add the onion and a few pinches of salt and cook until the onion is soft. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Slowly stir in the stock, whisking until smooth. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the peas to the stock and simmer until tender, about 7-10 minutes. Puree the soup until smooth. Add the cream and salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

Friday, November 23, 2012


A couple of weeks ago, I was so excited I actually posted on my facebook status "so excited to be at a book signing". Deb, of Smitten Kitchen came to Vancouver and there I was, sitting (I got to the bookstore extremely early) looking through Deb's lovely book, drooling over the pictures and planning which recipes to cook. I was so lucky to have a seat and then be second in line to have my book signed as there was a huge line up. Deb was so lovely and funny and charming.

chatting with Deb as she signed my book
I told her I'd just made a version of her pot pies which she posted on her blog shortly before the book tour. I made our version with spinach and bacon in lieu of chard and pancetta and I did one big pie instead of individual ones but the pastry was divine and the stew, well, it is a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs, pile of deliciousness. It could, indeed, as Deb writes in the book notes about the recipe, stand on its own, but the pastry is so divine, why not make it as well. (I'm paraphrasing).

Spinach, bacon and white bean pot pie (adapted from smitten kitchen blog and book)
2 cups (250 grams) all- purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
13 tablespoons (185 grams or 1 stick plus 5 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, diced
6 tablespoons (90 grams) sour cream or whole Greek yogurt (i.e., a strained yogurt)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) white wine vinegar
1/4 cup (60 ml) ice water
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
4 ounces (115 grams or 3/4 to 1 cup) diced bacon
2 small onions, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 large stalk celery, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
10 ounces of spinach, sliced
3 tablespoons (50 grams) butter
3 tablespoons (25 grams) all- purpose flour
3 cups (765 ml) low- sodium vegetable broth
2 cups white beans, cooked and drained

Make pastry: In the bowl of a food processor combine the flour and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is broken up into quarter size pieces. In a small dish, whisk together the sour cream, vinegar, and water, and combine it with the butter-flour mixture. Pulse until a craggy dough forms. Dump out onto a floured counter and pull and pat it into a flattish ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill it in the fridge for 1 hour or up to 2 days.

Make filling: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium- high heat in a large, wide saucepan, and then add the bacon. Brown the bacon (about 10 minutes) then remove it with a slotted spoon, and drain it on paper towels. Add onions, carrot, celery to the pan with the bacon drippings and a few pinches of salt, and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are softened and begin to take on color, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute more. Add the greens and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Season with additional salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Transfer all of the cooked vegetables to a bowl with the bacon, and set aside.

Make sauce: Wipe out the large saucepan, then melt the butter in the saucepan over medium- low heat. Add the flour, and stir with a whisk until combined. Continue cooking for 2 minutes, stirring the whole time, until it begins to take on a little color. Whisk in the broth, scraping up the bits that were stuck to the bottom. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce it to a simmer. Cook the sauce until it is thickened and gravylike, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the white beans and reserved vegetables and bacon into the sauce.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Assemble and cook: Pour the filling into an ovenproof dish. Roll out the dough into a round large enough to cover the dish with an overhang. Whisk the egg wash and brush it lightly around the top rim of your bowl and drape the pastry over each, pressing gently to adhere it. Brush the lid with egg wash, then cut decorative vents to let the steam escape.

Bake until crust is lightly bronzed and filling is bubbling, about 40 to 45 minutes.

As I assembled the pie, I remembered my English grandmother making steak and kidney pie. She used to put an egg cup in the middle of the pie to support the pastry as it cooked. I was missing her and her trusty pie dish. The pie emerged from the oven looking delightful,

but the pastry had dropped off on one side. I guess I pressed a bit too hard to get the pastry to stick to the top of the dish!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

bento pork from molly

I’ve been meaning to write about this recipe for ages. It comes from the wonderful Molly at remedial eating and it regularly appears on our dinner table. It is quick to make and delicious to eat. I’ve changed up Molly’s original recipe a bit by reducing the sugar but otherwise it is the same. I buy 1 lb packages of ground pork when it is on sale, so I usually have 2 or 3 stashed away in my freezer at any given time so when I stumped as to what to make for dinner, this is a great go to. The hardest part of this recipe was finding the mirin (Whole Foods) – now I just keep everything on hand and this is a breeze.

Bento Pork (from remedial eating)
1 lb ground pork (not sausage meat)
6 tbsp soy sauce (use the dark version here, the light version doesn’t have enough flavour or heft)
2 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp sake

Pour the soy sauce, mirin, sake and sugar into a saucepan and heat over a medium high heat to blend. Add in the pork and break it up with a wooden spoon. Let the mixture come to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer and leave to cook for 20-25 minutes. When most of the liquid has been absorbed and is dark and rich looking, it is ready to serve. Molly makes rice bowls with this which I usually do with leftovers (it is delicious with peanut sauce) but on dinner nights I usually serve this as bento pork tacos. Our go to toppings include broccoli cole slaw mix, avocado slices and a smear of mayonnaise mixed with seafood sauce. Every time I make it I thank Molly for posting the recipe.

Cheers to Molly.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

stuffed peppers

A few weeks ago, I was super organized one night and managed to cook up a big batch of farro, one of black beans and one of white beans to hide in my freezer for future use. I was inspired by a lovely post by Molly over at Remedial Eating about stuffed zucchini. My garden had closed for the summer and I had no zucchini bats so I bought some red peppers to stuff. I thought I had some ground turkey to use in the recipe but a cursory dig through my perennially stuffed freezer just yielded a load of mango popsicles and pots of pesto. A rumage through my vegetable drawer yielded some carrots, celery and some small purple turnips. So with this recipe from Ottolenghi in my mind, I made a pepper stuffing using farro, carrots, celery, a bit of chopped ham and diced turnip. With some gruyere cheese grated over the top, it was a lovely supper and my husband loved the leftovers.

Farro, Ham and Turnip Stuffed Peppers (inspired by Molly at remedial eating and this recipe from Ottolenghi)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 small turnips, diced
1 small zucchini, halved and diced
1 handful corn kernels
1 tsp tomato paste
1 large slice cooked ham, diced
1 c cooked farro
3 medium red pepper, halved and deseeded
salt and pepper
1 c grated gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and saute for a few minutes until tender. Add the carrots, celery and turnips and continue cooking until the vegetables are slightly tender. Add the zucchini, corn, tomato paste and ham and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the farro, stir to mix and cook together for a few minutes to meld everything together and season with salt and pepper. Lay the pepper halves in a greased baking dish that will hold them all in a single layer. Scoop the filling into the peppers, mounding if necessary. Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the top of the peppers. Bake the peppers for 45-60 minutes.

embracing my inner tortoise

I mentioned a couple of months ago, that I’ve taken up running. I started off with the RFR C25K program but mid way I got a bit off track. I was suffering with shin splints and struggling with what time of day was best for me to run and then I was distracted by comments from other runners in the same program posting their daily distances. I hadn’t paid any attention to my distance – I was focused on moving for the required amount of time every training session. How would I get back on track? In the end, on the advice of a runner friend, I tried running with a group. My local running store has group runs so I took myself off there for a group run. What can I say? I nearly went home so many times in the first few minutes of arriving at the run location. The marathon group was running 32K that day, the half marathon group 18K. There wasn’t a slow 2K or 4K option. In the end, I joined the Learn to Run people who were near the end of their session so were running 10 minutes and walking 1. We left together and after a couple of minutes they were easily outpacing me. I was about to say,”don’t wait for me” when the group leader split from the rest of the group and stayed with me. The others ran ahead and ran 5K. With the help of the group leader who stayed with me the entire time, I ran and walked almost 4K. And the following week I signed up for a running clinic at the store. We’ve been running 3 times a week – this week we were up to running for 5 minutes, walking for 1, repeated 4 times. We’ve had sessions on running gear, shoes, biomechanics, nutrition and safety. We always run together after the class and have another 2 chances a week to run with the group. The timing has never worked for me for one of the runs so I’ve always had one solo run a week. But in the past couple of weeks I’ve learned a few things about myself. While one of my motivations for joining the clinic was to have a group to push me, there is part of me that resents being pushed. I’m always the slowest in our group runs. Always at the back of the pack and I’ve struggled with that. But I’m still running. I still go every week. Some of the other slower runners have dropped out but I’m still there. My fellow runners and group leaders are very encouraging but it is discouraging to always be the slowest. But I need to embrace that. I’m a slow runner. I represent the end of the loop, for the group when they loop back and get to me they get to turn around and go forward again. I’ve been running in the rain and the cold and that is what matters, not how fast I go or how far I go. I’m still running. And as one of my fellow runners said a few weeks ago “you are faster than all the people on their couches.”