Smokin' Bean Salad with Sprouts

Many years ago, when our kids were young, I copied a recipe from Lucy Wing for a delicious bean salad. Over the years, it’s been changed, adapted, and adjusted (and lost!) to the point where it doesn’t even resemble the original recipe any more. But I think fondly of the days when we were discovering our “family foods”. This one gets tweaked a little every time. Here’s today’s version:

Whisk together in  a large bowl, 15ml Dijon mustard (1T), 30ml cider vinegar (2T), and 15 ml olive oil (1T). Trim and blanch very slightly, a good handful of green beans. Plunge into cold water, and cut into bite-sized piecees. Rinse about 500ml (2c) of bean sprouts and add to the bowl. Then dice a large tomato and put that in. Pit and chop (large or small, your choice) some black olives. Add 500ml (2c) of cooked white beans (I used Great Northerns, which I had cooked with onion and rosemary, earlier in the week). Lastly, cheese. something sharp. Feta works, or an aged cheddar. In this case, Plank Road had some delicious applewood smoked cheddar. For a large bowl of salad, you don’t need much – 60g (a couple of ounces) will do. Grate it in. Stir everything together, and let stand in the fridge for about 1/2 an hour (although it gets better overnight!). You can serve it as a side, but it’s really a meal. Add some homemade wholegrain bread, and you’re set!

We did have a little trouble finding bean sprouts on short notice. Next time I might just pick up some mung beans or lentils from Better Bulk and sprout my own.

Weekend Grilling

It’s been a long week of travelling but we had a great visit with friends and family yesterday, and went to a few sites of Doors Open Toronto this weekend. After playing catch-up, gardening, and making a pilgrimmage to both Hooked and Better Bulk, we wanted a simple dinner.

We started by marinating some chicken in lemon, garlic, and olive oil (including the zest of the lemon, in long, gorgeous strips). While the grill was heating, we made the BBQ potato thing…today we had some small red potatoes, an orange pepper, and a red onion, plus some delicious rosemary.

Patience is a virtue when grilling chicken thighs, but they stay nice and moist and get that great smoky flavour. Served with the potatoes and veg, and a glass of wine, what else could we need?

How would You Braise a Mixed Grill?

The other night we didn’t have as many people for dinner as expected, so there were leftover lamb chops. Plus we had a piece of beef tenderloin that hadn’t been used. (Such is life when adult children begin to flee the nest…sometimes here, sometimes eating elsewhere).

The idea was that we should make something a bit liked mixed grill. We didn’t have sausage, but the meats were enough. We browned them nicely with some red onions, peppers, and a carrot or two, diced. Then, a little wine tipped in to loosen the nice browned bits. At the end of the browning, we put in some mushrooms, and a good handful of rosemary, chopped, plus a grind of pepper.

We covered this with a can of diced tomatoes with herbs, and popped it in the oven for an hour, with the cover on. Then we removed the lid, and left it bubbling along (at about 350F) while we made some mashed potatoes.

In the end, it was a great way to celebrate what we hope was the last day cold enough for braising until the autumn!

Warning! Slow Food Alert! Barley and Brown Rice Risotto

Once in awhile you just need to s-l-o-w down. The other night we had some fish we wanted to use to make a nice fish risotto. Just as in many places, it’s been raining. And raining. And raining. So when we opened the cupboard to discover that we didn’t have any risotto rice left (arborio, or canaroli, preferably), we were worried. What to do?

We did have some delicious short grain brown rice from Better Bulk. But it doesn’t really give enough starch to give the creaminess we like. We did have some pearl barley. Why not the two? So since we were in a kind of “use up what’s there” mode, we also threw in various veg that were in the fridge.We started by the usual risotto method – cooking the barley and rice in a little olive oil, with some onion, garlic, and carrots from Kelly’s. When it started to get translucent, but not toasted, we de-glazed with a little vermouth (but apple juice would work, if you prefer, or even a little vinegar).

Next, the rest of the veg – a bit of spinach that wouldn’t hold up another day for salad. A half tomato hiding in the fridge. Another half tomato with the nasty side cut off. And a little bell pepper and a few mushrooms.

All the while, keep adding liquid – for us, vegetable stock. Add a cup, stir. Keep simmering! Another cup…for barley and brown rice this might take an hour. Do it with a good friend or significant other. Play nice music. Drink some wine. It will be worth it!

When all was cooked down to creamy deliciousness, we stirred in the diced trout fillet, and a couple of spears of asparagus, broken into lengths. Soon it was done. Comfort food for a very un-spring-like day. A great meal to share.

Chili Artichoke Pizza

By now you’ve figured out that we eat pizza at least once a week. One of our favourites is Artichoke Pizza. But you can’t eat the same thing every day – it would get a little boring. So we like to switch up the ingredients a little.

This version uses basically the same recipe, but I had some rye flour which I substituted for the whole wheat. I also used homemade chili sauce from last summer as the base. It was raining, so I didn’t want to wander out to the shops. So a few re-hydrated chanterelles, a bit of diced red bell pepper, some artichokes from a jar and a few black olives were pressed into service.

For cheese, I had some Canadian sheep’s milk feta (yes, I know in the EU that we wouldn’t be allowed to call it that, but it was delicious). A sprinkling of part-skim mozza finished things off. In a little over half an hour, we had a delicious pizza, ready to eat, without ever using a phone or the internet to get it.

What to Eat When the World Didn't End Yesterday?

Well, I can’t say I was surprised that the world didn’t end yesterday – too much advance warning. And I’m pretty sure The Book says we won’t get any of that.

So before heading out to Church we ate nature’s perfect food, dressed up a bit. Starting with toasted whole-wheat English muffins, we topped each slice with a slice of fresh hothouse tomato. Can’t wait until the “outdoor” local crops are in the market.

On top of the tomato, some Herbes de Provence Sheep Camembert from Fergus (by way of Leslieville Cheese Market).

Top this with a poached egg, which will melt the cheese. A sprinkle of cayenne, and you’re set!

This Week's Bread

Saturday was supposed to be gardening day…but the weather did not cooperate. So instead, faced with depressing rain, it was time to take out my frustrations on another batch of innocent flour from Better Bulk.

This time, I used my usual whole-wheat recipe, but substituted the flour: 1/3 dark rye flour, 1/3 whole wheat, and 1/3 unbleached white flour. Otherwise, the method was the same. For the infamous fourth loaf, I made a round one – and sprinkled in some raisins and caraway seeds. It was promptly devoured within a day or so, starting with the next morning’s breakfast.

Salade Huron-coise

So what did we do with the remaining Glazed Lake Huron Char? We made a delicious Salade Nicoise – that is, Salade Huron-coise!

There was a leftover red potato, so we cut that up, along with the remaining fillet.

Some greens, a few steamed haricots verts, a boiled egg, some capers and olives, and we were nearly set. For the dressing, a tablespoon each of lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, and a sprinkle of lemon pepper.

So good!

A Char-ming Discovery

We’re well-served on our walkable route to food and feast-stuffs, except for one thing. There is a limited supply of places to buy good-quality fish. Recently we visited Hooked, on Queen Street. They have an amazing selection, arranged west-to-east in a gorgeous glass fridge. Advice and provenance of the fish are freely provided.

The only problem we had with Hooked was figuring out which fish. Too many to choose from, and all of them looked good. In the end we settled on a huge fillet of Lake Huron Char. Then, what to do?

We baked it, glazed (see our recipe page, here).

Of course it was too big for two, so we put a couple of pieces in the freezer for a day when we want a delicious meal, but fast. So much better than the corner burgermeisters. There was still some left. What to do?

Stay tuned tomorrow!

You Can Never Have too Much Curry

Really, you’re thinking? Didn’t we just have curry yesterday? Well yes, that’s true. But today’s curry is a far cry from yesterday’s cousin.

In this case, it’s a “use it up” curry. There were a few veg going begging in the fridge, that needed to be used up. Sometimes the amounts you can buy at the grocer do not equal what you need for your meal plan, and you just have to recalibrate.

In the beginning, we got some brown rice cooking. We like to make a big batch and then portion it out in the freezer where it can be reheated by steam or microwave, when we don’t have a lot of time on our hands.

The curry began with a pot, a little oil (olive, in our case) an onion and some garlic. Then 4 or 5 button mushrooms, quartered. They were about to go over the edge, but still edible. We broke up the stalks of asparagus that had been sitting around for a day or two longer than absolutely ideal, and pared and chunked in a carrot.

To this, a tablespoon of the same Patak’s curry paste we used for the lamb yesterday. A little bit of white wine (also something that doesn’t register as a leftover in some households) went in the pot next.

We had two cups of cooked kidney beans and a cup of cooked chickpeas (all from Better Bulk, see our blogroll) which we tossed in. You can also check our recipes page to see how to cook dried beans of all kinds. These tipped in, juice and all.

The whole thing was set to simmering until it looked stew-y or curry-ish. Served over rice, it was awesome, vegetarian, and tasty!