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Posts Tagged ‘Spring’

Holy cow! In the time that my baby has been sleeping, I have had time to clean up the kitchen, make this salad, photograph it, eat it AND write (however briefly) about it. A victory for mothers of active babies everywhere.

So what is it? A slight variation on my current favourite salad combo of greens, beets, goat cheese, apples and nuts. In a nod to Spring I’ve switched it up a bit with spinach as the foundation, golden beets, which are sweeter and sunnier than their dark red counterparts, toasted almonds and sliced strawberries.

Beets and strawberries? I know. But it works. Tossed with some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, a pinch of salt and a healthy grind of black pepper, it turns out that they all play together very nicely. And look how pretty.

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Holy crap, what happened to March?

Right. I was really busy, went on holiday for a week, and then March was over.  So, hello!

I can’t say I have anything to report food-wise from my holiday, because, well, all-inclusive resorts are hardly culinary destinations, especially those in Cuba, where the variety is a bit lacking. Needless to say, my pregnancy-induced craving for rice and beans is safely satisfied, and I can move on with my life.

So where does that leave us? Happily, in early Spring. We’re in that awkward time of year when Spring is in the air, people are walking down the street with an extra little bounce in their step, wearing more colours instead of their dark winter jackets. The problem with this time of year is, that while our minds are racing ahead into warmer weather, the produce is still stuck in winter mode. So what’s a cook, craving greens and Spring flavours, to do? 

Here’s one idea: take a wintery vegetable to a mandoline slicer (minding your fingers, of course), add a lemony vinaigrette and toss in a handful of hothouse grape tomatoes for a juicy bite reminiscent of warmer times.  It may not be the season’s new asparagus, but it’s pretty good.

This recipe is adapted from an episode of Alton Brown’s Good Eats. I love that guy.

Broccoli slaw with cherry tomatoes
serves 4 as a side dish

1 head broccoli

zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 small clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. dijon mustard

salt and pepper to taste

3-4 tbsp. olive oil

roughly 1/2 pint of grape tomatoes, halved

Depending on the size of the broccoli head, chop it down lengthwise (along the stem) so that it’s wide enough to fit on a mandoline slicer. Then, slice all the broccoli so that the stem is roughly cut into ribbons. The florets will generally break apart, but to me the variety of texture is what makes the salad. The result will be a bit messy, though, so do this over a cutting board so you can just tip the whole lot into a bowl once everything is sliced.

To make the vinaigrette, I use the jar-shaker method. Combine the lemon juice and zest, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper and olive oil in a small jar and shake to combine.  Toss it with the sliced broccoli, along with the halved grape tomatoes, and add extra salt and pepper if you think it’s needed.

It can sit for a while without going limp, unlike other salads, but it doesn’t really keep well as leftovers.

Here’s what it looked like after I dove in, then remembered to take a picture:

broccoli

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The joys of rhubarb

Alice Waters has called rhubarb the vegetable bridge between the hard fruits of fall and winter and the soft fruits of summer.

I love rhubarb. More than asparagus, wild leeks, fiddleheads or even morels, rhubarb is my favourite food of Spring. I love how its colour subtly varies from green to ruby red along its stem, I love how its flavour stays tart and sharp, even after you add tons of sugar to it.

I buy pale pink forced rhubarb in January, though I always find there’s something lackin about it. Come May, I become obsessed with getting my hands on as much rhubarb as I can. My sister-in-law has a huge rhubarb patch in her back forty, and I’ve been bugging her incessantly to bring me some. (She doesn’t use it, anyway.) She did bring me some last week, and I put it to use right away:

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Do you know the joys of rhubarb chutney? It is sweet, sour and aromatic. I learned this recipe years ago at a restaurant I worked at in Guelph. I eat it with pork chops, samosas, in grilled cheese sandwiches and it’s especially good with lamb.

Rhubarb Chutney

4 cups chopped rhubarb
1 large onion, minced
1 tsp. ground allspice
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¾ cup cider vinegar
1 cup brown sugar

The method is simple: combine everything in a saucepan and simmer for at least an hour until the rhubarb is thoroughly cooked. You can eat it right away provided you have the right things to eat it with, but its flavour improves after a few days. It keeps well at least a month in the fridge.

That’s the savoury thing I do with rhubarb. For desserts, of course there is rhubarb crisp and just plain rhubarb compote that goes well with pancakes or pound cake.

But even with the harvest that my sis-in-law brought me, I still needed more. So I was happy to see a good supply at the grocery store today:

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I’m not sure how I’ll use it all, but this cake is at the top of the list. This cake is a favourite at my house. It’s not too sweet, but feels decadent all the same – maybe because it’s so pretty. The anise flavour perfectly complements the rhubarb. If you don’t have buttermilk you can use milk or yogurt, but buttermilk makes the cake super light.

photo courtesy of Epicurious

photo courtesy of Epicurious

Upside-Down Rhubarb Anise Cake

For topping:
¼ cup unsalted butter
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
3 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1 inch pieces

For cake:
1 teaspoon anise seeds, ground
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
¾ cup well-shaken buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Over moderate heat, melt butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet and reduce heat to low. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly onto bottom of skillet and heat, undisturbed, 3 minutes (not all brown sugar will be melted). Remove skillet from heat and arrange rhubarb in one layer over the brown sugar, in a pretty pattern.

In a mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, anise, flour, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar together and add the vanilla.Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture in batches alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Make sure not to overbeat – mix just until combined.

Spoon batter over rhubarb in skillet, spreading evenly (be careful not to disturb rhubarb), and bake cake in middle of oven until golden, about 45 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool cake in skillet on a rack 15 minutes.
Run a thin knife around edge of skillet and invert a plate over skillet. Keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together, invert cake onto plate. Carefully remove skillet and serve cake warm or at room temperature.

What are your favourite things to do with rhubarb? Please send them may way!

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