I’m typically more into the salt-of-the-earth joys in life, but sometimes I like making something that feels really celebratory or just kind of…you know, cool. We have gorgeous, hardy celery root (celeriac) in the garden still. It’s thriving in the cool, damp temperatures. Digging one out is a dirty and slightly trying affair, but so worth it. I find it’s a really underrated vegetable. Lovely texture, beautiful clean flavour, creamy and light colour. It’s wonderful. Have you tried it? It’s a bit rough at first sight, but once you get past that tough exterior, it’s all lovey dovey, mushy feelings from there.
Celery and apples are delicious together so I knew that celery root and apple cider would be pretty good buds too. Making a reduction sounds fairly advanced, but it’s usually easy. Just throw some flavours and liquids into a pot, bring it to a boil and simmer the mixture down until it thickens a bit. So simple! If you want to make this more of a side dish kind of thing, you can chop the celery root up smaller and toss it with the reduction when it comes out of the oven. Put a little sprinkle of herb on top and you’ve got a fine little side attraction for whatever you’re serving up (possibly Thanksgiving fare?).
I know that plating it in the way I’ve shown is suggesting a sort of meat-replacement thing. Maybe you’re wondering where the protein is, if the meal is complete or satisfying and on and on. Here’s a little insight on my daily eating habits: quite often, I just feel like a plate of vegetables. As long as I’ve been vegetarian/vegan, I have loved to eat this way. If I see a variety of colours/textures and whole foods on my plate throughout the day, I know my nutrient intake is up to snuff. I don’t fret if my protein or vitamin B12 etc etc intake seems off. I eat unprocessed and colourful foods. That’s it. So easy and feel-good. No nutrition labels to read? No problem.
roasted celery root with apple cider reduction
notes: If you want to make this a side dish, look for a slightly larger celery root, dice it into cubes, roast it and toss it in the reduction before serving. It should take about 15 minutes to cook at the smaller size.
1 small to medium celery root, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
1 sprig of thyme, leaves removed and lightly chopped
1 tbsp grape seed oil
salt and pepper
2 cups apple cider
1 sprig of thyme
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp natural sugar
2-3 black peppercorns
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
Start the reduction: Place all reduction ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and keep at a lively simmer until reduced by two thirds. I ended up with a bit more than a 1/4 cup. Stir occasionally. Strain the mixture, pour it back into the saucepan and place it on a low burner to keep warm.
Roast the celery root: toss the slices of celery root with the oil, chopped thyme, salt and pepper. Place slices on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes. Flip the slices at the half way point for even browning. Remove celery root from the oven when golden brown and tender.
Serve celery root with warm reduction on top. Garnish with chopped flat leaf parsley or other fresh herb of your choice (chives would be nice too).
I’m not one for candy and chocolate bars usually, but I will admit that the mood strikes here and there. We just had Hallowe’en so I was feeling a bit nostalgic and remembering the pillow cases of treats from my youth. After sorting the bars, bags and packages out the next morning, I would start laying into my preferred varieties. Mum would tuck a couple of items into my lunch bag and it was great. Happy days to be sure. I was always way more excited about the saltier snack options though. Huge smiles when a wonderful, saint of a human being dropped a tiny bag of savory potato, pretzel or cheesy snacks into the trick or treat bag. Take 5 candy bars came into my 8-year-old world and everything changed. Chocolate and salt collided and I fell in love.
To elaborate: pretzels, peanuts, chocolate and caramel. Together. Whoa. So! To rekindle that most sincere of loves, I made a slightly more sophisticated and admittedly fussy version in a tart pan. I wouldn’t say it’s a totally guiltless and healthy version of my cherished bar, but it’s fairly wholesome by comparison. It has a lovely crust of graham crumbs and crushed up pretzels, date and peanut butter-based caramel and an incredibly luscious avocado chocolate mousse. We used to make these avocado chocolate terrines at a restaurant I worked at. It was so elegant looking and loaded with Jack Daniels. So delicious. So I took that basic idea, loosened it up to a mousse-y/pudding consistency and it worked out perfectly.
I know I just posted a dessert recipe a little while ago and maybe you overdid it on Hallowe’en night already, but it had been quite a while to be frank. So I thought something totally over the top would make up for everything. That’s just my style sometimes. But mostly I just wanted a chocolate salty thing to eat up without making the trek to the USA for a Take 5. Just sayin’.
chocolate salty tart with peanut butter caramel & pretzel crust
mousse adapted from here
serves: makes one 10 inch tart
special equipment: a food processor
notes: Be ginger when you’re spreading the caramel on the crust. It picks up the crumbs so easily. A palette knife is incredibly helpful.
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup pretzel crumbs (a heaped handful blitzed in the food processor until fine)
3 tbsp natural sugar
2 tbsp spelt flour
1/4 cup + 3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 cup pitted dates (as soft as you can get)
3 tbsp natural peanut butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
juice from half a lemon
2 tbsp non-dairy milk
pinch of salt
2 medium, ripe avocadoes, pitted and peeled
1/2 cup light agave nectar
1/3 cup non-dairy milk
1/4 cup cocoa powder (I used raw cacao for the deep, almost bitter chocolate taste)
1 tsp arrowroot
2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 heaped cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
For the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Stir all of the ingredients together except the coconut oil to combine. Add the oil and mix until clumps begin to form. Press firmly into a 10 inch tart pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until crust is firm. Set aside.
For the caramel: Place dates in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer until dates are soft, about 10-15 minutes. Drain dates, saving the cooking water.
Place dates and remaining ingredients into food processor and pulse until a puree forms. Add date cooking water if necessary. Scrape caramel into baked and cooled tart shell and spread evenly.
For the mousse: Place everything except the melted chocolate into the food processor. Now’s the time to add some booze if you’re feeling up to it. Turn the processor onto high and puree until mixture is very smooth, about 3-4 minutes. Remove lid and add melted chocolate. Turn to high again until thoroughly combined and smooth. Scrape mousse into tart shell on top of the caramel. Chill the tart for at least 1/2 an hour before serving. Garnish with chopped pretzels or a sprinkle of salt if you like.
I used to hate mushrooms and tofu. Together, separately, with sauce, without sauce, deep fried, grilled, whatever the method; it didn’t matter. I just didn’t think they were for me because every time I tried them, the texture was off. It felt like I was endlessly chewing tofu or desperately trying to swallow some mushroom as quickly as possible to avoid actually feeling it in my mouth. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why these were commonly available vegetarian main course options at restaurants. They just didn’t seem appealing. What gives!
So now that I’m all grown up, I’ve realized that a) my taste buds/senses for texture have matured just a tad and b) some of the cooking/handling methods used by restaurants with these foods was… not to my taste. I tend to like both of these ingredients in two very precise ways. One: with a crispy exterior and a juicy, yielding interior ie lightly fried with some kind of coating. Um, who doesn’t like that? Two: completely and utterly juicy, velvety smooth, mushy but with a shred of structure and bite. Almost unctuous. Meaty even. This dish falls into that dreamy second category.
This cooking method is one of my favourites. So elegant and fun. And easy too. Once you get some kind of folding and sealing technique down, you’re off to the races. You could try this method with all kinds of veggies and herbs, spices, acidic components, juices, stocks. Lots of possibility. I love the slightly reduced and sweet balsamic vinegar with the pungent and salty miso though. The end-product is super moist and tastes so undeniably true to all of the ingredients. None of the flavour evaporates; into the air and gone forever. You get to take in every little ounce of taste bundled up in that package. And that first bit of steam that rises when you dramatically snip them open? Oh man. Too good.
mushrooms and tofu en papillote with miso and rosemary
special equipment: 2-5 sheets of parchment paper
notes: Be careful when you snip the little packages open! Those pouches are super steamy. You could make this whole recipe easily in two parchment pockets, but feel free to make it in five smaller ones for presentation value.
12 ounces mushrooms, sliced (I used cremini and shiitake)
4 ounces organic firm tofu, diced into small cubes
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 sprig of rosemary, leaves finely chopped
1 tsp miso
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2 sprigs of thyme (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the parchment paper: Take one sheet of parchment (about the size of a full sheet tray), fold it in half and cut out the shape of half a heart so that when you unfold the paper, the cut out is heart-shaped (ooooh romantic!). Repeat with the other piece(s).
Combine the sliced mushrooms, tofu, garlic, rosemary, miso, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl and toss until mushrooms and tofu are evenly coated in the vinegar and oil.
Place one side of the heart-shaped paper on a baking sheet. Place half of the mushroom and tofu mixture onto the paper, towards the crease and trying to keep it as compact as possible. Place a thyme sprig on top if using. Fold the edge of the paper toward you tightly, starting at the top curve of the heart. After the first fold, take the next inch or so and fold it towards you again, overlapping the previous fold a little bit. Continue this process until you’ve sealed up the whole pocket. Awesome visual instructions found here.
Repeat the sealing process with remaining pockets/mushroom and tofu mixture. Place pockets on a baking sheet and put into the oven for 20 minutes. The packets should be quite puffed up. Snip them open with scissors carefully and serve.
This recipe kind of came to be out of spite. I originally intended to offer up a seasonal and sweet little pumpkin doughnut recipe with cranberry filling and fun-shine happy fall times. I was trying way too hard. To say that it didn’t work out as I imagined would be an understatement. Like the hugest understatement. Next course of action: I went out and bought myself a proper doughnut and ate it only slightly begrudgingly. I was feeling more like myself, things were good. Then I thought about making an off-the-cuff kind of pizza, abandoning any idea of making doughnuts altogether. Whoa, all of a sudden I was feeling a lot better.
I’m not sure you could even technically call this a pizza. I used roasted butternut squash and garlic mash as the “sauce” and this genius recipe as inspiration for the dough that doesn’t even require rising time. It takes literally 10 minutes to make. Then I grilled the whole thing and essentially put a lemony and fresh salad on top. Maybe you could call it a grilled flatbread with very balanced stuff on it? I like to get technical, but I’m still inclined to call this pizza. It’s such a feel-good word.
I put some basil and swiss chard pesto into the mix too. I love squash and traditional pesto together so I thought it would be even better here. I never make pesto from a recipe really, just kind of throw some toasted nuts/seeds in the food processor with the leaves of my choosing, olive oil, a bit of salt and pepper and blitz it around and scrape down the sides until it seems like the right texture and it tastes good. It’s a total intuition thing and it always works out just right. Wait that’s like, 98 percent of cooking right?
grilled butternut squash pizza with lemony radicchio slaw
dough recipe adapted from The Faux Martha
notes: You could use arugula, endive or whatever greens you like in place of the radicchio. If you don’t have a barbecue, preheat your oven to 450 degrees F and put everything on the pizza except the radicchio mixture and bake for 15-20 minutes. Also, advice on grilling pizza: have absolutely everything at the ready when you’re making it. Time is of the essence!
1 small butternut squash, cut in half and seeds removed
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 sprigs sage (optional)
salt and pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
pesto (there will be some leftover!):
3/4-1 cup basil and swiss chard leaves (or all basil, all chard etc)
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup warm water (not too hot!)
1 tbsp agave nectar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1 3/4 cup white spelt flour
1 cup whole spelt flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 head radicchio, outer leaves removed, cored and sliced
4 sprigs flat leaf parsley, leaves finely sliced
juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
2 tbsp oil of your choosing
1 shallot, peeled, halved and finely sliced
small handful of pine nuts, toasted
Roast the squash: preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Season and place the squash halves face down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. In the little cavity where the seeds were, sneak the garlic cloves underneath. If using the sage, place the whole sprig under the flesh of the squash (see picture above). Roast until very tender, about 35-40 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, scrape out flesh into a bowl. Squeeze garlic cloves out of their peels into the bowl as well. Add oil, salt, pepper and a splash of water. Stir and mash with a spatula until smooth. Set aside.
Make the pesto: place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until everything is broken up a bit. Scrape down sides of the bowl with a spatula. Put the processor on high until a paste starts to form. Scrape down the sides again. Let it rip one more time until it’s super smooth. Season to taste. Scrape into a bowl and put a dab of oil on top to prevent discolouration. Set aside.
Make the dough: pour the water into a large bowl. Add the yeast, agave and oil. Whisk to combine. Let the yeast proof for about five minutes or until you see bubbles forming on the surface. Add the flours and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon until combine. Knead with your hands until you have a smooth lump of dough.
Make the slaw: combine all of the ingredients radicchio, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper as close to serving time as possible. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.
Make the pizza!: Get your barbecue going to a medium-medium high flame. Roll dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness on a floured cutting board, pizza peel or anything flat that you can bring out to the barbecue. Brush one side with oil completely. Either flip or gently guide the oiled side onto the grates (you can oil the grates as an extra non-stick insurance policy). Brush the top, now-exposed side of the dough with oil and put the lid down. Wait about 3-5 minutes.
The dough should be browning and getting grill marks on one side and bubbling through on the surface. Flip it over. Spread the butternut squash and garlic mixture evenly onto the browned side of crust. Dollop the pesto on top and sprinkle the shallots on. Put the lid down and wait another 5-6 minutes before removing the pizza.
Place pizza on serving plate/large cutting board and top with the radicchio slaw. Sprinkle with pine nuts, cut into slices and serve.
Let me just elaborate on the title of this post a bit: a warm yukon gold potato salad with creamy dijon and leek dressing, crunchy pumpernickel croutons and vibrant little flecks of herbs. Starch on starch. Big time carb scene. It’s like wrapping yourself in a warm, cuddly blanket and getting all happy-sleepy. Also, no mayonnaise or freaky vegan mayonnaise substitutes either. Just a lovely, blended dressing of cooked leeks, mustard, olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice. It’s super creamy, a bit tangy and punchy with dijon; perfect for this sort of thing.
I was never crazy about potato salad. There’s obvious health woes involved, but the overall, squishy, non-varying texture didn’t work for me most of all. That’s where these delicious and hearty croutons come in. They make it unique and fun. You get a bite of creamy potato all slicked with that amazing dressing, some fresh, peppery herb and a crisp crouton to finish it up. All in one bite! Also, the decision to add croutons stems from my love of their presence on um… everything.
Suffice to say, this is cold weather food. It’s deeply satisfying and satiating. It was perfect for the rainy, windy and cold weekend we had here. Definitely putting forward that whole food-as-love thing. It’s the starchy side dish that hugs you back. Also a bonus: everything can be obtained locally (at least around my neck of the woods) and inexpensively for sure. Oh and if you grow herbs, your parsley and chives should be flourishing in the slightly cool weather right about now. Go get ’em!
warm potato salad with creamy dijon dressing & pumpernickel croutons
notes: I only restrained myself with the croutons for photo appeal. The recipe makes way more and you should definitely fully enjoy them all.
3/4lb small potatoes (I used yukon gold)
3 cups cubed pumpernickel bread (or any old bread you like)
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2 leeks, cut in half, cleaned and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1.5 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
juice of half a lemon
1/4 cup reserved cooking liquid from potatoes/leeks
salt and pepper
3-4 sprigs flat leaf parsley, leaves finely sliced
10-12 blades of chives, chopped as small as you can manage (or green onions)
Make the croutons: heat oven to 350 degrees F. Toss croutons with 1 tbsp of the olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange in one layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place in the oven. Stir croutons up periodically for even browning. They take about 15 minutes.
Start the potatoes: place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water and a fat pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and keep at a lively simmer for about 15 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife. Remove potatoes with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Bring the water back to a boil and place the leeks in. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until soft. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a blender.
Make the dressing: to the cooked leeks, add dijon, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, 1/4 cup of potato/leek cooking water, remaining oil, salt and pepper. Blend until thoroughly pureed, being careful with the whole warm liquid blending thing. Pour into a small saucepan and keep on low while you cut the potatoes.
Cut potatoes into little wedges or dices (they should still be warm). Place in serving dish and drizzle warm dressing on top. Place croutons and chopped herbs on top and serve.