Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Lebanese Lentil Soup Marries My Roots and Shoots Farm Swiss Chard

I know little of foreign relations but I trust that all is well between Lebanon and Switzerland.  At least it is in my kitchen. My absolute favourite way to eat Swiss chard is in Lebanese Lentil Soup.  I have a few friends that make something similar and they provided the inspiration to include this dish in my repertoire.

It is a dish that is well sought after in the colder months. But knowing how the Ottawa seasons seem to include many climates, I knew I just needed to wait a few days and the scene would be right.

Yesterday, while many were considering building an ark on our dark and stormy Tuesday, I took much comfort in my Lebanese Lentil Soup, loaded up with my entire head of Swiss chard from my last Roots and Shoots Farm CSA basket. For good measure I included a few of my CSA spring onions too.

It is a big batch and kinder weather has returned.  The remainder is now in containers to be enjoyed later. It freezes so well.

Inspired by Mary Salloum's A Taste of Lebanon: Cooking Today The Lebanese Way and two special friends that are lentil soup fans

1 pound lean ground beef
4 cooking onions, evenly chopped
2 spring onions including the greens
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup lentils
5 tablespoons ground cumin
10 cups water
1 bundle Swiss chard, chopped
12 small potatoes (cherry tomato size), halved, leaving the skin on if in good shape
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
lemon juice

Heat the butter and oil in a dutch oven. Season the meat. Sauté the beef until fully browned. Add the onions and sauté until the onions are softened.

Clean the Swiss chard and then rip the leaves from the stems.  Rough chop the leaves into manageable pieces for eating, but not too small.  Chop the stems.

Add the ground cumin and cook for 1 or 2 minutes to bring out the fragrance of the spice.

Add lentils, water, Swiss chard, potatoes, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then simmer with the lid on until the lentils are tender, say 1 hour.  I will let the soup stay on the stove on a low simmer for 3 or 4 hours to let the flavours incorporate.  Add water or broth if it needs thinning.

I find the soup tastes much better the next day.  Consider adding more cumin to your taste as the strength of cumin can vary by variety and age. Adjust the salt to your tastes too.  Potatoes take a lot of salt to cook. Finish seasoning just before serving.

When you serve it up, sprinkle a few drops of lemon the top of the soup.

Great accompanied with freshly baked bread.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Supply and Demand's Famous Kale Salad - Homestyle

Supply and Demand Kale Salad Homestyle for our Summer Solstice dinner.
It's true that I offer up Supply and Demand as one of my regular restaurant haunts when people ask me where to eat in Ottawa.  And despite their offerings on their Raw Bar and seafood selections from the mains, I seem to get permanently stuck in their veggies on the Small Plates and From The Garden section of the menu.

My most repeated dish over my many visits is their signature Kale Salad.  My visits are often impromptu and covering for me instead of cooking for myself.  The last two times I dropped in quickly for a Kale Salad and a Beet Salad. Re-energized, I was good to go.

After my harried attempt at making their Kale Salad for my Summer Solstice dinner, all I can say is, don't come to my restaurant if you want to eat in a hurry. Eating out has its benefits.

The number one rule of cooking if using a recipe is to read it through first to gather the ingredients and to absorb the instructions.  I like to live loose with recipes but I was committed to following this one to a tee.  Mainly because I already know that the space between Chef Steve Wall's Kale Salad perfection and what I could add to elevate the dish to my personal tastes is non-existent.

Had I followed my number one rule of cooking, I would have probably washed and massaged the kale sooner to allow for a proper and thorough drying.  I would have known that the already cooked bacon in the freezer wouldn't do because I needed the rendered fat to toast up the coarse bread crumbs.  And speaking of coarse bread crumbs, well they take a bit of time to make if you are starting with frozen old buns from the freezer.

What I did do right was make sure I had some fresh Manchego cheese on hand to snow peak my mountain of salad.

Although I only had the one head of kale, I made the full batch of dressing and used more the next day with my grilled asparagus in place of a gribiche sauce.  I would consider using this dressing for my classic romaine Caesar too.

Curly kale from this week's CSA basket from Roots and Shoots Farm

If you have an awesome head of curly kale like the one I had from Roots and Shoots Farm, by all means, make the much hailed Kale Salad à la Supply and Demand.  But if you are in a hurry to eat, head on down to 1335 Wellington Street West and hope they can tuck you in at the end of the bar.

Source: Chef Steve Wall, Supply and Demand
printed with permission; embellishments for my own clarity are also included

Makes 4 generous servings.


For Caper Vinaigrette
3 anchovy fillets
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons capers, plus a good splash of brine
1 large shallot, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 cups canola oil, scant

For Salad
2 bunches curly kale
1/2 lb bacon
1/2 cup coarse bread crumbs
1 1/2 ounces Manchego cheese*

*Supply and Demand has also used Crotonese cheese

To make the vinaigrette, purée anchovy fillets, Dijon mustard, capers, shallot, garlic, vinegar and water in a blender or VitaMix until smooth.

Chef's Tip: Allow some caper brine to be included with the capers; it will give the vinaigrette an extra "capery" flavour boost.

Slowly add the oil with the blender running. Season with salt.  Chill the dressing until using.

Remove the stems from the kale.  Wash, then soak in ice cold water.  Using ice cubes, massage each leaf individually.  The leaves will turn a strong green.  This tenderizing process removes the leaf's stiffness and will give the kale a more lettuce-like texture.  Once the kale leaves are torn into pieces, pat dry with a towel.

To make coarse bread crumbs, place chunks of old bread in a 300°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes to dry and then crumble it in your hands until you have pieces the size of small peas.

Fry bacon slices until the fat is rendered and bacon is crispy, remove bacon and save the bacon fat in pan.

Add the coarse bread crumbs to the hot bacon fat in the pan and sauté until the crumbs are golden.  Season lightly with salt.

Put the kale in a bowl for tossing.  Season it lightly with salt.  Add the bacony bread crumbs, and crumbled bacon.  Don your kitchen gloves. Dress the salad with the vinaigrette and massage it into the leaves.

Place in serving bowl and top with shredded cheese using a fine microplane.

In the middle of preparing this post I had to zip out to do an errand in the village.  Dinner service had just started at Supply and Demand so I sat in for a quick bite.  Kale salad to start, of course.  Comparing this delight to my weekend effort, I think my Supply and Demand Kale Salad Homestyle was a success.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Tomato and Two Cheese Phyllo Tart

Get ready for Canada Day.  Here is your bold red party feature for your feast.

The Tomato and Cheese tart is so versatile. Because of its sophisticated presentation, it is well suited for entertaining.  You can divide it into 4 pieces as a starter portion or cut it into 8 to serve as appetizers.  I have prepared it for brunch, lunch, dinner and parties.

Although the original recipe called for two tomatoes, thinly sliced, I felt that there was too much juice coming from the fresh tomatoes, making the finished product not as crisp as I would like.  So I now use my oven-roasted tomatoes which I have in abundance in the freezer.

This tart is very forgiving on many of the ingredients. I have done different variations depending on what I had on hand.

The original recipe called for 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped oregano.  Today I used the green parts of my spring onions.  I have also used basil before and even dollops of basil pesto.

I do like using mozzarella as my base cheese but for my second cheese, if I don't have fontina, I have used Jarlsberg.  A few drops of chèvre goat cheese would taste great too. You could also consider a sprinkle of parmesan on top to finish.

After you've made your first one, you will be brimming with ideas on how to make it your own.

Bon Appétit!

Adapted from a recipe by Elizabeth Baird called Easy Cheesy Tomato Tart

3 sheets phyllo pastry
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 1/2 ounces (90 gr) mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
2 ounces (70 gr) fontina cheese, shredded
12 to 14 pieces of oven-roasted tomatoes
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped green onions, greens only
1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin oil oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cut each sheet of phyllo in half crosswise, creating six pieces of phyllo pastry in total.  Brush two sheets with melted butter and place loosely on top of each other and then into a 14-inch x 4-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Make sure the two sheets are not exactly aligned. Spread 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard on the top sheet in the pan. Brush another two sheets with melted butter and place loosely into the tart pan. overlapping.  Try to create a ruffled effect with the edges.  Again spread 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard on the top phyllo sheet. Brush the remaining two sheets and layer into the tart pan, continuing the ruffled effect with the edges. 

Cover with layer of mozzarella and most of the fontina cheese. Arrange tomato pieces on top, placing them close together. Sprinkle with the remaining fontina cheese as a garnish. Sprinkle with garlic, green onions and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place the tart pan on baking sheet and bake in 375°F oven for 30 minutes or until phyllo is golden. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Roots and Shoots Farm - 1st Week of CSA Food 2014

Waiting for the CSA season to begin is much like waiting for your birthday.  I've been counting down the days for Roots and Shoots Farm's food basket.  This little farm near Manotick Station started 5 seasons ago and has developed into a mighty one. One that is now certified organic and also grows winter greens.

My drop off location is close to home here in Westboro. An easy walk or a short drive. Danny B, CSA & Market Manager, was there to greet us this week.  His ever smiling face and booming voice. Danny is eating the food from the farm all day long. I think, if I eat a steady diet of this great produce I'll be that crazy happy too. I'm sure what you eat must matter.

I am a CSA veteran. I too have been doing the food baskets for 5 years. All the years that Roots and Shoots Farm has been in Ottawa.

As this farm has matured over this half decade, so has their produce.  More vibrant, consistent and substantial. Let me present to you my first share for 2014. A smaller one to start, but oh so good.

Swiss chard

Curly kale

Romaine lettuce

Spicy mixed greens

Spring onions


Did you miss out on signing up for their share? Do what I do when I need an extra boost of vegetables.  Shop at their stall at the Ottawa Farmers' Market.  In Westboro on the Byron Lineaer Park on Saturdays from 9:30 am to 3 pm. At Brewer Park on Sundays from 8 am to 3 pm.

The World's 1,170,001st Recipe for Banana Cranberry Pecan Bread - And The Best

When I searched the internet for 'banana bread recipe cranberry pecans', Google came back with 1,170,000 hits.  Make this recipe 1,170,001.  I didn't bother to read any of the other entries. I was just curious to see how ubiquitous the tried and true banana bread really is.

The foundation of this recipe starts from one that was shared with my mother by her maid-of-honour - a very special friend that had been in Canada only a few years before her but whom she counted on to show her the ropes in her new country.

Banana bread isn't very Danish from what I can tell. So it likely came into the repertoire as they began to channel Canadian and North American foods into their cooking and baking. In the very established farming community where I grew up, everybody had a family recipe for banana bread.  It was a casual cake to have on hand to serve to unexpected company and to bring to pot luck teas.  Banana bread was a classic church bread. (There are those that would confess that the best part of attending church is the food that seems to be shared a plenty.)

When I made this banana bread recently, I decided to clear out my remaining cranberries and pecans.  The end result was quite pleasing and it elevated this cake from casual to semi-formal!  I am not sure I will make it ever again without these two extra ingredients.  The cranberries really brightened the taste.

When I made the cake a second time it was to get the ingredients and method properly recorded.  There were a few requests for the recipe and I am happy to share.  Imagine! One million, one hundred and seventy thousand recipes for banana bread with cranberries and pecans and there were people that wanted mine.


3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
3 to 4 large very ripe bananas, mashed (approx 1 3/4 cups of mashed)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2  teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup pecans, chopped
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup orange juice

Soak cranberries in very warm orange juice.  Set aside to steep and cool.

Grease and lightly flour a 11" x 5" loaf pan. (This loaf pan is quite large.  If you have a smaller loaf pan, consider making just two thirds of the recipe.)

Cream butter and sugar together.

Add eggs one at a time and beat well.

Sift dry ingredients together and fold into batter alternating with mashed bananas.  Drain the cranberries. Mix the cranberries and chopped pecans into the batter along with the last two tablespoons of the flour mixture.

Pour into the loaf pan and even the top with an offset spatula.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes in a 350ºF.
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