This post I can’t actually take credit for. My wife made me linguini and clams last week that were fantastic. It’s one of her specialties. She has a variety of ‘specialties’ that she makes, all of which are Italian and wonderful. Ashleigh’s family is Italian-American and all are super into food, well specifically Italian food. We joke that they don’t really think they’re going out to dinner unless they’re eating Italian.
This dish is really great. Ashleigh makes a sauce by heating olive oil and butter (or vegan butter to keep it dairy free) in a deep pan then adding chopped shallots. Sauté until transluscent, then add minced garlic and sauté one minute longer. Add one cup of white wine (sometimes we use more, it just increases the time it takes to reduce). Simmer wine until reduced by half and add one cup of vegetable broth and season with red pepper flakes and salt (if necessary) and pepper. Let cook for a minute then add the clams, cover them, and cook them until they open, about 5 to 10 minutes depending on the clams.
While the sauce is being made, boil water for the pasta. Add salt and olive oil and when the water boils add the pasta (fresh is best).
When the pasta is done (fresh pasta takes only a couple of minutes) toss it with fresh, coarsely chopped parsley and olive oil or butter. Then spoon the clams and the broth over the pasta. Serve immediately with wine.
I always thought farro was pasta. Not sure why. I guess I never really looked it up. Anyway, after seeing a slew of recipes recently with farro, I decided to investigate. It turns out it’s not pasta (although it can be made into pasta)! It’s a type of wheat grain. Apparently it’s tasty and super good for you. I was a bit skeptical.
I’ve made wheat and rye berries in the past in an attempt to vary my grain intake, and I was not impressed. It might be that I didn’t cook them or season them well, but I tried to make a warm salad with wheat berries and it was pretty cardboardy which made the chewiness of the grain bad. The berries just didn’t taste good. I was afraid my farro experience would yield the same result.
I’m happy to report that it wasn’t like that at all. Farro is really good. It has a mild, nutty flavor. Some describe it as a bit sweet. As farro is an Italian grain, I decided to make an Italian inspired meal.
Farro is cooked like a lot of other grains. It’s actually like cooking the whole oats that I posted about a couple of weeks ago. You put a cup of farro and two and a half cups of water in a pot and bring it to a boil. When it’s boiling, reduce the heat and cover for 20 to 30 minutes until tender.
While the farro cooks pan-fry cooked white beans (cannellini) in olive oil until they brown and crisp a bit. When doing this, make sure to have the beans in a single layer on the pan. You want them all to lay flat and be touching the pan. Otherwise they won’t crisp—which you definitely want. Do these in two batches in necessary. Drain on a dish with a paper towel and set aside.
Next to the chard. Wash and prep by cutting into large, about inch long, pieces. Heat olive oil in pan on medium-high heat then add the chard. Sautee for a couple of minutes then add 3 cloves of minced garlic. Season with salt and hot pepper flakes. Cook for a minute longer then cover and lower heat. Cook for a bit more until done—maybe 5 more minutes.
Scoop some farro into a bowl and top with kale and beans. I added a dollop of homemade parsely pesto. Season again at this point if necessary. Done! Easy, kind of simple and healthy dinner.
So I haven’t posted in a while. We’ve been super busy between my work, Ashleigh’s finals, and family coming to visit. So much less time to cook and to post. But I do have a few things on the queue that I’ve been waiting to put up. We also have a fridge full of fresh produce that is waiting to be attacked. Watch out in the next couple of days for some awesome food projects.
In the meantime check out this article on Klaus Pichler’s photos of rotting food. The series, titled “one third”, is meant to comment on and cause people to reflect on the amount of food we waste. Pichler points out that according to a UN report one third of the world’s food goes to waste and most of that amount comes from industrialized nations. Part of what makes the photographs so effective in causing the viewer to think about their consumption and waste is that he includes the place the food was produced, the distance it travelled to him, the item’s carbon footprint, and the amount of water it took to make it. So while you’re staring at this gross yet beautiful image that at one point may or may not have been in your fridge, you’re forced to be aware of a bit of what it took to produce it. Check it out.
Ashleigh and I went to Six Acres in Gastown recently. It was our first time at this place, but I’ve been wanting to try it for a while. It’s gastropub with an impressive beer list and it’s two blocks from where I work. Perfect after a long day of work! Our experience was pretty good. After much deliberation (I’m awful at making decisions when it comes to drinks and food, I’m just too picky) I decided to order the Celebrator dopplebock which was fantastic. I like dopplebocks generally, and this one did not disappoint. It’s a strong beer but is extremely drinkable. The flavour is well balanced with a good maltiness and a bit of hop spice to dry it out. The flavour feels full but not heavy. This might be my new favourite.
As for food, we shared the poutine, the veggie sliders, and the cod in parchment. Now I’m going to preface this with the fact that we’re new to Vancouver and this is our third poutine experience, but this was by far the best poutine we’ve had. They use a gravy made with stout beer and real cheese curds. It was completely amazing! If I judged the restaurant on the beer and the poutine alone I would give it a glowing review. However, the veggie sliders were very good but not amazing, and the cod could have been more flavourful. Regardless the experience was good. I meant to take a picture of the food but by then was enjoying my time off and eating the poutine and totally forgot! whoops! Anyway, I plan to go back, so next time.
Oatmeal is my favourite thing to eat in the morning. It’s delicious and always makes me feel good. There are so many varieties you can make so it’s harder to get bored. I didn’t really get into oatmeal until a couple of years ago when I started making it from steel cut oats. The flavour really is strikingly better than just rolled or quick oats. Some people get intimidated at the whole process of cooking oats or think they don’t have enough time but it really can be quite easy and fast—you can check out my method below.
Recently I bought whole oat groats to try out. I hadn’t really ever consciously seen them in a store before coming to Vancouver, but they seem to be quite pervasive here and a friend told me that she usually uses those for her oatmeal and prefers them. Well, no surprise she was right. The consistency of the groat oatmeal is way more interesting. It seems smoother and yet more textured at the same time. I don’t think I’ll switch back. The only downfall is that it takes more time to cook. But like steel cut oatmeal, you can make a big batch of it at the beginning of the week and just reheat it throughout. It keeps really well in the fridge.
The night before, add oats (either groats or steel cut) and water at a 1 to 4 ratio to a pot and bring the oats to a boil, then turn the heat off and let them sit overnight. In the morning cook them by bringing them to a boil again and then reducing the heat so that the oats simmer. Simmer until the liquid has been absorbed and the oats are tender to your liking. Add a bit more water or milk of your choice (I prefer almond milk) if the oats start to stick to the bottom of the pan or if it’s getting too thick and the oats are not done. The whole process should only take about 20 minutes for steel cut oats and about 30-35 for the groats. The oatmeal doesn’t require much supervision. I usually am getting ready to go or doing other things while the oats are cooking. If I have time, when the oats are done I let them sit for 5 to 10 minutes more off the heat so the oatmeal thickens and cools a bit. I like that consistency better but it’s not necessary.
You can add in a variety of different fruits and spices. I love tossing in some fresh minced ginger (about a tbsp, or however much you want) before I bring it to a boil again in the morning and then adding in apple pieces, strawberries, bananas, etc. You can add your toppings at the end or cook some of it with the oats. I like adding some apple pieces while the oats are cooking to infuse the dish with more apple flavour. I try to stay away from sugar in the morning, but some honey or brown sugar goes great, as do nuts or flax seeds. Experiment with it.
I’ve even made a savory oatmeal with green onion, ginger and soy sauce which sounds weird but is delicious (full disclosure the idea comes from Mark Bittman).
Yesterday I made whole groats with bananas, ginger and cinnamon. Check out the recipe below:
Banana Ginger Oatmeal
Prep the oat groats the night before as outlined above using 1/2 cup of oats and 2 cups of water. In the morning add a tbsp of minced ginger and then bring the oats to a boil. When boiling, reduce the heat and add 1/2 a banana thinly sliced. Simmer until oats are tender and liquid has disappeared adding more liquid if necessary (see notes above). When the oatmeal is done, take the pot off the heat and let it sit for 10 more minutes. Then add small banana chunks or slices and cinnamon and mix together. Serve warm.
So this is my last cabbage related post for a while. My cabbage supply finally ran out and I’m on to new vegetable adventures. This is actually the second cabbage dinner I made and what I initially bought cabbage for. A couple of months ago Ashleigh and I went to Kishimoto Japanese Kitchen on Commercial Drive with a friend. This is definitely the best sushi place we’ve founds far—so go if you’re in Vancouver or give me another recommendation! Our friend is a regular and knew what to order. We got a variety of rolls and small plates. I literally wanted to order everything off the menu, but managed to hold off until next time. One of the things he ordered was okonomiyaki which is a savory veggie packed pancake. The texture is kind of similar to a Spanish Frittata, but the taste is different. It’s prepared in a skillet and when done topped with Japanese mayo and a variety of ingredients.
The version I made here combined some different recipes. Also I made it vegan. When I was putting it together it seemed like there were too many veggies. I was sure it wouldn’t stick together and would be a disaster, but it totally worked, so if it’s your first time don’t despair! Also the cabbage is the only necessity in terms of the vegetables; you can switch out the leeks if you want. I think adding some minced fresh ginger wouldn’t be bad….
We ate it with roasted Japanese yams…
I made this Black Bread from 101 Cookbooks and have been eating it with everything lately. Yesterday for lunch I decided to make vegan reubens. I used store bought tempeh, cabbage pickled overnight (one of my uses for the cabbage I bought a week ago), home made vegan cashew cheese, and homemade vegan mayo. It didn’t take long to put together but that’s because I had all the ingredients pre-made. The vegan mayo is another thing I have been making and eating constantly. It’s J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s recipe for vegan mayo using eggplant as a base. It is the best thing you’ve never had. Check out his explanation on how to make vegan mayo using a variety of bases.
Vegan Cashew Cheese Spread
I was perusing the NYTimes Dining and Wine section and came across an article on cabbage by Melissa Clark. I actually like cabbage a lot. It gets a bad rap as a boring vegetable, but done right it can be surprising and delicious. One of cabbage’s major assets is its versatility. It can be eaten in a variety of forms: completely raw or pickled; seared, sauteed, braised, etc. And depending on what you, it will have distinct textures and flavors.
In her article, Clark highlights a problem that I often find with cabbage which is that there’s so much of it. We are used to eating a ton of vegetables at home so I always look at a head of cabbage and think “that’s enough for dinner and leftovers”. When really whatever I’m making only takes about 1/8 to 1/4 of a cabbage (for dinner and leftovers) and I’m stuck with this giant layered hunk of vegetable for the rest of the week that doesn’t fit into my meal plans. I never really get it together to come up with a bunch of cabbage meals, and furthermore selling the idea to my wife that we’re eating cabbage all week would be a challenge. As Clark’s post pointed out though, cabbage actually keeps really well in the fridge, so you can use a bit for one recipe and then use some a couple of days later for another. And because it is so versatile, it really does fit into extremely distinct meals, so it doesn’t have to feel like you’re eating cabbage all week.
So far we’ve consumed two cabbage dinners that have been delicious and are due for our third in the next couple of days. The first dish I made was a variation on one of Clark’s recipes from the article. She made "Pasta With Caramelized Cabbage, Anchovies and Bread Crumbs". I thought ‘caramelized cabbage’ sounded fantastic and was something I’d never tried before (would it actually be sweet?), and I love anchovies, so I went for it. I wasn’t feeling into pasta then and wanted a more complex flavor to match the cabbage mixture. Initially my idea was to serve it over roasted delica squash, but they were all out when I reached the store. Luckily I spotted Japanese yams and picked those up. The sweetness of the yam goes well with the umami, salty flavour of the anchovies. Also yams are packed with more nutrients than pasta, so it was a win!
The dish turned out to be amazing. Caramelized cabbage is delicious. The sweetness is subtle (don’t think caramelized onions).The texture is soft with a bit of crunch. I recommend trying it! The anchovy flavour in this dish is not overwhelming, so if you’re not a huge fan of anchovies don’t worry, it’s purpose here is mostly for the salt and umami. That being said, if you’re wary you can add less anchovies (Clark’s article recommends just 4 anchovy fillets) or if you want to make the dish vegan you can omit them and add capers instead. See my note below.
Here is the recipe I made. The cabbage mixture is very slightly adapted from the NY Times article, but the Japanese yam addition is mine.
TO MAKE VEGAN: omit anchovies and add capers (about 2 Tbsp) and sprinkle nutritional yeast to taste.
6-7 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 can anchovy fillets coarsely chopped (can add less or omit—see note above)
1/2 cup coarse bread crumbs ( I used stale homemade bread, but was lazy and did bigger bread pieces—like for migas, but think it would be great with bread crumbs)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, plus more, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste
2 medium/large Japanese yams, chopped into half inch square pieces
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
1/2 cabbage shredded
Preheat oven to 400 F.
1. Mince two garlic cloves. Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the anchovies and cook, mashing with a spatula, until they start to dissolve. Stir in the minced garlic and cook until fragrant (less than a minute). Stir in the bread crumbs and cook until bread is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Place on a dish and season with black pepper.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the yams and cook until soft but not quite done. Drain and dry a bit. Oil a baking sheet with olive oil and arrange the yams in a single layer on the sheet. Brush the top of the yams with olive oil and stick in the oven. Roast until yams have developed a nice brown color. The roasting helps add a bit of crunch to the exterior while the middle remains soft after the boiling. I didn’t season these yams because i think they have a lot of flavor on their own and the anchovies add so much salt to the dish that I wanted to balance it out.
3. While the yams cooks, add a thin layer of olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add the remaining garlic and chile and cook about a minute until fragrant. Stir in the cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Toss in the bread-crumb mixture and heat through. Season with salt and more pepper, if desired. Serve atop the finished yams.