Burdock pickles.

Right now, at this very moment, I am making the brightest-tasting tart ever to be enjoyed in February, but there’s a lull in the process as my crust and my custard are cooling. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.

I say that a lot. I said it about the burdock. So, lest you think I am being evasive and not sharing the magnificent joys of burdock root, I pickled it. All eight feet, which amounts to three little jars of spicy, garlicky pickles, all cooling on my windowsill.

They’re a lot like carrot pickles, which is exciting. Actually, they’re a lot like David Liebovitz’s carrot pickles, because I adapted the recipe from his site. Except that instead of two cloves of garlic smashed, I used four whole cloves of garlic per jar, and instead of cider vinegar, I used rice vinegar and a tasty drop or ten of mirin. ALSO, they’re spiced with one minced hot red pepper, and not fennel. Pretty good, at least based on the initial round of tasting – once they’ve stewed in their juices for three to six weeks, I am sure they will be awesome.

So there you have it. Follow through, late as usual, but enthusiastic nonetheless.

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Another easy pizza crust, perfect for something unpleasant like Wednesday.

So … burdock will have to wait until tomorrow. When you see prosciutto on special, you jump on it, and then you maximize its salty porkiness by cutting it into strips and baking it onto a pizza.

I make this foccacia bread that contains potato, and it’s quite delicious and always very moist. Sometimes I stretch the dough out and turn it into pizza, but it’s not a thing to make on weeknights, when I need to eat now-if-not-sooner the moment I get home. I thought tonight I’d try shredding potato into pizza dough and baking it that way, because it’s quicker than foccacia, and I might be onto something. Something awesome.

I topped the pizza with a sauce of a crushed bulb of roasted garlic and olive oil and some basil, strips of prosciutto, and a half-pound of mushrooms cooked in olive oil and garlic. And cheese, but not that much, actually, because even though it seems counter-intuitive not to load the thing up with an excess of cheese, on a pizza like this it’s better to use only what you need.

I’m only going to give you the recipe for the crust, because you can top it with whatever you want. But if you top it with roasted garlic and basil and prosciutto and mushrooms, I promise, you’ll be ecstatic upon eating it.

Potato pizza crust

(Makes one large-size pizza crust.)

  • 2 tsp. dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 medium potato (such as Yukon Gold), grated
  • 2 cups + 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. cornmeal

In a large bowl, combine yeast, sugar, and water. Let stand about five minutes, until yeast is fluffy.

Add potato. Stir to combine.

Add two cups of flour, salt, and oil, and mix until a slightly sticky dough has formed. If your potato is bigger and causes an excessively moist dough, add a bit more flour. Turn out onto a floured surface, and knead in the additional quarter cup of flour.

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Cover dough and let stand for 20 minutes, as close to the oven as you can. Let it feel the warmth and grow just a bit.

Roll dough out into a relatively round sheet, a bit less than a half-inch thick, and lay onto a baking sheet sprinkled with the teaspoon of cornmeal. Top with whatever you like, and bake for about 25 minutes.

This is a bit unusual, and probably not what you want if you’re a die-hard thin-crust fan. It’s fluffy, because the potatoes get steamy as they cook, foofing up the flour and making this perfectly moist.

The other thing about it is that it’s filling, which is perfect for weeknight dinner, but it’s unexpected, and so you’re surprised around slice number three that you don’t even want dessert anymore, and you’re tempted to change into pajama pants if you haven’t already. Which I guess is good? Well, maybe the n0-dessert thing. Nick keeps mentioning my pajama pants, and how other wives wear skirts or sexy yoga pants, and he can shut right up because I feed him better than the other wives feed their Nicks, and they’re less fun and can’t hold their liquor. My pajamas are a point of contention around here.

Anyway, make this. It’s delicious. And soon, I promise, something about burdock root, which is not actually a very good hook if I’m hoping to get you to come back.

Winter chili: Sometimes you’re just too lazy to go to the store.

Today was very busy, and I went into it tired, which never bodes well. I got home a bit early from work, and we were supposed to write tonight, because we’re doing that now, so I put on a big pot of chili. We never got to the writing – we were both malfunctioning creatively. Fortunately, chili is comfort food, and so as we vegetated, we at least did a little something good for ourselves.

I make this sort of thing a lot, and there was never really a recipe until tonight, when I finally wrote down everything that’s in it. It’s so easy, and you probably have most of what you need already. It’s a winter chili – in the springtime, and in the summer, we’ll have vegetarian chili with bell peppers, zucchini, fresh tomatoes, and things like that. This is a hearty dish making use of what’s available right now, things like the canned goods you have in your pantry and sweet potatoes. It takes a little longer than you may like for dinner on a weeknight, but it’s the kind of thing you can stick in a crockpot and cook all day, if that’s easier.

Serve this with cornbread.

Vegetarian winter chili

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium sweet potato, chopped (about two cups)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, including liquid
  • 1 19 oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 19 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 19 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 5.5 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 cup beer, such as pilsner or pale ale
  • 4 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • Salt, to taste

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat, sweat onions and sweet potatoes in olive oil. Stir in garlic, and add canned tomatoes. Reduce to medium heat.

Add beans to the pot, and stir in tomato paste. Stir in beer, add spices and salt, and simmer, uncovered, for ten minutes. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. Here is where you may want to add something like chopped chipotle peppers, or a dose of Tabasco or sriracha or something, but I didn’t feel like it. Had a spicy lunch.

Cover, and reduce to medium-low heat. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the sweet potato is soft.

Serve hot, in bowls. This makes quite a lot, so divvy the remains into dishes to take for lunches. I love meals like that, that you enjoy in the first place, and that you can revisit later on in lunch form. It makes good sense, and it saves having to trek out into the world in search of a mediocre deli sandwich.

Speaking of excess, today I bought some burdock root. I have what amounts to eight feet of it, because I watch too much Iron Chef and am never smart enough to know when I’m outmatched by an ingredient. I’ll show it to you tomorrow – it’s a little ridiculous, and was a pain to carry home on the bus. I think I am going to pickle the stuff.

Have you any good ideas for burdock root? A Google search turned up very little information – apparently all of Japan is confused by the stuff, and only has one recipe for something called Burdock Kinpira, and since it’s been done to death, I’d like to try a new approach. If you’ve tried it and have some good ideas, let me know. I’m hoping tomorrow will be a thinking day, and that I will have my wits about me. Wish me luck.

Things like blue-cheese mousse.

On Saturday, my food had a photo shoot for a magazine it’s going to be in. I wrote the recipes, and am scurrying to finish the last of the article (lame how this is my break?), but I wanted to tell you all about it. It, but mostly the mousse.

I made a few things – bacon-maple popcorn, which was fantastic but it was my big recipe so I can’t tell you about it until later, after the magazine comes out. I’ll post a link then, so you can make it and impress your friends with how very Canadian you can be. I made a little potato tart on puff pastry, and some wonderful little cheesy puff balls. And I made a little bit of mousse, with a little bit of Stilton, a thing I am going to elaborate on a bit later, and dropped it onto endive leaves and topped with slices of apple.

It made me insufferably gloaty. I ate almost all of it after the shoot. I didn’t feel great afterward. I blame the volume of cheese I consumed, but it could have been the bacon popcorn, or one of the two magnums we drank while all the photos happened. It was probably the Filet-o-Fish I had for lunch when on the run between grocery stores, the bank, and the apartment where I was burning things and Nick was trying to help but just getting in the way.

The photographer, Duran, was very nice and knows the boy I had a crush on in high school who is now a dentist and was kind enough to not say, “You’re weird and covered in crusty bits. I think he’s out of your league and please stop stealing sips of my wine.”

But I digress. The mousse.

I tested this out with a bit of Stilton I had on hand, because Stilton tastes like magic and my aunt told me about a dish at the ill-fated Star Anise restaurant that used to be on 12th and Granville that made a mousse of it. It was like eating cheese clouds off of crunchy boats paddled by apple oars, if you can imagine that.

So why don’t I just get to the recipe then?

Yes. Let’s go.

Stilton mousse on endive

  • 1/4 lb. crumbled Stilton
  • 1/4 lb. cream cheese (at room temperature)
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream, divided
  • 1 tart-fleshed apple, such as Granny Smith
  • 24 Belgian endive leaves (from approximately three endives)

Beat together the Stilton, cream cheese, and one tablespoon of the cream until creamy and smooth.

In a separate bowl, beat the cream until soft peaks form.

Fold the cream into the cheese, a little bit at a time, until fully combined. Taste, and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper, if desired.

Spoon into endive leaves and top with thin slices of apple. Serve cold, and as soon as you can.

Luscious. Wonderful. And there’s more where that came from. Check out the upcoming issue of LOVE. Magazine for details. I’ll post a link when it’s online.

Lazy Sunday muffins.

Yesterday was non-stop, and I had a bijillion things to do and I was exhausted at the end of it, so much so that I decided it would be appropriate to change into footie pajamas mid dinner party, and then went to bed early, while all the guests were still here. As of right now, I am still in the footie pajamas, on the couch. It. Is. Awesome.

I got up briefly, because breakfast is important and I like baked goods. You know, something you can eat while you sit on your ass in front of the TV? That’s all I wanted, and so: Muffins. Lemony coconut muffins – little breakfasty bites – perfect for a pleasantly aimless Sunday morning.

Lemony coconut muffins

  • 1/2 cup butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 lemon (1/2 tsp. lemon zest, juice of whole lemon)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup toasted unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Drop in eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each egg. Add coconut milk, lemon zest and juice, and continue beating until batter is smooth.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into the mix. Add in coconut as well. Fold the dry ingredients into the batter until just moistened.

Fill a muffin pan with 12 muffin liners, and then divide the batter between the 12 cups. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of one comes out clean. Muffins should be yellow and lightly golden.

Remove muffins to a wire rack to cool, but serve warm, preferably with butter and a cup of tea or milk. These little muffins are so nice – softly coconutty, with a pop of lemon in every bite. Sweet, fluffy, and unexpected – I think I’ll make these next time we host brunch here. I bet they’d be nice with lime instead of lemon, if you wanted to switch things up. Lovely, and I tested them on the couch and they were perfect there too.

Homemade soy milk? Not difficult, and cheaper than anything ever.

There are probably hundreds of thousands of food blogs to stumble upon, a percentage of which are beautiful and amazing and full of fantastic recipes and the percentage is higher than you think. It’s sometimes overwhelming, all this blog-stalking one gets to in pursuit of a diversion and something clever to do with all of these odd groceries one picks up because they were on sale or they were weird and it turns out one is not as creative as one thought.

One. Not me, of course. Of course. In the course of my regular stalking reading, I stumbled upon a beautiful food blog that made me want to pick up and change everything that I am. Or something like that. I found it through Tea and Cookies on Twitter – Tea and Cookies also makes me want to change everything that I am, and at this point, the thought of everything I need to do to improve is so exhausting that I think I’ll stay me, at least until I win the lottery and can afford to be someone better. Everyone notices a train wreck, and so that is what I will cling to.

Anyway, the thing is this blog, and this soy milk. Go there, and make it right now and wonder why you ever bought that crap at the market, even if it was on sale. This is so much cheaper than on sale: Using the organic dried soybeans, one batch cost me around thirty cents, and its yield was about one litre. Drink it hot or ice cold, or use it in your coffee before you head out for your weekend. Me? I’m using it in homemade chai lattes, which I am using to fuel a weekend of cookery, recipe development, article writing, and ego boosting in the form of a foodie photo shoot, which I hope to tell you all about tomorrow or the day after.

Have a great weekend!

Quiche is nothing to sneer at and is plenty manly, thanksverymuch.

I made quiche for Nick.

In a different time, I’ve heard, it wasn’t so manly to eat quiche, never mind to want it. I met Nick in poetry class. The generations, how they gap. He wrote very long poems about damp shorelines and dead horses, and he wore scarves and I was convinced there was something wrong with him because he wasn’t madly in love with me. I thought he was the kind of guy who’d like quiche, you know?

It’s just as well: I was never interested in the kind of  boy who’d frown at quiche. And as it happens, that kind of boy was never interested in me either.

And here we are, a couple of years later and that’s all, and I mentioned quiche the other day and he kept reminding me I’d mentioned it. Nick wanted quiche. So I set out to buy some seasonal greens and a bit of whole milk for ricotta, and I made Nick an eggy pie for dinner.

I wanted to tell you about the quiche that had the chard in it, but my market was out and I was too lazy and too high up in heels to try another store, so I guess I’ll tell you about the spinach quiche, though I’d like for you to imagine it with chard. It’d be easy enough to substitute the chard for the spinach, just blanch the chard first. You don’t have to do the same with the spinach, because it’s wimpier.

Nick would have liked the quiche with chard better, I think, because chard is a manlier green, probably. (It’s perfectly lovely with spinach too, I’m just being unpleasant.) I suppose we’ll try again next week, maybe Monday when the shelves have been restocked.

Ricotta and greens quiche

Crust

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 tbsp. cold butter
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 3 to 5 tbsp. ice water

Filling:

  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese (this is a very good recipe, and I keep wanting it, even now after it’s gone)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 large eggs, plus the white left over from the crust
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups packed fresh spinach leaves or blanched chard (my estimate is two bunches, chopped and lightly packed once blanched; this is what I would use, but please correct me if I’m wrong)

Assemble pastry in the typical way, crushing the butter between your fingers into the flour, salt, and Parmesan. Stir in beaten egg and ice water until dough forms. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough out with a bit of flour, and press into a nine-inch tart pan. Roll the rolling pin across the top to trim away the extra dough. Line the pie crust with parchment and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes.

Remove pastry from the oven. Cool slightly, remove beans and parchment, and continue to cool. Until cool. Meanwhile, leave the oven on.

Sauté shallots in butter. Remove from heat and set aside.In a large bowl, whisk together your ricotta, milk, eggs and egg white, mustard, salt, pepper, Parmesan, and nutmeg. Add your shallots and butter to the mix, and whisk again.

Taste now, and adjust your seasonings as needed. Stir in your spinach or chard, and pour into the pie crust.

Bake mixture in shell for 4o to 45 minutes, until golden and slightly puffed. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 to 30 minutes before serving. Remove from tart pan to slice and serve.

Enjoy. It smells so good, and is the creamiest quiche in the history of ever, because of the fresh ricotta and because when you’re making something like quiche, you just sort of will it to work, and those happy thoughts make it into the oven with the pie. Serves four for brunch or dinner, or more if you’re cutting it smaller to make it an hors d’oeuvre.

Nothing dainty about it. Isn’t it nice that anyone can have this sort of thing now? Yes. Yes it is. And besides, I wouldn’t serve something like this to anyone who’d sneer at any sort of homemade pie. We don’t take kindly to those types around here, poets or not.