thick, rich, robust, and everything else a really good bolognese should be.
once upon a time, i used to make bolognese with chicken livers. i also experimented with pork, veal, and even lamb. they were all delicious, but these days, i make it completely without meat. and you know what? i don’t miss it, and neither will you.
many italian recipes like bolognese include 2 or 3 kinds of meat, and the differences between them add a depth of flavour and richness that i thought would be difficult to achieve if i left out the meat. i’m happy to say i was very wrong, and this recipe, perfected over time has become one of my fail-proof stand-bys.
this recipe takes some time, so i’ve made the recipe large so you can freeze half.
2 cans san marzano tomatoes, crushed (i use my hands)
2 cups red wine
2 cups half and half
2 onions, minced*
4 ribs celery, minced*
4 carrots, minced*
8 cloves garlic, minced*
1/2 cup olive oil
1 package vegetarian ground round (i use Yves)
2 tsp. dried basil leaves
1 tsp. thyme leaves
4 bay leaves
1 tsp crushed dried chilis
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
*i use a food processor to mince everything nice and fine
in a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. add the onion, celery, carrots, and garlic and cook, stirring very often, for 5 minutes or until the vegetables start to get slightly caramelized. add the veggie ground round, breaking it up and mixing well with the vegetables. add the wine. raise heat to high. bring to a boil and cook until the liquid is nearly evaporated. add the cream and cook until almost evaporated. add the tomatoes, basil, thyme, bay leaves, and chilis. season with salt and pepper. reduce heat to a low simmer and cook stirring often, for 30 minutes, or until thickened.
serve with really good spaghetti or a thick, tubular pasta like rigatoni rigate and shaved parmesan or pecorino romano cheese.
i don’t know what to call a vegetarian meatball. it’s not a meatball, it’s a veg ball. but “veg ball” sounds like a game you play when you’re really tired and can’t get up off the couch so you throw a ball to someone without moving. so meatball it is. unless someone can suggest a new name? i’m open to comments. (fake balls? maybe not.)
this recipe takes less than 30 minutes. sometimes i get flak for saying that, because i trained in professional kitchens and yes, I can dice an onion in about 15 seconds. taking that into consideration, this may take you 40, which is still pretty awesome for a monday night after work meal.
one caveat: the meatballs came from a bag. i know i know. anyone who knows me is well aware i shun most packaged and processed food. i’ve made veggie meatballs from scratch, and they are good, but time-consuming. one day i’ll get my act together and throw a few batches in the freezer.
polenta is essentially a porridge made from cornmeal. it can be made soft and creamy, or a little denser. this one is in between. i make a lot. i serve it hot out of the pot and it’s smooth and creamy until it cools. then it solidifies somewhat, and becomes sliceable. cooled and cut, it can be grilled or pan fried and topped with everything from sauteed mushrooms, appetizer-style, or soft scrambled eggs for breakfast. versatile stuff. it’s bland though, so good to tart it up with lots of garlic and cheese and fresh herbs and butter. yeah.
just remember to use a whisk and slowly add the cornmeal to the hot liquid to avoid lumps. it will sputter at you, so have a lid handy.
chipotle polenta with roasted tomato sauce and vegetarian meatballs
for the sauce:
1 can san marzano tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, finely diced
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
handful of fresh basil leaves, chiffonade*
for the polenta
7 cups water + 2 tbsp. vegetable stock powder (or 7 cups vegetable stock )
1 cup 18% cream (yeah i know. just do it)
2 1/2 cups cornmeal
4 cloves garlic, minced (do all the garlic for the sauce and the polenta at the same time)
1/2 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
1/2 cup shredded parmesan or romano cheese
1 tsp. sea salt
a few grindings of black pepper
1/2 cup butter (yes, i know)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 package frozen veggie meatballs (i used gardein, which i use for many of my meatless meat needs)
preheat oven to 450F. in a large oven-safe pan, heat the oil over medium heat. add the onion and garlic, and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. increase heat to high. add the wine and bring to a boil, cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated. crush the tomatoes with your hands (i do this right in the can) and add to the pan. add salt, pepper, and olives. stir well. add the unthawed meatballs, and pop the pan into the oven for 20 minutes. stir once or twice. remove from oven and stir in basil.
meanwhile, bring the stock and cream to a boil. add the garlic and chipotles. slowly whisk in the cornmeal. switch to a wooden spoon, and turn heat to low. cook slowly for 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes. stir in cheese, butter, salt, pepper, and parsley. remove from heat.
serve a big ladle-full of polenta into 4 pasta bowls. top with meatball mixture and a grating of extra parmesan.
you will have extra polenta, so here’s what i do. line a 9x9 glass pan with plastic wrap and scrape in the extra, smoothing the top. fold the plastic over and chill until firm. remove from the pan and cut into slices or wedges, and grill, pan fry, and top to your hearts content. yummy cold too.
serves 4, generously.
*to chiffonade basil, stack leaves, roll tightly, then slice crosswise into very thin cuts with a sharp knife. this is probably one of the most satisfying things i do in the kitchen. don’t ask me why. it just feels good.
this was probably irresponsible
i don’t know where the idea came from to buy a bunch of refrigerated doughs and fry them up, but on sunday that’s what i did. i started with a tube of biscuit dough, thinking this would make a really, really good doughnut.
i used a piping tip to cut out the holes and shallow-fried the resulting rounds in some 375F vegetable oil. half got tossed into a bag where they made friends with some cinnamon sugar. the other had a bath in a glaze of buttermilk and icing sugar.
holy *&%$ they were good.
the outsides were crispy as can be, and the insides were tender and light.
you can’t go wrong really. they are perfectly sized, ready to go anytime, can be glazed/iced/drizzled/dusted with just about anything, come 10 to a can (restraint!) and take less than 5 minutes to make. my only caution is to watch the temp of the oil. the dough is super-sweet so it gets dark pretty fast. fry the holes up first to gauge the temp.
next up was some crescent dough. my son said, ‘let’s make pretzels” which i thought was brilliant. i shaped them up and into the oil they went. have no idea what amount of fat and calories these came to when i was finished with them. but think back to thanksgivings at mom’s and imagine those buttery, flaky crescent rolls. now imagine them fried. yeah, i know. i feel it too.
again, they got dark fast. the dough should also be very cold for shaping. i will probably do this again, but next time, i’ll unroll the dough onto a baking sheet and pop it into the freezer for 5 minutes to firm up the little triangles before shaping. they also stick a bit on the bottom of the pan. i would suggest lowering them slowly into the oil with a slotted spoon, so that the bottoms get fried a little before touching the pan.
lovely people, don’t do this every day. but if you ever want to make super quick, fresh, hot, crispy doughnuts at home, peel off the paper and give that can a whack.
happy november! today’s links point to some things that make me happy to be living in one of the best food destinations in the country
the best cheese in the world comes from ontario
this pinterest board pretty much sums up why i love ontario food
crimes against food
holy hanna, the new foodland ontario website is beautiful!
if you haven’t discovered tomatillos (you should), there are some still available (get some)
did you know cranberries are grown out ottawa way? neither did i, till i went on a farm tour.
and finally, some really cool bloggers who invited me to brunch. i can’t wait until the november event when in meet some very creative people
what used to be a day of rest is a perfect day to retreat to the kitchen and warm the house by making some soothing, seasonal soup. i call for a national soup day. t-shirts to follow.
soup is such a chameleon. one day you whip up a rustic vegetable-lentil business and sop it up with some hearty bread, the next you can be sipping a silky bisque garnished with quenelles and shaved truffle. It can be a first course, snack, or dinner. it gets toted to parades in thermos bottles and served to royalty in frou-frou two-handled limoges porcelain soup cups. It can be downtown, or downton abbey. it comforts us in the aloneness of a sick-day on the sofa or gets all party-like on a post-skating buffet table. it can be chunky, smooth, or somewhere in between. unless you lost all your taste buds in a freak pop rocks incident in 1979, you like soup.
here in ontario, where we are constantly singing the praises of our local food bounty, soup is a big deal. once a year, we devote one-seventh of our week to it. it’s so easy to make an interesting and satisfying soup with what is fresh and seasonal. i propose every sunday should be soup sunday. autumn soup sundays can be devoted to butternut squash and apple, hearty lentil and kale, or creamy white bean. in the spring i envision a clear broth with tender young peas, carrots, chervil and lemon. and the summer? gazpacho, of course, a cold watermelon soup, or a favourite at our house growing up, sour cherry dessert soup, with heavy cream and red wine. zing!
today I’d like to share one of my favourite standby soup recipes. I’ve made this for the aforementioned skating buffet, taught it in cooking classes, and very frequently, got it simmering on the stove on a Sunday, perusing the papers and drinking coffee.
happy soup sunday.
smoky tomato chickpea soup
This recipe uses some pantry staples but could easily be made with fresh tomatoes when they are at their peak.
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, diced
1 large stalk celery, diced
pinch hot pepper flakes
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground coriander seed
1 tsp. smoked paprika
2 cans whole plum tomatoes
2 cans chickpeas, or about 4 cups
4 cups vegetable stock or water
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, unless you hate it, then use parsley
empty the tomatoes with their juice into a large bowl and using your hands, crush until there are no large chunks. set aside. rinse chickpeas and set aside. in a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. add cumin, coriander, and hot pepper flakes, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. add onions and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. add carrots, celery, and garlic, and cook another 4 minutes. add plum tomatoes and vegetable stock or water. increase heat to high and bring to a boil. reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until all vegetables are tender and soup has thickened, about 30 minutes. stir in1 cup of the chickpeas. remove from heat, and puree soup in batches in a food processor or blender. it shouldn’t be completely smooth. return to heat. add water if it is too thick, and cook down a little more if it is too thin. stir in remaining chickpeas. taste and season with salt and pepper. stir in chopped cilantro. serve hot. makes 8 servings as a main course.
for your reading pleasure, a few tasty tidbits i came across in my travels this week.
if you go to nyc, eat brunch at prune. (a bit of my prune breakfast, above)
wish i had thought of this. totally doing it though
recently discovered this blog. clearly i am underachieving in the photography department
love the floridian in st. augustine and routinely steal ideas from their menu
i’m not cool enough to be reading hipsterfood, but i like their fab vegan recipes
simple and gorgeous honey packaging from switzerland
my pinterest collection of cocktails. pinterest has some ridiculously great boards, which i’ll be sharing over the coming weeks
have a good food weekend!
I love the idea of salads in the fall and winter. Mixing raw with roasted, spicy with sweet, aromatic with mellow. Making a great salad is an art. Luckily, with a few simple ingredients and some preparation, we are all salad Picassos.
I talk a lot about salads. When I educate people about seasonal cooking, the salad always comes up. It really is the easiest dish to make seasonal, using what you have, and the combinations of flavours and textures are endless.
Last February I visited St Augustine, Florida. I ate dinner in a fabulous local and organic restaurant called The Floridian, and have shamefully taken the ideas for this salad from one I ate there (washed down with a local craft brew.) I would make all the components ahead of time and have them in my fridge, ready to put together for a quick dinner or lunch on the go.
4 cups chopped kale
1 small head romaine lettuce
2 cups cooked wheat berries, quinoa, or barley, cold.
1 lb tofu, cut into 1/2” thick sliced, and drained on paper towels
1 can chickpeas, drained
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander seed
2 sweet potatoes, skin-on, cut into 1/2” thick sticks
4 pickled beets, sliced
1/2 lb soft cheese, such as ricotta
Pea shoots or other sprouts
Sunflower, pumpkin, hemp, or other seeds
1/2 cup raw cashews
Juice and zest from 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1/2 ripe avocado
salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp. nutritional yeast
1 tsp. honey
2 tbsp. snipped chives
Preheat oven to 400F. Toss sweet potatoes in 2 tsp. of oil and roast on a baking sheet for 20 minutes. Cool.
In a small frying pan, heat 1 tbsp of the oil, and sear the tofu slices on each side until browned (or you can grill). Set aside.
In the same pan, heat the remaining 2 tsp. of oil over medium heat. Add cumin and coriander seed, and cook 30 seconds. Add chickpeas, and toss to coat. Cook for 4 minutes, or until slightly browned. Remove from heat and set aside.
Cover cashews with hot water and allow to sit 15 minutes. Drain and place in the bowl of a food processor. Blend with remaining ingredients, except chives, until smooth. Add a little water if it is too thick. Stir in chives.
Toss together lettuce, kale, and grains. Divide among 4 salad plates, and top with tofu, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, and sliced beets. Drizzle with dressing, and garnish with mounds of sprouts and a sprinkling of seeds. Serves 4 generously.
Warm, soothing, delicious, and packed with vegetables. And did I mention, cheap as hell to make?
My mother made the best cabbage rolls. Growing up next to a Yugoslavian immigrant named Elizabeth who knew a thing or two about the mighty dish (she knew a lot, about a lot of dishes) it became a point of pride when she would bring over a pan or two, which she often did, and they were good, very good, but not better than my mother’s. These two women gave me my memories of how cabbage rolls should taste.
Theirs were stuffed with pork, and over the years I’ve perfected this recipe, which contains no meat but the combination of minced vegetables and earthy mushrooms comes pretty close. I tart up the filling with lemon zest, nutmeg, caraway seeds, and smoked paprika, and I used savoy cabbage, because it’s just so freakin’ pretty. Like a Beatrix Potter book.
Serve with boiled, buttered potatoes, perogies, or if you have time on your hands, homemade spaetzle, tossed in brown butter and fresh nutmeg. Some full fat sour cream is never out of place.
Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls
1 large head savoy cabbage
1 1/2 lbs cremini mushrooms
2 large carrots, scraped
2 ribs celery, cut into chunks
1 large onion, peeled, and cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cups cooked rice, cooled
1 jar strained tomatoes
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 tsp. caraway seeds
1 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Salt and pepper
2 cups breadcrumbs
1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
2 cups sauerkraut (optional, but so good!)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. core the cabbage, and shove the end of a wooden spoon into the hole. Put the whole head in the boiling water, lifting it out with the wooden spoon, and removing the leaves with tongs as they become pliable and fall off, about 5 minutes. Put the leaves in cold water, and repeat until all the leaves have been removed, using a small knife to cut the leaves off at the stem if needed. Drain and pat dry.
Meanwhile, place vegetables, one at a time, in a food processor and pulse until coarsely minced. Place all vegetables (mushrooms, celery, carrots, onions, and garlic) into a large mixing bowl. Cut up the leftover tight leaves at the core of the cabbage and mince this as well.
In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add all the vegetables, and cook over medium-high heat until all liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Return to the mixing bowl. Add the cooled rice, the lemon zest, spices, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper, eggs, parsley,and 1/4 cup of the strained tomatoes. mix well. In a medium bowl stir together the remaining strained tomatoes and the lemon juice. Pour 1/2 cup into the bottom of a 13x9 inch glass baking pan. Top with 1 cup of the sauerkraut (if using) Preheat oven to 350F
Cut the ribs from the cabbage leaves and place about 1/4 cup filling at one end (see photo). Roll up and place in baking pan. Top with remaining tomato/lemon mixture. Top with remaining sauerkraut. Cover with foil and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven and allow to stand 15 minutes. Makes 16-20 rolls.
Yams are one of those vegetables that when the weather starts to turn cold, they just feel good to eat. These are simply roasted until crispy with some gutsy aromatic spices.
But…resist the urge to call them “sweet potatoes.” The supple, dark orange, sweet fleshed vegetable we seem to see everywhere as sweet potato fries, sweet potato soup, and sweet potato chips are actually yams. True sweet potatoes have a light tan skin and have paler flesh, more like a true potato. Either would work great for this recipe, and both are loaded with beta carotene and fibre.
I wanted to spice these up, so I dug around in my spice cabinet for some Ethiopian Berbere spices. I got these from Epices de Cru in the excellent Jean-Talon Market in Montreal. Because they come blended whole, they are ready for the grinder so you get ridiculously fresh tasting spices every time.
Yams would also be great with some baharat, smoked paprika, or masala. I could also make a case for roasting and then tossing after they’re cooked in some Za’taar. Any blend of spices would work, and nicely balance out the sweetness.
Serve on their own with some raita for dipping, alongside a veggie burger, or room temperature over a robust salad of kale, tofu, chickpeas, cucumber, and pumpkin seeds.
Spiced Yam Wedges
2 lbs yams, skins on, cut into wedges
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp. canola or peanut oil
2 tsp. Berbere spices
Place a stainless steel baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 475F. Toss the yam wedges with the oil, salt and pepper, and spices. Carefully tumble onto the hot baking sheet, and return to the oven for 20 minutes. Stir once, and bake another 10-15 minutes, until cooked through and slightly crispy. Remove from oven, and let stand 5 minutes.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a supply of chanterelles at their disposal, and I did not take this opportunity lightly.
When I was growing up, our family spent some of our summer vacation in Northern Ontario, on the North Shore of Lake Huron in a little log and stone cabin by grandfather helped to build in the 1930’s. When he died in 2000 at the age of 91 (after boarding a Greyhound from The Soo to visit us, and having enjoyed a roast beef dinner with my parents before going to bed for his final sleep; he lived fully to the end) the cabin and the land passed to my Uncle. They’ve expanded the place and added a private island to the “compound” to house their 5 children and numerous grandchildren. Visiting this summer, I offered to cook, as is usually what I do to repay the kindness of the people I visit. It was on the island we came across the chanterelles, undisturbed for years and spreading into the mossy areas close to the water.
It’s not very often a get a pound or so of free chanterelles to do with as I please. Because we were feeding 6 of us and had so few, I thought an appetizer was in order, so we could all savour them. If you don’t have chanterelles, or you find the $30 or so a pound a little too steep, substitute oyster or shitake mushrooms.
Flatbread with Chanterelles
Makes 2 flatbreads
1 lb. chanterelles, shitake, or oyster mushroom, trimmed and brushed of visible dirt
2 tbsp. butter
1 clove garlic, minced
grating of fresh nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp. sherry
4 tbsp. 35% cream
1 cup shredded mild melting cheese, such as Emmenthal or Fontina
1/2 cup crumbled soft mild goat cheese
Olive oil for brushing
2 6-inch flatbreads, naan breads, or greek style pitas
Minced fresh herbs, such as parsley, chervil, chives, and/or thyme
Preheat grill to high and close lid. In a medium saute pan, melt butter. Add garlic, mushrooms, and nutmeg. Cook over medium-high heat until mushrooms are lightly golden and all liquid has evaporated. Increase heat to high. Add sherry and reduce until only a teaspoon or so of liquid remains. Add cream and reduce until sauce is thickened and nicely coats the mushrooms, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Remove pan from heat and spoon mixture into a bowl. Set aside.
Brush one side of flatbread with olive oil. Reduce grill heat to medium, and place flatbreads, oil side down on grill until starting to get some colour, 1 minute or less. Brush the tops with oil, and turn one more time. Divide the mushroom mixture between the flatbreads. Top with the cheeses and close lid until cheeses are melted and flatbread is toasted on the other side, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat. Cut into 2-bite pieces and sprinkle with the fresh herbs.
…as for the blackberries in the photo, we also foraged those. They were served for dessert, tossed over grilled peaches, drizzled with local honey and sprinkled with crushed gingersnaps.
Lately I’ve been getting questions about lunches. Namely, vegetarian lunches.
A friend of mine who is exploring vegetarianism does well most of the day, but finds packing a lunch to be a challenge. What to eat, especially for a newbie who is used to ham sandwiches? How do you get beyond peanut butter, when mornings are rushed and you’re feeling uninspired, or don’t even know what a healthy vegetarian lunch should be?
As always, I think like a chef. My answer is always about planning, thinking two steps ahead, and planning that brown bag as you would any other meal. I don’t know about you, but I really look forward to taking a break at midday, and the thought of eating something thrown together at the last minute, or worse, fast food, doesn’t cut it.
So when you’re making dinner, think about lunch. I’m not talking about leftovers, though those are great too. I love to tuck into some leftover pasta or veggie chili, but this is more about making two meals with the effort of one.
Let me share what I made for dinner tonight:
These were some quinoa and edamame croquettes, with a julienne salad, spiced chickpeas, fresh tomato,and buttermilk dressing.
Thinking ahead to lunches tomorrow, I doubled the croquette recipe, made some extra salad, and took some wraps out of the fridge.
Lunch tomorrow will be:
Roll up 1 croquette cut in half, a handful of salad, a sprinkle of the spiced chickpeas, and the dressing. Voila. The wraps are in the fridge and ready for tomorrow.
It’s not like it takes twice the effort to julienne a few extra vegetables, or double the recipe for the croquettes. Rolling it up in the wrap makes a whole new meal.
Another example, eggplant parmesan. Make some extra slices of eggplant, spread a nice, crusty calabrese roll with sauce, layer on the eggplant, some cheese, fresh tomato, and maybe a bit of arugula, and you have lunch.
Ok, so I know what you’re thinking. What sort of freak makes eggplant parmesan on a weeknight? We’re lucky to eat at all! Fair enough. So how about this. You’re cooking up some protein of some kind, maybe it’s chicken, or tofu. Cook a bit more. Boiling potatoes for mash? Boil a couple extra. Maybe throw in an extra cob of corn. Now…
Cut up the protein, cube the cooled potato, and cut the kernels off that cob of corn. Shred some lettuce into a lunch container, add the protein, potato, corn, and toss with some dressing. Sprinkle with some sunflower seeds, or a handful of canned beans. See how easy it is?
And if you do this while you’re making dinner, you finish the dishes and realize, lunch is also made.
How did you get so clever?
The Quinoa and Edamame Croquettes will be posted tomorrow. By the way, I also enjoy going out for lunch once in a while. I’ll get my calendar…
spaghettini+roasted heirloom tomatoes*+sundried tomato slivers+cured olives+feta+fresh mint
Tossed until feta was slightly soft. Lots of fresh pepper. A sweet-tish wine to cut the salt. Good bread and olive oil.
*from the freezer, the last of last year’s bounty.
Simple. Tasty. Fast.