Spicy Soba Salad

IMG_9621This is very much one of our family’s “go-to” recipes. Slightly spicy, with a good mix of interesting flavours, it’s great on it’s own for lunch, or as a side dish for supper. Soba noodles have an earthiness that plain wheat noodles just don’t deliver. Combined with the soy based dressing, they create a dish that totally satisfies. Try serving it with some sliced, grilled chicken, and some steamed vegetables. This little noodle salad lasts well in the fridge for up to five days. Just think, five whole days of lunches prepared in one go! Our family usually doubles this recipe; consequently all the photos show the double portions. Continue reading

Coconut Chicken Stew with Basil & Lime

IMG_9606There is something incredibly satisfying about stews, regardless of their country of origin. Pieces of vegetables nestled in a rich sauce, sometimes with meat, sometimes without. Once I discovered the wonderful aspects of Thai red & green curry pastes, I started playing with different versions of stews using coconut milk as a base. I remember a surprise visit of a large family, and making enough vegetable stew to feed us all easily, using a mixture of just the vegetables I had on hand, along with coconut milk and some curry paste. We served it over mounds of rice in large bowls while we got caught up on each other’s lives.

However, a day came when I didn’t have any curry paste in the pantry, so needed to go it alone. Often now, I tend to make this coconut based stew without the curry paste, and have sorted the ingredients out to make a wonderfully flavoured stew.   I’ve shown it here with chicken, but as the option that follows shows, it is completely wonderful as a meatless stew (although it does use fish sauce, so not completely vegetarian). Continue reading

Roasted Carrot & Apple Purée

IMG_8745Textures and colours have always been important to me when it comes to food. I’ve had two memorable meals that were so off the mark that they made hospital food look good. Both were served on plain white china. Just setting the mood.

The first was served in a small home eatery on one of the Gulf Islands. Dinner was sliced chicken breast, mashed potatoes and cauliflower. Sounds great, yes? No added herbs, sauce, gremolata, or anything resembling colour or flavour, bland, bland, and bland. I could not believe that someone was proud to serve this to paying guests. Of course, maybe they weren’t. Maybe they didn’t care.

The second was at a major restaurant chain. We stopped in for a quick supper during a shopping trip. I ordered Fettuccine Alfredo, looking forward to a velvety sauce full of flavour. What I got: soft noodles smothered in a cream sauce. I couldn’t detect any cheese flavour at all. As well, there was nothing else on the plate, no sprinkling of herbs, not even a sprig of parsley. Disappointment prevailed.

When I plan a menu, I love to incorporate lots of colours and textures, as well as great taste. I’m happiest when I hear people exclaiming how beautiful it all looks, and then look forward to the silence as they all tuck in.

When planning a buffet, I like to have a purée of some sort as part of the mix, nothing soft and mushy, but something with deep, interesting flavours that is firm, as well as having a velvety texture. For an upcoming job, I want to have carrot purée tucked in amongst the other vegetable dishes, to compliment them in colour, but also that has enough flavour of its own, that people will go back to it for seconds.

So here’s what I’ve come up with. Continue reading

Gingered Carrots

IMG_8681Our first truck was a ’47 Ford 1 Ton. Dark green with gold detailing, and very much a work truck. In the early eighties, with my hair in braids, wearing a down vest, and gum boots, I loved being the one that would go to town to pick up supplies, whether it was feed or fence posts. Even though the truck was 9 years my senior, we were good friends. It could hold so much, and anytime I pulled into a yard the staff was excited to see the truck; consequently I always got speedy service.

There was an inherently farm feel about picking up 50# burlap sacks of potatoes, onions and carrots for us, while 50# sacks of barley and oats were thrown in for the horses and pigs. These sacks of vegetables would sit in the cold room in our barn, and feed us through the winter (this sounds like the olden days, but really it was the eighties). They were the mainstay of our diet, supplemented with our own meat & squash, and winter hardy greens from the farmers market. Some of the carrots where oddly shaped, resembling the human form in many variations. Some would make us blush, while others would have us laughing outright.

Eating the same veg day after day, made us try lots of different recipes. A pan with all three tossed with a bit of oil, and seasoned with salt & pepper, then roasted is still one of my favourites. Glazing some carrots always made those dinners seem fancier. I used to do a brown sugar, butter & ginger glaze, by just draining the carrots and adding the three additions back with the carrots into the pot, to heat for 5 minutes or so before serving. Years went by, and I started to gently sauté the ginger before adding, and then I bought the Silver Palate cookbook. Well. They added in caraway, a whole new flavour to elevate my simple glazed carrots. While their recipe uses ground ginger & golden sugar, I still like to use minced ginger & brown sugar. But it’s all about innovating, so with a bit of this and a bit of that, here’s the Silver Palate enhanced version of my simple Gingered Carrot recipe. Enjoy, while you remember that it really is okay to eat the same thing most days, as long as it’s good for you! Continue reading

Spicy Carrot Dip

IMG_7993We are in the midst of having the exterior of our house painted. A few years ago we painted the barn, checking that we liked the colours we’d chosen. We decided to change the door colour, yet we haven’t gone to the back of the barn to re-do the stall panels. The only time we see them is when we’re doing chores, and when we’re there, we can’t see any of the other outbuildings, so they’re not really a big priority. However, I will re-do them at some point. Last summer all of the other outbuildings were painted in the refigured colours. By doing them ahead of the house, we were able to watch how the colours worked throughout the year, and if they were truly the colours we wanted. On rainy or cloudy days the house in its old worn colour looked so drab, while all the other buildings now had a warm & happy glow.

The woodshed sporting the new colours, except for the gate, which will stay weathered.

The woodshed sporting the new colours, except for the gate, which will stay weathered.

Once the final decision on colours was made, a painter was hired. Someone who is willing to deal with all the detail we’d built into the house, as well as a bit of fearlessness to paint our 41’ roof peak.

Although I’m horrible about heights, and have had some anxiety issues while he’s up at the top of 40’ ladders, I am thrilled with how it’s looking.   Of course, all this has been going on while we move through an extremely busy summer. I seem to be in the kitchen for a long spell each day, figuring out recipes, doing test batches and so on. Perhaps I’m being energized by the attitude of the painter. Let’s get it done!

Here’s my take on a Spicy Carrot Dip that we’ll be serving as part of the appetizer menu for this year’s Summer Soiree & Art Auction. It is a beautiful colour (this summer is all about colour!), with a rich, warm spiciness that is lovely with a bit of flat bread. Continue reading