Thursday, October 29, 2009

Savez-vous plantez des choux?

No, that isn't a big pile of cabbages, it's actually a small bunch of Brussel sprouts. Ooooh! I can hear the groaning from here! The poor Brussel sprouts have got a bad rap. Just the other day a friend of mine declared she hated them and would never eat them ever again... Harsh! On the other hand, a week earlier, another friend claimed that he actually enjoyed the sprouts his mother served him as a child! However, the general consensus is that Brussel sprouts are not an easy vegetable to like.

Which is very unfortunate, because they are at their best from now until spring. Truly, Brussel sprouts can be a fine vegetable if some care is taken in its preparation.

First of all, you should only buy locally grown sprouts (for real!!! This applies to all vegetables whenever possible, but it is especially true with sprouts.) Secondly, you should wait until hard frosts have hit your area -which is why you should buy local sprouts only. If you live in a frost free area -i.e. a winter-free area- then I suggest you stick to frozen Brussel sprouts. One of the reasons why so many people dislike Brussel sprouts is because they are very gas inducing and can cause other digestive discomforts, more so than any other cabbage. Frost and freezing can help alleviate this problem by breaking down the sulfurous compounds in the sprouts (these are the same chemicals that give mustard its kick). It also sweetens the sprouts and softens its tough fibres, another potential cause for gassiness.

Brussel sprouts are a marvel of the cabbage family: unlike its cousins, the sprout is totally impervious to the cold. In areas not plagued by huge amounts of snow in the winter, Brussels sprouts are left in the ground all season long, to be harvested only as needed, under a mantle of snow.

Another trick for minimizing sprout discomfort is to start slowly: pretend you are a baby having his first taste of solids. Eat a little at first, and slowly build up the portion. Your stomach will gradually get used to them, and you will discover that sprouts are actually quite tasty!

Of all the cabbages, I find the Brussel sprout most scrumptious cooked. I'm not too keen on cabbage rolls, and boiled cabbage just doesn't do it for me, but boiled and buttered sprouts are really yummy! Timing, however, is of the utmost importance: the other reason most people hate sprouts is because our parents often cooked them down to a mush. Yuck!

While most vegetables should be cooked until they are easily pierced with a pointy knife and slip off said knife, sprouts are done when they can be speared but do not fall off the knife. This can be achieved by cutting any sprout bigger than a ping-pong ball in two, then boiling or steaming the sprouts. If you absolutely want to keep your sprouts whole, it is best to score the stem crosswise with the tip of your knife and boil them. Plunge them in an ice bath to stop them from cooking further.

Once you've got your prepped sprouts, the sky's the limit! Chop some bacon into 1cm (½ inch) pieces and fry until crisp, add the Brussel sprouts, and voilà! You can add boiled and peeled chestnuts (it's the season for those too, if they grow in your area!), and you've got the traditional British side dish for roast goose. If you are a vegetarian or do not eat pork, but would like a similar dish: melt some butter in a frying pan, add slivered almonds and toast until golden, throw in the sprouts. You can also add some smoked salt to get a hint of smokeyness, or use hickory smoked almonds.

(Smoked salt is ridiculously expensive, but it is really tasty, and you only use a bit for flavouring, NOT for seasoning. It is easier to find than liquid smoke, and since you are only using a pinch, it is probably less hazardous for your health. If, however, smoked salt is too pricey or difficult to find -it's available in specialty groceries and fancy food stores- you can always smoke your own salt in your barbecue. Throw in a side of salmon, or some baby back ribs to make it worth your while.)

Give Brussel sprouts a chance!

Bon app'!


Monday, October 26, 2009

Cranberries too

Yeah, it's just another pic of regular ol' crans... I went to the market today on the lookout for cranberry beans, or any other dry shelling beans. I've been keeping my eyes peeled since the end of August, but I've either missed them completely or the cold and wet summer was detrimental to the dry bean crop... I don't know, but I was craving a big bowl of bean soup!

If you've never had fresh dried beans (I know, it sounds like an oxymoron! But that's exactly what they are!) you have to try to find some. Fresh shelling beans look like overgrown green beans, except that their husks are dried up, yellowed and rather unpromising. But inside those yucky -and sometimes mouldy- shells are hiding little treasures. All the beans available in the dry goods section are, at some point in the year, available fresh at farmers' markets or specialty vegetable shops. They are almost as starchy as the wizened dry stuff, yet they still have some of their 'greenness'. It's a little like the difference between a just picked green pea, still in its pod, and a shelled pea from who knows where. Fresh garbanzos (chickpeas) are truly delightful eaten as a green veg, not at all a stodgy starch (in Montreal, fresh chicks are only available imported in the spring: they require too long a growing season for us Northerners.)

If you can find some, you have to try them: Romano, navy, cattle, soldier, lima, runner... all are pretty pretty pretty so pretty it is almost a shame to cook them at all, but they would be inedible otherwise. It's also unfortunate that I was unable to find some fresh beans to show you just how pretty they truly are. Just to give you an idea, open your pantry if you happen to have some dry beans to hand: you see those cool shapes and patterns on the beans? Now imagine brighter colours, sharper contrasts.

Fresh, shelled beans cook in minutes, not hours, so you can have your bean salad almost as soon as you crave it. And the real boon is that fresh beans do not cause stomach discomfort! Yeah... you remember that grade school limerick "beans, beans, they're good for your heart, the more you eat, the more you fart!" Well, that won't happen with these babies: during the drying process, the sugar in beans turn into a starch that is indigestible to humans, hence the production of gas, but that starch is yet unformed in shelling beans. So buy a bushel, and spend an afternoon shelling beans over a nice cup of mulled cider... By the way, those dried husk are great for the compost, but they are even better as a mulch in the garden. And I was told that they can be used as decorative accents in basket weaving if you are the crafty type.

As I mentioned earlier, these beans can be eaten like any fresh vegetable, simply boil them for 5 to 10 minutes (depending on their degree of dryness), and then toss in some butter with garlic or shallots, or douse them with salad dressing for a warm bean salad. You can also make quick baked beans with fresh beans, just follow your favorite baked bean recipe, and cut the cooking time down to no more than 30 minutes, maybe even less. I'll have to get back to you on that one...

My favorite bean recipe is Bean and Parmesan soup. I usually make it with dried beans, but it's still too early for a stick to your ribs kind of soup, so when I do get my hands on shelling beans, I like to make the lighter version.

Bean and Parmesan Soup 
Serves? maybe 4 as a starter, 2 as a main course, or 1 famished person
 

1 bushel of fresh shelling beans (about 1kg with the shell), any kind or 250g (±1cup) dried beans
1 large carrot
1 big onion
1 small leek, optional
1 huge clove of garlic
butter or oil
Pamesan rind, about 2x5cm (1"x2.5") piece
3 sprigs fresh thyme, optional
1 sprig sage, optional
1 sprig rosemary, optional
½ bunch flat leaf parsley, optional

-Shell all the beans, you will probably get about 2-3cups of beans. I know, it seems like a lot of work, but it's worth it. Give them a quick wash.
-If you are using the dried beans, pick through for any stones or clods of dirt, place in a large pot and cover with water. Leave to soak overnight. On the next day, if you are susceptible to bean gas you can change the soaking water (if you have houseplants, save this water for them, it is FULL of nutrients), otherwise proceed with the recipe.
-Peel the carrot and onion, chop into big chunks. Do the same with the leek, and wash thoroughly.
-In a large pot (if, like me, you only have one large pot, transfer your dried beans to a big bowl), heat the butter or oil or both, add the herbs -you can use dried herbs if you like, about 1 teaspoon each- the onion, carrot and leek. Cook down until the onions are translucent and start to brown on the edges. Add the beans and cover with just enough water. Throw in the Parmesan rind.
*I always buy chunks of Parmesan, and grate as I need it, because it keeps better and longer this way. If you only have grated Parmesan, add it at the very end. However, I find Parmesan blocks more economical than grated: the flavour is better, so I use less, and it keeps indefinitely in the fridge. And I get the rind for this soup!
-Cook until the beans are easily crushed under a fork (about 20 minutes). If you are using the dried beans, it is important that you DO NOT salt the pot until the beans are fully cooked, otherwise they will never soften. Dried beans will take at least 45 minutes to cook, if not longer.
-Take the pot off the stove, and blend it. I've broken a few stick blenders making this soup -it was the cheese!!- so I recommend using a jar blender for this soup. If you do not have a jug, take out the Parmesan before you blend the soup. Or you can make a more rustic soup by chopping all the veggies bite sized, and cutting up the Parmesan rind once it has softened up in the soup (or not).
-Return the pot to the stove, check the seasoning, add grated Parmesan if you want more cheesiness. You may need to add some more water if the soup is too thick -especially if yo are using dried beans.
-Serve as is, or with some pesto. This soup is delicious hot off the stove, but it is even better re-heated the next day. It also freezes very well.

Another tasty way to eat fresh beans is with buttered kale and lots of garlic... I'm hungry!



Bon app'!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cranberries


It's cranberry season... Well, it's been cranberry season for quite a while actually, since mid-September. (Check out the beautiful shots from La Tartine Gourmande...) But with Canadian Thanksgiving just past, and the American one coming up next month, it really feels like it's high time for cranberries. Just imagine the bread pudding from my last post studded with fresh, tart cranberries. My mouth is watering!

Cranberries are wonderful powerhouses of nutrition: I may be quite laissez-faire about diet and nutrition, but I know a superfood when I see one and I will not pass up the opportunity to enjoy them. Cranberries have been proven to be a great preventative for cystitis (UTI), are very high in vitamin C and other anti-oxidants, among other benefits they bring you. Ever wonder how Ocean Spray manages to supply cranberries from Canadian Thanksgiving all the way to Christmas? Aside from buying off a huge chunk of North America's berry production, cranberries have natural anti-bacterial properties which allow them to keep for an incredible amount of time. Case in point: for Christmas 2008, I used cranberries as the table's centrepiece. They were out in a warm room all day and all night, and most of the following day. I eventually got around to cooking part of them a couple of days later, but half got forgotten at the back of my fridge. I found them a month later (well into 2009) and they were still nice, not one rotten berry!

Apparently, the cranberries anti-bacterial properties are also good for us: eating these tart berries can help prevent mild cases of food poisoning. So this holiday season, do not pass up on the cranberry sauce, it might save you from a bellyache.

The whole anti-oxidant craze has been a boon to the cranberry industry, and to some extent to cranberry growers. Cranberry production in most Canadian provinces have shot up, and there are increasingly more market stands offering local crans. There are, however, some environmental concerns with massive production of the berries. If you check out the link to La Tartine Gourmande, you will see why. Cranberry harvest requires huge amounts of water, which can lead to the pollution of water tables. Some environmental concerns can be avoided by purchasing berries from smaller "producers", by which I mean wild pickers. There is also the option of avoiding big suppliers like Ocean Spray, and buying from actual producers, who are truly invested in protecting their water table, seeing as they and their family drink from it. I hesitate to claim that all small farmers are wary of pesticide overuse, but given that the price of chemical pesticides have doubled over the last year, most producers have had to cut back on their use.

Fresh cranberries can be used in so many ways, that it boggles the mind. But you need not limit yourself to cranberry sauce with turkey, or the ubiquitous cranberry muffin that is showing up at every fast-food breakfast place in town. Jazz up your tired cranberry sauce recipe with some chili pepper (why not some chipotle?) and orange juice and zest, and you've got yourself a chutney that will rival ketchup on anything (it's great with aged Cheddar on multigrain, r with cream cheese on a Montreal bagel...) Cranberry-orange jam with toast; cranberry pancakes; cranberries in your morning smoothie will really wake you up!

And don't forget the desserts: cranberry-pear crumble; cranberry-apple pie; cranberry fool (use some leftover cranberry sauce or jam)... But I think my favorite way to have cranberries are in a cocktail! Now if you order a cranberry drink in most bars, they will serve you alcohol mixed with cranberry "juice", but those are loaded with sugar and they lack real cranberry flavour. Your best bet is to make your own cranberry alcohol. No, it's nothing complicated and it does not involve distilling or fermenting: purchase a bottle of your favorite white alcohol (gin or vodka are recommended, white rum is too vile) and some cranberries. For 1L of alcohol, you will need about 500g (1lb) of cranberries. Find a clear glass container to fit everything, or several smaller ones and divide evenly. Leave the berries and alcohol to rest at room temperature for at least a month before imbibing. The alcohol will have taken a beautiful ruby tinge and the berries' tartness. You can strain out the berries at this point, but it is not necessary. Keep to hand in the freezer, and you will always be ready to dole out the cranberry drinks! (Cranberry gin with tonic is luscious!)

Bon app'!


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Waste not, want not Part III

I knew it wasn't possible to not film Oscar on Qtv!! So here's a little encouragement from our unfriendly neighbourhood muppet.

Waste not, want not. Part II


I couldn't find the ad promoting this year's Waste Reduction Week, so I'm using last year's. You gotta love Oscar the Grouch, brings back fond memories... As the spokesperson for WRW there could be no better person. He even made an appearance on Q, though it was unfortunately not filmed for Qtv...

In honour of Waste Reduction Week, here is another seasonal recipe: Bread Pudding! Yes folks, it is the season for comfort food, and at the top of the list (for me anyway) of sweet comfort foods is bread pudding. All manner of warm pudding is heart and soul warming, but nothing says penny saving and waste reduction like good ol' bread and butter pud'. Traditionally made with old, stale bread, this comfort sweet can be made with any leftover bread-like edible: a lopsided cake that no one wants to eat (no icing); stale croissants, danishes or any other breakfast leftovers; day old bagels... well, you get the idea. You can also use fresh bread if that is all you have, but you might have to cut back on the liquid ingredients since your bread will be moister.

Bread pudding brings back lovely memories for me, but some people do not like the soft, mushy texture... To them I say "You do not know what you are missing!!" Fresh out of the oven pudding has a lovely crisp crust surrounding a soft, creamy inside. Serve with vanilla ice cream, a custard sauce, maple syrup, or.... caramel!

Bread Pudding 
(serves one VERY generously! or more if you are willing to share)

4cups bread or other like food, crust removed if it is hard -like a baguette- and cut up into 1cm dice
250mL (2cups) milk, cream or a combination of both
6 eggs
sugar to taste (more or less 100g or ½cup)
butter
optional additives: raisins, a shot of rum, nuts, chocolate chips, ground spices, sesame seeds....

-Beat eggs and sugar until well blended.
-Add milk, and mix well.
-Throw in bread, and whatever additives you choose to. Let soak for at least 3o minutes, up to 2 hours, mixing occasionally so that each bit of bread has access to the custard base.
-Preheat oven to 325'F (170'C). Generously butter a loaf pan. If you do not have a loaf pan, you can use muffin tins, a brownie pan, or whatever.
-Pour pudding mix in the buttered pan, and pop in the oven for 30 minutes, more or less. If you want a very crisp top, you can dot the top of the pudding with bits of butter.


By the way, this week end is the International Day of Climate Action, lots of things are happening all over the world in order to push for concrete action to slow climate change. So reduce waste, and bake bread pudding to go with your broccoli soup.

Bon app'!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Waste not, want not

Did you know that today is the first day of Waste Reduction Week in Canada? Well, neither did I. But now we know!

So, to help in the observation of WRWCan, here are some tips: eat broccoli!
Is the consumption of broccoli going to reduce waste, you ask? Well, in of itself, not really, but it is HOW you consume the said broccoli that is important. Most of us will eat the broccoli florets without grudge, but the stems, not so much. Some of us will chuck the stems in the compost bin (okay), buy trimmed broccoli (not so okay) or even purchase pre-cut and packaged broccoli (bad idea) in order to avoid eating the less than appetizing stem. But it needn't be so! Broccoli, like alot of vegetables, can be eaten -almost- whole, all you need is a little imagination...

The Italians throw chopped up broccoli into the pasta pot and smother the whole lot with olive oil and lotsa cheese. Broccoli stems are crucial for a scrumptious cream of broccoli, 'cuz florets on their own will not bring enough flavour to the soup.

Cream of Broccoli (serves 3-4)
1 medium head of broccoli
1 medium onion
1 small leek
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon flour
½liter (2cups) milk
heavy cream (optional)
cumin, mustard seed, thyme, garlic (all optional)


-Rough chop the leek, and rinse under running water to remove any dirt.
-Rough chop the onion. Throw into a pot the butter, onion, leek and spices if using, and let cook over a medium heat.
-Remove all the florets from the broccoli, put aside. Trim the dried out end of the stem and peel it. Don't use a vegetable peeler for this, use a paring knife for broccoli because it has a very thick skin. Roughly chop the stem and throw in to the soup pot.
-Cook the vege
tables until the onions turn clear. Add the flour and toss around until everything is coated (don't worry about lumps). Add enough water to barely cover the vegetables, and turn up the heat.
-Let simmer un
til you can easily spear a chunk of broccoli with a fork (about 10 minutes). Add the florets to the pot, leave to simmer for 3 minutes more. You can save part of the florets for garnish if you like, but you will have to steam them apart.
-Take soup off the stove and blend the whole lot. This is where a stick blender comes in very handy, but if you do not have one, use a regular blender or even a food mill.
-Return the soup to the stove and taste for seasoning. You can leave the soup as is, and it will be just like canned or powdered soup if that's your thing (if you ever feel nostalgic for cafeteria food...), or you can add the milk and a splash o
f cream to make it lush.
You can substitute broccoli with cauliflower or romanesco, in which case you will not have to peel the stem.
If you'd prefer a vegan version: use oil for the butter, silken tofu or soy milk for the dairy and add a chopped potato to the onion for extra creaminess. Do not boil once the soy is in the soup, otherwise you will have broccoli curdles.



Happy Waste Reduction Week, and bon app'!


Friday, October 16, 2009

Climate Change

Today is Blog Action Day. This year's topic is climate change.

It's real. It's happening.

In December, the world's leader will convene in Copenhagen to discuss how to follow up on the Kyoto Accord. No one can really predict how things will go, but one thing is sure: climate change is real, and so far, very little has been done.

There is a glimmer of hope: the U.S. finally has a president who agrees with the facts. So maybe, this time, more countries will ratify Kyoto's follow up. And perhaps, real action will occur. But everything is up in the air. For one thing, the current Canadian government has regressed and doesn't seem to see the urgency of the issue. Granted, Canada is a small player on the world stage, but it is with great embarrassment that I look on what is happening in Ottawa. While diplomats and politicos were debating in NYC on the last day of the UN's general assembly, our Prime Minister thought it more important to make a showing at a Tim Horton's.

Seriously. It's shameful.

Who knows what the governments will come up with in December. Will it be too little too late? No one knows. But one thing is certain, we can't wait for everyone else to pull their heads out of the sand: we must all do our part, no matter how small. Be it recycling more and better; reducing excessive consumption of goods and energy; eating more foods that are produced in a responsible manner; picking up litter; changing light bulbs... the list goes on.

I, for one, will continue tending to my organic garden until the frost kills off everything. I will compost despite the sleet and snow. I will buy locally produced foods whenever possible. I will do my part, and hope you will too.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Brrrr! It's October.

Oooh baby, it's chilly out there!!!!

I don't about the rest of the world, but the sun is having trouble warming up the north east! My tomatoes have not all ripened up yet, but I will have to harvest them all before the frost comes down... Maybe after Thanksgiving.

Anyhoo, this weather definitely calls for comfort food, and the crops now in are perfect!

Artichokes
I didn't think it would be possible, but I was so excited when I found Quebec grown artichokes!!! I love artichokes even though they are rather fussy to prepare. The easiest way to eat an artichoke is to boil them (do not steam them because they will remain bitter). Depending on their size, it will take 10 to 15 minutes to boil. You can then leave them to cool off, or dig in while they are still warm. Peel them 'leaf by leaf', scraping the bottom fleshy part with your teeth... oh and dip them in something or other: melted (garlic) butter, a very lemony mayonnaise, red wine vinegar dressing, a mustardy vinaigrette... When you get near the centre, you will find really delicate leaves, almost see-through and quite pretty with their purple edges... don't bother with them, rip them out, and take a spoon to the prickly choke: you've hit the bull's eye. The heart is the jackpot, the whole point of the adventure... It is SOOOOO lusciously good!

So much so, that some people do not bother with the rest of the flower (artichokes are indeed flowers, and those tough leaves are really petals...) If you will adventurous, you can take a knife to the raw artichokes, and trim away all the leaves and the choke in order to attain the heart. While you hack away at your bounty, keep the prepped heart in lemony or vinegary water to stop the from browning. But like I said earlier, it's a lot of work. Rewarding, but time consuming. Enjoyable for some -like myself-but most people won't be bothered to attempt the task, even though the dishes you can prepare with fresh artichoke hearts are countless: carpaccio (raw, thinly sliced, with a lovely olive oil and lots of lemon juice); artichaut Soubise (creamy sauce, onion stuffing); baked, roasted, in a soup... Yet, boiled with mayo is still very nice indeed.

Beets
Beets are great at this time of the year: they're big, and meaty, and they have been prepped for storage. They're really inexpensive and they keep (almost) forever. Baked or roasted is how I like them best, though some people prefer boiling them. Personally, I wrap them in foil and throw them in the oven at 375'F, and leave them there for 45min to an hour. Prepared this way, beets tend to be sweeter and much less watery. Once cooked, they will keep in the fridge for a week, and they'll be ready for whatever you want: soup, mash, salad, or a good roasting.

Beet soup (Borscht) is really wonderful this time of the year. There are several ways to make this Slavic soup, but the basic ingredients are onions, a couple of carrots, and beets. You can top it off with a nice beef stock like the Russians do, or you can use water or vegetable stock like the Polish. You can grate all the ingredients, and keep the soup rustic, or rough chop the ingredients and blend everything when the soup is cooked. Whichever way you choose to go though, Borscht is always served with sour cream.

Beets come in all sorts of colour: red, white, yellow, orange and striped. All are tasty and make pretty purées on their own, or you can add them to mashed potatoes.

Parsnips
You might not know what parsnips are, but I am sure you've seen them before: these root vegetables look like white carrots, but they do not taste like white carrots (which are a whole other vegetable, up and coming on the gourmet circuit). Their flavour is a cross between carrots, celeriac and parsley root (which also look like a white carrot, but aren't!) It is sweet, savoury and starchy at the same time, and it is delicious roasted with other root vegetables. It can also be boiled, then finished in a pan with lots of butter and pepper. They take longer to cook than carrots, but can go from cooked to mush in the blink of an eye, so most people prefer to roast them, because it's less fussy. Parsnip's starchiness makes it a great soup vegetable: you can use them to thicken a thin soup, or on their own with some cream or milk, or... with apples! Yes, you read right, parsnips and tart apples (like Cortland, Empire, Gala/Royal Gala, Granny Smith...) are an interesting, yet scrumptious combination.

Romanesco Brocoli, and other cabbages
This here prickly little guy is a romanesco. It's a pretty and fascinating vegetable. A member of the cabbage family, it looks like a pagoda, with its pointy spires. If you look closely, each point is a perfectly mathematical spiral composed of more spirals. Truly, a beautiful vegetable.

It looks like a brocoflower -if you remember those vile things- but it is not a modern hybrid, but an heirloom vegetable that was bred for flavour, not novelty. It resembles cauliflower in texture, but its flavour is closer to broccoli, leaning towards a perfectly cooked Brussel sprout. Its perfect beauty is best enjoyed lightly steamed or boiled with a dip of some sort (Mayo!!), but it is also nice in a warm salad with some sturdy leaves such as roquette and romaine and a nice Balsamic vinegar dressing. You can always toss it a soup if you must, or toss it in a stir fry. People who are not keen on broccoli or cauliflower tend to warm up to romanesco, so give it whirl!

It would probably make a lovely centrepiece at a dinner party!

Other perfect soup vegetables
Onions!!!! Mmmmm, there's nothing like a good French onion soup. Granted it does take some time to make, but here are a few short cuts: do not bother with the home-made beef stock, there are perfectly acceptable ready made stocks out there, as long as you stay away from cubes and powders - this soup calls for a liquid (low- or no-sodium) stock in a can or a TetraPak. Better yet, don't even bother with the stock, water is fine, and you can add body to your soup with the addition of a tasty beer (amber, red or even a stout). The most important part of the onion soup are the caramelised onions, here again , there is a shortcut: add some sugar to the onions to jump start the caramelisation. Don't worry if the onions start to stick, or if -GASP!- you burn some bits: trow a bit of water or beer into the pot to stop the crisping up, and get on with the soup.

If that all sounds like too much trouble, white onion soup is a good alternative. It's just a lot of onions cooked down in some butter or oil. Add a tablespoon of flour, let it brown a bit. Top up with water, vegetable or chicken stock and let it bubble away. Finish off the soup with some milk or cream.

Garlic
No, I'm serious! Keeper garlic are plentiful right now, so buy a whole sack and throw a bunch in the oven. Roasted garlic is divine on toast, but it also makes a great creamy soup.

Both garlic and onions are immune system boosters, so try to eat lots of them in preparation for flu season.

Celeriac
If you, like me, aren't too sure about celery, try celeriac (celery root). This root vegetable has a faint celery aroma, but like a lot of roots it has some sweetness to it, and a rounder, more voluptuous flavour. Though a great soup vegetable (the Brits like it with apples -again!), it is also nice grated raw in a mayo-based salad (try it in a chicken salad.)

Pumpkins and other squashes
Pumpkin soup anyone? Need I say more?

Leeks
Potato and leek soup is a classic (vichyssoise when served cold in the summer or parmentier when hot), but combine leeks with onions and garlic and you've got a delicious flu-fighting soup.

...bbbrrrr! My fingers are frozen! Need some of that soups that's bubbling on the stove.

Bon app!

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