Friday, January 18, 2013

Down to Earth

It smells like snow...! Oh, I know that those of you who are actually under a good blanket of snow, and have to slog through it every day may not really understand why I am obsessed with the stuff, but I grew up with icy-cold, snowy winters, and the cold, grey, wet winters in London just don't cut it! There's nothing like a blustering storm outside to make one want to curl up by the window with a good book and a nice, hot bowl of soup.

...And yet, come January -after the gargantuan feasts of December- one of the things I crave most often is a good salad. Not the flimsy, leafy summer salads, but a good, hearty bowl of chunky vegetables, or beans of some sort. While it won't warm you up like a nice bowl of soup, a nice, hefty salad will do you lots of good, on top of making you feel virtuous.

My first ever vegetarian cookery book was Laurel's Kitchen, and it was a revelation. At first,the book did not have the handmade charm of the Moosewood books, but the recipes are just as enticing, and the reference section at the back of the book was -and is- ever so useful to a budding cook and new vegetarian. It is one of the few cookbooks I go back to again and again, and the recipe I make the most is bar none the Fruity Beety salad. Granted, I don't always follow the recipe to the letter... Here is its most recent incarnation.

Fruity Beet Salad
Serves 2-3 as a main

3 medium sized beets, cooked
2 blood oranges, or 1 navel orange
1 apple, Empires or Breaburns are great
1 pomegranate
1 Tbs grainy mustard
2 Tbs white wine, cider, or rice vinegar
5 Tbs oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a salad bowl, mix the mustard and vinegar, and slowly drizzle in the oil until well emulsified. 
Peel the beets by lightly scraping the skin back with a knife -or a spoon could work too.
Rinse under cold water, and chop into a large dice.
Add to the salad bowl.
Peel and chop the oranges, or if you prefer, cut out the segments, and add to the beets.
Chop the apple into a small dice, add to the rest.
Cut the pomegranate in half, crosswise (in between the top and tail), and tap out the seeds over the bowl.
Mix everything gently, and season to taste.
Let sit for at least half an hour before serving.

I normally roast my beets in the oven -or in the wood-burning stove- but I just happened to have some left-over boiled beets from another meal, and they work fine too. If you are wary of cooking your own beetroots, you might be able to get a hand on cooked ones in some shops (in fact, in France, it is almost more difficult to find raw beets than it is to find cooked ones!) In any case, cooked beetroot should be firm, but not crunch, which takes about 45 minutes foil-wrapped in a 180°C/350°F oven, or more or less the same in a simmering pan of water.

Bon app'!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A New Year

Happy New Year everyone! May 2013 be filled with love, friendships, happy moments, and great food!

December was a crazy month, and while I am relieved it is all over now, I kind of miss its frenzy... Though not quite enough to want to relive it just right now! January is a quiet month in several ways: the weather tends to settle into a cold lull; fields lie, for the most part, dormant; and with everyone recovering from the holiday indulgence, the pace at work drops a few notches...

On my way home from work last night, I gazed up to the sky in the hopes of getting a glimpse of a star. Wishful thinking really, as London gives off too much light for many stars to be visible. However, the sky glowed eerily, as if it were foreshadowing a snowstorm. Again, wishful thinking, since London rarely sees a proper snowfall, and this winter has been somewhat warmer than the last. The cherry blossoms above were photographed on my Sunday walk to the market, a sign of just how mild the weather has been.

Nevertheless, whether you are in London, England, or London, Ontario, January is the month for warmth and comfort, and what little there is by way of seasonal produce is just perfectly suited for dishes that warm your cockles:

Root Vegetables are the basis of the heartiest of soups, the most scrumptious purées and mashes, and nothing cosies up a house like the luscious aromas of something roasting in the oven. For those of you entertaining the idea of 'detoxing' after the holidays, root vegetables are highly nutritious yet relatively low in calories.

Cabbage and Kale are winter-hardy vegetables that just shout 'hearty': think of cabbage rolls, sauerkraut, and soups. But they are also delicious in less traditional settings like in a nutty and spicy kimpira, or braised in cider.

Onions, and their extended family, are a good source of vitamin B6 and have anti-viral/antibacterial properties, both of which are very important to keep you energized and healthy at this time of the year. Although onion, leeks and garlic are often used as a backdrop in cookery, it is high time that these vegetables get their time in the sun: they are full of flavour, and are are very versatile. Try them in soups (with onions or garlic as the star), or salads.

And if you are looking for a hit of sugar, blood oranges are back in season...

Bon app'!

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