Fiddlehead Salad with Sesame Vinaigrette

12 05 2010

Fiddleheads are only available for a short time each spring so enjoy them while you can!

When I was growing up in rural New Brunswick, we would pick fiddleheads every spring along the river near my parents’ house.  Because fiddleheads aren’t grown commercially, they are truly a seasonal treat and are only available for a short time each year.  However, many supermarkets and farmer’s markets sell them and sometimes frozen fiddleheads can be found out of season. They are delicious in soups, salads, quiches, pickled or just cooked simply and topped with a bit of butter. Be sure to cook them well – there have been some reports of food borne illness related to undercooked fiddleheads. Cooking them thoroughly will also remove any bitter flavour that may be present in the ferns.

This salad makes a great side dish for an Asian inspired dinner.  Why not serve it with some grilled salmon with a light teriyaki glaze and steamed rice?  Pair with a crisp white wine such as a dry riesling.

Fiddlehead Salad with Sesame Vinaigrette

(VEGETARIAN)

Makes 4 servings

  • 4 cups of fiddleheads, cleaned and trimmed of any brown parts
  • Large bowl of ice water
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 3 large green onions (scallions) cut into thin slices, white parts only – reserve some chopped green ends for garnish

Vinaigrette:

  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons peanut oil or other neutral oil such as canola or safflower (avoid using peanut oil if there is a concern about peanut allergies)
  • ½ teaspoon Asian sesame oil
  • 1 Tablespoon dark sodium-reduced soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely minced

Directions:

  1. Prepare a large bowl of ice water and set aside.
  2. Fill a saucepan with enough water to just cover 4 cups of fiddleheads and bring to a boil. Add fiddleheads and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain fiddleheads and plunge immediately into the ice water to stop cooking. Drain again and place on a dishtowel or paper towel to dry thoroughly.
  3. In a small bowl, prepare vinaigrette. Add rice vinegar, peanut oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, sugar and garlic and whisk until well combined.
  4. Place cooked fiddleheads and green onion slices in a bowl and toss with vinaigrette until dressing evenly coats the fiddleheads. Place salads on a plate and garnish with toasted sesame seeds and a sprinkling of green onion slices.

This article first appeared on Suite 101.com

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Fiddlehead Salad with Sesame Vinaigrette





Roasted Asparagus Lasagna

10 05 2010

Roasted Asparagus Lasagna is a delicious way to enjoy the seasonal delicacy

Asparagus is finally in season and I couldn’t be happier.  I absolutely love asparagus and for the few short weeks it’s at its peak I go a bit nuts and eat it almost every day.  Perhaps it’s my imagination but this year’s crop seems to be especially delicious, possibly because of the unusually mild and dry spring we’ve had in Southern Ontario.  Last night I sautéed some in olive oil and added a splash of water to steam them until tender-crisp.  Sprinkled with a bit of sea salt, the fat spears were sweet and delicious.  I look forward to enjoying more over the next few weeks.

While a simple preparation is a great way to show off top notch ingredients, occasionally something fancier is in order.  A decadent roasted asparagus lasagna fits the bill perfectly: roasted asparagus bathed in a luxurious cheese sauce and baked until bubbling will tempt even die hard carnivores.  Serve with a lightly dressed green salad to cut the richness.

Roasted Asparagus Lasagna

Serves 6 to 8

(VEGETARIAN)

  • 1-1/2 lbs. fresh asparagus
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil or neutral oil such as canola or safflower
  • Salt and pepper

Sauce:

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 cups whole or 2% milk (do not use skim)
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • ¾ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely minced
  • Salt, to taste

For Assembly:

  • 3 or 4 large fresh lasagna noodles or parboiled regular lasagna noodles
  • 1 packed cup grated mozzarella cheese (about 4 oz.)
  • ¾ cup grated asiago cheese (about 3 oz.)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Trim woody ends from asparagus and discard. Cut asparagus spears into 2” lengths. Toss with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
  3. Spread asparagus pieces on a baking sheet in one layer. Roast in the oven for 12 minutes, until spears are just beginning to soften. Remove from the oven and let them cool slightly.
  4. While asparagus is roasting, prepare sauce. In a large saucepan, heat butter on medium heat until fully melted and beginning to bubble slightly. Add flour and whisk briskly until incorporated into butter.
  5. Cook butter and flour mixture for about 2 minutes. Add one cup of the milk, whisking constantly. As the mixture begins to thicken slightly (about 2 minutes), add the second cup of milk and repeat the process for the third cup. Continue to stir sauce so it doesn’t burn or turn lumpy.
  6. Add nutmeg, parmesan cheese and garlic to the sauce. Stir thoroughly until cheese is melted. Season with salt to taste. Remove sauce from the heat.
  7. In a dish approximately 9” X 12” X 3”, spread 1/3 of the roasted asparagus spears evenly on the bottom. Drizzle 1/3 of the sauce over asparagus. Top with a layer of fresh lasagna noodles, cut to fit the pan.
  8. Repeat the layers: asparagus, sauce and noodles, asparagus, sauce. Make sure the final layer is sauce. Top with shredded mozzarella, asiago and parmesan cheeses.
  9. Bake at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and golden.
  10. To serve: let the lasagna cool for about 20 minutes. Use a very sharp knife to slice through the asparagus. Accompany with a salad and crusty bread.

This article first appeared on Suite 101.com

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Spaghetti with Creamy Wild Leek Pesto

19 04 2010


Every food magazine and many websites I’ve looked at over the past few weeks have been excited about spring and all the great produce we can now cook with. Asparagus, artichokes, strawberries and green peas are all featured in spring recipes and I’m as excited as anyone about cooking again with fresh local produce.  The only problem?  For most people living in Canada and the northern United States, these items won’t be available for a while.  

So why not make the most of what little we do have?  Wild leeks (a.k.a. ramps) are in season now and they are a flavourful and versatile spring treat.  They look like leafy green onions and taste like a mix between garlic and onion.  The entire plant is edible and can be used in everything from salad dressings to pasta sauces. Unfortunately, ramps aren’t available everywhere and they can be hard to find even in areas where they do grow. Farmer’s markets are the best place to find them – they likely won’t be carried by major grocery store chains.  I typically purchase them at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.

Wild leeks, which are also known as ramps.

 

This recipe is very rich so it’s best served in smaller portions.  However, the recipe can easily be doubled if you’re feeding a crowd.

Spaghetti with Creamy Wild Leek Pesto

Makes 4 servings

  • 3 oz. (85 grams) slab bacon or regular bacon, cut into small dice
  • 2 oz. (60 grams) wild leeks = about 10 to 12 
  • 2 teaspoons neutral oil such as safflower or canola
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 lb. (250 grams) dried spaghetti
  1. Heat a skillet or large saucepan on medium-high heat and add bacon.  Cook until cubes are crisp and browned, about 7 minutes.
  2. While the bacon is crisping, prepare the pesto.  Trim the root tip but preserve as much of the white bulb as possible. Wash and dry the leeks carefully, making sure to get all of the dirt out of the leaves. 
  3. Chop the leeks into three or four pieces and place in a food processor or the chopping cup of a hand blender.  Add oil and a pinch of salt.  Pulse until the wild leeks are fully chopped and relatively smooth.  It should look like coarse pesto.
  4. Drain any excess fat from the crisped bacon.  On medium heat, add the wild leek pesto and stir fry for about 2 minutes to get rid of the sharp ‘raw’ flavour of the leeks.  Add cream and stir until the sauce is thoroughly combined.  Heat until the cream is just warmed through, about 1 minute.  Stir in parmesan and season to taste with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
  5. Cook spaghetti according to package instructions (see How to Cook Perfect Pasta for tips).  Drain and toss with creamy pesto sauce. Garnish with a wild leek leaf and serve with extra parmesan if desired.

OPTIONAL:  To make a vegetarian version, omit the bacon.  Add two teaspoons of olive oil to the skillet and sauté the pesto before adding cream and cheese.

For another delicious recipe using wild leeks, see my recipe for Potato and Wild Leek Gratin on Suite 101.com

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Spaghetti with Creamy Wild Leek Pesto is a decadent and delicious spring dish.





Cheese Toasts

31 03 2010

The first edible item of spring: chives!

A couple of days ago, I was taking some recycling out to the bin beside my house and to my astonishment, peeking out from amongst some dead leaves and sticks in my herb pot was the first edible item of spring!  I’m talking about chives, an oniony herb that is a perennial, meaning it will grow year after year. Chives are very mild so they’re usually used as an accent.  They also add a bit of colour to the plate so they make a great garnish.

This appetizer was inspired by a starter I had at Freemans restaurant in New York City when visiting with a group of friends back in February.  Be sure to use a good quality aged cheddar.  I use Balderson’s 3-Year Old White Cheddar but any decent extra old cheddar will work.

Cheese Toasts

Makes about 10 toasts

  • 1 cup (3 oz.) lightly packed grated aged white cheddar cheese – use extra old cheddar, aged at least 2 to 3 years
  • 1/4 cup dijon-style mustard*
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped chives, plus extra for garnish if desired
  • 10 baguette slices, cut about 3/4″ thick

*Using a mustard with horseradish such as Grey Poupon Deli Mustard or Kozlik’s Horseradish Mustard makes these toasts even more delicious.

  1. In a small bowl, combine cheese, mustard and chopped chives.  Use a spoon to stir all ingredients together until the mixture is combined and relatively smooth.
  2. Spoon about 1-1/2 teaspoons of the cheese mixture onto each baguette round and spread in an even layer.  Place rounds on a baking sheet.
  3. Heat the broiler of your oven and move an oven rack into the top slot.  Toast the cheese topped rounds under the broiler until bubbling and brown, about 2 minutes.  Watch very carefully – they can burn in seconds.
  4. Remove from the oven, place on a serving plate and sprinkle with a garnish of chopped chives.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Sharp cheddar, dijon and chives make a simple but delicious appetizer

 





Spring is in the Air!

23 03 2010

 

Fresh local asparagus should be available in about five or six weeks in Southern Ontario

 

It’s finally spring!  I’m a couple of days late acknowledging the change of season because I was getting some much needed sun in Florida last week.  Ironically, there were a couple of days when the weather was worse in South Florida than it was in Toronto, which is always surprising in March.

One of the highlights of my trip (aside from visiting some friends I miss very much) was enjoying fresh produce such as tomatoes, peppers and fruit that hadn’t been shipped hundreds of miles.  Their flavour was fresher and brighter and got me excited about the upcoming spring and summer markets.  Of course, we’re still weeks away from anything local in most parts of Canada but the wait will be well worth it when we finally enjoy those first green spears of asparagus and fiddleheads. They usually show up at the market in late April / early May and I can’t wait!

I saw a small flower poking up through the dirt this morning so with some patience, the landscape will soon be green and lush and we’ll be enjoying the first vegetables of spring.

Bon Appétit and Happy Spring!

Trish





Farmer’s Market Report – June 17, 2009

17 06 2009

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I visited a local farmer’s market this morning for the first time this season.  Of course, where I live (Southern Ontario), the growing season is just getting under way so the options were still fairly limited.  The weather has been unseasonably cool this year so some fruits and vegetables may be a bit behind.  However, I was pleased to see lots of strawberries and asparagus as well as radishes, green onions, spinach, baby cucumbers, peas, fresh herbs and rhubarb.  The fun thing about visiting the market on a regular basis is that the offerings change from week to week and get better as the summer progresses.  I like to select what looks good and then decide what to do with them when I get home.  Some ideas I had for this week’s purchases include:

For more ideas, check out the list of fruits and vegetables listed under ‘Categories’ on the right side of the screen.  Clicking on ‘Rhubarb’, for example, will give you all the rhubarb recipes on the site.

Enjoy!

Trish





Fiddleheads, Asparagus and Ramps – Oh My!

4 05 2009
The very first local produce to hit the market: asparagus, ramps (wild leeks) and fiddleheads - May 1, 2009

The very first local produce to hit the market: asparagus, ramps (wild leeks) and fiddleheads - May 1, 2009

It’s official – there are local vegetables in the markets again! (at least in Toronto). While folks in California, Florida or other southern areas may not quite understand the significance of this, for those of us who are buried under snow five or six months of the year, it’s exciting news.  I’ve been busy at work testing some new recipes to share with you.  The change of season is reinvigorating and inspiring and I have a lot of fresh ideas for delicious ways to use the fruits and vegetables I’m seeing at the markets.  Check back often for ideas and mouth-watering recipes!

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Ontario fiddleheads were available for $7.99 a pound at the market last Friday. Fiddleheads are a tasty vegetable and can be found in many markets in Eastern Canada and the Northeast U.S.  If you’ve never had them, give them a try if you can find them.  This Asian-style salad is easy to prepare and makes a great side dish or starter to a spring meal.  Check out my article on Suite 101.com for the recipe and more fiddlehead information:

Fiddlehead Salad with Sesame Vinaigrette (the vinaigrette is also delicious with steamed asparagus or sautéed snow peas).

Fiddlehead Salad with Sesame Vinaigrette

Fiddlehead Salad with Sesame Vinaigrette

Visit these pages for more on asparagus and ramps:

Potato and Wild Leek Gratin

Roasted Asparagus Lasagna

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Ice Cream

17 04 2009

Vanilla Ice Cream Cone

It’s April 17th and today is The Day.  What is ‘The Day’?, you’re probably asking yourself.  It’s what I call the very first day of the spring season that is truly warm and summery.  The forecast calls for sunshine and temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius (68 F). The birds are chirping madly with spring excitement and people are flocking outdoors to walk around and enjoy drinks and a bite to eat on patios across the city. Twenty degrees isn’t exactly hot but consider that this was the scene in my garden last week:

Snow on tulips, April 7th, 2009
Snow on tulips, April 7th, 2009

So what better way to celebrate this break in the weather than with an ice cream cone?  When I was a kid, ice cream was my favourite sweet treat.  My grandparents always kept a container in their freezer (usually rum-raisin or pistachio) and no Sunday drive in the country was complete without stopping for a cone.  I still love ice cream and it’s Italian cousin gelato and usually have a couple of containers in the freezer for an easy dessert.  I tend to be partial to rich chocolate or creamy vanilla (boring, I know!) but I also enjoy seasonal flavours such as pumpkin, strawberry and even Guinness and coffee.  

So if the weather is nice in your area, head out for a walk and a get a cone!  I’m working on developing some homemade ice cream and gelato recipes for the summer but in the meantime, you can check out some interesting ice cream recipes such as avocado gelato in addition to more mainstream flavours:

Ice Cream and Gelato Recipes – www.epicurious.com

If you happen to live in Toronto, here are a few of my favourite places for gelato and ice cream:

Ed’s Real Scoop 

  • Beaches –    2224 Queen Street East, Toronto
  • Leslieville – 920 Queen Street East, Toronto

There are now two locations of this well loved ice cream shop – one in the Beach and a new one in Leslieville.  Ed serves up a variety of flavours including their popular pumpkin ice cream.  Unfortunately it’s only available seasonally so you’ll have to wait until fall to enjoy it but there are plenty of delicious flavours to enjoy throughout the spring and summer.

Greg’s Ice Cream

  • 750 Spadina Avenue (corner Bloor and Spadina) 

Greg’s most famous flavour is the fantastic roasted marshmallow, which many fans claim is in a league of its own.  Visit their website at www.gregsicecream.com

Il Gelatiere Artigianale

  • 647 Mount Pleasant Road, Toronto

This gelato shop will make you feel like you’re taking a short vacation to Italy.  They offer a variety of flavours so go with a friend and order a couple of scoops each so you can sample as much as possible!

If you can’t get to an ice cream shop, some of my favourite packaged ice creams/gelati include:

Mapleton’s Organics – I particularly enjoy their vanilla – it’s not too sweet and has a creamy, clean vanilla flavour.  

Gelato Fresco – With a wide range of flavours ranging from pumpkin (seasonal) to devil’s chocolate, Gelato Fresco makes some of the best ‘packaged’ gelato around.  Their fruit flavours are very refreshing in the summer.

All of this discussion of ice cream has me craving a cone so I’m heading out to get one and enjoy the nice weather!

Bon Appéit and Enjoy!

Trish

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Spring – At Last!

20 03 2009

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Today is the first day of Spring!  It’s time to enjoy longer days, warm afternoons and the promise that summer is just around the corner.  We’ve survived the worst weather of the year and it won’t be long until the markets are piled high with fresh local produce.  Unfortunately, for people in northern regions the weather will continue to be unstable for a while.  It can be warm and sunny one day only to be stormy and snowing the next.  While this can be challenging as a cook, it also allows us some flexibility.  We can still make hearty braises and stews or we might choose salads and lighter fare.  Think of it as the best of both worlds.  

Coming soon: new recipes using classic spring ingredients such as rhubarb, asparagus, ramps (wild leeks), cherries and strawberries (not all together, of course!). In the meantime,  you can re-visit some of my favourites from last spring:

Quick Strawberry Jam and Easy Drop Biscuits

Asparagus Soup

Spring Cocktails

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Bon Appetit and Enjoy!