I wish I had a compelling story to go with this week’s recipe. The truth is, one Saturday morning, my wife told me she wanted fish for dinner. With clear marching orders, I went to Whalesbone—the finest fish monger in Ottawa—to see what was on display behind the vitrine.
Salmon, trout, halibut and cod were all there for the picking. I’ve cooked a lot with the first three fish, but after one bad experience, hadn’t cooked cod in ages. So, rolled the dice and walked out with a pound of the oily white-fleshed fish.
I googled cod recipes to see what would inspire me. Upon seeing recipes for miso black cod (a different fish, I know), I decided to roll with it. This is what I came up with. My wife loved it, the bar my recipes must all clear before I share them here.
Does anyone wake up thinking, “You know what I could use right now? A root vegetable salad”? It just doesn’t happen.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, we often think of using root vegetables to flavour stocks or soups. Sure, we might add some peeled carrots to our asian-inspired rice noodle dish. Or make a beet salad from time to time. But if you’re like me, the idea of making a root vegetable salad sounds kind of boring. Not any more.
This is a sexy dish. An array of colours and a wide spectrum of flavours will smack your palate around. It’s a surefire way to buck the winter blues. You’re using seasonal veggies and adding a spike of citrus, herbs, and crunch to breath new life into winter veggies. The real hero of the dish is the faux mayonnaise, made with a lot of lime juice, garlic and spicy chile. Best part is, you can make most this dish ahead of time, letting you spend the weekend as you see fit.
I was inspired by a new cookbook some good friends got me for Christmas, Bar Tartine for this recipe. I’ve adapted it by using fewer ingredients, and using ones most of us would have in our pantry (e.g. olive oil instead of pumpkin oil). I also prefer a dressing that packs a bit of punch; what I have below does the trick, for my personal tastes. As always, let me know how it worked for you!
1 very small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
Green onions, white and tender parts, sliced
Juice of 2 limes
1 tsp kosher salt
Fresh cilantro, dill and curly parsley, coarsely chopped, for garnish
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp honey
grated zest of 2 limes
2 tsp kosher salt
225g pumpkin seeds
Dressing (faux mayonnaise)
1 tbsp honey
1/2 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves
1 jalapeño chile
1 tsp kosher salt
5 tbsp sour cream
Make it happen
Separately, steam all the root vegetables for 10-15 minutes, until tender, but not mushy. For the parsnip, make sure to reserve 1/2 cup and set aside at room temperature (it’ll come in handy later when we make the dressing). Otherwise, all root vegetables go straight to the fridge to cool. You can do this 1 day in advance, if you like, and store, covered, in the fridge.
To make the roasted pumpkin seeds, preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter with the remaining ingredients before adding the seeds. Toss to coat and spread out on a baking tray. Bake for 15 minutes and then let cool. You can do this up to 5 days in advance, if you like and store in an airtight container at room temperature.
To make the dressing, squeeze out the juice from the limes into a blender with the honey, olive oil, garlic, jalapeño and salt. Purée until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the sour cream. You can do this up to 5 days in advance, if you like and store in an airtight container in the fridge.
To assemble, transfer the root veggies to a bowl and toss with juice of 2 limes and salt. Add the dressing and half of each of the green onions, cilantro, dill and parsley. Mix gently. Transfer to a plate and top with roasted pumpkin seeds, the remaining green onions and herbs.
This week’s recipe looks pretty similar to that ubiquitous Vietnamese dish we all know and love. That big bowl of hot broth that hides an undertow of rice noodles upon which heaping amounts of bean sprouts and cilantro rest. Dig through this nest and you’ll find meat that’s been perfectly flavoured by a broth that’s been simmering all day. It’s quite possibly the closest you’ll get to heaven on earth.
But this ain’t Pho. It’s a bowl of pork broth that’s been augmented with dried squid and spare ribs. The method guarantees you’ll have some of the most succulent and tender spare ribs you’ve had in a long time. You’ll look and feel like a pro when your chop sticks pierce through the meat like a hot knife through butter. Take a bite, follow-it up with a slurp, close your eyes, and picture yourself in Ho Chi Minh City.
A note on ingredients: You should be able to find most of these at your local grocer. As for garlic chives, most asian grocers carry this, but you could always substitute with regular chives. I’d use less, however, as they’ve got a stronger taste than garlic chives, which are surprisingly delicate in flavour. Same deal with the shredded squid. It comes in packages like this.
1 lb pork ribs, chopped into 2.5 inch pieces (the butcher can do this for you)
1 tbsp black peppercorns
4 green onions, white parts only
225g (1 package, usually) dried shredded squid
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
800g rice noodles, separated into 200g portions (if you have smaller bowls, you can cut this in half)
2 tsp sea salt
3 tsp sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
4 shallots, roughly bashed in a mortar and pestle
250g bean sprouts (optional)
small handful cilantro, leaves picked
small handful garlic chives, sliced into 1.5 inch lengths
half bunch mint, leaves picked
2 tbsp fried garlic chips (see recipe below)
2 tbsp fried shallots (see recipe below)
generous pinch of freshly ground black pepper
3 red chiles, sliced
1 lime, halved
Make it happen
Mix marinade ingredients in a large bow and add the pork ribs. Toss well to coat. Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours. If you can plan ahead, do this the night before for awesome flavour.
Add the marinated pork ribs to a large stockpot. Add the peppercorns, green onions, shredded squid and 10 cups (2.5 litres) of water. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes, skimming off impurities as they foam to the top. Reduce heat to a low simmer, cover and let it do its thing for 2 hours.
Add the salt, sugar and fish sauce. Give it a quick stir and let it cook another 10 minutes before removing from the heat.
When you’re ready to serve, bring a large pot of water to boil. In individual batches, blanch each portion of noodles for 10 seconds, rinse under cold water, and place in separate bowls.
Add pork ribs to each bowl, then cover with your amazing broth. Top with bean sprouts (if you’re using), cilantro, garlic chives, mint, garlic chips and fried shallots.
Finish with a crack of pepper, chile slices and a squeeze of lime.
You won’t even have to take out a knife for this week’s recipe. Start to finish, we’re looking at 15 minutes. And I mean real people minutes, not Jamie Oliver minutes.
To pull it off, we’re letting a kick-ass curry paste do all the work for us. Do not skimp out on this crucial ingredient — it’ll make your big bowl of broth and noodles sing. You should get the curry from an asian grocer, if you’re so lucky to have one in your neck of the woods. It’s tough to find good curry paste at your mainstream grocer. Look at the ingredient list on the curry I got from my local asian grocer: chilli powder, coriander, fennel, cumin, cinnamon, red rice, salt, ginger, garlic, curry leaves, palm oil, tamarind and drumstick leaves. No preservatives. No BS. This stuff packs a punch and will help you make one solid bowl of laksa.
So, find a local asian grocer. Get your hands on some awesome curry paste. Sit back. Marvel as this dish practically cooks itself for you.
Broccoli is such an underrated vegetable. I don’t know about you, but I don’t exactly get excited about using it in my cooking. Maybe it’s because for the longest time, I assumed the only way to prepare it was to steam it. That’s fine when you’re making baby food, but if you really want to make the broccoli shine, try roasting it, as we’ve done here.
Heat a lug of olive oil to a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the couscous and stir constantly until golden brown and aromatic (3-4 minutes). Then add 2 cups of water; bring to the boil, add the bay leaf and rosemary and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the couscous is soft but not mushy. Remove from heat, strain if necessary, and set aside.
Meanwhile, toss the broccoli and onion wedges in a lug or two of olive oil before spreading out onto a baking sheet. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper and roast in the oven until the broccoli is golden brown (25-30 minutes).
Make the dressing by combining all the ingredients in a jar and shaking vigourously. Season to taste. You may have to adjust the acid levels, depending on how juicy your lime is.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the almonds with sumac and roast until golden brown, set aside.
When the broccoli is ready, combine with the couscous. Divide among individual bowls. Top with dressing, almonds, and feta.
Full credit for the inspiration and method for this week’ recipe goes to Yotam Ottolenghi. You’ll find the original version of this recipe in his latest book, Plenty More. I have made my own tweaks to his version, including the use of capers instead of basil, caraway instead of nigella seeds, and the use of Harissa paste to give the cake a little more kick. This is a fun dish to prepare with kids, as there’s lots of cracking of eggs and mixing of flours and spices. Plus, you can tell your kids they’re going to eat cake for dinner!
1 small cauliflower, other leaves removed, broken into 1″ florets
1 medium red onion
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
2 tbsp capers, drained
2 tsp Harissa paste
1 cup all purpose flower
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated parmesan
melted unsalted butter
1 tbsp white sesame seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
salt and black pepper
Make it happen
Preheat the oven to 400°F
Place the cauliflower in a saucepan with a pinch of salt and cover with water. Simmer for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside in a colander to dry.
Cut 2 round slices, each 1/4″ thick, off the non-root end of the onion. Set aside in a bowl of cold water. Coarsely chop the rest of the onion and add to a warm pan with olive oil and rosemary. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Once the onion has cooled, transfer it to a large bowl with the eggs, capers, and Harissa paste. Whisk well.
Add the flour, baking soda, turmeric, Parmesan with a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk until smooth before gently adding the cauliflower.
Line the base of a springform cake pan with parchment paper and brush the sides with melted butter. Sprinkle with the sesame and caraway seeds before adding the cauliflower mixture and spreading it evenly in the pan. Arrange the onion slices on top and bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let rest a solid 20 minutes before serving.