Friday, January 20, 2012


Just like "whole grains", kale didn't make an appearance in our kitchen until earlier this month. When I was growing up, it was all peas and carrots on that classic dinner plate divided into protein, carb, veg. And I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but Charles is not a cooked vegetable kind of guy. Raw beans or root vegetables, sure, but cook them and it's generally game over.

A few weeks ago, I brought home a bunch of curly leaf kale. Unsure what to do, I made kale chips. The nooks and crannies that make up the leaves' tips make for an excellent crunch, but I think the smooth, sweet Black Kale is better suited to this treatment. The next bunch went into this stew, and I was hooked (happily, so was Charles). Two batches later, with a bunch of Black Kale now in the fridge, it was time for a new recipe. Not surprisingly, I found a suitable treatment on 101 Cookbooks - Winter Pasta. Best of all, we had everything on hand, which meant I didn't have to brave Wednesday's cold... Until we decided to walk over the High Level Bridge to Sugarbowl later that evening. Yeah, I know.

The shallot, garlic and kale go into boiling water for a bit, then everything goes in the food processor, meaning this sauce comes together quickly, with just a few dishes to wash up afterward. Instead of chèvre, I used up some ricotta, and I also broke out the meyer lemon olive oil we brought back from Portland's PSU Market this past fall. That combined with the bright green colour made for a very 'spring' looking dish, which clearly fooled us enough to head out that evening.

I did end up adding some pasta water and parmesan while tossing with the pasta, and as you can see, we switched up the penne for some linguine. Finally, some pine nuts added a contrasting crunch.

More kale currently resides in our fridge, so if you have some good tips or recipe ideas, they would be much appreciated.

PS. Here's what our balcony window looked like this week...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Baking fit for cold weather

Continuing with the 'breaking in the kitchen' theme, my friend Claire came over Sunday afternoon, just as the chill set in, and we set out to make two recipes - this Six-seed Soda Bread posted on 101 Cookbooks, and Kim Boyce's rye flour Maple Danishes in Good to the Grain.

Six-Seed Soda Bread

This is the kind of bread that deserves a good smear of butter or slice of salty cheese, or a rich, creamy soup (it is, after all, a recipe originally published by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall). All the spelt flour and buttermilk give the loaf a wonderful flavour, but of course it's the seeds that really shine. For the most part we followed Heidi's suggested seed combo, although we ended up adding some hemp seeds as well.

Charles and I consumed much of the loaf throughout Sunday and Monday evening alongside bowls of "Silky Cauliflower Soup".

Maple Danishes

With the bread coming together quickly, we charged right ahead to the danishes, quickly encountering one of those errors that result from (my) recipe skimming - "Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill overnight." We decided straight away that this wasn't in the cards, and just focused on keeping the pastry cold. After a half-hour in the freezer, we began our turns, popping the dough in the freezer again for twenty minutes or so before our third and final turn.

We divided the dough into two sheets, covering each with butter, maple sugar and a bit of dark brown sugar, before rolling each into a spiral and cutting the logs into six danishes. After two hours on the warm stove top, the rolls puffed a bit before heading into the oven.

I think we were both amazed how well these turned out despite our 'short cut'. Our effort to keep the pastry cool earlier in the day paid off, and combined with the cup of rye flour added to the dough, we were left with tender, soft danishes. That said, I wouldn't skip the overnight chill next time in the hope that it would take off some of the yeast's edge.

The maple also seemed to be missing from these as well, but I highly suspect it was lost amongst the yeast. This was remedied by heating up a bit of maple syrup and glazing the danishes.

I wouldn't hesitate to make either of these recipes again. Before Rachel introduced me to
Good to the Grain, I can't say any of the whole grain flours featured in the book would have made it into any of my baking. But as I work my way through more of the book and explore similar recipes, I'm particularly appreciating the flavour provided by the flours and grains, in addition to their 'stick-to-the-ribs' nature, especially considering the frigid temperatures that have descended on the city this week.

Stay warm, everyone.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Breaking in the kitchen

We talked a lot this past fall about which neighbourhood would become home. Garneau is perfect. It makes not owning a car easy, with grocery stores and other amenities easy to access via foot. And just as importantly, there are lots of late night spots... no, not the weird bars along Whyte, but comfy spots like Sugarbowl, DaCapo, Remedy and Next Act.

But when one of Charles' family members offered up there condo in Oliver for rental, we couldn't resist. Although we're missing those "comfy" spots on 109th, they are, thankfully, just a short-jaunt-across-the-High-Level-Bridge away, and there are plenty of grocery options around here, with the City Market close by on Saturdays. Furthermore, downtown is quickly gaining in the types of casual spots we love (Remedy is coming along on 102 Street, there's always Red Star, and yesterday there was word of a new whisky bar opening on 103 Street). A short 10 minute walk puts us in the middle of all of it.

No matter the neighbourhood, moving means a new kitchen. And in our case, a completely different kitchen that we've quickly been breaking in.

Our first real meal was on New Year's eve. Although I planned to attempt Daniel Costa's "Ziti with sugo alla Napoletana," published in the November/December issue of The Tomato, we ended up with something a little more simple. Italian sausage cooked in tomato sauce with linguine, along with one of my favourites, roasted, charred Brussel sprouts (coincidently, I first had them prepared this way at Corso 32.).

We opened this bottle fermented brew from Brooklyn Brewery

Used up the last couple Christmas napkins.

And not that I have many pictures of anything I've made, but I've been going through recipes in Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain at a good pace. So far we've been enjoyed batches of her whole wheat chocolate chip cookies, barley scones and carrot muffins with spelt flour and streusel topping. By far the favourite around here has been the cookies. I used up some 'old' bars from my eating chocolate box, so these were definitely decadent chocolate wise. But the dough itself is beautiful - the whole wheat flour gives the entire cookie a chewy texture and the most amazing nutty flavour.

On the list this weekend are her buckwheat scones with fig spread, and maple danishes made with rye flour. I'll try to take some pictures as they come together.

Hopefully you all had a wonderful new year. We did end up at Churchill Square for Metropolis and fireworks. I mentioned our disappointment in last year's festivities, and must say that we didn't find this latest effort much better. The structures were packed with so many people that it was difficult to move, and when we visited Metropolis last weekend, the square was empty. I'll save you from what could would be a lengthy rant, and just say that I think Paula Simons really hit the nail on the head with her review of the city's newest winter festival.

We just got back from the leg grounds, where the Alberta-Heilongjiang Winter Festival is taking place. The organizers really did a great job planning this one out. The entertainment schedule looks enjoyable (we managed to catch the last half hour of the excellent Michael Rault this evening) and best of all the High Level street car is running so patrons can travel between the leg and Ice on Whyte festival in Strathcona for free.

I've got lots of posts lined up, so please consider this the end of a very long break, and the beginning of many posts here in 2012. We hope you have an excellent weekend.