As Christmas day approaches, we have already been stuffing ourselves with the abundance of desserts, drinks and rich meals over the holiday season. It , therefore, only seems appropriate to have a cleansing meal before the gluttony of Christmas day begins. Bean cassoulet has been a tradition in our family for several years but I wanted to take out the fat component of traditional bean stews composed of duck confit and pare it down to its flavour and hardiness. I combined several recipes to come up with this tasty and relatively fast meal which is really a show stopper its own right. I like to buy chorizo lamb merguez for its spiciness , flavor and leanness but you can substitute any sausage you like. What makes this cassoulet particularly unique is it’s spinach walnut pesto and parmesan crostini instead of the traditional bread crumb topping.
Ever wonder what to do the rest of the gigantic watermelon you bought that doesn’t fit in the fridge and you can’t seem to consume fast enough ? The trend has been watermelon gazpacho and what a delight. It is such a nice flavor and perfect for the summer heat when served chilled. This recipe is modified from several I found online and really works well with a grilled main course.
4 cups rough chopped seeded watermelon or whatever fits in your blender
¼ cup olive oil
2 TBLS minced onion
½ cucumber seeded and rough chopped
2 TBLS minced fresh or dried dill
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Juice from 1 lime
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
Put all ingredients into blender. Pulse until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste and as many chilis as you like depending on the heat you like. Pour into bowls and serve with crumbled feta and minced cucumber and watermelon to garnish. It's even better served chilled.
Although I’ve cooked cod and other white fish a multitude of ways including battered fish and chips, I find the best results come when it’s breaded and seared. This gives the fish a nice crunch and also holds it together better. The easiest and pretty fool proof way is breading it first in flour, then egg and then a Panko bread crumbs. I modified the recipe to gluten free using rice Chex cereal and found the results to be equally tasty. Rice Chex cereal works well as a Panko replacement. Just grind it up in the blender and you have your crumbs ready to go. Try serving this with quinoa and steamed chard as a great summer dinner.
I’ve tried many gluten free pasta recipes online, and this recipe from Epicurious is by far the most authentic. The corn flour adds the tooth and flavour of semolina flour and the xanthan gum and guar gum hold it together. I’ve tried it without xanthan gum but it really needs it if you want to put it through a pasta machine. You can mix and match your gluten free flours( is. brown rice instead of quinoa) but I would keep the potato starch for it glutinous properties. You can purchase all your flours from Bob’s redmill and remember it’s fine corn flour NOT corn meal which will not work at all. Serve with some puttenesca sauce or meatball sauce and you’re done. Delicious!
4 yolks from large eggs( keep the whites for merigue or sponge cake)
Sift all flours
Add xanthan gum, guar gum and salt and stir in
Put eggs and yolks into the bowl of dry ingredients
Mix by hand until well blended (about 3 minutes)
The dough should be firm yet pliable like play dough
If you are using a pasta machine , cut the ball of dough into quarters and roll out each piece of dough to about ½ inch thickness. If you cover the rolling pin in potato starch flour , you can roll directly. Otherwise, you can use 2 sheets of parchment and roll it in between
Once rolled flat, run it through the pasta machine and keep increasing the setting.
I didn't go to the lowest setting as I found it was just too thin
For fettuccine, using the fettuccine setting on the pasta machine. You can also handcut
For ravioli, cut the rolled out pasta into 2 inch squares pieces
Add a dollop of filling to each and brush the edges with egg wash. Put a square on top and crimp the edges. A ravioli cutter can be useful
Keep the drying pasta on a sheet of parchment with potato starch mixed in so it doesn't stick
Add to boiling water and cook for about 3 minutes
Gently remove from the pot..no need to rinse and add your favorite sauce.
Beet borscht is such a delicious, colorful comfort soup packed with vitamins and flavour. I like to buy the whole beets with leaves and stems for more flavor and texture. If you can’t find them with the leaves, you can always add some diced kale for a little green. My son loves this soup which is a good sign. It’s delicious every time.
My son has been yelling for chicken satay’s lately ever since we went to a Malaysian restaurant in our neighbourhood. To get away from too much sodium and the possibility of gluten in the soy sauce, I finally made my own. Although my son says they’re not as good as the restaurant ( I suspect it’s the salt content), he still ate them ravenously off the stick including the cucumber salad that accompanied it. Although there are a multitude of recipes off the internet, I looked for the easiest that best emulated the flavours I was looking for. These are flavourful and tender and once marinated, very fast to make.
I’ve loved salmon cakes since I was a kid. They’re quick to make and with a few ingredients around the house, always great for the last minute dinner. My son thinks they’re great , too as long as the capers are omitted so it’s up to you.
Looking at my browning bananas in the corner that my son refuses to eat, I had to come up with something before they went into the compost. After freezing a few for later baking projects, I decided to use one in a black bean soup. I found this recipe online somewhere but have since modified it, increasing the seasoning and turning up the heat .
This easy salad truly represents winter as kale and other root vegetables are still available and in season in the markets. This new variety of black kale is tender and can be eaten fresh. Once you wash and cut the center vein away from each stalk, add lemon juice, garlic , grated parmesan with a little salt and pepper and you’ll be hooked. This is high in iron and my son even likes it now and again.
If you’re looking for something festive for the holiday season when company is coming, I find this recipe to be a winner. It’s easy to make, can be prepped before the guests arrive and tastes fantastic. I rarely eat pork but since the butcher is now bringing in happy hormone free pig from the region, I like to try it now and again. Pork has such a mild flavor that this vibrant sauce really picks it up and the flavours linger in your mouth long after the bones have been sucked clean. I also like to serve the chop with a parsnip puree base which really compliments the apple glaze. Along with crispy roast potatoes and grilled red and yellow peppers, you really have a classic holiday favorite.