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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Roasted Vegetable Soup

Two things happen at this time of the year.  First off, you begin to feel sluggish because of all the meat you ate at all those great summer BBQs.  The second thing is, your garden is ready for harvest and you have a bunch of vegetables you need to consume.  Believe it or not, the first thing can help you decide what to do with the second.
Realizing that eating so much meat can take a toll on your body, it is not difficult to understand you need to cut back and eat some veggies.  The big problem is that you still have a ferocious summer appetite and won't be satisfied unless you eat a nice filling meal.
How do you this with just vegetables you ask? Easy! Make a vegetable soup.  So right now you think I'm crazy and that a vegetable soup will not totally satisfy you.  I'm not talking about some watery, thinned out version of a celebrity diet soup.  This soup is rich, thick, hearty and very satisfying.
Take advantage of what you have grown or the harvest of your local farmer and give it a try.  If you can't get the ingredients from either source just go to the supermarket and get it.   Feel free to add other veggies too, the end result will be a very tasty soup that feels like a meal.

Ingredients

8 cups of vegetable stock  ( Homemade or store bought, low sodium)
2 large potatoes
2 leeks
2 onions ( red or white)
2 carrots
2 cloves of garlic
2 cups of cherry or grape tomatoes
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Fresh unripened goat cheese  ***optional**


Clean and coarsely chop all veggies and place in a baking dish.
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place in a 425f oven for 1 hour or until nicely roasted and caramelized.






Once nicely roasted, remove veggies from tray and place in a food mill.








Place vegetable stock in a large pot and begin milling veggies (medium blade) into stock until all the veggies have gone through and you are left with nothing but dry skins and fibers.

**I don't recommend  using a blender in place of the mill because it will not remove skin and fibers.**






Using a medium blade will allow some larger chunks of vegetables to pass through while keeping the fibers and skins out.  The result is a super rich vegetable content in your soup.
This can be heated through and served immediately but I like to simmer this mixture for 2 hours using a wisk to stir occasionally.  In doing so, the soup will reduce by almost half creating a wonderfully thick and hearty soup.
Roasting the veggies gives it a deep, rich color and a  sweet earthy taste unlike any "boiled" vegetable soup you would usually have.  All it takes it one extra step and a little more time but trust me, it is worth it.
I like to add a dollop of unripened goat's milk cheese to the soup just before serving for added richness.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fresh Tomato Sauce


Traditions can be lost as years go by and older generations are not around any more to keep them going.  In most cases the newer generations can't be bothered to recreate the great food that was made for us by our grand parents and parents.  What do they do in this situation?  They head out to a supermarket and buy some horrible recreation of a traditional classic that is full of preservatives and other chemicals. 
For those of us who appreciate tradition and great food we see this matter in a different light.  Taking a little time and putting in some effort helps us stay grounded to our roots and results in honest, healthy and super tasty food.
This year our garden produced large amounts of heirloom tomatoes.  We have been eating them for weeks and are looking for ways to preserve the extras from our harvest.  Coming from an Italian background the obvious choice is to make tomato sauce. 
I have always thought of tomato sauce as the blood of our culture.  Growing up it seemed like we ate it almost every day in pasta or stews and smothered over a large variety of ingredients.  The thing is, we never got sick of eating it.
Traditionally, the roma or san marzano tomato was used to make our beloved sauce but because we have massive amounts of heirlooms I decided to change it up.  It is not to say I broke tradition but simply used what we had grown from our land and let nothing go to waste.  This is what our ancestors would do.
Whether you have 5 pounds or 100 pounds of tomatoes you can use this recipe to make batches of sauce which can be preserved in jars or eaten fresh the same day.

Ingredients

Tomatoes ( begin with enough chopped tomatoes to fill a pot)
Fresh Basil
Salt
Sugar
**** For ready to eat sauce add chopped onion, garlic and a touch of olive oil******


Chop enough tomatoes to fill a large pot and place on stove top.  Bring chopped tomatoes to a boil then reduce to a simmer. 







Using a masher, squash the tomatoes until they release their juices and simmer for 1 hour.







Carefully transfer tomatoes to a bowl then place food mill over the pot and begin milling until all the juices are in the pot.  You will be left with only the dry skins and seeds of the tomatoes in the mill.





To make ready made sauce, add onion, garlic, salt and about 1 Tbsp of sugar and cook for at least 1 hour or until reduced by half the original amount.  The sauce is now ready to eat with your favorite dish.

 If you wish to preserve the sauce just cook tomato puree on its own until reduced then add a pinch of salt and pour hot sauce into a jar with some fresh basil.









Place lid on jar and tighten lid firmly until sealed.  Place jars in a box or container, cover with a blanket or table cloth and allow to come to room temperature.  These jars can be kept in a cool, dry place and used when ever your recipe calls for tomato sauce.

***When using a jar of the sauce place contents on stove top and cook with some chopped onion, garlic , olive oil and a pinch of sugar.  The sugar helps remove some of the acidity from the tomatoes.  This only needs to be cooked for about a 1/2 hour until warmed through and onion and garlic are fully cooked.

Keep your families traditional food recipes alive for future generations to learn and enjoy the classic dishes of old world cooking at its best.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Blackberry Pie


Sourcing local food can sometimes be quite a task.  If you are lucky enough to have a farmer's market close by, it can make this a lot easier and faster.  When you have a garden in your yard and are able to grow a few seasonal ingredients, you learn very quickly how to use these items.  Although a garden takes time and effort to care for the rewards can be great.  The feeling of knowing exactly where an ingredient came from and that it is at its absolute peak of freshness is fantastic.  Aside from my garden I have what I once thought was a menacing blackberry bush growing at the back of my yard.
Blackberry bushes are very hearty here in Canada and can grow almost anywhere.  Now that summer is coming to an end the berries are ripe and ready for picking.  Pick blackberries too early and they will be really sour and quite unpleasant.  When they are ripe they are still not as sweet as a strawberry but they are mildly sweet and will met in your mouth.  Using them in this recipe results in a pie that is perfect for someone who likes a decadent treat that is not overly sweet. 

Ingredients for pie crust

2 cups of all purpose flour
1 cup of shortening
1 tsp of salt
4 Tbsp cold water
In a bowl mix flour and salt then add shortening and mash with a fork until it is well incorporated. Flour should have a large crumb like consistency.
Now add water and mix gently until it become a dough.
Separate into 2 portions, (one a little larger) and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate a minimum of 4 hours.

Remove from wrap and place on a floured surface.  With a rolling pin flatten out the larger portion and place in a greased 9 inch pie pan.
Roll out second portion of crust and set aside.

Pie Filling

4 cups blackberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 Tbsp brown sugar
*1 peach peeled and sliced(optional for added sweetness)*
Combine these ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Add contents to pie shell and distribute evenly over surface.
Place remaining pie crust on top and crimp the edges using your fingers around entire pie.  Poke a few small holes in the center with a knife to allow steam to escape.
Brush entire crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar then place in a pre heated oven.
Bake pie at 425f for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 375f and bake for another35 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
Once pie is baked remove from oven and allow to cool completely and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  This will allow filling to solidify a little and have a more jelly like consistency.
Slice pie and eat on its own or with some vanilla ice cream.   The result is a flaky pie that is tart and sweet made with local ingredients and preservative free.
Whether you grow it or buy it locally,  fresh ingredients always result in the best food so enjoy what your area has to offer and be proud of what you make with it!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Grilled Fish with Heirloom Tomato


Now that my my heirloom tomatoes are beginning to ripen, there is not much I would rather eat.  A fresh garden tomato salad and fresh bread is enough to satisfy me for a nice light lunch.  Some times you need a little more than a salad for lunch but keeping it light is the theme.  This recipe entails grilling a fresh piece of fish and topping it with fresh home grown tomatoes, slightly cooked to release their juices.  Simple, light, fresh ingredients make this a perfect summer time meal.

Ingredients

2 fresh fish fillets of your choice ( I used Salmon)
1 cup chopped heirloom tomatoes
1 clove fresh garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp  chopped red onion
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
1 lemon
Salt and Pepper
Fresh, basil finely chopped
Heat some olive oil in a frying pan then add chopped tomato, onion, garlic, cider vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Cook on high heat for 3 minutes then add fresh basil, remove from heat and set aside to cool.
****Pre Heat grill to medium/high heat*****

Rub fish with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Grill on both sides ( flipping carefully to not break the fillets) until fully cooked but not overdone.
Remove fish from grill and plate, adding a generous serving of the tomato compote on top.
This can be served on its own or with grilled vegetables or fresh salad..
The heirloom tomato compote is a perfect compliment to grilled fish.  It is slightly sweet, tangy and full of fresh summer flavor.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time- Compote: 3 minutes, Fish 10-15 minutes depending on size and thickness of fillets.

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