Sweet and savoury at your holiday table
In this issue, our ongoing interest in the health of Glebe residents takes the form of promoting tasty, nutritious and appealing fare for the holiday table. Teasing out flavours with herbs and spices and using carefully sourced fresh produce and quality ingredients are essential to creating the special but healthy dishes that you want to serve to guests or eat in a restaurant.
We are happy, then, to highlight the culinary suggestions of two individuals who set the bar high by preparing food that is both delicious and nutritionally valuable.
For savoury dishes in the home setting, we turn to holistic nutritionist and Glebe Report regular, Lucette Ouellette. For the sweet but healthy desserts served up in a cozy café or tea room setting, we turn to Carolyn Best of The Pantry, a culinary institution in the Glebe that has been setting the standard for nutritious homestyle cuisine with a flair for almost 40 years – it’s gourmet quality without the fanfare.
Both Ouellette and Best invite you to take their recipes to heart to whip up some easy dishes during the holidays and share them in good company. We are confident that you, your family and friends will experience a reawakening of your taste buds and of your natural affinity for breaking bread together. Happy holidays.
Embracing seasonings and the season
By Lucette V. Ouellette
Yes, it’s that holiday time of year already. So, what’s on your mind – drudgery, joy, food, song, gifts, family traditions, stress, or a little bit of all of these? You are not alone. We all get caught up in our old ways of greeting the holidays. C’est la vie! You may find you can embrace them more fully by simply keeping moderation and simplicity in mind.
SO MUCH CHOICE
If celebrating the season means trotting from one fiesta to another, here are a few suggestions about food choices. Why not window shop at the food table, see what’s available, and then choose just a few items that really meet your needs – balancing a little protein, some carbs and a little fat to pair with your spirit of choice. If you are the one who is hosting the party, it is important to offer a healthy mix of foods at the table. For example, to your cheese platters you might decide to add vegan cheese options as a healthy complement. They are available locally at Zen Kitchen, Simply Raw Express, or Herbivore at the Door. And you don’t have to be a vegan to appreciate them.
BE YOUR OWN FLAVOUR MASTER
As a host, you may also try a few savoury tapas recipes to expand your repertoire. Tapas, originating in Spain, were used as a cover for your glass of sweet sherry (keeping fruit flies at bay). Initially in the form of a slice of cheese or ham (both are salty), the tapas would make you thirsty! But today, tapas are synonymous with “small plates” that can include almost anything, from anywhere. My advice to you – be generous with the use of herbs and spices to add zest and flavour for family and guests who might have become accustomed to salty prepared foods. Whenever you can, hold back on the salt. (Satisfy the craving for salt with a few pieces of dark chocolate sea salt bark).
So whether you are a guest or a host this season, don’t switch to automatic pilot. Take your time, be selective, and give yourself a sweet treat – guilt free – either at the beginning or end of the meal. Whether your favourite delights are prepared with cinnamon, ginger, chili or cardamom, savour the warming spices from the first to the last bite. After all, it’s a special time of year.
Lucette V. Ouellette is a registered holistic nutritionist and can be reached at email@example.com
STEAMED CLAMS IN BROTH OF SAFFRON AND FALL GREENS
Makes three dozen.
• large pinch saffron strands
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 large shallots, finely chopped
• 2 tsp olive oil (divided)
• ½ cup dry white wine and water if needed
• 2 small heads spring greens, or 2 handfuls fall greens, finely shredded
• 2 kg (about 3 doz.) small live clams or cockles, washed well
• 1 tomato, seeded and finely diced
• 3 tbs fresh parsley, finely chopped
• 1 pinch freshly ground pepper • lemon wedges to serve (optional)
1. Place 1 tsp olive oil, wine, garlic, shallots and saffron in a large pan and bring to a boil. Add greens, cover and cook for 2 min. until completely wilted.
2. Add clams and tomato, cover and cook over high heat for
4-5 min. until every clam has opened. Stir in chopped parsley and ground pepper.
3. Using a slotted spoon, divide the greens and clams among shallow bowls, then ladle the broth over them. Drizzle with 1 tsp olive oil and serve with lemon wedge to squeeze over.
Note: Clams are as salty as the sea they come from, so don’t add salt while cooking.
ELLINIKOS LEMONI PATATAS (Greek Lemon Potatoes)
(Family recipe from my Greek neighbour, Katerina Tsarouchas)
Makes many servings.
• 6 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut
• 1 to 2 cubes organic vegetable or chicken bouillon, to taste
• 2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped, depending on size and taste
• Water to half cover potatoes
• ½ cup good extra-virgin olive oil, again, flavour to your liking
• Juice of 1 to 3 lemons
• 1 tbs Greek oregano (or Green Door Grocer on Main St. has very nice
dried European organic oregano – lots of flavour)
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• Preheat oven to 400°F. Place potatoes in a baking dish large enough for each potato to rest on the bottom.
• In a bowl, combine water, bouillon cubes, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, oregano, and salt and pepper. Mix and pour over potatoes.
• Cook for 45-50 min., or until potatoes are slightly brown on the edges and most of the olive oil has been absorbed. You can broil a few minutes at the end to brown.
• Finish with a little sea salt if needed
Leftovers are always welcome! Delicious!
BRUSCHETTA WITH SAUTEED MUSHROOMS
4 TO 6 SERVINGS
(Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar recipe)
Prep time: 10 min Cook Time: 16 min
• Italian bread, sliced very thinly to have toasted crisp (there are also a few tasty GF breads out there now, Wild Oats’ Signature GF and The Green Door Grocer carry a lovely Buckwheat one from rND bakery)
• 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, + extra as needed
• 3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
• 1 lb mixed mushrooms, washed and chopped (recommendations: shiitake, Portobello, crimini or oyster – tonight using blue oyster fresh from farmer’s market)
• 1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and freshly chopped
• 1 small handful fresh thyme, leaves picked and freshly chopped
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Toast your bread in a toaster or on grill, or an Italian stovetop toaster. In a large pan over medium-high heat, heat 3 TBSPs olive oil. Once hot, add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper, and another sprinkling olive oil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 10 to 12 min, stirring often. Add the parsley and thyme, cook for another 5 min.(Note: Regularly check and taste whether it needs a little more olive oil)
Serve the mushrooms warm, on top of the bread slices, dress with some extra salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. Note: In Italy, definition of bruschetta is a flame-toasted thick slice of bread dressed with any kind of sauce, topped with extra virgin olive oil, some salt & pepper.
Sensing the beauty in food
By Carolyn Best
Learning to love and work with food happened for me in the 1970s through the doorway of a peasant hut, high in the Sierra Madre mountains of southern Oaxaca. It happened by watching and asking, as the women and girls ground the corn they had grown, dried and soaked using a stone roller I watched the whole process of making the tortillas– four long hours from start to finish. “Why,” I would ask, “don’t you make enough in the morning to last for the second meal?” I remember them staring at me, as across a great cultural divide. “Because we love them fresh,” they said. Love of their food, pride in its preparation, and gratitude were all shining out from them. It was a way my culture had not shown me.
Taste, of course, is wonderful, but colours nourish us as well. In a world where most of our colour comes to us through the petrochemical production of dyes – our clothing, our furnishings, our cars – I would send my children out, saying, “Look at the blue sky and the green trees.” Our fruits, vegetables and grains bring us true colours too, through their alchemical working of sun, water, soil. Where does the colour come from – earth’s magic?
And don’t forget the sense of smell. In an earlier era it was common for people to leave a bowl of apples on the table, just for the perfume that would emanate from them. Looking for scent, looking for colour, looking for taste – is my path for appreciating the real.
LEMON MILLET PUDDING
• 1/2 cup millet cooked in 1/2 cup water for approx. 10 min. until water is absorbed
• zest of 2 organic lemons
• juice of the lemons
• pinch of salt
• 1/3 cup maple syrup
• 3 tbs almond oil
Blend all ingredients except almond oil in blender. Some hot water may be added for a smooth consistency. Add almond oil and blend again for a satiny texture. Note: Millet is alkaline, “the queen of grains,” and a high-quality protein. Organic lemons are preferred since pesticides concentrate in the rind.
CRANBERRY RICE FOOL
A European dessert, simple, easy and elegant.
• Cook one package of cranberries slowly in 1/3 cup maple syrup until berries soften.
• Add 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg.
• Add 1 cup cooked rice (brown or white) and wait until mixture has cooled.
• Add whipped cream or Greekstyle yoghurt in half the volume of the cranberry mixture.
Behold! A beautiful pink dessert! Pretty in glass dishes and can be decorated with sliced almonds or berries if desired.
GRAPE AGAR ‘JELLO’
Per 1 cup of fruit juice (use one that is organic and unsweetened), add 1 heaping tsp of agar flakes in a pot. Bring slowly to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Pour into one or several serving-size bowls to set.
Note: Unlike Jello that is full of sugar and artificial flavours and colours, agar is a seaweed gelatin, very high in minerals and called by some “the perfect Buddhist food.”
Carolyn Best is the owner and creative chef of The Pantry.