Portland: Foodie Happenstance

Though we had planned to vacation in Portland during the fall, it was simply a happy coincidence that our trip happened to coincide with some great food-related events.

An Evening with Mark Bittman

Feast Portland: A Celebration of Oregon Bounty, was a four day festival in September highlighting the chefs, producers and food artisans in the state. We weren’t able to take in all that many events (it would have busted our food budget for the entire trip), but we prioritized and made it to three.

The first was an Evening with Mark Bittman, where he would be delivering a talk titled “The Future of Food”. I’ve been following Bittman’s writing and cooking his recipes for a few years now, so it was neat to be able to hear him speak in person.

Portland September 2012

Waiting for Mark Bittman

The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall was packed, everyone eager to hear the New York Times columnist take on the current state of food in America. Without question, Bittman was preaching to the choir (and really, if you’ve read Food Matters, there wasn’t anything groundbreaking to add), but I still appreciated his passion on the subject. The one stat that stuck with me was that only 1/4 meals eaten in the US contains a fruit or vegetable (shockingly, that stat would be 1/5, but the perfunctory piece of lettuce on a burger counts). He also talked about the importance of the upcoming soda tax vote in Richmond, California, as it had the possibility, if passed, of rippling outward (unfortunately, the measure wasn’t passed – you can congratulate the soft drink lobby for their victory there).

Oregon Grand Bounty Tasting

I was a little heartbroken that tickets for the Feast Night Market were sold out by the time I got around to the website, so the Oregon Grand Bounty Tasting was a bit of a consolation prize. The $60 tickets set a level of expectation, but we were in the dark as to how the event would unfold, given there wasn’t much information available. We should have known better – though this was the first Feast festival in Portland, it followed a successful template replicated in other cities like New York, so there was little chance of anything but an amazing event to anticipate.

The organizers had fenced off Pioneer Courthouse Square for a few days in preparation, so we were eager to see what was behind the blacked-out walls. Turns out, the event was true to its name – it really did showcase the bounty offered by the state.

Feast Portland

How do you like ‘dem onions?

We initially didn’t think the Square would be big enough to hold the hundreds of people streaming in, but the organizers did an excellent job of using all built-in tiers to their advantage. Higher-end wine tastings were offered on the terrace, while the majority of food and libations samples were distributed in a massive tent on the ground level. Best of all, a cooking stage had been set up facing the outdoor amphitheatre.

Feast Portland

Inside the tasting tent

Feast Portland

Cooking stage

We learned about some great locally-produced products, from cheeses and baked goods to seafood. Notably, we were introduced to Jacobsen Salt (the first locally-mined Oregon salt), Olympic Provisions (mind-blowing salami), and Salt & Straw ice cream. With the overwhelming number of producers present, it would have been helpful to have a comprehensive list of all of the vendors – instead, we had to rely on memory and pictures to remember which products we wanted to source out after the event.

Feast Portland

Olympic Provisions

Feast Portland

Cheese

Feast Portland

Baked treats

Feast Portland

Crab

Feast Portland

Hot Lips soda

Feast Portland

Even Stumptown Coffee was represented!

In between tastes, we made sure to check out Chris Consentino’s demonstration. We had stopped by his Boccalone outlet in the Ferry Market while in San Francisco, though he is probably more well-known for his restaurant Incanto, and appearances on a variety of Food Network shows. Charismatic and funny, he put together a very interesting dish featuring foie gras and pine branches.

Feast Portland

Chef Consentino on stage with Bon Appetit Editor in Chief Adam Rapoport

Though I don’t think we were able to sample $60 worth of product, we were more than satisfied with the variety of food and drink, and the overall experience of the Bounty. Bravo to the organizers!

Feast Speaker Series

Our final Feast event was a Speaker Series entitled “The Global Local: Re-imaging Food Cultures” at the Gerdling Theatre. Many of the speakers had come from out of state, which provided us with the opportunity to hear from some of the current movers and shakers in the American culinary world.

Portland September 2012

Music

The event as a whole was impressively well thought out and organized. A folk band in the lobby set the tone as we walked in, while at intermission, identical food stations spread throughout the two levels were ready and waiting to dish out samples to the hungry audience (it helps when Whole Foods is a sponsor, but they alone couldn’t account for the incredible efficiency of the set-up).

Portland September 2012

Theatre lobby

The lecture portion itself was also nicely done. The ten speakers were interspersed with brief video “field dispatches” that helped provide the audience with a visual context of the Oregon agricultural layout. Even the time keeper was thoughtfully chosen – a lone guitarist sitting just off the stage would start lightly strumming to gently remind speakers that their time was up.

In terms of content, because of our tourist status, we would have loved to hear more about Portland’s food scene specifically (one of the questions in the promotional material that got us hooked was, “How has Portland become the talk of the American food scene?”), but I’m sure locals thirsted for more national stories.

Highlights for me included Portland restaurant critic Karen Brooks. She distributed three small tastes (a piece of chocolate and a coffee bean among them), wrapped up in a small canvas bag for each audience member. She then crafted a wonderful communal experience as she described what each of the foodstuffs meant to her, and invited all of us to enjoy each item together. It was an effective way of driving home her core idea that “food is trust” – each of us was intimately connected to the artisan producer that crafted the product.

Chef Sean Brock’s discussion about the Charleston pantry seemed a little out of place, but it was interesting to hear his take on a popular rice-based Southern dish, hoppin’ john, that he serves at his restaurant. It was especially interesting because South Carolina has only recently started to grow rice again. Brock shared, “story tastes good.”

Portland September 2012

Francis Lam interviews Chef Brock

Chef Gabrielle Hamilton, of the famed NYC restaurant Prune, was charmingly blunt about locavorism. Eating local, she said, was unremarkable because it was simply how she grew up.

Lucky Peach Editor in Chief Chris Ying also brought down the house with his tongue-in-cheek takedown of Yelp reviews.

Portland September 2012

Chris Ying deduces the true identity of a Yelp poster

Reflection about how, what and why we eat what we do in the context of the landscape and culture is fascinating to me, so I thought it was a valuable learning experience. I hope Edmonton can replicate this (on a smaller scale, of course) someday!

Meeting The Wednesday Chef

I’ve been reading Luisa Weiss’s blog, The Wednesday Chef, for a few years now. While some of the recipes she captured caught my eye, it was the window into her life that kept me coming back. When it was announced that Luisa would be releasing a memoir, I knew I would pick it up – I wanted to learn more about her story, and of course, glean a few more of her recipes.

My Berlin Kitchen maybe didn’t flow as well as I wanted it to (many of the chapters seemed to be built around specific recipes, which works as individual blog entries, but not as well in a novel format), but Luisa’s elegant prose and ability to connect with the reader still made it an enjoyable read. So when I found out Luisa would happen to be in Portland conducting a reading and book signing at Powell’s the week we were in town, I knew I had to be there!

Portland September 2012

Reading from My Berlin Kitchen

She was as sweet and articulate in person as you would expect, and seemed very genuine. The Q & A with the audience surprisingly focused more on her life and thoughts about Berlin; I really thought there would be more blog-related questions. I asked her how she feels her blog has changed over the years – she responded that it has become more personal, with people relating to her experiences.

Portland September 2012

With Luisa!

You never know what food-related events will crop up in Portland!

The Cooking Chronicles: Weeknight Suppers

It is so often said that it is almost a cliché: after a long day’s work, favoured recipes are those that are fast but flavourful. But I suppose that’s why it is a cliché – because it is true! Below are two weeknight suppers we made recently; one that worked out well, and one that didn’t.

Pan-fried Crumbed Fish and Fries

I had photocopied a recipe for pan-fried crumbed fish and fries from Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food quite some time ago, but for whatever reason, didn’t pull it out again until last week. We had two haddock fillets from Ocean Odyssey and some potatoes from Eat Local First ready to use.

The fish turned out really nice, and seared on the hot pan, the panko-breading turned into a satisfyingly crispy crust. I definitely preferred this to Mark Bittman’s cornmeal crusted fish.

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Pan-fried fish and “fries”, served with Greens, Eggs and Ham mixed heritage greens

The potatoes, on the other hand, taught us two lessons:

1) to make good fries, one must have patience. The second batch we left in the oven for nearly double the time specified on the recipe actually resembled fries instead of just starchy white, parboiled potatoes.

2) don’t use old potatoes. Or at least, know when a potato is past its prime and should be thrown out. I had let the potatoes sit in my pantry for too long before moving them to the fridge, and the taste was definitely off. You learn from experience, right?

Curried Tomato Soup with Eggs

Most of Mark Bittman’s recipes have been written for those looking for a quick fix. As a result, it’s easy to flip through The Food Matters Cookbook to find a dinner idea almost instantly, and last week the curried tomato soup with eggs (his play on makhani, a spicy Indian tomato sauce that’s used for braising hard-boiled eggs) caught my eye.

With the use of some punchy Malaysian curry powder, balanced with the creamy sweetness of coconut milk, the soup was flavourful and packed with vegetables. I particularly liked the inclusion of a boiled egg garnish (we used Greens, Eggs and Ham duck eggs), for an added richness and texture.

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Curried tomato soup with eggs

Best of all, the pot yielded several servings of leftovers…perhaps the best reward to be reaped from home cooking!

The Cooking Chronicles: Sweet Treats

I don’t bake sweet treats as often as I want to – most of the products out of the oven are more utilitarian in nature – muffins or scones to be taken for breakfast and the like. So it’s nice to have a reason to do so, and visits and occasions are some of the best excuses!

Muffins that Taste Like Doughnuts

Out of Muffin Mania (the same book that gave us Best Ever Banana Muffins), came a recipe for muffins that taste like doughnuts (the name reminds me of Conan’s “puppies dressed as cats” segment, heh).

I decided to make them just before we were to drop by Grandma Male’s house one afternoon. They were easy to make, and produced six large muffins – just enough for us to taste together, with some leftovers for Grandma Male.

Muffins that Taste like Doughnuts

Muffins that taste like doughnuts

The texture reminded us of store-bought cake doughnuts, and with a topping of cinnamon sugar, they did taste a little like doughnuts. Next time, I’d be apt to coat the entire muffin in melted butter before a quick shake in a plastic bag filled with cinnamon sugar (instead of just sprinkling the tops with the topping mixture).

Oatmeal Cookies

Mack loves oatmeal raisin cookies, so it was about time I made some for him. I tried Mark Bittman’s recipe, particularly great because it lists alternative ingredients to easily adapt it to vegetarian and vegan standards.

In place of butter, I used canola oil, and instead of nuts, I added chocolate, but other than that, I stuck pretty close to the traditional cookie recipe.

The results were okay – though chock full of oats, raisins and chocolate chips, the dough itself seemed more crumbly than usual, perhaps a result of the oil vs. butter substitution. There also wasn’t enough hints of spice, so in all, the cookies were a bit bland. I’d definitely play up the cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice next time.

Oatmeal Cookies

Oatmeal cookies

Mack liked the cookies though, and the recipe made a large enough batch that we were even able to freeze some for a rainy day (as Bittman directs). Once the bag is done, I’ll be able to make an even tastier batch!

The Cooking Chronicles: Stew-pendous

Eye-rolling title aside, since launching into the world of meat stew a few weeks ago, we’ve continued to crave it, and have been experimenting with different recipes to satisfy that craving.

Mushroom Stew with Beef Chunks

Mark Bittman says that his recipe for mushroom stew with beef chunks can be easily adapted into a vegetarian dish by simply using more mushrooms, but since we had a package of beef stew meat left (our dwindling cow share stash), I thought it would be a good recipe to make and compare with our previous slow-roasted version.

This stew cooks up on the stovetop, for around an hour and a half. What sets it apart is the inclusion of dried mushrooms (we used porcini), and the soaking liquid. Our entire condo was perfumed with the scent of the mushrooms, which also had the effect of lightening the dish as well, as the broth was more liquid than paste).

The beef, as expected, wasn’t as tender as when cooked in the oven for a longer period of time, but it was still pretty tasty. Both of us agreed, though, that the best thing about the dish really was the broth. No stock/wine combination could outshine the aromatic porcini liquid, especially to have been made in that amount of time.

Mushroom Stew with Beef Chunks

Mushroom stew with beef chunks

Elk Stew

Stew is great not only for its comforting aspects, but is the perfect winter meal – nearly all the ingredients for a typical stew can be found at your local farmers’ market right now. For us, this means potatoes from Greens, Eggs and Ham, carrots from Riverbend Gardens, mushrooms from MoNa…and elk from Shooting Star Ranch.

I decided to give elk stew a try after talking to Christine from Shooting Star at the Alberta Avenue Farmers’ Market. She convinced me to try using sirloin meat, and had advised me on cooking it “low and slow” (low meaning 250F) for several hours.

Of course, being the overreaching cook that I am, I thought I would be able to make this stew on a weeknight. To compensate for the time, I jacked up the temperature somewhat (about 315 for the first hour, and 275 for the second).

I realized in hindsight that a high temperature wasn’t necessary – the elk was super lean, but more than that, the consistency of the meat reminded me of liver – supple and maroon in colour (interestingly enough, it tasted slightly of liver too – some pieces that I bit in to had a faint metallic tang). Needless to say, I think I cooked the living daylights out of the sirloin, so I definitely learned my lesson: follow the instructions!

Elk Stew

Elk stew

The Cooking Chronicles: Post-Holiday Detox

I don’t think our holiday indulgence was as bad this year as in past years, but after Christmas, for whatever reason, my body was craving vegetables, and a break from butter and fat. So I made sure to bookmark a few recipes to get us through the post-holiday detox.

Mushroom Barley Soup

We went to the pantry for this one, and hauled out the quick-cook barley that had been hiding behind a good many other things. The mushroom barley soup was one recipe on the Progressive Foods website I hadn’t yet tried, and better yet, it allowed me to purge my fridge of some less-than-peak vegetables in the crisper.

It simmered happily on the stove while we had company over, allowing the flavours to stew for even longer. The results were great – a spoonful of tasty vegetables, textured barley and savoury broth in every bite.

Mushroom Barley Soup

Mushroom barley soup

Two Pea Soup with Frizzled Ham

I should nickname this Mark Bittman dish of two pea soup with frizzled ham the “first intermission soup”, because it is the perfect recipe to be made during the first intermission of a hockey game (as I did, on break from watching one of the World Juniors games). Then, allowed to simmer through the last two periods to soften the split peas, it was ready to eat by the end of the game.

It’s another soup that is easily made with ingredients that most people have on hand – ham, split peas, frozen peas, carrots, onions – and it’s a hearty meal without being heavy. The frizzled ham was a lovely garnish, enhancing the soup with a crispy, smoky finish.

Two Pea Soup with Frizzled Ham

Two pea soup with frizzled ham

Tofu Chili with Soy Sauce

Like kale chips and potato chips, tofu chili really shouldn’t be compared with its meat counterpart – it is in a different playing field all together, and will never, ever win.

Mark Bittman’s recipe for tofu chili with soy sauce came together easily (and even more so because I opted to use a can of black beans instead of cooking them myself).

The texture of the crumbled tofu wasn’t a surprise (we’ve had it before), but I found it probably needed more time on the stove to absorb all of the flavours (I had reduced the simmering time in half because we weren’t cooking beans from scratch). Cumin probably would have been a great addition, as well as tomato paste, to thicken the mixture, and though the cloves were fragrant, the combination with soy sauce didn’t work as well as we expected. Mack though, ever the joker, said that something was missing. When asked what, he replied, “Meat.” Haha.

Tofu Chili with Soy Sauce

Tofu chili

We would make it again – but like I said, tofu chili is to be considered henceforth as a stand alone dish.

The Cooking Chronicles: Bring on the Meat (and Seafood)

In the last six months, I’ve made a deliberate effort to include more beans, lentils and tofu in our diet, replacing the meat we used to extensively depend on for protein. Of course, while we will never give up meat entirely (hello, bacon!), I’ve started to think about it as an option instead of a necessity.

The following two recipes, however, were delicious ways to incorporate meat (and seafood) into our week’s meals.

Beef Stew

Beef stew always seemed to be one of those quintessential “rite of passage” dishes that all cooks have in their back pocket (like roasting a chicken, something else I have yet to do). I’m not sure what’s stopped me in the past (it’s not difficult – brown the meat, toss in the vegetables, wine/stock, and throw it in the oven), but I finally attempted it recently, basing it loosely on Rose Murray’s recipe that appears in A Taste of Canada.

I didn’t make the orange-walnut gremolata, but then again, I didn’t think it would have added anything to the stew. The stewing beef (some of the last of our cow share) was just perfectly tender after three hours in the oven, and Mack really liked the inclusion of mushrooms (the stews that we both grew up with did not contain mushrooms).

Beef Stew

Beef stew

Next up: a slow cooker beef stew!

Shrimp and Cilantro Shu Mai

When I saw Mark Bittman’s recipe for shrimp and cilantro shu mai, I was immediately taken. Homemade dim sum? Yes, please!

It was pretty easy – half of the shrimp was pureed in a food processor with sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine, ginger, cilantro and scallions, then combined with the rest of the shrimp, cilantro (both roughly chopped) and scallions. The mixture is then placed inside wonton wrappers, and steamed.

Shu Mai

Shu mai

We couldn’t get the pleats quite right, so we decided to just make little stars instead, which worked just fine. We served the shu mai with some blanched bok choy and rice, for a rounded weekday dinner.

Shrimp and Cilantro Shu Mai

Dinner

They were lovely – the sesame oil was the fragrant standout, though the fresh presence of the cilantro was hard to ignore as well (much to Mack’s dismay). The texture provided by a mix of the puree and chopped shrimp was also quite pleasant. We liked the shu mai so much we decided to bring them as appetizers to Jane and Yi-Li’s post-Christmas Christmas dinner potluck.

If you want a taste of dim sum without leaving the comforts of your own home, give these a try!

The Cooking Chronicles: Something Fishy

While fresh fish is great, because we tend to do most of our grocery shopping on the weekend, flash-frozen fish is the better alternative for us because we can keep it in the freezer until we are ready to use it. In our case with the vacuum-sealed packages from Ocean Odyssey, the fish is already filleted, making it easy to thaw the night before and incorporate it into a weeknight supper. And though it was super-convenient to have Pat and her stall at the City Market over the summer, it’s just as easy to stop by her shop (10027 167 Street, 780-930-1901) year-round to stock up for a few weeks.

We used Ocean Odyssey filets for the following two recipes – they’re one-pot or one-pan deals!

Garlic & Tomato Fish Stew

Donna Hay’s No Time to Cook recipe for a garlic and tomato fish stew was fast and easy, and made for a tasty weeknight supper. We used sole filets, which meant flakier, smaller pieces of fish were in the cards instead of large chunks. I also liked the inclusion of potato.We served the dish with some toasted ciabatta buns from Sobeys, to be dipped into the broth of white wine, stock and tomato juice.

Fish stew

It’s something we will definitely make again!

Pan-cooked Grated Celeriac and Crunchy Fish

We were definitely in a rush the night of the final mayoral forum, but handily, Mark Bittman’s recipe for pan-cooked grated vegetables and crunchy fish did not take long. While Mack took care of grating the Greens, Eggs and Ham celeriac, I sautéed some onions and garlic with curry powder, then added the root vegetable to be cooked until browned. Then in the same pan, we seared up some cod filets that had been dredged in a mixture of corn meal and flour.

Pan-cooked vegetables and crunchy fish

Crunchy cod over pan-cooked grated celeriac

This wasn’t my favourite way to eat celeriac (I much prefer the pureed soup), as the cooking time didn’t really allow the celery root to soften much at all – grated potato would have fared better. The fish, on the other hand, was delicious – crispy on the outside and flaky on the inside, it was a healthier alternative to the deep-fried filets it reminded me of.

The Cooking Chronicles: The Occasional Vegetarian

This year, I made a conscious effort to incorporate more vegetarian meals into our diet – it was a decision partly made so we could be more aware of the meat that we consume (instead of it being a given come every supper, it is a deliberate addition), but also partly for variety’s sake. It’s also been easier to experiment because of our weekly trip to the farmers’ market, and being confronted by what’s in season each Saturday.

Pan-cooked Greens with Tofu and Garlic

Though Mack wasn’t a fan of tofu to start with, I’ve slowly been winning him over (the ground pork and tofu dish we make with Irvings pork and tofu from Ying Fat is actually one of his favourites). For dinner this week when I was feeling under the weather, he took over the kitchen reins, and prepared up Mark Bittman’s pan-cooked greens with tofu and garlic.

We had picked up some lovely kale from Sundog Organics, and some extra firm tofu from Superstore, which I had frozen and thawed, as Bittman had directed. Mack sliced up the tofu, then proceeded to separate the kale stems from the leaves, which he stir-fried separately. Greens cooked, he then pan-fried the tofu, then returned the greens to the pan along with the sauce. We served the dish with rice.

Pan-cooked greens with tofu

The heat of the pan had vaporized most of the sauce, so it was consequently, a very dry dish. Flavourful, as the tofu and kale had soaked up that tasty fish sauce liquid (soy sauce could be substituted for fish sauce for a true vegetarian dish), but we would definitely double the quantity next time, or even add some stock.

Healthy and fast, this is a simple dish that we would make again.

Penne with Zucchini and Ricotta

A Deborah Madison recipe for penne with zucchini and ricotta is another simple dish, calling for less than ten ingredients. She intended for bright quills of yellow and green zucchini to dot the pasta, but as all I had on hand was a green zucchini from Kuhlmann’s. It worked just fine, taste-wise.

Penne with zucchini and ricotta (photo taken after we had decimated half the pan)

The ricotta and parmesan easily integrated into the pasta and vegetables, melting with the residual heat. Still, there’s no question that the zucchini are the star of this dish, lending their essence to every bite.

The Cooking Chronicles: More Vegetables with Mark Bittman

Though I know that one of the next cookbooks I’d like to conquer is Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything Vegetarian, given that I’m still working through Food Matters, it might be a while.

We tried a few more recipes from Food Matters this week, mostly unplanned. While I mostly shop at the farmers’ market having already mapped out our meal plan for the coming week, sometimes errant beauties find their way into my bag.

Vegetable Chips

A gorgeous bunch of golden jubilee beets from Sundog Organics was one such item, in spite of the fact that I am not the biggest fan of beets (probably because most of my childhood memories of beets are in the form of a concentrated soup my Mum used to make, one that caused my sisters and I to shudder).

I remembered a recipe for vegetable chips in Food Matters that employed beets (but could easily be adapted for other root vegetables). I thinly sliced the beets (I chose not to peel them), tossed them with some olive oil, and put them in the oven for ten minutes on each side, seasoning them with salt and pepper when I flipped the slices over.

Beet chips

Beet chips

The results were addictive. Though some of the larger slices could have used more time in the oven, most of the chips were crispy. Roasting also had the affect of somewhat neutralizing the beet flavour, which could be helpful in converting even the most ardent beet haters. These chips served us well as a mid-afternoon snack, but would be a healthy addition to any meal (especially in place of French fries!).

Vegetable Pancakes

Though incorporating zucchini into bison chili and cassoulet cut into our zucchini inventory this week, nearly half of the large beast we picked up from Kuhlmann’s on Saturday (for $1! The frugal side of me rejoiced) still remained.

Bittman’s recipe for vegetable pancakes seemed a good way to use up the rest of our zucchini. Grated vegetables squeezed of their water are combined with flour, an egg, herbs and seasonings to form the batter, then pan-fried in butter or oil. Bittman suggests serving them over lightly dressed greens, which we did (mixed heritage greens from Greens, Eggs and Ham, and a vinaigrette featuring Lola Canola honey), for a light supper.

Vegetable Pancakes

Zucchini pancakes and salad greens

Though our final products were edible (and fragrant, with the addition of fresh dill), they were unpleasant to eat, due to two errors we will not make again: 1) we didn’t take the time to adequately press all of the water out from the zucchini, meaning our pancakes did not crisp up as intended; and 2) we did not flatten the pancakes to the point where the thickness would allow them to cook through entirely (oh yes, there were bits of flour and soggy zucchini throughout our pancakes).

Lessons learned. But we will be making them again (correctly next time, we hope)!

The Cooking Chronicles: Cooking with Spinach

Most of the spinach I buy inevitably ends up in a salad. I have gone so far as to wilt spinach, but those instances are few and far between.

So, with the markets bursting with spinach, I thought I should change it up a bit, and be a little more creative. Two recipes featuring these greens caught my eye.

Carrot, Spinach and Rice Stew

After a few meals that unavoidably left me with numerous dishes to wash (I don’t know why I complain about dishes so much…I honestly don’t mind doing them, but the less there are to clean, the better), I immediately gravitated towards Mark Bittman’s one-pot carrot, spinach and rice stew. It’s another gem of a recipe that features under ten ingredients, combined and allowed to simmer away happily on the stove, thickening and intensifying in flavour all the while.

The comments recommended adding chickpeas, which I did, as well as a dash of cumin, which was Bittman’s suggestion. I also finished it with some dill (fresh from a coworker’s garden!), which was just the pop that a dish like this, served in the middle of summer, needed. I probably could have added more spinach (I used the remainder of a bag of Greens, Eggs and Ham mixed heritage spinach), as it does wilt down an incredible amount, and here, was given the time to cook and lose that stringy texture. Mack really liked that the chickpeas had ample time to soften (I added them with about fifteen minutes to go).

Carrot, Spinach and Rice Stew

Carrot, spinach and rice stew

All in all, another successful Bittman recipe!

Pea and Spinach Soup with Coconut Milk

I’m not sure what inspired me to make vegetable stock for a soup recipe, but I did. And guess what? It wasn’t difficult at all! With guidance again from Bittman, I had a decent stock in half an hour.

Vegetable StockVegetable Stock

Before and after

Though I haven’t made too many things from Deborah Madison’s Local Flavours, I love flipping through it periodically – with recipes that embrace seasonal cooking, it’s a good starter book for ideas on how to use fresh ingredients available at farmers’ markets. A recipe for pea and spinach soup with coconut milk provided the perfect opportunity to marry two seasonal ingredients – peas from Edgar Farms and spinach from Sundog Organics.

Unlike the spinach in the stew, however, I thought it could have been given a little more time to cook, and unfortunately, the curry overwhelmed the subtle cilantro flavour. That said, I really liked how the coconut milk and sweet peas balanced the heat from the curry, and all of the different textures in the soup, especially the peas (how could anyone not love sweet peas?).

Pea and Spinach Soup with Coconut Milk

Pea and spinach soup with coconut milk

What are your favourite ways to cook with spinach?