Layered breakfast bake

I’m constantly on the search for good, warm, filling breakfasts that incorporate a lot of vegetables. It might sound strange, but even as a vegan I have to work hard to get all the fruits and vegetables I should be eating. This is one of my solutions. It incorporates a base of British-style Bubble and Squeak, followed by caramelized onions and kale, and finished with a tofu / buckwheat topping. To be honest, this is just a delivery vehicle for caramelized onions. If you try the recipe, let me know what you think!


Base (Bubble & Squeak)

1/2 a small cabbage, lightly sauteed in grapeseed oil and a splash of liquid smoke, seasoned with salt and pepper.

Mashed potatoes (I used red)

Combine the ingredients into a pan, and fry each side until brown and crispy.

Middle (onions and kale)

2 red onions, caramelized in olive oil, 1 Tbsp brown sugar, a pinch of garam masala, and 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar. Bake at 350 for approximately an hour and a half, until they’re done and a bit crispy.

When the onions are finished, take the pan out of the oven and add half a head of kale, chopped, and cook for a few minutes.

Topping (Buckwheat tofu)

1/2 cup buckwheat flour

1 pack of silken tofu

3 Tbsp nutritional yeast

1 tsp turmeric

1 Tbsp cornstarch

2 garlic cloves

salt and pepper

Combine the above ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Add a bit of water if you need it.

Layer the bake as follows: bubble and squeak on the bottom, kale and onions in the middle. Pour the tofu batter over everything, add a bit more salt and pepper on top, and bake in the oven (350) for about 45 minutes. It’s done when a toothpick comes out clean.


Warmer and warmer

There was a long queue, which I’d come to expect at this type of event. It was winter in Ottawa, but not a brutally cold day – just medium cold, so standing outside was manageable. We were waiting in line for what was billed as the premiere foodie event of the season in Ottawa – all local restaurants and brewers, serving new creations in an urban, albeit slightly hipster, venue. There were many skinny jeans, plastic rimmed glasses and straight cut bangs in line; even a few trucker hats were seen (a strange choice for winter in Ottawa). 


After a good fifteen minutes in the queue, we finally made it inside. As cold as it was outside, it was basically the exact opposite inside. Once through the doors, we could feel the heat wafting down from the top floor. I was immediately on edge. Being hot is one of my least favourite things in the world, and being hot while wearing wool pants and a wool sweater (it was winter in Ottawa, after all), was a recipe for a major freak out. I was also hungry, another key ingredient in the freak out recipe, so it was shaping up to be a spectacular afternoon.


The event was held in an old Polish community centre. It was a squat building, only two stories, and square, grey inside and out. It hadn’t been re-decorated since it was built, and everything about it screamed 1970s, or perhaps even earlier. Essentially, it was hipster / foodie / scenester ground zero – the decor was old enough to be interpreted by those in the know as cool again, although to my untrained eye it was just hideous. But who am I to know. 


Inside, we tried to locate a coat check – there was one apparently, but it appeared to be mostly a pile of coats that someone was ingenious enough to charge three dollars to tend. It didn’t seem to be associated with the organizers of the event at all. Already we could tell that the event was entrepreneurial. 


I waited in line to buy tickets for food and beverages, trying to calculate how many we would need. Five tickets for a beer, three tickets for food. Ross and I could easily put away a beer or two each, plus three or four food stations worth of food. I settled on about forty dollars worth of food – enough for us to have a good time and try several things. We were here to have a good time and a bite to eat, so why not! 


There were about six food stations set up – all local restaurants – and three or four beer stations. The restaurants all had a set menu – three items at the most, and from the looks of the place, they were running out fast. The room was at capacity – hundreds of people in a small space, all dressed in winter gear, and milling about looking for food and drink. The vendors were using deep fryers, hot plates, pans and all kinds of contraptions to heat and cook their food, adding to the steam in the place. All of the stations were set up on folding tables, giving the food preparation stations an element of the precarious that was not lost on me. I found myself wondering what a health inspector would make of both the temperature and the preparation instruments in the building. 


I managed to get my hands on a few vegetarian options – one was a deep-fried mac and cheese. It was literally creamy creamy mac n cheese in a pastry, deep fried. Amazing. Another was a vegetarian taco. But mostly I drank beer. Several vending stations seemed to have been created specifically as alters to the cult of meat eating. There were several versions of meat on a stick, and even a meat cone (like an ice-cream cone, but with meat inside). And there were meat sandwiches (of pulled pork variety), Everything was, of course, local and mostly organic, or at least sustainable and cruelty free. Although I can’t quite figure out what about raising animals specifically to kill and eat is cruelty free. Enough buzzwords on the vendor signs to sate the ethical conscience of even the most diligent food devotee. 


Because here we were, celebrating the height of local food at the low point of local food production capability (mid winter in Ontario, naturally). We were celebrating our choices, our ethics, and our ability to sate our consciences about the foods we eat and the impact that has on ourselves, others, animals and the planet. And it was raging hot. The temperature kept climbing. At one point most of us abandoned any attempt at looking cool and just started sweating freely. I began mopping my brow with the handkerchief I had brought. And all of this did nothing to increase our appetites, but it did increase our thirst, to the point that several stands ran out of beer. 


Inevitably, an indie band played a short set, and some people started dancing while those still eating tried to avoid being smacked by a dancing hipster. The temperature did not decrease during this episode, but my willingness to continue pretending to enjoy myself certainly did. 


After about two hours of this, we made our escape. We made our way to a bar we’d never been too, previously deemed too “divey”. They didn’t have any food cred – they served pub fare in its most basic form. They had a couple of local beers, but by no means a selection. And it was a fantastic little watering hole. I even ran into my cousin. Now that’s local.

A post about food

Despite doing nothing but eat for the last month, I realized today that I haven’t written about food in a long time. Yes – this holiday season has been a bit rough on the cooking front. However, I have discovered some very delicious things in our city, one of which is Bridgehead’s quinoa and butternut squash salad. I love it. It is one of the most delicious ways to eat quinoa that I have ever come across.

As far as I can tell, here’s the list of ingredients:
– quinoa
– feta
– roasted butternut squash
– cranberries
– some sort of sweet and delicious sauce

There might be more things in it – perhaps a bit of green onion? I can’t recall.

Today I set out to re-create it in my kitchen. What I used:
– red quinoa
– feta
– roasted butternut squash
– spinach (just a bit for more of a nutritional punch)
– sprouted broccoli seeds (see above)
– cranberries
– balsamic and rosemary dressing

Here is the result:

Taste verdict: not bad, but definitely not the same as the one I’ve fallen in love with.

Food Photography Part III

The food photography class was split into two weeks. This week marked the second Saturday, and was all about composition.

In the morning, we played with composition in each of the shots. It took me a bit of time to get it. You can see me struggling with it here.

The first shot is okay, but it lacks any serious compositional elements; instead, it’s just an okay picture.

In the second composition, things get a bit more complicated. I’m trying to play with lines a bit here, but I think it gets a bit too complicated – hard to know what to look at, and there doesn’t seem to be a coherent theme.

At last, I think I got it. This is a really simple composition with nice textures, lines and depth of field. My instructor thought it was really fun. He said it looked dramatic, and that it looked like the cover of a book entitled “In Search of Wild Garlic”. He said the wood spatula looks like a paddle in this photograph, and that we’re about to embark on a river trip looking for that elusive wild garlic.

A Tribute to Mac ‘n Cheese

I know I’ve posted about this before, but I just love mac ‘n cheese. To me, it is the ultimate in pasta. The best mac ‘n cheese has a crunchy top, great flavours, cheesy texture and firm (but not hard) noodles. I’ve been on the quest for the perfect mac ‘n cheese for some time now, and I think last night, I hit it pretty square on the head. Here is a little photo essay in tribute to the mac ‘n cheese. (The recipe is adapted from the Rebar cookbook.)

Begin by prepping your ingredients. You’ll need a few garlic cloves, some onion and mushrooms. I generally use whatever I have on hand. Tonight was mini bella and button.

Grate the cheeses. It’s an important step, because things come together a bit quickly once you’ve got the roux going. Tonight I used cheddar, mozarella, romano, ricotta, and parmesan.

Next, saute the onions in some butter. When the onions are fragrant, add the mushrooms and cook for a few minutes, adding some salt and pepper. Then add the garlic, cook for another minute or so, and add some thyme and oregano.

Remove the mushrooms from heat, and put a pot of water on to boil. In a separate pot, heat about 1/2 a cup of butter until it melts. Add the pasta to the boiling water, and begin the roux. In the pot with the butter, slowly add 1/4 cup of kamut flour, whisking as you go. After all the flour is in there, add approx 1 cup of cream and 1/2 cup of water, whisking as you slowly add the cream and water. The sauce should be nice and thick now. It’s helpful to have someone else help you with this. You may need to thicken the sauce slightly, so give it another couple of minutes on the heat, whisking constantly. Then add the cheeses slowly, whisking and combining them, avoiding lumps. When all the cheese is added (except the parmesan), add the mushroom mixture and remove the sauce from heat.

Drain the pasta, and then add it to the sauce, mixing well.

Next, pour the mixture into a baking dish. For the topping, combing about 1-2 cups of bread crumbs (wheat free, of course!), the parmesan cheese, and some pine nuts. Add some salt and pepper, and sprinkle on top of the baking dish. Bake at 350f for about 40 minutes, or until it is warmed through and the top is crunchy and lightly browned.

Serve hot with lots of pepper, wine, and good company.

We were lucky enough to have both Tammy and our friend Thor over for dinner last night. It was a bit nerve racking, because I was cooking for three formerly professional cooks, one of whom had participated in the great mac ‘n cheese cookoff of 2007 (I was the judge, natch). But I think it turned out. At least I thought it was delicious. 🙂

Not your average cookie

I love cookies during the week – actually, anytime – but especially around 2pm on a work day. They just cheer me up a bit and hold me over until it’s time to go home. I really look forward to that break and the bit of sugar. I’ve been a bit bored with our usual cookies, particularly as they can’t have chocolate in them. (Nothing with chocolate is ever boring.) So I decided to spice it up this weekend with a different nut butter – instead of peanut butter, I used almond-hazelnut butter. Um….delicious.

1/2 cup of vegetable shortening
1/2cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup nut butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup oat flour
Almonds, sliced lengthwise into approximately thirds.

Method: combine dry and wet ingredients, then mix together. Place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with the almonds. Bake at 375 for approximately 10 minutes, until almonds are bronzed and the cookies are done.