Saturday, February 26, 2011

Another Go

I've already written about my love of bread (my goodness! That post was practically a novel!), so I will spare you the details. I've also mentioned recently that I have been busy, to a point where I haven't had the time to browse the shelves at my local library or at the bookshop: I've been filling my commute by reading old cookbooks (my mind's been churning too much to concentrate on a novel, even the ones I've already read.) It so happens that the smaller books in my cookbook collection are about bread. I've been dreaming bread: unfortunately, I really could not spare the time necessary to make bread old school.

Obviously, I had to make no-knead bread. And I have: I've been averaging two loaves a week for the past month. It's the bread I used for the French Onion Soup, and for the Stupendous Sandwich. It would also be perfect for a tartine, or for morning toasts. Honestly, I do not understand why more people aren't making their own bread when it is soooo easy. Then it hit me: not everyone owns a dutch oven. Even though they've been popping up in just about every home and kitchen store, they're not exactly cheap. So I set about tweaking the recipe to make it baking-tray-friendly - which also explains my two-loaves-a-week regiment. 

The recipe I had previously posted gives a dough that is much too soft and sticky to bake in anything but a dutch oven; the following, on the other hand, is perfect for either cooking methods. If you check out both recipes, you will notice a few glaring discrepancies: most obvious is that the weight measurements for the flour do not add up. It just goes to show that measuring recipes in cups really needs to go the way of the dinosaurs: last year, every cup of flour I weighed out was 130g (I checked each time), whereas all this month, my cups tipped the scales at 140g. I used a combination of regular unbleached flour and whole wheat flour. As far as I know, all no-knead bread recipes floating about in cyber-space are made with all-purpose flour only, so I wanted to see if the method could be applied to a whole wheat bread. It works: the mie (centre of the bread, or crumb) is much denser, not as aerated as an all-white loaf, but it's still a beautiful thing. And the crust is still magically crunchy, even when baked on a cookie sheet.

Even though the whole wheat flour already boosted this bread's nutritional value, I wanted to push it further by adding flaked cereals and seeds; any rolled grain, seeds or nuts will do. A few possible choices are rolled oats, rye or barley; sesame, flax, pumpkin, or sunflower seeds. Finally, this being sprouting season in my world, I had some sprouted wheat berries that needed a new home. Sprouting wheat is really simple, however if it feels a little esoteric, soaking the berries overnight would also do the trick. However, sprouted wheat adds a touch of sweetness and are more easily digested than un-sprouted. (Whatever you do, do not use un-soaked wheat berries, someone might end up losing a tooth!) This is definitely a healthy bread, and it's beautiful to boot.

No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread
Makes one loaf, about 750g/ 1½lbs

140g/ 1cup/ 250ml all-purpose flour, unbleached if possible
280g/ 2 cups/ 500ml whole wheat flour (not bread flour)
12g/ 1¼tsp salt
5g/ 1 tsp dry yeast (or 15g cake yeast)
375g/ 1½ cups water
75g/ ½ cup sprouted wheat, optional
120g/ 1cup mixed flakes and seeds, optional
Coarse cornmeal

In a large bowl, mix flours, salt, yeast, water and sprouted wheat (if using), until everything is thoroughly combined.
Sprinkle cereals and seeds over the dough, and cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel.
Leave to rest in a cool, draft-free spot for 12 to 24 hours. (Rising time depends on the temperature in your kitchen: the cooler it is, the longer it will take. In my kitchen,  more or less at a constant 18'C/ 65'F, the dough requires a 24hour-rise)
After 6 to 12 hours, mix the grains and seeds into the dough. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover and leave to rest until the time is up: the dough will not double in size, however, it will have visibly risen.

To Bake
In a dutch oven: Place empty dutch oven in a cold oven, heat to 250'C/ 500'F. When the oven is hot, remove dutch oven, sprinkle the bottom with cornmeal.
Scrape the dough into the pot, cover and return to oven.
Bake for 30 minutes. Remove lid from pot, and bake for another 10 minutes.
Turn off oven, leave the bread to rest for another 15 minutes before taking it out.
Remove the loaf from dutch oven, and let cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before cutting into it.

On a baking sheet: Heat oven to 200'C / 400'F. Place a pan filled with 500ml/ 2 cups water on the bottom rack of oven.
Sprinkle baking sheet with cornmeal. Form the dough into a ball by scraping down the sides of the bowl. Gently drop onto the cookie sheet. You can slash the top of the ball with a sharp knife, if you like.
Place sheet on middle rack. Bake for 30-45 minutes. The bread should be a dark, golden brown.
Turn off oven, leaving the bread in for another 15minutes.
Take the bread out of the oven, and let cool for at least 30 minutes.

If you thump the under-belly of this loaf, you should hear a hollow thunk. When you cut into the bread, it will be quite dense and moist, but there should not be any raw spots. This loaf has tremendous keeping qualities: it can sit on the kitchen counter for a few days, and it won't turn into a dry brick. Also the crust will remain quite crisp. Being a fairly moist bread, you might have some trouble getting it to toast into evenly crunchy slices; you can always slice the bread ahead of time, and let them dry out before toasting, or you can toast each slice twice on a lower setting. You no longer have an excuse for not making your own bread.

Bon app'!

Friday, February 25, 2011

As Hearty As It Gets

I watch way too much television. It's the unfortunate truth: I often find myself sitting in front of the stupid box when I have time off. Most of the time, I'm not even watching the screen: I am often knitting something and concentrating intently on the task at hand; or when I am on a tight schedule, I might even be typing away at my laptop, trying to get a post in before my (imaginary) deadline is up. But the old box isn't all bad: I have learnt a thing or two, found inspiration while it was on. Like this sandwich (the first one.) It really looks and sounds absolutely scrumptious.

I am a fan of sandwiches. They are the quintessential convenience foods: requiring no utensils whatsoever to be eaten, they are portable (unless they look like this), and are infinitely changeable. Your sandwich's gloriousness is only limited by your imagination. Which is why this sandwich is so awe-inspiring: I'm sure it would even satisfy a hard-core carnivore. 

The clincher has to be the roasted garlic mayo... The recipe on the website calls for jarred mayo, but they used homemade on the tv show. I don't seem to have ever posted a recipe for mayonnaise, so I am including one below; you can also watch the episode for a visual how-to on mayonnaise. Roasting whole garlic in the oven is a cinch, but it seems like an extravagant use of energy just for a few cloves of garlic (unless you're roasting a tray-full of garlic.) The simplest -and least wasteful- method would be to pan roast a few unpeeled cloves with some oil, until the skins are a dark golden brown and your kitchen smells divine! Let the garlic cool off, before peeling and smooshing the cloves.

My one problem with the sandwich is the selection of vegetables: tomatoes, eggplants, and red peppers aren't exactly in season right now. While these ingredients will make for a killer sandwich at the height of summer, they could very well ruin a meal in the dead of winter. So here is a list of winter-friendly alternatives, although I am sure that you can find other imaginative uses for sliced bread and garlic mayo... (I wish I thought of posting about this in August, but how was I to know that this sandwich would come into being in February? Think of this post as an advance notice for the coming summer!)

Substitutes for sliced tomatoes
Sun-dried tomatoes: buy them dry and in bulk, they will be more economical (and much tastier) than oil-packed tomatoes. I prefer the darker red dried tomatoes: the dark colour indicates that there was no sulfur used (a colour preservative), and it is often a sign of real sun-dried tomatoes -as opposed to mechanically dehydrated ones. Just soak them for 10 minutes in warm water to plump them up and to remove any excess salt. If your tomatoes are extra-salty, soak them for another 10 minutes in fresh water.
Roasted cherry tomatoes: cherry tomatoes are just about the only tomatoes that are passably tasty year-round. However, with a little foresight, you can pack your own roasted cherry tomatoes in olive oil in August, and have jars of them at the ready for those mid-winter blues. Some delis also sell them at the counter. If you keep the tomatoes covered in oil (regular vegetable oil will be easiest to handle), they will keep for a few months in the fridge. No need to drag out the canning equipment.

Instead of eggplants
This one is a toughy... I am a great fan of pickled eggplants -which I make several times over the summer- but I haven't yet found a way to make my jars last until the winter. Although pickled eggplants can sometimes be found at the supermarket, you'll have to try several brands to find one to your liking. 
Store-bought baba ghanouj is most likely made with imported eggplants, so it isn't a real solution. However, baba ganouj freezes very well. Therefore, if you have the freezer space, make lots in the summer and store in little containers.

Proxy red peppers
As for eggplants, alternatives for fresh red peppers can be purchased for a premium. And, as is often the case, store-bought isn't always better nor cheaper than making your own (even when red peppers cost up to 3$ a pop in winter.) Once again, if you have the freezer space, roasted peppers can be at your finger tips with a bit of planning, either as strips in a little baggy or as a pesto. Both can be jarred if you enjoy canning. 

Makeshift lettuce
Winter lettuces are sad, sad, sad vegetables. Despite preferring winter cold to summer heat, lettuces do not enjoy the endless storage time and long commute to get to your table. Other leafy greens, such as roquette and spinach seem to fare better, but there are other ways to get crunchy goodness from closer to home: endives are the winter salad green, with lots of juicy crunch and a hint of bitterness. If you are looking for something milder, how about some sprouts? Growing your own is economical, and you get to try a whole slew of variety.
Other alternate crunches include sliced apples (really, thinly sliced apples are a lovely addition to any savoury sandwich), and cabbages -just imagine, a crispy coleslaw laced with roasted garlic mayonnaise... Can you say heaven?

Homemade Mayonnaise
Yields about 1½ cup/375 ml

ALL ingredients should be at room temperature.
1 egg yolk
1 tsp mustard at room temperature (Dijon is preferable)
½ tsp salt
1 lemon, juiced, or 1 Tbs vinegar
1½ cup/ 375ml vegetable oil (NOT olive oil!!!)

With a whisk or a stick blender, mix egg yolk, mustard, salt and lemon juice until well blended and thick.
While continuously whisking, slowly drizzle oil into mix. Stop pouring oil every now and then to whip the egg mixture vigorously, and to ensure that all the oil is blended in.
Continue whisking until all the oil is added. (If you are using a stick blender, you might not be able to incorporate all the oil. Stop mixing when the mayonnaise becomes too thick for the blades.)
Give the mayonnaise a good, final, vigorous blitz before calling it a day.
Taste, and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
The mayonnaise should be fairly stiff, if you prefer it a little looser, add a teaspoon or two of warm water.
Will keep about 5 days in the refrigerator.

IF the mayonnaise splits, do not panic! Do not throw the failure out: it can be saved.
In a clean, warm bowl (rinse it out with hot water), blend another egg yolk with a teaspoon of mustard, and one teaspoon of warm water.
Slowly dribble in the split mayonnaise.
Add the remaining oil. If the mayonnaise is too runny, add up to 1 cup of oil.

To make roasted garlic mayonnaise, add 2 or more crushed cloves of roasted garlic at the very beginning (with the yolk and mustard) or at the very end of the whole process.

There was an epoch when mayonnaise was made without mustard. It's delicious that way, but it can be a little more fickle. Egg yolk and mustard are both emulsifiers (they help to bind oil and water, two bodies that usually do not blend), but mustard is more powerful than yolks. I strongly advise that beginner mayo-makers start with the whole teaspoon of mustard, you can gradually decrease the amount as you get more comfortable making mayonnaise. For those who are avoiding eggs, you can make a mock mayo with (or without) half a block of silken tofu, mustard and oil.

If your eggs are fresh, there should be no problem with consuming them raw. However, if you are pregnant or have a suppressed immune system, you may prefer to use jarred mayonnaise instead. Mastering the art of making your own mayonnaise is extremely satisfying, and deceptively simple.

Bon app'!

En français

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Comforting Sort

Oh dear, where has the time gone? I could swear that the last time I checked it was still the day before Valentine's day... February is another one of those incredibly hectic months. I don't quite understand why though, it may have to do with the fact that Valentine's Day brings an onslaught of customers to the restaurant after a relatively dead post-holiday period, and it gets everyone running around like headless chickens. To top it all off, February is when I start planning my garden, celebrate my mother's birthday, and attempt to get all my papers ready so I can file my income tax returns...

I don't know if you've missed me, but I sure missed you. Just in case you were worried that I'd succumbed to a February Funk, don't. I was just a little too busy to sit down in front of the computer. I have thought of a few recipes, though -I did have to eat after all. Actually, I am rather partial to the month of February. While winter is often dark and dreary in many parts of the continent, Montreal usually experiences beautifully sunny winters. Bone chillingly cold, but bright and sunny. It's the ideal sort of weather for enjoying a bowl or cupful of soup in front of the window, gazing onto people scurrying on the sidewalk and birds scampering on the balcony ledge.

Any soup will do, but there is something particularly satisfying about a bowl of French onion soup; it seems to embody winter fare in a nutshell: it's hot and comforting, filling, and absolutely delicious. I have previously written about a 'shortcut' to onion soup - granted it wasn't a real shortcut, since you still had to make the onion marmalade. What follows is a 'proper' recipe; it will seem like a lot of work, and I won't deny that it is. However, the biggest chunk is the chopping, and the rest is just keeping an eye on a slow pot. The resulting soup is well worth the effort, better than what you will find in most restaurants, and for the vegetarians out there, something you can actually eat.

Classical onion soups rely on a hearty beef broth for flavour, but this recipe does not. The real secret to a scrumptious onion soup is in the slow caramelisation of the onions. You can use a beef or veal stock if you like, but if the onions are properly browned, you can get away with using water. I do like to add beer in my onion soup for extra flavour and oomph. While it isn't a classical ingredient, it isn't uncommon either: the first time I had onion soup with beer, I was ten (which was eons ago.) Whether or not you choose to add the beer is up to you, however,  if you do, I strongly advise that you go for a full-bodied beer or ale, something along the lines of an amber to brown beer or a cream ale. I am tempted to try a stout, but I'm worried that others would find its addition too intense for the soup. One last tip, do not over-salt the soup: the combination of onions, beer, and toasted cheese makes for a voluptuous mouth-feel, and too much salt will over-stimulate your taste buds. In fact, I like to use flavoured salts for this soup (such as a herbed low-sodium mix): these often contain powdered seaweed, carrots, and/or celery, which make up for the initial lack of saltiness.

French Onion Soup
Yields 6 to 8 portions

6 medium sized onions (about 1kg/ 2lbs)
2 leeks
1 head of garlic
1 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tsp sugar
1½ tsp salt
pepper to taste
2 Tbs each butter and oil
250-500mL/ 1-2cups beer, optional
white wine, optional
2L/2 quarts water, or stock (unsalted)

Peel and trim all the vegetables, wash if necessary.
Finely slice the onions and the leeks, about 5mm/¼" thick. Mince garlic.
In a large soup pot, melt the butter and oil over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables and herbs.
Cover the pot, and let the onions sweat for about 10 minutes.
Remove the lid, the onions should have wilted and rendered quite a bit of water. 
Add the salt and sugar.
Let simmer uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated, and the onions begin to caramelise, about 20 minutes.
Lower the heat to medium, and let cook for another 20 minutes, stirring the onions every now and then.
If the onions stick to the pot, remove from the stove, and let cool for a few minutes. Stir about, the onions should come loose. Return to the stove, and cook until the onions are a nice dark golden hue. There should still be quite a bit of juice left in the pot.
Add a generous splash of white wine and the beer, if using, and bring back to a quick simmer. 
Note the onions' level in the pot: add enough water or stock to double it.
Simmer for another 5 minutes.
Check the seasoning, and serve.

French onion soup is typically served in oven-proof bowls, and topped with cheesy croûtons. However, you do not need to go out and buy onion soup bowls if you do not already own some: simply pop the bread and cheese in a toaster or an oven, and place on the soup before serving. Make sure you use a hefty bread for the toast: a day-old crusty multi-grain or whole wheat country loaf will hold up to the soup even when it is soaked through. Toast the sliced bread before sprinkling with cheese, and returning it to the toaster. While any cheese with personality will taste lovely -I used a 5 year old Cheddar- there is a reason why French onion soups are typically made with gruyère (Swiss cheese): as you can see from the pictures, the Cheddar completely melted and soaked into the bread. Swiss-type cheeses are made with cooked curds, so they won't liquefy completely when toasted. If you are set on using Cheddar, combine it with a little mozzarella to give it extra body. The soup will keep in the fridge for about a week, but can be kept in the freezer.

Bon app'!

En français

Friday, February 11, 2011

As You like It

Lately, I've been craving old fashioned sweets: custards, meringues... and stewed fruits. Stewed fruits are as old school as it gets, and they are a far cry from all those 'sexy' sweets that are served in restaurants nowadays. I'm not even sure anyone besides older women who go for tea and grannies still eat them (and myself, of course!)

But stewed fruits -as unappealing as the name sounds- are the perfect winter dessert. Traditionally made with dried fruits and a sweetened alcohol (usually mulled wine), this sweet makes the most of whatever is readily available: fresh apples and pears from storage, bright and seasonal citrus, and dried fruits that embody all the flavours of summer. 

If you are one to enjoy sitting down to a bowl of apple sauce or other cooked fruits, then I am sure you will appreciate this dessert. It combines saucy loveliness and chunky goodness, and the flavour combinations are endless: apples; pears; oranges; grapefruits; fresh or dried cranberries; raisins -golden, sultanas, or currants; dried apricots; prunes; figs; dates... The syrup can simply be made of sugar and water; unsweetened fruit juices; wine (red or white); port; sherry; rum... And then, the spices: cinnamon; cardamom; ginger(fresh, or candied). The choices are innumerable!

There is no need for a real recipe, but I will give you a few guidelines. Peel and chop the fresh fruits; dried fruits can be left whole, unless they are too large to eat comfortably in one bite. Use whole spices, instead of ground: they will be easier to pick out, and the syrup is less likely to become murky. (The spices can always be wrapped in a square of muslin.) Place all your fruits and spices in a pot; cover with liquid; and bring up to a gentle simmer. Do not cover the pot, otherwise the fresh fruits will turn to mush. Citrus fruits usually mark their presence with their peel or zest, but you can add their flesh at the very end, just to warm through. Do not add too much sugar, as the dried fruits contribute a lot of sweetness: the syrup should be no sweeter than unsweetened fruit juice (less gives it real 'grow-up' flare.) The fruits are ready when the dried fruits have plumped up, and the fresh ones are soft, but not falling apart. I also like to cook darker fruits (prunes, figs, dates) separately, because they render a dark juice that will tint everything else, but it is not a necessary step.

Serve stewed fruits warm, at room temperature or slightly chilled, with a drizzle of cream, a dollop of Greek yoghurt or sour cream, and a shortbread or biscotti. The fruits can also be used as a base for a crumble or cobbler. It's not exactly the kind of dessert one would serve for Valentine's Day, but it can be pulled off if it is served warm over ice-cream. There is no need to worry about serving these fruits to children even if you use alcohol for the syrup: most of it will have evaporated away during the stewing, it is not likely to inebriate anyone. If you like canning and giving jars of home-made goodies, stewed fruits can beautifully and make a lovely gift.

Bon app'!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Pancake Day

This post comes a few days late... in France, 2 February is la Chandeleur (Candlemas), also known as Pancake Day. In the UK, Pancake Day is closely tied to Easter, and therefore moves around the calendar (in 2011, Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday falls on 8 March.) Either way, both days are very much ingrained in the Christian calendar and require the consumption of massive amounts of pancakes or crêpes. I'm not Christian, but if there is a holiday to be celebrated with food, sign me up!!!

Growing up, crêpes were part of the week-end breakfast ritual. Thick, American-style pancakes did not appear on our table until I was about 10, but crêpes were a point of pride in the family: in fact, I think there was a bit of a competition going on between my parents as to who was the better pancake flipper... There are tons of crêpes recipes out in the world -including gluten-free, dairy and egg-free - but the following is my absolute favourite. It is a hybrid of my mum's recipe and the one I use at work. (I actually much prefer my mum's recipe, but it doesn't always go over well with the uninitiated.) These pancakes come out beautifully thin, with a lacy edge, and are perfect for sweet or savoury recipes. The French would probably think it sacrilegious to use wheat crêpes for a savoury recipe -purists use buckwheat galettes for salty treats- but I say pshaw!

A little kitchen lore: I do not consider myself a particularly superstitious person. However, if there ever was a superstition I would stake my odds on, it is the following: the first crêpe in the pan must be offered to the Kitchen God. The first pancake is usually quite imperfect: the batter will be either too thick or too thin; its shape is often imperfect; and its colour will not be even because there was too much fat in the pan. And that is quite alright, the rest of the stack will be perfect. If, on the other hand, the first crêpe turns out perfectly, be prepared to struggle with the rest of the batch.

Makes a pile big enough to feed 4

200g/ 1½ cup (375ml) all-purpose flour
250ml/ 1 cup pale ale, or any blond to amber beer
125ml/ ½ cup milk (you can use all milk -or all beer- if you prefer)
1 Tbs sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp butter or 1 Tbs oil

In a large mixing bowl, make a well with the flour.
Place all the liquids and eggs at the centre of the well, and slowly whisk it all together: the goal is to incorporate the flour gradually into the wet ingredients to avoid forming clumps. However, you can just as easily make the batter in the blender. 
The batter should have the consistency of thin paint or thick cream: if you dip your finger in the batter, it should be coated yet show your skin colour.
Let the batter rest for at least one hour (at room temperature) or up to overnight (in the fridge) before cooking.
Heat a cast iron skillet (best), black steel pan (better), or non-stick frying pan (okay) over medium-high heat.
When the pan is hot, throw in the butter, swirl it about to cover the whole surface and discard any excess. Alternatively, dip a paper towel in the vegetable oil and wipe the pan's surface with it.
If your pan is well seasoned, you should not have to add any more fat to it. (Non-stick pans will require a swipe of fat every couple of pancakes.)
The starch in the batter may have settled while resting, give it a stir before proceeding.
Using a ladle or a measuring cup, pour just enough batter to swirl around the pan and cover it with a thin layer.
Let it cook until the edge of the crêpe is golden brown and its surface is dry, about a minute or two: if the edge colours before the surface dries out, lower the heat; if the surface dries out before the edge browns up nicely, turn the heat up a notch. (If you are using a non-stick pan, it might not give you the same results: just flip the pancake over when the edge pulls away from the pan.)
Using a spatula, pull the edge away from the pan, and flip the pancake over (I usually use my fingers to flip them over).
The crêpe will bubble up and sizzle. It is cooked when the flip side is riddled with brown polka dots.
Serve immediately, or keep warm until breakfast is served.

Being Canadian, I often reach for the maple syrup, but crêpes can be garnished with just about anything. I actually really enjoy sprinkling them with sugar, and the occasional spritz of lemon juice, folding them in four, and eating them with my hands. Anything goes really. Jam, jelly, chocolate spread, apple sauce, cheese, ham...

Bon app'!

P.S. By the way, Shrove Tuesday, the last day before the beginning of Lent, is also known as Mardi Gras: in France, one eats fried foods on this day, including fried dough and other variations on the doughnut...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Groundhog Day

Hard to believe that all the weather-predicting groundhogs foresee an early spring! I am quite certain that 'my' Miss Molly would disagree with them. February has arrived roaring like a lion (funny, how that expression is usually attached to the month of March...), and one is hard pressed to think of any locally available foodstuff. It is on blustery days as today that I am truly happy to have a full pantry and a freezer stuffed with summer memories.

Despite the dearth of local produce at this time of the year, there are still a few gems to be had.

Cabbages and Co.
2010 was a glorious growing year: all types of fruits and vegetable were truly blessed with ideal conditions on the East Coast, and it was most obvious in the abundant stalls at the market. It was an especially good year for the extended cabbage family. Cabbages of all sorts are still available, all are a good size and ridiculously inexpensive: green cabbages can be had for under 2$ a head, and will keep you and your family stocked up on cabbage rolls, coleslaw, and cabbage soups for quite a while. Savoy cabbages are usually a little smaller than green cabbages, but are still a good size: these are the coles I prefer to use for my cabbage rolls, but they are also delightful in stir-fries (cut into strips) or as a substitute for kale.
Quebec-grown kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower are no longer available, their imported counterparts can sometimes be expensive, but if you keep your eyes peeled for sales, they can be had for a song. For more variety (in colour, flavour and shape), look out for rappini and Asian greens (bok choi, pak choi, choi sum, and napa cabbage) which can be used pretty much interchangeably.

Root Vegetables
Canada is pretty much self-sufficient when it comes to root vegetables. Although supermarkets do stock up on American imports of potatoes and carrots, there is really no excuse for it as Canadian producers usually satisfy local demand for them. There are, of course, a plethora of roots for the taking, even at this time of the year. Parsnips; rutabaga; beets of all colour; celeriac; and the usual suspects carrots and potatoes (both are also available in a variety of shapes and colours, so seek them out). There are a few other, less familiar root vegetables that tend to pop up at this time of the year, some are imported, and others are very much locally grown: jerusalem artichoke; parsley root; sweet potatoes and other yams... If you are unfamiliar with a root but would like to try it on your unsuspecting family and friends, try roasting them or adding them to a soup.

Leeks and Onions
Come February, I tend to check out my stash of locally grown garlic on a daily basis. By this time, the stash has dwindled down to a few heads, and I become the Scrooge of garlic: doling out the cloves with parsimony because I know that I cannot get my hands on any more. However, there is no shortage of local onions and leeks, my reliable go-tos at this time of the year. I will often double-up on either vegetables in my recipes, just to make up for the lack of garlic. Do not get me wrong, I do love both vegetables for their own unique flavours, I just miss garlic sometimes...

Winter Squashes
While it can be tempting to reach out for imported peppers and tomatoes at this time of the year, if all you want is a little dash of colour on your plate, winter squashes are here to help you out. A few years ago, it was rather difficult to find locally grown squashes once winter had truly settled in, however, these vegetables have grown in popularity, and local growers have jumped on the bandwagon. Roasted, baked, puréed into luscious soups, squashes are versatile and should become regulars in your kitchen.

Although I can spend entire summer days eating nothing but fruits, I tend to eat more vegetables in the colder months -probably because I am loath to eat a cold fruit when I am already shivering under a woolly blanket! There are quite a few hot and warm treats to be made with fruits, many of which feature apples, a good thing considering that it is just about the only local fruit still available in the dead of a Canadian winter.
Citrus fruits still abound in February. Even though the clementines from Morocco are fast approaching their end, other citrus are coming into season.

It has become nearly impossible to distinguish seasonal changes in the meat department, but if you patronise a butcher shop instead of a supermarket, you might have noticed a few things. Winter is the time to stock up on wild meats. Although most feather game are quickly running out, large game are still in season for a little while yet. Game meat is often pricier than the more common chicken, pork and beef, but cheaper cuts can be had for a reasonable price, and are perfect for winter stews and braised dishes. The new flavours will be a welcome change, and are perfect paired with root vegetables. Bison, venison and elk can be used in any recipe calling for beef, whereas boar should be treated like pork.

Bon app'!

En français

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