Recent acquisition #2: the Ferrari of breadmakers

Before we bought our first breadmaker, we hemmed and hawed, because (a) breadmakers are not cheap, (b) they are large and take up a lot of space, and (c) we weren’t convinced that we’d use it. After all, we’ve all come home with a fancy new kitchen appliance, like a juicer or yoghurt maker, used it once or twice, and then relegated it to some underused corner of the kitchen, resenting the space it occupies as it gathers dust.
We have now owned at least five breadmakers.
We make bread often. Dr. T uses the machine to make the dough for his awesome pizzas. I make our hamburger buns from dough made in the machine.
So when our old reliable breadmaker finally stopped being so reliable, I did some research into the best bang for one’s buck, breadmaker-wise. Based on consumer reviews, I found Zojirushi, a brand I had never heard of before, and fell in love.

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Recent acquisition #3: It’s a what?

Our lovely friend Darie is visiting from Switzerland, and she brought me a new ingredient (the fact that Darie knew that bringing me something to cook with would be well received is one of the things that makes her so lovely).
She brought me a potimarron.
I knew it was a squash, at least! The name ‘potimarron’ apparently is a portmanteau derived from the European French word for pumpkin, ‘potiron,’ and ‘marron,’ which means chestnut.
I used it in an Indian ratatouille (recipe from the Moosewood collection, naturally) that also features eggplant and orange juice, flavoured with coriander and cumin. The recipe calls for zucchini or yellow squash, and I have made it more than once with my favourite squash, butternut. The potimarron was an interesting switch – I didn’t peel it, as per Darie’s instructions, but the peel was tender and unresistant. The flesh was slightly nutty, and definitely reminiscent of pumpkin, so clearly the potimarron is well-named.

As long as everything is apple-based, we’re fine

Next week is the 16th edition of Pointe à Callière’s 18th Century Public Market in the Place Royale in Old Montreal.
Markets are enjoying a renaissance in Montreal, it seems, and there’s a growing number of truly local, seasonal markets. Of course, we have our big, wonderful, stalwarts, like the Atwater market (walking distance from home) and the Jean Talon market, but it’s interesting to see that in many neighbourhoods, tiny local markets are springing up. Most are weekly or even monthly, and most are only open from May to September, but it’s nice to see.
In places like our borough of Verdun, for instance, lower incomes usually mean a vicious circle of low quality produce – people cannot afford high-end supermarket prices, so we end up with low-end supermarkets, which naturally stock the second or third-grade produce, not to mention the cheap junk food. More calories, fewer dollars – this is how low-income families end up not eating well.
So local markets, stocking local, seasonal produce, offer cheap, good food. Yay!
Now, the downside to this is that we’re in Quebec. This is not a political statement, it is a geographical statement. The sad fact is, there isn’t much fresh local produce for at least four months of the year, unless we count apples (which apparently, and weirdly, grow year-round).
We love the idea of eating local, but we’re also committed to our weekly menu strategy – every Saturday, while we sip coffee and read our electronic paper, we plan the supper menu for the week, then compile the grocery list based on that menu. This means we only buy what we need for the week, rather than getting to the end of the week and regretfully chucking what was once a really lovely fresh vegetable.
So my quandary with the local market idea was that the menu-based shopping list means NOT being seduced by the prettiest vegetables, but knowing ahead of time what we need – but local means that what we need isn’t necessarily on hand…
Then I found SOS Cuisine, one of a few sites that list what’s available when, according to the growing and harvesting season. The SOS Cuisine site has the added advantage of links to recipes for all the produce, as well as a ‘forecast’ of what’s going to be in season over the next three weeks.
Tada! Now we can check out what’s likely to be on offer at the local market, plan the menu accordingly, and prepare our list as usual. We’ll try not to be too smug 🙂

Of penne, Parmesan and planes

Tonight, supper is Jamie Oliver’s Penne Arrabiata, which, I think, epitomizes Jamie’s nakedness: good, simple, food. Preparing this dish is really no harder than opening a jar of prepared sauce, as long as you know how to chop an onion (although I have to admit I am not impressed with the actual writing of the recipe – it’s not clear whether or not the tomatoes are meant to be drained (assume no, given 25-30 minutes of simmering), and the order of the ingredients does not match the order of instructions. Mind you, I spent today discussing how to grade essays with my colleagues, so it is remotely possible that I am hypercritical at the moment).
While the sauce simmers and the penne al dentes, I’m taking a few minutes for some blogging directly from the kitchen – which kind of brings me to my point.
It was while I was planing the Parmesan that it occurred to me that (a) I rarely discuss kitchen equipment, if ever, and (b) this is because my kitchen is perfect. I have cooked in other kitchens, and I have decided that one’s kitchen is an incredibly personal space. No one else’s kitchen really satisfies me – there’s always some key tool missing, or some organizational decision that leaves me baffled. But in my kitchen, every thing I need is there, in the place it most logically belongs. I even designed the actual space – our house is over 100 years old, and the original layout of the kitchen was, frankly, ridiculous. So around the same time that Robert (son #2) came along, we invested what seemed like an astronomical amount of money in the kitchen – and it’s truly perfect.
I assume that people who don’t cook, or who do, but reluctantly or resentfully, don’t have the same relationship with their kitchens. My kitchen is, I think, more intimate a space for me than my home office or my bedroom (certain moments naturally excepted). It makes me a little anxious to have other people cooking in my kitchen. It really grates on my nerves when certain husbands who shall remain nameless play the wrong kind of music in the kitchen.
Part of what makes my kitchen so perfect is that I am, it must be said, (probably) over-equipped. The Parmesan? Once upon a time, we used pre-grated Parmesan (oh the shame – yes, it was K-word brand). Now, in my perfect kitchen, our penne will be topped with freshly planed Parmesan, thanks to my microplane grater. I have two knife blocks, because that’s how many knives I have – and most of those are Henkels. I have a big microwave – big enough that it required a custom-built cabinet. Ditto the fridge – which has a bottom-mount freezer, another of my must-haves.
I could go on and on (and you may feel I already have). Suffice it to say that I love my kitchen, as a cooking space and as a living space.
Now it’s your turn – what makes your kitchen your kitchen?

Creamy Macaroni Salad

adapted from the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favourites
While we try to vary our menu from week to week, there are, of course, a few family favourites that recur pretty frequently – lasagne, Dr. T’s very excellent pizza, and the chili posted below. These, and a few other stalwarts, show up every two or three weeks without fail.
The other regular item on the menu is the macaroni & cheese, which Colin now makes pretty much all by himself (see? Having kids can pay off!). We have this mac & cheese every week, usually with a couple of very good friends and some trashy TV. It is a good, good thing.
This past week, however, temperatures hit the mid-thirties, and coupled with our traditional high humidity, the weather just wasn’t good mac & cheese weather, no matter how amazing the mac & cheese. My very smart friend, and frequent attendee of the weekly mac & cheese night, Aurora, suggested pasta salad instead – so Colin went looking, and found this recipe in the Moosewood Low-Fat Favourites (which, incidentally, I strongly recommend. TONS of great recipes, mostly vegetarian (Moosewood has apparently decided that fish are vegetables), and reasonably easy on the diet.). We made a few modifications, and ended up with a salad that was unanimously lauded:

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Warm up with some chili

I can’t believe I haven’t posted this one yet! This chili is super-easy and has become one of our mainstays. You can serve it over rice, but I typically serve it all on its own. As with other potentially spicy dishes, I’ve become accustomed to toning this down on the stovetop and allowing people to heat it up according to personal taste with hot sauce at the table.
The bean/lentil choice often comes down to which one we happen to have in the cupboard at the time, or what the rest of the week features. One other option is to use both and eliminate the ground round – or if you’re doubling the recipe, you can use beans, and lentils, and ground round – yummy protein!
Tonight we enjoyed this with a bottle of Petalos, a nice Spanish red, but it goes well with lots of our favourites – just choose a medium-bodied red.
adapted from Rose Elliot’s Complete Vegetarian

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Vegetarian Goulash

From Carol Bowen’s The Vegetarian Cookbook
3 tbsp oil (I use a generous spray instead, and get great results)
1 onion, peeled and sliced or chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp caraway seeds
28-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 bouillon cube or splash of vegetable concentrate
11-oz can corn kernels
19-oz can beans – cannellini, navy beans, white kidney beans…
2 tbsp fresh parsley (1 tbsp dried)
Salt & pepper
Sour cream to serve
Saute onion, garlic and celery together for about 5 minutes, then add the paprika and caraway seeds, and fry for another minute or so. Add the tomatoes and bouillon, and a little water to make a liquidy sauce. Bring to the boil and reduce heat, half-cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the corn, beans, parsley and seasoning, and simmer for another 15 minutes.
Serve with sour cream on the side. We’ve served this alone, over rice, or over egg noodles.
We enjoyed this tonight over egg noodles (although next time we’ll do half a package, rather than the whole bag of noodles) with a bottle of Pinot noir De La Chevalière vin de pays d’Oc 2007
3 points/serving, recipe serves 4.


This is one of Dr. T’s favourites from his childhood, and now one of the many flat round things he counts in his culinary repertoire. We had these tonight with a very nice Grand Caumont, which is not the shiraz that might really pop with this kind of dish, but is one of our ‘drink with anything’ standbys.

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Vegetable Pot Pie

It’s been a snowy couple of days, and while my outdoor adventures have been completely voluntary, Dr. T’s have been work-imposed. I figured that after a long, cold bus ride home, a little comfort food would hit the spot: enter the scrumptious Homespun Pot Pie from Moosewood New Classics. I have played with the original measurements, because the recipe claims to serve 6 but the original measures would easily feed ten!
I served this with a new Gazette recommendation, Mencia Pittacum Bierzo 2005, which was touted as good with herb sauces. There are other wines we’ve had with the pot pie in the past, notably those that go well with mushrooms.
The Mencia was a good choice, but quite intense – which, when you’re trying to warm up from the inside out, is probably a good thing. Underneath the intensity I tasted overripe strawberries, and Dr. T claims there was some red currant.
For those that count, this is 10 points for a generous serving, less without the topping – and you can always sub reduced fat/calorie margarine for the butter.

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Simply Supper

Tonight, the last night of the Christmas vacation, was a simple affair: bread and soup.
I am a big fan of comfort food (as I assume everyone else is, too, given the term). On a winter night, one of the most comforting suppers is a good, hearty soup with a loaf of fresh bread. In this case, I doubled Rose Elliot’s Golden Lentil Soup recipe and halved the Kitchenaid French Bread recipe*:
*if, like me, you don’t use yeast in packages, the equivalent is 4 1/2 tsp; I used 2 1/4 tsp for my halved recipe and it was just right.
We opened up a bottle of Rosemount Estate Diamond Label Shiraz with tonight’s supper. The wine is great, but since I forgot the curry in the soup, it was a little over the top for plain lentil soup. It was certainly acceptable enough to keep the bottle open – but something a little less full-bodied would probably have been just right.
Rose Elliot’s Golden Lentil Soup*

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