Warm cabbage salad with bacon and apples

The Ropot makes this flavourful twist on coleslaw a snap to prepare!

I’ve been having a lot of fun lately playing around with a new kitchen appliance. Created by the same Ottawa-based key team members that garnered worldwide fame with their InstantPot, the new Ropot (think RobotPot; they call it “the intelligent robot cooker”) is quite different but equally versatile. It’s super pretty too – look at the image below! With eight pre-programmed modes plus a manual option, the Ropot is easy to use and remarkably efficient. I found the multipurpose cooker’s greatest strength to be the neat built-in stirring paddle in the non-stick inner pot so you can add ingredients and have them stir-fry without any manual intervention. With heating elements both underneath the pan and in the lid, food cooks very quickly and evenly. There’s also a neat filtering system that controls odors and the pot is super easy to clean after use. I’m looking forward to trying other modes, especially the braise/steam function and the roasting function and will refer to the recipes Ropot provides for technique tips to guide me as I develop more recipes of my own.  Note that you can easily prepare this salad in a conventional frying pan, although you will likely have to increase cooking time slightly, and you’ll need to stir frequently. If you want to switch things up a little, pears would be a nice substitute instead of apples.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (250 mL) uncooked, diced bacon (about 4 slices)
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) diced onion
  • 1 apple, cored and diced (do not peel)
  • 3 cups (750 mL) chopped cabbage (1 inch / 2.5 cm pieces)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) celery seeds
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) chopped fresh parsley, to garnish

Method

  • Plug in the Ropot and allow it to complete the 3 minute preheat function.
  • Add diced bacon to the pot and press Function. The words “Stir Fry” will illuminate as the default cycle. Press the plus (+) sign to increase from the standard 3 minute setting to an 8 minute setting; this should be long enough to cook the bacon thoroughly.
  • When the bacon is crispy, drain off half the bacon fat. Add onion and apple to the pot and press Function again for a 3 minute Stir Fry cycle.
  • Add cabbage to the pot and press Function then press the + sign twice for a 4 minute cycle.
  • When cabbage has wilted after the 4 minute cycle, sprinkle the sugar, rice vinegar, celery seeds, salt and pepper over the bacon, onion, apple and cabbage mixture. Press Function then the minus (–) sign four times for a 1 minute Stir Fry cycle.
  • Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with parsley. Serve warm.

Makes 4 servings as a side dish.

Note: I was provided a Ropot for testing purposes but, as always, all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

 

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Smoked tomato pasta sauce

The most flavourful sauce ever!

I’m a big fan of smoky foods, particularly when those foods are fruits or vegetables. My smoked tomato gazpacho is a case in point, as is my smoked watermelon salad. When asked to produce a smoked tomato pasta sauce, I was more than eager to oblige and I’m super happy I did because this is ridiculously delicious and probably the best-tasting sauce I’ve ever made – and it’s vegan! One of my taste testers enthusiastically commented that “it’s like having my favourite food around a campfire!” I’m off to the farmers’ market right now to buy a bushel of tomatoes to smoke, chop and tuck into the freezer. I suggest you consider doing the same thing. Oh – and if you’re wondering about the smidge of baking soda in my tomato sauce, don’t skip it as it is the perfect neutralizer for the tomatoes’ acidity and makes for a smoother, richer, tastier sauce. I promise.

Ingredients

  • 10 large Roma (plum) tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons (10 mL) olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10 button mushrooms, chopped small
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) each salt and pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) baking soda
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) each chopped fresh parsley and basil
  • Grated parmesan cheese, to garnish
  • Additional chopped fresh basil, to garnish

2 cups wood chips and heavy duty foil, for smoking tomatoes

Method

  • Place wood chips in a large bowl and cover with water. Let soak 30 minutes.
  • Drain wood chips and place on a large sheet of heavy duty foil. Fold the foil to seal on the top and both ends to make a long, flat package of wood chips.
  • With the tip of a knife, pierce the top of the foil packet all over.
  • Place the foil packet directly on top of one burner of your gas grill (underneath the grill rack that holds the food; I use the burner at the front).
  • Turn all burners of the grill onto high heat and let them pre-heat until the wood chips begin to smoke.
  • Once the packet has begun to smoke, turn off all the burners EXCEPT the one that has the wood chips on top of it and place halved tomatoes, cut sides up, over the unlit burners, as far away from the lit burner as possible.
  • Keep tomatoes on the grill until the wood chips have stopped smoking (about 30 minutes).
  • While tomatoes are smoking, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the diced onions and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes more. Remove from heat until ready to add the smoked, diced tomatoes.
  • Gently transfer the smoked tomatoes to a baking sheet and bring indoors. Peel and discard the skin (it will slip off the tomatoes easily) then chop the flesh into 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) pieces. Add to the saucepan with the onions, garlic and mushrooms.
  • Return the pot to medium heat and add the tomato paste, salt, pepper, baking soda, parsley and basil. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for 20 minutes. Remover pot lid and simmer for 10 minutes more while you cook the pasta.
  • Serve sauce over hot cooked pasta, garnished with parmesan and chopped fresh basil.

Makes 6 servings of sauce (leftover sauce freezes beautifully).

 

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Fall for Flavour: No-cook Pear Chutney

Quick condiment a perfect pairing for roasted meat or charcuterie!

I love serving chutneys with roasted meat of any kind. They can serve as a side dish or even a stuffing. They’re a great way to add a pop of flavour and often a way to tempt kids to try new things, lured by the promise of something sweet or tangy. I am also a fan of tucking a few dollops of chutney into my grilled cheese sandwiches and you’ll usually find a little bowlful on my cheese boards too. Depending on what texture you prefer, you can dice the fruit and onions, or grate them (use a box grater) if you want a finer textured chutney. You can enjoy this pear chutney the same day you make it, but its flavour will improved with a day or two of refrigeration.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) currants (small raisins)
  • 2 ripe pears, cored and chopped small
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) finely diced onion
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) coarse salt
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) rice or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) chili flakes (or more, to suit your tastes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) mustard seeds, bruised
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) ground cloves

Method

  • Put currants in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside to soak for 25 minutes.
  • While currants are soaking, combine pears, onion and sugar in a medium sized bowl and let macerate (process by which the sugar draws juice out of the fruit) for 20 minutes.
  • Drain water from currants and add to mixture along with all other ingredients, stirring to blend.
  • Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let marinate at room temperature for 6 – 12 hours before bottling, stirring occasionally during the marinating time.
  • Transfer to spotlessly clean jars and refrigerate for up to one month.

Makes approximately 2 cups.

 

 

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French grated carrot salad (salade de carottes rapées)

A fast, fresh and flavourful raw vegetable dish!

Sometimes simple is best and that’s certainly the case with this delightful salad. I’ve modelled it on a dish that is truly ubiquitous in France, where you’ll find it at many cafés, restaurants, markets and even grocery stores. The classic French version includes the simplest of lemon vinaigrettes but I’ve opted to punch it up just a bit with Dijon and a pinch of piment d’espelette or cayenne. I think you’ll find this salad the perfect addition to many different menus. You can prep it ahead of time and it’s perfectly packable too for a fresh, healthy lunch option.

a fast fresh and flavourful carrot salad

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (454 g) carrots (3 – 4 large)
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) thinly sliced green onions
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) honey, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch piment d’espelette or cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) extra virgin olive oil

Method

  • Scrub and peel the carrots then grate using the large side of a box grater or a food processor. Place in a serving bowl along with parsley and green onions. If making ahead, cover and refrigerate.
  • Put lemon juice, Dijon, honey, salt, pepper and piment d’espelette or cayenne in a small jar with a tight lid. Cover and shake to blend well. Add olive oil and shake again. Taste and adjust honey or lemon to suit your preference, remembering that the carrots are naturally quite sweet. Refrigerate until ready to assemble salad.
  • When ready to serve, drizzle vinaigrette over vegetables and toss to distribute evenly. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

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Pizza with creamy white sauce

Move over tomatoes; there’s a new game in town!

I had long thought there wasn’t anything finer in the pizza world than the elegantly understated Pizza Margherita. Often described as the true test of a pizzeria’s prowess, the Margherita relies on just a few simple toppings in the colors of the Italian flag: green basil, white mozzarella and red tomato sauce. It’s my go-to order at any thin crust pizza joint and one I make often at home as well. A recent request from my son sent me off to discover the world of white-sauced pizza and I’m glad I did. There are lots of variations but the one I came up with, using an Alfredo-style sauce bolstered with a little cooked flour and butter for thickening, was really splendid. You can definitely play around with toppings on this style of pizza but my advice is not to overdo it so you can still taste the garlic-infused white sauce.

pizza no tomato sauce

Ingredients

Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) butter
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) minced shallot
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) white wine
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (250 mL) heavy (35%) cream
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) freshly grated parmesan
  • few grinds black pepper

Two 12 – 14 inch (30 – 35 cm) pizza crusts or sufficient dough to make two pizzas

Toppings:

  • 1 cup (250 ml) grated Mozzarella
  • 2 cups (500 mL) thinly sliced mushrooms
  • 3.5 oz (100 grams) thinly slices of prosciutto, torn into pieces
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) shredded fresh basil leaves, to garnish

Method

  • Preheat oven to 450F.
  • Make the sauce by melting the butter in a small pot, over medium heat. Add the minced shallots and garlic. Sauté until just tender, about 3 minutes.
  • Add the white wine to the pan and let it bubble away till the wine is almost gone (2 – 3 minutes).
  • Sprinkle the flour over top and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.
  • Whisking constantly, add the cream slowly and adjust heat so the mixture boils gently for a few minutes; the sauce will thicken slightly.
  • Add the grated parmesan and then add pepper to taste. Set sauce aside to cool slightly.
  • Prepare the toppings and set aside.
  • Prepare the pizza crusts then divide sauce evenly over top and spread with the back of a spoon.
  • Sprinkle mozzarella over sauce, then arrange mushrooms on top. Add pieces of prosciutto.
  • Bake pizzas for approximately 15 minutes, until sauce is bubbling and crust is browned.
  • Remove from oven and immediately top with shredded basil, then slice and serve.

Makes 2 large pizzas.

pizza without tomato sauce

 

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Recipe roundup: all about apples

Some tasty and inventive ways to enjoy a favourite fall fruit!

Just like the outstanding peach and tomato crops this year, I think it’s proving to be a stellar year for apples. I’ve purchased numerous varieties at my local farmers’ market and they’ve all been exceptionally delicious. I’ve also been fortunate to spend some time apple picking at my parents’ home in Nova Scotia – their ancient tree yielded bushels and bushels of crisp, juicy Macintosh beauties. Here’s a roundup of some of my favourite ways to cook with apples, whether I’ve picked them myself at an orchard, or purchased them at a market stall. They’re so versatile and I just love them. Click on the titles below to access each recipe.

 

Quinoa with roasted squash, apples and cider vinaigrette

quinoa side dish or meatless main

Pickled apple slices

Apple pie rings

apples cinnamon and puff pastry

Apple cheddar biscuits

Kale salad with apples and cheddar

Kale salad with apples

Apple Oatmeal Waffle Muffins

 

 

 

 

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Easy potato and ricotta gnocchi

A dish that might look daunting but is deceptively easy to make!

There is something so special about pillowy-soft gnocchi, bathed in a rich sauced and dusted with cheese. It’s probably the pasta I have loved the most since the first time I tasted it but for many years I thought gnocchi were dauntingly difficult to make. As it turns out, they’re actually pretty easy and fun to prepare – it could be a good activity to enjoy with kids who are into helping out in the kitchen. Russet potatoes, even older ones, are best for gnocchi making. My recipe follows the advice of the lovely Italian nonna I learned from who said she likes to cook the potatoes unpeeled so they absorb less moisture and make for lighter, fluffier gnocchi (but you can peel them before cooking if you prefer). Use any sauce you like – a homemade mushroom and onion ragu made with garden-fresh tomatoes that have been oven roasted is particularly lovely.

how to make potato and ricotta gnocchi at home

Ingredients

  • 2 medium potatoes (approx. 14 oz/ 400 g total weight), scrubbed
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) salt, divided
  • 2/3 cup (160 mL) ricotta cheese
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup (250 mL) flour, plus about 1/4 cup (60 mL) extra for dusting counter and gnocchi
  • 2 – 3 cups (500 – 750 mL) of your favourite tomato sauce
  • Parmesan cheese, to garnish

Method

  • Put whole potatoes into a pot of cold water, just covering potatoes by about 3/4 inch (2 cm).
  • Add 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt to the pot. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and cook for 15 – 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.
  • While potatoes are cooking, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Drain potatoes then scrub the skins off with your fingertips under lukewarm running water.
  • Grate the potatoes on the fine side of a box grater, or press them through a ricer or food mill.
  • Put the potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Add egg yolks, ricotta, 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt and flour. Gently stir to combine until the mixture comes together in a soft, slightly sticky dough.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently just a few times, until it forms a ball.
  • Cut the ball into four sections. Take one section and roll it out with your hands on a lightly floured work surface until it makes a ‘snake’ about 1/2 to 3/4 inch in diameter (you want it as uniform as possible in thickness). Dust the snake with flour.

making gnocchi at home

  • With a sharp knife, cut the snake into pieces approximate 3/4 inch (3 cm) long. Once you’ve cut the whole thing into piece, roll each one gently over a gnocchi paddle or board or over the tines of a fork to give it small ridges. This helps the sauce adhere to the pasta.

  • Place the finished pieces on the parchment lined tray and continue working in the same manner with the other three sections of dough.
  • When finished, lightly sprinkle all the gnocchi with a little bit more flour and give the pan a shake to distribute evenly.

  • NOTE: The gnocchi can be frozen at this point – just put the baking tray into the freezer and when the gnocchi are frozen, transfer to an airtight container. Store for up to 3 months and cook from frozen per the instructions below; it will just take an extra minute or two.
  • To cook the gnocchi, bring a large, broad pan (a wok is good for this) of water with the remaining 1 tsp (5 ml) of salt to a boil.
  • While water is heating, put the sauce in another broad pan and warm gently over medium-low heat.
  • Carefully add the gnocchi to the boiling water (I find a flat skimmer is useful for this) as quickly as you can. Return the pot to the heat and very gently stir so the gnocchi don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Cook just until the gnocchi pop up to the surface of the water and float (which means they are cooked) then use the skimmer to transfer them to the pan of sauce.

  • Gently toss the gnocchi with the sauce until they are evenly coated then distribute among four serving bowls.
  • Garnish with a little parmesan and serve hot.

Makes 4 servings.

easy potato and ricotta gnocchi recipe

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