The Start of a Dish

So often onion, celery, beets and broccoli are considered to be supporting actors, side dishes, or over-boiled after thoughts.  Rarely do vegetables get the attention they deserve as the centre of the meal on the North American Table.  Of course those following a vegetarian or vegan diet have found a creative way forward, but for the mainstream diet, the common restaurant, and the usual cookbook, meat based protein rules the meal.

It is still overly common to find the protein as the star of the show.  Many restaurants claiming local produce, more often than not, really mean that they have found local suppliers of pork, beef, lamb and poultry.  The rest comes off a wholesale restaurant supply truck.

While we are not vegetarians in our home, we do believe philosophically in reducing our reliance on eating meat.  There are both environmental and health implications from relying too heavily on animal protein.  More than anything, though, basing a meal on a seasonal vegetable in its prime is an exciting and vibrant way to cook.  This is what motivates me to garden and to shop locally at my farmers market.  Seasonal cooking creates a platform for eating in a vegetable forward way.

I often design a meal beginning with what vegetables are at hand.  In fact, I have often been stirred to creativity because I have come upon an aromatic herb, or a glut of parsley that needs urgent attention.  Finding the starting point for a dish in this way is an extremely creative and satisfying approach to cooking.

While the garden has long been put to sleep, and the supply of local seasonal produce is diminishing as winter deepens, I have started 2018 in a vegetable forward way, using the last of my garden carrots, squash, garlic, and by relying on my preserved tomatoes.

Here are a few dishes celebrating the last of my carrots, dug just days before our first snowfall in November, the zucchini that I dried, and some vibrant green broccoli I found at my organic market.


Carrot Ginger Soup

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I love this soup for its paired back ingredient list:

  • 6 good sized orange carrots
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • a tsp ground cumin and coriander
  • A thumb sized piece of ginger peeled and grated
  • on onion chopped
  1. Fry onion, cumin, coriander, and ginger in olive oil
  2. Grate the carrots and add them to the pot
  3. Pour over the coconut milk and 2-3 equal measures of water
  4. Simmer 30 minutes, and puree, adding more water to get to the consistency you prefer
  5. Season well with pepper and salt

The trick here is getting the right amount of ginger.  I prefer a tingling warm broth rather than one with a biting ginger-at-the-back-of-your-throat hit.

We served this with an onion flat bread.  An example of where an onion can serve as a centre stage ingredient rather than a forgotten knee jerk, add it to the soup pot kind of thing.


Onion Flat Bread

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  1. One batch of Jim Lahey’s slow rise pizza dough found here.  Press the dough out on a pizza stone or baking tray.
  2. Thinly slice two onions and scatter over the dough.
  3. Drizzle well with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Slice two green onions on the diagonal and toss in a few drops of olive oil.  Sprinkle over onion and dough.
  5. Bake at 450F for 10-12 minutes.

Thai Beef Stew with Carrots

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This is adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine.  The dish came to life not only because of the lovely Thai inspired flavours, but because of the white, light orange, dark orange and purple carrots from the garden.

  • 1/2 lb  piece of beef (I used beef shank) with bone, cut into thin strips.  Bone reserved to toss into the stew pot
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and julienned
  • 1 tbsp of brown sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick and 2 star anise
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 4-6 lime leaves
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • Black pepper
  • 5 small multi coloured carrots halved lengthwise.
  • 1 onion peeled and cut into 8 wedges.
  • 1 lime

Sear the beef.  Add the ginger and aromatics.  Pour over enough water to cover and simmer 2 hours.

Remove bone 15-20 minutes prior to serving and add the onion and carrots.  Simmer until just al dente.

Finish with a squirt of lime and adjust seasoning by adding fish sauce or soy sauce.

Serve with jasmine rice or thick rice noodles.


Chick Pea, Dried Zucchini and Cinnamon Soup

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I have adapted Tamar Adler’s Chick Pea soup with Cinnamon adding onions, carrots, celery and zucchini harvested from my garden and dehydrated.  Kept in a jar, this zucchini makes an interesting and flavourful addition to this soup.  By drying zucchini, it somehow becomes more zucchini and its inherent zucchini-ness is celebrated here.

Fry 1 tin of organic, high quality tinned chick peas in quite a lot of olive oil along with the vegetables and a teaspoon of cinnamon, and a good seasoning of salt and pepper.  Once the chickpeas and vegetables have absorbed the aromatic oil, pour over enough good stock to cover.  We use our own chicken stock, but a vegetable stock or just plain cold water would be fine.  Though I would add a bit more olive oil if using water.  Toss in a bay leaf and simmer 45 minutes.

This is a soup that satisfies on a cold winter’s day.  Excellent after an outdoor activity in the cold.


Roast Broccoli and Tahini Pasta

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This is adapted from 101Cookbooks and will be a new favourite.

I used a soy bean pasta I found at my local organic shop which is high in protein.  In addition to the brocoli, I added some frozen kale to the roasting tray half way through (though fresh kale would be better).

The tahinni sauce is rich and creamy and full of good protein.  Much better than a usual creamy pasta sauce.


2017 was a somewhat turbulent year.  Perhaps I will find the space and time to post more frequently in 2018.

Enjoy your vegetables.

3 thoughts on “The Start of a Dish

  1. “…an aromatic herb, or a glut of parsley that needs urgent attention. Finding the starting point for a dish in this way is an extremely creative and satisfying approach to cooking.” This is what happens with my My Farmer’s Market box! And you are right it is creative and satisfying which I find very motivating.

    Like

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