braised white beans and leeks

braised white beans and leeks
braised white beans and leeks

A couple of years ago good friends of ours moved to London, Ontario — just a few hours’ drive outside of Toronto. They have a big, beautiful house with lots of extra bedrooms and once a year or so they invite the whole group of friends down for the weekend. I lovingly refer to these weekends as our grown-up sleepovers. Not the put your keys in the bowl kind of grown-up sleepovers, but the kind that start off posh enough with wine and a fancy potluck dinner spread, only to end up eating chips in your pajamas and laughing until your sides hurt at 2:00 in the morning. These are always my favourite weekends and I look forward to them all year.

My man and all his friends went to school in London, so this year we went for Homecoming weekend at Western. Having attend college and not university I had no idea what this “Homecoming” was all about and was quite intrigued by the concept. By the time we got to campus most of the festivities were winding down, but nevertheless we took full advantage of the brilliant weather (over 20 degrees Celsius! in September!) and went for a vigorous walk around campus. We took a tour through the aptly named student ghetto, got denied entry to a bar (just because one of us was a baby, geesh), and hit the bookstore before heading back to the patio. After dinner we played Cards Against Humanity. Needless to say the next morning there was lots of coffee.

the tower and the ivey school of business
pot luck dinner!
Cards Against Humanity

We had made these plans to visit almost two months ago, and as soon as the potluck roll-call went out I knew I was going to make these braised beans and leeks from the Sprouted Kitchen cookbook. I had them in the spring when my friend Natasha made them for Lunch Club and I had been counting down the days until fall when I could try them for myself. It was warm enough to barbeque when we were in London but by the time the sun went down it certainly felt like fall, perfect for a hearty scoop of cheesy bean and leek goodness.

braised white beans and leeks
cheese!

This was a perfect contribution to a potluck. You only need one pot and you can throw the cheese on when you reheat them when you arrive at your destination. Not to mention they get better with age — I polished off the last of the leftovers four days later and they were better than ever.

Braised White Beans and Leeks
Adapted ever so slightly from the Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook
Makes 8-10 side servings

Note: The original recipe calls for four cups of vegetable stock plus an additional 1/2 cup of water. I found that my beans were well cooked after about two hours in the oven but they were still pretty liquidy. Next time I’m going to drop the water and add it in if I find the pot to be drying out.

Ingredients

1 pound of dried white beans, picked over, rinsed and soaked overnight
3 large leeks
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 celery stalks, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
2 tsp herbes de Provence
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Drain and rinse your beans that have happily soaked overnight. Set aside. Next, preheat your oven to 225F with the rack arranged in the lower third. Now you’re ready to rock.

2. Trim your leeks so you’re left with only the white and light green parts. Slide them in half vertically and rinse well in cold water, getting all the nasty bits out from between the layers. Slide thinly into half moons.

3. Heat a large Dutch oven or heavy, oven-proof pot over medium and add olive oil. Add in celery, garlic and leeks and cook until soft, about 3 to 5 minutes.

4. Add beans and herbs, along with 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt and a generous amount of black pepper. Stir in vegetable broth and 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil.

5. Cover the pot with an ovenproof lid or cover tightly with foil. Place the pot in the over and cook until the beans are full cooked, stirring occasionally. This could take anywhere from 2 to 3 and a half hours, so keep an eye on them! If your pot gets dry but your beans aren’t cooked add some water.

6. Once cooked, taste and adjust seasoning. Beans can be cooked until this point if serving later.

7. Turn your oven up to 500F and sprinkle cheese on top of your beans. Place the pot back in to the oven for 10-12 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

spicy noodle bowl with greens and tofu

photo

Lunch is no joke around our office. There are those that brown bag it every day. Those that dine daily with The Chef and those that partake in the Buffeteria lunch special. And then there is Lunch Club.

Designed to ease the stress of lunch and encourage weekday home cooking, each member brings lunch for the other members on a specified day of the week. Fridays are free reign. I’ve participated in Lunch Club in the past, but the stress of not planning my own meals and not sticking to my particular weekday eating rules meant that I didn’t last long as a member.

A few weeks ago another colleague who is also trying to eat as healthfully as possible proposed an Alternative Lunch Club. Same deal, only there were a few ground rules. Lunches had to be mainly plant-based, vegetarian, gluten free — think Gwyneth Paltrow’s version of Lunch Club. And you had to tell the other person what you were planning to make the week before; I was game.

For Thursday’s lunch I had planned to make kale and Brussels sprouts salad tossed with soba noodles, my favourite recipe from Vegetable Literacy. But when Wednesday evening rolled around and it was time to make lunch I was craving something spicy. Heidi Swanson’s otsu, another favourite around here, came to mind. I had a little sprouted tofu left over in the fridge and so this mash-up was born.

Teeming with greens and high in protein this was a pretty perfect lunch. Using gluten free noodles ensured there would be no mid-afternoon carb crash to keep us going through the afternoon. I’m not gluten free by any means, but these days I prefer gluten free noodles to avoid the bloat that comes with regular pasta. My grocery store was out of buckwheat noodles so I tried out a millet brown rice blend instead. The noodles were good but missing the sturdy chew of buckwheat which meant they were a little mushy next to the raw greens. I topped everything with my new favourite garnish, Gomashio, but a few toasted sesame seeds would do just the trick!

Spicy Noodle Bowl with Greens and Tofu

A mash-up from here and here

Ingredients:

For the salad
1 big bunch of lacinato kale (aka black kale or dinosaur kale), shredded
4 Brussels Sprouts, shredded
2 bunches of baby bok choy, shredded
1 teaspoon sesame oil
8 oz buckwheat soba noodles (or whatever you want)

For the dressing
Zest of 1 lemon
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon raw honey
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice (fresh squeezed, duh)
1/4 cup brown-rice vinegar
1/3 cup tamari
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil

To garnish
7 or 8 oz of extra firm, sprouted tofu
3 green onions, sliced white and light green parts only
Gomashio or toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Method:

Place all your greens in a big bowl and dress with 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and a pinch of salt. Massage with your hands until all of the greens are shiny and glistening (that’s my favourite part of this recipe). Set aside.

Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain well and rinse with cold water, draining again. Once the noodles have been drained add to greens mixture.

Meanwhile whiz lemon zest and juice, ginger, honey, cayenne, sea salt, brown rice vinegar, tamari, olive oil and sesame oil in a food processor or blender. Add about 3/4 of the dressing to the greens and noodle mixture. Mix well and let is sit while you make the tofu.

Heat pan over medium. Slice tofu in to thin slabs and then place in a hot pan with no oil or water. Fry until golden, about 3 minutes, and then toss and fry until golden on the other side.

Pile greens and noodles in to your favourite bowl; top with Gomashio, green onions and tofu.

Enjoy!

mango vanilla smoothie

mango vanilla smoothiemango vanilla smoothie
As I try and decipher what a healthy, balanced approach to eating looks like to me one thing is clear: start the day with the best of intentions. Nine days out of ten breakfast includes a smoothie or green juice of some sort.

Smoothies have been a mainstay in our house for years now, and it’s interesting to see how they have evolved from glorified milk shakes to nutrition powerhouses with superfoods like greens, goji berries and protein powder (even though one of us still prefers the glorified milk shakes).

A few weekends ago I woke up craving sunshine and something that was closer to the milkshake side of the smoothie spectrum. To be honest what I really wanted was an Orange Julius. I remember as a kid I didn’t really like an Orange Julius all that much, but the thrill was too much to resist. Frozen orange juice concentrate and milk aren’t really my bag these days but I knew that it would be easy to replicate the cool, tropical creaminess of an Orange Julius.

Frozen mangoes and almond milk are mainstays in our fridge and freezer so I started there and then threw in a couple of dates — my favourite way to sweeten just about anything these days. It was the perfect start to a gloomy Saturday morning and was exactly what I was craving.

Mango Vanilla Smoothie - for two with a second breakfast or one very hungry person

Banana

1 heaping cup frozen mangoes

2 dates, pitted

1 cup almond milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Water to achieve desired consistency (I used about 1/2 cup)

Put everything in the blend and give it a good whiz!

Fettuccine with Ramps

Fettuccine with Ramps

Oh, ramps, those elusive little harbingers of spring. For the uninitiated, ramps – also known as wild leeks, spring onions, rampson or the very proper allim tricoccum – are an early spring vegetable, available for only a few short weeks at the farmer’s markets. They come around the same time as the fiddleheads and the garlic scapes (if you’re lucky). And they taste. like. heaven. Part onion, part garlic, all delicious.

I usually reserve my ramps for breakfast. Sautéed in a little butter — bacon fat I’ve stored in the freezer if we’re feeling decadent, which we often are — and then scrambled with farm fresh eggs and sharp cheddar. Good bread on the side. There’s nothing better.

This year I thought I’d use up my half pound bunch a little differently. This is how we’ve been enjoying our pasta lately, simple and unfussy. A few simple vegetables, butter, good Parm. I’ve been on a breadcrumb kick since my dinner at Woodlot, where my plate of creamy white beans was transcended to heaven with the addition of a smattering of toasted breadcrumbs. The breadcrumbs had the same affect on the pasta.

I know, I’m late. So late that I’ve heard from Twitter that Ontario strawberries are out, which means that we’re well past ramp season and in to full-on summer. Even the humidex agrees. But I’ve meaning to share this for some time now, we’ll just consider this planning ahead for next year, yeah?

Fettuccine with Ramps
Serves 2

Ingredients:

Half a pound of ramps, roots separated from greens and thinly sliced
Half a pound fresh fettuccine
1 Tablespoon butter or bacon fat
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup toasted breadcrumbs
Olive oil, for drizzling

Method:

1. Cook pasta according to pasta directions in well-salted water. Drain well, reserving about 1/4 cup of pasta water and set aside.

2. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add white part of ramps and sautee until tender. Add red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and garlic and stir until fragrant, about one minute. Add green parts of ramps, stirring until cooked through and wilted.

3. Add drained pasta to the skillet with a splash of the reserved pasta water and toss to coat. Divide among two bowls and top with Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs and a drizzle of olive oil.