Friday, January 3, 2020

A New Year, A New Cookbook!

"Anything can happen! Anything can be!" 
~ Shel Silverstein


Happy New Year! I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays, and while I can't believe we've slipped into a new year, a new decade, here we are. I'm slowly coming out of the chocolate and cheese coma that is December, and ready to get roaring on my brand new project that will consume a great deal of my 2020. I'm writing another cookbook! Vegetables: A Love Story will be published in the fall of 2021 by the fantastic team at TouchWood Editions once again. I'm super excited to finally share the news with you, though I first broke it on my social media a few weeks ago. You follow me over there too, right? For more behind the scenes cookbook adventures, be sure to see what I'm up to on the Instagram and Facebook. Plus, sometimes there are photos of cats! And cookies!
On our first date, my love, my Dixon gave me a bundle of asparagus tied together with a slip of twine. I knew then and there that he was the person I’d been looking for all my life. I also knew that my second cookbook had to be about vegetables. Don’t ask me how I knew, I just did. My darling vegetable farmer is the inspiration for the cookbook I'm writing, as many of the recipes are meals we’ve shared together since May 2016 when our love story began, and many of the recipes will highlight the vegetables he grows. Like any good love story, there are various branches and tangents, as food has been my lover long before Dixon made eyes at me over bowls of Burmese chicken soup on our first date. There is also the love story between my mom and me, the food she fed me as a child and the recipes we’ve exchanged over some thirty years. I’ve had the good fortune to nail down her recipes for cabbage rolls and lazy perogy casserole - two things I devoured heartily for as long as I can remember. Food shared with friends, be it a budget-friendly vegetable stew or a sauce of plump, fresh tomatoes and basil, is another important part of this love story. The first kitchen I ever cooked in, besides the one run by my mom, was in a drafty third floor walk up apartment in Montreal in the early 1990’s, otherwise known as my art school days. Groceries were bought at the markets on our way home from school. Not having a car, there were no huge grocery runs, but quick stops for whatever was needed and whatever would fit into our backpacks. We would trudge up the narrow, winding staircase to the top floor, put the radio on to CBC, unpack the groceries and begin to cook. I’ve been a solo eater for over half of my life. Except for a couple of years in Montreal, I’ve been living alone, and largely, eating alone for a very long time. Even today, Dixon has his little farmhouse outside of Saskatoon, and I have my little house in the city. We share meals together about 65 percent of the time, and this is a routine that works very well for us. Given the considerable amount of cooking I’ve done for myself, the final part of this vegetable love story is about taking the time to feed yourself, and feed yourself well. That last word is important. Even when I was busy working in restaurants for twenty-plus years, I took the time to prepare fresh, simple meals at home.
The recipes in
Vegetables: A Love Story will be pulled from notebooks of long ago and yesterday, from my mom’s memory, from my blog, and most importantly, from my heart. I’m so looking forward to creating every single vegetable-focussed recipe, and hopefully my cookbook will inspire you in your own gardens, kitchens and in your own love stories. 
The recipes in Vegetables: A Love Story are vegetable-focussed, but not exclusively vegetarian. There is a smattering of meat and seafood here and there, but not everywhere. Bacon, oh how I love bacon, is a good friend of so many vegetables, but if you don’t eat it, don’t put it in the recipes. I won’t be sad, I promise. This book reflects the way I eat, which is lots of veg (obviously), a little meat and seafood, and plenty of pulses. My love of lentils and beans started in my Montreal kitchen in the early 1990’s and I’ve been crushing hard on them ever since.
Whether you’ve been cooking for 40 years or are just starting out, I’ll be your cheerleader along the way. Think of me sitting in your kitchen, with a glass of red, applauding like crazy as you pull a pan of Roasted Corn and Black Bean Tostadas from the oven. And, imagine me high-fiving you as you stir all of that cheese into the Broccoli Cheddar Chicken Chowder. I’m just so happy that you’re cooking from Vegetables: A Love Story. If I learned anything from writing All the Sweet Things, it is how positively awesome it was to see so many copies of my first cookbook in your kitchens, the pages splattered from use. It’s truly humbling to see how you’ve made memories with your own families using my sweet recipes, and I hope you feel the same with my second book baby. The pages will be filled with all the vegetable dishes I’ve loved to cook over the years, and some new recipes that Dixon and I have fallen in love with as we build our life together.
I’m hoping Vegetables: A Love Story will be a fixture in your kitchen as you make dinner for yourself or your family, and on your nightstand as you curl up and read before bed. Many recipes in this cookbook have conjured up stories that go hand in hand and I’m honoured to share them with you. The way the house smells when I cook Vegetable Stew in a Spicy Peanut Sauce, makes me feel like I’m 20 years old again, in a brand new city, and in many ways, a brand new life. Replicating my mom’s Lazy Perogy Casserole, takes me back to the Sunday suppers of my childhood, and falling in love with that glorious combination of carbs on carbs on carbs. Every time I make Wild Mushroom and Asiago Risotto Cakes, I think of that young woman, happily living solo, and slowly stirring the chicken stock into the rice, breathing in the aroma and the moment. Cooking those first verdant spears of Asparagus and Eggs is a lovely reminder of what can happen when you ask a cute boy out on a date, and he says yes. Who was to know that he would bring me a bundle of my favourite vegetable to that Burmese restaurant on our first date? And somehow, that bundle of asparagus was the impetus for this cookbook. Most good love stories have a certain amount of magic in them; mine just also happens to contain vegetables. 

Roasted Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Hummus

This beautiful dip has the superpowers of sweet potatoes and red lentils, as well as warm and lovely middle Eastern Flavours. It's a fixture in my kitchen over the holidays, as it's just so darn pretty, and given it's healthfulness, it's good to have in the fridge for snacking all year round. I love serving this hummus with warm pita bread for a tasty appetizer or snack, and it's also quite wonderful as a dip for fresh veg, like Dixon's extra sweet carrots. I love this recipe so much, it will more than likely find its way into the pages of Vegetables: A Love Story, so you are getting a sneak peek already!

4 cups cubed, peeled sweet potato
1 Tbsp canola oil 
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper 
1 cup cooked split red lentils
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 Tbsp tahini
2 garlic cloves, chopped 1 tsp each za'atar, sumac 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, or cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste red pepper  flakes, sumac, or za’atar for garnish pomegranate seeds, cilantro or parsley for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 375F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  
2. In a large bowl, toss together the sweet potato, olive oil, salt and pepper. Dump onto the prepared baking sheet, arrange in a single layer and bake for about 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sweet potatoes will be golden and tender when done. Remove from the oven and let cool down to room temperature.  
3. Place the roasted sweet potatoes, cooked split red lentils, lemon juice, olive oil, tahini, garlic, and spices in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Adjust the seasoning with more salt and pepper, if needed.  
4. Scrape the hummus into a bowl. Drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle the top with red pepper flakes, sumac or za’atar. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and cilantro or parsley. Serve at room temperature with plenty of warm pita.



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