Sour Cherry – Chocolate Bread

sour cherry and chocolate bread sliced on a cutting board

My mom says, “This is the best bread I have ever had.” And my mom has had a lot of good bread, much of it made by her, so I consider that the strongest endorsement for this delicious chocolate sour cherry bread.

This isn’t a sweet bread, just a loaf of my usual no-knead (Jim Lahey recipe) bread, with the addition of sour cherries I picked in summer and froze, and some good quality dark chocolate. If you’re unfamiliar with no-knead bread, it’s a bread that is left to rise overnight. It is baked in a dutch oven, which helps to create a crunchy crust. So delicious! Just takes a bit of planning ahead – there’s very little hands-on time, but you need to move the dough a few hours before baking.

It was the most delicious the day it was baked, and while still a little warm. But it was also very nice the next day, toasted, with a little butter.

Feel free to add a bit more chocolate or cherries if you want!

What you need:

  • 2 & 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup rye flour (or use all ap flour)
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 & 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 & 1/3 cups water, room temperature
  • 6 oz good quality dark chocolate, chopped (I used Ghirardelli 60%, Bittersweet)
  • 1 cup pitted sour cherries (if using frozen cherries, do not thaw before adding)

What you do:

  1. In a large bowl combine the flour, yeast, salt, chocolate and cherries. Add the water and stir just until it comes together. It will look a bit shaggy, but it’s fine.
  2. Cover the bowl with a lid, plate or plastic wrap and leave to sit at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours. Eighteen-ish hours is preferable, especially if it’s a little cooler in your place. This time around I left mine even longer, and it was probably my best ever.
  3. About two hours before baking time, spread out a large piece of parchment paper and put a coating of olive oil over it. Use a spatula to coax the dough out of the bowl, and then use floured hands to gently form it into a loaf, and place it seam-side down onto the parchment paper. Invert the bowl over the dough and allow this to sit for about 2 hours.
  4. About 1/2 an hour before baking, turn the oven to 450°F/ 232°C. (If using a Romertopf/clay baker, make sure you have pre-soaked it, and then place it in the oven BEFORE turning the oven on.) If using a cast iron dutch oven, place it in the cold oven to heat along with the oven.
  5. When the oven is ready, gently place the dough, seam side down, into the lidded baker. This should be pretty easy to do, since you can just pick up the corners of the parchment paper and transfer the whole thing into the pot. If you want to, you can use a sharp knife to make a few slashes a few centimetres deep into the top of the bread.
  6. Place the lid on the baking dish and bake for 30 minutes. After that time, remove the lid and bake for 15-25 minutes. The crust should be dark, and the bread should sound hollow when you tap it.
  7. Allow the bread to cool on a wire rack for about an hour. When it is hot it will be too sticky inside to cut, but after an hour the bread will still be warm enough for the perfect tasting experience.
  8. Enjoy!

Burgoo’s Tasty Tomato Soup

Burgoo is a popular Vancouver restaurant that serves the best comfort food. I tend to order this tomato soup because there aren’t a lot of meals on their comfort food menu that a lactose-intolerant person can eat.

Not only is this soup lactose-free, but it is soooo delicious! Also, it’s quite easy to make – once you’ve chopped everything up you just simmer for an hour, purée, and you’re ready to go.

I made a few changes to the recipe: since I am making it in Winter, I didn’t have fresh tomatoes that I thought would enhance the flavour. The recipe called for some canned and some fresh, and I have used all canned tomatoes. I added a few carrots, and I made the recipe a little bit smaller so it would fit in my pot.

This soup is even better after reheating, and freezes really well. I love making a massive batch and freezing most so I can have a healthy soup anytime I need it.

Just a word about the wine: please use a wine you would actually want to drink. If you like a sweeter red wine (ick), then you should probably use less brown sugar. The alcohol burns off, so there is none left in the soup, should you be serving it to people who don’t drink alcohol.

This serves 6-8 people.

What you need:

  • 2 – 796 mL cans of whole or chopped tomatoes (San Marzano are the best!)
  • 3 cups water
  • 250-375 mL your favourite red wine
  • 1 very large sweet onion (or two small ones), chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional: olive oil for drizzling before serving

What you do:

  1. Put everything in a large pot.
  2. Gently bring it up to a simmer.
  3. Simmer for one hour with the lid off, stirring from time to time.
  4. Purée, and if you want a super smooth soup, run it through a sieve or food mill.
  5. Taste to see if you want to add more salt, pepper, or anything else.
  6. Serve drizzled with a little olive oil, or not.
  7. Enjoy!

Lemony Hummus

You can make your own hummus! It’s so easy, delicious, and saves you money! Whether you use canned chickpeas or cook them from dried, it’s easy to make a great hummus. When I make hummus at home, I appreciate knowing exactly what goes into it, and adding more or less of whichever flavours I choose – and for me it’s all about the lemon right now!

This recipe is a variation of the hummus recipe I make often, but in this one I’ve added lemon zest along with freshly squeezed lemon juice. Plus a bit of cumin and hot sauce to perfect it.

You can use canned chickpeas, or prepare your own from dried chickpeas. I highly recommend removing the skins from the chickpeas to make a really creamy hummus. If you use split dried chickpeas, they are already skinless, so you will not need to remove the skins, but the flavour is a little different than the regular chickpea. Of course, you can always keep the skins on, but your hummus will not be as smooth. If you’ve got the time it’s worth a try, and removing the skins can be somewhat meditative.

One of my favourite meals that includes hummus is hummus kawarma, a Lebanese dish with lamb. Of course hummus also great with fresh pita, or as a veggie dip. I also love to toast day-old pita brushed with a little olive oil and sprinkled with salt to make crackers, and then dip them in hummus.

What you need:

  • 1 & ¼ cups dried chickpeas (or one 540mL can)
  • 1/3 cup tahini 
  • 4  or more tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • cumin, to taste (start with 1/4 teaspoon)
  • hot sauce (optional) to taste
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
  •  Salt to taste
  • 5 or more tablespoons ice-cold water 

What you do:

  1. Cook the chickpeas ahead of time, so they are cold when you use them to make the hummus. If you are using canned chickpeas I highly recommend removing the skins. This is a bit of work, but here’s what I do: I drain them, then put them in a large bowl with water. Then I rub some of them between my hands, and a lot of the skins come off that way. Then I go through them and pull off most of the remaining skins.
  2. Place your drained chickpeas in a food processor or blender. Process them until you have a thick paste. Add the tahini, lemon juice, lemon zest, cumin, a little hot sauce, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt; blend this. With the machine still running, drizzle in some of the ice water and let it mix for several minutes. You will get a very creamy paste. Taste to see if you want to add any more lemon juice or any of the seasonings. Add more water if you think it needs it to be smoother; I like to add a bit more water than I think I will need, as hummus tends to thicken up a bit when refrigerated.
  3. Cover and refrigerate if you are not using it right away, but remove from the fridge at least half an hour before you want to eat it. A little drizzle of good quality olive oil is a nice way to top it off when serving.

Enjoy!

Mushroom and Barley Soup

Perfect for a Fall day, this soup is warming and hearty, but not heavy. Served with a beautiful baguette from Beyond Bread, this made a delicious dinner for two with plenty of leftovers.

You can make this as a vegan soup, or use chicken or beef broth. The soup consists of some veggies, both dried and fresh mushrooms, a splash of sherry, tomato paste, and broth. A good quality broth is important here, so homemade or a better quality like Pacific would make a tasty soup.

The recipe comes from the Yvette van Boven’s ‘Home Made Winter’ cookbook. Her recipe calls for spelt, but gives the option of barley, which I used because that was what I had in my cupboard. I added a few extra carrots, less oil, and a dab of butter at the end. I used chicken broth because I had it on hand, but look forward to trying it with mushroom broth. I changed the order of when to add the salt and pepper, adding it at the end so it doesn’t get over-salted, and so the salt doesn’t make the veggies mushy. As well, adding pepper too soon can make it the soup taste bitter. My scale is broken right now, so I guessed that 25 grams of dried mushrooms is about 1/2 cup, and that tasted great. For the fresh mushrooms I used a combination of Button and Cremini, the white and brown ones you find easily in the grocery store. If you substitute for more interesting mushrooms, please let me know in the comments below what you used and how you enjoyed it!

What you need:

  • 25 grams dried mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 500 grams (about 1 lb) fresh mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • 100 grams (about 1/2 cup) barley or spelt
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • a splash or two of dry sherry
  • 1 litre (4 cups) mushroom, vegetable or chicken stock
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon butter (optional)

What you do:

  1. Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour hot or boiling water over them, just enough to cover. Let that sit for about 20 minutes while you get started with chopping.
  2. Once the onions, carrots and celery have been chopped, heat the olive oil on medium heat, in a large pot. Sauté the vegetables until the onions begin to soften.
  3. Stir in the garlic, then add the fresh mushrooms. Sauté the mushrooms until they begin to release their juices, about 10 minutes.
  4. Raise the heat and stir in the barley or spelt, allowing it to absorb the mushroom juices.
  5. Add the mushroom soaking water and the tomato paste, cooking until you smell a sweet aroma, and then add the splash of sherry.
  6. Add the broth and the soaked mushrooms (I chopped mine first), then bring it to a simmer. Leave it simmering on low heat until the barley/spelt is cooked to an al dente texture. I checked mine after 30 minutes and it was almost done.
  7. Season with salt and pepper, and add a dab of butter if you wish.
  8. Serve with some gorgeous bread and enjoy!

Blackberry Jam

Last night I finished making a batch of blackberry jam, with berries picked from a secret spot. It’s actually one of those places where you wonder if you’re going to trip over a body . . . but . . . free blackberries!

This recipe is made without added pectin, just the berries, sugar and lemon juice.

I don’t really eat a lot of jam, but I had a request to make this and ended up really enjoying it on an English Muffin this morning. I put a bit of Greek yogurt on as well, but cream cheese or crème fraîche would be wonderful with it too.

It takes a bit of work to get the seeds out of the jam, but I think it is a worthwhile job so you don’t bite down on the hard seeds. I found it easier to get the seeds out when the berries had cooked down a bit.

After removing the seeds, the rest of the process is quite simple. You will need some jars, and if you plan to store the jam in a cupboard you will need the proper lids etc. For freezer jam you can use any kind of jar. I used a thermometer to check the temperature, but you can use this guide to help figure out when it is done if you don’t have thermometer.

What you need:

  • 6 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen
  • 3 cups sugar (some recipes call for more, but I like it this way)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

What you do:

  1. In a large pot, heat the clean blackberries on medium heat until they start falling apart.
  2. Push the berries through a strainer, food mill or chinois. If you use a strainer, as I did, it takes a bit of time and energy to push all the pulp through with the back of a spoon.
  3. Boil water in a large pot, then put your jars in there to sterilize. Turn off the heat and remove the jars with tongs. Place the lids in the pot of hot water. I always use new lids when canning to make sure that they seal properly.
  4. Place the strained berry pulp, sugar and lemon juice in a large pot and bring to a rolling boil, stirring continually. Bring the mixture to 105C/220F, then remove them from the heat.
  5. Fill the jars to 1cm below the top. I used a canning funnel to fill the jars so I had no spills – yay! Use a clean cloth to clean any drips from the rims of the jars.
  6. Use tongs to remove the lids from the hot water and place them on top of the jars. Screw the lids on, and then leave the jars sitting where they are until they have sealed. Over the next hour or so you should hear the tell-tale pinging sound that indicates that the jars have sealed. If the jars have sealed properly the lid should be slightly concave, and will not bend when you push down on it; any jars that haven’t sealed properly can be stored in the fridge or freezer. The other jars can be kept in a cool cupboard for a few years.

Rhubarb Liqueur

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My community garden plot is bursting with rhubarb, so I’ve harvested it and am looking for new ways to use it. I came across this recipe for a rhubarb liqueur, so I thought I’d give it a try. Last year’s blackberry liqueur was a big hit at my 50th birthday party (what? in my soul I’m 34), so I thought maybe this could be the next big hit.

I halved the recipe to make just one jar of liqueur. The only other thing I changed was to make a slit down each rhubarb stalk, because I thought that would help the rhubarby-ness meld with the vodka-ness.

This is the first time I’ve posted a recipe before tasting the end result and getting a thumbs up from at least one other person. But . . .  it takes six weeks to taste the results of this one, so I thought I’d just go ahead and post it now during rhubarb season in case anyone wants to try it out alongside me. And in six weeks or so I’ll post the results, hopefully with a new cocktail recipe. Please let me know if you try it – I’d love to hear how it works out for you!

You might notice that the rhubarb in my picture isn’t particularly red – if you have rhubarb that is redder, is is preferable for this recipe. The liqueur will take on a pretty red colour that way. So mine might not look as pretty, but I’m sure it will be super tasty!

What you need:

  • 1 lb rhubarb
  • 5cm long chunk of fresh ginger
  • the peels of two oranges
  • 750mL vodka (I used Stolichnaya)
  • (to be added in in 6 weeks) – simple syrup: 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water

What you do:

  1. Cut the rhubarb stalks into lengths that will fit in a 1 litre canning jar. Place the rhubarb in the jar.
  2. Cut the ginger into smaller pieces and add them to the jar.
  3. Use a vegetable peeler to cut the peels off the oranges, using only the outer orange part. Add these to the jar.
  4. Add as much vodka as you can fit in the jar, completely covering the rhubarb. My recipe used pretty much the whole bottle.
  5. Screw the lid onto the jar, then store it in a cool dark place for about six weeks. Every few days give the jar a shake, turning it upside down.
  6. After the six weeks are up, make a simple syrup. Just heat the water and sugar to boiling, and let it cool before using.
  7. Strain the contents of the jar through cheesecloth, returning the liquid to the jar. 
  8. Add simple syrup to taste. Remember, you can always add more simple syrup later on if you find it is not sweet enough.
  9. Bottle the liqueur into smaller decorative bottles, or just use some canning jars for this.
  10. Use in cocktails, or just add it to some sparkling water.

Rosemary Dijon Grilled Lamb Chops

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Yum yum! These tender lamb chops are so delicious, plus super quick! They can be grilled or pan-fried, depending on what you have available. I love the combination of garlic, rosemary, dijon, and a bit of vinegar to bring a ton of flavour to these. For this dinner I made some grilled zucchini, and grilled new carrots with a maple glaze. This recipe is one of my own and changes a bit each time I make it; feel free to adapt.

This dish requires little prep, with big results. You just need to prep the mustard sauce before grilling. Plus figure out what else to serve with it. Another nice side dish idea is barbecued skewered baby potatoes, which cook really quickly.

For the lamb I bought a whole rack of lamb and cut it up. This was more cost efficient where I was shopping. You can often by lamb chops pre-cut, so I would plan on two per person, or more if you are feeding big meat eaters.

This recipe is based on 4-6 chops, and the amount of each ingredient can vary depending on your preference. One thing that I think is really important is to use fresh rosemary; the flavour is much brighter than the dried version. If you don’t have fresh rosemary, you probably have a neighbour who does, so you may not have to go buy it.

I like a bit more browning on my meat, therefore I add the mustard sauce after I’ve grilled one side. And alternative is to add a little more vinegar and maybe some olive oil to the mustard sauce, and marinate the lamb in that before grilling. If you try that, please let me know how you liked it!

What you need:

  • lamb chops, salted
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1-2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • freshly ground pepper
  • salt to taste
  • if you are not grilling you can use 1-2 teaspoons olive oil in a frying pan

What you do:

  1. Prepare the dijon sauce by combining all the ingredients listed, minus the lamb and cooking oil. I like to do this with a mortar and pestle.
  2. Prepare your side dishes. The cooking of the lamb will only take a few moments. Heat your bbq or frying pan to medium-high.
  3. When the bbq or your frying pan is hot, place the chops on the grill/oiled pan. I like mine on the rarer side, so I do about 2 minutes on the first side, making sure I get a good sizzle on them before turning. 
  4. Flip the chops, then top them each with some of the mustard sauce. Cook 2-3 minutes on this side, depending on how well you like them done, and how hot your bbq is.
  5. Flip them over one more time so that the sauced side gets some heat, then remove to a plate and let them rest a few minutes before serving.
  6. If I’m frying I like to deglaze the pan with a bit of wine or water, and pour this thick sauce over the chops.
  7. Enjoy!

 

Fire-Roasted Tomato Salsa

This flame-roasted tomato salsa is excellent any time of year, even in the cooler seasons when it is challenging to access super tasty tomatoes. It’s really easy to whip up, but you do need to plan ahead so that you will have some roasted garlic on hand. I’ve started roasting a bunch of garlic bulbs and freezing them so I can make this awesome salsa anytime I want. I have served it with tortilla chips, but my favourite way to eat it is on beans and rice.

Recently I’ve been buying a lot of the Las Margaritas fresh salsa – it is just so good! But I can only find it in one store, and it is often sold out. So the difficulty finding it, combined with the nearly $8.00 price tag, made me start looking for a way to make it at home.

And . . . I found it! In the Thug Kitchen Cookbook! Yay!

I only made one change to the recipe, and it was a tiny one. I used sweet onions, and typically use them in all my recipes that call for onion because they don’t make me cry as much, plus I think they taste better. The most recent time I made this salsa I didn’t have any green onions, and it was still really good without them.

If you are looking for a fresh tomato salsa you can find one here, and this is a link to a creamy avocado salsa called gaucamolata. This roasted tomatillo salsa is also really flavourful.

What you need:

  • 1 can (398mL / 14.5 oz.) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1-3 Serrano peppers, minced (depending on how much heat you like)
  • a whole head of roasted garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • salt to taste

What you do:

  1. Chop the onion, green onions, cilantro and Serrano pepper.
  2. Put all the ingredients (except for the salt) in a blender, or use an immersion blender to whiz everything up. Leave it a little bit chunky.
  3. Add salt to taste.
  4. Enjoy!

 

Avocado and Salsa Toast

Friends have been encouraging me to share some of my simple, go-to recipes. I often don’t think of them as a recipe, because it’s something I throw together based on what I happen to find in the fridge.

Today I had some leftover avocado, leftovers of a gorgeous fire-roasted tomato salsa (recipe to come soon!), and some sourdough bread. Although the rest of the continent seems to have eaten a lot of avocado toast, I had not until today!

The hardest part of this recipe is buying the perfectly ripe avocado.

I also made a sunny-side-up egg so I could dip the toast in the egg yolks – mmm good!

What you need:

  • a slice of bread – I used sourdough
  • half an avocado
  • your favourite salsa
  • hot sauce (optional)

What you do:

  1. Mash the avocado up with a fork. Add a bit of salsa and mix it in.
  2. Toast the bread. Top it with the avocado and hot sauce.
  3. Enjoy!

Mushroom Pâté (Instant Pot Version)

This week I bought an Instant Pot, so I’m now busy trying recipes to get a sense of how it works. I’ve tried out a few recipes, and I’m learning how to tweak them in ways that I enjoy. You can totally make this in a pot on your stove too!

This one is a delicious winner! It has a nice creamy texture and lovely flavours of mushroom, white wine, butter and olive oil. So nice on a piece of toasted bread or crostini! It satisfies those umami cravings. For me this was a part of a picnic spread of cheese, mushroom pate, bean salad, and some veggies.

I made a few changes to the original recipe: In my instructions I have clarified a few details that were not well-described in the Instant Pot Recipe Booklet, and some that were omitted. I used a combination of dried mushrooms instead of just porcini. I also cooked off some of the moisture after pressure cooking because it seemed to liquidy. I added pepper at the end instead of before cooking (I think cooked pepper tastes more butter), and I topped up the liquid in the dried mushrooms with white wine instead of water – yum! I transferred my mushroom mixture to a food processor instead of using an immersion blender because I wanted to make sure I had a really creamy paté; I’m sure the immersion blender does a nice job too – and who doesn’t love fewer dishes!!! I also used a high quality olive oil to add in the last stage. I might also drizzle some on the top in the future!

Next time I will add a sprig of rosemary to the pot before it cooks – doesn’t that sound delicious?

The recipe serves 4-6 people. Or two. If you are self-isolating or just selfish.

What you need:

  • 3/4 cup dried mushrooms, rinsed
  • boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon butter (use olive oil for vegan recipe)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 500 grams (1 lb) cremini or white button mushrooms (thinly sliced)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (plus a little more)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
  • freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons good quality Parmesan cheese, finely grated (use vegan Parmesan for vegan recipe)

What you do:

  1. Place the dry mushrooms in a measuring cup. Pour boiling water over them until it reaches just over 3/4 cup. Push the mushrooms down, then put a tight lid or plastic wrap over the measuring cup.
  2. Slice the shallots and mushrooms.
  3. Add the olive oil and butter to the Instant Pot, then sauté the shallots for a minute. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté until they are golden brown (mine didn’t get golden, and it was awesome anyways).
  4. Pour the 1/4 cup wine in and allow to evaporate.
  5. Add the mushrooms and their soaking liquid, along with an extra splash of wine. Add the salt and bay leaf.
  6. Close and lock the lid, and then set the Pressure Cooker to 12 minutes. When the time is up, use the Quick Pressure Release.
  7. At this point I sautéd off a bit of the liquid – you can decide if you think this is necessary. Discard the bay leaf.
  8. Once slightly cooled, add the cracked pepper and Parmesan cheese. Use an immersion blender or food processor to blend until smooth.
  9. Enjoy on crostini or whatever form you choose!