Archive for Spring Vegetables and Sides

Anne’s “Cheater” Pickled Beets

When I was working in the executive dining room, we made these every couple of weeks and now, for old time’s sake, I make them at Christmas. My Mom always made pickled beets from scratch which included growing her own beets! Molto lavoro (much work); this seems a whole lot easier to me!  I love pickled beets!

DSC_6351 nx23 tins Alymer’s Whole Rosebud Beets
2 tsp. (scant) pickling salt
1-2 Tbsp. pickling spice
1 cup sugar
1 cup white distilled vinegar

Make The Beets:

Drain off beet juice from beets, reserving 1 cup, pour into a medium sized pot. Add the distilled vinegar, sugar, salt & pickling spice. Bring to a boil on medium heat; lower the heat to simmer & simmer for 20 minutes. Get a nice big jar with a lid; wash well with soap & water, rinse well, then fill it with boiling water, let stand for 10 minutes. Drain the water & add the beets to the jar. Strain the hot beet juice over the beets. Top with 1 Tbsp. of the pickling spice. Cover with the lid. Let cool. When cool, store in the fridge. The beets will keep for approximately 3 – 4 weeks in the fridge.

Tip:  My sister places her pickling spice in a tea-infuser then adds that to the beet juice, vinegar & sugar.  When she’s ready to put the beets in the jar, she takes out the tea-infuser, leaves a couple of teaspoons of spice mixture remaining, disposes of any extra; puts the tea-infuser into the jar with the beets and pours the liquid over the beets.   That way she doesn’t have her beets filled with the bits!

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Farro Risotto With Tomatoes

Since our first trip to Italy I have been a big fan of farro. Farro is made from Emmer Wheat, not spelt. The first time I had it was in a ribollita at La Bottega, a little restaurant in Volpaia, a small town in Chianti. I had read that the mother of the family who own the restaurant, make the best ribollita (a thick soup), so of course we had to go there! It was great! A short time later, at Ristorante da Dalfina, a short drive from Florence, we ordered a tomato risotto made with farro. It was delicious. I simply had to buy farro to bring home! I found it!  Another discovery made from having leftover risotto is to make a soup with some borlotti beans, carrots, onions & celery and some herbs.  Tummy warming on a cool day.

Makes 3 – 4 First Course/Side Dish Servings

1 cup farro perlato (semi-pearled)**
1 Tbsp. each EVO & unsalted butter
1 ½ cups chicken stock** or tinned low/no salt chicken broth, or more, especially if using regular farro**
½ tsp. salt
2 cups tinned Italian plum tomatoes, drained & pureed in a food mill (or you can simply mash up with your hands). Don’t use a food processor,  pureed seeds makes the tomatoes bitter.
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
2 oz. pancetta, cut into fine dice
¼ cup dry white wine
2 – 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

For Finishing the Risotto:

2 – 3 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Heat the stock in a pot until hot. Cover with a lid & keep warm on low heat. Heat the EVO & butter in a medium sized pot & add the pancetta; sauté until golden; add the onion & sauté until translucent, then add the garlic & sauté for a minute or so. Add the farro & stir until coated & lightly toasted; approximately 2 minutes. Add the wine & cook until it evaporates. Ladle in ½ cup stock at a time, stirring & adding more stock as it is absorbed into the farro. Repeat until all stock is used up. Add the pureed tomatoes & continue to cook until the farro is al dente 12 – 15 minutes, adding more stock if necessary until it is ready; add the basil & season to taste with more salt if required & freshly ground black pepper. Add the cheese & butter, stirring until incorporated. Serve immediately.

**A note about Farro Perlato. I have, so far, been unable to find pearled farro in Vancouver, so I buy it in Italy & in London at an Italian Deli. You can easily find the regular farro, but for making risotto using regular farro there are two schools of thought on the preparation method.  One is to pre-soak & one is not.  Both methods follow & you can decide which one would work for you.

Soak the farro in cold water to cover for 8 – 12 hours, drain & continue with the recipe.

OR: another method if you  is to sauté the onion & garlic as above, add the unsoaked farro, stirring for a minute to coat with oil & butter, add the wine, cook until reduced, stirring constantly, then add 1 ½ cup hot broth & ½ tsp salt, stir to combine; bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover & simmer about 10 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed into the farro. Add the pureed tomatoes & ¼ cup hot broth, boil over medium heat, uncovered, until tender adding more broth ¼ cup at a time, stirring occasionally, until farro is al dente, approximately 25 minutes, the farro should not be dry. Season farro to taste with salt & pepper to taste, stir in the cheese & butter until creamy.

 To make your own stock, click Making Stock.

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Rhubarb Ketchup

Having picked up an armload of rhubarb on the weekend, it was time to get busy and cook up our annual batch of rhubarb ketchup!  Don’t remember where I got this recipe but we liked it a lot the first time I made my version of it.  I’ve even used it in making homemade barbecue sauces.

Makes Approx. 4 Cups

6 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup water
1 tsp. black  peppercorns
1 tsp. mustard seeds (I use a tsp. Dijon as Joe can’t have mustard seeds)
2 bay leaves, fresh if possible
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
½ tsp. allspice berries
1 tsp. whole cloves
2 Tbs. EVO
2 cups chopped onion
1 (6 oz.) tin tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
28 oz. tin of Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup cider vinegar
1 ½ tsp. sea salt

To Make the Ketchup:

 In a large pot over medium heat, cook the rhubarb with the 1 cup of water until most of the water has been absorbed & the rhubarb has a soft jam consistency, approximately 10 – 15 minutes.  Place in a bowl, set aside until needed.  Wipe out the pot.

Take a square of cheesecloth that you have rinsed in water & spread it out on a work surface.  Place the peppercorns, mustard seeds (if using), bay leaves, cinnamon stick pieces, allspice berries & whole cloves onto the cheesecloth.  Bundle up & tie with kitchen string.

Add the olive oil to the wiped out pot, place over medium heat.  Add the onions, sautéing until soft; add the garlic & cook for a minute.  Add the tomato paste & cayenne, cooking & stirring for another minute.  Remove from the heat.

Add the chopped tomatoes &  rhubarb “jam” to the pot, allowing mixture to cool for a few minutes.  In a blender puree the mixture in 2 or 3 batches, placing in a bowl as pureed.  Wipe out the pot again; return the pureed mixture to the pot, add the brown sugar, vinegar & salt, stirring to combine.  If using Dijon instead of mustard seeds add it now.  Submerge the bundle of spices into the mixture & place over medium-low heat, simmering until the mixture has darkened,  has thickened & is reduced to about 4 cups, approximately 2 hours, stirring often.  I use a spatter guard while this is going on as it does bubble up somewhat!  Adjust the heat lower if you need to.

Remove the spice bundle to a small plate & cool until able to be handled then squeeze any juices into the ketchup mixture.  Allow the mixture to cool.  Place into bottles or what you have.  The ketchup will keep in the fridge for up to a month.

Asparagus Vinaigrette

Chilled asparagus with a lovely vinaigrette makes a  great starter salad and an excellent addition to a buffet table.

DSC_1983 nx2Makes 4 – 6 Servings

1 ½ – 2 lbs. asparagus, trimmed (see below)
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 to 3 Tbsp. finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add a Tbsp. of salt.  Blanch the asparagus for approximately 2 minutes or until tender but crisp.**  Remove asparagus to a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain in a colander, & blot dry. Place the asparagus on a serving platter & drizzle with the dressing; scatter with the shallots & parsley & serve.

I don’t recommend doing this too much ahead of serving the asparagus because they can change colour if allowed to sit too long in the dressing. We really want to keep that lovely green colour!


½ cup EVO)
2 Tbsp. Sherry vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2-3 tsp. fresh tarragon, finely chopped
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper
Pinch of sugar (opt.)

Whisk vinegar & mustard in a small bowl. Slowly, while whisking constantly, drizzle in the EVOO until emulsified. Whisk in the tarragon, salt & pepper & pinch of sugar if using.

To see how to trim asparagus, click How To Trim Asparagus.

To see how to blanch asparagus, click Blanching Vegetables.

Green Corn Tamale Casserole

For a printer friendly version of this recipe, click here.

Known as Tamal de Elote en Cazuela in Mexico, I make this casserole quite often. It’s a really tasty dish to serve as part of a Mexican meal or with BBQ ribs, chicken or as a vegetarian main course with some Mexican beans and a salad. The salsa can be used for other things too!

DSC_2387 nx2Makes 4 Servings

1 (4 oz.) tin whole green chilies
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
3 cups fresh corn kernels or thawed frozen corn
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 tsp. sugar
½ to 1 tsp. salt
2 oz. each aged Cheddar & Monterey Jack cheese, grated

Tomato Salsa (recipe below** or purchased)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter a 1 quart baking dish; set aside. Rinse the chilies & cut into wide strips. Combine the corn, cornmeal, butter, sugar & salt in a food processor & process until corn is fine. Layer half the mixture in the buttered baking dish. Top evenly with the chili strips. Cover with the cheeses; top with the remaining corn mixture. Cover the dish with foil; bake 1 hour.

Serve with the Salsa.

Tomato Salsa

2 ripe tomatoes, diced
2 to 3 tsp. freshly squeezed lime juice, or more to taste
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, deveined & minced, or to taste
1 clove garlic, smashed (with the back of a chef’s knife) & pureed with a bit of salt
2 or 3 Tbsp. finely chopped red or white onion
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro

Combine all ingredients & allow to stand for an hour or so to blend flavours.

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Skillet New Potatoes

For a printer friendly version of this recipe, click here.

The first time I made these, I was impressed, so easy but so darned good. I do have a thing for locally grown new potatoes available late spring & summer. Sometimes I  toss in a sprig of fresh rosemary with the other ingredients.

Makes 4 – 6 Servings

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. EVO
2 lbs. small new potatoes
2 large, unpeeled cloves garlic, or to taste
½ tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
(opt.) fresh rosemary

Garnish: chopped fresh parsley

Place all ingredients, except parsley, in a large heavy skillet. Cover & cook over low heat for approximately 20 – 30 minutes.  When cooked, place in a serving dish & garnish with the parsley.

You could also cook the potatoes in a covered pan on the barbecue grill, checking after 20 minutes.

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Roasted Asparagus With Lemon-Chive Chili Oil

For a printer friendly version of this recipe, click here.

One of our favourite recipes for roasted asparagus!  Definitely worth the effort! You might want to give it a try with slender green beans too.  If you can, buy some of our local asparagus when it appears at the Farmer’s Markets!  There is simply no comparison to imported asparagus; it’s almost a completely new veggie!

Makes 6 Servings

1 shallot
½ tsp. red chili flakes (more if you like it hotter)
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup EVO
2 ½ – 3 Tbsp. lemon zest, finely grated, divided
1 tsp. water
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed**

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring shallot, red chili flakes, black pepper & EVO to a simmer. Reduce heat to very low & let simmer for about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in 2 Tbsp. lemon zest & water. Let stand for at least 1 hour; then strain the oil mixture into a small bowl.

Preheat oven to 500 F.

Arrange asparagus in a 13 x 9 x 2” baking dish. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp. strained oil, tossing to coat asparagus. Place on the top rack of the oven for 6-8 minutes; spoon remaining strained oil over asparagus. Sprinkle with salt; toss & transfer asparagus to a platter and drizzle with 1 Tbsp. of the oil from the baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining lemon zest & serve immediately.

**If you would like to see how to trim asparagus, please go to How To Trim Asparagus.

Colcannon (Mashed Potatoes And Cabbage)

There are any number of versions for these “Irish” potatoes. Here is my take, I hope you like it. My Mom was a great one for add-ins to mashed potatoes. She liked to use veggies like carrots and turnips but I don’t think she thought of using cabbage, even though she liked cabbage,  “Borscht” anyone? She had another trick too; she used canned milk and her mashed were damn good!  The Colcannon is shown here with my “Irish” Lamb Chops (see below).  To serve in the Irish way, make a well in the potatoes & put in a dollop of butter!

DSC_6905 nx2Makes 2 – 4 Servings

1 ¼ lbs. russet potatoes or Yukon golds (which we prefer in our house)
3 cups cabbage, thinly sliced (regular or savoy)
½ cup milk, scalded
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
3-4 Tbsp. finely chopped green onions
2-3 Tbsp. finely chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

Peel and cut the potatoes into chunks and place them in a pot adding enough water to come  1/3 of the way up. Add ½ tsp. salt; cover and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium low and cook for 15 – 20 minutes until tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, set a steamer over boiling water; add the cabbage and steam for approximately 5 minutes, or until tender.  (Alternatively, you can place the cabbage in a glass dish; add 2  Tbsp. water; cover and microwave in 1 minute increments until tender). Drain the potatoes in a colander, return to the pot; mash well; stir in 1/3 cup of the milk, butter, cabbage, salt & pepper, adding more milk if required.

 To make the Lamb Chops, please click “Irish” Lamb Chops.

To see how to scald the milk in the microwave, click Microwave Scalded Milk.



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Piselli alla Romana (Green Peas Roman Style)

I can’t remember how many times I’ve cooked these peas!  I have even reheated the leftovers for lunch and eaten them with a piece of crusty bread!  The peas are a delicious accompaniment to Veal or Roast Chicken.

Makes 6 Servings

3 lbs fresh green peas (about 3 cups), don’t use large peas as they will be tough & not sweet
When fresh peas are not in season you can use 3 cups of frozen peas
2 Tbsp. butter
1 ½ Tbsp. EVO
½ cup finely chopped onion
2 oz. proscuitto, julienned
1 Tbsp. fresh sage, finely cut, or 1 tsp. dried, rubbed together in the palm of your hands until powdery
2 cup low salt/no-salt chicken broth or homemade chicken stock
2 large romaine lettuce leaves, julienned
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Blanch the fresh peas for a minute in boiling, salted water if using fresh. Drain the peas.

Heat butter & oil in a sauté pan; add onions proscuitto & sage. Sauté, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent. Add the peas, sauté 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock, lettuce and salt & pepper to taste. Simmer over low heat for 4-5 minutes, until peas are cooked to your liking.

To use frozen peas, simply thaw the peas and cook a bit less that the fresh ones.

To make your own stock, click Making Stock.




Sautéed Spinach With Peanuts

This is one of my favourite Asian veggie dishes. Change up the nuts to cashews or almonds if you have a problem with peanuts. A word about spinach, my husband says that the spinach available in a bag has no flavour & so the drill in our house is to buy bundles & wash it ourselves, then spin it dry like lettuce. I agree with him, it really is better. Same goes for spinach salad, just tastes fresher! This couldn’t be any easier or faster!

Makes 2 Servings


1 Tbsp. vegetable oil, such as canola or other flavourless oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lbs. fresh spinach
¼ cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts, chopped
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 tsp. tamari or other soy sauce or to taste

In a wok or large skillet, heat the oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking & sauté the spinach, nuts, red pepper flakes, garlic & soy sauce, stirring until tender, about 1 minute; season to taste with salt & pepper.