Cooking Classes


Cheese and Tomato Tarte

The last time I visited my friends Greg and Jerry in Winnipeg they made this amazing savoury tarte for me. I now have a lot of beautiful heirloom tomatoes and wanted to make it. The parmesan crust makes this dish.


Cheese And Tomato Tart

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes.
    1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
    1/2-teaspoon salt
    1 large egg
    2 teaspoons (or more) ice water

3-1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup coarsely grated Fontina cheese
1 cup coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1-1/2 pounds tomatoes (about 5 medium) cored, cut crosswise into
         1/2-inch thick slices, patted dry
1-1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
     2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
     Fine sea salt
     Freshly ground black pepper

Combine flour, butter, Parmesan cheese and salt in processor. Using on/off turns, blend until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Beat egg and 2 teaspoons ice water in small bowl to blend; add to dry ingredients.
Using on/off turns, blend until dough comes together in moist clumps, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disc. Wrap and chill 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round.
Transfer dough to 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Trim excess dough to 1/3 inch above rim (let overhang remain). Spread mustard evenly over bottom of crust. Toss Fontina             cheese and cheddar cheeses in a medium bowl to blend. Spread cheeses over mustard. 
Arrange tomatoes, slightly overlapping, in 2 concentric circles atop cheese. Drizzle tomatoes with oil; sprinkle with thyme and lightly with salt and pepper.

Bake tart until crust is deep brown, cheeses are melted, and tomatoes are slightly charred and soft, about 45 minutes. Transfer tart to rack. Let stand until cheese sets up slightly, about 30 minutes. Push up pan bottom, releasing tart. Cut into wedges and serve.


Oven Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes

These are so delicious. Forget the dried out sundried tomatoes. These are so moist and flavourful.

Oven Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes

small heirloom tomatoes
olive oil

Slice tomatoes in half crosswise and place cut side up on a parchment lined baking sheet. When all the tomatoes have been sliced and placed on the baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil.

Bake in a 225F oven for 4 - 6 hours depending upon how much moisture is in the tomatoes.

Use like sundried tomatoes. To preserve, freeze. I freeze them on the baking sheet and then drop all the tomatoes in a freezer bag. They can be used individually now.


Heirloom Tomato Soup a la Provençal

My farmer friend, Bill, brought me about 20 pounds of heirloom tomatoes yesterday. He has an interesting organic farm nearby. 'Make what you can,' he says. This has a wonderful depth of flavour.

I chose the box of yellow tomatoes for this recipe and it is lovely.  I have large red ones called Flin Flons and some small red tomatoes and a few Romas.

This recipe is adapted from one I found in Gourmet 2006.

Heirloom Tomato Soup a la Provençal

    4 lb tomatoes
    1 medium onion, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise (2 cups)
    1 large carrot, coarsely grated
    1 celery rib, finely chopped
    2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
    3 (3- by 1-inch) strips fresh orange zest, finely chopped
    1 teaspoon dried thyme
    1/4 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
    1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
    2 bay leaves
    2 tablespoons lovage, roughly chopped
    3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    2 cups water
    2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (14 fl oz)
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    Pinch crumbled saffron threads
    1 to 2 teaspoons sugar
    1/4 cup wild rice

Cut a shallow X in bottom of each tomato with a sharp paring knife. Blanch tomatoes in batches of 2 or 3 in a 5- to 6-quart pot of boiling water 10 seconds, transferring with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking.

Peel tomatoes, then halve crosswise. Squeeze halves gently, cut sides down, over a sieve set over a bowl to extract seeds and juices, then press on seeds and discard them. Reserve juice and tomatoes.

Cook onions, carrot, celery, garlic, zest, thyme, red-pepper flakes, fennel seeds, and bay leaf in oil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes with reserved juice, water, chicken broth, salt, pepper, saffron, wild rice and 1 teaspoon sugar, then simmer, uncovered, stirring and breaking up tomatoes with a spoon occasionally, until rice is cooked, 40 minutes. Discard bay leaf and add sugar and salt to taste.


Grilled Zucchini Hummus

Think baba ganoush. Smokey flavoured eggplant dip is a Mediterranean staple that I simply adore. Then I received a huge zucchini from my school children. Make something! This hummus was outstanding and I will definitely make it again. Puréed in my Vitamix and it so creamy and smooth. If you didn't know, you would think you are eating regular chick pea hummus. My zucchini was huge and dry much like a squash. If you use smaller ones you may want to let the pieces drain after grilling.

Grilled Zucchini Hummus

1 large zucchini
1/4 cup  tahini
3 to 4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil

Heat a grill to high.

Trim the ends from the zucchini, then slice it in half lengthwise. If the seeds are large and watery, use a melon baller or small spoon to scrape out and discard most of the seeds from the centre of each half. It’s not critical to get them all. If the inside of the zucchini appears firm and the seeds small, you don’t need to scrape them out.

Place the zucchini on the grill, cut side up, then reduce heat to low. Cook for 10 minutes, or until just lightly browned and starting to get tender. Set aside to cool.

When the zucchini has cooled enough to handle, place it in a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients. Process for 1 minute, or until very smooth.

The hummus can be served immediately, or chilled. The hummus will thicken slightly as it chills.


Zucchini and Autumn

Zucchini and autumn is a given in the farm kitchen. You don't have one without the other. I was a substitute teacher at a nearby Hutterite Colony a couple of weeks ago and the children presented me with two huge zucchinis. 'Make something for the market,' they suggested. So I did.

Zucchini Relish

This is so good. It has a sweet and sour relish flavour that would be great with hot dogs. I made some fresh beans and enjoyed them with the relish.

    10 cups chopped zucchini
    2 cups chopped onion
    5 tablespoons pickling salt
    2 tablespoons cornstarch
    2 sweet red peppers, chopped
    1 small hot pepper, chopped
    1 tablespoon nutmeg
    1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    2 tablespoons celery seed
    1 tablespoon turmeric
    6 cups sugar
    2 1/2 cups cider vinegar

Place chopped zucchini and onions in a large pan. Sprinkle salt over them and let stand overnight. The next day, rinse these ingredients well. Stir in all the rest of the ingredients and cook for 30 minutes. 

This can be water bath processed and stored for the winter.



Thai Influenced Cold Noodle Salad

This salad is stunning. It is refreshing and satisfying and filling all at the same time. Soba noodles are made with buckwheat flour along with white flour so they are lower in gluten and have a richer flavour. They cook quickly. Ramen noodles could be substituted.

Soba Noodle Salad
Yield 8 servings

    15 ounces (1 package) dried soba noodles
    1 1/2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
    1/3 cup rice vinegar
    1/3 cup soy sauce
    juice from one lime
    zest of one lime
    2 tablespoons brown sugar
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, or to taste (optional)
    1 cup finely grated carrot
    1/4 cup coarsely chopped salted peanuts
    1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, optional

    In a large pot, cook soba noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse noodles with cold water, and set aside.
    Pour into a large bowl the sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and lime juice. Mix in lime zest, brown sugar, garlic, and red pepper flakes; stir until sugar dissolves. Toss in carrots, peanuts, and cilantro.
    Stir noodles into dressing mixture. Cover, and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
    Toss salad again before serving. If dry, splash with soy sauce and vinegar. Serve cold.


Root Cellars Revisited

Extending summer by enjoying the flavours of fresh vegetables should be considered magic. I cannot think of anything that keeps the memory of those hot days alive in my mind more than enjoying the garden.

This picture is from Elliston, Newfoundland, Canada. These cellars have been name the Upstairs/Downstairs Cellar. 

Of course we love our frozen vegetables. Some dry herbs. We preserve fruits and jams. But one of the original methods of food preservation is the root cellar. This is making a revival as people want to eat more locally grown food. To work properly, a root cellar must hold a temperature of 32 to 40 F (0 – 5 C) and a humidity level of 85 to 95 percent. This higher humidity prevents vegetables from drying. Beets, Brussels sprouts pulled with the root and hung upside down, cabbage, carrots and potatoes with no sprouts keep best in a root cellar. They will keep better if clean and soil removed.

In my research for this week’s article I came across the town of Elliston on Bonavista Peninsula, Newfoundland. It is the self-declared “Root Cellar Capital of the World.” After the cod moratorium in 1992, many families left. Now with its documented 135 root cellars for 300 souls, Elliston is capitalizing on this unique feature. Some of these cellars are 200 years old and still in use. The town hosts Roots, Rants & Roars, an annual festival showcasing the province’s culinary heritage. This is an admirable feat for such a small community. There is still time to attend this year’s festival from September 21 – 23 with an impressive line up of top chefs from across the country. As a lover of food and all things Canadian, this is feast is on my bucket list.

How to Create a Root Cellar

This, at its simplest, is a hole in the ground. I can remember as a child visiting neighbours who had a root cellar. It was accessed by an exterior hatchway or more commonly called, trap door. It had concrete walls and a dirt floor. Cellars were often under the house, porch or under a mound of soil to maintain a constant temperature both summer and winter.

To create one in your home, determine the dampest section of your basement. If possible, select a corner as this offers the maximum coolness and requires minimum construction. Create ventilation that allows cold outside air to enter. An existing window would be ideal. Remove the glass from the window and replace with plywood so a vent can be installed.

Use a plastic composite material for the floor since basement floors are damp. Insulate the ceiling and interior walls to keep the cool air in and warm air out.  An exterior insulated door is ideal or insulate an interior door for access.

Add shelving for storage with space for air circulation. Lower shelves will be the coolest and upper shelves will be the warmest. Wire baskets are a good way to organize items stored in the cellar.

Cold Rooms

A cold room on the other hand needs dry air. The construction is the same but the air is drier. Keep preserves and canned goods in a cold room. Dry beans and lentils, garlic and onions, squash, tomatoes and apples are best in a cold room.  In both cold rooms and root cellars ventilation is required. It allows the gases that are produced from ripening foods to escape and prevents spoilage.

Oven Roasted Squash

Squash keeps so nicely over the winter in a cold room. You can pull it out and enjoy garden freshness any time. Oven roast to make a delicious healthy soup that everyone will enjoy. It can be tossed with vegetable oil or butter to serve with your supper. High in Vitamin A and C, traces of calcium and iron make it a nutritious side dish. Roasting carmelizes the natural sugars and adds a depth of flavour not obtained through simply boiling.
Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds. Spray inside with oil and place cut side down on a baking sheet. Place in a 375 F (190 C) oven for approximately 45 minutes or until fork tender. Cool, peel skin and discard. Cut into 2-inch cubes.

At this point you can quickly reheat in a pan with a little butter or vegetable oil, season with salt and pepper and serve. Or you can make a squash soup.

Squash Soup with Ginger
Serves 6
This is a heart warming soup with lots of flavour. Make it vegetarian by using milk or water instead of chicken broth. Or use vegetable stock.  If fresh ginger is not readily available, herbs such as thyme and oregano add a nice hit of flavour.
    Approx 4 lbs squash, roasted 2 kg
    2 T. vegetable oil 30 mL
    2 c. thinly sliced onion 500 mL
    1 T. golden brown sugar 15 mL
    2 t. minced fresh ginger 10 mL
    2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
    1/2 cinnamon stick
    4 c. chicken stock 1 L
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion, brown sugar, ginger, garlic and cinnamon. Cover and cook until onion is tender, about 15 minutes. Add squash and 5 cups chicken broth. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Discard cinnamon stick.

Working in batches, purée soup in blender. Return soup to pot. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer, thinning with more broth, if necessary. Serve immediately.  Garnish with chopped parsley, toasted pumpkin seeds, croutons or sour cream.

Onion Strings  
The Pioneer Woman is one of my favourite blogs. She is a big city girl who married and moved to a ranch. The recipes are simple and always please. This is one I make every chance I get. 
    1 whole large onion (sweet like a Vidalia or Walla Walla)
    2 c. buttermilk 500 mL
    2 c. all purpose flour 500 mL
    1 T. salt 15 mL
    1/4 t. cayenne pepper 2 mL
    5 – 10 c. canola oil 1-2 L
    black pepper, to taste
Slice onion very thinly. Place in a baking dish and cover with buttermilk. Soak for at least an hour.
Combine dry ingredients and set aside.
Choose a deep pot and fill at least 4 inches (10 cm) deep with oil.  Heat to 375 F (190 C) degrees.
Using kitchen tongs, grab some of the onions and shake off excess buttermilk. Toss into the flour mixture.  Toss around to coat thoroughly and tap to shake off excess flour. Plunge into hot oil. Fry for a few minutes and remove as soon as golden brown.  Drain on paper towels and serve.
Repeat until onions are gone.

Root Cellar Storage Chart
Beets                                    1-3 months                           cut tops down to 1 inch
Brussels Sprouts                  3 months                              hang plant upside down
Cabbage                               3-4 months                           wrap in newsprint
Carrots                                 until summer                        cut tops down to 1 inch
Horseradish                         10-12 months                       remove soil
Parsnips                               2-6 months                           remove soil
Potatoes                               5-8 months                           remove sprouts and soil
Turnips                                4-5 months                           remove soil

Cold Room Storage Chart
Dried beans and lentils         indefinite                 
Garlic                                    6-7 months                           hang in mesh bag
Onions                                  5-8 months                           hang in mesh bag
Pumpkin                               2-3 months
Squash                                  2-3 months
Tomatoes                              until ripened                         pull entire plant & hang
Watermelon                          2-4 weeks


Fresh Figs and Goat Cheese

Run, don't walk, down to Wholesale Club. Fresh figs just arrived today. They are wonderful! And less than $2.50 for a little basket.

They are deliciously sweet and I love them simply with goat cheese and honey. Thyme is a natural pairing. All you do is quarter and eat. I smear a little goat cheese and honey on the fig or I might use a raincoast crisp and top it with the goat cheese, honey and fig.

I have mixed some bread for the farmers' market tomorrow using figs and thyme. I can hardly wait to try it. I will be making some Drunken Fig Jam with a touch of brandy and also Fig and Thyme Jam for serving with cheese or meat.