Monday, September 27, 2010

French Lentil Casserole

This is my very favourite recipe, found via google by Jeremy a few years back. Only yesterday did we successfully retrace his googling steps and locate it. I'm posting it for safe-keeping. It is extremely flavourful, hearty, and delicious, and it fills your apartment with the most delightful aroma...

Here's the original link (thanks to the original blogger, Cecily, whom I don't know personally).

Cecily's French Lentil Casserole
2 cups white wine
1 t thyme
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 T white sugar
1 t salt
1 tsp Herbes de Provence (see below)
1 cup water
1 cup red, green, or French lentils
1 bunch chopped swiss chard
8 small carrots, diced
1 leek, cut into small rounds
1 cup loosely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup butter
olive oil

For Croutons

5 slices country bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
4 T olive oil
3 cloves minced garlic
2 t Herbes de Provence
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425.

Make casserole
Mix wine, thyme, bay leaves, sugar, salt, Herbes de Provence, and water in sauce pan. Add lentils for 40 minutes on medium high. Saute vegetables in olive oil. Mix all ingredients in casserole dish (can also do individual casserole dishes) and bake for 15 minutes at 375, covered with foil.

Make croutons
toss all crouton ingredients together until evenly coated with oil. Bake at 425 for 7-10 minutes.

After baking each - the casserole and the croutons separately - add croutons to top of lentil mixture. Add melted butter over croutons. Bake for 20 minutes at 425.

Serves 4-6. Serve with another vegetable side dish. (Greenbeans, potatoes...)

*If you don't have premixed Herbes de Provence, mix the following:
1 T thyme
1 T chervil (I didn't have this, so I skipped it)
1 T rosemary
1 T savoury
1 t lavender
1 t tarragon
1 t marjoram
1/2 t oregano
1/2 t mint
2 powdered or chopped bay leaves

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Raspberry Bars

Here's another really easy dessert that doesn't use a lot of ingredients and is extremely quick to make:

(taken from Land O Lakes Treasury of Country Recipes)

2 and 1/4 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup butter, softened
1 egg
10 oz (3/4 cup) raspberry preserves (feel free to use any other flavor)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine everything except for the preserves in a bowl. Mix till well combined. Reserve 1 and 1/2 cups of the mixture and set it aside. Press the remaining mixture into a greased 8" square baking pan. Spread jam over pressed mixture, but stay away from the edges, or it tends to burn. Crumble the rest of the mixture over the preserves (this part takes the longest because the dough itself isn't very crumbly, so you'll have to pull it off into little pieces). Bake for 40-50 min until lightly browned. Cool and cut into bars.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


My friend's sister, Emily, is a pastry chef, so once a year, we make it point to visit whichever fancy restaurant she happens to be working at. For the past couple of years, she's been the executive pastry chef at Cookshop, located on 20th and 10th Ave.

The first time we visited, we were given samplers of some of their "snacks," which included deviled eggs (where I had my first taste of smoked paprika and was hooked) and fried hominy. The scallops were recommended to me as an entree and I wasn't disappointed. Dessert was of course our main focus. I think we sampled just about everything on the menu, plus more. The Cookshop Candy Bar is a complex, compact little dessert that everyone must try. I attended a workshop where Emily demonstrated how to make these, so I now appreciate all the work that goes into the process. She also makes amazing bread puddings and has had plenty of write-ups on her ice cream and sorbets.

I'm dedicating a paragraph just for the sorbets, because they're one of the main reasons I keep going back. I've never eaten anything that captured the natural flavor of something as well as these sorbets. The apple sorbet is my all-time favorite, because it tastes exactly like fresh frozen apple. Unfortunately, it wasn't on the menu when my husband and I went last night, so I tried a scoop of concord grape, grapefruit-campari and hazelnut. Having grown up with a concord vine in the backyard, I'm perfectly familiar with the way they taste, but this sorbet tasted (and looked) like it was made from slightly younger light-purple grapes and was delicious. The grapefruit campari was fresh and zingy and the hazelnut was so intense in flavor it almost felt like eating a cookie or pie crust. If you want to experiment with less typical flavors, try the the basil sorbet. It wasn't quite my cup of tea, but most of the ladies I was with really enjoyed it.

Their menu is based on seasonal ingredients, so it changes frequently. I've been back 4 times now, 3x for dinner and once for brunch. My husband has tried the sturgeon and eggplant parmesan and loved both. Last night we tried their fried green tomatoes, which had a sweet relish on top, but were too full to finish them. Their dishes can be a little heavy on the salt at times and the variation in quantities depending on the entree can be pretty drastic, but other than that, I have no gripes. Being as popular as it is, it's a pretty noisy, crowded restaurant, so if you're looking for a quiet romantic spot, it might not be the place to go.

Also, if you go during the day, be sure to walk on the Highline (raised subway track turned into garden) The entrance is right across the street.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Upside Down Pear Cake

There's nothing more "organic" than the gnarled, dimpled and slightly grotesque looking pears my parents brought back from their garden in VT. I pointed and laughed at them the first time I saw them. But they're sugar sweet and make great Upside-Down cake.

The pears were so unique looking my mom decided to paint them as well. Visit her website!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Newfane Cafe and Creamery

Hope everyone is enjoying their Labor Day off! If you're ever visiting Southern VT, look out for the Newfane Cafe and Creamery. It's an old-fashioned looking food store, with wooden counters, chalkboard signs, and a smoker out back. As far as I could tell from the few times I've been there, they cook everything they sell there from scratch, including the bread.

Most people seem to order and take out, but if you plan on eating in, there's a large rustic dining table just as you enter if you don't mind sharing with strangers, as well as a few dining tables in the side room. There's a also a pretty amazing table made of jar lids and a matching stool made of dollar coins.

The menu mostly consists of sandwiches, but they're not the boring bland sandwiches you'll find at most delis. The fresh sliced bread makes all the difference, as does the extra side salad they include. They also do toasted paninis, like the Alamo, which if I remember correctly, had fresh sliced turkey, avocado, pepper jack cheese and baby spinach. Their tuna melt includes capers and peppers and isn't overflowing with mayo. Crabcake Sammy tastes like it uses fresh crab meat, not canned. They also offer veggie burgers (Squirrel Burger) and falafel if you can't eat meat. The glass counter also shows off their quiche and a massive layered tortilla pie.

If you're looking for something sweet, try their giant oatmeal raisin cookies. They're huge, heavy and just the right amount of chewiness. It usually takes me a day to finish one, which is great if you plan on going hiking.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Lentils & Chickpeas with Apples & Grapes

This is my variation on an original recipe sent to me by friend and animator Elliot Cowan. His was a cold salad with a balsamic dressing and required no cooking. Here's what I did with some of the same basic ingredients (plus some) and a little stove top magic... Mine, I think, is better served hot, but would also work as a cold salad for a picnic side dish. It's very flavourful, healthy, and hearty. I'm sure Elliot would be happy to share his version as well upon request.


2 T extra virgin olive oil (roughly)
2 large shallots
1 Fuji or Gala apple, chopped
1 knob of ginger, grated (about 3/4 - 1 teaspoon maybe)
2 T white wine (roughly)
coarsely ground black pepper
sea salt
1 15.5 oz. can of chickpeas
1 cup lentils, pre-rinsed and soaked
1 cup seedless red grapes, cut into halves


Sauté in olive oil the shallots, apple, ginger, pepper, salt until desirably soft and yummy-looking, roughly between 3-5 minutes. Add lentils and chickpeas and stir in white wine. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about 5 more minutes. Plop all of that into a bowl with the grapes. Stir up, serve, add a little more sea salt to taste, and devour.


Ahead of time, I had frozen an additional bunch or two of seedless grapes and served them in a sorbet dish on the side. (As you can see in my picture.)

I think adding some chopped celery to the skillet would be a pretty great addition to this too.