I love this time of year when the leaves on my Japanese maple trees turn various shades of red, burgundy and buttery yellow, contrasting with the feathery, copper-coloured heads of Miscanthus grass nearby. One interesting neighbor is the crab apple tree, which produces plump red fruits for what will eventually become a birds’ feast. The pathway is lined with silvery lavender plants. Garlic is already in the ground for another year of harvesting, and the ground is blanketed with the frost; the garden is slowly going into resting mode, stocking up seeds for sprouting. Oh, this is my most favourite season! All I have left to do is fall clean-up: yikes!
Today I thought I would share the photos from our trip to Denman Island to celebrate the beauty of British Columbia along with the heart-warming soup recipe that I created and photographed for a local pasta company, Duso’s. Stay warm, everyone!
Potato Leek Soup with Roasted Garlic Chicken Tortelloni
Serves 4 to 6
4 strips bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces
2 tablespoons butter
1½ tablespoons garlic, sprout removed and finely chopped
2 leeks, white stems only, rinsed well and cut into ¼ inch rounds
2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced into ½ inch cubes
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced into ½ inch cubes
4 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 heaping cup crimini mushrooms, rinsed and cut into ¼ inch slices
1 cup whole milk
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup heavy cream
1 cup baby spinach, rinsed and pat dried
1 pack (350g) Duso’s Roasted Garlic Chicken Tortelloni
Place the bacon in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté until crispy, then add the butter, garlic, leek, potatoes and carrot, and continue to cook for about 10 minutes.
Add the stock and bring to a boil. Remove the scum as necessary. Add the bay leaf and mushrooms. Bring the heat down and simmer, partially covered, until potatoes start to lose shape, for about 25 minutes.
In the meantime, cook Duso’s Roasted Garlic Chicken Tortelloni according to the package instructions. Drain well and set aside.
Add the milk to the soup, adjust with salt and pepper and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the cream and cook for a few minutes. Then, add the spinach and cooked pasta, and continue to simmer until spinach is wilted.
Serve hot in individual bowls, adding salt and pepper to taste.
I initially planned to post this biscotti recipe in the fall two years ago but things got sidetracked and thoughts drifted away. Although the original recipe came from my Italian chef twin sister years ago, I had been adding, subtracting and once again adding unique ingredients along the way. Eventually the final result of these experimentations settled on a few pieces of paper featuring the below ingredients, left nestled in between pages of my recipe journal for quite some time.
Warm heat from the ginger and the distinctive flavour from the buckwheat together with anise make the biscotti a welcome addition to chilly autumn afternoons. All you need is to make sure you keep your pantry well-stocked, as this recipe is quick and easy for unexpected baking cravings. For a more wintery presentation, I sometimes add dry cranberries.
Ginger Chocolate Buckwheat Biscotti
Makes about 15 pieces
1 cup unbleached white flour
½ cup buckwheat flour
½ cup blanched almond meal
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon cardamom
2 teaspoons anise seed, ground
1/3 cup salted butter, room temperature *if you are using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon cane sugar
2 free range eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup crystallized ginger, cut into ¼ inch pieces
1/3 cup dark chocolate, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup pecans, chopped into small pieces
1/3 cup shredded coconut
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Place the flour, almond meal, baking powder, cardamom and anise seed in a bowl, and whisk well. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until creamy and add the sugar a small amount at a time. Beat well and scrape the side of the bowl as necessary to ensure all the ingredients are well combined.
Add the eggs one at a time, and beat to combine.
Add 1/3 of the dry mixture and stir on medium speed. Continue to stir and add the other 1/3. Reduce the speed, add the rest of the mixture and continue until well mixed.
Stir in the ginger, chocolate, pecans and coconut. Mix thoroughly until combined.
On a baking sheet lined with a piece of parchment paper, spread the dough into a rectangle shape, about ¾ inch thickness.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes. Take the baked dough out of the oven and let cool for 30 minutes.
Set the oven to 300F.
Then gently cut the dough into strips, about ¾ inch each, using a serrated knife. Bake cut side down for 30 minutes, flipping half way through.
Let cool completely on a rack. Store in an airtight container.
The farmers’ market is the place where I am often inspired by local artistry. In the case of produce farmers, colourfully displayed seasonal veggies make us dream of what’s to come for this evening’s supper. Long, hard hours of field labour yield endless varieties and flavours for the consumer, while raw food enthusiasts’ eye popping creations draw people like a giant magnet, shocking audiences with unexpectedly delicious treats that are packed full of pure energy.
I created this pesto recipe after I visited a chef vendor who was selling new lines of tasty oils and vinegars. Focused on the mind-blowingly tasty pesto sample, the chef’s sales pitch, which included the ingredients list, faded to the back of my head.
As a result, I shamefully don’t remember what exactly went into the recipe, but my palate recalls this chef’s pesto simply served on a slice of heirloom tomatoes, making me long for my own heirloom tomatoes to ripen quickly. In the meantime, in the effort to store basil leaves from my garden, I made a few jars of pesto using what I had been saving for a special occasion. And my wild mushroom-infused olive oil turned out to be another unique and sublime pesto ingredient.
Lemon-Infused Basil Pesto
Makes about 350ml
2 cups tightly packed basil leaves, washed and patted dry
¾ cup almonds, toasted and cooled
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped roughly
120ml lemon-infused olive oil
¼ to ½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
Place the basil, almonds and garlic in layers in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse while adding the oil in a thin, steady stream from the feed tube until the mass becomes a coarse, grainy paste. Scrape the side of the bowl to make sure no big pieces of leaves are left.
While pulsing, add salt little by little to reach the desired saltiness. Add pepper and pulse to combine. Finally, add the vinegar and pulse until well mixed.
Store the pesto in an airtight container and keep it refrigerated up to 10 days. Or alternatively, freeze for later use.
Lemon-Infused Basil Pesto on Heirloom Tomato Slices
This recipe celebrates the season’s end for glorious heirloom tomatoes that we grew and the unbelievably sunny months we had! Serve as a light appetizer without bread or as part of a full lunch with toasty rustic bread to mop up all the pesto and juicy tomato goodness. Or conversely, serve everything in layers to taste the wholeness!
3 tablespoons Lemon-Infused Basil Pesto, room temperature
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 heirloom tomatoes, sliced to ½ inch thick pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
A loaf of good rustic bread, sliced and toasted (optional)
Thin down the lemon-infused basil pesto with the extra virgin olive oil in a small bowl.
Place the tomato slices on a platter or a plate and drizzle generously with the pesto over tomatoes. Sprinkle with the black pepper. Serve as is or with/on bread.
Lemon-Infused Basil Pesto & Portobello Mushroom Pasta
4 large Portobello mushrooms
Vegetable oil for brushing
Salt and freshly ground pepper
10 tablespoons Lemon-Infused Basil Pesto
4 portions pasta of your choice
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Clean the gills on the underside of the mushrooms by scraping with the edge of a small spoon. Removing the gills will prevent the mushrooms from leaching black colour onto your dishes. Cut off the ends of stems until a clean surface appears.
Brush the mushroom tops with oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper on a baking sheet lined with a piece of parchment paper. Flip the mushrooms, underside facing up, and spread 2 tablespoons of the pesto evenly into the grooves of each one.
Roast the mushrooms, pesto side up, on the centre rack of the oven for about 20 minutes or until cooked. If the pesto and the edges of the mushrooms get too dark, cover with a piece of aluminum foil. Let sit for 5 minutes and slice the mushrooms into ¼ to ½ inch pieces. Keep covered to maintain warm until the pasta is ready.
In the meantime, cook the pasta in salted boiling water to al dente. Drain well. Mix in 2 tablespoons of pesto to coat the pasta noodles. Set aside.
Place the pasta on a platter or individual plates and top with the mushrooms. Adjust with freshly ground pepper. Serve warm.