Squelching Happily into June.

asparagus outside1It’s here! The first of our farm’s produce has been delighting us for the past week.  Asparagus is wonderful in and of itself but also as a harbinger of everything to come in the following months.  It has been very welcome in what has been another grueling month for the kitchen.  In May we were producing meals on 30 of the 31 days which stretched our relatively small staff … and they came through valiantly!  So props and respect to Patty, Todd and Shirley and to our stalwart volunteers Virginia, Jerome, Regan and Greg.  We can’t forget Theresa who is the entire Housekeeping Department all by herself and calmly works as hard as anyone I have seen!

It’s been a month full of fascinating and wonderful people.  Well, ALL our visitors are fascinating and wonderful … but so many of our clients are here for silent, contemplative retreats that we don’t get a chance to interact with them.  They are here for a purpose – and that is not to amuse the kitchen staff!  When we get workshops and conferences with groups like the Women’s Songwriting Workshop, Guelph Community Health Care or Unitarian ministers from all over the continent who fill the house with talk and laughter, there’s a different vibe to the house.  “A change is as good as a rest”  some people say …

Asparagus (like many vegetables) is versatile and plays well with others.  After you’ve had your fill of eating it plain (steamed or roasted), you can have it as a soup, as a salad, on the BBQ or as the highlight of a quiche.  Quiche is a staple here at Loyola House.  We love it, clients love it, it’s nutritious, attractive, keeps well and especially good for using up that last little bit of whatever you had last night. We have a good source of pre-made pastry shells too, so that makes it easy to whip up.

Basic Quiche

Thaw a 9 inch unsweetened pie shell.  If you like, flute the edges – this makes it easier to serve and less likely to spill as you move it in to the oven.

Whip together …

5 large eggs

2/3 cup 10% cream

Strain this in to another bowl.  This will remove the strange gooey bits of the egg attached to the yolk (called the chalaza, in case you ever wondered).

Whisk in …

1/4 t salt

1/4 t pepper

pinch of nutmeg

dash of hot sauce (more if you like it spicy but the aim here is to have just a touch of undetectable heat to stimulate the taste buds)

Smear the bottom of the crust lightly with Dijon mustard and sprinkle with grated cheddar.  Arrange the fillings and then carefully pour the custard over all.  Sprinkle again with grated cheddar.  This will melt and produce an attractive glaze while protecting the eggs from forming a less palatable skin.  Bake at 350 until it starts to puff and the centre is completely firm – about 50 minutes.  This is one dish I like to bake on the bottom shelf of the oven to make sure the pastry is completely cooked.  Allow to sit 10 minutes before slicing.

Fillings?  well just about anything that goes with cheese!  Often we use meat – bacon or ham or chicken or sausage … even salmon.  Vegetarian is good too – broccoli, spinach, peppers, tomato, onions (caramelized or not) … and yes, asparagus!  One of my favourites is a 3 (or 4 or 5) cheese variety sprinkled with fresh chives.  Let your imagination (and your leftover shelf) be your guide.

For your gluten-free friends, this is even easier!  Simply smear a pie plate or pan with coconut oil, pour in the custard then proceed with fillings, top with cheese and bake … and proudly call it a Frittata.

kohlsparagus4

I’m back to the kitchen … trusting you to take care of yourselves and everyone around you!

PS – Thanks to Mike-the-farmer (a man of many talents) for the first evocative, lovely photo!

 

 

Whee! We made it!

veggies-dec-2016Happy 2017!  It sounds like a science fiction story … aren’t we supposed to all have flying cars and inter-planetary holidays by now?  I’ve just gotten back from a holiday in BC where it is mild and rainy so while I am delighted to be back at work … actually getting to work through all this wind and cold and white stuff is a bit of a shock.

Naturally, my mind turns to thoughts of something warm and comforting to enjoy as a reward for yet more shoveling and I was surprised to notice that we have not yet featured one of our staple entrees …

RATATOUILLE

Sautee briefly

1 large red onion, sliced

1 bulb fennel, sliced

2 T minced garlic

¼ c olive oil

 Take off the heat and add …

6 cups canned whole tomatoes

Wash, cut into large, attractive chunks…

4 c zucchini

Toss with salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil and 1 t oregano and roast in a 350° oven for 10 minutes

Do the same with …

4 c multi-coloured peppers – but roast for 15 minutes, stirring once

Do the same with…

up to 4 c eggplant – but roast for 30 minutes, stirring several times

Add all of the vegetables to the tomato pot along with

2 T puree of fresh basil (or 2 T dried)

2 T lemon juice or red wine vinegar

2 T sugar or honey

Salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste

Bring to a simmer and let simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve over pasta or rice or with a good, crusty bread.

 

This will bring back memories of mid-summer and the vegetable bounty of those fleeting months.  Even mid-winter, our farmers have ways of making us happy though … look at the wonderful radishes they grew this year and passed on to us in December!

purple-radish

Don’t you now wish you had bought a CSA winter share?

Enjoy the nascent year … 2017 is going to be a great one!  Let’s be careful out there and take care of each other!  ❤

 

Kitchen Advent-ures.

peppers-from-emily-2

Our Emily is an accomplished gardener.  This year she grew an astonishing variety of peppers and gifted me with some.  I fermented them with garlic and pink Himalayan salt and now I will have hot sauce all winter -thanks,  Em! I though I’d share a little colour (and heat) on this grey day…. especially since the recipe that I have been asked to post is for yet a another monochromatic delight.  Good for eating … but not so much for photographing.

pepper-ferment-for-blog-3

Trying to find a dessert when you don’t eat gluten OR dairy can be quite challenging!  We have come up with a few really good ones (and we’re always looking for more… hint, hint).  To the Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies and Chocolate Black Bean Cake (see previous entries) we now add …

Chocolate Coconut Macaroons

Melt together …

3/4 cup coconut oil

4 oz good, dark baking chocolate

Stir in and whisk together until smooth …

1 c mashed banana

¾ c maple syrup

1 t vanilla

1 c cocoa powder

Stir in …

5 c unsweetened, shredded coconut

¼ c chia seeds

¼ c coconut flour

Form into balls, “haystacks” , nests or your preferred  shape then refrigerate until solid. (These are best not served in the heat of summer as the coconut oil will melt and make the consistency too soft and your fingers all gooey).

These are very popular AND they pack quite a nutritional punch!  They contain protein (chia), potassium (banana), antioxidants (cocoa), lots of good fats and lots of fibre.   But still …. brown, they’re just brown ….. so here is another unrelated yet more visually satisfying photo of our Quinoa Tabbouleh with calendula petals from our kitchen herb garden.

tabbouleh-close

As we begin this holiday season, please remember the Jesuit Community of Guelph is having their annual Open House at Loyola House on Sunday, December 4, 2016 from 2 pm until 4 pm.  We’d love to see you out here!

Take good care of yourself so you can take good care of others and the world.

Out with October! We’ve got a winter to attend to.

Finally, Fall has … well … fallen.  The crops are harvested, the community gardens are turned over,  the annual 40 day retreat is drawing to a close and we put up enough Green Tomato Relish that I actually had to buy more canning jars!

In homage to our farm’s amazing root crops, I offer this salad – substantial, nutritious and satisfying – perfect for this time of year.

BEET SALAD

Use enough beets to ensure ¼ pound per person. Do not peel before cooking.

Rinse and cover well with water, then bring to a boil. Lid the pot and simmer – 35 minutes for smallish beets up to an hour for very large ones.  Drain and allow to steam off in a colander.  When cool (you can even refrigerate overnight), peel and cut up beets.  Dress with the following vinaigrette and allow to marinate at least one hour before serving.  There is no in point trying to garnish this salad with different colours of  vegetables as the beets will just stain them all a uniform red.

Note: this salad looks AMAZING using golden beets, although you might want to cut out the brown spices to let the glory of the yellow, gold and rose colours shine!

Cider Vinaigrette

(for beet salad or carrot slaw – as well as many other possibilities)

Whisk together in a large bowl ….

½ c good cider vinegar

2 Tbsp grainy Dijon mustard

2 Tbsp honey or maple syrup

½ tsp salt or to taste

¼ t pepper

½ t cinnamon and/or nutmeg and/or cloves

(¼ c apple cider reduction and/or a dash of hot sauce are both optional)

Whisk in slowly… to form an emulsion (like mayo)

½ c  oil  (I prefer to use olive or coconut oil for the health benefits, but both are solid at fridge temperature so you have to be careful to serve this salad at room temperature)

This should dress quite a bit of salad. It will also keep in the fridge almost indefinitely – although it might separate.  Go heavier on the cloves for beets and on the cinnamon for carrots.

two-beets

Welcome to the world, Hannah!  Welcome to the kitchen, Shirley!  Elaine, your recipe will be up next.

I still have a few hatches to batten down, so until next time – take care of each other!

 

 

“More Soup For You!”

menu board chicken 4

It has been a hectic summer at Loyola House with retreat after retreat full … of familiar faces and friendly new faces. The farm has been showering us with delicious, nutritious and fascinating produce despite the wretched distribution of precipitation.  Our new team is settling in like they’ve been here forever.  We now are preparing to say goodbye briefly to Autumn G. who is going on maternity leave.  It’s a bittersweet occasion … we will miss her madly but are madly excited about meeting her new daughter Hannah – when she arrives!  We also look forward to working with Shirley who will be with us as Autumn adjusts to new motherhood.

Last month I promised a departing retreatant that I would post a recipe … apologies that it has taken so long!

GINGERED CARROT SOUP

Sauté until soft but not coloured….

¼ c coconut oil

2 lb carrots, peeled (or just scrubbed!) and sliced thinly

3 T grated fresh ginger

2 c diced onion

1 c sliced celery

1 T garlic

Add …

4c veg stock or water or apple cider

Cook until carrots are very soft.

Puree to desired texture … silky smooth or chunky – both have their own charm.

Season with…

salt, pepper, lemon juice. .. and maybe just a dash of hot sauce to wake up your taste buds!

Serve garnished with crème fraiche (or sour cream or yoghurt) and chopped cilantro (if desired).

We love soup.  We love to make it, we love to eat it.  We don’t always love taking pictures of it; it is often so monochromatic … so here is a memory of early summer Salade Nicoise.

nicoise 6

I am told that the Taste of Italy dinner on September 28 is sold out already!  We are looking forward hosting you all again.  If you missed out on a chance at tickets, be consoled with the knowledge that we will be doing another series of dinners next year … The Taste of Diversity!  They are such a good time and for such a good cause.

Until next time, take care of yourselves … so you can take care of others.  ❤

 

 

Our favourite time of the year …

 

 

 

chives 2Late last week came the time that Loyola House cooks have been dreaming wistfully about all winter … the first produce from our organic farm is here!  The asparagus started slow but this warm, wet weather will accelerate it into full swing this week.  Now is the time to take a couple of hours and fill the freezer – after a few good gorges, of course!  There really isn’t anything like an organic vegetable that’s only a couple of hours out of the ground.

At the same time, our kitchen herb garden is springing to life.  The clever chive border that we put in as protection from insects is a handspan high and showing signs of graduating from border to hedge-hood this year.  The perennials are starting to leaf out … and the mint … of course the mint is back.  Now is the time to explain to the mint (with trowel in hand) that it can’t have the entire garden this year either!

One of the recipes we like to dust off for the warm weather features both asparagus and fresh herbs and that is the Loyola House interpretation of the classic French dish “Salade Nicoise”.   This is a main-course salad that features (among many other things) green beans but this time of year we slyly substitute asparagus and it is all the better for it.  Traditionally, this is a “composed” salad – carefully and artistically arranged patterns of separate ingredients complementing each other in shape and colour. This doesn’t work so well on a buffet line for 40 people who only have an hour for lunch!  Invariably someone will steal all the hardboiled eggs and after the first couple of people serve themselves, any artistic arrangement is only a fond memory. So we toss all ingredients together and stand back …

 

Nicoise Salad

Whisk together …

2 T grainy Dijon mustard

1 t chopped garlic

1/4 c lemon juice

1/4 c white wine vinegar

Whisk in very slowly …

1/4 c extra virgin olive oil

Stir in

2 T olive brine

1 t black pepper

up to 1/4 c chopped fresh herbs as your garden (or farmer’s market) provides. I am particularly fond of chives (cut on the diagonal of course!) and basil (purple if you can get it – both for its beauty and the intriguingly spicy flavour).  Other good candidates are parsley, chervil, thyme (if you have the patience for stripping all those tiny leaves you will be well rewarded with taste and health benefits), tarragon and dill.  Our kitchen herb garden has a well established lovage patch … TOO well established, maybe.  While lovage gives an earthy celery flavour with a useful touch of bitterness (my new favourite flavour), only the very young leaves should be used … and those sparingly!

It is useful to make this dressing the day before serving so that the flavours can mingle and get ready to party on your tongue!  It will keep very well in the fridge – although the lemon juice may leach the colour from the herbs.  Of course, the olive oil will solidify in the cold – this is how you know you have a good olive oil – so bring it to room temperature and shake well before using.

for the salad, toss gently with 1 c of the above dressing …

2 c boiled potato – you can use left-over ones or boil minis in their jackets, then quarter and toss with a little of the dressing (you did make it ahead of time, didn’t you?) and leave to cool in the fridge overnight.

1 c calamata olives (pitted is nice if you have the time)

2 c asparagus – cut in bite-sized pieces, lightly steamed and cooled immediately in cold water, then drained well

1 c tomato – a beefsteak-style cut in chunks or use Elmira’s Own grape tomatoes – a very tasty local product

2 cans light tuna – well-drained

Serve on a bed of greens (if desired) and garnish with hardboiled eggs in quarters.

nicoise2

Enjoy – on the patio, if possible – and join me in waiting, semi-patiently, for the next installment of nature’s bounty.  And take good care of each other!

Fennel and Orange Salad

photo by Kate Hendry

Fennel is a vegetable I only began eating in the past couple of years. And now that I know about it’s mildly licorice flavour, I am making up for lost time.

Making fennel salad is also a good way to practice and hone one’s knife skills. I think fennel is best when thinly sliced – almost shaved – so give yourself some extra prep time to put those skills to use. The oranges need to be zested, peeled, and segmented with care so as to remove all the white pith and membranes. This takes a while as well, so while this isn’t a salad to make when strapped for time, it is well worth the effort.

To prep the fennel, cut off the fronds (the dark green, feathery leaves). Some of the younger and finer fronds can be used as a garnish, but generally I find them to be bitter and with an unpleasant texture, so use sparingly. Trim the stems, cut the bulb in half, and remove the core with a paring knife.

The acid in the vinaigrette is lime juice, along with the orange zest. Whisk this together with honey, mustard, salt and pepper, and then slowly add the oil. (See my Cucumber Watermelon Salad post for vinaigrette ratio information).

Thinly slice the fennel and some celery. Segment the oranges, and mix everything together. Enjoy!