I grew up hating baked carrots. The only kind I had ever eaten were super sweet, sickly, maple glazed carrots, baked until they were completely mushy. I can’t tell you how much I disliked those. Because of that, for a long time, any time anyone mentioned baked or roasted carrots I immediately explained that they were one of the few things that I didn’t like. Somehow though, I have been introduced to the real glory of roasted spiced carrots. Most of the time, they snuck onto my plate as a side dish at a restaurant (and I am more opposed to leaving food on my plate than eating some less than tasty vegetables). It’s also funny how much your tastes can change as you get older. Sometimes the version you had as a child is not a very good representation of what the dish could be and sometimes your taste buds just evolve (olives!). Either way, I try to remind myself to stay open to things that I think I hate, just in case something changes. The other night, I was reminded of the change in my opinion of roasted carrots when I went out to a spanish tapas restaurant and I had delicious roasted spiced carrots: perfectly spiced, ‘al dente’ and slathered in a flavourful sauce.
A very long time ago, I worked in a kitchen for a short period of time. The restaurant was a steak house and I worked on the salad station. It was a time in my life when I was debating quitting university to go to culinary school so I thought it was a good idea to get some experience in the kitchen before I made such a life-changing decision. For a lot of reasons, I didn’t end up going to culinary school but the one dish I think of when I think of that time was their caesar salad. I remember, on my last day, the chef I was working with gave me a little container of the caesar dressing because he knew I loved it so much. Since then, I have never really made my own caesar salad dressing. This is because every time I looked up a recipe they called for anchovies, which I have never been able to find at the store. A couple of weeks ago, I got a massive craving for caesar salad and decided that instead of tracking down anchovies, I would just try to make a dressing without it. On top of that, I knew I wanted it to be a kale caesar salad. I finally got my hands on some black/dinosaur kale again (which is my favourite in salads) and since caesar salad dressing is quite heavy, I didn’t want any delicate greens that would get weighed down.
I’ve been trying to be more conscious of eating locally lately. I’ve been frequenting my local, organic market more and more recently. Not only does the produce taste better but I like knowing where it comes from and supporting more small-scale producers. Even though I was always aware of the produce available (and not available) according to the different seasons, it becomes so much more obvious when the large majority of the food isn’t being imported from elsewhere. It is such a shift from summer into more truly wintery produce. Needless to say, there is a lot of squash, parsnips, and potatoes around. It always takes my brain some time to re-adjust and think about the things I normally make with these ever present winter vegetables that I largely ignore over the summer months. One of the biggest problems I have, especially with squash, is that they are so big. Just one squash is way more than we ever need for any meal and unless I want endless leftovers, I have to think of multiple dishes to make with the same ingredient. While my go-to is usually soup, a couple of weeks ago, I used some acorn squash to make a delicious quinoa salad. So, when I saw a half of a squash being sold at my local market, I wasn’t only thrilled that I wouldn’t have to eat an entire squash by myself but I also knew what I was going to do with it right away. I could picture what a beautiful side dish, or even meal, a quinoa stuffed acorn squash would make, especially at this time of year.
This weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving and we were invited last minute to a Thanksgiving dinner for everyone that doesn’t have family around this time of year. To be honest, I don’t have very strong memories of Thanksgiving and so I don’t have many traditions that I draw on in my mind. Of course I think of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce but those are things that I haven’t eaten for years. So, when I was thinking of things I could bring, a vegetarian stuffing and gravy came to mind right away. I have been wanting to make a vegetarian gravy for a very long time (especially to be able to use on poutine) and whenever there was stuffing that wasn’t stuffed in the bird or made with meat stock, it was always a treat.