Roasted Tomato and Beet Bisque

Check out that gorgeous pink, creamy soup!

Check out that gorgeous pink, creamy soup!

It’s starting to feel like Autumn here in Montreal and the end of summer harvest is in full swing. Tomatoes are selling off at the market for a fraction of what they normally cost, and bright bushels of beets are stacked row on row in front of fruiteries at every corner, tempting passersby with thoughts of warm borchts and savoury-sweet grilled beet salads. This recipe brings together the two in an unusual pairing that I am sure you will find as addictive as we do. It might seem odd, and I get it- beets and tomatoes, why would you do that? But trust me when I tell you, this recipe is so easy, healthy, cheap, and look at that colour! You are going to fall in love.

Bisque is traditionally thickened with a starch, such as rice or potatoes, before being strained and enriched with cream. In this case, I used raw sunflower seeds. They add the perfect creaminess and their subtle flavour is ideal for light vegetable purees such as this. We can thank the sunflower seeds for the pink colour, too! You could omit them, or substitute a starch as with a traditional bisque, or any unsweetened, neutral flavour plant cream will do. You can change the colour of the bisque to a lovely golden orange by using golden beets and tomatoes instead. This recipe requires no pot, just a slow roast in the oven and a trip through the blender. Go ahead and bake yourself some bread or pumpkin muffins while the oven is hot and the veggies are roasting. It’s that time of year!

It's also good straight out of the jar, just saying.

It’s also good straight out of the jar, just saying.

Roasted Tomato and Beet Bisque

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced
3 large, flavourful tomatoes, cored
2 medium beets, peeled and sliced fine
2 small cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, raw
4 cups good vegetable stock, home made leek stock if possible
1 tbsp neutral oil
1 tsp salt
Pink or white pepper, or plain black pepper if that’s all you have

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking tray with a sheet of tinfoil

2) Arrange vegetables in the foil, drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with half the salt. Cover with another sheet of foil, folding the edges together carefully to seal. Place in oven and bake approximately one hour, until beets are tender.

3) Meanwhile, puree the sunflower seeds in one cup of the broth until perfectly smooth and not at all gritty. This may take several minutes, just give your blender breaks as needed.

4) When cooked, add the vegetables from the foil pouch to the sunflower puree with all their juices. Puree until completely smooth, slowly adding the water and scraping the sides as needed. Add remaining salt and pepper to taste. Bon appetit!

Maple Coconut Granola

Granola is a contentious food. Associated with crunchy hippies and health nuts, it gets a bad reputation for tasting like grass. It’s also tends to be hard to chew, full of hard chunks of ancient raisins and fibrous grains. Who has patience for hard-to-eat food in the morning? Because of all this,┬ápeople tend to forget that granola can be so full of delicious things that it tastes more like a dessert than a breakfast food. If you don’t believe me, try the Coconut Yogurt Parfait at Resonance Cafe. Thick, creamy yogurt with sweet almond granola and fruit preserves. They include it in their breakfast menu, but I order it as desert- usually to share, because it’s so filling after a meal. Resonance is my favourite cafe in the city- all vegan, delicious and affordable food, plus they double as a jazz club at night. You’ll definitely be hearing more about it this month.

Mile End from above. Crooked 3-story brick buildings, big trees, and a short stroll to the mountain

Mile End from above. Crooked 3-story brick buildings, big trees, and a short stroll to the mountain

During the day, I work as a cook, primarily personal chefing for a small family in Mile End, Montreal. Mile End is a bit like Sesame Street, in that everyone knows everyone else and it’s perfectly reasonable to take a stroll down the street just to stop by local businesses and friend’s houses to say hi on your way home from work. Resonance is in Mile End too, as is Boulangerie Guillaume. Guillaume serves as the baker for many businesses in Mile End, providing bread for Resonance and several small restos in the area. The bakers have a small wooden delivery trike, and early in the morning you can see them peddling along the bike path, basket stacked with row on row of fresh, warm baguette. The sandwich bread at Resonance is provided by Guillaume, perfect squares of thick-cut white bread, perfect for grilling on the panini press. Many mornings, Work Dad will walk over to Guillaume to pick up some fresh bread to serve with coconut-macadamia butter and guava jam. Other days, a quick bowl of cereal is on the menu.

Mmmm granola

Mmmm granola

That is where this granola comes in. Playing to the exotic tastes of my work family, I wanted something with toasted coconut to serve as a quick breakfast to go with fresh mangoes. Brimming with coconut, walnuts and dried fruit, this granola fits the bill perfectly. Large flake oats provide the base and hemp hearts and flax provide added omega 3 fatty acids. I solve the problem of tough, dried-up fruit by presoaking them in hot water before baking. This keeps them much more soft, easier for little mouths to manage. This is the kind of breakfast that will hold you over til lunch. This makes about 8-10 cups of granola, so make it once and you’ll be set for a couple months. I keep a mason jar out for daily use and refill it from an airtight bag int he freezer as needed. Serve it with coconut or almond milk, or maybe coconut yogurt and passion fruit jam.

Soak your dried fruit

Soak your dried fruit

Maple Coconut Granola

3 cups large flake oats
1.5 cups medium shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup hemp hearts
1/4 cup ground flax
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

1) Put on a kettle to boil with a couple cups of water and preheat the oven to 350.

2) Once boiled, pour the hot water over the dried fruits in a small bowl and leave to soak.

3) Toast the pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and walnuts on a cookie sheet in the hot oven until just barely toasted, about 5 minutes.

4) Stir the oats, coconut, hemp hearts and flax together with the cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl.

5) Drain the water off the dried fruit and add to the oatmeal mixture along with the toasted nuts and seeds and the maple syrup and coconut oil. Stir well.

6) Spread granola into two large baking pans. Bake in 10 minute intervals, taking the pans out to stir thoroughly between each interval, for 30-40 minutes, until golden. Cool and store in airtight containers in the freezer. Granola keeps in an airtight container on the shelf for 2 weeks.

Delicious grains

Delicious grains

Breakfast Barley with Red Chard

I have been looking for a savoury, grain-based warm breakfast dish for a while. I always have my criminis and kale on toast, or tofu scramble as back-ups. But I was looking for something that I could make ahead in a bigger batch to warm for breakfast over a few days with just a quick pass through a hot skillet. I tried making an oat-based dish to start, since I love oats, and I especially love savoury oats with tamari and hot sauce (!). But that wasn’t going to work- oats don’t reheat well. On the other hand, barley is sturdy enough to survive multiple reheats and still keep its shape and texture. Lovely stuff. It has good stick-to-your-ribs qualities, and is traditionally used in savoury dishes, so coming up with this wasn’t much of a stretch. If you don’t have a seasoning salt that you like, such as Spike or Old Bay, go ahead and use regular salt, but consider adding some onion or garlic powder in addition.

breakfast barley and red chard

Breakfast Barley with Red Chard
Makes 2 servings, multiply as desired

1 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots
1/2 cup pot barley
3-4 leaves of red chard, stems diced and leaves torn into bites
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
pinch of saffron, soaked
1/2 tsp seasoning salt
1/4 tsp pepper
sprig of thyme
sprinkle of lemon

Cook the shallots and chard stems in the oil until fragrant and starting to turn golden. Add the barley and garlic, stirring regularly for about 1 minute. Add 1 1/2 cups of water, bring to a boil then simmer on low, stirring occasionally. When thick (about 15-20 minutes), add another 1/2 cup of water and stir in the spices. Place the chard leaves on top of the barley and cover the pot (do not stir). In about 3 minutes, the chard leaves should be bright green and wilted, stir into the barley and serve. I recommend enjoying this with some pita, to soak up all the tasty sauce. Refrigerate unused portion, and reheat on a hot skillet with a splash of water for the next day’s breakfast. Or elevenses. Depending on how you roll.