vegetarian

Mint Invasion - Part I: Mint and Feta Tabbouleh

Our mint patch has taken over the herb garden. The top canopy is almost chest-level, like a hedge. It has engulfed neighboring oregano and chives. Minty sucker scouts are popping up yards away. We act now or... deal with a worse situation next year. The strategy? Eat it. I'll be cooking a few recipes with mint to keep the invasion in check until we feel like bringing out the big shovels. I did a stint of digging a couple of weeks ago to transplant a section of this leafy tyrant to a plot by the mailbox.

This first recipe is a simple tabbouleh, which can be made with bulgur or couscous--both are good. Some people find tabbouleh bland. I keep it interesting by toasting the couscous/bulgur.

For even more flavor I use the deliciously crumbly Mira River Feta by The Wandering Shepherd, a Cape Breton artisan cheese maker best known for his terrific ewe milk cheeses. For this recipe, I'm also using Speerville Organic Couscous.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

• 2 cups couscous • 4 cups water • 1 cup mint, chopped • 1 cup feta, crumbled • 2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped • 1 onion, chopped • 5 tablespoons olive oil • small bunch of chives, chopped • juice of half a lemon • salt + ground black pepper

In a small skillet, sauté the onion in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Set aside. In a large cast iron pot or skillet, toast the couscous on medium heat, stirring often, until most of it is browned. Meanwhile you can bring the water to a simmer. Remove from heat. Pour the hot water over the couscous, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, and stir in the sautéed onions, mint, feta, tomatoes, chives, lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Eat hot or let it cool down. Top with chopped mint. Will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Chanterelles and Turnips with Garlic Butter and Creamy Polenta

As you may have noticed, wild mushrooms are starting to pop out. One of the tastiest 'shrooms you can find on Cape Breton Island is the Chanterelle (mushroom ID info here). All of mine were foraged after a nice day of rain. Let's hope we get some more of that! I usually prepare my mushrooms in a simple way; sautéed in butter and garlic. Wine (in this case pear wine) is added and reduced to concentrate the flavors. I threw in some turnips, because they too taste great with garlic and butter. Make sure to top this dish with the freshest, leafiest thyme you can get.

Enjoy!

Will serve 4 people

Chanterelles and Turnips

• 2 cups chanterelles • 2 medium-sized turnips, thinly sliced • 4 tablespoons butter • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped • 1/4 cup white wine • couple sprigs of thyme • salt + ground black pepper

In a pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Sautée the turnips and chanterelles for 2-3 minutes. Add half of the garlic, a few sprigs of thyme, and wine. Reduce until the liquid is almost gone. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper, and swirl in the rest of the butter and garlic. Serve on polenta.

Creamy Polenta

• 1 cup cornmeal • 3 cups chicken or mushroom stock • 1/4 cup cream • 1/2 cup parmesan, asiago or aged cheddar • a pinch of salt

Bring the stock to a simmer and add the cornmeal. Simmer on medium-low heat for about 10-20 minutes, depending if the cornmeal is fine or coarse. Remove from heat, add the cream and cheese. Season with salt.

 

Toasted Sesame and White Bean Hummus

Now I know "hummus" means chickpeas, but really we use the name for anything resembling a beany dip. I've tried many sorts of beans and the white (or white pea bean) really works for me. Instead of the usual smooth tahini, I've toasted sesame seeds, which gives this hummus a little crunch. For a spicy kick I also added some hot sauce. You could easily put more or less, depending on the level of hot that you enjoy. Also, the recipe yields 4 cups, which may seem like a lot, but trust me, you'll go through it fast enough.

Enjoy! Flatbread Recipe Here Unique clay platter by Big Hill Pottery.

Yields about 4 cups

Ingredients

• 2 cups dried white beans • 1/2 cup olive oil • 1/2 cup sesame seeds, toasted • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted • 6 tablespoons lemon juice ( about 2 lemons) • 2 teaspoons hot sauce • 3-4 garlic cloves, chopped • salt

Soak the beans overnight. Drain the beans and simmer in water for 45 minutes to an hour. Strain and let cool for 10 minutes. In a food processor mix the cooked beans, olive oil, sesame seeds, cumin seeds, lemon juice, hot sauce and garlic cloves. Whiz until smooth and thick. Add more oil if too thick. Season with salt to taste. Serve with flatbreads or crackers.

Old-Fashioned Mustard and Asparagus Flatbread

Mustard (a blend of mustard seeds, vinegar, and spices) is what we use to crank up the acidity in our food; to send our tastebuds into hyperdrive. In this recipe I spread some old-fashioned mustard (the kind with whole seeds) on a flatbread, top it with asparagus and gouda cheese, and crisp it in the oven. Now that's some quality pub grub, to be enjoyed with drinks among friends. Okay, it's really important to use good mustard. We use and I recommend "Pommery - Moutarde de Meaux." It's a bit pricey but worth every penny. Any good old-fashioned mustard will do, though.

For the flatbreads, you can use this recipe.

Serves 4 as an appetizer

Ingredients

• 2 flatbreads • 12 asparagus • 150 g gouda cheese • 2 tablespoons old-fashioned dijon mustard • 2 tablespoons olive oil • salt + black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 450F.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch the asparagus for 1 minute. Cool them in cold water. Lay the flatbreads on a baking pan and spread 1 tablespoon of mustard on each. Add the asparagus and top with big chunks of gouda cheese. Season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Cook for 15 minutes or until the flatbreads are crispy. Slice and serve hot.