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Vegetables

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Most cream soups begin the same way. Simmered vegetables go into a chicken or  vegetable or water stock. This is then amalgamated with a cream base, usually made with a classic flour-butter roux, to which milk and cream is added. The soup is then seasoned, the softened vegetables and creamy broth get pureed, and voila: cream soup in any flavor you choose. You can play around with the herbs and spices but mostly, this is the sort of recipe that suits whatever vegetable you prefer or what the market or season offers.  For spring, of course asparagus is my choice. It is absolutely lovely with fresh herbs, a touch of lemon, black pepper and fleurs de sel (salt). Once you get this soup down pat, it works with whatever vegetables you like.

I am wild about turnips and always make extra roast or boiled ones for this fine potage.

This doesn’t have an exciting name but it is the fastest, easiest way to flavor and nutrition I know off. It is essentially chop, dump and sauté and serve but it smells as exotic as if you’d been cooking over the proverbial hot stove for hours. You can add tofu if you like but if you serve it alongside a protein of some sort, that’s not necessary.

The best fries are fried twice. There is a special method here that is the trade secret of bistro chefs and any French fry outlet in Montreal (did you know Montreal has the best frites outside of Europe?). Just follow the recipe. Match these up with a burger of Bistro Style French Pepper Steak, a salad of baby greens and balsamic vinegar and a warm sourdough baguette for a feast. A dusting of Fleurs de Sel (imported salt) would make this dish a banquet on its own.

So commercial. So good. So Thanksgiving.

The fast food of Israel and fast food courts of North America all tout this healthy (albeit fried) vegetarian snack made with canned chick peas.  Find fresh pita breads to go with them.

This is lovely to look at, crowd-pleasing and handy, as it is can be made ahead up to three days ahead.  Marinated, jarred roasted red peppers speed up the preparation. The trick with this is finely chopped everything so the final result is a pretty, marinated salad you do not have to even toss to serve.

There's a trick to this - and this recipe has them both. One trick is, leave the husks ON. They add flavor. The second trick? Ah, it's in the boil and it turns plain sweet corn into food of the gods.

Little gifts of the harvest! Buttered filo houses a mound of sweet potatoes. It bakes up into a little package that is ready pretty darn quick or, if oven space is an issue, are easily reheated (they also freeze well).

A cheap but authentic wok is best for this – a carbon steel one which heats up quick and is hot enough to properly sear food well (non-stick is an easy clean but never gets hot enough and produces more steam or humidity to the mixture resulting in more saucy stir fries vs. quick cooked, fresh and flavorful. A cast iron pan is also fine. But start with what you have. If you have a round wok bottom and a flat (regular, electric stove top) make sure you get the metal ring the wok sits in. I use both fresh garlic and ginger, as well as the added boost of some jarred stuff, which is always on hand. Plates from Chinatown (the blue and white patterned ones) are especially pretty for this dish. Serve with jasmine tea and dessert could be store-bought fortune cookies, restaurant almond cookies, and/or mango sherbet with mandarin oranges on top. 

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