Recipe: Maple Roasted Butternut Squash

While this dish is baking your kitchen will smell heavenly - maple syrup, butter and cinnamon bring out the warm sweetness of everyone's favorite squash. To make prep go faster I prefer to cook it with the peel on and then scoop out the butternut flesh at the very end. However, it will be a prettier result if you take the time to peel and then chop it into cubes prior to baking. This recipe is the simplest version of this dish, but you can play around with fun variations like adding beets or tossing in toasted pecans at the very end.

- 1 butternut squash
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1 tbsp. maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- salt to taste

1) Preheat oven to 400 F. Slice butternut squash lengthwise in half and scoop out seeds and pulp.

2) Melt butter on low heat and whisk together with maple syrup and cinnamon.

3) Place butternut squash in a baking dish or roasting pan and drizzle butter-maple syrup over top. Salt lightly.

4) Add 1/2 cup water to the dish or pan and cover with a lid or aluminum foil. Bake until very tender, about 60 - 75 minutes.

5) Scoop out flesh with a large spoon and serve.

Recipe: Sauerkraut

Humans have been using lactofermentation to process and preserve food for thousands of years. Long before we had the ability to sterilize or refrigerate perishables, people all over the world were submerging food in brine to encourage friendly bacteria cultures to proliferate. Not only do these "good bacteria" keep the "bad bacteria" from rotting perishables, many of them are the same microbes that help our guts stay healthy. In addition, fermentation makes certain nutrients in food more bioavailable, meaning the nutrient content is effectively higher.

The best part of lactofermentation? It's really easy to do. Food is submerged in salty liquid for days or weeks until the process is complete. And that's pretty much it. Nerds like me appreciate the elegance of the science involved: Food rots when aerobic (air-loving) bacteria break down protein in the presence of oxygen, however by submerging food in liquid, oxygen is dramatically reduced. In this environment anaerobic (air-hating) bacteria thrive and fermentation occurs. Using salty liquid further limits which bacteria can proliferate, and fortunately the good, gut-friendly bacteria is salt-tolerant. As food ferments in a salty, low oxygen environment, lactic acid is produced. The acidity gets so high that bad bacteria species can't survive and thus the food is preserved. This acidity is also what gives lactoferments their pleasantly sour flavor.

Vegetable fermentation is a safe and ancient activity. Here is some more information about the food safety issues if you're nervous - but by all means if you don't feel comfortable culturing bacteria in your kitchen, then don't.

- 1 medium sized white cabbage (approximately 2 lbs)
- 2 tbsp. pickling salt, sea salt or any other salt without additives (avoid using iodized salt or "free-running" table salt)

1) Wash cabbage thoroughly and remove any wilted outer leaves or leaves with bad spots. Thinly slice and place in a large, non-reactive (ie, not metal) bowl.

2) Add salt and massage it into the cabbage for 5 minutes. Within a minute it should start to feel wet and slippery between your fingers as the salt starts to pull out water from the cabbage.

3) Pack the cabbage down into the bowl and leave it for 15 minutes to let it sweat out more water.

4) Transfer the cabbage into a glass jar. A canning funnel will make this a much faster and less messy job. Depending on the size of your cabbage you'll need a 1 or 1.5 L jar. The cabbage should be tightly packed into the jar, with a 1-2 inch space at the top. Push it down with your fingers to squeeze out as much air as possible.

5) Once you've fully packed in the cabbage, all of it should be underneath the brine. If not you can top it up with a little bit extra in the ratio of 1 cup water to 2 tsp. salt. Distilled water is the best choice as some municipal water treatments can discourage fermentation.

6) After the cabbage is fully submerged in brine you'll need to weigh it down with something to keep as much air out of the jar as possible. You can use a jar or a small plastic (food grade) bag. Either option should be washed thoroughly beforehand and half filled with water to increase the weight. Place the jar on a small plate in a cool spot of your kitchen (ie, not in front of a sunny window).

7) Within 48 hours you will start to see bubbles around the cabbage. This is carbon dioxide and is a by-product of lactofermentation so don't worry that oxygen has gotten inside your jar. Some brine will inevitably spill out of the jar as a result of this bubbling and the expansion of the cabbage as it ferments, but as long as everything is still completely covered in liquid it's ok. If you need to you can add some extra brine back in (1 cup water to 2 tsp salt).

8) After one week the bubbling will have slowed down and the cabbage turned from light green to pale golden in colour. Take the weight off and test a piece of sauerkraut. It should taste sour, salty and crunchy. Keep it out on the counter and taste it every day (you can put a regular lid on now, but make sure the cabbage is still submerged in liquid). It will continue to mellow and develop in flavor.

Sauerkraut purists will tell you to keep it out for at least four weeks to allow the full, multi-stage cycle of fermentation to occur. I think the common sense approach for newbies is to refrigerate once it's reached the flavor you really like. It will continue to ferment in the fridge, just more slowly. Once refrigerated your sauerkraut can last for several months. If the veggies become discoloured, slimy, or foul smelling discard the batch. A thin layer of white mold on the very surface can be safely skimmed off so long as the veggies still smell and taste ok.

Recipe: Carrot Apple Slaw

Colourful carrots make for a vibrant salad, and this time of year we have carrots in spades and are looking for ways to use them. Visit an apple orchard and pick some red apples to toss in for even more colour. A bright, citrusy vinaigrette and some toasted nuts tie all the flavours together as well as keep the apples from turning brown. I made this recipe for our big Thanksgiving feast, so it'll serve at least 4 adults. Cut the amounts in half for a smaller, more mundane occasion, like Tuesday night.


- 3-4 carrots (ideally in a mix of colours)
- 1 large or 2 small apples
- ½ cup pine nuts or walnuts
- 1 tbsp butter
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- juice and zest of 1 lime
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp salt

1) Peel and cut carrots into thin, matchstick-sized strips with either a knife, mandolin or grater.

2) Cut apples into similarly sized thin strips or matchsticks (I leave the apple peel on).

3) Melt butter on medium heat and toast pine nuts until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

4) Finely chop parsley.

5) Combine carrots, apples, parsley and pine nuts (when cooled).

6) Combine dressing ingredients and pour over slaw. Mix well and serve.

Recipe: Pumpkin Pie

Little pie pumpkins have the sweetness and soft texture that make them ideal for the custardy filling of the traditional pumpkin pie. Many recipes call for butternut squash or canned pumpkin because standard pumpkins (like the ones we carve at Halloween) are too bland and stringy. However a pie pumpkin is the perfect solution. Try one for Thanksgiving this year!

- 1 pie pumpkin
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 5 egg yolks
- 1  1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1) Cut pumpkin in half and scoop out seeds. Put them aside to roast later on with some olive oil and salt for a tasty snack.

2) Put pumpkins halves in a roasting pan and cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 350 F for 1 hour.

3) Scoop baked pumpkin flesh out with a spoon and throw in the blender.

) Puree pumpkin with 1/4-1/2 cup of water. Use just enough water to get the blender going, but ideally as little as possible to avoid watering down the puree.

5) Simmer pureed pumpkin on low for at least 1 hour. The goal is to reduce to the thickest consistency possible, so if you have time to let it continue reducing while you get your turkey or other Thanksgiving prep going, keep it on the stove.

6) Beat egg yolks with sugar and then add cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cardamom and mix thoroughly.

7) Stir egg mixture into pumpkin puree and then add whipping cream.

8) Pour into pie crust and bake at 425 F for 15 minutes. Then lower the heat to 350 F and bake for another 45-50 minutes. The pie is done when the edge are set but the centre is still wobbly. You may have extra filling left over after you've poured it into the pie crust, and this can be baked separately in a small baking dish for a pumpkin custard treat.

9) Let cool and serve with some whipped cream on top. Happy Thanksgiving!

Recipe: Eggplant Rice

This recipe is a bit like a deconstructed baba ganoush, remade as a rice dish. Feel free to load it up with more veggies or some meat, or just have it simply as it is, on the side of a main course. We made it to take to a harvest BBQ to celebrate the end of summer, and a late season veggie like eggplant feels just right on a day that turns cool as soon as the sun goes down. Our hosts were the lovely folks of Knuckle Down Farm, fellow Toronto ex-pats turned farmers. Thanks guys!

- 2-3 small eggplant
- 1/2 cup of rice
Tahini Sauce:
- 5 tbsp tahini
- 3 tbsp plain yogurt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp water
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 2-4 cloves of garlic

1) Preheat oven to 400 F. Cut eggplant into 1 inch chunks. Place eggplant in colander, salt lightly and leave to drain until the oven is ready.

2) Spread drained eggplant chunks out on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

3) While eggplant is roasting puree tahini sauce ingredients. Cook rice on the stovetop or in a rice cooker.

4) Thinly slice basil into chiffonade strips.

5) Combine eggplant, tahini sauce, basil and cooked rice in a bowl and mix well. Serve hot or cold.

Recipe: Delicata Squash with Red Sauce

Delicata is the delightfully named winter squash known for it's thin, edible skin and small size. It has a mildly nutty taste and pairs well with just about anything. It's texture resembles one of the drier winter squashes like Kabocha or acorn, so I like to make a sauce to go with it and add some extra moisture and flavor.


- 2 delicata squash
- 1 sweet pepper
- 1 medium size tomato
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp salt
- olive oil

1) Preheat oven to 450F. Slice delicata squash lengthwise. Scoop out seeds with a spoon and discard. If you like, you can roast and eat them like pumpkin seeds.

2) Cut squash into 1/2 inch, "C" shaped slices.

3) Arrange squash slices on an oiled cookie sheet. Drizzle more oil over top. Don't skimp on the oil as that will help keep the squash from drying out as it roasts. Turn slices over once or twice until evenly browned, about 30 minutes.

4) Meanwhile, coarsely chop sweet peppers and tomatoes and toss into a blender. Puree along with garlic and salt. You may need to add a splash of water to the blender to get it going smoothly. 

5) Put puree in a small pot and bring to boil. Lower heat to medium and simmer until it's reduced to the the consistency of a thin tomato sauce, about 20 minutes.

6) Place fully roasted squash slices in a wide, shallow serving bowl and pour finished red sauce over top. Serve immediately.