Fall into Comfort Foods
It’s time for comfort food and indulgent treats, along with healthier fare.
So many seasonal ingredients at your fingertips!
Soups and stews taste great right now. Stir up a big pot of chili—or try something else with an ethnic twist. Like Colombian-style stew: beef, potatoes, onions and tomatoes spiced with garlic, cumin, cayenne and white vinegar. For authenticity, top with creamy avocado-lime-cilantro sauce. A rich, North African-inspired stew brings the warmth—with chicken, chickpeas and winter squash, plus barley or farro. Flavour hits for this dish include garlic, paprika, coriander, cumin, turmeric, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom and black pepper. Leave out the chicken for vegetarian appeal.
From flavoured buns to classier condiments, sandwiches are profitable propositions. Enhancements like caramelized onions and curry-sautéed mushrooms bring appeal—and the opportunity to charge more. Presentation also counts, as in open-faced turkey sandwiches served in shallow bowls to corral the gravy. Ethnic twists will win fans, too. Try an Indian-inspired toasted Cheddar sandwich: include chopped tomatoes, onions and coriander-mint chutney.
Give ingredients the extra attention that makes for spectacular taste. Shortcuts? Use a smoking gun filled with applewood or hickory chips to get fire-cooked flavour. Liquid smoke is another option! Grill lemon halves and squeeze onto chicken, fish or vegetables; grill bread to accompany meat, fish or soups. Caramelize onions more quickly using a dry, nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Achieve charring with a culinary torch—from broccoli to sandwich meats. Last suggestion: Braise inexpensive cuts of beef. Pantry staples like wine, beer, vinegar, soy sauce, cider and purchased stock make the braising liquid. Then use any leftover cooked liquid to simmer root vegetables or cooked beans; serve over mashed potatoes, polenta or rice.
Sales of spiralizer machines are booming—as zucchini, carrots, beets, turnips and other healthful veggies get turned into delicious “noodles.” But traditional pastas still appeal: MasterChef Canada’s recipe box includes Spaghetti Agio E Olio and Beef Stir-fry with Rice Noodles (www.masterchefcanada.ctv.ca). And can you believe Edmonton took eighth place in Condé Nast Traveler’s contest for world’s best city for pizza? Venues such as Tony’s Pizza Palace, Packrat Louie and Rose Bowl Pizza rock traditional toppings. Yet Neapolitan style continues to gain ground, thanks to its thin crust and wood-fire flair. And at Pizzeria Libretto (Toronto), “Ontario Prosciutto” is touted, along with ingredients like pecorino cheese, chili oil and roasted garlic.
Hunker down with heartier foods and beverages.
All-day breakfast is increasingly popular. Breakfast bakes help fill the bill—they’re versatile and can be cooked in advance for heat-and-serve convenience. They also package well for takeaway, whether you sell individual servings or entire pans. For example, eggs, oatmeal and French toast are three great breakfast-bake options. Value-added ingredients come in handy here: from frozen hash brown potatoes and liquid eggs to prechopped veggies and precooked sausage and bacon.
Sauce is a simple way to boost flavour, customize a dish, or bring ethnic flair. One increasingly popular choice is sambal oelek, seen on menus from Pacific to Atlantic—and it’s the “go-to hot chili condiment” for Memphis Fire Barbeque Company in Hamilton, Ontario. In Winnipeg, Deseo Bistro is ladling curried cauliflower crema atop eggplant and lentils. Speaking of pulses (one of Canada’s largest crops), it’s easy to use them for sauces and spreads. Hummus is healthy and versatile, or try puréed black beans or edamame. Another way to bring trendy style to sauces is with craft beer. For example, splash an IPA into salsas for tacos. You can also cook and reduce IPAs for great accompani-ments: Create a savory drizzle for fish, or make a sweetened version to top ice cream.
Canada loves cheese! Savoury cheese biscuits, cheddar ale soup, and cheese-y stuffed potatoes entice. Hello, Mac ’n Cheese Muffins! (get the recipe at www.dairygoodness.ca). And casseroles featuring cheese are perfect make-ahead items—simply heat and serve on demand. How about baked ziti? Kitchen basics like mozzarella, pasta, olive oil and tomato sauces make Italian-style casseroles especially easy. Another good idea: Chicken Tortilla Casserole—layered with tortillas, meats, veggies and cheese. Calgary’s Model Milk even puts Cheddar in their apple-pie crust.
Premade brownies celebrate the season with special toppings. One idea: peppermint frosting made with crushed candy canes. Or, spread on marshmallow frosting, lightly torch, and dust with red and green sugar; include shredded coconut if you like. Ever-popular spice cake can be extra special: Frost with pumpkin, eggnog, or salted caramel flavours.