Honey and Chili Glazed Brussels Sprouts and Carrots

brussels sprouts carrots

This recipe for carrots and Brussels sprouts is a perfect example of the transformative power that a hot oven can have over certain vegetables that are, sadly, less likely to elicit strong feelings of excitement from their intended audience. The glaze cooks to a salty, sweet, and spicy finish, forming a caramelized crust with a creamy, fork tender interior. I can eat a large bowl of these vegetables for dinner a la carte, but I also like to pair them with something heartier such as roast chicken or red wine braised lamb shanks. The parsley doesn’t necessarily carry the recipe, but there’s something so lovely about the dish when the earthiness of the carrots and Brussels sprouts is softly touched with the pure green astringency of the parsley. You could also make this a more substantial menu item by grating in some Reggiano or Pecorino Pepato, or even crumbling up some mild Macedonian feta as a final addition.

honey and chili glazed brussels sprouts and carrots:

About 2 cups of Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

4 large carrots, peeled and cut into sticks

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 Tbsp. honey

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

1/2 tsp. dried chili flakes

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Place carrots and Brussels sprouts in a large mixing bowl; normally I would just drizzle the glaze over the vegetables on the baking sheet but in this case it’s important that the vegetables are evenly coated.

3. Whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, honey, chill flakes, salt, and pepper. Pour over the vegetables and stir to coat before tumbling out onto a parchment lined baking sheet.

4. Bake for about 40 minutes, stirring 3 times in total over the duration of the roasting time. Finish with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, extra chilies (if you like), and a generous garnish of parsley.

carrots brussels sprouts chicken

I was really into Massive Attack’s album Blue Lines when I was in high school. I also had Mezzanine’s CD liner notes taped to the inside of my locker door (locker doors were kind of a big deal for me, as they were the most obvious way to display tastes and interests when you’re a shy 16 year old girl.) The intensity of the lyrics and opposing buoyancy of the music makes the song feel timeless and special, one that definitely stands apart as a favourite from their other works.

Like a soul without a mind
In a body without a heart
I’m missing every part

Massive Attack – Unfinished Symphony

Honey Roasted Carrots

Roasted Carrots

I have always found carrots to be less than exciting. Maybe part of the indifference comes from the disparity between their spectacular colour and lacklustre flavour – even young, tender carrots leave me wanting. The other night at the grocery store I asked Ian what he’d like for dinner as a side for risotto balls and he responded with “carrots.” I was up for the challenge and remembered a very similar formula for roasted parsnips that received a considerable amount of enthusiasm and thought that the same principles would apply. I am happy to report that the carrot transformation was a  complete success. These honey roasted carrots are sweet and softly salty, the honey glaze turns into a sticky toffee-like coating that brings out a flavour that captures exactly what I feel carrots should taste like; something oddly bright and earthy at the same time.

honey roasted carrots:

7 large carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch strips

3 Tbsp. of honey

3 Tbsp. of vegetable oil

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 cup of fresh basil or parsley (or both), cut into a thin chiffonade or snipped with scissors

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Whisk together the honey, vegetable oil, and kosher salt in a small bowl. In a large mixing bowl mix the honey and oil mixture with the carrot strips until they are well coated.

3. Either line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil, adding non-stick cooking spray if using the latter. Distribute the carrots evenly and bake for 35-40 minutes, turning the carrots halfway through the cooking time for even roasting.

4. Transfer the honey roasted carrots to a serving platter immediately and garnish generously with fresh basil and some additional salt to taste.

I’ve had the new Mazzy Star album Seasons of Your Day on repeat for the past 4 hours and just on in general since I first listened to it being streamed on the CBC website. For the most part the album sounds like an extension of their earlier records and of the Warm Inventions which is exactly what I what anticipating and hoping for. This is rainy day music at its best and a dream soundtrack for the grey Vancouver weather we’ve been hurriedly thrown into; autumn always feels more inviting with the presence of fuzzy warmth in the form of music.

Mazzy Star – In the Kingdom

Carrot and Blueberry Salad with Za’atar dressing

This year I resolved to not only bring my lunch to work as close to every day as possible, but also to make lunches that extended beyond a sandwich and a piece of fruit. This resolution has opened up a world of midday meals that include cold cereal and milk with berries, ravioli soup with spinach that is constructed before popping in the microwave, coconut milk curries and what seems like endless salads. I certainly don’t mean endless as a pejorative, in fact my favourite lunches are carefully (or haphazardly) prepared combinations of vegetables, fruits, cheeses, seeds and nuts. This carrot and blueberry salad was engineered in several stages; first came the carrot and parsley, then the toasted almonds, then the blueberries and finally the mint – the za’atar dressing has always been non-negotiable. Although this combination of ingredients might sound cacophonic at first glance I can assure you that the combination of sweet, crunchy, astringent and citrusy flavours marry together to produce a melodious euphony of texture and taste. This salad will keep for about 24 hours before the mint starts to brown, of course this could be remedied by adding the mint as you eat (although I rarely find that this salad lasts longer than a supper and then lunch the following day.) The za’atar lends a crucial and intense earthiness to the dressing and somehow pulls the different ingredients together into a unified whole; za’atar can be found at any Middle Eastern grocery store or speciality spice shop.

carrot and blueberry salad with za’atar dressing:

1/2 pint of blueberries, washed and allowed to dry

5 medium-sized carrots, washed and shredded (I usually leave them unpeeled)

1 bunch of curly parsley

1/2 bunch of fresh mint

1/3 cup of slivered almonds, toasted

2 lemons, juiced (this makes the dressing very lemony, so act judiciously according to taste)

1 tsp. za’atar

2 Tbsp. grapeseed or mild olive oil

Kosher salt to taste

1. Combine the shredded carrots and blueberries in a large bowl. With a pair of sharp kitchen scissors snip the parsley and mint over the salad. Add the slivered almonds and the za’atar. Pour the lemon juice and oil over the salad and gently stir with a large fork to thoroughly combine. Eat immediately or within 24 hours.

I love Stereolab and I love Atlas Sound; this song hasn’t diminished in beauty for me since hearing it for the first time on the 401 in Ontario on a snowy night with my sister and my mom. I remember it was past midnight and the snow was like the blue ice you see in underwater photos of the Arctic. This song is gorgeous and it’s lush and it’s long, listen to it on your headphones loudly or quietly in your apartment while you cook – everything you do when you’re listening to this song becomes precious and real and ultimately good.

Atlas Sound – Quick Canal (featuring Lætitia Sadier of Stereolab)

Quick and Happy Carrot Ginger Soup

This is actually one of the easiest to prepare soups that I’ve ever made, it was so easy to make in fact that I was initially sceptical that this soup would taste the way I remembered it did the first time my sister made it for me when I was in high school. I shouldn’t have worried because this lovely marigold soup is bursting with sweetness and warmth. Arborio rice is puréed into the gorgeous carrot base, producing an almost impossibly velvety and vivid  soup that tastes delicious on its own or with grilled cheese and a salad (or for reassuring work lunches on freezing cold days such as today.)  This carrot and ginger soup boasts a mere 9 ingredient roster including the stock and 2 types of ginger – fresh and candied. By combining each of these types of ginger you’re lending the soup both fresh astringency and a gentle sweetness and heat. Ian and I are in full cosy mode right now, most of our evenings and dinners are spent on the couch with me watching Spaced and crocheting blankets while he plays video games; it feels so nice to have this little bubble of comfort and kindness to look forward to at the end of the day. When we enter into this quietened phase I like to have things like a pot of this carrot and ginger soup handy to be heated whenever we emerge from our own dreamlike world;  I just keep it in the same pot to reheat and pop it back into the fridge when I’m done with it.

quick carrot and ginger soup:

1 Tbsp. salted butter

1 Tbsp. lightly flavoured oil such as grapeseed or canola

1 lb. young carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

1 medium-sized sweet onion, peeled and diced

2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger

3 Tbsp. chopped candied ginger

3 Tbsp. arborio rice

3 cups of vegetable or chicken stock

Kosher salt to taste

1. Melt the oil and butter together in a large soup pot over medium heat; add the carrots and stir occasionally for 5 minutes. Add the onions and stir for a few minutes before adding both the fresh and candied ginger.

2. Stir in the arborio rice and turn the heat down to low. Put the lid on the pot and keep it covered on low heat for about half an hour in order to soften the carrots, onion and arborio rice. When they are completely soft add the stock and take off the heat. Using an immersion blender or regular stand up version purée the soup until smooth and serve immediately for instant happiness.

The best songs are the ones that stir up intense emotions, blissful or melancholic it doesn’t seem to matter. Ian put this song on a mixed CD for me almost 10 years ago, the first one he ever made me (and I have lots of subsequent mixes saved from over the course of our relationship, I treasure each and every one of them.) This song makes me feel the same sense of joy and enthralment that it did a decade ago, I feel so fortunate to have fallen into something that always feels like home.

The Ocean Blue – Ballerina Out of Control

Beef and Root Vegetable Stew

Mondays are now actually Sundays according to my current work schedule and I have spent this particular Sunday making beef stew. Beef stew epitomizes cozy afternoons spent lazily cooking and drinking mug after mug of Earl Grey tea while the rain falls ceaselessly outside your window. And also this:

If anything, that makes me feel like I’m in favourable company as a fan of a good beef stew, the kind that simmers for hours before you even think of eating it (or at least, you do think about it but restrain yourself.) This is a good beef stew to make if you don’t have any red wine on hand as most beef stew recipes call for anywhere between a half a cup and a whole bottle of the stuff, despite its absence this beef stew has an incredibly deep flavour with the perfectly brown beef accented by fresh rosemary and thyme, root vegetables, and a beautiful brown gravy that only gets better the longer it cooks. One of the best things about making a stew is the luxury of a mere half an hour or so of prep work and then the thing just sits on or in your stove, bubbling gently away, for anywhere between 2 and 4 hours while you carry on with your day (which for me meant reading cookbooks and absently tidying up the apartment.) I just used the root vegetables that I like best, rutabaga and sweet potato would also make excellent additions and I have made a very successful version of this beef stew using red onions cut into large chunks at the stage where the root vegetables are added. This also tastes best the next day but I rarely am able to hold out that long – eaten the day of it is still entirely successful in terms of both its flavour and soothing properties.

beef and root vegetable stew:

1.5 lbs. of extra-lean stewing beef

2 Tbsp. canola oil (or, if you happen to have some, rendered bacon fat)

2 stalks of celery, split down the middle and then cut into thin quarter moons

1 large carrot, peeled and cut into thin quarter moons

1 large yellow onion, cut in a medium-sized dice

About a litre of beef stock

2 large sprigs of fresh thyme

1 large sprig of rosemary

2 bay leaves

2 medium-sized potatoes, cut into largish chunks

1 small turnip, cut into largish chunks

1 large parsnip, cut into largish chunks

2 Tbsp. tomato paste

Salt to taste (I usually start with 2 tsp. and keep tasting as it cooks)

Freshly ground pepper to taste

About 1 additional cup of beef stock or tomato juice if the gravy needs to be thinned

1. The first step towards making beef stew is to brown the meat, many people use flour to speed up this process but I have always achieved what I think is a superior flavour when the flour has been omitted. Heat a large pot with the vegetable oil over medium-high heat for a few moments before adding the beef, you want the meat to sear almost instantaneously when it hits the oil.

2. Working quickly in batches (please resist the urge to crowd), brown meat on both sides – this should take no longer than 2 or 3 minutes. The goal is not to cook the beef but rather to create lovely caramelized bits of meat stuck to the bottom of the pot and to seal in the flavour of the cubed beef. Place the beef on a plate as you finish each batch.

3. Once all of the beef has been browned add a little of the beef stock to the bottom of the pot, scraping off anything left on the bottom of the pot from when the beef was being browned. Allow to to boil for a moment and then add the onions,  the entire head of garlic, the carrots, and the celery. Stir over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until they have softened and begun to brown.

3. Using kitchen twine tie the fresh thyme and rosemary together in a small bundle, tie the string to the pot handle so that the bundle has plenty of room to float around. Add the browned beef, bay leaves, salt and pepper, and beef stock to cover. Bring to a simmer, turn the heat to low, and cover tightly; let the stew simmer away for at least an hour and a half.

4. Uncover the stew and throw in the potatoes, turnip, and parsnip. Cover the stew again and let simmer at least another half an hour, uncover and stir in tomato paste and extra liquid if needed; let simmer gently for another 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning adjustments, remove the thyme and rosemary bundle, and the bay leaves. Serve immediately or for up to several days later, this beef stew also freezes very well for emergency comfort suppers and warming lunches.

Here’s a song that comes as close to something new from the Talking Heads as I’m going to get, and I say that with admiration. I’ve been listening to Seek Magic, an amazingly amazing New Order/Talking Heads style dance album by Memory Tapes on repeat for the past few weeks (on the bus, in the kitchen, going for runs, getting ready for work in the morning.) This song is my current favourite instantaneous dance party cue although the entire album is pretty brilliant on about 20 different levels (especially Plain Material, a really wonderful Cocteau Twins/David Byrne sort of song.)