First Night with Chef’s Plate

Recently, I decided to try Chef’s Plate, a service that delivers groceries and recipes. Essentially, these are dinners that you make yourself. I find I get a bit bored with the things we usually make, even though Mr. Math and I both cook. We end up going out for lunch or dinner once a week, and often are underwhelmed. This seemed like a good alternative. At about $66 CA per week for three dinners, it’s pretty comparable to going out once a week for a meal with wine.

There are a number of these services, but I chose Chef’s Plate because they’re located in the GTA, because they had more food options than other services, and because their meals looked more like dinners to me.

This is our first week. We joined for three dinners for two per week, and the box of ingredients arrived yesterday – in a blizzard! It came by FedEx. I was a bit concerned about the raw meat, but the box was insulated and there were freezer packs around the meat. They were still frozen, even though the box shipped Monday, and actually took all day to thaw in the sink after the box arrived.

Last night was our first dinner. It was Spicy Pork Sausage Ragu.

Fennel and Orange Salad made by Deborah Cooke

I was worried about the portion size. Mr. Math has a fast metabolism (even though he’s very lean) and he was out shovelling snow yesterday. I also thought this looked like a meal that needed a salad. We tend to eat a lot of vegetables so I have no issues augmenting the meal with a salad. I had a fennel in the fridge and an orange – this is the easiest salad in the world. You shred the fennel – a mandoline is great but I was too lazy to clean one, so just chopped the fennel fine – and put the cut orange on top. The juice is the dressing. It works equally well with a grapefruit, although Mr. Math is less of a fan of the grapefruit option.

The sauce was easy to make and the fresh pasta cooked very quickly. The spice in the sauce was perfectly complemented by the salad – a little zing and a little cool! – so I made a good choice. It was a wonderful meal!

I split the portions closer to 60/40 which worked out well for us.

Here’s Mr. Math’s dinner. He ate every bite.

Chef's Plate Spicy Pork Sausage Ragu made by Deborah Cooke

Afterward, he said to me that it was as if we had gone out to eat, but hadn’t. I knew exactly what he meant. The ragu was something I wouldn’t have made and the spice was different from what we usually do. It was delicious. In the novelty of a new taste sensation, it was like eating out – or eating someone else’s cooking. It was eating in, though, because I prepped it in our kitchen and we sat by the fire at home while we ate. I’m very pleased and have ordered for next week – even though we have two more dinners waiting to be prepared.

If you’d like to give Chef’s Plate a try, use this referral link to get three plates free in your first week. If it doesn’t work, enter #3platesFromDebC at checkout for the discount.

More Figs

We talked a while back about figs, and here I am talking about them again. This is what figs usually look like in my corner of the world. They come in boxes like this:


My grocery had maybe a dozen of these boxes – half this kind of fig and half of the rounder green ones that are more pink inside. They were so lovely that even at $9 a box, I couldn’t resist. (Although you can see why I was so excited to get a ripe box for 99 cents a few weeks back.) Right after taking this picture, I washed and ate the one at the bottom right, because it just looked too ripe to keep. Yum.

Now, I’ve already made some roasted figs and canned them. We don’t eat a lot of that as it’s quite rich (but delicious). These figs I was determined to eat fresh. We had them on a salad, which looked pretty much like this:


What a perfect summer lunch! These are local organic greens, scattered with some calendula petals. There’s a bit of chevre in the middle (that’s a soft goat cheese. This one is a bit firmer than others. It comes in a log and you slice off a bit each time. It does tend to crumble.) and then a fig. The dressing is a balsamic vinagrette. Figs are sweet, so the salad needs something tart or sharp to match them. The chevre does that, and these mixed greens have some bolder greens in them than lettuce. Arugula would work beautifully.

For variety this week, I made a salad with grilled asparagus, grilled figs and chevre with balsamic dressing. You could also add proscuitto to it.


Asparagus is easy to grill. The thicker asparagus works better. Trim it, wash it, rub olive oil on it and salt it. Warm the barbeque and put the asparagus on the grill. (Mr. Math puts it on the top rack.) Close the lid, but turn the asparagus a couple of times. It takes about ten minutes.

Grilling figs is done similarly but is much faster. Clean them, slice them in half and rub olive oil on the cut surface. Put them on the barbeque grill, cut side down, but leave them only for a minute or so. Serve them right away.

How do you eat your figs?

Cooking Experiments

I like to cook, and I have a fat book full of tested-and-true favourite recipes. Sometimes, though, you need to try something different. Last night, I tried TWO different things.

First up, the veggie burgers. I like veggie burgers. I’ve eaten them in restaurants many times and had a feeling I could do better.

I started with this recipe. I changed out the mayonnaise for an egg, as I dislike cooking mayonnaise. Otherwise I followed the directions. There was much goodness in these black bean burgers, but the consistency seemed wrong. I did have 19 oz cans of beans instead of 14 oz cans of beans, but still – the result looked more like something that could be spread on toast than made into patties. I also thought it was strange that the recipe didn’t call for salt and pepper, as beans dearly love salt. (Cordelia could have said “l love you, father, as beans love salt” IMO but Shakespeare clearly thought otherwise.)

So, out came the reliable hamburger recipe – which is really my mother’s meatloaf recipe. Several handfuls of oatmeal, salt and pepper, chopped sundried tomatoes in oil, dried onion flakes, all went into the mix until it looked right. I oiled the burger form and got 7 burgers out of the mix, plus a thin one, which we grilled. We had them with chevre and salsa, with oven-baked frites, canned corn and homemade asparagus pickles. HUGE success! Next time, I’ll make them with one can of beans though and we won’t have so many leftovers.

As a back-up plan, I made a cake. (Because dessert can fix everything and I was a bit worried about the veggie burgers.) I used this recipe but mixed it by hand. I couldn’t bring myself to put an entire cup of oil into the batter. I once had a neighbour who made an awesome carrot cake – she insisted that the secret was crushed pineapple in the batter. So, instead of the cup of oil, I used 4 tbsp of oil and a drained can of crushed pineapple instead. Wow. What a wonderful cake! We had it first warm, without icing. I’ll ice it later today and it’ll be a whole new thing. 🙂

Have you tried any new recipes lately?


I thought I wouldn’t be canning until later this summer, but yesterday I had a surprise. There were figs on the discount cart at the grocery store, 3 packages of them for 99 cents each. I didn’t even realize they had any in stock yet, so I pounced.

Figs tend to be expensive in Canada. They don’t grow here (at least not commercially) and they’re fragile, so shipping them when they’re ripe is an expensive process. They’re invariably past their prime when available, and really, it’s only in recent years that they’ve been available at all. I have one canning recipe that I love and last year it cost a bomb to put down – it requires three pounds of figs and makes four half-pint jars. It’s not a jam or a conserve, but simply roasted figs with lemons. It’s divine and I love it with a cheese course. Mr. Math wanted me to try it as the jam layer of a trifle which is an excellent idea, but I didn’t get to it last Christmas. Maybe this year.

So, yesterday when I saw 3 lbs of figs for roughly $2.99, I was in. I think these were Black Mission figs and I suspect they were from California. They’re deep purple on the outside and shades of pink on the inside. They certainly were ripe, but not appreciably different from the figs I bought at a much higher price last year. Last night, I roasted and canned them. They are lovely. 🙂

The base recipe is from a book called Canning for A New Generation by Liana Krissoff, and is called Slow-Roasted Fig Preserves with Lemon. The figs are cut up and roasted in the oven with lemon, some sugar and water for nearly four hours. At the end, I broke with the recipe and added a good shot of vanilla extract and some cinnamon. I ladled the hot figs into 1/2 pint jars and canned them in a boiling water bath – not for the five minutes recommended in the book but a good 20 mins. (Mr. Math also has a degree in biology. We like our microorganisms thoroughly dead.)

Unfortunately (ha) there was a partial jar that will have to be eaten soon. I don’t think there’s any worry of it going to waste.


Do you preserve figs?

Tart It Up

I’ve told you before about this tart, but now I’m going to tell you more. It’s just so good – and it looks good, too. Medieval food was about presentation as well as taste, and you could pipe this into a great hall with pride.

Chard tart baked by Deborah Cooke The recipe is from a book called THE MEDIEVAL KITCHEN: Recipes from France and Italy, by Odile Redon, Françoise Sabban and Silvano Serventi. Essentially, they went through medieval manuscripts in search of recipes. The recipes are presented in their initial form, then modernized, the way we’re used to seeing recipes written.

This is the Torta Bolognese or Herbed Swiss Chard and Cheese Pie. (page 141)

Just in case you don’t have the book at hand, here’s the excerpted modern version of the recipe.

Pâté brisée

1 lb raclette, young tomme de Savoie  or othre tomme, or cream cheese, softened. (450g)
7 ounces Swiss chard leaves (200g)
1 handful fresh parsley
1 tbsp fresh marjoram leaves or 1 tsp dried marjoram or oregano
4 tbsp butter at room temperature
4 eggs
1 egg yolk
black pepper

Prepare the pastry (okay, I shortened that. If you make pastry, you have a recipe already. Just do what you do.) and refrigerate.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Grate or mash the cheese. Trim and wash the greens and herbs. Chop them finely in a food processor, then add the cheese and process until you have a smooth green mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat the whole eggs and blend them into the mixture. Add salt to taste, and plenty of freshly ground pepper. Crush 3 or 4 threads of saffron between your fingers and add them to the mixture along with the softened butter. Process until thoroughly blended. Roll out about 2/3 of the dough and line a deep 9″ tart pan.  Add the filling, roll out the remaining pastry, and cover the pie, pressing the seams tightly shut. Set the tart pan on a baking sheet to catch any drips, and put in the oven. Crush a few threads of saffron between your fingers and add them to the egg yolk; beat well to blend and leave to infuse. When the pie has baked for 15 minutes, remove from the oven and paint the top crush with the egg yolk and saffron mixture. Return to the oven and bake for another 45 minutes to an hour.

That’s ©1998 University of Chicago.

Now, if you’re wondering what raclette or tomme cheeseChard tart baked by Deborah Cooke is, you’re not alone. I’ve eaten raclette and it’s yummy, but had no idea what kind of cheese to buy. I use the better part of a 16 oz tub of ricotta, as well as some other fragrant cheese grated, like Oka. I also add some chopped sun-dried tomatoes to the mixture and some sliced black olives. I don’t use a food processor – I just coarsely chop the Swiss chard leaves. We have teeth to chew our food and “a smooth green mixture” doesn’t sound that appealing to me.  With my changes, this is a fabulous tart that looks beautiful, too. Mr. C. makes his tomato salad to serve with it, the one with the carmelized onions and balsamic viniagrette, and neither one of us minds re-runs the next night.
What’s interesting – a note for you Swiss chard skeptics – is that it doesn’t taste much like chard. I used the same combination of ingredients in a quiche with no topping and the chard taste was very strong. This gets raves all around, though, so it’s how I’ll be using up the chard frozen from last summer’s garden.

Go on. You know you want to make one.