Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What's cooking Wednesday

It's time to pull another cookbook off my shelf and wipe off the dust. For the next month I'll be revisiting a book my sister bought me years ago for Christmas: A Taste for Justice: A Bridgehead Cookbook. Back then Bridgehead was a trading company owned by OXFAM-Canada. They imported coffee, tea and other agricultural goods (mainly spices) from over 24 Third World countries. Their goal was to bring about a more equitable distribution of wealth betwen the First and Thrid Worlds. Essentially, they were one of the first organizations (they were established in 1981) practising fair trade. The term wasn't even coined yet. The cookbook is a collection of recipes that use Bridgehead fair trade ingredients (cashews, cinnamon, coffee, wild rice, etc). Each recipe always suggests using one Bridgehead ingredient but of course you can use what you have. The idea is of course to change the way we behave in the world, thinking through where your food is coming from, who is producing it and how our eating is affecting the world around us. Rather radical for 1990 when the book was published. The recipes were family recipes that volunteers collected from across Canada. The book is short, only 129 pages and not all of those are recipe pages but I've always had success with it although there are many, many recipes I haven't tried. That's about to change.

I should say that Bridgehead as a company has changed since 1990. They now only trade tea and coffee and boy, do they do it well. It is by far my favourite coffee house chain in Ottawa. They coffee is outstanding as is the food they make themselves (all organic of course). I love the atmosphere - completely unpretentious.

Tonight I made a leg of lamb and had some wilty asparagus to go along with it. I found a casserole recipe in the book that seemed perfect for my sad asparagus. And it was. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture. You'll just have to imagine a saucy, cheesy vegetable dish like mom used to make.

Nellie's Cheesy Asparagus

(I cut it in half)

6-8 medium onions, quartered and then boiled for about 5 minutes
2 1/2 cups asparagus in bite-sized pieces
1 cup shredded old cheddar cheese
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cashews (I used sliced almonds)

Preheat oven to 350F. Place half of prepared onions in a lightly buttered 6 cup casserole. Cover with half the asparagus; sprinkle with half the cheese. Repeat the onion and asparagus layers but reserve remaining cheese.

In mediume saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the milk, stirring continuously, until sauce is thickened and bubbling. Season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over vegetables.

Back uncovered for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheese and cashews. Return to oven and bake for 10 minutes or until cheese melts and bubbles. Makes 6 portions.

This was a lot better than I expected. When I read through it I thought it sounded a bit plain but it really did remind me of simple, delicious stuff my mum would often make. The onions are what really make this flavourful. The white sauce and cheese make it comfort food.

I wouldn't make this with fresh spring asparagus as it would hid the freshness of it but it is great for some tired old asparagus like mine. Hope loved it and Emily would have too if she had been at all hungry.

It reminded me of the surprises in this book. I look forward to finding some more gems.

1 comment:

Shan said...

That would be a big hit here at our house, with the grown ups anyway.