‘A Generous Meal’: Fuss-Free Recipes From Canadian Chef Christine Flynn
Lemony Spaghetti Squash with Burrata and Herbs (above) makes for easy entertaining since it can be made earlier in the day and then served at room temperature. Photo: Suech and Beck
If you’re like me, dinner plans are apt to change drastically as the day wears on. That early morning optimism for cooking up something new and exciting, a cosy meal to balance the busy workday, begins to fade even by mid-afternoon. Fatigue sets in, and way too often dinner ends up being a mishmash of leftovers from the weekend or worse, involves firing up the food delivery app (again).
This is where Niagara foodie and proprietor of Good Earth Food and Wine Co. Christine Flynn comes in. Her latest cookbook A Generous Meal: Modern Recipes for Dinner is all about making meal prep easier without sacrificing on specialness or taste. In essence, creating magic from ordinary, everyday ingredients. “It [the book] is full of wonderful recipes inspired, of course, by my career as a chef, but also by my role as a busy mum trying to get a hot meal on the table without too much fuss that everyone will like,” she says.
The result is more than 100 simple but palate-pleasing recipes for dishes such as Spaghetti Squash with Burrata, Tomato Roasted Salmon and Pan-fried Brussel Sprouts with Lemon and Pecorino (all of which are featured below). And to finish things off, did I mention a pear cake? But first, we tap into Flynn’s culinary expertise for her tips on stress-free entertaining, pantry essentials and, true to these inflationary times, ways to lower food costs.
Cooking on a Budget: With rising food costs, many readers are looking for ways to stretch their dollars at the grocery. Do you have any savings tips and dishes you would recommend?
I wrote A Generous Meal during peak COVID, at a time when I was underemployed, single and juggling two kids. So, the book was created with finances in mind, but also a passion for good eating.
I think cooking at home, in general, is a great way to get the most out of your food budget and I also think that things like cabbage and potatoes, if given the right treatment, can be absolutely delicious and, for many of us, evoke memories of good meals past. One of my favourite recipes from the book, which isn’t particularly pretty to look at, but is more than the sum of its parts, is Sauerkraut Soup. It’s made with both fresh cabbage and sauerkraut, and has big chunks of fried kielbasa bobbing around alongside tender turnip in a rich tomato broth. It’s a peasant dish really, but next to a thickly buttered slice of rye bread it’s just about as good as it gets.
Easy Entertaining: What is your go-to dish for cooking and entertaining without the stress?
The most important thing is to set the table the day before and to buy good bread because then you have the confidence of a good foundation. After that, I usually make a few different dishes. I like to put out something like Lemony Spaghetti Squash with Burrata and Herbs [recipe below] because I can make that a bit earlier in the day. And then, oven-charred cabbage and roast chicken, as they only take about 20 minutes or so in the oven at the same temperature. You don’t want to be fussing too much when you should be hosting. I just platter everything up, slice the bread, open a few tins of stuffed grape leaves or marinated peppers, uncork something nice to drink and enjoy myself.
Must-Haves: What items/ingredients do you keep stocked in your pantry/fridge?
I always have eggs, cabbage, bread, tinned fish, good olive oil like Abandoned Grove, my Buzz Hot Honey and a big jug of white vinegar.
Finding Comfort: What is your go-to comfort food dish?
I tend to go back and forth between very good toast and very good broth.
Snack Attack: What is your favourite snack, healthy and otherwise?
I have a little write-up in A Generous Meal about what I call “Personal Snacks”, which are often the things I gravitate towards when I am alone, hungry and looking for something deeply satisfying at the end of a long day. I’ve been known to reach for potato chips topped with prosciutto, ice cream with cacao nibs and of course, toast.
This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity
Pan Fried Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Pecorino Serves
I grew up eating Brussels sprouts that had been boiled to an anemic state, each with a deep “X” cut into its base. It wasn’t until I was a student in New York and tried my first deep-fried Brussels sprout at a David Chang restaurant that I realized I had been missing out on an incredibly versatile and flavourful vegetable. Although this recipe sidesteps the deep fryer, cooking the Brussels sprouts in a cast iron skillet really brings out their texture and nuttiness. Lemon and pecorino cheese make this dish bright, and adding pistachios makes it so craveable and moreish that it never lasts long.
4 ¼ cup (60 ml) neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola
1½ pounds (675 g) Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon (2 ml) salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) Dijon mustard
Pinch of dried red chilies
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon (15 ml) pistachio oil or extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup (60 ml) toasted pistachios, chopped
1 cup (250 ml) ﬁnely grated pecorino
- In a medium cast iron skillet, heat about half of the neutral oil over high heat, until it starts to shimmer. Add about half of the Brussels sprouts and sprinkle with about half of the salt. Let the sprouts caramelize over high heat without stirring for 1 to 2 minutes, reducing the heat if they start to look too dark. Stir once. Continue to cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes until the sprouts are charred but still crunchy. Transfer the sprouts to a large bowl or platter. Repeat with the remaining oil, Brussels sprouts, and salt.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the Dijon, chilies, lemon juice, and pistachio oil. Drizzle the mixture over the sprouts. Add the pistachios and about half of the pecorino. Toss well to combine. Top with the remaining pecorino. Serve immediately.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Lemony Spaghetti Squash with Burrata and Herbs
Squash is often overlooked in the summer months, even though it grows terrifically well alongside the tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini most people associate with a summer garden. I like this dish because it shows how bright and versatile squash is, but also because you can put it together in a lazy summer way where you roast the squash and then let it hang out for a bit while you get the other ingredients ready, water the aforementioned tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini, or enjoy a quiet glass of piquette. Serving the squash at room temperature may be surprising, but once you dig in to it with the burrata, lemon, and herbs, it will all make sense and you will want to do it again and again.
1 medium spaghetti squash, halved and seeded
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 teaspoons (10 ml) + 2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt, more to taste
Juice of 1 lemon
Pinch of ground red chilies Cracked black pepper
1 cup (250 ml) loosely packed soft herbs such as basil, mint, and parsley
8 ounces (225 g) burrata cheese Chili oil, for drizzling
- Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.
- Rub the cut sides of the squash with the garlic. Drizzle the inside of each squash half with about 1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and place the squash, cut side down, on the prepared baking sheet.
- Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the squash is tender and easily pulls away from the skin with a fork. Flip the squash halves so that they are cut side up. Let cool to room temperature.
- Using a fork, scrape the squash flesh into strands. Transfer the flesh to a medium bowl. Toss the squash with the remaining 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil, the lemon juice, and chilies. Season with the salt and pepper to taste. Fold in about half of the herbs. Place the squash on a large platter. Working over the squash to catch any drips, tear the burrata into 2 or 3 chunks and garnish with the remaining herbs. Drizzle with the chili oil. Serve immediately.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Tomato Roasted Salmon
When you put this dish out, everyone will think you had your party catered. In a good way. It feels like something you would pay $200 for, but it’s not. And even though blitzing up some tomatoes and spreading them on a fish is fairly straightforward, it feels a bit special too.
Serves 6 to 8
1 jar (8 ounces/225 g) sundried tomatoes packed in oil
5 cloves Garlic Confit, plus a drizzle of its oil
1 tablespoon (15 ml) capers
1 tablespoon (15 mL) white vinegar
¼ cup (60 ml) fresh flat-leaf parsley, briefly chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling 1 (2- to 3-pound/0.9 to 1.35 kg)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
- Place the tomatoes, garlic confit and its oil, capers, and vinegar in a high-speed blender and pulse to combine. Unplug the blender and, using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the jar to make sure everything is well mixed. Plug in the blender again. Add the parsley and pulse again a few times. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 250 F (120 C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and drizzle it with olive oil.
- Lay the salmon on the prepared baking sheet, skin side down. Sprinkle with the salt. Drizzle it with a little more olive oil. Set the oven to broil. Broil for 15 minutes.
- Remove the salmon from the oven and smoosh the tapenade over the flesh side of the fish. It doesn’t have to be too neat, so don’t be fussy. Reduce the oven heat to 250 F (120 C). Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the fish is just cooked through. This dish is very good served hot, but it’s also fine served at ambient temperature or even chilled.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Leftovers are very good smashed onto crusty bread with thinly sliced cucumber and just a whisper of Aioli.
This pear cake is very easy to make and also quite beautiful in its simplicity. You can, of course, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a cloud of just barely sweetened whipped cream, but it’s also wonderful on its own, at ambient temperature or even chilled, as part of a mid-afternoon coffee klatsch with a good friend.
Makes one 9-inch (23 cm) round cake
¾ cup (175 ml) + 1 tablespoon (15 ml) granulated sugar, divided
¾ cup (175 ml) extra-virgin olive oil or good-quality canola oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
½ teaspoon (2 ml) ground nutmeg
1 cup (250 ml) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons (10 ml) baking powder 4 small ripe Red Anjou or Bosc pears, halved and cored
Vanilla ice cream, to serve (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Butter a 9-inch (23 cm) round cake pan.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together ¾ cup (175 ml) of the sugar and the olive oil. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well with a rubber spatula after each addition. Add the lemon zest, salt, and nutmeg. Stir to combine. Sift in the flour and baking powder. Stir until just combined.
- Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Use a spatula to spread it in an even layer. Place the pears, cut side up, in the batter, but don’t press them in more than about ½ inch (1 cm), as the batter will rise as it bakes. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of sugar on top. Bake for 30 to 32 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for a few minutes before serving.
- Cut the cake into squares and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Excerpted from A Generous Meal by Christine Flynn. Copyright © 2023 Christine Flynn. Photographs by Suech and Beck. Published by Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
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