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Warm Cauliflower & Herbed Barley Salad

21 Feb

I am always looking for new ways to incorporate grains and veggies into our diets.  This recipe appeared in an issue of Bon Appetit magazine and I thought it had excellent potential. Yes, the dressing has mayo but it’s only one tablespoon for an entire head of cauliflower and a pile of barley.

A lot of people don’t seem to care for cauliflower that much (“It smells like feet!” a friend once exclaimed), but I’ve always liked it. It’s especially nice here with little caramelized spots lending some sweetness to each floret. You can most definitely do this salad ahead of time and it’s even better the next day. I made mine without the beans as none of those goes over particularly well in our house, but I have no doubt they could work in the salad. Instead, I doubled the amount of barley.

Serves 4 with lots of leftovers.

Ingredients

1/2 c pearled barley
1 tb lemon zest
3 tb lemon juice
1 tb mayo
1 ts Dijon mustard
6 tb extra virgin olive oil
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 15-oz can of corona, gigante or butter beans
1/2 c fresh parsley, chopped
2 tb fresh tarragon, chopped
salt & pepper

Directions

1. Place barley and 1.5 cups of water (or broth) in a large saucepan with a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 25-30 minutes. Set ‘er aside.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the lemon juice, mayo, Dijon mustard and 5tb of olive oil until the mixture emulsifies.
3. Heat a large pan to medium and add the remaining oil. Toss in the cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Turn the florets over occasionally and cook roughly 10 minutes, until you start to see brown spots appearing. Add in 2tb of water, cover and steam for two more minutes.
4.  Transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl. Add half of the parsley and tarragon, barley and dressing. (If you’re using the beans, this is when you would add them.) Stir to coat everything thoroughly.  Season with salt and pepper if necessary.
5. Divide the salad among 4 bowls. Garnish with lemon zest and the rest of the herbs.

photo

Vietnamese Pork & Vegetable Lettuce Cups

5 Jun

With the weather taking a turn for the better, the desire to eat a little lighter has kicked in. These lettuce cups are a little bit labour intensive – nothing hard, just a lot of vegetable chopping – but they pack a lot of flavour in each bite. The sauce is salty and spicy; the filling is crunchy and satisfying. The recipe is very adaptable: you can make it vegetarian, spicier, milder, switch up the fillings, use tortillas instead of lettuce, etc. You can certainly substitute the pork for turkey, chicken or beef and use whatever vegetables you have in the fridge.

Serves 4.

Ingredients

3 tb vegetable oil
1/2 small red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 sweet peppers, diced
3 carrots, diced
handful mushrooms, chopped
1/2 bunch asparagus, diced
1 pkg ground pork
4 ts chili paste (I used sambal oelek)
2 tb fish sauce
2 ts brown sugar
juice of 3 limes, zest of 1 lime
1 head of butter lettuce, washed & separated
1 bunch of mint leaves, torn

Directions

1. Heat 1tb of oil in a large pan or a wok to medium-high heat. Add in the garlic and 2ts of chili paste. Sauté for 1 minute.
2. Add in the pork, onion, peppers and carrots. Break up the pork with a wooden spoon. Cook 5 minutes and then add in the mushrooms and asparagus. Cook 3-4 more minutes until the pork is no longer pink. Allow it to cool a bit.
3. In the meantime, whisk together the remaining oil, chili paste, fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice & zest in a small bowl. Set aside.
4. Scoop the filling into the lettuce cups, then top with some sauce and garnish with mint. Should you like your food on the spicy side, you can also top with a little more chili paste or hot sauce.

Three Ways to Make an Audience Hungry

17 Apr

To find oneself sitting in a studio on a nearly-empty stomach with Michael Bonacini, Massimo Capra and Jason Parsons is a bit torturous. The smells wafting forth from the stove over the course of 30 minutes are pretty intoxicating. J and I sat through the taping of a Cityline show featuring the three chefs using a variety of fresh herbs, wishing we could sneak up and steal bites off the plates. Chef Bonancini featured rosemary in a beautiful branzino dish; chef Capra made a creative BBQ pork and chive pancake; and chef Parsons used chervil in a light lamb loin dish.

Chef Capra and me

Chef Capra and me

Chef Bonacini and I...just hangin'  with some herbs.

Chef Bonacini and me…just hangin’ with some herbs.

In addition to the plates the chefs put up, the show discussed planting various herbs for use at home. We have sage, thyme and lemon thyme ready to go and a basil plant that has miraculously lived for months on our windowsill (apparently I left my black thumb of death back at our old apartment!). This show got me motivated to get out into my garden – now that I have one – and plant some rosemary, mint and maybe some chives, too!

herbs

The beautiful array of greenery on display.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some planting and cooking to get to..

Sauteed Vegetables with Soba Noodles

1 Jun

Currently, I am addicted to soba noodles. In truth, I love any kind of noodle (carb queen!) but these are my latest obsession. They’re easy to make and can be used in all sorts of dishes from salads to stir-frys. Last night, I went on a vegetarian tear, cutting up all sorts of spring veggies and some tofu for an Asian-flavoured dish with a soy-rice wine vinegar-hoisin-Sriracha sauce. If I’d had some mirin, I’d have used that, too, but I just grabbed what I had in the cupboards.

Serves 3 – 4

Ingredients

2 packages soba noodles, cooked
2 tb vegetable oil
1 2-inch piece of ginger, grated or finely diced
1 shallot, finely diced
4-5 stalks asparagus, ends trimmed, cut to bite-sized pieces
1 c broccoli
1 – 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
2 tb soy sauce
1 tb hoisin
1 1/2 c firm tofu, drained and cubed
4 – 5 handfuls of spinach leaves
1 c peas
2 tb rice wine vinegar
Sriracha to taste

Directions

1. In a large pan, heat the oil to medium heat. Add the ginger and shallot and sauté for 3 minutes.
2. Add the asparagus, broccoli and carrots along with the soy and hoisin. Sauté another 3-4 minutes.
3. Toss the spinach in next and allow to wilt a little before adding the tofu and peas. Salt and pepper to taste.
4. Add in the rice wine vinegar and Sriracha to taste.
5. Serve over the cooked soba noodles. Garnish with sesame seeds and scallions if you like!

Pickled Red Onions

23 May

As a mini-project over the long weekend, I decided to make pickled red onions. I’m sure I could have bought them, but we happen to have a surplus of them at home so it made a lot more sense just to make my own…especially when I discovered how easy it is! The onions turn bright pink and become crunchy as they cool. They keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks and can be used in a wide variety of dishes!

Ingredients

1 red onion, sliced as thinly as possible
1/2 c cider vinegar
1/2 ts salt

Directions

1. In a small pot, blanch the onion slices for 1 minute in boiling water. Strain.
2. Place the onion back in the pot with the vinegar, salt and just enough cold water to cover everything.
3. Bring to a boil and cook 1 more minute.
4. Place the entire mixture (brine and onions) into a glass container and chill.

Quick, Healthy Vegetarian Curry

6 Mar

Back from vacation, it’s my turn to cook and…there’s just about nothing in the fridge. I have the chance to go the grocery store, but won’t be home for a while nor near a fridge so meat and cheese are out. What’s a girl to do? Make a simple, healthy, flavourful curry, that’s what!

I’ve made a number of curries before but they tend to be coconut milk-based and require a number of ingredients. This time, I wanted to try something that was a little healthier but just as delicious. Enter: simple veggie curry. Lots of healthy ingredients and it only takes about 20 minutes total to make. I topped mine with a spicy mango chutney that balanced out all the flavours nicely.

Serves 2.

Ingredients

1 tb canola oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tb fresh ginger, minced or grated
2 ts curry powder
1 ts garam masala
1/2 head cauliflower florets
15 oz can of chick peas, drained and rinsed
15 oz can of diced tomatoes, including juice
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 c frozen peas

Directions

1. Heat the canola oil in a large saucepan to medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger,  curry powder and masala. Stir and cook til fragrant, 2-3 minutes.
2. Add the cauliflower florets to the pan and toss to coat. Then add chick peas and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Place a lid on the pan and simmer til cauliflower is tender, stirring occasionally, 10-15 minutes.

Cooking away...

4. Add in frozen peas and stir. Cook til they’re warmed through, 2-3 minutes.
5. Serve on basmati rice. If you desire, top with yogurt and/or mango chutney.

Spicy Sauteed Rapini w/ Pine Nuts & Raisins

25 Jan

Apparently, I’ve become a grown up. I am now voluntarily eating not just Brussels sprouts but now rapini! Traditionally not  a big fan of bitter greens, I have warmed to them in the last year so long as they are balanced with other flavours to cut through the bitterness. Cue J making Giada de Laurentiis’  sautéed rapini that has a nice kick with some chili flakes and sweetness from a handful raisins.  This side dish looked fantastic served in our colourful casserole dishes!

Serves 2.

Ingredients

2 bunches rapini, stems trimmed
3 tb olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 ts red pepper flakes
1/4 c raisins
salt
2 tb pine nuts, toasted

Directions

1. Blanch the rapini by dropping it in a pot of boiling water for 1 minute, then transferring it to an ice bath. Reserve roughly 1/4 of the cooking liquid.
2.  Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and sauté  about 1 minute.
3. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the rapini. Toss to coat.
4. Add half the the reserved cooking water, the raisins, and cook until the rapini is heated through and the stems are tender, about 4 minutes. Season with salt, to taste.
5. Right before you’re ready to serve, add the pine nuts and toss so that all the ingredients have combined.

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