Tag Archives: Side dish

Moroccan-Spiced Carrots

18 Jun

With Ontario having such a great selection of produce to offer this time of year, I really want to make a point of eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, finding ways to work with them that don’t complicate their flavor. And enjoying them raw always makes me feel like I’m getting the very best out of them, both in flavor and nutrients.

A few weeks ago, we spotted these beautiful Ontario-grown heirloom carrots at Rowe Farms in Leslieville, and I knew right away what I wanted to do with them.

I’ve been experimenting with Moroccan-spiced raw carrot salad over the last year and every time I make it, it comes out great no matter what balance of ingredients I use. I like adding a good amount of heat to it, but you can adjust any of the spices to taste.

I’ve tried cutting the carrots into rounds, grating them into fine shards, slicing them into thin long pieces – it’s really just a matter of what you prefer texture-wise.

The mix of Moroccan spices blends so nicely with the earthiness of the carrots. And with the gorgeous colors of the heirlooms, this salad is both bursting with deliciousness & vibrant color. It’s a really easy side dish to pair with just about any meal, especially during barbeque season… 

Moroccan-Spiced Carrots

Approx 8-10 heirloom carrots, varying sizes

1 ½ Tbsp good strong olive oil – I used a bold Portuguese olive oil

½ tsp cumin

¼ tsp paprika

¼ tsp chili flakes – I used a little more for good heat

Light sprinkling of turmeric

¼ tsp true cinnamon

¼ tsp garlic or onion powder

Sea salt

Wash and peel your carrots – but be careful with the purple ones! They stain just like red beets.

Cut your carrots to suit your mood – I like cutting them into chunky small rounds or half moons. 

Throw them into a bowl, add the spices and olive oil and sea salt to taste. Mix well. Let them marinate in the fridge for at least 20-minutes before serving.



Food Find: Celery Root

20 Apr

This isn’t really a true ‘food find’ since I have seen celery root many times before, staring me in the face as I walked through the vegetable isle in the grocery store, looking like an alien life form.

I would always notice it, sitting there looking intimidating, strange and confusing. Which is why I was so intrigued when I spotted Ontario-grown celery root on the shelf at Rowe Farms in Leslieville a few weeks ago.

I picked up one of the round, furrowed bulbs and curiously asked someone behind the counter for his opinion on the best way to cook it. He advised me to scrub it carefully to remove dirt and then steam or boil it, keeping as much of the skin on as possible, because that’s where all the good nutrients are. Great tip. I appreciated that. He also told me to think about adding a bit of sweetness to the final product since it tends to be quite bitter.

Celery root, often called ‘celeriac’, is related to celery, though grown as a root vegetable. Unlike other root vegetables though, it’s lower in starch, which makes it a great choice for a side dish mash or puree.

When you cut into it, it immediately smells like traditional celery but with an earthier kick. The taste is actually milder than celery though but definitely has an earthiness. I didn’t find the ones we bought to be too bitter but I still took the advice I was given to heart.

I decided to make a simple chunky mash with clean flavors so we could really appreciate and taste the celery root. All I added to the mash was some honey, olive oil, a touch of onion powder and salt. It was delicious.

It had a really great texture and I was happy that I left some of the skin on and mashed it roughly. It was creamy yet chunky at the same time and nice and thick without being gluey like mashed potato or other starchy root vegetables. It had a really nice earthy flavor but it wasn’t bitter in an unpleasant way at all. The sweetness from the honey just helped season it up a little, along with the other simple ingredients.

We served it alongside lemon chicken and it was a perfect pairing.

I’m very intrigued to try cooking with it in different ways. I think it would be fantastic mashed with roasted apple or pear to add that sweetness instead of honey, or pureed with asparagus or something similar and served with fish. It also tasted really good raw, so I’d like to find some interesting ways to use it as is.

Moral of the story: Don’t be afraid of the alien-like fruits or vegetables calling out to you on your next visit to the grocery store of farmers market! There could be something really amazing lurking beneath the surface…

Chunky Celery Root Mash

2 bulbs of celery root

Good olive oil


Onion Powder

Sea Salt

Grab your celery root and a good vegetable scrubbing brush and scrub it well under warm water.

Cut off the top and bottom of each celery root bulb and any wiry, nubby parts, keeping as much skin as you can to keep all the nutrients.

Cut into cubes. Steam or boil the celery root chunks until tender. I used a microwavable steamer and steamed them for 10 minutes.

Mash with a potato masher, add in some olive oil, sea salt, honey, onion powder (or garlic powder) to taste.

Serve as you would mashed potato or any other mashed root vegetable. 

Middle Eastern “Caesar” Salad

8 Apr

A few weeks ago some friends and I threw a baby shower lunch for a wonderful mom-to-be. We put out a delicious spread, including some hummus that I quickly jazzed up with a sprinkling of za’atar. I couldn’t believe how many people actually made a point of asking me what it was or why the hummus tasted so good! Multiple people commented on how delicious it was and hardly any of them had heard of my incredibly handy ‘secret ingredient’.

If you haven’t tried za’atar, take a look for it next time you’re in a spice shop or specialty food store. It’s a blend of herbs including oregano & thyme mixed with sesame seeds, sumac and salt. It’s often used in Middle Eastern cooking and it’s a truly divine spice mix to add to your spice collection.

One of my favorite ways to eat it is just simply sprinkled onto lightly olive-oiled pita bread, warmed and toasted in a toaster oven. It makes a great accompaniment to salad.

But an idea came to me that builds on that idea and brings the za’atar and bread right into the salad itself. Enter homemade za’atar croutons.

I never think to make croutons myself and I don’t particularly like store-bought ones, but after proving to myself how easy and painless it is to make them at home, I have a feeling I’ll be adding them to my repertoire. It was so easy and they tasted so good without being too buttery or overloaded with oil and grease.

I didn’t really know how this salad was going to turn out, but the flavors of tahini and lemon were no-brainers when I was dreaming up what would blend well with my za’atar croutons.

Putting this whole salad together took very little time, effort and amount of ingredients. I made it as a side dish to accompany fish, but I think it would make a killer main dish salad with the addition of baked falafel balls or grilled chicken.

The dressing is so creamy and rich and the croutons are so decadent and flavorful, that upon taking the first bite, I immediately thought “Middle-Eastern Caesar!” In reality, it has nothing to do with a true Caesar salad, but it’s reminiscent of one in it’s own special, spiced-up way.

Middle Eastern “Caesar” Salad


1 big Tbsp tahini

Juice of half a lemon

Onion powder to taste

Cumin to taste

Olive oil

Hot water

Sea salt


Good quality bread (fresh or day-old), cubed

Olive oil


Sea salt



Cucumber, chopped

In a bowl, toss bread cubes with a few drizzles of olive oil and a little bit of sea salt. Add about a teaspoon of za’atar (or to taste) and toss to coat.

Heat a frying pan on medium heat and add in the bread cubes. Toast for approximately 10 minutes, constantly turning the pieces of bread until all sides are nice and golden.

Remove from heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the tahini with the lemon juice. It will firm up quite a bit. Add in small amounts of hot water, a little bit at a time, until you get a nice smooth consistency. Drizzle in a little bit of olive oil and mix. Add some onion powder, cumin and a little bit of sea salt. Whisk everything together and set aside.

In a large serving bowl, add the arugula and cucumber. Dress it with the tahini dressing and toss well. Add in the za’atar croutons and give it one final toss before serving.

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