Tag Archives: vegetarian

Curried Cauliflower & Chickpea Stew with Kale

30 Oct

It’s crazy how quickly the seasons change. Every year at the start of fall it feels like the weather turns way too quickly and all of the sudden flip flops get replaced with boots, tank tops with cozy sweaters. I always spend a good few weeks in denial, not wanting to say goodbye to the warmth of summer.

And then somehow you reach a point when it finally feels good to welcome fall and the crispness in the air is familiar and maybe even comforting. I made this stew on one such night a few weeks back. It was the day I succumbed & fully welcomed the changing leaves, the need to grab a scarf in the morning and that feeing that there’s no turning back – winter is on its way.

It was the kind of fall evening where it felt really good to be at home, listening to good music, cooking something hot and satisfying in my kitchen.

I was craving something healthy but rich and this stew did the trick. It’s the kind of meal that warms you from the inside out.

I used a Malaysian curry powder blend that I recently bought at Jean’s Vegetarian Kitchen on Danforth (I’m obsessed with their Malaysian Curry Eggplant) and it had the perfect balance of flavors for this recipe. But you can of course make your own blend pretty easily. I would recommend using a mix of dried spices instead of just straight up curry powder because you need that depth of flavor.

The Malaysian curry blend that I used has a really nice kick to it without being overly spicy. It’s a mix of: coriander, cumin, fennel, pepper, cayenne, turmeric, anise, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, mustard seed, cloves, fenugreek & cardamom.

If you don’t have all of those ingredients, I suggest mixing the more common ones: yellow curry powder, garlic or onion powder, ground fennel and cumin, cayenne, turmeric, cinnamon, powdered mustard.

This is the kind of dish that you can’t really screw up. Adjust to your tastes.

Curried Cauliflower & Chickpea Stew with Kale

1 Medium onion, chopped

1 shallot, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 head cauliflower, chopped into medium sized florets

1 bunch of black kale, chopped

1 can chickpeas, drained

1 can coconut milk (regular or light)

1 tin diced tomatoes (I only had whole ones, so I chopped them myself)

5 tsp curry blend (I used Malaysian curry powder and they were heaping tsp’s)

2 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper

Heat olive oil on high, add onions and shallot, sauté until brown (about 8 min).

Add the curry powder and sauté with onions for a minute. Add carrots, cauliflower and chickpeas and mix well. Season with a bit of salt.

Add in tomatoes with a bit of the juice and coconut milk. Add in the chopped kale.

Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes to a half hour or more. Season with salt and pepper and serve bubbling hot.

Makes great lunch leftovers. I even ate mine cold for lunch the next day and it was delicious.


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.



Fried Rice-Style Quinoa with Grilled Pineapple & Cashews

23 May

It probably seems like I’ve completely disappeared off the face of the online world, and to be honest, it kind of feels that way from my end too. But as Neil said in his last post, life has been busier than ever and it’s not only been hard to get back into the groove of blogging, but cooking as well.

But a few nights ago I had a strange craving that sparked some much-needed inspiration and led me right back into the kitchen to turn an idea into a reality. It felt good. Oh, how I’ve missed feeling inspired and motivated in my poor little neglected kitchen.

The unusual craving was for fried rice with lots of veggies. I have absolutely no idea where that came from because I rarely eat fried rice in the first place. But there it was.

I wanted to turn my craving into a one-dish meal that was actually somewhat healthy, so I immediately defaulted to one of my favorite ingredients: quinoa. I wanted to keep it vegetarian so I planned to add a ton of vegetables and some scrambled egg, which is delicious in fried rice anyway. But then thoughts of perfectly grilled pineapple and crunchy cashews invaded my brain and I knew that I had a complete dish on my hands.

Once again Neil made an immediate judgmental face when I told him what I was going to make for dinner. It’s his shtick when it comes to quinoa. He tells himself that he hates it and assumes it’s going to be terrible no matter what I do to it. But seeing as how we’ve been too lazy to cook lately and there I was offering to take care of dinner on my own, he quieted down pretty fast. 

But just as I expected, after a few apprehensive bites, he was in. I could see him liking it more and more as he ate and by the time the plate was completely clean, he admitted that it was a pretty awesome meal that he would absolutely eat again.

I used organic quinoa and I have no idea if it actually made a difference or not, but I will say that once it was cooked, it was totally neutral and had no trace of that sometimes strange/bitter flavor that quinoa can have. I did still rinse it really well before cooking it, but either way, the quinoa took on the flavors of fried rice beautifully.

The pineapple and cashews were such a delicious addition and because I used so much garlic and ginger, there were a few layers of flavor that came through. It would be really great with tofu either instead of or in addition to the egg as well.

We took the leftovers for lunch the next day and ate it cold and it was still great. I may have even gotten a mid-day email from my lovely husband telling me again how much he liked it.

I’ve really missed enjoying the fruits of my labour in the kitchen. There’s nothing like coming up with a great idea, seeing it through and enjoying its success. Especially when your skeptical husband admits you were right… that’s always a bonus.

Fried Rice-Style Quinoa with Grilled Pineapple & Cashews

Sesame oil

½ large white onion

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 large knob of ginger, chopped

Carrots, chopped

Oyster mushrooms, chopped

Broccoli florets

3 Eggs

Tamari soy sauce (or regular soy sauce)

Fresh lime

Green onion, chopped

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

3-4 fresh pineapple rings

Handful of cashews, roughly chopped

Rinse the quinoa really well under fast-running cold water. Bring the 2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan and add the rinsed quinoa. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for approximately 12 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, cover and set aside. 

Heat a grill pan on high heat until it’s really hot. Place the pineapple rings in the pan and grill on each side until the outside has nice dark grill marks and is nicely caramelized. Take off the heat and set aside.

Heat a wok or large pan on medium high heat until really hot. Add some sesame oil and the onion. Cook until the onion is nice and brown. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add in the chopped carrot and broccoli florets and cook for a few more minutes.  Add the chopped mushroom and keep cooking until any moisture has evaporated. I raised the heat slightly to help cook off the liquid from the mushrooms.

Add some soy sauce (to taste) into the pan and stir-fry well.

Add the cooked quinoa to the stir-fried vegetables and mix. I added a touch more sesame oil to flavor the quinoa and to help it stir-fry in the pan as well. Drizzle in more soy sauce, if needed, and squeeze the juice of half a lime overtop. Mix well.

Whisk the eggs in a small bowl. Make a well in the centre of the hot pan and add in the eggs. Scramble in the pan and then mix to distribute through the quinoa.

Plate the stir-fried quinoa and add the grilled pineapple on top. I chopped the pineapple into bite size pieces, but you can leave the rings whole. Top with chopped cashews and green onion and serve with a lime wedge and some sriracha for a bit of heat.

Eggs Benny with Zucchini Latkes and Smoked Paprika Hollandaise

12 Mar

Zucchini Benedict Smoked Paprika Hollandaise

Last week, I finally got around to creating a dedicated recipe page for Communal Table, something Jenny and I had talked about doing for a while as a way to make it easier for readers to check out the recipes we post here without having to read through all our posts. In the process of doing that, I spent time going through everything we’ve posted over the past year and categorizing our recipes by main ingredient. Out of the 33 recipes we’ve posted, only about a dozen have included meat, fish or seafood.

Jenny’s been a significant influence on both my cooking and eating habits, in terms of easing me out of my tendency toward cooking with – and eating – meat. I’ve always understood that eating less meat and more vegetarian protein is a good thing, but it wasn’t until we met and she brought the appreciation for cooking without meat to our relationship that I really began to think about it.

In the spirit of cooking with less meat, this one’s another egg recipe. File this one under recipe ideas that come into my brain randomly while I’m trying to be productive at work but really thinking about food. Eggs benedict is one of my favourite breakfast dishes, but it’s something I rarely allow myself to eat anymore now that I understand the fat and sodium content of delicious ham and hollandaise sauce, and the complete lack of nutritional value in an English muffin. In this recipe, a zucchini latke takes the place of the English muffin, while the heavy hollandaise sauce is replaced with a light smoked paprika yogurt sauce that turned out, frankly, to be just as satisfying as hollandaise.

As an aside, I’ve never made latkes and wanted these to be healthier than the traditional oil-fried ones. So I did a google search for baked zucchini latkes, followed the recipe I found, and expected it to turn out great. It didn’t. They didn’t brown and ended up a bit of a mess after an extended cooking time in the oven. I have a few theories as to why this happened, the most logical being that I was too rushed trying to make this recipe on a weeknight and didn’t take the time to squeeze enough liquid from the zucchini and onion, which prevented adequate browning. Nevertheless, these came out of the oven and ended up in the frying pan where they turned out great. The recipe below reflects the successful frying pan method, but I’m still determined to find a workable baked zucchini latke recipe – if anyone out there has one, let me know.

The recipe below made enough for three servings of two bennys each, with a couple of latkes leftover.

Eggs Benedict with Zucchini Latkes and Smoked Paprika Hollandaise

For zucchini latkes:

4 large zucchini
1 onion
2 eggs
½ C flour
¼ C breadcrumbs
1 tsp baking powder

Grate zucchini and onion (we used a box grater, but a food processor would probably be even better). Wrap grated zucchini and onion in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze as much moisture out as you can. This will take several minutes, but is totally worth the effort (as I mention above).

Crack eggs into a mixing bowl. Add zucchini and onion to bowl, along with all dry ingredients and generous grinds of salt and pepper. Mix everything together well. Form into flat round discs and fry in enough oil to cover the bottom of a pan, over medium-high heat. Cook a few minutes per side until nicely browned.

For smoked paprika hollandaise:

In a bowl, mix together a few tablespoons of plain 1% yogurt, the juice of half a lemon (we used a Meyer, which added a bit more sweetness), a squirt of sriracha, half a teaspoon of smoked paprika and a pinch of sugar. The lack of precise measurements in this recipe is because we basically just made it to taste, which I find is the easiest way to prepare a sauce. As long as you start with a sufficient amount of yogurt for the number of benedict servings you’re preparing, and enough smoked paprika to get the smoky flavour you want in this, the sauce will turn out fine.

To prepare benedict, place zucchini latkes on plates (we served two per person), top each with a poached egg and a generous spoonful of the smoked paprika hollandaise. Serve with a simple green salad for a light, delicious meal that even the biggest meat eater will enjoy.

Pasta Pinwheels: Dinner Made Easy AND Pretty

17 Feb

A few weeks ago I found myself in the organic section of the grocery store picking up a box of kamut lasagna noodles. This was a strange occurrence for me, not because of the kamut but because I have never purchased a box of lasagna noodles. Ever.

I have never made a lasagna from scratch myself. There, I’ve admitted it.

And here are some reasons why:

–       I will never be able to make a lasagna that even attempts to rival Neil’s aunts (all of his aunts!) and his mother’s, for that matter. (aunts make the classic Italian meat version, mom makes a creamy béchamel version. Neil daydreams often about both)

–       I pretty much know for sure that any homemade version I attempt has no chance standing up against the one from 7 Numbers in Toronto either.

–       Making a whole lasagna for just two people seems silly somehow, and I never think of making it for guests.

–       Lasagna just always seems like a major pain in the butt to make. When I think of the steps involved compared to the simplicity of the final product, my brain shuts down.

So there I was staring at the kamut lasagna noodles thinking “but they’re so pretty!” I realize this might make me a little crazy, but there it is. I’m big on the aesthetics of my food. I’ve always thought that lasagna noodles, with their curly edges, are quite an attractive noodle and they’re usually hidden among the layers of sauce, cheese and other typical lasagna accoutrements.

I bought the box and figured I’d either research some cool way to use them, or surprise Neil sometime by trying to finally make my own lasagna. The first option came to fruition after a little scan on FoodGawker. As soon as I spotted some photos of what some people call “lasagna rollups”, I knew what to do.

I wasn’t in the mood for the classic flavors of lasagna and didn’t want to make a tomato-based sauce. I also didn’t have a lot of time.

What followed was one of the easiest and quickest dinners I’ve ever made. I’m not joking. This recipe both showcases the ‘prettiness’ of the lasagna noodles and comes together faster than anyone would believe once they see and taste the final result.

You can obviously use this same idea with any kind of filling and/or sauce and you can make as many or as little as you want at a time.

I think I’ve found a new go-to weeknight dinner, and a reason to finally stock my cupboard with some of the most attractive noodles around.

Pasta Pinwheels

Lasagna Noodles – I used Kamut noodles, 10 of them (you can make as much or as little as you want, just adjust the filling accordingly)


1 475g tub ricotta (I used light ricotta)

Zest of 1 lemon

Handful of basil, chopped

Handful of Italian parsley, chopped



1 large shallot, chopped

Handful of dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted in 1 ½ cups of hot water

3 Tbsp butter

1 cup white wine

Half a lemon

Boil the lasagna noodles according to the package, but make sure you leave them al dente. If they’re too soft, they’ll fall apart and will be hard to work with.

Preheat the oven the 350 degrees.

In a bowl, mix all five ingredients for the filling.

Chop the soft porcini mushrooms but reserve all of the liquid they were sitting in.

In a sauté pan, cook the shallot in a little bit of olive oil on medium heat until translucent. Add in the butter and sauté a few minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.

Add in the white wine and slowly raise the heat to medium high as you mix, to cook off the alcohol. Add in the chopped porcinis and 1 cup of the mushroom liquid. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, mix and take off heat.

When the lasagna noodles are done, drain them and run cold water over them to cool them off.

Place noodles on a cutting board or clean, dry surface. Spoon the filling mixture onto each lasagna noodle. Roll each noodle slowly, using both hands.

Place all the pinwheels into a glass baking dish and pour the mushroom sauce overtop.

Place in the oven for about 15 minutes to heat everything through.

To serve, sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese and a little bit of chopped parsley.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Quinoa Stuffing

23 Dec

I don’t want to clutter up this post with a ton of text because really I just want you to read this recipe and then try it. Immediately.

I made this one up on the spot after a holiday craving hit me hard. See, I kind of have a thing for stuffing. Some might say that it’s even a mild love affair.

I’ve never attempted to make it myself though. Real holiday stuffing is always a treat that I look forward to eating at other people’s houses but once a year. A cousin of ours makes the most perfect stuffing involving sausage and holiday spices and I crave it the whole year long. She even goes as far as forming it into balls, and frying them up to serve as a cocktail appetizer. A-mazing.

I don’t think I could ever top that, but I think I may have come close this time. As close as a healthy vegetarian version can get, that is.

The other night, as dreams of holiday deliciousness were floating around in my head just days before Christmas, an idea came to me. I figured there had to be a way to bring together the flavors of holiday stuffing and the vegetarian ingredients that I knew I had in my kitchen.

And so, quinoa stuffing with roasted butternut squash came to be.

I will definitely be making this all year round to satisfy my love affair as I wait for the treat of ‘the real thing’ during the holidays.

But this version comes with zero guilt and no need to unbutton your pants at the end of the meal. That is strictly reserved for once-a-year gluttony.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Quinoa Stuffing

1 butternut squash, halved lengthwise (seeds and pulp removed)

1 cup red quinoa

2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1 large shallot, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

Handful of dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted in hot water, water reserved

Handful of fresh rosemary leaves, chopped

Olive oil

Handful of dried cranberries

Handful of pine nuts

Fresh or frozen spinach

Panko bread crumbs (or regular bread crumbs if you don’t have panko, or no breadcrumbs if you want to keep it vegan)

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375F (190C).

Brush olive oil all over the flesh side of the squash and place the halves flesh-side down on a baking sheet or into a glass baking dish. Bake for 40 minutes, or until tender.

Meanwhile, bring the quinoa and vegetable broth to a boil. Reduce heat and let the quinoa simmer for about 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Set aside.

Toast the pine nuts in a small pan over medium low heat until browned and fragrant. Remove from heat, place in a bowl to cool and set aside.

When the butternut squash comes out of the oven, the hollowed-out ends of each half may fall apart. Cut the ends off and scoop the flesh out into a bowl. Scoop out some flesh from the remaining squash halves to form a cavity in each.

In a large pan, sauté the garlic and shallot in a good amount of olive oil. Add rosemary, cook for a few minutes.

Roughly chop the reconstituted mushrooms and add them to the shallot and garlic mixture. Cook for a few minutes and then add half the mushroom water. Cook until liquid is absorbed.

Add spinach and mix.

Add the cooked quinoa and squash that was scooped out and set aside. Mix and mash squash into the mixture.

Season with salt and pepper. Add the rest of the mushroom liquid and mix.

I drizzled a little bit more good quality olive oil into the mixture to add richness.

Add toasted pine nuts and cranberries. Mix well and let the stuffing heat through.

Spoon quinoa stuffing into the cavity of each squash half. Sprinkle with panko bread crumbs.

Put them back into the oven for approx 15 minutes or until the panko is lightly browned and everything warms through.

Serve with a lightly-dressed leafy salad.

Serves 2 really hungry people as a meal (with leftover stuffing to be enjoyed the next day!) or 4-5 as a side dish.

Vegan Muffins: One Batter, Four Ways

13 Dec

I just may be the only non-vegan writing about vegan-friendly and healthy baked goods during the holiday season. But it’s exactly the right time of year, for me anyway, to be looking for healthy alternatives in the face of so much holiday excess.

I’m not a vegan or even a vegetarian, but I do love alternative recipes, interesting textures and different, healthful ways of looking at food. I tend to go for vegetarian options more often than not, simply because I love the fresh ingredients and flavors that they’re typically made with. Anything gluten-free, vegan or raw will always catch my attention – though not at the expense of giving up a good burger or charcuterie plate.

See? You really can have it all! At least when it comes to food.

I have a little thing for all of the vegan and gluten-free goodies from Sweets from the Earth. Their lavender-chocolate cupcakes and organic medjool date squares are decadent pieces of heaven. One bite of any of their treats will make you forget you’re eating a healthier alternative to traditional baked goods, and I very much appreciate that.

Well, I’m no professional baker but I did find a simple recipe for vegan banana muffins that I could make easily at home, and they’ve become a staple. After reading through a bunch of recipes online, this one really stood out to me because of the minimal ingredients and the fact that there’s absolutely no refined sugar in the batter. These muffins are sweetened with dates and applesauce, and have soymilk in them for a bit of added protein and richness.

I’ve taken the recipe further by adding in a few little treats. With the last batch I made, I decided to make half of the muffins with the regular batter, and half with cocoa powder added for some chocolatey goodness.  I then sprinkled some semi-sweet chocolate chips into some, and walnuts into others.

This one simple batter made four different kinds of muffins in one batch:

–       Banana Walnut

–       Banana Chocolate Chip

–       Chocolate Banana Walnut

–       Double Chocolate Banana

They were all delicious, though my favorite is the simple banana walnut. I’m not going to lie and tell you that these are the most delicious muffins I’ve ever had. That would be a big fat lie, actually.

But these are the easiest and healthiest muffins I’ve ever made at home, and I feel really good about eating them for breakfast or as a snack. They’re really nicely balanced nutrition-wise and they definitely satisfy a craving for baked goods when you’re trying to eat healthy at home (and you’re all out of Sweets From The Earth’s more sophisticated goodies).

Vegan Banana Muffins (adapted from chooseveg.com – a great recipe resource!)

Basic Recipe (makes 12 small muffins):

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 large, very ripe bananas

1 1/4 cups applesauce (I use unsweetened applesauce to keep the sugar content down)

1/2 cup dates

1/2 cup soymilk (I use plain unsweetened soymilk but you can use vanilla for added flavor)


Cocoa powder

Chopped walnuts

Mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl.

If you’re going to make the chocolate version in the same batch as the plain ones, divide your flour mixture evenly into two separate bowls. Add about 2-3 tablespoons of cocoa powder to one of the bowls and mix well.

Using a blender, puree the bananas and dates. Add the applesauce and soymilk and mix well.

Pour the banana mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Don’t over mix or you’ll end up with a very dense final product.

If you’ve divided your dry ingredients into chocolate and ‘plain’, try to pour the wet mixture into the two bowls as evenly divided as you can.

Fill non-stick muffin cups with the batter.

To quickly and easily make different versions of the muffins, I spoon one spoonful of batter into a muffin cup, then add either walnuts or chocolate chips, mix with my finger and top with more batter. Then, I use a whole walnut or a small handful of chocolate chips as a garnish (and a visual reminder of what each muffin has inside!).

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes or until lightly brown and firm.

Enjoy without guilt.

Quinoa with Fennel, Olive and Citrus

20 Oct

Quinoa is one of my favorite foods and I’m always looking for new ways to spruce it up. I came up with this dish based on a salad I quickly threw together a few weeks ago with tomato, orange and olives drizzled with olive oil and salt. We ate the salad with some sautéed fennel and a piece of salmon and the combination of flavors on the plate were perfect.

Fennel is delicious no matter how you eat it, but something magical happens when you cook it down in a little bit of olive oil and really let it get soft and sweet. It becomes rich and almost creamy and full of flavor.

Neil has been adding a touch of fennel pollen to our sautéed fennel these days, and it really helps add depth to the flavor. You can find it at specialty food stores or spice markets. We bought one little jar of fennel pollen a long time ago and it’s lasted a long time because you really only need a little to make a big impact. It’s very pungent and powerful stuff but it’s so good that I don’t know how our kitchen could ever be without it. Neil’s dad actually adds a touch of Sambuca to his fennel when he sautés it (cooking off the alcohol but keeping the licorice-ey flavor), which gives a similar effect and is also delicious.

To make this quinoa salad, I pulled together the flavors from the olive salad and the sautéed fennel, and decided that some toasted almonds would be the perfect addition to bring it all together. In my opinion, they made the dish. I was so happy with the way this turned out. It was savory and a little sweet, salty and crunchy. You can serve this hot or cold, but I preferred it cold served as a salad. It makes a perfectly balanced and filling lunch or a great side dish.

Quinoa with fennel, olive and citrus

1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa * Make sure to rinse your quinoa very well in warm water before cooking it. Rinsing it takes away the strange bitter flavor and leaves you with a clean-tasting quinoa

Cherry tomatoes, halved

1-2 Oranges, segmented and chopped

Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped (I think any variety of olive would work well in this, even green ones)

1 head of Fennel, chopped into small bite-size pieces – keep the fennel fronds (the gorgeous stringy bits that come out of the head of the vegetable)

Fennel Pollen

A bunch of slivered almonds, toasted and cooled (I toast mine quickly in a pan on medium heat, constantly stirring them until they smell toasty and turn a nice light brown)

Lemon Juice

Apple Cider Vinegar or Rice Wine Vinegar

Good Olive Oil

Sea Salt

Heat a good amount of olive oil in a pan and add the chopped fennel. Sautee for about 5-10 minutes, until the fennel gets very soft and caramelized. You can add a bit of water or white wine and cook it off to help the fennel soften. Add some salt as it’s cooking. Once it’s cooked down and soft, sprinkle with some fennel pollen, mix and let cool.

Once your cooked quinoa has cooled, add the tomatoes, orange segments, olive pieces and toasted almond slivers. Add in the cooled fennel.

Drizzle with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Add a bit of apple cider or rice wine vinegar (to taste, really) and some coarsely ground sea salt. Add a bunch of fennel fronds to top it off – they add a hit of bright green and some extra fennel-ey flavor.

C’est tout! You can refrigerate to let the flavors come together and serve cold. It actually tastes even better after a day in the fridge.

Grilled Portobello with Asparagus Pesto and Poached Egg

16 Sep

Grilled Portobello Poached Egg Asparagus Pesto

Once in a while, I’ll get an idea for a new dish. I’ll be going about my day, editing, or writing, or doing laundry, when a lightbulb goes on in my brain. Sometimes it’ll be an image of a finished dish. Sometimes it’ll be a thought that ingredient A might taste good mixed with ingredient B. On rare occasions, an image of a finished dish will invade my brain and I’ll also be able to imagine what that finished dish tastes like. I had one of those moments this week, where I could picture a grilled portobello mushroom topped with asparagus pesto and a poached egg, and I instantly knew it would be a tasty combination of earthy mushroom, fresh asparagus and creamy eggs.

After a trip to the St. Lawrence Market this past weekend to pick up some fresh portobello mushrooms, asparagus and free-range eggs, I set about transforming my mental image into reality. I’m happy to say that this both looked and tasted exactly as I imagined. Jenny agreed, calling the dish one of the best vegetarian meals I’ve made (not exactly high praise, considering 99.8 percent of my kitchen creations contain meat… but I knew she was being sincere). And while I’m pretty much the opposite of a vegetarian, a great thing about this dish is how much it resembles steak and eggs in taste and texture, with the meaty, smoky portobello being reminiscent of grilled beef. If we ever decide to make Meatless Monday a regular feature in our house, this ‘vegetarian steak and eggs’ is definitely going into my regular rotation.

Grilled Portobello with Asparagus Pesto and Poached Egg

For the asparagus pesto:

1 large bunch of asparagus (2 small if thinner stalks), woody stems removed and the ‘good’ part snapped in half
1 shallot cut in half lengthwise
20 basil leaves, chopped
1/4 C grated grana padano or parmesan cheese
1/4 C olive oil
1/4 C water
1/4 C of pine nuts (toasted or not)
Zest of half a lemon

Steam asparagus and shallots briefly, just a couple of minutes until tender but not soft. (Steaming the shallot is optional; I chose to do so because I wanted the flavour to be milder). Add steamed asparagus, shallots, and all other ingredients except water to a blender or food processor. Pulse several times until ingredients are chopped and desired consistency is achieved. Add water as neccessary and blend longer for a smoother consistency. This recipe makes enough pesto to generously coat two large portobello mushrooms, plus leave some leftover to mix with pasta (which was also delicious, by the way).

For grilled portobello mushrooms:

Preheat BBQ until it reaches a temperature of about 400 C.

Wipe portobellos with a damp paper towel to remove any loose dirt. Brush both sides of portobellos with olive oil, and grill for 5-6 minutes per side.

For poached eggs:

As much as I love cooking, cooking eggs is another story. While I’ve nearly mastered slow-cooked scrambled eggs, poaching them is always an adventure for me (fortunately, they turned out this time!). Instead of taking my advice, check out this link for tips on the standard approach to perfect poached eggs, or this post for an innovative poaching method I’m definitely going to try next time.

To assemble the dish, lay a grilled portobello on each plate, top-side down. cover inside of portobello with a generous amount of asparagus pesto. Top with a poached egg. Grate grana padano or parmesan on top, and hit it with a grind of pepper.

Poached egg yolk

Roasted Tofu and Squash with Kale

11 May

I’m always trying to get Neil to appreciate tofu, one of my favorites. Whenever I make it he tells himself that he’s not going to love it, that it won’t be satisfying and that he’s really just eating it for me. But somehow, at the end of every tofu meal, he admits to liking it.

Tonight I was craving something really healthy, leafy and low in fat and salt, and this is what transpired. It was delicious! I’ve never roasted tofu before and it came out so moist and had such a great texture and flavor.

Try it. You’ll like it. Neil might have even said that he really liked it.

Roasted tofu and squash with steamed ginger-lime kale

1 package extra firm tofu, dried and cut into cubes

Butternut squash, cubed

1 bunch of kale

Fresh ginger

Grape tomatoes

1 lime

Preheat oven to 375 C. In a baking dish, drizzle the cubes of tofu and squash with olive oil and grind some fresh pepper overtop. Roast in the oven for approx 40-45 minutes, mixing and turning pieces over half way through.

Rinse the kale to get rid of dirt (you really have to clean every leaf if you want to get rid of the sandy bits).

Chop ginger into small pieces. Drizzle a bit of olive oil into a large pan on medium-high heat, add ginger and sauté for a few minutes. Add the kale and squeeze in the juice of half a lime. Cover. The kale should steam pretty quickly within a few minutes. Watch it to make sure it doesn’t wilt too much or turn brown. You want to keep that bright green color! A few minutes before serving, add in the grape tomatoes to heat through.

For sauce:

Juice of half a lime

Agave nectar

Grated ginger

Citrus-seasoned soy sauce (I used Kikkoman Ponzu sauce)

I made a quick sauce by mixing the above ingredients (I don’t measure! Use your judgment) and I poured it overtop of the tofu and squash when it came out of the oven.

This was really easy and quick to make and satisfied my craving for something healthy while still keeping a wannabe ‘meat-a-tarian’ and lover of bacon happy and satisfied. Mission accomplished.

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