I'm sort of in love with these pickled bits of wonderment.
I followed a simple recipe. And use them as homemade condiments for homemade lunches that include garden greens, organic eggs, smoked salmon, gherkins, ...
Make a wish.
I'm sort of in love with these pickled bits of wonderment.
I followed a simple recipe. And use them as homemade condiments for homemade lunches that include garden greens, organic eggs, smoked salmon, gherkins, ...
Make a wish.
May 24, 2015 | Permalink
Seagulls. Blossoms. Twilight. Sunlight. Late night daze. It's spring.
Easy paleo or low carb lunch: smoked salmon lettuce wrapped with capers and lemon juice. Outrageously tasty.
Can't stop soft - hard - boiling organic, free run chicken eggs. They are delicious. Their yolks are glowing with omega nutritional value. And I can't seem to overcook them, win-win.
Excellent with olives. And the just-in Ontario Asparagus. Holla.
Grated local candy-cane beets, chopped avo, hemp seeds, baby lettuces.
Morning meditation. Tea in hand. Annie Dillard's Teaching a Stone to Talk. The dog swimming. Best 8 a.m. ever.
Chlorophyll, ACV, coconut water, canteloup, frozen pineapple, flax meal, spinach. Five alarm energy boost from the shifting seasonal slumber.
May 19, 2015 | Permalink
"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer"
- Albert Camus
Back to food and recipes SOON (I'm swamped right now with so much activity in and around the local Toronto food landscape that I have not had much time to focus on my 101 Salads Project, but I'll get back there, I promise) but I thought I'd post a few snapshots that I took this winter to provide a little perspective for those who have been endlessly complaining about the weather this summer. Seriously folks, remember this? -40 Celsius. Frozen eyelashes. 100 days of long underwear. A spot on my cheek from frostbite as a reminder.
We'll be back there soon enough so enjoy however you may this final sweep of summer.
This is a popular trio but the salad above was a last minute what's on hand even though some of it looks sorta used up kinda concoction. And it was delicious. I'm an impulsive person and I cook that way too. I add ingredients I believe in and they don't always make the mark; they're not always the exact touch I'm looking for, but here, I'm happy to say the little dalliance in the kitchen at lunchtime evolved into perfection.
I had two dried up husks of fresh Ontario corn in the fridge. I also had a tupperware of thawing from frozen cooked from dry chickpeas. There were 2 roma tomatoes in the fruit bowl. And I had a fabulous verdant bunch of fresh basil with its stems rotting in a vase. So I got down and dirty.
I husked the corn and broke off the end bits that had started to turn brown. I carved off the kernals and added them to a bit of water in a sauce pan to boil/steam. As the corn bubbled up and began to cook, I added in the chickpeas. Heck, warm chickpeas, if you've ever eaten Indian food, are delicious. I tossed the mixture for a few minutes while I diced up the tomatoes, and washed and chopped a good healthy handful of fresh basil. I drained the corn/chickpea mixture and let it sit to cool for a few minutes. And then I tossed everything together with a teaspoon of fennel seeds, some good coarse sea salt, a few red chili flakes, a bit of white balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of good old fashioned extra virgin olive oil.
It was still slightly warm. Crunchy, sweet, earthy with that delicious tang of basil and the mysterious bite of anise. Not everyone likes fennel seeds and you could easily leave them out but they added a whole new depth of charge to something otherwise utterly simple.
Roma tomatoes could be substitued with field tomatoes, yellow Ontario plum tomatoes, grape tomatoes, vine tomatoes. Whatever suits your fancy.
Fresh corn is always superior to canned or frozen corn.
You could add feta or mozzarella or strips of grilled chicken.
You could top a plate of ribboned romaine lettuce with this mixture and then add skewers of grilled meat or fish and vegetables.
It's easy, marvelous, and magical. And here in Ontario we're lucky to go with the flow and have that rapid bring us something abundant each season. And the harvest of the seasons work together so well on so many levels it's impossible not to get addicted to a rhythm of exploration. So get at it.
I haven’t been writing much this August. I’ve been stuffing my face with stone fruits (nectarines, peaches, apricots, cherries, plums) and finding innumerable ways to get them into salads. So when I haven’t been chasing monarchs and tracking constellations, I’ve been eating various incarnations of the salad below. Practically every day for lunch. I can’t stop. It’s sweet, salty, spicy - my favourite trio but perhaps not for everyone - and it has a nostalgia to it which suits the end of summer perfectly. Plus it’s practically all Ontario bounty.
Sliced strawberries and nectarines
Thin coins of radishes and carrots
Diced red pepper
Cooked and cooled garbanzo beans (canned chickpeas are fine)
Chopped up dried cherries
Ribboned black kale
A salad this vivacious needs something simple to dress it: I used a roasted sunflower seed oil (it’s pretty subtle but also a bit nutty) and a drizzle of white balsamic vinegar (sweetish but not cloying) then I tossed in a few pinches of coarse sea salt and red chili flakes.
The version below began with sliced peaches and tart yellow pear tomatoes. I blended them into some massaged chopped black kale and added radicchio and roasted sunflower seeds and feta.
It’s just good stuff, all of this late August harvest, and I’m already eyeing the small sour first of the season apples and thinking how good they’re going to be in salads with figs or chopped dates and baby kale and grilled halloum cheese.
Into September we go.
I discovered these little boxes of organic grape tomatoes and they are, my, oh my, something else. Wee morsels that explode in your mouth in a confusing fireworks of flavour: sweet, sour, a hard shell that gives way to sudden squirts of a charmed infusion. I just pop them in my mouth all day long. Sometimes I even throw them into the air and grab them with my feral teeth.
It's been a while. I apologize for the absence but it's been all fireflies and morning mist and as August nears I got shook awake. I'd love to have a good month long nap in a hammock in Nicarauga but until then here's a bit of Morocco.
I seem to have a few Morrocan carrot salads in my repertoire and I'm not even entirely sure what makes them authentically or inauthentically Morrocan; is it the mint? the chickpeas? the toasted cumin seeds? I could call this recipe a dozen different descriptors but it really doesn't matter because it is simply just delicious. And that's the plain truth. Trust me.
The reliably hardy, earthy tasting carrot up against the sweet pliable bits of found dried cherry and matched with a pretty hefty spicy dressing including cumin and cayenne but also grounded in the force of chickpeas who are really like bouncers at a nasty late night girlie club -- constantly managing the forces with their light sabre glare and firm biceps, makes for a spectacular salad. Who knew I had a weakness for muscles.
A few quick tips:
buy bunched carrots from the farmers market if possible, the long slender ones with the verdant tops -- they are a reminder of what carrots are supposed to taste like! takes me right back to pulling up carrots from the garden when I was growing up. It was a challenge to get to them before our friendly neighbourhood rabbits did!
do toast the cumin seeds. it only takes a few minutes and the aromatic result is doubly worth the effort.
MORROCAN CARROT AND CHICKPEA SALAD
For 2 (but easily doubled, tripled, you know...)
5 carrots, peeled and sliced thin on the single blade of a box grater (mandolin works well too)
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1/4 cup dried pluots or cherries cut into 1/2 inch bits
handful each of chopped fresh mint and chopped fresh dill
a generous toss in of sliced or slivered almonds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp sweet white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp cayenne
Toast the cumin seeds in a dry skillet until fragrant, about a minute or two.
In a jar or a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, cumin seeds and cayenne with the sea salt.
In a salad bowl, combine the carrots, chickpeas, dried fruit, mint/dill, and almonds and gently toss with the dressing by adding a few tablespoons at a time until everything is glistening and gently coated.
It's summer solstice time and the tides are shifting for the better: strawberries and sunshine. There's a mother Mallard duck at the lake with 16 baby goslings. An elderly gentleman who takes dips in the frigid water in his underwear. And lots of teenage girls giggling in bikinis on their blankets in the sand. It's all carefree and breezy and the perfect start to summer.
Here's a simple offering for you with a bit of sweetness and a lot of crunch and just a generally good mix of flavours overall.
Combine a few lettuces chopped into ribbons. I used black lacinato kale and green leaf lettuce. Any lettuce or combination of greens will do.
Add in some colour. I used what I had: mini tart grape tomatoes and diced sweet red pepper. But the options are endless: grated carrots or beets, slivered radishes, cubed hunks of barely ripe mango, finely sliced red cabbage.
Then I folded in a bunch of chopped herbs, in this case Italian parsley and fresh dill. Basil or mint would be perfect too.
I topped it all off with 1 tablespoon of each seed: chia, brown raw sesame and hemp. I like chia's nutritious content (there's lots of fibre, omeg and calcium in the wee morsels) but dislike it's interaction with anything wet (i.e. salad dressing) and how it gets a gluey coating. I'd probably go with poppy seeds round two. I love raw brown sesame seeds for their nutty sweet comforting flavour. And the hemp hearts? Well, I had a bag on hand and they're like the shortbread of the nut world: buttery and melt in your mouth.
Keeping it simple, I drizzled a bit of a fancy white wine vinegar over top, followed by some extra virgin olive oil, and seasoned with a bit of crunchy Himalayan sea salt.
It's a suprisingly delightful bowl of goodness. The bitterness of greens and the subtle aromatic flavour of seeds is a perfect match.
So here's a curious trifecta for you: curry powder, capers and currants. All starting with the letter C and all singularly self composed. But the whole salty, sweet then spicy combo is addictively wonderful. It'd be like if you were dating a guy who played the sax (the caper), wrote haiku (the currants) and could peel through a mean cord of wood with a sharp axe (the curry). I am a big fan of strong components blending into harmony. I find it satisfying. Compelling, even.
Du puy lentils are uniquely beautiful. They are tiny morsels of a mysterious greeny-black hue. If you're making a soup or stew and the legumes are falling apart in appreciation, who cares what kind of beans you're using, but when it's a salad, and the lentils need to hold their heft in order to hoist the salad into greatness, please, by all means buy dry, and buy good quality. In this case, unlike so many others, smaller really is better!
Lentils are easy to cook. You put them in cold water and bring to a boil, then reduce to medium and cook until the beans are al dente or just beyond. About 15 minutes. Drain and shake off excess water.
I took huge spoonfuls of this salad and topped some shredded red leaf lettuce. It makes about 3 generous helpings.
1 large Ontario carrot, peeled and cut into very thin coins using the one blade on a box grater
1 Ontario green onion, minced, green bits and all
About a handful of heirloom organic miniature tomatoes, cut in half
A generous handful of both fresh dill and fresh flat leaf (Italian) parsley, chopped finely
2 tbsp dried currants
1 tsp capers, rinsed
1 tbsp brown sesame seeds
**This version is vegan but by all means shake it up a bit. You could top it with grilled salmon or grilled halloumi cheese; add in crumbled feta or goat cheese; toss with a cooked grain like quinoa or couscous, both soak up curry dressings with gusto.
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tsp maple syrup (optional; the currants add a definite hint of sweet)
1 tsp hot or not dijon mustard
1 tsp of your favourite curry powder
Shake or whisk the dressing together in a small bowl with a fork. Pour over salad and continue tossing until fully absorbed. Season with coarse salt and pepper.
That is exactly what happened here. It was a muggy but cool day. The weather kept shifting and the clouds kept parting then closing then breaking up all over again. Occasionally moments of hard rain would erupt. I didn't feel like walking up the street to the green grocer but I was hungry for lunch.
On hand I had: 1 green zucchini, a bag of frozen lima beans**, a tupperware of garbanzo/chickpeas that I had cooked the day before and stored away to use for weekday lunches, a red onion, 1 head of radicchio, washed leaves of green lettuce, a bunch of fresh mint, and a bunch of fresh basil. There, in its most elemental form, you have my lunch. And I'm telling you, it was delicious, mind blowing even, the lima beans were still warm and they rubbed up against the coarse salt and soaked up the lemon and slighty, ever so slightly, wilted the basil and it was perfection in my mouth.
This, my friends, is my new favourite salad.
Two perfect additions would be: a generous amount of grated fresh parmesan and / or slivered almonds.
Makes about 2 large lunch servings for hungry appetites
1/2 cup frozen lima beans, cooked according to directions
3/4 cup, drained canned chickpeas, rinsed or cooked chickpeas
1/2 green zucchini, sliced into paper thin coins using either a mandoline or a box grater
3 large lettuce leaves, cut into thin strips
1/2 small head of radicchio, cut into thin strips
~ 10 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
~ 5 fresh mint leaves, torn into pieces
juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
Light tasting olive oil according to taste
Coarse sea salt (Himalan pink in a grinder is my favourite)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Combine all of the ingredients and toss with the lemon juice. Add a bit of olive oil, toss until coated, taste and add more if desired.
**Lima beans have a bit of an undeserved bad rap. They are buttery and slightly sweet. I prefer them to the edamame bean which is higher in fat and calories and a bit dryer and less flavourful. The lima bean is just a great addition to the earthy robustness of the chickpea. Try them. I know you'll love them!
Unlike the North African couscous used in Moroccan dishes, Israeli couscous is toasted not dried giving it a bit of a nuttier constitution. It's also 3x the size. Soft, slippery orbs of absorbant chewiness perfect for simple salads that carry forth strong flavours. They are non intrusive but provide excellent texture. They are like the donkey of the barnyard: holds back but full of character.
Since Israeli couscous (found at most bulk stores) is simply boiled there is no ratio. Prepare like you might a pot of pasta water. Once the water is boiling, add in 1/2 cup of Israeli couscous. Turn down to medium and continue at a slow boil for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse and shake off the excess water.
Meanwhile, peel and dice 1/4 field cucumber.
Mince 1 tbs of red onion.
Tear off about 10 fresh mint leaves from their stem.
Add 1/4 cup smoked tofu (there are many superior pre-smoked tofus that I adore, otherwise, you can add non-smoked tofu in the form of Soyaire Organic extra-firm or herb, both of which you can marinate in sesame oil, garlic, ginger, tamari sauce and add raw or baked, which gives the tofu a much more chewy texture, almost crunchy.)
Dash of red pepper flakes.
Dressing is a mix of sesame oil, lemon juice, soy or tamari sauce.
Grated fresh ginger and garlic is optional.
A really delightful cooling hot summer lunch!
Fruit fever contines. This time with the sudden arrival of peaches and nectarines and cherries. All week I've been sampling the nectarines while checking my optimism since it's early in the season and they're imported from the US. Every single one was a delight -- sweet, firm, juicy, no mealiness (the death knell of stone fruit). Then I moved on to the peaches, smaller, not as fuzzy as Ontario ones, and again, perfect, even better than the nectarines. The cherries need no introduction.
I didn't peel the peach because its flesh was barely fuzzy. But if you prefer to skin it, use the process for peeling tomatoes: pour boiling water over the fruit until the skin wrinkles then use a paring knife to detach it from the flesh. Hold the fruit in your hand and create slivers by carving down into the pit in small crescents.
If you have a cherry pitter by all means now would be the time to use it but I simply stemmed the cherries, then sliced off their ends, added those to the salad bowl, and tossed the rest in my mouth so I could chew off the fruit from the pit.
Wash and dry a bunch of lacinato black kale. Lay it flat and ribbon it with a knife in 1/4 inch strips horizontally. Add to the peach and cherry slices until you have a 2 to 1 ratio of greens to fruit.
Add 1/2 cup of well drained white kidney beans. For most beans I prefer cooking from dry, but in the case of the kidney bean, canned is better. **
Thinly slice half a green onion.
Chop a handful of roaasted almonds and toss into the mix. Toasted sesame seeds are good too.
Season with a fruity vinegar like apple cider or white balsamic and a rich oil like extra virgin olive oil or hemp seed oil (green and nutty) by drizzling a bit of each over the salad, tossing until coated, and adding more if necessary.
**I've been researching canned beans and surprisingly, even against Eden Organics canned beans, the yellow packaged No Name producer has the firmest, least gummy beans.
Definitely not a fan of the soppy, syrupy buffet fruit salad but I do love a bit of sweet freshness in my green salads and lately that's been coming from some sort of fruit, dried or whole. I'm shying away from grains these days, so although you'll see the odd recipe with quinoa or wild rice, I won't be featuring many with couscous, bulgur or orzo (pasta) even though all three make fantastic bases for room temperature salads and they all retain their flavour -- some even getting better, take bulgur in tabbouleh soaking up lemon -- for at least a few days.
The green grocers in my neighbourhood are spilling out on the sidewalk with the heat of May. Avocadoes and mangoes are piled high in amongst potted peonies and lavender bushes. The buttery avocado (also a fruit) is the perfect foil to the sometimes overly saccharine mango. I tend to pluck my mango when it's still a bit firm to the touch. Not hard. A finger press will indent slightly. But definitely not soft or shriveled. I know the majority of mango afficionados will say the Alfonso mango (the smaller, yellow skinned variety) is superior but after several taste tests I'm sticking with the regular kind, the one with the spottled red and green skin. I find the flesh firmer and brighter and a bit more tart, all of which I prefer.
Find some fresh red radishes or organic multi-coloured ones. Take off the stems, scrub of any dirt, and slice thinly or mandoline into coins.
Peel and criss cross the flesh of a mango. Carve out into a bowl. Peel and criss cross the flesh of an avocado and add to the mango. Add the radishes.
Sprinkle with a generous amount of poppy seeds and add in handfuls of arugula, tossing with a bit of white balsamic vinegar, some light tasting olive oil, coarse sea salt, and a few dried chili flakes.
Trust me on the chili flakes. The heat works here. It's a delightful fiery mess of flavours.
Quinoa is a bit of a conundrum. It's a grain but a non typical cereal grain. It's packed with protein and calcium making it ideal for vegans and vegetarians. It's also hands down the easiest thing to prepare: rinse 1 cup of quinoa under cold water. Prepare 2 cups of cold water in a pot and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa. Turn down the heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes. Turn out into a bowl and fork through to allow the steam to evaporate. Done. It's not tricky and fickle like rice or couscous.
Here's a great lunch salad. Or side dish. Even better as a main with chickpeas added to the mix. It's also excellent the next day so tuck it away as a great prepare ahead recipe. I used pistachios and dried cherries but any combination of dried fruit and nuts that you enjoy would likely be good too -- hazelnuts and dried apricots, dried plums and walnuts, slivered almonds and dried cranberries. If you can't find radicchio you could try thinly sliced red cabbage or sliced endive. Explore. Enjoy.
Quinoa with Pistachios and Dried Cherries
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1/2 head radicchio, sliced thinly
Tbsp of chopped dried cherries
Tbsp of pistachios, halved
Handful of fresh parsley chopped
Coarse sea salt to taste
A white balsmic vinegar and olive oil dressing: I go 1 to 1 but you may prefer 1 to 2
The basics: I cooked the black turtle beans from dry (no presoak, took about an hour to reach al dente) and I carved the kernals directly off the cobs (steamed in a bit of water in a deep fry pan, takes about 5 minutes) because I think the flavours of both add enough of an imprint to bother with the prep, however frozen corn and canned beans are easy substitutes.
The additions: shaved or thinly sliced cabbage is an under-rated vegetable. It's great added to Chinese fish hot pot suppers with ample ginger and borderline excessive garlic and I love it slightly caramelized in a stir fry. Here it's just the acerbic jerk of the dish. The one who talks smack. He's a bit stringy and biting but the taste of him hangs around long after the meal is done.
Lots of chopped fresh dill but basil would be excellent here too.
Then I ventured even further into the land of outspoken vegetables and decided to chop up some dandelion (bought, not foraged) to mellow out the sweetness of the beans and the corn. Dandelion is very tart, not sorrel tart, more along the hints of grass, like that astringent smell in the air right after someone mows their lawn. I love it's uniqueness (one big fat mouthful of chlorophyll) but arugula would be a great substitution.
I made a simple straight up white wine vinegar and olive oil salad dressing, shook it in a jar, tossed all the salad ingredients together with the dressing in a large bowl, added coarse sea salt, ground pepper and a sprinkling (about a tsp worth) of dark ground cumin, then tossed again, until everything was coated evenly.
Consider topping with crumbled queso fresca. Or goat feta.
Brown sesame seeds would be tasty.
If there's leftovers, cook up some rice. And fold everything into a tortilla.
Or fry an egg and stick it on top of the beans and corn on a plate and call it Heuvos Whateveros.
I'm telling you, the possibilities are endless.
I know that brussels sprouts inspire a strong reaction. Usually negative. And listen, I've been there too. The one and only time I ate brussels sprouts as a kid was at a family friend's where the sprouts were served boiled to the point of disintegration and they gave off that foul smell that only a cabbage can carry while dying, rotting purposely from the inside out. My father was there too. And when we got home and everyone hauled out of the station wagon he declared he'd hidden his in his hankie and promptly set off to the backyard compost.
I never thought about them again until I dated a cute and vivacious fellow with exceptionally good taste. He kept bragging about his hit salad, this thing made with brussels sprouts and squirts of lemon and generous amounts of grated salty parmesan. Looking at that face, it was hard not to believe there had to be a bit, even a tiny ounce, of truth to his declaration so I set off to experiment behind closed doors.
And he was right. Raw brussels sprouts are an entirely different beast than boiled ones. Roasted ones are pretty tasty too. But when you take the tiny cabbage buds and peel off their old fat outer layers and work with the tender inner bulb something magical happens. It doesn't work chopping them. You have to use the one blade on a box grater or a mandoline but shave a few of them up and toss them with fresh lemon juice and a bit of zest and some decent olive oil and some hard cheese -- gruyere, parma... -- and then toss in some pine nuts or toasted almonds or any variation on the nut it's a ridiculously tasty burst of flavours. It's good as a salad but incredible as a side. Especially now that we're hitting barbecue season. So go forth. Give the little nubs a shot.
This salad is made with:
shaved brussels sprouts
finely sliced radicchio (oh the sprout loves the bitter lettuces)
a tossing of slivered almonds
some salty crumbled goat feta
wee bit of dill
and ribboned kale
The kale was massaged a bit in olive oil. Which is embarrassing I know. Who massages their lettuces? I mean, really. But it tenderizes it and lets it hang out in full limp glory and it just meshes beautifully with everything else.
Here are more Brussels Sprout Salad recipes I've posted since becoming an almighty convert:
Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Toasted Pecans with Greens in a Warm Whiskey Dressing found here
Sliced Brussels Sprouts with Sugar Snap Peas and Fresh Mint in a Lemon Parmesan Dressing found here
Shaved Fennel and Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate seeds, Orange Sections and Toasted Hazelnuts found here