Category Archives: Vegetarian

Crispy Salt and Vinegar Chickpeas

in bowl with wooden spoon 625 sq Salty, crunchy, tangy and just perfect for mindless snacking, these roasted chickpeas are addictive. I was introduced to these a few months ago by my friend Marla. She made them to serve with drinks at my house. They were quickly gobbled up by everyone.

While roasting chickpeas may seem like a new idea, they’re actually quite a retro snack, dating back to 1000 CE. Known as Leblebi, they are a very common snack food in Turkey, Iran and Algeria. Often seasoned with salt and hot spices, once in a while you come across candy coated ones. I’m thinking of trying a salt, cumin and smoked paprika variation next.

I used canned chickpeas to keep things fast and easy. Rinse and drain a couple of cans.draining in collanderTip them into a pot and cover with 2 cups of plain white distilled vinegar. You could be fancy and try apple cider or champagne vinegar if you wanted. Bring to a boil. Cover pot, remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes. adding vinegarThe key to getting the chick peas super crispy is to dry them very well. After draining them from their vinegar bath, I spread them out on a few layers of paper towels and let them air dry for about 30 minutes before coating with oil, salt and pepper. 45 minutes in a hot oven and they are golden brown and perfectly crispy.on baking sheetInspired by street food snacks in the Middle-East, I decided to serve them in paper cones. I fashioned them out of parchment paper and then dressed them up with a band of pretty wrapping paper.in bowl with bucket of conesI first learned how to fashion a cone out of parchment paper when I was in culinary school. We had to make them to use as a piping bag for decorative icing in our baking class. My fine motor skills are not the sharpest, so I had difficulty making them. I got the brilliant idea to bring in plastic disposable piping bags, but was promptly scolded by my teacher. He said that the plastic piping bags were for “housewives” and we were professionals! I practiced over and over again and can now make them in my sleep. Here is a great video tutorial. 

spooning into cone 1

Click here to print recipe for Crispy Salt and Vinegar Chickpeas.

Cauliflower Cake

a slice with saladHappy New Year! Have you made any resolutions? Let me know what you’re determined to change or accomplish this year. Personally, I’m not big on goal setting. It makes me very uncomfortable. I fear the inevitable disappointment if I fall short of my target.

A good friend of mine resolved to express more gratitude this year. She wrote me a beautiful note, letting me know how grateful she is for our friendship. I was so touched. Yet, a small part of me felt like crap! Maybe I should be resolving to be a better person too. Or maybe I’ll just bake a cake, a vegetable cake. That counts as virtuous, doesn’t it?baked

with salad 625 sqThis lovely cauliflower cake is very slightly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Plenty More.what you'll needcooking cauliflower and onionsRoastedmashed, or thinly sliced in a slaw, cauliflower is such a versatile vegetable. In this rendition, cauliflower gets boiled until soft and tender. Then it gets folded into a gossamer light cake batter, made with eggs, flour and baking powder. Basil and rosemary add a herbal freshness. Parmesan and Gruyere cheese add some gooey, nutty saltiness and the addition of turmeric makes this cake positively sunny. assembling 2ready to bake 2Topped with thinly sliced tomatoes and shallots, this is a very pretty golden cake indeed. on white plates

Click here to print recipe for Cauliflower Cake.on stripe plates

 

Grilled Zucchini Halloumi Chickpea Salad

plated 3 FWe’re not big on celebrating the “Hallmark Card Holidays” in our house. Valentines Day is just an excuse for me to bake, blog about and then gorge on photo shoot leftovers of gorgeous heart shaped cookies like these, or these or especially these!! Not that I really need a holiday excuse to bake cookies.

Mother’s and Father’s Day are customarily observed with the perfunctory card and a big hug. So imagine my surprise this year when each of my 3 children, totally independant of each other, presented me with gifts. Two days before, my youngest son gave me a delicate sterling silver chain bracelet. On Mother’s Day my oldest son handed me an impeccably wrapped and ribboned box that contained an elegant hand blown glass pitcher with a flavour infuser in the center. And then, 6 weeks after Mother’s Day, my middle child, (my daughter), left a fitbit on my desk.

My first thought was that my husband told the kids he was leaving me for a younger faster version and hadn’t gotten around to telling me yet. Then it occurred to me that perhaps I was dying and no one had the guts to break the news to me. But no, the husband vowed he was in it for the long haul and I felt perfectly healthy. Turns out, they just wanted to show me how much they love and appreciate me. Awww. Sweet!!

Guzzling mint-strawberry-cucumber flavoured water and wearing the fitbit make me believe I am healthier already. I decided to go with the flow and assembled this healthy, insanely delicious salad I discovered in the June 2014 issue of Chatelaine magazine.

Already armed with some gorgeous local zucchini, I was prepared. zucchiniI sliced the fatter zucchini on the diagonal into 1/2 inch thick planks. The little ones I just sliced in half, lengthwise. slicing green zucchini on diagonalA package of Halloumi cheese gets sliced into 1/2 inch planks as well. slicing halloumiI whisked together a dressing with white wine vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.lemon juice FEverything gets treated to a generous glug of good olive oil, some Kosher salt and pepper (no salt for the cheese!, it’s salty enough already.) The zucchini get grilled until deeply golden brown. I pan fried the halloumi since it can stick to the grill. A can of chickpeas and some fresh mint and parsley and lunch is ready. plated 4FI think that eating raw zucchini is about as pleasant and flavourful as chewing a sponge. But bathe it in olive oil, salt and pepper and let it get grill kissed and something magical happens to the taste and texture. It becomes silky in texture and almost meaty in substance. And if you have never had fried halloumi cheese before, well, let’s just say you are in for a real treat. It is salty, slightly rubbery and squidgey. While that may not sound like the most appetizing description, trust me, it is delicious. It sort of squeaks between your teeth when you chew it and it is very addictive. plated 2F 625 sq

Click here to print recipe for Zucchini Halloumi Chickpea Salad.

A Balanced Life and Autumn Salad

Several years ago I got involved in volunteering at an organization called “Soup Sisters.” It was founded in 2009 in Calgary by  Sharon Hapton. This organization supports women’s shelters across the country with the very simple and heartfelt gesture of providing home-made soup. Their tagline is “Warming hearts, one bowl at a time.”  Sharon’s good friend from Ottawa, Lynne Oreck-Wener attended the Calgary launch, and was so moved by this wonderful program, she decided, along with Lori Thompson and Marien Barker, to start-up a branch of Soup Sisters in Ottawa. They decided to donate the soup to Interval House, a local women’s shelter here in Ottawa. Along with several other volunteers, we assist by arriving early and setting up all the soup stations, or staying late to assist in the clean-up.

The soups are cooked at Urban Element, a cooking studio here in Ottawa that is home to an incredible professional kitchen. What was once a Fire Station has been converted into a charming culinary workshop. They kept the original red brick walls and built a state-of-the-art kitchen, complete with shiny stainless steel counters and appliances, butcher block islands, sharp knives and spoons and whisks of every size and shape.  The drawers are stocked with clear containers neatly labeled, containing just about every pantry item you could imagine.  Five kinds of peppercorns, and six varieties of salt had me feeling slightly jealous.

Each month, a different group of  participants (12-20 individuals) come together to cook. The groups differ each month. One month saw a group of employees from a law firm, using the evening as a team building opportunity.  Other groups have included friends and family getting together to celebrate a special birthday. The groups break into teams of 4, each preparing a huge stock pot of delicious soup. Our job, as volunteers is to wander around, making sure that no one chops off a finger or grates a knuckle, help the participants find what they need, and generally coral the chaos. Once they finish chopping and sauteing, the soups are set on simmer and the group sits down to a little meal of soup, salad, bread and wine.

Each participant pays a $50 fee, for which they receive training from a respected guest chef, the chance to work in a modern, contemporary professional kitchen, some new cooking skills, dinner, wine and most importantly, the glow of gratification from helping others.

Each session begins with a short address from Lula Adam, public education coordinator at Interval House.

“When the women realize someone has taken time from their Sunday night to do something to help them, it really touches them. These are women who haven’t really had a lot done for them, so it really does make a difference. When women first come here, they often feel isolated and alone. This is a gentle reminder that people in the broader community do care.”

After dinner the participants gather back in the kitchen to package the soups.  They are encouraged to write a personal message on the label, such as “made with hugs” or “made with love”. Each month when I volunteer, and watch the groups of women participating, it becomes clear, that these women care about their mission.  They want to make a difference beyond writing a cheque. These are indeed soups made with love. If you are interested in their soup recipes, check out their wonderful new cookbook.

Last month when I was working there, our guest chef was Tara Rajan. She prepared a roasted squash and apple salad for the group. This is my interpretation of her salad.

Perhaps because I am a Libra, (the sign is the scales) when I cook, I am always thinking about balance. I once read a beautiful definition of balance by Jasmin Tanjeloff, on the blog Tiny Buddha.

“To me, it means that you have a handle on the various elements in your life and don’t feel that your heart or mind are being pulled too hard in any direction. More often than not, you feel calm, grounded, clear-headed, and motivated.”

Balance in cooking is just as important as balance in the rest of your life.  When creating a dish I look for all the flavour elements to be in balance. These elements include salt, sour, sweet, spicy and bitter. I like to include the textural elements of creamy and crunch as well. Of course, not every dish needs all these elements, but when you do hit them all, sometimes it can be an incredible culinary party in your mouth.

I started with some obvious fall staples, squash and apples.

I like acorn squash because it looks like flowers when you slice it. Plus, the skin, when roasted is quite tender, so I never bother peeling it. I used Honeycrisp apples. Empires or Royal Galas would also work well.

The apples and squash are brushed with a little vegetable oil and maple syrup. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and they are ready for the oven.

I prepared a dressing using sunflower oil, apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, maple syrup, salt and pepper.  In order to give the salad a hit of heat and some crunch, I prepared spiced pumpkin seeds. Shelled pumpkin seeds were coated with egg white and then tossed in a mixture of chipotle chile powder, sugar, and salt. They went into a moderate oven until they were toasted to perfection.

To assemble the salad, I started with a base of roasted squash and apple slices. I topped that with a few radicchio leaves, and a big pile of tender mache (lamb’s lettuce). I drizzled the salad with dressing, and topped it with some spiced pumpkin seeds and a few shavings of salty white cheddar.

Click here to print recipe for Autumn Salad.

Chili Hand Pies

Just the words “Hand Pie” make me smile. Could there be anything more adorable and appealing than a little pie you eat with your hands? To be honest, I’m not a huge fruit pie fan. Perhaps it’s because of my peach pie blunder.   Or maybe it’s just that if I’m going to ingest copious amounts of butter and sugar, I’d rather partner it with chocolate or caramel rather than fruit. Plus, there’s something about a fruit hand pie makes me think of McDonald’s deep-fried apple pies. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But stuff something savory in pastry and I’m all over it!

I was watching The Chew last week and Carla and Clinton teamed up to make Chili Hand Pies. They had way too much fun making them, and I wanted in on it. I think it would be so much fun to have the cast of The Chew over for drinks! Cooking dinner for them would be too much pressure, but I know that certainly after a few cocktails, they’d all be in my kitchen with me cooking away. Michael would be laughing while he prepared some porky goodness, Mario would be grating Parmesan Cheese over everything and Clinton would surely keep the cocktails flowing.

My sisters just read the last paragraph and I know they are thinking that I am turning into my mother, having imaginary parties with my TV friends.

Carla and Clinton did a Beef Chili. I decided to do a vegetarian version, substituting Veggie Ground Round for the beef. I also added some onions to the chili and ramped up the heat, using 3 kinds of peppers: fresh jalapeno, diced pickled jalapeno and ancho chili powder. You want the filling to be quite spicy because the pastry crust is quite mild.

The dough is made with cornmeal. They recommended cutting the butter into small slices, but I took it right from the freezer and grated it into the dry ingredients. This is a wonderfully supple dough and rolls out without any problems. I used a 5 inch tin to cut out my circles. Use whatever you have on hand. Smaller ones would also be a wonderful hors d’oeuvre. You can make the chili and the pastry a day ahead and refrigerate them separately. I rolled out all my pastry circles and stacked them between sheets of waxed paper, before chilling. That way, the next day it was all ready to assemble and bake.

Onions, garlic, red pepper, jalapeno pepper, cumin, chili powder and salt form the flavour base.

Make sure you let the chili cool before mixing in some grated cheddar.

Don’t overfill them or you will have trouble sealing them. You can simply press the edges with the tines of a fork, or get fancy and roll the edges like a rope. 

Cut a few slits so the steam can escape. 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven, and they are ready to serve.

Click here to print the recipe for Chili Hand Pies.