Tag Archives: salads

Broccoli, Raisin and Olive Salad with Pine Nuts

with all the mix insfront of mugThis is my favourite mug. The weight and shape of it feel just right in my hand. It is part of my comforting morning ritual. If  you’re wondering, the mug is from Anthropologie,. Sadly, they don’t make them anymore. I bought a bunch of them with the initials of favourite family members and friends so they would feel welcome when visiting. Now I can’t make any new friends, unless their names start with certain letters that I already have on the shelf. Such a dilemma! It would be awkward to serve my new friend Xavier a latte in a letter M mug.back of mugHere is my mug from the rear view. With the small chip in the base it’s not quite as attractive as the front view. (Most of us look better coming rather than going) Despite this flaw, the mug is still quite functional, so I refuse to replace it. I am also flawed but functional, so my mug is a perfect analogy for me.

This broccoli salad was created the week before we moved. I had been trying not to shop for any groceries and use up what was in the house, so that we would have less stuff to haul. A lonely bag of pine nuts escaped the freezer purge earlier in the week, so they were added for crunch. A jar of raisins survived the pantry purge, so in they went for sweetness. The top shelf of the fridge held a few Kalamata olives and some leftover pickled shallots. don't throw out the stemsPlease don’t chop the florets off your broccoli and discard the stems. Once you peel the outer woody skin, the inside is quite tender.

I had some help in styling this salad from the talent behind the fabulous Instagram account   @bowlsand beats (where health and hiphop collide). Full disclosure, she’s my daughter and she was home visiting for the weekend.

This was my first try at styling the salad. I wasn’t thrilled with the composition so I called her in to help.salad on white oval plate 1She immediately grouped all the little elements together for greater impact. bowls and beats stylessalad on white oval plate 2Better but not quite satisfied, she suggested we try a round bowl instead. styled by bowls and beats 2Perfect. We shot it with my iPhone for her Instagram page and then we ate!Instagram it

Click here to print recipe for Broccoli, Raisin and Olive Salad with Pine Nuts.

 

Israeli Couscous with Pickled Shallots, Peas, Mint and Ricotta Salata

in green bowl 1 625 sqI have never understood the appeal of traditional couscous. It simply does not have enough texture or heft for me. Even when steamed and fluffed properly, so that the grains stay separate, it fails to satisfy me. I like my carbs with a bit of bite to them. Israeli couscous is more my jam. It is dense with a bouncy, chewy texture. I had always assumed that Israeli couscous was just bigger balls of regular couscous. I only recently learned the true difference.

Traditional couscous is actually tiny ground pasta made from semolina flour. It is made by rubbing semolina between wet hands until teeny-tiny balls are formed. The couscous is then dried and steamed. Israeli couscous is also made from semolina flour, but the similarities end there. Israeli couscous is made by mixing semolina flour with water, into a dough. The dough is then machine extruded through a round mould, about 1 millimetre in size.  These tiny pearls are then toasted dry, which adds a nutty flavour. 

Traditional couscous has been around, some believe, since the 9th century, but Israeli couscous is just a baby. It only came into existence in the 1950’s. Following the War of Independence in 1948, many immigrants arrived in the newly formed country from all over the Middle East. Most of them relied on rice as a staple in their cuisine, but there were rice shortages. Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, asked the Osem food company to develop something that they could substitute for their beloved rice. They created “Ptitim“. It was nicknamed Ben Gurion rice, since it was originally extruded in the shape of rice grains. They later introduced a round version which they called Israeli couscous.

This delicious salad is my adaptation of a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. I have only made a slight change. I substituted ricotta salata for the feta cheese they suggested. I prefer the drier texture and less salty taste of ricotta salata. Many Italian grocers carry it. Feel free to use feta if you like, or even some crumbled goat cheese, if that’s your thing.

Begin with pickling the shallots. Nothing too complicated here. You will need red wine vinegar, sugar, a pinch of salt and some thinly sliced shallots. ingredients for picklingSimmer vinegar, sugar and salt until the sugar dissolves. Add shallots, turn off heat, cover pot and let macerate for 30 minutes. That’s it. I always thought pickling was so complicated. pickling shallotsTo properly cook Israeli couscous, begin by sauteeing in a bit of olive oil until about half the grains turn brown. Then add water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook covered for 12 minutes. The ratio of Israeli couscous to water is 1:1.25.  (For every cup of couscous, add 1¼ cups water)toasted cous cousOnce cooked, spread couscous out on a baking sheet to allow it to cool before tossing with other salad ingredients. cooling couscousPrepare the dressing. The mild flavour of couscous can stand up to a bracing dressing of Dijon, lemon juice, red pepper flakes and olive oil.making dressingThen it’s simply a matter of assembly. I thawed some green peas (no cooking necessary), drained the pickled shallots, washed some baby arugula and mint, toasted and chopped pistachios and diced up the cheese. Sugar snap peas or asparagus would also be excellent friends with this salad. ready to assembleI loved the combination of all these ingredients. Chewy, nutty couscous, bitter arugula, sweet mint, crunchy pistachios, salty cheese and the zingy pickled shallots. Each bite had me craving more. in white bowl

Click here to print recipe for Israeli Cous Cous with Pickled Shallots Peas, Mint and Ricotta Salata.

in green bowl 2

On the 6th night of Chanukah: Broccoli Brussels Sprouts Slaw

On the 6th night of Chanukah, my true love asked me if I was trying to kill him with all that butter and sugar I’d been force feeding him. What??? Pecan Toffee Squares, Oat Pistachio Cookies, Macadamia Coconut White Chocolate Shortbread, Perfect Chocolate Chunk Cookies and Chocolate Crunch too much? OK, point taken. Perhaps it’s time for some salad.close up in white bowlI’ve been on a bit of a raw Brussels sprouts bender lately. But really, can you blame me? Would you be able to resist buying these Brussels sprouts? Who knew Brussels sprouts grow on a stalk? So cool. I think I actually squealed when I saw them.what you'll need cropped  These giant bright green olives are Castelvetrano olives. I was introduced to them this summer, and was astounded at how different they are from the typical salty heavily brined green olives we normally buy. They have a crunchy bite and a mild buttery flavour. They somehow manage to be sweet and salty at the same time. Mild and not at all overpowering, they are the perfect olive for this salad. I found them at Whole Foods. Castelvetrano olivesI discovered this recipe in the November 2015 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine. A food processor makes quick work of shredding the Brussels sprouts. slicing sproutsslicing broccoliAs we crunched through this salad, my true love said he could feel his arteries unclogging. A fresh lemon vinaigrette dressing gets additional punch from a bit of anchovy paste. Rather than make the dressing taste fishy, it just adds a rich, savory background flavour. A generous shaving of Parmesan cheese, fresh corn and some chopped toasted almonds round out this addictive slaw.

Click here to print recipe for Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts Slaw.

Roasted Winter Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette

salad 2 625 sqI have made this salad four times in the past month, and I am just now getting around to telling you about it. Before you go and accuse me of holding out on you, let me explain. My reluctance to share this recipe does not come from a place of greed (as in not wanting to share), but rather, from a place of shame.

I discovered this recipe while reading In Style Magazine. I could tell you that I happened upon it while reading a copy of the magazine at my dentist’s office, but that would be a lie. The truth is that I have a subscription to In Style Magazine and that I get quite giddy when a new issue arrives. I read with meticulous attention, from cover to cover, folding over many pages with inspirational ideas on fashion and decor. I love to see how the celebrities dress and what their homes look like. I wholly confess to this guilty pleasure. There, now my secret’s out. I hope you don’t think any less of me!

In the November issue of In Style, Ina Garten shares tips and recipes for a stress free Thanksgiving. While Ina is fond of saying “How easy is that?”, this recipe, while not difficult to make, does require a few more additional steps than a simple green salad. But the additional work to prepare it is definitely worth it.

dicing squashmaking dressingroasted squashshaving parmThis is a salad with layers of contrasting flavours and textures. The peppery, slightly bitter arugula is perfectly balanced by the roasted squash coated in maple syrup. The crunchy pecans provide a perfect textural contrast to the tender roasted squash. The tangy, salty Parmesan provides a perfect foil to the sweet cider vinaigrette. It is destined to become your guilty pleasure!

Click here to print recipe for Roasted Winter Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette.

salad 3 sq

 

 

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.