Tag Archives: vegetarian

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.

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Nose to Tail Roasted Carrots

on white oval platter 625 sqThe concept of “nose to tail eating” has been gathering quite a bit of momentum over the past several years. It stems from a desire to be more responsible and waste as little as possible of the animals being killed for our food.

I try to be a more responsible carnivore. I buy whole chickens and cut them up myself, using the bones and neck to make stock. However, I just can’t seem to jump aboard the whole animal movement when it comes to using up veal tongue, beef cheeks or pigs ears. I’m just not that adventurous an eater.

Happily, for me, the nose to tail movement has recently made it’s way over from animals to vegetables. There’s a movement afoot by chefs, to use up every part of each vegetable we pull from the garden. Here’s a crusade I can get behind. I’m already great at using up broccoli stems and corn cobs.4 bunches with tops 4When I stumbled across a recipe for using up the green carrot tops on epicurious.com, it kind of blew my mind. Who knew that carrot tops were edible and that you could create a pesto from them? I was very excited to try it. 4 bunches with tops 5trimming off topsCarrots get oiled and seasoned and then blasted in a hot oven to roast for about 30 minutes. I left a tiny bit of the stems on because it looks so pretty. ready for roastingUsing up the tender green carrot tops in a pesto is a very clever way to use them up. They taste fresh and clean with a mild carrot flavour. Fresh basil, parmesan, garlic, macadamia nuts and some extra virgin olive oil get blitzed in the food processor with the carrot tops to make a smooth pesto.ingredients for pestomaking pesto 1making pesto 2pesto

Click here to print recipe for Roasted carrots with Carrot Top Pesto.

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Brie and Apple Crostini with Onion Jam

ready to assembleJust as I think I really don’t need another cookbook, poof, next thing you know, there I am buying just one more. I seem to have no willpower when it comes to cookbooks. That, and black jumpsuits. I need a black jumpsuit intervention! A bit more about the latest cookbook purchase in a minute. As for as my black jumpsuit obsession, well, no need for you to know any more about that!

We were in Washington D.C. for a wedding a few weeks ago. We only had time for one meal out, so I did a little research and and the restaurant Founding Farmers kept coming up. Everyone raved about it and it was just a 10 minute walk from our hotel.

Our server came over to our table and introduced herself as Myers. I asked, “like the lemon?” She laughed and nodded. I loved that our server had a food name. She brought us the menu and explained a little bit about the restaurant. It’s a very cool concept. It is owned by over 40,000 family farmers of the North Dakota Farmer’s Union, and is supplied daily by hundreds of family farms everywhere. Everything is cooked, baked and mixed, from scratch on site, with high-quality, responsibly-farmed food.

I wanted to order one of everything on the menu. Myers said that the home baked farm bread was one of her favourite things on the menu. She suggested we start with the Apple, Brie, and Onion Jam Crostini. Fantastic suggestion! If you go, it is not to be missed. When good bread is on the menu, I feel a responsibility to sample it.on green platesThe onion jam was sweet and tart all at the same time with a surprising depth of flavour that you can only get with low slow cooking. slicing onionsonions in pan 1onions in pan 2I asked Myers if the chef would share his recipe for the onion jam, and she said they had a cookbook with many of their recipes. Of course I bought it and came home to recreate this delicious dish. I served it as an appetizer with drinks, but it would also be perfect with a salad for a lunch or a light dinner. The onion preserve recipe makes more than you will need, but it keeps well in the fridge for a week, so use it up in grilled cheese sandwiches, on toast with goat cheese and as a pizza topping.

As always, start with good bread! Kudos to you if you plan to bake your own baguette. I have tried, and it’s not easy. But, there are so many great bakeries crafting excellent Artisan loaves now, it’s just so easy to buy great bread. use good bread

Click here to print recipe for Brie and Apple Crostini with Onion Jam.

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Cauliflower Cheddar Stuffed Potatoes

Let's eat 1 625 sqApparently, cauliflower is the new “kale”. I am thrilled to see kale unseated as the “it” girl in the vegetable world. She can be a bit tough and has a reputation for being high-maintenance.

Finally, cauliflower is getting the respect she deserves. Pretty much a blank canvas, cauliflower can handle being pureed, boiled, roasted, fried and mashed. I especially love it raw, thinly sliced in a slaw, with almonds, capers and golden raisins, although I made this salad so many times this summer that my husband politely requested that we take a break from cauliflower slaw.

“Cauliflower steaks” are popping up on menus everywhere lately. By cutting the cauliflower into thick slabs, the florets stay attached to the stem and you get a flat wide surface area for charring. This trend of “vegetable butchery” is elevated to an art form at Blue Hill. Chef Dan Barber’s Cauliflower Steaks with Cauliflower Puree is pure genius.

I have been known to call a bowl of Baked Cheetos and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc dinner when dining alone, but lately I have been craving something a bit more comforting, and these cauliflower cheddar stuffed potatoes make me very happy. Plus, they’re much healthier than my bowl of baked cheetos!

If you need further convincing about the health benefits of cauliflower, check out this comprehensive cauliflower compendium (say that 3 times fast!!). Helen over at Well Being Secrets has 28 reasons to give cauliflower the love it deserves! Here's what you'll needBake the potatoes until tender. Boil the cauliflower in heavily salted water until it is quite soft. Scoop the flesh out of potato skins and get yourself a big bowl for mashing. Add milk, salt, pepper and cauliflower and get busy. My masher is spring loaded and so much fun to use. scooping flesh from skinsmashingNo need to make a smooth puree here. Lumps are acceptable and welcome. Fold in the cheese and spoon back into the shells. Bake until hot and melty!filling potato skins

Click here to print recipe for Cauliflower and Cheddar Stuffed Potatoes.

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Crusted Acorn Squash

baked 3I don’t like Halloween. There, I said it. Please don’t hurl a pumpkin at me. I know it’s an unpopular sentiment but I have to lay it all out there. What’s not to like, you may ask? Adorable children dressed in costumes, tons of candy and a great party atmosphere. How could anyone hate that? I think most of my enmity stems from the pumpkin.

Pumpkin guts kind of unnerve me. Cut the top off the pumpkin and I become perturbed. I do not want to handle those slimy seeds. Sure, you can carve an adorable face, but the next day, after all the fun and games, someone has to deal with the  leftover carcass. It has to be cut up and composted or put in the garbage. November 1 is just so depressing!

Add to that the fact that, by the time the big day arrives, I have eaten roughly half my body weight in miniature Kit Kat and Coffee Crisp chocolate bars. I thought I had come up with a clever way of handling the calorie loading by trying to outsmart myself, and only buy chocolate bars I didn’t like. (There are very few of those!) I started buying Mr. Big bars.Cadbury_Mr_Big_Label94_enlThat led to a whole other problem. Once word got out that we were giving out full size candy bars, vans started pulling up to the house, unleashing hordes of kids from other neighbourhoods. Now, not only did I have to smile and pretend to be happy to see my neighbours and their kids, I had to spend the evening interacting with random strangers! Plus, I discovered that, say… I do like Mr. Big bars after all.

Luckily for me, and all our neighbours, my husband loves Halloween. He buys and carves the pumpkin and answers the door and makes small talk with everyone. God bless him!

So, when I came across a recipe for Crusted Pumpkin Wedges in Yotam Ottolenghi’s fabulous book, Plenty, I immediately crossed out the pumpkin and proceeded to make it with acorn squash! There was also an adorable butternut squash at the market that day, and I bought it as well. It looked like it wanted to hug the acorn squash. I have nothing but love for squash!butternut hugs acorn 2I left the acorn squash unpeeled and sliced it. They looked like flowers.sliced squash The topping is made from dried breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, lemon zest, garlic, parsley and thyme. I had no Panko breadcrumbs so I made breadcrumbs from some rye bread that I had in the freezer.

rye bread crumbsgrating cheese

chopping parsleybrushing with oilThe topping gets applied quite thickly to the squash, and then it is pressed on to help it adhere.ready for oven The baked squash was so delicious. The sweetness of the tender squash was perfectly balanced by the salty crunchy topping. I would probably even love this with pumpkin! baked 2

Click here to print recipe for Crusted Acorn Squash.

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