Finding My Past in Food [Healthier Egg Salad with Tarragon and Pickled Celery]
My past with food isn’t as glamorous as I sometimes wish it was. I didn’t learn to mix, knead and roll pasta with my grandmother on Sundays and I wasn’t teetering on my tip toes, nose barely reaching the counter, while my Dad taught me how to break down a chicken, sear it to a golden brown and simmer it in tomatoes and capers, olives and hot peppers. It wasn’t my reality. There are times I feel nostalgic for the stories of those whose family and food lives were wrapped around each other like a sturdy vine, but I forget that I, too, have a past in food, glamorous or not.
The older I get the more I remember the things I did learn about food from my family. They may not be the stories I longed for or the romantic ones some of my friends and peers can tell, but they were the ones that shaped me. My Dad passed along his fearlessness towards all food. Mold? Just cut it off and carry on. Leftovers there for a while? Details, details - just eat it. Expiry dates? A mere suggestion. He joked endlessly about liver and onions, terrifying my sister and I at the thought of having to join him at the table. He ate any cut, any way. If there was something on a menu that he hadn’t heard of before, there was an 80% chance it would arrive in front of him minutes later. At the time I may not have appreciated his ways with food, but theses days I embrace them. He made me a fearless eater, never one to turn anything down, never afraid to try anything at least once. Especially creamy, mayonnaise-filled items like chicken salad, egg salad, any kind of canned meat… I was my fathers daughter and it made me proud to say that I liked what he liked.
Years later, when it was just my mom and I living in her place, I learned how to cook the first meals I made for my friends and first real boyfriend. Meaty spaghetti sauces studded with big hunks of tomato (something that made my sister squirm in disgust), tomato soup jazzed up with a hit of Worcestershire sauce, tabasco and melted cheese slice that I still crave today when I’m under the weather, dreamy whipped mashed potatoes that I can still claim as the best I’ve ever had and still make today, much to Al and my friend’s delight. She taught me that cooking for people made them feel special and showed them how much you cared for them. It was a high I still haven’t come down from despite not getting into cooking until I was about 24. Sunday dinners at her place brought us all together so we could slow down, laugh hysterically and tell our stories from the week. I still relish her cooking and it always makes me feel important and loved when she cooks for us.
My best friend, Amanda, is Lebanese. She comes from the kind of food background that I’ve always longed for. Her mother cooks everything from scratch. When I used to go there, back when I was only just learning to love cooking, I remember seeing hot peppers from her garden drying on the window sill. Amanda explained that she would grind them and use that as seasoning in her dishes. That nearly blew my mind. Do people do that? Don’t spices come from a clear jar with a sage-green lid in the spice aisle? She would feed us labneh, a soft cheese made with strained yogurt (also homemade) and I would sit, bewildered at her dedication to feeding her family ingredients that she pulled from the garden or created from a few humble items in her fridge. Her cooking is a nudge to her past, rich with tradition and memories of Lebanon. I remember Amanda always felt a bit weird about her entirely ethnic lunches (at least to suburban kids who ate french fries or peanut butter sandwiches for lunch), and I would be lying if I said we weren’t all a bit put off by them in the high school cafeteria, but those are the meals I now hope I can feed my kids someday. Meals rich in culture and tradition, meals that have a past and a story to them. Meals and ingredients that I made with my two hands. Ones that I might even be able to say Mary Melhem, your Aunt Amanda’s mom, taught me about when I was just a bratty 10th grader.
All of these stories shaped the way I cook, the way I eat and my relationship with food. Though I longed for more then, I realize now that I couldn’t want for any more. Fearlessness and an open mind, the knowledge that cooking equates to loving and that making a meal for someone is the best way to show them you care, and a dedication to create meals from scratch for my family and share the tradition and stories behind them.
Egg salad always reminds me of my Dad. He liked his creamy and mayonnaise-filled (expired or not) and studded with green olives. I haven’t eaten egg salad in a long time but when I do, I prefer mine a touch healthier and with plenty of flavour from tarragon, pickled celery and hot sauce. I still thought of him as I spread it thick on bread and took a monstrous bite as the salad pushed out the sides like toothpaste.
Healthier Egg Salad with Pickled Celery and Tarragon
makes 4 sandwiches
Though this recipe is mostly mine, I did use Smitten Kitchen’s idea of picking the celery. This adds such a welcome kick of sour bite to the salad without having to bite down on a pickle. Unless you’re into that sort of thing, in which case - add a few pickles diced really tiny.
Hard boiled egg method courtesy of 101Cookbooks. Follow it to the tee and you’ll have perfect eggs every time.
1/4 cup (2 stalks) celery, diced
1/2 cup pickle brine (from dill pickles, sweet gherkins, pickled jalapenos)
6 hard boiled eggs, method follows
2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp fresh tarragon, minced
1 tbsp Tabasco sauce (or favourite hot sauce)
1 tsp dijon
1 tbsp caper berries (2 tbsp if you really like them)
1/2 tsp salt
plenty of fresh ground pepper to taste
sliced whole wheat bread
romaine, kale or greens of your choice
Place the diced celery in a pickle brine of your choice. I used jalapeno because I wanted that spicy kick. Let it sit in the brine for at least 45 minutes up to overnight.
Have a bowl of ice water ready. Place your eggs in a pot and cover by 1-2” with cold water. Bring to a gentle boil, turn off the heat, cover and let them sit for exactly 7 minutes. Plunge into the ice water and let cool for at least 3 minutes to stop the cooking process.
Peel the eggs, place in a big bowl with the celery, greek yogurt, tarragon, Tabasco, dijon, capers lots of pepper and salt. Mash everything together, paying most attention to the eggs, until you’re left with a well combined, coarse textured salad. Taste and adjust to your liking. Spread a nice, thick layer onto bread and top with greens of your choice. Place the second slice of bread on top and take a big, messy bite.
Was your childhood ripe with tradition and history in food or did you have a past similar to mine?
Heart & Home [Coconut Flank & Broccoli Salad with Peanuts and Basil]
I’m sorry… did I go to Mexico or was that just a sublime delusion?
I blinked and it was over. Days on days of burying my nose in My Berlin Kitchen, romancing over a life that wasn’t nearly mine, sipping piquante bloody mary’s or mojitos while observing a motley crew of intensely-hued tropical fish swim circles around my ever-browning toes, kissing dolphins on the nose (which made me squeal in an octave I’m not sure has been identified by humans yet), standing still while spider monkeys crawled around my head, tangling sesame seed shells into my salt-crusted hair, sipping mimosas while kayaking around a lagoon and yelping that the electric-coloured crabs would jump 6 feet to our boat (unlikely…I realize) and finishing each evening recounting our day over red wine and Jacuzzi baths (guys. seriously. the Cadillac of Jacuzzi tubs sat a mere two feet from our bed). It was a trip not filled with much culture or adventure, but one rich in relaxation, time together reconnecting, and plenty…PLENTY…of sub-par dining options. As most resorts tend to excel in.
On our last day, I started thinking of what I would cook when I came home. I needed something rich in colour, vegetables and zingy, bright flavour (everything we ate was rich and salty….but not balanced with any sort of citrus or acid). I spent much time during our week away immersed in the Donna Hay Magazine spring issue. Every recipe had my mouth literally puckering and drooling like a toddler, and I anxiously dog-earred pages, knowing full well that the second I got home, I would drop my bags and sprint as fast as I could to the nearest store for produce and ingredients to make these dishes my reality. I returned home the day before my birthday and while most wishes I received directed me to have someone else cook for me on my day, the only thing I was wishing for was to have my feet planted firmly in front of my cutting board; chopping, whisking, marinating, searing… the words I’d missed so genuinely that had been replaced with “room service” and “buffet” and “Me gustaría pedir…”. I love my kitchen. It is heart and home as much as my bed, my Allan, my animals.
This dish is vastly different than the one in the magazine in preparation. The ingredients are identical, but because I bought flank instead of rump, I decided to marinate it in the coconut mixture that was only used to soak peanuts and cook broccoli in the original. It produced a savoury, rich marinate AND sauce for the dish that I can’t wait to experiment with again. I hope you enjoy making it as much as eating it, and relish in the act of chopping and searing, as I did.
Coconut Flank & Broccoli Salad with Peanuts and Basil
adapted from Donna Hay Magazine
1 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp fish sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
2lb flank steak, trimmed of excess fat
1/2 cup peanuts, roasted & unsalted
4 cups thinly sliced broccoli florets (or broccolini)
1/3 cup basil leaves
In a large sealable container (or zip bag), add the coconut milk, brown sugar, fish sauce, soy, lime and oil. Stir to combine and tuck the flank steak into the mixture. Seal, chill and marinate 3 hours, up to overnight.
Place a large cast iron skillet or grill-pan over high heat with a bit of neutral oil (veg or peanut) in it. Remove the flank from the marinate, shaking to remove excess marinade, and place on the pan for 4-5 minutes on each side for medium-rare. I don’t recommend cooking past med-rare as flank tends to get tough if over cooked. Remove and wrap in tin foil to rest.
Pour leftover marinade and peanuts into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and add the broccoli and toss around a bit. Cover and cook just until bright green but still crunchy in the center, 2 minutes. Remove and set aside. Let coconut marinade continue to simmer until reduced and deep brown. It should coat the back of a spoon.
Slice flank into very thin slices, cutting against the grain, and at a slight diagonal so that the slices are wide. Toss the meat with the broccoli and thickened coconut and peanut mixture, taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. Spoon onto a platter or serving dishes and top with basil leaves and extra lime wedges. I serve with lots of spicy Sriracha as it tends to go well with these flavours.
To stretch the dish out and provide something a bit more filling, serve with rice or rice noodles.
Me and My Salad [Cauliflower Salad with Almonds, Apricots & Fried Capers]
As I shoved the last bite of this salad into my mouth the other day, I knew I would have to share it with you all. I’ll make this short, sweet, salty and sour.
It’s become clear that I not only have an issue with baked eggs, but cauliflower too. I can’t get enough lately. I want it all, and I want it now. This salad sort of threw itself together as I stood in the kitchen, watching it all unfold before my eyes. It was as if my brain couldn’t keep up with my hands, grabbing, tossing, mixing, and then there we were. Me and my salad. Sitting down to a lovely lunch together.
This bad boy has it all. A gentle nuttiness from the caramelized bits of cauliflower, a pungent brininess from the fried capers, gentle heat from the almonds and a slight sweetness from the dried apricots. All this pulled together with a creamy orange-scented yogurt dressing. It might sound a bit much, but believe me when I tell you these flavours were meant to be married into one big delicious family. And then eaten by you!
Cauliflower Salad with Almonds, Apricots & Fried Capers
1 large (2 small) head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
1/3 cup raw almonds
pinch or two cayenne pepper, optional
1/4 cup capers, stems removed if necessary
small handful of dried apricot slices, diced
1/2 cup orange-yogurt dressing (recipe follows)
fresh ground pepper, to garnish
Preheat oven to 350.
Toss cauliflower florets with 2 pinches of salt and enough olive oil and to lightly coat. Pour onto a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until florets begin to brown around the edges. Turn florets over and bake for another 6-7 minutes until golden.
While cauliflower cooks, put a small saucepan over medium heat and drizzle very lightly with olive oil. Add the almonds and a pinch or two of cayenne pepper, more if you like it spicier. I didn’t add salt to mine, but you can if you’d like. Let sit for 3 minutes until lightly toasted on one side. Shake the pan and let toast for another 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to cool.
In the same pan, add 1/3 cup olive oil and bring to med-high heat. Add the capers and let them fry until they’ve opened slightly and start to crisp up, 40-60 seconds for small capers, 1-2 minutes for large ones like I used. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate to cool.
Toss the cauliflower, almonds, capers and apricots into a large mixing bowl and toss with 1/4 cup dressing. If it’s too dry, add a little more until it’s coated to your liking. Serve warm with lots of pepper and dressing on the side for those who want more.
makes 1 cup
If you don’t use all the dressing, it makes a great marinade for chicken!
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
zest from 1/2 large orange
juice from 1/2 large orange
1/2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
Mix all but the water in a small bowl. If the texture is thin enough already (it should be similar in texture to a slightly thicker buttermilk), don’t add water. If it needs to be thinned slightly, add water 1/2 tbsp at a time until texture is to your liking. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, honey or orange juice if needed.
When Good Things Come Together [Roasted Savoy Cabbage with Apples, Pine Nuts and Cranberries]
Don’t you love when a meal just falls together like a stack of dominoes toppling over? All you have to do is open the fridge and magically everything you need is there, waiting for you to poke and prod it into a meal. That’s how this happened.
I bought two heads of savoy cabbage thinking I’d use at least one for Thanksgiving, but it turns out it was one of the 3 ingredients in my kitchen I didn’t put into our big feast. There it sat, scared and alone, worried it’s fate might be sealed…in the garbage can. I had other plans, of course, it just took me a few days to find the time (and the fridge space!!) to get there.
I heaved the giant cabbage out of the crisper, cut it into wedges and went on a hunt for something to top it with. The windowsill was still concealed by all the bits and pieces that went into our holiday stuffings, so I decided to grab a few of those and make a quick topping of gala apples, pine nuts and dried cranberries. The perfect marriage of colour, texture and flavour. Especially when strewn about a plate of rich caramelized, and slightly crispy roasted cabbage and a deep roasted garlic vinaigrette. It turned out to be intensely satisfying, leaving me dragging my finger across the plate in hopes of tasting it for just a little bit longer. The flavours are bang-on, the ease makes it’s suitable for weeknight side dishes (friends, Amica and Scott served it alongside some lamb chops and said it was the perfect match) or even a light lunch.
Roasted Savoy Cabbage with Apples, Pine Nuts and Cranberries
Feel free to substitute pecans or walnuts for the pine nuts, dried cherries or golden raisins for the cranberries. You must, however, add the apples!
1 head savoy cabbage, cut into 1.5”-2” wedges
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup gala or honey crisp apples, diced small
roasted garlic vinaigrette, recipe follows
1 tbsp parsley, minced, to garnish
Preheat oven to 350.
Place cabbage wedges on a large baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and give a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roast until fork tender and edges are golden and crisp, about 20-30 minutes.
While cabbage roasts, place the pine nuts, cranberries and apples in a small bowl and toss with lemon juice and olive oil.
Place 2 wedges of cabbage on a plate and top with a spoonful or two of the topping. Drizzle with vinaigrette, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.
Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette
adapted from Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body
1 head of garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp maple syrup
Preheat oven to 375. Cut the top off the head of garlic, exposing some of the cloves. Drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Wrap tightly in tin foil and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until cloves are soft and golden brown. Let cool completely before removing cloves.
Farmers Feast #3 [Warm Caramelized Corn, Shiro Plum & Patty Pan Salad]
Another month, another Farmers Feast.
This time, it was all about the corn. The beautiful, golden yellow and satisfyingly sweet corn. With the recent drought still causing uncertainty and stress for our farmers, I worried that I might not get the opportunity to go about my usual late-summer addiction to the succulent golden beauties.
Imagine my sheer elation when I spied 4 perfect cobs of corn tucked away inside my surprise basket from the Ottawa Farmers Market. I showed up earlier than usual this time, and found Tara zipping around thoughtfully filling my take-away basket full of shiro plums, peppy yellow patty pan squashes, cobs of corn, fragrant tomatoes, pungent purslane & red Russian garlic, Red Deer pepperettes and spiky artichokes. This was going to be a fun one.
I ultimately decided on a warm, caramelized corn salad packed with all things sweet, savoury, creamy and crunchy. I wanted to do something that was simple and speedy to make in the extreme heat we’ve been having lately. It was nearly impossible to add everything from the basket into the salad, but I tried to use as much as was possible without overdoing it. Rest assured, everything else found a happy home in my tummy.
The vendors who graciously provided this month’s Farmers Feast:
Warner Farms – plums
Kiwan Farms - purslane
Acorn Creek Garden Farm – artichoke
Needham’s Garden Market– sweet corn
Trillium Meadows Red Deer & Wild Boar Farm – pepperettes
Hoople Creek Farm– red Russian garlic
Jaquemet Garden – tomatoes
Bergeron Gardens - Paddy pans
Oh, and while we’re yakking about the market, I want to make sure you all know about Savour Ottawa’s Harvest Table event. This year it’s being held on August 19th at the Ottawa Farmers Market (Brewer Park) and it’s going to be a delicious day. Tickets are $60 ($75 for cream of the crop tickets, which include a tour of the market and some tasty sampling) and include a 5 course menu prepared by some of Ottawa’s most celebrated chefs and local beer and wine. The market will be in full swing as usual, bringing diners and shoppers together for one giant celebration of local food and drink. For more details on restaurants and beer/wine companies involved, have a look at the link above. I really hope I’ll see you there, it’s going to be a fantastic day!
Warm Caramelized Corn, Shiro Plum & Patty Pan Salad
serves 4 as a side, 2 as a main course
If you’re unable to find patty pan squashes, zucchini will do in a pinch. The same goes for plums - use red plums or even peaches in place of shiro plums if you’re unable to find them.
3-4 cobs of corn, kernels sliced off the cob (about 1 1/2-2 cups)
2 tbsp olive oil (or 1 tbsp oil + 1 tbsp butter for extra indulgence)
4-5 patty pan squashes, cut into bite-sized piece
4 shiro plums, pitted and sliced in quarters
3 large tomatoes, cut into 1/2” rounds
1/4 large red onion, minced
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, minced
1 tbsp fresh lime juice + slices for serving
1 tbsp good quality olive oil
Good, aged Lankaaster or Parmesan cheese, crumbled
sea salt and pepper
Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil (and butter, if using) into the pan until melted. Add the corn to the pan and spread evenly. Let it sit to brown for 2 minutes. Stir, spread evenly and repeat for another 2 minutes. Add the squash and cook with the corn, stirring occasionally until it’s tender but still has a nice bite to it, about 6-7 minutes. Stir in the red onion, cilantro, lime juice and olive oil. Toss to coat. Taste for seasoning, add salt if needed.
Place 2-3 tomatoes slices on your plate (or in a serving dish). Spoon corn salad over the tomatoes and top with crumbled cheese, a few grinds of pepper and another squeeze of lime.
Disclaimer: Farmers Feast is a partnership with the Ottawa Farmers Market. I am not compensated beyond the ingredients given from the market. Opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.
It Could Be Worse… [Nicoise Salad with Lemon-Parsley Vinaigrette]
It could be worse.
I keep trying to tell myself that of our “feels like” 42C weather. And while I know, deep down in the pit of my stomach where all the truths to my denials live, that it indeed could be so much worse, my outer shell, the one that feels like it’s been dripping with sweat and unable to sleep in our brain-roasting apartment for 2 weeks, doesn’t quite agree.
To make matters only slightly worse, I’ve been partaking in my usual summer eating habits and trying to avoid the kitchen/stove like the plague. This usually involves a lot of restaurants, take-out, quick pastas and the likes. All very delicious, but all very heavy when it’s too hot to get much exercise. I’ve been feeling heavy, bloated and nasty from it all.
And so, rather than sitting for one stinking, sweaty moment longer, I made my way to the kitchen. And surprisingly, something truly delicious came out of my determination to shake dust (aka. sweat) from my bones.
Nicoise Salad is simple, packed with vibrant, hunger-inducing colours and filled with delicious things that will keep your body full and happy for hours. I ate it around 5pm and was happily full into the night. For those that know me, that’s a feat that few meals can accomplish. I am a snacker by nature and can seldom make it through an evening without grabbing (at least) a late-night yogurt or smoothie. I didn’t even think, not even once, about food after this salad. So make it, and eat it, in good health and sweaty pants.
It’s traditional to use canned fish in this salad, but if you’re opposed to it, feel free to add a seared piece of your favourite fish. In the same note, it is tradtional to serve a red-wine vinaigrette but I swamped it for a lemony-parsley version purely for my own likes.
Boiled potatoes aren’t exactly traditional, but I love the way they round out the salad and provide some extra sustenance. And delicious carbs. I like those.
2 big handfuls green beans, trimmed
1/2 cup shelled fava beans, optional
1 1/2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
2 cups boiled baby potatoes (red or yellow)
1/2 cup Nicoise-style olives
2-3 tbsp caper berries
small handful cornichons, optional
4 hard boiled eggs
2 cans white (albacore), water packed tuna, flaked
Romaine or Boston Lettuce
1 lemon, juiced
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/2 tsp honey
salt & pepper
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp parsley, minced
Place a handful of ice cubes in a big bowl and fill with cold water.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the trimmed green beans to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute until bright green. Strain and place in the ice bath you prepared earlier.
Get a few bowls or plates together and on each, place a handful of lettuce in the center. Place the rest of the ingredients around the outsides of the plate and place the flaked tuna right in the center.
In a medium bowl, whisk the lemon, garlic, honey, pinch salt and pepper together. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Finish with the parsley and combine everything until smooth.
Spoon as much of the vinaigrette over the plates as you like. And then nom-nom-nom it all up!
A Salad to Salivate [Grilled Kale Salad with Peaches and Ricotta]
I wandered into the grocery store yesterday afternoon to pick up a few things for lunch; cheese, bread, tomatoes, greens. As usual, I left with about 10 extra items that I simply couldn’t leave behind (and that tugged mercilessly on my back muscles as I lugged them home, completely unprepared). One such item, a giant basket of glorious Ontario peaches. How could I leave them behind? Peach season is only just starting and it always seems it’s over before it’s even begun. The humble peach is one piece of produce that I can never get enough of, constantly wishing I’d sunk my teeth into just one more dribbley, juice-filled, fuzzy peach.
Sometimes it’s nice to let summer speak for itself, and this salad is one dish that does just that. The flavours of smokey, slightly bitter curly kale smoothed by creamy homemade ricotta and fragrant, juicy peaches drizzled with a sweet and tangy honey-balsamic vinaigrette. Can you feel the sides of your mouth starting to twitch and salivate? It’s totally deserving of that sort of reaction. Instead of eating the beautiful bowl I photographed, I stood hunched over the counter making tiny kale-leaf tacos stuffed with ricotta and peaches. If you want to do that, I’ll allow it, but it’s slightly more civilized, only slightly, to serve it in a dish. With utensils, even. But who am I to judge?
Grilled Kale Salad with Peaches and Ricotta
adapted from Bon Appetit
Bon Appetit used plums in their salad, but I had peaches on hand so I went that route. You can use whatever local stone-fruit is available.
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey
fresh ground pepper
10-12 large curly kale leaves
4 medium peaches, halved, pitted and sliced
1 cup homemade ricotta (or high-quality store bought)
Whisk 3 tbsp olive oil, balsamic and honey together and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss with the peaches and set aside.
Heat your grill or grill pan to high. Use remaining tbsp of olive oil to brush the kale leaves. When grill is hot, place the leaves on, turning once, until crispy and charred around the edged (about 2 minutes). Transfer to a cutting board to cool. When cool enough to handle, slice the large center stems away from the tender leaves and discard (or save for stock).
On a serving dish, place a few tbsp of ricotta, 2 kale leaves, and a spoonful or two of peaches. Drizzle any remaining vinaigrette from the peach bowl on top of the salads. Season with a bit of salt and fresh ground pepper to serve.
365 Days of Dining [Shrimp, Radish and Asparagus Salad]
And now for the news I’ve been holding back from all of you, my darling friends, peers and readers, for over a week of agonizing solo-excitement.
[Photo courtesy of 365 Days of Dining website]
About a month or so back, I applied for Tourism Richmond’s 365 Days of Dining while thinking to myself, “You’re not going to get it. But maybe you will get it. But probably not. But you never know, right? Ok. FINE. I’ll apply.” Thankfully, the thought that bellowed louder than the rest was, “If I pass this up, I will regret it.”
Sweet holy hot crossed buns! Am I ever glad I did. I found out last week that of the 1500 worldwide applicants, I have made the short list of 12. TWELVE PEOPLE. Can you believe that? I’m still waiting for Ashton Kutcher to pop through my front door and tell me I’ve been punked. (Does Ashton Kutcher even host that show anymore? I hope not. It was a stinker.) I digress..
Moving along, I just wanted to mention how incredibly, unbelievably, shockingly touched I am by the support I’ve received even just in the last few hours since the news was made official. You are all my constant inspiration to keep pushing through, working harder and hopefully someday (perhaps sooner than I thought?) make my dreams a reality. Whether or not I make the final 3, I am so touched, honoured and moved to have even made the top 12 in a group of 1500 talented individuals that I will forever remember this day. Truly, I am awed.
Now for the part I really dislike doing. I know you’re all busy and time is hard to find these days… however, starting tomorrow the voting portion of this job opportunity starts. The finalist with the most votes gets an automatic entry into the final 3… which is beyond imagination at this point. Tourism Richmond will choose the final two themselves (which I am glad for!).
If you can find a few spare moments to visit Richmond, BC’s Facebook Page, “like” it and vote for me, I would be eternally grateful.
OK! Now that the housekeeping matters have been taken care of, let’s rap!
I created this Spring Salad for the April issue of Centretown Buzz, a local newspaper I write a monthly food column for. I typically don’t blog about the recipes I write for the paper, but this one is so light and lovely that I just had to. Grassy asparagus laced with peppery thin-sliced radishes, hulled sugar snap peas, and meaty sauteed shrimps all brightened up with some lemon and finished with aromatic Thai basil and cilantro. To make things ever sexier (and less wasteful), I added a last minute addition of pureed pea pods, lemon and olive oil. It’s the perfect afternoon lunch to enjoy over a chilled glass of wine.
Shrimp, Radish and Asparagus Salad
Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side
The directions in this recipe are quite vague so feel free to be creative and make it your own. The lemony pea-pod puree is optional, but it’s a brilliantly fresh, bright green flavour that really compliments the salad. It’s also a great way to be less wasteful.
small bundle asparagus, preferably tender, thin spears
5-8 radishes, cleaned and sliced thin
2 large handfuls sugar snap peas
10-15 large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
zest and juice from ½ lemon
1/3 cup dry white wine
small handful Thai basil, chopped
small handful cilantro, chopped
salt and fresh ground pepper
freshly grated Parmesan
lemon and sugar pea pod puree (recipe to follow, optional)
Snap off the woody end of the asparagus and slice each spear into 1 ½” pieces. Slice the sugar snap peas down the seam, and remove the peas into a small bowl.
Sprinkle the shrimp with a little salt and pepper. In a large saute pan over medium heat, add enough olive oil to lightly coat the pan. When the oil starts to ripple, add the shrimp. Cook 1-2 minutes on each side until cooked through. Toss in the radishes, asparagus, hulled peas, lemon zest and juice. Pour in the white white and turn the heat up a touch. Cook until vegetables are softened but still have a bit of crunch to them, and the white wine is reduced. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. Spoon into bowls and top with chopped cilantro, basil, lemony pea pod puree and parmesan cheese.
Lemony Pea Pod Pureé
zest of remaining half of lemon
generous squeeze of lemon juice
2 tbsp good quality olive oil
1 ½ cups leftover pea pods
Blend ingredients in a food processor, bullet or blender until smooth. Taste and add more lemon or salt if needed.
To Nourish and Satisfy [Breakfast Salad; Baby Kale, Flavorino Tomatoes, Poached Egg]
Today is a quick post dedicated to breakfast. Simple, gratifying, nourishing breakfast.
It’s the first thing you put in your body each day, so it should be something your body can use. Something to fuel that big sexy brain of yours so you can come up with all those brilliant, life-changing ideas you have.
I’m a big, big (BIG!) fan of the breakfast salad. Greens, some fresh produce, cheese perhaps, and eggs. Maybe bacon if it’s an extra-special day. It’s healthy, it’s versatile, it feels good and most importantly, because I know how busy you all are, it’s quick and easy.
The Breakfast Salad;
[Baby Kale, Flavorino Tomatoes, Poached Eggs]
We’re lucky to have SunTech Greenhouses LTD nearby, which means we have some local tomatoes just starting to pop up on our shelves. If you don’t have any local tomatoes yet, you can simply leave them out, or you can swap them for some roasted asparagus, sliced radishes or quick roasted mushrooms.
This is a base recipe that is easily adaptable to what you have on hand or prefer.
1 or 2 poached egg per serving, recipe follows
Handful Baby Kale or Arugula, per serving
1/2 cup grape/cherry tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 tbsp fruit vinegar (I use a pear/cranberry variety)*
2 tbsp best quality olive oil you can afford
fine sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Fresh Parmesan cheese, optional
On a plate, arrange a large handful of greens. Arrange tomatoes sliced evenly on the greens and top with poached egg(s).
In a small bowl, whisk vinegar, olive oil and a pinch of salt. Pour over the salad and top with fresh ground pepper. If using, sprinkle with a bit of fresh Parmesan cheese.
*You can find fruit vinegars at specialty food stores, but if you’re in a pinch, a 1/4 tsp of balsamic will do the trick.
A lot of people find themselves intimidated by poached eggs, but they are little more than technique and timing.
2 tsp white vinegar
Bring a medium sized pot filled about 5 inches with water to a boil. Add vinegar. Reduce heat to a rolling simmer (the top of the water should be rippling, not bubbling)
Crack one egg into a small bowl/ramekin. Rapidly whisk the simmering water in a circle creating a funnel in the center of the pot. Carefully pour your egg into the middle of the pot. It will swirl around in the pot and the goal is for the egg white strands to stay close to the egg yolk (you can help it along by using a spatula to CAREFULLY ease the whites closer to the yolk). Let it cook for 3 minutes (for runny yolk) and remove with a slotted spoon. You can do 2 eggs at a time but no more than that.
A Change in Season [Bulgur & Chickpea Salad with Cranberries, Toasted Almonds + Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette]
Let me start by saying, I am speaking to you all from a seat on the balcony tonight!
I know, I know, it’s only 14 in Ottawa, but colour me a season-pusher. I’m not in my shorts or anything. Or am I? (I’m not. I swear. Totally in jeans, a giant sweater and thinking about getting a scarf - but I’m outside!!).
With the thrilling arrival of warmer weather in Ottawa, that insatiable ache for slow braises and creamy sides has started to waver, and is slowly being replaced with cravings for fresh, light and colourful dishes. That’s how you know Spring is truly on it’s way. [Though, if we’re being honest here, I’d like to go on the record and state that I am SURE we’ll still be getting more snow. I hope I’m wrong.]
Feeling especially inspired by the beautiful, mild weather the other day (though not inspired enough to run out to the store), I raided the fridge and pantry in hopes of finding everything I needed to make a simple grain salad that was small on fat and high on flavour.
The resulting bulgur salad was exactly what I was hoping for. Healthy, packed with colour and texture, and the perfect balance of sweet, tart and savoury. I ate it four days in a row for lunch and didn’t once get tired of it… which is a MEGA feat for those who know me.
Bulgur is one of those power-horse grains. It’s a quick-cooking form of whole wheat that has been cleaned, parboiled, dried, and ground into particles. It’s got a long shelf life, and is teeming with nutritional benefits; high in fibre and good carbs, rich in B vitamins, iron, phosphorous and manganese. Pair that with the well-known nutritional profiles of cranberries, almonds, and chickpeas and I’d say you’ve got yourself a little bowl of perfection. I suppose I’m biased, though.
Bulgur & Chickpea Salad with Cranberries, Toasted Almonds + Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette
Though I’m a bulgur-backer, if it’s not your cup of tea you can substitute quinoa, brown rice or even some potted barley
2 cups water
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup Bulgur Wheat
1 cup chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup dried unsweetened cranberries
1/4 cup almond slivers,toasted
2 scallions, sliced thin crosswise
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Bring the 2 cups of water and salt to a boil and add the bulgur. Turn down to a simmer, cover and let cook for 12-15 minutes until water is absorbed and bulgur is soft but still has a bite to it.
Toss all the salad ingredients in a big bowl until combined.
In a small bowl, add the vinaigrette ingredients and whisk until smooth. Pour half of the dressing over salad and stir to coat the salad in dressing. Taste and add more dressing as needed.
I enjoyed it warm but it’s best after it sits in the fridge for an hour or two.