Good things to eat

Posts tagged ‘cucumber’

Souveggie

Well I couldn’t exactly call it “fake souvlaki” because it just doesn’t have the same appeal.

Being originally from Montreal, I am no stranger to a good souvlaki.  We have a large Greek community there with lots of wonderful restaurants with vibrant flavours like garlic, lemon and mint.    One of my favorites is what we simply refer to as “souvlaki pita”.  Which usually consists of some sort of grilled meat that has been marinated in above flavours, rolled up in a pita bread with tomato, onion, lettuce and a choice of various sauces, usually tzatziki sauce or a tahini based dressing.  Wrapped in a tinfoil wrapper and you are good to go!

So last night, on the second to last day of the Vegan Challenge, I thought I would try and make a Vegan equivalent to the much-loved favorite.

I started by marinating some strips of tofu in the same flavours the meat would usually be in.

  • lemon juice
  • oregano
  • chopped garlic
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

And let that hang out in the fridge for awhile.

Souveggie002

Then for some extra filling I decided to grill some egg plant as well, which I cut into thin slices and brushed with a little olive oil and then sprinkled with crushed garlic, oregano and some S & P.

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Then I made up a nice tahini dressing of:

  • tahini
  • lemon juice
  • crushed garlic
  • dried mint
  • S & P

Don’t be alarmed that the tahini just seems to seize up when you add lemon juice to it.   Just add a few drops of warm water to thin it out to the consistency that you’d like.

Pop your tofu and eggplant in a 450 degree oven  and keep an eye on them until they look done.

Souveggie005

Souveggie006

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Meanwhile on the side I made up a nice fresh salad of:

  • mixed greens
  • shaved cucumber
  • shaved fennel
  • mixed olives
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • a splash of red wine vinegar
  • a sprinkle of oregano
  • a slosh of olive oil
  • S & P

Toss well and serve on the side, although it actually goes very nicely on the sandwich too.

So when you are ready, lay out your pita ( slightly warmed or not)  lay down a few strips of cooked tofu then top with the eggplant.

Drizzle on the tahini dressing and sprinkle with chopped red onion, chopped tomato ( not shown here) and some chopped parsley if you have it.

Souveggie009

Sure, it doesn’t even pretend to taste like chicken, but all of the flavours were there and it was perfectly agreeable!

Even the Chef thought so!

Souveggie010

Shaved Salad

This one is just so beautiful that you might find it hard to eat regular salad after this!

Shaved salad

All you need is a decent mandolin slicer.

I have several of them and to be honest, most of them are crap,  or are good at one thing and not another. However, this particular semi professional kind, that I admit I bought at one of those fancy stores that I don’t usually buy stuff in, really does do the trick!   It cuts really really thin.  Which means it is really really sharp.  So BE CAREFUL!!

mandolin slicer

In this particular salad I shaved together:

  • radish
  • cucumber
  • fennel

I find it helps if you alternate the vegetables while you are slicing because they are so thin that is makes them hard to toss.

Once everything is sliced you can dress it ever so lightly.

All I used was a quick splash of plain old white vinegar and a spoonful of honey!   And a little salt and pepper and away you go!

But it would also be lovely with lemon juice instead.  Or better yet, finely shaved slices of well washed lemon! 

Now we’re talkin!!

Shaved salad

Radish Salads

I’ve always been fascinated by radishes.

My father liked radishes.  When I was a kid I would help my mother by making my father’s lunch for work.  I pack up the regular sandwiches and cookie and whatever, but sometimes we would have radishes and so I’d give him some.

I’d cut off either end and then put them in a little Tupperwear of cold water and seal it up.  Then the next day he would eat them along with his sandwich.  Or so I would picture.

Sometimes I would even try making the little slits around them before soaking them in the water, in hopes that would magically turn into those radish roses.  Never really worked so good.

I just loved looking at them.  Such bright red with green stocks and then when you cut into them the fresh white flesh inside.  So crisp and refreshing looking.

But then I’d take a bite and gag on their spicy dirt flavour.   Sad.  Very sad.

I’ve tried them again many times over the years and can get away with them in a regular green salad that is doused in dressing.

In recent years I have tried Daikon radish.    (Click here to check them out )  I find them somewhat milder and therefore a little more agreeable.  They are however VERY good for you.  It fortifies the liver, helps clear the gallbladder of stones and detoxifies the digestive tract.  So basiclly……real good.

I really WANT to love them.  I do.

So I was pretty excited when I saw a recipe for “Radish Salsa”.   Sounded great, cause I love salsa in general and so this seemed a good idea.

Let’s see what you think.

Here’s what I used:

  • 12 radishes
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 English cucumber
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • few dashes of hot sauce
  • salt & pepper

Chop the radishes and cucumber into a fine dice, try to keep every piece the same size and try to keep some of the red from the radish and green from the cucumber on each piece to keep it looking nice.

Then mix with all the other ingredients and chill for at least 1/2 hour before using.

I didn’t try it as a traditional salsa on a tortilla chip but it DID make a very refreshing topping on a fish taco and then the next day I added the rest of it to a green salad.   Both worked nicely and were very acceptable ways of enjoying radish!

Radish Salsa

Let me know if you can think of other places you might use it.

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I saw another great little use of radish in a salad on the Whole Foods website.   I tried it on the weekend and it was really nice and fresh.

It was:

  • one bunch of radish
  • 2 -3 bulbs of fennel
  • juice and zest of one lemon
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Really simple, trim and wash radishes and slice them really thin.  I actually just tossed them in the food processor with the slicer attachement.

Same with the fennel.  Wash it and cut off the “fingers”.  Cut in half and remove the knarley core and then either slice the bulb into really thin slices or whack it too into the food processor with the slicer blade or on a mandolin.  Whatever your slicer of choice.

Then I cut the frauns off of the fennel and sliced up the green finger bits too.  The original recipe doesn’t call for that, but they were fine if cut really thin.

Toss the fennel and the radishes together then add the zest, lemon juice, oil and S&P just before serving.

Toss it all again and then garnish with chopped fennel fraun for colour.

Really nice and fresh accompaniment to any summer meal.

Tuesday night soup

Tuesday night.   Dinner blahs, don’t really feel like cooking……but you gotta eat…..right?

Well let’s see what I can come up with.

I am picturing some potato salad.   I got some nice sized new potatoes on the weekend that have been calling my name.   I cut them into 8th and popped them in a pot of salted water to boil.

But then what?  Just potato salad?  What am I supposed to do with that?

Hmmmm…….

Well, I have already committed to the boiling potatoes.  So in a large bowl I made up a dressing.  I had some left over chopped red and green onion from the nachos, so I tossed that in the bowl with 1 clove of minced garlic.   Then a spoonful or two of Dijon mustard, a shot of soy sauce, about two tbsp of red wine vinegar and about 4 tbsp of olive oil and some fresh ground pepper.   Stirred it up with the whisk.

When the potatoes were done, instead of draining them, I fished them out with a slotted spoon and put them directly into the bowl and tossed them with the dressing.   Doing this while they are hot, helps the dressing stick and soak in.   Then I put the bowl aside till I decided what I was going to do.

Now I had this perfectly good potato water and I had left a few of the potato bits behind.   Hate to waste it, why not make a nice Tuesday night soup with it??

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you know I am a big fan of “cleaning out the fridge” from time to time and seeing what I can come up with!  So here is what went into the soup:

  • a handful of red lentils
  • two handfuls of shaved cooked turkey
  • 1/2 of a big carrot in a small dice
  • 2 tbsp of left over chopped red and green onion
  • 2 cloves fresh minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp Bragg ( or soy sauce )
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • a shot or two of olive oil

Added all those together and brought it to a boil, cooking long enough for the red lentils to disintegrate and thicken the soup.

Then I added about 2 cups chopped kale and cooked for a few more minutes till the kale was good and wilted.

Just before serving, I hit it with a few shots of my favorite chipolte Tabasco sauce!!

Kale and turkey soup

So that was all good…..but I still had this potato salad.

And to be honest, the Chef gets panicky if he only gets soup for his dinner, so why not toss together a nice salad to go with it?

I lined a plate with some nice bib ( or also known as Boston) lettuce that I had.   Then in one corner a good helping of that potato salad.   In the other corner more of that shaved cooked turkey.  Then I added  some carrot curls and cucumber slices.

Then topped it with some  “craisins” , pumpkin seeds and a drizzle of a simple oil and balsamic dressing.

Tuesday night salad

Voila.   Tuesday night dinner!    AND I had some left over for my lunch the next day!

My Valentines

I know that many of you have expressed envy over the fact that I have a Chef around the house.

And although there are MANY perks to this, there are also a few hazards, like the high risk to your waistline and the fact that there ALWAYS seems to be a lot of dishes!

But on this past Valentines Day this year, I was once again treated to a lovely meal!

Actually it started with a very nice breakfast, simple but effective.

Eggs, cooked inside slices of red pepper that looked very much like heart shapes, on toast, with a bit of cheese.  I couldn’t have been happier!

Heart shaped eggs

Who knows what I had for lunch?  Probably nothing, knowing I would be coming home to a feast.  And a feast it was.

For weeks I have been nagging the Chef to try out something I saw on someone else’s blog.  The other blogger had taken goat cheese, rolled it into balls, breaded them and then deep fried them and then tossed them in hot sauce.  Exactly like you might do with chicken wings!

The Chef, not liking to be outdone, took it up a notch!

Instead of just goat cheese, he used shredded chicken and blue cheese!  So these balls were even closer to a chicken wing!   But then we just dipped ours in hot sauce instead of having them completely covered in them.   

Very tasty! 

Chicken & blue cheese balls

Then we moved on to the “Party Snack Sampler”.  I am a big fan of party snacks so to start with a few to whet my whistle, was very nice.

Tapenade topped goat cheese, hummus and pita. 

And my favorite little Spanakopita!

Spanikopita

Next was a simple salad of bundles of baby greens wrapped in finely sliced cucumber with a nice sun-dried tomato and balsamic dressing.

Then the main event.  asparagus filled ravioli on a mound of puree of sweet roasted butternut squash, topped with brown butter and freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Asparagus ravioli with butternut squash and brown butter

Finally, for dessert, the triple header chocolate delight!!

Home made chocolate pudding, topped with grated chocolate infused whipped cream and a shard of Lindt 70% dark chocolate bar!  

Chocolate Triple Header

Doesn’t get much better than THAT!

I am a lucky girl.

On the eve of

When there aren’t any children in attendance for Christmas Eve, it really can become a free for all.

Somewhere deep inside you all of the rules and restrictions that were imposed upon you around Christmas as a child suddenly have the need to be disobeyed.

“Please can we open one present???”  

“No”

“Please can I eat some candy??”

“No”

“Please can we stay up late??”

“No”

So when you are a grown up……you can do whatever you WANT!!

My tradition with these particular relatives is that on Christmas Eve, instead of a dinner of any kind, I make a bunch of party snacks and we sit around and have a casual time eating them and having a drink or two.  Or as my Scottish cousin likes to say “Let’s have a wee Beaujolais!”  Which pretty much refers to all alcohol  beverages!

So the menu on this night was:

  • Beets with goat cheese and spicy sweet walnuts with a balsamic drizzle
  • Smoked salmon and boursin cheese on cucumber
  • Spicey sausage balls
  • Yam cakes
  • Stuffed mushrooms
  • Dates with bacon
  • Cheesey puff crackers
  • Caramelized onion tarts

Beets with goat cheese and spicy sweet walnuts:

Boil up a few red beets, skin on, until tender.  Let cool, peel and slice into 1/4 inch rounds and top with goat cheese and sprinkle with toasted ( or in my case I sweetened and spiced) walnuts and then drizzle with balsamic and oil.

Beets with goat cheese and walnut

 

 

Smoked salmon and boursin cheese on cucumber:

Exactly how it sounds.   Cream together some smoke salmon and boursin cheese and top it onto rounds of cucumber.  I cut one inch chucks on an angle and then hollowed out the centre so the salmon wouldn’t fall off.

Smoke salmon and boursin cheese on cucumber

 

Spicy sausage balls:

1 pound of bulk spicy sausage meat.  1 medium jalapeno pepper finely chopped.  1/2 cup corn niblits ( fresh, frozen or canned) 1/2 cup grated smoked cheddar cheese, 1 cup of pre made biscuit mix.   Mix all ingredients together thoroughly and then form into balls.  Bake on a cookie sheet lined in parchment paper until toasty brown.   I served this with a dipping sauce of sour cream with chipolte sauce.

Spicy sausage balls

 

 

Caramelized onion tarts:

One package of store-bought puff pastry, rolled out into 4×4 inch squares on to a baking sheet.  Meanwhile caramelize some onions and then further cook them down with a generous slosh of balsamic vinegar to sweeten them further.   Then top the squares of pastry with a few spoonfuls of onion mixture, a few of the spicy sweet walnuts ( or other nuts, pine nuts etc) and a light handful of grated cheese like a white cheddar or blue.  Then bake in the over according to instructions on the pastry package, or until the pastry puffs and the cheese melts.

Caramelized onion tart

The snacks were all a big hit.

Christmas Eve snacks

But contrary to what I believed about being a grown up on Christmas, there was one stick in the mud amongst us ( I won’t say WHO) who simply wouldn’t give in to the peer pressure and could not be persuaded to let us open our presents before bed!!  Imagine!  I mean we could stay up as late as we wanted and sleep in as long as we wanted, so why would there be rules about “Christmas morning”??

Oh well, some people just like tradition!

Greek night

Well now that I have a nice batch of Tzatziki  ( see yesterday’s post) on my hands why not just have Greek night?

How about a nice pork souvlaki pita and Greek salad?

I guess there are many ways to ask for some sort of meat on a pita, referring to it as a “sandwich” or wrap or what have you.  But in Montreal you call them “souvlaki pita”.

So we need to start with some pork.  The kind that you can chop into large chunks, like a pork loin or even thick pork chops.   On this occasion I just picked up a package of “stir fry” pork.  So what ever is easiest.

If not already cut, chop it into 1 to 2 bite sizes and then in a glass bowl add:

  •   pork
  •  2 gloves chopped garlic
  •  1 tbsp dried oregano
  •  the juice of half of a lemon
  • a splash of olive oil
  • salt and pepper

And then let that marinate for at least half hour, but the longer the better.

marinating pork

Then for the Greek salad. I put together some “Greek like” ingredients.

  • chopped tomato
  • chopped English cucumber
  • large chunks white onion
  • olives
  • oregano
  • lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • goat cheese ( or feta)

Mix these up in no particular order.  You could also add chopped green peppers, but I just went with what I had around.  Then let that marinate for awhile too.

Greek salad

 Then we will need something on the side.  How about some Greek style potatoes?

I used red potatoes and chopped them into a fine dice. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with oregano and a bit of salt. Put them in a hot oven and let them roast, taking them out and  stir them from time to time so they don’t stick to the bottom.

Once the potatoes are almost roasted, take them out and pour about 2 tbsps of fresh lemon juice over them and toss them around.

We are ready to start assembling everything.

Ideally the pork should be cooked on a bar b que or grill pan of some sort to give it that nice char flavour that everyone enjoys so much.  But on this occasion I just tossed the whole marinating roast pan into the oven and let the pork “roast” instead.  The advantage to this is that it keeps the pork moist.

First we need a pita bread.  Lay on a flat surface. 

I just happened to have some wax paper wrappers that are very useful.

So, pita bread, then add a few scoopfuls of cooked pork, a few dollops of tzatziki sauce, a spoonful of chopped onion and a handful of chopped lettuce.

Souvlaki pita

Roll it all up nicely in the wax paper.
 
 
Put all the elements together and you have yourself a lovely Greek meal!
 
OPA!!
 
 

Greek meal

My favorite Tzatziki sauce

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but my top three “cuisines” to eat are Indian, Mexican and “Mediterranean”.  I know I am cheating with Mediterranean because it encompasses the food of several different countries.  Like Greek, Italian, Persian, Lebanese, Morraccan…..you get the picture.  Cuisines with deep roots and strong flavours!

When I lived in Montreal we would often frequent the many Greek restaurants.  I’ll admit, probably because most of them were “bring your wine” type establishments.  Meaning you can drink a bunch more wine for your dollar!

The one thing that was always so good at the Montreal Greek restaurants, that regrettably I have not tasted again in my travels, is the Tzatziki sauce.

So since then I have been trying to replicate it myself and have come pretty close with this one.

First you will need some full fat plain yogurt or “Greek style” which is more and more readily available.

I then strain it to thicken it up.   I just purchased an inexpensive reuseable coffee filter and put it on top of a container and then pour in the yogurt.  Put it in the fridge for awhile, the longer the better, till all the liquid drains out.

 
Strain the yogurt

Then grate about a 3rd of an English cucumber into a clean tea towel.

grated cucumber

 
 Then tie up the tea towel and stand over the sink and twist as hard as you can till as much liquid comes out of the cucumber as possible.  Then place the squeezed cucumber in a bowl. 
 

Squeezed cucumber

 
 
Then finely mince 1 or 2 cloves of fresh garlic and add to the grated cucumber.
 
Then, when it is well strained, add the yogurt and mix well with the garlic and cucumber.
 
Some people also add a bit of sour cream to make it nice and thick, but I find if you strain the yogurt long enough it isn’t necessary.
 
Then season with salt and pepper and about a teaspoon of dried or fresh dill.
 
Mix well and then refrigerate till all the flavours exchange well.
 
Then when you are about to serve it, give it a quick shot of nice olive oil.
 
 
 

Tzatziki sauce

 
Serve with some pita wedges or with your favour Greek dishes.
 
 

Tzatziki and pita

 

Juicy juicing

It’s all the rage.  Juicing!

Word has it drinking a glass of fresh squeezed vegetable juice is like main lining nutrients right into your vein!!

And it really is so easy.

Well, you’ll need a juicer of course.

You will have to do your own research on which one is best for you.  We were taught in nutrition school that the squishing kind rather than the spinning kind results in a much better nutritional bang for your buck.

The squishing or masticating ( I believe it the official word) kinds are more expensive but because they extract the juice slowly, the juice doesn’t get heated, which results in oxidation and loss of nutrients.

The spinning kind are more popular because they are cheaper, work faster and you can usually put bigger chunks in at a time but the spinning causes heat which can result in loss of nutrients.

So do your research.

I got this sweet Omega juicer ( click here to check them out) as a graduation present when I finished Nutrition school.  And I love it.  In fact, check out my VERY first blog entry and you will see how I made pasta with it!!

But back to juicing for now.

All you need is a few nice veg.

And maybe an apple or two to take the edge off the extreme “green” flavour.  Then start shoving them in the machine.

The juice comes out the bottom and the pulp come out the front.  ( see my second ever blog post for ideas of what to do with pulp)

And what’s left?  Delicious nutritious JUICE!!  Yum.

Seriously, could be my imagination.  But I am pretty SURE I feel stronger minutes after drinking fresh squeezed juicy JUICE!!!

Simple snack

So here’s our latest favorite thing to snack on.  Although you could make it as a quick-lunch, or if you are home alone for dinner or even as an appetizer I guess.  It’s an all round useful item and makes you feel all healthy when you eat it!

The beauty of this dish  is that it qualifies as Vegetarian, Vegan and you can even make a raw version too, to keep everyone happy.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 English (or seedless) cucumber
  • 1 perfectly ripened avocado
  • your favorite salsa  ( if you make it from scratch, this dish then becomes a “raw” item)
  • 1 lime
  • some chopped cilantro (optional)
  • Sea salt or fancy finishing salt (also optional)
  • Cracked black pepper (also optional)

Here we go……slice the cucumber into a bunch of rounds.  Top with a bit of avocado, then top that with a dollop of salsa.   Drizzle them all with some lime juice, toss on some cilantro and then sprinkle the whole shebang with the salt and pepper.

And you are in business!  Simple snack!

Vegan nachos

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