Good things to eat

Posts tagged ‘lemon’

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Different Salads

I suppose a staple of the Vegan diet is salads.

All shapes, sizes and colours.

To be honest, you can pretty much chop up anything, put on a little dressing and call it a “salad” these days!  And why not?

One of my favorite meals, Vegan or not, is what I call my “Mediterranean plates” where I just make a bunch of flavorful piles of stuff that go nicely together.

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Here’s tonight’s group:

First I got started with a nice batch of roasted yams and roasted cauliflower.

Get them started.

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Then I went to a white bean and kale with lemon salad:

In a glass or ceramic bowl add:

  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • juice of 1 lemon ( but zest it first and put aside)
  • 1/2 salt
  • 1 large handful of chopped green kale ( hard stems out)

Mix the kale down into the lemon juice and cover well and let sit in the acid until it gets a little wilted.

Then drain and rinse a can of white kidney beans and add to the bowl.

Then add:

  • 1 tbsp dried or fresh chopped sage
  • a splash of olive oil
  • a pinch more salt and some fresh cracked pepper.

Mix thoroughly, top with the lemon zest and set aside to rest while you perform your other duties.

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Next we have a nice Cous Cous salad.

Again, in a glass or ceramic bowl ( but preferably with a seal-able lid) start with your dressing on the bottom.   I just used more lemon juice, a little olive oil and some fresh herbs.

Then to the bowl I added some left over grilled vegetables, peppers, asparagus, Portobello mushrooms, zucchini.   If you don’t have any grilled veg and don’t feel like making any, raw ones would work just fine too but try and keep them of the more delicate nature, not hard things like raw carrots.

Toss these in the dressing.

Meanwhile and this is just something I do for added flavour, but by no means essential……

I like to dry toast the couscous in the bottom of a heavy pot or fry pan till they get just a little bit brownish.

Then toss the DRY couscous in with the vegs and dressing and toss them in well.

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Then pour boiling water over the whole thing ( amount according to couscous directions) and then seal the bowl with a lid or place a plate on top and let stand for about 10 minutes.

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Then I whipped up a nice little Tahini sauce to pour over things:

  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • salt & pepper
  • water as needed

Stir this all up in a bowl adding water as needed to get to the consistency you are looking for.  Tahini tends to cease up when you mix it with other things, so you may have to keep adding water for a bit.

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So now with our yams and cauliflower roasted.

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Our couscous absorbed and fluffed.

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Our beans and kale marinated.

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We are ready to put it all together!

Maybe drop a few spinach leaves or mixed greens on the bottom to “green ” it up a little and then pile on the good stuff!   And drizzle with a bit of tahini sauce!

Yummy Vegan Salad night!!

Or anytime really!   In fact this combo cold the next day made a great work lunch!

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Oh and …….note use of home-made bun now as toasted garlic bread!!!

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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

Fancy Fish Dinner

The Chef whipped up a very tasty quick summer supper.

I can’t be completely sure what is actually in anything, he sometimes gets a little secretive about what he is making.  Let’s face it, with someone like me around, he is going to guard his secrets so I don’t make “Cheffing” look too easy!!

Here is what we had:

  • Baked salmon with garlic, lemon & capers topped with tomato salsa
  • Couscous with diced red pepper & chopped fresh basil
  • Shaved fennel, red onion & lemon salad
  • Beet and blueberry salad

That’s a lot of brain food going on there.  Salmon, beet, blueberry, fennel, all with a lot of lemon, just tons of nutrients AND it all tasted great!!

Arugula Salad as nature intended

Finally I have harvested something to eat from The Balcony Garden!

I wish you had “taste – O – vision” because this truly was just divine!

I gently trimmed the supple leaves from their base, gave them a quick wash just to remove any “bug spit” then on to the plate!

I whipped up the perfect little dressing that consisted of:

  • 1 clove of fresh garlic finely minced
  • the juice and zest of one lemon
  • olive oil x twice the juice
  • salt & pepper

Whisk that up and lovingly spoon and drizzle over the precious arugula.

Then add a few shavings of some good quality parmesan cheese.

Heavenly I tell you!  Just heavenly!

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he young fresh arugulas are almost sweet, not even a hint of what can usually be a bit of a bitter  bite!  Say THAT three times quickly!

The Joy of the Blog

So what’s the best part of being in the blog world?   Getting to read all the wonderful stuff out there.

It’s fine to sit and write about stuff yourself, but I think it is WAY more fun to read about and try other people’s stuff!

But how do you FIND other stuff?  Well, I didn’t get it at first, but then I caught on.  When people read YOUR stuff……and goodness only knows how they came upon it………but then they hit the “LIKE” button or better yet, they leave a comment, then you see them there.

And then you get curious as to just WHO is reading your stuff…..so you hit the link to them and get to their blog…..then you check out their stuff.  

And around and around it goes!   It’s fascinating really!  It’s  like having friends all over the world who share your interests or turn you on to stuff you never knew about!

So it happened the other day that someone from the blog                         

HEALTHY MODERATION  said that she liked one of my posts, so of course I went to visit her!

And she is a girl after my own heart who enjoys the Lebanese food and has posted some lovely recipes. 

I found one that I had never heard of called Mjadara that I just HAD to try!

Most Lebanese food that I am familiar with has big strong flavours from spices or garlic and lemon but this dish is very gentle and mild, very comforting and hearty.

Actually it reminds me of a Lebanese version of an Ayurvedic ( ancient  Hindu system of traditional medicine) dish called Khichdi, an East Indian rice and lentil comfort food dish.  But it is also used in healing.  People with maladies would eat nothing but this, or be on a “khichdi fast” because it is so gentle it helps to restore health.

But then she paired the Mjadara with Cabbage Salad with Mint and Garlic which added such a  fresh and wonderful balance to the dish.   Truly delightful!

And the best part is, I stumped The Chef!  He had never had either of these dishes before and found himself quite pleased by them.

So may I suggest that next time you are reading a blog, even this blog, to go to the bottom and see who “Liked” it or made a comment and go and visit their blog.   You will be AMAZED where you can find yourself!

At the very least you could find yourself with a great idea for dinner tonight!!

Mjadara and cabbage salad

Mediterranean pasta salad

What with Bar B Q season upon us, we always need to come up with new things to make or bring.  Chances are that over the summer you essentially keep seeing the same ten people in different combinations and locations, so you need to keep straight what you brought to which party so you don’t become THAT person who ALWAYS brings the same thing every time!!

So here’s a dish you can add to your repertoire.

Start by boiling up a pot of the pasta of your choice.  But keep it in the short variety family, rotini, macaroni, fussili, rigatoni etc.

I happened to find something called “Scoobie Doos“!  They are a funky twisted, ribbed macaroni and seem to work perfectly for this kind of dish.

Now if you read my stuff regularly you know I am a great fan of “what ever you have” for most dishes, so I’m just letting you know what I used on this particular occasion, but please feel free to add, omit or substitute.

  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes ( finely chopped)
  • 6 -10 kalamata olives ( pitted and chopped)
  • 1/2 small bulb of fennel ( finely sliced)
  • zest of 1 lemon

Mix all of that up at the bottom of a large mixing bowl.

Then for the “dressing” chop up in a mini chopper or food processor:

  • 2 -3 ( or more depending on relationship with guests) cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts
  • 2 pieces of kale ( leafy bits only) – you KNOW how I love to hide kale in things!
  • juice of one lemon
  • fresh herbs if you have them, oregano, basil, parsley
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Whiz this up to a nice paste, add a bit more olive oil if needed.

Add this to the bottom of the mixing bowl and mix well in with the other elements.

When pasta is cooked, drain and add immediately to the mixing bowl and toss.   The heat from the pasta with loosen up the other stuff and help it stick to the pasta.

Mix REALLY well because you don’t want globs of the “dressing” stuck at the bottom.

I like to make this at least a couple of hours ahead so all the flavours have time to get acquainted before serving.

Just before you are leaving for the party, or serving at your own place, transfer everything to a more decorative or service friendly dish.   And then top with:

  • a good squeeze of lemon juice
  • some more lemon zest
  • basil leaves
  • chopped fennel fronds ( green feathery stuff on top of fennel)
  • a grind or two of fresh pepper

And you are in business!

Fattoush Salad

                  When I lived in Montreal, one of my favorite things to eat was Lebanese food.  I have travelled far and wide ( well not to Lebanon but….) and have lived in many cities but have never tasted any Lebanese food as good as they seem to have there.   Not to say that other cities don’t have great Lebanese places too……it’s just that I’ve yet to find them.

                   So to round-up “Salad Week” I thought I would make a Lebanese “style” Fattoush Salad.  I say “style” cause this one isn’t the real deal, but it was the best I could come up with on short notice!

Fattoush Salad

                   A traditional Fattoush is made with the  spice, Sumac.   I neither had, nor care for Sumac so I did not include it in this recipe.  But feel free to try it out for yourself, or use it if you already know you enjoy it.

So we are going to start with some nice pita bread.   I had nice thick ones so I split them length wise to have more.   Brush them with olive oil ( and this is where you would sprinkle on some Sumac) and then I sprinkled smokie paprika just to give a little colour and then toasted them in the oven at 350 degrees till they are nice and toastie.   Remove and let cool.

oil and toast pita bread

So then for the salad in no particular order chop and add to a large bowl:

  • romaine lettuce
  • cucumber
  • tomato
  • green onion
  • flat leaf Italian parsley
  • water cress ( except I didn’t have any so I didn’t use)

Toss those together well.

For the dressing:

  • 2 cloves finely minced garlic
  • juice of two lemons
  • 1/4 cup ( or what ever double the juice is) of olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp of Sumac ( if you are using)

Shake it all up and pour it all over the salad and then mix well.

Then take the toasted pita and crack up into random pieces and toss that into the salad.

Let it sit for a few minutes before serving so that the flavours can soak in to and soften up the pita just a little bit.

There we have it.  Serve up with some shish taouk or Shawarma.   Yum YUm.

Let me know if you have a great Lebanese restaurant in your town so I’ll be sure to check it out if I am ever round there!

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.

Meat on a stick.

Roxanne, a friend of mine from Baltimore,  is a big fan of meat on a stick, so this one is for her!

One of my blogger friends from Tiny Kitchen Stories recently posted a recipe for Kofta which is a Middle Eastern version of meat on a stick.

I have always been a fan of this sort of thing, but was skeptical when I saw this one was made with turkey.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy turkey, but mostly in the “Thanks Giving Dinner” format.   Otherwise I find it rather bland and boring.

But these certainly changed my opinion!

Check out the recipe for the original ingredients:    Kofta

I’ll admit that I was too lazy to toast and grind the cumin and coriander seed so I just used the plain old powdered version and also added about 1/2 tsp of cinnamon which is not on the list.

And I  did the whole she-bang in the food processor instead of doing it lovingly in different stages, so mine came out much squishier looking than hers but it still held together just fine.

I also really liked that there wasn’t any flour or bread crumbs or any of that business in it.

And I chilled them for about 1/2 and hour before baking them just so they would keep their shape.  I think this would be even more useful it you were going to do them on the grill.

We don’t have a bar b que so I just did them in the oven.   Baked them for half the time and turned them over for the second half.   But when I took them out at half time they looked a little dry so I gave them a quick brush of olive oil before I put them back in and it seemed to do the trick!

Mine were also a lot bigger and thicker than hers ( I could only find three skewers in the drawer ) so instead of plating them whole, I cut them up into more “brochette” looking chunks  so there would be no fighting over who got more and then served them on rice with salad and home-made Tzatziki Sauce.

Was very pleasing indeed.

And just before serving, I gave the whole thing a quick hit of fresh lemon juice.  That always brightens things up!

Thanks Tiny Kitchen!

Blueberry Crumble Cake

The other day one of my fellow blogger friends at Frugal Feeding, posted this very enticing cake recipe.

What with blueberry season just around the corner, I thought why not try it out and be prepared!  Blueberries ARE a superfood after all!!

So I started with his original recipe  ( click here to check it out ).

Now I have to confess, that even though we use the metric system in Canada, I have no idea how much any of these measurements are.  Nor did I have the patience to look up the conversions so I just kind of “winged it”.

If you cook / bake a lot you will have a general idea of ratios of things and can get away with it.  But if you are serving it to other people and NEED it to be right……I suggest you look up the conversions if you don’t know them.

I followed everything as instructed.  The only differences and they are barely note worthy is that I added a bit of cinnamon and flax seeds to the “crumble” mixture        ( mostly cause I didn’t have quite enough oats).  And then instead of adding the blueberries to the “crumble” mixture, I added a layer of them to the top of the “cake” portion and then covered them with the “crumble” mixture.  And then tossed a few random berries on top for show.  This was mostly because I had a lot of blueberries to use up.

It turned out VERY tasty!  We nearly ate the whole thing!!

I am hoping there will be some left when I get home to enjoy with a lovely cup of tea!!

Thank you Frugal Feeding!!

Anniversary Dinner

Now don’t get me wrong, I like going out to restaurants as much as the next person, but when you have a live in Chef sometimes it just doesn’t make any sense to go out!!

The Chef and I were celebrating our anniversary this weekend so he was nice enough to “whip me up” a little something for my dinner!!

We started with an appetizer of beet and goat cheese pin wheel terrine with basil infused oil.

Beet and goat cheese pin wheels

Colourful and light.

Then a lovely salad of arugula  with a beautiful refreshing oil and lemon dressing and shaves of Parmesan cheese.

Arugula salad with lemon, oil and shaved Parmesan cheese

For the main course we had beef and asparagus rouladen topped with gorgonzola cheese, accompanied by pured roasted celeriac topped with Boursin cheese and roasted root vegetables with topped with Blue cheese.

Beef and asparagus rouladen with roasted celeriac, root vegetables and three cheeses

Scurmp-delly-ishes!!!

Needless to say, with all the flavours and textures going on there, it only seemed appropriate to have a nice simple dessert.

Strawberries macerated in sugar and balsamic vinegar with Greek yogurt, with a sprig of mint and a shard of dark chocolate!

macerated strawberries with Greek yogurt and mint

Good time had by all!

Citrus Chicken

As I have mentioned many a time before, I am allergic to shell-fish and for that reason I avoid most Asian style restaurants because the abundance of shell-fish is just too high risk.

But this doesn’t mean to say that I don’t LOVE some of the foods one might get there.  Before “the trouble” ( because I wasn’t always allergic) I used to frequent many a Chinese buffet!

One thing I particularly miss is Lemon Chicken.

So today I thought I’d try my own version, only without the crispy batter of course.

Here is what you will need:

  • boneless skinless chicken breast cut in bite size cubes
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • aprox 1 inch minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 orange pepper in thin slices
  • juice of half a fresh orange
  • juice of 1 fresh lemon
  • 2 tsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar ( or sweetener of your choice)
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes ( more if you like)
  • 1/4 water or stock

In a hot skillet, add about 1 tbsp of oil and then brown the chicken.   Then add the garlic and ginger, toss well and cook till they are well sweated.

Then add all of the other ingredients, mix well and bring up to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes.

At this point, it can be ready but the sauce will be thin.   OR you can do like real Chinese food and add some cornstarch to thicken it up and give it that glossy look.

Put 1 tbsp of cornstarch in about 3 tbsp of water and mix into a thin paste, then add to the chicken dish and mix in well.  It should take a short time for it to thicken up.

Then it is ready to serve.  Top with some green onion and maybe some toasted cashews?

Citrus Chicken

Decidedly Mediterranean

All right, I’ll admit it.  I’ve been on a bit of a Mediterranean kick lately!

Sometimes I just can’t get enough of it.  Luckily the Mediterranean covers a large choice of things to eat, but the one thing they all have in common is a lot of flavour!

So someone asked me if I’d ever made Imam Bayildi”  which apparently translated means “the Iman fainted”, I guess cause it is supposed to be THAT good!  But I had to admit  that I’d never heard of.

Needless to say I looked it up and felt the need to try and make it myself.

So this is what I came up with that is loosely based on most of the recipes I came across.

Basically it is an eggplant stuffed with other vegetables.  But I felt the need to bulk it up a little and use it as a more substantial main dish.  So I added some bulgur wheat to it.

Bulgar is quite easy to make, just put about 1/2 to 1 cup dry Bulgar ( depending on how much you need, it expands a lot!) into a heat safe bowl.

Pour boiling water over it, enough to cover it and then swim a little.   Then cover it with a plate or something like that and let it sit for about 10 minutes or so.

Then when all the liquid is sucked up and the bulgur is all puffed up, you are ready to use it!

Meanwhile, get a nice size eggplant, or a few small ones, depending on if you are making it as a main dish or side dish.   Wash them, pat dry and remove the green bits off the stem.  Then slice them in half and place them in a shallow baking dish.  Put in the over at about 375 for about 15 minutes.   But keep a close eye on them.  You don’t want to cook them fully, just enough so that the innards are soft enough to remove easily.

On top of the stove, in a large skillet add:

  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 red and/or green pepper diced
  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic minced
  • 3 coarsely chopped Roma tomatoes ( with juicy bits from inside)

Start with the onions and peppers and cook till softened.

By now your eggplant should be done enough, so remove it from oven and give it a minute or two till you can handle it without pain.

Scoop out the innards and chop it up well and add it to the pan with the onions and peppers.  Set the shells aside waiting to be stuffed.

Then add the tomato and let all of that cook till it is well acquainted.

Then add:

  • a tsp of ground cinnamon (gives it that Mediterranean flare!)
  • juice of half a fresh lemon
  • a good handful of fresh chopped flat leaf parsley

At this point you have more or less the traditional filling, but now is when I added about 3/4 of a cup of the cooked bulgur wheat and mixed thoroughly.

Now you are ready to stuff your eggplants.   Spoon in generous amounts of the filling and pack it in there.  Everything is basically already cooked so we will just be essentially re-heating.

The real recipes don’t call for it, but you could add a bit of bread crumbs on top, or like what I did with a bit of grated parmesan cheese, just to give it a bit of a crust.

Bake for about 15 minutes till everything is nice and warm and serve with the side dishes of your choice. And a little drizzle of good olive oil to make it particularly Mediterranean!

Stuffed eggplant

Tonight I just made some lemon and herb brown rice pilaf to go with it.  The other thing that would go nicely with this and which I had toasted and waiting on the counter but simply forgot to add, would be some pine nuts.   The would definitely add to the “decidedly” Mediterranean taste!

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Baba ghanoush

Or eggplant dip.

I love most food that originates from the Mediterranean.  

A friend and I were at a local Mediterranean eatery the other night and we started with an appetizer platter that contained baba ghanoush and then I remembered just how much I enjoyed it and thought I best try to make some at home!

Start with an eggplant, wash it and put it on a baking sheet and then poke it with a fork all over.   This is so when it bakes the steam will escape and it won’t explode in the oven!!

poke eggplant with fork

Ideally, the best way to make this is on the bar b que or if you have a gas stove, on the open flame.  You are supposed to char the outside first and then bake it till it’s cooked in the middle.

But if you can’t char it, just bake it in the oven at about 375 degrees.

Meanwhile, in the food processor, whiz up:

  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic
  • 3-4 table spoons of tahini
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt & pepper

And then my personal secret ingredient 1 tsp of smokey paprika

Then when the eggplant is baked and let to cool enough to handle, cut it down the middle and scoop out the innards into the food processor and whiz it all up.

Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with some chopped parsley.

Eat alone with crackers or as part of your own Mediterranean appetizer platter!

Mediterranean appetizer plate

Add baba ghanoush to a plate with tzatziki, feta cheese,  roasted cauliflower, domalas and pita for dipping.

Thai Noodles

Or Pad Thai to some, although my recipe isn’t completely authentic, so perhaps “Thai Style” noodles?

As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, I am terribly allergic to shell-fish so because of that my former love of Asian style food, especially Thai has been curtailed.

I’ve had to learn to make my own “Asian Style” dishes so that I know EXACTLY what it is in them.

One place that I can really get into trouble is with certain fish sauces.  Often they are made with shrimp which will do me in.  Also certain Thai and Chinese curry powders will have pulverized shrimp shells in them.  So if you have a shell-fish allergy….be very very careful in these types of restaurants.

So a long time ago I learned to make my own Thai Noodles.  The recipe, I believe, was based on that of a legendary Toronto eating institution called the “Bamboo Club” which was a funky West Indian type eatery and night club that served up spicy food and even spicier music!

I’m just doing it from memory so I can’t tell you exactly was in their’s but here is what is in mine:

  • plain chicken breast or tofu  ( or if you can, shrimp) or any combo of these
  • 1 package medium width rice noodles ( I like the brand with the elephant )
  • 2 eggs slightly beaten
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 inch fresh minced ginger
  • Salt & pepper
Sauce
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 soy sauce ( + 2 tbsp of fish sauce IF you can have shell fish)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar ( or sweetener of your choice)
  • 1 tsp chili flakes ( more if you like)
 
Garnish
  • 2-3 green onions thinly sliced on the bias ( for garnish)
  • 1/4 cup crushed peanuts  ( for garnish)
  • handful of chop suey style sprouts ( garnish)

Get everything ready before you start because once you begin, everything will happen fast and it is all about timing!

Start by either boiling a kettle or a pot of water for the noodles.    You can make them either by boiling a pot and when it reaches the boil toss in the noodles and then turn off the heat!  Stir them down until they are soft and cover for a few minutes.

OR place the noodles in a large bowl and then pour the boiled kettle water over them.  Same thing, stir till softened down and then let sit a couple of minutes.

While the water is boiling, mix together all of the ingredients for the sauce.  I find doing it in a 2 cup measuring cup is the easiest.

Chop up the things for your garnish.

Okay, now you are ready.

Cut chicken or tofu into bite size pieces and toss into wok or none stick frying pan with a couple of splashed of oil.    Cook until chicken is well cooked then toss in garlic, ginger, salt & pepper and keep tossing till well coated.

Drain your noodles and toss them in the pan with the chicken, toss them around.   Then pour the sauce all over the noodles with as even distribution as you can, toss well to coat.

Then, in the SAME cup that the sauce just came out of, break in your two eggs and beat slightly.  This picks up the left over sauce.

Then pour the egg evenly all over the noodles and put a lid on the pan for a couple of minutes.

Once the eggs “set” toss the noodles all up again to mix the eggs in to the rest of the noodles.

Serve immediately!

Garnish with green onion, chopped peanut, bean sprouts and a wedge of lemon on the side!

Pad Thai

As good as these are fresh, they make a great snack at room temperature left over from the pan!

Or re-fried up the next day or to be honest, even cold!

Dipping Sauces

Here are the dipping sauces that we had with our  Gyoza.  ( see yesterday’s post)

First the Chef  made up a batch of what we’ll call “basic sauce” meaning each dipping sauce starts as this and then the additional ingredients are added to make it into a specific sauce.

Basic sauce:

  • garlic
  • ginger
  • cilantro
  • green onion
  • soya sauce
  • sesame oil

Lemon Soya Sauce:

  • basic sauce
  • extra soya
  • lemon juice

Sweet miso:

  • basic sauce
  • miso paste
  • water to thin it out

Chili Thai peanut:

  • basic sauce
  • peanut butter
  • chili flakes
  • water to thin it out

Dipping sauces

 
 
 
 
Stir them up and start dippin!!
 
 
These sauces are also great for vegan sushi!   ( Click here ) to see how to make them!
 
Party snacks are my favourite food!
 
 
 
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Gyoza – not just a party snack

As we get closer to the holidays I am still on the quest for interesting party snacks.

The Chef suggested we make some home made “Gyoza”.   Or as I would know it as an Asian dumpling type thing.

I was willing to give it a try.  But let me warn you right off the top, these babies are pretty labour intensive and instead of them being a party snack, I would suggest having a gyoza making party! Because if you had a production line full of friends to help with this, it would make it SO much easier.

Let’s start with the filling.  Keep in mind, these can be made with pork, chicken, shrimp or completely vegetarian ( maybe even vegan if you check what’s in your won ton wrappers! )

In fact, the Chef informs me that you could even make dessert versions with mascarpone cheese and strawberries and the like!

They are a versatile snack.  But a lot of work.

Here is what we used for this batch, but feel free to substitute as needed.

  • ground raw pork
  • finely minced red onion
  • shredded carrot
  • shredded cabbage
  • finely minced garlic
  • finely minced ginger
  • soya sauce
  • white/black sesame seeds
  • raw egg

In a large skillet start with the pork and cook till almost completely done , then add all of the other ingredients except the egg.   Once all the vegetables are cooked, crack in the egg and mix it in well.  This will help hold the filling together.

Let it cool down so it will be easy to work with.

Now it is production line time!   Get everything set up to save time. 

  • Have baking sheets lined with parchment paper
  • Round won ton wrappers
  • a bowl or glass of water
  • filling mixture
  • dumpling press

The dumpling press is my new favorite toy!  Boy do I wish I had THIS baby when I was making my empanadasWould have made life SO much easier!

Dumpling press

I found this at a local hardware store for $3.00.  If you see one, pick it up.  You will love it.

So here we go.   Lay down the won ton wrapper.

Dip your finger in the water and wet the outside ring of the wrapper so it will stick together.

Add a bit of filling.  You will have to experiment until you get the exact right amount that works best.

Place with won ton wrapper full of filling on the dumpling maker.

Squeeze shut.

Open again and carefully peel the dumpling out of the mould and place on the parchment lined baking sheet.

Repeat.  ( you can see now why having a production line for this activity would help!!)

Make sure you keep the surface of your dumpling press dry by wiping it off after every few dumplings, otherwise things will start to stick.

When the tray is full put it in the freezer.   Even if you are going to be eating them soon.  This will help them keep their shape when cooking or once totally frozen you can bag them up and use them later!

So, now to cook them.

First we will boil them in a pot of water.  But only a few at a time because if they touch, they will stick!  So, boil a few and wait till they come to the surface then fish them out.

Dry them, and then into the frying pan, cook on both sides till they are a bit crispy and brown.   Same thing, only a few at a time so they don’t stick!

Then they are ready to eat!

A little dipping sauce and you are good to go!!

Gyoza with dipping sauce

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Accidental tasty dip

I needed some sauce or something to put over my empanadas ( see yesterday’s post ) because as taste as they were, they were just a little dry and needed a little bit of umph!

What to do?

Well first I whipped up a batch of my Chermoula sauce which probably would have been fine, but it a bit runny to put on flakey pastry.

Chermoula sauce

So I added it to some sour cream! 

Chermoula and sour cream

Fantastic!!

It made a great topping for the empanadas and all I could think of was what a great dipping sauce it would make for……..well……anything really.

Perfect dip

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

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