Category: Side

Grilled Carrots with Carrot-Top Pesto

carrot pestoEvery Saturday morning, May through September, an amazing farmers’ market pops up a 3 minute walk outside my back door. When we were house-hunting just over 5 years ago, we never imagined moving to the area of the city in which we now live, but one look at the massive park (with a lake!) just outside the back gate sold us. And with each passing year we fall more and more in love with our neighbourhood, including all the wonderful festivals and special events that happen in and around our park, one of which is our farmers’ market.

Right now the market is filled with fresh peas, baby carrots, spring greens, zucchini blossoms, and the first strawberries, blueberries, and cherries of the season. Soon there will be peppers, zucchini, and new potatoes, which will eventually lead us into the fall crop of crisp apples and sweet corn. But right now, it’s about the first gatherings of spring and last week my eyes fell on a beautiful bunch of new carrots and I knew I had to try a recipe from Food 52 (if you love to cook and you’re not following Food 52, you’re missing out).

This recipe was a revelation for me. I never imagined using carrot tops to make pesto (and I am now waiting anxiously for enough radish greens in my garden to try making pesto with those, because, why not?!). I haven’t changed the recipe ingredients at all, but I did grill my carrots on the BBQ rather than roasting them in the oven… it IS spring after all. As well, I did not top the carrots with burrata as per the original recipe because I didn’t have it on hand, but I’m sure it would be delicious. The recipe says it serves 4-6 people, but as per usual, we polished off the entire dish. Apparently, the leftover pesto freezes very well… mine didn’t last long enough to test this claim.

For the carrot top pesto:

4 cups lightly packed washed carrot tops, stems discarded, roughly chopped
a small handful basil leaves
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese
1 medium garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon Maldon or other flaky sea salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

carrot pesto tops

Make the pesto: Combine the carrot tops and basil in a food processor, pulse, then add the nuts, cheese, garlic, and salt. Pulse again, and then with the machine continuously running, add the oil in a thin stream. (You’ll have to stop to scrape down the sides a few times.) Taste and adjust for seasoning.

carrot pesto pesto

For the carrots:

20 small carrots, scrubbed and tops trimmed but stems left on (or, if your carrots are bigger as mine were, cut in half (crosswise) and then cut the wider half of the carrot in two, lengthwise)
large glug of extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 teaspoon plus a few pinches flaky salt
3 tablespoons carrot top pesto, plus more to taste
Half a lemon

Make the carrots: Turn your BBQ on to high and heat to 400°F.
Top carrots with a glug of olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt. Toss onto the hot BBQ and grill, turning occasionally, until the carrots are browning in spots. Turn heat down to medium and cook with the lid closed until the carrots are done to your liking. Remove and let cool slightly.

carrot pesto grilled

Toss the cooked carrots very gently with the pesto, using more or less based on your taste. Transfer the coated carrots to a platter (this is where you can top with the burrata, if you wish).

Dress with a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of good fruity olive oil, and a small pinch of salt.

Salt-Crusted Potatoes with Cilantro Mojo

salt potato dinnerHusband and I spent several hours yesterday  starting to move all the stuff that has been stored in our upstairs bedrooms for the past year, into our new garage. Hallelujah! As we were working, the Fed-Ex man came by and delivered my new cookbook! Double Hallelujah! It took about 3 minutes of flipping through the pages for me to decide on an accompaniment to our BBQ steak dinner… salt-crusted potatoes with a green, garlicky dip???… yes please!

The recipe as printed is actually a finger-food starter, but I used it as a side to our main and instead of dipping each individual potato as we ate, we scooped the delicious mojo over the potatoes at the beginning. I did not make any changes to the ingredients except using kosher salt instead of flaked sea salt and using a bit less oil, but I simplified the process immensely by whizzing the mojo ingredients in a food processor for about a minute rather than pounding everything with a mortar and pestle… easy peasy.

I made the recipe with 1 pound of potatoes for Husband and I, but left all the other ingredient measurements exactly the same including the salt, because the salt is salting the water, not the potatoes. Whatever salt doesn’t dry on the potatoes will just stay in the pan, it won’t make your potatoes more salty if you have fewer potatoes. However if you use a finer salt, you should use less.

My new cookbook is called Genius Recipes by Food 52, and if last night’s potatoes are any indication, I will be cooking a lot from this book. Take a look here

Salt-Crusted Potatoes

2 1/4 pounds evenly sized waxy new potatoes, such as fingerling, scrubbed but unpeeled
Sea salt flakes or kosher salt

Cilantro Mojo

3 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
Leaves from a bunch of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

Put the potatoes into a wide, shallow pan in which they fit in a single layer. Add 2 tablespoons salt and approximately 4 cups cold water (just enough to cover), bring to a boil, and leave to boil rapidly until the water has evaporated. Turn the heat to low and continue to cook for a few minutes, gently turning the potatoes over occasionally, until they are dry and the skins are wrinkled and covered in a thin crust of salt.

salt potato water
salt potato pan

While the potatoes are cooking, make the cilantro mojo. Put all the mojo ingredients into a food processor and whiz for about 30 seconds (stopping to scrape down the inside of the bowl, if necessary). Taste and add salt if necessary (but don’t over-salt as the potatoes will already have a salty crust). Continue to process for another 20-30 seconds or until you have the consistency you want. Spoon into small bowl.

salt potato mojo

Pile the hot potatoes onto a plate and serve with the mojo. If you find the potatoes too salty, it is easy to rub off some of the salt before serving.

Vietnamese Salad Rolls

salad roll final What to do for lunch tomorrow?! This was my great dilemma this morning as I lay in bed listening to the rest of the world start their day. I didn’t feel like going shopping for salad ingredients. I had some carrots in the fridge, a half a pepper from the pineapple salsa I made the other night, some cilantro, green onion, and not much else. My pantry is usually pretty well stocked with Asian ingredients and I always have prawns in the freezer. Sounds like salad rolls are on the menu.

These rolls are very adaptable to whatever you have in the fridge. Other filling ideas are bean sprouts, matchstick cucumber or zucchini, basil or mint instead of cilantro, poached chicken instead of shrimp. I used very little green onion in mine because I’m taking them to work but feel free to use more.

Don’t worry about getting the vegetables cut perfectly. I’m a bit obsessed but even using a vegetable peeler to make strips of carrots would work just fine!

As far as the peanut sauce goes, it was very good but next time I might try adding some fish sauce. Sesame oil would be tasty as well.

For the rolls:
9 medium-size (I used 16/20 count) prawns, shelled
2 oz vermicelli noodles (or about 1 1/2 cups of finished noodles)
6 round rice paper wrappers
1/2 red bell pepper (thinly sliced, pole to pole)
1 large carrot (cut into thin 3″ matchsticks)
1 green onion (thinly sliced on the diagonal)
leaves from 20  or so sprigs of cilantro

Peanut sauce:
4 TBS peanut butter
1 TBS hoisin sauce
1 TBS fresh lime juice
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp honey
1 tsp chili garlic sauce

Mix peanut sauce ingredients in bowl, then blend in enough cold water to get the consistency you want. For me, this is about 3 tablespoons. Set aside.

Heat a good amount of water (enough to also cook noodles below) in medium-size saucepan. When it starts to simmer, add prawns and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the prawns from the hot water with a slotted spoon, rinse in cold water and pat dry. Cut in half lengthwise and set aside.
salad roll shrimp

In the still hot water in which you cooked the prawns, cook vermicelli noodles according to package directions. This should entail adding the noodles to the hot water for about 3 minutes, then rinse in cold water and drain.
salad roll noodles

Putting it together:

salad roll ingredients

Place a clean, damp kitchen towel on a work surface. If you work very quickly you don’t need the towel, just make sure the work surface is wet. But if you think making the roll is going to take you longer than a minute, use the towel or the rice paper will stick to your work surface (like my first one did!). Fill a wide, shallow dish large enough to hold a rice paper wrapper with hot tap water (big pie plate or frying pan). Working with 1 wrapper at a time, completely submerge the wrapper until it is soft and pliable, about 10-15 seconds. Remove the wrapper from the water and place it on the towel.

Lay 3 prawn halves in a row along the centre of the wrapper. Add other vegetables lengthwise on top. Make sure they are neatly laid or they will poke through your rice paper when you try to roll it. Add a small amount of vermicelli noodles and top with cilantro.
salad rooll 1
salad roll 2
salad roll 3

Now comes the tricky part!

Fold the bottom half of the rice paper over the vegetables. Holding the vegetables firmly, pull back on them just slightly to tighten the roll. Fold in the sides and continue to roll away from you. SEE?!?! You did it! :) Note my picture below. The ones on the right were my first attempts (that second one from the right is especially bad!). Don’t worry if the first couple are messy, they will still taste good and once you’ve done it a few times, you will get the hang of it.
salad roll bad

If you want to hold them for a day or two, wrap them individually in cling wrap. When you’re ready to eat them, just dip them in peanut sauce and go for it. Very fresh and tasty.
salad roll end

Oh, and don’t tell Husband I made these, because I’ve already eaten half of them and the other half are safely hidden… um… STORED in fridge for my lunch tomorrow. :)

Pangrattato (or yummy crispy fried bread crumbs)

pangrattatoMy niece and a couple of friends came for dinner on Sunday but instead of a traditional roast chicken dinner, I was craving pasta. Such a difficult decision… so why not do both?!?!  I roasted a couple of lovely little free-range chickens which I first stuffed with lemon and parsley. When they were done I removed them from the roasting pan leaving the delicious juices behind to use later in the dish. Once the chickens were cool enough to handle, I pulled the meat and crispy skin into chunks and set the bones and flabbier parts aside to make stock. I tossed a handful of golden raisins, toasted pinenuts, and some chopped rosemary into the pan juices, added the chicken meat and crispy skin back, threw in a pound of hot cooked pasta, and tossed it all up with a handful of chopped parsley. It was a very satisfying non-traditional roast chicken dinner.

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Pomegranate Arugula Salad

pom salmon dinner“SALAD AGAIN?!?!” you’re asking? Yes, salad again. Every forking night until I lose these few extra pounds. Luckily, this is another one of my favourite salads and it’s hearty enough that you can add a small piece of protein and enjoy it as a meal (last night it was salmon). One of the main ingredients is pomegranate, which I have loved ever since I can remember. I used to sit on the sofa for hours reading a book and eating each aril (seed) separately, sucking the juice off and throwing out the seed in the centre. Why did I do that? Those seeds are crunchy and delicious, and they are chock-a-block full of vitamins, minerals, and fibre. This is a great way to make use of them.  This large salad generously feeds 2 as a main, or 4-6 as a side.

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Crispy Brussels Sprouts

DSC_4298My dishes are usually based on recipes, or a combination of recipes, that are tweaked to my liking. Sometimes, as is with this one, it’s an idea that I attempt to bring to life. A few years ago a friend told me about some crispy brussels sprouts with capers that she had in a restaurant, so I experimented with the idea and bumped it up a notch with preserved lemon. I make my own preserved lemons but you can buy jars in Middle Eastern shops or just use the juice and zest of a fresh lemon. I debated adding apple to this dish (and may try some day) but thought it might be too many components. I think these would also be delicious sprinkled with pumpkin seeds or grated parmesan cheese. Or served with dollop of garlic aioli… Mmmmm.

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Grilled Panzanella Salad

panzsaladThis is my first blog post! I’m so excited… yay me! Because we have been building a “garage” (bike studio for Husband) in our backyard for the past year (don’t even). And because in the course of building this “garage”, they have dug up my ENTIRE backyard (yup, all of it). And because I have been living with mud and debris for 6 months (I can’t even), I am dreaming of summer when this fiasco will (supposedly) be over. And because I am dreaming of lying on my lounger in my newly landscaped yard, with the sun dappling through the trees, cold beer in hand, I want to share with you one of my absolute favourite summer dinner salads.

I know it’s a bit early in the season but maybe it will get you dreaming of summer as well. Ahhhhh…

I fell in love with the idea of panzanella salad when I started growing my own tomatoes (thank you, dad) but the actual dish never quite lived up to my expectation.  I wanted the vegetables to have more depth and sweetness.  I wanted it crunchier.  And I wanted protein to turn it into a main course that would satisfy both myself and said Husband.

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