Category: Vegetarian

Roasted Carrots with Lentils and Soft Cheese

I made soup last week and bread this week. Fall is definitely here. I’m still not quite ready to go full on “braise” but roasted veggies, especially over something hearty but still healthy… yup, I’m down with that.

I was at Costco last week and bought a “YUGE” bag of carrots for, like, zero dollars and went decidedly French by pairing them with Puy lentils. You guys, if you haven’t added those tiny, green French lentils to your repertoire you are missing out. They are so easy to cook properly if you soak, then steam them (just say no to mushy lentils) and they are delicious warm or cold. Use them as a base for almost any roasted vegetable as I did here, or toss them in a salad. (Or simply season them and add a fried or poached egg on top… oh yes I did!). And they’re healthy. I almost hate to say that because it’s beside the point. They are delicious… just go with that.

This dish is hearty enough for a vegetarian main but it can also be served alongside some protein (or that egg we just discussed). I served mine with a couple pieces of chicken confit I had in the fridge which I simply reheated by adding to the tray of carrots when I removed the tinfoil. Anything to save washing another dish!

1 1/2 cups green French Puy lentils

Carrots:
2-3 pounds of carrots, washed or peeled and halved lengthwise
1 tsp cumin seeds, roughly ground with mortar and pestle
1 tsp coriander seeds, roughly ground with mortar and pestle
1 tsp dried thyme leaves, roughly ground with mortar and pestle
1 tsp kosher salt
Red chili flakes, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 TBS red wine vinegar
1 1/2 TBS olive oil
1 whole lemon, peel zested and lemon halved

Vinaigrette:
2 TBS red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 TBS tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp anchovy paste
pinch of salt and few grinds of fresh black pepper
1/3 cup good fruity olive oil

To finish:
fresh chopped basil or other herb of your choice (optional)
1 8-oz ball of fresh mozzarella (optional, but seriously…)

Make dressing by combining all ingredients except olive oil. Slowly drizzle in oil while whisking until emulsified. Set aside.

Cook lentils to your liking. I soak mine for at least a few hours or overnight, then steam for 15-30 minutes (depending on how long you have soaked) until just tender but not falling apart. Put drained lentils in a larger wide bowl (enough to accommodate the carrots) and stir in 3 TBS of dressing while they are still warm so the lentils absorb the flavour. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Combine your spices in the bottom of a bowl along with minced garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil and lemon zest. Add carrots and toss to coat. Place on oiled cookie sheet along with your zested lemon halves (cut side down) and cover with a piece of tin foil. Roast for 20 minutes. Uncover, toss and roast another 15-25 minutes until carrots are tender and browned in spots. Remove from oven, squeeze over juice from roasted lemon.

Putting it together:

Taste and re-season lentils if necessary (they may need more salt, especially if you skipped the anchovy paste). Tip carrots over lentils and gently toss. Tear fresh mozzarella over the dish and drizzle with remaining vinaigrette to taste. Scatter fresh herbs on top if using and dish up!

Quick & Dirty: Roasted Grapes and Goat Cheese

Hey, remember that time I invited people over for drinks and all I had to eat in the fridge were some old grapes and goat cheese?…

Well, it turns out you can make a mighty fine appetizer with almost nothing. The first time I made this I used pepitas instead of walnuts (one of the guests had an allergy) and the second time I used the walnuts plus added in some fresh rosemary. Both times were delicious. I have also cut down on the oil from the original recipe significantly. And for the drizzling olive oil over the goat cheese, feel free to use flavoured oil if you have it. I used Persian lime olive oil and it was delicious. Next time I’m thinking a pinch of hot chili flakes would not go amiss. Happy appy!

1/2 cup toasted, chopped walnuts (or other nut)
3 cups red seedless grapes
2 tsp plus 2 TBS good, fruity olive oil (divided)
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary (about 3″), leaves removed
1/2 tsp sea salt (divided)
1 log fresh goat cheese (250-300 grams or 8-10 ounces)

Preheat oven to 350F. Toss grapes, thyme sprigs and rosemary leaves with 2 tsp olive oil. Place on parchment covered baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt. Place in oven and roast for 45-55 minutes until grapes are soft and skins are bursting. This can be done a few hours ahead of time.

While grapes are roasting (or 45 minutes before serving), slice goat cheese in 1/4 inch rounds and arrange on serving dish. Drizzle with 2 TBS olive oil (flavoured if you wish).

When grapes are finished roasting, let sit until no longer hot (can be room temperature). Spoon over goat cheese and scatter with toasted, chopped walnuts. Sprinkle on remaining 1/4 tsp salt. I served this with crackers but you can also use a sliced baguette.

Quick & Dirty: Caesar Salad Dressing

It’s been hot here on the West Coast and I am loving it! I have been eating salad after salad chock full of lovely garden tomatoes, cucumbers, legumes, with tons of herbs and bright, zesty vinaigrettes and they have been yummy! I don’t know why but Caesar salad never seemed like a summer salad to me. When all the fresh vegetables have faded away and the cold, damp days of winter move in, that’s when I think of that heavier, cheese laden dressing that will smack you across the head with just the right amount of pungent garlic and creamy mayonnaise.

But it’s +28C outside today and I’m still craving a crispy romaine Caesar salad, with some cold chicken folded in and topped with crunchy croutons and fried caper flavour bombs. Eat your heart out, Winter! :)

1 clove garlic, minced (or more, depending on your taste)
1/2 tsp dry mustard
lots of pepper
1 1/2 tsp worchestershire
2-3 TBS fresh lemon juice (depending on your taste)
1 tsp anchovy paste or 1 anchovy filet mashed with a fork (optional but HIGHLY recommended)
1 tsp Knorr Aromat or Accent seasoning (optional)
1/4 cup good fruity olive oil
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 oz grated fresh Parmesan (about 1/2-3/4 cup, depending on size of grate)

Combine first 7 ingredients in bowl. Slowly whisk in olive oil until emulsified. Fold in mayonnaise and fresh Parmesan. You may only need a portion of the dressing for your salad depending on the amount of greens you have. The rest will stay good in the fridge for 3 or 4 days.

Grilled Corn and Chickpea Salad with Smoky Lime Vinaigrette

Yesterday morning before I went out to meet a friend for coffee I put a batch of chickpeas in my Instant Pot to cook. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them but cooked beans are always a great thing to have in your back pocket (just don’t sit down. HAHAHA… sorry). They are healthy, filling, and will sit in the fridge for a few days until you need them. Mine didn’t sit because on the way home I stopped at the market and spotted some fresh corn and some lovely ripe mangos. Throw in some filler vegetables and amp it up with a zesty smoky vinaigrette and you got yourself a yummy Southwestern inspired salad.

The ingredients below are what I had on hand but it is infinitely adaptable. Use black or white beans instead of chickpeas. Add sliced radishes, diced bell pepper or kohlrabi. Try a different cheese. Shower with mint and basil instead of cilantro. And as always, enjoy sitting outside on your patio with a beer. Cheers!

Vinaigrette
juice from one fresh lime (about 2 TBS)
2 tsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup good fruity olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Salad
1 cup dried chickpeas (to make 2 1/2 cups cooked, or you can use canned)
2 fresh cobs of corn
handful cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 English cucumber, seeded and diced into bits-sized pieces
1/4 cup pickled onions
1 ataulfo mango, peeled, seeded and diced into bite-sized pieces
crumbled feta (garnish)
handful chopped cilantro (garnish)

Cook chickpeas using your favourite method. I do mine in the pressure cooker with a clove of garlic and bay leaf.

Make vinaigrette by combining all ingredients except olive oil in a bowl. Slowly drizzle in oil while whisking. Taste and re-season if necessary (add more ingredients to your liking). Set aside.

Preheat BBQ grill. Shuck and grill corn, turning until blistered in places (about 10 minutes). Let cool enough to handle. Remove kernels with a knife. Set aside.

When you’re ready to eat, combine chickpeas, corn kernels, and the rest of the salad ingredients (except feta and cilantro) in large bowl. Drizzle with half the vinaigrette and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning adding more vinaigrette or salt and pepper. Garnish with crumbled feta and chopped cilantro. We enjoyed this with grilled bread.

Summer Potato Lentil Salad

I just got back from traveling AND EATING for almost a month and am trying to get over jet lag along with a terrible cold I picked up somewhere between Rome and San Sebastian (aka pasta and pintxos heaven). The last couple days of traveling and the flight home socked me good. But I’m still hungry! Have I mentioned before that when I get sick I’m not one of those people who eats a half piece of toast and “can’t eat another bite”? I hate those people. Nope, when I’m sick I NEED ALL THE FOOD!

One night in San Sebastian I had a pintxos (basically a small snack served on a slice of baguette alongside a drink) of a beautifully rare bite of steak sprinkled with salt. Yesterday I was craving that steak but not the heavy potatoes and sour cream that usually accompany it. What did I think about a lightened up potato salad? Salad sounds good. What about adding healthy French lentils to counteract the eating of the last month? I could go for that. And how about elevating it with something punchy like chopped gherkins or pickled onions? Suuuuure! And should I throw in some radishes and peas from the garden? Why not?! Anything else I need to use up? I do have those garlic scapes…

As you can see, I’m simply using what I have on hand. I love to cook this way in the summer. Use the potatoes, lentils and vinaigrette as a base and add whatever is available to you. Little tomatoes would be delicious. Fresh green beans that have been cooked to just tender-crisp. Oooooh, maybe some olives to make it a bit “nicoise-y”. Or some hard-boiled eggs for a more traditional potato salad. Oh, and wouldn’t the salty bite of some goat or sheep feta be lovely??? The world is your oyster (mmmmmmm, oysters). ;)

Vinaigrette:
2 TBS white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 TBS tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp anchovy paste (you know you want to!)
few grinds of fresh black pepper
1/3 cup good fruity olive oil

Whisk together all ingredients and set aside.

1 cup dry French (Puy) lentils
1 lb small new potatoes
handful of fresh parsley leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
6-8 chopped sour gherkins and/or sweet pickles (optional)
1/4 cup pickled onions (optional, but HIGHLY recommended)
handful of radishes, washed and sliced (optional)
handful of sugar snap or snow peas, chopped (optional)
Garlic scape, tender bits thinly sliced (optional)

Cook lentils until tender but not mushy, using your favourite method. I soak mine for about 4 hours then steam them until tender… 15-30 minutes depending on how old the lentils are. Drain and turn into a large bowl. Stir in 1 TBS of the vinaigrette to season the lentils. Set aside.

Scrub new potatoes. Leave whole if small or cut in half if larger and cook in simmering water for about 15 minutes until just tender. Drain and cut in half (largish bite-sized pieces). While still warm, place the cut potatoes in the bowl with the lentils. Fold in 3 more TBS of the remaining vinaigrette and let sit so the warm potatoes and lentils absorb more of the dressing. Salad can sit at room temperature for a couple hours.

When you are ready to eat, add the chopped parsley and your other additional ingredients from the options above or your own choices. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette and gently stir to combine. Taste and re-season with salt and pepper if necessary. We ate this with BBQ steak and grilled asparagus. Sooooo good.

Rhubarb Compote

My rhubarb patch is absolutely bursting and besides giving away several pounds, I’ve made numerous galettes, muffins, and I have a scone recipe waiting in the wings, but it appears that the simplest preparation is sometimes the most favoured.

At Husband’s request I have been making homemade yoghurt (“I miss the tangy yoghurt in Mallorca” he lamented… *insert rolling eyes here*) and a few weeks ago he was craving dessert so I suggested he stir a couple of tablespoons of rhubarb compote into his yoghurt…

And I have been struggling to keep up with the making of the yoghurt and rhubarb compote ever since.

There are tons of things you can do with this compote. Spread it on toast or on top of a bagel with cream cheese, dollop on to grilled or fried pork chops, add it to whipped cream, serve over ice cream or pavlova, add to your morning oatmeal, fold it in to berries for shortcake, and of course, stir it into plain yoghurt. We like it not too sweet so I use 3/4 cup of sugar but you can start with that and taste and add more sugar throughout the process. And don’t be afraid to use a pinch of hot pepper flakes, it won’t make it spicy, it will just give it a deeper, rounder flavour.

2 pounds (about 7-8 cups) fresh rhubarb, 1/2 inch slice
3/4 cup sugar (you can add more at the end if you like it a bit sweeter)
6-8 thin slices fresh ginger (about 1″ total)
1 TBS balsamic vinegar
pinch of hot pepper flakes (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy bottomed pot and let stand for at least 30 minutes until the fruit has released some liquid.

Place pot over medium-high heat until liquid comes to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Stir every minute or so until rhubarb is very tender and starting to break down and the compote starts to thicken, about 10-12 minutes is perfect for us but you can decide what texture you want. Taste and adjust sweetness by adding in another tablespoon or two of sugar if you wish. Remove from heat and let cool.

I store mine in a large glass jar in the fridge. It will keep for a few weeks but ours usually disappears before then.

Marinated Cheese (yes, you read that right)


Happy New Year (almost)! I have a little gift for you. Marinated cheese! Ummm, helluuuu?! MAR-I-NA-TED CHEEEEEESE! It’s like the best thing ever. Spices and aromatics steeped in silky goodness and poured over cheese? Are you with me??? YES? YAAAAAYYYYY!

You probably have the ingredients for this in your fridge right now! It takes just a couple minutes to throw together. Quick enough to include with your New Year’s appetizers tonight! Set this cheese out by itself alongside some slices of baguette, crackers or warm pita, or place on a cheese and charcuterie platter with lots of other goodies. Or, if you’re some people (ahem), it may not even make it out of the fridge before fingers are dipping into the jar. NOT ME!

Ok, me.

This is a great way to dress up inexpensive cheese. I used a plain old supermarket brand of soft goat cheese but I think almost any cheese would work. Something mild will let the marinade ingredients shine but I’m dying to try it with feta. I used canola oil as the base. You can use olive oil if you would like but I find the fruitiness of the olive oil clashes a bit with the Asian flavours here. However, you could do an olive oil marinade leaving out the Asian spices and instead add some sun-dried tomatoes to the jar. Oh oh OHHHH, and when you set it out sprinkle it with toasted pumpkin seeds!!! There you go, a new idea is born! Let me know how it turns out!

UPDATE: Sigh. Do you see what I did there??? While writing about my first batch of cheese I got all excited about doing an olive oil marinade and I just happen to have a big ol’ piece of pepper jack cheese in the fridge (mine is monterey jack with jalapeños but any pepper jack will work, or any other cubed cheese that you like), so I had to do a second batch of cheese. Yup. Sheesh. So, Part 1 and Part 2 below. You’re welcome. :)

PART 1

250 grams plain goat cheese

Marinade ingredients:
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 star anise pods
10-15 whole peppercorns
1/2 – 1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
couple thin slices of fresh ginger
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns

To finish marinade:
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp white wine vinegar


To make the marinade, add all the ingredients together in a small saucepan and bring to simmer. Turn heat down keeping a very light simmer and let cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and add in kosher salt, sugar, and white wine vinegar. Let cool.

When the marinade is cool, break up cheese into bite size pieces and put in jar with a tight-fitting lid. Pour over marinade, cap and let sit in the fridge at least a few hours or overnight, turning once or twice. Will keep for a week (or more!).

PART 2

250 grams pepper jack cheese (or try it with your favourite cheese)
small handful sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
toasted pumpkin seeds sprinkled on to finish

Marinade ingredients:
1/2 cup olive oil
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
couple pieces of thinly sliced fennel
10-15 whole peppercorns
1/2 – 1 tsp dried red pepper flakes (optional, if your cheese is already spicy like mine, you can omit this)

To finish marinade:
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 slices lemon peel (with as little pith as possible)

To make the marinade, add all the ingredients together in a small saucepan and bring to simmer. Turn heat down keeping a very light simmer and let cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and add in kosher salt, sugar, lemon peel and white wine vinegar. Let cool.

When the marinade is cool, cube cheese into bite size pieces and put in jar with a tight-fitting lid along with the sun-dried tomatoes (Ummm and wouldn’t olives be a great addition here as well???). Pour over marinade, cap and let sit in the fridge at least a few hours or overnight, turning once or twice. Will keep for a week (or more!). When you set this out a final sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds adds a very festive flair.

Quick & Dirty: Quick Pickled Beets


I made a lamb tagine for dinner last night and decided a zingy side dish would be the perfect finishing touch. Remember those beets from my garden that I have stored in my garage? Boom!… I whipped up a batch of pickled beets and I think it’s about time I share this easy, quick recipe with you. Isn’t that what “Quick & Dirty” is all about?! I know I just shared another beet recipe with you a couple weeks ago, but they’re just so darned tasty!

It’s the same marinade I use for my pickled rhubarb but with a touch less sugar. These pickled beets are a delicious side to almost any meat dish and are especially good alongside stews as a “sweet and sour” palate cleanser. They also add a nice punch tossed in almost any salad.

Cook the beets any way you like. I did mine for 15 minutes in my Instant Pot. You can steam, boil or roast yours. Let cool enough to handle, peel and then chop into bite-sized pieces and put them in a jar (I used an empty pickle jar). Heat marinade ingredients together in a small saucepan to a simmer. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Pour over beets and let sit for a couple hours. Congrats!… Pickled beets! They will keep in your fridge for at least a week or so.

1 1/2 – 2 pounds beets (about 5-6 medium-large)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 whole star anise
5 whole cloves
10 whole peppercorns
1/2 cinnamon stick
pinch of red pepper flakes
pinch of salt

Quick & Dirty: Chickpea Dip


I have been making this dip for years and never thought to write it up because, well, I’ve always just thrown it together. People love it and always ask how to make it so I give them the 30,000 foot view “you take some chickpeas, mash them up, add some stuff, serve with nacho chips”. And I was asked again last night after serving it as an appy at a dinner party so now I’m going to actually write it down to share with you.

As with all my Q&Ds, it is infinitely adaptable. My version below is on the salty side and zesty enough for, in my opinion, the perfect burst of flavour on a cracker but you should adjust the recipe to your taste. I also sometimes sprinkle in some hot chili flakes. You could also add diced bell pepper, artichokes or fresh tomatoes. For a more “salad-y” route try diced carrot and celery. Smoky paprika would also be delicious. Shower with fresh grated Parmesan or Pecorino instead of feta. And I have to admit I have wondered about adding a sweet note… raisins? Cranberries? A touch of curry powder?

See?!?! Adaptable :)

One more thing… I’m a huge fan of preserved lemons. They add a salty, briny, intense “je ne sais quoi”. You should be able to buy them in almost any Mediterranean market but you can also easily make them at home like this! Fresh lemon, of course, works almost as well.

1 1/2 cups of dried chickpeas to make 3-4 cups, or 2 cans (rinsed and drained)
1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
1/2 – 1 cup Moroccan dried cured olives (the wrinkly black ones) or other olive of your choice, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
1 whole preserved lemon (peel only), finely diced (or use the zest and juice of a whole fresh lemon)
1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
couple glugs of good fruity olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
2 ounces crumbled feta to garnish

Boil your chickpeas (I like to do mine in stock or add a whole smashed clove of garlic, bay leaf and a pinch of salt to regular water) until quite tender but not mushy, or rinse and drain 2 cans of chickpeas. Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and mash them into a nice chunky texture. I use a pastry cutter to do this but you could use a potato masher or a just a fork. Add in your other ingredients (except feta) and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Garnish with crumbled feta and serve with nacho chips or toasted pita.

Quick & Dirty: Snow Pea/Garlic Scape Pesto

I KNOW! I, too, am afeared that I am taking this whole pesto thing to extremes, but hear me out! I argue that… hmmm, well, I don’t really have an argument except if it tastes good…

AMIRIGHT?!?!

Yes, I’m right.

I planted 3 different kinds of peas this year. I never have to worry about what to do with shelling peas because, ahem, they never make it to the kitchen (they are eaten right in the garden). Snap peas, those crunchy little delights are thrown straight into salads or eaten as a raw crudité with dip! Snow peas, they are more of a conundrum for me. I love them in stir fries or fried rice but that’s more cool weather food. Snow peas have all the delicious fresh pea flavour but they are, well, floppy. How to solve the flop?… pesto those suckers!*

I added mint to the pesto because I had a minted pea soup in Paris a couple years ago that I still can’t get over, and garlic scapes instead of garlic because they are yummy and I need to use them up (as I did in my carrot top pesto). I didn’t use nuts because I forgot (something for which I am infamous… forgetting to add ingredients into dishes). Soooo, here’s my the Quick & Dirty but feel free to try a different herb, add some toasted nuts, use garlic instead of scapes. Just experiment. It’s all good.

4 ounces of snow peas (a large handful), strings removed
small handful of mint
3 garlic scapes
1-2 ounces grated Pecorino or Parmesan (to taste)
1/3rd cup good fruity olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

Blanch mint for 15 seconds (to keep the lovely green colour, otherwise your pesto will be muddy) and plunge into cold water. Blanch peas for one minute and plunge into cold water. Drain both. Roughly chop peas and garlic scapes and put in food processor, pulsing a couple times to break up. Add the rest of the ingredients and continue to pulse, then process until you get the texture you want. Taste and adjust seasoning.

I tossed my pesto with hot pasta. You could also smear it on grilled bread and top with cherry tomato, or buffalo mozzarella, or both! Use it as a base for pizza, dollop on roasted vegetables, or use instead of sour cream on a baked potato. The possibilities are endless… come join me. :)

*(If you’re an English major, yes, I know “pesto” isn’t a verb. And if you’re Italian, yes, I know I’ve completely bastardized real pesto. But the point of my website isn’t to be exactingly authentic. The point is to encourage people to cook at home and try new ideas, think outside the box with respect to food. I hope you agree with me that that’s a good thing :) ).