Category: Side

Quick & Dirty: Potato Cheese Tart

It’s World Food Day and much of the talk around food these days is about the incredible waste. Food that doesn’t look perfect or is on the verge of beginning to spoil is being thrown away by the ton. Lots of great people are working very hard to stop this… I have a friend who picks up food from supermarkets that was destined for the landfill and delivers it to groups that help those in need. My own part is much smaller in trying to reduce waste in my own home. I used to grocery shop 3-4 times a week and a portion always languished in the crisper until I finally threw it away. I now grocery shop once a week and force myself to use what I can find in the pantry and fridge.

Last night’s dinner was a great example of this because it has been 9 days since I did a grocery shop… 9 days! I volunteer for a local rescue society and this past weekend I took on another pup and didn’t want to leave her alone to go grocery shopping so I dug through my fridge to cobble together a meal. This tart came together using a few stray vegetables, 3 different bits of leftover cheese, and some meat from my freezer. It’s amazing how inventive you can get!

This is a Q&D recipe because I wasn’t planning to post this “throw together meal” until I had my first bite and knew I had to share it with you. In the spirit of World Food Day and reducing waste, I suggest you dig through your own fridge! I lined my tart pan with prosciutto to make a “crust”, then used thinly sliced layers of potatoes, vegetables and grated cheese. You could use some other potato-like vegetable such as sweet potatoes, yams, or squash. Add something aromatic for flavour. I used half a leftover onion but shallots, minced garlic, leeks, or diced green onion would also work. Then dig through your cheese drawer and use up any old bits you have hanging around. I used cheddar, parmesan, and crumbled some blue on top after the tart was finished cooking. Brie would have been good. Or feta. And dot with goat or Boursin after cooking?!…mmmmm! Use up any other bits of veg in your crisper. I had a single sad carrot that I thinly sliced but I kept thinking how delicious fennel or shaved brussels sprouts would be. You could use a real crust of frozen pastry, a frozen tart shell, or dare I suggest bacon?!?! Or nothing! What’s that, you say? Forget about a separate crust… grease your pan well and those potatoes will bake and brown forming their own lovely crust.

I started by lining my tart pan with tinfoil for easy cleanup. Let the tinfoil come up the sides to make the pan a bit higher. You want to build up the layers as the tart will collapse by about half as it cooks. Spray or oil the tin really well with cooking oil. If your tart pan has a removable bottom I recommend putting it on a cookie sheet while baking just in case it leaks. I covered the tart with a piece of parchment paper and then a lid to weigh it down while cooking for about 2 hours, then removed the lid and parchment for another 20 minutes to brown. It seems like a long time to bake but you really want those layers to cook together. I hope you try some version of this “refrigerator” tart.

Preheat oven to 350F.

5 or so medium potatoes or other vegetable as suggested above
half an onion, or leek, or some minced garlic, or chopped green onion
other vegetables as desired such as carrot, thinly sliced
about 2 cups of grated cheese
Salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil for each layer

Thinly slice all your vegetables (enough to make 5 or 6 layers in your tart pan). Grate all your cheese (I had about 2 cups in total plus some blue I crumbled on top after the tart was finished cooking). If you are using something as a base or crust, start with that in a well-oiled pan. Then build your layers of potatoes and vegetables. Season each layer with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil, and top with a layer of cheese. Repeat until all your ingredients are gone. Finish with a layer of potato. I suggest covering with a piece of parchment and weighing it down with a lid. Bake for approximately 2 hours, until the tip of a sharp knife easily slips through the tart. Remove the lid and parchment and let brown for another 20 minutes. I served with a few slices of steak on the side.

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

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

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.

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!

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

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. 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). ;)

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.

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

Quick & Dirty: Beets with Creamy Vietnamese Dressing

It’s beet season at my house. I finished my garden clean-up a couple weeks ago except for those leeks again this year. I usually use a lot of them in chicken pot pie but this year I want to try a chicken stew and dumplings, heavy with leeks, obviously. Coming soon (maybe ;) ).

Aaaaanyway, I pulled up the last of my carrots and beets and put them in a couple sacks in the garage. I do love beets but rarely cooked them until last year when I got my Instant Pot. It’s just so fast and easy now. Give them a rinse, throw them in for 7-15 minutes (depending on size), let sit in cold water for a couple minutes, slide the peel right off. Easy peasy.

I am enjoying experimenting with my Instant Pot. The other night I tried a “pot in pot” dinner where you cook everything at the same time. Ummm, what?! I made mashed potatoes, meatloaf, and beets in the same pot. The only thing I made separate was the mushroom sauce. It was surprisingly good. Perhaps not something I would do all the time as I hate to give up control over exact timing and temperature (Yes, I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to cooking). And if you want some texture to your food you still have to utilize the stove or oven (I put my meatloaf under the broiler for a few minutes to caramelize the top) but I can certainly see why working families adore the Instant Pot.

(Pot in pot. The potatoes are under the meatloaf and beets. Cool, hey?)

So those beets. When they were finished cooking I let them cool a bit, chunked them up, and covered them in a easy Vietnamese dressing. I had about a pound of beets for Husband and I. You can make as many as you want and double or triple the dressing as required. Cook the beets however you want. My mom boils them, I used to bake them (it took foooooreeeeeeverrrrr), and now I use my Instant Pot pressure cooker. 7 minutes on high for smallish beets, 10-15 minutes for medium to large.

The dressing amounts below make a small batch of dressing and can easily be doubled or tripled. Try it over roasted carrots as well, or spread onto a sandwich.

Cook beets (about 1/2 pound per person). Cover with dressing. Eat.


1/2 small shallot, diced
1 TBS fresh ginger, peeled, sliced then cut into matchsticks
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1 TBS fish sauce
1 TBS sugar
1 TBS fresh lime juice
1 TBS mayonnaise
2 TBS vegetable oil
salt to taste

Add shallot, ginger, garlic, chili flakes, fish sauce and sugar along with 2 tablespoons of water to small saucepan and gently simmer until half the liquid has evaporated and aromatics are soft, 7-10 minutes.

Turn into small food processor or blender and add lime juice, mayonnaise and vegetable oil. Blend until emulsified. Taste and season with salt. Drizzle over beets. Can be served warm, room temperature, or chilled!

Roasted Vegetables with Garlic Scape/Carrot Top Pesto

Have you heard?!?! It’s garlic scape season… YAY! Garlic scapes are the flower stalks that emerge from the garlic plant in the late spring and early summer and they are packed with flavour. They are removed from the plant so the energy that would go to letting the plant flower goes instead to the bulb in the ground. The season for scapes is very short, only a couple weeks, so grab yours while you can! I grow garlic in my backyard (easier than you think… you should try it) but the fresh scapes are also easy to find at your local farmers’ market. Grilling them for a minute or so on each side until they start to blister really mellows the flavour (I chop them up and use them in salads), but fresh scapes in pesto is a perfect substitute for garlic cloves. They add a very bright, green zing to the pesto and the lingering effect is much softer than cloves… perfect for serving to company!

You can roast any vegetables on hand. I used new potatoes and carrots (with the tops, of course) that I picked up from the farmers’ market yesterday and added an onion for flavour. Grilling those little baby squashes would be a beautiful dish for company. You know what else would be good?… fresh shelling peas cooked for just a couple minutes and then dolloped with the pesto. And add a piece of torn burrata to that???… holy. Let your imagination run wild. :)

The veggies below fed Husband and I. Increase the amount depending on how many you want to serve. The recipe makes about one cup of pesto which is enough for 4-6 servings. I plated this in a bowl with slices of grilled steak on the side and it was perfect.

For the pesto:

2 cups lightly packed washed carrot tops, stems discarded, roughly chopped
3-4 garlic scapes, roughly chopped
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
1 ounce grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup good quality fruity olive oil

Combine the carrot tops and scapes in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the remainder pesto ingredients (except olive oil) and pulse again until well combined (about 20 times, you may have to stop to scrape down the sides a few times). Add the olive oil and process until creamy. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

For the roasted vegetables:

1/2 pound new potatoes
1/2 pound new carrots
1 large sweet or other onion
glug of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
grated Pecorino or Parmesan to finish

Preheat BBQ grill (or oven) to 350-400F. Cut the potatoes and carrots into large bite size pieces. Chop onion into large chunks. Combine everything in a bowl with a glug of olive oil, salt and pepper. Tip into a disposable aluminum tin and cover with tin foil or wrap in tinfoil package. Place on the BBQ and roast until the vegetables are tender… about 45 minutes.

Serve the vegetables with a grating of Pecorino or Parmesan and dolloped with the pesto.

Quick & Dirty: Blistered Green Beans with Miso, Lime and Gochujang

Although the weather the past couple weeks has gone from “summer” back to “drizzly West Coast spring”, I know summer will be back again because green beans are just starting to show up at our local markets. I smoked a small brisket yesterday for dinner and threw together this side dish in literally 10 minutes. And was it fantastic. Fresh and zesty from the lime, loads of umami flavour from the miso, a little bit of spice from the gochujang, all slightly mellowed by a touch of honey.

Heat a cast iron pan or thick bottomed frying pan (not non-stick) over medium high heat with just a swipe of canola oil covering the bottom of the pan; you don’t need much, you’re basically dry-frying the beans. Don’t use olive oil as you need a high smoke point. Throw your beans into the hot pan and let them sit for a couple minutes without stirring so they start to blister. Toss (or if you’re using cast iron which is too heavy to toss, stir) your green beans every few minutes until they are lovely and blistered and done to your liking. For me this took about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit a minute before tossing with the sauce or it will burn in the hot pan.

While the beans are cooking, mix together the sauce ingredients. It will be quite thick and cling to the beans nicely. I didn’t use any salt as the miso paste is salty enough. The measurements below makes enough for about a pound of beans. Enjoy!

Note: I’m really loving these “Quick & Dirty” posts, aren’t you? Much quicker to write so I get to visit you more often and much closer to the way real people cook. If you don’t have lime, try lemon. If you can’t find gochujang, throw in a pinch of red pepper flakes. Don’t have green beans in your crisper?, try it with broccoli (including the stems!). It’s all good :)

1 lb green beans, washed and stemmed

1 TBS white or light miso paste
juice and zest from 1 small lime, or 1/2 large lime (about a generous tablespoon or so)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp honey
1 tsp gochujang (Korean fermented red chili paste)

Quick & Dirty: Fennel Orange Salad

I haven’t always been a fan of fennel. The thought of that licorice-y flavour in my food just seemed, well, weird. In the past year, though, it has not been uncommon to find it in my crisper. Why? Because I tried it. Yep, me who preaches about trying everything really didn’t try fennel. I really started using it regularly after I made this… then this. Last week I made a yummy sausage, fennel and white bean spring stew. And last night instead of cooking the sucker I made a salad that I know will become a regular around here… fennel orange salad. I dare you.

This is a Quick & Dirty recipe so I didn’t measure exactly. And except for the two main ingredients (fennel and oranges) I really just tossed in what I had in the fridge. I had a large bag of oranges sitting on the counter but you could even substitute canned if that’s what you have. And I forgot to sprinkle the couscous over the first serving of the salad (Husband going up for seconds: “What’s in the pot?”… arghhhhhh) so I’m calling that optional. You can switch out the the arugula for another salad green, change the pepitas (pumpkin seeds) to another seed or nut, sub in a different cheese, and/or switch the grain to farro or quinoa. Whatever floats your boat.

I had planned on serving this with grilled squid for some protein but ended up searing a sous vide smoked pork shoulder steak that I had in my freezer and adding a couple slices on the side. Sausage would be yummy as well.

Throw the fennel, oranges, arugula, mint and cilantro into a large bowl. Toss with about half the vinaigrette, adding more to your liking. Sprinkle over pepitas, feta, and couscous. Serve with a protein to make a meal.

handful of cilantro leaves
TBS or so chopped fresh mint
2 large handfuls of baby arugula
3 oranges, zested (set aside to add to vinaigrette) then peeled and sectioned, each section cut in half
1 fennel bulb, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 cup pepitas
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1 cup cooked couscous (about 1/3rd cup from dry)

Orange Lime Vinaigrette
juice from whole juicy lime (2-3 TBS)
1 TBS orange zest, more or less to taste
1-2 tsp honey, more or less to taste
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt & pepper, to taste
pinch of red pepper flakes (I used Korean gochugaru which has a lovely fruity element)
good quality olive oil to emulsify (about 1/3rd cup)

Put all ingredients except oil in a bowl, whisk in oil in a thin steady stream until dressing starts to thicken. Taste and adjust seasoning.