How to Build a Big Salad

big salad1 Start with greens

I like to use at least two types of greens.
Use iceberg or romaine for crunch and then
arugula or spinach or mesclun or mizuna or kale or some other more serious green for flavour.

if you are feeling fancy, make Macerated Kale. It breaks it down and makes it tastier and easier to chew.

To make, slice kale into thin strips. (Chiffonade as we chefs call it). Season with salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon and a massage in a little olive oil.

Or season with soy sauce and dried chilies, a splash of rice vinegar and massage in sesame oil. adding toasted sesame seeds is nice too.

Or add a little protein. Massage in some tahini and lemon, or peanut butter, or almond butter….

2 Add Veggies, add any or all of the following, whatever you have in your fridge

tomatoes, diced, wedged, cherry tomatoes….
cucumbers, sliced or diced
canned corn
celery, chopped
cabbage, shredded
carrots sliced thin or shredded
broccoli or cauliflower (roasted if you have time)
cooked green beans
red onion, I like to soak in cold water for a bit to take the edge off
snap peas
beets, boiled or roasted
… you get the idea. veggies

3 Add protein, one or more of the following

grilled, sliced chicken breast
grilled, sliced steak
dice ham or salami
hard boiled egg, wedged or chopped
cottage cheese
cheddar, gouda, smoked cheese… any hard cheese
blue cheese, particularly good with arugula and grilled steak
feta, goat cheese or parmesan
4Add something crunchy and interesting

sunflower seeds
walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts… any nut
sesame seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds
croutons
tortilla chips, corn chips…
coarsely chopped herbs
raisins, currants, dried cranberries

Dress your  salad

can be as simple as a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon or a splash of balsamic or use one of these simple dressings:

 

Dijon and Honey

1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp grainy dijon mustard
pinch of salt
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsps olive oil

Sesasme Ginger

small clove of garlic, minced
½ tsp grated fresh ginger
pinch of chili flakes
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp rice vinegar (or lime juice)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsps canola oil
1 tbsps sesame seeds (optional)

Orange Coriander

1 tsps cracked coriander seeds
1 tsp chili flakes
zest and juice of one orange
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsps olive oil

Yogurt Dill

1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
1 tbsp chopped parsley
pinch of cayenne
½ cup yogurt
½ cup mayonaise
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Some of the combinations will work better than others, but play around, you’ll find the ones you like the best.

Eating Clean, A Plan

Want to eat healthy but still want tasty meals and snacks? I know we do. Cook with us as we try to find cleaner, healthier options that are delicious and fun to make

Alex and I have a fun little side project going on. The past few years, we have sort of ignored our health in a significant way and gotten rounder and rounder. I think it’s a fair statement to say we’re both kind of done with that situation. I can get really nutty and super into a project like this and wind up burning myself and Alex out so I’ve taken a bit more of a measured approach to situation.

A few months ago, I connected with Dave and Megan at Midtown Barbell. Not long after I started, I had the major setback of our work lives being blown up so I kind of lost my way for a bit. With some gentle encouragement and a considerable amount of patience, Dave got me back in the gym. It’s hard and gross and I could seriously talk myself out of going every single day but I haven’t and I’m there, sweating and swearing and trying to keep my chin up.

This past weekend, Megan sent me a little food plan. It’s pretty straight forward:

The Plan

Breakfast:

3 eggs, ¾ cup of oatmeal, 1 tsp slivered almonds, 1 tsp butter

Lunch:

5 oz turkey or chicken or tuna

Dijon mustard or some sort of sugar free sauce

2 cups spinach

2 tbsps dressing

Handful of cashews

Dinner:

6 oz lean meat, 1 cup steamed broccoli, 1 baked yam, 1 tsp butter

Snacks:

½ small fruit, 1 oz cheese, 1 small handful of nuts

1 oz cheese, 36 calories worth of crackers

1 oz meat, 1 slice of bread, 1 tsp mayo

1 hardboiled egg

Small handful of grapes and nuts

No pop, no juice, no alcohol

I sat with this for a couple of days… it was the long weekend which means lots of cocktails and yummy food so the eating plan could wait. And it gave me time to consider what she had written out. I really dislike boring food. And this just strikes me as 10 days of boredom which will be hard to keep myself motivated through. So I’ve had enough time to think and I’ve come up with a few ideas about how to eat this lean protein, high vegetable plan with a little panache.

Here is how we interpreted it on one of those 10 days

3 scrambled eggs with 2 tomato slices

¾ cup steel cut oatmeal with a few blueberries

Lunch for Danielle turned out to be a store bought chicken, corn and hardboiled egg salad with a mustard/olive oil dressing. Alex had 2 leftover chicken thighs and a sliced tomato.

For snacks, I had some cucumber slices with 2 oz of cheese. 

Grapes

A few roasted almonds

And then for dinner, I made a pretty nice little schmammer:

Yam, Kale and Ground Turkey Hash

Yam, Kale and Ground Turkey Hash

 

Yam, Kale and Ground Turkey Hash

yam schmammer1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 jalepeno, diced

1 very large or 2 regular yams, diced

4 cups of kale, stripped of stems and chopped

1lb ground turkey

2 tbsps chili powder

1 tbsp cumin

2 tbsps oil, divided in 2

Salt and pepper to taste

At medium high, heat 1 tbsp oil in a large frying pan, add chili powder and cumin, let cook for 1 minute. Add the onion and saute until cooked through. Add garlic and jalepeno, cook for 1 minute.  Meanwhile, steam the yams in the microwave on high for 5 minutes with ½ cup of water. Drain off the water and add the yams to the onions. Cook for 5 minutes then add the chopped kale.

In a separate pan, heat up 1 tbsp of oil and add the ground turkey. Saute until cooked then add to the sweet potato mixture.

I wasn’t sure how this dish was going to go but it was delicious! So good. And I feel it is entirely in the spirit of the meal plan.

Nourishing Narratives

naturally-nourished.jpg

I love cookbooks. You could say I collect them. Someday I would love to open a Chef’s Library (fully licensed of course). I read cookbooks instead of novels, I’ve always said I have too short an attention span for a novel, a cookbook is like a collection of short stories. Tasty short stories.

I have an interesting relationship with cookbooks. They come to me at different times, I flip through them, look at the pictures, read a couple recipes. Sometimes I will become obsessed with the book right away, I’ll read and re-read it, try recipes, seek out more information about the author. Other times, the cook book isn’t really where I am at in that moment. And I will put it away, almost forget about it. And then, at some future moment I’ll remember and rediscover that book and fall in love with it. I had that with Prune by Gabrielle Hamilton. I received it for Christmas one year, flipped through it and put it away. This past winter, I was looking for ideas, pulled Prune off the shelf, and Bam!, I was hooked. I wanted to make everything in the book and I didn’t want to make anything that wasn’t in the book.

Some books are great collections of recipes. Others are great inspirations. Some are both. The French Laundry, but Thomas Keller, is a great coffee table book. It has great recipes, most of which you will never make, but it is punctuated by beautiful little stories of his career as a young chef. I often encourage my cooks to read the story about the rabbits. But I also love books like the Mennonite Heritage Cookbook or cookbooks put out by church guilds and community clubs. These have low production values but are filled with great recipes. They often assume you know how to cook, they use instructions like “add enough flour to make a soft dough” and “cook until done”. But if you want five different recipes for million dollar relish, these are the books for you.

I am often asked, “what is your favourite cookbook?” Sometimes I will say which ever one I am leafing through at the time. But if pushed, I will list two books. The first is always The Joy of Cooking; not the new one, but the old one. You know the one, the one with the hand drawn illustration of how to skin a squirrel. This book is dense with recipes. There is pretty much a recipe for anything you might want to make. But these were recipes for a leaner time. If I am making a dessert out of Joy , I always double the amount of chocolate it asks for. But I particularly love the ‘About’ sections: here the book will give you detailed description of how ingredients work and the techniques behind types of recipes. Anyone interested in cooking would benefit from studying this tome. The other is The Zuni Cafe. I don’t know if I have every made a recipe out of this book, but every time I pick it up, it inspires and educates. I love the stories she tells of working for the Troisgros brothers or of Alice Waters in the early days. I am particularly excited by her lengthy and rule breaking treatises on such subjects as salt or making stocks. Whenever I am struggling with a menu or a dish, I return to The Zuni Cafe.

 

So, whenever I get an idea in my head of some new food adventure I want to go on, I always start by seeking out a new cookbook. This summer Danielle and I decided to embark on a “Eating Clean” plan. Danielle’s personal trainer gave her an incredibly boring meal plan. It was nutritionally complete, not too onerous to follow, but dull and we knew we wouldn’t be content with just eating yams, broccoli, boneless chicken breasts and eggs. If it was going to work for us we had to make it tasty. So, down we go to the nearest bookstore. After flipping through a pile of healthy cookbooks, we landed on Naturally Nourished by Sarah Britton (Random House, 2017). The recipes in this book fit in with the vegetable intensive lifestyle we lean toward and were embarking on. But more than that, it is a beautiful book with great pictures. It is filled with some gorgeous and creative recipes: charred green beans with romesco sauce, celery leaf salad with balsamic eggplant or cauliflower steaks with charmoula and eggs.

We bought the cookbook on Thursday and we had to bring a dish to a cocktail party  on Saturday. So, we decided to make a dish out of Naturally Nourished. After flipping through the book, we landed on “Baked Feta with Olives, Peppers and Tomatoes”. It looked like a great sharing appetizer. Serve it with some of my fresh baked sour dough and it should be a hit.

The recipe is simple, quarter cherry tomatoes (or you could coarsely chop bigger tomatoes), dice red peppers, pit and chop olives. Toss all this together with oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper. Then you crumble feta into the bottom of a crock or casserole dish. Top the feta with the tomato, olive mixture and bake at 400F (200C) for 25 minutes. Then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with coarsely chopped Italian parsley and serve with bread or pita.  We topped it with oregano flowers from our garden. When we made it, we found it super tasty, but the feta never got soft enough to be a dip. I think a lot depends on what feta you use. If your feta is fairly soft and creamy, it will work fine. If it is on the harder/drier side, I would suggest whizzing it in a food processor with a little heavy cream or cream cheese and then putting into the dish. This dish is a great appetizer, but if you served it with a piece of grilled chicken and some brown rice you would have a delicious dinner.


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Baked Feta with Olives, Peppers and Tomatoes

from Naturally Nourished, by Sarah Britton (Random House, 2017)feta dip 3

1 cup cherry tomatoes

1/2 red pepper, seeds and stem removed

1/3 cup kalamata olives

2 tsp. dried oregano (you can use fresh if you have it)

salt and pepper

7 oz feta

extra virgin olive oil

Italian parsley

bread

  1. preheat oven to 400F
  2. quarter tomatoes, chop peppers, pit and chop olives
  3. toss tomatoes, peppers and olives with oregano, salt and pepper and a little olive oil
  4. place feta into oven proof container feta dip 2
  5. top feta with tomato mixture.
  6. bake for 25 minutes at 400F
  7. before serving, drizzle with olive oil and parsley. Serve with bread.