Thursday, March 31, 2011

Curried Cauliflower & Chickpea Salad

This was a new one for me.  Cauliflower and chickpeas are a common duo in Indian cuisine occurring often in rich stews and curries, but this is something else entirely.  A salad loaded with Indian spices and ingredients, but it remains bright and light tasting. It was a pleasure to eat with its playful colours, different textures and vivid flavour.  Bold yellow, turmeric scented cauliflower, crisp apple and fennel, flavourful cilantro and red onion, and chickpeas and little bits of naan bread to soak up the light curry-lime vinaigrette.  It was a nice change, a great at-work lunch and it kept well in the fridge for a couple of days.

Curried Cauliflower & Chickpea Salad
Origin: BBC Food, Simon Rimmer

Notes:  I loved the addition of the bits of naan bread.  Next time I might toast it first so that the bread holds up better for the leftovers.  I could not find watercress so I subbed baby arugula in its place.


1 cauliflower, cut into florets
4 cups vegetable stock, or water and vegetable stock cubes/powder
1 tablespoon turmeric powder
1 19 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 apple, thinly sliced
1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped (I used at least 2 tablespoons)
1 handful watercress (or baby arugula leaves)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon red curry paste (I used 1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon malt vinegar 
juice of 1 lime (about 3 tablespoons)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 naan bread, torn or cut into pieces

Bring the vegetable stock and turmeric to boil in a medium pot.  Boil the cauliflower for one minute.  Drain and set aside to cool.

For the dressing, mix the curry paste with 3 tablespoons of hot water until smooth then whisk in the vinegar, lime juice and vegetable oil in a steady stream until emulsified.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Mix the cauliflower, chickpeas, onion, apple, fennel, cilantro and watercress (or arugula) in a bowl, then stir in the dressing until well combined. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Mix the pieces of naan bread through the salad and serve.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Veggie Potstickers

Today I am proud of my country (even though the House of Commons has lost confidence in the government and an election is on the way).  Neil Young helps a lot.  That man is so cool.  Last night I nestled in to watch the 40th annual Juno Awards where Neil was honoured with a humanitarian award and won two statues.  If the godfather of grunge isn't enough Canadian credit, the awards show also saw appearances by City and Colour (singing Neil Young's Old Man!!), Metric, Broken Social Scene, Schad, Blue Rodeo, Shania Twain, K'Naan, Arcade Fire, Sarah Mclachlan, Chromeo and more, and all of it hosted by one of my faves, Drake.  Hey, at least it's Drake that makes me swoon and not the young Biebs.  My Hubby (he knows about the crush) and I watched the awards and feasted on one of our favorites, Veggie Potstickers. 
The potstickers were prepared on Saturday night by a group of lovely ladies.  It was our monthly girl's night, a supper club of sorts.  Along with cooking up several gorgeous fresh Asian dishes, we set up a mini potsticker factory and pumped out dozens of these beauties whilst chatting, listening to music and *hic* drinking wine.  This somewhat tedious process whizzed by due to the group effort and the fun we were having.  But the quality of the output from our little factory did not suffer one bit from our festivities.  Each bite had a crispy fried bottom and a pillowy, flavourful top.  With a quick, awesome little dipping sauce these are the best meatless dumplings ever...if I do say so myself. 

Veggie Potstickers
Origin: Jaime, Impeccable Taste

Notes:  Filling and wrapping the dumplings is a little tedious, as mentioned above.  You can split up the work by making the filling the day before.  Once the potstickers are prepped the actual cooking time is about 5 minutes.  They are worth the effort!  This recipe makes a lot of filling, enough for about 6-8 dozen potstickers. 


vegetable oil (safflower, sunflower, canola etc.)
3 cups mushrooms, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter
2 leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 head Napa cabbage, finely shredded
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, minced or finely grated
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce, or chili garlic paste
2 large carrots, grated
2 packages wonton wrappers (small, double packs)

Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon, Sriracha sauce (more or less to taste)
2 tablespoons green onion, finely sliced

Heat about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a very large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat.  Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt.  The mushrooms should release all their juices (due to the salt), then the juices will evaporate and the mushrooms will start to brown.  When the mushrooms are begginning to brown, add the shallots and a knob of butter.  Continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes until the shallots and the mushrooms are browned.  Remove to a bowl and set aside.

In the same pan, heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat.  Add the leeks and fry for about 3 minutes until they soften.  Add the cabbage, garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, soy sauce and Sriracha and cook for about 5 minutes until the cabbage and leeks are soft and cooked through.  Turn off the heat and add in the reserved mushrooms and the grated carrot.  Season with salt and pepper.  Taste the filling and add another tablespoon or so of soy sauce and/or rice vinegar if it needs a little more umph.  Cool the filling.  At this point you can refrigerate the filling for a day or two.

To make the potstickers, (I like to do this in groups of 3) lay 3 wonton wrappers on a cutting board or a clean work surface. Have a small bowl of water close by.  Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper.  Dip your finger in the water and lightly wet all 4 edges of the wrappers.  Pick up the 4 corners of a wrapper, bring them over the filling and press them together in the middle to form a pouch, seal all of the open seams.  The wet edges should seal with a light pinch.  Place the finished potstickers on a cookie sheet and cover with a lightly dampened paper towel or tea towel until you are ready to cook.

To make the dipping sauce, whisk together the soy sauce, Dijon and Sriracha in a small bowl, stir in the green onions.  Adjust seasoning to your liking, you may want to add more Dijon or Sriracha.

When you are ready to cook the potstickers, heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large flat bottomed pan over high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the potstickers in a single layer and do not disturb them.  Cook the potstickers for 1-2 minutes until a brown crust forms on the bottoms.  Add 1/2 cup of water to the hot pan and cover immediately, be careful of the steam/splattering.  Steam the potstickers for 2-3 minutes, then remove the lid and continue to cook until the water has evaporated.  Remove the cooked potstickers to a platter and continue this process with the remaining potstickers.

Serve hot with the dipping sauce.  Makes at least 6 dozen potstickers.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Grilled Vegetables with Walnut & White Bean Puree

I don't know what drew me to this recipe in the first place.  It's not the most inspiring sounding thing, and it's not that pretty (really hard to get a flattering picture).  But it called out to me and I tried it.  Instantly it became one of my favorite meals.  I could eat solely this for dinner (and did last night), and then eat it for lunch the next day (got it in tow), and the day after that (looking forward to it).  It is really satisfying and wholesome.  The grilled vegetables are doused in a garlicky balsamic dressing and then tossed with fresh mint.  Enjoyed with the creamy, nutty, albeit ugly puree, it's a real sensation with me.

Grilled Vegetables with Walnut & White Bean Puree
Origin: Adapted slightly from StoneSoup

Notes: During the long winter months I use a grill pan to grill the vegetables.  It is so easy, especially for the onions as nothing falls through the grill.  I grill the peppers first, then grill the onions, then the zucchini and add each vegetable to the dressing as they are cooked.


Grilled Vegetables
4 zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 4 strips
2 red peppers (or yellow/orange), deseeded and sliced into wide strips
2 red onions, sliced into 3/4 inch rounds (or half moons)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bunch mint, leaves picked and roughly chopped

Walnut & White Bean Puree
200g walnuts (I use about 2 cups)
1 400g can cannellini beans (or white kidney beans), drained and rinsed (I use a 19oz can)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons water, or to taste
pita bread for serving (optional)

To make the vegetables, preheat a BBQ or grill pan. Toss the vegetables with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. BBQ vegetables over a high heat until each is cooked to your liking. 
Meanwhile, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, garlic and extra virgin olive oil in a large bowl and season with a little salt and pepper.  As each vegetable is cooked add it to the dressing bowl. When all vegetables are cooked, toss gently and allow to stand for a few minutes to soak up the dressing. Toss through the mint leaves.

To make the Walnut & White Bean Puree, process the walnuts in a food processor until finely ground. Add remaining ingredients except water and continue to whiz until you have a smooth paste. Gradually add water until the puree is smooth and the consistency is to your liking. Season well with salt and pepper.

Serve the grilled vegetables with dollops of the puree and serve with some pita bread (if using).  Serves 4.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Banana Muffins with Mascarpone Cream Frosting

I will contain myself and not eat these for breakfast.  These are my idea of the perfect banana muffin.  Moist, full of banana flavour and decked out with frosting!!  They are not "healthy" muffins, lots of sugar and oil went into these puppies.  I don't really consider muffins healthy in any form, so nutrition is not a factor when determining my muffin perfection. They taste just like a good, deeply flavoured banana bread, and the addition of the lightly sweetened, tart and creamy mascarpone cheese really bumps up their delish factor.  They would be a welcomed addition to a brunch spread or enjoy them as an afternoon snack with coffee or tea.

Banana Muffins with Mascarpone Cream Frosting
Origin: Food Network, Giada De Laurentiis

Notes:  These are perfectly good banana muffins without the frosting, but really, how can you not try the honey kissed Mascarpone Cream.  So good.  I think I over did it this time with piping my frosting, I ran out before finishing the entire batch.  Usually the amount of frosting is just enough for a little schmear on each muffin.  If you want big puffy icing clouds on your muffins, you should double the frosting recipe.


3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 ripe bananas, peeled and coarsely mashed

3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons honey

Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl to blend.

Beat the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the banana. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until blended.

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Bake the muffins on the middle rack until the tops are golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out with no crumbs attached, about 25 minutes. Transfer the muffins to a rack and cool slightly.  The muffins may be eaten warm or cooled completely and frosted.

To frost the cupcakes, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the mascarpone cheese and then beat in the honey. Spread or pipe the frosting over the muffins.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Vietnamese Chicken Meatballs in Lettuce Wraps

 These tasty little nuggets are from a cookbook called Small Bites, a book devoted to appetizers and small plates for parties.  These meatballs would make a fabulous addition to a party smorgasbord, but I usually whip these up when I want something healthy but exciting for lunch or dinner.  Flavourful chicken meatballs with crunchy, fresh vegetables and herbs, packaged up in a crispy lettuce wrap.  The meatballs are rolled in sugar (just a bit) before baking and they develop a sticky coating which balances beautifully with the pungent meatball seasonings.  These would be a great healthy option for guests, low in fat and calories, gluten free, and low in carbs!

Vietnamese Chicken Meatballs in Lettuce Wraps
Origin: Food and Wine, Jennifer Joyce

Notes:  Don't be afraid of fish sauce!  It is a standard ingredient used in tons of foods from Southeast Asia.  You've probably eaten it and enjoyed it without knowing!  It imparts a deep, salty flavour when used sparingly. 


1 lb of ground lean chicken (you can grind your own chicken thighs/breasts in a food processor)
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce (I used a little less - 2 tablespoons)
3 small shallots, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 stalk of fresh lemongrass, tender white inner bulb only, minced
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus 1/3 cup leaves for serving
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint, plus 1/3 cup leaves for serving
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 head Boston or red leaf lettuce, leaves separated
1/2 seedless/English cucumber, cut into matchsticks
1 small red onion, halved and sliced
Asian chili sauce, for serving (I use sweet chili sauce)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the ground chicken, fish sauce, shallot, garlic, lemongrass, cilantro, mint, cornstarch and salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Mix with your hands just until combined (over mixing with result in tough meatballs).
You can add a little flour or breadcrumbs to your mixture if it seems too wet to roll into balls, or try chilling the mixture for 30 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place sugar on a plate.   Roll the chicken mixture in to balls about the size of a ping pong ball.  Roll the meatballs in the sugar to coat lightly.  Transfer to baking sheet.  Bake the meatballs for 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned and cooked through.  You can broil them for the last few minutes to brown the tops.

Arrange lettuce leaves on a platter and fill each one with a little cucumber, red onion, cilantro, mint and a meatball.  Drizzle with chili sauce, roll up and enjoy.

Makes about 15 meatballs.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fruit & Nut Crisps with Truffled Cream Cheese

Aahhhhhhhh...that's better.  Back from my vacay and feeling great.  I was eager to get back in the kitchen and feeling super ambitious.  The trip was choc-full of amazing, bucket list-fulfilling culinary experiences, but there was little time for cooking.  (See my Favorite Spots page for restaurant ideas in south Florida.)  Guns blazing in the kitchen, I decided to tackle this copy cat recipe that I have had my eye on for a while.  It turns out that these were really easy to make if you have a little time on your hands (they have to be baked twice) and the reward is well worth it.  A perfect snack or offering for guests.  These sweet/savoury crisps are amazing with tangy cheeses.  This Truffled Cream Cheese was the perfect accompaniment.  A quick mix of cream cheese and sour cream with chives and truffle oil.  Really good!  Now, back to reality.

Fruit & Nut Crisps
Origin: This Genius

Notes:  This is a copy cat recipe of a popular artisan cracker.  I found the recipe here, it was really well done, producing a close match to the original.  I used my favorite fruits, nuts and seeds, you can feel free to do some substitutions.

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 cup dried, sweetened cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup flax seed, ground
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

Add the buttermilk, sugar and honey and stir a little, just to incorporate.  Add the remaining nuts, seeds, fruit and herbs and stir until just blended.  Do not over mix.

Pour the batter into 2 lightly greased loaf pans.  Bake for about 35 minutes, until they are golden brown and they spring back when pressed lightly.  Remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.  You can freeze one loaf at this point.  Or you can leave the loaves until the next day to proceed with the next step if you'd like.

When ready to continue, preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  With a serrated knife, cut the loaves into the thinnest slices possible.  Not more than 1/4 inch thick.  Lay the slices on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes,  flip the crackers over and continue to bake for another 10-15 minutes until deeply golden and crispy.

Makes about 8 dozen.

Truffled Cream Cheese

Notes:  I used light cream cheese and sour cream this time around and it was still delicious.


1 8 oz package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
a few drops of truffle oil (I used about 12 drops)

Mix together the cream cheese and sour cream until there are no lumps.  You can use a mixer for this.  Season with salt and pepper and fold in the chives.  Add a few drops of truffle oil at a time to taste.  Serve with crackers or crostini.

Makes approximately 1 cup.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Wish You Were Here

We are taking a short break, living it up in south Florida. 
I'll be back soon!