Category Archives: side dishes

Beet and Quinoa Salad with Creamy Goat Cheese

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Spring blooms
My children are off school for a spring holiday, only spring itself was here merely in theory or that was the case until two days ago. We were completely overwhelmed by cold, grey and windy days and then suddenly the sun appeared and made everything bright and lively bringing along little green buds and beautiful pink blooms. And although spring is still quite shy and only stays around in short spurts we are hopeful and ready to embrace longer days, brighter clothes and lighter meals.

A little while ago I made Quinoa and Puy Lentil Salad and it was quite popular with my family and my readers. I love adding quinoa, bulgur or couscous to my greens when making salads as they make light things a bit more substantial and satisfying without compromising the health benefits. As I had mentioned in that salad post I usually cook more quinoa and lentils than one recipe requires and use the extras throughout the week in various incarnations. Beet and Quinoa Salad is another tasty way to combine quite a few nutritious ingredients together and end up with a little number that is pure joy to look at and even more to eat.Beet and Quinoa Salad with Creamy Goat Cheese

Ingredients:

  • Quinoa (cooked according to package directions)- 1 cup
  • Lentils or Chick Peas (cooked)- 1/2 cup
  • Beets (cooked and grated)- 1 large or 2 small
  • Radishes (sliced)- 5-6
  • Rocket/Arugula- 2 cups
  • Creamy Goat Cheese- 2 tbsp.
  • Balsamic Vinegar-1 tbsp.
  • Olive Oil- 1/4 cup
  • Lemon -1/2
  • Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley- 2 tbsp.
  • Salt to taste

Method:

Combine quinoa, lentils or chick peas, grated beets and sliced radishes and set aside. If you are not a regular beet eater let me assure you they are very easy to cook. Just boil them like you would regular potatoes until are easily pierced with a knife. Life is even easier for the UK readers as packs of cooked and vacuum packed beetroot are readily available in any supermarket. I would steer clear of the canned beets. They are pretty horrid and lacking in the nutrition department for sure!

Make your vinaigrette dressing by mixing together balsamic vinegar, juice of 1/2 lemon and chopped up parsley, then slowly pour in olive oil in a thin and steady stream while whisking the entire time. You can use an immersion blender or food processor if you like your vinaigrette to be very smooth but a regular whisk will also do the trick.

Dress your salad with vinaigrette until evenly coated, taste it and add salt if needed, toss with rocket/arugula and goat cheese. Allow 15 minutes in the fridge before serving for the flavours to meld.

Quick, easy and tasty! Just what I like for this spring season.

Beet and Quinoa Salad with Creamy Goat Cheese

Beet and Quinoa Salad with Creamy Goat Cheese

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How do I eat buckwheat? Let me count the ways…

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Buckwheat groats
Quinoa, goji berries, flaxseed. What do they have in common? They are the buzzwords circulating in the foodie media/blogosphere, all claiming to be a “miracle food”. Like many others I get weary and suspicious when the next “cure for all ills” emerges, being of the opinion that variety is key in any diet. That said, I believe buckwheat is something special, and that will soon flood first the health stores then the supermarkets and then pantries everywhere. As we stand now buckwheat is still fairly unknown outside of Russia, where it’s been a staple for centuries, and a big part of my diet growing up. The most common use of buckwheat in North America is in the flour form. It’s gaining popularity for it’s unique earthy taste and the fact that despite the name it is not related to wheat or any other grain and is gluten-free. People want to incorporate more buckwheat into their diets for its health benefits-high amount of protein, fibre, potassium and over 80 minerals! However, I am not going to go into details as I am not a nutritionist but merely a buckwheat lover. You can research it yourself if you are interested!

One of the greatest qualities of buckwheat is its versatility. The groats could be ground up and made into pancakes, you could enjoy a bowlful of  morning “kasha” (Russian for porridge) with a bit of milk, for lunch- toss it with some fresh veggies in a salad or sit down to a plate of savoury buckwheat with caramelised onions and sautéed mushrooms for dinner. Reheat the leftovers in the morning, top it up with an egg and voila a new breakfast dish is born! The only two things you need to know are what type of buckwheat is suitable for these recipes and how to cook it.

When I first moved to North America 15 years ago the only place I could find buckwheat was a health food store but although I could recognise the familiar triangular shape of the groats, the colour was anaemic grey instead of rich brown I was used to. I learned that buckwheat sold in Russia is pre-roasted, and it is this process that prevents the groats from turning into a mushy mess during cooking as well as provides that lusciously nutty flavour I’ve come to expect. It seems that many stores have the pre-roasted variety of buckwheat groats, however, the best buckwheat comes from Russian stores so if you have one nearby check it out. It’s worth it!

Buckwheat
What I would like to share with you is the basic method of cooking buckwheat and one simple recipe which happens to be my family’s favourite way of eating it. Have I mentioned that my kids are crazy about buckwheat?
Buckwheat with Caramelised Onions and Cremini Mushrooms {Breakfast Edition}Buckwheat with caramelised onion, mushrooms and egg

Ingredients:

  • Buckwheat-2 cups
  • Water-4 cups
  • Salt- a pinch
  • Cremini/Chestnut Mushrooms-8-10
  • Red Onions-1 large
  • Pepper- to taste
  • Egg-1 (per person)
  • Butter- 2 tbsp.

Method:

Rinse your buckwheat and dry fry it in a non-stick frying pan (i.e. in a dry pan, without oil) over medium heat for a 2-3 minutes. Transfer the buckwheat to a pot, add water and salt and cook for 15 minutes until the groats are soft and the water is evaporated. Take it off the heat, cover the pot with a lid and let it stand for additional 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, you can cook buckwheat in your rice cooker, just follow the instructions for grain to water ratio for your particular rice cooker.

While waiting for your buckwheat dice your onions and mushrooms. Feel free to slice them if you prefer a chunkier look. I am still in the stage  of “hiding” the healthy things from my kids so I usually dice.

Put a large frying pan on high-medium heat and when it’s hot add butter, onions and a pinch of salt. Salt will draw moisture out of the onions which will help with caramelising process. Fry them slowly, stirring once in a while and not letting them burn. Once your onions look wilted and darker in colour, add mushrooms and sauté them for 5 minutes adding salt and pepper to taste. Now add your buckwheat and mix everything together, cook for 2 more minutes to bring all the ingredients to the same temperature and allow for the flavours to blend, taste to make sure it has enough seasoning. This meal could be enjoyed as a main course or as a side dish to any type of meat or fish.  What you see here is leftovers that were served a couple of days later for breakfast. Fry your eggs in a frying pan and top each portion with an egg. By all accounts-Breakfast of Champions.

Buckwheat with Caramelised Onions and Cremini Mushrooms

Buckwheat with Caramelised Onions and Cremini Mushrooms
Note: I use water to cook buckwheat when I want it to be versatile-sweet or savoury. If you are preparing buckwheat for dinner in a savoury dish I would suggest using broth instead of water- a quick and simple way to infuse your dish with much flavour.

Warm Zucchini Salad

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Warm Zucchini Salad
Do you love vegetables or do you merely tolerate them? When Brad and I met I quickly learned that one of his favourite quotes was borrowed from Homer Simpson, the infamous “you don’t make friends with salad”. I am happy to report that a few ‘properly’ cooked vegetable dishes changed his opinion, and now he happily gobbles up a plethora of salads that I make. I can eat vegetables in any form or shape, I will even eat the majority of them simply boiled with a pinch of salt and pepper or raw but if I am completely honest with you I could not be inspired to write about them. Salads are too often associated with dieting, and therefore pain, and it’s completely unfair! Vegetables could be so vibrant and lively if put together with a little bit of thought and care. This Warm Zucchini Salad shows up in our house regularly and with many variations. It could be served as a side dish to your meat for dinner or on it’s own for lunch. It could also be served warm or cold.  You can also add a few chunks of fresh mozzarella for a balanced veg + protein meal. The flavours that all the ingredients produce together is like a beautiful melody. It’s so tasty and comforting especially on a cold winter day, the type of meal that will transport you from winter in London to the seaside  by the Mediterranean. I tell you this salad is pure magic!

Ingredients:

  • Zucchini-4 small
  • Grilled Red Peppers (prepared from a jar or your own. Recipe here) 1 or 2 large
  • Tomatoes (red and yellow cherry tomatoes or regular)-1 large or 5-6 cherry tomatoes
  • Marinated mushrooms(Italian anipasti or saute your own)-1/2 jar
  • Garlic (minced)- 1 clove
  • Basil (fresh or dried)-a small bunch
  • Balsamic Vinegar- 1 tbsp.
  • Olive Oil- 1 tblsp. for cooking zucchini
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Ingredients

Method:

Slice your zucchini 1/4″ thick , sprinkle them with salt and pan fry them in a tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat-2-3 minutes on each side until golden.

Warm Zucchini Salad
Remove your zucchini from the pan and put them in the salad bowl, squeeze 1 garlic clove directly on them and tear a few basil leaves into the salad bowl to allow warm zucchini absorb the flavours.

Slice grilled peppers and tomatoes and add them to the bowl.

Grilled Peppers
Now throw in your mushrooms, drizzle a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, mix everything carefully taking care not to mash up your delicate vegetables. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Warm Zucchini Salad
Done! This wonderful dish is as quick and simple as it sounds but there is nothing “simple” about the taste! It’s complex and involved. The sweetness of basil and zucchini balance the tanginess of tomatoes and balsamic vinegar while a slight taste of garlic adds a refreshing zing to the whole ensemble!

Christmas Dinner {Part 3}- Herb, Chorizo and Fig Stuffing

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Are you set on your Christmas dinner menu already? If you are anything like me you’d be changing things the last minute, adding to already existing ones and re-arranging everything from top to bottom. It’s impossible for me to stick with just one recipe for something, I get so distracted by the variety available to me and I want to try them all!
This post is about a stuffing recipe that I invented on a spur of the moment and surprisingly enough it turned out to be delicious. In fact, my husband said he could eat it alone as a meal! It wasn’t something I thought about or planned. I was simply cooking a pork roast one Saturday and I kept adding more and more sides to it. This recipe was born!
You know I actually already have a perfect stuffing recipe that I’ve been making for holidays for a while. It’s hard to beat perfection and why would I mess with it! More importantly why would I mess with stuffing when everyone knows it has a potential to taste like a bland clump of bread! The answer is I get bored when things are the same and I need to spice them up every once in a while. Also when you work with ingredients like these how can it possible not be fabulous?!

Another reason for this experimentation is I love cooking with Spanish sausage- chorizo (and I had quite a bit of it kicking around in the fridge that needed to be used), it gives the dishes such lovely flavour and zing! It also turns everything it comes into contact with yellow or orange which is like a bit of sunshine that the Spaniards share with all of us Northerners! I was curious to see if it would work with this very non-Spanish meal.
stuffing prep
Like I said this was not a pre-meditated affair so I had to use ingredients I had on hand. Next time I make it I think I am going to add chestnuts for more texture!
In my humble opinion, there are a few ‘must have’ components of a tasty stuffing besides bread or rice- a sausage of sorts, a variety of herbs, fresh or dried fruit and nuts. All things combined will give us flavour, texture, a bit of spice and comfort!
Ingredients:

  • Bread -stale French baguette- 2/3 or 200gr
  • Butter- 1tbsp
  • Onion-1 medium
  • Garlic-2 cloves
  • Apple-1/2 (grated)
  • Chorizo- 150gr
  • stuffing prep 2
  • Dried Figs-10 (chopped)
  • Sage-2-3 sprigs (leaves only)
  • Rosemary-2-3 sprigs(leaves only)
  • Pine nuts-1/4 c.
  • Stock (beef, pork or vegetable)-1c.
  • Egg-1 large (slightly beaten)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

Preheat your oven to 350F/180C and butter an oven proof dish.

Cube your bread and put it in a large bowl. Chop up your onion and herbs and saute them in the frying pan with butter on a medium heat until translucent but not coloured for about 5 minutes, add garlic and cook for a minute longer. Transfer to the bowl with bread.

Dice chorizo and figs and add them to the bowl with stuffing. Add all the remaining ingredients except the egg. Mix well together adding salt and pepper to taste. Finish off with the beaten egg, mix the stuffing again and transfer to the buttered baking dish.

Unbaked stuffing

Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until puffed up and golden.

cooked stuffing

This stuffing has a slightly sweet and spicy taste. It’s crazy flavourful and although it doesn’t  have that traditional and familiar Christmassy taste it’s lovely nonetheless and goes especially well with this pork roast.

I hope you are adventurous enough to add this newbie to your Christmas table. I promise you won’t regret it and your guests will be so impressed with the bold and innovative combination of flavours!