The Big Salad - Part 2 - Spinach, pea and Feta Salad
Holy shit, when time flies…well it flies. So enough about that, I’ve wasted enough of your time already. I just came home from work and am settling in with a bowl of vegan miso soup that I love and to catch up BIG TIME on my recipe sharing.
This is salad number 2 of my inspirational ones that serve as a basis for stuff that I eat everyday. This one by Jamie Oliver started simply enough but has morphed about 10 times into something different and delicious every time I make it. The salad is as simple as it’s 3 main ingredients - Spinach, fresh pea and feta. I really respect Jamie Oliver’s way of making a salad, torn crunchy bits of flavour combined with other creamy bits and some refreshing flavour on top. OK that is a bit simplistic but it’s a way of thinking that can transform every salad you make.I add mint to the salad because it really freshens up an already well…fresh salad.
Thai food is hot, sour, salty and sweet. Well salads should be crunchy, fresh, salty and bit sweet.
Are you sick of mixed greens? I know I am…let’s begin.
Fresh baby organic spinach - a couple of good handfuls should do
Fresh green peas - in the summer use fresh if not available then frozen is fine. The sweeter the better!
Feta cheese - how strong you like your feta is up to you. I like opt for milder and i like lots!
Mint leaves - a handful torn
Juice from a lemon
Sea salt and pepper
Toss ingredients together and you have a super fresh and tasty salad. Now, I like to add the following ingredients that make it into more of a meal sometimes. I still love the simplicity of the dressing, lemons can hang out in your fridge all the time and when you change around the ingredients you never have to worry about making some complicated vinaigrette. Not always all ingredients need to go in at once, although why not… but here are some ideas:
thinly sliced onion
pear thinly sliced
I think you get the idea! Once I share the third salad with you, you’ll really be ready to roll.
The Cocoa Latte Shake
Recently, I cut out most dairy, gluten, meat and sugar. Most not all because I am a human being and there are things that I just love…like feta cheese. My digestive system bows and says thank you often and believe me, I am not starving. I also detox every fall/spring now, but more about that later.
With this new found diet of sorts, comes many restaurant restrictions. Luckily, a place opened where I live recently that caters to vegans, vegetarians, and other dietary restrictions people have. I hate using the word restriction but I have yoga brain right now and can’t think of a better one. On the menu of this place called Cafe My House in Ottawa if you want to look it up, are a whole array of yummy shakes. The Cocoa Latte one stole my heart and taste buds and now I make it all the time at home too. A dairy free shake that tastes good? This was an epiphany to my newly dairy free existence.
It’s so simple and easy to make and will change the quality of your day. Yes I am that passionate about it!
Almond milk I would say about 1 cup per serving.
A spoon or organic Cocoa Camino dark chocolate powder (you can use raw cocao nibs too, just they are less sweet)
Raw Agave Syrup - a squeeze
I add flax oil to mine too but it’s optional.
Throw in a blender for a minute until well blended and then try to sip it slowly. I dare you.
The Big Salad - Part 1
I have three favourite all time salads and the salad I eat almost everyday, is usually a variation of them. I like a nice big salad, one that is a total package meal, one that doesn’t make me want to deviate to a donut (not that I really eat those, but you get the picture). Elaine from Seinfeld made The Big Salad famous, now I am going to share my version. I can tell you right now, there are no fancy ingredients. I actually rarely use anything but lemon and olive oil for dressing…but there has to be crunch, a little sea salt, a little sweet, sometimes spicy and substance. Try to use organic/local ingredients where you can, flavour shouldn’t come from the salt after all!
Unless it’s an egg, anchovies, tuna or cottage cheese, I leave my protein out and opt to eat it on the side more than on top of the salad. Grilled chicken say, I’ll use to mop up the dressing, but eat on it’s own. That’s just me. Oh and feta cheese, never ask me to live without it. Please.
I am going to share all three salads and some variations for you. Then I am going to tell you what I eat daily (in another post), just to give you an idea of how I mix and match.
Greek/Turkish Farmer’s/Fattoush salad/Israeli Salad
Welcome to the Mediterranean! These are peasant salads in their own respect. Each of these countries grows the most divine tomatoes and cucumbers so their flavours just shine through with these easy, and yummy salads. There are major/minor differences between these salads and you can add some great ingredients for variety but the basic ingredients are really the same for all:
- Red Pepper/Green pepper (I always opt for the sweeter red)
- Extra virgin first cold pressed olive oil
Yup, that is the base for all four of these salads. How you chop them and what you add from here is what makes all the difference!
Israeli Salad is chopped very finely, the smaller the better (only time I say that!)
Lebanese cucumbers - peel on
Sweet white onion
Lettuce - I use romaine hearts
Optional ingredients are mint, sumac, spring onions and za’atar.
Chop these together finely and voila! You have an Israeli salad! It is tasty with any meal, very popular even to eat at breakfast with a side of eggs and white cheese, even olives! I like a two to one ratio for the cucumber tomato but you get to experiment with your tastes. Dress with olive oil, lemon and salt and pepper to taste and you have the most amazing, easy and fresh salad that goes with any meal.
Turkish farmer’s salad
I am relaying this recipe to you from memory so hopefully I get the ingredients right! When I make this salad, I cut the veggies on a diagonal so the pieces are longer and thin. Make sense? Lettuce is cut lengthwise thinly as well.
Cucumber - you can use english or lebanese, peel on
Red or green Pepper
Sweet white onion or regular cooking onion if you don’t mind the bite and a bit of bad breath
Chopped parsley, not too fine like the Israeli salad but I like lots!
Finely chopped fresh mint or they tend to use dried in Turkish cooking sometimes which is OK but not my fave.
Feta (optional but yummy)
Combine ingredients in a bowl, salt well, add olive oil, lemon and pepper.
Why is this Lebanese salad treat so special you ask? Because it has toasted, crunchy pita bits mixed in and copious amounts of sumac for flavour! With a few twists of the salads above, you too can enjoy that amazingness that is Fattoush.
Green Onions sliced
Handful Parsley and handful mint chopped
Green pepper diced (optional)
One large pita bread or 2 small
2 cloves of garlic mashed with a bit of salt
Brush pita with olive oil and sprinkle with Sumac. You can fry the pita but I prefer baking it so it’s less greasy. Bake in the oven until a bit brown and crisp. Break into pieces. Meanwhile mix toghether salad ingredients and incorporate the broken pieces of toasted pita just before serving so they remain crisp. There you have it!
Greek Salad (Horiatiki)
This salad is the most popular of the bunch and I am sure you have tried many variations of it. I am going to share one that I like here and you can decide if my taste is up to par with yours.
Tomatoes cut into larger squares
Red onion into rings
Cucumber in half moons
Feta Cheese cut into cubes about 4 ounces depending on how much you like
Combine Olive oil, lemon, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper for your dressing. Toss all salad ingredients together and dress the salad.
So there you have all 4 variations of these amazing salads. Minute differences in the cuts of the veggies and an extra ingredient here or there can make a big difference. These are my go-to salads that I basically grew up with and my one influence for what I make everyday but there are two more to come. Stay tuned.
Steel Cut Oats...love them and hate them
I eat steel cut oats minimum 5 days a week. Unless I am gorging on bacon and eggs on the weekend I eat these tiny nuggets of goodness. Some days I adore eating them and some days it’s like force feeding me cement. I know they are good for me so I eat them anyway. In any case, here is a great link to very inspirational and delicious ways to eat this healthy breakfast mainstay. Seemed like a must-share.
The post is dedicated to the friends (Rebecca) that has been to my house for weekend brunch and feel in love with this famous Israeli dish called Shakshuka. It’s origins are Libyan and began as a working man’s “dawn-till-noon meal”. It’s a one pan wonder. Something you can make even when your fridge may seem empty. Crusty white bread is obligatory to sop up the sauce. You can serve with a salad too.
My favourite recipe comes from The Book of Israeli Food. The is the bible (pun intended) of the best culinary treats Israel has to offer.
I am going to share two types of my favourite Shakshuka recipes. One is the simple, well not in flavour, but the original one and the next is a yummy variation.
4 tbsp oil, for frying
2 cloves garlic, crushed
5 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled and dice (or 1 1/2 cups canned diced tomatoes)
1 tbsp filfel or harissa (or 1/2 tbsp red hot pepper)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 tsp ground cumin (optional)
a pinch of ground caraway seed (optional)
2 tbsp tomato paste
Heat the oil in a heavy deep skillet or shallow sauce pan, preferably with a lid that has a vapour valve to provide an outlet for steam. Lightly fry the garlic, taking care not to scorch it. Add the tomatoes and seasonings and cook for 15-20 minutes over low heat, partly covered.
Add the tomato paste, simmer for a few more minutes with the lid on and adjust the seasoning - the sauce should have a strong, piquant flavour.Make sure it’s fully seasoned before you add the eggs next, you can’t fuss with the sauce once the eggs are placed on top.
Break the eggs one by one and slide into the tomato base. Break each egg into a bowl and then slide in to avoid breaking the yolk.
Turn the heat to low and cook until the egg whites have set (5-7 minutes). Partly cover to prevent the sauce from spraying. Cover completely if you like your eggs over hard. Crazy talk in my opinion.
Shashuka with Onions and Peppers - Slice one onion and two red peppers into strips and fry lightly. Add the garlic and tomatoes and continue according to the basic recipe.
Shakshuka with Sausages - Lightly fry sliced merguez sausages or small cocktail sausages (or grill the sausages first and then add to the pan). Add the garlic and tomatoes and continue according to the basic recipe.
Shakshuka with Spinach and Feta Cheese
2 leeks (white part only), finely sliced
1 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb spinach leaves stems removed - I use baby spinach
Salt and freshly ground pepper
100 grams (4 oz) feta cheese, crumbled
Melt the butter in a large deep skillet and sautee the leeks until they are soft and translucent but not brown.
Add the spinach and garlic and sautee for 5 minutes until the spinach leaves wilt. Season gently (remember the cheese is quite salty).
Break the eggs into a bowl, one by one, and slide onto the spinach base. Arrange the yolks around the pan. Sprinkle the cheese around the pan.
Turn heat to low, cover the pan and simmer until the egg whites have set (5-7 minutes). Serve immediately.
Next up…more delicious Israeli recipes…for salad. xo
Quinoa Crusted Chicken Tenders
In an effort to eat clean and go gluten free, I subscribe to the Eat Clean facebook page for recipe updates and pointers. Needless to say, I still like breaded chicken, so how to combine the best of both worlds? Here is a recipe that does just that. The quinoa offers extra added superfood benefits as well.
Easy to make and delicious. Enjoy!
2 lbs boneless chicken breasts - sliced into 3 inch long tenders
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp paprika
2 cups cooked red quinoa or white quinoa
1/2 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs (I used gluten free ones)
2 egg whites
Spread out the cooked quinoa on a piece of wax paper or aluminum foil. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the quinoa. With your fingertips, squeeze the quinoa and breadcrumbs together until the moisture of the quinoa is absorbed.
Sprinkle the chicken with salt, garlic powder, pepper and paprika. (I’m a fan of adding spices to the breadcrumb and quinoa mixture.
Warm the oil in a large skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and reduce the heat to medium. Cook each side 5 minutes or until the crust begins to brown and the chicken is no longer translucent (turn once).
Serve and eat!
Fish with Lime (and other great stuff) Sauce
This recipe was inspired by this phenomenal fish dish I ate in Ao Nang, Krabi. The beauty of staying by the beach is all the available fresh fish and seafood. This, combined with the insanely good and fresh flavours they douse it with, no wonder I came home and made this dish (as best I could) right out of the gates. I searched online and combined two different recipes I liked best.
This fish is supposed to be steamed but because I didn’t have a bamboo steamer (trust me, it’s on my shopping list now), I baked it.This recipe was so easy and delicious. I couldn’t believe it.
So recipe is…
Steamed OR baked fish with chili and lime and other great stuff sauce
1 whole fish - I like white fish for this. I used a small sea bass cleaned.
3 scallions smashed with a knife or cleaver and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces including the green part.
3-5 chilis chopped - depending on the heat you want. I would even use both the small and larger sweet chili combined.
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons fish sauce
4 tablespoons lime juice - I recommend key limes + 1 or 2 limes to squeeze on the fish.
1/2 cup chicken stock (preferably the organic kind)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 loosely packed fresh basil
3 Kaffir lime leaves (I didn’t have these but think they would be awesome, make sure to cut out the hard central stem)
Using a sharp knife, score the fish by making 3-4 vertical cuts along each side of the fish. Cut through the skin until the knife reaches the bone.
Squeeze the lime juice over each side of the fish and then sprinkle with sea salt.
Cut the banana leaf into a sheet large enough to wrap the fish. Place fish in the centre of the leaf and wrap, as if wrapping a present. To keep it closed simply turn it steam side down. If you don’t have a banana leaf follow the same instructions with tin foil.
Place the fish on the steamer, seam side up. Once in the steamer open the leaf or foil so the steam can penetrate the fish. Cover the steamer with the lid and steam for 10 minutes on high heat.
For baked fish, place the wrapped fish on a casserole dish and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.
While fish is cooking, in a medium sized bowl combine chicken stock, lime juice, fish sauce, scallions, chilies, garlic, basil and lime leaves. Stir until mixed well.
Remove the fish from the oven when ready, remove from wrapping and pour the sauce over the fish. Serve with steamed rice. I also made Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce on the side. Just boil the broccoli and then toss with oyster sauce in a heated frying pan, I added a touch of stock there too. YUM and voila!
Pad Thai oh my
Noodles noodles noodles
I think it is fair to say that Pad Thai is a favourite among many. It is mine too and in Thailand it is much drier than we are used to here in North America. Flavourful for sure and just as addictive, I would know, I ate it almost everyday I was in Thailand. I would switch out for Pad See Ew sometimes for variety but I was a Pad Thai girl through and through.
I took the recipe to make it last night from the Hot Sour Salty Sweet book and it was delicious. Prep takes a bit of patience, you need to use the best quality ingredients you can find because there really aren’t many. That was another one of the great nuggets I learned in the cooking class too. Here are pictures of the sauces that my teacher recommended after her years of research. These are not all used in this recipe but still good info. Recipe to follow.
I made mine with shrimp but the recipe calls for pork or chicken.
2 ounces boneless pork or chicken thinly sliced, and cut into narrow strips and about 11/2 inches long
1 tsp. sugar
1 heaping teaspoon tamarind pulp, dissolved in 2 to 3 tblsp warm water, and pressed through a sieve, or substitute 1 tblsp rice vinegar plus 1 tblsp water.
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Thai fish sauce
3 large eggs
Pinch of salt
2 Tblsp peanut or veg oil
2 to 3 cloves garlic minced
1 cube (2 to 3 ounces) pressed tofu, cut into narrow 11/2 inch long strips
1/2 pound narrow dried rice noodles, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes and drained
1/2 pound (scant 4 cups) bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
2 scallions, trimmed, smashed flat with the side of a cleaver, and cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths
1 Tbsp dried shrimp
1 Tbsp salted radish (optional) - note I didn’t use this.
1 cup Dry-Roasted Peanuts, coarsely chopped
2 to 4 coriander leaves (optional) - to me, not enough!
Thinly sliced cucumber, lettuce, cut up lime and I used to thinly sliced mango could be used as garnish. I doused mine in hot sauce as well, there is a recipe for Chile-Vinegar which I will include later this week. One typed up recipe at a time!
Place your protein choice in a small bowl, add the sugar, and toss to mix. In a medium bowl, mix together the tamarind water (or the rice vinegar and water), soy sauce, and fish sauce. In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs with the salt. Place all the ingredients by the stovetop.
Place a large wok over high heat. Add about 1 1/2 tbsp of the oil and, when it’s hot, add the garlic and stir fry briefly until it begins to change colour, about 15 seconds. Toss in your meat choice and stir-fry until it has all changed colour, 1 minute or less. Add the tofu and press against the hot sides of the wok to scorch it a little, 10 to 20 seconds. Pour in the egg mixture and let cook until it starts to set around the meat and tofu slices, less than a minute. Use your spatula to cut into large pieces, then transfer all onto a plate and set aside.
Place the wok back over the high heat, add remaining 1 1/2 tbsp or so oil and swirl to coat. Toss in the drained noodles and stir-fry vigorously, pressing them against the hot wok to sear and heat them, then turn and press them again. They will seem dry and unwieldy, but don’t worry, just keep folding them over and pressing them onto the wok - after about 1 minute, they will all have softened more and be warm.
Move the noodles up the sides of the wok and toss in 2 to 2 1/2 cups of the bean sprouts and the scallions. Stir-fry vigorously for about 20 seconds, pressing and turning to wilt them against the hot wok. Add the dried shrimp and salted radish and toss briefly with your spatula, then add the soy sauce mixture. Stir-fry for about another 30 seconds, gradually incorporating noodles into the bean sprout mixture. Add the reserved egg-meat mixture and toss gently to mix everything together.
Turn out onto the plates or platter. Place the remaining bean sprouts on a plate on the table. Sprinkle some of the chopped peanuts onto the noodles, and place the rest in a bowl as a condiment so guests can add as they wish. Sprinkle on the corinader leaves, if using, and serve. You can sprinkle cayenne, sugar and squeeze lime juice on top. Viola!
Serves 3 to 4.
Good luck! Here is a picture of my final product. Remember, I am no photographer and my iphone is not a professional camera! Still…it looks good to me.
Hot Sour Salty Sweet
I have always loved Thai food but have never forayed into the kitchen to prepare it myself. It always seemed complicated beyond anything or anytime I was prepared to sacrifice in the kitchen so I just left the cooking part up to various restaurant kitchens and only the eating to me. I finally WENT to Thailand recently and even before I left, I was thinking, am I going to be able to stand eating Thai food everyday? I guess at this point I can say…ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I ate and savoured it everyday I was there. I couldn’t eat anything else in fact. Noodles, curries, basil dishes, more noodles and spring rolls galore. When I eat in restaurants here I find the food greasy and laden with coconut milk. In Thailand you can find that too, but in the tourist restaurants. In Thailand everything I ate was just fresh, flavorful and no grease! Even my noodle indulgence resulted in weight loss and not gain. Amen.
I took a cooking class when I was in Koh Lanta at a place called Time For Lime. I wish I could summarize a 5 hour cooking class here but the most important thing I learned and the basis for Thai and a lot of Southeast Asian cooking is that everything is a balance of HOT SOUR SALTY SWEET flavours.
So with vacation over, all I was still craving was the amazing food of Thailand but the few places I ate it here were well…greasy. Many years ago I fell in love with a cookbook call Hot Sour Salty Sweet (notice a theme?), the book is beautiful and this time around, post trip, I have decided to embrace Thai cooking, even if it takes hours in the kitchen and failed attempts…I was in. I was going to bring those flavours and authentic tasting experiences into my life in cold Canada.
With the knowledge I had from my cooking class under my belt, off I went to the Asian grocery store to stock up on sauces and more sauces. Then I rolled up my sleeves twice already this week and went to work. On the menu was Sea Bass with chili, basil and lime sauce, I was trying to reproduce a meal I had in Ao Nang, Krabi. Next up…Pad Thai. All easier than expected and all amazing. Here are the recipes.