Category: Vegetables

Couscous Tabbouleh

Couscous Tabbouleh

Couscous Tabbouleh

I’m not going to pretend that this is any kind of traditional tabbouleh. This is *my* tabbouleh. While tabbouleh is traditionally made with bulghur wheat, I have always preferred making it with couscous. This particular tabbouleh recipe has a nice yet subtle lemony flavor, not too strong or tart. I encourage anyone to modify it based on personal preference. I sometimes double the parsley or tomatoes, depending on my mood and what is available, and leave out something if the cat has gotten to it on the counter (he prefers people food).

Ingredients:
1 cup water
1 cup couscous
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium cucumber, seeded and diced
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced (or cherry tomatoes, quartered)
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 medium red onion, diced
2 cups loosely packed fresh parsley leaves, minced
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, minced

(1 cup of chicken stock instead of water is optional for cooking the couscous)

Directions:
1. Cook the couscous by boiling the water or broth and adding it to the dry couscous (or follow the directions on the box if the ratio is different). When the couscous has hydrated, fluff with a fork and let cool.

2. Place all ingredients in a bowl and fold gently to mix, spreading the oil and lemon juice evenly throughout the mixture.

Almost any vegetable will go well with this recipe, so feel free to add anything to your preference (e.g. grilled zucchini is great). This goes down particularly well for a summer meal.

Tourtiere – Quebec Meat Pie

Tortiere

Tortiere

A “Tourtière” is a meat pie from Quebec, and is a classic part of the Christmas/Christmas Eve réveillon and New Year’s Eve meal (It’s also great when you are having a bunch of people over for dinner and you are sick of making “bangers in a cloud”, another great recipe that I will post soon). While meat pies are found in many cultures and parts of the world, the tourtiere gets its name from the the creature from which it was traditionally made, the “tourte,” or passenger pigeon. These days there is no one filling that makes a tourtiere what it is, it may be made from any type of meat, though the most common ones are made with pork, veal, beef, or a combination of meats (if you hunt dove, it might be an interesting way to prepare the bird, similar to the original recipe). In Quebec, serving this won’t turn heads, but in the US, tourtiere is not so common, and you may get some “what the… Meat pie?” type of comments. Ignore them, and remember… Knives are for threatening, too. This dish has a lot of flavor, and this is one of my favorite touriere recipes. When you try this, you will see why this is so popular up north.

Ingredients:
Pastry dough for a bottom and top crust (store-bought is fine)
1 tablespoon light olive or canola oil
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground beef
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, crushed and finely chopped
1/3 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
2/3 cup beef stock
2 tablespoons Cognac
1 teaspoon dried parsley
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/16 teaspoon ground cloves
1/16 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/16 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Directions:
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Roll out your pastry dough and cut into two equal circles, enough to fit a 9-inch pie pan, and line the bottom of the pan with one piece of the dough.

3. In a pan, heat the oil and saute onion, garlic, celery, and carrot briefly. Add the meat and cook until done.

4. Drain the excess oil and add the stock, herbs, spices, and cognac to the pan and simmer over a low to medium heat for about 15 minutes.

5. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes and then spoon the mixture into the pastry crust in the pie pan and cover with the remaining dough.

6. Seal the pie crust, cut a few vents in the top, and design however you please (if you please).

7. Reduce the heat to 350 and bake the tourtiere for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top turns a golden brown.

8. Let cool for a bit and serve while still warm.

This will easily serve 6 to 8 people and the proportions can be increased to be made in a larger pie mold (or pan).

Cuban Mojo Sauce

Mojo

Mojo

This simple Cuban sauce goes well with just about everything, and I put it in sandwiches, on meats, vegetables, and it appears often in my dreams.

Ingredients
1/3 cup olive oil
8 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup sour orange juice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

N.B. if you cannot find sour orange juice, combine equal parts lemon, lime, and regular orange juice.

Directions
1. Add the olive oil to a pan and set to a medium heat. Add garlic and cook until soft, but not brown (30 seconds or so).

2. Add the juice, salt, pepper, and cumin if you desire it and raise the heat to high, allowing the mixture to boil for a few minutes.

Cool before serving. It is best served immediately, but should keep for a few days if refrigerated.

Some recipes call for cilantro to be added, which is good if you are someone who likes cilantro (not everyone does) but cilantro is not a classic Cuban addition to a mojo sauce. When cilantro is used the sauce is referred to as “Mojo Verde” and appears less often in my dreams.

Fiddleheads (Young Fern shoots)

fiddleheads

Fiddleheads with garlic

Would you ever think to eat a fern? I eat anything that won’t make me sick, so I sure have, but young fern shoots are not the first thing that comes to mind for most people when they think of spring. Oddly, they are the first thing that comes to my mind when someone says “spring.” Early spring is fiddlehead season, and these crunchy vegetables are one thing I look forward to when winter is ending. Fiddleheads are the young shoots of the ostrich fern, and I am surprised that they are not more popular than they are, the stem is crunchy, and the leafy spiral in the middle is soft and sweet. Plus, fiddleheads are cute, but not too cute to eat (like baby bunnies).

Fiddleheads

Fresh fiddleheads vs. old fiddleheads

Fiddleheads do not have a long shelf life. I generally cook them the day I buy them, or perhaps the next day. It is not that they go bad, but that they tend to oxidize quickly, which will make them look less appealing. You may want to cut off the dark, oxidized skin on the fiddleheads to prepare them for cooking, which is very easy as it is just the skin that oxidizes and turns brown. It is not required, though, as the oxidized skin will not contribute any off flavors to the fiddleheads.

One thing to keep in mind is that fiddleheads should not be eaten raw, they contain compounds that are both unpleasant, and could potentially make a person ill. But cooking them makes them entirely safe to eat, and tenderizes the shoot as well. Fiddleheads are also surprisingly high in anti-oxidants, much more so than even blueberries, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, making them both healthful and tasty. Fiddleheads are very high in fiber and vitamin A, and low in everything that you don’t want. They are an excellent spring treat, particularly for those who are watching what they eat (e.g. no fat, no cholesterol, almost no carbs, and very low in calories, only 35 per 1/2 cup serving). Many recipes call for boiling or steaming them, which works well and doesn’t add any fat or calories from oil, however I prefer to saute them with a little oil and garlic. That said, I have been known to steam my fiddleheads prior to a quick saute in order to speed the process and this can also reduce the potential for bitterness that may be found in them. They also go well in pasta and stir fry, but nothing beats a good old saute to bring out their own natural flavor. Fern shoots may not be an obvious star of a dish, but you would be surprised at their delicate and interesting flavor. Even my children find fiddleheads a fun and interesting diversion to the usual vegetable argument.

Ingredients
1/2 pound fiddleheads
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 -2 cloves of garlic, thickly cut

N.B. a few drops of lemon juice can bring out the flavor and help prevent darkening (oxidation) of the fern shoots.

garlicGarlic cut thickly

Directions
1. Cut off any black ends of the fiddleheads, and slice off any black/brown skin from the stems.

2. Wash the fiddleheads and pat dry.

3. Slice the garlic clove(s) into thick pieces, thick enough so that they won’t cook too quickly (they tend to become bitter if overcooked)

4. Put the garlic in the oil and turn heat to medium high.

5. When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the fiddleheads. Turn the heat down to medium and saute fiddleheads until soft, about 10 minutes, then serve. Salt to taste.

Serves 1, but this recipe easily scales to as many servings as you need.

Steak and Blue Cheese Chopped Salad

Steak and blue cheese salad

Steak and Blue Cheese Chopped Salad

Steak and Blue Cheese go together like humans and oxygen. And why not make it better by combining them with salad? This is something I like to make when I have people over because it’s really easy, flavorful, and can readily be tailored to personal tastes, unlike a lot of meals. It is also filling while still being healthful. This dish is more about the process than the ingredients, so I am not including amounts, but I will outline the items I generally use when making it. But again, it is how I make it rather than what I include that is important, so stay tuned for that. If you can grill the steak ahead of time, that will contribute the best flavor, but broiling works as well.

Ingredients
romaine lettuce (my preference for its crunchiness, but you can use any lettuce you want)
red bell pepper
red onion
celery
carrots
cherry tomatoes
avocado
blue cheese (crumbled gorgonzola works well)
steak (cooked to your preference), I love tri-tip or loin tip for its meaty flavor and low price

Ingredients for the dressing
I generally use Italian salad dressing from the packet that you add vinegar, water & oil (olive oil) to. But rather than using red wine vinegar I recommend using balsamic vinegar, which combines exceptionally well with the blue cheese in this salad.

Directions
1. Step 1 is where most of the work comes in. I dice up all the vegetables (except lettuce and avocado)  into small, bite-sized pieces and place them into bowls as preparation for the mixing. The steak should be cooked to your preference and allowed to sit for a while to reabsorb all its juices.  When cool, cut into small pieces, cutting it into strips against the grain, then cutting those strips into smaller, bite-sized pieces.

chiffonade

A chiffonade

2. I then cut the lettuce into a chiffonade. This is when you cut it into small, thin strips (see image). This not only makes the salad easier to eat, but looks really nice when combined with the other ingredients.

3. You then have a choice, you can put everything into bowls and dress, or, my preference is to add the lettuce, carrots, onion, celery, peppers, and cheese into a bowl and add a little less dressing than I think I need (this keeps the calories down and will actually taste just fine). I then mix everything up, which spreads a thin layer of dressing onto everything, then place in serving bowls.

4. Add the steak and tomatoes to the salad. Then scoop out spoonfuls of  avocado onto the salad. I top it off with a little more blue cheese for presentation purposes and serve.

By chopping all the ingredients into small pieces, and coating them well with minimal dressing, you will achieve a healthful salad with a lot of flavor, that doesn’t have to be high in calories. Yes, the blue cheese is not low calorie, but you don’t need a lot of it when you are mixing all the ingredients together, the flavor will carry throughout the salad. This dish always goes over well when I serve it. Some people leave the steak out (my vegetarian brother) and the salad will still taste great.