Archive for June, 2008

Roasted Beet and Candied Pecan Salad

Beet and Pecan Salad

I had a salad similar to this at the Delux Burger Bar on the west end (Restaurant Review in a Minute: The food was good but overpriced, the decor was minimal but tacky, the service was friendly but the polo shirt uniforms were off-putting). Having decided not to put the restaurant in my regular rotation, I still wanted to have the salad again, so here is my version. I made it for Mother’s Day this year and it was a big hit.

P.S. I’ve decided that after today, I’m going to start posting every other day rather than every day. I think that this will be better for me and for you, but please feel free to leave me a comment if you disagree.

Roasted Beet and Candied Pecan Salad

3 large beets, diced (about 2 cups)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. salt

½ cup pecan halves
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1 Tbsp. light brown sugar

¼ cup fresh dill, snipped
1 cup goat feta, crumbled
5 oz. mixed greens

¼ cup olive oil
4 tsp. balsamic vinegar
3 tsp. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. maple syrup
¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 450F. Cut the beets into ½-inch dice and put them in an 8-inch baking pan. Pour oil, salt and cumin over them and coat to toss. Roast the beets for 30 minutes, turning once during the process. Cool and set aside.
  2. In a large non-stick skillet. Heat the butter or margarine over medium high heat. Add the pecans and sauté until fragrant and toasty, about five minutes. Add the brown sugar and heat until it absorbs the oil and sticks to the pecans. Stir constantly throughout this process. Cool and set aside.
  3. Mix olive oil, vinegar, mustard, syrup and pepper. Set aside.
  4. Arrange greens in a serving platter or bowl. Arrange snipped dill, crumbled feta, beets, pecans on top. Pour on dressing. Toss immediately before serving.

June 29, 2008 at 8:00 am 1 comment

Asparagus Soup

Asparagus Soup

I failed in my goal to use 2 pounds of asparagus in a single week and after 9 days in my fridge, the asparagus was not at its prime. Luckily, I have a few tricks up my sleeve and know that asparagus soup is a stellar way to use asparagus that is no longer perfect but still edible. This is a classic cream of asparagus soup with a twist – I’ve forgone the traditional roux (butter and flour mixture) and used soymilk instead of cream in order to make this version vegan and gluten free. The soup is thickened by adding relatively little liquid, and allowing much of it to boil off, thereby concentrating the flavour and maintaining a traditional texture.

Asparagus Soup
Makes 2 large servings

1 lb. asparagus
1 Tbsp. butter or olive oil
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup soymilk
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Trim the asparagus by snapping off the tough ends and discarding (you can skip this step if using fresh asparagus from a farmer’s market). Cut off the asparagus tips and chop the rest of the asparagus roughly.
  2. Heat butter or oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add asparagus and cook until bright green, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a rolling simmer (still bubbling) and add the soymilk. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until only enough liquid remains to just cover the asparagus.
  4. Using a food processor or blender or hand blender, blend the soup to desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

June 28, 2008 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Nachos Around Town

Nachos from Julio\'s Barrio

Nachos are one of my favourite guilty pleasures, right up there with What Not to Wear marathons and really bad jokes. I know that nachos go against everything I stand for; they aren’t healthy, the ingredients are rarely organic or locally sourced, they can’t easily be successfully veganized, and the list goes on. However, I am also in favour of occasional hedonism, so my partner and I went on a quest last year to find the best nachos in Edmonton. We based our judging on a number of factors: quality of ingredients, price, serving size, variety of toppings, sturdiness of chips, and atmosphere of the joint being top on the list.

So, without further ado, and in order from worst to best:

7. Chili’s provided (not surprisingly) the worst nachos we tried. We actually sent them back and left. (Why did we even go there? I couldn’t tell you). The chips were store-bought and some of the saltiest I’d ever tasted. We had to order it without the (very meaty) chili, which turned out to be the only topping that the nachos really had. We got a pile of chips with cheese (but only on one side), tomatoes, and a scoop (still in scoop shape) of sour cream. There wasn’t even any salsa, which was pretty disappointing given that the place has in its kitchen not only salsa, but guacamole, jalapenos, fajita vegetables and beans. The atmosphere was doubly depressing, it being pretty clear that the plastic cactus staring me down was the same plastic cactus in the same place in every Chili’s restaurant across North America.

6.Teddy’s (11361 Jasper Avenue) rated high for atmosphere (it’s nearly 60 years old and used to be the place to propose to your lady friend in Edmonton; now its stained-glass windows and overstuffed mahogany chairs are juxtaposed against the VLT room to your right), but their cheese seemed to be Velveeta or something similar so we simply couldn’t consider poor old Teddy’s as a finalist.

5. Cafe Mosaics (10844 Whyte Avenue) is one of the only places that serves beans with their nachos, which is a welcome addition. However, the other toppings are sparse and the salsa is from a bottle. Besides which, there are so many better things on their menu that the nachos rarely tempt me.

4. Martini’s Bar and Grill (9910 – 109 Street) has nachos at a decent price ($7.95), but the portion size is small for nachos (just a regular dinner plate) and the chips and salsa are store-bought. The toppings (tomatoes, green onions, olives and jalapenos) are generously portioned, but the nachos rarely provide serious competition with the free popcorn for me. That being said, the bar is one of my favourites (a cute neighborhood pub that really is just that – everyone from barflies to hipsters to business people frequent the place) and the dinner menu goes beyond pub food to some really decent fare.

3.The Sherlock Holmes (10012 – 101A Avenue, and Capilano and “The Mall”) has a decent dark pub atmosphere and a long beer list. Their salsa is the best that we sampled; definitely homemade and with a refreshing hint of cucumber. Their nachos ($10.95), though, are only mediocre. The toppings (tomatoes, onions, jalapeno) are minimal, and tend to get overpowered by cheese and chips. The chips are straight out of a bag, but the portion size is good (enough for 2 people to treat as “lunch”).

2. Julio’s Barrio (10450 Whyte Ave, and the West End, and Calgary) tries a bit too hard for “authentic” Mexican atmosphere and ends up coming up a bit tacky, but their nachos ($13.50, pictured above) are the penultimate in Edmonton snacky cuisine. The chips are the sturdiest that we sampled, and both chips and salsa are certainly homemade. The toppings (olives, tomatoes, jalapenos, bell peppers and onions) are varied and plentiful. If that’s not enough for you, you can also order veggie ground round ($4) or a side of refried beans ($2.50). Their beer menu is not extensive, but does have some good choices and they have margaritas. The portion size is a bit smaller than our winner, Original Joe’s, but there is certainly still enough food. The only complaints? The price with added beans is a bit steep ($15.00) and the ratio of toppings to chips is so high that you almost need a fork, and you certainly need about half a dozen napkins, to finish these things.

And the winner?

1. Original Joe’s (10520 – 102 Avenue, and all over Alberta, apparently) is our favourite nachos place. The atmosphere is nothing special, but the patio is gorgeous (complete with enclosed deck and water feature) and the beer list is long, with a focus on microbreweries. The nachos, though, are obviously the main event. They offer two sizes: 1. “big enough for two people to eat as their sole dinner” ($10) and 2. “too big for four people to eat as a late-night snack” ($15, pictured below). It was the value for our dollar that first attracted us. The toppings (red and green onion, tomatoes, jalapenos and olives) are the most varied of any nachos we tried. The tri-colour chips are homemade, flavourful and sturdy, and everything is well-proportioned. There are enough toppings to last until the finish but not so many that the chips get soggy. The only disadvantages? The salsa is store-bought and the guacamole ($2.49 extra) tastes like it’s been frozen.

So, enjoy!

Nachos at Original Joe\'s

June 27, 2008 at 9:30 am 1 comment

Greek Salad for Company

Greek Salad for CompanyI have always have a problem with greek salad recipes, because they always make such a large amount and are hard to modify since the quantities are generally “1 cucumber” rather than “1 cup cucumber.” So, this recipe makes a very large amount but I’ve tried to make it easier to modify by including metric measurements. If you want a smaller recipe, check out this post. This is fantastic for taking to work for lunch during the week with a pita.

Greek Salad
Makes 4 large or 8 small servings

2 bell peppers (2 cups), assorted colours, chopped
1 red onion (¾ cup), chopped
1 cucumber (2 cups), chopped
4 Roma tomatoes (3 cups), chopped
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
6 oz. (1½ cups) goat feta, cubed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1½ tsp. dried basil (or 1 Tbsp. fresh)
1½ tsp. dried oregano (or 1 Tbsp. fresh)
1 Tbsp. fresh dill (or 1 tsp. dried)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Chop the vegetables and feta. Toss together.
  2. Toss in oil, vinegar and herbs.

June 26, 2008 at 9:42 am Leave a comment

Potato and Green Bean Salad

Potato and Green Bean SaladThis is a classic recipe that I found years ago (in an old Vegetarian Times magazine?) and have modified a million times since (generally making it simpler and simpler). This is the more or less final version. It’s perfect for picnics, BBQs, potlucks and even taking to work for lunch. I found some delightfully small potatoes at the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market (check out Riverbend Gardens for the most flavourful potatoes you’ve ever tried), but if you can only find regular sized new potatoes, you will have to halve or quarter them. This recipe requires freshly ground black pepper. It just won’t be as good with pre-ground pepper.

Green Bean and Potato Salad

6 cups (4 lbs) new potatoes
3 cups (1 lb) green beans
1 cup (4 oz.) feta, finely crumbled
1½ Tbsp. fresh dill, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil (optional)
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

  1. Halve or quarter the potatoes if necessary. Steam or boil the potatoes until they are tender but still holding together, about 25 minutes for steaming.
  2. Trim the green beans and cut them into 1-inch strips. Blanch them by putting them into boiling water for 5 minutes or steaming them for 10 minutes.
  3. When the vegetables have cooked, drain them and run them under cold water. Let them cool for about 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, chop the dill and crumble the feta. Toss the potatoes, green beans, dill, feta and pepper. If the salad needs more moisture to make the ingredients stick, add the olive oil and toss again.

June 25, 2008 at 9:27 am 6 comments

Vegetable and Tofu Kebabs

Tofu and Vegetable Kebabs

This weekend, my extended family came up from Calgary to go see Body Worlds and instead of tagging along, I made the food for an evening BBQ. Catering the non-meat dishes for 8 meat-eaters (plus Sean and me) at a BBQ was a super fun challenge, and the next four posts will be a sampling of what I came up with: Kebabs, Potato and Green Bean Salad and Greek Salad for Company.

And what are those things on the end, you ask? My aunt thought that they were wooden knobs to keep the veggies from slipping, Sean thought they were olives, and my dad thought they were mushrooms. They’re actually black zebra tomatoes, an heirloom variety that is firmer than regular varieties and so stands up better on the grill. Of course, you can use regular cherry tomatoes – but why not look for black zebras at your local farmer’s market? They can definitely be found at the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market in Edmonton, which operates in the old bus barns on 104 St. and 83 Ave. every Saturday from 8am to 3pm.

The marinade for the Kebabs was heavily modified from 1000 Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Gelles. Enjoy!

Vegetable and Tofu Kebabs
Makes 15 Kebabs

½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup orange juice
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. ginger, grated

1 – 1 lb. package extra firm tofu
2 bell peppers (I used ½ each yellow, orange, red and green peppers for colour)
½ red onion
1 pint (2 cups) cherry tomatoes
10 button mushrooms

  1. Mix together the ingredients for the marinade. Set aside.
  2. Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes. Cut the bell peppers and onion into large chunks (remember that you’ll have to get a skewer through them without splitting them).
  3. Layer the vegetables in one container, with mushrooms on the bottom, then peppers and onions, then cherry tomatoes. Place tofu in another container. (This will maximize flavour absorption).
  4. Pour half of the marinade into each of the containers. Marinate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
  5. If you are using bamboo or wood skewers, soak them for about 20 minutes before using them so that they don’t burn.
  6. Skewer the tofu and the vegetables, making pretty patterns if you like. I did it like this:

Tofu Kebabs:

Tofu-Tofu-Onion-Tofu-Tofu-Tomato-Tofu-Tofu-Pepper-Tofu-Tofu

Vegetable Kebabs:

Tomato-Onion-Pepper-Onion-Pepper-Onion-Mushroom-Pepper-Onion-Pepper-Onion-Pepper-Tomato

Vegetable and Tofu Kebabs

June 24, 2008 at 9:56 am Leave a comment

California Summer Salad

California Summer Salad

Mmm! I just threw this salad together last night as a side dish to go with the Vegan Tamale Pie that we were having, and I was surprised at how well it turned out. The textures of the avocado, cucumber and sunflower seeds worked out really well, and the dressing was light, refreshing, and super easy. I doubled the recipe here so that you can eat it as a main dish.

California Summer Salad
Serves 2 as a Main Dish, or 4 as a Side

5 cups Romaine lettuce, roughly torn
½ cup cucumber, sliced and quartered
¼ cup red onion, thinly sliced and chopped
¼ cup sunflower seeds
1 avocado, cubed
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. olive oil
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. In a medium bowl, combine lettuce, cucumber, red onion and sunflower seeds. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together lime juice, olive oil and black pepper.
  3. Toss avocado in dressing to prevent the avocados from browning.
  4. Pour avocado and dressing over the salad.
  5. Serve immediately.

June 23, 2008 at 9:15 am Leave a comment

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*All entries tagged "vegan" and "gluten free" meet those dietary requirements to the best of my knowledge as long as the vegan or gluten free instructions are followed (where applicable). It is always wise to double-check ingredients (especially when dealing with packaged foods) and to confirm ingredients and preparation methods at restaurants.