Archive for January, 2012

January 18, 2012

Crunchy, Savory and Sweet Spinach Salad

Truth: I eat a lot of salads.
Falsehood: All salads are delicious.
Truth: Honey mustard is a wonderful invention.
Falsehood: I eat salads just because they’re good for me.
Truth: Salads can be downright awesome with the perfect combination of textures, sweetness and salt.
Falsehood: Crispy apples, crunchy toasted walnuts, mellow chickpeas and caramelized shallots drizzled with honey mustard just don’t work together. (SO FALSE.)
Truth: I love tawdry historical fiction dramas with a strong female protagonist. …which is totally besides the point, I’m sorry. (Not sorry.)

I also love everything about this salad – the combination of the apple, raisins and honey mustard almost make it a dessert, while the spinach, walnuts and chickpeas bring it back to lunchtime. And the caramelized shallots – they’re just there for a dash of sex appeal.

The Ultimate Spinach Salad
(makes 2 meal-sized servings)

- A few large handfuls of spinach (Baby spinach works well. I had English spinach so I cut the leaves into small ribbons.)
– 1 cup of cooked chickpeas, rinsed well
– 1 apple, sliced thin (I used a gala apple)
– 2 tablespoons of raisins
– 2 tablespoons of toasted walnuts
– 1 shallot, sliced thin
– 2-3 tablespoons of honey mustard dressing (see below)
– salt&pepper, to taste

To toast walnuts: place nuts in a dry skillet over a medium heat, tossing occasionally until slightly browned and fragrant (3-5 minutes).

To caramelize shallots: Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over a medium heat. Add the shallot slices and a dash off salt and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for another 10 minutes. They should become dark brown in color without burning.

Place all your ingredients (besides the dressing) in a large bow. Add the dressing slowly, tossing as you go. Serve immediately.

Honey Mustard Dressing
– 2 tablespoons of honey
– 2 teaspoons of mustard (I used 1 teaspoon of wholegrain and 1 teaspoon of Dijon)
– 1 tablespoon of olive oil
– 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar

Place ingredients in a small jar with a lid and shake well.

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January 16, 2012

Thai Red Curry Mussels

I totally wanted to be amazing and make my own curry paste for you. I really did. But it was a Sunday. What should have been a lazy day. But we spent this particular afternoon scurrying to the fish market, to the regular market and to celebratory engagement (!!) drinks for friends.

In order to restore the laziness balance of my weekend, I used some store-bought curry paste.

So yeah, I cheated and I kind of don’t regret it at all.


Mussels are one of my favorite meals. Eating them is an event – a snacktivity!

Sure, looking at the little mollusks at the seafood shop, they can seem a little intimidating. But they’re really friendly and totally laid back. I promise.

The truth is,  I made a deliciously spicy pot of mussels with a velvety coconut sauce. And it was super easy.

Do you want to do this? (And cheat a little bit?) Let’s do it.


Thai Red Curry Mussels
– 1 kg of mussels, scrubbed and debearded
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1 medium yellow onion, diced
– 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
– 1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh ginger
– 2-3 tablespoons red curry paste (depending on how much spice you like)
– 1 small red pepper/capsicum, diced
– 1 small green pepper/capsicum, diced
– 1 carrot, chopped into small bite-sized pieces
– 1 cup of coconut milk (I used light coconut milk)
– 1/2 – 3/4 cup of vegetable broth

In a large pot with a lid, heat olive oil over a medium high heat. Cook onions for 2 minutes before adding the garlic and ginger. Cook for 3 more minutes until garlic and ginger are fragrant and the onions are soft. Add the curry paste and cook for two minutes, stirring frequently and adding a little water if the pan is dry.

Add diced capsicum and carrots and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.

Pour in coconut milk and vegetable broth. (Use however much vegetable broth you’d like here. I used about 3/4 of a cup – it was just enough to make it soup-like, without making it too thin.) Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover – cooking for another 5 minutes.

Add mussels and cover again. After about 3-4 minutes, give the mussels a stir – some should be beginning to open. Cover again and cook for another 3-5 minutes. By now the steam should have opened all the mussels. If any mussels are still closed, discard them.


I served these over soba noodles, but you could serve them over rice or with some nice toasted bread – what ever gets you excited.


Notes on dealing with mussels:
– Make sure you rinse and scrub your mussels well. You want them super clean because the shells will be mingling with your broth.
– Once you’ve scrubbed your mussels, discard any that have cracks in them or remain open after you handle them. (They should slowly close if you shake them around a bit – that means they are healthy and good to go.)
– Again, if any do not open after 10 minutes of steaming. Toss those too.

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January 13, 2012

Fruit & Nut Chocolate Bark

I discovered Cadbury Fruit and Nut chocolate bars when I was 19 and in London for the first time.  I can almost remember the exact moment I went weak in the knees after I had my first bite of the dairy milk chocolate. I think it was in a tube station.

Something about that brand of chocolate in that city tastes far superior to the same type anywhere else.

…Maybe that’s why I love London so much. That would make a considerable amount of sense, actually.

Anyway, back to the chocolate treat at hand.

One of the suggested desserts in Bon Appetit’s Cleanse was a dark chocolate bark with pepitas and sesame seeds, which I made and really enjoyed.

(A bark is chocolate melted down, spread out in a thin layer and topped with nuts, candy, pretzels (!!!) – whatever you’d like.)

I decided to make a Cadbury-inspired fruit and nut bark — still cleanse-ish, but with a little nostalgia.

I added some crushed up toasted hazelnuts and walnuts, along with some dried cranberries and raisins and a sprinkling of sea salt. I love how thin and delicate the sheets of chocolate are in some places – it almost enhances the flavor of the chocolate itself and the other components at the same time. The sea salt doesn’t hurt either.

If you’ve got some extra plain chocolate lying around, make this with whatever you have in your cupboards. I put some toasted coconut in an earlier version which was lovely.

The point is to make it your own brand of awesome.

Fruit & Nut Chocolate Bark
– 150 grams/5.5 ounces of good quality dark chocolate
– 1-2 tablespoons of combined hazelnuts and walnuts, toasted and crushed into small pieces
– 1-2 tablespoons of combined dried cranberries and raisins.
– Sea salt (optional, but totally recommended!)

Chop up your chocolate into small pieces that will melt easily.

Make a double boiler by placing a stainless steel bowl over a saucepan with a few inches of boiling water in it (make sure the saucepan is smaller than the bowl, so the bowl comfortably rests on top without touching the boiling water.) Place chocolate in the bowl and melt, stirring frequently until smooth. Oh, and wear an oven mitt when you’re touching the bowl – that thing gets hot!

Using a heat-proof rubber spatula, spread the melted chocolate out onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Sprinkle with nuts, fruit and a little salt.

Let set in either the refrigerator or the freezer (I opt for the freezer because I’m impatient.) Once the chocolate is hard again, break into pieces and store in an air-tight container in the fridge.

January 12, 2012

Mexican Breakfast

Hopefully by now you are familiar with the amazing concept of the breakfast burrito.

Fluffy scrambled eggs, cheese, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, maybe a little cheeky chorizo up in there – all wrapped up in a big burrito. Did I mention you get to eat this for breakfast?

In the spirit of this great dish, along with a commitment to a healthy start to the new year – I made my own Mexican-themed breakfast*.

A corn and black bean hash: herb-flecked, spice-laced and veggie-packed with a little crunch for good measure, topped with a perfectly poached egg. This is in no way a replacement for the glorious brekkie burrito, but as a lady I like to have options. Mexican breakfast options.

*Not limited to breakfast time. Breakfast for dinner is a popular option in my kitchen. As is breakfast for lunch. Go nuts!

Mexican Black Bean and Corn Hash
Makes 4 servings

- 1 15.5 oz/440 gram can of black beans, rinsed
– 2 ears of corn, husks removed
– 1 small red onion, diced
– 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
– 1 small jalapeno, finely chopped
– 1 big handful of baby spinach
– 3/4 cup leftover roasted pumpkin or butternut squash, diced
– 1/2 teaspoon smokey paprika
– 1/2 teaspoon cumin
– 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
– Olive oil
– Salt & Pepper
– 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

For corn: In a large pot bring water, a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of sugar to a boil. Add corn and boil covered for about 5 minutes. Remove corn and let cool. Once cooled, cut the kernels off the cob with a large, sharp chef’s knife. I did this in a large bowl, while holding the ears of corn upright (this helps prevent corn kernels from flying all over the place.) Set kernels aside.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over a medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for about 2 minutes before adding the garlic and jalapenos. Cook an additional 2 minutes.

Add black beans, paprika, cumin and cayenne pepper to the skillet and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add a tablespoon or two of water if at any point the pan looks dry.

Stir in spinach until wilted. Add pumpkin, corn, salt and pepper (to taste) and stir well to combine.

Remove from heat and top with fresh cilantro.

Serve with an egg cooked in the style of your choosing. My favorite is poached. For advice on how to cook the perfect poached egg, see Elise at Simply Recipes – she’ll hook you up.

January 11, 2012

Dried Fruit, Carrot and Avocado Quinoa Salad with Cumin Lemon Dressing

I feel a little guilty that I have managed to dodge New York winter for the past two years. Rather than dwell on thoughts of bitter cold trudges to the subway and seeing close to zero daylight during the week, I’m going to talk about fruit in salads. That’s fair right?

I’m a big fan of the whole savory-sweet thing (I mean, chocolate-covered pretzels + me = true l.o.v.e.). Acting on this affinity, I have been making an effort to involve more fruits in my otherwise savory salads.

Besides finding mind-blowing complimenting flavor combinations, fruit in a salad adds a bit of  freshness and unexpected warmth to the dish. One could almost say it added a bit of summertime to a dish. One could almost say that…

It feels a little rebellious too, which I enjoy.

This quinoa salad is for my people in the Northern Hemisphere (or Southern too!) who might need a little pick-me-up with their wholegrains. A burst of sweetness against a zesty and smokey cumin-lemon dressing with a dash of salt is the perfect way to fake some sun.


Dried Fruit, Carrot & Avocado Quinoa Salad with Lemon Cumin Dressing
Adapted from Fine Cooking. Makes 2 servings

- 1/2 cup red or white quinoa, rinsed well
- 1 tablespoon of dried cranberries
– 2 tablespoons dried apricots, thinly sliced
- 1 medium carrot, grated on a box grater
– 1/2 cup fresh coriander, chopped
– 1 medium ripe avocado, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
– 2 medium spring onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
– 1-2 tablespoons pepitas
- 1 large lemon
– 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
– 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
– 1/4 tsp. sweet paprika
–  Salt & freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan bring 1 cup water, the 1/2 cup quinoa, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a boil over high heat. Cover and reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is translucent and tender, 10 to 15 minutes. (The outer germ rings of the grain will remain chewy and white. Some germ rings may separate from the grain and will look like white squiggles.) Immediately fluff the quinoa with a fork and place it in a large mixing bowl to cool.

In a small bowl, finely grate the zest from half the lemon and then squeeze 1 tablespoon of juice. Whisk in the olive oil, cumin, paprika, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Toss the dressing with the quinoa, cranberries, apricots, carrots, coriander, avocado, spring onions, and pepitas. Season to taste with salt and pepper, Can be served cold or at room temperature.


Extra thoughts:
This would make a nice side for grilled chicken or fish. Or do what I did: add some leftover chickpeas and serve it over a big bed of baby spinach with an extra spritz of lemon for a lunch salad.

January 10, 2012

Avocado, Orange and Sweet Potato Salad with Miso Lime Dressing

Here’s another recipe adapted from Bon Appetit’s cleanse menu – I loved it even before I made it.

I couldn’t resist the uniqueness of avocado and oranges with a miso lime dressing. It all sounded so glamorous in a carefree, perfect salad sort of way. (Has anyone ever called a salad glamorous before? What am I?)

It’s a refreshing citrus-fueled party on a plate, as far as I’m concerned. The friendly sweetness of the sweet potatoes (my addition) and the mellow creaminess of the avocados against the salty/tangy miso lime dressing makes the whole salad a happy experience. Like I’ve just had a weekend away at a spa kind of happy experience.

Relaxed and feelin good.

I’ve made some variation of it 3 times now. I threw diced tofu in one version, and roasted pumpkin and pepitas in another.

This dressing has definitely earned itself a place in my rotation – I’m looking forward to finding a few more uses for it.

Makes 2 serves
– 1 orange, segmented
– 1/2 an avocado, cut into bite-sizes pieces
– 1 small (or 1/2 a large) sweet potato, roasted
– 3 large handfuls of baby spinach or arugula
– Toasted almonds, for sprinkling

Miso Lime Dressing
Makes 1 Cup
– 1/4 cup white miso paste
– 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
– 1 tablespoon honey
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– Zest and juice from 1 lime (plus more)
– 1/4 cup water

Put all ingredients in a jar, cover and shake. Chill for up to 1 week in an airtight container. To freshen the dressing after a few days, add a squeeze of lime or lemon juice.

Assemble salad and pour dressing on to taste.

January 9, 2012

Baked Fish with Tomatoes, Peppers & Roasted Garlic

Sometimes after Mr. F and I cook a nice seafood dinner we’ll have one small piece of fish left over. It’s not enough for another main for two, but it will make a special lunch…for one.

I am usually the lucky one who gets to reap the rewards of this humble little fillet. I make it a fancy lunch just for me.

Ok, it’s not that fancy (at all), but it tastes like a lot of time and effort went into it (it didn’t). This is the kind of lunch that makes me feel like I am treating myself right  (which I totally am).

A sweet combination of tomatoes, green peppers, onions, roasted garlic and a slosh of red wine make a light summer vegetable stew for my mild baked white fish to nestle in to.

My addition of the roasted garlic is a bit superfluous, but I love it too much not to tell you about it. If you’ve got the time to make it, do. If only for the satisfaction you get out of squeezing the fragrant, soft cloves out of their rough, dry skins.

My method for cooking both the garlic and the fish are very similar. Pretty easy stuff: olive oil, aluminum foil, bake.

Roasted Garlic (optional, but not optional for me):
– An entire head of garlic
– Olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 200 C/400 F

Cut off the base of the bulb of garlic (the woody end).

Oil a piece of aluminum foil (big enough to wrap the garlic in) and stand the bulb upright on it’s newly trimmed bottom. Loosely wrap the the bulb in foil and place on the oven rack.  Bake for 35-45 minutes until your garlic cloves take on a caramelized color.

Squeeze cloves out of skins to use.

This can be made as much as a day ahead.

Tomatoes & Peppers
– 1 medium onion, sliced into thin half-moons
– 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
– 2 medium tomatoes, diced
– 1/2 large green pepper, sliced thin in long strips
– 1/4 cup red wine
– 1/2 teaspoon of smokey paprika
– salt & pepper
– Olive oil

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until beginning to brown, about 4-5 minutes. (If at any point the pan becomes a little dry, add a tablespoon or two of water)

Add the peppers and cook another 3-4 minutes until beginning to soften.

Add tomatoes, paprika, salt and pepper. And cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.

Pour in red wine, and let it boil off and thicken until the vegetables are thick but still saucy. About 5 minutes.

Add about 5 or 6 roasted garlic cloves (squeezed out of their husks). Reduce to a simmer and cook a further 10 minutes covered.

Serve with baked fish.

Simple Baked Fish for One
– White fish fillet (I had flake fish)
– Olive oil
– Salt & Pepper

Pre-heat oven to 200 C/400 F

Lightly oil a piece of aluminum foil. Place the fish in the center and season with salt and pepper. Seal the aluminum foil around the fish, making sure it is completely enclosed, but leaving space between the closure and the fish. (This creates an air pocket for the heat and steam from the fish to circulate – which cooks the fish while keeping it moist.)

Bake for 15 minutes. Unwrap and pour off excess liquid. Your fish should be completely white and opaque in the middle. Serve on top of tomato-pepper mixture.

January 6, 2012

Provençal Wheat Berry Salad with Prawns

Whole Grains are kind of a big deal. Everyone’s talking about them. You should eat them, you should cook with them and you should get to know different kinds.

That’s what they say, anyway. I don’t like being told what to do, but as a girl who likes to mix it up (in the kitchen, folks!) I’m more than happy to try something new.

(Plus, they are probably reputable nutritionists, so I should probably listen to them.)

Wheat berries are the entire wheat kernel minus the hull. This is good. They’re the real deal. They contain more good for you stuff because they haven’t been tampered with as much as something like flour.

They take a little while to cook, but it’s not any harder than cooking rice. Mine took about 45-50 minutes. They should be a little crunchy/chewy with a nutty and slightly sweet flavor.

What I like about these little guys is that they can hold their own in a dish and add a unique and satisfyingly chewy texture. In this salad they pull together chunky vegetables, a strong Dijon vinaigrette, and sweet grilled prawns without getting lost.

Provençal Wheat Berry Salad with Prawns and Dijon Shallot Vinaigrette
Closely adapted from Fine Cooking
Serves 2
– 1/2 cup dry wheat berries
– 1 cup green beans, trimmed
– 1/2 cup artichoke hearts, drained and thinly sliced
– 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
– 1/4 cup diced roasted red peppers
– 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
– 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
– 1/4 cup toasted walnuts
– Salt & Pepper to taste
– 12 prawns peeled and deveined
– 1 tablespoons olive oil

Dijon Shallot Vinaigrette
Click here to find out more!
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
– 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
– 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
– 1/2 a medium shallot, finely diced
– 1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
– 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
– 1 teaspoon of water
– Dash Worcestershire sauce
– Salt & Pepper, to taste

To make vinaigrette: combine all ingredients in a jar, put the cap on and sh-sh-shake it.

In a medium saucepan, combine the wheat berries, a little salt, and enough water to cover by about 2 inches/5 cm. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat and cook at a simmer, partially covered, until the wheat berries are tender but chewy.
Begin checking after 45 minutes, though they may take up to 90 minutes. Drain the wheat well and spread on a baking sheet to cool.

Bring another medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add a sprinkle of salt and the green beans to the boiling water. Cook until just slightly tender, about 3-5 minutes. Drain and allow to cool. Cut into 1 inch/2.5 cm pieces.

In a large bowl, combine the wheat berries, green beans, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, walnuts, chopped herbs, several grinds of pepper, and 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette. Toss thoroughly. Season to taste with more salt, pepper, and vinaigrette.

Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized pan over high heat. Add the prawns in a single layer and cook for about 3 minutes on each side until lightly browned on the outside and opaque throughout.

Toss the prawns into the salad and serve.

If you cut the prawns lengthwise, they will go farther in the salad. I cut mine lengthwise after cooking, but you can do it before and they will cook even faster.

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