Asian Noodle Salad



Other than a quick storm we have not been without scorching sunshine for two weeks. Not that I’m complaining, but I swore last week I would not make another hot pasta dish for the Presto Pasta Roundup, as summer has officially arrived.
It’s about time to turn off the stove and get outside. I absolutely adore this time of year. Other than having to wash the garden dirt from my finger nails, I have no reason to go inside whilst the sun is shining.
Salad season brings with it the joy of hassle free eating. A few simple ingredients tossed together working in chorus to create the flavour of summer only something child-loving and frozen could challenge.
Salads like this one can make a meal, take center stage or rest on the side pairing every flavour on a plate perfectly.
Matching perfectly with a number of grilled dishes or just on it’s own, welcome summer with this salad’s light crisp vegetables and the heartiness of noodles

ASIAN NOODLE SALAD

2 1/2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
Juice of One Lime (about 3 Tablespoons)
3 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Sesame Seed Oil
2 Tablespoons Rice Wine Vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Chili Flakes (2 small, red, dried chillies, crushed)
2 Cloves of Garlic (2 teaspoons)
4 Scallions
2 Carrots
1/2 Cup Red Cabbage, shredded
10 Sugar Snap Peas
1/2 Lb (1/2 Package) Eggless Cantonese Steamed Chow Mein Noodles (Spaghettini may be substituted nicely)

Whisk the soy, lime juice, brown sugar, sesame oil and rice vinegar in a small bowl.
Stir in the chili flakes and garlic and allow to sit for about 20 – 30 minutes, while you prepare the remainder of the salad.
Bring a large stock pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook for about 2 minutes. If you are using alternate noodles, cook as to the package directions to al denté.
Drain and rinse the noodles with cold water. Let the noodles sit in the colander to remove as much of the water as possible.
Wash and peel the carrots. Cut into matchsticks 2″ long .
Shred the cabbage into long lengths, 1/8″ thick.
Peel and thinly slice the scallions lengthwise.
Slice the scallions and sugar snap peas on a 1/8″ diagonal, trying to keep all the vegetables about the same size.
Place the noodles into a large serving bowl.
Whisk and taste the dressing, adjusting if necessary.
Toss over the vegetables and drizzle the dressing. Mix well to combine everything evenly.
Garnish with cilantro or parsley… or if you’re feeling crazy you could shake over some toasted pine nuts or broken peanuts. Perfect.

Grilled Vegetable Streudel



I had been gearing up to post about what I call Market Mystery. This is either the new or unexpected produce that turns up at the market or in your CSA box that you would never dream of buying out of your regular habits. Turns out, this event coincided perfectly when I invited my neighbour over for dinner.

I had thrown together some basic menu ideas and headed out to the grocery store to pick up some last minute things – shamefully the same things I seem to grab every time I’m out. Yes, staples are one things but redundant patterns are another. I began to think I should practice what I was about to preach.

Passing through the produce aisle, I realized I was about to ignore the fennel the same way I have done about one thousand trips before. Looking at the round white bulb and the bright green feathery fronds, I realized I’d never even tasted it. I actually think I might have been a bit intimidated on what to do with it exactly. I took the plunge, altered my menu plans and picked one out. Once I’d returned home with my fennel, I wanted to see what I could find out about my new vegetable. I knew the basics already, the other name of Anise gave away it’s licorice like flavour undertones. I’d previously seen it in salads, thinly sliced, usually served with orange segments but when I tasted it I thought I might go for the alternative of a roasted flavour. All around the fennel bulb is a combination of licorice, cabbage and celery flavours but the licorice tends to mellow when it’s cooked.

Since it’s summer, I opted for grilling instead of roasting. Not only did I want to keep the extra heat out of my house, I thought the smokiness might be a nice addition. Fennel, as intimidating as I first thought, is very simply to prepare. The bottom root end, the stalks and fronds need to be removed, but not discarded – I ended up using practically everything here and there. I sliced the bulb down the centre and tossed over the marinade.

Other than the time taken to grill, this recipe was a snap. My guests were impressed and I have become a fennel convert.

Now onward to Jerusalem artichokes, golden beets and kohlrabi. Which are the vegetables, you’ve eyed, but not tried?

GRILLED VEGETABLE STRUDEL

1 Bulb Fennel
1 Zucchini
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Orange Pepper
1/2 Red Onion
3 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Vermouth (optional)
1 Tablespoon Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped (optional)
Crack of Black Pepper
1 Sheet of Puff Pastry*

Heat the grill to medium.
Remove the top fennel fronds and reserve.
Cut the base from the fennel, slice down the center.
Remove the ends from the zucchini, slice lengthwise.
Slice the onion into 1/4″ rounds.
Toss the fennel, zucchini and onion in the balsamic, oil, vermouth and pepper.
Add the vegetables, along with the pepper to the bbq and grill, turning regularly, until the vegetables have even grill marks and have softened.
Place the pepper into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam.
Remove the skin and pull the stem from the pepper to remove the seeds.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Roll out the puff pastry to a 10″x10″ square.
Chop the vegetables roughly.
Add garlic, parsley and reserved fennel fronds, if using, salt to taste and add pepper if necessary.
Spoon and evenly distribute the grilled vegetable mixture to the center of the pastry to form a line.
Pull the first side of the pastry over the vegetables, roll the pastry and vegetables over into the remaining pastry. Dot the end with water to seal. Flip the pastry so the seal is on the bottom.
Transfer the strudel to a non-stick baking dish or cookie sheet. Score the top.
Bake on the center rack for about 25-30 minutes. Remove once the pastry is golden and crisp.

* As to date, Tenderflake in Canada and Pepperidge Farms brands of puff pastry are vegan.
However, As with any prepared food you should be prepared to read the label.

Serve with a drizzling of Roasted Red Pepper Purée.

Serves 4-6

Killer Tomatoes


This months theme of Waiter, there’s something in my…, hosted by Cook Sister is all about getting stuffed. Stuffing fruit or vegetables to be specific, so how could I refuse this challenge? There are so many options but I thought I would venture back to my culinary school days.

Duxelles are a traditional French stuffing of finely diced mushrooms, cooked with shallots and onions until they have given up all of their moisture. Pretty simple, but is there any wonder why the French are known for their food?

I really like using the Tomato. The balance of using the juicy, light tasting tomato with the intensified mushroom that’s created is wonderful. This may be served with a salad or as a side dish to accompany smoked tofu, vegan mac n’ cheese, quiche or even, dare I say it, grilled meats.

KILLER TOMATOES

4 Vine Ripened Tomatoes
20 White Mushrooms, minced
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Shallot, minced
2 Tablespoons Red Onion, minced
2 Tablespoons White Wine (Check your source as not all wine is vegetarian)
1 Tablespoon Parsley, minced
4 – 5 Fresh Basil Leaves10 Fresh Oregano Leaves
1 – 2 Tablespoons Breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast Flakes, optional
Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste

Wipe and trim each of the mushrooms. Lay the mushroom stem down and Using your palm, crush then finely dice the mushrooms. Otherwise a food processor may be used but crushing by hand is very consistent, not to mention therapeutic.
In a large sauté pan, heat the oil to a medium high and sweat the onion and shallots.
Add the garlic, followed by the mushrooms and wine.
Stirring occasionally, cook the mixture until it is dry.
Check, and adjust the seasoning with the salt and pepper as necessary.
Wash and core the tomatoes. Cut away the top so you may easily fit a spoon to empty out the pulp and seeds.
Fill each tomato with the mushroom mixture.
Combine the breadcrumbs and nutritional yeast and top each of the tomatoes.
Place the tomatoes onto a baking sheet and bake at 350ºF (175ºC) until heated through. (approximately 10 minutes)
Serve with an optional drizzling of olive oil.

Variations:
Use serve them as h’ors d’oeuvres. The amount of duxelles will also stuff approximately 12 cherry tomatoes.
Try substituting different mushrooms. They will produce a more dense, rich or woodsy flavor, depending on what you choose.

Victoria Day


For about 150 years, Canadians have been celebrating Queen Victoria’s birthday on the Monday on or before May 24th with a statutory Monday holiday.

So, we’re occasionally quite thankful we are still held by a monarchy.

Commonly referred to as “May-Two-Four”, most celebrations are spent starting gardens, camping, opening cottages, getting stuck in traffic and of course, gathering. Marked as the unofficial beginning to our shorter summer season, people like to get outside.

In honour of a casual slow food get together, visiting, Canadian beer and fireworks we’re having some laid-back group fare.

This recipe is dead easy, and so worth it in the returns…

GRILLED EGGPLANT

2 Large Eggplants (Look for ones unblemished, with fresh, green tops)
1/2 Cup Soy Sauce (Use a low sodium, good quality variety)
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Onion Powder
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/8 teaspoon Freshly Ground Pepper
1 Tablespoon Fresh Summer Savory (Chopped)

Preheat your grill to medium.
Trim the ends from the eggplants. Slice lengthwise about 1/2″ thick.
Add the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Combine well.
Dip the eggplant slices into the marinade to coat both sides and add to the grill.
Do not discard the remaining marinade.
Reduce the heat to a medium-low.
Select a sunny holiday beverage of your choice.
Brush each of the eggplants with more marinade, flip.
Allow to grill for 2 – 3 minutes, watching closely not to char, repeat until eggplants nearly fall from your flipping utensil.

Serves 4 – 6

Cauliflower Popcorn


This is a classic mom dish… or at least it was in my house growing up so when my now two year old has decided to boycott all things vitamin enriched (i.e. green) I had to think fast on how to spare the poor boy from scurvy.

I figured it had to work. I loved this as a kid making my mom practically make double just to get enough to the dinner table. Not only is cauliflower scrumptious but it really does look like popcorn!

CAULIFLOWER POPCORN

1 head of cauliflower
1 Cup breadcrumbs
2 Tablespoons Margarine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic

Method

Wash and trim the cauliflower. Cut away the big stalks and stems leaving little, bite-sized florets.

Steam or boil the cauliflower until just fork tender. Plunge into cold water, drain and set aside.

Add the salt, pepper and garlic to the breadcrumbs.

Preheat a large sauté pan to medium and melt the margarine. Add the cauliflower and toss to coat.

Sprinkle over the crumb mixture stirring well to adhere.

Brown the cauliflower to crisp up the crumbs. Shake up the pan to get them popping and golden.

Serve it hot.

Feeds 4 as a snack or a side… (Maybe)