Tag Archives: cucumber

Dilly Quinoa Salad with Radish and Dates

6 Sep

Imagine yourself among a sea of people (2600 to be exact) dressed in white from head to toe, feasting al fresco on a homemade picnic in a public space (whose location was a mystery until you arrived by bus moments earlier). After the sun sets, sparklers are lit en masse to mark the opening of the dance floor where guests dance the evening away alongside a DJ spinning the latest hits. At the end of the night, you pack up your table, chairs (yes, you bring your own!) and all of your belongings and leave the space cleaner than it was when you arrived.

Sounds bizarre, right?!? That took place a few weeks ago at Diner en Blanc Toronto 2016, an annual event that first originated in Paris over 25 years ago. The whole concept is outright crazy. But it was pretty magical.

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Guests have the option of purchasing a gourmet catered picnic meal but most choose to pack their own. Since it was a weeknight, a meal simple to prepare and transport was a must. We also wanted a meal that could be served at room temperature because as newbies, we had no idea how long it would be before we would eat. Cold poached salmon seemed like an easy yet elegant protein option with quinoa salad and steamed green beans as accompaniments. Since my favourite quinoa salad recipes tend to feature strong flavours that could overpower the delicate fish, a quick Google search led me to a recipe so unusual I had to try it.

This quinoa salad features dill and cucumber (nothing special), radish (definitely not something I would think to add on my own), and dates (what?!). Yes that’s right— syrupy sweet dates. Parmesan cheese was listed as optional, so we left it out because we would be feasting on a spread of cheese as our starter.

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I was reluctant to try this recipe but the reviews were good and it was the perfect way to use up leftover dill from the salmon dish.

The salad was everything that I hoped it would be. Fresh and clean in taste thanks to loads of dill, with a nice balance of sweetness and peppery bite from the dates and radish respectively. It complemented the poached salmon perfectly in flavour and texture.

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If I were to make this again, I might substitute raisins or currants for the dates as the sweetness was a bit overpowering. Or, I would try it with a different kind of date. I did some research after the fact and learned that date varieties (of which there are many!) vary in sweetness. Between the two most popular types of dates in North America, the Medjool date (which I used) is considerably sweeter than the Deglet Noor date. I guess I should have done my date research first!

Any suggestions on what to do with leftover dates? I’ve got my eye on this recipe.

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Quinoa Salad with Dill, Radish and Dates
(adapted from The Kitchn)

I made this recipe a bit more waistline-friendly by reducing the amount of olive oil, dates and almonds. I also omitted the parmesan and avocado. AND I didn’t have liquid smoke. But it was still delicious!

1 cup quinoa
1-3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
8 small red radishes, well-cleaned and tops removed
1/3 seedless English cucumber, about 1/4 pound, unpeeled
1 large shallot
2/3 lightly filled cup dill fronds, without stems
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced, about 1 1/2 tablespoons
3 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon liquid smoke*
1/2 1/3 cup sliced raw almonds
1/2 1/3 cup pitted dates, roughly chopped (look for the Deglet Noor variety)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (omit for a vegan adaptation)
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 ripe avocado, to serve

  1. If your quinoa is not pre-rinsed, rinse the quinoa for 2 to 3 minutes in a fine mesh strainer, rubbing vigorously. Drain. Heat a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the quinoa and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Pour in the broth, bring to a boil, cover, and turn the heat down to low. Cook for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment and spread the cooked quinoa over it in an even layer. Let cool while preparing the vegetables.
  3. Toast almonds in a pan over low-medium heat until aromatic and golden in colour.
  4. Dice the radishes — about 1/4-inch to a side. Do the same with the cucumber. Finely dice the shallot. Finely chop the dill fronds. Toss with the quinoa in a large bowl.
  5. Zest the lemon right into the bowl and fold in the zest. Juice the lemon half and whisk the juice together with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and liquid smoke until emulsified and thick. Toss this with the quinoa.
  6. Fold in the almonds, chopped dates, and Parmesan (if using). Taste and season to taste with salt and pepper. When ready to serve, top with chopped avocado (if using).

*Note: 1 tablespoon smoked olive oil, such as The Smoked Olive’s Sonoma oil, can be substituted for the liquid smoke and 1 tablespoon of regular olive oil.

Makes 6 servings. Per serving (with modifications as outlined above): 225 kcal, 10 g fat (1.1 g saturated), 28.5 g carbohydrate, 3.5 g fibre, 4.2 g protein, 210 mg sodium

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Apple and Cucumber Salad with Dill

8 Aug

Last weekend I had the pleasure of spending four and a half beautiful days in St. John’s, Newfoundland. We walked a lot: up and down Signal Hill and to and from the downtown strip daily. But we also ate a lot. Cod cakes (the best ones had a nice crispy exterior), cod tongue with scrunchions (essentially fried bits of salted pork fat), and the best fish and chips I’ve ever tasted. And we drank. A lot. Our trip coincided with George Street Festival which is the biggest party weekend of the year.

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Now that I’m back at home and feeling a few pounds heavier, all I want to eat is fresh vegetables and salads in an attempt to erase the gluttony of my trip out east.

My friend T had me over for dinner last month and made me a remarkably tasty salad that she claimed was super easy. It was a bed of lettuce topped with sticks of apple and cucumber. The dressing consisted of olive oil, rice vinegar and fresh dill. Nothing more. Since that visit, visions of her salad have been dancing in my head.

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T used a mandoline to cut her cucumber and apple for the salad—something that intimidated me, but made me realize that I need to give mine a fair chance. The first and last time I used my mandoline was a year ago, and it wasn’t pretty. If you don’t have a mandoline, a good sharp knife will do.

On Saturday, I made amends with my mandoline and re-created T’s simple summer salad. It was everything I remembered (and more, since I added a sprinkle of toasted almond slivers): crunchy and sweet, light yet satisfying. And she wasn’t lying—it was super easy.

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Do you own a mandoline or know of any tasty dishes that require one? Please share your recipes and any tips or tricks in the comments section. I’m eager to use mine more often (and would like to keep my fingers intact in the process)!

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T’s Apple and Cucumber Salad with Dill

All measures are estimates. Adjust based on your taste preference and/or what you have on hand.

6 cups lettuce, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces (red leaf lettuce contrasts nicely with the green cucumber and apple)
2 Granny Smith apples
1 medium English cucumber
1/4 cup slivered almonds

Dressing:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
Fresh dill (to taste)
Freshly ground pepper (to taste)

  1. Toast almonds in a small pan over medium heat. Remove from heat when golden and aromatic, and set aside to cool.
  2. Combine all dressing ingredients in a small jar or bowl. Set aside.
  3. Using a mandoline (or sharp knife), slice cucumber and apple into thick sticks.
  4. To serve, top greens with apple, cucumber and almonds. Add dressing and toss to combine.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 165 kcal, 11 g fat (1.2 g saturated), 17 g carbohydrate, 4 g fibre, 2 g protein,  130 mg sodium

The Salad that Keeps on Giving

22 Oct

Salad has never tasted so good.  After being away at a conference for five days, my body craved fibre and a plethora of colourful veggies when I arrived back home.  Conference food can be notorious for large quantities of nutrient-devoid food.  A typical day was as such: wake, eat breakfast, sit, snack, sit, eat lunch, sit, snack, sit, go out for dinner, bed.  The positive of having so much food provided is the considerable cost savings. The con?  Most snacks are carb-heavy, full of sugar, and hard to resist.  Cake at 10am? Sure! Danish for breakfast? Why not.

And now my saviour: the ultimate salad to “cure” me of a week of poor nutrition.  I first spotted this Asian Kale and Tofu Salad on Pinterest over a year ago.  Why it took me so long to finally make it remains a mystery but I sure won’t wait another year before making it again.  There are a few things you should know about this salad…

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  1. It yields more than one can possibly eat in a week.  And I can eat a lot of salad.  Share it with someone or halve the recipe if you’re solo.
  2. Kale salad can be an acquired taste.  It holds its shape even when dressed, but the crunch can be too much for some.  If you’re weary, use half the recommended amount of the kale and substitute the other half with spinach (add shortly before serving to prevent it from getting soggy).
  3. The ratio of kale to other vegetables was too high for my liking.  Feel free to add more bell pepper, carrot, cucumber, or all of the above.

Below is the original recipe from Clean Eating magazine.  Keep in mind that the recipe serves FAR more than 4 (even 8 servings would be an underestimate!) despite what is written.

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Asian Kale & Tofu Salad
(from Clean Eating magazine)

“Can’t find pressed tofu? Press it yourself with our easy three-step method! Simply wrap firm tofu in a clean dish towel and transfer to a plate. Place another plate over tofu and top with one or two heavy cans. Let sit for 1 to 8 hours.”

Olive oil cooking spray
14 oz firm pressed tofu, sliced into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup 100% orange juice
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 tbsp raw honey
1 tbsp peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
12-1/2 cups chopped kale (about 16 oz)
2 small field-grown cucumbers, diced
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
2 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 cups shredded red cabbage
1/2 cup shelled edamame, cooked
4 tsp sesame seeds

  1. Preheat oven to 500ºF. Mist a ceramic 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Add tofu and set aside.
  2. In a blender, blend garlic, vinegar, orange juice, lime juice, soy sauce, honey, ginger and sesame oil until smooth, about 1 minute. Remove ¼ cup mixture and pour over top of tofu. Toss to combine and spread evenly in dish. Bake, turning 3 to 4 times, until golden and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, to remaining mixture in blender, add flaxseed and process until smooth, about 10 seconds.
  4. In a large bowl, add kale and pour vinegar-flaxseed mixture over top. With your hands, massage kale to coat thoroughly until wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Add cucumbers, carrots, scallions, bell pepper, cabbage and edamame and toss to combine. Add tofu and toss to combine. To serve, top with sesame seeds.

Serves “4” as per original recipe.  Per ENORMOUS serving: 341 calories, 10 g fat (1 g saturated), 46 g carbohydrate, 11 g fibre, 22 g protein, 374 mg sodium

The Perfect Potluck Salad

23 Jan

Thanks to the culinary talents of my friend Steph, I was recently introduced to the perfect party salad.  And I mean perfect.

I like bringing a salad to potlucks.  It guarantees that there will be something leafy, green, and healthy amidst a spread of rich and indulgent (but oh-so-tasty) bites.  Unfortunately, I run into the same issue every time.  Add-ins like fruit, spiced nuts, and cheese need to be present in order for the salad to get ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’.  These additions can be healthy but tend to leave little room for other vegetables.

Thanks to Steph, I now have the salad of my dreams in my arsenal, ready for my next potluck.  The base consisted of mixed greens along with radicchio for texture.  Added to the salad were multi-coloured bell peppers (red and orange), cucumber, crunchy celery, cherry tomatoes, and green onion for bite.  The dressing, an Asian-style sesame vinaigrette, provided just the right amount of sweetness.  Finally, a generous sprinkling of sunflower seeds transformed an otherwise ordinary green salad into a masterpiece.  Delicious and nutritious.

Other elements of the meal included panko-crusted stuffed chicken breast (with asparagus, roasted red pepper, and brie) and mashed potatoes with goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes—both courtesy of my Rose Reisman cookbook.  To top it off, we indulged in the ultimate dessert: homemade fresh strawberry ice cream and birthday cake.  If you need a reason to get yourself an ice cream maker, this is it.


Steph’s Asian Sesame Vinaigrette

This isn’t an exact recipe but rather rough estimates. Feel free to adjust the measurements to taste.

3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Combine all ingredients in a jar, shake, taste, and add more of whatever seems to be missing!

Makes ½ cup. Per 1 tbsp serving: 70 kcal, 6 g fat (1 g saturated), 2.5 g CHO, 40 mg sodium.

Colourful Moroccan Quinoa Salad

4 Mar

It’s official.  I’m the worst blogger ever.  Since January of this year I’ve been averaging one post per month.  Yikes!  Common excuses that keep me away from the computer include being too busy and the fact that I should use my time to do “real” work (or clean my apartment, or watch Top Chef).  In actuality, I’ve been in a bit of a rut for most of February.  It could be the weather, being in a rotation that I don’t love, or just the time of year.  Life is not overly busy and yet I don’t feel like doing ANYTHING.  Except for sitting on the couch after a day of work and watching TV.

Despite my lack of motivation, I’ve managed to do a fair bit of cooking and baking over the past couple of months.  I made this Moroccan-spiced quinoa salad a couple of weeks ago and it was an instant lift-me-up.  It’s colourful, bright in flavour, and full of wholesome ingredients.  A bowl of sunshine on an otherwise dreary day.

On a more positive note, it’s March and I already feel like my spirits are lifting.  Next weekend is one of my favourite times of the year.  Any guesses?  Drumroll please…

Next weekend we “spring forward” for Daylight Saving Time!  I may be the only person on the planet who gets excited about turning the clocks forward.  Yes, it’s a drag to lose an hour of sleep but I firmly believe that the joy of leaving work in daylight is worth a day or two of sleep deprivation.  Spring is just around the corner…

Moroccan Quinoa Salad

 

Moroccan and Rollin’ Quinoa Salad (from The Looneyspoons Collection)

1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
2 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup dried currants
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp salt (I omitted the salt)
1 cup canned no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I used an entire 19 oz can)
1/2 cup each finely chopped red bell pepper, grated carrot, and diced English cucumber
1/3 cup chopped green onions (I think I would use a little bit less next time)
2 tbsp olive oil (I used only 1 tbsp)
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp minced fresh mint leaves (I omitted the mint)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

  1. Combine quinoa, broth, currants, curry, cumin, coriander, honey, and salt (if using) in a medium pot.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until quinoa has absorbed all liquid.  Remove from heat.  Let stand covered for 10 minutes.  Fluff with a fork and leave uncovered to cool completely.
  2. Whisk together olive oil and lemon juice in a small bowl.  Set aside.
  3. When quinoa is cool, transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Stir in all remaining ingredients, including the olive oil and lemon juice mixture.  Mix well and refrigerate for at least an hour or two before serving.  Tastes even better the next day!

Makes 6 servings.  Per serving: 231 kcal, 7.4 g fat, 5.4 g fibre, 256 mg sodium