Tag Archives: dates

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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Heart Healthy Apple Muffins with Oat Bran and Dates

4 Nov

As many of you know, apples are one of my favourite foods.  Crunchy, sweet-yet-tart, and very satisfying.  I won’t ramble on about the health benefits, but you know what they say: an apple a day…

When my friend Steph asked if I wanted to go apple picking with her earlier this fall, I enthusiastically gave her a big YES!!!! I’d never been apple picking before but it has been on my autumn “to-do” list for several years now.  So, a couple of weekends ago we braved the GTA traffic and drove up to an orchard in Brampton to spend the afternoon picking (and eating) apples with our other friend Steph and my sister J.

Random lady who wanted her photo taken + the girls with Mutsu apples

I was surprised by the size of the trees– I fully expected that ladders would be involved!  Instead, the trees were relatively short and most of the apples were within reach.  First we picked some large, crisp, sweet Mutsu apples that were practically the size of our heads.  Then we moved on to the Ida Red trees, which yield a tart apple that is great for baking.  Although I wasn’t planning on doing a ton of baking in the near future, these apples keep for 6 months in the fridge so I picked quite a few.  Finally, we moved onto one of my favourite eating apples: the Empire.  They taste just like a nice crispy version of the MacIntosh apple… none of that mealy nonsense that you sometimes get with Macs!  For useful info on various apples and their uses, click here.

Mutsu trees

Ida Red apples

I now have 2+ drawers full of apples in my fridge.  Maybe I was a little overzealous with my picking, but at least this means I won’t have to lug home apples from the grocery store for another month or two.

Recently, a recipe for reeeeeeally healthy-looking muffins caught my eye and tonight I was eager to give them a try.  I must admit, the recipe looked almost TOO wholesome to be true.  No oil, lots of oat bran, and no brown or granulated sugar.  I was also a bit skeptical as the batter came together– it did not look like anything I’d ever seen before!  It was loose rather than cohesive… but I packed the “batter” into the muffin tins and popped them into the oven, hoping for the best.  In the end, everything seemed to meld together in the oven and the muffins turned out wonderfully.  There was just the perfect amount of sweetness from the molasses, dates, and apples, and lots of that hearty whole-grain texture from the oats and oat bran.  Something tells me these muffins won’t last long… I’ve already eaten 3 tonight!

Apple Muffins with Oat Bran and Dates

 

Apple Muffins with Oat Bran and Dates  (from Moosewood Restaurant: Cooking for Health)

1/2 cup plain non-fat yogurt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp molasses
3/4 cup finely chopped dates  (or chopped raisins/dried cranberries)
1 cup oat bran
2 cups finely chopped apples
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt   (I would reduce this to 1/4 tsp next time…)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup rolled oats
2 tbsp ground flaxseed

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together yogurt, eggs, vanilla, and molasses.  Stir in the dates, oat bran, and apples.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, rolled oats, and ground flaxseed.  Fold the dry mixture into the wet mixture until just combined.
  4. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean.  Cool in tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove muffins from tin and allow to cool fully on rack.  Muffins will keep in an airtight container for several days.

Makes 12 muffins.  Per muffin: 110 kcal, 3 g fibre, 2 g fat, 276 mg sodium