Category Archives: Salads

Tapas Weekend, with Farmer’s Market Salad and Hazelnut Shortbread with Chocolate


Tapas. My new favourite style of dinner. Simple to prepare, lots of variety, and a great way to try a little bit of everything ūüôā
A preferred way to have meals in Spain, as well as some parts of the US and the UK, tapas (from Spanish word tapar meaning ‘to cover’) are meant to encourage socializing and conversation, with no pressure to finish a big meal.

It all started on Friday when our little group got together for dinner and somewhere along the way it was decided that it would be tapas style: different cheeses, spreads, fresh bread, olives, and best of all, Stan’s famous mussles in cream sauce, Christina’s garlic shrimp, DVG’s crostini with goat cheese, prosciutto and cranberry sauce and my crostini with cheddar, pear¬†and walnuts.

I would say one of the most important parts of having good tapas is fresh bread. For Friday, we visited the new German Bakery in Uptown РGerman Baked Specialities, and got some fresh baguette for the crostinis and rye with corn flour crust for dipping.  Another important ingredient for tapas is good olive oil. Sometimes, all one needs is good quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping with fresh bread!

There is something magical about old friends coming together after not seeing each other for a while, and picking up right where they left off. Conversation is flowing, the food is dissapearing and the wine bottles are getting empty.  Before you know it, you have been chatting and eating for hours! Is there anything better in the world than great friends, great food and great wine?

Aged and young gouda, double creme brie, aged cheddar, chevre, olives, pears, sausages, smoked trout…

Inspired by the success of Friday night tapa’s dinner, DVG and I decided to have a repeat of it on Sunday evening. Again, we went all out, put the whole spread on my new serving board from Argentina (horse shoes for handles?! So cool!), made different versions of crostinis and at 22h, dinner began!

We discovered we had some aged white cheddar in the fridge, and had initially intended to melt it with pear, but after tasting it, we realized it was too delicate and delicious to melt, so instead we cut up the remaining pear and had it fresh with the aged cheddar.  Such a great combination!

All that cheese and bread, we had to had some greens to balance out the ‘food equation’ ūüôā¬† I found that the quickest way to make a delicious dressing is to mix olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard and salt and pepper in a mason jar and cover some baby spinach or arugula¬†with it.¬† The roasted red peppers add a splash of colour and a different texture to the salad.

DVG proved to be a great model for my photo whims, even having enough patience for my meticulous framing, and that’s saying a lot especially because we were both famished and tired from climbing!

The rest of Sunday afternoon was spent preparing a salad and cookies for a dinner party hosted by my mom.¬† My mom is an excellent cook – she whips up meals in what seems like seconds, and they are always delicious.¬† I consider her culinary skills far superior to my own.¬† And yet, sometimes when she is hosting dinner parties she asks me to prepare something ‘delicious’ and ‘decorative’, to impress her guests.¬† Even though, whatever she prepares is sure to be¬†yummier :).¬† But, I take this as a compliment, and oblige whenever she makes such requests.

A few weeks ago, while searching for a different recipe, I came upon this one for Farmer’s Market Salad, and judging by the ingredients, it seemed like a very interesting combination of flavours.¬† There is roasted squash, walnuts and arugula, the most interesting was pomogranate seeds, and pomogranate molasses.¬† Tanginess of the pomogranate seeds was a great compliment to the caramelized squash, crunchiness of walnuts and lightness of the arugula.

Even though recipe didn’t call for this, I broiled the squash a bit after roasting it to get the charred tops, and also added fresh rosemary to the squash before roasting for extra flavour.¬†

The dressing for this salad is super simple – orange juice, lemon juice and walnut oil (or any other type of nut oil), seasoned with salt and pepper.¬† I liked the acidity of the juices combined with the smooth taste of the oil, it gave the salad a fresh and light taste.¬† The recipe also calls for the salad to be topped off by pomogranate molasses.¬† Apparently, this can be found in some supermarkets, but I failed to find it, so instead I improvised.¬† Half the pomogranate was seeded for the salad and half was seeded to make a sauce (a makeshift molasses if you will).¬† I really didn’t quite know what I was doing here, but I tried to reduce the juice from the seeds to a sauce and added some regular molases and butter.¬† The sauce turned out ok, but I don’t know how it compares to the real thing.

For dessert, I decided to make these simple hazelnut shorbreads that are especially decorative because they’re half dipped in chocolate.¬† I find them to be super easy to make, and always a hit.¬† They are soft and crumbly and the creamy chocolate taste is a nice contrast to the dryness of shortbread.

I would recommend shaping these on the smaller side before you bake them (about the size of half of your finger), because they grow, and they are much more decorative if they are smaller.

Another tip, which may seem obvious, but it wasn’t to me when I first made these, is to transfer the melted chocolate into a deep container with a bigger opening ( a mug would work) as this makes it easier to dip the shortbread at the right angle.

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Click on each photo to view the high resolution images.

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RECIPES

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Farmer’s Market Salad

Ingredients:
  • 4 1/2 to 5 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled seeded butternut squash (from about one 2-pound squash)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of dried crushed red pepper
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons walnut oil or other nut oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 ounces arugula (about 8 cups lightly packed)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts,toasted, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses*
Preheat oven to 450¬įF. Toss squash, olive oil, and crushed red pepper on large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Roast 15 minutes. Using spatula, turn squash over. Roast until edges are browned and squash is tender, about 15 minutes longer. Sprinkle with coarse salt. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
 
Whisk orange juice, walnut oil, and lemon juice in large shallow bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add arugula, walnuts, and pomegranate seeds; toss to coat. Season to taste with coarse salt and pepper. Spoon warm or roomtemperature squash over salad. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses and serve.
 
* A thick pomegranate syrup; available at some supermarkets and at Middle Eastern markets
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Chocolate Dipped Hazelnut Shortbread

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup husked hazelnuts
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
 
Place hazelnuts on baking sheet. Bake until they’re a shade darker and fragrant, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
 
Lower oven to 325 degrees F.
 
Place hazelnuts in blender or food processor and pulse to coarse bits; set aside. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt to blend; set aside.
 
Beat butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon until smooth. Beat in egg. Gradually beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Add the chopped hazelnuts and mix until distributed evenly throughout.
 
 Form into finger sized logs, about 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons dough each, and place on greased cookie sheets. Bake until firm, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on racks.
 
In a saucepan over lowest heat or in a double broiler, melt chocolate. Dip 1 end of cooled cookies into melted chocolate. Place back on cookie sheet to harden.
 

Roasted Red Pepper and Boccaccini Pasta Salad


This pasta salad is my own creation and is one of my favourite things to make, because it’s yummy, easy to make and very colourful all at the same time!
This is usually something I make if I’m invited to a pot luck, or as a quick side dish if I’m having a dinner party. Once I brought this to a work related event and one of my co-workers just went crazy for it, and demands that I make it every time we have a work related pot luck or event ūüôā She is vegetarian so this dish is perfect for that, and as far as I can tell, her family really enjoys it too. Yay!
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This was one of my favourite dishes to photograph also, as it lends itself so easily to the camera – the colours are so vibrant and the different textures give the plate so much depth. I love the way the fussili curves and creates shadows on itself and how its light colours are contrasted against the bright red of sundried tomatoes and black of the olives. Since this salad was something I put together in my head, the measurements are not exact and you can vary the ingredients as you like.

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You can click on each photo to view the high resolution images.

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RECIPE

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Roasted Red Pepper and Boccaccini Pasta Salad

Ingredients:
  • 1. 450 g fusilli pasta (multi-coloured if you can find it)
  • 2. 3/4 cup sundried tomatoes
  • 3. 3/4 cup roasted red peppers
  • 4. 1 can of already chopped black olives
  • 5. 4 or 5 regular size boccaccinni (not cherry size – although, you can use these two, just get more of them)
  • 6. Club House Pasta Salad Mix (for this you’ll need oil and vinegar)
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Boil the pasta until it’s al dente. Cool the pasta to avoid the boccaccinni getting melted before mixing all the ingredients together. Chop sundried tomatoes, boccaccini, roasted red peppers and olives (if not already chopped). Mix all ingredients. In separate bowl prepare the salad spice mix. Pour over the pasta and toss. Makes enough for 6-8 people.

Brown Tomatoes and Boccaccini Salad with Herbes de Provence


On my first visit to Italy, I was very lucky to stay with my friend Elena’s family. Elena’s mom is an incredible hostess and cook – she made some of the most delicious Italian dishes I’ve ever tasted. I felt priviledged to have been able to taste authentic Italian food – the way it’s supposed to taste. I remember that one of the most common salads we had at home and in restaurants was simple tomato-boccaccini layers drizzeled with olive oil. This is still one of my favourite salads to make and eat because of its simplicity and freshness – not to mention how pretty it looks on a plate ūüôā

Yesterday, while I was at the grocery store, I noticed these brown/olive green tomatoes, and I was automatically intrigued. I have never seen brown tomatoes before, and the small picture on the package of a layered tomato-boccaccini salad gave me an idea for this post. Why not spice up the classic recipe with this interesting new variation? So, I did ūüôā I drizzeled the little towers with some olive oil and herbes de Provence.

I did some research afterward just to get some more ideas for the future, and found out that these brown tomateos are actually called kumatos or tomatoes with a tan :). These were locally grown, which was a nice added bonus. They were a bit meatier and had more flavour than a regular tomato, which I liked. They also had a thicker skin so it made them easier to cut and stack. Kumatos have been popular in Western Europe for years and have entered the North American market only early in 2009 – and already the demand is surpasing the supply. Apparently they also have more vitamin A and fibre than a regular tomato. Yay!

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For high resolution images, please click on each photo

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RECIPE

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Brown Tomato (Kumato) Boccaccini Salad with Herbes de Provence

Ingredients
  • 2-3 Brown tomatoes (or regular red if you can’t find brown)
  • 2-3 boccaccini balls
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper
Using a serated knife cut tomatoes and boccaccini balls into half inch (equal) slices. Stack, alternating tomato and boccaccini. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle salt and papper and Herbes de Provence. Enjoy!