Quinoa Tabbouleh with Oregano and Strawberries

t3Tabbouleh. Don’t you just love that word? Such a great name for a beautiful, summery and fresh bowl of deliciousness. It’s the type of dish where you feel healthier with each bite. 

This middle eastern classic is originally made with bulgur, however, I have to admit I prefer it made with quinoa, which is also fairly common. I find it is lighter and fluffier. But two each their own. 

The other morning I was enjoying a coffee on the back stairs and was admiring the huge patch of wild oregano growing in the middle of the lawn. Surprised it had survived the lawnmower, I wondered where it came from and how I could use as much of it as possible.

To this end, a simple bbq was planned for lunch. Tabbouleh would be the perfect side dish and I thought, why not throw in some freshly picked oregano? A bowl of recently picked strawberries joined the salad bowl as well. How much summer is that?

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1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

1 1/2 cup chopped parsley

4-6 green onions

1/2 cup chopped mint

1/2 cup chopped oregano

2 cups cherry tomatoes

1/2 cucumber

1 garlic clove

zest from 1 lemon

1 tbspwhite wine vinegar

2 tbsp olive oil

3-4 tbsp lemon juice

1 cup lima beans, cooked and cooled

1 cup sliced strawberries

boston lettuce leaves

 

Thoroughly rinse the quinoa under cold water than add to a medium sauce pot along with the water. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low until water is absorbed, about 20 min. 

In the meantime, finely chop the parsley, green onions, mint and oregano. Thinly slice the tomatoes and finely dice the cucumber. 

Press the garlic clove and zest the lemon.

Once the quinoa is cooked, remove from the heat, then gently fluff it with a fork. Let cool for 5 min, then add the mint, garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice. Stir well.

Once cool, add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Cover and let sit in the fridge for an hour before serving

Serve on a boston lettuce leaf.t2t4t5

Carrot and Last Minute Pear Soup

cp4I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Soups are great. They are easy to make and a good food option for all seasons. Warmer weather calls for cooler versions. When winter sets in, you want to nestle up with in a blanket and a steaming bowl of your favourite soup. Such a marvellous way to warm up. 

Recently I needed a reason to use up a big chunk of the carrots in our garden. Soup came to mind. Who wouldn’t love a bright orange soup made from freshly picked carrots? 

Whilst pureeing the soup, a bowl of pears on the counter caught my eye. Hmmm. Well why not? I  grabbed a few and quickly peeled and cored them berfore tossing them into the blender as well. Delicious. The vibrant colour and subtle taste of carrots went seamlessly with the fresh hint of pear. 

I do love when I hear a symphony of “mmmm’s” around the dining room table. It is one of those simple pleasures in life I never tire of. This time around it was with each spoonful. 

This recipe is a keeper. Equally as good warm as chilled.

Jens

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6 large carrots

1 large onion

3 cloves garlic

6 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup pear eau de vie

1 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar

salt

pepper

4 pears

dollop of crème fraîche

chives

 

Peel the carrots and onion and cut into 1” pieces. Peel and lightly crush the garlic cloves.         

In a large pot, over medium high heat, heat up butter and olive oil then sauté the vegetables for 3-4 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and add the eau de vie. Let cook for a minute, stirring the bottom of the pot. Add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then let simmer until carrots are soft, about 20 min. Take off heat and let cool slightly.

In the mean time, peel and core the pears. Cut into 1” pieces. Add to a blender.

Transfer the soup to the blender as well and pure until smooth. Garnish with a dollop of crème fraîche, some finely diced chives and a sprinkle of sea salt.cp2

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Olive Tapenade Twists

t5Love them or hate them. Opinions regarding olives seem to be quite strong. It’s not often I meet someone who is neutral. Olives do have a very distinct smell and flavour and I have to admit I haven’t always been a big fan. I used to belong to the category that managed to find and remove any hint of olive on both pizzas or in salads or whatever other dish being consumed. Left on the plate at the end of the meal was a sad pile of rejects. Not quite sure when my palate changed, but it did at some point. I’m happy about that today. 

For those of you who love the above mentioned salty mediterranean fruits, these twists might be right up your alley. This olive tapenade can be used on its own as well. Just serve it with a pile of your favourite crackers. The twists are a little bit more work, but in return, olive lover’s eyes will twinkle a little bit brighter.

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Tapanade:

1 1/2 cup mixed, pitted olives

1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped

2 tbsp capers

1/2 cup parsley, roughly chopped

1 tbsp lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

3 garlic cloves

4 green onions, roughly chopped

1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes

In a food processor, add all the ingredients for the tapenade and pulse until preferred consistency. I like some texture but it’s up to you how smooth you want it.

Tapenade Twists:

1 package puff pastry dough, thawed

1 egg

Preheat oven to 425F. Dust your counter with flour, and roll out the puff pastry dough until about 1/8 thick. With a spatula, spread a thin layer of the tapenade on top of the dough, making sure you cover it all the way to the edge. With a pizza cutter or knife, cut strips about 1” wide. Starting from the middle of the strip, twist in opposite directions until fully twisted, and then transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Beat the egg in a glass and lightly brush the twists before putting them in the oven. Bake until golden brown and puffy, about 20-25 minutes. Let cool.

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Vegetarian Lasagna

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bestvegetarianlasagna3A few nights ago we had some friends over for dinner. One of the guests was a vegetarian and the other ones loves meat.  It was a pretty cold and chilly night, so I thought lasagna would be lovely. To please everyone around the table I decided to split things up. Instead of your traditional meat lasagna, I made this vegetarian version filled with mushrooms, spinach, ginger and nutmeg. For the meat lovers I slow cooked a beautiful prime rib in red wine, beef stock, a couple of chopped onions and carrots along with a few bay leaves. The lasagna itself however, is filling enough and is perfect as a meal on its own.

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Filling:

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp truffle oil

One medium size fennel

Fresh ginger, about a 2″ piece

4 cloves of garlic

15 sage leaves

200g shiitake mushrooms 

200g crimini mushrooms

4 baby bok choy

350g fresh spinach

1/2 cup vegetable broth

1-2 tsp sambal oelek (hot chili paste)

pinch of tarragon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

Salt & Pepper

Béchamel Sauce:

3 tbsp butter

3 tbsp flour

3 cups milk

White pepper

Salt

3 tomatoes, thinly sliced

1 1/2 cups grated gruyère cheese

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Thinly slice the fennel and finely chop the ginger, garlic, sage leaves and mushrooms. Roughly chop the book choy. In a large cast iron pot, heat up the truffle oil until hot but not burning. Turn the heat down slightly and add the fennel and ginger. Sauté for a couple of minutes before adding the garlic sage and mushrooms. Sauté for another couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. Add bok choy to the pot along with the spinach and the rest of the ingredients. Make sure everything is well combined, and let it simmer until the liquid is almost gone. Turn the heat off and let cool.

Béchamel:

Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium sized sauce pan. When melted, lower the temperature and start adding the flour. Whisk constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Cook the butter/flour for a couple of minutes, whisking non stop. Add the milk, a little bit at a time. Keep stirring! Raise the temperature back to medium. As the sauce thickens add more milk. The sauce is ready when coating the back of a spoon. Season with salt & pepper.

In a large oven proof dish, start putting the lasagna together. Coat the bottom of the dish with the béchamel, cover with sheets of pasta and sprinkle some of the vegetable filling on top. Drizzle béchamel over filling. Repeat layers twice. Place the sliced tomatoes on top of the third vegetable layer before putting down one last layer of pasta. Sprinkle the cheese. Cover with the rest of the béchamel sauce. 

Bake in the middle of the oven for 45-60 min, or until golden brown and pasta is soft.

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