Guest Post: Mediterranean Summer Salad With Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I love purchasing fresh local produce this time of year. Sometimes, the produce doesn’t even make it to the dinner table because I’ve eaten all of it as a snack! This happens every time I buy peas in the pod. I eat them all. Usually by myself. The cat will beg for them — my cat is strange, she loves to eat fresh green vegetables — and I’ll do my best to ignore her. Bryan usually comes home only to find a pile of empty shells… I tend to forget to save some for him as well.

I was quite excited, then, when Randi proposed the guest post I’m sharing with you today. Why? Because I love a delicious fresh salad and this one looks hearty enough to be a meal itself! And because tomorrow is Farmer’s Market day and I’m going to pick up some fresh produce to make this salad for lunch. Take it away Randi!


Author Bio: This is a guest post by Randi Leeds on behalf of Flavor Your Life. To get ideas on how to use olive oil please visit www.flavor-your-life.com.

A vibrant new campaign in support of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, “Flavor Your Life,” has launched in North America. It is jointly funded by the European Union, the Italian Department of Agriculture and Unaprol; the largest consortium of Olive growers in Italy. The goal of the campaign is to educate North American consumers and retailers on the importance of product origin and the quality level of the oil they use daily.

With all the recent controversy over the question “What IS EVOO,” this campaign aims to educate the North American consumer on the proper way to choose an extraordinary and tasty EVOO – from traceability to the origin of the product your purchasing.

There’s no better way to start summer off than with this tasty Mediterranean Salad, brought to you by the dynamic new campaign for Extra Virgin Olive Oil, “Flavor Your Life”.

Mediterranean Summer Salad With Extra Virgin Olive Oil

EVOO Mediterranean Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 pieces of Buffalo Mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 4 large tomatoes sliced
  • 3 English cucumbers sliced
  • 1 tsp. capers
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • Dash of salt & pepper
  • Fresh basil leaves for garnish
  • 4 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preparation

  1. Wash and cut all the vegetables.
  2. Place the green vegetables on a chilled plate.
  3. Add the mozzarella and cover with the sliced tomatoes.
  4. Sprinkle with capers and basil.
  5. Season with lemon juice, salt, and a pinch of pepper.
  6. Spoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil over dish.

To get ideas on how to use olive oil please visit www.flavor-your-life.com and follow us on Twitter and Facebook too.

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Garden Update

Happy 4th of July to all my American family, friends and readers!

Thank you everyone for your suggestions on making sure my garden is successful this year! Look at how well the plants are growing this year!

The herbs look healthier and are much bigger!

The tomato plants are taller and starting to sprout buds!

Look at my garden grow!

This year I’m not starting a garden. It’s too much work weeding and preparing to plant. It’s a lot to maintain it. Last year’s garden didn’t grow so well (neither did the neighbour’s), all of the herbs died within the first month and I only got two tomatoes from four tomato plants. Or at least, that’s what I kept telling myself.

But, when my Aunt was in town the other week, she brought tomato plants with her. I couldn’t say no.

This year, I’m taking a different approach to gardening. I bought planters and fresh soil, then placed them in the garden. Each tomato plant (Yellow Cherry and Moonglow) and the basil have their own planter. The other herbs (rosemary, mint, cilantro, and chives) are two in each planter. The plants look healthier than last year already.

My brother is growing a Pink Ponderosa tomato plant. This is one of the ones that didn’t work out for me last year.

My herbs are still growing. The tomatoes haven’t blossomed yet. They’ll grow… I hope.

Any tips for a successful garden?

Pad Thai from Relish Cooking Studio

When you think of Thai food, Pad Thai is probably the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, when I mentioned that I had attended a Thai cooking class many of the responses were “Did you learn how to make Pad Thai?!” Yes, I did learn.

Will I be making it at home? I’m not sure. Maybe if I have a Thai-themed dinner at some point I will attempt this at home. I’m not very good at stir-frying in large quantities, so maybe I’ll make half the recipe the first time I try to make it myself.

A few things I took away from the course are that Thai food doesn’t take a long time to cook, but takes a very long time to prep. And the noodles can be a bit finicky (the water needs to be boiled first, tap water isn’t hot enough for soaking the noodles).

If you’re adventuresome enough to make Pad Thai at home, this recipe was delicious!

Pad Thai

Recipe by Akeela Rabley from Relish Cooking Studio

Ingredients

  • 1/2 package of Thai rice stick noodles – approximate cost $0.75
  • 1/3 cup boneless, skinless chicken pieces (or super firm tofu if you’d like to make this dish vegetarian-friendly), cut into strips – approximate cost $3.00
  • 1 1/2 cups Chinese chives, chopped into 1 inch pieces (optional) – approximate cost $1.50
  • 1 1/3 cups bean sprouts, rinsed well (optional) – approximate cost $1.50
  • 1 egg – approximate cost $0.25
  • 1/2 pound shrimp (optional) – approximate cost $5.00
  • 1 shallot, minced – approximate cost $0.50
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced – approximate cost $0.30
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil – approximate cost $0.05
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons tamarind paste – approximate cost $0.75
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (or palm sugar) – approximate cost $0.10
  • 4 teaspoons fish sauce – approximate cost $0.25
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili pepper, dried and ground – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1/2 lime, cut into wedges – approximate cost $0.25
  • 2 tablespoons roasted, unsalted peanut pieces (optional) – approximate cost $0.25
  • 1 bunch of Thai basil – approximate cost $2.00

Method

  1. Boil water in a large pot.
  2. Remove from heat and add dried noodles to the water (noodles should be flexible and still fairly solid after soaking, if the noodles are over soaked, they will become soft and mushy).
  3. In a wok (or large pot), heat the vegetable oil on high heat.
  4. Add the shallot, garlic, and chicken (or tofu) and cook until the chicken is browned and cooked through.
  5. Drain the noodles and add to the wok (stirring frequently so nothing sticks).
  6. Add the tamarind paste, sugar, fish sauce, and chili pepper and continue stirring. (Note: If there is a lot of liquid in the bottom of the wok, it’s not hot enough and turn the heat up!)
  7. In a separate frying pan, scramble the egg and remove from heat.
  8. Fold the scrambled egg into the noodles.
  9. Test the noodles (if the noodles are chewy, they’re done! If the noodles are crunchy, add a bit of water to cook them).
  10. Add the shrimp and stir.
  11. Add white pepper, bean sprouts, and chives and continue stirring for anther another minute or so (the noodles should be soft, dry, and very tangled).
  12. Pour generous amounts onto serving plates and garnish with peanuts and black pepper.
  13. Serve hot with a lime wedge and Thai basil on the side (Optional: have additional raw bean sprouts and Chinese chives available as garnish).

Makes about 4 servings  (approximate cost: $4.15 per serving).

Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad with Peanuts and Chlies) from Relish Cooking Studio

After a short break last week, I’m back to talking about the Thai food class at Relish Cooking Studio!

I think this salad was among my favourite dishes that we enjoyed at the class. It was fresh, crisp, and very different from the typical salad. First, I hadn’t realized there was more than one variety of papaya. I expected the salad to be sweet and spicy. It was definitely not sweet. Actually, I didn’t find it overly spicy either. I really like the lime-based salad dressing. It would probably taste very good on a spinach salad!

When learning how to make this salad, we had a brief lesson on Thai chilies. I learned a lot.

First, we learned how to choose our chilies according to our desired spiciness. The long Thai chilies are mild, while the smaller chilies are spicier. The richness of the colour doesn’t relate to the spiciness. (Who knew?) I used to buy the smaller chilies so I wouldn’t have as many chili pieces in the dish. Turns out I was actually using the spicier chilies!

Second, we learned some safety tricks when chopping peppers. Akeela suggested wearing gloves to avoid any contact with the pepper. After an unfortunate encounter with a jalapeño pepper, I highly support this idea! While it may seem a bit over the top, you will understand if you’ve ever accidentally touched your eyes after handling a hot pepper. You may recall, I posted about ways to relieve burning caused by contact with hot peppers a few months back when I was just starting this blog.

Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad with Peanuts and Chilies)

Recipe by Akeela Rabley from Relish Cooking Studio

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled – approximate cost $0.15
  • 1 long red Thai chili pepper, seeded and chopped finely – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 ounce of unsalted roasted peanuts (whole or pieces, your choice) – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried shrimp (optional) – approximate cost $0.50
  • 2 tablespoons of palm sugar (or brown sugar) – approximate cost $0.25
  • 1/4 cup lime juice – approximate cost $0.50
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce – approximate cost $0.20
  • 3 1/2 ounces cherry (or grape) tomatoes, halved – approximate cost $2.00
  • 4 cups of green papaya, peeled and grated – approximate cost $2.00
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1/2 cup fresh Thai basil leaves – approximate cost $1.00
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves – approximate cost $1.00

Method

  1. Combine the garlic and chilies in a food processor, and mix until they form a paste.
  2. Add the peanuts and mix until roughly chopped.
  3. Add the shrimp, sugar, lime, and fish sauce to the paste and mix well.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl.
  5. Add the tomato pieces and lightly squish.
  6. Add the papaya, shallots, basil, and cilantro to the mixing bowl, and toss well to coat the ingredients with the sauce.

Makes about 4 servings  (approximate cost: $2.18 per serving).

Uncooked tomato sauce served with raw zucchini or spaghetti noodles

This tomato sauce is among my favourite dishes. It’s easy to make, healthy, tasty, and versatile. There’s so many ways to present it and it can be enjoyed for either lunch or dinner.Since finding the recipe on TheKitchn last summer, I’ve prepared the sauce a number of times with slight variations each time to suit whomever is enjoying the dish.

Here are a few variations you can try:

  • Make it a raw meal by making zucchini “noodles” with a spiral turner
  • Serve with cold or hot spaghetti noodles
  • Make it vegetarian by excluding the meat
  • Include a salty, cured meat such as prosciutto, sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • Use a blender to puree the ingredients into a sauce-like consistency (do this after marinating the mixture)

This sauce is fantastic because you can make a large portion, set some aside in a dish and pack it for lunch. By lunch time, it’s marinated enough to enjoy! You can also let it marinate all day and simply prepare your choice of pasta when you arrive home and dinner is ready in 15 minutes!

Try not to put the tomatoes in the fridge at any point. I find that chilling them takes away from the flavour of the finished meal. However, I do always store the leftovers in the fridge and let it warm to room temperature before enjoying.

Uncooked tomato sauce

Adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients

  • 1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes – approximate cost $2.00
  • 1 pint of mixed tomatoes (any combination of yellow, orange, pink, green, etc.) – approximate cost $2.00
  • 3 medium-sized Roma tomatoes – approximate cost $2.00
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely minced – approximate cost $0.50
  • 10 leaves of basil, cut into fine strips – approximate cost $0.75
  • 1/2 cup olive oil – approximate cost $1.50
  • Salt to taste – approximate cost $0.05
  • 200 grams of meat, such as prosciutto or bacon (Optional) – approximate cost $3.50
  • Parmesan cheese (optional) – approximate cost $0.50

Method

  1. Slice all of the various tomatoes into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Place garlic, basil, and olive oil in a large serving bowl. Stir mixture well. Cover with plastic wrap and allow mixture to sit on the counter for 3-4 hours.
  3. Place tomatoes in olive oil mixture. Stir mixture until all tomatoes are coated with oil and garlic is evenly distributed throughout the sauce.
  4. Recover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the mixture marinate for 2-4 hours (leave on the counter).
    1. Note: If you don’t have time to marinate the basil in the oil before adding it to the tomatoes to marinate, you can skip this step and mix it with the tomatoes immediately. But there’s more flavour if you can include the step.
  5. Add salt to taste.
  6. Serve over cooked spaghetti noodles or spiralled zucchini “noodles” (for a raw dish) and, if desired, top with more fresh basil leaves, meat of your choice, and Parmesan cheese.

Makes about 6 servings (approximate cost: $1.55 per serving of sauce without meat, or $2.13 per serving of sauce with meat).

You can use almost any tomatoes you have on hand, but having a small variety of tomatoes tends to give the dish more flavour. If you’re not using smaller tomatoes, use 6-7 medium-large sized tomatoes.

Raw Seaweed Wraps with Vegetables and Herbs

As it turns out, B doesn’t seem to be very fond of the raw foods I’ve been preparing. I, on the other hand, have found it challenging and fun (and of course yummy). I enjoy raw fruits and vegetables. I eat them on their own without preparing them often. For me, raw cooking is a new-to-me way to prepare the foods I already enjoy.

I’m not giving up! But I’ve decided that, at least for now, I will challenge myself to prepare raw foods for lunch when possible and stick to more conventional dishes at dinner time. When thinking back on the Raw Food Workshop, I tried to remember all of the things Renee had mentioned we could make for a quick lunch. I was determined not to follow a specific recipe, to just think of ingredients that would go well in a wrap and assemble it. I hope this method of preparing raw food will help me to think of raw cooking as a daily way of preparing foods instead of an occasional, time intensive option.

raw wraps

I made two wraps with the same filling, but different herbs to mix up the flavour. While I enjoyed both wraps (personally, I liked the one with cilantro best), two wraps was not enough! I had packed the two wraps and a few snacks for my lunch and ended up making a quick trip to the grocery store to make it until dinner time. Pack at least four wraps as a lunch.

Raw Seaweed Wraps with Vegetables and Herbs

Ingredients

  • 2 sheets of dried seaweed – approximate cost $0.50
  • 6 cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced length-wise and then into 4 pieces (total of 8 pieces) – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1 package of sprouts – approximate cost $1.00
  • A few fresh herbs (I used cilantro for one wrap and oregano for the other) – approximate cost $0.50

raw wrap

Method

  1. Lay wrap on a flat surface and sprinkle with a few drops of cold water.
  2. Stack half of the filling horizontally (approximately a 1-2 inch line) across each wrap.
  3. Roll the seaweed wrap horizontally, trying to keep the filling inside the wrap.
  4. Dab a few drops of cold water along the outside edge of the seaweed wrap to help create a seal.
  5. Enjoy immediately or package and enjoy later as a healthy meal.

Makes 2 wraps (approximate cost: $1.50 per wrap).

Eggplant stuffed with tomatoes

A few weeks ago I wrote about the purchasing eggplant at the market. Don’t worry, I didn’t leave it in my fridge for a few weeks. I cooked it that week, but forgot, until now, to share the experience. This is probably because I didn’t get to eat the eggplant when it first came out of the oven, but enjoyed it as leftovers the next day. (I also forgot to take a photo.)

This dish is tasty right out of the oven or an lunch the next day.

Eggplant stuffed with tomatoes

Adapted from Braised Eggplant and Tomatoes found at TheKitchn

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant, halved lengthwise and cut into thirds – approximate cost $2.00
  • 1 teaspoon salt– approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 small Vidalia onion, chopped – approximate cost $0.75
  • 1/8 cup olive oil– approximate cost $0.40
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, chopped – approximate cost $1.50
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley– approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil– approximate cost $0.10

Method

  1. Place eggplant pieces in a baking pan, cut sides up. Sprinkle each pieces with salt.
  2. Allow the eggplant to sweat out the bitter juices (which the salt draws out) for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Rinse the salt off of the surface of the eggplant.
  4. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Sautee onions in a small amount of olive oil until translucent (about 5 minutes).
  6. Mix onions, tomato, basil, and parsley in a bowl.
  7. Scoop the tomato mixture on top of the eggplant.
  8. Drizzle with remaining olive oil, allowing some to overflow into the bottom of the pan
  9. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the eggplant is soft.

Makes 4 servings (approximate cost: $1.24 per serving)

Happy Thanksgiving! Rosemary Roasted Turkey, Candied Sweet Potatoes, Garlic Peas, and Spinach Salad with Dried Cranberries, Almonds, and Raspberry Vinaigrette

Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is that wonderful time of year when I get to visit with my extended family and enjoy their wonderful cooking. And this year is no exception. Because I don’t cook any of the meals for this occasion, I’m sharing the Thanksgiving meal that I prepared for the American Thanksgiving celebration last year.

I prepared my very first Thanksgiving meal last November. The dinner turned out pretty well, actually! Sorry, no horror stories of a burnt turkey here. I was worried about the amount of work and timing, but everything seemed to fall together nicely. All of the recipes are from one of my favourite recipe websites, allrecipes.com (Except for the salad, which is my former roommate’s recipe). Our menu consisted of: Candied Sweet Potatoes,  Garlic Peas, Spinach salad with dried cranberries, almonds, and raspberry vinaigrette, and Rosemary Roasted Turkey.

Candied Sweet Potatoes

These candied sweet potatoes were another wonderful dish, though not very healthy. The sweetness was a nice offset to the savory turkey. This dish was received so well that I decided to make a second serving the next day so we could enjoy it with our leftover turkey.

Candied Sweet Potatoes

Candied Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 6 sweet potatoes  – approximate cost $3.00
  • 1/2 cup butter  – approximate cost $2.50
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1 teaspoon salt  – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1/2 cup water

Makes 6 servings – approximate cost $1.00 per serving (See allrecipes.com for the complete recipe).

Garlic Peas

Mmmmmmm garlicky. Our guests are not fond of onions so I omitted them from the recipe. The peas were delicious without; though I’m sure adding onions would also be tasty. This dish had a very strong garlic flavour, which we all loved. If you like garlic, but want a milder version I’d suggest starting with one clove and adding more as needed.

Green peas

Green peas

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil  – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 onion, chopped  – approximate cost $0.75
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced  – approximate cost $0.40
  • 16 ounces frozen green peas  – approximate cost $3.00
  • 1 tablespoon condensed chicken stock  – approximate cost $0.20
  • salt and pepper to taste  – approximate cost $0.10

Makes 6 servings – approximate cost $0.76 per serving (See allrecipes.com for the complete recipe).

Spinach salad with dried cranberries, almonds, and raspberry vinaigrette

This salad is something I learned to make from a former roommate. I realized the day after that I forgot one ingredient, goat’s cheese. However, even without the cheese the salad was tasty. I’m not sure where the recipe came from, but it is delicious! This is a wonderful salad for those who “don’t like vegetables.”

Spinach salad

Spinach salad

Ingredients

  • 4 large handfuls of baby spinach  – approximate cost $2.00
  • 4 scoops of dried cranberries  – approximate cost $1.00
  • 4 scoops of sliced almonds (unsalted)  – approximate cost $1.00
  • 1 teaspoon of crumbled goat cheese  – approximate cost $2.00
  • 4 teaspoons of raspberry vinagrette  – approximate cost $0.25

Method

  1. Divide all ingredients (evenly) between four salad bowls.
  2. Toss to coat ingredients with dressing.

Makes 4 servings – approximate cost $1.56 per serving.

Rosemary Roasted Turkey

A few years ago, I had tried to make this same recipe. My first attempt was a disaster! I didn’t know to cover the turkey while it baked and it was quite crispy and dry when it came out of the over. Despite my failed first attempt, I remembered that what was salvaged from the meal was tasty, so I decided to try it again (I even splurged for fresh herbs). This recipe was quite a bit of work, but turned out fantastic! I will definitely be using this recipe again.

Fresh Rosemary and basil

Fresh Rosemary and basil

Rosemary Roasted Turkey

Rosemary Roasted Turkey

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup olive oil – approximate cost $2.00
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic – approximate cost $0.75
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary – approximate cost $1.50
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil – approximate cost $1.00
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning – approximate cost $0.25
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper – approximate cost $0.05
  • salt to taste – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1 (12 pound) whole turkey – approximate cost $12.00

Makes 10 servings – approximate cost $1.76 per serving (See allrecipes.com for the complete recipe).

Raw Zucchini Pasta

This was my favourite of the two dishes we prepared at the workshop. The zucchini was a tasty and healthy alternative to pasta for this entree. I’ll probably make this frequently during the summer. For now, I still prefer hot pasta when the weather is cool.

The recipes do not specify quantities, so I made this again at home and made my best guess at replicating the dish. I love it! Nana loves it! Bryan would rather have traditional pasta noodles and thinks the sauce is alright, but would prefer it warm, which is actually pretty easy to accommodate without a lot of extra work.

Raw Zucchini Pasta

Recipe by RAW food chef Renee Shaidle

Raw zucchini pasta

Ingredients

  • 1 medium sized zucchini
  • 2-3 medium sized tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 5-6 basil leaves
  • 3-4 oregano leaves
  • Sea salt (to taste)

Method

Pasta

  1. Shred 1 medium zucchini using a spiral spinner (such as this vegetable twister) to make a spaghetti-noodle-like shape.

Sauce

  1. Combine tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, basil, oregano, and a ½ tsp of salt in a blender.
  2. Blend for a few seconds so the sauce is still chunky.
  3. Taste the sauce to determine if more salt is necessary. If so, add a small amount and blend again.

“Cheese”

  1. Grind white sesame seeds in a coffee grinder until it takes on the texture of parmesan cheese.

Sprouts

  1. Buy a mixture of arugula, radish, and mixed greens.

Putting it all together

  1. Assemble like any other pasta: zucchini pasta topped with sauce, cheese, and sprouts.

If you’re interested in Renee’s raw food cooking class, see her website: http://beliveonline.com/events/ or, if you want raw cooking without the work, check out Marbles restaurant in Uptown Waterloo.

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