Tag: side dish

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts

Now, before you say that you don’t like Brussels sprouts, hear me out about these little beauties: they just might change your mind. If you are among the approximately 50% of people who are predisposed to like Brussels sprouts (yup, you read that right), you will definitely be into these tangy little morsels. Honestly, nothing could be simpler, and in a sea of mashed potatoes and turkey, you need a bright bite here and there to punctuate the richness of tradition (and gravy) at your Thanksgiving table. (more…)

Cabbage and Leeks in Grainy Mustard Sauce

As autumn turns into winter, I think our tastes change. Mine do, at least. Shorter, colder, wetter days mean heartier, more warming foods. The problem with so many of the wintry comfort foods is that they are not great for us – so often they are full of condensed soups, cream and inordinate amounts of cheese, so much so that they are best relegated to special occasions and holiday dinners. The rest of the time, we count on slow cooking, long roasting techniques to build flavour and round out dishes to turn them into mouth watering cold weather staples.

This particular dish feels rich and satisfying but is not the devil it appears to be. Yes, it has a cup of Parmesan in it, but the volume of vegetables is such that this casserole will feed 6-8 people, so your cheese consumption is well within reason. Nutritional pros and cons aside, it’s a nice change of pace from many of the usual fall and winter side dishes. The cabbage is not overwhelming, but it gives a nice sturdiness to the dish, while the leeks, with all their gentle onion-y aroma, become meltingly soft and will make you wonder why you don’t serve leeks more often. For me, the magic of this dish is in the mustard because it lends a great flavour, and I love the look of the little seeds, not to mention the texture that they contribute.

Unlike the heavier casseroles, this one could become a regular part of your fall and winter menu but despite it’s humble ingredients, it is elegant enough for holiday dinner parties, even for pride-of-place beside The Bird at Thanksgiving or Christmas. I’m glad to say that it will be on our table all winter long.

Cabbage and Leeks in Grainy Mustard Sauce

preheat the oven to 375°

3 large leeks, washed and sliced

1/2 medium green cabbage (about 3 lb total)

1 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp flour

1 C milk

1 Tbsp grainy Dijon mustard

1/2 cup light sour cream (you could use full fat, but you don’t need to)

1/4 tsp grated nutmeg

1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Trim leeks by removing the root end and cutting off any hard, or rough looking green parts. Slice the trimmed leeks in half lengthwise and then cut cross wise. Place cut leeks in 2.5 L casserole dish.

Halve a medium cabbage. Reserve 1/2 for another recipe. Remove the core and slice the cabbage half crosswise into thin shreds, as if you were making coleslaw.

Mix the leeks and cabbage together in the casserole. Set aside.

For the sauce:

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once it is melted, add the butter to make a roux. Stir constantly as the butter and flour mix. When the roux becomes a pale golden colour and smells nutty and toasted, add the milk, stirring to incorporate. Cook the sauce for about 3 minutes, until thickened. While still on the heat, stir in the nutmeg, sour cream and cheese. The sauce should be creamy and pourable but not too thick. Add a touch of milk if you feel it needs it.

Pour the sauce over the reserved cabbage and leeks. Cook in a preheated 375° oven for 45 minutes until the edges are golden and the sauce is bubbling. The cabbage and leeks will have reduced in volume by about 1/3. Garnish with extra grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

Quinoa Pilaf with Feta

I’ve been in a bit of a cooking rut. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I really notice it. Cooking is so much fun and is such a great creative outlet, that when I hit a dry spell, it’s rather uncomfortable. Luckily, it feels as though the fog is lifting, and I’m re-invigorating my creative juices and to the relief of those I feed, I’m busting out some new material.

But enough about that. We’ve touched on quinoa here a few times, so let’s talk pilaf. We’ve all been to a wedding or other catered buffet type event and come across a warming tray filled with savoury-looking rice with peas (and possibly tiny cubes of carrot or niblet corn) in it labelled “rice pilaf”. Most commonly made with rice, and most recognizably a Middle Eastern dish (and that label alone encompasses a huge variety of cuisines), pilafs, by many names and variations, are part of a great number of cultures’ menus. At the very simplest, pilaf, is a grain dish, cooked in a flavoured liquid like stock or broth, with added ingredients like nuts, fruit, meat, herbs or vegetables.

The beauty of dishes like this, is that the combinations are endless and the rules for what to use essentially don’t exist. Don’t have dried cherries, but you do have dried cranberries? Use them! Out of red onion, but your garden is over run with scallions? Go for it. No quinoa in the cupboard? Do it with rice instead. Mix and match, play around and devise your own combinations of flavours. Myself, I like to keep the fruit tart and not too sweet and I am a nut for fresh herbs, so I like a lot of basil and mint in this dish. But you may not like fresh mint, you might prefer parsley. And that’s okay. So much of the enjoyment of cooking, and one’s development as a home cook comes from experimentation. With a dish like rice or quinoa pilaf you honestly, can’t go wrong, I promise. Even your “worst” will still be edible. So get to chopping and tasting and stirring and play creatively with this dish. Let me know how it goes in the comment section, I’d love to hear what you come up with, or what you think you might try. Enjoy!

Quinoa Pilaf with Feta

serves 4 

1 C quinoa

1 1/2 C chicken or vegetable stock

1/2 C dry white wine*

8 stalks of asparagus, trimmed and julienned

1/2 a medium sized red onion, thinly sliced and rinced

1/2 C toasted pecans, chopped

1/2 C dried cherries, chopped

3/4 C feta cheese, crumbled

2 small cloves of garlic, minced or grated

grated zest of 1/2 a lemon

1/4 C  mixed basil and mint leaves, julienned

juice of a lemon

2 Tbsp olive oil

sea salt and pepper to taste

*if you don’t wish to use wine, by all means, substitute it with more stock or water.

Bring the stock and wine to a boil in a small saucepan. Once boiling, add the quinoa and stir. Reduce the heat to minimum and cook, undisturbed, for 15 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir and move the quinoa to a large bowl. Stir well to help cool the quinoa, then set aside.

Prepare other ingredients and add to the cooled quinoa. Stir well to incorporate everything together. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

Sautéed Asparagus with Tarragon

Oh asparagus: such a fleeting vision. Get it while you can, friends, it doesn’t last long. Whether you like it pencil thin and crisp, thumb-thick and buttery or shaved into ribbons and eaten raw, this is the time to have it. I’ll admit, usually I just steam it or toss inch long pieces into pasta. I like it with lemon, or just a bit of butter, but I don’t usually pair it with herbs, lest it’s delicate flavour be smothered. So imagine how chuffed I was with myself when I found myself standing in the market with a bunch of tarragon in one hand and a bundle of asparagus in the other?

A quick saute in some olive oil got this asparagus off the ground, but the chopped tarragon I threw in for the last 2 minutes of cooking really made it fly. A little sea salt and fresh pepper to finish, and ta-da, a springy, delicious and fast, fast, fast side dish for dinner, or a great addition to breakfast/brunch. (Try dunking the spears into a perfectly runny egg. Heaven.)

Sautéed Asparagus with Tarragon

Rinse and dry 1 bundle of asparagus., Trim the stem ends of any dry bits.

Chop and set aside, 1 tablespoon of tarragon.

Heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cut the asparagus spears into thirds. Toss in the asparagus pieces into the hot pan and toss quickly like a stir fry. Allow to cook, tossing frequently for about 4-5 minutes. If the pan is hot enough they will get a bit browned, which I liked because it amps up the natural nuttiness. If you’d like to keep them pure green, turn down the heat before any caramelization occurs. Add the tarragon for the last 2-3 minutes of cooking. The asparagus is cooked when it’s bright green and tender. Add a fine sprinkle of sea salt and pepper, et voila! Bon appetit!