Potato salad (without mayo!)

Most potato salad I’ve come across in my life are very different from what my mom used to make (which obviously is what I consider the standard to which all other potato salads need to measure up to) and if I never had my mom’s or my own inspired by her, I would have to say, I’m not a fan of potato salad. That’s because pretty much they main ingredient is mayonnaise and I can’t stand mayo – I don’t like the texture (slippery slimy like my other food foes butter, raw tomatoes and oysters), taste (all I taste is a fat film taking over my entire mouth) or the ingredient list (mostly a bunch of fats, sugar and calcuim disodium edta, a pollutant and chelating agent which sounds both natural and healthy). Yuk. However, it’s an illusion to think potato salad = a few chunks of potatoes floating in a sea of mayo.

This potato salad is, in my biased opinion, 100 times better and a 100 times healthier. The second being a fact – the only fat in this salad is heart healthy olive oil.

Ingredients:

  • about 10 small potatoes, cut into chunks and steamed until soft (do not overcook)
  • 1 large cucumber (field or English)
  • 4 pickled cucumbers, cut into small chunks
  • 2 green onions, sliced and/or a handful of chives
  • 2 table each spoons olive oil and vinegar for dressing
  • 1 table spoon of mustard (I prefer the grainy Dijon kind)
  • 1 cup of warm broth (I used vegetable broth)
  • salt and pepper to taste

imageMix olive oil, vinegar, and mustard, add broth and warm potatoes. Let this sit for about 1 hour, gently stirring to have ensure all the potatoes are soaking up some of the broth. Then, when it’s cooled off, add cucumbers, pickles and green onion and/or chives, season with salt and pepper. Great as a side to BBQ meats or vegetables and this can easily be prepared ahead of time.

The potatoes I used were young potatoes from our garden which by the way came out of a few large potatoes cut up into chunks, then buried into a trench in some soil where nothing else grows, then you need to do some uphilling while the plant grows but is otherwise a very easy garden plant.  You could also use other young potatoes or regular large once, but don’t use russet potatoes or other potatoes you’d use for mashed or baked potatoes, instead use the kind that stays relatively firm – what you would use if you fried them or made hash browns.

Pasta salad

Oh pasta salad, love I love thee. There are literally endless variations on this summer BBQ staple, so it’s a good “let’s see what’s in my fridge today” meal and it’s very easy to do a lot of if, if you’re entertaining or bringing it to a pot luck.

I always start with pasta, logically. I use whole wheat macaroni, penne, orzo, spirals or other small pasta (even tortellini work) and cook it accordingly to the box (actually, if it’s not an Italian brand, subtract 2 minutes, North America doesn’t seem to like their pasta al dente!), add it a bowl, then add other ingredients.

imageHere are some of my go-to combinations:

  • non vegetarian: cubs of cheddar and ham, edamame (shelled), finely diced peppers, carrots and chives
  • slightly exotic: peas, chunks of pineapple, and green onion – mix some curry powder into the dressing. A can of tuna is a good addition here.
  • Greek style: feta, diced black olives, diced tomatoes, diced peppers, diced red onion and chopped oregano
  • heart healthy: chickpeas, avocado, broccoli and sunflower seeds
  • Mexican style: corn, black beans, avocado, chopped cilantro
  • pesto chicken: pesto, Parmesan cheese, cherry tomatoes and diced cooked chicken
  • citrus: lemon zest (and juice in the dressing), cucumbers, feta  and fresh basil

Most of these are so flavorful, all I add is olive oil and some type of vinegar but check out some dressings to go with it here.

 

Caprese Ciabatta

You may be familiar with Caprese salad – a classic Italian salad of sliced tomatoes and mozzarella (I said this before – when I say mozzarella, I mean real fresh mozzarella, not the white piece of plastic you find next to the cheddar in the grocery store – it may be sold as boccocini or buffalo mozzarella in the deli aisle) with basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This is basically that salad, stuffed into a ciabatta. Enjoy!

photoNo, seriously, here’s the recipe, for 2 people:

  • 1 ciabatta bread – make deep cuts every 1/4 inch or so, but don’t cut all the way through
  • 1 ripe tomato, in slices
  • 1 ball (can’t think of a better word) of mozzarella, in slices
  • fresh basil
  • 2 table spoons balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Add either a slices of tomato or a slice of mozzarella with a leaf of basil into each of the cuts of the bread. Drip balsamic over top, wrap in tin foil and grill for 10 minutes or until mozzarella is melted.

This could be served as an appetizer or a side – it was a late dinner for us after lots of snacking all day (did I mention hanging out at pools and on boats?), so this was a full meal for us. Enjoy!

 

Cold Aubergine Soup with Pizza Bread

It’s been incredibly nice here and we’ve been enjoying all that summer has to offer (it’s great to have friends with boats and family members with pools!). The last thing I want to do when it is hot outside is turn on the stove or worse, the oven, and heat up the inside of the house even more. That’s why I love to BBQ on our patio but I find most BBQ recipes revolve around meat which I only eat a few times a week and we’ve been firing up our BBQ every.single.day for the past two weeks. Luckily, my mother knew the conundrum I’m in every summer and gave me a vegetarian BBQ book for my birthday last year. It’s brilliant and I’ve pretty much made every recipe in it. Of course I knew you can grill vegetables, zucchini and such, but I had no idea you can make bread, even pizza, on the grill. I’ll be posting some of my favourites in the coming days, of course all come with a personal twist.

First up, pizza bread with cold aubergine soup: (I know it’s called eggplant, but who can get excited about that!)

The soup has to cool off for about an hour while the bread has to rise for the same amount of time so this takes a bit of planning ahead. I actually made the soup and the dough the day before while preparing another meal and dinner was ready in 15 minutes the day off.

The soup is actually a recipe from my mother and it’s one of my all time fav foods – and I don’t even like eggplant! It’s easy, so delicious and perfect for a hot day.

Ingredients for two people:

  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 large eggplant, peeled and diced
  • oil for frying onion
  • enough broth to cover eggplant in pot (about 4 cups)
  • 1 container of plain Greek yogurt
  • salt and pepper to taste

My BBQ has a side burner which makes for great outdoor cooking. Directions:

Heat up a bit of oil in a pot, add onion and fry for a few minutes. Add diced eggplant, fry for another few minutes. Add broth – there should be enough liquid to cover the vegetables but not much more – that’s the thickness you want. This is a general tip for any kind of vegetable soup, by the way. Cover and let simmer until the eggplant is soft (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat and remove lid, let cool off for a few minutes to room temperature, then put it into the fridge for about 1h. Before you serve it, add yogurt and blend with a whisk. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Now, the pizza bread. I was a bit skeptical about making bread on the BBQ but I was amazed by how easy it was and fast it was done – surely this would have taken more time in the oven?

Ingredients for about 4 pieces:

  • 2 tea spoons yeast
  • 1 table spoon liquid honey
  • 400 grams flour (3 1/4 cup)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 table spoon pizza herbs (I used fresh oregano and basil from my garden, dried would work too)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Mix yeast and honey with about 1/2 cup of warm water, until yeast is dissolved. Add flour and knead until smooth. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen cloth and let it rise for 1h or until it’s about twice the size. Then, add chopped garlic and herbs, season with salt and pepper and work it into the dough. Divide the dough into 4 roughly equal pieces, form into little balls and flatten them by hand. Let them rest while you heat up the BBQ, then bake directly on the grill for about 8 minutes on each side on low heat. I had some mozzarella laying around so I added that to the last couple of minutes on the second side.

Dip bread into soup and enjoy!

PS: In case you wondered why you should let the soup cool off before you put it in the fridge: it’s an easy way to save energy – adding hot foods to the fridge means more energy needs to be used to cool it down while cooling it down outside of the fridge takes a few minutes longer but requires zero energy. As simple as that.

Image courtesy of James Barker / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of James Barker / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Healthy Pizza

Yes, you read that right – pizza from scratch is both easy and healthy if done right (read: whole wheat flour dough loaded with vegetables and real mozzarella). A note on mozzarella: what I call mozzarella is called boccocini or buffalo mozzarella here in Canada and is tasty and relatively low in calories and fat for cheese. What they call mozzarella here, we call plastic in Europe. Why would you eat that?
Now, I’m kinda lucky because I LOVE the taste if whole wheat dough – it’s sweet and chewy and so much more flavourful than its white counterpart. I say I’m lucky because life’s a lot easier if you naturally like what’s good for you and naturally dislike what’s bad for you. Now back to the pizza.
Making dough from scratch is much easier than most people think and if you don’t take the time it needs to rest and rise into consideration, it takes less time than waiting for your oven to heat up.
Dinner for 4:
For the dough:
Ingredients:
– 3.5 cups (500g) whole wheat flour (substitute for rice flour if you’re celiac, look up ratio for water – flour)
– 2.5 tsp salt
– 3 tsp (20g) yeast
– 2 1/4 (3 dl) water
– 2 tbsp olive oil
Direction:
In a bowl, mix flour and salt. Create a hole in the middle of the flour mix. Dissolve yeast in water, pour water/yeast mix and oil into the ditch. Mix and knead until smooth. It’s so therapeutic! Cover with cloth and let it sit for about an hour.
For the toppings:
The other great thing (other than being easy and healthy) about this recipe is that the variations are endless: vary your toppings and you’ll never get tired of it. Believe me, I tried! For this one, I used:photo(3)
– 1/2 zucchini, washed and sliced very thin
– a handful of mushrooms, washed and sliced very thin
– one pepper, washed and sliced very thin
– 12 cherry tomatoes, washed and cut in half
– 1 buffalo mozzarella
After dough has risen, pre-heat oven to 395 °F (200 °C). Roll out the dough on area with flour until about 1/4 inch thick (5mm). Put on parchment paper, then onto a baking sheet. Distribute vegetables and cheese, season with herbs if you like, and sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Vary vegetables, add tomato sauce, meats (ham, ground turkey) or tuna (sustainable dolphin
friendly, of course)  if you like and create your own favourite!

Carrot Ginger Muffins

It feels a lot like spring here which makes me hopefully that we have gotten over this year’s cold-and-flu season. While I don’t get sick very often, it was a bad year for me, starting with picking up the Swine Flu while traveling (apparently it’s not a thing of the past everywhere in the world…), then catching the nasty flu everyone here seemed to have and finishing it off with a surprisingly resilient cold that actually tied me to the bed for a few days. I think all in all I was sick for a good 2 months since last fall but I’m not going to use this blog to complain about that (any longer). Instead, just to be on the safe side, I made some immune system boosting, vitamin and minerals loaded, infection fighting muffins. Yes, that’s a thing!

Ingredients:

mufifins

  • 1/2 cup (~65 g) bran (I used up some ground oats and chia seeds this time)
  • 1 1/4 cup (~160g) whole-wheat flower
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp freshly ground ginger
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup (~250g ) plain yoghurt
  • 1/2 shredded carrots
  • 4 tbsp agave syrup
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup raisins

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C). Whisk together bran, four, baking soda and powder, and cinnamon. In another bowl, beat egg and add ginger, yoghurt, carrots and syrup. Combine the two, add seeds and raisins. Spoon into greased muffin tin and bake for 18 minutes or until the top springs back when you touch it.

Easter Cake

I have never seen Easter cakes being sold in bakeries in Canada. Then again, I haven’t really seen too many bakeries in general. Back in my home country Switzerland, Easter cakes are hugely popular and even our regular grocery store chain sells them. They are so incredibly tasty that it was something I was looking forward to every year, knowing that a few weeks before Easter, they’d pop up everywhere again. While I love eating them, I am not a huge fan of making them because it’s quite time and labour intensive. I realize I just made this sound so attractive. But don’t stop reading! The fact that I am willing to go through the trouble of making it should give you a good idea of how tasty it is. Promised.

photo(2)For the cake mix:

Ingredients:

4dl (1 ½ cups) milk

1 pinch (prise) salt

4 tbsp rice (short grain,)

½ lemon

50g (¼ cup) butter

3 tbsp sugar or agave syrup

3 tbsp raisins

3 tbsp ground almonds

3 eggs

Directions:

Heat milk, add salt and rice. Cook on low heat for about 45 minutes or until rice is done. Don’t walk to far away – milk can be temperamental and the result is messy. I may or may not speak from experience. You can start the dough though (see below). Then add lemon zest and juice. Add butter, sweetener, raisins and ground almonds and mix well. Let cool off.

Separate eggs. Add egg yolks (Eigelb) to the mix. Beat egg whites and add carefully. Do this shortly before you put it in the oven so have the dough ready.

For the dough:

Ingredients:

200g (a good 1.5 cups) flour

½ tsp. salt

100g (½ cup) cold butter

3 tbsp sugar or agave syrup

½ lemon, zest

1 egg

Directions:

Mix flour and salt. Add butter in small pieces. Rub between your hands until your dough looks a bit like grated parmesan. If you’ve never made this kind of dough before, you might think “what on earth is she talking about” but trust me – you’ll see! Add sweetener and lemon zest. Beat egg with a fork and mix the entire dough quickly. Cover with a cloth and let it sit for 30 min in the cold. After 30 min, put dough into a round form and squish it with your knuckles until it is more or less evenly about 3 mm thick. I am not joking – the texture of the dough doesn’t allow for any other method.

Preheat oven. Pour cake mix over the dough and bake for 30-35.  Let cool before you eat it. Decorate if you like or feel the need to impress someone (not the worst reason to bake). All I did was cut a bunny shape out of some paper and sieved icing sugar over it. And yes, recycle or reuse the bunny shape!

Enjoy!