Oven Baked Veggie Fries

Veggie Fries  1

Who doesn’t love fries? They’re salty, deep-fried, crunchy and satisfy savoury cravings for comfort food. There is nothing quite like a generous serving of piping hot fries from your favourite spot. Fries baked in the over just aren’t the same, they don’t make the cut. [Have you tried those baked potato chips? Awful, right? I rather just go for the real thing when cravings hit.]

Or, perhaps you have a deep fryer at home and can indulge any time you want. My kitchen is small, though even if I did have a larger kitchen I still wouldn’t want a deep fryer in my house. It screams danger. Not for the fire hazard but rather for my waistline and my arteries. Having such easy access to fried food cannot be good for you.

The cold winter is officially upon us and so is our increased need for warm roasted dishes. I love roasting my vegetable. I find it brings out their natural flavour and caramelizes nicely, usually leaving them whole or in big chunks. This time I thought I’d try something different. I wanted fries to accompany my main (hello, steak-frites!) but didn’t want the pre-made frozen kind, which tend to be not so great. So why not replace the potato starch by some tastier (healthier?) alternatives: in come carrots and parsnip!

I pretty much eyeball the entire recipe, but it is fool-proof so I don’t feel exact quantities are necessary. However, should you find you need extra assistance, don’t be afraid to ask and leave a comment here!

Carrot and Parsnip Fries

Veggie Fries 2

  • Several carrots
  • Several parsnips
  • Olive oil, enough to coat
  • Breadcrumbs, enough to lightly coat
  • Herbes de provence, a generous pinch (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 400 F.

Peel the desired quantity of carrots and parsnip and cut off the ends. Slice them lengthwise to cut them into the shape of thin fries.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (I do this to facilitate clean-up). Evenly spread the carrots and parsnip, season with herbes de provence, salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil and use your hands to combine and coat evenly. Ensure that the vegetables are spread in a single layer on the baking.

Cook in the oven for about 30 minutes, tossing once or twice. The vegetable should be cooked and starting to crisp on the ends. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs to ever-so-lightly coat the carrots and parsnip. Return to oven and cook for another 10-15 minutes to crisp-up the fries.

Remove from oven, dish-up and serve quickly! You don’t want to let them get soggy… nobody likes soggy fries.

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Fifty Shades of Pomegranate

I was surfing the interwebs looking for some inspiration of what to do with pomegranates I had sitting in my fridge and came across a video on how to remove the seeds from a pomegranate. Usually I would go about breaking the pomegranate into smaller pieces and removing the seeds bit by bit. The process was long but I wouldn’t mind it that much. I found the process to be therapeutic of sorts. After de-seeding one half of the pomegranate, I would have had about enough of therapy and would leave the other half for later.

The technique in this video not only freed up some time spent in the kitchen but demonstrates an even better form of therapy!

The introduction to this video is irritatingly long, so skip to the 1:26 minute mark and begin your viewing from there. I was skeptical that this would actually work, but it does remove the pomegranate seeds amazingly well. If you do watch the video from the beginning, then this technique will also help relieve some frustration. Grab a pomegranate, your wood spoon and get smacking!

I do have to credit my friend Robin who came up with the Fifty Shades of Pomegranate idea. I thought it was perfectly brilliant  and I had to share!

Pomegranate Salsa and Seared Salmon

This recipe serves two:

  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds, using spanking technique shown above
  • 1 small red onion finely diced, about 3 tbsp
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Small bunch cilantro, about 1/4 cup loosely packed, then chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp fish sauce, easily found in the Asian food section of grocery stores
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • Pepper to taste

Pom salsa

In a bowl, combine the pomegranate seeds, onion, lemon juice, cilantro, fish sauce, olive oil. Season with fresh ground pepper to taste. Set the mixture aside. You can make this salsa ahead of time and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

Pom and salmon

Pat dry the salmon fillets and season with cumin and pepper. Drizzle a pan with olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. When pan is hot, place the salmon fillets spice-side down and cook until you get a nice sear, about 3 minutes. Flip over the fillets and cook the other side until the salmon is just opaque, about another 3 minutes.

Remove from the pan and plate the salmon with a side of vegetables, topping with a generous serving of the pomegranate salsa.

The next morning…

Pom and Yogurt

Here is a great breakfast idea if you happen to have some pomegranate seeds left over: spoon some Greek yogurt into a bowl, drizzle with honey and top with pomegranate. Voilà!

Tomato Soup to Comfort the Soul

Wow, has it really been 12 months since my last post?! It always amazes me how much time flies. I have no excuses to make, nor do I feel like I need to justify anything. The past year has taken me through a full spectrum of emotions and experiences, none of which I would change. In spite of everything that has happened, I been battling creative block.

But, here I am today, facing the same screen and blinking cursor which has been haunting me for months.

It’s February and we’re in the middle of winter. Snow storms and below freezing temperatures drag us towards heartwarming meals and into cozy blankets, in search of comfort to console our lack of sunshine. To heal my soul from the harshness of winter and my emotional-creative-rollercoaster, I was craving a wholesome tomato soup.

Completely ignoring the fact it is not tomato season, making a soup with these pasty winter tomatoes we get here in Quebec is probably the best way to have them, second only to oven-roasted. This recipe is my own and I hope it brings you warmth as much as it did for me.

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Winter’s Tomato Soup

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 4 cups Italian tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes
  • fresh sprigs of thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot on medium-high heat, add the olive oil, onions, pepper and thyme. Cook stirring occasionally until the onions and peppers are soft. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, turn the heat down to medium, cover and allow them to cook down for a few minutes.

Once the tomatoes begin to soften, add the balsamic vinegar and stir. Add the sundried tomatoes and water. Once the water reaches a soft boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to cook for about 15 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Once the tomato soup is cooked, remove from heat and let it cool a bit before puréeing it in a blender.

To serve, simply reheat the tomato soup and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, butter or cream, with grilled bread, a spoonful of plain yogurt or sour cream, or even topped with some cheese. Whatever it is you’re craving, go for it!

Quisotto Primavera

After all the food, get-togethers, parties, and too much indulging overall during the holiday season, it is not surprising that come January, the biggest trend for New Years’ Resolutions has to do with realigning our lifestyle habits such as eating and exercising.  In this part of the world, January is also synonymous with snow and below freezing temperatures, which makes it difficult to stick to those salad regimes we fantasize settling into with little effort. It is easy to succumb to some of our favorite comfort foods that may not be kind to our bodies or our resolutions. Cravings for hot stews, roasts, braised meats, butter, breads, pasta and all those hearty dishes are inevitable. Just because you want to eat better and feel better to start off the New Year, it doesn’t mean you have to ignore your cravings. It’s all about finding the right balance between satisfying your need for comfort in these cold months and choosing the right foods to make you feel better.

This recipe is inspired by this risotto recipe that appeared in Bon Appétit. I have since made my own version over and over again, and even turned it into a quisotto (quinoa, cooked risotto style).The quinoa provides more nutrition than the white starchy Arborio rice, the egg is the touch of comfort and vegetables are simply good for you. Try using different vegetables, keeping in mind that depending on cook time you may need to stagger adding your various veggies. For an even lighter version, poach the egg or skip it altogether and top the quisotto with roasted tomato slices. Ingredients make two hearty portions (or two smaller ones, with some leftovers for lunch).

Quisotto Primavera

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 mushrooms, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 zucchini, diced (about ½ cup)
  • ½ bell pepper, diced (about ½ cup)
  • 2 celery stalks, diced (about ½ cup)
  • 2 carrots, diced (about ½ cup)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried herbs (I like using the Provence blend)
  • ½ cup quinoa
  • ½ cup white wine (optional, replace white wine with broth)
  • 1 ½ cup broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs

In a small pot, heat up the broth and keep warm while cooking the quisotto. The reason you want to keep the broth warm is because you want to avoid slowing down the cooking process when adding ladles of cold or room temperature broth to the quinoa/vegetable mixture. This applies to any risotto as well.

In a pot on medium-high, heat the olive oil, add the herbs and sauté the garlic, onion, celery and bell pepper until soft but not browned. Add the carrots, mushrooms and quinoa, stir for about a minute to coat well and toast the grains. Add the white wine, stir the mixture while simmering until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Turn down the heat to medium or medium-low and add a ladle of broth. Add the zucchini and stir until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Repeat until the quinoa is cooked through and has absorbed all the broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you find you do not have enough broth, you can easily add a touch of water at a time until everything is cooked through. The consistent stirring adds “creaminess” but unlike Arborio rice, it is not fussy and does not risk becoming sticky.

In a pan, fry the eggs as desired and serve atop of the quisotto dish.

For those of you detoxing or doing a cleanse, why not try making a raw version of this quisotto with some sprouted quinoa, combining it with the raw diced vegetables and just barely covering with warm miso broth. Of course, skip the wine and the egg.  😉

For information on sprouting quinoa, click here.

And last but not least, a very happy belated New Years to everyone, thanks for reading and I wish you all health and happiness for 2012!

A warm kicked’up drink good for the soul (and a cold!)

Well it is that time of year again… I think I see a trend forming. Somehow come November this regular blogging thing goes on hiatus. In between closing the year-end with the 9-5, attending some fabulous events like the launch of the Mixeur Montreal Guides and the Alsace au menu dinner at Le hangar, planning Dishcrawl events, shopping, holiday parties,  endless eating, some drinking…let’s face it and we all know this – it’s a busy time of year!

Amidst the rush, daylight savings time and the erratic weather, the common cold is just around the corner. If it is not a cold then I find myself wanting to curl up with some classic comforts that make me feel cosy inside even when it is crummy outside (snow anytime please, I’d like to ski over the holidays!), with some thick wool socks and warm drinks.

When I was little, my mom would make a grog for me when I had a cold and a sore throat. Her version of the drink was made with hot water with lemon and honey, the right ingredients to make me feel better (very PG). Since those days, I have moved out, taken on adult responsibilities and this drink has become all grown-up – but I still turn to this basic combination of ingredients when I need to curl up with something hot and comforting.

So here is my kicked’up version of a grog. Makes a great warm cocktail for the holidays, a snowy day or après-ski – and still comforts you when you have the sniffles!

Kicked’up Grog

  • 1 oz whisky or rhum
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tbso fresh grated ginger
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 tbsp honey, or to taste
  • Pinch of your choice of spices such as nutmeg, clove, anis, cardamom…

Combine all ingredients in a mug, stir and enjoy! Makes one drink.

Solo Brunch at Home, Oeuf en Cassolette

With the days getting colder and colder, it makes it that much more difficult to pull yourself out from the warmth of your comforter. As you stumble your way to the kitchen to turn on the kettle for some hot tea or coffee, the last thing you want to do is have to put on a coat and head out to the store to pick-up that one item you are missing for your weekend brunch.

There is something completely induldgent about staying in on a cold weekend morning, curling up with a hot cup of tea or coffee and spending a little quality time with yourself. In my case this usually involves flipping through a recipe book, a food magazine, jotting down some creative ideas… and yes, sometimes watching a movie first thing in the morning.

So instead of venturing out into the cold brisk air, I chose to work with what I had in my fridge. Stuck with an array of vegetables and some eggs, who says that brunch needs to be boring. Cassolettes (or any ovenproof individual dish) are an easy way to make the simple ingredients look like a treat, and when you’re having brunch solo at home – even more reason to make it special!

Oeuf en Cassolette

  • 1/2 small onion, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup zucchini, diced
  • 1/3 cup sweet potato, diced (or regular potato)
  • 1/4 cup carrots, sliced
  • 3 mushrooms, cut in quarters
  • 1 tsp fresh herbs of your choice (use dried herbs if you do not have fresh ones on hand)
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400F. Bring a pan to medium-high heat, sauté the onions, garlic, zucchini, sweet potato, carrots and mushrooms in olive oil. Season with herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 5-10 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Add the diced tomato and heat through.

At this point you have a couple options (share your ideas in the comments below):

Option 1 – make one big plate all to yourself: pour the entire filling into an oven-proof dish, crack two eggs on top and bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the eggs are set to desired doneness.

Option 2 – attempt to be reasonable and make one smaller plate for yourself: pour half the filling in an oven-proof dish, crack one egg on top and bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the eggs are set to desired doneness. Use the other half of the filling to make a second egg cassolette, or turn into a different dish all together.

I made this egg dish a little luxurious by topping it with a square of porcini composed butter that I had on hand. But be creative… top with sour cream, cheese, avocado… anything.

Any leftover filling can be saved for another meal to serve as a gratin in a cassolette (top with cheese or your choice and broil), use as a hearty topping for a salad, or spread in a tortilla and make a quesadilla.

Hot’n’Cold Roasted Red Pepper Soup

I am not sure what the weather is like where you live, but here it seems that it has a multiple personality disorder. Just as I had started taking out cozy wool sweaters, leggings and boots, here I am sitting in shorts and at-shirt. I am not complaining – personnaly I love this change in weather. Just when I thought I was going to completely flip my wardrobe from Spring/Summer to Fall/Winter, I am giddy at the thought of wearing my favourite sundress one last time.

This soup recipe is the best for this kind schizophrenic climate: a roasted red pepper soup, that is just as good hot on a cold day or even cold for when the mercury rises one last time.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

  • 3 peppers
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 garlic head
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 tbsp miso shiro
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • pinch chili flakes

Begin by roasting peppers. I am not going to describe the roasting, resting and peeling process because I have already written it out for you here.

Slice off the top of the garlic head, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap in foil and roast on the BBQ or in the oven for about 30 minutes at 400°F. What you are looking for is some caramelization happeningto the garlic cloves. Open up the aluminum foil to check to see if the garlic is tender and golden brown under the paper wrapping each clove. There are two ways of proceeding with removing roasted garlic from its paper wrapping. You can eithersqueeze out all the flesh into a bowl, but I find this way you get a lot of waste and mess. A bit more time consuming but works really well, is to take a pairing knife and remove each clove from it’s paper casing. I know it sounds tedious, but I swear it is better for extracting the roasted caramelized cloves.

The rest is beyond easy. For this soup recipe I recommend using about 3 cloves of roasted garlic (or 1 tbsp paste depending which method you chose above). Extra cloves can be pureed into a paste with olive oil or butter and used as a spread or to add to sauces. Keeps for a week in the fridge.

Combine the garlic, roasted red pepper, whole fresh tomato, miso shiro,water and chili flakes in a blender. Process until smooth.

Garnish with plain yogurt, croutons, olive oil, nuts or seeds, and depending on what Mother Nature has to offer that day serve cold or hot. Makes two servings.