Category: savory

Roasting Season (Roasted Pear, Spiced Pecan & Blue Cheese Salad)

The autumn leaves, vibrant and warm not long ago, seem to be turning dull and brown faster than the temperatures are dropping. There is a place, however, that is brighter than ever at this time of year. Adorned with rich autumnal hues, brimming with the season’s best squash, tubers and root vegetables, you can count on your local farmer’s market stands to bring some vibrancy back into your day. Behind the stands, stacks of mason jars line the walls, adjacent to pies overflowing with seasonal fruits. An intoxicating smell of mulling spice is in the air… Suddenly, when you’re here, the word autumn becomes synonymous with comfort. 

Trading flowy dresses for chunky cable knits, replacing bonfires with fireplaces, comfort is the word of the season – especially when it comes to our meals.
Is it possible for a salad to be a comfort food?
Don’t dismiss the idea just yet. Enter caramelized pears, spiced pecans, and blue cheese. Cheese is always comforting. (Unless you’re vegan. Horrah for Daiya shreds!) 
Toss these three things with a head of lettuce and voila! Autumn gourmet – comfort salad. 
So sit back, pull up your legwarmers, and breathe in that oddly comforting, subtle smell of burning insects of seasons’ past as you turn on your electric heater for the first time. And then, enjoy this salad. Let it warm your body and your soul. 
Or at least just your body. 
Or, eat it cold if you prefer.
You know, you should just eat this no matter what. 
Like now. 
Trust me.
Caramelized Pear, Spiced Pecan and Blue Cheese Salad 
an original recipe by allison sklar 
what you’ll need
1 head boston lettuce, chopped
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 medium sized just-ripe pears (fruit should be firm)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp brown sugar 
Pinch sea salt
1 cup pecan halves
1 egg white
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp paprika 
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves (optional)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp mayo or vegan mayo
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp honey or agave nectar 
how to do it

Roast your pecans
Preheat oven to 300F. Toss pecans with beaten eggwhite in a medium bowl. In seperate bowl, mix all of the spices together. Toss coated pecans with spice mixture. Spread evenly on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 23 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. While pecans are roasting, prepare your pears.

Beware: your house is going to smell amazing.

PrePEAR (oh come on, you laughed.)
Slice pears into about 6 sections each. Remove seeds and stem. In a microwave safe bowl (or on the stovetop) melt butter and brown sugar together. Whisk in salt. Toss pears with butter/sugar mixture.
Lay evenly on parchment lined sheet. Once pecans are done, turn oven up to 325F. Roast pears for 15 to 18 minutes, or until they begin to soften and brown.

While pears are roasting, prepare dressing by combining all ingredients and whisking until smooth. Toss finished pears with chopped lettuce and pecans. Top with cheese and drizzle with dressing.

Enjoy!

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Summer Slaw (Creamy Sesame Coleslaw)

Any time that I feel as if I’ve overeaten, or when I’ve drank too much, I find myself attempting to compensate the following day by consuming ridiculous amounts of vegetables, taking multivitamins, and drinking green smoothies.

Today has been one of those days.
The only problem? I was super hungry, and craving something creamy.
My fridge brimming with a medley of fresh fruits and veggies, I concluded that a salad with a creamy dressing would perfectly satisfy this craving all while ensuring that my veggie intake for the day remained at an all-time high.

Inspired by a bagged Asian-style salad that I tried out recently, I decided to make a creamy asian coleslaw – and to take it up a notch, I made it vegan! Now, I know what you non-vegans are thinking. How can you make something creamy without actual cream? The answer to this perplexing question- Vegenaise and tahini – a match made in vegan heaven!

Creamy (Vegan!) Sesame Coleslaw
an original recipe by allison sklar

what you’ll need 

for the salad
2 cups chopped mixed cabbage greens
1/2 cup asian-style fried noodles (such as these: La Choy Chow Noodles)
4 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
4 tbsp slivered roasted almonds

for the dressing
4 tbsp Vegenaise
2 tsp tahini
2 tsp sesame oil
3 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp agave nectar
salt & pepper to taste

how to do it
Combine cabbage, noodles, cilantro and almonds. Whisk dressing ingredients together until creamy. Pour over cabbage mixture and toss to coat.

Note: if preparing ahead of time, only add noodles in just before serving, otherwise they will be soggy. Nobody likes a soggy noodle.

Big Sweet Easy (Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Sumac)


what you’ll need
1 large sweet potato, about 1.5 cups, cubed
1 tsp coarse ground sea salt
1 tsp coarse ground peppercorns
1 tbsp ground sumac
1 tbsp grapeseed or light olive oil

how to do it
Preheat oven to 400F. Toss sweet potato cubes with oil and spices. Wrap in parchment paper (papillote/envelope style) and place in baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes.  Remove from oven, let cool about 15 minutes before serving. 

A Summer Toast (Tomato Basil Canapes)

Hats off (or, if you’re fair skinned like me, hats on) to my very favorite friend, Summertime. This summer, I’ve got my health in mind more than ever. So far, I’ve begun the season on a good foot. I’m on my way to achieving some fitness goals (I’m now able to run almost 2k without stopping!) Also, seeing as the (typical Montreal) bipolar weather hasn’t allowed me to obtain much of a tan, I’ve decided to embrace my paleness and accept that it’s healthier, and that I’m avoiding skin cancer. I say that as I type this in the sunshine. With SPF… 8… Moving on!

Most importantly, I’ve been cooking and eating healthier (minus the almost nightly trips to the ice cream shop… what? It’s summer, I’m allowed. Stop judging. You’re jealous.)  I’ve always found that eating light in the summer is easy, because of the abundance of fresh produce, and the absence of the desire to cook anything that involves a hot oven. Goodbye are the days of heavy potato stews, creamy casseroles and hefty roasts. Hello to the days of garden salads, fresh corn and fruit parfaits.

Now that I’ve embraced cooking for one, I actually enjoy making myself something fancy looking from time to time. For instance, on this lovely sunny afternoon, I was inspired by the basil plant growing wildly in my garden. Today is the perfect day for a basil toast, I thought to myself. While at first I had the intention of chopping the fresh basil and sprinkling it over some cold tomato sauce, I decided it would be even more ‘summery’ of me to chop up some fresh cherry tomatoes.
And well, toast just isn’t toast without a little bit of cheese now is it?

3 minutes later, I had this masterpiece.
20 minutes later, I ate it. (Taking pictures is a process!)

Tomato Basil Toasts with Cheese 
& Grenadine Lemonade  
an original recipe by allison sklar 

what you’ll need 
note: multiply quantities by the number of people you’ll be serving.

toasts:
1 medium slice rye bread
4 cherry tomatoes, sliced
1 slice Jarlsberg (or swiss) cheese
(would also work nicely with goat’s cheese
1 large basil leaf, chopped
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp light olive oil

lemonade:
1 cup club soda or sparkling water
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp grenadine
ice cubes

how to do it

Toasts: Place cheese on bread, top with tomatoes. Place in toaster oven for 3 minutes, or until cheese melts and tomatoes begin to wilt. Remove, and sprinkle basil leaves on top. Drizzle with oil & vinegar. Would also work well in conventional oven, on broiler setting for 1 to 2 minutes.
Note: this recipe is not intended for use in the microwave.

Lemonade: Mix all ingredients and enjoy immediately. Preferably under the sun.

Three Minute Masterpiece

Rice wraps.
If you haven’t done so already, I strongly urge you to get on the bandwagon.

Light and easy to work with, rice wraps are a fail safe go-to anytime that I need a quick-fix meal. Thanks to their neutral taste, they can be stuffed with pretty much anything that you desire. I could imagine them filled with any savory meal that you’d normally eat as a salad – for instance, some seared strips of steak and raw spinach. Or, for the vegetarian, tofu, ginger, carrots and sprouts. You can even venture to the complete opposite end of the spectrum and make desert rolls, filling them with a fruit salad and dipping them in chocolate. When I make them, my preference has generally been sushi-inspired. The other day, I had a fishepiphany – why don’t I make a bagel-inspired one? I am from Montreal afterall…

Ah! There she is – the above photo was taken pre-wrap, of course. A true beauty: avocado, alfalfa sprouts, Coho smoked salmon, cream cheese and toasted sesame seeds. As a bonus, since the rice papers each contain only 45 calories and 0 grams of fat, I was able to enjoy all of the best parts of my Sunday morning bagel, without any of the usual carby guilt. 
My favorite part about these wraps is that they look ridiculously impressive – and only take a couple of minutes to throw together. For real: this little baby took me three minutes total! A three minute masterpiece…. I’ll now title this blog post accordingly. 

Rice Wraps

An original recipe by Allison Sklar
what you’ll need
  • Rice paper (available in the Asian/Sushi section of the supermarket, or in any Asian food shop)
  • any combination and/or all of the following:
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • 1/4 package shredded pollock (or real crab meat, if you swing that way)
  • 4 slices smoked salmon
  • 1/4 cup alfalfa sprouts
  • 1 tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise mixed with a few drops cayenne pepper sauce (spicy mayo)
  • soy sauce, or more spicy mayo for dipping

how to do it 

Thoroughly wet rice paper on a large plate with warm water. Let soak for about 3 minutes or until soft enough to work with. Place on a dry plate for 30 seconds. Place ingredients in the middle of the wrap. Fold in ends, then wrap like you would a tortilla. (Let sit for a few minutes to dry if it is too wet. Wrap should not be slippery, but slightly sticky.) Cut in half and EAT!

Appreciating Parsley

Ta-bou-lee. Ta-bou-leh. Ta-bou-lay. However you’d like to pronounce it, this refreshing summer salad is a great way to get out of a romaine & iceberg rut. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, tabouleh is a middle-eastern/Mediterranean parsley-based salad often tossed with chopped tomatoes, onions and a generous amount of olive oil.

I became inspired for this little toss during a recent trip to my local supermarket. Seeking dinnertime inspiration, I was rummaging through the produce section when I paused in front of an item that I would have normally dismissed as boring and/or useless: an abnormally large variety of parsley.  Five different types, in fact. Really? Do people REALLY need that much variety of an herb that serves a garnish, often tossed aside, never to be consumed? I started to think that maybe I have been missing something. I decided that this little green leaf was going to make it onto my plate tonight – and not just as a back-up dancer, but as the star of the show. “Parsley!” I said (to myself, and possibly also out loud), “You have been under appreciated.” (Then I began to wonder if under appreciated was indeed one word, two words, or not a word at all. But I digress.)

Soon afterward, I found myself making tabouleh.

I did not use a recipe, just ingredients that I had on hand and an idea in my head of what tabouleh should be. I chopped some grape tomatoes and decided to add something a little unconventional, but not too far off the rocker: a handful of diced cucumber. Traditional tabbouleh has grains mixed in, and I just happened to have a little bit of millet that I’ve been meaning to use up. Very soon, I scooping bite after bite onto my favorite crackers, indulging in the aromas of a delicious summer salad.

Tabouleh 
(mediterranean parsley salad)

what you’ll need
1 bunch italian parsley, stems removed
1 cup diced grape or cherry tomatoes
2 cloves (about 2tsp) crushed garlic, blanched
1 cup diced (2 or 3 small) cucumbers, peel on
1/2 cup cooked millet (other small grains will work just as well)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbsp rice (or apple cider) vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp kosher or sea salt

how to do it
Combine parsley and garlic into food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Add millet, cucumber & tomatoes. Pulse one or two more times, careful not to over-chop! Toss with oil, vinegar, lemon and salt. Refrigerate for one hour or overnight. The longer it sits, the better it tastes!

My Noodly Appendage

I’ve always been known to keep a well stocked fridge and pantry. Among other basic necessities, you’ll rarely find me lacking any of the following foods: assorted cheeses, frozen vegetables, multiple bags of pasta and jars of Classico tomato sauce. [A note on the latter: though I’m a stickler for homemade, those chefs over at Classico really know what they’re doing. Though I wasn’t paid to say that, I’d just like to inform the fine folks over at Classico that I really wouldn’t mind some free sauce. Or a coupon. You know, both are good!]

All I had was an hour, but all I wanted was pasta. With some garlic toast. And maybe even a little use-up-the-veggies-up-before-they-wilt salad. I thought it would be as fast as boiling some noodles and opening up a jar. Alas, I was jar-less. My Classico supply had been depleted.

That’s when I hit the vodka… 

Paired it with tomatoes and cream and turned it into a velvety smooth sauce!
Though the actual preparation is quick, if you have the time I highly recommend that you make this earlier on in the day and let it simmer over low heat in order for the sauce to thicken and the flavours to enhance. I served mine over spinach fettucine (to add a splash of colour & pizzazz to the plate… yes, I just used the word pizzazz) with a side of pumpernickel toasted with garlic butter and a hint of shredded cheese. I balanced it all out with a cherry tomato, avocado & romaine salad tossed with Renee‘s naturally low-cal cucumber, dill & yogourt dressing.


Nutrition facts about this meal

Pasta myths debunked: Spinach pasta is not any healthier than regular pasta – the spinach is mostly used for the colour, though the spinach content does add a small ammount of vitamin A and some iron. I choose spinach pasta because I prefer the taste and texture, but you may prefer the enriched semolina (regular) variety. If you’re looking to add fibre to your diet, whole-wheat pasta is the choice for you. The “healthiest” pasta in my opinion is quinoa pasta, as it contains the most nutrients overall – however, this is not to say that you should banish pasta from your diet. In a well-balanced meal like this one, pasta can be a satisfying and healthy choice, no matter what variety you use.

Vitamins & Nutrients: Lutein, the compound that gives tomatoes their bright red colour, is a vitamin that is said to reduce the risk of serious eye disease. This sauce is chock-full of it! The avocados in your salad are a source of HEALTHY fat – the kind that helps to unclog your arteries, as well as 20 other minerals and nutrients. Contrary to popular beleif – eating avocados will not make you fat! The yogourt in the dressing is a source of “good” bacteria that help with food digestion, and is low in saturated (unhealthy) fat. People who are slightly lactose intolerant can often digest yogourt due to it’s bacterial content.

Drunken Tomato Sauce 
note: you can add other vegetables into this sauce while simmering, such as diced carrots, crushed garlic, chopped spinach, etc. I kept the recipe simple because that’s how I like it but I’ll leave it to your discretion to make it your own! 

what you’ll need
•    1 large can plum tomatoes (other varieties will do, but this is my recommendation)
•    1 large onion, diced
•    1 tbsp vegetable oil
•    1 tsp sugar
•    1/2 cup cream (at least 10%, use 35% if you prefer a creamier sauce)
•    1/4 cup vodka
•    2 tsp sea salt or kosher salt
•    dash tabasco or other hot pepper sauce
•    handful of fresh basil, chopped (optional)

how to do it
In medium saucepan, heat oil on medium and add onions. Sprinkle with sugar and cook until soft. Add tomatoes, breaking up with mixing spoon. Stir in tabasco & vodka. Simmer until tomatoes begin to break down. Bring cream to room temperature while simmering. Once sauce has reached desired consistency, slowly stir it, one tbsp at a time, into cream, just until the cream is warm. This will ensure that the cream does not curdle upon entering the hot pot. Whisk cream into sauce, slowly, little by little. Add salt and basil. Cover and simmer 10 minutes or until ready to serve. Garnish with grated fresh parmesan cheese.