Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Little Green Inspiration

We have a couple of discount vegetable markets in Edmonton that offer a wide array of good produce. When I make a trip, I buy a lot of veg and only after I've brought a box home do I think about what I'm going to do with these damn vegetables. I think I just channeled my uncle. Let's get back on track. Anyways, I'm convinced this is not the way one's supposed to shop, but I like the challenge of using what I have to make a meal.

Dish number one is Aubergine Al Forno. The Canadian translation has got to be 'torched eggplant', which is why we're going to stick to its original title. Oven roasted vegetables with a little garlic, cinnamon and olive oil form the base of this dish. Toss in some breadcrumbs, pine nuts (sunflower seeds for those with nuts allergies), some raisins and dig in. It's great as a side dish, but I paired it with a little pasta to make it a meal and got a kick out of it.

The second  option is a garlicky kale salad. I consider this the hipster's answer to a caesar salad. This salad made me lose my mind with excitement. It was delicious and I was tickled that it offered more food value than a traditional caesar salad.

Finally I made a simple spinach salad with roasted beets and parsnips and added some goat cheese and walnuts to give it a little protein. None of these recipes are difficult. They are an offering of inspiration for those wanting to incorporate veggies into their hibernation diet. While I'm not ready for spring salads, these recipes provide me light winter options for the cold months ahead.

Aubergine Al Forno


Serves 4


  • 3 Japanese eggplants, sliced in 1/2" pieces
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • salt and pepper 
  • 5 green onions, sliced in one inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, finally chopped
  • 10-12 cherry tomatoes
  • red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 pine nuts
  • 2 T raisins


Preheat the oven to 425F. Place place the eggplant slices in a baking dish and brush the slices with olive oil to coat. Sprinkle the cinnamon and a little salt and pepper to season. Bake for 15-20 minutes, adding the onions, garlic and tomatoes halfway through. Once all the vegetables are softened and a little charred, remove from the oven and pour a little red wine vinegar over the vegetables.

In a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, pine nuts, raisins, a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch each of cinnamon, salt and pepper. Pour the ingredients over the vegetables and toss well. Cook for another 5-10 minutes until crispy and golden.

Garlicky Kale Salad


Serves 4 as a meal


  • 1 head of garlic
  • 570 ml can of chickpeas
  • olive oil
  • 1 T garam masala, paprika and/or garlic salt
  • 1 bunch of kale finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 T maple syrup
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • hot water to thin if required


Preheat oven to 375F. Drain and rinse your chick peas well and pour them into a bowl.  Add a drizzle of olive oil and whatever combination of seasoning you want or have on hand. I used a tablespoon of garam masala and some salt and pepper. Toss the chick peas well to season them. Separate the garlic cloves, leaving the skin on and place them on the edge of a baking sheet. Place the chick peas on the same sheet and bake both for about 20 minutes. Remove when the chick peas are golden brown and the garlic is soft.

For the dressing, combine the tahini, lemon juice, syrup, salt and pepper in a bowl. Remove the skin from the garlic cloves and add the cloves to the bowl. Using a stick blender, blend the ingredients. Thin the dressing with water if desired.

Place the kale in a large bowl. Pour in the salad dressing and toss so that all the leaves are well coated. Pour the chick peas into the centre of the bowl and serve.

Roasted Vegetable Spinach Salad

Serves 6 as a meal


  • bunch of spinach, washed with stems removed
  • two medium beets
  • 3 parsnips
  • 130g goat cheese 
  • walnuts
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • balsamic vinegar


Preheat oven to 400F. Wrap the beets as is in foil. Wash and cut the parsnips in 1-2 inch pieces and place in a bowl. Drizzle a little olive oil and toss well. Add a few pinches of salt and pepper and toss again. Pour the parsnips on a baking sheet and place the beets adjacent to them in the oven. The parsnips should take about 20 minutes and can be removed from the oven to cook. The beets will take closer to 40 depending on their size. When the beets are done, remove them from the foil and set them aside. Once cooled, peel both beets and slice in wedges.

To prepare the salad, place the spinach in a large bowl. Add the parsnips and beets over the spinach. Crumble the goat cheese over the salad and add walnuts liberally. When serving, drizzle each portion with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar and enjoy.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Cured: Charcuterie

Happy new year to those resolved to eat healthily and purposefully. While those intentions are in the back of my mind...waaaay back there behind a new bottle of wine and Netflix, my number one goal is to hit as many of Edmonton's fabulous new eateries as I can get to, even if it means having to wear elastic-waist pants. This is the kind of goal I know I can achieve.

Located on the South side of Edmonton in the community of Ellerslie, Cured opened its doors mid-2015 to good reviews and just enough hype to give them a reputation. While I appreciate charcuterie, I typically don't go out to eat it, as it requires more assembly over cooking and is something I can prepare at home. My friend Jill and I went to check it out on Friday. Edmonton is in the midst of a cold snap and the prospect of a big glass of red with meats and cheeses felt like the right thing to do.

The menu is simple: guests choose five out of the sixteen cured meats and fish available, which include some interesting game meats like venison, elk and boar. Your choice of any/all of the twelve cheeses can be added at an extra charge. Cured also offers a good selection of shared plates. We opted to try the arancini: balls of arborio rice, lobster and peas breaded and then fried. The arancini was deceptively filling, but Jill and I are troopers and pushed through to the charcuterie without breaking a sweat. This is how seasoned eaters make it happen.

Of course the arancini was delicious. I'm sure there are ways of messing with this dish. Under cooking the arborio rice and using poor quality ingredients would likely do, but breading and deep frying food tends to mask those kinds of issues.  Thankfully, this dish didn't need any masking. The combination of subtle flavours was a delight.

For the charcuterie, of note was the smoked duck prosciutto, wild boar kabosy and pork liver pate. The duck left enough of an impression on me that I'm going to try tracking it down through a retailer. We also enjoyed the soppressata and I believe the elk andouille, but their flavours weren't as distinct as the other three selections.

The saganaki, a flaming Greek cheese appeared to be the popular favorite, as more boards exited the kitchen sprouting flames than didn't. We opted for the saganaki and Cantenaar, which is a hard cheese with Dutch roots that reminded me a little of Appenzeller.

In addition to the food, I really enjoyed the atmosphere and service at Cured and will be back to try some of the other menu items. We sat at the bar comfortably for almost three hours and were well cared for during that time. On the subject of wine and charcuterie bars, The Wine Room, on Jasper Avenue and 105th St. offers a menu similar to Cured. Hopefully this cold spell lasts a little longer. I could use more charcuterie.

Cured Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato