Israeli Couscous with Pesto & Veggies

Couscous was something I had multiple times a week as a baby and now, at age almost-twenty, it’s still a favourite (although I’ve come a long way from eating it off a highchair tray). The Israeli variation just makes recipes slightly more interesting, it steps up any simple salad. It’s great, versatile base that can really be mixed with anything, approved by babies and adults alike.

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups israeli couscous

1 1/2 cups fresh basil

1 clove garlic

3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup pine nuts

3 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp lemon juice

Salt

Pepper

1/2 red onion

1 small zucchini

1 pepper

Chili flakes

1.In a medium pot, bring the couscous and 3 cups of water to a boil. Cover, turn heat to low and let cook for about 10 minutes or until all the water is absorbed and the couscous is tender.DSC00336 2. To make the pesto, combine the basil, garlic, cheese, pine nuts, oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt in a blender until smooth. Set asideDSC00340 DSC003493. Heat some olive oil in a sauté pan. Slice the onion and cook for a few minutes, then add the chopped pepper and zucchini as well. Cook until veggies are tender and begin to brown DSC00344 4. To assemble the salad, spread the couscous in a large bowl and mix in the pesto and veggies. Stir well and top with salt, pepper and chili flakes. Enjoy!
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Roasted Beet Caprese

My dad is notorious for eating whatever is put in front of him at the dinner table and unfailingly complimenting it – whether deserved or not. But father’s day called for a special meal, something that he would genuinely enjoy and cover all the bases of his favourite foods. While my mum grilled steak – a father’s day must – I was in charge of the sides. I love caprese’s because they act as a rich, savory side disguised as a vegetable dish. And defying the norm by being the raw-tomato-hater that I am, I swapped in roasted beets (fitting the usual colour scheme and adding a sweetness to the dish). It was the perfect way to round out our dinner and end a warm weekend.  (a condensed version of this recipe – without pictures – will be at the end of the post for easier printing)

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 large beets

3 tbsp olive oil

Kosher salt

1 tbsp dried rosemary

Mozzarella (I used a 340g package)

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Handful of fresh basil

Black pepper

 1. Preheat your oven to 475 degrees F

2. Thinly slice the beets (I just rinse them and leave the skin on) and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paperDSC00248 3. Drizzle with 2 tbsp of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and the rosemary. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until beets are tender and slightly crispy at the edges. DSC00249
DSC00267 4. While the beets are cooking, slice the cheese into thin rounds as well. DSC00258 5. Roughly chop the basil and mix together with the remaining 1 tbsp of oil, the balsamic, a pinch of salt and some black pepper. DSC00265 6. To assemble, cut the beet and cheese rounds in half. Layer on a serving platter, then drizzle with the balsamic mixture. Enjoy!
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Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 large beets

3 tbsp olive oil

Kosher salt

1 tbsp dried rosemary

Mozzarella (I used a 340g package)

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Handful of fresh basil

Black pepper

 1. Preheat your oven to 475 degrees F

2. Thinly slice the beets (I just rinse them and leave the skin on) and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper

3. Drizzle with 2 tbsp of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and the rosemary. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until beets are tender and slightly crispy at the edges. 

4. While the beets are cooking, slice the cheese into thin rounds as well.

5. Roughly chop the basil and mix together with the remaining 1 tbsp of oil, the balsamic, a pinch of salt and some black pepper. 

6. To assemble, cut the beet and cheese rounds in half. Layer on a serving platter, then drizzle with the balsamic mixture. Enjoy!

 

Lemon Sesame Spaghetti with Spiralized Carrot and Zucchini

Dinner, Salads | August 12, 2015 | By

We have been on the hunt for a spiralizer for months; ever since the zucchini noodle craze started, I’ve wanted one. After scouring multiple kitchen stores looking for one that wasn’t $300 and didn’t weigh 50 pounds, I didn’t expect to find the perfect fit in a Walmart checkout aisle. But I guess that store really does have everything. And the spiralizer is great; turning vegetables into pasta? Sounds pretty good to me. But even if you don’t have one, another peeler will do just fine. A perfect summer dinner, it’s healthy and fresh but still feels like comfort food.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

454g of spaghetti (a standard box)
2 zucchini
2 carrots
1/2 red onion
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup edamame or peas
1/2 cup sunflower seeds (shelled)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tsp salt

1. Cook pasta according to directions on the box. Drain and pour into a large bowlDSC_04522. Using a spiralizer (you can also use a julienne peeler or vegetable peeler if you don’t have a spiralizer) spiralize your zucchinis and carrots. Add to the pasta bowl 
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3. Thinly slice your onion and add to the mix as well. Pour in the sesame oil and olive oil and toss together
DSC_0454DSC_0456DSC_04584. Add the edamame, sunflower seeds, lemon juice and salt. Mix well and serve. Enjoy!DSC_0463

Cucumber Salad with Avocado and Pumpkin Seeds

Dinner, Salads | August 3, 2015 | By

To me, the perfect summer dinner consists of a bunch of different salads. And not just green salads, interesting ones with different components and textures that you can happily fill your plate with. We’re always looking for new ones to add to the mix, grains, beans, greens, potato, whatever goes. On hot lazy days I’m always content with a smorgasbord of salads for any meal; I’m the kind of person who loves to have a million things on my plate so I have a lot of different tastes. And because it’s summer, no one cares about the dishes or what time it is (or that the cucumber I was supposed to use for the recipe somehow disappeared from our cottage fridge). No, summer dinners are for second helpings, loud conversation and the sense of the evening stretching out ahead of you, with no definite schedule. Oh, and a heaping plate of salads.

Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 large cucumber
1/4 red onion
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic
2 cups of fresh snow peas
1/4 cup feta
1 avocado
4 tbsp pumpkin seeds
Olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice

1. De-seed your cucumber by scooping them out with a spoon, then thinly slice it and place in a large bowlDSC_04282. Thinly slice onion and mince garlic and add to the bowl along with vinegar and salt. Let sit for about 15 minutesDSC_04303. Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Throw the snow peas in and blanch them by letting them cook for about 2-3 minutes before taking off the heat and drainingDSC_04334. Roughly chop the snow peas and add to the cucumber mixture, once 15 minutes is up.DSC_04375. Crumble the feta and slice the avocado and place both on top of the salad, along with the pumpkin seeds. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, lemon juice and salt if needed. Enjoy!DSC_0442DSC_0440

 

Grilled Potato and Eggplant with Lemon Tahini Dressing

Dinner, Salads | July 22, 2015 | By

No matter what form they come in, potatoes can never be a bad thing. The bland-ness makes them so comforting, but they can also be dressed up and seasoned in any number of ways. Mashed, they too closely resemble a winter meal and fried they seem too unhealthy for a weeknight dinner; but in a salad they’re perfect for a summer night. And while potato salad may evoke expectations of pounds of mayonnaise, this lighter version just uses some yogurt. And potatoes are vegetables, right?

Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lb small white potatoes
1 medium eggplant
2 cloves garlic
Oil to coat vegetables, about 6 tbsp
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp salt

1. Turn on your BBQ to high heat

2. Wash and cut potatoes and eggplant into medium chunks. Place into a large bowl
DSC_0428 3. Mince garlic and add to the bowl, along with the oil, cumin, coriander and a sprinkle of salt. Mix wellDSC_04304. Place on the BBQ in a metal tray, pan or wrapped in foil. Cook, covered for about 25-30 minutes or until vegetables are soft and browned. 
DSC_04345. While vegetables are cooking, whisk together yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, water, salt and 3/4 of the basil.DSC_04316. Place vegetables in a large bowl and toss with the sauce. Top with the rest of the basil Enjoy!DSC_0438

Grilled Watermelon Salad

Salads | July 1, 2015 | By

As Canadians, we’re known for taking full advantage of the fleeting summer we have; I’ll put on sweatpants and hoodie just to sit outside and enjoy the sun for a while. This goes for food too. On multiple occasions I’ve had to put on a winter jacket or rain suit just to venture out to the barbecue. Watermelon is definitely best enjoyed on a hot sunny day; weather that Canada never seems to dependably provide. But in honour of our country’s 148th birthday, I’ll suck it up in order to make a patriotic looking salad. I had never grilled watermelon before this, just seen the idea in magazines and assumed it was one of those things that only works with a professional team and good lighting. It’s actually quite easy though and looks like you put in a lot more effort than you did. I hope this salad makes your Canada Day and your summer a little brighter! 

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients:
1 mini watermelon
Kosher salt for sprinkling
1 19 0z can white kidney beans
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup fresh mint
1/3 cup feta
Balsamic vinega
1/2 tsp salt
Lemon juice

1. Preheat barbecue to about 400 degrees or medium high.
2. Slice watermelon into thick wedges and sprinkle with kosher salt. Grill for about 5 minutes per side or until slightly softened and grill marks appear.DSC_04143. In a small bowl, combine garlic, oil, 1/2 tsp salt and chili flakes. 
4. Rinse and drain kidney beans. Add to the oil mixture and stir to coat.DSC_0416DSC_04115. To assemble the salad, cut watermelon into bite-sized chunks and place into a serving bowl. Roughly chop the feta and mint and add on top, along with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.DSC_04196. Add the beans, 1/2 tsp salt and a splash of lemon juice and toss together. Enjoy!DSC_0423DSC_0426

Farro Salad with Roasted Fennel, Pomegranate and Avocado

Salads | June 21, 2015 | By

A routine Saturday at our cottage – and a perfect day in my mind – consists of a slow start, a morning outing to town or a farmer’s market, a homemade lunch and a lazy afternoon consisting of napping and reading our books on the deck. Putting a little more effort into weekend lunches somehow justifies an afternoon of doing not much at all for me. This warm salad isn’t hard to prepare though and is a welcome change from a ziploc container of cold leftovers that’s in front of me most days for lunch. It’s the perfect lazy summer day recipe; easy but interesting. And as the saying goes, “after lunch rest a while, after dinner walk a mile” – good words to live by, I think.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups farro
2 1/2 cups water
1 zucchini
1 medium bulb of fennel
1 white onion
4 tbsp olive oil + 2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp + 2 tsp kosher salt
Cumin
Paprika
2 cups salad greens
1/4 cup fresh basil
Handful of fresh oregano
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 pomegranate
1 ripe avocado

1. Bring water to a boil in a small pot. Add the farro and cover, turning the heat down to low. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 – 30 minutes or until tender and chewy.

2. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

3. Thinly slice zucchini, fennel bulb and onion into a mixing bowl. Add the 4 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp salt and sprinkle with paprika and cumin. Mix together and spread out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 15 minutes or until vegetables are golden and softened.
DSC_0412 4. Roughly chop salad greens, basil and oregano and place in a large bowl.DSC_04205. De-seed your pomegranate. The best way I’ve found to do this is by submerging it in water and squeezing out the seeds – this way the juice won’t splash up on you.DSC_04156. Once farro is cooked, pour on top of salad greens. Drizzle with the 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tsp kosher salt and juice of half a lemon.DSC_0422 7. Top with the veggies, slices of avocado and pomegranates. Enjoy!DSC_0424 DSC_0425Follow me on instagram to see more pictures! “thecountertop”
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Roasted Beet and Sweet Potato Salad with Caramelized Orange

Salads | May 31, 2015 | By

A bunch of years ago, my mum and I made a recipe for roasted broccoli, a cooking method we had never really used with vegetables. After that, we were hooked and started roasting anything we could think of; it’s quick and makes everything (even brussel sprouts) taste amazing. In the winter, almost every meal involves a pile of roasted veggies and no one’s gotten sick of them yet. In the summer months, we usually convert to barbecue cooking but in yesterday’s endless downpour, I decided to turn the oven on. The oranges are what make this recipe seasonally appropriate; juicy and sweet, they really brighten the salad. And for the beet and sweet potato, I just wash them and leave the skin on, avoiding the peeling process all together. Extremely simple, it’s a salad that’s warm but refreshing and sure to convert anyone over to roasting their vegetables.

Makes about  6 portions

Ingredients:
3 beets
1 medium sweet potato
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
2 large oranges, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sugar
baby spinach
olive oil and red wine vinegar (for dressing)
pine nuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 475 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Slice beets and sweet potato. Mix with oil, cumin and salt in a large bowl, then place onto the baking sheet in a single layer.DSC_04123. Bake for 15 minutes, or until slightly brown and tender.DSC_0420 4. Heat butter and sugar in a frying pan over medium-high heat and stir until combined. Add oranges and fry, about 5 minutes per side, until browned.DSC_0419 5. Place spinach (as much as you would like to use) on a plate and drizzle with oil and vinegar. Top with the roasted vegetables and oranges and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with pine nuts if you wish. Enjoy!DSC_0426DSC_0423

Tangy Asian Slaw

Salads | May 24, 2015 | By

I love making this recipe because of the colour it adds to any meal. It’s a healthier and more flavourful version of coleslaw that’s light and perfect for summer. The best part about this salad is that it gets better with time, so you can make it ahead and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours, or overnight, before serving. A fresh take on a side salad, it’s easy to make and sure to please. 

Serves 8

Ingredients:
1 head of purple cabbage
6 oz pkg snow peas (about 2 large handfuls)
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped cilantro
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

1. Thinly slice cabbage and snow peas into a large bowl. DSC_0410DSC_04142. Add onion and cilantro and toss togetherDSC_04203. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, lemon juice, salt and sugar. Pour over cabbage mixture and mix well. Enjoy!  DSC_0422As well, please feel free to circulate this post or my blog amongst friends and family!

Shaved Carrot Salad with Cashews and Lime

Salads | May 13, 2015 | By

Last summer, we established a weeknight dinner-making schedule in my family: each person was assigned a night to cook, Sunday to Wednesday, and on Thursdays we would go out to eat. I think we all really enjoyed this, as it gave some control over food choices but without too much stress or ongoing responsibility. It’s also fun to see what my mum, dad and sister would come up with and what appealed to them. We decided to continue our schedule this summer, once my sister and I had come home from school. And although its great to have full control over dinner, it can be a tiring task after a full day of work. This carrot salad is something I thought up while I was weeding a garden at my summer job and wondering what I could whip up for dinner that would be quick and easy, but still on par with what the what the rest of my family would prepare. 

Serves 6

Ingredients:
1/8 of a red onion (approx)
Juice of 2 limes
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 lb carrots
1/2 cup parsley
1/4 cup basil
1/2 cashews
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp olive oil
 

1. Finely slice the onion and place it in a small bowl with the lime juice and vinegar. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the salad. The acid works to pickle the onion as it sits, and will make it taste less strong.

2. Next, peel the skin off the carrots and then continue to peel them in ribbons into a medium bowl.

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3. Roughly chop the cashews, basil and parsley and add to the carrots.    

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4. Add the onions, sesame oil and olive oil, season with salt to taste and enjoy!  

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To complete the meal, I made some hummus and pita chips, as well as leftover bean salad and some roasted vegetables.
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