Tag Archives: fresh

The BEST Veggie Burgers In Town!

IMG_2770My FAVORITE restaurant in Toronto is Fresh. It’s a Vegan restaurant and before you can say “ew cardboard and grass”- I can promise you this is the most amazing “healthy eating” you will find. Even my carnivorous partner and friends happily eat at this place.

I just spent 2 weeks in Toronto during the Toronto Film Festival and I think I ate there everyday (along with all the hollywood celebs in town! Some celeb spotting definitely goes on at this healthy joint!). Green juice for breakfast and everything else on the menu for lunch and dinner. Having a restaurant like this around the corner, with every item on the menu being super healthy,  makes it easy to eat well. You can basically order anything from the menu because you know it will be good for you. Unfortunately they only exist in Toronto (for now) so a great way to have easy access to healthy food quick, is to make it yourself and make extra so you can freeze it. My favorite veggie burger is made fresh there daily. I have recreated it at home, somewhat following the recipe, yet tweaking it a long the way. These burgers are BBQ ready and are actually vegan, however a sneaky slice of cheddar never hurt anyone 🙂 I’ve made about 6-8 out of this batch, so the rest I have wrapped individually and stored in the freezer. Just take one out a few hours before you are ready to eat and you’ll have fresh, homemade, HEALTHY, burgers ready to grill.

picisto-20130925141553-616492INGREDIENTS:

* You’ll need a food processor for this

  • 1 cup of mushrooms, cleaned
  • 2 large carrots, peeled
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 garlic clove
  • a handful of parsley
  • 1/4 cup each of sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds

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  • 1 tsp each of chili powder, curry powder, smoked chipotle powder and smoked paprika powder
  • 1 tbsp mixed herbs
  • 1 tsp of cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp tamari
  • 2 tbsp corn flour

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  • 1/2 cup each of split peas, quinoa and barley
  • 1 1/2 cups of water or veggie stock for the grains

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Cook the grains. Give all of the grains a good rinse, then add to a pot and cover with the water/stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce and cook on low for about 20 mins or until the water is absorbed.
  2. Three step food processor process: chop the mushrooms, then the seeds and then the vegetables all separately.
  3. In a pan over medium heat add a splash of oil. Once hot add in the mushrooms + the spices and tamari. Cook for about 5-7 mins.
  4. Remove mixture to a large bowl, add in the corn flour and corn starch + the chopped vegetable mixture. S&P.
  5. Add the cooked grains to the mixture and stir together.

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6. Time to get those hands dirty! Set out 2 rectangles of parchment paper. Begin to form balls a bit bigger then a golf ball in between your (clean!) hands and once perfectly round, smush down carefully to form a burger patty. NOTE: if the mixture is too wet and sticking to your hands like crazy, add in a bit more flour, if the mixture is too dry and crumbling apart add in a bit of water.

7. Make about 6-8 patties. Place side by side on the parchment paper and place the other piece over top. Use scissors to cut in between (3 pieces) and fold over so you have 2 patties wrapped up together, but with paper in between so they don’t touch. These can be frozen for up to 1 month.

8. To cook, you can grill for 5 mins on each side or fry or even broil. The toppings are up to you! I like mine messy 🙂

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Check out my favorite restaurant in Toronto, Canada. www.freshrestaurants.ca If you visit make sure to stop there for brunch on the weekend- they make delicious Vegan Banana Pancakes with Real Canadian Maple Syrup (what else?!) Mmmmm…

Salad Nicoise, Herbes de Provence Encrusted Ahi Tuna, Burrata and Heirloom Tomatoes with Homemade Aioli

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Some holidays you just never want to leave. That was the case last week when I was in the South of France. The warm sea breeze, bright sunshine, the freshest seafood and local produce including juicy ripe tomatoes, sweet and mouth-watering melons,  the famous and fragrant Herbes de Provence and of course lets not forget Cotê de Provence Rosé. A delicious vacation to say the least!

After visiting the Chateau Minuty Winery  (http://www.chateauminuty.com) to bring back some bottles for ourselves, I decided to share the experience and have a dinner party once back in London, so we could all celebrate the flavors of South of France.

What’s great about this dinner is that it can accommodate different dietary requirements. The salad portion of the Salad Nicoise is kept separate from the tuna, so those who are Vegetarian (but eat eggs) can help themselves, those who eat fish can add it later and I even made grilled organic, local Sirloin steak for the die-hard meat eaters in the house.

On the Menu:

Hors D’œuvres: Spring Radishes with Herbes de Provence infused Fleur de Sel (Sea Salt)

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This is very easy to make and a French classic. The first time these were offered to me I thought to myself “you can’t be serious, radishes with salt on a plate? Really??”.  I was used to seeing radishes as a garnish and always tossed aside. But I couldn’t insult my host, so I gave them a shot. I was pleasantly surprised at how much flavor they had. Peppery, and cold with a perfect crunch. Just a hint of sea salt, making them the perfect fat-free snack.

This variety is called the French Breakfast Radish and I find the flavor stronger and more distinct than the ones commonly sold in grocery stores (red, round and used for garnishing). Just chop the tops off and rinse in cold water, add some Fleur de Sel on the side, butter is traditional but not necessary and serve right away. Radishes will dry out if left to stand.

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Les Plats (the main dish): Homemade  Aioli, Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Salad, Salad Nicoise and  Grilled Herbs de Provence encrusted Ahi Tuna

Ingredients & Instructions:

To serve a dinner party of 8 people

Aioli:

  • 1 clove smashed up garlic (I like to use a mortar & pestle)
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • s&p
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil

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Smash up the garlic clove really well. You can use a whisk for this recipe and a large bowl or you can use a hand blender or food processor. The key is to be really quick with the whisk as the olive oil needs to be drizzled in very slowly to incorporate air to create thickness.

Add the garlic, egg yolk, Dijon mustard, s&p and lemon juice to the bowl and whisk together, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until you have a mayonnaise like texture. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Salad:

  • 6 heirloom tomatoes (Heirloom: A non-hybrid breed of tomato, usually passed down through generations, these are my favorite tomatoes bursting with juicy sweetness)
  • handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 2 balls of Burrata cheese (this is a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream, it is tough on the outside and soft and creamy in the middle, a special treat!)
  • good drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • good drizzle of balsamic vinegar
  • Herbs de Provence seasoned Sea Salt & fresh cracked pepper ( I picked this up in St. Tropez but you could easily make it yourself, just add herbs de provence to your salt and keep in a jar, it will be fragrant and give your food a South of France flavor)
  • 1 tsp of dried oregano

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Chop the tomatoes and burrata into 2 inch pieces and place in a large dish. Chop the basil up and sprinkle on the tomatoes and burrata, add the oregano, fresh cracked pepper and herbs de Provence sea salt, olive oil and balsamic.

Salad Nicoise:

  • 2 heads of cos or romaine lettuce
  • 6 boiled organic eggs, cooled and peeled
  • 10-12 baby potatoes skin on
  • 1 cup of nicoise olives, pitted
  • 500-600 grams of French or Fine green beans, ends cut off (handful per person)
  • Dressing: 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1/3 cup of champagne or white wine vinegar, 2 tbsp honey Dijon mustard, s&p

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Wash the lettuce and chop into bite size pieces (the French never cut their salad with a knife and fork! I was quickly informed of this on my first trip to Paris…ahem…). Chop the potatoes in half or quarters and boil for about 15 min. Boil the eggs for about 10 min and let cool. Boil the beans until they are just al dente, about 3 min and then plunge into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process.

Peel the eggs and cut in half. Assemble on a large plate, placing the olives in the middle.

Herbes de Provence Encrusted Grilled Ahi Tuna:

  • 4 tuna steaks, about a pound each, make sure you go to a trusted fish monger with good quality fish
  • 4 tbsp herbes de Provence
  • s&p
  • olive oil

IMG_4936Rinse and dry the tuna steaks. Brush a little olive oil onto each side and then sprinkle with the herbs, about 1 tbsp per steak and s&p. Do both sides.

Have the BBQ on high and cook the tuna for about 2 minutes so it is medium rare. Tuna tends to dry out very quickly if it is fully cooked, so be careful not to over cook. This method will sear the outside and leave the inside pink. If you want it fully cooked go for about 4-5 min on each side.

Slice lengthways and plate. Drizzle with a touch of extra virgin olive oil before serving.

Bon Apetite! 🙂

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Zucchini & Red Pepper Tacos with Creamy Tortilla Soup: low in fat and ready in 25 min



Taco & Tortilla Soup

I LOVE Mexican food. It has to be one of my favorite cuisines. It’s so fresh and expressive in its flavor. It just reminds me of summer and gives you that carefree “I’m on vacation” feeling, no matter what time of year it is.

Living in LA was a definite plus when it came to fresh and healthy food options. Mexican cuisine is obviously a major culinary heavyweight, due to the vast Mexican population and proximity to Mexico. The food is so simple thanks to the freshness of ingredients and simple cooking techniques, you don’t need to go to a 5 star restaurant to enjoy it (small, dive-joint looking places are the best anyway!) and you don’t  need to take cooking lessons to make it at home.

This is my recipe for super easy tacos and delicious creamy tortilla soup. I’ve adapted this recipe from my favorite Mexican hole in the wall in LA called Loteria. Their tacos and tortilla soup are truly incredible.

The ingredients are fairly basic, make sure to get corn tortilla’s instead of wheat (for that authentic flavor). Oh, and no Mexican meal is complete without a refreshing Mexican Beer! 😉

For 2 people

Tortilla soup ingredients

Soup Ingredients:

1 smoked, dried chipotle pepper, soaked in 1 cup of boiling water for 10 min and then chopped (if you can’t find these you can substitute with 1 tbsp of smoked chipotle powder)

1/2 cup each of diced celery, carrots and onion

1 can of tomato sauce or diced tomatoes

1 tsp each of Oregano, Cumin and Epazote  (Epazote has a slightly tangy flavor, reminiscent of oregano. It’s used both for flavor and for its ability to reduce the flatulence associated with bean and vegetable dishes. How COOL!)

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup + 2 tbsp of low-fat organic yogurt, low-fat organic sour cream or soygurt

1 squeeze of agave or pinch of sugar

1/4 cup of toasted pumpkin seeds

1 corn tortilla, cut up into slices (see photo)

a wedge of lime

Handful of fresh coriander (optional)

s&p

tortilla soup instructions

Instructions:

In a pan over medium heat add a tbsp of olive oil and the diced carrots, onions and celery. Cook for about 3 min until the onions are translucent.

Add in the garlic and spices, cook for 2 min.

Add  can of tomatoes, agave or sugar and s&p.

Chop the chipotle and add it in along with its soaking water. Cook on med-low for about 10 min.

Blend with a hand blender.

Stir in the yogurt, sour cream or soygurt.

Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry pan over high heat until they start to pop.

In a small pan heat 1 tbsp of oil and once hot, add in the tortilla strips. Fry for about 1 min until golden brown and crispy, remove to paper towel and soak up access oil right away.

Taco ingredients

 Taco Ingredients:

6 corn tortillas

1 tsp of oregano, chipotle powder and cumin powder

1 tsp of coriander or handful of fresh coriander (finely chopped)

½ a lime

2 ripe tomatoes

1 zucchini, cut lengthwise into thick match sticks

1 bell pepper (any color will do), cut lengthwise into thick match sticks

1 clove of garlic, minced

½ a small onion, diced

½ head of small cabbage, shredded

2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

½ cup of low-fat organic yogurt, sour cream or soygurt

s&p

(hot sauce optional)

taco instructions

Instructions:

In a medium size sauté pan over medium heat, place a tortilla. Heat for about 30 seconds on each side. Set aside on a plate, covered until ready to serve to keep warm and soft.

Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to the pan and add in the zucchini and pepper. Cook for 2 min with lid on.

Add the spices (except coriander) and garlic. Continue to cook for about 6 min on med-low heat, covered.

If you have a mandolin (see photo) use this to shred the cabbage finely. Otherwise it can be done by hand. Place in bowl and add the 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice and s&p. Toss and set aside.

If you have a food processor, great! Use that to make the salsa. If not you can certainly chop everything finely by hand. Add the tomatoes, onion, lime juice, and s&p to the food processor and blend until it has salsa consistency.

Add the coriander to the yogurt, sour cream or soygurt.

 READY TO SERVE!!!!

Place the creamy tortilla soup in a bowl and top with a dollop of cream (yogurt, sour cream or soygurt), place crispy tortilla strips on top and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds. Squeeze the lime wedge over soup and sprinkle with fresh coriander (optional) before eating.

Arrange a warmed corn tortilla on a plate, smooth on some coriander infused cream (yogurt, sour cream or soygurt), then a helping of zucchini and peppers, a scoop of shredded cabbage slaw and finally the salsa. Some hot sauce if you want to give it some extra heat.

No, there wont be any leftovers….. 🙂