Category Archives: side dish

Out of this world: Dates with Rice

I wasn’t planning on putting up a post about the rice, but I had no choice. It over-shadowed one of EPC’s favourite dishes (Chickpeas and Green Beans) so much so that he went for seconds of the rice, not giving the entrée a second thought.

I asked him if the entrée had not turned as well as it had the last time I made it. Apparently it was still good, but next to the rice, nothing else stood a chance.

My husband declared that this dish is the best rice he has ever had and if he was served it for dessert he wouldn’t complain. It was sweet, but not overly so. There is no added sugar, but the 3/4 cup of dates, the cinnamon, and cloves move this rice dish out of the familiar realm of savoury first courses to tease the edge of dessert.

Between you and me, next time I make Chickpeas and Green Beans I will be sure to serve it with plain rice!

Dates with Rice (adapted from Classic Vegetarian Cooking from the Middle East and North Africa by Habeeb Salloum) Serves 4-6

1 cup of brown basmati rice, rinsed
5 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup of slivered almonds
3/4 cup of dates, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves

  • In a small pot bring water to a boil, add rice and simmer covered for 20 minutes. Drain and rinse with warm water and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, heat 2 1/2 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan.  When melted add almonds and saute until they begin to brown.
  • Then add the dates, cinnamon, and cloves.  Saute for 3 minutes.
  • Add 1/3 cup of water and simmer on very low heat for 20 minutes.  Make sure you stir often and add small amounts of extra water as necessary.
  • Put 1/4 cup of water into a small saucepan (I reused the one that I cooked the rice in).  Add half of the rice and top with 1 tablespoon of butter.  Add the date mixture and then top with the remaining rice and 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter.
  • Top the pot with an inverted plate and simmer over  low heat (about 2 on my range) for 7 minutes and then turn to very low heat for the remaining 8 minutes.
  • Remove the rice from the heat, leave the lid on and let sit for an additional 15 minutes.
  • Stir and serve.

Click to print

A weekend of beets

Eating a large amount of beets over the course of a weekend should not come as a surprise at this time of year.  It is harvest time after all!

We went over to our friend’s place for supper and games on Saturday evening and what a treat!  The company and the food were top-notch.

Our host prepared these wonderful puff pastry parcels filled with golden and red beets that were absolutely delightful and for dessert his “partner-in-cooking” prepared a lovely apple tart.  He promises me that the beet parcel recipe is forthcoming, so I hope to be making it myself and posting it soon.  Enjoying the harvest bounty with friends made it feel like Thanksgiving had come a weekend early.

We also played a  board game that EPC really enjoyed.  I finally got into it after the second round (translate: figured out what the heck was going on), but we didn’t make it to a third, as dessert and conversation got in the way.  The game is popular in the UK and is called The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game.  Since EPC enjoyed it so much, I am hoping that I can track it down here in Canada.

I was lucky enough to be on the receiving end of a large bag of beets harvested from the garden of my co-worker’s mother.  I decided to make a beet cake with cream cheese icing and some savory beet pancakes that I had seen in a summer issue of Vegetarian Times (their photo is much better than mine).

Beet cake is something I have enjoyed numerous times at a local restaurant The Blue Plate Diner.  I didn’t have a recipe for a beet cake so I took a carrot cake recipe and modified it.  It worked out and tasted great (thanks to some suggestions from my Mom), but I have a bit of tweaking to do before it makes an appearance on Cookbook Cooks.

The beet pancakes were scrumptious.  I am eating a leftover one as I write this post and I must confess that eating one the second day convinced me to get off my butt and post the recipe so you can make them too!

Savory Beet Pancakes with Yogurt-Mint Sauce
makes about 8 pancakes

Yogurt-Mint Sauce:
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used 2%)
1/2 teaspoon dried mint
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
a few turns of the pepper mill

Beet Pancakes:
1 1/2 cups of grated beets (about 3 medium)
1 cup of grated carrot
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten

First make the yogurt mint sauce:

  • Using a fork, whisk together yogurt, mint, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl
  • Refrigerate until ready to use
  • Then make the pancakes:

  • Preheat oven to 250°C (to keep the pancakes hot as you prepare them)
  • Grate beets and carrots by hand or using a food processor.
  • Add garlic and salt and stir.
  • Add the beaten eggs and mix well.
  • Spray a non-stick skillet or cast iron pan with cooking oil and heat over medium heat (medium low if you are using cast iron)
  • Drop 1/4 cup of the beet mixture onto the pan and flatten.  I found that I could easily cook 2 at a time.
  • Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side and put finished pancakes in the oven until ready to serve.
  • Top with yogurt-mint sauce and serve
  • Click to print

    Vegetarian BBQ!

    Summer finally arrived in Edmonton this past weekend.

    Temperatures were below seasonal for the first two weeks of June, but now that summer is just around the corner the temperature seems to have righted itself.

    In celebration of the warm weather we decided to have our first BBQ of the year.  I know, I know, June 13th is a little late, but I am always slow on seasonal transitions.  This year I found myself saying it is still cool enough to use the oven or make risotto, so I better take advantage of it while I can.  Stupid really, since it looks like summer will only last 3 months at best. I should have been taking advantage of the fact that there wasn’t any snow and started BBQing a few weeks ago.

    This may or may not come as a surprise, but I have actually been asked what the point is of having a BBQ when I won’t be cooking up a thick juicy steak.  Well, for starters nothing beats BBQed vegetables.

    I recommend getting a stainless steel vegetable basket.  It is the perfect way to  cook up your favourite vegetables and much easier than trying to prevent them from falling through the grate.   I chopped up a red onion, yellow pepper, some baby zucchini, threw in a few whole cloves of garlic and drizzled some olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top.  Although they were wonderful, I must admit they were a little undercooked.  The onions could have stood to be grilled for a few more minutes.  Next time I will leave them on for about 20 minutes.

    I also parboiled some baby potatoes, drizzled them olive oil and some salt and pepper and wrapped them up in foil before I threw them on the grill.  EPC loved them.  They were tender and slightly charred. Delicious!

    To top it all off I marinated a block of firm tofu with a really fantastic marinade from the Rebar cookbook and grilled that too.

    I will share the recipe with you, because you can never have enough marinade recipes.  To make the inevitable transition to winter a little easier this marinade works great with a stir fry too!

    Basil-Soy Marinade

    1 or 2 blocks of firm tofu (1 block serves two to three)
    1/4 cup soy sauce, sodium reduced
    2/3 cup of water
    2 tablespoons of lime juice
    1 tablespoon minced ginger
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 teaspoon sambal oelek
    2 teaspoon sugar
    a few turns of the pepper mill
    8 leaves of basil, roughly chopped

    • Slice the tofu into 3 thin rectangles. Cut each rectangle in half so you have six thin squares.
    • Combine at the ingredients, except the basil, into a small pot.
    • Simmer over medium low heat for 5 minutes.
    • Throw in the basil and pour over the tofu.
    • Marinade for 2-8 hours
    • Reserve the sauce and use to baste the tofu or as a stir-fry sauce.

    Click to print

    Fennel and White Wine Risotto with a knob of butter

    One good thing about having a cool spring is that I was able to make risotto one last time before the summer heat overtakes our condo. Since our condo faces west, the early evening sun heats up the place and makes the task of stirring hot broth into rice an unpleasant one to say the least.

    That reminds me, risotto apparently works quite well in a pressure cooker. Perhaps the warm weather will make me break with tradition and opt for the quick no-stir method. Time will tell.

    This risotto recipe was passed along to me by a co-worker.  One day, I was politely eyeing her lunch (this happens quite often), so she sent me the link.  The recipe is courtesy of Waitrose, a UK grocery store.

    She and her husband hail from the UK, so we always have fun pointing out the different words used for things there and here. For example, jumper and sweater, garden and backyard, and football and soccer, to name a few.  I think my favourite one is flapjacks.  In Canada flapjacks, without a doubt, refers to pancakes.  In the UK it refers to a crunchy oatmeal-based cookie akin to a sweet granola bar. Wow! I couldn’t believe it. We both speak English, but sometimes it is like another language.  She made a batch of UK flapjacks for us to try, which we all agreed was a nice way to learn about a “different language” and a little easier to share at lunchtime than a plate of Canadian flapjacks.

    The risotto recipe had a couple of firsts in it for me too: the first time I had cooked with fennel (hard to believe, I know) and the first time I had made risotto with white wine. The fennel was great (except that I did not chop it fine enough – easily remedied), but the white wine, not so much. I really dislike white wine and figured I would get past it in a risotto, but I couldn’t. Next time I make this dish, or another risotto that calls for white wine, I will leave it out and use extra stock.

    The other thing that worked against me was that the power went out for 30 minutes right in the middle of cooking the risotto. Sigh. The texture was certainly a bit off and I had to add a few extra ladles of stock to get the dish back on track, but it survived.  At least the risotto was saved and we didn’t have to garbage it and go out to eat.

    I used the recipe as is, so click here to take a look.

    Oh, if you are wondering, a knob of butter translates to 2 tablespoon here in Canada.