Stovetop Smashed Potatoes | With Creamy Lemon-Dill Tahini Dipping Sauce

As a youngster in the 1980s – like most kids then and now – I’d base my opinion of a restaurant almost exclusively on the way in which the food was packaged, and of equal importance, on the swag that accompanied the meal. This meant that fast food chains ranked very high in my list of top dining establishments, namely McDonald’s with it Happy Meals (anyone remember those highly-coveted Muppet Babies figurines?) and Burger King with its 3 packs of mini hamburgers aka ‘Burger Bundles’, which for all their frivolity were likely the prequel to the now omnipresent ‘slider’. I don’t recall particularly enjoying the food at these places; I was sold on them for the toys and whimsically-presented meals alone.
Back then I hadn’t yet acquired an awareness of the marketing tactics of fast food chains, hell bent as they are on getting kids addicted to bad-for-you foods via an assortment of crafty ploys, from gimmicky packaging and tie-ins to the latest TV show or blockbuster movie, to on-site ‘play places’ where kids can work off their soda-induced sugar highs. The guile and cunning of these companies really is extraordinary; I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out their marketing team include someone with a degree in child psychology – someone with the know-how to exploit the addictive potential of their young customers’ developing psyches!
Despite the cynicism I’ve acquired in adulthood about pretty much every aspect of fast food, I still recall with real fondness the experience of my parents taking me to eat at White Spot, a chain of burger joints exclusive to Western Canada. When I was little, White Spot earned my intense affection for its kids meal called the Pirate Pak, tantalizingly served in a cardboard schooner, complete with a sail impaled on a straw and best of all, a gold foil covered chocolate dubloon. Sure, the Pirate Pak was White Spot’s own little ruse to entice children to eat at their restaurants, but you have to admit it’s a pretty cool concept, and refreshingly void of any sort of corporate tie-in.
While in recent years White Spot has ditched its soda jerk vibe and morphed into a somewhat generic family restaurant, I still eat there regularly – if not for the atmosphere then for the delicious provolone-portobello veggie burger and cheap pints of Nat Bailey Pale Ale. Their brunches are also the best in town (I even requested to be taken their this past Mother’s Day). The smashed potatoes in this post (which are basically potatoes which have been boiled, flattened slightly, then pan-fried until crispy in a skillet) are my attempt to emulate the ones that are served alongside practically every item on the White Spot brunch menu.
While they’re great as a side dish for breakfast or brunch – I think they’d go particularly well with a frittata or omelette – the creamy lemon-dill tahini sauce I made to accompany them makes them a perfect appetizer or snack, too. Typically the thought of pairing something pan-friend with something creamy strikes me as a bit much – but here there’s not that much to feel guilty about, as the potatoes are fried using minimal oil, and the sauce’s creaminess comes from a blend of tahini and egg-free mayo. OK, it’s still not the saintliest of recipes, but I guarantee it’s better for you than a Happy Meal 🙂
Recipe: Stovetop Smashed Potatoes | With Creamy Lemon-Dill Tahini Dipping Sauce
Stovetop Smashed Potatoes
  • 16 red potatoes, scrubbed clean (choose potatoes that are no larger than 2″ in diameter)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Creamy Lemon-Dill Tahini Sauce

  • 1 medium garlic bulb
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Prepare potatoes

  1. Place potatoes in a large stock pot and cover with water.
  2. Bring pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  3. Let potatoes cook until tender all the way through, about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Drain and set aside to cool.

Roast garlic for sauce

  1. While potatoes are cooking, preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Peel outmost layers of skin from garlic bulb.
  3. Place garlic on an approx. 6″ x 6″ piece of aluminum foil and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  4. Bundle aluminum foil tightly around garlic.
  5. Place in oven and roast until garlic cloves are soft, about 30 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Finish sauce

  1. Once garlic has cooled enough to handle, carefully remove skin from each clove (the clove should separate easily from the skin).
  2. Place garlic cloves in food processor along with tahini, vegan mayonaise, lemon zest and juice.
  3. Blend everything until completely smooth.
  4. Taste mixture and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Transfer mixture to small bowl and stir in minced dill.
  6. Cover and store in fridge until needed.

Finish potatoes

  1. Once potatoes are cool enough to handle, flatten each one slightly. Do this by holding potato between your index finger and thumb of one hand and pressingly down gently with the heel of your other hand. Don’t press too hard or your potato will fall apart!
  2. After flattening each potato, heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  3. Once oil is hot, transfer your flattened potatoes to the skillet. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  4. Pan fry potatoes until crispy, about 3-4 minutes on each side.
  5. Remove from heat and serve, topping each portion with a dollop or two of Creamy Lemon-Dill Tahini Sauce. Eat!

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Roasted Red Pepper and Olive Tapenade | With Hazelnuts and Figs

When one moves into a house that could most-flatteringly be described as a ‘fixer upper’ one is bound to make some interesting discoveries. Such has been the case since we moved out of the RV and initiated the renovation process at our new place. Some of these discoveries have appealed to the retro enthusiast in me – like the page from the Toronto Star newspaper from 1971 that Mike found stuffed behind the drywall in one of the bedrooms. We were also surprised to find some well-preserved and very of-its-time gold and beige linoleum underneath the teal coloured carpet. Teal! Whoever lived in this house previously obviously had an obsession with this colour, as it features in practically every room of the house, much to our combined amazement!
Other discoveries have been more dubious in nature, like the crow bar marks on the front door frame – creepy reminders of the house being broken into a few years ago. I’ll admit that knowledge of this break-in has launched me into full-on ‘neighbourhood watch’ mode. I find myself regularly on the lookout for ‘suspicious behaviour,’ often peeping through the blinds like a paranoid recluse to see what’s going on outside the house. We have an old rocking chair that we’ve been using until we move the rest of our furniture out of storage, and I’ve even caught myself seated in it on occasion, sinisterly panning the road outside. All I need is a set of curlers in my hair and a rolling pin on my lap and I’ll have officially achieved the status of neighbourhood crazy lady.
Mike happened upon a massive spider nest while he was tearing down the valence in the bedroom over the weekend. He immediately assessed the nest – rather dramatically – as that belonging to a Black Widow – but I’d like to think he’s wrong seeing as he doesn’t have any formal training on arachnids or their dwellings that I’m aware of. I KNEW something was in that wall ever since I heard an aggressive scurrying sound as I was falling to sleep the other night. Mike seems to think he scared the spider into the attic – which is fine by me, as long as it stays there and doesn’t decide to pay us a visit at some point.
Given all the activity around the house I haven’t been keeping up with my rigorous (ya right) once- or twice-weekly blogging schedule (if you can even call it that), but here you have it – my latest creation, a yummy tapenade! I’ve had hazelnuts hovering in the back of my mind for some time now, ever since I spotted this recipe for dukkah – an Egyptian spice blend made up of hazelnuts, seeds, fresh herbs and spices – on the amazing Cook Eat Live Vegetarian blog. I was already planning a roasted red pepper and olive tapenade but felt the urge to a little something-something to this classic Mediterranean pairing. Enter hazelnuts! They give the tapenade a fantastic nutty crunch, while the sweetness of dried figs offsets the pungency the black and green olives. I also threw in an entire bulb of garlic – which, when roasted, turns smoky and sweet and gives the tapenade a nice depth of flavour.
This recipe is prepared in a blender or food processor so it’s easy to control the consistency of the tapenade. I left mine a bit chunky so the different ingredients could be differentiated – but if a smoother spread is more to your liking, simply blend for longer.
Recipe: Roasted Red Pepper and Olive Tapenade | With Hazelnuts and Figs
Makes about 1 cup
  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 1 medium bulb of garlic
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped Kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped Manzanilla olives
  • 4 dried figs, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt to taste


1. Preheat oven to 425F. Place whole red peppers in an oven-proof dish and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Place in oven for 40 minutes – turning peppers over half-way through – or until peppers are soft and skin is blackened. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

2. While peppers are roasting, peel outmost layers of skin from garlic bulb and place bulb on a piece of aluminum foil (foil should be big enough to bundle around garlic). Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil onto bulb and season lightly with salt and pepper. Bundle foil firmly around garlic and place in a small oven-proof dish. Place dish in oven alongside peppers and roast for 30 minutes, or until garlic cloves are tender. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

3. Once peppers are cool enough to handle, remove stem and seeds and peel off blackened skin. Once garlic is cool enough to handle, separate garlic from skin. Transfer peppers and garlic to blender or food processor.

4. Blend peppers and garlic together until a smooth puree forms.

5. Add chopped hazelnuts and pulse until broken down into smaller pieces.

6. Add figs, both types of olives, oregano, pepper and 1 tablespoon of olive oil and pulse until ingredients are incorporated, scraping down sides of blender as necessary. I left my tapenade a little chunky. If you prefer a smoother texture simply blend for longer.

7. Taste and adjust with salt if necessary (I found the olives alone made the tapenade adequately salty).

8. Transfer tapenade to serving dish. Serve with crackers, warm bread or crostini. This tapenade would also work well as a spread in a grilled vegetable sandwich or panini. Eat!

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