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.
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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
Ingredients:
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

Method:

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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Quinoa and Roasted Cherry Tomato Salad | With Lemon Vinaigrette and Toasted Sunflower Seeds

For those of you who participated in Virtual Vegan Potluck this past Saturday, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. The scope of recipes that was brought to the table was remarkable, as was the care and expertise with which each dish was presented. I was really inspired by how creative – and in many cases, outright gourmet – the dishes were, flying in the face of any negative stereotype of ‘vegan potluck food’ one might hold. Vegan bloggers are clearly a talented lot! If you’re interested in checking out the potluck from the beginning, you can do so here.

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I also was super impressed by how smoothly the potlcuk came together – although I’m sure Annie at An Unrefined Vegan and Somer at Vedged Out, who coordinate the event, would disagree; just a guess, but rounding up 160+ bloggers from around the world and figuring out the logistics of getting them to post in unison must be a bit of migraine headache. I admire her dedication to making the whole thing happen!

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My sweet tooth was given full expression with the Salted Triple Chocolate Brownies I made for the potluck. Maybe the best thing about vegan baking is that you can sneak spoonfuls of the batter without risking salmonella poisoning, something I fully took advantage of while I was making my brownies. By the time I’d finished photographing and then sampling the final product, I felt like I’d definitely reached my sugar quota for the week, maybe even the month! Whenever that happens – and it certainly wasn’t the first time – I feel the need to ‘undo the damage’ wrought by the demonic baked good in question via a super healthy concoction of some sort.

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… Which is where this salad comes into the picture. Being a quinoa salad, it’s inherently nutritious – but with the bold flavours of marinated artichoke hearts, sweet balsamic-roasted cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, lemon zest and crunchy radishes and toasted sunflower seeds, it’s anything but rabbit food! It makes a satisfying lunch on its own, and is also great as a side dish – but maybe the best way to enjoy this salad – and I only discovered this with the leftovers – is to bundle it up in a wrap and eat it that way. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised – bread of any description always takes things to the next level!

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Recipe: Quinoa and Roasted Cherry Tomato Salad | With Lemon Vinaigrette and Toasted Sunflower Seeds

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

For the dressing

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 medium lemon (zest your lemon first and set the zest aside; you’ll need it for the salad)
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the salad

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 25 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Zest of 1 medium lemon
  • 6 medium basil leaves, chiffonaded
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped marinated artichoke hearts
  • 4 radishes, finely sliced
  • 1/4 cup plain sunflower seeds
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Roast cherry Tomatoes

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Place tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  3. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  4. Place in oven for 20 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and collapsed (tomatoes will leak a lot of juice while roasting – it’s OK)
  5. Rem0ve from oven and set aside to cool.

Cook quinoa

  1. While tomatoes are roasting, combine rinsed quinoa and 1 1/2 cups of water in a medium saucepan.
  2. Cover and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to low and let quinoa cook for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

Prepare Lemon Vinaigrette

  1. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, coriander and salt in a small bowl and whisk everything until thoroughly combined. 
  2. Set aside until needed.

Toast Sunflower Seeds

  1. Place sunflower seeds in a small skillet over medium heat.
  2. Tossing continuously, toast seeds until just golden brown (this will only take a couple minutes – be careful, they burn easily!).
  3. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Assemble Salad

  1. Place cooled quinoa, shallots, artichokes, radishes, basil, lemon zest and toasted sunflower seeds in a large salad bowl and toss to combine.
  2. Gently fold in roasted tomatoes and juices from roasting pan.
  3. Drizzle lemon vinaigrette into bowl toss until everything is combined.
  4. Serve, topping each portion with freshly ground black pepper. Eat!

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Whole-Roasted Local Carrots with Honey and Fresh Sage | Served with Warm Kamut Orzo and Chanterelle Mushroom Salad

With the farmers’ market in Lake Country now finished for the year (not impressed!), this past weekend we branched out and made a trip to Kelowna to check out the farmers’ and crafters’ market there. As the largest of its kind in BC, you’d think I would have given myself longer than an hour to look around, but it was only as we left the trailer park around noon that I realized the market runs from 8am – 1pm each Saturday. Oops. Should have quit lollygagging around the RV and gotten my butt in gear earlier. Anyhow, with the time available to me I quickly scanned the food vendors’ carts, which ranged from crepes to baked goods to Mexican, lingered for probably a bit longer than necessary at a stall selling tie died clothing (I have a thing for tie-die, don’t ask), and passed by multiple tables (why so many?) hocking magnetic bracelets purporting to cure numerous maladies and ailments, before grinding to a complete halt before a spread of super cute handbags and wallets (my other obsession, besides food) made entirely from repurposed leather jackets and vintage fabric. Successfully fighting the urge to purchase a wallet I don’t need, I moved on to an adjacent vendor, where my wherewithal to not spend money eroded completely. Sigh. Who could possibly resist a handmade ceramic tag with his or her name on it? Not me…

In my determination to find a tag with each of our names on it, which involved digging madly through several bowls containing hundreds of tags each, not only did I work myself into a hot sweat, but managed to distract myself from what I’d gone there to do, namely size up the fresh fruits and vegetables. With the few minutes I had remaining I made a beeline for the first enticing thing that caught my eye, which happened to be a table piled high with beautiful exotic-coloured carrots. I grabbed a few of each colour: red, orange, white and best of all, PURPLE. I didn’t have a specific plan for the carrots at the time but already a few ideas were coming to mind: a nice salad or slaw, or maybe I could do to them what I do best… roast ’em. I also considered snacking on a few right on the spot, because I was starving and all the food vendors’ carts had already closed. But I resisted.

So that was it for my first foray to the Kelowna farmers’ market. Next time I’m giving myself more time to look around and steering clear of the non-food items so as to emerge at the end with more ingredients to cook with than a bag of carrots! The following day I set about putting them to use, keen to see how they differed from conventional orange carrots (verdict: WAY tastier). I decided I’d work with them whole so as not to interfere with their good looks, and figured that roasting them in the oven would be an effective way to draw out their natural flavour. I had some fresh sage in the fridge and had just bought a lovely jar of honey from Armstrong, and I thought a little bit of each would work well with sweetness of the carrots.

I also had some local Chanterelle mushrooms on hand that needed to be used, so I set about making a little pasta dish to go with my carrots. I have plenty of experience cooking with white and brown mushrooms as well as Portobellos, but Chanterelles were new to me, and admittedly a little outside of my culinary comfort zone. When I spotted them at the produce stand a couple days earlier I was slightly put off by their appearance, being somewhat more ‘wild’ and unruly-looking than your average edible mushroom, if that makes sense. I wondered if these things were in fact edible or intended for other purposes altogether? Could they be poisonous? What ever happened to my copy of this? Once I got them home I cautiously nibbled the edge of one, and swear I immediately experienced a mild tingling sensation on my tongue (which sent me directly to WebMD to self-diagnose) but moments later the tingling vanished and I was still breathing, so it must have been psychosomatic. Fungi-neuroses aside, the Chanterelles were fun to cook with. Their flavour is mild and nutty and a good complement to the kamut orzo pasta and walnuts I happened to have in the pantry. Fresh parsley and goat cheese, added just before serving, brighten up the dish both in taste and appearance, without overpowering the mild flavour of the mushrooms. I was quite pleased with my colourful little meal!

Recipe: Whole-Roasted Local Carrots with Honey and Fresh Sage | Served with Warm Kamut Orzo and Chanterelle Mushroom Salad

Ingredients:

Whole-Roasted Local Carrots with Honey and Fresh Sage

Makes 2 servings

  • 6 carrots, local if possible
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 4 fresh sage leaves
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Warm Kamut Orzo and Chanterelle Mushroom Salad

Makes 2 servings

  • 2/3 cup kamut orzo, uncooked
  • 1 1/2 cups Chanterelle mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, stemmed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Prepare carrots: Preheat oven to 400F. Peel carrots and place in a single layer on a large piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil and honey, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place sage leaves on top of carrots. Fold in edges of aluminum foil to create a tight package around carrots. Place package on a baking sheet and put in oven to roast for 30 minutes, or until tender. Remove from oven and carefully open foil. Set oven to broil and put carrots back in oven for another 10 minutes, until golden brown.

Prepare orzo salad: Cook orzo according to package instructions, or until al dente. Drain, rinse under cold water and set aside. In a skillet over medium heat, heat butter and olive oil. Add Chanterelles, season with a bit of salt and pepper, and saute until tender. Add chopped walnuts and stir until just golden brown. Fold in orzo, and stir until combined with other ingredients. Remove from heat and fold in fresh parsley, then crumbled goat cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Arrange your roasted carrots on a plate alongside a a couple generous scoops of warm orzo salad. Admire your creation, then eat!

 

Wild Rice and Garlicky Swiss Chard with Balsamic-Roasted Portobello Mushrooms and Eggplant

After a young adulthood spent trudging dutifully toward a professional career, and clinging obstinately to an ideal that saw myself financially independent, child-free and living in an urban centre, I now reside in an RV in a rural area, have one very radical (as in awesome) baby, and am unemployed apart from my child-rearing and domestic obligations. While some of my generation would view my current lot as something resembling a fall from grace – and while I don’t go a day without feeling a measure of feminist guilt over walking on seven years of post secondary education and now relying on someone else to ‘pay my way’ – I look at it more as a reinterpretation or rediscovery of what I’m really about. For years I occupied a headspace that was informed by expectations set for me at a young age. I attended a high school which groomed me for university enrolment, and my parents also set very clear expectations about pursuing post secondary studies. While I was lucky to receive this sort of support in my formative years, there was little or no encouragement to follow non-academic pursuits after high school. Travel, an interest in creative endeavours, and more practical/applied lines of work were all seen as far less worthy of my time than a university education.

So I went to university. In retrospect my time there seems unnatural and forced and miserable, but I finished, and even went on to complete a second degree (just to really punish myself). That’s not to say I wasn’t interested in what I was studying, but the fact of the matter is I’m not an academic and subconsciously I wanted to be doing something else. After finishing university, this subconscious desire found expression through a series of questionable life decisions and oddball twists of fate which, long story short, brought me to where I am now. Although I’m exactly where I shouldn’t be according to the trajectory that was plotted for me when I was younger, I feel like I’ve finally been given the opportunity to reset my mind, do things I honestly enjoy (like cook, make things and read books not written by Jurgen Habermas) and clearly assess what I want for myself. This might mean having a career one day (I still have at least 30 employable years ahead of me, after all) but right now I’m all about the domestic sphere, even if this brings with it an undercurrent of guilt.

While I’ve forfeited the austere independence I idealized in my younger years, my rediscovery of cooking means that I now wear the culinary pants in the household (even if my household is currently a recreational vehicle). This has happened somewhat out of necessity, as I’m vegetarian and Mike isn’t, and cooking without meat isn’t really his strong point, grilled cheese sandwiches, baked potatoes and cans of baked beans notwithstanding. The tricky thing is striking a balance between our individual palates. While I could survive quite contentedly on sauteed kale and brown rice for dinner every night, Mike would view this as a form of torture akin to waterboarding. In other words, he’s happy to eat meatless meals as long as they don’t entail piles of leafy greens or other kinds of ‘rabbit food’ in large quantities (his loss, IMO). There are other restrictions, too, among them: no mushrooms, no uncooked tomatoes, nothing too spicy. These are pretty significant limitations in vegetarian cooking, but I’ve gotten pretty adept at working with them. I figure I owe it to him… I don’t know many manly-meateaters who would agree to adopt a largely plant-based diet at home and not whine endlessly about it!

It was only when my gaze fell on a pile of portobellos at the grocery store the other day that I realized how long it had been since I’d made a dish that incorporated any kind of mushroom. Mike was working out of town for the week so I figured I had my chance to create a dish that indulged some of the ‘nasty’ ingredients that would scar him for life and/or propel him straight from the dinner table to the McDonald’s drive-through: not only the cursed fungi but eggplant and wild rice an worst of all… CHARD! At any rate, this was one of the most satisfying dishes I’ve come up with in a while. Wild rice is so hearty, and the roasted portobellos and eggplant imbue the dish with an amazing flavour. I seriously need to figure out a way to sneak mushrooms into my regular dishes. I think I’ve been denying myself!

Recipe: Wild Rice and Garlicky Swiss Chard with Balsamic-Roasted Portobello Mushrooms and Eggplant

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium eggplant, diced into 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 portobello mushrooms, diced into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup wild rice (I used Lunderberg Wild Blend, which is a mix of wild rice and brown rice)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, chopped (I removed spines first but you don’t have to)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
 Method:
Prepare wild rice: In a saucepan, combine wild rice and vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer until rice is tender, about 50 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside. Roast mushrooms and eggplant: Preheat oven to 400F. Place diced mushrooms and eggplant in an 8″ x 12″ casserole dish and toss with 1/4 cup olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Roast mushrooms and eggplant in oven for 25 minutes, gently stirring half way through, or until soft and beginning to brown. Remove from oven and set aside.
Prepare chard: In a large skillet over medium heat, saute garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until just golden brown. Add chard to skillet and saute until wilted (this should only take a couple minutes; try not to overcook). Reduce heat.
Transfer roasted mushrooms and eggplant to skillet and stir gently to combine with chard. Add wild rice to skillet and fold all ingredients together. Serve and eat!

Roasted Spaghetti Squash, Grape Tomatoes and Peaches with Feta and Fresh Basil

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of what I described as “nonsense” in one of my first posts, that being using the oven to prepare a meal when it’s ridiculously hot outside. It started with the roasted acorn squash soup I felt compelled to make a couple weeks ago (shedding a few pounds of water weight in the process), then the idea for the recipe in this post came along, and tonight I was back at it again, sparking up the ol’ pilot light (I’m now an expert at this) in the Gypsy Roller’s miniature oven in preparation for a dish that will appear in a future post. When we arrived in the Okanagan at the end of July I guess I was so stunned by the heat I figured I’d be subsisting solely on cucumber sandwiches, mint juleps and popsicles for the remainder of the summer; at that point acknowledging the existence of the oven, let alone turning it on, did strike me as completely nonsensical. Obviously I didn’t anticipate the awesome bounty that is the Lake Country Famers’ Market and the abundance of vegetables (and fruit) there that lend themselves nicely to a good roasting!

So I’m on an oven-roasting kick. I’m also on a squash kick. My acorn squash soup was a success and piqued my curiousity as to what else I could get up to with members of the Cucurbita (useless word of the day!) family. I kept coming across intriguing recipes on Pinterest (I should just come out and admit that I am obsessed with Pinterest. Over 5,000 pins and counting!) featuring spaghetti squash, so I thought I’d come up with my own treatment of this nifty noodle-y vegetable (ok, it’s technically a fruit, but you know what I mean). Initially I wanted to give it a bit of a Mediterranean spin, combining the spaghetti squash with nice oily ingredients like kalamata olives, artichoke hearts and sun dried tomatoes. But seeing as these ingredients are commonly available in jars year round, I decided to save this idea for Winter and instead take advantage of the local seasonal ingredients and whip up something a little more summery. Perhaps the peaches are an unusual addition to the dish, but I was interested in experimenting with them in a savoury recipe instead of the usual pie or cobbler. Plus they’ll be gone from the markets in a few weeks so I wanted to have a final go with them while I still had the opportunity! I think their texture and tangy sweetness ended up working really nicely with the other ingredients. That’s the nice thing about squash, its versatile enough that it can be combine with just about any flavour to create something tasty. I couldn’t help but use a bit of butter to saute the leeks, and I’m glad I did because it lends the recipe a subtle richness and emphasizes the pasta-like quality of the spaghetti squash. So good!

Recipe: Roasted Spaghetti Squash, Grape Tomatoes and Peaches with Feta and Fresh Basil

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 small leeks, diced (white and light green parts only)
  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 18-20 grape tomatoes
  • 3 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and diced
  • 7 leaves of fresh basil, cut into ribbons
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Roast spaghetti squash: Preheat oven to 400F. Cut spaghetti squash in half length wise and scoop out seeds. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over each squash half and season with salt and pepper. Place squash cut-side down on a baking sheet and cook for 40 minutes or until flesh is tender. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Roast tomatoes and peaches: Keeping oven heated to 400F, place tomatoes and peaches in an 8in x 8in casserole dish, toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast tomatoes and peaches for 30 minutes or until soft and juicy, stirring gently half way through. Remove from oven and set aside.

Prepare leeks: In a large skillet over medium heat, saute leeks in 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil, until soft. Using a slotted spoon, remove tomatoes and peaches from casserole dish (discard of the juices) and combine with leeks. Remove skillet from heat.

Once squash has cooled, scrape flesh from rind using a fork and add to skillet. Add crumbled feta and basil, and gently fold ingredients together until combined. Serve and eat!