Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tapas and Mezes...create a cultural experience in one meal!

Tapas is the name of a wide variety of appetizers predominately in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold or warm. In North America and the UK, tapas have evolved into an entire cuisine - and can be the beginning stages of any cuisine or made into a full meal.

Mezes or mezze is the term used in the Eastern Mediterranean (Persian, Greek, Arabic and Turkish influence) They are a selection of appetizers or small dishes often served with a beverage, like anise-flavored liqueurs or different wines.

In essence both are similar in nature, however, they originate from two different places. They have also been called: small plates, mini salads or even side plates. But there is an associated authenticity and cultural flare when you call them Tapas or Mezes...

So in my Moroccan Flavours cooking class, the participants created a sampling a three little salads that were the "appetizers" of the well rounded Moroccan meal. Actually, the true appetizer or starter recipe was a smokey eggplant dip with wilted spinach and spelt lavash, but let's not complicate things.

The whole point of what I am getting at, is that it can be extremely simple to prepare a few different small little salads, which together can create the beginning of delicious meal.

It may seem like a lot of work to prepare three different salads, but if you think of it this way, now you have three different salads to choose from and if you really don't like one at least you've got two more to munch on!

At the very least the goal is to have a small sampling of different flavours that compliment each other and taste great together!

Since the theme of the night was Moroccan...the flavours of cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, coriander, fennel, lemon and mint were the inspiration of most of the recipes.

But you can do this with any combination of flavours with any variety of spices and ingredients of choice. Whether your palate is Indian, Asian, Spanish, French - you can really have a lot of fun with Tapas!

So here is some insight to what you see above and you will see that it is fairly simple and quite fun to create a cultural experience in just three little recipes!

Zesty Citrus Mint Salad


4 oranges, supreme and cut in half
4 grapefruits, supremed and cut in half
½ bunch of mint, chopped finely

For the Dressing
½ cup olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 orange, juiced
5 mint leaves

1. Supreme the oranges and grapefruits and then cut each slice in half.
2. Strain the chopped slices over a mesh colander and place in a large bowl.
3. Finely chop the mint and combine with orange and grapefruit slices.
4. In a separate jar or bowl mix together the olive oil, salt, orange zest, a few mint leaves and orange juice.
5. Allow dressing to infuse overnight or for 2-3 hours.
6. Pour the marinade over the oranges and grapefruit, discarding the mint leaves.

Speckled Lemon and Fennel Salad


2 heads of fennel, thinly sliced
1 preserved lemon, finely minced and diced or zest of one lemon
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp agave nectar
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
¼ teaspoon sea salt

1. Using a mandolin, slice fennel into fine slices
2. Dice the preserved lemon and combine with fennel
3. In a separate bowl mix together, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, agave nectar, sea salt and black sesame seeds
1. Pour dressing over fennel and allow to sit for 2-3 hours in refrigerator

Beet Cumin Salad


2medium beets
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup agave nectar
2 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon sea salt
¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp ground cumin
½ cup olive oil

1. Boil beets a medium saucepan for 30 minutes.
2. Remove beets from boiling water (reserve beet juice), allow cooling and gently removing the skins.
3. Using a mandolin, slice beets into long strips (about ½ inch thick).
4. In the pot with reserved beet juice, heat and combine apple cider vinegar, agave nectar, garlic, cloves, cinnamon sticks, fennel seeds and sea salt allow to come to a boil and reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
5. Allow beet juice mixture to cool and then pour mixture over beets and let it sit absorbing the liquid for a few hours or overnight.
6. Place cumin powder into a jar with olive oil, shake a few times with lid sealed and allow oil to infuse for a few hours.
7. Remove beets from juice and place into a large bowl and stir in cumin oil and chopped parsley.
8. Serve and enjoy.

This recipe can also be done with Raw Beets and the dressing can be amended by infusing the other herbs in the oil with the cumin for several hours and then combining it with apple cider and agave nectar.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Pump your Heart Full of Nutrition!

As we all know February is Heart Healthy month and of course Valentines Day! It is also an opportunity for you to support the Heart and Stroke Foundation. In honour of my boyfriend and his challenge to support the Heart and Stroke Foundation, I am hosting a special "Heart Healthy Cooking Class" on Thursday February 19th. If you are interested please email me for details! (This class will also offer you a tax deductible receipt from the Heart and Stroke Foundation.)

Because of the importance of this month it is especially important for you to learn about which foods and nutrients are supportive to your heart and your overall health! You can even have a little fun with your food and make Valentine's a little extra special this year. You don't even need to go out to a fancy restaurant for dinner. Maybe this year you want to opt to stay home and make your honey a sexy, balanced and heart healthy V-Day dinner!

Here are some tips of which foods will provide your heart with maximum nutrition and aren't bad for your sex drive either! These foods are all from whole sources! A diet rich in these foods will promote and overall state of optimal health and well being!

Salmon or other Fresh White fish

Omega-3 fatty acids.

Grill, steam or bake fish with a yummy rub, marinade or fresh herbs and lemon juice. Save a chunk to chop for a pasta or salad later on.

Flaxseed (ground)

Omega-3 fatty acids; fiber, phytoestrogens.

Ground flaxseed hides easily in all sorts of foods -- yogurt parfaits, morning cereal, homemade muffins, or cookies.


Omega-3 fatty acids; magnesium; potassium; folate; niacin; calcium; soluble fiber.

Top hot oatmeal with fresh berries. Oatmeal-and-raisin cookies are a hearty treat.

Black or Kidney Beans

B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate; magnesium; omega-3 fatty acids; calcium; soluble fiber.

Give soup or salad a nutrient boost -- stir in some beans.


Calcium, iron, magnesium and phosphorous, vitamin A, B complex and C

Shred raw into salad, or steam and cut into slices (or hearts!)

Pumpkin Seeds

Protein, omega 3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, phosphorus, vitamin A, calcium, b vitamins

Eat them raw in trail mixes, salads and granola or toast them lightly for a fragrant extra boost of flavour!


Plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols.

Mix a few raw organic almonds (and berries) into sheep's milk yogurt, trail mix, or fruit salads.


Plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; folate; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols.

Walnuts add flavorful crunch to salads, pastas, cookies, muffins, even pancakes

Red wine

Catechins and reservatrol (flavonoids).

Toast your good health! A glass of red wine could improve "good" HDL cholesterol.

Tofu and Tempeh

Niacin; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium.

These soy options are easy to use and taste delicious in any recipe: Thinly slice "firm" tofu, or tempeh and marinate for several hours and bake, grill or stir-fry.

Brown rice or Quinoa

B-complex vitamins; fiber; niacin; magnesium, fiber.

Organic varieties are wonderful! Cook up a pot and make pilafs, soups or top it with a colourful vegetable stir fry!

Soy milk

Isoflavones (a flavonoid); B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate, calcium; magnesium; potassium; phytoestrogens.

Make sure it is Organic! But soy milk is great over oatmeal or whole-grain cereal. Or, make a smoothie with soy milk.


Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); anthocyanin (a flavonoid); ellagic acid (a polyphenol); vitamin C; folate; calcium, magnesium; potassium; fiber.

Cranberries, strawberries, raspberries are potent, too -- for trail mixes, muffins, salads!


Alpha-carotene (a carotenoid); fiber.

Cut up into snack sized pieces for a great snack. Use in recipes such as stir fries, salads and soups or sneak shredded carrots into spaghetti sauce or muffin batter.


Lutein (a carotenoid); B-complex vitamins; folate; magnesium; potassium; calcium; fiber.

Pick spinach (not lettuce) for nutrient-packed salads and sandwiches. Tastes great when steamed and added to cooked dishes!


Beta-carotene (a carotenoid); Vitamins C and E; potassium; folate; calcium; fiber.

Chop fresh broccoli into store-bought soup. For a veggie dip, try hummus (chickpeas).

Sweet potatoor butternut Squash

Beta-carotene (a carotenoid); vitamins A, C, E; fiber.

Steam in steamer basket, bake or roast in oven or boil in a pot of soup!

Red bell peppers

Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex vitamins; folate; potassium; fiber.

Rub with olive oil, and grill or oven-roast until tender. Delicious in wraps, salads, sandwiches.


Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex vitamins; folate; fiber.

Grill or steam slightly, then dress with olive oil and lemon. It's a pretty side dish.


Beta-cryptoxanthin, beta- and alpha-carotene, lutein (carotenoids) and flavones (flavonoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber.

Make your own orange juice with freshly squeezed organic oranges. Use the zest in marinades chutneys and salad dressing. You can even use it in baking!


Beta- and alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein (carotenoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber.

For a flavor twist, try oil-packed tomatoes in sandwiches, salads, pastas, pizzas.

Acorn squash

Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex and C vitamins; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium; fiber.

Baked squash is comfort food on a chilly day. Serve with sautéed spinach, pine nuts, raisins.


Alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex and C vitamins; folate; potassium; fiber.

A fragrant ripe cantaloupe is perfect for breakfast, lunch, potluck dinners. Simply cut and enjoy!


Beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein (carotenoids); Vitamins C and E; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium.

Serve papaya salsa with salmon: Mix papaya, pineapple, scallions, garlic, fresh lime juice, salt and black pepper.

Dark chocolate

Reservatrol and cocoa phenols (flavonoids).

A square of dark cocoa is great for blood pressure, but choose 70% or higher cocoa content.


Catechins and flavonols (flavonoids).

Make sun tea: Combine a clear glass jar, several tea bags, and hours of sunshine.

Source: various resources including Webmd, Phyllis A. Balch and Rebecca Wood's Whole Foods Encyclopedia

Heart-Beet Salad with Sweet Pumpkin Seeds

4 whole meyer lemons
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

1 pound or bunch of wild arugula
1 beet, steamed and peeled and chilled, shaved on the mandolin or cut into heart shape slices
1 pear, cut into shavings with a peeler
½ cup candied pumpkin seeds
½ cup dried black mission figs, sliced

*candied pumpkin seeds
2 cups pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon ground ginger
¼ cup maple syrup
½ teaspoon fine sea salt

Mix all the ingredients together, place on a baking tray and lightly roast at 200F for 10-15 minutes.


1. With a sharp paring knife, cut away the ends and the outer peel of the lemons along with the seeds, leaving some of the white pith. Cut the lemons in halves or quarters and add to blender with honey. Blend on high speed for about a minute to break up.
2. With the blender running on medium speed, slowly pour in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. In a large mixing bowl, gently toss the green and pear with enough dressing to generously coat. Divide among serving plates and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and dried figs.