Dillicious Grilled Cheese

I’m putting up a sign that says, ‘I’ve moved into summer hours’.The fervor at which I do anything lately seems to most closely mimic an accountant in their off-season (please disregard if you are an account I’m sure you are passionate about your job).

On thing I can’t seem to get enough of right now is, reading A Song of Ice and Fire. I’m currently on the fourth book (A Feast for Crows) and loving every minute of it which lately, has been all the spare minutes I have.

For anyone that has read this book series, you know that the author (George R.R. Martin) has a love of food and talks often about black bread and cheese, so much so that almost every time I read the book, I need a cheese fix.

Bread

I haven’t forgotten about cider [week(s)] I just feel like you all deserved some food porn as my blog has been lacking it of late. If you need a cider fix I found a great blog devoted to cider called Cider Monger you should all check it out.

In my kitchen I love to use fresh herbs in everything, pasta, salads, drinks (alcoholic or otherwise) and sandwiches. Fresh herbs can add so much to a dish. One small ingredient and elevate a regular food to be something special. Adding some to your condiments for a sandwich can really bring other elements together, like the cilantro on banh-mi.

Dillicious Grilled Cheese

Along time ago I did a post on how to make the perfect grilled cheese and I still hold to the method described in that post for perfect results. Use good bread, use two types of cheese (a flavourful one and a melty/stretchy one) and use mayo to fry it in. I ran out of mayo a few weeks ago and had to resort back to butter, but given the cheese and bread used and the fact it was 30 degrees out when I was making it everything browned and melted just as perfectly. Makes one sandwich, but if I were you I’d double the recipe.

Stretch

Dillicious Grilled Cheese

  • 2 slices of bakery bread like sourdough or French loaves cut into 3/4- 1 inch slices
  • sliced havarti cheese (I used dill flavoured but you can use regular)
  • 1/4 cup Cheddar cheese, grated
  • a few sprigs of fresh dill
  • Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbs butter

Method

Heat a skillet over medium heat.

Doubling up on Dill

Slice bread and lightly spread Dijon on each slice. Top with sliced havarti, fresh dill and then grated cheddar.

So Much Cheddar

Close to make a sandwich.

First Side Down

Spread on side with butter and turn butter side down in the pan. Press on the sandwich to get an all over brown.

Crisp and Browned

Butter side facing up before flipping and cook until both sides are crunchy and deep golden brown.

Oozing Cheese

Slice and serve, and repeat. Yummy, one last bite…

Last Bite

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Tomato Olive Bruschetta for One

Hey Guys!

It’s been awhile, I know. I’ve missed you. I have been living a plain-jane life, eating very clean and healthy and running with my dogs.

I finally have my camera battery replaced and sunlight is back in my life (Nova Scotia had some tiresome rainy cold days last month) so I figured I would end the hiatus with a super simple open-faced sandwich for one.

The thing I love about Italian food is that they let the ingredients speak for themselves. While you don’t need a lot of anything one thing for this recipe, the quality of the ingredients matter.

Basil

I used a French bakery ‘belge’ which is really great for toast and sandwiches as its super crusty on the outside but mildly sour and really chewy on the inside. When toasted it’s very crisp and can stand up to the weight of the tomatoes.

I used a local tomato, imported black olives, locally grown basil and a good olive oil and vinegar. Simple stuff.

Eating this open-faced tomato sandwich and calling it bruschetta for one, seems as elegant as a perfect summers day. Fancify your life. Serves one.

Tomato Olive Bruschetta

Tomato Olive Bruschetta for One

  • 1 medium-sized ripe tomato, seeded and diced
  • 3-4 black olives pitted and diced
  • a few leaves of basil, torn
  • 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp of olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and trimmed
  • 1 slice of crust white bread, toasted

Method

Wash, seed and dice the tomato and place in a small bowl. Pit and dice the olives and add to the tomatoes.

Trio

Stem and then tear the basil into smaller pieces, adding to the bowl with balsamic and olive oil. Toss and season with salt and pepper.

Dressed to Impress

Peel a garlic clove and cut off the top of it so it has a flat edge. Toast the bread and once it’s well toasted, rub the raw garlic over the top of the bread.

Toast and Raw Garlic

Pile the bruschetta onto the toast. Serve immediately with a glass of white wine.

Styling and Profiling

Burger Week Halifax 2013

It’s our first official Burger Week and this vegetarian is excited! It’s official start was Thursday March 21st, but I have time to tell you about it today.

It may seem a little weird that me, of all people, is this excited. However strictly looking at the facts, burgers have blown up in this city (Halifax) over the last two years. As a result of this food trend we have had numerous burger-only restaurants pop up in the last year alone. Even alternative restaurants  are shining up their menus with gourmet burger options.

Normally a burger-fest wouldn’t intrigue me, as I’m sure you are aware that most of the food I love the most is in no way fashioned after meat. However I am down for a handcrafted veggie burger, and when I feel the need I’ve hit up a few restaurants around the city, at least well enough to give you a general idea where to go if you are so inclined. Also have I ever mentioned to you I love craft beer? I’m not just wine drinker, shocking.

What is special about Halifax’s burger week? Well let me tell you. Twenty-two local restaurants are participating in one of two things:

(1)Either they are offering a $5 specialty burger or (2) they are offering a combo (usually including Hop City’s Barking Squirrel Lager) with a pre-set donation going to Feed Nova Scotia. For more info on the participating restaurants click the hyperlink in the first paragraph entitled ‘Burger Week’.

I don’t know about you, but I love doing something I normally do for cheaper and/or for charity! Get out of your house people of Halifax and go get burger-ed! The passionate animal rights person inside of me wishes you would all do so in the compassionate way, therefore I’m going to give a few veggie pointers:

$5 Burger Category

We(vegetarians/vegans) totally loose out in this category for saving money, I’m sorry to tell ya’ll. While Ace Burger Co, The Armview, Darrells Resto,  Rock Bottom Brewery, Your Father Moustache all offer a veggie burger options, none of them (as far as I know) are offered up at the $5 price.

That being said it’s not like you don’t at least have the option of eating there with your carnivorous  friends, albeit paying a smidgen extra. 

What are my suggestions you ask? Well there are two clear winners:

Squished Burger Love

First up is Ace; I have pictured their burger, although it usually comes in better (visual) conditions it’s still tasty as hell. Burger week has obviously blow up this Friday and all portions are coming in to-go bags even if you are sitting at a table, in order for them to manage all the orders. I love Ace’s burgers because they are a handmade veggie burger with lentils, eggs, shredded veg and topped with chevre and argula. They are not vegan, as the burger contains eggs and it is topped with dairy. Unfortunately, they do not have any vegan options except their hand cut, perfectly cooked french fries. Ace is located inside of Gus’s Pub which sells relatively cheap pitchers of beer, plus plus. 

Veggie Burger Annihilaltion

Second runner up goes to Darrell’s in this category. Darrell’s has buy one get one half off every Monday so I get around here more often. What’s truly awesome is they will make any burger on their menu with a veggie patty at no extra cost. They have spicy (frozen) fries, make fancy condiments and provide you with hot sauce at each table. They also make a pretty damn good side salad should you choose to opt out for fries and not to forget, great service.

Feed Nova Scotia Burgers

These burgers sometimes come with beer and always give a donation to Feed Nova Scotia. Most of the restaurants have a vegetarian burger option and are offering a specialty (non-veg) burger for the event but the following ones I have listed are advertising a vegetarian option as part of the combo/donation:  

  • Harbour City Bar & Grill is offering a cashew peanut veggie burger combo (not listed on their current menu) with Barking Squirrel beer with a $1 donation to Feed Nova Scotia.
  • Relish is offering a choice of patty, one being a veggie option and loads of toppings to choose from.
  • Tempo has one lentil burger. I’m stoked it’s handmade and I’ve tried it. Unfortunately it’s not my favorite veggie burger on this impressive list. It seems to me to be a combo of potatoes and lentils that are breaded and deep-fried. They say it’s curried but I found it a little bland and hard to eat. Their fries however are awesome and the combo they are offering comes with a beer and a $1 donation. Their service is among the best in the city and will help you out with gluten-free and vegan options.
  • The Works has the most vegetarian options by far, even including poutine. They also have deep-fried pickles and are giving a $2.50 donation for every specialty combo bought during burger week.

Anyone with more info, or burger favorites, please comment on this post and let me know! Happy Burger Week Halifax and happy weekend all!

Vegan Donair

Since going vegetarian about 14 years ago I haven’t wanted for much. I understand that a lot of non-vegetarians may view my chosen diet as limiting but for me it was the exact opposite. When I became vegetarian, I still wanted to eat great meals that were filling and full of satisfying flavours and textures . In order to do that, I was forced to branch out  from how I was taught to cook (no more meat and potato dinners), into a different culinary world. 

You learn quickly how to appreciate each ingredient because generally, any produce can be the highlight of your meal. You learn tricks to how to prepare foods to mimic childhood favorites and that leads me to this recipe. I’ve been trying for the better part of my adult life to re-create a vegan facsimile of the donair I remember from 14 years ago. I’ve learned a few tricks since then and after many trials I think I have perfected it. If you try it, let me know what you think!

Vegan Donair (Seitan)

adapted from the Vegan Dad’s recipe for Veggie Lunch Meat

  • 1 cup of canned white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 small onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp of liquid smoke
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbs Italian seasoning
  • 2 tbs dehydrated chopped onion
  • 1 tbs garlic salt
  • 1 tbs smoked paprika
  • 2 tbs of nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbs miso paste
  • 2 cups of cool water
  • 2 + 3/4 cup of vital wheat gluten
  • tin foil
  • non-stick spray
  • something the steam in

Method

Get water boiling in your steamer.

Add garlic, onion and spices to a food processor and process until you form a paste. It doesn’t have to be completely smooth, but cannot have any visible chunks. Empty the spice paste into bowl.

To the same food processor, add beans, olive and sesame oil, miso paste and liquid smoke and process until completely smooth. Add to the bowl with the spice paste and stir with a spoon until all is combined.

Stir in the cool water and once everything is consistent, add the vital wheat gluten. The mixture will almost instantly becomes hard to stir, the gluten forms fast and while you don’t want to over mix it, make sure there is no sign of raw flour in the dough.

Spray a large piece of tin foil with non-stick spray. Place the dough in the centre of the tine foil and shape into a fat log about 10″ in length and about 4″-6″ tall/wide. Wrap well in foil making sure that water cannot get into the seitan and steam for an hour.

At the 45 minute mark, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Once the seitan is finished steaming, remove all the foil and place on a prepared baking dish and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool at room temperature.

I let mine rest over night to make it easy for slicing. Slice with a serrated knife, enjoy!

 How to assemble a Donair

  • 1 recipe donair seitan
  • 1 recipe of donair sauce
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 6 small whole wheat pitas
  • mozzarella flavoured daiya (optional)

Method

Prepare the donair seitan and sauce. Dice tomatoes and onions and set aside. In a non-stick frying pan heat over medium heat. I added oil but non-stick spray also works well. Thinly slice donair seitan and lightly fry on each side to crisp up the edges and heat through. Heat each pita, until warm, top with seitain, onions, tomatoes and sauce and daiya. Shove in your pie hole as, soon as possible!

Chickpea Bulgur Burgers

I wanted to make a bulgur based veggie burger piled high on a bun with a Mediterranean style yoghurt dip, maybe some olives and sun-dried tomatoes.  I would still recommend these to eat on a bun piled high with your favorite toppings I just want to advise you what I made was a well seasoned, hold together chickpea and bulgur cake. Even though they do not contain potato there is something about the texture that is more like a potato or fish cake. Regardless of how you like to eat them I think they are delicious, and after tasting them I was craving tartar sauce and chutney. Since I was hoping to save myself some calories I fried them in cooking spray and I made an onion, tomato and date jam and served it along side.

Chickpea Bulgur Burgers

  • 2 cups cooked bulgur
  • 1/4 cup of shelled sunflower seeds
  • 1 can of chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1 medium sized onion diced
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 2 tbs dried tarragon
  • 1 pinch of chili flakes
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper

Method

Cook bulgur according tot he package directions, you want a 2 cup serving. The ratio is usually 1 cup bulgur to 2 cups water and salt to make 2 cups cooked bulgur. Once cooked place in a large bowl and set aside to cool.

Peel and dice onion, and celery and sautee in olive oil. Season onions with chili flakes, garlic salt and smoked paprika and cook until soft.

Once bulgur has cooled down add sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast, one can of whole chickpeas rinsed and drained, tarragon, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Add cooked onion mixture and stir.

Using a potato masher, mash everything together until there are no whole chickpeas remaining, this will take about 5 minutes. When everything is fully incorporated, cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Remove from the fridge and from generously sized 1/4 cup  balls and flatten into patty shapes with your hands.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat with cooking spray or olive oil and gently place in the pan. Cook about 3 minutes on each side, flipping gently. Once browned on the outside remove from the pan and let rest on a platter or serve immediately with a side salad, on a bun and with a host of fancy condiments. Onion, Tomato and Date Jam recipe coming soon.