Fried Halloumi Salad with Wild Rice, Grapes, and Pine Nuts

Real talk: a slice of fried Halloumi is like a bread-free grilled cheese sandwich. Crispy golden outside, melted, salty, cheesy inside…perfection. For those who don’t know, Halloumi is a brined cheese from Cyprus with a high melting point, making it a dope candidate for the grill of your next summer bbq. (Or for frying and eating right out of the pan… what? Let me live!)

This salad is an adaptation of Allison Day’s Wine Country Salad from Whole Bowls, a cookbook that is so fantastic  I use it on a regular basis and actually follow the recipes! Some of the ingredients here are more pricy (looking at you, pine nuts), so freestyling for the budget is encouraged.

Some great substitution ideas:
• Sub romaine lettuce for whatever greens are on sale and in-season.
• Sub slivered almonds or salted sunflower seeds for pine nuts
• Sub wild rice for brown rice

You can also prepare all of the ingredients ahead of time, and toss this together quickly and easily any night of the week, for yourself, your fam, or any company stopping by.

Fried Halloumi Salad with Wild Rice, Grapes, and Pine Nuts
Serves 4
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For the salad:
4 c. (packed), romaine lettuce
3 green onions, sliced
1 c. wild rice, uncooked
2-3 c. red seedless grapes
1/3 c. pine nuts
250g Halloumi cheese

For the dressing:
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 heaping tbsp. dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Rinse the wild rice and put it in a medium pot filled with water—bring the water to the boil and salt it like you would if you were cooking pasta. Boil, cooking until rice blooms and splits, about 40-50 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. While the rice is cooking, put together the dressing. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, and mustard. Add in the garlic, salt, and pepper—taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. Set aside.

3. Dry toast the pine nuts by putting them in a small frying pan in a single layer over medium heat. (Pine nuts have a high amount of fat, so toss frequently to keep from burning until they are golden brown!) Remove from heat, save the frying pan.

4. In a large salad bowl add the lettuce, green onion, grapes, pine nuts, and wild rice. Cover with the dressing and toss to coat thoroughly. Divide into 4 bowls.

5. Cut 2 slices of Halloumi about a half-inch thick for each serving. Heat up the small frying pan over medium heat and create a single layer of cheese, flipping when one side is fried and golden. When each side is golden, and all the cheese is fried, top each salad and serve!

Simple Asparagus with Roasted Feta

My mom does an amazing version of this dish where she uses shaved parm instead of feta—but I feel feta is a little more summer-y and fresh.  Either way, it was probably the only reason my sisters and I ever ate asparagus growing up… Cheese could talk me into anything! You could serve me shredded rubber tire-fire nachos with queso on top and I’d be delighted.

This recipe seemed almost too simple to post, and yet it’s stupid to avoid sharing an idea or a flavour combination because of its simplicity. “Blog food,” as I sometimes think of it, stresses me out in its attempts to be so unique that it becomes exhausting.

I also couldn’t go an entire spring season without posting a recipe featuring asparagus, It’s probably a law somewhere.

Simple Asparagus with Roasted Feta 
Serves 2 – 4
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2 bunches asparagus, rinsed
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 – 3/4 c. crumbled feta cheese
Coarse kosher salt, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (You may need more than one sheet, just make sure there’s enough room for the stalks to get roasty.)

2. Clean the asparagus by snapping off the bottom of the stalks, which will break at a natural point. Discard the inedible woody parts that break off.

3. Arrange the asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, tossing to coat. Lightly sprinkle with salt.

4. Place in oven and roast for 10-15 minutes or until just starting to brown.* Remove and sprinkle with crumbled feta. Return to oven for 10 minutes until stalks have some crispiness and feta has melted.

*Asparagus stalks can be very thick or very thin—adjust cooking times accordingly!

Brunch Caesar Salad with Sweet Potato and Smoky Toasted Pecans

Fellow eaters of the internet: brunch makes miracles. Through brunch, we are enabled to drink champagne before 11 and get sweet and savoury on the same plate. Brunch makes the impossible possible. What I’m saying is that we need to believe in breakfast salad.  This one would look right at home as a cozy brunch side, nestled in next to some home fries, or even as a balance to a sweet dish like cornmeal waffles.

It’s a mix of kale and romaine (a borrowed combo from Oh She Glows), crispy strips of sweet potato roasted with smoked paprika, and ghee-toasted pecans flavoured with liquid smoke, topped with a crispy, pan-fried sunny side up egg. The melt-y goodness of the yolk with the crunch of the kale and nuts, and the garlic warmth in the dressing is just. so. good.

If you’re not an herbivore bound or by the unforgiving laws of the Whole30, you could double down by adding crispy bacon and maybe some shavings of old cheddar to play with the smokiness of the pecans and sweet potato.

This is an easily-doubled recipe that would also make an amazing lunch or dinner too!

Brunch Caesar Salad with Sweet Potato and Smoky Toasted Pecans
Serves 2 (double at will!)
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4 c. romaine lettuce, chopped
2 c. green kale, chopped
1/3-1/2 c. Caesar dressing of your choice, (I like Oh She Glows’ super easy recipe)
2 eggs

1 medium sweet potato, cut into thin strips
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 c. unsalted pecans
1/2 tbsp. ghee (or butter)
2-4 tsp. liquid smoke (to taste)

2-4 strips bacon (optional)
Old cheddar cheese (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. Cut your sweet potato into thin strips or french fry shapes.

2. Toss sweet potato fries with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and smoked paprika, tossing again to coat. Spread out in an even layer on baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes or until crispy. Remove from oven and set aside.

3. While the potatoes are baking, wash and chop the lettuce and kale, putting it in a large bowl.

4. For the pecans, melt the ghee in a medium fry pan over low heat, whisk in the liquid smoke. Add in the pecans and toss to coat. Turn up heat to medium, stirring until fragrant.  Remove from heat, but keep the pan  on the stove for the eggs.

5. Add the crispy sweet potato strips to the greens mixture, top with the dressing and toss thoroughly. Divide salad among bowls or plates, depending on how many people you’re serving. Garnish with pecans.

6. Add more ghee to the frying pan and crack your eggs, one per person, cooking until the edges of the whites are crispy, and the yolks are still runny. (Put a lid on to cook the yolk more thoroughly.)

7. Carefully lift the eggs out of the pan and serve one over each individual salad. Garnish with bacon and cheese, if adding. Enjoy!

Simple Mexican Shakshuka

Day 15. I’m officially half way through the Whole30 challenge. I’m going strong, and while I’m not missing too many foods, I am missing certain meals… specifically brunch. So rather than mourning the pancakes or waffles I’m not eating right now, I kicked up my breakfast game at home this weekend.

This dish is quick, simple, and it looks fancy if you carry it to the table while it’s all hot and bubbly, like delicious tomato lava. The hardest part of this shakshuka might be all of the chopping prep you have to do, but a few minutes of work will render a fragrant, saucy dish that is comforting and tasty with familiar flavours.

It’s also easy to freestyle and remix. Seriously, this is not a recipe so much as a guideline. Try subbing  crushed tomatoes for diced, substitute half for salsa, top with cheese (let me nosh vicariously), or add more veggies of your choice (corn? black beans? delicious!) into the starting sautee and really make if your own.

Simple Mexican Shakshuka
(Adapted from FoodFaithFitness)
Serves 2-4
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1 tbsp. coconut oil or olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 whole Vidalia onion, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
4-6 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/2 to 1 tbsp. taco seasoning (I like this homemade one from Budget Bytes), to taste
3-4 c. crushed tomatoes
1-4 large eggs
Salt and Pepper
Chili flakes
For garnish: green onions, avocados, cilantro, lime, hot sauce, cheese. whatever you want!

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On the stove top, melt coconut oil in a medium ovenproof frying pan. Add garlic and onions, stirring over medium heat until soft and fragrant. Add in bell peppers, stirring until slightly softened, then add the fresh chopped tomatoes.

2. Sprinkle the vegetables with taco seasoning and stir to distribute. Add the crushed tomatoes, stirring, and bring to a gentle simmer. Taste the seasonings and add more salt, pepper, or spices to your taste.

3. Turn off the heat. Making wells in the sauce, crack 1-4 eggs into the tomato mixture making wells to hold them* (see note). 

4. Slide the pan into the oven and bake until mixture is bubbly and eggs are baked, about 10-15 minutes. (You can also cook the eggs stove top by covering the pan with a lid, with a shorter cooking time.)

5. When eggs are baked, remove from oven, spoon into dishes and garnish with your toppings of choice. Enjoy the shakshuka alone, or served with tasty sides like refried beans, rice, or tortillas.

*Note:
 if cooking for one, decide on the number of eggs you want and crack those in. After baking, carefully remove the cooked eggs with half of the tomato mixture into your bowl. Reserve the second half of the mixture for round two! Ta da, delicious leftovers. Just add fresh eggs and bake away—the reheated kind ain’t no fun.

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