While arugula salad is versatile enough to go a number of different directions, I like the subtle combination of arugula and shaved fennel, with these crispy garlicy baked mushrooms to add flavour and texture. I use maitake which grow in clusters at the base of trees, particularly oaks, and are known in English as hen-of-the-woods, ram’s head, and sheep’s head.  But I like to use the traditional Japanese word maitake because it means “dancing mushroom” which is a lovely image to have in one’s head (and salad).

1/2 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup course bread crumbs

sea salt and pepper

A couple bunches maitake

1 head arugula

1 bulb fennel, very finely sliced

Juice from 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup olive oil

1/8 cup balsamic vinegar

sea salt and pepper

In a mixing bowl, combine olive oil and minced garlic. In a separate mixing bowl, combine bread crumbs and sea salt and pepper. Dip maitake in the olive oil mixture and then dredge in the bread crumbs being sure to let any excess oil drain off the mushrooms before dredging. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes until they are sizzling and golden brown. When done, remove from the oven and let cool.

Meanwhile, wash the arugula and spin dry. Mix with the shaved fennel. Toss both with lemon juice, olive oil, balsamic and a little salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, pile the arugula on a plate and adorn with some maitake. Or if you like the element of surprise, place the maitake on a plate and then cover with a big pile of arugula so these tasty mushroomy morsels are discovered only by digging into your salad. This recipe would be awesome with the addition of some grated parmigiano if you eat cheese. But if you don’t, you’re not missing anything since the maitake are the star of the show.

Strawberries and cherry tomatoes? Sound like strange bedfellows I know. But these two fruits of summer make exquisitely sweet partners in this scrumptious salad. Good for a starter  or a dessert, they come together in a marriage bed of mint, basil, and balsamic vinegar. My neighbour, Karen, gave me some of her home-grown violet jasper tomatoes which I used, but experiment with any cherry tomato and take full advantage of summer’s best flavours. Together. Forever.

Handful of strawberries, halved

Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tsps aged balsamic vinegar

2 tsps fresh squeezed lemon or orange juice

small bunch of mint and basil leaves, minced

twist of pepper from the pepper mill

Mix the strawberries and tomatoes together in a bowl. Toss with balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, minced herbs, and pepper. Serve before or after dinner with a nice crisp white wine.

This classic greek salad features herbed tofu instead of feta. This tricky and much-appreciated tip comes from Catherine Dorrell in VegNews, a magazine I picked up for the first time this past week. This herbed tofu is fabulous with that salty, lemony, briny flavour that makes feta such a popular addition to salads and such. Put this alongside the falafel burger, a glass of rosé, and a backyard patio, and, presto, you’ve got summer.

For the herbed tofu:

1 16-oz package extra firm tofu, cubed

2 cups water

1/4 cup lemon juice

3 tsps salt

2 tsps dried basil

2 tsps dried oregano

In a large saucepan over low heat, combine the tofu cubes, water, lemon juice, salt, basil, and oregano. Simmer for 30 minutes and then set aside to cool. Refrigerate overnight in the brine and then drain.

For the salad:

1 cup herbed tofu

1 cucumber, diced

3 tomatoes, diced

1 red onion, diced

10 olives, chopped

2 tbsps olive oil

1 tbsp red wine or sherry vinegar

juice from 1 lemon

sea salt and pepper

In a large  bowl combine herbed tofu, cubed cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions. Add chopped olives and then toss with olive oil, red wine vinegar, and lemon juice. Add sea salt and pepper to taste. Toss again, and serve.

sesame sprout salad

March 25, 2012

sesame sprout salad, vegan salad, vgourmet, ruth richardson, asian noodle salad

This is a cooling, refreshing noodle salad with a bit of heat from the chile peppers. It’s loaded with raw vegetables, fresh herbs, and sesame seeds which makes it both simple and complex. It’s simple in its preparation and list of ingredients; it’s complex in its flavours and the way everything comes together. And with micro-greens popping up in gardens mid-March (!) with this early, early spring, you can add a homegrown element to it as well.

1 package rice noodles

2 medium carrots

1 cucumber

1/2 red onion, sliced very finely

1 small red chile pepper, chopped finely

1 inch fresh ginger root, chopped finely

1 cup sprouts, radish, bean, alfalfa

small bunch cilantro, chopped

small bunch mint, chopped

3 scallions, chopped on the diagonal

1 tbsp black sesame seeds

2 tbsps rice vinegar

2 tbsps soy sauce

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tbsp sesame oil

4 tbsps peanut oil

2 tbsps olive oil

bunch micro-greens for garnish

Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the rice noodles and cook for 3 minutes until they are done. Drain, rinse noodles under cold water, and set aside.

Meanwhile, slice the carrot and cucumber as finely as possible with a mandolin, knife, or better yet, vegetable peeler. Place in a large mixing bowl. Add onion, chile pepper, ginger root, sprouts, cilantro, mint, scallions, and the cooked noodles.

In a separate bowl, combine black sesame seeds, rice vinegar, soy sauce, minced garlic, and sesame, peanut,  and olive oils. Mix well.

Pour dressing over the noodle mixture and toss gently until everything is mixed and coated nicely with the dressing. Place in a serving bowl and top with micro-greens like sunflower sprouts or miniature arugula.

miso dressing

January 31, 2012

Andrew and I have often said that miso is so good, we think it could change the world. With its salty taste and buttery texture, this fermented paste super-charges soups, salads, and marinades alike. I tend to buy the mellow yellow rice version, but barley miso and soybean miso are equally tasty. Here’s a simple miso dressing that I’m particularly fond of on a mixed green salad with shredded carrot, green onions, and tamari pumpkin seeds.

3/4 cup organic rice miso

3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tsps toasted sesame oil

3 tbsps brown rice or apple cider vinegar

3 tsps maple syrup

6 tbsps water

1 1/2 tsps tamari

Put all ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk briskly until well blended. Keep in a jar in the fridge for salads, marinades, or drizzled over steamed kale. If you want to thin it out, simply add more water, a teaspoon at a time, until it reaches desired consistency.

barley pea red pepper salad

December 10, 2011

We are full-on into the holiday season with parties and lunches and general merry-making. I love it and am always a sucker for taking full advantage of the season. Problem is that sometimes it just gets a bit too much with heavier, richer food, and lots of it. When I need a reprieve – a light lunch before getting all dolled up for a Christmas party – I pull out this very simple, elemental barley salad. The simpler the better. And with the red and green it still feels festive.

1 1/2 cups barley

1 1/2 cup peas

2 red peppers, diced

2 green onions, sliced

zest from 1 lemon

juice from 1 lemon

2 tbsps olive oil, lemon infused if you can find it (I got mine from the Brickworks farmers’ market for any Torontonians out there)

sea salt and pepper

Cook barley until done. Let cool. Meanwhile sauté red peppers in a little bit of olive oil. Set aside. Cook peas in boiling water until tender and then plunge them in cold water when done to seal in the colour. Toss cooked barley, peppers, and peas with green onion, lemon zest, juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. It’s really that easy.

We’ve been totally spoiled this fall with sunshine and warm temperatures. We’re heading toward the end of November and you can still get tender greens at the farmers’ market. That will all be over soon I’m afraid and the homegrown greens will have to wait until next spring. The tender ones that is, but we’ve still got kale and chard and the hearty greens that work so well steamed, in soups, and in salads like this winter kale salad with a lemon dill tahini dressing chock-a-block full of other goodies like cranberries and pecans.

1 bunch winter kale

juice from 1 lemon

3 tbsps olive oil

sea salt

tamari pumpkin seeds

dried cranberries


toasted pecans, chopped

1/2 apple, shredded

lemon dill tahini dressing

Wash and dry the winter kale. Cut it in thin slices. Toss with lemon juice, olive oil, and sea salt. Massage the lemon juice, oil, and salt into the kale with your hands to tenderize it. Go for it. It’s therapeutic. Then let it sit for 20 minutes or so.

Add the pumpkin seeds, cranberries, currents, and pecans. Toss. Place in individual bowls or plates. Drizzle liberally with dressing and then top with shredded apple.

For the Dressing:

This is a must-have for every refrigerator out there. Make a big batch and keep it handy because it’s fabulous on salads, winter kale, steamed veggies, falafals, sandwiches, or even a dipping sauce for whatever tickles your fancy. Make it a bit thicker and just thin out what you need with a little water for salads when you want to use it as a dressing.

3/4 cup tahini paste

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup water

1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari

1 clove garlic

1/4 cup dill

sea salt and pepper

In a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients. Let it rip until everything is blended well. Adjust taste with salt and pepper if needed. Add a bit more water if it’s too thick. Store in a jar in the fridge and use it liberally whenever the mood strikes.

This salad is simplicity at its best. Refreshing. Zingy. Hearty. Healthful. A perfect midday meal to keep it light and fresh. The trick with raw kale is you have to let it soften up with the help of a little lemon juice, olive oil, and some TLC. Follow the directions below and you will transform what looks like it’s going to be a tough slog into a gastronomic pleasure.

1 bunch kale

Juice of 1 lemon

4 tbsps olive oil

2 green onions, sliced

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

sea salt and pepper

Wash kale under cold water and spin dry. Chop kale finely and put into a mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice and then massage the dressing into the leaves. Sounds weird but it helps tenderize the kale and make it more succulent. Add salt and pepper to taste and let sit for at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts and chop up the green onions. When kale has sat for 20 minutes, toss with nuts and onions and serve.

traditional slaw

July 18, 2011

A few weeks back I posted a stinging nettle slaw which was an interesting wild food twist on the traditional coleslaw that we all know and love. I did a more traditional slaw at the farm over the holidays and it was a huge hit. Just like the kind you’d find at an old fashioned strawberry supper, only better. You do need veganaise for it and while I try to steer clear of replacements and specialty ingredients, it does hit the spot in the right recipe. In fact, the kids now prefer it to mayo so I always keep a jar in the fridge.

1/2 head red cabbage, shaved

1/2 head green cabbage, shaved

5 carrots, grated

1/2 red onion, sliced very thinly

2/3 cups veganaise

2 tbsps apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp dijon a l’ancienne or just plain dijon

1 tbsp poppy seeds

sea salt and pepper to taste

Chop cabbages, carrots, and onions. Mix the rest of the ingredients to make a dressing. When you’re happy with the dressing, toss with the cabbage and carrot and you’re done. It really couldn’t be easier.

beet salad two ways

July 18, 2011

I’m back. We were just on holiday without an internet connection so I couldn’t blog all the tasty things we were trying. So get ready – I have a whole whack of new ideas, fresh inspiration, and seasonal goodies for you to cook up during these lazy, hazy days of summer. First on the list? Beet salad two ways. It’s pretty much the same recipe, just two different incarnations depending on what’s in the cupboard. Both sound a little weird but they are awesome and complex with both sweet and savory. To boot, beets are in season so get thee to a farmer’s market and pick up some fresh local varieties like the bull’s blood beets I used in the first recipe and the chiogga’s I used in the second. Chiogga? Also called the candy cane beet, or bullseye beet it’s a pink stripped heirloom treasure from Italy.

8 small beets, cooked and peeled

2 oranges, sectioned and chopped

1/2 red onion, minced finely

3 tbsps fresh parsley, chopped

5 tbsps black olives, pitted and chopped

3 tbsps olive oil

1 1/2 tbsp red wine or sherry vinegar

sea salt and pepper

Cook the beets, let cool, and peel. Chop into quarters or eights. Peel the oranges, section, and chop into small chunks. Chop onion, parsley, and olives. Throw chopped ingredients, along with all the others, in a bowl and toss. Adjust seasoning to taste.

For version two simply switch up the olives for sun-dried or slow-roasted tomatoes. The first is more dark and earthy. This second recipe is brighter and lighter befitting a picnic on the beach with a bottle of rosé and a good book.