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.

How much do I love this recipe? Let me count the ways. Number one, pear is an awesome, versatile, sweet (local and sustainable) fruit that should feature prominently on everyone’s weekly menu. Number two, I can’t say enough about cinnamon and ginger. We go through pounds of these two queens of the super spices in our tea, in our favourite tofu marinade, in stews and soups, and just about anything and everything. Number three, who can resist the temptation of carmelized organic cane sugar? (Enough said on that one.) And number four, with a dollop of coconut milk ice cream on the side, you get that hot/cold thing I’ve always loved as the ice cream melts into the sugary syrup.

3 – 4 medium-sized ripe pears

2 tbsps lemon juice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

pinch nutmeg

3/4 cup organic cane sugar

Peel the pears. Cut them in half and scoop out the cores. Place in a small baking dish with the pears packed in tightly. Drizzle the pears with the lemon juice and then sprinkle with the cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.

In a small heavy-bottom saucepan, heat the sugar over medium-high heat stirring carefully until the sugar melts and turns to golden brown. Drizzle over the pears until they are coated evenly.

Bake the pears in a preheated oven at 375F for 30 minutes, or until the pears are completely tender. Serve with a dollop of coconut milk ice cream and a generous ladle of the sugary syrup.


We try our best to eat as seasonally as possible, within reason. Now that we’re into mid-March the pantry is getting a little low on stuff but we still have delicata squash, winter kale, and root veggies like parsnips. But how much can you really do with them? Well, quite a lot in fact. I made this tower of winter vegetables – delicata squash, steamed kale, parsnip sage risotto, baby beluga lentils, toasted squash seeds, and micro-greens – for a nice dinner the other night with friends in front of the fire. It’s not complicated but there are a number of steps so it’s best made when you’ve got a little extra time and you want to make something special. I put some absolutely outstanding squash jam with lavender on the side. It’s made by Stasis Preserves in Toronto and might just be one of my new favourite condiments.

For the sqaush

1 delicata sqaush

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

sea salt

Cut delicata squash into 1 – 2 inch slices. Scoop out the sqaush seeds and set the seeds aside. Place sqaush in a heavy-bottomed, oven-friendly frying pan. Drizzle with olive oil, nutmeg, and salt. Roast in a preheated oven at 375F until soft and slightly browned. Once done, remove the sqaush from the pan and set aside.

Clean the squash seeds. Pat dry with a tea towel. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in the same frying pan used for the squash over medium-high heat. Add the seeds and sauté them until they are crispy and nicely toasted. Let cool.

For the steamed kale

1 bunch of curly kale or other greens like chard, collard greens, spinach

1 tbsp lemon juice

sea salt

Clean the kale thoroughly. Tear it into large chunks and place in the top of a steamer. Steam over high heat until the kale is softened but not gone totally flacid. You want it to have some texture and presence to it. Once done, transfer to a bowl and season with a little lemon juice and sea salt. Set aside.

For the parsnip sage risotto

2 tbsps olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 large parsnips, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1.5 cups of arborio rice

4 cups of veggie stock, heated

1 cup white wine, heated

a small bunch of fresh sage, chopped finely

sea salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed dutch oven. Add the onion and sauté until tender. Add the parsnips and minced garlic and sauté another minute or two until the garlic is fragrant. Add arborio rice stirring constantly until evenly coated. Begin to add the stock and wine slowly. Remember, the key to good risotto is to 1) start with heated stock and wine, 2) stir constantly, and 3) add the liquid slowly until the rice is just covered. Let the rice absorb the liquid and then add a little more, again, until the rice is just covered. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Once the rice has reached the perfect state of al dente-ness add the sage and toss. Season with good sea salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

For the baby beluga lentils

1 cup baby beluga lentils

1 carrot, quartered

1 celery stalk, quartered

1 onion, quartered

1 bay leaf

olive oil

sea salt

Clean and rinse lentils thoroughly. Place them in a saucepan with the carrot, celery, onion, and bay leaf. Cover with twice as much water, about 2 cups. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, turn the heat down and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 20 – 25 minutes. Once done, remove the bay leaf and vegetables. Drain the lentils. Put them back into the saucepan and drizzle with a little olive oil and sea salt. Set aside.

To assemble

Start with the roasted squash. Put it on the plate you are going to use to serve. Fill the cavity with risotto. Next, on a cutting board, pack the steamed kale into a circular cookie cutter about the same diameter as your squash. Use a wide knife to lift it off the chopping board and gently place on the squash. Do the same with the risotto – pack it into the cookie cutter and place it gently on the kale.

Next, add some squash jam or other condiment (onion confit, red pepper jelly) beside the squash in a nice presentation. Then drizzle the whole dish with the baby beluga lentils and toasted squash seeds. Finally, top with some micro-greens and serve with pride and a smile on your face.



tomato onion herb bread

March 11, 2012

vegan bread, onion bread, savoury bread, vgourmet, ruth richardson

Tomatoes, onions, and herbs have always come together in a happy marriage. In this recipe they provide the building-blocks for a savory, versatile loaf topped with some smoked sea salt to provide additional depth of flavour. Any breadbasket would welcome a few pieces of this bread for the dinner table. It’s also great as a mid-afternoon snack, in the kids’ lunch bag, or some have even been known to eat it for breakfast.

1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1 cup hot water

4 tbsps olive oil

2 medium onions, diced

thyme and basil, chopped finely

2 tsps sea salt

1 lb fresh tomatoes, approx 5, chopped

1 cup whole wheat flour

4 cups all-purpose flour

4 1/2 tsps active dry yeast

2 tbsps sugar

course smoked sea salt

Pour hot water over the sun-dried tomatoes in a small bowl. Set aside and let soak for 1/2 hour or so.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsps of the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet. Add chopped onions and 1 tsp salt. Cook the onions until they are soft and golden brown. Add the chopped herbs and sauté for another 1 – 2 minutes stirring often until the herbs are mixed in and you can smell the amazing aroma. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

Put the skillet back on the burner on medium heat, add the chopped tomatoes with their juices. Simmer for 5 – 10 minutes until they are tender and the liquids have boiled down. It should be slightly thickened and resemble a chunky sauce. Add the soaked sun-dried tomatoes with their water, 2 tbsps olive oil, and 1 tsp salt. Set aside and let mixture cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl combine the whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 cups white flour with the yeast and sugar. Mix well. Add the tomatoes and liquid and mix well with a wooden spoon. Continue to add the rest of the white flour bit by bit until the batter is thick and elastic. Add the cooked onions and herbs. Combine well but don’t over work the batter. NB: You should have a sticky soft batter. This is not a dough that you knead but more like a stiff cake batter.

Oil a 9 x 12 rectangular baking pan with some olive oil. Spread the batter into the pan making sure to get it in the corners. Sprinkle with smoked sea salt. Cover, set aside, and let it rest until the batter rises to double its size, about 45 minutes.

Bake the bread in a pre-heated oven at 375F for 35 – 40 minutes until lightly browned and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Let the bread cool on a rack and then serve.


vegan lasagne, spinach lasagne, vgourmet, Ruth Richardson, vegan Italian food

My mom used to make lasagne with a veggie tomato sauce when I was little – this recipe is inspired by my memories of coming home to the smell of this quintessential comfort food baking in the oven. Of course her’s was doused in cheese. Mine is packed full of spinach with a garlicy picada crumble on top. It was my daughter, Rebekah, who both reminded me of that childhood favourite, and helped me come up with this new version. Those powerful food memories must run thick in the blood!

Tomato Vegetable Sauce

4 tbsps olive oil

2 onions, chopped finely

6 medium carrots, grated

6 celery stalks, grated

3 medium zucchini, grated

large handful enoki mushrooms

6 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 cup red wine

6 cups stewed tomatoes

1/4 cup tomato paste

basil, thyme, parsley, chopped

1 tbsp organic cane sugar

sea salt and pepper

Béchamel sauce

8 tsps olive oil

4 tbsps flour

2 cups rice or soy cream

pinch nutmeg

sea salt and pepper


1/2 cup almonds, toasted

2 slices white country-style bread

4 cloves garlic

sea salt


1 bunch of spinach, cleaned

1 package lasagne sheets

vegan lasagne, spinach lasagne, vegetable tomato sauce, picada, vgourmet, Ruth Richardson

To make the sauce, heat olive oil in a heavy-bottom pot or dutch oven. Add the onions and sauté until they start to turn translucent. Add grated carrots, celery, zucchini, and mushrooms. Sauté until beginning to get soft, 3 – 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until aromatic, about another 2 minutes.

Add the red wine and let simmer until reduced by about half. Add stewed tomatoes and the tomato paste. Bring to a boil. Add chopped herbs, sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Turn down the heat and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Set aside for the flavours to meld.

Meanwhile, to make the béchamel sauce, heat the olive oil in a small pot on medium-high heat. Add the flour and stir until well blended. Let the mixture bubble away for a few minutes, stirring often so that it doesn’t burn. After 2 or 3 minutes, slowly add the rice or soy cream. It will immediately thicken as you add the first drops of cream. Add slowly and stir constantly until the sauce is smooth and well-blended. Turn down the heat and let simmer until thickened. Add a few pinches of nutmeg, sea salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

For the picada, toast the almonds in an oven at 350F until they’re pale gold, 8 – 10 minutes. Remove and set aside. Meanwhile, slowly fry slices of white country-style bread in 2 tbsps olive oil until golden on both sides, or toast well in a toaster. Place the grilled bread or toast, almonds, 4 large garlic cloves and pinch of salt in a food processor to make a crumbly paste. Set aside.

Wash the spinach. Cook the lasagne sheets in boiling water, about 3 or 4 sheets at a time making sure they don’t stick to one another. Do not cook al dente, you want them to be a little underdone (4 – 5 minutes should do the trick). As they cook, set them on a clean tea towel until you’re ready to use them.

Once all the components are ready, start to build your lasagne. In a large baking dish, start with a layer of tomato sauce, add a layer of spinach, then a layer of pasta. Next add a layer of béchamel sauce, a layer of spinach, then a layer of pasta. Repeat until all the ingredients are done ending with a layer of béchamel sauce at the top.

Bake in an oven at 400F for 30 minutes. Broil under high heat for another 3 minutes or so until top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with a generous amount of picada. Serve piping hot next to a crispy green salad.


February 29, 2012

marmalade, vgourmet, vegan breakfast, Ruth Richardson

We’re just back from a trip to Tulum on the Mayan Riveria in Mexico – v:gourmet heading south to discover all sorts of new vegan treats. The first morning is always the most delicious. Waking up to the sound of bird song, and the wind in the palms. That first footstep onto the warm sand. The wind and the cold and the snow quickly evaporating into the clear blue sky. We had breakfast on a terrace overlooking the beach – fresh orange juice, organic mint tea, a plate of fresh fruit, and this housemade marmalade with toast. Of course the marmalade was different each morning depending on which fruit they needed to use up. One morning papaya. The next pineapple. This recipe is so simple, verstatile, and tasty, and it will infuse your mornings with the spirit of the south.

fruit, pineapples, papayas, or oranges

equal amount of organic cane sugar (for 1 large pineapple for example use about 2.5 cups sugar

a little lemon or lime juice (juice from 1 or 2 lemons or limes)

herbs if desired, mint or lavender

Peel and core the fruit. Chop as finely as possible or to your desired consistency. Put the fruit in a large heavy-bottomed pot with the sugar. Add the lemon or lime juice and the herbs if using and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover the pot, and let simmer for 1/2 hour, or until the fruit is tender. Take off the lid, turn up the heat and boil until the mixture thickens. Remove the marmalade form the heat, discard the herbs, and let cool. Transfer to a glass jar and keep refrigerated.

vegetable paella

February 18, 2012

Many of you will have heard of paella. For those of you who haven’t, paella is a Valencian rice dish that originated in Valencia, on the east coast of Spain. Many non-Spaniards view paella as Spain’s national dish, but most Spaniards consider it to be a regional Valencian dish. And, Valencians think of paella as one of those things that make them who they are. There are three widely known types of paella: paella valenciana, paella de mariscoa, paella mixta. But there are many others – all of them free-style combinations of  calasparra or bomba rices, wine, saffron and olive oil, green vegetables, beans, and seasoning. It’s a one pan dish full of flavour, texture, and satisfaction. Read on for the recipe below. Or check out v:gourmet’s first (of many) videos above produced by my main man Frantz who’s a student currently at Humber College. Frantz rocks. So does this recipe.

3 tbsps olive oil

1/2 spanish onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small red bell pepper, cut into strips

1 small yellow bell pepper, cut into strips

1/2 fennel bulb, cut into strips

2 bay leaves

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 cup calaspara rice (or another short-grain paella rice)

6 1/2 tbsps good quality sherry

2 cups veggie stock, heated

sea salt and pepper

3/4 cup shelled fava beans, peas or other green vegetable, cooked

4 tomatoes, cut into wedges

15 pitted kalamata olives

2 tbsps roughly chopped parsley

4 lemon wedges

Heat up the olive oil in a paella pan or large shallow skillet, and gently fry the onion for 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers and fennel and continue to fry on medium heat for about 6 minutes, or until soft and golden. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

Add the bay leaves, paprika, turmeric, and cayenne to the vegetables and stir well. Then add the rice and stir thoroughly for 2 minutes before adding the sherry and saffron. Boil down for a minute, then add the stock and 1/3 tsp sea salt. Reduce the heat to the minimum and simmer very gently for about 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Do not cover the pan and don’t stir during the cooking.

Remove the paella pan from the heat. Taste and add more salt if needed but without stirring the rice and vegetables much. Scatter the tomatoes, and peas or beans over the rice and cover the pan tightly with a lid or foil. Leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Take off the foil. Scatter the olives on top of the paella and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with wedges of lemons.