Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Black Quinoa and Cremini Collard Rolls with Tahina Dipping Sauce

     While I was at my parents house over the holidays, I had quite a few opportunities to experiment in the kitchen. I pretty much spent my entire two week vacation in the kitchen, which is exactly what I like to do on my time off. I had been thinking up this recipe for quite some time and knew it would be perfect for hors d'oeuvre for either Christmas eve or New Years eve. More an hors d'oeuvre than an appetizer, these finger sized rolls can be eaten with your fingers with a glass of wine in your other hand while chatting with friends and family. 

     This is a two part recipe, first the rolls and then the dipping sauce. When conceptualizing the rolls, I wanted something that would be fresh but nutty. For the freshness I used lemon. There's lemon everywhere in this dish: in the rolls, on top of the rolls and in the sauce, without being too lemony. As for the nuttyness, I chose a dark quinoa. I chose black quinoa, but any quinoa would work in this dish. Collard greens are a great vessel for these small rolls. Unlike cabbage rolls, collard greens are easy to manipulate when rolling and tend to stick to themselves after they are blanched. All of this results in a sturdy roll that can be dipped in tahina for a tasty treat.

     Tahina (salatit tahina) is a Middle eastern sauce of tahini (sesame seed paste), lemon and water, and sometimes garlic (though not included in my recipe below). If tahini is new to you, you can usually locate it in the ethnic food sections of larger grocery stores and even in the canned goods section of some dollarstores. Tahina complements these rolls perfectly, so don't neglect it. The rolls really aren't the same by themselves. If you take a look at the measurements for the dip below, you'll notice they aren't that exact. Truth behold, every brand of tahini is different, it might be thicker or oilier, and depending on these properties you may need more or less water, and the proportion of salt and lemon juice will need to be adjusted accordingly. Just taste as you go, and once it is a good consistency, adjust to your tastes. This dip is very versatile, and can be further watered down to create a tasty salad dressing.

Serves: 8-12 (2 servings each) to 16-24 (1 serving each)


Quinoa and Cremini Collard Rolls

  • 1 medium bunch of collard greens (large leafs) (alternatively, use swiss chard if you cannot find collards)
  • 1/2 cup black quinoa, or red if black is not available
  • 8 oz cremini or white mushrooms* 
  • 1 large white onion
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lemon
    • 1/2 juiced, about 1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
    • 1/2 sliced, put aside for later
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley or 1/2 tbsp fresh parsley
  • 1/8 tsp each of salt and pepper
*Try and use as many cremini mushrooms as possibly as they have a more robust flavour than the white button mushrooms, I only used white buttons when I photographed the recipe because we had run out of our creminis.

Tahina Dip (Salatit Tahina)
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • ~1/3 cup water
  • 1-2 Tbsp lemon juice, or to taste
  • ~1/4 tsp salt or to taste
  • A quick grind of black pepper to garnish


  1. Put a large pot of water on the stove top, cover, and bring to a boil. While its heating up, wash your collards. Once the water is boiling, put the collard greens (stem still in) in the boiling water, and blanch for about 3 minutes or until the leaves are a rich green. 
  2. Meanwhile, prepare a large metal or plastic mixing bowl with cold water, you can add ice to make it colder if you can't get the temperature down enough. After 3 minutes remove the collards and submerge in the ice bath to cool them down so that they are cool enough to handle. Lay out the leaves in a single layer between two tea towels to dry.
  3. In a large microwaveable soup bowl combine 1/2 cup quinoa with 1 cup of water. Seal closed the bowl with plastic wrap and then microwave at 60% for 8 minutes, then stir, then microwave for another 5 minutes, this time at 100%. Remove from the microwave, if any water remains, microwave for additional minutes, one at a time at 100%, until all the water is absorbed. Alternatively you can cook your quinoa on the stove top as per manufacturers instructions. Let cool.
  4. While your quinoa is in the microwave, wash you mushrooms with a damp cloth. Cut the stems off your mushrooms and discard the waste from your onion. The mushrooms and onion can then be given a fine chop, or rough mince. You can do this by hand or you can do this in a food processor (so much easier, I love my food processor), on a medium speed in pulses. 
  5. Heat up a large pan with olive oil and sauté the onion and mushrooms, until the water has been released and evaporated, about 10-15 minutes.
  6. Mix quinoa, mushroom and onion mixture, lemon juice, and spices. This will be your filling. 
  7. Cut the vein out of the collard greens, cutting the large leaves in half so that you have two leaf-segments to use for the collard rolls.
  8. Place one heaping tablespoon in the center of the leaf, fold in the two sides and roll like a burrito, making sure to keep it all tight.
  9. Place the rolls in a 9" x 9" pyrex dish, pack tightly, seam down so that the rolls don't unroll, until they are cooked (they are still a bit fragile).
  10. Place the sliced lemons on top of the rolls (if you are refrigerating, wait till you are about to put the dish in the oven to put the lemons on) and bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for 25 minutes or until the rolls are hot and steamy. 
  11. Meanwhile prepare the tahina, by shaking (or whisking vigorously) together the tahini and the water, start with only 1/4 cup water and add more as you go. If your tahini is loose, you may not need to add all the water. Mix in the lemon and salt, add more to your liking. 
  12. Serve the rolls warm next to a bowl of tahina and enjoy with friends or family.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Vegan Cabbage Rolls and a Holiday Review

        It seems that the minute I got back in Toronto I haven't stopped. I know what you're thinking: school has just begun, how can you already be swamped? Well let me assure you, it isn't difficult. As much as I always look forward to going back to school, there is something ominous about the first week back. Teachers read out the syllabi, and you feverishly write down everything you have to do in your agenda. Well the first week has come to a close, and I feel that I am already behind, mind you I've been working my butt off. 

     So, for a break, I bring to you my delicious cabbage rolls and a review of my holidays in the Bay. I'll start with the cabbage rolls, which I served at New Year's Day dinner. Vegan cabbage rolls are a great dish to bring to pot lucks because they can easily be made ahead and they please veg-heads and meat-eater alike. After eating a couple servings of these bad boys, one of my cousins told me that she had no idea what was in them — knowing that it couldn't be meat if the Boileau's brought them — but that they were delicious. My mother and I then went on to explain TVP to the whole family (there was just under 30 of us at the dinner table).

     TVP or textured vegetable protein is a soy product used in simulated meat products and as a substitute for ground meat for vegetarians. TVP is made by removing the fat from soy flour, and the byproduct of soybean oil extraction. It comes in small granules in its classic form but can also be bought at health food stores or in the natural food isle as soy chunks. Because TVP is a dry protect, it absorbs the flavour of anything you throw at it, which makes it a very versatile ingredient. 

     Shown above is the results of a double batch, which can be accomplished with one large head of cabbage. This recipe freezes well, so go ahead and double up on all the other ingredients if you want to make enough to last a while and use up the whole cabbage.

Serves: 8-12


  • 1 large cabbage, frozen and defrosted
  • 2/3 cup dry long or medium grain white rice and 1 1/3 cup water (or 2 cups prepared rice)
  • 3/4 cup dry TVP
  • 3/4 cup low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/8 tsp red chili flakes, or to taste
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 2 18oz cans of tomatoes 
  • 3/4 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced roughly 
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 5.5 oz can of tomato paste
  • 1/8 cup red wine
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, or 1 Tbsp dry
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Prepare your rice as per package directions, either in a pot on the stove or in a ice cooker.
  2. Hydrate TVP with equal amounts of boiling low-sodium vegetable broth (alternatively, can use half broth, half water). Just pour the broth on top of the TVP in a medium bowl, mix quickly with a fork, then cover with plastic wrap and let steam.
  3. Start preparing the sauce by warming a medium sauce pot over medium heat with olive oil. Sauté garlic and herbs until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the wine to the sauce, and let simmer for a couple of minutes to burn off the alcohol before adding the tomatoes and the vegetable stock. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes before removing from heat. The end sauce should be waterier than a typical pasta sauce to keep the cabbage rolls moist in the oven. No one likes dry rolls.
  5. In your largest stock pot, or whichever pot fits your cabbage, fill with water until the water covers the cabbage (if possible, you may need to roll your cabbage in the water later if your pot isn't big enough) then remove the cabbage and set aside, bring cabbage-less water to a boil.
  6. Start the cabbage roll filling: in a large sauté pan or wok on medium heat, heat up some olive oil, and sauté onions and garlic for 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent. 
  7. Whisk in the tomato paste, red wine, soy sauce, parsley, coriander and cumin, along with 1/2 cup of the prepared sauce. 
  8. Into the base of the filling, fold in the rice and TVP. Mix well and remove from heat.
  9. With a paring knife, remove the hard core of the cabbage. place the cabbage in the boiling water and let boil for a couple minutes, or until the leaves start falling off a bit. As the leaves loosen up, remove from the head with a pair of tongues and set aside. Repeat this step until you feel that you have enough leaves, at least 12 but it's better to cook a few extra or leave the water on until all the rolls are rolled.
  10. Meanwhile, prepare your 9x13" (or larger) baking dish by ladling in a couple spoonfuls of the sauce, enough so that there is a thin layer of sauce coating the bottom of the pan to prevent the cabbage rolls from sticking.
  11. When enough cabbage leaves have been harvested and are cool enough to handle, remove any large veins or hard chunks. (These can be used in a soup of for a vegetable stock.) As you get to the center of the cabbage, more and more of the leaf will be hard, so you may want to overlap a couple of leaves if need be, or adjust the amount of filling accordingly.
  12. When you are ready to roll, layout the cabbage leaf with the space where the vein used to be facing you. Overlap the two sides of the leaves so that there is no hole where you are about to spoon on the filling.
  13. Spoon on about 1/3-1/2 cup of the filling into the middle of the cabbage leaves, making sure not to overfill the leaves to avoid spillage. Roll the filling up like a burrito: fold in the ends and hold with your outer fingers while you use your thumbs and inner fingers to fold the side closest you over the filling and roll tightly away from you to close. Place the cabbage rolls, seam face down, in the sauced baking dish.
  14. Continue to roll your cabbage rolls until all the filling is used up and pack tightly in the baking dish so that your rolls stay together.
  15. Poor the remainder of the tomato sauce over your beautiful cabbage rolls.
  16. You can now refrigerated your cabbage rolls  for up to 3 days until you are ready to bake them or bake them immediately in a preheated 350°F oven for one (1) hour covered with aluminum foil.
  17. Let cool for 20 minutes before serving.

Our Holidays

     I always love going home for the holidays. What's not to love: food, drink, family and sleep? I'm a fan of it all!

Christmas Brunch at the Boileau's

Christmas Dinner with Ryan's Family

Boxing Dinner at the Boileau's

New Year's Eve Games

New Year's Day Dinner