Category Archives: Salads

Zucchini Pasta with Chickpeas, Beets and Basil

With the bounty of vegetables at the market next door, I have been in heaven (both cooking and eating).  We haven’t eaten meat (except a slice of ham in our morning egg mcmuffin today!) for lunch or dinner since last week, and neither of us are complaining. I’ve enjoyed experimenting with all of the local vegetables and coming up with new concotions.

This recipe was born out of just that.  I’ve found that, to no surprise, I am enjoying a baguette almost daily with CH.  While I will never complain about that fact, given I am in France, my dresses/skirts may have something to say about it in a few weeks.  Thus, I am focusing on reducing the amount of grain products (i.e. pasta, bread, rice) in my lunches and dinners.  Lunches are easy, salads with lots of veggies and proteins.  Dinners are a little trickier, especially because I have a 6ft 2in hubby who can eat like a machine and not gain weight (argh, again not fair)! Thus, dinners have to be something adaptable to both of our taste, and this recipe did just that – I had mine with zucchini “noodles” and CH had his with bowtie pasta.  One simple switch, two delicious meals and two happy people.

Just as a disclaimer – I am not going on a carb restrictive diet – I am just focusing more on the local vegetables and fruits available in France and leaving room to enjoy the baguettes, cheese, croissants and pain au chocolates….and of course, more wine.  Diet and healthy living to me are all about everything in moderation, but enjoying things without guilt or hesitation.  Thus, if you make healthy choices most of the day, there is always room for treats here and there.  And, to top off this little blurb, CH and I are still training for our first 10km race, hopefully at the end of summer, so we are running as much as possible, in combination with this healthy eating approach.  Each run = more fun!

This dish was delicious and CH liked his version too.  It had subtle flavours that blended really well together, yet the garlic gave it the little flavour kick it needed.  The colors were beautiful on the plate, and it really satisfied me for the entire day (it was lunch!). Feel free to switch up some of the ingredients – add more cheese (CH did), more garlic, omit the beets and substitute with eggplant or red peppers. Whatever you enjoy and have on hand.

Enjoy!

Zucchini Pasta with Chickpeas, Beet and Basil

Servings:  2 large servings
Prep Time:  5 minutes
Cook Time:  20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium zucchini, julienned
  • 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1 cup cooked beets, drained well and cubed
  • 1 large shallot (or two small), diced
  • 2 – 3 garlic cloves, grated
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 2 or 3 tbsp grated pecorino or mozzarella cheese (I used some delicious aged goat cheese I can’t remember the name of)
  • S&P

Directions:

In a large sauté pan, over medium heat, heat olive oil until glistening.  Add onions to the pan and cook until translucent (4 – 5 minutes).

Add chickpeas to the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.

Add beets and garlic to the pan, and cook for 5 – 10 minutes, until warmed through.

While beets are cooking, placed julienned zucchini strips into a microwave safe bowl.  Cook in the microwave on medium-high heat for 3 – 4 minutes, ensuring that the zucchini softens but still has a slight bite to them (just like pasta!)

Season the chickpea and beet mixture with S&P and remove from heat.  Stir-in the basil pieces.

Place zucchini ‘pasta’ into two bowls and top with chickpea and beet mixture.  Sprinkle each bowl with grated cheese.

Enjoy!

A JBean French Cuisine Creation

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Filed under Healthy, Mains, Salads, Side Dishes, Vegetarian and Vegan

Potato Salad with Crème Fraîche Dressing (aka French Style Potato Salad)

CH and I are settling into the French lifestyle pretty well.  We are enjoying our morning croissants, afternoon baguettes (yes – our local boulangerie knows us already!), meandering along the small side-streets, 1.5 hour lunches at the local cafes, joining friends for evening drinks in the town square, the local produce and flower markets and most of all, having wine at any hour of the day – which we justify as adapting to the French culture. As CH and I enjoyed a Saturday afternoon picnic today, we couldn’t help but realize “la vie est belle” and how truly lucky we are to be experiencing this.  Had I not left my corporate job, sold our apartment and went back to university at 23, I wouldn’t be here today, and for that I am so grateful.  I will definitely be sharing pictures of the town and our adventures so far, I just need to start bringing my camera more!

Anyways, sorry for that blurb – just had to express how grateful and happy I am to be here – on to the food and a delicious potato salad.

If you read my last post, you will know that the current score is France kitchen 1, Jill 0.   This has yet to be rectified, but I am plotting my revenge, don’t you worry.  Apparently replacing the stove is on “France time”, so we are still without one.  It has been OK though, we’ve been eating lots of salads, and I haven’t minded at all, but I think CH is getting impatient and wants “real food” and not just salads – he even offered to take the bus to the local “walmart-type store” to buy us a new stove.

Anyways, not having a heat source, except a microwave, meant that I had to get creative with our salads and this recipe is just that.

I love potato salad and knew that I could cook potatoes in the microwave, so I was off to a good start.  CH isn’t a fan of mayonnaise at all, so I knew I had to adapt the dressing.  Not to worry, I had a secret French-style weapon (and one that caused me to smile ear-to-ear when I bought it at the grocery store).  Crème Fraîche. This delicious (and expensive in Canada!) ingredient that is similar to sour cream, but SO much better as it is lighter and less ‘sour’.  The French use it a lot to finish sauces, as it doesn’t curdle when heated, or they serve it with fruit as a light dessert.  I loved it the first time I tried it, and couldn’t wait to use it in France.

So, I was armed with cooked potatoes, crème fraîche as a base for the dressing and a mound of fresh vegetables from the market next-door.  Time to assemble a fresh potato salad.

It turned out delicious.  CH raved about how good it was, and promptly finished off his portion and what I had set-aside for the next day’s lunch.  I will definitely be making this again, especially for our afternoon picnics by the river – I am confident it would make a great side to your next BBQ!

Enjoy!


Potato Salad with Crème Fraîche Dressing

Yield:  4 side-servings
Prep Time:  10 minutes
Cook Time:  10 minutes (potatoes)

Ingredients:

  • 10 baby white or red potatoes
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 green pepper, diced into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 red onion, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 large cucumber, seeded and diced into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded and diced into 1-inch cubes
  • large handful of fresh parsley, diced
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
  • S&P

Directions:

Cook your potatoes as desired, either boiling them in water on the stove or microwaving on high for 8-10 minutes (if you are microwaving them – don’t forget to pierce each potato!).  Allow the cook potatoes to cool and then dice into 1-inch cubes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the peppers, onion, cucumber, tomato and parsley.  Add the olive oil and crème fraîche and season generously with salt and pepper.  Mix well to evenly coat all vegetables.

Add the cooked potatoes to the bowl and stir well to coat the potatoes.

Cover the potato salad with saran wrap and place it in fridge for at least 1-hour prior to serving.  My experience is that the longer the flavors have to meld together before eating, the better the potato salad – so feel free to make it the night before.

Enjoy with a glass of rose and good company.

An Original JBean French Cuisine Creation

PS – this was our first dinner by the river – hence the lighting of the pictures.  L to R:  Potato Salad, baguette, green bean salad with beets and goat cheese (recipe to come!), olives and local artisan sausage.  Yumm!


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A Taste of Spring: Salade au fromage de chèvre et de poulet (Salad with Goat Cheese & Chicken)

France kitchen 1, Jill 0.

Although this plate looks beautiful (in my opinion) and was so delicious, it wasn’t as easy getting it on the table as one would think.  Salads are known to be quick, easy and harmless, right?  Well….apparently not so much in a French kitchen, using an electric hotplate element.

I was hesitant about the hotplate element from the start and knew that it was going to be an adjustment.  Although I cook with electric heat at home in Canada, it is at least a proper oven and I’ve used them my whole life.  We tried to find an apartment with a more ‘cook friendly’ kitchen, but it is nearly impossible in this small town, unless we wanted to pay twice what we are now (which isn’t feasible on our budget!). We stayed at a B&B the first two nights here, and the owner told us that most French kitchens are small and ill-equipped as most French people eat out during the evenings (remind me to also talk about some eating habits we’ve already noticed here…that’s to come in a future post).

Anyways, back to the story.  We went to the local artisian market, which is literally next door to us and features all local French vendors selling everything you can imagine.  The produce is incredibly fresh, the meats are gorgeous and if you want to see a selection of cheese…this is where to find it (I will be taking pictures, don’t worry…I just want to try and get to know the vendors a little and find my way around before lugging out this big camera and snapping away!) CH and I happily wandered around for more than an hour, selecting things for a gourmet, meal sized salad.  We left with an assortment of lettuces, local cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and cooked beets (which I just discovered and fell in love with – I previously didn’t like them!). We also bought a log of fresh local goat cheese (for €1.05) and a small package of chicken breasts.  Off we went to create our meal sized salad, to be enjoyed on our patio with a glass of wine, overlooking the square.

I prepared all of my salad ingredients, happy as could be. All I had left to do was cook the chicken tenders….I heated the cook-top, heated my All-Clad saute pan, and added oil.  In went the chicken tenders, which began to brown nicely.  Then….I thought to myself….that is a lot of smoke, and it is thick, which isn’t typical for chicken – even at a high heat.  I called for CH, realized it was the hotplate itself and went into operation “OMG” mode.  I turned the element off, unplugged it from the wall, removed the pan and began fanning it furiously with a towel.  I was able to flip it over and notice that it was coming from the bottom/underneath of the pan.  Yupp, it was on fire.  Lovely. I was still fairly calm and realized that it wasn’t totally on fire, so I just continued to wave a towel and wait it out.  The smoke finally subsided and was under control.  We placed in on the balcony, to finish cooling off, and CH sat with it, while I finished preparing dinner.  At this point, I had 3/4 cooked chicken tenders and no source of heat, other than the microwave.  I put it on low heat, placed the chicken on a plate, and hoped for the best.  It wasn’t the best chicken I’ve ever had or made, but in small pieces it wasn’t too chewy, thank goodness.

We now have another funny cooking story to add to the memory bank, and I am grateful that it wasn’t more serious and there was no damage done.  I’ve emailed the landlord and requested it be replaced immediately, with a more reliable appliance, meaning it wont light on fire when I go to use it.  Wish me luck with that!

This salad was definitely delicious and was enjoyed with a well deserved glass of wine.  We both were in the mood for fresh greens and plenty of vegetables, and this hit the spot.  Of course, goat cheese in CH’s world makes everything better, so why not, eh?

Not to mention that this is a very typical French salad, and I was inspired to make it as I had one similar to this on our second night here.  Simple, fresh flavours make one delicious dinner.

Enjoy (and I promise I will be careful with hotplate elements from now-on!)

Salade au fromage de chèvre et de poulet

Yield:  2 meal sized salads
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time:  10 minutes for the chicken (or more if dealing with hotplate fire!)

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups of lettuce (a mixture of your favourites)
  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 large cucumber, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 red pepper, diced
  • 1/4 green pepper, diced
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 1 medium cooked beet, diced
  • 1 chicken breast, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 6 round slices of goat cheese (or crumbled goat cheese)
  • splash of quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp of white wine vinegar (I didn’t use any)
  • S&P

Directions:

Prepare all of your salad ingredients and mis en place (French for put in place).

Heat a medium sized sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil and allow to warm until glistening. Season chicken tenders with S&P and add to pan.  Cook for 4-5 minutes per side, until nicely browned and cook through. Remove from heat and pat with paper towels to remove extra oil. Dice chicken into bite sized pieces.

In a large bowl, place all of your salad ingredients, except the chicken, goat cheese and beets.

Add 1 – 2 tbsp of olive oil to the salad mixture, sprinkle generously with S&P and toss well to coat.

Divide the salad onto two plates and top each with chicken, goat cheese and beets.

Serve with a glass of French rosé or sauvignon blanc and enjoy!

A JBean French Cuisine Original Recipe

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Filed under French, Healthy, Mains, Salads, Side Dishes, Vegetarian and Vegan