I’m excited to come out of my blogging hibernation (you can keep up with my daily adventures on Instagram) for the inaugural Vancity Virtual Potluck. Between my full-time job, marathon training, and working on my novel every spare minute I have, meal planning is basically the only way I ever get anything done. This virtual potluck is a great way to get dozens of new ideas if you’re a meal planning devotee like me, but enjoy adding a new recipe to the repertoire every week.

For my part in the potluck, I’m bringing this light and savoury Leek and Spinach Quiche to the table.

Leek and Spinach Quiche

Fun fact: before this recipe I’ve never cooked leeks before. It just seemed like such a high maintenance vegetable with too many parts to wash and cut off and dispose of. Seriously, I thought even the mob wouldn’t touch this. But wow was I ever wrong. Once I learned that the leaves flopping from the top are meant to be cut off and thrown away, it was easy from there.

Bowl of leeks for Leek and Spinach Quiche

For this recipe, I made the crust from scratch, but I think a store bought crust could also work for those days you just need to put together a quick meal.

Perfect for the upcoming Spring weather (that’s hopefully just around the corner here in unseasonably wintery Vancouver), this quiche can easily be a filling main when paired with a hearty salad or roasted vegetables. Enjoy and don’t forget to check out the delicious recipes from The Little Vegan Life and Be Naturally Fit at the bottom of this post!

Slice of Leek and Spinach Quiche

Leek and Spinach Quiche
Adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients

For the Crust:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
3-5 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

For the Filling:
1 large egg white
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large leek (white and light green parts only), cleaned and sliced into 1/2 – inch pieces (should yield about 1/2 cup)
3 large eggs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped dill (fresh or dried)
2 cups cooked spinach, drained and chopped (frozen works fine)

Directions

Crust

  1. In a food processor, pulse together flour and salt until combined.
  2. Add the cubes of butter and pulse continuously until the mixture starts to look like tiny pebbles.
  3. While the food processor is running, drizzle in apple cider vinegar and ice water, stopping when the mixture begins to just come together.
  4. Working quickly, form the dough into a flat disk, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 2 days.
  5. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375° F.
  6. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an approximately 12-inch circle.
  7. Gently press into a 9-inch tart or pie pan, trimming any overhang. Line the dough with aluminum foil and dried beans (or pie weights) and bake for 20 minutes.
  8. Remove the pan from the oven, and take out the foil and beans. Whip the egg white for a minute and then, brush it on the crust. Prick the bottom of the crust with a knife or a fork to allow air to release and prevent bubbling. Place back in oven and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

Filling

  1.  In a medium-sized pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil and add the leeks. Stir until they’re coated in oil, then turn down the heat to medium-low and cover the pan. Cook the leeks until they’re golden brown and caramelized, about 20-25 minutes. Be sure to give it a stir every 5-10 minutes to ensure they don’t burn.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, parmesan cheese, milk, half and half, ricotta, salt, pepper, and dill.
  3. When the leeks are done cooking, lay them out on top of the pre-baked crust along with the chopped spinach.
  4. Pour the filling on top of the leeks and spinach and place the quiche in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes at 375° F, or until the top of the quiche has puffed and is set in the middle and just slightly golden.

Serves 6

Check out the other potluck recipes:

Virtual Potluck last dishVirtual Potluck next dish

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When I was 11, my mom took me to Thailand for the first time. We explored temples with shiny, golden Buddhas of all sizes, saw an eye-opening cabaret show where I struggled to tell ladies from ladyboys, and shopped till we dropped all over Bangkok. It was pretty awesome.

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However, being 11, I was still the world’s pickiest eater and instead of diving into the luscious coconut curries, fragrant rice dishes and savoring the addictingly sweet Thai coffees, I opted for soy chicken and rice practically every night. Seriously. In fact, my favorite food memory was finding a vendor who made the most divine chocolate crepes (all nutella and crispy edges as I recall), but come on, a crepe?!

I’m happy to report that I’ve come quite far since then and enjoy Thai food on the regular now. Need proof? Well, while perusing Bon Appetit for some new dishes to try I happened upon this Thai Beef with Basil recipe that instantly made my mouthwater.

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Reading the comments that people left on the recipe, I spotted one suggestion to make this dish healthier by using ground turkey instead of beef. Done and done. I also added red peppers to this since I had some kicking around in the fridge.

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What’s especially awesome is that this dish is insanely easy and quick to make. I probably spent about 10 minutes prepping everything and 10 minutes cooking it all. Plating it for this post probably took the longest amount of time haha. This also includes the time it took to cook some brown rice to go with everything.

I recommend saving ½ cup of basil and putting it on top of the finished dish to add an extra punch. Don’t worry, the residual heat will end up wilting it a bit so it’s not so jarring. I also found that the fish sauce dressing goes a long way – I only needed about one teaspoon over my food to provide enough of the salty flavor that ties this whole thing together.

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Thai Turkey with Basil and Peppers
Adapted from Bon Apetit

Ingredients

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

6 garlic cloves, minced

2 red chiles, thinly sliced, seeded for less heat if desired, divided

11/2 pound ground free-run turkey

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ cup low-sodium chicken broth

3 cups fresh basil leaves, divided

2 medium carrots, julienned or coarsely grated

4 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided

Dressing

2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)

1 teaspoon sugar

Directions

  1. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add garlic and one of the chilis and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add turkey, season with salt and pepper, and cook, breaking up with a spoon and pressing down firmly to help brown, until cooked through and nicely crisped in spots, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add broth and 2 cups basil and cook, stirring, until basil is wilted, about 2 minutes.
  4. To make the dressing, toss carrots, 1 Tbsp. lime juice, and remaining chili, 1/2 cup basil leaves, and 1 Tbsp. oil in a small bowl.
  5. In another bowl, mix soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, and remaining 3 Tbsp. lime juice until sugar dissolves.
  6. Top brown rice with beef and carrot slaw and drizzle with dressing.

Makes 4 servings

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Do you hate going to the dentist? I know some people who have a huge fear of being in a dentist’s chair. Me? Not so much. I think it’s because the first dentist I remember going to was my mom’s niece (or my “aunt” if you get Filipino family dynamics). Once you see your dentist belting out karaoke hits at the top of her lungs, it takes the scare factor out of seeing her with a drill in her hand.

One thing I do hate about my dentist visits is finding out that I have yet another cavity. My sweet tooth can get uncontrollable sometimes, so I’m pretty religious about brushing my teeth very carefully and flossing every night.

Chocolate Hazelnut Macaroon Torte

Unfortunately, I couldn’t resist digging into this Chocolate Hazelnut Macaroon Torte the week before my dentist appointment. I suspect it contributed somewhat to my teeth problems. But can you blame me for being unable to resist it?

Ground hazelnut mixed with sugar

Macaroon batter

I made this torte for my man’s birthday. I know it doesn’t look very pretty – my cake decorating skills pale in comparison to my baking super powers – but it was absolutely, positively, scrum-diddly-umptious.

At first, all the chocolate and hazelnuts reminded me of my Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies, but the flavour and texture is more similar to a Ferrero Rocher. If it was about 8” wide, four layers tall and covered in decadent whipped cream, that is.

Baking chocolate chunks

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Layers of macaroon, chocolate and whipped cream

The macaroon layers are soft, not chewy, which is a great sign you beat the egg whites to just the right consistency. It holds up well against the chocolate and whipped cream layers, so that each bite is just pure bliss.

I think it was definitely worth the cavities, don’t you?

Slice of Chocolate Hazelnut Macaroon Torte

Chocolate Hazelnut Macaroon Torte

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

The Macaroons

1 C plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
6 large egg whites
2½ tbsp ground hazelnuts
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
Oil or butter for greasing parchment rounds

The Chocolate Filling

1 C bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
¼ C water

The Whipped Frosting and Filling

1½ C chilled whipping or heavy cream
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Decoration

Semi- or bittersweet chocolate bar for shaving

Let’s do this:

Make the macaroons

  1. Position your oven rack/s in the top and lower third of your oven and preheat it to 325F
  2. Flip a plate upside down over four pieces of parchment paper and trace around it to create 8-inch circles. Turn each piece of parchment over to prevent ink or pencil lines from seeping into macaroon.
  3. Place each piece of parchment on a baking sheet and spray with cooking oil or lightly coat with butter. Wipe down with a paper towel to leave a very thin, sheer coat of grease.
  4. Place hazelnuts, 1C sugar and salt in a food processor and blend until finely ground.
  5. In a bowl, use an electric mixer to beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Drizzle in vanilla extract, then slowly add remaining 2 tbsp of sugar. Beat together until mixture is stiff, but not dry.
  6. Fold nut mixture into egg whites in 1/3 increments so egg whites don’t lose their fluff.
  7. When everything is mixed, spread ¼ of the batter evenly within each parchment circle, filling completely. 
  8. Bake macaroons until golden and dry to the touch – approximately 20 minutes in my oven.
  9. Cool macaroons on a cooling rack or do it the speedy way by placing them in the freezer for five minutes. 

Make the chocolate filling

  1. While macaroons cool, heat half of chocolate and all the water in a small heavy saucepan over low heat. Stir until smooth.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in second half of chocolate chunks until melted. This should cool the mixture to lukewarm.
  3. Grab cooled macaroons and spread chocolate evenly over the top of each one. You want a thin layer on each.
  4. Let cool at room temperature, which can take a few hours, or do it the speedy way and place in freezer until firm (about five minutes).

Make the whipped frosting

You can do this a day ahead and leave in the refrigerator until you’re ready for it.

1. Beat cream with sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.

Put it all together:

  1. Gently peel the parchment off the back of each macaroon round. Place the first disc on your cake serving plate.
  2. Slather 1/3C of whipped cream over it. Repeat with second and third macaroon.
  3. Top the cake with the final round and frost all over with whipped cream.
  4. If desired, use a grater or vegetable peeler to scrape chocolate bar and create decorative shavings or curls for the cake.

 

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Did you know that pesto sauce doesn’t always need to be made with basil and pine nuts? For realz.

Minty pistachio pesto prawns

Unless your Italian mom or grandma is a hardcore traditionalist when it comes to the pesto you consume (I wouldn’t want you to get disowned over this), you have definitely got to try making your own variation. I’ve seen spinach and sage combinations. Even one made with kale and walnuts!

Pistachios, shelled and unsalted

Ingredients for minty pistachio pesto

Pureed pesto minus olive oil

My version uses fresh mint for my greens and pistachios for my nuts. It’s got a light, refreshing flavor that’s perfect for summer meals. And since you can make the sauce and store it in the freezer for months, it’s great to take out when you need a quick weeknight meal.

Peeled black tiger prawns

Just sauté it with some big, meaty black tiger prawns, serve with either angel hair pasta or hot garlic bread, and enjoy with a glass of white wine.

Close up of minty pistachio pesto prawns

Minty Pistachio Pesto Prawns
Adapted from Bon Appetit

The Pesto

1 ½ C unsalted, shelled roasted pistachios
1 C chopped tomatoes
2 garlic cloves
1 C fresh mint leaves
½ C grated Parmesan
2 tbsp olive oil
Red pepper flakes
Freshly ground pepper
Kosher salt

The Prawns

½ lb black tiger prawns (or any kind of shrimp/prawn that you like), shelled and deveined
1 tbsp olive oil

  1. Place pistachios, tomatoes, garlic cloves, mint leaves, and grated Parmesan in a food processor and pulse until you get a coarse puree.
  2. Add red pepper flakes to your taste. Since the mint is so light, it’s best not to go heavy on the spice unless that’s really your thing.
  3. Add pepper and a pinch of salt. Pulse for another second to incorporate seasonings.
  4. Transfer to a bowl and add olive oil. Mix until a thick, chunky sauce forms. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Place a frying pan on medium heat and add olive oil. When oil is hot, add shrimp.
  6. Add in 1 C of the minty pistachio pesto. Freeze the rest.
  7. Cook until shrimp is curled and pink.
  8. Serve with garlic toast.

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Fish isn’t really my favorite food, but I absolutely love it raw as sushi or sashimi. I’m really lucky that Vancouver has a ton of sushi restaurants, especially ones that aren’t afraid to get creative with their dishes. I’ve seen delicate mango and salmon combinations and epic California rolls topped with a mountain of spicy tuna sashimi.

My obsession with eating these undersea creatures raw should make it no surprise that I’m completely out of my element when it comes to cooking fish. I need a ton of flavor to combat that fishy taste (I always dip my sushi in a ton of soy sauce and wasabi). Some people like it, but I’m definitely not one of them.

Which is why Fish Escovitch is so perfect.

Fish Escovitch

Basa Filets for Fish Escovitch

Breaded basa filets for fish escovitch

Peppers, carrots, onions, and garlic for fish escovitch recipe

Fish escovitch is a traditional Jamaican dish has a potent mix of sweet, sour and spicy flavours. It’s made with vinegar, tons of spices, a dash of sugar, and the King of Heat – scotch bonnet peppers. Unfortunately, I didn’t have this uber spicy pepper hanging around my kitchen, so I settled for using chili flakes instead, which did the trick quite nicely.

Fish Escovitch sauce

Traditionally, snapper is used, but I opted for some basa filets that were on sale. Basa has a very mild, neutral flavor that lets all the other flavors in this recipe shine through.

I’ve made a few more modifications to the traditional recipe, but if you’re looking for a fish dish that’s a knockout at the dinner table, this is it.

Fish Escovitch recipe

Non-traditional Fish Escovitch

The Fish

1 pound basa fish or any kind of white fish
½ C seasoned flour*
2tbsp olive oil

*I use Vietnamese rice flour that has the seasoning premixed. If you can’t get your hands on one, mix ½ C regular flour with 1tsp pepper and a pinch of salt.

The Sauce

2 tbsp olive oil
4 sprigs of time
1 bay leaf
2 red peppers
1 carrot
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic (I really like garlic, feel free to use 1 clove if you’re not as huge a fan)
¾ C vinegar
Chili flakes to taste or a scotch bonnet pepper*
Pinch of salt
½ tsp sugar
¼ tsp allspice

*If you use a scotch bonnet pepper in this recipe, be extra careful when you handle it. Use latex gloves as sometimes the oils can’t be easily washed off your hands and you could accidentally irritate your eye if you touch it. Also, control the heat by not incorporating the seeds into this recipe. They’re hot motha…well, you get the idea.

  1. Give your fish a quick rinse to get rid of some of that slimy texture and then, pat dry with a paper towel.
  2. Cut fish into pieces about 2-inches wide (think bite sized).
  3. Heat olive oil in a pan on medium heat.
  4. Dredge your pieces of fish in the flour and shake off excess before laying in the hot oil.
  5. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown, then flip over. Cook for another 2 minutes.
  6. Place a paper towel on a plate (to soak up oil) and place fish on top. Store in oven to keep warm while you cook the sauce.
  7. Julienne the onion, carrot, and red peppers. Mince the garlic.
  8. Using the same pan you fried the fish in, add in all the vegetables, thyme, and bay leaves. Sautee together until onions start to soften.
  9. Add vinegar, chili flakes, allspice and sugar. Stir together.

10. Let cook for 7-10 minutes to infuse flavours.

 

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I’ve been obsessed with trying to make Cantonese-style Tomato Pork Chop ever since I tried my friend Kristie’s mom’s version of it last year.

Tomato pork chop

We’d spent the entire day filming a music video for The RUSH Urban Race and Scavenger Hunt. It was our entry into a contest that would bring us fame, fortune, prestige…okay, okay. We were singing and dancing in order to win a golden ticket that would get us to the head of the line on race day. But with over 200 teams competing in this awesome challenge-based race, you could bet your bottom dollar that front of the line status is pretty stellar.

Pork Chops

Anyway, in the midst of trying to figure out Mac-related video editing problems, we were called down to dinner where this giant plate of tomato pork chop was sitting. It looked glorious.

Huge tender pieces of pork chop swimming in a dense, sweet and sour tomato sauce.

Tomato

It took me a year, but I finally attempted to make this dish myself and it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. We may not have won the video contest or The RUSH last year, but Kristie and I are determined to give it another go this time around!

Finished tomato pork chop

Cantonese-style Tomato Pork chop

Adapted from Christine’s Recipes

Ingredients

½ lb boneless pork chops (thinly sliced)
2 tomatoes, cut into chunks
½ onion, chopped
1 ½ tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 ½ tsp garlic, minced
¼ c water
1 tbsp oil

Marinade

2 ½ tsp soy sauce
½ tsp white sugar
1 egg white
2 tsp ginger, freshly grated
½ tsp rice flour
Pinch of pepper

Thickening sauce

1 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp rice flour
2 tbsp water

  1. Rinse pork chops and pat dry with a paper towel. Tenderize with a mallet and then cut into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Mix marinade ingredients together and then add pork chop pieces. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge. Marinate for 20 minutes.
  3. Heat oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add pork chops and cook until lightly browned, about 3-5 minutes. Place on dish and set aside.
  4. Add another ½ tbsp oil to the pan and sauté garlic and onions. Toss in tomato chunks. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add water and bring to a boil.
  6. Add sugar and ketchup and then, cover pan. Cook until the tomatoes soften, about 5-7 minutes.
  7. Toss in pork chop pieces and stir together and cook until pork chop pieces are cooked through.
  8. Add thickening sauce to your preferred consistency.

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