British Columbia

Recipe: Quinoa puffed onion rings

“They are healthier than the typical onion rings you get in pubs ... and that was our intention, because I love onion rings," said Fresh restaurant founder Ruth Tal.

Ruth Tal, founder of Fresh restaurants in Toronto, shares her healthy take on the popular pub food choice

Ruth Tal said Fresh's onion rings, which come with the restaurant's BBQ burger, are so popular that she sells over 10,000 of them a week. (facebook.com/FreshSince1999)

It was love that led Ruth Tal to open her very first juice bar in Toronto in 1990, when vegan restaurants and juice bars were mostly unheard of.

"I was 25 and I fell in love with a vegan, who at the time to my parents seemed like a total fanatic," Tal told North by Northwest host Sheryl MacKay.

As she learned more about where food comes from, and the impact it has on the planet, she decided to take the loan she had been given for university through the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) and open a juice bar, which came to be named Fresh.

Sheryl MacKay interviews Ruth Tal at Barbara-Jo's Books to Cooks in Vancouver. (Sheila Peacock/CBC)

"My brother and sister who have ten kids prefer that I don't mention that, that I dropped out of ... school and used my OSAP loan to start my business, but everything turned out for the best," she laughed.

Tal now has four Fresh restaurants in Toronto, a location in Moscow, Russia, and is hoping to open one in Vancouver within the next 18 months.

(facebook.com/FreshSince1999)

Tal has also co-written five cookbooks with her business partner and chef Jennifer Houston.

She shared her recipe for quinoa onion rings from her latest cookbook Super Fresh with North by Northwest.

"They are healthier than the typical onion rings you get in pubs," she said.

"And that was our intention, because I love onion rings."

Quinoa puffed onion rings

Makes 20 large onion rings

Ingredients:

Quinoa Coating:
  • 1 ½ cups (375 mL) puffed quinoa, millet, or amaranth
  • 1 ½ cups (375 mL) fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) sea salt
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) garlic powder
Onion Rings:
  • 1 large Spanish onion, sliced thickly and separated into 20 rings
  • 1 cup (250 mL) gluten-free all-purpose flour (we prefer Bob's Red Mill)
  • 1 batch Dosa Batter 
  • 4 cups (1 L) canola or sunflower oil, for frying
  • Sea salt, to taste

Make quinoa coating 

Combine puffed quinoa, breadcrumbs, salt, and garlic powder in a large bowl. Set 
aside.

Prepare onion rings 

In a plastic bag or bowl, toss onion rings with flour.  Place dosa batter (recipe below) in a shallow bowl. Dip one or two onion rings in batter, making sure they are totally coated.  Dredge battered rings in quinoa coating, making sure all surfaces are coated. Repeat with remaining rings.  Arrange coated rings on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or overnight, to firm up. Heat oil in a large saucepan to 350°F (180°C).  Working in small batches so as not to crowd the pan, carefully drop onion rings into the hot oil and cook for two or three minutes, until browned and crispy.  Transfer cooked rings to paper towel to drain. Immediately sprinkle with sea salt.

Dosa Batter Recipe

We use this batter not only to make the Avocado Dosas , but also as an all-purpose batter for coating and breading other items like Onions Rings, Crispy Cauliflower, and Oyster Mushrooms.
makes 1½ cups (375 mL)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (250 mL) light spelt flour
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) sea salt
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) curry powder
  • ¾ cup (175 mL) water
  • ½ cup (125 mL) plain unsweetened soy milk

Method:

Combine flour, salt, baking powder, and curry powder in a bowl and whisk to combine.  Gradually whisk in water and soy milk until a smooth batter forms. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 days. (It might go a little black on top due to the spelt flour, but don't worry: just stir it back together and it'll be fine.)

Tip: Spelt is an ancient grain related to wheat. It has never been hybridized, so it is more easily digested than other forms of wheat. Some people with wheat​ intolerances can tolerate spelt, although it is not gluten-free.


To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Ruth Tal talks about the growth of her Fresh restaurant business, and shares a healthy onion rings recipe

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