I know tofu gets a bad rap, but I rather enjoy it. It sops up flavours while cooking and can be molded into many different directions. One of my favourite kinds of tofu is silken tofu. I still remember the first time I tried it; my friend added it to an orzo soup simply because it was close to its best before date. The tofu was cut into small pieces and every time I ate a piece of tofu, I felt like I was eating from a cool cloud, a pillow of silkiness – in a good way! It was my first introduction to tofu and I was hooked. I started adding it to my soups, too, and cold noodle salads.
This is one of my favourite dishes, especially when enoki mushrooms are on sale, as the silky, melt-in-your-mouth tofu is paired with pale, tender, enoki mushrooms smothered in a delicate, subtle dashi broth flavoured with soy sauce, mirin and sake. It is a snap to put together but it is important to warm the tofu so that it is heated all the way through. This is simplicity at its finest, very much the quintessential trait of Japanese cuisine. Depending on the mushroom you choose, this dish vary from delicate as I described with the enoki mushrooms, to more robust with maitake mushrooms.
Enoki mushrooms are hands-down my favourite mushroom and here is another lovely summer dish for enoki mushrooms: Enoki somen.
It is my pleasure to join the Washoku Warriors this month, featuring our favourite dish from Washoku by Elizabeth Andoh (the original recipe is posted here). I am also submitting it for this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Simona at Briciole.
With a few long-distance cycling trips already under my belt this summer, I oftentimes feel like I am eating to bike. I routinely make my own sports drink and have made different portable snacks for my rides: peanutty energy bars, cocoa mint nibbles and almond chocolate larabars. Next up in my arsenal of snacks: homemade granola bars.
I have been making my own granola for some time, but had yet to venture into making granola bars. The thick and chewy granola bars posted by Smitten Kitchen (who, in turn, found and adapted it from King Arthur Flour) called out to me since she posted them in February. I bought oat flour immediately (back when I didn’t have a food processor) but it took me almost 6 months to finally buckle down and make them. What happened? Well, life (in a good way), and I was shunning desserts for a while. Thank goodness I bike now so I can enjoy these guilt-free. ;)
These were subtly addictive. Chewy yet firm, oaty and wholesome, sweet from cranberries and with a strong peanut flavour. You munch on a chewy bar and think to yourself, ‘Is this what granola bars taste like?’ It is miles away from what you get in a store. Deb leaves the recipe completely flexible, with substitutions for the nuts, fruit and nut butter, and I have included my own interpretation below. I was surprised at the strong presence of the peanut butter flavour, so I may decrease it next time or switch it to almond butter which I think would work better with the cranberries. Otherwise, I went with my granola staples of dried cranberries, coconut and almonds. I found coconut chips at Bestwin which are like large coconut flakes. I liked the burst of coconut flavour but found they didn’t integrate with the bars as well; they left the bars more apt to crumble mid-bite. Next time, I’ll stick with my flaked coconut for the granola bars and use the coconut flakes for my crumbly granola.
I love when I discover new healthy ingredients. (I have totally fallen in love with pomegranate molasses now, but I am not talking about that infatuation.)
I recently visited Shelburne Farms, a working farm estate using sustainable farming and environmental practices, in Shelburne, Vermont. We had a fabulous dinner at their Inn, but snuck in a tasty salad from their Farm Barn for lunch. It was an incredibly delicious balsamic bulgur salad with fresh produce from their organic gardens. I have cooked with fine bulgur before, but this salad used coarse bulgur. It was delicious, creamy and plump at the same time. It was a lovely play of textures for my tongue, in addition to the fresh flavours from their garden. When I returned home, I picked up some coarse bulgur to make my own salad (I used Bob’s Red Mill Cracked Bulgur).**
This is definitely one superb salad. Absolutely delicious! Dare I suggest the best salad ever? Oh yes!
This is a Turkish recipe, based on kisir, a bulgur salad with tomato. Mine was adapted from Desert Candy, who adapted it from Food & Wine (January 2004). The creamy bulgur is mixed with soft charred cherry tomatoes, crunchy toasted almonds and nutty, creamy chickpeas. Pomegranate seeds add flavour and pop. The dressing wraps everything together – sweet and tart from the pomegranate molasses, tart from the lemon juice and a bit of a kick from the Aleppo chili flakes. I loved it! The bulgur can absorb a lot of the dressing, so I dressed the salad just before serving.
I wanted to highlight how wonderful the salad was before anyone got turned off by the health benefits of bulgur. In a 1/4 cup (raw), there are only 140 calories but also 7g of fibre and 5g of protein. It has less calories and more nutritious than brown rice, with more iron and calcium and less fat. But most importantly, it tastes great. I love the paradoxical creaminess. It is completely different than fine bulgur. Some say that fine bulgur is best for salads and kibbeh (meatballs), and coarse bulgur is better for pilafs and main dishes. But here, I loved the coarse bulgur as a salad.
Run, do not walk, to make this incredibly tasty and healthy salad.
Basil and Bulgur Salad (aka Pesto Tabouli) by Fat Free Vegan
Bulgur Salad with Cranberries by Delicious Days
Bulgur Salad with Chickpeas and Red Peppers by Smitten Kitchen
Bulgur Salad with Feta, Olives and Sun-dried Tomatoes by Feelgood Eats
Chickpea & Bulgur Salad with Soft Boiled Egg & Breadcrumbs by Bitchin Camero
Chickpea Hot Pot by 101 Cookbooks
Beautiful Bulgar and Spinach Pilaf with Labneh and Chili Roast Tomatoes by 101 Cookbooks
Herbed and Honeyed Bulgur Wheat Nut Salad by Not Quite Nigella
Bulgur Salad with Oranges, Cashews & Fresh Herbs by Enlightened Cooking
Balsamic Roasted Onions with Bulgur, Cinnamon & Pine Nuts by Made by Frances
Broccoli Rabe with Bulgur and Walnuts by Bon Appetit
Bulgur and Grape Salad with Walnuts and Currants by Fine Cooking
**Remember how I ventured across town to buy pomegranate molasses for muhammara? Well, when I found coarse bulgur at No Frills (Eglinton/Victoria Park), they had pomegranate molasses as well! Along with orange blossom water and rose water (on sale, to boot!). It astounds me what I can find in grocery stores in Toronto if you look in the right neighbourhood. So there you have it, you can find pomegranate molasses at No Frills in Toronto. I even updated my post for other local seekers of pomegranate molasses.
This is my submission to Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring mint, this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Simona at Briciole, to PJ for this month’s Healing Foods featuring tomatoes, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to Nithu for this month’s Cooking with Whole Foods featuring chickpeas, to Blog Bites #6, potluck-style, hosted by One Hot Stove, to Torview’s food palette series featuring red dishes, to Jayasri for this month’s Cooking with Seeds featuring pomegranate seeds, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Fridays and finally, to AWED, featuring Turkish cuisine this month, hosted by me. (This recipe was meant to be shared!) :)
Someone recently commented that I must be a good cook because my dishes always taste great. I replied that I have had great recipes to follow; I don’t really possess any particular culinary genious. While I have a good cookbook selection at home (and from the library), I love scouring food blogs for inspiration because they usually come with personal anecdotes, tips, stories and comments from others who have tried the dish. It is quite an intereactive forum, where everyone learns from each other. I also know which foods I like, and which I don’t, which explains my fascination with certain ingredients (almonds, cranberries, red pepper, among others) and a complete lack of others in my cooking (celery, sometimes parsley, etc).
However, sometimes I try things beyond my comfort zone without knowing what it should taste like, nevermind whether I will like it. A lot of Indian cuisine falls into this category as I am always wondering how spicy the dish will be. I figured I would try my hand at banana halva, an Indian dessert, as I knew I loved Turkish/Middle Eastern halva. They couldn’t have been more different! But I knew that as I glanced over recipes for both dishes. I just didn’t know what the Indian banana halva was supposed to taste like, either.
Usha at Veg Inspirations described hers as banana fudge. I was intrigued. Rose at Avocado & Bravado described them as a rich, sweet, sticky dessert. It sounded lovely.
So I tackled banana halva, with a combination of their recipes. I waited until I thought the bananas and sugar were golden-brown and then some.
My result were chewy, slightly sweet banana balls. But they still kind of tasted like the sum of their parts: overripe sweet banana. I don’t think it tasted like fudge. At least the kind I am familar with.
I think I’ll use my overripe bananas for other causes next time. But it was an interesting detour through Indian sweets.. if I even made it there. I am not sure! Did I mess it up?
Here is my second dish with pomegranate molasses and I think I am slowly falling in love with this sweet-tart sauce.
This is a Lebanese dish from Arabesque by Claudia Roden where eggplants are baked until soft, then coated with a pomegranate vinaigrette and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley. It is a very simple recipe for a simple dish. In fact, the tastes are rather subtle which is why I enjoyed it. This is meant to be a dish as part of a mezze (appetizer) spread and can be served hot or cold. I preferred to use it as a sandwich topper. It was delicious cold, heaping over a toasted bagel for breakfast. The recipe says the pomegranate seeds are optional but I think they really made the dish stand-out. They explode with little bursts of flavours when you bite through them.
I was salivating when I spotted these muffins at Eat Me, Delicious: maple, pecans and Ashley declared: “[These] are my new favourite healthy-ish muffins, and possibly my new favourite muffins period. I adore them.” I made them, hoping to bring them as a dessert with ample leftovers for a friend who had just had a baby. I, obviously, didn’t read the next part where Ashely commented that these were dry like cornbread. I think the tip-off that these were not suitable for dessert was when Ashley said they were healthy muffins. Thankfully I ate one before I brought them over to my friend’s house, as these are not dessert muffins. They are healthy breakfast muffins.
Not too sweet, despite a half-cup of maple syrup, but crumbly and dry, likely from the half-cup of wheat germ and whole-wheat flour, these muffins are packed with a lot of good nutrients, but the texture was off for me. I’d prefer something a bit more moist and sweet. Granted, once I accepted their fate as breakfast muffins, ate them with a big glass of milk, they grew on me and I slowly appreciated their beauty.
And then I had to whip up another portable dessert for the new mommy.
I love having a food blog because it chronicles what I eat. And so I know this to be true.
This is monumental: I made my second meat dish since I started the blog!
(The first being sinfully delicious German beef rolls).
I am not vegetarian, but mainly prepare vegetarian dishes at home. I love fish, so that definitely prevents me from becoming a vegetarian. I have been going through many Middle Eastern cookbooks and food blogs, and was itching to make a tagine. Slow-simmered meat with savoury ingredients sounded really good and I have yet to come across a good vegetarian alternative yet. Claudia Roden’s Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Dates and Almonds screamed out at me. “Make me!”, it said.
I obviously have a thing or two to learn about cooking meat, though.
So what does boned mean? I figured deboned meant meat without a bone, and boned meant with a bone.
When I went to buy 3 lb of boned lamb shoulder for the tagine, I bought bone-in lamb shoulder. That’s what the recipe says, right? Well, when I came home, my mom was not pleased. It was $18 but that wasn’t what displeased her. Boned lamb means WITHOUT bones. Gah! Thankfully she helped rid the excess fat and bone so it was ready for the tagine.
Technically a tagine is made in a tagine clay pot and Roden explains in Arabesque that a lidded, heavy-bottomed casserole or stainless steel pan is preferred for making a tagine. I feel that a large wide pan is preferred so you have a single layer of meat and this limits the amount of water needed to cover the meat to allow it to simmer. This water is completely reduced by the end, producing a thick, rich sauce. My pot was a bit narrow so we had a lot of liquid. We ended up taking out the meat and boiling the heck out of the sauce.. I mean we reduced the sauce over high heat. ;)
After nearly 2 hours of simmering and sputtering, sometimes being watched, oftentimes not, we were able to enjoy this succulent lamb tagine. It was wonderful. The lamb was melt-in-your-mouth and the cinnamon, honey and dates made a delicious sweet and savoury sauce. Roasted almonds add the finishing crunch.
As a side to the tagine, we served couscous. But this wasn’t any couscous. I always thought you made couscous by adding boiling water, covering for 10 minutes and then fluffing it with a fork. I always found it bland and dry, so I was hoping to spruce things up a bit. I noticed Roden had a different way of preparing basic couscous, including a 15-20 minute bake in the oven, and when I stumbled upon a spiced couscous side at Confessions of a Cardamom Addict, I also added in cinnamon and raisins to the mixture. It was definitely not bland and dry. It was mighty tasty.
Together, we had a winning combo.
If anyone has a recommendation for a great vegetable tagine, I am all ears. :)
So now that I made pesto, I had to figure out what to do with it. Pesto works well with a pasta salad, so I made a tasty pasta salad that used the summer’s bounty of vegetables. The unifying taste comes from the pesto and since I used a nice, light lemony pesto, with a splash of red wine vinegar, it was a lovely summer salad indeed. My dad commented that he wished it had more pasta, compared to vegetables, so proceed with a ratio you prefer.
This simplistic recipe is from The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter Berley which also had the recipe for the lemon basil almond pesto.
Here are a few other ideas for using pesto:
Pesto Rice Salad from Eats Well With Others
Heather’s Quinoa Salad (with Cherry Tomatoes, Corn, Kale and Pesto) from 101 Cookbooks
Arugula Pesto Wheat Berry Salad from 101 Cookbooks
Wheat Berries with Roasted Vegetables and Red Pesto from Anja’s Food 4 Thought
Foil-Baked Salmon with Pesto and Tomato from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Pesto Palmiers from Eating Out Loud
Romaine Pesto and Egg-Stuffed Tomatoes from Smitten Kitchen
White Bean Salad with Pesto from the New York Times
This is my submission to this month’s Pasta Please for pesto, this month’s No Croutons Required featuring carrots and to Presto Past Nights, hosted by Ruth at Once Upon a Feast, and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
With an abundance of basil on my balcony, I immediately thought of making a pesto sauce. I always thought pesto meant basil, pine nuts, olive oil and Parmesan cheese but I was wrong. There are so many kinds of pestos, with so many variations on the herbs, nuts, added vegetables and fruit! I looked through many recipes and was intrigued to try a basil-almond pesto from The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter Berley because I love almonds and it didn’t call for cheese. No pine nuts either, which can be a bit pricey.
With so many variations, what exactly is a pesto? It is a made with mixed herbs and David Lebovitz explains that pesto is derived from the Italian meaning ‘to be pounded’, and to be authentic, must be pounded with a mortar and pestle. Phish, I have a new (for me, it is from the 1970′s!) food processor and it makes a wonderful whipped basil spread. :)
I liked this pesto, as it had a bite from the lemon and the almonds were a bit sweeter than pine nuts. The hardest part is now to decide what to do with it!
Other different kinds of pestos:
Rucola Pesto and Sun-dried Tomato Pesto from Chocolate & Zucchini
Strawberry Balsamic Pesto from Eats Well With Others
Kale Almond Pesto from Elana’s Pantry
Roasted Eggplant Pesto from Fat Free Vegan
Basil-Peanut Pesto from Steamy Kitchen
Asparagus Pesto from Simply Recipes
Roasted Red Pepper and Cilantro Pesto from Cookin’ Canuck
Green Olive Pesto from Gourmet
Pea and Mint Pesto from Closet Cooking
It is my pleasure to host AWED this month, featuring the lovely Turkish cuisine. A Worldly Epicurean Delight (AWED) was created by DK at Chef in You to explore and delve into a different cuisine from around the world each month. This month I take us to Turkey.
I knew nothing of Turkish cuisine before I went to Turkey for a vacation earlier this year. I was mesmerized by the food – it was delicious. I have already recreated a few dishes since my return. :)
Turkey is unique as it spans two continents and variety is the main feature of Turkish cuisine. Like other Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, mezes (or small appetizers) are common. Main meals commonly include ingredients like eggplant, bell peppers, tomatoes, okra, squash and cucumbers. Dried fruit like figs and apricots as well as nuts like hazelnuts and pistachios are common in main dishes as well as desserts. Yogurt is also very prominent in Turkish dishes.
Fresh produce is key to create such a vibrant cuisine and depending where you are in Turkey will have a different feel to its cuisine, whether it be from the spicy East or the fish from Northern Turkey or the sweet oranges from Fethiye in the South.
I encourage you to check out and be awed by the delightful Turkish cuisine.
To participate in AWED-Turkey, please create and photograph a vegetarian Turkish dish, linking this announcement and DK’s AWED page by August 31. Email me at saveur11 AT yahoo DOT ca with your name, your entry’s name and url along with a photograph of your dish. You may submit as many entries as you like.
Here are some Turkish cuisine resources to get you started:
More about Turkish cuisine:
Mainly Turkish food blogs: