I am no stranger to mole, but our recent trip to Mexico City, gave me an appreciation for Mexican food like no other. Fresh, soft and supple corn tortillas that blew my mind. An assortment of flavourful vegetables. Spicy salsa on the side, to add as much or as little heat as I could tolerate. Vegan eats were a bit hard to find, but after scoping out the right restaurants, we had unearthed some gems. My two favourite restaurants served an abundance of tacos. One of them served a delicious chocolate-infused mole sauce. Rob did a double-take after I ordered another taco and did not share. I had to savour another one!
Chocolate in savoury meals can be a bit tricky. A bit heavy handed, and it can sink in your tummy. A good balance of sweet, spicy and salty are necessary to balance the flavours well. This is an unusual spin on mole, in soup form, bulked up with vegetables and brown rice. The tomato-chocolate backdrop was a delicious spin without being heavy (and the initial puree prior to adding the stock would be a delicious sauce on its own). While this wasn’t in a taco, we served this with tortillas on the side.
Like mole, tamales are also a Mexican comfort food. Our next Mexican culinary adventures will be tamales. We were planning to have a tamalada (a tamale-making party) prior to Christmas, as tamales are usually eaten around holidays, such as Christmas and New Year’s. However, it is harder to schedule a large gathering of fellows than you might think. It means the tamalada will happen in the new year. With my recent chocolate themed eats, I will likely be proposing chocolate tamales for dessert.
What is your favourite Mexican comfort food?
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this month’s We Should Cocoa, to this month’s No Croutons Required and to this month’s My Legume Love Affair.
Or rather, How I Spent My New Year’s Eve.
I loved your comments after I admitted I likely would not be able to stay up to see New Year’s Eve fireworks. You guys are the best.
What did I end up doing?
1. Working late. Not by choice, I swear. I usually take 2 weeks off for holidays, but hospitals can be super busy during the holidays. I don’t know whether this is worse in American, as people are eager to use the most of their insurance dollars before they need to pay their next deductible. At a cancer hospital, I would hope that finances would not keep people away from seeking treatment, but I try not to jump into those kinds of politics. PS. Did you catch last year’s article in the Times about American medical bills?
2. Chatting with my neighbour. Let it be known that Texans are super friendly. Since my neighbour is also a Canadian transplant, I appreciate his perspectives. He told me not to be alarmed that night. If I tuned in closely, I may hear gunshots at midnight (celebratory gunfire), to ring in the new year. Not that my neighbours would be shooting their guns (according to him, 3 of my other neighbours harbour guns), rather the noise may echo from outside Houston. While I originally planned to go to bed like normal, that convinced me to try to stay awake until midnight.
3. Travelled through chocolate. With the best intentions of staying awake, Rob and I feasted on some chocolate. Our friend gifted us a chocolate passport, which small bars of dark chocolate from around the world. We travelled to Ecuador that night, and it was delicious.
4. Cozied up to Netflix. After stumbling upon a list of movies soon-to-be discontinued on Netflix, I jumped at the last chance to watch a long-time bookmarked but never-watched Requiem for a Dream. Excellent. (And true to the list, no longer available on Netflix). But it wasn’t midnight yet. Bringing out the kids in us, we watched Pingu episodes. They were hilarious, especially Pingu’s Lavatory Story (watch it! it is only 5 minutes!). Sadly, while it was only 10:30pm, my eyes were heavy and I could not stay awake.
So, I missed my chance to hear possible celebratory gunfire (still illegal in Texas, mind you).. and I need corroboratory evidence from my local readers. Is it true? My neighbour said he heard 4-5 shots at midnight.
Despite my lack of collard greens for my New Year’s Day black eyed peas, I ended up eating tacos on New Year’s Day. Not these ones, mind you (cleaning out the blog backlog!), but I will tell you more about that in due time. Ever since going to Mexico City, I have been smitten by tacos. The fresh corn tortillas blew my mind and I am working on finding a suitable replacement. Until then, fresh collards will have to suffice. A bit non-traditional, these lentil-based tacos were delicious. I had been meaning to make them for a while, especially after Johanna had success with them, too. Cauliflower is riced and added to up the hidden veggie content. Leanne cautions against baking mashed beans and cauliflower, but this was delicious. It is all about the spices. With a nod to my delicious Ancho lentil tacos, I added copious amounts of Ancho chile powder. I topped it with a simple tomato-oregano salsa, a variation from the cilantro-based tomato salsa from my raw tacos.
I know I promised the top reader recipes from 2013 today, but stayed for it tomorrow, instead.
How did you enjoy your New Year’s Eve/Day festivities?
Spring has sprung? Wishful thinking?
Rob and I took advantage of the glorious weather this weekend to ride our bikes for the first time this year.
Having my bike cleaned and tuned over the winter meant I had a sparkly bike to ride! Except I noticed my fender is broken, so I have to figure out whether I will fix that.
We used this as an opportunity to bike to our new favourite restaurant: Hot Beans. Turns out the shops and restos in Kensington Market are open for the long weekend, YA!
I don’t know why, but it took me a while to finally try out Hot Beans, a fast-food vegan resto with burritos, tacos and nachos… and my favourite: burrito bowls. Sounds possibly terrible, but it is vegan goodness in its glory. Filled with vegan staple goodness: beans, brown rice, salsa, lettuce, chili aoili and vegan cheese sauce with your main topping of choice. Ask about their special menu. Mix-and-match but you can basically pick from Ancho-spiced TVP, seitan, black beans, lentils and Rob’s favourite: BBQ jackfruit. Add hot sauce as you see fit. Rob and I both had similar versions of the The Bill’s Big Dick, aka BBQ jackfruit + Ancho TVP burritos (mine in bowl form, Rob in burrito form).
I figured we would be Ancho’ed out but later that afternoon, Rob was whipping up Ancho lentils! Destined to be a Rob’s Repeater Recipe, because it was so easy and SO GOOD. This recipe didn’t make PPK’s Top 100 list for nothing! Spicy, but not too spicy, and a bit sweet, these lentils were so flavourful. We went really low-key after such a lunch-fest, stuffing Romaine leaves with the filling and topping them with thick slabs of avocado. Rob doesn’t like collard wraps as much as me, but he gave the Romaine boats two thumbs up. Romaine is definitely sweeter than the darker leafy greens and the inner part of the leaf makes it easy to scoop up a beany filling.
Am I behind the times? Have you made these lentils already? If only Rob didn’t finish off the last of our green lentils with this batch.
How do you like green wraps? What’s your favourite? I like collards because they are bigger and easier to make transportable wraps but I was really digging the lettuce this time around.
Do you have it?
Jealous of those who live in the US with easy access to Rancho Gordo heirloom beans? RG even has a BEAN CLUB!! Or how about heirloom beans from Kalustyan’s, Purcell Mountain Farms or MarxFood? I mean, they technically could ship to Canada, but it costs way too much to be feasible (beans are heavy). I have recruited very loving family and friends help me collect my heirloom bean stash. My Christmas present included heirloom beans (and tote bag) my brother picked from Rancho Gordo‘s booth while vacationing in San Francisco. Woohoo for me!
I have searched for local options. Canada has such vast farmland; why don’t we have heirloom beans? Turns out you just need to know where to look. I have had good luck at ethnic grocers (Sunny’s has a whole half aisle dedicated to beans), Whole Foods (especially the store near Square One in Mississauga) and for those that don’t live nearby you can even mail order Nova Scotian beans right to your front door. But only if you buy 12 lbs.
Not daunted by such a large amount of beans, I ordered a mix of Jacob’s Cattle, Soldier and Yellow Eye beans from Webster Farms, a family farm in Cambridge, Nova Scotia. I have been eating the Yellow Eye beans as a nice alternative to white beans. The next experiment is for the European soldier beans, named after its red markings (the red coats of the British soldiers).
I decided to tackle a Canadian specialty: baked beans. In the Nova Scotian way. I mean, these beans are from Nova Scotia, how could I not?
Turns out there was a recipe on the back of the package for baked beans. In general, recipes for baked beans call for gobs of sugar – molasses, honey, brown sugar, and maple syrup. Most recipes will advise you specifically not to use blackstrap molasses, but the recipes that use it are the recipes that interest me the most. Blackstrap molasses may be bitter but it also has a lot of iron and calcium, too.
So, on a wintry night, I warmed the house with a slow-cooked pot of baked beans. With a trio of soldier beans, blackstrap molasses and pumpkin seed butter, we have an iron overload. Food bloggers always exaggerate, right? I am not kidding. With almost 40mg of iron in one serving, that’s 220% of the standard recommended daily intake. (If you don’t believe vegans need extra iron, of course). Eat an orange and pass on coffee/tea to help absorb it all. These beans are not too sweet but have a depth from the bitter blackstrap molasses. The pumpkin seed butter makes these a lot more creamy than they look. The slow cooking makes the sauce thick and full-bodied. I stopped after 3 hours but feel free to let it cook into the evening.
So, envying the beans, yet?
Imagine my shock when Rob called me from the grocery store to tell me they were out of broccoli. It wasn’t even a weekly special. No broccoli in the entire store. I thought new year’s meant more carrots, but maybe it really means broccoli?
In any case, have no fear, I switched recipes and ended up clipping off the last of my garden kale. Yes, there has been snow here for over 2 weeks and yes, hidden underneath the snowy blanket, my kale is still alive and kicking. More power to the kale! (The broccoli dish will have to wait)
Black eyed peas are certainly not just for the new year, but I was drawn to this black eyed pea and kale stew through Random Recipes. This month’s challenge was to randomly select a recipe from a cookbook from someone else’s library. I decided to tackle this electronically. When I saw Ali was gifted Superfood Kitchen I tried to borrow it from the library, but it hasn’t been received yet. In that moment, I decided that the first recipe I found online from the cookbook would be my “random recipe” and I found it here: Kale and Black Eyed Pea Stew. I like that Julie has incorporated more common “superfoods” into her cookbook, like leafy greens and legumes, which can be seen in this recipe.
This is no ordinary bean and green stew. Along with black eyed peas and kale, there is red pepper as well as my addition of oyster mushrooms. It is a European spice mash-up with oregano and thyme as well as smoked paprika and Ancho chile powder. I was scared to use a full tablespoon of smoked paprika, but feel free to use more because this was not spicy. I ended up adding liquid smoke at the end for a further depth of flavour. But oh, this alone would still be a great chili-like stew, but this it is not. A special twist comes form the addition of ground wakame. A little goes a long way and makes this a unique stew. It brings a certain seaweedy-ness to the stew. By the way, a few notes about my version: I used dried herbs in this recipe because I don’t usually use fresh herbs for a long simmer (they turn to mush, so maybe remove them as a bouquet garni). As well, the recipe calls for 3 cups of cooked black eyed peas but I am fairly confident this dish could be made more simply by cooking dried black eyed peas with the soup broth (which I have not tried but noted in the recipe below).
Smoky Tempeh and Chard Stew
Spanish Lentil and Mushroom Stew
Sneaky Collards at Serious Eats
Roasted Squash and Shallots with Merguez Chickpeas in River Cottage Veg Every Day
Spanish Chickpeas and Spinach Stew with Ginger at I don’t know, what do YOU want to eat?
Smoky Red Lentil Stew by Sprouted Kitchen
Smoky Paprika Baked Beans by The Spade & Spoon
Spiced Red Lentils by Ottolenghi
Pumpkin Chili by Never Homemaker
French Lentil Soup with Smoked Paprika in Let Them Eat Vegan!
Easy New Orleans Red Beans and Rice by Fat Free Vegan
“1 Million” Veggies Lentil Stew by Chocolate Covered Katie
My other recipes with smoked paprika are here
Everyone’s taste buds change over time.
Even before I started the sweetener-free challenge, I wondered how my tastes have changed. I can’t do deep-fried foods or other meals doused in oil. It isn’t the fat that bothers me because I easily down more than a handful of nuts in a sitting.
Last week, I started to re-introduce sweets. Fruits: mostly apples and berries. I have replenished my morning grapefruit stash. Dark chocolate, too: I made my Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mousse Pie. After this challenge, my tolerance for highly sweetened foods decreased.
My tolerance for spice has increased, albeit still slowly.
Then I discovered Aleppo chile flakes, more flavourful than hot. Slowly I added more and more to my dishes. I began experimenting with Ancho chili powder and paprika as well.
I was drawn to this recipe for Spanish Chickpeas since it looked like a flavourful warm chickpea salad. Spiced with smoked paprika, chile powder and roasted garlic, it really called my name. It has been awhile since I’ve pan-cooked chickpeas, and as I made it, I added spinach. When I sat down to eat it, I was smitten. Perfectly balanced with smoky undertones, sweetness from the red peppers and lightness from the lemon juice. It reminded me of my Spanish Chickpea Salad with Capers and Roasted Red Peppers (without the salty capers) and the addition of the spinach reminded me of Andalusian Chickpeas and Spinach. Two years ago, I made a hybrid from Deb’s recipe and the recipe in The New Spanish Table. All I remember was that it too spicy. I remember kicking myself for using so much paprika.
Two years later, I compare both recipes. I assumed I had used a tablespoon of paprika or something crazy the first time. No, it was only one teaspoon. Just like in this recipe. This version was definitely not spicy even with the addition of Ancho chile powder.
Any takers? Have my taste buds improved or has my paprika decreased in potency?
(My paprika is not two years old, in case you were thinking it! I used sweet paprika from Penzey’s before and smoked paprika from Whole Foods for this recipe (the brand escapes me at this time) I am tempted to believe that smoked paprika isn’t as spicy as its non-smoked counterpart).
Here are some other great Spanish recipes: