My mom thinks this vegan stuff is just a phase. Just as I go through other phases in my cooking, she tried to rationalize. She explained that first I was into cooking Japanese after my trip to Japan (all those soba noodles, Janet!), then Middle Eastern after visiting Turkey and Moroccan after my trip to Morocco. Each time, I venture into new cookbooks, find new spices, but truly, I incorporate everything I learn into all my meals. New ingredients, new flavours and new techniques.. it is all a learning process, as life should be. And yes, my pantry continues to gather new and exciting staples.
Granted, I can only eat so much, so I might tackle different cuisines in spurts. A little of Morocco here, a side trip to Brazil here, a quick jet to Egypt and then returning back to Japan. In these around-the-world culinary experiences, sometimes I forget how much I like certain ingredients. Case in point: miso. Last year, I bought miso for the first time to make baked eggplant with miso, which I adored at restos and could easily make at home. I also made miso-crusted black cod and a few other dishes which were great but then I went to Turkey… and forgot about miso.
Until, I made a Japanese winter stew with a miso-based broth. That kick-started it again. Loved it. It wasn’t the star of the meal, but it added an extra dimension. Then I made the orange-beet soup that had an extra twist from the miso. Followed up by the exquisitely delicious zesty orange cashew spread, I knew I had rediscovered an old favourite ingredient.
Plus, the great thing about miso is that I still had the same package from last year. It keeps forever in your fridge!! Discover it, forget about it, but let yourself rediscover it as you clean out your fridge.
I made this for Rob’s birthday, which had a Japanese-theme for his meal, and I loved it as an Asian spin on hummus. You use creamy edamame instead of chickpeas, but you still have lots of garlic and tahini for the prototypical hummus flavour. Instead of traditional lemon juice, lime juice is used. Throw in some spinach for some greenery, and you have a healthy, delicious dip.
It is not just a hummus made with edamame. I had the Trader Joe’s edamame hummus after eating this dip and was sorely disappointed – where was the miso?
It is creamy, smooth, salty with a bit of zip. Without knowing the ingredients, it is hard to place the flavours exactly, but you know it tastes great. Serve it with veggies, pita bread, or as a spread for a sandwich.
A few months ago, I stumbled upon a gem of a restaurant called Rawlicious. I try not to go out to eat very often, but if I do, I try to go somewhere that is different than what I might make at home. While I may not agree with the philosophy of raw purists, I see no harm in eating more raw foods, nor in exploring the techniques that goes into raw cooking.
Raw cooking – is that an oxymoron?
While I have already been smitten by raw kale salads, it was at Rawlicious that I discovered spiralized zucchini noodles (oh yes, I want a spiralizer! especially if I grow zucchinis in my backyard!) and raw cheesecake (tastes more like a mousse than a cheesecake but I was impressed by the versatility of cashews!).
I know that some vegans can have a hard time giving up certain meat or dairy products, and there seems to be a plethora of vegan alternatives for sale. However, talk about processed food! I can’t say I am really interested in soy yogurt or processed meat alternatives. I am still searching for a good sour cream alternative, if only to make a Hungarian Chickpea recipe I have had my eye on (anyone care to share their favourite recipe?).
You will note that I changed the name of this from cashew cheese to cashew spread, because I’ll be honest that this didn’t taste at all like cheese. But it was DELICIOUS! A sweet, creamy dip with full orange flavour with a complexity coming from the miso.
There are many ways to use this addictive spread, other than eating it straight from a spoon (that is great, too!). Mix it with some salad greens, spread it onto bread or crackers, or add it to your favourite sandwich/wrap.
Since I decided to cut out refined sugars and flours, I have found it quite easy to add more fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains into my meals. That’s because I cook for myself. I stopped eating the free meals at work and try not to eat out at restaurants. The quandary came, though, when I went away on vacation,where I wasn’t particularly interested in immersing myself in local cuisine. I found some vegan TexMex options (spinach citrus ensaladas and guacamole) but really took refuge at a vegetarian restaurant just outside the heart of downtown San Antonio. I went back a few times!
I didn’t know I would find such a delightful resto, so I planned for not finding many vegan-friendly options. In addition to making a bean salad and portable overnight oats, I made some snacks as well.
I spotted this simple snack in Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health (also posted here). It was easy to put together, tasty with the savoury flavours and healthy, to boot (provided you don’t eat too much!). Here, pumpkin seeds (pepitas) are roasted with soy sauce and thyme until nice and golden, then they are tossed with sweet dried cranberries. The sweet-savoury combination works well together. Stored in resealable plastic bags, it is also easy to bring with you for an emergency fix if you have a hard time finding something to eat.
Office potlucks: Do you cringe or relish? I do both. Most people bring store-bought treats to these shindigs, which is where the cringing comes in (I will typically pass by these treats). But I relish that I can try new recipes! I don’t often make appetizers such as dips. It takes me a while to go through 2 cups of dip, so I usually reserve appetizers for special occasions.
Whereas most artichoke heart dips are loaded with cheese/mayo/cream, I was eager to try this spicy artichoke heart dip from ExtraVeganZa since it was packed with artichoke hearts and garlic instead of all that extra stuff.
The ingredient list is actually quite short – artichoke hearts, olive oil, garlic, chili flakes, salt and lemon juice – and with a long simmer on the stovetop, a silky, sublime dip is created. It is addictively good. The artichokes and garlic blend into one with a little zip from the chili flakes. Served with peppery crackers and pita slices, this was a tasty dip. A co-worker commented, “You can actually taste the artichokes! Yum!”.
I adapted the original recipe from ExtraVeganZa only slightly by decreasing the amount of chili flakes. Oddly enough, I found it mellowed and was less spicy the longer it sat in my fridge. If you want more heat, this dip can take more chili flakes. With the small amount of Aleppo chili flakes, it still had a slight zing, which is probably best when serving to large crowds. The oil seemed to separate after sitting at room temperature, but it didn’t taste too oily. I used 5 tbsp of olive oil, but I think this could be decreased to 4 tbsp.
I will confess that I didn’t bring all the dip to work, and while I also planned to use it as a spread for sandwiches/wraps, I ended up just eating it as a snack.
This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by me this week!
You win some, you lose some. While I have had a few successes with recipes from Arabesque by Claudia Roden, I didn’t feel this lived up to my expectations. I love everything in the salad: sweet apples, roasted red peppers and tomatoes with a dash of Aleppo chili flakes. But together they just didn’t work. Don’t be fooled by the word salad. This is more of a spread or dip, but my apple slices were big enough that I had to eat it with a spoon, rather then spoon it onto pita bread instead. I mean it wasn’t awful, it just wasn’t great. It was better when served chilled, rather than warm or at room temperature.
And you may be asking why the heck and I posting this recipe if I didn’t like it. Well, consider it adding to the living community of recipe critiques. I love recreating dishes from other food bloggers’, or places like Epicurious where people post reviews, because you can see how the recipe worked for other people. With cookbooks, you can never be too sure what to expect. Good? Bad? Ugly? I love food bloggers who cook through cookbooks and give us the skinny on what really works (like Steph who went through Momofuku – what she liked and disliked). In fact, I may even google the recipe title to find feedback about the recipe before I venture to try it myself. (I even did it with this recipe, it had one positive review). Someone else may search for this recipe in weeks, months or years to come, and they will know what I thought about it, too, and use some of my suggestions on how to improve it.
This is my submission to Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring apples, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to My Kitchen, My World, featuring Moroccan dishes this month, and over to Chowhound which has Arabesque as one of their Cookbooks of the Month.
When, for an early birthday gift, the lovely D drove an hour and a half to pick me up and drive another hour and a half to the Stratford Festival, I wanted a fresh and gluten-free lunch recipe. As quick and easy-to-make as they are tangy and sweet, these mango salad rolls were the perfect treat.