Enough of the doom-and-gloom? Bring on more tasty salads!
It has been a while since I proclaimed to make the best salad ever. As I continue to make more and more salads, I have higher salad expectations.
My old favourites are still wonderful:
The Best Salad Ever (First Version): Turkish Bulgur, Pomegranate and Almond Salad
The New Best Salad Ever (dethroning the above): Roasted Garlic Tofu Salad with Cilantro Rice, Black Beans and a Mango Salsa
The Best Lentil Salad Ever: 11-Spice Lentil Salad with Capers and Currants
And now, I present to you: The Best Chickpea Salad Ever.
I eat chickpeas a lot, but I don’t usually eat them as the main salad component. I would have a hard time thinking of a good cold chickpea-based salad off the top of my head. I don’t like chickpeas with vinaigrettes, preferring them pan-roasted or smothered in thick sauces. However, as soon as we tasted this salad, both Rob and I were smitten.
This is a perfect chickpea salad, combining the tang I enjoy from vinaigrettes with a light creaminess from tahini along with a sweet spice from curry powder, contrasted with sweet currants and carrots. It is quite similar to my favourite lentil salad, except I am using a pre-made curry powder. Granted, the success of your salad will depend entirely on the curry powder you use. I am very partial to Penzey’s sweet blend which is fragrant and flavourful without being too spicy or earthy. It is highlighted perfectly with the touch of maple syrup.
I had this recipe bookmarked for the longest time and once I made it, I was sad I hadn’t made it earlier. Do not delay in trying it out. It will make a great potluck salad this summer.
What is your favourite salad?
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to this month’s Eat Make Grow Blog Hop for picnic eats. (more…)
Half-way through January.
Have you been affected by the January Joiners?
A congested gym as people begin their journey to health through exercise.
Surprisingly (or not), I haven’t been affected. Same thing happened last year as well. Nothing really changed. The same regulars keep returning.
I shouldn’t give away my secret: I like going to the gym at 6:30am in part, because it is less busy. Even if I show up late, I can still find a spot at my favourite spinning or weight lifting class. (*except one crazy hard-core gym where the spinning classes are filled by 6am!)
I have been trying to be a bit more punctual for my morning work-outs, but now that I am at the mercy of the transit, things are even less predictable. The benefit of my gym is that there are lots of locations. Last week, I realized I wouldn’t be on time for the 6:30am class, so I detoured to the 7am class at a different location. Arrived 15 minutes early, only to find out the instructor was sick and it was cancelled. Another location had a spinning class that was just starting, so I rushed over and joined in 15 minutes later. Something is better than nothing.
Science says so, too. Combined short routines are as good as longer work-outs. Too long is not as good, though. Leisurely runners outlive the runners who ran twice as much. Moderate-paced runners also lose more weight than those who were more active. As you exercise more, fatigue sets in; hunger reigns.
Since I’ve stopped cycling my crazy commute, my energy levels have improved, my mood is better and my eating is under control. Sounds like I need to work on my balance. More isn’t necessarily better. More exercise, at least.. more rest could be better.
I’ve noticed an increased interest in my detox salad over the past few weeks. It reminded me how good it was but decided to go for a different twist. This kind of salad is perfect with hard crunchy veggies. Like the veggies leftover from platters. Cauliflower and broccoli always seem to linger behind. Save the veggies! Like my Raw Thai Pineapple Parsnip Rice Salad, I use my food processor to chop up cauliflower, broccoli and red pepper into small pieces. Currants add a subtle sweetness. Hemp seeds add fat and protein. And the dressing? A sweet tangy curried mustard concoction. I love how salads like this only improve with a longer marinade. Leftovers, for the win!
Rob and I came up with a few new traditions this year.
1. When we host Christmas (you know when we finally have our imaginary children), it is going to be a pyjama party all day long. At home, we get dressed up for Christmas dinner, but we’ll buck the trend with comfy pyjamas until dessert. We both got PJs for Christmas, so it must have been a sign my mom is on board, too!
2. Sydney fireworks. Rob and I both start each day fairly early (5am on work days) so staying up past midnight to watch a ball drop on New Year’s Eve is a hard-earned delight. This year, Rob and I watched the spectacular fireworks as Sydney fired its way into the new year. Trust me, New York has nothing compared to their expansive fireworks… and it started at 8am EST!
I have never celebrated the new year with beans and greens, but I see no reason not to try to incorporate some black eyed pea love into a new year celebration.
This year, I decided to mash up some black eyed peas into a hillbilly hummus. Crescent explains this delightful pantry-friendly hummus was created as a local interpretation when she lived in Arkansas. The double leguminous hummus is created with black eyed peas, peanut butter, garlic and apple cider vinegar. A touch of sage complements the flavours surprisingly well and makes a wicked spread. No stranger to peanut butter in hummus, I bet black eyed peas could also be substituted 1:1 with chickpeas in traditional hummus. I found peanut butter to be a prominent flavour whereas the black eyed peas were merely a vector for the PB. I also used my Vitamix to create a silky smooth spread. I was initially worried I would lose a bunch of it behind in the blender blades, but my fingers were quite nimble so I had ample sampling before bringing it to my New Year’s Eve party. It was as well received as I had hoped, and more!
Here’s to a happy and healthy new year!
I’ve told you my weekly menus now revolve around a new dressing.
Now that veggies may not necessarily be at their peak, a good dressing is key to eating raw salads.
Or, once you make this dressing, you may just decide to drink it instead. Forgetting the veggies altogether.
It took me a long, long while to finally make Tess’ peanut sauce. Her recipe was daunting with the coconut milk, peanut butter and heavy use of agave. Tess’ last coconut-based sauce (the creamy Thai cilantro ginger sauce) was heavenly so I knew I should try it out. Eventually.
However, I was guarding the last of our molasses for the recipe. With my pantry purge and gusto of tackling old bookmarked recipes from October, I finally took the plunge. With less sweetener, less sodium AND using coconut beverage, we have a winner. A drinkable winner. The twist from the other peanut dressings comes from the bite from molasses and umami from the fermented black bean sauce. Use it to coat anything. Veggies, grains, beans, you name it. Here, I paired it with sliced carrots, thinly sliced sugar snap peas, julienned baby bok choy, kelp noodles and pea shoots.
I suppose this is a good time to let you all in on a challenge I started this month. A sweetener-free challenge. For 8 weeks along with Gabby and Megan. Leanne is also doing a 2-week sugar-free cleanse which is a bit too extreme for me. While I have already cut out refined sugars, I am going to limit my intake of other sweeteners, including dried fruit, maple syrup, agave and stevia. I decided to keep eating fruit that isn’t sweet (cranberries, green papaya, tamarind, etc) since they are more sour than sweet. As I work through some of my recent recipe successes, a few may still contain sweeteners which is good for those of you still using them.
While tackling my list of bookmarked recipes, I knew not everything would be a winner.
My criteria for my eats? First of all, it must be whole foods oriented (nothing white- flour, rice, etc) with limited oil and salt. A lover of most international cuisines, I try not to discriminate but it must be filled with ingredients I love. Beans! Quinoa! Greens! Squash! Lemon! I also like to see a few reviews of the recipe. N=30 is better than n=1 for liking a dish.
I may try to incorporate a new-to-me food or one I haven’t previously enjoyed. I won’t even try to like celery, though. I have given up on green pepper. And now I have sworn off parsley, too.
I have a few parsley recipes here, although usually it is just a flavour accent. I should have known better, and even thoguh I reduced the parsley in this salad, it was still too prominent for me. My parsley came from a friend, so perhaps this local, organic homebrew was more potent?
In any case, this recipe is a knock-off of Fresh‘s All-Star Tabbouleh Salad with adzuki beans and quinoa. It made its rounds earlier this summer, first posted by Angela and subsequently Kass. Sadly, I give very few stars to the salad.
But, all is not lost because extra stars go to the absolute best roasted sweet potatoes ever. I know, a very ballsy statement. I have a witness. Rob agreed with me. So, you have n=2 from us. Lots of positive reviews from Kath’s post, which I bookmarked many moons ago.
Suffice it to say, it may take a while, but the roasted sweet potatoes have a nice skin on the outside while being pillowy soft on the inside. After a little rub of olive oil, salt and pepper, you roast them at 350F for 30 minutes, then 400F for 20 minutes. A simple flick of the knob makes for the most glorious sweet potatoes.
Please try it out and let me know whether you like it, too! Perfect for an upcoming Thanksgiving feast.
For those keeping score. Rob = Polish. Me = Ukrainian and German.
As a bonus, both sets of our parents will be coming to Toronto to check out the festivals. I mean, they are coming to see us.
How will we manage? Which one to attend? They are reasonably close to each other, so we’ll likely hit up both festivals. The question is who will win the pierogi contest? OK, forget pierogi, I am more interested in kasha these days.
Nothing says more Eastern European than beets and dill, especially with kasha!
Kasha is buckwheat that has been hulled and roasted. As such, it is a darker brown than raw buckwheat. Kasha can be tricky to cook as it can absorb lots of water and turn into mush. Here, I opted to toast it in the oven first, and then cooked it in a 1:2 ratio with water. While the kernels still seemed to explode slightly, they reminded me of coarse bulgur in this salad.
Kasha has a slightly nuttier, stronger flavour but pairs well with beets and dill. I combined some garden-fresh green beans and roasted beets with a lemony dill vinaigrette for a bright early fall salad. Or late summer salad?
After I ate the last serving of this salad, I was sad. Sad I had no more salad left. It was that good.
Rob cocked his head and asked, So is this a repeater recipe?
But we have no more corn! And no more spinach or lettuce! And I think my Appaloosa beans are finished, too.
That can easily be remedied, Janet.
Besides, I just bought 53 lbs of tomatoes (yes, I did it!)
I think I should focus on those!
So this one will just go down in the vault as a wickedly delicious salad. And contrary to my sorry excuses, this is a very forgiving salad. Use your favourite salad toppers. Just don’t skip on the tomatoes. And the dressing.
This salad all began with the creation of the raw eggplant bacon. I picked up a super cheap monster eggplant and earmarked it for the dehydrator. The salty and sweet marinade (tamari, maple syrup, vinegar, chili powder, smoked paprika and liquid smoke) was delicious and I couldn’t wait for them to dry out. Twelve hours felt like a life-time. I was blown away by the texture of the eggplant, airy yet crispy but sadly, with a fraction of the flavour from the salivating marinade. Since I used low-sodium tamari there wasn’t the uber saltiness associated with bacon but it was pretty nice, regardless. Does it taste like bacon? Not at all, but I don’t consider that a bad thing.
I also used some of the extra marinade to make zucchini chips. Since I sliced them cross-wise, they looked like chips and tasted like bacon chips, too. However, those went into my belly. The eggplant bacon went into this salad. (For the record, I prefer the eggplant version!)
Obviously, this salad pushes monumental levels when you use fresh, ripe ingredients. Fresh heirloom tomatoes, check. Local, fresh corn on the cob, check. Cute heirloom pinto beans, I’ve got that covered. Your greenery of choice (or whatever is in your fridge): baby spinach. I added oomph to the original dressing by mirroring the bacon marinade, throwing in smoked paprika and chili powder. Lime juice makes this a bright dressing. And while I was worried I wouldn’t have enough dressing with only the juice from 2 non-juicy limes, after I placed everything in jars for the week, the tomatoes macerated, adding tomato juicy goodness to the dressing, too. Now it was perfect.
For another variation on the corn + tomato + bean salad, try this one with a balsamic dressing, toasted in a skillet.
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this week’s favourite summer recipes, and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
January. The New Year. Time for resolutions.
Personally, I don’t need a special day to reflect on where I’d like to be. I try to continually re-assess where I am and where I’d like to be.
Why else do you think I started a quest to eat more cruciferous veggies in November?
Cabbage is a cruciferous veggie that is routinely shafted as a diet food. Ever heard of the cabbage soup diet? Well, I think it has to do with eating a lot of cabbage…
Cabbage is filled with antioxidants and other nutrients, yet is low calorie. The NY Times dubbed it one of the top foods you aren’t eating (yet!).
Please don’t let the odd association with diets prevent you from trying delicious cabbage soup. I was positively smitten with the smokey Russian sauerkraut soup (Shchi) that I tested for Vegan Eats World. I really, really, want to share the recipe because it was that good! But it is top-secret for now. (hint- veganize this soup and you are halfway there). Instead, I will share yet another cabbage soup that is equally delicious yet completely different. Surprisingly delicious in its simplicity.
This is a spoof on the typically cheese-laden French onion soup from Vegetarian Times (September 2011) with inspiration from Joanne. With my variations, though, you would have to look harder to find its original basis (especially since I omitted the cheese croutons) but it is tasty. Caramelized onions are beefed up with braised cabbage in this thick chowder spiced with apple cider and thyme. Like Joanne, I opted to add sweet potatoes, but also white beans to make it more of a meal-in-a-bowl soup. Everything worked so well together, with the subtly sweet caramelized onions and apple cider with the sustenance from the sweet potatoes and beans. Good the day it was made but even more delicious as leftovers. The thyme was a nice flavour but I can’t wait to try Joanne’s version because she used pomegranate juice and rosemary.
Here are some of my other favourite cabbage recipes:
Braised Cabbage with Chorizo Seitan Sausage
Chinese Sweet and Sour Cabbage with Tofu
Cabbage and Kohlrabi Salad
Mexican Cabbage Stirfry
Braised Cabbage with Onions and Carrots
Quinoa and Red Lentil Kitchari with Cabbage
I know I’ve briefly mentioned it before, but I tend to do the majority of my cooking on the weekends and eat leftovers all week. Vegan cuisine, especially soups, curries and bean salads, lend well to leftovers because they only taste better after they have marinaded.
Sometimes I crave a nice, fresh hot meal, too. It can be difficult to make a complete meal if you are famished after a long day at work…. unless, you have the forethought of making all the components ahead of time!
I found this delicious salad at Post Punk Kitchen. I know it looks like another crazy multi-component salad: roasted beets, smoky tempeh croutons, a warm maple mustard dressing. Trust me, the best dishes get you to bring out the best of each component. Work on the weekend for each component, then bring it all together mid-week.
First, you need to roast your beets. Glorious roasted golden beets. Next, steam your tempeh, then get it marinading. Tempeh has a bad leftover track-record, which is why I planned on making this salad fresh during the week. I left the tempeh in the marinade until I took out a portion to freshly panfry for the salad. For my last salad, the tempeh had been marinading for 5 days. The maple mustard dressing is a snap to put together as well.
So, when you come home from work, and it is late, and you don’t want to think, now you have all the components for a wonderful salad. Take out your nonstick frypan and fry your tempeh. Meanwhile, get out your beets. Toss them into the frypan with the tempeh if you’d like (or not). Pull out your greens and get chopping. Using Swiss chard or kale instead of Romaine? Finely chop the stems and throw it in with the tempeh, too (or not). Warm the dressing in the microwave (or not). Add to your leafy greens. Add your beets if they aren’t in your frypan. By this time, the tempeh should be almost done…. when it is, plop it on top of your greens.
Ten minutes, tops. I promise.
Sit back and enjoy your fresh salad.. every day of the week.
What will it take to get you to make a recipe?
For me, I doddle between what I have already in my fridge, to what is on sale at the grocery store, to really wanting to make a specific dish. I waver between recipes with a lot of positive reviews, or from my favourite cookbooks and blogs, to more unique recipes with my favourite ingredients. But mostly, it is dictated by what needs to be used up in the fridge. This is why I have a hard time making recipes that are purely from pantry staples (except after returning from vacation and being welcomed by an empty fridge).
I bookmarked The Best Lentil Salad, Ever at My New Roots last year. With a name like that, from a blog that I admire, how could I not want to make it? I adore lentils, especially French du Puy lentils in salads. Then Sarah posted it a second time this spring for her stint at Martha Stewart, and her friend commented:
This salad was the reason that I became friends with Sarah way back in Nutrition School. It is so delicious and easy to make. Don’t get intimidated by the amount of ingredients. This one is a keeper (just like Sarah!)
How cute is that?
Suffice it to say, it has been on my to-do list for a while and I was just waiting for the right opportunity.
It still took me a few months to break it out, but I made it for a recent potluck I hosted. Not that my fridge was bare, but the gathering came together a bit faster than my grocery shopping allowed. Perfect timing. Experimentation with friends.
I had witnesses. We unanimously agreed this was a wonderful lentil salad! Sweet, savoury, and salty, deep and complex, warming yet refreshing… and quite addictive! I stuck with the base of the recipe, tinkering only minorly with the spices (decreased the pepper and chili flakes), and thought the capers and currants were fabulous. The ingredient list is long, with 11 different spices, but they really blend harmoniously. To be honest, I was a bit worried when I first tasted the salad, but it was much better after an overnight marinade. If you can find the French du Puy lentils, they are incredible in stand alone lentil salads such as this. But if you cannot find the French variety, do not let that impede you from making the salad – green lentils would work, too. Furthermore, in case this becomes a staple recipe in your kitchen, feel free to experiment with your favourite dried fruit, vegetables, sprouts, nuts and seeds. Personally, I loved it as is, without too much distraction, and loved editions included some chopped apple and mixed greens too.
The Best Lentil Salad, Ever. For Sure. Make. This. Now.
I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday weekends, be it celebrating July 1 or July 4.
I was telling my Mom about my low-key Canada Day plans….
Well, first we went grocery shopping…
WHAT?!, she exclaimed. All the grocery stores are closed here.
True, the big chain grocery stores were closed on Friday, but that didn’t stop Sunny’s (or Bestwin or even T&T) from being open. Sunny’s, my current favourite grocery store, is located in Flemingdon Park, the Toronto neighbourhood with the highest percentage of immigrants (67% of its residents, with 23% recent immigrants). Sunny’s advertises over 10 languages its staff can speak, and it truly offers a multicultural grocery experience. Due to its local clientele, the prices are great and the produce is fresh. And it was open on Canada Day. Hourray for me!
BBQs are in full swing now at our place, even though we are still living out of boxes. Rob has chosen to take full advantage of the barbecue, grilling up various kinds of meats for guests, whereas I typically reign in the salad department. I have revisited some of my old favourites, and of course, tried out a few new ones that will be shared shortly, including this lovely warm leek and white bean salad.
White beans are combined with caramelized leeks and smothered in a light mustard sauce. I was mostly inspired by the recipe from Waitrose since I adapted it quite a bit. I increased the amount of leeks, used dill instead of parsley, added in lemon pepper and simplified their mustard dressing. I like how creamy dressing can get with mustard alone!
You can bring your bean salad to the next level by cooking up your own beans with complementary flavours. Here, I opted to cook my own flageolet beans in vegetable broth and rosemary for additional flavour. Cook up more beans than you need, freeze the extra with the stock and you can whip up another tasty white bean salad in a heart beat. Tinned beans would work too, if you haven’t yet converted to cooking your own beans (I had a hard time locating dried flageolet beans in Toronto, let alone canned flageolets, though!).
While you could use any white bean (cannellini/white kidney, Great Northern, or even something smaller like navy or black eyed pea, etc), after delving into my heirloom bean collection, I have realized wonderful novelty beans can be! The first bean I tried was the green flageolet. I found it locally at Rube’s Rice in the St Lawrence Market, so thankfully I can easily replenish my pantry (instead of outsourcing my supply from the US!). Flageolets are smaller white beans, but deliciously smooth and creamy. They are commonly used in the French cassoulet, but here, they make this salad shine. I look forward to trying other ways of using these delicious beans over the summer.
Salads can be costly.
I’m not talking about the lettuce, or the vegetable toppings, or even the dressings…
I needed to buy a bigger pannier for my bike when I started to eat huge salads at work. One container for the lettuce, another for the toppings and another for the dressing. It takes up a lot of room, but the fresh salad is definitely worth it.
Last year, I lamented that my Mexican salad with the creamy avocado dressing needed to be eaten soon after assembly. Once dressed, lettuce doesn’t last that long (more the power to wilted kale salads!). This year, when I spotted a tomato-based Mexican salad at Namaste Gurl, I was smitten. Her salads were gorgeous and while her tomato-based dressing seemed quite unorthodox, it sounded delicious. If I kept all the components separate, I knew I could enjoy this salad all week long.
Sauces and dressings are what clinch a meal. Fresh, tasty produce helps, too, but oftentimes the dressing pulls it all together. And in this salad, the dressing is what really shines. It is a light, silky smooth tomato and red pepper sauce with a hint of cheese from nutritional yeast, smokiness from smoked paprika and zip from the chili flakes. Cumin and oregano keep this Mexican. You could add your favourite vegetables to the mix, to replace the cabbage, but I highly recommend the red pepper which conferred a sweet silkiness to the dish, almost as if it were roasted. I have never pureed my tomato sauces, but this dressing was so creamy because I used my immersion blender to make it smooth. The sauce was so good, I had to stop myself from gobbling it up straight from the stovetop.
Instead, I held out to use it as the dressing for this Mexican salad with black beans, cherry tomatoes, and avocado overtop mixed greens. Be creative with your toppings – add in some whole grain crackers, fresh bell pepper, cucumber, etc. Romaine worked well with this combination as well. I bet there are countless things this sauce could be used for, and I am sure I will whip it up again when I make my first batch of zucchini noodles!
Engrish amuses me. My favourite Engrish while I was travelling in Japan was a sign at a construction site next to a water pipe that said: “I trouble it. I fix the sewage trachea.” I know I shouldn’t laugh but I snapped a picture and giggled all night long.
I have done a bit of travelling lately and instead of eating out, I was planning on eating in and bringing some healthy food with me for the trip. I spotted this (since adapted) quick and easy bean salad in The Two Week Wellness Solution and stopped by Friends on the way from home from work to pick up some canned beans. Friends is a curious convenience store packed with Middle Eastern staples like pomegranate molasses, flat bread and of course, beans. I had a few choices but I was in hysterics when I came across Mr Goudas’ 9th Symphony Bean Mix. The label alone made me want to try it out (look at how advertising works!), but in truth, compared to Unico’s bean medley, it included a wider variety of beans, as well as fewer calories and more fiber.
So what did the label say? Well, these symphonic beans tell you to “get ready to listen!” and “eat and music will follow”. Yes, my friends, they are advertising the tooting-potential of eating beans. Thankfully, I have reached that threshold where the fiber doesn’t make me musical. I am sure my colleagues and friends are thankful for that, too.
Ever wondered what produces the gas after eating beans? Beans are filled with complex sugars (oligosaccharides) that we cannot digest. So the bacteria in our colon digest them instead. Unfortunately, one of the byproducts is the associated gas. However, there is something else at play because white and navy beans have a low oligosaccharide level, but have higher rates of flatulence.
But for those that are new to legumes, here are some toot-reducing tips:
1. Soak your beans (overnight is best). Not all beans need to be soaked (ie split peas, lentils, adzuki beans) but soaking helps to leach out the oligosaccharides. Rinse and drain well before cooking to remove the oligosaccharides.
2. Make sure you cook your beans through. No al dente beans, ok? Canned beans should all be cooked through.
3. Start slowly. Gradually add beans into your diet and your body will adjust.
4. If all else fails, consider Beano which breaks down the same oligosaccharides before it gets to the bacteria.
So about the salad, I really liked it. It is not your typically sweet, oily bean salad. It is light and fresh. It travels well, through US customs without problems. If it weren’t for a slightly leaky lid, it would have been fool-proof. No worries since I wrapped it in a plastic bag to spare my clothes. And who thought food porn in a hotel, with their plates, would look so gorgeous?
I can only fight off fall so long. I have started to wear my cycling hat because it is so cold as I whisk down to work in the morning on my bike. Bestwin has butternut squash on sale for 17 cents/lb this week. Let’s ring in the fall produce!
This is another winning salad from Raising the Salad Bar by Catherine Walthers. It has so many unique salad ideas, I love flipping through it. My other favourite recipes from her book include the Wheat Berry Salad with Almonds and Spinach in a Citrus Dressing and the Wild Rice and Wheat Berry Salad with Apple, Cranberries and Almonds in a Citrus Dressing.
This salad features a crisp, sliced apple, with crunchy toasted almonds and juicy pomegranate seeds over a bed of arugula. I used baby arugula which wasn’t that peppery, but arugula would work well with the sweet apple-laced vinaigrette. Another option I might entertain next time is a pomegranate vinaigrette with pomegranate molasses, but I liked the focus on apple. Sadly, salads with dressed greens do not bode well for leftovers, so I halved the recipe to serve 2 and only dressed it before serving.