I think my pantry-purge has been going the wrong way. I am no longer accumulating new esoteric ingredients but I struggled with whether or not to replenish my staples. Could I live without chickpeas for a few months? Absolutely not. Miso? I replenished that, too. What about olives? I think I could manage olive-free for 6 months. Artichokes? Well, the best artichokes come from the freezer case at Trader Joe’s so I am excited to wait for those. The plan for now: use up the less-loved ingredients. The ones I can part with for a bit of time.
Now I can strike these from my pantry: artichokes and olives. What could have been a boring vegetable stew was helped with said pantry items. Olives add the salty punch to this spring-like tomato stew with red pepper, mushrooms, artichokes and spinach.
Sometimes I have limited enthusiasm for ingredients that have been stashed at the back of my pantry. Or I only have a limited repertoire for said ingredient. Olives and artichokes are not that wacky, but I am looking for ways to use fun things like kelp noodles, capers, jackfruit, assorted flours (chickpea flour is our staple but I still have some coconut flour, tapioca flour, rice flours and vital wheat gluten), puffed quinoa, dried fruits and nuts. And let’s not forget the things in my freezer: herbs, chopped veggies and fruits, tempeh, and frozen meals ready to go.
Do you have a big pantry or have a select collection of favourite ingredients in your pantry? I personally believe that a well-stocked kitchen makes for a well-prepared cook. It makes cooking easier and fun.
Before this blog goes Indian for the rest of the month, let me share this delicious warm Mediterranean salad. I know it isn’t potluck or BBQ season yet, but I already know this will be my go-to summer salad for sharing.
This salad is so good that I have no reservations serving it guests. Delicious slightly warm but equally good as leftovers brought up to room temperature.
Of course, please double the recipe if making it for a group. I don’t know who wouldn’t like a warm chickpea and spinach salad filled with artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes and lots of herbs.
It reminded me a lot of my favourite Warm Chickpea and Artichoke Salad which pan-sears the artichokes and chickpeas into a glorious dish. This salad, courtesy of Tess in The Two Week Wellness Solution is lighter in flavour since the chickpeas are braised with the onions, garlic and herbs and the tossed with the artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes. You could keep this simply as a bean salad, but I liked the contrast of the warm (or room temperature) bean salad atop the fresh baby spinach. This salad has the perfect ratio of beans to other stuff. Be mindful not to evaporate too much of your braising liquid since it becomes your dressing.
I have been branching out a bit from recipes lately. Experimenting, pushing the boundaries, using recipes as guides. I am learning more what can be changed and what should not and thankfully soups, salads and sandwiches are very forgiving.
After gobbling up the last of my Spicy Artichoke Heart Dip, I knew it could be used for more than just a dip. It would be a delicious spread. Even simply as an antipasto, but I wanted to combine flavours.
Red pepper, check. To roast or not to roast? Not to roast.
A bean perhaps? Chickpeas? Nah, let’s go with tofu.
Tofu is a blank slate, so an Italian-inspired lemon-rosemary baked tofu seemed like a good complementary panel of flavours.
But then the question, how to assemble? Tortillas? Nah… I rummaged in my cabinet and found rice paper rolls. I should probably be scared of food that is still good years after I have bought them, but do not fear the rice paper roll. Only fear them as leftovers, because they don’t like to be eaten the next day.
So, the first day, I assembled the ingredients into fresh rice paper rolls. The next day, I deconstructed the roll into a salad. I just stuffed the spinach, red pepper, tofu and dip together in a container and brought it to work as a salad. The dip was silky enough to coat the spinach as a dressing. The tofu made it a satisfying main meal. And while I didn’t photograph it as a salad, that was probably my preferred, least stressful way to eat it.
But really, do not fear the rice paper rolls.
I find eating through a cuisine a great way to learn about a new culture, which is what I typically do when I travel overseas. New York City is a foodie-paradise with abundant choices for high-end splurges, plentiful cheap eats, as well as a handful of grocery stores. Our main purpose for heading to New York City was a 9-course menu at Per Se, so I knew I had to save my stomach for the ultimate gastronomical experience.
So what’s the trick to eating healthy, plentiful meals while still wanting to experience everything NYC has to offer? I am sure not if we’ve mastered it just yet, but here are my tips to how NOT to eat out while in NYC.
The first step is to find yourself a kitchen, because that makes a world of difference. In a city where apartments are tiny, hotel rooms are equally as small and ridiculously expensive. We stayed at the Affinia Manhattan, across from Penn Station, with huge rooms and reasonable rates (we paid $139/night + tax). However, the main advantage is that each room has a kitchen, complete with a fridge/freezer, oven/stove, microwave, toaster and utensils/plates/cutlery. If you don’t have access to a kitchen, you may need to become more creative, storing food in the minibar, bringing cutlery/plastic containers, etc.
I will admit that we visited more grocery and food stores while we were in NYC than anything else, but that’s what we like! Trader Joe’s is great for picking up breakfast items. I bought some quick-cook steel cut oats (what an oxymoron, but true to the advertising they cooked up in 7 minutes over the stovetop) and we added some dried blueberries and bananas for a delicious breakfast. We picked up some apples, edamame hummus and baby carrots for snacks. Arugula and artichoke antipasto spread were bought for sandwiches. Other travelling-friendly breakfast options sans-stovetop would be granola overtop yogurt and fruit or overnight oats.
After Trader Joe’s, the next stop was Eataly, the upscale Mario Batali Italian superstore. My main purpose was to buy mosto cotto, a condensed balsamic vinegar made with reduced Concord grapes (any clue where to buy this in Toronto?). While the prices are not cheap, Eataly is a good place to pick up high-quality items for sandwiches.
Armed with a loaf of “rustic” fig bread (slightly sweet from the figs), 18-month-aged prosciutto (nicely flavoured), and taleggio (a mild cow’s milk creamy, soft cheese), we had the fixins for a super sandwich. With a limited number of ingredients, quality is the defining factor of your sandwich. I found the flavours worked really well, with the slightly sweet bread topped with the silky artichoke dip. Next, we topped it with overflowing arugula, laid a slice or two of prosciutto and lastly added a few pieces of silky, melt-in-your-mouth taleggio cheese. All the ingredients lasted us a few meals with some food left over to bring back to Canada (the artichoke surprisingly did not set off the alarms at the airport, hehe). For a vegetarian option, roasted red peppers could be substituted for the prosciutto and for vegans, the cheese could easily be omitted.
I will also give due credit to the most wondrous milk we bought at Eataly – Soloriso basmati rice milk. With a delicate smooth flavour, I never knew rice milk could taste so good. With a side of edamame hummus and carrots, this is how a foodie does not eat out in NYC.
Where we ate elsewhere in NYC:
Ess-A-Bagel – There are Montreal-style bagels and New York-style bagels. When in NYC, you should try New York-style bagels. Ess-A-Bagel is well-known for its huge, fluffy bagels (12 different varieties including whole wheat everything), and also serves up vegan-friendly tofu-spread in lieu of cream cheese (the traditional cream cheeses are there too, including the delectable lox cream cheese). The bagels are packed with filling, and 1 bagel could easily serve 2.
Alan’s Falafel – Battle of the street cart food falafel in NYC creates the most lusciously moist falafel with minimal grease. Get it in a wrap, a salad or combo spread with lettuce, tomato, hummus and a sesame dipping sauce. Can’t say I’ve compared it to Sam’s, but Alan’s was mighty tasty.
Candle Cafe – A long-time favourite vegan resto with a focus on local, organic foods. The collard rolls are a must-try!
Other worthwhile food-related places to visit in NYC:
Kalustyan’s – For all your kitchen desires, spices, vinegars, beans.. let’s just say I was stopped by the bean section, and didn’t really make it to any other floor (I think there are 3 levels). (Thanks for the tip, Joanne!)
Essex Street Market – For down-to-earth fresh produce and condiments
Chelsea Market – A bit too upscale for me (can you say not affordable?) but a cute, artsy renovated warehouse housing upscale gourmet food vendors, with the Food Network located upstairs
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!
In my last post, I commented that I could have a hard time making up a tasty meal without advance warning. That’s usually because I buy my produce for each dish and then work around what I have and need for my meals. I don’t tend to make too many meals that are completely from pantry staples (I did during my university days, though!).
However, there is something to say about tasty meals that can be whipped together from stuff in your cupboards. I recently returned from a trip and came home to an empty fridge. What to make? Then I knew it! The chickpea and artichoke salad!
I initially spotted this recipe through the No Crouton’s Required round-up about chickpeas (with two variations from the same original recipe from Vegan Yum Yum by Lauren Ulm (also posted here)). My variation is adapted from Diet, Dessert and Dogs.
While I may not always be a fan of chickpeas, this was delicious. The fried chickpeas had a nutty, toasted flavour that worked well with the slightly tangy lemon and herb dressing, the mellow artichokes that were scorched nicely and the toasted almonds with their crunch and flavour wrapped up the salad beautifully. This is definitely a salad that shows how all the flavour is in that brown stuff at the bottom of the frypan.
The pantry staples for this dish will definitely be squirreled away in my cupboards for that emergency salad fix for unexpected guests. Who should be more excited – me or my guests?
This is my submission to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by RuchikaCooks.