Power of beautiful food?
I adore Gena’s blog Choosing Raw, where she shares gorgeous food that is still down-to-earth, delicious and easy. I have made many of her recipes (there are too many to count, ok plus these, too), and I have bookmarked many more to try.
So around the time of my food funk and arugula excess, I was propelled to the kitchen with the promise of beautiful food. Gena shared a drop-dead gorgeous salad with mizuna and tempeh with a mustard-miso dressing. I had enough gusto to make the dressing and bake some tempeh. Less inclination to go to the store to buy cabbage, snow peas and cilantro. So, I tossed it with the arugula and some cherry tomatoes and cucumber.
It did not matter because the star of this salad was the dressing. Oh my gosh, it was so good. A hefty dose of miso, a strong background of mustard with a sweet sourness from Meyer lemons and maple syrup, this dressing had a lot of bold flavours that became downright addictive. The tempeh was very basic and could be used for most meal salads since it was not strongly flavoured.
By the time I finally got around to acquiring some cabbage, I think I hate half the cabbage with this dressing alone. I just kept returning for more delicious salad.
Here’s to beautiful salad!
Have you tried Gena’s recipes? What are your favourites?
Comfort means different things to different people. A warm hug, a friendly email, a cheery phone call.. or wallowing with an ice cream sundae and warm apple pie. I try not to do the emotional eating thing but sometimes a big salad just won’t cut it. But can chocolate really overcome the worst blues? No.
I know some of you think I am nuts… some holier-than-thou soul who can shun the desserts and treats. Well, let me assure you that I am not immune. Trust me, there are enough vegan desserts that can keep me entertained and gluttonous. But sometimes, you just need something more.
A great way not to get suckered into buying treats is not to shop at standard grocers. This also means it can be more difficult for me to indulge if I want.
After writing the first part of my exam, I planned to do grocery shopping. It all made sense: I had neglected all foodly things earlier that week and it was time to restock. My exam also happened to be close to my favourite ethnic grocer. Score! I had no list, no recipes, no agenda – time was spent on studying pathology, not recipes. However, after that exam, all I wanted was comfort. I wanted to wallow in some chocolate.
My favourite grocer is filled with all sorts of fun, cheap produce: grapefruits, many different kinds of mangoes, baby bok choy, Asian mushrooms, cheap fresh herbs. I wanted to splurge. I wanted something decadent. Chocolate, anything remotely vegan and dessert-like. Um, yeah, no. Nothing here at all. The nuts didn’t appeal to me… and my splurge? Two pounds of baby arugula for $4. Two pounds doesn’t seem like a lot but it was two big clamshells worth of arugula. Was it a splurge? Yes, because I did not think I could eat that much arugula and I thought to myself: I should not be buying this. But it was no decadent splurge.
So, on my way home, I stopped by my favourite resto in Toronto, Belmonte Raw. In spite of improving their hours, because they are on the other side of town, I have not been in a long time. So this was my treat. I had no appetite, but I was salivating just wondering what their specials would be for the day. I needed some comfort. I ended up ordering a comforting smoothie and a raw burrito. I have raved about their raw burrito before, but this one left me flat. This version was only half of a burrito with a side salad. The smoothie was also lacklustre. I wanted more!! I decided that my taste buds could not be comforted at this point. They were beyond repair. My appetite could not be perked up and trying her sinful chocolate thimbles would likely not help the cause.
So I moseyed home. With my 2 pounds of arugula. But no interest in cooking or eating (let alone photographing and blogging). A good night’s sleep and an empty fridge partially motivated me to try something more than oatmeal in the following days. Cooking, instead of studying, seemed like a better idea to me, too. Dal bhat or creamy broccoli dal would have been a delicious comfort meal but now I had that arugula to eat.
I quickly realized that if I wanted to eat through the arugula, it would have to be cooked. Thus lemony arugula nests were born. This actually turned out much better than I anticipated. Considering nothing seemed to taste good to me, and I really liked this, that says a lot! It was also fun because it was a very simple recipe.
I used JL’s recipe as a guide. She simmered Italian-spiced tomatoes with olives and beans. I simmered tomatoes and white beans and added in a bunch of herbs that seemed Italian: marjoram, fennel seed and lemon pepper. It worked! The tomatoes were light and fresh with flavour, and I only simmered it for 10 minutes as I tended to the arugula. For the arugula, I misread the directions and lightly steamed it with some broth and garlic, and then doused it in lemon juice. Contrasting the two components was good. Lots of greens. Lots of beans. And I really don’t think the photos do it justice because I think it was even prettier in person… and surprisingly enough, leftovers were good, too.
What is your comfort food? Surprised mine includes beans? Shocked chocolate couldn’t suffice? I think having a delicious bowl of good food definitely helps…
Rob warned me.
I was away last week and Rob was in charge of watering the garden. I knew one of our squash plants was not doing so well after the scorching heat wave. I was already mentally prepared for the loss of a squash plant. Four plants in a small planter was probably not the best idea anyways. Even if 1 of the plants die, at least I will have 3 squashes.
However, it turns out that we have probably lost 3 out of our 4 plants.
AND…. to make matters worse, of the 3 squashes, one was ripped off the plant and eaten. Another had a large nibble removed. Only one survives. Rob swears it wasn’t him. We blame the raccoons!
One of the reasons we didn’t plant tomatoes was because we had an abysmal crop last year and oftentimes the animals would munch on the tomatoes first, leaving us with a handful of cherry tomatoes at the end of the season. Stealing tomatoes, I understand…
But please, raccoons.. do you really need to munch on an unripe kabocha squash? Gah! I kept telling myself well if nothing else, we will have a huge kabocha squash by the end of the summer. Sadly, I don’t even see any more blossoms to do more self-pollination.
It really makes you appreciate farmers and their struggles.
Thankfully my kale, collards and herbs are growing strong. The backyard planter has had great plants, although our front yard still has smaller kales. I have a handful of arugula growing, too, which I used for this sandwich. Holey in all its organically-grown-in-my-backyard glory. Looking at the photos, you’d think it was a green jungle out there!
Inspired by Gena’s raw pizza, I cobbled this sandwich together after my trip.
First, I marinaded cherries in maple-sweetened balsamic vinegar. Then I made a rosemary-infused cashew spread. A handful of my backyard arugula tops a maple pumpernickle (sourdough rye) bread that I picked up in Calgary. The contrast in flavours worked really well together, although I had a hankering for a more sour cashew spread. I think I need to find some probiotic capsules to help me with that… Next time!
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.
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
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.
Earlier this month, I was challenged to think of savoury ways to use rhubarb through Ricki’s SOS challenge. I posted a few recipes with rhubarb this month, including an Indian Lentil and Rhubarb Stew, but my mind kept wondering what else I could do with the rest of my rhubarb.
Rustic Fruit Desserts spotlighted two different rhubarb compotes, including a raw rhubarb compote where raw rhubarb, sugar and fresh orange juice meld for 6 hours on your counter for a tasty snack. While I didn’t make the dessert, my curiosity was peaked about raw rhubarb.
I subsequently stumbled upon a raw rhubarb salad with cucumber and mint in Paula Wolfert’s The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen, although there was nothing slow about this recipe. A bit of salt is added to temper the rhubarb and within ten minutes, you have a savoury salad ingredient – not at all tart! The rhubarb is mixed with thinly sliced cucumber, baby arugula and spinach, squirted with lemon juice and topped with shredded mint leaves. It is a wonderfully delicious, simply refreshing salad. Simple ingredients go a long way for an easy salad for the summertime.
Do not shy away from raw rhubarb. Succumb to it. You will be pleasantly surprised at rhubarb’s versatility.
I am a bit late, but we’ll see if Ricki can add this to her SOS Rhubarb round-up (can’t wait to see what everyone else made) as well as to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays (which also includes salads). Props go to Rob for making the salad – under my supervision – hence why it can go on my blog.