Have spices, will travel.
I used to do a ton of meal planning before I visited Rob’s family. My master plan was to make food that Rob’s family would adore and want to make themselves. To do that, I would try to find a recipe that was a bit more mainstream in flavours, with ingredients that were already in their kitchen.
I don’t do that anymore. As selfish as it may seem, I no longer cater my meals to others. It is my meal, so I cater it to what I want to eat. I have realized that at Rob’s family gatherings, my meal is never the main dish and people just nibble at it because they want to try it. If they like it, so be it. If not, that is ok, too. However, I know that with my different tastes, I use different ingredients. I am not just talking about eating vegetables like kale, rather that I use a wide range of spices and condiments that not everyone has.
But now I come prepared. I bring my own spices. My containers are small and portable, so it is no big deal. During my last trip to Woodstock, I decided to make a few dishes. I brought my favourite curry powder to make the Raw Thai Pineapple Rice Salad which received high praise. It was my only repeater recipe but I knew it tasted great and was easy to make. I also brought chili powder (not stale!) to make these grilled vegetable fajitas. Yes, I wanted to capitalize on using the barbecue!
A bounty of vegetables (Portobello mushrooms, zucchini and bell pepper) was marinaded in a chili-lime dressing in the morning. Lentils simmered on the stove before guests arrived for the barbecue. While I originally had elaborate plans to make a flavourful Ancho chile-spiked lentil taco meat, I erred on the side of simplicity and tossed the unadorned lentils with the roasted vegetables. The smoky vegetables with a bit of zip from the chili marinade worked really well together.
I scored the leftovers and at home, I served them in a collard wrap, topped with some fresh avocado. Sprouts are a delicious, gorgeous garnish.
Have no grill? Roasting the vegetables would likely work just as well. Pick your favourite vegetables, but try not to skip the Portobellos. They were my favourite, with a slightly meaty taste. Enjoy!
Yes, I bought more strawberries!
At one point, I had fresh strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and cherries in my fridge. Oh, and Rob’s bananas, too. I am addicted to the fresh fruit. It was a good thing that Rob didn’t buy the case of fresh figs, too.
My Mom is probably scratching her head.. I just told her that I spend around $10-15/week on groceries. Granted, I have a pantry packed with my staples (beans, grains, nuts, spices) and a garden with herbs and greens (kale and collards) which makes things easier. Each week, I basically buy fruits and veggies. Cilantro, green onions and regular onions, too. Garlic and ginger every few weeks. Tofu or tempeh once a month. Veggies aren’t that expensive, guys! My recent grocery glories were zucchini for 39c/lb, bananas for 29c/lb and red pepper for 79c/lb. Oh, and two HUGE bunches of Swiss chard for $1. Suffice it to say, strawberries were on sale for $1.50/lb, so I got some more.
During my week of the salad, I tried so many different leafy salads. I am not that heavy with salad dressing, so they last a long time. I still have dressings left over. I need more greens! I also like variety, so I tried yet another dressing. This time, though, I made less. This is a simple dressing to put together, so I can easily whip it up again. And I will because it was glorious. Roasted hazelnut oil. Balsamic Vinegar. Chocolate. Need I explain more?
Oh wait, please, let me tell what I paired the decadent chocolate balsamic vinaigrette with: Strawberries. Avocado. Mint. Toasted Almonds. Raw Cacao Nibs…… oh, and lettuce, too.
Pray-tell, was it the lettuce that made you swoon? I thought not! ;)
I know some people don’t like fruits in savoury dishes (not me!) but here I am left scratching my head wondering whether this should be dessert or an appetizer. Does plating something on lettuce automatically relinquish this from being a possible dessert? Anyways, I ate this for dinner. And it was delicious.
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this week’s Wellness Weekend, to this month’s Simple and in Season, to this week’s Summer Salad Sundays and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
Eating two heads of lettuce may seem trivial to some. In fact, for me, it probably isn’t much of a stretch to munch through…. of course, I never really have an empty fridge, so in addition to the new lettuce, I also had some spinach and beet greens to munch through first, and a bit of mixed greens, too. I also asked Rob to pick up some sunflower sprouts to spruce up some of my salads. Instead of coming home with a small packet of sprouts, he opted for the massive 1 lb bag of sprouts. Sprouts are light, trust me, it is a lot of sprouts! Why so many sprouts? They were 75% off! Priced to sell and for me to eat quickly!
While cooking greens is an easy way to eat lots of them and to extend their shelf life, I wanted to savour the glory of the sprouts. Unlike most bloggers, I have yet to succumb to the Green Monster breakfast smoothies. I have gobbled down breakfast smoothies in the past, and have thrown in some greens for good measure, but I keep returning to my easy chocolate protein power oats and berries instead.
What to do? Eat it for dinner! Make soup! Raw soup! A blended salad!
With 2 new raw cookbooks from the library, I have become very curious about some of the simpler raw dishes. Raw soups are among them, which seem like a glorious medley of vegetables and flavours. While I am no virgin to raw soups (remember that mango gazpacho?), the difference between juice, smoothie and soup always runs through my head. Plus, raw soups can easily be done wrong if your vegetables are not fresh, if you add too much or too little water or if your blender is not up to snuff. (This is definitely where the Vitamix excels because who wants a lumpy soup?)
Even though I drank it in a glass, this wasn’t a juice. It was a creamy pureed soup. The soup was only warmed by the blender, a welcome change during the recent heat wave and the biggest difference from traditional soups.
The sprouts are whizzed to make a lovely sweet green backdrop, sweetened by an apple, with depth added from lemon juice and dulse granules. The nuts and avocado add the protein and fat to make this a satisfying and filling soup and make it quite luscious. Not one to always like pureed soups, I really appreciated the fresh nature of this brew. With a side salad, it was a great meal.
Raw soups have also been dubbed as blended salads, so for those that don’t have a high-speed blender, instead of making a lumpy soup, consider eating this as a salad instead! Eating all the sprouts can feel like you’ve turned into an animal (does anyone else feel like that with lots of sprouts?), so maybe try substituting some of the sprouts for mixed greens.
Creamy Green on Green Pasta (aka Raw Kelp Noodles and Broccoli with a Creamy Lemon-Basil Whipped Avocado Sauce)
I am really enjoying my simplistic meals these days.
First decide on a sauce or dressing. Pick your favourite veggies. Decide on a base – bean or grain.
Here, I went raw for Raw Thursdays. I picked a lusciously creamy lemon and basil dressing. How does it become so creamy? Hidden inside is a whipped avocado. Adding warm water also adds a lightness without added fats.
My veggie of choice: chopped broccoli.
My base: kelp noodles.
Rob tasted this after I had cleaned up the kitchen. I was surprised he picked up on the avocado right away since I found the lemon, basil and garlic more pronounced while the avocado was there to deliver the lusciousness. I quizzed him- How was he so smart? He noticed the sauce was green and assumed it was from the avocados in the fridge. I protested and blamed the green on the pureed basil. In any case, he was right. He must be more in tune with his avocado sensors than me. ;)
Regardless, while I usually shun creamy dressings, this was both creamy and light at the same time. Perfect in every way. Just be careful not to eat the entire dish in one sitting! Leftover (chilled) dressing was also great in…. wait for it…. a wrap!! (also filled with carrot, cabbage, cucumber and sprouts!)
I can’t wait to try out more avocado dressings. Do you have a favourite?
Happy birthday to me.
Today is my birthday.
I don’t like to make a fuss about it, though. I’d rather have a quiet night at home, dinner cooked for me, than throw a birthday bash. I find more love in that than heading to a resto.
I am hoping to break the grasp of restos on my life. I have a few that I enjoy and those are ones that I haven’t quite figured out how to duplicate at home. With a Vitamix and dehydrator, I should be all equipped. I just need some smokin’ recipes.
Last year, my Mom made a killer raw raspberry cheesecake for my birthday. This year, there ain’t no party, but I thought it would be nice to continue the tradition of creating a decadent raw dessert for my birthday. I consider myself a quasi raw dessert expert, nearly always sampling a dessert when I visit a raw restaurant. I mean, I am an expert in taste. I have not nearly mastered all raw desserts. I just know what tastes good! A recent visit to the Naked Sprout in Burlington had me sampling Rob’s dessert: Raw Key Lime Pie. It was nice, light yet filling. Apparently they don’t even use lime to make it. The flavour is from lemons. (WHAT?!) Anyways, I figured I could try my hand at it back at home.
Armed with a recipe from Peacefood Cafe, a vegan resto in New York, I set myself to work. I had to scope out a few ingredients, but it was totally worth it. Cheap Brazil nuts and raw cashews from Kensington Market. 10 limes for $1 at my local grocer. 5 avocados for $2.50, too. Agave and coconut oil were already in my pantry. And yes, then to find a young Thai coconut. My new local grocer had that, too! $2 for a young coconut.
When we were in Colombia, the young coconuts were opened with a machete. Yeah, we weren’t going to do that. There are many different ways to open coconuts (great video here), but we’ve had the most success with removing the majority of the skin with a knife, scoring the top with a knife and then bashing it against the front steps to crack it open. OK, I’ll be honest- this is Rob’s successful technique. Not mine. I just help with its consumption. The juice is probably the best part, although Rob likes to eat the meat, too. In this case, I used the coconut meat for the dessert.
Since Rob had the task of opening the coconut, this was a very simple recipe to make. Assuming of course you have a gizmo to help with juicing 8 limes! Process the nuts and dates for the crust. Smoosh it into a springform pan. The rest of the ingredients were combined in my Vitamix to create a silky smooth filling. The green comes naturally from the avocados!
I hesitated as I dumped in 3/4 cup agave, but figured it would balance the 1 cup of fresh lime juice. I hesitated again when I added the coconut oil to the filling. The filling was so good without any oil at all, but I compromised. I added in 1/2 cup coconut oil instead of the full 3/4 cup. Trust me, you don’t need the full amount. You could probably use less oil, actually, because with the avocados and coconut, this is one decadently rich dessert. Incredibly delicious and it rivals the best raw desserts I have eaten. It is that good. Serve as small pieces.
Now who wants to come over tonight to help me polish off the rest of this pie?
(I am alone since Rob is away ALL WEEK!!)
Plus, a dessert like this is meant to be shared… ;)
The point of making a sushi rice bowl salad is that it is easier than rolling numerous sushi rolls. I know, I’ve done it before.
So why would I bastardize a perfectly nice sushi salad by turning it into a wrap?
A collard wrap, of all things, instead of a sushi roll.
As you probably figured out, I like wraps, especially when wrapped with a green leaf like Swiss chard, kale, collard or even Romaine lettuce. Hearty greens don’t go soggy. My leaves are usually small enough for bite-size snacks, rolling up a few for tasty meal. While I also like salads, I preferred this as a wrap. With a wrap, you make sure every component of the salad hits your palate at the same time.
The idea of this wrap came from Appetite for Reduction, after Ashley posted her version. In my wrap, you get your zing from the green onions, the crunch from the carrots and cucumber, the salty earthiness from the shredded nori with a savoury note from sesame seeds all firmed up with a background from coarse bulgur and slippery edamame. The collard leaf keeps it all together. The green onion miso dressing is great within the wrap, and you can always add more if you use it as a dipping sauce. As a salad, the Asian ingredients seem a bit disjointed, but in the wrap, they work so well together.. because you can experience it all in every bite. :)
If you are tired of eating delicate leafy green-based salads, consider turning it into a green wrap. Where your greenery is just presented in a different form.
Would you go to a steakhouse for an upscale vegan experience?
It seems so counter-intuitive, eh?
I was hesitant, though. Could a steakhouse really have great vegan food? It turns out that they recently hired Doug McNish, Raw Aura‘s former vegan chef that catapulted raw food into my dream books. He added a complete vegan menu at Prime, so I was confident that this would not be subpar vegan eats.
I priced out their Winterlicious menu. It turned out it was cheaper to pick from their standard vegan menu than to limit oneself to the vegan options on fixed price menu, especially since there was overlap between the options.
I opted to try the wild mushroom and pearl barley risotto with crispy sage and truffle oil as a starter. It was decadent and delicious. It was also rich and filling, so I decided to pace myself and take half of it home. Rob tried the nori rolls stuffed with a creamy ginger dill sunflower seed pate but we didn’t find them that exceptional.
For our mains, I happily munched on the herbed portobello mushroom and tempeh burger which was the highlight of the night. I have never had such a flavourful veggie burger. Unfortunately, the sweet potato fries were subpar, even after I asked for fresh ones since mine were cold. They also forgot to give me the sun-dried tomato aioli, but I am glad I reminded them because it was really good with the burger.
Rob had been pining over the cornmeal crusted tempeh steaks, spiced sweet potato coconut mash, steamed greens with caramelized onion and cherry tomato relish but we both found it lackluster. I suppose we’ve been spoiled by great vegan eats from Blossom Cafe, Candle 79 and Pure Food and Wine in NYC.
For dessert, I was salivating the vegan Mango Cheesecake with a Raspberry Coulis. When I packed my risotto earlier, I wanted to make room for this dessert. However, it was bad. It was uber sweet but in a dry icing sugar kind of way. Turns out, I can make a better version at home anyhow (remember those Mango Paradise Bars?)
I enjoy raw food because the flavours really pop. At Prime, although their meals are not raw, their tempeh burger had great flavours mingling together which is what captured me into the dish. Here, these mini burgers are flavoured with shiitake mushrooms, sage, rosemary, garlic with bulk from pumpkin seeds and sweet potato. They don’t require a long dehydration time since you want to maintain some moisture. Don’t have a dehydrator? I bet they could easily be baked for 15 minutes or so but I can’t say for sure.
I ate my sliders as mini sandwiches with a slice of tomato as the base, followed by a bed of alfalfa sprouts. The slider was then topped with a smear of avocado with a touch of salt. Delicious!
There are many differences between Canadians and Americans. One definitely is due to the Mexican influence on Americans.
Despite posting a few Mexican recipes, I don’t really know much about Mexican cuisine.
Like hummus, everyone has their favourite guac recipe. I haven’t experimented much but I loved this creamy guacamole with edamame. You see, I don’t buy avocados that often. They are expensive in Canada. I know they are ridiculously cheaper in the US, especially in the Southern states. But for some reason, they have been on sale recently so when Rob went grocery shopping, he came home with over 10 avocados. We were obviously making guacamole for his party!
While the brisket and BBQ jackfruit tacos received high praises, I think this guacamole stole the show. It was the winner of the night.
I want to call this a nontraditional guacamole because it is stuffed with pineapple and cucumber. However, since it is adapted from Truly Mexican, it is probably more authentic than you think. Mexicans know how to accentuate the already delicious avocados into a sweet and spicy salad.
Chunkier than your mashed guacamoles, you have a mingling of sweet pineapple chunks, cool chopped cucumber and chunks of avocado bathed in a lime-chile marinade. Due to the acidity from both the lime juice and the pineapple, this is a guacamole you can make in advance and not worry about it turning an ugly brown.
Make sure you have large chips to scoop up this guac, or if you’re like me, make it into a wrap!
Load a Romaine leaf with guacamole, and top with your favourite toppings – I chose julienned cabbage and carrots, chopped cilantro, pickled red onions, alfalfa sprouts and sunflower seeds.
Don’t have any fixings? It paired beautifully with the BBQ jackfruit as well.
This is being submitted to this month’s Simple and In Season, to this month’s Herbs on Saturday bloghop, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this month’s Ingredient Challenge Monday for pineapple and to this month’s Gimme Green event.
This week, kabocha squash was on sale. Half price. Score for me!
I had two problems, though.
2) When I made it to the grocery store, the sign was labelled as BUTTERCUP squash, though. The squashes had kabocha stickers, the flyer advertised kabocha squash, but the sign clearly stated buttercup squashes were on sale.
I haven’t tasted a kabocha, let alone really noticed them before (the one I bought at the Farmer’s market, that is still sitting in my kitchen, is a light shade of blue… and 8 lb.. and looked nothing like these squashes!). Furthermore, there was no way I could discern any differences from a buttercup squash. What to do???
If I had a cell phone, I could have done an emergency internet search… but I don’t have a cell phone. :P So I bought a bunch of squashes, drove home and then did my emergency squash search.
Turns out I am not the only person with the buttercup-kabocha quandary! Heather outlined the very subtle differences, focusing mostly on the butt of the squash.
Tell me how my squash butt compares. Did I buy a kabocha or a buttercup?
I suppose the proof is in the pudding. Or wrap, in this case.
I decided to roast the squash so that I could really taste it. Drizzled with a little hazelnut oil and only salt and pepper, this was a delicious squash. Denser, yet drier than a butternut squash. I found it had more flavour though and possibly a bit more sweet. Plus, the definitive bonus of the kabocha squash is that you don’t need to peel it!! I buy butternut squashes because I have become pretty adept at peeling it, but eating the peel is even easier! (FYI- the buttercup squash tends to cook up softer and falls apart quite easily).
Next, I went just a bit more fancy and stuffed the roasted squash into a collard wrap smothered with mashed avocado and cucumber, an idea that I borrowed from Gena at Choosing Raw. Gena has a wonderful way with pairing seemingly odd ingredients together, yet they work so well (remember the delectable apple and zesty cashew orange spread wrap?). Anyways, this was a very decadent wrap with the seasoned avocado working as a dressing, the cucumber conferring crunch all highlighting the hazelnut-flavoured roasted kabocha squash.
How do you prefer to eat your kabocha squash?
Rob can be bad at keeping secrets. He leaked that he wanted to buy me a dehydrator for Christmas in September.. or maybe October. I rationalized that it was in both our interests to get it while we were still brimming with autumn harvests (mainly our herbs and peppers). Hehehe… Rob had tried drying his chili peppers in the oven on the “keep warm” setting and it took many days to dry completely. Not that energy or time efficient. So…. the dehydrator arrived early and we dehydrated our summer bounty of chili peppers. Then moved on to apple chips, dehydrated pineapple and kale chips.
But it wasn’t much of a surprise when the dehydrator arrived. Rob didn’t even hide when it was available to be picked up from the store. :P
What was a surprise was when my first issue of the Nutrition Action Health Letter arrived in my mailbox this week. I’ve written about this fabulous publication three times before, which I describe as the Consumer’s Reports of healthy food. I usually read my Mom’s leftover issues, but this time she bought me my own subscription. Yahoo! However, someone goofed (not my Mom) and I received the December 2011 issue. Not really a problem because I love this issue, but it arrived before Christmas.. totally spoiling the Christmas Day surprise. :(
The December 2011 issue, itself, was a great issue. The feature article is all about which foods actually improve your health based on scientific research. Want to lower your cholesterol? Your best bet in to focus on foods high in unsaturated fats like oils, nuts and fatty fish. The second best option is to consume foods high in soluble fibre like beans, oats and psyllium. As they explain, it is important to replace foods with trans- and saturated fats (meat, butter, cheese, cream, etc). It can be too easy to add additional calories through nuts, which are caloric-dense, but if you increase your refined carbs as a result of decreasing your fats, your triglycerides could increase, too (not good). They also talk about the best foods to protect your eyes, prevent colon cancer, staying regular and lowering your blood pressure (yes, the DASH diet is better than any single medication on the market).
Previously, my favourite article has been their ratings of vegetables where kale tops their list. I know all veggies are good for you, but I am such a numbers girl. However, with my new subscription they sent me a small pamphlet with ratings of other staples: fruit, beans (!!!), grains, lean meats and spreads. Of course, I was drawn to the best of the beans ratings.
While I know each bean is different, I always thought they were nearly similar nutritionally – full of fibre, folate and other vitamins. Only Nutrition Action would rate them! They based their ratings on the percentage of daily value of that each cup of cooked bean possessed for fibre, protein, folate, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc, vitamin B6 and potassium.
Interestingly enough, at the top of their list was edamame and at the bottom of the list was tofu, both soy products. Compared to other beans, edamame (soybeans) are unique because they contain more iron and protein (also fat!) with decreased levels of folate and fibre. This explains why they are so creamy. :)
In honour of winning the title of “best bean”, I thought I’d share a fabulous avocado-edamame dip: guacamole with edamame… guacamame? Or, as Tess called it in Radiance 4 Life: Green Velvet Guacamole. I modified the recipe slightly by increasing the lime juice and garlic for some added zip. If you like bits in your guac, feel free to add chopped tomatoes and onions.. or whatever floats your boat. The edamame adds creaminess and body to your dip but more importantly, additional fibre and protein than you would get from an extra avocado.
I love frozen edamame (ok only the pre-shelled kind, otherwise I start to curse), because they are easy to throw into all sorts of dishes- stir fries, soups and salads. Need only a cup? Not a problem!
Here are some of my favourite recipes with edamame:
This is my submission to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend.
I went to the St Lawrence Market this weekend to buy some kale. I was pining the HUGE $2 bundles of kale. Last year, with only one bundle I made Brazilian Potato-Kale Soup with Sizzling Chorizo (Caldo Verde), Vanilla Sweet Potato and Kale Curry, African Pineapple Kale Peanut Stew AND Cranberry Bean Mole with Roasted Butternut Squash. The bundles were that huge. This week, they had smaller bundles, all from the top part of the plants. Still a great deal at $1.50 and actually more manageable to eat in a week. I bought 2 bundles because I planned for a kale chip marathon this weekend. While I also scored a delicata and kabocha squash (I have yet to try them but I hear they are wonderful), I wasn’t able to find celery root (aka celeriac) which was my main reason for visiting the market. I guess, I will have to head back next week.
While I feel like the winter heralds the end of fresh vegetables (my local farmer’s market has already closed for the season), without physical snow, there is still lots of food from local sources. In fact, I still have kale growing in my own garden! It became much more prolific since the first frost. The winner of the kale plants we planted this year was the Vates Blue Curled Kale. It is a dwarf plant, so the plants are smaller and don’t take as long to grow (dinosaur kale takes 90 days to grow, whereas these need only 30 days). The leaves are smaller and more tender, thus they are perfect for wraps. No need to steam, because they taste wicked awesome fresh from the garden.
This is a delicious wrap that I adapted from The Two-Week Wellness Solution. Tess initially made these as tostadas, but I really enjoyed these as wraps. I pretty much adore all of Tess’ recipes and had bookmarked these for the longest time due to their positively glowing reviews. Then Ashley posted her version, and I knew I had to try it.
It looks so daunting with all the ingredients, but it is actually really easy to make. The mashed black beans seasoned with lime, cumin and onion are the star of the wrap, contrasting nicely with quinoa as well as lime-spiked carrots and green onions. The avocado adds a creamy touch. Try it as a tostada, or a wrap, but any way will be delicious. This has been one of my favourite meals. Enjoy!
You wouldn’t think a falling bicycle could be so dangerous.
If I was riding it, sure. But not a bicycle falling down next to me!
This time, I wasn’t even riding my bicycle and I was injured.
I was standing next to my bicycle, as it was falling, and the front chainring (or chainwheel or spikey teeth where my gears change) decided to take a piece out of me. A few pieces. A few deep chunks of me. I saw my subcutaneous fat before I started to bleed, and knew it was bad news. In the next instant, blood was pooling down to my sock. I declined an offer for a napkin to wipe the blood off and softly said, “I just need to get to work.” The nice stranger probably thought I was nuts. Of course, with an injury like that, it only makes sense to wish you were at work if you worked at a hospital! I hopped on my bike and rode off. I eventually found my way to the emergency department where I was cleaned up and stitched back together (thank you year 2 medical student).
***disclaimer, possibly gory photo of my leg… Personally, I don’t think it looks too bad, but it is definitely not as appetizing as my mousse!**********
My supervisor remarked that after enduring the injury, freezing and stitching, I deserved a treat. He suggested ice cream. Interesting idea, I thought. Instead of ice cream, I plotted and schemed. I had some avocados at home that I had forgotten to add to some tacos, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them. A quick, decadent treat.
Chocolate Avocado Mousse.
Definitely not your typical mousse, it is a light chocolate pudding with a hint of spice. Not airy as you would expect in a mousse. If you would like more of a pudding, don’t add any water but it was good both ways. I adapted Gena’s chocomole, to include a bit of lemon juice, a dash of cinnamon and cardamom and swapped agave nectar for the dates. Next time, I may omit the water completely, and try adding some almond or hazelnut butter for added richness and a more pudding-like consistency. For something more airy, I may try this cashew-based recipe instead.
Thank goodness I have another avocado!
But I won’t wait for a pity-party for my next chocolate fix.
No worries about me, though, because my leg is doing fine, as am I. In fact, the worst thing that has happened is that I am now wearing skirts and dresses (pants irritate my stitches). Becoming quite feminine with my masculine injury, eh?
This is my submission to Ricki’s new Summer Wellness Weekends.
But I did.
Trust me, I didn’t succumb to the traditional sushi rolls.
Instead, I had a delicious raw sushi roll at Organic Lives. Completely inauthentic, it was filled with a pecan pate, sprouts, veggies, avocado and mango. With the zippy fruit-based dipping sauce, it was so completely different from any sushi roll I have ever had. The only similarity was that it was a nori roll wrap.
Once the hubbub subsided after I returned home, I was craving a more traditional sushi roll. Without all the hard work of actually rolling the little buggers…
When I visited Japan, one of my favourite meals was eating sashimi at the Tsukiji Market, which is the wholesale marketplace for seafood in Tokyo. With daily auctions, this is where you can eat the freshest fish. The sashimi was unbeatable. I have never been able to enjoy sea urchin anywhere else. So fresh, it was so buttery soft and creamy.
I actually visited Tsukiji two days in a row and sampled sashimi from two different vendors. Both times, I ordered a sushi bowl with an assortment of sashimi. One resto had better sashimi and the other had better rice. The rice was so good, it eclipsed the fish. And I don’t really like rice, actually. I consider it filler in sushi rolls, when I would rather be eating the filling. I tolerate rice for the most part, but here, I learned how great rice can taste.
I have experimented with a few rices since my return, and I still remain partial to a short-grain Japanese-style rice. Recently, I bought the Taiwanese Yih Chuan Aromatic Rice, which has a faint aroma of taro (yes, on sale at T&T). It brings rice to the next level. The rice is nicely flavoured, shaped and most importantly, tastes great.
My whole preamble about rice is because if you are going to make a sushi rice bowl, you should try to use a nice rice! The dressing helps, too. The toppings, too. But let the rice get the spotlight it deserves as it isn’t supposed to be a bland side.
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks, I wouldn’t call this an authentic Japanese recipe, but a lively citrus-flavoured sushi bowl. Top with your favourite sushi toppings such as steamed asparagus, avocado, grilled tofu, and dare I suggest mango? (Mango, next time…). The key to keep this a sushi bowl, and not a rice salad, though, is to include the toasted nori strips. You can buy them pre-shredded, but you could also toast the nori and then cut it into thin strips yourself.
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!
A big round of applause for Rob for posting some awesome recipes over the past week!
Gosh, sometimes life just becomes incredibly hectic. At times, it can be hard to juggle work, research, social commitments, and all of a sudden there is crunch time! Rob saw I was stressed and offered to help with the blog (what a sweetie, eh?). :)
No worries about food, because I was still cooking up a storm. In fact, I feel almost guilty about taking so long to tell you about this lovely kale salad. I have shared the recipe countless times since I made it, but have yet to blog about it. Trust me, it is fabulous.
This is a kale salad. A salad made with raw kale. I know you are raising your eyebrow, thinking that kale is so bitter and tough, why would you eat it raw? Well, it is more of a wilted kale salad because you massage it into silky oblivion, kneading in the flavours.
I was (loosely) inspired by the raw kale salad in Lucid Food, and kept it as a creamy salad with the addition of avocado. It is combined with a splash of olive oil and garlic for a luscious dressing. I chose to top the salad with a tart Granny Smith apple as well with grated raw beet (yes, you can eat it raw) instead of carrot which made the apple turn a brilliant shade of magenta. Toasted almonds add another layer of nutty crunch.
A perfect salad for potlucks, and even for leftovers (gasp!) because you actually want this to be a wilted salad.