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. 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.
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.
Hi! It’s Rob again for one last item in my short series of posts here on the taste space.
After crafting the delicious avocado chutney last week, I was left with a couple of leftover avocados. I was perplexed. What should I do with them? I didn’t want to make guacamole. I wasn’t prepared to produce a salad with them. In Australia I learned how amazing avocado is in sandwiches or hamburgers, but that wasn’t the direction I wanted to go either.
I KNOW! I would devise a new variation of everyone’s beloved overnight oats! I was very excited. Overnight oats are great, but wouldn’t they be better if they were filled with tropical fruits?
I’ll be honest with you. I hold tropical fruits in very high regard. As such, I pine to travel to the tropical regions where these fruits are cheap, fresh, and plentiful. I’ve been to a few of these places, but my yearning to go to more is unceasing…
I still think fondly of the Cook Islands where I enjoyed the best papaya I ever had, topped with grated coconut and lime juice.
I still remember the glee I felt when I arrived in Fiji at the height of mango season. They were so ripe that they fell from the trees and landed at my feet, begging to be devoured.
I still recall the wonder I felt while roaming the streets of Bangkok and marvelling at the carts of the street vendors showcasing pineapples, artfully cut and ready to take away with little packets of salt and chili.
Several years ago, back when I lived in another city and worked at a different job, I was just beginning to discover many types of international cuisine. There was a while where my coworkers and I would take lunch every Friday “off-site” to go to a nearby Indian restaurant with a buffet. It was an exploratory process for me: samosas, mulligatawny soup, this kind of curry, that kind of curry, basmati rice, and kulfi, to name a few. Not only did I expand my newly-found appreciation of foods outside my normal “comfort zone”, but I expanded my comfort zone to encompass them. It did wonders for my vocabulary, too!
Of particular interest were the several varies of chutneys available. I found that the tamarind chutney and the mango chutney particularly tickled my taste buds. I had never tried tamarind or mango before. Now they are counted among my favourite flavours. I was so excited that I told an Indian friend of mine, “I had chutney for lunch!” She was amused, but told me it was the same thing as saying that, “I had ketchup for lunch.”
Wikipedia defines chutney as “a class of spicy preparations used as an accompaniment for a main dish.” I can see how something like ketchup might fall under that categorization, but your typical chutney is so much more! It’s like an explosion of flavour you can enjoy bite, by bite, by bite!
This recipe comes from 660 Curries which Saveur lent me several months ago and I’ve been studying intently. I’ve already posted a couple of the these recipes on my own blog (which isn’t a proper food blog, per se, but just a place where I post many photos and write about whatever is interesting me at the time).
This recipe did introduce me to a new ingredient; an ingredient that I approached with some trepidation: curry leaves. These leaves are not the kind of leaves that curry powder is made from. Much like Europeans chefs use bay leaves to add flavour to dishes they are making, Indian chefs (especially in the southern regions of India) would add curry leaves to theirs to impart a characteristic flavour to their dishes. Like bay leaves, people generally remove the curry leaves as they eat the meal. Unlike bay leaves, their flavour is subtle and many need to be added to the dish.
I found dried curry leaves at a health food store in Ottawa several weeks ago. I knew that 660 Curries had many recipes that asked for fresh curry leaves. There aren’t any stores near me that sell fresh ones, so I took the opportunity to buy the dried ones. Saveur warned me that recipes usually need far fewer dried leaves than fresh ones and I needed to research the proper ratio to use. Did I need to use half as many dried curry leaves? One third as many?
After some quick online research, I discovered that opposite holds true for curry leaves: the dried ones have less flavour and I need many many more dried ones… perhaps as many as ten times as many! Raghavan Iyer, the author of 660 Curries, even goes so far as to say that the flavour of dried curry leaves is “insipid” and to avoid them completely!
I was somewhat disappointed. Since the ingredient was still new to me, and I wasn’t willing to put 120 dried curry leaves in my chutney (it was unlikely that my tiny bag of them even had that many leaves in it), I simply put in 12 dried curry leaves in the hot oil at the end of cooking the mustard seeds to allow any of their flavour to transfer to the oil. I then removed the leaves myself.
The chutney was simply packed with flavour! The subtle taste of the avocado was the dominant flavour, with the motifs of roasted mustard coming a close second. The tamarind was not overpowering at all. I was careful with the chili flakes so the result was not too spicy.
Sadly, by the second day, the avocado on the surface had become discoloured and turned brown. The chutney still tasted fine, though. I served mine on toasted pieces of pita bread.
Go for it!
Toronto has a lot of burrito restaurants. I have been to a few places, but my favourite sandwich remains the yam burrito at Big Fat Burrito. I used to gush about them at work, where our Monday lunches were burritos from Big Fat Burrito. It turned out to be a bad idea, because we started to run out of the yam burritos.
I haven’t eaten a burrito in a while, especially after I found out that the steak burrito at Burrito Boyz is over a pound of food, and over 1000 calories. Chipotle fares no better, clocking in at over 1200 calories if you include guacamole.
However, when I spotted this (since adapted) recipe in Bob’s Red Mill Cookbook for yam, black bean and amaranth burritos, I knew I had to give burritos a second chance. Making them at home meant I could make them healthier! Including a touch of sour cream, these burritos are around 550 calories, but it all depends on the tortilla, salsa and added fixins you use. Next time I make burritos, I will try to search out freshly made tortillas from La Tortilleria. Sometimes, though, I ate this more like a stew, sans wrap.
Amaranth is an optional ingredient, but if you have it, this is a great way to incorporate it into your meal. Amaranth is one of those up-and-coming superfoods. It is an ancient South American seed loaded with protein, fiber and minerals, akin to quinoa. It has a slightly nutty taste and can be quite sticky. It works well as a binder in these burritos.
Amaranth has an interesting history, as it was believed to have superpowers and was given to the army for increased energy. Furthermore, it was used during religious ceremonies as effigies, and thus was banished when the Spaniards invaded Mexico. It has only been rejuvenated within the past few decades and still remains relegated to health food stores (I found mine in bulk at Essence of Life but have also seen it at the St Lawrence Market at Lively Life Fine Food).
Here are some other recipes with amaranth seed:
Emeril Lagasse’s Five Grain Salad on The Kitchn
Banana Apple Coconut Curry at Oh She Glows
Jewelled Amaranth at Cook (almost) Everything At Least Once
Heidi Swanson’s Savory Amaranth Soufflé at Pink Stripes
Ottolenghi’s Potato and Amaranth Cakes at The Guardian
Crunchy Stalks and Branches Snacks at Diet, Dessert N Dogs