I was all ready to share with you some tasty zucchini-centric meals this week.
However, my zucchinis were side-lined in the fridge once I went on a mission to find tomatoes. It is easy to find red imposters. You know, the things that look like tomatoes but don’t taste like tomatoes… but I wanted summer fresh tomatoes. My quest brought me to my closest farmer’s market where I quickly scurried from stall to stall, sniffing their tomatoes. Sniffing out the imposters.
All of a sudden, it hit me. Tomato. I smelled it. I found my winning tomatoes. Bright red smallish heirloom tomatoes that looked lumpy and stout. The flavour did not disappoint. I brought home 2 pints to make this risotto I had bookmarked last year, waiting for this summer’s tomato bounty.
Super simple to make, I can’t believe it has been so long since I’ve made a risotto. Dump all the ingredients into a pot, let it simmer until the barley is tender. Towards the end, I kept adding more and more stock until a creamy, yet chewy barley risotto was attained. Positively drenched in silky tomatoes, speckled with chunks of garlic, with a hint of lemon and thyme and a depthness from smoked paprika, this made a delicious end-of-summer meal.
Sadly, now that I have re-discovered barley risottos, I have very little barley left. I don’t plan on replenishing it, either. I suppose I will have to try out spelt berries risottos, instead!
Of course the real quandary is whether to buy a HUGE bushel crate of San Marzano tomatoes. A Portuguese grocer near my home is selling them for $19. I bet they would be wonderful all roasted and I could try my hand at canning. But could I eat my way through all of the tomatoes?
Here are some other whole grain risottos I have my eye on:
Rustic Rebel Risotto from Radiance 4 Life
Red Beet Risotto with Walnuts from Big Vegan
Easy Creamy Tomato Barley Risotto from Vegan Yum Yum
Creamy Barley Risotto with Thyme and Star Anise from Let Them Eat Vegan
Tempeh Orzilla from Post Punk Kitchen
Pesto Risotto with Roasted Zucchini from Post Punk Kitchen
Saffron Speltotto with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes from River Cottage
If you thought roasted celeriac, lentils, hazelnuts and mint were an odd combination for a salad… a delicious salad, at that… what about this one?
With a such crazy combination of ingredients in this barley salad – pomegranate, dill, allspice – I’ll give you one guess as to where this recipe came from. Not to throw you off, I added the snap peas.
Your one guess….. Ottolenghi? You’d be right!
Ottolenghi has this way of mixing flavours in the most unusual combinations. I often wonder what kind of mania is happening in his head. Flight of ideas? At least the recipes are tested before they hit the press, though. Right? Right?
This is an unusual salad, which Ottolenghi wrote in Plenty (recipe posted here). It is a nice wholesome salad, with an extra dimension from the allspice and dill. Ottolenghi advises to cook the barley in plenty of water, but I find this creates a more mushy consistency. Instead I prefer to boil it with a 2:1 ratio of vegetable broth. I also prefer to toast my barley to accentuate its nuttiness. My other adaptations were to decrease the dressing and scrap the parsley altogether. The salad is overflowing with pomegranate arils which offers a sweet crunch, countered by the nutty barley, and accentuated by the earthy allspice and bright dill. The sugar snap peas also add a nice sweet crunch and we can always use more veggies.
While I like to rotate my grains, I am particularly fond of quinoa and eager to try my hand at Kate’s version of this recipe with quinoa and balsamic vinegar.
You’d think something was up. While I have long given up cheesy bliss, meat-laden meals and sweet desserts*, I have been having a lot of random food cravings. Cabbage. Tahini. And now pickles. When I told Rob I drank the pickle juice after I ate the last pickle, he was concerned. That’s what pregnant people do! No worries on that front. But what’s up with the cravings?
*Full disclosure: December was filled with chocolate cravings (gosh, those cookies were so good!). I also learned that Clif and Luna bars are deadly addictive. They may be vegan, but they are junk. I have been cut-off.
In any case, I don’t feel that guilty obliging my pickle cravings. Yes, they can be a bit salty, but they can be so satisfying with their crunch and vinegary bite.
Truly, pickle soup is a misnomer. Yes, there are pickles in it but it is not a dominant flavour. Just like vinegar and lemon juice are added to enhance the balance of a soup’s flavour, pickles do the exact same thing here. They add that salty and acidic touch.
So if this isn’t a pickle soup, it is a soup filled to the brim with veggies! It has an Eastern European flavour profile with dill and cabbage but it also has a hint of thyme. The veggies are bountiful, making this a huge pot of soup – leek, delicate oyster mushrooms, celeriac, carrot, turnip, Swiss chard, cabbage, red bell pepper – as well as barley.
While the flavours don’t scream out in any sense, they mingle well together. The pickles add that extra dimension that makes you think about the soup. Use dill pickles, Polish if possible, for the nice tang. Even pickle haters could enjoy the soup since the pickles are hidden amongst the plentiful veggies.
Even though I added in even more veggies than the original recipe, substituting a few ingredients as well (celeriac, baby!), I didn’t tire of this soup. I usually shun recipes that feed 8 people, but not this time. I relished in it. Sometimes I ate this soup twice a day!
Thankfully I think my pickle cravings subsided after a round of the soup.
What have you been craving recently?
This is my submission to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Wellness Weekend, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring fresh herbs.
The week before the party, I made this delicious salad.
The super quick sauce was courtesy of The Breakaway Cook (recipe here). Deep, rich flavours from pureed sun-dried tomatoes, pomegranate molasses and fresh tarragon. I substitute a dried apricot and agave for the apricot jam and decreased the oil without any problems. The pomegranate molasses added a subtle taste but really added that extra dimension and it worked wonderfully with the tarragon.
I was so happy to love the sauce, because it made a ton!
Eric suggested serving it with orzo, but instead I went with barley. Wanting a more complete meal, I also added white beans and chopped Swiss chard. A cup of baby rainbow Swiss chard, because that was all I could harvest from my garden. I only needed half of the sauce.
It was luscious and glorious. I knew I wanted to share the salad because it was that good.
Sadly, the sauce was sopped up by the barley when I ate it as leftovers. Still good but not as sinfully saucy as the first night
Half the sauce remained. The party was the following weekend.
With two beans salads, I knew I had my grain salad picked out.
I just couldn’t make it in advance.
Because I already had a bean-centric salad menu, I opted to forego the white beans, and well, I didn’t have any more Swiss chard, so it was just barley for the party. With the glorious sauce, no one knew what they were missing.
I can do mad damage if I am in the right store.
Not a clothing store, not an electronic store, not even a bicycle store…. Food-related? Yuppers!
Kalustyan’s, oh yes.
Sometimes it isn’t as bad for local stores, since I tell myself I can always go back next week. That’s my inner monologue trying to talk some sense into me. Sometimes it works. Other times not.
Last week, I went to T&T. I hadn’t been in a while, since it isn’t close by and I am not (currently) biking (snow! grr!).
Watercress, 2 bunches for 88 cents. That was the plan. Maybe some mushrooms.
I came back with watercress, shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms (love them! on sale!), snow peas (love them!), soy milk (new kind to try!), mango nectar (I have plans!) and a new, mystery ingredient: pea shoots or dou miao (unlike Chinatown, T&T actually labels its produce, hehe).
They were so fresh, and even though I had never heard of them, I figured a new green in my life couldn’t hurt.
In fact, I think the pea shoots were a wonderful discovery: my new favourite green. They are sweet, just like baby spinach (it has been usurped as my previous favourite green), with a hint of sweet pea taste. The leaves/tendrils are soft and silky yet the crunch comes from the stalks. I love that body. A welcome taste of spring amongst this never-ending winter. (Aside, before spring pea season comes pea shoot season!!)
I tossed the pea shoots into this Moroccan Barley Salad, inspired from the Moroccan Barley-Spinach Toss in Radiant Health, Inner Wealth (Tess has posted a version with quinoa here). In my version, barley is toasted, then cooked and mixed with a light, fresh dressing made of fresh orange and lime juices, cinnamon, cumin and green onions. I also topped it with sprouted buckwheat. The barley salad is cinnamon-heavy with a lightness brought from the citrus juices. It isn’t that sweet with the agave because I used currants (not raisins). The sweetness comes from your greens. In my case, pea shoots! For leftovers (not photographed, sorry!), I added even more pea shoots, so this was more of a pea shoots and barley salad, and I was in heaven.
Pea shoots, as it turns out, are the young leaves from the sprouting pea plant. The early shoots and tendrils can be harvested numerous times (it will eventually become bitter as it ages) until the plant produces peas. While they are uber pricey at places like Toronto Sprouts at the St Lawrence Market (over $4 for 125g), I thought they were reasonably priced at T&T ($11/kg or $2 for a large container).
However, it would be even cheaper to grow your own (I hope! In my garden to be!) and I picked up some dried green peas from Rube’s Rice ($0.95/lb) to see if I could grow them at home (I am really encouraged by Shauna’s post!).
In short, scour your Asian grocery stores for this delicacy! Or grow it yourself!
My winter jacket, mitts and hat are now in the front of my closet.
I cleaned the dust off my winter boots.
Winter is here.
And what else does snow make me do?
Snow simply screams, “Soup!”.
I will happily succumb.
Adapted from the Williams-Sonoma Eat Well Cookbook, this is a hearty and creamy wild mushroom soup (sans creme) with barley and thyme. Something great to warm up with this winter.
It is for serious mushroom lovers, with both dried shiitake and fresh cremini mushrooms. Tomato paste adds a deeper body to the soup, and the sherry adds a special flavour. Thyme, a perfect pair to the mushrooms, is a nice accent, along with the lemon juice. Nowhere have I mentioned cream, but this is a substantial soup with the pearl barley. The trick is to puree a portion of the soup for the creaminess.
This week has been incredibly busy at work. Twelve hours a day at work. Every day. Thankfully I was warmed a head of time. I met with my supervisor the week before and he told me to make sure I was eating, exercising and sleeping that week. Implying I would have no free time once November 1st rolled around. On the sleeping, eating and exercising front, only sleeping has suffered a bit. I cooked up a storm last weekend to have enough portable meals to last me all week. It was a huge help and I plan to do the same tomorrow. So, be prepared for a host of leftover friendly one-pot meals in the next few weeks.
Last month my mom dropped off a huge container of pearl barley. ‘Did you want some?’, she asked. Well, I didn’t want it to go to waste, and I love whole grains, so of course I agreed. But the next question was what to do with it. I really like this French barley salad, but I also enjoy trying new recipes. When I made Happiness Soup, I replaced the rice with barley which worked out really well. So when I spotted a recipe for Eggplant and Cashew Barley on Cate’s World Kitchen, it looked so fragrant and fresh with the heartiness of barley. She had also replaced the rice from the original recipe (from Fresh Indian by Sunil Vijayakar) with barley.
I enjoyed this dish, with the savoury Indian spices including cinnamon, cardamom, chili pepper, mustard seeds and bay leaf. It wasn’t spicy because I didn’t add many chili flakes, and would likely increase it next time. I found the sweet roasted red peppers worked well with the savoury barley, the creaminess from the cashews, and the touch of lime juice added that extra flavour kick. The eggplant was more in the background, but worked well with the dish. I really enjoyed how plump the barley was, because I was worried it would be more saucy like a barley risotto.
Colours can be very powerful. Blue may calm, red may engage and when I picked the paint colour for the first house I rented in university, I chose “creme fraiche”, a light, pale yellow. It helped to lighten up oftentimes shady rooms with a bit of cheeriness. Yellow has that power.
Last week, it suddenly became cold and wet. It reaffirmed the end of summer. Combined with feeling a bit lonely, I knew I needed a bit of a pick me up. I searched for the perfect place to use some yellow summer squash. As Claudia Roden has said, “Eating yellow foods will result in laughter and happiness”. Here, you have happiness in a bowl of yellow soup.
I didn’t make up the name of the soup. It is a recipe by Nigella Lawson, which features a lot of happy, yellow ingredients. It was a really yellow soup! If it wasn’t already yellow enough with the yellow summer squash, broth and lemon zest, turmeric added that extra hue of infiltrating yellow. The yellow was so infiltrating it stained my spatula yellow, too! I replaced the rice from the original recipe with barley for more filling soup.
Like all soups, it was a snap to make and I grinned after my look. The lemon really makes this taste like a light soup, but the barley makes this more of a substantial meal. For all of those eating after a post-(Canadian) Thanksgiving feast, this soup is for you, too!
Before I began to blog, I used to post my food pics with its recipe on Facebook. My friends urged me to go public, to share my joy of food and photography with many more people and I am so glad I made to leap to the blogosphere. I really enjoy being part of the food blogging community, where I have met some really awesome people so far. I hope to continue to be pushed to try new dishes, meet new people, etc, over time.
In honour of the 100th post on the blog, I thought I would bring everyone back to where it all began. The first picture in my “Food Porn” album is the above pic. Over Thanksgiving, I made an incredibly delicious French Barley Salad that I Ashley posted at Eat Me, Delicious, which was adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special (which I already owned!). The food was so delicious it got a spotlight in my Thanksgiving 2008 album and also kickstarted my food photography.
It is through practice and reflection that we improve, and I know my photos have improved over the past couple of years. So when I remade the salad recently, I still took its photo… of the leftovers, though, and sadly my photography skills were not at their peak. Can I blame it on my parents having prettier bowls? Nah…. One step forward and two steps back.. sounds like I am dancing backwards? Well, at least it is a tasty trip backwards.
In reflection of where I’ve been culinarily since the beginning of the blog, I added a new category to the blog highlighting my favourite dishes. Enjoy!
This is my submission to Cooking with Whole Foods – Whole Grains, featuring barley, this week’s Weekend Wellness, this week’s BSI featuring green beans, and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays (which also includes salads).
One of my favourite dishes that was prepared during the Tastes of Tomorrow events was a delectable risotto made by Chef Morgan Wilson from Trios Bistro in Toronto. We gobbled up at least 4 servings of the risotto (nevermind the citrus-poached halibut and tomato, lemon and olive relish) and left contently stuffed. However, I know the secret to delicious risotto: a tasty fish broth, good quality Arborio rice, butter and lots of Parmesan cheese. The recipe says just to add Parmesan to taste, but I saw how much he added! LOTS!
Unfortunately, I probably ate my entire week’s caloric intake that night, and I knew it would have to be a very special occasion (ie. after my upcoming 70km charity bike ride would be ideal ) before I tackle it myself. For the other days, I need to find something a bit less artery clogging.
I found a lovely oyster mushroom and barley risotto, which I slightly adapted from the Mayo Clinic Williams-Sonoma Cookbook. Each serving cup is 178 calories which is much easier to handle.
The dish is only for serious mushroom lovers. If you only kind of like mushrooms, this is not for you. Both the shiitakes and oyster mushrooms provided a meaty feel, almost akin to seafood. There was a nice earthy flavour to the dish and I liked the combination of barley with the short-grain sushi rice. There was enough cheese for flavour and texture and I liked the subtle difference Asiago brought to the meal. However, I won’t lie. It wasn’t nearly as creamy as my butter and cheese-laden risotto friend. But I am willing to make these sacrifices for my own health.