One reason Easter snuck up on me this year is because I do not get a statutory holiday this weekend. In Canada, I usually get Good Friday off. (In Quebec, I think they get the Monday off instead). Here in Texas, nothing. Although I think stores may be closed on Sunday.
The second reason, of course, is that we will not be celebrating it with family or friends.
I have even less knowledge of Passover but it passed my mind as I made this quintessential Arabic-Jewish dish: Shakshouka.
I first encountered shakshouka (also known as shakshuka or chakchoukah) in Morocco. At its roots, it is a mildly spiced tomato dish in which eggs are poached directly in the tomatoes. Like most dishes, every city had its own variation: more vegetables, less vegetables, more spice, less spice.
I was drawn to this version due to the overabundance of vegetables. Tomatoes, bell peppers and cabbage. Shakshouka’s country of origin may lie in Morocco’s neighbouring country of Tunisia, known for its hot and spicy harissa pepper paste. While I have made my own (not-too-spicy) harissa before, I opted for something quasi-similar I had in my kitchen: pat-chi. Aka, kale and collard kimchi spiced with Thai chiles. Aka, related to kimchi with a yaya-twist. A little bit goes a long way to flavour our vegetable ragout.
To keep this vegan, I swapped the eggs (perhaps totally losing the essence of shakshouka) for chickpeas. I loved it. But sadly, upon investigation found that with this swap, this would no longer be appropriate for passover. No chickpeas for Passover. Perhaps you could serve the ragout with some quinoa: now kosher approved for Passover.
Will you be celebrating Easter or Passover this weekend?
Even though Rob was away, in the end, it didn’t stop me from a) cooking some delicious meals and b) going out to cycle.
Going out for a bike ride by myself doesn’t seem like a big accomplishment, but I always save my long rides to do with friends. Of course, I commute by myself, but I always want to do my longer, harder challenges with someone else in case we get into trouble (flat tire, accident, get lost, etc).
This weekend, though, I took matters into my own hands. It was cold and windy but I circumvented the rain. I still managed to pedal 100 km over the weekend. Baby steps, as we haven’t done more than 30 km within the past few months. I stayed with a well-travelled and well-loved route.
I even had a flat tire. A slow leak I discovered Sunday morning and took out my commuter instead. I didn’t want to waste time and lose motivation changing my tire.
Because I split my ride over 2 days, I still had enough time to do my weekend batch cooking. One of my favourites was this soup. All.things.caramelized: caramelized cabbage, caramelized onions and caramelized leeks. If I had roasted the carrots, it may have turned into a sweetness overload. Just kidding. While you dirty a bunch of dishes, everything cooks or roasts in parallel so it doesn’t take as long as you might fear. Combining the sweet vegetables with celeriac and white beans countered with a bit of bitterness, but the broth was spiked with dill that brought everything together.
I liked how the soup was made with winter vegetable staples (carrot, cabbage, celeriac, leeks) but I find fresh dill has a spring feel. Granted we have no snow, but the warmer weather will definitely be appreciated.
This is my submission to this week’s Souper Sundays.
I don’t know what is in the air. I assure you, it was not weather-related. No snow or ice around here.
Between myself and my sister-in-law, we have a veritable collection of injuries: 2 sprained knees and 1 sprained (or broken, we’re not sure) toe. Sadly, it was me with both knees sprained. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) for my sister-in-law, sprained and broken toes are treated the same way.
Also sad is that I have not yet come up with a sexy story to explain my bilaterally braced knees. NOT MY BIKE, thankyouverymuch. In any case, each day is getting better.
I followed my mnemonic from medical school: RICE. Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. (Of course, after a free consultation from my trauma surgeon friend to confirm my suspicions nothing was broken). And of course: anti-inflammatories for pain management. Turns out there is a modified mnemonic for that inclusion: PRINCE, including P for protection and N for NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. I like it!
Serendipitously, I also happened to make the perfect “anti-inflammatory” soup a few days before I went down. A warming soup filled with cabbage, mushrooms, garlic and tofu. Kimchi, pickled napa cabbage, added a lot of flavour. It was perfect to help me recover.
There is evidence fruits and vegetables possess anti-inflammatory properties and the reasons are multi-factorial. Some fruits and vegetables contain naturally occurring salicylates, the compound found in aspirin. This explains why vegetarians have naturally occurring salicylate levels in their blood, albeit not likely therapeutic. While I have heard of people shunning “nightshade” vegetables, including potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers and eggplant, because they are “pro-inflammatory”, I have not found any solid scientific evidence to support hiding from the nightshades. (If you know of any articles, please share!).
Anyways, this soup. Delicious. Not too spicy although this soup was a bit of a mystery to me. When I ate it right after making it, it was the perfect level of spice. I added the kimchi to taste, obviously. However, the soup was pretty bland as leftovers. The chiles had mellowed! To ramp the flavour back up, I added fresh kimchi to each subsequent serving. Definitely add to taste. Enjoy!
You may not have noticed, but I snuck away last week. An absolutely epic road trip, starting at Portland, the vegan mecca, meandering through lakes and mountains, including Crater Lake, reaching our ultimate destination: Burning Man. I hope to summarize our adventures and if I don’t I’ll be sure to share if Rob posts anything on his website. He is much better at looking through photos afterwards. I have a hard enough time keeping track of my food photos. ;)
Before we left, I tried to cook through our pile of produce. Serendipitously, I had everything for this delicious Caribbean Stew. It is from Moosewood’s latest cookbook: Moosewood Restaurant Favorites. Through their collective, they run a restaurant in Ithica, New York, and have written many cookbooks over the past few decades. Most of my Moosewood cookbooks were bought/discovered at used book sales, although they are still keeping up with the times. Their latest cookbook, while not entirely vegan (they still use cheese, although less than before) and not even vegetarian (they have recipes for fish), includes updates from their restaurant favourites. Between their section dedicated to Soups (Thai Butternut Squash Soup, Texas Barbecue Bean Soup, Red Lentil Soup), to Main Dish Salads (Peruvian Quinoa and Vegetable Salad), to Curries and Stews (Lentil-Vegetable Sambar, Navajo Stew), a section dedicated to Beans (Basque Beans, Caribbean Red Beans, Creole Red Beans), and sides (Lentil Dhal), I was very pleased with their vegan recipes.
And this Caribbean Stew? It did not disappoint. A delicious medley of sweet potato, red bell pepper, tomato, cabbage and kale in a flavourful (not too) spicy broth made with ginger and green chiles. The dash of nutmeg and lime finish kept this special. As part of their growing process, Moosewood recommends more fresh herbs than before (I learned that lesson, too!) and this included fresh ginger, thyme and cilantro. They also recommended freshly grated nutmeg which is definitely more potent than pre-bought powdered. I modified the original recipe slightly, noted below. I decreased the ginger, although I probably didn’t need to be scared of the bit of heat it would impart. I also found the directions to cook everything on low to be too slow, so I increased my heat to medium-low and eventually medium. In the end, though, it was a fabulous soup. Tons of veggies with a delicious broth. A bit lacking in the protein department, I served it with the suggested brown rice. I bet you could easily sneak in some beans or tofu in there, too.
I really want to share this cookbook with you. Thankfully the publisher is letting me give away a cookbook to one reader living in the US or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite Moosewood dish. If you haven’t made anything by Moosewood yet, have a look through the table of contents of Moosewood Restaurant Favorites on amazon (or my list below) and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on September 15, 2013. Good luck!
Other Moosewood recipes I have shared:
French Barley Salad
Chinese Cabbage and Fermented Black Beans
Spanish Green Bean and Lime Bean Stew
Japanese Winter Stew
African Pineapple Kale Peanut Stew
Italian Stew with Winter Squash and Chickpeas
Thyme-Spiced Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and Cranberries.
I am thrilled you guys adore Vegansprout as much as me. I think there is something about vegans who like documenting and rating their food. We are a funny bunch in many ways, that’s for sure.
In her interview, Allison mentioned she wanted to host cookbook challenges. Anyone could join in on the fun, documenting their experience with the recipes. The first cookbook she chose? Vegan Indian Cooking.
I have tried (baked) pakoras and besan/khaman dhokla. For the cookbook challenge, I made these baked veggie squares. This is a fusion of the two dishes. A mix of shredded veggies are combined with chickpea flour and silken tofu. It is spiced with standard Indian fare. Since I chose to bake them in a larger container, they were more thin. However, they remained moist and flavourful. The tofu added a chewy egginess. If you like heat, add more chiles. For me, this was perfect. Topped with a bit of tamarind chutney, these were a delicious snack.
The kindle version of Vegan Indian Cooking was recently available for free. However, it was only for US customers so I missed my chance to snag it. A bit of searching led me to find a pdf version on the publisher’s website, though. The full cookbook is available here. Now you can have your own copy, too! Perfect! Please join in the first cookbook challenge. You can find recipe reviews from Vegan Indian Cooking on Vegansprout here. :)
Do you ever challenge yourself to try new recipes in a cookbook, too?
You know how bloggers tend to post holiday dishes before the actual holiday? Do you think they make the same dish for the real holiday? Or make something new?
Me: a little from column A and a little from column B. Cooking for me, column B the majority of the time. For guests, perhaps some from column A.
For Cinco de Mayo, I shared my Mexican Chili Salad Wraps the week before. Rob celebrated Cinco de Mayo with a lovely corn and avocado salsa and oodles of other Mexican treats. No salad wraps. Except that was on May 4. On May 5, Rob and I actually went out for Thai food to celebrate a friend’s birthday (they actually had a few vegan options -youpee!).
But then, after seeing others share their Mexican eats, I had a craving for more Mexican. Post-Cinco.
Flipping through Bittman’s latest cookbook, VB6: Vegan Before 6:00 (good review of the cookbook here), I knew exactly what I was drawn to: black bean tacos with a tangy cabbage slaw. I had my mango “taco” wraps ready to go. I love all things “tangy” especially if it means lots of citrus juice (lime!). And well, beans, oh yes. I have used black beans in many Mexican dishes, but I was intrigued by Bittman’s suggestion to mash them, spice them (lots of garlic!), and then roast them.
It worked really well. While the beans crisped up in the oven, I made the beautiful cabbage slaw. It came together seamlessly. Call them tostadas with crispy flatbreads or roll them into tacos. My mango wraps were crispy but if you let the beans sit on top of the wraps for a while, the wraps absorb some of the moistness and became pliable again. Because they were very thin, they were very delicate and made a big delicious mess. A beautiful delicious mess. I can’t remember the last time I bought red cabbage, but gosh, isn’t it gorgeous?
So, for all you seasoned bloggers and foodies out there, do you remake your pre-holiday dishes? Or try something new again? :)
Guys, I am loving your list of your favourite raw recipes. It isn’t too late to win a copy of Annelie’s Raw Food Power. To enter, just leave a comment here telling me about your favourite raw meal. Definitely include a link to a recipe if it is online, like Gabby’s Raw “Baked” Fettuccine Alfredo, Genevieve’s Mango Gazpacho or Hannah’s Raw Blondies with Chocolate Ganache. I really liked Ellen’s suggest of a Korean collard wrap with Asian pear and sweet chili sauce. Sounds delicious! I ended up hunting down some Asian pear, napa cabbage and collards but at the last minute, as the winds warmed me with the southern breeze (this was right before it snowed yesterday), I changed my mind. Instead of a wrap, I went with a chopped salad. And instead of Korean and I went Mexican with a smoky avocado and cumin dressing.
When asked what I usually eat, I explain to people that I love to make soups and salads. Not your flaky salads and not your brothy soups, I prefer hearty one-pot meals in a bowl. My salads tend to be either grain-based or bean-based, whereas I don’t make the standard leafy side salad with a simple vinaigrette. I suppose I don’t find it very high-yield. If I want leafy greens, I’ll add them to my soup or salad!
Not all dressings are created equal, and this smoky avocado dressing is creamy but intense at the same time. It wouldn’t work with flimsy baby greens, which is why I opted for heartier sliced Napa cabbage and collard greens. To counter the heaviness of the dressing, I added a touch of sweetness to the salad with Asian pear and red bell pepper. To add even more goodness, I added some arugula sprouts and to add a good protein source I added chickpeas [sprouted chickpeas keeps this raw, but cooked chickpeas are what I prefer]. With the dressing thinned out over the salad, it was a nice merriment of flavours and textures, although a tad heavy on cumin (even for me).
OK, next up: working on that Korean wrap. :)
I am loving the conversations from the last post about the evidence surrounding eating a Mediterranean diet. The New York Times wrote a follow-up article that summarizes my feelings pretty closely: there is a surprising lack of evidence for nutritional recommendations. While in medical school, I remember being taught that the only thing shown to keep weight loss on long-term was bariatric surgery. Perhaps that is because the proper studies have not be done. To be fair, I learned the DASH diet with was better than any single medication to reduce high blood pressure. Hopefully, the flurry of interest from this past study will propel researchers to investigate plant-based whole foods eats. The New York Times suggested a vegan diet is not a long-term option, but I disagree.
Onwards with another Mediterranean meal? Vegan AND delicious? :)
I love it when I know it is going to be a good week. By Sunday, after I do my batch cooking and a bit of taste testing, I have a good idea how my meals will be for the week. Flops or wins? I never seem to know with these Random Recipes.
This one was a big win!
Dom pushed us to randomly pick a recipe from our (physical) recipe pile. I still like to print out my recipes for the week and sometimes throw in bonus recipes if there is empty space on my page. While cleaning the kitchen table, I decided to tackle one of my recent but neglected clipped out recipes.
Sometimes I am blown away by the simplicity of good food. I wasn’t expecting this to taste so good as it did, so I was pleased to have such great tasting lunches all week.
This recipe was for a ribollita, an Italian peasant soup featuring vegetable soup with day-old bread. Most versions use leftover vegetable soup, but here we create a complex soup simply from roasted vegetables. Roasted fennel was new to me, but I really liked the medley from roasted red peppers, zucchinis, carrots, mushrooms and onions. White beans add bulk and the giant corona white beans were a perfect match to the chunky vegetables. Sliced cabbage added an almost noodle-like feel with some structure to the vegetable soup. I added both tomato paste and red pepper paste to the broth simply because I was too lazy to open a new can of tomato paste. I really liked the deep flavours from both pastes, but feel free to use only tomato paste if that is what you have on hand. I omitted the bread completely, so I doubt this is still a ribollita proper, but it sounds like a wonderful addition for this hearty soup.
Which soups are warming your belly this winter?
You know you are a food blogger if…
According to this list, I am not a very good blogger. I can only relate to:
3. You’ve made kale chips. And there is a recipe for it on your blog.
I’ve made kale chips but it is not on my blog. Or does my kale chip pizza count?
6. You take the same photos of the produce at the farmer’s market that you did last year, but you can’t help it. The rainbow chard is so pretty!
I don’t recall actually doing this but I could see myself doing and saying this.
7. You really are confused as to why granola is so expensive at the grocery store.
Uh yeah, especially when it is so easy to make at home.
8. You go shopping with your significant other, and at some point, while looking for a specific item on your grocery list, you turn to him/her and say “We need to shop at a white person grocery store.”
Sounds like something I could say but I don’t think I have. In my defense, ethnic grocery stores don’t carry nutritional yeast!
9. When dining out, no one is allowed to eat the food until you have whipped out your camera/iPhone/Android and taken a shot of it first.
Rob and I both do this!
11. You scope out restaurant tables at lunch with proximity to windows to provide natural lighting for
your Rob’s photographs.
If the light isn’t right, I don’t even try taking a photo.
19. You have run out of room for your cookbooks. Yet you still buy more.
Guilty, as charged.
21. You think Pinterest is a godsend as well as the devil’s work.
27. You start to get nervous when you are down to only
one pound of butter, one bag of flour, one head of garlic, or one onion.
But is that really because I am a food blogger or just a meticulous cook that likes garlic and onions?
9/40. I fail. ;)
I have others suggestions: You know are a food blogger when you can’t NOT make a new recipe, when you make meals during the day to help take photographs in natural light, or you have a special spot dedicated for food photography.
I never really thought much about blogging and my life, 3 years – has it really been that long?, until I tried to stop blogging.
I recently went to a party and planned to keep things low stress. I would make a repeater recipe: My Crunchy Cabbage Salad with an Orange-Tahini Dressing. However, I knew I could eat half of it, so I decided to double the recipe. After I cut all that cabbage, it seemed like a heck of a lot. Even if there would be 12 people at the party. So I reverted back to my die-hard blogger instincts and made a second salad instead of doubling the original salad.
This is the second salad. Which I photographed before the party and repackaged. Because who would share a cake with a piece missing at a party? (#24) Only if it is my own party! And really, I just claim the first piece. :)
While cabbage haters would likely not be pleased with 2 salads, both featuring cabbage, I was glad that I brought both (just like kale salads, cabbage salads keep well as leftovers). The Orange-Tahini Cilantro Cabbage Salad is bright and flavourful but this second salad was warm and earthy. Onions and garlic are pan-fried along with cabbage that is gently cooked to remove some of its bite. Granny Smith apples add tartness and sweetness along with raisins. Tossed with rosemary and balsamic vinegar, you have a simple salad that is more than the sum of its parts. I used green cabbage which became a bit muddled from the balsamic vinegar. My suggestion would be to use white balsamic if you have it or use purple cabbage instead.
The salads had mixed reviews. Personally, I preferred the new salad but the guests seemed to prefer my old stand-by.
How do you know that you are a food blogger?
This is my submission to this month’s No Croutons Required for special salads for guests, to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Lynne, to this month‘s Herbs on Saturdays and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays
My choice of bedtime reading usually includes a cookbook. Rob actually reads novels. Books with chapters, a beginning, a middle and an end.
When we packed for Colombia, we debated how many books to bring. I typically read 1 book while on vacation: my travel guide. Rob was adamant that he would likely read a bunch of books. In the end, we brought 5 books, including the travel guide.
After 2 weeks, I had read the travel guide and 1 book. Rob had plowed through all the books.
While I don’t read many novels, I really enjoyed my book: The Fortune Cookie Chronicles. It is a collection of short, thought-provoking essays about American culture through the eyes of Chinese food. Lee starts off by exploring people’s thoughts on fortune cookies after a national lottery gets pummeled with too many winners- they had all picked the same numbers from a fortune cookie. In a dizzying around-the-world tour-de-force, Lee visits the home of the real General Tso, puzzles together the origins of chop suey and the first fortune cookie and crowns the world’s greatest Chinese restaurant. This isn’t a flippant ready-for-the-masses book, though. It is smartly written in an accessible manner. Have you ever thought about the dangers of being a delivery person? Or the lives affected through human trafficking? Or why the Chinese food in the US cannot be found in China?
To be honest, I did not really like Chinese food take-out but as a child, we had the occasional visit to the local Chinese restaurant. I can see how Chinese food helped to embrace the worldly culinary culture we now have. With its emphasis on saccharine-sweet and cornstarch-goopy sauces, I haven’t been to a Chinese restaurant in ages, though. I have made a handful of Chinese meals at home, usually healthier vegetable stir-fries, where I can reduce the sauce myself without cornstarch and keep any sweeteners to a minimum.
For this month’s Random Recipes, we had to randomly pick a cookbook and cook the middle recipe. My chosen cookbook was Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health and at 348 pages, the middle page was 174. No recipe on that page. I rounded down to find the first recipe: Cabbage with Fermented Black Beans (page 171). No stranger to stir-fries with fermented black beans, I thought this looked like a great recipe to try. However, a meal it wasn’t, so I tweaked the recipe to include julienned five-spiced seitan, as a nod to my favourite Braised Cabbage with Chorizo Seitan Sausage.
I am really digging veggie-centric stir-fries lately, and this was no disappointment. Quick to put together, dinner was served in under 20 minutes. The fermented black beans add the depth of flavour ones expects from authentic Chinese food which is highlighted with rice vinegar and sake. The ginger and garlic add a nice hit of flavour and feel free to add Chinese chili paste if you want it hotter. The Chinese five-spiced seitan was a perfect complement to the wilted cabbage, conferring sustenance to the dish with a major protein component.
So, tell me. Did you grow up eating Chinese food? Do you still eat it? What is your favourite Chinese recipe?
My first meal after I arrived in Tokyo was okonomiyaki. It was from the closest restaurant to our hostel. We had no clue what we were ordering, pointing to pictures instead from a photo album. All the while, making sure there would be no shrimp (no ebi!). We ended up with an assortment of vegetable pancakes that were cooked up on a hot grill in front of us. Some with more flour, others with different vegetables. I remember one being bright pink (I forget what made it that colour). Once the server noticed we were eating them plain, he encouraged us to try the sauces on the side. To be honest, we left wondering what the hype was about okonomiyaki.
We persevered, though. When we went to Osaka, we tried okonomiyaki again, at a very popular hole-in-the-wall resto. We had to wait in line for 30 minutes, but when we finally snatched a seat in the tiny resto, we were able to watch our cabbage pancakes being made in front of us: thinly sliced cabbage and carrots were mixed with a seasoned flour and dashi stock batter, grilled and then topped with your chosen toppings- most of them with bacon- and then it was slathered with Japanese barbecue sauce (okonomi sauce), and later drizzled with Japanese mayonnaise, and sprinkled with parsley flakes. A crispy veggie pancake with a soft middle, topped with savoury sauces. Delicious. I was hooked.
Okonomiyaki literally means as you like it. Want yours with veggies? Want yours with sauce? Do you want your toppings in the batter with noodles (Hiroshima-style), or on top (Osaka-style)?
Or in my case, do I want mine vegan? Oh yes! I was bookmarked this recipe immediately from Big Vegan because it used tofu as the base instead of the traditional flour and eggs. While I have made Kevin’s okonomiyaki before, I found it hard to flip and keep intact while cooking. As such, I was thrilled to see this version. While already nontraditional, you bake it as a huge pancake instead of frying it on the stovetop. It took more like 60 minutes to bake but it was delicious. Alone, the tofu-miso-nooch batter was flavourful even before we cooked it. The consistency was a bit more heavier on the batter on the batter-cabbage ratio than I remember mine in Japan, but it was great as is. We would definitely make this again.
My version was topped simply with black sesame seeds and toasted shredded nori, whereas Rob went more all-out with some tonkatsu sauce, kewpie mayonnaise and bonito fish flakes. Remember, as you like it. If you want to try your hand at homemade mayo and okonomi sauces, there are recipes forthcoming in Terry’s new book. I haven’t tried them, though. Big Vegan also has suggestions for wasabi-mayo and tomato sauces. Or go simple like Heidi, who used almonds and chives to garnish her veggie pancake.
I was planning on talking about Mixed Diet relationships in this post, but I think I will save that for my next post.
The heart of Ethiopian cooking comes from berbere, its spicy blend of herbs and chiles, as well as niter kibbeh, their spiced butter/oil. Once you have those ingredients, you are off to the races for quick, tasty Ethiopian food.
I made a huge batch of niter kibbeh with a tub of Earth Balance spiced with savoury spices like cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, garlic, and ginger. I used the recipe from Papa Tofu but there are many recipes online as well.
In fact, when I first found the recipe for Warm Cabbage and Green Beans from the New York Times courtesy of Marcus Samuelsson, I quickly realized that the first part of the recipe was making the niter kibbeh. True to its Ethiopian roots, it uses an entire 1/2 lb of butter in the recipe but trust me, you don’t need all that fat. Trim that 1/2 cup to 1 tbsp, thank you very much. Instead of mild fassoulia, the ginger makes this a spicy and very flavourful cabbage and green beans side dish. This works really well with the mild split pea puree, for a contrast in flavour, texture and spiciness.
Typically, Ethiopian food is a combination of a lot of little dishes served overtop a sour fermented teff pancake called injera. The sauces are absorbed by the pancake as you munch away. Then you scrape up the soggy, sour greatness. Sadly, if there is one thing I know I can’t duplicate at home, it would be making a super huge injera like I had in my last post. I don’t have any skillet that would fit such a huge pancake!
That doesn’t mean I didn’t try to make my own injera, though. Living in quasi-Ethiopian town means that teff flour is easily purchased (although still quite pricy) and I was up for making my own mini injera. However, my homemade version was no comparison to the real thing. I used the Mini Injera recipe from Celebrate Vegan but they didn’t turn out so well. Dare I suggest it was a complete flop? I am not sure what went wrong but the pancakes were too holey and took way too long to cook to make it a feasible option. They still tasted nice, though, and I even tried my hand at an Ethiopian wrap with the kik alicha and cabbage (verdict: tasty but hard to photograph with all the leaky holes!). We ended becoming frustrated and threw all of the injera batter into the skillet for an injera scramble. It was suboptimal but it cooked the batter more quickly. ;)
With this trio of recipes from this week (Ethiopian Split Pea Puree (Kik Alicha) & Fasoulia (Ethiopian Carrots and Green Beans Simmered in a Tomato Sauce)) along with the Ethiopian Split Pea and Kabocha Squash Stew with Collards, you are able to put together a veritable Ethiopian feast. Enjoy!
Rob likes to have dinner themes for his birthday parties. Last year, it was Japanese.
We had planned on going Ethiopian this year, as it is the theme of our current neighbourhood. However, we changed our minds at the last minute because I wasn’t in the mood to cook up 5 different cooked dishes.
While I can dream up menus for days on end, they involve vegan dishes. Rob knew that some of our guests might balk at the lack of meat, so he offered to make a Southwestern Pulled Brisket in the slow cooker. With his meal chosen, I crafted the remainder of the menu with it in mind.
Therefore, this year it was a hodge podge of Southern US and Mexican dishes, foreshadowing our next, next move to Texas in 2013. My (not so) discerning palate can’t tell the difference between Texan and Carolina BBQ styles, but I can tell you how delicious everything turned out.
I was initially hesitant, but Rob encouraged me to try my hand at jackfruit carnitas. We had all the fixings for great tacos for the brisket, so why not have another filling, too?
I eventually settled on a recipe for Carolina BBQ-inspired pulled “pork” from Jessica.
Jackfruit is a fruit from Southeast Asia. Rob tells me it tastes like bubble gum. While the ripe fruit is sweet, you can buy canned young jackfruit in brine, which is quite flavourless. It has been used as a meat substitute due to its texture. After being cooked, it pulls apart into stringy bits akin to pulled pork and beef brisket.
While Rob’s brisket took 8 hours in the slow cooker, my BBQ jackfruit pulled “pork” took an hour, tops.
They key of the recipe is the spice blend, and here we used a plethora of spices to capture a Southern BBQ flavour: sweet smoked paprika, Aleppo chili flakes, mustard, tomato and red pepper pastes, tamarind and vinegar for some tang and sweetness from the maple syrup (yes, that’s 4/8 of my favourite ingredients in one sauce!). Such a glorious BBQ flavour with a bit of a kick. Chile heads, again, feel free to use the suggested cayenne, but I though it was plenty spicy without it. Dry frying brought out the flavours from the dry spices, then a slow simmer expanded the saucy flavours. Baking it firmed up the jackfruit so that it was more akin to pork.
As the jackfruit bakes, or if you are more inclined to make the brisket (it had rave, rave reviews, btw, and Rob loved its sheer simplicity to prepare), make some pickled red onions. I know many people shun fresh red onions, and a quick marinade in vinegar with some salt and sugar can really bring out their flavour. We used the recipe suggested by Deb.
Both the brisket and BBQ jackfruit pulled pork was served with an assortment of toppings – shredded Romaine, chopped tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, sliced cabbage, avocado and the pickled red onions. While we had roti and pitas for guests, I opted to make wraps with Romaine lettuce leaves. The jackfruit was so flavourful that you didn’t need so much per wrap. While Rob’s 3 lbs of beef brisket easily fed 10 people, my 20 oz of jackfruit served more like 2-4 people, depending on how many toppings you added.
OK, things have turned around in my kitchen. My cooking rut is over!
I even have witnesses. :)
My own alfalfa sprouts grew, too!
It has been quite busy in the kitchen lately. In the span of a week, we celebrated Valentine’s Day, Rob’s birthday and our (2 year!) anniversary from our first date.
Rob has been a sweetie, picking recipes from my Top Recipes from 2011 post so he could make me dinner on V-Day and braved the elements on our anniversary for a special barbecue delight. However, I was positively cooking up a storm for his birthday party. I forged ahead with new recipes, and I can’t wait to share them all with you!
But first, let me share with you this delicious curry. I had bookmarked “Plantains and Cabbage with Split Pigeon Peas” after Rob had success with a Caribbean black eyed pea and plantain curry, when I first tried cooked plantains. Rob went a bit heavier on the curry powder, so the dish didn’t thrill me entirely but the plantains were neat. A starchy, sweet banana. This curry from 660 Curries had many of our favourite ingredients like coconut and cabbage, with new-to-me ripe plantains, and it had been a while since I had cooked with creamy toor dal. Plus, I was drawn to Iyer’s recipe blurb where he wrote: You will be eloquent in your praise and use highfalutin words like “yum”. Highfalutin! Yum! And no, he does not lie. This was delicious and possibly one of my favourite curries to date.
Did you know you can buy frozen coconut? It is a common ingredient found in Asian grocers – check it out! While you could substitute reconstituted dried coconut, I think that the frozen coconut played a key element of the success of this recipe.
In the summer, Rob and I had a fun time (literally) cracking open a fresh coconut. I used a big knife to shave off the outer skin, and then scored a circle to open it. I tried to smack it open with the heel of my knife but it didn’t work. Rob then took said coconut to the front porch and smashed it against the front step to crack it open. We then took turns sipping the coconut water through a straw. Bliss. I ended up using the coconut flesh for an Indonesian black eyed pea salad with a tamarind dressing.
But I like to plan for success. So in case we couldn’t open the coconut, I bought frozen coconut as a back up. Suffice it to say, it has been in my freezer since the summer. Since we have a move looming in the next few months, I have been trying to clean out the freezer. I finally busted it out for this recipe and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the results.
This is a delicious curry, and as I made it, I couldn’t help but remember Aarti’s butternut squash, coconut and lentil stew that Rob made in the fall. I consider Iyer’s recipes quite authentic, so I was wondering whether Aarti’s was an Americanized version of the dish since it seemed so similar. Nope, the recipes are similar but quite different in their own merits. However, if you loved Aarti’s stew, then you’ll adore this version. Likewise, if you like this stew, definitely give Aarti’s stew a try, too.
Here, in this curry, you have a creamy broth from the toor dal. Cabbage and ripe plantains add bulk. Coriander, mustard and curry leaves offer multiple levels of flavour. And that frozen coconut? It reaches out and gives you a tropical hug. I went a bit tame with the chile as Iyer suggests using 2 red Thai chiles or cayenne chiles. This wasn’t spicy, so go nuts chile heads! This is a pretty labour intensive curry, dirtying up a few pots, your food processor and in my case also the mortar and pestle, but once you taste it, you’ll forget all about that… and start using highfalutin words like yum. :)
As I type out the ingredients, I realize that they seem so isoteric. For those in Toronto, a trip to Sunny’s (or your favourite Asian grocer) is all you need*. I can’t remember if I’ve seen Aleppo at Sunny’s, but any chile pepper will do. You may have to wait for your plantain to turn a macabre black, but trust me, this will propel anyone out from their cooking rut.
*While you are at it, pick up some canned young jackfruit in brine for my next (super awesome) recipe from Rob’s party!!
For all the raw foodies out there, do you know if the frozen coconut can be used for all the raw desserts that call for fresh coconut?
While I didn’t make any resolutions for the New Year, one thing I am trying to improve in the kitchen is to become more flexible. Rob is good about perfecting a few key recipes or whipping up impromptu stir-fries whereas I prefer to keep trying something new. I realize this isn’t the most sustainable practice when life gets busy, so I am looking more into sauces that make the dish along with an assortment of vegetables with a grain or bean.
In this case, the sauce is a toasted sesame orange teriyaki sauce from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth. It was easy to put together, and with freshly squeezed orange juice, the orange flavour was light, not dominant or ooky sweet. It can’t really compete with my salmon teriyaki, but it is nice in its own regard.
Tess suggests serving the sauce with a stir fry of veggies including garlic-infused shiitake mushrooms, broccoli, cabbage and carrot along with tamari-marinated baked tofu and rice. I added in some cauliflower to make up for my lack of broccoli and substituted quinoa for the rice (see, I am becoming flexible…). A sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds seals the deal for this simple weeknight meal. Use any combination of vegetables with your favourite grain, top with this teriyaki sauce and you have a fool-proof dinner. You could also stir-fry your veggies with the teriyaki sauce but I preferred its bright flavours as a sauce.
I know this looks like a daunting recipe, but once you make the components – a big batch of quinoa (or your favourite grain), the teriyaki sauce, the baked tofu, and chopped veggies, you can easily whip up a quick weeknight dinner.