Welcome to my latest obsession: fried capers.
If you have yet to try them yet, try to imagine how they would taste. Crunchy, salty little nibbles. It surprised me how much they taste like popcorn, I kid you not. Combined with the pickled currants (tart and sweet), and the avocado (creamy!), this salad was perfectly balanced. I know I say that a lot here, but this salad rises above its peers. It could possibly be my best salad of the year. I thought my Cali-Coco BLT Salad was the best so far, but this week I switched allegiances. It could possibly usurp the former champion, crowned in 2011: The New Best Salad Ever aka Roasted Garlic Tofu Salad with Cilantro Rice, Black Beans and a Mango Salsa.
I am no stranger to quick pickled dried fruits, but the benefit of pickling dried currants instead of raisins, is that you don’t get the goopy juicy raisins that don’t particularly appeal to me.
My inspiration for this fascinating combination was the ever-fabulous Deb of Smitten Kitchen, although I changed many things, including adding the much maligned leafy greens. I also chose to roast my cauliflower and added the fantastically creamy avocado. I look forward to trying her riced fresh cauliflower in the warmer months. The fried capers? Completely her idea. Her poetic prose made me stock up on capers pronto:
Crispy fried capers are one of my favorite garnishes, ever. They are way more interesting than bacon bits — yes, I said it. When you drop capers (that you’ve patted out on paper towels as best as possible) in a little puddle of oil, magical things happen — their layers curl out and crisp, like the world’s tiniest blooming onion. Like all fried, crunchy things, they don’t keep long under the weight of dressing; I recommend adding them only right before serving. I usually use brined capers for this, but both brined and salt-packed will work.
Um yeah, totally try them out. Please.
It is nice to be home again. While I have a very bare kitchen (some borrowed knives, cutting board, pot and frypan only with a few containers), I am still happy to be starting my new life. We had dedicated more time for unpacking over the long weekend, but since we had nothing to unpack, we spent more time at my parents, thoroughly exploiting their fully functional kitchen.
We quickly gravitated to make old favourites: Tamarind Lentils, Pad Thai, and Moroccan Carrot and Chickpea Salad. Then, finally itching to make something new, I decided to make a spin on two of my other favourite salads, aka The Best Lentil Salad and The Best Chickpea Salad. This time, I used lentils, capers and currants but with a dressing more similar to the tahini-maple-curry dressing from the chickpea salad. I added some greens, too, which I like to add to lentil salads. It was so delicious, it barely lasted one meal.
Got to love simple salads like this. What is your favourite summer salad?
This post is a twofer.
First of all, I have a gift for all of you! A free Beyond Meat product – click here for your coupon.
I don’t tend to get too excited about mock meats (it is a bit processed for my liking), but was really curious after it was selected as the “real chicken” on the Today’s Show. Some things are easier to find in the United States, so with a coupon for a free product (see above), how could we refuse? Beyond Meat isn’t new, but it was new to me and definitely uncannily similar to chicken, complete with the grill marks. You buy it frozen and just need to defrost it prior to serving. Thus, it was super easy to make and great source of protein.
Now for the book review, as advertised, with an eccentric Caesar salad. Eccentric because it is no standard Caesar. I mean, it is a vegan version of a decidedly un-vegan salad but the twist comes from the nutritional yeast and curry powder in the dressing and the mishmash of additional ingredients. The cashew-based dressing was simply delicious, aka awesome sauce. Paired with the fresh lettuce, buttery avocado, briny capers and hemp seeds, it was a superfood-packed salad. (And by superfoods, I mean super tasting foods!) Instead of the herby croutons, I wanted this to be a complete meal and thus added the chicken-less strips overtop. The strips look a bit too perfectly rectangular but they tasted great.
The recipe comes from Straight from the Earth, by mother and daughter team Myra and Marea Goodman of Earthbound Farm fame. Neither one is vegan but have created a gorgeous cookbook filled with tantalizing recipes. There is something for everyone between the two cooks. I found myself naturally gravitating to Marea’s recipes, who learned her vegan culinary tricks while living and cooking for fellow vegans in a co-op while at college. Her mother’s tastes are more classical. As an example, Marea has a recipe for chipotle-lime Brazil nuts and Myra has a recipe for double-roasted maple-spiced hazelnuts. OK, OK, both sound delicious. Lots of delicious recipes, including a nut-free crispy baked kale chips with nutritional yeast and shiitake mushroom, water chestnut and tofu lettuce cups.
Thankfully, the publisher allowed me to share the recipe and giveaway the cookbook to a reader living in the continental United States. To be entered in the random draw for the cookbook, please leave a comment below telling me what you think of mock meats. The winner will be selected at random on June 8, 2014. Good luck!
Other recipes from Straight from the Earth spotted elsewhere:
Note: I was given a copy of the cookbook from the publisher. I was under no obligation to share a review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.
PS. I am sharing this with Souper Sundays.
PPS. Stayed tuned because tomorrow I have another giveaway! (more…)
The joke is on you. This may look impressive, but it is still very easy to make.
Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that is finally getting its time in the limelight. Is cauliflower the new kale? Roasted, riced, pureed, mashed, curried, I have done it all. The last one on my hit-list was to make cauliflower steaks.
Basically, you roast or bake thick slabs of cauliflower and season them in any combination of flavours. I think it was Denis Cotter, in For The Love of Food, who admitted he could only ever get 2 steaks from one head of cauliflower. He is correct. Try carefully cutting cauliflower and you will still end up with cauliflower carnage. But at least I procured two cauliflower steaks along with some bigger chunks.
For this version of cauliflower steaks, I opted to pan-roast the cauliflower, creating a lovely layer of caramelization. It is flavoured simply, with tomatoes, capers, garlic, chile flakes and salt and pepper (do not skimp on the seasoning). And the neatest part of this recipe? I used the whole head of cauliflower, leaves and all. (I used the leftover cauliflower crumbles in the raw caramel apple). Gosh only knows why I always used to discard cauliflower leaves, but it is an edible green. Like bok choy, the stems are thick and crunchy and the bitty leaves are like baby greens. It all went into the dish.
Have you ever eaten cauliflower greens?
I wasn’t going to join in…
But then I saw this article co-authored by one of my former classmates debunking Dr Oz. I may have done a little cheer and a happy dance. I couldn’t keep quiet. Please read it and tell me what you think.
It seems like the new year ushers in the applause for “healthy” fasts and diets. I condone a balanced diet but not starvation. I don’t believe in miracle foods. While I tried a sweetener-free challenge last month, I am back to eating fruits and chocolate. Fruits are filled with vitamins, anti-oxidants and fiber and too good to pass up.
I am certainly not doing a juice cleanse. I was gifted my grandmother’s juicer, but have only made juice a handful of times so far. I juice because I like the taste of fresh juice. Proponents of juice cleanses focus on the increased consumption of vegetables (more than one could eat in their raw form), lack of fibre and a way to detox your body and lose weight. If you are not one to eat vegetables and enjoy juice, then yes, this could be a way to consume more nutrients found in vegetables but it does not replace eating whole vegetables. If you are healthy, there is no evidence that your liver, kidney or stomach needs a rest to assist removal of toxins. The higher glycemic index of juice (without fibre) may actually cause one to gain weight.
There is evidence, though, that vegan diets (moreso than vegetarian diets) protect against cancer. A study in BMJ from earlier this summer suggests that low carb/high protein diets are associated with an increased risk of adverse cardiovascular events, mainly exacerbated by those consuming animal protein. I recently added a link to Vegan Health on my side bar which has a lot of good information about nutrition advice for vegans, including supplementation (gotta get the vitamin B12), especially if consuming a raw food diet.
In any case, for those of you with a leftover juice pulp otherwise destined for the compost, or those with an excess of carrots, or those who rave about Aux Vivres‘ raw smoked salmon, this dish is for you.
My last visit to Montreal had me visiting the vegan restaurant for a second time. I have recreated their delicious Macro Bowl with tempeh, greens and a miso-tahini sauce, but also wanted to recreate their raw smoked salmon, or végé-lox as they call it. Made with carrot pulp and seasoned with red onion, parsley, dulse and liquid smoke, it is a delicious spread combined with their tofu cream cheese and capers. I used shallots and dill and added capers directly into the spread for a different twist. Instead of tofu, I went all raw with a scallion cashew cheese rolled into a light cucumber roll.
If you want something more sweet for your carrot juice pulp, I highly recommend these raw carrot cupcakes. What is your take on juice fasts? On miracle weight-loss products?
Any favourite recipes for juice pulp?
This is my submission to this week’s Raw Foods Thursday.
How often do you second guess a recipe? Something just doesn’t seem right… an odd ingredient, a different preparation technique…. what do you do? Try something new or resort to your old habits?
Dreena Burton’s recipe for this Lemon Mediterranean Lentil Salad had me scratching my head. Cook my lentils in lemon juice? With oil? Had I not learned my lesson with the Green Mango Curry? Acid makes for firm beans. Even dry-toasting makes beans keep their shape. I want my beans to cook! Heck, I already know that the secret to great lentil salads is to use French du Puy lentils. Quick cooking, they also keep their shape and hold up well to salads.
So, I forged ahead… ignoring the plea to simmer the lentils in lemon juice. Forgoing the suggestion to toast them beforehand.
My mistake: The original recipe didn’t say to drain the lentils. So I didn’t. I should have. The glory of this salad comes from the simmering finale of the herbs and tomatoes with the cooked lentils. The olives, capers and lemon zest add a delicious mix of flavours that permeate the lentils in a great way. Except, because I had omitted the lemon juice and toasting, they kept cooking. They became mushy. Still uber delicious, but not as firm as I prefer for my lentil salads. Not as photogenic as I would like, but this recipe was too delicious not to share pronto. I know I will be remaking this, during the perpetual season of summer potluck gatherings, but I did not want you to be deprived of such a great dish… although may I suggest actually following the recipe? ;) Let me know how it goes!
Here are some other great Mediterranean bean salad recipes:
What will it take to get you to make a recipe?
For me, I doddle between what I have already in my fridge, to what is on sale at the grocery store, to really wanting to make a specific dish. I waver between recipes with a lot of positive reviews, or from my favourite cookbooks and blogs, to more unique recipes with my favourite ingredients. But mostly, it is dictated by what needs to be used up in the fridge. This is why I have a hard time making recipes that are purely from pantry staples (except after returning from vacation and being welcomed by an empty fridge).
I bookmarked The Best Lentil Salad, Ever at My New Roots last year. With a name like that, from a blog that I admire, how could I not want to make it? I adore lentils, especially French du Puy lentils in salads. Then Sarah posted it a second time this spring for her stint at Martha Stewart, and her friend commented:
This salad was the reason that I became friends with Sarah way back in Nutrition School. It is so delicious and easy to make. Don’t get intimidated by the amount of ingredients. This one is a keeper (just like Sarah!)
How cute is that?
Suffice it to say, it has been on my to-do list for a while and I was just waiting for the right opportunity.
It still took me a few months to break it out, but I made it for a recent potluck I hosted. Not that my fridge was bare, but the gathering came together a bit faster than my grocery shopping allowed. Perfect timing. Experimentation with friends.
I had witnesses. We unanimously agreed this was a wonderful lentil salad! Sweet, savoury, and salty, deep and complex, warming yet refreshing… and quite addictive! I stuck with the base of the recipe, tinkering only minorly with the spices (decreased the pepper and chili flakes), and thought the capers and currants were fabulous. The ingredient list is long, with 11 different spices, but they really blend harmoniously. To be honest, I was a bit worried when I first tasted the salad, but it was much better after an overnight marinade. If you can find the French du Puy lentils, they are incredible in stand alone lentil salads such as this. But if you cannot find the French variety, do not let that impede you from making the salad – green lentils would work, too. Furthermore, in case this becomes a staple recipe in your kitchen, feel free to experiment with your favourite dried fruit, vegetables, sprouts, nuts and seeds. Personally, I loved it as is, without too much distraction, and loved editions included some chopped apple and mixed greens too.
The Best Lentil Salad, Ever. For Sure. Make. This. Now.
I have been on such a chickpea kick, adding them to my recent salads, that I am starting to wonder whether I should try to make them from dry. I am all for dry beans, as they are infinitely cheaper and probably taste better, too. Lentils are a no brainer as they cook up quickly and don’t need an overnight soak. That overnight soak, ie. advance preparation, is usually not that onerous since I routinely plan my meals days in advance. However, I have not had good luck with cooking dry chickpeas nor black beans, incidentally my two favourite beans – they just don’t seem to work. I remember having a pool of black soup with hard beans when I cooked black beans the first time. Does anyone have suggestions? Other than buy beans from a high-turnover bean store? (Bestwin definitely fits the bill here).
The good news is that canned beans work just as well for this dish! :D
I highly recommend roasting your own red peppers, though. I know you can buy them in a can, but freshly roasted peppers are infinitely juicier, tastier and healthier since they aren’t packed in oil.
When you have a simple salad, such as this one, each ingredient counts. And this salad is delicious: the sweet roasted red peppers are paired with the creamy, nutty pan-fried chickpeas, and they are dressed with a minty red wine vinegar vinaigrette with a sour note from capers. Lovely for picnics as a side salad, or even a main meal as the beans are quite filling. Traditionally this is served as a tapa, or appetizer, in Spanish cuisine.
I originally found the recipe on Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I found that there was a fair bit of oily dressing left over, so I modified the recipe to increase the red peppers and chickpeas. I also pan-fried the chickpeas in some of the oil, since pan-fried chickpeas taste a lot better than chickpeas straight from a can (the lesson I learned while making the utterly delicious warm chickpea and artichoke salad).
Allow the salad to mingle its flavours a few hours before serving and serve at room temperature. Leftovers are equally good, if not better. :)
This is my submission to Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring mint, to Nithu for this month’s Cooking with Whole Foods featuring chickpeas, to this week’s Wellness Weekend,to this week’s Healthy Vegan Fridays, this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Simona at Briciole, and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays (which also includes salads).