Back then, I spotted this tantalizing soupy stew from Denis Cotter with squash, chickpeas and fennel and I knew I wanted to try it. I bookmarked it last year, and now that I have an abundance of squash and these vegetables are back in season, it was time to make it!
Whenever you make a Cotter recipe, be prepared to dirty a bunch of pots and pans. I stream-lined the process slightly by omitting the croutons, but still oven-roasted my squash for the soup. I have become smitten with eating squashes I don’t have to peel (kabocha and delicata) but roasting makes peeling squash a heck of a lot easier. I have my tricks for tackling butternut squash, though. I pierce the squash a few times with a fork, then microwave it for 5 minutes before peeling it. I also usually peel the tubular and bulbous parts separately.
This soup did not disappoint. Chickpeas and squash go so well together. Savoury cumin and fennel seeds augment the mellow fennel, leek and shallots. Ginger and chile flakes add a nice zip and lemon juice balances it all. A hearty meal in a bowl, perfect for warming up with this colder weather. A new favourite, for sure.
Oh gosh, am I ever happy to be back at home! Thankfully I was able to enjoy the summer weather this weekend. 22°C, baby! Rob and I took advantage of the glorious weather by taking out our bikes for our first (real) bike ride of the year. I know it has only been 3 months, but I had forgotten how much I love riding my road bike.
With the beautiful weather in Toronto, the last thing I wanted was to cook up a storm over the weekend. Rob made a delightful savoury lentil and rice soup that I will be sharing, but it was times like this that I really appreciated having a freezer with the taste of summer.
If you thought my fridge was full, you haven’t seen my freezer yet! It is filled with cooked beans, herbs, frozen veggies and fruit, and of course, some meals that I have popped in there for emergencies. Rob and I have a physical menu of possibilities from the freezer: a white board where we keep track of what’s lurking in the cold. Mainly so that we know what’s in there… so we don’t forget about the container of black eyed peas, half a can of whole tomatoes, or this roasted red pepper and tomato soup with zucchini and cranberry beans.
Earlier, way earlier in the summer, I gushed over Denis Cotter. Except I only shared two of his recipes, his not-quite-authentic yet still delicious Massaman curry and the Pan-Fried King Oyster Mushrooms and Bok Choy over a Wasabi Millet Mash. I actually made a few of his recipes this summer, and when I pulled out this soup from the freezer, I was aghast that I hadn’t shared it yet. Shame on me, because it is great.
Cotter is the master of the multi-component meal, bringing out the best of each part of the dish. The original recipe can be found in his new cookbook For The Love of Food. Red peppers and tomatoes, right at summer’s peak, were roasted to perfection, then simmered and pureed to create a silky broth. Meanwhile, you cook your cranberry beans (I used fresh ones so this was fast, but dried beans could work, too, after you cook them). You then toss them with lemon juice and marjoram. Next, you saute the zucchini with garlic to take off their raw edge. This can all be done as the veggies are roasting. When you are all set to eat, ladle out a portion of the tomato-red pepper broth, top with zucchini and cranberry beans. Each component is slightly different, both in taste and texture, creating a complex and tasty soup. The lemony beans with the garlicky zucchini swim in the creamy and rich broth with wonderful results. Cotter also included a basil-chili oil recipe to drizzle overtop but I honestly thought the soup was great without it.
Thankfully, this soup freezes well (I made individual servings and simply combined all the components together) and I still have a few servings left. It is nice to have a taste of summer at the tale end of winter, when flavourful tomatoes are just a faint memory.
Pan-Seared King Oyster Mushrooms and Baby Bok Choy in a Coconut Tamarind Sauce with a Caramelized Leek and Wasabi Millet Mash
Sorry about the lack of diversity in my month of cruciferous vegetables. I know what it must look like to you: lots of broccoli, some kale with a bit of daikon and baby bok choy. Actually it looked like this: kale, daikon, broccoli, kale, broccoli, broccoli, kale, broccoli, baby bok choy and broccoli, and broccoli with a side of Napa cabbage. I’ll be honest: broccoli was on sale. A few weeks in a row. I’ll try to make my next few posts with different cruciferous veggies.
Which cruciferous vegetables are in this meal? Check all that apply.
b. baby bok choy
d. king oyster mushroom
Have a headache yet? Flashback to an undergrad midterm? SORRY!
I just want you to know your cruciferous veggies..
Don’t be fooled. The answers are baby bok choy, cauliflower and WASABI! Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable but not in this recipe (sad, I know). King oyster mushrooms, leeks and tamarind are not cruciferous vegetables, but still good! While there is a mash here, there are no potatoes in this recipe!
Did you know that wasabi is a cruciferous vegetable? Thought it only came in powder form? Well, wasabi is actually a root vegetable. When I visited Japan, I visited the Daiõ Wasabi Farm outside Hotaka, which is the largest wasabi farm in the world. Not only were there fields upon fields of growing wasabi (pic above), they also had the roots for sale along with other wasabi treats like wasabi soup, wasabi soba noodles, wasabi wine, wasabi lollipops and my favourite: wasabi ice cream! I was a spice novice at that time, and still loved it: the spicy wasabi was off-set by lots of sweetness. The ice cream had a mild background of wasabi and vanilla perhaps, but lovely at the same time.
Sadly, wasabi is difficult to grow and thus expensive. Outside Japan, wasabi is commonly substituted with (cheaper) horseradish, mustard and green food colouring. Have no fear, Eden sells genuine wasabi powder. And yes, Sunny’s sells it for half the price of The Big Carrot.
This meal, which is actually 2 recipes, must have the longest name of anything on this blog so far. These long descriptive names are what have me drooling at restaurants, so I love to point of all the nuances of my dishes, too. The longer the name, the longer the ingredient list, and thus probably the longer it took me to make this. Denis Cotter loves to make multi-component meals, and this is no exception. Adapted from his recipe in For the Love of Food, I increased the vegetables, especially the baby bok choy and decreased the coconut milk. Meaty king oyster mushrooms were pan-fried in coconut oil then stir-fried with ginger and the baby bok choy. A light tangy broth with tamarind and coconut milk rounded out the sauce and offered a nice contrast in flavours.
As an Irishman, Cotter adores potatoes and served this with mashed potatoes spiced with caramelized leeks and wasabi.
I opted to try a different a kind of mash: the monster mash.
I mean, the millet mash. With cauliflower. And caramelized leeks and wasabi, as per Cotter.
The cauliflower millet mash is courtesy of Sarah, and while it doesn’t taste like mashed potatoes, it has a creaminess akin to mashed potatoes. As a blank slate, it can take any flavours you throw at it, including the subtly sweet caramelized leeks and the spicy wasabi. Juxtaposed next to the tangy coconut broth with the vegetables, you have a crazy concoction of cruciferous vegetables.
The fourth curry this week… I am almost getting curried out!
I have never seen Rob so excited about trying a new recipe. I was browsing through my newest favourite cookbook, For The Love of Food, and I spotted a recipe that seemingly used up a lot of the odds and ends in our fridge.
Massaman curry, have you heard of this, Rob? Would I like it?
Turns out it was his favourite curry while travelling in Thailand.
However, as we made the curry together, Rob quickly realized this wasn’t the same Massaman curry he had eaten overseas. The sauce had coconut milk, lemongrass, cardamom, cinnamon and ginger, but no peanuts. No fish sauce nor tamarind.
After slaving and salivating in the kitchen for a while, Rob felt let down when he taste-tested it the first time. The vegetables were good, but the depth of flavour was lacking. He ended up adding all of the spice mixture, as the recipe only called for a couple tablespoons of the mixture. After which, when I tasted it the second time, I told him I wouldn’t be able to eat it for dinner- it was now too spicy! Those peppercorns were likely the culprit but thankfully, it didn’t have that ominous “curry” flavour.
Since I had adored Cotter’s previous recipes, we still trucked on with making the cucumber and coriander salsa. Rob finally sat down to eat it, served with the salsa and rice, with a drizzle of freshly squeezed lime juice. The more he ate it, and accepted it as a non-Massaman curry, he grew to enjoy it.
I then decided to give it a go with the salsa and lime.
While Cotter may have misled us by calling this a Massaman curry, he also said this curry was best with the cooling salsa, and there he wasn’t lying. It definitely made the dish go from something I refused to eat, to something that was genuinely spectacular. Another Janet-sanctioned curry, this time hailing from Thailand.
I am definitely realizing that more complex dishes, where each component is outstanding on its own, can be brought to high levels when combined. The only problem is that it makes for a kitchen filled with lots of dirty dishes. Gah!
An authentic Massaman curry is still on our to-do list, though. But whatever its name, this curry is the bomb, just don’t forget the salsa!
This is my submission to this month’s Veggie/Fruit a Month, featuring cauliflower, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Cathy, to this month’s My Kitchen, My World destination Thailand and to Ricki’s Wellness Weekends.