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?
Who doesn’t love a good massage? Veggies love them, too. Show them your love. They will love you back.
But have you heard of massaging your mushrooms, too?
I like non-button mushrooms, but only if cooked. I will shun all raw mushrooms you throw at me. But now I know how to enjoy them raw. Massage your love into them with a delicious marinade.
This recipe is courtesy of Ani’s Raw Food Asia and I think it is pretty ingenious. She replicates Korean bulgogi, which describes the way Korean cuisine uses an open flame to cook their food. The food is usually marinaded in a Korean-style BBQ sauce. Ani does this all without turning on a flame.
A salty-sweet marinade is combined with meaty king oyster mushrooms. Massaging them allows the marinade to permeate the mushrooms but also tenderizes them. Slightly chewy, sweet-salty shrooms. Oh yeah. As king oyster mushroom are fairly meaty, when chopped into non-mushroom shapes, you could possibly fool mushroom haters completely. The marinade is that masking. They won’t think it is meat but they may not know it was a mushroom.
Next, you make a Korean hot chili pepper paste, but mine was more of a salty-sweet paste as the main component was miso with toasted sesame oil. I tamed the paste to my palate by using Aleppo chili flakes but definitely add to taste.
To complete the lettuce wraps, fill the wrap with julienned cucumber, carrots, raw garlic, a smidgen of the Korean chili paste and of course, your marinaded bulgogi mushrooms.
Wrap and roll, guys!
This is my submission to this month’s Simple and in Season, to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays, to E.A.T. World for Korea, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekends, and to this month’s My Kitchen, My World destination Korea.
Sometimes my friends know me better than myself.
What did I want for my birthday, I was asked.
Nothing! Your company is all that I ask for… honestly!
My friends rarely listen to me, though.
They are some spicy shoots, let me tell you! Pea shoots are sweet and mild, but these are feisty. They taste like radish, which to me, is spicy. While you could throw them into any salad, I somehow stumbled upon a recipe that highlighted their spiciness in all the right ways.
Found in Plenty, I modified Ottolenghi’s Soba Noodles with Wakame, to try out kelp noodles. While it is brimming with a long ingredient list, including such isoteric items like wakame (and now kelp noodles), the pack-rat that I am, I had everything I needed. Except a second cucumber because two cucumbers seemed like a bit of cucumber overload. However, after the cucumber rested, wilted, and lost its moisture, it condensed to a small mass. I compensated by adding shredded kohlrabi. The mint and cilantro were courtesy of my garden.
Just as Rob became cranky as he prepared The New Best Salad Ever, I gradually became cranky as I made this… because I had to destem my wakame! This was such a tedious process, and since I used the entire bag of alaria (a common wakame substitute), I had a lot of destemming to do! Part of my uneasiness was that I was using such uncommon, wacky ingredients that I had no clue how this would turn out. Was it worth the half hour of wakame destemming?
By golly geeze, a resounding yes! This salad had me giggling all night with its sheer deliciousness. It was light and bright from the lime, sweet but now overpoweringly so, sea-like with saltiness from the wakame, yet with an undertone of spiciness from the chili flakes and radish shoots. The cucumber and kohlrabi meld well with the slightly crunchy kelp noodles to highlight the sauce.
Sometimes I wonder if my palate is changing, definitely less mainstream meat and potatoes, but this recipe from Ottolenghi is a keeper. Soba noodles would be wonderful here as well, as he originally suggested.
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekends, to this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Tandy of Lavender & Lime and to this month’s Monthly Mingle featuring Scintillating Salads.
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.
My Mom had suggested serving a leafy salad. She figured that was a simple thing to make, but instead, I stressed. I was worried about wasting soggy leftovers and truthfully, I don’t have a go-to salad dressing yet. I eat what you see on my blog, and I rarely make simple side salads with a meal.
Salad dressings are a simple ratio of oil to vinegar. My family’s traditional vinaigrette employs a 3-2-1 ratio, with 3 parts extra virgin olive oil, to 2 parts vinegar, to 1 part sugar with salt and pepper to taste.
However, fortuitously, earlier this week Dawn told me about her new favourite salad dressing, excited because it was oil-free. Super simple. Just as easy with a different 3-2-1 ratio omitting oil.
3 parts balsamic vinegar
2 parts strong mustard
1 part maple syrup (or agave)
I am sure most people don’t need much guidance in the simple salad dressing component, but I thought this was definitely worthy to share. It is a healthy and vibrant dressing, so totally Janet-style. Throw it on top of your favourite leafy greens and enjoy!
While I didn’t snap too many photos of the food during the party, I still hope to share some of the recipes. I decided the best way to avoid the Rob-veto (just kidding!) was to simply try some seemingly simple recipes at the time of the party. Thankfully, it all paid off!
Along with this salad, I also served the 11-Spice Lentil Salad with Capers and Currants, which is definitely morphing into my signature no-think potluck dish. Everyone really enjoyed it at the barbecue. (I also served it to a bunch of other friends, where I was delighted to see how often people dived in for more, despite eating it with chopsticks – now that takes skill!). I also boiled some fresh corn on the cob. Rob tirelessly tended to the meat at the BBQ, where he also perfectly grilled my roasted portobello mushroom which I served with sweet potato fries and a miso gravy (recipes to come!). My peach smoothies were also a hit. I had planned to serve watermelon with a mint pesto as dessert, but everyone was stuffed (and how can that compete with the macarons and other treats brought by Rob’s cousin?).
Anyways, now that I have this under my belt, it didn’t seem nearly so scary after all!
(Although I hate repeating recipes for guests, so these will have to make my rounds through my family’s side next!)
My mom was mad at me the other day.
Because of me, she was buying expensive things in the grocery store.
I know I buy some pricy ingredients, but a little goes a long way. I try not to eat out too often, and find it hard to rationalize the high prices. I could buy so much fresh (expensive) produce, tempeh, and spices for the price of a meal in a restaurant. It can be hard to justify sometimes.
Anyways, back to the mangoes. When I was home last weekend for the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour (aka the ultimate cycle), my mom had picked up some mangoes for breakfast. Rob and I stole some of the extras to fuel us later in the week.
After really enjoying the Chickpea Salad with Mexican Mango Dressing earlier, I wanted to try a variation of the mango dressing with ginger. Earlier, I had bookmarked this tantalizing Thai lettuce wrap with sesame-soy baked tempeh and a zippy mango ginger sauce in The 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East (recipe here).
I adapted the recipe slightly, causing it to take more than 30 minutes to make, but I think that steaming tempeh is important. Since steaming in the microwave is so simple, I try not to forget that step.
Initially I was a bit disappointed, because the sauce was really zippy. Almost overpowering, but I was so pleased with the leftovers. Finally, a tempeh dish, a salad at that, that tastes great as leftovers!
First the sauce: fresh mango was pureed with freshly grated ginger, along with lime juice and soy sauce. I also added a touch of chili flakes, but add to taste since the ginger is fairly zingy. I found this mellowed out much better the next day. It still had a kick but not as pungent. Just whirl in your blender and you have a fabulous sauce.
Next, the tempeh is marinaded in a simple sesame oil and soy sauce marinade, and feel free to marinade it as long as possible. I was only able to marinade it for 5 minutes, but longer is always better. After baking, the marinade was completely absorbed. The steaming helped to keep the tempeh pieces moist, even as leftovers. Because the mango sauce is the main star of the wrap, the loss of sauce around the tempeh is not detrimental to the dish (which had been our problem previously).
Those are the main ingredients to the wrap. Next find yourself some large Romaine lettuce leaves, top with cucumber, sliced tomatoes, some chopped mint, add your tempeh, slather with the mango sauce, wrap, roll and eat! For the wrap in the photo, my eyes were bigger than my mouth, and I had to split it into two wraps for all that filling!
I also like the idea of tossing the dressing with zucchini noodles, as in this Mint and Mango Marinated Zucchini Spaghetti. This dressing would need to be thinned out a bit with water if you wanted to use it overtop a traditional lettuce salad.
It is hard to compete with perfection.
I made a delightful bulgur salad with pomegranate, almonds, oven charred tomatoes and chickpeas earlier this month and was looking to expand my horizons with a new twist on the bulgur and pomegranate flavours. When I spotted a pomegranate tabbouleh salad at Closet Cooking, I knew what I wanted to try next. It seemed perfect for the summer with fresh crisp cucumber, fresh local tomatoes, soft feta and keeping my salad staples like toasted almonds. The pomegranate flavour came from the vinaigrette with pomegranate molasses and pomegranate seeds.
And while it seemed like a reasonable salad, it just didn’t compare. I was left thinking, This is ok, but not the best salad ever. The best salad ever will forever torment me as its counterparts will fall short. My memory will probably hype up the salad even further in its absence – oh my!
But instead of commiserating for all of the rest of the salads, why not rejoice in figuring out what made for such a terrific salad? And this is what I have been thinking about…
As a main course salad, I like a lot of substance within the salad. More stuff than bulgur or leaves. Both salads had that, but the winning salad also had more sustenance with chickpeas. Both vinaigrettes had pomegranate molasses, but the winning salad had a more pronounced tartness from the pomegranate molasses since I mistakenly read the recipe without diluting the molasses. So perhaps the mind-blowing pomegranate flavour was missing. The winning salad also had Aleppo chili flakes which brings anything from ordinary to extraordinary, and this tabbouleh had none. Not that I think tabbouleh warrants chili flakes, but the mantra of balancing sweet, sour, spicy and bitter is making more and more sense. It has been a winning combo for my recent dishes, including the winning salad.
To be fair to the tabbouleh, it was enjoyed by others. But they had not yet tasted the winning salad ever. For me, there were too many similarities between the salads for me not to do the comparison and feel like it came out short. Perhaps I will have to modify the tabbouleh with these changes in mind when I score another deal on pomegranates.
This is my submission to Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring mint, to PJ for this month’s Healing Foods featuring tomatoes, to Jayasri for this month’s Cooking with Seeds featuring pomegranate seeds and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
Saveur’s note: I am delighted to have a guest post from Rob at Free Pants Online. He usually posts about his travel adventures although he has posted some recipes. He made the most delicious tempeh sandwiches recently and I really wanted to share the recipe. I love to share healthy, great tasting food – and these sandwiches were phenomenal. However, since I didn’t technically make it myself (although I was in the same room), I begged Rob to write a post about it to spread some tempeh love.
For the picnic, I brought the Spanish Chickpea Salad with Capers and Roasted Red Peppers, Rob brought these delicious sandwiches and it was finished with exquisitely moist and unique cupcakes from For The Love of Cake. Red Velvet cupcakes filled with a chocolate ganache were my favourite, but we also had Japanese Ginger cupcakes filled with a plum sake reduction and plum slice and topped with cream cheese frosting, Maple Bacon cupcakes filled with blueberries, and Tiramisu cupcakes with a mascarpone frosting. It was a glorious feast indeed.
A couple of weeks ago, I visited one of the health food shops in Kensington Market. I had a craving for tempeh. I hadn’t had it in a while. None of the shops in my neighbourhood (Yonge and Eglinton) seem to carry it. As such, I picked up a couple packages and brought them home.
I have randomly tried to prepare tempeh while traveling. I didn’t really know what I was doing and usually just fried it to enjoy its simple flavour: denser and meatier than tofu; maybe a little nuttier. I know I could do better once I was armed with my own kitchen. What was I to do? I asked Saveur for recommendations. She confessed that she’s never tried tempeh before. Oh my! She’s a clever one, though, and was still able to make some suggestions for me. This recipe for Maple Grilled Tempeh looked very intriguing to me. Since I don’t have any maple syrup (what kind of weak Canadian am I, anyways?) or rice vinegar, or a proper grill to cook these on, I decided to adapt the recipe and created the marinade listed below.
Oh wow! These were tasty! They were bursting with flavour!
The first time I had these, I had some parathas and steamed broccoli on the side, which is very typical for me. I didn’t choose the broccoli for its complementary qualities to my tempeh; but simply since I usually have some in the fridge and it’s my favourite vegetable anyways. Parathas are just delicious… period. I might have chosen rice as my starchy side, but I my rice cooker is currently out on loan.
These marinated and fried tempeh pieces were great when they were fresh. As leftovers, however, there was much to be desired. They had dried out and weren’t nearly so flavourful. Eat these fresh, or don’t eat them at all!
The following weekend, I planned on going to Olympic Island with Saveur and her friend to see Arcade Fire play a show. The concert was really great! This blog isn’t a music blog, though. It’s a food blog. You’re certainly not interested in any concerts.
I’ve read somewhere that tempeh is great as a meat substitute in sandwiches. Now that was my master plan!
We preceded the show with a picnic. The picnic was really great, too! I decided to take on the task of bringing sandwiches by combining the same marinated tempeh with alfalfa sprouts and cucumber on ciabatta bread. In my head, it sounded like a match made in heaven. It worked out just fine! This recipe is not one that I found anywhere. I just thought it would work…. it looks like it did!
Earlier this month, I was challenged to think of savoury ways to use rhubarb through Ricki’s SOS challenge. I posted a few recipes with rhubarb this month, including an Indian Lentil and Rhubarb Stew, but my mind kept wondering what else I could do with the rest of my rhubarb.
Rustic Fruit Desserts spotlighted two different rhubarb compotes, including a raw rhubarb compote where raw rhubarb, sugar and fresh orange juice meld for 6 hours on your counter for a tasty snack. While I didn’t make the dessert, my curiosity was peaked about raw rhubarb.
I subsequently stumbled upon a raw rhubarb salad with cucumber and mint in Paula Wolfert’s The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen, although there was nothing slow about this recipe. A bit of salt is added to temper the rhubarb and within ten minutes, you have a savoury salad ingredient – not at all tart! The rhubarb is mixed with thinly sliced cucumber, baby arugula and spinach, squirted with lemon juice and topped with shredded mint leaves. It is a wonderfully delicious, simply refreshing salad. Simple ingredients go a long way for an easy salad for the summertime.
Do not shy away from raw rhubarb. Succumb to it. You will be pleasantly surprised at rhubarb’s versatility.
I am a bit late, but we’ll see if Ricki can add this to her SOS Rhubarb round-up (can’t wait to see what everyone else made) as well as to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays (which also includes salads). Props go to Rob for making the salad – under my supervision – hence why it can go on my blog.