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?
Adult rice krispies and now adult rice pudding.
The difference is that I liked rice krispies as a kid but hated rice pudding. My brother loved it, but me, not so much.
However, spice it up with chai-infused flavours, sweeten it with apple, dried currants and a touch of maple syrup, bathe it in coconut milk and sprinkle it with pistachios along with leftover short-grain brown rice, and I am a happy camper.
This is no quick-fix rice pudding but it sure is delicious. My friend who tried it said it was the best rice pudding she had ever eaten.
This is my take on Tess Masters‘ version found in her gorgeous new cookbook The Blender Girl. Do not let the title mislead you too much. Yes, this is a cookbook where nearly every recipe uses a blender, but this does not mean only smoothies. The recipes are all gluten-free and vegan with only natural sweeteners. The recipes revolve around whole foods. Raw and cooked recipes are included. Tess has recipes for juices, smoothies, dips/spreads, soups, dressings, sauces and even desserts. She has entrees that use homemade sauces, including her penang curry and creamy mushroom stroganoff. Desserts include sugar-free no-pumpkin pie and chocolate-chile banana splits. Breakfast favourites including pancakes and crepes, with delicious toppings like ginger-apple-pear butter and instant raw raspberry jam. She even finds a way to use a blender for rice pudding.
She knows her stuff. It may dirty another container but I liked how a portion of the rice was pureed to thicken the rice pudding. It was rather ingenious.
She is a girl smitten by her high-speed blender. I can tell. I have one, too, and I find it hard to remember what my kitchen was like without it. Do you need an expensive high speed blender for this cookbook? Certainly not. However, you definitely need something with a blending capacity, may that be a regular blender, an immersion blender or a food processor. If you don’t have a blender, you could still gain inspiration from her creations. Your textures may be different but it would be fun to see what else you could make.
Thankfully, the publisher allowed me to share the recipe and giveaway the cookbook to a reader living in the United States. To be entered in the random draw for the cookbook, please leave a comment below telling me what you love to make with your blender (or blending instrument). The winner will be selected at random on April 20, 2014. Good luck!
Other recipes shared from The Blender Girl:
Creamy and Crunchy Spuds (with Raw Mayonnaise)
Watermelon Gazpacho is The Bomb
Fresh Spring Rolls with Orange-Almond Sauce
Creamy of Cauliflower Soup
Incredible Edible Edamame Dip
Creamy Mushroom Stroganoff
Pineapple Salsa Smoothie
Chock-Full Chocolate Surprise Smoothie
Raw Chocolate-Orange Torte
Enough of the doom-and-gloom? Bring on more tasty salads!
It has been a while since I proclaimed to make the best salad ever. As I continue to make more and more salads, I have higher salad expectations.
My old favourites are still wonderful:
The Best Salad Ever (First Version): Turkish Bulgur, Pomegranate and Almond Salad
The New Best Salad Ever (dethroning the above): Roasted Garlic Tofu Salad with Cilantro Rice, Black Beans and a Mango Salsa
The Best Lentil Salad Ever: 11-Spice Lentil Salad with Capers and Currants
And now, I present to you: The Best Chickpea Salad Ever.
I eat chickpeas a lot, but I don’t usually eat them as the main salad component. I would have a hard time thinking of a good cold chickpea-based salad off the top of my head. I don’t like chickpeas with vinaigrettes, preferring them pan-roasted or smothered in thick sauces. However, as soon as we tasted this salad, both Rob and I were smitten.
This is a perfect chickpea salad, combining the tang I enjoy from vinaigrettes with a light creaminess from tahini along with a sweet spice from curry powder, contrasted with sweet currants and carrots. It is quite similar to my favourite lentil salad, except I am using a pre-made curry powder. Granted, the success of your salad will depend entirely on the curry powder you use. I am very partial to Penzey’s sweet blend which is fragrant and flavourful without being too spicy or earthy. It is highlighted perfectly with the touch of maple syrup.
I had this recipe bookmarked for the longest time and once I made it, I was sad I hadn’t made it earlier. Do not delay in trying it out. It will make a great potluck salad this summer.
What is your favourite salad?
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Four Seasons Food Challenge, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to this month’s Eat Make Grow Blog Hop for picnic eats. (more…)
Half-way through January.
Have you been affected by the January Joiners?
A congested gym as people begin their journey to health through exercise.
Surprisingly (or not), I haven’t been affected. Same thing happened last year as well. Nothing really changed. The same regulars keep returning.
I shouldn’t give away my secret: I like going to the gym at 6:30am in part, because it is less busy. Even if I show up late, I can still find a spot at my favourite spinning or weight lifting class. (*except one crazy hard-core gym where the spinning classes are filled by 6am!)
I have been trying to be a bit more punctual for my morning work-outs, but now that I am at the mercy of the transit, things are even less predictable. The benefit of my gym is that there are lots of locations. Last week, I realized I wouldn’t be on time for the 6:30am class, so I detoured to the 7am class at a different location. Arrived 15 minutes early, only to find out the instructor was sick and it was cancelled. Another location had a spinning class that was just starting, so I rushed over and joined in 15 minutes later. Something is better than nothing.
Science says so, too. Combined short routines are as good as longer work-outs. Too long is not as good, though. Leisurely runners outlive the runners who ran twice as much. Moderate-paced runners also lose more weight than those who were more active. As you exercise more, fatigue sets in; hunger reigns.
Since I’ve stopped cycling my crazy commute, my energy levels have improved, my mood is better and my eating is under control. Sounds like I need to work on my balance. More isn’t necessarily better. More exercise, at least.. more rest could be better. :)
I’ve noticed an increased interest in my detox salad over the past few weeks. It reminded me how good it was but decided to go for a different twist. This kind of salad is perfect with hard crunchy veggies. Like the veggies leftover from platters. Cauliflower and broccoli always seem to linger behind. Save the veggies! :) Like my Raw Thai Pineapple Parsnip Rice Salad, I use my food processor to chop up cauliflower, broccoli and red pepper into small pieces. Currants add a subtle sweetness. Hemp seeds add fat and protein. And the dressing? A sweet tangy curried mustard concoction. I love how salads like this only improve with a longer marinade. Leftovers, for the win! ;)
Cherry Collard Dolmas (Turkish Collard Leaves Stuffed with Rice, Beans and Fresh Cherries -Visneli Yaprak Sarma)
This has been the summer of cherries.
Local cherries arrived early, so by the beginning of July I had already made Almost Raw Chocolate Banana Crepes with Almond-Coconut Cream and Cherries, then balsamic cherries migrated onto a sandwich with rosemary cashew cheese and arugula, and I pickled a bunch in a five-spice spiked vinegar. I kept on thinking cherry season was over, but they continued to be on sale late into the summer. How can you say no to cherries at 99c/lb?
So, yes, I have yet another cherry recipe.
Earlier this summer, we thought I might have been able to join Rob in New York for a mini-vacation. We researched where we wanted to stay (airBnB!), what we would do (opera!) and what we would eat (Pure Food & Wine!). My favourite raw resto to date, it would have been a nice treat. I even scoured their menu to see what I wanted to order. I found it:
Cauliflower Cous Cous with Sour Cherry Dolmas with pistachio, almond, dried fruits, mint, Moroccan tomato jus
Sounds heavenly, no?
Turns out that when we went to book my airline tickets, we were not able to get the flights we wanted. So for the long weekend, Rob went to New York for work, and I stayed at home.
With a bit of extra time on my hands, I decided to tackle my own cherry dolmas. In retrospect, a raw version would likely have been quicker, but I opted for a more traditional cooked dolma. As traditional as cherry dolmas can be. When I visited Turkey, I was not wowed by dolmas. They were not on my radar. However, traditional dolma recipes typically include savoury spices like cinnamon and allspice, so I was sold. Instead of pine nuts, I used pistachios. Instead of traditional raisins, I used a touch of currants. The majority of the sweetness comes from the cherries.
Instead of a rice-based dish, I beefed it up by including white beans. Doing so made me have a lot more filling than I had initially bargained for, so I scrapped the grape leaves and plucked collards from my garden instead. With a cooked filling, a cooked collard seemed more appropriate, instead of my typical raw collard wraps. Pre-steaming the collard leaves made them much easier to wrap the filling and keep their shape.
The dolmas are simmered in a cherry-infused broth to complete the cooking of the rice. If you cooked your rice all the way through the first time, I think you could save yourself the final cooking step. It was a pretty labour intensive recipe but at least I didn’t have to wrap 100s of dolmas in tiny grape leaves. ;)
In any case, these were so flavourful, they were definitely worth the effort. The rice filling alone was delicious, so if you just want to make that, I understand. :)
I made the cranberry-lemon-tahini dip for the dolmas but I didn’t find it needed a dip. In fact, the sweet on sweet clashed. If you want something to serve it with, a plain yogurt would be nice.
With all my cherry fodder this summer, Rob came back with a surprise present for me from New York: a cherry pitter!
Although I loved my foodie adventures in Colombia, eating away from home had me craving some serious salads upon my return. And a bath, a nice, long bubble bath. Withdrawing slowly from the plentiful tropical fruits and reintroducing my favourite vegetables. With a quick trip to the grocery store under my belt, I was able to fix my salad cravings.
While I don’t believe in detoxes, this is a spin off of Whole Food’s Detox Salad. Like my Raw Thai Pineapple Parsnip Rice Salad, broccoli and cauliflower form the vegetable base that is pulsed into small pieces. Grated carrots add more vegetables and a lovely orange! Currants confer sweetness, sunflower seeds supply crunch and protein and while the original salad uses a lemon-parsley dressing, I went with a cilantro-lime route instead. The other twist in the dressing comes from dulse granules. Whole Foods uses kelp granules, but I had dulse, another kind of seaweed, so I used that instead. This salad needs to be marinated for best flavours, and keeps really well as leftovers.
There’s Indian food and then there’s Indian food. If you know what I mean.
Everyone seemed excited with my plans for an Indian Easter, but I had my doubts. New recipes all over the place. Would they like it? Would it be too authentic (sans fiery heat, of course)? Would it be too healthy? (ha!) Too many beans? (never!)
Would my Mom, the coconut-hater, taste the coconut in the Mulligatawny?
[NOOOOO!! I honestly had my doubts..]
Would my Mom, the cauliflower-hater, resist the cauliflower in the pakoras?
[NO!! But I couldn't taste it either, so I wasn't worried]
Do we have any closet cilantro-haters?
[NO!!! Thank goodness, we all got those good genes!]
Would anyone shun the tofu in the chocolate-tofu mousse pie?
[NOOO! Mom even said she wanted the recipe]
Just in case, though, I decided to break out one of my family’s favourite potluck dishes: a curried couscous pilaf salad. A salad I knew they would like. Throughout its reign at barbecues and potlucks, the recipe has been requested numerous times but it was put on the backburner for a while. Quinoa is the new potluck food, shunning couscous. A bit of googling taught me the recipe was originally from Canadian Living back from July 1994!
With some whole wheat couscous still lurking in my pantry, I decided to break it out for the gang. I put my own twist on the recipe, but only made minor changes (currants for raisins, toasting the spices, etc). You could easily substitute quinoa or millet for this salad, as well.
This is a quick salad to put together, but you still get the benefits from assembling each part separately. First, toast your couscous/quinoa/millet and cook it with stock to up its flavour. Next, saute some onions and add some zip from the toasted curry powder, cumin and a hint of cinnamon. Peas make this a filling salad and currants add a touch of sweetness to balance out the dish. I can see why this is such a knock-out salad at potlucks!
This is my submission to Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice for Magazine Mondays, to Ricki’s Weekend Wellness to this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Alisha and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
When I finally made it to Penzeys in Boston, I caved.
I didn’t want to.
Say it ain’t true..
But I did it any way,
I bought curry powder. (to continue with the rhyme- I bought a powder for my next curr-ay)
For so long, I have been meaning to make my own curry powder but instead I went with a packaged blend.
660 Curries has not 1, not 2, not 3 but 20 different recipes for curry powder and spice blends. Where’s a girl to start? Understandably, I was a bit overwhelmed. I didn’t know which one would be best for me, a lover of non-curry, so instead I opted for the sniff test. I smelled all the different versions at Penzeys and ultimately bought their “Sweet Curry Powder” (I wish cookbooks had the sniff test, *sigh*). It has that quintessential curry note but it isn’t overwhelming. I still haven’t figured out which spice I am averse to, but thankfully, this blend is a keeper. It is super mild, so I even feel the need to supplement it with some Aleppo chili flakes.
Spicy and rich, not hot, as Penzeys puts it. The ingredients? Turmeric, coriander, cumin, ginger, fenugreek, nutmeg, fennel, cinnamon, white pepper, cardamom, cloves, Tellicherry black pepper and cayenne red pepper. Almost sounds like a warm hug, eh? And something I could try to duplicate at home next time…
As you can see, I am on a raw food kick and yes, you can make simple, raw foods sans dehydrator, too. I was intrigued by Susan’s Raw Curried Pineapple Rice. Who needs the fried rice found in the typical Thai recipe? Give me veggies any day! Let your favourite curry powder lightly dust a smattering of sweet vegetables. Here, parsnips and carrots are chopped fine in the food processor until they resemble rice, or small-grain couscous. Diced cucumber and pineapple add juicy sweetness along with the currants. Green onions give this more kick than the curry powder. The lime juice makes this really pop. If you don’t really care about rawness, toast your cashews and add them right before you serve the dish. I can see myself taking this lovely salad to potlucks this summer for something different.
Here we go, another salad with roasted beets!
I just can’t get enough of them.
This time I used red beets. There are a few differences between red and golden beets:
1) Golden beets are more mild and taste sweeter.
2) Red beets bleed. They make me look like I’ve been bleeding. Golden beets don’t bleed.
3) Red beets make my pee turn red. Golden beets do not.
Please don’t be alarmed at the red pee side effect of loving beets. In the summer, my pee turned red but I couldn’t recall eating any beets. I was worried something was wrong. Until I remembered that I had ordered an apple, ginger and beet juice at the restaurant. That was the culprit! Sure enough, by the next day, my pee was back to normal.
Beets work well with a lot of different flavours, but they definitely pair well with orange. I really enjoyed my chilled Orange and Beet Soup with miso, dill and carrots, and thought this rice-based salad sounded great. Adapted from Appetite for Reduction (original recipe posted here), beets and brown rice (wild rice would be good, too!) are coated in a zippy Asian-inspired orange sesame vinaigrette. Freshly squeezed orange juice is key to keeping this a light, flavourful dressing. The salad is spiked with currants for additional sweetness. Pile it overtop your favourite greens for a lovely meal-sized salad.
Keep all the components separate to maintain freshness… and keep the beets sequestered, else they will turn everything pink. Pink rice, ok, maybe do it just for kicks. :)
I had all intentions of making this with my home-made harissa, but when I found it again in my fridge, it had grown some mold. I guess I was a bit skimpy on the oil used to cover it? Who knows… I will have to investigate another way of saving it. Perhaps in the freezer, frozen in ice cubs trays like I save pesto? I didn’t have time to make more harissa, so I substituted my Aleppo chili flakes instead.
I was drawn to Susan’s recipe at Fat Free Vegan when I saw a nice medley of end-of-summer vegetables (zucchini, tomato and eggplant) with chickpeas simmered in a flavourful sauce including smoked paprika, allspice, cumin and cinnamon.. and (the missing) harissa. I prefer currants to raisins (texture issues, mainly) and they still added a subtle sweetness to this lovely vegetable ragout. I initially served it with the garlicky quinoa, but later gravitated to serving it overtop chopped Romaine leaves, turning it into a delicious salad. It worked surprisingly well!
While I have posted a few eggplant dishes, I have never microwaved it like I did here. It was a neat way to partially cook it without any oil. It also didn’t have any of the bitter aftertaste people can complain about. When it was combined with all the other veggies in the delicious sauce, you almost didn’t even know it was there.
I was honoured when Susan at The Well-Seasoned Cook invited me to provide a guest post for her blog, continuing to celebrate the 4th year of My Legume Love Affair. Please head over to her site to hear about my current battle between lentils and chickpeas, and the winning salad I display: Warm Lentil and Swiss Chard Salad.
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 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!
Amaranth and quinoa are two seeds that were once considered sacred by the Aztecs and Incas. They were used in ceremonial rituals before their cultivation were forbidden by Spanish colonizers. Certainly these are powerful foods: armed with more calcium than milk and high in protein, fiber and other minerals, and feared by the Spanish. ;)
Then there are chia seeds, which I routinely add to my oatmeal and overnight oats, that are packed with healthy omega-3s and fiber.
I have been trying to incorporate more of these “high-yield” superfoods into my meals. What better time to start your day with a breakfast filled with these seeds. While eating quinoa for breakfast is not new to me, I was interested in combining all of these ancient Latin American seeds into a tasty breakfast.
Initially spotted in Radiant Health, Inner Wealth (also posted here), I modified Tess’ recipe to include chia seeds and therefore also changed the fluid volume. With both currants and raisins, you don’t need to use much agave nectar (or maple syrup), so certainly add to taste. The Indian flavours of cinnamon and cardamom worked well with the sweetness from the agave and raisins. The porridge had more substance, slightly more body from the pebbly grains which was a nice change from my smooth oatmeal.