I have mastered eating leftovers, which is the ultimate way to cook for one. I did not really think I would cook differently while Rob was away, but towards the end of nearly 5 weeks without Rob, I had little interest in making complete meals.
And then, suddenly, when I knew Rob would return (again), all I wanted to do was make something for him to enjoy.
(I just became disinterested in cooking while he was away; Rob had limited use of a kitchen while away)
Thai curry for Rob! With sweet potatoes! And Kabocha squash! AND PEAS! (Rob loves peas!) AND COCONUT! (he likes that, too)
I have already shared with you the main ingredients (plus WHITE BEANS! yay!) so you can imagine the delicious taste of flavours.
The sweet potatoes and Kabocha squash are roasted separately to bring out their sweetness and keep their shape. I don’t like green peas as much as Rob, but I really liked them here, next to the creamy roots. The red curry paste was not overwhelming, and really, I should have added more for Rob’s palate, but I played it safe so I could savour it, too. Instead of using a flour to thicken it up, I simply simmered it longer until it was a nice creamy coconutty consistency.
Joanne’s tantalizing original recipe was actually for a Thai-inspired potpie with a pumpkin biscuit topping, which I am sure would have been lovely… but hey, baby steps, here. This was a glorious curry, even without a topping.
To return the favour of delicious food, I had to ask Rob to photograph the leftovers. If I thought the lack of daylight after work was bad before the daylight savings switch, there is now no way I can make it home before darkness now. So here, is Rob’s signature style photo… because as he puts it, he wants to SEE THE FOOD:
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Four Seasons Food Challenge for one-pot wonders, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to this month’s No Croutons Required for blogger inspiration.
I have written before about our Mixed Diet Relationship. Granted, while Rob is mostly vegan at home, there are still some other ingredients that have been earmarked for Rob. Slowly, they have been coming my way, though.
Now, I can add Thai red curry paste to that list. In Toronto, Rob bought a (non-vegan) Thai curry paste and would constantly tell me how spicy it was. When we moved to Houston, we scoped out a vegan brand (Thai Kitchen). And let me tell you: it is not spicy at all. At all. Some may even consider it bland. However, for me, a world of opportunities has been re-awakened for my kitchen!
This was actually my gateway curry.
A quick Thai curry.
So easy, it is Heidi’s weeknight curry.
Red thai curry paste infuses a coconut milk-based broth which is simmered with vegetables and tofu. Sadly, the vegetables look a tad plain; a tad monochromatic in the white/green shades; but they worked really well together. The cauliflower was firm, the asparagus tender crisp, the zucchini meltingly tender and soft cubes of tofu.
I can’t wait to try it in other dishes. Do you have any favourite red curry recipes?
Not because I came up with the fabulous idea to mix together roasted eggplant, tamarind and chickpeas, but because I kind of ran with a taste in my mouth and help from a friend.
One of my co-workers is vegan and recently invited Rob and me for dinner. He went all out with multiple salads, curries, biryani and dessert. Served on a weekday, at that. I was blown away. By all of it.
The dish that I enjoyed the most was the tamarind roasted eggplant with chickpeas. I asked how it was made:. He said it was easy, just roast the eggplant with masala spices, then cook it with tamarind and chickpeas. Easy, peasy, right? Not really.. a bit too vague for my liking for me to recreate it.
I figured my Baingan Bharta with Chickpeas (Roasted eggplant and tomatoes with chickpeas) was a good starting point, though, and after reading it over, my friend gave me some tips:
1. No ginger, more garlic to enhance the eggplant (I happily obliged)
2. No cilantro, and if so, just add it at the end (I just omitted it – it was better without)
3. Heat the chickpeas and slightly mash them, so that they can better absorb the flavours from the rest of the dish (great idea!!)
4. Add some turmeric (done!)
5. Remove or limit the coconut (removed!)
With a bit of trepidation, I set out to recreate this dish. I got my eggplant roasting and re-read my instructions. Sauteed onions and a good dose of garlic. Ground coriander, cumin and garam masala…
It has been a long time since I’ve cooked with eggplant (over 2 years, if you excuse my Raw Eggplant Bacon from last year as that was not technically cooked). Roasting it is definitely my preferred cooking method. It may take a while to cook but the results give you a silky base. Here, the fragrant Indian spices contrast nicely with the sweet/tart tamarind, floating in the silky eggplant peppered with chickpeas. The photos don’t really do it justice because it looks kinda of chunky when it actually wasn’t. Definitely one of my favourite dishes this year.
Have you ever been really excited by your own culinary creation?
Eggplant, chickpeas and tamarind elsewhere:
Eggplant, Chickpea and Tamarind stew at The Guardian
Tamarind Spiced Roasted Eggplant Soup at Everything in the Kitchen Sink
Tamarind Eggplant and Chickpeas at Relish
Eggplant, Tomato, Chickpea Tamarind Stew at Allotment 2 Kitchen
Eggplant Curry with Tamarind & Mint at Veggie Num Num
A few of my friends have become new mamas (or very soon mamas-to-be), and Rob and I have been cooking up meals to share. One less thing for them to worry about. Rob offered one of our delicious dals. I wanted to experiment with a new curry, but Rob was adamant: Let me make dal bhat! We know it is awesome.
I won’t argue with that, nor with Rob offering to do the cooking.
I still experimented with a new curry but kept it for myself. Curry with dill? I was intrigued. Especially since it doesn’t call for a smattering of dill. It uses a whole 2 cups of dill, leaves and stems, akin to a leafy green instead of a finishing aromatic. Sauteed with my favourite flavours, garlic, ginger and coriander with a bit of tomato for some sauciness, this was a delicious chickpea curry. There was enough zip from the chile flakes to keep it well balanced. The flavour of dill was surprisingly not overwhelming and I really enjoyed it. Next time, we’ll know. This curry is definitely good enough to share.
Do you have any favourite meals to share with others? Have you ever cooked with this much dill at once?
PS. I am all over the cookbook giveaways these days, if you hadn’t noticed. My giveaway for The Ayurvedic Vegan Kitchen is still going, so check it out. I also highly recommend The Great Vegan Bean Book (see my review here). Head over to Miss Muffcake for her giveaway of the book here.
Next on my hitlist of grocers to try was Canino’s. It is billed as a farmer’s market but I am not sure how much of the produce is local and sold by farmers. However, it doesn’t mislead you that fruits and veggies are at the forefront of this store. There are 2 components: the front portion and the back alley peppered with stalls selling mostly Mexican produce. The back alley is more akin to a farmer’s market and where the better deals lie. Come early and you can snag super specials. Like 4 bunches of kale for $1, 5 bunches of collards for $1, 30 limes for $1, 4 broccoli crowns for $1, 4 heads of cabbage for $1. BOOYAH! I liked how you could even mix and match the 4 for a $1 items so you weren’t swimming in produce. But if you know me well enough, you will know that yes, I bought 4 bunches of kale and 5 bunches of collards without a clue as to what I’d make.. in addition to the broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes and fresh black eyed peas.
Fresh black eyed peas were new to me. I’ve tried dried black eyed peas before but trust me, there is a reason they call them black eyed peas. And no, I am not talking about their cute black mark. I am talking about the pea business. THEY TASTE LIKE PEAS! I never captured that flavour from dried or canned varieties. Not entirely sure whether this was a seasonal fresh bean, I snagged a bunch and ultimately decided to try this Goan black eyed pea curry. The tomato-coconut milk infused broth was tantalizing, spiced with ginger, coriander, cumin and tamarind with a bit of sweetness from maple syrup (use jaggery for a more authentic flavour). Exotic yet light, I served it with brown rice. Since fresh black eyed peas were new to me, I pre-cooked them beforehand (~30 minutes) but I think this recipe would lend well to cooking the fresh black eyed peas in the broth (adding the tomato to the end since it is acidic).
I have earmarked the fresh purple hull beans for my next visit. Rob doesn’t mind going to Canino’s because it is right next to a delicious Mexican bakery: El Bollilo. I get my fresh beans and he gets some fresh churros!
PS. I also love that Canino’s opens at 6am nearly every single day (the back stalls apparently have their own random schedule). It is great for us early birds!
Not only for New Year’s Day, other black eyed peas recipe here:
In our minimalism, we have made it difficult to host big parties. Unless it is standing room only or BYOC (bring your own chair). For now, we’re maxed out at 4. You see, we only have 2 kitchen chairs. When we move our table next to the couch, we can fit another 2 people. It actually worked pretty well for curry and games last weekend.
We have a large curry repertoire, but decided to play it safe and serve our favourite: Dal Bhat. Like most curries, this one tastes even better as leftovers, giving us the perfect excuse to make a big batch in advance and keep leftovers for the rest of the week.
I still haven’t figured out what makes our Dal Bhat a Nepalese specialty. When our friend travelled to Nepal and hiked up to Everest base camp, she told us our dal was superior to anything she ate there. Dal bhat translates into lentils and rice, and it could be spiced in any matter. Random vegetables are also added.
Before I left Toronto, I spotted this curry: a Nepalese curry with toor dal. I wanted to use up the last of my toor dal before the move and it looked perfect. I really enjoy the creaminess of toor dal and this curry had many of my favourite spices also found in our version of dal bhat, including cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and garlic. Is that what makes it Nepalese? No cumin or coriander, but this one includes tomatoes which I added to the tarka and cilantro as an (optional) garnish. How could this not taste good? Trust me, it was spot on delicious.
Have no toor dal? Red lentils or split peas would be good substitutes. Have toor dal and need more ideas? Here are other curries with toor dal:
Cumin-Scented Pigeon Peas with Mango from 660 Curries
Plantain, Cabbage and Coconut Curry with Split Pigeon Peas (Indian Cabbage and Plantain Kootu) from 660 Curries
Butternut Squash, Coconut and Lentil Stew (Aarti’s Indian Summer Stew)
Mixed Lentil Stew from Flatbreads & Flavors
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…)
What makes someone “interesting”?
Rob and I were discussing this. He thinks we’re interesting. We do a lot of things that are a bit out of the ordinary. Ignoring, of course, the obvious foodie fetishes (whole foods vegan is interesting? hehe).
1. We learn by gardening. Wherever we live, we’re the house with (edible) kale and collards in the front yard.
2. We like to cycle. Not only for commuting, but also our crazy long distances of years yonder. At one time, anything within 200km was fair game.
3. We go to the gym. My preferences are spinning, combat, shred and pump. (Not sure that makes me interesting but I can tell you how much I can squat for 5 minutes!)
4. We like to travel. Rob and I have traveled a few places together (Iceland, Colombia and multiple places in the US), but we met each other with passports already filled. Literally, Rob’s passport was filled after a year spent backpacking in Asia, New Zealand and Australia. Mine had stamps for a few places.
This is beyond what we do for work… Rob knows all about mobile devices and its software, whereas I am a resident in pathology.
Those are fun things to chat about because I can’t tell you much about television shows (except my adoration for Dexter and Drop Dead Diva), movies (I used to watch a lot more movies) or make intelligible conversations about politics. We have no TV, although that does not excuse the latter. Rob usually keeps me abreast of internet meme sensations. People like to talk about renovations and home design, whereas we both are pretty clueless on that front. Case in point: The only furniture we bought after we moved in together two years ago was a new bed… and Rob bought himself a new desk after our second move (because he broke the first one dismantling it for the move, hehe).
Does that make us interesting? It just makes us us.
The people who find us interesting likely have similar interests… otherwise, we’d just be boring to them.
I was recently reading through Rob’s (mostly neglected) blog and it brought back great memories. Cycling, travelling, birthdays. This year has been tough for me as I focus more on studying and less on my hobbies. Our last vacation (in Colombia) seems like such a distant memory. Our vacation this year will be our road trip to our new home in Houston. A bit shorter than usual at only a week, but we’ll still cover a lot of ground. Probably around 3000 km if we do a few detours. Once in Houston, we plan to capitalize on short trips to South and Central America (I hope!). And, let’s not forget our upcoming summer trip for Burning Man. Anyone else going? This will be my first time and Rob’s third visit.
A lot of happiness spurs from memories of our experiences. It is true that you forget the bad parts, or at least use the bad parts as fodder for jokes. The highlights stick with you most. The excitement of being in a hot air balloon overtop Turkey’s enchanting fairy chimneys in Cappadocia, or jumping into Icelandic hot springs after a frigid hike up a mountain, watching icebergs float to sea, hiking through a Colombian jungle to see The Lost City, waking up at the crack of dawn to go snowshoeing in freshly laid snow in Horseshoe Valley or the tears of joy after cycling to Niagara Falls and being greeted by a rainbow. I can’t believe this all happened within the past 3 years. It is amazing what we can do if we set our mind to it.
Getting back to one of our biggest hobbies, though: food!
Intertwined with our travels, food can transport us back to those memories. Rob has recreated some of his favourite meals from his time while backpacking, including Vegetarian Khao Soi. One of his memorable meals from Thailand, it is a brothy coconut curry with boiled egg noodles and tofu, topped with crispy fried egg noodles. His go-to recipe is not Janet-friendly with red curry paste (our store-bought version has shrimp paste in it and is super spicy), fried noodles and fish sauce. Undeterred to share his love of khao soi with me, he decided to make this recipe with a few substitutions along the way.
A bit more involved than his original recipe, this version has you making your own curry paste from fresh turmeric (yes!), ginger, cilantro, garlic and chilies. No shrimp here. It is used to flavour a coconut curry broth that is studded with tempeh, noodles, lime and cilantro. I used kelp noodles for mine whereas Rob prefers the egg noodles. Absolutely delicious.
If you find yourself in Thailand, this dish can be found for a bargain for only $1. Although it may not be vegan-friendly, so why not try to make it at home instead?
So, please tell me… what makes you or someone else interesting?
Most people probably roll their eyes when they hear you have dietary restrictions. I know my food choices can be a pain in the butt for some people but imagine combining it with other allergies and restrictions? I have a friend with a severe allergy to sulphites, another friend who won’t eat nightshades and beans and I recently met someone with some crazy diet for interstitial cystitis and I could only remember her telling me she eats no spices. I love trying to find meals we can enjoy together, though. I think the worse was when I was trying to find common meals I could share with my grandfather who needed a low potassium, low salt, and low cholesterol diet. The low potassium part made it the most challenging since he couldn’t eat any whole grains, beans, nuts or seeds which are my protein sources. Meal planning is like a fun puzzle for me although others probably find it a headache.
Recently I was asked to suggest meals fit for entertaining. Not usually a problem, because I keep a list for myself in case I forget. However, there was a caveat: no garlic, no onions, no leeks, no shallots, no green onions (no alliums). I know there are multiple reasons to avoid them (including those who are doing the FODMAPS thing), but they continue to be a staple in my diet. More than just aromatics, they have a lot of health benefits, too.
Never daunted by a special diet request, I mustered up a few suggestions (Raw Zucchini Alfredo, Raw Tacos skipping the onion in the salsa, Thai Tempeh Wraps with a Mango Ginger Sauce, Sushi Salad Bowl with Avocado and Asparagus, among others with minor modifications). In the end, Ellen made my
Vanilla Sweet Potato and Kale Curry and it received high praises from her and her guests (YA!).
The request planted a seed in my head, though. What kinds of meals are naturally free from alliums? I know some people just don’t like chopping garlic and onion, and some Indian recipes call for asafoetida as a substitute. Thus, I looked through my Indian bible, 660 Curries, and while I didn’t pick a recipe with asafoetida, I picked one without onions and garlic.
Cooking without the typical aromatics meant we needed flavour from elsewhere: loads of savoury spices. Cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander, all the good spices Indian curries are made from. The special spice, this time, was amchur/amchoor (mango powder).
I’ve used amchoor before in chaat masala used with Malai kofta and a warm chickpea and mango salad. It is made from dried green mangoes, conferring a sour tangy flavour, not unlike vinegar or lemon juice. Since I substituted tomato passata for fresh tomatoes, this is a very pantry-friendly recipe when you run out of even the most basic perishables (onions, garlic and lemons) and don’t feel like going grocery shopping when it is snowing in April (!). The cilantro does perk it up, but not necessary.
Anyways, in essence, you are making chickpeas cooked in a nicely flavoured tomato sauce. No fuss, you simply simmer then away for a while as you tend to something else. Like most curries, they make fabulous leftovers and I ended up enjoying them overtop fresh green spinach as a quasi salad.
Do you feel overwhelmed or welcome the challenge of dietary restrictions?
With limited time, I have been trying to multi-task. Studying on the subway to work… picking up groceries after my weekend work-out… and even combining social activities with cooking. While still cooking the majority of my meals on the weekend, I have invited friends to come over and help cook. Cooking + friends = fun times! Leftovers are good for me, too! While I usually make 2 dishes and a dressing each week, I try to pare my menu down when friends are over. One dish only. Preferably a recipe I know tastes good.
This is another one of Rob’s Repeater Recipes. Whenever we see cauliflower on sale, this is what tugs at our tummies. Red lentils envelope chunks of cauliflower in this quick curry. Of course, what separates each curry is the specific spice blend and this uses Bangladesh’s signature spice mix: panch phoran (Bengali 5 spice mix). You might remember it from my Bengali Quinoa and Spinach Bowl with the simple combination of cumin, fennel, nigella, fenugreek and mustard seeds. For this version, I stole some cauliflower to make (Baked!) Lemon Cilantro Pakoras and swapped in additional zucchini.
I love it when Rob helps out in the kitchen, and he has really taken to sharing his Indian cooking tips with my friends. We’ve also made Dal Bhat and the Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime at other times, highlighting simple and tasty Indian home cooking. These are all lessons from Indian Cooking 101.. what will Indian Cooking 102 include?
I have been meaning to write a post about kale for a while.
As 2013 began, I had a few friends inquire how best to eat kale. Be it resolved to eat more kale? It may be many moons later, but there is no better time than to eat more greens than yesterday. Or if you need a greener boost, how about upcoming St Paddy’s Day?
I have talked about vegetable ratings before (Nutrition Action’s winner of the veggies is kale followed by other leafy veggies) but Dr Fuhrman’s ANDI (aggregate nutrient density index) score is probably more widely disseminated. Whole Foods has started to rate its produce by publicizing ANDI scores. While not a perfect system at all, it prioritizes nutrients per caloric cost. I agree with Anthony’s musings on the ANDI scores which suggests this may confuse people. Focus on whole foods, primarily vegetables and legumes with occasional fruits, grains, nuts and seeds. Why battle it out between greens, when one should try to rotate through them all? Kale, yes, but also Swiss chard, spinach and collards. Throw in Romaine lettuce and mixed baby mesclun greens. Go Asian with baby bok choy or another Asian green. Try out chicory to see if you like it more than me.
I had elaborate plans to create a green eating guide, but as I waited, procrastinated, let life happen, others posted great greenery cooking summaries. Lindsay recently posted videos on how to strip and cook kale. I also found this nice guide from Epicurious. I will not reinvent the wheel but I will continue to share my green eats.
As I told my friends, be persistent. You may not like all greenery preparations right away. Instead of a raw kale salad, try kale chips. Add kale to your soups or stir fries, instead. Or
hideblend it into a smoothie or baked good. Slowly integrate them into your diet until you find something you like.
Here is a lengthy list of ideas for numerous greens. Raw, cooked, I’ve got you covered for your greens. Once I started, I just couldn’t keep away any of my favourites. I even limited myself to leafy greens. Cabbage and Brussels sprouts are for another list.
Soups, Stews and Curries:
Stirfries, Skillets and Pastas:
Pizza topping (kale chips!):
As a side:
Inside a wrap with peanut dressing
As a wrap:
Plain Kale Chips (with a video)
The options with greens are endless. I continually find new recipes and new favourites.
Case in point: this Indian-spiced Chickpeas and Kale. Not authentic Indian but authentically good. Cumin, cardamom and ginger augment garam masala to create a quick dish with chickpeas and kale. A touch of tahini adds a hit of creaminess that transcends its small amount. The greens are wilted in a stir fry but fully flavoured and juicy. Paired with chickpeas, this makes a complete meal.
What is your favourite way to eat greens?
Winter has arrived. Or least poked its head up. It was frigid as I biked to work on Friday. Cold and windy, a terrible combination. No snow at that time, but -11C with the windshield (12F for my American readers). Snow came later.
It is supposed to warm up again this week, although the city already dropped down the salt. Snow and more importantly, the salt, is what causes me to pack up my bike for the season. I was hoping to break 13,000km on my bicycle odometer this year. My goal used to be 12,000km but I surpassed that last month. I am 300km short of my goal. With a 20km daily commute, that would only take me 3 more weeks, basically right before Christmas holidays. The odometer has been ticking since I bought my commuter bike in October 2009. It followed me as I cycled to Cornwall, Niagara Falls and Kingston. Averaging over 4000km each year, it seems more impressive than it entails. This year, Rob and I did very little recreational cycling. My distance is purely based on a longer commute. It is amazing how quickly the extra distance can add up.
I will have to see how much rain we get before I decide how to get to work on Monday. Bike or transit?
In addition to the cold, one of the things I do not like about the winter is the limited amount of fresh vegetables. In the summer, everything is at my fingertips. Cheap local produce at its peak. Now I am not as excited by the grocery flyers… veggies rarely make it to the sales page. I try to capitalize on anything veggie-like on sale. Mushrooms, greens, broccoli, carrots, anything.
This week spinach and red lentils were on sale. 4lbs of red lentils for $1.27. 3 bunches of spinach for $2 (last week it was 2 bunches of spinach for $1). What amused me most was seeing how many people were buying the spinach. So many people! The grocers kept wheeling in more spinach. Big bunches, too. Spinach for the win!
When Ella posted her Red Lentils and Spinach in a Masala Sauce, I knew it was destiny. Destined to be my dinner. Turns out it was also my parents’ lunch when they came to visit last weekend. A last minute change of plans had them staying for lunch. Thankfully I had something that everyone could enjoy.
I made my own curry paste with toasted cumin and coriander seeds and combined it with ginger, cilantro, smoked paprika and garam masala. Tomato paste and pureed tomatoes made this a bit more complex and the cashew butter a more luscious body. Red lentils cook down into a mush and the spinach added a healthy bulk. A nice, solid curry. Tikka masala without the tikka? Probably not… this isn’t a super creamy sauce. Cashew butter can only accomplish so much! Next time, I might add in tempeh, like Rob did with his Tempeh Tikka Masala.
What are your favourite vegetables in the winter?
PS. Is tomato paste always so sweet? I licked some from the can and it was so sweet! My can is definitely no sweetener added, so I wonder if it is a side effect from my sweetener-free challenge.
Let me share with you the best way to travel.
I am not talking about priceline or other websites which have lower prices on hotels. Been there, done that. I have never liked hotels, anyways. Without a kitchen and other homely accessories, I still feel out of my element.
Last week, I was in Calgary for a conference. Fortuitously, only half the cost of the hotel room would be covered by my employer, and I could not find another person to share a room. So I looked for alternatives.
I discovered Air BnB (and no, I get nothing to shamelessly promote this). A site where people rent out their homes just like a hotel room. Granted, each listing is bound to be different, but I really lucked out in Calgary. For half the price of the conference hotel room, I rented out an entire 2 bedroom bungalow that was not too far from downtown. It had a well-stocked kitchen, a living room complete with board games and oodles of books to read, if I actually had the time. Of course, I was drawn to the kitchen, so I could easily whip up my routine breakfast oatmeal and other healthy meals. With an Asian grocer a few blocks away, I had access to cheap groceries as well.
While I think of travel as a vacation from blogging as well, I was wrong. I desperately wanted to share some of the quick and easy meals that I pulled together. I brought quinoa with me so that I could turn any vegetable stir fry into a quick main meal but I ended up going more elaborate with this curried tomato and kidney bean bowl. The results were worth it and have already been incorporated into repeater meals in my own kitchen.
The ingredients seem so simple, so the bulk of flavour comes from the high quality curry powder. When I spotted a local Artisan curry powder (Bridget’s) at Community Natural Foods, it was then that I decided to make this. Shallots (or onions), ginger and garlic are sautéed and added to the curry powder. A can of tomatoes turns this into a great sauce that simmers with some kidney beans and quinoa. I added chopped baby bok choy for some greenery and crunch. Susan originally made this as a lettuce wrap with chickpeas. I have since made this since my return with chickpeas and more quinoa; it is a very forgiving recipe. Like most curries, this was great as leftovers. And yes, I was thrilled that my kitchen in Calgary also had plastic containers for me to tote my meals to the conference.
Who would have thought I’d eat so well away from home?
I have yet to meet a bean I do not like.
Except for coffee beans…. but they don’t count. I don’t usually drink my beans. (they are also not technically a legume)
For a while, though, I thought I didn’t like fava beans (also known as broad beans).
For some, they herald the excitement of spring produce, amidst the stress of shelling and shucking the fresh beans. When I found frozen fava beans, I thought I had hit jackpot: someone had done the shelling and shucking for me.
Last year, I made pomegranate-braised cabbage and fava beans but couldn’t get myself around the fava beans. I just didn’t like them.
The beans have been in my freezer since then. Untouched.
However, when I saw Ottolenghi had a recipe for Mixed Beans with Many Spices and Lovage which included fava beans, I decided it was worth checking them out again. Just in case I would like them this time. I also have to keep emptying my freezer. It also called for lovage, a new-to-me herb which my grandmother gifted me from her garden. It looked like a flavourful vegetable curry with an assortment of spring beans. His recipe combined my favourite unshelled beans (snow peas and snap peas) with fava beans smothered in a tomato-cardamom-lovage sauce.
The dish was great. It was my first time using lovage which has that Maggi taste, supposedly similar to celery. The flavours in the tomato sauce were a great spin off of a tomato curry and the beans were nicely cooked. Well, the snap peas and snow peas were nice. The fava beans, well, I still didn’t appreciate.
But then, it dawned on me. There was a creamy bean inside the fava shell. My frozen beans hadn’t been shelled yet! I then dived back into my dish, scooping out all the fava beans and slipped off their shells.
I tasted. Lovely beans. Now I understood how people could enjoy fava beans… they are just a tad labour-intensive!
Oh, what I do for the most pleasing bean….
I mean, I can finally express myself in sentences!
Sorry for the blog auto-pilot for the last 3 weeks… After 2 glorious weeks in Colombia, it was back to the grind, off to work, sifting through oodles of emails, comments and catching up with my favourite blogs.
My second language is French and let’s just say three weeks ago, I knew zero Spanish.
We made sure we had the basics though:
Vegetariana estricta Vegan
But that might not mean anything, so we had to explain:
Without eggs (Really?)
Without milk (I usually had a funny look at this point)
We usually stopped there, but I also knew how to say:
We got better at explaining what I wanted:
Frutas (fruit!), verdura (vegetables), beans (frijoles), papas (potatoes) and arroz (rice).
other than baños (bathroom), another useful word was aqui (here)
As we learned more about Colombia (Que?), we became a bit more sophisticated and tried to make actual sentences.
Cuánto cuesta? How much does it cost?
Quero jugos naturales en agua sin azucar: I want freshly squeezed juice in water without added sugar!
By the end of our trip, a guide was teaching us the difference between Mucho bueno and Muy bien depending on the context of the sentence. And to greet other friendly men with Compa! and friendly women with Coma!
In any case, I loved my culinary adventures in Colombia, and we planned it so that I could stay vegan throughout the trip. I had to make a few compromises, and that was by eating white rice (brown rice and quinoa are essentially non-existent in Colombia) and I had more fried foods than I had in the last 3 years (fried plantains and yucca mainly if nothing else was available). But it was ok. That’s what vacations are for.
Now that I am back in my own kitchen, I can return to normal. Pull out some freezer meals. Forge ahead with some comforting pantry-friendly meals. Rob repeats recipes and sometimes I do, too. This is one of those dishes. Uber comforting. While I describe this as Dal Bhat meets Mujaddara, this would likely scare off a bunch of people… Too many foreign words thrown in there… But if I call it Fragrant Lentil Rice Soup with Spinach and Crispy Onions, it is much more approachable, and still true to its name.
This comforting dish comes from Melissa Clark’s cookbook, Cook This Now. Savoury spices like cinnamon, cumin, allspice and ginger are combined with creamy red lentils and brown rice (aka dal bhat). Since the spices are aromatized at the beginning of the soup, they don’t pop with as much oomph as dal bhat, instead they are more mellow. This is a thick soup, with both lentils and rice simmered together, creating an utterly creamy consistency. In mujaddara, the rice and (green) lentils absorb all the water so they are dry, but still fragrant depending on the spices you use. However, the crowning glory of mujaddara are the caramelized onions. Here, onions are caramelized in parallel so that after an hour, you have dark and deeply sweet onions to go with your just finished lentil rice soup. Thus, simple fusion at its finest. Familiar, yet just a subtle twist to both recipes to keep you interested and excited… and a dish I know I can eat again and again.
And it is just so nice to be able to tell you all this in complete sentences. Freedom!