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 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!
I think I know how to cook beans.
I do it all the time. All kinds of beans. Black beans, white beans, chickpeas, lentils…
I also don’t subscribe to many of the voodoos surrounding beans.
I usually cook my beans with a dash of vegetable broth and a couple of bay leaves. I don’t worry about salting them. Sometimes I may throw in some kombu if I remember.
Sometimes I cook my beans without soaking them. They just takes a bit longer to cook.
After 45-60 minutes (depending on the bean), I will taste them every 10-15 minutes or so. They can go from al dente to mush in 10 minutes, if you aren’t vigilant.
One of my newest favourite beans are split pigeon peas, also known as toor dal or toovar/tuvar dal.
When Rob and I discovered you actually buy green mangos (labelled as green mangoes) for some Indian curries, I immediately knew I wanted to make a simple curry with toor dal. I love the way it falls apart, becomes creamy and has sweet undertones.
I forged ahead with the dal. They were not done after 30 minutes, nor an hour. I added more broth. I kept cooking, I added more broth. I kept cooking, and I added even more water. These beans were just never melt-in-your-mouth tender like my previous toor dal curries.
I know what you’re thinking (because I would think it, too): It is your batch of beans. They are old.
Not so!! At the same time, Rob was making a ripe mango curry with toor dal (Cumin-Scented Pigeon Peas with Mango) and he used the same beans. From the same bag. Within an hour, his beans were meltingly tender. With a glorious sweet and savoury curry.
While my curry was tart and somewhat crunchy. After around 2 hours, I think I gave up. I decided the curry was too tart so I added in the suggested sweetener and it tasted much better. With a dusting of garam masala, the flavours really popped. The toor dal, however, remained a bit on the plump side. This was still a nice curry, just not with the creamy, falling apart toor dal I was expecting. The beans kept their shape instead, just like when I toasted the mung dal in the Bengali Dal with Spinach.
I haven’t really paid much attention to whether I throw acidic foods with my beans, but since green mangoes are acidic, that must be the culprit. Maybe that specific urban bean legend is actually true.
Next time, I will add in the mango after the toor dal has cooked sufficiently, though.
I am pretty proud of myself for eating through my cupboards. I ate my last carrot and wondered whether I could hold out for a month until we moved to replenish them. Completely foolhardy. We’re moving within Toronto, so there’s no reason to be completely devoid of food. So I bought more carrots.
Then I spotted this recipe for mouth-watering malai kofta, Indian veggie meatballs in a creamy curry sauce, that seemed perfect for guests. I immediately decided they would be perfect for our Indian Easter – a company-worthy dish. Leanne’s recipe called for chaat masala which I didn’t have. Having disappointed myself by buying curry powder, I was adamant to make my own version. While there are many versions of chaat masala, my newest cookbook, 1000 Indian Recipes, had an intriguing recipe using amchur (mango powder), mint, black salt, cumin and asafoetida. It also included ajwain, citric acid and tamarind powder… of which I had none. Currently living so close to Little India, instead of shunning new purchases, I decided to use this as a time to harness my Indian spice prowess.
While looking for cheap hazelnuts, we scoured Little India for our new spices. Ajwain and citric acid were easily located but tamarind powder was nowhere to be found (I also checked out Bestwin and Sunny’s). Sadly, I also discovered what a treasure-trove BJ’s Supermarket is. While it has always been Rob’s go-to place for a variety of rotis, naans, parathas, etc as well as Indian spices, I also discovered it stocks Kombucha (from Crudessence!), has reasonably priced Mary’s crackers ($3.99/box) and a wide assortment of reasonably priced Stash teas ($2.99/each). Almond Breeze is also regularly priced at $1.69. Who would have known? Of course, I only discovered this a month prior to moving away.
Undeterred by my lack of tamarind powder, I made my chaat masala with it omitted. This was probably the first time I could honestly say my house smelled like curry. I blame the ajwain since it is the newbie!!
When deciding what to make for our guests, I liked Leanne’s strategy of making this partially in advance and then throwing the rest of the sauce together just prior to serving. We ended up making it all the same day, so that works too. This is more involved than the other curries I’ve made because you need to make the kofta, but this was very well received by everyone. The flavours were complex and delicious with big vegetable “meatballs”. Baked, not fried. The sauce was creamy without being heavy. While you could simply omit the chaat masala from the malai kofta, I liked the extra depth of flavours imparted likely from the black salt, ajwain and mint.
While still delicious and enjoyed by all, my meatballs were a bit more mushy than I had anticipated. I substituted sweet potatoes for regular potatoes but I don’t think that changed much. I am not sure if I underbaked them, or overcooked the veggies beforehand. My only exposure to koftas in restos have been heavy and dense fried balls, that I figure are filled with ground nuts and coconut. These are veggie-based and lighter. Rob assured me he’s had kofta like these before. I also used my food processor for the sauce, but since we used cashews as the creamy portion, next time I would use my Vitamix for a smoother consistency. I just didn’t want to dirty yet another container at that moment. Soaking the cashews could also help, so I added that into the directions.
Have you heard?
Rob stalks grocery stores once a year for it. Now they’ve arrived.
It is mango season. Not just any mango, though.
Alphonso mangoes have touched down from India. Thankfully, before our move away from Little India.
We picked up a case of nice Ataulfo mangoes last week because we weren’t sure when the Alphonsos would arrive. Lucky for us, it wasn’t long before they began popping up in Little India. On Thursday, they had a new shipment. By the end of the day, there were only 2 cases left. They are flying like hotcakes!
For the last two years, Rob and I have trekked out to buy these sweet and creamy mangoes. This is the first year it isn’t such a trek to locate them. We’ve made many mango dishes, both sweet and savoury, and now we’ve added another favourite to the list: this fabulous mango curry from 660 Curries which Iyer titled Cumin-Scented Pigeon Peas with Mango.
This curry follows the key steps of toasting and grinding spices, simmering the dal with different flavours and tempering another set of spices in oil that are added in at the end. But first, you need to make your own garam masala. Trust me on this. I know you have garam masala already lurking in your spice rack. This garam masala is different: it has sesame seeds, peanuts and coconut. We decreased the chilis and it was fragrant and savoury without unnecessary heat. For those who don’t want more spice blends, the recipe below is exactly for one recipe, but you will want to make more once you get a whiff of the final blend. We wished we had made more, so don’t follow in our footsteps.
While I just harped on this being Alphonso mango season, this mango curry does not need to be made with fancy mangoes. We used Ataulfos because we picked them up for cheap, but Tommy Atkins will work just fine, and frozen chunks, too. If Alphonso mangoes weren’t $2 each we’d gladly use them, though. Like the Mango BBQ Beans, the mango in this curry melts into oblivion leaving its sweet remains behind. Distinct mango flavour is camouflaged among the curry leaves, coconut and peanut. Everything works so well together. Sweet, spicy, savoury…
This is a delicious curry that you won’t be disappointed it. We’ve been eating at a few Indian restos recently and I still think the best Indian cooking happens in our kitchen. With this dish, there is no contest.
Celeriac. Pumpkin. Could I be sharing any more autumn-like produce?
As I am munching away through my freezer before our next move, I am rediscovering meals that I should have blogged about but for some reason, I haven’t!
I am a long-standing proponent of leftovers but oddly enough, when I stash leftovers in the freezer, they kind of sit there for a while. Freshly made meals are always my go-to choice, but I have some real gems being unearthed these days.
I have become a bit more accustomed to the tamer curries that are made with curry powder, red lentils and an assortment of veggies. I really liked the Red Lentil and Root Veggie Dal and since celeriac was my favourite veggie this winter, I was eager to try my hand at a similar stewy curry from Sarah. Typically, potatoes are used in Indian cooking but here, celeriac adds a different dimension which complements the sweetness from the pumpkin. I also loved the addition of the spinach thrown in for good green measure. I usually don’t freeze meals that use greens, but these leftovers are ok from the freezer.
By the way, does anyone know what kind of pumpkin is sold in stores that are cut into large wedges? They are labelled as Ontario pumpkins, but I have no clue what kind they are… I don’t cook with the jack-o-lantern pumpkins, but this was definitely a pumpkin for cooking.
I have talked about my inherited spice drawer before, but I did not tell you how I am positively smitten by it. It is a bit nonuniform as I haphazardly slotted in new spices in a hodge podge of old bottles, but the easy access to rows and rows of alphabetized spices is positively beguiling in its sheer simplicity. I used to have a rack of test-tubes filled with spices. As you can tell, though, my favourite spices cannot be contained within 12 test tubes. When I move, I need to devise a new spice system. The problem? I don’t know what my next kitchen will look like, or what the next one after that will look like… I need something practical, functional and most importantly: adaptable. The Kitchn has some great ideas but nothing that wows me. This one is really cute, but I want something that is both light-proof, air-tight and portable between kitchens. For now, I am thinking of finding similar white-top glass bottles (from Bulk Barn or Solutions) and storing them in a lightproof box. Do you have a tried-and-true system?
Rob has suggested downsizing my cookbook collection before our move to the US. I suggested 20 cookbooks. He thought I could do better. I have over a year to figure things out or negotiate with him. hehehe.
I am constantly amazed how a simple change in spices can lead to a completely different meal. In this case, I was curious about using 2 seemingly polar spices together in a savoury dal: cloves and fennel. Who knew that they would work so well together?
The Bengalis, that’s who!
This Toasted Moong Dal with Spinach is a Bengali curry adapted from 660 Curries. Not only is the strong fennel and cloves special to Bengali cuisine, but the lentils (moong dal) are toasted which firms them up. They do not disintegrate like red lentils. Rather, the toasting enhances their nuttiness allows them to keep their shape. This is known as a bhaja. Feel free to substitute your favourite green for the spinach.
Back to the spice issue at hand – what is your favourite way of storing your spices?
OK, things have turned around in my kitchen. My cooking rut is over!
I even have witnesses.
My own alfalfa sprouts grew, too!
It has been quite busy in the kitchen lately. In the span of a week, we celebrated Valentine’s Day, Rob’s birthday and our (2 year!) anniversary from our first date.
Rob has been a sweetie, picking recipes from my Top Recipes from 2011 post so he could make me dinner on V-Day and braved the elements on our anniversary for a special barbecue delight. However, I was positively cooking up a storm for his birthday party. I forged ahead with new recipes, and I can’t wait to share them all with you!
But first, let me share with you this delicious curry. I had bookmarked “Plantains and Cabbage with Split Pigeon Peas” after Rob had success with a Caribbean black eyed pea and plantain curry, when I first tried cooked plantains. Rob went a bit heavier on the curry powder, so the dish didn’t thrill me entirely but the plantains were neat. A starchy, sweet banana. This curry from 660 Curries had many of our favourite ingredients like coconut and cabbage, with new-to-me ripe plantains, and it had been a while since I had cooked with creamy toor dal. Plus, I was drawn to Iyer’s recipe blurb where he wrote: You will be eloquent in your praise and use highfalutin words like “yum”. Highfalutin! Yum! And no, he does not lie. This was delicious and possibly one of my favourite curries to date.
Did you know you can buy frozen coconut? It is a common ingredient found in Asian grocers – check it out! While you could substitute reconstituted dried coconut, I think that the frozen coconut played a key element of the success of this recipe.
In the summer, Rob and I had a fun time (literally) cracking open a fresh coconut. I used a big knife to shave off the outer skin, and then scored a circle to open it. I tried to smack it open with the heel of my knife but it didn’t work. Rob then took said coconut to the front porch and smashed it against the front step to crack it open. We then took turns sipping the coconut water through a straw. Bliss. I ended up using the coconut flesh for an Indonesian black eyed pea salad with a tamarind dressing.
But I like to plan for success. So in case we couldn’t open the coconut, I bought frozen coconut as a back up. Suffice it to say, it has been in my freezer since the summer. Since we have a move looming in the next few months, I have been trying to clean out the freezer. I finally busted it out for this recipe and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the results.
This is a delicious curry, and as I made it, I couldn’t help but remember Aarti’s butternut squash, coconut and lentil stew that Rob made in the fall. I consider Iyer’s recipes quite authentic, so I was wondering whether Aarti’s was an Americanized version of the dish since it seemed so similar. Nope, the recipes are similar but quite different in their own merits. However, if you loved Aarti’s stew, then you’ll adore this version. Likewise, if you like this stew, definitely give Aarti’s stew a try, too.
Here, in this curry, you have a creamy broth from the toor dal. Cabbage and ripe plantains add bulk. Coriander, mustard and curry leaves offer multiple levels of flavour. And that frozen coconut? It reaches out and gives you a tropical hug. I went a bit tame with the chile as Iyer suggests using 2 red Thai chiles or cayenne chiles. This wasn’t spicy, so go nuts chile heads! This is a pretty labour intensive curry, dirtying up a few pots, your food processor and in my case also the mortar and pestle, but once you taste it, you’ll forget all about that… and start using highfalutin words like yum.
As I type out the ingredients, I realize that they seem so isoteric. For those in Toronto, a trip to Sunny’s (or your favourite Asian grocer) is all you need*. I can’t remember if I’ve seen Aleppo at Sunny’s, but any chile pepper will do. You may have to wait for your plantain to turn a macabre black, but trust me, this will propel anyone out from their cooking rut.
*While you are at it, pick up some canned young jackfruit in brine for my next (super awesome) recipe from Rob’s party!!
For all the raw foodies out there, do you know if the frozen coconut can be used for all the raw desserts that call for fresh coconut?