A Vegan BLT.
Not so farfetched with prepared store-bought vegan bacon, vegan “mayonnaise” and a loaf of bread.
But this is Janet-style. Whole foods only. No white flours.
A return of the raw eggplant bacon. Flatbread made with kabocha squash, buckwheat and flax. And for that mayonnaise, I whipped up a tofu-cashew version.
Food is always a source of discussion at gatherings, and since I don’t visit my extended family in Montreal that often, they found it shocking what I ate (or rather what I don’t eat). OK, no meat and dairy, but what about baked goods with eggs? No. What about whole wheat pasta? No. What about bread? No.
I make very few baked goods. Even when I do, I want them to be whole-foods based. It took me awhile, but I finally made Gena’s curried kabocha squash flatbread when I had a hankering for a BLT with the abundant fresh tomatoes. Although, after I had difficulties with a wet dough that never seemed to bake, I was reminded why I love my one-pot meals. They are so much harder to goof up!
My problem with the bread was that it took much longer to cook. I probably added too much water since my squash was already moist. Or I should have spread it thinner. In any case, I had to flip it while the underside was still wet. After a long run in the oven, it was dry and cooked through. I loved the subtle flavour from the squash which made these moist and pliable breads. The spices added a complementary touch and was nice with the BLT components.
I also made a quick vegan mayonnaise with tofu and cashews. I scoured a few recipes, including some made with avocado and even beans but wanted one that wasn’t loaded with oil. While not as creamy as traditional mayo and only reminiscent of its flavour, I still enjoyed the spread. In the sandwich, you wouldn’t note the lack of real mayonnaise. You only notice the differences while licking the knife.
While most people have returned to school this week and may be looking for totable lunches, sandwiches are common for the masses. However, just like my BLT Corn Pinto Bean Salad with Raw Eggplant Bacon, the bacon needs to be kept separate and assembled just prior to serving. The great thing about the eggplant bacon is how crispy it is. However, it seems to whisk in moisture super fast, so you need to keep it separated until ready to eat.
After I ate the last serving of this salad, I was sad. Sad I had no more salad left. It was that good.
Rob cocked his head and asked, So is this a repeater recipe?
But we have no more corn! And no more spinach or lettuce! And I think my Appaloosa beans are finished, too.
That can easily be remedied, Janet.
Besides, I just bought 53 lbs of tomatoes (yes, I did it!)
I think I should focus on those!
So this one will just go down in the vault as a wickedly delicious salad. And contrary to my sorry excuses, this is a very forgiving salad. Use your favourite salad toppers. Just don’t skip on the tomatoes. And the dressing.
This salad all began with the creation of the raw eggplant bacon. I picked up a super cheap monster eggplant and earmarked it for the dehydrator. The salty and sweet marinade (tamari, maple syrup, vinegar, chili powder, smoked paprika and liquid smoke) was delicious and I couldn’t wait for them to dry out. Twelve hours felt like a life-time. I was blown away by the texture of the eggplant, airy yet crispy but sadly, with a fraction of the flavour from the salivating marinade. Since I used low-sodium tamari there wasn’t the uber saltiness associated with bacon but it was pretty nice, regardless. Does it taste like bacon? Not at all, but I don’t consider that a bad thing.
I also used some of the extra marinade to make zucchini chips. Since I sliced them cross-wise, they looked like chips and tasted like bacon chips, too. However, those went into my belly. The eggplant bacon went into this salad. (For the record, I prefer the eggplant version!)
Obviously, this salad pushes monumental levels when you use fresh, ripe ingredients. Fresh heirloom tomatoes, check. Local, fresh corn on the cob, check. Cute heirloom pinto beans, I’ve got that covered. Your greenery of choice (or whatever is in your fridge): baby spinach. I added oomph to the original dressing by mirroring the bacon marinade, throwing in smoked paprika and chili powder. Lime juice makes this a bright dressing. And while I was worried I wouldn’t have enough dressing with only the juice from 2 non-juicy limes, after I placed everything in jars for the week, the tomatoes macerated, adding tomato juicy goodness to the dressing, too. Now it was perfect.
For another variation on the corn + tomato + bean salad, try this one with a balsamic dressing, toasted in a skillet.
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this week’s favourite summer recipes, and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
I know the days are getting longer, but I go to work and it is dark. I come home from work and it is dark. As much as I love winter with its bright snow and clear icicles (not happening so much as I would like here in Toronto, btw), all I want is some sunshine. Some people head south for some sun and warmth. Me, I cook it up in my kitchen. For some reason, as soon as the weather turned cool, I turned to Caribbean dishes – bright with their flavourful ingredients, warmth from the spice and much cheaper than a trip down South.
This is a curry I spotted on Natalie’s lovely blog, Cook Eat Live Vegetarian, and again it passed my checklist for Rob: tamarind, coconut, curry, sweet potato (or squash) and pineapple. In fact, the ingredients look so similar to that delicious Butternut Squash, Coconut and Lentil Stew, but this is anything but similar yet equally as delicious.
Natalie explains that this curry originates from Martinique, an Eastern Caribbean island, that has elements from Africa, France, the Caribbean and South Asia in its cuisine. The distinctive flavours come from the Colombo spice mix that includes cumin, coriander, mustard, fenugreek, black peppercorns, cloves and turmeric. The curry gets its heft from starchy sweet potatoes, but butternut squash could equally be used. The eggplant melts into the coconut-curry broth, tangy from the tamarind and lime juice. As we are apt to do, we increased the tamarind.
Bring the warmth into your kitchen this winter, with a virtual trip down South. Although it will appear very real once you slurp up this delicious curry.
I have started to cook more Indian dishes… and I really enjoy them. I have yet to share them with any of my Indian friends, though. While Rob may consider himself an Indian connoisseur, he doesn’t count. Indian food is typically spicy, and sometimes I wonder if I am eating bastardized dishes since mine are not super spicy. I mean, is it still authentic Indian food?
I recently went to my friend’s baby shower where they had catered oodles of Indian food for the event. My poor friends tried the chaat appetizer and lost the majority of their taste buds instantly; it was that spicy. For the main meals, my friends taste-tested the dishes and let me know which I could tolerate. There was one slightly mild dish: a tomato-eggplant dish, they told me. Although it was drenched in oil, the dish was superb with roasted tomatoes and eggplant. I later asked what the “real” name of the dish was: bharta. I remembered Julia raving about her bharta and now I knew why. This is some great stuff!
One of the big differences I noticed in Julia’s recipe and the bharta component of the Indian Eggplant and Lentil Curry was that Julia roasted her tomatoes. Ingenious! Roasted eggplant AND tomatoes. Now that flame-roasting my eggplants are out of the question, I did it the safer way: in the oven. Doubling it up with the tomatoes was simple.
I ended up using more eggplant and tomatoes than Julia’s recipe, and because I didn’t care to make a dal concurrently, I threw in chickpeas towards the end of the dish.
While I didn’t cry, this is definitely one of my favourite meals. Smokey, sultry tomatoes and eggplant comes together in savoury spices with a hint of heat. A smidgen of coconut provides some sweetness. The cilantro and lemon liven it up. It tastes lush and rich but is actually a healthy meal. The chickpeas give it some bulk and sustenance. If I wanted to go the traditional route, I think I might try my hand at these bean-based dosa next time.
Not to toot my own horn, but this dish tasted better than the one at my friend’s party. And likely a whole lot healthier.
This is my submission to this month’s Sweet Heat Challenge, featuring Indian cuisine, to Lisa’s Celebration of Indian Food, to this week’s Wellness Weekend and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.
I have become hard to please at restaurants. I’ve already lambasted Fresh for their limpy soba noodles and hit-or-miss salads, but now that I am armed with their miso gravy, I can conquer the world! Or at least make sure their recipes are a hit when I make it myself.
On their menu is their Dragon Bowl: brown rice or soba noodles topped by grilled tomato, zucchini & tofu steaks with rich miso gravy, sesame seeds, cilantro & green onions.
But now I can make Fresh’s Dragon Bowl, My Way.
Forget the brown rice, or their gummy soba noodles, I want my grilled vegetables overtop quinoa! Marinate some tofu in soy sauce and sesame oil and pan-fry it to perfection. Pick your favourite vegetables (zucchini, bell pepper, eggplant and broccoli are what I had on hand), douse them in a bit of olive oil and chopped garlic, grill them on your barbecue (or broil in your oven), smother in miso gravy and then sprinkle sesame seeds and green onions overtop.
This miso gravy makes everything taste great!
Why this is called a dragon bowl, I have no clue. All I know it tastes great.
As Rob likes to say, if something hasn’t been dropped while he’s cooked, then he hasn’t really cooked.
My nemesis in the kitchen is having my water boil over while I make steel-cut oats. I swear, it happens nearly every week. Mostly because after I get my oats simmering, I usually wander away to do other things… load/unload the dishwasher, get dressed, etc… and then I hear sputtering and I’m back in an instant to calm the oats.
I am pretty good about not burning things, though.
So, when I roasted some eggplants over the gas flame on the oven, Rob was alarmed when he smelled smoke from his upstairs office. Everything alright? he asked. He peered at my neat pile of 7 Asian eggplants, on fire on the stovetop.
I am roasting eggplants! They are supposed to turn catch on fire and turn black. Honestly! This fire is under control!
While in Turkey, I learned how to roast an eggplant to get that smokey flavour for the eggplant in Sultan’s delight. You need to do it over an open flame. Apparently the big fat eggplants here have a much tougher skin, so they suggested getting an Asian or European variety with a thinner skin. After you have charred the eggplant, carefully remove the skin while retaining all the juice. The smaller eggplants, though, turn this into a very tedious chore. But, yes, it was worth the efforts. You can’t duplicate that flavour without the fire.
I have been meaning to make the Indian roasted eggplant dish, Baingan Bharta, for the longest time. However, as it is vegetable-based side dish, I have found it harder to incorporate into my weekly meals. I don’t usually do the two-dish dinners. So when I spotted this Eggplant and Lentil Curry at The Kathmanduo, I knew I had a great combination.
Essentially, you are combining dal bhat (or just dal since there is no rice) with baingan bharta. The dal, alone, was superb. The fenugreek adds a more savoury note that is tempered by the typical Indian culprits of cumin, ginger and coriander. You could stop right there, throw in some rice and have an excellent meal.
Please keep going, though.
With the roasted eggplant, you create a smokey, sultry savoury mush. It wasn’t what I was expecting from a bharta, as I wanted something with more tomato presence. The smokiness from the eggplant was unbeatable, though. Now throw it into your dal. Mix the two together. Bliss, sheer bliss. And a complete meal: veggies and beans. Add your favourite grain if you are still so inclined.
Sadly, as much as I adored this dish, this will be the last time I will be able to roast anything on an open flame in the kitchen.
Not because it was a fire hazard, or that I had a lot of cleaning to do afterwards…
But rather, we discovered that the smoke really irritates Rob’s allergies. The house smelled like smoke for 2 days and for weeks, Rob had unresolved sniffles. It took us a while to pinpoint the culprit but I’ve conceded the eggplant roasting for now. Even though Rob agreed this was the best eggplant dish he had ever had. Not willing to risk anyone’s health, it will have to stay locked in our memories forever.
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.
Returning from vacation the day before you return to work is not a good idea. Jet-lag was one reason it took me so long to get back into the groove after returning from Iceland.
Thankfully, I was forward-thinking and froze a bunch of meals before we left. I had dal bhat waiting for me upon my return as well as this delicious Iraqi-Inspired Eggplant and Seitan Stew from Susan at Fat Free Vegan.
Just like dal bhat, this was a savoury, comforting stew. Filled with warming spices like nutmeg, smoked paprika, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin and cardamom, you have a winning combination with silky yellow split peas and chunks of seitan in a pomegranate-infused sauce. I modified it only slightly by using liquid smoke and substituting Aleppo chili flakes for the larger chilies.
I have made seitan, or wheat meat, once before as chorizo sausages. This recipe is neat because you make a batch of seitan specifically for this recipe. The results are chewy nuggets admixed within the cooked eggplant and split peas. A nice play of textures with a definite protein boost.
This was a delicious stew to return home to, especially since it was so cold upon our return. Curl up with a bowl of stew any day you need some a virtual warm hug from a bowl.
My allegiance had originally been for the Indian Alphonso mango, but a ripe Mexican Ataulfo was a more economical standby that had a longer season.
While travelling in Morocco, I met a cute British couple that originally hailed from Pakistan. They urged me to try Pakistani mangoes, as they were even better than those from India (is there always such fierce rivalry between India and Pakistan?). To be honest, I had never even seen Pakistani mangoes, but I knew that Bestwin routinely carried an assortment of mangoes, many of which I hadn’t yet tried.
Last week, my co-worker, again, urged me to try Pakistani mangoes. They are nearing the end of the season and she assured me I wouldn’t be disappointed.
As it turned out, when I did my weekly trip to Sunny’s, they had small cases of honey mangoes (chok anon) from Pakistan. Just like Alphonso mangoes, they are definitely a splurge purchase.
Let me assure you, though, that these are some nice mangoes. Creamy and sweet, yet with a subtle tanginess, that mellows the sweetness. They didn’t seem to have as much stringiness near the pit, either.
Personally, I am content with any ripe mango, but I may concede that Pakistani mangoes reign in my kitchen. It is that tanginess that I appreciated the most, adding that extra level of complexity. I may no longer have that sweet tooth I used to, it seems, although these are still uber sweet mangoes. Enjoy them unadorned, or use them in a salad such as this (any ripe, sweet mango will do, though).
The original salad with eggplant, mango and soba noodles is compliments of Ottolenghi, but I took it in my own direction. Instead of pan-frying the eggplant in gobs of oil,
I Rob offered to grill it on the barbecue (alongside his perogies, at that!). This allowed me to use much less oil, with the addition of a soft smokiness to the dish. Some grilled asparagus was thrown in as well, for good measure. To make this a more substantial dish, I took Ottolenghi’s advice to add fried tofu, which I had marinated briefly in ponzu sauce and sesame oil. I also opted to use half of the sweet-chili dressing, since it seemed like a lot. And finally, while soba noodles would be lovely, I chose to spiralize two zucchinis as my noodle base. Don’t worry, I left the mango in there, and even used 2 honey mangos for the dish.
The result was a wonderful merriment of flavours. You have the grilled, creamy, smoky eggplant pairing beautifully with the sweet, tangy mango with a slightly spicy sauce, all overtop zucchini noodles. The tofu added a nice, satisfying crunch.
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Honeybee of The Life & Loves of Grumpy’s Honeybee, to this month’s Healing Foods featuring zucchini, and to Ricki’s Summer Wellness Weekends and to this month’s Simple and in Season.
This week has been incredibly busy at work. Twelve hours a day at work. Every day. Thankfully I was warmed a head of time. I met with my supervisor the week before and he told me to make sure I was eating, exercising and sleeping that week. Implying I would have no free time once November 1st rolled around. On the sleeping, eating and exercising front, only sleeping has suffered a bit. I cooked up a storm last weekend to have enough portable meals to last me all week. It was a huge help and I plan to do the same tomorrow. So, be prepared for a host of leftover friendly one-pot meals in the next few weeks.
Last month my mom dropped off a huge container of pearl barley. ‘Did you want some?’, she asked. Well, I didn’t want it to go to waste, and I love whole grains, so of course I agreed. But the next question was what to do with it. I really like this French barley salad, but I also enjoy trying new recipes. When I made Happiness Soup, I replaced the rice with barley which worked out really well. So when I spotted a recipe for Eggplant and Cashew Barley on Cate’s World Kitchen, it looked so fragrant and fresh with the heartiness of barley. She had also replaced the rice from the original recipe (from Fresh Indian by Sunil Vijayakar) with barley.
I enjoyed this dish, with the savoury Indian spices including cinnamon, cardamom, chili pepper, mustard seeds and bay leaf. It wasn’t spicy because I didn’t add many chili flakes, and would likely increase it next time. I found the sweet roasted red peppers worked well with the savoury barley, the creaminess from the cashews, and the touch of lime juice added that extra flavour kick. The eggplant was more in the background, but worked well with the dish. I really enjoyed how plump the barley was, because I was worried it would be more saucy like a barley risotto.
Has anyone else ever had arguments about whether couscous is a pasta or a grain? It is probably just me…
I am in the couscous is a pasta camp, and have tried to sway others. Sometimes we just agree to disagree and I don’t really feel like arguing about something a bit trivial. We can both agree that couscous is delicious, though.
Couscous is made from coarse durum wheat semolina, which comes from the endosperm of the durum wheat kernel. The traditional recipe uses durum wheat and semolina with a bit of salt. Water is added by the handful to moisten the mixture. The couscous pellets are sieved multiple times.
It sounds like pasta to me, but created with a healthier whole-grain flour. Compared to traditional pasta, it has a 25% reduced glycemic load per gram and contains higher amounts of protein and vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, and thiamin.
Couscous is prominent in North African cuisine, including Morocco, but also Algeria, Libya and Tunisia. Each country flavours it differently – Moroccans flavour it with saffron and use it as a side to their tagines, Algerian made add tomatoes and Tunisians made add tomatoes. Earlier this year, I made a side of cinnamon-scented couscous with my Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Dates and Almonds and really appreciated how it became fluffy with the additional steam in the oven. Couscous is easily found commercially-made, and available in different sizes: fine, medium and coarse.
This time, I wanted to try something different with Israeli (pearl, or coarse) couscous. Adapted from Raising the Salad Bar by Catherine Walthers, I liked how the roasted vegetables paired with the plump couscous, and the lemon added a lightness and brightness to the dish.
I find most food bloggers have very positive opinions about their food. They generally always love it.
Personally, I try to share recipes that I have loved, as well as normal, and the not-as-great ones. It helps to gauge how great I think the great recipes are. I also keep a list of my favourites for easy identification. I got a bit of flack for calling my Turkish bulgur salad with pomegranate and almonds the best salad ever, but truth be told, it was also called the best salad ever from the blog that I found it on. It also deserves the title.
I like to try other food bloggers’ favourite recipes. A while back, Ashley listed her favourite tofu dishes, and I was eager to try her Lemon Miso Tofu and Eggplant, adapted from the Rebar cookbook. With a lemon, miso and wasabi dressing (I substituted Aleppo chili flakes), I knew it would be tasty. The key is to press your tofu so it can absorb a lot of the marinade. As Ashley suggested, I made this with an overnight marinade for the tofu. I used the same dressing for the eggplant the following day, and in no time, it was ready to be baked for a quick meal. I preferred the tofu with the marinade the most, but it also worked well with the eggplant. Feel free to use your favourite vegetable. A good, tasty tofu recipe.
Wait! Deja vu? Eggplants, tomatoes, pomegranate molasses, beans… I think we just saw this as the delicious mualle, the Turkish Eggplant, Tomato and Lentil Stew with Pomegranate!
I really liked how the mualle turned out so I wanted to try make something similar again, while tomatoes and eggplants were still in season. I found this in Arabesque by Claudia Roden, and was drawn to it by its simplicity. Mualle takes a while to make and it works because the flavours are just bursting from the slow braise. However, I can’t make it every day. This dish, which has many of the same ingredients, comes together quicker, especially if you use canned chickpeas.
There was a sweet and tart play with this dish, from the sweet braised tomatoes and the tart pomegranate molasses. I liked the heavier presence of chickpeas, which is how I love my salads. If you wanted to spice things up, I don’t think you could go wrong with adding some mint or Aleppo chili flakes. The tomatoes cooked down to a sauce, so unless you don’t mind tomato peels, it would be better to take a few extra moments to skin the tomatoes (blanch then peel).
I served this as a vegetarian main with a slice of bread, but Roden has it listed as a mezze (starter or appetizer) and explains it could also be a side for a meat dish.
This is my submission to Nithu for this month’s Cooking with Whole Foods featuring chickpeas, this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Susan at The Well-Seasoned Cook, and to this month’s Monthly Mingle, featuring Lebanese cuisine.
On the same day I had my flat tire, complete with 2 exploded inner tubes while trying to repair it, I had this for dinner.
Having a couple of lackluster dishes the week before, I was a bit uneasy about trying a new recipe.
But I had a hankering for fish and wanted to try it with my new favourite ingredient, pomegranate molasses. Plus, there was the bonus of roasted eggplant, with this Georgian recipe I spotted in The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean by Paula Wolfert.
The original recipe suggested rainbow trout, but my love for salmon won that battle.
The dish was not what I expected but it was delicious. At first, I was hoping for something with a sharp tanginess from the pomegranate molasses, but this was mellow. The pomegranate flavour was mainly in the eggplant, which sopped up the basting liquid. The salmon was nice and flakey, but not infused with much pomegranate flavour. It was there, only subtly. But once you wrapped the salmon in some pomegranate roasted eggplant, this is where you made magic. Eating the two together is where you get the merriment of the flavours, the contrast of textures and simply a great meal. It made my inner tube worries melt away…
The summer lends well to cooking Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. Local, fresh produce is at the heart of many of their dishes. Eggplants, tomatoes, and zucchinis abound in grocery stores and my cookbooks simultaneously.
When I spotted this Turkish casserole stew, also known as mualle, I knew I had a great summer dish. I don’t immediately think of stew as a summer dish, but here, layers of eggplant, tomatoes and lentils are slowly braised with mint and pomegranate molasses to create a melt-in-your-mouth dish. Aleppo chili flakes add a nice burst of heat. Sweet, salty, sour, spicy, it has all the components of a great dish. I didn’t even need to turn on my oven, to boot!
After the long stove-top braise, I allowed the stew to return to room temperature. Leftovers were phenomenal. This stew was delicious served with a toasted baguette. By the end of the week, my bread was more stale, but I plopped it in with the stew for a few hours before lunch, and it was great. I can finally start to see the appeal of a bread salad like panzanella. Others have recommended serving it with rice and garlic-spiked yogurt, which is more authentic.
This recipe was adapted from Almost Turkish Recipes, who adapted it from Food & Wine (July 2004). I will decrease the olive oil a lot next time (2 tbsp may even be sufficient), as can be found in a very similar recipe by Paula Wolfert in Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking.