Apparently, the worst is behind me.
While my homies in Canada relish in local winter squashes, apples and other fall delights, Houston is experiencing its autumn as well. Last weekend as Rob and I went out for our weekly cronut ride, wherein we no longer buy cronuts, almost overnight, after the torrential rains had abated, there was a bit of a nip in the morning air. Of course, this is still Houston. It is all relative. Translation: It was only 20C (68F) that morning but I was cold in my sleeveless shirt and shorts. My parents are battling frost warnings at night, and their highs are still our lows. A few days later and a few degrees more, we are back in summer mode. As I write this, at 6am on the last Saturday in September, it is 25C, feels like 36C (77F and 97F respectively). Five degrees short of the day’s high. Woe is me. I am really looking forward to this “winter”. Perhaps this could entice more people to come visit me??
While I have not yet been craving kabocha squashes, I spotted a stalk of Brussels sprouts at the grocer. With a cute tag that exclaimed “We’re back!”. In Ontario, I’ve associated Brussels sprouts as fall/winter vegetables and ate my weight in them last year. I broke down and carried the huge stalk home with me, almost cradling like a baby since I did not want to damage them.
I ended up combining a ton of Asian goodies (thank you Viet Hoa) with the Brussels sprouts to create this very nice rendition of Vietnamese pho. The ingredient list is daunting, but it is a fairly simple soup to whip up. The abundance of vegetables creates a flavourful soup without too much of a soup base. The broth is nicely flavoured with ginger, star anise, tart lime juice, salty tamari and aromatic toasted sesame oil. Fresh mint adds a beautiful brightness. For the vegetables, seared Brussels sprouts, baby bok choy and meaty mushrooms make up the bulk of the soup. In addition, I added sliced water chestnuts, julienned bamboo shoots and baby corn (the latter all canned). I haven’t cooked with them before, but the bamboo shoots were akin to short noodles and the water chestnuts added a neat crunch. Definitely recommended. I used a mix of Asian mushrooms (shiitake, Portobello and enoki) but feel free to use just one.
The soup made a ton and filled me up all week long. Leftovers were just as good, if not better. While this may not seem like a fall-inspired recipe, this seems like a Texan fall-inspired meal. A light veggie-filled soup perfect during the hot weather. Hannah told me she may stop to read my blog during the winter, as she lives in Toronto, missing her warm Aussie winters. Please don’t hate me for the abundant heat!
Have you fallen for fall veggies yet?
Brussels sprouts done before:
In addition to cycling through Houston, Rob and I are also discovering Houston, one grocer at a time. After chowing through our organic produce, we started exploring my hitlist of ethnic grocers, one weekend at a time.
First of all, though, our Rawfully Organic broccoli lasted 3 weeks. WOAH! Gotta love that!
Second, because I love Asian produce, the first ethnic grocer we picked was H-Mart, a Korean market. It is a chain that has branches as far as California and New York, so you may be familiar with it. It reminded a lot of T&T, actually. A large, clean store with fresh produce, mostly Asian with a heavy Korean slant, with reasonable prices. They had a whole giant section just for kimchi. Rob picked out a house-made vegan kimchi for us to try. Turns out it wasn’t as blow-off-your-face hot as kimchi can be… score for me!
We also picked up a few different bags of brown rice. I am very particular about my brown rice and we both absolutely loved these finds. While both are short grain brown rice, the Sukoyaka Genmai Brown Rice produces the most fluffy and sticky rice (that doesn’t even taste like brown rice, imho). I can’t seem to find the other one online (it is made by Organic Farm and is a 50/50 blend of organic short grain brown rice and brown sweet rice). It requires a 2 hour soak, but it is very nice as well. Not sticky in the slightest, and less aromatic, but good rice. I was quite impressed by their wide selection of brown rice at H-Mart, which is usually hard to find. Now the dilemma will be whether to gamble and try a new brand or stick with these two we like a lot.
Lest you think we have gone all raw here, have no fear. A perfect rice bowl, akin to Korean bibimbap, complete with fresh rice waiting for me when I come home from work (thank you, Rob). A quick stir fry with tofu, broccoli and enoki mushrooms in a sweet maple infused sauce that is matched well with a side of not-so-fiery kimchi. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but we’ve made the quickie kimchi from Vegan Eats World, although it is really spicy if you use the full amount of Korean chili flakes. I am quite partial to the ginger-only version, actually.
So, have you ever been smitten by brown rice? What is your favourite brand?
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.
I think my pantry-purge has been going the wrong way. I am no longer accumulating new esoteric ingredients but I struggled with whether or not to replenish my staples. Could I live without chickpeas for a few months? Absolutely not. Miso? I replenished that, too. What about olives? I think I could manage olive-free for 6 months. Artichokes? Well, the best artichokes come from the freezer case at Trader Joe’s so I am excited to wait for those. The plan for now: use up the less-loved ingredients. The ones I can part with for a bit of time.
Now I can strike these from my pantry: artichokes and olives. What could have been a boring vegetable stew was helped with said pantry items. Olives add the salty punch to this spring-like tomato stew with red pepper, mushrooms, artichokes and spinach.
Sometimes I have limited enthusiasm for ingredients that have been stashed at the back of my pantry. Or I only have a limited repertoire for said ingredient. Olives and artichokes are not that wacky, but I am looking for ways to use fun things like kelp noodles, capers, jackfruit, assorted flours (chickpea flour is our staple but I still have some coconut flour, tapioca flour, rice flours and vital wheat gluten), puffed quinoa, dried fruits and nuts. And let’s not forget the things in my freezer: herbs, chopped veggies and fruits, tempeh, and frozen meals ready to go.
Do you have a big pantry or have a select collection of favourite ingredients in your pantry? I personally believe that a well-stocked kitchen makes for a well-prepared cook. It makes cooking easier and fun.
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, Little Thumbs Up event, hosted by Joyce, kitchen flavours, organized by Zoe from Bake For Happy Kids and Doreen for my little favourite D.I.Y..
In the morning, I like to read through my blog roll. Rob and I read different blogs, so we often share fun links with each other.
I might share interesting recipes with Rob (beer-soaked fries, anyone?), whereas Rob might share interesting news. Real new like we’re losing the penny. Where was I last year when they decided that? Or not so important (but still real) news like the Toronto IKEA monkey that made front page news around Christmas (that I otherwise missed). Or the software developer who outsourced his own job to China. I think my favourite part of the detective work was documenting that he spent hours watching cat videos.
It is true: we love cat videos, too. Like this one, this one and this one. Oh, and this oldie but goodie. I liked those better than the World’s Best Cat Video, although it was still pretty cute. The top 30 cats of 2012 had some of our favourites, too, including grumpy cat! (With a special nod to #5, cat alarm cat).
OK, OK, I know I should be studying.
I have been keeping things simple in the kitchen like this easy spaghetti squash stir fry with Brussels sprouts and chickpeas. Once you’ve roasted the squash, it comes together pretty simply. An Italian spiced dish with basil lightened with lemon juice, that is really more than the sum of its parts. It has been a while since I’ve cooked with spaghetti squash. My first venture was less than stellar and it took me a while to regain my confidence. Once you get past the notion it is pasta (it isn’t), you can enjoy it as a noodly-shaped squash. Actually, if you haven’t yet watched it separate into the thin spaghetti strands, you are in for a treat. A neat trick from nature. This dish was also nice as leftovers.. booyah!
So, do you enjoy cat videos, too? Any favourites?
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I reflect on where I have been and I wonder how I managed to pull through. How did I manage to survive 4 years of medical school? Nearly 5 years of residency? Cycle between Ottawa and Kingston and back again? In the thick of it: I don’t think, I just perform.
During medical school, for the first two years, I routinely had lectures from 8am to 5pm every day, interspersed with small group sessions, anatomy labs and clinical skills workshops. Even when I go to conferences, I don’t subject myself to 9 hours of lectures in a day. It is just nuts. However, this weekend I sat through 3 days of intense review-type lectures. Rapid fast compressed learning, except it was more of a reminder of things I already knew. However, after 10 hours of lectures on Saturday, and a lengthy 3 hour drive home (thank you Toronto traffic), I was positively pooped. The next day, too. The last thing I wanted to do was to cook… it was that bad. I ended up sleeping at 8pm.
Meals stashed in the freezer are a definite boon these days. However, I find cooking therapeutic. A way to destress as I chop and julienne vegetables, stirring patiently as I saute onions or peacefully munch through the leftovers.
When I finally made it back into the kitchen, instead of reinventing the wheel, I revamped an old favourite. This is a variation of my Chinese Five Spice Vegetable and Noodle Stir Fry. Same flavours, mostly different vegetables. Turns out the original recipe called for winter vegetables like Brussels sprouts. My first incarnation included parsnips, carrots, green beans, oyster mushrooms and Swiss chard; basically the odds and ends in my fridge. This time, I included thinly sliced Brussels sprouts, enoki mushrooms, carrots and parsnips: the current odds and ends in my fridge. The hardest part is chopping all the vegetables, but a quick saute in the wok yields a flavourful meal from the Chinese five spice. I use kelp noodles, which I like in Asian stir fries, but feel free to use your favourite noodle. Gena recently wrote a great post all about kelp noodles if you have yet to try them. I am already imagining my next incarnation, likely including edamame.
My mom has been reading my blog from the beginning. My dad, not so much. Last summer, he saw the picture of Silken Tofu Topped with Enoki Mushrooms and told me it looked awful. Maybe he said it looked gross. I can’t remember. To me, the picture reminded me how great the dish was. I saw the taste that I remembered, that I enjoyed, so I didn’t think it looked “gross”. Granted, enoki mushrooms are odd-looking things to the uninitiated. My mom still raves about one of my first photos of enoki mushrooms, and how alien-like they look. Attack of the mushrooms!!
Personally, I love enoki mushrooms and they are definitely one of my favourite mushrooms. They have a delicate flavour so the rest of the dish is what matters most. It is a shame they haven’t hit mainstream grocers just yet. I usually pick them up at T&T when they go on sale, but yes, my new favourite grocery store, Sunny Supermarket, also sells them. On sale to boot- 2 packages for $2!
I wanted to try something that highlighted the mushroom, instead of adding them to a stew. I spotted a great recipe in Kansha, the new vegetarian cookbook by Andoh, who also provided the original recipe for Silken Tofu Topped with Enoki Mushrooms in Washoku. The original recipe was a vegetable side but I decided to beef it up by doubling the vegetable portion and serving it overtop chunks of silken tofu as a main dish.
The prep was quite labour intensive if you follow Andoh’s suggestion of making thin matchsticks of carrots and ginger. I did it all by hand since I don’t have a spiralizer (yet). It made for a nice texture that complemented the enoki mushrooms really well, but since everything was stir-fried, I feel that simply shredding the carrots would be equally as good and way easier to do. But the taste, the taste was great. Andoh’s recipes are more subtle, not in your face, which is what I love. It was simple, tasty and completely Japanese. The zip from the ginger was great with the silky background of the delicate enoki mushrooms and silken tofu.
This is my submission to E.A.T. World for Japan.