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:
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.
Last week was a bit of a tease.I was lamenting how it would be months before I could take my bike out. I was shocked when the weather turned around completely, with a few gorgeous spring days with highs around 15C. I quickly brought my bike into the shop to get its annual tune up, and was commuting to work earlier this week. Only to have snow come again the following day. It was such a slap in the face to have spring yanked out from under my bicycle tires!
No use sulking, as there are still lots of great things winter provides, like hearty soups and stews. There are many dishes to warm up the soul when outside is so cold.
Like this Japanese Stew. While I am usually leery of making Japanese recipes from a non-Japanese cookbook, I still ventured to make a Japanese Winter Stew I found in Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health. I swapped the veggies around, though, for a more authentic feel (power to random purchases from Chinatown!), but really, you could throw in any seasonal vegetable. I kept the sweet potato and tofu, but I substituted daikon for the turnip, added in 100g of chopped enoki mushrooms and used 4 oz baby spinach instead of mustard greens. I then topped each serving with chopped green onions and drizzled with a touch of toasted sesame oil. This is a powerhouse of a winter stew, overflowing with vegetables, yet with the comforting miso taste but zippy from the chili flakes and ginger. It balances out so nicely, which is what Japanese cuisine is all about.
I know tofu gets a bad rap, but I rather enjoy it. It sops up flavours while cooking and can be molded into many different directions. One of my favourite kinds of tofu is silken tofu. I still remember the first time I tried it; my friend added it to an orzo soup simply because it was close to its best before date. The tofu was cut into small pieces and every time I ate a piece of tofu, I felt like I was eating from a cool cloud, a pillow of silkiness – in a good way! It was my first introduction to tofu and I was hooked. I started adding it to my soups, too, and cold noodle salads.
This is one of my favourite dishes, especially when enoki mushrooms are on sale, as the silky, melt-in-your-mouth tofu is paired with pale, tender, enoki mushrooms smothered in a delicate, subtle dashi broth flavoured with soy sauce, mirin and sake. It is a snap to put together but it is important to warm the tofu so that it is heated all the way through. This is simplicity at its finest, very much the quintessential trait of Japanese cuisine. Depending on the mushroom you choose, this dish vary from delicate as I described with the enoki mushrooms, to more robust with maitake mushrooms.
Enoki mushrooms are hands-down my favourite mushroom and here is another lovely summer dish for enoki mushrooms: Enoki somen.
It is my pleasure to join the Washoku Warriors this month, featuring our favourite dish from Washoku by Elizabeth Andoh (the original recipe is posted here). I am also submitting it for this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Simona at Briciole.
I really enjoy the simplicity of Japanese cuisine. A few ingredients can whip up a quick and tasty dish. I absolutely love enoki mushrooms, which are very popular in Japan. They are white and slender, with a very delicate flavour (they converted me from a mushroom hater). Like most mushrooms, they absorb their taste from the rest of the dish.
In this dish, they are paired nicely, and blend in almost interchangeably with somen noodles (can you spot the tips in the photo?). Somen noodles are a fine white noodle made with wheat flour, and are the queen of Japanese noodles as they were a favourite of the imperial palaces and Buddhist temples. They are mostly machine-made but homemade noodles are pulled and rested at great lengths to make such slender noodles. Undoubtedly, the thin noodles are a joy to eat. They are typically eaten chilled during the summer months, but this dish, Enoki somen (Enoki mushrooms with somen noodles), adapted from The Japanese Kitchen by Kimiko Barber, pairs both in a warm dashi broth. I wasn’t sure what leftovers would look or taste like, so I modified to recipe to serve 1 and it was very filling.
This was a lovely noodle dish, a cross between noodles and soup.. a soup rather overflowing with noodles, or noodles dressed lightly with broth. Either way, I loved its simplicity and taste. Enjoy!
A note about finding these ingredients in Toronto:
Somen noodles – Likewise, they can be found at all Asian stores and well-stocked grocery stores like Loblaws.