Welcome to my latest obsession: fried capers.
If you have yet to try them yet, try to imagine how they would taste. Crunchy, salty little nibbles. It surprised me how much they taste like popcorn, I kid you not. Combined with the pickled currants (tart and sweet), and the avocado (creamy!), this salad was perfectly balanced. I know I say that a lot here, but this salad rises above its peers. It could possibly be my best salad of the year. I thought my Cali-Coco BLT Salad was the best so far, but this week I switched allegiances. It could possibly usurp the former champion, crowned in 2011: The New Best Salad Ever aka Roasted Garlic Tofu Salad with Cilantro Rice, Black Beans and a Mango Salsa.
I am no stranger to quick pickled dried fruits, but the benefit of pickling dried currants instead of raisins, is that you don’t get the goopy juicy raisins that don’t particularly appeal to me.
My inspiration for this fascinating combination was the ever-fabulous Deb of Smitten Kitchen, although I changed many things, including adding the much maligned leafy greens. I also chose to roast my cauliflower and added the fantastically creamy avocado. I look forward to trying her riced fresh cauliflower in the warmer months. The fried capers? Completely her idea. Her poetic prose made me stock up on capers pronto:
Crispy fried capers are one of my favorite garnishes, ever. They are way more interesting than bacon bits — yes, I said it. When you drop capers (that you’ve patted out on paper towels as best as possible) in a little puddle of oil, magical things happen — their layers curl out and crisp, like the world’s tiniest blooming onion. Like all fried, crunchy things, they don’t keep long under the weight of dressing; I recommend adding them only right before serving. I usually use brined capers for this, but both brined and salt-packed will work.
Um yeah, totally try them out. Please.
I hope all my Canadian readers enjoyed their long Thanksgiving weekend. My small contribution to this year’s Thanksgiving spread was my silky smooth braised cabbage. Mostly because it is so easy to make. Also because I remade it last year and it wasn’t as good as I remembered it, so I wanted to try it again. This time, I read the recipe more carefully. I have to cook it for at least 2 hours and 15 minutes. I think I missed a whole hour last time, but this time, 2.5 hours later, we had glorious braised cabbage. Vindicated.
Although while searching for my cabbage recipe, I came across Ottolenghi’s new recipe for miso-braised cabbage. With half a head of cabbage leftover, I vowed to make his version when I returned home. Although, I fell victim to not reading the recipe. Or became confused. I mistakenly cooked it at 400F for 20 minutes and then 200F for another 3.5 hours. As such, my cabbage wasn’t as crispy golden as my other recipe for braised cabbage, but still silky tender, without a drop of oil. I probably could have roasted it for a final 15 minutes at 400F for a crispy exterior but I was quickly running out of time. I kept the original temperature in the directions below for your next attempt.
I often have troubles when I halve or double recipes, so I always make sure to write down the math for every ingredient, but this time the C and F conversion tripped me up. Too much information! How do you usually mess up recipes?
Despite what you make believe, I haven’t eaten any winter squash recently. I bought a colourful carnival squash but haven’t made anything with it yet. I have this recipe I made while in Houston. The giveaway? The frozen roasted corn. I can’t say I have seen that since returning to Toronto.
This is a perfect end-of-summer, beginning of fall soup, as the last of the local corn arrives and the first winter squashes arrive. Or perfect for the dead of winter, too, using frozen corn kernels.
The Three Sisters, referring to the dietary staples of the Mesoamerican diet: corn, beans and squash. They often grow together, each plant benefitted from the others. The lankly corn husks provided a structure for the beans to latch onto. The squash covers the ground, preventing pesky weeds from appearing. And like all beans, they return nitrogen to the soil to help nearby plants. It makes sense that meals would also center around such foods, equally creating a balanced meal. This meal is simple but elevated by choice herbs and spices (cilantro, chiles, smoked paprika, garlic) with a heavy hand of lime juice. I used the full amount in the recipe and even I, the lover of all things tart, found it off-putting. Please start with less and taste as you go.
The recipe comes from a cookbook I have been meaning to write about for a while, Extraordinary Vegan. I can see Allan is a partial kindred spirit in the kitchen as he realizes a few choice ingredients can elevate meals to become extraordinary. Like I have said, some of my favourite, albeit unusual ingredients, are Aleppo chile flakes, pomegranate molasses, smoked paprika and miso. These are a few of the ingredients Allan uses to create his meals. I had a few of these in my Houston kitchen, but still piecing together my larger pantry here, and now looking forward to trying other recipes. Many recipes are simple but a few use a few hard to find ingredients. Here are a few other recipes I have spotted around the web from Extraordinary Vegan.
Are the squashes out in full force in your kitchen yet?
You are too nice. I ran into the same low-light problem when photographing this salad after work. I wanted my standard front view and top view, but it was too blurry and grainy to work. I suppose that is when fun filters hide photographer faults? ;)
In any case, I decided the salad was too sweet not to share. Who knows how long my avocados will keep!
My inspiration came from a meal I shared with Gabby at a hipster restaurant with a few vegan-friendly options. They veganized their Cali-Coco BLT sandwich which had a thick layer of sliced avocado, coconut bacon, tomato, arugula and vegan mayonnaise on a ciabatta bun. Apparently, avocado + BLT = a California BLT. I also had a side of dal frites (yes a curry and fries poutine!), which was positively too much food.
I was still excited about recreating this at home, though. Unsweetened coconut chips were tricky to locate but my Mom helped locate these wonderfully shaped coconut slices. I am used to smaller coconut chips, so this was great. While I used mine with a salad, I think these bigger pieces would work better in sandwiches, too.
I used my previous recipe for coconut bacon, added half an avocado, a handful of cherry tomatoes, a mound of arugula and then fortified it with cooked quinoa and smoked tofu. Rob thinks the smoked tofu looks like cheese, but I swear it is not. Mash up the avocado with each bite but I will admit I scooped a bit of garlic-infused mayo aioli with each bite as a quasi dressing. Delicious!
I just might need a very pretty picture to knock me out of a bloggers block. A simple recipe, I really only gave directions for the salsa baked tofu and told you what else I included in my salad. No measuring, just plating and eating.
I tried a bit harder to make this salad pretty.
While it still feels like summer in Toronto, it is hard to believe Thanksgiving is quickly approaching. And as I was writing up my recipe for raw macadamia vanilla cream, I realized I never shared this fabulous recipe with you.
It still makes me smile that one of my co-workers, Abby, made a vegan and gluten-free pumpkin pie with me in mind for last year’s Thanksgiving. Abby graciously let me take home all the leftovers which I enjoyed. Sadly, I was hoping to get better photos. I don’t think these do it any justice but figured I should still share the great recipe with you.
Pumpkin pies are ubiquitous in the US around Thanksgiving but this pie was better than your traditional fare. A mixture of both pumpkin and sweet potato purees with a custard texture from tofu worked really well here. It was perfectly sweetened with a hint of savoury notes from the cinnamon and nutmeg. The recipe will make more filling than you need for one pie, which might work out nicely if you have a vegan friend who really wants all the leftovers. ;)
The crust was awesome, too, just a bit on the brown side, but with a spiced pecan background that worked well with the pumpkin pie. As I pay more attention to the recipe, it looks like Abby took some inspiration for the crust from my pecan-shortbread crust I used with a lemon-cheesecake. You may not even need to pre-bake the crust like Abby did, so keep that in mind.
Are you ready for fall yet?
Nothing like a blog tour from a fabulous cookbook, to get me moving in the kitchen again. It also helped that the recipes are super easy and still delicious. I already told you all about OATrageous Oatmeals earlier but I am back for Kathy’s blog tour. This time sharing her recipe for Mushroom Ginger Congee.
Traditionally congee is made with rice to make a porridge-like consistency and flavoured and garnished with as much or as little as you want. I noticed Kate Lewis’ photo in the book had additional mushrooms and green onions as garnishes, so I added that to mine. Not merely photogenic, it added a nice depth of flavour, too. I think a bit of toasted sesame oil would be lovely, too. I was never super convinced oats could hold savoury flavours so well, but this was delicious. I used Bob’s Red Mill Extra Thick Rolled Oats because I knew I wanted them to have a bit more texture. They were delicious here.
Thankfully, the publisher is letting me share the recipe AND give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me what you like to do with oats. I will randomly select a winner on September 28, 2014. Good luck!
Third time was a charm. Rob and I finally got our internet at home this weekend. (YES!)
We also moved all our stuff previously stored in my brother’s basement.
I can no longer find my computer, though.
I mean, I know where it is, but it blocked by too many boxes to unpack.
OMG. We have a lot of stuff. I am truly a hoarder (of sorts).
Living a year without most of the stuff will make it easy to purge. Easier, I should clarify.
I am hoping to rebuild a decluttered home, but we have many boxes ahead of us. In time.
Otherwise, here are some quick and easy desserts to try. No need to wait too long for your mango to absorb any water, just blitz away. I added a touch of lemon zest to accentuate the sweetness of the mango. The coconut makes this luscious and decadent. These are more akin to a non-chocolate truffle in their consistency. I don’t think they would work well as a ball, which is why I put them in the small cups. Another alternative would be to pour the batter into a small square container and then cut them into your preferred size. Enjoy!
Hoarder or purger? Which are you?
I will hopefully become a ruthless purger.
I spoke too soon.
You know when you plan for something, know you won’t be having internet for a while and schedule a post about what life will be like (because you planned for it to be as so)?
Well, let’s just say I planned to have a semi-functioning household. En route to our new home in Toronto, packed to the brim with loaner things (you know, all the necessities: an inflatable bed, sheets, cutlery, pot, frypan, containers and all that food you made for the following week so you wouldn’t actually have to cook..), an hour and half into our trip from Ottawa, my car breaks down. We pulled off to the side of the 401 as my dashboard went bonkers and the engine stopped working.
I pulled out my cell phone. Three days earlier I had finally signed up for service. Although, looking down, my phone told me I had no service. (Bad WIND!) Not good.
Thank goodness Rob’s phone still worked, despite roaming and despite me previously draining the battery surfing the internet.
Frantic phone calls eventually got my brother and pregnant sister-in-law to my side who had the rational idea to tow the car back to Ottawa and they would drive Rob and I along with a few essentials.
We called CAA/AAA with my brother’s charged phone, despite being on hold and having dropped calls, only to find out our membership expired last month (GAH!). Membership offices are closed because it is a holiday.
We contact my Mom, who has a CAA membership and she offered to come down and help out. We knew it would be at least 90 minutes for her to arrive.
We start rearranging luggage on the side of the highway. Non-essentials in the dead car. Essentials in my brother’s. I had to make quick decisions: clothes and underwear keep, inflatable bed keep (but forgot the pump and sheets!) and also realized there was no room for all of the packed food and the container with all the helpful bits (pot, pan, knives, etc).
An OPP police officer pulls over and asks us what was going on. It must be such a sight with all of us scurrying around, including a pregnant woman and someone with crutches. He calls a tow truck to remove us from harm’s way and told us to be careful (turns out someone had died earlier that day after exiting their car).
Not too long afterwards, the tow truck arrives. The car is loaded onto the flatbed truck and brought to the closest safe location as we patiently wait for my mother to arrive.
Eventually, my Mom is able to call CAA for us and she returns with the car back to Ottawa. My brother drops us off in our new empty home. (Kind soul, he actually waited with us for 30 minutes as we waited for our landlord to give us the keys). We forgot we have no microwave.
Once we’re somewhat settled, Rob runs off to the grocery store since we have zero food. And no tokens for the bus to get to work tomorrow. He comes back loaded with groceries. We quickly eat the ready-made salads and hummus.
I ask for his can opener for the beans. (Because salsa+beans=meal). It is in the bag that went back to Ottawa. GAH.
I subsequently call up a friend and we cobble together some kitchen necessities to borrow: cutlery, can opener, bowls and plates. And a pot!
We collapse on the inflatable bed. Exhausted but at the same time basking in the love and support from family and friends. Ready for me to start my first day at work.*
*With my vacation clothes I packed for Africa.
If you are here for the lovely recipe instead of the dramatic life of Janet (I can’t make this up!), this was made while I still lived in Houston. This was our go-to roasted cauliflower recipe. A tomato base with a savoury spice blend. The original recipe was for a raw version, using the dehydrator, but we have been using tomato paste and the oven since it is both delicious and simple. A great side with lots of flavour.
Perhaps in a week or so I will be back to normal. Have you ever felt like the universe was pushing against you?
I almost thought about making my blog vacation all about chickpea flour. I have been experimenting with it a lot more and this was a fun venture into sweet pancakes.
I was drawn to Gena’s recipe because they were protein pancakes without protein powder. While I am no stranger to savoury chickpea flour pancakes (aka besan chilla), I liked how these were more traditional. Here, chickpea flour is combined with cashew flour and soy milk for a heartier base.
They did not fluff up like regular pancakes, but were good for a lazy weekend breakfast. I topped them with a quickie raspberry chia jam for a summer twist. Forget boiling the fruit as in my blueberry vanilla chia jam. I simply defrosted some frozen raspberries in the microwave, added some chia seeds and waited a few minutes. The jam was a nice sweet contrast when rolled inside the pancakes.
I am sharing this with Dead Easy Desserts.
This is probably my favourite concoction from the remains of my pantry.
I had a vision. I wanted to make corn muffins with masarepa. Cornmeal, polenta, masa harina and masarepa— what are the differences?
Masarepa is unique because it is precooked. We use it all the time for arepas and I love how soft and melt-in-your mouth arepas taste fresh from the oven. Sounds like the perfect recipe for cornbread, no?
My googling did not help. Possibly because arepas ARE Colombia’s (and Venezuela’s) answer to cornbread.
In any case, I cobbled together a few recipes and in the end, just ran with it. Into my batter with masarepa (and masa harina since I finished our stash), I added roasted corn, roasted hatch chiles and roasted red peppers. A bit of sweetener to accentuate the dough, although that may be sacrilegious depending on who you ask (and I am no corn bread expert).
Although I appreciate good food, and this was delicious. Basically a fiesta arepa in muffin form. They didn’t really raise too much. Although this will encourage me to add veggies to our next batch of arepas.
I find experimental baking quite daunting, but these turned out great. Do you ever make non-arepas from masarepa?
Last year, I was all over the strawberry cucumber smoothie. I drank it for weeks straight. Banana-less, the strawberries provided enough sweetness and contrasted against the cooling cucumber.
This year, I went more simple: frozen watermelon and mint. Lime juice is optional, mainly because I think it would be fabulous, but right now our limes are very sad so I didn’t get very much juice at all.
By using watermelon that has been pre-frozen, this is a quick and cooling drink. The hint of mint is a nice contrast without overpowering the drink.
Depending on the sweetness of your watermelon (and your tastes), will depends how much sweetener you would like to add.
What are your favourite summer drinks?
PS. Another nice version is this pineapple-mint frothy!
Houston played a cruel joke on us earlier this week.
If you thought it was hot outside, it was more hot inside our home. While not too hot outside (highs of 90F/32C), inside our home, it was 86F/29C. It was still 86F inside, after an overnight low of 80F/27C.
Yes, our air conditioner had stopped working.
Rob suffered the brunt of it, as he stayed at home (to work) and greet the 3 separate repairmen. The first 2 could not reach the roof with their ladders. Thankfully, the third team was a charm. By this time, it was closer to 9 pm at night but when the cool air began to circulate through the house, it felt like heaven.
Truthfully, I had a long day at work but I was not rushing back to a hot and humid home. When I finally arrived, all I wanted was a cool drink. We have almost finished the frozen fruit in our freezer and this certainly hit the spot. I would not have considered something so simple as pineapple and mint, but while we were in Toronto last week, we sampled a delicious pineapple-apple-mint juice from Yam Chops. Imagine my surprise after a quick spin in the blender, the froth had taken over. It was glorious! It settled a bit as I went looking for my camera, but I think you get the idea. Definitely the epitome of a frothy drink.
I am sharing this with Cooking with Herbs.
Time is a-ticking. Less than a week left in Houston. We have been balancing DO.ALL.THE.THINGS left to do in Houston and DO.ALL.THE.PACKING. Lots of pantry-friendly meals this month as we eat through our kitchen.
We stopped replenishing the red lentils months ago and begrudgingly started eating through the toor dal. Not that we don’t love it (WE LOVE TOOR DAL) but it just takes longer to cook and time is something we are lacking right now.
We left a few Houston must-dos until the end. I finally went to the NASA Space Center, lured by a private tour by an astronaut. An astronaut with a PhD in Cancer Biology, which was right up my alley, as she explained the medical complications of space travel. And let us touch and feel the space stuff. But not wear the space suits, sadly. Astronauts ARE a science experiment in themselves, did you know? They also do deadlifts and squats in space to maintain their bone density.
We also went to Chinatown to eat at one of the rival Malaysian restaurants, complete with the suggested one-hour foot massage for only $20-25 at the neighbouring reflexology spas. It is the thing to do, I swear.
That experience was also our first (and hopefully last) experience with Houston rush hour traffic.
Also, kudos to the American pharmacies. “Yellow Fever Vaccine Now Here”. I can easily obtain travel immunizations without an appointment or a puncture fee. Vaccines tend to be controversial but it is not controversial for me: I would rather not get infected. So I finally got my hepatitis A shots and re-immunized myself against typhoid for my upcoming vacation.
So, about this curry. It is simple, yet delicious. Lightly spices with all the great Indian spices (cumin, coriander, garam masala) and lightened with a splash of lemon juice, it is a nice hearty meal. An easy way to easily add more spinach, too.
I haven’t really gone into too much detail why I am pro-vaccine (the main reason is the ability to prevent serious diseases, some of which are uncurable, which I believe outweighs the potential side effects from receiving the vaccine). Do you have strong opinions either way?
Houston gets me every single time. You leave for a week or two and you forget how hot and humid it is. Or maybe it just became hotter.
I thought it was ice cream weather before but now it has become a dietary staple. Just like salsas, we will have to wean ourselves from the vegan ice creams at Trader Joe’s.
I have no ice cream maker, but this recipe promised to deliver.
Mint ice cream with chocolate chunks – what’s not to like? I added some spirulina to make it a vibrant green base.
Sadly, it didn’t work out. I actually wonder whether it could be done at all without an ice cream maker. I quickly realized the chocolate chunks would sink to the bottom if I didn’t stir. So, I stirred the ice cream as it become to freeze, almost every 30 minutes for a few hours. Until it was way too late to stay up. Of course, in the morning, it was solid as a brick and difficult to thaw. I had a hard time getting it into a scoopable form and ended up thawing it in the microwave! It was also a bit icy, I suspect because I didn’t remove the watery coconut water from the coconut milk.
I eventually refroze it into small quantities and ended up adding some soy milk to turn it into a smoothie. Next time, I may try Kari’s idea to put it back in the food processor to whip it back into a creamy state. Or fish out my ice cream maker from storage.
The recipe comes from The China Study All-Star Collection which is a collection of vegan recipes that focus on whole foods with limited refined oils, sugars and salt. Like my cookbook collaboration, the recipes hail from many authors. I was familiar with some of the authors (Dreena Burton, Ani Phyo, Christy Morgan, and Lindsay Nixon) but also new-to-me authors like Chef AJ and Del Sroufe among others.
A cookbook like this makes a great introductory cookbook. You are exposed to the styles of many chefs, hopefully finding a few that really resonate with you, or others that perhaps push you in new directions. Would you like to try Dreena’s Apple Lentil Dal? Or Christina’s Daikon Mushroom Fettuccine? Or Laura’s Cauliflower Steaks with Sweet Pepper Sauce? Or Heather’s Dark Chocolate, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Brownies? Yeah, me too. All four. In fact, you may notice a few repeats from the more prolific writers. Lindsay’s Quick Burgers have been shared earlier as well as Dreena’s Mellow Lentil “Sniffle Soup” and Black Bean Soup with Sweet Potatoes (I shared that one in the fall and it was fabulous!). If nothing else, it may open you up to a whole new library from a new favourite author.
Of note, due to the multiple authors, the writing style of each author is apparent, along with the quality of their accompanying photographs.
Recipes from The China Study All-Star Collection shared elsewhere:
Peanut Butter Fudge Truffles (with another giveaway, too)
Dreamy Baked Bananas (with another giveaway, too)
Thankfully, the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite ice cream flavours. I will randomly select a winner on June 30, 2014. Good luck!