the taste space

Szechuan Green Beans and Red Pepper

Posted in Sides by janet @ the taste space on January 31, 2013

I feel like I am still in an exploratory phase. An exploratory phase of cooking. I am not sure if it will ever end, but it seems to me like there are constantly new things I’d like to try eating. Beyond new grains like kasha and kaniwa, or new heirloom beans, I will always scour new recipes. As I learned in Colombia, there are a host of new fruits and vegetables to explore, too.

While I may not be entirely thrilled with my closest ethnic grocer, it is still an ethnic grocer with produce I have yet to try eating.  I once had a goal of trying all the new-to-me veggies at Bestwin and Sunny’s, but I can only tackle so many new ingredients at once. As I am unsure of the ethnic produce available in Texas (people keep trying to convince me that there is a dearth of vegetables there, but I protest!), I should capitalize on trying new veggies. In honour of the upcoming Chinese New Year, I popped some Chinese long beans into my cart. Only later did I figure out what I wanted to do…

I found this quick and easy Chinese veggie dish, with flavourful spices while still being able to highlight the long beans. I really liked the play between the Szechuan peppercorns and star anise with the garlicky vegetables. The peanuts added a great crunch and texture.

So, the long beans? Not my favourite. If I had to choose, the thin French green beans (haricot verts) are definitely my preferred green bean. The long beans are more chewy pod, less beany and not as flavourful as the French variety. I’d prefer the standard green beans, too, and would likely use them when making this again.

But hey, at least now I know. I will never go about thinking “I never tried the Chinese long beans.. maybe they are better than the rest?”.  Even if the long beans are more authentic in this dish, the regular green beans would do just fine, as well.

Do you like discovering new veggies?

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Wellness and to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Cristina.

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Moroccan Chana Dal Stew with Green Olives and Preserved Lemon

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on November 1, 2012

With less free time, I have had to trim my bloglist. I can’t seem to fit everything into a day, so I am focusing my blog reading in the morning.

However, all bets are off if I can’t sleep at night.

I recently discovered this incredibly hilarious blog. Maybe you’ve run into her blog already? Jenny, The Bloggess?

Just read these two posts and I guarantee you will be laughing:

Post 1. Post 2.

I don’t want to give away any of the punch lines, but it makes me look tame. Crazy Janet buying 10 squashes is nothing compared to this!

Crazy Janet buying 10 squashes means more squash recipes for you, though!

This is a recipe I bookmarked years ago when Deb first posted it: Squash and Chickpea Moroccan Stew.

I stashed away a preserved lemon and green olives a bit too long, just for this recipe.

Turns out that while I had the squash and green beans, too, I didn’t have any chickpeas. My freezer collection had been depleted. Undeterred, I pulled out the next best thing: chana dal, or split chickpeas. Except they aren’t typical chickpeas, they are black desi chickpeas. A tad smaller, a bit firmer, they have a thick shell which makes them look black. However, chana dal splits them in half and removes the tough outer shell. I figured they would cook up faster than unsoaked chickpeas, too. Have no chana dal? Try split yellow peas instead (soaked would be best)… or used cooked chickpeas like in the original. :)

While my stew looks nothing like Deb’s original version, I am sure mine was equally as delicious. I liked the creamy nature of the chana dal as a back drop for the stew along with cinnamon and cumin. The buttercup squash was sweet and complemented the grassiness of the green beans (yes, my plants were very prolific this year). For further depth, green Cerignola olives and preserved lemon make this an exotic twist of flavours.

I was trying to tackle bookmarked recipes last month and I wonder if I should keep this one bookmarked so I can try the original version? I still have half a preserved lemon left!

While I still have many more bookmarked recipes courtesy of a great vegan mofo, I still tackled many of my dog-eared bookmarks and depleted my pantry items. Thank goodness most of the recipes were successes!

What have you bookmarked recently?

What are your favourite non-food blogs?

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays,  to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Simona, and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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Kasha Salad with Roasted Beets and Green Beans in a Lemon-Dill Vinaigrette

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by janet @ the taste space on September 14, 2012

This weekend boasts both the Polish Festival and the Ukrainian festival.

For those keeping score. Rob = Polish. Me = Ukrainian and German.

As a bonus, both sets of our parents will be coming to Toronto to check out the festivals. I mean, they are coming to see us.

How will we manage? Which one to attend? They are reasonably close to each other, so we’ll likely hit up both festivals. The question is who will win the pierogi contest? OK, forget pierogi, I am more interested in kasha these days.

Nothing says more Eastern European than beets and dill, especially with kasha!

Kasha is buckwheat that has been hulled and roasted. As such, it is a darker brown than raw buckwheat. Kasha can be tricky to cook as it can absorb lots of water and turn into mush. Here, I opted to toast it in the oven first, and then cooked it in a 1:2 ratio with water. While the kernels still seemed to explode slightly, they reminded me of coarse bulgur in this salad.

Kasha has a slightly nuttier, stronger flavour but pairs well with beets and dill. I combined some garden-fresh green beans and roasted beets with a lemony dill vinaigrette for a bright early fall salad. Or late summer salad?

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to Simple and In Season and to this month’s Herbs on Saturday.

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Tahini-Dressed Zucchini and Green Bean Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by janet @ the taste space on August 8, 2012

I am really impressed by British/Irish chefs. Yotam Ottolenghi, Denis Cotter and now Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I had never heard of him before I saw praise for his new vegetarian cookbook, River Cottage Everyday Veg.

What I love most about these chefs is that they turn humble vegetables into something extraordinary. First, I tried Hugh’s quinoa salad with caramelized onions and zucchini that was a sleeper hit. I loved the sweetness from such simple ingredients. Then there was the Appaloosa Bean Summer Chili which used red wine with zucchini, red peppers and tomatoes to make a savoury chili.

Tell me which vegetable you like the least. Probably something local that comes up in overabundance in the summer. You can tolerate it in moderation, but week after week of the same vegetables can get boring. I would probably pick green beans. While I have made some great dishes with them, I don’t find them that versatile. Zucchini, on the other, doesn’t taste like much, but can be used in so many creative ways.

I was drawn to make Hugh’s tahini-dressed zucchini and green bean salad with sun-dried tomatoes as a spotlight to local, seasonal ingredients. I wasn’t sure it would be a filling meal, but green beans are beans and along with the lemon-tahini dressing, this voluminous salad was perfect.

While this may seem initially like a finicky salad, look at it as a main course to soothe your qualms. Relish in cooking each component to bring out its best: lightly sear the zucchini until golden, then dress in some lemon juice and chile flakes. Steam your green beans until tender crisp. Plate on top of your favourite baby greens, sprinkle with chopped sun-dried tomatoes and drizzle with your dressing. The dressing is nice and light, without being too oily or heavy (I reduced the oil and sugar since I used Meyer lemons). Enjoy this best as a warm salad directly after preparing it. Leftovers are nice cold when slathered in the dressing.

This is my submission to this month’s Simple and in Season, to River Cottage Rocks #5, to this week’s Summer Salad Sundays, and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Thai Green Papaya Salad (Vegan Som Tam)

Posted in Salads by janet @ the taste space on August 6, 2012

Did you do a double-take when you saw my Thai Noodle Salad with Mango and Lima Beans? It had some exotic ingredients: Kaffir lime leaves, galangal, shallots, tamarind, etc.

I know, I thought this was going to be the year of shopping at the Big Box Grocers, too, but it turns out I found a local ethnic grocer, Welcome, that meets the majority of my needs, including all my Thai ingredients, and falls within my budget.

It ain’t no Sunny’s though. Sunny’s has bountiful fresh produce at low prices. Even some of the discounted produce is great quality. Welcome, however, is like a transplanted Chinatown grocer. Some great prices but the quality is not always the best. I never know what I will find on their shelves. Sometimes it can be 4 bunches of leeks for $1, or 2 HUGE bunches of Swiss for $1, or 10 limes for $1 (this one seems to be a perpetual sale), sometimes advertised, other times not, especially if the produce is priced to sell pronto (if you know what I mean). Then I’ll come back a few weeks later to discover they have no Swiss chard, or kale or collards at all. The produce is random. Kind of.

Like most Asian grocers, they seem to have a regular collection of well priced mushrooms (shiitake, oyster and Portobello), broccoli, citrus, cilantro, coconuts, peeled garlic and some Asian ingredients. Grape tomatoes can be hit or miss. Their cauliflower has never looked good. But, they have Kaffir lime leaves and galangal! They have green mangoes! And when I spotted some green papaya, I leaped at the chance to try something new.

Itching to go try something authentic with the green papaya, I made the Green Papaya Salad from Taste of the East. I quickly realized that if I had to shred the papaya and carrot by hand, this could take a while, so I whipped out my food processor to help. I added long beans to the recipe and bruised them with the blade, which seemed to be in more traditional recipes. The rest of the dressing was tangy from the Kaffir lime leaves, lime juice, fresh garlic and chile flakes. The nuts offered a nice textural contrast in the tangle of noodly vegetables. Adjust the dressing to suit your own tastes. Trust me that the salad will have a great mixture of hot, sour, salty and sweet. Refreshing during these hot summer days.

And yes, as a fore-warning, I think I will be cooking with mushrooms a lot more. I should capitalize on Welcome’s good produce, right?

This is my submission to this week’s Summer Salad Sundays and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Ethiopian Warm Cabbage and Green Beans

Posted in Sides by janet @ the taste space on May 25, 2012

The heart of Ethiopian cooking comes from berbere, its spicy blend of herbs and chiles, as well as niter kibbeh, their spiced butter/oil. Once you have those ingredients, you are off to the races for quick, tasty Ethiopian food.

I made a huge batch of niter kibbeh with a tub of Earth Balance spiced with savoury spices like cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, garlic, and ginger. I used the recipe from Papa Tofu but there are many recipes online as well.

In fact, when I first found the recipe for Warm Cabbage and Green Beans from the New York Times courtesy of Marcus Samuelsson, I quickly realized that the first part of the recipe was making the niter kibbeh.  True to its Ethiopian roots, it uses an entire 1/2 lb of butter in the recipe but trust me, you don’t need all that fat. Trim that 1/2 cup to 1 tbsp, thank you very much. Instead of mild fassoulia, the ginger makes this a spicy and very flavourful cabbage and green beans side dish. This works really well with the mild split pea puree, for a contrast in flavour, texture and spiciness.

Typically, Ethiopian food is a combination of a lot of little dishes served overtop a sour fermented teff pancake called injera.  The sauces are absorbed by the pancake as you munch away. Then you scrape up the soggy, sour greatness.  Sadly, if there is one thing I know I can’t duplicate at home, it would be making a super huge injera like I had in my last post. I don’t have any skillet that would fit such a huge pancake!

That doesn’t mean I didn’t try to make my own injera, though. Living in quasi-Ethiopian town means that teff flour is easily purchased (although still quite pricy) and I was up for making my own mini injera. However, my homemade version was no comparison to the real thing. I used the Mini Injera recipe from Celebrate Vegan but they didn’t turn out so well. Dare I suggest it was a complete flop? I am not sure what went wrong but the pancakes were too holey and took way too long to cook to make it a feasible option. They still tasted nice, though, and I even tried my hand at an Ethiopian wrap with the kik alicha and cabbage (verdict: tasty but hard to photograph with all the leaky holes!). We ended becoming frustrated and threw all of the injera batter into the skillet for an injera scramble. It was suboptimal but it cooked the batter more quickly. ;)

With this trio of recipes from this week (Ethiopian Split Pea Puree (Kik Alicha) & Fasoulia (Ethiopian Carrots and Green Beans Simmered in a Tomato Sauce)) along with the Ethiopian Split Pea and Kabocha Squash Stew with Collards, you are able to put together a veritable Ethiopian feast. Enjoy!

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Simona.

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Fasoulia (Ethiopian Carrots and Green Beans Simmered in a Tomato Sauce)

Posted in Sides by janet @ the taste space on May 23, 2012

In my kitchen, I know exactly what goes into my food. I can control the amount of oil and veggies. I know that I can make a luscious Ethiopian split pea puree without gobs of oil, but do people at restaurants know that? At M&B Yummy, the food doesn’t taste oily but when I first investigated Ethiopian cuisine, I was aghast at the amount of oil used.

Vegetables simmered in olive oil is a traditional side dish across the Mediterranean and Middle East.  I had my share while travelling in Turkey (and recreated it with beans when I returned) and it is a vegan-friendly option at Greek restaurants. I guess it was no surprise that I really enjoyed the simple carrots and green beans at M&B Yummy as well, where they called it fasoulia.

I searched for something similar, and while some recipes drip in oil, I thought it would be better to keep things light and fresh. Skip all that excess oil. Skip the long simmer that turns the veggies to mush. Keep the fresh tomatoes and lemon juice. After these small fixes, the recipe from Olive Trees and Honey was a keeper. I know it looks so simple but it tastes much more than the sum of its components.

I call this Ethiopian because that’s where I first ate the combination of green beans and carrots. The original recipe is just for green beans (fasoulia is the Arabic word for green bean). It is a welcome addition to a large plate of Ethiopian dishes but equally suited to other Mediterranean meals.

This is my submission to this month’s My Kitchen, My World for Ethiopia and to Cookbooks Sundays.

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Chinese Five Spice Vegetable and Noodle Stir Fry

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on May 1, 2012

A new home; a new 5 keys.

Trust me, I am not complaining about now having a garage. Although 5 keys is certainly overwhelming. First front door, second front door, rear door, garage door and garage.

While we are still unpacking boxes, and likely will for many weeks, the kitchen is functional. The bedroom is almost unpacked (minus my clothes) and we have no idea what to with ourselves now that we have 3 bathrooms.

In any case, while Rob and I have moved many, many times before, this is the first time we hired movers. So completely worth it. Our friends and family must think so, as well. ;) Our movers were work horses: incredibly strong, super fast while still being very gentle. One of the movers relished telling me a new joke every time he saw me. If anyone needs cheap, efficient movers in the GTA, shoot me an email and I’ll give you their contact info.

While there are many great things about our new place, we are kind of sad we don’t have a basement. You can really scurry things out of sight and mind, so our move forced Rob and I to go through another round of purging and incidentally, discover new things, as well.  Rob had some pretty bowls (and pretty chopsticks!) hidden in the basement that I unearthed! I also didn’t know that I had so many packages of kelp noodles. I knew I had bought a case (or two) when they went on sale, but looks like a lot more noodles once I take them out of the case. ;)

For one of my first meals in the new home, I decided to break in the kitchen with a quick and easy stir fry. I also inadvertently christened the kitchen by setting off the smoke alarm. I swear, there was nothing burning! I will have to be careful to not wake up my neighbors. I adapted Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Winter Stir Fry with Chinese Five Spice to what I had left in my vegetable crisper. Winter root vegetables are fabulous for keeping so long, but it felt nice to use up the remainder of my root veggies, along with some spring veggies. Goodbye winter, hello spring.

The heart of this stir fry is the Chinese Five Spice powder, which stems from the heart of Szechuan cooking. It is aromatic and savoury, composed of star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves and Szechuan peppercorns. A seven spice blend may also include ginger and black peppercorns. A complex spice blend, a little goes a long way and really shines here.

Throw in your own favourite vegetables with some noodles and then toss with a sake, tamari and Chinese five spice dressing. The drizzle of lime at the ends adds the perfect acidic balance to the veggie-centric meal. Feel like more protein? Add some tofu or tempeh. Me? My pantry is all cleaned out of tofu!

While I had been working through my pantry prior to this move, I plan on eating through the remainder over the next year before our BIG move to the US. Expect to see more recipes with kelp noodles! What are your favourite ways of eating them?

Here are a few other recipes with Chinese Five Spice:

Five Spice Roasted Delicata Squash from Appetite for Reduction
Fluffy Sesame Baked Tofu
from Sprint 2 the Table
Broccoli Slaw Salad with Five-Spice Tofu from Vegetarian Times
Chinese Five-Spice Noodles with Broccoli from Serious Eats
Smoky Pomegranate Tofu with Coconut Rice from Vegan with a Vengeance
Acorn Squash, Pear and Adzuki Soup with Sautéed Shiitakes from Post Punk Kitchen
Chinese Five Spice Miso Soup with Shitakes and Edamame from Florida Coastal Cooking
Star Anise-Glazed Tempeh with Stir-Fried Peppers from Joanne Eats Well With Others

This is my submission to this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Ruth, to this month’s pasta bloghop, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, Virtual Vegan Potluck and to Cookbooks Sundays.

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Braised Tempeh with Green Beans in a Sesame Sauce

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on February 1, 2012

Not only have I been craving cabbage, but I have also been on a sesame/tahini kick lately.

It all started when I basically made my own tahini with freshly roasted sesame seeds to go with sauteed spinach for Terry’s oshitashi recipe (Sesame Wow Greens). So good, yet so simple.

Then, I discovered tahini heaven. I had heard that tahini could taste so good that one could eat it straight from the jar. Not so with my previous brand. But now I am a tahini-convert after spreading my way through Prince’s tahini: smooth, rich and creamy with a deep sesame flavour. I love it! I want to eat it with everything! I honestly wonder if I should try out Deb’s Warm Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad again (I found it too bitter the first time) because my tahini was probably at fault.

This time, I went heavy with the tahini. I spotted this recipe in The 30-Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East (recipe here) and thought 1/3 cup of tahini would be great simmered with tempeh and green beans. I liked it but it wasn’t as sesame heavy as I was anticipating. The dressing, of course, also had lemon juice, broth, tamari and mirin, creating a more complex flavour palate. Nice and light, and quite soupy, too, and easy to put together. The tempeh was a bit more meaty and juicy because I pre-steamed it, dry-fried it to lock in the shape and then simmered in the sesame broth. The green beans were a perfect match. Serve with quinoa so that you can savour this down to the last drop of sauce. :)

Barring hummus, what is your favourite way to use tahini?

Here are some other tahini recipes I’ve had my eye on:

Miso Tahini Magic Sauce from Fresh Young Coconut
Smoky Red Pepper, Chickpea and Tahini Dressing from Choosing Raw
Miso Sesame Dressing from Choosing Raw
Low-Fat Tahini-Chickpea Dressing from Fat Free Vegan
Orange-Miso-Tahini Gravy from My New Roots
Carrot Ginger Tahini Soup from Kahakai Kitchen
Beet, Tahini and Pomegranate Dip (Mama Dall’ou’ah) from Taste of Beirut
Roasted Carrot Hummus from Enlightened Cooking
Tofu Tahini Scramble from Choosing Raw
Burnt Eggplant with Tahini and Pomegrante from Ottolenghi
Noodles with a Lemon-Miso-Tahini Sauce from ExtraVeganZa
Tangy Tahini Noodles with Tempeh and Vegetables from Julia’s Vegan Kitchen
Nearly Raw Tahini Noodles from Vegan Yum Yum
Creamy Kale Soup with Tahini from Vegan Yum Yum
Quinoa Pilaf with Spiced Miso Tahini Sauce from Sweet Potato Soul
Spinach, Chickpea and Tahini Soup from Soup Chick

This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Chris, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, and to this month’s Veggie/Fruit A Month featuring lemons.

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Rasta Pasta

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on January 27, 2012

It is no secret that Rob and I may choose our next vacation destination based on its cuisine. Obviously, Iceland wasn’t picked based on its cuisine, although the food I had was top-notch (although not Icelandic).

One country that is creeping up in our list of places to visit is Jamaica. I don’t know how widespread the Rastafari movement is, but with its mostly-vegan cuisine (called ital), vegan options free of chemical and artificial additives should be available throughout Jamaica. According to wikipedia, they prefer more natural vegetables and fruits such as coconut and mango. Rob would be in heaven.

There are Rasta communities around the world, including Toronto where I’ve been to One Love, which serves ital and other Caribbean vegan meals. However, my introduction to Rastafarian cuisine was in Japan of all places. Around the time I was heading to Japan, Heidi gushed over Tokyo’s only ital noodle shop. Sure enough, a lover of food but not even vegetarian at the time, we scoped out this teeny tiny restaurant completely off the tourist track. We enjoyed our noodles and other veggie dishes. While this was Heidi’s best meal of her trip, I will admit that my fresh sashimi was unbeatable at the Tsukiji Market.  If I were vegan at the time, I would have really appreciated the vegan soba noodles. In Japan, fresh soba noodles are richer because they are typically made with Japanese fish broth, dashi.

Now that I am vegan, I was stoked to try Rasta Pasta that I found in Big Vegan. A bowl full of vegetables (green beans! mushrooms! collards!, tomato!), with some noodles, too, in a coconut-curry-tomato sauce. It had a lot of the similar ingredients as my favourite Kelp Noodles, Baby Bok Choy, Broccoli and Red Pepper with a Coconut-Peanut Sauce but it was so different.  The recipe called for 1 tbsp of curry powder. I’ve made other Caribbean dishes that were unpalatable by their heat (ok for Rob, just not me), so I went tame. I didn’t even use curry powder. I substituted 1 tsp of garam masala instead.

It was a quick noodle stir-fry. With the garam masala, it was savoury. It lacked the sweetness from coconut-peanut sauce, and originally I thought it was rather pungent but truthfully, as I ate the leftovers, that was exactly why I liked it. Nothing too crazy and creamy, just a savoury veggie and noodle dish. However, now that the Madras curry powder has been given the green light in my kitchen, I’d love to try this again with curry powder. If you try it, let me know how you like it!

As a vegan, where would you prefer to travel?


This is my submission to this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Ruth, to this week’s Wellness Weekend and to My Kitchen, My World for Jamaica.

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Tarragon Green Bean and White Bean Salad

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by janet @ the taste space on October 17, 2011

As far as I know, my Dad is still alive. You see, he threw a surprise party for my mom.

This was a real surprise for her because well, it wasn’t her birthday. No date in the calendar that would tip her off that 35 of her closest family and friends would gather in Ottawa for her.

In fact, she thought she was going to to be driving down to Toronto for the weekend. Did I have any plans? she asked. Of course not! I knew that while I wouldn’t meet her in my kitchen, I would be sharing breakfast with her that weekend. In Ottawa, instead of Toronto.

For months, my Dad had plotted and schemed.

He kind of needed that long because he was down to one working hand. After a broken wrist, and slicing through a handful of fingers, my Dad had to be a master to make chicken skewers without my Mom figuring things out… nevermind the 3 cakes and couscous salad he also made.

My brother and sister-in-law were in charge of appetizers, whereas I was the Salad and Dip Queen.

I tried to follow my mom’s salad party suggestions: 1 leafy green salad and 1 bean or grain salad. However, since we were feeding 35 people, my Dad asked me to diversify with more salads rather than fewer salads.

I mixed up both new and old recipes, and all but one was a hit, so I thought I would share them this week since I had a few requests for the recipes.

For the leafy green salad, I kind of went along with what my Dad had lying around at home… Romaine was thrown together with strawberries, almonds and a maple-based vinaigrette. It was gone before I even made it to the buffet line. Someone had actually already removed the bowl before I was there, it was finito.

For the heartier salads, I had a no-brainer up my sleeve: the 11-Spice Lentil Salad with Capers and Currants. I have made it so often, and now that my family has tried it, I can’t think of anyone who has not sampled it. It will have to be retired for a bit… at least until potluck season picks up again next summer.

Since Sarah’s lentil salad was such a hit, I thought it would be great to try another one of her salads for the party. She had a lovely tarragon string bean salad that caught my eye. I hesitated about bringing another bean salad to the party, especially with tarragon, but once I tasted it I knew it would be alright. Green beans aren’t so scary, are they?

This salad was simple. Lightly steamed green beans were paired with Great Northern white beans in a light tarragon vinaigrette. Like most of Sarah’s recipes, I decreased the oil, and in the hubbub of the party, I forgot to add the toasted hazelnuts. No worries, though, because the salad was gobbled up.

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend and to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Suma.

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Spanish Chickpea and Squash Stew with Pears (Olla Gitana)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by janet @ the taste space on October 12, 2011


Rob can be a bit predictable with his kitchen tastes. I am just like any other girl: confusing, to say the least.

I am constantly switching up what I make in the kitchen, focusing on a different new ingredient that I love, until I rediscover a new favourite food. I prance around, stocking my cupboards with ingredients that I love (or once loved).

What kind of recipe screams Janet-style?

First of all, it has to be free of animal products and refined flours/sugars. I try to keep added oils to a minimum. I enjoy more tart and acidic ingredients as opposed to creamy and rich. And it must be filled with beans and vegetables.

You might have to try to pin me down to figure out what my new ingredient du jour is, though…. And then again the following week for a more up-to-date answer…. ;)

Statistically, the blog tells me that I love almonds, red peppers and lemon. I should really put in a general bean/legume tag because then that will dwarf all other ingredients when they are amassed together. To be fair, I enjoy most vegetables and perfectly content with heaps of greens on my plate. My favourite cuisines are Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and lately Caribbean.

But today.. what am I enjoying today?

These days, my favourite ingredients are split yellow peas, butternut squash as well as fruit in savoury dishes.

Next month? Only time will tell….

This soup is probably the epitome of my current cooking adventures. A Mediterranean chickpea soup heaping with vegetables including butternut squash, green beans, carrots and silky tomatoes in a saffron- and paprika-spiced broth. And pears, oh pears, which is what my piqued my interest to make a second version of Spanish bean soup. This time, with help from Anya and The New Spanish Table (an adapted recipe can be found here). I know the ingredients seem a little hodgepodge, which is why Anya has dubbed this a Spanish Gypsy Pot, a nod to the seemingly eclectic ingredients.

Anya’s recipe is definitely more complex than the first Spanish Green Bean and Lima Bean Stew. It has a lot of the similar flavours, but it is so much more than the first soup. Yes, you dirty more pots but it is worth it. You simmer the tomatoes and onions separately. You fry some garlic and puree it with a handful of almonds. Only then does it get added to the long-simmered broth filled with chickpeas, squash, green beans and carrots. The pears add a lovely sweetness and the saffron and sweet paprika meld wonderfully with the stew. The vinegar and mint added at the end are a perfect conclusion to a sweet and savoury soup.

I am probably as eclectic as this soup, which is why I loved it so much. I encourage you to try it as well!

Drink up!

This is my submission to this month’s Simple and in Season, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Spanish Green Bean and Lima Bean Stew

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by janet @ the taste space on September 14, 2011


Rob and I just returned from a week-long vacation in Iceland. I hope to do a more complete post in a few weeks about the trip (wonderful! beautiful! stunning!), after I frantically try to put my life back into order with work and research commitments. My blog will go into autopilot until then.

I will tease you, though, and let you know how great the trip was and a week was certainly not long enough for the quaint island. Despite the stunning views and vistas, it was cold. While the daytime highs could be 8-20C, with winds beating us fiercely at 80 km/h, the windshield was brutal. It reminded me how it is truly fall.

Even before I left, I knew summer was slowly coming to an end at home. I was worried I would return to Canada to find fall, but instead, thankfully, it is still in the mid-20s.

However, there are other signs. The mornings are now dark when I get up and if I cook after work, it can be dark by the time I finish. Butternut squash, a surefire marker of fall, is making a come back!

After the cold winds of Iceland, I was hankering some warming stews and soups. Summer or fall, stews are great any time of the year. In fact, this stew doubles as a salad which is how I ate the leftovers. See how perfect this is for end-of-summer meals?

Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health (recipe posted here), this is a flavourful medley of vegetables (red bell pepper, green beans, tomatoes and butternut squash) with a light broth spiced with sweet paprika. Spurred by Cara’s recommendation, I used butternut squash instead of sweet potatoes but both would work well here.  This is great with the large, buttery lima beans, but feel free to use your favourite bean.

Moosewood recommended serving this with a romesco sauce on top, but I found I preferred the thickened leftover stew over top baby spinach with a sprinkle of toasted slivered almonds.   After throwing my sweet and sour lentils overtop arugula, I am learning that most bean dishes can be thrown overtop some greens for a lovely salad.


This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Graziana from Erbe in Cucina (Cooking with Herbs).

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New Potato, Cauliflower, Chickpea and Green Bean Thai Curry with a Cucumber and Coriander Salsa

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Salads, Sides by janet @ the taste space on September 1, 2011

The fourth curry this week… I am almost getting curried out!

I have never seen Rob so excited about trying a new recipe. I was browsing through my newest favourite cookbook, For The Love of Food, and I spotted a recipe that seemingly used up a lot of the odds and ends in our fridge.

Massaman curry, have you heard of this, Rob? Would I like it?

Turns out it was his favourite curry while travelling in Thailand.

However, as we made the curry together, Rob quickly realized this wasn’t the same Massaman curry he had eaten overseas. The sauce had coconut milk, lemongrass, cardamom, cinnamon and ginger, but no peanuts. No fish sauce nor tamarind.

After slaving and salivating in the kitchen for a while, Rob felt let down when he taste-tested it the first time.  The vegetables were good, but the depth of flavour was lacking. He ended up adding all of the spice mixture, as the recipe only called for a couple tablespoons of the mixture. After which, when I tasted it the second time, I told him I wouldn’t be able to eat it for dinner- it was now too spicy! Those peppercorns were likely the culprit but thankfully, it didn’t have that ominous “curry” flavour.

Since I had adored Cotter’s previous recipes, we still trucked on with making the cucumber and coriander salsa. Rob finally sat down to eat it, served with the salsa and rice, with a drizzle of freshly squeezed lime juice. The more he ate it, and accepted it as a non-Massaman curry, he grew to enjoy it.

I then decided to give it a go with the salsa and lime.


While Cotter may have misled us by calling this a Massaman curry, he also said this curry was best with the cooling salsa, and there he wasn’t lying. It definitely made the dish go from something I refused to eat, to something that was genuinely spectacular. Another Janet-sanctioned curry, this time hailing from Thailand.

I am definitely realizing that more complex dishes, where each component is outstanding on its own, can be brought to high levels when combined. The only problem is that it makes for a kitchen filled with lots of dirty dishes. Gah!

An authentic Massaman curry is still on our to-do list, though. But whatever its name, this curry is the bomb, just don’t forget the salsa!


This is my submission to this month’s Veggie/Fruit a Month, featuring cauliflower, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Cathy, to this month’s My Kitchen, My World destination Thailand and to Ricki’s Wellness Weekends.

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Roasted Eggplant, Red Pepper and Green Bean Pomegranate Salad

Posted in Salads by janet @ the taste space on August 28, 2010

This is my third dish in a string of salads with pomegranate molasses. No bulgur here, so my brain didn’t do the auto-compare with The Best Salad Ever.

Just like the Pomegranate Tabbouleh Salad, this one was adapted from Closet Cooking when Kevin went on his pomegranate kick!

This is a salad filled with green beans, roasted eggplant and roasted red peppers.  I liked the Spanish paprika, cinnamon and cumin with the roasted eggplant, so there was a savoury twist I wasn’t expecting. I may remove the cumin next time, though.  The green beans added a nice crunch, and a lovely colour to boot. I also enjoyed the creaminess from the feta, but it is completely optional. The mild pomegranate dressing worked well to not overshadow the savoury flavours in the salad.  I preferred this salad to the tabbouleh, despite it being less of a complete meal. Serve it with some crusty bread or wrap it in a pita as a portable lunch.

This is my submission to Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring mint, to Jayasri for this month’s Cooking with Seeds featuring pomegranate seeds and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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