I spoke too soon. It was cold but now it is warm.
Houston felt the “Polar Vortex“. The “Arctic Invasion” that froze Niagara Falls (!!) (on the American side) brought Houston to lows a bit below freezing. With the 90% humidity, -4ºC was quite chilly but nothing compared to what the rest of the country was feeling. But this weekend, the humidity and chills disappeared. It was a balmy 26ºC with (only!) 25% humidity and Rob and I celebrated by wearing shorts, visiting the beach and kayaking in the Galveston area bay. Yeah, it was summer once again.
People at work wonder why I am so happy, but even small victories like this make my heart sing. Every time I cycle to work, I am ecstatic. Instead of hurricanes, Houston was hit by a drought this year. I have cycled to work every day, safe 3 days so far in the past 6 months. Snow, ice and rain will keep me off my bike, not cold weather alone.
Soups like this also make my tummy sing. It is filled with all great things: red lentils as a solid base, kabocha squash and coconut milk for a creamy backdrop, spiced with ginger and chile flakes, tempered by tamarind and lime juice with a lemongrass twist. The flavours meld perfectly and this is a soup that will definitely warm you up during a cold front.
Were you hit by the cold? I heard the vortex may return again. I am thinking warm thoughts for you.
If you like this soup, you may also enjoy these:
While it may seem like I had a severe lack of down-time over the holidays, I was able to catch up on a few things on my to-do list. I caught up on the links Rob routinely shares with me, watched my share of movies, read a few books and cooked up a few bookmarked recipes. In the spirit of clearing out a bit of blogging backlog, I thought you may enjoy my favourite finds, too… so here were my linkable highlights:
1. 38 Life Lessons Leo has Learned in 38 Years.Great list. An old post, but timely in the spirit of the New Year.
3. 2013 World Press Photo Winners. I would scope out the travelling exhibit of jaw-dropping photography while in Toronto, but this year I savoured it online.
4. 2013 National Geographic Photo Competition Winners. Another fabulous collection of photographs can be savoured online. National Geographic rarely disappoints for awesome pictures, including this other favourite.
5. Time-Lapse Auroras Over Norway. Watch it. Love it. It brings me back to my vacation in Iceland.
6. The Happiest Facts of All Time. Very cute list.
7. Ten Words You’ve Probably Been Misusing. Not entirely accurate but I am guilty of a few misused words.
I have been gravitating to easier meals and have not been cooking up as many dried beans from scratch lately. One solution to this problem is to use quick-cooking no-soaking needed beans, like lentils, anasazi and mung beans. Yes, mung beans. I am back on the mung bean bandwagon with great results. Simmer the mung beans directly with an assortment of veggies (kabocha squash, tomato, bell pepper and spinach here) with simple Indian spices: cumin, fenugreek and turmeric. The kabocha squash and mung beans melt into a deliciously creamy stew. A thick and hearty stew, perfect for the winter.
Where have you been on the web recently?
I have mastered eating leftovers, which is the ultimate way to cook for one. I did not really think I would cook differently while Rob was away, but towards the end of nearly 5 weeks without Rob, I had little interest in making complete meals.
And then, suddenly, when I knew Rob would return (again), all I wanted to do was make something for him to enjoy.
(I just became disinterested in cooking while he was away; Rob had limited use of a kitchen while away)
Thai curry for Rob! With sweet potatoes! And Kabocha squash! AND PEAS! (Rob loves peas!) AND COCONUT! (he likes that, too)
I have already shared with you the main ingredients (plus WHITE BEANS! yay!) so you can imagine the delicious taste of flavours.
The sweet potatoes and Kabocha squash are roasted separately to bring out their sweetness and keep their shape. I don’t like green peas as much as Rob, but I really liked them here, next to the creamy roots. The red curry paste was not overwhelming, and really, I should have added more for Rob’s palate, but I played it safe so I could savour it, too. Instead of using a flour to thicken it up, I simply simmered it longer until it was a nice creamy coconutty consistency.
Joanne’s tantalizing original recipe was actually for a Thai-inspired potpie with a pumpkin biscuit topping, which I am sure would have been lovely… but hey, baby steps, here. This was a glorious curry, even without a topping.
To return the favour of delicious food, I had to ask Rob to photograph the leftovers. If I thought the lack of daylight after work was bad before the daylight savings switch, there is now no way I can make it home before darkness now. So here, is Rob’s signature style photo… because as he puts it, he wants to SEE THE FOOD:
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Four Seasons Food Challenge for one-pot wonders, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to this month’s No Croutons Required for blogger inspiration.
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:
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?
Back then, I spotted this tantalizing soupy stew from Denis Cotter with squash, chickpeas and fennel and I knew I wanted to try it. I bookmarked it last year, and now that I have an abundance of squash and these vegetables are back in season, it was time to make it!
Whenever you make a Cotter recipe, be prepared to dirty a bunch of pots and pans. I stream-lined the process slightly by omitting the croutons, but still oven-roasted my squash for the soup. I have become smitten with eating squashes I don’t have to peel (kabocha and delicata) but roasting makes peeling squash a heck of a lot easier. I have my tricks for tackling butternut squash, though. I pierce the squash a few times with a fork, then microwave it for 5 minutes before peeling it. I also usually peel the tubular and bulbous parts separately.
This soup did not disappoint. Chickpeas and squash go so well together. Savoury cumin and fennel seeds augment the mellow fennel, leek and shallots. Ginger and chile flakes add a nice zip and lemon juice balances it all. A hearty meal in a bowl, perfect for warming up with this colder weather. A new favourite, for sure.
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.
Although it is still many, many moons away, if I am moving to Texas, I think I need to learn more about Mexican cuisine. While I have posted quite a few Mexican recipes, they are a tad nontraditional:
Tacos made with “BBQ jackfruit meat“
Raw burritos which are collard wraps filled with jicama, sprouts and a nacho-cashew sauce
Or how about a raw taco filled with walnut meat, cashew sour cream and a cherry tomato salsa
What can I say, that’s what happens when I veer away from deep fried and cheese-heavy meals. At least I know how to pronounce mole (moh-lay).
Glancing at the recipe, I could tell this was a going to be a dish with spicy tomato sauce smothering black beans, topped with hazelnut-infused caramelized roasted squash. But what makes this a rancheros? What is rancheros?
Turns out rancheros literally means Ranch-style. Huevos rancheros, a classic Mexican dish with a tortilla topped with an egg and tomato sauce means Ranch-style eggs.
So this, my friends, is Ranch-style squash!
A very simple recipe to prepare, basically you create a spicy silky-smooth cumin and coriander enhanced tomato sauce that coats black beans. The spiciness is juxtaposed beautifully against the sweet squash. Isa’s recipes rarely disappoint although I still tinkered with it.
I roasted my kabocha with hazelnut oil instead of walnut oil. Olive oil would work, too, no worries. I substituted 2 green chiles for the jalapeno and increased the garlic to 6 cloves. It had a nice zing for my palate, but for those who love heat, definitely add more chile.
Any plans for Cinqo de Mayo this weekend?
Have you ever been drawn to a particular ingredient or appliance based on a recipe?
I do it all the time. Do you need chaat masala to make the Malai Kofta? Of course not, but I wanted to see what it tasted like with it. I remember my sister-in-law searching out maple sugar just to make Kevin’s Blueberry Maple Pecan Cinnamon Buns. (For the record, I don’t think it was worth it).
I first spotted this Tofu, Tempeh and Squash Peanut Mole a few years ago. Certainly not fat-free with the peanut butter, I knew that if Susan from Fat Free Vegan found it worthwhile sharing, then it must be special. Joanne loved it, too.
Problem: I had no slow cooker. So I stalled on the dish. I had tofu frozen for the longest time until I figured out how to make it sans slow cooker. I also needed to get over my fear of the chipotle chiles in adobo.
Then, I moved and my landlords graciously lent me their slow cooker.
It still took me a nearly a year to finally make it. Getting the boot from our home and leaving the slow cooker, was my impetuous for making this. Rather, highly suggesting Rob make it, as he likes spicy moles and in a slow cooker it couldn’t be any easier, right?
Wrong! The recipe was deceiving. Rob thought this was way too much work with all the blending and grinding prior to using the slow cooker. He ended up forgetting to use the chipotle chiles and the bread (nevermind the bread, it was thick enough).
We both tasted it and thought it was just ok. Not worth repeating. Not worth searching out a slow cooker.
In fact, the majority of the stuff I made in the slow cooker were beans, but I prefer them on the stove top so I can keep my eye on them. The problem with freshly dried beans (ie from Rancho Gordo) is that they can easily be overcooked! Rob’s slow cooker brisket was probably the biggest recipe winner. Our year with the slow cooker has taught us that we definitely do not need a slow cooker.
Perhaps a pressure cooker instead? Quicker beans, please!!
I know you raised an eyebrow when I posted the recipe for Banana Naan. Bread flour, what?!
I had been eyeing Sarah’s Mulligatawny Soup ever since she posted it in January. My Mom told me not to stress about the meals, so I scoped out recipes that I could make with the produce I already had (we happened to be fortunate that cauliflower was on sale for $1/head for our pakoras). Almost everything else had been squirreled away in my freezer, or living without a purpose in my fridge (I was looking at half a celeriac and half a kabocha squash!). While Sarah also provided the recipe for the Celeriac and Pumpkin Curry, they don’t taste remotely similar.
Mulligatawny is a British Indian curry-flavoured soup and literally means “pepper water”. However, recipes seem to be so varied that anything goes. Tess‘ version of mulligatawny is primarily red lentils, lemon and cilantro, whereas this is a creamy, tomato-spiked vegetable curry-soup brightened with tamarind. The leftovers were definitely more of a curry consistency.
Preparing a huge batch of soup in advance is a great way to relieve the stressful prep before a large meal. However, I didn’t fully appreciate how much soup I would be making. Sarah suggested it would serve a crowd, and she didn’t lie. We definitely already had enough food to feed an army along with the pakoras, 2 other curries [Malai Koftas, and a Spinach Chana Dal curry], a couscous pilaf salad and dessert. Oh, and we bought naan, too. Those recipes are still forthcoming, no worries!
Why did we make such a feast? 1) To make sure there was something for everyone to enjoy; and 2) No cooking required for the rest of the weekend since we’d be eating the leftovers.
Just when it seemed like Rob and I had finally settled into our new place, unpacked all our stuff, got rid of the mattress in the dining room, we found out we would be moving again.
While we haven’t found a new place to live yet, I am hoping to stay in the same neighbourhood, which I have grown to love. It is a lovely working class residential neighbourhood with some positive gems – a summer Farmer’s Market, a simple unassuming health store filled with bulk and organic ingredients, and oodles of ethnic grocers along Danforth. Our specific area is kind of a hodge podge of cultures: Ethiopian stores can be found next to Bengali supermarkets, but that is what I love. Before one of our Ethiopian fests, Rob went out to try to find some injera and instead came home with roti. All the injera was sold out, explaining how he ended up in Little India instead.
I have only recently discovered a love for Ethiopian food as I know it can be deathly spicy. I was converted after a glorious visit to a vegan Ethiopian resto, M&B Yummy, again quite an unassuming hole-in-wall kind of place, where you can get a huge meal for two under $30 including $2 Mill St Organic beers and $3 tofu cheesecakes from Sweets from the Earth. The vegetarian platter, served overtop a lovely sour injera pancake, includes berbere-spiced faux meat, spicy red lentil stews (or wats), as well as not as the milder collard greens, split pea puree, carrot and green bean dish and a lettuce salad. Sadly, we haven’t been able to try the chickpea scramble, butucha, as they’ve always been out.
My two favourite dishes from this platter are the split pea puree (kik alicha) and green bean and carrot dish (fasoulia). Both were the least spicy of the dishes and work well adjacent to the spicy lentil purees and faux meats. I have duplicated both recipes, and will share them eventually.
In the meantime, I have brought together most of the traditional elements of Ethiopian cuisine into one dish. Split peas. Berbere. Collard greens. Kabocha squash, too. In a one-pot meal. Boo-yah! I originally spotted this on Ainslie’s blog and my curiosity was piqued with the sweet split peas contrasting with the spicy berbere. She suggests serving this overtop kale, which was just the invitation I needed to throw collards into the stew as well. The result is a hearty stew, creamy and sweet from the split peas and squash, with a touch of bitterness from the collards and enough heat you can tolerate from the berbere. Rob and I scored a hefty sample of berbere from a nearby store and I was pleasantly surprised that it was more flavourful than spicy. It definitely helps to experiment with the blends from different stores as well as different recipes.
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring hot spices, to this week’s Weekend Wellness and to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Heather. For Lisa’s complete birthday menu, (since I haven’t shared my other Ethiopian favourites yet), I’d serve it with fun Moroccan Vegetable Phyllo Rolls with Balsamic Maple Sauce and finish it off with a Moroccan Orange Cinnamon Salad and Raw Mango Paradise Bars for a decadent birthday treat.
This week, kabocha squash was on sale. Half price. Score for me!
I had two problems, though.
2) When I made it to the grocery store, the sign was labelled as BUTTERCUP squash, though. The squashes had kabocha stickers, the flyer advertised kabocha squash, but the sign clearly stated buttercup squashes were on sale.
I haven’t tasted a kabocha, let alone really noticed them before (the one I bought at the Farmer’s market, that is still sitting in my kitchen, is a light shade of blue… and 8 lb.. and looked nothing like these squashes!). Furthermore, there was no way I could discern any differences from a buttercup squash. What to do???
If I had a cell phone, I could have done an emergency internet search… but I don’t have a cell phone. So I bought a bunch of squashes, drove home and then did my emergency squash search.
Turns out I am not the only person with the buttercup-kabocha quandary! Heather outlined the very subtle differences, focusing mostly on the butt of the squash.
Tell me how my squash butt compares. Did I buy a kabocha or a buttercup?
I suppose the proof is in the pudding. Or wrap, in this case.
I decided to roast the squash so that I could really taste it. Drizzled with a little hazelnut oil and only salt and pepper, this was a delicious squash. Denser, yet drier than a butternut squash. I found it had more flavour though and possibly a bit more sweet. Plus, the definitive bonus of the kabocha squash is that you don’t need to peel it!! I buy butternut squashes because I have become pretty adept at peeling it, but eating the peel is even easier! (FYI- the buttercup squash tends to cook up softer and falls apart quite easily).
Next, I went just a bit more fancy and stuffed the roasted squash into a collard wrap smothered with mashed avocado and cucumber, an idea that I borrowed from Gena at Choosing Raw. Gena has a wonderful way with pairing seemingly odd ingredients together, yet they work so well (remember the delectable apple and zesty cashew orange spread wrap?). Anyways, this was a very decadent wrap with the seasoned avocado working as a dressing, the cucumber conferring crunch all highlighting the hazelnut-flavoured roasted kabocha squash.
How do you prefer to eat your kabocha squash?