One reason Easter snuck up on me this year is because I do not get a statutory holiday this weekend. In Canada, I usually get Good Friday off. (In Quebec, I think they get the Monday off instead). Here in Texas, nothing. Although I think stores may be closed on Sunday.
The second reason, of course, is that we will not be celebrating it with family or friends.
I have even less knowledge of Passover but it passed my mind as I made this quintessential Arabic-Jewish dish: Shakshouka.
I first encountered shakshouka (also known as shakshuka or chakchoukah) in Morocco. At its roots, it is a mildly spiced tomato dish in which eggs are poached directly in the tomatoes. Like most dishes, every city had its own variation: more vegetables, less vegetables, more spice, less spice.
I was drawn to this version due to the overabundance of vegetables. Tomatoes, bell peppers and cabbage. Shakshouka’s country of origin may lie in Morocco’s neighbouring country of Tunisia, known for its hot and spicy harissa pepper paste. While I have made my own (not-too-spicy) harissa before, I opted for something quasi-similar I had in my kitchen: pat-chi. Aka, kale and collard kimchi spiced with Thai chiles. Aka, related to kimchi with a yaya-twist. A little bit goes a long way to flavour our vegetable ragout.
To keep this vegan, I swapped the eggs (perhaps totally losing the essence of shakshouka) for chickpeas. I loved it. But sadly, upon investigation found that with this swap, this would no longer be appropriate for passover. No chickpeas for Passover. Perhaps you could serve the ragout with some quinoa: now kosher approved for Passover.
Will you be celebrating Easter or Passover this weekend?
I don’t know what is in the air. I assure you, it was not weather-related. No snow or ice around here.
Between myself and my sister-in-law, we have a veritable collection of injuries: 2 sprained knees and 1 sprained (or broken, we’re not sure) toe. Sadly, it was me with both knees sprained. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) for my sister-in-law, sprained and broken toes are treated the same way.
Also sad is that I have not yet come up with a sexy story to explain my bilaterally braced knees. NOT MY BIKE, thankyouverymuch. In any case, each day is getting better.
I followed my mnemonic from medical school: RICE. Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. (Of course, after a free consultation from my trauma surgeon friend to confirm my suspicions nothing was broken). And of course: anti-inflammatories for pain management. Turns out there is a modified mnemonic for that inclusion: PRINCE, including P for protection and N for NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. I like it!
Serendipitously, I also happened to make the perfect “anti-inflammatory” soup a few days before I went down. A warming soup filled with cabbage, mushrooms, garlic and tofu. Kimchi, pickled napa cabbage, added a lot of flavour. It was perfect to help me recover.
There is evidence fruits and vegetables possess anti-inflammatory properties and the reasons are multi-factorial. Some fruits and vegetables contain naturally occurring salicylates, the compound found in aspirin. This explains why vegetarians have naturally occurring salicylate levels in their blood, albeit not likely therapeutic. While I have heard of people shunning “nightshade” vegetables, including potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers and eggplant, because they are “pro-inflammatory”, I have not found any solid scientific evidence to support hiding from the nightshades. (If you know of any articles, please share!).
Anyways, this soup. Delicious. Not too spicy although this soup was a bit of a mystery to me. When I ate it right after making it, it was the perfect level of spice. I added the kimchi to taste, obviously. However, the soup was pretty bland as leftovers. The chiles had mellowed! To ramp the flavour back up, I added fresh kimchi to each subsequent serving. Definitely add to taste. Enjoy!
We had our first visitors last week. My parents made the brave trek down to Houston.
I say brave because just before they arrived, we were hovering around 2-5 C in the morning in Houston. It was cold. I had to break out my pants.
Thank goodness Houston redeemed its hot, humid self, so my parents could relish instead in highs of 28C, feels like 38C weather! Rob and I have become accustomed to Houston’s weather, positively smitten by the nice weather. Instead, my parents melted under their jeans. I understand. I was there. Except in July, it was 38C, feels like 48C!
We had a hard time recommending tourist things in Houston, so instead, we treated them to a typical week in the life of Houston-bound Rob-and-Janet.
On the weekend, we started it off by buying cheap produce at our favourite fruit and vegetable wholesaler. I usually beeline it to the stands with the cheaper produce, but I think my Dad had fun haggling his way to a $7 case of 24 Ataulfo mangoes (they couldn’t go any lower right now, they explained, since it isn’t high season).
Next up, was the Mexican bakery across the street where we picked up the highly coveted tres leches cakes*, fresh tortillas, and other Mexican baked goods. My friend has been on a quest to find the best tres leches cake in Houston and this is his pick. My parents never knew Mexican sweets were so awesome.
*Note: While this tres leches cake is definitely not vegan, we have found a nice vegan tres leches cake, too.
Our subsequent stop was at my favourite Trader Joe’s, where we sampled all 3 cookie butters before deciding which one to bring home. My Dad picked the smooth version. Who knew grocery shopping could be so much fun. An employee snuck in a souvenir Houston-themed Trader Joe’s bag into my Mom’s arms, congratulating her on visiting the store with us.
And lastly, since we had too much fun shopping and became hungry, we decided to have an early lunch for some quick dosas.
Sunday was our standard biking morning, when my Dad joined us cycling for cronuts while my Mom relaxed at home. We went out for a Mexican fusion vegan brunch but Rob treated us to his specialty later: chilla, Indian chickpea pancakes.
During our kimchi phase, Rob quickly figured out that kimchi worked really well in chilla. Basically it is pre-seasoned cabbage which makes it easier to add to the batter. Rob also likes to add other random vegetables, like tomatoes and spinach, but this version was just with kimchi. Easy, peasy. A dollop of mayonnaise and more kimchi as a nod to our favourite sweet potato and kimchi poutine but I ate it without it and it was still delicious.
Weather prevented us from hiking Brazos Bend together on the weekend, but my parents made their own trip there together while Rob and I worked during the week. They also toured Galveston and the Johnson Space Center (NASA), the most touristy thing they experienced.
And just like that, my parents are back in Canada. We had a few more ideas up our sleeves, but time was too short. A quick visit but we showed them exactly why we like Houston so much. Here’s to seeing them again in the summer as they want to return before we leave. Any favourite spots we still need to check out and share with them? :)
This is my submission to this month’s Credit Crunch Munch.
Miso-Kimchi Vegetable Stir with Bean Curd Skin
I really wanted to call this Miso-Kimchi Vegetable Stir with Tofu Intestines, because isn’t that what you think of when you see it, too? In truth, I know what I am talking about. I would consider myself an expert at what the small bowel looks like. (For the record, Rob thought it was inappropriate)
In case you were curious, a google search for tofu intestines still pulls up what I am describing:
Also known as yuba, bean curd skins are made from the thin skin that forms on top of the tofu while it is being made. It can be bought fresh, frozen or dried. If it is dried, it needs to be soaked for at least 8 hours but the fresh ones are ready to go, as is. A bit more googling, taught me that yuba has been gracing higher end restos lately. I would believe it. Because let me tell you, they pack the nutritional punch of tofu with a nice, new texture.
While they were new to me and Rob, this did not stop Rob from making a fabulous random stir fry. Tender crisp vegetables are a must for a stir fry (broccoli and carrot here) along with your typical aromatics, like ginger and garlic. While the
tofu intestine bean curd skins were an amazing textural foil amongst the vegetables, the flavour explosion came from Rob’s addition of kimchi and miso to the mix. Yeah, bliss.
Now for a shout-out to Viet Hoa, the grocer where we found the tofu intestines. It is possibly the biggest Asian grocer I have encountered. They have a lot of fresh produce and aisles upon aisles of other Asian goodies. They honestly have a whole section for noodles and a large room solely for rice. Sadly, their brown rice selection is not as plentiful and they don’t stock our favourite brand (but I did find whole oat groats amongst the rice, crazy eh?). Total props goes to their tofu selection which covers nearly an entire aisle. Not only are there multiple varieties of traditional tofu, they also had fun bean curd shapes, such as these tofu intestines and small bowties. However, it was their selection of mock meats that made our jaws drop. As you know, I don’t usually eat mock meats (other than the seitan I’ve made myself), but they had an entire freezer aisle dedicated solely to vegan mock meats (see below: Rob snapped some photos with his phone). I am not talking Gardein and the like. Mock chicken, salmon and ham but also mock abalone and sea cucumber made from seitan or soy. Explore a bit more and they have dried seitan and bean curd in fun shapes, as well. I swear, I have never seen so many versions of mock meat/tofu in one place.
Have you tried bean curd skins? Think they look like intestines? Had enough of the kimchi recipes yet? :)
Compared to most other fellows, I have it pretty good. Right now, I have very limited call and my hours are fairly regular. However, I still spend around 12 hours at the hospital each day, plus an hour for my commute. This is partly self-induced since my first few hours are spent at the hospital fitness center. It is quite impressive. I still marvel at their selection of classes that start prior to 7 am (4-5 different classes depending on the day).
In any case, it is no wonder that Rob, working from home, with regular hours and no commute, has more time on his hands. The best part is that it has transcended into the kitchen for some delicious meals. Epic meals, at that. Rob has been neglecting his blog, especially for recipes, so I’ve decided to blog his culinary creations. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on this one.
One of our favourite restaurants in Toronto is Banh Mi Boys and we nearly always ordered their tofu-kimchi sweet potato poutine. It is a riff on traditional poutine, a Canadian delicacy of potato fries covered in gravy and cheese. Their Asian fusion version has crispy sweet potato fries (our request), covered with kimchi, marinaded tofu, sprinkled with green onions and the mayonnaise is on the side (as per our request). Hannah shared a lovely photo of it here. They also have a pulled pork version for carnivores.
We have been fantasizing about making our own version for awhile, after we discovered how wonderful beer transformed sweet potatoes into crispy fries. With the boon of (vegan) kimchi, it was only a matter of time. Beer-Soaked Sweet Potato Fries + BBQ Jackfruit meat + kimchi + baked tofu. Rob added mayo to his which is what he photographed. He took all the photos for this, including step-by-step documentation of the components.
I didn’t want this to fade away into our memories, so here’s to a special recipe for you to try, too.
Remember our warm avocado greeting? To be honest, comparatively, Texas does not grow very many avocados. In the US, avocadoes are mainly grown in California and Florida or imported from Mexico and Chile. True, we are much closer to all those places than when we lived in Canada.
One of Rob’s self-imposed goals this year was to perfect guacamole while we live in the land close to avocados. However, after making this, our plans have been put on hold. This is just too good. Better than guacamole and even simpler. A seemingly crazy concoction of avocado and kimchi with a bit of tang from citrus juice (we’ve used both lime and orange juice with good success). The spicy, tangy kimchi works well with the creamy avocado and sweet orange juice or tart lime juice.
Just like guacamole, it is a great dip and a flavourful topper paired with flavourful dishes like pupusas.
I wish I could take credit for this wonderful dip, but I stole it from Joe Yonan’s new cookbook Eat Your Vegetables. While it isn’t vegan, it is a vegetarian cookbook aimed to help the single cook. The recipes are geared for 1-2 people, with tips on how to use up odds and ends from cooking. Personally, I am a big fan of leftovers, but I can appreciate the value of fresh, flavourful cooking throughout the week. His recipes span super simple, such as this one, to more elaborate fare that I could not imagine cooking just for one. All look bold on flavours. I also enjoyed his laissez-faire recipes, teaching you to listen to your food on the stove, instead of the prescribed directions. He’ll direct you to saute your onions until brown instead of “for 10 minutes”.
Need other ideas for kimchi? Joe includes a recipe for homemade kimchi but also has you covered in case you get bored of guaca-chi: Sweet Potato, Kimchi and Greens Hash; Kimchi Deviled Eggs; Cold Spicy Ramen Noodles with Tofu and Kimchi and even Grilled Kimcheese. Of course, you could also try my Enoki, Broccoli and Tofu Bowl with Kimchi.
PS. A few people commented on my last kimchi post, but I wanted to highlight that yes, indeed, kimchi is usually not vegan nor vegetarian. There is usually shrimp or fish sauce in it. Making it at home is great (I should really do that again) but there are vegan versions out there.
In addition to cycling through Houston, Rob and I are also discovering Houston, one grocer at a time. After chowing through our organic produce, we started exploring my hitlist of ethnic grocers, one weekend at a time.
First of all, though, our Rawfully Organic broccoli lasted 3 weeks. WOAH! Gotta love that!
Second, because I love Asian produce, the first ethnic grocer we picked was H-Mart, a Korean market. It is a chain that has branches as far as California and New York, so you may be familiar with it. It reminded a lot of T&T, actually. A large, clean store with fresh produce, mostly Asian with a heavy Korean slant, with reasonable prices. They had a whole giant section just for kimchi. Rob picked out a house-made vegan kimchi for us to try. Turns out it wasn’t as blow-off-your-face hot as kimchi can be… score for me!
We also picked up a few different bags of brown rice. I am very particular about my brown rice and we both absolutely loved these finds. While both are short grain brown rice, the Sukoyaka Genmai Brown Rice produces the most fluffy and sticky rice (that doesn’t even taste like brown rice, imho). I can’t seem to find the other one online (it is made by Organic Farm and is a 50/50 blend of organic short grain brown rice and brown sweet rice). It requires a 2 hour soak, but it is very nice as well. Not sticky in the slightest, and less aromatic, but good rice. I was quite impressed by their wide selection of brown rice at H-Mart, which is usually hard to find. Now the dilemma will be whether to gamble and try a new brand or stick with these two we like a lot.
Lest you think we have gone all raw here, have no fear. A perfect rice bowl, akin to Korean bibimbap, complete with fresh rice waiting for me when I come home from work (thank you, Rob). A quick stir fry with tofu, broccoli and enoki mushrooms in a sweet maple infused sauce that is matched well with a side of not-so-fiery kimchi. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but we’ve made the quickie kimchi from Vegan Eats World, although it is really spicy if you use the full amount of Korean chili flakes. I am quite partial to the ginger-only version, actually.
So, have you ever been smitten by brown rice? What is your favourite brand?
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.