It is that time of year again. Vegan MoFo. A month-long blogging event featuring all things vegan.
This will be my third time participating.
In 2010, I wasn’t even a vegan but only posted vegan eats.
I hummed and hawed over this year’s theme.
Quick and easy dishes?
Any of those themes would have been fun and challenging for a month. In the end, I decided to allow myself some flexibility and focus on tackling my bookmarked recipes.
Also, as much as I initially wanted to do a month of daily posts, I have decided to scale back my blogging. All in the interest of focusing on more important life events. Not that I won’t be cooking. I will. I really enjoy blogging and find it to be a very creative (and stress-reducing) outlet but will keep it as a smaller hobby. In any case, the theme will be bookmarked recipes for the month of October! :)
It is no secret that I bookmark a lot of recipes, from other blogs and my cookbook collection. I also recently joined Pinterest (follow me!), which may not be a good thing. Time will tell. Some of my isoteric pantry items are from bookmarking a recipe and then forgetting/waiting to make the recipe. Then I try to save the ingredient until I finally make the recipe. So, I hold onto ingredients perhaps a bit longer than needed. This is my challenge to eat through my pantry and my long list of bookmarked recipes.
I realize that not all recipes will be winners, but thought I would share my thoughts anyways. That’s the fun of MoFo!
One of my goals is to eat through my heirloom beans. I’ve amassed a few from Kalustyan’s, Rancho Gordo as well as from local stores like Whole Foods. I find them too pretty to eat but be it resolved to eat them. And replenish my favourites once I move to the US.
So here we go with a foray with mayocoba beans (or canary beans) that I picked up at Whole Foods (Mississauga Square One location for anyone interested). They are originally from Peru and similar to a white bean with a smooth, buttery texture. Feel free to substitute white beans or large pinto beans if you can’t find mayocoba beans. They are paired with one of my favourite lentils, black beluga, which are nice because they are small and keep their shape well. Here the bean medley is simmered in a roasted pepper sauce along with carrots and Swiss chard. The roasted peppers makes this a sweet sauce, so you may want to dampen it a bit with a bit more spice than I used. I served it with cooked quinoa and a side of pan-fried plantain, reminiscent of my Colombian adventures.
After boldly stating that I can easily munch through a weekly food budget of $15, I had a few people suggesting I share my tips. I have been meaning to write this post for a while, so I apologize for its delay.
It may not seem like it at first glance, but it is possible to eat well on a vegan whole-foods diet without breaking the budget. In fact, moving towards a whole foods diet will keep you away from spending the big bucks on processed food. All that processing costs the consumer more money. You do not need to eat cheaply, but rather buy good food that costs cheap. :)
Without further adieu, here are my tips.
1. Waste not
First of all, my biggest tip is do not waste any food. I try really hard not to waste any produce. I make weekly meal plans incorporating the ingredients I already have and what I want to buy. Know was needs to be consumed quickly (strawberries!) and what can wait (sweet potatoes!). Know what needs to be refrigerated (greens!) and what does not (tomatoes!).
2. Store surplus properly – freezers are your friends
Freeze leftover veggies and meals. When red peppers go on sale, I stock up because they can be easily frozen. No need to blanch or cook beforehand, just chop and freeze. Afterwards, they are also easy to throw into whatever dish you end up using them in – they’ve already been pre-cut! Soups and stews can easily be frozen and reheated when you want to eat them again.
3. Eat beans and cook them from scratch
Beans are cheap, healthy and store well. I routinely make a big batch of beans and freeze them with their stock in containers in 2 cup measurements so it is just like pulling out a can of beans. Quick cooking beans like red lentils are also great for easy soups and curries.
4. Buy in bulk, when it makes sense
My Mom calls me a hoarder. I think of myself as buying in bulk. This technique doesn’t work for everyone, but if you have the space, definitely consider it. When certain staples go on sale, I stock up. 2 kg of red lentils for $2? Yes please. That will likely only last 2 months anyhow. Steel cut oats, same thing… Cans of coconut milk and tomatoes will also always find a use.
5. Grow your own food
If possible, grow your own food. I have been dabbling in gardening, focusing on higher yielding vegetables (beans, zucchini) and greens such as kale and collards since they do not need to be harvested immediately. However, even for those without much space, my herb garden has been the most prolific and rewarding, both in the garden and in my kitchen. Being able to snip off a handful of fresh herbs for your meal makes your meal go a long way. Even if you are hard-pressed for sun, you can grow your own sprouts.
6. Cook at home
I almost didn’t include this tip since it is pretty obvious. Save money by cooking for yourself. Don’t eat out at restaurants. Don’t buy premade seitan. Pack your own lunch and cook things yourself.
7. Know where to shop for good prices
The above tips are more general but I wanted the heart of this post to be about my favourite local stores. I currently live in an area that has plentiful options for groceries, so every week I scour the flyers and figure out what I need to buy based on my meal plan. Ethnic grocers are usually a great place for reasonably priced ingredients. Sales often vary, but there are stores that I know I will usually find great prices.
Here are my favourite places in Toronto:
Sunny’s Supermarket – I don’t live close to Sunny’s anymore, but it has an awesome selection of nearly every ethnic cuisine, except the standard North American diet. Milk and cereal might be there, but it isn’t as cheap as the red lentils and tofu. It has a very extensive spice collection with high turnover for its produce, beans and grains. Weekly sales are great and they often have random produce on sale, too. It is not uncommon for red lentils, chickpeas and split peas to sell for cheap ($2 for 2 kg). Bestwin is a similar supermarket, not too far away, but it is more dingy and not as big as Sunny’s.
Lucky Moose in Chinatown – I have started to bike past Chinatown when I come home from work. I think this is one of the better priced grocers with good quality produce. I never know what I will find on sale though… bananas for 29c/lb, zucchini for 39c/lb or young Thai coconuts ($2/2). Like most Asian grocers, “exotic” mushrooms like oyster mushrooms, shiitake and enoki are always reasonably priced. Snow peas and snap peas, too ($2/lb).
Welcome Food Mart – This is my neighbourhood ethnic grocer. A transplanted Chinatown grocer with oftentimes questionable produce but there are some good deals to be had. They have a weekly flyer and they constantly seem to sell 10 limes for $1 which suits me perfectly.
Tutti Fruiti in Kensington Market – Kensington Market is our local stop for bulk items, like nuts when they aren’t on sale elsewhere. I have started to use more Brazil nuts in recipes because they are cheaper here than walnuts and pecans! Protein powders are also very reasonably priced (Hemp Pro 70 is $19) and tempeh is the best price in town. Don’t like Tutti Fruiti? Try the neighboring Essence of Life instead.
Ambrosia – My favourite health food isn’t that close to me, but when we are in the area, we stock up at Ambrosia. Monthly specials can be great on top of great regular prices. Quinoa for $2.44/lb? Yes please! They also seem to stock the majority of all my wacky kitchen needs (I buy my nutritional yeast and vital wheat gluten here).
Bulk Barn – I don’t find Bulk Barn to have good prices but if it is your closest bulk store, so be it. Buying only what you need is the way to go. The one time you will find me in Bulk Barn is when their oats are on sale for 79c/lb and I couple that with a $3 off $10 purchase coupon. Cheap oats, please!
J-Town – I don’t find J-Town that inexpensive but it is a nice place to stock up on all your Japanese needs. I am listing it thought because it sells Mori-Nu silken tofu for $1.68. Booyah!
No Frills, FreshCo and Walmart – Of all the big chain grocery stores, these are my favourites even though I don’t shop there that often. No Frills and FreshCo stock ethnic vegetables, depending on their neighbouhood, too. Surprisingly, Walmart has good prices for nuts and dried fruit. It has a reasonable selection of ethnic ingredients. I even spotted my much loved package of peeled garlic at Walmart, too. All three stores also have a nice price matching policy, that includes grocery items. I really like that because I can still go shopping on a Wednesday and know my produce will be in-stock at the grocers that price match.
Do you have any other great tips for eating well as a vegan? Any other places in Toronto that you recommend?
Feel free to peruse my archives for what I actually eat on a day-to-day basis. I have a bad habit of not sharing some of my most easy pantry-friendly meals. Possibly because red lentil soups are not always photogenic. That doesn’t mean they don’t taste as good, so I encourage you to dive past the murkiness of this soup and give it a try.
This Greek red lentil soup is very simple, yet tastes great. The soup stock is based from sauteed onions, garlic, carrots and bay leaves which are simmered with red lentils infused with rosemary and oregano for the touch of Greek. The soup is finished with lemon juice and zest to bring it up a notch and complement the herbs.
The entire recipe makes a big pot of soup, so I encourage you to freeze half for a rainy (or snowy) day.
Have spices, will travel.
I used to do a ton of meal planning before I visited Rob’s family. My master plan was to make food that Rob’s family would adore and want to make themselves. To do that, I would try to find a recipe that was a bit more mainstream in flavours, with ingredients that were already in their kitchen.
I don’t do that anymore. As selfish as it may seem, I no longer cater my meals to others. It is my meal, so I cater it to what I want to eat. I have realized that at Rob’s family gatherings, my meal is never the main dish and people just nibble at it because they want to try it. If they like it, so be it. If not, that is ok, too. However, I know that with my different tastes, I use different ingredients. I am not just talking about eating vegetables like kale, rather that I use a wide range of spices and condiments that not everyone has.
But now I come prepared. I bring my own spices. My containers are small and portable, so it is no big deal. During my last trip to Woodstock, I decided to make a few dishes. I brought my favourite curry powder to make the Raw Thai Pineapple Rice Salad which received high praise. It was my only repeater recipe but I knew it tasted great and was easy to make. I also brought chili powder (not stale!) to make these grilled vegetable fajitas. Yes, I wanted to capitalize on using the barbecue!
A bounty of vegetables (Portobello mushrooms, zucchini and bell pepper) was marinaded in a chili-lime dressing in the morning. Lentils simmered on the stove before guests arrived for the barbecue. While I originally had elaborate plans to make a flavourful Ancho chile-spiked lentil taco meat, I erred on the side of simplicity and tossed the unadorned lentils with the roasted vegetables. The smoky vegetables with a bit of zip from the chili marinade worked really well together.
I scored the leftovers and at home, I served them in a collard wrap, topped with some fresh avocado. Sprouts are a delicious, gorgeous garnish.
Have no grill? Roasting the vegetables would likely work just as well. Pick your favourite vegetables, but try not to skip the Portobellos. They were my favourite, with a slightly meaty taste. Enjoy!
Rob and I like to
name rename things. People. Animals. You name it, and we’ll rename it.
The previous tenant in the basement had a cat. A big, fluffy black cat that would watch us whenever we were in the backyard. It took us a while to figure out his name. By that time we had christened him with a new name: Muffin.
A dog followed us for a few days while on our jungle trek in Colombia. Rob named him Danger Dog.
After our recent Colombian adventures, our new home also has been christened with a Spanish name: Casa Tarragona.
Thankfully a late summer purchase was a new tarragon plant.
I first tried tarragon last year and since discovered it is an easy-to-grow perennial. Tarragon has a subtle anise flavour that I like, even though I don’t like licorice. Here, I pair it with blueberries in a delicious dressing sweetened by dates. Coconut-sauteed onions make this a luscious dressing with a hint of citrus from the lemon.
Wanting a hearty main-course salad, I paired it with French du Puy lentils and spinach. Toasted walnuts add a satisfactory crunch and fresh blueberries provide bursts of sweetness.
Definitely one of my favourite salads, to date, I feel like this is definitely the summer of salads!
What are your favourite ways to use tarragon?
How often do you second guess a recipe? Something just doesn’t seem right… an odd ingredient, a different preparation technique…. what do you do? Try something new or resort to your old habits?
Dreena Burton’s recipe for this Lemon Mediterranean Lentil Salad had me scratching my head. Cook my lentils in lemon juice? With oil? Had I not learned my lesson with the Green Mango Curry? Acid makes for firm beans. Even dry-toasting makes beans keep their shape. I want my beans to cook! Heck, I already know that the secret to great lentil salads is to use French du Puy lentils. Quick cooking, they also keep their shape and hold up well to salads.
So, I forged ahead… ignoring the plea to simmer the lentils in lemon juice. Forgoing the suggestion to toast them beforehand.
My mistake: The original recipe didn’t say to drain the lentils. So I didn’t. I should have. The glory of this salad comes from the simmering finale of the herbs and tomatoes with the cooked lentils. The olives, capers and lemon zest add a delicious mix of flavours that permeate the lentils in a great way. Except, because I had omitted the lemon juice and toasting, they kept cooking. They became mushy. Still uber delicious, but not as firm as I prefer for my lentil salads. Not as photogenic as I would like, but this recipe was too delicious not to share pronto. I know I will be remaking this, during the perpetual season of summer potluck gatherings, but I did not want you to be deprived of such a great dish… although may I suggest actually following the recipe? ;) Let me know how it goes!
Here are some other great Mediterranean bean salad recipes:
I mean, I can finally express myself in sentences!
Sorry for the blog auto-pilot for the last 3 weeks… After 2 glorious weeks in Colombia, it was back to the grind, off to work, sifting through oodles of emails, comments and catching up with my favourite blogs.
My second language is French and let’s just say three weeks ago, I knew zero Spanish.
We made sure we had the basics though:
Vegetariana estricta Vegan
But that might not mean anything, so we had to explain:
Without eggs (Really?)
Without milk (I usually had a funny look at this point)
We usually stopped there, but I also knew how to say:
We got better at explaining what I wanted:
Frutas (fruit!), verdura (vegetables), beans (frijoles), papas (potatoes) and arroz (rice).
other than baños (bathroom), another useful word was aqui (here)
As we learned more about Colombia (Que?), we became a bit more sophisticated and tried to make actual sentences.
Cuánto cuesta? How much does it cost?
Quero jugos naturales en agua sin azucar: I want freshly squeezed juice in water without added sugar!
By the end of our trip, a guide was teaching us the difference between Mucho bueno and Muy bien depending on the context of the sentence. And to greet other friendly men with Compa! and friendly women with Coma!
In any case, I loved my culinary adventures in Colombia, and we planned it so that I could stay vegan throughout the trip. I had to make a few compromises, and that was by eating white rice (brown rice and quinoa are essentially non-existent in Colombia) and I had more fried foods than I had in the last 3 years (fried plantains and yucca mainly if nothing else was available). But it was ok. That’s what vacations are for.
Now that I am back in my own kitchen, I can return to normal. Pull out some freezer meals. Forge ahead with some comforting pantry-friendly meals. Rob repeats recipes and sometimes I do, too. This is one of those dishes. Uber comforting. While I describe this as Dal Bhat meets Mujaddara, this would likely scare off a bunch of people… Too many foreign words thrown in there… But if I call it Fragrant Lentil Rice Soup with Spinach and Crispy Onions, it is much more approachable, and still true to its name.
This comforting dish comes from Melissa Clark’s cookbook, Cook This Now. Savoury spices like cinnamon, cumin, allspice and ginger are combined with creamy red lentils and brown rice (aka dal bhat). Since the spices are aromatized at the beginning of the soup, they don’t pop with as much oomph as dal bhat, instead they are more mellow. This is a thick soup, with both lentils and rice simmered together, creating an utterly creamy consistency. In mujaddara, the rice and (green) lentils absorb all the water so they are dry, but still fragrant depending on the spices you use. However, the crowning glory of mujaddara are the caramelized onions. Here, onions are caramelized in parallel so that after an hour, you have dark and deeply sweet onions to go with your just finished lentil rice soup. Thus, simple fusion at its finest. Familiar, yet just a subtle twist to both recipes to keep you interested and excited… and a dish I know I can eat again and again.
And it is just so nice to be able to tell you all this in complete sentences. Freedom! :)
There are many reasons why I love Rob, but one of them is that he is really laid back. He doesn’t stress out when the fridge is already full and I come home with even more veggies or when I buy, um, another cookbook, or two… I also love the way he approaches cooking: a few staple recipes interspersed with new recipes.
Recently, he’s been culling meals from our favourites. Rob’s Repeater Recipes as I have tagged them on the site: Dal Bhat, Besan Chilla, Tamarind Lentils and this Creamy Broccoli Dal from Vegan Yum Yum. Why mess with success? They fall under “you can make these dishes for me anytime” category. Definitely comfort food. I have mentioned this delightful dal a few times, but have yet to share the recipe because we didn’t have any photos. Since we usually make this whenever we have a surplus of broccoli, I knew we would eventually capture it at a photogenic angle. I tried… there is something about a slurry of a soup that makes it hard to look as great as it tastes.
This is one of our go-to recipes because it is so packed with flavours. Indian-inspired flavours like cumin, mustard seeds, turmeric, chile flakes and garam masala really make this pop. The red lentils cook away into a creamy background interspersed with bits of broccoli (we use both the florets and stem). If you are anti-bits, just use the stems. If you are anti-broccoli (gasp!), just use the stems, because only the florets give it away that veggies are hidden in here. The almond milk helps to add an extra level of creaminess.
As written, the recipe serves 2-3 people. We’ve realized that doubling it makes the most sense since we like it so much. :)
For the seasoned bloggers and blog-readers out there, when reading recipes, how often to you think to yourself: Oh yeah, I’ve made something similar to that before… move on…
I rarely repeat recipes, and sometimes even shy away from ones that look similar to ones I’ve made before. It is all about variety! The more, the merrier!
While I have made some really delicious red lentil soups, mostly with lemon (lemon+cumin+cilantro=fantastic), I was still intrigued by Deborah Madison’s Red Lentil Soup with Spinach and Lime from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.
Both soups have similarities: red lentils, cumin, cilantro, onion and citrus.
The differences: tomato paste vs yellow mustard. Spinach, too. (The original recipe also called for yogurt and rice, both of which I omitted)
This soup just goes to show you how a simple change in seasoning can drastically alter a dish. Both equally delicious, yet completely different.
In this soup, you have a savoury red lentil soup flavoured primarily by mustard, oh yes mustard, with a hint cumin, sweetened by the spinach, then livened by the cilantro and fresh lime juice. They work so well together. And yes, this time my yellow mustard seeds did not disappoint! I am positively smitten by mustard. What are your favourite recipes with mustard?
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.
Celeriac. Pumpkin. Could I be sharing any more autumn-like produce?
As I am munching away through my freezer before our next move, I am rediscovering meals that I should have blogged about but for some reason, I haven’t!
I am a long-standing proponent of leftovers but oddly enough, when I stash leftovers in the freezer, they kind of sit there for a while. Freshly made meals are always my go-to choice, but I have some real gems being unearthed these days.
I have become a bit more accustomed to the tamer curries that are made with curry powder, red lentils and an assortment of veggies. I really liked the Red Lentil and Root Veggie Dal and since celeriac was my favourite veggie this winter, I was eager to try my hand at a similar stewy curry from Sarah. Typically, potatoes are used in Indian cooking but here, celeriac adds a different dimension which complements the sweetness from the pumpkin. I also loved the addition of the spinach thrown in for good green measure. I usually don’t freeze meals that use greens, but these leftovers are ok from the freezer.
By the way, does anyone know what kind of pumpkin is sold in stores that are cut into large wedges? They are labelled as Ontario pumpkins, but I have no clue what kind they are… I don’t cook with the jack-o-lantern pumpkins, but this was definitely a pumpkin for cooking. :)
I loved hearing how you decide to share your blog with your friends and co-workers after my last post. As Joanne said, sometimes there are clues that a blog may be lurking in the background, or at least a true love of cooking. Rarely repeated lunches, guilty as charged. Beyond that, I try not to share my profound love of beans with just anyone. I don’t want to be perceived as preachy once I start talking about my food choices (no meat, dairy, fish, refined flours, refined sugars, white rice and potatoes, etc). You know you are my friend when I discuss the virtues of lentils over chickpeas. Although walking into my kitchen, with its rows of dried beans are a quick giveaway. If you make it up into my study, then my collection of cookbooks is a dead giveaway that I love to cook.
I have a lot of cookbooks. A lot. Recently, I won a subscription to Eat Your Books, a website that indexes cookbook recipes for easier searching. Sadly, my most loved cookbooks (namely my vegan faves) have not yet been indexed (the scourge of Tess’ cookbooks being not-so-mainstream). However, this allows me to check out some of my other cookbooks, that I would not have pulled off the shelf simply because they are not vegan. The best recipes are those that are accidentally vegan. They aren’t trying to be something meaty.
I recently made a delicious celeriac and white bean puree from Terry’s new cookbook. I know her cookbook will get lambasted for using the most isoteric ingredients, but I love it because my kitchen is stocked with all things isoteric and I have bought even more pantry items! I also push myself to try new vegetables. Despite hating celery, I scoped out celeriac, also known as celery root. Sunny’s for the win, after the St Lawrence Market was out that week. And yes, it is now my newest favourite root vegetable. An underdog if you ever looked at it; it is a white/grey/dirty thing all gnarled up in roots. But as a non-starchy vegetable root (not part of the cruciferous gang, sadly), it tastes like a cross between a potato and has the nice parts of celery: a sweet, yet subtle earthy celery taste. It tastes a bit nutty with hints of lemon, too.
So, when I was left with half a celeriac, I turned to Eat Your Books. I found an intriguing celeriac schnitzel in my German cookbook (here‘s Bittman’s version), lots of mashes, a lot of soups, some slaws and salads. I will have to get more celeriac to try all the recipes! However, this time I was drawn to a vegan-friendly lentil salad with celeriac from Ottlenghi’s Plenty (similar recipe here).
Of course, I adapted the recipe. Instead of boiling the celeriac, I opted to roast it. I also decreased the dressing, making it less oily and I tried to play up the hazelnut flavour by pairing the hazelnut oil with a mild rice vinegar (it would be interesting to try this with a balsamic, me thinks). However, the majority of the hazelnut taste came from the roasted hazelnuts, instead. I liked the juxtaposition of warming hazelnut with the roasted celeriac, earthy lentils and bright mint. It is a nice, unassuming salad and a great way to introduce someone to celeriac.
Most food bloggers have non-foodie day jobs. Tell me, do you share your blog with your co-workers, with your supervisors? Would you include it on your CV?
I work in the medical field. I am a doctor, although still in training during my residency.
Suffice it to say, I work in a very conservative field.
I recently applied for a fellowship after I graduate. In about 16 months. My applications went in 21 months before the position started (I think it is just as ludicrous as you). I polished off my CV, highlighting my clinical and research experience. Thankfully I didn’t have to follow a resume template, so I debated whether to include my “other interests”. One of my mentors told me casual hobbies/interests like “cooking”, “cycling”, etc should be excluded unless you earn medals. Telling me you love to cook, tells me you love to eat, he said. And what is special about that?
In the end, I decided to highlight extracurricular achievements. I highlighted that my recipes had been included in Canadian Living; I currently maintain this blog promoting healthy recipes; and I listed the supported cycling trips that I have done over 300 km.
While I tend to keep my blog on the down-low from my supervisors, I have shared it with other residents.
Including this information wouldn’t hurt me as an applicant (right?) and if anything it would give them something to talk about, other than my very interesting research.
At one hospital, I was interviewed consecutively by 10 people. As you are probably thinking, this could be pretty intimidating! However, the group was really approachable and open, and they relished talking about my research and non-research interests. More than one had my blog on their computer screen!
Sharing your blog with co-workers can be such a nerve-wracking experience. I absolutely adore the food blogging community I have joined, but I know that my food preferences are in the minority. Especially in Texas. In fact, being someone who blogs about said food seems even more ludicrous, eh? I would have thought the same thing three years ago, but really, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.
Food blogging is something special. A place for me to express myself, both through writing, photography and culinary creativity. It also exposes my vulnerability, hence my shyness with co-workers.
But please do share with me how you share your blog.
Sometimes I find vegetable-based dishes that scream “I need some protein!”. Instead of adding a bean or grain to the dish, this time I opted for a side of beans in pancake form. ;)
These pancakes have a similar texture to the potato pancakes I ate as a child due to the shredded carrot. However, the flavour is anything but bland as they are spiced with ginger, garlic, onion and garam masala. Other than veganizing the recipe by substituting the chia for egg, I also decreased the garam masala from Joanne’s original recipe and found them great as-is. They could be eaten as a simple pancake with a side of chutney, or a nice salad, or with a mild curry.
Rob and I ate them with the Sweet Potato Coconut Curry with Eggplant and Pineapple to beef up the meal. We found that when we smothered them with the curry sauce, it almost tasted like schnitzel. Texture-wise. I know, so weird, but true.
When we asked my kitchen-challenged friend if we could pick up anything from the grocery store for her, she asked for Brussels sprouts.
Of all things, she wanted Brussels sprouts.
Nothing in her fridge and freezer other than drinks and some frozen dinners, and she asks for Brussels sprouts?!
She explained that she loves to microwave them and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. Delicious, she assured us.
My curiosity was piqued. I will confess, I have never had Brussels sprouts. My mom doesn’t like them so she never served them. Thus, I have never eaten them.
Some people may be tempted by elaborate cakes and cookies, whereas I am in a tizzy by new vegetables. There are so many (cruciferous) vegetables I have yet to try. Today is the the day to try something new.
I noticed a trend: people like their sprouts caramelized either through roasting or pan-frying. They like to be off-set with something sweet – caramelized onions or shallots, or even dried fruit, then finished with nuts for crunch. Usually served as a side, I wanted to beef them up as a main-course salad. Enter the lentils.
I based this dish off of my Mujaddara, which is a Middle Eastern dish lentil and rice dish with caramelized onions. I replaced the rice with caramelized roasted Brussels sprouts, omitted the cinnamon from the simmering lentils and added some toasted pecans. A simple warm salad that is more than the sum of its parts. The earthy lentils lend a base of the sweet yet earthy sprouts, contrasted by the sweet caramelized onions with a crunch from toasted pecans. And the Brussels sprouts? They taste like little dense cabbage. Sweet, after the roasting. I think I’ve found a new veggie friend. :)
(Sorry, let me sneak in one fabulous main dish this week before we get the cookie bonanza)
On the love-like scale, I gave this a love. Rob gave it a low like. A 5/10 is definitely a fail in my regards. While testing recipes for Terry’s new book, more and more recipes fell in the “Rob loves this more than Janet” category. Not Rob loves the food more than me, but he loved the food more than I loved the food… kapiche? ;)
Testing recipes has been a nice adventure for us to learn more about our cooking and eating preferences. Rob loved the Curry Laksa with Oyster Mushrooms, whereas I wasn’t as smitten. The spicy fastlane cabbage kimchi was way too spicy for me (1/2 cup of Korean pepper flakes!), but Rob loved it in small amounts. I adored the mild ginger kimchi option, though. Likewise, the jigae (kimchi, tofu and eggplant stew) was too spicy for me again, but Rob enjoyed it. In Rob’s quest to make an authentic Massaman curry, he found a winner here, but I wasn’t as sold. Meanwhile, I found my mojo with the Middle Eastern dishes in the book like the Sweet Autumn Toasted Pita and Kale Salad (a Fattoush knock-off), the Moroccan Vegetable Couscous, the Ethiopian Yellow Split Peas with Chard and Tomatoes and the delicious French-inspired White Bean and Celery Root Puree. We both loved the Venezuelan-style Tofu Sofrito Scramble, though. :)
This Red Lentil and Root Veggie Dal came from Appetite for Reduction (recipe here) and I thought Rob would like it- a red lentil curry, complete with ginger, curry powder, coriander, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon, complemented with a host of root vegetables: carrot, parsnip and turnip (did you spot the cruciferous vegetable?). A quick and healthy recipe, it was also up my alley. Turns out the word curry threw Rob off – he found it to be blander than anticipated. Meanwhile, I adored it! This time, I snatched the leftovers! The vegetables make this a sweet curry and I thought this complemented the savoury spices well. For the curry novices out there, there was no hint of curry powder taste… unless you decide to add more! I found this perfecto as written.
As Rob likes to say, if something hasn’t been dropped while he’s cooked, then he hasn’t really cooked.
My nemesis in the kitchen is having my water boil over while I make steel-cut oats. I swear, it happens nearly every week. Mostly because after I get my oats simmering, I usually wander away to do other things… load/unload the dishwasher, get dressed, etc… and then I hear sputtering and I’m back in an instant to calm the oats.
I am pretty good about not burning things, though.
So, when I roasted some eggplants over the gas flame on the oven, Rob was alarmed when he smelled smoke from his upstairs office. Everything alright? he asked. He peered at my neat pile of 7 Asian eggplants, on fire on the stovetop.
I am roasting eggplants! They are supposed to turn catch on fire and turn black. Honestly! This fire is under control!
While in Turkey, I learned how to roast an eggplant to get that smokey flavour for the eggplant in Sultan’s delight. You need to do it over an open flame. Apparently the big fat eggplants here have a much tougher skin, so they suggested getting an Asian or European variety with a thinner skin. After you have charred the eggplant, carefully remove the skin while retaining all the juice. The smaller eggplants, though, turn this into a very tedious chore. But, yes, it was worth the efforts. You can’t duplicate that flavour without the fire.
I have been meaning to make the Indian roasted eggplant dish, Baingan Bharta, for the longest time. However, as it is vegetable-based side dish, I have found it harder to incorporate into my weekly meals. I don’t usually do the two-dish dinners. So when I spotted this Eggplant and Lentil Curry at The Kathmanduo, I knew I had a great combination.
Essentially, you are combining dal bhat (or just dal since there is no rice) with baingan bharta. The dal, alone, was superb. The fenugreek adds a more savoury note that is tempered by the typical Indian culprits of cumin, ginger and coriander. You could stop right there, throw in some rice and have an excellent meal.
Please keep going, though.
With the roasted eggplant, you create a smokey, sultry savoury mush. It wasn’t what I was expecting from a bharta, as I wanted something with more tomato presence. The smokiness from the eggplant was unbeatable, though. Now throw it into your dal. Mix the two together. Bliss, sheer bliss. And a complete meal: veggies and beans. Add your favourite grain if you are still so inclined.
Sadly, as much as I adored this dish, this will be the last time I will be able to roast anything on an open flame in the kitchen.
Not because it was a fire hazard, or that I had a lot of cleaning to do afterwards…
But rather, we discovered that the smoke really irritates Rob’s allergies. The house smelled like smoke for 2 days and for weeks, Rob had unresolved sniffles. It took us a while to pinpoint the culprit but I’ve conceded the eggplant roasting for now. Even though Rob agreed this was the best eggplant dish he had ever had. Not willing to risk anyone’s health, it will have to stay locked in our memories forever. :)