When I photographed this, I was worried it may look eerily similar to the Red Lentil and Spinach Curry (Vegan Tikka Masala). Red lentils + tomato + spinach… This one has carrots, isn’t as red and is more soup-like than the curry, though. I think they look reasonably different, so trust me I am not recycling photos! No lost photos for this dish…
In truth, it was the success of the tikka masala that had me throwing bountiful fists of spinach into yet another red lentil dish.
I have made the traditional Turkish red lentil and bulgur soup before, having learned it while travelling in Turkey. A humble, yet decidedly filling and nutritious soup, it was one of our favourite meals on our trip, especially when we learned how to cook it ourselves. This version, courtesy of Turquoise, is billed as a humble peasant soup. The lentils must make it peasant-like because there is nothing bland about this. I love the addition of two different kinds of smoked paprika and cumin (I did not stifle the full amount of smoked paprika and it was ok!). I added in the spinach, because, well, I had tons of it and it is easy to incorporate into thick soups. However, the best part of this soup, is the finishing spiced oil. I am used to this in Indian dishes, which is called a tarka, when spices like cumin, coriander, garlic and ginger can infuse oil that is added at the end of the cooking. This isn’t an Indian dish, so dried mint and smoked sweet paprika are fried at the end to permeate the oil. It was actually very pretty when drizzled over the soup. Sorry, you guys got photos of leftovers! Have no fear, the leftovers tasted as good with the tarka already stirred into the soup.
Do you use the tarka method for your cooking? Outside Indian foods?
OK, file this under “I don’t need to try that again“.
Not this dish. Chicory greens.
I am warning you: evil. Turns out not all greens are as lovely as spinach, Swiss chard and kale. Chicory leaves look like dandelion greens and they (likely) also taste like them: BITTER! They are cousins, after all.
This dish had such promise. I used freekeh, which is young cracked wheat with beautiful smoky undertones, and chickpeas and spiced it with paprika, cumin and pomegranate molasses. Thyme and lemon, too. Sounds beautiful but thwarted by the bitter greens. The original recipe called for ground lamb (which I obviously omitted) but I doubt that would overcome its bitterness. Next time, I’d suggest using a milder green like Swiss chard or kale. Although, the leftovers were not as vile.. either that, or I slowly became accustomed to it.
I was going to say that, in retrospect, this was obviously not meant for me since I am a pitta (which shuns bitter foods). Although, turns out the joke’s on me: chicory greens are good for pitta. I guess I must take after vata in this regard. Or maybe this is all messed up since it isn’t an Ayurvedic recipe.
So, tell me, do you like bitter greens? If so, how do you enjoy eating them? If I ever try them again, I’ll go with this dish for Moroccan Braised Mustard Greens, which I’ve tried and enjoyed. Maybe I just had a particularly bitter bunch?
One of the things I am enjoying about this sweetener-free challenge is determining how much sweetener I truly need. Furthermore, I feel less bloated, which is really keeping me motivated to stick with the challenge this long. I love throwing fruit into my savoury dishes, but I know not everyone rolls with me.
Earlier this fall, I made Cherry Collard Dolmas. A little bit more non-traditional because I was lazy and used larger collard leaves but also because sweet cherries were used to complement the savoury spice mix of cinnamon, allspice, mint and dill. Currants and pistachios were also mixed in there for good measure. Brown rice and white beans were used to amp up its nutritional profile. Yes, these were very good.
This time, I consulted with Tess for a simpler version. Brown rice and chickpeas are the base with fresh tomatoes, dill and fresh lemon juice, wrapped in a salty grape leaf. Seemingly humble ingredients, combined into power rolls, you have a winning snack. I liked them both before I cooked them (the lemon juice was a strong, fresh flavour) but they mellowed out nicely after a 20-minute steam.
I don’t know about you, but there is something so awesome about little nibbly snacks. Finger foods are fun. Serve as an appetizer, a snack, or eat a bunch as a meal. I served mine with a simple tahini dip which contrasted the lemony flavours nicely. A thinned out hummus dressing could work, too.
There is only one problem with finger foods. That means I have to assemble a whole bunch of teeny rolls! Trust me, it is worth it. However, if it is a weeknight and you just want to eat pronto, throw it into a larger collard leaf instead.
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?
Each week, I try to make a new dressing to add to whatever wandering salad I may concoct for lunch. Toss it with whatever random veggies I have in the fridge or plucked from the garden.
For this month’s Random Recipe challenge, we were urged to pick a pantry item and randomly try a recipe with it. I picked pomegranate molasses and then randomly picked Turquoise, a cookbook I have been neglecting but adamant about trying more of the drool-worthy recipes.
I landed squarely on the tomato-pomegranate dressing, spiced with thyme, shallots and garlic. I was initially perplexed by the recipe since it seemed to be a dressing infused with the flavours instead of being pureed directly into the dressing. So, I experimented. I made half of the recipe through the suggested (infused) method, and half of the dressing was simply pureed. The verdict? Both were good and more surprisingly to me, the blended dressing was creamier. I thought the pureed shallot and garlic would make this a scary dressing, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t as tart and acidic as the infused dressing. However, once mixed with my veggie medley, it was perfect. Both versions were nice.
Here, in the photos, I paired the dressing with thinly sliced collards, shredded beets and carrots, thinly sliced Roman beans and toasted sunflower seeds. I massaged some of the dressing directly with the collards (like I do for my raw kale salads) and then drizzled more dressing for the rest of the veggies. As you can see, the collard greens didn’t wilt as much as kale, but it made for a tasty salad, mellowing the collards for a simple salad. Later, I also found the dressing paired well with my standard concoction of tomatoes, cucumber, green beans, chickpeas and lettuce.
Looking for another great salad with pomerganate molasses? This one with bulgur and chickpeas (aka, The Old Best Salad Ever) was how I got hooked onto pomegranate molasses!
Do you have any favourite salad dressings?
Cherry Collard Dolmas (Turkish Collard Leaves Stuffed with Rice, Beans and Fresh Cherries -Visneli Yaprak Sarma)
This has been the summer of cherries.
Local cherries arrived early, so by the beginning of July I had already made Almost Raw Chocolate Banana Crepes with Almond-Coconut Cream and Cherries, then balsamic cherries migrated onto a sandwich with rosemary cashew cheese and arugula, and I pickled a bunch in a five-spice spiked vinegar. I kept on thinking cherry season was over, but they continued to be on sale late into the summer. How can you say no to cherries at 99c/lb?
So, yes, I have yet another cherry recipe.
Earlier this summer, we thought I might have been able to join Rob in New York for a mini-vacation. We researched where we wanted to stay (airBnB!), what we would do (opera!) and what we would eat (Pure Food & Wine!). My favourite raw resto to date, it would have been a nice treat. I even scoured their menu to see what I wanted to order. I found it:
Cauliflower Cous Cous with Sour Cherry Dolmas with pistachio, almond, dried fruits, mint, Moroccan tomato jus
Sounds heavenly, no?
Turns out that when we went to book my airline tickets, we were not able to get the flights we wanted. So for the long weekend, Rob went to New York for work, and I stayed at home.
With a bit of extra time on my hands, I decided to tackle my own cherry dolmas. In retrospect, a raw version would likely have been quicker, but I opted for a more traditional cooked dolma. As traditional as cherry dolmas can be. When I visited Turkey, I was not wowed by dolmas. They were not on my radar. However, traditional dolma recipes typically include savoury spices like cinnamon and allspice, so I was sold. Instead of pine nuts, I used pistachios. Instead of traditional raisins, I used a touch of currants. The majority of the sweetness comes from the cherries.
Instead of a rice-based dish, I beefed it up by including white beans. Doing so made me have a lot more filling than I had initially bargained for, so I scrapped the grape leaves and plucked collards from my garden instead. With a cooked filling, a cooked collard seemed more appropriate, instead of my typical raw collard wraps. Pre-steaming the collard leaves made them much easier to wrap the filling and keep their shape.
The dolmas are simmered in a cherry-infused broth to complete the cooking of the rice. If you cooked your rice all the way through the first time, I think you could save yourself the final cooking step. It was a pretty labour intensive recipe but at least I didn’t have to wrap 100s of dolmas in tiny grape leaves.
In any case, these were so flavourful, they were definitely worth the effort. The rice filling alone was delicious, so if you just want to make that, I understand.
I made the cranberry-lemon-tahini dip for the dolmas but I didn’t find it needed a dip. In fact, the sweet on sweet clashed. If you want something to serve it with, a plain yogurt would be nice.
With all my cherry fodder this summer, Rob came back with a surprise present for me from New York: a cherry pitter!
With the bright summery weather, I am thinking of doing a Raw Thursday series for the summer. A bonus recipe each week… Let me know what you think!
There is crack and then there are crack crackers.
Healthy, vegan crack.
I was honestly hooked on Mary’s Crackers for a while.
(In the US, the crackers are called Mary’s Gone Crackers for good reason!)
Then I said, enough is enough! Let me make my own
I started by making a sweet flax cracker with cinnamon and dates but wanted to tackle something savoury, too. This multiseed cracker, courtesy of Sarah, boasts not only ground flax but also hemp and chia seeds. This cracker base was great because it was so much easier to spread than the flax-only cracker. It was more airy and flaky, too, compared to the Mary’s Cracker prototype. The flavourings are, of course, up to you.
I was itching to recreate Mary’s caraway flavour, which was simple. I also made a version with za’atar that was perfect with my go-to hummus.
My favourite cracker of the bunch, so far, is this pizza cracker. I spiced them with garlic, onion, rosemary, nutritional yeast as well as red pepper paste (a roasted red pepper or tomato paste could be substituted). The slight tang from lemon juice evened out the flavours just slightly.
If I thought Mary’s Crackers were addictive, now I know making my own crackers can be equally as addictive.
What flavour will I create next?
I like Angela’s suggestion to add kelp and Herbamare. Do you have any suggestions?
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!
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.
Not only can I get in trouble at grocery stores, I can also get in trouble at garden centres.
It makes sense, because it is like a grocery store with such promise for the future.
Originally, we had planned to keep things relatively simple. We tried out a few plants last year, and knew that our best results were with our herbs in planters. We were also able to harvest beans (snow peas, snap peas and flat beans), lettuce, Swiss chard and kale, although at much lower yields. Carrots – nada! Kohlrabi – nope. Beets- only the chioggia beets grew and they were way too small.. Zucchini- to be fair, we grew it in a very shady part of the garden and it died. Our rhubarb died a horrible death, too.
Our new home has a much smaller garden, but receives a lot more light. I am hopeful we will be able to grow some tasty delights this year. To keep things simple, the herbs would be a definite go, especially since I overwintered them in my kitchen and only had a few casualties (basil, thyme and even the Vietnamese coriander, boo, the last two both perennials). I was going to try my hand at kale again, both with the transplanted kale and with seedlings. After Rob’s mom’s success with dinosaur kale (lacinato kale) from a seedling (and plenty of sun), I was adamant I wanted to try kale from seedlings. I know kale grows easily from seeds, but I figured this could help get the plant bigger and me eating it sooner!
Locating kale seedlings is easier said than done. Not only did I not want the standard kale, I wanted heirloom kale. Home Depot? No. Canadian Tire? No. A local independent grocer had the normal curly kale, though. I decided to check in with the closest garden centre: Caledonia Garden Centre. Turns out they had just picked up some kale to sell. Lacinato kale and the normal curly kale. Perfect!
With my best intentions, I swear, I headed off to buy some lacinato kale. I perused their collection… next to the lacinato kale, they had redbor kale. I picked up both. They also had a curly kale and bought it just for fun. Then I spotted the collard section. The regular collards were only a $1; in it went… and then I perused the section a bit more…. they had heirloom collards! Vates collards, which are a bit more compact with an earlier maturation date. And Portuguese collards (couve). Never even heard of it but they looked a bit more frilly and white in their mugshot on the label. I was excited just to find lacinato kale but now I was ecstatic!! New veggies to explore! I resisted the Swiss chard since I had seeds at home to plant. Then I moseyed through the rest of the veggies…. and while I had no plans to buy squash, when I saw they had KABOCHA (!) squash seedlings, I impulsively threw them in my now overflowing tray of seedlings. At only $1.25 for 4 plants, it was an experiment I was willing to try.
When I got home, I had to investigate how to grow collards and kabocha squash! Where would they fit in my garden?
Thankfully squash can be grown in containers, so that’s where I put my squash. I am not sure where the 20 foot vines will go but if they make it that far, I will deal with it then!
The collards and kale have all been interspersed in the front garden, amongst the perennial flowers. I am hoping they become balmy ornamental greens throughout the summer. Hopefully the sun cooperates and we can feed them properly. Cross your fingers for a summer of green overload!
Looking for a way to use some greens? This is a bulgur pilaf salad with some Swiss chard sneaked in.. while it may call for a bunch of Swiss chard, it wilts down and makes you wonder why you didn’t add more.
Courtesy of Melissa Clark, I tweaked her Bulgur Pilaf with Dried Apricots from Cook This Now. Like my Middle Eastern-Inspired Olive Oil Granola, this bulgur salad is flavoured with cinnamon, dried apricots and pistachios. With a nod to my favourite bulgur salad, a drizzle of pomegranate molasses and pomegranate arils make this salad more interesting with their tangy crunch. This is actually a template for a great salad: mix and match with what you have in store. Don’t have apricots and pistachios? Use dried cranberries and almonds instead… or try raisins and walnuts.. Salads need not be stressful!
I can’t believe that a year ago this weekend, I was already biking to-from Toronto and Kitchener (120 km, one-way). While I am planning to cycle to/from Toronto and Niagara Falls in June (160 km, one-way), our fall-back is a shorter course that leaves from Burlington (90 km).
With so many things happening this spring (moving, Colombia, hiking training, etc), it has been hard to dedicate as much time to long-distance cycling. Funnily enough, I have still clocked more kilometers on my bike due to my long daily commutes (780 km already clocked this year). However, nothing beats the long rides on my road bike as true training. Two weekends ago, Rob and I did a short jaunt in the cold for 35 km. True, I cycle that much on a typical day but it is spaced out. But that was enough for me. By the end, my back was sore for some odd reason. One really needs to ease into these long distance trips.
I know I’ve been posting a few recipes highlighting high protein options for typical carb-heavy meals, but my main focus for protein-friendly meals will always be a combination of beans and veggies. Brendan Brazier has always recommended a 3:1 to 4:1 carb-to-protein ratio, preferably a liquid for easiest digestion after recovery from sports. This is easy to get from bean- and veggie-centric soups and stews.
While I didn’t encounter anything like this in Turkey, the recipe for this Turkish red pepper, chickpea and cilantro soup came from Classical Turkish Cooking. I bookmarked it while searching for ideas with celeriac. I really liked how fresh and vibrant this soup was without being heavy. The simple soy milk makes this creamy along with the pureed chickpeas. The red pepper confers sweetness, celeriac a hearty celery background and the parsley/cilantro combo complemented it all really well. It has simple flavours that worked so well together: perfect as a light yet filling soup for the spring. The original recipe suggests pureeing the whole soup and then straining it, but I don’t like pureed soups, so I used my immersion blender to puree it partially. I was able to enjoy the benefits of the texture from the veggies as well as the additional heft from the puree.
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this month‘s Simple and in Season, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Priya, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this week’s Sunday Night Soup Night, and to Cookbooks Sundays.
I will admit that when I mentioned my pee turns red after consuming red beets, I thought I was in the majority.
When asking someone about their bloody urine as a doctor, the first thing is to rule out causes that are not bloody (like eating beets).
It happens to me on occasion (red urine from beets) and as such, I thought it was pretty common.
Then I decided to do a very quick literature search.
Not that I delved into the primary studies, but apparently beeturia (what you call red urine from beets) is only present in 10-15% of people. It is caused by the increased absorption and then excretion of betalaine, the reddish pigment found in red beets.
Delving into its chemistry, it turns out that because betalaine will be protected by reducing agents like oxalates, consuming foods high in oxalates like spinach and rhubarb will enhance beeturia. Furthermore, it is decolorized by ferric ions, colonic bacteria and stomach acids (hydrochloric acid). As such, if you don’t consume enough iron, you may get beeturia. Same thing if your stomach acid is out of whack, say from pernicious anemia.
Anyways, I thought 10-15% of people was pretty low. I decided to do an informal poll. Beeturia sufferers=4. No beeturia=2. Do not consume beets=4. Both of my no beeturia friends mentioned they get red poo, though (although I didn’t ask my other friends).
I kind of want to do a scientific study, actually. Give a specific amount of beets to a bunch of people and ask them for their urine to see if it is red (hmm, maybe I would need a pre-beet control urine sample, too). It sounds gross, I know, but my curiosity is piqued.
Not everyone enjoys beets, but let me share with you yet another great beet recipe. I am totally biased, since I love all colour of beets, in many different forms. But really, this is a great soup. And it isn’t borscht.
I originally spotted this Iraqi Pomegranate Stew on Julia’s blog. I am always thrilled to find new ways to add pomegranate molasses to my meals, and I was tickled pink when I saw it had many of my other favourite ingredients- beets, spinach, split peas, lime juice, cinnamon, cilantro and even mint! (Aside, can you see how different my tastes are from Rob’s coconut-tamarind-chile love trifecta? Although I love tamarind, too).
The flavours of stew combine the salty, sweet, and savoury perfectly. It helped that I followed Julia’s recommendation of adding more split peas and rice, and removing the sugar altogether. The pomegranate molasses gives this a nice sweet tang all by its lonesome.
This also produces a glorious red soup, speckled with the green spinach and herbs. What better way to say you love someone, then by making them a gloriously delicious healthy red soup. Except, it might make you pee red, too.
So tell me, if you dare, do you get beeturia?
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this week’s Wellness Weekend, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Vanessa and to My Kitchen, My World for Iraq.
While my Mom made new recipes for me, with new-to-her ingredients (TVP-what? chickpea flour-oh my!), I also reciprocated by bringing yet another Turkish dessert for my parents to enjoy. Yes, I will still bake with ingredients that I don’t eat myself. They both adore my baklava and were tickled pink by the Nightingale’s Nests I made last summer. When I spotted shredded phyllo dough at the grocery store (No Frills at Don Mills and Eglinton, for my Toronto peeps!), I knew I had to try to make Tel Kadayif, another Turkish dessert.
When I originally spotted the recipe in The Sultan’s Kitchen by Ozcan Ozan (recipe here), it looked like the most simple baklava. Instead of patiently layering each sheet of phyllo, you have a mess of shredded phyllo dough on the bottom, a middle of sweetened crushed walnuts, topped with more phyllo dough dusted with butter, then doused in a (not too) sugary syrup. Super easy and super tasty (so I hear). While we didn’t use all of the syrup, I think next time we’d even use less, because as you can tell by the photos, it was sopped up by the top layer as well.
While travelling in Turkey, my favourite dessert discovery was kunefe. I think I was in Fethiye, on the southern Mediterranean coast of Turkey, when I stumbled upon it. I was wavering between kunefe and Noah’s pudding (asure) on the menu. As I typically do, I consulted with the waiter – which did he recommend? Kunefe, hand’s down, he told us, if we didn’t mind waiting 20 minutes. It was made to order, he explained.
What arrived was a bowl full with toasty, crunchy shredded phyllo with a cheesy filling, doused with a not-too-sweet syrup. Delicious, melted cheese.
After I discovered it in all its cheesy glory, I wanted to try it again. Sadly, the price doubled by the time we made it back to Istanbul (such is life in a larger city). But what was even more sad, even after I bit the bullet of the higher price, was that the restaurants were somehow “out” of kunefe that night. I couldn’t even find it! Too difficult to make, made-to-order, shenanigans is what I figured. We weren’t travelling during tourist season so they had likely scaled back their desserts. Sadly. However, if you swap this walnut filling for a cheese filling, you have kunefe! For a more glorious single serving, I think it gets made in a small frypan, made to order. Neither of my parents like cheese too much, so that’s one Turkish dessert, I likely won’t be making for them.
Up next? Who knows? But it may be Turkish delight! How does Bryanna’s Pomegranate and Walnut Turkish Delight sound to you?
(and a big thank you goes to Rob for the photos, since I didn’t even bring my camera to Ottawa!)
Grain bowls are easy to make. Pick a grain, slather with some dressing and top with your favourite veggies, nuts and seeds.
Try to pick a theme: like this sushi bowl with brown rice, topped with asparagus, avocado and toasted nori sheets. Or my millet bowl, topped with cooked spinach, leek and toasted pumpkin seeds. Or my more recent Dragon quinoa bowl, topped with roasted veggies in a miso gravy.
This time, I wanted Middle Eastern flavours and picked a broccoli salad as the base and topped it with baked quinoa falafels, finished with a drizzle of a tahini-miso sauce!
Let’s dissect the anatomy of my bowl:
1) Broccoli Base. I prefer lightly steamed broccoli, so I steamed large florets for a short period of time. I cut them into small pieces after they had cooled.
2) Quinoa Falafel from Whole Foods to Thrive. These were definitely the star of the bowl. These baked falafels are made with cooked quinoa and flax and spiced with miso, tahini, nutritional yeast, onion, garlic and oregano. After broiling them, they are nice and crispy on the outside and chewy, yet soft and creamy on the inside, loaded with tons of flavours. I don’t like greasy, dense falafels, so these nuggets were perfect for me.
3) Tahini-Miso Sauce from the Cheesy Broccoli Bowl from Whole Foods to Thrive. The dressing for this salad is addictive, although I wouldn’t call it cheezy. It has a more pronounced tahini-miso flavour but still delicious. I opted to toss half the dressing with the broccoli and reserved half for the falafel. I preferred the dressing when I could taste it in large amounts, so next time I may not even dress the broccoli and simply drizzle it overtop prior to serving.
This week, my belly needed a rest. After a few Ottolenghi and Cotter recipes, literally bursting with flavour, as well as a potluck dinner that left me in pain, I knew I needed some tummy down-time. I didn’t even want to cook, it was that bad.
Thankfully, Rob was eager to make me a nice, simple Nepalese lentil and rice dish (recipe to come!).
When I finally had the motivation to turn to the kitchen myself, I still didn’t want an elaborate meal. I wanted something homely and comforting. I didn’t want too many flavours. I wanted something simple. Enter another spin on lentils and rice, Middle Eastern-style.
In Olive Trees and Honey, Gil Marks outlines the progression of lentil and rice dishes from different cuisines. Apparently, the traditional version of lentils and rice with caramelized onions from Turkey is called Mengedarrah, whereas Mujaddara (which is what I thought I was making) is from the Levant and spiced with allspice. Then you have the Indian khichri/kitchree with cumin and garam masala. Or the Egyptian version, koshari, with noodles such as macaroni or spaghetti with tomato sauce. The book actually has a map that chronicles the name changes as well: kichree in Iraq, ados pol in Iran, mejedra in Greece, enjadara in Yemen and jurot in Uzbekistan. I wonder how my bastardized red lentil and quinoa kitchari fits into this?
There are a few ways to tackle this dish, and I think I’ve discovered my favourite way. You could cook your lentils and rice separately, although in my case the rice cooker was already in use and we all know I have trouble cooking rice on the stovetop. More traditionally, though, some recipes, including the one in Olive Trees and Honey, recommend partially cooking the lentils, then removing all of the cooking water, then returning the proper amount of water to cook the rice with the lentils. This is necessary when using white rice since the rice would be finished before the lentils. However, brown basmati rice and green lentils take nearly the same amount of time to cook, which lends to a perfect match and less fuss.
So, I simmered my brown basmati rice and green lentils with a cinnamon stick. In a separate skillet, I caramelized my onions. You could start the lentils and rice after the caramelized onions are finished so they can get added to the cooking liquid, but I didn’t want to wait. I wanted to cook my onions, low and slow, to get the perfect caramelized onions. Since I had to wait 40 minutes for my lentils and rice, this timed out perfectly. I threw in some onions into the lentil-rice mixture before it finished and kept half for the garnish. Using Rob’s large non-stick wok helped me get perfect caramelized onions, much better than when I added them to my socca with oven-roasted cherry tomatoes.
Now, I know this is a deceptive bland looking dish: lentils, rice, onions, cinnamon, smidgen of oil and salt. But it is so much more than that. It is a comforting bowl of lentils and rice with sweetness from the onions. The cinnamon is optional but it adds a little depth of flavour. Next time, I may try the Syrian version with allspice, as I have a feeling this may become another potluck favourite – made from pantry items, simple to prepare, tasty, healthy and great as leftovers and served at room temperature. While this seems like a daunting meal with the long caramelization process, it is a simple meal to prepare. This is a great emergency meal to have under your wings, both when you have nothing in the fridge and when you are not feeling well.