Nope, this is neither vegan nor free of refined sugars and flours.
But it wasn’t for me to eat.
It was a gift Rob and I made for my Dad.
This weekend, we travelled to Ottawa to celebrate his upcoming big 6-0 birthday.
Homemade gifts always appeal to me because you can taste the love in every bite.
My Dad adores baklava, but I decided to make him a different Turkish treat for his birthday. Not that he would balk at a repeat of baklava (I just gave him a batch for Father’s Day), but I wanted to try something new. There must be something wrong with me…. I can’t make the same recipe too often! Even if I don’t eat it myself, it would be too boring to prepare it a second time! Ack!
(But for some reason, I made Roasted Cauliflower with Dukkah and 15-Minute Zippy Garlic-Basil Marinara with Zucchini Noodles for everyone this weekend without problems.. AND to positive reviews).
I consulted the same Turkish cookbook, The Sultan’s Kitchen by Ozcan Ozan, for another possible dessert. I picked out a few contenders, but was fixated on the Nightingale’s Nests which as you can see, are cute nests of phyllo dough filled with walnuts and topped with pistachios and a not-too-sweet syrup. Basically all the same ingredients in baklava, just in a different shape. After watching this video, it honestly looked less tedious than baklava. I just needed to find a thick stick first.
The Turkish rolling pin, or oklava, is a rod-shape and quite thin. Ozan suggested using a dowel from the hardware store in a pinch. Rob and I got creative, though. We found an old clothes hanger with a thick base and wrapped it in wax paper. It worked like a charm!
Once you figure out the technique and have a good oklava substitute, this is easy to make. Baklava is easy, too, just tedious, especially when you layer 2 packages of phyllo dough. But dare I suggest that this looks even more remarkable than baklava? You’d think we slaved in the kitchen, but we know better than that! It is a good thing my Dad doesn’t pay much attention to my blog.
I may have lamented about the explosion of condiments, but I am positive Rob was perplexed by my fascination of his hot sauce collection. Coming from me, the Queen of Non Spicy.
Before we moved in, I kept interrogating Rob.
Do you have sweet chili sauce? Yes. Followed by, I put it on anything! It is my favourite condiment!
The next day…
Do you have sriracha? Is that the rooster sauce? Then, yes! But I think that’s too spicy for you…
Do you have sambal oelek? No! That stuff is too spicy even for me!
The next week…
Do you have harissa? What’s that?
By this time, I had my heart set on making this lentil stew with roasted carrots, harissa and mint from Love Soup. My usual go-to substitution of all things chili is my beloved Aleppo chili flakes that I bought in Turkey, more flavourful than spicy.
Then I investigated harissa, a Tunisian pepper paste, and found that it seemed more savoury than spicy with roasted red pepper combined with coriander, cumin, cinnamon and caraway. While you can purchase harissa, the bonus, of course, of making it yourself, is that you can change the recipe to your own palate. While a mixture of hot and mild chilies, like Ancho and New Mexican chilies, are suggested for harissa, I based my version on Bon Appetit‘s recipe since it focused on chili flakes, not whole Ancho chilis. In fact, while modifying the recipe, I was quite bold as I doubled the Aleppo chili flakes, as they are known to not be too spicy. I also substituted cumin for the caraway, added a dash of cinnamon and omitted the sugar. All the spices were toasted and freshly ground. Since I was a bit hesitant how I would handle it, I only made a 1/4 of the recipe the first time.
But I did not need to worry: this zingy but savoury red pepper blend is delicious. It works really well with this soup and while you could make the soup without the harissa, I think you would be missing out on its complexity.
So about the soup…. caramelized, roasted carrots and onions are combined to create a silky sweet soup with lentils. That alone would be a nice soup, but the twist comes from the lemon and mint, and of course the harissa. With my mild-mannered harissa, the soup easily handled 2 tbsp but add with caution because harissa can vary from mild to incredibly spicy! Sweet, sour and spicy… we know this is a winning combination.
And that is how I contributed to the spicy condiments in the new house.
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Veggie/Fruit A Month with carrots, to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring hot peppers, to E.A.T. World for Tunisia, to Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice for this week’s Magazine Mondays, to this month’s Simple and in Season and to Ricki’s new Summer Wellness Weekends.
While my cupboards continue to expand as I experiment with different ingredients, I also have picked up new kitchen gadgets along the way as well. Some a bit more isoteric (takoyaki pan, my $2 tagine from Morocco), but others have become integrated into my daily routine (food processor, citrus squeezer, garlic press, immersion blender, kitchen scale, etc). One of the more recent additions to my kitchen has been a coffee grinder that doubles as a spice grinder. In fact, it only grinds spices because I don’t drink coffee.
Freshly ground spices are key for fresh tasting food. I don’t buy ground nutmeg anymore, and routinely grind my own allspice, cardamom and cumin. I have a mortar and pestle, which served its purpose. For most things, it works quite well. My nemesis were coriander seeds, though, which I learned while making dukkah, a sweet-savoury Egyptian spice blend. Oh my! I never knew such small things could give you such a work-out. This is what prompted me to seek out an alternative for my forearms. The spice grinder has lived up to its potential, and I happily make room for it in my cupboards.
So why I am bringing up dukkah?
Well, as I try to eat my way through my fridge and pantries before I move, I discovered a small container harbouring some leftover dukkah in my fridge (right next to my rediscovered miso, no less!). A sniff taste told me this was still fresh! Slightly unconventional, but incredibly delicious, this Egyptian spice mix is spiced with cumin, with a citrus overtone from coriander, with sweetness imparted from almonds and coconut. Earlier, I found it scrumptious with a poached egg and toast, but I was eager to try it with roasted vegetables.
Inspired by Jaden at Steamy Kitchen, I opted to roast cauliflower along with chickpeas until they were both sweet, nutty and brown. Sprinkled with dukkah, with its earthy sweetness, this paired incredibly well. Gosh, I just love rediscovering old favourites.
How do you like to use dukkah?
PS. Wondering why my cauliflower looks a bit purple? Let’s just say I roasted the cauliflower along with some beets. The beets leaked. On the cauliflower. But truly, I see no problem with purple-tinged cauliflower!
My mom thinks this vegan stuff is just a phase. Just as I go through other phases in my cooking, she tried to rationalize. She explained that first I was into cooking Japanese after my trip to Japan (all those soba noodles, Janet!), then Middle Eastern after visiting Turkey and Moroccan after my trip to Morocco. Each time, I venture into new cookbooks, find new spices, but truly, I incorporate everything I learn into all my meals. New ingredients, new flavours and new techniques.. it is all a learning process, as life should be. And yes, my pantry continues to gather new and exciting staples.
Granted, I can only eat so much, so I might tackle different cuisines in spurts. A little of Morocco here, a side trip to Brazil here, a quick jet to Egypt and then returning back to Japan. In these around-the-world culinary experiences, sometimes I forget how much I like certain ingredients. Case in point: miso. Last year, I bought miso for the first time to make baked eggplant with miso, which I adored at restos and could easily make at home. I also made miso-crusted black cod and a few other dishes which were great but then I went to Turkey… and forgot about miso.
Until, I made a Japanese winter stew with a miso-based broth. That kick-started it again. Loved it. It wasn’t the star of the meal, but it added an extra dimension. Then I made the orange-beet soup that had an extra twist from the miso. Followed up by the exquisitely delicious zesty orange cashew spread, I knew I had rediscovered an old favourite ingredient.
Plus, the great thing about miso is that I still had the same package from last year. It keeps forever in your fridge!! Discover it, forget about it, but let yourself rediscover it as you clean out your fridge.
I made this for Rob’s birthday, which had a Japanese-theme for his meal, and I loved it as an Asian spin on hummus. You use creamy edamame instead of chickpeas, but you still have lots of garlic and tahini for the prototypical hummus flavour. Instead of traditional lemon juice, lime juice is used. Throw in some spinach for some greenery, and you have a healthy, delicious dip.
It is not just a hummus made with edamame. I had the Trader Joe’s edamame hummus after eating this dip and was sorely disappointed – where was the miso?
It is creamy, smooth, salty with a bit of zip. Without knowing the ingredients, it is hard to place the flavours exactly, but you know it tastes great. Serve it with veggies, pita bread, or as a spread for a sandwich.
While travelling in Morocco, one of my favourite meals was from Al Fassia in Marrakech. Even during the low tourist season, we made reservations before we arrived in Morocco. It is deservedly that popular, and they had to continually turn people away who wandered in from the street. We shared a delicious vegetarian harira, a hearty tomato-based lentil and split chickpea soup topped with dates and lime; followed by a pigeon bastilla, where pigeon meat is cooked, topped with ground almonds and pistachios, wrapped in warka, a thin phyllo-type dough and then sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar; a slow-roasted lamb shoulder dish whose name escapes me right now, but I cannot explain the sheer volume of the entire shoulder; and somehow still (not really) had room for the traditional Moroccan Orange Salad for dessert.
The Moroccan Orange Salad is prevalent around Morocco and incredibly delicious despite seemingly so simple. Personally, it is so much more than oranges and cinnamon, and if you are in Morocco and they don’t include orange blossom water, then consider it inferior, truly. But if you are elsewhere, and don’t have it, just delve into the simplicity of oranges and cinnamon. They complement each other, with the sweetness of the orange, the sweet earthiness of the cinnamon and the addition of orange blossom water gives it that subtle edge, that curiosity if you are not familiar with it.
One of my most memorable experiences during travelling is participating in a cooking class. During this trip, we opted to eschew the multitude of cooking classes, and signed up for a class at a nearby riad, where the reviews of the cooking were very positive. Best to learn the local cuisine from a local where we know the food tastes great, eh?
The cooking class was a great experience, because not only did we learn how to make delicious meals, but we also went to the market to gather ingredients for our feast. This is also how I scored an earthenware tagine for $2. I have no idea what the cost would have been for a tourist, but that’s the local’s price.
During the cooking class, we learned how to make 3 Moroccan salads. Although salads in Morocco typically means dip and not what you might think a salad is in North America with greens. We made zaalouk, a fried eggplant dip; tomato jam (confit de tomates), a savoury tomato spread; and zucchini stuffed with tomato and cilantro. For the main dish, we were able to pick which tagine we wanted to learn (chicken with preserved lemons tagine, lamb with dates and almonds, or veal with apricots tagine). We opted for the veal tagine, and since I was so smitten with bastilla, I asked to learn how to make that instead. For dessert, we learned how to make milk bastilla, a piece of fried warka dough is topped with custard and strawberries. Our teacher was also generous with her knowledge of Moroccan food culture and even other recipes we were curious about! I had really enjoyed a traditional Moroccan cookie, coconut ghoriba (Moroccan macaroons) and this orange salad. I frantically scribbled the recipes down as she rattled the recipes off the top of her head.
I was lucky to be travelling in Morocco during clementine season, but this salad can be enjoyed whenever you have juicy oranges available. I am partial to Navel oranges, but feel free to substitute your favourite. You could also add some slivers of almond, mint and/or dates for extra oomph.
This is a light, sweet-savoury salad that is perfect any time of year. It would quench your thirst during the summer and bring you back to the tropics while you are combating the harshness of winter.
I can do mad damage if I am in the right store.
Not a clothing store, not an electronic store, not even a bicycle store…. Food-related? Yuppers!
Kalustyan’s, oh yes.
Sometimes it isn’t as bad for local stores, since I tell myself I can always go back next week. That’s my inner monologue trying to talk some sense into me. Sometimes it works. Other times not.
Last week, I went to T&T. I hadn’t been in a while, since it isn’t close by and I am not (currently) biking (snow! grr!).
Watercress, 2 bunches for 88 cents. That was the plan. Maybe some mushrooms.
I came back with watercress, shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms (love them! on sale!), snow peas (love them!), soy milk (new kind to try!), mango nectar (I have plans!) and a new, mystery ingredient: pea shoots or dou miao (unlike Chinatown, T&T actually labels its produce, hehe).
They were so fresh, and even though I had never heard of them, I figured a new green in my life couldn’t hurt.
In fact, I think the pea shoots were a wonderful discovery: my new favourite green. They are sweet, just like baby spinach (it has been usurped as my previous favourite green), with a hint of sweet pea taste. The leaves/tendrils are soft and silky yet the crunch comes from the stalks. I love that body. A welcome taste of spring amongst this never-ending winter. (Aside, before spring pea season comes pea shoot season!!)
I tossed the pea shoots into this Moroccan Barley Salad, inspired from the Moroccan Barley-Spinach Toss in Radiant Health, Inner Wealth (Tess has posted a version with quinoa here). In my version, barley is toasted, then cooked and mixed with a light, fresh dressing made of fresh orange and lime juices, cinnamon, cumin and green onions. I also topped it with sprouted buckwheat. The barley salad is cinnamon-heavy with a lightness brought from the citrus juices. It isn’t that sweet with the agave because I used currants (not raisins). The sweetness comes from your greens. In my case, pea shoots! For leftovers (not photographed, sorry!), I added even more pea shoots, so this was more of a pea shoots and barley salad, and I was in heaven.
Pea shoots, as it turns out, are the young leaves from the sprouting pea plant. The early shoots and tendrils can be harvested numerous times (it will eventually become bitter as it ages) until the plant produces peas. While they are uber pricey at places like Toronto Sprouts at the St Lawrence Market (over $4 for 125g), I thought they were reasonably priced at T&T ($11/kg or $2 for a large container).
However, it would be even cheaper to grow your own (I hope! In my garden to be!) and I picked up some dried green peas from Rube’s Rice ($0.95/lb) to see if I could grow them at home (I am really encouraged by Shauna’s post!).
In short, scour your Asian grocery stores for this delicacy! Or grow it yourself!
While I have had a few flops, most of the recipes I try are very good. It helps that I know which ingredients I am more likely to enjoy, and I also try to choose tried-and-true recipes that others have praised as well. Am I the only one that scoots down to the bottom of the comments to see if anyone else actually made the same recipe? It is the first place I go, and another reason why I love browsing people’s recipe archives.
Aromas of Aleppo is a gorgeous cookbook featuring recipes from the Jews that formerly lived in Syria. But gorgeous photos does make a great recipe. One of the recipes I was immediately drawn to was the vegetarian kibbeh recipe, which are bulgur patties with red lentils, minced tomato, bell peppers, scallions and seasoned with cumin and chili flakes. This recipe had everything going for it except one thing – the amount of oil. Kibbeh is common in the Middle East, and can be baked, grilled, fried or as in the this case, none of the above. After the bulgur and red lentils are cooked, they are chilled and then eaten as-is.
I have adapted the original recipe. First I halved it because the recipe made a TON of food. Second, decreased the oil. The original (doubled) recipe called for 2 cups of oil, which is outrageous. I almost put it all in, as I wasn’t really thinking straightly at the time. Must. Not. Follow. Recipes. Blindly. My version still had too much oil, so I plead with you not the make the same mistake I did. You can definitely work with less, but feel free to experiment with the amount of oil to get a texture you prefer.
These are very flavourful patties, but I will admit to only forming the torpedos for the photos. Otherwise, I just used a spoon to scoop out the mixture. Serve with tamarind concentrate, tahini, or alongside other appetizers.
This is my submission to Tobias’ 14th Mediterranean Cooking Event, featuring dishes from Syria.
One thing that still baffles most people is that I don’t own a cell phone. I have a landline, but refuse to convert to a cell phone until the reception and reliability have improved. For now, I am content with my landline.
I definitely see advantages to having one of those ‘do everything’ phones. Like when you want to check the ingredients of a recipe you hadn’t planned on making. (You can tell what is important for me, ha!)
When I serendipitously stumbled upon fresh cranberry beans the other week, I couldn’t remember how many I needed. 1 cup? 2 cups? Well, I bought 4 cups just to make sure I wasn’t short. Suffice it to say, the cranberry bean mole with roasted butternut squash only needed 2 cups of beans.
So I searched out other ways to use my creamy fresh cranberry beans. It turns out they are also common in Turkish cuisine, which is one of my favourites. Beans simmered in tomato sauce may sound bland, but I knew it would be anything but if it were a Turkish recipe. I worked with Esra’s recipe at Carte du Jour and modified it slightly to use less oil and added more garlic. Her recipe is fantastic because it includes a lot of possible substitutions.
A plate of beans may not sound that exciting, but I enjoyed them. This was a lighter dish, and while other recipes don’t necessarily add the water during the simmering, it made it a bit more saucy which I enjoyed. It would be nice to try this again without the extra water and without the sugar. Keeping with the Turkish theme, I paired the beans with fine bulgur for a complete meal. I have talked about the nutritional superiority of bulgur compared to brown rice before, and it is incredibly easy to make as well (7 minutes to “cook” in boiling water). Mixed all together, the sauciness coated the bulgur nicely for a light yet hearty meal.
This is my submission to this round of Blog Bites 9, holiday buffet, potluck-style!
I am so excited to share all these tasty Turkish treats that were submitted as part of AWED. Turkish cuisine is so varied, with everything from delicious appetizers, to flavourful main dishes and sweet desserts. Thanks again for collectively creating a fabulous collection of Turkish recipes. Enjoy the following menu:
Colours can be very powerful. Blue may calm, red may engage and when I picked the paint colour for the first house I rented in university, I chose “creme fraiche”, a light, pale yellow. It helped to lighten up oftentimes shady rooms with a bit of cheeriness. Yellow has that power.
Last week, it suddenly became cold and wet. It reaffirmed the end of summer. Combined with feeling a bit lonely, I knew I needed a bit of a pick me up. I searched for the perfect place to use some yellow summer squash. As Claudia Roden has said, “Eating yellow foods will result in laughter and happiness”. Here, you have happiness in a bowl of yellow soup.
I didn’t make up the name of the soup. It is a recipe by Nigella Lawson, which features a lot of happy, yellow ingredients. It was a really yellow soup! If it wasn’t already yellow enough with the yellow summer squash, broth and lemon zest, turmeric added that extra hue of infiltrating yellow. The yellow was so infiltrating it stained my spatula yellow, too! I replaced the rice from the original recipe with barley for more filling soup.
Like all soups, it was a snap to make and I grinned after my look. The lemon really makes this taste like a light soup, but the barley makes this more of a substantial meal. For all of those eating after a post-(Canadian) Thanksgiving feast, this soup is for you, too!
I have never had bread pudding before. Stale bread just doesn’t seem that fun for dessert, to be honest. But food blogging tends to push you into new directions. I stumbled upon an Egyptian Bread and Butter Pudding, called Om Ali, while flipping through The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden.
Also called Umm Ali or Omm Ali, it literally translates to Ali’s mother. There are different stories as to its origin, but it sounds like Ali’s mom whipped up this delicious dessert from staples in her kitchen. Indeed, one of the reasons I tried it was because I had all these scraps of phyllo dough after trimming them from the baklava and some cream left over from a chocolate fondue feast. It was the perfect leftover throw together dessert.
Indeed, it is the scraps of phyllo (or puff pastry) that sets this dish apart from other bread puddings. In fact, I hesitate to call this a bread pudding, despite it being a pudding with bread in it (phyllo dough, rather). Instead of a bread-heavy dish, it is more of a creamy pudding. It is mixed with crunchy toasted almonds, sweet raisins, and topped with a dusting of cinnamon. This reminded me more of a creamy, baked rice pudding, sans rice, but with other delicious additions. In any case, it is delicious, and easy to make. Let it convert all the bread pudding haters.
This recipe was adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden.
This is my submission to My Kitchen, My World for Egyptian travels.
Wait! Deja vu? Eggplants, tomatoes, pomegranate molasses, beans… I think we just saw this as the delicious mualle, the Turkish Eggplant, Tomato and Lentil Stew with Pomegranate!
I really liked how the mualle turned out so I wanted to try make something similar again, while tomatoes and eggplants were still in season. I found this in Arabesque by Claudia Roden, and was drawn to it by its simplicity. Mualle takes a while to make and it works because the flavours are just bursting from the slow braise. However, I can’t make it every day. This dish, which has many of the same ingredients, comes together quicker, especially if you use canned chickpeas.
There was a sweet and tart play with this dish, from the sweet braised tomatoes and the tart pomegranate molasses. I liked the heavier presence of chickpeas, which is how I love my salads. If you wanted to spice things up, I don’t think you could go wrong with adding some mint or Aleppo chili flakes. The tomatoes cooked down to a sauce, so unless you don’t mind tomato peels, it would be better to take a few extra moments to skin the tomatoes (blanch then peel).
I served this as a vegetarian main with a slice of bread, but Roden has it listed as a mezze (starter or appetizer) and explains it could also be a side for a meat dish.
This is my submission to Nithu for this month’s Cooking with Whole Foods featuring chickpeas, this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Susan at The Well-Seasoned Cook, and to this month’s Monthly Mingle, featuring Lebanese cuisine.
You win some, you lose some. While I have had a few successes with recipes from Arabesque by Claudia Roden, I didn’t feel this lived up to my expectations. I love everything in the salad: sweet apples, roasted red peppers and tomatoes with a dash of Aleppo chili flakes. But together they just didn’t work. Don’t be fooled by the word salad. This is more of a spread or dip, but my apple slices were big enough that I had to eat it with a spoon, rather then spoon it onto pita bread instead. I mean it wasn’t awful, it just wasn’t great. It was better when served chilled, rather than warm or at room temperature.
And you may be asking why the heck and I posting this recipe if I didn’t like it. Well, consider it adding to the living community of recipe critiques. I love recreating dishes from other food bloggers’, or places like Epicurious where people post reviews, because you can see how the recipe worked for other people. With cookbooks, you can never be too sure what to expect. Good? Bad? Ugly? I love food bloggers who cook through cookbooks and give us the skinny on what really works (like Steph who went through Momofuku – what she liked and disliked). In fact, I may even google the recipe title to find feedback about the recipe before I venture to try it myself. (I even did it with this recipe, it had one positive review). Someone else may search for this recipe in weeks, months or years to come, and they will know what I thought about it, too, and use some of my suggestions on how to improve it.
This is my submission to Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring apples, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to My Kitchen, My World, featuring Moroccan dishes this month, and over to Chowhound which has Arabesque as one of their Cookbooks of the Month.
On the same day I had my flat tire, complete with 2 exploded inner tubes while trying to repair it, I had this for dinner.
Having a couple of lackluster dishes the week before, I was a bit uneasy about trying a new recipe.
But I had a hankering for fish and wanted to try it with my new favourite ingredient, pomegranate molasses. Plus, there was the bonus of roasted eggplant, with this Georgian recipe I spotted in The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean by Paula Wolfert.
The original recipe suggested rainbow trout, but my love for salmon won that battle.
The dish was not what I expected but it was delicious. At first, I was hoping for something with a sharp tanginess from the pomegranate molasses, but this was mellow. The pomegranate flavour was mainly in the eggplant, which sopped up the basting liquid. The salmon was nice and flakey, but not infused with much pomegranate flavour. It was there, only subtly. But once you wrapped the salmon in some pomegranate roasted eggplant, this is where you made magic. Eating the two together is where you get the merriment of the flavours, the contrast of textures and simply a great meal. It made my inner tube worries melt away…
The summer lends well to cooking Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. Local, fresh produce is at the heart of many of their dishes. Eggplants, tomatoes, and zucchinis abound in grocery stores and my cookbooks simultaneously.
When I spotted this Turkish casserole stew, also known as mualle, I knew I had a great summer dish. I don’t immediately think of stew as a summer dish, but here, layers of eggplant, tomatoes and lentils are slowly braised with mint and pomegranate molasses to create a melt-in-your-mouth dish. Aleppo chili flakes add a nice burst of heat. Sweet, salty, sour, spicy, it has all the components of a great dish. I didn’t even need to turn on my oven, to boot!
After the long stove-top braise, I allowed the stew to return to room temperature. Leftovers were phenomenal. This stew was delicious served with a toasted baguette. By the end of the week, my bread was more stale, but I plopped it in with the stew for a few hours before lunch, and it was great. I can finally start to see the appeal of a bread salad like panzanella. Others have recommended serving it with rice and garlic-spiked yogurt, which is more authentic.
This recipe was adapted from Almost Turkish Recipes, who adapted it from Food & Wine (July 2004). I will decrease the olive oil a lot next time (2 tbsp may even be sufficient), as can be found in a very similar recipe by Paula Wolfert in Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking.