In much the same way as there is an art to using up the last of your fresh produce before you head away for vacation, I think there is an art to keeping a kitchen well-stocked for your return from vacation. While I have a few go-to recipes from pantry staples alone, and freezer meals help, when I come home from vacation, I am usually craving something fresh. I want the greens.
While I hate asking for rides, at the airport, it is nice to be picked up by a familiar face. I still remember returning from Japan to friendly faces and in addition to a quick ride home, they also had a few things to get me through to my first grocery run. At that time in my pre-vegan days, it was eggs, bagels, fruit and some leftover soup. With an empty fridge, it was a glorious gesture.
While Rob and I are good at taking transit to the airport, this meant we didn’t have any room to stop for groceries with all our luggage on the subway. In any case, while we came home to an empty fridge, it wasn’t so empty after all.
Granted, we were only gone for two weeks, so we still had a few grapefruits and apples for my usual breakfast routine. Onions and carrots in the crisper keep well, too. Cabbage, too. Thankfully garlic lasts, as do other citrus like lemons and limes. When in season, winter squashes can be stored outside the fridge. Frozen staples also work well: spinach, vegetables and herbs. I also keep my cooked beans in the freezer.
I always tell myself I will stop coming back from vacations on Sundays, only to be back at work on Monday, but we never learn. Returning from vacation means I also need to find quick-cooking meals that I can make after work, amongst unpacking, laundry and all that jazz from the vacation wrap-up.
Scrap the brown rice. It can take a long time to cook. Instead, I bastardized Gena’s Greek Lemon Soup (Avgolemono) by substituting quinoa. It takes half the time to cook, making a quick and tasty soup. Bright and fresh from the lemon , creamy from the tahini with depth of flavour from the miso, dill and nutritional yeast. Considering traditional avgolemono is made with eggs, the quinoa bastardization seems quite tame.. and quite the fanciful adaptation from the original. Regardless, this is a filling and delicious soup. Enjoy!
My first meal after I arrived in Tokyo was okonomiyaki. It was from the closest restaurant to our hostel. We had no clue what we were ordering, pointing to pictures instead from a photo album. All the while, making sure there would be no shrimp (no ebi!). We ended up with an assortment of vegetable pancakes that were cooked up on a hot grill in front of us. Some with more flour, others with different vegetables. I remember one being bright pink (I forget what made it that colour). Once the server noticed we were eating them plain, he encouraged us to try the sauces on the side. To be honest, we left wondering what the hype was about okonomiyaki.
We persevered, though. When we went to Osaka, we tried okonomiyaki again, at a very popular hole-in-the-wall resto. We had to wait in line for 30 minutes, but when we finally snatched a seat in the tiny resto, we were able to watch our cabbage pancakes being made in front of us: thinly sliced cabbage and carrots were mixed with a seasoned flour and dashi stock batter, grilled and then topped with your chosen toppings- most of them with bacon- and then it was slathered with Japanese barbecue sauce (okonomi sauce), and later drizzled with Japanese mayonnaise, and sprinkled with parsley flakes. A crispy veggie pancake with a soft middle, topped with savoury sauces. Delicious. I was hooked.
Okonomiyaki literally means as you like it. Want yours with veggies? Want yours with sauce? Do you want your toppings in the batter with noodles (Hiroshima-style), or on top (Osaka-style)?
Or in my case, do I want mine vegan? Oh yes! I was bookmarked this recipe immediately from Big Vegan because it used tofu as the base instead of the traditional flour and eggs. While I have made Kevin’s okonomiyaki before, I found it hard to flip and keep intact while cooking. As such, I was thrilled to see this version. While already nontraditional, you bake it as a huge pancake instead of frying it on the stovetop. It took more like 60 minutes to bake but it was delicious. Alone, the tofu-miso-nooch batter was flavourful even before we cooked it. The consistency was a bit more heavier on the batter on the batter-cabbage ratio than I remember mine in Japan, but it was great as is. We would definitely make this again.
My version was topped simply with black sesame seeds and toasted shredded nori, whereas Rob went more all-out with some tonkatsu sauce, kewpie mayonnaise and bonito fish flakes. Remember, as you like it. If you want to try your hand at homemade mayo and okonomi sauces, there are recipes forthcoming in Terry’s new book. I haven’t tried them, though. Big Vegan also has suggestions for wasabi-mayo and tomato sauces. Or go simple like Heidi, who used almonds and chives to garnish her veggie pancake.
I was planning on talking about Mixed Diet relationships in this post, but I think I will save that for my next post.
The point of making a sushi rice bowl salad is that it is easier than rolling numerous sushi rolls. I know, I’ve done it before.
So why would I bastardize a perfectly nice sushi salad by turning it into a wrap?
A collard wrap, of all things, instead of a sushi roll.
As you probably figured out, I like wraps, especially when wrapped with a green leaf like Swiss chard, kale, collard or even Romaine lettuce. Hearty greens don’t go soggy. My leaves are usually small enough for bite-size snacks, rolling up a few for tasty meal. While I also like salads, I preferred this as a wrap. With a wrap, you make sure every component of the salad hits your palate at the same time.
The idea of this wrap came from Appetite for Reduction, after Ashley posted her version. In my wrap, you get your zing from the green onions, the crunch from the carrots and cucumber, the salty earthiness from the shredded nori with a savoury note from sesame seeds all firmed up with a background from coarse bulgur and slippery edamame. The collard leaf keeps it all together. The green onion miso dressing is great within the wrap, and you can always add more if you use it as a dipping sauce. As a salad, the Asian ingredients seem a bit disjointed, but in the wrap, they work so well together.. because you can experience it all in every bite.
If you are tired of eating delicate leafy green-based salads, consider turning it into a green wrap. Where your greenery is just presented in a different form.
So the joke’s on me.
70% chance of rain yesterday. I hate rainy Mondays because I have to go all over the place, with 5 destinations yesterday. If I took the subway, I’d need a day-pass!
I plotted the forecast and took my chances. No rain! I beat the weather demon!
I lost the meal planning, though. Instead of rain, turns out it was 27C with 70% humidity. It felt down-right tropical. I was cycling around in my shorts and top, it was that awesome. When I got home, I wanted a light and crisp salad! No chili, thank you kindly.
As the summer alternative to my High-Protein Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Alfredo Pasta, I went totally raw with a light and fresh raw alfredo sauce with basil and sun-dried and cherry tomatoes smothering zucchini noodles.
Trust me, this hit the spot.
Utterly delicious. The sauce is bright with the lemon, creamy from the cashews yet still light since it is thinned with water. Miso adds that lovely fifth dimension.
I threw in some vegetables I had hanging around (cherry tomatoes, carrot, cucumber) as well as fresh basil. Gena has also paired this with tempeh, which I might add next time. Because this recipe is definitely worth repeating.
For those of you interested in my commuting challenges, I had a real quandary today. As you know, I enjoy Steve’s downtown spinning classes on Mondays. Except I had to be at work early, so there was no way I could do both.
I was up a bit earlier than usual, so I decided to try the 0630 spinning class at my old gym. With a 9km commute just to get to the gym, that meant I was leaving home around 0545. You see, this gym has an intense and awesome spinning culture. This is where I fell in love with spinning. The regulars are incredibly supportive. Kind of like where everyone knows your name. Indeed, despite not being there since I moved (10 months ago), I was greeted on a first name basis.
I still get the weekly emails (it even has its own member-driven website with instructor AND member profiles!) with interesting news and stories, guests instructors (aka subs but sounds so much nicer, eh?) and the ever elusive sign up trends. Over the winter, it was not unheard of the spinning classes to fill up 30 minutes before the class started throughout the week, INCLUDING the 0630 classes. I used to be a regular in Dave’s classes, so I completely understand, but that’s intense. Now that the weather has been nicer, the 0630 classes finally weren’t filling up at 0600, so I figured I could try my luck at the Monday class if I showed up 15 minutes early.
Suffice it to say, I have a new Monday morning spin class love. So completely different than any of my other classes, with a focus on cardio and core training, I loved the diversity. Furthermore, I loved being back with the gang, with all the hooting and hollering. It is one of the most boisterous spinning groups I have ever been with.
I will admit that one drawback of our new (upcoming) home, is the serious lack of gyms nearby. I had planned to continue with the gym close to work, but since my old gym is just a minor detour away (still 10km away, though), I may just end up there instead. We’ll see how it goes! I usually wake up at 0530, but this may require an even earlier start to the day. Obviously I am not thinking clearly at the moment, haha!
As for Monday morning Steve? He may turn into Friday morning Steve if I meander to a different gym.
Anyhow, the moral of the story? Take a risk. You might find a new love.
(Btw, there is no risk with trying out this delicious sauce. You will be smitten, too. Spinning can be a bit hit-or-miss, I understand).
How many of you are weather watchers?
Now that I am biking to work again, I watch the forecasts closely. On rainy days I track the radar throughout the day to figure out when it would be best to bike. Hourly forecasts, too.
But please, how many of you watch the weather to determine your weekly menu?
I am pretty good about making the majority of my meals on the weekends and scooping out leftovers all week. But sometimes I don’t want to eat what I’ve already made. Sometimes I don’t want salad.
Case in point: Wednesday. 30% chance of rain in the afternoon. I’ll take my chances, thanks. By the time I was finished at work, it looked wet outside but it didn’t look like it was raining. I consulted the radar: the rain had ended and it had just skirted the city anyhow.
But I walked outside and it now it was lightly raining. I pummeled home on my bike, when it rained even harder. I was cold and wet by the time I make it home. The last thing I wanted was salad.
I wanted something warm and cozy. And quick.
So I did what everyone turns to in such a panicked state: breakfast for dinner. Not wanting to eat my latest breakfast oats, I went with a savoury twist. I boiled my oats with vegetable broth, threw in some leftover cooked peas and carrots, stirred in some nutritional yeast and miso and I was in heaven. I’ve done the savoury oats thing before, but I had forgotten how lovely it was. Plus, I never ate it for dinner, with the vegetables thrown in for good measure.
While this was great the first night, I found myself craving it throughout the rest of the week, too. Nooch plus miso works so well here and you can throw in all your leftover vegetables. I tried it with uncooked carrots, but they weren’t able to lose their crunch by the time the oats were done, unfortunately. Just throw in cooked vegetables. The peas worked really well. Not sure where else canned mushy peas would be so awesome… (other than the Malai Koftas from Easter, recipe forthcoming!).
So before this weekend’s round of cooking, I looked at the forecast. It was pretty grim: rain today and early in the week. Rob made a nice cocoa chili (a bit too spicy for me) and I opted for a curried red lentil soup and a Mediterranean chickpea salad. I am sure I may have these cheezy oats once again as well.
This is my submission to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend.
Thanks for all the encouragement about my long cycling commute. Last week was a short week, but I thought I’d update you on my commute. I am still working on the optimal way of combining gym + cycling commute, but later in the week, I cut down on my distance by going to the gym closer to home. Instead of 37km, I biked 25km each day. I am also biking at a moderately leisure pace instead of racing to work. My instinct is always to push as hard as I can, but I told myself I was focusing on endurance this week. One of my favourite downhills in the city always used to have me trying to go faster than 50 km/h. This time, I didn’t ride like a madwoman and still maxed out at 47 km/h. I thought I would be super sore by the end of the week, but it has actually gone very well.
Part of the problem on Mondays is that I really like Steve, the spinning instructor who teaches downtown on Monday mornings. Sadly, the gym next to my home has poor programming Monday mornings but I stuck closer to home for the other days. The route uptown from home is also safer, nearly 80% on the Don Valley bicycle path, so I am away from cars and traffic lights.
So is the commute downtown worth it for the spinning class? I think so. I am drawn to positive instructors. A group exercise instructor does a lot more than lead a routine. It is about inspiring the class (“the team”) to push themselves further than what they would do otherwise. Steve’s classes always seem to push me. He explains the intensities of the exercises at a level that is very easy to grasp (challenging but comfortable, pick a resistance that you can only sustain for 5 minutes, etc) and makes it easier for me to challenge myself. He is also great at using inspirational messages. In normal life, I know it sounds so dorky, but when you are pushing yourself to the limit, his messages keep me going longer. For a while he was reminding us never to say I can’t do this. It is just something you haven’t done yet.
If you love inspirational messages, check out a few more gems here:
Know your limits, then defy them
If you wait for perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done.
Yesterday you said tomorrow.
Nothing hurts more than sitting on a couch.
Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re right. (Henry Ford)
No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everybody on the couch.
Now about this salad. It is another salad bursting with whole foods and boasts a higher protein content. Wild rice is not rice at all, instead it is a seed. Higher in protein, with a lower glycemic index, it is a great gluten-free option for hearty salads. Coupled with edamame and tofu, loaded with carrots, sprinkled with greens and doused in a sesame-lemon-miso dressing, you have an unassuming salad that will make you anticipate lunch time.
For those of you who go to exercise classes, do you feel drawn to your instructors? Do you feel guilty when you skip their classes?
A new month, a new hospital.
Yesterday I was (slightly) complaining about my upcoming commute from our new home. After today, a 10-12 km one-way commute seems like peanuts.
A last minute change in scheduling has me rotating at a hospital outside the downtown core for April. My total commute yesterday was 37 km. Almost 2 hours on the bike. The day’s schedule was a bit more erratic than normal, but basically my cycling looked like this:
8 km from home to downtown gym (0700 spinning class!)
10 km from downtown gym to uptown hospital (UPHILL!)
10 km from uptown hospital to downtown hospital
8 km from downtown hospital to home
Thank goodness it was broken up over the course of the day, but it was likely the spinning class that had me sore by lunch.
Considering I just started cycling to work last week, this is quite the lengthy commute. While I have been going to the gym ~5x week throughout the winter, I always find new muscles when I hop back on my bike in the spring. I made sure to wear my padded cycling shorts.
I decided to make Sunday my rest day from the gym to give me a fresh start on Monday. While Rob went to a spinning class, I was in the kitchen making this high-protein alfredo sauce with white beans, soy milk and roasted cauliflower. I bookmarked the original recipe from Jess but finally made it after Johanna also had success. My changes were roasting the cauliflower, onion and garlic with some hazelnut oil and combining that with the beans and soy milk. The lemon juice, miso, nutritional yeast and smoked paprika added extra flavour that worked well with the simple additions of baby spinach and sun-dried tomatoes to the sauce. This is a nice, comforting creamy dish. Creamy in the non-oily, non-heavy, guiltless sense, though. Perfecto! I tossed this with kelp noodles, but feel free to use your favourite pasta.
Why do I call this high-protein? Assuming you use the entire batch of sauce for 4 people (it makes a ton of sauce!), each serving has: 245 calories, 33g carbs (11g fiber), 14g protein and 8g fat. Gotta love the 2:1 carb:protein ratio! Perfect following all this cycling.
Two years ago, I never would have thought I would be doing commutes like this. When I started biking to work, my (one-way) commute was 4 km. Because I was essentially sedentary, I thought that was far. When I switched to a downtown hospital, my commute was 7 km, at most. When I moved out East with Rob, my commute was 8 km. When I move out West, it will be 10-12 km depending on the hospital. Having the gradual increase in distance has made this become second nature, instead of daunting. It is definitely my preferred way of traversing the city – a fun way to exercise, a great way to de-stress, faster than transit, and better for the environment. Jen recently shared this fun pic about commuting with me, which definitely reinforces why I don’t drive a car to work.
With all this cycling, I imagine I will be ready for our cycle to Niagara Falls in no time, although I am trying to figure out a better way to combine my time at the gym and commuting to work so I am not on my bike 2 hours every day!
This is my submission to this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Ruth, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this week’s Potluck Party with high-protein vegan meals, and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.
Knowing my aversion to restos but Rob’s appreciation of them, Rob and I have been slowly visiting vegan-friendly restaurants in Toronto. Our favourite raw restaurant has now been usurped. Raw Aura serves delicious food, but we seem to leave the resto filled to capacity with their rich meals. It is probably our fault – there is no need to order a starter and a main, here. Let alone a juice or dessert*, delicious as they all are. The dishes are heavily based on nuts, seeds and oils, which is why we always are stuffed afterwards.
*desserts are not Raw Aura’s forte
Our new favourite raw resto is Belmonte Raw. Closer to home, to boot; although their hours are terrible, only open for lunch. They’ve only recently opened up shop as an eat-in eatery and we couldn’t have been more pleased with our meals. The cozy place is a bit confusing, though. You pick your meal from the refrigerator case from stacks of take-away containers. You bring it to the cash and they will literally transform it into a beautiful meal. I honestly marveled at how much food came out of such a small container.
In any case, I really enjoyed my raw burrito (and Rob, likewise, enjoyed his sunflower burger). My burrito was a huge collard wrap stuffed with jicama fries, sprouts with their nut meat (it may have been sunflower seed based but I forgot to ask). When I say stuffed, though, this was a great veggie-heavy wrap which is what I loved! The nut meat was a highlight, not the main part of the dish. Along with the wrap, there were dehydrated corn chips with salsa, guacamole and chipotle nut cheese. The nut cheese is uber smooth and scarily reminded me of cheeze whiz! Taste and colour.
After eating the burrito, more jicama fries and a smoothie, we were both positively stuffed but in a good way, knowing that we ate primarily veggies and not heavier nuts/seeds/fats. Somehow we still managed to eat their delightful raw chocolate desserts. So smooth, with either a raspberry or peanut butter filling.
Of course, I was itching to duplicate the meal at home. One of the main drawbacks of Belmonte Raw are the prices, which goes with a visit to most restos. I figured that if I spent the same amount of money on grocery produce, I could whip up quite a few burritos. This gave me enough incentive to close my eyes at the price when I bought some sprouts at Whole Foods. Thankfully the rest of the ingredients were much cheaper: my weekly raid through Sunny’s was where I picked up the bunch of collards ($1.59), lemon (4/$1), and jicama ($1.49/lb) – all at their regular prices. I have yet to see sprouts at Sunny’s and should really learn how to grow my own.
Other than fresh veggies, my creativity lied with the cashew nacho cheese. I spiced it with red pepper paste, miso, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, sweet smoked paprika, garlic and onion for maximum flavour. (Chipotles in adobo sauce still scare me). It does not disappoint. Use it as a fabulous dip, or spread into a “raw burrito” such as this one filled with julienned lemon-spiked jicama slices and mounds of sprouts (I used alfalfa and sunflower sprouts). My burrito was not as big as the one at Belmonte Raw. They needed a string to keep everything in place! I made smaller ones and used a sliver from the collard stem to keep them together for the photo. I would skip that entirely if eating right away – it was quite a tricky thing to tie!
I started writing this before Christmas after I wrote my Gift Guide with my Favourite Kitchen Gadgets but never got around to finishing it. I have had quite a few people ask me where to buy Aleppo chili flakes recently, so I thought it would be nice to highlight some of my favourite ingredients in the kitchen.
One of my favourite things to give or receive are new ingredients. I enjoy having a cupboard filled with isoteric ingredients, although it sucks when you will be moving as often as myself. For gifts, though, I have one main caveat: they must be non-perishable (at least until opened) because fridge space is prime real estate in my kitchen. Furthermore, for all those ingredients, I have to know what to do with it! Part of my pleasure is a massive search to find the new best recipe, but if you are sharing an ingredient that you already love, gift it along with your favourite recipe. (more…)
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.
I have become hard to please at restaurants. I’ve already lambasted Fresh for their limpy soba noodles and hit-or-miss salads, but now that I am armed with their miso gravy, I can conquer the world! Or at least make sure their recipes are a hit when I make it myself.
On their menu is their Dragon Bowl: brown rice or soba noodles topped by grilled tomato, zucchini & tofu steaks with rich miso gravy, sesame seeds, cilantro & green onions.
But now I can make Fresh’s Dragon Bowl, My Way.
Forget the brown rice, or their gummy soba noodles, I want my grilled vegetables overtop quinoa! Marinate some tofu in soy sauce and sesame oil and pan-fry it to perfection. Pick your favourite vegetables (zucchini, bell pepper, eggplant and broccoli are what I had on hand), douse them in a bit of olive oil and chopped garlic, grill them on your barbecue (or broil in your oven), smother in miso gravy and then sprinkle sesame seeds and green onions overtop.
This miso gravy makes everything taste great!
Why this is called a dragon bowl, I have no clue. All I know it tastes great.
The first time I cooked millet, it became clumpy as leftovers. This time, I followed Ashley’s advice for fluffy millet perfection, and fluffy millet was delivered! Except for this casserole, I wanted it to be slightly clumpy so that it would stick together. Ah well… at least I know how to make fluffy millet. Can I learn to make clumpy millet again?
I finally broke out this casserole for Thanksgiving with Rob’s family. A multi-layered casserole: nutty millet at the bottom, with a middle layer of cumin-spiced black beans and onions, topped with a sweet potato mash flavoured with cinnamon and miso. Simple, familiar and homey. A complete meal. Perfect for a dish to share at Thanksgiving.
When Rob and I went to NYC last year, we ate at Candle Cafe. I had the Paradise Casserole and when I saw it was in their cookbook and also posted here, I knew I would be able to recreate the dish back home. This is what it looked like at the restaurant:
Their recipe is misleading, so I will redirect you. You will notice that my casserole is a bit bottom-heavy. As written, 1.5 cups of dry millet is WAY TOO MUCH. I spread it out over an 7×7, a 9×9 and 2 smaller ramekins. As such, the rest of my toppings were too thin. I kept on wanting more of the sweet, sweet sweet potato mash. The miso and cinnamon really pumped up its flavour. Before I added the black beans, I thought they were a bit bland with only cumin, so I added a teaspoon of garam masala.
For the beans, I wondered if a portion of the black beans should be mashed. This way if my layer of black beans was thicker, I wouldn’t have to worry about them falling all over the place. Looking back at the resto version, it looks like they have a trick for keeping that layer together as well.
And the millet… well, the trick to fluffy millet is to cook it with less water. I also toasted it in a bit of olive oil but the trick is the 1:2 millet:water ratio. The millet was super fluffy. So fluffy that it would not stick together and made for a messy casserole. The two servings that I put in the ramekins turned out really well, though. My photos are simply subpar in the presentation aspect, though, but it tasted good. Hopefully with my tips, you can make this even better than me.
I am sharing it with you so that you learn from my mistakes.
A High Protein and Oil-Free Basil Pesto sounded delicious to me. The creaminess and protein came from a whipped white bean puree packed with loads of basil. Like the last bland dish from Angela, I ended up adding even more nutritional yeast and miso to up its appeal. Creamy, salty and full of basil.
Not everyone agreed with me. They didn’t even try the dip, since it looked like green frank-o-monster goop… and ended up oxidizing to an unappealing brown over the course of the afternoon.
My parents and I ended up polishing it off after all the guests had disappeared. I think it would work better as a sandwich spread than a dip with veggies anyways. Not only because the colour wouldn’t matter but that’s the way pesto works best. Slather it onto some crackers topped with roasted veggies. Crostini may be better next time.. but then I would have had to be in charge of appetizers for the party. Now we’re talking.
Thankfully, I made sure the hummus was in tip-top shape so we didn’t have too many naked veggies.
I know you’ve heard me lament about resto food.
When I first moved to Toronto, one of my favourite restaurants was Fresh. A vegetarian restaurant serving nice salads and wraps. I have since found their dishes hit or miss and usually a miss unless it is the grilled veggie and pesto burrito. Please do not try their soba noodles! A soggy mess that disgraces Japan. However, their sweet potato fries with the miso gravy never disappointed and have rightfully been voted the top sweet potato fries in Toronto.
For the BBQ, I made a variety of seasonings for the sweet potato fries. I tried a batch with garlic, lemon pepper and smoked paprika, adapted from a recipe from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth, a batch with a Moroccan spice blend including cinnamon and cumin (somehow my spices went too toasty for my liking [aka burnt], so I didn’t serve them), as well as a one with simple salt and pepper. Other then the Moroccan batch, both turned out great. I really liked the roasted bits of garlic with the sweet potato fries.
At Fresh, the sweet potato fries are lightly spiced with sea salt, basil, tarragon and rosemary, but the winner was the miso gravy. Creamy and salty, it is a perfect match for the sweet fries.
Thankfully, the folks at Fresh are happy to share their (not-so) secret recipe, with it appearing both in their cookbook and online in the Toronto Star. It took me a while to crack out the recipe, but I am delighted I finally did! My guests discovered the miso gravy also worked well with the grilled chicken, pork tenderloin as well as the salad. What wouldn’t taste delicious with a miso gravy?
There is a trick for plump and fluffy millet. I think I goofed when I stirred in some miso after it had cooked, and forgot to plump it up again. Still, fresh, the millet was lovely. Leftovers, talk about clumpy.
My mission: figure out how make the best fluffy millet. Because it isn’t just for the birds. Nutty and reminiscent of spongy couscous, I really liked it!
Here, a big bowl of millet is topped with pan-seared leeks and spinach, spiced with garlic and chili flakes. Lime juice adds a nice acidity and the toasted pumpkin seeds add a subtle crunch. I adapted the recipe from Whole Foods to Thrive, a nice cookbook highlighting recipes from multiple raw/vegan restaurants across North America, as well as simple home recipes such as this.
The original recipe suggested adding the miso the boiling water with the millet. However, I always thought one wasn’t supposed to boil miso to maintain its nutrients. Instead, I opted to stir it in afterwards. Since miso is a sticky paste, this probably wasn’t the best idea, and could have contributed to its stickiness. Next time, I may omit the miso in the millet and add it to the veggies.
Next time. Because I am on a mission to make better millet.