See below for the giveaway for Isa Does It!
If I had to pick a vegan rockstar, it would be Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Long ago, we was rocking it out on television, but now mostly vegan chef, author and blogger. She has penned 7 vegan cookbooks and her eighth book has been eagerly anticipated. As she explains in her newest cookbook, Isa Does It, her title makes more sense once you know her first name is pronounced Ee-sa. Thus, her title is a play on Easy Does It.
As such, Isa Does It highlights mostly simple, quicker recipes (under 30 minutes!) that are foremost tasty. This is a cookbook for the beginner chef as well as those who want to reinvigorate their kitchens with new scents and textures, without breaking the bank or spending hours on top of the stove. Isa explains how she stocks her pantry, her kitchen cabinets and then details specific beginner techniques (with step-by-step photos), such as how to butcher tofu and tempeh.
With 11 recipe chapters that span the gamut from quick soups, salads, handheld, bowls, curries and stir fries, there is a lot of variety. Furthermore, not much is left untouched as Isa also includes fancier “Sunday night suppers” and breakfast/brunch ideas, too. Rest assured, complete meals are encouraged as desserts are included, too.
I admire Isa for a fabulously tantalizing blog, sharing her delicious creations. I guess it should be no surprise that some of my favourite recipes from her blog appear in the cookbook (see below). In addition, of the 150 recipes in the cookbook, the majority are brand-spanking new.
Beefy asparagus stir-fry with fresh herbs. Okra gumbo with chickpeas and kidney beans. Quinoa Caesar salad. Cucumber Ranch bowl with breaded tofu. Edamame hummus and tofu wraps. Belgian beer and seitan stew. Baked garlic-curry fries. Chickpea-Rice soup with cabbage. Coconut chana saag. Chandra Malai kofta. Goddess noodles with tempeh and broccoli. My Thai overnight scramble, breakfast scrambled chickpeas, oh please.
If you have tried Isa’s recipe before, you know the name of each dish never gives you the full picture. They are very descriptive of the ingredients, but something so simple may be more than the sum of its parts. I am eagerly waiting to pounce through this cookbook, page-by-page. Chocolate gingerbread cookies, anyone? I can already vouch for the ancho lentil tacos, tempeh orzilla, Jerk Sloppy Joes, lemon-garlic fava beans and mushrooms, chana masala (not my favourite but Rob liked it well enough), cucumber avocado tea sandwiches, chai spiced snickerdoodles, and now her delicious Moroccan harira with eggplant and chickpeas.
Harira is a Moroccan soup/stew that I have been meaning to recreate since I travelled to Morocco. Let’s just say it has been on my to-make list for many years. It wasn’t until I saw Isa’s recipe that I jumped at the chance to try it out. Harira is a very forgiving recipe. As I travelled through Morocco, nearly every restaurant had a different version of harira. Some with chickpeas, some with lentils, sometimes both beans, some with tomatoes, others with ginger, some with herbs, others not. I cannot say that I saw any with eggplant, but that is Isa’s slant.
First, I made a few tweaks to Isa’s recipe… mainly because I had no vegetable broth, so I used my impromptu nooch plus random spice blend. This time, I threw in dried parsley, lemon pepper and the 21-spice seasoning from Trader Joe’s. I also substituted spiralized zucchini for the noodles. Ingenious, if I may say so myself. Anyways, less about me, more about Isa. This soup was great. Bulky and satisfying with chickpeas and lentils in a flavourful tomato broth spiced with ginger, cinnamon, smoked paprika and saffron. Fresh mint and cilantro add a lightness, along with the finishing lemon juice. I use saffron so sparingly I am glad I finally found a great use for it! The textural foil of the noodles with the beans was perfect.
For someone new to veganism, the ingredient lists in her recipes may still seem a tad overwhelming (vital wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, chickpea flour, cashews, wine and fresh herbs) but these are rather commonplace in a vegan’s kitchen. Except the saffron, because well, that’s not a regular ingredient. Once you have access to fresh herbs, it is hard to return to the dried ones, so I understand the recent push for quality ingredients.
I really want to share this cookbook with you. Thankfully the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the US or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite Isa recipe. If you haven’t made anything by Isa yet, have a look through the table of contents of Isa Does It on amazon (or my list below) and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on October 31, 2013. Good luck!
PPS. If you pre-ordered your cookbook already, don’t forget to get your free Isa Does It tote bag.
PPPS. Versions of Isa’s dishes made previously, not all from Isa Does It (more recommended dishes can be found listed here):
Ancho Lentil Salad Wraps
Black Bean and Kabocha Squash Rancheros
Roasted Beet Salad with Warm Maple Mustard Dressing and Tempeh Croutons
White Bean, Quinoa and Kale Stew with Fennel
Asparagus, Nectarine and Baby Lima Bean Lettuce Wrap
Naked Oats with Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Crumbled Tempeh
Tomato-Basil Zucchini Noodle Salad
Brown Sugar Cardamom Snickerdoodles
PPPPS. Isa’s recipes in Isa Does It that she has already shared on her blog, Post Punk Kitchen:
Everyday Pad Thai
Seitan & Broccoli with Pantry BBQ Sauce
Cucumber Avocado Tea Sandwiches with Dill & Mint
Roasted Potato & Fennel Soup
Chickpea-Rice Soup with Cabbage
New England Glam Chowder
Quarter Pounder Beet Burger
Olive Lentil Burgers
Jerk Sloppy Joes with Coconut Creamed Spinach
Sunflower Mac (and Cheese)
Roasted Butternut Alfredo
Ancho Lentil Tacos
Pesto Risotto with Roasted Zucchini
Chili Pumpkin Cranberry Risotto with Spicy Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Red Lentil Thai Chili
Dilly Stew with Rosemary Dumplings
Meaty Beany Chili with Corn Muffins
Okra Gumbo with Chickpeas & Kidney Beans
Lemon Garlic Fava Beans & Mushrooms
Summer Seitan Saute with Cilantro and Lime
Tamale Shepherd’s Pie
Nirvana Enchilada Casserole
Garlicky Thyme Tempeh
Puffy Pillow Pancakes
Carrot Cake Pancakes
Marbled Banana Bread
Chai Spice Snickerdoodles
Rosemary Chocolate Chip Cookies
Note: I was given a complimentary copy of this book to review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own. You know I would have loved this book and would have bought my own copy.
Thus, when we moved to Houston, we pared down our kitchen, minimalist-style. Minimalist, in comparison, because I am not willing to compromise in the kitchen, either. Do I need 5 different whole grains all the time? No. I will repopulate my kitchen with my favourites. Quinoa, brown rice and oats. Beans? Right now, I have been mainly munching on canned beans (we don’t have containers/bags to freeze beans yet and time has been a bit sparse). OK, I will still have many beans (don’t forget, I can order from Rancho Gordo directly!) but my collection will not as big as my last.
I still don’t feel deprived in the slightest. There are constant permutations and combinations to try out. The recipe may look the same, but a change in spice can make all the difference.
While still in Toronto, I was had a cook-date with a friend after work. I suggested making Heidi’s Moroccan chickpea and carrot salad. No cooking required, it was filled with my typical pantry staples. However, not everyone always has a lemon on hand, grows mint in their backyard (I don’t have that anymore), stocks prunes (um, yeah, not me either) or has a spice grinder. So we made do with what she had. Lime instead of lemon, cilantro instead of mint, dates instead of prunes and we kept the cumin seeds intact.
It may just be a label, but I wondered whether these changes would make this salad less Moroccan. Dates, cumin and carrots are very common in Moroccan cooking. However, I typically ascribe cilantro to Indian and southeast Asian cuisine. Turns out, cilantro is pervasive in Moroccan cuisine as well. Moroccan, with a twist, perhaps. With the mix of sweet dates, earthy cumin, tart lime, bright cilantro and crunchy carrots, it was very good.
It should not come as a shock, since it is very similar to my beloved Curried Chickpea Salad with Carrots and Currants with a smattering from my Moroccan Carrot Salad. Next time, though, I think I will try the original recipe. A tasty variation on a similar theme.
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?
When I go travelling, I love to take cooking classes. When I went to Morocco, I took a lovely private cooking class in Marrakesh, with the chef from a near riad. We made a sampling of traditional Moroccan mezes (tomato jam, stuffed zucchini and zaalouk), two entrees (apricot and lamb tagine and chicken bastilla) and milk bastilla for dessert (photos from Casa and Marrakesh here, from the desert and Fes/Meknes).
We toured around Morocco, and when we arrived in Fes, it was rainy. Since most of our activities were outdoors, I contemplated doing yet another cooking class at a local restaurant. Instead, we opted to eat lunch there and I bought their cookbook, Clock Book, to take home.
A few months later, I went vegan. You wouldn’t think it, but Morocco was quite meat-heavy. With so many flavourful vegetarian options on the web, you’d think they would be easy to find in Morocco. Not so.
Of the dishes from the cooking class, the mezes were vegan-friendly. I can’t seem to remember where I put my recipe for tomato jam, but it is unlike any jam you might think you know. Slowly simmered tomatoes are infused with cinnamon, sweetener and topped with sesame seeds.
However, this leads me to this month’s Random Recipe which was to randomly pick a tea time treat. I have a few cookbooks, but none with a section for tea treats, so I randomly flipped through cookbooks until I found a tea-appropriate treat. That’s when I pulled out Clock Book and it fell open to this Tomato and Chili Chutney, very reminiscent of tomato jam, although definitely more of a chutney with the vinegar. The cookbook paired it with fried crispy squid but like tomato jam, I figured it would be nice with a simple bread or cracker. I am a sucker for cinnamon, and paired with tomato and a sharp vinegary bite with a touch of heat from the red chiles, this was a unique chutney.
While I halved the recipe, it still made a lot (around 2 cups), so we will see how it combines with Indian snacks, too.
My Mom doesn’t think I should post recipes that I don’t eat myself. I have to trust others to tell me how it tastes but I can tell you how easy it was to make. Although even Rob and I can disagree on whether we like a dish, considering both Rob and my parents liked the Tel Kadayif, the Turkish shredded phyllo dough dessert, I deemed that a quorum for a good recipe. And with its stupid-easy simplicity, definitely blog-worthy.
This is another dish I made for others at a party, with no intention of eating myself. In fact, I had planned to use half of the stuffing for the phyllo rolls, and just eat the remainder of the filling myself, without the phyllo dough. Somehow, though, I just kept wrapping the phyllo rolls and by the time I looked down, there was no more filling left. Plus, we were already late for the party, so we brought half the rolls with us and left the other half at home to bake later.
These Moroccan phyllo rolls were so good that I ended up eating them for a few meals.
The filling was very nice, filled with roasted vegetables (zucchini, red pepper, onion and fennel) and spiced with all my favourite savoury Moroccan flavours – ginger, paprika, cinnamon and cumin. I have become scared of roasting veggies with spices, so I added the spices to the veggies right after they were finished roasting. The dried apricots added a touch of sweetness and weren’t overpowering in the slightest. The fresh basil added a nice twist, as well. While the original recipe from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan suggests serving these more like a strudel, because this was for a party, I made them into little appetizer phyllo triangles.
These are nice as is, but let me tell how you awesome these rolls are with the Balsamic Maple Sauce. The sauce was so simple to put together, yet filled with flavour. It didn’t even seem like a lot of dressing but a little bit goes a long way. Actually, refrain yourself, because too much sauce could easily overshadow the subtleties of the rolls.
I still have some sauce leftover and wondering what else I could use it with… Dreena suggests drizzling it over steamed veggies, baked sweet potato or using it for anything that needs to be dipped. Sounds like a good plan!
As I was cooking it, Rob walked into the house and proclaimed it smelled like curry.
It must have been the garam masala.
Should I call this a Moroccan curry or a salad? How about a curried salad?
(I am no stranger to renaming things as curry, as scary as it may originally appear).
It is kind of an Indian/Moroccan version of my Latin-Spiced Mango Lentil Salad.
Maybe Moroccan fusion cuisine would better describe this dish. I have to call it Moroccan, though, because I found the original recipe for stir-fried carrots with mango and ginger in Moroccan Food & Cooking by Ghillie Basan.
Of course, I took it into my own direction.
I opted for a longer braise for the carrots, to give them a nice caramelization.
Then I added lentils, to make this a more substantial dish. In retrospect, couscous (or millet) would have kept this more aligned with its Moroccan routes.
I didn’t have ras el hanout, so I substituted garam masala which has a lot of similar spices.
Regardless of its name, the end result was a delicious warm lentil dish, filled with caramelized carrots and onions, with heavy savoury notes from the cinnamon with more complexity from the garam masala. Ginger adds a subtle, but nice heat. Mangoes add the finishing touch, as well as a squirt of fresh lemon juice. If your mangoes aren’t ripe, you may consider adding some agave or honey to the dish.
To recap my week of curries, these are some great curries that I have made that are perfect for both the beginner and the expert. I am sure I will be sharing may more as we both explore curries in our new kitchen. I bet this year will not only be the year of the bean, but the year of the curry.
Tempeh Tikka Masala posted by Rob
What are your favourite curries?
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!
Most kids are picky eaters. I was no exception. I remember hating whole wheat bread, with the oats on the crust. I’d tell my mom I refused to eat the “eggshell bread”. My mom was pretty stern in the kitchen, and always made me finish eating my food, anyways.
While I may have my own food quirks, I think most kids would agree that certain foods are no fun. Lima beans, anyone? Brussels sprouts, perhaps?
Lima beans were definitely not something I liked as a kid, either. I would try to pick them out of the mixed frozen vegetables. To no avail. My mom was watching. I remember them being small, flat green beans with a firm texture. Yellow wax beans were more up my alley back then.
So when I saw Ricki smitten with fennel after her Hated Vegetable Challenge, I figured I would open my bean repertoire and try out lima beans again. As an adult (am I really an adult now? well at least my palate is!).
My source for dried beans is Bestwin, where I can find the standard fare of chickpeas (split, desi, black, etc), black beans, and assorted lentils (red and brown but not French du Puy or black beluga). They have black eyed peas, pinto beans, and, to my delight, lima beans as well.
I picked out a Moroccan lima bean tagine from Tagine by Ghillie Basan. It was not like anything I had encountered while in Morocco, as I skipped the Northern Mediterranean coast with its Spanish flare, filled with roasted cherry tomatoes, black olives, ginger, thyme, coriander and saffron; and a bit of zip from chili flakes. An exotic savoury blend wherein the flavours worked really well together. And the lima beans, well, they were phenomenal. They expanded to be these silky, creamy smooth pillows if ever beans could do that.
But wait! These are not the lima beans I remember from my childhood!
Reverse, reverse…. what did I buy at Bestwin?
Lima beans… butter beans… habas grande.
These must be giant lima beans! Further research tells me that lima beans (Phaseolus limensis) and butter beans (Phaseolus lunatus) are different, yet similar since they are related. The lima bean tends to be larger, though. And those small green ones I remember? They are more akin to baby/green lima beans.
Either way, this was a great experiment with lima beans. I have found a new beany friend.
I will admit that I was a bit sick of Moroccan cuisine after being profoundly immersed into it for 2 weeks straight. For every meal, I would seek out a new dish that I hadn’t yet tried. As we meandered from Casablanca, to Marrakesh, through the Berber inland towards the Sahara desert, up to Fes and Meknes, there was always something new to try. However, it was mostly meat. I remember asking if I could get a couscous dish without meat, and the waiter told me I could have it with chicken instead. That’s not what I had wanted, either, actually.
My friend and I scoped out some vegetarian restaurants (Clock Cafe in Fes, and Earth Cafe in Marrakech), but vegetarians options (nevermind vegan options) were hard to come by. So, I plunged myself into Moroccan culture, and ate like the Moroccans. And ate my meat quota for the year.
However, perusing the web, there are bountiful recipes with exotic Moroccan-spiced vegetarians dishes. I just didn’t find them in abundance while in Morocco!
While I still have yet to recreate the traditional flavourful and spicy chickpea and lentil Moroccan soup (harira), I busted out nearly everything in my spice cabinet to create this ultimate winter couscous (christened as such by Yotam Ottolenghi). I adapted the recipe I found in Plenty, but a similar recipe was originally posted in his column at the Guardian.
At the same time both savoury and sweet, it embodies my favourite aspects of Moroccan cuisine. The base of the vegetable tagine is made of butternut squash, carrots, parsnips and chickpeas and it is pleasantly spiced with cinnamon, ginger, sweet paprika, bay leaves, turmeric and chili flakes. It could be made even hotter with harissa, but I opted to keep it more tame. The sweetness comes from the dried apricots which are simmered in the broth with the spiced vegetables. Feel free to sprinkle with fresh lemon juice, or use the suggested preserved lemon.
Couscous is prepared separately, but once combined, you have a good textural contrast. Chopped cilantro adds the fresh, finishing touch.
Sometimes cooking in your own kitchen brings you places you never thought. And in this case, my kitchen is a better place to experiment with vegetarian Moroccan cuisine. And trust me, there will be plenty more.
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.
I have never had this much time to plan a trip. My previous trips to Japan and Turkey afforded me barely a month to plan my itinerary and accommodations. This time, I booked this trip nearly 6 months in advance, when airfare was cheap to Casablanca.
But instead of planning where I will go other than Marrakech, I am studying the Moroccan ways by reading through Moroccan cookbooks. I collected Japanese and Turkish cookbooks after my trips, so I am being proactive here! It is important to know which foods to gravitate towards while travelling.
While browsing though Moroccan Food & Cooking by Ghillie Basan, I spotted these cute apricot parcels with a honey glaze. They were perfect because it is apricot season AND I had leftover scraps of phyllo dough after making baklava.
I loved this recipe because it was very easy to whip together. Apricots are slit in half and stuffed with an almond paste, akin to marzipan, and they are wrapped individually in a piece of phyllo dough. I had long scraps of phyllo dough, so I used 2 long pieces to wrap the apricot. No need for additional butter, just a drizzle of honey. Bake them in the oven to find yourself with a silky, baked apricot with an almond centre and a crisp phyllo coat. Summer simplicity at its best.
This can be served warm or cold, but I preferred these served warm. Leftovers needed to be perked up in the oven to recrisp the phyllo dough.
I love having a food blog because it chronicles what I eat. And so I know this to be true.
This is monumental: I made my second meat dish since I started the blog!
(The first being sinfully delicious German beef rolls).
I am not vegetarian, but mainly prepare vegetarian dishes at home. I love fish, so that definitely prevents me from becoming a vegetarian. I have been going through many Middle Eastern cookbooks and food blogs, and was itching to make a tagine. Slow-simmered meat with savoury ingredients sounded really good and I have yet to come across a good vegetarian alternative yet. Claudia Roden’s Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Dates and Almonds screamed out at me. “Make me!”, it said.
I obviously have a thing or two to learn about cooking meat, though.
So what does boned mean? I figured deboned meant meat without a bone, and boned meant with a bone.
When I went to buy 3 lb of boned lamb shoulder for the tagine, I bought bone-in lamb shoulder. That’s what the recipe says, right? Well, when I came home, my mom was not pleased. It was $18 but that wasn’t what displeased her. Boned lamb means WITHOUT bones. Gah! Thankfully she helped rid the excess fat and bone so it was ready for the tagine.
Technically a tagine is made in a tagine clay pot and Roden explains in Arabesque that a lidded, heavy-bottomed casserole or stainless steel pan is preferred for making a tagine. I feel that a large wide pan is preferred so you have a single layer of meat and this limits the amount of water needed to cover the meat to allow it to simmer. This water is completely reduced by the end, producing a thick, rich sauce. My pot was a bit narrow so we had a lot of liquid. We ended up taking out the meat and boiling the heck out of the sauce.. I mean we reduced the sauce over high heat.
After nearly 2 hours of simmering and sputtering, sometimes being watched, oftentimes not, we were able to enjoy this succulent lamb tagine. It was wonderful. The lamb was melt-in-your-mouth and the cinnamon, honey and dates made a delicious sweet and savoury sauce. Roasted almonds add the finishing crunch.
As a side to the tagine, we served couscous. But this wasn’t any couscous. I always thought you made couscous by adding boiling water, covering for 10 minutes and then fluffing it with a fork. I always found it bland and dry, so I was hoping to spruce things up a bit. I noticed Roden had a different way of preparing basic couscous, including a 15-20 minute bake in the oven, and when I stumbled upon a spiced couscous side at Confessions of a Cardamom Addict, I also added in cinnamon and raisins to the mixture. It was definitely not bland and dry. It was mighty tasty.
Together, we had a winning combo.
If anyone has a recommendation for a great vegetable tagine, I am all ears.
After perusing a few carrot salad recipes, I eventually honed down to this one from a new cookbook, Good Food For All, from The Stop. The Stop is a community food centre in Toronto that is not only one of Canada’s oldest food banks, but also has a social mission to empower its community users to eat healthy through cooking classes and sustainable food education, community cooking, community oven bakes and food markets. They also have a 10,000-square foot garden, The Green Barn, which is used to produce their own food and a focal point to encourage and learn about sustainable, local, healthy produce. Joshna Maharaj, one of the chef at The Stop, gave a talk at my work, encouraging cooking at home. Chefs are more glamorous than ever in popular culture, she explained, but less people are doing any sort of home cooking.
The Stop’s first cookbook, Good Food For All, is an amazing collection of seasonal, local dishes that are healthy and economical, with every dish developed by Joshna Maharaj (with collaboration from volunteers, other chefs, etc) and served at one point at The Stop’s community kitchens. They are hopefully a springboard to get people eating at home without too much fuss.
There are many recipes I wished to try amongst the 80 featured in the cookbook. It is thrilling to have them organizing by season, when it matches my own seasonal and local ingredients (Toronto seasons!). I started with this delicious carrot salad with Moroccan overtones. It was absolutely delicious with the subtle tang from the apple cider vinegar with the smoky cumin, interlaced around sweet shredded carrots. The scallions gave a subtle hit of heat and surprisingly, I loved the raisins! I used Iranian green raisins, which are less sweet than typical Sultana raisins and have citrus notes. They paired perfectly with this salad. If the rest of the recipes in this cookbook are like this, then I will be hooked.
My only beef with the cookbook is that many recipes rely on a food processor. While I consider myself to have a well-stocked kitchen, I do not have a food processor. For those with lower incomes, I imagine they wouldn’t have one either, which makes some of the recipes more difficult to tackle.
Here is a lovely easy and simple carrot soup with a bit of pizazz from cumin to give you a Moroccan flavour. Since returning from a trip to Turkey, I have been craving Turkish food which melds Greek, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine all into itself. As I investigate a few of the Turkish cookbooks out there, help yourself to a bowl of this delicious carrot soup. It was adapted from the original recipe in April 2010′s issue of Bon Appétit but also spotted here and here. Don’t skip the yogurt as it makes it nice and creamy. I didn’t roast the cumin, but I am sure it would add another dimension of flavour, as the carrots work well with the lemon and allspice.