My brother likes to make fun of my standard breakfasts: oatmeal + protein powder + spice/fruit + flax/chia. Not the oatmeal, the protein powder part. Why do I need that? That isn’t all natural. For me, it is one way to ensure I reach my daily protein needs and gives me a filling breakfast (oats alone do not do that).
It is true: I eat things that have been processed. I can’t make everything from scratch and sometimes I think it is necessary to tap into the best parts of what a plant can give me. I am anti-white flour because flour has been stripped of its nutrients, but what if I told you I found a fortified wheat “flour”? One filled with 75% protein. It is called vital wheat gluten. You strip away everything but the protein. Wheat protein powder! Instead of adding it to smoothies, like my regular protein powder, I bake with this one.
I have made seitan before. I liked these chorizo sausages, especially with cabbage, as well as Chinese Five-Spice Seitan with cabbage. I’ve also trying the boiling method to make seitan directly in a stew (the Iraqi eggplant stew was oh so good). However, always up for a new recipe, this time I tried a baked sausage. For some reason, I remembered seitan being a pain to make, with kneading and resting, etc. I wanted to see how a simpler recipe would compare. Just a bit of kneading, and then a simple bake. This one lacked chickpea flour and mashed beans (vital wheat gluten only) and used flavours from nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, mustard and tamari and was easy to make.
Seitan is also known as wheat meat. This recipe reminded me of that. It tasted more bread-like. I don’t think that’s how most seitan is supposed to be (maybe because I decreased the oil?) but I still thought it tasted good. And they were easy to make. Mix, knead, bake.
I rechristened these as sausage buns because they are buns that taste like sausage, not because there is a sausage in the bun.. HA! Most recipes tell you to let your seitan cool and an overnight chill in the fridge is recommended to enhance their flavour. Well, I ate these puppies straight from the oven, unadorned, only cooled so that I could unwrap them without burning my fingers. Delicious. A warm bun. A (super) filling high-protein bun. (I am not joking, if you make this into 3 buns, each bun is 50g of protein and only 315 calories). And super filling. Bready and chewy with a nice flavour from the smoked paprika and nooch. I found them a bit salty, which may explain why I liked them so much, so next time I would suggest decreasing the salt and/or tamari and add to taste.
What are your thoughts on seitan? Not too popular with anyone on an anti-gluten diet, but if you are not gluten-sensitive, definitely give it a shot.
This is my submission to this month’s Random Recipe for bread.
Power of beautiful food?
I adore Gena’s blog Choosing Raw, where she shares gorgeous food that is still down-to-earth, delicious and easy. I have made many of her recipes (there are too many to count, ok plus these, too), and I have bookmarked many more to try.
So around the time of my food funk and arugula excess, I was propelled to the kitchen with the promise of beautiful food. Gena shared a drop-dead gorgeous salad with mizuna and tempeh with a mustard-miso dressing. I had enough gusto to make the dressing and bake some tempeh. Less inclination to go to the store to buy cabbage, snow peas and cilantro. So, I tossed it with the arugula and some cherry tomatoes and cucumber.
It did not matter because the star of this salad was the dressing. Oh my gosh, it was so good. A hefty dose of miso, a strong background of mustard with a sweet sourness from Meyer lemons and maple syrup, this dressing had a lot of bold flavours that became downright addictive. The tempeh was very basic and could be used for most meal salads since it was not strongly flavoured.
By the time I finally got around to acquiring some cabbage, I think I hate half the cabbage with this dressing alone. I just kept returning for more delicious salad.
Here’s to beautiful salad!
Have you tried Gena’s recipes? What are your favourites?
Do you think there is an old school vegan cuisine?
Stereotypical tofu, broccoli and brown rice? Nutritional yeast?
What’s the new school vegan?
Kale, quinoa and Brussels sprouts? Miso?
I say what’s not the new school vegan? Variety is key! Everything is fair game!
I may choose chickpeas day in and day out for a few months (you have been warned, hehe), then I am loving lentils the following month and the next bit is all about black beans. By the time I eat chickpeas again, I have forgotten how wonderful they were and the cycle repeats itself ad nauseum.
Out of all the vegetables, we buy broccoli fairly routinely. Rob loves it. Steamed, it is a simple side for any meal Rob wants to healthify. Rob also loves adding broccoli stems to besan chilla and tofu scrambles and creamy broccoli dal continues to be one of our favourite meals.
However, as rated by my most popular tags on the blog, broccoli does not even make my sidebar!
Thus, it is time to diversify our broccoli uses.
This is a rice pilaf from 1000 Indian Recipes which is basically old-school vegan gone Indian! Brown rice and broccoli fragrant from Indian spices with sweet caramelized onions. Savoury spices like cardamom, cinnamon and cloves infuse the rice as it cooks and a tarka (spiced oil) is used at the end to get the mustard and cumin seeds to pop. Sadly, I didn’t find this dish as flavourful as I anticipated and was a bit disappointed. Next time, I would increase the spices and perhaps decrease the amount of rice. And likely add some beans for a complete meal.
What’s your take on broccoli? Common vegetable often in the shadows?
Other broccoli favourites on my blog:
Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad with Lime and Cilantro (Whole Foods Detox Salad)
Lemon-Balsamic Glazed Chickpeas and Broccoli
Quinoa Falafels with a Cheezy Broccoli Bowl
Buddha Veggie Bowl with a Ginger-Miso-Lime Dressing
Confetti Veggie Salad with Mustard Curry Dressing
Forty Clove Chickpeas and Broccoli
Kelp Noodles, Baby Bok Choy, Broccoli and Red Pepper with a Coconut-Peanut Sauce
Spicy Peanut Udon Noodles with Tofu and Broccoli
Creamy Green on Green Pasta (aka Raw Kelp Noodles and Broccoli with a Creamy Lemon-Basil Whipped Avocado Sauce)
Broccoli and Red Pepper Stir Fry with Peanuts
One of the things I liked about Vegan For Life is that there are recommendations supported by science. Two servings of fruit are good and just 2 tsp of oil a day is a good idea. And that whacky TVP? It isn’t as scary as you may think. It may be a processed soy product, but it is basically defatted soy flour that is high in protein. A varied diet is more important. Everything in moderation is ok.
This may or may not have given me the nudge to use up the last of my TVP that had been languishing in my pantry. I bought it planning to make Cara’s Pumpkin Gingerbread Protein Bars, and then bookmarked Laura’s Squash Breakfast TVP and Maple TVP Oatmeal but happy I eventually settled on making these TVP Sloppy Joes.
Not that I grew up eating Sloppy Joe’s. I don’t think I have ever eaten the real thing, but I know this tasted good. A sweet tomato sauce accentuated with Worcestershire sauce, mustard and liquid smoke. A bit sweet for me with the added sweetener, so I suggest not adding it until the end to see if it needs it. The TVP confers a granular hamburger meat texture. I am thinking mashed lentils could be a good substitute next time.
Instead of the standard bun, I piled the sloppiness overtop a roasted baked potato. Paired wonderfully.
What do you think of TVP?
Here are my other meals with TVP:
Do you have it?
Jealous of those who live in the US with easy access to Rancho Gordo heirloom beans? RG even has a BEAN CLUB!! Or how about heirloom beans from Kalustyan’s, Purcell Mountain Farms or MarxFood? I mean, they technically could ship to Canada, but it costs way too much to be feasible (beans are heavy). I have recruited very loving family and friends help me collect my heirloom bean stash. My Christmas present included heirloom beans (and tote bag) my brother picked from Rancho Gordo‘s booth while vacationing in San Francisco. Woohoo for me!
I have searched for local options. Canada has such vast farmland; why don’t we have heirloom beans? Turns out you just need to know where to look. I have had good luck at ethnic grocers (Sunny’s has a whole half aisle dedicated to beans), Whole Foods (especially the store near Square One in Mississauga) and for those that don’t live nearby you can even mail order Nova Scotian beans right to your front door. But only if you buy 12 lbs.
Not daunted by such a large amount of beans, I ordered a mix of Jacob’s Cattle, Soldier and Yellow Eye beans from Webster Farms, a family farm in Cambridge, Nova Scotia. I have been eating the Yellow Eye beans as a nice alternative to white beans. The next experiment is for the European soldier beans, named after its red markings (the red coats of the British soldiers).
I decided to tackle a Canadian specialty: baked beans. In the Nova Scotian way. I mean, these beans are from Nova Scotia, how could I not?
Turns out there was a recipe on the back of the package for baked beans. In general, recipes for baked beans call for gobs of sugar – molasses, honey, brown sugar, and maple syrup. Most recipes will advise you specifically not to use blackstrap molasses, but the recipes that use it are the recipes that interest me the most. Blackstrap molasses may be bitter but it also has a lot of iron and calcium, too.
So, on a wintry night, I warmed the house with a slow-cooked pot of baked beans. With a trio of soldier beans, blackstrap molasses and pumpkin seed butter, we have an iron overload. Food bloggers always exaggerate, right? I am not kidding. With almost 40mg of iron in one serving, that’s 220% of the standard recommended daily intake. (If you don’t believe vegans need extra iron, of course). Eat an orange and pass on coffee/tea to help absorb it all. These beans are not too sweet but have a depth from the bitter blackstrap molasses. The pumpkin seed butter makes these a lot more creamy than they look. The slow cooking makes the sauce thick and full-bodied. I stopped after 3 hours but feel free to let it cook into the evening.
So, envying the beans, yet?
Half-way through January.
Have you been affected by the January Joiners?
A congested gym as people begin their journey to health through exercise.
Surprisingly (or not), I haven’t been affected. Same thing happened last year as well. Nothing really changed. The same regulars keep returning.
I shouldn’t give away my secret: I like going to the gym at 6:30am in part, because it is less busy. Even if I show up late, I can still find a spot at my favourite spinning or weight lifting class. (*except one crazy hard-core gym where the spinning classes are filled by 6am!)
I have been trying to be a bit more punctual for my morning work-outs, but now that I am at the mercy of the transit, things are even less predictable. The benefit of my gym is that there are lots of locations. Last week, I realized I wouldn’t be on time for the 6:30am class, so I detoured to the 7am class at a different location. Arrived 15 minutes early, only to find out the instructor was sick and it was cancelled. Another location had a spinning class that was just starting, so I rushed over and joined in 15 minutes later. Something is better than nothing.
Science says so, too. Combined short routines are as good as longer work-outs. Too long is not as good, though. Leisurely runners outlive the runners who ran twice as much. Moderate-paced runners also lose more weight than those who were more active. As you exercise more, fatigue sets in; hunger reigns.
Since I’ve stopped cycling my crazy commute, my energy levels have improved, my mood is better and my eating is under control. Sounds like I need to work on my balance. More isn’t necessarily better. More exercise, at least.. more rest could be better.
I’ve noticed an increased interest in my detox salad over the past few weeks. It reminded me how good it was but decided to go for a different twist. This kind of salad is perfect with hard crunchy veggies. Like the veggies leftover from platters. Cauliflower and broccoli always seem to linger behind. Save the veggies! Like my Raw Thai Pineapple Parsnip Rice Salad, I use my food processor to chop up cauliflower, broccoli and red pepper into small pieces. Currants add a subtle sweetness. Hemp seeds add fat and protein. And the dressing? A sweet tangy curried mustard concoction. I love how salads like this only improve with a longer marinade. Leftovers, for the win!
A Vegan BLT.
Not so farfetched with prepared store-bought vegan bacon, vegan “mayonnaise” and a loaf of bread.
But this is Janet-style. Whole foods only. No white flours.
A return of the raw eggplant bacon. Flatbread made with kabocha squash, buckwheat and flax. And for that mayonnaise, I whipped up a tofu-cashew version.
Food is always a source of discussion at gatherings, and since I don’t visit my extended family in Montreal that often, they found it shocking what I ate (or rather what I don’t eat). OK, no meat and dairy, but what about baked goods with eggs? No. What about whole wheat pasta? No. What about bread? No.
I make very few baked goods. Even when I do, I want them to be whole-foods based. It took me awhile, but I finally made Gena’s curried kabocha squash flatbread when I had a hankering for a BLT with the abundant fresh tomatoes. Although, after I had difficulties with a wet dough that never seemed to bake, I was reminded why I love my one-pot meals. They are so much harder to goof up!
My problem with the bread was that it took much longer to cook. I probably added too much water since my squash was already moist. Or I should have spread it thinner. In any case, I had to flip it while the underside was still wet. After a long run in the oven, it was dry and cooked through. I loved the subtle flavour from the squash which made these moist and pliable breads. The spices added a complementary touch and was nice with the BLT components.
I also made a quick vegan mayonnaise with tofu and cashews. I scoured a few recipes, including some made with avocado and even beans but wanted one that wasn’t loaded with oil. While not as creamy as traditional mayo and only reminiscent of its flavour, I still enjoyed the spread. In the sandwich, you wouldn’t note the lack of real mayonnaise. You only notice the differences while licking the knife.
While most people have returned to school this week and may be looking for totable lunches, sandwiches are common for the masses. However, just like my BLT Corn Pinto Bean Salad with Raw Eggplant Bacon, the bacon needs to be kept separate and assembled just prior to serving. The great thing about the eggplant bacon is how crispy it is. However, it seems to whisk in moisture super fast, so you need to keep it separated until ready to eat.
No? Good, me neither. Not yet, at least. The week of salads continues!
One of my foodie goals in Colombia was to munch my way through quinoa and maybe bring some cheap quinoa back home with me.
Turns out I couldn’t do that in Colombia. Quinoa is hard to find and when you find it, it isn’t any cheaper than what I can buy from my local favourite health store. Most Colombian locals had no clue what quinoa was.. except for the sole vegan I met (hi Juan!).
I obviously went to the wrong country. Apparently, Bolivia is where it is at. Not only for the cheap and plentiful quinoa, but also for the amazing salt flats, jungle hikes, glacier climbs and vibrant city life. We loved asking other travellers about their favourite places to see in South America and Bolovia kept popping up. It is now on our ever-growing list of countries Rob and I want to visit… along with Russia, Ukraine, Indonesia, Vietnam, Brazil, Jordan, Nepal, India, gosh you name it. Although Rob’s covered most of South-east Asia and Australia, he is willing to return with me.
My latest kick is adding quinoa to vegetable sides to make it a more sustaining meal, and here I go again with this salad. This would be a delightful salad without the quinoa, too, as it highlights the crisp asparagus and colourful baby greens with some crunch pecans. The dressing, a maple-mustard flavoured one, definitely brings the salad together with the tang from the soy sauce, the sweetness from the maple syrup and the deeper flavour from the mustard.
Unbeknownst to me, this will be the week of salad.
I enjoy pre-planning my meals for the week. I don’t stray too far from my typical weekly batch of steel cut oats, a bean dish and vegetable/grain dish and a soup or salad. My menu is first and foremost based on what I have in my fridge that needs to be eaten sooner rather than later and after that, what is on sale at the store. I had a menu, but it was abandoned with gusto.
On Friday, my friends came over bearing fresh lettuce. They gifted me two massive heads of lettuce from their rooftop garden (local, organic gardening, at its finest), and I couldn’t refuse. This isn’t the first time I have been gifted perishable food items but at least lettuce is quite flexible with its use. (I have yet to venture into cooked lettuce, so I will be trying to use it in fresh salads)
After making the Blueberry Vanilla Chia Jam, I was plotting to make a version with balsamic-roasted strawberries. While I gobbled down the majority of the blueberry jam solely on a spoon, I figured a salad dressing might be more appropriate with my new-found lettuce acquisition.
So here we are with a delicious dressing. Fresh strawberries are delicious and their sweetness is intensified with the caramelization from roasting. While I have baked and macerated strawberries before, I never thought to roast them. Here, they are combined with balsamic vinegar and hazelnut oil with savoury undertones from thyme, rosemary and garlic. Serve it with your favourite greens. I topped my salad here with yellow beans (Rancho Gordo‘s Yellow Indian Woman) and cucumber, but feel free to use whatever you have laying around in your fridge!
It is true. I am in a Mixed Diet Relationship.
I often get questions how Rob and I duke it out in the kitchen.
In my corner, I am the whole-foods vegan devoid of white flours and sugars.
At the opposite end, we have Rob, who will eat anything.
Thankfully, we actually don’t have segregated corners.
Before I met Rob, he was eating vegetarian at home. Actually, when Rob met me, I was eating a flexitarian diet (mainly vegetarian with occasional fish but I still ate meat, too). Rob had no clue what he was getting himself into, haha!
One of my friends who is vegan won’t allow any meat into his home. I am definitely not like that but I could see how dietary choices could definitely divide relationships. Thankfully both Rob and I are more accommodating, as well as our friends and families.
At home, Rob and I eat mostly the same stuff. Mostly vegan, although sometimes Rob eats yogurt and adds butter to his granola. There are some Rob-only ingredients, like the red and green curry pastes in the fridge (they include shrimp, so a definite no-go for me). There are some Janet-only foods, too, because Rob doesn’t really care for them- like my Amazing Grass for breakfast. For breakfast fruit, Rob gets the bananas and mangoes while I relish in berries. Rob loves spicy foods, so if cooking for himself, he usually increases the chilies. If cooking for both of us, they fall more into my own comfort zone (1/2 tsp Aleppo max!). Rob also has a sweet tooth and is pretty content to munch through the rare dessert that I make.
I think we’ve got things worked out pretty well in the kitchen, actually.
Rob eats out way more often than I do, which is where he gets his occasional fix of meat. If
we Rob cooks meat at home, it is for our guests. Rob’s last birthday party kind of had me in a tizzy because I didn’t want to cook meat. Rob couldn’t use the barbecue so grilling was out. Thankfully the slow cooker came to the rescue.
I still contend that while I don’t crave it, I probably miss fish the most. Here I am sharing a smoked salmon sushi pizza that I made for a party with mixed company. While traditional sushi can be finicky to make for a large crowd, making a casserole of sushi pizza is much quicker and easier.
I used the seasoned sushi rice from Yo Sushi and the sushi pizza recipe was modified from Bonnie Stern’s HeartSmart Cooking for Family and Friends. I ended up doubling the recipe to fit a 9″x13″ pan but I probably didn’t have to double it. It made a ton of food. My pieces were a bit big which necessitated using a knife and fork to eat, so next time I would opt for smaller bite-sized pieces, with overlapping cucumber slices.
I am still too shy to try a nontraditional raw take on this for a crowd. If I test-run it first, I may have more courage to try Ricki’s vegan sushi pizza next time.
For the seasoned bloggers and blog-readers out there, when reading recipes, how often to you think to yourself: Oh yeah, I’ve made something similar to that before… move on…
I rarely repeat recipes, and sometimes even shy away from ones that look similar to ones I’ve made before. It is all about variety! The more, the merrier!
While I have made some really delicious red lentil soups, mostly with lemon (lemon+cumin+cilantro=fantastic), I was still intrigued by Deborah Madison’s Red Lentil Soup with Spinach and Lime from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.
Both soups have similarities: red lentils, cumin, cilantro, onion and citrus.
The differences: tomato paste vs yellow mustard. Spinach, too. (The original recipe also called for yogurt and rice, both of which I omitted)
This soup just goes to show you how a simple change in seasoning can drastically alter a dish. Both equally delicious, yet completely different.
In this soup, you have a savoury red lentil soup flavoured primarily by mustard, oh yes mustard, with a hint cumin, sweetened by the spinach, then livened by the cilantro and fresh lime juice. They work so well together. And yes, this time my yellow mustard seeds did not disappoint! I am positively smitten by mustard. What are your favourite recipes with mustard?
Guess who biked to work yesterday? With highs of 18C, a nice rain on Monday to get rid of the salt, I was almost feverish in excitement to finally start biking to work!
I know it is only a teaser, though… Warmer weather alone does not make spring. Especially if it only lasts a week.
There are many ingredients I associate with spring: Baby greens. Arugula. Asparagus. Carrots. And peas.
Since the fresh, local produce hasn’t made its way to the forefront just yet, you can approximate springtime with this hybrid of a stew adapted from Love Soup: Finnish Double Pea Soup with Apples (original recipe here). It is a wonderful merriment of a hearty stick-in-your-ribs winter split pea stew combined with a sprinkling of spring with fresh (or in my case, frozen) peas (I used the sweeter petit pois from President’s Choice). Apples also add a hit of sweetness without being too discernible. The vinegar and mustard temper and balance the soup extremely well along with a whiff of nutmeg and coriander. The flavours are not over-the-top but they marry very well.
This is my submission to this month’s My Kitchen, My World featuring dishes from Finland, to This Week’s Cravings (Green), to this week’s Wellness Weekend, to this month’s Gimme Green event and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
Rob likes to have dinner themes for his birthday parties. Last year, it was Japanese.
We had planned on going Ethiopian this year, as it is the theme of our current neighbourhood. However, we changed our minds at the last minute because I wasn’t in the mood to cook up 5 different cooked dishes.
While I can dream up menus for days on end, they involve vegan dishes. Rob knew that some of our guests might balk at the lack of meat, so he offered to make a Southwestern Pulled Brisket in the slow cooker. With his meal chosen, I crafted the remainder of the menu with it in mind.
Therefore, this year it was a hodge podge of Southern US and Mexican dishes, foreshadowing our next, next move to Texas in 2013. My (not so) discerning palate can’t tell the difference between Texan and Carolina BBQ styles, but I can tell you how delicious everything turned out.
I was initially hesitant, but Rob encouraged me to try my hand at jackfruit carnitas. We had all the fixings for great tacos for the brisket, so why not have another filling, too?
I eventually settled on a recipe for Carolina BBQ-inspired pulled “pork” from Jessica.
Jackfruit is a fruit from Southeast Asia. Rob tells me it tastes like bubble gum. While the ripe fruit is sweet, you can buy canned young jackfruit in brine, which is quite flavourless. It has been used as a meat substitute due to its texture. After being cooked, it pulls apart into stringy bits akin to pulled pork and beef brisket.
While Rob’s brisket took 8 hours in the slow cooker, my BBQ jackfruit pulled “pork” took an hour, tops.
They key of the recipe is the spice blend, and here we used a plethora of spices to capture a Southern BBQ flavour: sweet smoked paprika, Aleppo chili flakes, mustard, tomato and red pepper pastes, tamarind and vinegar for some tang and sweetness from the maple syrup (yes, that’s 4/8 of my favourite ingredients in one sauce!). Such a glorious BBQ flavour with a bit of a kick. Chile heads, again, feel free to use the suggested cayenne, but I though it was plenty spicy without it. Dry frying brought out the flavours from the dry spices, then a slow simmer expanded the saucy flavours. Baking it firmed up the jackfruit so that it was more akin to pork.
As the jackfruit bakes, or if you are more inclined to make the brisket (it had rave, rave reviews, btw, and Rob loved its sheer simplicity to prepare), make some pickled red onions. I know many people shun fresh red onions, and a quick marinade in vinegar with some salt and sugar can really bring out their flavour. We used the recipe suggested by Deb.
Both the brisket and BBQ jackfruit pulled pork was served with an assortment of toppings – shredded Romaine, chopped tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, sliced cabbage, avocado and the pickled red onions. While we had roti and pitas for guests, I opted to make wraps with Romaine lettuce leaves. The jackfruit was so flavourful that you didn’t need so much per wrap. While Rob’s 3 lbs of beef brisket easily fed 10 people, my 20 oz of jackfruit served more like 2-4 people, depending on how many toppings you added.
OK, things have turned around in my kitchen. My cooking rut is over!
I even have witnesses.
My own alfalfa sprouts grew, too!
It has been quite busy in the kitchen lately. In the span of a week, we celebrated Valentine’s Day, Rob’s birthday and our (2 year!) anniversary from our first date.
Rob has been a sweetie, picking recipes from my Top Recipes from 2011 post so he could make me dinner on V-Day and braved the elements on our anniversary for a special barbecue delight. However, I was positively cooking up a storm for his birthday party. I forged ahead with new recipes, and I can’t wait to share them all with you!
But first, let me share with you this delicious curry. I had bookmarked “Plantains and Cabbage with Split Pigeon Peas” after Rob had success with a Caribbean black eyed pea and plantain curry, when I first tried cooked plantains. Rob went a bit heavier on the curry powder, so the dish didn’t thrill me entirely but the plantains were neat. A starchy, sweet banana. This curry from 660 Curries had many of our favourite ingredients like coconut and cabbage, with new-to-me ripe plantains, and it had been a while since I had cooked with creamy toor dal. Plus, I was drawn to Iyer’s recipe blurb where he wrote: You will be eloquent in your praise and use highfalutin words like “yum”. Highfalutin! Yum! And no, he does not lie. This was delicious and possibly one of my favourite curries to date.
Did you know you can buy frozen coconut? It is a common ingredient found in Asian grocers – check it out! While you could substitute reconstituted dried coconut, I think that the frozen coconut played a key element of the success of this recipe.
In the summer, Rob and I had a fun time (literally) cracking open a fresh coconut. I used a big knife to shave off the outer skin, and then scored a circle to open it. I tried to smack it open with the heel of my knife but it didn’t work. Rob then took said coconut to the front porch and smashed it against the front step to crack it open. We then took turns sipping the coconut water through a straw. Bliss. I ended up using the coconut flesh for an Indonesian black eyed pea salad with a tamarind dressing.
But I like to plan for success. So in case we couldn’t open the coconut, I bought frozen coconut as a back up. Suffice it to say, it has been in my freezer since the summer. Since we have a move looming in the next few months, I have been trying to clean out the freezer. I finally busted it out for this recipe and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the results.
This is a delicious curry, and as I made it, I couldn’t help but remember Aarti’s butternut squash, coconut and lentil stew that Rob made in the fall. I consider Iyer’s recipes quite authentic, so I was wondering whether Aarti’s was an Americanized version of the dish since it seemed so similar. Nope, the recipes are similar but quite different in their own merits. However, if you loved Aarti’s stew, then you’ll adore this version. Likewise, if you like this stew, definitely give Aarti’s stew a try, too.
Here, in this curry, you have a creamy broth from the toor dal. Cabbage and ripe plantains add bulk. Coriander, mustard and curry leaves offer multiple levels of flavour. And that frozen coconut? It reaches out and gives you a tropical hug. I went a bit tame with the chile as Iyer suggests using 2 red Thai chiles or cayenne chiles. This wasn’t spicy, so go nuts chile heads! This is a pretty labour intensive curry, dirtying up a few pots, your food processor and in my case also the mortar and pestle, but once you taste it, you’ll forget all about that… and start using highfalutin words like yum.
As I type out the ingredients, I realize that they seem so isoteric. For those in Toronto, a trip to Sunny’s (or your favourite Asian grocer) is all you need*. I can’t remember if I’ve seen Aleppo at Sunny’s, but any chile pepper will do. You may have to wait for your plantain to turn a macabre black, but trust me, this will propel anyone out from their cooking rut.
*While you are at it, pick up some canned young jackfruit in brine for my next (super awesome) recipe from Rob’s party!!
For all the raw foodies out there, do you know if the frozen coconut can be used for all the raw desserts that call for fresh coconut?
As I said, I don’t really do anything different around January 1.
I had a long list of things I wanted to do over the holidays, though, but didn’t really conquer much of the list. Other than spend time with family and friends… and with myself. Sometimes, it may be more important to get a good relaxing vacation instead of worrying about work and other deadlines.
Rob and I had planned to do some spring cleaning, going through some of our stuff downstairs, but we procrastinated instead…
I know some people are really good about cleaning out their pantries of old food, but I tend to accumulate instead of purge. However, I’ve had 2 recent cooking mishaps from stale spices, so I am urging you not to follow my footsteps into the same fate! Toss those old spices!
In my case, I inherited a nice spice drawer when I moved into our new house. The drawer is lined by rows of jars with spices. Some new to me, like anardana, and others that I had never used before like marjoram, and others that I just didn’t have like chili powder and ground mustard. I quickly added in some of my own spices that were missing like smoked paprika, parsley and mint. While I know how old my spices are, I wasn’t sure how long the inherited spices had been there… but when this recipe called for ground mustard, low and behold, I had some and plundered on.
This is a recipe for a Trinidadian Black-Eyed Pea Soup from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian (recipe also posted here). In addition to inheriting spices, I also was (very kindly) lent a slow cooker. This soup looked simple enough to simmer away in the crockpot, so I pieced it together and timed it so it would be ready by the time I got home after work. Since I was to be sharing this with a bunch of friends, I doubled the amount of black-eyed peas, carrot and spices, turning this into a stew instead of a soup.
There was so much stuff in the slow cooker, I was worried it would boil over! Thankfully, by the time I made it home, the stew was ready and Rob had already started to dish it out.
Everyone said they liked the stew, but I thought something was missing. The fresh cilantro and chives were important for flavour but the stew needed a bit more depth of flavour. I wasn’t happy with it. Someone ended up adding a spicy Dijon mustard and said it was superb. When I ate the leftovers, I agreed that the mustard really helped. But I thought to myself, I know I added the ground mustard – why can’t I taste it? So I went back to the ground mustard in the spice drawer… dipped my finger in it and tasted it. And what did it taste like? NOTHING! It definitely needed to be tossed!
Combined with lackluster results from Chili Lime Roasted Chickpeas due to stale chili powder, this has really gotten me to think about tossing the old spices! Out with the old and in with the new!
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to Ricki’s Weekend Wellness, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Chez Cayenne, and to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring black eyed peas.