the taste space

Holy Shiitake Lentil Soup

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by janet @ the taste space on April 11, 2013

Holy Shiitake Lentil Soup

This blog is definitely a labour of love.

More than sharing recipes and my experiences in the kitchen, it has morphed into a sort of journal, chronically my adventures with cycling, gardening and whatever life throws at me. Some blogs cater to their readers’ wants…. me, I share what I like and most likely if you are reading, you will like it, too. :) Or, if I muck things up, I hope to pass on my wisdom. (PS, I loved hearing your confessions about your own kitchen bloopers after my last post)

Another benefit of writing this all out? I can learn from my old mistakes, too.

Rob and I recently connected with one of our neighbours and we started chatting about our garden. Did we have any tips?  I couldn’t think of any tips other than a) beans can be grown easily from seeds; and b) kale and collards from seedlings gave us better results. She also asked for some pictures. As I dug up some of my garden updates, I re-read my posts and uncovered other golden nuggets: tomato cages for the beans! get rid of those bugs from the kale ASAP! my preferred basil plant..

I should listen to myself more often. I dug up another old post, when I first started my cycling commute in the spring last year. Talk about deja vu. I was complaining about a long commute after a winter hiatus and here I am complaining again. I thought I was easing myself into my old cycling groove by foregoing the gym, but a long commute needs to be warmed into. I cycled to work (no gym) on Friday: 25km. The ride back was brutal with fierce winds all the way home. I almost decided to give up my cycling commute altogether and stick with the subway. On Sunday, I ended up cycling to the gym and really enjoyed the ride.

With a rainy forecast this week, I decided to capitalize on another day to try to cycle to work (no gym) on Monday. Mondays have me travelling all over the city, so I ended up clocking 36km. It doesn’t sound like that much… but coming from zero biking and a 2-week gym hiatus, I was wiped out when I came home. (Let’s not forget to mention I cycled home IN THE RAIN). Physically pooped, cold and wet, the last thing I wanted was a salad for dinner. I didn’t want to wait for a soup to defrost from the freezer, either. Instead I made a smoothie. Simple and nothing to document as I just whizzed together a frozen banana, frozen raspberries, maca, vanilla, flax seeds and unflavoured Sunwarrior protein powder. Oh, and some water. I am normally never satisfied with a smoothie as a meal, but this worked… after a warm bath and canning my oatmeal for the week, I slid into bed, exhausted.

I need to find more balance.

Still needing to eat, I really should plan my meals based on the weather forecast. The rest of the week has a rainy forecast and possible snow/hail today and/or tomorrow. No more cycling, that’s for sure… warm comforting meals may be in order, though. As such, I took this soup out from the freezer for some meals later this week.

I love unearthing gems from the freezer. I should do it more often. I often get wooed by fresh produce but I need to remind myself to keep things stress-free by eating from the freezer. This is a soup I have made a few times, too, and was lucky to have garden kale when I made this in the fall. I have used both shiitakes and oyster mushrooms with great results. Combining mushrooms and lentils, the earthy flavours mix well with the tangy vinegar and zippy garlic. It is during these dreary days that warm, comforting bowls of my favourite soups really help.

Do you keep a journal? If you do (or have a blog), do you ever re-read it?

Holy Shiitake Lentil Soup

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s No Croutons Required for mushrooms.

(more…)

Rosemary Mushroom Risotto

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Sides by janet @ the taste space on March 24, 2013

Do you ever reminisce about the glory days?

Back when I could juggle everything. Back when I didn’t have to crack down on studying?

I never seem to have enough time these days. I can’t study the way I used to. It is harder now.

I feel more liberated in the kitchen, though, with help from Rob and a wealth of favourite recipes. A choice of dressing and 1 or 2 other dishes makes my weekly cooking complete.

While I have moved my herbs indoors over the winter (and most of them died, boo), I never really felt like I had enough thyme this summer, either. My grilled portobello mushrooms with garlic and thyme were a common sighting at barbecues and many of my dishes use thyme (lemon-kissed tomato barley risotto, tomato-pomegranate vinaigrette, etc). My piddly thyme plant was nearly always being scavenged.

I thought I planned for success in the rosemary department, because I have 3 plants. But I never seem to have enough rosemary, either! One batch of Rosemary Pistachio Hummus, and my plants are wiped clean.   A month later, I may try again. Thankfully this week, I had enough to make this rosemary mushroom risotto. Another great dish from Tess.

An uber simple dish, this is a creamy brown rice side speckled with oyster mushrooms focusing on a strong garlic-rosemary flavour. How easy is this? Toss everything into a pot. Don’t worry about the mushrooms if they aren’t pre-sliced, add them in 10 minutes later, no problem. While the rice is boiling, pluck your rosemary and have it ready for when the rice is finished. {Or if you are like me, you can make a whole other quickie-meal while waiting for the brown rice to cook!}

Cooking the rice in almond milk makes this creamy but using the seasoning makes this still taste like it was boiled in a flavourful vegetable broth. I didn’t feel like it needed more than 1 tbsp of oil, but Tess suggests adding more. This isn’t your typical risotto, as the rice still had a bit of bite (which I enjoyed for texture), but certainly a heck of a lot easier and a lot healthier without any cheese or butter.

This is my submission to this month‘s Herbs on Saturday.

(more…)

Smoky Black Eyed Pea and Kale Stew

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by janet @ the taste space on January 10, 2013

Smoky Black Eyed Pea and Kale Stew

Imagine my shock when Rob called me from the grocery store to tell me they were out of broccoli. It wasn’t even a weekly special. No broccoli in the entire store. I thought new year’s meant more carrots, but maybe it really means broccoli? ;)

In any case, have no fear, I switched recipes and ended up clipping off the last of my garden kale. Yes, there has been snow here for over 2 weeks and yes, hidden underneath the snowy blanket, my kale is still alive and kicking. More power to the kale! (The broccoli dish will have to wait)

Black eyed peas are certainly not just for the new year, but I was drawn to this black eyed pea and kale stew through Random Recipes. This month’s challenge was to randomly select a recipe from a cookbook from someone else’s library. I decided to tackle this electronically. When I saw Ali was gifted Superfood Kitchen I tried to borrow it from the library, but it hasn’t been received yet. In that moment, I decided that the first recipe I found online from the cookbook would be my “random recipe” and I found it here: Kale and Black Eyed Pea Stew.  I like that Julie has incorporated more common “superfoods” into her cookbook, like leafy greens and legumes, which can be seen in this recipe.

Smoky Black Eyed Pea and Kale Stew

This is no ordinary bean and green stew. Along with black eyed peas and kale, there is red pepper as well as my addition of oyster mushrooms. It is a European spice mash-up with oregano and thyme as well as smoked paprika and Ancho chile powder. I was scared to use a full tablespoon of smoked paprika, but feel free to use more because this was not spicy. I ended up adding liquid smoke at the end for a further depth of flavour. But oh, this alone would still be a great chili-like stew, but this it is not. A special twist comes form the addition of ground wakame. A little goes a long way and makes this a unique stew. It brings a certain seaweedy-ness to the stew. By the way, a few notes about my version: I used dried herbs in this recipe because I don’t usually use fresh herbs for a long simmer (they turn to mush, so maybe remove them as a bouquet garni). As well, the recipe calls for 3 cups of cooked black eyed peas but I am fairly confident this dish could be made more simply by cooking dried black eyed peas with the soup broth (which I have not tried but noted in the recipe below).

As you may have noticed, I am still on my smoked paprika kick. Here are other recipes I have bookmarked:

Smoky Tempeh and Chard Stew
Spanish Lentil and Mushroom Stew
Sneaky Collards
at Serious Eats
Roasted Squash and Shallots with Merguez Chickpeas in River Cottage Veg Every Day
Spanish Chickpeas and Spinach Stew with Ginger at I don’t know, what do YOU want to eat?
Smoky Red Lentil Stew by Sprouted Kitchen
Smoky Paprika Baked Beans by The Spade & Spoon
Spiced Red Lentils by Ottolenghi
Pumpkin Chili by Never Homemaker
French Lentil Soup with Smoked Paprika in Let Them Eat Vegan!
Easy New Orleans Red Beans and Rice by Fat Free Vegan
“1 Million” Veggies Lentil Stew by Chocolate Covered Katie
My other recipes with smoked paprika are here

Smoky Black Eyed Pea and Kale Stew

This is my submission to this month’s Random Recipes, to Ricki’s Weekend Wellness and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

(more…)

Oyster Mushroom and Black Bean Tacos with Sweet Mango Salsa

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on May 15, 2012

Let me get this off my chest: I really liked this meal.

It was quick, healthy and tasty.

The main component to the tacos is a seemingly simple black bean saute with oyster mushrooms and red pepper. I don’t know what it is, but the oyster mushrooms were fabulous here. They kept their shape, they had a sweet but subtle mushroom flavour but it complemented the red peppers and beans especially well. The Ancho chile-based chili powder made this spicy enough with great flavour.

Don’t stop there, just yet. Cut up a sweet mango, toss with some cilantro and red onion and you have a quick salsa that pairs so nicely. Since I used Alphonso mangoes, there was no need to add more sweetener, but adjust to your tastes and available fruits.

Now wrap it all up. With a nod to my raw tacos, I decided to serve this in a Swiss chard leaf. Pick your poison: leafy green, flour tortilla or hard taco shell.

With each bite, you will have sweet, spicy, and savoury. Juicy mushrooms and black beans. Simple sweet mango salsa – how could it not be good? Thankfully, it is easier to make then our New Best Salad Ever (aka Roasted Garlic Tofu Salad with Cilantro Rice, Black Beans and a Mango Salsa).  This was best eaten fresh, with the warmed beans and saucy mushrooms contrasting the cool salsa.

For some reason, I tend to gravitate to black beans when I cook Mexican. Probably because I really like black beans. I am working through my heirloom bean stash, though. However, my collection of beans are predominantly Southwestern or pinto bean hybrids (Rio Zape, Bolita, Anasazi, Rattlesnake, Appaloosa, etc). Not sure what to make with them. What are your favourite recipes for pinto beans?

This is my submission to this month’s Sweet Heat Challenge, featuring Mexican foods and to Ricki’s Weekend Wellness.

(more…)

Chinese Five Spice Vegetable and Noodle Stir Fry

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on May 1, 2012

A new home; a new 5 keys.

Trust me, I am not complaining about now having a garage. Although 5 keys is certainly overwhelming. First front door, second front door, rear door, garage door and garage.

While we are still unpacking boxes, and likely will for many weeks, the kitchen is functional. The bedroom is almost unpacked (minus my clothes) and we have no idea what to with ourselves now that we have 3 bathrooms.

In any case, while Rob and I have moved many, many times before, this is the first time we hired movers. So completely worth it. Our friends and family must think so, as well. ;) Our movers were work horses: incredibly strong, super fast while still being very gentle. One of the movers relished telling me a new joke every time he saw me. If anyone needs cheap, efficient movers in the GTA, shoot me an email and I’ll give you their contact info.

While there are many great things about our new place, we are kind of sad we don’t have a basement. You can really scurry things out of sight and mind, so our move forced Rob and I to go through another round of purging and incidentally, discover new things, as well.  Rob had some pretty bowls (and pretty chopsticks!) hidden in the basement that I unearthed! I also didn’t know that I had so many packages of kelp noodles. I knew I had bought a case (or two) when they went on sale, but looks like a lot more noodles once I take them out of the case. ;)

For one of my first meals in the new home, I decided to break in the kitchen with a quick and easy stir fry. I also inadvertently christened the kitchen by setting off the smoke alarm. I swear, there was nothing burning! I will have to be careful to not wake up my neighbors. I adapted Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Winter Stir Fry with Chinese Five Spice to what I had left in my vegetable crisper. Winter root vegetables are fabulous for keeping so long, but it felt nice to use up the remainder of my root veggies, along with some spring veggies. Goodbye winter, hello spring.

The heart of this stir fry is the Chinese Five Spice powder, which stems from the heart of Szechuan cooking. It is aromatic and savoury, composed of star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves and Szechuan peppercorns. A seven spice blend may also include ginger and black peppercorns. A complex spice blend, a little goes a long way and really shines here.

Throw in your own favourite vegetables with some noodles and then toss with a sake, tamari and Chinese five spice dressing. The drizzle of lime at the ends adds the perfect acidic balance to the veggie-centric meal. Feel like more protein? Add some tofu or tempeh. Me? My pantry is all cleaned out of tofu!

While I had been working through my pantry prior to this move, I plan on eating through the remainder over the next year before our BIG move to the US. Expect to see more recipes with kelp noodles! What are your favourite ways of eating them?

Here are a few other recipes with Chinese Five Spice:

Five Spice Roasted Delicata Squash from Appetite for Reduction
Fluffy Sesame Baked Tofu
from Sprint 2 the Table
Broccoli Slaw Salad with Five-Spice Tofu from Vegetarian Times
Chinese Five-Spice Noodles with Broccoli from Serious Eats
Smoky Pomegranate Tofu with Coconut Rice from Vegan with a Vengeance
Acorn Squash, Pear and Adzuki Soup with Sautéed Shiitakes from Post Punk Kitchen
Chinese Five Spice Miso Soup with Shitakes and Edamame from Florida Coastal Cooking
Star Anise-Glazed Tempeh with Stir-Fried Peppers from Joanne Eats Well With Others

This is my submission to this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Ruth, to this month’s pasta bloghop, to this week’s Weekend Wellness and to Cookbooks Sundays.

(more…)

Pickle Soup

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by janet @ the taste space on February 13, 2012

You’d think something was up. While I have long given up cheesy bliss, meat-laden meals and sweet desserts*, I have been having a lot of random food cravings. Cabbage. Tahini. And now pickles. When I told Rob I drank the pickle juice after I ate the last pickle, he was concerned. That’s what pregnant people do! No worries on that front. :P But what’s up with the cravings?

*Full disclosure: December was filled with chocolate cravings (gosh, those cookies were so good!). I also learned that Clif and Luna bars are deadly addictive. They may be vegan, but they are junk. I have been cut-off.

In any case, I don’t feel that guilty obliging my pickle cravings. Yes, they can be a bit salty, but they can be so satisfying with their crunch and vinegary bite.

After eating more than a few unadorned, I decided to branch out and make Pickle Soup that I had bookmarked from Love Soup eons ago.

Truly, pickle soup is a misnomer. Yes, there are pickles in it but it is not a dominant flavour. Just like vinegar and lemon juice are added to enhance the balance of a soup’s flavour, pickles do the exact same thing here. They add that salty and acidic touch.

So if this isn’t a pickle soup, it is a soup filled to the brim with veggies! It has an Eastern European flavour profile with dill and cabbage but it also has a hint of thyme. The veggies are bountiful, making this a huge pot of soup – leek, delicate oyster mushrooms, celeriac, carrot, turnip, Swiss chard, cabbage, red bell pepper – as well as barley.

While the flavours don’t scream out in any sense, they mingle well together. The pickles add that extra dimension that makes you think about the soup. Use dill pickles, Polish if possible, for the nice tang. Even pickle haters could enjoy the soup since the pickles are hidden amongst the plentiful veggies.

Even though I added in even more veggies than the original recipe, substituting a few ingredients as well (celeriac, baby!), I didn’t tire of this soup.  I usually shun recipes that feed 8 people, but not this time. I relished in it. Sometimes I ate this soup twice a day!

Thankfully I think my pickle cravings subsided after a round of the soup.

What have you been craving recently?

This is my submission to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Wellness Weekend, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring fresh herbs.

(more…)