I love it when Houston behaves itself.
Rob and I had another Canadian visitor recently. In between Polar Vortex 1 and Polar Vortex 2, Houstonians enjoyed balmy (normal) summery weather at its finest. You know, summer how it is meant to be: around 25ºC. None of that feels like 38ºC with 90% humidity forecast. None of that below freezing business (that’s tonight, by the way).
Together, we did more touristy things than we had ever done before: hiking next to alligators, admiring the Museum of Fine Art’s impressive gold collection, watching Americana in our backyard via the Martin Luther King Jr Parade. However, I still skipped out on the stereotypical NASA Space Center visit. We still shared our favourite haunts but explored new restaurants as well. Nearly every meal was pre-planned. My friend had so many restaurants she wanted to try!
After the whirlwind of a visit (if you knew my friend, you would know this is no overstatement), both Rob and my friend parted for Canada. One to Toronto and the other to Winnipeg. Both returned to temperatures around -20ºC (-4F). Yesterday, my friend in Winnipeg told me it was -40ºC with the windshield. For those that need a conversion to Fahrenheit, at -40, both Celsius and Fahrenheit scales collide. Collide and freeze. They are the same. Both, really, really cold.
With the imminent cold weather, I am sharing another warming soup. Red lentils are a perfect blank canvas for a hearty meal. Pureed tomatoes and red lentils are combined with cauliflower and brown rice in a broth spiced with cumin, mustard and dill. I never would have thought to combine those flavours together but the dill really brightened the dish. This is an excellent soup!
How have you been keeping warm lately?
I was all ready to share with you some tasty zucchini-centric meals this week.
However, my zucchinis were side-lined in the fridge once I went on a mission to find tomatoes. It is easy to find red imposters. You know, the things that look like tomatoes but don’t taste like tomatoes… but I wanted summer fresh tomatoes. My quest brought me to my closest farmer’s market where I quickly scurried from stall to stall, sniffing their tomatoes. Sniffing out the imposters.
All of a sudden, it hit me. Tomato. I smelled it. I found my winning tomatoes. Bright red smallish heirloom tomatoes that looked lumpy and stout. The flavour did not disappoint. I brought home 2 pints to make this risotto I had bookmarked last year, waiting for this summer’s tomato bounty.
Super simple to make, I can’t believe it has been so long since I’ve made a risotto. Dump all the ingredients into a pot, let it simmer until the barley is tender. Towards the end, I kept adding more and more stock until a creamy, yet chewy barley risotto was attained. Positively drenched in silky tomatoes, speckled with chunks of garlic, with a hint of lemon and thyme and a depthness from smoked paprika, this made a delicious end-of-summer meal.
Sadly, now that I have re-discovered barley risottos, I have very little barley left. I don’t plan on replenishing it, either. I suppose I will have to try out spelt berries risottos, instead!
Of course the real quandary is whether to buy a HUGE bushel crate of San Marzano tomatoes. A Portuguese grocer near my home is selling them for $19. I bet they would be wonderful all roasted and I could try my hand at canning. But could I eat my way through all of the tomatoes?
Here are some other whole grain risottos I have my eye on:
Rustic Rebel Risotto from Radiance 4 Life
Red Beet Risotto with Walnuts from Big Vegan
Easy Creamy Tomato Barley Risotto from Vegan Yum Yum
Creamy Barley Risotto with Thyme and Star Anise from Let Them Eat Vegan
Tempeh Orzilla from Post Punk Kitchen
Pesto Risotto with Roasted Zucchini from Post Punk Kitchen
Saffron Speltotto with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes from River Cottage
Who likes garlic? I mean, really likes garlic? I probably shouldn’t scare the garlic-shy from this recipe, because it was really tasty. And didn’t leave me with garlic breath, so it couldn’t have been that potent with 14 cloves of garlic.
Ten of those garlic cloves are roasted, so they don’t really count towards the scary garlic count. Although, I almost had second thoughts as I dumped in 4 cloves of raw garlic at the end of making this stew. I shouldn’t have doubted Anya’s genius, though.
This recipe comes from The New Spanish Table, and I had been eyeing this recipe for months (I first mentioned it on my list of things to make with butternut squash back in November and again in January!). Honestly, I waited too long. This is a lovely, hearty stew that is both savoury but still slightly sweet. Lentils fill the stew as its base, and the butternut squash and red peppers add colour and sweetness. A head of roasted garlic brings a mellow sweetness as well. The peppers are both boiled and pan-fried for a contrast in flavour and texture (but I feel like this step could be skipped if you are pressed for time). And while I stated I don’t want to muck with Anya’s genius, I made a slight modification to her recipe, that I think lent to its prowess. Instead of adding in two fresh tomatoes (nothing with a fresh taste is around during the winter!), I added 1 cup of passata (strained tomatoes) at the end. This is where you get a silky tomato base for the stew that complements the squash, bell pepper and lentils so well.
I love it when I am surprised by a dish; but I shouldn’t have been.