Now that I think about it, I know more vegans in Houston than I did in Toronto.
In Toronto, I never tried to connect with the vegan community. However, in Houston, this is where I am searching for like-minded souls.
In addition to the raw vegan meet-up potluck, I have connected with others at the Vegan Society of P.E.A.C.E. (VSOP)’s monthly potluck. While not all vegan (some vegetarians and veg-curious also come), a large crowd gathers each month to share tasty vegan eats and learn a bit more about other vegan issues. Lately, it has been about travelling as a vegan in Asia but they have been highlighting more issues surrounding animals. At the last meeting, an upcoming viewing of the documentary The Elephant in the Living Room was promoted. Turns out it was on Netflix, so Rob and I watched it later that week.
The Elephant in the Living Room is a quite powerful, yet humble documentary about exotic animals as pets. Did you know that there are more tigers in Texas than there are in the in wild worldwide? What do you do when you no longer want your python? The climax of the film surrounds the connection between an Ohio resident, Terry, with 2 lions and 4 cubs, housed in his backyard. It was a good movie and I recommend it. Another great documentary related to animals is The Cove, which won an Academy Award in 2010. That is a in a league of its own, though. That was a thrilling documentary!
In any case, chronically my life through the foods that surround these events, I present to you these quick and easy peanut butter and jam energy balls. Flavourful peanuts are key for this recipe, which is why I highly recommend using roasted peanuts. I didn’t want to be wrist-slapped if I brought them to a raw vegan potluck, so I shared it with this vegan potluck instead.
With such a simple ingredient list, you might not think too much about them. However, there was a nice balance of chunky peanuts and jam-like sweet raisins. The extra peanut butter kept the balls together nicely. Add salt to taste, but I guarantee you it needs some to make the flavours pop.
When Rob taste-tested them, he thought they were better than my typical date balls I bring cycling. At first, I felt bad for my date balls, but then took it as a compliment that these were just really good.
There is only one problem with the potlucks. Sometimes it seems like a tease to try so many great dishes, but not get a corresponding recipe. Thankfully, I connected with someone who shared the recipe for her fudgy black bean brownies. I look forward to following her blog and connecting more, because her MoFo theme is eating out as a vegan in Houston. I am impressed she can support a month’s worth of posts!! It may not be so bad as a vegan in Houston after all.
Have you seen The Elephant in the Living Room or The Cove? Any other documentaries you recommend?
As I shared earlier, slowly, Rob and I are exploring different ethnic grocers in Houston. Each weekend, we have been heading to a new place. Last weekend was a bit of a whirlwind, though.
We wanted to go to Little India but everything was closed when we were there early in the morning (yes, we are the early birds). Chinatown was our alternate choice. Since it is more of a big box store Chinatown that necessitates driving between stores, the dilemma was figuring out which grocer to hit up first. I had 3 stores starred. I picked the one that we knew was open early, the one that also happened to be the closest and the one that had great online reviews.
The parking lot was empty but we ventured in. Let’s just say it was a sad store. I picked up some snow peas and bean sprouts. We left a bit sad. I always gauge a store by the state of their produce. I was hoping for better quality produce and to be honest, much cheaper prices. Whole Foods was better priced, which doesn’t say much.
Uncertain what the rest of Chinatown would hold, we figured we would check out another grocer. The next on the list was Welcome. This time, though, the parking lot was nearly already packed for an early Saturday morning. Definitely a better sign. Their produce section was busy with so many people, snapping up the best produce, clamouring for the cases of mangos or picking the best greens. Good prices and good quality. Now I was a happy camper! Chinatown had been vindicated.
I still had the snow peas and bean sprouts which Rob and I put to good use by making pad thai. I was the sous chef as Rob made pad thai for me, complete with kelp noodles and snow peas. He slipped the fresh pad thai onto my plate. It was so pretty, I had to take a photo.
I don’t photograph many dishes twice. Especially if it is a regular in our kitchen and Rob’s signature dish, at that. But these photos turned out much better than my first post. We tinkered with the recipe only slightly, mainly by adding more tamarind. However, that’s because we had a new brand (Swad) and it doesn’t seem as potent as what we were used to (Tamicon or the blue top one). This version turned out so well though, so if you prefer things less tart, try to find this brand of tamarind. Otherwise, 3 tbsp of concentrate may be tamarind overload!
Do you re-photograph your pretty meals?
Stir fries may be easy but I find bowls even easier.
Each week, I try to make a dressing so that I can use up bits and bobs from in the refrigerator. Leftover grains, pre-cooked beans and steamed veggies can become a delicious meal with the right dressing.
This was one of those meals where I was searching for the perfect dressing. I wanted to make a peanut-miso dressing.
I know I have gushed over Hot Beans before. I’ve tried a few options from their not-so-secret menu and their secret secret menu. My latest love is the TVPeanut Burrito Bowl (so much easier to ask for then the The Bill’s Dick and The Peeb with a straight face) which features a brown rice burrito with ancho-spiced TVP, peanut-miso sauce, chipotle sauce, chili aioli, salsa and lettuce. Oh yes. Glorious. Substitute cumin-lime lentils for the brown rice and you have another great option. And while I have not tried it, Rob and I brainstormed the best burrito bowl ever. We named it Who Cut The Cheese: cumin-lime lentils, black beans and BBQ jackfruit in a bowl. We thought one could skip the cheese sauce for that one!
I digress. Tahini and miso are a common duo, but I never would have thought to pair peanut butter and miso until now. But it works really, really well.
While I would have loved to duplicate that whole big burrito bowl, I settled on recreating the peanut-miso sauce and paired it with some classic ingredients: chickpeas and broccoli with some quinoa to sop up the dressing.
Since I was experimenting, I did a lot of sampling. Rob helped, too. Too vinegary? Added a touch of agave and more peanut butter. Now, the sauce was perfect. I kept dipping my finger in again and again.
I will warn you that the sauce was a bit thin. A rule of thumb is that your sauce is supposed to coat the back of spoon, but this one was definitely drippy. I didn’t notice while I was sampling it until it shimmied off my chickpeas a bit too easily. Perhaps using less water, thinning with coconut milk or adding some oil would help if that is important to you. I just ended up tossing in some quinoa to catch the last of the sauce goodness.
What is your favourite peanut sauce?
Other recommended peanut dressings here:
Tess’ Ultimate Peanut Sauce
Creamy Thai Cilantro Sauce
Tangy Peanut Dressing (with a Mango and Snap Pea Salad)
Coconut-Peanut Mmm Sauce (with Kelp noodles, baby bok choy and edamame)
Spicy Peanut Udon Noodles with Tofu and Broccoli
Sweet Potato, Broccoli and Pomegranate Salad with a Peanut Dressing
Pay attention, dudes: the secret to capturing someone’s heart lies in their belly. Who wouldn’t like a man who knows his way in the kitchen?
One of Rob’s cooking specialties has always been pad thai. One of my favourite meals at restaurants has always been pad thai, but only if done right. Not tomatoey, certainly not filled with ketchup, and to be honest, I never understood why pad thai recipes in the raw community were made from nut butters (certainly a delicious coleslaw, though).
When we first were dating, I brought Rob to a restaurant, raving about their “authentic” pad thai. Only after I sat down and both of us received our orders of pad thai, did I worry Rob would find it below his high expectations. Thank goodness, he loved it, his recipe is a dead knock-off AND he loves making it!
Robbie-style cooking is usually a lot more low-key than mine, especially after he has made the dish a few times. Reading his original recipe leaves a bit to the imagination, but we have also modified it throughout the years. For me, he now omits the egg and swaps Bragg’s for the soy sauce/fish sauce. For the longest time, I tried to find a substitute for the rice noodles. I’ve tried quinoa and zucchini noodles, both with ok results. However, my preferred version is with kelp noodles which hold up well to the tangy sauce.
What doesn’t change is the strong emphasis on tamarind. I’ve talked about tamarind before, but it is worth highlighting again. It truly makes pad thai sing. For those who love sweet-sour as much as I do, tamarind also falls into the love category. Rob likes to remind me that fresh tamarind pods look like poo, but you can’t tell by looking at the pulp or concentrate. There are a few ways to buy tamarind. The blocks of tamarind pulp are cheap ($1) but you need to soak and strain it before you use it. Rob and I have converted to using tamarind concentrate ($2-3), though, since it is easier to use and more consistent in its taste.
Rob learned how to make pad thai in a cooking class while travelling in Thailand and his second tip for glorious pad thai, after using tamarind of course, is to make sure you cook each meal to order. It works well for customization of spice levels, but the flavours are spot-on, too. The problem is how to do this for a big group. We will prep all the ingredients at the same time, customizing each meal as we go. If the group is big, we don’t usually eat at the same time, but it is perfect for 2.
Do you have a signature dish for special occasions? Any favourite recipes for tamarind? We also really like tamarind lentils.
I feel like I am still in an exploratory phase. An exploratory phase of cooking. I am not sure if it will ever end, but it seems to me like there are constantly new things I’d like to try eating. Beyond new grains like kasha and kaniwa, or new heirloom beans, I will always scour new recipes. As I learned in Colombia, there are a host of new fruits and vegetables to explore, too.
While I may not be entirely thrilled with my closest ethnic grocer, it is still an ethnic grocer with produce I have yet to try eating. I once had a goal of trying all the new-to-me veggies at Bestwin and Sunny’s, but I can only tackle so many new ingredients at once. As I am unsure of the ethnic produce available in Texas (people keep trying to convince me that there is a dearth of vegetables there, but I protest!), I should capitalize on trying new veggies. In honour of the upcoming Chinese New Year, I popped some Chinese long beans into my cart. Only later did I figure out what I wanted to do…
I found this quick and easy Chinese veggie dish, with flavourful spices while still being able to highlight the long beans. I really liked the play between the Szechuan peppercorns and star anise with the garlicky vegetables. The peanuts added a great crunch and texture.
So, the long beans? Not my favourite. If I had to choose, the thin French green beans (haricot verts) are definitely my preferred green bean. The long beans are more chewy pod, less beany and not as flavourful as the French variety. I’d prefer the standard green beans, too, and would likely use them when making this again.
But hey, at least now I know. I will never go about thinking “I never tried the Chinese long beans.. maybe they are better than the rest?”. Even if the long beans are more authentic in this dish, the regular green beans would do just fine, as well.
Do you like discovering new veggies?
What better way to sneak back into sweetened life than by eating through Doug McNish’s cooking class. I’ve done a few cooking classes before, but this one was definitely one of my favourites. While I am still no master of the knives, I felt that this class was awesome despite not being hands on. Instead, we chatted and watched as Doug created this fabulous menu in under 3 hours.
- Painted Fruit
- Raw Berry Jam
- Fermented Lemon Vanilla Cashew Yogurt
- Avocado Fries with Sundried Tomato Ketchup
- Carrot and Kelp Noodle Pad Thai, Sweet and Spicy Almond Crumble
- Kelp Noodle “Stir Fry” Pear Ginger Miso Sauce, Wilted Spinach and Hemp
- Sweet Potato and Carrot Mac N Cheese
- Mushroom Walnut Stroganoff, Moroccan Spiced Dandelion Greens
- Thick Cut Zucchini Bread, Avocado, Eggplant Bacon, Hemp Mayo
- Chocolate Avocado Torte, Almond Flax Crust
- Banana Crepes, Chocolate Sauce, Walnut Crumble, Raspberry Coulis, Caramelized Peach
Yes, that is over 20 recipes. We munched on a few of the dishes as they were made, but for the most part, the eight of us split the food to take home and eat as leftovers. Batch cooking for the win!
This is where the class shined: The recipes were great. Doug has worked in and with many restaurants and knows his stuff. His recipes are restaurant quality. He highlighted the importance of plating and presentation. He didn’t hide his secrets.Those banana crepes we made? Sound familiar? He made them this summer when he had a special brunch menu at Raw Aura. Some of the recipes are from his current book, some from his upcoming book and others were modifications of published recipes. He does not measure as he cooks. He tastes as he goes and modifies based on the freshness of the ingredients (something I really should learn how to do more naturally).
Doug has previously shared many of his recipes, especially in his cookbook, including his infamous sour cream and onion kale chips. However, I have yet to try any of his recipes. I have been daunted by his zealous use of oils, nut butters and agave. I know his food tastes good, although a bit heavy for me. After making Peacefood Cafe’s Raw Key Lime Pie earlier this summer, I know that restaurant quality really translates to fat and sugar, namely oil and agave!
Trust me, though, I licked my takeaway containers with the delicious food, though. I hope to reintroduce these foods into my kitchen a little bit more Janet-friendly… but most importantly, my spark has been rekindled for raw foods. It also helps that we still have not hit real winter weather yet. Until then, light salads such as this seems to fit the bill.
Herby, peanutty noodly salad. I couldn’t even make up a name as fun as this (Rob probably could but he didn’t). Pick your favourite herbs and toss them in this lime-spiked dressing. Coat noodles of your choice and add in some green vegetables like snow peas, snap peas or even broccoli. Toss with some (toasted) peanuts for some crunch and fats. Not as decadent as the meals this weekend, but I am ok with that.
PS. For those in the GTA, my newest health food store find is Foods For Life which had kelp noodles (16 oz) for $2.49 earlier this week. A quick sale since they expire in January. However, a great price to try these noodles! They also have kamut!
Do you feel like more and more people are interested in eating whole foods?
Last weekend, between Thanksgiving meals, friends and family were curious about quinoa and kamut. One of my cousins is on a low-sodium diet and my other cousin is experimenting with a casein-free and gluten-free diet for their children and asked me if I had any kid-friendly recipes.
I had to think a bit harder. I can talk at lengths about my favorite grain (ok, pseudo-grain) but my recipes are probably not that kid-friendly. I like onions and ginger and spices and greens. Most kids like blander food. And sugary food… I think, right? I am certainly no kid feeding expert.
Then I brainstormed more main-stream main dishes like:
I already offered to bring hummus for the barbecue, and decided to bring two versions. My rosemary-pistachio hummus for the adults and a kid-friendly hummus: chocolate peanut butter style!
Pureed chickpeas are at the heart of this hummus, but you can’t really taste them. Compared to traditional hummus peanut butter is used instead of tahini; almond milk instead of stock and oil; garlic and lemon are removed to make room for maple syrup and cocoa powder. OK, maybe only the chickpeas keep this similar to hummus, but it was a tasty dip nonetheless. Peanut butter was the dominant flavor with more of a hint of cocoa.
I didn’t ask how the kids liked it. I imagine if they thought it was a chocolate spread they could be disappointed because it was more than that with the peanut butter. Or maybe less chocolatey, in their eyes. But the adults seemed to like it, no problem! With a few recipes requests and the leftovers snatched up, I would consider it a success.
For those with kids, do you modify your meals to be more kid-friendly and what do you change? I imagine it depends entirely on the child and their specific likes and dislikes, which may change from month-to-month.
No, it wasn’t blue. It was the second full moon in August, thus making it a blue moon. Note: Only for those West of Russia. For those East of Russia, you will see it in September! Note: Did you catch today’s National Geographic Photo of the Day? So pretty!
I am not entirely sure if that was why my life was flipped around over the past few days. Late last week, I was whisked back to Montreal for my grandfather’s funeral. After our return to Toronto, I had a short day with Rob before he was whisked off to New York for the week.
While I spent some fun time in the kitchen on Sunday (oh boy, do I have some fabulous recipes to share!), Rob and I shared a dinner picnic before he left.
We take our picnics seriously. Rob plugged his tablet into speakers for some tunes. Camera in hand. We had blankets although we secured a picnic table this time. Dinner in tupperware containers and portable desserts, to boot. With some swinging action afterwards.
The stars (or the moon?) aligned for our dessert.
Having recently replenished our peanut butter stash, buying the uber cute (and practical!) smaller 125-mL Mason jars last week and armed with half a package of silken tofu, I finally tackled Angela’s Mini Peanut Butter Cups in a jar, my way. Meaning, without a bottom nut crust, using agave as my sweetener and mistakenly doubling the chocolate shell! So, instead I created a Portable No-Bake Peanut Butter Mousse with a Chocolate Magic Shell.
This reminded my of my highly-praised Almost Guiltless No-Bake Chocolate Mousse Pie, but instead of a chocolate tofu mousse, it is peanut flavoured. Instead of a bottom crust, I opted for a top chocolate shell. A recreated peanut butter cup. In abstract form. It all looks the same in your belly anyhow, right?
Making the dessert in a small mason jar was ingenious- you can make smaller portions and the lids make them super portable (and stackable in the fridge).
In my photos, you will notice the thickness of my chocolate layer. I had extra chocolate sauce left over, so I just added more to each portion. While more chocolate would never seen like a problem, it was thick and harder to crack. Not that we minded, much, but I decreased the chocolate amount in the directions. In case you enjoy cracking the tops of desserts as much as I do.
This week I have been addicted to peanut butter.
I made this peanut butter banana smoothie until we ran out of ingredients. First I ran out of frozen bananas, and found out that ice + fresh bananas are truly sub-par substitutes. Next, I ran out of peanut butter, too. I considered making my own homemade peanut butter, but gosh, I am out of peanuts, too. That’s when my addiction stopped. I had to stop cold turkey. It was probably for the better of us both.
Thankfully, I made this salad earlier in the week and have been enjoying it ever since.
Sweet mangoes and sugar snap peas are paired with a tangy, acidic (in a good way) peanut dressing, spiced with green onions and tossed overtop peppery Asian baby greens (bring on the mizuna!). I also added kelp noodles, to add a bit more bulk. They are great additions to salads since they don’t slurp up the extra dressing. I liked that the vinegar in the dressing made this quite a light peanut dressing. I normally pair coconut milk with my peanut dressings, so this was a nice change. Light and refreshing, yet still substantial. Perfect to eat during this hot summer.
Did you do a double-take when you saw my Thai Noodle Salad with Mango and Lima Beans? It had some exotic ingredients: Kaffir lime leaves, galangal, shallots, tamarind, etc.
I know, I thought this was going to be the year of shopping at the Big Box Grocers, too, but it turns out I found a local ethnic grocer, Welcome, that meets the majority of my needs, including all my Thai ingredients, and falls within my budget.
It ain’t no Sunny’s though. Sunny’s has bountiful fresh produce at low prices. Even some of the discounted produce is great quality. Welcome, however, is like a transplanted Chinatown grocer. Some great prices but the quality is not always the best. I never know what I will find on their shelves. Sometimes it can be 4 bunches of leeks for $1, or 2 HUGE bunches of Swiss for $1, or 10 limes for $1 (this one seems to be a perpetual sale), sometimes advertised, other times not, especially if the produce is priced to sell pronto (if you know what I mean). Then I’ll come back a few weeks later to discover they have no Swiss chard, or kale or collards at all. The produce is random. Kind of.
Like most Asian grocers, they seem to have a regular collection of well priced mushrooms (shiitake, oyster and Portobello), broccoli, citrus, cilantro, coconuts, peeled garlic and some Asian ingredients. Grape tomatoes can be hit or miss. Their cauliflower has never looked good. But, they have Kaffir lime leaves and galangal! They have green mangoes! And when I spotted some green papaya, I leaped at the chance to try something new.
Itching to go try something authentic with the green papaya, I made the Green Papaya Salad from Taste of the East. I quickly realized that if I had to shred the papaya and carrot by hand, this could take a while, so I whipped out my food processor to help. I added long beans to the recipe and bruised them with the blade, which seemed to be in more traditional recipes. The rest of the dressing was tangy from the Kaffir lime leaves, lime juice, fresh garlic and chile flakes. The nuts offered a nice textural contrast in the tangle of noodly vegetables. Adjust the dressing to suit your own tastes. Trust me that the salad will have a great mixture of hot, sour, salty and sweet. Refreshing during these hot summer days.
And yes, as a fore-warning, I think I will be cooking with mushrooms a lot more. I should capitalize on Welcome’s good produce, right?
Have you ever been drawn to a particular ingredient or appliance based on a recipe?
I do it all the time. Do you need chaat masala to make the Malai Kofta? Of course not, but I wanted to see what it tasted like with it. I remember my sister-in-law searching out maple sugar just to make Kevin’s Blueberry Maple Pecan Cinnamon Buns. (For the record, I don’t think it was worth it).
I first spotted this Tofu, Tempeh and Squash Peanut Mole a few years ago. Certainly not fat-free with the peanut butter, I knew that if Susan from Fat Free Vegan found it worthwhile sharing, then it must be special. Joanne loved it, too.
Problem: I had no slow cooker. So I stalled on the dish. I had tofu frozen for the longest time until I figured out how to make it sans slow cooker. I also needed to get over my fear of the chipotle chiles in adobo.
Then, I moved and my landlords graciously lent me their slow cooker.
It still took me a nearly a year to finally make it. Getting the boot from our home and leaving the slow cooker, was my impetuous for making this. Rather, highly suggesting Rob make it, as he likes spicy moles and in a slow cooker it couldn’t be any easier, right?
Wrong! The recipe was deceiving. Rob thought this was way too much work with all the blending and grinding prior to using the slow cooker. He ended up forgetting to use the chipotle chiles and the bread (nevermind the bread, it was thick enough).
We both tasted it and thought it was just ok. Not worth repeating. Not worth searching out a slow cooker.
In fact, the majority of the stuff I made in the slow cooker were beans, but I prefer them on the stove top so I can keep my eye on them. The problem with freshly dried beans (ie from Rancho Gordo) is that they can easily be overcooked! Rob’s slow cooker brisket was probably the biggest recipe winner. Our year with the slow cooker has taught us that we definitely do not need a slow cooker.
Perhaps a pressure cooker instead? Quicker beans, please!!
Have you heard?
Rob stalks grocery stores once a year for it. Now they’ve arrived.
It is mango season. Not just any mango, though.
Alphonso mangoes have touched down from India. Thankfully, before our move away from Little India.
We picked up a case of nice Ataulfo mangoes last week because we weren’t sure when the Alphonsos would arrive. Lucky for us, it wasn’t long before they began popping up in Little India. On Thursday, they had a new shipment. By the end of the day, there were only 2 cases left. They are flying like hotcakes!
For the last two years, Rob and I have trekked out to buy these sweet and creamy mangoes. This is the first year it isn’t such a trek to locate them. We’ve made many mango dishes, both sweet and savoury, and now we’ve added another favourite to the list: this fabulous mango curry from 660 Curries which Iyer titled Cumin-Scented Pigeon Peas with Mango.
This curry follows the key steps of toasting and grinding spices, simmering the dal with different flavours and tempering another set of spices in oil that are added in at the end. But first, you need to make your own garam masala. Trust me on this. I know you have garam masala already lurking in your spice rack. This garam masala is different: it has sesame seeds, peanuts and coconut. We decreased the chilis and it was fragrant and savoury without unnecessary heat. For those who don’t want more spice blends, the recipe below is exactly for one recipe, but you will want to make more once you get a whiff of the final blend. We wished we had made more, so don’t follow in our footsteps.
While I just harped on this being Alphonso mango season, this mango curry does not need to be made with fancy mangoes. We used Ataulfos because we picked them up for cheap, but Tommy Atkins will work just fine, and frozen chunks, too. If Alphonso mangoes weren’t $2 each we’d gladly use them, though. Like the Mango BBQ Beans, the mango in this curry melts into oblivion leaving its sweet remains behind. Distinct mango flavour is camouflaged among the curry leaves, coconut and peanut. Everything works so well together. Sweet, spicy, savoury…
This is a delicious curry that you won’t be disappointed it. We’ve been eating at a few Indian restos recently and I still think the best Indian cooking happens in our kitchen. With this dish, there is no contest.
This is a superfood salad if I ever saw one. Pomegranate seeds. Sweet potatoes. Broccoli. All together in a peanut dressing. Even though it doesn’t have kale, many of these veggies top my superfood chart.
I took inspiration from a recipe in 1000 Vegan Recipes where I increased the veggies in the salad and seriously increased the pomegranate seeds. If you don’t have pomegranate, dried cranberries could be a reasonable substitute. While I typically prefer acidic dressings, I kept the peanut butter in the dressing but substituted vegetable broth for the oil. This allows the peanut flavour to permeate the salad without dripping in dressing. In fact, the peanut flavour wasn’t that dominant, sitting back to highlight the natural flavours of the vegetables. Next time, I might try this with a pomegranate-infused vinaigrette as a dressing, too.
As I’ve mentioned, Rob loves broccoli. Last week, I made Rob a sweet and savoury broccoli salad from Tess’ new superfoods cookbook Radiance 4 Life due out next month (I had the inside scoop as a recipe tester!). However, after using the crowns, I left with 3 large broccoli stems. What to do, what to do… they are definitely still good! Rob has made a delightful creamy broccoli dal from Vegan Yum Yum multiple times, which is filled with broccoli stems.. but I was hoping to try something new.
While flipping through Supermarket Vegan, a stir-fry caught my eye since it was filled with broccoli slaw, which is simply julienned or matchstick broccoli stems. Perfect! Except, I didn’t want to julienne 12 oz of broccoli by hand. I mean, I could, and I have in the past, but I wasn’t keen to do it this time.
Enter the mighty food processor. I finally looked at the other blades, and noticed there was one for julienning! In fact, I have a duplicate for julienning. In case it breaks, I suppose. (Aside, I wish I had a second base for my food processor because it IS cracking and falling apart! Ack! The forty-year-old food processor motor still runs but the plastic becomes brittle, gah!)
So, I peeled my broccoli stems, chopped them into smaller segments and threw them into the food processor. A bit of struggling as it was unbalanced but the food processor did its job. Not as pretty as when I do it by hand, but for a stir-fry, this is perfect. I added some grated carrot, pulled out some chopped frozen red pepper and was off to the stove. Within 15 minutes, dinner was ready. Despite such a simple cast of characters, this was a nice, simple stir-fry. The broccoli had a nice, sweet crunch that worked well with the carrot and red pepper. The addition of toasted peanuts really helped, along with the salty fermented black bean sauce. The original recipe also suggested bamboo shoots, which I didn’t think I had.. until I went through my pantry a few days later while packing (my pantry is such a treasure trove of interesting ingredients!). I have vowed to add it to my next stir-fry.
Where have stir-fries been all my life? Simple, quick and easy! I’d love to hear from you about your favourite sauces for stir-fries. Granted, leftovers aren’t as nice as the first night, but there are compromises I am willing to make for such a speedy dinner.
As a Canadian, I don’t like to get confused with being an American. So, I wonder whether it is offensive to call this an African dish? I mean Africa is a big place, with a lot of variation from country to country, and here I am lumping this dish with the whole continent. I am not worried about offending anyone because this dish was so delicious that every country should be fighting to claim it as their own.
Despite recently travelling to Morocco (more about that later!), I am no expert in African cuisine. I didn’t come across any peanut stew in Morocco. A bit of research tells me peanut (or groundnut) stews are typical of sub-Saharan cuisine. I recently made an African pineapple, kale and peanut stew, and was intrigued to try peanut butter in a savoury dish again. Adapted from Vegan Planet, this is a delicious vegetable stew. Again, we have a nice mixture of sweet from the sweet potatoes and tomato, with the salty and smooth from the peanut butter, with a touch of heat from chili flakes, ginger and garlic. Cumin and cinnamon make this a savoury dish indeed. Red kidney beans add substance and I enjoyed their mouth feel (I had forgotten how much I like kidney beans – it has been too long!).
In fact, with only 2 tbsp for the entire dish, the peanut butter is not a dominant flavour. I felt like it was more to add creaminess but occasionally I would get a hit of the peanut butter. I don’t think it mixed in as well as I had thought. My advice is to add to taste, mix it well, but you don’t need much. Another nut butter could easily be substituted.