Remember that time when I thought fall had arrived in Houston? The morning had a bit of a chill, despite daytime highs that were reminiscent of a typical Toronto summer’s day.
The extreme heat and humidity has somewhat abated, but without the change in the colour of the trees’ leaves, it still does not feel like fall. I continue to wear the same clothes I wore in the middle of the summer (aka short sleeves and shorts).
Although, I know the seasons are changing. The days are getting shorter. I can no longer photograph my dinner, after I return from work. Some days I am home earlier, but most days, I arrive home fairly late, after sunset. The sun is setting earlier, and earlier.
So after Rob made this absolutely delicious black bean soup, I knew I wanted to share it… but I had to photograph it before we finished it off. Instead of depriving Rob of his next dinner, I asked him to photograph it before he devoured the last serving. I mean, there are a few perks of working from home, and photographing meals during daylight is definitely one of them.
So… about this soup. Delicious! Loads of black beans and sweet potato chunks are simmered with cumin, oregano and allspice with a broth that is flavoured with red pepper paste (Rob’s creative substitute since we were all out of red bell peppers) and sun-dried tomatoes. Although the balsamic vinegar and lime juice make this special with the tang and acidity. The balsamic finish is definitely making a comeback in my kitchen, since it worked well with the white bean paprikash. Rob also opted to keep the black beans whole, instead of pureeing them. Thus, this was a bean stew instead of a bean soup.
While one might think I have a certain food photography style, it is truly a lazy affair. One camera and one lens. Photo from above and a few photos from the front. Easy, peasy and pretty fool-proof. As long as you can keep things in focus as you hover above the food. Although the next photo shows you Rob’s signature in-your-face style:
The inspiration for this soup came from Dreena’s latest ecookbook, Plant-Powered 15, filled with 15 whole-foods vegan recipes without any oil or gluten. I know I have a few readers who are no-oil vegans, so this would be perfect for you. Even if you are not eating oil-free (like me!), you will still enjoy the bright flavours. As I have said before, I really like Dreena’s recipes. In particular, we adore her Lemon Mediterranean Lentil Salad, Jerk Chickpeas, Thai Chickpea Almond Curry, Tomato Lentil Cumin and Dill Soup and Thai Coconut Corn Stew.
Dreena’s ebook spans breakfast, oil-free salad dressings, mains like vegan burgers and even a few desserts. With the help of Nicole, there are gorgeous photos of each recipe. Instead of misleading you, Dreena has allowed me to share Nicole’s photo of the soup:
Dreena has already shared the recipe for Umami Almond, Quinoa, and Sundried Tomato Burgers, her cashew-based Wonder Spread and Sticky Almond Blondies as teasers for the cookbook. However, even more exciting is that she is graciously offering a copy of her ecookbook to two of my readers! Because this is an electronic version, it is open to anyone is the world! (Woohoo!) To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite Dreena recipe. If you haven’t made anything by Dreena yet, have a look through the table of contents of Plant-Powered 15 (or another one of her books/blog) and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on November 15, 2013. Good luck!
Note: I purchased my own copy of Dreena’s cookbook. I was under no obligation to share a review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.
Rob and I have been trading stories. He has been back in Canada for the last two weeks. He is hitting up all our old haunts, new joints (I knew he wouldn’t be able to resist the vegan boston creme donuts and other treats at Through Being Cool; he’s already tried the Toronto’s crookie (cookie-croissant hybrid) and scouting out Toronto’s cronut, too) and getting ready to spend time with his family for Thanksgiving. I am willing to bet most of my readers know Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving almost a month before the Americans, but if not, let there be no confusion. Canada’s Thanksgiving is on Monday.
This is a dish Rob made before he left. He is much better at tackling his recipe hit-list than I am. Possibly because it is shorter. While in Bend, Oregon, we discovered a restaurant with delicious food. For me, I adored their tempeh reuben salad (recreating it is still on my hitlist!) and Rob was adamant about recreating the sloppy joe sandwich.
While I have made Sloppy Joes with TVP, which I served overtop roasted sweet potatoes, I shared Isa’s recipe with Rob. With the extra spices, I knew he would really like it. Rob really liked their sandwich because it was served with a brioche bun. He looked around a bit but wasn’t able to find something in Houston. That did not deter him.
I no longer remember what protein this resto used for their sloppy joe, but Isa’s called for seitan which we didn’t have. Instead, Rob experimented with another Portland find: soy curls. Soy curls totally deserve their high praise. Similar to TVP in that they are a dry soy product, they not as highly processed. Soy curls are made by cooking, then drying soybeans, whereas TVP has been processed to become defatted. Their fun shapes are akin to pulled meat. I bought a bunch in bulk while in Portland and wish there was a local supplier because I know we will use them up quickly.
In any case, Isa’s recipe did not disappoint. She called it jerk-spiced sloppy joes, but the flavours were more muted. When I think of jerk, I think of bold flavours. Instead, this was tame. Nicely flavoured and palatable for the masses. The Caribbean flavours of allspice, cinnamon, and paprika were present and made for a lovely tomato sauce. Rob amped the sweet sauciness by adding red pepper paste. Lime juice balanced it nicely.
The second component to the dish was coconut creamed spinach and kale. Spiced with star anise, the Caribbean flair persisted. Instead of the brioche bun, Rob used a paratha to eat this. Mainly because that’s what we had in the freezer. This is a fusion household. Indian-Caribbean-American in one wrap. Use whatever vehicle you’d like. :)
While this recipe seems almost as elaborate as Rob’s epic Jackfruit & Kimchi and Sweet Potato Poutine with Tofu, this one didn’t take nearly as long to cook. Start to end was around an hour, which is a good thing since Rob has proclaimed this as a Rob’s Repeater Recipe.
Have you ever tried soy curls? What did you think?
As you know, I am a cookbook junkie. I have a lot of cookbooks and trying to wean myself from my cookbook library before our move. Last year, I picked out my top 10 cookbooks to move with me, but I may have to revise that list as I have discovered new favourites. Even more scary is that I have partially migrated to electronic cookbooks. It makes it easier to amass a larger collection. I still prefer leafing through a hard copy, but an electronic version is ideal when space is at a premium.
Considering my cookbook love, I was ecstatic when asked to review a new raw cookbook: Annelie’s Raw Food Power. No stranger to raw cuisine, I surprisingly do not have that many raw cookbooks. This is a gorgeous cookbook, with colourful photographs accompanying every recipe. The dishes are typical raw cuisine style, with recipes for smoothies, salads, snacks and mains like raw pizza. She also includes a lot of recipes for teas/tisanes.
Annelie developed the recipes while in Costa Rica, and as such, the recipes use a lot of tropical fruits (bananas, mango, pineapple, watermelon) but also more common ingredients like zucchini, tomatoes, apples, nuts and seeds. Superfoods like chia seeds, goji berries, probiotics, maca and lucuma are often used, too. These ingredients are not new to me, but Annelie surprises me further with recipes calling for purple corn, mucuna, ashwagandha and shatavari powders, of which I have yet to encounter. Like most raw recipes, the majority of the dishes are quick and easy. The recipes call for typical raw equipment: blender (preferably high-speed), juicer, dehydrator, and spiralizer which not everyone possesses. In short, this is not a cookbook for someone dabbling in raw cuisine, but good for those familiar with the ingredients and equipment. (Of note, the index is very subpar, listing recipes by title only, not ingredient).
While most of the recipes seemed familiar to me (guacamole, spiralized zucchini with nutrient-dense pasta sauce, avocado and strawberry salad, raw lasagna), I opted to try something with a bit of a twist: Quinoa, avocado and tomato marinara wraps, especially since I was reminded how much I enjoy lettuce wraps.
I’ve tried raw quinoa before (basically quinoa soaked for a day) but prefer to use cooked quinoa. Uncooked raw/sprouted grains and legumes kind of go thump in my tummy. The quinoa is dressed with a rich flavourful tomato sauce which I unrawified by substituting red pepper paste for the optional red pepper. This is then placed in a Romaine leaf and topped with avocado for a delicious wrap. I found it was best to add the dressing just prior to serving since leftovers became dry.
While I still have a few recipes earmarked to try (beet and mint chocolate chip dip, oh my!), I am giving away a brand new copy of Annelie’s Raw Food Power to a lucky reader. For a chance to win, just leave me a comment by April 25, telling me about your favourite raw dish you’ve made.
I am loving the conversations from the last post about the evidence surrounding eating a Mediterranean diet. The New York Times wrote a follow-up article that summarizes my feelings pretty closely: there is a surprising lack of evidence for nutritional recommendations. While in medical school, I remember being taught that the only thing shown to keep weight loss on long-term was bariatric surgery. Perhaps that is because the proper studies have not be done. To be fair, I learned the DASH diet with was better than any single medication to reduce high blood pressure. Hopefully, the flurry of interest from this past study will propel researchers to investigate plant-based whole foods eats. The New York Times suggested a vegan diet is not a long-term option, but I disagree.
Onwards with another Mediterranean meal? Vegan AND delicious?
I love it when I know it is going to be a good week. By Sunday, after I do my batch cooking and a bit of taste testing, I have a good idea how my meals will be for the week. Flops or wins? I never seem to know with these Random Recipes.
This one was a big win!
Dom pushed us to randomly pick a recipe from our (physical) recipe pile. I still like to print out my recipes for the week and sometimes throw in bonus recipes if there is empty space on my page. While cleaning the kitchen table, I decided to tackle one of my recent but neglected clipped out recipes.
Sometimes I am blown away by the simplicity of good food. I wasn’t expecting this to taste so good as it did, so I was pleased to have such great tasting lunches all week.
This recipe was for a ribollita, an Italian peasant soup featuring vegetable soup with day-old bread. Most versions use leftover vegetable soup, but here we create a complex soup simply from roasted vegetables. Roasted fennel was new to me, but I really liked the medley from roasted red peppers, zucchinis, carrots, mushrooms and onions. White beans add bulk and the giant corona white beans were a perfect match to the chunky vegetables. Sliced cabbage added an almost noodle-like feel with some structure to the vegetable soup. I added both tomato paste and red pepper paste to the broth simply because I was too lazy to open a new can of tomato paste. I really liked the deep flavours from both pastes, but feel free to use only tomato paste if that is what you have on hand. I omitted the bread completely, so I doubt this is still a ribollita proper, but it sounds like a wonderful addition for this hearty soup.
Which soups are warming your belly this winter?
With the bright summery weather, I am thinking of doing a Raw Thursday series for the summer. A bonus recipe each week… Let me know what you think!
There is crack and then there are crack crackers.
Healthy, vegan crack.
I was honestly hooked on Mary’s Crackers for a while.
(In the US, the crackers are called Mary’s Gone Crackers for good reason!)
Then I said, enough is enough! Let me make my own
I started by making a sweet flax cracker with cinnamon and dates but wanted to tackle something savoury, too. This multiseed cracker, courtesy of Sarah, boasts not only ground flax but also hemp and chia seeds. This cracker base was great because it was so much easier to spread than the flax-only cracker. It was more airy and flaky, too, compared to the Mary’s Cracker prototype. The flavourings are, of course, up to you.
I was itching to recreate Mary’s caraway flavour, which was simple. I also made a version with za’atar that was perfect with my go-to hummus.
My favourite cracker of the bunch, so far, is this pizza cracker. I spiced them with garlic, onion, rosemary, nutritional yeast as well as red pepper paste (a roasted red pepper or tomato paste could be substituted). The slight tang from lemon juice evened out the flavours just slightly.
If I thought Mary’s Crackers were addictive, now I know making my own crackers can be equally as addictive.
What flavour will I create next?
I like Angela’s suggestion to add kelp and Herbamare. Do you have any suggestions?
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.
Knowing my aversion to restos but Rob’s appreciation of them, Rob and I have been slowly visiting vegan-friendly restaurants in Toronto. Our favourite raw restaurant has now been usurped. Raw Aura serves delicious food, but we seem to leave the resto filled to capacity with their rich meals. It is probably our fault – there is no need to order a starter and a main, here. Let alone a juice or dessert*, delicious as they all are. The dishes are heavily based on nuts, seeds and oils, which is why we always are stuffed afterwards.
*desserts are not Raw Aura’s forte
Our new favourite raw resto is Belmonte Raw. Closer to home, to boot; although their hours are terrible, only open for lunch. They’ve only recently opened up shop as an eat-in eatery and we couldn’t have been more pleased with our meals. The cozy place is a bit confusing, though. You pick your meal from the refrigerator case from stacks of take-away containers. You bring it to the cash and they will literally transform it into a beautiful meal. I honestly marveled at how much food came out of such a small container.
In any case, I really enjoyed my raw burrito (and Rob, likewise, enjoyed his sunflower burger). My burrito was a huge collard wrap stuffed with jicama fries, sprouts with their nut meat (it may have been sunflower seed based but I forgot to ask). When I say stuffed, though, this was a great veggie-heavy wrap which is what I loved! The nut meat was a highlight, not the main part of the dish. Along with the wrap, there were dehydrated corn chips with salsa, guacamole and chipotle nut cheese. The nut cheese is uber smooth and scarily reminded me of cheeze whiz! Taste and colour.
After eating the burrito, more jicama fries and a smoothie, we were both positively stuffed but in a good way, knowing that we ate primarily veggies and not heavier nuts/seeds/fats. Somehow we still managed to eat their delightful raw chocolate desserts. So smooth, with either a raspberry or peanut butter filling.
Of course, I was itching to duplicate the meal at home. One of the main drawbacks of Belmonte Raw are the prices, which goes with a visit to most restos. I figured that if I spent the same amount of money on grocery produce, I could whip up quite a few burritos. This gave me enough incentive to close my eyes at the price when I bought some sprouts at Whole Foods. Thankfully the rest of the ingredients were much cheaper: my weekly raid through Sunny’s was where I picked up the bunch of collards ($1.59), lemon (4/$1), and jicama ($1.49/lb) – all at their regular prices. I have yet to see sprouts at Sunny’s and should really learn how to grow my own.
Other than fresh veggies, my creativity lied with the cashew nacho cheese. I spiced it with red pepper paste, miso, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, sweet smoked paprika, garlic and onion for maximum flavour. (Chipotles in adobo sauce still scare me). It does not disappoint. Use it as a fabulous dip, or spread into a “raw burrito” such as this one filled with julienned lemon-spiked jicama slices and mounds of sprouts (I used alfalfa and sunflower sprouts). My burrito was not as big as the one at Belmonte Raw. They needed a string to keep everything in place! I made smaller ones and used a sliver from the collard stem to keep them together for the photo. I would skip that entirely if eating right away – it was quite a tricky thing to tie!
I started writing this before Christmas after I wrote my Gift Guide with my Favourite Kitchen Gadgets but never got around to finishing it. I have had quite a few people ask me where to buy Aleppo chili flakes recently, so I thought it would be nice to highlight some of my favourite ingredients in the kitchen.
One of my favourite things to give or receive are new ingredients. I enjoy having a cupboard filled with isoteric ingredients, although it sucks when you will be moving as often as myself. For gifts, though, I have one main caveat: they must be non-perishable (at least until opened) because fridge space is prime real estate in my kitchen. Furthermore, for all those ingredients, I have to know what to do with it! Part of my pleasure is a massive search to find the new best recipe, but if you are sharing an ingredient that you already love, gift it along with your favourite recipe. (more…)
While Rob snacked on the local Icelandic delicacies including sweet rye bread, fish and lamb (not the fermented shark meat!), he still thought his best meal was at Glo. I went nearly every day and sometimes he would join in for a meal. His favourite meal was a totally non-Icelandic Moroccan vegetable tagine with couscous. I am still impressed at how wonderful Glo was, considering Iceland has a total of 300,000 people living on the whole island and nearly all produce needs to be imported.
I was warned that I may only find tomatoes and cucumbers in the grocery stores, but trust me, there was much than that available. There were lots of (although at times underripe) fruit at my breakfast buffet in Rekjavik, and the veggies were unparalleled at Glo. In the rural areas, the food was a bit more slim picking, but I had stocked up while in the city. Glo even sells day bags, where you can buy 3 raw meals encompassing breakfast, lunch and dinner with juice and snacks. All for the same price as a fancy dinner Rob would enjoy.
There were some traditional Icelandic products that I enjoyed. They have some fabulous homegrown herbal teas and I brought some home. We also spotted some new Yogi teas, including a delicious Aztec Sweet Chili and Mayan Cocoa Spice that we’ve already finished (eek!). Sadly, I don’t think they even sell them in Canada.
In anticipation of not finding much to eat, I made another batch of hummus for the trip.
A creamy tahini-based hummus is given the royal treatment with red pepper and pomegranate molasses. Muhammara meets hummus.
While I am happy to have found a new recipe for my red pepper paste, substitute a roasted red pepper for the red pepper paste. The paste is just so much easier since it comes out of a jar.
And yes, pomegranate molasses makes the world so much tastier.
This is my submission to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend.
While travelling in Turkey, one of my highlights was a cooking course in Istanbul through Cooking Alaturka. The class was a great introduction to both Turkish cuisine and culture. Run by Chef Eveline Zoutendijk, an expatriate Dutch who trained at Cordon Bleu in Paris, as well as Feyzi Yildirim, a Turkish chef, a group of 10 helped to prepare 5 traditional Turkish dishes: Spicy Lentil and bulgur soup with dried mint and red pepper (Ezogelin Çorbası), Green beans in olive oil (Zeytinyağlı Taze Fasulye), Zucchini patties with herbs and cheese (Kabak Mücveri), Lamb stew in tomato sauce on smoky eggplant puree (Hünkar beğendili kuzu) and Walnut-stuffed figs in syrup (İncir Tatlısı).
The venue was perfect for our class. In fact, Chef Eveline designed the kitchen specifically for cooking classes when creating her own restaurant. Chef Eveline leads the majority of the instructions but Chef Feyzi teaches us more hands-on techniques. Both have made this a fun, yet informative cooking class. Chef Eveline’s culinary school background was evident in her teaching – this wasn’t just thrown together for tourists.
This was a hands-on cooking class. However, we didn’t each create every single dish. We shared in the prep work and then came together to create the main meals. My task was to chop red peppers for the lamb stew, which look surprisingly like chili peppers, but that’s what they look like in Turkey: slim, in all their glory. Chef Feyzi showed me how to chop the perfect pepper, with a slight diagonal.
Afterwards, I used a huge zirh, the Turkish equivalent of a mezzaluna, to chop herbs for the zucchini fritters. Armed with the lid from the pot, I became a kitchen warrior! Later, I mixed everything together and grilled the fritters on the stovetop. Chef Feyzi watched very intently – “too small!”, “too much oil!” he proclaimed, yet they all turned out delicious. Others helped to blanch tomatoes or chop the green beans for other dishes. We each peeled our own charred eggplant and stuffed our own figs with walnuts, ready to be poached for dessert.
Each dish was fabulous. My father thought this was the best meal we had during our entire trip in Turkey. He really enjoyed the Spicy Lentil and Bulgur Soup, which was more spicy than what we had elsewhere. Chef Eveline explained that the recipe originates from southeast Turkey, where they like a bit more heat with their dishes. This soup has a very nice textural component, with cooked lentils perked with bulgur, in a spicy broth flavoured with tomato, red pepper and a dash of mint. Delicious and easy to make.
Chef Eveline told us to pick up some red pepper paste at the Spice Bazaar before we left Turkey, but I wasn’t able to fit it into my schedule. I looked at other grocery stores throughout my trip, with no luck. I determined it was an ingredient found mainly around Istanbul. After I found red pepper paste at Marche Istanbul, I knew I had to recreate the soup at home. Even if you can’t find red pepper paste, you can substitute more tomato paste instead. You can also make your own.