While in Montreal, it was a whirlwind of a trip between the wake and funeral. However, I successfully managed to visit Aux Vivres for a quick dinner with Rob, my Dad and grandmother. Rob and I went there during our last visit, and I wanted to return for a veggie-packed meal that would appeal to some of the most serious veggie critics (my Dad!).
I love the bowls at Aux Vivres because they are mostly loaded with veggies. They should be called veggie bowls, not rice bowls, because the rice is hidden at the bottom. You really have to dig around to find it. But when you do, it is some of the best rice I have tasted. Coupled with the vegetables, and any of their decadent sauces, you have a tasty meal on your hands.
Don’t get me wrong, Aux Vivres is definitely one of my favourite restaurants in Montreal, but glancing at the menu, you are left thinking, I bet I could make this at home. Actually, when I tasted their miso tahini sauce from their Macro Bowl, I thought: I have this sauce at home, I just made it!
So when I got home, I was able to compile all the ingredients to make a great copy cat version of their Macro Bowl filled with wakame, sauerkraut, sprouts, steamed baby bok choy and brown rice. I skipped the steamed spinach.
I have been following this year’s Healthy Lunchbox Series (recap here) and was positively smitten when I saw Dawn’s post about bento boxes. Perusing her site, she had some incredibly cute lunches, including a barn made out of granola bars complete with watermelon animals and spinach grass. I almost died from its cuteness.
I thought I might try a much simpler bento box with this multi-component meal. After its assembly, I told Rob I was ready to go for our dinner picnic. However, I looked down and realized I was short possibly the most important component of the meal. The tempeh! I needed some emergency tempeh, and fast. Aux Vivres’ tempeh is actually fairly plain with limited marinade but I thought mine could use a bit of flavour. While Rob usually scoffs at Tess’ declarations of making meals in under 30 minutes, I quickly located a quickie tempeh recipe that still included the all-important steaming. A simple glaze of tamari, agave, toasted sesame oil and raw garlic was exactly what I needed. Perfecto. Under 30 minutes, mostly hands off, to boot, leaving me able to clean up the kitchen and snap a few photos as the tempeh caramelized away.
The verdict? The bento box was not really appropriate because the best part of the bowl is mixing it all up. I needed a bigger container for proper mixing. The salty sauerkraut, the briny wakame juxtaposed against the salty dressing and fresh greens. With them individually separated in the box, it was hard to mix them up. At least with my Salad in a Jar, I mix it up before I eat it. I may need to look into a layered version of this, too!
Have you ever tried to make a cute bento box? Just at these cuties!
This is being submitted to this month’s Anyone Can Cook Vegetarian Food for lunches, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, and to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Siri.
Cherry Collard Dolmas (Turkish Collard Leaves Stuffed with Rice, Beans and Fresh Cherries -Visneli Yaprak Sarma)
This has been the summer of cherries.
Local cherries arrived early, so by the beginning of July I had already made Almost Raw Chocolate Banana Crepes with Almond-Coconut Cream and Cherries, then balsamic cherries migrated onto a sandwich with rosemary cashew cheese and arugula, and I pickled a bunch in a five-spice spiked vinegar. I kept on thinking cherry season was over, but they continued to be on sale late into the summer. How can you say no to cherries at 99c/lb?
So, yes, I have yet another cherry recipe.
Earlier this summer, we thought I might have been able to join Rob in New York for a mini-vacation. We researched where we wanted to stay (airBnB!), what we would do (opera!) and what we would eat (Pure Food & Wine!). My favourite raw resto to date, it would have been a nice treat. I even scoured their menu to see what I wanted to order. I found it:
Cauliflower Cous Cous with Sour Cherry Dolmas with pistachio, almond, dried fruits, mint, Moroccan tomato jus
Sounds heavenly, no?
Turns out that when we went to book my airline tickets, we were not able to get the flights we wanted. So for the long weekend, Rob went to New York for work, and I stayed at home.
With a bit of extra time on my hands, I decided to tackle my own cherry dolmas. In retrospect, a raw version would likely have been quicker, but I opted for a more traditional cooked dolma. As traditional as cherry dolmas can be. When I visited Turkey, I was not wowed by dolmas. They were not on my radar. However, traditional dolma recipes typically include savoury spices like cinnamon and allspice, so I was sold. Instead of pine nuts, I used pistachios. Instead of traditional raisins, I used a touch of currants. The majority of the sweetness comes from the cherries.
Instead of a rice-based dish, I beefed it up by including white beans. Doing so made me have a lot more filling than I had initially bargained for, so I scrapped the grape leaves and plucked collards from my garden instead. With a cooked filling, a cooked collard seemed more appropriate, instead of my typical raw collard wraps. Pre-steaming the collard leaves made them much easier to wrap the filling and keep their shape.
The dolmas are simmered in a cherry-infused broth to complete the cooking of the rice. If you cooked your rice all the way through the first time, I think you could save yourself the final cooking step. It was a pretty labour intensive recipe but at least I didn’t have to wrap 100s of dolmas in tiny grape leaves. ;)
In any case, these were so flavourful, they were definitely worth the effort. The rice filling alone was delicious, so if you just want to make that, I understand. :)
I made the cranberry-lemon-tahini dip for the dolmas but I didn’t find it needed a dip. In fact, the sweet on sweet clashed. If you want something to serve it with, a plain yogurt would be nice.
With all my cherry fodder this summer, Rob came back with a surprise present for me from New York: a cherry pitter!
How does my summer slip away so fast? I feel like all my weekends have all been pre-booked with very little downtime this summer. Between 5 weddings (3 out-of-town), cycling to Niagara Falls, travelling for a conference and a music festival (more about that one later!), Rob and I have barely spent much time relaxing over the weekends. Always on the go. Plus, my new rotation this month has a 1-hour cycling commute each way. I come home a tired puppy.
As such, I haven’t really been doing my “cook for the week” thing on the weekends. Instead, I am cooking up quick weekday meals. Almost like a normal person. However, I still eat leftovers for dinner as soon as I come home from work. The new meal is for tomorrow’s leftover dinner!
I am still on my Thai-kick and decided to combine two of my recipes into one stellar quickie dinner. Instead of a complex coconut-based salad dressing from my Thai Noodle Salad with Mango and Lima Beans, use the coconut milk as a base for simmering vegetables with Thai flavours. You could go all decadent and use full-fat coconut milk from a can, but I used the stuff from a carton again after it worked well with the coconut-braised collards. This is a very flexible recipe, so work with what you have to make this a quick dinner.
Go all out with Thai ingredients like shallots, Kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass, or use onion, lime zest and skip the lemongrass instead. I used sweet basil but Thai basil would be more authentic, although with that terrible licorice flavour. :P Use whatever vegetables you have, and feel free to add tofu or tempeh, too. I used broccoli and carrots with great results and served it overtop some cooked quinoa to sop up the delicious sauce. Using the beverage coconut milk makes this a lighter sauce that is still packed with flavour from the aromatics. It balances the sour, sweet and hot nicely while served on top of crisp vegetables. Authentic or not, it definitely tastes great. Enjoy!
This is my submission to this month’s Herbs on Saturdays.
I have been patiently waiting for Rob to post our Colombia photos. I wanted to be able to share some of my photos and tips from the trip. The full albums from Bogota and Salento are here and the Lost City and Cartagena are here. I have included a few of my favourite photos, though.
We were in both hot and cold places, with big banana leaves and small mushrooms… and enjoyed a wonderful cooking class in Bogota.
This is my first Colombian meal I have prepared in my own kitchen- red beans with plantains. Although I will admit that I never came across this dish while in Colombia. Red beans, yes. Plantains, yes. Never together which is why I was intrigued to try out this recipe from Viva Vegan.
Who would have thought there would be even more beans that I do not yet have. I had to restrain myself from bringing home too many new beans from Colombia. I figured they may be more easily found once we move to the southern US, so I don’t have many Colombian bean souvenirs. The standard Colombian bean (that is not the coffee bean), is the bola roja. Another standard is the Cranberry bean (also known as Borlotti or Cargamanto), which I have cooked before. They are a bigger creamy bean although a bit dry. However, within my Rancho Gordo stash, I had Sangre de Toro beans which I used instead. Dense and almost chewy, they are Mexican beans that can be substituted for any recipe calling for red beans.
Here, the red beans are cooked with a sofrito of onions and red pepper, then spiced with smoked paprika, cumin and Mexican oregano. The plantain adds a hit of sweetness along with the red pepper sofrito. This recipe was more complex than what I learned at my cooking class, but I think I will also be revisiting my bona fide Colombian bean recipe, since it was so good. Next time, I will break out the bola roja beans! :)
I mean, I can finally express myself in sentences!
Sorry for the blog auto-pilot for the last 3 weeks… After 2 glorious weeks in Colombia, it was back to the grind, off to work, sifting through oodles of emails, comments and catching up with my favourite blogs.
My second language is French and let’s just say three weeks ago, I knew zero Spanish.
We made sure we had the basics though:
Vegetariana estricta Vegan
But that might not mean anything, so we had to explain:
Without eggs (Really?)
Without milk (I usually had a funny look at this point)
We usually stopped there, but I also knew how to say:
We got better at explaining what I wanted:
Frutas (fruit!), verdura (vegetables), beans (frijoles), papas (potatoes) and arroz (rice).
other than baños (bathroom), another useful word was aqui (here)
As we learned more about Colombia (Que?), we became a bit more sophisticated and tried to make actual sentences.
Cuánto cuesta? How much does it cost?
Quero jugos naturales en agua sin azucar: I want freshly squeezed juice in water without added sugar!
By the end of our trip, a guide was teaching us the difference between Mucho bueno and Muy bien depending on the context of the sentence. And to greet other friendly men with Compa! and friendly women with Coma!
In any case, I loved my culinary adventures in Colombia, and we planned it so that I could stay vegan throughout the trip. I had to make a few compromises, and that was by eating white rice (brown rice and quinoa are essentially non-existent in Colombia) and I had more fried foods than I had in the last 3 years (fried plantains and yucca mainly if nothing else was available). But it was ok. That’s what vacations are for.
Now that I am back in my own kitchen, I can return to normal. Pull out some freezer meals. Forge ahead with some comforting pantry-friendly meals. Rob repeats recipes and sometimes I do, too. This is one of those dishes. Uber comforting. While I describe this as Dal Bhat meets Mujaddara, this would likely scare off a bunch of people… Too many foreign words thrown in there… But if I call it Fragrant Lentil Rice Soup with Spinach and Crispy Onions, it is much more approachable, and still true to its name.
This comforting dish comes from Melissa Clark’s cookbook, Cook This Now. Savoury spices like cinnamon, cumin, allspice and ginger are combined with creamy red lentils and brown rice (aka dal bhat). Since the spices are aromatized at the beginning of the soup, they don’t pop with as much oomph as dal bhat, instead they are more mellow. This is a thick soup, with both lentils and rice simmered together, creating an utterly creamy consistency. In mujaddara, the rice and (green) lentils absorb all the water so they are dry, but still fragrant depending on the spices you use. However, the crowning glory of mujaddara are the caramelized onions. Here, onions are caramelized in parallel so that after an hour, you have dark and deeply sweet onions to go with your just finished lentil rice soup. Thus, simple fusion at its finest. Familiar, yet just a subtle twist to both recipes to keep you interested and excited… and a dish I know I can eat again and again.
And it is just so nice to be able to tell you all this in complete sentences. Freedom! :)
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.
I will admit that when I mentioned my pee turns red after consuming red beets, I thought I was in the majority.
When asking someone about their bloody urine as a doctor, the first thing is to rule out causes that are not bloody (like eating beets).
It happens to me on occasion (red urine from beets) and as such, I thought it was pretty common.
Then I decided to do a very quick literature search.
Not that I delved into the primary studies, but apparently beeturia (what you call red urine from beets) is only present in 10-15% of people. It is caused by the increased absorption and then excretion of betalaine, the reddish pigment found in red beets.
Delving into its chemistry, it turns out that because betalaine will be protected by reducing agents like oxalates, consuming foods high in oxalates like spinach and rhubarb will enhance beeturia. Furthermore, it is decolorized by ferric ions, colonic bacteria and stomach acids (hydrochloric acid). As such, if you don’t consume enough iron, you may get beeturia. Same thing if your stomach acid is out of whack, say from pernicious anemia.
Anyways, I thought 10-15% of people was pretty low. I decided to do an informal poll. Beeturia sufferers=4. No beeturia=2. Do not consume beets=4. Both of my no beeturia friends mentioned they get red poo, though (although I didn’t ask my other friends).
I kind of want to do a scientific study, actually. Give a specific amount of beets to a bunch of people and ask them for their urine to see if it is red (hmm, maybe I would need a pre-beet control urine sample, too). It sounds gross, I know, but my curiosity is piqued.
Not everyone enjoys beets, but let me share with you yet another great beet recipe. I am totally biased, since I love all colour of beets, in many different forms. But really, this is a great soup. And it isn’t borscht.
I originally spotted this Iraqi Pomegranate Stew on Julia’s blog. I am always thrilled to find new ways to add pomegranate molasses to my meals, and I was tickled pink when I saw it had many of my other favourite ingredients- beets, spinach, split peas, lime juice, cinnamon, cilantro and even mint! (Aside, can you see how different my tastes are from Rob’s coconut-tamarind-chile love trifecta? Although I love tamarind, too).
The flavours of stew combine the salty, sweet, and savoury perfectly. It helped that I followed Julia’s recommendation of adding more split peas and rice, and removing the sugar altogether. The pomegranate molasses gives this a nice sweet tang all by its lonesome.
This also produces a glorious red soup, speckled with the green spinach and herbs. What better way to say you love someone, then by making them a gloriously delicious healthy red soup. Except, it might make you pee red, too.
So tell me, if you dare, do you get beeturia?
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this week’s Wellness Weekend, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Vanessa and to My Kitchen, My World for Iraq.
Here we go, another salad with roasted beets!
I just can’t get enough of them.
This time I used red beets. There are a few differences between red and golden beets:
1) Golden beets are more mild and taste sweeter.
2) Red beets bleed. They make me look like I’ve been bleeding. Golden beets don’t bleed.
3) Red beets make my pee turn red. Golden beets do not.
Please don’t be alarmed at the red pee side effect of loving beets. In the summer, my pee turned red but I couldn’t recall eating any beets. I was worried something was wrong. Until I remembered that I had ordered an apple, ginger and beet juice at the restaurant. That was the culprit! Sure enough, by the next day, my pee was back to normal.
Beets work well with a lot of different flavours, but they definitely pair well with orange. I really enjoyed my chilled Orange and Beet Soup with miso, dill and carrots, and thought this rice-based salad sounded great. Adapted from Appetite for Reduction (original recipe posted here), beets and brown rice (wild rice would be good, too!) are coated in a zippy Asian-inspired orange sesame vinaigrette. Freshly squeezed orange juice is key to keeping this a light, flavourful dressing. The salad is spiked with currants for additional sweetness. Pile it overtop your favourite greens for a lovely meal-sized salad.
Keep all the components separate to maintain freshness… and keep the beets sequestered, else they will turn everything pink. Pink rice, ok, maybe do it just for kicks. :)
This week, my belly needed a rest. After a few Ottolenghi and Cotter recipes, literally bursting with flavour, as well as a potluck dinner that left me in pain, I knew I needed some tummy down-time. I didn’t even want to cook, it was that bad.
Thankfully, Rob was eager to make me a nice, simple Nepalese lentil and rice dish (recipe to come!).
When I finally had the motivation to turn to the kitchen myself, I still didn’t want an elaborate meal. I wanted something homely and comforting. I didn’t want too many flavours. I wanted something simple. Enter another spin on lentils and rice, Middle Eastern-style.
In Olive Trees and Honey, Gil Marks outlines the progression of lentil and rice dishes from different cuisines. Apparently, the traditional version of lentils and rice with caramelized onions from Turkey is called Mengedarrah, whereas Mujaddara (which is what I thought I was making) is from the Levant and spiced with allspice. Then you have the Indian khichri/kitchree with cumin and garam masala. Or the Egyptian version, koshari, with noodles such as macaroni or spaghetti with tomato sauce. The book actually has a map that chronicles the name changes as well: kichree in Iraq, ados pol in Iran, mejedra in Greece, enjadara in Yemen and jurot in Uzbekistan. I wonder how my bastardized red lentil and quinoa kitchari fits into this?
There are a few ways to tackle this dish, and I think I’ve discovered my favourite way. You could cook your lentils and rice separately, although in my case the rice cooker was already in use and we all know I have trouble cooking rice on the stovetop. More traditionally, though, some recipes, including the one in Olive Trees and Honey, recommend partially cooking the lentils, then removing all of the cooking water, then returning the proper amount of water to cook the rice with the lentils. This is necessary when using white rice since the rice would be finished before the lentils. However, brown basmati rice and green lentils take nearly the same amount of time to cook, which lends to a perfect match and less fuss.
So, I simmered my brown basmati rice and green lentils with a cinnamon stick. In a separate skillet, I caramelized my onions. You could start the lentils and rice after the caramelized onions are finished so they can get added to the cooking liquid, but I didn’t want to wait. I wanted to cook my onions, low and slow, to get the perfect caramelized onions. Since I had to wait 40 minutes for my lentils and rice, this timed out perfectly. I threw in some onions into the lentil-rice mixture before it finished and kept half for the garnish. Using Rob’s large non-stick wok helped me get perfect caramelized onions, much better than when I added them to my socca with oven-roasted cherry tomatoes.
Now, I know this is a deceptive bland looking dish: lentils, rice, onions, cinnamon, smidgen of oil and salt. But it is so much more than that. It is a comforting bowl of lentils and rice with sweetness from the onions. The cinnamon is optional but it adds a little depth of flavour. Next time, I may try the Syrian version with allspice, as I have a feeling this may become another potluck favourite – made from pantry items, simple to prepare, tasty, healthy and great as leftovers and served at room temperature. While this seems like a daunting meal with the long caramelization process, it is a simple meal to prepare. This is a great emergency meal to have under your wings, both when you have nothing in the fridge and when you are not feeling well.
But I did.
Trust me, I didn’t succumb to the traditional sushi rolls.
Instead, I had a delicious raw sushi roll at Organic Lives. Completely inauthentic, it was filled with a pecan pate, sprouts, veggies, avocado and mango. With the zippy fruit-based dipping sauce, it was so completely different from any sushi roll I have ever had. The only similarity was that it was a nori roll wrap.
Once the hubbub subsided after I returned home, I was craving a more traditional sushi roll. Without all the hard work of actually rolling the little buggers…
When I visited Japan, one of my favourite meals was eating sashimi at the Tsukiji Market, which is the wholesale marketplace for seafood in Tokyo. With daily auctions, this is where you can eat the freshest fish. The sashimi was unbeatable. I have never been able to enjoy sea urchin anywhere else. So fresh, it was so buttery soft and creamy.
I actually visited Tsukiji two days in a row and sampled sashimi from two different vendors. Both times, I ordered a sushi bowl with an assortment of sashimi. One resto had better sashimi and the other had better rice. The rice was so good, it eclipsed the fish. And I don’t really like rice, actually. I consider it filler in sushi rolls, when I would rather be eating the filling. I tolerate rice for the most part, but here, I learned how great rice can taste.
I have experimented with a few rices since my return, and I still remain partial to a short-grain Japanese-style rice. Recently, I bought the Taiwanese Yih Chuan Aromatic Rice, which has a faint aroma of taro (yes, on sale at T&T). It brings rice to the next level. The rice is nicely flavoured, shaped and most importantly, tastes great.
My whole preamble about rice is because if you are going to make a sushi rice bowl, you should try to use a nice rice! The dressing helps, too. The toppings, too. But let the rice get the spotlight it deserves as it isn’t supposed to be a bland side.
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks, I wouldn’t call this an authentic Japanese recipe, but a lively citrus-flavoured sushi bowl. Top with your favourite sushi toppings such as steamed asparagus, avocado, grilled tofu, and dare I suggest mango? (Mango, next time…). The key to keep this a sushi bowl, and not a rice salad, though, is to include the toasted nori strips. You can buy them pre-shredded, but you could also toast the nori and then cut it into thin strips yourself.
The New Best Salad Ever (Roasted Garlic Tofu Salad with Cilantro Rice, Black Beans and a Mango Salsa)
Hi! It’s Rob again. I know that I haven’t posted here in a while. A few months ago I was worried about Janet’s blog when she was going through a really busy time at work. I’ve realized, however, that Janet has many dozens of recipes on deck waiting to be posted and she always had things well in hand. I knew that The Taste Space would forge on boldly without my extra help.
I’m back, though. A couple days ago I made a salad which both Janet and I agreed was the best salad we’d ever had in our lives. It was simply amazing. There was a cacophony of bold flavours bursting with every bite. There were so many things going on. Every portion was enhanced for extra action and pleasure. I knew that I had to share it here.
The salad is the Uptown Salad, adapted from Radiance 4 Life by Tess Challis. Janet suggested it to me as something that was up my alley. It only took me a few seconds of looking at the recipe for me to decide that I had to make it. It hit many of my ingredient buttons: mangoes, coconut, tofu, cilantro, citrus, and chilies. And that’s the just the beginning.
The recipe suggested that it would take 30 minutes (or less!) to prepare the recipe. No way. It took me an hour and a half of chopping, shredding, soaking, slicing, and frying. I was getting cranky by the end. This salad was more work than advertised. The verdict was going to come when we finally got to try it.
Janet occasionally uses some swear words. She’s generally a good girl, though, and restrains herself. However, when she tried the Uptown Salad there was a foul concoction of some four swear words in a row. These words were not uttered in anger. They were the stunned response of a girl eating the best salad she’d ever had in her life. These words were an emotional response of extreme awesomeness. This is a salad with the power to move you.
I had a veritable Brazilian meal. Along with the Portobello Feijoada (Brazilian Black Bean Stew with Portobello Mushrooms), I also made a savoury side of rice, Brazilian-style of course.
This recipe was also found in Viva Vegan, which is a treasure trove for Latin food recipes. I must admit my bookcase was severely lacking in this area, and I am starting to learn more about Brazilian cooking. Brazil may be my next vacation destination, but since there are so many countries on my vacation hit-list, I will have to settle (for now) to cooking up Brazilian specialties at home. It is a lot cheaper than an airplane ticket, and a lot more fun too (the airplane ride is less fun, not the Brazilian vacation!).
This rice is unique because it incorporates not only slow-cooked onions and garlic, but also has a touch of sweetness from the orange. It paired well with the less-sweet Portobello Feijoada, but could work well with any other savoury dish.
Living in a city as nice as Toronto, I am surrounded by many great restaurants. I try to cook at home most of the time, for health and economic reasons, but I am slowly scoping out delicious, cheap places to meet over food prepared by someone else.
Currently, some of my favourite places to eat out, if I must, include:
Folia Grill – excellent home-grown Greek fare with a delicious chicken gyro pita for $4
Sky Blue Sky – a quaint sandwich shop, with all under $5, including the suprisingly filling pulled pork sandwich. Chatting with the owner about the trendy (pulled pork) and less popular (cashew butter and cucumber) sandwiches is equally amusing when selecting your choice
The Fish Store – delicious fish sandwiches prepared from your choice of fresh fish, all under $10, and a delicious homemade lemonade for $3
Manpuku – my long-time favourite for Japanese, but you won’t find any sushi here. Their nikku udon (beef soup with udon noodles) is a great heart-warming dish for under $6
Guu – still Toronto’s newest sweetheart, with a second location expected in the Annexe, this is a popular Japanese izakaya (aka tapa-style bar). Everyone is welcomed as soon as they enter and leave the resto and the dishes have yet to disappoint me. All dishes are under $10, but the sizes are smaller and meant for sharing.
Pomegranate – a newer find that complements my latest love of Middle Eastern food. This is Persian food at its finest, at reasonable prices around $15.
Amaya – A bit of a splurge restaurant (mains under $20), especially since it is Indian, but I am enthralled by their butter chicken. If only I knew how to make it myself!
Canoe – This is arguably Toronto’s best restaurant and it has the price-point such that it is very elitist, and limited to special occasions only. You get what you pay for, and it is lip-smacking delicious. I really appreciate their use of local, unique ingredients, prepared, oftentimes, in a myriad of ways. I know these are dishes I would have a difficult time recreating at home, which is important for my restaurant adventures. While the written menu did not immediately appeal to me, I just had to ask the server to explain what each dish entailed. It is here that I had a surreal mushroom soup that tasted like apple due to the varieties used, and I had squab prepared in 3 different ways: marinated with Newfoundland screech, drenched in a Saskatoon berry sauce and served with a side of dinosaur kale.
Enough gushing over Canoe, because I like to post things I make myself on my food blog. Imagine my surprise when I saw Canadian Living had Canoe’s recipe for wild rice pudding with a rhubarb compote. I could now bring the taste of Canoe into my own kitchen. :)
It boasted a baked rice pudding with short-grain and wild rice within a orange- and cinnamon-scented creamy base, topped with a sweet-and-tart rhubarb compote.
While I have not had this at the restaurant, I might have to go there to try it out because my kitchen adventures were not as successful as I’d hoped. The rhubarb compote almost seemed to be in excess with the delicious flavours from the pudding. The wild rice added a nice crunch and the orange and cinnamon flavours blended well together, but my pudding was too thick for my liking. I wonder if there was too much evaporation during the baking? I think my substitutions were legit, but you never know. Maybe the recipe was meant to be a teaser, just to bring us back into the restaurant? ;)
It is no secret that I love the library. Not only do I get to browse through cookbooks, but I also love the accessible movie collection and the free museum passes. There’s also the fiction section, but cookbooks have taken a priority for bedtime reading recently.
A few cookbooks leap from the library to my bookshelf. I took out Raising the Salad Bar four times, each time loving new recipes, before I decided to buy my own copy. Sometimes I bookmark so many recipes that I know the cookbook is a keeper. Rose Reisman’s Family Favourites was such a cookbook. Nearly every recipe was something that I wanted to make. They were so fresh, simple and healthy, I couldn’t resist.
After I bought the book, I noticed that her website also has many of my bookmarked recipes. This makes so much sense to me: propagate those healthy recipes! It is for the betterment of the planet. :)
I am all for open-source cookbooks, if you will, which is at the heart of my food blogging. Food blogs are great for encouraging and empowering people to cook at home, and a bonus when the recipes are as healthy as those created by Rose. The biggest thrill I get is when someone tried one of my posted recipes and loved it as much as me.
Now about the apricot-glazed tofu recipe, which was adapted from here on her website and is also in her cookbook Rose Reisman’s Family Favourites. I liked the sweet apricot glaze on the tofu but I think ours was a bit sweeter since we added another tablespoon or so of jam to finish off the jar. However, the sweetness of the apricot worked really well when combined with the tang from the sesame and soy sauce-laced bok choy. Really well! Enjoy!
I normally don’t go to the trouble of a meal with lots of side dishes, as I prefer one-pot wonders. I like to have a complete meal in one dish. Rather, I like to cook this way as I find it easier. Perhaps I am lazy and don’t want to make many dishes that need to be timed to finish at the same time, or maybe because I really don’t like to clean dishes.
I am glad that I wasn’t intimated by the long list of ingredients, steps and components of this dish. Because it was phenomenal. I have been investigating unique ways of cooking rhubarb and this did not disappoint. Each component was outstanding on its own and together they were simply divine.
First, the rhubarb sauce is zesty: sweet, sour and pleasantly spicy all in one. Ginger, chili flakes, garlic, soy sauce and honey work really well together. Second, we have crisp firm tofu that has been marinated in a sweet and savoury sauce including allspice, ginger, and chili flakes. I have fallen for allspice recently and absolutely love it. This is served over a bed of rice that is combined with wilted kale, and as you use the same pan from the tofu, any brown bits (=flavour!) get included into the rice mixture as well. Topped with chopped cashews and green onions, this is a very tasty dish with many complex textures and flavours.