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?
It wasn’t until I became a vegan that I started worrying about the nutritional content of my food. I had no idea how many calories I should eat, how much protein I should consume or how to create a balanced meal.
Now I know better. I aim to create meals that are properly nutritionally balanced, aiming for more than 50g/d. Knowing that my major sources of protein are from beans, leafy greens, whole grains and a smaller amount from nuts and seeds, a meal feels incomplete without them. Where are my beans?? Where are my vegetables?
So you may be scratching your head, wondering why the heck I would post a recipe for pasta with a rose sauce, the seemingly antithesis of what I eat on a daily basis. However, this dish is packed with all good things.
First, the sauce is a zippy tomato-based creamy vegan rose sauce. All of the vegetables are roasted to create a lovely, creamy backdrop: roasted cherry tomatoes, roasted cauliflower, roasted garlic and roasted shallots. I sprinkled Aleppo chili flakes overtop to add a nice zip to the sauce. The cheesiness of a standard rose sauce is achieved with nutritional yeast, without being overpowering and cashew butter as a thickener. Throw it into your blender for an easy, delicious sauce.
But what to pair it with?
I recently picked up a package of red lentil pasta. Beans hidden in pasta form! Made by Eco Chefs, the only ingredients are red lentils and water and thus pack a nice amount of protein compared to other pastas. While I often use zucchini as a pasta substitute, it was nice to be able to have fusilli-shaped pasta. My spiralizer can’t do that to any zucchini.
Next time, I may try blending in white beans, like in my High-Protein Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Alfredo Pasta or add in more greens.
Everyone’s taste buds change over time.
Even before I started the sweetener-free challenge, I wondered how my tastes have changed. I can’t do deep-fried foods or other meals doused in oil. It isn’t the fat that bothers me because I easily down more than a handful of nuts in a sitting.
Last week, I started to re-introduce sweets. Fruits: mostly apples and berries. I have replenished my morning grapefruit stash. Dark chocolate, too: I made my Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mousse Pie. After this challenge, my tolerance for highly sweetened foods decreased.
My tolerance for spice has increased, albeit still slowly.
Then I discovered Aleppo chile flakes, more flavourful than hot. Slowly I added more and more to my dishes. I began experimenting with Ancho chili powder and paprika as well.
I was drawn to this recipe for Spanish Chickpeas since it looked like a flavourful warm chickpea salad. Spiced with smoked paprika, chile powder and roasted garlic, it really called my name. It has been awhile since I’ve pan-cooked chickpeas, and as I made it, I added spinach. When I sat down to eat it, I was smitten. Perfectly balanced with smoky undertones, sweetness from the red peppers and lightness from the lemon juice. It reminded me of my Spanish Chickpea Salad with Capers and Roasted Red Peppers (without the salty capers) and the addition of the spinach reminded me of Andalusian Chickpeas and Spinach. Two years ago, I made a hybrid from Deb’s recipe and the recipe in The New Spanish Table. All I remember was that it too spicy. I remember kicking myself for using so much paprika.
Two years later, I compare both recipes. I assumed I had used a tablespoon of paprika or something crazy the first time. No, it was only one teaspoon. Just like in this recipe. This version was definitely not spicy even with the addition of Ancho chile powder.
Any takers? Have my taste buds improved or has my paprika decreased in potency?
(My paprika is not two years old, in case you were thinking it! I used sweet paprika from Penzey’s before and smoked paprika from Whole Foods for this recipe (the brand escapes me at this time) I am tempted to believe that smoked paprika isn’t as spicy as its non-smoked counterpart).
Here are some other great Spanish recipes:
Thanks for all the encouragement guys after my last post. The comment didn’t phase me too much as I know when my recipes turn out well… I love being able to share that same joy I experience, hence the blog and hence hosting meals with friends.
Sometimes I feel like I am on a roll in the kitchen. A week filled with great dishes, each one working out perfectly.
And then, it dries up.
Last week, I did the unfathomable for me. I threw away food.
Over the Christmas holidays, I made homemade sauerkraut. I scoped out pickling salt after my grandmother’s insistence and followed the recipe to a T. 5 pounds of cabbage with 3 tbsp of salt. Nothing fancy. No seasonings. After its first night, it needed a bit more liquid to completely cover the cabbage, so I added some more salt water. I used a (very heavy) car battery [long story how I have that...] to really pack the cabbage down. And then I waited.
It said it would take 4-6 weeks.
After 2 weeks, it started to grow mold on the surface (also known as scum or bloom). Which I removed. Apparently it is normal?
Another 2 weeks went by, more scum. The cabbage tasted like cabbage. Not even that salty.
After another 2 weeks, the scum was making the house smell. I knew sauerkraut could make a house smell, but I figured it would smell like sauerkraut.
The cabbage still didn’t taste like anything more than cabbage in a muted salty broth. Six weeks in, no change and lots of mold. That’s enough.
So it got tossed.
I am a sauerkraut failure.
Oh well, I will have to shell out the big bucks for the really delicious Bubbie’s sauerkraut instead.
What else has been going on in my kitchen?
Sadly, my lackluster results were mostly the meals I had picked to share with friends. I hate it when that happens. Although I know I am my harshest critic when serving others.
I made the White Bean Farro Soup with Chickpea Parmigiano from Terry’s new cookbook. The soup itself was pleasant and my guests really enjoyed it (moreso than myself). It became more special when you added the chickpea flour parmigiano which added a lemony tang to the soup. The soup ended up improving as leftovers and Rob adored it atop his weekend besan chilla.
A few days later, I made this soup, a Roasted Garlic and White Bean Soup that I modified from Jessica. Like the last soup, this one didn’t wow me either. I always have high expectations when people say this was the “best dish ever”. I don’t think I seasoned it properly but it was still good. Just not GREAT. I liked the chunky yet creamy roasted garlic and white beans (I used marrow beans from Whole Foods). I omitted the nutritional yeast since my go-to vegetable broth powder includes nutritional yeast (I use Tess‘ delightful Chicky Baby Seasoning, by the way). I think kale would be better, but I substituted collard greens since they needed to be used.
And lastly, I made Sarah’s Split Pea Sunshine and Saffron Soup. I didn’t even photograph it because it turned an ugly murky green after being pureed thanks to the (unpeeled) kabocha squash. The soup had such promise- split peas, kabocha squash, carrots, leeks and a host of savoury spices including saffron. I even made the cute (but labour intensive) sunshine carrot cut-outs!
I used red split peas for the first time (courtesy of Whole Foods in Mississauga) and it took over 4 hours before they softened for my liking. It was gorgeous before I threw my handheld blender in there. That’s when the flecks of green were pretty. It was also pretty tasty in the little spoonfuls I tried. But the blender muddled the soup – in looks and taste, unfortunately.
Hopefully your cooking adventures have been better!
Any tips for homemade sauerkraut??
Split pea soup is underrated. Oftentimes, vegan authors are almost apologetic for including split pea soups in their cookbooks.
If you have a bland split pea soup in your cookbook, then, yes, you should feel ashamed. The folks at Rebar need not be worried, because their split pea soup is fantastic. In my notes next to the recipe, I wrote “silly good” and a few of my adjustments (smoked paprika for the chipotle puree, and yellow instead of green split peas). Do you write in your cookbooks? I feel kind of dirty doing it, but it is the best place to keep your notes!
Like most beans dishes, the spices and seasonings are integral to the final dish. Paired with the sweet peas, you add roasted garlic, smoked paprika and liquid smoke. Carrot, too. And while I added 1/4 cup of fresh sage, it wasn’t a dominant flavour. All the flavours mingle so well together, it creates a soup with different levels. This is definitely a soup I will warm up to again this winter.
Who likes garlic? I mean, really likes garlic? I probably shouldn’t scare the garlic-shy from this recipe, because it was really tasty. And didn’t leave me with garlic breath, so it couldn’t have been that potent with 14 cloves of garlic.
Ten of those garlic cloves are roasted, so they don’t really count towards the scary garlic count. Although, I almost had second thoughts as I dumped in 4 cloves of raw garlic at the end of making this stew. I shouldn’t have doubted Anya’s genius, though.
This recipe comes from The New Spanish Table, and I had been eyeing this recipe for months (I first mentioned it on my list of things to make with butternut squash back in November and again in January!). Honestly, I waited too long. This is a lovely, hearty stew that is both savoury but still slightly sweet. Lentils fill the stew as its base, and the butternut squash and red peppers add colour and sweetness. A head of roasted garlic brings a mellow sweetness as well. The peppers are both boiled and pan-fried for a contrast in flavour and texture (but I feel like this step could be skipped if you are pressed for time). And while I stated I don’t want to muck with Anya’s genius, I made a slight modification to her recipe, that I think lent to its prowess. Instead of adding in two fresh tomatoes (nothing with a fresh taste is around during the winter!), I added 1 cup of passata (strained tomatoes) at the end. This is where you get a silky tomato base for the stew that complements the squash, bell pepper and lentils so well.
I love it when I am surprised by a dish; but I shouldn’t have been.