Oh gosh, am I ever happy to be back at home! Thankfully I was able to enjoy the summer weather this weekend. 22°C, baby! Rob and I took advantage of the glorious weather by taking out our bikes for our first (real) bike ride of the year. I know it has only been 3 months, but I had forgotten how much I love riding my road bike.
With the beautiful weather in Toronto, the last thing I wanted was to cook up a storm over the weekend. Rob made a delightful savoury lentil and rice soup that I will be sharing, but it was times like this that I really appreciated having a freezer with the taste of summer.
If you thought my fridge was full, you haven’t seen my freezer yet! It is filled with cooked beans, herbs, frozen veggies and fruit, and of course, some meals that I have popped in there for emergencies. Rob and I have a physical menu of possibilities from the freezer: a white board where we keep track of what’s lurking in the cold. Mainly so that we know what’s in there… so we don’t forget about the container of black eyed peas, half a can of whole tomatoes, or this roasted red pepper and tomato soup with zucchini and cranberry beans.
Earlier, way earlier in the summer, I gushed over Denis Cotter. Except I only shared two of his recipes, his not-quite-authentic yet still delicious Massaman curry and the Pan-Fried King Oyster Mushrooms and Bok Choy over a Wasabi Millet Mash. I actually made a few of his recipes this summer, and when I pulled out this soup from the freezer, I was aghast that I hadn’t shared it yet. Shame on me, because it is great.
Cotter is the master of the multi-component meal, bringing out the best of each part of the dish. The original recipe can be found in his new cookbook For The Love of Food. Red peppers and tomatoes, right at summer’s peak, were roasted to perfection, then simmered and pureed to create a silky broth. Meanwhile, you cook your cranberry beans (I used fresh ones so this was fast, but dried beans could work, too, after you cook them). You then toss them with lemon juice and marjoram. Next, you saute the zucchini with garlic to take off their raw edge. This can all be done as the veggies are roasting. When you are all set to eat, ladle out a portion of the tomato-red pepper broth, top with zucchini and cranberry beans. Each component is slightly different, both in taste and texture, creating a complex and tasty soup. The lemony beans with the garlicky zucchini swim in the creamy and rich broth with wonderful results. Cotter also included a basil-chili oil recipe to drizzle overtop but I honestly thought the soup was great without it.
Thankfully, this soup freezes well (I made individual servings and simply combined all the components together) and I still have a few servings left. It is nice to have a taste of summer at the tale end of winter, when flavourful tomatoes are just a faint memory.
As I said, I typically make my meals on the weekends and munch on leftovers during the week. One perk, especially for me, is that my photographs benefit from the daylight. Sometimes, though, I may take a photo of a meal prematurely.. before I have it nailed down.
This recipe is all about the sauce. A mojo sauce. A creamy, yet light and zippy sauce filled with roasted red peppers, cumin, almonds and cilantro. Inspired by Sarah at My New Roots, I used less oil but otherwise true to her recipe.
Reminiscent of my favourite Chickpeas Romesco, I originally ate this smothered over chickpeas with a lettuce base. After an overnight marinade, it was nice. Except I didn’t think it worked that well with the lettuce (sorry, lettuce greens!). I used half of the sauce for two cups of chickpeas, but mid-week I became creative (sadly, without a camera).
It just goes to show you how diverse this wickedly addictive the sauce was… because it was devoured in no time. I enjoyed it unadorned with crackers and raw veggies as well as smeared overtop some veggie burgers (recipe to come!).
I love soups. Mostly one-bowl complete meal kind of soups, but I have ventured out into some lighter soups as well. Thick soups, thin soups, chunky soups, pureed soups – what is there not to like?
I know some people don’t like pureed soups. It reminds them of baby food.
Recently, I was visiting an old friend for dinner, where she made a nice carrot, sweet potato and orange soup which she also fed to her 1-year-old son. Suffice it to say, this kid had no taste! The hooting and screeching was incredible once he tried the soup, which my friend attributed to his aversion to garlic and onion. He was much happier with a macaroni salad, instead.
Not that I remember what baby food tastes like from my childhood, but simple ingredients can lead to a delicious soup. An old recipe of mine from university used 4 ingredients for a decadent butternut squash and roasted red pepper soup. I wonder if Baby T would like that soup (onion but no garlic!).
Sometimes, though, I want something a bit more edgy, a bit more complex.
Welcome this Carrot and Roasted Red Pepper Soup that I adapted from Color Me Vegan (original recipe also posted here). The name sounds similar to my old stand-by, and with roasted red pepper as a main ingredient, I knew I would like it. I just didn’t know I would love it. Thankfully, while the ingredient list is longer, it is just as easy to make once you’ve got everything assembled. This is an adult soup, though.
I modified the original recipe slightly, choosing to roast my own red peppers (easy and tastes better) while I chopped and cooked the first couple of ingredients. I substituted a large sweet potato for the potato and only used 1 cup of soy milk to get my desired consistency. I also omitted the cayenne, but a dash of red pepper flakes would have been a great addition.
The result was a complex, but still light and creamy soup. The sweetness from the roasted red peppers works well with the carrots, and the pureed sweet potato adds a creamy sweetness as well. I found the sherry to be a welcome flavour, and a great way to cook the vegetables without any oil. But the secret ingredient was the miso. It really added a depth of flavour that had you begging for more. Baby T may not want it, but if you are older, you will.
This week has been incredibly busy at work. Twelve hours a day at work. Every day. Thankfully I was warmed a head of time. I met with my supervisor the week before and he told me to make sure I was eating, exercising and sleeping that week. Implying I would have no free time once November 1st rolled around. On the sleeping, eating and exercising front, only sleeping has suffered a bit. I cooked up a storm last weekend to have enough portable meals to last me all week. It was a huge help and I plan to do the same tomorrow. So, be prepared for a host of leftover friendly one-pot meals in the next few weeks.
Last month my mom dropped off a huge container of pearl barley. ‘Did you want some?’, she asked. Well, I didn’t want it to go to waste, and I love whole grains, so of course I agreed. But the next question was what to do with it. I really like this French barley salad, but I also enjoy trying new recipes. When I made Happiness Soup, I replaced the rice with barley which worked out really well. So when I spotted a recipe for Eggplant and Cashew Barley on Cate’s World Kitchen, it looked so fragrant and fresh with the heartiness of barley. She had also replaced the rice from the original recipe (from Fresh Indian by Sunil Vijayakar) with barley.
I enjoyed this dish, with the savoury Indian spices including cinnamon, cardamom, chili pepper, mustard seeds and bay leaf. It wasn’t spicy because I didn’t add many chili flakes, and would likely increase it next time. I found the sweet roasted red peppers worked well with the savoury barley, the creaminess from the cashews, and the touch of lime juice added that extra flavour kick. The eggplant was more in the background, but worked well with the dish. I really enjoyed how plump the barley was, because I was worried it would be more saucy like a barley risotto.
You win some, you lose some. While I have had a few successes with recipes from Arabesque by Claudia Roden, I didn’t feel this lived up to my expectations. I love everything in the salad: sweet apples, roasted red peppers and tomatoes with a dash of Aleppo chili flakes. But together they just didn’t work. Don’t be fooled by the word salad. This is more of a spread or dip, but my apple slices were big enough that I had to eat it with a spoon, rather then spoon it onto pita bread instead. I mean it wasn’t awful, it just wasn’t great. It was better when served chilled, rather than warm or at room temperature.
And you may be asking why the heck and I posting this recipe if I didn’t like it. Well, consider it adding to the living community of recipe critiques. I love recreating dishes from other food bloggers’, or places like Epicurious where people post reviews, because you can see how the recipe worked for other people. With cookbooks, you can never be too sure what to expect. Good? Bad? Ugly? I love food bloggers who cook through cookbooks and give us the skinny on what really works (like Steph who went through Momofuku – what she liked and disliked). In fact, I may even google the recipe title to find feedback about the recipe before I venture to try it myself. (I even did it with this recipe, it had one positive review). Someone else may search for this recipe in weeks, months or years to come, and they will know what I thought about it, too, and use some of my suggestions on how to improve it.
This is my submission to Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring apples, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to My Kitchen, My World, featuring Moroccan dishes this month, and over to Chowhound which has Arabesque as one of their Cookbooks of the Month.
This is my third dish in a string of salads with pomegranate molasses. No bulgur here, so my brain didn’t do the auto-compare with The Best Salad Ever.
This is a salad filled with green beans, roasted eggplant and roasted red peppers. I liked the Spanish paprika, cinnamon and cumin with the roasted eggplant, so there was a savoury twist I wasn’t expecting. I may remove the cumin next time, though. The green beans added a nice crunch, and a lovely colour to boot. I also enjoyed the creaminess from the feta, but it is completely optional. The mild pomegranate dressing worked well to not overshadow the savoury flavours in the salad. I preferred this salad to the tabbouleh, despite it being less of a complete meal. Serve it with some crusty bread or wrap it in a pita as a portable lunch.
I have been on such a chickpea kick, adding them to my recent salads, that I am starting to wonder whether I should try to make them from dry. I am all for dry beans, as they are infinitely cheaper and probably taste better, too. Lentils are a no brainer as they cook up quickly and don’t need an overnight soak. That overnight soak, ie. advance preparation, is usually not that onerous since I routinely plan my meals days in advance. However, I have not had good luck with cooking dry chickpeas nor black beans, incidentally my two favourite beans – they just don’t seem to work. I remember having a pool of black soup with hard beans when I cooked black beans the first time. Does anyone have suggestions? Other than buy beans from a high-turnover bean store? (Bestwin definitely fits the bill here).
The good news is that canned beans work just as well for this dish!
I highly recommend roasting your own red peppers, though. I know you can buy them in a can, but freshly roasted peppers are infinitely juicier, tastier and healthier since they aren’t packed in oil.
When you have a simple salad, such as this one, each ingredient counts. And this salad is delicious: the sweet roasted red peppers are paired with the creamy, nutty pan-fried chickpeas, and they are dressed with a minty red wine vinegar vinaigrette with a sour note from capers. Lovely for picnics as a side salad, or even a main meal as the beans are quite filling. Traditionally this is served as a tapa, or appetizer, in Spanish cuisine.
I originally found the recipe on Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I found that there was a fair bit of oily dressing left over, so I modified the recipe to increase the red peppers and chickpeas. I also pan-fried the chickpeas in some of the oil, since pan-fried chickpeas taste a lot better than chickpeas straight from a can (the lesson I learned while making the utterly delicious warm chickpea and artichoke salad).
Allow the salad to mingle its flavours a few hours before serving and serve at room temperature. Leftovers are equally good, if not better.
This is my submission to Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring mint, to Nithu for this month’s Cooking with Whole Foods featuring chickpeas, to this week’s Wellness Weekend,to this week’s Healthy Vegan Fridays, this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Simona at Briciole, and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays (which also includes salads).
Continuing with the nut theme after muhammara, here is scrumptious nut, roasted pepper, tomato-based sauce teamed with chickpeas. Romesco sauce is a popular Spanish sauce from the Catalan Tarragona province and the variations are endless depending on whether the sauce is served as a dip, with vegetables, meatballs, fish, etc. The New Spanish Table, an enticing, Spanish cookbook, has 4 different recipes of the romesco sauce as each is tweaked to its accompaniment.
The sauce reminds me a bit of muhammara as the main flavours are roasted red peppers and nuts. The Romesco sauce has a heavier comforting tomato presence and the use of almonds is a bit more creamy than walnuts. As I prefer cooking vegetarian at home, I was excited to try it with chickpeas when I saw Joanne posted it on Eats Well With Others, who had adapted it from Veganomicon.
I wasn’t disappointed because the Romesco sauce worked wonderfully with the inherent nuttiness of chickpeas. This comforting dish is great year-round as canned tomatoes were easy to use before the juicy, ripe ones are available locally. I roasted my own peppers which added some time, but it was a fabulous, easy meal served alongside rice.
One mention about portion sizes, as I am still working my way through leftovers (which are really tasty, too). The original recipe says serves 4-6 but it really makes a lot of food. I’d gather around 8 servings. It could be due to the bigger cans of chickpeas in Canada (19 oz compared to the 15 oz in the recipe) and I also threw in an extra red pepper. Although this is not the first time I have run into discrepant portion sizes. I blame it on the bigger “super-sized” American meals! Has anyone else noticed this? As much as I loved it, I might half the recipe next time unless I am feeding a crowd.