In my kitchen, I know exactly what goes into my food. I can control the amount of oil and veggies. I know that I can make a luscious Ethiopian split pea puree without gobs of oil, but do people at restaurants know that? At M&B Yummy, the food doesn’t taste oily but when I first investigated Ethiopian cuisine, I was aghast at the amount of oil used.
Vegetables simmered in olive oil is a traditional side dish across the Mediterranean and Middle East. I had my share while travelling in Turkey (and recreated it with beans when I returned) and it is a vegan-friendly option at Greek restaurants. I guess it was no surprise that I really enjoyed the simple carrots and green beans at M&B Yummy as well, where they called it fasoulia.
I searched for something similar, and while some recipes drip in oil, I thought it would be better to keep things light and fresh. Skip all that excess oil. Skip the long simmer that turns the veggies to mush. Keep the fresh tomatoes and lemon juice. After these small fixes, the recipe from Olive Trees and Honey was a keeper. I know it looks so simple but it tastes much more than the sum of its components.
I call this Ethiopian because that’s where I first ate the combination of green beans and carrots. The original recipe is just for green beans (fasoulia is the Arabic word for green bean). It is a welcome addition to a large plate of Ethiopian dishes but equally suited to other Mediterranean meals.
Can you guess where these flowers came from?
If you know anything about me, my garden would be filled with vegetables. Only things I could eat.
Hint: I can eat these flowers. And the plant.
Hint 2: I never knew this plant even had flowers.
Hint 3: I’ve already told you I’ve grown this before…
Yes, the flowers are from my kale!
Those are my sad-looking kale plants that Rob and I transplanted this weekend (they perked up by this morning, though). They no longer had a home, so instead of being a legacy gift, we transplanted them to our new home. The funny thing was that when we moved two weeks ago, the plants were maybe 2 feet tall, and now look at them! Huge! With flowers!
I was actually kind of worried because once most plants flower, they are finito. That terrible bolting stage.
Not so with kale. It is a super plant, for sure. Apparently, the leaves are still just as tender and tasty (albeit maybe smaller), and the flowers are edible, too. You can use the unopened flowering portion just like sprouting broccoli. Turns out that kale is a plant that lives 2 years and in its second year, it produces these beautiful flowers.
Now who said kale wasn’t pretty enough to be in a garden? :)
As you can see the leaves look a little sad, so I am leaving them on the plant until it has revived slightly.
Instead, I will share a recipe for spicy coconut braised greens. You can use kale, too, or collards, like I did.
Whenever I post a recipe for raw collard wraps, I invariably receive a comment from a perplexed reader wondering whether raw collard greens are too tough to eat. Personally, I think collard leaves are one of my favourite greens for raw wraps since they are more sturdy than kale, Swiss chard or lettuce, and I do not find them to be too chewy. Firm and sturdy, yes, but that is why they are the base of the wrap.
However, I know not everyone enjoys greens as much as me (like Rob), and may be more likely to add collard greens to stir fries or soups instead. When I cooked my chickpea-collard roulade, though, I was aghast at how creamy collard greens could become.
Thus, my curiosity was piqued when I saw Cara’s recipe for Spicy Coconut Braised Kale, where the greens are simmered in coconut milk for half an hour. While I have seen greens simmered in coconut before, I was intrigued when Cara used the coconut milk from refrigerated cartons, instead of the canned coconut milk.
Not really a fan of making veggie sides, I employed my latest trick of tossing saucy veggies with quinoa for a complete meal.
After the long braise in a warmly spiced coconut broth, the collards become nice and tender. I liked that it was a rather light dish with a nice coconut flavour, courtesy of the coconut milk beverage. There was so much braising liquid left over, I almost wished I had used another bunch of collards. In any case, the quinoa was a perfect vehicle to sop up all of the juice. Next time, I may add in some squash and chickpeas, or decrease the amount of coconut milk.
When I finally made it to Penzeys in Boston, I caved.
I didn’t want to.
Say it ain’t true..
But I did it any way,
I bought curry powder. (to continue with the rhyme- I bought a powder for my next curr-ay)
For so long, I have been meaning to make my own curry powder but instead I went with a packaged blend.
660 Curries has not 1, not 2, not 3 but 20 different recipes for curry powder and spice blends. Where’s a girl to start? Understandably, I was a bit overwhelmed. I didn’t know which one would be best for me, a lover of non-curry, so instead I opted for the sniff test. I smelled all the different versions at Penzeys and ultimately bought their “Sweet Curry Powder” (I wish cookbooks had the sniff test, *sigh*). It has that quintessential curry note but it isn’t overwhelming. I still haven’t figured out which spice I am averse to, but thankfully, this blend is a keeper. It is super mild, so I even feel the need to supplement it with some Aleppo chili flakes.
Spicy and rich, not hot, as Penzeys puts it. The ingredients? Turmeric, coriander, cumin, ginger, fenugreek, nutmeg, fennel, cinnamon, white pepper, cardamom, cloves, Tellicherry black pepper and cayenne red pepper. Almost sounds like a warm hug, eh? And something I could try to duplicate at home next time…
As you can see, I am on a raw food kick and yes, you can make simple, raw foods sans dehydrator, too. I was intrigued by Susan’s Raw Curried Pineapple Rice. Who needs the fried rice found in the typical Thai recipe? Give me veggies any day! Let your favourite curry powder lightly dust a smattering of sweet vegetables. Here, parsnips and carrots are chopped fine in the food processor until they resemble rice, or small-grain couscous. Diced cucumber and pineapple add juicy sweetness along with the currants. Green onions give this more kick than the curry powder. The lime juice makes this really pop. If you don’t really care about rawness, toast your cashews and add them right before you serve the dish. I can see myself taking this lovely salad to potlucks this summer for something different.
Pan-Seared King Oyster Mushrooms and Baby Bok Choy in a Coconut Tamarind Sauce with a Caramelized Leek and Wasabi Millet Mash
Sorry about the lack of diversity in my month of cruciferous vegetables. I know what it must look like to you: lots of broccoli, some kale with a bit of daikon and baby bok choy. Actually it looked like this: kale, daikon, broccoli, kale, broccoli, broccoli, kale, broccoli, baby bok choy and broccoli, and broccoli with a side of Napa cabbage. I’ll be honest: broccoli was on sale. A few weeks in a row. ;) I’ll try to make my next few posts with different cruciferous veggies.
Which cruciferous vegetables are in this meal? Check all that apply.
b. baby bok choy
d. king oyster mushroom
Have a headache yet? Flashback to an undergrad midterm? SORRY!
I just want you to know your cruciferous veggies..
Don’t be fooled. The answers are baby bok choy, cauliflower and WASABI! Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable but not in this recipe (sad, I know). King oyster mushrooms, leeks and tamarind are not cruciferous vegetables, but still good! While there is a mash here, there are no potatoes in this recipe!
Did you know that wasabi is a cruciferous vegetable? Thought it only came in powder form? Well, wasabi is actually a root vegetable. When I visited Japan, I visited the Daiõ Wasabi Farm outside Hotaka, which is the largest wasabi farm in the world. Not only were there fields upon fields of growing wasabi (pic above), they also had the roots for sale along with other wasabi treats like wasabi soup, wasabi soba noodles, wasabi wine, wasabi lollipops and my favourite: wasabi ice cream! I was a spice novice at that time, and still loved it: the spicy wasabi was off-set by lots of sweetness. The ice cream had a mild background of wasabi and vanilla perhaps, but lovely at the same time.
Sadly, wasabi is difficult to grow and thus expensive. Outside Japan, wasabi is commonly substituted with (cheaper) horseradish, mustard and green food colouring. Have no fear, Eden sells genuine wasabi powder. And yes, Sunny’s sells it for half the price of The Big Carrot.
This meal, which is actually 2 recipes, must have the longest name of anything on this blog so far. These long descriptive names are what have me drooling at restaurants, so I love to point of all the nuances of my dishes, too. The longer the name, the longer the ingredient list, and thus probably the longer it took me to make this. Denis Cotter loves to make multi-component meals, and this is no exception. Adapted from his recipe in For the Love of Food, I increased the vegetables, especially the baby bok choy and decreased the coconut milk. Meaty king oyster mushrooms were pan-fried in coconut oil then stir-fried with ginger and the baby bok choy. A light tangy broth with tamarind and coconut milk rounded out the sauce and offered a nice contrast in flavours.
As an Irishman, Cotter adores potatoes and served this with mashed potatoes spiced with caramelized leeks and wasabi.
I opted to try a different a kind of mash: the monster mash.
I mean, the millet mash. With cauliflower. And caramelized leeks and wasabi, as per Cotter.
The cauliflower millet mash is courtesy of Sarah, and while it doesn’t taste like mashed potatoes, it has a creaminess akin to mashed potatoes. As a blank slate, it can take any flavours you throw at it, including the subtly sweet caramelized leeks and the spicy wasabi. Juxtaposed next to the tangy coconut broth with the vegetables, you have a crazy concoction of cruciferous vegetables.
If you compare meat and vegetables, which are more expensive? Meat, right?
I hear people complaining how costly fresh vegetables are, but really it isn’t that bad. The problem is that they are perishable and don’t necessarily keep that long. I suppose the same is true with meat, but it can easily be frozen without adverse effects.
Now tell me what the cheapest vegetable is….
Courtesy of Sunny-rrific sales:
Carrots: $1 for 4 lb is pretty good. 25c/lb.
I’ve bought a head of cabbage for 50c. That’s like 20c/lb.
Kohlrabi is cheap, too. I’ve bought it on sale for 19c/lb at Sunny’s. Probably because no one has a clue what to do with it.
When I see butternut squash on sale for 19c/lb, I stock up!
But no, I’ve seen fresh veggies even cheaper than 19c/lb.
Daikon! For 9c/lb!
Daikon is also known as a white radish and is relatively mild but still has a peppery punch. While I have cooked with daikon in my Japanese Winter Stew, I don’t have that many daikon recipes. I couldn’t help myself, though, and grabbed a handful of daikon for the road. As a root vegetable, they keep extremely well in the refrigerator.
A quick search led me to Miss Figgy’s daikon braised in mirin and tamari, which she adapted from The Kind Diet (original recipe posted here). The long braise was supposed to turn the normally pungent white radish into sea scallops. Not that I really know what sea scallops taste like, but I can imagine the texture.
Let me tell you, I would not have even guessed this was daikon. After the long braise in mirin, tamari and kombu, you create a subtly sweet and salty treat. There was no trace of spicy radish here. The radish was just a vehicle for the sauce. These are great warm, fresh from their long braise, but also chilled as leftovers.
Now please tell me how you prepare daikon. I think I have one left. :)
Now, when I can buy local corn picked that morning. As corn sweetness degrades by the hour after picking, it is best to buy fresh and to eat it soon after.
Just like fruit, fresh sweet corn is best with minimal adornments.
At the party, because the barbecue was hot real estate, I opted to boil the corn. But this weekend, when Rob and I bought a dozen ears of corn, we wanted to try to grill the corn.
For such a simple procedure, even boiling corn, everyone has their preferred method. When is boiled corn ready? When the water turns yellow… Just take it out after 10 minutes… Instead, I went with Rob’s aunt’s advice to take it out after you could pierce it easily with a knife. Nicely done. The corn was so sweet, no butter or salt was needed.
For grilling the corn, there are also numerous ways to tackle the job. If you want to keep your kernels juicy and plump, grill it with the husk intact. If you want it more dry and charred, grill it with the husk removed (check out this video by Mark Bittman).
This time, Rob and I experimented. We soaked our corn, dehusked the corn (or would that be husked the corn?), then removed the silk. You can then grill them, unadorned, with a hint of that smokiness from the barbecue. Or, go slightly more upscale with your favourite flavourings.
Here, we tried a delicious garlic-rosemary grilled version from Ashley at the Edible Perspective. We mixed together some olive oil with minced garlic and fresh rosemary, slathered it on the corn, re-wrapped the husk around the corn and grilled away. Plump, juicy corn with garlic and rosemary infused right into the corn.
What are your favourite flavour combinations with grilled corn?
Not all nuts are created equal. I have a particular fondness for almonds, pistachios and even hazelnuts on a good day. I adore cashews as well, although they have saturated fats. Walnuts, I do not like as much. Pecans, neither.
But I still use walnuts in my meals. All those omega-3s are good for me, right? Beyond their health benefits, I find they can whip up to be nice and creamy, and have worked well in my energy balls and create a nice base for muhammara, the delicious Middle Eastern roasted red pepper and walnut dip. However, I find that baklava is brought to the next level when you substitute the (traditional) walnuts for pistachios.
With my recent adoration of all things miso, I decided to forge ahead and combine miso with walnuts in this warm asparagus and carrot salad. Adapted from Color Me Vegan, you create a lovely miso-walnut dip with mirin, tamari and rice vinegar. It was sweet and creamy and spread nicely over the warm vegetables. Thankfully in Southwestern Ontario, local asparagus can still be found! It paired well with the asparagus and carrots, but do not let that stop you from trying other vegetables.
I also loved this as a cold dip with freshly-cut vegetables as well (again, carrots worked well!). However, then you’ll need to make a lot more of the dip, because it will disappear quickly!
One thing that still baffles most people is that I don’t own a cell phone. I have a landline, but refuse to convert to a cell phone until the reception and reliability have improved. For now, I am content with my landline.
I definitely see advantages to having one of those ‘do everything’ phones. Like when you want to check the ingredients of a recipe you hadn’t planned on making. (You can tell what is important for me, ha!)
When I serendipitously stumbled upon fresh cranberry beans the other week, I couldn’t remember how many I needed. 1 cup? 2 cups? Well, I bought 4 cups just to make sure I wasn’t short. Suffice it to say, the cranberry bean mole with roasted butternut squash only needed 2 cups of beans.
So I searched out other ways to use my creamy fresh cranberry beans. It turns out they are also common in Turkish cuisine, which is one of my favourites. Beans simmered in tomato sauce may sound bland, but I knew it would be anything but if it were a Turkish recipe. I worked with Esra’s recipe at Carte du Jour and modified it slightly to use less oil and added more garlic. Her recipe is fantastic because it includes a lot of possible substitutions.
A plate of beans may not sound that exciting, but I enjoyed them. This was a lighter dish, and while other recipes don’t necessarily add the water during the simmering, it made it a bit more saucy which I enjoyed. It would be nice to try this again without the extra water and without the sugar. Keeping with the Turkish theme, I paired the beans with fine bulgur for a complete meal. I have talked about the nutritional superiority of bulgur compared to brown rice before, and it is incredibly easy to make as well (7 minutes to “cook” in boiling water). Mixed all together, the sauciness coated the bulgur nicely for a light yet hearty meal.
This is my submission to this round of Blog Bites 9, holiday buffet, potluck-style!
Continuing with our quasi superfood theme, now is the time for quinoa to shine. Also hailing originally from South America (so was amaranth), quinoa was called the mother of all grains by the Incas. Technically it is not a whole grain, rather the seed from the goosefoot plant.
It has gained notoreity as an excellent plant-source of complete protein. Wheat and rice are low in lysine, which is why they need to be paired with beans to get the complete set of amino acids to form protein. It is also high in fibre, B vitamins, gluten-free and supposedly easy to digest.
I have cooked with quinoa before, but I had had issues with it in my pre-blogging days. You need to wash it thoroughly before you cook it to remove the soapy/bitter-tasting saponins that are naturally present in the seed. Most of the time, this has already been removed during its processing, but I am convinced I had a bad batch once (I blame Bulk Barn!) and I shunned quinoa for quite some time. Now that I buy organic quinoa through Bob’s Red Mill, I haven’t had any problems.
It is easy to substitute quinoa anywhere you’d use rice and just as easy to prepare (2:1 boiling water:quinoa and simmer for 12-15 minutes). You can even make it in a rice cooker.
Here, I made a Mexican quinoa salad bursting with flavour from tomatoes, green onions and black beans with a minty-lime vinaigrette. The flavour depends entirely on the flavour of your fresh tomatoes. The dressing is a bit subtle, but a nice supporting cast. The salad is deceivingly filling, so I ate it as a main course salad.
Now I know I just told you how easy it is to boil your quinoa, but the directions for this salad were courtesy of Gourmet (July 2007). First, you partially simmer your quinoa and finish the cooking process with steaming. This made the most fluffy quinoa I have ever had. If you have the time, this is the ultimate way to prepare quinoa.
This is my submission to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Lisa’s Kitchen, to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring quinoa, to Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice for Magazine Mondays, to Torview’s food palette series featuring red and white dishes, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, and to this month’s Cooking with Whole Foods, featuring quinoa.
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.
There are many recipes for broccoli salad. It usually includes chopped red onion, raisins, sunflowers seeds, crumbled bacon and a mayonnaise dressing laced with sugar and vinegar. It is delicious. I even asked for the recipe after I ate it a few summers ago. But I haven’t made it yet. I find I get turned off of recipes when I know exactly what goes inside. Bacon and mayo are delicious, but I just don’t cook with them that often.
This is why I perked up when I saw a mayo- and bacon-less broccoli salad on 101 Cookbooks. There are many different crunchy aspects to the salad; tender-crisp broccoli, crisp apple pieces and toasted almonds. The magic ingredient was probably the crispy onion. They were crunchy and added a unique flavour. I cheated and used store-bought crispy onions that I found in Kensington Market a while back but I included the directions to pan-fry your own shallots, if you choose to do so. The dressing was a bit on the thick side for me, which was probably due to my almond butter. It spread out more than I thought once it dressed the salad. It certainly is not a mayo-dressing, but a decent alternative.
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!
Dessert comes to my mind first when I think about rhubarb. I have collected a multitude of sweet rhubarb recipes to try, but who says rhubarb needs to be paired with sugar as a sweet dessert? I stumbled upon an Indian-spiced rhubarb and lentil stew by Mark Bittman at the New York Times, and figured it would be a nice way to delve into Indian cuisine without worrying about curries and chilies.
This was an interesting dish. I must admit that I am not gushing over it, because its mate that night was the baked rhubarb and apples with earl grey tea, cardamom and orange zest which truly stole the show. It had many complex levels of flavour, with the ginger and garlic, then the cardamom and cloves and finally little pockets of poached rhubarb. I didn’t really taste the mustard, though, despite modifying Bittman’s recipe to roast the mustard seeds first. It was different and I enjoyed it, which is most important. I served this with rice as a vegetarian entree, but it could also accompany an Indian-spiced meat dish.
This is my savoury submission to Ricki and Kim’s SOS Kitchen Challenge, featuring sweet or savoury natural vegan cooking highlighting rhubarb this month, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair hosted by Diana at A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa and this month’s Side Dish Showdown.
Here are some other savoury rhubarb recipes that caught my eye:
Lemon-Rhubarb Chicken from Bon Appetit
Beet, Rhubarb, and Orange Salad from Bon Appetit
Rhubarb, Cherry, and Golden Raisin Chutney from Bon Appetit
Black Sea Bass with Sweet-and-Sour Orange Rhubarb Sauce from Gourmet
Caramelized Onion, Beet, and Rhubarb Compote from Affairs of Living
Asparagus with Balsamic Rhubarb Reduction from Cook Local
Caramelised Pastry Straws with Sweet Rhubarb Ketchup from BBC Food
Fresh Mackerel with Roasted Rhubarb from BBC Food
Tilapia with Rhubarb and Scallions from the New York Times
Vegan Pulled Pork with Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce from Eating Appalachia