As I shared earlier, slowly, Rob and I are exploring different ethnic grocers in Houston. Each weekend, we have been heading to a new place. Last weekend was a bit of a whirlwind, though.
We wanted to go to Little India but everything was closed when we were there early in the morning (yes, we are the early birds). Chinatown was our alternate choice. Since it is more of a big box store Chinatown that necessitates driving between stores, the dilemma was figuring out which grocer to hit up first. I had 3 stores starred. I picked the one that we knew was open early, the one that also happened to be the closest and the one that had great online reviews.
The parking lot was empty but we ventured in. Let’s just say it was a sad store. I picked up some snow peas and bean sprouts. We left a bit sad. I always gauge a store by the state of their produce. I was hoping for better quality produce and to be honest, much cheaper prices. Whole Foods was better priced, which doesn’t say much.
Uncertain what the rest of Chinatown would hold, we figured we would check out another grocer. The next on the list was Welcome. This time, though, the parking lot was nearly already packed for an early Saturday morning. Definitely a better sign. Their produce section was busy with so many people, snapping up the best produce, clamouring for the cases of mangos or picking the best greens. Good prices and good quality. Now I was a happy camper! Chinatown had been vindicated.
I still had the snow peas and bean sprouts which Rob and I put to good use by making pad thai. I was the sous chef as Rob made pad thai for me, complete with kelp noodles and snow peas. He slipped the fresh pad thai onto my plate. It was so pretty, I had to take a photo.
I don’t photograph many dishes twice. Especially if it is a regular in our kitchen and Rob’s signature dish, at that. But these photos turned out much better than my first post. We tinkered with the recipe only slightly, mainly by adding more tamarind. However, that’s because we had a new brand (Swad) and it doesn’t seem as potent as what we were used to (Tamicon or the blue top one). This version turned out so well though, so if you prefer things less tart, try to find this brand of tamarind. Otherwise, 3 tbsp of concentrate may be tamarind overload!
Do you re-photograph your pretty meals?
What better way to sneak back into sweetened life than by eating through Doug McNish’s cooking class. I’ve done a few cooking classes before, but this one was definitely one of my favourites. While I am still no master of the knives, I felt that this class was awesome despite not being hands on. Instead, we chatted and watched as Doug created this fabulous menu in under 3 hours.
- Painted Fruit
- Raw Berry Jam
- Fermented Lemon Vanilla Cashew Yogurt
- Avocado Fries with Sundried Tomato Ketchup
- Carrot and Kelp Noodle Pad Thai, Sweet and Spicy Almond Crumble
- Kelp Noodle “Stir Fry” Pear Ginger Miso Sauce, Wilted Spinach and Hemp
- Sweet Potato and Carrot Mac N Cheese
- Mushroom Walnut Stroganoff, Moroccan Spiced Dandelion Greens
- Thick Cut Zucchini Bread, Avocado, Eggplant Bacon, Hemp Mayo
- Chocolate Avocado Torte, Almond Flax Crust
- Banana Crepes, Chocolate Sauce, Walnut Crumble, Raspberry Coulis, Caramelized Peach
Yes, that is over 20 recipes. We munched on a few of the dishes as they were made, but for the most part, the eight of us split the food to take home and eat as leftovers. Batch cooking for the win!
This is where the class shined: The recipes were great. Doug has worked in and with many restaurants and knows his stuff. His recipes are restaurant quality. He highlighted the importance of plating and presentation. He didn’t hide his secrets.Those banana crepes we made? Sound familiar? He made them this summer when he had a special brunch menu at Raw Aura. Some of the recipes are from his current book, some from his upcoming book and others were modifications of published recipes. He does not measure as he cooks. He tastes as he goes and modifies based on the freshness of the ingredients (something I really should learn how to do more naturally).
Doug has previously shared many of his recipes, especially in his cookbook, including his infamous sour cream and onion kale chips. However, I have yet to try any of his recipes. I have been daunted by his zealous use of oils, nut butters and agave. I know his food tastes good, although a bit heavy for me. After making Peacefood Cafe’s Raw Key Lime Pie earlier this summer, I know that restaurant quality really translates to fat and sugar, namely oil and agave!
Trust me, though, I licked my takeaway containers with the delicious food, though. I hope to reintroduce these foods into my kitchen a little bit more Janet-friendly… but most importantly, my spark has been rekindled for raw foods. It also helps that we still have not hit real winter weather yet. Until then, light salads such as this seems to fit the bill.
Herby, peanutty noodly salad. I couldn’t even make up a name as fun as this (Rob probably could but he didn’t). Pick your favourite herbs and toss them in this lime-spiked dressing. Coat noodles of your choice and add in some green vegetables like snow peas, snap peas or even broccoli. Toss with some (toasted) peanuts for some crunch and fats. Not as decadent as the meals this weekend, but I am ok with that.
PS. For those in the GTA, my newest health food store find is Foods For Life which had kelp noodles (16 oz) for $2.49 earlier this week. A quick sale since they expire in January. However, a great price to try these noodles! They also have kamut!
I have yet to meet a bean I do not like.
Except for coffee beans…. but they don’t count. I don’t usually drink my beans. (they are also not technically a legume)
For a while, though, I thought I didn’t like fava beans (also known as broad beans).
For some, they herald the excitement of spring produce, amidst the stress of shelling and shucking the fresh beans. When I found frozen fava beans, I thought I had hit jackpot: someone had done the shelling and shucking for me.
Last year, I made pomegranate-braised cabbage and fava beans but couldn’t get myself around the fava beans. I just didn’t like them.
The beans have been in my freezer since then. Untouched.
However, when I saw Ottolenghi had a recipe for Mixed Beans with Many Spices and Lovage which included fava beans, I decided it was worth checking them out again. Just in case I would like them this time. I also have to keep emptying my freezer. It also called for lovage, a new-to-me herb which my grandmother gifted me from her garden. It looked like a flavourful vegetable curry with an assortment of spring beans. His recipe combined my favourite unshelled beans (snow peas and snap peas) with fava beans smothered in a tomato-cardamom-lovage sauce.
The dish was great. It was my first time using lovage which has that Maggi taste, supposedly similar to celery. The flavours in the tomato sauce were a great spin off of a tomato curry and the beans were nicely cooked. Well, the snap peas and snow peas were nice. The fava beans, well, I still didn’t appreciate.
But then, it dawned on me. There was a creamy bean inside the fava shell. My frozen beans hadn’t been shelled yet! I then dived back into my dish, scooping out all the fava beans and slipped off their shells.
I tasted. Lovely beans. Now I understood how people could enjoy fava beans… they are just a tad labour-intensive!
Oh, what I do for the most pleasing bean….
I follow a lot of food blogs. When I started to use Google Reader, maybe only 6 months ago or so, somehow I effortlessly started reading more and more food blogs. My last count was 232 subscriptions (eek!).
I read blogs for many different reasons: to be inspired by the recipes or techniques; to learn more about ingredients or different ethnic cuisines; and lately to open my culinary repertoire into vegan (and raw) cooking.
Some blogs post tried-and-true recipes, and maybe it is just my poor luck, but sometimes I get lackluster results from other bloggers. It might seem like I have been ragging on her alot recently, I actually adore Angela’s positive message on Oh She Glows. I just haven’t had too much luck with her recipes. I find her overnight oats a bit too liquidy for me, her split pea and spinach soup and white bean pesto dip underflavoured and more recently, her tahini-avocado chickpea salad also lacked spunk. Nothing that I couldn’t fix myself, but you just know you will have to continually assess the dish at every step.
Like a mouse drawn blindly to cheese, I am still tempted by her recipes. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt, because I know we share some similar tastes. While I haven’t tried her version, I also adore the Creamy Broccoli Dal from Vegan Yum Yum. I just have to do a lot of tweaking to follow her recipes.
With this in mind, I assessed her Lightened Up Protein Power Goddess Bowl with caution, despite the many positive reviews in the comments. It looked like a wonderful clean-your-fridge recipe, but I knew I wanted to load it up with vegetables. I scaled back the lentils and swapped the spelt berries for bulgur. I doubled the vegetables, used leek instead of onion, added in 2 red bell peppers, some snow peas, tomato and spinach. Because I adore lemon, I increased the lemon flavour by adding in the zest from the lemons as well. With less grains and beans, but more vegetables, I kept the same amount of dressing. Finally, an adapted OSG’s recipe worthy to share!
Here, a zippy creamy sauce is simmered with the vegetable medley that is speckled with lentils. The black lentils hold their shape well, as do the French du Puy lentils, which would also work great here. Green lentils would also work ok. I was lucky to have a leftover leek waiting in the fridge, but onions or shallots could also be used. For the vegetables, pick your favourites but I liked that the fresh tomatoes, with their juices, deglazed the pan nicely. Serve with your choice of grain, mixed into the skillet or served on the side.
I swear, I don’t eat mangoes every day (Rob could take that honour for the past few weeks, though). It may seem like it, though, since I happen to be posting those recipes more quickly. While I don’t share all my recipes, I have a treasure trove of half-finished posts, some with photos, others with a story, and most of them with an ingredient list and a scribbling of my thoughts about the dish.
There is something about meals with mango that makes me want to share the recipe right away. Adapted from Veggie Belly, this is savoury use of fresh mango in a beauty of a salad. Red quinoa is combined with fresh blueberries, chopped mango and dried cranberries and chopped snow peas for crunch. It is then tossed in a subtle lemon-basil dressing and topped with toasted pecans. Nothing is overpowering, nothing screams at you. Everything works well for a simple, yet flavourful salad. A great way to highlight different summer produce in a healthy salad.
The weather has been fabulous for spring so far in Toronto. A great time to start riding the bike! Warmer weather, though, brings cooler dishes, which is why I loved this dish. It melds a variety of Asian flavours together with my one of my favourite noodles, soba. The fresh green veggies, including baby bok choy, snow peas and spinach, are lightly steamed, then combined with cool silken tofu in chunks and smothered with a ponzu soy sauce.
But what is ponzu? It is an Asian sauce made from mirin, rice vinegar, bonito flakes and kombu, and occasionally soy-based, with a note of citrus tang from yuzu. But what is yuzu? It is a citrus fruit from East Asia, that looks like a small grapefruit but tastes like grapefruit and mandarin orange. It is difficult to find yuzu here, so it can be substituted with a blend of juices from other citrus fruits (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, etc). There are recipes to make your own ponzu sauce as well but I buy mine from the store.
I have discussed other Asian ingredients and where to find them in Toronto, in previous posts here and here, and ponzu sauce can also be found at Asian markets like Bestwin and T&T. I can’t say I’ve seen it at Loblaws and the like, but I haven’t checked. I found it on amazon as well.
Ponzu sauce is nice as a replacement for soy sauce in many Asian dishes and has the added benefit of less sodium. It is also a great dipping sauce for gyoza (Japanese dumplings).
This dish was adapted from Gourmet (July 2008), and despite having a long ingredient list and many directions, is quite simple to prepare but does leave many dirty dishes to clean. However, it is definitely worth it. You can use an assortment of seasonal Asian vegetables, steam them until crisp but retain their colour (blanch them if you are incredibly worried, but I chose not to dip anything into ice water and it was fine). The noodles can be cooked under the steaming vegetables, to save time. The sauce is nice but the ponzu flavour is not overwhelming. If you cannot find the ponzu sauce, substitute it with a bit more soy sauce, or omit completely. It makes a lot of sauce, which is tasty but could likely also be decreased by 3/4 or more. The crowning touch is the chilled silken tofu which melts in your mouth and brings that coolness to your palate. I found the dish best when served completely chilled the next day as leftovers, when the sauce is added just before serving.
I am submitting this glorious spring dish to a few places this time: my second submission to Health Nut Challenge 5 featuring Cruciferous Vegetables, hosted by Yasmeen Health Nut, to Presto Pasta Nights hosted by Thyme for Cooking and to Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice for Magazine Mondays.