the taste space

Roasted Cauliflower and Mustard-Hummus Rice Bowl with Garlicky Spinach & A Vegan Mustard Tasting Party

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on April 5, 2014

Roasted Cauliflower, Garlicky Spinach and Mustard-Hummus Rice Bowl (& A Vegan Mustard Tasting Party)

One of the main things I will miss when I leave Houston will definitely be the people: my friends, my co-workers and the awfully friendly strangers. If it weren’t for connecting so well with my co-workers, I don’t think I would have enjoyed Houston as much. And you know how I know we met special people?

They were not only amused but also excited about our idea for a mustard tasting party.

This idea had been brewing for nearly as long as our idea for a tamale party. Somehow, I managed to convince Rob, that yes, I wanted the mustard variety pack at Trader Joe’s, and yes, I knew we only had 6 months left. Oh and yes, we already had another 3-4 other mustard varieties.

We proposed the idea: help us eat our mustards, let’s have a mustard tasting party. We figured we had enough mustard to sample, but everyone also brought their own favourite mustard as well. Collectively, we had 12 mustards. Everything from a Mango Diablo mustard, to a honey and whiskey mustard, to a creole mustard and nearly the entire gamut of Trader Joe’s mustards. ;)

Vegan Mustard Tasting Party

The question, of course, was what to serve at a (vegan-friendly) mustard tasting party.

I loved the suggestion for small boiled potatoes for tasting the mustards individually. I also made plain roasted cauliflower and Rob cut up some pita bread to serve with fresh hummus. Our guests provided some chips, pretzels, sausages and beer [including ginger beer].

The small potatoes were a resounding success. I was impressed that they all looked different when sampling, too.

Vegan Mustard Tasting Party

For those curious: I think we all really liked Trader Joe’s Basil Mustard. The El Diablo Hot & Spicy mustard also earned high praise, but I didn’t try it since I was warned it was uber spicy. I also highly recommend Stadium Mustard that our friend brought us from Cleveland, which sadly did not make an appearance because we ate it all before the party (you can see it pictured here with my vegan cheese-stuffed sausage and sauerkraut, though).

We had a bit of odds-and-ends leftovers after the party and they combined fabulously. So fabulously, I just had to share it. Knowing that hummus+mustard worked well in my vegan deviled eggs, I worked with a mummus sauce (mustard + hummus). Worried my rice bowl may be too beige, I added the leftover roasted cauliflower and hummus to freshly sauteed garlicky spinach. I was thinking Terry’s Sesame Wow Greens would have been great, but I went with something more simple: spinach and garlic finished with toasted sesame oil. It complemented the hummus really well. (Of note, I just made a single serving but increased the amount to serve 4 in the recipe below).

Leftovers need not be boring and I may never have had the forethought (or energy) to make such an involved recipe. But I highly encourage you to try it out. :)

Not that I need new mustards right now, but which one is your favourite? Have you ever made homemade mustard?

Roasted Cauliflower, Garlicky Spinach and Mustard-Hummus Rice Bowl (& A Vegan Mustard Tasting Party)

This is my submission to this month’s No Waste Food Challenge.
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Savoury Mung Bean & Kale Crêpes

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on March 15, 2014

Mung Bean & Kale Crepes

I don’t celebrate my blog’s birthday, but it hit me that I have been doing this for a long time.

Over four and half years and still going strong. More than 780 posts, mostly recipes, mostly vegan. That is just a fraction of what I have created along the way. My draft folder is overflowing. Missing ingredients, missing photos or missing directions. OK, mostly missing photos.

I tried to find something non-traditionally green to share for upcoming St Patrick’s Day. I went looking for a spinach adai/pancake I made while in Toronto, but couldn’t find any trace of it. That’s ok, I made these anew and they were very good. Kale trumps spinach?

Crêpes may be stretching it a bit much as they are not nearly as thin as my regular or non-traditional crepes. Instead of chickpea flour as in our favourite chilla pancake, soaked split mung beans are the base. Pureed kale turned these a fun green.

Since the beans are in the batter, you could simply slather it with Indian chutneys but I encourage you to add more vegetables, like my Indian-Spiced Cauliflower.

I admit these are not the best photos, but I unearthed some real gems digging through my archives. I promise to share them in due time!

Are you eating anything green this weekend?

Mung Bean & Kale Crepes

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Cheezy Scrambled Egg Breakfast Tacos with a Creamy Mustard Sauce (Vegan, Soy-Free)

Posted in Breakfasts, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on February 1, 2014

Breakfast Taco with Soy-free Cheesy Vegan Scrambled Eggs

Rob and I have been on a quest. A mission to find corn tortillas. Corn tortillas so light and pliable, you easily could think they were flour tortillas.

I don’t know if it is just me, but I always think of hard, crunchy El Paso  taco shells when I hear corn tortillas. Nothing could be further from reality. We were treated to the fresh tortillas while in Mexico City and figured it was just a matter of research. They were bound to be found in Houston.

Because once you’ve tried them, you can’t go back.

I was not alone in my quest. The lovely folks on the Houston Chowhound boards already helped others satisfy their fresh corn tortilla needs. Our adventures to Mi Tienda proved to be a quick trip back to Mexico. They are a grocery store for all your Mexican needs, including corn tortillas. They are freshly made in-house and perfectly tender when consumed that same day. Since it is a bit far from home, we bought 80 tortillas. All for a whopping $2.

Breakfast Taco with Soy-free Cheesy Vegan Scrambled Eggs

While we froze the majority of the tortillas, we have been enjoying tacos all times of the day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.  No complaints from Rob. He LOVES tacos!

For our breakfast tacos, we were inspired by Dawn’s recipe to make “cheezy” scrambled eggs with chickpea flour and nutritional yeast. WeRob routinely makes Indian chickpea flour pancakes and tofu scramble, so this kind of married the two. It was a fun mess, too. We served it with spinach and topped it with a creamy, cheezy mustard sauce.

Corn tortillas – what do you think?

Breakfast Taco with Soy-free Cheesy Vegan Scrambled Eggs

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and this month’s Shop Local.

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Indian-Spiced Mung Bean Stew

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by janet @ the taste space on January 7, 2014

Mung Bean Casserole

While it may seem like I had a severe lack of down-time  over the holidays, I was able to catch up on a few things on my to-do list. I caught up on the links Rob routinely shares with me, watched my share of movies, read a few books and cooked up a few bookmarked recipes. In the spirit of clearing out a bit of blogging backlog, I thought you may enjoy my favourite finds, too… so here were my linkable highlights:

1. 38 Life Lessons Leo has Learned in 38 Years.Great list. An old post, but timely in the spirit of the New Year.

2. Batkid: More feel-good moments. My friend was The Penguin in this heist. You can read about his experience here.

3. 2013 World Press Photo Winners. I would scope out the travelling exhibit of jaw-dropping photography while in Toronto, but this year I savoured it online.

4. 2013 National Geographic Photo Competition Winners. Another fabulous collection of photographs can be savoured online. National Geographic rarely disappoints for awesome pictures, including this other favourite.

5. Time-Lapse Auroras Over Norway. Watch it. Love it. It brings me back to my vacation in Iceland.

6. The Happiest Facts of All Time. Very cute list.

7. Ten Words You’ve Probably Been Misusing. Not entirely accurate but I am guilty of a few misused words. ;)

Mung Bean Casserole

I have been gravitating to easier meals and have not been cooking up as many dried beans from scratch lately. One solution to this problem is to use quick-cooking no-soaking needed beans, like lentils, anasazi and mung beans. Yes, mung beans. I am back on the mung bean bandwagon with great results. Simmer the mung beans directly with an assortment of veggies (kabocha squash, tomato, bell pepper and spinach here) with simple Indian spices: cumin, fenugreek and turmeric. The kabocha squash and mung beans melt into a deliciously creamy stew. A thick and hearty stew, perfect for the winter.

Where have you been on the web recently?

Mung Bean Casserole

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s Let’s Cook with Green Vegetables.

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Warm Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Posted in Appetizers by janet @ the taste space on December 29, 2013

Warm Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Stop me if you’ve heard this one already:

What did the eggs benedict say to the rest of the breakfast table?

Happy hollandaise!

Hardy, har har.. Rob told the joke a few times over the holidays.

With the balmy Houston weather and having returned back to work, it does not really feel too much like holidays. In fact, I am at a loss what to do for New Year’s Eve. Rob wants a party. I, however, will be working all day. And, to be honest, I doubt Rob or I will make it all the way until midnight. We are such party poopers. Early risers, we go to bed early as well. With a morning alarm for 5 am, I am usually the earliest to wake. However, two of my co-workers have their alarms for 4:30am. They beat me! Obviously, we need to invite them over after work. Celebrate St John’s, Newfoundland’s new year at 9:30 pm and then call it a night. Last year, Rob and I celebrated by watching the Sydney fireworks at 8am, but alas, I will be busy at work, already.

Warm Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Even if I am not headed out for a party, at least I may provide you with some party fare. Splendid warm but still delicious cold as leftovers, here is a protein-packed spinach and artichoke dip. Definitely not as heavy as real cheese dips, this is more of a veggie-centric dip whipped together with some silken tofu. There is more of a hint of cheesiness, thanks to the nutritional yeast. I don’t particularly enjoy nooch-heavy cheeses, but this was pretty good. It is a nice way to bring a dish that could double as a main, should your other options be limited, and you eat a bunch of it. You could totally chow down on a quarter of this, easily. And you should.

What are your plans for New Year’s Eve?

Warm Spinach and Artichoke Dip

This is my submission this month’s Cheese Please challenge for festive nibbles.

PS. The winner of The Cheesy Vegan is Shannon.

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Caribbean Soy Curled Sloppy Joes with Creamed Greens Wrap

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on October 10, 2013

Soy Curled Sloppy Joes with Creamed Spinach Wrap

Rob and I have been trading stories. He has been back in Canada for the last two weeks. He is hitting up all our old haunts, new joints (I knew he wouldn’t be able to resist the vegan boston creme donuts and other treats at Through Being Cool; he’s already tried the Toronto’s crookie (cookie-croissant hybrid) and scouting out Toronto’s cronut, too) and getting ready to spend time with his family for Thanksgiving. I am willing to bet most of my readers know Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving almost a month before the Americans, but if not, let there be no confusion. Canada’s Thanksgiving is on Monday. :)

This is a dish Rob made before he left. He is much better at tackling his recipe hit-list than I am. Possibly because it is shorter.  While in Bend, Oregon, we discovered a restaurant with delicious food. For me, I adored their tempeh reuben salad (recreating it is still on my hitlist!) and Rob was adamant about recreating the sloppy joe sandwich.

Soy Curled Sloppy Joes with Creamed Spinach Wrap

While I have made Sloppy Joes with TVP, which I served overtop roasted sweet potatoes, I shared Isa’s recipe with Rob. With the extra spices, I knew he would really like it. Rob really liked their sandwich because it was served with a brioche bun. He looked around a bit but wasn’t able to find something in Houston. That did not deter him.

I no longer remember what protein this resto used for their sloppy joe, but Isa’s called for seitan which we didn’t have. Instead, Rob experimented with another Portland find: soy curls. Soy curls totally deserve their high praise. Similar to TVP in that they are a dry soy product, they not as highly processed. Soy curls are made by cooking, then drying soybeans, whereas TVP has been processed to become defatted. Their fun shapes are akin to pulled meat. I bought a bunch in bulk while in Portland and wish there was a local supplier because I know we will use them up quickly.

In any case, Isa’s recipe did not disappoint. She called it jerk-spiced sloppy joes, but the flavours were more muted. When I think of jerk, I think of bold flavours. Instead, this was tame. Nicely flavoured and palatable for the masses. The Caribbean flavours of allspice, cinnamon, and paprika were present and made for a  lovely tomato sauce. Rob amped the sweet sauciness by adding red pepper paste. Lime juice balanced it nicely.

The second component to the dish was coconut creamed spinach and kale. Spiced with star anise, the Caribbean flair persisted. Instead of the brioche bun, Rob used a paratha to eat this. Mainly because that’s what we had in the freezer. This is a fusion household. Indian-Caribbean-American in one wrap. Use whatever vehicle you’d like.  :)

While this recipe seems almost as elaborate as Rob’s epic Jackfruit & Kimchi and Sweet Potato Poutine with Tofu, this one didn’t take nearly as long to cook. Start to end was around an hour, which is a good thing since Rob has proclaimed this as a Rob’s Repeater Recipe.

Have you ever tried soy curls? What did you think?

Soy Curled Sloppy Joes with Creamed Spinach Wrap
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Naked Oats with Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Crumbled Tempeh

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on May 30, 2013

Can oats taste like rice?

The folks who sell Cavena Nuda seem to think so.

I disagree.

Cavena Nuda is a Canadian innovation: a new hull-less form of oats. The oat grows with the hull, but it falls off much more easily than standard oats. Regular oats need to be heated and milled until they can be de-hulled. As such, they are more environmentally sound and nutritionally superior to regular oats. After Angela tried them, it took me a while to find them but I eventually located it at Ambrosia and later at Bulk Barn.

They don’t taste like oats, though. Cavena nuda is the complete oat kernel, so while they are in the shape of rice, they remind me more of farro or oblong wheat berries than rice per se.

That didn’t stop me from trying to cook it into a risotto-style dish, though. Lacking rice and cheese, I am hard pressed to call this a risotto but it is a nice meal. Since it has a few components, this is a dish that will dirty up a few pots but it is delicious and worth the effort. To simplify the recipe, you could skip the tempeh as it was good even without it, although it adds a flavourful protein component.

Here, you cook up the cavena nuda (or farro, or rice, or even orzo as Isa suggests), which is added to some cooked onions, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. Spinach is wilted at the end. The topping is a crumbled tempeh spiced with fennel and coriander. It is a nice addition but certainly not necessary if you are short on time, or short on tempeh. ;)

Other dishes with farro I’ve spotted:

Scarlet Rosemary Chickpea Farrotto from Keepin It Kind
Farrotto with Tomato and Artichokes
from Eating Well
Farrotto with Shiitake Mushrooms and Beets from TasteFood
Spiced sprouting broccoli with roast parsnip farrotto and citrus-rosemary butter from For the Love of Food
Purple sprouting broccoli with leek and shallot farrotto from Denis Cotter at BBC
Risotto-Style Farro with Caramelized Onions, Squash, and Kale from Cate’s World Kitchen
Baked Coconut Kale Salad with Farro from Super Natural Every Day
Farro and Millet Risotto from 101 Cookbooks

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Lucia, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday and to and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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Tondini Bean Breakfast Scramble

Posted in Breakfasts, Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on May 23, 2013

Tondini Bean Breakfast Scramble

I am a sucker for beans.

While I have a pantry filled with heirloom specialty beans from Rancho Gordo and Kalustyan’s, I still keep finding new-to-me beans. During a cycling trip last year, a few friends and I cycled up to Woodbridge, and wound up at an Italian grocer for lunch. I perused the aisles for my lunch. Even though it was Italian, I had a brown rice veggie avocado sushi roll and an apple but I also discovered a new bean: Tondini beans (also known as burrini beans or pea beans). A small white bean in a glass jar. Perfect for a traveller: no need for a can opener and the cap could be screwed back on if on the go. I brought it back home and a few months later, I decided to bust them out for a salad.

However, when I opened the jar, they were sitting in a funny gooey jelly. A lot of the beans had split open, likely releasing their starch and gelling the liquid.  I didn’t think the road that THAT bumpy on our ride. I typically cook my own beans so I don’t normally run into this problem… so how to use mushy beans?

Scramble! A breakfast scramble… although more of a brunch or breakfast-for-dinner sort of meal. Perfect anytime, if you ask me. Definitely one of my favourite meals lately. The Tondini beans were nice and small, similar to flageolet beans, but more fragile, lending well to a scramble. The beans are simmered with onions and garlic, along with tomatoes and spinach as familiar breakfast omelette toppings. Similar to my chickpea and tofu-tahini scramble, but lighter and more cheezy from the nutritional yeast. Black salt added the eggy flavour.

Beans for breakfast, I could get used to this. :)

Have you ever had a problem with mushy beans?

Tondini Bean Breakfast Scramble

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Mediterranean Artichoke, Chickpea and Spinach Soup

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by janet @ the taste space on May 22, 2013

Tomato Chickpea and Spinach Soup

I think my pantry-purge has been going the wrong way. I am no longer accumulating new esoteric ingredients but I struggled with whether or not to replenish my staples. Could I live without chickpeas for a few months? Absolutely not. Miso?  I replenished that, too. What about olives? I think I could manage olive-free for 6 months. Artichokes? Well, the best artichokes come from the freezer case at Trader Joe’s so I am excited to wait for those. The plan for now: use up the less-loved ingredients. The ones I can part with for a bit of time.

Now I can strike these from my pantry: artichokes and olives. What could have been a boring vegetable stew was helped with said pantry items. Olives add the salty punch to this spring-like tomato stew with red pepper, mushrooms, artichokes and spinach.

Sometimes I have limited enthusiasm for ingredients that have been stashed at the back of my pantry. Or I only have a limited repertoire for said ingredient. Olives and artichokes are not that wacky, but I am looking for ways to use fun things like kelp noodles, capers, jackfruit, assorted flours (chickpea flour is our staple but I still have some coconut flour, tapioca flour, rice flours and vital wheat gluten), puffed quinoa, dried fruits and nuts. And let’s not forget the things in my freezer: herbs, chopped veggies and fruits, tempeh, and frozen meals ready to go.

Do you have a big pantry or have a select collection of favourite ingredients in your pantry? I personally believe that a well-stocked kitchen makes for a well-prepared cook. It makes cooking easier and fun.

Tomato Chickpea and Spinach Soup

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, Little Thumbs Up event, hosted by Joyce, kitchen flavours, organized by Zoe from Bake For Happy Kids and Doreen for my little favourite D.I.Y..

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Indian Chickpea Curry with Mango Powder (Amchoor Chana)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on April 13, 2013

Most people probably roll their eyes when they hear you have dietary restrictions. I know my food choices can be a pain in the butt for some people but imagine combining it with other allergies and restrictions? I have a friend with a severe allergy to sulphites, another friend who won’t eat nightshades and beans and I recently met someone with some crazy diet for interstitial cystitis and I could only remember her telling me she eats no spices. I love trying to find meals we can enjoy together, though. I think the worse was when I was trying to find common meals I could share with my grandfather who needed a low potassium, low salt, and low cholesterol diet. The low potassium part made it the most challenging since he couldn’t eat any whole grains, beans, nuts or seeds which are my protein sources. Meal planning is like a fun puzzle for me although others probably find it a headache. :)

Recently I was asked to suggest meals fit for entertaining. Not usually a problem, because I keep a list for myself in case I forget. However, there was a caveat: no garlic, no onions, no leeks, no shallots, no green onions (no alliums). I know there are multiple reasons to avoid them (including those who are doing the FODMAPS thing), but they continue to be a staple in my diet. More than just aromatics, they have a lot of health benefits, too.

Never daunted by a special diet request, I mustered up a few suggestions (Raw Zucchini AlfredoRaw Tacos skipping the onion in the salsa, Thai Tempeh Wraps with a Mango Ginger SauceSushi Salad Bowl with Avocado and Asparagus, among others with minor modifications). In the end, Ellen made my Vanilla Sweet Potato and Kale Curry and it received high praises from her and her guests (YA!).

The request planted a seed in my head, though. What kinds of meals are naturally free from alliums? I know some people just don’t like chopping garlic and onion, and some Indian recipes call for asafoetida as a substitute. Thus, I looked through my Indian bible, 660 Curries, and while I didn’t pick a recipe with asafoetida, I picked one without onions and garlic.

Indian Chickpea Curry with Mango Powder

Cooking without the typical aromatics meant we needed flavour from elsewhere: loads of savoury spices. Cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander, all the good spices Indian curries are made from. The special spice, this time, was amchur/amchoor (mango powder).

I’ve used amchoor before in chaat masala used with Malai kofta and a warm chickpea and mango salad. It is made from dried green mangoes, conferring a sour tangy flavour, not unlike vinegar or lemon juice. Since I substituted tomato passata for fresh tomatoes, this is a very pantry-friendly recipe when you run out of even the most basic perishables (onions, garlic and lemons) and don’t feel like going grocery shopping when it is snowing in April (!). The cilantro does perk it up, but not necessary.

Anyways, in essence, you are making chickpeas cooked in a nicely flavoured tomato sauce. No fuss, you simply simmer then away for a while as you tend to something else. Like most curries, they make fabulous leftovers and I ended up enjoying them overtop fresh green spinach as a quasi salad.

Do you feel overwhelmed or welcome the challenge of dietary restrictions? :)

Indian Chickpea Curry with Mango Powder

This is my submission to this month’s My Legume Love Affair. (more…)

Braised Portobello Steaks and Spinach with a Balsamic Sauce

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on April 7, 2013

Braised Portobello Steaks and Spinach with a Balsamic Sauce

I wasn’t expecting this week to be all about tried-and-true favourites, but I don’t think you mind?

Last night, we celebrated my brother’s 30th birthday. Just as when I tipped into my thirties, my Mom was adamant about hosting a party for close family. Like last time, she transported everything from Ottawa and did last-minute prepping and baking in my brother’s kitchen. Moving before we hit 30 seems to be a theme in our family, as she navigated a new kitchen.

I offered to bring something. I was flat-out refused. I even asked if she had reconsidered a few days earlier. No. Although she leaked the menu to me: lentil salad and portobello mushrooms for me. (YES!) While I initially agreed that simple fruit would an ample dessert, she asked if I would like the Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mousse Pie instead. Obviously, I thought it was a fantastic idea. All of my favourite recipes!

Of course my Mom went all out. Roasted red pepper hummus and raw veggies as early nibblers along with spanakopita from my brother’s in-laws. Three salads: a leafy green with a balsamic dressing, my favourite 11-Spice Lentil Salad with apples and arugula (aka the Best Lentil Salad Ever) and a bacon-broccoli salad. Roasted balsamic portobello mushrooms were baked, instead of grilled, along with the salmon. A magnificent zuccotto dome cake and my Almost Guiltless cake for dessert. I loved how my healthy eats were interspersed among the options and enjoyed by everyone, including my brother’s in-laws who were still inquiring as to what vegan means. It was fun to see them  guess what exactly was in the dessert that had no flour, no grains, no eggs, no cream, no dairy, and no sugar and still taste delicious. We forgot to tell them the filling was no-bake, too (my Mom experimented with baking the almond-date crust this time).

Braised Portobello Steaks and Spinach with a Balsamic Sauce

While I am hesitant to call vegetables “steaks”, the baked mushrooms were compared to steaks last night. Since I used to enjoy my steak on the blue side (when I ate meat), I can see some parallels (moreso than if you like your steak well done), but these mushrooms are a pale comparison for anyone expecting steak. However, they are still one of my favourite meals.

Rob and I have been without a barbecue for a while now, but I have been experimenting with a different way to enjoy roasted balsamic mushrooms. Now I know baking works, too, but in the days of the hot summer, I know I can also make them on the stovetop as well. Not as good as the barbecue, but I am not complaining. :)

Balsamic mushrooms are marinaded in an herbed sherry-balsamic broth and then braised in the same sauce. The sauce is then reduced, used to wilt spinach and lastly drizzled overtop quinoa. I normally don’t make separate sides, but this was simple despite its multiple components.

Do you eat more one-pot dishes or tend to make lots of simple sides instead?

Braised Portobello Steaks and Spinach with a Balsamic Sauce

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Cristina.

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Turkish Red Lentil Peasant Soup with Sizzling Mint

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on March 14, 2013

Turkish Red Lentil Peasant Soup with Sizzling Mint

When I photographed this, I was worried it may look eerily similar to the Red Lentil and Spinach Curry (Vegan Tikka Masala). Red lentils + tomato + spinach… This one has carrots, isn’t as red and is more soup-like than the curry, though. I think they look reasonably different, so trust me I am not recycling photos! No lost photos for this dish…

In truth, it was the success of the tikka masala that had me throwing bountiful fists of spinach into yet another red lentil dish.

Turkish Red Lentil Peasant Soup with Sizzling Mint

I have made the traditional Turkish red lentil and bulgur soup before, having learned it while travelling in Turkey. A humble, yet decidedly filling and nutritious soup, it was one of our favourite meals on our trip, especially when we learned how to cook it ourselves. This version, courtesy of Turquoise, is billed as a humble peasant soup. The lentils must make it peasant-like because there is nothing bland about this. I love the addition of two different kinds of smoked paprika and cumin (I did not stifle the full amount of smoked paprika and it was ok!).  I added in the spinach, because, well, I had tons of it and it is easy to incorporate into thick soups. However, the best part of this soup, is the finishing spiced oil. I am used to this in Indian dishes, which is called a tarka, when spices like cumin, coriander, garlic and ginger can infuse oil that is added at the end of the cooking. This isn’t an Indian dish, so dried mint and smoked sweet paprika are fried at the end to permeate the oil. It was actually very pretty when drizzled over the soup. Sorry, you guys got photos of leftovers! Have no fear, the leftovers tasted as good with the tarka already stirred into the soup. :)

Do you use the tarka method for your cooking? Outside Indian foods?

Turkish Red Lentil Peasant Soup with Sizzling Mint

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Chili Masala Tofu Scramble

Posted in Breakfasts, Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on March 10, 2013

Chili Masala Tofu Scramble

Rob is gone this week.

To a work conference.

His dilemma yesterday was whether to go a talk from Al Gore, Tim Berners-Lee (he invented the web browser), or Neil Gaiman (a fantastic author according to Rob). All 3 happening at the same time. Rob had to clue me in on the last two since I have only heard of Al Gore. ;) (In the end, he chose Al Gore’s talk about The Future). Today he is going to try to track down Grumpy Cat. In the flesh. She is here, too. :)

As I’ve shared before, Rob is the king of hot meals on the weekend. His specialties are tofu scramble, arepas and besan chilla. But this weekend, alone with some tofu and veggies, I pulled them all out for a hot lunch and made myself some scramble.

While it seems like the majority of recipes (even Isa’s) call specifically for extra-firm tofu, this time I opted for Chinese-style soft tofu. Turns out this specific tofu is made so close to where we live, too. I wonder if I can get a walk-in discount? ;)

tofu superior co. toronto

I’ve used soft tofu in a scramble before and now I prefer it to the extra-firm. Who wants a dry scramble? Who wants to wait for their tofu to be pressed? Not me! I want mine fluffy, flavourful and filled with veggies. This scramble certainly fit the bill: spiced with cumin and curry powder, the assorted vegetables played a roll in the colourful plate. Since Rob was not here to make arepas as a side, I just ate the whole thing. Delicious!

Chili Masala Tofu Scramble

Rob likes to update me on his foodie finds while away: yesterday’s lunch was jicama slaw with captain-crunch-encrusted chicken strips in a bacon waffle cone and a trip to the flagship Whole Foods store. After he sees this, I think he’ll want some of this curried tofu scramble when he returns, though. :)

Long-term vegans are probably well-versed in their tofu scramble preferences. Do you like firm or soft tofu in your scramble?

Chili Masala Tofu Scramble

This is my submission to this month’s One Ingredient Challenge for chilies and Breakfast Club for local eats.

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Greek Lemon-Dill Chickpeas with Spinach (& a Mediterranean Vegan Diet)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on March 3, 2013

Greek Lemon-Dill Chickpeas with Spinach

Did you catch the news about the Mediterranean diet preventing heart disease? I won’t rehash the study, but it compared a Mediterranean diet (either with supplemental olive oil or nuts) with a supposedly “low-fat” diet (which was not low-fat due to poor adherence) in over 7000 people at high risk for heart disease. In short, the study intervention (in addition to medication) was to eat high levels of vegetables, fruits, nuts (almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts), legumes, fish, and olive oil.

The full dietary recommendations are listed in their appendix here: a) lots of olive oil (at least 4 tbsp if in the olive oil arm of the study), b) at least 2 daily servings of vegetables, c) at least 2 daily servings of fruits, d) at least 3 weekly servings of legumes, e) at least 3 weekly servings of fish, f) at least 1 weekly servings of nuts or seeds (at least an oz of nuts a day if in the nuts arm of the study), g) white meat only, h) olive oil-simmered tomato-onion-garlic sauce at least 2 times a week. Raw and unsalted nuts, eggs, fish, seafood, low-fat cheese, dark chocolate (with at least 50% cocoa) and whole grain cereals were encouraged. A switch to red wine as a primary source of alcohol was encouraged in people who normally consumed alcohol. Other sweets, pastries, red meat, fatty cheese, cream, butter, potato chips, and French fries were discouraged. Their suggested recipes are posted online, however in Spanish.

Turns out there was a benefit in reduced myocardial infarctions, strokes and deaths in both arms of the study group compared to the controls. So much so (a whopping 30% reduction) that they stopped the study earlier than anticipated due to a reduction in heart disease. It would be unethical to allow people to continue with the control diet when the intervention was so much better. Not that all heart disease was eliminated entirely, it was reduced. Most remarkably, the dietary changes improved outcomes in addition to their medications.

Sounds like a radical diet? Cut out the crap and eat the good food?

Sometimes I feel like most of the benefits from so-called diets, whether it be plant-based vegan, Paleo or the Mediterranean diet, are mostly from removing the processed foods and replacing them with wholesome whole foods. Start cooking your food at home. As both the oil and nut arms of the study improved outcomes, it is difficult to pinpoint the important parts of the diet.  That’s the hard part of nutrition research. Do you need fish (unlikely) or the omega 3 fatty acids? Do you need to drink red wine? Which fats are important? Interestingly enough, despite improved heart health, no one lost weight on this diet.

Following a plant-based whole foods approach is what makes most sense to me. As mentioned in the New York Times article, others support a no-oil vegan diet for reducing heart disease. Instead of oil, fat comes from nuts and avocados. I don’t plan on changing my focus (BEANS and GREENS!) but for some reason I seem to have a hankering for more Mediterranean-inspired meals recently. I may go find myself some olives, too.

Ever since I really enjoyed my Spanish Chickpeas and Spinach with Roasted Garlic, and munching on my very freezer-friendly Greek Stewed Swiss Chard with Tomatoes, Mint and Lima Beans, I have been on the look-out for more ways to cook down my greens in a skillet.

Enter this super easy Greek chickpea and spinach skillet with lemon and dill. It looks deceivingly simple. It does not deceive you: it is simple. It deceives you because it tastes a lot better than you might think. You can taste each component of the meal and the lemony-dill aspect complements the nutty chickpeas and silky spinach. The chickpeas ended up creamy, too, with the brief cooking in the pan…. and the spinach, well, its wilts away, allowing you to eat a lot more greens than you may have thought possible.

Any thoughts on the diet du jour? Any recommended Mediterranean recipes?

Greek Lemon-Dill Chickpeas with Spinach

Need more Mediterranean inspiration?

Fasoulia (Carrots and Green Beans Simmered in a Tomato Sauce)

Mediterranean Crustless Vegetable Chickpea Flour Quiche

Chickpeas Romesco

Lemon Mediterranean Lentil Salad

Warm Mediterranean Chickpea and Spinach Salad

Warm Chickpea and Artichoke Salad

Mediterranean Collard Wrap with Hummus, Artichoke Hearts and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Spanish Lentil and Squash Stew with Roasted Garlic

Greek Baked Beans (Gigantes Plaki)

Moroccan Tagine of Lima Beans, Cherry Tomatoes and Black Olives

Greek Lemon and Quinoa Soup (Vegan Avgolemono)

Spanish Green Bean and Lima Bean Stew

Spanish Lentil and Mushroom Stew

Spanish Chickpea and Squash Stew with Pears (Olla Gitana)

Spanish Chickpea Salad with Capers and Roasted Red Peppers

Spanish Baked Eggs on a Red Pepper Ragout

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Elena, and to this month‘s Herbs on Saturday.

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Spinach Salad with Carrot Ginger Miso Dressing and Pepitas

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by janet @ the taste space on January 3, 2013

Spinach Salad with Carrot Miso Dressing and Pepitas

I have definitely noticed an improvement in my salads.

There are salads and then there are salads. And by the latter kind of salads, I mean meal-sized salads. Size alone does not make them appropriate for meals.

Leafy green salads used to have me perplexed. Growing up, a simple salad was usually always served before a meal, with lettuce, tomato and cucumber and a light vinaigrette. My penchant for one-pot meal-in-a-bowl dishes had me rethinking my views on traditional salad.

One of my goals last year was to simplify my kitchen, with a focus on sauces and dressings with fresh vegetables supported by beans and whole grains. My salad jar revolutionized my lunch meals.

Spinach Salad with Carrot Miso Dressing and Pepitas

So let’s just say I made lots of dressings last year and this is definitely one of my favourites: carrot miso. Using vegetables themselves in the dressing adds a body typically derived from oil. Since you puree the carrot, it is a thicker dressing than I am used to… more akin to a sauce.

Sadly, this salad didn’t really travel as well in my salad jar. Most likely because it didn’t have the vinegar heaviness found in most of my dressings. The vinegar essentially pickles the bottom layer of vegetables when packed in advance. In this case, I wound up adding the dressing right before serving.

A few years ago I made a different avocado salad with a carrot-ginger dressing. It was an appetizer, a starter to a potluck with friends. This time, I made this as my meal. I added lots of veggies like cucumber, tomatoes and grated carrots along with chickpeas for protein and avocado and pumpkin seeds for fat (and crunch!). The sweet tangy dressing brought it all together. In fact, I think this dressing was even better than the heavier carrot-ginger version I made earlier. I guess my taste buds are a changin’….

Spinach Salad with Carrot Miso Dressing and Pepitas

This is my submission to this month’s Anyone Can Cook Vegetarian Food for Substantial Salads and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays. (more…)