Have I hooked you onto Ethiopian food yet? If you like Indian curries, you’ll also likely really enjoy Ethiopian cuisine with its spicy, saucy stews (known as wats). Making it at home means you can vary the level of spice to your own palate. However, not all Ethiopian foods are melting from hot spices. Not everything has berbere in it.
As I said, when I tried a platter of assorted Ethiopian dishes, I was immediately enamored with the creamy split pea puree, also known as kik alicha. It was calm and comforting; soothing with its use of savoury spices. It contrasted well against the fiery hot wats and faux meats. Ethiopian food is usually very affordable, but I knew I could make a bean dish like this easily at home. I just needed a recipe.
I originally made the kik alicha from Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food but found it too savoury with its use of cinnamon, etc. Not that it was bad, it just wasn’t the dish from the restaurant that I was pining. Next, I tried the version from Olive Trees and Honey which had simpler ingredients: split peas, onion, garlic, and oil. It also called for a chile and I obliged by using one green chile. With the bountiful onions and garlic, this was flavourful, and not spicy at all with only one green chile. Mild, but not distracting. Creamy yet not oily. This was how it was meant to be. To make it even more luscious, puree the dish or partially mash.
Where have all the hazelnuts gone?
While Rob and I went all out for our Indian Easter feast, my parents were sleeping over which meant we also had plan for breakfast. Thankfully, oatmeal works for my Mom, Rob and me. Not so much for my Dad.
My Dad eats bagels and Nutella for breakfast. I had neither. Rob picked up some Montreal-style bagels from St Lawrence Market and I decided to work on the Nutella. Without actually buying Nutella.
I have been meaning to try making my own homemade nut butter for a while, so I was eager to try Katie’s Better than Nutella recipe. I just needed some hazelnuts. Last year, I discovered the grocers in Little India sell hazelnuts super cheap. Turns out all 3 grocers had no hazelnuts. Then I went to my go-to bulk store, and they were out, too. Apparently their supplier had been out for the last 6 weeks.
Where have all the hazelnuts gone?
I re-evaluated my options:
a) Head elsewhere to buy hazelnuts (ie, The Big Carrot or the Bulk Barn)
b) Use hazelnut butter instead of hazelnuts
c) Substitute another nut (apparently Nutella used to be a mix of almonds and hazelnuts)
d) Make a chocolate-bean spread instead that didn’t require hazelnuts
Rob told me not to buy anything. We are trying to empty our pantries, not refill them. Option A and possibly option B were out. I really wanted to make a Nutella substitute, since this was for my Dad and he may not be as smitten with a chocolate bean spread as me. But you gotta do what you gotta do. I peered into our pantry and boo-yah, we had hazelnut butter! Option B it was!
I modified Ricki’s recipe slightly, but mainly with the sweetener only. After her warning that stevia-only sweetened chocolate could have a weird taste, I decided to substitute it with a portion of coconut sugar. Feel free to use your own sweetener of choice (agave, maple syrup, sugar, etc). Super simple to make, I threw everything into my Vitamix. As it heated up, the coconut oil melted making it a smooth, silky consistency (which is what I photographed). Leftovers were popped into the fridge where it firmed up considerably. It was still spreadable and melted as it was spread onto warm, toasted bagels. Spreading it onto cold bagels could be more difficult, though.
The verdict? According to me and Rob: Better than Nutella. Silky smooth, with a lovely cocoa flavour with a touch of sweetness. I found this a bit too sweet for my liking but Rob thought it was perfect, or possibly under sweetened. My Dad said it was ok. Perhaps it wasn’t sweet enough, but he wouldn’t elaborate. (For the record, while Rob and my Mom thought the banana naan were wonderful, my Dad thought they should have been more fluffy, despite acknowledging they were already more fluffy than the store-bought naan).We were planning on gifting the remainder of the Notella to my Dad when he left, but it was nearly demolished over the course of the weekend. There was just a little left.. and had my Dad stayed for breakfast #2, it would have been all gone. Not sure where else to put this homemade Nutella? How about my Nutella and kiwi crepes or Nutella-filled aebleskiver?
I am sharing it with you so that you learn from my mistakes.
A High Protein and Oil-Free Basil Pesto sounded delicious to me. The creaminess and protein came from a whipped white bean puree packed with loads of basil. Like the last bland dish from Angela, I ended up adding even more nutritional yeast and miso to up its appeal. Creamy, salty and full of basil.
Not everyone agreed with me. They didn’t even try the dip, since it looked like green frank-o-monster goop… and ended up oxidizing to an unappealing brown over the course of the afternoon.
My parents and I ended up polishing it off after all the guests had disappeared. I think it would work better as a sandwich spread than a dip with veggies anyways. Not only because the colour wouldn’t matter but that’s the way pesto works best. Slather it onto some crackers topped with roasted veggies. Crostini may be better next time.. but then I would have had to be in charge of appetizers for the party. Now we’re talking.
Thankfully, I made sure the hummus was in tip-top shape so we didn’t have too many naked veggies.
They are a very healthy way to wrap around a sandwich filling, while having the benefit of not getting soggy like rice paper rolls, etc.
I am still working on the best technique on how to keep them together, though.
Attempt #1: A little lop-sided but still very tasty!
Attempt #2: I think I could use smaller apple slices, but this was a better success!
But like most things, it is what is inside that counts.
This is such an unusual pairing of ingredients but they work wonderfully together. Just as Gena suggested, I used the Zesty Cashew Orange Spread with an apple in a Swiss chard wrap. That dip, divine as it is solo, it is even better in this wrap. There is something about the crisp, sweet apple, paired with the sweet green, along with the tangy citrus spread that knocks my socks off. This is a lovely snack, and once I get some toothpicks, a lovely snack to take on my long cycling trips!
A few months ago, I stumbled upon a gem of a restaurant called Rawlicious. I try not to go out to eat very often, but if I do, I try to go somewhere that is different than what I might make at home. While I may not agree with the philosophy of raw purists, I see no harm in eating more raw foods, nor in exploring the techniques that goes into raw cooking.
Raw cooking – is that an oxymoron?
While I have already been smitten by raw kale salads, it was at Rawlicious that I discovered spiralized zucchini noodles (oh yes, I want a spiralizer! especially if I grow zucchinis in my backyard!) and raw cheesecake (tastes more like a mousse than a cheesecake but I was impressed by the versatility of cashews!).
I know that some vegans can have a hard time giving up certain meat or dairy products, and there seems to be a plethora of vegan alternatives for sale. However, talk about processed food! I can’t say I am really interested in soy yogurt or processed meat alternatives. I am still searching for a good sour cream alternative, if only to make a Hungarian Chickpea recipe I have had my eye on (anyone care to share their favourite recipe?).
You will note that I changed the name of this from cashew cheese to cashew spread, because I’ll be honest that this didn’t taste at all like cheese. But it was DELICIOUS! A sweet, creamy dip with full orange flavour with a complexity coming from the miso.
There are many ways to use this addictive spread, other than eating it straight from a spoon (that is great, too!). Mix it with some salad greens, spread it onto bread or crackers, or add it to your favourite sandwich/wrap.