Some people have the gift to make anything taste great. I can follow a recipe. I can season to taste. But sometimes, I just don’t know what some recipes need to make it taste better.
This is a story of a botched recipe, turned sublime. Last Thanksgiving, Ina Garten’s roasted butternut squash salad was made a few times. The first time, with apple juice, it was nice, and was therefore given the thumbs up for serving at the Thanksgiving dinner.
My friend was helping with the prep work for round 2, but mistakenly made the dressing with 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar instead of apple cider. A big oops! However, she tried to salvage the salad by adding in some brown sugar and vanilla. While the salad was still a bit acidic, the vanilla was a magical ingredient. Instead of being as sweet as the first time, it was more savoury.
Therefore, when I recreated the dish this year, when butternut squash started to make its way into the grocery stores, I wanted the best of both worlds: vanilla within an apple cider vinaigrette. I used baby spinach and toasted almonds, instead of the arugula and walnuts Ina suggested. I also omitted the Parmesan cheese and reduced the olive oil, salt and pepper. Trust me, I didn’t miss anything. There were so many levels of flavour here, I was thoroughly content. The butternut squash is roasted to bring out its sweetness and is soft, bit still keeps it shape. The fruity dressing is tamed with the vanilla and works well with the baby spinach. Toasted almonds nail this as a slam-dunk salad.
Here are some other savoury vanilla dishes I’ve made:
This is my submission to this month’s Simple and in Season, to this month’s Food Palette series featuring the rainbow, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekends, and to both Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring cranberries.
Rob and I just returned from a week-long vacation in Iceland. I hope to do a more complete post in a few weeks about the trip (wonderful! beautiful! stunning!), after I frantically try to put my life back into order with work and research commitments. My blog will go into autopilot until then.
I will tease you, though, and let you know how great the trip was and a week was certainly not long enough for the quaint island. Despite the stunning views and vistas, it was cold. While the daytime highs could be 8-20C, with winds beating us fiercely at 80 km/h, the windshield was brutal. It reminded me how it is truly fall.
Even before I left, I knew summer was slowly coming to an end at home. I was worried I would return to Canada to find fall, but instead, thankfully, it is still in the mid-20s.
However, there are other signs. The mornings are now dark when I get up and if I cook after work, it can be dark by the time I finish. Butternut squash, a surefire marker of fall, is making a come back!
After the cold winds of Iceland, I was hankering some warming stews and soups. Summer or fall, stews are great any time of the year. In fact, this stew doubles as a salad which is how I ate the leftovers. See how perfect this is for end-of-summer meals?
Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health (recipe posted here), this is a flavourful medley of vegetables (red bell pepper, green beans, tomatoes and butternut squash) with a light broth spiced with sweet paprika. Spurred by Cara’s recommendation, I used butternut squash instead of sweet potatoes but both would work well here. This is great with the large, buttery lima beans, but feel free to use your favourite bean.
Moosewood recommended serving this with a romesco sauce on top, but I found I preferred the thickened leftover stew over top baby spinach with a sprinkle of toasted slivered almonds. After throwing my sweet and sour lentils overtop arugula, I am learning that most bean dishes can be thrown overtop some greens for a lovely salad.
Who likes garlic? I mean, really likes garlic? I probably shouldn’t scare the garlic-shy from this recipe, because it was really tasty. And didn’t leave me with garlic breath, so it couldn’t have been that potent with 14 cloves of garlic.
Ten of those garlic cloves are roasted, so they don’t really count towards the scary garlic count. Although, I almost had second thoughts as I dumped in 4 cloves of raw garlic at the end of making this stew. I shouldn’t have doubted Anya’s genius, though.
This recipe comes from The New Spanish Table, and I had been eyeing this recipe for months (I first mentioned it on my list of things to make with butternut squash back in November and again in January!). Honestly, I waited too long. This is a lovely, hearty stew that is both savoury but still slightly sweet. Lentils fill the stew as its base, and the butternut squash and red peppers add colour and sweetness. A head of roasted garlic brings a mellow sweetness as well. The peppers are both boiled and pan-fried for a contrast in flavour and texture (but I feel like this step could be skipped if you are pressed for time). And while I stated I don’t want to muck with Anya’s genius, I made a slight modification to her recipe, that I think lent to its prowess. Instead of adding in two fresh tomatoes (nothing with a fresh taste is around during the winter!), I added 1 cup of passata (strained tomatoes) at the end. This is where you get a silky tomato base for the stew that complements the squash, bell pepper and lentils so well.
I love it when I am surprised by a dish; but I shouldn’t have been. :)
I will admit that I was a bit sick of Moroccan cuisine after being profoundly immersed into it for 2 weeks straight. For every meal, I would seek out a new dish that I hadn’t yet tried. As we meandered from Casablanca, to Marrakesh, through the Berber inland towards the Sahara desert, up to Fes and Meknes, there was always something new to try. However, it was mostly meat. I remember asking if I could get a couscous dish without meat, and the waiter told me I could have it with chicken instead. That’s not what I had wanted, either, actually.
My friend and I scoped out some vegetarian restaurants (Clock Cafe in Fes, and Earth Cafe in Marrakech), but vegetarians options (nevermind vegan options) were hard to come by. So, I plunged myself into Moroccan culture, and ate like the Moroccans. And ate my meat quota for the year.
However, perusing the web, there are bountiful recipes with exotic Moroccan-spiced vegetarians dishes. I just didn’t find them in abundance while in Morocco!
While I still have yet to recreate the traditional flavourful and spicy chickpea and lentil Moroccan soup (harira), I busted out nearly everything in my spice cabinet to create this ultimate winter couscous (christened as such by Yotam Ottolenghi). I adapted the recipe I found in Plenty, but a similar recipe was originally posted in his column at the Guardian.
At the same time both savoury and sweet, it embodies my favourite aspects of Moroccan cuisine. The base of the vegetable tagine is made of butternut squash, carrots, parsnips and chickpeas and it is pleasantly spiced with cinnamon, ginger, sweet paprika, bay leaves, turmeric and chili flakes. It could be made even hotter with harissa, but I opted to keep it more tame. The sweetness comes from the dried apricots which are simmered in the broth with the spiced vegetables. Feel free to sprinkle with fresh lemon juice, or use the suggested preserved lemon.
Couscous is prepared separately, but once combined, you have a good textural contrast. Chopped cilantro adds the fresh, finishing touch.
Sometimes cooking in your own kitchen brings you places you never thought. And in this case, my kitchen is a better place to experiment with vegetarian Moroccan cuisine. And trust me, there will be plenty more. :)
I have more than a few posts in my drafts folder, as I figure out what to write, take the photos off my camera, go on vacation to Morocco.. You know, the typical delays.
I made this delicious breakfast oatmeal pudding last month, when pumpkin and fresh cranberries were both abundant. Now that Christmas cookie, mint and chocolate season is knocking at the door, I figured I should whip this baby out before it was too late! :)
Adapted from Cara’s Cravings, this is a variation on the Baked Blueberry Oatmeal Breakfast Pudding I posted in September (based on Ricki’s original recipe). Back then, it was my pre-cycling breakfast of choice. This time, though, my pudding was a bit thicker, a bit lumpier, so I wonder whether I had to pulse my almonds longer. However, I enjoyed this variation, too, as it had a different mix of flavours. The pumpkin puree replaced the applesauce, the fresh cranberries substituted for the blueberries and the mix of savoury spices (cinnamon, ginger, cloves) worked perfectly. Not too sweet, and definitely not bland, this was a perfect start to the day. Likewise, it could work as a nice dessert as well.
This is my submission to this round of Blog Bites 9, holiday buffet, potluck-style!
It is my pleasure to host Healing Foods this month. Siri started this event to highlight the health benefits from a variety of foods. There are so many healthy options when you eat vegetables, but I wanted to highlight one of my favourite winter vegetables: winter squash.
Whether your preferred squash is butternut, acorn, kabocha, pumpkin or spaghetti, winter squash is filled with vitamins (great sources of A, B and C) and fibre, while being low in calories. Most importantly, they all taste great.
Squash is versatile and can be used in soups, sides, main dishes and even desserts. It can be boiled, baked, or steamed. It can be sweet or savoury. And this is why it is so easy to fall for squash.
Join me this month by sharing your winter squash and pumpkin recipes.
To participate, please create and photograph a vegetarian dish with winter squash, linking to this announcement and Siri’s Healing Food event page by December 31, 2010. Email me at saveur11 AT yahoo DOT ca with your name, your entry’s name and url along with a photograph of your dish. The dishes must be new and posted between December 1 and 31. You may submit as many entries as you like.
I look forward to seeing everyone’s creative dishes.
I have a mighty fine selection of spices, if I may say so myself. A huge thank you goes to my last trip to Penzeys, and also to Bestwin which has a multitude of cheap ethnic spices. Fresh spices make a huge difference when cooking. Spices don’t keep long, which is why I only buy the spices I need. I make my own garam masala and now I will show you how to make your own chili powder. For the spice-sissies like me, this is yet another way to flavour the heat levels to your own liking.
There are many recipes for chili powder, but I went with a flavourful blend with smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, oregano and garlic powder. You can add as much real chili your taste buds will desire, but I stayed with my flavourful (not hot) Aleppo chili flakes from the base recipe. The deconstructed recipe has been incorporated into the chili recipe below. Definitely play with the flavours until you get something you like.
This is a Hallowe’en themed chili, filled with all things black and orange, adapted from Party Vegan (recipe also posted here). Of course, I couldn’t just do a simple, traditional chili. This one is filled with butternut squash and the secret oomph comes from the apple juice. Its sweetness allows you to dial up the heat higher than you might otherwise. Personally, I thought it was great. Different than the ordinary, and the squash worked well with the black beans.
I scooped up a few butternut squashes when they were on sale, and they are great because they don’t take up coveted refrigerator space. I can plot and determine a strategy to use them in my cooking. What will I make first? Ina Garten’s Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with a Warm Cider Vinaigrette? Smitten Kitchen’s Squash and Chickpea Moroccan Stew or her Spicy Squash Salad with Lentils and Goat Cheese? The New Spanish Table‘s Lentil and Pumpkin Stew with Roasted Garlic? Joanne’s Tofu, Tempeh and Squash Peanut Butter Mole? Ottolenghi‘s Roasted Butternut Squash with Burnt Eggplant and Pomegranate Molasses? Fat Free Vegan’s Lemony Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash? 101 Cookbook’s Borlotti Bean Mole with Roasted Winter Squash? There are so many options to mull over as squash season starts up again.
So how did I narrow my choices? I didn’t have all the ingredients for any of the recipes, so I kept my eyes out for the missing links. While I was walking around the St Lawrence Market, I stumbled upon fresh cranberry beans (borlotti beans). I had bought some dried Romano beans earlier to make the dish, but when I spotted the fresh beans, I couldn’t resist! The Borlotti Bean Mole was the chosen one. How could I not have chosen it initially? It has lots of great ingredients – caramelized onions, roasted butternut squash, ground almonds, some kale is thrown in for greenery and it is smothered in a spicy chocolate mole sauce. Now, all I had to do was also find some kale. :)
My favourite part of St Lawrence Market is the Saturday morning farmer’s market in the North building. For early risers like me, it is great because it is probably one of the only places to buy groceries at 6am in the morning! :) I spotted a bunch of kale for $2. Let me not fool you, this bunch was HUGE. It could not fit into my bicycle pannier, it was that big. It did not even fit in my refrigerator. I had to store it outside on my balcony! And when I measured out 3 oz of kale for this recipe, I needed one leaf. Just one leaf!
I have never had a Mexican mole before. For the other newbies out there, it is pronounced mo-lay, not mole like the skin lesion. I was corrected, thanks Rob! My Mexican modesty was revealed! ;)
While I generally am a bit apprehensive with traditionally spicy dishes, I really enjoyed this. I modified Heidi’s recipe (who in turn adapted it from Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and Me) to increase the beans and squash, and I used Aleppo chili flakes instead of the jalapeno peppers. The chocolate softens the spicy kick. I otherwise kept things the same and really enjoyed it. It takes a while to make, at least an hour prep, with a further 2 hours of slow cooking, but you have a wonderfully fragrant meal. I think you could skip the 2 hour cooking time, if you really need to. It would still taste great. Everything was basically cooked before it went in and when I snuck in a lick before I popped it into the oven, it was very tasty. It was also slightly colourful at this point. Two hours later, the flavours were more robust, deeper, darker and savoury but it was still great beforehand. The cranberry beans are creamy, the squash is sweet, the kale has a slight bite to it and it is smothered in a spicy chocolate sauce. Who says you can only have chocolate as a sweet treat? It is wonderful savoury as well. :) Enjoy!
When I first heard about someone writing a book on what people eat when alone, I initially thought they should just come to my blog! Most of my dishes are things I cook for myself, even ones that serve 6. I know some people hate leftovers, but I love them! It means I can eat something without much preparation and my favourite dishes are one-pot meals that taste better with age.
Soups and salads are great in this category as they improve with time. This is a very simple soup, with only 4 ingredients, but the results are beyond simple. Freshly roasted peppers are combines with sweet squash (butternut, buttercup, etc) with a flavourful stock and an onion, and you have a powerful soup. Season well with salt and pepper. The hardest part is roasting the red peppers, which I recommend over the jarred variety as they taste a lot better and it isn’t that difficult. You can roast more peppers to save for other dishes, as I do as well.
It was adapted from Saved by Soup by Judith Barret, which is a cookbook dedicated to simple healthy soups. Enjoy the soup with a crusty piece of bread or with a light main dish. I served this along with Creamy Polenta with Roasted Red Pepper Coulis as I just had to throw in an extra red pepper to be roasted, and its recipe will follow in the next post.
Alas, I was getting ready to write my post about my love of Alphonso mangoes, but figured I should shed my winter meals first before jumping headfirst into spring and summer dishes. With a balmy 15C this morning on my way to work on my bike, I am happy as a peach.. sweet as a mango?
One of my favourite things to eat in the winter is butternut squash. Or buttercup squash. Any squash, really. When roasted, they are incredibly sweet and work well with many sweet and savoury flavours.
For this dish, adapted from Lou Seibert Pappas’ A Harvest of Pumpkin and Squash, the savoury side of a butternut squash is combined with cinnamon- and sesame-laced quinoa mixed with cranberries and pear. This is laid on a bed of welcoming spinach and topped with a balsamic vinaigrette.
It was a weird and interesting combination of flavours. If I were to remake it, I think I would omit the soy sauce and sesame oil, to keep the flavour palate more simple, highlighting the cinnamon and allspice. Otherwise, the flavours are my typical fall favourites: cranberry, squash and cinnamon. Not that it will stop you from making it during other seasons…. although I agree you may get distracted by the mangoes. :)
This is my submission to Ricki and Kim’s SOS Kitchen Challenge, featuring sweet or savoury natural vegan cooking highlighting spinach this month.
I like to follow different food blogging events as a way to meet new bloggers, discover new foods and to push my own kitchen barriers. When I first saw that the current Monthly Mingle was featuring South African cuisine, I was intrigued. Um, what IS South African cuisine? So I googled… and stumbled across a very interesting African cookbook. I learned it is also known as “rainbow cuisine” due to its blend of dishes from many origins and cultures including dishes from the indigenous people of South Africa as well as the dishes brought from immigrants from India, Afrikaner and British descent. The Cape Dutch dishes which incorporate nutmeg, allspice and hot peppers can be fused with Cape Malay dishes that includes curries, sambals and fish stews.
The following recipe for South African Spiced Butternut Squash and Roasted Banana Soup with Coconut and Lime does just that. It comes from Grant Cullingworth, the executive chef at Table Bay Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa, and was adapted from those posted here and here. It is a delicious sweet soup that balances the sweetness of the butternut squash and a roasted banana, with the creaminess of coconut milk, the spicy kick of chilies (or curried if you want the original version) with the bitter tang of lime. It was a thick soup, so don’t be shy to add extra stock. I ate some as a soup, but later also used the thicker soup base as a filling for ravioli and found it absolutely incredible as a spread over a multigrain bread.
This is my submission to this month’s Monthly Mingle featuring dishes from South Africa.
Here I present an interesting miso soup with butternut squash, spinach and soba noodles. It had been a while since I made a Japanese dish, as I was sidetracked with buttermilk, pumpkin and cranberries, but I was craving a soup. I liked how the sweet butternut squash mixed with salty miso. This soup was adapted from a recipe in Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons by Nava Atlas. I have learned that Asian recipes may not be the best from non-Asian sources, but this was pretty good although certainly not authentic Japanese. It attests to the beauty of soups and how hard it is to mess them up. :)
The hardest part of the soup was prepping the squash. I found it easy to microwave the squash first, let it cool slightly, then peel and cut the squash for the soup. Alternatively, you could cut and peel before you microwave it. Roasting it would be easy as well, but takes longer and you are more likely to get soft (roasted) squash.
I was catching up with a friend last week. Of course, the conversation veered to food. ;) She was teasing me as she described all the baked goods she had made with her new Cuisinart. This didn’t surprise me as I know she is a fabulous baker, but what shocked me was that she told me that she doesn’t make soups. WHAT?!
I LOVE soups! They are easy to make, difficult to screw up, very tasty and usually healthy. I will concede that I rarely make my own stock (save Japanese dashi), but that doesn’t stop me from making delicious, flavourful soups.
I am sharing a soup I made this weekend with some of my favourite ingredients, including squash. I decided to combine my two favourite fall ingredients: squash and apples (those who know me well, know that I recently bought lots of both; on sale, of course!). It takes a bit of time to come together, but you can do other things as it roasts and simmers. The apple adds a bit of subtle tang to the warm, colourful squash base. I don’t like to make soups with cream; not from the taste (as it tastes great), rather due to cost and calories. I threw it in this soup because I had some lying around but extra stock would work out fine as well. Hopefully this is the beginning of many soups to come on the blog. :D
My inspiration for the soup came from 300 Sensational Soups by Carla Snyder and Meredith Deeds. The soups are a bit heavy on the added cream, but this one piqued my interest.
Last year, when I was reviewing restaurants for Voir in Ottawa/Gatineau I went to Coconut Lagoon, a good South Indian restaurant on Saint-Laurent Boulevard in Ottawa. I had a pumpkin curry there that I really enjoyed and it has stayed in my mind. Recently, the idea of doing it sprang up again when I spotted a lonely butternut squash in my kitchen. A few nights ago, I tried out a recipe which I borrowed from someone else’s blog, Vividha Ruchulu. I don’t know anything about her, but the recipe worked and I thoroughly enjoyed that curry! I ate it with store bough chapatis which fried up with a bit of butter to make them even better (right Pomelo? ;-)). Anyway, I am no expert in Indian cooking, but the sauce turned out really rich and creamy in this recipe and there is only a few teaspoons of oil…not bad! I think processing the onions to almost a pulp really gave some yummy body to this sauce, but have to explore more recipes to ascertain this claim. You can find the recipe on Ms. Ruchulu’s blog (link above). Below is my finished product, sans chapatis. This is the last serving and I hope it doesn’t look to baleful in that bowl…however, the little amount left is a testimony to its deliciousness!