the taste space

Chickpea & Kabocha Squash Lemongrass Curry

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on March 11, 2014

Lemongrass, Chickpea and Kabocha Squash Coconut Curry

Recently, Rob and I have been flip-flopping. One weekend Rob is home alone. The next, I am home alone as Rob is out. Travelling separately. Although I probably received the brunt of the solo travels as I ventured to the cold Canadian winter alone. Rob, however, is travelling without me but visiting and meeting friends throughout the US.

This weekend, he also left me without a car. My bike gets me to and from work but on the weekends, the car brings me to groceries. Our loot is  too big to bring home on a bike. Oftentimes, Rob will also pick up random missing ingredients throughout the week… so I lost that convenience, too. Although, we planned for this: a double grocery haul last weekend. This week, I get to eat through the fridge and pantry. And tackle my languishing winter squashes.

I am sure I am not the only one with winter squashes on my counter (right?). It happens every year to me. Houston-time, included.

Winter squash may not still be on your radar but with the last winter blast, a warming stew is hard to turn down. (I am not playing with you, Houston does get cold. I had pants on last week).

I finally decided to tackle Hannah’s Chickpea and Pumpkin Lemongrass Curry. Unlike most curries, this one has NO CUMIN. Blasted! A bit more sweet with the kabocha squash which worked well with the aromatics like cardamom and coriander, but still tempered by ginger, mustard and chile with a luscious coconut-infused broth spiked with lemongrass.

Do you still have winter squashes looming around? Heck, it is still winter, right? I shouldn’t feel too guilty, right? :)

Lemongrass, Chickpea and Kabocha Squash Coconut Curry

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, Meatless Mondays for squash and to this month’s Spice Trail.

Better With Veggies

PS. The winner of High Protein Vegan is Miss Polkadot. Congratulations! (more…)

Kimchi Stew with Tofu and Mushrooms (Vegan Kimchi Jigae)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on February 4, 2014

Kimchi Stew with Tofu and Mushrooms (Vegan Kimchi Jigae)

I don’t know what is in the air. I assure you, it was not weather-related. No snow or ice around here.

Between myself and my sister-in-law, we have a veritable collection of injuries: 2 sprained knees and 1 sprained (or broken, we’re not sure) toe. Sadly, it was me with both knees sprained. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) for my sister-in-law, sprained and broken toes are treated the same way.

Also sad is that I have not yet come up with a sexy story to explain my bilaterally braced knees. NOT MY BIKE, thankyouverymuch. In any case, each day is getting better.

I followed my mnemonic from medical school: RICE. Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. (Of course, after a free consultation from my trauma surgeon friend to confirm my suspicions nothing was broken). And of course: anti-inflammatories for pain management. Turns out there is a modified mnemonic for that inclusion: PRINCE, including P for protection and N for NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. I like it!

Serendipitously, I also happened to make the perfect “anti-inflammatory” soup a few days before I went down. A warming soup filled with cabbage, mushrooms, garlic and tofu. Kimchi, pickled napa cabbage, added a lot of flavour. It was perfect to help me recover.

There is evidence fruits and vegetables possess anti-inflammatory properties and the reasons are multi-factorial. Some fruits and vegetables contain naturally occurring salicylates, the compound found in aspirin. This explains why vegetarians have naturally occurring salicylate levels in their blood, albeit not likely therapeutic. While I have heard of people shunning “nightshade” vegetables, including potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers and eggplant, because they are “pro-inflammatory”, I have not found any solid scientific evidence to support hiding from the nightshades. (If you know of any articles, please share!).

Anyways, this soup. Delicious. Not too spicy although this soup was a bit of a mystery to me. When I ate it right after making it, it was the perfect level of spice. I added the kimchi to taste, obviously. However, the soup was pretty bland as leftovers. The chiles had mellowed! To ramp the flavour back up, I added fresh kimchi to each subsequent serving. Definitely add to taste. Enjoy!

Kimchi Stew with Tofu and Mushrooms (Vegan Kimchi Jigae)

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s No Croutons Required. (more…)

Kabocha Squash, Coconut & Lentil Soup

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on January 14, 2014

Winter Squash, Coconut & Lentil Soup

I spoke too soon. It was cold but now it is warm.

Houston felt the “Polar Vortex“. The “Arctic Invasion” that froze Niagara Falls (!!) (on the American side) brought Houston to lows a bit below freezing. With the 90% humidity, -4ºC was quite chilly but nothing compared to what the rest of the country was feeling. But this weekend, the humidity and chills disappeared. It was a balmy 26ºC with (only!) 25% humidity and Rob and I celebrated by wearing shorts, visiting the beach and kayaking in the Galveston area bay. Yeah, it was summer once again.

Winter Squash, Coconut & Lentil Soup

People at work wonder why I am so happy, but even small victories like this make my heart sing. Every time I cycle to work, I am ecstatic. Instead of hurricanes, Houston was hit by a drought this year.  I have cycled to work every day, safe 3 days so far in the past 6 months. Snow, ice and rain will keep me off my bike, not cold weather alone.

Soups like this also make my tummy sing. It is filled with all great things: red lentils as a solid base, kabocha squash and coconut milk for a creamy backdrop, spiced with ginger and chile flakes, tempered by tamarind and lime juice with a lemongrass twist. The flavours meld perfectly and this is a soup that will definitely warm you up during a cold front.

Winter Squash, Coconut & Lentil Soup

Were you hit by the cold? I heard the vortex may return again. I am thinking warm thoughts for you.

If you like this soup, you may also enjoy these:

Butternut Squash and Coconut Indian Stew

Plantains and Cabbage with Split Peas

Thai Sweet Potato and Kabocha Squash Stew

Winter Squash, Coconut & Lentil Soup

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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Holy Moley Veggie and Rice Soup

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on January 9, 2014

Holy Moley Soup from Soup's On!

I am no stranger to mole, but our recent trip to Mexico City, gave me an appreciation for Mexican food like no other. Fresh, soft and supple corn tortillas that blew my mind. An assortment of flavourful vegetables. Spicy salsa on the side, to add as much or as little heat as I could tolerate. Vegan eats were a bit hard to find, but after scoping out the right restaurants, we had unearthed some gems. My two favourite restaurants served an abundance of tacos. One of them served a delicious chocolate-infused mole sauce. Rob did a double-take after I ordered another taco and did not share. I had to savour another one!

Chocolate in savoury meals can be a bit tricky. A bit heavy handed, and it can sink in your tummy. A good balance of sweet, spicy and salty are necessary to balance the flavours well. This is an unusual spin on mole, in soup form, bulked up with vegetables and brown rice. The tomato-chocolate backdrop was a delicious spin without being heavy (and the initial puree prior to adding the stock would be a delicious sauce on its own). While this wasn’t in a taco, we served this with tortillas on the side.

Like mole, tamales are also a Mexican comfort food. Our next Mexican culinary adventures will be tamales. We were planning to have a tamalada (a tamale-making party) prior to Christmas, as tamales are usually eaten around holidays, such as Christmas and New Year’s. However, it is harder to schedule a large gathering of fellows than you might think. It means the tamalada will happen in the new year. With my recent chocolate themed eats, I will likely be proposing chocolate tamales for dessert.

What is your favourite Mexican comfort food?

Holy Moley Soup from Soup's On!
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this month’s We Should Cocoa, to this month’s No Croutons Required and to this month’s My Legume Love Affair.

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Indian-Spiced Mung Bean Stew

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M 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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Thai Sweet Potato and Kabocha Squash Stew

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on November 11, 2013

Thai Sweet Potato and Winter Squash Stew

I have mastered eating leftovers, which is the ultimate way to cook for one. I did not really think I would cook differently while Rob was away, but towards the end of nearly 5 weeks without Rob, I had little interest in making complete meals.

And then, suddenly, when I knew Rob would return (again), all I wanted to do was make something for him to enjoy.
(I just became disinterested in cooking while he was away; Rob had limited use of a kitchen while away)

Thai curry for Rob! With sweet potatoes! And Kabocha squash! AND PEAS! (Rob loves peas!) AND COCONUT! (he likes that, too)

Thai Sweet Potato and Winter Squash Stew

I have already shared with you the main ingredients (plus WHITE BEANS! yay!) so you can imagine the delicious taste of flavours.

The sweet potatoes and Kabocha squash are roasted separately to bring out their sweetness and keep their shape. I don’t like green peas as much as Rob, but I really liked them here, next to the creamy roots. The red curry paste was not overwhelming, and really, I should have added more for Rob’s palate, but I played it safe so I could savour it, too. Instead of using a flour to thicken it up, I simply simmered it longer until it was a nice creamy coconutty consistency.

Thai Sweet Potato and Winter Squash Stew

Joanne’s tantalizing original recipe was actually for a Thai-inspired potpie with a pumpkin biscuit topping, which I am sure would have been lovely… but hey, baby steps, here. This was a glorious curry, even without a topping.

Thai Sweet Potato and Winter Squash Stew
To return the favour of delicious food, I had to ask Rob to photograph the leftovers. If I thought the lack of daylight after work was bad before the daylight savings switch, there is now no way I can make it home before darkness now. So here, is Rob’s signature style photo… because as he puts it, he wants to SEE THE FOOD:

Thai Sweet Potato and Winter Squash Stew

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Four Seasons Food Challenge for one-pot wonders, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to this month’s No Croutons Required for blogger inspiration.
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Black Bean and Sweet Potato Stew & Cookbook Giveaway!

Posted in Book Review, Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on November 2, 2013

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Stew

Remember that time when I thought fall had arrived in Houston? The morning had a bit of a chill, despite daytime highs that were reminiscent of a typical Toronto summer’s day.

The extreme heat and humidity has somewhat abated, but without the change in the colour of the trees’ leaves, it still does not feel like fall. I continue to wear the same clothes I wore in the middle of the summer (aka short sleeves and shorts).

Although, I know the seasons are changing. The days are getting shorter. I can no longer photograph my dinner, after I return from work. Some days I am home earlier, but most days, I arrive home fairly late, after sunset. The sun is setting earlier, and earlier.

So after Rob made this absolutely delicious black bean soup, I knew I wanted to share it… but I had to photograph it before we finished it off. Instead of depriving Rob of his next dinner, I asked him to photograph it before he devoured the last serving.  I mean, there are a few perks of working from home, and photographing meals during daylight is definitely one of them.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Stew

So… about this soup. Delicious! Loads of black beans and sweet potato chunks are simmered with cumin, oregano and allspice with a broth that is flavoured with red pepper paste (Rob’s creative substitute since we were all out of red bell peppers) and sun-dried tomatoes. Although the balsamic vinegar and lime juice make this special with the tang and acidity. The balsamic finish is definitely making a comeback in my kitchen, since it worked well with the white bean paprikash. Rob also opted to keep the black beans whole, instead of pureeing them. Thus, this was a bean stew instead of a bean soup.

While one might think I have a certain food photography style, it is truly a lazy affair. One camera and one lens. Photo from above and a few photos from the front. Easy, peasy and pretty fool-proof. As long as you can keep things in focus as you hover above the food. ;) Although the next photo shows you Rob’s signature in-your-face style:

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Stew

The inspiration for this soup came from Dreena’s latest ecookbook, Plant-Powered 15, filled with 15 whole-foods vegan recipes without any oil or gluten. I know I have a few readers who are no-oil vegans, so this would be perfect for you. Even if you are not eating oil-free (like me!), you will still enjoy the bright flavours. As I have said before, I really like Dreena’s recipes. In particular, we adore her Lemon Mediterranean Lentil SaladJerk ChickpeasThai Chickpea Almond CurryTomato Lentil Cumin and Dill Soup and Thai Coconut Corn Stew.

Dreena’s ebook spans breakfast, oil-free salad dressings, mains like vegan burgers and even a few desserts. With the help of Nicole, there are gorgeous photos of each recipe. Instead of misleading you, Dreena has allowed me to share Nicole’s photo of the soup:

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup

Dreena has already shared the recipe for Umami Almond, Quinoa, and Sundried Tomato Burgers, her cashew-based Wonder Spread and Sticky Almond Blondies as teasers for the cookbook. However, even more exciting is that she is graciously offering a copy of her ecookbook to two of my readers! Because this is an electronic version, it is open to anyone is the world! (Woohoo!) To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite Dreena recipe. If you haven’t made anything by Dreena yet, have a look through the table of contents of Plant-Powered 15 (or another one of her books/blog) and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on November 15, 2013. Good luck!

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s No Waste Challenge for root vegetables and to this month’s My Legume Love Affair hosted by Denny.

Note: I purchased my own copy of Dreena’s cookbook.  I was under no obligation to share a review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.

PS. The winner of the Isa Does It! giveaway is Josiane. I will be in contact with you.

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Moosewood’s Caribbean Stew (& Cookbook Giveaway!)

Posted in Soups, Mains (Vegetarian), Book Review by Janet M on September 3, 2013

Moosewood's Caribbean Stew

You may not have noticed, but I snuck away last week. An absolutely epic road trip, starting at Portland, the vegan mecca, meandering through lakes and mountains, including Crater Lake, reaching our ultimate destination: Burning Man. I hope to summarize our adventures and if I don’t I’ll be sure to share if Rob posts anything on his website. He is much better at looking through photos afterwards. I have a hard enough time keeping track of my food photos. ;)

Before we left, I tried to cook through our pile of produce. Serendipitously, I had everything for this delicious Caribbean Stew. It is from Moosewood’s latest cookbook: Moosewood Restaurant Favorites. Through their collective, they run a restaurant in Ithica, New York, and have written many cookbooks over the past few decades. Most of my Moosewood cookbooks were bought/discovered at used book sales, although they are still keeping up with the times. Their latest cookbook, while not entirely vegan (they still use cheese, although less than before) and not even vegetarian (they have recipes for fish), includes updates from their restaurant favourites. Between their section dedicated to Soups (Thai Butternut Squash Soup, Texas Barbecue Bean Soup, Red Lentil Soup), to Main Dish Salads (Peruvian Quinoa and Vegetable Salad), to Curries and Stews (Lentil-Vegetable Sambar, Navajo Stew), a section dedicated to Beans (Basque Beans, Caribbean Red Beans, Creole Red Beans), and sides (Lentil Dhal), I was very pleased with their vegan recipes.

Moosewood's Caribbean Stew

And this Caribbean Stew? It did not disappoint. A delicious medley of sweet potato, red bell pepper, tomato, cabbage and kale in a flavourful (not too) spicy broth made with ginger and green chiles. The dash of nutmeg and lime finish kept this special. As part of their growing process, Moosewood recommends more fresh herbs than before (I learned that lesson, too!) and this included fresh ginger, thyme and cilantro. They also recommended freshly grated nutmeg which is definitely more potent than pre-bought powdered. I modified the original recipe slightly, noted below. I decreased the ginger, although I probably didn’t need to be scared of the bit of heat it would impart. I also found the directions to cook everything on low to be too slow, so I increased my heat to medium-low and eventually medium. In the end, though, it was a fabulous soup. Tons of veggies with a delicious broth. A bit lacking in the protein department, I served it with the suggested brown rice. I bet you could easily sneak in some beans or tofu in there, too.

I really want to share this cookbook with you. Thankfully the publisher is letting me give away a cookbook to one reader living in the US or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite Moosewood dish. If you haven’t made anything by Moosewood yet, have a look through the table of contents of Moosewood Restaurant Favorites on amazon (or my list below) and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on September 15, 2013. Good luck!

Other Moosewood recipes I have shared:

French Barley Salad
Bulgur Chili
Chinese Cabbage and Fermented Black Beans
Spanish Green Bean and Lime Bean Stew
Japanese Winter Stew
African Pineapple Kale Peanut Stew
Italian Stew with Winter Squash and Chickpeas
Thyme-Spiced Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and Cranberries.

Moosewood's Caribbean Stew

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s Flavours of Caribbean.

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Indian Sprouted Mung Bean Stew with Greens

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on March 26, 2013

Indian Sprouted Mung Bean Stew

There was a time when I would get curried out. Too much curry. I couldn’t keep up with Rob.

Now, curry has become a staple for both of us. Except I don’t think you can tell by what I share here. Be it resolved to share more of our Indian eats. They have converted me.

In my mind, there are authentic Indian foods and Indian-inspired foods or Indian-spiced foods. The latter referring to when you spice things up with curry powder. While I have thrown curry powder into Indian curries, bean and quinoa skillets, and couscous pilaf, I have also added it to tofu chowders, sweet potato hummus, balsamic roasted veggies, kabocha squash flatbread, curried-mustard dressing,  raw pineapple rice and more recently tofu scramble. The trick is not to make everything taste like “curry powder”, if you know what I mean. This can mean using different types of curry powder (picking one you like is most important; I am partial to Penzey’s sweet blend), adding other spices, using different vegetables or cooking methods to shake things up.

Indian Sprouted Mung Bean Stew

I was drawn to this Indian mung bean stew for its simplicity but I knew it would not be lackluster. Instead of the typical red lentil curries I adore, this is a brothy soup.

A flavourful broth is created from fennel, cumin and ginger. Indian cooking doesn’t always have to be thick curries. Carrots and collards add colour and mung beans make this filling. Lemon juice brightens it up. The curry powder is added as a finishing spice, at the end of cooking, for a different twist to the soup. Pick a curry powder you like because a little goes a long way to flavour the stew. Fennel and cumin will enhance the curry powder, too. As a note, I used sprouted mung beans because that is what I had on hand, but whole bung beans would be equally as good as would any other small bean, like adzuki, too. My only suggestion is to cut up your carrot smaller than I did, mimicking the size of the beans, for better mouth-feel.

Are you a curry powder fan or a curry fan? Or both? :)

Indian Sprouted Mung Bean Stew

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

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Fragrant Lentil Rice Soup with Spinach and Caramelized Onions (aka Dal Bhat Meets Mujaddara)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on June 11, 2012

Sentences. Finally.

I mean, I can finally express myself in sentences!

Sorry for the blog auto-pilot for the last 3 weeks… After 2 glorious weeks in Colombia, it was back to the grind, off to work, sifting through oodles of emails, comments and catching up with my favourite blogs.

My second language is French and let’s just say three weeks ago, I knew zero Spanish.

We made sure we had the basics though:

Vegetariana estricta               Vegan

But that might not mean anything, so we had to explain:

Sin carne   

Without meat

Sin pollo

Without chicken

Sin pescado

Without fish

Sin huevos

Without eggs (Really?)

Sin leche

Without milk (I usually had a funny look at this point)

Sin mantequilla

Without butter

We usually stopped there, but I also knew how to say:

Sin pan

Without bread

We got better at explaining what I wanted:

Frutas (fruit!), verdura (vegetables), beans (frijoles), papas (potatoes) and arroz (rice).

other than baños (bathroom), another useful word was aqui (here)

As we learned more about Colombia (Que?), we became a bit more sophisticated and tried to make actual sentences.

Cuánto cuesta? How much does it cost?

Quero jugos naturales en agua sin azucar: I want freshly squeezed juice in water without added sugar!

By the end of our trip, a guide was teaching us the difference between Mucho bueno and Muy bien depending on the context of the sentence. And to greet other friendly men with Compa! and friendly women with Coma!

In any case, I loved my culinary adventures in Colombia, and we planned it so that I could stay vegan throughout the trip.  I had to make a few compromises, and that was by eating white rice (brown rice and quinoa are essentially non-existent in Colombia) and I had more fried foods than I had in the last 3 years (fried plantains and yucca mainly if nothing else was available). But it was ok. That’s what vacations are for.

Now that I am back in my own kitchen, I can return to normal. Pull out some freezer meals. Forge ahead with some comforting pantry-friendly meals.  Rob repeats recipes and sometimes I do, too. This is one of those dishes. Uber comforting.  While I describe this as Dal Bhat meets Mujaddara, this would likely scare off a bunch of people… Too many foreign words thrown in there… But if I call it Fragrant Lentil Rice Soup with Spinach and Crispy Onions, it is much more approachable, and still true to its name.

This comforting dish comes from Melissa Clark’s cookbook, Cook This Now. Savoury spices like cinnamon, cumin, allspice and ginger are combined with creamy red lentils and brown rice (aka dal bhat). Since the spices are aromatized at the beginning of the soup, they don’t pop with as much oomph as dal  bhat, instead they are more mellow. This is a thick soup, with both lentils and rice simmered together, creating an utterly creamy consistency. In mujaddara, the rice and (green) lentils absorb all the water so they are dry, but still fragrant depending on the spices you use. However, the crowning glory of mujaddara are the caramelized onions. Here, onions are caramelized in parallel so that after an hour, you have dark and deeply sweet onions to go with your just finished lentil rice soup. Thus, simple fusion at its finest. Familiar, yet just a subtle twist to both recipes to keep you interested and excited… and a dish I know I can eat again and again.

And it is just so nice to be able to tell you all this in complete sentences. Freedom! :)

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays , to Ricki’s Weekend Wellness and to Cookbooks Sundays.

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Ethiopian Split Pea and Kabocha Squash Stew with Collards

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on March 2, 2012

Just when it seemed like Rob and I had finally settled into our new place, unpacked all our stuff, got rid of the mattress in the dining room, we found out we would be moving again.

While we haven’t found a new place to live yet, I am hoping to stay in the same neighbourhood, which I have grown to love.  It is a lovely working class residential neighbourhood with some positive gems – a summer Farmer’s Market, a simple unassuming health store filled with bulk and organic ingredients, and oodles of ethnic grocers along Danforth. Our specific area is kind of a hodge podge of cultures: Ethiopian stores can be found next to Bengali supermarkets, but that is what I love. Before one of our Ethiopian fests, Rob went out to try to find some injera and instead came home with roti. All the injera was sold out, explaining how he ended up in Little India instead.

I have only recently discovered a love for Ethiopian food as I know it can be deathly spicy. I was converted after a glorious visit to a vegan Ethiopian resto, M&B Yummy, again quite an unassuming hole-in-wall kind of place, where you can get a huge meal for two under $30 including $2 Mill St Organic beers and $3 tofu cheesecakes from Sweets from the Earth. The vegetarian platter, served overtop a lovely sour injera pancake, includes berbere-spiced faux meat, spicy red lentil stews (or wats), as well as not as the milder collard greens, split pea puree, carrot and green bean dish and a lettuce salad. Sadly, we haven’t been able to try the chickpea scramble, butucha, as they’ve always been out.

My two favourite dishes from this platter are the split pea puree (kik alicha) and green bean and carrot dish (fasoulia). Both were the least spicy of the dishes and work well adjacent to the spicy lentil purees and faux meats. I have duplicated both recipes, and will share them eventually.

In the meantime, I have brought together most of the traditional elements of Ethiopian cuisine into one dish.  Split peas. Berbere. Collard greens. Kabocha squash, too. In a one-pot meal. Boo-yah! I originally spotted this on Ainslie’s blog and my curiosity was piqued with the sweet split peas contrasting with the spicy berbere. She suggests serving this overtop kale, which was just the invitation I needed to throw collards into the stew as well. The result is a hearty stew, creamy and sweet from the split peas and squash, with a touch of bitterness from the collards and enough heat you can tolerate from the berbere. Rob and I scored a hefty sample of berbere from a nearby store and I was pleasantly surprised that it was more flavourful than spicy. It definitely helps to experiment with the blends from different stores as well as different recipes.


This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring hot spices, to this week’s Weekend Wellness and to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Heather. For Lisa’s complete birthday menu, (since I haven’t shared my other Ethiopian favourites yet), I’d serve it with fun Moroccan Vegetable Phyllo Rolls with Balsamic Maple Sauce and finish it off with a Moroccan Orange Cinnamon Salad and Raw Mango Paradise Bars for a decadent birthday treat.

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Iraqi Pomegranate Stew (Shorbat Rumman)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on February 10, 2012

I will admit that when I mentioned my pee turns red after consuming red beets, I thought I was in the majority.

When asking someone about their bloody urine as a doctor, the first thing is to rule out causes that are not bloody (like eating beets).

It happens to me on occasion (red urine from beets) and as such, I thought it was pretty common.

Then I decided to do a very quick literature search.

Not that I delved into the primary studies, but apparently beeturia (what you call red urine from beets) is only present in 10-15% of people. It is caused by the increased absorption and then excretion of betalaine, the reddish pigment found in red beets.

Delving into its chemistry, it turns out that because betalaine will be protected by reducing agents like oxalates, consuming foods high in oxalates like spinach and rhubarb will enhance beeturia.  Furthermore, it is decolorized by ferric ions, colonic bacteria and stomach acids (hydrochloric acid). As such, if you don’t consume enough iron, you may get beeturia. Same thing if your stomach acid is out of whack, say from pernicious anemia.

Anyways, I thought 10-15% of people was pretty low. I decided to do an informal poll. Beeturia sufferers=4. No beeturia=2. Do not consume beets=4. Both of my no beeturia friends mentioned they get red poo, though (although I didn’t ask my other friends).

I kind of want to do a scientific study, actually. Give a specific amount of beets to a bunch of people and ask them for their urine to see if it is red (hmm, maybe I would need a pre-beet control urine sample, too). It sounds gross, I know, but my curiosity is piqued.

Not everyone enjoys beets, but let me share with you yet another great beet recipe. I am totally biased, since I love all colour of beets, in many different forms. But really, this is a great soup. And it isn’t borscht.

I originally spotted this Iraqi Pomegranate Stew on Julia’s blog. I am always thrilled to find new ways to add pomegranate molasses to my meals, and I was tickled pink when I saw it had many of my other favourite ingredients- beets, spinach, split peas, lime juice, cinnamon, cilantro and even mint! (Aside, can you see how different my tastes are from Rob’s coconut-tamarind-chile love trifecta? Although I love tamarind, too).

The flavours of stew combine the salty, sweet, and savoury perfectly. It helped that I followed Julia’s recommendation of adding more split peas and rice, and removing the sugar altogether. The pomegranate molasses gives this a nice sweet tang all by its lonesome.

This also produces a glorious red soup, speckled with the green spinach and herbs. What better way to say you love someone, then by making them a gloriously delicious healthy red soup. Except, it might make you pee red, too.

So tell me, if you dare, do you get beeturia?

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this week’s Wellness Weekend, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Vanessa and to My Kitchen, My World for Iraq.

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Indian Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes with Chickpeas (Baingan Bharta with Chickpeas)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on January 30, 2012


I have started to cook more Indian dishes… and I really enjoy them. I have yet to share them with any of my Indian friends, though. While Rob may consider himself an Indian connoisseur, he doesn’t count. Indian food is typically spicy, and sometimes I wonder if I am eating bastardized dishes since mine are not super spicy. I mean, is it still authentic Indian food? ;)

I recently went to my friend’s baby shower where they had catered oodles of Indian food for the event. My poor friends tried the chaat appetizer and lost the majority of their taste buds instantly; it was that spicy. For the main meals, my friends taste-tested the dishes and let me know which I could tolerate. There was one slightly mild dish: a tomato-eggplant dish, they told me. Although it was drenched in oil, the dish was superb with roasted tomatoes and eggplant. I later asked what the “real” name of the dish was: bharta. I remembered Julia raving about her bharta and now I knew why. This is some great stuff!

When Julia described her experience as “so good it made me want to cry“, I knew I wanted some tears here, too.
(And not from chopping the onions, that doesn’t count)

One of the big differences I noticed in Julia’s recipe and the bharta component of the Indian Eggplant and Lentil Curry was that Julia roasted her tomatoes. Ingenious! Roasted eggplant AND tomatoes.  Now that flame-roasting my eggplants are out of the question, I did it the safer way: in the oven. Doubling it up with the tomatoes was simple.

I ended up using more eggplant and tomatoes than Julia’s recipe, and because I didn’t care to make a dal concurrently, I threw in chickpeas towards the end of the dish.

While I didn’t cry, this is definitely one of my favourite meals. Smokey, sultry tomatoes and eggplant comes together in savoury spices with a hint of heat. A smidgen of coconut provides some sweetness. The cilantro and lemon liven it up. It tastes lush and rich but is actually a healthy meal.  The chickpeas give it some bulk and sustenance. If I wanted to go the traditional route, I think I might try my hand at these bean-based dosa next time.

Not to toot my own horn, but this dish tasted better than the one at my friend’s party. And likely a whole lot healthier. :)


This is my submission to this month’s Sweet Heat Challenge, featuring Indian cuisine, to Lisa’s Celebration of Indian Food, to this week’s Wellness Weekend and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.
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White Bean, Quinoa And Kale Stew with Fennel

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on November 21, 2011

For once, my Mom could snicker that her grocery store was better than mine.

You see, I was on a mission to buy parsnips to make this stew. My trusty Sunny’s didn’t have any.

I found parsley root, with beautiful parsley leaves attached to it. It looked almost identical to a parsnip, which to my eye, is a white carrot. However, they don’t taste the same. Good thing I didn’t buy it!

I had to venture to a “normal” grocery store. Or T&T, since they have parsnips. I bet the Farmer’s Market would have some, too.

While we’re at it, let’s push the boundaries some more (truthfully, parsnips are not that adventurist for me). I don’t like licorice but like tarragon. Why not try fennel? I am so happy I tried it, because I loved this stew, fennel and all!

Continuing with my white bean kick, and my abundance of kale, I modified Isa’s Quinoa, White Bean And Kale Stew from Appetite for Reduction. I thought it might be plain and boring, but it was anything but. It was sublime. A great, comforting stew with tons of mellow flavours without bogging you down.  I substituted the leek for onion and fennel, swapped the white potatoes for sweet potatoes, upped the carrots and parsnips and used up the last of my kale including the stems, which was only 1/2 lb.

Thankfully, this soup makes a ton. I will be slurping it up all week and then some!

I honestly had a hard time deciding which white bean and kale soup to make, and here are some other soups that caught my eye:

Turkey Sausage and Quinoa Pasta Soup (veganized of course) from Shape

White Bean, Roasted Garlic and Kale Soup from The Domestic Vegan

Tuscan White Bean Soup in Rebar

This is my submission to this month’s Simple and in Season, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend and to both Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring parsnips.

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Brazilian Black Bean and Vegetable Stew

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on November 14, 2011

Be prepared for some serious veggies this month. Last month was beans. This month will feature loads of greens. A spotlight on the various ways of eating delicious cruciferous vegetables, which include veggies as seemingly varied as kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and daikon (white radish). Each one loaded with vitamins and many of them top my superfood chart. Trust me, they do not need to be boring. Anything but!

Here we go, case in point here. A party in my mouth.

Brazilian food tends to do that for me.

Just like Moroccan food, Brazilian cuisine is known to be meat-heavy. However, there are endless recipes for delicious vegan alternatives.  In my own kitchen, I can create quite the flavour fiesta.

While selecting a random recipe for this month’s No Croutons Required, I was thrilled when this Brazilian Black Bean and Vegetable Stew from The Tropical Vegan Kitchen was an option. It marries two other dishes I have made: a hearty feijoada with black beans and mushrooms as well as a a black bean soup spiced with cinnamon and mango. The results could not have been better – both in the flavour department and in the colour department!

This stew is filled to the max with colourful veggies (sweet potato, red pepper, green pepper, tomato, kale) on a background of black beans. Garlic, cumin and thyme flavour the broth. While I cooked the stew, it was also spiced with orange zest.  I was worried it would be overpowering. It wasn’t until I added the final hit of lime juice that I was seriously satisfied with my beautiful and delicious stew.

This is my submission to this month’s Simple and in Season, to this month’s Sweet Heat featuring chilis in soups, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekends, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s No Croutons Required (co-hosted by Jacqui and Dom) featuring random cookbook recipes.

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