I am sorry but not sorry, Canada.
I am sorry that this was one really long and cold winter. But I am not sorry I missed it.
Last week, I returned to Canada. In Montreal, I was greeted by mountains of snow banks that still had to melt away. However, by the end of my stay, a fresh blanket of snow covered the city in near white-out conditions. My flight home was cancelled but Air Canada thoughtfully put us on a later flight, skirting the worst of the storm.
(People poo-poo Air Canada but I like flying with them, especially compared to any airline based in the US. I can catch up on my movie watching (no additional charge!) and sometimes they even give me pretzels (HA!)).
Knowing full well that warm meals are still in season (even Houston’s weather has tamed somewhat), I am unashamedly sharing yet another winter squash recipe. In March. Because, yes, they are still on my counter and based on my last post with kabocha squash, still in your kitchens, too. Plus, this dish was too good to hide until next year.
It is a deceivingly simple recipe: spaghetti squash, kale, chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes, smoked paprika and curry powder. In fact, it sounded downright weird. However, after I tasted it, it made sense. A lot of curries are tomato-based and while I don’t use tomato, sun-dried tomatoes deliver intense bursts of tomato flavour without sauciness. Smoked paprika adds a different twist so this isn’t a boring, bland curry. Chickpeas add protein and bulk. The kale is more earthy but a barely noticeable way to eat some greenery. The spaghetti squash is merely a backdrop but sops up the flavours deliciously. This dish made fabulous leftovers, allowing the flavours to meld even further.
Did you get walloped with more snow this weekend, too?
Did you know March is National Nutrition Month? While I celebrate proper nutrition every day (ok, 3 times a week here), I was encouraged by Erika to join Houston’s VegOut! challenge to eat 30 different vegetables in 30 days.
Thirty different vegetables in thirty days? Even as a veggie-loving gal, that’s a pretty huge feat. Look at my sidebar. I have favourites. Barring onions, my top ten are: garlic (227 recipes, and I don’t even tag all my garlic), tomato (139 recipes), ginger (121 recipes), carrot (110 recipes), red bell pepper (82 recipes), spinach (64 recipes), mushroom (50 recipes), kale (44 recipes), zucchini (44 recipes) and broccoli (36 recipes).
No stranger to jicama, I have enjoyed mostly in Mexican-inspired dishes: a raw burrito and as a cranberry-jicama salsa. This time, I decided to switch avenues and was inspired by Middle Eastern flavours. Packed with vegetables (7 if you include olives, but I think they are technically fruits), these are a fun twist on dolmas, stuffed grape leaves.
Instead of cooked rice, the jicama is riced into small pieces. Jicama is quite moist, so it needs a thorough drying before being incorporated with the cucumber, olives, and sun-dried tomatoes. If you don’t have jicama, cauliflower would work, too. Dill and mint were used for the filling and cilantro for the green tahini dipping sauce. With all the fresh ingredients, the flavours really popped.
This was also the first time I tried grape leaves raw. I mean, without steaming them first. Steaming makes them more tender and less salty, but this was a quick and easy way to enjoy them.
Do you think you could eat 30 different vegetables in 30 days? How do you like to eat jicama?
PS. This is my submission to Raw Food Thursdays and to VegOut Jicama: #vegoutjicama #vegoutrfs
Tomorrow is also the day to sign up for Cycle Oregon. After mulling over our options, we decided to scrap the Houston-Austin MS 150. Instead, Rob and I will be training for the 1-day 100 mile Shiner GASP (Great Austin to Shiner Pedal) ride this spring. For many reasons, we switched allegiances. I always prefer the first day of the long cycling rides and this will allow us to enjoy some time in Austin afterwards. (Free beer from the Spoetzle Brewery once we finish doesn’t hurt, either). And yes, it is only a stepping stone. Our master plan (provided we snag a porter) is to do Cycle Oregon this fall.
Cycle Oregon is not for the faint of heart: 2200 cyclists. 7 days. The route changes every year and this year it is over 400 miles and over 30,000 ft in incline. The hilly route mimics a portion of our beautiful roadtrip from Portland to Burning Man. This time, it will be by bike instead of by car.
Having a goal is a great way to stay on track. Even though we haven’t started training in earnest yet (blasted knees!), reading Gena’s snippet in No Meat Athlete about raw foods, reminded me why it is good to incorporate a variety of foods into your diet. Cooked or raw. And raw definitely does not need to be a salad. In the winter (even Houston’s winter), it can be hard for me to eat salads.
Filled with veggies, this is a fun twist on chili, done raw-style. A hybrid of my raw chili dip and chili salad wraps, this is a fun high-raw hearty chili. Red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes spiced with chili powder, tamarind and cocoa powder (YES!) create a smooth sauce that coats more veggies and beans. I used cooked pinto beans to make this a filling dish (and in my experience, easier to digest than using sprouted beans).
Is anyone else planning to do Cycle Oregon? We hope to have a small Cobra* contingent.
*Cobras are the name of our biker gang. We are a very inclusive bunch. Join us!
PS. This is my submission to Anyone Can Cook Vegetarian Food for tomatoes.
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.
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:
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 Salad, Jerk Chickpeas, Thai Chickpea Almond Curry, Tomato 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:
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!
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.
I couldn’t let Rob be the only one having fun with soy curls. At first, I wasn’t sure what to make, but once Rob showed how easy it was to add to a dish, I kept thinking of new ways to use them. It is all about the play of textures, since any saucy dish will lend well to adding flavour to the soy curls.
While the original recipe called this goulash, I think it is more similar to paprikash. Paprikash and goulash are both Hungarian stews, but I have gathered that goulash usually includes more vegetables (carrots, parsnips, potato, peppers, etc). Of course, my favourite part of paprikash were the dumplings. I have no idea how to spell it, but we called them “nokola”. My google kung-fu has brought me to this recipe for Hungarian nokedli, which looks similar, although they are smaller. My “nokola” are basically oversized spaetzle.
This was a fun, delicious paprikash stew. Smoked paprika with total tomato goodness (canned tomatoes, paste AND sun-dried tomatoes) create a luscious base. I had no red wine, and I thought Marmite would have been a good substitute since I loved it in my Beefy Mushroom and Cranberry Stew. However, with no Marmite here, I devised a fun substitute: miso and nutritional yeast. I figured it was that umami we were after and it worked! A touch of balsamic vinegar added a sweet-sour-acid thing. The soy curls were akin to thicker meat strands, but there were also white beans and thicker slabs of red pepper. This really brought me back to eating paprikash and dumplings as a child.
I found my inspiration for this dish from Mouthwatering Vegan. Lets just say the original recipe seemed a tad too complex. Unnecessarily complex, for my liking. Have I become a cantankerous kitchen curmudgeon? I don’t think so… I kept this as a one burner, one pot dish (along with something to soak the soy curls). Miriam says it is quick and easy to prepare, but I cut out the hour baking time. I am sure sauteeing the red peppers separately would be nice, too, but I streamlined that step, too. I imagine one could even rehydrate the soy curls in the stew, but I am not as familiar with them to know how that would work.
Are you one to make changes to speed up making your meals, too? And do I have any European dumpling experts that know what I am talking about??
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s VegCookBook Club for Mouthwatering Vegan. Next month’s VegCookBook Club is all about Isa Does It. Feel free to share your eats from the cookbook and enter here for your chance to win your own copy of Isa Does It! (more…)
While we planned our trip to Burning Man half a year in advance, it wasn’t until we bought our plane tickets that we decided to tack on a side trip to Portland and then roadtrip it down to the desert. Rob was worried that I wouldn’t like the extreme nature of the camping we’d have to do in the desert, so we planned for success. How could we not enjoy Portland?
Turns out that each part of the trip was better than the next. After Portland, we drove East through the Columbia River Gorge, stopping at the Hydro Dam and Multnomah Falls. The path to the top of the falls may only be 1.25 miles long, but you are basically going up and up. Kind of like Mother Nature’s Stairmaster. There was a 700ft elevation. It was a fun but tiring jaunt! If I lived in Portland, I could see this as a fun fitness bench marker (similar to the Grouse Grind in Vancouver, which I have yet to do). How fast can you climb the falls?
The following day, we skirted along the gorge, through the Hood River Fruit Loop and stopped to pick up local sweet peaches and huckleberries (it was my first time trying them – they are similar to a tart wild blueberry).
Our next stop was the Smith Rock State Park. Since it took us a good 3 hours to get here, it was too late to begin the Misery Ridge trail. Because of the heat and lack of shade, you should begin this early in the day. In any case, we didn’t bring our hiking boots with us, so we had already planned to do smaller hikes and watch some of the mountain climbers.
Our next destination was the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Billed as the best lava park between Iceland and Hawaii, we had fun walking around the volcanic crater and the lava field below. To be honest, I didn’t even know there were volcanoes on the continental US. We didn’t have enough time to explore the lava tubes, but we will definitely be back.
The next day, we scheduled a whole day for Crater Lake National Park. You can drive around the lake and stop off for lots of smaller hikes. We hiked up to a great lookout, again on another side, to see some hoodoos, and some waterfalls. It was nice to get a variety of vistas from each hike.
The trip through Oregon was fabulous. I highly recommend it.
But I know you are here for the food. You see, we stocked up a bit with food from Portland. I wasn’t sure what lurked in the smaller towns. Turns out we lucked out in Bend, Oregon. We found a local brew pub (Rob’s mission was to try out local brews) that served vegan eats. I changed the tempeh reuben sandwich into a salad and I was blown away. It was really good. I haven’t had enough time to recreate the entire salad (now on my bucket list) but I started with making a raw thousand island dressing.
Originating from the Thousand Islands region (hola Ontario!), thousand island dressing is probably one of the most ubiquitous North American creamy sauces, as a mayonnaise dressing spiced with tomato/ketchup but may also have bits of pickle, olives, etc.
The creaminess of my raw version of dressing is from cashews. The deep tomato flavour comes from sun-dried tomatoes. Garlic and onion add further ripples, while the vinegar brightens the dressing. The acidic dill pickle brings this up a notch. The only trick is that the cashews need to be soaked a few hours for easier blending.
For my salad, I just used up the random vegetables in my fridge. I first wilted the kale with lemon juice and then tossed in cucumber, red pepper, olives and hemp seeds. I am not sure they were the perfect combination (and not the prettiest salad, either) but the dressing was perfect. Now I know where to start with my own tempeh reuben salad. :)
In any case, this vacation has spurred my love of Oregon. I am even more excited to try to schedule in Cycle Oregon next year!
Our vacation was pretty awesome. And pretty overdue. While road tripping from Toronto to Houston was fun, it definitely was not a vacation. Since tickets to Burning Man can be very hard to get, we planned this trip last winter. Rob has been a few times and only had positive things to say about it (other than the insidious playa dust). In my mind, I thought: Hey, Texas is pretty close to Nevada. We should go to Burning Man! True enough, Houston is closer to Nevada than Toronto is to Nevada, but Houston is still 2000 km from Reno. Not that close.
I plan to summarize Burning Man in next week’s posts, as I recoup and regroup this week. Suffice it to say, I thought it was hot while camping in Nevada’s desert. We boarded the plane from Reno and landed in Houston. A week away and I had already forgotten how HOT, HOT, HOT (and humid) it is in Houston. Since Rob turned off the air conditioner while we were gone, we were greeted with an empty fridge and a hot kitchen. Other than thawing some (delicious) freezer meals, I had little interest in cooking anything. Zucchini noodles to the rescue!
Zucchini noodles have been my go-to lunch this summer. Gabby warned me that Houston’s heat would lead me to more raw foods and she was right. My meals have become simpler. Zucchini noodles are simple enough and of course, are just a vector for the sauce. The end of summer is a prime time for juicy tomatoes, at least in Ontario. I have yet to find tasty tomatoes here in Houston, so I have resorted to cherry tomatoes, which, in general, have more flavour. A portion of the fresh tomatoes are pulsed with a red bell pepper and sun-dried tomatoes along with a bunch of fresh herbs (basil and oregano) and garlic. A dash of chile flakes give a bit of kick and a date balances it out with a bit of sweetness. I topped it with some hemp seeds, too. I actually used a lot more than what I photographed since I knew it wouldn’t be as photogenic. ;) I usually add the sauce and hemp seeds just before I eat the salad but I took photos of my partially packed lunch. Of course, this sauce will work equally well with your favourite spaghetti-type noodle.
What is your easy, no-cook go-to meal?
Nothing like a delicious raw vegan potluck to reignite an interest in raw cuisine.
Lately my meals have been fairly simple, including my foray into raw foods. I have made more elaborate raw dishes in the past (like this nut-free raw lasagna), but currently enjoying the freedom of a simple kitchen.
This is a dish I had been meaning to try ever since Ellen recommended it to me: Matthew Kenney’s Raw Chili. I changed the ingredients slightly (no celery please! does that even go in chili?) and omitted the nuts entirely. Cooked chilis are nice but raw chilis are great because the vegetables are fresh along with strong flavours from the spices. Some vegetables are chopped, others riced, creating a melange of textures. Because I omitted the nuts, this was a delicious veg-heavy dip instead of a meal per se. Unless you eat the whole thing in one go, which is what I ended up doing.
Yes, that was the sad part. I spent all this time and energy making a delicious dip. And then I ate it all in one go. It just seemed too time consuming….. moral of the story: make a big batch. Double or triple this if you want it for a few meals. Or if you are not particular about keeping things completely raw, add some cooked beans (or sprouted beans, if you like them).
Want another quickie no cook chili? I liked this one as well.
This is my submission to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays.
Can oats taste like rice?
The folks who sell Cavena Nuda seem to think so.
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
As you know, I am a cookbook junkie. I have a lot of cookbooks and trying to wean myself from my cookbook library before our move. Last year, I picked out my top 10 cookbooks to move with me, but I may have to revise that list as I have discovered new favourites. Even more scary is that I have partially migrated to electronic cookbooks. It makes it easier to amass a larger collection. I still prefer leafing through a hard copy, but an electronic version is ideal when space is at a premium.
Considering my cookbook love, I was ecstatic when asked to review a new raw cookbook: Annelie’s Raw Food Power. No stranger to raw cuisine, I surprisingly do not have that many raw cookbooks. This is a gorgeous cookbook, with colourful photographs accompanying every recipe. The dishes are typical raw cuisine style, with recipes for smoothies, salads, snacks and mains like raw pizza. She also includes a lot of recipes for teas/tisanes.
Annelie developed the recipes while in Costa Rica, and as such, the recipes use a lot of tropical fruits (bananas, mango, pineapple, watermelon) but also more common ingredients like zucchini, tomatoes, apples, nuts and seeds. Superfoods like chia seeds, goji berries, probiotics, maca and lucuma are often used, too. These ingredients are not new to me, but Annelie surprises me further with recipes calling for purple corn, mucuna, ashwagandha and shatavari powders, of which I have yet to encounter. Like most raw recipes, the majority of the dishes are quick and easy. The recipes call for typical raw equipment: blender (preferably high-speed), juicer, dehydrator, and spiralizer which not everyone possesses. In short, this is not a cookbook for someone dabbling in raw cuisine, but good for those familiar with the ingredients and equipment. (Of note, the index is very subpar, listing recipes by title only, not ingredient).
While most of the recipes seemed familiar to me (guacamole, spiralized zucchini with nutrient-dense pasta sauce, avocado and strawberry salad, raw lasagna), I opted to try something with a bit of a twist: Quinoa, avocado and tomato marinara wraps, especially since I was reminded how much I enjoy lettuce wraps.
I’ve tried raw quinoa before (basically quinoa soaked for a day) but prefer to use cooked quinoa. Uncooked raw/sprouted grains and legumes kind of go thump in my tummy. The quinoa is dressed with a rich flavourful tomato sauce which I unrawified by substituting red pepper paste for the optional red pepper. This is then placed in a Romaine leaf and topped with avocado for a delicious wrap. I found it was best to add the dressing just prior to serving since leftovers became dry.
While I still have a few recipes earmarked to try (beet and mint chocolate chip dip, oh my!), I am giving away a brand new copy of Annelie’s Raw Food Power to a lucky reader. For a chance to win, just leave me a comment by April 25, telling me about your favourite raw dish you’ve made.
The summer is winding down and this will be the last of my Raw Thursdays. Not because I won’t be cooking, or uncooking raw foods. Because I feel I like be concentrating a bit more on work and three posts a week seems better for now.
One reason why I started adding an extra raw recipe each week was because I wanted to highlight how easy and tasty they can be. Indeed, I have posted raw recipes even when it hasn’t been a Thursday post. Summer just brings out the best raw cuisine.
However, I know not everyone likes raw. I feel bad for my buddies in Vancouver. Whenever I visit, I drag them to yet another raw restaurant. My experiences seem to be better than theirs, despite being at the same restaurant. The first time, my friend was sick afterwards…. Me? I went back a second time and enjoyed my meal again! The next time I visited, we tried another raw restaurant. I liked my meal. My friends, not as much, even though they picked cooked options. My friend confided to me that she finds raw cooking pretty bland.
Honestly, I find raw cuisine to be the complete opposite. This is why I keep hoping to convince them otherwise. I love how inventive and flavourful raw cuisine can be. However, I know that is not always the case. I try not to order veggie burgers, pates, hummus or falafels because I am usually disappointed. Sometimes the flavours can be muddled. Instead, I gravitate to hearty salads, Mexican dishes like tacos, or Italian meals like vegetable lasagna. However, in restos, these can be quite heavy and filling meals from the use of nuts. At home, I can make it my way!
No stranger to zucchini used as pasta, I finally decided to make a raw lasagna when I found one nearly entirely made from veggies. No nuts. A bit of seeds. After preparing a couple of sauces, this was a simple dinner to put together. Instead of making a huge tray of lasagna (remember the Mexican zucchini lasagna?), I opted to make individual servings instead.
Layers of thinly sliced zucchini are alternated with a cauliflower-based creamy cheese sauce and a flavourful tomato marinara sauce. A basil pesto works well to tie this into an Italian masterpiece.
A common complaint is when raw lasagnas are served chilled, so feel free to throw it into a dehydrator for 30 minutes to warm it up. Delicious!
This is my submission to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Ruth, to Raw Food Thursdays, to Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to My Kitchen, My World for Italy.
Are you tired of wraps and salads but still want to pack in your veggies?
Enter Pizza Bella: a raw portobello mushroom pizza.
Since our move, Rob and I have lost easy access to a barbecue but that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying portobello mushrooms. I still adore grilled portobello bliss but variety is the spice of life. With my leftover cocktail sauce from the Raw King Oyster “Calamari”, I knew I wanted to use it towards pizza on a fungi.
In fact, my idea for this came from my visit to Houston, where I had a similar meal from Pat Greer’s Kitchen (see Ashley’s Pizza Bella review here). Everyone keeps reminding me that Houston is America’s fattest city and they only eat meat. I protest, you can find healthy take-away foods, even in Houston: you just need to know where to look. When I had my interview in Houston, I wasn’t able to visit the store front of Pat Greer’s Kitchen, but with advance ordering, she was able to deliver her foods to a nearby My Fit Foods store. With a few fresh, raw meals now packed in my hotel mini-fridge, I was all set to bring my A game for my marathon of interviews.
Pat’s Pizza Bella: made with breath, love, and portabella mushroom, and organic: sunflower seeds, cashews, carrots, zucchini, wild kalamata olives, local tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, dried basil, dried oregano, tahini, garlic powder, and sea salt
What I was most impressed at was that the mushroom seemed to be raw. I wasn’t even sure it was marinaded, but as a raw mushroom, it kept its shape well while holding a nice tomato sauce, a sunflower-cashew cheese, topped with spiralized zucchini, olives and carrots.
For my version, I opted to marinate the mushroom in a touch of apple cider vinegar to soften it slightly as I prepped my sauces. My tomato sauce was ready-to-go but now I had to decide on a cheese flavour. In the end, I went with Gena’s Italian cashew cheese flavoured with sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil. I made it with my food processor, instead of my Vitamix, hoping to get a more cheese-like consistency, but it still was no match to real ricotta cheese. It still tasted great, though, and worked really well with the contrast from the lemon-tomato sauce. I like the shredded zucchini and olives from Pat’s version, so I included that, along with a mound of sprouts as toppings.
I ran out of mushrooms, so I ended up freezing the extra cashew cheese in ice cube trays, so I can pop them out whenever I want a single serving of pizza cheese (thanks for the tip, Zoa!). This set of ingredients would also work well in a collard wrap, or overtop zucchini noodles.
I am really impressed by British/Irish chefs. Yotam Ottolenghi, Denis Cotter and now Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I had never heard of him before I saw praise for his new vegetarian cookbook, River Cottage Everyday Veg.
What I love most about these chefs is that they turn humble vegetables into something extraordinary. First, I tried Hugh’s quinoa salad with caramelized onions and zucchini that was a sleeper hit. I loved the sweetness from such simple ingredients. Then there was the Appaloosa Bean Summer Chili which used red wine with zucchini, red peppers and tomatoes to make a savoury chili.
Tell me which vegetable you like the least. Probably something local that comes up in overabundance in the summer. You can tolerate it in moderation, but week after week of the same vegetables can get boring. I would probably pick green beans. While I have made some great dishes with them, I don’t find them that versatile. Zucchini, on the other, doesn’t taste like much, but can be used in so many creative ways.
I was drawn to make Hugh’s tahini-dressed zucchini and green bean salad with sun-dried tomatoes as a spotlight to local, seasonal ingredients. I wasn’t sure it would be a filling meal, but green beans are beans and along with the lemon-tahini dressing, this voluminous salad was perfect.
While this may seem initially like a finicky salad, look at it as a main course to soothe your qualms. Relish in cooking each component to bring out its best: lightly sear the zucchini until golden, then dress in some lemon juice and chile flakes. Steam your green beans until tender crisp. Plate on top of your favourite baby greens, sprinkle with chopped sun-dried tomatoes and drizzle with your dressing. The dressing is nice and light, without being too oily or heavy (I reduced the oil and sugar since I used Meyer lemons). Enjoy this best as a warm salad directly after preparing it. Leftovers are nice cold when slathered in the dressing.
Amongst my closer friends and family, I am the only vegan. Quite a few of my friends are vegetarian, but my closest vegan buddy is in Vancouver. That’s across one big country. One of my co-workers is a former vegan, choosing to eat fish as an omega supplement mostly. ;) I have yet to know anyone who has tried raw cuisine without my influence. Most of my friends are adventurist eaters, so I can share my kitchen successes and failures. While I eat vegan mainly for health and environmental reasons, sometimes I wonder about connecting with other like-minded souls.
A few months ago, I travelled with Rob to meet some of his friends from Burning Man. While mostly everyone was vegetarian, it was exciting to meet someone else who also dabbled in raw cuisine. She encouraged me to try banana chips in the dehydrator and told me about one of her raw successes: King Oyster Calamari from Living Raw Food by Sarma Melngailis. Sarma’s restaurant, Pure Food and Wine in NYC, is my favourite raw resto to date, so I was eager to try the dish when I got home. King oyster mushrooms were on sale, too, to boot. I didn’t have the cookbook, but a quick google search led me to Emily’s site which had the recipe.
The recipe was simple: marinate king oyster mushrooms, bread them with spiced ground flaxseeds (works as both the breading and egg-substitute!) and then dehydrate. My new-found friend also gave me a few other tips.
While the recipe says to dehydrate for 2-3 hours, she suggested dehydrating up to 5 hours for them to become really crispy. She also warned me that the whole recipe made a ton of food, so I halved it. (I also quartered the cocktail sauce below, since I ended up thinning it and had an overabundance of sauce leftover). I tinkered with the recipe since I don’t have an Italian spice blend, and instead added whatever looked like an Italian spice from my spice drawer: basil, thyme, marjoram, oregano, sage, parsley. I threw in some dried onion and garlic granules as well as lemon pepper seasoning instead of the black pepper. Even though I used chili powder, too, I dipped my finger in and thought something was missing. I added black salt. Now we were set. (Note to self: next time I may try this with nutritional yeast and smoked paprika, since I liked that with my Asiago-crusted baked zucchini sticks). I had a bit of leftover crumbs, so you could probably increase the number of mushrooms with this mixture – or pack it in more than I did.
Now, if you don’t have a dehydrator, do not fear. You can still make vegan calamari! I made these both ways: raw in the dehydrator for 3 hours and a separate batch for 10 minutes in the oven. I don’t care too much about the raw philosophy of not cooking over 115F, but I love the inventive recipes… so to hurry things up, I stuck some in the oven, too. Both were
good great. They honestly tasted like calamari. No hidden mushrooms here (Rob thinks he could taste mushrooms but only because he knew they were in there). Between the two versions, though, I preferred the raw dehydrated ones. They were more crispy and the breading stayed on (some of it stuck to my silpat in my oven version). The oven-baked version had more of a slippery calamari feel to it, though. In any case (or in both cases), Rob said he liked them better than regular calamari since it has a cleaner taste. I also preferred this version instead of the typical deep-fried options you find at restos. Bright and fresh, healthy food, what’s not to like?
Speaking of connecting with other like-minded souls, I was wondering if I have any readers in the GTA that would like get connected? I was really sad I missed Sarah’s potluck in the park, especially since it looked like it was a lot of fun!
Before this blog goes Indian for the rest of the month, let me share this delicious warm Mediterranean salad. I know it isn’t potluck or BBQ season yet, but I already know this will be my go-to summer salad for sharing.
This salad is so good that I have no reservations serving it guests. Delicious slightly warm but equally good as leftovers brought up to room temperature.
Of course, please double the recipe if making it for a group. I don’t know who wouldn’t like a warm chickpea and spinach salad filled with artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes and lots of herbs.
It reminded me a lot of my favourite Warm Chickpea and Artichoke Salad which pan-sears the artichokes and chickpeas into a glorious dish. This salad, courtesy of Tess in The Two Week Wellness Solution is lighter in flavour since the chickpeas are braised with the onions, garlic and herbs and the tossed with the artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes. You could keep this simply as a bean salad, but I liked the contrast of the warm (or room temperature) bean salad atop the fresh baby spinach. This salad has the perfect ratio of beans to other stuff. Be mindful not to evaporate too much of your braising liquid since it becomes your dressing.