A 13-hour post and then some.. with a lot of help from some friends.
Tamales are not hard to make. They are just a tad labour intensive.
After gathering a few friends for a tamalada (tamale making party), the hardest part did not occur while making the tamales. Frankly, the hardest part is now writing up the (very lengthy) recipe. Kidding aside, for the tamale execution, the hardest part was not overstuffing my steamer. If I were still in Toronto, the hardest part would likely be locating dry corn husks.
I first made these tamales with Rob when we were still in Toronto. I originally thought about making tamales after we had bought a bunch of fresh corn and had all these corn husks. Ever the thrifty type, I reasoned they would be great for tamales. Let it be known that Ontario corn husks do not make for good tamale wraps: they are just too small and/or require too much precision to rip the husks off without making the pieces too small. In any case, the seed was planted and Rob eventually tracked down corn husks at Kensington Market.
We sat together in our new kitchen, made the sweet potatoes, the black beans and the corn dough… and even a red sauce (Rob definitely made the red sauce). And then delicately wrapped each tamale. I counted 50. After an hour of steaming, they were delicious but we worked late into the night. We vowed to make this a group effort next time.
Fast forward a few years later, where a Mexican Farmer’s Market is our supermarket of choice in Houston and we see corn husks all.over.the.place. For a fraction of the price of what we paid in Toronto, too. $2 bought us a big bag of corn husks (a pound, I checked). (Should I peddle corn husks across the border??). I knew it was time to resurrect the tamales!
Between 6 of us, it took no time to roll and wrap the tamales. I didn’t even wrap any! The whole ordeal was finished before I had cleaned up the kitchen. The corn husks were also probably larger as we only made around 25-30 this time.
A bit about the recipe. It is a mashup from a few cookbooks. Thankfully I found a few online sources to help me cobble together my notes from a few years ago: Tess’ corn fluff stuff from RHIW with the beans and sweet potatoes from Viva Vegan. Tamales are known to be quite heavy with a lot of oil (even Terry’s original recipe calls for a cup of shortening/margarine) but I cut the oil by incorporating the black beans directly into the masa dough.
The black bean mixture and sweet potatoes both added nice flavours and worked well with the corn fluff stuff. We didn’t bother with a red sauce this time and instead (happily) resorted to Trader Joe’s corn and chile tomato-less salsa.
This was a fun experiment because we had a bit of trouble getting the tamales to cook all the way through in the steamer. The tamales we took out later were more cooked, whereas some of the earlier ones were still a bit mushy. Still edible and delicious, but not exactly what we were anticipating. I photographed leftover tamales and the last photo here is Robbie-style so you can see all the nooks and crannies in the tamale from the corn husk mold. Perhaps steaming them in smaller batches would be a better solution.
With still many corn husks remaining and even more masa harina, there will be another tamalada. Perhaps I will finally make those chocolate tamales after all. Have you ever made tamales before?
For those who blog: How long would you say it takes to make one post? When you factor in shopping for ingredients, cooking, photographing and editing in addition to the post, it certainly adds up!
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)
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Compared to most other fellows, I have it pretty good. Right now, I have very limited call and my hours are fairly regular. However, I still spend around 12 hours at the hospital each day, plus an hour for my commute. This is partly self-induced since my first few hours are spent at the hospital fitness center. It is quite impressive. I still marvel at their selection of classes that start prior to 7 am (4-5 different classes depending on the day).
In any case, it is no wonder that Rob, working from home, with regular hours and no commute, has more time on his hands. The best part is that it has transcended into the kitchen for some delicious meals. Epic meals, at that. Rob has been neglecting his blog, especially for recipes, so I’ve decided to blog his culinary creations. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on this one.
One of our favourite restaurants in Toronto is Banh Mi Boys and we nearly always ordered their tofu-kimchi sweet potato poutine. It is a riff on traditional poutine, a Canadian delicacy of potato fries covered in gravy and cheese. Their Asian fusion version has crispy sweet potato fries (our request), covered with kimchi, marinaded tofu, sprinkled with green onions and the mayonnaise is on the side (as per our request). Hannah shared a lovely photo of it here. They also have a pulled pork version for carnivores.
We have been fantasizing about making our own version for awhile, after we discovered how wonderful beer transformed sweet potatoes into crispy fries. With the boon of (vegan) kimchi, it was only a matter of time. Beer-Soaked Sweet Potato Fries + BBQ Jackfruit meat + kimchi + baked tofu. Rob added mayo to his which is what he photographed. He took all the photos for this, including step-by-step documentation of the components.
I didn’t want this to fade away into our memories, so here’s to a special recipe for you to try, too.
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.
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
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.
If my weakness is beans and greens, Rob’s weakness is beer.
I may hoard and admire my (completely edible) bean collection. Likewise, Rob drinks through his beer collection. I will admit that I know very little about beer, other than I have yet to meet a beer I like. Rob has given up on getting me to sample his beers. I am pretty confident that whatever makes a beer a beer (hops?) is what I don’t like, which cannot be masked by hints of chocolate or lime or whatnot.
When we travelled to Quebec last summer, we made sure we stopped off at a beer store to stock up on beers that are not easily available in Toronto. We found a beer haven closeby, Veux-Tu Une Biere?, that had over 250 different microbrewed beers. Rob picked out beers that tasted like chocolate and raspberry, chocolate and espresso, espresso solo, coriander and orange, lime, pumpkin, juniper berries and orange peel, rye, scotch (yes, scotch beer), cognac (yes, cognac beer) and who knows what else. Without having to worry about customs, we returned with enough beer to last until our move to Houston.
Rob let me pick him one to try. He has non-mainstream tastes. His favourite beer last year was a Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout. Let’s just say my father and brother didn’t appreciate it as much as him. So while at the beer store, I tried to get Rob to buy spruce beer. Turns out you can find that one in Toronto and one of our friends thought it tasted like a forest. A no go. I ended up picking one with a demon on the front. I have classy tastes. (It also said it won a beer award). Turns out my choice was a winner (except I can’t remember what it was). Too bad Rob only bought one. He bought two of the other beers. However, not all beers were as fabulous. Which is lucky for me, because normally Rob says his beers are too good for me to use in the kitchen. They say you shouldn’t cook with a wine you won’t drink, but this is what you do with beer you don’t like. Any beer will do because you cannot taste it.
I cook with wine but don’t cook with beer because I am afraid of that “beer” taste lingering. I bookmarked this highly-praised recipe for beer-soaked fries but it wasn’t until Ellen tried it and reassured me: a) the fries were fantastic “Not sure what the beer does for the outside of the fries, but there is some marvelous alchemy going on…”, and b) you could not taste the beer, did we venture to try our hands at beer-soaked fries. Rob picked out one of his not-so-fabulous beers (a lime pale lager) and whipped up these fabulous fries.
I am not joking. These were resto-quality, crispy (baked) fries. We used a mix of white and sweet potato but I was partial to the sweet potato fries. All you do is marinade the fries for 15 minutes in the beer, then toss with garlic, oil, salt and pepper, and wait a painful 30-45 minutes as they bake. Next time, I may throw other spices on it like I have done before.
Apparently you can reheat the leftovers. I will admit, there was nothing left over. Demolished. All of it. Now to find more yucky beers.
Do you cook or bake with beer? Or just drink it?
Savoury beer uses, here and elsewhere:
Beer-Baked White Beans at The Bitten Word
Beer-Stewed Pinto Beans (Frijoles Borrachos) by Nava Atlas
Beer Hummus at Sprint 2 the Table
Smoky Chipotle Vegetarian (Beer) Chili with Parmesan-Black Pepper Beer Bread at Joanne Eats Well With Others
Seitan Goulash with Kraut over Parsleyed Noodles from American Vegan Kitchen
Tempeh Sauerkraut Brew Stew from Vegan Appetite
Vegan Chocolate Guinness Cake from Keep It Simple Foods
First of all, thank you so much for your kind words about my refrigerator woes, and an immense amount of gratitude goes to my friends and family for offering to help store our food over the weekend. You’d think there would be an emergency fridge delivery service, eh? Or maybe our landlord just opted for the “deliver it on Monday” option. Suffice it to say we had three days without fridge stuff.
How did we manage? Oatmeal. Twice a day. I am only partly joking. If I going to make a single serving of any food, it better be quick. Hence, the oats. I jazzed them up as a dessert pudding with chocolate protein powder, which is also how I ate them for breakfast, too. Still tasty.
Rob and I also unearthened some of our favourite foods from the freezer. It is amazing what I had forgotten that been stashed away. I had the forethought to freeze meals in single servings (or 2), so it was perfect. Freezer meals don’t have to be shabby. We had memories of summer produce by munching through Greek Stewed Swiss Chard With Tomatoes, Mint and Lima Beans, Peruvian Mayocoba Bean Bowl with a Roasted Pepper Sauce, Iraqi-Inspired Eggplant and Seitan Stew and even older but (still) goodie Cauliflower, Spinach and Chickpea Balti. Score!
I also experimented with frozen oats and frozen stir fries. Meals that I had made before the fridge died but then stashed outside, in the winter chill, to freeze. It works! Turns out I am not the first person to have figured out you can freeze steel-cut oatmeal (Trader Joe’s even sells it). You can rest assured I will be sharing those recipes eventually (the stir-fry, not how to freeze oats).
In the meantime, I am sharing a cinnamon-spiced beet and sweet potato salad with spelt berries and kale. Ashley raved about Kath’s salad, so I had been meaning to try it out for a while. Plus, Valentine’s Day is all about the red foods, eh? Bring on the beets!
I’ve gone the savoury cinnamon route before (Strawberry and Roasted Chickpea Salad with a Cinnamon Vinaigrette, Moroccan Barley and Pea Shoot Salad, Cherry Collard Dolmas) and this was pretty good, too. I won’t gush its praises but it was fit for a weeknight meal (maybe not for anti-kale guests). It may seem like an involved salad but you just need to prepare each component separately – the cinnamon-roasted beets and sweets, the spelt berries, the sauteed kale and finally, the dressing.
I have had problems with burned spices when added to roasted vegetables, but this worked out. The sweetener from the dressing helps to accentuate the earthiness of the cinnamon. I imagine adding maple syrup to the veggies while roasting would be delicious as well.
How are you celebrating Valentine’s Day? Red food? Chocolate? Or nothing at all, since every day is an awesome celebration of love? I vote for the latter, but I know Rob is planning a special home-cooked meal for me later this week. He has leaked that it will involve frozen bananas. (Exciting! Nothing more sexy than your man in an apron, no?)
One of the things I liked about Vegan For Life is that there are recommendations supported by science. Two servings of fruit are good and just 2 tsp of oil a day is a good idea. And that whacky TVP? It isn’t as scary as you may think. It may be a processed soy product, but it is basically defatted soy flour that is high in protein. A varied diet is more important. Everything in moderation is ok.
This may or may not have given me the nudge to use up the last of my TVP that had been languishing in my pantry. I bought it planning to make Cara’s Pumpkin Gingerbread Protein Bars, and then bookmarked Laura’s Squash Breakfast TVP and Maple TVP Oatmeal but happy I eventually settled on making these TVP Sloppy Joes.
Not that I grew up eating Sloppy Joe’s. I don’t think I have ever eaten the real thing, but I know this tasted good. A sweet tomato sauce accentuated with Worcestershire sauce, mustard and liquid smoke. A bit sweet for me with the added sweetener, so I suggest not adding it until the end to see if it needs it. The TVP confers a granular hamburger meat texture. I am thinking mashed lentils could be a good substitute next time.
Instead of the standard bun, I piled the sloppiness overtop a roasted baked potato. Paired wonderfully.
What do you think of TVP?
Here are my other meals with TVP:
Carrot Ginger Lime Soup with Sweet Potato Hummus (& What to do with leftover roasted sweet potatoes)
Some people hate leftovers. (hi Mom!)
Personally, I love them. I enjoy freshly cooked food, but I love not cooking after work even more.
This is how to re-purpose leftovers into something new. The best of both worlds?
Pre-roasted sweet potatoes can be integrated into different meals.
They can easily be added to your salad of the week, but for something a bit more different, add them into a curry-flavoured sweet potato hummus for a filling dip or sandwich spread. Even though I added lemon juice to Gena’s recipe, I found it lacking the tang and bite I associate with traditional hummus. In retrospect I probably should have added some garlic, too. Still a nice dip for crackers and veggies and it travelled well while snowshoeing.
Tired of hummus leftovers? Run out of crackers and veggies? Already added it to your sandwich/wrap? Trust me, there was a time when I couldn’t finish a batch of hummus within a week, so I understand. But now, I make a batch nearly every week. Carrots and hummus were my dessert of choice on my sweetener-free challenge.
In a land of plenty (and deficiency), you become creative. We had run out of roasted sweet potatoes but still wanted to make this carrot ginger lime soup. Of course, the reason we ran out of sweet potatoes is because I put them in the sweet potato hummus. So why not use the sweet potato hummus instead of the sweet potato? My only qualms about Tess’ original recipe for the soup is that it isn’t a meal-in-a-bowl. I prefer filling soups. Hummus, with the additional beans and tahini, adds the much needed protein and fat. A few crumbled Mary’s crackers and I had a delicious meal. One I wanted to remake hummus just to slurp the soup again when I returned home. Because it was that good and I wanted a photo to share, too.
Either way you make it, this is a simple soup. Boil nondairy milk with carrots until they are soft. Bake your sweet potato or go all out and make some sweet potato hummus. Then combine it along with ginger and lime in your blender. The cilantro topping is completely optional. Creamy, flavourful. A new way to enjoy hummus. Boo-yah!
Here are some other carrot soups that I’ve had my eye on:
Roasted Carrot and Lentil Soup with Harissa and Mint
Carrot and Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Miso and Thyme
Moroccan Carrot Soup
Carrot Soup with Ginger and Lemon
Carrot Soup with Miso and Sesame at Smitten Kitchen
Carrot Soup with Tahini and Crisped Chickpeas at Smitten Kitchen
Carrot and Tahini Soup at Joanne Eats Well With Others
Carrot Ginger Soup with Tahini at Cara’s Cravings
Creamy Orange Sunshine Soup (Carrot/Orange/Ginger/Cashew) at Oh She Glows
Curried Carrot Parsnip Soup at Eating Appalachia
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this month’s Credit Crunch Munch hosted by Helen and Camilla, to this month’s No Croutons Required with soups/salads featuring leftovers and to this month’s Herbs on Saturday.
While tackling my list of bookmarked recipes, I knew not everything would be a winner.
My criteria for my eats? First of all, it must be whole foods oriented (nothing white- flour, rice, etc) with limited oil and salt. A lover of most international cuisines, I try not to discriminate but it must be filled with ingredients I love. Beans! Quinoa! Greens! Squash! Lemon! I also like to see a few reviews of the recipe. N=30 is better than n=1 for liking a dish.
I may try to incorporate a new-to-me food or one I haven’t previously enjoyed. I won’t even try to like celery, though. I have given up on green pepper. And now I have sworn off parsley, too.
I have a few parsley recipes here, although usually it is just a flavour accent. I should have known better, and even thoguh I reduced the parsley in this salad, it was still too prominent for me. My parsley came from a friend, so perhaps this local, organic homebrew was more potent?
In any case, this recipe is a knock-off of Fresh‘s All-Star Tabbouleh Salad with adzuki beans and quinoa. It made its rounds earlier this summer, first posted by Angela and subsequently Kass. Sadly, I give very few stars to the salad.
But, all is not lost because extra stars go to the absolute best roasted sweet potatoes ever. I know, a very ballsy statement. I have a witness. Rob agreed with me. So, you have n=2 from us. Lots of positive reviews from Kath’s post, which I bookmarked many moons ago.
Suffice it to say, it may take a while, but the roasted sweet potatoes have a nice skin on the outside while being pillowy soft on the inside. After a little rub of olive oil, salt and pepper, you roast them at 350F for 30 minutes, then 400F for 20 minutes. A simple flick of the knob makes for the most glorious sweet potatoes.
Please try it out and let me know whether you like it, too! Perfect for an upcoming Thanksgiving feast.
This is the story of a picnic that didn’t happen, twice.
We had full intentions of getting together with friends, having a picnic together on the island. However, after a weather forecast of 100% rain, the plans were abandoned. Rob and I stayed at home and relished in a relaxing afternoon together.
Together, we still continued with our picnic menu: Quinoa Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Dried Iranian Limes. I figured a grain salad would travel well but may not be too picnic-friendly (who was going to bring plates?) so I thought it would be neat to stuff it into a wrap. Rice paper rolls for company and kale wraps for me! I figured a tahini dipping sauce would bring this over the edge, so we plunged forward with our ornate plans.
Ottolenghi called this a quinoa salad, but really it is a quinoa-basmati-wild rice salad. The mix of grains tickles the tongue with the contrasting textures. They are paired with roasted sweet potatoes in a savoury dressing with sauteed sage and oregano and fresh mint. Oh, and dried Iranian lime. A hard to find ingredient that I picked up while in NYC at Kalustyan’s (although it is available locally). You can stop right here and have yourself a delicious salad. Perfectly balanced, it was a nice salad. Definitely Thanksgiving friendly, I might add.
However, I took the next step: tofu feta. Tofu marinaded in lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, garlic and miso, coupled with a creamy cashew sauce. I will admit that this does not taste at all like feta. It did, however, have a nice burst of lemony tartness and miso greatness. The cashew sauce added to the silkiness that was wonderful once we wrapped them up. I am definitely no stranger to wrapping up salads, having everything hit your palate at the same time.
So after the wrap, we took it one step further. A sweet tahini dipping sauce with garlic.
We had hit it: Gastronomic bliss.
By this time, though, it had started raining and we couldn’t do our own picnic, either. So we went upstairs and picnicked on the windowsill, watching it rain in all its glory. We do a little cheer every time it rains since it means we don’t have to water the garden.
We also found out that these were very messy rolls… and best to eat with a plate underneath.
I am pretty proud of myself for eating through my cupboards. I ate my last carrot and wondered whether I could hold out for a month until we moved to replenish them. Completely foolhardy. We’re moving within Toronto, so there’s no reason to be completely devoid of food. So I bought more carrots.
Then I spotted this recipe for mouth-watering malai kofta, Indian veggie meatballs in a creamy curry sauce, that seemed perfect for guests. I immediately decided they would be perfect for our Indian Easter – a company-worthy dish. Leanne’s recipe called for chaat masala which I didn’t have. Having disappointed myself by buying curry powder, I was adamant to make my own version. While there are many versions of chaat masala, my newest cookbook, 1000 Indian Recipes, had an intriguing recipe using amchur (mango powder), mint, black salt, cumin and asafoetida. It also included ajwain, citric acid and tamarind powder… of which I had none. Currently living so close to Little India, instead of shunning new purchases, I decided to use this as a time to harness my Indian spice prowess.
While looking for cheap hazelnuts, we scoured Little India for our new spices. Ajwain and citric acid were easily located but tamarind powder was nowhere to be found (I also checked out Bestwin and Sunny’s). Sadly, I also discovered what a treasure-trove BJ’s Supermarket is. While it has always been Rob’s go-to place for a variety of rotis, naans, parathas, etc as well as Indian spices, I also discovered it stocks Kombucha (from Crudessence!), has reasonably priced Mary’s crackers ($3.99/box) and a wide assortment of reasonably priced Stash teas ($2.99/each). Almond Breeze is also regularly priced at $1.69. Who would have known? Of course, I only discovered this a month prior to moving away.
Undeterred by my lack of tamarind powder, I made my chaat masala with it omitted. This was probably the first time I could honestly say my house smelled like curry. I blame the ajwain since it is the newbie!!
When deciding what to make for our guests, I liked Leanne’s strategy of making this partially in advance and then throwing the rest of the sauce together just prior to serving. We ended up making it all the same day, so that works too. This is more involved than the other curries I’ve made because you need to make the kofta, but this was very well received by everyone. The flavours were complex and delicious with big vegetable “meatballs”. Baked, not fried. The sauce was creamy without being heavy. While you could simply omit the chaat masala from the malai kofta, I liked the extra depth of flavours imparted likely from the black salt, ajwain and mint.
While still delicious and enjoyed by all, my meatballs were a bit more mushy than I had anticipated. I substituted sweet potatoes for regular potatoes but I don’t think that changed much. I am not sure if I underbaked them, or overcooked the veggies beforehand. My only exposure to koftas in restos have been heavy and dense fried balls, that I figure are filled with ground nuts and coconut. These are veggie-based and lighter. Rob assured me he’s had kofta like these before. I also used my food processor for the sauce, but since we used cashews as the creamy portion, next time I would use my Vitamix for a smoother consistency. I just didn’t want to dirty yet another container at that moment. Soaking the cashews could also help, so I added that into the directions.
Would you go to a steakhouse for an upscale vegan experience?
It seems so counter-intuitive, eh?
I was hesitant, though. Could a steakhouse really have great vegan food? It turns out that they recently hired Doug McNish, Raw Aura‘s former vegan chef that catapulted raw food into my dream books. He added a complete vegan menu at Prime, so I was confident that this would not be subpar vegan eats.
I priced out their Winterlicious menu. It turned out it was cheaper to pick from their standard vegan menu than to limit oneself to the vegan options on fixed price menu, especially since there was overlap between the options.
I opted to try the wild mushroom and pearl barley risotto with crispy sage and truffle oil as a starter. It was decadent and delicious. It was also rich and filling, so I decided to pace myself and take half of it home. Rob tried the nori rolls stuffed with a creamy ginger dill sunflower seed pate but we didn’t find them that exceptional.
For our mains, I happily munched on the herbed portobello mushroom and tempeh burger which was the highlight of the night. I have never had such a flavourful veggie burger. Unfortunately, the sweet potato fries were subpar, even after I asked for fresh ones since mine were cold. They also forgot to give me the sun-dried tomato aioli, but I am glad I reminded them because it was really good with the burger.
Rob had been pining over the cornmeal crusted tempeh steaks, spiced sweet potato coconut mash, steamed greens with caramelized onion and cherry tomato relish but we both found it lackluster. I suppose we’ve been spoiled by great vegan eats from Blossom Cafe, Candle 79 and Pure Food and Wine in NYC.
For dessert, I was salivating the vegan Mango Cheesecake with a Raspberry Coulis. When I packed my risotto earlier, I wanted to make room for this dessert. However, it was bad. It was uber sweet but in a dry icing sugar kind of way. Turns out, I can make a better version at home anyhow (remember those Mango Paradise Bars?)
I enjoy raw food because the flavours really pop. At Prime, although their meals are not raw, their tempeh burger had great flavours mingling together which is what captured me into the dish. Here, these mini burgers are flavoured with shiitake mushrooms, sage, rosemary, garlic with bulk from pumpkin seeds and sweet potato. They don’t require a long dehydration time since you want to maintain some moisture. Don’t have a dehydrator? I bet they could easily be baked for 15 minutes or so but I can’t say for sure.
I ate my sliders as mini sandwiches with a slice of tomato as the base, followed by a bed of alfalfa sprouts. The slider was then topped with a smear of avocado with a touch of salt. Delicious!
I know the days are getting longer, but I go to work and it is dark. I come home from work and it is dark. As much as I love winter with its bright snow and clear icicles (not happening so much as I would like here in Toronto, btw), all I want is some sunshine. Some people head south for some sun and warmth. Me, I cook it up in my kitchen. For some reason, as soon as the weather turned cool, I turned to Caribbean dishes – bright with their flavourful ingredients, warmth from the spice and much cheaper than a trip down South.
This is a curry I spotted on Natalie’s lovely blog, Cook Eat Live Vegetarian, and again it passed my checklist for Rob: tamarind, coconut, curry, sweet potato (or squash) and pineapple. In fact, the ingredients look so similar to that delicious Butternut Squash, Coconut and Lentil Stew, but this is anything but similar yet equally as delicious.
Natalie explains that this curry originates from Martinique, an Eastern Caribbean island, that has elements from Africa, France, the Caribbean and South Asia in its cuisine. The distinctive flavours come from the Colombo spice mix that includes cumin, coriander, mustard, fenugreek, black peppercorns, cloves and turmeric. The curry gets its heft from starchy sweet potatoes, but butternut squash could equally be used. The eggplant melts into the coconut-curry broth, tangy from the tamarind and lime juice. As we are apt to do, we increased the tamarind.
Bring the warmth into your kitchen this winter, with a virtual trip down South. Although it will appear very real once you slurp up this delicious curry.
There are very few purchased spice blends in our house.
But this time was different. I forged ahead and tried some higher quality Madras curry powder. I knew that even if I hated it, there was a good chance Rob would adore this – a coconut curry is definitely up his alley! Of course, I wouldn’t be sharing the recipe here if I didn’t love it as well.
While there is definitely an Indian influence to this curry, this is a Jamaican curry that I spotted in Big Vegan. Lime-marinaded tofu chunks, sweet potatoes and carrots are combined with collards in a coconut-curry sauce spiced with thyme. Caribbean dishes can be quite spicy, but I still used 1 tbsp of curry powder. The coconut milk helps to tame the heat. However, I omitted the Serrano pepper in lieu of my favoured Aleppo chili flakes.
Even though this wasn’t from Terry’s new cookbook we’re testing, we’ve started to rate all our meals as “love”, “really like”, “like”, “just ok”, “not good” as per our cookbook testing guidelines. As Rob put it: On the love-like scale, I give this a love. I gave it a really like, and let Rob polish off the rest of the leftovers. There are bigger battles to win!