the taste space

Smoky Black Eyed Pea and Kale Stew

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by janet @ the taste space on January 10, 2013

Smoky Black Eyed Pea and Kale Stew

Imagine my shock when Rob called me from the grocery store to tell me they were out of broccoli. It wasn’t even a weekly special. No broccoli in the entire store. I thought new year’s meant more carrots, but maybe it really means broccoli? ;)

In any case, have no fear, I switched recipes and ended up clipping off the last of my garden kale. Yes, there has been snow here for over 2 weeks and yes, hidden underneath the snowy blanket, my kale is still alive and kicking. More power to the kale! (The broccoli dish will have to wait)

Black eyed peas are certainly not just for the new year, but I was drawn to this black eyed pea and kale stew through Random Recipes. This month’s challenge was to randomly select a recipe from a cookbook from someone else’s library. I decided to tackle this electronically. When I saw Ali was gifted Superfood Kitchen I tried to borrow it from the library, but it hasn’t been received yet. In that moment, I decided that the first recipe I found online from the cookbook would be my “random recipe” and I found it here: Kale and Black Eyed Pea Stew.  I like that Julie has incorporated more common “superfoods” into her cookbook, like leafy greens and legumes, which can be seen in this recipe.

Smoky Black Eyed Pea and Kale Stew

This is no ordinary bean and green stew. Along with black eyed peas and kale, there is red pepper as well as my addition of oyster mushrooms. It is a European spice mash-up with oregano and thyme as well as smoked paprika and Ancho chile powder. I was scared to use a full tablespoon of smoked paprika, but feel free to use more because this was not spicy. I ended up adding liquid smoke at the end for a further depth of flavour. But oh, this alone would still be a great chili-like stew, but this it is not. A special twist comes form the addition of ground wakame. A little goes a long way and makes this a unique stew. It brings a certain seaweedy-ness to the stew. By the way, a few notes about my version: I used dried herbs in this recipe because I don’t usually use fresh herbs for a long simmer (they turn to mush, so maybe remove them as a bouquet garni). As well, the recipe calls for 3 cups of cooked black eyed peas but I am fairly confident this dish could be made more simply by cooking dried black eyed peas with the soup broth (which I have not tried but noted in the recipe below).

As you may have noticed, I am still on my smoked paprika kick. Here are other recipes I have bookmarked:

Smoky Tempeh and Chard Stew
Spanish Lentil and Mushroom Stew
Sneaky Collards
at Serious Eats
Roasted Squash and Shallots with Merguez Chickpeas in River Cottage Veg Every Day
Spanish Chickpeas and Spinach Stew with Ginger at I don’t know, what do YOU want to eat?
Smoky Red Lentil Stew by Sprouted Kitchen
Smoky Paprika Baked Beans by The Spade & Spoon
Spiced Red Lentils by Ottolenghi
Pumpkin Chili by Never Homemaker
French Lentil Soup with Smoked Paprika in Let Them Eat Vegan!
Easy New Orleans Red Beans and Rice by Fat Free Vegan
“1 Million” Veggies Lentil Stew by Chocolate Covered Katie
My other recipes with smoked paprika are here

Smoky Black Eyed Pea and Kale Stew

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

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Braised White Beans and Leeks

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Sides by janet @ the taste space on December 23, 2012

Braised White Beans and Leeks

Who invited winter?

I thought Toronto had been spared a white Christmas, as we were pummeled with rain instead of snow late last week. However, I woke up yesterday to howling winds, frigid temperatures and snow. Ottawa may have received 30 cm of the fluffy stuff over the past few days, but in true Toronto fashion, we had a sprinkle of snow.

This is indeed, the perfect solution. Rob and I are pining to go snowshoeing while in Ottawa for the holidays but that requires snow. Ottawa will have it and we can return to the lack of snowblower land without too much worrying. It just means we can’t snowshoe to work. I am ok with that. Rob may be sad. Over the last few weeks, Rob has occasionally walked to work. That takes him 2.5 hours. It would likely take him longer with snow shoes. ;)

Braised White Beans and Leeks

Last weekend was Woodstock in Christmas, and this is what I brought. Another benefit of cooking en masse on the weekend (other than not having to cook mid-week), is that I could pick my favourite dish to share.

Beans from scratch has become second nature. I typically simmer them on the stovetop while doing something else in the kitchen. This time, I brought back low-and-slow oven braised beans. Nothing could be so easy to get perfectly plump beans. Using Rancho Gordo’s plump, tiny Yellow Indian Beans beans definitely helped but the long simmer in the oven slowly cooks the beans to perfection. No exploding beans, nothing too mushy, just perfectly cooked beans. Three hours later, you have a house fragrant from the leeks and herbs and a pot of plump beans. Sara’s original recipe suggested broiling cheese overtop at the end of the braise but I went without for a vegan option. I had considered sprinkling almond parmesan overtop but ran out of time. The beans are definitely more than a sum of its parts. The leeks cook down to a silky creaminess and the Italian herbs confer a fragrant background.

Due to the sheer simplicity of this dish, it was easy to whip together other meals for the week. While my curries also turned out great, I didn’t think they would mesh as well with a traditional Christmas menu. I’ll share those, too, likely in the new year. ;)

Although, turns out dal will be making an appearance at the Ottawa Christmas. My Mom has left me in charge of Christmas lunch and I’ll be making Root Veggie Dal. A perfect bowl to curl up with after returning from a snowy snowshoe adventure. :)

Happy holidays, everyone!

Braised White Beans and Leeks

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Haalo. (more…)

Tomato-Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Posted in Salads by janet @ the taste space on October 25, 2012

If my Pinterest boards tell you anything, I am scouring the web for interesting dressings.

Each week, I try to make a new dressing to add to whatever wandering salad I may concoct for lunch. Toss it with whatever random veggies I have in the fridge or plucked from the garden.

For this month’s Random Recipe challenge, we were urged to pick a pantry item and randomly try a recipe with it. I picked pomegranate molasses and then randomly picked Turquoise, a cookbook I have been neglecting but adamant about trying more of the drool-worthy recipes.

I landed squarely on the tomato-pomegranate dressing, spiced with thyme, shallots and garlic. I was initially perplexed by the recipe since it seemed to be a dressing infused with the flavours instead of being pureed directly into the dressing. So, I experimented. I made half of the recipe through the suggested (infused) method, and half of the dressing was simply pureed. The verdict? Both were good and more surprisingly to me, the blended dressing was creamier. I thought the pureed shallot and garlic would make this a scary dressing, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t as tart and acidic as the infused dressing. However, once mixed with my veggie medley, it was perfect. Both versions were nice.

Here, in the photos, I paired the dressing with thinly sliced collards, shredded beets and carrots, thinly sliced Roman beans and toasted sunflower seeds. I massaged some of the dressing directly with the collards (like I do for my raw kale salads) and then drizzled more dressing for the rest of the veggies. As you can see, the collard greens didn’t wilt as much as kale, but it made for a tasty salad, mellowing the collards for a simple salad. Later, I also found the dressing paired well with my standard concoction of tomatoes, cucumber, green beans, chickpeas and lettuce.

Looking for another great salad with pomerganate molasses? This one with bulgur and chickpeas (aka, The Old Best Salad Ever) was how I got hooked onto pomegranate molasses!

Do you have any favourite salad dressings?

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s Random Recipes for cupboard items. (more…)

Madeira-Poached Figs with Lemon and Sage

Posted in Breakfasts, Desserts by janet @ the taste space on September 26, 2012

(sorry, this time you can actually post comments! Apparently I can’t figure out wordpress for Android)

For someone who doesn’t drink, I have a lot of alcohol. I used to have more booze attributed to my purchases than Rob, but that was before Rob visited Veux-Tu une Biere? in Montreal and stocked up like mad with artisanal beers.

I may not drink alcohol, but I will gladly cook with it. Over the years, I have gathered:

Vodka, from my Penne Alla Vodka days.

Sherry, because it is easier than keeping white wine in the fridge. Great in this Carrot and Roasted Red Pepper Soup.

Raki, from my trip to Turkey. My Dad already drank half of it but I think I wanted it to make a poached-fish dish. Totally tabled for now.

Chambord, because I wanted to make a knock-off of a mixed berry Chambord-whipped cream French toast from a local resto, Coquine. Off my radar for now.

Amaretto, because who doesn’t like almonds?

Madeira, because I was lusting over Madeira-soaked mushroom ragouts.

I think I also have a small amount of Creme de Menthe because I wanted to make a Grasshopper dessert.

Rob has scotch, rum, Aguardiente (from our Colombian trip), ROOT liqueur (tastes like root beer and Rob highly recommends it!) and SNAP gingersnap liqueur (with blackstrap molasses, ginger and cloves! but Rob hasn’t opened it yet). Nevermind his stock-piled of beer.

While trying to decide what to do with a crate of figs, I decided to finally break out the Madeira. Fresh figs do not last long. Roasting them (or technically poaching them in this case), allowed me to extend their sweetness for another 2 weeks.

Madeira: Candy liqueur, as Rob put it, after he tasted it from the bottle. Using it to oven-poach figs resulted in a sweet yet savoury concoction spiked with lemon and sage. I tried a bunch of variations, but my favourite was with the lemon and sage, although you could leave them out, too. Thyme also worked well. I also tried a few cinnamon-orange variations but preferred the one with Madeira. The orange zest became a bit bitter through the roasting so consider omitting that if you want to try that variation.

Serve over top something more bland and neutral like your morning oatmeal (that’s what I did), or serve as a dessert slathered over banana soft-serve ice cream.

Because my photos aren’t always that photogenic, I thought it would be neat to play around with some of the features on Picasa. I rarely do much photo post-processing other than “I Feel Lucky” but found this neat “Orton-ish” option in Picasa (see pic below). Not entirely sure who or what this Orton effect was all about, I learned it was named for Michael Orton who would combine 2 images: one in focus and the other out-of-focus to create an impressionistic effect. Brought me back to my black and white darkroom days!

How do you like the photo? I like the colour palate with the soft contours and warmer colours. More of an artsy shot now, instead of a food porn photo. But hey, it keeps me entertained!

Enjoy!

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Chris. (more…)

Lemon-Kissed Tomato Barley Risotto

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Sides by janet @ the taste space on August 20, 2012

I was all ready to share with you some tasty zucchini-centric meals this week.

However, my zucchinis  were side-lined in the fridge once I went on a mission to find tomatoes. It is easy to find red imposters. You know, the things that look like tomatoes but don’t taste like tomatoes… but I wanted summer fresh tomatoes. My quest brought me to my closest farmer’s market where I quickly scurried from stall to stall, sniffing their tomatoes. Sniffing out the imposters.

Sadly, unlike the Jean Talon market in Montreal, there are limited samples so I had to resort to my nose to find the best tomatoes.

All of a sudden, it hit me. Tomato. I smelled it. I found my winning tomatoes. Bright red smallish heirloom tomatoes that looked lumpy and stout.  The flavour did not disappoint. I brought home 2 pints to make this risotto I had bookmarked last year, waiting for this summer’s tomato bounty.

Super simple to make, I can’t believe it has been so long since I’ve made a risotto. Dump all the ingredients into a pot, let it simmer until the barley is tender. Towards the end, I kept adding more and more stock until a creamy, yet chewy barley risotto was attained. Positively drenched in silky tomatoes, speckled with chunks of garlic, with a hint of lemon and thyme and a depthness from smoked paprika, this made a delicious end-of-summer meal.

Sadly, now that I have re-discovered barley risottos, I have very little barley left. I don’t plan on replenishing it, either. I suppose I will have to try out spelt berries risottos, instead!

Of course the real quandary is whether to buy a HUGE bushel crate of San Marzano tomatoes. A Portuguese grocer near my home is selling them for $19. I bet they would be wonderful all roasted and I could try my hand at canning. But could I eat my way through all of the tomatoes?

Here are some other whole grain risottos I have my eye on:

Rustic Rebel Risotto from Radiance 4 Life
Red Beet Risotto with Walnuts from Big Vegan
Easy Creamy Tomato Barley Risotto from Vegan Yum Yum
Creamy Barley Risotto with Thyme and Star Anise from Let Them Eat Vegan
Tempeh Orzilla from Post Punk Kitchen
Pesto Risotto with Roasted Zucchini from Post Punk Kitchen
Saffron Speltotto with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes from River Cottage

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this week’s Eat Make Grow, and to My Kitchen, My World for Italy.

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Balsamic Marinated Cherries, Rosemary Cashew Cheese, and Arugula Sandwich

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on July 30, 2012

Rob warned me.

I was away last week and Rob was in charge of watering the garden. I knew one of our squash plants was not doing so well after the scorching heat wave. I was already mentally prepared for the loss of a squash plant. Four plants in a small planter was probably not the best idea anyways. Even if 1 of the plants die, at least I will have 3 squashes.

However, it turns out that we have probably lost 3 out of our 4 plants.

AND…. to make matters worse, of the 3 squashes, one was ripped off the plant and eaten. Another had a large nibble removed. Only one survives. Rob swears it wasn’t him. We blame the raccoons!

One of the reasons we didn’t plant tomatoes was because we had an abysmal crop last year and oftentimes the animals would munch on the tomatoes first, leaving us with a handful of cherry tomatoes at the end of the season. Stealing tomatoes, I understand…

But please, raccoons.. do you really need to munch on an unripe kabocha squash? Gah! I kept telling myself well if nothing else, we will have a huge kabocha squash by the end of the summer. Sadly, I don’t even see any more blossoms to do more self-pollination.

It really makes you appreciate farmers and their struggles.

Thankfully my kale, collards and herbs are growing strong. The backyard planter has had great plants, although our front yard still has smaller kales. I have a handful of arugula growing, too, which I used for this sandwich.  Holey in all its organically-grown-in-my-backyard glory. Looking at the photos, you’d think it was a green jungle out there!

Inspired by Gena’s raw pizza, I cobbled this sandwich together after my trip.

First, I marinaded cherries in maple-sweetened balsamic vinegar. Then I made a rosemary-infused cashew spread. A handful of my backyard arugula tops a maple pumpernickle (sourdough rye) bread that I picked up in Calgary. The contrast in flavours worked really well together, although I had a hankering for a more sour cashew spread. I think I need to find some probiotic capsules to help me with that… Next time!

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

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Raw King Oyster “Calamari” (or Baked)

Posted in Appetizers, Favourites, Sides by janet @ the taste space on July 26, 2012

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!

This is being submitted to this month’s Monthly Mingle featuring yellow foods and to this weeks Raw Foods Thursdays.

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Lemon Mediterranean Lentil Salad

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by janet @ the taste space on July 23, 2012

How often do you second guess a recipe? Something just doesn’t seem right… an odd ingredient, a different preparation technique…. what do you do? Try something new or resort to your old habits?

Even a small change in herbs or ingredients can change a meal, and a new technique can have great results. But sometimes, it doesn’t make sense.

Dreena Burton’s recipe for this Lemon Mediterranean Lentil Salad had me scratching my head. Cook my lentils in lemon juice? With oil? Had I not learned my lesson with the Green Mango Curry? Acid makes for firm beans. Even dry-toasting makes beans keep their shape. I want my beans to cook! Heck, I already know that the secret to great lentil salads is to use French du Puy lentils. Quick cooking, they also keep their shape and hold up well to salads.

So, I forged ahead… ignoring the plea to simmer the lentils in lemon juice. Forgoing the suggestion to toast them beforehand.

My mistake: The original recipe didn’t say to drain the lentils. So I didn’t. I should have. The glory of this salad comes from the simmering finale of the herbs and tomatoes with the cooked lentils. The olives, capers and lemon zest add a delicious mix of flavours that permeate the lentils in a great way. Except, because I had omitted the lemon juice and toasting, they kept cooking. They became mushy. Still uber delicious, but not as firm as I prefer for my lentil salads. Not as photogenic as I would like, but this recipe was too delicious not to share pronto. I know I will be remaking this, during the perpetual season of summer potluck gatherings, but I did not want you to be deprived of such a great dish… although may I suggest actually following the recipe? ;) Let me know how it goes!

Here are some other great Mediterranean bean salad recipes:

Warm Mediterranean Chickpea and Spinach Salad
Warm Chickpea and Artichoke Salad
Spanish Lentil and Mushroom Salad

This is my submission to this week’s Summer Salad Sundays, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

Posted in Salads by janet @ the taste space on July 9, 2012

Unbeknownst to me, this will be the week of salad.

I enjoy pre-planning my meals for the week. I don’t stray too far from my typical weekly batch of steel cut oats, a bean dish and vegetable/grain dish and a soup or salad. My menu is first and foremost based on what I have in my fridge that needs to be eaten sooner rather than later and after that, what is on sale at the store. I had a menu, but it was abandoned with gusto.

On Friday, my friends came over bearing fresh lettuce. They gifted me two massive heads of lettuce from their rooftop garden (local, organic gardening, at its finest), and I couldn’t refuse. This isn’t the first time I have been gifted perishable food items but at least lettuce is quite flexible with its use. (I have yet to venture into cooked lettuce, so I will be trying to use it in fresh salads)

After making the Blueberry Vanilla Chia Jam, I was plotting to make a version with balsamic-roasted strawberries. While I gobbled down the majority of the blueberry jam solely on a spoon, I figured a salad dressing might be more appropriate with my new-found lettuce acquisition.

So here we are with a delicious dressing. Fresh strawberries are delicious and their sweetness is intensified with the caramelization from roasting. While I have baked and macerated strawberries before, I never thought to roast them. Here, they are combined with balsamic vinegar and hazelnut oil with savoury undertones from thyme, rosemary and garlic. Serve it with your favourite greens. I topped my salad here with yellow beans (Rancho Gordo‘s Yellow Indian Woman) and cucumber, but feel free to use whatever you have laying around in your fridge!

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

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Grilled Balsamic Mushroom and Quinoa Salad with Walnuts

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by janet @ the taste space on June 29, 2012

Uh, oh. I have become predictable.

Being invited for a BBQ = time for Garlic-Thyme Balsamic Roasted Portobello Mushrooms!

Any time of day, grilled portobello mushrooms fit with the theme. Rob and I went to a post-wedding brunch where the new father-in-law was cooking eggs and sausages on the barbecue. I knew this man must be a barbecue connoisseur, so I left my marinaded mushrooms with him. Do not lose the marinade, I told him, because it was going to be my salad dressing, too.

I was shocked when he returned with beautifully plump mushrooms with even more marinade. He turned my barbecue skills upside down. Instead of doing a continuous grilling on a random side of the mushroom, he started grilling gill side down. Next, he flipped them gill side up to finish them off. The juices from the mushrooms pooled in the middle of the mushrooms. Ingenious. No, really, I was so impressed. (Never mind scrambled eggs on the barbecue…)

In any case, portobello mushrooms alone do not make a meal, so instead of a garlic white bean puree, I opted to add quinoa and toasted walnuts for crunch. This way, you do not lose any of the fabulous garlic-thyme-balsamic marinade and you get a filling meal that is also great as leftovers. Because, yes, it is very sad. I do not like to share my mushrooms. They are just too good. ;)

What are your favourite vegan things to make on the barbecue? I think I need a bigger variety of barbecue tricks! Here are our current barbecue tricks:

Grilled Rosemary Garlic Corn
Rob’s Grilled Pineapple with Lime and Chile Flakes
Lemon Asparagus Quinoa Toss
Dragon Quinoa Bowl with Roasted Vegetables and a Miso Gravy
Wheat Berry Salad with Pomegranate-Roasted Vegetables

Here are some other recipes I have bookmarked:

BBQ Tempeh Kabobs from Making Love in the Kitchen
Peruvian Seitan Skewers from Viva Vegan
Coconut and Lime Grilled Kale from Kitchen Operas
Grilled Corn and Tomatoes with Vegan Tonnato Sauce from Food & Wine
Portobello Salad with Spicy Mustard Dressing from Veganomicon

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

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Quinoa with Caramelized Onions and Zucchini

Posted in Salads by janet @ the taste space on May 2, 2012

Vacations are supposed to be relaxing, right?

Not if you are Rob and me.

We finally picked our vacation destination for the year: Colombia, here we come! (Well in a few weeks…)

Hearing my cousin’s stories about the lovely beaches, vibrant (shifty?) street-life, fabulous hiking and river cruises in the Amazon, we are excited to check out such a diverse country.

One thing Rob and I are planning to do is trek to Ciudad Perdida, Colombia’s Lost City (aka Colombia’s Machu Picchu). It is a stunningly beautiful but grueling 6-day hike through hot and humid conditions. My cousin had tons of stories from his trip – having to stop hiking around noon because it was so hot (over 32C with high humidity) but then swimming all day in the waterfalls, visiting a cocaine farm, stunning vistas, but also being infested by tics, another girl attacked by fire ants and not being able to walk the day following the hike. Hopefully Rob and I are up for the challenge! I think this will be harder than our 2-day 360km bike ride to Kingston last year, but totally worth it. I love this description from Trip Advisor: To enjoy the trek you will need to be relatively fit, not afraid of heights, be sure of foot, not mind cold showers, not mind being dirty, have the ability to fall asleep in a hammock and enjoy mucking in.

I say: BRING IT ON! :D

While we are still working on our trip itinerary, I love taking cooking classes when I travel. I am scheduling a cooking class in Bogota that promises a trip to the market AND all meals to be vegan.  Rob is quite concerned about the availability of vegan options outside Bogota, but I am hopeful things will work out. For the hike, the tour group promises meals filled with beans, lentils and brown rice for me. I hear the fruits and potatoes are to die-for, though, so I will not pass up the opportunity to sample those. If I bring quinoa, I can teach them how to cook it for me, too.

Legend has it that the Inca army subsisted partially on quinoa, and I see no better way to trek through the Colombian jungles. It is no secret that it is one of my favourite (pseudo)grains.

In honour of quinoa, here is a simple yet delicious salad.  I honestly wasn’t expecting much from such a humble set of ingredients, but they worked so well together. Zucchini and thinly sliced onions are slowly pan-fried with thyme to create a lovely caramelized duo. The zucchini impedes full caramelization of the onions, but it is a much simpler way to create the salad. The purists may want to caramelize the onions solo for 45 minutes and roast the zucchini on a grill for even more flavour! Regardless, my way is great, too. The veggies are then tossed with the quinoa, lemon and parsley. I don’t use parsley much, but its slight (but not overpowering) flavour was quite refreshing here. Top with some toasted pine nuts, and you have a filling dish. I could definitely eat this every day while hiking.

But please help me: Any tips for travelling in Colombia? For trekking in the humid jungle? (help on the last one, please!)

Any favourite travel snacks that can withstand high temperatures?

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this month’s River Cottage Rocks Veggie Heaven and to Cookbooks Sundays.

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Finnish Double Pea Stew with Apples

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by janet @ the taste space on March 14, 2012

Guess who biked to work yesterday? With highs of 18C, a nice rain on Monday to get rid of the salt, I was almost feverish in excitement to finally start biking to work!

I know it is only a teaser, though… Warmer weather alone does not make spring. Especially if it only lasts a week.

There are many ingredients I associate with spring: Baby greens. Arugula. Asparagus. Carrots. And peas.

Since the fresh, local produce hasn’t made its way to the forefront just yet, you can approximate springtime with this hybrid of a stew adapted from Love Soup: Finnish Double Pea Soup with Apples (original recipe here). It is a wonderful merriment of a hearty stick-in-your-ribs winter split pea stew combined with a sprinkling of spring with fresh (or in my case, frozen) peas (I used the sweeter petit pois from President’s Choice). Apples also add a hit of sweetness without being too discernible. The vinegar and mustard temper and balance the soup extremely well along with a whiff of nutmeg and coriander. The flavours are not over-the-top but they marry very well.


This is my submission to this month’s My Kitchen, My World featuring dishes from Finland, to This Week’s Cravings (Green), to this week’s Wellness Weekend, to this month’s  Gimme Green event and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Pickle Soup

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by janet @ the taste space on February 13, 2012

You’d think something was up. While I have long given up cheesy bliss, meat-laden meals and sweet desserts*, I have been having a lot of random food cravings. Cabbage. Tahini. And now pickles. When I told Rob I drank the pickle juice after I ate the last pickle, he was concerned. That’s what pregnant people do! No worries on that front. :P But what’s up with the cravings?

*Full disclosure: December was filled with chocolate cravings (gosh, those cookies were so good!). I also learned that Clif and Luna bars are deadly addictive. They may be vegan, but they are junk. I have been cut-off.

In any case, I don’t feel that guilty obliging my pickle cravings. Yes, they can be a bit salty, but they can be so satisfying with their crunch and vinegary bite.

After eating more than a few unadorned, I decided to branch out and make Pickle Soup that I had bookmarked from Love Soup eons ago.

Truly, pickle soup is a misnomer. Yes, there are pickles in it but it is not a dominant flavour. Just like vinegar and lemon juice are added to enhance the balance of a soup’s flavour, pickles do the exact same thing here. They add that salty and acidic touch.

So if this isn’t a pickle soup, it is a soup filled to the brim with veggies! It has an Eastern European flavour profile with dill and cabbage but it also has a hint of thyme. The veggies are bountiful, making this a huge pot of soup – leek, delicate oyster mushrooms, celeriac, carrot, turnip, Swiss chard, cabbage, red bell pepper – as well as barley.

While the flavours don’t scream out in any sense, they mingle well together. The pickles add that extra dimension that makes you think about the soup. Use dill pickles, Polish if possible, for the nice tang. Even pickle haters could enjoy the soup since the pickles are hidden amongst the plentiful veggies.

Even though I added in even more veggies than the original recipe, substituting a few ingredients as well (celeriac, baby!), I didn’t tire of this soup.  I usually shun recipes that feed 8 people, but not this time. I relished in it. Sometimes I ate this soup twice a day!

Thankfully I think my pickle cravings subsided after a round of the soup.

What have you been craving recently?

This is my submission to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Wellness Weekend, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring fresh herbs.

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Roasted Celeriac and Lentils with Hazelnuts and Mint

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on February 8, 2012

I loved hearing how you decide to share your blog with your friends and co-workers after my last post. As Joanne said, sometimes there are clues that a blog may be lurking in the background, or at least a true love of cooking. Rarely repeated lunches, guilty as charged. Beyond that, I try not to share my profound love of beans with just anyone.  I don’t want to be perceived as preachy once I start talking about my food choices (no meat, dairy, fish, refined flours, refined sugars, white rice and potatoes, etc). You know you are my friend when I discuss the virtues of lentils over chickpeas. Although walking into my kitchen, with its rows of dried beans are a quick giveaway. If you make it up into my study, then my collection of cookbooks is a dead giveaway that I love to cook.

I have a lot of cookbooks. A lot. Recently, I won a subscription to Eat Your Books, a website that indexes cookbook recipes for easier searching. Sadly, my most loved cookbooks (namely my vegan faves) have not yet been indexed (the scourge of Tess’ cookbooks being not-so-mainstream). However, this allows me to check out some of my other cookbooks, that I would not have pulled off the shelf simply because they are not vegan. The best recipes are those that are accidentally vegan. They aren’t trying to be something meaty.

I recently made a delicious celeriac and white bean puree from Terry’s new cookbook. I know her cookbook will get lambasted for using the most isoteric ingredients, but I love it because my kitchen is stocked with all things isoteric and I have bought even more pantry items! I also push myself to try new vegetables. Despite hating celery, I scoped out celeriac, also known as celery root. Sunny’s for the win, after the St Lawrence Market was out that week. And yes, it is now my newest favourite root vegetable. An underdog if you ever looked at it; it is a white/grey/dirty thing all gnarled up in roots. But as a non-starchy vegetable root (not part of the cruciferous gang, sadly), it tastes like a cross between a potato and has the nice parts of celery: a sweet, yet subtle earthy celery taste. It tastes a bit nutty with hints of lemon, too.

So, when I was left with half a celeriac, I turned to Eat Your Books. I found an intriguing celeriac schnitzel in my German cookbook (here‘s Bittman’s version), lots of mashes, a lot of soups, some slaws and salads. I will have to get more celeriac to try all the recipes! However, this time I was drawn to a vegan-friendly lentil salad with celeriac from Ottlenghi’s Plenty (similar recipe here).

Of course, I adapted the recipe. Instead of boiling the celeriac, I opted to roast it. I also decreased the dressing, making it less oily and I tried to play up the hazelnut flavour by pairing the hazelnut oil with a mild rice vinegar (it would be interesting to try this with a balsamic, me thinks). However, the majority of the hazelnut taste came from the roasted hazelnuts, instead. I liked the juxtaposition of warming hazelnut with the roasted celeriac, earthy lentils and bright mint. It is a nice, unassuming salad and a great way to introduce someone to celeriac.

This is being submitted to this month’s Monthly Mingle featuring Heart Healthy Meals.

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Jamaican Tofu Chowder with Collards

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on January 20, 2012

There are very few purchased spice blends in our house.

I made my own dukkah and za’atar. Rob made panch phoran to quickly whip up this Cauliflower Dal.

I used to make my own garam masala until I discovered Arvinda’s garam masala, which is what Rob had in his kitchen. It tastes really good so we’ve stuck with it until our stash runs out.

Just as I have been averse to dishes named curry, I have been avoiding dishes calling for “curry powder”. I will typically substitute garam masala.

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! ;)

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this month’s citrus love blog hop and to My Kitchen, My World for Jamaica.

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