the taste space

Mediterranean Artichoke, Chickpea and Spinach Soup

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on May 22, 2013

Tomato Chickpea and Spinach Soup

I think my pantry-purge has been going the wrong way. I am no longer accumulating new esoteric ingredients but I struggled with whether or not to replenish my staples. Could I live without chickpeas for a few months? Absolutely not. Miso?  I replenished that, too. What about olives? I think I could manage olive-free for 6 months. Artichokes? Well, the best artichokes come from the freezer case at Trader Joe’s so I am excited to wait for those. The plan for now: use up the less-loved ingredients. The ones I can part with for a bit of time.

Now I can strike these from my pantry: artichokes and olives. What could have been a boring vegetable stew was helped with said pantry items. Olives add the salty punch to this spring-like tomato stew with red pepper, mushrooms, artichokes and spinach.

Sometimes I have limited enthusiasm for ingredients that have been stashed at the back of my pantry. Or I only have a limited repertoire for said ingredient. Olives and artichokes are not that wacky, but I am looking for ways to use fun things like kelp noodles, capers, jackfruit, assorted flours (chickpea flour is our staple but I still have some coconut flour, tapioca flour, rice flours and vital wheat gluten), puffed quinoa, dried fruits and nuts. And let’s not forget the things in my freezer: herbs, chopped veggies and fruits, tempeh, and frozen meals ready to go.

Do you have a big pantry or have a select collection of favourite ingredients in your pantry? I personally believe that a well-stocked kitchen makes for a well-prepared cook. It makes cooking easier and fun.

Tomato Chickpea and Spinach Soup

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, Little Thumbs Up event, hosted by Joyce, kitchen flavours, organized by Zoe from Bake For Happy Kids and Doreen for my little favourite D.I.Y..

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Braised Portobello Steaks and Spinach with a Balsamic Sauce

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on April 7, 2013

Braised Portobello Steaks and Spinach with a Balsamic Sauce

I wasn’t expecting this week to be all about tried-and-true favourites, but I don’t think you mind?

Last night, we celebrated my brother’s 30th birthday. Just as when I tipped into my thirties, my Mom was adamant about hosting a party for close family. Like last time, she transported everything from Ottawa and did last-minute prepping and baking in my brother’s kitchen. Moving before we hit 30 seems to be a theme in our family, as she navigated a new kitchen.

I offered to bring something. I was flat-out refused. I even asked if she had reconsidered a few days earlier. No. Although she leaked the menu to me: lentil salad and portobello mushrooms for me. (YES!) While I initially agreed that simple fruit would an ample dessert, she asked if I would like the Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mousse Pie instead. Obviously, I thought it was a fantastic idea. All of my favourite recipes!

Of course my Mom went all out. Roasted red pepper hummus and raw veggies as early nibblers along with spanakopita from my brother’s in-laws. Three salads: a leafy green with a balsamic dressing, my favourite 11-Spice Lentil Salad with apples and arugula (aka the Best Lentil Salad Ever) and a bacon-broccoli salad. Roasted balsamic portobello mushrooms were baked, instead of grilled, along with the salmon. A magnificent zuccotto dome cake and my Almost Guiltless cake for dessert. I loved how my healthy eats were interspersed among the options and enjoyed by everyone, including my brother’s in-laws who were still inquiring as to what vegan means. It was fun to see them  guess what exactly was in the dessert that had no flour, no grains, no eggs, no cream, no dairy, and no sugar and still taste delicious. We forgot to tell them the filling was no-bake, too (my Mom experimented with baking the almond-date crust this time).

Braised Portobello Steaks and Spinach with a Balsamic Sauce

While I am hesitant to call vegetables “steaks”, the baked mushrooms were compared to steaks last night. Since I used to enjoy my steak on the blue side (when I ate meat), I can see some parallels (moreso than if you like your steak well done), but these mushrooms are a pale comparison for anyone expecting steak. However, they are still one of my favourite meals.

Rob and I have been without a barbecue for a while now, but I have been experimenting with a different way to enjoy roasted balsamic mushrooms. Now I know baking works, too, but in the days of the hot summer, I know I can also make them on the stovetop as well. Not as good as the barbecue, but I am not complaining. :)

Balsamic mushrooms are marinaded in an herbed sherry-balsamic broth and then braised in the same sauce. The sauce is then reduced, used to wilt spinach and lastly drizzled overtop quinoa. I normally don’t make separate sides, but this was simple despite its multiple components.

Do you eat more one-pot dishes or tend to make lots of simple sides instead?

Braised Portobello Steaks and Spinach with a Balsamic Sauce

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Cristina.

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The Great Vegetable Bolognese Sauce with Zucchini Spaghetti

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on March 21, 2013

The Great Vegetable Bolognese Sauce with Zucchini Spaghetti

Vegan propaganda: I try not to spread too much of it.

If you read my blog, I think you’ve already accepted that vegetables are good for you and are ok with the lack of meat and dairy in my meals.

But I will share this fun video anyways, because I thought it was flipping awesome. I’ve watched a few documentaries about veganism and I am usually left with a bitter taste in my mouth, wondering about the accuracy of the science and experiences presented. The prolonged juice fast in Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead creeped me out. The main study in Forks over Knives, The China Study, was not convincing for me. Vegucated was cute, following 3 people on a vegan challenge for 6 weeks, though.

But this video? I loved it! Made by Dr Michael Gregor, the physician behind NutritionFacts.Org, he presents how a vegan diet affects the top 15 causes of mortality in a very engaging way. I know the clip is almost an hour long, but it is an hour well spent. If you watch it, please let me know what you think. For me, it reinforced continuing with a plant-based diet for health reasons. :)

In the spirit of nutritarianism (coined by Dr Fuhrman, describing those who consume foods based on their higher micronutrients and shun refined oils, sugars and salt), I decided to make The World’s Healthiest Tomato Sauce, as proclaimed by Amber.

The Great Vegetable Bolognese Sauce with Zucchini Spaghetti

This was a chunky tomato sauce like no other. Filled to the brim with vegetables. All sorts of veggies, it was a lovely clean-out-my-fridge kind of sauce.  I am probably the only person with a random vegetables, like a solo leek, beets, carrots, broccoli stems and mushrooms, hanging around for no good reason. Granted, this is a very flexible sauce so work with what you have. Amber suggests not omitting the olives, though. They add both the salty and fatty components from a whole food (instead of a refined oil product). The tempeh is eerily similar to chunks of meat. The nutritional yeast adds a cheesy hint, as if you had already stirred in Parmesan cheese. But the funniest part of the sauce is that it was more a fluorescent-red, courtesy of the pureed beet.

You might think this sauce would take forever to prep, with so many veggies. However, the food processor does that majority of the work. The directions look lengthy, but you’ll see a theme: chop veggies in food processor, add to the pot and stir. :)

I actually really liked this sauce. It tastes healthy yet hearty while still feeling light. Would I serve it to omnis I wanted to impress? Probably not. They would probably think I was pulling a joke on them.  But if someone made this for me, I’d be thrilled. I’d also have a lot of sauce to last for many meals. Freeze some for later, or relish in eating it a few times a day. :)

I believe that moderate amounts of oil, sweeteners and salt are good for you. Fats are definitely important, especially to absorb nutrients from other foods, but they can also come from avocados, nuts and seeds (and soy). I plan to incorporate more of these “healthy fats” into my foods.

What do you think about nutritarianism? Oils vs healthy fats?

The Great Vegetable Bolognese Sauce with Zucchini Spaghetti

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Simple Ayurvedic Mushroom and Leek Mixed Grain Skillet

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on March 7, 2013

Simple Mushroom and Leek Mixed Grain Skillet

I don’t shop at the standard grocery stores. I prefer the smaller, independent ethnic grocers for my veggies and natural foods stores for my pantry staples.

However, I recently heard that Costco had some interesting foods, and sent my family searching for sprouted mixed beans. Turns out they stopped selling them here a few months ago, but my aunt spotted a sprouted rice and quinoa blend instead. Always eager to try something new, I decided to give it a shot.

Uh, let’s just say that packaged mixed grains don’t always work so well. When I’ve made mixed grain dishes before, I cook the grains separately, or add them at different times so they finish cooking at the same time. I couldn’t get the grains to be as fluffy and distinct as I am used to.. unless that is what happens after they are sprouted? In any case, the mix turned out to be a bit on the mushy side, both when I’ve made it on the stovetop and in the rice cooker. I tried to salvage the mix by introducing it into this easy skillet.

Simple Mushroom and Leek Mixed Grain Skillet

I’ve made multiple skillets before, and each time I gush over its simplicity.  I swear, I wasn’t planning on sharing this recipe. It just seemed too simple, too boring and I didn’t think it would taste as flavourful as it did. The original recipe suggested throwing everything in the skillet and cooking, but I shunned a mise-en-place and threw things in as I finished chopping them. First went in the leeks, then the portobello mushrooms, next the red pepper and Brussels sprouts. Grated carrots and garlic rounded the veggies out with a sprinkle of salt and thyme. After the vegetables brown and begin to caramelize slightly, cooked grains get dumped in for a complete meal. No dressing, no broth. Thyme was the only herb but this was surprisingly flavourful. Do not discount the flavour of veggies (and garlic).

I think I may relegate my mixed grains to soups… that seems pretty foolproof. What do you think? Fan or foe of mixed grain blends?

Do you like it when I share easy, seemingly non-recipes with you?

Simple Mushroom and Leek Mixed Grain Skillet

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Simona, and to this month‘s Herbs on Saturday.

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Turkish Freekeh Pilaf with Chickpeas and Wild Greens

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

Turkish Freekeh Pilaf with Chickpeas and Wild Greens

OK, file this under “I don’t need to try that again“.

Not this dish. Chicory greens.

Chicory Greens

I hunted down chicory greens for my Random Recipe of the month. I was positively giddy to try some new-to-me greens. Pretty little wild greens, eh?

I am warning you: evil. Turns out not all greens are as lovely as spinach, Swiss chard and kale. Chicory leaves look like dandelion greens and they (likely) also taste like them: BITTER! They are cousins, after all.

This dish had such promise. I used freekeh, which is young cracked wheat with beautiful smoky undertones, and chickpeas and spiced it with paprika, cumin and pomegranate molasses. Thyme and lemon, too. Sounds beautiful but thwarted by the bitter greens. The original recipe called for ground lamb (which I obviously omitted) but I doubt that would overcome its bitterness. Next time, I’d suggest using a milder green like Swiss chard or kale. Although, the leftovers were not as vile.. either that, or I slowly became accustomed to it.

I was going to say that, in retrospect, this was obviously not meant for me since I am a pitta (which shuns bitter foods). Although, turns out the joke’s on me: chicory greens are good for pitta. I guess I must take after vata in this regard. Or maybe this is all messed up since it isn’t an Ayurvedic recipe. ;)

So, tell me, do you like bitter greens? If so, how do you enjoy eating them? If I ever try them again, I’ll go with this dish for Moroccan Braised Mustard Greens, which I’ve tried and enjoyed. Maybe I just had a particularly bitter bunch?

Turkish Freekeh Pilaf with Chickpeas and Wild Greens

This is my submission to Dom for this month’s Random Recipes, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s Simple and in Season.

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Beefy Portobello Mushroom and Cranberry Stew

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on January 24, 2013

I have been searching for a hearty, meaty (yet vegan), filling stew.

I had early success with mushroom bourguignon, but wanted something lighter, with less oil and flour. I tried recipe after recipe, without avail. Beet bourguignon did not satisfy. Beans bourguignon from 1000 Vegan Recipes was ok but not quite up to my high standards. Seitan-less Burgundy Stew with Parsnips from Big Vegan was not my favourite either. I almost gave up…

And then this treat popped out of nowhere.

After my success with baked (fresh) cranberries in the stuffed carnival squashes and roasted balsamic curry fall vegetables, I began exploring other savoury ideas for fresh (or frozen) cranberries. I stumbled upon Bryanna’s Mushroom and Cranberry Stew and was immediately intrigued. I don’t normally cook with TVP but had picked up some large chunk TVP at some point. Might as well use it and clear out the pantry, I mused.

I hadn’t really thought this was a bourguignon. However, it has a lot of similar flavours: red wine and sherry, carrots, thyme, mushrooms. No tomatoes, though and no need to use a thickener. TVP was used as a meat mimicker, texture only. I think a large bean could substitute if you are averse to TVP. The real beefy flavour came from Marmite. A yeasty, salty spread that Kiwis adore. The lovely twist in this recipe came from the fresh cranberries. Pleasantly tart, not sweet, but complemented the beefy stew incredibly well.

I will happily curl up with a bowl of this over the winter months.

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s Simple and in Season.

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Smoky Black Eyed Pea and Kale Stew

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M 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 M 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 M 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 M 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 M 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 M 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 M 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 M 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 M 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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