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.
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.
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?
When I photographed this, I was worried it may look eerily similar to the Red Lentil and Spinach Curry (Vegan Tikka Masala). Red lentils + tomato + spinach… This one has carrots, isn’t as red and is more soup-like than the curry, though. I think they look reasonably different, so trust me I am not recycling photos! No lost photos for this dish…
In truth, it was the success of the tikka masala that had me throwing bountiful fists of spinach into yet another red lentil dish.
I have made the traditional Turkish red lentil and bulgur soup before, having learned it while travelling in Turkey. A humble, yet decidedly filling and nutritious soup, it was one of our favourite meals on our trip, especially when we learned how to cook it ourselves. This version, courtesy of Turquoise, is billed as a humble peasant soup. The lentils must make it peasant-like because there is nothing bland about this. I love the addition of two different kinds of smoked paprika and cumin (I did not stifle the full amount of smoked paprika and it was ok!). I added in the spinach, because, well, I had tons of it and it is easy to incorporate into thick soups. However, the best part of this soup, is the finishing spiced oil. I am used to this in Indian dishes, which is called a tarka, when spices like cumin, coriander, garlic and ginger can infuse oil that is added at the end of the cooking. This isn’t an Indian dish, so dried mint and smoked sweet paprika are fried at the end to permeate the oil. It was actually very pretty when drizzled over the soup. Sorry, you guys got photos of leftovers! Have no fear, the leftovers tasted as good with the tarka already stirred into the soup.
Do you use the tarka method for your cooking? Outside Indian foods?
So Rob is gone and I am out to play!
A few years ago, I read What We Eat When We Eat Alone by husband and wife team Deborah Madison and Patrick McFarlin. I was so fascinated by their stories that I wrote my own series about eating for 1. At the time, I had been living by myself for over 6 years (plus another 4 years I lived with roommates). I was fascinated by what people ate when not with their significant other. Truthfully, I don’t really modify my habits too much when Rob is away. I try to stay on track.
However, I emailed Rob about being influenced by the Bad Idea Bears (bonus points if you have any clue what I am referring to). After going to the gym, I was so energized post-shred that I went grocery shopping. My email to Rob:
The bad idea bears helped me reason out why I should buy 8 lbs of chickpeas for $5, spinach (3/$2), baby bok choy (79c/lb), lots of bananas (29c/lb), grapefruit (4/$1) among other things. I bought you some rolled oats, too. oh, and some yogurt (it expires in April so you are still good post-SXSW).
I know my Mom is shaking her head. I thought about it, too. I reasoned it out. Our chickpea stash was getting low!! I am on a chickpea phase! The other beans will not suffice! They are on sale! They will keep. I will eat them. I want my chickpeas!
Plus, my Mom gave me a nice balsamic vinegar for Christmas, so I need chickpeas and greens to eat through that!
(I am thinking about depleting my pantry…)
So now I have lots of chickpeas and lots of greens. Which is better than a case of beer, right? (Rob thought so, too).
You may have noticed I am posting more and more simple recipes. This is possibly one of my easiest recipes (the broccoli was an afterthought, so the hardest part is chopping the broccoli). In a saucepan, put all your ingredients and make a balsamic reduction with a touch of tomato, garlic and lemon. Within a few minutes, it glazes the chickpeas with a sweet-tart sauce. The original recipe called for ketchup, which I replaced with tomato paste and sweetener. The quality of your balsamic vinegar will dictate how tart it will become and how much sweetener to add. Taste as you go. You could just make the chickpeas, but I found the broccoli to be a perfect match, sweet and crunchy, to balance the strong balsamic reduction. Next time, to make this even easier, I may just whip out my mosto cotto instead.
I am loving the conversations from the last post about the evidence surrounding eating a Mediterranean diet. The New York Times wrote a follow-up article that summarizes my feelings pretty closely: there is a surprising lack of evidence for nutritional recommendations. While in medical school, I remember being taught that the only thing shown to keep weight loss on long-term was bariatric surgery. Perhaps that is because the proper studies have not be done. To be fair, I learned the DASH diet with was better than any single medication to reduce high blood pressure. Hopefully, the flurry of interest from this past study will propel researchers to investigate plant-based whole foods eats. The New York Times suggested a vegan diet is not a long-term option, but I disagree.
Onwards with another Mediterranean meal? Vegan AND delicious?
I love it when I know it is going to be a good week. By Sunday, after I do my batch cooking and a bit of taste testing, I have a good idea how my meals will be for the week. Flops or wins? I never seem to know with these Random Recipes.
This one was a big win!
Dom pushed us to randomly pick a recipe from our (physical) recipe pile. I still like to print out my recipes for the week and sometimes throw in bonus recipes if there is empty space on my page. While cleaning the kitchen table, I decided to tackle one of my recent but neglected clipped out recipes.
Sometimes I am blown away by the simplicity of good food. I wasn’t expecting this to taste so good as it did, so I was pleased to have such great tasting lunches all week.
This recipe was for a ribollita, an Italian peasant soup featuring vegetable soup with day-old bread. Most versions use leftover vegetable soup, but here we create a complex soup simply from roasted vegetables. Roasted fennel was new to me, but I really liked the medley from roasted red peppers, zucchinis, carrots, mushrooms and onions. White beans add bulk and the giant corona white beans were a perfect match to the chunky vegetables. Sliced cabbage added an almost noodle-like feel with some structure to the vegetable soup. I added both tomato paste and red pepper paste to the broth simply because I was too lazy to open a new can of tomato paste. I really liked the deep flavours from both pastes, but feel free to use only tomato paste if that is what you have on hand. I omitted the bread completely, so I doubt this is still a ribollita proper, but it sounds like a wonderful addition for this hearty soup.
Which soups are warming your belly this winter?
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:
Do you have it?
Jealous of those who live in the US with easy access to Rancho Gordo heirloom beans? RG even has a BEAN CLUB!! Or how about heirloom beans from Kalustyan’s, Purcell Mountain Farms or MarxFood? I mean, they technically could ship to Canada, but it costs way too much to be feasible (beans are heavy). I have recruited very loving family and friends help me collect my heirloom bean stash. My Christmas present included heirloom beans (and tote bag) my brother picked from Rancho Gordo‘s booth while vacationing in San Francisco. Woohoo for me!
I have searched for local options. Canada has such vast farmland; why don’t we have heirloom beans? Turns out you just need to know where to look. I have had good luck at ethnic grocers (Sunny’s has a whole half aisle dedicated to beans), Whole Foods (especially the store near Square One in Mississauga) and for those that don’t live nearby you can even mail order Nova Scotian beans right to your front door. But only if you buy 12 lbs.
Not daunted by such a large amount of beans, I ordered a mix of Jacob’s Cattle, Soldier and Yellow Eye beans from Webster Farms, a family farm in Cambridge, Nova Scotia. I have been eating the Yellow Eye beans as a nice alternative to white beans. The next experiment is for the European soldier beans, named after its red markings (the red coats of the British soldiers).
I decided to tackle a Canadian specialty: baked beans. In the Nova Scotian way. I mean, these beans are from Nova Scotia, how could I not?
Turns out there was a recipe on the back of the package for baked beans. In general, recipes for baked beans call for gobs of sugar – molasses, honey, brown sugar, and maple syrup. Most recipes will advise you specifically not to use blackstrap molasses, but the recipes that use it are the recipes that interest me the most. Blackstrap molasses may be bitter but it also has a lot of iron and calcium, too.
So, on a wintry night, I warmed the house with a slow-cooked pot of baked beans. With a trio of soldier beans, blackstrap molasses and pumpkin seed butter, we have an iron overload. Food bloggers always exaggerate, right? I am not kidding. With almost 40mg of iron in one serving, that’s 220% of the standard recommended daily intake. (If you don’t believe vegans need extra iron, of course). Eat an orange and pass on coffee/tea to help absorb it all. These beans are not too sweet but have a depth from the bitter blackstrap molasses. The pumpkin seed butter makes these a lot more creamy than they look. The slow cooking makes the sauce thick and full-bodied. I stopped after 3 hours but feel free to let it cook into the evening.
So, envying the beans, yet?
Winter has arrived. Or least poked its head up. It was frigid as I biked to work on Friday. Cold and windy, a terrible combination. No snow at that time, but -11C with the windshield (12F for my American readers). Snow came later.
It is supposed to warm up again this week, although the city already dropped down the salt. Snow and more importantly, the salt, is what causes me to pack up my bike for the season. I was hoping to break 13,000km on my bicycle odometer this year. My goal used to be 12,000km but I surpassed that last month. I am 300km short of my goal. With a 20km daily commute, that would only take me 3 more weeks, basically right before Christmas holidays. The odometer has been ticking since I bought my commuter bike in October 2009. It followed me as I cycled to Cornwall, Niagara Falls and Kingston. Averaging over 4000km each year, it seems more impressive than it entails. This year, Rob and I did very little recreational cycling. My distance is purely based on a longer commute. It is amazing how quickly the extra distance can add up.
I will have to see how much rain we get before I decide how to get to work on Monday. Bike or transit?
In addition to the cold, one of the things I do not like about the winter is the limited amount of fresh vegetables. In the summer, everything is at my fingertips. Cheap local produce at its peak. Now I am not as excited by the grocery flyers… veggies rarely make it to the sales page. I try to capitalize on anything veggie-like on sale. Mushrooms, greens, broccoli, carrots, anything.
This week spinach and red lentils were on sale. 4lbs of red lentils for $1.27. 3 bunches of spinach for $2 (last week it was 2 bunches of spinach for $1). What amused me most was seeing how many people were buying the spinach. So many people! The grocers kept wheeling in more spinach. Big bunches, too. Spinach for the win!
When Ella posted her Red Lentils and Spinach in a Masala Sauce, I knew it was destiny. Destined to be my dinner. Turns out it was also my parents’ lunch when they came to visit last weekend. A last minute change of plans had them staying for lunch. Thankfully I had something that everyone could enjoy.
I made my own curry paste with toasted cumin and coriander seeds and combined it with ginger, cilantro, smoked paprika and garam masala. Tomato paste and pureed tomatoes made this a bit more complex and the cashew butter a more luscious body. Red lentils cook down into a mush and the spinach added a healthy bulk. A nice, solid curry. Tikka masala without the tikka? Probably not… this isn’t a super creamy sauce. Cashew butter can only accomplish so much! Next time, I might add in tempeh, like Rob did with his Tempeh Tikka Masala.
What are your favourite vegetables in the winter?
PS. Is tomato paste always so sweet? I licked some from the can and it was so sweet! My can is definitely no sweetener added, so I wonder if it is a side effect from my sweetener-free challenge.
Last year, I teased you. I told you about all these delicious meals I was making but not sharing the recipes.
Russian Sauerkraut Soup (Shchi) – This was a favourite recipe and Isa has already shared the recipe here (I loved the book’s smokey version with liquid smoke, coriander seitan, sliced cabbage along with I also added some white beans)
Sesame Wow Greens, a spin on oshitashi – so simple, yet a delicious way to eat spinach. I should try it with chard and kale, too.
Luscious White Bean and Celery Root Puree – this was how I got hooked onto celeriac!
Rice Paper Rolls with Kale and Asian Pear with a Peanut Coconut Sauce – delicious in a zucchini wrap
Fastlane Cabbage Kimchi – I preferred the ginger version instead of the spicy version (did you know that kimchi normally has fish sauce or shrimp in it?)
White Bean Farro Soup with Chickpea Parmigiano – the topping is what made this dish special
All of the recipes were from Terry Hope Romero’s new book, Vegan Eats World which is available today! And those were only a few of the recipes, since I tested over 30. This is a vegan cookbook geared at international cuisine, from Colombian Coconut Lentil Rice to Moroccan Vegetable Filo Pie (Bisteeya) and (Belgian) Beer Bathed Seitan Stew with Oven Frites (the latter were two of my recipe requests!). Terry tackled fun recipes from around the globe. She uses authentic ingredients while still putting her own spin to the dish.
One of the drawbacks of this cookbook is that she uses authentic ingredients. My cupboard explosion is partially due to Terry’s influence when I bought frozen pandan, Korean pepper flakes, canned jackfruit, freekeh and annatto seeds, among others. I can credit her with discovering many new favourite ingredients, too, including star anise, celeriac and freekeh.
As a recipe tester, I received my cookbook last week. It was captivating to read through the cookbook and discover even more recipes I want to try. There were so many recipes I couldn’t test them all.
Recipes in her book range from fancy to easy weeknight meals. Some are more involved (she has recipes for Afghan Pumpkin Ravioli with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Garlic Yogurt Sauce) or incredibly easy (like Coconut [Black Eyed] Bean Curry (Lobia). The marker of a good cookbook, though, is having repeater recipes. I even photographed this one before when we made it with red lentils instead of green. Lover of all things curry, Rob has adopted this into his Repeater Recipes as a quick and simple meal both of us enjoy. We may have moved across town, from one Little Ethiopia to another, so we have easy access to injera. Terry also has a recipe for (Almost) Instant Injera, along with other dishes to make your own Ethiopian feast.
While I encourage you to pick up your own copy of Vegan Eats World, thankfully, Terry agreed to me sharing her recipe for Ethiopian Lentils in Berbere Sauce (Yemiser W’et) and Berbere Spice Blend. Enjoy!
Rob likes to have dinner themes for his birthday parties. Last year, it was Japanese.
We had planned on going Ethiopian this year, as it is the theme of our current neighbourhood. However, we changed our minds at the last minute because I wasn’t in the mood to cook up 5 different cooked dishes.
While I can dream up menus for days on end, they involve vegan dishes. Rob knew that some of our guests might balk at the lack of meat, so he offered to make a Southwestern Pulled Brisket in the slow cooker. With his meal chosen, I crafted the remainder of the menu with it in mind.
Therefore, this year it was a hodge podge of Southern US and Mexican dishes, foreshadowing our next, next move to Texas in 2013. My (not so) discerning palate can’t tell the difference between Texan and Carolina BBQ styles, but I can tell you how delicious everything turned out.
I was initially hesitant, but Rob encouraged me to try my hand at jackfruit carnitas. We had all the fixings for great tacos for the brisket, so why not have another filling, too?
I eventually settled on a recipe for Carolina BBQ-inspired pulled “pork” from Jessica.
Jackfruit is a fruit from Southeast Asia. Rob tells me it tastes like bubble gum. While the ripe fruit is sweet, you can buy canned young jackfruit in brine, which is quite flavourless. It has been used as a meat substitute due to its texture. After being cooked, it pulls apart into stringy bits akin to pulled pork and beef brisket.
While Rob’s brisket took 8 hours in the slow cooker, my BBQ jackfruit pulled “pork” took an hour, tops.
They key of the recipe is the spice blend, and here we used a plethora of spices to capture a Southern BBQ flavour: sweet smoked paprika, Aleppo chili flakes, mustard, tomato and red pepper pastes, tamarind and vinegar for some tang and sweetness from the maple syrup (yes, that’s 4/8 of my favourite ingredients in one sauce!). Such a glorious BBQ flavour with a bit of a kick. Chile heads, again, feel free to use the suggested cayenne, but I though it was plenty spicy without it. Dry frying brought out the flavours from the dry spices, then a slow simmer expanded the saucy flavours. Baking it firmed up the jackfruit so that it was more akin to pork.
As the jackfruit bakes, or if you are more inclined to make the brisket (it had rave, rave reviews, btw, and Rob loved its sheer simplicity to prepare), make some pickled red onions. I know many people shun fresh red onions, and a quick marinade in vinegar with some salt and sugar can really bring out their flavour. We used the recipe suggested by Deb.
Both the brisket and BBQ jackfruit pulled pork was served with an assortment of toppings – shredded Romaine, chopped tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, sliced cabbage, avocado and the pickled red onions. While we had roti and pitas for guests, I opted to make wraps with Romaine lettuce leaves. The jackfruit was so flavourful that you didn’t need so much per wrap. While Rob’s 3 lbs of beef brisket easily fed 10 people, my 20 oz of jackfruit served more like 2-4 people, depending on how many toppings you added.
When I suggested recipes for my Mom to make over Christmas, she was a bit shocked when she found out a few were new recipes. One of the cardinal rules of cooking for guests is to never try a new recipe on unsuspecting guests. I have long abandoned that rule, though.
Truth be told, sometimes it can be difficult to munch on a dish you’ve already made yourself but made by someone else. Sometimes, it will taste the same. We repeatedly return to our favourite hummus recipe (this one, too) because it is so reliable. But in the flash of a pan, a dish can taste different.
Therefore, I figured I would give my Mom all of the glory from a few fabulous new dishes.
The Chickpea Piccata, was a definite hit. I didn’t want to share any of the leftovers!
The second hit was this Pumpkin Chili. I originally spotted it on Isobelle’s site, but the recipe came from Ashlae. While I have made other chilis before, this is definitely my favourite so far. A savoury saucy chili, filled with beans and vegetables. Flavourful, not spicy despite using jalapeno peppers. The pumpkin puree adds a touch of sweetness but doesn’t leave you with a pumpkin flavour. The TVP plumps up to look just like ground meat, it is almost confusing. What isn’t confusing is how great it tastes: delicious.
When we trying to decide what to do with the leftover chili, I suggested my Mom freeze it and save it for the next time I visit. This way, there would be a surefire Janet-friendly meal already waiting for me.
However, after I went home, I called to make sure I had the right recipe for the tantalizing chili. Only minor changes using canned tomatoes and beans. She even used jalapeno peppers! However, my Mom had bad news. There was no more chili left: my Dad had polished it all off! Vegan chili so good it could fool the unsuspecting omnivore: I consider that a success. My Mom makes a tasty chili and I can’t wait to have it again.
I know I’ve briefly mentioned it before, but I tend to do the majority of my cooking on the weekends and eat leftovers all week. Vegan cuisine, especially soups, curries and bean salads, lend well to leftovers because they only taste better after they have marinaded.
Sometimes I crave a nice, fresh hot meal, too. It can be difficult to make a complete meal if you are famished after a long day at work…. unless, you have the forethought of making all the components ahead of time!
I found this delicious salad at Post Punk Kitchen. I know it looks like another crazy multi-component salad: roasted beets, smoky tempeh croutons, a warm maple mustard dressing. Trust me, the best dishes get you to bring out the best of each component. Work on the weekend for each component, then bring it all together mid-week.
First, you need to roast your beets. Glorious roasted golden beets. Next, steam your tempeh, then get it marinading. Tempeh has a bad leftover track-record, which is why I planned on making this salad fresh during the week. I left the tempeh in the marinade until I took out a portion to freshly panfry for the salad. For my last salad, the tempeh had been marinading for 5 days. The maple mustard dressing is a snap to put together as well.
So, when you come home from work, and it is late, and you don’t want to think, now you have all the components for a wonderful salad. Take out your nonstick frypan and fry your tempeh. Meanwhile, get out your beets. Toss them into the frypan with the tempeh if you’d like (or not). Pull out your greens and get chopping. Using Swiss chard or kale instead of Romaine? Finely chop the stems and throw it in with the tempeh, too (or not). Warm the dressing in the microwave (or not). Add to your leafy greens. Add your beets if they aren’t in your frypan. By this time, the tempeh should be almost done…. when it is, plop it on top of your greens.
Ten minutes, tops. I promise.
Sit back and enjoy your fresh salad.. every day of the week.
November is special in many ways. Of course, there is Remembrance Day. For some, it is a month to grow a moustache in support of raising funds for prostate cancer research (aka Movember). For others, it is a celebration of vegan food through almost daily blogging (aka Vegan MoFo).
I am neither a vegan, nor a vegetarian, nor do I plan to write 20-30 posts this month about vegan food. In fact, most of my vegan recipes are serendipitous as I search out healthy recipes. But I figured I’d pay homage to Vegan MoFo by posting vegan-friendly dishes all month. So far, so good (and I bet you may not have noticed they were vegan!).
In fact, I wanted to take things a bit further by going where few non-vegans have gone before: making vegan “meat”.
Yes, I made my own homemade sausages… without any meat!
And it was fun!
Adapted from Viva Vegan, you mix and knead together vital wheat gluten and some chickpea flour with some vegetable broth and olive oil and a ton of flavourings: tomato paste, garlic, cumin, coriander, Mexican oregano, chili flakes, smoked paprika, nutritional yeast, and if you like it hotter throw in some cayenne and peppercorns.
I am not particularly familiar with chorizo, so I can’t say how close these are to the real deal. They were a bit soft right out of the oven but firmed up slightly after sitting in the refrigerator overnight. They were scrumptious, though! Little dumplings bursting with flavour. Nearly entirely filled with protein, at that.
I added them to the Brazilian Potato-Kale Soup and it definitely brought it to the next level. I was fishing out the chorizo for each bite. It was delectable.
Bring on the homemade (vegan) sausages!
One of my goals is to try every single vegetable and fruit at Bestwin, a local grocery store that has tons of ethnic food spanning India to Japan to Thailand. I oftentimes have no clue what they are, nor what to do with them, so it will definitely be a challenge. I stopped by this week and noticed okra was on sale, so I picked some up to start my cuisine challenge. Thankfully I also had 2 cookbooks in my trunk so I quickly looked for an appealing recipe with okra and made sure to get all the ingredients.
Okra is native to Africa but is used in Middle Eastern, Indian and African cuisine. While okra is commonly served with tomato, I adapted a Syrian Jewish sweet and sour recipe with okra, prunes and apricots in a tamarind sauce from Aromas of Aleppo by Poopa Dweck (the original recipe has also been posted here by the Jewish Book Council). There is some tomato paste as well, so the classic tomato flavour is there as well. I thought the sauce was fabulous with the sweet apricots and prunes, with the sour tang from the tamarind. The bit of tomato pasta also added a bit of homeliness to the dish. The sauce worked well with the delicious okra.
The sweet and sour sauce took a while to prepare but the long cooking meant there was no need for any additional sugar as the sweetest was entirely from the fruits. I served this with a bed of rice as a meal, but I think next time I’d love to add a bean like chickpeas to the mixture. It can also be served as a side dish to an elaborate meal.
I was a bit worried about the okra after reading about its acquired tasted and its gooey characteristics if opened, but I didn’t have any problems. The try to minimize any mucilaginous texture, quickly spray with water when washing and quickly pan-fry them with a bit of oil. Keeping them intact while cooking is also important, and shaking the pan instead of stirring helps. A few of my larger okra where a bit tough and stringy, so I should have heeded Dweck’s advice to purchase the smallest okra possible. When I was in Turkey, they were each an inch or two long and I hear in Syria they are even smaller. Here in Canada, they were much longer but still good. Frozen baby okra could also be an option.
To be fair, I don’t normally travel with cookbooks in my trunk, but I was enroute from buying them. I couldn’t be more happy with my purchases. This was the second recipe I have tried from Aromas of Aleppo by Poopa Dweck, and I was not disappointed (the first was Eggs Scrambled with Rhubarb). Aromas of Aleppo is a unique cookbook featuring Jewish Syrian cuisine.
As the last Jews left Aleppo in 1997 and took their cuisine with them, this makes the cookbook a treasure trove of historical dishes. Dweck is keeping the Syrian Jewish culinary traditions alive through recipes pulled together from the expatriated community, a project which began over 30 years ago. Syrian Jews separate themselves from other Sephardic Jews through their flavourful dishes, with their unique uses of tamarind, cherries, and spices such as allspice, cinnamon, saffron and cardamom. What’s not to love?