Our vacation was pretty awesome. And pretty overdue. While road tripping from Toronto to Houston was fun, it definitely was not a vacation. Since tickets to Burning Man can be very hard to get, we planned this trip last winter. Rob has been a few times and only had positive things to say about it (other than the insidious playa dust). In my mind, I thought: Hey, Texas is pretty close to Nevada. We should go to Burning Man! True enough, Houston is closer to Nevada than Toronto is to Nevada, but Houston is still 2000 km from Reno. Not that close.
I plan to summarize Burning Man in next week’s posts, as I recoup and regroup this week. Suffice it to say, I thought it was hot while camping in Nevada’s desert. We boarded the plane from Reno and landed in Houston. A week away and I had already forgotten how HOT, HOT, HOT (and humid) it is in Houston. Since Rob turned off the air conditioner while we were gone, we were greeted with an empty fridge and a hot kitchen. Other than thawing some (delicious) freezer meals, I had little interest in cooking anything. Zucchini noodles to the rescue!
Zucchini noodles have been my go-to lunch this summer. Gabby warned me that Houston’s heat would lead me to more raw foods and she was right. My meals have become simpler. Zucchini noodles are simple enough and of course, are just a vector for the sauce. The end of summer is a prime time for juicy tomatoes, at least in Ontario. I have yet to find tasty tomatoes here in Houston, so I have resorted to cherry tomatoes, which, in general, have more flavour. A portion of the fresh tomatoes are pulsed with a red bell pepper and sun-dried tomatoes along with a bunch of fresh herbs (basil and oregano) and garlic. A dash of chile flakes give a bit of kick and a date balances it out with a bit of sweetness. I topped it with some hemp seeds, too. I actually used a lot more than what I photographed since I knew it wouldn’t be as photogenic. I usually add the sauce and hemp seeds just before I eat the salad but I took photos of my partially packed lunch. Of course, this sauce will work equally well with your favourite spaghetti-type noodle.
What is your easy, no-cook go-to meal?
You don’t know how good you had it until you leave.
Except I already knew how great Toronto was… Sure, it had its quirks but it has been my favourite city to live in.
This weekend, Rob and I watched a movie that epitomized why I adore Toronto, and then some. Take This Waltz unashamedly showcases the beauty of Toronto. The colourful palate of Parkdale, the quirkiness of Kensington Market (although, to be fair, I have never seen a picnic bench outside Essence of Life) and the touristy rickety rickshaws. Despite living in Toronto for 5 years, both of us discovered more fun things about Toronto. There is an indoor scrambler at Centreville, complete with dance music and lights. Even I think that sounds awesome!
Despite Hannah’s latest ode to Toronto, complete with Kensington jenga and mung bean ice cream, my heart tugs only gently.
In the meantime, while I am accumulating more ideas for things to see and do when I return, I am focusing on where I am now. Because, you know what – Houston is pretty awesome, too! My time here will be short, so I better capitalize on these evenings which are a balmy 25C. Perfect when relaxing/napping on a hilltop while next to an outdoor Shakespeare performance.
And that mung bean ice cream? I bet it can’t compare to Ripe’s (vegan, homemade) coconut-almond peanut butter ice cream with chocolate chips and date caramel. (SOOO good!)
Anyways, it is salad week. Here is a simple zucchini noodle salad with a bruschetta-like topping with tomatoes, basil and garlic. Late summer in a bowl. A salad in another form, without leafy greens, but with long zucchini noodles. The next time I made this, I added chopped almonds for a bit more crunch. Delicious!
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.
Zucchini “Meatballs” and Tomato-Curry Sauce with Almond Parmesan (aka Vegan Indian Spaghetti and ‘Meatballs’)
I used to wonder if my Indian dishes were up to snuff. It has been so long since I had been to an Indian restaurant, that I have nothing for a comparison. I usually rely on Rob’s opinion, who eats out more than I do. While on my many travels last year, I stumbled upon a highly rated Indian resto that had quite a few vegan options. I helped myself to the vegetarian platter and while I ate it, the only thing I could of was that I could make better Indian food at home. Not that the food was bad; only my curries are much better, if I may say so myself. Rob has taught me well. Furthermore, I can control the level of spiciness and the amount of added oil (no deep-fried belly aches), making dishes that are truly perfect for me.
Another advantage of cooking Indian at home is that you can go totally crazy, too. Crazy in the foodie-sense, of course. Have you ever seen an Indian dish with noodles? Italian meets Indian. Sounds like a perfect description of Joanne, who shared the lovely recipe.
Here, we have spiced zucchini and chickpea meatballs (aka kofta) that are baked, not fried. They are served overtop a tomato-curry sauce. The next question was what to serve this with. You could go with rice to return to the Indian base, but Joanne served it with polenta. I wanted to continue with the Indian spaghetti theme. Therefore, I used zucchini noodles and made a raw almond parmesan topping. Cooked meets raw. Zucchini on zucchini. Craziness, pure craziness, I tell you… but all in a good way.
If you think I am just tooting my own horn, I urge you to try our favourite Indian dishes and decide yourself:
Nepalese Mountain Lentil Curry (Dal Bhat)
Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime
Indian Lentils with Spinach (Dal Palak)
Plantain, Cabbage and Coconut Curry with Split Pigeon Peas (Indian Cabbage and Plantain Kootu)
Cumin-Scented Pigeon Peas with Mango (Mango Curry with Toor Dal)
Indian Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes with Chickpeas (Baingan Bharta with Chickpeas)
Indian Eggplant and Lentil Curry (Dal Bhat Meets Baingan Bharta)
Butternut Squash, Coconut, and Lentil Stew (Aarti’s Indian Summer Stew)
Cauliflower, Spinach and Chickpea Balti
Indian Chickpea and Collard Roulade with a Tomato-Mustard Sauce
Malai Koftas with Chaat Masala
Baked Lemon Cilantro Pakoras
There should be some limits.
I shouldn’t be able to buy anything I can’t lift at the grocery store.
Technically, I could lift the crate of tomatoes. Into the shopping cart, into the car, and into the house. And then onto the scale to see how many tomatoes I got for $10!
53 lbs of tomato goodness
It is a lot more tomatoes than you think
For this recipe, I used 5 cups of tomatoes. That seems like a lot on any normal day in my kitchen. It didn’t even make a dent.
I ended up roasting, dehydrating and cooking up half of the tomatoes last weekend. Round two starts tomorrow! Please share with me your favourite recipes. Bonus for any water-cannable recipes…. my freezer is becoming uber full.
Back to this recipe at hand, which combines seemingly polarized end of summer produce: tomatoes and peaches. Both become sweet through roasting in the oven, which is augmented with Ancho chili powder, and then tamed by balsamic vinegar. Fresh tarragon and cinnamon confer a lovely, unexpected depth to the sauce. Hot, sweet, sour… we’ve got you covered. Chickpeas are added for protein and this was delicious served overtop zucchini spaghetti.
So the joke’s on me.
70% chance of rain yesterday. I hate rainy Mondays because I have to go all over the place, with 5 destinations yesterday. If I took the subway, I’d need a day-pass!
I plotted the forecast and took my chances. No rain! I beat the weather demon!
I lost the meal planning, though. Instead of rain, turns out it was 27C with 70% humidity. It felt down-right tropical. I was cycling around in my shorts and top, it was that awesome. When I got home, I wanted a light and crisp salad! No chili, thank you kindly.
As the summer alternative to my High-Protein Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Alfredo Pasta, I went totally raw with a light and fresh raw alfredo sauce with basil and sun-dried and cherry tomatoes smothering zucchini noodles.
Trust me, this hit the spot.
Utterly delicious. The sauce is bright with the lemon, creamy from the cashews yet still light since it is thinned with water. Miso adds that lovely fifth dimension.
I threw in some vegetables I had hanging around (cherry tomatoes, carrot, cucumber) as well as fresh basil. Gena has also paired this with tempeh, which I might add next time. Because this recipe is definitely worth repeating.
For those of you interested in my commuting challenges, I had a real quandary today. As you know, I enjoy Steve’s downtown spinning classes on Mondays. Except I had to be at work early, so there was no way I could do both.
I was up a bit earlier than usual, so I decided to try the 0630 spinning class at my old gym. With a 9km commute just to get to the gym, that meant I was leaving home around 0545. You see, this gym has an intense and awesome spinning culture. This is where I fell in love with spinning. The regulars are incredibly supportive. Kind of like where everyone knows your name. Indeed, despite not being there since I moved (10 months ago), I was greeted on a first name basis.
I still get the weekly emails (it even has its own member-driven website with instructor AND member profiles!) with interesting news and stories, guests instructors (aka subs but sounds so much nicer, eh?) and the ever elusive sign up trends. Over the winter, it was not unheard of the spinning classes to fill up 30 minutes before the class started throughout the week, INCLUDING the 0630 classes. I used to be a regular in Dave’s classes, so I completely understand, but that’s intense. Now that the weather has been nicer, the 0630 classes finally weren’t filling up at 0600, so I figured I could try my luck at the Monday class if I showed up 15 minutes early.
Suffice it to say, I have a new Monday morning spin class love. So completely different than any of my other classes, with a focus on cardio and core training, I loved the diversity. Furthermore, I loved being back with the gang, with all the hooting and hollering. It is one of the most boisterous spinning groups I have ever been with.
I will admit that one drawback of our new (upcoming) home, is the serious lack of gyms nearby. I had planned to continue with the gym close to work, but since my old gym is just a minor detour away (still 10km away, though), I may just end up there instead. We’ll see how it goes! I usually wake up at 0530, but this may require an even earlier start to the day. Obviously I am not thinking clearly at the moment, haha!
As for Monday morning Steve? He may turn into Friday morning Steve if I meander to a different gym.
Anyhow, the moral of the story? Take a risk. You might find a new love.
(Btw, there is no risk with trying out this delicious sauce. You will be smitten, too. Spinning can be a bit hit-or-miss, I understand).
My allegiance had originally been for the Indian Alphonso mango, but a ripe Mexican Ataulfo was a more economical standby that had a longer season.
While travelling in Morocco, I met a cute British couple that originally hailed from Pakistan. They urged me to try Pakistani mangoes, as they were even better than those from India (is there always such fierce rivalry between India and Pakistan?). To be honest, I had never even seen Pakistani mangoes, but I knew that Bestwin routinely carried an assortment of mangoes, many of which I hadn’t yet tried.
Last week, my co-worker, again, urged me to try Pakistani mangoes. They are nearing the end of the season and she assured me I wouldn’t be disappointed.
As it turned out, when I did my weekly trip to Sunny’s, they had small cases of honey mangoes (chok anon) from Pakistan. Just like Alphonso mangoes, they are definitely a splurge purchase.
Let me assure you, though, that these are some nice mangoes. Creamy and sweet, yet with a subtle tanginess, that mellows the sweetness. They didn’t seem to have as much stringiness near the pit, either.
Personally, I am content with any ripe mango, but I may concede that Pakistani mangoes reign in my kitchen. It is that tanginess that I appreciated the most, adding that extra level of complexity. I may no longer have that sweet tooth I used to, it seems, although these are still uber sweet mangoes. Enjoy them unadorned, or use them in a salad such as this (any ripe, sweet mango will do, though).
The original salad with eggplant, mango and soba noodles is compliments of Ottolenghi, but I took it in my own direction. Instead of pan-frying the eggplant in gobs of oil,
I Rob offered to grill it on the barbecue (alongside his perogies, at that!). This allowed me to use much less oil, with the addition of a soft smokiness to the dish. Some grilled asparagus was thrown in as well, for good measure. To make this a more substantial dish, I took Ottolenghi’s advice to add fried tofu, which I had marinated briefly in ponzu sauce and sesame oil. I also opted to use half of the sweet-chili dressing, since it seemed like a lot. And finally, while soba noodles would be lovely, I chose to spiralize two zucchinis as my noodle base. Don’t worry, I left the mango in there, and even used 2 honey mangos for the dish.
The result was a wonderful merriment of flavours. You have the grilled, creamy, smoky eggplant pairing beautifully with the sweet, tangy mango with a slightly spicy sauce, all overtop zucchini noodles. The tofu added a nice, satisfying crunch.
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Honeybee of The Life & Loves of Grumpy’s Honeybee, to this month’s Healing Foods featuring zucchini, and to Ricki’s Summer Wellness Weekends and to this month’s Simple and in Season.
Please pardon my oven use during the heat wave. The Greek Baked Beans were worth it, though. Delicious lunch-friendly leftovers.
I should be absolved of my wrong doings with this meal. No oven. No stove top. Not even a blender.
Instead, I christened my new spiralizer (thanks Rob!) by making zucchini noodles. I have done julienning by hand, and this is infinitely easier, consistent and pretty! Just look at these long strands of zucchini! In 30 seconds tops, you have your noodles!
I went for a quick, super easy raw tomato sauce. 15 minutes, tops. I told you, no cooking or blender required.
A love of garlic, a must, though.
Adapted from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth (the original recipe was posted here by Tess), this is a zippy, rich tomato sauce. The raw ingredients really make this sauce pop. All you do is mix together crushed tomatoes, raw garlic, fresh basil, fresh oregano, a bit of olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, and you’re done!
You’ll be laughing at how simple and healthy this recipe is… but then afraid to bring the leftovers to eat at work, with all that raw garlic.
Now, if you don’t have a spiralizer, this sauce would be equally delicious over linguine or spaghetti, but then you’d have to boil some water for that!
What’s your favourite sauce for zucchini noodles? Or your favourite pasta dish?