janet @ the taste space

Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

How Not to Eat Out in New York City (An Eatalian Meal)

In Breakfasts, Favourites, Mains (Meat) on February 25, 2011 at 5:44 AM

Last weekend, Rob and I took a trip New York City. I thought Family Day was only a made-up holiday in Ontario, but it turned out February 21 was also President’s Day. Everyone had a long weekend! 🙂

I find eating through a cuisine a great way to learn about a new culture, which is what I typically do when I travel overseas. New York City is a foodie-paradise with abundant choices for high-end splurges, plentiful cheap eats, as well as a handful of grocery stores. Our main purpose for heading to New York City was a 9-course menu at Per Se, so I knew I had to save my stomach for the ultimate gastronomical experience.

So what’s the trick to eating healthy, plentiful meals while still wanting to experience everything NYC has to offer? I am sure not if we’ve mastered it just yet, but here are my tips to how NOT to eat out while in NYC.

The first step is to find yourself a kitchen, because that makes a world of difference. In a city where apartments are tiny, hotel rooms are equally as small and ridiculously expensive. We stayed at the Affinia Manhattan, across from Penn Station, with huge rooms and reasonable rates (we paid $139/night + tax). However, the main advantage is that each room has a kitchen, complete with a fridge/freezer, oven/stove, microwave, toaster and utensils/plates/cutlery. If you don’t have access to a kitchen, you may need to become more creative, storing food in the minibar, bringing cutlery/plastic containers, etc.

I will admit that we visited more grocery and food stores while we were in NYC than anything else, but that’s what we like! Trader Joe’s is great for picking up breakfast items. I bought some quick-cook steel cut oats (what an oxymoron, but true to the advertising they cooked up in 7 minutes over the stovetop) and we added some dried blueberries and bananas for a delicious breakfast. We picked up some apples, edamame hummus and baby carrots for snacks. Arugula and artichoke antipasto spread were bought for sandwiches. Other travelling-friendly breakfast options sans-stovetop would be granola overtop yogurt and fruit or overnight oats.

After Trader Joe’s, the next stop was Eataly, the upscale Mario Batali Italian superstore.  My main purpose was to buy mosto cotto, a condensed balsamic vinegar made with reduced Concord grapes (any clue where to buy this in Toronto?). While the prices are not cheap, Eataly is a good place to pick up high-quality items for sandwiches.

Armed with a loaf of “rustic” fig bread (slightly sweet from the figs), 18-month-aged prosciutto (nicely flavoured), and taleggio (a mild cow’s milk creamy, soft cheese), we had the fixins for a super sandwich. With a limited number of ingredients, quality is the defining factor of your sandwich. I found the flavours worked really well, with the slightly sweet bread topped with the silky artichoke dip.  Next, we topped it with overflowing arugula, laid a slice or two of prosciutto and lastly added a few pieces of silky, melt-in-your-mouth taleggio cheese.  All the ingredients lasted us a few meals with some food left over to bring back to Canada (the artichoke surprisingly did not set off the alarms at the airport, hehe). For a vegetarian option, roasted red peppers could be substituted for the prosciutto and for vegans, the cheese could easily be omitted.

I will also give due credit to the most wondrous milk we bought at Eataly – Soloriso basmati rice milk. With a delicate smooth flavour, I never knew rice milk could taste so good. With a side of edamame hummus and carrots, this is how a foodie does not eat out in NYC.

Where we ate elsewhere in NYC:

Ess-A-Bagel – There are Montreal-style bagels and New York-style bagels. When in NYC, you should  try New York-style bagels. Ess-A-Bagel is well-known for its huge, fluffy bagels (12 different varieties including whole wheat everything), and also serves up vegan-friendly tofu-spread in lieu of cream cheese (the traditional cream cheeses are there too, including the delectable lox cream cheese). The bagels are packed with filling, and 1 bagel could easily serve 2.

Alan’s Falafel – Battle of the street cart food falafel in NYC creates the most lusciously moist falafel with minimal grease. Get it in a wrap, a salad or combo spread with lettuce, tomato, hummus and a sesame dipping sauce. Can’t say I’ve compared it to Sam’s, but Alan’s was mighty tasty.

Candle Cafe – A long-time favourite vegan resto with a focus on local, organic foods. The collard rolls are a must-try! 🙂

Other worthwhile food-related places to visit in NYC:

Kalustyan’s – For all your kitchen desires, spices, vinegars, beans.. let’s just say I was stopped by the bean section, and didn’t really make it to any other floor (I think there are 3 levels). (Thanks for the tip, Joanne!)

Essex Street Market – For down-to-earth fresh produce and condiments

Chelsea Market – A bit too upscale for me (can you say not affordable?) but a cute, artsy renovated warehouse housing upscale gourmet food vendors, with the Food Network located upstairs

This is my submission for this month’s My Kitchen, My World, featuring Italian cuisine, and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Apricot Oatmeal Breakfast Clafoutis

In Breakfasts on February 23, 2011 at 6:02 AM

I eat apricots a lot. Apricots are a funny fruit, though, because I don’t tend to eat them raw. In the summer, I have a habit of buying fresh apricots, but eating them fresh tends to be lackluster.

Instead, I find dried apricots more flavourful and have incorporated them into many salads, granola and energy bars. I have even added them to savoury dishes. When I do find myself with fresh apricots, baking is the best way to fully bring out its sweetness (remember those Moroccan Apricot Parcels? yum!)

As you know, I have a habit of trying out interesting, healthy breakfast ideas. I spotted an oatmeal breakfast clafoutis at Chocolate & Zucchini, and knew that I wanted to try it. The fruit, nuts and other add-ins are completely up to you, but incorporating freshly baked apricots is a royal treat.

But what the heck is an oatmeal breakfast clafoutis?  To me, a clafoutis has always meant a custard-like cake speckled with fruit. Here, it means a creamy baked oatmeal filled with fruit.

I have made baked oatmeal before (with rhubarb and apple/banana) but this one was definitely the creamiest of them all. But the great thing is that they kept their shape well, so for anyone who likes to munch on the go, this is perfect for you. According to Clotilde they freeze easily, so you could stack your freezer with individual portions, reheat them and grab them to run.

This is my submission to this month’s Breakfast Club featuring Breakfasts To Go!

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Italian Stew with Winter Squash and Chickpeas

In Mains (Vegetarian) on February 21, 2011 at 5:08 AM

When I posted my favourite recipes from 2010, I found it amusing that phoo-d astutely pointed out that I love chickpeas. I knew I liked them, but it wasn’t until I noticed that 4 recipes had chickpeas, that some of my most memorable meals have involved these nutty gems. As I delve into more meals that focus on vegetables, beans and whole grains, chickpeas and other beans have become more prominent in my kitchen. I have also been trying to integrate more nutrient-packed foods into my meals, spurred mainly by these vegetable ratings.

I was obviously tickled pink when I found this spin on Italian minestrone with chickpeas, butternut squash, kale, red pepper and tomatoes in Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health. Oh, and carrots, too. A rainbow for the soul: every ingredient is chock-full of nutrients. Adapted, slightly, from this recipe, this is a mix of superfoods simmered in a basil-thyme broth. A splash of red wine vinegar at the end is an important part to lighten the dish.  The flavours worked really well together, creating a light, healthy and hearty stew.  I didn’t even serve it with a grain, it was that filling. This was a cheery, warm hug during a dreary winter.

This is my submission for this month’s My Kitchen, My World, featuring Italian cuisine, and E.A.T. World for Italy.

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Creamy Raw Kale Salad with Avocado, Apple and Beet

In Salads on February 17, 2011 at 5:14 AM

A big round of applause for Rob for posting some awesome recipes over the past week!

Gosh, sometimes life just becomes incredibly hectic.  At times, it can be hard to juggle work, research, social commitments, and all of a sudden there is crunch time! Rob saw I was stressed and offered to help with the blog (what a sweetie, eh?). 🙂

No worries about food, because I was still cooking up a storm. In fact, I feel almost guilty about taking so long to tell you about this lovely kale salad. I have shared the recipe countless times since I made it, but have yet to blog about it. Trust me, it is fabulous.

This is a kale salad. A salad made with raw kale. I know you are raising your eyebrow, thinking that kale is so bitter and tough, why would you eat it raw? Well, it is more of a wilted kale salad because you massage it into silky oblivion, kneading in the flavours.

I was (loosely) inspired by the raw kale salad in Lucid Food, and kept it as a creamy salad with the addition of avocado. It is combined with a splash of olive oil and garlic for a luscious dressing. I chose to top the salad with a tart Granny Smith apple as well with grated raw beet (yes, you can eat it raw) instead of carrot which made the apple turn a brilliant shade of magenta. Toasted almonds add another layer of nutty crunch.

A perfect salad for potlucks, and even for leftovers (gasp!) because you actually want this to be a wilted salad.

This is my submission to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring creamy soups and salads.

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Avocado Overnight Oats

In Breakfasts, Desserts on February 15, 2011 at 8:00 AM

Avocado Overnight Oats

Hi! It’s Rob again for one last item in my short series of posts here on the taste space.

After crafting the delicious avocado chutney last week, I was left with a couple of leftover avocados. I was perplexed. What should I do with them? I didn’t want to make guacamole. I wasn’t prepared to produce a salad with them. In Australia I learned how amazing avocado is in sandwiches or hamburgers, but that wasn’t the direction I wanted to go either.

I KNOW! I would devise a new variation of everyone’s beloved overnight oats! I was very excited. Overnight oats are great, but wouldn’t they be better if they were filled with tropical fruits?

I’ll be honest with you. I hold tropical fruits in very high regard. As such, I pine to travel to the tropical regions where these fruits are cheap, fresh, and plentiful. I’ve been to a few of these places, but my yearning to go to more is unceasing…

I still think fondly of the Cook Islands where I enjoyed the best papaya I ever had, topped with grated coconut and lime juice.

I still remember the glee I felt when I arrived in Fiji at the height of mango season. They were so ripe that they fell from the trees and landed at my feet, begging to be devoured.

I still recall the wonder I felt while roaming the streets of Bangkok and marvelling at the carts of the street vendors showcasing pineapples, artfully cut and ready to take away with little packets of salt and chili.

At this time, however, I had no papaya, mango, or pineapple. Instead, I used an avocado, coconut flakes, and a banana. It all came together very well. What a fantastic breakfast!

This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Graziana from Erbe in Cucina (Cooking with Herbs). Read the rest of this entry »

Avocado Chutney

In Appetizers on February 11, 2011 at 5:14 AM

Avocado Chutney

Several years ago, back when I lived in another city and worked at a different job, I was just beginning to discover many types of international cuisine. There was a while where my coworkers and I would take lunch every Friday “off-site” to go to a nearby Indian restaurant with a buffet. It was an exploratory process for me: samosas, mulligatawny soup, this kind of curry, that kind of curry, basmati rice, and kulfi, to name a few. Not only did I expand my newly-found appreciation of foods outside my normal “comfort zone”, but I expanded my comfort zone to encompass them. It did wonders for my vocabulary, too!

Of particular interest were the several varies of chutneys available. I found that the tamarind chutney and the mango chutney particularly tickled my taste buds. I had never tried tamarind or mango before. Now they are counted among my favourite flavours. I was so excited that I told an Indian friend of mine, “I had chutney for lunch!” She was amused, but told me it was the same thing as saying that, “I had ketchup for lunch.”

Wikipedia defines chutney as “a class of spicy preparations used as an accompaniment for a main dish.” I can see how something like ketchup might fall under that categorization, but your typical chutney is so much more! It’s like an explosion of flavour you can enjoy bite, by bite, by bite!

This recipe comes from 660 Curries which Saveur lent me several months ago and I’ve been studying intently. I’ve already posted a couple of the these recipes on my own blog (which isn’t a proper food blog, per se, but just a place where I post many photos and write about whatever is interesting me at the time).

This recipe did introduce me to a new ingredient; an ingredient that I approached with some trepidation: curry leaves. These leaves are not the kind of leaves that curry powder is made from. Much like Europeans chefs use bay leaves to add flavour to dishes they are making, Indian chefs (especially in the southern regions of India) would add curry leaves to theirs to impart a characteristic flavour to their dishes. Like bay leaves, people generally remove the curry leaves as they eat the meal. Unlike bay leaves, their flavour is subtle and many need to be added to the dish.

I found dried curry leaves at a health food store in Ottawa several weeks ago. I knew that 660 Curries had many recipes that asked for fresh curry leaves. There aren’t any stores near me that sell fresh ones, so I took the opportunity to buy the dried ones. Saveur warned me that recipes usually need far fewer dried leaves than fresh ones and I needed to research the proper ratio to use. Did I need to use half as many dried curry leaves? One third as many?

After some quick online research, I discovered that opposite holds true for curry leaves: the dried ones have less flavour and I need many many more dried ones… perhaps as many as ten times as many! Raghavan Iyer, the author of 660 Curries, even goes so far as to say that the flavour of dried curry leaves is “insipid” and to avoid them completely!

I was somewhat disappointed. Since the ingredient was still new to me, and I wasn’t willing to put 120 dried curry leaves in my chutney (it was unlikely that my tiny bag of them even had that many leaves in it), I simply put in 12 dried curry leaves in the hot oil at the end of cooking the mustard seeds to allow any of their flavour to transfer to the oil. I then removed the leaves myself.

The chutney was simply packed with flavour! The subtle taste of the avocado was the dominant flavour, with the motifs of roasted mustard coming a close second. The tamarind was not overpowering at all. I was careful with the chili flakes so the result was not too spicy.

Sadly, by the second day, the avocado on the surface had become discoloured and turned brown. The chutney still tasted fine, though. I served mine on toasted pieces of pita bread.

Go for it!

This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Lynne from Cafe Lynnylu.

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Red Lentil, Spinach, and Lemon Soup

In Soups on February 9, 2011 at 5:24 AM

Red Lentil, Spinach, and Lemon Soup

Here’s another guest post by me, Rob, enthusiast of the tempeh and the tamarind… and this blog!

One day, not too long ago, Saveur told me about a certain dish she was planning to make. This dish featured one of my favourite ingredients: tamarind! She was making it for this blog. I’m sure that you will see it soon. This dish was right up my alley and I wanted to make it for myself, too. She told me that I could borrow the cookbook so I could transcribe the recipe for myself… as long as she got it back the next day. She needed it!

She was very excited about this cookbook. It was Radiant Health, Inner Wealth by Quintessence C. Challis. It was full of many vegan recipes that were designed to be as healthy and fulfilling as possible. I think she has big plans for this cookbook. I can see why she needed it back.

When I took the book home I began to leaf through it to evaluate its potential. The photograph on the cover was simply entrancing: pineapple, mangos, kiwifruits, shredded coconut, fried cubes of tofu, peanuts… these are some of my favourite things! It’s not just tamarind and tempeh that get me all wobbly in the knees, after all. Was this cookbook designed for me? Did the author know that I would be starting at this cover and be hypnotized?

As my interest was piqued, I continued looking through the book. One dish, the Lemon-Ginger Miso Medicine asks the reader, “How exactly will this soup give you the superpowers?” That’s liberal use of the definite article! The cookbook has the good style! And who wouldn’t want some superpowers?

However, neither the tamarind recipe nor the miso medicine were the recipes that caught my attention that night. It was the Red Lentil, Spinach, and Lemon Soup. The description of this recipe commented that red lentils are “one of those foods that proves life is good!” I agree! That’s one of my mantras: life is good! It’s short and you have to make the most of it.

It was a sign. I had to make this. The various tamarind dishes could get in the queue and wait for later.

Unlike many soups, this one doesn’t have much fat or salt. It was full of healthy lentils. The spinach and garlic are added at the end and cooked only a little bit, helping to preserve any good stuff inside them. I made it, ate the leftovers for days, and just made it again the other day. One good soup deserves another round, right?

This is being sent to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays. Read the rest of this entry »

WHB #269 Round-Up

In Events/Round-Ups on February 7, 2011 at 7:10 PM

Do we really need an introduction to the tasty meals from this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging? Let’s see what everyone made! Read the rest of this entry »

Jamaican Jerk Tempeh Wraps

In Mains (Vegetarian) on February 7, 2011 at 8:06 AM

Jamaican Jerk Tempeh Wraps

Hi, I’m Rob.

Saveur is busy focusing on other stuff this week, so I’ve stepped into help her out. I’m in the privileged position to be the frequent benefactor of some of her cooking exploits, so it’s only fair that I step in to give her a hand.

Don’t be alarmed! It would be inaccurate to say that I haven’t already had some input here in the past. I’ve helped make some of the dishes on here and done the photos for a couple of them, too.

I’ve written a guest post, too. I introduced tempeh to Saveur a few months ago when we made the CAT food sandwiches together prior to a picnic. I had extra tempeh left over and wondered what I could do with it. Saveur suggested the Jamaican Jerk Tempeh Wraps she saw on fresh365. These looked PERFECT! We would make them together. It would be a team effort.

The Jamaican Jerk Tempeh Wraps required some Worcestershire sauce. Neither of us had any, so I dutifully picked some up at the supermarket. It’s a wonderful sauce that I’d like to try with more recipes. It has tamarind in it, which I’ve decided is always the secret in making pad thai taste better. After making this recipe, though, I lent my Worcestershire sauce to Saveur and eagerly await the day when it can come back.

These wraps really are delicious. They’re not too spicy, but are full of many other bold flavours. Citrus, sour, sweet, and warm; they’re all there. The allspice and nutmeg provides the flavours associated with Jamaican jerk cooking. I would be a jerk if I said any terrible things about these wraps.

I do need to give one warning about these wraps, though. They’re better fresh than they are as leftovers. The tempeh will absorb any extra juices like a sponge and make them a bit dry the next day. Why would you have leftovers, though? They’re so tasty that you want to eat them up right away!

Marinading the tempeh

Frying the tempeh
This is being sent to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday and to E.A.T. World for Jamaica.

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Black Bean, Cilantro and Apricot Salad

In Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads on February 3, 2011 at 6:06 AM

I am not very mainstream.

I can’t remember the last time I watched my TV.  I only went to the movie theaters during Hot Docs and the Toronto International Film Festival. Not to catch the blockbuster that will be out next week, rather the international movies that I would not be able to watch otherwise. My favourite movie is Life is Beautiful, but The Diving Bell and The Butterfly comes close.

But when I look for recipes, I am drawn to tried-and-true recipes, from reputable chefs like Claudia Roden, the Moosewood Collective or from sites like Epicurious. I don’t have any cookbooks from Rachael Ray, although I have tried her penne alla vodka recipe courtesy of Smitten Kitchen.

However, move over guys, I have a new favourite cookbook: Radiant Health, Inner Wealth by Quintessence Challis. An indie cookbook if I have ever seen one, and I was drawn to it by its high praises in the cookbook review section on vegweb. Comments from each recipe are compiled (and continue to be added) and nearly every one was positive. I cringed at it being plugged as a weight loss cookbook on its website, but bought it anyways since the recipes intrigued me. I am all about the tasty, healthy recipes, right?

The first recipe I tried was a black bean, cilantro and apricot salad. I adapted it slightly since I did not use corn and increased the carrot. I started with freshly cooked black beans, and then added sweet, chopped dried apricots and crunchy carrots. A little bit of zing came from the green onion and ginger, and more subtle sweetness came from the mango nectar. A bit of acidity from lemon juice, and this was golden.

The next day, when I tasted it, I was floored. This was an “Oh my gosh, this salad is SO GOOD” moment (it really needs the overnight marinade, by the way).  There was enough extra marinade that it was used as the dressing once the spinach was added. I never would have thought to pair all these ingredients together, but the spinach was the perfect accent. It was a great lunch for work, since I packed the spinach separately. Filling, tasty and healthy – what else could you want?

I am thrilled to have found this cookbook, but sad that I didn’t get Tess’ second cookbook at the same time (only $5 more). I thought it was all about planning meals (heck, I can do that!) but it also has 80 recipes. Next time! 😀

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Sandhya’s Kitchen.

Updated to add: I prefer this with more beans, so I have updated the recipe to use 2×14 oz cans of beans. It is also lovely with freshly squeezed orange juice instead of the mango juice.

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Spicy Artichoke Heart Dip

In Appetizers, Favourites on February 1, 2011 at 6:09 AM

Office potlucks: Do you cringe or relish? I do both. Most people bring store-bought treats to these shindigs, which is where the cringing comes in (I will typically pass by these treats). But I relish that I can try new recipes! I don’t often make appetizers such as dips. It takes me a while to go through 2 cups of dip, so I usually reserve appetizers for special occasions.

Whereas most artichoke heart dips are loaded with cheese/mayo/cream, I was eager to try this spicy artichoke heart dip from ExtraVeganZa since it was packed with artichoke hearts and garlic instead of all that extra stuff.

The ingredient list is actually quite short – artichoke hearts, olive oil, garlic, chili flakes, salt and lemon juice – and with a long simmer on the stovetop, a silky, sublime dip is created. It is addictively good. The artichokes and garlic blend into one with a little zip from the chili flakes. Served with peppery crackers and pita slices, this was a tasty dip. A co-worker commented, “You can actually taste the artichokes! Yum!”.

I adapted the original recipe from ExtraVeganZa only slightly by decreasing the amount of chili flakes. Oddly enough, I found it mellowed and was less spicy the longer it sat in my fridge. If you want more heat, this dip can take more chili flakes.  With the small amount of Aleppo chili flakes, it still had a slight zing, which is probably best when serving to large crowds. The oil seemed to separate after sitting at room temperature, but it didn’t taste too oily.  I used 5 tbsp of olive oil, but I think this could be decreased to 4 tbsp.

I will confess that I didn’t bring all the dip to work, and while I also planned to use it as a spread for sandwiches/wraps, I ended up just eating it as a snack.

Spicy Artichoke Heart Dip
This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by me this week!

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