(No, nothing on the relationship front..)
While I modestly shared the news of passing the.most.important.exam.of.my.life, I figure you guys may be more excited about this news: my photos are in a cookbook! In Tess‘ newest cookbook, no less. I am not sure what was more exciting: new Tess recipes or being a published foodie photographer? :) (I choose the former, actually)
In Tess’ latest cookbook, Get Waisted, she has teamed up with Dr. Mary Clifton, to create 100 delicious, healthy recipes. She has included healthy modifications to older recipes and all-new favourites. Bean and rice coconut banana curry, Black bean and rice bowl with mango salsa, Japanese ume rice, Lemon lover’s red lentil spinach soup, Mexican polenta bowl, Pasta caulifredo, Rosemary polenta with mushrooms, Samosa wrap with cilantro chutney, Spicy Indian chickpea fritters.. ok, ok, I will stop the temptation. You can find all of the recipes on Vegansprout if you are curious. :) Suffice it to say, the recipes are creative and drool-worthy. And I photographed a handful of them.
One of the recipes Tess included is one of my favourites from her first book: Black Bean, Cilantro and Apricot Salad. I routinely make it, changing ingredients, matching what I have in my kitchen.
This time, I swapped the black beans for chickpeas; the mango juice for pineapple juice; swapped the corn for more carrots and scrapped the spinach altogether. Combined with the sweet dried apricots and cilantro-ginger spiked dressing, you have a delicious summer bean salad. Sweet, salty, spicy, crunchy.. It is really hard to mess it up.
The photos in the cookbook are true to the recipe, thus you won’t see this in there. Trust me, I tried. Tess, I just made your salad with pecans instead of walnuts.. can’t you just change your recipe?…. NO GO FROM TESS! You will see this salad, in its many incarnations this summer, though. Perfect for potlucks and summer gatherings. Especially if Houston’s weather is as hot and humid as I fear. Last I checked, there were highs of 35C, feels like 45C with a 50% humidity. This is no heat wave. This.Is.Houston. It will soon become my new reality. GAH! I am sweating just thinking about it. I may not be turning on my oven or stove very often, methinks. ;)
Have you tried any of Tess’ recipes yet? This cookbook would be a great place to start. You can buy it directly from Tess here (discounts if you buy more than one cookbook) or on Amazon (kindle and hard copy).
I have been reducing my sodium gradually over the past year and my sodium culprits are not table salt itself; instead it is soy sauce, miso and sauerkraut. Because of that, I still eat a lot more sodium than my parents. Packaged foods use salt as a preservative, thus canned and prepared foods generally contain more sodium. But Ravi’s soup is supposed to be homemade. He shared his (healthy) recipe. The numbers just don’t add up. Thus the culprit must be over-salting (and the red curry paste).
While Ravi suddenly passed away a few months ago, he leaves behind a quaint resto chain which serves delicious soups and sandwiches. I haven’t been in a (very long) while, but it was a sure-fire bargain on Friday evenings when everything was half-priced before they closed for the weekend. I remember one of their soups of the day, an uber delicious butternut squash soup with lemongrass that I wanted to recreate but it has since become a distant memory.
Another one of Ravi’s soups on my ‘To Make List’ has been his Curried Red Lentil and Apricot Soup. I would categorize this as the other kind of Indian food. If I have to tell you this is a curried soup, then it isn’t from India.
However, it has all the components of a great Indian dish: red lentils, tomato, a touch of coconut milk, garlic, ginger and curry powder. The dried apricots are what hold me from thinking this is an authentic Indian dish, but they work really well here. Chopped up in small pieces, you get bursts of sweetness that complement the savoury elements of the rest of the dish. Creaminess comes from the red lentils and just a hint of coconut milk. This soup is more sweet and bright than the cumin-scented pigeon pea soup with mango that I adore but it likely depends on the curry powder you use.
I know the dried apricots seem so odd, but they work surprisingly well. For some reason, their sweetness permeates the soup without being too overpowering. The leftovers were even better as the sweetness subsided slightly. Dried apricots can pack a bona fide punch of taste, so if in doubt, use less dried apricots.
Straight from their menu, though, this curried red lentil and apricot soup is so easy to make, it behooves you to make it yourself.. and with a lot less sodium.
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, this month’s Everyone Can Cook Vegetarian for orange foods, and Little Thumbs Up event, hosted by Eats Well in Flanders, organized by Zoe from Bake For Happy Kids and Doreen for my little favourite D.I.Y.
It is with a heavy heart that I have abandoned ship for the Rideau Lakes training, but that hasn’t stopped me from making cycling snacks for Rob. Energy nibbles are definitely one of the perks of long-distance cycling. Never wanting to run out of glycogen stores during long rides (aka bonk), snacking on homemade sports drinks and energy bars are a fun way to fuel a long cycle.
In addition to high carbs for quick absorption, whole foods are good options due to their beneficial nutrients. Vitamins and antioxidants can help rebuild your body as they repair from your exercise. And because I am a sucker from trying new things, especially when heralded as a leading source of antioxidants, this is how I stumbled upon acai berries (pronounced ah-sigh-ee, btw).
However, the powdered acai berries left a bit to be desired. They didn’t add much to my morning oats. Flavour-wise at least. I needed a new strategy. Because if I am going to shell out the big bucks for acai, I may as well taste it and enjoy it.
Packed with a a medley of dried fruit (dates, raisins and apricots), almonds, vanilla and cinnamon, this is a delicious treat. Not as mono-dimension as some no-frill date-heavy energy bars, I really liked the fruitiness that the acai imparted. Could you skip it? For sure, but then I’d add something like unsweetened dried cranberries or goji berries to replace the berri-ness I enjoyed.
These nibbles have been christened ‘the pepperoni’, because Rob thought I had made pepperoni during its initial phase, rolled up as a long cylinder in the fridge. Surprises abound in the fridge, but I can assure you that these do not taste like pepperoni. However, a savoury energy snack sounds like a great idea. Dried tomatoes in a pizza-like ball, anyone? :)
I also wanted to highlight a new book for any readers interested in cycling. I know I’ve recommended Every Women’s Guide to Cycling before (although I can’t find my own post, here is a good review). I read it a few years ago when I first became interested in long-distance cycling. I felt like she was whispering and guiding me through the ins-and-outs of cycling. It seems so simple to get on a bike and pedal, but it is so much more than that. Have you ever wondered whether to wear underwear with your padded cycling shorts? And what the heck is chamois butter? Just a few of the tips I garnered from the book. I really should re-read it when I resume long distance cycling again, because it is not geared solely to novice riders. And to be honest, if studying for my exam has taught me anything, it has reinforced that if you don’t use it, you will lose it. I haven’t really looked at cycling tips and tricks for a while.
However, I recently read through Bicycling Magazine’s 1,100 Best All-Time Tips. I haven’t read the previous editions, but this version highlights quick easy-to-read tips about many different areas in cycling: traffic safety, riding positions, skill builders, training techniques, distance riding, mountain biking, racing, health and fitness, nutrition, equipment and bike care and repair. Most of the tips resonate with me as I figured them out myself over the years: there is less wind in the morning so start riding earlier (there is also less traffic), why to avoid riding through a puddle (there is probably a huge hole there, too), and the best communication during group rides (we are a very vocal bunch of cyclists).
It includes tips that reinforce aspects I need to continue to remind myself: don’t train hard more than twice a week, take at least one rest day a week and it reminds you of the signs of over-training. They even suggest that cyclists who work full-time (or go to school), should limit their training to 10-12 hours a week: protecting your time for what matters most while still giving you the most amount of benefit (something I remind myself daily). For more serious cyclists, they have tips like shedding water bottles during long climbs if you can refill shortly afterwards (because one should never sacrifice hydration).
The tips are very practical, with suggestions on how to plan your training year, how to structure a training camp, and how to be your own coach. I appreciate the short and to-the-point nature of the tips, but at times, I wish there were more references for the scientific advice –but that’s the doctor coming out in me. Not all techniques are so obvious and straight-forward. Building strength, endurance and muscle, can be accentuated from different angles, but make sure you figure out what works for you. So, if you are searching for the best energy bar, the ratio of carbs:protein is one thing, but taste matters, too. Too sweet? Easy to chew? Or not chew? Start experimenting now, instead of whipping up a new recipe the day of your event.
Here are some of my other favourite cycling-friendly energy snacks:
For those who prefer videos, Brendan Brazier’s Thrive Forward is a great resource, too. I enjoyed watching some of his videos from his latest module about enhancing sport performance.
Have you tried acai berries yet? Any favourite recipes? (more…)
Not only can I get in trouble at grocery stores, I can also get in trouble at garden centres.
It makes sense, because it is like a grocery store with such promise for the future.
Originally, we had planned to keep things relatively simple. We tried out a few plants last year, and knew that our best results were with our herbs in planters. We were also able to harvest beans (snow peas, snap peas and flat beans), lettuce, Swiss chard and kale, although at much lower yields. Carrots – nada! Kohlrabi – nope. Beets- only the chioggia beets grew and they were way too small.. Zucchini- to be fair, we grew it in a very shady part of the garden and it died. Our rhubarb died a horrible death, too.
Our new home has a much smaller garden, but receives a lot more light. I am hopeful we will be able to grow some tasty delights this year. To keep things simple, the herbs would be a definite go, especially since I overwintered them in my kitchen and only had a few casualties (basil, thyme and even the Vietnamese coriander, boo, the last two both perennials). I was going to try my hand at kale again, both with the transplanted kale and with seedlings. After Rob’s mom’s success with dinosaur kale (lacinato kale) from a seedling (and plenty of sun), I was adamant I wanted to try kale from seedlings. I know kale grows easily from seeds, but I figured this could help get the plant bigger and me eating it sooner!
Locating kale seedlings is easier said than done. Not only did I not want the standard kale, I wanted heirloom kale. Home Depot? No. Canadian Tire? No. A local independent grocer had the normal curly kale, though. I decided to check in with the closest garden centre: Caledonia Garden Centre. Turns out they had just picked up some kale to sell. Lacinato kale and the normal curly kale. Perfect!
With my best intentions, I swear, I headed off to buy some lacinato kale. I perused their collection… next to the lacinato kale, they had redbor kale. I picked up both. They also had a curly kale and bought it just for fun. Then I spotted the collard section. The regular collards were only a $1; in it went… and then I perused the section a bit more…. they had heirloom collards! Vates collards, which are a bit more compact with an earlier maturation date. And Portuguese collards (couve). Never even heard of it but they looked a bit more frilly and white in their mugshot on the label. I was excited just to find lacinato kale but now I was ecstatic!! New veggies to explore! I resisted the Swiss chard since I had seeds at home to plant. Then I moseyed through the rest of the veggies…. and while I had no plans to buy squash, when I saw they had KABOCHA (!) squash seedlings, I impulsively threw them in my now overflowing tray of seedlings. At only $1.25 for 4 plants, it was an experiment I was willing to try. ;)
When I got home, I had to investigate how to grow collards and kabocha squash! Where would they fit in my garden?
Thankfully squash can be grown in containers, so that’s where I put my squash. I am not sure where the 20 foot vines will go but if they make it that far, I will deal with it then!
The collards and kale have all been interspersed in the front garden, amongst the perennial flowers. I am hoping they become balmy ornamental greens throughout the summer. Hopefully the sun cooperates and we can feed them properly. Cross your fingers for a summer of green overload!
Looking for a way to use some greens? This is a bulgur pilaf salad with some Swiss chard sneaked in.. while it may call for a bunch of Swiss chard, it wilts down and makes you wonder why you didn’t add more. ;)
Courtesy of Melissa Clark, I tweaked her Bulgur Pilaf with Dried Apricots from Cook This Now. Like my Middle Eastern-Inspired Olive Oil Granola, this bulgur salad is flavoured with cinnamon, dried apricots and pistachios. With a nod to my favourite bulgur salad, a drizzle of pomegranate molasses and pomegranate arils make this salad more interesting with their tangy crunch. This is actually a template for a great salad: mix and match with what you have in store. Don’t have apricots and pistachios? Use dried cranberries and almonds instead… or try raisins and walnuts.. Salads need not be stressful! :)
My Mom doesn’t think I should post recipes that I don’t eat myself. I have to trust others to tell me how it tastes but I can tell you how easy it was to make. Although even Rob and I can disagree on whether we like a dish, considering both Rob and my parents liked the Tel Kadayif, the Turkish shredded phyllo dough dessert, I deemed that a quorum for a good recipe. And with its stupid-easy simplicity, definitely blog-worthy.
This is another dish I made for others at a party, with no intention of eating myself. In fact, I had planned to use half of the stuffing for the phyllo rolls, and just eat the remainder of the filling myself, without the phyllo dough. Somehow, though, I just kept wrapping the phyllo rolls and by the time I looked down, there was no more filling left. Plus, we were already late for the party, so we brought half the rolls with us and left the other half at home to bake later.
These Moroccan phyllo rolls were so good that I ended up eating them for a few meals.
The filling was very nice, filled with roasted vegetables (zucchini, red pepper, onion and fennel) and spiced with all my favourite savoury Moroccan flavours – ginger, paprika, cinnamon and cumin. I have become scared of roasting veggies with spices, so I added the spices to the veggies right after they were finished roasting. The dried apricots added a touch of sweetness and weren’t overpowering in the slightest. The fresh basil added a nice twist, as well. While the original recipe from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan suggests serving these more like a strudel, because this was for a party, I made them into little appetizer phyllo triangles.
These are nice as is, but let me tell how you awesome these rolls are with the Balsamic Maple Sauce. The sauce was so simple to put together, yet filled with flavour. It didn’t even seem like a lot of dressing but a little bit goes a long way. Actually, refrain yourself, because too much sauce could easily overshadow the subtleties of the rolls.
I still have some sauce leftover and wondering what else I could use it with… Dreena suggests drizzling it over steamed veggies, baked sweet potato or using it for anything that needs to be dipped. Sounds like a good plan!
The week before the party, I made this delicious salad.
The super quick sauce was courtesy of The Breakaway Cook (recipe here). Deep, rich flavours from pureed sun-dried tomatoes, pomegranate molasses and fresh tarragon. I substitute a dried apricot and agave for the apricot jam and decreased the oil without any problems. The pomegranate molasses added a subtle taste but really added that extra dimension and it worked wonderfully with the tarragon.
I was so happy to love the sauce, because it made a ton!
Eric suggested serving it with orzo, but instead I went with barley. Wanting a more complete meal, I also added white beans and chopped Swiss chard. A cup of baby rainbow Swiss chard, because that was all I could harvest from my garden. ;) I only needed half of the sauce.
It was luscious and glorious. I knew I wanted to share the salad because it was that good.
Sadly, the sauce was sopped up by the barley when I ate it as leftovers. Still good but not as sinfully saucy as the first night
Half the sauce remained. The party was the following weekend.
With two beans salads, I knew I had my grain salad picked out.
I just couldn’t make it in advance.
Because I already had a bean-centric salad menu, I opted to forego the white beans, and well, I didn’t have any more Swiss chard, so it was just barley for the party. With the glorious sauce, no one knew what they were missing.
I will admit that I was a bit sick of Moroccan cuisine after being profoundly immersed into it for 2 weeks straight. For every meal, I would seek out a new dish that I hadn’t yet tried. As we meandered from Casablanca, to Marrakesh, through the Berber inland towards the Sahara desert, up to Fes and Meknes, there was always something new to try. However, it was mostly meat. I remember asking if I could get a couscous dish without meat, and the waiter told me I could have it with chicken instead. That’s not what I had wanted, either, actually.
My friend and I scoped out some vegetarian restaurants (Clock Cafe in Fes, and Earth Cafe in Marrakech), but vegetarians options (nevermind vegan options) were hard to come by. So, I plunged myself into Moroccan culture, and ate like the Moroccans. And ate my meat quota for the year.
However, perusing the web, there are bountiful recipes with exotic Moroccan-spiced vegetarians dishes. I just didn’t find them in abundance while in Morocco!
While I still have yet to recreate the traditional flavourful and spicy chickpea and lentil Moroccan soup (harira), I busted out nearly everything in my spice cabinet to create this ultimate winter couscous (christened as such by Yotam Ottolenghi). I adapted the recipe I found in Plenty, but a similar recipe was originally posted in his column at the Guardian.
At the same time both savoury and sweet, it embodies my favourite aspects of Moroccan cuisine. The base of the vegetable tagine is made of butternut squash, carrots, parsnips and chickpeas and it is pleasantly spiced with cinnamon, ginger, sweet paprika, bay leaves, turmeric and chili flakes. It could be made even hotter with harissa, but I opted to keep it more tame. The sweetness comes from the dried apricots which are simmered in the broth with the spiced vegetables. Feel free to sprinkle with fresh lemon juice, or use the suggested preserved lemon.
Couscous is prepared separately, but once combined, you have a good textural contrast. Chopped cilantro adds the fresh, finishing touch.
Sometimes cooking in your own kitchen brings you places you never thought. And in this case, my kitchen is a better place to experiment with vegetarian Moroccan cuisine. And trust me, there will be plenty more. :)
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!
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! :D
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.
My last post was written a while ago… one of my many recipes from the draft folder. And while these fruit, nut and seed bars were made later in the summer as well, I am writing this post after biking the double imperial century ride from Ottawa to Cornwall and back. The big kahuna. The grand finale.
And I did it!!
It was such an amazing feeling to accomplish such a feat, especially since I only started long distance cycling this year. If I can do it, anyone can! :)
What was more amazing during this ride, though, is that I learned how great it is to cycle in a group. Usually I bike with 1-2 other people, but we just have fun while cycling, stopping when we want, etc.
This was different.
My Dad and I joined the Touring 1 group for the Imperial Century Route (160km). The posted average speed was going to be 23-26 km/h. I usually get around 23km/h which is really not that fast but I can’t seem to do any better. I can do 26km/h average when mainly downhill…. but not when I factor in going back uphill! Hills are my weakness.
So there were 6 of us in the group. Totally not a beginner group (um, what kind of beginner would be cycling 320km??). A and T were both older gentlemen who enjoy cycling and were along for the ride. Strong cyclists but always reminding us to have fun! H was going for a ‘hat trick’ award. This year, she had already cross-country skiied 160km over 2 days, ran a marathon, and once she did the double imperial century, she was all set! Her friend L came along for the ride – but she had only done the shorter routes before. My dad has done the Cornwall and Kingston rides for 10 years, so he’s very strong.. and then there’s me!
It is mainly flat, but I found it quite windy. Being in a group of 6 (3 pairs), we rotated routinely, and were able to draft off of each other. The hills at the end had me struggling a bit, especially when I fell out of formation but the group would wait at the top and my Dad would try to deflect some of the wind off me. Once you lose the group, it is even more hard to join up again! We left at 0800 and arrived in Cornwall at 1600. Not bad at all. I was very pleased! 165km. 4 breaks, including a longer one for a flat tire. Average speed 26.1 km/h.
We lost and added a person for our return ride. T wanted to do the 120km and J joined us from the faster group. There were 60 people doing this ride and we were the only group doing the 160km back. We had 1 other person, biking solo, pass us, so most people picked the 120km back.
Anyways, we got the hills over with at the beginning and the route was mostly the same but it did change in some places as well.
In the end, our stats were: Left at 0730. Arrived at 1430 (imagine that!!) with 4 breaks. 162 km. Average 26.6 km/h! By 124 km, our average was 27.0 km/h! But it rained the last 30km, so we slowed a bit.
The group was really fantastic. Very encouraging and never dropped me despite being the weakest in the group. In fact, they were great about whisking me along. I felt a bit like Lance Armstrong as people tried to figure out where to position me in the group to capitalize on my strengths. There was a LOT more wind this time and sometimes it helped us! Our max speed was 39km/h which we got on a flat.
In conclusion, it was a great end of season trip. While I won’t be putting away my bike just yet (I hope to keep commuting until December, at least until the snow arrives), I am also not entirely sure where to go from here. I am considering investing in a nice road bike, but we’ll see.
Now about these bars! I spotted them at Enlightened Cooking. They were a nice change of pace from the date-heavy bars, with a citrusy burst from the orange juice and the apricots. The seeds and almonds provided a nice crunch as well. They were a bit more moist then some of my other bars this year as well.
I have never had this much time to plan a trip. My previous trips to Japan and Turkey afforded me barely a month to plan my itinerary and accommodations. This time, I booked this trip nearly 6 months in advance, when airfare was cheap to Casablanca.
But instead of planning where I will go other than Marrakech, I am studying the Moroccan ways by reading through Moroccan cookbooks. I collected Japanese and Turkish cookbooks after my trips, so I am being proactive here! It is important to know which foods to gravitate towards while travelling. ;)
While browsing though Moroccan Food & Cooking by Ghillie Basan, I spotted these cute apricot parcels with a honey glaze. They were perfect because it is apricot season AND I had leftover scraps of phyllo dough after making baklava.
I loved this recipe because it was very easy to whip together. Apricots are slit in half and stuffed with an almond paste, akin to marzipan, and they are wrapped individually in a piece of phyllo dough. I had long scraps of phyllo dough, so I used 2 long pieces to wrap the apricot. No need for additional butter, just a drizzle of honey. Bake them in the oven to find yourself with a silky, baked apricot with an almond centre and a crisp phyllo coat. Summer simplicity at its best.
This can be served warm or cold, but I preferred these served warm. Leftovers needed to be perked up in the oven to recrisp the phyllo dough.
It is no secret that I love the library. Not only do I get to browse through cookbooks, but I also love the accessible movie collection and the free museum passes. There’s also the fiction section, but cookbooks have taken a priority for bedtime reading recently.
A few cookbooks leap from the library to my bookshelf. I took out Raising the Salad Bar four times, each time loving new recipes, before I decided to buy my own copy. Sometimes I bookmark so many recipes that I know the cookbook is a keeper. Rose Reisman’s Family Favourites was such a cookbook. Nearly every recipe was something that I wanted to make. They were so fresh, simple and healthy, I couldn’t resist.
After I bought the book, I noticed that her website also has many of my bookmarked recipes. This makes so much sense to me: propagate those healthy recipes! It is for the betterment of the planet. :)
I am all for open-source cookbooks, if you will, which is at the heart of my food blogging. Food blogs are great for encouraging and empowering people to cook at home, and a bonus when the recipes are as healthy as those created by Rose. The biggest thrill I get is when someone tried one of my posted recipes and loved it as much as me.
Now about the apricot-glazed tofu recipe, which was adapted from here on her website and is also in her cookbook Rose Reisman’s Family Favourites. I liked the sweet apricot glaze on the tofu but I think ours was a bit sweeter since we added another tablespoon or so of jam to finish off the jar. However, the sweetness of the apricot worked really well when combined with the tang from the sesame and soy sauce-laced bok choy. Really well! Enjoy!
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?
I had been hearing great things about the olive oil granola originally posted by the New York Times, and also spotted on many other food blogs. People rave about homemade granola, and then there’s raving about granola! Olive oil granola has a fan club!
I love eating granola with Greek yogurt and fruit for breakfast, and I am constantly trying new granola recipes. Homemade granola is great because you can modify the flavours to suit your palate. Now that I have started to dabble in Middle Eastern cuisine, do you think this could be considered a Middle Eastern-inspired granola, with its added fixins? ;) I love dried cranberries, coconut and almonds, which is why they were included in my previous granola recipes, but I rocked the boat to include Turkish dried apricots, Iranian green raisins and pistachios instead. It was delicious!
So what is so great about this olive oil granola? It achieves the perfect balance of salty and sweet. I usually don’t add so much salt to my granola, but the salty tang complemented the sweet aspects of the granola perfectly. I also loved the flavour and textural contrasts with the plump apricots and green raisins, with the soft yet crunchy pistachios, combined with the sweet maple syrup and coconut and it was all tempered with a salty kick.
Perfect with yogurt, but also great on its own as a bit-sized snack. Your test will be when you decide to stop munching on the addictive granola!