This summer other than learn how to barbecue (which was mostly Rob’s domain), I definitely increased my side salad repertoire. Potato salads a plenty, as the produce shifted, I worked with my abundance of tomatoes. Along with an abundance of fresh basil, this was a simple end of summer salad. Toasted bread defines this as a Tuscan bread and tomato salad, aka panzanella. Read the rest of this entry »
Posts Tagged ‘basil’
Despite making quite a few excellent dishes with eggplant, it is not an ingredient I turn to instinctively. It is probably because I almost killed Rob with his asthma when I smoked them in our house. I still think that is the best way to make smoky soft eggplant and with our new BBQ, Rob has lifted the smoky eggplant ban.
Read the rest of this entry »
Onwards with the BBQ experimenting.
My natural instinct when I hear BBQ is to buy portobello mushrooms. As I said, I love salads and dishes I can prepare in advance, and the Portobello Carpaccio in But I Could Never Go Vegan sounded perfect.
Similar, but not identical to my grilled balsamic portobellos, these portobello mushrooms are marinated and roasted in the oven. The marinade is Italian-inspired with dried herbs and a red wine vinaigrette. I suppose the barbecue could work, too, but the barbecue was for later in the day. Once the mushrooms were cool, you slice them super thin (and had I known what on a bias meant, I would have done more of a diagonal to the horizontal plane). Then I popped them in the fridge for a few hours prior to serving. A sprinkle of capers and rosemary finished this as a really fun appetizer, with portobello mushrooms masquerading as rare meat.
Because mushrooms alone do not make a meal, and I had used up most of my culinary energies, we opted for something so simple, I was worried it might not work.
I had seen Tiffany’s post about tofu cheeseburgers where she simply grilled slabs of tofu and called it a burger. She isn’t even vegan and loved it. I was intrigued so we tried something similar.
We cut up a package of super firm tofu into four slices, cut longitudinally, and grilled it. Nothing added, not even salt and pepper. Rob said it stuck a bit on the grill but otherwise it was perfect. Slightly smoky and a blank canvas to work nicely against the vibrant portobello carpaccio.
Next time, we might try oiling the grills or brushing the tofu with some oil before placing it on the grill.
What do you think? Have you grilled plain tofu before?
I am sharing this with Meat Free Mondays.
Turns out our furnace problems were solved with a new thermostat. Thank goodness it was such an easy fix. It will be a bit warmer over the next few days which is perfect for us. It will melt the snow and allow us to rake all the leaves we had neglected earlier before winter resumes again later in the week.
Hearty winter fare is back into my kitchen for good and this was a delicious side, and could definitely work if you are looking for a something different for a holiday meal. Brussels sprouts are braised with chickpeas, kale and sun-dried tomatoes along with Italian-inspired seasonings. I thought this was excellent. Highly recommended.
What are you planning to serve for Thanksgiving?
Feel like you missed autumn? Summer went straight into winter? Time flies, and sometimes I feel like I missed the peak season for certain fruits and vegetables. I keep missing peach season although we had a few this year. I also missed prime tomato time, perhaps because I was distracted by summer exams. In any case, have no fear. Canned tomatoes are possibly the best way to make sure you have flavourful tomatoes.
Oddly enough, I first encountered Arrabiata sauce while travelling in South Africa. It was a premade sauce that I added to a can of lentils with delicious results. A bit spicy, a lot tomatoey, it worked well with the hearty lentils. However, by the time I returned to Canada, I figured a pasta sauce deserved some pasta.
I made a huge batch of Ricki’s Arrabiata sauce and used it in two non-traditional ways: paired with soba noodles and also paired with zucchini noodles with chickpeas and nutritional yeast. I liked both versions although the zucchini noodles remind me more of the summer than soba noodles.
Next time, I think I will puree the sauce and add a bunch of lentils. Topped with nutritional yeast, it was a great meal, too.
We reached critical mass last weekend.
I am not joking.
We ran out of room in the refrigerator.
Who knew greens could take up so much space?
I loaded up at our favourite market. $7 got us heaps of produce along with our $5 case of mangoes. The mangoes and bananas didn’t go into the fridge, but it was hard enough to get my bag of 9 leeks ($1!) and 3 heads of Boston lettuce ($1!) in there.
But then, I went to the potluck. How could I not support buying some freshly picked organic kale grown by school children from a nearby elementary school? And that is how I also ended up with a good 3-4 bunches worth of kale and could barely close my fridge.
Thank goodness Rob hasn’t strangled me just yet.
With prices so low, we don’t feel as guilty if I don’t eat through everything. But I try!!
Instead of tackling all the leeks and my new produce, I decided to dig through my vegetable bins to find the older vegetables. Finish off the snap peas, carrots and bell peppers, and the last of the scraggly cilantro and scallions. For protein, I quick-thawed some edamame.
This combination reminded me of my vegetable buddha salad bowl but since we’re low on miso, I went with a dressing more reminiscent of my (other) raw Asian kale salad with edamame. With so many colourful vegetables and an Asian dressing, how could you go wrong?
Please share with me your favourite kale and leek recipes! Also, for fresh chickpeas since I scored those too! :)
PS. This is my submission to Definition Magazine Summer Salad Redux Recipe Contest and this week’s Souper Sundays.
Did you have a good Valentine’s Day? I don’t think I have been told to celebrate Valentine’s Day more than yesterday (and I forgot to call my parents, OOPS!). It almost felt like a national holiday, with everyone at work asking about the evening plans, rushing to finish early for the weekend. Is it because Texans are just so friendly? Or because Americans love holidays?
Rob and I have never been big fan of V-Day, enjoying each other’s company more than anything else. Rare gifts and certainly no cards, this year was the most low-key ever. A nice dinner with friends. True to his word, Rob and Matt had a feast ready for me just as I stepped (pedalled) home: Holy Moley Veggie and Rice Soup and corn tortillas followed by Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls. Actually, the order was reversed, we ate the dessert as an appetizer while we waited for the veggies to cook. I had offered to make dessert but Rob saved the day.
Rob also registered us for Cycle Oregon. Tent porter, and all: we’re committed. Lucky (or unlucky) for me, cycling is easier on me than walking.
After a few weeks of rest and recovery, I resumed my daily cycling commute this week. I also swapped my HIIT classes at the gym for weights. No impact and no balance required. Mostly upper body. My knees may be resting but I am certainly still keeping active. I don’t think my arms have ever worked so hard. Although while it would be nice to have a goal to do an unassisted pull-up (NOT happening anytime soon), I think a more realistic goal will be to be able to refill the water cooler at work without too much difficulty. I am a bad employee right now. If it is empty, I do not refill it. I can do it. I mean, I did it once, but it wasn’t pretty. More awkward than anything else but instead of potentially making a giant puddle, I am acknowledging and working within my limitations. ;)
Now about the food. For anyone looking for a fun twist on spaghetti, this is a delicious marinara sauce. A heartier, cooked version of my 15-minute garlic basil marinara sauce, I fortified the sauce with red lentils. The finishing raw garlic and basil made the sauce truly special. I swapped the raw zucchini noodles for winter’s veggie noodle: spaghetti squash. While those expecting a noodle replica will be disappointed, those looking for a fun veggie side will be thrilled. A new texture and a fun way to slurp up all the delicious sauce.
So, please tell me: how was your Valentine’s Day? Do you refill the water cooler?? :)
I have embraced the hidden Texan in me. Only the good parts, obviously.
Especially when it involves beans.
I mean peas. Peas, beans, all the same, right? (Not if you don’t like peas!)
As I discovered earlier, black eyed peas taste so much better when cooked from fresh. After you cook them from recently picked pods, that is when you figure out why they are called black eyed PEAS.
Many of the Southern United States grow field peas, such as black eyed peas, including Texas. Local, fresh black eyed peas are easily found in local grocers right now. A longstanding Southern tradition for forthcoming good luck is to eat black eyed peas and collard greens (a dish named Hoppin John) on New Year’s Day. This year, I decided to try a different variation on Southern stewed beans: black eyed peas are simmered in a Creole-spiced tomato sauce. I skipped the collards (the horror) in lieu of brown rice, but that was merely due to my lack of judgment at the grocery store this weekend.
I routinely get into a (deliciously yummy) rut with similar flavours – cumin, coriander, garlic and ginger – but I liked how simple this dish was, yet it was deliciously flavoured. I whipped together my own version of Creole seasoning right into the tomatoes. Creole seasoning should be easy to make, as it is a mix based on paprika, onion, garlic, thyme and oregano. In the heat of the kitchen, I mistakenly thought Old Bay seasoning would be a quasi-supplemental spice mixture. The celery-dominant Old Bay seasoning made up for my lack of celery from the holy trinity of Creole cuisine: a mirepoix from onions, bell peppers and celery. In the end, this turned out to be a wonderful success.
Do you try to eat black eyed peas on New Year’s Day?
Other black eyed pea recipes here:
Other Southern beans and greens recipes here:
Stop me if you’ve heard this one already:
What did the eggs benedict say to the rest of the breakfast table?
Hardy, har har.. Rob told the joke a few times over the holidays.
With the balmy Houston weather and having returned back to work, it does not really feel too much like holidays. In fact, I am at a loss what to do for New Year’s Eve. Rob wants a party. I, however, will be working all day. And, to be honest, I doubt Rob or I will make it all the way until midnight. We are such party poopers. Early risers, we go to bed early as well. With a morning alarm for 5 am, I am usually the earliest to wake. However, two of my co-workers have their alarms for 4:30am. They beat me! Obviously, we need to invite them over after work. Celebrate St John’s, Newfoundland’s new year at 9:30 pm and then call it a night. Last year, Rob and I celebrated by watching the Sydney fireworks at 8am, but alas, I will be busy at work, already.
Even if I am not headed out for a party, at least I may provide you with some party fare. Splendid warm but still delicious cold as leftovers, here is a protein-packed spinach and artichoke dip. Definitely not as heavy as real cheese dips, this is more of a veggie-centric dip whipped together with some silken tofu. There is more of a hint of cheesiness, thanks to the nutritional yeast. I don’t particularly enjoy nooch-heavy cheeses, but this was pretty good. It is a nice way to bring a dish that could double as a main, should your other options be limited, and you eat a bunch of it. You could totally chow down on a quarter of this, easily. And you should.
What are your plans for New Year’s Eve?
PS. The winner of The Cheesy Vegan is Shannon.
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?
Give me leafy greens and I will make salad.
Give me fruit and I will eat it.
Give me a CSA share and I will become creative. Or lazy, your choice.
Same salad, different fruit and new herb. Still as delicious.
I added fresh basil as a unique flavour hidden amongst the greens.
And those hemp seeds? They are really growing on me. They are my new salad topping, including fruit salads. ;) I picked up a few of my pantry staples online, and decided to splurge on these hemp seeds since they were on sale.
I am used to a later peach season from Ontario (and they have finally arrived, too!), but local peaches were out in full force when we arrived in Texas. Sweet, juicy peaches. I have to remind myself that buying too many is often fool-hardy. Their peak ripeness has a short window. But once they are juicy: pounce. Peaches for breakfast, peaches as a snack and peaches for dinner. Peaches for a salad work so well because they make their own dressing, to boot. I still supplemented it with the nice citrus dressing from earlier in the week, though.
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.
What is the most underrated herb?
Some herbs get all the love: basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano and mint were easy picks when I started my herb garden a few years ago. I also planted sage last year since it was easy to grow, while still mostly unfamiliar. I also really enjoy lemon verbena, although I only ever used it as a tisane (it would make delicious ice cream, though).
Sadly, most of my herbs died over the winter, despite living in the warm comfort of our kitchen. One plant was hardy enough to survive our kitchen winter and popped its head out again: chives. And despite growing them for 3 summers, I rarely used them in my cooking.
While I caved and bought some new plants last month (it was Red Russian kale! and basil!) at my local grocer, my basil has not yet grown enough for a harvest just yet. So, I improvised for this recipe. A chunky yet creamy tomato mushroom sauce. Yes, fresh basil would be delightful. I compromised. Instead, I used dried basil and added fresh chives. (I thought perhaps some pesto could substitute for the fresh basil but my Mom suggested going with the chives instead).
My Mom did not lead me astray: it was very good. This is a quick-and-easy chunky tomato sauce, with big chunks of tomato, chopped mushrooms and giant corona beans that I snuck in at the last moment. Just like when I made The World’s Healthiest Bolognese Sauce, nutritional yeast added creaminess with a hint of cheesiness. The dried herbs worked well and the chives gave a different twist to the sauce. Next time, though, I may try the tomato-pesto sauce, too – it isn’t a novel idea.
Although I wanted to serve this with soba noodles, the sauce was too chunky for such delicate pasta. Instead, I pulled out a chunky noodle. We have tried a few bean-based pastas, but this was a different brand and a different bean. Made with chickpeas but still fusilli, though. A fun shape and it worked well with the sauce.
As you know, I am a cookbook junkie. I have a lot of cookbooks and trying to wean myself from my cookbook library before our move. Last year, I picked out my top 10 cookbooks to move with me, but I may have to revise that list as I have discovered new favourites. Even more scary is that I have partially migrated to electronic cookbooks. It makes it easier to amass a larger collection. I still prefer leafing through a hard copy, but an electronic version is ideal when space is at a premium.
Considering my cookbook love, I was ecstatic when asked to review a new raw cookbook: Annelie’s Raw Food Power. No stranger to raw cuisine, I surprisingly do not have that many raw cookbooks. This is a gorgeous cookbook, with colourful photographs accompanying every recipe. The dishes are typical raw cuisine style, with recipes for smoothies, salads, snacks and mains like raw pizza. She also includes a lot of recipes for teas/tisanes.
Annelie developed the recipes while in Costa Rica, and as such, the recipes use a lot of tropical fruits (bananas, mango, pineapple, watermelon) but also more common ingredients like zucchini, tomatoes, apples, nuts and seeds. Superfoods like chia seeds, goji berries, probiotics, maca and lucuma are often used, too. These ingredients are not new to me, but Annelie surprises me further with recipes calling for purple corn, mucuna, ashwagandha and shatavari powders, of which I have yet to encounter. Like most raw recipes, the majority of the dishes are quick and easy. The recipes call for typical raw equipment: blender (preferably high-speed), juicer, dehydrator, and spiralizer which not everyone possesses. In short, this is not a cookbook for someone dabbling in raw cuisine, but good for those familiar with the ingredients and equipment. (Of note, the index is very subpar, listing recipes by title only, not ingredient).
While most of the recipes seemed familiar to me (guacamole, spiralized zucchini with nutrient-dense pasta sauce, avocado and strawberry salad, raw lasagna), I opted to try something with a bit of a twist: Quinoa, avocado and tomato marinara wraps, especially since I was reminded how much I enjoy lettuce wraps.
I’ve tried raw quinoa before (basically quinoa soaked for a day) but prefer to use cooked quinoa. Uncooked raw/sprouted grains and legumes kind of go thump in my tummy. The quinoa is dressed with a rich flavourful tomato sauce which I unrawified by substituting red pepper paste for the optional red pepper. This is then placed in a Romaine leaf and topped with avocado for a delicious wrap. I found it was best to add the dressing just prior to serving since leftovers became dry.
While I still have a few recipes earmarked to try (beet and mint chocolate chip dip, oh my!), I am giving away a brand new copy of Annelie’s Raw Food Power to a lucky reader. For a chance to win, just leave me a comment by April 25, telling me about your favourite raw dish you’ve made.
Last night, we celebrated my brother’s 30th birthday. Just as when I tipped into my thirties, my Mom was adamant about hosting a party for close family. Like last time, she transported everything from Ottawa and did last-minute prepping and baking in my brother’s kitchen. Moving before we hit 30 seems to be a theme in our family, as she navigated a new kitchen.
I offered to bring something. I was flat-out refused. I even asked if she had reconsidered a few days earlier. No. Although she leaked the menu to me: lentil salad and portobello mushrooms for me. (YES!) While I initially agreed that simple fruit would an ample dessert, she asked if I would like the Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mousse Pie instead. Obviously, I thought it was a fantastic idea. All of my favourite recipes!
Of course my Mom went all out. Roasted red pepper hummus and raw veggies as early nibblers along with spanakopita from my brother’s in-laws. Three salads: a leafy green with a balsamic dressing, my favourite 11-Spice Lentil Salad with apples and arugula (aka the Best Lentil Salad Ever) and a bacon-broccoli salad. Roasted balsamic portobello mushrooms were baked, instead of grilled, along with the salmon. A magnificent zuccotto dome cake and my Almost Guiltless cake for dessert. I loved how my healthy eats were interspersed among the options and enjoyed by everyone, including my brother’s in-laws who were still inquiring as to what vegan means. It was fun to see them guess what exactly was in the dessert that had no flour, no grains, no eggs, no cream, no dairy, and no sugar and still taste delicious. We forgot to tell them the filling was no-bake, too (my Mom experimented with baking the almond-date crust this time).
While I am hesitant to call vegetables “steaks”, the baked mushrooms were compared to steaks last night. Since I used to enjoy my steak on the blue side (when I ate meat), I can see some parallels (moreso than if you like your steak well done), but these mushrooms are a pale comparison for anyone expecting steak. However, they are still one of my favourite meals.
Rob and I have been without a barbecue for a while now, but I have been experimenting with a different way to enjoy roasted balsamic mushrooms. Now I know baking works, too, but in the days of the hot summer, I know I can also make them on the stovetop as well. Not as good as the barbecue, but I am not complaining. :)
Balsamic mushrooms are marinaded in an herbed sherry-balsamic broth and then braised in the same sauce. The sauce is then reduced, used to wilt spinach and lastly drizzled overtop quinoa. I normally don’t make separate sides, but this was simple despite its multiple components.
Do you eat more one-pot dishes or tend to make lots of simple sides instead?