With less interest in writing on my blog, I wonder whether it has become boring. Have I reached a point where things are so similar they are not worth sharing? With a new set of colleagues since moving back to Toronto, I receive curious questions about what I eat, so even the most humble meals may still be blog-worthy. However, in this case, I dare you to tell me you’ve tried something like this. Sweet and tart pomegranate arils. Smoky onion tofu bits. Crisp and cooling cucumber on a bed of baby arugula drizzled with an apple-infused creamy dressing.
I was inspired by a sandwich in Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day! but opted for a salad version instead. A winter salad which will propel us into the springtime salads. Those plants will be growing soon enough, right? They are covered by a foot of snow, but I hope it is only melting form here on out. In all honesty, Rob and I are winding down in the kitchen, working on last minute details before the wedding. Can you believe it was 2 weeks before my wedding before I thought to ask my Dad to walk me down the aisle? Oh dear, eh? (He said YES! hahaha)
What kind of unusual combinations have you cobbled together in a salad?
With all the recent sweets, it was probably no shock that I’d jump on the chance to try a sweetener-free challenge. Early in the summer I tried to reduce my fruit consumption, to no avail, as local berries arrived and continued to excite me throughout the summer. In the fall, came the figs and apples. Now we have pomegranates, too.
This time, I tried caramelizing it like I do with onions. A long slow braise to express all the natural sugars while taming the boldness of the anise. Silky and sweet, I really enjoyed fennel this way. I sprinkled it with cumin and lemon juice for a second level of flavour. Then, it is tossed with quinoa in a punchy salad spiked with cilantro and dill with chunks of lemon. The Aleppo chiles added a nice wave of heat contrasting the sweet fennel. While caramelizing the massive amount of fennel, you may wonder how everything will fit into the salad, but trust me. It wilts a bit and I loved that this was a fennel heavy quinoa salad, instead of a quinoa heavy salad. Tossed overtop baby spinach, it was delicious . Two guesses as to where I got this recipe. With such focus on each ingredient, you might guess Denis Cotter, but no, it was from another great, Ottolenghi. It was reminiscent, but better, than his barley and pomegranate salad I made last year.
The original salad also calls for pomegranate arils, which I added for one serving, just as I started my sweetener-free challenge. It elevated the salad to a whole other dimension. I wonder if it was because I knew it was the last fruit I’d be having until the new year. ;)
Have you ever tried a sweetener-free challenge? Do you think I am nuts for trying it? ;)
For some ingredients, I do a little happy dance every time we empty a container and put it to rest. White flour, please, I do not need you. Pasta, I loved you once before, but not now. Some ingredients just do not need to be replenished and those we celebrate empty containers!
Other foods have become staples. If we run out, I feel a bit antsy.
On the weekend, I inadvertently finished the last of our tamarind concentrate while making this salad. I also realized that we are awfully low on chickpea flour, due to Rob’s (healthy) weekend obsession with Besan Chilla. We also have no nondairy milk left.
These ingredients can be a challenge to find at reasonable prices, so I feel compelled to restock my pantry before we move. I know, terrible idea. We have hired movers, so it couldn’t be too bad, right? Actually, with my collection of beans and cookbooks, I am slightly worried that the 2 movers won’t be enough. Anyhow, before we move, I plan on fortifying our stocks. We will have tamarind and chickpea flour once again. ;)
Now about this salad: It is a light yet hearty Indian-spiced chickpea salad from 1000 Indian Recipes that I first spotted on Lisa’s blog. Her high praise for 1000 Indian Recipes was one reason I picked it up, despite my embargo on new cookbooks. Lisa described this as a great salad for those not used to fiery hot dishes, which sounded right up my alley. Here, the chickpeas are mixed with sweet and creamy mangoes, sweet and sour tamarind, and tart and sweet pomegranate arils doused in a savoury dressing with ginger, tamarind and chaat masala. Cilantro, used both cooked and fresh, adds a brightness to the dish.
It was refreshing to break free of my typical Indian curries and savour such a nicely balanced salad.
If you thought roasted celeriac, lentils, hazelnuts and mint were an odd combination for a salad… a delicious salad, at that… what about this one?
With a such crazy combination of ingredients in this barley salad – pomegranate, dill, allspice – I’ll give you one guess as to where this recipe came from. Not to throw you off, I added the snap peas.
Your one guess….. Ottolenghi? You’d be right!
Ottolenghi has this way of mixing flavours in the most unusual combinations. I often wonder what kind of mania is happening in his head. Flight of ideas? At least the recipes are tested before they hit the press, though. Right? Right?
This is an unusual salad, which Ottolenghi wrote in Plenty (recipe posted here). It is a nice wholesome salad, with an extra dimension from the allspice and dill. Ottolenghi advises to cook the barley in plenty of water, but I find this creates a more mushy consistency. Instead I prefer to boil it with a 2:1 ratio of vegetable broth. I also prefer to toast my barley to accentuate its nuttiness. My other adaptations were to decrease the dressing and scrap the parsley altogether. The salad is overflowing with pomegranate arils which offers a sweet crunch, countered by the nutty barley, and accentuated by the earthy allspice and bright dill. The sugar snap peas also add a nice sweet crunch and we can always use more veggies. :)
While I like to rotate my grains, I am particularly fond of quinoa and eager to try my hand at Kate’s version of this recipe with quinoa and balsamic vinegar.
Last weekend, Rob and I had pre-Christmas dinner with his family. Our families are located a bit too far from each other to want to drive between both cities on Christmas Day so we went to Woodstock a week earlier. Rob’s mom was a sweetie and gave me full reign over the kitchen to whip up a few dishes. She took care of the traditional Polish dishes while I had more of a hybrid/fusion contribution with braised cabbage, borscht (recipe to come) and this kale salad. In the aftermath of the gathering, Rob let me know that his parents couldn’t stop raving over this kale salad. People raving over kale salad, doesn’t that make your heart skip a beat? ;) First of all, let me apologize for the less-than-stellar photos. That’s the sacrifice for making a new recipe for guests away from home. Trust me, though, that the salad is stellar. Wilted kale. Garlic roasted butternut squash. Pomegranate arils. Smothered with a lemony vinaigrette. Oh so festive with a green base and sparkly red jewels. This is my version of Sarah’s Poppy Seed-Crusted Butternut Squash with Kale and Pomegranate Salad. As you can tell, I nixed the poppy seeds altogether. And the shallots. I also increased the amount of garlic, added a lot more kale and used more fresh lemon juice and salt. It is hard to muck up a salad with such delicious ingredients, so add what you like. :) This made a ton of food, and the beauty of kale salads is that the leftovers are just as good… which is what I brought home to photograph for you. ;) This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to Ingredient Challenge Monday for squash and to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend. (more…)
This is a superfood salad if I ever saw one. Pomegranate seeds. Sweet potatoes. Broccoli. All together in a peanut dressing. Even though it doesn’t have kale, many of these veggies top my superfood chart.
I took inspiration from a recipe in 1000 Vegan Recipes where I increased the veggies in the salad and seriously increased the pomegranate seeds. If you don’t have pomegranate, dried cranberries could be a reasonable substitute. While I typically prefer acidic dressings, I kept the peanut butter in the dressing but substituted vegetable broth for the oil. This allows the peanut flavour to permeate the salad without dripping in dressing. In fact, the peanut flavour wasn’t that dominant, sitting back to highlight the natural flavours of the vegetables. Next time, I might try this with a pomegranate-infused vinaigrette as a dressing, too.
Aren’t I lucky to have a guy who will make me The New Best Salad Ever? Rob is also more likely to repeat his recipes, so I am hopeful it was make a reappearance soon!! :) If you don’t believe Rob, take it from me: It was fabulous, heavenly, and a whole lot of swear words came out when I wanted to describe how wonderful it was… although I am not sure why swear words describe it so eloquently. Perhaps because I don’t swear often, and I rarely eat a salad so awesome. Every component was delicious (it helped that we had perfectly ripe Ataulfo mangoes) and together they were golden. I usually do not go to the trouble of so many different components, but this was so worth it. It wasn’t just fried tofu, it was marinaded tofu with roasted garlic. It wasn’t just rice, it was cilantro-lime rice. And then there was the perfect mango salsa overtop. Fresh carrots and cabbage for crunch. Sweet baby spinach. This is how you make epic salads…
But let me tempt you with another delicious salad.
It may not be the typical pomegranate season, but they were on sale at Sunny’s last week. Pomegranates from Chile must have their own special season. . which thankfully allows me to enjoy pomegranates in the summer!
In fact, since many of my friends and family are heading (or went) to Turkey recently, it had me salivating when I remembered my summer love affair with pomegranate molasses. Sweet and sour, tart and delicious, how could I ignore you for so long? Since I have moved in with Rob, this may become a trio. Heck, Rob’s love affair with mangoes persists, so I guess we’re even. :)
(For the record, I finished my first bottle of pomegranate molasses within 6 months and now that Rob and I have bunked up, we have TWO open bottles!)
I based this salad on my Turkish Bulgur Salad but added in steamed asparagus and served it overtop baby greens for a glorious feast. It had all the elements of a nice main meal salad with quinoa, asparagus and greens. The dressing is tart from the pomegranate molasses with a background of lime. The chili flakes are optional, but I liked the zip it added. The pomegranate seeds and almonds add a nice crunch. Better than the (since dethroned) Best Salad Ever? I’m not sure… A variation on a similar theme, that’s for sure! :)
Now to bring back the bulgur bonanza!
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, and to this month’s Healing Foods featuring whole grains, and to Ricki’s new Summer Wellness Weekends.
I can only fight off fall so long. I have started to wear my cycling hat because it is so cold as I whisk down to work in the morning on my bike. Bestwin has butternut squash on sale for 17 cents/lb this week. Let’s ring in the fall produce!
This is another winning salad from Raising the Salad Bar by Catherine Walthers. It has so many unique salad ideas, I love flipping through it. My other favourite recipes from her book include the Wheat Berry Salad with Almonds and Spinach in a Citrus Dressing and the Wild Rice and Wheat Berry Salad with Apple, Cranberries and Almonds in a Citrus Dressing.
This salad features a crisp, sliced apple, with crunchy toasted almonds and juicy pomegranate seeds over a bed of arugula. I used baby arugula which wasn’t that peppery, but arugula would work well with the sweet apple-laced vinaigrette. Another option I might entertain next time is a pomegranate vinaigrette with pomegranate molasses, but I liked the focus on apple. Sadly, salads with dressed greens do not bode well for leftovers, so I halved the recipe to serve 2 and only dressed it before serving.
This is my third dish in a string of salads with pomegranate molasses. No bulgur here, so my brain didn’t do the auto-compare with The Best Salad Ever.
This is a salad filled with green beans, roasted eggplant and roasted red peppers. I liked the Spanish paprika, cinnamon and cumin with the roasted eggplant, so there was a savoury twist I wasn’t expecting. I may remove the cumin next time, though. The green beans added a nice crunch, and a lovely colour to boot. I also enjoyed the creaminess from the feta, but it is completely optional. The mild pomegranate dressing worked well to not overshadow the savoury flavours in the salad. I preferred this salad to the tabbouleh, despite it being less of a complete meal. Serve it with some crusty bread or wrap it in a pita as a portable lunch.
It is hard to compete with perfection.
I made a delightful bulgur salad with pomegranate, almonds, oven charred tomatoes and chickpeas earlier this month and was looking to expand my horizons with a new twist on the bulgur and pomegranate flavours. When I spotted a pomegranate tabbouleh salad at Closet Cooking, I knew what I wanted to try next. It seemed perfect for the summer with fresh crisp cucumber, fresh local tomatoes, soft feta and keeping my salad staples like toasted almonds. The pomegranate flavour came from the vinaigrette with pomegranate molasses and pomegranate seeds.
And while it seemed like a reasonable salad, it just didn’t compare. I was left thinking, This is ok, but not the best salad ever. The best salad ever will forever torment me as its counterparts will fall short. My memory will probably hype up the salad even further in its absence – oh my!
But instead of commiserating for all of the rest of the salads, why not rejoice in figuring out what made for such a terrific salad? And this is what I have been thinking about…
As a main course salad, I like a lot of substance within the salad. More stuff than bulgur or leaves. Both salads had that, but the winning salad also had more sustenance with chickpeas. Both vinaigrettes had pomegranate molasses, but the winning salad had a more pronounced tartness from the pomegranate molasses since I mistakenly read the recipe without diluting the molasses. So perhaps the mind-blowing pomegranate flavour was missing. The winning salad also had Aleppo chili flakes which brings anything from ordinary to extraordinary, and this tabbouleh had none. Not that I think tabbouleh warrants chili flakes, but the mantra of balancing sweet, sour, spicy and bitter is making more and more sense. It has been a winning combo for my recent dishes, including the winning salad.
To be fair to the tabbouleh, it was enjoyed by others. But they had not yet tasted the winning salad ever. ;) For me, there were too many similarities between the salads for me not to do the comparison and feel like it came out short. Perhaps I will have to modify the tabbouleh with these changes in mind when I score another deal on pomegranates.
This is my submission to Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring mint, to PJ for this month’s Healing Foods featuring tomatoes, to Jayasri for this month’s Cooking with Seeds featuring pomegranate seeds and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
I love when I discover new healthy ingredients. (I have totally fallen in love with pomegranate molasses now, but I am not talking about that infatuation.)
I recently visited Shelburne Farms, a working farm estate using sustainable farming and environmental practices, in Shelburne, Vermont. We had a fabulous dinner at their Inn, but snuck in a tasty salad from their Farm Barn for lunch. It was an incredibly delicious balsamic bulgur salad with fresh produce from their organic gardens. I have cooked with fine bulgur before, but this salad used coarse bulgur. It was delicious, creamy and plump at the same time. It was a lovely play of textures for my tongue, in addition to the fresh flavours from their garden. When I returned home, I picked up some coarse bulgur to make my own salad (I used Bob’s Red Mill Cracked Bulgur).**
This is definitely one superb salad. Absolutely delicious! Dare I suggest the best salad ever? Oh yes!
This is a Turkish recipe, based on kisir, a bulgur salad with tomato. Mine was adapted from Desert Candy, who adapted it from Food & Wine (January 2004). The creamy bulgur is mixed with soft charred cherry tomatoes, crunchy toasted almonds and nutty, creamy chickpeas. Pomegranate seeds add flavour and pop. The dressing wraps everything together – sweet and tart from the pomegranate molasses, tart from the lemon juice and a bit of a kick from the Aleppo chili flakes. I loved it! The bulgur can absorb a lot of the dressing, so I dressed the salad just before serving.
I wanted to highlight how wonderful the salad was before anyone got turned off by the health benefits of bulgur. In a 1/4 cup (raw), there are only 140 calories but also 7g of fibre and 5g of protein. It has less calories and more nutritious than brown rice, with more iron and calcium and less fat. But most importantly, it tastes great. I love the paradoxical creaminess. It is completely different than fine bulgur. Some say that fine bulgur is best for salads and kibbeh (meatballs), and coarse bulgur is better for pilafs and main dishes. But here, I loved the coarse bulgur as a salad.
Run, do not walk, to make this incredibly tasty and healthy salad.
Basil and Bulgur Salad (aka Pesto Tabouli) by Fat Free Vegan
Bulgur Salad with Cranberries by Delicious Days
Bulgur Salad with Chickpeas and Red Peppers by Smitten Kitchen
Bulgur Salad with Feta, Olives and Sun-dried Tomatoes by Feelgood Eats
Chickpea & Bulgur Salad with Soft Boiled Egg & Breadcrumbs by Bitchin Camero
Chickpea Hot Pot by 101 Cookbooks
Beautiful Bulgar and Spinach Pilaf with Labneh and Chili Roast Tomatoes by 101 Cookbooks
Herbed and Honeyed Bulgur Wheat Nut Salad by Not Quite Nigella
Bulgur Salad with Oranges, Cashews & Fresh Herbs by Enlightened Cooking
Balsamic Roasted Onions with Bulgur, Cinnamon & Pine Nuts by Made by Frances
Broccoli Rabe with Bulgur and Walnuts by Bon Appetit
Bulgur and Grape Salad with Walnuts and Currants by Fine Cooking
**Remember how I ventured across town to buy pomegranate molasses for muhammara? Well, when I found coarse bulgur at No Frills (Eglinton/Victoria Park), they had pomegranate molasses as well! Along with orange blossom water and rose water (on sale, to boot!). It astounds me what I can find in grocery stores in Toronto if you look in the right neighbourhood. So there you have it, you can find pomegranate molasses at No Frills in Toronto. I even updated my post for other local seekers of pomegranate molasses.
This is my submission to Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring mint, this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Simona at Briciole, to PJ for this month’s Healing Foods featuring tomatoes, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to Nithu for this month’s Cooking with Whole Foods featuring chickpeas, to Blog Bites #6, potluck-style, hosted by One Hot Stove, to Torview’s food palette series featuring red dishes, to Jayasri for this month’s Cooking with Seeds featuring pomegranate seeds, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Fridays and finally, to AWED, featuring Turkish cuisine this month, hosted by me. (This recipe was meant to be shared!) :)
Here is my second dish with pomegranate molasses and I think I am slowly falling in love with this sweet-tart sauce.
This is a Lebanese dish from Arabesque by Claudia Roden where eggplants are baked until soft, then coated with a pomegranate vinaigrette and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley. It is a very simple recipe for a simple dish. In fact, the tastes are rather subtle which is why I enjoyed it. This is meant to be a dish as part of a mezze (appetizer) spread and can be served hot or cold. I preferred to use it as a sandwich topper. It was delicious cold, heaping over a toasted bagel for breakfast. The recipe says the pomegranate seeds are optional but I think they really made the dish stand-out. They explode with little bursts of flavours when you bite through them.
I have shied away from Indian cooking in the past due to the spiciness of the dishes, but recently bought 660 Curries so that I could tackle Indian dishes while limiting the chilis, peppers, etc that add the heat. I am on a quest to make butter chicken as good as at Amaya (without resorting to their prepared sauces) but I got side-tracked by one of his “Contemporary Curries”: Saffron Marinated Paneer Cheese with Fresh Basil, Cashews and Pomegranate Seeds.
I have a long list of bookmarked recipes but serendipitously, I had nearly everything ready for this dish when I spotted it at Lisa’s Kitchen. I had paneer that I had picked up from the store but still unsure how to prepare it, half a pomegranate leftover from an eggplant and pomegranate salad (to be shared in short time), a bit of cream leftover from a wild rice pudding (to be shared in due time!), a balcony pot rife with basil and had picked up saffron while travelling in Turkey. I just needed to replenish my green onions, which I typically have in my fridge.
Lisa, as well as its original cookbook 660 Curries (which I picked up based on Lisa’s glowing recommendations) called this dish heavenly and implied it was better than sex! How could I resist? Contemporary curries is where it’s at! :)
This was a wonderful dish with paneer marinated with silky saffron and chili flakes in a bath of cream (yes, it can be marinated!) to which basil and green onions are added to the sauce. The paneer is broiled and browned so that it is warm and slightly melted but still keeps its shape. It is topped with crushed cashews and fresh, juicy pomegranate seeds which bring the dish to the next level. It is such a merriment of awkward/fusion ingredients that sing beautifully together.
I bought Aleppo chili flakes while in Turkey and think this is one of the best gifts I got as it has allowed me to slowly increase the heat in my kitchen. The chili flakes are not that spicy because the chili seeds have been removed but they impart a lovely warm flavour. They are my go-t0 when a recipe calls for chilies. My version has a bit of spice but still mild. For those that like heat, feel free to use real chilies.
Next time I want to cook with paneer, I may try to make it myself, as there are plenty of other dishes I’d love to try. Here are other enticing recipes with paneer:
Paneer Kofta (Cheese balls) from KO Rasoi and eCurry
Mutter Paneer (Paneer with peas) from What’s For Lunch, Honey?
Palak Paneer (Paneer with spinach) from eCurry
Paneer Butter Masala (Paneer in a creamy sauce) from Fun and Food Blog
Paneer Mushroom Masala (Paneer with mushrooms) from Lisa’s Kitchen
Macaroni and Paneer Cheese from Lisa’s Kitchen
Paneer Bhurji (Scrambled Paneer) from Chef in You
Paneer Cigar Rolls from Chef in You