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.
Everyone’s taste buds change over time.
Even before I started the sweetener-free challenge, I wondered how my tastes have changed. I can’t do deep-fried foods or other meals doused in oil. It isn’t the fat that bothers me because I easily down more than a handful of nuts in a sitting. :P
Last week, I started to re-introduce sweets. Fruits: mostly apples and berries. I have replenished my morning grapefruit stash. Dark chocolate, too: I made my Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mousse Pie. After this challenge, my tolerance for highly sweetened foods decreased.
My tolerance for spice has increased, albeit still slowly.
Then I discovered Aleppo chile flakes, more flavourful than hot. Slowly I added more and more to my dishes. I began experimenting with Ancho chili powder and paprika as well.
I was drawn to this recipe for Spanish Chickpeas since it looked like a flavourful warm chickpea salad. Spiced with smoked paprika, chile powder and roasted garlic, it really called my name. It has been awhile since I’ve pan-cooked chickpeas, and as I made it, I added spinach. When I sat down to eat it, I was smitten. Perfectly balanced with smoky undertones, sweetness from the red peppers and lightness from the lemon juice. It reminded me of my Spanish Chickpea Salad with Capers and Roasted Red Peppers (without the salty capers) and the addition of the spinach reminded me of Andalusian Chickpeas and Spinach. Two years ago, I made a hybrid from Deb’s recipe and the recipe in The New Spanish Table. All I remember was that it too spicy. I remember kicking myself for using so much paprika.
Two years later, I compare both recipes. I assumed I had used a tablespoon of paprika or something crazy the first time. No, it was only one teaspoon. Just like in this recipe. This version was definitely not spicy even with the addition of Ancho chile powder.
Any takers? Have my taste buds improved or has my paprika decreased in potency? ;)
(My paprika is not two years old, in case you were thinking it! I used sweet paprika from Penzey’s before and smoked paprika from Whole Foods for this recipe (the brand escapes me at this time) I am tempted to believe that smoked paprika isn’t as spicy as its non-smoked counterpart).
Here are some other great Spanish recipes:
Each week, I try to make a new dressing to add to whatever wandering salad I may concoct for lunch. Toss it with whatever random veggies I have in the fridge or plucked from the garden.
For this month’s Random Recipe challenge, we were urged to pick a pantry item and randomly try a recipe with it. I picked pomegranate molasses and then randomly picked Turquoise, a cookbook I have been neglecting but adamant about trying more of the drool-worthy recipes.
I landed squarely on the tomato-pomegranate dressing, spiced with thyme, shallots and garlic. I was initially perplexed by the recipe since it seemed to be a dressing infused with the flavours instead of being pureed directly into the dressing. So, I experimented. I made half of the recipe through the suggested (infused) method, and half of the dressing was simply pureed. The verdict? Both were good and more surprisingly to me, the blended dressing was creamier. I thought the pureed shallot and garlic would make this a scary dressing, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t as tart and acidic as the infused dressing. However, once mixed with my veggie medley, it was perfect. Both versions were nice.
Here, in the photos, I paired the dressing with thinly sliced collards, shredded beets and carrots, thinly sliced Roman beans and toasted sunflower seeds. I massaged some of the dressing directly with the collards (like I do for my raw kale salads) and then drizzled more dressing for the rest of the veggies. As you can see, the collard greens didn’t wilt as much as kale, but it made for a tasty salad, mellowing the collards for a simple salad. Later, I also found the dressing paired well with my standard concoction of tomatoes, cucumber, green beans, chickpeas and lettuce.
Looking for another great salad with pomerganate molasses? This one with bulgur and chickpeas (aka, The Old Best Salad Ever) was how I got hooked onto pomegranate molasses!
Do you have any favourite salad dressings?
When I go travelling, I love to take cooking classes. When I went to Morocco, I took a lovely private cooking class in Marrakesh, with the chef from a near riad. We made a sampling of traditional Moroccan mezes (tomato jam, stuffed zucchini and zaalouk), two entrees (apricot and lamb tagine and chicken bastilla) and milk bastilla for dessert (photos from Casa and Marrakesh here, from the desert and Fes/Meknes).
We toured around Morocco, and when we arrived in Fes, it was rainy. Since most of our activities were outdoors, I contemplated doing yet another cooking class at a local restaurant. Instead, we opted to eat lunch there and I bought their cookbook, Clock Book, to take home.
A few months later, I went vegan. You wouldn’t think it, but Morocco was quite meat-heavy. With so many flavourful vegetarian options on the web, you’d think they would be easy to find in Morocco. Not so.
Of the dishes from the cooking class, the mezes were vegan-friendly. I can’t seem to remember where I put my recipe for tomato jam, but it is unlike any jam you might think you know. Slowly simmered tomatoes are infused with cinnamon, sweetener and topped with sesame seeds.
However, this leads me to this month’s Random Recipe which was to randomly pick a tea time treat. I have a few cookbooks, but none with a section for tea treats, so I randomly flipped through cookbooks until I found a tea-appropriate treat. That’s when I pulled out Clock Book and it fell open to this Tomato and Chili Chutney, very reminiscent of tomato jam, although definitely more of a chutney with the vinegar. The cookbook paired it with fried crispy squid but like tomato jam, I figured it would be nice with a simple bread or cracker. I am a sucker for cinnamon, and paired with tomato and a sharp vinegary bite with a touch of heat from the red chiles, this was a unique chutney.
While I halved the recipe, it still made a lot (around 2 cups), so we will see how it combines with Indian snacks, too.
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.