Okay, Mother Nature, this is really getting old. I mean, we’ve been tortured bysuffering withenduring tolerating winter since October 21, 2010 (should I feel guilty that that’s my birthday?). Time for some warmer temps, dry streets, green buds poking their happy noses out of the ground. Time for some plus-size temperatures (not to be confused with plus-size clothing, about which I wouldn’t be too happy). Time for the sun to persist through post-dinnertime, cajoling us to peel off our scarves, gloves, overcoats.
Time for SPRING, already!
But okay, since we’re expecting upwards of 15 cm (6 inches) of snow today, and since the temperatures are -5C (23 F) instead of the seasonal +6C (43 F) today, I will treat you to this last bowl of winter stew for the season.
You know how, sometimes, you make serendipitous discoveries at the least expected times? I’m not talking about the kind of discovery where you perchance leave a beaker of staphylococci bacteria lying around the lab and then, lo and behold, a day later you have. . . pennicilin! Nor the kind where you decide to cut your business trip short because you miss your hubby, hurry home, then barge in on said hubby and his secretary in flagrante delicto. And certainly not the kind where a bunch of science nerds all decide at the same time, “Hey! I think there’s an extra planet up there! Who knew?”
No, those are all examples of monumental discoveries–and I’m not talking about those.
I’m referring to the little quotidien discoveries that can happen to anyone, the types that add a little burst of excitement to your otherwise mundane day. Like when you pull out your spring blazer for the first time after a long winter (and how I dream of that day) and find an unexpected $20 bill inside the pocket. Or when you’re packing up the house for a move to your new place and (as happened to the HH and me when we moved to our current place) you reach to grab the last mug in the cupboard and come across that hand-knit tea cozy you received as a Christmas present from your first boyfriend’s mother, 25 years ago–the one you had been certain was lost forever. That’s the kind of everyday discovery that makes you smile, that adds a little bit of joy to the day.
I experienced one of those happy discoveries this past week. You see, I had completely forgotten about my recipe for Chickpea and Potato Stew with Tomatoes, a recipe I cooked up almost every week throughout my 20s and 30s. As a newbie cook, I came across the original recipe in an old Canadian Living Magazine, and it couldn’t be simpler. It was the perfect dish for a single vegan just learning to cook: everyday ingredients, simple preparation, no special tools or equipment required. The components came together quickly, then took care of themselves as they simmered quietly in a corner while you went about your business for 30 minutes or so. Afterward, they greeted you with a robust, warming, perfectly seasoned stew containing a wonderful balance of protein, carbs, and sauciness.
How had I forgotten all about this stew? It came back to me after we received a five-pound (2 kg) sack of potatoes in our organic produce box last week. What to do with them all? And that’s when I remembered. I pulled out my “Veg Main Meals” recipe folder from the bookcase and began to leaf through the hundreds of pages in it, each one clipped from a magazine or newspaper, or printed from a website or blog.
Forty minutes later, I still hadn’t found the recipe. I knew it was there, somewhere–but another glance through the clippings still didn’t uncover it. Determined, I decided to look for a similar base online, from which I could build a reasonable replica. A quick Google search–and up came dozens of similar recipes!
Okay, so maybe my old stew wasn’t unique. But with the help of a good memory jog, I put this together. At the last minute, I added some tahini–not in the original–to create a thicker, creamier sauce. It worked beautifully, and produced a rich gravy that is perfect for sopping up with crusty bread (as the HH ate it) or ladling over cooked rice or quinoa.
I’m so happy to have rediscovered my old favorite–especially today, when a warming stew is perfectly in order to bid winter “adieu.” I still have a feeling that the original recipe will show up some day, though–most likely, the next time we move.
“Mum, you know we love those serendipitous discoveries, too. Like, say, when you drop an extra treat under the kitchen table. Score!”
This is a delicious, simple, savory stew, the kind without extra spice or unnecessary bells and whistles. It’s filling, satisfying, warming and flavorful with a hint of sweet basil and oregano in the tomato base. Perfect for a hot meal toward the end of winter.
1 Tbsp (15 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
28-ounce (796 ml) can diced tomatoes, with juice
1-1 1/4 cups (240-300 ml) vegetable broth or stock (see instructions)
3 medium potatoes, diced small (about 1/2 inch or 1 cm cubes)–peel if desired*
1 tsp (5 ml) dried oregano
1 tsp (5 ml) dried basil (or use 2 Tbsp/30 ml fresh, chopped)
1 tsp (5 ml) dried parsley
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) fine sea salt, or to taste
2 cups (480 ml) cooked chickpeas, drained
2 Tbsp (30 ml) sesame tahini, at room temperature
In a large nonstick pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes, stirring often.
Drain the tomatoes and reserve the drained liquid. Add broth to the drained liquid to make a total of 1-1/2 cups (360 ml). Add the tomatoes, the liquid with broth, potatoes, oregano, basil, parsley and salt to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are just tender, 20-25 minutes.
Add the chickpeas to the pot as well. Spoon off about 1/4 cup of the liquid from the pot and mix it with the tahini in a small bowl. Pour the mixture back into the pot and stir to mix well, ensuring that the tahini is incorporated throughout. This will create a thick, creamy sauce.
Adjust seasonings and serve over rice or other grains, or alongside a crusty bread. Makes 4-6 servings. May be frozen.
*Note: for ACD Stage 1, you can substitute sweet potato or cauliflower for the potato.
[NB: Just a reminder that you have eight chances to win a free copy of my new cookbook, Sweet Freedom, in the next post!]
I was around 12 when my friends and I first began to find ourselves interested in boys as romantic partners, and not simply background annoyances during art class. (Yes, twelve is ancient by today’s standards!)
During that year at school, we girls were all given a little blue pamphlet (because pink would have been so conventional, and this was a progressive publication, you see) with a title something like, “For the Young Lady.” It was sponsored by Modess sanitary napkins (who knew it was pronounced “Mo-DESS”?)–and it was filled with platitudes about “what attracts a boy.”
Each page offered a different imperative, such as, “Boys like a girl who sits with her ankles crossed” and “Attractive girls always chew with their mouths closed.” But the decrees that made the strongest impression on me all concerned comportment–how to present yourself in the unspoken quest for a male: ”Always walk with your head high and your shoulders back,” or “Boys like girls who stride from the hips, not the waist” (still don’t get that one), or “Boys appreciate girls who laugh at their jokes.”
I spent many hours sequestered in my bedroom, eyes fixed on my contorted image in the mirror as I endeavored to perfect a near-military posture, shoulders pinned stiffly back, hips thrust forward and derriere in the air in an exaggerated arch (the origin of my current lumbar problems, perhaps?), laughing at imagined quips in a (vain) attempt to imitate the dulcet giggle of Serena (the more beguiling cousin on Bewitched). Unfortunately, I ended up looking like that farmer whose body is overtaken by aliens in Men in Black.
For some time after I studied that booklet, I worried that I was perhaps too much “myself,” and that was the reason why my friends all had beaux while I stayed home Saturday nights watching SNL (wait a sec–I still stay home Saturday nights watching SNL!). But I just couldn’t bring myself to “laugh at their jokes” if the jokes weren’t funny. Or to pretend I didn’t know the Calculus answer when I did. Or to fuss over his shiny red sportscar when really, isn’t it just a big metal box that gets you where you want to go?
As I got older, I began to believe that “being myself”–despite any drawbacks to my social life–was just easier than trying to be someone else. I’m with Mark Twain on this one, who once remarked that you should always tell the truth; “that way, you don’t have to remember anything.”
Fittingly, I’ve come to feel the same way about foods: comestibles should be just exactly what they are, rather than aspire to be a lesser imitation of something else. Partly for that reason, I’ve often resisted making veggie “burgers” (there are but two such recipes on this entire blog). It’s not that I don’t like a good, juicy veggie burger as much as the next guy (I tend to order burgers–and my beloved sweet potato fries–almost every time I go to a particular popular resto here in Toronto). It’s just that, for the most part, veggie burger recipes I’ve encountered in the past are often a thinly veiled attempt to impersonate a similar burger of the animal variety.
I just don’t see the point in using one food (for example, soy) to stand in for another food. If I wanted meat, I’d eat meat. I have no illusions that my tofu is going to taste like anything other than tofu–though that’s not to say it won’t be well-marinated, savory, intensely flavored tofu.
So if you’re looking for “meaty” burgers, I’m guessing these may not appeal to you; these are really and truly veggie burgers. They are not brown or pink like meat (their golden hue clearly suggests a more herbaceous origin). They are not dense and sinewy. They proudly pronounce their contents with clear flecks of chopped veggies. There is simply no mistaking that this is a vegetarian food. Eat these, and you are unequivocally entering a “no-meat” zone.
I got this recipe from my major ACD reference, The Complete Candida Yeast Guidebook. At first, I was skeptical that anything created specifically to help eradicate candida could be flavorsome. In the end, though, I actually loved these. With a hearty slather of avocado mayonnaise, they were the a perfect segue to spring. (These would also be smashing with some tahini-miso sauce.)
In typical fashion, the HH dismissed the patties as “too veggie” and continued reading his newspaper. But after I set down my plate, smacked my lips a few times and licked my fingers, he peered over the Business section and couldn’t resist asking for a bite.
“Not bad at all,” was the initial verdict. Pause. “Hmm, those are pretty good.”
I kept eating.
About halfway through the meal, he commented, “You know, those were great. They taste like something you’d get at one of those expensive health food restaurants.”
I kept chewing.
A few minutes later, he added, “You know, I’d eat one of those.”
Oh, really? What a surprise!
“Would you like me to heat one up for you?” I asked.
“Sure, that would be great,” he said. Then he scarfed it down in less time than it takes to push back your shoulders, thrust out your hips, and giggle oh-so-fetchingly.
Well, if you’ve read this blog for any time at all, you know that this scenario plays itself out fairly frequently in the DDD household; change the recipe, but the gist of the exchange is the same. Why, then, won’t the HH simply learn his lesson and trust me that he’s going to like what I cook, vegan or not? No idea. Guys are still a mystery to me, blue pamphlet or no blue pamphlet. But at least the HH is consistently the HH–his true, authentic self.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Springtime Veggie Burgers
adapted from Complete Candida Yeast Guidebook
These burgers really do evoke spring, with their multicolored flecks of vegetable matter, garden flavors and lighter texture. They’re perfect baked, as I made them, but would be great on the grill as well.
1 cup (240 ml) cooked, drained beans (I used chickpeas–but black beans, kidney beans, navy beans or pinto beans would be wonderful in these)
1 cup (240 ml) chopped mixed vegetables (I used carrot, celery, red pepper and tomato) or vegetable pulp from a juicer
1 small onion, cut into chunks
1/2 cup (120 ml) raw sunflower seeds
1 Tbsp (15 ml) raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped
1 Tbsp (15 ml) Bragg’s, tamari or soy sauce
1/2 tsp (5 ml) dried dill weed
1/2 tsp (5 ml) dried basil
1/2 tsp (5 ml) dried tarragon
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
1 tsp (5 ml) finely ground flax seeds
1/4-1/2 cup (60 ml-120 ml) flour (I used chickpea, but any mild-flavored flour would do; and finely ground breadcrumbs would be great in these)
Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
Place everything except the flour in the bowl of a food processor and blend until almost smooth and only small flecks of vegetables remain (I like my burgers fairly homogenous; if you prefer chunkier burgers, process a bit less). Sprinkle with 1/4 cup (60 ml) flour to start, and pulse to combine; check the texture of the mixture with your hands. It should be very moist but still hold together. If the mixture is too wet, add more flour until desired consistency is reached.
Shape the mixture into 6-8 burgers, depending on how big you’d like them. Flatten each burger to 1/2 inch (2.5 cm) thickness and place on the cookie sheet, spacing evenly (these won’t spread as they bake).
Bake about 15 minutes on one side, then flip and bake another 10-15 minutes on the other side, until burgers are lightly browned. These may also be cooked on a flat grill; spray with olive oil spray and grill 8-10 minutes on one side, then flip and grill another 5-8 minutes on the other side.
Serve in buns with all the accoutrements, roll into wraps with tortillas or leafy greens, or serve with flatbreads. Makes 3-6 servings. May be frozen.
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I’m a ”from scratch” kind of gal. I mean, when you’ve been told you can’t eat anything processed, anything with additives, anything with coloring, anything with refined sweeteners or flours–basically, anything that’s not fresh from the vine or the ground–you learn to cook from scratch. Baptism by (Gas Mark 7) fire, and all that.
As a child, I thought ”homemade” was synonymous with “bland and boring.” (Actually, I was onto something there: my mother’s cooking actually was bland and boring). For my sisters and me, the most exciting foods we could imagine came in a box, a jar, or a can. Perfectly round, single-serve “layer cakes” coated in crunchy, ”chocolatey” shellac and packaged in individual cellophane bags; McDonald’s large fries and chocolatey “milk” shakes; soft, mushy, impossibly orange and slightly gooey Chef Boy-Ar-Dee Alphagetti; and–the best possible treat my mother could ever offer, the holy grail of convenience foods–Swanson TV Dinners. How we loved that Salisbury Steak with the little square of blueberry cake baked into the center of the aluminum dish!
But such rewards were few and far between. What seemed like a rare and elusive jackpot in our kitchen was common fare for my two best friends, the Gemini twins; all the glamorous, esoteric items that were verboten at our house made regular appearances on their dinner table. I recall many a meal at their place when we kids were served a heaping portion of Hamburger Helper (with added sautéed onions for that homemade touch), along with canned chocolate pudding topped with a dollop of jam and sprinkle of walnuts (to lend some individual flair) for dessert. I loved it–and was entirely envious of their good fortune!
It wasn’t until I was in my 20s and began to cook for myself that I truly appreciated the home cooked dishes I’d been served throughout my youth, despite their insipid flavors. Subsequently, in my 30s, I began to realize how infinitely superior real food was to synthetic (much as SanDeE appreciates this difference in response to Steve Martin’s confused inquiry in LA Story). Since my Great Diet Shift in 2000, I’ve been cooking about 95% from scratch. It’s become a reflex to simply make things myself.
First on the ingredient list was ”one can of chick peas.” Well, of course I ignored that part. Why would I use canned anything if I could help it? So I soaked my beans overnight, then drained, rinsed, refilled with fresh water, and boiled away. And boiled. The recipe instructed me to mash with a potato masher or fork, but somehow, my beans were still too hard to accomplish such a feat. Instead, I opted for the food processor and blended the entire mound into a pulp. I ended up with little pebble-like pieces of chickpea, nothing like a “mash” at all. I mean, they were TASTY pebble-like pieces, mind you, but pebble-like pieces nonetheless. I liked the mock tuna well enough (even though–sorry, folks–it tastes nothing like tuna) and even made it a few more times. But let’s just say it would never achieve the same iconic status as Hamburger Helper at the Geminis’.
Then, last week while grocery shopping, right there in the canned goods aisle, I was suddenly overtaken by an overwhelming urge, one that was completely out of character (no, nothing like that, you pervs! Shame on you!). I had an urge to buy a CAN of chickpeas. A can! “Maybe, just maybe, using canned chickpeas will make a difference,” I thought. Hard to believe, but in all my 40+ years of eating I had NEVER TASTED CANNED CHICKPEAS. Well, dear readers, the result was truly humbling. In fact, it left me feeling quite sheepish. I’d even venture to say I was cowed (though not to be confused with “resembling a cow.”). Now, I must admit it: sometimes, convenience foods are superior. Truly, the dish was phenomenal. I couldn’t stop eating the stuff!
Imagine this scene: Dinnertime at the DDD household. The HH sits on one side of the table, munching a slice of bison loaf (purchased at the extortionary Planet Organic, because (a) at least it’s organic; (b) the HH demands his meat; (c) the store is 80% empty most of the time and I’m afraid it’s going to go bankrupt before it’s even open a year; and (d) who feels like cooking for the HH when I’ve already mixed up a chickpea spread for myself?). I’m on the other side, eating my delectable mock tuna on a rice cake.
HH: [Chewing]: Hmm. [Chomp] That’s not too bad. [Chomp]. Tastes sort of like potato salad. [Lip-smack]. Actually, that’s pretty good stuff. [Licks fingertips. Turns back to bison].
Me: Yeah, I see what you mean, it is sort of like potato salad. Mmmnnnmm!
HH: Hmmn. Yeah, like a very good, creamy, delicious potato salad. [reaches over to take another forkful].
Me: [clears throat] Help yourself.
HH: Thanks! [scoops half the mixture onto his plate.]
Me: Guess you like it.
HH: Yeah, this is great stuff! [Chomp, chomp, lip-smack, licks fingertips.]
In the end, the HH did finish his bison, but he also finished up the mock tuna (which was actually a good thing, as I would have scarfed it all up otherwise). He cleared the plate and asked if I could make it again sometime, because “Wow, that’s amazing stuff!”
Lesson learned: Sometimes, it’s okay to use a can for something you could also make from scratch. Oh, and you should always follow the recipe’s instructions.
“Good lesson, Mum. And if Dad ever doesn’t want to finish his bison, you know where to find us.”
This spread is perfect on crackers, as a sandwich filling, or just on its own. It’s creamy, a little spicy, and all around irresistible.
1 (15 oz or about 425 g.) can cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed well with water, or 1-1/2 cups (360 ml.) cooked beans
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) mayonnaise (I use a homemade vegan version–or use any type you like)
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) plain yogurt (I use this brand–or use any type you like)
1/3 cup (80 ml.) finely diced celery
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) finely minced dill pickle (about one medium pickle)
1-1/2 tsp. (7.5 ml.) nutritional yeast
1-2 green onions, chopped
1 tsp. (5 ml.) tamari or soy sauce
1/2 small jalapeno or other hot pepper, minced
pepper to taste
In a medium bowl, mash the beans with a potato masher. Add the remaining ingredients and stir together well. Use immediately as a sandwich spread or dip, or refrigerate up to 3 days. Makes about 2 cups (480 ml.).
It’s a truism when discussing the era of flower children and Woodstock to say, ”If you remember the ’60s, you probably weren’t there.” When it comes to the 1980s, however, those of us who lived through it are more likely to lament, ”I remember it all–if only I could forget!” Still, the Era of All Things Excessive (also known as the “Me” Decade) did have its touchstones.
And yet, I can’t help but feel nostalgic for those times. I mean, how can anyone forget the heady 80s, with their typical Yuppie motto of ”More is More”? As a PhD student on her own in the Big City of Toronto, it was in the 80s that I finally became comfortable perceiving myself as an “adult.” Working as both a don in residence and a teaching assistant at university, I supported myself while studying and carrying on an active social life, as only someone in the early throes of adulthood can do. With a built-in social network (three of my close friends from childhood had already moved here years before) and PhD seminars filled with interesting new classmates (as well as the occasional crush), I was happy to spend my time memorizing Beowulf by day, then taking on the town by night.
80s urban professionals were regularly amused by showy sportscars, massive parties, both private and public (raves made their appearance in the 80s), big hair (remember Boy George?), big fashion (ah, yes, Amazonian shoulder pads) and even bigger earrings. I recall encountering a colleague in the hallway at work one day, feeling pretty snappy, bedecked as I was with a pair of my favorite gold-wire earrings. He took one glance my way and sniped, ”Wow, how’d you get those hamster wheels to stay attached to your earlobes?”.
Ah, yes, pretty much everything from the 1980s was excessive and self-indulgent. And the food? Oh, my, the food. . . .
The 1980s were epitomized by everything rich, from Gordon Gekko to Double-Chocolate-Hazelnut-Caramel-Cream Cheesecake. Foods were elaborate and multi-layered, and nobody ever worried about saturated fat, cream, too much red meat, organic, or whether the tiramisu was made with whole-grain ladyfingers. No one had ever heard of Omega 3s, let alone ingested them, and restaurants were just getting their fingers wet with the new food architecture that mandated aesthetics over taste. In those days, I’d spend hours cooking and baking for dinner parties, multiple courses and desserts that could, on their own, drain the stock of an entire dairy farm for a day.
One of the best-selling cookbooks of the time was The Silver Palate Cookbook, by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. Two regular New York gals who’d made a name for themselves by operating one of the most successful little gourmet shops in the city’s history, these women finally collaborated on a cookbook and were instantly rewarded with an overwhelming, almost cult-like following.
Like most of my friends, I possess a well-worn copy of the maroon and white-covered tome, its edges fraying a little and pages splotched with grease stains. From the side, my book appears to have donned a jagged, fringed winter scarf, as little strips of sticky-notes, marking recipes I wished to try, peek out from almost every page. One in particular, Chicken Marbella, was cooked so many times that I had to replace the sticky note on more than one occasion.
Well, for some reason, while I lay supine in bed for ten days, my mind kept wandering back to that darned Chicken Marbella. Maybe I was a little delirious; maybe the muscle relaxants brought with them delusions of poultry; or maybe I was just ravenous since I couldn’t get up to feed myself, subsisting on the meager, dried-out muffin the HH left on the bed each morning before he trotted off to work. Whatever the catalyst, I craved that dish. So, as soon as I was up and about, I pulled out my trusty copy of The Silver Palate, and set about adapting.
The original recipe turned out to be slightly different from what I remembered (in my idealized version, it was aromatic with a variety of Moroccan spices, rather than the lone oregano it does contain), but it was still alluring. Certain that quinoa would partner perfectly with the other ingredients, and after a little tinkering, I came up with this recipe.
I must tell you, this was astonishingly good. Next time, I’ll begin with a little more quinoa and chickpeas, as the original marinade was aimed at 4 chickens (I’ve adjusted the recipe, below, accordingly). As in the original dish, the unconventional combination of baked prunes and olives is spectacular, and the quinoa provides a perfect base to soak up and then showcase the flavorful marinade. Even if you’re not normally a fan of prunes, I think you will enjoy them here.
I love this dish as a main course casserole, but the HH still yearns for the chicken and prefers this as a side dish. He ate it, sighing, wishing aloud that if only we’d met in the 1980s when I was still throwing elaborate dinner parties with dishes like Chicken Marbella or some excessively rich cheesecake, he could have sampled the “real” recipe.
But of course, that would never have happened. Even if, by some weird karmic commingling of our (then) diametrically opposed lifestyles, we had actually met back then, the HH would have taken one glance at my bouffant hairdo, while I took one glance at his erstwhile “business associates,” and we would both have run screaming in opposite directions. It wasn’t until the end of the 90s, after having both matured considerably, that fate ultimately brought us together with a coup de foudre. . . followed, inevitably, by our current calm, somewhat predictable, and rather domestic existence.
Amazing, isn’t it, what changes just one decade can bring?
Slightly sweet, slightly salty, and warmly spiced, this dish is a delectable treat. Because it is rather rich and filling, if served as a main course, a simple, light salad would be the perfect accompaniment.
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) dried oregano
1 tsp. (5 ml.) coriander
3 Tbsp. (45 ml.) red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3/4-1 cup (250 ml.) prunes, to your taste
1/2-3/4 cup mixed pitted olives, to your taste
3 Tbsp. (45 ml.) capers, with juice
3 bay leaves
1/3 cup (80 ml.) Sucanat or brown sugar
1/2 cup (125 ml.) white wine (I used an Australian Chardonnay)
Preheat oven to 325F (175 C). Grease a tagine (clay baking dish), a ceramic casserole, or rectangular cake pan.
Combine all ingredients in the casserole or pan, and cover. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes, then stir and check liquid levels. If the quinoa isn’t yet cooked and it looks like the liquid is almost completely absorbed, add another 1/2 cup water (I found that using more vegetable broth made the mixture too salty for my taste). Cover again and return to the oven for another 20 minutes.
Check again. Continue to add water, 1/4 cup at a time, baking for 10-minute intervals, until the quinoa is fully cooked and all liquid is absorbed. Serve hot. Makes 4 main servings or 6 side dish servings.