[Have you been over to yesterday's post to enter the giveaway yet? Heather is giving away a full series of her online cooking classes--that's 24 classes!! Plus bonus materials galore. Go ahead and enter--but then come back here for this fantastic recipe!]
[These burgers were so good, I actually tried to learn PicMonkey for them! What do y'all think--too basic? Yea or Nay to the superimposed caption?]
Although Toronto is renowned as a multicultural city, one of the few culinary chasms is Mexican food. Oh, sure, there are Mexican restaurants here and there, but they are far outnumbered by Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Malaysian, Thai, Hungarian, Ethiopian, Fusion, and about 47 other cuisines I can’t think of at the moment. Then again, since Toronto is pretty much across the continent (about 3700 kilometers or 2300 miles) from Mexico, the scarcity makes some sense.
When The HH and I were first dating, we seemed to land at one particular Mexican place called Hernando’s Hideaway fairly often. Dim, cavernous, and located below street level, it’s one of those “great place to meet a paramour” dive-cum-bars that’s frequented by univesity students, coworkers on Thursday evening, out-of-towners, and. . . .the HH and me. It was the type of establishment where the quality of the food is often masked by the poor visibility, like a stop sign that suddenly seems to jump out at you if you drive in a snowstorm.
The HH and I, however, loved it there. We’d sit in a just-wiped vinyl booth beside the dark, unreflective walnut paneled walls, gazing at each other with newfound infatuation as we shared fully loaded nachos with guacamole, refried beans smothered in cheese, burritos, carafes of intensely dark red wine (ah! I remember the days of wine. . . ), and whatever else struck our fancy. Despite the dim surroundings (perhaps it was the starry look in our eyes that illuminated the tabletop), we’d savor every mouthful. Of course, none of it was authentic–bordering on fast-food, in fact–and we’d likely turn our noses up at the fare today. But back then, it served to ignite a love of Tex Mex cuisine (and got our own romance moving along in the process).
[My burger, with dijon, sauerkraut, sprouts and sriracha on a gluten-free bun.]
I don’t usually post Mexican dishes precisely because I have so little experience in that area, but these burgers are a bit of a fusion dish that evoked a pleasing taste of the southwest right here in my wintery Toronto kitchen. This is one of three burgers that Heather offers in her cooking classes (a full series of which I am giving away here!). These burgers were incredibly easy and quick to prepare, and I loved that they were baked rather than fried (though Heather does offer instructions for pan-frying, too).
The hardest part was waiting for them to cook, as the aroma of browning onion and chili wafted through the kitchen. Once done, they provided a perfect sandwich filling with a crispy exterior and moist, robust inside. Not overly spicy, they were nonetheless incredibly flavorful. I enjoyed mine in a gluten free bun from Aidan’s; the HH used a wholegrain bun and added a sprinkling of cheese over his sauerkraut and sprouts.
As we munched away happily, the conversation went something like this:
Ricki: How do you like it?
HH: Oh these are pretty good [chew chew]. Actually, these are really tasty [chomp, chomp]. You know, these are delicious! I really like these [masticate, masticate]. You should make these again! [Gets up to serve himself another--bun, cheese, sprouts and all.]
Well, whenever I hear the triumvirate of “good, tasty, delicious” from the otherwise reticent HH, I know I’ve got a winner on my hands!
Whether or not you’ve liked Tex Mex food in the past, I hope you give these burgers a try. They’re a perfect quick dinner that may just ignite a little spark of North American-Mexican fusion love in you, too.
Spicy Black Bean Burgers
reprinted with permission from Healthy Eating Starts Here
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (14 oz can, or 1/2 cup dried beans fully cooked)
1-2 tsp chili powder1/4 tsp sea salt or Herbamere, to taste
The beans must be fully cooked before you begin. Soak them overnight (8 hours) in lots of water, then drain and rinse. Add enough water to cover them by 2 inches, and gently boil them with NO salt. You can add a bit of kombu (seaweed) to the cooking water while they boil for improved digestibility. Black beans will take about 1-2 hours to cook. If you’re using canned beans, just drain and rinse them. If you can find a can that doesn’t use salt, that’s ideal. The burgers will have better texture if you let the beans dry out a bit in a strainer.
You can either pulse the vegetables and parsley in a food processor, then add the beans to lightly pulse, or mash the beans and stir in the grated/chopped veggies if you don’t have a food processor. A blender won’t work because it needs liquid to puree.
Stir in the nut/seed butter and spices (or pulse in the food processor) to combine, then the rolled oats. You may want to add more nut/seed butter for stickiness or rolled oats for texture and dryness. Taste for seasoning, and add salt to bring the flavors together.
Form the mix into burger shapes. Lay them on a baking sheet (ideally lined with parchment paper so they don’t stick), and bake for 30-40 minutes at 300-350 degrees F.
You can also fry the burgers to cook them more quickly. Add a bit of oil to the pan and cook about 10 minutes on the first side. Flip, and cook another 5-7 minutes.
[Note: I am an affiliate for these cooking classes. If you purchase the classes by clicking through a link on this blog, I will receive a small commission, which will go back into maintaining this site.]
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[Sometimes, you just want a dish that's quick and easy--no fuss. I've decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly or else is so simple to make that no recipe is required. Here's today's "Flash in the Pan." (For other FitP recipes, see "Categories" at right).]
[Just a friendly reminder: today is the LAST DAY to enter the four-book giveaway! Check out three fabulous cookbooks plus a wonderful literary coffee table book here. And enter! Then come back tomorrow to see who won!]
I’m aware that a common term for seaweed (ie, arame, nori, dulse, wakame, etc.) today is “sea veggies,” but every time I hear the term, I think of that old joke. Then again, there’s nothing wrong with eating sea veggies!
Seaweed is actually a stellar source of Omega 3s, those essential fatty acids (EFAs) that help feed the brain, decrease inflammation, prevent chronic degenerative diseases such as arthritis and heart disease (and even lupus), and basically just keep us healthy. Because our bodies can’t manufacture EFAs on their own, we need to eat foods that contain them. For many people, salmon or fish oil is a key source, but those of us following vegan diets need to find other means. For many years, flax seeds were the stars in the Omega 3 arena, but recently chia has taken over that first place position (walnuts are also great sources).
But guess what? All those salmon and fishies people consume for the high Omega 3 content have to get their O-3s somewhere, too–and their source for EFAs is–seaweed!
The toasted nori craze has been around for a while, but I came rather late to the bandwagon (or, in this case, submarine). I was delighted to be a guest this week on the Rogers TV show In the Know with Julia Suppa. Our topic was “The Problem with Sugar,” and as an example of a sugar-free snack, I brought some toasted Sea Veggie bites with me. The ones I brought were store-bought, but I knew they wouldn’t be hard to make at home. So I pulled out my nori and got baking!
I consulted this recipe for inspiration, but in the end made my version quite differently (except for folding the nori in half before baking). Compared to standard sea veggie crisps, these strips are thicker and crunchier because of their double thickness. I will warn you, though, they are incredibly addictive! It’s very easy to eat the entire batch on your own.
In fact, if you see these nori snacks, you may just eat these nori snacks–all of them. Well, there’s nothing wrong with getting some extra Omega-3s, right?
Quick Spicy, Salty, Crunchy Nori Snacks (ACD all stages)
I originally wanted to make these with wasabi powder, but realized we were out, so I used Thai Green Curry Paste. It worked beautifully. For the spice element, you could use hot pepper sauce, Sriracha, hot chili oil, or another type of curry paste that suits your fancy. NOTE: You need a pastry brush for this recipe.
1-1/2 heaping tsp (8 ml) Thai green curry paste (I used Thai Kitchen)*
9-10 sheets nori (the kind you buy to make sushi at home)
Preheat oven to 250F (120 C). Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment, or spray with nonstick spray.
In a small bowl, mix together the curry paste and oil until you have a smooth paste. Add the Bragg’s and water and whisk until well combined.
Take the nori sheets one at a time and lay out on a cutting board. Fold in half along the long edge, then unfold. Using a pastry brush, brush one half of the inside with the curry paste mixture, then fold the nori back in half to cover it. Brush the top of the rectangle, flip it over and brush the bottom so that both outside surfaces are coated. Cut the nori into 6 relatively even strips (cutting perpendicular to the fold). Gently lift the strips and place on the cookie sheet in a single layer (they can be close together as long as they’re not overlapping). Continue until all of the curry mixture is finished (you should have enough for 9 or 10 nori sheets).
Bake in preheated oven 15-20 minutes, rotating the sheets about halfway through, until the strips are dry, beginning to curl up on the edges, and almost brittle (they can have a bit of flexibility left in the middle; this will dry out as they cool).
Remove the strips to a plate to cool. Store in an airtight bag or container for up to 3 days. Makes 27-30 nori crisps, about 3 servings.
* For ACD Stage One, use about 1/4 tsp (1 ml, or to taste) cayenne pepper instead of the curry paste.
[Voilà--homemade, veggie-based "beef" jerky. Well, it looks like beef. . . ]
The other day, I was bemoaning the fact that there are a bunch of coolbloggerconferences coming up this spring—none of which I’m attending. Then I noticed a tweet for five (five!) scholarships to the upcoming Eat, Write, Retreat event. I was about to kick up my heels and dance a little jig when I noticed that the scholarships were sponsored by Canadian Beef.
Pouting, I fired off a twitter retort: “Too bad you have to eat meat to qualify.”
Well, couldn’t you have just knocked me over with a steak knife when I spied the following response: “not necessarily. . . . . Would love to see your entry !:)”
I quickly re-read the contest rules and discovered that I could still enter by writing about a memory of Canadian Beef. And really, who better to write about “memories of beef” than the daughter of a butcher, someone who ate beef virtually every day of her childhood and adolescence—and who now lives with a meat-eater? Why, none other than moi, of course!
I just couldn’t resist. So here’s my “Best Memories of Beef from My Childhood” entry.
Hoping to see y’all at Eat, Write, Retreat!
* * * * * * * * * * * *
[My dad and me, circa 2000, when he was 78.]
When I was a child, there was never any doubt about who was the boss in our family. With one disappointed glance, my father could cause my heart to ache for days. Conversely, he could also spark days of elation, my heart soaring, when I knew he was pleased with something I’d done.
More than anything, my father was defined by the work he did. He spent six days a week at his little butcher shop on Jean Talon West in the Park Extension area of Montreal, leaving for the store long before we children even woke for school and returning after the rest of the family had finished our dinners. On the odd morning when I couldn’t sleep and the clinking of his coffee mug drew me in the direction of the kitchen, I’d stumble onto a scene of my dad, his windbreaker already zipped up, hunched over the kitchen table sipping his tea and snapping at his toast before he grabbed the lunch bag my mother had prepared and rushed out the door.
On Thursdays and Fridays, when the store was open until 8:00 PM, my younger sister and I were often already in bed when he finally returned home. The other nights, he’d arrive between 6:30 and 8:00 PM, his pant legs smeared with dried blood and the smell of sweat on his shirt, sawdust still clinging to his shoes. He’d go straight to the kitchen table, where my mother dished out the remnants of whatever we’d already eaten for dinner—a dried-up hamburger, veal chops, salmon patties and “potato boats,” or, if his stomach were acting up (as it often did when he felt stress), a bowl of rice and warm milk with honey.
I began to resent that my father never seemed to have much time for us kids when he was home. I learned at a young age that if I wanted to interact with him any day but Sunday, I had to see him at work. Since his store was en route between our house in St. Laurent and the Jean Talon Metro (in those days, the gateway to downtown shopping), my best friends Gemini I, Gemini II and I often dropped in at dad’s store on the way home after a day spent browsing at Simpsons, Eatons, and Ogilvie’s. As eleven or twelve year-olds in those days, the hour-long bus and subway ride was a huge adventure, one our parents allowed without any 21st-Century angst, and a short pit stop at the butcher shop made the trip even more palatable in our minds.
[Jerky in the making: about halfway there.]
As soon as we pushed open the heavy glass door and the bell suspended above it announced our arrival, my father would stop what he was doing, wipe his palms on his apron and point in my direction. “Ah, it’s Rick!” he’d declare, like an emcee calling out the team captain skating onto the ice at the Forum. Then he began to crow. He would boast to whomever was around—Mrs. Lubov (one of the rich customers) as she placed her weekend order; or Vasili, the owner of the Greek bakery down the way; or Joe, the hobo who always seemed to be sitting on the plastic stool in the corner no matter the day or time, as if he were a permanent store mascot in the window. “This is my middle daughter,” my father would say, “she’s going to be a Professor.” The customers nodded and smiled, the way parents do when their three year-old proffers an imaginary teacup.
Within seconds, my friends and I were ushered to the back of the store behind the counter, between the freezer and wooden cutting block where the floor was cushioned with sawdust to absorb drips, grease and bloodstains from the meat. We knew the drill: we sat quietly on the old kitchen chairs against the wall until the store emptied out, whether it took 5, 10 or 25 minutes for my father to finish up with any customers who were waiting. Then he turned his attention to us.
“Okay, so what do you want to eat?” he’d ask with audible delight, as our eyes lit up with anticipation. He’d grab two Kaiser rolls from under the counter. Gemini I always asked for something unassuming like sliced turkey, but I’d go for my favorite, Montreal Smoked meat (made from Canadian Beef, of course). My father would slice the hunk of preternaturally pink flesh, its outside sheathed in a coating of slick black peppercorns softened by the smoking process, the thin sheets sliding out from beneath the swirling blade and onto his outstretched palm. With the rhythm of a dancer, he’d turn his hand over and slap each slice onto the open roll until he’d achieved a pile almost as thick as one of my school textbooks. Then he’d march into the freezer and pull out the jar of mustard he kept there for his own lunches, smear the meat with the yellow topping, and replace the rest of the roll over it.
[My dad on his 89th birthday, last year.]
The sandwiches were always too big for our gaping mouths no matter how wide we tried to open them, so we’d withdraw a few slices and eat them plain before turning back to the rest of the meal. When we were done, if we were still hungry (and even if we weren’t), my father would treat each of us to a piece of karnatzel, the long, cigar-shaped, spicy salami that hung suspended from hooks above the meat counter, drying out in the air and sweating drops of pink-tinged oil on the ground beneath them. With one snap of the thin log, we were each handed a hunk of the stuff to savor for another few minutes. The meat was crunchy, chewy and spicy, and I loved it back then.
With thanks and a pat on the back of the head, we headed out to the bus and the long ride home.
What I didn’t realize in those days, of course, was that my father’s absence at home grew from his desire to provide for his family, and in the store, he was expressing his love for me in the only way he knew how—by giving me food, the spoils of his labor. When I arrived for my occasional visits at the shop, I offered him the chance not only to show me off to his customers, but also to show me how he spent his days making a living.
Even though I don’t eat meat any more, I miss the times when I could drop in on my dad and observe him in his element; where he felt confident, efficient, capable and strong. These days, he struggles to regain his former vigor as his body ages even while his mind remains sharp and vibrant. I watch my elderly dad slowly shuffling across the hallway from bedroom to kitchen, where he hunches over the same kitchen table of my childhood, slowly cutting his dinner into small, manageable pieces.
These days, beef is scarce on his own plate, too. But the memories of those idyllic afternoons in the shop, when my father was still the boss of our house and king of the butcher shop, will forever remain in my heart. And with that memory, it still soars.
[Wouldn't you just love a bite?]
** For all you non-Ontario residents out there, the popular President’s Choice brand offers a line of sauces called “Memories Of. . . “
Veggie-Based, Gluten Free, Soy Free ”Beef” Jerky
This recipe is my tribute to the karnatzel in my dad’s shop, with a taste and texture very much like the spicy, chewy meat I remember. Don’t be deterred by the long ingredient list–this comes together very quickly and then sits in the oven while you can do other things.
These strips would make a great snack on the road, as, once they’re dried, they will keep for a long time. Having made this recipe twice now, I am convinced that it would be even better in a dehydrator. However, if you don’t have one, this oven method still produces a pretty stellar result.
1 medium beet, peeled and cut in chunks (about 4 oz/110 g unpeeled or 3.5 oz/95 g peeled)
1 large carrot, peeled and cut in chunks(about 3.5 oz or 95 g unpeeled, or 3 oz/85 g peeled)
1/2 small onion, cut in chunks
1 large clove garlic
2 Tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
1 Tbsp (15 ml) Bragg’s liquid aminos, tamari or soy sauce (use coconut aminos for a soy-free version)
1/4 tsp (1 ml) paprika (or smoked paprika, if you don’t use liquid smoke)
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt, or less, to your taste
Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C). Line a 9-inch (22.5 cm) square pan and a cookie sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until very smooth–there should be no pieces visible. It will take some time, about 5 minutes, and you will have to scrape the sides several times, but eventually the veggies will release their juices and it will come together in a sort of paste, like this:
Spread the paste over the parchment in the pan, taking care not to extend the mixture beyond the edges of the parchment. Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is dry. Remove from oven and lower heat to 325 F ( C).
Invert a wooden (or other heatproof) cutting board over the pan and flip the jerky and parchment onto it. Peel off the parchment and cut the square into strips about 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide (the crinkly texture you see in the photos is due to the parchment paper wrinkling as the jerky mixture bakes). Place them on the parchment-lined cookie sheet and return to the oven for about 30 more minutes, until the strips are dried out but still flexible. If some of the strips dry out faster than others, remove those first and allow the rest to keep baking until they all reach the desired texture. Allow to cool completely before eating. Store, covered in the refrigerator, up to 3 days. Makes about 8 strips.
[Warning: Extra, extra, extra-long post. Feel free to portion it out in smaller doses. . . or simply take your time and revel in the sunshine.]
[Nope, no alligators in this Florida body of water. (And no, that's not the HH at the pool!)]
Um, so, yes, I have been rather MIA the past week or so (I’m referring, of course, to the established acronym for “missing in action,” and not the edgy, avante-garde, new-mama songstress of the same initials). Well, a few days before Valentine’s Day, I simply couldn’t stand this cursed frosty landscape a moment longer; and, since I am on holidays from the college at the moment, I entreated the HH to join me for a spontaneous (albeit short) junket to the same place we sojourned last February: Sunny Florida!
Unlike last year’s pitfall-filled trip, however, this year everything ran smoothly. I made sure to leave my threatening keychain at home and packed my suspcious toothpaste in my checked baggage, so we breezed through the security checkpoints; our plane took off and landed on time, with a turbulence-free flight in between; our hotel was lovely; and we got to spend a great deal of time with my cousins Marketing Guru and CBC in Sarasota (the former lives there and the latter was visitng). Even the weather cooperated after an initial protestation and presented us with sunny, temperate days (in the low 70s F, or 22-24 C).
While I won’t bore you with every little activity and event as I did last year, I thought I could encapsulate the trip in a few key photos and captions. So here goes:
Who knew that the Tropicana factory was in Tampa? As we reclined in our Airport Taxi being transported from Tampa to our hotel in Sarasota, our driver, Roderick, provided an ongoing (and constant) narrative about the scenery and locale. In addition to the Tropicana trivia, we also learned that most homes in the area have automated sprinkler systems to water their yards at night, when it’s cheaper; that Walgreen’s and CVS are the two most popular drugstores in Florida; that driving from New York City to Miami takes about 24 hours if you drive nonstop with two drivers (one sleeping as the other drives); and that one of the biggest Pythons ever found in the Florida Everglades had eyes bigger than its belly when it tried to eat a fully grown alligator; when the alligator got stuck, it exploded and they both died. Oh, and that Roderick broke up with his girlfriend the second he found out she owned a pet snake–just walked out of the apartment and never looked back.
[Would this breakfast sustain your for more than 12 hours? Me, neither.]
Because our plane was taking off at 10:00 AM, we had to be at the airport by 8:00, which meant leaving our house at 7:30. Since The Girls had to be dropped off at doggie daycare by 7:00 AM (“Mum, we like it there and all, but we really didn’t appreciate having to stay for three full days. . . they just don’t dole out the treats the way you do“), we were looking at a wakeup time of 5:30 AM. It seemed early, but not impossible. When the hour arrived, however, I was so rushed I had no time for breakfast and blindly grabbed the last (plain, unfrosted) whoopie pie I’d made the week before as sustenance on the way to the airport. All I can say is, “Foolish, foolish girl.” Of course, it hadn’t occurred to me that there would be absolutely NOTHING I could eat at the airport; I assumed I’d be able to buy an apple, or some nuts, or something.
For some reason, though, the airport restaurant offered only pre-cut fruit plates that featured mostly melons (not allowed on the ACD); I just couldn’t justify paying $7.95 for two pieces of pineapple when I’d be throwing away the rest of the fruit. And there were no plain bags of nuts in sight (only sugar-coated–another no-no). Ah, well, no worries; I knew we’d be landing by 1:20, so I reasoned I’d buy something once we arrived at the hotel, around 3:00 PM.
As it turned out, by the time we met up with Roderick, drove to the hotel, checked in, picked up a rental car and got back to the hotel, it was after 5:00 PM.
Which meant I hadn’t eaten for almost 12 hours.
Before we called my cousins, before we unpacked our bags, before we looked through the tourist pamplets, before we marvelled at the fact we no longer needed our coats, before we even used the washroom–yes, before anything else–we drove to Whole Foods so that I could stave off starvation (okay, I’m being overly dramatic; really, it was so that I could stave off fainting from hunger and crumpling in a heap in the middle of the hotel lobby). Once there, I bought a trayful of prepared dishes (curry quinoa salad, raw kale salad, garlic tofu and baked beets), a celery-apple-beet-ginger juice and a wheatgrass shot, and downed them all before I even remembered to snap a photo. Then (and only then), we proceeded to the hotel dining room, where the HH had his dinner and I sipped, quite calmly, on green tea.
Note to self: no matter how late you need to stay up the night before a trip, be sure to pack a bag of food that you can eat to take with you.
III. My Relatives Make Great Tour Guides.
[St. Armand's Circle, looking very un-circular.]
Despite a short (3-day) trip, my relatives made sure the HH and I saw a lot of the surrounding sites. On our first afternoon, we were taken to St. Armand’s Circle, an upscale shopping area where “epicurean delights tantalize your taste buds.” We stopped for a relaxing lunch at Venezia, where we ate pizza (everyone else) and salad (me). We later embarked on a walking tour of the Sarasota downtown district, where we learned that the library looks like an opera house, there are sculptures dotting the urban landscape, strangers will let you pat their dogs if you’re in canine withdrawal, the actual opera house itself is fairly nondescript, squirrels in Florida are angular and skinny unlike our fat, round ones here (they don’t need to fatten up for the winter–there is no winter!!) and, according to my cousin, Sarasota is the cultural hub of the entire state.
Our last full day started out at a local deli where my cousins shared a huge pastrami plate, the HH munched on a Reuben, and I scooped up hummus with carrot sticks. My cousin had actually chosen the place because they promised a “gluten free menu” which turned out to be a typed list of things on the menu that were NOT gluten free as a warning to those celiacs among us. (Bizarrely, the list included “Rice” under the “Do Not Eat” category; when I questioned the hostess about this, she noted that it referred to “wild rice.” “But wild rice is also gluten-free,” I countered. At that point, she wrinkled her nose, pretended she didn’t hear me, and began to search for our table.)
[Not a bad place to spend an afternoon.]
After lunch, my cousins drove us around the Siesta Key area as the HH and I gawked at the stunning homes on the water and then strolled along Siesta Key Beach, one of the most appealing beaches I’ve ever seen, with sand as fine and white as talcum. We strolled under the soothing sun beside the gurgling tide and relaxed into our holiday.
IV. Sarasota is a Cultural Hub; but Sadly, Not a Culinary Hub.
[Our hotel breakfast table: three kinds of artificial sweetener and only one kind of real sugar. HH, I think we're not in Toronto any more. . . ]
After my success finding so many fabulous ACD options last year in Miami, I assumed I’d have just as easy a time this year. Well, you know what they say about those of us who assume. Perhaps it was because I was in the company of omnivores who love their meat; perhaps the HH and I simply didn’t find the “right” restaurants there (and many thanks to those of you who proffered suggestions–which I wasn’t able to frequent). After the first night’s Whole Foods escapade, I made do with the few options available wherever we happened to be. In our hotel, where breakfast was included each day, I was able to pick out roasted potatoes (one day, they were sweet potatoes), fresh pineapple, and green tea. It wasn’t until the last morning there that it occurred to me to tote along my own accoutrements to add to the pot of cooked oatmeal, thereby re-creating a familiar favorite, like so:
[Behold the only food photo I snapped during the entire holiday: cooked oatmeal with almond butter (thanks, Justin's individual packets) and my own, always-with-me, stevia (thanks, NuNaturals).]
In fact, the best “restaurant” meal of the trip turned out to be the takeout Chinese my cousin brought home for Valentine’s Day, after all the restaurants he tried were booked. The four of us shared food out of cardboard boxes (well, we spooned it onto plates first) and gabbed for a few hours. Perhaps not the most romantic V-Day, but one spent with three people I love. And we were in Florida, away from the snow, ice, cold, wind, frost, snow, slush, grey skies, and snow.
Well, that was enough to warm my heart.
V. There’s No Place Like (the food at) Home.
[The Girls getting back into their post-Florida groove. ("We missed your treats--I mean, we missed YOU, Dad!)]
While we had a fantastic time with relatives and sunshine galore, one thing I learned from this trip is that Florida squirrels are skinnyyou should always wear sunscreenPythons’ eyes are bigger than their stomachs we are really blessed with fabulous food options in Toronto.
And so, in honor of a dish that I often order at a favorite restaurant here in town, and one that we make at home all the time, I present you with today’s recipe for Pasta Arrabiata. It has nothing to do with Florida, per se, but I sorely missed being able to order something that is both delicious and which I could safely eat at a restaurant while away during the past week.
The pasta recipe also introduces a new feature here on DDD: Kitchen Classics! So often, we in the food blog world spend most of our time seeking out novel or unusual recipes, those we consider “blog worthy” or those that will stand out from the throngs of dishes being highlighted on other food blogs. We sometimes overlook those recipes we make all the time–the “favorites” or “go-to” recipes we turn to when we want something comforting, or consistent, or reliable.
I consider as “classic” any recipe for a dish that’s common across most of the continent, for which most people have one “favorite” recipe in their repertoire. Everyone has their own favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie, right? Or how about a favorite Guacamole? Or Chili? Those are the classics!
This Arrabiata has been in the DDD lineup for quite some time–I seem to recall cooking it for the HH on one of our starry-eyed early dates–and we tend to have it at least once or twice per month. You can cook up the sauce in a jiffy while the pasta boils, and have dinner on the table in under 30 minutes. The result is a lively tomato sauce that won’t weigh you down, yet is thick enough to cling well to your pasta. The addition of red bell pepper provides a subtext of sweetness that’s a perfect counterpoint to the spicy chili pepper. It couldn’t be easier–and it always delivers a tasty, satisfying and quick dinner. And there’s no need to fly in an airplane to get it.
Ah, it’s good to be home. . . .
Classic Pasta Arrabiata (adapted from Moosewood New Classics): ACD Stage 2 and beyond
No matter how often I eat this, I am always happy to have another dish of Pasta Arrabiata for dinner. The sauce is a perfect blend of tomato, onion, pepper and spice, with an ascerbic undertone from the tomato and a hint of sweetness from the pepper. It also works well with additions such as broccoli, mushrooms (if you can eat them), or faux meat.
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp (15 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
1 tsp (5 ml) dried red pepper flakes
2 small or 1 large sweet red bell pepper, chopped
1 large can (28 ounces or 450-500 ml) diced tomatoes, with juice
1 large can (28 ounces or 450-500 ml) crushed (puréed) tomatoes
fine sea salt and pepper, to taste
3 Tbsp (45 ml) chopped fresh basil
enough cooked pasta of your choice for 4-6 servings (I used rice rotini)
In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat; add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onion is browned and slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the pepper flakes and red pepper and continue to cook for another 2 minutes, until the pepper softens. Add the tomatoes and heat until the sauce begins to simmer; lower heat and cook, uncovered, until thickened, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the basil; cook until heated through, another 5 minutes or so. Serve over pasta. Makes 4-6 servings. May be frozen.
Before I even think about sharing this recipe (see, I’m learning: some things are more important than food!), I want to send out a heartfelt “thank you” to everyone who left comments on my previous post and even to those who read it and chose not to comment. This is why I love the food blogging community: there is an incredible wealth of knowledge, wisdom, good will and compassion here that I, quite honestly, have never encountered in such abundance in any other realm in my life. If the knowledge that our struggles–whether food-oriented or otherwise–are shared by others can help even one person, then we can feel as if we are doing something worthwhile with out time (or our blog). And now that my New Year’s whinge is complete, you can all relax–I promise not to whine (well, not too vociferously, anyway) again until 2012.
As lovers of spicy vittles, the HH and I are often drawn to foods from other cuisines than our own (after all, it’s not often you find high-octane poutine or fiery-hot Scottish bannock). In the part of town in which we live, there’s an abundance of Asian restaurants and we have, indeed, frequented most of them. But despite the multicultural norm in Toronto, there’s a paucity of Latin American food in my neighborhood.
As it turns out, my closest connection to Mexico currently is my crush on Cesar Millan (and really, who doesn’t have a crush on that whispering canine tamer?). Previously, I had to rely on Hernando’s Hideaway, a fairly cheesy haunt that served the HH and me canned refried beans, stale tacos and lots of beer when we went there at the outset of our relationship. Not the best reflections of authentic dishes, to be sure.
But I’ve been searching for great Mexican fare ever since I was invited to a colleague’s home for dinner almost 20 years ago. She was my office mate at the time and I was in awe of her. Brilliant, beautiful and gregarious, Ms. Mate had written her PhD in Italian literature, possessed a singing voice like Carrie Underwood’s, bore a striking resemblance to Tricia Helfer and–this one irked me the most–had lived all over the world before settling in Toronto, Canada in her early 30s. (Shortly after we met, Ms. Mate was bitten by the peripatetic bug again and along with her then-hubby and their infant, moved to Vancouver to be near the ocean. Last I heard, she was performing in the country music circuit in between her gigs as a celebrated life coach). Intimidated, much?
One of the places Ms. Mate had resided before relocating in Canada was Oaxaca, and she’d mastered the cuisine (or should that be cocina?) while over there. Our dinner that night involved a variety of authentic dishes, all of which, if I remember correctly, were hot enough to sear the epidermis on your lips (a cheap way to achieve that “plumped-up” look for which so many starlets dish out megabucks, come to think of it).
At that time, the early 90s, Madonna’s influence was still at its apex; in other words, “lingerie-as-clothing” was the hottest trend for women. Ms. Mate greeted us at the door wearing a strapless black lace corset with heart-shaped cups that laced up the back. No shirt. No jacket. (She did sport a pair of slinky silk slacks, however). I know the attire was supposed to be sexy, but for me it was eerily reminiscent of my mother’s old Mah-Jong pal, Ms. Gabor, who regularly removed her shirt at Maj games in our kitchen).
Ms. Mate’s most astonishing party trick, still just as sharp in my memory today as it was that evening, was when she lifted a fresh whole jalapeno from its bowl, held it aloft by the stem, and then all in one go eased it into her mouth (how Madonna-like of her!), chewing contemplatively as each of the guest’s eyes began to water merely from the thought of how spicy it must have been. But to Ms. Mate, who’d long before become innured to such heat in Oaxaca, it was no more unusual than munching on a pretzel.
Needless to say, we were served mole that evening (with chicken in it, if I recall correctly) and while we all loved the complex flavors and nuanced seasonings, it was probably far too spicy for my palate at the time.
I got the idea to try out my own mole after reading a post by Saveur who made an interesting squash and cranberry bean (also known as borlotti beans) version. But we had a brick of tofu in the house that was nearing its “best before” date, and I thought I’d use that instead (though this recipe would be equally delicious with beans, I am sure). Besides, after a flat-out rejection of the stuff, the HH has deigned to consume tofu on occasion once more, and I wanted to strike while the (cast) iron was hot.
This recipe is adapted from–of all places–one by Paula Deen, primarily because she included the word ”quick” in the title. In the end, I went for a more conventional approach and did simmer the sauce for an hour, allowing it to thicken considerably (as true mole should) and for the tofu to absorb as much of the flavors as possible. I love the bitter undertones from the chocolate and the rich, smoky sauce spiked with cumin, chili and cinnamon, which is a perfect foil for the bland rice beneath.
This dish isn’t quite as white-hot as the one made by Ms. Mate, which likely renders it less authentic, yet more of a crowd-pleaser, than hers. Then again, if you’re willing to perform the pepper trick in front of your friends, you can probably get away with as much–or as little–spice as you please.
It’s been a while since I’ve done a roundup of DDD recipes that readers have made, and I wanted to post this before January gets away with us! I love when readers make my recipes and tell me about it. If you’ve tried a DDD recipe in your own kitchen and I miss it here, please let me know about it in the comments and I’d be happy to add it next time. (Oh, and I’m still working on my new Blogroll update. . . if you missed it the first time, you can still leave your info on this post).
An easy version of the Mexican classic. While it takes time to simmer, this dish doesn’t require babysitting while it bubbles–just stir every once in a while and you can go about doing other things while the flavors intensify.
1 block (12 oz or 350 g) extra firm tofu (not the silken style)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp (30 ml) chili powder
1 tsp (5 ml) ground cumin
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp (1 ml) ground allspice
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) chili flakes
1 large can (19 oz or 560 ml) diced tomatoes
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small jalapeno pepper, minced
1-1/4 cups (300 ml) vegetable broth or stock
2 ounces (60 g) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
10-15 drops plain stevia liquid, optional
cooked brown basmati rice, for serving
3 Tbsp (45 ml) natural smooth almond butter
Cut the tofu into small cubes 1/2-1 inch (1.5-2.5 cm) big. Heat 1 Tbsp (15 ml) of the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat; add the tofu and cook until the cubes are browned on most sides. Remove tofu to a bowl.
Add the remaining 1 Tbsp oil to the pan along with the onion; sauté until the onion is translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and spices and continue to cook for a couple more minutes. Add the tomatoes, red pepper, jalapeno pepper, broth, chocolate and stevia. Stir to combine. When the sauce begins to bubble, lower heat, cover, and simmer for ten minutes.
Pour the mixture into a heatproof blender or food processor (in batches if necessary) and purée until smooth. Return to the pot along with the tofu cubes and bring to a simmer over medium heat; lower heat, cover and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick, up to an hour. Gently stir in the almond butter and continue to cook until heated through, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid scorching. Serve over rice. This is great accompanied by a green salad. Makes 4-6 servings. May be frozen.
* If you’re willing to forgo the chocolate–you can use carob instead–then this recipe is suitable for Phase 1.
[What I should have made for our Christmas dinner this year. . . . ]
What. . . is it December 27th, already?? Hope you’ve all had a wonderful holiday season so far! I must confess, the last few days have been among the laziest of my life. And you know what? It felt great!
So what have the HH, the Girls and I been up to since I last visited this space? Here’s a quick recap:
The Girls Express their Annoyance. The Girls posed for their 2010 Christmas card, and if all your comments are any indication, they clearly seemed peeved at having to don those costumes. Let’s just say I’ll never be another William Wegman. (“Mum, we weren’t annoyed so much as impatient. . . for our presents! Thanks for those treats we got! And can we have more of that white stuff? Oh, and who is that handsome Weimeraner in that photo?!”).
Start the Day Off Right. After sleeping in until we awoke naturally sans alarm, the HH and I bounded out of bed to open our gifts. And while they were polite enough not to disturb us while we slept, the Girls were certainly lively enough as soon as they confirmed we were awake:
["Elsie, play with me or I will eat you!"]
So, while the HH took the dogs for a trail walk, I set about making a hearty brunch to tide us over until dinnertime:
[These fabulous pancakes, topped with homemade sweet almond-coconut butter and plum sauces, with eggplant bacon (recipe coming soon).]
Best to Stick with Tradition, Even if It’s Non-Traditional. Those of you who’ve been reading DDD for a while will likely recall that our regular holiday tradition for the past few years has been an Indian feast, often shared with the CFO. Well, when my sister couldn’t make it this year, the HH proclaimed, “I want something traditional! I want TURKEY!”.
Regular readers will also know that the HH eats, well, everything. And as long as he prepares his own food, I don’t attempt to influence what he consumes. So off we went to get an organic turkey for him to cook. While he roasted his turkey, I prepared my new recipe for a holiday nutroast.
By 7:00 PM, dinner was finally served. Here’s my plate:
As I said, I shouldn’t have messed with our (non-traditional) tradition. While tasty enough, my nut roast was not what I’d call a success. I do have an inkling of how to improve it and will share as soon as I give it a try.
Turkey =Doggie Crack. The Girls, on the other hand, devoured their turkey scraps in no short order. This was the first time Chaser ever tasted turkey, and let me tell you, the crazed look it sparked in her eye was even more frenzied than usual. I got the stare pretty much the rest of the day.
[What was that white stuff, Mum? And can I please have some more?"]
And Elsie wasn’t immune, either:
[I've just got to be patient, and I'm sure there will be more turkey forthcoming. . . . "]
It’s Good to Chillax. I think that last week of school, frantic prepping for Christmas, buying a new car (so that the HH can have my old car, since his was totalled) and various and sundry other errands has wiped a goodly portion of my mind clean, sort of the way reformatting clears out your hard drive. I’ve felt pretty much incapable of any sustained thought or activity since Christmas morning, wandering around the past few days in a bit of a haze (albeit with a semi smile on my face and a very full belly), without much to say in this space. The HH is off work until the first week of January, so we’ll be spending quite a bit of time together.
["Life is so rough when you're waiting for turkey. . . *sigh*."]
Yesterday morning, for instance, the HH and I (after sleeping in yet again), spent most of the AM reading the entire newspaper, front to back, for the first time in months.
[The HH's coffee cup, and the news: freak east coast snowstorms and Boxing Day Deals.]
Then we proceeded to clean up the detritus from our Christmas dinner:
[The HH's wine glass, the morning after. Sadly, no wine for me this year. Damn you, ACD!]
We sat by the fireplace, sipped on coffee/matcha tea and listened to music (including my new Pink CD, a gift from the HH):
And now, after even more lounging about today, I finally feel ready to leap back in to cooking and blogging about recipes.
["Elsie, do you think we'll get any more turkey?"]
Sorry to say I won’t be sharing that nut roast recipe just yet.
In the meantime, here’s the recipe for the African Sweet Potato Stew I mentioned in this post, which some of you asked about. It’s a tried-and-true success that I’ve made many times in the past. It’s hearty, filling, with chunks of sweet potato and chickpeas bathed in a rich, creamy coconut milk gravy that’s infused with a variety of spices and the mineral-rich addition of collards.
Perhaps I should add it to the menu for next year’s Christmas feast.
The list of ingredients does seem long, but so much of this is spice that the actual prep time isn’t as much as you’d think. The recipe makes a huge vat of stew, so you can package and freeze it for later consumption, too.
1 Tbsp (15 ml) coconut or extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
1 large onion, chopped
1 thumb-size piece ginger, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, chipped
1/2 cup (120 ml) cilantro leaves, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored and chopped
1 small jalapeno pepper, minced (or use 1/2 tsp/1.5 ml chili flakes)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) ground cumin
1 tsp (5 ml) whole mustard seeds, brown or yellow
2 tsp (10 ml) ground coriander
1 tsp (5 ml) ground turmeric
1 tsp (5 ml) paprika
1/4 tsp (1 ml) cayenne pepper
1 large can (19 oz or 500 ml) diced tomatoes, drained (reserve the juice)
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes
2-3 medium white potatoes, chopped into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes
1 can (12 oz or 400 ml) coconut milk
1/3 cup (80 ml) natural smooth almond or peanut butter (use almond for ACD)
1 pound (500 g) collard greens, midribs removed and shredded
2 cups (480 ml) cooked chickpeas
Heat the oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat; add the onion, ginger, garlic and cilantro and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the red pepper, jalapeno, cumin, mustard seeds, corinder, trumeric, paprika and cayenne and cook a couple more minutes. Add the tomatoes, sweet potatoes, potatoes and coconut milk; cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes.
Place the almond butter in a small bowl or glass measuring cup and scoop about 1/2 cup of the liquid from the stew, adding it to the nut butter; mix well, until smooth. Pour the mixture back into the pot and blend it in. Add the collards and chickpeas and continue to cook until the greens are soft, another 5-10 minutes. If the sauce is too thin, allow to simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until desired thickness is reached. Serve over rice or cooked quinoa. Makes 6-8 servings. May be frozen.
*Or, ACD-Friendly Fast Food. Or, Intercultural Lasagna. Or, What to Do with those Nearly-Stale Nacho Chips.
Even though these days it takes me almost 15 minutes before I can stand up fully erect after first rolling out of bed (in which I sleep on my back, with 2 pillows under my knees so my spine can retain its proper curvature) in the morning; even though driving at night has become more and more an exercise in blinking and squinting than a convenient means to return home after a dinner out; even though I sometimes do a double take when walking by a mirror after thinking, “What the heck is my mother doing in there??”; even though my students perceive me more as a Nanny McPhee than a Sheba Hart–even though all these things are true, I still can’t help but feel as if, internally, I’m the same person I was in my 20s.
Getting older can really be a shock to the system, let me tell you. One of my class projects in nutrition school was to assess how sensory perception changes over time. Boy, was that ever a wakeup call! (Then again, it would have to be a much louder wakeup call if I were in my 80s). You see, for every year you age past, oh, about 18, each of your five senses diminishes. And the older you get, the more quickly and more dramatically they do so. (Are you depressed yet? Don’t worry, you will be–that’s more common when you’re older, too).
So, while we all may realize that sight and hearing fade with age (a 70 year old needs three times the light of a 20 year-old to see accurately–no wonder septuagenarians shouldn’t be driving!), most of us don’t really think about how our sense of taste diminishes as we grow older.
Well, the HH and I must be bordering on superannuation. (Okay, actually, it’s just the HH, but I didn’t want to make him to feel bad. That is, if he can still feel anything at his age).
I’ve noticed lately that the HH has started pronouncing my cooking ”not spicy enough” or “too bland” or “not flavorful enough” even when it seems fine to me (or is something that isn’t supposed to be spicy, like mock tuna or stroganoff. A recent exception was the vegan pasta carbonara, which he scarfed down anyway). Could it be that his taste buds are feeling a little exhausted after 50+ years of operation? Not sure. But I do know that what we eat has become more and more piquant over the years.
True, I’ve always enjoyed spicy eats, but my tolerance–and desire–for ramping up the heat has definitely increased of late. I’ll never forget a dinner party to which I was invited by my office mate when I first began teaching at the college; she had just come back from seven years living in Mexico and promised us an authentic feast.
While the rest of us guzzled cold drinks between tiny nibbles of fiery-hot mole appetizers, our hostess calmly plucked an entire jalapeno from a plate and, hoisting it by the stem, popped it in her mouth. Then she continued to relay her anecdote while chewing contemplatively, never even breaking a sweat. I was truly amazed by her seemingly asbestos-lined palate at the time; little did I know I’d be eating whole jalapenos myself (at least I stuff mine with goat “cheese” first) two decades later.
One evening last week, I had dinner plans with friends and wanted to leave something for the HH to enjoy at home. After viewing at least a dozen enchiladacasseroles on otherblogs as a result of the Daring Cooks event last month (plus Celine’s Mucho Macho Nachos and Angela’s Time Crunch Vegan Enchiladas) I was craving Mexican food. We had all the ingredients on hand, so I thought I would whip up some of the HH’s favorite nachos. Of course, I knew that jalapenos were non-negotiable. Not to mention super-spicy salsa (arriba!). Plus, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to make just a single platter versus the two we usually make: his, with ground beef and melted cheese; mine, with crumbled tempeh or tofu and cheesy sauce.
I grabbed all the ingredients and began prepping. Only one problem: the already-opened bag of nacho chips had been sitting too long, and the chips had lost their snap, bordering on stale. What to do?
Of course, I could have thrown them away. But that would have traumatized my inner frugalista. I could have given them to The Girls with their supper (“We vote for that choice, Mum!”), but that wouldn’t help with my dinner needs. What if I simply tossed all the ingredients into a casserole dish, and let them bake up? I envisioned a super quick, nacho-meets-enchilada dish. And so, the new, fast-food, ACD-friendly, Mexican nacholada casserole was born.
I mixed everything up and left it on the counter with a simple note:
Here’s a casserole for dinner. Heat at 350 for about 25 minutes, then take as much as you’d like. Have fun with The Girls!
xoxoxoxo kiss kiss kiss
Upon my return that night, I casually inquired, “Um, so how was the casserole?”
It’s true, the dish was so fiery hot it may have finally triggered the HH’s antiquated taste buds (in fact, you may wish to tone down the jalapeno screaming a few decibels in your own dish). True, I didn’t disclose in advance that this casserole was simply a new, unfamiliar twist on his oft-rejected vegan nachos. True, the HH was on his own that night, and would probably prefer to eat rose petals dipped in sand than have to whip up something of his own. Whatever the reason, the dish was a huge hit.
“That stuff was delicious!” he exclaimed. ”I loved it. You can definitely make that again.” (Hee hee). Even after I revealed that it contained tempeh and cheesy sauce, he was still enthusiastic. “Well, I don’t know why, but this time it tasted great,” he insisted (of course he forgot there hadn’t been a “last time,” since he’s always refused to try it in the past). Triumph!
I’m hoping this is the end of separate nacho platters from now on in the DDD household.
As is so often the case, the HH’s initial skepticism was overruled by the transformative deliciousness of my plant-based meal. And luckily, despite his natural penchant for meat, he’s happy to embrace a vegan meal “if it tastes good.” I guess that’s just one more reason why I’ve decided to stick around as we grow old(er) together.
* No, I didn’t really write, “HH” or “Ricki” on my note–I used our usual pet names for each other. But the HH would never speak to me again if I published them on the blog!
Layered Mexican Casserole
I call this “fast food” because it’s one of the few dishes I don’t make entirely from scratch. Jarred salsa is fine on the ACD if you find an organic brand with no added sweetener, vinegar, or other taboo ingredients. This casserole is a great way to use up less-than-fresh nacho chips (the chips absorb the moisture from salsa and cheese to become soft inside and crunchy on the edges of the casserole dish), but if your chips still crispy, feel free to assemble these ingredients in regular nacho fashion.
About 4 cups (1 L) nacho chips (or enough for 2 layers of overlapping chips in a 10-inch/25 cm casserole dish)–I used tri-color ones by Que Pasa
1 jar (about 2 cups/500 ml) medium or hot salsa of your choice (I used Neal Brothers)
** For ACD Stage I, use brazil nuts or macadamia nuts instead of cashews; use 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) powdered mustard.
Quick tempeh crumbles: In a large sauce pan, crumble one package (12 ounces or 350 g) tempeh. Add 1 cup (240 ml) vegetable broth or stock; 1-2 Tbsp (15-30 ml) Braggs liquid aminos, tamari or soy sauce; 5-10 drops liquid smoke or 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) smoked paprika; and 2-5 drops liquid stevia. Bring to boil over medium heat, then cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid is absorbed and the tempeh just begins to brown. Use in this casserole, in pasta sauces, sprinkled on salads, or in sandwiches.
Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Spray a 10-inch (25 cm) casserole dish with nonstick spray or lightly grease with oil.
Place a single layer of nacho chips in the bottom of the casserole dish, taking care to overlap so that little, if any, of the bottom of the dish is visible. Dollop about half the salsa randomly over the chips. Sprinkle with half each of the tempeh, beans, red or green pepper, jalapeno and olives; then drizzle half the cheese sauce over all. For the top layer, repeat the process, setting aside the peppers and olives; once the cheese sauce has been added, sprinkle the top with peppers and olives.
Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, until the casserole is hot throughout and the top of the cheese begins to brown slightly. Remove from oven and allow to sit 10 minutes before scooping out onto plates. Garnish with chopped cilantro, if desired. Makes 4-6 large servings. May be frozen.
[Sometimes, you just want to eat something now. I've decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly or else is so easy to make that no recipe is required. Here's today's "Flash in the Pan." (For other FitP recipes, see "Categories" at right).]
Thanks, everyone, for your sympathetic comments regarding my short career as an enemy of the state in my last post. In retrospect, it was a truly hilarious experience (though not at the moment, unfortunately)!
Today, though, I’ve decided to pre-empt my second “How I Spent My Florida Vacation” post (that will be tomorrow, hopefully), for this quick-as-a-flash recipe that was so delicious, the HH and I fought over who got to eat the last few.
After prepping a butternut squash for the oven yesterday, I decided that for once, I wouldn’t throw away the seeds (they actually contain some amazing nutrition of their own, with nutrients not available in the plant’s flesh: protein, an array of minerals, heart-healthy Omega 3s and Omega 6s–and some impressive fiber). I had tried Eden Organics’ spicy roasted pumpkin seeds while on holiday, so I threw together my own reproduction.
These were easy, quick, and totally addictive. The only drawback is that the yield is a mere 1/3-1/2 cup (80-120 ml) of seeds from a single squash. You may want to start cooking your squash in bulk after trying these!
Oh, and for those of you in the GTA, I’ll be doing a talk and handing out samples of baked goods from Sweet Freedomthis Sunday, at Covernotes bookstore in Newmarket. Hope to see you there at 3:00 PM!
Easy Spicy Roasted Squash (or Pumpkin, of course) Seeds
suitable for ACD Phase I and beyond
These light, crunchy, salty, spicy seeds make the perfect snack-on-the-go, for after school, or for bidding adieu to the Olympics on TV.
Seeds from pretty much any winter squash, scooped out of the shell, rinsed, cleaned and with squash fibers picked out
1 Tbsp (15 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
1/4 tsp (1 ml) garlic salt
1/4 tsp (1 ml) cayenne (or less, to taste)
additional fine sea salt, if desired (I didn’t use it–the garlic salt was enough for my taste)
Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Spray a small ovenproof casserole dish or loaf pan with nonstick spray or grease lightly with olive oil (a cookie sheet won’t do for this, as the liquid will spread too much). Add the Bragg’s, oil, garlic salt and cayenne and whisk briefly to combine. Add the seeds to the pan and toss them to coat as much as possible (there will still be excess liquid pooling in the bottom of the pan; this is as it should be).
Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, then remove and check the seeds. There should still be some liquid left in the pan. Toss the mixture to stir up the seeds and re-coat them in the (now slightly thickened) liquid. Return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes.
Repeat the steps of baking, removing the pan, tossing and re-coating the seeds once or twice more, until the liquid is absorbed and the seeds are dry and browned. Toward the end, you may want to check the seeds every 5 minutes or so to avoid scorching. (I baked mine for a total of 35-40 minutes).
Allow to cool, then dig in and enjoy–no need to shell these before eating, as the shells become thin and crunchy! Makes about 1/2 cup (120 ml). Store in a covered container at room temperature.
[Sometimes, you just want to eat something now. I've decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly or else is so easy to make that no recipe is required. Here's today's "Flash in the Pan." (For other FitP recipes, see "Categories" at right).]
While reading other blogs lately, I’ve noticed an increase in the number of savory breakfast recipes. Having been on the ACD as long as I have (longer than some Hollywood marriages, longer than Edge of Darkness was in movie theaters, longer than a piece of Stride gum’s flavor, longer than the beards on those ZZ Top guys), I’ve been enjoying savory breakfasts for some time. But it does feel great to know that so many of you are willing to give them a try, too!
When I saw this recipe for Egyptian fava beans, I knew I had to try it. It’s a variation on Ethiopian ful, about which I’d read many years ago–and have wanted to sample since. In fact, I’ve wanted to try fava beans in general for ages, but have been deterred (now, don’t laugh) because they still hold such negative connotations since I saw the original Silence of the Lambs. I just couldn’t bring myself to attempt something that was so relished by Hannibal Lecter.
Get over it, I told myself. These are friendly fava beans. And no liver in sight.
And so, I cooked up the dish. I mean, the recipe seemed so good and so easy, I jumped right in–fava beans be damned! (If only all phobias could be overcome so easily.). This dish is made with dried favas (versus the Martian-green fresh ones, which are obviously not in season about now). I must admit that I cut corners and used canned favas–I knew they had to be well-cooked, and didn’t want to risk messing up my first attempt. Next time, I’ll buy the dried beans and soak ‘em first.
While not quite as spicy as ful, this dish is certainly rich with flavor. The favas are a bit more starchy than your average legume, which made them even more breakfast-like in my mind; though, of course, you could eat this at any meal. At the same time, they’re packed with nutrition: one cup of cooked favas provides a whopping 13 grams of protein, 9 grams of fiber, almost no fat, and 14% of your daily iron. Their flavor is a bit unusual, slightly sour–almost fermented–yet creamy, satisfying and addictive all at the same time. And considering I ate almost the entire plate in one sitting, I’d say they grew on me pretty quickly.
I had mine with Meghan’s version of “instant injera“–a quick and delicious, high-protein, flatbread. Overall, a delicious, savory breakfast–one that won’t leave you craving dessert!
I’m thrilled that I can finally submit this as an entry in River‘s E.A.T. World event–check out all of River’s amazing international dishes (and why not submit one of your own?)!
Side note: this is my last post before the HH and I head out on holiday for a week–to Florida! I was determined to spend at least some time in a warmer climate during my vacation from the college this year, and since my dad is there at the moment, it seemed a perfect destination. Thanks to everyone on twitter who recommended restaurants for this fast-food challenged gal.
Not sure whether or not I’ll be able to update from the road, so I’ll leave you with this nourishing breakfast (or lunch, or dinner) until I return.
See you all in about a week!
Egyptian Fava Beans (ACD-friendly: Phase I or later)
1-1/4 cups (300 ml) dried fava beans, rinsed and soaked in cold water for at least 12 hours with 1 Tbsp (15 ml) baking soda (or just use canned, rinsed beans, as I did)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 large tomato, finely chopped (seeded if you want to be fancy)
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) fine sea salt (or to taste)
pepper, to taste
1 small jalapeno pepper, sliced (remove seeds for less heat)
freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
Drain the beans and rinse well; place in a pot and cover with fresh water. Bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer until extremely soft. At this point, you should peel the waxy skin off each bean if you like (not essential, but much better as the skins are quite chewy). Simply squeeze one tip of each bean until the bean pops out of the skin (tutorial here). (I did this with the precooked, canned beans, and it worked perfectly.)
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onion; cook for about 5 minutes, until it begins to soften. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is soft and just beginning to brown. Add about half the beans to the skillet and mash with a wooden spoon or spatula to create a bean-onion mush. Add the remaining (whole) beans, tomato, and heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and toss the jalapeno slices over all just before serving.
To serve, sprinkle the beans with fresh lemon juice (I used the juice of 1/2 lemon) and drizzle with extra olive oil, if desired. Best served with flatbread. Makes 2 large servings.
[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I'll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I've recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days. For this fifth edition, I'm focusing on cilantro. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. This is the fifth entry on cilantro.]
The HH and I just returned from an annual sojourn to what used to be our favorite summer retreat, a country resort up in ski country. I say, “used to be” because, like so many other businesses these days, our erstwhile “favorite” has cut services to the bone and, as a result, is no longer the hotel we remember and loved. Those of you on twitter may have seen my lament that the breakfast “buffet” included precisely one food I could eat: roasted potatoes. The rest of the menu (ham, bacon, eggs, french toast, plate of baked goods and bowl of yogurts) was all verboten to me. As I chewed on my (suddenly very bitter) spuds, I wondered, what about celiacs? What about diabetics? There wasn’t exactly a cornucopia of choices for them, either. In addition, the dinner “service” was so deplorable (over 40 minutes to get our appetizers! In a dining room with six patrons!), we decided that next year, we’ll look for a new place to patronize during our annual summer weekend away.
Well, no matter. The weather, at least, was glorious, and hey–the paucity of food actually resulted in two more pounds of weight loss (for those of you who’ve been following such things, the grand total is 32 lost so far. That means I can now get into my “chubby” clothes, leaving behind my “fat” and “edifice-like” wardrobes, while I’m still not quite slim enough for my “I’m-saving-these-even-though-they’re-out-of-style-and-I’m-really-too-old-for-them-because-I-love-them-so-much” clothes). I also realized that the best way to lose weight is when you’re not really trying. (Hmm. Maybe that resort wasn’t so bad after all. All I have to do is suffer there for another week , and I’m pretty sure I’d be at goal.).
The weekend was an explicit reminder (I guess I’d sort of forgotten) that I am, indeed, following a rather restricted diet these days. Funny, even though I altered my diet to eliminate wheat, eggs and dairy about ten years ago (meat was pretty much already gone by then), I hadn’t really thought of my food intake as ”restricted” (after all, I’d still managed to gain 45 pounds eating that way!) until these past few months on the anti-candida diet. In fact, changing my diet initially prompted me to try out many foods I’d shunned until that point.
One prime example is Indian cuisine. I’d never tasted any of my current favorites–an authentic, long-simmering curry, a crispy papadum, a nubby, melting dal, or peppery masala okra–until I was forced to change my diet. Once I tried the first few dishes, I quickly grew enamored of the fragrant spices like sweet cardamom and warming turmeric, and was easily besotted with basmati rice, vibrant vindaloos and creamy kormas. In fact, it was Indian cuisine that catalyzed my conversion from cilantro foe to cilantro lover.
Whenever we stop in at our favorite Indian restaurant nearby, the HH will often order lamb. I have to tell you, if I’m sitting downwind, it can ruin my dinner. Even before I stopped eating meat, I just wasn’t able to tolerate lamb. Something about the smell–that elusive combination of unctuous yet slightly sweet–always managed to make my stomach flutter and my bile rise, even as a child and long before I understood the true source of those glistening cubes on my plate.
Well, lucky for me, most Indian dishes are naturally vegetarian. On the other hand, it only occurred to me recently that I’ve been inadvertently ruling out a whole category of recipes in my collection simply because they feature lamb, glossing right over those when I scan my cookbooks for dinner ideas.
Well, silly me! I mean, where is it written that those dishes must they be made with lamb? Why couldn’t a favorite soy product (or other legume) stand in for the meat, as they’ve often done before with chicken or beef? I must have been blinded by my visions of guileless black eyes, kinky white curls and baby hooves to even consider it. (I know, I’m a bit slow on the uptake sometimes).
One of my favorite sources of protein is tempeh, and it’s one I use far too infrequently. I thought it would offer a great substitute for ground lamb in a curry. After browsing through various cookbooks, I combined some of my favorite flavors to create a warm, mildly spiced, and slightly unconventional main dish. The smooth, creamy sauce is punctuated by occasional bursts of sweet peas, bits of savory tempeh, and juicy tomato. It’s perfect served over some steamed basmati rice.
And the aroma, redolent with Indian spices, is guaranteed to entice you–no matter which side of the table you’re on.
“Mum, we know you don’t want to eat sheep, but if you ever need them rounded up or led into a pen, we’d be happy to help out. (We’re both part Border Collie, you know.)”
Taking inspiration from recipes in several cookbooks as well as what I had on hand, I came up with this satisfying curry. Use crumbled tempeh, or, for more discernible pieces of tempeh, cut into small cubes.
1 pkg tempeh (I used soy tempeh with seaweed)
1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable broth
2 Tbsp (30 ml) organic coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp (10 ml) minced fresh ginger
1 small tomato, finely chopped
1 tsp (5 ml) ground cumin
2 bay leaves
2 cardamon pods (or 1/4 tsp/ 1 ml ground cardamom)
1 tsp (5 ml) garam masala
1 tsp (5 ml) ground turmeric
1 tsp (5 ml) ground coriander
1/3 cup (80 ml) smooth natural almond butter
1/4 cup (60 ml) unsweetened almond milk
1 cup (240 ml) frozen peas
1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh cilantro, finely chopped, plus more for garnish
2 Tbsp (30 ml) fresh mint, finely chopped
sea salt, to taste (depending on how salty your veg broth is)
cooked brown basmati rice, to serve
Prepare the tempeh: crumble the tempeh and place in a skillet with the vegetable broth. Heat over medium heat until broth bubbles; lower to a simmer, cover and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, 10-15 minutes.
Remove tempeh from skillet and set aside. Melt the coconut oil in the skillet (no need to wash it first) over medium heat and add the onion, garlic and ginger. Sauté until the garlic and ginger begin to brown and the onion is translucent, 5-10 minutes.
Add the tomato, cumin, bay leaves, cardamom, garam masala, turmeric and coriander and cook an additional minute. Lower heat and add the almond milk, almond butter and peas, stirring to melt the almond butter. Gently stir in the tempeh. Cover and simmer for another 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, until flavors have melded and the curry is heated throughout. Add the cilantro and mint and heat for another 2 minutes. Serve over hot rice. Makes 4 servings. May be frozen.