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.
*Well, it’s not really “bourguignon.” But it isACD friendly, sugar free, gluten free, and vegan. And it tastes delicious. What more could you ask for?
I will never forget the first lecture I attended as a callow undergraduate at the University of Windsor: it was Modern American Drama, with a professor named Dr. John Ditksy. In his early forties, Dr. Ditsky appeared to be the quintessential “absent-minded professor,” with a demeanor like Columbo, a wit like Woody Allen, and a face like Jason Schwartzman. True to appearances, the man was brilliant. I discovered later that he was one of the foremost Steinbeck critics in the world and had published hundreds of academic papers.
His lecture was peppered with words I’d never even heard before (I scribbled furiously in the margins of my notebook so I could look them up later: “adumbrate,” “hyperbole,” “interstices” –as the hour went on, I felt less and less equipped for university), and every female student in the class developed a crush on him. Of course, I immediately joined that coterie.
I carried my crush around with me wherever I went that year, like a thermos tucked under my arm; on the outside, cool, smooth and unassuming; on the inside, steamy hot. The only person who knew of my amorous infatuation was my buddy Michelle, who was as outgoing as I was shy and introverted. Michelle never had a problem striding over to Dr. Ditsky at the end of each class, joking with him or posing obvious questions just to hear his witty response; she even tapped him on the arm a few times as she spoke (my cheeks flushed red just watching her).
One day, as a few students milled about the hall outside the classroom waiting for the lecture to begin, Dr. Ditsky approached Michelle and me. Immediately, Michelle launched into some lively chatter, asking our prof how he had spent the previous weekend; she possessed none of the typical student’s reserve when it came to posing personal questions of authority figures. Ditsky muttered something innocuous and returned the question.
“Oh, pretty good,” she responded. ”I went to a party with my boyfriend and some of his friends. You know, boring boys.” (She rolled her eyes at the last word).
He turned to me. “Did you go, too, Heller?” I could feel my face heat up, and shook my head. (Most likely, I had spent the majority of the weekend in residence or the library).
Suddenly, Michelle had an idea. ”You know, I think Heller here needs a boyfriend,” she piped up. “But not one of the guys from university. I mean, the guys here are all so childish. She needs someone older, more mature.” She stared meaningfully at him, nodding her head as if to impress upon him the gravity of the statement.
To his credit, Ditsky didn’t flinch. Without even cracking a smile, he responded, “Well, you know, you may have to wait a while for that. For most guys it usually takes until their forties before they even start acting mature.”
I wanted to cram myself under one of the classroom desks, or slink behind the water fountain and melt away like the Wicked Witch of the West when she was doused with water. But then–something magical happened.
“You know, a few colleagues and I are having lunch** today at the DH Tavern after class,” Ditsky went on. Why don’t you two ladies join us?” I had heard about the legendary “lunches” at the DH, where profs and a few select students engaged in hours-long discussions about literature, philosophy, culture and life, all punctuated by pub fare and too many beers to count.
Well, that initial lunch evolved into a 28-year friendship, until my beloved mentor passed away in 2006. And from that very first meal, he treated me as if I were already a colleague and intellectual equal despite my lack of experience or erudition. After a couple of years of lunches at the DH, I was fortunate enough to be invited to join a group of students who were asked to spend a weekend at Ditsky’s home.
Before that time, all I knew about Mrs. Ditsky was (a) she’d been married to my crush since they were both teens, and (b) he always (always) stopped to buy her flowers after our pub lunches, before heading to the Ambassador Bridge on his way home. The moment I stepped out of the car in Detroit , Mrs. D greeted me with a warm hug and led me by the hand up to the guest room where I’d be staying. The bed, topped with a pale blue down comforter and several plumped pillows, was surrounded by antique bookcases filled with novels and other works of famous American authors–all signed by the authors.
“I hope you’ll be comfortable here,” she said as she placed my bag on the floor. “I thought you’d like to have the company of the writers you’ve been studying.” How could you not love such a woman as much as her husband?
It was during that initial weekend when I first tasted beef bourguignon. At the time, I had no idea that this French beef stew had been popularized by Julia Child, nor that it even contained wine. All I knew was that I was served a rich, robust beef stew with tender chunks of meat, with a thick, buttery sauce that perfectly complemented the slippery noodles on which it rested. I requested the recipe, fully expecting that Mrs. D wouldn’t reveal her secret.
A few weeks later, I received a photocopy in the mail with a handwritten note detailing any changes she’d made (3 cloves of garlic instead of the one in the recipe; more onions; and the need for an electric knife to cut the meat into bite-sized chunks, though I never did use one). She closed with, “You’re missed by both of us. Guest room is yours anytime you want. Hugs–Love, S &J.” And with that, my girlish crush evaporated, and I gained not one, but two lifelong friends.
For years afterward, whenever I wanted to “wow” someone (read: a date) with a great homecooked meal, I made that beef bourguignon. When I changed my diet back in 1999, the recipe was slipped into a file folder with other clippings and more or less forgotten. Last week, it suddenly came back to mind.
Gemini I, her husband, and PR Queen and her husband were coming over for dinner. I knew the Geminis love beef; PR Queen, a vegan like me, mentioned that her husband won’t even consider eating a vegetarian meal. As a result, the evening featured two parallel stews: beef bourguignon for them, and tempeh “bourguignon” for me and PR Queen. And I daresay, PR Queen and I got the better deal.
In order to render the stew ACD friendly, I knew I’d have to eliminate the wine (*stifled sob*). But what could I use in its stead? The obvious choice was vegetable broth, and of course I included it. But what about the tart, tannic depth of the burgundy? I was rummaging through the fridge when I spied it–my bottle of (unsweetened) cranberry juice. Eureka!
Believe it or not, I think the juice is what made this dish so toothsome. Tempered with a few drops of stevia, the sourness of the cranberries dissipates into the savory, sanguine broth. Redolent with parsley, thyme, marjoram and bay leaves, the stew was a perfect dish for an evening with good friends, old and new. It brought to mind that other one, long ago, shared with my mentor and his dear wife. Next time I speak to Mrs. D, I’ll be sure to offer her the recipe.
**let’s face it, ”having lunch” is a misnomer. “Getting sauced” is probably more accurate.
Tempeh “Bourguignon” with Garlic Mashed Potatoes (ACD Stage 2 and Beyond)
The original recipe asks for a bouquet garni, and you can certainly make your own. I find that adding the dried herbs and spices directly to the sauce works just as well in this case, as they meld beautifully as the stew simmers.
2 packages (about 1.5 pounds or 700 g) tempeh (I used soy-only)
1 large leek, white and light green parts only, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp (15 ml) each dried parsley and chives
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) dried thyme
1/4 tsp (1 ml) dried marjoram
2 dried bay leaves
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) celery seeds
1/8 tsp (.5 ml) ground cloves
freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp (1 ml) salt, or more, to taste
1 cup (240 ml) vegetable broth or stock
1/2 cup (120 ml) unsweetened cranberry juice
5-10 drops unflavored stevia liquid, to taste
1 Tbsp (15 ml) tapioca or arrowroot starch, if needed
Cut the tempeh into bite-sized pieces. Mix 1 Tbsp (15 ml) of the olive oil and Bragg’s in the bottom of a nonreactive (glass or ceramic) square pan, and toss the tempeh to coat evenly. Allow to marinate at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Bake the tempeh until the marinade is absorbed and the pieces are beginning to brown, 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool while you prepare the base.
In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the remaining 2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil over medium heat and add the onion, leeks, and carrot. Sauté until the vegetables are softened but not brown, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, parsley and chives and cook another 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except for tempeh and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add tempeh, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes, until much of the liquid is evaporated and the vegetables are beginning to dissolve into the sauce. If necessary, add the starch by mixing it in a small bowl with 2-3 Tbsp (30-45 ml) of the sauce first, then returning the mixture to the pot and stirring well.
To serve, spoon over cooked noodles, rice, or mashed potatoes. Makes 4 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.
The dozen or so of you who were reading my blog last year at this time probably remember how much I hate the snowy season. (How much, you ask? As much as Gepetto hates dishonesty. As much as Ellen loves Portia. As much as the calories in a deep-fried Mars Bar (with whipped cream on top). As much as union disagrees with management. As much as my eternal incredulity at the popularity of Julia Roberts.) This morning, when I emitted a plaintive little lament about the fact that we’ve already surpassed last year’s (record-breaking) snowfall for this date, the HH helpfully piped up, “Yeah, and we’ve still got over a month more of this to go!” Gee, thanks, sweetheart.
So, what to do about a wall of pelting snow every time you leave the house, ice crystals forming on your eyebrows, the grey rime that coats your glasses like vaseline on a camera lens?
Make soup, that’s what.
When I was a carefree singleton* back in the early 90s, I developed a Friday evening cooking ritual. After arriving home from work, I’d change into sweats and a T-shirt, then spend most of the evening cooking food for the following week. By the end of the week, I was usually too pooped to socialize anyway, and I found cooking to be incredibly meditative. (Besides, if anything bettermale intellectually stimulating came up instead, I wasn’t irrevocably tied to my plan; I’d just cook the following day). I’d pack the prepared dishes into plastic containers, then freeze them for consumption later on. A relaxing evening plus seven days of healthy, homemade food–a pretty good arrangement, I thought.
In those days, I tended to cook a lot of soups. Perhaps I was subconsciously emulating my mom, whose chicken soup graced our stovetop every Friday evening as far back as I can remember. In fact, the very first recipe I cooked in my very first apartment was soup–split pea and ham, as I recall (which is odd, since even then I didn’t really like meat, and I’d never tasted ham at all before that–or since). In the interim, I’ve expanded my repertoire a bit, enjoying a variety of traditional or exotic or unusual soups over the years. With its ability to embrace any and all stray vegetables, then bathe them in a warm, soothing broth, vitamin and mineral-rich soup is an ideal meal-in-a-bowl.
Strangely, once the HH and I began seeing each other, I all but stopped making soups on Friday nights (he seemed to think our courtship should take place alongside a wine bottle rather than a stockpot). Then, a couple of weeks ago, I received a copy of Nava Atlas’s newly released Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons (this is a 4th edition of her earlier VegetarianSoups for All Seasons) as part of the book’s virtual tour. Suddenly, soup was back on my radar. And I must tell you, I think this book has singlehandedly renewed my zeal for soup making.
The book is divided by season, so it made sense that the fall and winter offerings would appeal most right now, with innovative and interesting combinations like Broccoli, Apple and Peanut Soup or Almond-Brussels Sprouts Soup (which I just enjoyed for lunch today–splendid!), and classics like Hearty Barley-Bean Soup or Minestrone. But the spring and summer were equally tantalizing, with recipes for Creole Eggplant Soup and Gingery Miso-Spinach Soup and Strawberry Colada Soup. (Now I have yet another reason to wish winter would end soon.)
With our seemingly irrepressible mountains of snow (now taller than the HH, who is over 6 feet/1.8 meters) outside, a hearty winter stew seemed just the right antidote. This Sweet and Sour Cabbage and Bread Stew is a perfectly warming, filling, tasty combination, with a substantial broth, in which you simmer a variety of winter veggies, all imbued with a subtle sweet and piquant tang. Initially, the HH was a bit reluctant to try it (paradoxically, the guy will eat anything and everything if it’s derived from an animal, but is entirely unadventurous when it comes to vegetable dishes). After the first few spoonfuls, however, he pronounced it “a keeper” and was content to have nothing more than this for dinner.
I’m happy to say that I’m even looking forward to getting back in the swing of Friday evening soup-a-thons. And these days, I won’t be cooking alone (hear that, HH?).
“Mum, you know that we’d love to help you cook, too, if we could. There’s just this little matter of the ’no opposable thumbs’ thing. But we’re still more than happy to help clean up the leftovers.”
* Okay, I was never “carefree,” but more like “unattached, at loose ends, having no weekend plans.” The closest I’ve ever gotten to “carefree” was probably during that time before I embraced all the responsibilities and anxieties of adulthood–like, maybe, when I was three.
Sweet and Sour Cabbage and Bread Stew (for ACD-friendly, see note)
Preheat the oven to 300F (150C). Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until golden and crisp, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the onions and garlic and sauté over medium heat until golden, about 10 minutes.
Add the water, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, bell peppers, tomatoes, wine, paprika, and cumin. Bring to a rapid simmer, then lower the heat. Cover and simmer gently for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
Stir in the lemon juice and sugar. There should be a subtle sweet-sour balance. If you’d like it to be more pronounced, add more lemon juice and/or sugar to your liking.
Season with salt and pepper, then simmer over very low heat for 10 minutes longer. If time allows, let the stew stand off the heat for an hour or two, then heat through before serving.
When ready to serve, divide the bread cubes among the serving bowls and ladle the stew over them. The bread will absorb much of the liquid and add a tasty, textural element to the stew.
NOTE: For an ACD-Friendly version (Stage 2 and beyond), use whole-grain, gluten-free bread, and replace wine with unsweetened cranberry juice; replace agave with 10 drops stevia, or more, to taste.
Calories: 231 Total fat: 6 g Protein: 6 g Fiber: 6 g
Carbohydrate: 43 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 114 mg
The three of you who were reading my blog last year at this time may recall that I am not a fan of winter. “What?” the rest of you ask, “and you from Montreal?”
Well, I’m here to tell you that being born in a certain place doesn’t automatically predispose one kindly toward the weather of said location (nor does it predispose one to winter sports; in other words, no, that’s not a tatoo on my rear, but a lingering bruise from a skating accident back in 1981). To me, the ideal climate would be temperate, neither too hot nor too cool (I’m thinking between 68 and 80 Fahrenheit, or 20 and 22 Celsius), with sun about 95% of the time (just enough rain to ensure there’s no drought) and terrain surrounded by lush, grassy, fragrant forests with treetops that sway and quietly rustle in the breeze, like Hawaiians doing the hula. Oh, and no bugs. And no snakes. Or spiders. And, what the heck, may as well throw in a yellow brick road, while you’re at it.*
But here we are, too far into November to deny the imminent crystalline entombment, and I must face the fact: it will be winter soon. And what is there to do? Generally, when I’m feeling down, my options fall into two categories: 1) food-related; and 2) dog-related. As I write this, The Girls are sleeping off their early walk with the HH; and so, it seems, the next step is alimentary, my dear.
While baking is always my first instinct in the kitchen, I do enjoy cooking as well. These days, it’s rare for me to spend any more time than necessary making dinner (read: 20 minutes, tops), but yesterday, I felt the need for the extended, meditative experience of slow cooking. In the morning, I loaded the dutch oven with dried beans and water; and by 7:00 PM, we were feasting on my age-old, many-times-refined, much-tweaked recipe for chili with mixed beans and “ground turkey.”
[Seems I still haven't quite mastered the focus on my dandy new camera, but you can still make out the meaty-looking crumbles in there, can't you?]
When I was a kid, I used to think chili acquired its name because it was meant to be eaten in cold weather. While it’s true that this soup-cum-stew is best served in cool weather, it wasn’t until I began to read up on Indian cuisine that I discovered the name actually referred to a spice blend often used in the mix. Trusty Wikipedia tells me that Chili con Carne is the official dish of Texas; and that particular bowlful, it turns out, is the version made without beans. Most of us, I’d wager, still think of beans when we think of chili, however.
I also think of chili as the chameleon of stews: years ago, a friend who’d just returned to Canada from three years in Mexico served me mole, another form of chili; the notion of sharp spices with just an undertone of bitterness seemed immensely appealing (don’t be alarmed at the coffee and chocolate in this version!). And a recipe once given to me by a former student from India featured simmered, pulled beef and a variety of curry spices with lentils.
I first cooked chili when I was an impoverished graduate student living in Windsor, Ontario. The recipe developed over the years, and what was once a fairly basic vegetarian chili has morphed over the years into my own version of the dish. I include frozen tofu that’s been defrosted and crumbled to resemble ground meat (in fact, the first time I made this for the HH, he assumed the tofu was ground chicken. Perfect for skeptics!). The HH and I also both agree that chili should be more of a stew than a soup, so I simmer mine until almost all the liquid is absorbed and the beans are suspended in a kind of spicy tomato sauce. If you prefer yours thinner, simply cook a bit less or add a bit more water.
Eventually, my own additions became so numerous that even my enormous dutch oven was barely adequate to hold the stew, and I had to stop adding ingredients. As a result, this makes a huge batch, and enough to freeze in single-serve containers that will sustain you through the winter. While you slurp it up, just imagine that you’re somewhere warm, and green.
This chili provides a thick, spicy, filling and very substantial meal.Don’t let the long ingredient list deter you—this recipe makes a big batch that you can freeze for later, and it’s definitely worth the effort!
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small jalapeno pepper, minced (remove seeds for less heat)
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 large carrot, diced into small cubes
1 block firm tofu (about 12 ounces or 350 g.), frozen at least 24 hours, defrosted in boiling water, squeezed dry and crumbled
1-1/2 cups (375 ml.) dried beans, soaked overnight and cooked (try a combination of kidney, black, pinto, romano, chick peas, yellow peas, lima beans, great northern beans, navy beans, or other beans of your choice)
2 large cans diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 Tbsp (15 ml.). chili powder
1 tsp. (5 ml.) dried coriander
1 (5 ml.) tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. (5 ml.) dried basil
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.)dried cumin
1/4 tsp. (1 ml.) cayenne
1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco or Red Hot)—omit for less heat
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) instant coffee or coffee substitute
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup (120 ml.) corn kernels (use drained, canned, or frozen)
Heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat.Add onion, garlic, and jalapeno, and sauté until onion is soft.Add peppers, celery, and carrot, and sauté about 5 minutes, until vegetables begin to soften.
Add remaining ingredients except corn.Stir well and allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.(This chili is best if left to simmer over very low heat for about an hour).Add corn and heat through.
Serve in soup bowls with hearty bread.Makes 8 servings. May be frozen.
*That’s right, mate, it’s no coincidence that my dreamscape is pronounced “OZ.” (Well, except for the spiders and snakes. Darn.)
[UPDATE, JUNE 2010: In March, 2009, I began a much more serious (and much more restrictive) candida diet after suffering from myriad candida symptoms for more than 6 months. Finally, with a raging rash taking over my torso, I had to succumb and begin the diet afresh. After 15 months (so far) I'm 90% better, lost 45 pounds, and feel terrific. To read from the beginning of my "new" candida journey, see this post.]
These days, I can’t think of a single person I know who isn’t stressed. I mean, with all our modern amenities, our time-saving devices, our plugged-in technology, most of us are still plagued with a constant sense ”never enough” or “not up to snuff.” And I’m not too proud to admit that I myself am probably preternaturally sensitive to stressors in my life. In fact, it’s possible that I react just a wee bit more forcefully to stress than the average person. Truth be told, I find it downright impossible to cope some days. Oh, all right, fine; I admit it: I’m basically a slobbering mass of quivering kanten who’s totally incapable of coping with excess pressure. (I mean, do you know anyone else who had to quit meditation because it was too stressful?)
It’s not as if most of us can just take off for a few weeks to our spectacular retreat in New Zealand when we feel overwhelmed by life’s little curve balls (how lovely for you that you could, though, Shania). Some, like the HH, play records (as opposed to CDs) to de-stress; others play with their home décor, wardrobe or hairstyle. Some play the clarinet. And then there are those who simply play around.
Me, I like to play in the kitchen.
Throughout my recent hiatus from the blog, I kept encountering interesting recipes or ideas for baked goods and my hands would itch to get back to cooking. There’s something immensely soothing about swishing a wooden spoon over and over through a clear, fragrant broth, or chopping mindlessly as carrots are transformed into mounds of tiny, uniform cubes on the cutting board.
But what to cook? As I mentioned last time, I’ve embarked once again on an anti-candida diet for a few weeks, which means my diversions in the kitchen will have to comply with the guidelines of that eating plan. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the anti-candida diet is basically a nutritional means to reduce the candida albicansyeast that’s present in and around us all the time, but which occasionally multiplies out of control in certain people (those with compromised immune systems, those with blood sugar issues, those with hormonal imbalances, etc.) My personal weakness is an addiction to sweets; sugar is the number one preferred vittle for those microscopic opportunists.
In order to reduce the number of candida organisms down to a “normal” level, the anti-candida program (I’ll just call it ACD from now on) commonly recommends cutting out any foods that could potentially feed the yeast or encourage it to grow. In its most stringent form, the diet would eliminate:
anything containing any kind of sugar (cane, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, brown rice syrup, etc.–plus fruits, fresh and dried);
simple carbohydrates, which convert to glucose very quickly (flours, pasta, bread, muffins, cakes, cookies, pies, tarts, biscuits, crackers, cornstarch and similar starches, and any other baked goods of any kind; candies, chocolate, ice cream, pudding, anything candy-like; white potatoes, white rice and any other white grains)
foods that contain mold or fungus or encourage it to grow (yeast is a fungus, after all): mushrooms, peanuts, cashews, melons, cheeses;
the most common allergens or foods that could cause allergic responses (which trigger the yeast): dairy, eggs, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, and soy foods;
foods that are fermented or might encourage fermentation (on which yeast feeds): alcohol, vinegars, all condiments (no ketchup, sorry); soy sauce, etc.
anything artificial, processed, containing chemicals or additives, imitation or artificial seasonings and flavorings and colorings;
pop, fruit juice, presweetened drinks, coffee, tea.
Right about now, you may be wondering, “what the heck CAN you eat??” Good question. The basic list of “permitted” foods is actually shorter than those that are prohibited. Still, there’s quite a bit left that’s both tasty and nourishing:
all vegetables except very high-glycemic ones (such as white potatoes, corn, etc.)
stevia (a natural herbal sweetener that doesn’t affect blood sugar levels)
I was leafing through the book that became my ACD Bible when I was first on the diet about 10 years ago (called The Complete Candida Yeast Guidebook), and I have to admit I began to despair a little. Life without pancakes on Sunday mornings? Life devoid of fresh, juicy fruits? Life sans a little tipple on occasion? How would I cope? What could I eat when the HH and I went out to dinner? What would I do when my friends invited me to Starbucks to catch up? It was starting to feel mighty stressful around here. So I exhibited my usual reaction when I’m feeling stessed: I got into the kitchen when I couldn’t stand the yeast.
After consulting with a few classmates currently practising as holistic nutritionists, I was reassured that the ACD diet had been revised in recent years. Considered unduly restrictive (you think??) it’s since been amended to better reflect current trends in the fields of nutrition and scientific research. Apparently, some sweet foods can now be included as long as they’re low on the glycemic index or GI (which means they don’t raise blood sugar levels very quickly). A low GI denies the yeast its main source of nutrition–glucose. In other words, this time round, I can include most nontropical fruits (such as apples, some pears, berries, or peaches) in my menus, as well as minute amounts of agave nectar, a natural sweetener that’s also low-glycemic.
Scanning the ingredients of my refrigerator for inspiration, the first thought that occurred to me was to cook up some kitchari. This Ayurvedic cleansing stew is a flexible recipe that always features rice, mung beans, and certain spices; beyond that, anything goes. It seemed perfect for that little flock of cauliflower florets waiting patiently to make themselves useful. There was also a lone sweet potato perched on the counter (the only survivor of the Sweet Potato and Ginger salad I made the other day), so those were my veggie choices, but you can use whatever you like or have on hand. The HH thinks this dish bears an unfortunate resemblance to Klingon gach, but I love its mushy, nubby base and nourishing, comforting broth.
The stew simmers gently for almost an hour, infusing your entire home with the fragrant, soothing aromas of Indian spices as it bubbles. It may have been intended as a cleansing stew, but that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of flavor. One serving of this, and your stress will evaporate, right into the swirling plumes of steam emanating from your bowl.
[UPDATE, JUNE 2010: In March, 2009, I began a much more serious (and much more restrictive) candida diet after suffering from myriad candida symptoms for more than 6 months. Finally, with a raging rash taking over my torso, I had to succumb and begin the diet afresh. After 15 months (so far) I'm 90% better, lost 45 pounds, and feel terrific. To read from the beginning of my "new" candida journey, see this post.]
Kitchen Sink Kitchari (loosely adapted from this recipe)
I soaked the rice and beans overnight before cooking, but that step is optional. If you don’t soak your beans overnight, use the quick-soak method: cover with boiling water, bring to the boil, and let sit, covered, for an hour. Then drain and cook as you would pre-soaked beans.
1 cup (240 ml.) brown basmati rice
3/4 cup (180 ml.) mung beans
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) coconut oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch (2.5 cm.) piece ginger, peeled and grated fine
1/4 tsp. (1 ml.) ground cloves
1/4 tsp. (1 ml.) ground fennel
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) turmeric
1 tsp. (5 ml.) cinnamon
1/3 cup (80 ml.) fresh cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) finely grated coconut
7-8 mint leaves, chopped
3 cups (720 ml.) water
1 tsp. (5 ml.) sea salt
2 cups (480 ml.) chopped cauliflower florets
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
Soak the mung beans and rice in a pot of room temperature water, covered, overnight. Drain.
In a large pot or dutch oven, sauté the onion and garlic in the coconut butter. Add the ginger and spices and continue to cook for another minute.
Add the rice and beans with the water and cook for 30 minutes, until rice is soft. Add the vegetables and continue to cook until the sweet potato is soft, about 20 more minutes. Season with salt to taste. Makes 6-8 servings. May be frozen.