Monthly Archives: April 2010

Dhansak

What a complex blend of flavours!

This lentil and vegetable dish is absolutely divine: red lentils, coconut milk, carrots, garlic, mint, cardamom, cinnamon, curry, cumin, cilantro and even paneer!

Can it get any better?

Well, just wait until you taste it!

I have had Troth Wells’ The World in Your Kitchen since I moved to Calgary in the early 1990’s and after tasting the dish that I made tonight I have regrets.

I regret not making this dish sooner.

On cool and rainy spring day this dish was just what I needed.  I had enjoyed a warming bowl of vegetarian chili for lunch at the Upper Crust, before having to slog back to work with a firm grip on the edge of my umbrella so the wind wouldn’t take it away.  After walking home from the bus stop tonight, this dish had the same warming effect (or perhaps it was because I kept standing over the hot stove  sampling the Dhansak as it simmered away)!

I cooked and ate alone tonight, as EPC was out with a friend for dinner.  I am sure that he had a great time, but I think once he gets a taste of what I had for dinner he may have regrets as well.

Dhansak

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 cinnamon stick
6 green cardamom pods
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, thinly sliced and quartered
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 cup red lentils, cooked *see instructions below
1 tablespoon mild curry powder
1/2 cup coconut milk
4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons, fresh mint, chopped
1 cup of paneer cheese
2 tablespoons of cashews
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

  • Heat the oil over medium heat and stir fry the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, cinnamon stick, and m pods for a few seconds.
  • Add the onion, garlic and carrot and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes
  • Add the tomatoes and bell peppers.  Raise the heat and then simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Add the cooked lentils, curry powder, coconut milk, cilantro, mint and salt and stir well.
  • Add the paneer and cashews and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Add the lemon juice and stir before serving

*Rinse and drain the lentils.  Put them in a pot with 2 cups of water, bring to a boil and simmer until tender – about 20 minutes.  Drain and reserve.

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Layered Vegetable and Polenta Casserole

It took me a while to get into polenta.

I love things with cornmeal, but seeing a log of polenta at the grocery store made it look very unappetizing.  Polenta was one cornmeal specialty that I needed to warm up to.

This weekend, I decided to throw away my polenta reservations and concoct a Layered Vegetable Polenta Casserole in response to a suggestion at the bottom of a  basic polenta recipe in one of my cookbooks.  I was feeling pretty lazy, so instead of making my own polenta I  picked up a 1 pound log of polenta from the grocery store.  Not that polenta is difficult to make, but slicing the polenta into rounds for my casserole would be even easier!

I decided to go with a tomato marinara type sauce and went with zucchini, eggplant and yellow pepper with a bit of feta cheese.  Eggplant really brings a nice texture to baked vegetable dishes, a contrast to the crunch of the pepper and zucchini.

The feta cheese added a nice salty tang to the dish, but looked rather uninspiring.  The goat’s milk feta that I bought neither crumbled or melted well.  Next time, I will use a blend of Italian cheeses.

Aside from that, it turned out wonderful and EPC even stated that he felt the polenta was the best part.  I would have to agree, I savoured each bite and went back for seconds.

With my polenta apprehension a thing of the past, I think you will be seeing a lot more of it at Cookbook Cooks.

Layered Vegetable and Polenta Casserole

1 medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Japanese eggplant, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
28 ounce can diced tomato
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili peppers
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2-3/4 pound of polenta (sold in 1 pound round)
175 g of crumbled feta cheese, or a generous 1 cup of shredded cheese of your choice

  • Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and saute for 3-5 minutes.
  • Add garlic and continue to saute for 3 minutes, stirring often so the garlic does not stick.
  • Add zucchini, eggplant and pepper and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, oregano and chilies.
  • Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°C
  • Slice the polenta into 1/2 inch rounds
  • Cover the bottom of a 2 quart casserole dish with a thin layer of sauce (be careful  not to use more than 1/3). Top with a layer of polenta.  Top with half the remaining sauce and half the cheese.  Top with another layer of polenta, sauce and cheese.
  • Bake at 350°C for 20-25 minutes, until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted.

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Thai Chickpea Curry

I borrowed Vatcharin Bhumichitr’s Thai Vegetarian Cooking from my Mom a few years ago when I was visiting her and my Dad and I still have it.

I haven’t delved too far into the cookbook.  In fact, I think I have only made 4 recipes, but the recipe that I am going to share with you today gives this book its deserving place on my cookbook shelf.  This is recipe is so great that Lorna Sass adapted it for her wonderful book Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure.  You can find Lorna’s pressure cooker version of this recipe here.

The first words out of my husband’s mouth, after he finished chewing and swallowing were, “if I got this at a restaurant I would be really happy!”  (That means he really likes the dish).  The funny thing is I have made this dish a few times before, but he can’t remember.  Which brings me to a cute habit that my husband has.  He keeps a little notebook on his dresser where he writes down the recipes that I have made (or that he has made) that he really likes.  That way he won’t forget about them.  Since starting this blog we have rarely eaten the same thing twice and I think that he figures that with every dish I am delving into new uncharted territory.

I guess for Thai food, this is uncharted territory. Having chickpeas, or any bean, in a dish is quite unusual for Thai food.  I can say I have never seen a dish with chickpeas or any other bean on the menu at a Thai restaurant.  Vatcharin came across this recipe at a forest monastery west of Bangkok, so although not a common Thai recipe, it certainly is as authentic as it is delicious.

The recipe calls for coriander roots and, as I am sure you can imagine, these are difficult to find.  If I do find them at all, there is often just a small nub of the root left attached to the stalk, so you need to use quite a few of these nubs to equal 2 roots.  Personally, I do not find that the flavour is lacking without the roots, so you can avoid a special trip to the Asian market to search them out and just go ahead without.

Thai Chickpea Curry

3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 coriander roots, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 400 ml can of light or regular coconut milk
1 tablespoon of curry powder
1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

10 basil leaves, coarsely chopped

  • Using a mortar and pestle pound the garlic, peppercorns and coriander roots, if using, to form a paste.
  • Heat the oil and fry the paste for a couple of minutes until fragrant.
  • Add the coconut and stir well.
  • Add the remaining ingredients, bring to boil and simmer, until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.
  • Add the basil leaves and stir until wilted.
  • Serve over brown rice.

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Moroccan Inspired Vegetable Stew

Feel like you could use more vegetables in your diet, but the thought of a plate full of veggies isn’t enticing enough for you to move from thought to action?

Well then, this stew is for you!

I adapted this recipe from a cookbook I signed out from the library, The Shoshoni Cookbook by Anne Saks and Faith Hill.  The recipes in this cookbook are based on the meals served at the Shoshoni Yoga Retreat just outside of Boulder, Colorado.  I guess the guests were always asking for their recipes, so they decided to put out a cookbook.  This is the first of three Shoshoni cookbooks.

Lots of yam, potato, turnip, eggplant, bell pepper, celery, zucchini and tomatoes make up the body of this stew – with a can of chickpeas tossed in for protein.  It is very low in fat, but the fibre-rich vegetables and chickpeas mean you leave the table satisfied and full.

I think it is the combination of Moroccan inspired spices mingling with the sweet dates and tangy lemon that make this dish so delicious.  Although it sounds exotic, it is a simple dish and if you get right down to chopping it can be ready in almost the same amount of time as it takes to make a pot of brown basmati rice.

Moroccan Inspired Vegetable Stew

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup yam, peeled and cubed
1 cup turnip, peeled and cubed
1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
1 cup eggplant, peeled and diced
1/2 cup water
1 medium zucchini, cubed
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 yellow pepper, diced
3 tomatoes chopped
1 19 ounce can chickpeas
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon corriander
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup dates, chopped (dried prunes would be nice as well)
1/2 teaspoon salt or more to taste

  • In a large saucepan heat the oil and saute the onions and garlic until transparent.
  • Add the yam, eggplant, potato, and water.  Cover and cook until tender, about 20 minutes.
  • Add the remaining vegetables, chickpeas and dates and saute until tender, but not mushy.
  • Add the seasonings and stir well.  Let stand for 10 minutes

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Thai Noodles from our favourite Toronto restaurant!

Tonight’s dinner: delicious!

Even though making the sauce for this meal requires a bit of work, it was absolutely worth the effort. So please do not be put off by the list of ingredients and the required food processor!  This dish has the type of tangy flavourful sauce that keeps many of us going back to Thai restaurants.  Although this recipe is by no means authentic, it is so good and so reminiscent of authentic that no one will even care, or notice that is isn’t.

Another nice thing about this recipe is that it is easy to make gluten-free.  It already has brown rice noodles, so all you have to do is substitute the soya sauce for wheat-free tamari.  If you do feel like cutting corners, I don’t think anyone would notice if you skipped out on marinating the tofu.

Once you get around to making Thai Noodles, you will find out why Fresh is our favorite restaurant in Toronto.  We have both cookbooks from this restaurant, Fresh at Home and reFresh, and, in case you are interested, you can get them both from Chapter’s or Amazon, so you do not have worry about making a special trip to Toronto.  However,  if you are in the neighborhood I recommend that you stop by (they have three locations).  We have plans to go to Toronto this summer and are quite excited to eat there at least once every day that we are in town.

EPC is a big fan of eating Fresh’s rice/noodle bowls, but does find them too involved to enjoy cooking them, so that is where I come in.

Even though the weather was fantastic this weekend, I felt like staying in all day Sunday, parked on the couch reading a novel and being lazy.  I will confess I always feel a bit guilty when I do not make it outside on the weekend for a walk, but since I had taken in the 124th Street Gallery Walk on Saturday afternoon I decided to advantage of my desire to stay in and do some cooking.  If my laziness got me in the bad books with my husband, tonight’s dinner would get me out.

An afternoon in was a perfect opportunity for me to marinade tofu, simmer the sauce and quickly put together reFresh’s Thai Noodles between chapters.

Marinated tofu, thin shavings of carrots, tender spinach, a succulent sauce, garnished with fresh cilantro, bean sprouts, peanuts and cucumber, all on top of a bed of brown rice noodles…

How can you resist?

Thai Noodles

1 375 g package of brown rice spaghetti noodles
6 cups of spinach
1 block of firm tofu, marinated (recipe below)
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled into strips (use vegetable peeler)
Thai noodle sauce (recipe below)
2 cups bean sprouts, reserve a handful for garnish
1/2 cup cilantro
1/4 cup roasted peanuts
4 inches of cucumber, sliced into strips

  • Cook the noodles according to package directions, drain, and put back in the pot with a bit of the Thai Noodle Sauce to prevent sticking (don’t worry about keeping them warm)
  • Put the tofu, spinach, tomato, carrot and Thai Noodle Sauce in a wok.  Bring to a boil and then simmer until the greens are tender.  Add the bean sprouts and stir
  • Divide the noodles up among four bowls (or two bowls and two lunch containers) and top with the vegetable and tofu mix.
  • Garnish with fresh cucumber, cilantro, bean sprouts and peanuts

Marinated Tofu

1 block of firm tofu, cubed
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup low-sodium soya sauce or wheat-free tamari
2 tablespoons filtered water
1 tablespoon sunflower oil

  • Mix the vinegar, soya sauce, water and oil in a shallow dish.
  • Add the tofu cubes and marinate for 1 hour in the fridge

Thai Noodle Sauce

3 inch piece of ginger root, peeled and chopped
12 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons sesame oil
2/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 1/3 cup grated unsweetened coconut
2 tablespoons chili powder
2/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup low-sodium soya sauce or wheat-free tamari
5 cups of carrot juice
1-2 teaspoons sea salt
4 teaspoons paprika
1 stalk lemongrass, peel off outer layer and cut off top of stalk and crush

  • In food processor, puree the ginger and garlic
  • In a large saucepan heat the sesame oil over medium-low heat.  Add the ginger and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes
  • Grind the sunflower seeds in the food processor and add to the saucepan
  • Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes
  • Remove the stalk of lemongrass

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Ms. Jaffrey’s Madras Curried Tomato Soup

It must appear to you that I have been slacking off at blogging this month.  It’s true.  It is already half way through the month and I have only put up four posts including this one.  I guess that is what happens after a having a month of sure things, courtesy of Lorna Sass, and then moving into the uncharted territory of other cookbooks.

I made a batch of cookies, which are pretty good, but not a recipe I deem worthy of a post and a tempeh jambalaya with similar concerns.  On Easter weekend, I did make an excellent dish but figure it needs a bit of tweaking before it makes an appearance on Cookbook Cooks.  So there you have it.  If everything had worked out a little better, or I had made a better cookie choice, you would be seeing almost double the posts.

Enough about my unposted efforts and on to the meal at hand.

Whenever I use my Madhur Jaffrey World Vegetarian cookbook I always get stuck at the front.

The book starts with beans, dried beans, lentils and nuts and is then subdivided into specific sections such as chickpeas, mung beans or cashews.  Then goes on with the same format for vegetables and grains.  I am sure you can imagine how inclusive, thorough (and thick) this cookbook is.  For example, the soup section doesn’t start until page 575. I think it is clear now why I always get stuck in the first half of the cookbook.

Don’t get me wrong,  it is quite a nice set-up actually.  If you have some swiss chard in the fridge you can flip through the swiss chard section and find such delights as Young Swiss Chard with Sesame Seeds and Swiss Chard with Tomatoes and Chickpeas. On the other hand if you feel like kidney beans there is a wonderful recipe for Nigerian Red Kidney Bean Stew with a Peanut Sauce, which is a personal favourite of mine.  This time when deciding what wonderful recipe to try I started at the back of the cookbook instead, bringing me to the delicious Madras Curried Tomato Soup.

The soup that I served veers quite a bit from the original recipe, but in a good way. I took out the heavy cream and substituted light coconut milk and added a can of lentils to give it more protein.  It tastes great and I think you could even add less water and serve it up over rice if you fancy.  We had it with some store-bought naan bread, which neither of us cared for, but was rescued by a thorough dunking in the thick soup.

Madras Curried Tomato Soup

2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 tablespoons curry powder
28 ounce can diced tomatoes (I used the no salt added variety)
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into rounds
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup  frozen, defrosted peas
1 19 ounce can of lentils
2  tsp salt (you might want to add less if your tomatoes have salt added)
1  can coconut milk (light or original)

  • Heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion.  Saute for 5 minutes, or until the onion has softened.
  • Add the curry powder and give a quick stir.
  • Add the canned tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, peas, canned lentils, and 4 cups of water.
  • Bring the soup to boil and then turn down the heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes
  • Blend the soup in batches in a blender or use an immersion blender
  • Reheat the soup if needed and serve

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Vefa’s Chickpea and Eggplant Casserole

Our friend is in town for a few weeks visiting family and friends before he is off to meet his wife in Africa.  She is doing development work there, so the two of them will make the African country of Botswana their home for the next year.  He will also be working during his time there, so it looks like a very exciting time for the both of them!  It was great  to hear about their plans over dinner and I hope they are diligent in keeping Facebook updated with photos and other tidbits (Hint, hint, nudge, nudge).

I have mentioned this couple before in a earlier post. They gave EPC and I the fabulous Vefa’s Kitchen  for a wedding gift, and since one good turn deserves another I decided it would be fitting to cook him a wonderful meal from this cookbook.

In the spirit of their  wedding gift, I will share with you an excerpt from the passage they inscribed in the front of the book: 

We feel that a loving relationship begins with, and is sustained through food.

I do not think I would come across any disagreements about the truth of this passage from my readers.  In fact, EPC and I had our first date over dinner and he did mention how he loves my cooking during his wedding speech last summer.  It makes me think  of the old cliché: “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”  I know that I certainly feel warmth and love when EPC prepares a delicious meal for me, so I guess that makes it true for women as well.  Our guest mentioned how he and his wife love cooking and eating together too.  It will be wonderful when they are reunited next month and they can experiment in the kitchen by cooking vegetarian meals with locally available ingredients. 

Once again, Vefa’a Kitchen did not disappoint.  The dish turned out great.  Everyone enjoyed it and the majority went for seconds.  Both Erin and I will be enjoying leftovers in our lunch on Monday. 

I will confess I  had a bit of trouble getting all the eggplant fried up in a timely fashion, so if you try this dish keep that in mind and give yourself enough time.  It certainly won’t matter if you assemble the casserole with room temperature eggplant.  I decided to make Vefa’s Cashew Wild Rice Pilaf as a side dish.  It  turned out fabulous and was a nice accompaniment to the eggplant and chickpeas.  With great food, old friends and conversation it was nice way to end off the weekend.

 

Vefa’s Chickpea and Eggplant Casserole

1 1/3 cups dried chickpeas soaked overnight in cold water
3/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves thinly sliced
400 g canned diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tsp paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, plus extra for topping
salt and pepper
2-3 large eggplants, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced

  • Drain and rise the chickpeas, place in a pot with enough water to cover and bring to boil.  Simmer for 30 minutes – skimming off any scum that rises to the top.  Rinse and drain the chickpeas
  • Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a large pot and add the onion and garlic.  Cook over low heat until softened – about 5 minutes.
  • To the onions and garlic, add the canned tomatoes, allspice, paprika, oregano, chickpeas and enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hour more – until the chickpeas are tender.
  • While the chickpeas are cooking sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and let drain in a colander for 1 hour.  Rinse drain and squeeze out the excess moisture.
  • Heat the remaining oil in pan and cook the eggplant slices for about 8 minutes, turning frequently.  You will need to do this in batches.  I found that I cooked the eggplant in considerably less oil.  If I felt oil was lacking I used my olive oil mister to spritz them as they cooked.
  • Preheat oven to 350°C
  • Remove the eggplant and blot on paper towels.
  • Arrange half the eggplant slice on the base of a casserole dish.  Spread the chickpea mixture over top and cover with the remaining eggplant.  Cover with tomato slices, sprinkle with oregano and drizzle with olive oil.
  • Bake for 50 minutes at 350°C .  Serve hot or at room temperature

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