Monthly Archives: January 2011

Vietnamese Pho – Vegetarian Style!

I was directed to this great recipe on the Veg News website by my co-worker’s girlfriend.  At work one day he commented on how she had made this great vegetarian Pho, so I was delighted when the link showed up in my inbox a few months later.

I have never had real authentic Pho with beef, so I can’t say if the soup tastes like it should or not. Regardless, it is a great soup and both EPC and I slurped it all up for dinner tonight.

No leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

I wasn’t sure if the soup would be as good as the name  – Faux Pho.  Needless to say I spent a lot of time this weekend mentioning to my husband that I would be making Faux Pho, or was that (ahem) Pho Faux, for dinner on Sunday. I guess the soup was pretty stellar, because any annoyance he might have felt at my play on words over the course of weekend was remedied as he finished up his second bowl.

The soy sauce, Chinese five spice powder and of course the seitan make this into one meaty soup quite unlike anything I have had before, except maybe at Padmanadi.  And what do you know, it looks like Padmanadi is having an all you can eat vegetarian buffet this Feb 3 and 4 in celebration of Chinese New Year!

The Vietnamese Faux Pho was quick, easy and delicious, so we will definitely be having it again.

FYI:  I subbed one heaping cup of coarsely grated carrots for the mung bean sprouts, used Green Cuisine plain seitan (available at Planet Organic) and upped the amount of fresh lime juice considerably

Click here for the recipe

Sunday Night Success: Vegetable and Grain Croquettes, Beet Gratin, and Oven-Roasted Potatoes and Yams

I love making dinner on Sundays.

I am sure the same is true for everyone.  The weekend allows us  time to cook something that might take a little more time and effort than can be afforded on a weeknight. Some Sundays I make more of an  effort than others and since I had been stuck inside for a few weeks because of the inclement weather, I certainly had time to try out a new recipe.

In addition, EPC and I decided that we needed to invite our good friend over for dinner before she departs to Iceland for 3 months (she leaves on the 29th of this month!).  When I asked her  if she had any dinner requests she replied:

“Something with lots of vegetables.”

She is a vegetarian too, so I thought her comment was a bit funny.  Regardless I made vegetables the focus of the meal.

I had been wanting to try the Vegetable and Grain Croquettes from Peter Berley’s The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen.  The combination of millet, quinoa and lentils intrigued me AND I had never made croquettes before!

By the way, this cookbook is one my favourites and seems to be regarded quite highly by everyone else, since it won the James Beard Foundation Book Award and the IACP Cookbook Awards.   If you are in the market for a new cookbook I recommend that you take a look at it.

Since this dish was new to me (and slightly fiddly during the final moments of preparation), I decided to make oven-roasted root vegetables as well as a beet gratin topped with goat cheese and bread crumbs to round out the meal.  These two dishes would up the vegetable quotient without giving me much more work during the crucial point when I would be frying up the croquettes.

The meal was fabulous and left our friend commenting that she wished she could marry me and eat like this all the time.

*blush*

Anyway, I am sure she will have a marvelous time in Iceland and we will have to her over again when she returns to hear all the great stories about her time abroad.

Vegetable and Grain Croquettes
adapted from Peter Berley’s The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen

1/4 cup millet
1/4 cup quinoa
1/4 cup red lentils
1/2 cup short grain brown rice, soaked for 4 hours and drained
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
3 cups water
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup of sweet potato, peeled and finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1/4 cup onion or shallots, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
Freshly ground pepper to taste

1/2 cup arrowroot powder
Peanut oil for frying

  • Rinse the millet, quinoa, lentils, rice and sesame seeds in a fine strainer, drain, and place into a medium pot.
  • Add 3 cups of water and bring to boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and cover simmering for 35 minutes.
  • In a medium frypan heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the sweet potato, celery, onion, garlic, and ginger.  Saute for 5-10 minutes until lightly browned.  Add 2 tablespoons of water, cover, and cook on low heat until tender about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and put into a mixing bowl.
  • When the grains and lentils are done add to the mixing bowl of vegetables.  Mix together and add the parsley and pepper.
  • Spread the arrowroot powder on a plate
  • Now, form the croquettes!  Moisten your hands and form into a small patty and dredge in the arrowroot powder. Reserve patties on a platter until you are ready to fry them up.
  • Add 1/4-1/2 inch of oil to the bottom of a heavy skillet (I used my cast iron pan) and heat over medium high heat.  Adjust the heat according to the pan used.  When the oil in hot panfry the croquettes, about 3 or 4 at a time, for 3 minutes per side.
  • Place cooked croquettes on a paper towel lined baking sheet.

I topped with an easy yogurt sauce based on Peter Berley’s slightly more fussy one.

Easy Yogurt Sauce

1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste
1 tablespoon lime juice, freshly squeezed
salt to taste
dash of maple syrup
1 cup of plain yogurt, not low fat!

Add the spices, lime juice and maple syrup to the yogurt.  Stir well and enjoy.

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Better late than never: the best recipes of 2010

After reading a post on Only Here For the Food about how The Polenta Pie that I featured back in November did not go over so well, I decided to take a look at all the recipes that I have posted over the past year and make an “ in-no-particular-order-best-of-list”.

I figure that this list will make choosing a recipe for dinner even easier.  I will preface this by saying that not everything I cook gets posted on Cookbook Cooks, not by a long shot, so a considerable amount of pre-screening does go on.  As a result, EPC and I think everything that has made its way onto the blog is yummy, even The Polenta Pie.  

However, we would both agree that some recipes rate higher on the “yumminess” scale than others.  So, with a person’s individual taste aside, the recipes that made the best of  list are guaranteed meals that EPC and I cook repeatedly and/or that guests have thoroughly enjoyed (none of which are particularly difficult to prepare either!)

  1. Dhansak
  2. Katchoomber Salad
  3. Vegetarian Shepard’s Pie
  4. Vegetarian Black Bean Enchilada Bake
  5. Tex-Mex  Vegetarian Chili
  6. Ethiopian Lentil Stew
  7. Nigerian Kidney Bean Stew with Peanut Sauce
  8. Three Sister’s Stew with Corn Dumplings
  9. Easy Vegetarian Mulligatawny Soup
  10. Greek Lentil Soup
  11. Fire Roasted Tomato and Black Bean Soup
  12. Spicy Coconut Sweet Potato Soup with Spinach
  13. Easy Chipotle Mac and Cheese
  14. Thai Noodles
  15. Black Bean Skillet Casserole with Cornbread Topping
  16. Gluten Free Spanakopita
  17. Quick and Easy Veggie Burgers

If you give any of these recipes a try, let me know.  Should they have made the cut or not?

Nut Free (or not) Fruit-Sweetened Granola Bars

My friend asked me about 4 months ago if I knew any recipes for nut-free granola bars.  Since I am so remiss in getting around to whipping some up, I decided to post two delicious nut-free recipes.  In this case, the granola part of the bars needs to be made first as it provides the base for the fruit-sweetened bars.

Which means breakfast time and snack time are both covered!

I do not have much to say about these bars (aside from the fact that they are delicious!) other than they can be nut-free or not.  I did decide to add almonds for EPC and I, but a mix of pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds would work just as well.

They are chewy, reminiscent of a Lara Bar, but with less structural integrity.  In response, I wrapped each bar separately and stored them in the fridge.

Oh yeah, they can also be made to suit vegans and Celiacs alike!

Seed and Dried Fruit Granola
adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

6 cups of rolled oats (not quick oats) (for gluten-free use Only Oats rolled oats)
3/4 cup of raw sunflower seeds
2/3 cup of raw pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup of sesame seeds
1/4 cup of poppy seeds
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 cup of honey (substitute maple syrup for vegan granola)
1/4 cup of maple syrup
1/4 cup oil
1 cup of  dried fruit, such as raisins, chopped apricots, and tart cherries

  • Preheat the oven to 300°F
  • Heat a large pot over medium low heat.  Add the oats and stir until fragrant, about 5 minutes
  • Add the seed mixture and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally
  • Pour the roasted oats and seeds into a large (9X13) casserole dish and add the cinnamon, oil, honey and maple syrup.  Stir well to mix
  • Take 1/3 of the mixture and spread out on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan (this step is optional, but it produces a more crunchy and darker granola which offers a nice contrast to the lighter cooked granola in the casserole)
  • Put the casserole dish and the cookie sheet into the oven and bake for 20 minutes stirring halfway through.
  • Remove from the oven and stir in the fruit.

This makes about 7 cups of granola.  When cool, store in an airtight container.

Fruit-Sweetened Granola Bars
adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

1 1/2 cup of mixed dried fruit.  I used about equal amounts of raisins, apricots, and apples
1/4 cup of oil
1/2 cup water
2 cups of Seed and Dried Fruit Granola
1 cups of seeds or nuts of your choice. I used almonds.

  • Add granola and seeds or nuts to a large bowl
  • Put the dried fruit mixture, oil and water into a food processor and blend until smooth.
  • Scrape the fruit mixture in a small pot and warm on the stove top.   When hot pour over the granola mixture and stir well to coat.
  • Line a 8 x 8 square pan with cling wrap and press the mixture into the pan.
  • Cool in the fridge for 1-2 hours until firm and slice into 12-16 bars.

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Tomatillo and Avocado Salsa

Well, even though we had to push the car into a street-side parking spot,  we made it to my work Christmas Party in January in one piece and only a few minutes late.

I cannot believe the amount of snow that has fallen in Edmonton over the last 10 days.  It is astronomical!  It must around 40 cm by now and word on the street in another 10-20 cm by the Tuesday.  And cold!  I do not think the thermometer has made it over -20°C in the last week.

Sigh.

Don’t get me wrong, I have come to terms with the fact that I live in a cold Canadian city, but with all this snow I wish it would warm up a bit so we could at least enjoy it.

In order to cope with the weather I was reminiscing about our winter holiday to Cancun last Christmas.  We stayed at The Westin Hotel and Spa and the poolside restaurant served a fantastic tomatillo salsa before each meal.  After eating the salsa every day for a week I didn’t get tired of it, but instead decided that I needed to get the recipe for myself.

The chef gave up the recipe with pride and I tucked it into my suitcase, saving it for a snowy day when I needed reminding of warm weather flavours.  I love tomatillo salsa, or green salsa as it is often called, and with the added avocado it is even better.

At the party last night I served the salsa with tortilla chips, but it would be great stand-in anywhere you would use a standard red tomato salsa.

I plan to make up another batch this week!

Tomatillo and Avocado Salsa

4 or 5 green tomatillos
3 tablespoon chopped onion
1 -2 serrano or jalapeno chiles, chopped (I removed the seeds to reduce the heat)
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
1 -2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ripe avocado, mashed

  • Remove the husks from the tomatillos, wash the fruit with a bit of soap and rinse well.
  • In a small pot cover the tomatillos with water and bring to boil.  When water is boiling, reduce heat and  simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Remove tomatillos from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
  • Add tomatillos, onions, chile, lime juice, garlic, salt, and cilantro to a food processor.  Pulse until mixture is well combined.  Let cool.
  • Stir in avocado before serving.

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Vegetarian Eating in Havana, Cuba

Although I have always heard how wonderful Cuba is and how exciting and interesting Havana is, these rave reviews are often coupled with the following disclaimer: the food is not wonderful, exciting or interesting. In fact, it is quite poor.  I figured if carnivores found the food to be lacking then it would be even worse for vegetarians.

Since EPC and I had decided to go to Havana for Christmas this year, I thought I had better do a bit of research on the city’s food and restaurants before we arrived.  Armed with two guidebooks and the internet I set out to make a list of the vegetarian restaurants in Havana.

I came across two helpful internet sites.  One was a 2008 posting by a vegan traveler to Cuba. He mentioned how his most memorable meal was shredded green cabbage and tomatoes.

Gulp.

The second useful site was a link to a newspaper article written by a vegetarian resident of Havana.  This looked promising, but as he chronicled the decline of Havana’s few vegetarian restaurants, I felt a bit challenged, to say the least, about my ability to select some vegetarian restaurants prior to our arrival.

In fact on our first day in Havana, we arrived at one of the vegetarian restaurants listed in our guidebook only to find it closed for good.

Would we have to subsist on the sprig of mint gracing Cuba’s national drink?

Luckily for us the food at our hotel, The Hotel Saratoga, was quite good.  The Anaconda Restaurant had numerous pasta dishes on the menu such as penne arrabiata,  tagliatelle with sage and butter, pasta with pesto sauce and a lovely caprese salad.  The room service/bar menu also featured a delicious grilled baguette sandwich with cheese, tomato and onion accompanied by a salad and fries (the actually accompaniments varied from what was listed to banana chips and salad, only salad, or steamed carrots and salad).  This was my husband’s go-to meal whenever he was feeling hungry.

As you can tell from the photo, breakfast was one meal that you could really look forward to.  All the food pictured is part of the Continental Breakfast available in the Lobby Bar at the Park Central Hotel.  Best of all it only costs about  $8.00 Canadian.

As for other restaurants, one that featured quite prominently in both guidebooks and on the Happy Cow website, was the Al Medina.  This Mediterranean restaurant is located in Old Havana and if you have a guidebook you will have no problem finding it.  For Havana this is a vegetarian’s paradise.  Although the food was far from authentic, in fact the fatoosh salad was a cross between tabouli and bruschetta, it was quite satisfying.  We ate here 3 times and were turned away once because the restaurant was full.  Al Medina features a Vegetarian Mezza platter with rice, beans, fatoosh, falafel, hummus and pita and sautéed vegetables.  I am not convinced that the rice was not cooked in chicken broth, but when in Rome…  It also included a vegetarian kibbeh, which was squash wrapped in a cabbage leaf (you see what I mean about it not being authentic).  However, if you suspend your belief about what constitutes a falafel, the food is quite good.

I also found an excellent pizza place.  EPC and I both agreed that if we were served this pizza in Edmonton we would not be disappointed.  The best pizza that we had in Havana was at Prado and Neptuno right across from the Park Central Hotel and on the corner of, you guessed it,  Prado and Neptuno streets. We both ordered the Pizza Ecologico.  It was topped with artichoke hearts, onions, green pepper and fresh tomato.  They had a few other vegetarian pizza options, but I think the onion added lots of flavour and I did not want to risk my chance at a good meal by breaking tradition.  They also had vegetarian pasta dishes, but neither of us tried these.

Both guidebooks mention an Italian restaurant in the old city called La Dominica, but EPC and I thought it was terrible.  Although the restaurant was quite lovely to look at, the pizza was terribly salty and we did not even finish our meals.  To add insult to injury I ordered the tiramisu for dessert and was dismayed to find it adorned with coloured sprinkles with an unidentified petroleum product subbing in for the mascapone cheese and whipped cream.  In addition, my husband tried the margherita  pizza at our hotel and thought it was awful too.  By this point I was too scared to try the hotel’s tiramisu and figured I should wait until I got home.

I also had a great chop suey with steamed rice at Tien Tan in Havana’s Chinatown.  Once again, I cannot be certain that the chop suey was not cooked in a chicken broth.

In addition, we went to La Imprenta in Old Havana (Mercaderes and Lamparilla).  Upon first inspection it appeared to have numerous vegetarian options such as fried chickpeas and sautéed eggplant, but when asked the server informed me that both dishes were fried up with ham.  Sigh,  I settled on a spanish omelette which was quite good and only cost $1.25.  Since I am just starting to add egg dishes to my diet, I have little to compare it too.  In addition, there was a fantastic cheese plate featuring a fresh ricotta-type cheese, a mild cheese from Holland, and sharper cheese courtesy of Argentina.  It was glorious.

We had heard about how delicious the ice cream was, but the stuff I tried on the corner of Obispo and Mercaderes was artificial in both its taste and colour.  EPC and I stuck with the 500ml containers of Nestle Almond ice cream available all over the city.

In conclusion, I highly recommend the Cafe El Escorial located on the Plaza Vieja in Old Havana for their wide variety of speciality coffees and the Museo del Chocolate located just off the Plaza Vieja on Mercaderes for its thick hot chocolate and handmade chocolates.  These two places certainly took the edge off finding good food in Havana.

EPC commented many times how the food was better than he expected and I would have to agree.  It certainly did not detract from us having a wonderful holiday and thoroughly enjoying our experience in Havana.

Moroccan Spicy Eggplant and Tomato Salad

EPC and I had been looking for a Moroccan cookbook for ages.  It seems that the majority of them place little focus on vegetarian options and lay heavy on the lamb.  I guess this make sense, but we were hopeful that something out of the ordinary would present itself.

One Saturday afternoon last month, as we were drooling over the Emile Henry Tagines on display at our neighbourhood kitchen supply store, my husband noticed a copy of Ghillie Basan’s Tagines and Couscous rounding out the display of crockery.  We flipped through it and in comparison to the other options we had, this cookbook had a fair selection of delicious-looking vegetarian tagines (8), couscous (3 out of 5 recipes), and side dishes (11).  We jumped at the chance and purchased it on the spot.

Tonight was the first chance I had to delve into the cookbook and I settled on two salad dishes, one with chickpeas and the other, the star of the show, a delicious roasted eggplant and tomato salad.

Sure, roasting (and then peeling) eggplant and tomatoes is kind of a pain, but if you do it early in the afternoon and leave it on the counter to cool, the salad is ready in no time. We served it with some whole wheat pita bread left over from New Year’s Eve, but serving it with the recommended crusty bread would be even better.  There is something about sopping up savoury dish with a thick hunk of bread that a triangle of pita bread just can’t compete with.

Moroccan Spicy Eggplant and Tomato Salad

2 large eggplants
4 large tomatoes
1/2 cup of olive oil, divided
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon of harissa paste*
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup parsley, chopped
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds, ground (I used a motar and pestle)

  • Preheat oven to 400°F
  • Put the eggplants on a baking sheet
  • Put the whole tomatoes in a casserole dish and cover with 1/4 of olive oil
  • Bake both for 30 minutes and then cool on the counter
  • When then have cooled (about 45 minutes), halve the eggplant and scoop out the inside and discard the skin.  Chop the eggplant into a pulp.
  • Peel the tomatoes, discard the seeds and chop into a pulp
  • Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a cast iron pan and saute the garlic until it begins to turn colour.
  • Add the tomatoes and harissa and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes.
  • Add the eggplant, cilantro and parsley and cook for about 5 minutes until the eggplant is heated through.
  • Add the lemon juice, cumin seeds, and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature with the remaining olive oil drizzled on top and don’t forget the bread!

* You can pick harissa up at a speciality store or follow Ghillie Basan’s  simple recipe:

8 dried chilies, seeded and then soaked in warm water for 1 hour
3 garlic cloves finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds, ground
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds, ground
4 tablespoons of olive oil.

  • Drain the chilies and combine in a food processor with garlic and salt until a thick paste.  Mine never got to a thick paste, but c’est la vie.
  • Add the cumin, coriander, and olive oil and blend well.
  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge for about 1 month

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