Category Archives: chefs/cookbook authors

Finally! Fresh Food Fast: Marinated Sesame Tofu Steaks, Soba Noodles, Greens and best of all Pea Shoots

I signed-out Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast from the local library a few weeks ago and have since ordered my own copy.

It took me awhile to get use to the layout of the cookbook and at first I was less than impressed  – even though I made this fantastic Spicy Coconut Sweet Potato Soup out of it.  It is a seasonal cookbook, divided into spring, summer, winter and fall.  The recipes are paired, giving you a tasty meal with two easy to prepare dishes.  Each paired recipe gives you a shopping list, pantry list, and plan of attack so you can complete the meal in as little time as possible.

This was the part that turned me off.

I felt that the shopping list and procedure for preparing the meal outside of the recipe was overkill and to be frank a waste of paper.  However, the recipes, with full on Berley style, are fantastic, easy, and full of pizzazz and creativity.  It is the recipes, the most important part of any cookbook, that compelled me to change my mind, get over the parts of the layout I didn’t like, and pick up a copy for myself.

This tofu dish was much more than a simple stir fry.  The tofu, noodles, and bok choy are all cooked up separately, giving you a noodle bowl-type meal instead of just a stir fry and since the greens are quickly cooked in the same pot as the noodles, the dishes are kept to a minimum.

The glazed tofu was delicious with just a hint of sweetness from the honey (EPC swore it was maple syrup), but the piece de resistance was the accompaniment to this spring meal whose recipe Berley included.  The pea shoot salad was served atop the other ingredients to lend a tender fresh taste.

Pea shoots were a first for EPC and I and we both loved them.  They taste exactly the same as snap peas, but are much more tender and, being pea shoots, they are much “cuter” as well.  Peter Berley included sunflower sprouts in his salad, but I choose to leave them out and go for some straight pea shoot goodness.

I should also mention that I the pea shoots were a much appreciated spring-like presence in my last Organic Box.

Marinated Sesame Tofu Steaks, Soba Noodles, and Greens

1 pound of firm tofu, cut into 12 slices
6 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon of crushed red chile flakes
2 tablespoons oil

enough noodles for 4 people
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 pound baby bok choy, rinsed and trimmed – pre-washed spinach works too and makes it extra fast!

2 cups of  pea shoots
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil

  • Bring water to boil in a large pot
  • Blot the sliced tofu on paper towel to remove excess water
  • Mix 6 tablespoons soy sauce with the vinegar, honey and red chiles in a small bowl and whisk to combine
  • Heat a large skillet (I use my 12-inch cast iron) and add the oil.  Let it warm up and then add the tofu slices in one layer.  Fry the tofu for 5 minutes until the bottom is browned
  • Flip the tofu and top with the soy sauce mixture and cook until the sauce has thickened – about 5 minutes
  • When the water boils add the soba noodles and cook according to the package directions.
  • When the noodles are cooked, drain and rinse.  Transfer to a large bowl and add the tablespoon of soy sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds and toss to coat.
  • In the same pot, with enough water to cover the bottom, add the bok choy and steam for about 2 minutes.
  • In a small bowl mix the lemon juice and oil with a dash of salt.  Add the pea shoots and toss to mix.
  • Serve the noodles topped with greens and tofu with a sizeable garnish of pea shoots.
Advertisements

The Organic Box, Baby Turnips and Peter Berley: just in time for longer, warmer, and sunnier days.

Well, I did it.

I got my husband to eat turnip and swiss chard AND like it.

All thanks to Peter Berley’s fabulous recipe for Turnip and Leek Soup with Potatoes and Chard from his Fresh Food Fast cookbook.  Did I mention it is fabulously easy as well?

I got two bunches of sweet baby turnips in my Organic Box.  For those of you who don’t know, The Organic Box is a local organic produce service.  They source out local food producers when the season permits and when it doesn’t they source from small farms across the Americas.  Even though I get to pick every item that shows up in my box, it still feels like a surprise each time I get home and open up the box to check out the great mix of fruits and veggies!  They are not just produce though.  You can add on locally produced organic milk from Saxby Dairy Producers in the south end of Edmonton, and grains and pulses from Saskatchewan farms, not to mention their newest addition locally produced organic fruit wines and much much more.

Back to the turnips.

I have never seen or, in my memory, eaten baby turnips.  They were wonderful in the soup and I imagine they would be wonderful roasted as well.  They are about the size of radishes and tied together in that familiar bunch of green tops and creamy white roots.

And now back to the soup.

I have long since learned that Peter Berley’s simple list of ingredients and seasonings make the most wonderful dishes.  I neglected to check my spices before starting the soup and I had to sub in cumin seeds for the caraway, which worked out fine, but I am sure the caraway would have been much better.

I will admit that I used to think if the dish did not contain a long list of spices that it would taste bland or need spicing up, but the perfect blend of vegetables, butter, and salt and pepper make a soup that can make anyone, even my husband, learn to love cruciferous root vegetables and leafy greens.

Leek and Turnip Soup with Potatoes and Chard

3 Tablespoons butter (substitute oil to make it vegan)
2 medium leeks
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 pound small white turnips, quartered or cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1 pound of potatoes cut into 1 inch pieces (about 1 pound)
1 bunch swiss chard, stemmed, trimmed and chopped
Freshly ground pepper

  • In a 3 quart saucepan melt the butter over medium heat
  • Add the leeks and a dash or two of salt.  Saute for about 3-5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and caraway seeds and stir together.
  • Add 6 cups of water, turnips, potatoes, and bring to a boil.
  • Add 1 teaspoon salt and reduce the heat to medium and simmer, covered for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender
  • Add the chard and cook for about 3 minutes until tender.
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Click to print

Cookbook extraordinare: Ms. Moskowitz’s Appetite For Reduction

Prior to the release of Appetite for Reduction, I worked up my appetite for Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s new vegan cookbook by making one of the sneak peek recipes off her website. The Baked Onion Rings turned out fantastic and upped my anticipation for the cookbook by 100%.

The first recipe that I tried from the actual cookbook pages were the  Chipotle Lentil Burgers.  They are spicy and delicious.  One of the big problems with vegetable burgers is that they do not hold together well.  Even if they taste great, but fall apart while cooking or while eating, they get a failing grade from me.  Moskowitz’s  burgers held up to cooking, despite begin flipped numerous times, and while begin squeezed between two halves of a whole wheat bun.  The recipe made 6 well-sized burgers and 1 each was all EPC and I needed, along-side our roasted vegetables, to be satisfied.   In addition the burgers are darn easy to make – another plus.

Now I had to decide what to make next.


I had a couple of ripe mangos in the fridge which prompted me to make Mango BBQ Beans and the suggested accompaniment, Fresh Corn and Scallion Corn Bread.  Both were good; however, EPC couldn’t get enough of the corn bread and for me the beans stole the show.  You know that rhyme that ends “and betwixt the both of them they licked the platter clean”, or something to that effect, well in the end it worked out well: neither of us fought over the leftovers. The recipe also prompted me to purchase my first bottle of liquid smoke.  I put in half of what the recipe asked for, because I was a little apprehensive of “smoking out” the beans, but I think Ms. Moskowitz got it right.

Sigh – I should have known better.

Finally, and best of all, the beans and the corn bread were both dead easy to make!

Her falafel recipe is fantastic too and best of all (like the onion rings) does not rely on a deep fryer for flavour.   The falafel came together in no time flat and I took her suggestion and served them atop organic greens, tomatoes, grated carrots and cucumber.  I probably took away the intended low-fat component to this recipe by topping the falafel patties  and greens with a tahini sauce, but I can’t have falafel without tahini!  Oh yes, I realized half way through my meal that I had forgotten to take a photo – I guess I was just too excited to get down to eating!

Next on my list was an easy choice: Curry Laksa.  You can never go wrong with coconut milk, veggies and curry!  And this recipe is oh so right!  The red curry paste, lime juice, ginger and garnish of cilantro quickly add flavour and pizzaz to this time saving meal.  I am a huge fan of coconut noodle soups and this is one of my favourites.  It is delicious and very quick to make.  Both EPC and I absolutely loved it.  I think the author is right when she says that this dish may not be authentic, but with the speed and flavour the lack of authenticity hardly matters.

Now that I have sufficiantly raved about the recipes I should talk a little bit about the overall content of the cookbook.  Appetite for Reduction contains 125 recipes divided into 8 sections: salads, sides, vegetables, beans, tofu and temeph, pasta, soups, and stews.  She also includes a special section on sandwiches and bowls.  In addition, the recipes are reviewed by a registered dietitian who also writes a introductory segment on vegan nutrition, containing info on vitamins and minerals and the scoop on good and bad fats.  Moskowitz also makes choosing a recipe easier for us by using icons with each recipe to identify it as soy or gluten-free and indicate whether the recipe can be made in 30 minutes and under and whether or not the recipe has “downtime”.  She also includes useful information and tips throughout its pages.  Best of all, the cookbook is written in Moskowitz’s standard cheerful and witty banter.

All and all I think this cookbook is fantastic.  I am not going to include any recipes because the cookbook was just released and I think you should pick up a copy for yourself or a as gift for a friend (and then borrow it!)  If you do want to give some recipes from Appetite for Reduction a try take a look at the website.  I think the Chickpea Picatta looks divine!

Click here to purchase from Chapters online, or Amazon.ca.  Just a note that on Amazon.ca you can take a look inside the cookbook!

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.

Click to print

Feeling like Carmella Soprano: Baked Ziti with Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella

I was first introduced to ziti while watching The Sopranos.

In Season Two Carmella brings an aluminum pan of baked ziti to her daughter Meadow’s dorm room.  I wondered, what in the world is ziti.  I had never heard of it and I recalled that the dish had been mentioned a few times in Season One.  At first I thought it was an Italian dish, which it is, but I found out the name of the dish is based on the pasta shape.  As you all know, something not uncommon in Italian Cuisine.

EPC and I always eat whole wheat pasta, so I was delighted when I went to the Italian grocery store last month and found whole wheat ziti (they had whole wheat orzo and cavatappi too!).  I knew that my fabulous Jack Bishop Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook had a recipe for Baked Ziti with Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella, so I decided to pick up a few boxes of ziti and give it a try.

It is had to believe how the shape of pasta can affect the way tastes.  For example, I really dislike whole wheat penne, but quite enjoyed the ziti, and cavatappi is my favourite pasta of all time.  Perhaps it not just texture and shape that affects the taste, but also the appearance.

Regardless what it is about pasta and its shapes, EPC and I enjoy pasta in its various forms about once a week.  This particular dish is a keeper and the quick tomato basil sauce of Bishop’s is a nice departure from canned or bottled sauces.

Baked Ziti with Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella

3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons of fresh basil leaves, minced
250 grams of mozzarella cheese, grated
4 cups (450 g) of uncooked whole wheat ziti
1/4 cup of parmesan, freshly grated
Freshly ground pepper to taste

  • Set large pot of water on high heat.
  • Then start the sauce: Heat the oil over medium heat and saute the garlic until lightly browned
  • Add the crushed tomatoes, basil and pepper to taste
  • Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and let stand until pasta is ready.
  • Oil a 9X13 glass baking dish and preheat the oven to 400°C
  • When the water is boiling cook the ziti 2 minutes less than suggested.  It will complete cooking in the oven.
  • Stir the ziti into the pot with the tomato sauce and stir to coat
  • Pour half the sauce and pasta mixture into the baking dish.
  • Top with half the mozzarella and half of the parmesan.  Add the remaining pasta and  top with the rest of the cheeses.
  • Bake until the cheese browns – about 20 minutes.

Click to print

Tag-team Sunday night supper: Sage Focaccia and Fire-Roasted Black Bean Soup

I usually end up making dinner on Sunday evening because EPC likes to relax in the late afternoon before he heads off to his Sunday evening yoga class.  But this week he decided to make his favourite black bean soup recipe from Toni Fiore’s Totally Vegetarian.

In response I chose to make whole wheat sage focaccia from Jack Bishop’s Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook. I had a lot of luck with his whole wheat pizza crust and figured it couldn’t hurt to give his foacaccia bread a try. Afterall, the flecks of fresh sage in the bread would make a great accompaniment to  my husband’s soup.

As always, the soup was delicious.  This was the first time he had tried it with canned fire roasted tomatoes and it did make a difference.

I remember the first time he made this soup – before we had an immersion hand blender – what a mess.  Scooping soup by the cupful into our blender was not the easiest way to blend up the soup, and we lost a considerable amount on the floor.  It certainly made my husband an advocate of our latest kitchen appliance.  If you  like to make soups I really recommend picking up an immersion blender (we got ours at Superstore for about $30.00).  I find even if the soup does not call for pureeing, blending a small amount of the soup gives it a nice thick consistency.

In addition to that first  messy batch of soup,  we followed the recipe by adding the 2-3 jalapenos and the 3 tablespoons of chipotle chili powder it called for.  This made the soup almost inedible!  We now use only one jalapeno and 1 -2 teaspoons of chipotle chili powder.

Since winter has practically arrived in Edmonton (one night last week it went down to -5°C!) I did not mind spending the majority of the afternoon indoors as I waiting for the bread to go through two long rises (1 1/2 to 2 hours each).  It was worth it.  I had never made focaccia before and I am really glad that I did.  Next time I will bake it on a sheet of parchment paper.  Well-oiled or not,  I had a difficult time prying the bread off the pan.  The edges cracked a little and I lost some of the bottom to the pan, but what it lacked in presentation it made up for in taste.

I also found the bread cooked quicker than the 20-25 minutes recommended, so make sure you take a peak in the oven after 15 minutes.

I think I will use the leftover focaccia to serve as a bun for the veggie burgers I am going to make tomorrow night.  So stay tuned!

Sage Focaccia Bread

1 1/3 cups of warm water
2 teaspoon of active dry yeast (I used bread machine yeast and it worked fine)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 scant cups of whole wheat bread flour
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons of salt
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh sage leaves and about 20-25 whole sage leaves
2 tablespoons of olive oil for drizzling
1/2 teaspoon of coarse sea salt.

  • Combine water, yeast, and oil in a large bowl.
  • Add the flour, salt and sage and stir to mix with a wooden spoon.  Stir until the dough comes together (it will  come away from the sides of the bowl and form a ball)
  • Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes)
  • Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth.  In a warm place let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (I found 1 1/2 hours was sufficient).
  • Oil the bottom a cookie sheet with at least 1 inch deep sides ( I recommend parchment paper instead of oil).  The pan should be about 15 by 10 inches.  Flatten the dough into the pan, spray the top of the dough lightly with oil and cover with plastic wrap.
  • Let the dough rise a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the dough has almost doubled in size (I waited almost 2 hours).
  • Preheat the oven to 425°C.  Before placing the dough in the oven use your finger to dimple the dough at 2 inch intervals.  Place a fresh sage leaf in each dimple, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon of coarse sea salt.
  • Bake for 15-25 minutes until golden  brown and remove from the pan to cool.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature

Click to print.

Toni Fiore’s Black Bean Soup recipe can be found here.  EPC only adds 1 -2 teaspoons of chipotle chili powder and 1 jalapeno.  The soup is too spicy otherwise.

Nigerian Kidney Bean Stew with Peanut Sauce

If you have been reading my posts for a while you know that EPC has a lot of favourite meals and generally loves the recipes I post here.  In fact, the meal often has to pass the “husband taste test” before it is deemed blog-worthy.

I have been making Nigerian Kidney Bean Stew for a couple of years and it has certainly become top on EPC’s list.  It is high up on my list too, because it is easy to make and is delicious and satisfying served over brown rice

I am feeling far too relaxed today to do much writing today, so I will keep it short and leave you with this wonderful recipe adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian.

Happy cooking and have a good week.

Nigerian Kidney Bean Stew with Peanut Sauce

2 cans of  red kidney beans, rinsed well and drained
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 medium onion,  finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 green pepper, diced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 398 ml can of tomato sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 generous tablespoons peanut butter
1/3-2/3 teaspoon of salt to taste

  • Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and green pepper and saute until the onion is translucent.
  • Add the cumin and stir to coat the onion mixture
  • Add the tomato sauce, cayenne, lemon juice and 1/2 cup water
  • Stir well and simmer for 15 minutes
  • Remove about 1/2 cup of liquid from the pot and reserve. Add the peanut butter to the reserved liquid and stir to mix. Return to the pot.
  • Add the kidney beans and cook until heated through – about 10 minutes.

Click to print