Category Archives: Peter Berley

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.

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

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.


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

Three Sisters’ Stew with Corn Dumplings (did I mention how much I love Peter Berley’s recipes?)

I am constantly amazed.  Peter Berley never disappoints.

I will confess that I take a look at some of his recipes and wonder, will this taste good, will it have enough flavour, will EPC like it?  I know I wondered when I made his Root Vegetable Risotto with Red Beans.

Silly me.

Even if I begin cooking with doubts I always end the meal convinced.  Convinced that Peter Berley makes fantastic cookbooks and I am lucky to have one.

I was also convinced by the dumplings.  Before eating this stew I had never had dumplings before.  They are wonderful.  I can’t speak for all dumplings, but corn dumplings made with masa harina are the bee’s knees!  The great thing about corn dumplings is that besides being taste-bud friendly they are also celiac friendly.  I imagine that they eclipse wheat flour dumplings in the way that corn tortillas do flour tortillas.

In fact, EPC figured that the stew could be improved with even more dumplings (the recipe made 18 dumplings!).

Of course he was joking, but I am sure you get the point.

Enough about dumplings and onto the three sisters.

He is not referring to actual sisters, but instead to the three sisters of corn, squash, and beans which make up the cornerstone of Native American Cuisine and are the main components of the recipe.  In the recipe’s introduction he paints an idyllic picture of the cornstalk providing support for the bean tendrils, the large squash leaves spreading over the ground holding in moisture and shading out weeds, all benefiting from the nitrogen that the beans add to the soil.  In addition to agricultural support, the three sisters combine well with thyme and sage to make this delicious stew.

Located in the hearty stew section of The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, Three Sisters’ Stew with Corn Dumplings was a perfect choice for a spring evening meal when the weather seems more like fall or early winter.

Three Sisters’ Stew with Corn Dumplings

1 cup of dried pinto beans, soaked overnight and cooked until tender (I soaked them for 3 hours andcooked them in the pressure cooker with 2 cups of water for 20 minutes at high pressure)  You can also use 3 cups of canned pinto beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large leek, washed well and sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 medium butternut squash (about 1 pound), peeled and chopped
1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (leave a few seeds if you like it spicy)
400 ml of canned crushed tomato
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig of fresh sage
2 cups of thinly sliced fresh spinach
salt and pepper to taste

1 cup of masa harina
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Get the dumplings underway first:

  • Add masa harina to a medium-sized bowl
  • Bring the water to boil in a small pot.
  • Whisk the olive oil and salt into the boiling water and then pour over the masa harina.
  • Stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together into a ball.
  • Cover the bowl with a plate and set aside

Then get the stew started:

  • Heat the oil over medium heat and add the leeks, carrots, squash, and jalapeno.  Saute for 10 minutes to soften, stirring frequently
  • Add the crushed tomatoes, pour in the beans with their juice (if using canned beans add about 1 cup of water).  Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water, if needed, to thin the stew.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes.
  • While the stew simmers, form the dumplings into bite sized oblong balls. I made about 18 dumplings.
  • Add about 1/2 inch of water to a pot with a steaming basket and stem the dumplings for 8 minutes.
  • To the stew, add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add spinach and stir
  • Add the dumplings and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes until the spinach is cooked through.

Click to print

Tempeh and Vegetable Stew in my new french oven, or Peter Berley does it again.

I had wanted to prepare this dish a few weeks ago, but after reading the recipe I noticed that it required a pot that you could transfer from stove top to oven and back again. I wasn’t sure if my pots were up to this, so I refrained. Although I am sure that you could modify the recipe and use two pots, I figured why not use this as an opportunity to get another piece of cookware for the kitchen.

Sometimes we need an excuse, don’t we?

My husband complied, and instead of getting me a boring cast iron dutch oven, he delighted me on my birthday with a beautiful enameled cast iron 3 quart french oven!

Now that I had the appropriate cookware, I decided that I would make this delicious stew out of Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast.  I was excited to use my new pot and to cook with tempeh, something I had not done before.

After preparing a few recipes from two of Berley’s cookbooks, I should not be surprised with how amazing this dish turned out.  So far everything I have cooked of his has been fantastic.  To be quite honest, I am putting off purchasing The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen and Fresh Food Fast, because I wonder if I will every use any of my other cookbooks again. Realistically though, when these go back to the library in a few weeks I will undoubtedly place an order for them.

The only unfortunate thing about the meal was that I was unable to get the sauce to thicken.  Perhaps I was too hungry to take the time needed.  Of course the sauce was still delicious, but a thick texture would have made the dish even more stew-like.

To round out the meal, I took Berley’s recommendation and served it atop a bulgur and kasha pilaf.  A pleasant nutty departure from brown rice, our usual grain of choice.  Happily, we have enough left over my lunch and dinner for both of us tomorrow.

After tasting the delicious meal that I served tonight EPC did not have any regrets about spoiling me with a new french oven.  I guess this is another example of one good turn deserving another.  However, with a 30 year warranty he will be eating delicious meals out of that pot for many years to come.

Tempeh and Vegetable Stew

4 tablespoons of olive oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, minced
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 8-ounce packages of tempeh cut into 1-inch squares
4 tablespoons soya sauce
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
1 medium onions, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 large yam, cut into 2 inch chunks
2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
coarse sea salt
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder

  • Preheat the oven to 375°C
  • Heat the olive oil in a 3-5 qt dutch oven medium heat
  • Add the garlic, ginger, and rosemary and lay the tempeh on top
  • In a small bowl whisk 1 cup of water with the soya sauce and maple syrup.  Pour this over the tempeh
  • Add a layer of onions, yam, parsnip and carrot over the tempeh- in that order.  Cover and bring to a boil
  • Put  into the oven and bake for 30- 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender
  • Transfer the vegetables and tempeh to a serving bowl with a slotted spoon and reserve the juices.
  • In a small bowl whisk the arrowroot in 1 1/2 cup of water and 2 tablespoons of soya sauce.  Pour into the dutch oven and stir constantly over low heat until the sauce thickens.
  • Pour the thickened sauce over the vegetables and tempeh and serve.

Serves four

Click to print

Root Vegetable Risotto with Red Beans from The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen

Amazing, yet simple.

That is how I would describe tonight’s dinner.

I read the recipe over this morning as I was making out the grocery list and thought this might be a bit boring, but I liked the idea that the dish included beans.  That, I thought, was a bit different for risotto.  I was also a little worried that EPC would not get past the fact that there was turnip in tonight’s dinner.  He knew it was in there and he didn’t mind one bit.  How could he mind.  The risotto was  anything but boring.  It was delicious!

After the first two bites my husband gave me a high five and inquired about the cookbook that the recipe came from.

“It is another Peter Berley success”, I said. ” Remember the Coconut Sweet Potato Soup? Same guy”.

This time, the recipe comes from his award-winning cookbook The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen.

One more thing.

At first EPC did not believe me that there was no cheese in the dish, but that is one of the great things about risotto – the creaminess.  It is such a satisfying meal on a chilly day.

We had went out for an hour-long walk this afternoon.  The temperature was only -4°C, but with the windchill it was an unexpected -11°C.  It was great to get some fresh air and light exercise , but I was glad when we got home.  I certainly picked the perfect night to make risotto, I thought.

For those of you unfamiliar with the dish, it involves adding stock to the arborio rice in 1/2 cup increments and continuously stirring until the stock in absorbed, then repeating until all the stock is gone and the rice is tender yet firm.

The warmth received from standing over the stove was welcome.

Root Vegetable Risotto with Red Beans

5 cups of vegetable stock (I used one cube in 5 cups of water)
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt (I used a generous dash of salt)
1/2 cup grated burdock root (I could not find burdock root, so I added a bit more of the other root vegetables to compensate)
1/2 cup peeled and grated turnip
1/2 cup peeled and grated parsnip
1/2 cup grated carrot
1 cup arborio rice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons minced ginger root
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup cooked kidney beans, canned (or from 1/3 cup dried, soaked and cooked)
2 tablespoons of butter
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped parsley for garnish

  • Simmer the stock in a saucepan.
  • In a separate saucepan heat the oil, onion and salt over medium heat. Saute four or five minutes until softened.
  • Add the burdock, turnip, parsnip, and carrot and cook another 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add the rice tomato paste, ginger, and garlic and cook while stirring for about 1 minute, until the rice is well coated with the tomato paste.
  • Add 1 cup of simmering stock and adjust the heat so the risotto continues to simmer.
  • Cook, stirring constantly until most of the stock has been absorbed. Continue to add stock, 1/2 cup at a time, as the liquid gets absorbed.  This should take about 25 -30  minutes from start to finish.
  • When the rice has absorbed about 3 1/2 cups of stock, add the kidney beans.
  • Continue adding stock until the rice is tender.
  • Swirl in the butter, season with pepper and top with parsley.

Peter Berley’s Spicy Coconut Sweet Potato Soup with Spinach

We arrived home from our winter holiday 2 days ago and today is the first day that I attempted to transition from restaurant food to cooking for myself.

The transition worked out well. Extremely well, in fact.

The first audible sound out of EPC’s mouth, after”ummmmm” and various slurping sounds, was “This is the best soup I have had in a long, long, time!” He loved it and so did I.

Thanks to Captious Vegetarian for introducing me to Peter Berley! I picked up his cookbook Fresh Food Fast at the library and have thoroughly enjoyed reading through the recipes. We will certainly be making this soup again and will likely include the accompaniments that the author recommends – rice and Crispy Tempeh Strips (I was so out of practice with putting together a meal that I forgot to make the rice and neither of us had the energy to source out tempeh this morning after grocery shopping). However, the soup was fantastic on its own.

Coconut milk gives such a creamy buttery texture to soup. The yams held their own and added a delicious sweet flavour to the recipe, rounding out the spicy jalapeño and tangy lime juice

Spicy Coconut Sweet Potato Soup with Spinach

2 tablespoons olive oil 2 cups diced onion (about 2 medium)
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (I prefer yam to sweet potato)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 small jalapeño pepper with seeds, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 small bunch of  spinach
1 lime cut into wedges
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, for garnish
2 cups of water
1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk (I use Thai Kitchen Lite Coconut Milk)

  • In a large saucepan heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, a pinch of salt and sauté until softened.
  • Add the sweet potato, garlic, jalapeño, ginger, coriander, and turmeric, and saute for 2 minutes.
  • Add 2 cups of water, coconut milk, and 2 teaspoons of salt.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes
  • Add the spinach to the soup and simmer until softened – about 1 minute.
  • Add a bit of water if the soup is too thick.
  • To serve: ladle soup into bowls and top with brown basmati rice (or do as we “did”, and serve with thick slices of fresh bread).
  • Squeeze with lime juice and add cilantro to garnish.

Click to Print