Category Archives: entrées

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.
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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.

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Dog-Induced Sabbatical and Veggie Pot Pie

My husband and I have been talking about getting a dog for a while now and we finally did it!  In fact, the dog in question is curled up right beside me as I type this post.

We welcomed Coco into our home almost three weeks ago and she is fitting in great.  We found this cute 10 month old Cocker Spaniel at the Edmonton Humane Society and could not resist her.  We are loving every minute of it, but it has not been without its challenges.  She is very timid and scared around men, so EPC has had to work extra hard to win her affections and day-by-day walls are being broken down as she warms to up him.  We have had to do a bit of work on potty-training.  And although the worst is over,(or perhaps I am getting used to it) potty training seems to be a work in progress.  Furthermore, we have to keep an eye on her every second to make sure she isn’t into something (recycling bag, laundry basket) or chewing something (furniture) that she shouldn’t be.  Of course we both love the extra exercise we are getting taking Coco out for walks, but hope the weather will warm up soon! I think Coco feels the same way.

Needless to say I have been busy, hence the absence of posts last month, and Coco, not cooking, has been the center of my attention.  Between take out from Famoso and Padmanadi, Amy’s brand frozen pizzas and our favourite bottled sauces from the Italian grocer over pasta, cooking meals from scratch has been on the back burner.  That being said we have relied on a few quick and easy favourites of Lorna Sass’s in the pressure cooker, but I have not gotten very adventurous in the kitchen.

Since EPC and I had a relaxing weekend with Coco,  I felt inspired to try a new recipe.  I have been thinking about making a vegetarian savoury pie for a few weeks now and I was able to track down a recipe for  Pot Pie in my Vegetarian Times Cookbook, so I decided to give it try.

I was wonderful and I loved the biscuit crust!  The sauce thickened up nicely and wrapped the tender veggies and chickpeas in delicious blanket of flavour. EPC had two large helpings and Coco loved the slices of raw carrot that ricocheted off the counter as I chopped them up for the stew.

It was a  perfect meal on a windy, snowy day.  Yes, despite a respite a couple of weeks ago, it seems that winter will never leave us.

PS: It comes together quite quickly so do not be intimidated by the long list of ingredients.

Vegetarian Pot Pie

2 1/2 cups of vegetable stock
1 medium onion, diced
3 celery stalks, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced
1 small red pepper, diced
2/3 cup frozen green  beans
1/3 cup frozen peas
1 19-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup whole wheat flour (Try brown rice flour to make it gluten-free)
1 cup skim milk (use soy or rice milk to make the recipe vegan)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
1 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce (use salt to make it gluten-free)
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour (or gluten-free all-purpose flour mix)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup skim milk or soy milk
2 teaspoons maple syrup or honey

Heat ½ cup of vegetable broth in a large pot. Add the onions and cook for 3 minutes stirring occasionally.  Add the celery, carrots, red pepper, peas, green beans and chickpeas.  Stir and cook for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir to coat.  Slowly add the milk and vegetable broth stirring constantly to get rid of any lumps.  Add the parsley, soy sauce, sage, thyme, pepper and cayenne.  Stir constantly until the sauce thickens.

Remove from heat.

In a large bowl blend the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add the 2 tablespoons of butter and blend in using a pastry knife (I like to use a large fork) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  I found I needed to add a tablespoon or two of olive oil for the coarse crumbs to develop to my liking.  Add milk and maple syrup and stir to combine.  If the dough is too dry add a touch more milk.  Knead the dough until it is no longer sticky and roll it out on a lightly floured surface in roughly the same shape as your casserole.

Pour the vegetable filling into a lightly greased 2 quart casserole and lay the biscuit topping on top.  Do not seal the edges.

Put into the oven a bake for 25 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes

Serve and enjoy.

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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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Delicious and delightfully different: Mollie Katzen’s Polenta Pie

This was a fantastic meal. EPC and I both loved it.

A crunchy cornmeal crust topped with vegetables, tofu and cheese.  It is a lot like pizza, only different.

With a cornmeal crust how could it not be different, but different in a very, very good way.

It is nice to have few celiac-friendly recipes under your belt and knowing that I have at least a couple of readers who need gluten-free meal ideas, I try to pick out at least one interesting option each month.

This particular recipe is adapted from Mollie Katzen’s The New Moosewood Cookbook and surprising enough this is one cookbook I do not own. A friend from work lent it to me last week. She figured I would enjoy it and she was right. I love flipping through her cookbook and seeing all the stains and marks on the pages where her favourite recipes are.  Apparently the hummus is exceptional!

Mollie is certainly a big name in vegetarian cooking and the first edition of this book came out in 1977! I was first introduced to this cookbook almost 20 years ago and back then I remember not being too impressed by it. Of course at the time I was not as crazy about cookbooks as I am now and to be quite frank the version that I perused back then was the original edition. She made a considerable amount of changes to the cookbook since then and added some new recipes, making this cookbook a very impressive collection of vegetarian recipes.

I will definitely be making this recipe again and I can’t wait to try a few more before I return this cookbook to my friend.  In fact, I may have to pick up a copy for myself.

Polenta Pie

1 1/2 cups of cornmeal (I used medium)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups of cold water
2 cups boiling water

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
5 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
Freshly grated black pepper
salt to taste
1/2 block of firm tofu, grated (optional)

2 cups of grated provolone cheese
1 medium tomato, sliced, seeded and diced

First get the crust started:

  • Preheat the oven to 375°C
  • Add cornmeal, cold water and salt to a small bowl and stir to mix.
  • Have the boiling water in a pot on the stove and add the cornmeal mix while whisking to avoid any lumps.  You need to stir almost steady for about 10 minutes until the polenta is nice and thick.  Remove from heat and cool.
  • Oil a 9 x 13 casserole dish and add the polenta.  Smooth the polenta over the bottom of the pan and up the sides.
  • Brush or spray the crust with oil and bake at 375°C for 45 minutes.

While the crust bakes make the topping:

  • Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and saute the onions for about 10 minutes until soft.
  • Add the bell pepper and zucchini and saute for 3 minutes more.
  • Add the garlic, basil and oregano and saute for a few more minutes.
  • Then add the grated tofu (if using) and stir to coat.
  • Remove from heat and wait for the crust to finish baking.
  • When the crust is ready remove from the oven and turn the oven on broil.
  • Sprinkle 1 cup of cheese on the crust and top with the diced and seeded tomatoes. Slather the vegetable topping on top of the crust and top with the remaining cheese.
  • Broil for about 5 minutes until brown and bubbling

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Is it a soup or stew? Neither, its Pasta e Fagioli!

This is a great weeknight meal.  It is quick to make, satisfying, and tastes even better for lunch the next day!

I love pasta dishes, but one of my complaints is that the vegetarian versions are often low on the protein side of things.  This dish has a whole can of cannellini beans along side the vegetables and pasta making it much more balanced and filling.  I made a  few simple changes to the original recipe, so that the sauce would be thicker and a little less soup like, and it worked really well!

In anticipation of making this popular  dish I picked up a new pasta shape from the Italian Grocery Store: whole wheat orecchiette.  It was fantastic: tender, yet chewy.  I am not sure if it was the brand of pasta, or if it was the particular shape, but I think it would work really well in a “macaroni” and cheese type dish.

I will save that for next time.  After all,  there are never a shortage of great recipes and ideas to try!

Pasta e Fagioli (adapted from Toni Fiore’s Totally Vegetarian)

4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
3 garlic cloves chopped
1 teaspoon rosemary, minced
3 fresh sage leaves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 19 ounce can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (Hint: these are also called white kidney beans)
1 -15 ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 cups of dry pasta, I used whole wheat orecchiette (use brown rice pasta to make this recipe gluten-free)

Grated parmesan (optional)

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven and saute the onion, celery, and carrots for 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the oregano, sage and rosemary
  • Add the beans, tomatoes and 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Add cooked pasta to individual bowls and top with the thick soup.
  • Garnish with grated parmesan if desired.

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Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie from the new Canadian Living Vegetarian Cookbook

I love flipping through Canadian Living Magazine!

They have the best recipes.

In fact, my mother-in-law gave me a whole stack of last year’s magazines to peruse and seek out new vegetarian recipes.  Now Canadian Living has made searching for their vegetarian recipes easier by including a selection of delicious sounding meals in their newest “tested til perfect” cookbook  The Vegetarian Collection.  Even though I have secured a copy of this cookbook  that doesn’t mean I won’t continue to flip through the old magazine editions!  Plus, this cookbook does not feature any deserts, so those old magazines will come in handy.

I had been eyeing this cookbook for a few weeks in Coles bookstore downtown.

Should I pick up, or shouldn’t I?

Then one day while looking through cookbooks in Winners I found a copy of the coveted cookbook for only $14.99.  Well, that settled it.

It was tough for me to decide on the first recipe that I would make from my newest acquisition. Would it be Rustic Spinach and Feta Galette, Squash Couscous, or Smoked Cheese Risotto?  Instead I decided on an adaptation of the Canadian Living version of vegetarian shepherd’s pie.

With a mix of yam and potato for the topping and a stew of lentils and veggie ground round beneath this shepherd’s pie was absolutely delicious.  I must confess it beat the pants off of a shepherd’s pie recipe that I posted previously. This one takes a bit longer to make, so if you have time to spare give it a try. Though you could use canned lentils instead of dried one to speed things up.

I think the mix of yam and potato with the grated cheese on top is what makes this shepherd’s pie so fantastic !

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dried brown lentils, soaked overnight then rinsed and drained (or one can of lentils)
1 340g package of Yves Veggie Ground Round
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 -28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 cup of water
2 zucchini diced

4 (1 kg) russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch dice
4 (1 kg) yams, peeled and cut into 2 inch dice
1/3 cup of milk
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese

  • In a large pot heat the oil over medium heat and add the onions, celery, carrot and garlic.  Cook until softened, about 6 minutes.
  • Add lentils, cumin, and oregano and cook for 3 minutes
  • Stir in tomatoes and water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
  • Add the zucchini and cook for 30 minutes more until the lentils are tender.  If you are using canned lentils cut the cooking time at this point to 10 minutes.
  • Add the Veggie Ground Round and stir to mix.
  • While the mixture is cooking  add the potatoes and yams to a large pot of boiling water and cook until tender, about 20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°C
  • Drain the potatoes and yams and rinse the pot.  Return the potatoes and yams to the pot and mash with milk, yogurt, salt and pepper.
  • Add 1/2 cup of grated cheese to the potato-yam mash
  • Scoop lentil mixture into a 9 x 13 baking dish and spread the potato-yam mash on top.  Top with the remaining cheese and bake at 375°C for 30 minutes

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