Category Archives: side dish

Out of this world: Dates with Rice

I wasn’t planning on putting up a post about the rice, but I had no choice. It over-shadowed one of EPC’s favourite dishes (Chickpeas and Green Beans) so much so that he went for seconds of the rice, not giving the entrée a second thought.

I asked him if the entrée had not turned as well as it had the last time I made it. Apparently it was still good, but next to the rice, nothing else stood a chance.

My husband declared that this dish is the best rice he has ever had and if he was served it for dessert he wouldn’t complain. It was sweet, but not overly so. There is no added sugar, but the 3/4 cup of dates, the cinnamon, and cloves move this rice dish out of the familiar realm of savoury first courses to tease the edge of dessert.

Between you and me, next time I make Chickpeas and Green Beans I will be sure to serve it with plain rice!

Dates with Rice (adapted from Classic Vegetarian Cooking from the Middle East and North Africa by Habeeb Salloum) Serves 4-6

1 cup of brown basmati rice, rinsed
5 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup of slivered almonds
3/4 cup of dates, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves

  • In a small pot bring water to a boil, add rice and simmer covered for 20 minutes. Drain and rinse with warm water and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, heat 2 1/2 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan.  When melted add almonds and saute until they begin to brown.
  • Then add the dates, cinnamon, and cloves.  Saute for 3 minutes.
  • Add 1/3 cup of water and simmer on very low heat for 20 minutes.  Make sure you stir often and add small amounts of extra water as necessary.
  • Put 1/4 cup of water into a small saucepan (I reused the one that I cooked the rice in).  Add half of the rice and top with 1 tablespoon of butter.  Add the date mixture and then top with the remaining rice and 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter.
  • Top the pot with an inverted plate and simmer over  low heat (about 2 on my range) for 7 minutes and then turn to very low heat for the remaining 8 minutes.
  • Remove the rice from the heat, leave the lid on and let sit for an additional 15 minutes.
  • Stir and serve.

Click to print

A weekend of beets

Eating a large amount of beets over the course of a weekend should not come as a surprise at this time of year.  It is harvest time after all!

We went over to our friend’s place for supper and games on Saturday evening and what a treat!  The company and the food were top-notch.

Our host prepared these wonderful puff pastry parcels filled with golden and red beets that were absolutely delightful and for dessert his “partner-in-cooking” prepared a lovely apple tart.  He promises me that the beet parcel recipe is forthcoming, so I hope to be making it myself and posting it soon.  Enjoying the harvest bounty with friends made it feel like Thanksgiving had come a weekend early.

We also played a  board game that EPC really enjoyed.  I finally got into it after the second round (translate: figured out what the heck was going on), but we didn’t make it to a third, as dessert and conversation got in the way.  The game is popular in the UK and is called The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game.  Since EPC enjoyed it so much, I am hoping that I can track it down here in Canada.

I was lucky enough to be on the receiving end of a large bag of beets harvested from the garden of my co-worker’s mother.  I decided to make a beet cake with cream cheese icing and some savory beet pancakes that I had seen in a summer issue of Vegetarian Times (their photo is much better than mine).

Beet cake is something I have enjoyed numerous times at a local restaurant The Blue Plate Diner.  I didn’t have a recipe for a beet cake so I took a carrot cake recipe and modified it.  It worked out and tasted great (thanks to some suggestions from my Mom), but I have a bit of tweaking to do before it makes an appearance on Cookbook Cooks.

The beet pancakes were scrumptious.  I am eating a leftover one as I write this post and I must confess that eating one the second day convinced me to get off my butt and post the recipe so you can make them too!

Savory Beet Pancakes with Yogurt-Mint Sauce
makes about 8 pancakes

Yogurt-Mint Sauce:
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used 2%)
1/2 teaspoon dried mint
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
a few turns of the pepper mill

Beet Pancakes:
1 1/2 cups of grated beets (about 3 medium)
1 cup of grated carrot
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten

First make the yogurt mint sauce:

  • Using a fork, whisk together yogurt, mint, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl
  • Refrigerate until ready to use
  • Then make the pancakes:

  • Preheat oven to 250°C (to keep the pancakes hot as you prepare them)
  • Grate beets and carrots by hand or using a food processor.
  • Add garlic and salt and stir.
  • Add the beaten eggs and mix well.
  • Spray a non-stick skillet or cast iron pan with cooking oil and heat over medium heat (medium low if you are using cast iron)
  • Drop 1/4 cup of the beet mixture onto the pan and flatten.  I found that I could easily cook 2 at a time.
  • Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side and put finished pancakes in the oven until ready to serve.
  • Top with yogurt-mint sauce and serve
  • Click to print

    Vegetarian BBQ!

    Summer finally arrived in Edmonton this past weekend.

    Temperatures were below seasonal for the first two weeks of June, but now that summer is just around the corner the temperature seems to have righted itself.

    In celebration of the warm weather we decided to have our first BBQ of the year.  I know, I know, June 13th is a little late, but I am always slow on seasonal transitions.  This year I found myself saying it is still cool enough to use the oven or make risotto, so I better take advantage of it while I can.  Stupid really, since it looks like summer will only last 3 months at best. I should have been taking advantage of the fact that there wasn’t any snow and started BBQing a few weeks ago.

    This may or may not come as a surprise, but I have actually been asked what the point is of having a BBQ when I won’t be cooking up a thick juicy steak.  Well, for starters nothing beats BBQed vegetables.

    I recommend getting a stainless steel vegetable basket.  It is the perfect way to  cook up your favourite vegetables and much easier than trying to prevent them from falling through the grate.   I chopped up a red onion, yellow pepper, some baby zucchini, threw in a few whole cloves of garlic and drizzled some olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top.  Although they were wonderful, I must admit they were a little undercooked.  The onions could have stood to be grilled for a few more minutes.  Next time I will leave them on for about 20 minutes.

    I also parboiled some baby potatoes, drizzled them olive oil and some salt and pepper and wrapped them up in foil before I threw them on the grill.  EPC loved them.  They were tender and slightly charred. Delicious!

    To top it all off I marinated a block of firm tofu with a really fantastic marinade from the Rebar cookbook and grilled that too.

    I will share the recipe with you, because you can never have enough marinade recipes.  To make the inevitable transition to winter a little easier this marinade works great with a stir fry too!

    Basil-Soy Marinade

    1 or 2 blocks of firm tofu (1 block serves two to three)
    1/4 cup soy sauce, sodium reduced
    2/3 cup of water
    2 tablespoons of lime juice
    1 tablespoon minced ginger
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 teaspoon sambal oelek
    2 teaspoon sugar
    a few turns of the pepper mill
    8 leaves of basil, roughly chopped

    • Slice the tofu into 3 thin rectangles. Cut each rectangle in half so you have six thin squares.
    • Combine at the ingredients, except the basil, into a small pot.
    • Simmer over medium low heat for 5 minutes.
    • Throw in the basil and pour over the tofu.
    • Marinade for 2-8 hours
    • Reserve the sauce and use to baste the tofu or as a stir-fry sauce.

    Click to print

    Fennel and White Wine Risotto with a knob of butter

    One good thing about having a cool spring is that I was able to make risotto one last time before the summer heat overtakes our condo. Since our condo faces west, the early evening sun heats up the place and makes the task of stirring hot broth into rice an unpleasant one to say the least.

    That reminds me, risotto apparently works quite well in a pressure cooker. Perhaps the warm weather will make me break with tradition and opt for the quick no-stir method. Time will tell.

    This risotto recipe was passed along to me by a co-worker.  One day, I was politely eyeing her lunch (this happens quite often), so she sent me the link.  The recipe is courtesy of Waitrose, a UK grocery store.

    She and her husband hail from the UK, so we always have fun pointing out the different words used for things there and here. For example, jumper and sweater, garden and backyard, and football and soccer, to name a few.  I think my favourite one is flapjacks.  In Canada flapjacks, without a doubt, refers to pancakes.  In the UK it refers to a crunchy oatmeal-based cookie akin to a sweet granola bar. Wow! I couldn’t believe it. We both speak English, but sometimes it is like another language.  She made a batch of UK flapjacks for us to try, which we all agreed was a nice way to learn about a “different language” and a little easier to share at lunchtime than a plate of Canadian flapjacks.

    The risotto recipe had a couple of firsts in it for me too: the first time I had cooked with fennel (hard to believe, I know) and the first time I had made risotto with white wine. The fennel was great (except that I did not chop it fine enough – easily remedied), but the white wine, not so much. I really dislike white wine and figured I would get past it in a risotto, but I couldn’t. Next time I make this dish, or another risotto that calls for white wine, I will leave it out and use extra stock.

    The other thing that worked against me was that the power went out for 30 minutes right in the middle of cooking the risotto. Sigh. The texture was certainly a bit off and I had to add a few extra ladles of stock to get the dish back on track, but it survived.  At least the risotto was saved and we didn’t have to garbage it and go out to eat.

    I used the recipe as is, so click here to take a look.

    Oh, if you are wondering, a knob of butter translates to 2 tablespoon here in Canada.

    Madhur Jaffrey’s Besan, or Polenta with an Eastern Flair

    By the time the end of the workweek roles around the two of us are often too tired to do much of anything other than eat dinner, relax, go for a walk, and then go to bed.  This Friday night we decided to spice it up and head down to Whyte Ave for a short walk and a trip to Chapter’s to browse the bookshelves.

    Lucky for me EPC wanted to head over to Planet Organic to pick up a snack from the deli.  That meant we could also pop into Greenwood’s Bookstore (they have a much better vegetarian cookbook selection than the Whyte Ave Chapter’s, at least in my opinion).  Tonight turned out to be my lucky night!

    At Greenwood’s I found a copy of Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East Vegetarian Cooking discounted 50%!  The front cover was slightly creased at the corner, but other than that it was completely intact.  This cookbook gets such favourable reviews that I had been contemplating picking it up for a few months now, but figured I really could not justify buying yet another cookbook.  However, at 50% off how could I refuse? I was so excited with my new discount purchase that I decided to make Sunday’s dinner from its pages.

    While flipping through the Beans and Dried Peas section and I came across an intriguing dish the likes of which I have never seen before.  Madhur coins it a Savory Chickpea Flour Quiche, but take a look at the recipe.

    Cook the chickpea flour with onions and seasonings, pour into pan, cool, cut and serve.  The instructions read like polenta, not so unfamiliar after all, so I figure this dish can be coined polenta with an eastern flair.

    It turned out fantastic.  EPC and both loved it.   I served it alongside Rasam, which Madhur describes as a tomato, tamarind and dal broth.  This sour spicy soup is one of my favourite South Indian dishes.  Although I really enjoyed the soup, I think that next time I make the Besan (and there will be a next time -it was delicious and not much work at all) I will serve a vegetable curry or two on the side instead.

    Besan

    2 1/2 cups of chickpea flour sifted
    3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
    1/2 teaspoon ginger, grated
    1 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground (I crushed mine with a mortar and pestle)
    1/2 teaspoon turmeric
    1/2 -1 teaspoon of cayenne
    1 medium onion, sliced in half and then into fine half rings
    5 tablespoons vegetable oil
    6 dried curry leaves

    2 teaspoons salt
    1 tablespoon lemon juice

    1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
    1 hot chili, seeded and minced
    1/4 cup dried unsweetened coconut

    • Put the sifted chickpea flour in bowl.  Slowly add 4 1/2 cups of water, breaking up the lumps as you go.  When all the water has been added, pour the batter through a fine mesh sieve to remove all the lumps.
    • Combine the garlic ginger, cumin, turmeric and cayenne in a small cup with 1/4 cup of water.  Set aside.
    • Heat the oil in a heavy 2 1/2 quart pot (I used an enameled Dutch oven) over medium heat.
    • Add the curry leaves and stir.  Then add the onions.
    • Cook the onions for 2-3 minutes, until softened, but not brown.
    • Add the spices in the cup with the water and stir-fry for 1 minute.
    • Add the chickpea flour mixture into the pot and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
    • Turn the heat to medium low and stir vigorously until the mixture pulls away from the side of the pot.  This should take about 20 minutes
    • Add the salt and lemon juice and mix well.
    • Put the mixture into a 9 X 9 cake pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
    • Sprinkle the cilantro, chilies, and coconut and let cool.
    • Slice into 16 squares.

    Click to print

    Veganomicon’s Chickpea and Quinoa Pilaf

    Veganomicon markets this dish as a side, but I had different plans.

    I found this simple dish in Veganomicon’s mix and match section.  Here Isa and Terry feature vegetables, grain, beans and tofu/tempeh/seitan sides that you can combine to make a meal.  However, to someone on a lazy afternoon, this dish had the makings of a quick and easy one pot meal.  Companion dishes be damned!

    Isa and Terry marketed it right, as it would have been more lively paired with a delicious vegetable side dish.  In fact, as I ate I thought how perfect this pilaf would be as a vegetarian addition to bring to next year’s family Thanksgiving dinner.  Of course, it was tasty and satisfying on its own and EPC loved it, crowning it not only good, but great!  I will confess that I went against the vegan intentions of this recipe by topping it with some crumbled feta cheese.

    Some nights you need an easy meal.  You get that with this nutritious, filling and flavourful pilaf.

    Chickpea and Quinoa Pilaf

    2 tablespoons of olive oil
    1 small onion, finely diced
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    1 teaspoon corriander
    Generous pinch of black pepper, freshly ground
    1 tablespoon tomato paste
    1 cup quinoa
    1 medium carrot, finely diced
    1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed well
    2 cups of vegetable broth

    • Heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onions until translucent.  Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes
    • Stir in the tomato paste, coriander, cumin, pepper, and salt until the onions are coated.
    • Add the quinoa and saute for 2 minutes
    • Add the carrots, chickpeas, and broth and bring to a boil
    • Lower the heat, cover and simmer gently for 20-25 minutes, or until the quinoa has absorbed the water.

    Serve with another side dish or enjoy, as we did,  all on its own.

    Click to print