Monthly Archives: April 2012

Jackfruit W’et, Lentil Allecha, and Collard Greens

Left: Jackfruit W’et, Centre: Collard Greens, Right: Lentil Allecha

Sometimes I crave food from a specific region, just because of one ingredient that I want to try. In this case, I finally found a can of jackfruit (in brine) and I wanted to honour my first jackfruit experience with the spicy glory of an Ethiopian W’et. I cannot take credit for this idea – it is suggested in the notes of the epic zine Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food by Kittee Berns. She suggested the combination, and I will happily report that it is fantastic! I paired it with collard greens sautéed in niter kibbeh (want a challenge? Try to find collard greens in Canada!) and lentil allecha. The result was a protein packed, delicious Ethiopian feast with a kick that cleaned the sinuses – just the way I like it!

I still don’t know what a jackfruit looks like. I assume they don’t come in a can all the time, but that’s how I got mine. I made sure it was packed in brine and not syrup, because they can be used for dessert dishes (predominately Indonesian) as well. Coming out of the can the pieces were like pineapple. They were cut in a triangle shape, with the base of the triangle somewhat fibrous and the centre ‘point’ nice and firm. I will admit I had no idea how to cut the pieces, so I just hacked them to be bite size. As the jackfruit cooks, the fibrous part separates and it becomes more like pulled-pork type consistency, with the firm part staying firm. What an interesting fruit – two different textures just by cooking it! The spicy gravy of the w’et paired with the jackfruit perfectly, and the result was sheer deliciousness. The collared greens and allecha I have made versions of before, with spinach instead of collards and split peas instead of lentils and they were just as good the second go around. Injera also freezes exceptionally well – my platter of injera was from the first batch. The gravy’s for the w’et and allecha can be found on Kittee’s website here, although I strongly encourage you to get a copy of Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food for your collection. It is a much loved tome of excellence!

I will definitely be experimenting with jackfruit again. It stole the show from the other two – if this was a music group they would be called “Jack the Fruit and Friends”. You appreciate the friends, but it’s all about the hot lead singer, who also happens to be the drummer.


Pesto Moussaka-Lasagna

The lovechild of lasagna and moussaka

On an evening where I was at a loss in the kitchen, I was inspired by many ingredients that only seem unrelated. I was tired of winter stews, chilis, and soups and wanted something fresh and spring-like. I had an incredible craving for Edamame Pesto, and wanted a medium that would make the pesto the star of the show. I also wanted lasagna and moussaka, but wanted the edamame pesto more. So of course I combined all inputs to this delectable lasagna-moussaka that is as delicious as it is green!

The edamame pesto recipe is, in my opinion, the best pesto recipe out there, bar none. My first experience with pesto was in a hostel in Oslo. If you have ever travelled to Oslo, you know that food is ridiculously expensive and you can almost feel your change purse get lighter just smelling the bakery scents on the street. A stop at the grocery store got me some Ichiban and a jar of pesto sauce. A quick stop at the 7/11 and I got a coffee stir stick as a utensil. Using some ingenuity, I cooked the noodles in the cup and stirred in the pesto sauce: instant dinner. Although good at the time, later in the evening I felt horrible. Enter the ‘pesto baby’. At 4:30am I vowed never to eat pesto like that again. This edamame pesto is light, fresh, lemony, and not oily at all – everything I think the Italians originally meant pesto to be. Serious deliciousness with a 5min cook time. Nothing wrong with that!

The cauliflower ricotta was a similar surprise. Usually I make the tofu ricotta from Veganomicon and have been pleased. Not blown away, just pleased. Roasting the cauliflower then mashing it with my new avocado masher (one of the best “useless” kitchen gadgets out there!) turned the ho-hum tofu ricotta into a BAM! moment. So much flavour just from the cauliflower alone! Once again, Isa hits it out of the park.

I used the Lasagna with Roasted Cauliflower Ricotta and Spinach from Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz as my base inspiration. The complete recipe can be found here. Instead of tomato sauce, I used the Edamame Pesto recipe from the same book, which can be found here. Finally, to make the lasagna a moussaka, instead of lasagna noodles I roasted one eggplant and three zucchini and used those as the ‘divider’ layers. To roast the vegetables:

1)      Slice them lengthwise in ~3-5mm thick slices and placed on parchment-lined baking sheets.

2)      Roast at 400dF for ~35min, then let cool in a colander

3)      Before assembling the lasagna/moussaka, gently squeeze excess liquid from the roasted vegetables so the casserole doesn’t get too soupy.

To assemble the lasagna/moussaka:

1)      Spread a bit of pesto on the bottom of a lightly oiled 9×13” pan

2)      Layer some roasted vegetables on top

3)      Dollop some pesto on the roasted vegetables, then spread evenly

4)      Dollop some ricotta on top of the pesto, and spread evenly

5)      Layer some fresh spinach on top of the ricotta

6)      Repeat the layers until the pan is full, ending with ricotta. I got 2 full layers, but I have a shallow pan – you may get 3 or even 4!

7)      Bake at 350dF for 40min. Let set up for 10min (if you can wait that long!) before cutting into pieces.

It’s that easy! Exactly what I was craving, combining all my ‘must have’s’ in one glorious slice of heaven. Light, lemony, pesto-y (without the pesto baby), and chalk full of flavour, this dish is now a go-to recipe!

Update:

I made this lasagna recently with a “winter” theme. Layers were made with roasted butternut squash slices, celeriac root slices, and swiss chard. Pesto and butternut squash you ask? Have some faith – it’s delicious! This winter theme proved to be just as successful as the zucchini-eggplant version with the added bonus of being less watery. It turned out to be almost a stuffed layered sandwich, perfect for toting to work as leftovers. Delectable down to the last morsel!

Butternut Celeriac Pesto Lasagna

Butternut Celeriac Pesto Lasagna with Swiss Chard


Roasted Madras Spring Vegetables with Saffron Rice Pilaf

This delectable bowl of goodness was my first attempt at a 5-star recipe. I received Eric Tucker’s Millennium Cookbook: Extraordinary Vegetarian Cuisine as a gift, and couldn’t wait to test my cooking skills. After two cover-to-cover in-depth study sessions, I settled on the Roasted Madras Spring Vegetables with Saffron Rice Pilaf and Peach-Lime Chutney. Easily the longest recipe title that I have ever attempted, with the bonus of making me feel like Julia Child when I said it! My expectations were quite low that I could actually pull it off, I was so intimidated. But I shouldn’t have worried, as the book is so well written anybody could be the Frugal Gourmet! The book also includes the suggested serving size and associated nutritional information, which I find helpful sometimes when eyeing the pot on the stove. Millennium Restaurant is now on my ‘must visit’ list so I can eat Eric’s five star vegan delicacies. What more of an excuse does one need to travel to San Francisco?

 

I don’t like re-publishing recipes on my blog without the author permission, so I apologize for making you work for it. The recipe can be found on page 118-120 of Millennium Cookbook, which I can see on the Google Book Preview if I scroll ~2/3 down. Or of course you can get it from your local library – you won’t be disappointed!

 

Of course, I made some modifications to the recipe. I had excess vegetables and no tempeh, so I marinated the vegetables in all of the Madras marinade then baked them at 400 dF for ~40min. They turned out beautifully! As always, the eggplant gave a nice meaty texture to the dish while soaking up the wonderful marinade. The asparagus came out slightly crispy and not stringy at all – a definite win. And the zucchini added some moisture to the marinade as it cooked, which serves the dish well when reheating! This was my first time making any sort of pilaf or risotto, and I was successful. Maybe not quite ready for Top Chef yet, but mastering a five star recipe and risotto must make me one step closer … The saffron made the rice very pretty, and added a little extra ‘je ne sais quoi’ to the dish. The peach chutney that went on top was a qualified success; by itself the favour combination seemed to me to be a bit off, but then again I’ve never been a big fan of fruit in savory dishes (hello, pineapple on pizza). But when paired with the dish it worked wonderfully. Next time I think I will either omit the chutney or mix it straight into the dish when serving. But overall, the roasted vegetables were wonderful with the saffron rice, and the dish looked as fancy as its name! Make this dish and you will be amazed at your culinary skills hidden within you. Guaranteed.

 


Indian Curry Feast – Baingan Bharta, Green Mung Daal, Spicy Okra, Saoji Tempeh, and Spicy Squash with Dosa

Yes, that’s right. Sometimes I have no restraint. I couldn’t decide which dish to make so I decided to make them all!

Far Left: Baingan Bharta and Green Mung Daal
Far Right: Spicy Okra and Saoji Tempeh
Middle: Dosa

Spicy Squash Curry with Saoji Tempeh and Dosa

Too much for my IKEA bowls! Everything was fantastic, and easily put together with some prep work. To break it down, the full menu review dish by dish:

Baingan Bharta

This is the Indian equivalent to baba ganoush. It’s a delightful curry – almost a chutney – of roasted eggplant, tomato, and wonderful spices. Without the oil of baba ganoush! It would make a fabulous spread on roti, na’an, or toast, but I ate it right out of the bowl. It was time consuming to make, but only because you have to roast the eggplant. This step is definitely worth it. The roasted eggplant gives the dish a depth and creaminess that would be missing. I can see this dish entering the dip rotation in my fridge.

The recipe can be found here: Baingan Bharta

Green Mung Daal

This was a combination of two recipes that I found, because I couldn’t even decide which daal to go with! So it is spinach and roasted garlic spicy green mung daal, and is heaven. Definitely not work appropriate unless you come prepared with a travel-sized mouthwash bottle – you’ll need it! I am new to green mung beans, and I am a convert. I love lentils and these pretty beans add another option to my dried bean cupboard. They cook in about the same time as red lentils, and are just as easy. They are creamy in the daal, with enough whole beans left to not make you think you’re eating baby food. The daal itself has a depth of flavour from the spices and garlic that was a unique daal – definitely a departure from the standard red and yellow varieties. The spinach added an extra pop to the daal, just when you think you had it figured out! It comes together easily, and would be perfect for a weeknight meal.

The recipe that I followed *most* is this one: Green Mung Daal with Burnt Garlic Tadka

When I was cooking the mung beans, I put 1c. beans with 4c. water and added 0.25t. lemon juice and about 2c. of spinach. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook like you would lentils – the mung beans will expand and be mushy (to taste, of course!). I followed the rest of this recipe as-is.

Spicy Okra

I found fresh okra in my local Asian grocery store, and picked it up on a whim. Okra seems to be the vegetable that comes with issues – either you love it or you don’t. My sister had a roommate in University who would only eat okra. Personally, I’d had it once in some gumbo thing that I wasn’t a big fan of, but I’m willing to chalk that up to my kidney bean issues and not the okra. Plus, a slimy vegetable that doesn’t come from the ocean? I had to give it a shot to see where I sat on the fence!

As it turns out, I am not passionately for or against okra. The slime factor was really cool! When you cut fresh okra after washing, this slime appears from nowhere. It’s easily patted off with some paper towel, but it was kinda like the slime that slugs leave 🙂 The recipe that I chose to highlight the okra was a simple fried version, with a spice profile consistent with the other curries I was making. I never got the okra to be ‘crispy’, but it was a lovely side dish. The okra doesn’t have a strong flavour, allowing the Indian pickle spice mix to shine through. Do not skip the pre-roast and grind step. Making your own spice mixes is so satisfying, plus it makes your kitchen smell amazing. This particular spice mix will become a staple condiment in my kitchen. Delicious! The okra finger-sized shape properties make it perfect for snacking – I brought the leftovers to work the next day to nosh on, and cleared out the stash. Addictive for sure!

The okra recipe can be found here: Crispy Okra with Indian Pickle Spices

Saoji Tempeh

… the dish that started it all. Any recipe that has a spice list as long as my arm immediately goes onto the ‘must try’ list. And is it worth it! Every single spice on this list was found at Superstore or Bulk Barn, so it wasn’t even that difficult to stock the spice rack. I have never had the Saoji Chicken that this is an adaptation of, but this tempeh recipe is one of the best yet! I usually boil my tempeh for about 10min before marinating so the marinade really soaks into the tempeh. With this recipe, the tempeh is boiled IN the marinade, saturating it with flavour. The spice mix – again well worth the pre-toast and grind yourself – is delicious, and has a great kick. Warm and comforting, this dish is definitely one of the stars of the evening. Potentially my new favourite way to cook tempeh as well. Although the list is quite clearly from India, I think the tempeh would lend itself well to tacos, enchiladas, pita pockets, or other wrapped goodies. Add some cilantro-lime crema made with soy yoghurt and you’ve got a supreme pita pocket on your hands! This dish is the epitome of ‘worth the effort’!

The recipe can be found here: Saoji/Savji Tempeh

Spicy Squash Curry

I love squash. I didn’t use to – this is a recent love starting when I gained control of my own kitchen. I grew up with squash one way: Acorn squash cooked in the microwave, then mashed to baby food consistency and liberally sprinkled with brown sugar. This still gives me the shudders. So in my adult life, I am doing my best to explore all the various delicious ways to eat squash – and there are many! This Spicy Squash Curry is a super quick throw-together meal that makes a lot and is absolutely delicious. If I grew up with this as my squash dish, my love affair with these gourds would have started at a young age! The squash is indeed very spicy, and the underlying spices give it a nice warm flavour. I added some spinach to the pot, and it added a touch of green to the dish that made it look extra pretty. If you have squash issues like I did, try this recipe first! You will be blown away by what squash can be!

I served it with some of my dosa and some of the Saoji Tempeh, because I couldn’t get enough of it!

The recipe can be found here: Spicy Squash Curry

After this feast, my tummy was very happy! And because each recipe cooked 4-6 portions, I could enjoy the dishes throughout the week. I am now a convert of toasting my own spices and making my own to-order mixes. I think that extra step makes all the difference. Enjoy!


Daunting Dosa’s

Flush with my success with Injera, I decided to tackle Dosa’s. My kitchen is no stranger to roti, na’an, or variations thereof, and all attempts have been very successful. So how hard could dosa’s be?

Pretty hard, apparently.

After copious amounts of Internet research (really, what did cooks do before the Internet?) I found a recipe that seemed to be the most straightforward while maintaining the ‘realness’ of the dosa (no North American copies here, folks!). Plus it was handily titled: The Perfect Dosa. How could I go wrong? …

Well, the process is very similar to injera. First you soak the rice and daal, then you blend it to a liquid in a food processor. I was shocked to learn that you really can get fluffy marshmallow texture from daal! Then you mix the two fluffy-mixtures together. Mine looked like this:

Who knew you could get fluffy marshmallow texture from soaked rice and daal?

The instructions went to great length as to how long you had to ferment the rice and daal mixture, including instructions of how to do it in the oven if you lived in a cold climate! Well, *I* thought it was gorgeous outside and not cold at all, but hazarding a guess that most people would find Canada in late March a ‘cold’ climate, I fermented the mixture for 24h, almost double recommended, just to be safe. It definitely doubled in volume! It also made the kitchen smell pleasantly fragrant. Not like beer, as with injera, but something home-y and familiar.

Dosa mixture, post 24h ferment

So far, so good. But then came the tricky part – cooking them. Every dosa I have had in Sri Lankan restaurants have been ginormous, crepe-thin, and nice and crispy. My dosas were none of these. Mine ended up being the consistency of a crepe-pancake, as big as my biggest fry pan (roughly 12cm in diameter), and definitely not crispy! I ended up cooking it like the lovechild of injera and a pancake to get the flatbread crispy enough to serve. They definitely don’t look pretty, and almost defeated me. But they taste amazing! And they serve their purpose for scooping delicious curries, so it wasn’t a complete fail.

What they lacked for in presentation they made up for in taste!

But I did not achieve the ‘Perfect Dosa’. More practice may be required … or maybe I’ll stick to my roti and leave the dosa’s to the experts. 🙂


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