Monthly Archives: July 2012

Sweet and Nutty Stuffed Plantains

Roasted plaintain stuffed with cayenne walnut crumble and topped with Daiya cheese

Stuffed plantains – my first Latin dessert experience. Before this dish, I didn’t really understand the hype of plantains. I had tried them before in a variety of dishes, but they had never wowed me. I am guilty of substituting sweet potatoes for plantains more than once. But what the pupusas started with their plantain contribution this simple dessert finished. Not one for sweet desserts, this dish has a nice bite to it and is a delectable way to finish off any meal – Latin or not! They are also a 5-star way to start your day – I ate one for breakfast to beat the Monday blahs, and successfully beat them all the way to lunch!

The dish itself is very simple to prepare, and as Terry suggests very versatile in stuffing components. First you roast the plantain like you would a baked potato – wrap it in foil and stick it in the oven at 375oF for ~30min. Then comes the fun part – the stuffing! This stuffing is a simple crumble with brown sugar, walnuts, and a dash of cayenne for a nice surprise kick. Slit the plantains lengthwise and stuff to the best of your ability. If some stuffing doesn’t make it into the plantain, leave it in the pan! They crisp nicely and you can sprinkle it over the finished product. Sprinkle with some lime juice for a nice tart flavour, and finally top with Daiya cheese. The cheese is optional, but I couldn’t resist the strange combination of a crumble, a fruit, and melted cheese. Pop the stuffed plantains back into the oven to roast uncovered for ~15min, and you’re done! The plantains take on a sweet caramelization flavour, almost like a subtle baked banana. The lime juice and the cayenne really stand out, cutting the sweetness of the plantain and stuffing nicely. The cheese adds a touch of salt and a different flavour that make the dessert extra unique. I couldn’t get enough of these delicious desserts!

Other stuffing ideas could be a simple crumble like in a rhubarb crisp, or just the cheese, or even just roasted with a sprinkling of cayenne and lime juice. Depending on your sweetness threshold, I imagine chocolate, pie fillings, or even a simple syrup of butter and brown sugar would also be delicious. To store leftovers (if you have any!) I wrapped them in tinfoil and froze. To eat, just unwrap and go! Like a stuffed plantain popsicle, they are even better than frozen bananas topped with tahini and molasses, and I didn’t know that was possible!

Terry includes in her book Viva Vegan! a 4-page Ode to the Plantain (pages 115-119). How to ripen (like an avocado), which plantains work best for what cooking method, how to roast, how to stuff, how to make crisps, fries, and so on. After tasting this dish, I understand both the hype and the lengthy review and will be guilty no more of substituting with sweet potatoes!

The recipe can be found on page 117-118 on Google Book Preview here: Sweet and Nutty Stuffed Plantains. However this dessert alone is worth checking out the book at the library!


El Salvador Feast: Black Bean and Plantain Pupusa, Curdito, and Simple Tomato Sauce

Components: Curdito in the bowl; Pupusa topped with Simple Latin Tomato Sauce and sliced avocado sprinkled with chili powder on the plate.

 

The hot weather made me do it. I finally got around to trying Terry Hope Romero’s cookbook Viva Vegan! a tomb of 200 Latin American recipes. I quickly learned in my 3h read through of the book that what I thought was Latin American was actually Tex-Mex, and everything I hate about Tex-Mex has no bearing in authentic Latin American food. It was one of the more expensive library trips for me – what started as a 20-recipe ‘must try NOW’ list plus an additional 20-recipe ‘must make within the month’ resulted in me purchasing the only copy of the cookbook in my city. And thus began the Latin Cooking Extravaganza!

 

I will be honest, I didn’t know much about Latin American food, aside from the aforementioned Tex-Mex. Tacos, Enchiladas, and Mole sauce and I was out. This is just the tip of the iceberg, with plenty more to be explored! Viva Vegan! is a fantastic resource for the uninitiated and adventurous – such as myself. It has recipes from all over Central and South America, with plenty of tips on how to properly roast chilies, when to use the special ingredients and when you can get away with substitutions (especially important for chili powders!), as well as well written step-by-step instructions on how to make your own Latin kitchen staples, such as tortillas. The best part of cooking Latin was that with my pantry stocked with Middle Eastern, Indian, and Asian spices, I could cook almost every recipe in the cookbook without a special trip to the grocery store. But where is the fun in experimenting if it doesn’t come with a trip to the ethnic market? Three kinds of chili powder, two kinds of dried chilies, a bottle of habanero hot sauce, and a Mexican spice called Epazote that smells like gasoline later and I was set.

 

Opening the fest was Black Bean and Plantain Pupusas (pg. 162), Curdito (pg. 79), and Simple Tomato Sauce (pg. 46). Pulled together in under an hour, Latin weekend opened with a bang of flavour! The Curdito is the same as the coleslaw recipe for the Baja Tacos in Veganomicon, and my favourite coleslaw recipe ever. The Simple Tomato Sauce is exactly that – simple and delicious. It amazed me how something with such few ingredients could taste so fantastic! I used green onions and garlic scrapes from my CSA vegetables which made the sauce fresh and bright even though I used canned tomatoes. I ate the sauce straight from the saucepan, until I deployed some measure of restraint to serve it with the pupusa.

 

The Pupusas are very easy to make, and require no time at all to cook! The dough is just masa flour and water, which turns into the consistency of homemade PlayDoh making the pupusas very easy (and fun!) to shape, mould, stuff, and close. The filling for this batch was the suggested black bean and plantain filling with a sprinkling of Daiya cheese. This combination was heavenly, and when served with the tomato sauce tasted like a Latin Pizza Pocket, only 100x better! So successful were these pupusas they have inspired my creativity, and I am planning a future themed evening of other variations – including a dessert pupusa. Cocoa powder added to the dough, and stuffed with a cinnamon-nut crumble with plantains. Mmmm… The leftover pupusas froze very well, and were very travel-friendly for meals-on-the-go. Of course, they didn’t hurt with a quick warm-up in the microwave/pan and served with some more sauce!

 

If you do not have the cookbook, I strongly urge you to check it out of the library. For a taster, the recipes for this delectable meal can be found here: Pupusas, Curdito, and Salsa Rojo. Previews of the cookbook are also available on Google Books, found here: Viva Vegan!  You will be surprised at how easy and delicious this seemingly complex dish is. Plus, you get to play with ‘PlayDoh’ dough. So roll up those sleeves, get creative with the stuffing, and enjoy!


Mushroom Wonton Soup

Wonton soup … the Chinese restaurant staple. My sister judges the quality of the Chinese restaurant by their wonton soup. Once the wontons are made, it’s a simple, quick dinner that is easily adaptable to the contents of your fridge. Just another example of comfort food in a bowl. Wontons themselves are very easy to prepare, and are assembled quicker than their Ukrainian cousins, the perogi. Like all dumplings, they are also infinitely adaptable as to fillings. Generally, I like to fill my dumplings with ‘culture neutral’ flavour profiles, so I know that the dumpling will match whatever gets thrown into the pot for consumption. So no black bean-mole wontons this time – although I’m not saying that the combination would be horrible!

For the wonton wrappers you can buy pre-made and pre-cut wonton squares at the grocery store or Asian market, but I opted to make my own. Pre-made would probably be easier, but making the dough is simple and the dough is very easy to work with. No difficulties making the cute little ‘Nurses hats’ with this assembly! I didn’t cook the wontons when I made them and instead froze them uncooked. Then, when you are ready to enjoy some wonton soup (or just the wontons by themselves with some sautéed greens!), stick them directly in the pot with the other goodies and they cook within 10 mins. Simple!

Mushroom Wontons

 Wonton Wrappers

1 cup quinoa flour
1 cup spelt flour (or 1 cup quinoa flour for Gluten Free)
½ tsp. salt
½ cup warm water

Directions:
1) In large bowl, sift together flours and salt.
2) Slowly add warm water, mixing as you pour.
3) Knead dough for ~10 min., until smooth ball forms
4) Cover with clean dishtowel and let rest 20 min.
 
Mushroom Wonton Filling

I used this recipe found here.

You can create your own filling combinations as you see fit. I have made wontons before with tofu, scallions, other vegetables, or with edamame. This filling is delicious however, and has not met a wonton soup combination it does not like! Follow these instructions for wonton assembly, and you will have an army of wontons in no time!

An Army of Wontons, ready for the soup pot!

For the soup, generally I use my Miso Soup guidelines for the flavour profile, which allows the wontons to pick up on the vegetable and broth flavours while cooking. Miso Soup is another comfort food staple, and the ratios of the soup pot is entirely dependent on what needs to be used in the fridge. I like my soup to be more like a stew, while I know others who would scoff at my interpretation and insist on a couple of scallions, a cup of mushrooms, and 8 litres of broth. To each their own – it’s delicious no matter how you cook it! My guidelines for Miso Soup are below.

Wonton/Miso Soup Guidelines

½ cup cauliflower florets
½ cup broccoli florets, or 1 cup Chinese broccoli, cut into 1″ pieces
1 medium carrot, diced
1 cup shredded greens: kale, napa cabbage, bok choi, or more Chinese broccoli work well!
1-2 scallions, sliced into 1″ pieces
4-5 mushrooms, sliced
3 cups vegetable broth or water
1 tsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp. rice wine vinegar

Optional: dash of sesame oil, tofu, edamame …

Wonton Soup: Add as many wontons as you like! Generally I add 2-4

Miso Soup: Add 1 tbsp. miso paste – red miso is my favourite

Directions:
1) In pot, add broccoli and cauliflower. Cover with lid and turn on high heat. You want to steam and slightly burn the cauliflower and broccoli.
2) Watching carefully, give the pot a shake now and then to make sure the vegetables don’t burn too much.
3) Add the carrots, cover, and steam approximately 30s.
4) Add the vegetable broth, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar. Bring to a boil. (If making wonton soup, add wontons with the water)
5) Add all remaining vegetables. Lower heat to a simmer, and let simmer approximately 5 min.
6) If making miso soup, add the miso paste. Be careful not to let the soup boil with the miso – this ruins some of the miso flavour
7) Serve garnished with fresh cilantro and Sriracha!


Roti and Hummus: Two Ways

On Plate: Left: Tamarind Hummus, Right: Red Lentil Hummus; with roti
And of course a nice selection of crudités!

When it’s too hot to spend copious amounts of time at the stove, my go to has always been hummus. I always have some form of a hummus dip/spread on the go, and this platter was no exception! I decided to do a side-by-side comparison of two different styles of hummus with two different beans. I made a chickpea based hummus flavoured with tamarind and tahini, in the style of the Arabian Gulf, as well as a red lentil hummus flavoured with tahini and lemon, a flavour combination most associate with hummus. This also gave me the perfect excuse to try my hand at making Rotis. The result of this taste test was a satisfied tummy, delicious hummus spreads, and the knowledge that I have mastered the skill set required for rotis and can make them in less than 30min!

*Note* The hummus recipes that follow are the ones pictured above. I follow a standard formula for all hummus attempts, and season on whim as I go. Beans I have used range from lentils, black beans, black eyed peas, navy beans, fava beans, and of course chick peas. I also make hummus without any oil, so if you prefer add 1 tsp. – 2 tbsp. of olive oil to any hummus recipe. Successful flavour combinations include: “Southwest Hummus” made with black beans, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, and chili powder; “Curry Hummus” made with curry powder, cumin, coriander, and a dash of turmeric and cayenne; “Fresh Hummus” with roasted bell peppers, fresh cilantro, parsley, basil, and lemon; and the lower fat varieties with pureed cauliflower or mashed sweet potato for bulk (delicious!).  These are not by any means the end of the combinations, so if interested I could post a hummus ‘primer’ for those out there!

Roti

Roti are one of those flatbreads that are all-purpose and appropriate for anything you could imagine. Of course there is the traditional use of a utensil in your daal/curry creation, but I have also made Roti PB&J sandwiches, roti chips, roti pizzas … I was scared off of making my own roti when I accidently set my oven on fire making chapati’s (roti’s cousin) a couple of years ago. But when the craving hit this time I was called to the kitchen – albeit with trepidation. I needn’t have worried! Rotis are super easy to make, and even easier to cook. All you need is a standard skillet, and you are ready for business. Just like cooking a 30s. pancake, you will have delicious roti’s faster than it’ll take for you to cut vegetables!

I used the following recipe: Roti/Chapati.  Initially I did have problems rolling out the roti’s to the desired thinness, which is why the ones above are such interesting shapes. However, on my last roti I decided to try and roll the dough out sandwiched between two pieces of parchment paper. Worked like a charm! To save on mess and frustration, I strongly recommend doing this, or using thick plastic wrap when making flatbreads like roti, pita, and na’an. My confidence in my flatbread making abilities has skyrocketed so much that I am thinking I may be ready to tackle gobhi parathas (cauliflower stuffed flatbread)!

 Red Lentil Hummus

Using red lentils in hummus makes a delightfully creamy spread. The picture of the hummus above is a bit runny because I forgot to adjust my liquid ratios with the bean – chickpeas require more liquid to puree than red lentils. The spread did thicken nicely in the fridge, but next time I will endeavour to take into consideration the type of bean used! As it was this hummus made for delicious dips and spreads in wraps. I used my standard flavour profile for this hummus, which works for any type of bean: chick pea, lentil, black bean, navy bean … my food processor has not met a bean it does not like! The base recipe is below, however with this standard hummus I encourage you to play with the spices, ratios, and flavours! Taste, add, blend, and taste again – that’s the secret to perfect hummus!

Red Lentil Hummus

1½ cups cooked red lentils
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. tahini
1½ tbsp. lemon juice
¼ tsp. ground cumin
⅛ tsp. cayenne
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1) In food processor, puree all ingredients until smooth. Taste for seasonings; adjust as necessary
2) Place in storage container and chill in fridge at least 1h prior to serving to allow flavours to meld. Tastes even better the next day!

 Tamarind Hummus

This was a new experiment for me. My tamarind paste lives beside my (store bought, and thus little used) red Thai Curry paste (Thai Curry Hummus? Experiment for the next batch!) and I wanted to use it. Tamarind gives a distinctive flavour to a variety of dishes; from pad thai to chilis to Middle Eastern tagines and couscous pilafs. Tamarind itself is a pod-like fruit that looks a bit like a broad bean and tastes almost a tangy lime molasses in concentrated form. It can also be found as a brick of compressed pulp from the fruit, which when chopped tastes fantastic in chilis. You can make your own concentrate from the pulp, but I usually buy a small jar at an Asian, Middle Eastern, or Indian grocery. A little goes a long way, so that small jar will last a very long time! Added to hummus and it creates a completely different flavour profile than the standard recipe above – one that is tangy and tahini like at the same time and completely addicting.

 

The recipe I used for this first attempt came from the cookbook Classic Vegetarian Cooking From the Middle East and North Africa, by Habeeb Salloom. The recipe is also posted here: Chickpea and Tamarind Dip (Hummus Bi Tamar Hindi). Enjoy!


Thai Jackfruit Curry

 

After my success with Ethiopian Jackfruit W’et, the bar was set high for my second experience with jackfruit. Copious amounts of Internet research revealed precious little that seemed able to rise to the occasion. I had almost thrown in the towel and conceded defeat to console myself in another w’et (a fantastic consolation, I think!) when inspiration struck. The savoury jackfruit recipes I could find could be neatly summed as follows: mock pulled pork, a dish that I have never liked; a coconut-based Sri Lankan curry, a coconut-based Malay dish, and a Thai curry. Aside from the pulled pork, all three had strikingly similar spice profiles with variable vegetable additions. So why not combine them all and add my own twist? And that’s exactly what I did!

I created a Thai Red/Green Curry (the Steve Smith Curry?) with a homemade curry paste, taking from the Sri Lankan, Malay, and Thai spice profiles. I simmered the curry paste in a bit of coconut milk to let the flavours develop and then dumped in all my vegetable additions. The result was sheer brilliance. This curry was nice and spicy with a kick – it’s one that you don’t think is that bad and are just reaching for the Sriracha when your eyes start to water. (Reduce number of chilis or seed them if this doesn’t appeal to you!) The jackfruit, bell peppers, snap peas, cherry tomatoes, and eggplant make the dish colourful. The variance in textures of the vegetables is also a delight to eat: every spoonful is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get! I especially love cherry tomatoes in coconut-based curries. I add them right near the end so they are cooked enough to be warm but not enough for the skins to split. Then when you eat them you get a burst of cheery tomato in your mouth. The jackfruit in the dish assumes the curry flavour much like eggplant but is firmer in texture. I would highly recommend using jackfruit instead of tofu in this curry if you are serving the dish to a crowd who are not fans of tofu, no matter how delicious the dish is. I served it over a bed of lightly steamed kale, but the more traditional way would be over vermicelli or rice. This dish exceeded the high bar set by the w’et with a completely different approach, style, and texture. Yet again jackfruit shone through, making me wonder what took me so long to pick up the can at the Asian grocery in the first place!

Thai Jackfruit Curry

Curry Paste:
3 spring onions, sliced
1-3 Thai red chili
1 tbsp. lemongrass, minced
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
4-5 Kaffir lime leaves, cut into strips
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. lime juice
2 tbsp. vegetarian fish sauce (optional; can substitute with soy sauce if you prefer)
½ cup fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp. light soy sauce (for gluten free use Tamari soy sauce)
1 tsp. dark soy sauce (optional)
½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. brown sugar OR ½ tsp. Sucanat
¼ can coconut milk

Directions:
1) Place all ingredients in food processor. Puree until paste forms.

Jackfruit Curry:
1 can jackfruit in brine, drained, or 1 package frozen unripe, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tsp. peanut or canola oil
¼ cup white wine or vegetable broth
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
generous handful cherry tomatoes
½-¾ can coconut milk, depending on personal sauce preference

Optional garnish:
¾ cup unsalted cashews, dry roasted
fresh basil, cut into ribbons

Additional vegetable suggestions: bok choy, mushrooms, snap peas, green beans, eggplant

Directions:
1) Preheat large pan with oil. Pour in curry paste and stir-fry until fragrant, ~1min.
2) Add jackfruit. Stir-fry until well saturated with sauce.
3) Add the vegetable stock. Stir and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 5 minutes.
4) Add ½ can coconut milk, plus all green vegetables (except basil). Simmer 3-4 minutes.
5) Add the cherry tomatoes. Simmer 2-3min; avoid overcooking vegetables!
6) Turn off heat and stir in cashews.
7) Garnish with fresh basil; serve over rice.


Butternut Rancheros

Southern comfort food in a bowl. Black beans and butternut squash prove once again that they are a match made in heaven. This is what I would consider a fantastic breakfast, but really it’s a meal that can be eaten anytime. It also serves a double purpose of curing all that ails you – between the jalapeno and chili powder you sweat out all those toxins! The recipe itself is another easily adaptable base recipe, and will accept all various vegetable and spice combinations that you throw at it. I like to serve it over a bed of spinach, but it would also be fantastic served with basmati rice or polenta for a more complete meal. It would also make an excellent stew – add some water or vegetable broth and have chili for breakfast!

The original recipe is from The PPK, found here: The PPK Butternut Rancheros.  I adapted it as follows below. As a recommendation, I strongly recommend having a fan going and/or a window open when you sauté the spices and jalapenos otherwise your eyes will water and depending on the sensitivity of your fire alarm it will go off. Unless of course you live for that sort of extra excitement 🙂

Butternut Rancheros

4 cups butternut squash, cut into 1″ cubes (~1 squash)

2 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tsp. coriander seeds
2 tsp. chili powder (optional: for the spice seekers out there!)
2 tsp. oil
1 yellow onion, diced to ‘medium’ size
3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (32 oz.) can diced tomatoes
2 (19oz.) cans black beans (~3 cups cooked)
½ tsp. salt (to taste)

Optional vegetable additions:
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 bell pepper, diced

Directions:
1) In large saucepan dry roast cumin seeds, coriander, and chili powder over medium-high until fragrant
2) Add oil, onion, garlic, and jalapenos. Sauté until onions translucent.
3) Add any additional vegetables. Sauté ~1 min.
4) Add butternut squash. Stir to coat the squash.
5) Add tomatoes. Stir, cover, and let simmer 10-15min, or until squash fork-tender. Add water as necessary if mixture is looking dry.
6) Add black beans and salt. Stir and let simmer ~5min, or until beans heated through.
7) Serve over a bed of greens and/or with basmati rice or polenta.


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