Category Archives: Ethnic

Apologies and Sabbaticals

Dear Fellow Lovers of Ethnic Cuisine,

 

I would like to apologize to you regarding my haphazard updates these past few months. My “real” life has changed dramatically these past few months, and I find myself wishing for more hours in the day. I have been overambitious in my project at work, and although it is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it is consuming more time than originally anticipated. It is a project that I am passionate about however, and I believe that upon completion it will take me to places I currently only dream of. I have also (somehow) increased my involvement in the community, taking on a second job almost. Luckily, I am also passionate about this 🙂 I am also training for high-performance endurance competitions, which takes up a fair bit of time. The result of this is that I am spending far less time in the kitchen researching, creating, and exploring new ethnic cuisines. My limited time in the kitchen instead has been focused on old favourites, all of which I have already shared with you.

In light of my overambition and “real life” commitments, I will be taking a sabbatical from the blog. When I return, it will be with full force, a kitchen full of ethnic adventures, and more creative recipes than ever!

I wish you all the best in your culinary explorations.


The Revolution: How to Eat an Apple

While Canada is being reminded of why we are called “The Great White North” (Winter is my favourite season! 🙂 ), I was faced with a dilemma that led to an epiphany. The dilemma: after a tough workout at the gym, how was I to eat my pre-post-workout snack on my 60min walk home in -40dC weather? The idea of taking off my (double) gloves to hold the core while I searched for a garbage can was unappealing, to say the least. This dilemma led to the epiphany: How to Eat an Apple. Throw away the apple-eating rulebook, and change your life forever!

Steps:

1)      Hold the apple in your hand by the stem (or cradle it in your gloves), so that the “eye” is facing you

2)      Bite directly over the “eye”

3)      Eat the apple however you like, doing your best not to drop it (applicable for the double glove system). Whenever you take a bite in the centre, make sure you have a good amount of apple flesh. This way you won’t notice the core!

4)      When you come across seeds, spit them out like watermelon seeds. A fun game is the “distance challenge”.

5)      Discard the stem (again, with the double glove situation, once I had to eat the stem then spit it out like the seeds. This works too!)

Waste not, want not. And your hands stay roasty toasty! I’ve been cooking up some amazing dishes this winter, but this discovery is currently my number one. Mind blown. And as an added bonus, when it’s -40dC the apple is more like an applecicle. Delicious!


Lebanese Falafel

Lebanese Falafel served with Cucumber Tomato salad and Lemon Tahini dressing

Lebanese Falafel served with Cucumber Tomato salad and Lemon Tahini dressing

I am addicted to falafel. I judge a city by it’s falafel offerings, and can be quite picky. I have lived in two cities with sub-standard falafel, and during that time I honed in on the craft of making my own and demanded that my first meal back in my hometown was falafel. I am a walking example of the Canadian fusion girl: craving Middle Eastern cuisine with the physique of a Scandinavian.

I have tried many versions of this staple, making an effort to write down every tweak and change. Some batches were fit only for the garbage; some made me yearn for the sub-standard offerings. But through dedication and perseverance, I found The Falafel Recipe. The trick: do not cook the beans. This is true throughout the Middle East: In Lebanon and Israel, chickpeas are used. In Egypt, the chickpeas are replaced with fava beans or a combination of fava beans and chick peas (I call this garfava, because it’s fun to say). To make the falafel more Egyptian, the amount of fresh herbs should be doubled, to the point where the falafel looks green. Of course, you could also use a green such as spinach or Swiss chard to get the same effect. Lebanese falafel is the “Canadian” version of Egyptian and Israeli: enough fresh herbs for significant speckles of green, but enough cumin and spice to remind you of Israeli falafel. The uncooked beans give you the classic falafel texture. Not smooth, but grainy (about the size of uncooked quinoa seeds), with a firm bite. For a true classic version, these should be deep fried or pan fried, but I am well aware of my kitchen limitations, and know that hot oil and a stove is a recipe for disaster. Baking is much safer 🙂

To serve these falafels, I have made the traditional falafel pita, made a deconstructed pita including a cucumber-tomato salad and tahini-lemon dressing (1:1 for tahini to lemon juice, mixed well. Add water for consistency as necessary, and some cayenne for spice) and pickled red onions, and eat them plain as snacks. These are by far the best falafels I have ever tasted, and well worth the cravings! (Note: I have not travelled to Israel, Lebanon, or Egypt. But when I do, one of my first stops will be a falafel stand!) Simple, easy, minimal dishes, freezer-friendly, and delicious, these falafels are worth their exalted status in my kitchen.

 

Lebanese Falafel

2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in water

1 small onion, chopped OR ½ cup chives, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

½ cup fresh parsley, chopped

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground coriander

½ tsp. paprika

¼ tsp. black pepper

4 tbsp. lemon juice

½ tsp. salt, or to taste

 

Directions:

1)      Drain soaked chickpeas. Rinse well and set aside.

2)      In food processor, add all ingredients. Process until reaches a consistency between couscous and hummus. *Note: Depending on the size of the food processor, may have to do this in batches

3)      Place 2 tbsp. of mixture in your hand, and roll into a ball. Place falafel on a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat until no mixture left.

4)      Bake at 350oF for 20min. Carefully flip over falafel and bake an additional 10-15min, until falafel golden brown.

5)      Serve as a deconstructed falafel pita, as a topping for a salad, or plain!

 


Ma Po Tofu and Eggplant Stew

Ma-Po Eggplant Tofu Stew

Ma Po Tofu and Eggplant Stew, served with a fresh Japanese Turnip Pickle

It started with the turnips. Japanese turnips, fresh from the garden. This inspired me to use the fermented black beans, which I picked up at an Asian grocery store on a whim one (+) year ago. Sometimes my food-association astounds me. The fermented black beans led me to the question: “What do I do with these?”. Apparently not a whole lot that I could find. It is however the main ingredient of Doubanjiang, a Sichuan Chili Bean Sauce. Doubanjiang is also the star ingredient for Ma Po Tofu, a spicy wok tofu dish from the Sichuan province. And thus the dish was born! To add to the difficulty, I could not find a recipe for Doubanjiang, as apparently it is much more sane common to use the pre-made sauce. Doubanjiang is also called toban djan, lado ban jiang, or Sichuan Chili Bean Sauce. After much searching, I found a base recipe that looked to match the ingredient label of a common pre-made sauce. The end result of this inspiration was a spicy hot-and-sour soup alternative that is addictive and delicious. Sometimes my crazy food-association games turn out better than even I could dream of!

As I do not own a wok, I didn’t want to compromise my first Ma Po Tofu experience with sub-par equipment, so I turned the concept into a stew. To help this I added eggplant and bok choy, with the final result of a spicy hot and sour soup type dish. The results were amazing. It will warm your soul, tickle your taste buds, and clear your sinuses. The soft tofu is almost unnoticeable (a concern for me and my texture issues). The eggplant and dried mushrooms add some texture, the greens colour, and the consommé (fancy word for clear broth) is absolutely divine. It will trick anybody into thinking that you slaved over a hot stove for hours building complex flavour, instead of the 45min. that it takes. I served the stew with a quick turnip pickle, to highlight the turnip inspiration. The robust flavour is due to the homemade Doubanjiang, and the fermented black beans. Of course, you can use the bought sauce – I’m sure it’d be just as delicious, and perhaps even more true to the Ma Po Tofu inspiration.

The Doubanjiang took less than 15min. to make, and most of that was rinsing the black beans. The black beans are fermented in salt, and right out of the package they’re like eating a salt lick. Make sure you rinse them very very well! The amount of Thai chilis seem excessive for only 2/3 cup of sauce, but if you think of the sauce as a spicy soy sauce, its more reasonable. I didn’t have the yellow rice wine or the dark rice vinegar, so I googled “appropriate” substitutions more common in my kitchen. Next time I will try to make the recipe as written, but this version was fantastic. The sauce itself was like a spicy vinegar soy sauce which was quite thick. I am not in the habit of having pre-made stir fry sauces on hand, but I am assuming this’d be fantastic with a quick Asian vegetable stir-fry. I tailored the recipe to use the full amount in the stew, and it was perfect!

This dish is sure to impress. Different and exotic, it is one I will be making again!

 

Ma Po Tofu and Eggplant Stew

4 dried flower mushrooms

6 cloves garlic, minced

⅔ cup doubanjiang sauce (lado ban jiang, toban djan; Sichuan Chili Bean Sauce)

4 cups eggplant, diced into ½” cubes (1 med.)

350g. soft tofu, drained and diced into ½” cubes

4+ cups water

2 tbsp. rice vinegar

3 cups bok choy, chopped

2 tbsp. Sriracha

4 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced

Directions:

1) In small bowl, cover dried mushrooms with 1” boiling water. Let soak for 30min., until soft.

2) In large pot, sauté garlic in 2 tbsp. of water on high, stirring frequently. Sauté until garlic slightly brown.

3) Stir in doubanjiang. Sauté for 1min.

4) Add the eggplant, stir. Cover and sauté until eggplant begins to get soft, approx. 5min. Add water as necessary to prevent sticking.

5) Add tofu and water. Stir very gently, so as to not break the tofu. Bring to a low boil.

6) Drain the mushrooms and slice into bite-sized pieces.

7) Add the sliced mushrooms and rice vinegar. Bring to a simmer and cook until eggplant tender, approx. 10min.

8) Add the bok choy and Sriracha. Stir and bring to a simmer.

9) Turn off heat, stir in scallions.

10) Serve with rice or Asian noodles of choice.

 

Doubanjiang Sauce (Lado Ban Jiang, Toban Djan; Sichuan Chili Bean Sauce)

10 fresh red Thai chilis, minced

⅓ cup fermented black beans

1 tbsp. yellow rice wine (sub: gin, white wine; I used rice vinegar)

2 tsp. dark rice vinegar (sub: balsamic vinegar)

½ tsp. Sucanet

Directions:

1) With a fine mesh strainer, rinse the black beans really well, to remove all excess salt.

2) In small saucepan, sauté chilis and black beans in 2 tbsp. water on medium-low until fragrant, approx. 2-3min.

3) Add rice wine and rice vinegar. Simmer 3min. Add water as necessary for consistency.

4) Stir in Sucanet and remove from heat. Let cool completely

5) Store in mason jar in fridge: will keep for 3 weeks

Makes ⅔ cups of sauce


Habanero Hot Sauce

Habanero Hot Sauce

A co-worker gifted me with six fresh from the garden habanero peppers, after hearing of my love affair of spicy food. I was immediately faced with indecision – should I freeze them whole and enjoy them in various chilis, stews, and curries, or should I celebrate the habanero and make a fiery sauce? The sauce was speaking to me, and so I went in search of The Recipe that would celebrate the fiery pepper and not mask it. This turned out to be more difficult than I thought!

I finally found a recipe (and there aren’t many) that celebrate this noble pepper. From Rick Bayless, Top Chef Master no less! The ingredients are simple: 12 habaneros (stemmed only – keep those seeds in there!), 1/2 cup diced carrot, 1/2 cup diced onion, garlic, apple cider vinegar, and salt. The method is even easier: boil everything in a pot until carrots are tender, and then blend. Store in fridge. Done! I was seduced by the simple recipe, and decided that was the one.

The result? Amazing. If only I knew it was that easy to make hot sauce earlier! The carrots add colour – you can’t taste them at all. I added water to the blender slowly for consistency, and ended up with two small Mason jars of fresh hot sauce. Licking the blender, it was definitely a 5-alarm type sauce. It has mellowed out over time though (24h thus far), and although a little goes a long way, you don’t need gloves to handle it! Absolutely fantastic, it’ll add a bit of pizzazz to my chilis, stews, curries, and salads for a long time to come. I cannot wait for a trip to the farmer’s market for more fresh peppers! Treat them right, and the peppers bask in their glory. Yum!

The recipe can be found here: Rick Bayless’ Habanero Hot Sauce


Millennium Green Thai Curry

The picture does not do this dish justice. Apologies for the very poor quality!

The picture does not do this dish justice. Apologies for the very poor quality!

If I could re-name the summer of 2013, I’d call it the year of the zucchini. My CSA showered me with zucchini (courgettes) and summer squash. I did my best to keep up, and what wasn’t eaten raw or cooked was diced, grated, steamed, and frozen for delicious treats come February when I am tired of winter produce. With over 100lbs of zucchini and summer squash this summer, and an apartment sized deep freeze full of the stuff, I have gotten very creative! This Green Thai curry is one such example.

I have waxed poetic about the Pumpkin Thai Curry in the Millennium cookbook before, and am adamant that Eric Tucker is a genius. This Green Thai Curry version uses the same curry paste featured in that recipe, but substitutes all the winter squash for summer squash. Brilliant, right? I then used that curry sauce and included the rest of the curry vegetables that I love to use, as shown in my other Green Thai Curry recipe: eggplant, zucchini (more!), green beans, bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, and swiss chard. All save for the mushrooms were compliments of my CSA. I don’t know if it was the garden fresh veggies, the new and unique sauce, or the delight in knowing that I used two zucchinis for this bowl of greatness, but this Thai curry is a keeper! I love how the same ingredients for the curry sauce can end up with a completely different taste – it’s all dependent on how you cook it. The scientist in me is fascinated by the different flavour profiles if you add a certain spice in step one or step five, or if you pre-simmer the sauce before adding the vegetables.

There is no new recipe for this dish, just some creative imagination on how to combine two existing ones! So if you are like me and have zucchini coming out your ears and are sick of raw zucchini pasta with pesto (delicious!), try this recipe out – not only do you decrease your zucchini count, but you end up with a delicious, slightly spicy, and very piquant curry! Definitely one to keep for a rainy day!

The curry paste/sauce recipe can be found here: Winter Vegetable Pumpkin Thai Curry

The rest of the vegetable medley can be found here: Green Thai Curry

 

*Note that the vegetables are suggestions only. Use your imagination! In this edition, I also added some home-sporuted mung beans for some extra crunch, which were amazing.


Spicy Sour Chickpea Curry

Spicy Sour Chana Curry

Sometimes indecision can be a good thing. I entered the battle zone kitchen knowing only one thing: I wanted curry. Spicy? Tangy? Sour? Tomato based? Coconut milk based? All these questions flew through my mind as I assembled the curry vegetables. I quickly discovered that I had no tomatoes or coconut milk, so those options were out. But for flavour … I decided in the end to not make a decision. Thus, spicy sour chickpea curry was born!

The curry mixture is based off of this Spicy Squash Curry recipe that I’ve made in the past. The legume of choice was chickpeas for their meaty texture. The vegetables were inspired by my CSA of the week: eggplant, zucchini, the first cherry tomatoes and red peppers of the season, and swiss chard. I found some mushrooms in the fridge so they got added to the pot as well. The end result was better than I could have imagined, and exactly what I wanted! The curry is spicy from the hot peppers and chili powder, but it’s very tangy as well with both asafetida and amchoor (mango powder). The whole fenugreek and cumin seeds add depth, coriander for the ‘common’ curry binder, and turmeric to finish it off. The end result is a complex, unique flavour profile that is as spontaneous as the method of the recipe making! Definitely a crowd pleaser with its mixture of spicy and sour, and one that I will turn to time and time again the next time I am paralyzed by indecision. Enjoy!

Spicy Sour Chickpea Curry

*Note* It goes without saying that you can add or omit anything on this list to satisfy your own urges at the time. This is the version that I made, and it hit the spot! There is no substitution for mango powder in this recipe. It adds a unique tang to the dish, and is worth hunting out at an Indian market (my sample size has lasted me 2 years and counting). If absolutely necessary, I believe that 1 tbsp. of tamarind concentrate may result in the same tangy-sour notes, but this substitution is (as of yet) untested.

1 tbsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. fennel seeds

½ tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. chili powder

½ tsp. paprika

2 tsp. oil

1 tsp. cumin seeds

pinch of asafetidia

½ tsp. fenugreek seeds

4 whole dried red chilis, to taste

¼ tsp. salt, to taste

1 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced

 

1 medium eggplant, cut into ½” moons (approx. 4 cups)

1 large zucchini, cut into ½” moons (approx. 4 cups)

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

1 medium red bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces (scant 1 cup)

3 cups cooked chickpeas (2 (19oz. cans chickpeas, or 1 cup dried chickpeas, pre-cooked)

1 bunch swiss chard, roughly chopped (approx. 4 cups)

1 cup cherry tomatoes

1 tbsp. lemon juice

2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

1 tbsp. amchoor (mango powder)

 

Directions:

1) In a small bowl (or large measuring cup) mix together the ground coriander, fennel seed, chili powder, paprika, turmeric, and ¼ cup water to make a paste.

2) In large pot, heat oil on medium high. Add the cumin seeds and asafetida. Saute until cumin seeds begin to crack.

3) Add fenugreek seeds and red chilis. Stir.

4) Add the spice paste, salt, ginger, and ¼ cup water. Stir and sauté until fragrant, approx. 2min.

5) Add the eggplant, zucchini, and mushrooms. Stir, cover, and let steam until eggplant begins to soften, approx. 5min.

6) Add the bell pepper, chickpeas, and 4 cups water. Stir, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer until eggplant tender, approx. 20min. Add water as necessary to adjust for consistency. (I added about 8-10 cups total)

7) Add the swiss chard, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, amchoor, and lemon juice. Stir, cover, and cook until greens bright green and slightly wilted. Adjust for seasonings.

8) Serve with rice and/or flatbread of choice.

 


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