Category Archives: Side Dishes

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!

 


An Ode to Tahini

I am a tahini addict. I love the stuff. Some may shudder at the thought of eating it straight out of the jar, but I consider that on par with peanut butter straight. Heaven. So often tahini is a backup singer in a recipe – unappreciated and unassuming, you only notice when it’s not there. Hummus. Falafel. Fudge. Halva. Dressings and sauces. I am often hesitant to use my favourite ingredient in such applications, as I feel that the list of ingredients and flavour combinations are not up to tahini-standards. And so, to all my fellow tahini-lovers out there, I offer you these three ‘recipes’ (I use the term loosely) that feature tahini as the star. And rightly so!

Tahini-Miso Dressing

This idea originally came from a flip through Veganomicon. As a single cooker, I never ever make salad dressing. Too many mason jars have ended up with interesting bacteria cultures from half-finished dressing. I took the idea of tahini and miso, added my own single-serve ratios, and method from my single-person Asian peanut sauce (taught to me by a former roommate). As the title suggests, this dressing combines tahini with miso, another favourite ingredient. A dash of vinegar or lemon juice for acidity, and you have an amazing dressing for any salad you create.

1 tsp. tahini

1 tsp. miso

1 tsp. white vinegar, lemon or lime juice

1) In a measuring cup, combine all ingredients.

2) Whisk vigorously with a fork, until the vinegar acts as an emulsifier and everything is combined. Adjust viscosity by adding water (1/4 tsp. at a time).

3) Serve!

*This recipe is easily scaled up for the size of your salad. Just keep the 1:1:1 ratio of tahini:miso:vinegar, and you’re set!

Simple Tahini-Sriracha Crudités

Lovely Lovely Vegetables!

Lovely Lovely Vegetables!

I have been known to eat an entire plate of fresh vegetables from the farmers market for lunch. There is nothing wrong with this! And my favourite way to eat these vegetables is with this simple presentation. The tahini and Sriracha are a marriage in heaven, while still letting the vegetables shine through. After all, when you have farmer’s market carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and tomatoes, you don’t want to wreck that freshness with a heavy dressing.

This isn’t really a recipe, as such. Arrange your raw vegetables of choice on a plate or in a bowl. Drizzle tahini on top (to taste). Finish off with Sriracha. Enjoy!

Tahini + Sriracha. Amazing.

Tahini + Sriracha. Amazing.

Frozen Banana Tahini Molasses Split

As the saying goes, desperation is the Mother of invention. This dessert was born from the need desire to have banana soft serve one summer evening. However, it was also over 40dC, and the frozen bananas were turning into an unappetizing brown mush before even exiting the food processor! Add to this all those extra dishes, and I went the lazy route. Since I have yet to make my banana-date soft serve – this dish is the dessert of the summer!

Similar to the crudités, slice a frozen banana into approx. 1″ long pieces. Split each piece in half, and place the banana pieces flat side-up on a plate. Drizzle tahini overtop of the banana pieces. Follow up with blackstrap molasses. Enjoy!

Tahini + Blackstrap Molasses. A perfect topping for frozen bananas. Divine!

Tahini + Blackstrap Molasses. A perfect topping for frozen bananas. Divine!

I hope these three simple ‘recipes’ featuring tahini bring you as much joy as they do me. Try them out – I can think of no other ingredient that can hold its own with miso, Sriracha, and blackstrap molasses with such delicious results! Oh Tahini, I love you so.


Burmese Tofu

Burmese tofu is traditionally soy-free, and uses besan (chickpea flour) instead of soy beans. Intrigued, I decided to try it out. With limited recipes to try out, all will different ratios of the same ingredients, I decided to add to the mix another recipe. With just three ingredients you can make your own tofu that is eons better than the purchased soft soy tofu. Once it has set in the fridge, you can use it just as you would any other tofu product. For the first batch, half went to a chocolate mousse recipe that turned out to be like chocolate halva, and the second half was sliced and baked in the oven along with the roasting squash de jour. Both uses were utterly fantastic, and since I have made three more batches of tofu. I don’t know how the same ingredients as for socca can turn out so different, but it’s magical what happens when you whisk the mixture! Impress yourself, impress your friends, and whip up your own tofu!

Burmese Tofu

1½ cup besan (chickpea flour) (Note: Other bean flours may work too!)
4 cups water
pinch of salt

Directions:
1) Grease a 9×13” pan. Set aside
2) In heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together chickpea flour and salt.
3) Slowly add water, whisking continuously to ensure no lumps.
4) Turn burner onto medium-high heat. Whisk continuously until mixture thickens, approx. 7-8min. Mixture should be the consistency of thick pudding.
5) Pour into greased 9×13” pan. Smooth top, and let cool. (Note: Other size pans would be neat! You can shape your tofu to whatever you want!)
6) Chill in fridge for 30min-12h. The longer it chills, the firmer it gets.
7) Cut into slices and use!

Options: use as a soft tofu, in baked goods, in mousse, slice and bake for tofu strips … when used in mousse acts just like silken tofu. To make your own tofu strips, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place tofu strips on cookie sheet. Sprinkle with seasonings (optional), and bake at 375oF for 20-30min. Remove from oven and enjoy! The outer layer will be crisp and the inside is gloriously creamy. I freeze them for portable snack options.

Step-by-Step Pictures:

                     

1) Whisk together all ingredients

Burmese Tofu1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) Continuously whisk on medium-high until reaches consistency of thick pudding (Note the whisk tracks!)

Burmese Tofu2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3) Pour into 9″x13″ pan and smooth. Let set.

Burmese Tofu - Set

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baked Burmese Tofu Sticks, with a sprinkle of black pepper. Yum!

Burmese Tofu Sticks


Yogurtlu Ispanak and Mualle

Yogurtlu Ispanak (Left) and Mualle (Right): Turkish Delights!

Yogurtlu Ispanak (Left) and Mualle (Right): Turkish Delights!

Visiting Turkey and crossing the boundary between two continents within one city is on my bucket list. Also on the list is to stand in Constantinople and sing that 50’s classic “Istanbul“). The country is so laden with history and a wide variety of ethnicities that I dream of the markets and cuisine! Turkey remains on the bucket list, so I settled for a Turkish feast: Yogurtlu Ispanak and Mualle.

Yogurtlu Ispanak is a sautéed spinach dish. Incredibly easy, it takes spinach to new heights. I generally loathe steamed spinach, but this was devoured in seconds! And made again, and again, and again … What I like about the seasonings and method is that it could be used for any green: swiss chard, kale, collard greens, and even dandelion greens! Almost a spinach risotto, if you omit the rice it would be a wonderful side to Lentils and Rice, for a super quick weeknight dinner. The creaminess of the yogurt (or substitute your favourite non-dairy milk) provide a delectable backdrop, allowing for the spices and taste of the greens to really shine. The best part is that you won’t even notice the creaminess – there’s only 1/3 cup added for the whole dish so it’s not swimming in cream sauce.   The recipe can be found here: Spinach with Yogurt (Yogurtlu Ispanak)

Mualle is basically Turkish moussaka, except much simpler to make! Another one-pot recipe, it tastes divine and a tangy variation of the beloved Greek classic. It’s a much lighter dish, almost like a ratatouille, with the addition of lentils – the protein power house. The ingredient list is so short that it’s an easy answer to the question “What to do with eggplant?” I could not find pomegranate molasses, so I turned to Google and made my own from pomegranate juice. Making your own pomegranate molasses is quite simple in theory: For every 4 cups of pomegranate juice, add 1 tbsp. lemon juice (to taste – the range varies from 1 tsp. to 1/4 cup). Heat on medium-high in a saucepan, stirring constantly. When it reaches the thickness you desire, take off the heat. In reality, this was actually quite difficult. I am not a patient person, and the juice was very much juice for the first 20min of the process. However, it quickly turns to syrup at around the 30min mark, and if you are not stirring it constantly the pot will boil over and you will have a kitchen fire on your hands. Twice, if you don’t learn your lesson the first time. So be forewarned: when they say stir constantly, they mean it! All that being said, it was the pomegranate molasses that made the dish. It added this sour tang to the casserole that would be sorely missed without. My best guess at a substitution would be tamarind concentrate, but that would be a poor one.

The recipe for Mualle can be found here: Eggplant and Lentil Stew with Pomegranate Molasses (Mualle). As I do not own a cast-iron casserole dish, I instead assembled the Mualle in a glass casserole dish and cooked covered for 45min at 425oF. Turned out wonderfully!

My first foray into Turkish cuisine was an unqualified success. Both dishes are seasoned wonderfully, with great flavour and zest. More tangy than spicy, they quickly became kitchen stand-by’s. Usher Turkey into your kitchen with these dishes, and you will not be disappointed!

or a Turkish feast: Yogurtlu Ispanak and Mualle.

Yogurtlu Ispanak is a sauteed spinach dish. Incredibly easy, it takes spinach to new heights. I generally loathe steamed spinach, but this was devoured in seconds! And made again, and again, and again … What I like about the seasonings and method is that it could be used for any green: swiss chard, kale, collard greens, and even dandlion greens! Almost a spinach risotto, if you omit the rice it would be a wonderful side to Lentils and Rice, for a super quick weeknight dinner. The creamyness of the yogurt (or substitute your favourite non-dairy milk) provide a delicatable backdrop, allowing for the spices and taste of the greens to really shine. The best part is that you won’t even notice the creaminess – there’s only 1/3 cup added for the whole dish so it’s not swimming in cream sauce.   The recipe can be found here: Spinach with Yogurt (Yogurtlu Ispanak)

Mualle is basically Turkish moussaka, except much simplier to make! Another one-pot recipe, it tastes devine and a tangy variation of the beloved Greek classic. It’s a much lighter dish, almost like a ratattouie, with the addition of lentils – the protein power house. The ingredient list is so short that it’s an easy answer to the question “What to do with eggplant?”. I could not find pomegranate molasses, so I turned to Google and made my own from pomegranate juice. Making your own pomegranate molasses is quite simple in theory: For every 4 cups of pomegranate juice, add 1 tbsp. lemon juice (to taste – the range varies from 1 tsp. to 1/4 cup). Heat on medium-high in a saucepan, stirring constantly. When it reaches the thinkness you desire, take off the heat. In reality, this was actually quite difficult. I am not a patient person, and the juice was very much juice for the first 20min of the process. However, it quickly turns to syrup at around the 30min mark, and if you are not stirring it constantly the pot will boil over and you will have a kitchen fire on your hands. Twice, if you don’t learn your lesson the first time. So be forewarned: when they say stir constantly, they mean it! All that being said, it was the pomegranate molasses that made the dish. It added this sour tang to the casserole that would be sorely missed without. My best guess at a substitution would be tamarind concentrate, but that would be a poor one.

The recipe for mualle can be found here: Eggplant and Lentil Stew with Pomegranate Molasses (Mualle). As I do not own a cast-iron casserole dish, I instead assembled the Mualle in a glass casserole dish and cooked covered for 45min at 425dF. Turned out wonderfully!

My first foray into Turkish cuisine was an unqualified success. Both dishes are seasoned wonderfully, with great flavour and zest. More tangy than spicy, they quickly became kitchen stand-by’s. Usher Turkey into your kitchen with these dishes, and you will not be disappointed!


Mujadara – Lentils and Rice

How can something so simple be so delicious? So delicious in fact, it disappeared before a picture could be taken!

Inspired by my Kushari recipe, I recently found myself craving lentils and rice. The parameters of Kushari (multiple pots, more than 45min to cook) however did not apply: I wanted food, and I wanted it fast. The solution was this lentil and rice dish which was so simple I almost feel like writing about it is redundant. Words cannot describe how delicious this is! Packed with protein and carbohydrates it’ll keep you full for hours. Think of the lentils and rice as a canvas for your seasonings de jour: vinegar and red pepper flakes for the Kushari feel, thyme and rosemary for an Italian take, cumin/curry powder and turmeric for an Indian flair – whatever your spice cabinet is telling you!

This dish can be prepared in less than 30min, and requires minimal supervision. If you’re feeling fancy, sauté some onions and garlic in the pot before adding the rice and lentils. Else sit back and be amazed at this brilliant weekday dish full of flavour! And did I mention that the total dishes required are one pot, a measuring cup, and a spoon?

Lentils and Rice

½ cup green, brown, or French lentils
½ cup brown rice (Note: white rice, quinoa, millet, or buckwheat could be substituted as they have similar cooking times)
4½ cups water (Measured using the dry ½ cup measuring cup)
Seasonings of choice (anything goes!)

Directions:
1) In large saucepan, add all ingredients. Stir to prevent rice from clumping.
2) Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until lentils and rice al dente and water absorbed, ~30min.
3) Optional: Stir occasionally while simmering**
4) Remove from heat and let sit covered for 5min before serving.

**I have frequently over/under-cooked, burned, turned to mush, and basically ruined lentils and grains more than once. I also overflow the pot frequently, and thus opt for the biggest my kitchen has to offer. Thus I am a nervous lentil-and-rice cooker, and the stirring solved all these problems! If you’re an old pro, you can skip this step.


Tempeh Tikka Masala with Naan

Doesn't look like much, but it's heaven in a bowl!

Doesn’t look like much, but it’s heaven in a bowl!

Spicy tomato curries are a weakness of mine. I have yet to come across one that I have not immediately pledged my undying love to. Whether it be a vegetable curry, a daal, a veggie-daal combo, or something that gets thrown into the pot because your fridge is conspiring against you, they are all amazing. But this Tempeh Tikka Masala is quite possibly the best curry I have ever had the privledge of eating. Ever. Scooped up with delicious, easy, vegan naan bread and this quite possibly may be my definition of heaven.

Tempeh is one of my favourite protein sources. I rarely buy it, and when I do I let it talk to me. What does it want to be? Braised in a Mexican beer marinade and used as wraps? Sauted with soy sauce and used in a Macro Bowl? Well, this block was telling (demanding) me that it needed to be in a curry. Only a spicy tomato curry would make its life complete, and I was happy to oblige. I have never had ‘real’ Tikka Masala, and so this was a new experience for us both. The recipe is compliments of Vegan Richa (Formerly Hobbies and More), an amazing cook that has a life mission it seems to bring to the world the best that Northern India has to offer. The tempeh is first marinated in a mixture of curry spices and a small amount of yogurt. The curry is then built up with a pureed tomato base of fresh tomatoes, ginger, chili, and garlic. Aromatic Indian spices such as garam masala, paprika, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, asafoetida (hing), and turmeric season the dish, turning the puree into something magical. Kale is added for some greens, although spinach would work as well. The tempeh is cooked seperately to sear the edgesand carmelize the marinade, then it’s all simmered together for as long as you can resist. Creamyness is added to the curry with the addition of yogurt and milk. This was my first time in adding yogurt to a curry to make it creamy, and the results did not dissapoint. I used Amande yogurt, but coconut yogurt would also be delectable here. This dish to me is comfort food to the max, with the right mixture of sauce, spice, and chewiness with the tempeh. Scooped with naan, and its bliss in a bowl.

The Tempeh Tikka Masala recipe can be found here: Vegan Richa – Tempeh Tikka Masala

I must admit, I never realized that naan bread had milk or yogurt in it. When dining at Indian restaurants, I tend to prefer roti or pampads, because those are the two items that I consistently set my oven on fire with when I try to make them. Naan is the soft, fluffy cousin of roti, and a new scooping vessel for me. It would make a great pizza base, or hummus vessel. This recipe is also from Vegan Richa, and my results were nothing short of phenominal. Soft, pillowy naan greeted me from the oven, with nary a lick of flame in sight! It requires a bit more pre-planning than roti because it needs to rise, but its definately worth the effort! This recipe will be used in the future for my next attempt at stuffed breads: Paratha. The verison I made here was the yogurt version (again with Amande), but next time I think I will add some garlic  and whole cumin seeds for a truly decadent naan.

This easy, delicious, and sure fire naan recipe can be found here: Vegan Richa – Naan


Butternut Squash Latin Salad

This simple salad was an accompaniment to my most recent variation of my Ultimate Veggie Burgers: Butternut, Beet, Buckwheat, and Black-Eyed Pea burgers. An absolutely delicious combination hearty burger that carries both Sriracha and hummus toppings with aplomb. The downside to the burgers was that I had overestimated the grated squash required, and thus had a whole mountain left over. So what is one to do other than create a crunchy salad?

The inspiration for this salad was the Thai Mango Salad, which was surprisingly delicious when mango was grated. If it would work for mango, why not butternut squash? I realize my line of thought is often not linear, but my creativity/desperation often benefits from my wacky associations. There isn’t really a recipe for this salad, as it was born out of desperation and a finite amount of grated butternut squash. But the salad guidelines are as follows:

– Grated butternut squash (I used my food processor as I had a lot from the burgers, but a handheld grater would also work. Grating butternut squash is the easiest thing you will ever do – even easier than carrots!)
– 1-2 tomatoes, diced
– ½ of a green bell pepper, diced
– 1-2 green onions, chopped
– 1-3 jalapenos, depending on personal preference
– 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
– dash of cayenne, cumin, and chili powder
– sprinkle of red pepper flakes
– salt/pepper to taste
– cilantro for garnish

Directions:
1) To grate butternut squash: Slice in half the slice again in 2″ strips. Peel the strips with a vegetable peeler, or cut the rind off. Proceed to grate the squash with your preferred method: food processor, manual, or if desperate julienned squash would work as well!
2) Toss all vegetables in a bowl.
3) Season with lime juice and all other seasonings.
4) For best flavour, loosely cover with saran wrap and let sit in fridge for 1h before serving.

As with most coleslaw salads, this recipe only improves with age. Bright, fresh, and crunchy it adds zing to whatever meal you desire! I ate it as a side for lunch and dinner, and even served it with some cooked quinoa for breakfast. Embrace the raw squash – it’s delicious!


%d bloggers like this: