Tag Archives: IsaChandra

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Stew

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Stew

I’ve been saving this post for a rainy day. This is by far one of my favourite comfort soups of all time. Tied with Spicy Peanut and Eggplant Stew, this stew is the equivalent spending a lazy Sunday afternoon on the sofa wrapped in a comfy blanket watching movies like An Affair to Remember while it pours rain outside. And not feeling guilty about the pile of laundry kicked behind the door.

Compliments of the must-have Veganomicon by the pioneers of accessible, delicious vegan cooking Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, this stew was the feature dish at more than one family holiday gathering. It was so popular in fact, by the time my turn came to fill up, the pot was empty! I couldn’t blame them – who can resist the allure of roasted bell peppers, the delicious aroma of roasted garlic, and the creamy interior yet slightly crispy roasted eggplant chips? I know I can’t! The recipe takes some forethought due to the aforementioned roasting, but once that’s done it’s quite simple. Sauté the onions, add MORE garlic, add the tomatoes and build the spice base of thyme, tarragon, and a dash of paprika for heat. Add the roasted vegetables, some chickpeas for protein, and voila. A hearty stew that is so flavourful and delicious you may moan. My family has used the stew as a ratatouille, topping pasta with it (and quite clearly loved it that way!). I’m a purist – why waste stomach room with pasta when you can go for thirds?

I have made this multiple times, and as usual I have made some adjustments. I usually cut the oil called for down to 1-2tsp. to sauté the onions only. To roast the veggies, place them on your cookie sheet and lightly spray with olive oil (or pam). This works much better for me, as when I try to brush the surfaces with oil it never comes out even and things always get burned. Also, watch the veggies when roasting – my various rental ovens run hot or cold, so I have had both raw and burnt roasted veggies following the instructions. To combat this, I usually roast at 375oF, and check on them every 20min, with a max roast time of 45min. Whenever possible, I try to use dried chickpeas that are cooked instead of canned. I find that this is a firmer texture, and more delicious. However, when combating cravings, reaching for whatever canned bean you have on hand (or even lentils to throw in while it’s simmering) is also delicious. Finally, all stews taste better with greens! Don’t be shy – throw in spinach, kale, lettuce, swiss chard, whatever green you have on hand. It breaks up the soup colour, and adds an additional texture element.

If you only make one recipe from Veganomicon, this is it. Melt in your mouth eggplant, roasted garlic, roasted bell peppers, in a rich tomato stew. You can’t go wrong.

In addition to being found in Veganomicon, the recipe can be found here: Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Stew.


Acorn Squash, Pear, and Adzuki Soup

Delicata Squash and Pear Soup

Buoyed by the success of Onion and Apple Soup, I decided to tackle an even more daunting combination: Pears and Acorn Squash! I love pears. They are my ‘special treat’ fruit, and thus I don’t want to sacrifice them to experiments. One 6lb. windfall bag on sale later, I learned that pear and banana soft serve is a good idea in theory, but disastrous in execution. I also love squash. To have squash go to waste is also a crime. So to mix the pears and squash in a savoury dish was an absolute no-no under the “thou shalt not mix fruit in savory dishes” kitchen rule.

This recipe is originally from Veganomicon, and has been taunting me ever since my first cover-to-cover study session. The ingredient combination of pears, squash, adzuki beans, and mushrooms sounds so weird that I knew that it had to be delicious. But I hesitated. For years, I hesitated. Finally, I bit the bullet and made the soup. My suspicions were confirmed – this soup is a unique take on the staple squash soup, full of flavour and surprises with every spoonful. I can’t put my finger on what it tastes like – the mushrooms and sesame oil add an Asian earthiness to it, while the squash adds the body. When you think you have it figured out the pear adds a subtle not-sweet but different taste, and the adzuki beans add colour, protein, and their own flavour. Overall it’s a delicious deviation from the norm!

These two soups, although successful, won’t have me trying pineapple on my pizza anytime soon though.
The recipe in addition to being in Veganomicon can be found at the PPK here: Acorn Squash, Pear, and Adzuki Soup.

*Note: In Veganomicon it calls for delicata squash, however I used acorn and it was delicious. Instead of fresh shiitake mushrooms, I used a combination of dried mushrooms and fresh white mushrooms. The dried mushrooms add to the Asian flavour with another textural element to the soup. Highly recommended!


Caribbean Black Eyed Pea Curry

Ring in the New Year with this lucky black eyed pea curry! Different and delicious: transport yourself to the Caaribbean!

Ring in the New Year with this lucky black eyed pea curry! Different and delicious: transport yourself to the Caribbean!

Disclaimer: I am in the process of moving across the country, and thus haven’t had access to a kitchen for over a month. I’m working through the archives, which seem to be full of cookbook recipes. So, I present to you another recipe from Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. This particular recipe took me over a year to make. I’d been eyeing it for a while, but I was often distracted by my own cravings, whims, and hesitation for sweeter, milder curries. Finally, I gave this one a try and yet again Isa didn’t disappoint! The curry is a nice balance of sweet and savoury, and there’s a good kick at the end from the addition of habaneros. I didn’t seed my peppers giving me a greater kick than usual, but that’s completely to taste! You can never go wrong with the addition of bell peppers in a curry, and the black eyed peas are a great canvas for the curry as they soak up the flavour wonderfully. Other mild tasting beans can be substituted, such as navy beans. However, the Jewish consider black eyed peas to be lucky when celebrating Rosh Hashanah (usually in autumn), and in the southern US they are considered lucky to ring in the (Roman Calendar) New Year, so why not add a little luck on your side? The plantain addition is nice, however I would recommend simmering the plantain in the curry instead of steaming it separately as the recipe suggests. I find plantains to be really starchy, and when you simmer it in the sauce it takes on the flavour of the curry while still maintaining the plantain purpose.

This dish is simple to throw together – perfect for a weekday meal or for mimizing time spent in the kitchen with company over. The smells of this curry simmering on the stove will transport you to the Caribbean, making you forget that it’s -30 Celsius outside! So when ringing in the New Year, add a little bit of luck to the holiday spread and make this curry!

The recipe is available in Appetite for Reduction, but it is also posted on the PPK here: Caribbean Black Eyed Pea Curry with Plantains.


Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potato Chili

Brussels Sprout and Sweet Potato Chili

 (Apologies for the poor picture: I am in the process of moving across the country and only had capabilities for the point-and-shoot no-edit)

The title says it all. Brussels sprouts and sweet potato meet together in a fiery hot chili that has been the side dish for more than one festive meal. Brussels sprouts generally have a bad reputation – I did not have my first sprout until my late 20’s, on account of family ‘brussels sprout issues’. Perhaps I wouldn’t like them so much if I was force-fed them growing up (like tomato soup), but these little vegetables are cute versions of cabbage and taste faintly of broccoli. As an extra bonus, they hold their shape in soups and stews, so you have something firm to chew on instead of wilted leaves or random specks of broccoli florets. They are especially decadent shaved thin and roasted until very brown (some would say burnt); every bushel of brussels sprouts that make it to my kitchen have at least one dish prepared this way! But not everybody has been charmed by these cute little cabbages, so to bring them over to the dark side I present to you this chili.

This chili is a warm, hearty stew that is quick to throw together and disappears just as fast. Pinto beans add some protein, however navy beans or chickpeas are also fantastic. Sweet potatoes (always good in a chili!) are the bulk of the dish, and pair well with the tomatoes and chili powder. The brussels sprouts add some colour, a different texture, and a broccoli/cabbage feel to the chili. Brussels haters won’t even know that they are there! In fact, the last time I made this dish for the family, the self-diagnosed ‘brussels sprouts issues’ individuals first tentative spoonful came with an eye roll and a “clearly I’m humouring you” attitude, then proceeded to lick the bowl clean. And then go for seconds, thirds … one small step for the mighty Brussels Sprout!

This recipe is from Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Although an excellent cookbook that is a solid standby for quick weeknight dinners, Isa has also posted the recipe for this dish on her website, the PPK. You can find the recipe here: Chipotle Chili with Sweet Potato and Brussels Sprouts. 

*Substitution note: As I never have chipotles hanging about, I substitute normal jalapenos. For chipotle smokiness, a drop or two of liquid smoke may get you the same effect, but I have never tried it.

Embrace the Brussels Sprout! Chili for a holiday meal? Why not, I say! It’s a wonderful change to the maple sugared toothache-inducing ‘traditional’ preparation of both the sweet potato and brussels sprout. The taste will win over even the staunchest brussels sprouts “haters” – a perfect excuse to make more!


Yam and Black Bean Soup with Orange and Cilantro

Bright and zesty, this black bean soup is deliciously different!

I am forever looking for variations of Black Bean Soup, that “little black dress” soup that can be comforting or exotic. Virtually every cuisine type has a version of a black bean soup, which I find fascinating from an anthropology standpoint. This particular version was made because I could not decide between the classic black bean soup and a version of black bean hash for dinner one day. So I turned to the cookbook shelf for inspiration, and found this Yam and Black Bean Soup in Appetite for Reduction, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Perfect!

Like all recipes in Appetite for Reduction, this stew is very simple to put together, and extremely tasty. I was a bit skeptical reading the list of ingredients – I tend to like recipes that read like novels, heavy on the spices. I also have an aversion to fruit in savoury dishes (pineapple on pizza? Ick.) and the addition of orange juice tested my resolve to stick with this stew and not revert back to the black bean hash. But this soup is absolutely delicious! Strangely enough, you can’t taste the orange, but instead it makes the soup (especially the sweet potatoes) taste ‘bright’. Zingy. It acts more like lime or lemon juice here, and was surprisingly delicious. The ingredient list may be short, but it packs a punch. The longer the soup sits, the more it thickens, making your second bowl more stew-like and extremely concentrated in flavour. The leftovers froze wonderfully, and reheated even better than when first made. When I reheated the soup, at the end I would throw in some greens (spinach, kale, chard, whatever was on hand) for some additional colour and extra level of deliciousness.

The recipe can be found here: Yam and Black Bean Soup. So next time you have a spare sweet potato in your fridge and a burning desire to eat some black beans, add to your black bean soup arsenal and give this exotic soup a try!


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.


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


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