Cook the Book Fridays – Fattoush

Fattoush

I don’t think of salads as diet food. It’s what I was raised to do, but the days of wan supermarket lettuce, with its limp produce aisle cohorts are long gone. These days, lettuce is early summer fare, along with freshly-dug radishes and scallions. It’s not quite time for tomatoes and cucumbers, but today’s fresh market offerings are better than the supermarket fare of yore (yore being the late 20th Century).

Salads are a broader category for me now, too. Shaved Brussels sprouts or cabbage might go into a winter salad, roasted tomatoes and eggplant into a high summer version. But right now, salads look a lot like the ones in my elementary school picture books – lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, radishes, carrots – they’re all fair game.

Fattoush with za'atar

Tonight’s salad is fattoush, which adds a healthy dose of flat-leaf parsley and mint to a mix of romaine, onion, radishes, and cucumbers. It’s tossed in a lemony, garlicky, mustardy vinaigrette and finished with grindings of black pepper and a sprinkling of sumac. I’m out of sumac, so I substituted za’atar. I’m glad I did, because there’s lots of sumac, but it also adds a burst of thyme and sesame.

My bowl included pieces of pita that had been brushed with olive oil and crisped in the oven. The gluten-free version included crispy rice crackers instead. Both were full of flavour.

There will be many more summer salads this year, but I’ll be revisiting this one regularly, perhaps as soon as tomorrow.

Fattoush on a wicker tray

You can read through everyone’s posts here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David LebovitzMy Paris Kitchen.

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Cottage Cooking Club – April 2016

Cherry Blossom Snow

It’s hard to believe we’ve come to the end of our time with River Cottage Veg. Collectively, the bloggers of The Cottage Cooking Club have worked through every one of the 200 recipes included in the cookbook.

This cook-a-long came at a fortuitous time for me. My partner was moving toward veganism and I wanted to build some plant-based cooking into my blogging routine to support him. We’ve always eaten a lot of vegetarian and vegan meals, but ensuring variety is a great incentive to keep going when you’re changing the way you eat.

It was also a chance to keep cooking alongside one of the talented bloggers I’d met through French Fridays with Dorie. Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness posts wonderful recipes with gorgeous photography, in a blog full of family adventures, travel tales, and explorations of her city and region. She’s been a terrific leader, from the structure she devised that allowed the group as a whole to complete the book in two years, to her always supportive comments on every participant’s blog.

My last month didn’t go as planned. I’d promised to blog about three recipes this month, but only managed two – one of which was the wrong variation of the dish. I guess it goes to show that improvisation is as much of a kitchen skill as any of the others that everyday cooks perform.

Oven-Roasted Ratatouille

Oven-Roasted Ratatouille

I made this recipe in March, as I’d gotten a great deal on eggplant and bell peppers and was looking for a tasty way to use them. As luck would have it, this dish was due to come up in our very last rotation.

This is one of the dishes I hadn’t noticed while paging through the cookbook and it’s another one that Kevin wishes I’d made much sooner and often. Oven-roasting brings out the flavour of all the vegetables beautifully. We’ll be making this one as often as we can get our hands on good eggplants – I can hardly wait to try it again in high summer.

Roasted Potatoes and Eggplant

Roasted Potatoes and Eggplant

Another eggplant dish and another recipe in Kevin’s Favourites column. I was supposed to make the spiced eggplants with chickpeas, but when it came time to make my shopping list, I looked at the wrong recipe. We’ve got more eggplant in the refrigerator, so I’ll probably correct this error soon. At least it was a delicious mistake.

Quinoa with Zucchini and Onions

Quinoa with Zucchini and Onions

Speaking of delicious mistakes, this dish was supposed to be quinoa with leeks and squash, but once again, I looked at the wrong recipe. Kevin was pleased with this mistake in particular – he loves zucchini and tolerates squash. I’m happy with either. I skipped the nuts and doubled down on the lemon in this dish. It makes a great side, but a bowlful made a satisfying lunch, too.

That’s it for this month’s selections – I was supposed to make Spiced Spinach and Potatoes as well, but every time I set aside some cooked potatoes for the dish, they ended up being used for something else. I suppose I’ll have to plan to make another dish that uses leftover potatoes, then perhaps I’ll make this dish instead.

The rest of the recipes I tackled this month were from previous months’ selections. I go through periods of focusing more on ingredients than recipes I’ve undertaken to make. It always leads me to recipes I might have overlooked otherwise.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce

This sauce is a component of several of Hugh’s recipes, so when I picked up a big bag of hothouse tomatoes, I decided to give it a try. Hothouse tomatoes need help and roasting is the best way to get the most flavour out of them. I added some grape tomatoes I had on hand, as well. The sauce is seasoned only with garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper, but it is rich and delicious on its own and even better as the base for soups or stews.

You’re supposed to seed and skin the tomatoes when they’re roasted, but I threw them into the food processor whole. I like using the whole vegetable when I can and there’s pectin in the skins, which helps to thicken the sauce. I know it’s less refined, but for my purposes it worked beautifully. I used it in two more of Hugh’s recipes and had enough left over to enjoy on its own.

Eggplant and Green Bean Curry

Eggplant and Green Bean Curry

It’s been an eggplant kind of month around here, hasn’t it? This dish would be good even with store-bought sauce, but Hugh’s roasted tomato sauce made it fantastic. I especially appreciated that the dish included a homemade curry paste – that’s often the difference between delicious and mediocre with Indian-inspired dishes.

Mexican Tomato and Bean Soup

Tomato and Bean Soup

Hugh’s sauce went to good use in this soup, too, a Mexican-inspired dish that is just fiery enough to wake up the palate without drowning out the other flavours. It should be called double tomato and black bean soup, because there is quite a lot of fresh, diced tomato along with the roasted tomato sauce. This one was a hit at home and then again for my parents. Their only complaint was that the container I’d sent home with my mother was too small.

Cambodian Wedding Day Dip

Cambodian Wedding Dip

This is a recipe that I’ve been meaning to make since I got the book, but I’ve not gotten around to it until now. The combination of cremini mushrooms, coconut milk, curry, and peanut sounded intriguing. Kevin said it put him in mind of a vegan version of chopped liver. It’s certainly meaty enough to use as a sandwich filling, as well as a dip. I’d like to serve it at a tapas party. I think it would be one of the dishes that gets everyone talking.

So that’s it – the last of my posts for this cookbook. While our group may be finished with River Cottage Veg, our household certainly won’t be leaving it on the shelf. There are too many pages marked with notes, variations, and exclamation marks. And there are plenty of bookmarks for recipes we haven’t yet gotten around to trying.

I am excited to see what Hugh has on offer in River Cottage Every Day. I’ll continue cooking along with the group, but I’m going to stick to vegetable-based selections, as I’ve found that this monthly date with plant-based cooking has been great for our diets and palates.

You can find the rest of the group’s wrap up posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

And you can join in on the Cottage Cooking Club’s next adventure, cooking through one or both of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall´s River Cottage Every Day and Love Your Leftovers – you can find the details, here.

A Medley of Taste – Simply Delish Soup and Salad

Calico Bean Soup

As I told you on Tuesday, Kevin and I did some shopping at the Fraser Valley Food Show last weekend. We’ve been happily eating our way through our finds ever since.

Today, I have something of guest post from Kevin, reviewing one of the products he was especially eager to try, Simply Delish Soup and Salad:

Simply Delish Soup

On Saturday April 2nd, I went with Teresa to the Fraser Valley Food Show. As someone who has been celiac since my birth in 1971, and who has been vegan for almost a year and a half, I was a bit skeptical about finding much that I would like at the show. I say this even knowing full well how much things have changed for people with celiac disease since the 70s and for vegans in the last five years.

The place that immediately caught my eye was Simply Delish Soup and Salad. Their display booth was outstanding. I couldn’t stop looking at their pre-packaged soups, as they looked incredibly pretty. I believe everything but one item was both gluten-free and vegan. The service was friendly but not overbearing. Brad was very helpful in explaining their product and I thought it was cool he was aware of Teresa’s One Wet Foot blog. I ended up leaving with their Calico Soup.

I initially thought that $9.00 was a lot to pay for this pretty package of beans and spices. Once I realized how much soup it makes, I realized I was wrong – it makes a lot of soup for $9.00. Teresa even helped me do some quick math about how much it would cost otherwise. Usually one pays a lot extra for convenience, but not here. The soup couldn’t have been easier to make – just put it into a slow cooker and add water. As someone who likes convenience with vegan/gluten-free cooking, I can’t even begin to explain how much I loved the simplicity of this.

Often with pre-packaged vegan and gluten-free food, not only is it over-priced but it’s also loaded with unhealthy ingredients. This soup couldn’t be farther from that – the nutrient value is extremely high in this soup. I can’t recommend this soup enough. I was happy to hear that Brad & Chelsey sell their product in Vancouver, as we plan on having much more of it in this household.

Medley of beans in the slow cooker

I agree with Kevin’s assessment – we enjoyed a delicious soup with minimal effort – we threw in some diced celery and carrot, as we had it on hand, but I suspect it would have been just as enjoyable without. I also added some salt just before serving. Brad and Chelsey don’t add any salt to their products, which I appreciate for two reasons – salt makes dried pulses tough and I like to control the amount of salt in our food. We like just enough salt in our food to enhance the flavours.

There’s a place for soup mixes like this in our lives – made with healthy ingredients, guaranteed gluten-free and vegan, great as is while easy to customize, and perfect for days when hands on cooking isn’t feasible. They’re a great addition to our pantry.

Overhead shot of calico bean soup

We received no consideration for our review of this product. It’s part of an occasional series of posts highlighting locally made products that we buy and enjoy.

Cook the Book Fridays – Artichoke Tapenade with Rosemary Oil

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There’s a wonderful Lebanese restaurant called Jamjar on the other side of our neighbourhood. We joke that it’s a good thing it’s far enough away that we can’t run down there on the spur of the moment. If it were closer, we’d eat at home less often than is good for us.

My last meal there wasn’t in the restaurant at all, but at a working meeting. The chairperson picked up an array of their dips, salads, small plates, and sauces for us to munch on as we sifted through our list of tasks. There’s nothing bland about any of their food – there’s almost a cacophony of flavours, which manage to complement rather than compete. Eating through a spread of their dishes excites the palate with each bite. It certainly kept us all lively and cheerful through what could have been a tedious evening.

The artichoke tapenade I enjoyed this evening wouldn’t have been out of place on that table. It’s French, rather than Lebanese, but its flavours have a Mediterranean bent. Artichokes, olives, and capers provide earthy notes, lemon and cayenne brighter ones, while homemade rosemary oil finishes the dip.

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Now that the weather is getting warmer, dips like this one are perfect for my favourite way to eat through the summer – from a table full of small bowls and plates filled with different textures and flavours, all working together to create a satisfying and harmonious meal.

You can read through everyone’s posts here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David LebovitzMy Paris Kitchen.

Cottage Cooking Club – March 2016

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Like a horse as it nears the barn, I seem to be speeding through recipes as we reach the end of our time with River Cottage Veg in this group. This month, I managed seven recipes, two of which were ones I’d missed when they’d come up in previous months’ selections.

It’s made for a delicious March.

Nachos with refried beans

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There are as many recipes for refried beans as there are cooks that make them. Hugh’s version is a pantry cupboard wonder, using things I always have on hand. I like the chunky texture, the gentle heat from the fresh red chile and hot smoked paprika, the smooth taste of the cannellini (or borlotti) beans, and the use of grated fresh tomato. I made this twice – once with cannellini beans and once with borlotti and they were equally good. My only change to the recipe was to add 2 or 3 tablespoons of tomato paste along with the fresh tomatoes. That might not be necessary at the height of summer, when tomatoes are at their best, but it really helped bring the flavours together for this late winter version.

As for the nachos, I made a vegan version and a conventional one. I have two small ceramic baking dishes that are about the same size – one got lashings of old cheddar cheese and the other got a generous sprinkling of Daiya cheddar shreds. We finished them off with sour cream (vegan and conventional – it’s our version of his and hers) and some of Hugh’s lemony guacamole.

Lemony guacamole

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This recipe was tackled way back in May of 2014, for our very first Cottage Cooking Club round of posting.

Kevin’s a bit miffed that I overlooked this recipe until almost the very last post for this cookbook – it would have become a staple in our kitchen much sooner, if I hadn’t.

It relies on lemon, cilantro, and fresh red chile to complement the avocado. I skipped adding oil, as it seemed unnecessary, and threw a bit of chopped red onion into the mix. It was perfect with our nachos and adds great flavour as a sandwich spread, too.

The vegiflette toastie

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This one was just for me – I couldn’t resist putting aside a few of the baby potatoes we’d had for dinner so that I could have this toastie for an indulgent Saturday lunch. The topping consists of sliced potatoes heated with a little wilted endive and some heavy cream and I would have enjoyed this if the sandwich had stopped there. The final step is to melt some cheese on top (old cheddar, in this case) and it made the dish absolutely perfect for a rainy day. It was more of a knife and fork affair with the split baguette I used, but that was fine. Not every sandwich needs to be portable.

Dressed Puy lentils

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I make Hugh’s lentils, with their mustardy dressing, at least once a week. We stir them into bowls of roasted potatoes, wilted greens, freshly roasted or steamed vegetables, cold salads, or grains hot or cold. These become one bowl lunches or side dishes at dinner.

There are plenty of other ways to dress lentils, but don’t you find you look back on a period of time and remember a dish or two that kept coming up over and over? It’s been that way with these lentils this winter. It’s not repetition so much as punctuation.

Roasted new potatoes with harissa

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We ate our lentils with these potatoes one night, but it took several tries. The first step in making these is to roast the potatoes with salt and pepper. I usually roast potatoes with herbs and garlic, or onion, or spices – it depends on what I’m serving. These come out of the oven with the more-ish quality of French fries. And we discovered, salt and pepper potatoes go so well with Hugh’s lentils, that you might forget to add harissa altogether. Twice.

With the harissa, they’re good, but honestly, not as good as the plain potatoes. I love harissa as a condiment for soups, stews, and other dishes with a Middle Eastern bent, but I think in this dish, it’s a little wasted.

Vegetable biryani

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I wish I could say we loved this one, but we only liked it. We probably won’t be repeating this version of biryani, but I was especially appreciative of the flavour the brown onions brought to the dish.

Twice-Baked Potatoes

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Finally, there’s a treat that came up in the rotation in November of 2014. I had some beautiful crème fraîche and cultured butter on hand, that I was reviewing for another post earlier this month. This recipe seemed like a perfect way to enjoy it.

I made these potatoes two ways – a vegan version for Kevin, with vegan sour cream, Earth Balance, and Daiya cheddar shreds, and a conventional version for me, with crème fraîche, cultured butter, and old cheddar.

We won’t be having these often, but not because we don’t like them. We loved them. They’re just an indulgence that should be an occasional treat. Although, you can put spinach in them – that makes them good for you, doesn’t it?

As I said, it was a delicious month. I’m looking forward to what April brings.

At the end of the month, you’ll be able to find the rest of the group’s posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

Cook the Book Fridays – Dukkah-Roasted Cauliflower

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I love my stand mixer and my food processor, my slow cooker and my blender, but sometimes I think I get the most satisfaction from the little Braun coffee grinder I picked up at a garage sale back in my university days. Now, it’s only occasionally used to grind coffee – who needs coffee at home when you’re living at the corner of java and joe? But it has produced any number of freshly ground spices over the years, along with emergency icing sugar and top ups for scant cups of oat or chickpea flours. I paid almost nothing for it and it’s brought me a wealth of flavour.

It is rather…enthusiastic, though, so I thought I’d use our mini chopper to make the dukkah for this week’s Cook the Book Fridays dish. This spice mix is meant to have a coarse texture and my spice grinder is more of an instant powder maker. In the end, though, the grinder had to come to the rescue, as the peppercorns and coriander managed to elude the mini chopper’s blade completely. I had to dig them out, grind them, and whisk them back in.

That was the only glitch in a simple and delicious recipe. There are many versions of dukkah, but this one is particularly well-balanced. The recipe made much more than I needed for the roasted cauliflower, so I’m looking forward to trying it in dip form, on other sorts of roasted vegetables, or as a crust for tofu.

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The cauliflower itself couldn’t have been simpler – slices are roasted in olive oil, the dukkah is added, and the cauliflower continues roasting until it’s tender and caramelized. In the headnote to the recipe, David tells us that this dish has been known to elicit exclamations of pleasure and that certainly happened here – the moment I opened the oven to pull it out, just as he’d promised.

That’s the second cauliflower recipe to do so in our house in less than six months. The first was Meera Sodha’s roasted cauliflower. There are other cauliflower dishes I enjoy, but I could be perfectly happy with alternating between these two indefinitely.

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There’s a version of David Lebovitz’ dukkah on his website.

You can read through everyone’s posts here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David LebovitzMy Paris Kitchen.

Cottage Cooking Club – February 2016

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What do you turn to when you’re trying to get through the last weeks of winter eating? Before the celebration of rhubarb and asparagus, radishes and new potatoes, how do you make the last of the cold weather staples more interesting?

I love dried mushrooms (especially porcini), citrus fruits, and the herbs that grow year-round in my garden. Along with pulses, winter greens, and high quality canned or frozen goods, they make these weeks of waiting for new growth bearable. Actually, with a little attention to detail, our meals are rich and delicious.

Potatoes and “Deconstructed Pesto”

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This potato dish is a good example. The basil and lemon were imported, but everything else was local. We roast vegetables often, usually with rosemary and thyme from the back yard. This variation was a treat, especially with shredded Daiya vegan mozzarella. It would have been equally good with a vegan Parmesan (DIY Vegan‘s Garlic Parmesan Shaker is a good place to start, if you’re interested). It’s nice to know that we can have cheesy goodness that satisfies both the vegan and non-vegan members of our household.

White Bean Salad with Tomatoes and Red Onions

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Though tomatoes are best in the summertime, I don’t always say no to the hothouse cherry and grape tomatoes that can be found alongside greenhouse-grown peppers at the fresh markets. It’s hard to turn down jewel-toned vegetables consistently in the name of seasonal eating, isn’t it? Especially when they’re a component of a treat like this. Creamy cannellini beans, tomatoes, and parsley in a lemony mustard dressing. A simple side or healthy winter lunch that’s bright on the tongue and cheerful on the plate.

Chickpea, Chard, and Porcini Soup

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This wasn’t a pick for this month, but one I missed when it came up in the rotation for August, 2015. I couldn’t resist catching up on it this month. As I said at the beginning of the post, I love using dried porcini mushrooms throughout the winter. They make their own stock when you rehydrate them and they lend a rich, meaty undertone to soups and stews. I also keep organic frozen spinach on hand, so when the greens at the market were underwhelming, I pulled some out for this soup. With extra chickpeas and plum tomatoes, it was a truly hearty soup. Next time, I’ll add some sautéed fresh mushrooms, too. Rainy February days call for stick-to-your-ribs fare, don’t you think? This one didn’t need any cheese, vegan or otherwise – it was perfect on its own. It’s also one that can be varied throughout all the seasons, which we’ll certainly be doing.

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The weather’s warming up here, though there’s still lots of rain. I can’t believe we’ve only got two more months’ worth of recipes before The Cottage Cooking Club moves on to two more River Cottage cookbooks!

At the end of the month, you’ll be able to find the rest of the group’s posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

The Perfect Pickle

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I received a jar of Malassol cornichons from Maille Canada, but received no other consideration. All opinions are my own.

A few weeks ago, I told you about the balsamic and honey mustard that Maille Canada was kind enough to send me. Well, I received another package from them, this one to replace the jar of Malassol cornichons that had opened in transit. I wasn’t expecting it, but I’m so glad they did.

I’ve always been fussy about pickles. Growing up, I wouldn’t touch dill pickles or gherkins, but I couldn’t get enough of my mother’s pickled beets, beans, or well, anything but pickled cucumbers. As an adult, I’ve softened my position, but I’d never fight anyone for one. Until now.

Maille’s Malassol cornichons are worth fighting for. Most pickles in North America are dill-heavy, with an eye-scrunching acidity. These cornichons (or gherkins) are well-balanced. There is dill in the mix, but not enough that you can’t taste the other flavours in the brine, including tarragon-infused mustard seed. There’s also a pleasing sweetness mixed in with the sourness you expect from pickles.

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Maille suggests serving them with charcuterie, tartare, or sauce gribiche, but you might find yourself eating them straight from the jar. It’s what happened at my house, so be warned.

I set aside five, just enough to make a variation on this potato salad. I skipped the capers and used sherry vinegar in place of red wine vinegar, as I wanted a more delicate balance to highlight the cornichons. The dressing and pickles worked beautifully together – a grown up potato salad that happens to be vegan and gluten-free.

Now, I’m left with two problems. The pickles are gone and the jar of less lofty gherkins that replaced them aren’t satisfying my pickle-loving partner the way they used too. Then, there’s the delicious brine that’s left in the jar. I’ve been adding it to dressings and sauces, but a little goes a long way. And I’m not Millennial enough (or at all) to drink it straight up. Any suggestions?

Cottage Cooking Club – January 2016

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Oh, January, you are the month of good intentions. This post represents one of mine – since I was so tardy posting last month’s CCC entry, I thought I’d post early this time around.

Late winter can start to feel like a march through a string of lacklustre meals until spring’s vegetables rescue us, but meals with warm spices and good quality canned or frozen vegetables can cure that ennui. These meals are certainly perking us up this week.

Curried red lentil soup

Lentil Soup

This soup caused a schism in the household. I gave Kevin a taster bowl of the soup when I’d first puréed it. While he ate it in the living room, I decided it needed a bit more liquid and a creamy element. So, I added a can of light coconut milk and re-adjusted the spices. Meanwhile, he thought it was thick, rich and perfect. Oops! I suppose it’s good to know it works both ways.

This soup is a variation on the Curried Sweet Potato Soup the group tackled in December, 2014. It trades out sweet potatoes for lentils and limes for lemons, while adding some carrot and celery for a little more veggie fortification. Kevin isn’t a sweet potato or yam fan, so this version was a much bigger hit for him than the original.

I was out of garam masala, so I ground another batch. There’s nothing better than cooking with freshly ground spices, is there?

This soup will last us through the week’s lunches and the flavours are so deep, there’s no chance of getting bored. Especially since I’m thinking about baking some biscuits tomorrow, which will be perfect for dipping.

Next time I make this, I’ll leave it thicker, skipping the purée and the coconut milk and serving it over rice. I think that version will mend the rift.

Chickpeas with cumin and spinach

Chickpea Curry

Most of the time, committee meeting nights are for leftovers or meals I’ve cooked and portioned for the freezer. Tonight, though, I was able to put together dinner from scratch in about the same amount of time it would have taken to prepare a pre-cooked meal. Even better, it used staples from my kitchen counter, pantry, and freezer. Paired with some basmati rice, this was practically a fifteen-minute meal. I’m slow though, so it took 20-25 minutes.

Chickpeas and spinach, seasoned with lemon, is the ne plus ultra of quick meals for Kevin, so this dish was right up his alley. Adding tomatoes, cumin, onion, and garlic was like a deluxe upgrade of a simple meal.

I was thrilled to put together a filling and flavourful meal before I had to run out the door. Kevin’s thrilled that there are leftovers for tomorrow. Since I have (yet another) meeting, I’m glad we’re covered.

If I manage to fit in any more of this month’s CCC selections, I’ll post an update. For now, I’m feeling rather happy that I’m writing about food that’s still available to me for meals this week.

At the end of the month, you’ll be able to find the rest of the group’s posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

A Round Up of Recipes for the International Year of Pulses

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Did you know that the UN has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses?

What are pulses? If you’re not a follower of food blogs, which are currently exploding with posts on the subject, you might be asking yourself this question. Simply put, they are legumes that are harvested for drying – essentially beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is leading the education campaign with five messages:

  • Pulses are highly nutritious.
  • Pulses are economically accessible and contribute to food security at all levels.
  • Pulses have important health benefits.
  • Pulses foster sustainable agriculture and contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
  • Pulses promote biodiversity.

All these points are valid and important, but my contribution to the conversation is this: pulses are delicious, versatile, and varied. Adding them into your diet isn’t a ‘health food’ style punishment, but a route to more interesting meals.

I’ve been eating a partly vegetarian diet since I moved out of my parents’ home as a young student, believing that eating less meat benefits my health and the health of the planet. My partner has been completely vegan for over a year. So, pulses have always been a regular feature in our home. They’re great in meatless meals, but can be supporting players, too.

The use of pulses crosses cultures and cuisines, so there’s an infinite variety of recipes for you to explore. Pulses show up regularly on this blog, too, so I thought I’d share a few posts that include or link to some terrific recipes.

chili

I’ll start out with one that most people are familiar with, chili. This is my mother’s Spicy Vegetable Chili, which is heart-healthy, easy, and delicious. It’s perfect for winter, too, as it relies on pantry staples and vegetables that are available year-round.

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Orange-Scented Lentil Soup brightens the earthiness of lentils with orange and ginger. This soup is easy to put together and elegant. (There’s a link to the recipe in the post.)

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My partner has celiac disease, so we’re often looking for meals that pack in nutrients and protein. This Tomatillo, Black Bean, and Amaranth Soup from Bob’s Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook more than fits the bill.

Frenchlentils

Lentils are the easiest of all the dry pulses to prepare. So easy that I’d never bother buying them canned (unlike beans and chickpeas). Once you have Dorie Greenspan‘s recipe for French Lentils, they’ll be as much a part of your weekly meals as potatoes or rice. These lentils are delicious as the focus of a meal or as a supporting player to all sorts of proteins. (There’s a link to the recipe in the post.)

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And here’s one more soup, full of flavour and healthful ingredients, from Decolonize Your Diet. Abuelitas’ Lentil Soup is warming and filling, exactly what’s needed to get through the winter doldrums.

These recipes are just a starting point – they don’t even begin to touch the versatility of pulses. If you’re looking for more inspiration, here are some cookbooks to try:

River Cottage Veg, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Plenty and Plenty More, by Yotam Ottolenghi
Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, by Mark Bittman

The ones I’ve listed are vegetarian cookbooks, but you shouldn’t count out other cookbooks – so many chefs and food writers make beautiful use of pulses. Made In India, by Meera Sodha is a great example and two of the recipes I linked to above come from Around My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan.

Look for news articles, food writing, and blog posts about pulses throughout 2016 – there’s sure to be plenty of creative and delicious recipes along the way. If you want to find out more about the International Year of Pulses, the FAO website is the best place to start. In Canada, the pulse industry is promoting IYP through their Pulse Canada website and there are similar efforts springing up worldwide.

I’d love to hear about your favourite ways to eat pulses (Split pea soup? Black bean brownies?) and I’ll be keeping an eye out for new favourites as the year progresses.