Falafel

July 15, 2010

Chick Pea Fritter

I will do my best to describe these little chick pea fritters. Hot out of the pan they have a delicate crispiness around the edges, while the insides are creamy-rich and tender, almost sweet, and they sort of melt in your mouth. They are deeply flavoured with onions and garlic, which mellows in the sizzling pan, and they gain a balance of fresh from confetti flecks of parsley. Please don’t be disappointed, these are nothing like the falafel wraps from shops that pepper almost all of the neighbourhoods in Vancouver. I have nothing against those garlicky, crunchy, golf ball-like falafels that drip seasoned yogurt inside their soft white pita. But these are not they. These are something else and I really thing you should try them. They are especially yummy with a splot of creamy, lemony, nutty tahini.

Makes about 16

1 small Walla Walla onion, roughly chopped

1 clove of garlic

1 – 540 ml tin of canned chick peas, drained

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

several twists of freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

a pinch of cumin

1 whole egg

1/2 a bunch of curly parsley, use the remaining 1/2 bunch for salad

1 tablespoon brown rice flour

2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil

In the bowl of your trusty food processor, turn in the roughly chopped onion and garlic clove. Pulse on and off until almost mushy and then add the remaining ingredients. Pulse a few times, remove the lid and scrape the sides of the bowl and pulse again. The batter will be very soft and loose and will barely hold its shape. Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Scoop batter out with a soup spoon into your hand and gently turn into your other hand, back and forth a couple of times to form a small roundish mound of batter. Roll batter down your hands, off of your fingertips and into the hot pan of oil. Repeat until you have about eight fritters in the pan. Lower heat a bit, turn it to a medium-low flame and leave the fritters undisturbed. At this point, they are too fragile to flip. Let them spatter and puff, they will set very much like a pancake. After several minutes you will see that the bottom edges are crisped and they will now be firm (but still soft and fragile!) enough to flip. I used two forks. I tucked one underneath and used the other to support the edge of the fritter, then flipped. They only require another minute or two on the second side. Now, eat while piping hot, with a frilly salad of chopped curly parsley, cucumber, red onion and lemon and that splot of tahini. Do you think I described them well? Wipe pan out and add some more olive oil to finish cooking the remaining batter. These are great at room temperature and tote very well to the beach with their salad and sauce.

Tahini – makes about half a cup

1/2 cup tahini

1 lemon, zest and juice

1 to 2 tablespoons water

pinch of sea salt

freshly ground pepper

Stir tahini into a bowl and add lemon zest and water. The mixture will seem to seize and thicken to a horrid paste. Keep stirring and, if needed, add a little more water. Tahini will smooth out to a not at all horrid creaminess. Season with salt and pepper.

Are you making the salad? Then you will need:

remaining 1/2 bunch of parsley

2 small Japanese cucumbers, or other

2 tablespoons minced red onion

1 lemon, juiced

pinch each of sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Mix together. You could also add some chopped tomato and a few shakes of hot sauce, too.

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Garden Pearls

June 28, 2010

Classic

This is the time. Buy pods of fresh English peas at the market, shuck them and extract pretty green pearls. Next, heat a pan over high-ish heat with a splash of olive oil and tumble in your bowlful of jade peas. Toss a few times, they will sizzle and spit a little. Sprinkle some sea salt over and eat hot right from the pan for your 3 o’ clock on a Sunday snack. It’s hard to believe, if you haven’t tasted, how good these are. Crisp, sweet, salty and fresh.

Garden Peas

Homemade Tofu

April 1, 2010

Hiyayakko

Last week we had dinner at a restaurant where they make their own tofu and it was really good, special. I have been meaning to make tofu at home for kind of a long time, so I thought why not make my own soy milk first and then make tofu? Which is not unlike deciding to make cheese at home and milking the cow, or goat. I love cheese making, I have made plenty of fresh cheese, such as ricotta and paneer. In fact, I have “novice cheese maker” on my resume, or CV, or whatever you prefer to call your life’s work experience. This caused some snickering amongst a couple of my (dearest) friends, wondering who crowned me “novice cheese maker”. Well, I did.

It is not easy to find magnesium chloride or sodium sulfate in Vancouver. You need this to make to tofu. First I went to a drug store, a pharmacy. They sent me to a health food store. The health food store recommended a pharmacy, so I went to a different one. Most unhelpful. I decided to try a Japanese food store, plenty of those in Vancouver, to buy nigari which is, to the best of my knowledge, a Japanese version of magnesium sulfate. They were sold out. I called a gourmet store, nope, they don’t carry it. Then I called one of those bulk food shops, one that specializes in gluten-free everything, where everything smells like dusty curry powder, and then a well-known Asian food shop, where they charge twice as much as anywhere else. No luck. I started thinking about what needed to happen, chemically, with the soy milk. I became more determined. I needed to coagulate the soy, it needed to curdle. When I make paneer, I use vinegar. It’s so easy. It is easier than going to the store to buy paneer. I’m not kidding. So, I thought, why not use vinegar? I should consult my paneer recipe, yes? No. I should try to figure out what 0.25% of 3000 grams is. I did this by calling Michael at work and, nerd that he is, I could hear him clacking the buttons on his calculator. He was clackulating. I chose not to bother to learn to use a calculator, or math, for that matter. I knew I’d never need it. The answer he gave me didn’t sound right, it wouldn’t be enough. Don’t ask me how I know this. Never mind the calculations, I would create my own, and I would use vinegar to curd as a verb. The only plain white vinegar I had was pickling vinegar, and at 7% acidity it runs about twice as acidic as regular table vinegar. Is this boring to read? Allow me to skip to the recipe.

Makes 1 – 300 g block of tofu + a lot of mess

3 litres of soy milk, unflavoured

2 teaspoons agave

2 tablespoons pickling vinegar

Pour soy milk into a very large pot, as it heats it foams and could very quickly erupt over the sides of the pot. Turn heat on to medium and bring to just below a simmer, you want to scald the milk. Turn off heat and stir in agave. Add the vinegar, stir once or twice, and let sit for a few minutes. You will see the soy milk separate and the curds form. While it’s curdling, line a tofu mold… I don’t have a tofu mold, either, so I lined a square, removable bottom cake pan with three layers of cheese cloth. Set on top of a rack over a large bowl to allow it to drain. Carefully ladle curdled soy into the cheese cloth lined pan. You can leave a lot of the liquid in the pot and try to scoop out mainly tofu curds. The liquid that is scooped along with the curds will drain right through into the bowl, the curds will stay put, eventually forming your block of tofu. Discard all of the liquid. Once all the curds are in the pan, take a piece of plastic wrap and cover the surface of the tofu to be. Carefully, gently and evenly press down on the block. The more you press, the firmer the tofu you will make. I pressed a little more enthusiastically than I should have. I wanted a soft tofu and ended up with a medium-firm one. I’m impatient, and I carefully unwrapped my tofu right away. I cut a slice, and it was still ever so slightly warm. It was really nice, it tasted fresh. But what a mess. There was a lot of the outfall from having also just made the soy milk. I didn’t even include that recipe here. Would I make soy milk and tofu again? I’m undecided. It seems foolish when you can buy a block of organic tofu for two bucks or less. I can cross it off my list now, though. I served my homemade tofu chilled, hiyayakko, topped with minced green onions, grated ginger and bonito flakes in a cold puddle of soy and yuzu.

Fresh Tofu

Hock, Stock & Crock

March 25, 2010

As Thick As

I really can’t say why I felt like making and eating split pea soup on a sunny spring day. Its very stick to your ribs character calls for it to be made in the dead dark of foggy winter. Nonetheless, I wanted to go out and about yesterday, and I didn’t want to concern myself with cooking dinner when I got home. This was a job for my super Crock Pot.

Makes about 8 cups

1 ham hock

16 oz dried split green peas, rinsed and picked through

1 medium onion, chopped

2 ribs of celery, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons sea salt

6 cups of chicken stock or water

Put all ingredients into your Crock Pot. Turn it on to high for five hours and breeze out the door for the day. When you come home your dinner will be almost ready. Pull out the falling apart ham hock from the thick as pea soup pea soup and set it on a plate until cool enough to handle. When cooled, shred the ham and stir into your hearty split pea soup. Most enjoyable!

Update: okay, this recipe gets really thick overnight. You could easily add another 2 cups of stock or water if you like. Michael disagrees. But I must tell you, he scooped the soup onto his toast and cheese (he’s not eating clean, he only clean eats by default and his toast was white bread from a bag. I know, right?) that’s how thick it is. So, thin as you please.

All Day

January 14, 2010

Crock Pot Beans

Crock Pot Beans

Ha ha – look what I made yesterday while I was at work! My mom and dad gave me a Crock Pot and I’m quite excited about it. I’ve only made two things so far, these delicious beans and a beef stew over the weekend, which was just okay. The beef stew needs some tweaking. But these beans were delish. I cannot tell you how great it was to walk in the door after work and have dinner (almost) ready. Some planning is in order as the beans must be soaked overnight.

Makes about 8 cups

1 pound pinto beans, soaked in cool water overnight at room temperature

2 onions, chopped

1 large tin of tomatoes

3 cups water

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon hot smoked paprika

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon cayenne, optional – I like it hot!

2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1 1/2 cups frozen corn

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

1 ripe avocado, cubed

At this point your beans have been soaked overnight. Drain, rinse and put in Crock Pot. Put everything else except for the corn, cilantro and avocado into Crock Pot. Also, maybe don’t add the cayenne yet, stir it in after you’ve tasted the beans, they might be spicy enough for you already. I set the Crock Pot for a 6-hour cook on low and then went to work. As busy as I am, I thought of my beans several times throughout the day. I really wanted to be at home, incessantly peeking at them. And checking. Checking to make sure that there was enough liquid, that they weren’t getting scorched. But they were fine! When I came home I immediately went to check on them, I stirred them and hemmed and hawed. They were a bit too liquidy. So, still in my work clothes, I dumped the beans from the Crock Pot into a large pot and put it on the stove over medium-high heat. I pureed some of the soup with my immersion blender. That made for a better texture, it made it a bit thicker. It was a bit of a splattery endeavor in a nice outfit but I had been (bean?) waiting all day! Do you like the spiciness? Or perhaps you’d like to add the cayenne? I must admit, I did add a little more salt. I’m a saltaholic. I finished by stirring in the frozen corn kernels and cilantro, garnishing with the avocado, changing into comfy clothes and retiring to the sofa, dinner and good book in hand.

Pinto Bean

Lentil Soup

December 3, 2009

Lentil Soup

Yes, you do see bits of fried chorizo in the photo above. But leave it out if you want to keep it clean, it’s optional. This is a flavourful and hearty soup for these crisp winter days. It’s the type of stewish soup that seems to become more rich-tasting after a couple of days. I have found it to be an excellent soup to brown bag to work with. It doesn’t take very long to make as the lentils cook rather quickly. I like to use lentils du puy – they keep their shape and texture and don’t mush down.

Makes a lot – cut recipe in half if you don’t want a vatful

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, diced

3 carrots, diced

3 ribs of celery, diced

6 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 cups French green lentils, called lentils du puy

8 cups vegetable or chicken stock, or water

1 teaspoon or more smoked paprika

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, or teaspoon dried thyme

black pepper

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped

optional: 3 types of Oyama chorizo, chopped and fried until crisp in a separate pan and drained

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add onions and let cook for a few minutes. Next, add the carrots and celery and cook until softened, about seven minutes. Add garlic and cook for a minute or two, then add the lentils, stock or water, smoked paprika, salt and thyme. Bring to a simmer and lower heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about half an hour. Taste-test a lentil, it should have a soft-not-too-firm texture. Finish with a few twists of black pepper and stir in the chopped flat leaf parsley. If you’re the type that will only eat lentil soup with crisped chorizo then, by all means, stir some in! Otherwise, this lentil soup is a hearty, healthy and protein-rich meal.

Fall for Soup

October 26, 2009

Beautiful Fall Soup

Beautiful Fall Soup

This week you should head out the door into the chill and rain to buy a head of celeriac, or celery root. Celeriac is a homely, grubby, low-starch root vegetable. It is not actually the root of celery, as you might imagine, though it is from the same family. Don’t be put off by its unattractiveness. I’m confident that you will fall for celeriac, and find that it has a beautiful, nutty-creamy flavour – it’s what’s inside that counts. And speaking of nutty flavour, this recipe also has brussels sprouts in it. You don’t like brussels sprouts? Well, fine. It might be hard for us to be friends now that I know this, but I would like to try to convince you that they are delicious. I hazard a guess that you may not have tasted a perfectly cooked brussels sprout. They are easily overcooked, and some sort of chemical blah-lah-lah happens when they’re overcooked, causing them to actually emit sulphur. Buy small, sweet brussels sprouts for this recipe. And then we’ll see about mending this disagreement that has sprouted between us.

Makes about 8 cups/2 litres

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 carrots, sliced into coins, or diced… I felt like coins for this soup…

2 cups brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

1 not-too-big celeriac, trimmed, peeled and diced

1 teaspoon sea salt

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 head of kale, stemmed and torn

4 cups water or chicken stock

1 – 14 oz tin cannelini beans, drained*

1/2 bunch of flat leaf parsley, leaves pulled from stems

Pour a stream of olive oil into a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add carrots, brussels sprout halves and celeriac. Increase heat a titch, sprinkle the sea salt over and cover with a lid. This will help speed the cooking of the vegetables. Now, of course, you’re going to take care not to overcook the vegetables, for the sake of our friendship. Lift the lid after a few minutes, stir, and taste-test a brussels sprout – it should be underdone, more crisp than tender. Stir in the minced garlic and kale leaves. Cook for two minutes and then cover with water or stock. Bring to a simmer, lower heat and add beans and flat-leaf parsley. Simmer for another few minutes. Taste for seasoning, you might need to add another pinch of sea salt. The vegetables should all stay a wee bit crisp, that’s how I like it. Isn’t the celeriac gorgeous and earthy and creamy? How are the brussels sprouts? Friends?

So Not Pretty!

So Not Pretty!

* Oh, I know, I should really be using dried beans, the texture is so much better. But it is so quick and easy to use canned.

PS – Woo hoo – Katie found black garlic at South China Seas on Granville Island yesterday afternoon!

Bead-Like Beans

September 1, 2009

Bead-Like Beans!

UBC Beans

I could not resist buying these beautiful, fresh beans from UBC Farm on Saturday. They looked ready to be strung onto a jeweler’s cord to make a long necklace, one that can be wrapped about your neck two or three times and worn with a chic, fitted black turtleneck, full skirt and long boots. I resisted – eccentricity must be avoided whenever it arises. As it is I succumb to sequins more than I ought to. So instead of accessorizing with these lovely beans – I think they’re scarlet runner beans but I’m not positive – I made a fresh and flavourful bean soup.

Serves 6 – 8

2 1/2 cups fresh scarlet runner beans*, simmered in lightly salted water for about 20 minutes, drained

1 poblano pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced**

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium cooking onions, diced

1 carrot, peeled and diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons toasted, ground cumin seeds

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika

2 ears of fresh corn, stripped

1/2 jalepeno, minced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 cup cooked brown rice, optional

1 ripe avocado, diced

lime wedges

Swirl extra-virgin olive oil into a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add diced onions and sweat for about five minutes, stir in carrots and cook for another five minutes. Add garlic, cumin, oregano, sea salt and paprika, let cook for another two minutes, the contents of your pot will now be pungently fragrant! Stir in corn, jalepeno, red pepper and add four cups of water. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Add the cooked beans, roasted poblano and cooked brown rice and heat through. To serve, garnish with diced avocado and a generous squeeze of lime. And don’t hesitate to have a firm word with me if you ever catch me wearing a market ingredient as an accessory. I think eccentricity can sneak up on a person.

Bean Soup

Bean Soup

* Use another type of bean, fresh or dried, if you can’t find these ones – try pinto or black beans. You could even open up a tin if you want to save some time.

** Also, no poblano? No problemo, just up the smoked paprika from 1 teaspoon to 2, or even 3 teaspoons.

Berry & Cherry Salad

August 14, 2009

Berries and Cherries

Berries and Cherries

The berries in this salad are whole kernels of spelt and kamut, and they both contain gluten. Both are ancient relatives of wheat, and are highly nutritious – packed with protein, vitamins and minerals. This salad has a satisfying crunch from the raw veggies, and a pleasant chewiness from the berries. Originally I thought I would put dried sour cherries or apricots into this salad but I couldn’t bring myself to use dried fruit at this time of year so I added pitted and quartered fresh cherries.

Makes a lot, but not too much

1 cup spelt berries

1 cup kamut berries

3 ears of corn, kernels stripped

1 red pepper, diced

1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and quartered, or 1/3 cup dried fruit such as cherries, diced apricots, or currants

1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup sundried olives, chopped, I used salty-spicy Hot Tunisian olives from Dundarave Olive Company

3 green onions, minced

1 orange, juiced and zested

Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons apple cider vineger

1 tablespoon agave

1 small shallot, minced

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt – this is a generous amount of salt for a vinaigrette, but there’s a lot of salad to season

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Rinse the spelt and kamut berries, put them into a large pot and cover with five cups of cold water. Top with a lid and bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat and simmer, partly covered, for about 45 minutes. The water will completely absorb. Meanwhile, whisk together the vinaigrette: dollop Dijon into a small bowl with the agave and add shallots, vinegar and salt. Whisk in olive oil. Set aside. In a large bowl toss in all remaining ingredients, including the partly-cooled spelt and kamut berries. Pour vinaigrette over and toss well. Serve and eat.

* A shout-out to Diane – thanks for the idea of a spelt and kamut salad, I hope you enjoy.

Lentil

Lentils for Dinner

Tonight for dinner you should make this – it’s easy, fast and nutritious. And really tasty, too. This tangy, salad-esque dish is made with pretty green lentils from the Puy region of France. Not only are they petite and attractive with their olive-green and slate-blue marbling, they retain their shape and texture. These lentils are delicious served warm, at room temperature, and even cold. Classically, you would serve this to accompany salmon, but it’s great on its own.

Serves 4

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 medium yellow onion, diced

3 ribs of celery, diced

1 carrot, diced

5 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

1 teaspoon sea salt + a pinch

1 cup French green lentils

2 cups water

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

a few twists of black pepper

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 lemon, juiced and zested

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, celery and carrots and sauté for about five minutes. Add minced garlic, mustard seeds and one teaspoon of sea salt. Stir to combine and cook for another few minutes. Add lentils and water and reduce heat a little. Cook for about twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. The liquid will evaporate and lentils will cook to a pleasant al dente. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the vinaigrette. Start with the dijon in the bottom of the bowl and add the apple cider vinegar, a pinch of salt and the black pepper. Whisk in the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil, the vinaigrette will emulsify and thicken. Set aside and taste-test a lentil. Do you like the texture, or would you prefer it softer? Keep cooking if you think they’re too firm. Otherwise, if the lentils are done to your liking, remove from heat and stir in the vinaigrette, lemon juice and zest. Delicious! You can take the leftovers for lunch. Aren’t you glad you made this for dinner?

Pretty Little Lentils

Pretty Little Lentils