Monthly Archives

December 2011

recipes, salad

Kale Coleslaw

The other day I blogged about a red lentil and quinoa dish which was accompanied by an emerald-green kale salad.  Knowing me, I probably said something lofty like “this is my favorite kale salad ever”, but it’s true.  It’s simple, raw, and the dressing is salty, savory, and destined to top sturdy kale leaves.

I admit there’s also a sentimental attachment to this recipe – it’s the one I made for my food demo at school.  We picked recipes at random, and I was ever so pleased that I ended up with a kale recipe.  Seemed fitting, especially since I scored a button in Portland that says “Kale!” with a thumbs up.

Raw kale scares people, I get that.  It’s this super-tough leaf that looks as though you’ll need to chew fifty times just to break the thing down.  And then there’s people who say that kale is boring (hi, Mike!), or who think it’ll be this intensely bitter leaf like dandelion greens or something.

As most of us kale enthusiasts know, though, the leaves can be softened and moistened by a simple massage with a little oil and salt.  I also maintain that kale is best shredded finely, which yields the most tender bite possible.  This transforms the raw leaves into something palatable with only a whisper of bitterness – if kale were a fairy tale, it would totally be Cinderella, with the whole magical transformation thing.

As for kale being boring, you could say that about virtually any food.  Carrot sticks are kinda boring by themselves (though I still love ’em), but they’re quite wonderful dunked in a good dip, or roasted in the oven with a little salt and maple syrup.  Salad greens are boring without a dressing, sauteed chard begs for some garlic and fresh lemon juice, and broccoli turns into an epic comfort food with the addition of a cheesy sauce. Kale just politely requests that you prepare it in an exciting manner.

Kale Coleslaw
Minor tweaks made to a Living Light recipe
Makes 4 fairly substantial side servings


Ingredients:

1 bunch kale, destemmed and cut into thin ribbons (about 2 cups packed)
2 cups shredded cabbage (any kind)
2 tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup red onion, finely julienned

For the dressing:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons light miso paste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon agave (or sugar)
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste

Directions:

1. Place the shredded kale in a large bowl and massage it with your hands for 30 seconds or so.  It’ll turn a darker shade of green and begin to break down a little.  Add the cabbage, tomato and red onion and toss to combine.

2.  Make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine all dressing ingredients by whisking with a fork.  Pour the dressing over the kale mixture and toss it well to coat all of the veggies.  I like to get my (clean) hands in there and rub the dressing into the leaves a little.

Enjoy this salad immediately, or at least try not to let it sit any longer than a day – though it has never lasted that long between Logan and I.  So. Damn. Tasty.

This kale coleslaw goes great with pretty much anything, like the quinoa/red lentil dish mentioned earlier, or as an accompaniment to a meal of burgers and fries.  I’ve also been known to eat it as a meal unto itself, particularly when I was recipe testing for my school project.

Definitely not boring.

So without further ado, I’ll catch up with you guys at Christmas with a little surprise. 🙂

recipes, Soups and Stews

Gingery Red Lentil and Quinoa Kitchari

I wasn’t too sure what to call this dish at first.  I knew it had red lentils, quinoa and some veggies with warming spices – but it wasn’t really a stew, certainly not a soup, and it seemed like something of a cop-out to call it “red lentil and quinoa dish”.  So I Wiki’ed it, and apparently it’s in the same vein as something called “Kitchari” (and goes by a zillion other names), which is “a South Asian preparation made from rice and lentils”.

Here I used quinoa instead of rice, and despite the addition of the Indian spice blend garam masala, I assure you this kitchari is far from authentic.  It is, however, warming and filling, and makes a great main dish at about 350 calories and 20 grams of protein per serving, and is perfect accompanied by some dark leafy greens (but then, isn’t everything?).

Garam Masala is no longer elusive if you want to buy it pre-made – any well-stocked grocery store should have it.  If you can’t find it anywhere, you can use a recipe like this one here.  It’s definitely a spice worth having around, with a more complex flavor than curry, and a light brown color instead of a flashy yellow-orange one.  It’s typically spicy, but if you mix it yourself, you can control the heat level.

The ginger flavor in this pronounced and pleasant, and I can’t imagine it offending anybody.  However, I am a card-carrying member of the I Love Ginger club, so feel free to add a little less if it pleases your palate to do so.  I’ve tried it with half a tablespoon as well as with the full tablespoon amount, and both ways taste great.

Gingery Red Lentil and Quinoa Kitchari
Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
1 cup red lentils, rinsed and picked over
2 medium carrots, sliced into thin semi-circles (about 1 cup)
1/2 to 1 tablespoon peeled and grated ginger, to taste (about a 2-inch piece)
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 cup frozen green peas
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt, to taste
Cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Directions:

1.  In a medium pot, bring the vegetable broth to a boil, adding the quinoa and lentils after washing, and then add the carrots and ginger as you prepare them.  Stir in the garam masala, cinnamon and coriander, and simmer gently on low heat for 20 minutes.

2.  After 20 minutes, give the mixture a good stir and continue to simmer until it’s thick and most of the liquid is gone (this shouldn’t take very long – 5 minutes, perhaps).  Stir in the frozen peas, lemon juice and salt to taste, and remove from the heat.  Garnish each serving with several cilantro leaves, either whole or minced, if desired.

This recipe is pretty much as quick and easy as it gets – throw some stuff in a pot for 20 minutes and it’s basically ready.  I’ve made this three times in the last week, working on minor tweaks to the recipe, but each time it tasted like delicious comfort food.  This kitchari also has the added benefit of making your kitchen smell heavenly.

One of my favorite things about red lentils is how they dissolve into whatever you’re making, be it a stew, soup, sauce, or kitchari.  I imagine this to be a big bonus for folks who are picky about legumes, since you can’t actually detect them here, unless of course you’re already familiar with the ways of red lentils.  And I’ve been using them in everything lately since I have a gigantic bag of ’em from The India Food Centre, which, if you’re in the Regina area, is my favorite local shop to buy legumes – good selection, fair prices, and I’ve never gotten a stale bean from them.

Tomorrow I’ll share the raw kale salad recipe, which is happily pictured alongside the kitchari.  It’s a recipe that I learned at school with a few minor tweaks, and I love it dearly.

decadent treat food, recipes

Creamed Spinach Casserole for a Feast

Update Dec. 21: To stay up to date with new posts, please subscribe to this new feed: http://feeds.feedburner.com/TheRealMeal. For the time being, this is the only feed link that works (entering in just the domain name won’t work).
Lately I’ve gotten into food memoirs.  I love reading, and when food is weaved into the threads of the tale, all the better.  Recently I shared my experience reading Julie and Julia, and there have been others that have gone unmentioned, such as “Home Cooking” by Laurie Colwin, a former Gourmet magazine columnist.  

She had, er, eccentric taste in food, and though we should all be wary of our sodium consumption, it’s a shame she had to do without it completely.  Her ideas on cooking for a vegetarian (or, God forbid, a vegan) were interesting, as she decidedly lumped all dietary restrictions into one (no salt, no meat, no dairy, no gluten, low-carb, etc) until the resulting meal was basically just veggies in a sauce.  I had a good laugh about that.
That aside, the book was an engaging and easy read, and I had as much fun reading about her happy stories as I did about the ones about gross food, of which there are a few (“Repulsive Dinners: A Memoir”).
There was one recipe that stood out to me in particular, a creamed spinach casserole that seemed way too rich and decadent, but I grew obsessed with the idea and penciled it down in my little food notebook.  And then my friend Claire requested that I post more casserole recipes, so I decided to make this pronto.  Although I’m fairly confident that this is not the type of casserole you were thinking of, Claire – I promise I’ll get to those in due time.
So, a couple things about this recipe – despite the fact that I cut back on the richness of the original dish, it’s still what I would call a “special occasion” food.  It also makes a ton, which is perfect for any large gathering or dinner party, which is when Laurie would serve this dish.  
Since this spinach casserole is so rich, I deem it mandatory to eat atop mashed potatoes.  I didn’t even add any (vegan) butter or milk to the potatoes, mashing them with some of the starchy cooking water instead, since the gooey creaminess of the spinach dish more than compensates for this.  
For a really pretty presentation, place a wide circular cookie cutter onto a small plate and press in some mashed potatoes.  Remove the cookie cutter and repeat with the spinach, adding a layer on top of the potatoes.  Serve with a slab of marinated and grilled tofu, or a piece of loaf like we did today.

Creamed Spinach Casserole

Adapted from Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

Serves 8-10 as a side

Ingredients:

3 10-oz packages frozen and chopped spinach
4 tablespoons vegan margarine
4 green onions, white and light green parts only, chopped small
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons flour (any kind; I used brown rice flour)
2 cups vegetable broth
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
6-oz vegan pepperjack cheese (3/4 bag of the Daiya brand)
Breadcrumbs, for topping
Mashed potatoes, for serving

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Thaw the frozen spinach in a pot with a little water.  Squeeze out the liquid from the spinach and place the spinach in a medium bowl; set aside.

2. In a large saucepan, heat the margarine over medium-low and saute the onions and garlic until fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Add the flour and cook for another minute, stirring well.  Slowly add the vegetable broth, stirring well.  Bring the mixture to a soft simmer and add the jalapeno and pepperjack.  Stir until everything is all melted and combined, and then add the drained spinach, stirring until the spinach is well-mixed.

3.  Pour the spinach mixture into a casserole dish and top with a sprinkling of breadcrumbs.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Serve beside or atop mashed potatoes and enjoy!

This casserole is very creamy and flavorful, with just the right amount of heat from the jalapeno and pepperjack.  Its richness makes a nice contrast to the pleasantly bland potatoes, and is something I can imagine feeding to people who love comfort food; people who might not think that vegan food can taste decadent.  As much as I love a good salad, it’s sometimes nice to make food that people like my dad will eat and enjoy without any complaints.  
recipes, Soups and Stews

Vegan Chicken Noodle Soup

Over the weekend, Logan and I were prevailing through some Christmas shopping despite my head cold and Logan’s passionate displeasure toward shopping in general.  Eventually we gave up and went to one of our favorite vegan-friendly restaurants in the city (Hi, 13th Ave Coffee House!), a tiny little place carved into an old turn-of-the-century house.  I knew it was fate when we stumbled in there that day, because what more could a sick person want than to discover that the soup of the day was Vegan Chicken Noodle?

This was some modern chicken noodle soup, let me tell you – the broth and vegetables were roughly processed so that it had some texture but was still a little thin, with giant shell noodles peeking out of the bowl.  It was salty, spicy, and had absolutely no chicken in it.  I mean, duh – it was a vegan chicken noodle soup – but there wasn’t even anything in there replacing the chicken directly, like tofu or chickpeas.  I thought it was brilliant.

Even Logan loved it, immediately deeming it one of his favorite soups ever despite not being much of a soup person (I, on the other hand, am rather passionate about soup which may or may not be obvious from this article).  So I drafted up a recipe, bought some ingredients, and did it up in my own kitchen, trying to remake the original as accurately as possible.

And man, am I ever glad I did.  My illness still persists and I just can’t get enough soup, and last night I had to sing a show with a busted-up throat and was desperately in need of gentle food today.  And the soup turned out great!  The key, I think, is using fresh poultry seasoning herbs.  Even though I’m not using anything chickeny here, the use of certain fresh herbs (sage, thyme, rosemary, flat parsley) really calls to mind a chicken flavor.  And since traditional homemade chicken broth is quite oily (and stinky), I used 2 tablespoons of olive oil here, a little more than I typically do for a soup but not enough to taste like you’re drinking fat.

I randomly found a package of mixed herbs at the grocery store with thyme, sage, rosemary and parsley, which was even more proof that the universe really wanted me to eat this soup, but if you’re not so lucky and don’t have access to a fresh mix, try using only fresh sage or thyme, and maybe some vegan chicken stock if you’ve got it.  Whatever you end up using, I strongly suggest using fresh herbs instead of dried.

Vegan Chicken Noodle Soup
Makes 4 side servings


Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 very large onion, peeled and chopped
3 large carrots, sliced into thin circles (about 2 cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno or hot red pepper, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh poultry herbs (sage, thyme, rosemary, flat parsley)
4 cups vegetable broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
Hot red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
1 cup dried shell pasta

Directions:

1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-low.  Add the onion, carrots, garlic and jalapeno, chopping as you go and adding each one to the pot in succession, cooking for 5-10 minutes or until the onion softens.  Add the fresh herbs and cook another minute.  Pour in the vegetable broth, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the carrots are tender.

2.  Process the soup in a food processor, in batches if necessary, until you have a slightly thickened mixture with very small chunks.  You don’t want a puree by any means – we still want to capture the brothy goodness of chicken noodle soup.

3.  Return the processed soup into the pot and add salt, pepper and chili flakes, if desired.  I like this soup a little on the salty side so I added about 1/4 teaspoon more.  Bring the soup to a boil and add the shell noodles, cooking until tender.  Alternately, if you’re using brown rice pasta (I did), cook the noodles separately while the soup is cooking, since brown rice pasta makes the cooking water very cloudy and starchy, which would be unwelcome in this soup.  Serve alongside sandwiches or a crusty loaf and enjoy.

Despite this soup being fairly unconventional, the flavors are familiar and taste like pure comfort.  Next time I get sick, which is hopefully a long, long time from now, I’ll eat this soup and start a crazy new vegan tradition.

P.S.  Speaking of unconventional (or maybe it’s just a new concept to me), Vic, the guitarist in my band, brought me some Jagermeister to swig on stage to assist my aching voice on stage.  I get that it’s probably not the greatest thing for a sore throat, but it definitely worked, and got me through the night.  Homemade tea with fresh lemon juice and ginger slices also seemed to make a big difference.  But obviously, the best medicine is prevention so you’ll probably be seeing a lot more healthy recipes on the blog in the next couple months, since we’ll be heading into the studio next month and I’ll need to be in tip-top shape for that.

Noodles Toodles!

decadent treat food, dessert, recipes

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

Several weeks ago I began brainstorming ideas for Christmas gifts, and as always my mind drifted to gifts of food, particularly for those people who I’m acquainted with in only a casual way. 

However, despite my love of food – making it, eating it, and sharing it – as a piano teacher, I’m all too aware of how we can get overloaded with goodies during the holiday season.  So I came up with a foodstuff that’s hardy and long-lived, something that can endure far beyond the lifespan of sugar cookies and ginger snaps and shortbread.  Hello, biscotti.

Biscotti is cool for the above reasons (it keeps at least two weeks and isn’t fussy), and also because it’s kinda classy.  It’s one of those things we don’t tend to bake at home for ourselves (if you do, you should invite me over), and it’s also seldom veganized, maybe because a typical biscotti recipe calls for 4 eggs. 

I must confess that it’s been years since I’ve eaten the coffeeshop variety of biscotti, but this recipe has everything I was looking for – not too sweet, meant to be an afternoon snack with a crunchy bite that softens when dunked in tea.

As Christmas draws closer and I start distributing gifts of food, I’ll inevitably come up with a variety of biscotti flavor combinations, but my first several tests were made with my ultimate dream flavor combination – chocolate hazelnut.  Aside from using hazelnut meal (ground hazelnuts), I used some Frangelico liqueur to pump up the hazelnut flavor, though it was also good with simple vanilla extract – just a little more subtle, perhaps.  I’m fairly confident that hazelnut extract would be sheer perfection here as well.



Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti
Makes about 20 cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup hazelnut meal (or ground and skinned hazelnuts)
2/3 cup organic sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup non-dairy yogurt, ideally vanilla flavor
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons non-dairy milk
2 tablespoons Frangelico (hazelnut) liqueur, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon oil
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F and lightly spray a baking sheet.  In a large bowl, combine both flours, the hazelnut meal, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.  In a small bowl, combine the non-dairy yogurt and milk, liqueur, and oil.  Add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture and stir until combined – the mixture will be a little dry and sticky, but should hold together.  Form into two rectangles that are about 3 inches wide and 3/4-inch thick and place on the baking sheet.  Bake for 35 minutes, and then cool on a cooling rack for 15 minutes.

2.  Lightly spray a second baking sheet with cooking spray.  Cut the logs into 1/2-inch slices and place the slices on the baking sheets.  Bake for 15 minutes on one side, flip, and bake 15 minutes on the other side.  Each side should be fairly dry with only a little softness.  Remove from the oven and let the biscotti cool completely on a cooling rack – the biscotti will harden even more as it cools.

3. Place the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and melt them in the microwave in 20-second increments, stopping to stir between each 20 second interval.  When they’re fully melted, you can either spread the chocolate on one side of the cooled biscotti lengthwise, or spread the chocolate around the tip of the biscotti.  The first way is perfect for dunking, and the second way looks pretty.  Place the chocolate-coated biscotti on parchment or wax paper to set and dry.

Biscotti is best enjoyed in the same manner as scones – with an afternoon tea or coffee.  It’s not meant to be a super sugary affair, at least in my humble opinion – a slight pick-me-up, a snack that just cusps on dessert.

Dunking is mandatory.

On an unrelated but awesome note, I published an article on One Green Planet called 11 Tips for Making Great Vegetable Soups, since I’m passionate about soup and stuff.  Check it out, and catch y’all later!