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(“Um, Mum, you are taking us with you, aren’t you?  Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans on this blog than you do.”)

 

* Or, Give Pods a Chance!

okrabare2

[Okra pods, in the raw]

I have a confession to make.  I haven’t told you all about this yet because, quite frankly, I was afraid you’d reject me.  Move that cursor elsewhere, and click.  At best, roll your eyes.  Maybe snort in disgust.  Maybe gag, even.

But I’ve decided it’s time.  I mean, really, what kind of lasting relationship can we have without full disclosure?  

So I’m just going to come out and say it:

I love okra.

I.

Love.

Okra. 

Are you running for the hills yet? 

Oh, I know what you’re thinking:  Okra?  That polygonal pod that’s a staple in gumbo, and mostly reviled? That much-maligned member of the marrow family (but cocoa is in that family, too!) that most people reject without so much as a nibble?  That pariah of the produce aisle that’s often referred to as gluey, viscous, slimy or mucilaginous–with seeds that remind you of those bowls of peeled grape “eyeballs” we all stuck our hands into at Halloween when we were kids?

Yep. That okra.

I adore okra’s long, lantern-shaped pods, the vibrant green skins with just a hint of fuzz and the wagon-wheel innards when you cut them across. I love the mild, slightly woodsy flavor and the pop of the seeds in your mouth.  I could eat okra every day, and never tire of it.

I think it’s heartbreaking that okra gets such a bad rap.  Okra is like the pimply nerd at school–the reject, the Carrie, the Napoleon Dynamite , the Ugly Betty.  The last kid to be chosen for the baseball team.  The scrawny kid on the beach who gets sand kicked in his face.  The pink-and-too-frilly kid who takes her dad to the prom. The computer geek nobody wants to date so then he quits high school and starts some computer company run from his parents garage and redeems himself by becoming the richest guy in America. . . oh, wait.  That would make him Bill Gates, wouldn’t it?  And then he’d actually be much sought after, wouldn’t he? Well, heck! To my mind, that IS okra!

okraquinoa1

[A bit of spice, a bit of bite, a bit of lemon zest: an endearing combination.]

I think we should give okra the accolades it deserves. Let’s nurture its low self-esteem. Let’s compliment its grassy hue and lovely symmetry, tug its cute little tail at the narrow end and make it blush.  Sure, it was born a green vegetable (already at a disadvantage compared to, say, watermelon).  And then there’s the goo factor.  But sometimes, with a recipe that takes our humble ingredient and pushes it to be its best, well, that little green lantern can really shine.  That’s what I wish for my buddy, okra.

In these recipes, okra is elevated to something that transcends its reputation. It’s like okra gussied up for a date.  Okra getting an A+ in physics. Okra at its best self–I know, like okra after taking one of Oprah’s “Be Your Best Self” weekends!  (Just imagine the introductions at that seminar, sort of like David Letterman’s ill-fated attempt at hosting the Oscars:  “Okra, meet Oprah.  Oprah, okra.”).

Besides, okra has much to offer us.  Described by WholeHealthMD as having a taste that “falls somewhere between that of eggplant and asparagus,” it’s a good source of Vitamin C and several minerals; and the seeds offer up protein in every pod, along with 4 grams of both soluble (known to help keep cholesterol levels in check) and insoluble (great for regularity) fiber in a one-cup (240 ml) serving.

okramasalaside1

[Still slightly al dente in this photo; cook a bit longer if you’re an okra neophyte.]

These are two of my favorite okra dishes, ones that we consume fairly regularly here in the DDD household.  The first is another adaptation from my dog-eared copy of Flip Shelton’s Green, a Moroccan Spiced Okra-Quinoa Pilaf.  I’ve made liberal changes to this one, including altering the base from rice to quinoa.  The spices are subtle with a barely detectable undertone of lemon zest in the mix.  Served sprinkled with chopped nuts, this pilaf is a meal in a bowl all on its own.

The second dish comes from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, Indian Cooking Course by Manisha Kanani. Again, I’ve made a few alterations to the original, which asks you to dry-cook the okra on the stovetop; I’ve found that adding chopped tomatoes and allowing the tender pods to stew in the juices produces a more appealing taste and texture. Although a masala curry, this one isn’t the least bit spicy, yet is still rife with the flavors of tomato, cumin, coriander and fresh cilantro. It’s a perfect side dish for Indian food, of course, but we also enjoy this as an accompaniment to burgers or cooked grains. 

So go ahead, give okra a try!  Who knows? You may even like it.  And don’t worry, the secret will be safe with me.

Moroccan-Spiced Pilaf with Quinoa and Okra

adapted from Flip Shelton’s Green

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

okraquinoa21

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

Okra Masala

adapted from Indian Cooking Course by Manisha Kanani

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

okramasalatop

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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March 11, 2009

I’m going to be dashing around town for the next couple of days, doing cooking classes (short notice, but if you’re in the Toronto area, I’ll be at the Bayview/Sheppard Loblaws tonight at 7:00–would love to meet you!), and then my friend Babe is coming to town tomorrow, so I won’t have much time for cooking (except for other people, that is). 

When we were undergraduates, my friend Babe had a roster of what she called “permadates.”  These were straight guys who were no more than friends, but were willing to stand in whenever a male presence was required–at a work function, say, a family wedding or bar mitzvah, a school reunion, etc.  She’d call up the permadate and he was always happy to receive a free meal, free booze, and maybe some dancing in exchange for allowing Babe hang on to his rippled bicep and elbow for the evening.  A win-win!

I think the same concept extends to foods as well.  Don’t we all have our own favored dishes, the go-to recipes that we whip up when we need something that will impress, will look good and taste good–and which won’t expect any “favors” at the end of the evening?  These are the “permadishes,” the old standbys that never disappoint.

I’ve been relying a lot on “candida standbys”–simple foods that are compatible with the ACD–this week.  A lettuce wrap here, some baked tofu (without soy sauce, of course) there, here a roasted veggie, there a baked sweet potato, raw almonds and pumpkin seeds everywhere. 

Then I realized I’ve already got quite a few candida-friendly dishes right here on this blog–dishes that are already in my repertoire, but happen to be suitable for the ACD.  These are great for anyone who’s battling candida, but even more, for anyone who’s seeking a cleaner, less toxic, anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting diet as well. 

Until I cook again, I’ll leave you with some of these reliable favorites.  Nothing like a good permadish to get you through a busy week!

ecleancpaw1

Mum, how about considering us permadogs?  You know you can count on us.  And of course I always rely on my big sister to take good care of me, too.” 

“Aw, zip it, Chaser–you’re making me blush.”

chaserkisselsie

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED!

If you’re reading this, you’ve landed on the old site.  Please visit the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs by clicking here.

As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to hearing from you on the new site.

(“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we?  Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans on this blog than you do.”)

 

remoulade2

[Dig that romantic lighting in this photo!]

I have a new love, and it’s not the HH.

(“What?  Mum, you’re not getting a divorce, are you?  Because who’s going to walk us in the morning if Dad is gone??“).  Now, before I go and scare The Girls, I should specify that I’m not referring to a human object of my affection. I’m talking about a new food-related amore: celeri rémoulade.  (“Phew! Mum, you really shouldn’t scare us that way. We’re very sensitive, you know.”)

Let me backtrack a bit and explain.  Even though the HH and I do celebrate Valentine’s Day, for the past few years we’ve done so a day or two after the fact, in order to avoid the  too-crowded-too-expensive-too-mushy restaurant crowds who seem to roll out like fog off a San Francisco pier all on that one day. Last year (the first V-day to occur after I started writing this blog), I broke all previous records and assembled a multi-course, ultra-extravagant, über-romantic and oh-so-dirty dinner (no, no, no, that would have scared the dogs even more than a breakup! We’d never offend their delicate sensibilities that way. I meant “dirty” as in, “generating a lot of dirty dishes,” silly!).  I vowed that this year, we’d move to the other end of the spectrum, with a simple,  quick, yet equally delectable meal. (“Thanks, Mum.  That divorce scare was more than enough for one day.”)

I’d actually chosen the appetizer over a month ago, after reading about celeri rémoulade on Molly’s blog.  Her description was so alluring–rapturous, almost–citing the “clean, fragrant crunch of celery root, and the alchemy of mayonnaise and Dijon mustard. . . . somewhat rich [with a] flavor [that’s] light, bright, even hungry-making, a perfect start to a meal,” that I knew I had to try it out. The only glitch, of course, is that traditionally, the dish contains copious amounts of both mayonnaise and yogurt (the vegan versions of which are a tad too processed for my liking). Never mind; I decided to deal with that later. 

For the main course, I considered a recipe for Tempeh Stroganoff I’d found in an old (October 2007!) issue of Vegetarian Times

[11:32 AM.  Ricki and the HH sit at the kitchen table, sipping tea and nibbling on muffins.  The Girls lie on the carpet in front of the fireplace, Chaser sprawled with her belly facing the fire, while Else lies curled in a ball.]

Ricki:  How about this tempeh stroganoff from Vegetarian Times?

HH:  No.

Ricki: But it sounds delicious! And it’s even gluten-fr–

HH: Uh-uh.  No.  Nada. No way.  Nein. [As if to remind Ricki of a forgotten promise]: No tofu.

Ricki: But it’s not tofu.  It’s tempeh. 

HH: Tempeh, tofu–same difference.  No soy products.

Ricki:  [pouting] Well, but, this is what I want for dinner!

HH: Okay, fine. I’ll make a steak and have the stroganoff as a side dish. 

Ricki: That’s why I love you, sweetheart.  Happy Valentine’s Day!  Kiss kiss squeeze squeeze hug hug. . .

Okay, I didn’t really say that.  But I did think it.  Here’s what I did say:

Ricki: Well, in that case, I think I’ll make it with these fabulous tempeh meatless balls that I read about on Happyveganface.

HH: Still not eating it.

Me:  That’s fine, HH.  But just because you’re cooking your own steak doesn’t mean you don’t have to help me make the stroganoff.

HH:  Okay. 

Ricki:  That’s why I love you, sweetheart.  Happy Valentine’s Day!  Kiss kiss squeeze squeeze hug hug. . .

We figured we could whip up the stroganoff in under an hour (bake the meatballs while I made the sauce; julienne the celery root while the stroganoff simmered), having time to leisurely prepare the meal ensemble while listening to some Rodrigo, exchange good-natured banter, toss cashews to The Girls and sip our favorite bargain basement champagne, sort of like we used to do in the early days of our relationship. We’d have the early part of the day to relax in our jammies, peruse the newspaper, play with The Girls, check favorite blogs, and so on.  Perfect!

After a chillaxing day (browsing the paper, taking The Girls for a trail-walk, visiting the workout club–how ya doin’, burly guy with the black knee socks?  Nice to see you again, septuagenarian couple with the matching T-shirts!  Nice day, isn’t it, bleached blonde with the flirty giggle!), we finally turned to dinner. 

Perhaps I should have planned this “easy peasy” meal just a tad more carefully.  (Of course, by the time I got round to cooking, I was semi sloshed on Segura Viudas, which may have contributed to my somewhat inefficient kitchen artistry–but still).  

First, I discovered that the cashews (the main ingredient in the homemade sour cream) required an hour’s soaking, which set our prep time back by an hour.  No problem: I’d whir together some homemade vegan mayonnaise (I used the recipe in Cozy Inside, but this one sounds just as good) and whip up the meatballs while the nuts soaked. Then, I’d quickly prep the sour cream and throw together the stroganoff while the HH grilled his steak.  We’d be done and ready to dig in by 7:00 PM at the latest.

[7:00 PM. Having forgotten about the initial chopping and sautéing involved, Ricki is still mixing ingredients for the meatballs.  Sounds of rumbling tummies can be heard in the background.]

HH:  So, um, what’s our ETA for dinner?

Ricki: Well, I’ll just pop these meatballs in the oven–I couldn’t bear to fry them–and then make the mayo and sour cream, and then I can whip up the stroganoff, and then the celeri rémoulade, oh, and then I guess we should think about dessert–

HH:  I thought this was going to be a quick and easy dinner.

Ricki [pouting]:  Well, now, I suppose it HAS been easy for YOU, hasn’t it, Mr. Lazypants?  I mean, I’VE done all the work so far, I’m standing here covered in onion juice and flour and cashew crumbs, and YOU’VE been sittng there all day reading the paper and playing with the dogs, sipping your champagne, now, haven’t you??  Well, I wouldn’t be complaining right about now if I were you, mister, you’d better watch yourself, or else—

HH:  Um, well, I’m actually happy to help.  Just tell me what to chop.  Oh, and here’s your Valentine’s Day present [brandishing chocolate].

Me:  Oh, that’s why I love you, sweetheart!  Happy Valentine’s Day! Kiss kiss squeeze squeeze hug hug. . .

Ultimately, we didn’t sit down at the table until well after 8:00 PM (have you ever julienned a celery root by hand??? Insanity, I tell you–sheer insanity).  But the results were well worth it.  The celeri rémoulade was, as Molly promised, fresh, crisp, light, and entirely irresistible.  I really did fall in love, and ate two servings before even thinking about my stroganoff.

The main course, too, offered a winning combination of succulent, filling meatless balls atop a plate of velvety, herbaceous sauce. It practically hummed its smooth melody of rich, sour cream and savory, toothsome mushrooms.

It may have been more complex than anticipated, and it may have taken six times as long as anticipated, and it may have been cobbled together from seven different recipes intended for seven other purposes. . . but this meal was remarkable all the same. 

After all, who ever said the road to true love was an easy one?

In case you’d like to reproduce the meal yourself (if you happen to have three and a half hours to spare some weekend), here’s how I assembled it.

And since celery root is available in Ontario in February, this post is my submission to Maninas’s event, Eating with the Seasons, for February. 

Vegan Celeri Rémoulade

adapted from Orangette

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

remoulade1

Meatball Stroganoff (GF option)

based on a recipe in Vegetarian Times, October 2007

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

 stroganoff2

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

 

 Last Year at this Time

: Juicy Cuisine and Crunchy Granola

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

Diet, Dessert and Dogs has moved! 

If you’re reading this page, you’ve landed on the old site.  Please visit the new location by clicking here–and don’t forget to update your readers and blogrolls!

As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]  

edamamesalad1

Full disclosure: even if I hated seaweed and loathed green soybeans, I would still have tasted this salad based on the poetry of its name alone.  I mean, how can you pass up such alliteration, such euphony, such gastronomic lyricism?

Just listen to it:  AH-ra-may.  EEE-da-MAH-may.  “Arame” brings to mind “aria.” And “Edamame” –well, “edamame” just makes me want to break out into song:  “How I love ya, how I love ya, my EEE-da-MAH-MAYYEEE. . . .” 

When I think of poetry, most of the time I think of how much I abhorred  it in university (mostly because I could never understand it). Even when I went on a poetry bender at the suggestion of my crush-cum-mentor, Dr. D, I never quite “got” it.  Let’s see; here’s my experience with poetry, in a nutshell:  T.S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock” –I did dare, I did dare, but it just would not sing to me; Wallace Stevens’s “Sunday Morning,”–say what? WHO is the mother of beauty?  (Just too creepy); Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro“–I was haunted by apparitions in every crowd for months; ee cummings’s “in-just”–it was spring and the world was mud-luscious, but the poems just weren’t; Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy“–I felt the need to throw away my black telephone; William Carlos Williams’s “The Red Wheelbarrow“–(because so much depends on a red poet–no, make that red poet’s society–no; oh, whatever. Who cares?) 

In the end, I felt as if I’d read thousands of miles of poetry and all I got was a lousy T-shirt.

One form of verse that always did intrigue me, though, was haiku (you were wondering how all this related to the recipe, weren’t you?  And here we are:  both Japanese-themed!).  I’m sure you’re familiar with the stuff–a specific set of three metered lines, first seven syllables, then five, then another seven.  What’s great about haiku is that pretty much anyone can do it. 

Here are some examples to give you an idea:

Poetry scares me. 

Once, I tried to understand.

Alas! What a waste.

Or this:

Winter is cold, long.

Snow falls, so soft and so white.

Must I suffer so?

Or how about:

Elsie sleeps sweetly.

Chaser is a crazy girl.

Sit! Stay! Be like her!

In fact, the HH informs me that even he composed in this form of verse once, in grade school.  Here’s his masterpiece:  

He comes off the ride.

As the fair whirls round his head,

His dinner comes up.

 

 

Ah, yes, HH, The Sensitive Artiste. 

 

More than anything else, I think that haiku makes poetry easy and accessible. 

edamamesalad2

 

Well, think of this salad as the haiku of Japanese food, if you like–making seaweed accessible to all (or “sea vegetables,” if you prefer the more literary term).  If you’ve ever wondered about kombu, nori, wakame, dulse, or any of those others but have been afraid to try them, this seaweed salad is for you.  In fact, it’s already been taste-tested (and mightily approved) by hundreds of thousands of others, since I modeled this recipe on the extremely popular salad of the same name sold at Planet Organic stores.  Except at Planet Organic, it sells for something like $6.99 per 100 grams ($31.73 a pound), which means you pay approximately $17.42 for two tablespoons (okay, I’m exaggerating–but just a little).  Clearly, my version is infinitely preferable.

The salad is incredibly simple to prepare, with just arame (a fairly mild seaweed that looks sort of like black spaghetti) and edamame (green soy beans) as the major ingredients.  Toss these with a rice vinegar/sesame oil dressing and some lightly toasted sesame seeds, and you’ve got yourself a delectable dish that perfectly combines sweet (the beans), salty (the tamari) and even umami (the seaweed).  The bonus is a great source of protein and Vitamin C from the edamame, plus some much-needed trace minerals (and a few major ones, too) from the seaweed.

 

The soy and seaweed

Are in perfect harmony.

You will love this dish.

 

Arame and Edamame Salad

edamamesalad3

 

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

[Diet, Dessert and Dogs has moved!  If you’re reading this page, you’ve landed on the old site.  Please visit the new location by clicking here–and don’t forget to update your readers and blogrolls!

As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]  

polentafeta11

You know how on Cheers, every time Norm would walk into the bar, all the patrons and wait staff would turn to look at him, and call out in unison, “NORM!” ?  I remember thinking, “Sure, yeah, maybe on teevee life is like that.” 

Ah, yes, wouldn’t it be great to be received with that kind of palpable jubilation every time you set foot in the local watering hole?  Where just walking through the door stirs up the enthusiasm like leaves on a country road, fluttering in the wake of a fast car?  Where everybody’s glad you came? When it comes right down to it, don’t you wanna be where everybody knows your name? 

Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

Years ago, in my twenties, I did experience that sort of instant, joyous recognition, albeit vicariously.  At the time, I lived in the same low-rise apartment building as my friend Babe.  We were sort of like Mary and Rhoda (whom  I seem to refer to rather a lot lately, don’t you think?), since my apartment was situated (literally) directly above hers . We’d often dash up and down the single staircase between floors to visit each other’s place, to share dinner or to jointly watch our soap in the evenings (at the time, Babe had both gainful employment and a VCR–both of which I lacked). 

Once in a while, we’d head out to dinner at one of the neighborhood haunts, living as we did in the part of town affectionately known as “Yonge and Eligible”, near so many good restaurants.  And no matter where we went–be it Chinese, Italian, Greek, Pastry Shop, Juice Bar–the owner of the joint would brighten visibly when my friend entered, and, wiping his hands on his apron and gesturing with a flourish, would greet her with a most animated shout of “BABE!!” before positioning us in a prime seat in the restaurant.  (Well, in the interest of verisimilitude, I should admit that he didn’t actually call her “Babe,” of course, because  (a) that would make him sound far too much like Sonny Bono; (b) this is a dramatization, and that’s not her real name, but a pseudonym; and (c) calling a woman “Babe,” even if this scene supposedly took place in the 1980s, would be horribly sexist, and we’ll have none of that type of thing on this blog.) More often that not, we were also presented with a complimenatry appetizer, or gratis aperatif, or dessert on the house . . . needless to say, I loved basking in the glow of my friend’s semi-celebrity status and thoroughly enjoyed the perks of stardom, even if only by propinquity.   

One of the places we frequented was Grazie, a compact Italian bistro with about a dozen seats, scratchy wooden floors and a jovial staff who served the best fresh pastas I’d ever had (a testament to its appeal: the place still exists–albeit in a larger and more commercial incarnation–and is still bustling and bursting with patrons each night, almost 20 years later).

When I think of polenta, I think of Grazie.  Admittedly, that wasn’t always the case; it took some convincing for me to try the cornmeal-based appetizer, as my only other experience with the stuff was a kind of gruel my mother served for breakfast when I was a kid.  Into the soft, yellow mush, Mom would swirl large-curd cottage cheese, resulting in whorls of white, slightly soured lumps distributed throughout, vaguely resembling the wiggly larvae you find in infested apples. My parents called this “Spoon Bread,” and while my dad loved it, in me it always elicited a slight wave of nausea. (Oh, wait.  Even just thinking about it–excuse me for a moment).

Ahem.

So when I learned that polenta was thick-cooked cornmeal, cooled and often cut into disks, I was a bit reluctant.  I did fancy Grazie’s fresh tomato sauce with basil mounded atop the offending polenta, however,  so I decided to give it a try anyway.  (I mean, would my friend Babe, the star customer, the very mascot of the place, steer me wrong?) Of course, I was completely enchanted. Once I realized that polenta didn’t need to be sweet, didn’t need to contain cottage cheese, and–most important–didn’t need to be soft and mushy, I was on a mission to create as many polenta dishes as I could.  And I’ve been experimenting ever since. 

It seemed the perfection occasion, a couple of weeks ago when our friends Gemini II and her husband came to dinner, to make a recipe for Herbed Polenta Appetizers from the glorious New Vegetarian Entertaining by Jane Noraika.  This is the kind of book that you want to savor, leaf ing through it slowly and deliberately, imprinting every image on your mind like the photos from your first trip abroad.  The original recipe contained feta cheese, but, since I wanted to try out the “Feta-ish” from Alisa Fleming’s new book, Go Dairy Free, I decided to use that in place of the dairy version. 

The result was a perfect finger food–a firm, smooth polenta base suffused with fresh dill and salty, briny feta, all topped with a slightly sweet, slightly sour sundried tomato tapenade.  And I should note that no one realized this was vegan.  These bites are also a feast for the eyes, with their sunny yellow, bright green and creamy white base, and mound of deep carmine capped off with a black olive slice.  The four of us had no trouble polishing off the entire tray (16 pieces!!) in no time, and probably would have eaten more, if there had been any.

Maybe the owners of the local Italian resto don’t recognize me quite yet, and maybe I’ll never acquire the mysterious allure of my friend Babe. But after the appreciative reception I got for these delectable squares, I started to feel a little bit like Norm, after all.

With all the herby goodness going on in these bites, I thought this would be the perfect submission to Weekend Herb Blogging, organized by Haalo and this week hosted by Marija of Palachinka.

Herb and Feta Polenta with Sundried Tomato Tapenade

adapted from New Vegetarian Entertaining by Jane Noraika

polentafeta3

FOR THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS BY CLICKING HERE.

 

Last Year at this Time: Tofu Omelet with Sautéed Apples and Sweet Curry Sauce

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

Chinese Scallion Pancakes

January 23, 2009

[Diet, Dessert and Dogs has moved!  If you’re reading this page, you’ve landed on the old site.  Please visit the new location by clicking here–and don’t forget to update your readers and blogrolls!

As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]  

 

 

gronionpancake2

Over the past couple of years, the HH and I have developed a fairly steadfast routine: every Tuesday at mid day, we connect for a hefty serving of afternoon delight. (No, no debauchery, silly! Forget the cheeesy song.  I’m talking about afternoon culinary delight).  To wit, food. To wit, Japanese food. To wit, Sushi. 

As our own unique twist on “date night,” we have “date lunch”:  at a little sushi bar near the HH’s place of employ, he feasts on various species of marine life (well, I suppose that would more properly be “marine after-life”), and I enjoy some of the best vegetarian sushi I’ve ever tasted.  While clacking chopsticks, slathering wasabi and dipping into soy sauce, he reports on his recent work projects, while I regale him with anecdotes about The Girls’ antics. We eat, we laugh, we fight over who gets the last piece of pickled ginger, and then we kiss goodbye and go about the rest of our day.  It’s a lovely interlude in an otherwise bland workday. 

Well, a few weeks ago at the habitual time and place, I was devastated to discover that the establishment had unceremoniously changed owners.  Oh, the new folks are nice enough, but the distinctive sheen of the place had definitely tarnished. (The new vegetarian option consists of 8 pieces of cucumber and avocado maki.  Now, how could they possibly think vegetarians want 8 identical pieces of a single variety, when the HH gets a full dozen varieties of raw, slimy oceanic tidbits on his plate?).  Haven’t these people heard of the expression, “If it ain’t broke. . .”?   Harrumph.

Being fairly close to Toronto’s Chinatown North, we opted that day to try one of the many Asian restaurants in the vicinity instead.  I assumed I’d have no trouble finding plenty to eat. 

Well, you know what they say about assumptions.  (No? It’s even too puerile to repeat here.  But there are plenty of others out there who’ll tell you.) I sat down feeling peckish. Perusing the menu, I quickly discovered there was precious little I could consume save steamed veggies and rice.  (Not that there’s anything wrong wtih steamed veggies and rice, you understand, but I get plenty of those at home–and certainly don’t feel like driving halfway across the city and dishing out restaurant prices for someone else to throw them on a plate for me). 

Yes, every single dish contained at least one ingredient I can’t eat. The few animal-free options all contained wheat (another no-no). Listed under “Vegetable Dishes,” we had Vegetables and Ground Beef; Vegetables and Pork Stir-Fry;  Egg Noodles with Vegetables; Chicken and Shrimp with Vegetables.  Even the “Vegetable Dumplings” contained ground pork.  Argh!  (And another “harrumph,” just for good measure. ) Would I have to sit there starving*, I wondered, while the HH gorged himself on beef, chicken, and pork-laden vegetables?

 And then, I noticed these:  Scallion Pancakes.  Simplicity itself, these pan-fried cakes studded with rings of shiny green onion were cut into four triangles, served with a variety of dipping sauces.  Humble, yet divine; my mouth began to water. And then, I realized:  they were made with wheat flour.  Which I am not supposed to eat. 

True, my wheat sensitivity induces heartburn, bloating, and sometimes an achy stomach a couple of hours after ingesting it.  True,  wheat encourages my inflamed sinuses to close up shop entirely, forcing me to pant through my mouth like a dog in July.  True, any sane person in my situation would have passed on the wheat. Also true?  I was hungry.  Those pancakes were the sole item on the menu that appealed to me. I ordered them.

And, by golly, I loved them! (Well, for about 10 minutes, after which a volcano erupted in my chest, my stomach inflated like a beach ball, and my nasal passages sealed up like a mine shaft collapsing). 

After reading about Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian several times on Lisa’s blog, I finally picked it up from the library a few weeks ago.  And wouldn’t you know–right there, tucked near the back of the book, was a recipe for Chinese Scallion Cakes!  I was elated.  Since the entire recipe contains only five ingredients (two of which are salt and pepper), I felt pretty certain I could adapt these with (Ricki-friendly) spelt flour instead of wheat.  I did, and guess what?  They replicated the restaurant variety almost perfectly. 

The HH and I were so smitten with the results that we polished off two pancakes just on their own, with no accompaniments.  The second time round, we used them as a base for leftover dal, and they were spectacular.  I’m not generally a fan of salty foods, but something about the combination of salt and browned green onion (or would that be green browned onion?) is heavenly. 

I toned down the fat content by simply brushing the raw pancakes with olive oil (instead of following the original directions for filling a frypan with the stuff, as if drawing a bubble bath or something).  The results worked out pretty well, I’d say, as I couldn’t tell the difference in taste.

These boasted a crisp and even somewhat flaky exterior, with chewy insides punctuated here and there by the partially caramelized green onion.  My only regret is not having coarse sea salt in the house to sprinkle on top, as it would have made for a more photogenic bread.  (You’re actually meant to sprinkle the salt into the batter, anyway–but I forgot, so scattered it on top once the bread was cooked).

I’ve copied the recipe exactly as written because the method is quite particular.  It appears long and complicated, but once you’ve made them once, you’ll see how easy it is to prepare these wonderful savory cakes at home. I’d even whip them up for a quick lunch–except not on the days I meet the HH, of course. 

(Oh, and I made these again this morning, in honor of Chinese New Year.  Happy New Year to all who celebrate on Monday! )

*Clearly, not literally. But in terms of gustatory satisfaction, for sure.

Chinese Scallion Pancakes

adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

gronionpancake3

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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[Sometimes, you just want to eat something now.  I’ve decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly or else is so easy to make that no recipe is required. Here’s today’s “Flash in the Pan.” (For other FitP recipes, see “Categories” at right).]

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[With Collards, Chard and Red Onion]

It’s been a truly crazy past week, what with our new semester starting up today at the college and my cookbook deadline being perilously close.* (And let’s not forget the Golden Globes from last evening–didn’t B & A look marvelous amidst the hubub and Moet & Chandon? And did you hear that Tracy Morgan is the new face of the US?  But Mamma Mia, that Ms. Streep is timeless! ) With all that, there’s been no time for handiwork in the kitchen.

Instead, here’s what I’ve been eating lately–and by “lately,” I mean pretty much every day.  I’ve made this three times in the past six days: it’s quick, it’s easy, it’s delicious and it contains nature’s most nutritious vegetables, leafy greens.  And with all the deep browns, ochres, ambers and ecrus I’ve been consuming over the past few weeks, I figured it was time for some green.

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[With Collards and Yellow Onion]

Besides, I adore leafy greens and have been trying to include them in my diet more often. Jagged, zippy dandelion greens are like the tough kid in the schoolyard, the punk who wears his black leather jacket like a trophy and loiters in the corner of the schoolyard chain-smoking.  With a hard and bitter exterior, he’s really a sweetheart once you get to know him.  Collards, with their elegant, frond-like shape, are the modern jazz dancers of the group, deftly swaying side to side as they harmoniously meld the delicate and the cacophonous. And kale, my very favorite, is the ditzy neighbour, the plucky, perky best friend, the Mary Richards of leafy greens; she fidgets and bobs and sighs histrionically, clad in her ruffly collar and matching cuffs–she’s a little wacky, maybe, but always honest and reliable.  How could you not love greens?

This dish was created when I had intended to try out a recipe for brussels sprouts and apples I read about on Vegalicious a while back. When I discovered I had no sprouts, I opted for the greens instead (heck, they’re all brassicas, right?). Using the other recipe for inspiration, I threw this together.  It was ready in ten minutes, and I was left to marvel that something so simple could taste so good. 

The barely-wilted greens are chewy and toothsome, while the apples and onions, having softened and caramelized slightly, provide a balancing sweetness to the slightly bitter leaves. The addition of lemon juice here, besides imparting an appealing tang, renders the minerals in the vegetables more bio-available (and thereby more easily absorbed) so you can best benefit from their high mineral content.

* As to the cookbook, right now, it looks as if the publication date will be mid-April; I’ll report back as soon as I’m given a “firm” date from the publisher. What this means, however, is that my blogging may become slightly more sporadic over the next few weeks, as will my commenting on other blogs.  But know that I’ll keep reading and enjoying all of your blogs even if I don’t make my presence known. And I do hope that you will still comment here–I always look forward to, and read, every single comment on this site–it is truly a high point in my day! 

Sautéed Greens with  Onions and Apples

inspired by this recipe

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

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TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs