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

Advertisements

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.”]  

trufflesinglewhole

Are you looking forward to V-Day next week?  Seems most people either love it or hate it.  Being from the “never too much schmaltz” school of romance, I love Valentine’s Day.  Even during all those years before I met the HH, I’d always endeavor to celebrate somehow.  I’d send cards to my friends or my sisters.  I’d invite a gal pal for dinner so we could sip Shiraz together and muse about how few good men there were out there.  One year, I think I even bought myself roses (must have been my “I am woman, hear me roar” phase).

Last year, I composed a fairly elaborate (and, as I recall, extremely disorderly) meal for the HH and me.  Given my frenetic schedule these days working on the book (the Index is done!  The book has officially moved from the “writing” to the “production” stage! Whoo!), I assumed I’d have no time to repeat last year’s amorous performance (I meant preparing the meal, silly!  You crazy romantics, you!). But then I saw Susan’s post about this year’s Vegetable Love contest, and how could I resist?  (Not that I find Fatfree Vegan Kitchen’s charms any more alluring than those of the HH, you understand). 

The contest asks you to create a romantic dish using one or more vegetables of your choice.  Last year, I came up with a Vegan Molten Chocolate Cake recipe using puréed zucchini and spinach.  I loved the taste of the cakes, but the molten filling was temperamental–sometimes it formed a lovely, floating cloud of lava in the center of the cake, as it was supposed to do; other times, the filling got sucked up by the batter and all that remained was a tiny disk of tar-like chocolate at its core.  You’d think I’d give up on sweets with veggies in them.  But no. . .

truffleinside

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, sweet potatoes are my favorite vegetable.  I love sweet potatoes in just about anything (or, as I’ve seen the phrase skipping around the blogosphere lately, I lurrrve sweet potatoes).  When I was on the anti-candida diet several years ago, sweet potatoes became my favorite veggie (and my favorite brekkie).  They’re a healthy vegetable.  They’re orange.  They’re sweet.  And their name sounds like a term of endearment:  “Oh, why so coy, my little Sweet Potato?  Come on over here and let me help you out of that peel.”  Why not use them as the basis for a sweet filling in a Valentine’s Day truffle, then?

trufflecup

This year’s recipe really should have made it into the cookbook–it’s that good.  What you’ll end up with is an insanely creamy, smooth, rich-tasting truffle filling,  vibrantly orange and steeped in citrus flavor. In fact, no one would ever guess it contained one of the world’s healthiest roots.  I fed 0ne of these beauties to the HH, and he literally licked his fingers clean, enthusing, “This tastes exactly like a really fine quality, high-end chocolate!”  This from a guy who’d normally consume chocolates with cream, butter and white sugar.  “There is no trace of sweet potato flavor in these,” he went on. “All you taste is the orange” (enhanced with a splash of Cointreau–though you can use orange juice if you prefer alcohol-free confections). 

Even if you’re not into chocolates, the filling on its own makes a fabulous, versatile frosting.  Rich and fluffy, sweetened with agave and boasting the added fiber of the sweet potato, I’m guessing that the total GI (glycemic index) of this  frosting is fairly low and could be used successfully by those on a variety of restricted diets. (See instructions in the Variation, below).

swpotfrosting

I’ll definitely be making these again for V-Day (the half-batch I concocted is already long gone). Even if you don’t celebrate the Big V, it’s worth making a batch of these.  Give yourself a little gift of Vegetable Love this year.

This is my submission to Susan’s contest.  You have until tomorrow at midnight to enter if you’re so inclined!

Spiked Sweet Potato Truffles or Truffle Cups

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

truffleplate61

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

trufflecups

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

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED!  PLEASE VISIT THE SHINY NEW DDD BY CLICKING HERE.

[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).]

figapple6

It’s astonishing to me how our tastes can change so dramatically as we age. Remember those things you loved as a kid which elicit apathy now? As a tot, I loved The Monkees.  In my teens it was historical romances. In my twenties, I wore dark eye shadow and painted eyeliner across the base of my lashes.  In my thirties, I dressed in black almost every day for three or four years in a row.

There’s no doubt my palate has changed over time as well.  Foods I loved to eat as a child–saltwater taffy, Cap’n Crunch cereal, mellowcreme pumpkins or (a dinnertime favorite) a hillock of mashed potatoes with nuggets of hamburger cut up and hidden under it–all seem slightly repulsive to me now.  Then again, many of the foods I abhored then are ones I adore today; to wit, parsnips, cilantro, and–as of two days ago–baked apples.

When I decided back in January to attempt a “cleaner” diet for a while so that I might reverse some of the holiday era choc-o-rama indulgences, I turned to a cookbook I’ve had for some time but have never really used:  The Detox Cookbook and Health Plan, by Maggie Pannell.  Hiding at the back, on the very last page, was a rather fetching photo of a lone baked apple, stuffed to the brim with chopped figs and walnuts.

Apple?  Baked?  I could feel myself recoiling, thinking, “Nawwww. . . . ”  I mean, who eats baked apples?  They’re granny food.  They’re ulcer food.  They’re nothing-else-is-in-the-house-so-I-have-to-make-do-with-this-dull-fruit food.  Now, don’t get me wrong; I love raw apples and try to have one every day.  But I’ve always found the concept of a baked apple to be rather meh

Besides, apples are so common, so quotidien, so humdrum that they’re suffering from overexposure, like cupcake wedding cakes or Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons or Pamela Anderson’s cleavage.  I mean, aren’t apples like the perma-date of fruits–pleasant, enjoyable, always there–but just not exciting enough to seek out for something exceptional?  When I think of apples, all the old, hackneyed language comes to mind:   Apple of my eye.  One bad apple. An apple a day. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Apple Paltrow-Martin.

I was also flooded with memories of baked apples from my childhood, and why I never liked them back then: plain, dowdy, as wrinkled as your frowsy neighbor’s housecoat.  And yet, that photo beckoned to me.  I found the final push I needed when I went grocery shopping a couple of days ago: I often buy marked-down packages of apples to cut up and serve The Girls along with their regular dinner.  That day, I found three packs of six apples each, at 99 cents a pack.  Usually, these bargain-basement fruits and veggies sport more than a few little bruises; but these packages were perfect–smooth, rosy, unblemished; pristine. Seriously, I couldn’t find  a single nick or mark on any of the apples!  It was a sign. 

I went home and baked these apples.  The recipe was ridiculously easy, with only 4 ingredients.  And while they baked, I got dinner ready and even fed The Girls (they got the unbaked fruit). 

I guess my tastes have matured now that I’m an adult.  I loved these–they were stupendous.  I’d say these apples are like the homely, bespectacled secretary in the 1950s movie who suddenly tears off her glasses, pulls the hairpin holding her bun and shakes her head, and then–mon dieu!–she’s beautiful!  I now am officially smitten with baked apples. Baked apples are my hero!

I used Gala apples (that’s what was on sale) and the outcome was perfect.  The contrast between the sweet, pliable stewed figs with their popping crunch, and the perfectly creamy, tart apple flesh was delightfully unexpected. And as the glaze baked and thickened up, it acquired a deep, intense orange flavor as well as a deep caramel hue, contributing a glossy, sticky exterior glaze to the skins. 

I think I’d better try to eat baked apples at least a few times a week through the winter. I plan to have them as often as I can. I mean, who knows when my tastes might change again? 

 Baked Apples with Figs and Walnuts in a Citrus Glaze

adapted from The Detox Cookbook and Health Plan

by Maggie Pannell

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

figapple4

This is an elegant weekday dessert, that’s a comforting winter treat.  And for pennies a serving, you really can’t go wrong.

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

 

Last Year at this Time

: Reubenesque Sandwich

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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 at the new site.

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

 

cabbagesoup5

Now is the discontent of our winter.

The dozen or so of you who were reading my blog last year at this time probably remember how much I hate the snowy season.  (How much, you ask?  As much as Gepetto hates dishonesty.  As much as Ellen loves Portia.  As much as the calories in a deep-fried Mars Bar (with whipped cream on top).  As much as union disagrees with management.  As much as my eternal incredulity at the popularity of Julia Roberts.)   This morning, when I emitted a plaintive little lament about the fact that we’ve already surpassed last year’s (record-breaking) snowfall for this date, the HH helpfully piped up, “Yeah, and we’ve still got over a month more of this to go!”  Gee, thanks, sweetheart.

So, what to do about a wall of pelting snow every time you leave the house,  ice crystals forming on your eyebrows, the grey rime that coats your glasses like vaseline on a camera lens? 

Make soup, that’s what. 

When I was a carefree singleton* back in the early 90s, I developed a Friday evening cooking ritual.   After arriving home from work, I’d change into sweats and a T-shirt, then spend most of the evening cooking food for the following week.  By the end of the week, I was usually too pooped to socialize anyway, and I found cooking to be incredibly meditative.  (Besides, if anything better male intellectually stimulating came up instead, I wasn’t irrevocably tied to my plan; I’d just cook the following day).  I’d pack the prepared dishes into plastic containers, then freeze them for consumption later on.  A relaxing evening plus seven days of healthy, homemade food–a pretty good arrangement, I thought.

In those days, I tended to cook a lot of soups.  Perhaps I was subconsciously emulating my mom, whose chicken soup graced our stovetop every Friday evening as far back as I can remember. In fact, the very first recipe I cooked in my very first apartment was soup–split pea and ham, as I recall (which is odd, since even then I didn’t really like meat, and I’d never tasted ham at all before that–or since).  In the interim, I’ve expanded my repertoire a bit, enjoying a variety of traditional or exotic or unusual soups over the years.  With its ability to embrace any and all stray vegetables, then bathe them in a warm, soothing broth, vitamin and mineral-rich soup is an ideal meal-in-a-bowl. 

Strangely, once the HH and I began seeing each other, I all but stopped making soups on Friday nights (he seemed to think our courtship should take place alongside a wine bottle rather than a stockpot).  Then, a couple of weeks ago, I received a copy of Nava Atlas’s newly released Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons  (this is a 4th edition of her earlier Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons) as part of the book’s virtual tour.   Suddenly, soup was back on my radar.  And I must tell you, I think this book has singlehandedly renewed my zeal for soup making. 

The book is divided by season, so it made sense that the fall and winter offerings would appeal most right now, with innovative and interesting combinations like Broccoli, Apple and Peanut Soup or Almond-Brussels Sprouts Soup (which I just enjoyed for lunch today–splendid!), and classics like Hearty Barley-Bean Soup or Minestrone.  But the spring and summer were equally tantalizing, with recipes for Creole Eggplant Soup and Gingery Miso-Spinach Soup and Strawberry Colada Soup.  (Now I have yet another reason to wish winter would end soon.)

With our seemingly irrepressible mountains of snow (now taller than the HH, who is over 6 feet/1.8 meters) outside, a hearty winter stew seemed just the right antidote. This Sweet and Sour Cabbage and Bread Stew is a perfectly warming, filling, tasty combination, with a substantial broth, in which you simmer a variety of winter veggies, all imbued with a subtle sweet and piquant tang. Initially, the HH was a bit reluctant to try it (paradoxically, the guy will eat anything and everything if it’s derived from an animal, but is entirely unadventurous when it comes to vegetable dishes).  After the first few spoonfuls, however, he pronounced it “a keeper” and was content to have nothing more than this for dinner. 

I’m happy to say that I’m even looking forward to getting back in the swing of Friday evening soup-a-thons. And these days, I won’t be cooking alone  (hear that, HH?).

Mum, you know that we’d love to help you cook, too, if we could. There’s just this little matter of the ‘no opposable thumbs’ thing. But we’re still more than happy to help clean up the leftovers.” 

* Okay, I was never “carefree,” but more like “unattached, at loose ends, having no weekend plans.”  The closest I’ve ever gotten to “carefree” was probably during that time before I embraced all the responsibilities and anxieties of adulthood–like, maybe, when I was three.

Sweet and Sour Cabbage and Bread Stew

from Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons

by Nava Atlas

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW SITE, BY CLICKING HERE.

cabbagestew2

© 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