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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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Sweet and Spicy Tempeh

July 14, 2008

 

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

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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.” 

After the HH and I had been dating for about four months and he’d already passed the “willing to tolerate my multiple quirks and neuroses” test, I decided it would be acceptable for him to finally meet my family and old friends in Montreal.  I cajoled coerced begged invited him to join me one weekend as I headed east.  We arranged to stay at the CFO’s place, to visit with the rest of the family, to attend a dinner party at my friend Babe’s, and to spend the remainder of our time sight-seeing; the plans were all set.

And then, during the drive across the highway, the HH contracted some bizarre, sci-fi worthy flu virus and ended up spending the entire visit in bed–febrile, congested, inflamed and sullying tissue after tissue with unsavory bodily fluids.  My relatives encountered a slightly dazed, highly medicated, Rudolph-nosed guy who didn’t make the greatest impression (he’s made up for it since). 

Ever since that sniffling début, it’s become somewhat of a running gag in our house:  whenever the HH and I travel to Montreal, one of us is inevitably sick (most recently, it was my turn; I suffered a wicked sinus headache for the first day, but recuperated by the second).  The only time we both felt fine, turned out the CFO was the one with a terrible cold, which she unwittingly passed on as a parting gift to me. Two days after returning to Toronto, I was felled once again. 

It may be a cliché to say that men are babies when it comes to having colds, that they whine and complain and moan, even as a woman suffering the same symptoms would simply drag herself from bed and get on with it. Well, not my HH.  As in most things, he and I are total opposites when it comes to illness:  if the HH gets sick, he retreats to bed, lies inert for about 48 hours, then emerges, like Ripley out of a stasis chamber, exactly as he was before.  (The first time this occurred, I was truly alarmed: I was certain the guy had croaked on me, as he literally slept for two days without even getting up to eat or drink).  I, on the other hand, am more likely stricken with a chronic, pervasive, low-grade, not-quite-debilitating-but-definitely-quite-annoying set of symptoms that lasts anywhere from four days to two months. I can function, but I’m miserable while I’m doing it.

One weekend a few weeks ago, Chaser had her first encounter with the HH’s unique form of healing.  After he crawled into bed, I closed the door, as usual, so Dad could sleep it off. The Girls were entirely thrown off their regular routine. They moped about outside the bedroom, looking rather–well, hang-dog.

Finally, around 5:00 PM, the door swung open and there he was–and vertical!  The Girls were ecstatic (“Does this mean we get to go to the trail now??”). Even as hope faded when the HH plunked himself in front of the TV, a dull patina of illness still coating his visage and a network of sheet-wrinkles, like tributaries on a map, spread across his face, those Girls still stuck by their Dad. 

I headed to the kitchen to whip up something hearty for the HH’s first meal back in civilization. Before I could even grab a spatula, however, there were The Girls at my feet, staring patiently.  Ah, yes, I’d forgotten that 5:00 PM is dog dinnertime. (“Right, Mum.  Food trumps sick owner. Sorry Dad, but you’re on your own.”)

As to the humans’ dinner, I decided on tempeh, a food I love but don’t eat often enough. Pairing a vague notion of BBQ season with a half-consumed jar of apple butter, I had my starting point. I realize there’s a plethora of BBQ recipes out there around this time of year, from the archetypal Wingz at Don’t Eat Off the Sidewalk to these recent lovelies at Happy Herbivore and another fairly recent version at Vegan Dad.  But I was determined to use that apple butter, so I just grabbed a few other items from the fridge and began to mix.  

The results were, after all, very pleasing.  The tempeh’s meaty texture works well with the slightly spicy, slightly sweet flavors of the sauce. If you like BBQ sauce with a kick, you’ll enjoy this dish.  Unfortunately for the HH, he missed out on that particular gustatory pleasure, as his nose was still too congested for him to really appreciate the taste.  Still, the high protein content of the tempeh worked well to help rebuild his stamina, and he was back to work the following day. 

But I think we’ll hold off on any more trips to Montreal–for a little while, at least.

Because of tempeh provides such a healthy source of protein, I’m submitting this to Sangeeth at Art of Cooking Indian Food for her Eat Healthy–Protein Rich event.

Sweet and Spicy BBQ Tempeh

These are slightly sweet, slightly gooey with a spicy kick.  I assume they’d be even better if actually cooked on a grill, but this baked version was equally tasty.

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

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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.” 

In my imagination, I’d love to live on a farm. I say “in my imagination” because, in my reality, I’m actually the farthest thing from a farm type of gal (“What the-?  What do you mean, 5:15 is the normal time for the rooster to crow?!!”  OR, “What do you mean, it’s almost 2 hours to the closest Barnes and Noble?” OR, “What do you mean, ‘that’s just what manure smells like, so get used to it’???!!!”).  Um, nope, I don’t think so. 

Still, in my fantasy, I’m a latter day Lisa Douglas. Mid-afternoon, I turn to my HH Wendell Douglas and casually remark, “Oh, dahlink, what shall we have for dinner tonight?  I think I vill go out back to our vegetable patch and pick something fresh.” And then I cook it and we eat it and it’s delicious, of course.

Well, now that it’s finally beginning to look a lot like Christmas hockey season reruns springtime here in Toronto, all the gardeners are out on our street.  Our neighbours across the way have been scattering a wheelbarrow full of rich, black composted soil over their front lawn.  Everywhere I look, I see women on their knees yanking weeds out of the flower garden, others pulling up dried-out webs of branches and roots.  

And I?  Not so much.  On the other hand, the previous tenants in our house were quite the gardeners. When we first viewed the place last August, the back yard was lush with flowers and all manner of greenery, and it seemed everything was in bloom. (Bizarrely, when we finally moved in in November, we discovered that they had literally uprooted every plant, bush or tree they’d planted in the back yard, and taken everything with them to their new home. Remember that huge, gaping crater out of which emerged the creepy farmer-cum-alien in Men in Black? Well, that’s what our yard looked like, times twenty.)

As far as I could tell until yesterday, what remained in our garden was one puffy green bush near the tree in the front yard, some teeny purple flowers (or were they weeds?) and a few long, sharp green plants that look like miniature palm trees.  What they are called, or what they will sprout, I’m afraid I have no idea. My one and only previous gardening experience involves a single jalapeno seedling (I chose a jalapeno because I guessed it would require no maintenance, would self-repel bugs and raccoons, and would yield a small enough harvest that I could use it all up before it began to rot).  I was correct on most counts, though the plant, remarkably, flourished and the HH and I ended up eating jalapenos in every imaginable food, from scrambled eggs to pesto to muffins to plain ole roasted in a pan. But at least it proved I could grow a plant without killing it (or neglecting it to the point of killing it).

This year, I vowed, I’d venture into something a bit more exotic. My friend Gemini I (a gardener extraordinaire) has promised that herbs are fairly easy to grow, so I figured I’d plant some basil, cilantro, dill and sage. Then, yesterday, I was strolling past the side of our house on my way toward the back yard for some Frisbee-toss with The Girls and noticed something odd. There, spanning the entire length of the house, was a patch of earth the previous tenants had evidently forgotten–completely covered in small, green, leafy, plants in full bloom. They were a dazzling, almost translucent shade of green, lighter than grass but deeper than lime. . . the color reminded me of something, but what?  It was sort of like. . . the color of. . . the color of mint.  Yes, mint!  And I’ll be darned, when I bent over and pinched one of those verdant babies between my fingers, that’s exactly what they smelled like.

“Oh, that’s mint,” my next-door neighbour said as she sauntered over to me and The Patch.  Wow.  And so, without even a modicum of effort, I now am the proud owner of a fully formed, instant mint garden.  But what to do with it?

“Want some?”  I asked her.

I am still planning to plant the cilantro and basil, as I can never get enough of either.  But I have to admit that, much as I enjoy mint as a flavoring, I’ve never really been forced to make use of this much of it before.  Something tells me I’ll be drinking my share of mint juleps over the next few months–though, even once I’ve given much away to friends and colleagues, I’ll still have more mint than could possibly be consumed even by Daisy and Tom and Jordan and Gatsby during a long, hot, humid summer.  (I see much green in my future: chocolate-mint cookies, mint smoothies, mint ice creams, mint salads and all manner of mint drinks, alcoholic and otherwise. . . ).

There was one high point to the discovery, however. Just around dinnertime, I glanced at the swath of green running across the side of my house and said, to no one in particular,  “Why, I think I’ll step over here to my herb patch and pick some fresh herbs for dinner tonight.”  And I cooked something, and we ate it, and it was delicious. (“Mum, why are you talking with a Hungarian accent?  And, come to think of it, why are you talking to yourself?”)

We had planned to have a favorite Indian-spiced potato dish called Aloo Masala, but the recipe didn’t call for any mint.  No matter; I threw some in anyway. Along with the complement of other spices, it made for a delightful, slightly sweet and slightly peppery bowl of spuds.  The HH had these with an organic chicken breast (on which he piled even more mint), while I was happy with a simple bowl on its own.  

Well, that took care of about 1/85th of our mint.  Any suggestions for tomorrow?

Aloo Masala (Potato Masala Curry)

adapted from Complete Indian Cookbook, edited by Meera Budhwar

These potatoes come together very quickly and offer a spicy, smooth and comforting side dish to pretty much any main.

3 or 4 medium potatoes, cubed

1 large onion, finely chopped

1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) turmeric

salt, to taste

2 green chilies, chopped (or 1/2-1 jalapeno)

2 tsp. (10 ml.) garam masala

2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) shredded or dessicated coconut, unsweetened

1-inch (2.5 cm.) piece ginger, peeled and finely grated

2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) olive oil

1 tsp. (5 ml.) glack mustard seeds

4-6 mint leaves, finely shredded

leaves from 2 sprigs cilantro, finely shredded

Cook the potatoes in just enough water to cover with half the onion, the turmeric and the chilies until about half cooked, about 8 minutes  [note: next time I do these, I will omit the onion here and simply fry it all together at the end–I think the potatoes would have a better flavor that way, infused with the caramelized onion].

Meanwhile, blend the garam masala, coconut and ginger in a coffee grinder or miniature food processor. Add to the potato and continue to cook for a further 8 minutes, until tender but not soft, and most of the water has evaporated.

Heat the oil in a skillet and add the mustard seeds.  Let them sizzle for a few seconds until they have popped, then add the onion and fry until deep golden brown. Stir this into the curry in the pot.

Add salt to taste and sprinkle with the mint and cilantro.  Makes 4 servings.

Spicy Red Pepper Pasta

April 17, 2008

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.”]  

Sometimes it’s best not to complicate matters.  

Even though I am well aware of this principle, I’ve never been the kind of gal who naturally embraces “simple”: no scoop of vanilla ice cream for me when double-fudge-cookie-cream-caramel-swirl exists in the world; no blue wooly socks if I can wear my favorite pair emblazoned with frolicking brown and green puppies; no simple sentence when a complex, adjective-crammed, three-clause phrasing can be used instead. 

In terms of this particular trait, the HH and I are polar opposites. Unlike me, he invariably takes the path of least complication.  In fact, he’s frequently reminding me that, in his opinon, I tend to overcomplicate matters. 

Scene One: I’m worried about Elsie. Just look at her!  She’s terribly lethargic, sleeping on her pillow all afternoon.  She didn’t even come into the kitchen when I started baking.  Could she be sick? Maybe we should take her to the vet.  Maybe she’s got Distemper!  Or Lyme Disease!  We have to go to the after-hours emergency clinic!  RIGHT NOW!!

HH:  “Sweetheart, please don’t overcomplicate this.  Elsie’s just tired, that’s all.  I took them for an hour-long walk along the trail this afternoon.  She swam and she ran for an hour.  See?  Chaser’s exactly the same way.”

Me:  “Oh.  Yeah.”

Scene Two: I’m sure my sister is mad at me.  I mean, she got off the phone so abruptly, and she didn’t even ask about The Girls.  She definitely sounded upset.  Hmmn.  What on earth did I do to offend her this time?  Hooboy.  Now I’m going to have to apologize for some slight I can’t even remember committing. . .

HH:  “Honey, you don’t need to overcomplicate this. She probably had a bad day at work and just doesn’t feel like talking about it.  Didn’t she have some big meeting coming up. . .?”

Me: “Oh.  Yeah.  Now I remember. . . she had to fire someone today and felt terrible doing it.  Oh, gee, I guess I should have asked her about it. . . “.

Scene Three: That HH is so infuriating!  Why won’t he tell me what he’s really thinking? He just won’t share.  Men are so emotionally stunted!  They are so out of touch with their feelings!  All I asked was a simple question, and he can’t even give me a straight answer. . .!

HH:  “Ricki.  Please.  Do not overcomplicte this.  I really meant it when I said that I have no preference.  I don’t care whether you wear the flats or the heels. Please, just pick one.  We’re going to be late for the wedding.”

Hmmm. Okay.  I see his point.

Thankfully, when it comes to cooking, we are in perfect agreement: the less complicated, the better.  And this pasta dish fits the bill beautifully.

When I’m looking for something to whip up on weeknights if we’re headed out after dinner and need something pronto; or for indolent Sunday evenings when we’ve spent the weekend engaged in errands or household chores and feel too lazy for anything more elaborate, I turn to this pasta. It’s proof positive that sometimes, indeed, simple is best.

The recipe, I’ve discovered, is a slight variation on a standard Italian pasta dish:  spaghetti or linguine tossed with roasted red peppers, garlic, and a bit of chili.  The combination of sweet (the peppers), hot (the chilis), and pungent (the garlic) is truly inspired. My handwritten version was jotted on a piece of scrap paper several years ago, and I no longer recall the original source; but since I’ve adapted it to our tastes here in the DDD household, I’m setting this down as my own adaptation. 

And the preparation, as promised, is truly simple: the final product is ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta.  You can create any number of variations on the base recipe by adding your own choice of dense protein (the HH likes sausage and parmesan cheese; I like chopped or ground almonds, or nutritional yeast). 

Because it’s both quick and appealing, I’m submitting this recipe to Ruth’s weekly Presto Pasta Night, over at Once Upon a Feast.  Look for the roundup after Friday evening!

Spicy Red Pepper Pasta

Simplicity itself is transformed into a satisfying, filling dinner in this pasta.  You can use either fresh or jarred peppers here;  I prefer a combination of both for the different textures and levels of sweeteness.

1 pkg. (about 350 grams) long, thin pasta (I use kamut linguine)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 red peppers, either fresh or roasted and jarred (the ideal mix, I’ve found, is 2 of each), cut in long strips

4-6 cloves garlic (or more, if you like), coarsely chopped

1 tsp. chili flakes

other toppers of your choice:  parmesan cheese, chopped or ground nuts, faux cheese, etc.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.  If it’s ready before the pepper mixture, drain, reserving about 1/4 cup liquid; cover, and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and fresh peppers (however many you’re using), and cook until the garlic begins to brown and the peppers are wilted.  Sprinkle with the chilis and stir to combine.  If using prepared roasted peppers, add them now, and mix together. 

Once the pasta is ready, add it along with the 1/4 cup water to the pepper pot (always wanted to say that!).  Toss until the pasta is coated with the garlicy oil and the peppers are well distributed.  Stir in your optional extras and transfer to serving plates.  Sprinkle with more cheese or nutritional yeast, if desired.  Makes 4-6 servings.

Spiced Cauliflower Soup

March 17, 2008

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED!

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“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.”]

spicycaulisoup1.jpg 

It occurred to me yesterday that the last three food posts on this blog have all been desserts.  Is this my chocolate withdrawal talking?  Well, maybe so, but that means a contrapuntal savory dish must make its appearance today.  No; more than just savory–we need something spicy.  No; more than just spicy; we need something SPICE-EEEE!  Aye, Carumba!! And I have just the thing. . . .

One of the aspects of blogging I love is reading about others writers’ food adventures.  By reading food blogs, you can vicariously cook and eat almost anything, without lifting so much as a measuring spoon. Another great byproduct is how blogging encourages you to try cooking something new almost daily, stretching your culinary muscles and gustatory acumen. Would I naturally think to peruse my cookbooks in search of a novel pasta dish every week?  Not likely.  Would I ordinarily wax poetic about rice pudding in any other context?  Negative.  Would I customarily resurrect old standards that I haven’t thought about in years?  Certainly not. And yet, today, that’s exactly what I’ve done!

When I read about this month’s No Croutons Required challenge hosted by Holler at Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa at Lisa’s Kitchen, I immediately decided to rummage through my old recipes to locate this particular soup. Back when we were first together, the HH and I would devour this soup at least once a week for several months at a time.  In those days, the HH pounced at the opportunity to share dinner prep (what we won’t do in the first flush of a new relationship!).  At that time, we cooked together almost every evening. These days, on the other hand, after the HH arrives home from work and we’ve walked  The Girls  we often embark on a game of verbal ping-pong:

Me: “What should we do for dinner?” (Subtext: I don’t really feel like doing anything for dinner.)

HH: “I dunno.  Um, did you cook anything yet?” (Subtext: What the heck were you doing here all day?”)

Me: “No.  I was waiting for you to get home from work before deciding.” (Subtext: I’ll be damned if I lift so much as a finger without your help, buster! Just because I work at home doesn’t mean I don’t work hard, too, you know. I’d appreciate just a little acknowledgement of what I do, if you don’t mind.)

HH: “Hmm.  How about pizza?” (Subtext: I am lazy and don’t feel like cooking.)

Me: “You know I don’t eat pizza!” (Subtext: How could you forget that I don’t eat wheat, or cheese, or sugar-laden pizza sauce??? Don’t you pay attention to what’s been going on here for the past eight years?  Don’t you ever notice what I do or do not eat??  Don’t you ever think of anyone besides YOURSELF??  Oh, I see what’s going on here. I see now how little you appreciate me.  Oh, don’t try to deny it.  It’s clear that you’ve never really cared for me!  You’ve never really loved me at all!  Otherwise how could you even suggest–)

HH: “Are you sure?  Well, okay, sweetie, if that’s what you want, that’s fine with me. (Subtext: Great. I really would prefer to go out.  Man, she’s the greatest.  Man,  I love this woman. )

Okay, maybe that wasn’t exactly our daily conversation, but we did go out to dinner a lot in those days.  

These days, on a slightly tighter budget after my two years away from work, we tend to throw together something quick and easy, or something I’ve come across in search of blog recipes.  The HH plays sous-chef and chops or slices according to my directives.  He sets the table and plays with The Girls while the dish finishes cooking.  And gee, he doesn’t even mind waiting for me to photograph our daily dinners.  (Man, he really is the greatest.  Man, I love that guy!)

Okay, sappy interlude is now over. Back to the soup.

This is one of the first Indian recipes I ever tried, shortly after I went off wheat, eggs, dairy, etc..  I discovered fairly quickly that my dietary restrictions could be met easily in Asian restaurants, primarily Indian or Thai.  As we visited one after the other restaurant in our neighbourhood, I also quickly discovered that I adored Indian food–and that I wanted to learn how to make it myself. 

This soup comes from the first Indian cookbook I bought, The New Indian Cooking Course, by Manisha Kanani and Shehzad Husain.  It is incredibly easy, quick, and delicious.  Not overpowering, there’s still enough zing in the soup to imprint its spicy tingle on your tongue after the bowl is emptied–perfect for the No Croutons Required event. 

(PS  I’ve finally posted a photo for another fantastic spicy soup, the Moroccan Tomato Soup that I wrote about back in December (and which the HH and I enjoyed again recently).  If you like spice, head on over and take a look! )

Spiced Cauliflower Soup

Adapted From The New Indian Cooking Course

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

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This soup is a great way to incorporate cauliflower, a vegetable that isn’t particularly exciting on its own. For a more powerful spice, increase the amount of ginger and cumin accordingly.  

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

Quick and Easy Tofu Masala

December 20, 2007

I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed today, what with an order for 56 frosted cupcakes due by noon, as well as an article on cooking with avocado expected by this afternoon.  Yikes.  Therefore, today’s Holidailies post will be short and sweet.  Or, in this case, short and spicy.

This recipe for Tofu Masala is quick and easy, despite the long list of spices that need to be ground into a curry. I’ve adapted the recipe from the fabulous cookbook, Green, by Flip Shelton.  When I saw it in Chapters, I loved the modern, clean look of the book and bought it on impulse, but must say it’s become one of my favorites because of the recipes. 

Maybe it’s my lifelong enchantment with Australia (and New Zealand) that drew me to it, but the book itself is a definite winner, filled with fresh, delicious, quick dishes that have, so far, always come out just right.

This recipe was one of my first ventures into homemade curries, and I was a bit intimidated by all the spices the first time I made it; my mother’s spice cupboard, in contrast, contained exactly one jar each of garlic salt, paprika, onion salt, and white pepper.  All I knew about fenugreek at the time was that it’s commonly used in Ayurvedic cooking, and is supposed to help keep blood sugar levels even (enough of a reason right there to try it, I guess).  But the spice mixture here–and it’s a powerfully hot mix, so beware if you’re timid about hot spice–is the perfect blend to offset the otherwise bland tofu, the al dente vegetables, and the brown basmati rice. 

Sorry I don’t have a photo of this one; we made it at my last cooking class and consumed it before I remembered to snap a picture.  I’ll add one in next time we eat it over here at D,D & D. 

Easy Masala Curry with Veggies and Tofu

This dish is truly a snap to make, despite the long list of spices.  And you can alter the mix of vegetables to your taste, or according to what’s on hand in the fridge!

1/2-1 small jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

 4 cloves garlic, chopped

1-inch piece of ginger, minced

2 T. chopped cilantro

1 tsp. coriander

1 tsp. whole black peppercorns

1 tsp. black mustard seeds

1 tsp. fenugreek

1 tsp. ground turmeric

1 tsp. Sucanat or 5 drops stevia

Pinch sea salt

Juice of one lemon

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

About 400 g. (1 lb.) firm or extra-firm tofu, cubed

1 cup green beans, cut in half, or green peas

1/2 red pepper, chopped

2 small Japanese eggplants, cut in disks

1 cup button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered

4 medium tomatoes, chopped 

Place the jalapeno, garlic, ginger, cilantro, spices, sucanat, salt and lemon juice in a small food processor or coffee grinder and blend until you have a paste.  Set aside. 

Heat the oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat and add the onions.  Saute for two minutes, or until just soft. Add the chili paste and stir until the onion is well coated. Add the tofu, and stir to coat.  Add remaining ingredients, reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

Serve over brown basmati rice. Makes 4-6 servings.

Moroccan Spiced Tomato Soup

December 6, 2007

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.”]  

 

 

As promised, I’m going to supply the recipes from the cooking class I taught last week—my last ever in my home (sniff!). 

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But first, I must interrupt today’s entry because I’ve been tagged for a meme! Annie over at Forest Street Kitchen kindly included me in the game.   Considering that up until yesterday I didn’t even know what a meme was, this should be fun. Can I offer this as an open invitation to other readers/bloggers to answer as well?  I’d love to hear from you. And I’ll tag Deb. Here goes: 

FOUR JOBS I HAVE HAD: 

  • Telephone salesperson selling wholesale frozen sides of beef (even funnier once you know that I grew up with a father who was a butcher AND that I don’t eat meat any more).
  • Writer for local entertainment magazine geared at American tourists (MAN do I miss those complimentary tickets to theatre, museums, launch parties, etc.!!)
  • Size 9 dress model (Yes. True. Very long ago. Ah, how the mighty’s weight has risen).
  • Baker for vegetarian restaurant (totally serendipitous, result of a friend with a big mouth—and how I will always love her for getting me involved in this world!).

FOUR PLACES I’VE LIVED: 

  • Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  Born and raised there.  No, I am not a Francophone, though I went to French immersion school and visited France as part of a school trip (it was fantastique!).
  • Framingham, Massachusetts.  Home of the famous heart study.  Also home of (some of) my American cousins, with whom I spent a teenaged summer.
  • Windsor, Ontario, Canada.  Location of the first university I attended (University of Windsor), southernmost city in Canada, actually SOUTH of Detroit.  Where I rediscovered the exquisite joy of reading literature, where I met my beloved mentor (the recent loss of whom I deeply mourn), and where I finally grew up (a bit).  
  • Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  Current home, where I’ve been since coming to do my PhD in 1983, where I married and divorced, subsequently met my HH and adopted my cherished Girls, and rediscovered my childlike tendencies (not to be confused with childish, mind you).

 FOUR PLACES I’VE BEEN ON HOLIDAY: 

  • California: with my best friend A. Three weeks of hysterical laughter, amazing sights, meeting great people, feeling totally independent.
  • London: 30 years after California, two more weeks with A, this time at her home in England, having a riotous time with her and her adorable new hubby.
  • Bandol, France: three weeks as a French immersion student (see above), nerdy enough to actually attend the classes they’d scheduled instead of wandering around the South of France by myself (I did attend scheduled tours, though, which were lovely).
  • Newfoundland, Canada: Two weeks with my Honey, our first “real” vacation together, as we discovered the beauty and bounty of our very own country, and how it is so vast that a short flight east can feel like visiting another continent. 

FOUR FAVORITE FOODS: 

  • Chocolate.  What else?  All intensities, all shades.  Best when organic, when somehow connected to caramel, but always welcome in any form.
  • Spicy Penang Fried Keow Tow noodles from our favorite Malaysian restaurant. Must order with at least 2 other people present, or I eat the entire platter.
  • Almond-Curry Stir Fry with tofu, from my friend Nettie’s cookbook. The combination of curry and almond butter in the sauce is startling and delectable.
  • Simple, raw Kale and Avocado Salad. Fresh, crunchy, creamy—the perfect way to consume kale.  Not bitter!  Not bitter! (recipe in a later post). 

FOUR PLACES I’D RATHER BE:

  • With my HH, somewhere warm.
  •  With my sisters, somewhere warm.
  •  With my girlfriends, somewhere warm.
  •  With my Girls, somewhere warm. 

Whew!  That was actually lots of fun. Thanks, imagineannie, for including me!  Looking forward to hearing what others have to say.

 Now, on to today’s NAG-friendly recipe. . . .  

This recipe for Moroccan Spiced Tomato Soup was originally given to me by a former office mate, who eventually became a close friend. At the time (late 1980s), I was perpetually in awe of her, as she was somewhat of an anomaly among our colleagues:  the first bona fide vegan I ever knew, she was both incredibly intelligent and incredibly beautiful. Amazonian in height (over six feet tall), she still had something of an ethereal nature about her, with cropped ashen hair and a model’s grace. She spoke with a calming, velvety voice and I loved spending time with her and soaking up details about her alternative (extremely alternative, at the time!) lifestyle.  Although she and I have lost touch over the years, my HH and I still enjoy this soup every winter.  It’s one of our favorites as a hearty and warming dinner.  

Don’t be put off by the ostensibly bizarre inclusion of peanut butter here.  It virtually disappears into the soup and effectively simulates the addition of thick cream.  

Moroccan Spiced Tomato Soup

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

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 The combination of creaminess, spices, and tomatoes provides the perfect comfort food for a cool evening, or after you’ve just finished posting your Holidailies entry.  This is a quick and fabulous soup. Pair with corn bread or a crusty french loaf for a complete meal.  [Note: this soup can easily be made gluten-free with GF ketchup.]

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