spicy moroccan carrots

August 26, 2011

Never underestimate root vegetables for their taste, colour, nutritional value, and longevity. Take carrots for instance. They are delicious; they come in orange, yellow, purple, red, and white; they last in the fruit cellar for a good long time; and they are said to cleanse the intestines and to be diuretic, remineralizing, antidiarrheal, an overall tonic and antianemic, they purify and revitalize the blood, and you know about the eyesight thing. Having helped my grandmother on the farm steam carrots and smother then in butter thousands of times I thought it was time to branch out. This moroccan salad from Yotam Ottolenghi is sweet, spicy, and lemony, and is a great salad on its own or as a friend to any grain.

2 lbs carrots

1/3 cup olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 tsp sugar

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2 medium green chiles, finely chopped

1 green onion, finely chopped

1/8 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground coriander

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 tbsp chopped preserved lemon

sea salt and pepper

2 1/2 cups cilantro

Scrub the carrots and cut them, depending on their size, into cylinders or semicircles; all the pieces should end up roughly about the same size. Place in a large saucepan and steam until carrots are tender but still crunchy.

Heat the oil in a large pan and saute the onion for 12 minutes on medium heat until soft and slightly brown. Add the cooked carrots to the onion, followed by all the remaining ingredients, apart from the cilantro. Remove from the heat. Season liberally with sea salt and pepper, stir well and leave to cool.

Before serving stir in cilantro, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve in individual bowls with a drizzle of olive oil and garnished with the extra cilantro.

I mentioned in my mushroom parcel recipe that the inspiration for those little parcels of delight was from a new cookbook that I’m loving! called Plenty. Here’s another one. This could be a side-dish, it could be a main with a little salad and baguette to provide company. It could be a nice antipasto-type starter. Totally versatile, quick, colourful, and scrumptious. Nothing pretentious – just plain old goodness in a nice package. And with tomato season almost upon us (I had my first local cherry tomato just yesterday; it’s coming folks!) what could be better?

4 – 6 medium tomatoes (ripe but firm)

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

12 black olives, pitted and roughly chopped

2 tbsps olive oil

1/4 cup panko or course bread crumbs

2 tbsps chopped fresh herbs of your choice

1 1/2 tbsps capers, chopped

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Trim off about 3/8 inch from the top of each tomato and discard. Use a little spoon or a melon baller to remove the seeds and most of the flesh, leaving a clean shell. Lightly salt the inside of the tomatoes and place upside down in a colander, to drain off some moisture.

Meanwhile, put the onion, garlic, olives and 1 tbsp of the oil in a medium pan and cook on low heat for 5 to 6 minutes, to soften the onion completely. Remove from the heat and stir in the bread crumbs, herbs, capers, and some pepper. Taste and add salt if you like.

Fill the tomatoes up with the herb stuffing, pressing down gently as you go. You want a nice dome of stuffing on top. Place the tomatoes in a greased ovenproof dish and drizzle lightly with the remaining oil. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the tomatoes soften. Serve hot or warm.

wild mushroom parcels

June 26, 2011

I got a new cookbook the other day that I’m very excited about. It’s called Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi. The author, Yotam Ottolenghi, is not veg or vegan but has a deep respect for all things green and grain. He says that despite being a meat eater, “my vegetarian image was rightly based on the fact that I was brought up in Israel and Palestine and was exposed to the multitude of vegetables, pulses, and grains that are celebrated in the region’s different cuisines…This is why vegetarian cooking didn’t turn out to be a chore for me. I like meat and I like fish but I can easily cook without them. My grandmother’s vinegar-marinated zucchini, or ripe figs we used to down before dinner, are as substantial and basic as any cut of meat I used to have.” Amen. So this is the first of Ottolenghi’s recipes I’m going to try and expect to bring to you v:gourmetians. I veganized them as he added cream, and I switched up a few of the herbs. But it’s all good. We’re having these tasty little aromatic bundles for lunch with wild rice. Full stop.

3.5 cups mixed wild mushrooms

3.5 cups baby button mushrooms

5 baby potatoes

4 garlic cloves, crushed

fresh thyme, oregano, basil

2 tbsps sherry

4 tbsps olive oil

sea salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut 4 square sheets of parchment paper 14 inches long and wide.

Wipe the mushrooms clean using a wet cloth or a little brush. Leave them whole or cut them into large pieces, depending on their size. Cut the potatoes into 3/8-inch-thick slices.

In a large bowl, gently toss together all of the ingredients using your hands. Take care not to break the mushrooms. Taste and adjust the amount of salt and pepper.

Divide the mix between the paper sheets. Lift the edges and scrunch them together to create tight bundles, then secure with ovenproof string. Lift the parcels onto a baking sheet.

Place in the oven to cook for 17 minutes. Take out and leave to settle for 1 minute. Serve the parcels sealed, allowing the diners to open them up themselves.

Had some fennel sitting in the fridge. And a few cherry tomatoes. And some left over olives from our pizza last night. I thought why not roast all these beautiful, fresh, organic ingredients together and see what happens. Well what happened? Love. Harmony. Dreams of a Tuscan villa on the sea. We had it with the tabbouleh which was magical. Incredible pairing without us meaning to create an incredible pairing. A little grilled, local, seasonal asparagus on the side. Mmmmmm.

4 small bulbs fennel, quartered

Dozen cherry tomatoes

Dozen olives, pitted

thyme, leaves picked

2 cloves garlic, chopped coursely

olive oil

a couple glugs of white sherry or white wine

sea salt and pepper to taste

Toss everything in a baking dish. Bake at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes, tossing a couple of times along the way.

We were at our farm this weekend to check in on our 3000 bulbs of garlic planted in the fall!! (Looking fabulous!) When the weather got crappy and we lost our enthusiasm for weeding, my mom and I started to riffle through old Martha Stewart Magazines over a cup of masala chai with ginger. Some of the old Martha Stewart mags are actually really good I must admit. I found the recipe in the “healthy living” section for this roasted fennel with warm tomato dressing. It rocked. So I bring you Martha Stewart via v:gourmet.

2 tsps olive oil

10 ounces cherry tomatoes

3 garlic cloves, crushed

2/3 cup dry red wine

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp red wine vinegar

Heat oil in a medium skillet on medium heat. Add tomatoes and cook, swirling pan often, until skins are blistered, about 5 minutes.

Stir in garlic, red wine, and balsamic vinegar, and cook until liquid reduces by half and tomatoes are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in sugar, salt, and red wine vinegar, and cook until mixture reduces further. Serve over roasted fennel or other vegetables to “turn plain vegetables into satiating sides.” Gotta love Martha.

spiced quinoa

April 17, 2011

The flavours in this dish are subtle and earthy. You get the nuttiness of the quinoa and the aromatic richness of the spices – especially after a little “toasting” before adding stock to the dish. I would recommend this with a number of dishes on v:gourmet, particularly the moroccan tagine, roasted veggies with chickpeas, and cassoulet. You could also do a spiced couscous which would be equally tasty.

3 cups veggie stock

2 cups of quinoa

1 tsp each of ground cumin, ground coriander, and smoky Spanish paprika

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper


Put quinoa and spices in a medium, heavy-based saucepan and cook over medium/high heat until the spices are aromatic and just start to turn a dusky brown. Add the stock and a dash of salt. Stir, cover, and bring to a boil. Once a roiling boil is reached, turn down heat to low and simmer until quinoa has absorb all the liquid. Fluff with a fork. Transfer to a serving bowl and fluff again to separate as many grains as possible.

Adapted from Market Vegetarian by Ross Dobson

Andrew has recently rekindled his love affair with brussels sprouts which were never my favourite. Not because I didn’t like them necessarily, just because we never ate them growing up. And when one of my aunts did serve them at the occasional family Christmas dinner or Thanksgiving feast, they usually arrived at the table soggy, under-seasoned, and looking like sad, flaccid, little outcasts that everyone avoided. Well, times have changed and – in our house – we’re embracing the new era of the brussels sprout to give it its due.

For brussels sprouts

3 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon salt

For shallots and mushrooms

2 tbsps oil

1/2 lb large shallots (about 6), chopped

1 1/4 lb  fresh shitake mushrooms (or chanterelle, oyster etc.),  trimmed, quartered if large

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 450°F. Toss Brussels sprouts with oil, garlic, salt, and pepper, then spread out in 1 layer in 2 large shallow baking pans (17 by 12 inches). Roast, stirring occasionally and switching position of pans halfway through roasting, until tender and browned, 25 to 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat. Sauté shallots, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add  mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and tender, about 7 minutes. Add wine, thyme, salt, and pepper and boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced to a glaze, about 2 minutes.

Transfer to a serving dish and stir in brussels sprouts. Serve with pride and tasty anticipation.

blackened rice

March 26, 2011

This is best made along side the black bean stew since the cooking liquid from the black beans is what blackens the rice. It’s brilliant. As Deborah Madison says “The nutritious broth that remains from cooking black beans makes a flavourful, rich broth for cooking rice. Although motivated by common sense not to waste this delicious broth,  I was delighted to find that using the broth this way is also a Mexican tradition.”

2 tbsps olive oil

1/2 white onion, finely diced

1 1/4 cups white rice

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/8 tsp anise seeds (or ground fennel)

2 cups broth from cooked black beans


Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the onion and sauté over medium-high heat for 4 – 5 minutes. Add the rice, garlic, and anise and stir to coat the rice. Cook until it’s light gold, 3 to 4 minutes, then add the broth and salt and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat until the rice is done, 15 to 18 minutes. Turn into a dish and garnish with  diced jalapeño chiles, chopped cilantro, or pico de gallo.

spicy cauliflower steak

March 13, 2011

This recipe is from the super-Vij of Vancouver fame. He just came out with a new cookbook called Vij’s At Home: Relax, Honey. So tonight dinner featured Spicy Cauliflower Steak and Mung Beans in Coconut Curry. They were a great combo with brown rice as the neutral grounding force but I would put an emphasis on “spicy” in spicy cauliflower steaks. The heat in this recipe builds so hold off on the cayenne if you want it a little more tame. Or just beware of how much sauce you serve up, or serve the dish with a little non-vegan raita on the side. It’s all good.

1 head cauliflower, outside stalks cut off

1/2 cup olive oil

1 1/2 cups puréed or crushed canned tomatoes

1 tbsp finely chopped ginger

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp turmeric

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cayenne pepper

10 cloves

3-inch cinnamon stick

Cut cauliflower, as you would a pie, into 6 pieces if it’s a smaller head and 8 pieces if it’s a larger one. Wash and carefully place large cauliflower pieces in a colander to drain.

Combine oil and tomatoes in a large wide pot on medium-high heat. Add ginger, salt, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne, cloves and cinnamon, stir well and saute for 3 to 4 minutes, or until oil glistens from tomatoes.

Reduce the heat to low while you mix in cauliflower. Carefully place each large piece of cauliflower into the pot and gently stir so that the tomato masala covers all the pieces. If necessary, use a large spoon to ladle tomato masala into the nooks and crannies of the cauliflower pieces.

Increase the heat to medium, cover and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once halfway through. When you stir, if you notice that the cauliflower isn’t cooking, increase the heat. If it’s sticking to the bottom of the pot, decrease the heat. Pierce one of the larger pieces with a knife to see if it is soft. if necessary, cook cauliflower, covered, for another 1 to 2 minutes.

The original inspiration for this dish came from Jamie Oliver but I can’t remember if it was from one of his TV shows or cookbooks. Whatever the case, it’s become one of our staples as it’s quick, delicious, and versatile. I started making it with cherry tomatoes instead of fennel but one day  I didn’t have cherry tomatoes, tried the fennel instead, and everyone liked it better. I still make it both ways, and sometimes I use thyme instead of basil. However you make it, it looks great, tastes great, and is an easy addition to any meal.

2 peppers, cleaned, sliced in half, seeds removed

1 fennel bulb, cleaned, and sliced into thin strips

several basil leaves, sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

olive oil

sea salt and pepper

Clean the peppers, cut in half, and place in the bottom of a cast-iron pan. Fill the peppers with sliced fennel, garlic, and basil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and a couple of turns of the pepper mill. Bake in the oven at 400 for 20 or 30 minutes until they are cooked to your liking.