Taking Back Summer

I am taking a stand against the narrative that people are now sick of cooking. I do miss restaurants, but I hope this time bent over a stovetop has given everyone an appreciation for these culinary arts. That being said, I am raising to the rafters, long and exhaustive recipe making. I am happily throwing bread making out the window (for now). With light starting to pierce through the cracks of the hollow cave that is the Covid19 pandemic in Ontario, I am proposing simplicity as the theme of summer 2021.

Simple and easy recipes that allow to make up for lost time. Starting with this one.

Vegetable summer rolls with sambal peanut sauce

Ingredients

For the rolls

  • 1 small fennel bulb
  • 7 red radishes
  • 3 large carrots julienned
  • 1/2 cup of fresh mint
  • 1/2 cup of fresh dill
  • 2 green chilies
  • 1/4 cup pickled onions
  • 10-12 sheets of rice paper
  • 15 large shrimps (Optional)

For the sauce

  • 1 cup of crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp of rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp of sambal
  • Salt
  • 1 tsp ginger powder

How to do it

  1. The recipe starts with a simple mise en place. Slice all your vegetables in uniform slices and set aside for the assembly of the rolls.
  2. Fill a small sheet-pan with room temperature water, and dip your rice paper sheet in the water for roughly 30 seconds.
  3. Remove the sheet from the water, and then assemble the rolls with all the vegetables on a dry surface. Make sure to place the ingredients near one side of the sheet, rather than the middle. This makes the actual rolling easier.
  4. Roll the sheets like you would a burrito. Bring both sides in, over the vegetables, and then roll tightly. Tucking in the ingredients into a tight roll.
  5. Slice the roll in half, and then repeat the process until you have finished the veggies.
  6. For the sauce, heat up the peanut butter in a sauce pan with the other ingredients. Cook on low heat for 5 minutes, and gradually add water until it becomes smooth and dip-able.
  7. Enjoy on the patio with a chilled rosé.

Improving Taco Night

There’s one day of the year where my home cooking needs to be precise, and flawless. No, it’s not the intricate traditional thanksgiving meal that requires the will and determination of the spartan army in the movie 300. It’s not the endless stream of christmas dinners that test your love for cooking.

This special day comes once a year on my brother’s birthday. For those who don’t know this mysterious lad, he is probably the best food critic without a platform. Very particular and not easily impressed, he is a young food connaisseur who deserves a great meal for his day of birth.

Last year’s birthday featured a portion of homemade sweet potato gnocchi, and some sort of cake that is obviously forgettable because I cannot recall what it was for the life of me. My efforts were remarkable, but the dish fell short and did not hold up to my standards.

This year, in celebration of the new decade and my brother’s anniversary, I wanted to switch it up. That’s just what I did, and this discovery became a revalation. Something I will continue to cook for many special occasions to come and something I reccomend to every home cook.

For Christmas, my parents bought me an authentic tortilla press. It was the only thing I wanted to find under the tree on that faithful morning. I knew I wanted to make homemade tortillas using my new gadget that would later become a friend, for my brother’s birthday.

The sense of accomplishment I felt while pressing the little balls of masa into vessels for toppings was incredible. The flavour of store-bought shells cannot even touch the flavour of the homemade tortillas. If I could give any advice to anyone enjoying a taco Tuesday soirée, I’m talking to you Lebron James, take the extra time to press your own tortillas. It’s what separates the weak from the obsolete. The dinner was spectacular and very hands-on for everybody who attended.

My awesome grandma and I pressing tortillas.

Here is a little recipe I have developed for the occasion. Please get cooking! If you have any favourite taco toppings, let me know!

Mole beans tacos with pickled onions

What you’ll need:

For the Tortillas

1 tortilla press

2 cups of masa

1 and a half cups of water

salt, pepper

2 sheets of parchment papers

For the beans

2 cups of black beans

1/4 cup of dark chocolate

2 garlic cloves

1 medium sized onion

2 charred poblano peppers

Juice from 1 orange

1 tbsp cumin, chili powder, coriander

Olive oil

Salt, pepper

1 cup vegetable stock

1 tbsp tomato paste

For the onions

1 red onion

1 tbsp sugar

3 tbsp white wine vinegar

3 tbsp water

1/2 tbsp salt

How you will do it:

  1. In a pot, cook down the onions, and garlic until translucent. Meanwhile in another pan, char the poblano peppers until soft and blackened.
  2. Chop the peppers and add to the onion and garlic. Throw in the spices and the tomato paste.
  3. Deglaze the pan with the juice from the orange. Then add the stock.
  4. Submerge the beans in the liquid and add the chocolate. Cook on low heat for atleast an hour.
  5. Season to taste.
  6. Mix the masa with the water and salt in a small boll. The texture will become like Moonsand (weird toy that used to be big when I was younger.)
  7. Form little 1 and 1/2 inch balls. Then press them in the middle of the tortilla press, between the 2 parchements.
  8. Cook them in a pan with a little oil until browned and crisp.
  9. Boil the water vinegar and sugar in a small pot. Salt the onions. Then submerge the onions in the boiled liquid. Enjoy!

A Page from the Vegetarian History Books

Vegetarianism and Veganism have gathered quite the momentum in recent years. While some might consider them a new movement or eating trend, there is a rich history of vegetarians and vegans who have laid the tracks for today’s herbivores.

On a recent trip to San Diego, my family shared with me something I would never of expected. They visited the USS Midway carrier ship used by the U.S Navy ordered in 1943. Until 1955, it was the largest ship in the world. It is estimated that more than 200 000 Americans lived above those decks. The ship is now turned into a museum in San Diego.

So what does this have to do with food, my blog or vegetarianism? We will get to that. It was explained that since the brave soldiers risked their lives to fight in war, they would at least be provided with amazing meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The museum provided their cookbook for visitors to glance at. I was thoroughly impressed. The chefs aboard that mighty vessel cooked up amazing meals for these brave men and women.

What I found even more interesting is that the cookbook catered to vegetarians. On the ship that was mostly used from 1942 to the 70’s, they had a variety of recipes for the herbivores of the US navy.

What an awesome piece of history. I even provided one of their recipes from the cookbook.

Cooking with fire

What makes an open flame so appealing to the senses?

For a long time I have been mesmerized by the appeal of cooking on an open flame. The idea is so romanticized in food culture. I find it interesting to see a stepback in cooking. I am fascinated by the consensus that going back to humanity’s most primitive discovery makes for a better meal.

I totally agree with that opinion. There is something satisfying for all five senses to cook with fire. The smokey element added to your food alone is worth breaking out the old matchbox.

That is why I decide to build my own wood fired grill.  The grill became an instant feature piece in my parent’s yard, and one of my closest friends.  In all honesty, I am terrible at any type of construction, so this temporary brick masterpiece is my pride and joy. 

The building process started with old bricks that were lazily laying around in my parent’s new property. After carefully removing the cement layers, and cleaning the base of any debris, I gently place the bricks on top of each other in an orderly fashion. It was all my experience with Lincoln Logs that kicked in. Well you can see for yourself that this makeshift grill could not win in a beauty contest. But the thing works.

Lightly smoking some carrots.

Recipe

I have not written a recipe down in a long time, but here we go. This is a recipe that can only be successfully prepared with the use of fire/smoke.

Harissa and Morrocan spiced grilled Cauliflower and smoked carrots.

What you will need

1 head of cauliflower

1 bunch of carrots

1 handful of parsley

1 wood grill. (If you don’t have one, just use the BBQ)

1 tsp of harissa paste

1 tbsp tahini

1 lemon

2 Tbsp of El ras Hanout (Morrocan spice rub) Can be found in grocery stores, but if you want to make your own, press the link!

Salt, pepper, Olive oil

How you will do it

This recipe is pretty simple.

  1. Start the fire using wood, or bbq.
  2. Place the carrots on a low heat side of the grill while you prepare everything else. They will become smokey and not overcooked.
  3. Cut the cauliflower head into steaks and rub them with olive oil, harissa and the spice mix.
  4. Mix tahini, with lemon juice and zest, harissa, salt and pepper.
  5. On the hot side of the grill, (you will determine which is the hot side by the location of the coals), grill your cauliflower until golden and tender.
  6. In a big bowl, mix the carrots, cauliflower, the tahini sauce and the parlsey. You can also add pomegrenate seeds if you would like.

ENJOY!

How to keep food exciting as a vegetarian

I would be lying if I said that it’s easy to keep food exciting while you are trying to make a healthier choice for your body and the planet.

Eating with no restrictions for most of my life combined with a short attention span has resulted in a lack of interested towards my cooking lately. I was sick and tired of constantly eating plant based burgers every day. I was sick of opening and closing the fridge 5 times, thinking each time that something new would appear.

With summer comes inspiration. There is just something in the air other than pollen and blue skies. I cannot stress this enough, for people who live somewhere where the seasons do not exist, in Canada, summer is a breath of fresh air.

Zucchini noodles with fresh herbs, green peas, shallots. (Fun fact: I once had an idea for a fast food health chain called Impasta.)

I decided to shake my food up by going to summer markets, buying the most unique produce I could find, trying new restaurants. And I can confidently tell you, I feel invigorated.

My advice for anybody looking for a little excitement in their food is to step outside of your culinary comfort zone. Buy that weird looking veggie, order something you wouldn’t regularly order, explore recipes from other cultures and shop for vegetables in season from markets.

Here are some of the things I have been cooking and eating lately, maybe it’ll spark a little inspiration in you.

Veggie rice salad wraps. We picked up some ingredients from the market to make these bad boys. I love dipping them in peanut sauce.
Really rad radish sprouts we picked up at the Sudbury Downtown Market.
Colorful breakfast at Café bloom in Montreal.
Kombucha from Fous de l’ile in Montreal. Perfect summery drink.
Normally I hate the trendy avocado toasts, and kombucha etc, but this one from the Laughing Buddha in Sudbury is ridiculous. Avocado, crispy chickpeas, beet hummus, sunflower sprouts, spicy drizzle on top.
Finally, my own beet hummus, made with love.

Let’s cook like it’s summer

2019-04-30 18.27.42

What is happening in Canada? I gaze out my window this morning with a glimmer of hope.  The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the day has begun.  It is nearly the month of May, and from what I remember, year after year, May is the month of golf, apparitions of shorts, beer case sunglasses.

SO what do I spot when I walk out my door.  A snow bank.  Mocking me with a blank stare. I am upset.  I was just about to invite my friends to a cliff jumping and dockside beers.  But this unwanted couch surfer just keeps hanging on.  Let it go frosty, it’s summertime.

This why today, after a good day at my new job, I am not letting the weather bring me down. I am throwing my apron on, a warm sweater underneath, and I am kicking the grill on.

Here is my recipe for my grilled, lemony, veggie, lentil salad. This summery meal will leave you light on your feet and dreaming of warm days.  Don’t be afraid to pair it with your favorite cocktails and put on your favorite Hawaïn shirt.

What you’ll need

1 can of lentils

1 small sweet pepper

1 small zucchini

2 large tomatoes, or a handful of chopped cherry tomatoes

Olive oil

Salt, pepper

2 Tbsp of Zahtar spice mix

1 chili pepper, sliced

Half a red onion

Juice and zest lemon juice

A handful of feta (optional)

Chopped parsley and basil

How you’ll do it

  1. Open the can of lentils, drain and wash the lentils.
  2. Cover the zucchini’s with olive oil, salt, and pepper and grill them, until you notice nice char.
  3. Chop all ingredients, and mix together in a bowl.
  4. Zest lemon into the salad, top with herbs and feta.

*The Zahtar is what takes that salad to the next level.

2019-04-30 18.27.35

Let’s talk about the veggie bowl for a second

I usually hate food trends.  There’s nothing that boils my water more than lame avocado toast, displayed in all its glory.  One trend that I can’t help but love, are veggie bowls like this one.

The variety is endless.  Infinite combinations of root vegetables, nuts, pickled veggies, seaweed, avocado, etc. These can be piled on top of grains, rice, quinoa, barley.  It’s like a massive wardrobe of ingredients.  So when following a recipe, just know items can be mixed and matched.

Bowl basics

When composing your bowl, you just need to follow these basic rules, and it’ll be a successful meal. The number one rule for making your bowl is balancing the element of crunch, spicy, sweet, acidic and salty.  A crunch can be introduced to the bowl by adding crushed peanuts, pistachios, crushed tortilla chips, etc.

The sweet can be in the dressing.  For example, I like to make a tangy tahini and orange sauce top dress my bowl.

For an acidic punch, I love pickling root vegetables and onions. You can check out my pickling methods here: https://whatsyourdill.blog/2019/04/02/making-pickles-is-a-spiritual-experience/

In order to add some kick, I usually chop up a small chili and sprinkle it on top.  An easier option is to add a dash of hot sauce to some roasted Brussel sprouts or some stewed eggplants.

The next key is to choose a good base for the toppings. If you are looking for an earthy bowl, I recommend brown wild rice.  For a vessel to absorb big bold flavors, white Jasmin rice will do the trick.

The final key for an extravagant bowl of veggies is to add a little citrus and fresh herbs to make it look visually appealing and let the other flavors shine. I like to zest an orange, lime or lemon on the bowl just before serving.

Homemade veggie bacon, what?

tofu bacon

This morning I woke up extremely late for some reason.  I guess I am taking advantage of being off school after a long grueling battle with my textbooks.  I look in the face of procrastination and came out on top.  My dilemma on this April morning was my sudden craving for a BLT.  For those unfamiliar with the term, a BLT is a sandwich that combines Bacon Lettuce and Tomato, carefully tucked in, under 2 slices of bread.

I think as a vegetarian, we should attack those cravings head-on, embrace them and modify them to fit our dietary preferences.  As I charged into battle, I remembered a recipe my girlfriend cooked for me when I went to visit her in Ottawa.  It was tofu, transformed into slices of “bacon”.  The concept was so foreign, the taste was almost identical, the texture was different but still satisfying.  There is a single ingredient that makes the entire difference.  Find out more below.

So here we are, I made the recipe, it drastically altered my mood for the better, it made for an incredible sandwich, and here it is. Extremely easy, inexpensive, vegan, vegetarian and delicious. Check it out.

What you’ll need

  1. 1 brick of extra firm Tofu
  2. 4 drops of liquid smoke (This ingredient will revolutionize your vegetarian BBQ cooking, and this is what makes the bacon so good)
  3. 1 tbsp of brown sugar
  4. 1 tsp of dijon mustard
  5. 1 tbsp maple syrup
  6. 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  7. salt, pepper, chipotle flakes.
  8. 1 tbsp soy sauce

How you will do it

  1. In a mixing cup, mix all the ingredients for the sauce together until combined.
  2. Slice the tofu into thin slices, and season with salt, pepper, and chipotle flakes. Then, sear in a cast iron pan with a little bit of oil on medium heat, until golden brown on both sides, and almost crisp.
  3. Add the sauce to the pan, cook until the sauce is glazed to the tofu.
  4. Simple as that!! You can now assemble your BLT, put on veggie burgers, salads.

Tip: You can also cook in the oven, at 350 degrees F, for about 10 minutes.

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Vegetarian chicken and waffles

IMG_0920

Savoury waffle with pulled King oyster mushrooms, mole sauce , corn and guac

I remember waking up every morning, early enough to hop on the school bus.  I would be at my kitchen table, watching the show Arthur on our 20-inch box television.  And on most mornings, this routine would include 2 frozen Eggo waffles getting popped into the toaster oven for a perfect golden brown tan.

Regardless of the quality of the breakfast, waffles remain on top of the food chain when it comes to culinary comfort. I decided to kick things up a notch with this recipe.  This will break the stigma that waffles are only to be paired with butter and maple syrup, or fried chicken.

This recipe is for a lazy Sunday morning, you wake up at 10, you stay in your pajamas all day, and you have no obligations but the bonding covenant of a comforting meal.

Here is a short video of how to make the recipe.  Directions will be right below.

What you will need

For the “chicken and mole sauce”

2 large King oyster mushrooms

salt, pepper

1/4 cup dark chocolate

2 jalapeño peppers

1 large sweet red pepper

1 onion

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp paprika

1/2 a soft corn tortilla

1/2 cup vegetable stock

juice of 1/2 a lime

2 cloves garlic

For the vegan waffle

1 and 1/2 a cup of all purpose flour

pinch of salt

Tbsp of sugar

splash of olive oil

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp chipotle flakes (or red pepper flakes)

1 1/2 cups of cashew milk

Toppings

Cilantro

1 avocado

1/2 a cup corn

1/4 cup of sunflower seeds

How you will do it

  1. Shred the oyster mushrooms with a fork until it resembles rotisserie chicken.  Toss in a bowl with salt and pepper.
  2. In a cast iron skillet, cook on high heat, the peppers, onion, garlic, and the corn, until they gain nice color.
  3. In a food processor, add the seared vegetables (except the corn), the chocolate, the spices, the garlic, the stock, the lime juice, the tortilla, and a little sugar and blend until it becomes a smooth sauce.
  4. Add the mushrooms into the skillet. Cook until tender. Then add sauce to mushrooms.  (You can always keep some of the sauce for later, to put on EVERYTHING)
  5. In one bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  In another, the wet ingredients.  Then slowly incorporate the wet into the dry. In a waffle iron, add the batter and cook for 5 minutes until ready.  The batter will make enough for 4 waffles
  6. Top the waffles with the mushroom and sauce, the corn, avocado, the cilantro.
  7. It is spectacular!