Friday, February 20, 2015

RED RICE AND VEGETABLE THAI CURRY STEW


This gluten-free one-pot meal is bursting with flavour and vegetables! It's a frequent work lunch for me, and it freezes really well if you want to do that so you can have a grab-and-go meal ready anytime. I used spring vegetables I had in the fridge, but you can use any seasonal produce - can't go wrong. Adjust spice levels to taste, and even top with sliced fresh chiles if you want!

Red Rice and Vegetable Thai Curry Stew
makes: 6 servings

- 3 cups cooked red rice (or black, brown or any other unpolished rice)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-3 green chiles, chopped
- 1 tbsp. grated ginger
- 4-5 cups chopped greens (chard, spinach, kale, collards, beet/radish/mustard greens, etc)
- 1 bulb fennel, diced
- 1 cup diced celery
- 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 2 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 capsicum, cut into chunks
- 1-2 carrots, diced
- 1 tbsp. cold pressed coconut oil (or ghee, safflower/sunflower/peanut oil - not olive)
- 2 tbsp. Thai red curry paste
- 1 tbsp. Thai palm sugar (or Demerara sugar)
- 5-6 cups vegetable stock (or water)
- 1 tbsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. crushed red chile
- a handful of mint and cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
- 2 limes, halved

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the red curry paste over medium-low heat. If it starts to stick, add a bit of stock and stir to mix. When it's fragrant add the onions, garlic, ginger, and chiles and sauté till the onions are soft.
  2. Add the vegetables except the greens and stir. Turn the heat up to medium and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally so the vegetables don't stick to the pan. Add the greens and mix. Cook for 2 minutes until the greens are just wilted. Mix in the cooked rice. 
  3. Add 1/2 of the stock and mix to combine. Cook everything until the potatoes are cooked through.
  4. Add the sugar, salt, crushed chile and mix. After the sugar dissolves, taste and adjust seasonings.
  5. Remove the stew from the heat and squeeze in the lime.
  6. Serve in bowls and garnish with the cilantro and mint. Pass around extra lime wedges.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

SMOOTHIES GALORE, SWEET AND SAVOURY!

My family and friends often ask me for smoothie recipes and everytime - despite having this blog which I started so I could easily share recipes with everyone - I end up typing the recipes a few times to send to each person. So I decided to do a bit of a smoothie compendium. In this post I'm including some of the smoothies I make very often, if not almost everyday.

PRODUCE
Select fresh seasonal produce for your smoothies when its at peak flavour. There are some things I make a point to buy organic - herbs, tomatoes, root vegetables, apples, peaches, all berries, leafy greens, and corn- to name a few. But if you can't get organic produce, it's ok. Use whatever you get at your local market, just make sure its fresh and not wrinkled, stale looking, or partly rotten. Turmeric I always use raw but you could use powdered as well.

SEASONINGS
Remember that seasonings go a *long* way when blended so start small and add more if you want. I sometimes add a small amount of salt to my savoury smoothies because I like the slightly savoury element salt brings to the smoothie. You can, however, easily leave out the salt without negatively affecting the taste. Interestingly, celery adds a hint of saltiness to smoothies so you can use it instead if you wish. To savoury smoothies (sometimes also called raw soups) I add a bit of garlic, pepper, or crushed chile for a slight kick.

STORING SMOOTHIES
Smoothies and juices are of course best within 8-12 hours of blending, but if you really need to, you can safely store them in the fridge for 2 days. Or freeze them for a few days. Before I travel somewhere, I often freeze a couple of smoothies so I have a healthy meal or breakfast ready when I'm back.

Smoothies will develop flavour over a few hours, which is especially great when you're trying to ease into intense tasting things like kale, collard greens, mustard greens, etc. I don't ever have time to make smoothies in the morning so I make them at night and by the next morning, after everything has had time to meld together, I have a refreshing energising and filling bottle of the best meal ever!

The photos below are just ideas, feel free to modify ingredients based on whatever's in season or in your fridge. I don't use dairy in my smoothies and I also don't mix melons with other fruits. Herbs and greens like spinach are ok with melons. More on food combining later... 





















Saturday, February 14, 2015

PESTO OF FAVA (BROAD) BEAN GREENS


I love Lidia Bastianich. She has an amazing story, cooks incredible food, doesn't get too fusion-y with her food, and her recipes are bonafide. And, I love watching her show on television if she's on when I'm around a TV. I much prefer reading to TV - which I haven't owned in decades - so I don't watch shows too often but I do love watching her, Jacques Pepin, Hubert Keller, and a couple of others. So Lidia had - as she often does - her mum on the show once. And she was cooking while her mum entertained with stories of Lidia's cooking escapades. Apparently, Lidia started cooking when she was 4 - 5 yrs. old, for her dolls! She'd make different dishes everyday for her dolls - SO ADORABLE!!! How can that visual not make anyone smile? It's so cute!

Anyway so I never plan meals... I buy things then make meals around whatever I've found at the market. I'd already bought plenty of greens so I didn't need yet another bunch of anything to stir-fry or make into soup or smoothies... but the fava greens were too pretty to pass up. Especially because they're very much a spring thing, available for a short time since the young leafy tops and flowers of the plant are the best tasting. So if you can find some in the farmer's market, do get them.

So I had the last bit of walnuts in the fridge, the fava greens that were not meant to be anything specific, a few Meyer lemons from a gracious coworker's tree, a couple of leftover garlic cloves I'd roasted for a soup, and some fresh spearmint. I decided to throw it all together in a blender and call it done. And I'm so glad I did! From here on, this clean and bright-on-the-palate pesto is my favourite way of enjoying the earthy buttery flavour of fava greens! Unlike basil pestos, this one doesn't dull in colour so no need for covering with a layer of oil. If you don't have fava greens, use spinach or a combination of spinach and arugula (rocket leaves). And use a regular lemon or any variety of lemons.

To quickly roast garlic, put a few cloves skin-on in a pan and roast on medium-high heat turning occasionally until the garlic is soft and blackened in spots. This won't take more than 5-7 minutes.

Pesto of Fava (Broad) Bean Greens
makes: 1 cup

- 4 cups washed fava greens (leaves, flowers, and tender stems only)
- 1/2 cup mint leaves, washed
- 2-3 cloves roasted garlic
- 1 Meyer lemon, juiced
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  1. Put everything in a blender and blend into a smooth pesto.
  2. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Store in the fridge for up to a week.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

RAW BLUEBERRY LEMON "CHEESECAKE"


This clean refreshing yet rich dessert is totally free of dairy, refined sugars, soy, grains, and eggs. And it's so easy to put together! Its gorgeous enough to serve at a party, or just to enjoy over a cozy dessert date. In short, it's a no-fail recipe! And, no one will be able to tell that it's totally dairy-free.

If you don't have blueberries, use raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, or whatever fruit you'd like. Make sure it's not a watery fruit like watermelon or your cream filling won't be as thick. Also use very ripe fruit so you can have a luscious, sweet tasting cream filling rather than a bland one.

The cashew cream is quite light tasting but in fact this dessert is quite rich thanks to all the nuts and dried fruits. So I wouldn't recommend eating it as a meal, although some of us might want to :-) 

Raw Blueberry Lemon "Cheesecake"
makes: 8 - 10 servings

Crust:
- 10 dried medjool dates (or any other variety of dates)
- 8 - 10 dried figs (~1/2 - 3/4 cups)
- 1/2 cup sprouted raw almonds (or unsprouted will do as well)
- 1/2 cup raw hazelnuts (or any other kinds of nut)

Cream Filling:
- 2-1/2 - 3 cups cashews (soaked overnight)
- 2 cups fresh blueberries
- 1/2 cup raw honey
- 1/4 cup raw unrefined coconut oil
- 2 lemons, juiced
- 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  1. Line an 8 in. spring-form tin or any similarly sized container with wax paper (or plastic wrap), leaving a little extra over the edge. Make room in the freezer for the lined tin. Drain the cashews really well.
  2. Put the ingredients for the crust into a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles crumbs. Transfer to the lined tin and press firmly into an even layer. Put it into the freezer while you make the filling.
  3. Except the blueberries, add the ingredients for the filling into the food processor (you can use a blender for this but why use two gadgets when you can clean just one?!) and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust the sweetness, or add more lemon if you want it more lemony.
  4. Remove the tin with the crust from the freezer and spread half of this filling over the crust to make a thick layer. If you're making this on a warm day, put the tin back into the freezer while you make the next layer. If it's cool enough, no need to freeze the tin while you make the blueberry cream layer.
  5. For the blueberry cream layer: add the fresh blueberries to the remaining filling in the food processor and blend into a smooth, blueberry-flecked cream. Take the tin out of the freezer and spread the blueberry cream over the first layer. Freeze the whole thing for a few hours, or overnight until firm.
  6. Thaw for 15 or 20 minutes, slice, serve, enjoy! Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"EVERYDAY" SALSA: SALSA CASERA


Salsa casera (or ranchera) mean house salsa (or ranch salsa) in Spanish. This is the beloved day-to-day homestyle salsa that is so easy to make and tastes great with everything. There are as many varieties of salsa casera as there are Mexican households... everyone makes it ever so slightly differently, depending on personal taste, tradition, chiles available, etc. It's sometimes made with a mix of tomatillos and tomatoes, or with roasted fresh chiles serrano/jalapeño/de arbol/cayenne instead of dried. Sometimes with chiles pequin added to take the heat up a notch, sometimes without cilantro, sometimes with Mexican oregano. However you make it, you can't go wrong with this salsa. It's quite basic, fresh, and herb-y.


Salsa Casera
makes: ~1-1/2 cups

- 1 lb. ripe tomatoes
- 4 cloves garlic
- 5 - 8 chiles de arbol (or cayenne, commonly used in India)
- 1/2 white onion, unpeeled
- 1 large handful cilantro, leaves and tender stems
- 2 tbsp. distilled vinegar
- 1 tbsp. salt
  1. Put the onion cut side down and the unpeeled garlic in a pan. Dry-roast on medium until the garlic is softened somewhat, charred in places, and the cut side of the onion is mostly charred. Peel the garlic and onion and place in a food processor jar.
  2. Boil water in a pan large enough to hold the tomatoes. Cut a cross on the top (stem side) of the tomatoes and put into the water. Bring to a boil and turn off the heat. Allow to cool and peel the tomatoes. Transfer to the food processor.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse into a salsa - don't blend into a soup! Adjust salt and lime to taste.
  4. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to a week.

Monday, January 19, 2015

SUPER HOT PEANUT SALSA: SALSA MACHA


Macho/macha in Spanish means brave. And this is truly a salsa for the brave... it's fiery but so addictive that you'll want to ignore your blazing tastebuds as you reach for *justonelastbite*. This feisty salsa is easy to make and conveniently, it goes with everything! I keep it around in the fridge because who knows when the urge will strike to dip a few tortilla chips into it to go with a cold beer?! Or to have it over eggs, or simply with a couple of hot tortillas. Or with tamales as in the photo below.

The guajillo chile is a smoky fruity chile that isn't that high on the heat but is sultry and has a gorgeous dark red, almost brown colour. If you don't have guajillos, it's ok... you'll have a brighter coloured salsa, still just as delicious. Enjoy!


Super Hot Peanut Salsa: Salsa Macha
makes: 1 cup

- 1 cup roasted peanuts (skinned or unskinned, salted or unsalted)
- 10 - 12 chiles de arbol, (or cayenne, commonly used in India)
- 2 chiles guajillo (optional)
- 2 tbsp. white or black sesame seeds
- 3 - 4 cloves garlic
- 1 lime/lemon, juiced
- 2 tsp. salt (1 tsp. if using salted peanuts)
- 1/4 cup peanut oil (or olive oil)
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup water, to adjust consistency
  1. Dry-roast the guajillos (if using) in a pan until fragrant and transfer into a bowl of hot tap water to soften for about 15 - 20 minutes while you do other things.
  2. Dry-roast the sesame seeds in a pan. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Dry-roast the chiles de arbol (or cayenne) until fragrant - be careful not to burn or they'll taste bitter - then transfer into a bowl.
  4. Dry-roast the garlic until the it's blackened in spots and softened a bit, about 7 - 10 min.
  5. Drain, stem, and de-seed the guajillos - discard the soaking water. Put all the ingredients except water in a blender or food processor and blend well. Add water, 1/4 cup at a time to adjust consistency (sometimes I leave it thick to use as a spread, and other times I add water to make it more of a dip).
  6. Adjust salt and lime to taste and serve immediately or store in the fridge for up to a week.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

HABANERO-SWEET POTATO HOT SAUCE



This spicy, sweet, tangy hot sauce is so addictive you'll find yourself having it with everything! And the colour is so pretty too.

I first had this hot sauce at the incredible Cochon in New Orleans a few weeks ago. And since then I was a bit obsessed. It was so utterly delicious with enough spice, sweetness, and tang to want it over and over, that I had my muffaletta practically doused in it. As a parting gesture, I photographed the ingredients on the label (they sell bottles at the restaurant and also have the same bottles at each table).

Well I came home and couldn't get it out of my mind, so I looked at the photo with the ingredients and created a version of it. I must say this is pretty darn close to the Cochon version, with a bit more spice and a slightly thicker texture so that I can use it as a dip and a spread. And now I always have some in the fridge!

I've made it with sweet potatoes of all colours - white, yellow, orange, and they're all terrific! So use any type of sweet potato that is available to you. And if you don't have apple cider vinegar, use distilled and adjust the sugar to balance the taste.


Habanero-Sweet Potato Hot Sauce
makes: 16 oz./2 cups

- 2 medium sweet potatoes, washed and unpeeled
- 4 habanero peppers, cut into large pieces (remove the seeds from two if you want to tone the spice down a bit)
- 3 cloves garlic, cut into large pieces
- 1/2 white or yellow onion, cut into large pieces
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup distilled vinegar
- 1-1/2 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. salt (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Place the sweet potatoes on a baking tray and bake for 40 - 50 min. until a knife slides easily into the sweet potatoes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  3. In a small pan, bring the distilled vinegar to a simmer. Add the garlic, onion, and habanero and simmer until the onion is mostly softened, 5 - 7 min. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  4. Put the peeled sweet potatoes, vinegar mixture, apple cider vinegar, sugar, and salt (if using) in a blender jar and blend until smooth. You may need to thin with apple cider vinegar, 1 tbsp. at a time, to help blend well.
  5. Taste and adjust sugar if needed. Transfer to a jar and store in the fridge for a few weeks.
  6. Enjoy with eggs, tamales, sandwiches, burgers, empanadas, steak, chicken, pizza... whatever you please!