Posts Tagged ‘bulgur’

You Don’t Win Friends With Salad

Peppers And Salad And Bread, Oh My!

We’ve recently entered my favourite segment of summer; abundance.

You can’t swing a cat at the farmer’s markets around town without hitting a veritable cornucopia of jewel-toned fruits and veggies just ripe for the eating.  The dazzling arrays of produce are mildly hypnotic, and I often end up purchasing more than I would normally eat just because it looks so yummy.  Of course, there’s really no downside to increasing your fruit and veggie ingestion, just let your senses guide you toward the items you find pleasing to the palate.

To that end, I’ve been running a bit of an experiment in our household this week, using the Everyman and I as guinea pigs.  Not only has our f&v consumption increased due to seasonal factors and availability, but I’ve also been decreasing our meat intake and replacing it with vegetarian protein sources for lunch, therefore only consuming modest amounts of meat for dinner.  In a roundabout way it’s sort of an offshoot of Mark Bittman’s VB6 (vegan before 6) concept, except that I am not ruling out the occasional bit of milk, cream or cheese.  Otherwise it’s somewhat more challenging to provide ample protein to the Everyman who is allergic to nuts, averse to eggs and until recently, detested tofu.

As I mentioned earlier this week I finally mastered a decent tofu dish, and our lunch Tuesday was broiled tempeh in a cherry jalapeno barbecue sauce.  Yesterday’s midday meal was a textured vegetable protein (soy flake), bulgur and ricotta stuffed pepper, and of the three, only one was a dud (the tempeh).  I’ve been supplementing these meatless meals with all of the bounty my local markets have to offer, including gorgeous yellow watermelon wedges, handfuls of plump multicoloured heirloom cherry tomatoes, the second coming of strawberries, wild blueberries, grilled corn, beets, nutty sunflower sprouts and freshly shelled peas.  We certainly haven’t been starved for options in the Foodie and the Everyman kitchen this week.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I could give up meat forever (far from it), but the exercise has allowed me to get more comfortable with omnivorousness and the flexitarian mentality.  I can cook well, but there is a marked difference between making a veggie side dish tasty and making a vegetarian meal satisfying enough that you don’t miss the meat.  Except for the tempeh fiasco, the Everyman’s not complaining either, so I must be doing something right.  The main upside for me is that this more plant-centric diet has left me feeling lighter, less sluggish and bloated during the blistering heat and humidity wave we’ve been enduring.

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The Foodie 13 – Pantry Essentials

Human beings are creatures of habit.

Ever noticed you’ve eaten the same few foods for breakfast or lunch every day for 3 weeks straight, or regularly cooked with the same flavor profiles week in, week out?

If you ask anyone who loves to cook, they’ll probably tell you they have a few favorites or secret weapons in their arsenal used to spice up everyday meals.  In this installment of The Foodie 13, we’ll take a look at the few staple ingredients I always need to keep on hand.

1 – Chili Salt - I first started grinding my own chili salt last fall, after my Chinese 5 Color Pepper plant produced so many little peppers that I didn’t know what to do with them all.  A small bite on the deck early one morning convinced me they were much too piquant to eat on their own, and by that time I’d already canned my pickled jalapenos for the year.  Not wanting to waste any of my harvest bounty, I buried the chilis in a jar full of sea salt.  Once the chilis were completely dehydrated, I dug them out, removed the stems and then pulsed them with salt in the food processor.  A tiny pinch is all you need to make any dish sing; from simply grilled grass-fed burgers, to sticky roasted pork belly, to sumptuous salted caramel, everything it touches tastes that much better.  The bit of kick it brings to the table isn’t half bad either.

2 – Tomato Powder - Several years ago while walking home from work one day, I discovered The Spice Trader, at the time a newly opened flavor emporium.  I wandered in curious and walked out with $250 worth of oils, vinegars and spices – there really are some things I have no restraint over.  While there were many more exotic spices purchased that day that I still love and use all the time, tomato powder is the one I most often come back to.  A pinch of it often turns up to season my grilled grass-fed burgers, and a few dashes works wonders in a marinade or dry rub.  It can be stirred into sauces for a quick and concentrated hit of flavor, or dusted onto bread dough before it goes into the oven.  While the texture and color may remind some of the crusty clumps that can be found at the bottom of a bag of ketchup chips, I can assure you that tomato powder is to it what olive oil is to I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter; a relative only in that they share a similar name (in the second case, that would be fat, in case you’re wondering).

3 – Coffee Olive Oil - Another one of my prized finds from that first outing to The Spice Trader was a rather expensive bottle of coffee olive oil.  It may sound strange, and it’s definitely a little extravagant, but the 500 mL bottle will last you forever (if it’s properly stored) and has a multitude of uses.  Start off slowly by using it instead of regular olive oil in an oil and balsamic bread dipper.  The roasted, nutty undertones are quite unlike anything else; except perhaps coffee (which I don’t drink, so I wouldn’t know).  It tastes divine drizzled on fresh tomatoes off the vine, sprinkled with a pinch of salt and a few basil leaves, and adds that bit of je ne sais quoi to a loaf of focaccia just before it hits the oven.  Used to dress a simple sauteed mushroom sauce for pasta, there’s almost nothing better.  The first time the Everyman tried it he said he didn’t like it all that much, but since then I’ve used it in a variety of foods that he almost always loves (and usually doesn’t even discern that this is what’s in there).

4 – Sherry Vinegar - It’s only recently that I’ve started to enjoy sherry vinegar, but it’s one of those things I can’t believe I missed out on for so long.  I first purchased some at the beginning of the year to make one of the many homemade chorizo recipes I was testing.  The chorizo recipe may not have wowed me (it was the one that turned out watery and unappetizingly grey) but the sherry vinegar came out a winner.  Its flavor marries well in pickling liquids, vinaigrettes, and especially the fresh shredded vegetable salad I make that the Everyman loves so much (beets, carrots and sunchokes or celeriac).  Now that I’ve found it, I can’t live without it, and I’m coming up with more uses for it every day.

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