Posts Tagged ‘Meatless Monday’

Little Pockets Of Nom

After

After whipping up all that homemade pumpkin mash for the sweet buns earlier this week, I started looking for ways to use up the litre of excess puree that were a little more out of the ordinary.

Pondering what might be the optimal pumpkin delivery system, I settled on a filling for handmade ravioli that would combine it with creme fraiche, roasted garlic and fresh thyme; all things that I had kicking around in my fridge that also happened to sound vaguely complimentary.  Deciding on a course of action, I prepared the filling and left it to chill in the fridge for a few hours to firm up a bit.

Once I’d whipped the filling into a lather, I dug my hand crank out of a drawer and set to work rolling out gossamer sheets of dough.  Being that I don’t make stuffed pastas too often, my technique is a little less than stellar, yielding ravioli of varying shapes and sizes, but personally I think that makes them look all the more authentically handmade.

Two imperative things to note when making your own ravioli;

1) Resist the urge to over-stuff your ravioli, because it will come back to bite you later

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Mana’ From Rana

Manakeesh

Though I’d heard of the middle eastern spice mix za’atar many times before, it wasn’t until earlier this year that I truly started to see its potential.

Za’atar is a blend of spices generally comprised of sumac, toasted sesame seeds, thyme, cumin and salt, though recipes differ depending on where in the middle east they come from. Back when I was reviewing Good Food For All for Taste T.O. one of the dishes I sampled was a za’atar-spiked chicken burger, which (incidentally was fantastic) left me with a cupful of the blend to continue using afterwards.

But as much as I enjoyed using za’atar in western preparations, it wasn’t until a Lebanese friend educated me about her culture and food that I learned some of the ways that they would use it traditionally.  One afternoon when we ordered food from a Lebanese restaurant, I fell head over heels in love with a flatbread-like object called manakeesh.  Slathered with labneh and sprinkled with za’atar, it was a doughy delight unlike any I’d ever tasted before, sort of like a cross between a pizza and a toasted bagel slathered with cream cheese.  Ever since that moment I have craved these za’atar and labneh manakeesh on nearly a weekly basis, but the restaurant is a fair distance from my house.

But on Meatless Monday this week I decided I wanted to make something to accompany our asparagus, fig and parmagiano salad, and I happened to have a ball of my frozen pizza dough on hand, so I thawed it out and stretched it into a large round.  It didn’t take long to connect the dots and add the strained yogurt that I normally eat for breakfast and a liberal amount of za’atar to the unbaked pie.  A quick rest in the oven was all it took for it to get puffy and golden brown.  It wasn’t a purist’s manakeesh by any stretch of the imagination, but man, it was still freakin’ gold.

I think Rana would be proud.

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A Collaborative Effort

Veggie Risotto

Though it didn’t start out that way, this week’s Meatless Monday dinner ended up being an incongruous amalgamation of several ideas and recipes.

Firstly, I wanted something relatively quick that wouldn’t heat up the kitchen too much.  That immediately put my original plan of revisiting last week’s awesome potato salad out of the running because the spuds needed to be oven roasted.

Next, I considered peas because I’d spent all that time shucking 2 quarts of them on Sunday, so I might as well use them before they went bad.

From there my mind wandered to risotto, and initially settled on a light spring pea and parmagiano version.

But before long I started to recall the delightfully nutty braised fennel I’d made courtesy of a Serious Eats recipe (initially sampled for a pared down version of the pizza minus anisette cream, which by the way makes one outstanding pie!).

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The Accidental Salad

Warm Salad

For Meatless Monday this week, the Everyman was out of town on business, but flying home late that night.

I promised him I would set a plate aside for him, so the obvious question became what could I make that would keep relatively well for an indeterminate period of time?

After pondering for a little bit, I recalled 2 things.  One was the warm potato salad that we both loved at last year’s Outstanding In The Field dinner and the other was a potato and bean salad that I tested while reviewing Earth To Table.  I couldn’t remember much about either, except that a) they were warm, b) they both contained potatoes and c) they came with light, yet creamy dressings.

Given that I was in no mood to excavate my way through the stacks of cookbooks in my house to find Earth To Table (you know you have too many books, when…) I decided to improvise.

Both dishes used fingerlings but I didn’t have any, so instead I cubed a few yukon golds and quartered some shallots and tossed them in some coffee olive oil, then roasted in the oven for an hour.  When they were getting close to being done I melted a little high milkfat artisan butter in a pan until it foamed, then quickly sauteed half a pound of chopped asparagus until it turned emerald, then left it to get slightly blistered and browned.  Removing the pan from the heat, I sprinkled close to half a cup of freshly shelled peas in and let the residual heat of the pan turn them bright green, too.  Next I combined all the veggies in a bowl and tossed with a simple white wine dijon vinaigrette made puckery tart by the addition of a splash of barley vinegar.

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Score One For The Veggieheads

L.A.B

The general success of Meatless Mondays around here has inspired more than a few changes in our day to day life recently.

For starters, the Everyman (entirely of his own accord) suggested to me last week that he would be fine with going meatless twice a week (who knew it could be so easy?)  I suppose that is a testament to the justice I’m trying to do to vegetarian fare and fresh produce in general for him to say so, but I was surprised nonetheless.  I’ve since decided that we will do a second night each week, but this one is not going to be a fixed evening and will just float in whenever it feels like it fits.

Another such change was our willingness to check out L.A.B (aka Live and Breathe) on Sunday, which is Toronto’s newest temple of molecular hijinx fused with a heavily vegetarian flair.  Of the 2 chefs at L.A.B, Howard Dubrovsky is reportedly a vegetarian, (as was our server for the evening) and you could tell they were both eager to share their enthusiasm with the dinner crowd.  I’d first heard about L.A.B several months ago via a preview party I’d read about and to be honest, at the time I wasn’t overly excited about it (other than being happy for one more non-Italian option in Little Italy).

Having read the reviews in The Star and The Globe though, I was intrigued enough to want to give it a whirl.  I’d intended to check it out on Victoria Day weekend, but as luck would have it, they were closed.  The Everyman suggested a visit this past weekend (I suspect partly so he could get out of an impending trip to Ikea) but I was inwardly concerned that he wouldn’t enjoy the brazenly molecular flair.  As it turns out, I needn’t have worried.

When we arrived at L.A.B the eye-poppingly graffitied space was sparsely populated (normal for a Sunday, I expect) with diners situated around the perimeter of the 28 seat room, and chef was working on a slightly elevated pedestal behind the bar, though truly it looked like a stage.  Once we settled ourselves in, we were offered a cocktail list from which I chose a faux-jito of muddled mint, blackberries, pomegranate and soda, and the Everyman selected a Kentucky cooler (I believe that’s what it was called anyway) which blended bourbon, red wine, apple and spices into a heady, deeply hued sipper.  On the merit of the drinks alone I was convinced that all signs pointed to deliciousness.

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Just Think Of The Glass As Half Full

Veggie Heads

I’m not going to lie.

When I first decided to try this whole eating more vegetarian meals thing, I was more than a little concerned about whether I would actually be able to pull it off.

As a life long meat eater, I’ve had a tendency to look at the vegetarian option as the deprivational meal, rather than something that might be delicious in its own right.  Of course, that kind of thinking is deleterious to the cause and doesn’t do anyone any good because you’re defeated before you even begin.

Nearly 2 months in, I’ve changed my tune substantially.  Rather than trying to come up with meals that I wouldn’t mind eating if I omitted the meat, I’ve instead turned to ones that I already know I’ll enjoy that (hey, wait a sec) also happen to be meat free.  We’ve done creamy polenta, Trinidadian doubles, homemade pastas, veggie burgers, pizzas and more.  And the more I do it, the more Meatless Monday ideas pop into my head.  For instance, risotto is meatless as long as you cook it in a vegetarian broth.  Homemade noodles and cheese laced with sriracha can be, too.  Perogies are generally meat-free.  A grilled veg and cheese panini can do the job as well.  And the list goes on and on.

So, on this Monday, or the next Monday or any Monday really, why don’t you give the meatless lifestyle a try?  You’re not scared, are you?

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We Is Like Peas And Carrots

Mine

For Meatless Monday, I thought it would be fun to try meatless pizzas for a dinner that would be vegetarian without feeling spartan or limiting.

When the Everyman and I used to live at our old house, we did pizza nights all the time because we had a grocery store in the bottom of our building with hot and cold running toppings at our fingertips.  We still occasionally make homemade pizza, but prepping dough tends to require advance planning, so it’s generally not as often as either of us would like to.  Yet every time we do, I kick myself for not thinking to do it more often because aside from dough time it’s a quick, easy dinner that’s adaptable to any variety of tastes and styles.

Yesterday I was on the ball (both literally and figuratively) and mixed up a batch of dough before leaving for work, so by the time we got home all that was required was to warm the dough to room temperature, preheat the pizza stones and determine what would make for a tasty veggie combo.  After discussing just that on the drive home, it sounded like a more prudent idea would be to make 2 individual pizzas suited to our unique tastes rather than trying to compromise on 1 larger veggie pizza.  While the Everyman ran out for some last minute extra cheese, I assembled a toppings bar for us to build our ideal pizzas.

My pizza (above) is like me; complex, off-beat and unique.  It begins with a blend of pesto and blue cheese forming a tangy green base, then it’s scattered with asparagus tips, smushed figs and bocconcini.  A shower of mozzarella shreds, cracked pepper and oregano finish it off.  It wasn’t until after the pizza was done that I realized I’d accidentally left off the shiitake mushrooms I re-hydrated.  No matter.  This pizza was a thin crust marvel, and though non-traditional, it struck just the right balance between savoury and sweet for me.

His

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Do Me A Fava, Will Ya?

The Raw Shit

When I was at the market this past weekend, 2 of the other luxuries of spring that I came across were fresh fava beans and fiddleheads.

To the best of my knowledge I’ve never eaten a fresh fava bean before; I’m actually trying to grow purple favas on the roof, but in the meantime these seemed like an acceptable substitute to test drive.  And we all know how much I love fiddleheads, so of course I had to buy some of those too.  Is there anything that signifies spring more than these dainty and curly ferns?

But soon after I paid for the goods, the question became what to do with such delicate beauties?

The asparagus bounty was easy enough to tackle, and in a move I’m not necessarily proud of (yet wouldn’t do any differently if I had to do it over) the Everyman and I consumed 4 pounds of the stuff in less than 72 hours.  In case you’re wondering, that’s a heck of a lot of asparagus salad.  It was only a pound that went into this dish, courtesy of our most recent Meatless Monday.

Over a gentle simmer I combined milk, veggie stock and water in a pot.  Then I added a cup and a half of polenta and began the furious stir.  As it approached a bubblingly critical mass, I briefly stopped churning and grated a few ounces of mixed cheeses (pecorino pepato, 1608, manchego and mozzarella) into a pile that was then incorporated into the polenta.  Allowing it to cool and firm up slightly, I sautéed a pound of asparagus with some fiddleheads, fava beans and a few sliced mini red peppers for colour.

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Turning Over A Greener Leaf

Sweetish Slaw

Here at Foodie And The Everyman, we’re always trying to find new ways to incorporate more healthy and environmentally responsible meals into our life.

Being virtuous ain’t easy though, and after a tough day at the office, mostly I just want to inhale a cupcake or a juicy steak.  Unfortunately, one can’t live on cake or steak alone, so every now and then I need to boost my vegetable intake to compensate for one too many edible indiscretions.

As part of that, I’ve recently adopted the idea of participating in Meatless Mondays at home.

Normally, my concept of meat-free eating is firmly rooted in either a tofu preparation, one of my hand-rolled vegetable pastas or occasionally a hearty soup.  And since the Everyman is allergic to nuts and won’t eat eggs or seafood, I am somewhat limited in the options available to me, so it seemed important to expand the vegetarian repertoire.  That it would be good for our health and also the planet are somewhat of an added bonus.

However, for the inaugural Meatless Monday, I had no tofu in the house, and I’d already packed pasta leftovers for our lunches, which meant that another pasta meal was out of the question.  Thus our first Meatless Monday supper would require a slightly more elegant solution.  After brainstorming for a little bit, I decided to concoct a veggie burger with homemade buns, mashed white beans, flax seed and piri piri sauce for a little bit of kick.  Once mixed together and grilled, the patties proved tender and delicious, if a little sloppy to eat.  Next time I’ll most definitely have to experiment with other ingredients to make the patties firmer.

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