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.

Breakfast Tacos x Me, a Love Story

Lately, my brother, with whom I share living quarters, has been drastically improving his breakfast game. The most important meal of the day is finally embracing that title in our kitchen, and he is my inspiration for giving mine a well deserved facelift.

For as long as I can remember, I have been shamed by friends, peers, and loved ones about my free-spirited approach to breakfast. Noodles have been a regular, so has leftover pizza, tacos, shakshuka. This sparks an endless debate of what qualifies has breakfast food.

The notion that the spot the sun is in the sky would determine wether a food should be eaten or not is absolutely bananalands. But, I have made a compromise. Combining the elements of breakfast beloved by many, and my preference to merge away from traditional canadian breakfasts. I cannot thing of anything more delicious than a corn tostada to be a vessel for refried beans and soft scrambled eggs.

The Major Key

The key to my breakfast is using masa to make corn tortillas. I use easy to make masa. It’s simple and really quick to make, and not to mention in incredibly flavourful. Simply mix the masa with equals parts water and salt. The dough is split up into 20 palm size balls. They are then press with a tortilla press, or rolled with a rolling pin between 2 sheets of parchment papers. They are then fried up in a cast iron pan with a splash of vegetable oil, until golden brown.

Toppings

This deserves the accoutrements of any Canadian breakfast. I like to go with a soft buttery scrambled eggs topped with chives, refried beans, pico de gallo, and avocado and your favourite hot sauce.

Ingredients

For the pico de gallo

  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp of fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 of a small onion
  • 1 chopped jalapeño
  • Juice and zest from 1 lime

For the scrambled eggs

  • 3 large chicken eggs
  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • salt
  • 2 tbsp of fresh chives

For the beans

  • 2 cups of dried white beans
  • 1 tbsp of brown sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 4 cups of vegetable stock
  • 1/4 a cup of butter
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 tsp dried cumin
  • 1 tsp dried coriander

For the tortillas

  • 2 cups of masa
  • 2 cups of water
  • salt

Steps

  1. In a large pot, add the dried white beans with the water and soak overnight. I recommend making a big pot of beans the day before, and there will be some for the entire week.
  2. The next morning, cook the beans in stock, sugar, salt and pepper, chipotle peppers, cumin, coriander and, butter.
  3. Cook at medium heat for 10 minutes and then bring to a simmer for 45 minutes.
  4. In a bowl, mix the masa with water and salt. Let sit for 15 minutes. Take the dough, and separate into 20 balls of dough. They should be about palm sized.
  5. Dice the tomatoes, cilantro, onion, and jalapeños into small pieces, and mix with the lime juice and zest. Set aside for topping the tostadas.
  6. Press or roll the tortillas and fry them lightly on both sides using vegetable oil. These take about 2 minutes on each side.
  7. In a sauce pan, add the butter and start the heat to medium. When the butter is slightly melted, crack your eggs in the pan and start mixing with a rubber spatula. Mix the eggs continuously, stopping the egg from sticking to the pan.
  8. When the eggs are about done, add the salt and chives.
  9. Top the tortillas with beans, eggs, pico de gallo and some hot sauce.
  10. ENJOY my friends.

Let’s cook like it’s summer

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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.

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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.

Vegetarian recipes for when it rains

What do I do when it rains? The cliche of comfort food and rain pairing together is authentic for a reason. I can remember coming home to smelling heavy meaty stews, deep cooked spaghetti sauces, pork shoulders roasting slowly for hours.  Those dishes defined rainy days and comfort for my family.  Now that I am dabbling in the vegetarian diet, I’m designing recipes to mimic that level of reassurance during a downpour.

We need to first define what is comfort food? The term was first used in 1966, in an article by the Palm Beach Post.  It was defined as a recollection of pleasant childhood memories through food. The food brings you back to a place of security.  I guess that’s why we need these kinds of meals during shitty weather. For this recipe, I want anyone who makes it, to think of it as a beautiful culinary memory, for their future selves to feel comfort.  If that makes any sense at all.

Here is an interesting article by The Atlantic, discussing studies done on the psychology of comfort food.

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/04/why-comfort-food-comforts/389613/

So here is the recipe.

What you’ll need

1 can of chickpeas

1/2 cup of pasata (strained puréed tomatoes)

1 Spanish onion

1/4 cup of chopped fennel

3 chilies

1 clove garlic

2 tbsp olive oil

salt, pepper

Juice of one lemon

2 tbsp plain greek yogurt

1 bunch of cilantro

3 bay leaves

Pinches of cumin, chili powder, garlic powder

Bunch of spinach

How you’ll do it

  1. In a pan, add the olive oil, the diced onion, the garlic clove, and the fennel. Cook until the onions are translucent.
  2. Next add the spices, the bay leaves, and the chilies. Cook for 1 minute, just to toast the spices. Then add the tomato sauce.
  3. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the chickpeas, the lemon juice and a bit of olive oil.
  4. While this is cooking, in a bowl, whisk garlic powder, yogurt, olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
  5. Add the spinach to the chickpeas and mix together.  Plate the stew in a plate topped with cilantro and yogurt lemon crema.
  6. Do not forget to take out the bay leaves.

Disclaimer: It’s got some kick and heat, so beware.

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

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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!

This is how you conquer the grill as a vegetarian

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Where I’m from, springtime is the boost of morale that every Canadian desperately needs after the everlasting dreary winter.  Spring means a few things, that weird smell born from the melting snow and the awakening of the earth, the unnecessary wearing of shorts and of course, barbecues.

As a vegetarian going through his first spring, I feared I would miss out on this fantastic tradition.  It’s really hard to get a satisfying taste of the charcoal, eating simply vegetables.  So I decided to design a recipe that captures the taste of the grill, the feel of springtime and a vegetable dish that stands up to any grilled meat dish.

What you will need

  • 2 large eggplants
  • 2 tablespoons of plant-based butter
  • 1 tsp of ginger
  • juice and zest from half a lime
  • 1 full lime
  • salt, pepper
  • fresh cilantro
  • crushed up sunflower seeds
  • Greek yogurt
  • hot sauce

How you will do it

  1. In a bowl, mix the cold butter with the grated ginger, lime zest, and juice.
  2. Cut the eggplants in halves.  Top with the compound butter.
  3. Add the lime to the grill, as well as the eggplant.
  4. After about 5 minutes on each side, they should be ready.
  5. Squeeze the grilled lime onto the eggplant.  Top with cilantro, and crushed seeds.
  6. Combine Greek yogurt with hot sauce, lime juice, and cilantro to make a dipping sauce.
  7. Enjoy!

Making pickles is a spiritual experience

I was once at a food festival in southern Ontario and I noticed this strange man in a tent, playing around with vegetables, jars, and bottles of vinegar. There was massive crowd standing in the pouring rain watching this bearded wizard of marination do what he does best.  So I had to witness excellence in motion.

I stood with the crowd as he explained the ins and outs of making the crunchiest, saltiest, best-tasting pickles.  Since that day, I have used these tricks for making HUGE amounts of snacks to decorate my fridge.  The jars are empty very very quickly.  I will share my own recipes for my crinkle cut golden pickle beets, and then I will share the wise bearded man’s tips and tricks. So here we go.

Golden beets crinkle cuts pickles

Ingredients

  1. 3 big golden beets
  2. Equal parts vinegar (I like apple cider vinegar) and equal parts water
  3. 1 tbsp salt
  4. 2 tbsp honey
  5. 1 tsp pickling spices (coriander seeds, fennel seeds, peppercorns, red pepper flakes (optional).
  6. 1 clove garlic

Wise bearded man’s tips and tricks

  1. Pickle ANY kind of vegetable that stays crisp. Example: Beets, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, turnips.
  2. When making the pickling liquid, add honey instead of sugar to the vinegar, water, spices, garlic clove.  Bring to a boil, just enough so the honey dissolves into the vinegar.
  3. Slice the vegetable with a crinkle cut mandolin.  The tip for the best tasting pickles is to salt them half an hour before you introduce them to the bath.  I don’t want to get into the science of osmosis, but water leaves the vegetable as its salinated.  When it meets the pickling liquid, it can absorb more of it.
  4. Add the crinkle cut beets to a mason jar, then add the liquid. Let that cool down before you put it in the fridge.  Once you do, you can keep it there for a while.
  5. You can eat these like crinkle cut chips, throw them on sandwiches, salads.