Holding still another bunch of fresh local asparagus right after making an asparagus and mint frittata the other day, I realized that I was quite taken with the combination of fresh asparagus and mint and decided to Google the pair for another idea. And what should show up on the first page but Jamie Oliver's asparagus, mint and lemon risotto … as in asparagus and mint and lemon and risotto! It was but a matter of moments to decide to copy it down, and of only a few hours to tailor the recipe to my needs and begin cooking.
As the temperature rises in the northern hemisphere, salads increasingly replace soups on the table. In a way this is a shame, especially as cooler spring days are heightened by a light bowl of spicy soup and also because there are some cool soups to temper the heat. On the other hand, it's all good.
I suspect my readers residing in the southern hemisphere will appreciate this simple yellow split pea soup inspired from Yamuna's Table by Yamuna Devi, an hitherto under-appreciated cookbook that I will have more to say about soon. Convert that I am to Ms. Devi's traditional documentation of Indian cookery, I've just recently begun to explore this chronicle of her more modern culinary experiments.
These biscuits could just as easily be called crackers I suppose, depending on your understanding of the terminology. I am immediately reminded of Johanna's informative post regarding the scone vs. biscuit controversy. Do refer to the picture for guidance here. In any case, the original recipe for these crisp little crackers with a wholesome earthy whole wheat and oat flavor and mealy texture comes from Fresh Food Fast by Peter Berley. He suggests you serve these them with grapes (do choose red) and some sharp spreadable cheese such as Brie or blue. Let the cheese warm to room temperature for easy spreading and don't forget a glass of full-bodied red wine to go along with the whole delightful experience.
The key to an excellent potato and vinaigrette salad, as I've learned, is to toss the dressing with the potatoes just after cooking to let the flavors penetrate while they're still warm. The result is a bite of potato that you can savor throughout, without a plain and dull starchy interior.
There is nothing like the early asparagus season to herald the coming of outdoor weather and to grace the plates of cooks in southwestern Ontario with this most perfect and luxurious of vegetables. Once the sweet and tender local products arrive on the market, I'm never without a bunch or two.
Like all of the classic flavors, asparagus is best paired in the simplest fashion with other of the great classic foods like eggs, cheese, fresh herbs, butter, lemon, pepper or salt … and the fewer the better. In fact, strip away everything but a bit of butter or lemon and a dash of sea salt and you've got the most rewarding of dishes. I'd go so far as to say that asparagus, especially when fresh and local, gives perhaps its finest performance when served almost completely au naturel and with just a tiny little sprinkle of sea salt.
Still, I can see absolutely nothing wrong with featuring asparagus with eggs and Parmesan cheese for breakfast! I turned to my old stand-by, the pan-fried then oven-broiled frittata. Taking a cue from a recipe in Marlena de Blasi's fascinating Taste of Southern Italy I added some dry white wine and plenty of fresh mint to the egg batter this time, but substituted my own asparagus preparation and frittata cooking methods. Despite the amount of herb, the mint added just a delicate but refreshing bouquet that perfectly complemented the asparagus without overwhelming it. If you like asparagus, eggs and Parmesan cheese — and who doesn't? — I think you'll be delighted with this recipe.
Mango rice dishes in countless variations are everywhere to be found on the tables of South Indian households. This version is my favourite (so far), stirred together with plenty of yogurt and served chilled to go with any hot spicy meal or as a light outdoor lunch with fresh vegetables. Choose mangoes that are just ripe and not too soft.
Like pasta for most people, tempeh is becoming for me one of those ready-to-cook ingredients that I like to keep on hand just for those occasions when I have nothing particular planned and need to throw together a fast and easy meal. But while it shares with pasta a versatility that can pair it with all kinds of sauces and seasonings, the traditional Indonesian fermented soybean product has the advantage of being rich in proteins.
These crispy but chewy nutty little tempeh wafers in a tangy tomato glaze — an Indonesian recipe that comes from my valued copy of Celia Brooks-Brown's World Vegetarian Classics — take hardly any more time and effort than making a pot of macaroni and cheese, and are irresistibly delicious. Serve with some carbohydrates in the form of rice and some vegetables and you have a simple, tasty and complete meal.
These cheese straw wafers are incredibly easy to make, and with a delightfully soft crumbly buttery and cheesy interior and a beautiful golden crust, you had probably double up on the recipe — or make several batches!
May's edition of No Croutons Required is now available for viewing. It's a tough choice, I know, but please check out the entries and vote for your favorite cheese salad. The winner will be announced at the end of the month, along with the theme for June. I will be hosting this time around.
Lord Krishna's Cuisine by Yamuna Devi was my earliest introduction to Indian cooking. I received it as a gift shortly after becoming a vegetarian and credit it with improving my eating habits and educating me about the treasures of the Indian cooking tradition. For the first few years, I mostly stuck to the rice and dal chapters, but all that has changed since I have become more adventurous in the kitchen. Honestly, it's like a book you never want to end. Thankfully, it contains over 500 authentic recipes somewhat adapted for modern day cooks. The possibilities are endless indeed.
A few months ago, I was flipping through the "Light Meals and Savories" chapter and immediately inserted a post-it-note next to her recipe for "Mixed Vegetable Cutlets". I finally had an opportunity to try these recently. These spiced cutlets made with a tantalizing array of vegetables in addition to chickpeas and paneer cheese are moist, hearty and nourishing as well as just plain delicious. Ms. Devi instructs the cook to shallow fry the cutlets, but I was a bit nervous that the mixture would fall apart. I was also tired of being in the kitchen on that particular afternoon. The result was an improvised version including bread crumbs that I baked instead. Overall, a great success.
In only four short months of hosting our "No Croutons Required" recipe roundup, Holler and I seemed to have already established a tradition of submitting our own recipes to each other at the last possible moment when it's our co-founder's turn to host. Maybe it's the pressure of trying to come up with something extra special to please each other, or maybe it's … well, maybe it's just that the month just flies by so fast. Well, whatever, apparently it's my turn to be a bad blogger, but I think I've just managed to slide under the deadline for Holler's "Cheese Salad" challenge.
And what a challenge it was! It's not uncommon for me to dress a salad with a little Parmesan or Feta cheese, but I've never made a salad with cheese as the main feature or even in a prominent supporting role, so I had to give this one some thought (see Excuse #1). As it turns out, I have been thinking a lot lately about Halloumi, a traditional salty Cypriot cheese made from sheep's, goat's and frequently cow's milk that Peter M from Kalofagas has been raving about lately. Known for its ability to hold its shape and firm texture when cooked and for the "squeaky" sound it makes when you chew it, I've been wanting to try it for a while now and it sounded like a fun cheese to create a "Cheese Salad" challenge around.
Once the decision to make Halloumi the centrepiece of my salad had been made, it was only natural to make "saganaki", an old Greek appetizer of fried or broiled cheese for which Halloumi is a perfect choice, as Peter M and others I've come across have suggested. Nothing fancy here, as the idea was to surround the saganaki with a tidy, basic salad featuring simple, complementary Greek flavors like herbs, tomatoes, peppers and Kalamata olives (and just one jalapeño to provide a little kick — I just can't resist).
It turned out that the real challenge was to find real Halloumi cheese. The Greek bakery I always go to in town for the most perfect sheep's milk Feta cheese, not to mention the plumpest and juiciest Kalamata olives, had only just stopped selling halloumi right before I got there to do my shopping because, as they said, nobody ever bought it. What sort of Greeks do we have here in London! I was crestfallen, since there was no way I was going to buy the made-in-Canada supermarket knock-off that I was amazed to find under the suggestive name "halloum" without the "i" — it's made strictly from industrial cow's milk, and not packed in brine either, as the genuine article is supposed to be. Yes, I could have made the saganaki with Kefalograviera cheese, as it's usually done, but I had set all my hopes on using Halloumi after Peter M's amazing write-ups. Just about on the point of giving up the cheese salad idea altogether though, I was lucky enough to find Halloumi at a cheese shop in the local market that, even though it was packaged, was at least imported from Cyprus and packaged with brine, and listed sheep's and goat's milk ahead of the cow's. Those of you who live in a slightly more cosmopolitan city than London, Ontario probably ought to be able to find good authentic Halloumi cheese at a local Greek shop, although you may have to ask for it.
Onward ho at all events, and I have to say with all honesty that fried Halloumi is now among my favorite cheese snacks (thank you, Peter). After nibbling on the saganaki (the cook's prerogative, you know) it was just about all I could do to get it as far as the salad. But there it arrived for an astonishingly good Greek saganaki salad, and I'm not in the least ashamed to make this my entry for Holler's challenge if she'll still have me for being so tardy!
Ironically, there is something intrinsically stressful about having a day off at home with nothing especially pressing to attend to. The time could be used productively, say to do some cleaning and laundry, catch up on some projects, transplant some of the plants that are exploding from their pots or perhaps tidying up a drawer or closet or two. The possibility of spending hours in the kitchen experimenting and creating tempts me, but then so do the rows of books that line my walls. I won't even mention the computer. After a few cigarettes, a quick shower and a breakfast of fried eggs, an orange, and a slice of toasted quinoa bread, consumed as I read the newspaper, the prospect of a walk in the sunshine presents itself, at least as a short diversion from deciding what I should be doing. Out I flee, my destination being the bank machine to pay some bills.
Upon return, it's too early to break out the wine, but it's too late to embark on a grand meal, or least I'm not motivated enough to bother. A quick glance at the black sleeping screen of my computer is quite enough to divert my gaze back to the kitchen, and then to the stack of books I am currently reading or meaning to. I sit down at my table with a file of recently collected recipe ideas that haven't yet made it to my more organized binders, and finally decide I'll try Alice's recipe for cranberry muffins that I printed off back in January.
I've made many a muffin in my 34 years on this planet, but never has my muffin mix turned out more like dough than a thick pancake batter. Did I err? It was perhaps a mistake to basically plop the suggested portions into the bowl with little thought. Double check recipe. I cut back on the sugar and increased the vanilla, but other than that, followed the instructions. Wait, this is more like a scone dough. Intrigued, I press on. The result was a pleasant surprise that ended up serving as a replacement for that grand dinner that never was. In fact, this is all I had for dinner. Just a few of these little savory delights.
Since I've started this food blog I've found that I'm constantly tempted to try to stage exotic and elaborate dishes when it comes to planning meals, but this temptation often comes crashing with a resounding thud against the scheduling demands of modern life. But I take comfort — not pleasure, mind you, that would be mean — in the fact that there's lots of other people like me who often need just to make a nourishing dinner without too much fuss and bother. And so I'd like to think that some of my simpler and less fancy dishes are just what a lot of you like to see.
Fortunately it's easy to sustain yourself on simple fare without losing flavor, and this kidney bean and quinoa salad packed with good carbohydrates and proteins meets those requirements. You can make this as a side dish for a more elaborate luncheon or dinner, but it makes a terrific no-fuss supper on its own when time is at a premium.
Tangy chunks of mango in a thick, creamy mango juice broth surrounding soft and chewy grains of barley, topped with the mild tartness of fresh blackberries — even the most reluctant of porridge eaters will be back for a second bowl of this naturally sweet and colorful breakfast delight. Cooked at low temperature in a risotto style with the juice slowly added to preserve the barley, this porridge does take about two hours to cook even though the preparation and method are extraordinarily simple, so it's definitely not a weekday breakfast option for most of us. But do try it on a Sunday morning when you've got plenty of time — your family will love you for it.
Flat breads are one of the special delights of Indian cuisine. The possibilities are literally endless. Shallow-fried, deep-fried, baked, toasted, leavened and unleavened, stuffed, savory, sweet, and sometimes spiced, these traditional accompaniments to Indian meals come in a variety of flavors, shapes and textures.
Somehow or other, this is one area of Indian cooking that I have sadly neglected, and honestly I'm not sure why. I bother to make my own pastry when required, have enjoyed making bread in the past, do not shy away from spending a few hours in the kitchen when I have the time, and cook Indian dishes on a regular basis. I plead distraction. I could probably fill a small library with my food ideas.
But now I have finally done so, making these crispy stuffed parathas. Time consuming, yes, but absolutely worth the effort. The dough was an absolute pleasure to work with and will certainly serve as a base for future creations. The possibilities for fillings have occupied my mind since I made these this past weekend. I'm thinking paneer and spice is next.
Considering how often I cook with tomatoes, I've perhaps surprisingly never really been a fan of tomato soup. I think the canned varieties I was exposed to as a child turned me off of the idea. I've also never acquired a taste for canned tomato juice. It has the texture of moist chalk and tastes much like the tin it comes in. Today, my aversion to tomato soup is no longer. I used a recipe that a dear co-worker passed onto me as a guideline. I thought it sounded good, but I just knew it was going to taste heavenly as the aroma of the simmering soup pleasantly took over the kitchen.
The addition of polenta Parmesan croutons here makes this a more substantial tomato soup, but that didn't stop me from having a second bowl. Be sure to make the croutons ahead of time.
|Tomato Soup with Polenta Croutons and Chive Oil|
|Recipe by Lisa Turner|
Published on May 12, 2008
A vibrant and fresh-tasting tomato soup flavored with homemade fresh chive oil and topped with polenta Parmesan croutons
Print this recipe
Another borrowed cookbook, yet another recipe to try. Four-Star Desserts by Emily Lucketti contains many heavenly-looking recipes, a good number of them calling for fresh fruit. I just couldn't resist this savory goat cheesecake with mixed berries. It reminds me of angel food cake, but it is not as sweet and contains very little flour. Honestly, I could have eaten the whole thing myself, but as is my usual practice, I shared with friends and family.
Croutons are not something I normally use. My soups and salads tend to be substantial and flavourful enough without them. I've also found that store-bought varieties are about as appetizing as the crumbs lingering on the bottom of my toaster oven. Recently however, a co-worker passed on a recipe for a brothy tomato soup with Parmesan croutons and chive oil that sounded just perfect. In preparation, I deviated from the original recipe and made these Polenta Croutons with Parmesan cheese. They turned out so well, I found myself enjoying them as a snack.
As much as I enjoy cheese, when quesadillas are on the menu, all too often the cheese is loaded on to compensate for an uninspired filling or topping. Looking for an accompaniment to my Mexican dinner in honor of my Dad's recent visit, I dispensed with the cheese altogether and focused on mushrooms instead. This quesadilla is astonishingly quick and easy to make, and plump tender mushrooms are just the thing to make one forget about cheese. Serve this with guacamole for a simply delicious meal.
As much as I enjoy spending a few hours in the kitchen coming up with a three or four course meal, sometimes a simple pasta dish is the perfect solution to a busy and/or lazy day. I highly recommend you prepare the Indian-style gingered tomato sauce that dresses these penne noodles ahead of time, but your favorite tomato-based sauce can be substituted if desired.
With summer stalling and cranking into reverse on its way into southwestern Ontario, a Caribbean sweet potato soup seemed just the thing to stimulate my dreams of hot sunny weather and warm my stomach besides. Coconut milk intensifies the rich, buttery sweetness of sweet potatoes and makes this very simple soup a smooth and creamy delight. Try it once and you'll be back for a second bowl.
One of my very favorite Indian creations is the classic Punjabi dish, mattar paneer. Though I enjoy trying new dishes, I can never resist ordering the combination of melt-in-your-mouth paneer and peas smothered in a spicy tomato sauce when visiting an Indian restaurant. I'm always curious to try different versions, but I also tend to order it from restaurants I have visited before. This is why I like dining with three or four friends, because that way I get to sample other offerings from the menu. Indian cuisine is ideal for sharing.
I'm not really much of a dessert girl, preferring savory over sweet. At the same time, I cannot resist the urge to create decadent treats to tempt my family and friends. My specific target this time around was my dad, who recently paid me a visit. These turned out to be much richer than the peanut butter chocolate cake that I made for him on Father's Day last year.
I strongly suggest you cut these luscious cups in half before consuming or serving to unsuspecting guests. The combination of crunchy peanut butter and three kinds of chocolate is best consumed in moderation to be fully appreciated.
Last month, in the middle of a particularly unpleasant day, I stopped off at home briefly and noticed to my surprise that a package from Amazon had arrived. Book addict that I am, I didn't recall ordering anything recently. My husband was expecting a book, but not from Amazon. Puzzled, I tore open the package and found that a copy of Mediterranean Harvest, a collection of more than 500 recipes by Martha Rose Shulman, was before me. Upon further inspection, the packing slip revealed it was a surprise gift from my dear friend Holler. As much as I enjoy eating the food that I feature here at Lisa's Kitchen, the encouraging praise and most importantly the special people I have met in the last year who would have otherwise remained strangers to me are my greatest reward.
I always think that blue cheese goes well with cayenne and mustard … don't you? And blue cheese with cayenne and mustard always makes a beautiful tangy gratin with brown rice and vegetables, of course.
A funny thing happened this year in southwestern Ontario a few weeks ago when winter disappeared suddenly into a blazing torrent of glorious summer weather that had everyone outside all of a sudden to clean up their yards and plant their flowers. Inside, it had me thinking of using up my winter vegetables to bid farewell to that miserable season, which led me to this unusual recipe from Yamuna Devi's Vegetarian Table which is probably the first instance of parsnips being used in an Indian dish that I can recall. As it turns out, the winter vegetables ended up being entirely appropriate anyways as the fake summer has just collapsed into unseasonably cold and wet weather again.