Roasted Beet Salad with Quinoa, Chickpeas, Miso and Tahini

I came across this simple, but well-balanced salad recently and immediately decided I would have to try it. How could I resist the goodness of quinoa, beets and chickpeas all in one dish dressed with tahini and miso? Just plain good for you and very flavourful too. This salad is earthy, yet naturally sweet at the same time. It is especially nice with the toasted sesame seeds. Certainly an excellent choice for those feeling rushed or for those not feeling up to making a complicated dish but wanting a nutritious vegetarian meal. Serve with some Cheddar Parmesan Scones with Dill for an especially satisfying meal.

If you buy beets with healthy greens, be sure to toss them in with the salad.
Roasted Beet Salad with Quinoa, Chickpeas and Miso and Tahini

For the salad:

2/3 cup of uncooked quinoa
2/3 cup of dried chickpeas (or one can of chickpeas)
5 medium beets
3 green onions, sliced
1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup of dry toasted sesame seeds

For the dressing:

1/4 cup of tahini
1 tablespoon of dark miso
juice from one lemon
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
a few tablespoons of hot water
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Rinse the quinoa well. Place in a pot with 1 1/2 cups of water and let soak overnight. Rinse the chickpeas, cover with water and let soak overnight.

Bring the quinoa to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover and simmer until the liquid is absorbed - roughly 20 minutes.

Drain the chickpeas, transfer them to a medium large pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover and cook until the beans are buttery soft - roughly 1 hour.

While the chickpeas and quinoa are cooking, wrap the beets in foil and roast in a preheated 375 degree oven until the beets are tender - roughly 1 hour depending on the size of the beets. Remove from the oven, let them cool for a while and then remove the skins and slice.

To make the dressing, whisk together the tahini, miso, lemon juice and zest, water and cayenne pepper in a small bowl.

Combine the cooked quinoa, chickpeas, beets and green onions. Toss with the dressing and then garnish with the toasted sesame seeds and parsley.

Serves 6.

More tempting beetroot salad recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Indian-style Beet Salad with a Yogurt Dressing
Beet and Feta Salad
Shredded Beet and Dill Coconut Salad

On the top of the reading stack: Complete Stories F O'connor by Flannery O'Connor

Audio Accompaniment: Affliction by Michael Brook

Chickpeas, Kidney Beans and Lentils with a Spicy Tomato Sauce

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Deciding to revisit an old favorite, I once again made this rich and spicy Indian curry made up of four types of legumes and lots of warming spices. If you don't have black chickpeas on hand, you can substitute yellow chickpeas, but I will note the black chickpeas add a nice texture to the dish as they are a bit chewier than their yellow cousins. This nourishing dish is especially good with brown basmati rice.

This recipe is adapted from 660 Curries, another treasured cookbook that is indispensable for any cook who enjoys Indian food and wants to create unique, often simple, but always tasty and flavourful Indian dishes.

This is also my contribution to My Legume Love Affair, a popular monthly food blogging event started by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook and hosted this month by Rachel who posts at The Crispy Cook.

Chickpeas, Kidney Beans and Lentils with a Spicy Tomato Sauce

1/4 cup of dried black chickpeas
1/4 cup of dried yellow chickpeas
1/4 cup of dried red kidney beans
1/4 cup of lentils (I used puy lentils, but you can use urad dal or black lentils)
2 tablespoons of butter, or a mixture of butter and oil
1 generous teaspoon of black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
2 teaspoons of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1/2 teaspoon of asafetida
dash of cayenne
2 - 4 dried red chilies
1 large tomato, finely chopped
2 - 4 fresh red or green chilies, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, finely chopped, for garnishing

Rinse the chickpeas, kidney beans and lentils in a strainer. Soak overnight in enough water to cover. Drain, transfer to a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the beans are tender - roughly 1 hour.

Meanwhile, heat the ghee or butter in a frying pan over medium heat. When hot, toss in the mustard seeds and cook until they begin to pop. Add the cumin seeds, ground cumin, sugar, salt, coriander, turmeric, asafetida, cayenne and dried chilies. Stir quickly and add the tomatoes and fresh chilies. Stir a few times and cook until the tomatoes are softened - roughly 5 minutes.

Drain off some of the water from the cooked beans and add the tomato mixture to the pot. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for another 10 - 15 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Garnish with the fresh parsley or cilantro.

Serves 4.

More Indian chickpea recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Chana Masala
Black Chickpeas with Roasted Coconut and Fragrant Spices
Chickpea Paneer Kofta in a Creamy Cashew Tomato Sauce

On the top of the reading stack: The National Post

Audio Accompaniment: Sleeps With the Fishes by Pieter Nooten and Michael Brook

Tomato Corn Chowder

Tomato Corn Chowder

The challenge for No Croutons Required back in 2008 was to recreate a soup or salad from a restaurant that has left a lasting impression. My contribution to the copycat round is this tomato corn chowder that I would always order when I visited Under the Volcano here in London Ontario. Unfortunately, this delicious soup is no longer on their menu, but thankfully, I was able to get a basic idea of the ingredients thanks to my friend Mike and have come up with my own creamy version. I have made it before, but this time I was able to replicate this Mexican soup more to my liking.

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Cheddar Parmesan Scones with Dill

Cheddar Parmesan Scones with Dill

I am apparently addicted to cookbooks, and Once Upon a Tart is one of the latest additions to my collection. This charming book sat sadly neglected on my overflowing shelf until I decided I wanted some inspiration for yet another scone recipe. I highly recommend this book, that includes lots of ideas for quick breads, sweet and savory tarts, condiments, unique sandwiches and also some fabulous soup and salad recipes. Informative, inspirational and enjoyable. If I ever make it to New York, I will be enlisting Frank and Jerome's services!

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Homemade Massaman Curry Paste

Homemade Massaman Curry Paste

I always prefer to make my own pastes and sauces for a fresh and vibrant taste over the commercial pre-prepared versions. I made this classic spicy Thai paste in preparation for a massaman curry with paneer cheese, but it can also be cooked with starchy root vegetables — especially potatoes — or simply warmed and spooned over hot fresh cooked rice. Highly aromatic, massaman curry paste has a distinctive cardamom and cumin taste that must be tried to be believed — CNN recently selected massaman curries as the world's most delicious food!

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Cornmeal Honey Muffins

If you want to impress your friends with baked goods, then I highly recommend these sweet, yet somewhat savory cornmeal muffins. The first time around, I misread the recipe and included significantly less cornmeal than the recipe called for! The muffins still worked out and I am inspired to come up with a cross between the sunken, moister version I originally served up and the chewier version that is more aligned with the original recipe. For dinner, a thick and creamy baked batch of Scalloped Potatoes with Best Ever Mushroom Sauce would be optimal.

Cornmeal Honey Muffins
Adapted from Once Upon a Tart

4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted and cooled for a few minutes
1 1/2 cups of unbleached white flour
1/3 cup of spelt flour or whole wheat flour
1 cup of cornmeal
1/4 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
3/4 teaspoon of sea salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups of milk
2/3 cup of sesame oil
3 heaping tablespoons of honey (I used Tawari honey from New Zealand)
2 teaspoons of vanilla

Grease 12 muffins cups generously with butter.

In a large bowl whisk together the flours, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and then whisk in the milk, melted butter, oil, honey and vanilla.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add the moist ingredients and stir until just combined. Divide the batter evenly into the prepared muffin cups.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for roughly 20 minutes, or until golden brown and the muffins are nicely browned on top. Cool on wire racks and serve warm or at room temperature. Just divine when smeared with some butter!

Makes 12 large muffins.

More cornbread muffin recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Quick and Easy Cornmeal Muffins
Blueberry Goat Cheese Muffins
Raspberry Cornmeal Muffins

On the top of the reading stack: The National Post

Audio Accompaniment: St. John Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach (Absolutely divine!)

Mushroom Oven Pancake with Chive Sauce

Mushroom Oven Pancake

As promised, here is the baked mushroom pancake I served as part of a birthday dinner for a dear friend. If you like mushrooms as much as I do, you will want to try this easy pancake that can be served for brunch or a light dinner. I always enjoy pancakes and the baked versions take so little time to prepare but are just as good as their fried cousins. The chive sauce especially compliments the earthy flavour of the mushrooms and custardy eggs. I filled it out with some biscuits and a decadent dessert of Peanut Butter and Blueberry Shortbread Bars.

Chive Sauce

Mushroom Oven Pancake with Chive Sauce
Adapted from The Best Quick Breads by Beth Hensperger

For the pancake:

6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, divided
1 pound of wild mushrooms, sliced, or a combination of button mushrooms and wild mushrooms
2 shallots, minced
sea salt to taste
freshly cracked black pepper
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups of milk
1 cup of unbleached white flour

For the chive sauce:

1/3 cup of yogurt
1/3 cup of sour cream
2 tablespoons of fresh chives, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

In a large frying pan, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over high heat. When hot, add the mushrooms and the shallot and saute until the mushrooms are just cooked and and start to brown. Season with salt and pepper, remove from the heat and set aside.

Grease a glass pie plate with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs until they are frothy. Add the milk and flour and beat until smooth.

Spread the sauted mushrooms over the bottom of the prepared pie plate. Pour the batter over the mushrooms and bake the pancake in a preheated 400 degree oven for roughly 25 minutes or until the pancake is firm and golden brown.

To make the chive sauce, whisk together the yogurt, sour cream, chives, olive oil and mustard in small bowl.

Serve with spoonfuls of the chive sauce.

Serves 4 - 5.

Mushroom Oven Pancake

Other baked pancakes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Baked Whole-Wheat Strawberry and Blueberry Pancakes
Baked Strawberry Pancakes
Baked Blueberry and Peach Pancakes
Baked Coconut and Mango Pancakes

On the top of the reading stack: The National Post

Audio Accompaniment: Drive By The Necks