Walnut Nanaimo Bars

These rich and decadent no-bake chocolate custard bars originated in British Columbia, Canada in the 1930's. Even more sinful than our treasured butter tarts, this is yet another version of the traditional recipe. I incorporated some chopped walnuts into the bottom layer this time around for some extra texture and nutty goodness.

nanaimo bars

Never mind the guilt, as that will spoil the enjoyment of this custardy, chocolate experience that admittedly really ought to be served only on special occasions.

canadian nanaimo bars

Nanaimo BarsWalnut Nanaimo Bars
Recipe by
Cuisine: Canadian
Published on November 1, 2012

Walnut Nanaimo bars — a rich and decadent no-bake chocolate custard bar with chopped walnuts

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Bottom layer:
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs or crushed digestive biscuits
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 3/4 cups fine shredded unsweetened dried coconut
Middle layer:
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons milk or plain yogurt
  • a few drops of vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder
  • 2 cups icing sugar
Top layer:
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • To make the bottom layer, melt the butter, sugar and cocoa in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the beaten egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat and stir in the graham cracker crumbs, walnuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 9 × 9 inch baking pan.

  • Nanaimo bars bottom layer
  • To make the middle layer, cream the butter, milk or yogurt, vanilla, custard powder and icing sugar together in a mixing bowl. Beat until light. Spread over the bottom layer.

  • Nanaimo bars middle layer
  • Chill in the refrigerator while you make the third layer.

  • Melt the chocolate and butter over low heat. Remove from heat and let stand to cool. When cool but still runny, spread over the middle layer. Return the pan to the refrigerator and chill for at least 30 minutes.

  • Nanaimo bars top layer
  • Use a sharp knife to cut into squares. Store in the refrigerator covered in foil or plastic wrap. Eat these in sparing quantities.

Makes 9 three-inch squares

nanaimo bar

Other no-bake treats from my kitchen:
Classic Nanaimo Bars
Best-Ever Rum Balls
Peanut Butter Chocolate Squares
Peanut Butter Carob Balls

On the top of the reading stack: various stacks of bound goodness

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Mushroom Egg Masala

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
mushroom egg masala

Cravings often lead to rather creative dishes if you can avoid the temptation to dash off to a local eatery or market to get your ready-made fix. Especially then, when you want just the right combination of flavors and ingredients to scratch the itch, a bit of time spent in your kitchen with those staples just begging to please your eager palate and the satisfaction of catering to your own instincts rarely yields more pleasing results.

Especially in this case, when what I really desired was an egg curry with some succulent mushrooms for a light dinner. A well-stocked pantry and a fridge full of staple ingredients to work culinary Indian magic is an essential component of my well-being.

Truth be told, mushroom fiend that I am, it is really not at all uncommon to find me in the kitchen near the witching hour waiting for some mushrooms to marinate before turning them under the grill, eagerly anticipating that meaty goodness to materialize on my plate. Or perhaps a pan-fried spicy mushroom curry is in order. It is a quest I suppose — that perfect mushroom dish — that will never actually become a reality because mushrooms are a blank canvas to be adorned with special loving care, depending on the time of day, your mood and culinary desire. There are no limits when it comes to the mighty mushroom.

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Roasted Butternut Squash & Cannellini Bean Soup with Spices and Toasted Pistachios

Roasted Butternut Squash & Cannellini Bean Soup

Local squashes and pumpkins are in season now, and I love to stock the pantry shelves with a small assortment of these attractive gourds — they keep so long, and it's just somehow comforting to have them around just in case you want to make simple cold weather vegetable fare like this colorful, nourishing and lightly spiced soup. Roasting the butternut squash before adding to the soup enhances the flavor of the sweet orange flesh instead of turning it bland and watery, and the addition of puréed cannellini beans lends heartiness and creaminess. And a scattering of crunchy toasted pistachio pieces is the perfect taste and texture finish in the mouth at the end of a spoonful.

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Lentil Dumplings Simmered in a Sweet Tamarind Sauce

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
lentil dumplings in a tamarind sauce

This fragrant and elegant dish really needs no elaborate introduction and I think your eager taste buds will agree. To me, this is pure comfort food, especially when served as part of a fancy spread. These stimulating and succulent lentil dumplings smothered in a sweet and spicy tamarind gravy as the centerpiece of a special Indian-themed vegetarian menu are a perfect choice, but honestly I could eat these for breakfast, lunch AND dinner, just as is.

For my special Indian dinner, I served this dish with spicy green beans, Indian Mulligatawny soup, saffron rice and, for dessert, well, obviously not a traditional end to an Indian meal, but my blueberry goat cheese pie which seemed just right all the same. If you have the time, consider serving stacks of steaming hot savory Indian flatbreads with the meal too.

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Chickpeas with Toasted Pita Breads and Yogurt (Fatteh)

Originating in the Middle East, there are many variations of fatteh. The main feature of this dish is that stale or toasted flatbreads are used as a foundation for various ingredients. Often this includes chicken, lamb, various vegetables and frequently chickpeas. Yogurt is a common feature of the dish as well. This is a wonderful way to use up stale flatbreads, such as pitas, and they may be toasted if not stale enough to prevent the breads from becoming too soggy.

Depending on the region, most often a baking dish is lined with broken bits of flatbreads and then topped with the cooked ingredients, though some cooks like to crumble the breads into large or smallish pieces as a topping instead of a base. It is not always baked in the oven and sometimes a serving dish is lined with the bread and spread with prepared toppings of the cook's choice.

chickpeas with toasted pita breads

I decided to try a baked version and this easy casserole is pure comfort food — exactly what the season calls for. As a vegetarian, I opted for a chickpea version that truly is a meal in itself and perfect for a small group of diners. Grinding up some of the chickpeas, layering them over the bread, and then topping with the cooked whole chickpeas and whisked tangy yogurt gives this fatteh an especially satisfying texture. Don't be too sparing with the lemon juice because it adds a pleasing zesty layer of flavour to compliment and enhance the experience.

For an especially delightful and nourishing meal, serve with a grain — such as rice or millet — and a light vegetable salad.

Chickpeas with Toasted Pita Breads and Yogurt (Fatteh)Chickpeas with Toasted Pita Breads and Yogurt (Fatteh)
Recipe by
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Published on October 21, 2012

Simple, filling and nourishing casserole of chickpeas, garlic, spices and toasted pita breads with tangy yogurt and lemon juice

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  • 1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas
  • 6 cups water
  • sea salt to taste
  • 3 large pita breads
  • juice from 1 large lemon (2 to 3 tablespoons)
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt or plain whole fat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • a few drops of tamari (soy) sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • Rinse the chickpeas and soak for 8 hours or overnight covered in several inches of water. Drain and rinse, then transfer to a large saucepan and add 6 cups of fresh water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Add a few teaspoons of salt and continue to cook for another 30 minutes or until the chickpeas are tender. Drain the chickpeas, reserving the cooking liquid.

  • In a preheated 350° oven, put the pita breads on the rack and toast until crisp — about 10 minutes.

  • Grease a large casserole dish with butter or oil. Line with broken pieces of the toasted pita breads.

  • In a food processor, purée half of the cooked chickpeas along with the garlic, cumin, cayenne and paprika. Gradually add half of the lemon juice, 1 cup of the reserved chickpea cooking liquid, more salt if desired, and the olive oil.

  • Cover the pita breads with another 2/3 cup of the reserved chickpea cooking liquid and the puréed chickpeas. Top with the remaining chickpeas. Whisk together the yogurt with the remaining lemon juice, tahini and tamari. Add to the casserole dish. Spread evenly.

  • Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 15 minutes. Remove and garnish with fresh mint and a sprinkle of paprika and cayenne. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Makes 6 servings

More chickpea recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen you are sure to enjoy:
Baked Gingered Chickpea Stew with Eggplant and Spinach
Chana Saag (Chickpea and Spinach Curry)
Chickpea and Tomato Salad with Chat Masala
Summer Chickpea Salad

On the top of the reading stack: Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi

Audio Accompaniment: Brian Eno

Indian Mulligatawny Soup

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
mulligatawny soup

Mulligatawny soup, translated literally as "pepper water", is a classic spicy brothy concoction adapted by the English during the colonial period from the ever popular rasam enjoyed all year round in South Indian homes. I have tried various versions of mulligatawny soup throughout the years since I fell in love with Indian cuisine and I never tire of it.

It is especially nourishing and cleansing when served spicy hot. For years I have been trying to replicate a particularly fiery version that I am fortunately able to enjoy from a local restaurant, but there really is no comparison with homemade versions when you have control over the quality and quantity of the spices and ingredients simmered together on your stove top. Inspired by my recent success with dal makhani — another Indian classic — I must say that I have finally arrived at a close approximation to the model I was looking to imitate and was particularly delighted how many more layers of flavor mine consisted of. I leave it to my readers to determine the authenticity of this soup - okay, so dried mushrooms are likely not included in traditional versions — but authenticity aside, your taste buds will be panting with delight.

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Blueberry Goat Cheese Pie

Though pumpkin pie is likely a more popular serving choice during the autumn months, I couldn't resist the idea of a single crust pie loaded with goat cheese and fresh blueberries and topped with sliced almonds. As it so happened, neither my husband nor best friend Basil could resist a generous sampling, and surely that's a compliment to the baker as both consider themselves to be pie connoisseurs.

goat cheese blueberry pie

A surprising yet pleasing element of this pie is the gentle hint of fresh basil that really comes through even though I used just a small quantity. Not exactly a savory dessert, the sweetness is rather subdued and pleasantly tempered by the creamy and tangy goat cheese. The natural sweetness of the berries is also to be recommended.

slice of goat cheese blueberry pie

Here, I have used one of my best tried and tested homemade pastries. A tip I learned years ago is to use a few splashes of vodka if your dough doesn't seem moist enough to roll out. If you use too much water, you end up with more gluten formation, resulting in a tougher crust. On the other hand, vodka contains ethanol and because gluten does not form in the ethanol, you are more likely to achieve that perfect tender, rich and flaky butter crust that makes for the ultimate pastry experience.

goat cheese blueberry pie

As usual, feel free to use your own favorite pastry recipe. If you bake, most certainly you have more than a few treasured favorites.

Blueberry Goat Cheese PieBlueberry Goat Cheese Pie
Recipe by
Adapted from Food Network
Published on October 16, 2012

Colorful blueberry pie with tangy, creamy goat cheese and a hint of basil

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  • 1 cup all-purpose or pastry flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 3 - 4 tablespoons ice water
  • vodka (optional and as needed)
  • 1/2 cup soft goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 5 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • Begin by making your pastry. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Cut in the butter using two knives or a pastry cutter until the butter is reduced to very small pieces. (Alternately, grate the butter into the mixture.) Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of ice water over the dough and combine with a fork. The dough is ready for rolling once it holds together when you squeeze it. If the dough is too dry, add a little more ice water or some vodka.

  • Roll into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

  • While the dough is chilling, prepare your filling. In a large bowl, mash the goat cheese with a fork. Add the cream, egg, brown sugar and lemon juice and beat together with a wooden spoon. Stir in the flour, salt and basil. Fold in the blueberries. Keep chilled in the refrigerator until the pastry is ready (the filling can be prepared and chilled up to a day ahead).

  • On a floured surface, roll the chilled dough out into a flat circle shape with a floured rolling pin. Fold the dough in half and gently transfer the dough to a 10-inch pie plate. Unfold to cover the plate. Trim the dough to the shape of the plate, leaving a bit of overhang and fold to make the crust edge. Crimp the edges.

  • Prepare the topping by mixing together the almonds, sugar and melted butter in a small bowl.

  • Transfer the filling to the rolled out pastry dough and sprinkle evenly with the almond topping. Bake in a preheated 375° oven on the middle rack, rotating part way through the baking time, for 35 to 45 minutes or until the filling has set and the pastry and almonds are nicely browned.

  • Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes and then cover and chill for a few hours before serving.

Makes one 10-inch pie
blueberry goat cheese pie

More delightful pies from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Pumpkin Pie
Concord Grape Pie
Apple Pie Tart
Savory Grape Leaf Pie with Herbs, Yogurt and Quinoa

On the top of the reading stack: cookbooks, yep stacked, waiting for my approval rating

Audio Accompaniment: doozers

Mushroom Risotto

mushroom risotto

This was the first risotto I ever made and it seems fitting that the starring ingredient is mushrooms, considering how much I adore them. Obsessed might be a more fitting description. I have made many risottos since, but this is still one of my all time favorites — rich, earthy, creamy and delicious, it's a perfect mushroom lover's risotto.

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Indian-Spiced Squash, Pear and Adzuki Bean Soup with Lightly Braised Mixed Mushrooms

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
squash pear adzuki bean soup

A rather new to me inspiration in the kitchen is including fruit in soups meant to be served as part of a main course meal. Though I have been cooking for years and experimenting with various techniques, ingredients and combinations, fruit in a savory soup just didn't seem right. Much like my initial aversion to eggplant, a little research and testing resulted in combinations that have graced and continue to grace my table. The reactions of my guests affirm my own new assessment of such soups, like this one employing the use of nourishing seasonal squash and pears, as well as a previous favorite, pear soup with homemade raspberry sorbet.

Squash is naturally sweet, especially when roasted to really bring out that goodness that pairs so well with a variety of spice combinations and, in this case, some beans and pears. No additional sweetener needed here. This elegant side is more filling than you might think and served with a rustic quick bread for dinner, you easily have a complete meal. Everyone present was satisfied for hours, literally.

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What Colour is Your Stand Mixer? A Giveaway for my Canadian readers

I'm pleased to offer my Canadian readers a chance to win a KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer valued at $499.99 retail. I am making it easy for you to win and it's fun too. All you need to do is visit the KitchenAid Colourology site and take a short quiz to find out what colour suits you from the 26 shades highlighted. Once you have done that, leave a comment here on this post, tell me what your colour is and be sure to leave your email address along with your comment if you don't have a blog or website that includes your contact information. This contest will run for two weeks, beginning today, October 11th, and ending on October 25th. I will then do a random draw to choose the lucky winner.

stand mixer

My own experience with KitchenAid products is that they are durable, dependable, easy to use and clean, and affordable, especially when you factor in the time you will save in the kitchen with stellar results. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve my mom making up batches of cookies and loaves of bread with her trusty stand mixer. I know that both my brother and myself were always excited when mom put her mixer into action. It certainly is an iconic appliance that has been on the market for over 90 years and still going strong.

I did the colourology test and my colour is metallic chrome. Funny that, as it just so happens to be the actual colour of the stand mixer that graces my kitchen countertop. "Although conservative, Metallic Chrome brings a fresh perspective to any modern setting."

stand mixer artisan

So what are you waiting for? Discover your colour for a chance to win an appliance that will be a focal point of your kitchen for years to come. The stand mixer offered here comes with a 5-quart (4.73 L) polished stainless steel bowl with a handle, coated flat beater, dough hook and wire whip, as well as a two-piece pouring shield. Boasting a 325-watt motor, 10-speed solid-state control and direct drive transmission, this heavy duty tool has a "flour power" rating of 9 cups and with so many different attachments available for your mixer in addition to the basics included to begin with, the possibilities are as endless as the needs and imagination of the cook.

Note: I am in no way affiliated with KitchenAid. I was contacted by a representative of the company asking if I would like the opportunity to host a giveaway. The opinions expressed here are my own and based on previous and current experiences with KitchenAid products.

Update: Congratulations to Nicole of Balmertown Ontario. She is the lucky winner of a brand new kitchenAid stand mixer.

Chickpea Flour (Besan) Crêpes with Spinach

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
besan flour crepes

A genuine feast can easily enough be an elegant combination of humble ingredients that come together to satisfy not only your palate but also an eager rumbling tummy. My frequent experiments with Indian shallow-fried flat breads certainly illustrates the truth of my impressions here, and if you don't think these lovely, fragrant and lightly spiced chickpea flour crêpes served with a refreshing homemade cashew chutney would qualify as a fine dining experience any time of day, then just give these little beauties a try and see if you don't change your mind. Serve them along with a bed of hot steaming basmati rice and, if enjoying for lunch or dinner, a nice spicy dal.

I was especially delighted and surprised with the dense, chewy and egg-like consistency and texture of these crêpes despite the fact that they contain no dairy whatsoever. An extra bonus is these Indian pancakes are also gluten-free. The uncooked salted spinach, once fried as a "topping" for the crêpe, adds a further crispy component to this array of culinary layers. The alchemy was going well in the kitchen the day I made up a batch and I couldn't even wait until the frying was done before I started nibbling on the first one just warm and fragrant out of the pan. Oh well, I was home alone at the time.

These make for a great breakfast too, and because they are so easy to prepare — especially if you use two skillets to cut down on the time spent in front of the stove — you can also treat yourself to a midweek breakfast that, despite the ease of preparation, is rather a lot fancier than what we are often accustomed to when we sit down to a midweek breakfast.

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Spicy Homemade Hummus Pizza

Pizza. It's pure comfort food and sometimes nothing else can quite satisfy those decadent late night cravings. If you happen to live in the city or a decent sized town, you can pick up the phone and have a pizza delivered to your door in about an hour nearly anytime of day.

At the same time, nothing compares to homemade pizza. Think of that dough as a blank canvas to be adorned with combinations of your own making. Dispense with tomato sauce perhaps, leave out the cheese altogether or even turn out a dessert pizza.

Inspired by the success of my rather gourmet homemade olive tapenade pizza, the idea of a hummus pizza immediately came to mind. Thick creamy hummus is a perfect accompaniment to crusty breads and crackers, so why not spread a pizza crust with some homemade hummus and top with some of your favorite toppings?

hummus pizza

What follows is a basic chronicle of what I did. If you want to cut corners, you can of course use pre-prepared hummus and pizza crust, though the reason I am offering my suggestions here is to help you recreate a unique and wholesome experience in your own kitchen, time permitting.

In terms of taste, I wanted a hummus that had a bit of smoky flavor with some goodness of tomatoes that we are so often used to enjoying on pizza crust. I made my own hummus, using my recipe for sun-dried tomato and olive hummus with goat cheese as a base, after consulting another favorite, roasted red pepper hummus, and melding the two together. I omitted the cheese, made sure to include roasted red peppers, tossed in some chipotle spice, and just mixed and matched some of the flavors from each recipe. I made a full batch of hummus, which is fine, because you can make more than one pizza or save the rest for snacking on with vegetables and lightly toasted pita triangles or flat breads the next day.

The dough recipe, reproduced here, is the same I used for the tapenade pizza. I had leftover dough as it makes enough for two 12-inch pizzas — I only needed enough dough for one pizza that day, so wrapped the remainder in plastic wrap and popped it in the freezer. The dough does freeze well, I can now say, and how handy to have homemade dough on hand when you want to come up with a conventional or not-so-conventional pizza. Just be sure to let the dough thaw in the fridge for a couple of days before using or at room temperature for a few hours.

The toppings for my hummus pizza are just suggestions. Depending on the type of hummus you use as a base, this might change your choice of ingredients. Feel free to play with whatever flavors tickle your palate. If you want a vegan version of this pizza, simply omit the cheese. I was rather sparing with it myself because the hummus really adds quite a bit of flare and substance to this filling pizza.

Homemade Spicy Hummus PizzaHomemade Spicy Hummus Pizza
Recipe by
Published on October 8, 2012

Homemade pizza smothered with a rich, thick homemade spicy hummus and topped with delicious soft cheeses, marinated portobello mushrooms, jalapeños and olives

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Dough recipe makes two 12-inch pizza crusts. Instructions for making one 12-inch pizza below. If making two pizzas, double the toppings.

Pizza dough:
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 oz (8 g) package of yeast
  • 3 1/4 cups unbleached white flour or spelt flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder (optional)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil + more for brushing
  • cornmeal
Suggested toppings for one pizza:
  • 1 - 2 large portobello mushrooms, marinated and broiled or fried (see below)
  • 1 small red onion, sliced into rounds
  • 2 - 3 jalapeños, seeds removed and sliced into rounds
  • 1 cup fresh grated fontina or mozzarella cheese
  • 1 - 1 1/2 cups hummus of your choice
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives, sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • chopped fresh parsley
  • Begin by making the dough. Dissolve the sugar in the warm water, making sure the water is "bathtub" warm but not hot. Sprinkle in the yeast and stir gently for about a minute until it dissolves. If the yeast clumps, the water is too cold and the process should be restarted. Let sit in a warm place for 5 minutes or so until you have a smooth beige-colored mixture and a layer of bubbles forms on the surface.

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups of the flour with the salt and curry powder (if using). Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and pour in the yeast-water mixture and olive oil. Mix the ingredients together, beginning in the center and incorporating the flour from the sides of the bowl. Continue until a soft dough is formed.

  • Lightly flour a large cutting board or wood surface and dust your hands with flour. Knead the dough by pushing it away from you, folding it over, and moving it forward. Rotate the dough and continue. Add some of the remaining 1/4 cup of flour as needed until your dough is no longer sticky — about 5 minutes. Keep kneading for another 10 to 15 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

  • Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to a well-oiled large bowl. Brush the dough with more olive oil and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Leave the dough to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours, after which the dough should have doubled in size.

  • While the dough is rising, prepare your toppings. To marinate the mushrooms, toss together about 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 finely chopped shallot, sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste, a few pinches of dried rosemary, and a sprinkle of chipotle powder or chili powder. Let the mushrooms sit in this marinade for about 20 minutes. Transfer to a broiling pan, position on the top rack of your oven, and broil for about 5 minutes. Chop into strips.

  • (Alternately, you can fry the mushrooms in a skillet over high heat for about 5 to 6 minutes in a tablespoon of olive oil, deglazing the pan with a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar or tamari sauce.)

  • Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat and gently fry the onion rounds for 2 to 3 minutes or until just softened. Toss in the jalapeños and fry for another minute. Set aside.

  • Prepare a 12-inch vented pizza pan by lightly brushing it with olive oil and sprinkling with a light coating of cornmeal.

  • To finish the dough, punch it with your fist and divide into two portions. If making one pizza, reserve one of the portions by wrapping in plastic wrap and freezing for later use. Lightly flour a large cutting board or wood surface, and flour a rolling pin. Roll the dough out into a roughly 1/4-inch thick round shape, making sure the edges are slightly thicker than the rest of the dough. Add flour when needed to keep from sticking, and pick up the dough and turn several times to stretch. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and form a ridge around the edges with your hands.

  • Preheat an oven to 500° and move the rack to the second-from-top position. Brush the dough with olive oil and lightly scatter about 1/4 cup of the fontina or mozzarella cheese over top. Spread with hummus. Scatter the remaining toppings over top, finishing with the rest of the grated cheese, including the Parmesan.

  • Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the cheese is starting to bubble and the crust is crisp and lightly browned.

  • Remove from heat and lightly brush the edges of the crust with a little more olive oil. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve hot or warm with a side salad.

Makes one 12-inch pizza (4 to 8 servings)
hummus pizza

More scrumptious pizza recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Paneer Tikka Pizza on Naan Bread
Mini Toasted English Muffin Pizzas
Mushroom, Ricotta and Asiago Cheese Pizza

On the top of the reading stack: The Turmeric Trail: Recipes and Memories from an Indian Childhood by Raghavan Iyer

Audio Accompaniment: Minilogue - Drop The Mask Of Self Protection

Dal Makhani (Black Gram and Kidney Bean Curry)

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
dal makhani

I was once told that dal makhani is "truck stop food" in the Punjab, but as far as I'm concerned that's an endorsement of Punjabi truck stops and not a criticism of the dish. Warm, creamy and spicy, variations of this once humble north Indian staple have become signature dishes in fine Indian restaurants over here, and it's my husband's favorite curry when eating out.

Like other famous dal curries, dal makhani — literally "buttery" lentils — invites experimentation. The essentials of whole urad beans or black gram, and red kidney beans, ginger, garam masala and cream remain the same, but otherwise the dals are a canvas upon which to work your seasoning art. Even if I do say so myself, my version here improves upon some of the best dal makhanis I've ever eaten. The earthy and nutty flavors of the dals are layered with the bittersweet aromatic tastes of cinnamon, cardamom and mace, followed by a complex but subtle heat from chilies, Kashmiri chili powder and garam masala, with a little tang from tomato and amchoor powder, all tempered by a sweet thick cream. One mouthful is such a fusion of wonderful sensations that no one will believe it is so incredibly simple to make!

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Sweet Potato, Zucchini and Leek Frittata

sweet potato frittata with zucchini

Frittatas are always a simple and satisfying way to create a filling and nourishing breakfast or dinner with whatever vegetables you might have on hand. With a beautiful golden-orange local sweet potato sitting in the pantry and a nice fresh leek and zucchini in the crisper, it was hardly a moment's thought to put them all together in this lovely thick and sturdy oven-baked egg pie. Thin slices of fried sweet potato have a delightful sweet creaminess that contrasts beautifully with the light crunch of gently sautéed zucchini. Seasoned with the simple flavors of salt, pepper and a sprig of fresh thyme, this is a wonderful autumn-themed frittata.

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Quinoa Soup with Beets and Fresh Dill

beet soup with quinoa and dill

Beets and quinoa combine perfectly here with fresh dill in this hearty bowl of warming soup that is perfectly suited for autumn. Surely the lively colors and depth of flavor would make this a lovely soup to start a special meal, for example Thanksgiving, which is quickly approaching here in Canada. Earthy, with a slight nuttiness from the quinoa, and a subtle hint of heat from the peppers and spice, this velvety bowl of goodness is packed full of nutrients and easy to prepare besides. After only a few spoonfuls, you'll be convinced that simplicity is often the key to a gourmet starter or side. Serve piping hot to warm your toes, though it will taste just as good near room temperature.

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