steel-cut oats with ginger-roasted figs

steel cut oats with ginger roasted figs

i recently posted a photo of figs on instagram and someone commented that they were adorable. aren’t they though? figs are truly the cutest of fruits! with their perfect shape, smooth aubergine-hued skin and varying shades of pink/ruby/berry inside, they may be my favourite little fruit to eat and photograph. don’t even get me started on kumquats. kumquats deserve their own post entirely.

i’ve written before about how i’m really not much of a morning person or a breakfast person, but damn if this blog isn’t making me one. it’s a fun process to develop interesting breakfast recipes that don’t make me shudder at the thought of eating before 2pm.

steel cut oats, also called irish oatmeal or pinhead (har!) oats are so far removed from those gloppy pouches of instant oatmeal. they are both oatmeal the way a can of pop and an 1869 chateau lafite are both drinks.

so why not make the lafite of oatmeal? ok i’m ahead of myself, you can decide if these are that good, with their luscious, juicy roasted figs, honey, ginger, and the secret ingredient, balsamic. don’t be weirded out! a few drops mellow the sweetness of the figs and honey and make the resulting saucy juices really pop. a scatter of toasted pecans hemp seeds adds texture and a hit of protein.

so don’t be a pinhead (like me). eat some breakfast!

steel cut oats with ginger roasted figs

steel-cut oats with ginger-roasted figs

1 cup steel-cut oats
4 cups water
1 lb fresh figs, cut in half
4 tbsp. honey
2 slices candied ginger, slivered
3 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup toasted pecans, chopped
2 tbsp. raw hemp seeds

prepare the steel cut oats. (this can be done the night before*). in a medium pot bring the water to the boil and add a pinch of salt. stir in the oats. bring back up to the boil, cover, remove from heat, and let stand for 1 hour.

preheat oven to 400f. in a small glass roasting pan, toss together the figs with the honey, balsamic, and ginger. cover tightly with foil, and bake for 20 minutes. remove foil and cool to warm.

spoon oats into a bowl, top with 1/4 of the figs and some of the lovely oozing juices. scatter pecans and help seeds on top.

*you probably already know you can use this method to prepare your oats the night before. i did not make this up. what you will likely find in the morning is a very greeny-blue substance on the surface of your oats. people have asked me,

“what the hell?”
“is this mould!?”
“i left the oats out all night, and they’ve gone bad!”
“am i going to die??”

yes, you are going to die, we all are. but not from the green stuff on overnight oatmeal. they haven’t gone bad and mould can’t grow that fast. it’s a result of a chemical reaction and completely harmless. scrape it off and move on.

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muhammara

muhamarra

muhammara is the most exotic and wonderful of dips.

dips in general are so versatile and practical. when made with flavourful and healthy ingredients, they can go so many places.

every culture has their dips. mexico has a creamy peanut salsa from chiapas, guacamole taquero, and pica de gallo. in greece there is delicate taramasalata and tzatziki. hummous, baba ghanouj, and labneh straddle several cultures.

around here, we quite often make a meal of a few great dips, some hot flatbreads or pitas, a dish of olives, and a cold glass of wine. the next day, a smear of dip on a wrap gets rolled around fresh greens and veggies for lunch, or used as a sauce for marinated tofu sandwiches. and we love to make a charred vegetable salsa for tortilla chips.

muhammara hails from syria, and is a lovely blend of red bell peppers, walnuts, bread crumbs, olive oil, pomegranate molasses, spices, aleppo chilis, and mint.

in the summertime, when red peppers are cheap and plentiful in ontario, we eat a lot of this with grilled Syrian flatbreads. in the winter, if peppers are very expensive where you are, a jar of roasted peppers will work just fine.

muhamarra

muhammara

1 cup + 2 tbsp. toasted walnuts
3 tbsp. sliced sundried tomatoes (the ones packed in oil)
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp coarsely ground red aleppo pepper
2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint

place the 1 cup walnuts, tomato paste, bread crumbs, olive oil, pomegranate molasses, Aleppo pepper, bell peppers, cumin, and salt in the bowl of food processor and blend until smooth. scrape into a serving bowl. drizzle with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tbsp of walnuts and the mint. serve at room temperature with grilled flatbreads or pitas.

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vegan barley-millet breakfast bowl

barley millet breakfast bowl

i’m not much of a breakfast person. when i get up, all i want is coffee. my eyes don’t work. playing with fire or knives would be a bad idea.

what i do find though, is if there is something available, i’m more likely to eat it. i guess i could have made a long story short and just said, i’m lazy in the morning, which is true, and i’ll freely admit it. so when i’m full of energy at night, i’ll make a few breakfasty-type things to have on hand, like cooked grains.

millet is an underused little seed that i love! it’s nutty and crunchy, easy to prepare, and makes a tasty addition to this breakfast bowl.

i had some leftover barley after making this. you can use quinoa, wheat berries, kasha, whatever you’re feeling.

barley millet breakfast bowl

vegan barley-millet breakfast bowl

1/2 cup millet
1 cup water
1/2 cup cooked barley
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 banana, diced
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup toasted almonds*
1/2 cup almond milk

place the millet in a small saucepan and heat to medium, shaking the pan to toast the millet. the grains will start to pop and when they just start to give off a bit of smoke, are turning golden, and smell toasty, carefully add the water (carefully – it will sputter and spit at you). Bring to a boil. Cover and turn heat off. Allow to stand for 20 minutes, or until millet has absorbed all the water. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool completely. stir in maple syrup.

for each bowl, place 1/4 of the millet and 1/4 of the barley. top with 1.4 of the bananas and berries, and sprinkle with almonds. pour over a little almond milk, and drizzle with a little more maple syrup, if you like it a little sweeter.

*i used whole, unblanched, raw almonds and chopped them roughly before toasting in a dry pan.

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lemon pepper marinated mushrooms

lemon pepper marinated mushrooms

over the years i’ve spent cooking and writing, i’ve become quite accustomed to the idea of easy eating. that means having a few good things on hand that work in multiple ways, are simple to make and taste good without having to try too hard. marinated mushrooms are one of my standbys.

i make these little lemon pepper marinated mushrooms and keep them in a jar for a few days, to enjoy alongside some good bread, some antipasto ingredients, or to toss into a bean salad or eat with cheese and crackers.

years ago, my grandfather gave me his recipe for marinated mushrooms, and so this is a version of his. i remember there was usually a bowl of them on the table at my grandparents’ house when we went for dinner, and how i always asked if i could fill it, so i could sneak a few in the kitchen. it’s hard to eat just one!

lemon pepper marinated mushrooms

lemon pepper marinated mushrooms

1/2 cup olive oil (doesn’t need to be the good stuff for this)
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp. honey
1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (a little coarse is best for this)
2 tbsp. lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
1 pound small, very fresh button mushrooms

place all ingredients in a medium saucepan. bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 10 minutes, gently stirring once or twice with a wooden spoon. turn heat off, and allow the mushrooms to steep in the marinade until they are completely cooled. pack into a 1L glass mason jar, pour the marinade over, and refrigerate.

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laotian vegan barley bowl

laotian vegan barley bowl

back in the 90’s, i saw an episode of the excellent cooking show, taste, where David Rosengarten made larb, the minced meat salad of laos. ever since, i’ve wanted to create a vegan version of this fresh and flavourful salad, and by george, i think i’ve done it. the combination of clean flavours from the vegetables and herbs, combined with the barley and a zippy dressing, is outstanding. every time i make this and eat it, i’m amazed at how good it is. i just have to share it with you!

i sometimes make this with veggie ground round, and it works great if you a craving something “meaty”. but i don’t want to eat a lot of processed fake meat, so i started making it with barley. it absorbs the flavours so well and makes a satisfying meal of this salad.

check out the hands-off method of cooking barley too.

vegan larb 1

laotian vegan barley bowl

3/4 cup uncooked barley
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. canola or peanut oil
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. tamari or soy sauce
1 thai chili, thinly sliced (or a pinch of dried red pepper flakes)
salt and pepper
juice of 1 lime
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 sweet red pepper, julienned
1/4 cup each torn basil, mint, and cilantro leaves
4 cups torn lettuces, greens, kale, or sprouts, or a mixture
1 tbsp toasted rice powder*
2 tbsp toasted cashews or peanuts, chopped

dressing

1 tsp. almond butter
juice of 1 lime
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1/4 cup canola oil

place barley in a medium saucepot and cover with 2 inches of water. bring to a full boil. turn off the heat, cover, and let stand 1 hour (you can do this the night before too). you should have about 1 1/2 cups barley.

make the dressing by whisking together all ingredients. thin with a small amount of warm water so it is drizzle-able.

in a medium pan, heat the canola or peanut oil. add the garlic and chilis and cook for a few seconds. add the barley, sugar, tamari, and lime juice. remove from heat and dump into a large bowl. add the onions and peppers and toss. allow to cool to room temperature, then add the torn herbs. taste and add salt and pepper.

divide the greens among large salad plates. top with barley mixture, drizzle with dressing, and sprinkle with the toasted rice powder and toasted nuts.

*tip: toasted rice powder is available at asian markets, or you can make your own by toasting 2 tbsp. white rice in a dry pan until golden, then buzzing in a spice grinder

*tip: for a hands-on appetizer, use romaine lettuce cups and fill with filling. use the dressing as a dipping sauce.

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spicy red lentil soup

a very quick, simple red lentil soup that’s rich and full of warm spicy flavour. i do all the vegetables in the food processor for ease.

a blitz of the finished soup in the blender makes for a silky finish, but it’s not essential.

DSC_2654.NEF

spicy red lentil soup

2 onions, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, scraped and diced
2 stalks celery, finely minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups red lentils
8 cups water or vegetable stock
6 plum tomatoes, mashed, with their juices (i use my hands and squish them in a bowl)
2 tsp. ground cumin seed
2 tsp. ground coriander seed
1 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 tsp. sea salt
Fresh pepper
juice of 1 lemon

in a large pot heat the oil to medium. add the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery. cover and cook 10 minutes, or until vegetables are softened. add the lentils, stock or water, tomatoes, and spices. bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally at first, and more frequently at the end, until lentils have broken down, about 30 minutes. taste, and check seasoning. finish with a squeeze of lemon. puree soup in a food processor, blender, or use an immersion blender, and if you like, garnish with a swirl of natural yogurt and cilantro leaves.

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