A Change in Season [Bulgur & Chickpea Salad with Cranberries, Toasted Almonds + Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette]
Let me start by saying, I am speaking to you all from a seat on the balcony tonight!
I know, I know, it’s only 14 in Ottawa, but colour me a season-pusher. I’m not in my shorts or anything. Or am I? (I’m not. I swear. Totally in jeans, a giant sweater and thinking about getting a scarf - but I’m outside!!).
With the thrilling arrival of warmer weather in Ottawa, that insatiable ache for slow braises and creamy sides has started to waver, and is slowly being replaced with cravings for fresh, light and colourful dishes. That’s how you know Spring is truly on it’s way. [Though, if we’re being honest here, I’d like to go on the record and state that I am SURE we’ll still be getting more snow. I hope I’m wrong.]
Feeling especially inspired by the beautiful, mild weather the other day (though not inspired enough to run out to the store), I raided the fridge and pantry in hopes of finding everything I needed to make a simple grain salad that was small on fat and high on flavour.
The resulting bulgur salad was exactly what I was hoping for. Healthy, packed with colour and texture, and the perfect balance of sweet, tart and savoury. I ate it four days in a row for lunch and didn’t once get tired of it… which is a MEGA feat for those who know me.
Bulgur is one of those power-horse grains. It’s a quick-cooking form of whole wheat that has been cleaned, parboiled, dried, and ground into particles. It’s got a long shelf life, and is teeming with nutritional benefits; high in fibre and good carbs, rich in B vitamins, iron, phosphorous and manganese. Pair that with the well-known nutritional profiles of cranberries, almonds, and chickpeas and I’d say you’ve got yourself a little bowl of perfection. I suppose I’m biased, though.
Bulgur & Chickpea Salad with Cranberries, Toasted Almonds + Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette
Though I’m a bulgur-backer, if it’s not your cup of tea you can substitute quinoa, brown rice or even some potted barley
2 cups water
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup Bulgur Wheat
1 cup chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup dried unsweetened cranberries
1/4 cup almond slivers,toasted
2 scallions, sliced thin crosswise
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Bring the 2 cups of water and salt to a boil and add the bulgur. Turn down to a simmer, cover and let cook for 12-15 minutes until water is absorbed and bulgur is soft but still has a bite to it.
Toss all the salad ingredients in a big bowl until combined.
In a small bowl, add the vinaigrette ingredients and whisk until smooth. Pour half of the dressing over salad and stir to coat the salad in dressing. Taste and add more dressing as needed.
I enjoyed it warm but it’s best after it sits in the fridge for an hour or two.
Unfussy Dip-ables [Roasted Carrot-Cumin Hummus]
After months and months of thinking “Jeez, I’d really love to be part of a Supper Club…” I finally decided “Ok, I’ll start a Supper Club”. Waiting around for other people to plan things for you never did anyone any good now, did it?
Tonight is the first meet & greet of our little Centretown Supper Club and I’m so looking forward to meeting some new like-minded people (and some I already know and love) to chat with over tasty snacks and a glass or two of wine.
When I asked everyone to bring a small bite to snack on, my brain immediately started to dream up elegant bites with delicate little garnishes. But the truth of the matter is, whenever I try to make things too complicated, they usually blow up in my face and I end up wishing I’d just stuck to what I know; simple, honest food made with straight-forward, speak-for-themselves ingredients. Try as I may, I’m just not a fancy gal I suppose.
I recently bid some new underwear to win 3 brand-spankin’ new cookbooks for Simply Fresh’s Underpants Up fundraiser and lucky for me, I won! One of the cookbooks I won was Just Married and Cooking (by Brooke Parkhurst, James Briscione) and it is absolutely jammed with simple, everyday recipes that every homecook should add to their repitoire. Everything from Simple Syrup to Pistachio-Mint Crusted Rack of Lamb (part of a full Valentines Day menu). It’s an unfussy, real guide to delicious everyday meals.
Among it’s pages, I found a delicious sounding recipe for a Roasted-Carrot Hummus. You do know how much I love to dip things in other things right? This was exactly what I needed for our little meeting this evening. Simple, velvety dip that won’t leave my guests needing to unbutton their jeans (I plan to wear tights so this won’t be an issue for me. Snork snork!)
Roasted Carrot-Cumin Hummus
adapted from Just Married and Cooking
I was too lazy to pull out my food processor so I did this in batches in my Bullet which ended up being more work than it would have been to just move the food processor from the cupboard to the counter. Lesson of the day; don’t be lazy like me.
If possible, this should be made the day before you plan to eat it so the flavours all have a chance to hang out and get acquainted.
4 medium carrots, peel and cut into 4” chunks (if organic, just wash and leave peel on)
1 head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
1 16oz can of chickpeas
3 tbsp tahini
Juice from 1 lemon
pepper to taste
extra oil to garnish
cayenne pepper, garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 400.
Toss the carrots, garlic, cumin and a good pinch of salt with the oil. Wrap in a packet of aluminum foil and roast until everything is soft, about 30-40 minutes.
Pour the contents of the foil packet into the food processor along with the chickpeas, tahini, lemon and a few grinds of pepper. Process until smooth.
Spoon contents into a serving bowl and top with a drizzle of oil and a few sprinkles of cayenne pepper.
Serve with raw veggies, pita chips or whatever dip-ables strike your fancy.
Damned by Writers Block [Vegetarian Chili with Cinnamon Yogurt]
I haven’t been taking as much time to write lately. Of course, all the normal things that life brings with it tend to stand in the way, but this time it’s something different.
Writers block. My head, knock on it as hard as I may, will not answer. Sometimes I wonder if it’s taken a vacation somewhere wonderful and left me behind to fend for myself. How terribly rude that would be. I have an arsenal of photos and recipes to share but when I sit down, excited to share them with you, I just can’t muster anything. There’s been a lot of “I like to eat…” and “This tastes good…”. And really, you deserve more than that. Especially when I’m sure, or at least semi-sure, I can provide you with something more entertaining than single syllable, unimaginative description of what graced my plate last night.
This morning, rather than laying the guilt trip I’ve been giving myself on any longer, I made a life-sized pot of peppermint tea, set up a nice comfy spot on the couch beside a sleepy black cat, and started to read anything food related that I could. While I certainly was inspired to write, it wasn’t really condusive to what I wanted to talk about. So here I sit, spilling my brainless guts out to you in hope that I’ll eventually get back onto a topic that will lead me to the recipe I want to share today.
However, since that’s not happening and I’m sure I could yammer on all day about how writing isn’t always the easiest of tasks, and how blog writing can be a lot of pressure sometimes, and how I’m sure if I listen hard enough I could hear the crickets who have inhabited my brain, I’ll jump right into the meat it. Which is not the most exact way to describe it, since today I’m talking chili. A meat-less, but still seemingly meaty, chili that’s packed with so many flavours, textures and colours that it makes the addition of meat completely unnecessary. I top mine with a dollop of cinnamon-spiked yogurt for added earthiness and something to tame the spice.
I also just happened upon a bottle of Muskoka Brewery’s dark Harvest Ale on my way home from work last night. So intead of using the stock I had, I opted for that instead. It gave it a bit more depth and earthiness with just a touch of bitterness. I loved the way it pairs with the smokey flavours.
Vegetarian Chili with Cinnamon Spiked Yogurt
adapted from 101cookbooks Pierce St Vegetarian Chili
This chili is so easily adaptable to both your personal tastes and whatever you happen to have in your pantry. Don’t like beer? Add stock or water. Don’t like chickpeas? Add black beans. Do what makes your mouth happiest. Afterall, if chili doesn’t make you happy, you’re not doing it right.
I thought I had a can of chipotle peppers at home but it turns out I was wrong. I’m going to call for them anyhow, but in a pinch, a tbsp or two of smoked paprika adds a nice smokey kick.
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 shallots, diced or sliced thin
8 cloves of garlic, rough chopped
1-2 tablespoons of ginger, peeled and grated
2 jalapenos peppers, seed and ribs removed and diced fine
2 tsp ground cumin
2-4 tbsp chili power (depending on how much spice you like)
1-2 chipotle peppers (from a can with adobo or dried and rehydrated), chopped
1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 750ml (26oz) bottle of favourite dark ale
1 can chickpeas
2 cups lentils (I used brown, you can use your favourite or a mixture)
1/3 cup potted barley
1/3 cup bulgur
1 large sweet potato, cut into small cubes
1 cup plain greek yogurt
1 tsp good quality ground cinnamon
Topping options; fresh chopped cilantro, reserved jalapeno, minced red onion, feta cheese, olive oil
Sweat the onions and shallots in some olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Once they’ve become translucent, add the garlic, ginger, jalapeno, cumin, chili powder and chipotle peppers. Cook for another 1-2 minutes until everything is very fragrant. Add the can of tomatoes and the beer. Give everything a good stir. At this point, have a taste of the liquid mixture. Add salt to taste and more spices if it’s not hot enough for you.
Bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the chickpeas, lentils, barley and bulgur. Turn heat down to a simmer and let cook for 15-20 minutes. At this point, carefully have another taste for seasoning. Adjust to your liking. Add the cubed sweet potato. If the mixture is becoming too thick, add water 1 cup at a time too thin it out. Cover again and let simmer for another 20-30 minutes.
While cooking, mix yogurt and cinnamon in a small bowl. Refridgerate until ready to serve.
Spoon chili into big bowls and top with yogurt and whatever else your heart desires.
Take a bite and feel your mouth turn up in a toothy grin only a big bowl of chili can provide.
That’s the bite, right there, that makes me supremely happy. Messy, unattractive, spicy and perfect.
And of course, it tastes even better the next day. I am mowing through bowl #3 in 24 hours.
Dutch Ovens & Roasted Chickpeas!
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls…
I am spoiled. Rotten. Stinkin’ rotten.
Someone up there in foodie heaven loves me and sent me a boyfriend who bought me enameled cast iron christmas presents! Some girls like jewelry and flowers but I would much prefer the gift of a pot that’s so heavy I give myself a hernia lifting it.
I christened it today with the only thing I had on hand …chickpeas! I’ve never roasted chickpeas before and something about it is so appealing to me. A lot of recipes I’ve read for them serve them as a crunchy snack…but I was looking for a something a little more tender since I love the texture of chickpeas and was really hoping to keep that in tact.
As I said earlier, chickpeas were one of the few ingredients I had on hand. I was far from interested in going out in the bitter -30 cold to purchase any accompanying ingredients. However, if you are feeling a little braver than I - I would highly suggest braising or sauteeing some greens [kale, chard, spinach etc] with some butter, garlic and maybe even a little coconut milk and adding the chickpeas and the sauteed greens together.