Everyday Kitchen -
Every year, many charity auctions approach me to donate some sort of package to put up for bids. I wish I could say yes to the works, but you know how your day job can interfere with your leisure time - a real nuisance.
My first buyers for the year have asked for a vegetarian menu. That's no problem, but I want to give it a twist, so I'm thinking about a trip around the world without leaving the dining room. Come with me.
Thai dishes are characterized by the combination of sweet, sour, salty and hot sensations to attack every taste bud in your mouth. These morsels are up to the challenge. No, this dish is not on many fat-reduced diets, but served in modest portions they tastefully set the stage for our culinary tour. Enjoy the flavours in a lighter form by serving this divine mixture without the puff pastry casings, on top of noodles or rice. If you substitute ordinary cabbage, cook it a bit longer, because it is tougher. Use more or less chilies as you like, but you can reduce the heat by omitting the ribs and seeds. Buy puff pastry in the frozen dessert section of your grocery store, usually next to tart and pie shells. This recipe makes 16 turnovers, a perfect starter for eight or lunch main for four.
2 tbsp. vegetable oil (preferably peanut)
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 cups chopped fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup shredded carrot
2 cups finely shredded napa or Savoy cabbage
6 green onions, chopped
1 cup snow peas, slivered cross-wise
2 tbsp. minced fresh gingerroot
1 or 2 fresh red or green chilies, minced
4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. each soy sauce and dry sherry
salt and pepper to taste
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, completely thawed
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine or cider vinegar
1 tsp. Thai-style sweet chili sauce (or 1/2 tsp. each hot sauce and sugar)
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
Heat vegetable oil with sesame oil until nearly smoking hot. Add mushrooms and sprinkle on a little salt. Fry until they release their moisture. When the liquid is almost gone stir in carrot and cabbage. Cook together until cabbage begins to wilt, then add green onions, snow peas, ginger, chilies and garlic. If pan is dry, add a little more vegetable oil. Stir in soy sauce and sherry and cook together until the liquid evaporates. Remove from pan and add salt and pepper to taste. Cool to room temperature. Roll out the puff pastry one sheet at a time to 1/8-inch thickness, lightly flouring the board and rolling pin. With a 4-inch cookie cutter, (make sure you can get all 8 out of a sheet before you start to cut) cut out 8 rounds; repeat with second sheet. Place about 2 tbsp. of the filling on one half of each circle and brush the egg-water mixture around the edges - I use my finger - fold over, pushing out the air, and seal edges firmly. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and brush tops with egg mixture. Bake at 400 F for 15 minutes or until golden brown and nicely puffed. Whisk together dipping sauce ingredients while the turnovers are cooking and divide among individual serving bowls. Serve right out of the oven or slightly cooled.
Moroccan Vegetable Tagine
A tagine is a clay stewing pot used in North African countries. The mixtures vary according to region, but usually include dried fruits and distinctive combinations of spices. Since most of us don't have a tagine, substitute any heavy pot or baking dish with a lid. This is also a great way to use your slow cooker to de-stress your next dinner party. Just combine all ingredients and cook on low about 8 hours, although I would skip the zucchini because it gets too soft - stick to firm vegetables. Serves 6.
1 large onion, diced
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 each large carrots and small zucchini, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 small turnip or squash, peeled and cubed
1 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
1 tbsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. each ground cumin and hot paprika (or any paprika you like)
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/3 cups each golden raisins, chopped dates and chopped dried apricots
1 whole bulb garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 cups canned diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup vegetable broth (or any you like)
1/4 cup each chopped fresh cilantro and Italian flat-leaf parsley (divided)
grated zest of 1 large lemon
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper (divided)
1 can or jar artichoke hearts packed in water, drained (optional)
2 cups canned chickpeas, rinsed and well drained
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup toasted sliced or slivered almonds or pine nuts
In heavy pot fry onion in oil over high heat until it starts to colour but is still crisp. Add carrots, zucchini, turnip, green beans, coriander, cumin, paprika, ginger, cayenne and cinnamon and fry a few minutes, until fragrant. Stir in raisins, dates, apricots, garlic, tomatoes and broth. Add about half the cilantro and parsley along with lemon zest, bay leaves and half the black pepper. Cover and reduce the heat to low - you're going for a quiet, burbling simmer. After 30 minutes, stir in artichoke hearts and chickpeas and cook another 20 minutes. Add lemon juice and remaining cilantro and parsley just before serving over prepared couscous. Sprinkle almonds on top.
Lebanese Spiced Spinach
At the cost of being annoyingly eclectic, I have to say this spinach goes superbly with the tagine. The dried herbs along with the sesame seeds and lemon zest emulate a wonderful Middle Eastern spice called zahtar or zaatar that I can't find here - my beautiful niece who lives in a big city brought me some. If you are as lucky, this is the place to use it.
1/4 tsp. each dried oregano, basil, thyme, savoury and marjoram
2 tsp. olive oil
1 large bag spinach
juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
Add dried herbs to oil in a non-stick frying pan and cook together over medium-low for a minute, just until fragrant. Add spinach, lemon zest and juice and stir until leaves are well coated with herbs. Cover and steam a minute or two - spinach should be wilted but not sludgy. Add sesame seeds and serve.
Next week, we're picking up the world tour, but with carnivores in mind.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John's. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John's, NL, A1E 4N1.