The Cooking Chronicles: More with Legumes

As I have mentioned in the past, I’ve been trying to incorporate more legumes in our diet. The biggest difference this year is that I am actively trying to lessen my reliance on canned beans. Although we will likely still keep a few on hand (they’re great in a pinch), dried beans are cheaper, I can then control what goes into them, and they are free from the BPA that is present in the lining of cans.

I think I only cooked dried legumes twice all last year, but so far in 2012, I’ve already made three batches. With some planning, I’ve found it not to be a burden at all – I soak them before leaving for work, cook them that evening, and then have them ready to go for the following day. I’ve been freezing the leftovers in small bags, so they’re handy for future meals. We’ll see how long I am able to continue this, but in the meantime, I am still determined to try new recipes that feature legumes.

Mexican Fried Rice

Our go-to fried rice involves eggs and barbecue pork, but the Mexican version in Julie van Rosendaal and Sue Duncan’s Spilling the Beans with chorizo, black beans, tomatoes and cheddar seemed like it was worth a try.

The black beans definitely fortified the dish, but even with the chorizo, it wasn’t quite interesting enough. I think it would have made a difference if I had a cast iron pan that was large enough to accommodate all of the rice (charring it would have added a lot of flavour). As well, the rice would have also benefited from other spices – cumin was the dominant (and only) fragrance. 

Mexican Fried Rice

Mexican fried rice

Moroccan Chickpea Stew

The fruit in the ingredients list drew me to this Moroccan chickpea stew – with both apples and dried apricots, I wasn’t sure if the final product would end up much too sweet.

Thankfully, the answer was no. In addition, the apricots cooked down to the point where they more closely resembled the other softened vegetables, and with the chickpeas, it made for a light but satisfying supper.

Moroccan Chickpea Stew

Moroccan chickpea stew

Dumpling and Chickpea Stew

Our last attempt at dumplings failed miserably, but I did want to try another recipe at some point. Given the previous dumplings lacked flavour, Daphne Oz’s inclusion of cornmeal in the batter of her recipe piqued my interest. She also chose to highlight this recipe as a dish she would include in her “last supper”, so it had to be good, right?

We learned from our previous experience that the size of the dumplings matter, so we made sure to form smaller ones in the simmering soup. The cornmeal did add some interesting texture, and as a whole, I think they were a success – moist and light as they were – and most importantly, they cooked all the way through! The dumplings also helped thicken the broth somewhat, which, paired with the chickpeas, made it a heartier dish.

Dumpling and Chickpea Stew

Dumpling and chickpea stew

I’m just not sure it would be last supper material, at least not for me.

The Cooking Chronicles: Hit and Miss

The restaurant reviews have been few and far between lately, and for good reason. With the farmers’ market right outside our door, grocery shopping has been a snap, and has encouraged me to do more cooking than I’ve ever done before. Though many of our meals involve tried-and-true dishes, I’ve also worked hard to ensure a new recipe works its way in now and then. Some of these are adopted into our regular rotation, and others…are not.

Cauliflower Roast on Moroccan Chickpea Stew

The first vegetarian dish that, thankfully, turned out to have a happy ending was a Moroccan stew with chickpeas, from We Eat Together.

This recipe allowed us to finally make use of the gorgeous Le Cruset that Mack’s Mom had given us. A set of the Dutch ovens had been in their storage unit for some time, and after Mack and Thom were able to dig out the box, she said she would be happiest if the pots could find a good home.

It was an easy recipe to put together, especially because I had cooked the chickpeas the night prior. Into a pot of sautéed onions went some potatoes, prunes, stewed tomatoes, honey, water and the chickpeas, and on top, an entire head of seared cauliflower from Kuhlmann’s (instead of just half).  The florets steamed up nicely in the oven, and added an additional texture into the stew.

Chickpea Cauliflower Stew

Moroccan chickpea stew

My favourite part of this recipe was definitely the fragrant spices – a cinnamon stick and toasted cumin seeds perfumed the kitchen wonderfully, and made it difficult not to peek under the lid as it baked. I was also amazed that the water took on so much flavour – I usually add stock, but here, it really wasn’t necessary.

Hot and Sour Curried Eggplant with Tofu and Pineapple

Mack and I couldn’t wait for the Food Canada Network’s delayed broadcasting of the seventh season of Top Chef (particularly as it took place in Washington, D.C.!), so we were downloading it, staying afloat with our American counterparts as it aired on Bravo.

Though I’ve never before been inspired to cook an on-screen dish before, Kenny’s hot and sour eggplant did it for me. And given that I’ve never cooked with eggplant before, I thought this was a good opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.

My first mistake was opting to use a fan-modified recipe instead of Kenny’s recipe. Although I liked the ingredients that went into the latter, I was swayed by the inclusion of tofu that could round the side dish out into a main entrée.

My second mistake was not knowing how to cook eggplant properly, all the more sad given they were whimsically beautiful eggplant from Sundog Organics. I thought some stewing would probably be in order, given the usual texture of eggplant in dishes. This recipe didn’t allow for any extended stewing time, so I increased the cooking time, but it wasn’t enough – the eggplant was still gummy, and paired with the extra firm tofu that had a similar biting resistance, the dish as a whole wasn’t very pleasant to eat (I probably should have peeled the eggplant, as directed in the recipe, but the fairy eggplant were so tiny to begin with I couldn’t do it). The pineapple was a pleasant addition, but other than that, this dish was a complete miss.

Eggplant

Hot and sour curried eggplant

I’ll be deferring to Kenny’s recipe in the future for my next attempt at cooking eggplant.