Spanish Tapas-style Blistered Shishito Peppers

shishito peppers - trustinkim.com

A number of years ago I was on a trip to Spain, and I was treated to an amazing tapas feast. We ate so many delicious foods that night, but my favourite by far was the Padrón peppers – blackened, slathered with olive oil, and topped with crunchy salt. They were mildly hot; some were a little warmer than others, but the heat wasn’t uncomfortable.

I didn’t think I would enjoy these at all, since I’m not fond of green bell peppers, but these are completely different from bell peppers. Yay for trying new things!

When I got home from the trip to Spain I thought I would make these peppers all the time when I had guests, however, limited access to Padrón peppers in Vancouver crushed my dream. I was able to find them once at a Farmer’s Market. I paid a small fortune for them, and they were so hot that no one would eat them! I did eat them because I can be a bit stubborn, but they were not nearly as good as the ones in Spain.

Enter: the Shishito pepper. I found them in Vancouver at a Persian store, and at my local Korean store they are labelled as Twist peppers. They are incredibly similar to Padrón peppers – yay!

What you need:

  • Shishito or Padrón peppers
  • olive oil
  • flaky sea salt

What you do:

  1. Wash and dry the peppers.
  2. Bring a large frying pan (I like cast-iron for this) to high heat. Add a glug of olive oil, then add the peppers. Allow to fry for about one minute before turning; they should be blistered and darkened on the first side.
  3. Fry on the other side for another minute or so.
  4. Drizzle a bit more olive oil, then use your fingers to sprinkle on some sea salt.
  5. Enjoy them while they’re hot! You can always soak up the excess olive oil with some bread.

Roasted Eggplant with Roasted Chickpeas and Tahini Sauce

roasted eggplant and chickpeas with tahini sauce - trustinkim

I have seen a number of recipes for roasted chickpeas lately, but I wasn’t very interested in making them because of a bad experience with some chalky store-bought roasted chickpeas. For some reason I decided to give them a try, and was really happy with the result. They come out just the right texture, not too dry, not too soft. I love the bit of saltiness topping off the creamy eggplant and tahini sauce. Add the sweetness of the pomegranate seeds and you’ve got a pretty perfect vegan meal.

This dinner is quite simple to make. Most of the work is done by the oven, roasting the eggplant and the chickpeas, and while it is roasting you just have to whip up a quick sauce.

I made this a few months ago, and I didn’t actually measure the sauce ingredients, so this is my best estimate of the amounts I used. I cobbled this recipe together from ideas I’ve seen in various cookbooks, most notably the Ottolenghi (drool) cookbooks.

What you need:

  • 1 – 540 mL can chickpeas
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 3 – 4 long and skinny, or 8 small eggplants
For the sauce:
  • 1/3 cup tahini paste
  • 2/3 cup greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup water or more as needed
  • parsley to garnish

Optional:

  • pomegranate seeds, of they are in season. Chopped dried sour cherries might be nice too.

What you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F.
  2. Rinse the chickpeas and pat them dry with a clean towel. Toss them in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, then toss with salt, pepper and cumin. Spread out into a single layer on a baking tray.
  3. Wash the eggplants and slice them in half lengthwise. Place them cut-side up on a baking tray and brush them with olive oil.
  4. Roast the chickpeas and eggplants for 30-40 minutes, tossing the chickpeas halfway through the time. The eggplant should be very tender when you poke it with a fork. The chickpeas should be slightly crunchy, but not hard. It’s a good idea to test the chickpeas a few times in the last 15 minutes of cooking time.
  5. While the oven is doing its thing you can make the sauce. Whisk together the tahini, yogurt, lemon juice, garlic and salt. Slowly add the water to make a pourable yet still thick sauce. Taste and add more salt or lemon if needed.
  6. Plate the eggplant, drizzling the sauce over them, and then top with the chickpeas. Garnish with chopped parsley and optional pomegranate.

Black Bean and Corn Salad

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Now that the warmer weather is here I’m starting to think about what to make for patio and picnic time. This salad is super tasty, and really healthy too. For me it’s a great quick meal salad, and since it keeps in the fridge for a few days I can just dig in whenever I need a little something to eat. You can also mix and match at you see fit, for example if you don’t like peppers you can substitute a bit of jicama or apple or whatever you’d like.

If you use canned beans and corn, all you have to do is make the dressing and add in whatever veg and herbs you like – super easy! Then let it all sit for about half an hour before you dig in.

I found the recipe here, and I just downsized the amounts. I used canned corn instead of frozen because I find frozen corn a bit rubbery, and peaches and cream corn is the best. I also added some freshly chopped tomato to the top of each salad, and a bit of extra bell pepper.

Avocado makes a great addition to the top of each salad serving. Sadly, I could not find a ripe avocado in the five stores I checked. They could charge double for the ripe ones… I’d pay double for a perfectly ripe avocado – would you?

What you need for the salad:

  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • I can peaches and cream corn, along with the liquid
  • 1 small jalapeño pepper, de-seeded and diced (amount dependent on your heat preferences)
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion

What you need for the dressing:

  •  2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper

What you do:

  1. Mix up all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. In a larger bowl, combine all the salad ingredients. Stir the dressing into the salad.
  3. Let the salad sit in the fridge with a cover over it for half an hour, or a few hours.

 

Baby Spinach Salad with Dates, Almonds and Toasted Pita

Ottolenghi baby spinach salad with dates and almonds - trustinkim

This is SUCH a great salad! In my cookbook library is a copy of the amazing Jerusalem cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi, which contains this recipe, but I didn’t think to make it until I saw rave reviews online. So many people were commenting that this was their favourite salad, and now I know what they are talking about. It is my new favourite salad, and I can hardly wait to make it again.

I love the buttery toasted almonds and pita tossed in sumac. The onions (I used red because they are pretty) that are nicely mellowed in a vinegar marinade, along with the dates which become meltingly delicious, and their sweetness is balanced by the onion and vinegar.

I served this with the most delicious Cinnamon Curry Roast Chicken and potatoes. It was plenty of food for four people.

What you need:

  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 100g pitted Medjool dates (about 5), quartered lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small pitas, roughly torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup whole unsalted almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons sumac
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 150g baby spinach leaves
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • salt

What you do:

  1. Place the vinegar, onion, and dates in a small bowl, adding a pinch of salt. Mix well with your hands, then leave to marinate for 20 minutes or more. Drain the extra vinegar
  2. In a frying pan over medium heat melt the butter and add one tablespoon of olive oil. Add the pita and almonds, stirring to cook them for 5 to 6 minutes. The pita should become crunchy and brown. Remove the pan from the heat and toss in the sumac, red pepper flakes and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Let this cool.
  3. To prepare the salad toss the spinach with the pita in a large bowl, then add the dates and onion, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Serve right away!

Enjoy!

 

17th Century Italian Cucumber Salad

cucumber salad - trustinkim

I stumbled upon this recipe while searching for recipes to use the cucumbers that are growing in my garden. This blogger has a love for old recipes, and published this one, which is her version of a 17th century dish. She says it is “An interpretation of a dish described in Salvatore Massonio’s Archidipno overo dell’insalata e dell’vso di essa, published in Venice in 1627.”

It’s a really simple recipe, as are many of the best vegetable recipes. It should be prepared an hour or two before you plan to eat it.

I substituted sweet onion for regular, as I often do, and I peeled my cucumber because the peel on this variety is a little too bitter for me. In the original recipe the basil is added before refrigerating, but I like to add it at the end so that it retains its green colour. My version of the recipe is for two, and the measurements are approximate.

Please, please, please, don’t use dried basil for this recipe. It’s just not right. It really doesn’t taste like fresh basil. If you have no fresh basil, I’d opt to leave it out. You can freeze basil, so it retains the fresh flavour; if you use previously frozen basil in this salad it will be darker than fresh basil, but will still taste good.

After eating the salad I used the remaining dressing to pickle some cucamelons – these adorable little cucumbers that resemble a miniature watermelon. It was this summer’s garden experiment. The verdict? Cute, but I prefer a regular cucumber. The peel to inside ratio is a little high on the peel side.

cucamelon salad - trustinkim

What you need for two people:

  • 1 small cucumber or 1/2 an English cuke
  • a small chunk of an Onion, sliced very thinly
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • a few pinches of salt
  • a few grinds of fresh pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped

What you do:

  1. Combine the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl or large jar.
  2. Cut the cucumber in half, then slice it lengthwise. Slice as thinly as you can, using a mandoline if you have one. Cut the onion in half and slice it as thinly as you can. Place the cucumber and onion in the container with the dressing and toss it well so it’s all coated.
  3. Refrigerate for an hour or two.
  4. Before serving chop the basil finely and stir it in.

Enjoy!

Japanese Grilled Eggplant

Japanese Roasted Eggplant - trustinkim

I’m always looking for new ways to prepare vegetables, and with barbecue season finally arriving, this seemed like a great dish to try out. It’s got a slightly sweet sauce that glazes the soft eggplant. I will definitely be making this one again.

I found the recipe on this site, where they suggest serving the eggplant in an udon noodle dish. We ate it on its own as an appetizer, but I think it might also be good on small slices of bread, used like a spread.

What you need:

  • 3 japanese eggplants (the long skinny ones)
  • 2 tablespoons red miso
  • 2 tablespoons mirin (or a sweet rice wine)
  • 2 tablespoons tamari
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • vegetable oil for griling
What you do:
  1. Whisk the miso, mirin, tamari and sugar together in a small saucepan. Over medium heat, whisk until the mixture comes to a boil. Continue to cook briefly, just until it has thickened. Set aside to cool.
  2. Trim the stems from the eggplants and halve them lengthwise. Cut slits into the flesh of the eggplants, cutting almost through to the skin, but being careful not to slice all the way through it.
  3. Preheat the grill. Brush the fleshy side of each eggplant lightly with oil. When the grill is hot, place the eggplant cut-side down, on the grill. Cook for about 3 minutes; the eggplant should have grill marks on the fleshly side, and be somewhat softened.
  4. Turn the eggplants skin-side down, and spread the sauce over the fleshy side, all the way to the edges. Cook for about 3 more minutes. The eggplant should be very tender, and the sauce bubbling up.
  5. Enjoy!

japanese grilled eggplant - trustinkim

Pinto Bean Stew

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I can honestly say that this is one of the best recipes I have ever invented. This morning I was longing for lunchtime, just because I had leftovers of this stew. It is so flavourful, plus a healthy vegan meal. Filling, healthy and satisfying – the perfect combination for me.

The sweet potatoes give a hint of sweetness, and the Morita chilies add a little smokiness. If you’re not a fan of a lot of spice, no worries, the Morita chilies aren’t very hot, and you can always add a little less jalapeño pepper. When serving you can also add some of your favourite hot sauce to spice things up a little; this is a great option, since everyone has a different tolerance of spice. One person’s ‘warm’ is another person’s ‘deadly.’

I had a taste of the stew after cooking it yesterday when I made it. The flavours seemed even better today, so I would imagine this would freeze well. I think I won’t have any leftovers, so I won’t be able to test that. Please comment if you freeze it and let us know how it was after thawing. I’d also love to hear if people make substitutions; this is one of those recipes that could be great with so made different ingredients.

The garnishes really add to it, but aren’t necessary – a tiny bit of salty Cotija cheese, some chopped cilantro, and the crunch of the toasted pepitas.

What you need:

  • 1 & 1/2 cups dry pinto beans, soaked the night before
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 onion
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 dried Morita chilies (a smoked red jalapeño)
  • olive oil
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, minced
  • a few mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 sweet potato, diced
  • 1 small can cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro (stems go in the stew)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnishes: crumbled Cotija cheese, toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), cilantro

What you do:

  1. Soak the beans in a large pot of water the night before you are going to make the stew.
  2. Drain the beans, then cover them with fresh water. Add the whole carrot, celery stalk, 1/4 of the onion, the bay leaves, and the chilies. All of these vegetables are for flavouring the stew and will be removed before serving. Bring the contents of the pot to a simmer.
  3. While the beans are simmering, heat a frying pan to medium and add a little olive oil. Add the mushrooms and fry until cooked, then add them to the pot. Dice the rest of the onions and brown them lightly, then add them to the pot.
  4. Add the minced jalapeño (or half if you you’re spiciness scares you), the diced zucchini, sweet potato, and canned cherry tomatoes to the pot. Chop the cilantro stems and add them to the pot, along with the bouillon cube.
  5. Simmer the stew for 1 & 1/2 hours, stirring now and then, until the beans are soft and the stew has thickened.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve garnished with crumbled Cotija cheese, toasted pepitas and cilantro.