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:
- Wash and dry the peppers.
- 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.
- Fry on the other side for another minute or so.
- Drizzle a bit more olive oil, then use your fingers to sprinkle on some sea salt.
- Enjoy them while they’re hot! You can always soak up the excess olive oil with some bread.
This nutty brownie is a no-bake, vegan, gluten-free, lactose-free, raw recipe that also happens to be super tasty. It makes a great energy bar that you can pack for a big bike ride or hike. It contains nuts to give you some protein, and there’s natural sugar in the dates to make it taste good.
You don’t need an oven, but you will need a food processor for this recipe. It keeps well in the fridge for a few weeks, or the freezer for a few months.
Just know that it is not your typical brownie that is cakey or gooey. You can find some of those recipes here , here, and here.
I halved the recipe when I made it, but here is the full recipe version that comes from theminimalistbaker.com.
What you need:
- 1 cup raw unsalted almonds (roughly chopped)
- 1 cup raw walnuts
- 1/2 cup raw walnuts, roughly chopped
- 2 & 2 1/2 cups Medjool dates (pitted)
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder or raw cacao
- 1-2 tsp espresso powder or finely ground coffee
- pinch sea salt
- Line a cake pan with parchment paper (or loaf pan for 1/2 a recipe)
- Place 1 cup of the walnuts along with the almonds in the food processor and process until it is finely ground.
- Put the cocoa, espresso powder and sea salt in the processor, then pulse to combine. Place in a bowl and set aside.
- Process the dates until soft, then remove to a bowl.
- Put the nut and cocoa mixture back in the processor, then slowly add the dates through the spout in the top of the processor. Process until it becomes doughy; I had to add a little bit of water. The mixture should come together when you squeeze it.
- Place the mixture into the lined cake pan, then add the chopped walnuts. Combine the walnuts with the brownie mixture, then press it down until it is flat.
- Cover and refrigerate for about half an hour before cutting.
My mom says these are the best date squares she’s ever had, even better than hers – so that’s all the recommendation I need to give for these. The recipe is from Ricardo’s website, and it is also available en français.
Another name for these is matrimonial cake, or date crumbles. Apparently this is a true Canadian treat!
Using Medjool dates might be one of the factors in the greatness of this recipe, but I also love the buttery goodness of the crumble and crust.
These will keep well if wrapped and stored in the fridge for over a week, or in the freezer for several months.
What you need for the date filling:
- 2 & 1/2 cups (625 ml) Medjool dates, lightly packed, pitted and chopped
- 1 cup (250ml) water
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) baking soda
What you need for the crumble and crust:
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) salted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup (250 ml) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 & 3/4 cups (430 ml) quick-cooking rolled oats
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) baking powder
What you do:
- Bring the chopped dates, water, lemon juice and brown sugar to a boil in a saucepan. Add the baking soda and allow to simmer while stirring for about 5 minutes. The dates should have fallen apart. Mine didn’t really fall apart enough, so I gave them a whizz with my immersion blender. Allow this mixture to cool.
- Prepare a square baking pan (20 cm/8 inch) by lining it with a strip of parchment paper; allow the edges to hang over two sides. Butter the exposed sides of the pan. (When I make this again I will also butter the parchment paper to make it easier to remove.)
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), positioning the rack in the middle.
- In a large bowl cream the butter using a wooden spoon, then add the oats, flour, brown sugar and baking powder. Stir to combine. You might need to get in there with your hands to make this a little bit easier.
- Spread half of the oats mixture into the pan, then add the date mixture. Sprinkle on the rest of the crumble and press it down a little.
- Bake for about 55 minutes, or until golden brown. Let it cool on a wire rack – this will take a number of hours.
- When cooled, gently pull up on the parchment paper strips to remove the date squares from the pan.
This pretty green sauce makes an excellent topping for Mexican food. Cilantro and parsley with a hint of lime, combined with the creaminess of cashews makes it irresistible. So far I have used it in a Burrito Bowl (pictured), and it was also delicious on pinto bean and avocado enchiladas. When I was eating my leftovers at work a lot of people were curious about it – but it’s not just a pretty face! So delicious!
I found this recipe in The Plant-Based Foodie: Vancouver by Brad Hill. It is part of a recipe for a burrito bowl, but this dressing was definitely the standout of the dish. The only changes from the original recipe are: I halved the recipe, and I used unrefined sunflower oil rather than grape seed oil. I probably used less parsley and more cilantro than the recipe called for because I’m not the biggest fan of parsley, and also I don’t tend to measure with recipes like this.
The sauce will keep in the fridge for a few days.
What you need:
- 1/2 cup cashews
- 1/2 cup cilantro
- 1/2 cup parsley
- 1 & 1/2 tablespoons grape seed oil or unrefined sunflower oil
- juice and zest of 1/2 lime
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
What you do:
- Soak the cashews in water for at least an hour, then drain them.
- Put all the ingredients in the blender and blend for about a minute, until the mixture is smooth. Add a little water if you want it to be a little runnier.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
This aniseed pound cake is awesome with a coffee or cuppa tea. I happen to love the flavour of anise, so I was eager to make this recipe from Bijoux.com. The recipe calls for confectioners sugar (I call it icing sugar) to be sprinkled on top, but although that looks pretty, I’m not a fan of the metallic taste of the sugar.
The cake was really good even four or five days after baking! I put some of it in the freezer, and it was awesome to be able to pull it out when I had company coming for afternoon tea.
Of course, being Canadian I should have changed the name to ‘slightly less than half a kilogram’ cake, but that sounds a bit pedantic. And in this recipe no ingredient is a pound anyways, unlike the traditional pound cake that has a pound each of butter, sugar, egg and flour. So maybe I should call it pound-ish cake . . .
The only planning ahead you have to do is taking the butter and eggs out of the fridge early so that they can come to room temperature.
This recipe makes one 8-inch/20 cm loaf, or four small loaves.
What you need:
- 1 cup (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 & 2/3 cups granulated sugar
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 & 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons anise seed
What you do:
- Preheat the oven to 325°F/165°C. Butter the bottom of a loaf pan, then line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Butter and flour the parchment paper.
- Cream the butter and sugar using an electric mixer, beating on high for about 10 minutes until it becomes light and fluffy.
- Beat the eggs in one at a time on medium-low speed.
- Stir the flour, salt and anise seeds in by hand just until it is combined.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the tops a little. Tapping the pans down on the counter will help to settle the batter. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Place the loaf pan on a rack and let it cool before removing it from the pan.
- To store, wrap the loaf tightly in plastic wrap. You may freeze it if you wish.
This coffee cake is a classic that everyone seems to appreciate eating, and one of the recipes I make more than any other. It makes a large cake or two smaller ones, so it’s great to make when baking for a crowd. I like to bring it to the staffroom for goodie day, or to a picnic.
The sweetness of the nutty topping is a nice balance for the tartness of the cranberries, and the cake is moist and delicious. It is still great a few days after baking, but of course is the very best the day it’s made . . . especially when it’s still a little warm.
Store in an airtight counter for a few days. Serve at room temperature.
What you need for the cake:
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 1 & 1/2 cups brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup plain yogurt (not non-fat)
- 1 & 1/2 cups cranberries, frozen or fresh
What you need for the topping:
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (pecans are good for this too)
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
What you do:
- Preheat the oven to 350F, then spray or butter and flour a 9 x 13 inch pan (or two round or square 9-inch pans – springform would be great).
- To make the topping, melt the butter, then stir in the rest of the ingredients. Set this aside.
- Cream the butter along with the brown sugar, then blend in the egg.
- Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.
- Mix one-third of the flour mixture into the batter with a wooden spoon. Add half the yogurt and mix it until just it is incorporated. Mix in one-third more of the flour, then the rest of the yogurt, finishing with the rest of the flour. Mix until just combined.
- Gently fold in the cranberries, then pour into the baking pan. It is quite a thick batter, so you’ll have to smooth it a bit. Don’t worry too much about getting into all the corners, as it will fill in as it bakes.
- Sprinkle on the nut-sugar topping.
- Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.
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
- 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
- pomegranate seeds, of they are in season. Chopped dried sour cherries might be nice too.
What you do:
- Preheat the oven to 220C/425F.
- 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.
- Wash the eggplants and slice them in half lengthwise. Place them cut-side up on a baking tray and brush them with olive oil.
- 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.
- 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.