Category: spicy

Smoky Superfood Stuffed Portobello

Hello loyal readers,

Apologies for the hiatus, and a big thanks for understanding – it’s been a very busy summer over at Savoury Sweets! Weddings, events, and birthdays galore – as well as a wonderful two-week vacation to the (very underrated) west coast of Canada. I’ve finally managed to find a few minutes, so I’m here to continue sharing healthy, plant based recipes to bring some colour to your plate, and variety to your diet!

I’m going to start by sharing something that I’ve been dreaming about since I made it – a quinoa & veggie-stuffed portobello cap. (Side note – Portobello? Portabella? Portobella? However you spell it, it’s a giant, delicious mushroom.) I posted a photo on Facebook and immediately had multiple requests for the recipe – you ask, I deliver!

During my travels, I stumbled upon many secondhand bookshops, each one more adorable than the next. It was very hard not to take everything home with me. I did snag a wonderful book called Grain Power (Green & Hemming, 2013), which is what inspired this creation. Not only is this dish colourful, flavourful, and quite photogenic – but it’s also filling enough to be a standalone meal. Bonus – the whole thing comes together quickly, and the filling can be prepared in advance – so it’s great for a quick weeknight meal, or for a last-minute vegetarian or vegan dinner guest. Double bonus – it’s gluten-free, and can be vegan if you omit the cheese, or use vegan cheese!

Smoky Superfood Stuffed Portobellos

ingredients

  • 4 portobello mushrooms
  • 1 cup quinoa 
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated or chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, diced
  • 3 cups spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • juice from one fresh lime
  • 3 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup herbed goat cheese, crumbled
  • smoked Tabasco (optional)

method

Remove stems from mushrooms, setting the caps aside. Chop mushroom stems.

Bring quinoa and water to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and let simmer about 15 minutes, until all water is absorbed, and quinoa is fluffy. Set aside.

Heat 3 tbsp oil in large saucepan. On medium heat, cook onions, stirring intermittently, about 15 minutes, or until they start to brown. Add garlic and stir. Add peppers and mushroom stems and cook until soft, about 10 mins. Add spinach, continue cooking until wilted.

Add quinoa to saucepan and stir, combining everything. Drizzle with remaining oil, lime juice, tarragon, paprikas and turmeric. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Scoop mixture into portobello caps and sprinkle with cheese, if using. BBQ, or place on a tray and low broil, until cheese is melted, about 4 to 6 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with smoked Tabasco, if desired.

Best Ever Eggplant & Chickpea Curry (that just happens to be vegan!)

I’ll begin this entry by stating that curry is one of my absolute favorite foods. As I love it so much, I am also quite critical and picky when it comes to finding good curry. Before I show you how to make the tastiest eggplant curry you’ll ever have, I’d like to teach you a few things about curry itself.

First off, let me just clarify that curry is not a spice, contrary to popular belief. There exists an herb called the curry leaf, though it is nothing at all like the yellow, processed powder that North Americans refer to as “curry.” This blended curry spice is entirely of western origin, dating back to the 18th Century, presumably sold by Indian merchants to the British.

So what makes curry curry? The answer to that differs depending on who you’re talking to. One thing all curries have in common: a complex blend of flavours and spices, that are often (but not always) enhanced with different types of chilli peppers. There are more varieties of curry than there are christmas cookies, and their ingredients differ by region, ethnicity, and cultural background. For example, a thai curry will often feature lemongrass, ginger and coconut, whereas an Indian curry will usually contain a mixture of turmeric, coriander and cumin.

The majority of the curries that I cook are Indian style, but are not necessarily traditional. A friend of mine, who is from India, taught me that an authentic curry from her region will make your ears burn and your eyes tear up, but will be so deliciously addictive that it’s worth building up a spice tolerance for.  For months, I watched her make her curries, throwing handfuls of spices in, which seemed, at the time, to be tossed in at random, in abundant quantities. I later learned that she must have known exactly what she was doing though, because through lots of trial (and some error) I have discovered that blending the correct amount of spices is an art form. Certain spices, like fenugreek, can add wonderful complexity, but if overused, can leave you with a terribly bitter aftertaste. Others, like cinnamon, may get lost in the mix if you don’t add enough.

Today’s curry is a simple one, with a spice level that you can easily control. It’s great for those who aren’t too familiar with Indian food, and who want to try something different. Let me stress, especially if you’ve never made curry before, to follow these instructions exactly. Too many times, I’ve seen comments on recipe blogs from users who have “tested” out a recipe, having made so many alterations that the recipe isn’t at all what it was meant to be, and then they complain that it didn’t taste good. (Well, yeah, if you’re making chocolate cookies, and you decide to replace the chocolate with kale, it’s going to taste a little weird, geniuses!)  /endrant. As with all recipes, I suggest that you follow this exactly, and adjust to taste only at the end (with salt or spice.) Organizational note: I roasted my eggplant the day before to allow for a faster weeknight meal prep.

Now… the recipe you’ve all been waiting for…

The Best Ever Eggplant and Chickpea Curry
an original recipe by allison sklar

ingredients

1 large eggplant
1 tbsp olive oil
pinch salt

2 tbsp butter (or coconut oil, to keep it vegan!)
1 tbsp coriander seeds, roughly crushed with mortar and pestle
1 large onion, diced
1 tsp cumin powder
pinch turmeric
1 can chickpeas, drained
2 large handfuls fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup water (more if needed)
1 tbsp sambal oelek  (found in most major grocery stores in the International/Asian section)
salt, to taste

instructions

Roast your eggplant: Slice in half, lengthwise, and rub it all over with olive oil. Sprinkle the fleshy side with salt. Place flesh side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast at 400F for 30 to 40 minutes, or until skin begins to bubble and shrivel. Allow to cool enough to handle. Scoop flesh out, roughly chop, and reserve in a bowl for later.

In a wide, heavy bottomed saucepan, melt your butter/coconut oil. Add the onion. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until onion is golden in colour (about 10 minutes). Be careful not to burn the onion. When onion starts to become golden, add the coriander seed and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the rest of your ingredients except the cilantro and sambal olek. Stir. Cover and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring intermittently. (If you notice your curry looks too dry, add a bit more water, 1 tbsp at a time.) Remove lid and add cilantro and sambal olek. Stir and continue cooking until desired consistency is reached. Salt to taste. Serve over basmati rice, or with chapati bread.

Stewed Chickpeas with Caramelized Sweet Potato

Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi have written some of the most delicious recipes that I have ever tried. The pair have a way of taking whole foods and transforming them into vibrant, flavourful dishes that absolutely never disappoint. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the duo, they are the co-authors of the Ottolenghi and Jerusalem cookbooks. Ottolenghi has also published two excellent vegetarian books, Plenty, and Plenty More, collections of recipes from his vegetarian newspaper column over at the Guardian. Whenever I’m in need of inspiration, I flip one of these gorgeous books open, scan around, and stop at whatever catches my eye, or whatever suits the vegetables in my fridge. I am in no way affiliated with these authors, and this isn’t a promotion. This is just a little fangirl blogging about her biggest inspirations!

This weekend, I was invited to a very meat-centric potluck dinner, so I felt it appropriate to provide a hearty vegetarian option for those of us who are slightly less carnivorous. I wanted to make something simple, but that had a complex flavour profile. Enter this colourful dish – stewed chickpeas with caramelized sweet potatoes. Sounds simple, but Oh. Baby. I want to eat this stuff all day, erry day. Now, note that you can probably make this vegan by subbing coconut oil for the butter, but really, if there’s ever a time to use butter, that time is now. Replacing it would be, just… well, it would be just OK. It would kinda be like the difference between going to see a Stones cover band, or seeing the actual Rolling Stones. The butter is Mick Jagger. You just won’t get the same satisfaction. (See what I did there? Ok, ok, I’ll get on with it.)

This recipe is a variation of the recipe titled Chickpeas and Spinach with Honeyed Sweet Potato (Ottolenghi, 82.) In the spirit of respecting intellectual property, I always like to give credit to those recipe authors who have inspired me, so, thank you kindly, Ottolenghi & Tamimi. You made my potluck dish a big hit!

Stewed Chickpeas with Caramelized Sweet Potato
serves 3 to 4 people

ingredients
500g sweet potato, cubed
50g salted butter
4 tbsp honey
3 cups water

3 tbsp oil
1 small onion (or about 6 shallots), finely chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp corriander seeds
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 can (591ml) chopped, unseasoned tomatoes (no salt added is preferable)
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp mango powder (found in most spice stores, Indian or Asian grocers, or bulk stores.)
(note: if you can’t find mango powder, 1 tsp of lemon juice or zest will also work.)

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups torn spinach (or baby spinach)
2 cups chopped fresh cilantro

cayenne pepper, to taste (use more if you like it spicy!)
salt, to taste

method
In a wide pot, bring water with potatoes, butter and honey to a boil. Lower heat to medium, and continue to cook until water is absorbed and butter & honey start to caramelize. Do not stir.

Meanwhile, heat oil in large frying pan. Add onions or shallots, and cook over medium heat, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add cumin and corriander seeds. Continue cooking until onions are brown and have reduced, about 3 more minutes. Add ketchup and stir, scraping any brown bits off of the bottom of the pan. Add canned tomatoes with their juice. Add ginger, cumin and mango powder. Stir well. When mixture starts to bubble, add chickpeas and spinach. Continue to cook until mixture starts to thicken. Add cilantro after about 10 minutes. Taste, and add salt as needed. Add cayenne , a little at a time, until you’ve reached your preferred level of heat. By this time, your potatoes should be ready, or almost there. Once they are, pour them into the pan, along with their buttery juices. Scrape as much of the browned butter into the pan as possible. Give it one nice, gentle stir.

Serve hot, garnished with fresh cilantro.

Buffalo Tofu & Ranch

Fun fact: Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo is a grammatically correct sentence in the English language. Wait! Before you go and fact-check that, make some of this deliciousness. This recipe is my vegetarian version of buffalo wings. You thought it couldn’t be done? Well it can! And it’s healthy. And it’s delicious. And it’s perfect. 

Vegetarians coming to your Superbowl party? PERFECT. 
Vegetarian yourself? PERFECT. 
Like spicy delicious meals? PERFECT. 

Everything about this meal is perfect. Even my super carnivorous boyfriend said, “you HAVE to make this again.” Win all around! Also, it really doesn’t take long to prepare, which is awesome if, you know, you’re super hungry. Seriously, this meal hits the spot. A little spicy, a little creamy, a little sweet, a whole lot of flavour! 

Pairs well with cold beer and good company.

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Buffalo Tofu with Mushrooms
an original recipe by allison sklar
time needed: 15 to 20 minutes, plus marinating. 
serves 2. 

ingredients
1/2 package firm tofu, cut into strips (or 3cm cubes)
1 cup whole button mushrooms, or sliced white mushrooms
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Franks Red Hot Original
1 tsp white vinegar

1/4 cup mayonnaise**
1/4 cup plain yogourt**
1 tbsp blue cheese crumbles
pinch salt
1 tsp lemon juice
4 tbsp soy milk
1 tsp granulated sugar 
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce 
generous amount cracked black pepper
dash hot sauce

2 cups mixed greens (radicchio, arugula, baby kale, spinach)
1/4 cup herbed goat cheese, crumbled

**VEGAN OPTION: Replace may & yogurt with Vegenaise Original, or another vegan mayo & omit cheese. 
how to do it
Marinate tofu for a few hours or overnight in a ziplock bag, air sealed, with ketchup, vinegar and Franks. Mix all dressing ingredients together and set aside. 

Heat a few tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Drop tofu into pan with juices. Pan fry about 5 minutes,  then add mushrooms. Continue to cook, turning tofu occasionally, until golden on all sides, about 15 minutes. Do not leave unattended. 

Arrange mixed greens in bowls, drizzle with half of the dressing. Place tofu mixture on top. Top with remaining dressing and cheese crumbles. Eat hot or cold.  Enjoy!

Roasted Eggplant Falafel with Spicy Yogurt Sauce

Alright, so I have a confession to make. This dish actually started out as an italian-style meatless meatball dish. It was supposed to be covered in tomato sauce and smothered in cheese and served on top of a plate of spaghetti. But, with an ice storm a brewin’ outside, I did not feel safe venturing out to get the handful of ingredients that I was missing. So, I decided to just make a few changes and use whatever I had on hand. Basil became cilantro. Beans became chickpeas. And then, somewhere along substitution road, my meatless meatballs in tomato sauce became meatless falafel in yogourt sauce. Let me tell you, whatever you want to call them, these little babies are 100% pure deliciousness.
  
Just a few things to note before you go off and make this. You MUST roast the eggplant the whole way through. No if’s and’s or but’s, the roasted eggplant has a flavour and texture that is crucial to the texture of the final product.  Also, the chickpeas are what give it that distinct falafel taste, so if you decide to sub them for something else, you’re going to have a very different little ball! Oh, and be sure to use greek yogourt (I prefer to use 2% as it’s creamy but still low in fat, but you can use any % that you like.) Vegan? No fret! Omit the yogourt sauce and replace it with some red hot sauce instead. Alright, let’s get ballin’!
Roasted Eggplant Falafel with Spicy Yogurt Sauce
An original recipe by Allison Sklar. Inspired by Meatless Meatballs, Food Network Magazine, Jan/Feb 2015.
ingredients
(for the vegan falafel)
1 large eggplant, roasted
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup chickpeas (rinsed & drained)
1 clove garlic, mashed
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup soy or nut milk
2 tbsp ground chia or flax seeds
1 tsp chili flakes
pinch salt & pepper
(for the yogurt sauce)
1 cup greek yogurt
1/2 cup vegetable juice
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cumin seed
2 tsp harissa paste 
handful chopped fresh cilantro
Begin by roasting your eggplant. Preheat oven to 375F. Place whole eggplant on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Prick eggplant with fork all over. Roast for 45 to 50 minutes, or until it looks wilted on the outside and is soft enough to slice easily with a knife. Let eggplant cool, about 15 to 20 minutes, before using. 
Meanwhile, prepare the broth for the yogurt sauce. In a small saucepan, combine spices and harissa paste. Toast on medium low heat until fragrant (2 to 4 minutes), moving it all around with a spatula or wooden spoon. Add vegetable juice & cilantro and whisk. Continue whisking intermittently on low heat until mixture reduces, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. (You may transfer to fridge once it’s cool enough!)
While the mixture is cooling, prepare your “chia egg.” (This is your binding agent!) Combine milk with chia seeds and let sit for about 10 minutes, until mixture is slightly gelatinous. 
Now, it’s time to make the falafel! Mash chickpeas very well with a fork. Mix together with breadcrumbs, cilantro and garlic. Once the eggplant is roasted and cooled, scoop out the inside, discarding the skin. Mash as well as you can, and incorporate it into the breadcrumb mixture. Add in the chia egg, and use your hands to bring it all together. 
Roll into balls and place on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350F for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden on the outside. 
Combine cooled broth with yogourt, mixing well. 
Serve hot falafel with cool yogourt sauce. Use more fresh cilantro to garnish if desired. 
NOTE: Short on time? No fret! Here are a couple of suggestions…
You can roast the eggplant the day before. 
You can skip the broth part of the yogurt sauce if you want to, and instead, just mix yogourt with a couple of tsp of harissa or sriracha! Instant spicy yogurt!


Good For The Heart

Many of you might recall a little jingle from childhood, you know, the one that relates beans with flatulence a certain bodily function that shall remain nameless. Well, that little ditty also suggested that beans are good for your heart – and that was smack on! While it is widely known that beans are chock full of fibre, making them your digestive track’s most powerful alli, a lesser known fact is that beans are also loaded with unique phytochemicals that protect against certain cancers as well as heart disesase. Oh, and they’re yummy. Especially when you make them into this deliciously refreshing salad!

Before you go on and read the recipe, I must let you know – it really is the cilantro that gives it a the perfect little kick of Mexicana, and makes it reminiscent of an authentic salsa.  So for all of you cilantro haters out there? I sympathize. I really do. I used to be one of you. Then, something changed inside of me. It began one faithful evening, while I was out with a few of my girls, dining at a local mexican resto that I’d been wanting to try.  I requested that they omit the cilantro on my dish, however, to my horror, the dish came to me brimming with the evil green leaf. The little piles seemed like mountains, mountains of cilantro that I would never be able to conquer. But, being a pushover extremely polite, I will very rarely send anything back at a restaurant. I decided at that moment that I was just going to have to bite the bullet and eat it. I told myself, hey, it’s meant to be prepared this way, right? And I came here for the experience of authentic cooking afterall, right? So I’ll eat it this exactly how it’s supposed to be eaten! Right.

And then something really weird happened. I. Liked. Cilantro.

So go ahead, be brave, try it for yourself, because it really does make this dish what it is. Replace it with flat leaf parsely if you must, or omit it alltogether, but definitely do make this bean salad.
Your heart will thank you.

Black Bean Salsa Salad
an original recipe by Allison Sklar

what you’ll need
1 cup of canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 small italian tomato, diced
½ an avocado, cut into cubes
1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp hot sauce (I used Frank’s)
1 tsp lime juice
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp ground cumin

how to do it
Combine salad ingredients. Toss with hot sauce, lime juice and seasonings, just until coated. Serve immediately. Keeps well in the fridge for two days. Serves 1, adjust quantities depending on the number of servings you desire.