Friday, March 6, 2009

Lazy day foods with BIG flavour

I haven't been in a cooking mood as of late. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I haven't been spending a lot of time at home. My hours at work have increased (yeah!) and the weather has been nicer so I've been spending more time outdoors...sometimes walking around the neighbourhood, or meeting up with pals for tea at a cafe or for a bite to eat.

Nevertheless, I did manage to whip up some quick and easy meals recently and wanted to document them and share them with you.

One dish I prepared was a quick and easy coconut tofu veggie stew which I served over brown rice. I didn't follow a recipe, I just visualized what would go well together and abracadabra instant tasty results. Creamy coconut with a spicy Indian curry kick.

Coconut Curry Stew

1 block of tofu - pressed and diced
3 tbs olive oil
1 whole onion diced
3 cloves garlic diced
1-inch knob of ginger, diced
1 zucchini cut lengthwise and sliced
3 cups veggie stock
2 tbs Patak's curry paste (whichever one you fancy)
2/3 to 1 can of coconut milk
1 tsp Thai chili sauce

1) Saute the onions, garlic and ginger in olive oil until wilted and slightly golden.
2) Add the zucchini and saute another 2 - 3 minutes.
3) Add the chili paste and stir the onions, garlic and zucchini ensuring that the paste has coated the veggies.
4) Add the stock to the pot and allow the veggies to simmer for 5 minutes.
5) Place the diced tofu cubes in the pot, place the lid on the pot and allow the whole mixture to simmer for 15 minutes.
6) Pour the coconut milk in the pot, stir and replace lid. Cook for another 10 minutes.
7) Prepare the rice as per package instructions.
8) Serve the coconut curry over the rice.
9) Add a few more drops of chili sauce if you prefer more heat.
10) Enjoy it hot!

The other meal I made was for my husband who was feeling sick and had a bad cough all week. I decided to make a lovely, fresh tasting carrot soup. I borrowed the recipe from the talented and always inspiring Laurie of Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska. (Just as an aside, about a year ago - by complete fluke - I landed on Laurie's blog and after reading a couple of her posts, I came to the realization that some of Laurie's posts where about the very same Greek island that my mother is from and where I have spent many summer vacations.) Wow! Small world!

I have never met Laurie but I feel that somehow I know her based on her descriptive and interesting stories of the life and food from this particular Greek island. One day, I hope to meet Laurie in person whether it be on the island or in Alaska (perhaps as a potential car raffle winner held in Alaska each year by the Greek community). For for now, I'll just enjoy the same foods that Laurie does.

Lemony Carrot Ginger Soup (adapted from Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska)

2 cups diced onions
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cups vegetable (or chicken stock)
1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon peel
2 Tbsp. minced crystallized ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup plain yogurt or cream (optional)

In a Dutch oven (or pot), sauté the onions, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in olive oil until they soften and begin to turn golden. Stir in the carrots and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the stock, lemon peel, ginger, and cinnamon and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes or until the carrots are soft.

Purée the soup with a stick blender (or in a blender or food processor) until it is very smooth. Return the soup to the pot, stir in the lemon juice, and cook for five minutes. Taste and add salt, freshly ground black pepper, or lemon juice, as needed. If using yogurt or cream, stir it into the soup. Serve immediately.

Note: This soup is very delicious! It tastes as if there is orange juice in it but it's the lemon juice and zest which lends such a freshly squeezed taste. The inclusion of cinnamon is also a great addition to the soup as it enhances the carrot flavour. I also really like the crystallized ginger in the soup. There were plenty of leftovers to take with us to work the following day.