Archive | September 2012

Vegetable Roti


This dish came about as a result of a lovely day spent with my husband. We had taken that Friday off to go to see the Van Gogh exhibit. That morning we had awoken to some much welcomed rain after this drought we call summer. I’m embarrassed to say that we treated ourselves to a very cheap breakfast (thanks to coupons received in the mail) and enjoyed it on our front porch, wrapped in sweaters, as we watched the rain come down. There is something so very romantic about the rain. It was a beautiful morning. Breakfast outdoors was nice, but got us to the gallery later than originally planned. Needless to say that the line-up to view the exhibit was much too long. However, the exhibit did not disappoint and was well worth the wait and the crowds! I know Van Gogh for his still lifes and irises, but the exhibit displayed an array of paintings showcasing Van Gogh’s range. “Couple Walk in the Woods“, simultaneously haunting and inviting, is forever etched in my mind, while “Road Menders at Saint-Remy” and its use of colour reminded me of Tom Thomson’s work. From there we picked up some of our favourite coffee (Ideal Coffee) in the market, finally picked up our wedding wall hangings and started to head for home.

By this time, it was getting late and we were getting hungry. Since I don’t cook on Friday nights (not even when I have the day off), my husband proposed I try the vegetable roti at Mugena Enterprises. He is well acquainted with its food from Ottawa’s BluesFest. Willing to give it a try, we made our way there. It’s a modest little family owned restaurant attached to a grocery store. There were two other parties there waiting for food when we arrived and countless others coming in and out picking up take-out orders. It was obvious it was a local favourite. My husband had the jerk chicken and I of course had the only vegetarian option available, the vegetable roti and must say, I was pleasantly impressed. You could tell it was homemade, simple, but absolutely delicious! The vegetable curry consisted solely of chickpeas and potatoes and it was served with a side salad. If you haven’t tried this place, I highly recommend it! I did not depart before picking up some Jamaican spicy curry powder (fully intending to replicate this dish) and bulla cakes, of course.

I was so impressed that when we got home, I set out to learn about making vegetable roti. As impressed as I was with Mugena’s version, I was determined to up the amount of veggies in the curry. The recipe I found and used as a base had both a vegetarian and meat option, so I took what I liked from both plus added a few things and changed some others. The combination of butternut squash, potato, chick peas, and peas is delightful and much more tantalizing than a potato/chick pea combination. The butternut squash, in addition to a healthy serving of vegetables, brings a subtle sweetness and together with the fresh thyme and cilantro make this dish exciting! The curry stands alone (with or without the roti) and would be equally nice served over a bed of brown rice. If you are not adventurous enough to make your own roti, frozen ones are available. If you can’t find frozen roti, tortillas could be substituted. The dish was served garnished with a hot sauce made locally without vinegar; the acidity comes from star fruit. I find that hot sauces without vinegar complement vegetables dishes better because they are less vulgar. My husband and I enjoy spicy food, so this recipe is spicy. Adjust accordingly to your own liking. If using the scotch bonnet, be careful when handling it. It is an extremely hot pepper. In my next version, an autumn rendition, I will substitute the broth with coconut milk and make pumpkin the main attraction. Yes, the dish is so good that I’m already thinking about the next time. In fact, I doubled the roti recipe anticipating a repeat. We have enough roti in the freezer for the next occasion. The version after that will substitute the curry powder with jerk seasoning instead. The dish is hearty, warm, and inviting, so much so that my husband and I ate it three times that week.

This is a quick and easy weeknight meal (if roti are pre-made/bought).

Serves 6

Ingredients:

 Roti:
 Flour, white  4 cups
 Flour, spelt  4 cups
 Baking powder  3 tbsp
 Salt  2 tsp
 Jamaican spicy curry powder  2 tsp
 Garlic powder  2 tsp
 Turmeric  1 tsp
 Oil, Canola  1/2 cup
 Water  2 cups
 Oil, Canola  (for cooking)
 Vegetable Curry:
 Oil, Canola  3 tbsp
 Onion, small, chopped  1
 Garlic, cloves, crushed  4
 Butternut squash, cubed small  4 cups
 Potato, large (half cubed small, half      shredded)  1
 Pepper, scotch bonnet, finely chopped, seeds removed (optional)  1
 Jamaican spicy curry powder  2 tbsp
 Coriander, dry  2 tsp
 Hot sauce (vinegar-free) (optional)  1 tbsp
 Thyme, sprigs, fresh  6-8
 Broth, vegetable  2 cups
 Salt
 Chickpeas  2 cups
 Peas  1 cup
 Cilantro, fresh, chopped  1/2 cup
 Hot sauce (vinegar-free) (optional)  For serving/garnishing

Directions:

  1. To make the roti, combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  2. Gradually add the oil and water while mixing and kneading the dough. Knead the dough for 5 minutes. Set the dough aside for 15 minutes.
  3. Divide the dough into 12 equal-sized balls. Flatten each slightly and roll out into 8 inch squares.
  4. To cook the roti, place a little bit of oil in a skillet over high heat until it sizzles. Reduce the heat to medium and place the roti in the pan. Cook for 2 minutes, until the crust is light brown. Turn with a wide spatula and continue cooking for another minute. Repeat the process with the remaining rotis. Set aside.
  5. To make the vegetable curry, place the oil in a medium pot over medium heat.
  6. Add onion and garlic and sauté for 3-4 minutes.
  7. Add the butternut squash, potato, and scotch bonnet and sauté for 2 minutes.
  8. Add the curry powder, coriander, and hot sauce and sauté for 2 minutes.
  9. Add broth, salt, and thyme and cook for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are soft but not mushy.
  10. Add the chick peas and peas and cook another 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  11. Remove from heat. Using a hand blender, puree one-tenth of the curry and stir well (this helps thicken the stew without adding flour or other thickening agents).
  12. Stir in cilantro. Set the filling aside.
  13. To assemble the roti, working with one roti at a time, place a half cup of vegetable curry filling in the center of the roti. Fold long sides over each other, so that they meet in the centre. Do the same for the short sides. Flip roti so that the folds are on the bottom.
  14. Place roti on a plate, garnish with hot sauce (without vinegar), and serve with a side salad or veggies of choice. Serve immediately.

Grilled Portobello Tacos with Salsa Verde


As a vegetarian, I struggle with the summer barbecue season. In fact, I have dedicated the last two summers to finding and creating interesting barbecue options for me. This is definitely one of those. I liked it so much, I made it twice within a three-month timespan. Very few dishes move me to make them twice in such a short period of time.

I will start by saying that though I love mushrooms, I have had issues with both the texture and intense flavour of portobello mushrooms. Perhaps it’s their meatiness. This is one of the few recipes that I make in which I thoroughly enjoy them wholeheartedly, without conditions. The balsamic marinade is simple, but seems to bring out their best. I’ll be honest. I do cheat a little bit. I use portobellini instead of the actual portobello mushrooms. They are thinner, less dense, and much milder in taste.

I love everything about this recipe, slightly adapted from Vegetarian Times Magazine, however, I did use my own salsa verde recipe. My farmers’ market sells tomatillos in 2 pound baskets, so of course, there will be extra salsa to freeze for a few more times. The recipe yields approximately 3 cups of salsa. Don’t feel that you have to make your own salsa. There are plenty of good ones out there; try to pick one without additives/preservatives.

Portobello mushrooms and tomatillos (salsa verde) are just beautiful together. The salsa not only works to mellow the deep portobello flavours, but gives their heavy earthiness a lift and a zing, as if to complete the job the balsamic vinegar started, but could not finish. The medley of raw cabbage, cherry tomatoes, and avocado complete the dish adding crunch, sweetness, and creaminess. Underneath it all is the tanginess of the sour cream (vegans feel free to use vegan sour cream). The mushrooms and salsa are good on their own, but these additions make the dish sing. It’s a dish that contains more raw vegetables than cooked and just makes me feel good when I eat it. As a vegetarian, I don’t feel cheated at the barbecue with this dish. It is absolutely delicious!

This is a quick and easy weeknight meal (if you are using pre-made salsa verde).

Serves 3 (2 tacos per person)

Ingredients:

 Marinade:
 Olive oil  1/3 cup
 Vinegar, balsamic  3 tbsp
 Salt
 Black pepper
 Mushrooms, portobello, large  6
 Tortillas, soft  6
 Sour cream
 Cabbage, Savoy, shredded  3 cups
 Avocados  3
 Tomatoes, cherry  2 cups
 Salsa Verde:
 Tomatillos, grilled  2 lbs
 Onions, green, grilled  3
 Cilantro, sprigs & roots, fresh  3
 Lime juice  1 tbsp
 Jalapeno, grilled, seeded  1
 Salt  1/2 tsp
 Black pepper
 Garlic, cloves  2
 Olive oil  3 tbsp

Directions:

  1. To make marinade, combine the olive oil and balsamic vinegar in small bowl.
  2. Brush mushroom caps with marinade. Season each mushroom cap with salt and black pepper. Place mushrooms in a small bowl and pour remaining marinade over mushrooms. Marinate while grill is preheating.
  3. Preheat grill or grill pan to high heat.
  4. Grill mushrooms 3 to 5 minutes per side. Cool until easy to handle, then slice into strips.3.
  5. To make the salsa verde, toss tomatillos, green onions, and jalapeño in olive oil.
  6. Grill the vegetables (tomatillos, green onions, and jalapeño) over medium heat. The green onions will only require a couple of minutes on each side. The tomatillos will soften in about 10 minutes. When the jalapeño is done (charred and softened), place it in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes. Peel and remove seeds.
  7. Place tomatillos, lime juice, green onions, cilantro, jalapeño, garlic and olive oil in a food processor and pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
  8. Lightly warm tortillas 15 seconds per side in skillet or on griddle.
  9. To fill the tortillas, begin by spreading some sour cream (if using) over half the tortilla. Then add the shredded cabbage, sliced mushrooms, avocado slices, and tomatoes. Top each taco with salsa verde.

Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini Pressed Panino


I used to be able to get a version of this sandwich at this tiny little lunch place by work. Every time I went in there, I would ask for a panino and the man behind the counter would correct me and ask, “you mean a panini?” I would answer, “not unless you are planning to give me two for the price of one.” Panini is plural, meaning multiple sandwiches; panino is singular for one sandwich. I love it when people correct my Italian. The restaurant has long since gone out of business, but I continue to enjoy it at home. I think mine’s better :).  

Every vegetarian pressed panino seems to contain grilled eggplant and zucchini. I know, but this sandwich is different. I have had the zucchini both grilled and raw and it’s delicious both ways. The dressing, though simple, adds the right amount of creaminess and it dances thanks to the freshly cracked black pepper and strong hints of parsley. Who puts parsley in their sandwiches?? It’s fabulous. Trust me.  Then there’s the crunch from the no-nonsense green pepper, which is actually refreshing in this crowd. Combined with a warm, toasty bun that heats everything up and causes the mozzarella to ooze, it’s simply lovely. Oh how I love this sandwich!!

Serves 1

Ingredients:

 Bun, flat, whole grain  1
 Mozzarella, slices  2-3
 Eggplant, small, grilled  1
 Zucchini, grilled or raw  1
 Pepper, green (raw), thinly sliced  1/2
 Mayonnaise  1 tbsp
 Basil pesto 1 tsp
 Mustard, Dijon  1/2 tsp
 Parsely, fresh, finely chopped 1 tbsp
 Black pepper  

Directions:

  1. Thinly slice eggplant. Brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper.
  2. Slice zucchini diagonally approximately half an inch wide. Brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper.
  3. Grilled eggplant and zucchini slices over medium heat for approximately 2-3 minutes on each side.
  4. Combine the mayonnaise, basil pesto, Dijon mustard, parsley and black pepper. Set aside.
  5. Cut bun in half and spread half the mayonnaise spread over one side. Save the extra for lunch.
  6. Then add the mozzarella slices, three layers of eggplant, one layer of zucchini, green pepper slices, in this order. Top with other half of the bun.
  7.  Heat a small frying pan on medium heat. Do not add oil.
  8.  Add the panino and reduce the heat by one notch.
  9. Place something heavy (e.g.  cast iron pan) on the panino and press down for 3 minutes.
  10. Flip panino and press and cook for another 3 minutes.