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My kitchen counter is awash in hues of orange, yellow and green. It’s gourd season. As such, my culinary dreams are currently filled with warming scents of baking spices and exotic flavours that will transform these seemingly mild-flavoured fruit (yes, apparently botanically speaking they are fruit –not vegetables) into robust seasonal dishes.
This past couple of weeks I’ve been thrilled to dive deeper into the flavours of the Middle East and Mexico. Next week I visit North African cuisine. Revisiting the wonders of smoky chipotle chiles and other dried chile options from Mexico along with the warming scents of cumin and cinnamon sticks so often used in North African cuisine. Finally, the exotically earthy and floral notes of Middle Eastern saffron has done wonders for my home cooking repertoire. My neighbours are undoubtedly lapping up the scents as I seek to transform the simplicity of gourds, and other seasonal vegetables, into aromatic and sumptuous meals using spices from these regions.
Feed the soul with vegetables
I am by no means a vegan or vegetarian for that matter. I enjoy the carnivorous pleasures of meat but do find myself increasingly exploring a part-time vegetarian diet. To ease the void of meat-based protein I am replacing it with soul satisfying beans and legumes enriched by spice-laden vegetables. In this week’s Dinner Party article, I’ve crafted a menu that is bold and flavourful and not only meat-free but dairy and egg-free as well. While vegetables many never completely fill the void for some meat lovers, like myself, try thinking about how to insert texture and bold flavours into vegetarian meals. I may not vote to become a vegetarian quite yet, but I am increasingly convinced by the virtues of a meat-less diet.
When I think of vegetarian cuisine my mind immediately wanders to India. While the country as a whole is not perhaps as vegetarian rich as you might think – various reports suggest anywhere from 20 per cent to one-third of the population are vegetarians – this is still more than double Canadian totals and amongst the highest percentages in the world. Neighbouring Sri Lanka, likewise, has a very robust vegetarian culinary tradition, particularly amongst its Hindu population. Nuts are a great way to supplement for the protein loss of a meat-less diet. Discover the benefits of Sri Lankan cuisine in Laura Brehaut’s review of Milk, Spice and Curry Leaves, a cookbook written by Ruwanmali Samarakoon-Amunugama. Be sure to click on the link for her recipe for cashew curry.
Be bold, mixing flavours
In case you missed last week’s episode of In a Jiffy and The Dinner Party, I focused on Mexican cuisine. One of the highlights of the episode with my good friend Ana Correa – a born and raised Mexican sommelier and food enthusiast – was the depth and richness of a simple charred tomato and garlic salsa. Not only did I devour the salsa, post-video I made my own unique sauce fusing Mexican and North African cuisines. Subsequently to the filming I made another batch of the salsa, but this time blended it with Chef Greg Burns’ North African-inspired Chermoula Sauce. The result was an incredibly deep, smoky and complexly spiced salsa that could also be used as sauce for vegetarian and carnivorous dishes alike. In next week’s tasty edition of In a Jiffy we will dig deeper into the flavours of North African cuisine as I visit Chef Burns to get a hands-on lesson making this sauce.
See you next week when we’ll offer more great food and drink recipes. Until then, keep following your foodie dreams.
~ Mark DeWolf
Mark DeWolf is a connoisseur of all things food and drink. He’s a creative director with SaltWire and local fare is his specialty. Watch Mark whip up seasonal plates in his video series, In a Jiffy, and go deeper with food trends and kitchen challenges weekly