Vegetarian Gado Gado (Veggie Salad + Peanut Sauce)

On Thursday, there was a knock on the door. A parcel. The labelling hinted that something tasty lay inside, but I dared not hope: could it be cheese? It was! Four glorious French varieties, two pounds in all. A delicious gift from my sister and brother-in-law, for me.

My first feeling was glee: Four incredible cheese experiences awaited me! I exclaimed, I waved my hands around in excitement. But just as I bent my knees for a victory jump, the fear crept in.

_MG_0180.jpgI felt…heavier. And I undoubtedly was. Because earlier that week, moderation had gone on a little holiday and four-cheese lasagna, pie, ice cream, and a lot of cheesecake dropped by to take its place. And now there was this cheese. And it would have to be eaten fast – I’m heading back to Canada in two weeks where, alas, my cheese isn’t welcome. But if I were to pile it onto my existing, terrible diet it would spell certain death. And what a horrible shame it would be to kick the bucket before polishing off the chèvre.

And so, my travelling companion (and now my fellow cheese-eater) and I took a vow of sort-of moderation. Apart from the cheese, the next two weeks will be about vegetables and not much else. But a dinner of, say, lettuce, virtuous though it may be, doesn’t make for compelling blog reading. In short, I needed an interesting salad.

gado-duo-text.jpgWhich brings us to gado-gado. In a nutshell, this Sudanese/Indonesian salad is a mix of easy-to-find veggies, vegetarian protein and peanut sauce, all prepared simply. The potatoes and beans are steamed, the crunchier vegetables – cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes – are raw, the sauce can be whisked together in a matter of minutes.

The bit of reading I’ve done suggests that no one recipe reigns supreme, so feel free to switch up some of the veggies, doctor the peanut sauce, and bulk up the protein by adding tofu or tempeh in addition to the eggs. Or make it easy on yourself and stick with the recipe as written – it’s simple, but wholly satisfying, even without the promise of a post-dinner cheese plate.

Vegetarian Gado Gado 
Adapted loosely from Jamie Oliver’s gado-gado
Serves 2-3 

Note: Bean sprouts are a common gado-gado addition, but we couldn’t track them down. If you’re a sprout fan, toss in some sprouts in place of an equal quantity of the green beans. You can also add a half-pound of firm tofu or tempeh, cut into bite-sized pieces and fried in a tablespoon or so of sesame oil. 


For the peanut sauce
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/3 cup warm water
1 tbsp lime juice (about half a lime)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 clove of garlic, minced or grated
1-2 dried red chilies or 1-2 tsp sriracha (to suit your spiciness preferences)
1/2 tsp brown sugar

For the salad (all veggies below should be washed!)
1.5 cups of red potatoes, cut into bite-sized (~1 inch) pieces
3 handfuls of green beans, ends removed, super-long ones cut in half
2-3 eggs
2 large leaves of green cabbage, super-thinly sliced
4-6 cocktail or campari tomatoes, quartered*
4-6 radishes, cut into eights*
1/2 cucumber, cut into half lengthwise and then cut into ~1-inch slices
A loose 1/2 cup of cilantro leaves

To Serve: Fresh limes


First up, make your sauce: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, warm water, lime juice, soy sauce, garlic, chilies/sriracha and brown sugar. Taste and add more lime, soy, sriracha or sugar as you see fit.

Next, prep your salad: Bring a large pot of water (about 3/4 full) to a boil over high heat. Carefully add your potatoes and 1 tsp of salt and boil until the potatoes are almost cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. Add your green beans to the pot and cook for another minute or two, until the beans and potatoes are tender. Drain off the water.

While your potatoes are cooking, hard boil your eggs: Place the eggs in medium-sized pot and fill with enough water to cover them by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water has boiled, turn off the heat and cover the pot with a lid. Let the eggs sit in the hot water for 6 minutes, then rinse them in cool water and peel and quarter them.

Finally, put it all together: Divide the potatoes, beans, eggs, cabbage, tomatoes, radishes, cucumber and cilantro leaves evenly between 2-3 bowls or large plates (however many servings you’re putting together) and season everything with a few pinches of salt. Evenly distribute the peanut sauce overtop. Serve with a few extra wedges of lime. And that’s it!

*If you can’t find cocktail/campari tomatoes (those slightly smaller-than-average, super-juicy tomatoes that tend to be sold on the vine), substitute about 3/4 cup of the tastiest tomatoes you can easily track down, cut into bite-sized pieces. 

Edamame Tacos with Sesame Slaw

I have, in my day, eaten my fair share of vegetarian tacos.

Sit-down, takeout and homemade. No-nonsense and creative. Made with endless combinations of black beans, refried beans, guacamole, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, lime, cilantro, salsa verde, salsa fresca, fruit salsa, who knows what else. 

But the tacos I’m sharing with you today, they tick none of those boxes. And they’re the best I’ve ever had. 

taco.jpg(I recognize that, in omitting all meat from the competition and not having sampled tacos in their Mexican homeland, I’ve narrowed the playing field considerably, but I’m confident that the tacos I’m about to describe to you can be classified as exceptionally tasty, whether we’re talking beans in a tortilla or food in general.)

I had the now-much-hyped tacos just once, at Red Fish Blue Fish, a fish and chips stall on Victoria’s harbour. And delicious though the place is famed to be, I was (as you no doubt will be) hesitant. Because on paper, this particular offering only gets more unusual as you keep reading: mashed edamame, peas and white beans; million island dressing; sweet smoked chilies in adobo; slaw; pea shoots; lemon-pickled onions. 

taco-five.jpgBut, as the existence of this blog post suggests, it was wholly delicious. The kind of delicious that I knew, just a few bites in, would stick in my mind and eventually lead me to a grocery store in search of the raw materials. Which brings us to today. 

I know the recipe looks daunting, with its list of sub-recipes and its demands that you stir together mayo, ketchup and pickles (yes, really). But don’t be fooled! The prep is beyond easy (chop, mix, stir), comes together quickly and leads to food-happiness. 

Edamame Tacos with Sesame Slaw
Recipe inspired by the edamame tacones from Victoria’s Red Fish Blue Fish
Makes 4 soft tacos (serves 2 hungry people)

Before you tackle this recipe – which essentially just tells you how to assemble your tacos – you’ll need to prepare all of the component parts. The recipes for the component parts (they’re all simple – promise!) are below. 

Lemon-pickled onions
Sesame coleslaw
Smashed beans
~1/2 cup Thousand island dressing (storebought or homemade; the recipe I used is below)
4 9-inch tortillas 
4-6 chipotle peppers packed in adobo, thinly sliced


Prepare your onions, coleslaw and smashed beans according to the recipes below. Ideally, you should make the onions a day before serving (though a few hours will do), the coleslaw about 15-20 minutes before serving, and the beans immediately before serving. 

If you’re making the Thousand Island Dressing from scratch, it can be prepared up to 24 hours in advance, though at a minimum you should make it before you prep your coleslaw and your beans.

As you finish mashing your beans, pop your tortillas in a warm oven (setting the broiler to low works well) and heat them just until they’re hot, but not crispy.

Top each tortilla with a few tablespoons of Thousand Island Dressing, ~1/2 cup of the bean mixtures, 4-6 slices of chipotle peppers, a few tablespoons of pickled onion and about 1/2 cup of coleslaw. Wrap them up and eat them while they’re still warm (this is essential – if they cool down, warm them back up in a toasty oven or a microwave for a couple of minutes). Add additional dressing as you see fit (they should be reasonably spicy and saucy!).

Make these first! 

onion-header.jpgAdapted from Readers Digest
Makes ~1 cup (more than you’ll need – extras go well with falafel!)


1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice (about 1.5 lemons)
6 tbsp mirin*
1/4 cup of unseasoned rice vinegar** (or 2 tbsp each of cider vinegar and white vinegar)
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp white sugar
1 medium red onion, very thinly sliced

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, mirin, vinegar, salt and sugar. Add the onions and toss to coat them in the juice mixture. Cover and let sit in the fridge, preferably overnight but at least for a few hours, until the onions are soft. 

*Or substitute 1/4 cup of white wine and 2 tbsp water 
**Or substitute 2tbsp each of cider vinegar and white vinegar  

dressing-header.jpgAdapted from the Food Network Kitchen
Makes ~1 1/4 cups (more than you need – extras can be used anywhere you’d use a creamy salad dressing)

3/4 cup prepared or homemade mayonnaise
2 tbsp ketchup
1-2 tbsp hot sauce (like Sriracha)
1.5 tbsp minced onion
2 tsp minced dill pickle
1/2 boiled egg, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 tsp white sugar
1/4 tsp salt, plus extra to taste

In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients until thoroughly combined. Cover and store in the fridge until you need it. It’ll keep for two days, but given that you’ll likely have leftovers, I’d recommend making it no more than 24 hours in advance. 

bean-header.jpgMakes ~2 cups 

Heaping 1/2 cup each of: frozen peas, frozen edamame (soy beans), and cooked white beans (like navy, cannellini or kidney)
1-3 tbsp water
Several pinches of salt


Fill a medium-sized pot with about an inch or two of water and a couple pinched of salt. Bring the water to a bowl, then toss in your frozen peas. Let simmer for two minutes, then add the frozen edamame and continue simmering for a couple minutes, until the peas and edamame are nearly cooked through. Finally, add in the white beans and let simmer for a minute more, just to heat through. 

Turn off the heat, drain the water, then roughly mash the beans in the pot (as you would potatoes) with a tablespoon of water and a couple more pinches of salt. Add the extra tablespoons of water and a few extra pinches of salt, if you’d prefer a slightly smoother and/or saltier bean mixture. 

Made it this far? You’ve earned yourself a taco gif!  


Coming Up: Tacos!

Coming up tomorrow: Some of the most unusual, and most addictive, vegetarian tacos you’ll ever meet (and eat!). 


Yellow Curry with Potatoes, Beans & Collard Greens

Friends! I’ve been holding out on you! I’ve been meaning to share this little gem of a curry since I first came across it back in January. A conservative guess says I’ve made it a dozen times since then – a dozen missed opportunities to bring a new form of tastiness and ease to your table. 

curry.jpgWith enough thought and creativity, I might be able to come up with a passable story about why it’s taken me until now to pass it along but, given that I’m 10 months behind schedule, I figure I’d better skip the story and get straight to the recipe.

To me, this is the mac and cheese of curries: it’s rich, starchy, salty, comforting and – the clincher – a vibrant shade of orangey yellow. And, as far as curries go, it’s relatively easy to pull together; the prep and cooking techniques are straightforward and, curry newbies rejoice!, it calls for only two types of spices, both of which are easy to track down. 

As the original recipe notes, the dish is infinitely adapted: Feel free to swap the collard greens and potatoes for other leafy and starchy vegetables, experiment with the sorts of beans you use, and doctor the spice mix to your liking. Don’t be shy with the salt and, if you’ll let me say, don’t wait 10 months to try it. 

Yellow Curry with Potatoes, Beans & Collard Greens
Adapted from Post Punk Kitchen
Serves 4-6


1 tbsp oil (vegetable, olive, coconut) 
1 large red onion, sliced
1 hot chile (variety and spiciness of your choosing), finely chopped
1.5 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
3 medium cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
1-1.5 tsp salt
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups of water 
1.5 lbs of red potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks (about 3 medium-sized potatoes)
1 can of coconut milk 
4 loosely packed cups of collard greens (washed, stems removed, leaves cut into bite-sized pieces)
1.5 cups cooked, rinsed beans (black beans, black-eyed peas and white beans will all work well)
To serve: Freshly cooked basmati or jasmine rice


1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and chile and cook until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute.

3. Add in the curry powder, garam masala, 1 tsp salt, sugar and tomato paste, and stir until they form a bit of a paste. 

4. Add the water and potatoes, stirring until the spice paste dissolves into the water. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low, partially cover it with a lid, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 5-10 minutes.

5. Stir in the coconut milk, collard greens and beans and continue to simmer over medium-low until the greens are almost tender, 3-5 minutes. At this stage, give the curry a taste and add more salt as needed. Turn off the heat and let the curry sit for a few minutes before serving.  

Coming Up: Curry!

Tomorrow: Warm curry for the chilly days ahead.  


Banana Cake with Chocolate Icing

Last week, my nephew turned two. And before I left Edmonton – headed first for Newfoundland, and then for my current home base in North Carolina –  we celebrated. We opened presents, went to the park, chased magpies and, of course, ate cake. 

Compared to my efforts on Max’s first birthday, this year was a little more modest. But, based on the look of undiminished excitement on his little face as we relit the candles atop the cake and let him blow them out for a second time (he’s celebrating two years, after all), I’ll be bold and posit that he was happy with just a cake, instead of cakes. 

In keeping with (an admittedly one-year only) tradition, it was a mini three-layer banana creation, wrapped up in chocolate. On first read, it may sound a little complicated, what with all those layers of a non-traditional size. But because you can cut them from a single 9x13-inch cake, it comes together surprisingly quickly (and, my favourite bit, it asks that you grease only one pan).

But, as you may well ask, why bother with such tiny layers in the first place? When I made my first tiny cake last year, the thinking was pragmatic: If Max was going to smash the thing anyway, as every baby should have the right to do, better keep it small. But there’s now another part to it: A three-layer cake simply feels more ceremonious, and in going small, it’s more manageable to bake (no need to scale recipes or invest in extra pans) and it won’t linger in your fridge days after the party’s over. 

Now enough with the details. It’s time for, as Max would say, CAAAAAAAAAAKE

5-inch Banana Cake with Chocolate Icing
Serves 4-6
Adapted from this recipe and this recipe 

Cake Ingredients 
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I swapped in 1 cup of whole wheat)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup mashed ripe bananas 

Icing Ingredients
2 1/2 cups icing (confectioner’s or powdered) sugar
6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
4-6 tbsp milk 
1 tsp pure vanilla extract 

Cake Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 9x13-inch glass baking pan. (My 9x13-inch pan was nowhere to be found, so I used a slightly smaller pan and a muffin tin.)

2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy (an electric or hand mixer works bester for this). Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then beat in the vanilla.

3. In another medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 

4. Gently stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture until mostly incorporated. Add in the buttermilk and banana, and stir gently just until the mixture is smooth. 

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-40 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden and a knife/toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out with a few crumbs, but without gooey batter. Set aside on a wire rack to cool.

Icing Instructions

1. In a medium bowl, sift together the icing sugar and cocoa powder.

2. In a large bowl, beat the butter until it’s smooth. With the mixer on low, gradually add in the sugar-cocoa mix, alternating with the milk. After the final addition, add in the vanilla, and beat until the icing is totally smooth.

3. If the icing is too dry, beat in more milk, one teaspoon at a time. If the icing is too wet, beat in cocoa or sugar (depending on whether you want it to be more chocolate or more sweet) one tablespoon at a time. 

To Assemble

1. Once the cake is cool, cut it into three, approximately 5-inch rounds (a thin-rimmed glass bowl works well here). If the tops of your rounds aren’t flat, gently slice the rounded tops off with a serrated knife, and set them aside with the rest of the scraps. 

2. Line the edges of your cake plate with strips of parchment or wax paper. Place one round in the centre of your plate so that it overlaps the edges of the paper.

3. Spread 1/4 cup of icing evenly over the first round. Stack another round on top of the icing, and spread another 1/4 cup of icing evenly over that second layer. Stack the final round on top, and spread a very thin layer of icing over it. 

4. Next, spread a very thin layer of icing around the sides of your cake. This ‘crumb coat’, as it’s called, will fix the crumbs of the cake in place and keep them from invading the next, final layer of icing.

5. Let the crumb coat dry a little, then ice the sides and top of your cake the remaining icing (as much or as little as you want). Extra icing can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for a few months (or eaten with your cake scraps!). 

Coming Up: Cake!

Tomorrow: A mini, three-layer banana cake, wrapped up in chocolate.


See you tomorrow, with cake!

From Newfoundland: Partridgeberry Pie

When I arrived in Newfoundland two weeks ago, I felt like I was being dropped not into a different province, but into a different country. 

The accents. The brightly coloured houses. The scrubby vegetation, doing its best to carve out a life on a landscape ravaged by wind and salt air. The food.

berry-hill-pair.jpgMenus offered up cod tongues. Moose dinners. French fries topped with bread crumbs and gravy. And then there were the berries.

Newfoundland’s rocky ground doesn’t support the kinds of crops you’ll find growing across Canada’s other provinces. But it does play host to an impressive array of hardy berry bushes, some of which you’ll find scattered in only a handful of places throughout the western hemisphere. 

berry-group.jpgClockwise from top left: Wild blueberries, juniper berries, mystery berries (update 10/13/2014: These ones are chokeberries), partridgeberries, witherod viburnum (inedible, from what I gather), and blackberries. 

We arrived towards the end of Newfoundland’s berry season. But as we hiked around the province, we found (and sampled) berries everywhere: still clinging to bushes along the trails, being sold by the bucketful on the side of the highway, preserved in the jams offered up with our morning toast, and baked into biscuits and pies. 

I’d like to be able to report that I managed to cook with the berries too, but, alas, by the time we got home from hiking and touring each day, we fell into bed without the energy to even consider turning on the stove. Now that I’m off the island though, I’ll be working my way through the moose-free recipes in my snazzy little Newfoundland Recipes cookbook, scored for a $2.50 at a St. John’s flea market. 

pie-pair.jpgTo start: Partridgeberry pie, made from tart little red berries that grow in abundance across the province. Where so many pies are decidedly sweet, this one – which we picked up at a community bakesale in Gros Mourne National Park – offers both sweetness and bite. Ours went down easy, helped by a hefty spoonful of freshly whipped cream. 

partridge-berries.jpgUnless you’re on Canada’s east coast or in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, where partridgeberries (also known as lingonberries) are grown, you’ll likely have a tricky time tracking them down. But not to worry! You can easily substitute in their close cousin, the common cranberry, which you’ll likely find stocked in most grocery stores across Canada and the States, what with the impending Thanksgivings on the horizon. 

Speaking of which, happy holidays to my friends in Canada. May your day be filled with pie! 

Partridgeberry Pie
Adapted from Newfoundland Recipes and Canadian Living 
Makes one 9-inch pie

Note: If you can’t find partridgeberries (also known as lingbonberries, foxberries or lowbush cranberries, among other names), you can use an equal quantity of cranberries or red currants. I found the cooked partridgeberries to have a slight raspberry flavour – if you have easy access to raspberries, try swapping 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the cranberries/currants for raspberries. 

Pastry for a 9-inch, two-crust pie (I like this recipe)
2 cups of fresh or frozen partridgeberries (see note above about substitutions)
1.5-2 cups of white granulated sugar
1 tbsp milk
2 tsp granulated sugar


1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. 

2. Prepare your pie crust according to your recipe’s instructions, stopping just before you’re meant to divide the pie crust in two. 

3. In a medium-sized, heavy sauce pan, combine your berries with 1.5 cups of sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat and let simmer until the berries pop and the mixture thickens, stirring often (about 10 minutes). Give the berry mixture a taste about halfway through the cooking process (careful – it’ll be hot!) to see whether you want to add the extra 1/2 cup of sugar. Set the cooked mixture aside to cool. 

4. Finishing preparing your pie crust, dividing the dough into two balls, one slightly larger than the other. Roll the larger ball out to fit your 9-inch pie plate, trimming off any dough that hangs over the edges of the plate. Roll the smaller round out to fit overtop of your pie plate, but don’t trim it just yet.

5. Spread the berry mixture evenly in your dough-lined pie plate. Top with the second round of dough, trimming off any that hangs over the edges of your pie plate. Gently press a fork around the edges of the pie to seal the two layers of dough together. Use the fork to poke a few holes in the top of the pie. 

6. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and sugar with a fork until the sugar has dissolved. Brush the sugary milk over the top of your pie.

7. Bake the pie in your preheated oven for 20 minutes, then drop the heat to 400 degrees Fahreneheit and bake for 5-10 minutes more, or until the pie crust is golden. Allow the pie to cool slightly before you dig in. 

Coming Up: A Recipe from Newfoundland

As usual when I travel, I’m running a bit behind with my recipe sharing. But stay tuned – in the next few days, I’ll be sharing a recipe featuring one of the many berries that you’ll find growing wild here on Newfoundland.

And, as usual when I’m running behind, here are a few photos to visually tide you over while you wait for the full post. 

First up: The berries we’ll be working with in a few days’ time. 


Next up: The sort of environment you can expect to find your berries. Not a bad place to linger for a few minutes searching for fresh fruit, I’d say. 


Check back in a few days, and I’ll have that recipe ready for you!

FoodHappy in Newfoundland!

Hey friends! Once again, I’m on the move. For the next week and a half, I’ll be travelling around Newfoundland, taking photos and (hopefully) cooking out of my newly acquired cookbook, Newfoundland Recipes: The Sixteenth Edition (highlights include baked goods by the names of Bangbelly and Figgy Duff, mixed in amongst the moose and caribou dishes).  


I’ve only been on the island for a day now, so I, alas, have no treats for you just yet. While you wait, here are some photos from my first day of travels around the St. John’s area. 


Been to Newfoundland before? I’d love to hear your suggestions of where to go and, particularly, what to eat. Send me a note at steph[at] or leave me a comment below.


Stay tuned for more from the coast!