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Do-It-Yourself Food! (September 1, 2010)

So who isn't in a hurry? Too often we have to go with "store bought" instead of homemade, and really, admit it... you've thought "I could do this better if I had the time!" Well, three new cookbooks take care of this problem.

D.I.Y. Delicious: Recipes and Ideas for Simple Food from Scratch by Vanessa Barrington is a perfect book for anyone who loves good food; it's full of simple instructions to make everything from real ketchup and mustard, yogurt, and crackers to brew-your-own root beer and even kombucha!*

D.I.Y. Delicious is really a small "how-to" encyclopedia, and not just a collection of good recipes. Oh, there are plenty of those, but they will include several of the basic foodstuffs to make from scratch in the book such as soft cheeses, pickles and sauces. It would take several pages to cover one recipe, so we urge you to go out and cruise the book for yourself. You'll see, and you'll want to own and make every one of these foods!

Last week at Costco we tried a sample of a veggie burger, and all we could say when asked was "It has the taste and consistency of wet cardboard!" We got home to find waiting Lukas Volger's latest, Veggie Burgers Every Which Way; it arrived not a moment too soon!

The idea of fresh, tasty (and healthy!) vegan and vegetarian burgers is so appealing, and when all 32 recipes in Volger's book are paired with just the right buns, toppings, sides and condiments, even Ron the Carnivore was interested.

We loved the Tortilla-Crusted Stuffed Portobello Burger and the Corn Burger with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese, and even the Tofu and Chard Burgers had an interesting ring... and we know you'll love the recipes we've given you below.

Next time you're asked to bring an appetizer for the party, don't hit the deli... instead, get a copy of Skinny Dips and whip up one of the 60 recipes for dips, spreads, chips and salsas, all of which are on the lighter side of delicious! Author Diane Morgan has pulled together a delightful and guilt-free collection that will put you on the Guest A List for sure!

Skinny Dips includes a generous recipe section of crudités and other skinny dippers such as Roasted Cauliflower or Fingerling Potatoes, Grilled Asparagus, Japanese Eggplant, a large assortment of breads and crisps, plus poached shrimp. Morgan gives you good party planning advice, and an excellent healthful ingredient glossary from Ancho Chilies to Yogurt!

Wait no longer. D.I.Y dishes are easier and faster than you thought. But a warning here...once you start you won't turn back!

*Kombucha! No, neither did we. According to Wikipedia, Kombucha is a fermented tea that is often drunk for medicinal purposes. It's available in heath food stores, but you can make your own (should you wish...) for a fraction of the cost.

On today's menu:

Download this article in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (140 KB)



Curry Pumpkin Hummus

Portland, Oregon, resident Diane Morgan is an award-winning cookbook author, freelance food writer, culinary instructor and restaurant consultant. For this cross-culture dip, she combined pumpkin and chickpeas and added an underlying current of spice, a little sweetness and a touch of lusty garlic. Bring on the crowd; this one is a perfect fall party dish! From Skinny Dips.

Makes 2¾ cups
Serving size 2 Tbsp
Calories 36

  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1½ Tbsp honey
  • 1 can (15 oz/430 g) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (15 oz/430 g) unsweetened pumpkin purée
  • 1½ tsp finely minced fresh ginger
  • 1½ tsp kosher or sea salt
  • Toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)

Skinny dippers: baked pita chips, baked bagel chips, baked wonton crisps, herbed cheddar cheese straws, crostini, bruschetta, roasted cauliflower, warmed wedges of fresh pita

  1. In a small nonstick frying pan over medium heat, warm the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the garlic and sauté just until beginning to soften, about 30 seconds. Add the curry powder and sauté, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 minute longer. Stir in the honey, remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the chickpeas until finely mashed. Add the pumpkin puree, ginger, salt and the garlic mixture. Process until the hummus is smooth and pureed. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Transfer to a serving bowl. Cover and set aside for 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld. Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds if desired.

Dip do-ahead tip: This dip can be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Remove from the refrigerator 45 minutes before serving.

Tony's wine recommendation:
An off-dry Riesling – Rheingau Kabinett or Ontario Off-Dry


Green Olive and Almond Tapenade

In Skinny Dips Diane Morgan tells us, "Using ripe green olives, celery, smoked almonds and no olive oil, I improvise on the classic Provençal olive spread in order to cut calories. Trust me, it's addictively delicious!" Oh, we do agree, and simply couldn't get enough of this one, especially slathered on toasted or grilled bread. And hey, this Tapenade makes a wonderful condiment for grilled vegetables and fish, and with a touch of reduced-fat mayo is a gorgeous addition to deviled eggs!

Makes 1½ cups
Serving size 2 Tbsp
Calories 47

  • 1/2 cup smoked salted almonds
  • 1 can (6 oz/170g drained weight) pitted ripe green olives, drained
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced celery
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
  • Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the almonds until finely chopped. Add the olives, celery, parsley, garlic, thyme, lemon zest and juice, vinegar, and pepper. Pulse until uniformly mined, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Transfer to a serving blow, cover and set aside for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld.

Dip do-ahead tip: This Tapenade can be prepared up to 3 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Remove from the refrigerator 45 minutes before serving.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Dry Orvieto or Loire Sauvignon Blanc


Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Beets, Kale, Toasted Walnuts, and Simple Sesame Tahini Dressing

We used to love a wheat berry salad from our local gourmet shop, and never thought about making it ourselves. Voila! Along came Vanessa Barrington, who told us how. It takes a couple of hours lead time for roasting the beets but is oh, so worth it. Barrington says that you can vary the grain by using brown or other types of rice, farro, quinoa, or kamut, and vary the vegetables seasonally. She goes on to say that shredded leftover chicken, canned wild salmon or hard-cooked eggs make a nice addition of protein.

Makes 6 servings
Time required: about 45 minutes active; 1 hour passive

  • 4 small to medium beets
  • 1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) walnut halves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup wheat berries, soaked for 4 to 5 hours or overnight and drained
  • Salt
  • 1 bunch Lacinato or green or red kale
  • 3/4 cup Simple Sesame Tahini Dressing (recipe below)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Trim the beets and wrap them in one or two foil packets, depending on their size, keeping like-sized beets with like-sized beets. Put them in a baking dish to prevent beet juice from leaking into your oven and roast until tender and fragrant, 35–49 minutes. Use a small paring knife or skewer to check for doneness. The knife or skewer should go in easily with a small amount of resistance. Set them aside to steam in their foil packets. When they are cooked enough to handle, peel them by rubbing the skins off with your fingertips, and then cut the beets into bite-sized wedges. Alternatively, the beets can be roasted up to 5 days ahead and refrigerated, left in their foil wrappers, until ready to use.

Lower the oven temperature to 300°F.

In a small baking dish, arrange the walnuts in a single layer. Toast until brown and fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

While the beets are roasting and the walnuts are toasting, set a medium saucepan with 3 cups of water over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and add the wheat berries and a pinch of salt. Lower the heat to a slow simmer, cover partially and cook until tender and pleasantly chewy, 45 to 50 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the wheat berries sit until you are ready to assemble the salad.

Meanwhile, trim, stem and wash the kale and put it in a vegetable steamer set over boiling water. Steam until tender and wilted, but still bright green, about 5 minutes. Remove immediately to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and squeeze out excess moisture. Chop coarsely and set aside.

When all the ingredients are ready, drain the wheat berries and transfer them to a serving bowl. Add the beet wedges, kale, and walnuts. Add the dressing and toss thoroughly. Taste and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper and serve immediately or within 2 hours at room temperature. The salad can also be covered and refrigerated for 3 to 4 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Tip from Vanessa: I like to roast beets this way whenever I have the oven on for something else. It's an energy-saving strategy and a great way to have cooked beets on hand for adding to salads anytime.


Simple Sesame Tahini Dressing

This delicious dressing is great on grains and Asian noodle salads, but don't stop there. Drizzle over grilled fish or chicken or fresh sliced tomatoes, or as a spread for sandwiches. Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds; it's a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine. Just keep in the fridge after opening, as it goes off quickly.

But meanwhile...

Makes about 3/4 cup
Time required: about 10 minutes active

  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
  • Salt
  • 1/3 cup sesame tahini paste
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp toasted sesame oil

With a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt. In a blender, combine the garlic paste, tahini, 1/3 cup water, the lemon juice, honey, soy sauce and sesame oil and blend until smooth. Season with salt. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Unoaked Chardonnay, Chablis


Baked Falafel Burgers

One of our favourite New Yorker cartoons some years ago showed a captain of industry asking his secretary as their limo cruised down a restaurant-lined street, "Miss Caruthers, what the hell is falafel?"

Well, these days most of us know and love this Middle Eastern dish, but not everyone has taken the time to make their own. Lukas Volger in Veggie Burgers Every Which Way gives us this traditional method using dried chickpeas.

You'll be amazed at how vibrant the flavors are, how the parsley and lemon shine though. Serve with that Simple Sesame Tahini Dressing (above), or a good cucumber-yogurt sauce, or just plain tahini and a squirt of sriracha.

Tip: cooked chickpeas will not work in this recipe; there is too much liquid and the burgers will fall apart as they cook.

Makes four 4-inch burgers
Start the day ahead
Prep and cook time: 40 minutes, not including the overnight soak

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas, rinsed thoroughly
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp toasted cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda (GF)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp chickpea or all-purpose flour if needed
  1. Cover the chickpeas by 4 to 5 inches of water in a bowl and let sit for 24 hours. Drain thoroughly.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  3. Combine the chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley, lemon zest and juice, cumin, baking soda, salt, black pepper and cayenne in a food processor. Pulse until coarsely combined. If the mixture is struggling to come together, add a bit of water but no more than 2 Tbsp. (The mixture will fall apart when cooking if there's too much liquid.) If water is added, stir in the chickpea flour. Adjust seasonings. Shape into 6 patties (it will be a fairly wet dough).
  4. Place the patties on a liberally oiled baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, flipping them once halfway though until golden and firm.

Variation: Falafel is traditionally deep-fried, which makes for a richer burger. To deep-fry, in a large, heavy deep saucepan, heat at least 2 inches of oil to 375°F or until a small test scoop of falafel mixture bubbles instantly. (If you have a FryDaddy, it would come in handy here.) Fry the patties for 6 to 8 minutes, until uniformly browned and firm. Transfer to a paper towel-line plate or a flattened paper bag to drain of excess oil.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Dry Riesling or Alsace Muscat


Thai Carrot Burgers

Moving East, Lukas Volger gives us this recipe with those Thai flavours we all love. There's just a small amount of peanut butter and you'll want to use the natural, minimally processed kind made to order at some stores, or get a peanut butter that is as unadulterated as possible, such as organic, low salt, with no sweeteners. Try it with the Red Cabbage Slaw Asian variation below. Both from Veggie Burgers Every Which Way.

Makes four 6-inch burgers
Prep and cook time: 30 minutes

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bunch scallions, including 1 inch into the dark green parts, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 Serrano chile pepper, finely chopped (seeded or not, depending on your personal heat threshold)
  • 4 cups grated carrots (about 8 medium carrots)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 3/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 Tbsp natural peanut putter
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup toasted bread crumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Heat a large lidded sauté pan over medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp of the oil. When hot, add the scallions and cook just until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and chile pepper and stir for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Stir in the carrots, salt, coriander, turmeric, and cinnamon. Cover and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the carrots are soft but not mushy.
  3. In a mixing bowl whisk together the egg whites, peanut butter and lime juice. Stir in the carrot mixture and the cilantro. Fold in the bread crumbs. Let sit for about 10 minutes, allow the crumbs to absorb some of the liquid. Adjust seasonings. Shape into 4 patties.
  4. In an oven-safe skillet or nonstick sauté pan, heat the remaining 2 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the patties and cook until browned on each side, 4 to 6 minutes total. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the burgers are firm and cooked through.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Dry Gewurztraminer

Red Cabbage Slaw

A simple, refreshing salad that goes with almost anything, especially the Baked Falafel Burgers. Top your Thai Carrot Burger with the Asian variation listed below!

Makes 4 servings
Prep and cook time: 15 minutes

  • 1/2 head red cabbage
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp plain Greek-style yogurt
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill
  1. To julienne the cabbage: Quarter the cabbage along the core and with one flat side down, slice off the core in a diagonal swipe. With the broadest, flattest side down, slice the cabbage as thinly as possible-about 1/8-inch-thick slices. Alternative, julienne the cabbage using a mandoline.
  2. Toss the cabbage with the vinegar and 1/2 tsp salt in a large bowl and let stand until it begs to wilt, 10 to 15 minutes. Pour off any excess liquid that has collected at the bottom of the bowl. Add the yogurt, dill and pepper. Adjust seasonings. Serve.

Variation: Asian-Style Slaw:
Omit the yogurt and substitute the following dressing:

  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp roasted sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • A few sliced scallions



For permission to publish material and photographs, we wish to thank:

Chronicle Books, San Francisco, and Raincoast Publishers, Vancouver, for Skinny Dips. Text © 2010 Diane Morgan. Photographs © Sheri Giblin.


D.I.Y. Delicious: Recipes and Ideas for Simple Food from Scratch. Text © Vanessa Barrington. Photographs © Sara Remington.


The Experiment, LLC, New York and Publishers Group Canada, Toronto, for Veggie Burgers Every Which Way: Fresh, Flavorful and Healthy Vegan and Vegetarian Burgers. © Lukas Volger, 2010. Photographs © Christina Heaston, 2010.


Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Download this article in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (140 KB)




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