Special Dish for the Week: Birthday Month Dinner

This Special Dish for the Week is one of the many celebrations that I invent this year to commemorate my life, including my:

Birthday Month Dinner

Birthday Dinner Menu 2016

Birthday Dinner Menu 2016

Charcuterie Board

Charcuterie Board

I invite a friend to share in some of my favourite dishes, which in this dinner turn into a Polish-German-African fusion.

I start with a charcuterie board consisting of homemade fermented pickles, Austrian schinkenspeck, and Winnipeg sausage (“kielbasa”).

My friend supplies a lovely Pinot Gris white wine from BC’s / Lillooet Fort Berens Estate Winery, and we begin toasting the meal…and well, me!

Charcuterie Board Table

Charcuterie Board Table

Fig and Green Peppercorn Soup

Fig and Green Peppercorn Soup

For second course, I serve Fig and Green Peppercorn Soup, which my French-speaking German friend introduced to me to during my Book Writing Tour 2013. The soup is once more a hit, with its flavourful and texture combination of sweet, savoury, gritty and creamy.

My guest and I agree that a few more peppercorns would have balanced the sweetness of the figs with spice a little better. My conversion from European grams North American millilitres is not so precise unfortunately. It is still delicious with the licorice flavour.

Fig and Green Peppercorn Soup Table

Fig and Green Peppercorn Soup Table

Butternut Squash Tagine

Butternut Squash Tagine

The main course likewise is a lovely combination of spicy and sweet, in the Butternut Squash Tagine.

Having made previous tagines with chickpeas and zucchini, I return to the original recipe of squash for this dish and “Maggify” it again with shittake mushrooms.

As usual, I garnish my plates with a little greens, such as cilantro, for added colour, flavour, and nutrition.

We pair this dish with the Meritage red wine from BC’s / Lillooet Fort Berens Estate Winery, which my friend also supplies.

Butternut Squash Tagine Table

Butternut Squash Tagine Table

Makowiec Polish Poppy Seed Cake

Makowiec Polish Poppy Seed Cake

For dessert, I bake a Polish poppy seed cake (“makowiec”), which is my friend’s favourite, and as I like it too, I stretch myself once more into baking (typically not my forte, unlike cooking). It is deliciously sweet. Some Polish loose leaf mint tea goes very well with it.

And in the Polish tradition of celebrating every occasion with flowers, I shower myself with my favourites: gerberas, and my friend showers me with these unique looking purplish flowers.

Birthday Flowers

Birthday Flowers

Special Dish for the Week: Watermelon Gazpacho with Lemongrass and Cardamom

Possibly two years since I last make this deliciously refreshing summer treat during my Book Writing Tour 2013, I prepare it again for this week’s Special Dish for the Week to enjoy with my host and fellow guests on Pender Island:

Watermelon Gazpacho with Lemongrass and Cardamom

Watermelon Gazpacho with Lemongrass and Cardamom

Watermelon Gazpacho with Lemongrass and Cardamom

During my recent visit on Pender Island, I decide to surprise my friends with this refreshingly sweet and spicy mid-afternoon cocktail. It is indeed a thrill for everyone on a hot sunny day on the patio.

Rather than serving it in a bowl as a soup, I use large wine glasses to layer cubed watermelon and diced avocado onto the bottom, filling the glass with the spiced watermelon and tomato purée, and top it off with some freshly chopped cilantro. We enjoy these cocktails with a teaspoon in hand, while sharing ideas and secret ingredients for making this nutritious snack such a hit. The blooms from a nearby bushy tree adorn the table for an added touch.

Watermelon Gazpacho with Lemongrass and Cardamom Ingredients

Watermelon Gazpacho with Lemongrass and Cardamom Ingredients

The ingredients of this gazpacho include:

  • 1 small watermelon, puréed using my handheld smoothie blender
  • 2 medium tomatoes, likewise puréed into the watermelon

Mixed into the purée are:

  • 1 clove garlic, chopped using my small electric chopper
  • 1 in. ginger, chopped with the garlic
  • 1 large shallot, chopped with the garlic and ginger
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
  • red Thai chili pepper, chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemongrass extract, prepared in advance
  • cardamom seeds from several pods
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom seed powder
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • cilantro leaves, chopped for garnish
  • 1/4 small watermelon, cubed for garnish
  • 1 avocado (1/4 per glass), diced for garnish

Served chilled, after allowing the flavours to infuse, it is most refreshing on a warm summer day. I have still to figure out what liquor would make this soup into a spiked summer cocktail best…

Meal ideas & recipes from Maria Elia’s “The Modern Vegetarian” book from a good friend.

Special Dish for the Week: Butternut Squash Tagine Dinner

True to the origin of ideas, I prepare this Special Dish for the Week with its original main ingredient—the tricky to crack but delightful to taste butternut squash—for a Saturday night dinner with a lovely friend, serving a menu chez Maggie, where we eat with love, comprised of 3 courses and paired with beverages of choice, featuring as the main course (le plat principal):

Butternut Squash Tagine

Tagine Dinner Menu

Tagine Dinner Menu

Leek and Yam Potato Soup

Leek and Yam Potato Soup

Though the days are slowly growing longer, and the temperatures and rains of the West Coast appear mild, warming the body and the soul with spiced, earthy and colourful dishes adds even more joy into the cold and dark winter season.

I begin this feast for all of the senses by serving a Leek and Yam Potato Soup, garnished with finely chopped broccoli flowerettes that join the chopped cilantro, quickly becoming a favourite addition for raw nutrients and added texture.

The Tagine main course (le plat principal) is accompanied simply yet elegantly by pre-soaked tri-colour quinoa, which enriches the dish with its own distinct slightly nutty flavours..

Butternut Squash Tagine

Butternut Squash Tagine

Having made previous tagines with chickpeas and zucchini, I return to the original recipe for this dish with the squash and “Maggify” it again with the mushrooms:

  • butternut squash, pre-baked in the oven for ease of pealing and cubing
  • shiitake mushrooms, pre-soaked with using dried (saving the flavoured water)
  • large can of organic diced tomatoes

I find that the butternut squash adds a delightful combination of bright orange colour, perfectly tender texture, and slightly tangy yet sweet flavour. A lovely mid-winter addition to soups, stews, and of course, tagines. Adding a little more sunshine into the making of this dish, I sip a glass of rosé wine from the south of France, Le Petit Chat Malin (the cunning little cat), as I prepare it.

Butternut Squash Tagine Ingredients

Butternut Squash Tagine Ingredients

The spices, however, are the true star of this dish. I use most of the suggested herbs and spices (about 1-2 teaspoons each), adding or exchanging a few:

  • coconut oil, for sautéeing the onions, herbs and spices
  • onion, finely chopped
  • garlic, minced
  • ginger, grated
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • ground cumin
  • paprika
  • coriander powder
  • cinnamon powder
  • small cinnamon stick
  • red Thai chili pepper
  • finely shredded kelp
  • sea salt & black pepper
  • water from soaked shiitake mushrooms
  • honey
  • black sesame seeds, to garnish
  • cilantro, to garnish
Butternut Squash Tagine Dish

Butternut Squash Tagine Dish

We enjoy my culinary creations with a glass of Shiraz red wine gifted for the occasion by my sufficiently impressed dinner companion (who had not yet until now experienced the Special Dish of the Week tradition, ever so lovingly captured in these postings).

Little dollops of Fancied Cottage Cheese with Flax Seed—which in this variation contain both blueberries and chopped pecans as well as a small clove of garlic and a touch of TLC topped with a whole pecan—round out this delicious meal, one that begins with a short guided meditation and interweaves with the timeless of poetry.

Meal ideas & recipes from Maria Elia’s “The Modern Vegetarian” book, from Canadian Living, from “The Wahls Protocol” book, and from the Budwig Diet.

Special Dish for the Week: Peanut Sauce Stir Fry Dinner

Slowly feeling more festive, having heard my first Christmas carols a few days before, I enjoy a Sunday night dinner with good friends—feeding the taste buds and the soul—serving a menu chez Maggie, where we eat like queens and kings, comprised of 4 courses and paired with beverages of choice, featuring as the main course (le plat principal):

Peanut Sauce Stir Fry

Peanut Sauce Stir Fry Dinner Menu

Peanut Sauce Stir Fry Dinner Menu

Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup

Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup

Upon a small toast of Apothic Dark red wine to greet my guests’ arrival, I begin serving the previously featured Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup. This time, I use green Thai curry and one of each: yam and sweet potato, instead of the suggested ingredients. The soup is purposefully a little less spicy than my usual to please the palate of a guest, and a little less sweet and colourful with the introduction of the sweet potato in place of one yam—and it still most delicious!

The hors d’hoeuvres are accompanied by “a little something from the chef” (i.e., not specified on the menu), which turns out to be Fermented Beet Juice.

Beet & Red Cabbage Hors d’Hoeuvres

Beet & Red Cabbage Hors d’Hoeuvres

The hors d’hoeuvres consist of a small serving of Beet and Red Cabbage salad served on a bed of arugula and sprouts, sprinkled with a dash of sesame oil and balsamic vinegar.

The Peanut Sauce Stir Fry main course (le plat principal) is accompanied by red lentils, prepared with a tablespoon of wakame flakes (a type of seaweed), which I add during cooking of the lentils. The lentils are pre-soaked overnight in order to induce the germination process previously explained.

The Peanut Sauce for this dish is a mildly spicy sweet and sour sensation is a “Maggified” version of a dish inspired by a personally made recipe book from some good friends. The ingredients for this sauce, all mixed and lightly heated in a pan, consist of:

  • 1/4 cup chunky peanut butter (Adams 100% Natural)
  • 1/3 cup of water (or more, for desired consistency)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp Bragg soy sauce
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1/2 red Thai chili pepper (or more, for desired spiciness)

For the stir fry, I shred, dice and slice the following ingredients:

  • onion, coarsely chopped
  • carrot, thinly sliced
  • red and orange peppers, diced
  • green onions, chopped
  • pre-cooked chicken, shredded
  • coconut oil
  • cilantro, on the side for garnish
Peanut Sauce Stir Fry

Peanut Sauce Stir Fry

Just before serving le plat principal, I combine the separately heated stir fry ingredients and the Peanut Sauce. I serve the Peanut Sauce Stir Fry together with the wakame lentils, and trying this dish for the first time, it is a tasty success! Next time, though, I think I might try bigger chicken chunks rather than shredding the chicken, for more some defined texture to the dish—although the chunkiness of the peanut butter assists this goal too.

For dessert, I serve little dollops of Fancied Cottage Cheese with Flax Seed, which I recently re-discovered and have been experimenting with varying its flavours and textures.

Meal ideas & recipes from Maria Elia’s “The Modern Vegetarian” book, the “Food and Love” book, from Whole Foods Market, from “The Wahls Protocol” book, and from the Budwig Diet.

Special Dish for the Week: Tomato, Cardamom, Chickpea, Orange Pepper and Coconut Sauce

In preparation for a slightly uncomfortable week ahead, where I need to deal with A Few More Thorns on My Roses, I prepare and stock up on a comforting Special Dish for the Week, which I have prepared on several other memorable occasions:

Tomato, Cardamom, Chickpea, Orange Pepper and Coconut Sauce

Tomato, Cardamom, Chickpea, Orange Pepper and Coconut Sauce

Tomato, Cardamom, Chickpea, Orange Pepper and Coconut Sauce

For this variation of the richly flavourful and deeply comforting dish, I add orange peppers and serve red quinoa. I really do like my colour in my food!

As in previous iterations, chopped onion, grated garlic and gingerred Thai hot pepperturmeric & black pepperhoneygaram masala, cardamom powder, and chopped cilantro roots, sautéed in olive oil, form the base of this recipe.

Once I add the tomatoes, juice of half a lime, more cilantro, and coconut milk, I briefly warm the coarsely chopped orange peppers to add a little more raw food enzymes to the dish.

My first taste of this dish is, for a change, accompanied by Rooibos tea in my memorable Blue Heron from Tillamook mug.

Tomato, Cardamom, Chickpea, Orange Pepper and Coconut Sauce Dish

Tomato, Cardamom, Chickpea, Orange Pepper and Coconut Sauce Dish

My yellowy-orangey-red dish palette spills onto the placemat and napkin — lovingly sourced in Nice in the South of France by a good friend; onto the friendly gerberas — handpicked with the aid of a friendly grocer lady; reaching even the bright beeswax candle — savoured from last year’s stock of honey and candles obtained from my farmers market honey lady. Much love, care and personal attention has gone into my enjoyment of this life-enriching supper.

I dish out and freeze in pyrex glass containers, additional 4 portions for my week ahead. Having stocked up on several bottles of BC and French red wine as well, I am ready for it!

Tomato, Cardamom, Chickpea, Orange Pepper and Coconut Sauce Care Packages

Tomato, Cardamom, Chickpea, Orange Pepper and Coconut Sauce Care Packages

Meal ideas & recipes from Maria Elia’s “The Modern Vegetarian” book from a good friend.

Special Dish for the Week: Zucchini, Chickpea and Mushroom Tagine

I prepare this dish for a very resourceful and generous friend — who is assisting me with some strategic research for financing my book writing endeavour — in order to say ‘thank-you’ and to share with her a taste of one of my almost-weekly Special Dishes for the Week:

Zucchini, Chickpea and Mushroom Tagine

Zucchini, Chickpea and Mushroom Tagine

Zucchini, Chickpea and Mushroom Tagine

It has been a little while since I made this dish in Paris, during my Book Writing Tour 2013, although it is one of my favourites, Going with the recent mushroom theme, for their beneficial Vitamin D content and their immune system support role, I add a couple of varieties.

The main ingredients of this dish include:

  • chickpeas
  • tomatoes
  • zucchinis
  • portobello and shiitake mushrooms

To spice it up, I use most of the suggested herbs and spices, but add or exchange a few:

  • onion
  • garlic
  • ginger
  • ground cumin
  • paprika
  • turmeric & black pepper
  • red Thai chili pepper
  • honey
  • cilantro
Zucchini, Chickpea and Mushroom Tagine Dish

Zucchini, Chickpea and Mushroom Tagine Dish

And I use a dash of olive oil for sautéeing of the onions at the start.

The secret to this dish being even more flavourful — although it hardly needs it — is the Jasmine brown rice prepared with cinnamon and raisins.

My friend finds the dish highly enjoyable, and in turn improves it by sharing her bottle of Thornhaven Pinot Meunier red wine, carefully acquired during a wine tasting tour in the Okanagan.

Meal ideas & recipes from Maria Elia’s “The Modern Vegetarian” book from a good friend.

Special Dish for the Week: Red Lentil Dhal with Smoked Paprika Eggplant

I am feeling the need for a more earthly connection, and decide for this week’s Special Dish for the Week a combination of legumes, nightshade, and a lot of earthy spice in:

Red Lentil Dhal with Smoked Paprika Eggplant

Red Lentil Dhal with Smoked Paprika Eggplant

Red Lentil Dhal with Smoked Paprika Eggplant

Using much of a recipe as a base, I naturally innovate. The base of the red lentil dhal are of course red lentils; I use organic. And I add some organic canned chickpeas for some added protein.

To begin preparing the spices, I lightly heat some cumin seeds and mustard seeds in some olive oil. Next, I introduce some chopped onion and the stems of cilantro. Then I add some grated ginger and garlicred Thai chili pepperscumin powderturmeric and black pepper, and some chili powder. To finish off the spices, I add some cinnamon, which goes very well with raisins, so I add a bit of those too.

To this spicy paste, I bring some organic vegetable stock, a few chopped tomatoes, and begin cooking the rinsed red lentils and chickpeas. Before these finish cooking, I squirt the juice of half a lime and add some chopped cilantro.

The smoked paprika eggplant is super easy, and not too involved. I thinly slice the eggplant, and lightly fry the slices in a little bit of cold pressed virgin olive oil. I make a glaze of smoked paprika powder and water, and use a brush to apply a thin layer to each softened eggplant slice.

Red Lentil Dhal with Smoked Paprika Eggplant Dish

Red Lentil Dhal with Smoked Paprika Eggplant Dish

I serve the dish on a bed of brown jasmine rice, spreading out a couple slices of smoked paprika eggplant, and layering the red lentil dhal. One-eighth lime, a dollop of organic Greek yogurt, and chopped cilantro finish off this dish.

From my Santé, machine à manger wine glass, I sip a French Côtes du Rhône, which makes me feel close to my good friend who sent me the glass as a present. I surround myself with light from a beeswax candle I bought from my honey lady at the farmers market back in the Fall, and with a beautifully crafted ceramic clay bowl that another good friend made me for my birthday. My meal sits atop an authentic Provençal place mat, and I dab my lips with a matching serviette, gifted to me by another good friend. Though I dine alone, I feel the love of others around me.

Meal ideas & recipes from Maria Elia’s “The Modern Vegetarian” book from a good friend.