– By Claire Lukka
In the throes of a bitterly cold winter, February felt like all work and no play. An early February 24/7 “on call” stint for work, which left me virtually housebound for two weeks, didn’t help sway my opinion on this matter. Torontonians all seem to share in the general sentiment that stir crazy and desperation for Spring have set in.
Though it seems only marginally warmer now that March has come along, it feels like it might be time for a little play and the sun is peaking out a little more every day. The past few weekends, I’ve been dragging the husband and the dog for long walks along the Danforth to get out and enjoy every little ray of sunshine I can.
Given the limited amount of time I’ve spent exploring the outdoors lately (hibernating is so much warmer!) I have been appreciating the opportunity to re-discover the variety of food purveyors that I have at my doorstep. Getting locally obtained ingredients feels like a small step towards locally produced and summer. Recently, during my Danforth wanderings, I enjoyed a “chaider”, a delicious combination of Chai tea and cider – who knew such an enchanting mixture even existed?
Thinking back to being a kid, was it ever nice getting a whole week off from school and a respite from winter during March Break. Fortunate are those anticipating jetting off to warmer climes in the next few weeks. Though my March “break” this year doesn’t include going somewhere warm, it does include a trip to warmer Vancouver for my sister’s wedding. She introduced me to Deb Perelman and the “Smitten Kitchen” blog and I have to admit, I am now hooked and constantly seek opportunities to test out recipes.
So, in honour of my little sister’s upcoming nuptials, I set out to wander the Danforth to enjoy some fresh air and obtain all of the ingredients to make her future husband’s favourite recipe from the Smitten cookbook, snap peas in a miso dressing. My husband loves Asian food and I got the idea that I’d like some saucy spicy eggplant for a leisurely Saturday dinner.
One of the local butchers also has some absolutely fabulous Korean flavoured short ribs and voilà – a great pairing for an Asian inspired barbecue meal. At this time of year the craving for change from the slow cooked meals of winter is starting and we devour any chance to eat a different type of food. By September, the appeal of barbecued of food is waning, but in March it seems positively exotic!
Sugar Snap Pea Salad with Miso Dressing
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman
- ½ pound sugar snap peas
- ½ pound Napa cabbage, sliced in thin ribbons (about 3 cups)
- 4 radishes, cut into thin matchsticks – I couldn’t find easily so I skipped
- 3 green onions, thinly sliced at an angle
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (300F for 5-7 mins will do the trick)
Sesame Miso Dressing
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 tablespoons white miso (I couldn’t find and used darker soy miso instead)
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Fill a large pot with water, salt liberally, and bring to a boil. Prepare an ice-water bath. Boil the sugar snap peas for 2 minutes, or until just barely cooked. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and submerge them in the ice water. Drain and pat dry. Trim the ends off the peas and cut them on an angle into thin slices. Toss the peas in a large bowl with the cabbage, radishes, green onions, and sesame seeds.
Add all the dressing ingredients to a blender and and whiz until smooth and creamy.
Toss the salad with half the dressing.
In case you’re wondering (as I was) what the different types of miso paste are, below is a link, which explains. I used soy miso paste which I think is stronger and less salty, but nonetheless the salad was delicious
Saucy Spicy Eggplant
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1-inch piece fresh ginger, roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons sweet soya sauce
- 1 medium eggplant, ends trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices, lengthwise
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro leaves
Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the ginger, garlic and red chili flakes and cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggplant and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes or until eggplant is soft. Add remaining sauce ingredients and heat on low for about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve garnished with cilantro.
(Grilled eggplant would add more flavour, so alternatively, grill eggplant and add to sauce).