Cumin chick pea salad with garlic-yogurt dressing (inspired by a Sudbury favourite)

There’s this great place in Sudbury called the Laughing Buddha.

Thanks for the shot, Google Street View. I love the Buddha so much that I’ve chosen to overlook its choice of signage font.

It’s one of the best hangout restaurants in town, complete with a pizza and sandwich menu that will make you drool and an imported beer list that will have you convinced you can drink all 64+ varieties throughout the course of the summer.

A night’s worth of beer selections at the Buddha (with friends, don’t worry). The beginning of summer – we had such high ambitions!

I first discovered the Buddha back in high school when it was no more than a hole-in-the-wall. Seriously, it was the size of a slightly wider-than-usual alleyway. Its signature pizzas were made in one of two clay (or maybe wood?) ovens and as a result took forever to make. Luckily they were worth it. I used to go with my mom and sit in the dim light and plot the future photography exhibits I would host on its walls.

I returned to town after my first year of university and voila! A new patio. Twinkle lights adorned the overhanging branches and lantern-like mechanisms tall as trees emitted a warm ripple in the air on chilly evenings. The music was the sound of large freight trains clunking along across the street.

A Sudbury-ism. Pin courtesy of We Live Up Here, a really awesome local project that you should check out by clicking this photo

Today the Buddha is big. In addition to the aforementioned patio, there’s a new back room where I experienced the most fun of DJ sets a few weeks ago. Yes, there is room to dance. Pizza and dancing. Heaven is swell, thanks for asking.

Let’s talk patio again. Since it is one of three patios in downtown Sudbury, it is the Friday evening watering hole for the entire city, from hipsters to professionals, toddlers to moms on mom dates. Just as the city’s lone Starbucks was the place to bump into everyone you knew during high school, the Buddha is the destination of choice for the 20-something crowd.

And let’s face it, alcohol > an Americano, just about any day of the week.

Whenever I go to the Buddha on a lunch date with friends, I consistently coerce them into buying the chick pea salad while I stuff my face with the usual suspects (normally the Llama Rama pizza). I then distract them with my wit and charm (hah!) and proceed to pleasantly request that I try their salad. Multiple times. Yes, we would like an extra fork, please and thank you.

Today I was big-time craving this salad. I thought my at-home adaptation was pretty spot-on and I crammed spoonfuls into my mouth like a starving Oliver Twist. I can still taste the garlic and it is absolutely wonderful.

Because dinner tastes better with a side of Instagram, right? Sorry for being that person.

Also: it’s amazing how a good meal can cheer me right up. I was feeling grumbly after lugging a pile of groceries home on my bike, and this ready-in-a-jiffy dinner was exactly what I needed.

Because really, who needs a car?

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Greek bruschetta (baguette and hummus for dinner)

Two very, very dangerous things happened last night.

1. I learned how easy it is to make hummus.
2. I made the best bruschetta I’ve ever had (and this is saying something, because there is this restaurant in Sudbury that makes a TRULY delicious mushroom and goat cheese bruschetta…Please know that I do not take this title lightly)

As many meals are, this one was unexpected. After getting off work late Thursday night, I popped over to the grocery store with full intention to only purchase sugary ingredients to use in the caramel sea salt brownies (WOAH good, those are being blogged about next) that I was making for today’s newsroom treat.

When I arrived, it was 7:30 and past my usual dinner time, meaning that a walk through the grocery store was like a walk down temptation lane. I couldn’t just go straight to the baking aisle. I needed to buy dinner items.

I decided my meal would be based around the cherry tomatoes I got from a friend when he returned one of my many Mason jars (these jars are even better when they contain garden-fresh veggies!).

Since my mom had made a very delicious, Greek-style salad the other night and since it has been a year since I was in Greece, I decided on Greek bruschetta. This was one of my better life decisions. In the end, I didn’t actually have to buy that much – just a baguette, in fact. I did, after all, have leftover hummus ingredients to use.

So right, let’s talk hummus. I knew in theory that hummus was very easy to make, but I think I just thought that in application that must be a lie. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Super easy. I had tahini left from my last blog post, as well as a Tupperware of leftover chick peas. Add a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of cayenne and we’re in business.

While waiting for baguette to toast, and in between chopping each of the bruschetta toppings, I ate huge slices of the remaining baguette and hummus. One piece, another, another…just one more. It’s a downward spiral, really. Making homemade tahini was my gateway snacking food.

Normally I write a rough version of my blog posts while eating, but I just couldn’t do that with this bruschetta. I was too busy double fisting the delicately topped baguette, like a savage who hadn’t seen food for ten million years. It was so delicious. Really, really great. The flavours worked together so well…the oilyness of the artichokes, the crunch of the toasted baguette, the juicy sweetness of the tomatoes and the sharp edge of the feta. Food teamwork at its best. Like most bruschetta (or food consumed by me in general), this meal was exceptionally messy. The remaining platter was scattered with tiny chunks of feta and a few slices of red onion that were waywardly cast aside during my barbaric eating session. As it rested on my keyboard, my right hand was slightly oily, a residue that I think must have been marinated artichoke oil.

Speaking of that…it’s not a real dinner with Hilary until a piece of technology and/or technology accessory gets some sort of food on it. My poor iPad case was subject to a bath of this marinated artichoke juice. I’m a disgusting human being, really.

I’m so happy I decided on this rectangular, white serving platter. Thank heavens it was easy to find – wedged in my closet between my saxophone and chest of drawers, underneath my three-tiered cupcake carrier. Typical.

I ended up writing this blog post while hanging out with my baby brother (who is off to university next week!!) and transferring 1,500 iPhone photos from his Macbook to mine via Dropbox. Don’t ask.

PS: NEW 50mm f.18 LENS!!!!! Can you tell!? Will give more info later.

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A big thank you to my dear friend Gord who directed me to the recipe that inspired this meal! Also: Gord has started blogging again! Check it out!! In fact, he may be blogging about this exact recipe, which he told me he was making last night.

When Gord posted this recipe on my wall, he captioned it with a statement regarding my tendency to inhale hummus. It’s a problem. The frequency with which I bought pita dippers with hummus on campus last year should have been recognized by some sort of award.

There were a few ingredients switch outs that made my recipe different than the original. Details:

(A) The grocery store was out of arugula (my own fault considering my time of visit – 6:45 p.m. on a Friday evening) and so I substituted that spicy green for another one of my favourites. KALE. Unpredictable, right?

(B) Tahini = not a thing in Sudbury. So I made my own out of sesame seeds and olive oil.

The finished product

I was in a daze whilst lightly toasting the sesame seeds (toasting is truly one of the world’s most mind-numbing tasks), and decided to keep myself entertained by writing my name in sesame seed swirls. I got to H-I-L before realizing I was nearly burning the seeds and should probably pay more attention to cooking my food rather than playing with it.

(C) Since I use pre-minced, jarred garlic (to avoid sticky fingers, a la Pioneer Woman Cooks), I don’t quite know how much one clove is equivalent to. I know the answer to my question is just a Google search away, but that’s no fun. And so I keep guestimating the amount of garlic for every recipe. I have a sneaking suspicion that I always add too much. But I happen to really like garlic. Besides, there’s nothing like a meal whose primary ingredient produces stinky breath to scare off any potential bus beheaders (I brought the leftovers on the midnight Greyhound to Ottawa where I spent the most lovely weekend).

Rainy day photo shoot

Oh yes, and did I mention that this was a three-course meal? Appetizer: dark chocolate with sea salt. Dessert: the same. I like walking through the grocery store aisles with a thin, 100 gram gourmet chocolate bar in hand, pretending it’s a brochure for some exotic destination. I like tearing back the crinkly silver paper and pretending that I’m Charlie Bucket about to win a trip to the land of my dreams. I also liking eating it. That’s a win-win situation, if I do say so myself.

PS: I’m really sorry for only cooking with kale, quinoa and sweet potato lately. Enough of that. I’ll make a meat-based meal soon, I swear.

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Sweet potato burgers, revisited (this time with quinoa! And picnics! And blueberry avocado salsa!)

You know I try to avoid recipe duplication at all cost, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.

Not only did I sort of copy the original sweet potato burger recipe that I cooked up back in March, but I also made this recipe TWICE. Do the math folks, that’s THREE sweet potato burger meals. I must be losing my touch.

The first batch of these sweet potato quinoa burgers was made for a lovely Sunday night picnic I had this past weekend. Every week there are concerts held at Bell Park, the large-ish green space near my Sudbury house. Since it was a nice evening and food always tastes better when it’s being shared, I decided to plan a picnic. After all, the only thing better than listening to live music is listening to live music while stuffing your face.

My friend Yoshi and her boyfriend Derek were terrific company. We dined in the grass and I tried my hardest to get more salsa in my mouth than on my knees. Yoshi brought delicious figs, cashews (bless you!) and raspberries with honey, and some Japanese candy that I’m very excited to try. I also made a basic green salad and no-bake peach and blueberry cheesecakes which, in a very Pinterest move, I decided to serve in Mason jars. After all, a picnic without Mason jars is a picnic that I want no part in. (#masonjarsnob)

There was a problem, though. I didn’t take pictures. In my rush to shove everything into my purple backpack and peddle down to Bell Park as fast as my legs would take me, I forgot my camera. Seriously, blogger badge revoked, right?

I thought it wasn’t a big deal…I just wouldn’t blog about the burgers. But no, that would be a great loss, because these were good. Way better than the first sweet potato burgers I made. I needed to share, not just with Yoshi and Derek, but with the rest of you fantastic people, too.

So I made them again on Monday. Thank heavens for statutory holidays and my foresight to buy an extra sweet potato.

Then I spread out my family’s old wicker picnic mat on our kitchen table (don’t tell my mom, she hates it when dirty things touch that sacred surface) and had a little fake indoor picnic. Don’t worry, a Mason jar made an appearance.

Just in case you’re getting cold feet about the blueberry avocado salsa – don’t, please. It’s so good. The tangy burst of the blueberries is the perfect contrast to the sweet potato. It’s messy, but worth it.

Cooking notes: When making these sweet potato burgers, the resulting mixture (pre-patty) should look like a tiny Cheese Puff baby decided to puke everywhere.

Moulding these burgers is disgusting, ranked right up there with the “full moon” meat ridge that forms on your hands when shaping ground beef meatballs for Italian wedding soup. So be prepared to deal with a bit of mush, and remember to clean off the kitchen tap after rushing to wash your hands. Otherwise your kitchen will look like CSI, except with sweet potato smush instead of blood and guts. So anyways…still hungry?


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Cold Asian soba noodle salad (with edamame, mango, peanuts, cucumber & everything else that is good in the world)

Hello, I’m back. This past week I traded blogging efficiency for journalism efficiency. At this point in time, the two cannot be done in tandem, apparently, which is certainly something I am going to have to work on.

That being said, this salad was made a millennium ago. But it was so good that the need to blog about it transcends the boundaries of space and time laid out by The Internet.

One of the problems with blogging after the fact is that it is challenging to remember all the funny little narratives that accompany a meal. Like how I tried to make my brother pretend he was bowling with the purple cabbage (because really, doesn’t it look like those kid-friendly bowling balls you used to use at grade two birthday parties?) and then predict my fortune using the same cabbage as a crystal ball. Anyways, moral of the story here is that it is always best to simultaneously blog and cook. That way nothing goes forgotten.

Sad baby brother

I was nervous about this salad. Wendy, our fantastic web editor at CBC, is a fellow food-lover, and we usually extensively discuss my meals both before and after making them. Wendy had me on high-alert with this salad, flagging soba noodles as something of which she isn’t particularly fond. I cautiously proceeded.

One of the many things I enjoy about trying new foods is that I get to discover fun facts about them (someone needs to create a food trivia game, stat). All I knew about soba noodles prior to this meal was that they were the skinny opposite of those thick, tube-like, wheat-based udon noodles that I used to eat in really bad, 2 a.m. first-year-residence stir-frys. I promptly learned that soba noodles are made of buckwheat (soba is, in fact, the Japanese word for buckwheat) which is, WAIT FOR IT, in the same food family as…rhubarb. Neat, huh? Needless to say, Wendy and I spent 15 minutes before story meeting one morning Google imaging flowery fields of buckwheat.

When the opportunity presents, I really love sharing food, and this salad was the ideal dish to package up in Tupperware and transport throughout the downtown core. Wendy got some (good news: she changed her mind about soba noodles!), my friend Liz (of former outdoor picnic fame) had some delivered to her office, and my friend/owner of Café petit gâteau, Yoshi, also got some. Yoshi gave me a fresh herb and gruyere scone in exchange, which was one of the best things that happened to my day.

Special lunch deliveries

Anyways, in the end this salad had so many good things in it. I think it could be classified as a “kitchen sink” / “crisper clearer” dish, because of the oodles of leftover items it used. My health levels are reaching new peaks just thinking about it.

PS: frozen edamame beans = popcorn.

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