No Croutons Required - The Winner and October's Challenge

The winning entry for the September fruit soup and salad challenge is a feast for the eyes and palate. Srimathi of Five Minute Wonders came out ahead of some tough competition with this delightful and unique Spicy Fruit Salad. Congratulations to Srimathi!

I will be hosting the October edition of No Croutons Required. Undecided until the last day of this month what the challenge should be, I found my thoughts kept returning to the idea of a warming bowl of soup to ease the Fall chills. So, with the soup season upon us, I'm asking for hearty vegetarian soups. The idea is to make a bowl of soup that would essentially be filling and satisfying enough to serve as a meal in itself. For a recap of the submission guidelines, see here.

Brown and Wild Rice with Fried Corn

Brown and Wild Rice with Fried Corn

Sweet corn fried in bacon fat is an old treat down south, but it's plenty tasty fried in plain old butter for us vegetarians as well. Add to a pot of hot cooked brown and wild rice for a warm and earthy, slightly sweet and salty dish that will look lovely on a fall table.

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Gingered Carrot and Pinto Bean Soup

Gingered Carrot and Pinto Bean Soup

The light curry and ginger fragrance of this warm, creamy and colorful soup is as inviting on a cool fall evening as your favorite sweater … and almost as simple as putting it on. Loaded with carrots and beans, it's very nourishing besides.

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Fried Green Tomatoes and Old Cheddar

Fried Green Tomatoes and Old Cheddar

I've been hoping to try fried green tomatoes for years now ever since I'd heard of this famous old down-south comfort food — after all, if anyone does comfort food like Southerners do, I don't know about it. But as much as I like to add my own touches to classic recipes, I'm a bit of a stickler when it comes to the basic articles … so I'm not about to start putting ordinary tomatoes where a genuine green tomato belongs. Unfortunately, green tomatoes — as opposed to unripened tomatoes — seem to be the stuff of legend here in southwestern Ontario where we grow plenty of otherwise red, orange or yellow ones.

So I was extraordinarily delighted — and surprised — when I finally came across a few small handfuls of green heirloom tomatoes sitting in a basket at a small store where I ordinarily pick up my dairy and dried goods. It was a matter of seconds for me to grab them up, and just half-a-day later for fried green tomatoes to appear on my breakfast plate.

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Smoked Gouda Gougères

Smoked Gouda Gougères

I picked up a copy of the Autumn edition of Food and Drink magazine the other day. As expected, the focus is on the fruits of the harvest and other foods that Canadians enjoy during the Fall. With cooler temperatures setting in, more substantial and warming foods are favored. The glossy images had me craving many foods at once and I'll be trying several recipes from this issue over the next few months.

One of the first recipes that caught my eye was for black pepper Gouda gougères. For those unfamiliar with the term, gougères are a savory French-style cheese puff that is often made with Gruyère cheese, and sometimes stuffed with other ingredients. Any flavorful cheese can be used. I decided to try the recipe with smoked Gouda, but feel free to substitute Gruyère, aged sharp Cheddar, or even goat cheese.

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Sweet Potato and Apricot Croquettes with Mint Yogurt Sauce

Sweet Potato and Apricot Croquettes with Mint Yogurt Sauce

I've been rather occupied of late with various projects, distractions and interests, including a rekindled passion for my classical guitar. Battered fingertips and cramping left hand are my punishment for shamefully neglecting this beautiful instrument for the past two years. As there are only so many hours in a day at one's disposal, and sleep is one of the activities I enjoy as well, this means I have less time to devote to other passions, like cooking, cookbooks and food blog browsing.

Of course, the art of cooking and good nourishment is never far from my mind, and when the hand and finger battering and cramping had subsided enough to hold a knife, back to the kitchen I went to whip up a batch of these tender shallow fried Turkish-style sweet potato and dried apricot rolls. Slightly sweet, but also a little tart, with a generous hint of fresh herbs, I served these alongside a mixed green salad splashed with a lemon mint dressing for a delightfully satisfying light meal.

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Lemon Mint Dressing

Lemon Mint Dressing

Bold and tart but appealingly sweet, this attractive and assertive dressing should be paired with strong-flavored greens like arugula, chicory, spinach or mustard leaves.

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Cheese and Sage Damper Bread


If you are looking for inspiration in the kitchen, Celia Brooks Brown's World Vegetarian Classics is a good place to start. There are over 250 authentic vegetarian recipes from around the world to choose from and nearly all of them are accompanied by some stunning mouthwatering photographs. Each chapter begins with a discussion of the region's culinary traditions, complete with a focus on vegetarian ingredients. Each recipe is straightforward and calls for ingredients that are easy to obtain.

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Green Bean and Toor Dal Poriyal


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Green Bean and Toor Dal Poriyal

Poriyals are dry-textured vegetable curries native to south Indian cooking, typically tempered with fried mustard seeds, dried hot red chilies, urad dal and a spice masala for a uniquely smoky and pungent finish. Usually so simple and fast to make that you'll spend as much time cleaning up after as it will take you to prepare and cook, poriyals are often served as elegant little starters or side dishes — but they also make delightful lunches or light meals by themselves with a little rice or some naan bread on the side.

Green beans are among the most common of vegetables used in traditional poriyals, and the crunchiness of lightly cooked fresh beans is complemented here in this version by a crisp, lightly fried mash of dals that makes the texture as enjoyable as the layers of flavors. This recipe is adapted from one in Chandra Padmanabhan's delightful and varied collection of south Indian dal, rice and vegetable dishes, a book that fully deserves its evocative title Dakshin— an ancient Sanskrit word meaning "South."

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Ricki's Radish and Grapefruit Salad

Radish and Grapefruit Salad

An exclusive government monopoly on liquor sales is one of the peculiar features of life in Ontario. A holdover from the early 20th-century post-prohibition days, the continued existence of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (quite the bureaucratic-sounding name) is an example of the lobbying power of public service unions as well as a continual reminder that our provincial government still doesn't really quite trust us. It has been quite a few years since wine and liquor was stored behind a closed wall and customers had to write their order on a slip of paper in a bare Soviet-style room and have it delivered to them in brown parcel paper from behind a counter, but even now locations are few and far-between even in cities, and plastic bags have been discontinued; yes, half-a-dozen wine bottles get put in a handle-less paper bag, unless you bring your own bag or choose a box instead. So much for the customer always comes first philosophy.

Still, the Board has kept up with modern marketing trends and now the LCBO (yes, a user-friendly acronym) has turned itself into a snazzy, upscale brand with fancy furnishings and funky in-store signage. One of the best things to come out of this marketing consciousness is the LCBO's quarterly Food and Drink Magazine, an attractive and glossy high-production Martha Stewart Living-type giveaway featuring dozens of beautiful gourmet recipes in every issue.

So I was intrigued right away by the odd combination of flavors in this salad from an old Food and Drink Magazine and posted by one of my favorite food bloggers, Ricki from Diet, Dessert and Dogs. Grapefruit, olives and radishes sounded like such disparate tastes that I never would have thought of putting them together myself, but given the reputation of both Ricki and the magazine I knew that it had to be worth a try.

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Black Olive & Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus

Black Olive & Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus

This past weekend felt more like the middle of August than mid-September. Little inclined to cook in a kitchen thick with humidity, I remembered that a hummus served along with some chopped vegetables and pita breads has long been a favored solution for a quick and easy meal, and how could I resist the combined flavors of olives and chickpeas? With the tart addition of sun-dried tomatoes, this is quite possibly a new addiction. My only regret is that I didn't make twice the amount.

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Creamy Cannellini Bean Soup with Jalapeño Gremolata

Creamy Cannellini Bean Soup with Jalapeño Gremolata

White bean soups are most thought of as winter staples, but a bouquet of fresh garden jalapeños and lemon zest burst out of this cannellini bean soup like a blast of summer sunshine. Quick, simple, and delicious at any time of year.

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Cucumber Dill Dressing

Cucumber Dill Dressing

Summer may be coming to an end, but it's not too late to take advantage of locally grown produce. This cooling blend of cucumber, yogurt, vinegar and fresh herbs turned out to be a most refreshing dressing to serve over fresh tomato and greens. It's also thick and creamy enough to serve as a vegetable dip if desired.

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Indian-Style Smoky Black Bean Chili


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Indian-Style Smoky Black Bean Chili

As cooler temperatures move into Canada, I begin to think once again of comfort food. And nothing speaks comfort like a warming bowl of chili. The smoky flavor in this hearty chili comes from a blend of toasted cumin, mustard and fennel seeds. Of course, it's spicy too, as my regular readers have no doubt come to expect.

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Cannellini and Grape Tomato Salad with Lemon Dressing and Rosemary-Garlic Infused Olive Oil

Cannellini and Grape Tomato Salad with Lemon Dressing and Rosemary-Garlic Infused Olive Oil

As pretty on a patio table in the summer time as it is refreshing and delicious, this light and cooling bean salad is a favorite — and a wonderful idea if you're being buried under fresh garden grape or cherry tomatoes. Little preparation time is needed for this simple recipe adapted from an old Canadian Living magazine entry.

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Baked Whole Wheat Crêpes with Apple Blueberry Sauce

Baked Whole Wheat Crêpes with Apple Blueberry Sauce

Not really a crêpe at all, of course, but these thin soft baked pancakes are just as ideal for filling and rolling as the traditional pan-fried version — and with far less fuss and chance of error, these are guaranteed to come out perfectly every time. The ideal solution for when you only want a couple of crêpes … as with a nice breakfast or dinner for two.

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