Sunday, April 30, 2006

Cauliflower & Tofu Gratin with Stilton

Cauliflower and cheese — a winning combination if ever there was one. One of my favorite childhood meals was a steamed cauliflower with cheddar cheese sauce. But today I had a small amount of Stilton left over and decided to use this elegant cheese to create a rustic dish comprising mostly of leftovers.

The result was a very sophisticated lunch item. The combination of firm cauliflower, smooth tofu, and plain rice provided a satisfying combination of textures. Their mellow flavor was the perfect backdrop to the tangy strength of the Stilton.

The inspiration for using hot water and creme fraiche as the base for the sauce came from Delia Smith's Cauliflower with two Cheeses and Creme Fraiche recipe, in which she uses Parmesan and Gruyere. The Stilton made this really special, though, and wasn't overwhelmingly rich. You'll be surprised and how quick and easy this dish is to make.

Recipe (2 servings):
1 small cauliflower, cut into florettes
3-4 oz firm tofu, cubed
1 cup cooked rice
3 oz stilton, crumbled
2 tbsp creme fraiche
2 tbsp hot water

Steam the cauliflower for a few minutes, until it is partially cooked, but still has crunch.

Put hot water and creme fraiche in a non-stick skillet and stir over medium low heat until well combined. Add the cheese and cook additional minute. Add in the tofu, cooked rice, and steamed cauliflower and place into two individual ramekins and top with cayenne (and additional cheese if desired). Place gratins about 4 inches from the broiler and broil until the top is lightly browned (5-6 minutes).

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Spicy Red Lentil Soup with Cilantro

Hot, delicious, and healthy! This Spicy Red Lentil soup with Cilantro definitely meets the criteria for a Give Me Strength soup!

Give Me Strength Soup has three requirements:
1. Lots of protein (to give you physical strength)
2. Spiciness and heat (to rekindle your warrior spirit)
3. Color (to remind you that life is art)

The soup is also economical, easy, and fast.

Here's the recipe:
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 large carrot, chopped small
1 small potato, peeled and chopped small
2 -3 cups of vegetable stock
1 cup red lentils
2 cups water
3-4 nacho slices of jalapeno, chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves only, chopped
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan and cook the onion and garlic until soft. Add the cumin, coriander, carrot, and potato and cook stirring for about a minute. Add the vegetable stock, 1 cup water and the red lentils. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Check about half way through and add the remaining cup of water and the jalapenos. Add more water/vegetable stock if the lentils absorb too much of the water. Adjust the seasonings and stir in the cilantro right before serving.

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Friday, April 28, 2006

Fettuccine with Green Garlic, Spinach, & Goat Cheese

I love the food blog collective kitchen! I love it when a posted recipe inspires another food blogger to try their own variation and post about it. Susan at Fatfree Vegan cleverly likens it to playing telephone in her post Red Lentil & Rice Patties with Coconut-Mint Sauce, a variation of the Red Lentil Patties with Cilantro I recently posted (and raved about). And, don't miss Brendon's dramatic variation of this recipe, Black Lentil and Black Rice Wedges at Something In Season.

Regular readers will note that I've been having a lot of fun with Farmgirl's wonderful Savory Cheese & Scallion scone recipe. I recently made a version with green garlic, which contributed to a Spring Green Garlic post on Farmgirl's other blog, In My Kitchen Garden. In that post, Farmgirl posted a simple recipe for Green Garlic Fettuccine, which inspired today's dish Fettuccine with Green Garlic, Spinach, and Goat Cheese. Talk about a ricochet effect!

The pasta was delicious, quick, and easy. Here's the recipe:

8 oz fettuccine
1 -2 tbsp butter
3 green garlic, chopped
6 oz baby spinach
1-2 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp half & half (optional)
salt & pepper
a dash of red pepper flakes
goat cheese

While cooking your fettuccine, melt the butter in a non-stick skillet over low heat. Cook the green garlic gently for about five minutes until soft. Add the lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and baby spinach and cover. Cook until the spinach is wilted (2-3 minutes). Add the half & half (if desired) and season.

Add the drained fettuccine to the skillet and stir gently. Serve topped with goat cheese.

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Baked Egg Rolls

I'm not big on frying food. Call me weird, but to me deep frying (or even shallow frying) seems a bit like inviting the reaper for dinner. Cheese, I obviously have no problem with. But I digress...

Anyway, given the frying phobia, I was excited to find a recipe for baked egg rolls in the February 2006 Vegetarian Times, which I tried today. How were they? They definitely tasted baked and not fried. They were a little dry, but, once you dipped them in soy sauce or Sriracha hot chili sauce, they really were awfully good. If you love egg rolls but need to go low fat, this is a nice tasty recipe.

The original recipe was for Mini Egg Rolls with Hot Mustard Sauce. I used Azumaya large square wrappers rather than the little won ton skins the original recipe called for. The recipe made eight of these larger egg rolls (vs. 26 won ton size). Using the larger size also meant less fiddling around and worrying about the first rolls drying out while the others were being wrapped. I changed the ingredients by substituting arrowroot for cornstarch, doubling the peanuts and ginger, and dropping the water chestnuts.

My larger egg rolls were also cooked in my oven in 15 minutes (vs 20 minutes in original recipe).

Here's my adapted recipe:
1 tsp arrowroot
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 small napa cabbage, chopped
I large carrot, shredded
1 tsp arrowroot
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
1 cup edamame (shelled)
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 egg, beaten
8-10 large square egg roll pasta wrappers
cooking spray

Whisk together the arrowroot, soy sauce, and rice vinegar in a small bowl and set aside. Preheat your oven to 425. Spray non-stick skillet with cooking spray and cook cabbage and carrot gently for about five minutes until cabbage is softens. Add the garlic, ginger, edamame, peanuts, and sesame oil and cook 3 additional minutes. Add arrowroot/soy mix and cook two more minutes, until thickened. Cool for about 15 minutes.

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and put into the oven for a few minutes (while you assemble, but not if that's going to take a long time!)

To assemble, place wrappers so a corner is at the bottom (a diamond rather than a square). Brush the top corner with beaten egg. Place 2-3 spoonfuls of the cabbage mixture in the center of the wrapper, fold up the bottom corner and sides around the mixture and then roll up to top corner.

Place egg rolls seam side down on the preheated baking sheet and spray egg rolls with a little cooking spray. Bake for 6-7 minutes and then turn and bake additional 6-7 minutes until light brown.

Serve with soy sauce and/or Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Fiesta Pizza

A very tasty combination of two of my favorite things - pizza and Mexican flavors. The only thing missing was the guacamole (my avocado was black inside - hate that!)

This was a delicious change of pace for pizza and pretty darn healthy. Salsa substitutes for tomato sauce, then black beans and cheese provide the serious toppings. That alone makes an awesome pizza. But, if you want more, top the baked pizza with shredded lettuce, more salsa, olives, guacamole, jalapenos, chopped cilantro! Then you'll really have a Fiesta Pizza!

Pizza dough (I used Trader Joe's plain pizza dough, cornmeal version would be a good choice here or your fav. pre-prepared pizza crust)
Your favorite salsa
10 oz black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup Monterey jack cheese, grated
3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
shredded lettuce (optional)
Scallions sliced
jalapenos on top (optional)
Guacamole (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 with pizza stone and roll out pizza dough (or follow premade pizza crust instructions). Cover the dough/crust with your favorite salsa, minimalizing the amount of liquid. Add black beans and spread over dough/crust. Top with your grated cheeses. Cook on pizza stone (mine took 14 minutes). Top with shredded lettuce, scallions, jalapenos, salsa, and guacamole!

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Farmers Market Run

Look at all this wonderful produce from our tiny local Farmers' Market. Everything is organic, except the tomatoes (grown indoors without sprays).

This bounty includes:

  • a bunch of leeks

  • a bunch of green garlic

  • four onions

  • four oranges

  • eight lemons

  • four tomatoes

  • 1 lb English peas

  • 12 oz strawberries

  • 12 oz cleaned baby spinach

  • a bunch of baby turnips

  • a large bunch of carrots

  • Cost: Just under $20.00 (the tomatoes were the most expensive item at $3/lb) .

    Sure to be the best spent $20 this week!

    I felt so grateful for this, I just wanted to share.

    Tuesday, April 25, 2006

    Acorn Squash stuffed with Chard & Rice

    With a return of cold wintry weather here, it was time to use those two acorn squash that have been looking pretty in their wicker basket for several weeks. And it's my first contribution to Sweetnicks ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday (ARF=Antioxidant Rich Food). I've had two wonderful versions of stuffed acorn squash: one at a pot luck where they were filled with a rice/nut mixture and one from the deli at Whole Foods with spinach and goat cheese.

    I decided to do a rice and chard version with gruyere, all items I had on hand, but ended up switching the gruyere to Parmesan. I made the change because my rice and chard mixture, despite the green garlic and leeks, was a little bland. I greatly improved and enhanced the flavors by adding a small amount of three cheese tomato pasta sauce (from Trader Joe's). With the red sauce, Parmesan was the natural partner.

    I baked/steamed the acorn squash. Mine were the perfect texture, but hubby's was tough and fibrous. He loved the filling though. I would have topped these with crushed hazelnuts rather than the breadcrumbs, but hubby is weird about nut toppings, so I used breadcrumbs instead.

    Here's the recipe:

    2 acorn squash, cut in half from top to bottom, seeds and stringy bits removed
    1 1/2 tbsp butter
    1 leek, cleaned and chopped
    1 green garlic, chopped or 1 garlic clove, minced
    1 bunch chard leaves, stems removed, chopped
    1 1/2 cups cooked rice
    1/3 cup cheesy tomato pasta sauce
    grated Parmesan
    fresh breadcrumbs
    lemon juice

    Preheat oven to 375. Fill a shallow dish, large enough to hold your halved acorn squash, with 1/4 inch water. Place the cleaned acorn squash cut side down in the dish and bake for 30-40 minutes, until tender. Remove from dish and dot inside with butter. Remove water from shallow dish and place the acorn squash cut side up and bake an additional 5 minutes.

    Melt the butter in a skillet and gently cook the leek and garlic until soft (5-8 minutes). Add the chard leaves and cook until the chard is tender, about 5 minutes. Add the cooked rice and the tomato sauce and mix until well combined.

    Fill the acorn squash with the rice mixture. Top with the Parmesan, breadcrumbs and a drop or two of lemon juice. Place under the broiler until the topping is golden brown (3-4 minutes).

    Monday, April 24, 2006

    Pea Soup and Cheddar Chive Scones

    This adorable pea soup, made from frozen petite peas, has a wonderful fresh spring taste and the freshly chopped mint on top was a perfect match. The soup is sweet and savory and would make a darling party appetizer, served in tiny white cups, as pictured above. This version has a hearty consistency and was the main course for lunch, served with a large scone. For a more delicate soup, leave out the potato.

    Pea soup (2 -3 large servings):
    1 tbsp vegetable oil
    1/2 onion, finely chopped
    1 leek, cleaned and chopped
    1 potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
    1 green garlic, chopped (or one large garlic clove, crushed)
    1 tbsp butter
    1 cup vegetable broth
    1/2 cup water
    8 oz frozen peas
    1/4 cup half & half
    Salt & pepper
    freshly chopped mint

    In a heavy bottom saucepan, heat the vegetable oil and add the onion. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the leek and potato. Cover and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and butter, cover and cook 3 more minutes. Add the vegetable broth, water, and frozen peas and bring to a boil. Cover, turn down the heat to low, and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the potato is soft. Remove from the heat, add the half & half, and puree with immersion blender until smooth. Season and serve with freshly chopped mint.

    I served this yummy soup with my latest variation of Farm Girl's Savory Cheese & Scallion Scones. My last version of this fabulous scone recipe was Green Garlic & Cheddar. For today's version, I used a Cotswold Cheddar with Chives as a substitute for the feta cheese. This cheese really has bite! Instead of the scallions, I used one green garlic and 1 bunch of chives. The result was fabulous - these really pack a cheesy taste and were wonderful with the pea soup! They are great fresh from the oven, but they're even better toasted the next day.

    Sunday, April 23, 2006

    Bakewell Tart - An English Sweet for St. George's Day

    Bakewell Tart, or Bakewell Pudding as it was originally known, is named after the market town of Bakewell in Derbyshire, where the recipe originated in 1860. A Bakewell Tart is a shortcrust pastry base, spread with strawberry or raspberry jam, and topped with a flourless "sponge" mixture made with eggs, sugar, butter, and ground almonds. I've found numerous stories about how the recipe was accidentally created by an inexperienced cook at the Rutland Arms Hotel (then the White Horse). Some say the cook reversed a recipe by putting the jam into the pastry shell before the sponge mixture or accidentally left out the flour from an almond sponge recipe, but most seem to agree that the cook was asked to make a large jam tart with a rich shortcrust pastry but left out the eggs and sugar from the pastry and then added them on top. Whatever the true story is, the result was a great success!

    I wanted to make Bakewell tart for the What's For Pud? St George's Fest (courtesy of Becks & Posh and Jam Faced) because my Grandmother loved it and would often make this as a dessert. I used a traditional recipe from British Cooking: A Complete Guide to culinary practice in the British Isles Edited by Lizzie Boyd. The recipe is not the one my grandmother used. She used to make a simple sponge (with flour) with almond essence and a little lemon juice for the top, which was also delicious. The traditional recipe produces a much richer, heavier tart. I dropped an egg from the original recipe (as our eggs are so large these days). The pastry recipe made almost twice the amount I needed, so I have leftovers to work with. Next time, I'd add a squirt of lemon juice to the "sponge" because I missed that flavor. Some recipes used puff pastry for the base - I used a sweet shortcrust, but a plain (no sugar) or rich (with sugar and eggs) shortcrust can also be used.

    Bakewell Tart is delicious hot or cold, served with a nice cup of tea. But, if you want to dress it up, top it with freshly whipped cream and lemon zest, or serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

    Shortcrust Pastry:
    8 oz plain flour
    4 oz butter, cut into small cubes
    2 oz sugar
    milk to bind

    Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and mix well. Add just enough milk to bind the pastry together to create a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refridgerate for 30 minutes.

    Strawberry or Raspberry Jam (or any red jam you enjoy)

    3 eggs (orig. recipe called for 4)
    4 oz sugar
    4 oz butter, melted and slightly cooled
    4 oz ground almonds

    Preheat the oven to 400. Butter an 8 inch tart pan (with a removable bottom, if you have one). Beat the eggs and sugar together with an electric mixer until thick and pale yellow. Add the slightly cooled butter, stirring all the time. Add the ground almonds.

    Roll out your pastry and line your pan. Cover the bottom of the pastry with jam. Pour the topping on top of the jam and spread with a knife until even. Bake for 25-35 minutes until the filling is set. Allow to cool before removing from pan.

    Tagged with: and

    Friday, April 21, 2006

    Stilton Pasta with Mushrooms & Spinach

    Wow! Delicious ribbons of pasta with tangy stilton, firm, white mushrooms, and barely wilted baby spinach, topped with more stilton, walnuts pieces and chives. Very indulgent, but, heck, its Friday night and you've been good all week! This is a rich and sophisticated pasta dish, perfect for dinner with friends. Big on flavor and quick on cooking time, add this one to your repetoire and serve in smooth white bowls with plenty of red wine.

    Stilton Pasta with Mushrooms & Spinach (2- 3 servings):
    1 tbsp olive oil
    1 tbsp butter
    1 tbsp vegetable stock
    1 green garlic, chopped, or 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
    1 large shallot, chopped
    8 oz firm white mushrooms, wiped and cut into thick slices
    6 -8 oz ribbon style pasta of your choice
    1 tbsp lemon juice
    1/3 cup half & half
    4 oz stilton, crumbled
    4-6 oz baby spinach
    walnut pieces
    salt & pepper

    Boil water for the pasta. Cook pasta as needed.

    Heat olive oil and butter in a non-stick skillet, add garlic and shallot, and cook over low heat until tender (4-5mins). Add the vegetable stock. Turn up the heat and add the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are starting to release their juices, but are still quite firm. Add the lemon juice and cook for one minute. Add the half & half and lower the heat. Add the cooked pasta and 3/4 of the stilton and the spinach, and stir over low heat until the spinach is wilted. Serve topped with remaining stilton, walnut pieces, and chives.

    Mediterranean Couscous with Mint

    I love mint and couldn't resist buying the tiny, fragrant little bundle I found at the farmers' market this week. Everything about mint appeals to me, the smell, obviously, but I also love the way it looks. This was very young mint, with tiny dainty leaves.

    But what to make? I realized that I really haven't made much of mint, except English mint sauce. So I started researching mint recipes and found this one for Minted Mediterranean Couscous Salad at This was a winner for me as I had a package of Pinenut Couscous on my list of staples to use and also had a red pepper that needed using.

    The resulting salad was absolutely delicious! I associate mint with sweet recipes and I'm always a little anxious about savory recipes but here the mint flavor is very mild and really heightens the feta and pepper. And this is a snap to make - 10 minutes top. This would be a great pot luck or picnic dish - it really doesn't get any easier than this for an awesome result.

    My adjustments:

  • I used a dressing of lemon olive oil and balsamic vinegar instead of the bottled dressing listed in the recipe (fab!)

  • I used sliced tinned olives and chopped them

  • I used about 1 cup of feta cheese (twice the amount the recipe called for)

  • I used pinenut couscous instead of plain and added about 1/4 cup of pinenuts

  • I served the couscous with Trader Joe's Lavosh crackers, Meza Hummus, and a spinach salad.

    Wednesday, April 19, 2006

    Tortilla with Chilies (Spanish Omelette)

    Yes....its hot! hot! hot! Here in the North Bay, everyone is wearing their flip flops, shorts, and t-shirts, soaking up the sun like lazy cats. Thoughts of siesta popped to mind and were the inspiration for this tortilla with chilies, "tortilla" meaning, in this case, a thin Spanish omelette made with sliced potatoes and onions. Delicious hot or cold, we enjoyed this with a red pepper spread (with garlic & eggplant) from Trader Joe's. It's also wonderful with salsa or your favorite red sauce.

    Tortilla with Chilies:

    3 tbsp sunflower oil
    1 onion, sliced thin
    Green chilies (I used a combination of 1/2 jalapeno and I large anaheim), deseeded and chopped
    1 large potato, cooked, and thinly sliced
    4 oz monterey jack, grated
    salt & pepper
    6 eggs, beaten

    Heat the sunflower oil in a medium non-stick skillet and cook the onion and chilies gently for 5 minutes over low heat. Turn up the heat to medium, add the sliced potatoes and cook until lightly browned. Season with salt & pepper. Spread the mixture over the bottom of the pan evenly and top with the grated cheese. Pour the beaten eggs over the mixture and cook over lowest heat until the eggs on the top are set. This takes some time. Cover the pan to speed things along. Once the top is set, place a plate face side down on top of the eggs and turn the pan upside down so that your omelette ends up on your plate. Brown the top of the omelette under the broiler, if desired. Cut into wedges and serve hot or cold.

    Tuesday, April 18, 2006

    Zucchini Cups Stuffed with Red Pepper, Feta, & Pinenuts

    These stuffed zucchini cups looked so cute in Paulette Mitchell's Vegetarian Appetizers, I had to try them. The recipe seemed really easy and attainable, even for someone like me, who isn't good at the fiddley stuff.

    I had issues though. I microwaved the zucchini cups with a little water, but thought the 2 minutes called for in the recipe sounded like a long time. I cut it down to 1 1/2 minutes, I wish I'd made it 45 seconds. Some of the cups were overcooked, a sin that, as an English cook, I really try to avoid. Also, when I broiled these babies for 3 minutes (per the recipe), the pinenuts on top blackened unattractively, but the feta never browned.

    The cups, themselves, were remarkably easy to prepare. Simply trim the zucchini and slice into 3/4 inch slices. I used a grapefruit spoon (with a serrated end) to scoop out the cups and this worked brilliantly. Mitchell suggests using a melon baller.

    The filling is simply chopped fire roasted red peppers, crumbled feta, pinenuts, and fresh oregano mixed together.

    Despite the cooking issues, they did taste good and I love the zucchini cup concept! I plan to try them stuffed with rice salad, broiled with goat cheese (with the pinenuts underneath). Heck, I think they'd make a delish (and super easy) appetizer simply filled with a creamy dip.

    Monday, April 17, 2006

    Falafel Cookie, Anyone?

    Advantages of the falafel cookie:

  • They're baked, not fried so they're lower in fat (I mean, lets face it, your going to put creamy dressing on your falafel anyway)

  • It's flat shape makes a tidier pita bread sandwich

  • You can use it as a base for an elegant dish stacked with rounds of eggplant, zucchini, portobellos etc

  • You can serve it with a salad as you might a round of nut-encrusted goat cheese

  • It's highly transportable and can be eaten alone on the run

  • Your kids are much more likely to try this healthy food if they think its a cookie

  • I used Fantastic Falafel mix. To make falafel cookies, preheat the oven to 375. Instead of frying the falafel, form them into small balls and flatten them onto a greased baking sheet. Brush the tops with a little olive oil and bake for 20 minutes until light brown. Serve as desired.

    Sunday, April 16, 2006

    Rhubarb Soup with Creme Fraiche

    Happy Easter!

    Tart and sweet (like life), this pretty rhubarb soup tastes divine.

    Did you know rhubarb is really a vegetable not a fruit? A member of the buckwheat family, rhubarb is a relative of garden sorrel that has been cultivated for culinary use since the 18th Century. Originally from Asia, rhubarb has been used medicinally as a stomachic and is high in Vitamin C.

    A favorite in pies, crisps, and jam, rhubarb is commonly paired with strawberries or ginger. Orange, lemon, lime, and mint also make good partners. This soup, however, is pure rhubarb.

    To make the soup, trim 1 1/2 lbs of rhubarb and cut into 1 inch pieces. Put into a saucepan with 1/2 cup water and 5 oz sugar. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes, until the rhubarb starts to fall to pieces. Puree. Serve cold with creme fraiche or greek yogurt topped with lime zest or mint leaves.

    Alternately, use the soup and make rhubarb fool by stirring in heavy whipped cream, creme fraiche, or a thick plain yogurt. It's also a wonderfully different sunday topping.


    Friday, April 14, 2006

    Roasted Red Pepper Soup

    I've noticed that there's often a random series of coincidences that bring me to make a particular recipe. Take this hot roasted red pepper soup for instance. My friend Alanna from A Veggie Venture posted a recipe for Roasted Pepper Soup last week which reminded me of a red pepper soup I'd enjoyed at a restaurant in Palo Alto (I forget the name - something like Bravo!) when I first started dating my husband (14 years ago). Her post reminded me that I've always wanted to try and make that soup and now all I needed to do is find the right recipe.

    I have a lovely bunch of leeks that I need to use and add Leek & Potato Soup to my list of "recipes to make this week", although, in the back of my mind, I'm not totally happy with this.

    I make this wonderful Red Lentil and Rice Patties with Cilantro Sauce that I've been meaning to make for a couple of weeks and its phenomenal. So I start flagging recipes from The Healthy Hedonist by Myra Kornfeld and, you guessed it, I find this recipe for Roasted Red Pepper Soup that, with one minor modification, tastes exactly like the one I had at Bravo! (or whatever that restaurant was called). The recipe calls for leeks and, freakier still, Kornfeld specifies that the Imagine brand of vegetable stock is best with this due to its tomato base, which is exactly the brand I have open in my fridge.

    So you see, I was destined to make this delicious Roasted Red Pepper Soup:

    2 tbsp olive oil
    2 cups diced leeks (white parts)
    2 garlic cloves, crushed
    1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
    2 tbsp tomato paste
    16 oz jar of roasted peppers (I used T. Joe's Fire Roasted), chopped, or 4 roasted red peppers
    1 small potato, peeled and diced
    4 1/2 cups Imagine vegetable broth
    1 tsp red wine vinegar
    1/4 cup half & half (my adjustment)

    Heat the olive oil and cook the leeks until soft (8-10 mins). Add 1/2 tsp salt, the red pepper flakes, and tomato paste and cook gently for 3 minutes. Add the broth, red peppers, potato, and bring to a boil. Turn down to lowest heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree then add the vinegar and pepper. My adjustment: add 1/4 cup of half & half to make this creamier.

    Kornfeld also includes a recipe for Tofu Basil Cream to serve with this, which I didn't make.

    This soup is fiery, spicy, and delicious.

    I love this cookbook!

    Thursday, April 13, 2006

    Red Lentil & Rice Patties with Cilantro Sauce

    If I'd eaten these red lentil and rice patties with cilantro sauce in the best vegetarian restaurant in the world, I would have been impressed. As it happened, I made this recipe from The Healthy Hedonist by Myra Kornfeld (author of The Voluptuous Vegan) in my own humble kitchen and was completely and utterly awed by the sophisticated combination of flavors. As I prepared this dish, I agonized over what I should serve with it. Kornfeld suggests them as a "vegetarian main course or as a side dish to fish and chicken dishes". Darlings, these aren't a side dish to anything. These should be eaten and reveled in without other flavors. These must be eaten alone.

    So, what made these so amazing? The combination of the nutty red Bhutanese rice, red lentils, fragrant cumin seeds and hot pepper flakes was aromatic and tasty. But, then, adding the bright green and spicy Cilantro sauce really heightened the flavors and made this dish a wonder. I love this sauce. It would be a great match with Indian and Thai curries and Mexican dishes. With its wonderful flavor, it could make the simplest food into a delectable meal - rice, tofu, and steamed veggies with this sauce - delish! Serve it as a dip with tortilla chips. Don't like cilantro? Kornfeld says mint makes a delicious substitute.

    Although these patties were hard to keep together, they are so worth it. Make sure you cook the lentils and rice until all the water is absorbed to avoid the mixture being too watery. Also wait until the lentil-rice mixture is completely cooled before trying to make the patties - they'll hold together much better if you do.

    And now, without further ado, the adapted recipe:

    Red Lentil Patties with Cilantro Sauce (from The Healthy Hedonist by Myra Kornfeld):

    1 cup Red Bhutanese rice (I got mine from Whole Foods)
    1/2 cup red lentils
    4 cups water
    3/4 tsp salt
    2 tbsp sesame oil
    1 tsp cumin seeds
    2 cups finely diced onion
    1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
    1-2 tsp sesame or olive oil
    Cilantro Sauce (recipe follows)

    Rinse the rice and lentils. Put them into a medium saucepan with the water and salt, cover, and bring to a boil. Turn down to lowest heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer an additional 15 minutes until all the water is absorbed.

    When you uncover the lentil/rice mix, heat the 2 tbsp sesame oil in a non-stick fry pan over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook for 1 minute. Add the onion and cook until very tender (about 10 minutes). Add the red pepper flakes then add the onion mix to the rice-lentil mix and allow to cool.

    Once the rice-lentil mix is cool, form into small patties and coat with arrowroot (like cornstarch, only better). Fry in sesame oil over medium heat for 3-4 mins per side.

    Cilantro Sauce:
    2 tbsp lemon juice
    1/4 cup coconut milk
    I jalapeno, deseeded
    1 garlic clove
    1" piece peeled ginger
    1/4 tsp salt
    1 cup chopped cilantro

    Blend/puree all ingredients until smooth.

    I can't wait to try some of the other recipes from this book!

    Birthday Cake, Dharma's, and a Matzoh Lasagna recipe

    Check out this beautiful birthday cake my brother ordered for my mum's birthday! Not only was it beautifully decorated, it was easily the best carrot cake I've ever tasted - moist and tasty, but wonderfully light (and no nuts!) The frosting was cream cheese - delish! The cake came from Aki's in San Jose ( (408) 287-5404), a special-occasion cake bakery that's been in business for over 40 years. Apparently, their guava cake is also to die for.

    To further celebrate mum's birthday, we also enjoyed a healthy meal at Dharma's, a vegetarian natural foods restaurant in Capitola (near Santa Cruz). Founded in 1981, Dharma's offers a wide variety of vegetarian dishes, including veggie burgers and dogs, sandwiches, Mexican and Japanese favorites, pasta, veggie sautes, and desserts. Dharma's is (oddly) located in a little mall and provides a large casual dining room. A little on the dark side, the restaurant is made cheerier by the decor which includes lots of Christmas lights along the walls, a large flowery trellis at the front door, and a hokey "lava rock" fountain with smoke that appealed to the kids. You place your order at the counter and they call you when your cafeteria trays of food are ready. I was ordering for four and found there was an extra mac & cheese meal at pick-up. When I explained I had only wanted one, they politely corrected the order and refunded my money.

    The food was excellent! Mum had the Bo Thai: veggies and baked tofu in peanut sauce with rice noodles, bean sprouts, scallions, and peanuts:

    I had a taste and the peanut sauce was creamy and delicious and not really like other peanut sauces I've had. I couldn't tell what their secret was. I had the Mexican Saute: veggies and baked tofu over brown rice with salsa, melted cheese, olives, tomatoes and a side of tortilla chips.

    It was very tasty - the veggies were lightly cooked and crunchy, the tofu firm and tasty, and the salsa sauce was spicy. We both ordered the small sautes ($7.95), but they were huge platefuls that we could barely finish. It was the healthiest tasting meal I've had at a restaurant in very long time. For the kids, I ordered the mac & cheese (too spicy for my child - it was mustards and very good) which came with a large side salad ($6.45), and a Big Cheese sandwich (a whole wheat grilled cheese) which was much enjoyed and came with tortilla chips and a salad ($3.95).

    The place filled up quickly and there were obviously a lot of regulars. The person in front of me ordered a bowl of brown rice with tahini sauce ($3.80) and as I scanned the meals of my fellow guests, everyone seemed to be eating something different. Dharma's is located at 4250 Capitola Road in Capitola and is open 7 days a week from 8am-9pm. They have a breakfast menu that we just missed (8am - noon) and an extensive and interesting beverage selection that included organic juices, Hansen sodas, herbal teas, Reeds Ginger Brew, Thomas Kemper (root beer and creme soda), mango lassis, ice cream and soy shakes, as well as wine and beer (no coke or sprite here). If you're looking for a healthy, vegetarian meal in the Santa Cruz area, Dharma's is an excellent choice.

    Although we are not attending our friends' Seder this year, I do want to recommend this wonderful Matzoh Lasagna Recipe that is usually our very popular contribution. I use my favorite bottled red sauce rather than making the sauce from scratch. I have also noted the following adjustments on my hard-copy of this recipe:

  • Soften the matzoh crackers in warm water before including in this recipe (run under the tap for 2 seconds) - maybe try wine next time?

  • Use more spinach (up to 5 cups) - make this much moister.

    So soak your matzohs and go crazy with the spinach and you'll have a very tasty Passover dish!

  • Sunday, April 09, 2006

    Green Garlic & Cheddar Scones

    Baby leeks? Giant scallions? Nope...that's Green Garlic, which several farmers' market vendors were selling this week. A culinary secret, green garlic is immature garlic that hasn't yet developed its garlic bulb and has a much milder flavor than the mature bulbs, yet still has that distinct garlic flavor. It can be used in any recipe in place of regular garlic or leeks, and can be used raw or cooked. Alice Waters has a delicious sounding Green Garlic Soup recipe in Chez Panisse Vegetables, which I would have tried except that I'm hitting the holiday road today and wanted to make something easily transportable.

    So I decided to make an adapted version of Farm Girl's Savory Cheese & Scallion Scones. The only changes I made were substituting the green garlic for the scallions and cheddar cheese for the feta. I used all but the leafy ends of the green garlic and sliced and chopped them just like scallions. If you want an aromatic zen experience, chopping green garlic is an excellent meditation — the smell is incredible, you won't be able to think about anything else.

    I also cut my scones into 12 rather than 8 and reduced the cooking time to 18 minutes. The scones were a delicious vehicle for the green garlic - very tasty and aromatic, yet mild. Next time I'd increase the amount of cheddar cheese (I used 4 oz of sharp cheddar) as the cheddar taste was too mild for me, at least right out of the oven. I noted with the original scone recipe that the flavors seem to develop more the next day and were delicious toasted. I suspect the same will be true for this version. Serve fresh from the oven ot toasted the next day with butter or cream cheese — heaven.

    p.s. I'll be gone for a few days with the kids (Spring Break and my mum's birthday) and not sure of mum's computer's photo abilities, so I may not be posting till mid-next week (give me strength!)

    Saturday, April 08, 2006

    Fettuccine with lima beans and artichokes

    I'm in a light, summery mood today and have prepared a light summery dish: Fettuccine with lima beans and artichokes in a lemon and garlic wine broth with a little half & half and lots of freshly ground pepper. Lima beans, a.k.a. butter beans, have a delightful buttery taste and the pale green baby limas look great in waves of fettuccine. Not only do they look and taste good, they are packed with nutritional value: protein, B vitamins, iron, potassium, and magnesium. No wonder they've been popular since around 5000 B.C.! Today, they paired nicely with the artichokes. The meal was made in a snap and lovely and light, perfect for the first day I've actually felt too hot in a fleece.

    Here's how to make a bowl for yourself:

    6 oz dried fettuccine
    1/2 cup frozen lima beans
    10 frozen baby artichokes
    1 tbsp olive oil
    2 cloves garlic, crushed
    2 tbsp white wine
    1/2 cup vegetable broth
    1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
    1 tbsp half & half (optional)
    salt and pepper
    cheese shavings (optional)
    snipped chives (optional)

    Boil water and cook fettuccine per package with a tiny bit of olive oil.

    In a small saucepan, parboil the lima beans and artichokes together for 1 minute. Drain.

    In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and saute the garlic gently for 1 minute. Add the lima beans and artichokes, coat, and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the vegetable broth and lemon juice and cook gently for 2-3 minutes. Add half & half (if using). Turn off the heat and add the fettuccine to the vegetables and sauce. Season and serve immediately with cheese shavings (parmesan, gruyere - use a vegetable peeler for shavings) and snipped chives and a big glass of white wine. Follow with a healthy dessert of crunchy red grapes.


    Thursday, April 06, 2006

    Spring Asparagus with White Bean Sauce

    I have to admit, I was a little scared to make this recipe from Karina's Cooking By The Seasons. (Karina is Gluten-Free Goddess). I was intrigued by the high protein bean sauce, now that's a novel approach to asparagus, and Alanna (of A Veggie Venture) and I had decided it would fun to both make this recipe and post it on the same day. But I was afraid of the curry powder. Curry powder with white beans and white wine? I couldn't quite imagine how this combination of flavors would taste. What if I hated it? But its good to throw your cares to the wind occasionally, so I did. And, guess what, it all worked out beautifully (see above).

    I decided to go against the grain and actually follow the recipe. I did leave out the 1/2 tsp of fennel because I didn't have any. And I used black pepper, not white pepper, because I have a thing about white pepper.

    This is a divine way to prepare asparagus. It's very lightly sauted in olive oil and then cooked a little longer with lemon juice, salt and pepper. The result was wonderfully crunchy lemony asparagus. I had to stop myself eating it plain. You do want to use asparagus with thin stems or you will have to be careful not to overcook the spears.

    So back to the sauce. The curry flavor is really mellowed by the lemon juice when the sauce combines with the asparagus right at the end, so that the sauce barely tastes of curry, but rather has a mild savory flavor. The sauce is slightly sweet from the wine, which did worry me, but actually it was fine with the sweet young asparagus. (I'm not the sort of person that would ever put raisins in a curry.) I used a fruity chardonnay because that's what I had, I imagine a drier white would produce a less sweet result. What's remarkable about the sauce (besides its unique mellow savory flavor) is how creamy and tasty it is, while using very little fat.

    It's very quick and easy to make. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan and fry 4 minced cloves of garlic for one minute. Add 1/2 tsp curry powder (and 1/2 tsp fennel) and cook, stirring for one minute. Add a can of drained, rinsed white cannellini beans and stir to coat with the garlic-curry mixture. Season with sea salt and pepper. Puree the beans with 1 tbsp of white wine and 1 tbsp of vegetable broth. Add additional tbsp of each until desired sauce consistency is reached. Check seasoning and serve warm over the asparagus.

    Now read Alanna's version at A Veggie Venture. We also plan to make another recipe from Cooking by the Seasons later in the month - others welcome!

    Sausages, Heinz Baked Beans, and Mashed Pototoes

    So for last night's dinner, I went with classic English comfort food: sausages, baked beans, and mashed potatos. It's not the prettiest of dishes, but it is satisfying, fast, and tasty. The sausages are Morningstar's sausage links from the freezer and were prepared in the microwave in a couple of minutes. They were very good and we ate them with a hot mustard. Two links have 90 calories, 3g of fat, 9g of protein — that's a good deal.

    The Heinz baked beans are English childhood friends of mine. (You may know them from a silly Monty Python skit or two. ) These yummy beans in tomato sauce are perhaps at their most delicious with mashed potatoes, but they're also:
  • Excellent on buttered toast ( a great kids meal)

  • Fabulous with fried eggs and "bacon"

  • Sensational cold as a salad side dish

  • Delish on top of a baked potato

  • Heinz baked beans are a very popular food in Britain (apparently 1.5 M cans are eaten there each day) and are popular at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Happily, they are also very good for you - high in protein and iron and fat-free.

    Even the mashed potatos were fast. I had a frozen pack of Alexia Yukon Gold Creamy Mashed Potatoes & Sea Salt in my freezer and these were ready in 6-7 minutes in the microwave. Unlike every other mashed potato product I've tried, these taste great! No weird sediment and they taste like mashed potatoes. Not as good as from scratch, but pretty darn close.

    Wednesday, April 05, 2006

    Lemon Zucchini Bread

    One great thing about participating in the recipe meme is that it focuses your attention on the recipes you still want to try and also on those dog-eared, forgotten recipes scribbled with notes that you've already tested. I had printed out this Lemon Zucchini Bread Recipe from and noted "excellent!". I remember making this as a sneaky was of getting my kids to eat more vegetables. It really is exceptionally tasty, light, and moist! I used a meyer lemon fresh from our tree which makes this very lemony. 1 1/2 cups of grated zucchini is one large zucchini. I had also noted that it took 55 minutes to cook, not 45, which was true this time also. Try it heated for breakfast with a little butter.

    And, as of yesterday evening, I'm the proud new owner of this cookbook:

    This seasonal cookbook, by fellow food blogger Karina from Gluten-Free Goddess, features easy-to-prepare vegetarian recipes. The recipes include many fresh and unique recipes. I'm looking forward to trying Asparagus in White Bean Sauce. Brandon from Something in Season already tried the Curried Stuffed Eggs recipe from this book. Available at

    Tuesday, April 04, 2006

    The Recipe Collection Meme

    I was tagged by Kalyn's Kitchen with the Recipe Collection Meme.

    I love cookbooks!

    Above on the left is my main cookbook bookcase (its actually a 4 shelf, topped with the bread bin) and on the right is a smaller bookcase mostly dedicated to cookbooks I have checked out from the library. Both bookcases are within arms reach of my computer, which is at one end of the kitchen. I have cooking magazines scattered throughout the house and cookbook and food writing overflow on several other bookcases. I also have cookbooks in storage. We really need more bookcases in the house. I'm a total bibliophile. How many cookbooks have I purchased in the last month? Four or five but I try hard to get inexpensive used copies.

    I have recipes in a binder that is just a collection, not organized by type of food (although this was/is the plan) and several hand-written books of recipes from my younger days. I also have recipe boxes online at and I also have recipes on my computer.

    On to the Meme:

    Where do you obtain the recipes you prepare?
    Mostly from cookbooks (90%). I'd say I prefer cookbooks with glossy photos to inspire me to try a new recipe, but I note that actually my favorites have few or no photos. I do search online recipes quite a bit and have found some gems on and For online recipes, I'm strongly influenced by the reviews by home cooks.

    How often do you cook a new recipe?
    Right now, an awful lot. I would say between 5-8 new recipes a week. In addition to working on recipes for Albion Cooks, I've been trying recipes from other blogs. Last weekend, for example, I made Monkey Bars from BakingSheet and Savory Cheese & Scallion Scones from Farm Girl Fare.

    Where do you store your favourite recipes?
    Not in an organized way. I have so many different medium now. Happily, I have a good memory for which of my cookbooks contain fav. recipes. I use tabs to mark recipes in my own books. I make copies of recipes from library books and keep them in the binder. I have a separate file with recipes ripped from magazines (mostly the NYTimes) or newspapers. And then I have some on the computer.

    How large is your recipe pile? Is it organized? How?
    Well, my binder and file folder are my recipe pile, kinda, and we've already determind they're not that organized. The way I organize recipes I'm going to try is by listing them in a separate notebook. I write down the main combo of ingredients and the source (cookbook name usually). I also use the notebook for research notes, ideas for recipes, combos of flavors I want to try, ingredients I want to highlight or investigate further, other blog recipes that I want to link to highlight, and now an inventory of everything in my pantry and freezer along with a list of 28 recipe ideas that will use those ingredients.

    What is the oldest recipe in your to try pile?
    I don't know. There's a photocopied recipe from the Feb '93 Vegetarian Times for Chocolate-Espresso cake I don't recall trying.

    Are you really ever going to make all those recipes in your to try pile?
    probably not, I should edit.

    Do you follow a recipe exactly or modify as you go?
    If it's a baking recipe, I rarely alter it the first time round unless I'm feeling very confident or the recipe strikes me as really off. For other recipes, I almost always modify them one way or another. I like to follow my instincts and see what happens. I find recipes can often be improved and I like to indulge my own preferences.

    What is one new recipe that you're scared to try?
    I'm going to try Thai spring rolls, but they look fiddly to me and I'm afraid they'll fall to pieces. Fat-Free Vegan and The Bakehouse have both posted about these lately and inspired me.

    Tag at least one new food blogger for this meme ("new" as in only blogging a few months)
    I'm tagging Dori at The Bakehouse

    Tag at least one food blogger you visit regularly but never interacted with:
    I'll tag Rae at bunnyfoot

    Tag at least one food blogger you constantly visit and leave comments:
    Karina at Gluten-Free Goddess

    Tag anyone else you want:

    Bea at La Tartine Gourmande

    and Susan at Fat-Free Vegan

    and VK at Vegan Knitting (and then some)

    Monday, April 03, 2006

    Lentils Du Puy cooked in White Wine with Goat Cheese

    Lentils Du Puy are small, dark green lentils from the Le Puy-en-Velay in the Auvergne region of France, famous for its volcanic landscape and spring water. Also known as "poor man's caviar" , lentils du Puy are considered the finest lentils available due to their subtle, earthy flavor and their ability to hold their form. These lentils don't require pre-soaking and are ready after 20-30 minutes of gentle simmering. Their tiny, strong form make them the first choice for lentil salads.

    After yesterday's pantry inventory, I realized I need to make better use of dry staples: lentils, rice, and beans. Lentils are excellent sources of protein and taste hearty without adding a lot of fat. This recipe, adapted from Lentils in Champagne from Marlena Spieler's excellent The French Vegetarian Bistro Cookbook is wonderfully indulgent in taste. If you think lentils require strong spices to be tasty, this recipe will change your mind.

    Lentils Du Puy cooked in white wine:

    1/2 cup lentils du Puy
    1 bay leaf
    1 tbsp vegetable oil
    2 shallots, finely chopped
    1 tbsp flour
    1/2 cup white wine
    1/2 cup vegetable stock
    chopped parsley
    salt and pepper
    1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese

    Put the bay leaf and lentils into a saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender.

    Heat the vegetable oil in a large non-stick pan and fry the shallots until tender. Add the flour, wine, vegetable stock, and drained lentils. Bring to the boil and simmer until liquid is almost gone. Add about a tbsp of chopped parsley, turn off the heat, and season to taste. Allow to cool for a few minutes (or if serving cold, cool completely), add the crumbled goat cheese.

    Serve hot or cold with a vinaigrette salad, toasts or baguette, walnuts and oranges.

    Sunday, April 02, 2006

    Taking stock of the food blogging obsession

    I have to say, since I stepped into the world of food blogging (only a couple of months ago), I feel I've really found my thing. I get up early to check for comments, scan Food Porn Watch to see who's updated (during the 7 hours I've been asleep), before preparing the lunchboxes and breakfasts and bustling the family off to their various destinations.

    I spend a great deal of time reading about food, looking at pictures of food, reading food blogs and checking out large numbers of food and cooking books from the library. And then there's the musing about blends of ingredients and the online research.

    I've noticed hubby has started to look a little anxious around dinner time, wondering what newfangled dish he will be treated to with the inevitable quiz regarding ingredients. He seems happy and appreciative when an old favorite shows up for dinner. Fortunately, I (generally) manage to overcome the annoying delay-while-I -photograph-the-food by starting to cook much earlier in the day, photographing in natural light and "tasting" before hubby gets home. But is this normal? Thank goodness for the daylight savings change!

    One of my favorite things about food blogging is connecting with others who share my now-admitted food obsession. It's a wonderful community and I'm constantly learning and inspired by the beautiful work of others. So, let me take this moment to express my gratitude to you all for sharing your work and participating in mine.

    So what's the issue? Like Gluten- Free Girl, I am addicted to food shopping. My food shopping list seems endless and I always have a good reason to buy specialized ingredients and taste lots of different cheese because I'm going to write about it on my blog. But also, like cookiecrumb of I'm Mad and I Eat, I have a pantry and freezer stuffed with food.

    So today, inspired by cookiecrumb's valiant two week ice harvest (and non-food purchasing), I spent the day taking stock of my small, but stuffed pantry, and my no-room freezer...literally. I wrote down everything available I had and came up with 28 dinners I could make by purchasing a few basic staples. (My fridge, I'm happy to report, is doing fine - those things (like cheese) seem to get used up very quickly.)

    This new plan feels good. I feel grateful for what I have.