Monday, July 31, 2006

Black Bean Burger with Guacamole & Salsa

Black bean burgers, topped with guacamole and homemade salsa, wrapped in a warmed tortilla. Another fabulous recipe from Myra Kornfeld's excellent cookbook, The Healthy Hedonist.

These spicy black bean burgers were crumbly in texture, rather like a Mexican falafel. This was mostly due to the fact that they include ground pumpkin seeds. Although I skipped Kornfeld's green pepper-avocado sauce in favor of my own guacamole and salsa, these definitely had that gourmet taste. Love having them with a tortilla rather than a bun! I served them with julienned jicama with lime and salt.

You'll want to plan ahead a little with these burgers as the patties need to spend some time in the fridge firming up.

Black Bean Burgers (adapted from The Healthy Hedonist.)

1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds, finely ground
2-4 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 chipolte chile in adobe sauce, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
15 oz tin of black beans, rinsed and drained (save the liquid for this recipe)
2/3 cup bean liquid or water
3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs

Heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil in a non-stick skillet and cook the onion gently until softened (about 8 minutes). Add the garlic, chile, cumin, and oregano and cook for 1-2 additional minutes. Add 1/3 of the beans and liquid to the onion mixture and mash the beans into the mixture with a potato masher. Add another 1/3 and repeat. Add another 1/3 and repeat. Cook the bean mixture until all the liquid has cooked away (but don't overcook or the beans will get flaky). Remove the bean mixture to a bowl and allow it to cool for around 15 minutes.

When cool, mix in the ground pumpkin seeds and 1/4 cup of bread crumbs. Spread the remaining breadcrumbs on a board. Divide the bean mixture into four equal amounts. The mixture will be too sticky to work with your hands so use a couple of big spoons. Take 1/4 of the bean mixture and drop it into the breadcrumbs. Use the spoons to flatten and shape the patty, sprinkling breadcrumbs on all sides. Once the patty is covered with breadcrumbs, use your hands to finish shaping the patty. Place patties on a plate and refridgerate for 1 hour.

Heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil in the cleaned skillet until very hot, but not smoking. Cook the patties for 3-4 minutes on each side. Serve on a warmed tortilla with guacamole, salsa, sour cream, and shredded lettuce.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Steamed Tofu & Vegetables with Gorgonzola Sauce

One of my favorite dinners is simply steamed vegetables and tofu over rice with a fabulous sauce. Ce soir, I made Gorgonzola cheese sauce and served it over savoy cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, and tofu- absolutely divine!

Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce:
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1/3 cup milk
2 oz Gorgonzola, grated

Melt the butter in a rounded bottom pan and add the flour. Cook, stirring continuously for 1 minute. Add the milk and stir until the sauce thickens (add a little water if it becomes too thick). Remove from heat and stir in the grated Gorgonzola. Serve immediately!

Two sauces from previous posts: Cheese-Jalapeno and Charmoula

Not to Be Missed Food Posts

Looking for tips on food photography?

Check out the amusing and informative July 27th "Point, Sip, Click" at Mattbites and Heidi's tips at 101 Cookbooks.

Heidi's blog was featured in Food & Wine's August issue as one of the Best-Shot Blogs along with Chez Pim, She Who Eats, and The Food Section.

Food & Wine are also having a food photo contest - check it out after August 1st at Food & Wine

Also, I recently discovered a wonderful blog called The Perfect Pantry. Find out what a food writer keeps in her freezer, fridge, and cupboards. Each post focuses on a particular ingredient and provides plenty of ideas on how it can be used. Check it out! (The Perfect Pantry was also Sweetnicks New (To Me) Blogger on the Block #33.)

Looking for Vegan inspiration? Check out What the hell does a vegan eat anyway? for fabulous and varied vegan meals.

And, congrats to Sam of Becks & Posh, who raised $2400 for Food Runners with her awesome 24 hour Blogathon!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Rhubarb Fool

I am a bit of a fool for rhubarb, especially when its syrupy, spiked with Cointreau, and mixed with fluffy whipped cream!

So what do I mean, fool? A fool is a type of English summer dessert, quite old-fashioned really, which takes tart fruits like rhubarb or gooseberries (which grow well in England), adds lots and lots of sugar, and mixes the fruit with whipped cream. A fool combines the creamy and the tart into an indulgent and heavenly whip!

Every recipe for rhubarb fool is different. Most cook the rhubarb in a pan with sugar and water, some roast it, some puree the fruit, some put it through a sieve, some add orange juice. My version is the lazy-summer version. I just cook the rhubarb with sugar and water, add Cointreau, and mix it with whipped cream so there's a combination of thready, fallen-apart rhubarb, and pieces of rhubarb you can actually sink your teeth into. Fool, so much better than pie!

And don't forget, Sam is on her 24 hour blogathon today at Becks & Posh. Please stop by and cheer her on! It's a treat!

Rhubarb Fool

1 lb rhubarb
1/2+ cup sugar
Cointreau (optional, but good)
1/2 pint Heavy cream

Look for thin stalks of dark red rhubarb. Remove the ends, and cut into 1 inch slices. Put the rhubarb in a saucepan with a few tablespoons of water and sugar. Heat gently and simmer until the rhubarb is tender and starting to fall apart. Allow to cool and check the sweetness. If needed, add more sugar. Put in the fridge until you're ready to make your dessert.

Whip the cream. Stir the Cointreau into the rhubarb (if using). Stir the whipped cream into the rhubarb and serve in fancy glass dishes!

Friday, July 28, 2006

African Stew with Sweet Potato Leaves

This spicy stew uses my latest Farmer's Market discovery: sweet potato leaves!

I didn't find a lot of recipes out there for sweet potato leaves, but I knew I was on to a good thing with Roy's Sauce a L'Afrique - a spicy, tomato sauce over potatoes and peas. I adapted the sauce recipe quite a bit, so I'm including my version below.

So here's what the leaves look like before cooking:

The leaves are pointy and look like a cross between ivy and purslane, with thick stalks. The taste is hard to describe: sweeter than spinach, although similar in texture, but none of that teeth-squeakiness. While it cooked, it had a faint basil aroma, but the taste was, well, starchy, vaguely nutty for greens. Truth be told: they have their own wonderful distinct taste and texture that I highly recommend.

While I researched sweet potato leaves, I came across this great piece by Marc at Mental Masala . Marc also includes a recipe for stir-fried Sweet Potato Leaves. The Farmer's Market vendor also recommended stir-frying them in a little oil, then adding tomatoes.

I will definitely make this stew again. Other variants I might try are adding coconut milk and eggplant.

African Stew with Sweet Potato Leaves (2-3 servings):

1 large bunch Sweet Potato Leaves, washed leaves and a thick stalks removed
12 oz baby Dutch potatoes, scrubbed
1/2 cup fresh English peas
I onion, finely chopped
1-2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tomatoes, cored and chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
water or vegetable broth as needed (I used water)
1 tsp harissa
2 shakes of cayenne
3-4 oz firm tofu, cubed

Put the baby potatoes in a saucepan with water to cover and bring to a boil. Simmer until almost tender, then add peas and cook additional 4 minutes. Drain.

Heat the oil in a skillet and cook the onion gently for 3-4 mins until softened. Add the garlic and cook a few more minutes. Add the tomato, tomato paste, harissa, cayenne, tofu, and a little water and cook over low heat, adding water as needed to maintain a sauce. Cook gently for around 8 minutes and add the sweet potato leaves. Cook until leaves are tender. Add the potatoes and peas to the skillet and cook another 2-3 minutes. Serve!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Potato & Taleggio Pizza with Apple, "Bacon" and Spring Mix

This most excellent Potato & Taleggio Pizza was inspired by a pizza of the same name at Coco 500. I didn't try the CoCo 500 version, but I added apple, Canadian "Bacon", and Spring Mix to mine and it was a fantastic combination!

The potato was sliced super thin, so the pizza wasn't a carb-fest, and the crunchy freshness of the apple, and the vinaigretted Spring Mix, perfectly balanced out the buttery Taleggio. And, of course, mild potato with salty "bacon" and cheese - it's gotta be great!

Taleggio is a creamy Italian cheese with an orange and grey inedible rind. It's a strong smelling cheese that becomes stinky and runny as it ages. Mine was fairly young. It is brie-like in texture (although less satiny), while being much saltier and tangier in taste. A great cheese to have with fruit, Taleggio is also popular for cooking because it melts well.

I used a Trader Joe's plain pizza dough, which I rolled out thin and brushed thoroughly with garlicy olive oil (olive oil with a large freshly minced garlic clove).

I boiled a single medium red potato in its skin until it was tender. I peeled it and sliced it as thin as I could, which was actually pretty darn thin (important to the success of the pizza, I think). The slices of potatoes were arranged around the perimeter of the pizza and then sprinkled with a little shredded mozzarella. I kept the Taleggio in the fridge until I was ready to cut so it was firm enough to slice into very thin shavings. I arranged these in between the potato slices and in the center. I then added peeled, thinly sliced Fuji apple (I only used about 1/3 of the apple) which went where ever there was a good spot. The Canadian "Bacon" was a single slice of Yves veggie version, chopped and sprinkled.

The pizza was baked on a pizza stone at 450 for 8 minutes. I then added very small amounts of spring mix, lightly tossed in an olive oil-balzamic vinegar vinaigrette.

Serve with big glasses of red wine.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Lavender Cupcakes


Cool, soothing lavender: beautiful, aromatic, serene.

And trust Nigella to have a recipe for Lavender Cupcakes in her lovely book, Forever Summer!

The recipe calls for lavender sugar, which I decided to make myself.


I had some lavender from Trader Joe's and was going to stick a few sprigs into the sugar per Nigella's suggestion. As I researched other lavender recipes, however, I realized what I really needed to use was Culinary Lavender, to ensure it was pesticide-free and that no inedible oils had been added to intensify the lavender's aroma. To make the sugar, simply add the culinary lavender to sugar and seal in jar for a few days. It will smell fabulous when you open it and looks very pretty!

The cakes were very sweet, but I was surprised to find the lavender flavor so mild. I sensed this even at the batter stage and, having strained all the lavender petals from the lavender sugar, decided to ignore all warnings and throw a pinch directly in the batter. They still ended up terribly mild lavender-wise, but were lovely. I intensified the flavor by sprinkling lavender on top of the pale violet frosting, which made them perfect.

What inspired this interest in eating lavender? A trip the the Ferry Building in San Francisco, where I discovered Miette's Organic Lavender Shortbread. The buttery little shortbreads taste as good as they look.


I will definitely be experimenting with more lavender recipes.

Nigella developed this recipe for the Lavender Trust, a British charity for young women with breast cancer. As this recipe is associated with good causes, I'd like to take a moment to direct you over to Sam at Becks & Posh and encourage you to support her participation in a 24 hour Blogathon to raise money for Food Runners. Thank you.

Lavender Cupcakes (adapted from Forever Summer):

1 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup very soft butter
7 tbsp. lavender sugar, sifted (I recommend returning some of the petals to the batter)
2 eggs
1-2 tbsp milk

vanilla frosting
violet food coloring
culinary lavender to decorate

Preheat the oven to 400.

Mix together the butter and sugar until smooth, then add the eggs one at a time, until completely blended. Add the flour and mix gently. Add the milk as needed to reach the right consistency.

Line a muffin pan with 10-12 paper liners and distribute the batter equally. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until done (mine took 18 mins and I made 12).

When the muffins are cool, decorate with pale lavender colored frosting and sprinkle with lavender petals.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Taco Salad

Irresistible taco salad with refried beans, grated sharp cheddar, homemade salsa, guacamole, and sour cream!

I love this messy combo, usually found in vat-sized containers at parties. "Walk away" I have to tell myself, realizing the vat is half empty, thanks mostly to me. So, in this twist on favorite Mexican ingredients, I made (fairly) modest individual taco salad in my manicotti ramekins.

I used refried pinto beans and spread a generous layer at the bottom of the ramekins and topped them with grated sharp cheddar cheese. Popped them in the micro for 2 minutes until the cheese is melted and they're bubbling. Be sure to put a paper towel over the top - I didn't and some of the beans exploded=messy.

I made fresh salsa with some organic red and yellow tomatoes, fresh jalapeno, red onion, and cilantro, which went on top of the cooked cheesy beans.

Finally, a layer of guacamole and light sour cream. Serve with shavings of lettuce and your favorite tortilla chips!

Monday, July 24, 2006

What's My Name?

Fettuccine with Pesto, Tomato, & Fresh Mozzarella

A very quick and easy supper for a hungry, salty, sandy family, this Pesto Pasta with Organic Heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella was tasty and attractive.

We escaped the heat by heading out to beautiful Drake's Beach in Point Reyes. Point Reyes is the home of some excellent food including Cowgirl Creamery, The Station House Cafe , and Manka's, but we were meeting friends for a delicious picnic lunch - a fresh French Batard with brie, tomatoes, cool cucumber, mayo and Dijon; watermelon; hummus with pita chips, and English muffin pizzas for the kids!

We got home at 8pm and it was still hot. But (and this is an improvement) it wasn't too hot to boil up a pan of pasta. I had Trader Joe's Pesto and fresh mozzarella in the fridge and some beautiful heirloom tomatoes fresh from the farmers' market. Scrumptious!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Grilled Zucchini Salad with Purslane & Tomato

The fresh Lemon -Dijon dressing perfectly highlights the flavors of the smoky grilled zucchini, crisp purslane, and juicy tomatoes in this recipe for Grilled Zucchini Salad with Purslane and Tomato from Epicurious.

There's nothing I love more than a simple recipe that's sublime in flavor. This salad greatly exceeded my expectations!

So what's purslane? Also known as poor man's spinach, purslane tastes rather like a very fat-leafed, succulent spinach, with a tangy lemony flavor. It looks more like watercress, with small leaves and a thick stalk:

Purslane can be used in salads (fatoush, potato), soups, and in place of spinach. Although considered a weed by many, purslane's reputation is on the up-swing, mostly because it contains an Omega-3 fatty acid (an antioxidant) and is a good source of Vitamins A & C. This recipe, therefore, is this week's contribution to Sweetnicks ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday (ARF=Antioxidant Rich Food).

And special thanks to cookiecrumb for introducing me to this healthy and delicious herb at our local farmers' market!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Cool Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

As the temperature rises, this Mediterranean chickpea salad will keep you cool and satisfied- no cooking required!

What makes this chickpea salad a stand-out? The super-light dressing of light sour cream, lemon juice, and cumin. There's nothing heavy about the dressing - I almost hesitate to call it dressing. It adds cool flavor, without adding any richness, and tastes fantastic!

This recipe is listed in my recipe book as Joanna's Chickpea Salad. I enjoyed a similar salad at a party at Joanna's and it was so delicious, I asked for the recipe. She gave me the list of ingredients, without measurements, and told me it was her reproduction of a deli salad she had enjoyed.

Cool Mediterranean Chickpea Salad:
1/2 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup black olives, chopped
1 tbsp light sour cream
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
salt & pepper

Gently combine all ingredients. Serve!

We enjoyed this with baguette, and

Stay cool!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Corn & Black Bean Salad

Too hot to cook?

Try this seasonal and attractive Corn & Black Bean salad. The recipe, adapted from Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes In the World, requires minimal cooking, is quickly prepared, and hearty enough to make a meal with some cheesy quesadillas, guacamole, and chips.

So, kick back, get out of that hot kitchen, break out the chips and watermelon, and dig in!

Corn & Black Bean Salad (adapted from The Best Recipes In the World):

1/2 tbsp olive oil
Kernels from 2 large ears of corn
1 small garlic clove, minced
8-10 oz black beans, rinsed and drained
1 ripe tomato, chopped
1 small jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
salt & pepper
Crumbled goat cheese

Parboil the corn for 3-4 minutes. Drain, and rinse immediately with cold water to stop the cooking.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet and sauted the corn and garlic for 1 minute. Remove corn to a bowl and add the beans, tomato, jalapeno, and lime juice. Season. Toss in the crumbled goat cheese. Serve immediately or refrigerate and bring back to room temperature before serving.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Tomato & Cheese Tarte

Another fabulous and easy way to enjoy mouthfuls of summer veggies is the simple, yet elegant tarte.

I made two tartes, both with those gorgeous Old German Heirloom tomatoes, one with fresh mozzarella and the other with Cowgirl Creamery's Mt. Tam goat cheese. For the mozzarella tarte, I added some pesto and pine nuts. Both were heavenly!

I used a frozen puff pastry sheet (thawed for 40 minutes at room temp.), cut it into three, and turned in about 1/4" of each side to create a border. I spread one tarte with pesto and then layered slices of tomato and cheese. Topped with a little salt and pepper, here's how they looked before baking:

I baked the tartes at 400 for about 15 minutes and added thin strips of basil to the mozzarella version after baking.

We enjoyed these with a spinach and raspberry salad and a nice pinot noir. Highly portable, these make a great picnic item and, being open to endless variations, are easy to make your own.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Pasta with Tomatoes, Zucchini & Pesto

Summertime pasta is the perfect dish when it's hot and you're pressed for time. Lightly sauteed, fresh summer vegetables, garlic, pasta, and olive oil are all you need for an attractive and healthy meal.

I found this recipe for Pasta with Tomatoes, Zucchini & Pesto on and, with a 95% approval rating and comments that indicated it was an easy and satisfying dish, I was sold. I have to say, with Epicurious recipes, I put my faith in the reader comments. And that strategy has always paid off.

This was no exception. I had a very narrow window of time to sit down and eat dinner with hubby. He raved about its tastiness and, with a nice baguette, was completely satisfied before I dashed off to my evening meeting.

I had two beautiful zucchini from the Farmers' Market, one yellow and one green, that needed a good recipe to showcase their lovely colors, along with the tomatoes, with a little sliced fresh basil and store-bought pesto.

It was a mild dish, none of the flavors were overpowering, but hearty enough for a hot summer evening. As the recipe is for 6 servings and I only needed 2, I cut quantities across the board.

Next time, I'll use all fresh tomatoes, rather than the canned tomatoes. The additional time would be minimal and make a much improved dish. I used a lovely Old German heirloom tomato to garnish — just look at this beauties!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Blue Beauty: Blueberry Smoothie

Blueberries — so good and so good for you!

Not only are blueberries low in calories and heavenly in taste, they are also the highest rated fruit and veg in their capacity to destroy free radicals. Blueberries can help protect against heart and circulatory disease and cancer, and help fight the aging process. This recipe is, therefore, this week's contribution to Sweetnicks ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday (ARF=Antioxidant Rich Food) for containing two superfoods: blueberries and yogurt.

Based on the Black Beauty Smoothie in Smoothies: 50 Recipes for High-Energy Refreshment by Mary Corpening Barber and her twin sister, Sara Corpening, and Lori Lyn Narlock, this scrumptious blend of frozen blueberries, grape juice, and yogurt was both creamy and refreshing. I skipped the blackberries, in the hopes of eluding the tiny seed grit issue, but the blackberry yogurt supplied more seeds than I could have imagined was possible. Next time, I'll follow the recipe and strain the mixture through a sieve.

Still, taste-wise this was absolute winner! I loved the grape juice-blueberry combination and the stunning color of this healthy smoothie.

Blue Beauty (adapted from the Black Beauty from Smoothies: 50 Recipes for High-Energy Refreshment):

I cup low-fat Blackberry yogurt (original recipe calls for vanilla)
1/2 cup grape juice
2 cups fresh frozen blueberries (original recipe calls for 1-1/2 cup blueberries and 1 cup blackberries)

Blend in a blender until smooth. Strain through a sieve.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Nectarine and Basil Salad with Goat Cheese

Isn't that a beautiful salad?

Sweet, perfectly ripe white nectarines, aromatic fresh basil, slivers of Crottin (a dry French goat cheese), in a bubbly bath of Prosecco.

The salad-child of C., a guy who knows his food (and most other things too). It was his birthday party and he was chopping up a storm in the kitchen. I watched him make the salad with interest. There was a brief panic, when the Crottin goat cheese seemed to have gone missing. Five of us searched the small (HOT) kitchen, someone generously perused the garbage, and eventually the little cheeses was found happily nesting in the fridge. The search party were each rewarded with a fabulous sliver.

I have to say, I was a tad surprised when C. started chopping the basil.

"Have you made this before?" I asked.

He shook his head. "But how could you go wrong with these ingredients?" he said (with gusto).

C. was right. The basil was mild and almost minty with the sweet nectarines and the dry goat cheese held its own with the luscious fruit and Prosecco.

A juicy and vibrant summer salad. A perfect party or picnic fellow. Breakfast anyone?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Hazelnut-Encrusted Goat Cheese Salad

Many years ago, Clement Street Bar & Grill (Clement and 8th) in San Francisco was our local favorite. They always served consistently good food and the menu had something to please everyone. The hazelnut-encrusted goat cheese appetizer salad was my favorite indulgence: warm, fluffy goat cheese in a hazelnut crust, floating in a sea of vinaigrette-tossed greens.

So, faced with a hot evening and a salad mentality, it was finally time to recreate that lovely dish.

I ground some hazelnuts in the mini-prep with a little salt and a squirt of fresh lemon juice, placed them on a plate, and slicing a 3.5 oz goat cheese in half and forming it into two attractive flat oblongs, I rolled the smooth cheesy pebbles in the hazelnuts until they were completely covered. Baked them in a 325 oven for 6 minutes until they were warm and soft.

While they baked, I mixed a simple vinaigrette with meyer lemon olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and honey, and mixed it with a generous helping of spring mix, dotted with a few sweet 100 cherry tomatoes.

I plated the salad and delivered the twin goat cheeses on top, centre.

On first taste, there was a slightly bitter aftertaste. So I drizzled a little honey over the top and....perfection!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Brie & Olive Pizza

The richest, most decadent pizza to date!

Slabs of creamy Brie rest on a Trader Joe's plain dough crust, lightly covered with Dijon mustard, Barilla Green & Black Olive Puttanesca, sprinkled with a chopped and seeded Roma tomato, salty Nicoise olives, and grated mozzarella!

Don't skip the olives or the tomato — their fresh texture offsets the thick, creaminess if the Brie. This tasted incredible, but so rich I barely made it through a second slice.

Next time I'll slice the Brie a tad thinner and use the tomato and olive more decoratively.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Pink Lady: A smoothie with Watermelon

Nothing says sweet and refreshing like watermelon. While there's something primitively satisfying in chomping into a watermelon slice much bigger than your face and spitting out the seeds, there may be times when you feel like something more refined (or don't want to stain your shirt). Or maybe you bought a massive watermelon that you can't possibly finish before it goes past it? The solution: the Pink Lady, a watermelon smoothie.

I found the recipe in a very attractive little book entitled Smoothies: 50 Recipes for High-Energy Refreshment by Mary Corpening Barber and her twin sister, Sara Corpening, and Lori Lyn Narlock. I have to say, I've never been that excited about smoothies (I prefer to eat my calories, if you know what I mean). But with my new blender and this book, I'm a convert! There's three blueberry smoothies I can't wait to try: Bad Boys (with boysenberries), Black Beauty (with grape juice), and Maple Blue (for those who like blueberry cobbler). The twin authors are also San Francisco locals.

The authors comically note that this smoothie reminds them of their favorite candy, Jolly Rancher watermelon sticks! The Pink Lady has a much more refined taste. It was super refreshing! A friend suggested it would be good with mint — I agree.

Pink Lady (adapted from Smoothies: 50 Recipes for High-Energy Refreshment):
1-1/2 cups watermelon, seeded and diced
1/2 cup strawberry sorbet
8 ice cubes
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt

Blend all ingredients together in a blender until smooth.

So watermelon, fruit or vegetable?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Cilantro Pesto & Fiesta Stuffed Portobellos

If you like cilantro, here's a delicious and easy recipe to add to your collection! This attractive and zingy cilantro pesto could compliment so many foods;

* Mexican dishes: quesadillas, burritos, beans, nachos
* Spread on pizza or sandwiches
* Use on pasta with tomatoes and olives
*Sauce up some rice, veggies, and tofu
* Use on the side with Indian food
*A zippy dip for grilled tofu
*Mix with cream cheese for an exciting sandwich spread

The recipe comes from The Moosewood Restaurant Kitchen Garden by David Hirsch, a lovely book that provides information on how to grow, harvest, and used lots of veggies and herbs. (There's also recipes for tarragon and hazelnut pestos that I hope to try.) Hirsch also recommends you mash the pesto with avocados (yum!), or serve over baked or grilled fish.

We enjoyed this pesto with quesadillas and black beans with goat cheese. Awesome! I also mixed it with some cooked rice, chopped tomatoes, red pepper, black olives, and goat cheese for these zippy Fiesta Stuffed Portobellos.

Cilantro Pesto ( adapted from The Moosewood Restaurant Kitchen Garden ):

1/3 cup almonds
salt & pepper
2 big cloves garlic
1 cup cilantro leaves
1 cup parsley leaves (I used much less)
1 fresh jalapeno (seeded and chopped)
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil

Grind the almonds, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor until well ground. Add the cilantro, parsley, jalapeno, lime juice, and puree, with about 1/3 of the olive oil. Add the rest of the olive oil in thirds and puree.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Flatbread with Zahtar ("Lebanese pizza")

I was introduced to toasted flatbread with zahtar (or za'atar) by a university friend whose dad was Lebanese. She used to eat it for a snack, or for breakfast with creamy Greek yogurt. I found it very exotic and appealing.

I had long ago forgotten the name of the fragrant herb mixture she mixed with olive oil, so I was excited to recently rediscover zahtar, an aromatic mixture of sumac, thyme, sesame seed and salt popular in Middle Eastern cooking. Zahtar is commonly served with flatbread or pita with olive oil, but can also be sprinkled on salads and used to season potatoes.

For the scrumptious "pizza" above, I used Trader Joe's Middle Eastern Flat Bread brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with zahtar, and added thinly sliced tomatoes and a little feta. Popped it under the broiler for 3 minutes - a tasty quick lunch that still seems exotic and appealing!

Zahtar Links:

  • Ideas for using Zahtar

  • Zahtar recipe

  • Tofu Feta with Zahtar from Notes from the Vegan Feast Kitchen

  • Moroccan Banana Chips by
  • Tuesday, July 11, 2006

    Salad with Figs, Manchego, & Walnuts

    Summer has hit the farmers' markets: suddenly there's tomatoes, blueberries, and figs!

    I've never done much with figs, 'cept eat them as they are. But in the last few days, I've had them twice, broiled with cheese - phenomenal!

    Turns out, figs provide not only a good dose of fiber and a lovely sweet taste, but are also good sources of potassium, calcium, and iron. Figs contain flavonoids and polyphenols, both known for their antioxidant characteristics. Thus, this recipe is my contribution to Sweetnicks ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday (ARF=Antioxidant Rich Food).

    This salad with figs, Manchego, & walnuts is a delicious blend of sweet and savory. The recipe comes from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Manchego is a firm Spanish cheese, originally from La Mancha. Slightly dry and salty, aged for 6 months, it's rind has a brown herringbone pattern. I love this flavorful cheese and it provides an excellent contrast to the intense sweetness of the ripe figs.

    This salad is a wonderful combination of flavors and textures and great for you. So, eat it up!

    Salad with Figs, Manchego, & Walnuts (adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone):

    1 small shallot, finely chopped
    4 oz spring mix, or red and green lettuce
    3 figs, sliced into rounds
    1-1/2 tbsp olive oil
    1 tsp balsamic vinegar
    1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
    handful of walnut pieces
    Manchego cheese shavings

    Whisk together the olive oil and vinegars. Combine the chopped shallot with the spring mix/lettuce and add most of the dressing. Add the rounds of figs and walnuts and the rest of the dressing. Toss gently. Serve topped with shavings of Manchego.

    Monday, July 10, 2006

    Hungry Planet: What the World Eats

    Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio is a fascinating book for anyone interested in food and how other people eat. I sat down to spend five minutes browsing through this book and was completely absorbed for an hour and a half.

    Menzel and D'Aluisio photographed and interviewed 30 families in 24 different countries about what their family eats. Each family is introduced with a family portrait, where family members sit or stand surrounded by a typical week's worth of their food and drink. These portraits are totally amazing and provide an immediate nutritional story for each family.

    There's no escaping the pain of the extreme differences between the haves and the have-nots: a German family spends the most on food( $500/wk.), a Sudanese family living in Chad, the least ($1.23 + Food Rations =$24.37). The other painful visual lesson, for me, was how many families graduate economically from eating fresh local foods to eating prepackaged convenience foods. Some families have the most wonderful spread of colorful healthy fruits and vegetables, while others have almost no fresh produce, but rather frozen pizzas, fast food, sugary cereals, and chips . The other detail that got me thinking was the containers of sugary beverages. A nuclear family in Mexico typically drinks a whopping 25 quarts of Coca-Cola per week! I tried to visualize how much juice my kids drink in a week - needless to say, we're cutting back.

    Each portrait is followed by a list of all the food the family eats in a week, divided into the following categories: Grains & Starchy Foods; Dairy; Meat, Fish & Eggs; Fruits, Vegetables, & Nuts; Condiments; Snacks & Desserts; Prepared Food; Fast Food; Restaurants; Beverages;Miscellaneous (Vitamins, pet food, cigarettes). Their total weekly expenditure (with US equiv.) is listed, and subtotaled by each of the above categories. These lists are completely fascinating for foodies and non-foodie's alike.

    This is followed by a description of family life related to food, cooking, and shopping, a list of common statistics for each country (life expectancy, literacy rate, avg. caloric intake, undernourished population, alcohol consumption, overweight population,number of McDonald's restaurants, cigarette consumption, meat consumption and others) with some country-specific stats thrown in (for example, for the British Family, the number of fish & chip restaurants is listed).

    Each family's available cooking methods (ie gas stove, wood fire, microwave etc) and food preservation methods (refrigerator, drying, freezer etc) are specified, along favorite foods and a family recipe. All this is interspersed with colorful photographs of the family eating, cooking, and shopping, as well as local markets, grocery stores, restaurants, and other scenes of family life and local food-related traditions.

    In addition to the family stories, there's six essays, each written by a different author, followed by a photo gallery on a related topic. For example Michael Pollan's Food With a Face essay is followed by a Meat themed Photo Gallery. Other topics include cooking methods, fast food, street food, fish and fishing, and diabesity.

    I've been showing and recommending this book to all my visitors and watched each of them become completely absorbed. Each person notices something new or has a new question; what will they do with all those eggs? Imagine peeling and cooking 100 lbs of potatoes a week! What is that? But almost everyone asks, "I wonder how my family would look surrounded by a week's worth of our groceries? "

    Food for thought.

    I highly recommend this fascinating book.

    Hungry Planet: How the World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio

    Sunday, July 09, 2006

    So, what did I have for lunch?

    Strawberry daquiris made by my very cool bro-in-law, A., with my new birthday blender!

    A. is also a master of the grill!

    Here's the recipe A. uses for Strawberry Daquiris:

    3 cups frozen strawberries (he uses T.Joes)
    2 cups ice
    1 cup rum
    1/2 cup lime juice
    1/2 cup triple sec
    1/2 cup sugar
    pinch of salt


    You guys are good!

    I think you had fun with this one!

    Hats off to all the participants for their creative suggestions on this one. I tried very hard to be tricky.

    Susan V. was correct - this is a half over-ripe bitter melon! It was originally all green, but over the last two days it is rapidly turning a lovely bright orange.

    What's a bitter melon? A bitter tasting vegetable used in Asian cooking. I purchased it at our local farmers market, where the seller suggested stir-frying it in butter. It is considered a medicinal food, particularly for those with diabetes, but also cancer and other infections.

    For more info. check out The National Bitter Melon Council Site.

    What Am I?

    Saturday, July 08, 2006

    Red Pepper & Feta Pizza with Pine Nuts

    Simple and delicious! Perfect for a summer dinner, this colorful Red Pepper & Feta Pizza packed plenty of smoky taste. I used Trader's Joe's plain pizza dough and Barilla Black & Green Puttanesca as the base. Sprinkled grated mozzarella, and topped with alternating strips of fresh thinly cut red pepper and mushrooms. I topped these with crumbled feta and pine nuts. Baked at 450 for 10 minutes and then topped with chopped basil from the garden.


    Friday, July 07, 2006

    To Die For Blueberry Muffins

    These really are the greatest blueberry muffins! The cinnamon crumb topping makes these light and fluffy muffins out of this world. I made mini-muffins, but my blueberries were a little large for mini-muffins. Still, if you're watching your waistline, the mini size is perfect. The recipe makes loads of crumb topping, so these would be great for those muffin top pans.

    I found the recipe years ago on Try them and you'll find this recipe is a definite keeper!

    To Die For Blueberry Muffins

    Thursday, July 06, 2006

    Lentil and Veggie Pesto Bake with Southern Greens & Sausage

    I think this may have been the best "leftovers" recipe I've ever come up with!

    Leftovers are a rarity these days, but we had quite a bit of the Lentil and Veggie Pesto Bake left over (a cup of lentils plus potatoes is a lot for 2 people). The original was so good and hearty, I couldn't imagine using up the leftovers as a side dish.

    I had just picked up a 1lb bag of Southern Greens (mustard, turnip, and collard greens, plus spinach) to try from Trader Joe's and guessed they'd go great with the lentils. And they did - I just wish I'd used more as they really cooked down in volume. I also added some crumbled Gimme Lean Sausage - totally awesome with the lentils and greens - pine nuts, and topped it with feta. We loved this hearty combo.

    Lentil and Veggie Pesto Bake with Southern Greens & Sausage:

    Leftover Lentil and Veggie Pesto Bake ( I had about 1-1/2 cups)
    1 tbsp olive oil
    1 small onion, chopped
    I large clove garlic, minced
    1/3 cup vegetable broth
    4- 6 oz Southern greens ( I wish I'd used more)
    Gimme Lean Sausage - I used about 3 tbsp
    2 tbsp pine nuts
    crumbled feta to top

    Heat the oil in a skillet and saute the onion for 4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 2 more minutes. Add the Southern Greens and mix well. Add the vegetable broth gradually, as needed, and simmer greens for 15-20 minutes. Add the crumbled sausage and cook an additional 5 minutes. Add the leftover lentil and veggie pesto bake and pine nuts and cook until completely heated (3-4 minutes).

    Serve topped with feta, if desired.

    Wednesday, July 05, 2006

    The Foodie Birthday So Far...

    Cafe au lait and a palmier at Champagne

    Farmers' market bounty: spinach, shallots, strawberries, golden beets, tomatoes, figs, cilantro, zucchini, and blueberries.

    A simple and delicious lunch: fresh figs broiled with Cowgirl Creamery's Mt. Tam cheese.

    Happy Birthday to Me!

    Tuesday, July 04, 2006

    Vote for your favorite June Photo

    I have a lot of fun taking pictures of the food I prepare. It's always a challenge to get a good shot. I find pizza particularly difficult to photograph , but I think I got some appealing pizza shots in June.

    Anyway, I'm going to enter one of my June pics in Does My Blog Look Good in This? and I'd love to get your opinion. Which photo is your favorite? Please vote in the comments!

    Pear & Gorgonzola Pizza

    Sesame Tofu

    Nigella's Carrot Salad

    Pesto Pizza

    Got another favorite? Let me know!