Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Asparagus Recipes

Asparagus season has started and, seemingly overnight, those tender green spears are everywhere. For this simple stir-fry, I simply sauted garlic, asparagus, kale, broccolini, and tofu in peanut oil and added soy sauce, red chili oil, and Nasoya's vegan Sizzling General Gao sauce. Served over jasmine rice, it was toothsome and satisfying.

I'm looking forward to trying some new asparagus recipes this season. Here's some of my favorite discoveries from last season:

Asparagus & Cilantro Soup

Goat Cheese & Asparagus Pizza

Spring Asparagus with White Bean Sauce

Feel free to share your favs in the comments!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Fruity Malt Bread

At the half-way mark on my journey from Marin to my Mum's in Aptos, is a welcome cup of tea at my brother's house and also The British Food Center in Campbell. I was delighted to discover they carry Malt Bread in their freezer section. Malt bread is a food I fondly remember from childhood teas at my grandparents; the boozy, smoking grandparents who never seemed to worry too much about anything, except how the food tasted and that everyone was having a good time.

Malt bread is a dark, flavorful, sweet tasting bread with raisin. It is very sticky. I have yet to find a knife that slices it so the slices don't squoosh.

It's made with malt extract, which is made from sprouted barley processed with water.

The way to eat malt bread is topped with salty English butter (I use Kerrygold), along side a nice cup of tea. I haven't yet made it myself, but I plan to. Here's a recipe.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Spaghetti Rigati in Tomato Sauce with Mushrooms & Broccoli

This simple supper dish was inspired by my discovery of a new tomato pasta sauce, Cirio brand from Italy. The sauce is 86% tomatoes and I can easily identify all the ingredients (carrots, garlic etc), thus, the company's logo "Come Natura Crea". I think this is the best tomato pasta sauce I've tried. The taste was very fresh and flavorful, the texture superb, and it smells incredible.

I have to admit I've been rather dowdy in my choices of tomato pasta sauce. I quite like one from Trader Joe's and I like Barilla's sauce with olives, but, honestly, I've often settled for a poor quality sauce with four cheeses or black tasteless speckles of basil. Pasta with red sauce was one of my super easy meals back in the old days, and it makes me a little sad to think how blindly and repeatedly I grabbed a bottle of crappy sauce and ate a tasteless bowl of pasta. Well, baby, those days are gone!

I'd love to hear about your favorite tomato sauces so please share in the comments. And check out the Spaghetti Rigati (Spaghetti with ridges). I love this camera!

Spaghetti Rigati in Tomato Sauce with Mushrooms & Broccoli:

6 oz spaghetti rigati
1/2-1 tbsp butter or olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 mushrooms, sliced
1 small head broccoli, cut into small florettes
7 oz tomato pasta sauce (Cirio's)

Cook the spaghetti per directions. Melt the butter over lowest heat and cook the garlic for 2 minutes. Turn up the heat to medium and add the mushrooms. Saute until they start to release their juices. Add the broccoli and cook until almost tender (3 minutes). Add the sauce and drained pasta and toss until well combined. Heat together for 3 minutes and serve.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Mini-Break Meals

Mum's wonderful homemade pancakes with lemon and sugar for Pancake Tuesday.

Tuscan quiche from The Farm Bakery and Cafe, Aptos

Grilled lentil sandwich with chevre and licorice micro greens from the restaurant at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The combination of flavors here was marvelous, but probably wouldn't have been anything special without the lightly licorice micro greens. I almost didn't order this because of the "licorice". I really couldn't imagine how it would be good, but I was totally wrong. The only issue was that there were enough lentils in this sandwich for four adults. Not only was it impossible to eat such a tall sandwich, the lentils overwelmed. I removed about 75% of the lentils and then this sandwich was a total winner tastewise. I rarely eat sandwiches because an hour later, my energy really drops off. After this one, I was ready for a nap.

Four cheese roti and winter vegetable salad from Gayles in Capitola.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Dinosaur Kale & Jalapeno Soup

Another hot recipe, this Dinosaur Kale & Jalapeno Soup will certainly warm you up! It doesn't have to be burning hot, though, just adjust the amount of jalapenos.

This recipe was created to use up a bunch of dinosaur kale before taking a mini-break with the kids to see my Mum in Aptos. (It's ski week, but we hope to hit the beach.) It's a brothy, flavorful soup, light, and great for a diet. Perfect for cold season, not only does it clear out the sinuses, but the beautiful dark kale is an excellent source of Vitamins C, K, & A as well as calcium and fiber. So this recipe is my contribution to Sweetnick's ARF Tuesday.

And, yes, I do know I'm using a lot of recipes with dinosaur kale and jalapenos.

Dinosaur Kale & Jalapeno Soup

3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves minced
6 baby potatoes, diced
1/4 head cauliflower, cut into small florettes
1 tsp cumin
a dash of chili powder
16 oz vegetable broth
1/2- 1 cup water
2-3 tbsp chopped jalapenos (my were from a jar)
1 bunch dinosaur kale, ribbed and torn
S & P

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook the onion for 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 2 additional minutes. Add the potatoes, cover and cook for 3 minutes. Add the cauliflower, cover and cook for 3 additional minutes. Add the cumin, chili powder, vegetable broth, water and jalapenos. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes. Add the dinosaur kale, season, and cook until kale is just tender.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Greek Spaghetti with Cauliflower

This fabulously flavourful Greek Spaghetti with Cauliflower was inspired by a combination of two recipes: this one for Spaghetti with Cauliflower and this recipe for Greek Cauliflower & Potato Gratin (which, in turn, was inspired by Karina's Cauliflower Baked With Wine & Tomatoes).

I had a cauliflower that need using and some Olive & Cheese Bread as a side, and had restocked on spaghetti (my fav. right now is Barilla Spaghetti Rigati, a flat spaghetti with lines). The combination of cauliflower, red onions, garlic, red wine, baby spinach, kalamata olives, pine nuts, and feta worked a treat. This is another great recipe to make for guests: bursting with color and flavour and pretty easy to throw together with finesse.

Greek Spaghetti with Cauliflower:
8 oz spaghetti
1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florettes
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp red onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup red wine
2 handfuls of baby spinach
4 oz red kidney beans
8 kalamata olives, stoned and thinly sliced
S & P
red pepper flakes
1+ handful pinenuts
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled

Cook the spaghetti per directions. Heat the olive oil and cook the cauliflower florettes for 4 minutes over medium heat. Add the red onions and garlic and cook for 4 minutes. Add ther red wine, spinach, beans, and olives and cook for 4 minutes. Add the cooked spaghetti to the skillet and add toss until combined. Season and add red pepper flakes if desired. Serve topped with pinenutes and feta cheese.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Mexican Rice with Chard & Red Beans

This wonderful recipe for Mexican Fried Rice with Chard & Red Beans came from a total morph-o-meal experience.

That is, when I started cooking it was going to be Linguini with Chard, Cauliflower, and Capers. By the time the pasta water was boiling, I made a shocking discovery. I had only a few strings of thin spaghetti and fewer strands of fettuccine, and absolutely no linguini. For a girl who hits a food store almost daily, it was hard to imagine how this could have occurred. I perused the many short pasta shapes on the shelves and knew they wouldn't cut it.

No matter, I'm working on being more flexible anyway. And, heck, I was really in the mood for spicy Mexican food. But I had to use that chard that had been taking up 1/4 of our total fridge space for a week. I don't know about you, but I feel chard is more limited than some of the other greens. I'd love to hear your favorite chard combinations!

So I mused on the Guadalajaran Swiss Chard Quesadilla recipe from the Feb. 2007 Vegetarian Times, but I really wasn't sold on this and was happy to discover that the recipe called for Mexican Oregano and I had none. I'd have to let that one go.

So I moved on. Chard and Jalapenos sounded like an excellent base. A stew? But by now I'm hungry and thinking I don't want to wait to cook sweet potatoes. I need something fast. Eggs? Rice?

"Now you're talking" says that creative little hedonist in my head, in her ruthlessly English accent.

So I poured her a glass of red and said, "Go do your stuff". The result was heaven.

Mexican Rice with Chard & Red Beans:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch chard, washed, ribbed, and torn
1/4 cup red wine
7 oz red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 tbsp chopped jalapenos (mine were from a jar, if using fresh, rib and seed)
1 egg, beaten
2 cups cooked rice (I used Trader Joe's Jasmine rice but brown would be good)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4-1/3 cup salsa (I use Pace medium)
Avocado slices

Heat the oil in a skillet and cook the red onion and garlic over med-low for 4-5 minutes. Add the chard and red wine and cook until starting to wilt (5 minutes). Add the kidney beans, jalapenos and cook for 2 minutes. Add the beateb egg and rice and stir. Cook for about 5 minutes. Season. Add the cilantro and salsa and cook for 2 more minutes. Serve topped with thin slices of avocado and blue tortilla chips.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Leeky Cheesy Valentine Scones

To know me may not be to love me, but forget the chocolate. Savory folk...have I got a Valentine scone for you!

An adaption from one of my favorite scone recipes, Farmgirl's Savory Cheese & Scallion Scones, this version, with lots of luscious leeks and heady Tintern Cheese, creates my favourite scone to date.

I substituted 1 big, fat, hunking leek for the scallions. I chopped it finely and cooked it for about 5 minutes in a little olive oil. I used half Tintern Cheese, a very strong Welsh soft white cheese with scallions and chives, and sharp cheddar. I cut back on the half & half (3/4 cup). I (obviously) used a heart shape cutter and baked the scones for 15-20 minutes.

I can't even begin to tell you how incredible these taste: plain, dripped in butter, melted with cheese. Taste them for yourself!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Red Lentil Soup (a la Cream Puffs in Venice)

Was it less than a month ago that I made this yummy Red Lentil Soup?

Well, what can I say, I'm on to a good thing. And it is soup season. This evening I made this Red Lentil Soup, much inspired by Ivonne's beautiful photograph. The recipe is adapted from A Beautiful Bowl of Soup by Paulette Mitchell.

Ivonne writes one of my favorite blogs, Cream Puffs In Venice, out of Toronto, Canada. Ivonne has a strong Italian heritage and is one of the nicest people in the blogosphere. She is generosity of spirit. Oh, yeah, and, not only can Ivonne cook, she takes photographs that make me salivate like a Pavlovian pup. And I don't even have a sweet tooth!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Jalapeno & Salsa Pizza

This pizza was hot hot hot! Quite a different flavoured pizza, but so good. I could eat this...umm... frequently.

I used a premade cornmeal crust and "brushed" the crust with a Cilantro Chutney. I got mine from an Indian vendor at our Farmers' Market made from cilantro, lemon juice, vinegar, chiles, peanuts, ginger, salt and sugar, but you could easily make your own. I then made a basic salsa from chopped tomatoes, red onions, and jalapenos (I used the nacho type, from a jar). The salsa was spread over the pizza crust and topped with grated Strong Cheddar and extra sliced jalapenos, and baked for 12 minutes.]

Like I said, this was so good, I could eat this...umm... frequently.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Bay Area Food & Wine Bloggers Volunteer Day

Kudos to my two favourite, big-hearted Bay Area bloggers Amy and Sam for organising a Food & Wine Bloggers Volunteer Day at the San Francisco Food Bank.

I'd never been to the Food Bank, where about 35 food and wine bloggers packaged corn, apples, and oranges. The SF Food Bank "collect donated food from growers, manufacturers and grocers, then distribute it to people in need through food pantries, soup kitchens, child care centers, homeless shelters, senior centers and other human service agencies with meal programs. All in all, we will distribute 25 million pounds of food this year to hungry people in San Francisco."

As you can see from these pictures, everyone enjoyed the experience. And you get a free party hat!

And you discover new blogs and the warm and friendly people that create them. Here's four new ones I discovered:

  • Pengrin Eats

  • All-In

  • Vinography

  • The Cork Dork

  • And, of course, helping to feed hungry people is what we're all about.


    Thursday, February 08, 2007

    Pasta with Spinach, Tomatoes, & Feta

    I got the most awesome olive cheese bread (Great Harvest Bakery) from the Farmer's Market and made this simple pasta dish to go with it. It packs a lot of flavor with minimal effort and tastes fresh and light.

    All I did was saute 2 large garlic cloves in olive oil, added the spinach and sauted until wilted. Added my cooked and drained pasta, chopped tomatoes and kalamata olives, a little more olive oil and a little balzamic vinegar. Heated through and served with feta and pine nuts. Highly recommended, with or without the olive cheese bread.

    Tuesday, February 06, 2007

    Black Bean & Mexican Hominy Stew

    This hot and hearty stew with black beans, Mexican Hominy, poblanos, and dinosaur kale really hit the spot. After reading about Mexican Hominy in my brand new Dona Tomas cookbook and then seeing it in my new favorite Safeway, I made my purchase. I have to admit, I've never had hominy before, which is too bad, because it's very tasty.

    Hominy, in case you're as ignorant as I was, is "dried white or yellow corn kernels from which the hull and germ have been removed. This process is done either mechanically or chemically by soaking the corn in slaked lime or lye.....When ground, it's called hominy grits." (source: The New Food Lover's Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst). Umm..."slaked lime"..yeah, like I know what that is?

    As, for my own weird personal reasons, this week I'm embracing my inner dummy (who's never had hominy, grits, or has any idea what slaked lime might be), here's what I've discovered. Slaked lime is good ol' Calcium Hydroxide, "created when calcium oxide (lime or quicklime) is slaked with Latin American cooking calcium hydroxide is called "cal." Corn cooked with cal becomes nixtamal, which is considered tastier and easier to digest."(Source: Wikipedia) Yeah...Ok...but "slaked"? Just a word that means "to combine lime with water or moist air."(Source:

    Anyway, let's get to the taste point. Mexican Hominy is like a large, puffed corn kernel, that tastes a lot like a corn tortilla, and seems like it will grow up to be a piece of very dense popcorn. It's traditionally used in a soup called Pozole (along with pork, which, needless to say, won't be needed in this recipe). I have no idea what I'll use it for in the future, but in this stew, it held the place of rice or potatoes. If you haven't tried it yet, I suggest you check it out. Got a great vegetarian recipe using Mexican Hominy? Please leave it in the comments or email me!

    Black Bean & Mexican Hominy Stew:

    1-2 tbsp olive oil
    1 onion, chopped
    1 poblano chile, seeded, ribbed, and finely chopped
    2 cups vegetable broth
    1 cup Pace salsa
    15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
    10 oz Mexican Hominy
    2 tbsp chopped jarred jalapenos
    1 bunch dinosaur kale, stemmed and torn into 2" strips
    1 Field Roast Chipotle Sausage
    1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

    Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook the onion over low heat for 5 minutes. Add the chopped poblano chile and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the vegetable broth, salsa, black beans, hominy, jalapenos, and dinosaur kale and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

    Slice the sausage and fry in a tsp of olive oil until browned.

    Add the sausage and chopped cilantro to the stew and serve.

    Monday, February 05, 2007

    Vegan Super Bowl

    So, aside from the mandatory guacamole, what the heck do vegans scoff down while watching the big game? Truth be told, we gals were too busy chatting and eating to actually watch the game, but it was on in the background (for the guys).

    We enjoyed Vegan Sausage Rolls with Coleman's mustard and a big double batch of this delicious French Potato Salad:

    Pita with hummus, baguette with bruschetta, Judy's Breadsticks, and for the grand finale....

    Chocolate Orange Cupcakes with Orange Frosting made by VK of Vegan Knitting and then Some. These were totally awesome. See how she adapted the recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World here

    Saturday, February 03, 2007

    Spaghetti with Leeks, Chard, & Cotswold Cheese

    Here's a pasta dish with a British flair: Spaghetti with Leeks, Chard, and Cotswold Cheese. Costwold is a strong orange cheese that combines Double Gloucester with chives and onions.

    This is the simplest dish, but the marriage of flavours really works.

    Spaghetti with Leeks, Chard, & Cotswold Cheese

    6-8 oz spaghetti
    1-2 tbsp olive oil
    1 super large leek, quartered, soaked, and sliced
    1 bunch chard, destemed and leaves torn
    1/2 cup wine
    2 oz Cotswold cheese
    S & P

    Cook spaghetti according to package directions.Heat the olive oil in a skillet and fry leek for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the chard and wine and cook until greens are tender (approx. 5 minutes). Add 1 oz of the cheese with the cooked pasta and season.

    Serve topped with remaining cheese.

    Friday, February 02, 2007

    Teriyaki Tempeh with Broccoli Rabe & Mushrooms

    I'm just loving my latest vegetable find: Broccoli Rabe. This stir-fry dinner combined this delicious green with teriyaki-glazed tempeh, mushrooms, and plenty of garlic. I think stir frying is the way tcook this vegetable. Forget parboiling. For the broccoli rabe that is....

    This time, I poached the tempeh in simmering water for 10 minutes before marinating. This took away some of the denseness of the tempeh and I will probably make this a standard preparation. The recipe for the marinade is from Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson. It's the first recipe I've made from this book and I'd love to hear if anyone has any particular favorites. You're supposed the marinade the tempeh for 1 hour, but I only managed 15 minutes, which worked for me.

    Teriyaki Tempeh with Broccoli Rabe & Mushrooms:

    8 oz tempeh, poached and cut into 1 inch rectangles
    2 tbsp tamari soy sauce
    1 tbsp fresh orange juice
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    2 tbsp sesame oil
    1 tbsp maple syrup
    2 tbsp peanut oil
    1/4 cup red wine (optional)
    bunch of broccoli rabe, stem ends removed, but into 2" pieces
    4 oz white mushrooms, sliced
    S & P

    While poaching the tempeh, mix together the tamari, orange juice, 1 of the 3 minced garlic cloves, sesame oil, and maple syrup. Put the marinade into a tupperware container big enough to hold the tempeh. When the tempeh is poached, cut it into rectangles and place it in the marinade. Put on the top and shake vigorously to cover. Shake again every 5 minutes.

    Heat the peanut oil in a skillet over high heat. Add the tempeh and marinade and cook until the tempeh is nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Turn down to medium and add the remaining 2 minced garlic cloves. Add the wine (if using), broccoli rabe and mushrooms. Stir fry, stirring frequently, until the greens are tender. Season and serve over rice.