Category Archives: vegan

Curried raw kale, roasted red pepper, and spelt salad

It’s spring here, so I’ve been enjoying my life here in Sydney by refinishing furniture (as pictured here),

replanting seeds, and getting up to my usual shenanigans in the kitchen. This curried salad is from one of my CSA box experiments, and uses up some of the first signs of summer’s impending heat in the form of a roasted red pepper and some beautiful curly kale. I can’t wait until I have enough of my own produce to try a version of this from our balcony garden.

Curried raw kale, roasted red pepper, and spelt salad

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Filed under almonds, experiments, local, main, quick meals, raisins, salad, seasonal, side, spelt, vegan, vegetarian

Adventures in curry leaves

I don’t care what anyone says about tofu’s versatility. It has nothing on the lowly potato.  Fry them, roast them, coat them in a slick of olive oil with salt and pepper, and you have dinner. Ok, maybe not the most balanced dinner, but let a girl dream once in a while. If you want something green, broccoli, potato, and sharp cheddar cheese is even tasty if you do get lazy and make everything in a microwave. Not that we own a microwave.*

If you haven’t gathered this already, I will never tire of potatoes.

But I thought I had tried pretty much every variation I could think of, until I came across this recipe from 50 great curries of India, by Camellia Panjabi.  These potatoes are boiled, and then tossed in hot oil with some turmeric, mustard seeds, lentils, chile powder, and curry leaves.  The curry leaves are reminiscent of garam masala, but more vibrant somehow, and they transfer their frangrance to the potatoes far more thoroughly than I would have expected from a quick toss in a pot.

The end result? The most addicting, exotic homefries you will ever taste.  Hot or cold, this dish is both simple and impressive, and goes quite well with any sort of curry.  Or you could just eat them for dinner as is.

The only catch, really, is finding a source of fresh curry leaves.  Around here, the only place I’ve ever seen them is the Asian market in M&M farms, which seems to get boxes of them in sporadically.  Luckily, they freeze well, so stock up.

*For the record, we killed ours. It is resting peacefully in the basement, along with all our other broken stuff that I loathe to get rid of when we finally get out of this city for good.

Recipe after the jump.

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Filed under main, potatoes, side, vegan, vegetarian

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

Beautiful

I thought I’d share this one while strawberries and rhubarb are still in season. We had a pile of each sitting in our house, wilting in the humidity, and I decided to take matters into my own hands and do something about it before they both went to waste. A good thing, too, given that strawberries were $6 a quart last week, and they weren’t even that tasty.

Compote

I can’t blame them, really — with all this rain, we haven’t managed to actually harvest any of ours before they’ve started rotting. But onto more pleasant things…

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Filed under dessert, local, rhubarb, strawberry, vegan, vegetarian, wine

Cure

The sky flickers momentarily, illuminating the shadows for just long enough to show you that yes, you are about to step in a rather large puddle. A moat, if you will. When it rains here in the summer, nature spares no expense at creating a scene. Not that I mind, as long as I can seek refuge indoors when the lightning’s at its worst.

In truth, the rain makes running exhilarating, as the heavy air becomes cool — if only for a moment. When I was growing up, it was a thing to long for, to keep our ground moist and our water supplies above disaster levels.  Here, it’s taken for granted, and in some parts of the country at the moment, it is feared. For good reason, too. What nourishes the ground one day may wash away carefully planted seeds the next.

What exactly does this have to do with garlic soup? Nothing, unless you happen to find it’s a comforting thing to have in the house on days like these. Especially when your officemates are coming down with colds. This version is adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1 (which I got for a whole $4 — best purchase ever), and if you’ve never had garlic soup, you’re in for a surprise. Think subtle, tasty broth, not garlicky, spicy mess. In fact, if I had to substitute stock with anything, this soup base would be my first choice.

Serve it with a bit of bread toasted in olive oil, and you have a delicious starter. Or add some protein in the form of red kidney beans and a bit of whole wheat pasta, for your own minestrone-like dish. Whatever you do: Don’t skimp on the garlic. I promise, you won’t regret a single clove.

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Filed under comfort, fennel, garlic, main, side, soup, vegan, vegetarian

Such sweet things

Our first strawberry

Our garden’s reveling in the summer sun, throwing up signs of contentment in little shoots and buds. Sprouts of questionable heritage yielded spindly little seedlings, which eventually transformed into our little patch of controlled chaos in the backyard. Along with it, creatures emerged — little slugs and aphids, butterflies and ladybugs. Signs that soon (well, now, actually), we’d be competing for the very produce we made possible.

Tomatoes!

I’ve been reading Michael Pollan’s Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, which makes the transition to the “wilderness” of the national parks we just visited back to civilization an interesting one. It’s a comfortable book, meandering through the seasons — and his garden, in each — with a thoughtful ease. And while it’s preachy at times, I think his point about America’s view of nature is dead on. Yes, we invented the concept of national preservation areas, where wilderness could be preserved for all to see. And yes, as the ranger in Prairie Creek State Park pointed out, we have cleared virtually every single old growth forest outside of those preservation areas since we decided to settle here. Pollan’s explanation of this is that we have an “all or nothing” view of nature, and how we manage it;

Once a landscape is no longer ‘virgin’ it is typically written off as fallen, lost to nature, irredeemable. We hand it over to the jurisdiction of that other sacrosanct American ethic: laissez-faire economics.

Yes — big developers. Because who wouldn’t want more condos? It’s already ruined, right? This is despite the fact that, as Pollan points out, man has had a profound effect on nature as we see it. We’re part of it, and we influence it, in our introduction of foreign species, our management policies, and our understanding of our role in its history. Most of the time, we’ve had a more profound effect than we know. His point? We have, in essence, become “gardeners” of our landscape, responsible for its care and general health.

We’ve done a good job, in some cases (the State and National Park systems, an example of which is shown above, are a case in point). But in a lot of instances, I think this all-or-nothing concept (which seems to pervade our thinking, really — politically, environmentally, economically, and socially) is dangerous. It gives us license to write off our responsibility, to ignore our role in the planet’s future. Yes, it’s easier to manage; the lines are black and white, easily placed into the law books for all to see. But just as industrial ag is easier on a large scale, it’s not necessarily better.

I guess that’s why we started this garden. And why I’ll keep it up. I didn’t think I’d like it… I thought it’d be just another chore. I mean, this is me — I barely water the house plants; I used to kill them before James came along and started watching over them all. But I find myself going out to visit it every morning, to keep tabs on the soil condition, the new buds, and the creatures I find myself learning more about, in order to defend our plants’ tender leaves. It’s all the more interesting when you can’t just spray a few chemicals about to take care of whatever your problems are. So far, everything is doing pretty well. We’ve had to share our strawberries with the birds, and had some hungry leaf miners eat through the first leaves of chard. Other than that? We have strong, healthy tomato plants, and some amazing squash and cucumber coming along. Our carrots seem happy, and the potato we planted from the Union Square greenmarket is finally pushing a few buds up out of the soil. And we have more lettuce than we can eat — a few plants are going to seed, and I’m just going to let them, just to see what happens. Oh — and I can’t wait for the tomatoes.

So, with that, I’ll leave you with a recipe. Well — this isn’t really a recipe. I just threw a few veggies, some pasta, and a sauce together and called it lunch. But it’s really tasty (with sort of a satay flavor), and makes use of the garlic scapes that seem to be the only new and interesting thing at the Wooster Square farmer’s market at the moment. It’ll be perfect with our yellow pears, carrots, and spring onions later in the season. I only hope I’m still in New Haven when things start to get really exciting.

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Filed under books, carrots, environment, gardening, garlic scapes, ginger, main, pasta, side, vegan, vegetarian

A bit of crunch

Jicama Salad

I wasn’t even going to post today. It’s been one of those weeks, yet again, where we have no bread in the house, a random assortment of groceries we’re unlikely to get to, and a few too many takeout bills. But the lure of blog-related procrastination is a bit too much for me, it seems. Especially when I have a research proposal to write (due tomorrow!) for an experiment I’m not sure I’ll have time to do.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that this isn’t a real post. It’s just a place to share a few thoughts, and a recipe I wasn’t really sure I was going to share (notice the lack of prep photos?).  If you only have time to read one thing, check out Nathaniel Johnson’s article on raw milk in Harper’s Magazine (which I found via Bitten). It touches upon the history of pasteurization, what kind of farmers pasteurization regulations are actually trying to protect us from, and all in all, presents a pretty scary picture of the industrial dairy industry in this country. For the record, I’ll take my grass-fed raw milk from the friendly local farmer at the farmer’s market, thanks. Luckily, I have that choice here in Connecticut.

Otherwise, today was one of those days where it rains and rains until you think it’s never going to stop, and then transforms itself into a glorious, crisp evening, with streaming sunlight, chirping birds, and all sorts of other gorgeous signs of spring. The tulips even opened up, after a two-day hiatus. So what did I do? I went for a run, in my new, very funny looking shoes. I think they’re kind of hilarious, and I’m certain I look like a bit of a circus act running in them, but normal shoes seem to cause me trouble, so I thought I’d give them a try. They’re comfortable, and kind of awesome — provided you don’t spend too much time on concrete.

All this faux-barefoot running takes me back to about 18 years ago now, when I’d run around my grandmother’s neighborhood like a hoodlum, without shoes or fear of anything but the boy down the street that I sort of had a crush on (but only because I’d kissed his cheek when we were playing house one day, and it seemed appropriate somehow).  I’d run and run, playing pirates or princesses or some other nonsense, until it was time to go home for dinner, and I had to be coaxed into the car for the trip home. If I had been cooking back then, I think this jicama salad would have been the perfect antidote to a long day of playing pretend in the burning San Joaquin valley sun.

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Filed under cilantro, limes, local farms, milk, quick meals, running, stories, vegan, vegetarian

Prickly pasta

Nettle pasta

The local farmer’s market is always full of pleasant surprises, but I think early Springtime, when everyone wants something — anything — fresh and local to eat, is when I find the most unusual ingredients offered up. It’s funny, because sometimes those running the stands are almost apologetic about their wares. I always try and make a point to go and find something new on these occasions, searching for signs advertising strange, exotic (but somehow local?) ingredients. This week, I came across a bag of incredibly fresh nettles, picked just that morning. See how pretty they are?

Nettles

Nettles don’t exactly sound appetizing. When they get older, they remind you not to go near them if you happen to brush their skin. As I found, the little ones still manage to do the same; pulling them out of their careful wrapping sent little tingles of pain across my fingers, like a thousand tiny splinters. I suppose I’ve done worse when cooking before (and after the aloe vera leaf we brought back with us from the store today, these little prickles were child’s play). I had no idea what to do with them. The girl at the stand just said they tasted incredibly green, like springtime, and so I figured I’d just do something simple. A little lemon, and crushed coriander would make for a subtle and delicious flavor, coupled with paprika, garlic, shallots, and olive oil. Add a bit of pasta, and you have the kind of meal you should be eating after cracking open an amazing triple creme brie in the afternoon, after planting still more vegetables in the garden.

Spices

The pairing was quite good, in fact, and as for the nettles? They cook down into fresh, slightly firm, soft greens, which go nicely with the tang and slightly spicy aftertaste of the lemon and coriander pairing. The girl who sold them to me? She was right on. They taste of spring, just around the corner. And for the skeptics out there, James says they’re better than Brussels sprouts.

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Filed under firsts, flax seeds, lemon, local, main, olive oil, pasta, quick meals, vegan, vegetarian