Thursday, October 30, 2008

Almost Vegan Alfredo

I'm intrigued by vegans, but at the same time I think I would weep daily if I could never eat brie again. That said, like any dietary restriction, it does force you to be creative. My love of cooking definitely accelerated when I stopped eating meat and realized the world beyond meat.starch.veg.

This recipe is better if you don't think about it as being alfredo, actually. It is a creamy sauce that coats the pasta, and it does taste surprisingly rich, but it's thousands of calories and millions of fat grams from being in the alfredo ballpark. And it's good for you!

Yes, yes, I realize this is also quite far from really being a vegan recipe... I sort of blew it with the use of egg-based pasta... but the sauce could easily be veganized (sounds industrial, no?).
OK, to summarize: this recipe is neither vegan, nor alfredo. Discuss.


1/2 lb fresh spinach fettucine
2 TB olive oil
7 garlic cloves, finely minced
1lb assorted mushrooms
1 (140z) block silken tofu
1 TB cream cheese
salt and pepper to taste


Cook pasta according to directions in salted water. Drain, reserving 1/2 c cooking liquid, and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute garlic until softened. Remove 1/2 of the garlic from skillet for use in tofu sauce. Set aside.

Add mushrooms to remaining garlic in skillet, and cook over medium heat. While mushrooms are cooking, remove 1/2 c mushroom liquid for use in tofu sauce. Set aside.

Cook mushrooms until softened and all liquid has been released, about ten minutes. Set aside.

In a food processor, combine tofu, cream cheese, reserved mushroom juice and reserved garlic until creamy. Add some pasta water if needed to adjust consistency.

Combine pasta, tofu sauce and mushrooms prior to serving. Serves 4.

Spiced Cauliflower, Spinach, and Chickpeas

Brrrr... it's gotten chilly here lately. Or is that just the ghost of John McCain running through my house?

Whatever the case, a big bowl of warm veggies is the cure.


2 TB vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 TB curry
1 TB garam masala
1 TB cumin
1/2 TB coriander
1/2 TB hungarian paprika
1/2 TB turmeric
2 TB tomato paste
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 15 oz can chickpeas, with juice
2 small (or 1 large) heads of cauliflower, chopped into florets
10 oz fresh spinach
salt and pepper to taste
lemon juice (optional)


In large dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, and saute until softened. Add spices and tomato paste, and stir to combine. Add canned tomatoes, chickpeas and cauliflower. Put lid on oven, and bring cauliflower mixture to a low simmer.
Take lid off, and let mixture simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes. Add spinach once cauliflower has softened, and cook until spinach softens. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over rice. Add a small amount of lemon juice to each bowl prior to serving if desired. Serves 6-8.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Lentil Soup

This was a welcome home soup, something I made to provide a bit of comfort against the cold, cold work week. The hint of rosemary and a splash of lemon at the end really brightened up the flavor. As with all soups, it got better each day.


2 TB olive oil
1 white onion, chopped
2 carrots, thinly sliced into discs
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced into discs
8 c low sodium vegetable stock
1.5 c dried lentils
1.5 TB cumin
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp Hungarian paprika
salt and pepper to taste
4 c fresh spinach
juice from ½ lemon


Bring vegetable stock to a boil in a large stock pot. Add lentils, and turn heat down to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onions, and sautee until softened. Add carrots and celery to skillet, and stir to coat with oil. Add onion mixture to stockpot, and season soup with cumin, rosemary, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer soup for an additional 10-25 minutes, until lentils are soft on inside. (If using spinach, add during last five minutes of cooking.)

Immediately prior to serving, add lemon juice. Serve soup with grated cheese on side. Serves 6-8.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Salty Girl does California

I’m back! We spent the past 10 days in California… beginning in Los Angeles and ending in Calistoga. A fabulous trip eating and otherwise.

While I do feel a little bit like I drank the Cali Kool-Aid in terms of how fresh and fabulous all the food was, I’m still putting my eggs in the east coast basket for now.  For now

After stumbling off the plane in LA at 10am Saturday, we drove to Santa Monica and had lunch at Urth, a lovely organic café with a fun patio and great people watching. Then it was off to REI for some last minute supplies for our backpacking trip. Dinner was at Brasserie Anisette. I highly recommend it if you are in Santa Monica… great vibe and perfect for a Saturday night.

We got up the next morning and drove to the Matilija wilderness area in Los Padres National Forest for a few days of back to nature. As anyone who hikes knows, you could barbeque a sock after a long day on the trail and it would probably rock your world. We kept it simple, and had strange noodle concoctions in the evenings, including buckwheat noodles one night that basically turned into glue. Alarming! Yet tasty!

We reemerged from the woods and headed to Santa Barbara.  We spent the afternoon ogling produce at the Farmer's Market- which puts any others I've seen to shame.  

Then it was off to my cousin’s house in Santa Barbara, where she made a fabulous roasted yam and sweet potato soup. I’ll definitely be trying to recreate it this winter. Her partner whipped up sourdough French toast in the morning, and sent us on our way to Monterey.

We stopped for lunch at a little café that overlooked the Pacific, and were told that fires closed the road up ahead on highway one. Veggie sandwich eaten, I climbed back into the car for what would be a full day in the car. But, a beautiful one nonetheless. We were rewarded with dinner at Passionfish, a restaurant in Pacific Grove that features all sustainable seafood. It totally lived up to the rave reviews, and was an easy walk from our lovely inn.

The next day we ventured to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for some starfish touching and tuna feeding and had lovely seafood salads for lunch after.

One of the coolest things at the Aquarium was the “Real Cost Café”, an exhibit set up to look like a lunch counter. It's part of the Aquarium's Seafood Watch Program, designed as a teaching tool. Behind a lunch counter there are videos that describe the perils of various food choices (e.g. tuna, shrimp, etc.). It really drove the point home and was a popular exhibit.

Thursday night we went to the San Francisco culinary temple that is Zuni. I had an amazing oven-baked halibut couscous seasoned with anise, cinnamon and garlic and served with charmoula and harissa. Amazaing. The house cured olives were also delicious, with hints of citrus and fennel.  I probably ate an entire loaf of their bread myself, and I'm proud of it. 

We waddled out of San Francisco Friday to drive up to Calistoga for a wedding. We stopped along the way in Napa to attempt a tandem roadbike (Never again! We didn’t make it out of the parking lot). We traded it in for normal roadbikes and had a laughably short ride to the closest vineyard we could find from Healdsburg. Quivira turned out to be a very cool biodynamic vineyard which provided a perfect place to picnic. We wobbled back into town, and completed the weekend in Calistoga, with great brunches and even better dinners.

Before flying home we had dinner at the Slanted Door. It's as amazing as everyone says. The baby octopus was unbelievable, as was the grilled Arctic char. Even the mint tea was sublime. Definitely worth a visit.

I’m sad to be back at work, but full of ideas for fall cooking. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Kidney Bean Cakes

OK, the joke's up. You can tell me now.  I feel certain I am in some sort of a social experiment that involves a gnome, or other sprightly, jesting creature, who tears off the calendar days while I sleep, unknowing that whole weeks are flying by. That's the case, isn't it? 

I have not been cooking very much that is presentable these past two weeks, with little explanation.  It could be the confusion of the WDC 'is it hot? or is it cold?' weather. I am ready to start making things that go in the oven- possibly for extended periods of time- but the 75 degree weather is telling me that's not a good idea.  Ditto with soups.  It just feels too sweaty.  

I still cook for myself, sure, but no one really wants to look at some of my scary dinner concoctions. Trust me. We'll wait for the cold weather, and the recipes and photos will start flowing again.  

Next week we're off on an adventure to California, which promises to provide very good food, and more weather confusion. I can't wait! 

On an unrelated note, did you see this article? Eggs have become a daily thing for me since I stopped eating meat, and truly, sorting out what kind to buy--  unless you're buying right off the local, environmentally responsible, animal-loving farm-- is a challenge.  Something I learned from this article-- hens like to eat grubs and other animals. So, claims on egg cartons that hens are fed vegetarian diets takes on a whole new twist.  Sorta seems like feeding a cow corn, even though their stomachs and entire bodies are made for grass. What kind of eggs do you eat, readers?

Here's a recipe for the bean-lover in you.  I was craving the beautiful, dark red of kidney beans a few days ago, and whipped these up.  On a per serving basis, these are ridiculously cheap.  If more people had access to cooking and nutrition education, they too could appreciate how easy and cheap it can be to eat well. We would all be that much healthier for it.  

These have a bit of kick to them, and would go well with sauteed onions. Try them on a bun, with tortillas, or with rice.  

Kidney Bean Cakes

2 cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 small white onion
1/2 carrot
handful parsley
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cayenne powder 
1 tsp red pepper flakes 
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten 
1/2 c panko 
cooking spray


In a food processor, process beans, onion, carrot and parsley until some chunks of beans remain.  Spoon mixture into bowl.  Add spices, and salt and pepper to taste.  Add egg, and combine mixture with your hands.  Add up to 1/2 c of panko crumbs to mixture, until mixture can be formed into cakes.  Shape bean mixture into 6 cakes, and refrigerate for about an hour. 

Cook cakes 3 at a time over medium-high heat in a large skillet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Serves 4, with left-overs.  

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Old Burger

Husband's email to me was titled, "Old Burger".  I was intrigued... and then equal parts horrified and full of self-satisfying smugness.  I don't normally include stuff like this here, but this is pretty amazing. 

I think the link speaks for itself, don't you?