Friday, December 26, 2008

Holiday leftovers

This winter holiday offered up many blessings, and one of my favorites is a new recipe which complements the traditional flavors of the season. I've wanted to create a dish using Maine-grown pumpkin seeds since this summer and have been mulling over possible concoctions in my head for a number of weeks. With time off from work and a Winter Solstice desire to hunker down in my kitchen, I finally started playing with the pumpkin seeds. The result? Pumpkin Seed Croquettes.

I baked a batch for Christmas Eve dinner at my house and and another for Christmas day dinner at my in-laws. And today, I reheated a leftover croquette, piled it onto pan toasted Standard Baking Company bread, dressed it with mushroom gravy and slathered on homemade cranberry sauce. It was Christmas dinner on a sandwich. It was delicious.

By using a ton of fresh sage and liberal amounts of celery seed and garlic, the taste becomes reminiscent of stuffing and mashed potatoes. The batter and uncooked croquettes will be a funny shade of green, but, as you can see from these pics, a little basting and time in the oven turn the croquettes a nutty brown hue. Serve them with cranberry sauce and gravy, and you'll please any palate.

Pumpkin Seed Croquettes

3 cups cooked organic small grained brown rice
2 cups salted organic pumpkin seeds
3 Tbsp. organic extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves organic garlic
1 Tbsp. organic soy sauce
1 tsp. organic toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup water
3 cups organic carrots, grated
1 Tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
1 tsp. dried organic celery seed
1 tsp. dried organic basil

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup soy sauce

Preheat oven to 350. Add pumpkin seeds to food processor and pulse a few times. Then add olive oil, garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil. Mix until it has a creamy texture. Add pumpkin seed mixture to bowl with brown rice, carrots and seasonings. Mix until well blended. Saute onion until caramelized and add to pumpkin seed mixture.

Oil a baking pan. Take roughly a cup full of the mixture into your hands and form a ball. Then roll it into an oblong croquette. Press the croquettes onto the oiled baking pan. Once the pan is full, whisk the baste ingredients together and brush it over each croquette. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 45-60 minutes. Baste the croquettes after 20 minutes. Serve with mushroom gravy and cranberry sauce. Makes 20.

Mushroom Gravy

1 medium organic onion, diced
3 Tbsp. organic extra virgin olive oil
2 cups organic shiitake mushrooms, diced
1/4 cup organic soy sauce
1 cup organic hemp milk
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp. fresh organic sage, chopped
1 tsp. organic garlic powder
1 tsp. organic onion powder
1 tsp. organic dried thyme
1 tsp. organic dried basil
1/4 cup organic rye flour

Saute onions until they begin to brown. Then add mushrooms and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add soy sauce, hemp milk and water. Stir. Add seasonings and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Slowly add flour until the gravy is thick and doesn't easily run off a spoon. Serve warm.

Tangy Cranberry Sauce

6 cups fresh, Maine organic cranberries
2 cups organic Maine maple syrup
1 tsp. Maine sea salt
4 tsp. balsamic vinegar

Combine cranberries, maple syrup and sea salt in a sauce pan and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir the mixture for a minute or so, then reduce the heat to low. Allow it to simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring on occasion. Continue cooking until the cranberries skins have all burst. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar. Serve hot or cold.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Drinking the taste of Christmas

I recently asked Switch readers for their favorite holiday recipes, and the best of the bunch were selected for a story featuring cocktail party recipes in the current edition of the magazine. As we were putting the story together, my editor asked me to submit one of my own recipes.

I knew I wanted to do a cocktail recipe, but which one? I love Bloody Marys at this time of year (as anyone who was at our Halloween party probably figured out), but that's not very original. For my dad's big 60th birthday bash last year, I had the bartender mix up Candy Canes (made from peppermint schnapps, creme de cacao and 7-Up) which were a huge hit. But I was never quite happy with them because of the high fructose corn syrup in the 7-Up, so I didn't want to go that route. I'm also a fan of Cape Cods during the holidays, but, again, that seemed pretty boring.

The solution: get out my cocktail shaker and start experimenting. At first I was pretty fixated on using brandy, because of its traditional association with Christmas and because I have a great bottle of Cognac in the bar. I also knew I wanted to do something with cranberries, since I have a stock of fresh Maine cranberries. But all my experiements with the brandy proved too sweet.

That's when I spotted the bottle of gin winking at me from the shelf. Now, normally I'm not a huge gin fan. This can all be blamed on the fact that as kids my cousins and I used to sample the juniper berries each fall, when the dusty blue fruits appeared on the low-lying shrubs in the horse pasture. These taste tests always ended with us spitting the berries out in disgust. Fast forward a few years, and I was completely floored the first time I tasted a gin and tonic and realized that gin tastes exactly like juniper berries (obviously not a shocker to anyone who knows that gin is flavored with juniper berries).

But as a standin for the piney scent of balsam that infuses most of my Christmas memories, I knew gin was what I needed. I mixed it with a combination of sweet, sour, tart and salty tastes and came up with a drink that captures the flavors of the season.

Cranberry Christmas

3 oz. unsweetened cranberry juice
1 oz. gin
1/2 oz. Grand Marnier
1/2 oz. creme de cacao
1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice (about 1/2 a lime)
2 oz. water
pinch of sea salt
lime wedge
fresh cranberries, sliced

Add cranberry juice, gin, Grand Marnier, creme de cocao, lime juice, water and sea salt to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake. Strain into a margarita or other cocktail glass. Slice cranberries into disks. Float a handful on the surface of the drink. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pumpkin pie birthday

My dad loves pie, so it was no surprise he requested one for his birthday party on Sunday night. He asked for pumpkin, one of his favorites, and I was happy to make it since I have a simple vegan recipe that has a taste traditionalists love. My mom placed a ring of candles in the center, and the pie served its purpose well.

After the singing, we sliced it up and paired it with a selection of frozen treats. I ate mine with a scoop of the Purely Decadent Coconut Milk ice cream that I'm absolutely in love with.

Pumpkin Tofu Pie

12 oz. silken extra firm tofu
2/3 cup Maine honey
1 tsp. Madagascar Bourbon vanilla extract
2 cups cooked or canned organic pumpkin
1 1/2 tsp. ground organic cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground organic ginger
1/4 tsp. ground organic nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground organic cloves
1 unbaked pie crust or graham cracker crust

Preaheat oven to 400. Blend tofu, honey and vanilla in a food processor until smooth. Add pumpkin and spices and blend well. Pour into crust of choice and bake for roughly 1 hour. When it's done, a bit of pumpkin will still cling to an inserted toothpick. Allow to cool and then serve. Refrigerate if serving later.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving crowd pleaser

With the holidays here, we're all cooking up our favorite crowd pleasing recipes. I find that when I'm headed to an event with particularly picky eaters (like die-hard carnivores and kids on the "all white food diet"), I need to supply a veggie dish that's not too exotic. Thankfully, I came up with this recipe for white bean stuffed shells a few years ago and it hasn't let me down since. The beauty with this recipe is how it allows you to transform numerous dairy laden Italian treats into a plant-lover's dream.

I tripled the recipe Wednesday night, which allowed me to whip up some shells for Thanksgiving at our cousins in Kennebunk, stuff manicotti for a party at my parent's house yesterday and end up with enough filling to do a small casserole dish just so Adam and I would be assured some leftovers. Boy, were we thankful for that extra dish!

White Bean Stuffed Shells

2 cups cooked white beans
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup fresh shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 medium onion, diced
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. salt
dash of Tabasco sauce
8 oz. jumbo pasta shells
40 oz. pasta sauce

Preheat oven to 350. Cook pasta shells until al dente, drain and rinse. Add olive oil and onion to skillet over medium heat and cook until they begin to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook another 5 minutes.

In a food processor, add beans, garlic clove, toasted sesame oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, onion powder, celery seed, basil, salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce. Puree until smooth. Mix in grated carrots and sauteed mushrooms and onions.

Add a layer of pasta sauce to the bottom of a casserole dish. Spoon a heaping tablespoon full of bean mixture into each shell. Place in casserole dish. When the dish is full, spoon remaining pasta sauce over the top. Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered. Serves 4.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Red hot autumn

Apples and cranberries show up for the short days and cool nights of autumn. Their vivid red skins add instant color to the Portland Farmers' Market and make a lively addition to many meals. While the apple's sweet juice is worlds away from the bitter cranberry's bite, the two share the season's tart, sassy taste. And when combined, they're heavenly.

I use the fruits together in salads, salsas, pancakes and even vegetable roasts. But one of the easiest ways to combine their complementary flavors is in a simple cran-applesauce. I leave the apple skins on and add a touch of maple syrup to create this quick and easy dessert that boasts the season's best tastes.

Chunky cran-applesauce

4 Macintosh apples, chopped
1 cup fresh cranberries
2 cups water
3 Tbsp. Maine maple syrup

Combine ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let it simmer for 30-45 minutes, until most of the water is evaporated. Serve warm or cold.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Super star Pollan attracts massive Maine crowd

Around 6:45 pm this evening, Adam and I arrived for Michael Pollan's much-anticipated talk at the Bates College Chapel. More than half the chapel was already full, making us extremely grateful we got there when we did for the 7:30 lecture.

We grabbed seats and then watched as a steady stream of students, professors, farmers, foodies, activists, bibliophiles and ethical eaters poured into the space. As the pews filled, people were invited to sit on the stage and those with a seat were urged to squish closer together.

Soon the wide center aisle was jammed with a combination of standing and sitting spectators. By 7 pm there was no where to squeeze another person.

That's when Thomas Wenzel, chair of the school's environmental studies program, approached the microphone.

"We've never had to do this at an Otis lecture," Professor Wenzel told the crowd, before informing the hundreds of people in the aisle that they would need to leave. The building was wildly beyond its capacity, he said, and the talk couldn't begin until the aisles were clear. To compensate, the college would replay a videotape of the speech at numerous times and places. Clearly a poor substitute for the real deal.

As the crowd got up to exit the building, Professor Wenzel returned to make another announcement. Michael Pollan had graciously offered to give a reprise of his lecture tomorrow morning at 9 am. Those who show up then won't be disappointed.

His speech was just as full of big picture insights and intriguing details as his books. Pollan (who you can barely see on the distant stage in this photo) reiterated many themes from "In Defense of Food," including how our focus on nutrients rather than foods has led to the current epidemics of type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease. He mentioned the FDA's repeal in 1973 of the food Imitation Rule (which allowed fake foods to be marketed and sold to the public) and the 1977 firestorm created when the nation's first dietary guidelines advised: "eat less red meat." Under pressure from industrial agriculture and the cattlemen's lobby, it was reworded to read: "choose meats that will reduce your saturated fat intake."

He concluded by pointing out that there is no ideal human diet when it comes to good health. But there is one way not to eat: the Western processed food diet.

Asked whether or not either Presidential candidate had read his "Farmer in Chief" open letter in the New York Times, Pollan pointed us to this interview with Senator Barack Obama done by Time columnist Joe Klein, where Obama references the letter in response to a question about energy policy. And who knows? Maybe those of us jammed into the chapel tonight were listening to this country's future Secretary of Agriculture. I can't think of a more perfect candidate for the job.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hot soup for cold days

When it gets cold in Maine, a warm soup is the ideal way to shake the chill from your bones and chase the damp out of the air. These lovely farmers' market carrots, parsnips and leeks make excellent additions to any vegetable soup.

I used them in a lentil rice soup for a party at my sister's house. These portions demand a crowd, so be sure to dial back the measurements if you have fewer mouths to feed. If you want an easy garnish, just reserve a handful of the parsley, celery tops and leek tops, chop coarsely and sprinkle in each bowl.

Market Root Soup

1 onion, diced
1 bunch celery, diced
5 carrots, diced

18 cups water
4 cups lentils
2 cups rice

1 head garlic, chopped
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
4-6 tomatoes, diced
2 potatoes, diced
3 leeks, sliced in coins
2 jalapenos, sliced
1 parsnip, diced

1 cup vegetable stock
6 oz. tomato paste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Add a quarter cup of oil to a large stock pan over medium high heat and add onions. Saute for 8-10 minutes, until the onions begin to caramelize. Then add diced celery and saute for 3-5 minutes, then add carrots and cook another 3-5 minutes.

Add water, followed by lentils and rice. Then add garlic, parsley, tomatoes, potatoes, leeks, jalapeno and parsnips. Add vegetable stock, tomato paste and rest of olive oil. Cook at least one hour before serving. Season with salt and pepper.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Inspired by cabbage

When I spotted a gorgeous head of Nappa cabbage at the farmers' market, the thought of stir fry quickly filled my mind. Suddenly I could taste the cabbage's earthiness balanced by a sweet and tangy sauce. I grabbed a few market staples, paired them with my pantry staples of canned black beans and brown rice and I had dinner on the table in less than a hour.

Cabbage & carrot stir fry

2 cups brown rice
4 cups water

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 carrots, julienned
1 onion, sliced lengthwise
1 pepper, sliced lenghtwise
1/2 head Nappa cabbage, sliced thin
1 cup black beans, canned
4 cloves garlic, slice

1 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. Maine maple syrup
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. black beans, mashed
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds

Combine water and rice on stove. Bring to boil, then cover and reduce heat to low, cook 30-45 minutes until all water is absorbed. Mix sauce ingredients together and set aside. Heat wok or stir fry pan and add olive oil and garlic. Saute 1 minute then add sliced onions. Saute until they begin to soften, then add carrots, peppers and sauce. Stir for 5 minutes. Finally add black beans and cabbage. Cook until cabbage wilts. Spoon stir fry over cooked rice. Serves four.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Bye-Bye Berries

Here they are: The last of this season's farm fresh berries. I picked up the blueberries at Wednesday's farmers' market, and I'm trying to make them last as long as possible (which won't be long). When I was at the market yesterday, I learned that the blueberries are officially done for the season and that the raspberries I was buying marked the end of the line.

It will now be a good 8 months before I can buy fresh, Maine-grown berries. But I'm thankful that the frozen Moon Hill Farm berries are back in the freezer case at my local grocery store. They'll give my taste buds the needed sweetness and tang to make it through the coming winter.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Falling for Peaks Island

Summer may be officially over, but that didn't stop Adam and I from hopping the ferry out of Portland and heading to Peaks Island last weekend. After a gorgeous 15 minute ride from the bustling streets of Maine's largest city, we found ourselves in a completely different world, where time moves at a slower pace and bikes reign as the dominant means of transportation. Once on the island, our first stop was the always delicious Cockeyed Gull.

The first thing we did was order drinks. And since we were on an island and I was pining for the summer that came and went too quickly, I decided to order up a piña colada. It hit the spot perfectly.

I paired my tropical cocktail with the hummus plate with fresh veggies.

And the veggie stir fry with mung bean noodles.

In addition to the amazing food, the Cockeyed Gull is know for its stellar views of the harbor and the Portland skyline.

After lunch, we rented two bikes and began a leisurely cruise around the island. This laid back community has a loop road that makes an easy bike ride around the whole island. On the way, we stopped to admire the island architecture that ranges from cute cottage to modern mega-mansion.

We stopped in at the wonderfully preserved 5th Maine Regimental Museum, where we learned about the island's history as the "Coney Island of Maine" (about 100 years ago) and as the place where Portland's homeless population was housed (about 50 years ago).

When we got to the island's back shore, we left our bikes by the road and wandered down the narrow trail that leads to the the abandoned military installation known as Battery Steel. This is both a really cool and a really creepy fort to explore. I would have loved a flashlight as we walked through the pitch black tunnel, but all I had was my camera flash to guide us.

Back into the brilliant sunshine, we once again stowed our bikes so we could hang out on one of the back shore's rocky beaches. Because Maine is overflowing with creative people, you can't go anywhere without seeing art. Our rocky coastline is not exception. Behind me you can see the stacked rock sculptures that have become a hallmark of our rock bound beaches.

Anyone can add to the art, as Adam did with a handful of found objects, which included lobster shells, crab parts and an unopened and sun-faded Budweiser can.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Roasted summer tomatoes

Frost crept into Maine this past week, killing off many a tomato plant. Farms near the water and down here in the southern half of the state were mostly spared, so it doesn't spell the complete demise of this year's juicy globes of sunshine. But I can no longer deny the end of summer is near.

At the Portland Farmers' Market, uniformly red and perfectly flawless tomatoes are the exception.

Instead we feast on the sweet goodness of purple, green and yellow beauties that come with the battle scars I know well from my dad's organic garden. With the end of tomato season in sight, I couldn't help but stock up at Saturday's market.

Today with tons of tomatoes in hand, I fired up the oven and roasted a spicy summer sauce. Roasting is a quick way to bring out the sweet tomato flavor and keep the texture of the other vegetables. I add it to sandwiches, on top of baked potatoes and alongside mujaddara.

It will work wherever you enjoy tomato sauce. But, be warned, this recipe is sure to give your tongue a kick.

Hot roasted summer tomatoes

2-3 medium sized heirloom tomatoes
1 organic red onion, sliced
1 bunch organic baby shallots
1 head garlic, peeled and ends trimmed
1 organic jalapeno pepper, sliced
1 organic sweet red pepper, sliced
extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450. Cover bottom of roasting pan with a thin layer of olive oil. Slice each tomato into similarly sized pieces and place in pan. Add red onion. Remove tops from shallots and cut bottom sections into 1 inch chunks. Add to roasting pan. Add garlic cloves and pepper slices. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for 30-40 minutes. Serves 2.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Going with the grain

I'm fascinated by unusual and heirloom grains, and have been experimenting with some in my kitchen. I find their textures and flavors exciting and have had success using unexpected grains in everything from salads to pilafs.Here are two recent dishes I've cooked up using amaranth and quinoa.

Hot stuffed peppers

4 organic pablano peppers, cored (or regular green, if you can't take the heat)
3/4 cup organic quinoa
1 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup mixed rice (including red and wild, if possible)
1 cup water
1 organic red onion, diced
4 clove organic garlic, diced
4 organic carrots, diced
1 organic heirloom tomato, diced
1 organic sweet red pepper, diced
1/4 cup organic extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Place peppers in a pan with 1/2 inch of water. Boil on cooktop until bright green and tender, about 5 minutes. Combine quinoa with 1 1/2 cups water and combine rice with 1 cup water in a pot and set over high heat. Bring both pots to boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until all water absorbed. Mix quinoa, rice and remaining ingredients. Stuff inside peppers and place in baking dish. Cook 30 minutes.

Market vegetable & amaranth soup

4 Tbsp. organic extra virgin olive oil
1 large organic onion, diced
1 bunch organic celery, diced (including leaves)
5 organic carrots, diced
8 cups water
1/2 cup amaranth
3 organic white potatoes, diced (with peels on)
4 cloves organic garlic, diced
1 cup fresh shelled organic beans
3 organic heirloom tomatoes, diced
1 organic jalapeno pepper, diced
1 organic sweet red pepper, diced
salt & pepper to taste

Add olive oil to soup pot over medium heat and add onions. Let cook while stirring frequently for five minutes. Add celery and carrots and cook another five minutes. Add water and remaining ingredients. Let simmer, covered for 45 minutes. Serve with a garnish of chopped celery leaves.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The perfect pear sauce

This weekend we escaped to Sunshine Farm for some much needed R&R. We arrived on Sunday night and right away I noticed the overflowing basket of organic pears in the Big Mary kitchen.

The weather-worn fruits clearly came from the orchard, where chemical sprays are taboo.

The next day, I slept in a bit and by the time Adam and I had eaten breakfast and made our way over to Big Mary, the bountiful basket was almost empty.

My dad was rapidly peeling and slicing the pears and plopping them into a pot of water. He boiled the pears down, strained out some of the excess water and then served it. Warm and chunky, the sauce was utterly delicious. Sweet, but not too sweet, with a faint kiss of cooler nights and shorter days.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Rainbow roast

At this time of year here in Maine, the farmers' markets are overflowing with wonderful veggies ready for roasting. And with the cooler nights, it's the perfect time to crank up the oven. I love roasting vegetables. It's super easy and the results taste like I slaved over that hot oven all day. The only secret is making sure everything is cut to roughly the same size. Pretty much any vegetable can be roasted, but here's the run down of what I had on hand the other night.

Roasted vegetables

2 cups baby squash, chopped
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 cup rainbow carrots
1 red onion, sliced
1 sweet red pepper, sliced
extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper

Preheat over to 400. Place all the vegetables in a mixing bowl and toss with olive oil until everything is well coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put in a baking dish in a single layer and place in oven. Stir frequently. Roast until tender, about 25-45 minutes.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Blog days of summer

Yes, I know, I've been a bad blogger lately. I have tons of photos of yummy vegetable meals. But have I posted any of them? No. Instead, like everyone else, I've been caught up in the whirlwind that is summer.

However, I do have one other excuse for my lackluster posting skills: I've started another blog. It's called Portland in a snap and it lives on On it I'm chronicling things spotted around town, from new restaurants to pieces of public art to fun offerings at local shops. You won't find recipes there, but you will find a photo of a margarita mixing bike. Now, if I can just figure out how to get one of those in my kitchen, life will be perfect.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Citrus fresh

When the heat of summer is pressing into my kitchen, I always welcome a refreshing apéritif to sip as I make dinner. The last few nights I've been blessed with the double luxury of organic lemons and organic lemonade on hand. The result has been a sweet-tart lemon drop.

The drink can be taken in a number of directions. We've tossed in a little fresh squeezed lime juice and garnished with frozen raspberries. However it's mixed, it always helps me keep my cool.

Lemon Drop

6 oz. organic lemonade
2 oz. limoncello
1 lemon, juiced

Shake in cocktail shaker with ice. Strain and pour into martini or old fashioned glass. Garnish with lemon slice. Serves 2.

OPTIONAL: add the juice of 1/2 a lemon and 1/2 a lime (instead of a whole lemon); garnish with 1/4 cup frozen raspberries or 1/4 cup fresh blueberries.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Breakfast for dinner

With such an abundance of vegetables filling the farmers' market these days, sometimes I can't help but want to eat them all at once. A tasty way to do this is with a crispy vegetable hash. Even though this is traditionally a breakfast dish, I serve it for dinner every once in awhile.

This recipe uses the vegetables I had on hand, but anything from squash to eggplant to tomato would work well in this dish. The quantities are flexible too, in case you don't have 10 carrots to spare.

Market Vegetable Hash

1 onion, diced
6 medium red potatoes, cubed
6 oz. smoky tempeh, diced
1 sweet red pepper
1 ear corn, cut from cob
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 cup green beans, snapped into 1-inch pieces
10 rainbow carrots, diced
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne powder
salt & pepper to taste

Place potatoes cubes in a vegetable steamer and cook until fork tender. Meanwhile, heat a large cast iron frying pan over medium high heat. Add the diced onions and cook until they begin to caramelize. Add the tempeh and fry until crispy. Add red pepper, corn and green beans. Cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Add carrots, stir for a minute, and finally add the garlic and cooked potatoes. Fry until potatoes get slightly crispy. Sprinkle on spices, salt and pepper. Serves 4.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Blondes have more fun

The Boothby Blonde is one of the fun heirloom vegetables you can find at the Portland Farmers' Market. The tiny cuke is grown from seeds saved by five generations of the Boothby family of Livermore, Maine. Each nugget is sweet and cold, with the crispness of approaching autumn.

For lunch today, I thinly sliced two cukes, laid them on a serving dish and drizzled them with red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. I finished with a sprinkle of salt and a few grinds of pepper. I left the skins on, but because they're so light they look like they've been peeled.

Eating cucumbers this way always reminds me of being in the spacious kitchen at my grandfather's dairy farm. I can see him sitting at the long table, skillfully slicing a garden-fresh cucumber into a white bowl. He liberally splashes vinegar over the coins, before shaking first the salt and then the pepper over the slices. The taste is absolutely delicious.

Today these vinegar blondes made the perfect accompaniment to the quick mujaddara salad I put together. As I've said before, I absolutely love mujaddara because it's so flexible. You can morph it into wraps, pitas, veggie burgers and tacos. Or you can serve it the traditional way, as the base for a salad. Here I paired it with market lettuce and a bruschetta made from juicy heirloom tomatoes, this season's garlic, Maine sea salt and fresh basil.

I love picking up basil at the market. Because most of the farmers sell it cut and tied together and sitting in fresh water, I take it home and let it do double-duty as a fragrant bouquet.