30 November 2014

Thanksgiving in pictures

Thanksgiving in pictures: delicata squash with thyme

Thanksgiving in pictures: mashed potatoes and massaged kale salad

Thanksgiving in pictures: corrots, turnips, onion, fennel, cauliflower, ready for roasting

Thanksgiving in pictures: two vegan roasts!

Thanksgiving in pictures: plenty of roasted squash

Thanksgiving in pictures: whole wheat no-knead rolls

Thanksgiving in pictures: my 100% vegan Thanksgiving dinner

And that's what a 100% vegan Thanksgiving looks like. Delicious, as always.

Somehow I did not get a picture of the pie. (Probably because we were all too busy eating it.)

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend!

26 November 2014

Twas the night before Thanksgiving

Twas the night before Thanksgiving

...and we went out for huge platters of Puebla food and talked about racism in America.

Thanksgiving week would be an appropriate time for that discussion even if the past few days (or 3 months, or 50 years) hadn't been so bad. I try not to use this site for politics, but we're in beyond-the-pale territory right now. Turning a blind eye perpetuates the system. So if you haven't been paying attention to Ferguson, now is the time to go read #FergusonDecision (and just plain #Ferguson and #blacklivesmatter and #TamirRice and so many others), and the New Yorker coverage and On Being a Black Male, Six Feet Four Inches Tall, in America in 2014 and A one-chart summary of every Ferguson eyewitness's grand jury testimony and Telling my son about Ferguson.

And, if you're going to end up at a table with your racist great-aunt Carol tomorrow, you'll probably want to read Here's How to Talk About Ferguson Around the Thanksgiving Dinner Table This Year too.

Start paying attention. Start talking.

Now back to our regular programming.

Tomorrow we're having vegan Thanksgiving at Chrissy and Ben's house. This afternoon I made a Veganomicon cranberry orange bread (sans walnuts and with double orange peel) and a batch of Budget Bytes' no-knead focaccia rolls, both with whole wheat flour. (The no-knead absolutely works with wheat flour as long as you oil the sponge before you let it rest for its 18 hours, so it won't develop a crust. I did a test run last week, and they worked out beautifully.)

I'm going to bring a dish of mixed vegetables -- delicata squash, tokyo turnips, cauliflower, carrots, onion, and thyme -- ready to roast as soon as we get there. Wine, crackers, and almonds will also be making an appearance. Chrissy and Ben are taking care of the mains, mashed potatoes, gravy, salad, and pumpkin pie. We are set.

Are you ready for Thanksgiving? Yes? Maybe? Not quite? Not at all?

Well, if you need some last-minute ideas for a vegetarian Thanksgiving, you've come to the right place.

I find that the key to creating a satisfying vegetarian dinner is to get away from the idea of protein as centerpiece. Protein is in all kinds of different foods! And if you're making a large multi-dish feast to begin with, you have ample opportunity to satisfy everyone.

Refrigerator giardiniera

Snacks and tidbits

- Refrigerator giardiniera
- Spicy caramel corn with maple, almond, and sesame
- Cashew cheese with dill and red onion
- Homemade baked tortilla chips
- Refrigerator dill pickles

potato leek soup


- Carrot and white bean soup
- Classic potato leek soup
- Black bean cauliflower soup
- Purple carrot soup
- Beet soup (also purple, although less surprisingly so)
- Cauliflower leek soup with smoked pepper flakes

apple and sesame almond salad


- Fall salad with apples and almonds
- Couscous salad with chickpeas, golden beets, and zucchini
- Lentils vinaigrette
- Big green salad with chickpeas and herb vinaigrette
- Beet and goat cheese salad

Broccolini vinaigrette with chopped egg and red onion


- Broccolini vinaigrette with chopped egg and red onion
- Simple golden beet and green bean melange
- Brussels sprout, onion, and apple hash (contains bacon, but you can sub butter or oil)
- Sauteed carrots with spicy brown mustard
- Baby leek and potato gratin
- Our entire xmas 2012 vegetable menu

spanish tortilla

Main dishes

- Spanish tortilla
- Baked pasta shells with basil ricotta cream
- Twice-baked sweet potatoes with black beans and broccoli
- Pasta fagioli
- BRIGHT PINK beet risotto

ginger almond yogurt cake


- Ginger almond yogurt cake
- Judy's amazing apple dumplings
- Classic (veganified) pumpkin pie via Food52 & Choosing Raw
- Ginger molasses cookie ice cream sandwiches with pineapple coconut ice cream
- Swedish farmer cookies

classic negroni cocktail


- Classic Negroni cocktail
- Fields of Gold cocktail
- Rosemary lemon gin sour
- White grapefruit mimosas

Have a happy Thanksgiving.

19 November 2014

How to roast kabocha squash (and its seeds!)

How to roast kabocha squash (and its seeds!)

Our CSA is starting to wind down, but in the meantime, it's been showering us with winter squash. We have received no less than four kabocha and six delicata squashes over the past two months. That's...kind of a lot of squash for two people to eat, especially when you consider the rest of the CSA veg supply.

Clearly, the solution is storage.

In traditional winter squash storage, you put your squash in a place where the temperature hovers around 50-55F, such as a garage or basement. Your squash should be dry, free from any punctures, and have short stems still attached. Then all you need to do is leave them there until you want to use them. Squashes will generally stay good for at least two months when stored this way.

Of course, there are a couple problems with this system. First, it assumes that you have an appropriate 50F space in which to keep your squash. Here in California, that can get iffy, and if you happen to live in an apartment, it's going to be nearly impossible. Second, you still have to process an entire squash any time you want to eat one.

So I decided I was going to get ahead of the game by roasting a couple of my squash and freezing the cooked flesh. I picked out a green and an orange kabocha, and I got to work.

This method should work for most large thick-skinned winter squash.

How to roast kabocha squash (and its seeds!)

Roasted kabocha squash

Begin by preheating your oven to 400F.

Halve your kabocha squash carefully with a sharp butcher knife or chef's knife, working your way around from one side to the other. Scoop out the seeds and fibrous bits and reserve them for roasting separately.

Rub the flesh of your squash pieces with a little grapeseed oil, plain vegetable oil, or butter. Season with a sprinkle of salt.

Put the squash halves, flesh side up, on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat. Bake for approximately 40-50 minutes, or until the flesh is soft all the way through when tested with a knife. Rotate the pan halfway through cooking.

When your squash is done, remove it from the oven. If you like, you can eat it now, right out of the shell, with some more butter and a little sprinkle of pepper and salt. Otherwise, let your squash halves cool enough to handle, and scoop the flesh out of the skins. Scrape with a spoon to get as much as you can. The skin will be fairly delicate by this point, but it's edible, so you don't have to worry too much about the occasional shred of skin in your squash flesh.

Now you can use your squash however you please. Mash it well with plenty of traditional mashed potato fixings! Make it into a not-actually-pumpkin pie, and another, and another! Try out a lovely squash soup! If you're feeling especially adventurous, try out a squash cocktail! Or just cool it and pack it into containers to freeze for later squash purposes!

You know which option I chose: eight cups of kabocha squash, safely packed away for future squashy endeavours. It's so satisfying to have a bunch of these in the freezer, just waiting for me to pop them open and create something delicious.

While my squash was in the oven, I started on the seeds. Bonus: these can absolutely roast at the same time as the flesh.

How to roast kabocha squash (and its seeds!)

Roasted kabocha squash seeds

Wash your seeds well in a few changes of water, swishing to remove as much fibrous matter as possible. A little clinging shred here and there should be fine. Press your seeds in a clean tea towel to remove most of the moisture. You should have approximately 1 cup of seeds per squash; I had two squashes, so I was working with two cups of seeds (and two colors besides!).

Put your seeds in a large bowl. Toss with 1 1/2 teaspoons of grapeseed oil (or the oil of your choice) and approximately 3/4 to 1 teaspoon of salt per cup of seeds. Since I was working with 2 cups of seeds, I used 1 tbsp of oil and 2 tsp salt.

If you want to season your kabocha seeds more, now is the time to do it. I just went for the basic salt, so my finished seeds would be more versatile.

Spread your seeds in one layer on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat. Bake at 400F, stirring every 5 minutes, until all your seeds have turned a pale golden brown and begun to snap and crack in the heat. My seeds took approximately 20 minutes to roast.

The finished seeds will be nutty, salty, and crunchy. Since they aren't husked, they will require a bit of chewing, but the effort is worth it in the end. Eat with a tall glass of frosty apple cider or beer, toss a handful into a batch of caramel corn, use a few to garnish soup, or serve a little bowl alongside a platter of cheese and olives.

Store the leftovers, cooled completely, in a sealed container in the kitchen cupboard.

Do you have a glut of CSA vegetables (or garden vegetables, or really any vegetables) to use up? What are you planning to do with them?

13 November 2014

Capellini with kale, artichoke hearts, and red pepper

Sometimes you just want a giant plate of pasta and vegetables.

This time, I happened to have a package of capellini in the cupboard. Why not make a pasta dish comprised of long, thin vegetables to match the long, thin pasta?

To pack this with lots of serious flavor, I went for some serious vegetables: garlic, green beans, artichoke hearts, kale, and red bell pepper. Together, they mixed together into a lovely, intense dish that only took about ten minutes from beginning to end. Perfect.

This pasta is conveniently vegan. However, it is not filled with protein by any means. I would certainly have tossed in a can of chickpeas had there been any on hand, and I suggest you do the same. A salad of white beans and herbs tossed with a nice vinegary vinaigrette would be a excellent supplement as well.

Capellini with kale, artichoke hearts, and red pepper
Serves 1.

2-3 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic
handful of green beans
6-8 artichoke heart quarters
1/2 bunch kale
1/2 red bell pepper
salt, pepper, basil, oregano
capellini or other long pasta of your choice

Put a pot of salted pasta water on to boil before starting anything else. That way, it'll be ready to go when it's time to drop your pasta.

Warm your olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.

Smash your garlic cloves with the flat of a knife, peel, and slice. Add your garlic to the oil and cook, stirring occasionally, until they just start to turn a light golden color. Season with salt, basil, and oregano to taste. You can also add some red pepper flake if you want spice.

Wash your beans and slice them at an angle to produce long, narrow pieces. If your artichoke hearts are whole, quarter them. Wash your kale, destem, and shred finely. Core your red pepper and slice it into long, thin strips.

Add your beans to the pan and let them cook for a few minutes before adding the artichoke hearts. Give it another few minutes before you add the kale, and another before you add the red pepper.

Capellini cook in about three minutes, so you'll want to start cooking them at the same time as you add the red pepper. Put them in the water and simmer until done, stirring once or twice to guard against sticking.

When your pasta is done, drain it and add it to the fully cooked vegetables along with a tiny splash of the cooking water. Toss together and let stand over low heat while you wash the pasta pot.

Season the finished dish with some pepper and a little more olive oil. Toss again to distribute. Eat.

If you want a garnish, fresh parsley or grated pecorino would be excellent. I just had some more black pepper.

This was such a good lunch for a grey day.

What are you tossing into your pastas of late?

10 November 2014

The Derby cocktail

The Derby cocktail

It's actually been starting to get grey and rainy on occasion here in otherwise super-sunny California. So, in honor of fall, let's put down the gin and start thinking about bourbon cocktails.

This drink is simple and nicely balanced, with echoes of the classic bourbon sour, and is a good use for that bottle of sweet vermouth that otherwise only gets broken out for Negronis. A great way to mark the seasonal transition.

And as an added bonus, I got a full ounce of juice out of one single, solitary lime. Yes! Leftover lime juice! This never happens. I'm going to credit leaving the lime on the windowsill to warm up for a day before making the cocktail, and also rolling it on the counter before juicing, to break the membranes inside. Yay!

The Derby cocktail

The Derby cocktail

1 oz bourbon
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1/2 oz Cointreau or other orange liqueur

Shake all ingredients well in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into a lovely glass.

I think a lime twist would be a nice garnish. I myself had no garnish. It was still delicious.

What seasonal cocktails are striking your fancy lately?

06 November 2014

Heléne's great chocolate cake

Heléne's great chocolate cake

I've had the recipe for Heléne's great chocolate cake, written out by hand (my hand, to be precise), sleeping away in one of my recipe binders for a very, very long time.

The binders themselves are roughly 18 or 20 years old. They're a remnant of the times when people actually printed things out off the internet instead of saving them to a reading list or cooking app for later search-and-destroy style cooking. (That follows, right? Search for recipe, make recipe, destroy by use of mouth.)

I don't know where I found this recipe, but it's a fair bet that I copied it off some site or other at least ten years ago when I didn't have access to a printer for whatever reason. So I have no idea who Heléne might be -- or at least I didn't until I did a search and discovered an identical recipe, credited to Heléne, a Swedish woman from Los Gatos. The internet comes through again.

Heléne's great chocolate cake

Of course, I had to make a few changes. I used whole wheat flour, because that continues to be how I roll. I also only had 1/4 cup of milk, so I substituted 1/2 cup of plain yogurt thinned with a little water to make up the rest of the dairy. And we don't have any round cake pans, so I used an 8x8 square.

The batter was easy to make and super satisfying to work with -- thick and fluffy and delicious when accidentally dripped onto your fingers and licked off. And the cake? It was pretty perfect.

Here it is, exactly as I first wrote it down.

Heléne's great chocolate cake

Heléne's great chocolate cake

2 eggs
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbsp cocoa powder
3/4 cup milk
1 stick melted butter (8 tbsp or 1/2 cup)
3/4 cup flour

9 in. round - buttered & floured - 350F

Mix eggs & sugar; whip until fluffy. Add vanilla, baking powder, & salt. Add cocoa gradually while mixing. Add milk & cooled butter. Add flour.

Bake 30-35 min until toothpick almost clean.

Powdered sugar, whipped cream, strawberries.

Heléne's great chocolate cake

Note that it is not possible to test this cake with a knife without making a giant hole. Toothpick recommended. Don't try to cut it until it's cooled, at which point it will pull nicely away from all the sides of the pan of its own volition.

Had I ever even made this cake before? I don't know --- but I'm certainly glad I made it now. The last of the strawberries are over (actually, they're cut up in the freezer, but hey), so I had mine plain, with a big mug of black tea. Very nice.

How is your fall baking coming?

03 November 2014

Spicy tuna pasta salad with green beans, tomato, and romaine

Spicy tuna pasta salad with green beans, tomato, and romaine

A few weeks ago I found cans of tuna for practically the lowest price ever -- 66 cents each -- and grabbed a stack for future nearly-instant lunch endeavours. You know, like this one. Mixed with pasta and an assortment of garden veg, it was delicious, yet incredibly cheap. Definitely a win all around.

For veg, I looked at what was left of the garden. I know I'm not the only one who still has a windowsill full of slowly ripening green (and orangish, and actually red in some cases) tomatoes. This sounded like an excellent way to eat one. With a handful of the last beans -- a mix of plain green bush beans and scarlet runners -- I had a good mix of vegetables to spike my salad.

And why not serve the whole shebang on a bed of salad greens? Who doesn't like a little salad on salad action? You have to love the texture contrast of chewy tuna and pasta with super crispy, crunchy romaine. Even a soft butter lettuce would be great here, though. It just depends on what you have in the crisper.

In fact, practically any element of this salad can be switched out for something else. Butter lettuce is not the only option -- so are hard-boiled eggs, roasted beets, grated carrots, handfuls of sprouts, tiny broccoli florets, chickpeas, white beans, rice or quinoa, and as many or as few herbs as you happen to have on hand. Use what you have and make what you love.

Spicy tuna pasta salad with green beans, tomato, and romaine

Spicy tuna pasta salad with green beans, tomato, and romaine

chunky pasta of your choice
1 can tuna
1 clove garlic
the tail end of a bunch of cilantro or parsley
handful of green beans (cooked or raw; mine were raw)
1 small to medium tomato
olive oil, touch of vinegar, dijon or brown mustard
salt & pepper
sriracha sauce if you like it hot
romaine lettuce or your choice of greens, washed & dried

Start by putting on a pot of salted water and cooking your pasta. While it's cooking, prep the rest of your salad ingredients.

Drain your tuna and deposit it into a mixing bowl. Mince your garlic and herbs finely, slice your green beans into pieces (bite-sized if cooked, and very thin if raw), and dice your tomato; add all of these to the bowl. If you want to add any other vegetables, beans, eggs, herbs, etc., cut them up and add them too.

Dress your salad with a few glugs of olive oil. Season with vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and sriracha sauce to taste. When your pasta is done, drain it and add it to the bowl. Mix, taste, and correct the seasonings.

To serve, scatter a few handfuls of chopped romaine over your plate. Top with as much tuna pasta salad as you like. Garnish with some extra cilantro or a grind of pepper. Voila!

Everyone loves salad with even more salad on top.

What easy lunches and dinners are you making this fall?