Tag Archives: vegetarian

Stuffed and Roasted Patty Pan Squash (Yes, you can eat the rind!)

6 Sep

Yes! Those adorable yellow Madeleine berets next to the zucchini and yellow squash are edible! You can even eat the rind!

I really need a steamer. And after this little experiment, I also need a new strainer. it went kaput!

Pattypan squash is the single most searched for recipe on this blog, so I know many readers are out there trying to figure out whatever to do with them. I was equally mystified when we first started getting them at our weekly CSA pick-up. But a little experimenting later, now I know they are loads of fun.

Continue reading


Green Tomato and Tomatillo Bisque (Life-Goes-On-Lessons from the Garden)

4 Sep

I got my first inkling of disaster from the Blogosphere.

The fabulous Karen of Backroad Journal chronicled her battle with late blight in a recent post about her tomatoes. I gasped. In my myopic focus on avoiding the blossom end rot that plagued my tomatoes last year – a result of uneven watering while we were gallivanting about the island keeping the boy on the hop and too busy/tired to cause trouble — I had neglected to consider the possibility of late blight. After all, wasn’t that all done with in the catastrophic 2009 season? (It should have been done with after the Irish Potato Famine of 1845, but apparently not). Continue reading

Back-to-School Freezer Fillers 1: Basil Pesto

29 Aug

My darling son starts kindergarten this week. Yikes!

And I go back to the classroom to teach next week. Double Yikes!

Drying blanched basil

I look upon school food with deep suspicion; I haven’t spent the last five years nurturing a good and healthy eater only to surrender him to the deep fryer as well as the public education system. And for myself, I refuse to waste $10 a day or more eating lunch out when I can eat better for less in the comfort of my office, listening to Pandora and checking my emails. Continue reading

Chickpea and Tahini Salad III (Perfect Picnic Salad)

21 Jul

I am forever putting together cold chickpea salads for the summer.

Tahini is, of course, one of my favorite condiments for this purpose. For the uninitiated, it is a sesame paste, very thick, that keeps for a long time in the fridge and is critical to Middle Eastern cuisine. A tablespoon adds a depth of flavor, a teeny bit on the bitter side, and a thickness or creaminess of texture to sauces and dressings that I like a lot. Try a basic dressing from a Mediterranean Buffet , a   version with soy sauce, or another with tomatoes and herbs. Which I guess means I should call this Chick Pea and Tahini Salad IV, but whatever!)

This time I had dill in the fridge needing to be used up so I figured I would try it. The result was fresh and good. Mint would be a terrific substitute or addition. You can really go in many directions with this one! You can mix it with rice or use it to top a green salad or just eat it right out of the mixing bowl with a spoon while standing in front of the fridge (not that I would ever do that. Uh-uh. Not me).

Light and fresh – perfect side for supper!

Chickpea and Tahini Salad III

1 Tbs lemon juice or red wine vinegar (start with half a tablespoon and increase to your taste)

1 Tbs tahini

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbs dill, chopped

28oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbs red onion (a quarter of a medium red onion), sliced thin

Mix or whisk lemon juice or vinegar and tahini together in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir to mix well.

Vegetarian Chili (or, yet another good bean recipe!)

16 Jul

I hesitate in summertime to do beans from dry because I don’t want to simmer anything for an hour in this heat! (I am sure a slow-cooker would be a solution, but I don’t have one and don’t have room for one). So, it’s cans for me, and if they have a pull-off top, even better. I want to minimize all movement in the Hazy, Hot, Humidity of a Long Island summer (Ditto for wine bottles…a screw top is high up on my ratings rubric right now; corks take too much work!)

In fact, I want to keep cooking to a minimum, so rather than season my ground beef or even have to defrost and simmer the pre-made stuff I have stocked in the freezer, my “chili” has gone vegetarian. I call it “chili” because I add chili powder, but I make no claims to authenticity. If you want to call it rice and beans with chili seasoning, by all means do. “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” to quote a certain lovelorn 13-year-old from Verona.

Whatever you call it, it will be ready to eat in about 15 minutes, and I call that fast!

Vegetarian Chili (or rice and beans with chili powder!)

1 Tbs olive oil

½ medium onion, chopped fine (about 1/2 Cup)

½ medium red bell pepper chopped fine (about 1/2 Cup)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 heaping Tbs tomato paste

15.5 oz can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

½ tsp oregano

½ tsp chile powder

2 tsp chopped fresh cilantro

1 tsp thyme

Pinch red pepper flakes

1 bay leaf

Salt to taste

Heat olive oil at medium-high in a saucepan until loose and fragrant. Add onions, stir to coat and reduce heat to medium. Add red pepper and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes, or until vegetables are translucent and soft. Add tomato paste, stir in to coat and cook for a minute.  Stir in beans, oregano, chile powder, cilantro, thyme, red pepper flakes and bay leaf. Add ½ Cup water (more, if you want it more liquid) and cook for 15-20 minutes. Salt to taste and serve with white rice or wrapped in tortillas with cheese, shredded lettuce, salsa and all that fun Mexican restaurant-type stuff.

Grilled Potato Disks (Like fries, only better!)

12 Jul

French fries are such a temptation, especially on the way back from the beach in the summer, when your mouth is salty, and the kids are encrusted with sand, and the sun is hot and you are tasting those carefree high school memories and suddenly you are driving past All-American Burger with all those crowds of similarly sand and salt encrusted summer folks lined up for their Quarter Pounder with Cheese and Fries…well, how could you not?

Well Pedro (yes, he of the crazy-ass diet) has come up with a worthy alternative that you can do on the grill at home. These grilled potato disks are crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and just seasoned enough to not need much else. They are my mom’s new favorite; sort of French fries with virtue. Because they are so simple, they go with virtually anything on the regular summer grill menu – burgers, steaks, fish, corn. Love it!

Grilled Potato Disks (Like fries, only better!)

1 Tbs olive oil

½ tsp Adobo powder

3 medium potatoes (Yukon Gold preferred), peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch rounds

While the grill is heating up, in a bowl, stir adobo and olive oil together. Brush the potatoes with the oil mixture and lay on grill, reserving  extra oil. Using tongs , take potatoes off grill when they begin to brown, about five minutes (as they will be spread over the whole grill, you will need to judge hotter and colder parts and shift potatoes accordingly). Dip them in the oil mixture, shake excess off gently and lay them back on the grill for another five minutes or so, until nicely browned. Serve sprinkled with salt, with ketchup or with mayo-chipo-ketchup.

Kid’s Party Snack Alternative: Bagel Buffet, Starring Cream Cheese Two Ways!

26 Jun

My pizza party days are over. I used to like the occasional slice, but once you have a kid and start attending kids’ parties with alarming frequency, the whole pizza thing becomes tedious (and hard on the waistline), except for the part about not having to figure out lunch for your kid for a day. I like that part a whole lot.

Mind you, I have served pizza at a number of Leandro’s parties. Three regular pies, sliced in 16ths, for the kids. Another one or two pies for the parents. Guilty as charged.

Cream cheese with chives

By the time they get served, the waxy cheese is getting hard, the crust is soft, and chewy and the sauce, whatever it was, is gone. Besides, regular slices bore the hell out of me. Call me a snob, but if you lived in Italy for a couple of years and ate wood stove-crispy thin pies (slice? Cosa e? Ma scherzi.…) topped with seasonal veggies and homemade sausage with a carafe of the charming local plonk most Friday nights out with your charming boyfriend who didn’t mind your bit of flirting with the charming Italians who owned the place….well, a leaden slice of regular from a box choked down to the soundtrack of overexcited preschoolers and bounce-house kiddie-pop might also feel somewhat wrong to you.

Maple-Walnut Cream Cheese

Anyhoo, I wanted to change it up just a little this time around. It’s not just the pizza thing; it’s that I like to cook and entertain and this seemed to me to be an chance to manifest my own self in a more public forum than usual. It is all well and good to set yourself up as a food blogger because your child has been indoctrinated to believe that what you are making him is good stuff. It’s quite another thing to lay it out there for public tasting and scrutiny.

And of course, the other reason is that in my universe, you honor your guests by serving them nice food.

We celebrated Leandro’s birthday at the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center at Jones Beach. The time was from 10 am-noon on a Sunday. If you have ever been in downstate New York on a Sunday morning, you will understand that bagels are the only appropriate response. It’s like the venerable five o’clock cocktail, only heavier on the carbs. So I went with pre-sliced mini-bagels from Seaford Bagel – convenient, but with ample opportunities to prepare a few spreads of your own.

Buffet table note: cheese and ham slices and mustard and mayo rounded out the buffet. Not one of my 50 Shades of Martha moments on the decor, but it worked well enough. A Box of Joe, juice boxes, and bottles of water completed the spread.

In my own defense, I am not completely bonkers and did not bake the main event: The “birthday cake” was cupcakes, ordered from Stop & Shop. Yes. A chain grocery store. Did you really think I was going to bake an effen cake!?! They were, by all accounts, delicious, topped with butter cream and decorated with Spiderman, Hello Kitty and other rings. Eternal thanks to the wisdom of Marianne/Madrina, for her bagel shop and cupcake source recommendations.

Among the spreads were tuna salad and egg salad (click to get those recipes from earlier posts), and the following two easy cream cheese variations. The maple-walnut spread was especially popular (and so easy it’s almost embarrassing). The kids mostly ate straight-up butter or cream cheese. But the parents and big kids who came to show solidarity were All Over the buffet table and even made a few to-go bagels. (Hector and Sean, I am naming names!!!). We also had plenty of bagels left over to pack in the cooler for our glorious, post-party beach afternoon.

I hope you’ll try them next time you want to bring up your bagel buffet game without killing yourself. Don’t pay for store-made. These are too simple and the praise too gratifying.

Thanks to all of you who came and made this day one of Leandro’s best and most memorable ever. I will eat your party pizza every time and enjoy your company, so don’t fret or hesitate to invite us to the next one. Leandro needs the break from his mom’s obsessiveness!

Cucumber slices are an easy dress-up for cream cheese and chives or tuna salad

Cream Cheese with Chives

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

2 Tbs chives, chopped

1 tsp green onion, chopped fine (including white part!)

In a bowl, mix all ingredients thoroughly. Chill at least a half hour for flavors to incorporate.

Maple Walnut Cream Cheese

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

2 Tbs real maple syrup

½ tsp vanilla extract (if you actually have maple extract, you can use it here)

½ cup chopped walnuts, plus walnuts for garnish

In a bowl, mix the cream cheese, syrup and extract. Stir in the walnuts and chill for at least 30 minutes. Turn the cream cheese into your serving dish and garnish with whole walnuts.

Blueberry Pound Cake

23 Jun

When it comes to baking, I am seriously out of my comfort zone. I am a mas o menos (more or less) type of girl: more or less on time (usually less, but I get to my job, the airport, and the train station on time. Anything else, well, I try my best, but often get sidetracked. I have a lot of roses to sniff).

This mas o menos personality thing is well suited to making stews, marinades, pasta sauce. You don’t like how things are going? Add a dash of this. A pinch of that. A heaping tablespoon of cumin, a squirt of hot sauce, more garlic, of course. Cooking at home is a jam session, a sudden-onset sick guitar lick, ad-libs, improvisation, invention, spontaneity. Kick, save, and a beauty!

But when you eff up a baking recipe, there is often no heroic rescue, no sleight of hand, no inspired solution, no excuse, no fashionably late (although you can blame it on your preschooler; on some level every mistake you make is somehow attributable to the kid. Milk that while you can!)

There’s a quote from somewhere that states: “Cooking is an art. Baking is a science.” I dropped high school Physics in the first quarter with a D, but came very close to going to art school.

Therefore, I approach every baking project with a bit of anxiety. And when I have anxiety about something, I try to get someone else to do it for me. So, when my friend, Beth, had a few minutes to hang out when dropping off my son’s best friend for a playdate, didn’t I just enlist her to help me make pound cake?

She’s an experienced baker whose grandmother taught her right, while I am from two Caribbean families who quite rightly had little interest in turning on an oven in the middle of the tropics. Freezer pops? They are on it. Grill? Sí señor. But bread? That’s something you buy. Let someone else sweat that.

So in just minutes, I learned a lot from Beth. Measure the flour after you sift it. Dredge the blueberries before folding them into the batter. This is how to flour a pan.

Poured about a quarter of the batter without blueberries…to keep the kids happy. The kids were happy.

However we did – and I am not throwing blame here, but I don’t think it was me! – invert the order of a critical step a, missing the wet ingredient before dry. My stomach sank. Did I just invest two sticks of butter and six local, organic ($$$) eggs into a disaster? Am I going to have a pile of shit at the end of this?

But no, Beth carried on calmly, added the missing ingredients and moved forward. And wouldn’t you know, it turns out that sometimes, with a bit of calm, even a baking mistake can work out.

This was the best damn pound cake I have ever had and I think you should make it. Now.

And if any of your mistakes turn out to be just fine, let me know. Cause the laws of physics are not always as bad as they seem. And baking is better with friends.

Blueberry Pound Cake (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Classic Pound Cake)

16 Tbs unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 16 pieces

3 large eggs, plus 3 large yolks, room temperature

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 ¾ Cups (7oz) all purpose flour (Cook’s Illustrated recommends cake flour, but I didn’t have that)

½ tsp salt

1 ¼ Cups (8 ¾ oz) sugar

1 Cup blueberries (If using frozen, allow to thaw. Drain juice, keeping the berries).

Flour for dredging berries

Place butter in a bowl to soften slightly (20-30 minutes). Use a fork to beat eggs, yolks, and vanilla in a bowl or measuring cup and let stand at room temperature until you are ready to use.

Preheat oven to 325°F with rack in the center of the oven. Grease and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan.

a)      Beat butter and salt with a wooden spoon until shiny, smooth and creamy, about 5-7 minutes. Gradually add the sugar, beating steadily, until all sugar is incorporated and the mixture is light and fluffy.

b)      Sift flour over butter mixture in three additions with a rubber spatula until combined. Be very gentle!

c)       Then add egg mixture and do the same, mixing until just combined.*

Dredge the blueberries in flour until well-coated. Fold blueberries into the batter and pour into prepared pan, smoothing top with rubber spatula. Bake cake for 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes, until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean. Let cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then invert cake onto wire rack, turn right-side up and cool completely for a couple of hours. Cake can be store at room temperature for about three days.

*Note: The original recipe called for steps b and c to be in the opposite order from what you see here. Beth and I inverted the instructions by accident, but the cake suffered no discernable problems from our mistake. So it’s your call whether you want to try it the Cook’s Illustrated way or The Accidental Baker way. The recipe here is The Accidental Baker way.

Radishes and Cucumbers – Making the Basics More Beautiful

15 Jun

Sometimes I just want my life to be prettier.

Not that I want it to be a continuous Martha Stewart tea party where everyone stands around, looking just-so, with their sun-kissed cheeks and breezy hair, crisp button-up shirts and slouchy khakis, admiring the centerpiece and the color scheme and the details, like the charming DIY slipcovers the hostess whipped up in an afternoon between tending to the prize-winning peonies, putting up a winter’s worth of pickles and preserves, reorganizing the linen closet – which now smells of the homemade lavender sachets she made yesterday – and transforming the old outhouse into a conservatory and gift-wrapping center, complete with handmade paper recycled from organic coffee filters from Oregon and antique twine from the Medóc…

Might be nice, but no, that kind of lifestyle would probably drive me to drink more than I already do and of course the drinks would have to be much fancier and therefore take longer to get to than unscrewing the top of a bottle of humble plonk from Westbury Liquors…

No, the full-on Martha thing is not my thing at the moment.

But still. Sometimes I just want things to be prettier.

Thus, this very simple treatment of radishes and cucumbers that I put together with radishes from the garden and cucumbers from who knows which hothouse somewhere far less virtuous. The sharpness of the radish is tempered by the cool of the cucumber and the sweetness of the balsamic vinegar, and a bit of good salt completes the palate panorama. It looks sweet and beautiful and presentation tells the eater that someone cares, even if the only eater is you.

Cucumber and Radish Rounds (I considered calling it carpaccio, but am just not going that route today. That shouldn’t stop you from doing it, though.)

Thinly slice equivalent amounts of radishes and cucumbers. Put a layer of cucumbers on a serving plate. Top with a layer of radishes. Drizzle with olive oil and dot with balsamic vinegar. Finish with a pinch of flaky sea salt, and serve.

Note: We eat it with our fingers over here, so forget keeping the crisp button-up shirt clean. But this is about pleasure, and pleasure is not always tidy. And tidiness is not always desirable.However, should you decide to be more formal, make separate appetizer portions for each person and hand them a fork and a napkin. Preferably cloth 😉

Pressed Sandwich with No Press(ure)

13 Jun

As the maniacal good-foodie mom of a kid about to enter kindergarten, I am turning my attention to future lunchbox fillers that can compete with Tater Tots and Elio’s Pizza (can you tell what I ate in high school?). Sandwiches are going to have to be an integral part of my strategy, but wouldn’t you know it? The kid doesn’t eat sandwiches (nor do I very often, to be fair).

So when he finally tried and loved grilled cheese sandwiches at his daycare, I felt a sense of relief. The breakthrough I was hoping for has happened!

However, me being me, it is, of course, not possible to slap a couple of slices of American cheese on white toast and relax. I didn’t really want to make a production out of it, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a good-looking pressed sandwich with real cheese and real bread? Except that I don’t have a sandwich press.

It didn’t matter. With a bit of invention, I made some delicious grilled cheese sandwiches with grill marks, even! I used my grill pan, and to achieve the press, I took a heavy skillet (with a clean bottom!) and laid it on top. Then I placed another heavy pot on top, so I could walk away for a few minutes without having to press it myself.

And I got high marks from the little guy and at least one sandwich solution ready for September….Whee-hee! Who knows where we can get from here? I’m thinking BLT, baby!

Pressed Sandwich Without a Real Press

¼ tsp oil or spritz of oil spray

Four sandwich slices of bread, spread with a scraping of butter (I lightly toast mine first)

2-3 oz soft, meltable cheese (cheddar, Monterey jack, muenster, gouda), sliced

Heat grill pan or skillet with a smear of oil or spray.

Have another heavy pan at the ready.

Lay two slices of bread, buttered side up, on the grill pan. Top with cheese slices. Cover with remaining slices of bread and press under second pan. Use another heat-proof pot on top to weigh it down. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and allow to cool a few minutes before slicing. Serve!


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