Tag Archives: vegetarian

the whole shebang: 6300 miles and a whole (lazy) lemon tart, iphone edition

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My past 28 days have looked something like this:

Santa Barbara, CA –> Baltimore, MD –> Wilton, CT –> Lake Joseph, Ontario (Canada) –> New York City, NY –> Baltimore, MD –> Santa Barbara, CA.

We’ve just arrived back home (we being the husband, the pug, and myself, and home being to the farm) after a whirlwind East-Coast-meets-Canada Summer tour that was packed sardine-tin style with cross country flights and long long drives: a marvelous wedding weekend in a picturesque New England town, two weeks spent on an island in the middle of a giant lake in Canada, and a full week back in The City – my old love – New York, New York.

(An aside: Given that these three locales and disparate occasions demanded quite different attire, you can surely ascertain exactly how nonplussed the look on James’ face was when he saw me attempting to heave two full-sized and at-limit suitcases onto the belt in addition to the tote bags/handbags/saddlebags that I looped over his shoulders like my own personal travel burro. Efficient packer, I am not.)

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Having – quite surprisingly – not traversed outside of the Pacific time zone since our arrival on the farm last Winter, we had a veritable laundry list of friends to see, places to visit, and cakes to bake (that’s a normal thing, right?), and in what seems like a relatively long stretch of time (nearly a month), we somehow managed to cram smoosh and shove nearly every single person/activity/baked good in without incident.

The trip was kicked off with our dear friends’ wedding, and we danced under the stars on a horse farm while munching on mini tacos and Polly Pocket sized margaritas housed in tiny Patron bottles. After a weekend full of feting, the car was loaded and aimed North towards the border, and we scanned the crackly FM stations while cruising through upstate New York searching for just the right songs to befit the lush rolling hillsides and endless decorously unkempt farms. A full days drive warranted cooling our jets for an evening at a darling bed and breakfast in Ithaca, and in the most touristy fashion possible we unabashedly chowed down on Buffalo wings at the restaurant that lays claim to starting that whole vinegar-spiked-hot-wing craze.

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We drove into Canada and left the US behind for two glorious weeks; this was the fourth year I have accompanied James and his parents for a mid-Summer break at their lake house, and it has quickly become a yearly tradition that we eagerly look forward to as the days grow longer and July 4th approaches. The cabin is on an island – the kind where there are no cars and oh, you better choose your company wisely, as there is absolutely nowhere to hide once you arrive by boat. And, as such, there is nothing really pressing on the agenda save long and lazy afternoons filled with sunshine and novels and time spent in the kitchen tinkering with new recipes and keeping the fridge full for those who’ve worked up an appetite swimming laps around the island.

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best ever beet burgers with goat cheese spread (aka best veggie burgers, ever! )

beet burgers - brown rice and beet patties topped with chived goat cheese

In Boulder, there was a spot  downtown that we’d frequent all.the.time for lunch or a casual supper that made the most delicious beet burgers.  I never got around to trying my hand at them at home, because any time I had a chance to zip down the hill on our Vespa and enjoy my lunch al fresco on an inevitably sunny Colorado afternoon (and someone else was doing the cooking) I was going to take it.

beet burgers, raw beets sliced

Fast forward a couple of years and I’ve yet to find a place in San Francisco Santa Barbara that has a beet burger on their menu.  I guess I understand….beets, after all, seem to be a pretty polarizing root veggie, and I may be in the minority in the fact that these days I almost always default to a ‘veggie’ burger option when given the option.*

*And that is not to say I won’t absolutely-but-only-occasionally crush a double-double-animal-style.  Cause I’d be a liar if I said otherwise. 

beet burgers, shredded in processor

But this isn’t really a beet burger so much as just a really awesome veggie burger.  Yes, you can taste the beets – their earthy sweetness cuts straight through the other more mild binding components – but when combined with brown rice, lentils, chopped onion, fennel, and just a bit of almond butter, their in-your-face dirt-y-ness is mellowed out and complimented juuuuust right.

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spaghetti & meatballs with a vegan (and gluten free!) twist: zucchini spaghetti and beanballs with fresh marinara + vegan ‘parmesan’ cheese

zucchini spaghetti and vegan beanballs

I came home the other week with a book called “Raw Food Detox Diet,” and I’d be lying if I said that James didn’t look just a wee bit petrified.

No, I am not on some fad diet (nor do I think the raw ‘movement’ is a fad, but I digress), but you may have noticed I’ve again been slightly scarce around here lately, and that’s because now that we are settled in to our new-ish house and hometown, we’ve been up to our usual hijinx of visitors, entertaining, eating, and drinking. We had visitors staying with us for a solid 4 weeks straight (not all the same ones, mind you), and when people arrive to your new spot the last thing you want to do is go to bed early and eat salad.

No. You’ll want to go wine tasting, and while we’re at it — toss in a cheese plate. You’ll have a hankering to make baby back ribs (3 separate times!), throw marinated flank steak, spatchcocked chicken, and lamb burgers on the grill, and whip up a ‘vodka bolognese’ (with beef and pancetta) as a birthday dinner for a dear friend. There will also be cake at said birthday dinner, and a morning spent mixing up fresh bloodies to enjoy poolside. There will be a lot of indulgences, and not much restraint. The Diem will be Carpe’d, every single day, to the absolute very fullest extent.

So after lots of meat, cheese, wine, beer, and bread (because I failed to mention the brick oven pizza place down the road we’ve been hitting up on the reg), I was left feeling a bit bleh. I, by all natural inclination, am not a huge meat eater, and after feeling like I consumed more animal products in a month than I have in some entire seasons passed, I began to feel a bit queasy.

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after those treats: vegan wild rice bowls with garlic tahini sauce, sweet grape tomatoes, broccoli, and avocado

vegan wild rice bowls with garlic tahini sauce

Because it’s Sunday, because we’ve got a blissful extra hour to kill, and because if you ate even close to the amount of candy corn that I managed to consume in the last 48 hours, I present to you, the vegan rice bowl.

vegan wild rice bowls with garlic tahini sauce, fresh broccoli

(Cue sad trombone.)

vegan wild rice bowls with garlic tahini sauce, wild rice medley

I know.  It’s Fall and we’re supposed to be braising meats and roasting squash and baking sweet cakes with things like apple and cinnamon and pumpkin in them!

vegan wild rice bowls with garlic tahini sauce, ripe avo

These rice bowls will neither fill your house with a cozy smell nor stick to your ribs like most comforting Autumnal fare.  They will, however, negate the queasy feeling that is inevitably setting in as the costumes hit the ground, the face paint wears off, and those fist-fulls of fun-sized snickers/butterfinger/crunch/dots/almondjoy/nerds/whatchamacallit start to set in in full effect.

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for that marine layer: zucchini, basil, & parmesan soup

zucchini, basil, and parmesan soup - simple and deliciously perfect

These past few weeks, for most of the country, have been HOT. This I know by the plethora of Instagram snaps of car temperature gauges zooming up into the hundred-teens, Facebook postsof popsicles melting something fierce poolside, and conversations with friends detailing massively frizzy hair do’s (don’ts), complaints of back-sticking cab rides endured from downtown-up, and the heavy sighs of electric bills bolstered skyward by the incessant hum of every AC unit in All Of The Land set on turbo.

zucchini and basil soup - ripe whole zucchini

Brutal.

zucchini and basil soup- perfect, ripe, zucchini

But not here. Nope, not in San Francisco. Here, I walked to work this morning in a maxi dress, wearing a cashmere sweater – and a canvas jacket — and a scarf – and was still putting some blustery pep in my step, as my chilly exposed toes were sign enough that low booties would have been a better choice than strappy flats.

a mound of fluffy parmesan cheese ready to melt in the soup

As Mark Twain most famously never said,* and seemingly every person delighted in telling me when I informed them of my decision to relocate to the Bay area, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco” — and, that has proven at least in these past few weeks, to be mostly true.

*Nerd Alert & to set the record straight: There is no evidence that Mark Twain actually said those words; in one letter, he is recorded as expressing similar displeasure with the weather in Paris – not San Francisco.  So there.

sauteeing up chunks of zucchini for zucchini and basil soup

It’s not that it’s actually cold; the mercury steadily reads somewhere in the 50’s at night, and in the low to mid 60’s during the day – a treat, as far as most warm-blooded humans are concerned. It’s just that this time of year, in the height of the Summer months when the majority of the country is seeking respite from the sun, we are endowed with a thick blanket of heavy fog – the “marine layer” – that makes things feel much chiller than they really are.

zucchini and basil soup simmering away...

And so I have soup. Not exactly what conjures visions of a perfect Summertime meal, but I promise you that this soup – a light but intensely flavorful puree of zucchini, basil, and Parmesan cheese with a touch of lemon and hint of garlic – is just the thing to warm your AC-froze bones midday at the office. You turn the oven on exactly zero times, and you can suffer through the painlessly quick preparation virtually sweat free, stocking yourself with a big pot of leftovers that you can heat quickly and goes perfectly alongside a crunchy salad or light sandwich. This soup manages to be intensely creamy without actually using anything of the sort; the silkiness of zucchini simmered in vegetable stock till tender makes a fine (and bikini friendly) swap, and creates a super-charged flavor whose whole totally belies the simplicity of the ingredients.

topped with pea shoots for crunch and freshness

Summer soup – you’ve just got to trust me on this one.  And in other news, I’m well aware that things have been a bit (OK ALOT) quiet around here…I’m working on a new project (unrelated to the blog – or kitchen, even) that’s been sapping up a good bit of my side time, and I’m very sorry I’ve let things here dwindle down to cricket chirps as of late.  (Such bad form!)  I’m excited to share more with you as the weeks go forward, and I pinky-swear I have some yummy things to share with you here on a much more regular schedule.

Onward – and upward!

Zucchini, Parmesan, and Basil Soup
6 servings (makes about 8 cups)

A dollop of cool Greek yogurt would be great on this soup (and add a shot of protein), and though I haven’t expressly tried it this way, I suspect it would also be great served chilled (with my suspicions mostly confirmed after licking a serving spoon when heating up the leftovers….).

1.5 lbs (24 oz) fresh zucchini (about 6 medium), roughly chopped
1 medium sized white onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
4 cups vegetable stock
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
10 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
zest of 1 lemon
olive oil
kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
pea shoots or fresh arugula, for garnish (about 1/4 cup per serving)
a few wispy shreds of Parmesan, to serve (totally optional)

Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat; if you have dutch oven, this is the perfect time to use it. When the pot is hot, add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Add in the onion and a good pinch of salt, and saute, stirring occasionally,, till the onion is just tender and translucent on the edges, about 5 minutes (you do not want it to brown at all, just to cook and soften). Add the chopped zucchini and minced garlic to the pot, and stir; let it cook for 2 minutes, just till the garlic is tender and fragrant and the zucchini appears to wilt and look slightly tired. Add the stock and another good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and raise the heat to high. Let the stock come just to a boil, and then reduce the heat down to medium. Simmer the vegetables for 15 minutes, till the zucchini is fork tender.

When the zucchini is tender, take the soup off of the heat, and set it to the side. Stir in the roughly chopped basil, the parmesan cheese, and the lemon zest. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor, carefully working in batches, until it is completely blended and silky smooth. (You can also puree the soup using an immersion blender – either way works fine.) Taste the soup and adjust salt and pepper levels if necessary.

To serve, ladle the hot soup into a bowl, and top with a small pile of the pea shoots (or fresh arugula). Top with a few additional wisps of Parmesan (if so inclined), and enjoy!

a perfect balance: summer quinoa salad – chinese eggplant, sweet corn, red onion, & toasted almond

summer quinoa salad with chinese eggplant, sweet corn, red onion, and toasted almonds

Clearly I’m jumping the gun here a bit on “Summer,” but I’ve got a racer-back tan-line seared between my shoulders and the imprint of (my favorite) teeny-tiny wedge sandals emblazoned on the tops of my bare feet, so I can’t be that far off in my seasonal labeling, right?

chinese eggplant from the farmers market

They keep telling me that “it’s never like this;” they being those more seasoned San Franciscans than I, and this being the exceptionally perfect seventy-five-and-no-cloud-in-the-sky weather we’ve been having straight up on the reg.  I know I keep saying it, but there’s been some killer days here; the kind that make me actually excited for the in-betweens when the fog rolls in, and for that perfect time of evening when the eerie echo of the foghorn picks up at dusk.

fresh summer corn right off the cob

We had barely even fifteen minutes indoors this past weekend, with Saturday enjoyed posted up at picnic tables and grilling oysters with friends at Tomales Bay, and Sunday spent having our first taste of Bay to Breakers, an annual road race that seems to be much less about the race and much more about who can wear the most ridiculous costume.  (And…ahem…about lots of random naked people.  Being naked in public is a big thing here, folks.)

chinese eggplant ready to roast

Though sweet corn and eggplant are two things I associate more with July and August, I found both at the farmer’s market last week, and therefore – Summer, shes’a close.

taking the bite out of some red onion

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simple equation: coconut braised chickpeas and spinach with spaghetti squash, zucchini, red pepper, and crispy tofu

coconut braised chickpeas and spinach with spaghetti squash, zucchini, red pepper, and crispy tofu

You guys —  stand up paddle boarding was a total success this past weekend, and I absolutely loved it.  Minus one very minor incident where Danielle and I over-confidently tried to leave the safety of our little training-wheels lagoon (and nearly got blown by some aggressive tailwinds straight into some legit boat yacht traffic while squealing and paddling directly over a rather large, red, and very tenticle-y jellyfish), we totally rocked it.

half moons of zucchini

I didn’t tank it sideways off the board (hooray!), and we both felt very virtuous for getting up early and getting our fitness on after some mutually late bedtimes the evening before.  I totally forgot that the Kentucky Derby was on, but since it was gorgeous out (85!! Sunny!!!), we decided to keep our delightful little day going, and spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying lunch in the sunshine and toasting the race with a couple obligatory mint juleps.

fresh grated garlic and ginger

After a wonderful but busy day spent out and about, the last thing I ever feel like doing is cleaning up the kitchen after making a meal – much less actually cooking a meal that requires a lot of clean up.

But I’m going to let you in on a little (not so) secret equation.

rings of fresno chili

Coconut milk + ginger & garlic + vegetables + tofu = simple supper Nirvana.

fresh lemongrass

This is the exactly the kind of thing we have when I open the fridge and am met with a panicked wave of what-the-{insert explicative}-are-we-gonna-have-for-dinner;  usually when I already have my hole-y and publicly inappropriate pajama pants on and the husb has already poured me a glass-o’-vino, and there’s absolutely zero chance I feel like running out to the store.

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