August 17, 2014

Briny, nutty, and spicy pesto

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , , at 3:27 pm by thecatwho

Big, bold bunches of basil are prominent at the farmers’ market now, so we moved pesto-making to the top of our culinary to-do list.

Here is a pesto that has briny olives instead of parmesan and pecans instead of pine nuts. The arugula (thanks, Zelda!) adds an herby-spicy, green quality, and there’s a jalapeño for a little heat.

How to use pesto? In salad dressing, on eggs, and in vegetable, bean, pasta, and rice dishes either at the stove or at the table.

Spicy pesto with arugula, olives, and pecans

  • garlic, coarsely chopped
  • raw, unsalted pecans
  • jalapeño, coarsely chopped
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • pitted green olives, such as Manzanilla
  • basil leaves
  • arugula leaves
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Whirl the garlic, pecans, jalapeño, oil, and olives along with some of their brine in a food processor until puréed.
  2. Add basil and arugula and whirl until smooth. Adjust flavors, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

August 10, 2014

Morphing cauliflower into “rice”

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , at 3:23 pm by thecatwho

I can’t help myself. Here’s another way to serve cauliflower—which I believe is a most versatile vegetable (see why I think it is a magic vegetable). I thank the Green Kitchen Stories blog for this recipe’s inspiration.

Cauliflower “rice” salad

  • cauliflower, coarsely chopped
  • fresh parsley
  • fresh basil
pumpkin seeds
lemon juice, lime juice, or your favorite vinegar
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • red and yellow sweet peppers, diced
olive tapenade or chopped briny olives
  • toasted almond slivers
  • sea salt
  • pepper
  1. Bring a pot of water to boil. Put cauliflower into the bowl of a food processor and whirl until the size of rice. Pour the cauliflower into the boiling water and simmer for about 4 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, toast pumpkin seeds in a skillet on medium-low until golden; set aside. Finely chop herbs.
  3. Drain cauliflower in a sieve. Pour cauliflower into a large serving bowl. Mix in herbs, lemon juice, oil, sweet peppers, tapenade, pumpkin seeds, and almond slivers. Adjust seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

August 5, 2014

Cooking is a radical activity

Posted in cooking, food, health, motivations, sustainability, values, vegetables tagged , , , , at 3:04 pm by thecatwho

I am not alone in agreeing with Michael Pollan that cooking could be the most important step someone can take to make our American food system healthier and more sustainable.

Just look at the growth of farmers’ markets across the country: The Fresno Bee reports that the 2014 National Farmers’ Market Directory showed a 76 percent increase in farmers’ markets since 2008—now we have more than 8,200 markets nationwide.

Why are farmers’ markets on the rise? We are spending our food dollars at farmers’ markets because they are the kind of food system we want. My local farmers’ market has grown by leaps and bounds in the 14 years I have shopped there—an increase in both farm vendors and shoppers. Shoppers are hooked on the relationships they build with the small farms that grow their food; on what they learn about food from one another; and on buying just-picked, nutrient-dense produce, some of which they cannot get at the supermarket.

And what does everyone do with the farmers’ market bounty they bring home? They go into their kitchens, prepare farm-fresh homemade meals, and make a statement about the kind of food they value for themselves and their families—a very radical act indeed.


August 2, 2014

Hunting and gathering in my kitchen

Posted in cooking, creativity, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , , at 10:17 am by thecatwho

Cooking from my fridge and pantry gets my creativity pumping, especially because foraging helps to make space for my Sunday trip to the farmers’ market. Here’s what I found.

Kale, corn, and tomato sauté

A mélange like this is a great time to use leftover sauces and dips. I added a few remaining marinated artichokes and the last of some roasted red pepper spread to this one when I stirred in the tomatoes. Serve over brown rice or pasta.

  • ears of corn
  • olive oil
  • onion, chopped
  • mushrooms, chopped
  • jalapeño or Fresno chiles, chopped
  • large tomatoes, chopped
  • cherry tomatoes, halved
  • salt
  • kale leaves, stripped from center stem and chopped
  • raw pumpkin seeds
  • fresh basil leaves, cut into strips
  1. Microwave unhusked ears of corn or steam husked ears of corn, about 3 minutes. Cut kernels from cobs.
  2. Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add onion, mushrooms, chiles, and corn. Cover and cook until browned bits form on the bottom of the pan.
  3. Stir in tomatoes and sprinkle with salt. Cover and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add kale and stir continuously until kale is cooked the way you like. Add pumpkin seeds. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in basil and serve.

July 26, 2014

A South American take on tofu salad

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 4:13 pm by thecatwho

Marinating tofu isn’t new, but this inspiration from Mark Bittman uses a lime juice marinade and serves the tofu cold, like seviche. Here’s my version.

Lime-marinated tofu seviche salad

For the marinade, Sriracha chili sauce added a little heat and a touch of sweet; instead of salt, I used a few tablespoons of the liquid from the jar of pitted green Manzanilla olives. For the salad, the corn kernels and sweet peppers balanced the tangy lime juice and briny olives, and the almond slivers added nutty crunch.

  • lime juice or vinegar
  • Sriracha chili sauce
  • salt
  • green onions or red onion, thinly sliced
  • jalapeño chile, thinly sliced
  • super-firm tofu, such as Wildwood or Trader Joe’s, cut into small cubes
  • cucumber, chopped
  • fresh corn kernels cut from the cob
  • red and orange sweet peppers, chopped
  • pitted green olives, whole or chopped
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • pepper
  • avocado, cut into cubes
  • chopped fresh herbs, such as cilantro, basil, parsley, and/or mint
  • toasted almond slivers

1. Put lime juice, Sriracha, salt, and some water in a bowl. Whisk to combine, then add the onions, jalapeño, and tofu. Toss gently and chill for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 days.

2. Drain the tofu mixture, reserving the pickling liquid. Put the tofu mixture in a large bowl. Mix in cucumber, corn, sweet peppers, and olives.

3. Add a few tablespoons of the reserved pickling liquid, some olive oil, and pepper and toss. Gently stir in avocado. Season to taste with salt and more pickling liquid if you like. Sprinkle with herbs and almonds and serve.

July 21, 2014

Breakfast rice

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , , at 9:16 pm by thecatwho

Coming up with different ways to use leftover brown rice is a passion of mine. To that end, I cook up the maximum amount allowable in my rice cooker so that I have some brown rice to play with.

I love savory breakfasts, so it is natural for me to consider combining rice with vegetables, eggs, herbs, nut butter, nuts, beans, mustard, salsa, and/or any sauces in the fridge.  Here is one of my combinations.

This recipe uses a microwave oven.

Brown rice with tomato and herbs

I had fresh oregano and almond butter in the fridge, so that’s what I used with great success.

  • cooked brown rice
  • fresh tomato, chopped
  • chopped fresh herbs, such as oregano, parsley, cilantro, thyme, or basil
  • nut butter, such as almond, cashew, or peanut
  • hot sauce or salsa
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Put the rice, tomato, herbs, nut butter, and hot sauce in a microwaveable dish. Cover and microwave until warmed, 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Stir to combine the nut butter with the other ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper.



July 12, 2014

Sweet and savory slaw

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , , at 7:18 am by thecatwho

Based on a forage in my refrigerator and an idea from a friend (thanks, Pam!), I created this unlikely but successful combination to bring to a potluck dinner picnic.

Kale-cabbage slaw with strawberries

If you have it on hand, leftover brown rice added heft although it disappeared into the slaw (no one knew it was there), and shredded carrot could add color, crunch, and a bit of sweetness.

  • kale, center rib removed and leaves shredded
  • cabbage, shredded
  • sweet pepper, chopped
  • green onion, thinly sliced
  • ripe, organic strawberries, sliced
  • leftover brown rice (optional)
  • balsamic vinegar
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • pumpkin seeds
  • toasted sunflower seeds
  • toasted sesame oil
  1. Mix kale, cabbage, sweet pepper, onion, strawberries, and rice, if using, in a large bowl. Toss with vinegar and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Chill for an hour or so, tossing occasionally.
  2. If you have time, allow slaw to come to room temperature. Add seeds and sesame oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

July 5, 2014

Purple vinegar

Posted in cooking, creativity, food, gluten free, urban homesteading, vegan, vegetarian tagged , , , , , at 11:05 am by thecatwho

If you haven’t tasted vinegar mixed with berries, you’re in for a treat. Berry-laced vinegar has a sweet acidity and is great on salads—cucumber salad, potato salad, green salad, roasted vegetable salad, etc. Drizzle the vinegar on cooked beans or a vegetable soup or stew to add a last-minute brightness.

Berry vinegar

The key to success is using ripe berries—deeply colored and bright. I use white balsamic vinegar as the base because it is mild and clear; find it at well-stocked grocery stores.

You will need glass bottles that have tight-fitting tops. For storing my homemade vinegars, I save empty vinegar bottles because they come with an insert that gives you the option of drizzling or pouring the vinegar. Wash the glass bottles in hot water before using.

  • fresh, ripe berries, such as blackberries, boysenberries, or loganberries
  • white balsamic vinegar
  1. Whirl berries in a blender or food processor. Strain through a fine mesh sieve to catch any seeds and save the juice.
  2. Pour some vinegar into one of the bottles and add some berry juice. Shake and taste. Add more vinegar and berry juice in the proportions that you like. Secure the bottle top and store chilled.

July 1, 2014

Summer soup from south of the border

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 1:36 pm by thecatwho

It’s the beginning of tomato and corn season at my local farmers’ market, so it’s time to think about tortilla soup! It is easy to consider soup a winter delight, but this soup might transform your thinking with its delicate but complex flavors and its summery toppings.

Tomatoey tortilla soup

Blog posts on Kahakai Kitchen and 101 Cookbooks along with a recipe from a friend (thanks, Lavina!) inspired this fresh-tasting soup.

If you don’t have time to make a broth from the corn cobs, use store-bought broth or water. Instead of green beans, add whatever vegetables you have on hand, such as summer squash. If the number of soup ingredients is intimidating, try omitting some and see what happens; toppings are optional.

Corn broth
  • ears of corn, husked
  • olive oil
  • onion, chopped or green onion, sliced
  • Sriracha chili sauce
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil
  • onion, chopped
  • jalapeño chile, chopped
  • tamari or soy sauce
  • ground cumin 
  • salt
  • dried or fresh oregano
  • pepper
  • tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • Sriracha chili sauce
  • green beans, thinly sliced
  • diced tofu
  • garlic, minced
  • corn tortillas, coarsely chopped
  • finely chopped cilantro
  • corn tortillas
  • halved cherry tomatoes, roasted or raw
  • diced avocado
  • lime wedges
  • radish slices
  • carrot shreds
  • cabbage shreds
  • pitted green olives or olive tapenade
  • sliced jalapeño
  • sliced green onion
  • salsa fresca
  • hot sauce
  • pumpkin seeds
  • pesto
  1. Make broth: Slice corn kernels from ears of corn and set aside. Cut the corn cobs into pieces. Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat and cook onion until soft. Add corn cobs, water to cover, Sriracha, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Pull out corn cobs and discard. Pour broth into a glass measuring bowl and set aside.
  2. Make soup: Heat more oil in the same pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add jalapeño, tamari, cumin, salt, oregano, and pepper and cook a minute longer.
  3. Stir in broth and tomatoes. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are tender. Add Sriracha, corn kernels, green beans, diced tofu, garlic, and tortillas. Simmer until the tortillas fall apart. Stir in the cilantro. 
  4. Meanwhile, prepare toppings: Toast tortillas until crisp and break into pieces. Put toppings into serving bowls and set aside.
  5. Adjust seasonings and season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into soup bowls and serve with toppings.


June 28, 2014

A salad with hints of India and Italy

Posted in cooking, creativity, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , , at 4:33 pm by thecatwho

Every summer when I was growing up, my mom would simmer sliced zucchini with onions, oregano, and tomato sauce. What I didn’t know until recently was that she added a secret ingredient to the mix: curry powder. That combination of ingredients inspired this salad.

You might have noticed that I add olives and chili sauce or chiles to many recipes. It is the brininess of the olives and the spiciness of the chiles that enhance the overall flavor of whatever I’m making. This recipe has both, and you get to decide how much of each to add.

Curried summer squash salad with olives and almonds

  • assorted green and yellow summer squash, such as pattypan, zucchini, and crookneck
  • olive oil
  • onion, sliced in half-moons
  • mushrooms, sliced
  • fresh tomato, chopped
  • Sriracha chili sauce (optional)
  • dried or fresh oregano
  • turmeric
  • curry powder
  • broth or water
  • pitted green olives, such as Manzanilla, whole or chopped
  • green onion, sliced
  • jalapeño chile, sliced (optional)
  • cilantro, chopped
  • slivered toasted almonds
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Cut summer squash into similar size pieces.
  2. Heat oil in a large frying pan. Add onion and mushrooms. Cover and cook until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms give off their liquid. Add squash, tomato, and Sriracha if using. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until squash begin to soften. Add oregano, turmeric, and curry powder, and simmer until squash is fully cooked. Add broth or water if vegetables begin to stick to pan.
  3. Let squash mixture cool to room temperature. Transfer to a large bowl. Toss with olives, green onion, jalapeño if using, cilantro, and almonds. Adjust seasonings and season to taste with salt and pepper.


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