Chickpea picatta

Sometimes a recipe turns out to be greater than the sum of its parts. Such was the case with the Post Punk Kitchen’s Chickpea Picatta. Obviously something attracted me to the dish enough that I wanted to make it (possibly the part in the post where adorable Isa says, “Picatta is like an instant fancy dinner,” since “fancy” is one of my favorite and most frequently used words), but the list of ingredients looked very basic and the recipe sounded like it might even turn out a little dull. The centerpiece of the dish is canned chickpeas, which I tend to find stiff and gross and reminiscent of hellish vegetarian scavenging at omnivore salad bars, especially in recipes that only call for them to be warmed, not stewed for hours.

But I made it, and I tasted it, and then I had one happy, happy mouth. The flavor combination may seem simple but it adds up to pure deliciousness. I used vermouth instead of white wine, and then there were shallots, capers, lemon juice, and thyme. The chickpea mixture comes out so saucy and yummy, and then you put that on top of mashed potatoes, and put those on top of arugula… It’s like having your main, your side, and your salad all together in one giant bowl full of goodness. It was great hot, and it made great leftovers. I will definitely be making this again.

Eating with the season on a vegan, gluten-free Menu Plan Monday

I’ve just arrived home from a fascinating four days at the Hazon Food Conference in Pacific Grove. The conference explored all kinds of interesting intersections, between environmentalism and food systems, Judaism and food ethics, social justice and foodie culture, personal financial investment and sustainable agriculture, and many more. I learned so much, both from the sessions and panels I attended as well as all the informal conversations I had with fellow conference-goers. You can read more about my time there here and here. I feel deep gratitude to the Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation for sponsoring around 40 young adults, including me, providing full scholarships for all of us to the conference.

The Local Foods Wheel

On Sunday, right before we left for home, the conference had a big marketplace where folks could give out info and sell books they’d written or published, foods they’d made, and so on. At one of the tables I came across one of my favorite things ever, the San Francisco Bay Area Local Foods Wheel, being sold by one of the wheel’s creators. I first encountered the wheel, which is a stunning combination of gorgeous artwork and design with intriguing, well-presented information, on a refrigerator in the Spirit Rock kitchen when I was working back there during a retreat. (You’re not supposed to read anything on retreat, but who could resist those tiny, perfect line drawings with their little cursive labels?) Now it’s the most popular item on our refrigerator; every guest and visitor is magnetically drawn to it and we usually have to pull them away – they just want to stand there spinning it and spinning it and looking at every picture! The wheel shows on its top layer all the foods that are in season year-round in the Bay Area (and we’re lucky – there are so many of them!). Then you spin the top layer around to match up with the current time of year, and the bottom layer reveals the foods in season at this time.

Our CSA keeps us local and seasonal at every meal, but we’re not getting a box this week, so I turned to the wheel to help me plan this week’s menu. (My other goal for the week: use up all the lettuces from our box we’ve been keeping on life support for the past couple of weeks!)

For an assemblage of great, gluten-free menu plans, check out this week’s Gluten-Free Menu Swap over at The GF CF Cookbook. (The theme for this week’s swap is leftover ham, which, as a vegetarian, I can’t contribute to at all. I do have smoky beans and tempeh bacon this week, though, which are kind of the same flavor profile.) And, as always, for a huge round-up of menu plans from all over the web – and the world – check out the giant MPM compendium over at orgjunkie.

What’s in season:

Monday: Winter greens
Wine braised lentils over toast with Tuscan kale and pearl onions (Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Suppers)
Red leaf salad

Wine braised lentils over gluten-free quinoa toast with Tuscan kale and pearl onions

Tuesday: Butternut squash
Vegan “mac and cheese” made with butternut squash “cheese” and Tinkyada brown rice spirals
Romaine lettuce salad with balsamic vinaigrette

Wednesday: Brussel sprouts and wild mushrooms
Brussels sprouts and mushroom ragout with herbed vegan, GF dumplings (Vegetarian Suppers)
Mixed lettuces salad

Brussels sprouts ragout with wild mushrooms and herbed gluten-free dumplings

Thursday: From Duck’s mom’s garden!
Simple oven-roasted butternut squash
Arugula salad with sauteed red onions and toasted walnuts
Tangy red lentils
Quinoa with coconut oil

Friday: Savoy cabbage
Savoy cabbage gratin with tempeh bacon
Baked sweet potato
Homemade smoky pinto beans

Savoy cabbage gratin with tempeh bacon

Saturday: Parsnips, winter radishes, rutabegas
Roasted root vegetables with home-grown rosemary
Chard and walnut yum
Impressionist cauliflower

Sunday: Meyer lemons
Roasted broccoli with meyer lemon zest and pine nuts
“Sloppy” sushi with balsamic-glazed portobello mushrooms

Seasonal extras: Turnips and pomelos
Middle Eastern-style turnip pickles

A fresh batch of turnip pickles (with beet for color)

Candied pomelo peel

Candied Pomelo Rinds Dipped in Bittersweet Chocolate

Celebrations

I didn’t want to celebrate the 4th of July. I’m having very ambivalent feelings in the patriotism department, and, since the car accident, I just haven’t felt much like celebrating. But the day took on a life of its own, unrelated to any sort of officially declared bank and postal holiday. Duck and I were joined by Farmer B and another friend and we had a sparkly wonderful day that flowed from Indian-buffet brunch at our beloved “all fresh! never frozen!” vegetarian Indian restaurant down the street to playing our favorite board game, Settlers, in the backyard of our favorite local coffeeshop.

Nectarine clafouti

Then home to our newly set-up art room where Duck worked on his graphic novel and the rest of us made buttons and collages while the pets ran about, and then our visiting friends and I made a fresh-from-the-box meal while Duck worked furiously to complete his project and we all had this gorgeous dinner by candelight and then Duck washed all the dishes and we had coffee and dessert and played two more games of Settlers. We ended our glorious day by sitting together on the couch in our pajamas while Duck gave us the first look at his newly finished piece.

This was truly a celebration. Ever since the accident, I’ve been flipping back and forth between “Oh man, this is really, really an awful thing to have happened” and “Thank all that is holy that everyone is okay.” But mostly I’ve been floating through space, able to connect with how heartbreaking and terrifying it would have been if something worse had happened, but predominantly squashed by the weight of all that did happen and all that is still to come. So it was a gift to have this day, this seamless day of friends and games and art and food, where one moment flowed perfectly into the next and, as cheesy as it sounds, I got to really remember in my body why life is so precious.

And of course it wouldn’t be a celebration if it didn’t involve food – lots of it and only the good stuff, please! Our menu was drawn directly from the bounty of my box: Warm arugula with tempeh bacon and garlic over soft, creamy polenta made with scrap stock (batch IV), and chard with toasted walnuts made following Duck’s mom’s recipe. Farmer B found a bottle of wine someone had brought to a party years ago, way up on a shelf in my pantry, and we had this surprisingly good wine, and ginger beer for the non-drinkers. And while we ate dinner, dessert was baking in the oven. We would be having plum and strawberry clafouti, my first clafouti of the summer, which is for me a celebration all by itself.

Plum and strawberry clafouti

Plum and strawberry clafouti

Clafouti (or clafoutis) is a French dessert that is sort of like a firm fruit custard. Although traditionally made with cherries, the term clafouti is now used to describe this dessert when made with any kind of fruit. I made my first clafouti (a cherry one) in high school to accompany a French class report on the regions of France. In summers past I have made one after another all summer long, using surplus plums from friends’ trees, nectarine bounty from the farmer’s market – whatever stone fruit or berry comes my way. This is my second most frequently requested recipe (someday I’ll tell you about my ginger chocolate torte…) and now that we are getting all kinds of cherries and berries and lovely stone fruits in our boxes, I wanted to pass the recipe along to you.

French Summer Fruit Clafouti (adapted from epicurious.com)
This is one of the easiest dessert recipes I’ve ever encountered, and to make it even easier I’ve converted it to a “one-pot” style recipe. As long as you keep a bottle of Riesling or other sweet wine on hand you’ll be able to whip this up with whatever fruit you have. (Last summer I didn’t end up using all of the $5 bottle of Moscato I got from Trader Joe’s for making clafouti, but it still tasted perfectly good when I used it last night, a YEAR later, after sitting, re-corked, on top of my fridge!)

4-5 ripe nectarines (or the equivalent in weight of plums, peaches, berries, cherries or any combination thereof)
1 C. Riesling or other sweet, fruity wine
5 T. butter
4 eggs
1/2 C. sugar
1/8 t. salt
1/2 C. flour (to make a gluten-free version, use half a cup of whatever GF flour combo or mix you would usually use for pancakes)
1 C. milk/hemp milk/rice milk/soy milk
1 T. vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 2-quart baking dish.

Cut fruit into 1/4-inch wedges (or pit and halve cherries) and macerate in a bowl with the wine for 15 minutes. Leave peels on fruit – they add to a colorful presentation.

Melt butter in a medium-sized pot over low heat. Remove from heat and cool slightly, then whisk in eggs, sugar, salt. Whisk in flour until combined well. Whisk in, until smooth, milk, vanilla, and 1/4 C. wine from the fruit mix.

Transfer fruit to bottom of baking dish using a slotted spoon. Pour batter over fruit (fruit will float to top). (The rest of the wine the fruit soaked in can now be used for sangria or just sipped straightaway!)

Bake in upper third of the oven until puffed and set in the center, 55-60 minutes. Transfer clafouti to a rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. Leftovers make a decadent but still vaguely “healthy” breakfast – hey, it’s fruit and eggs, right?

Scrap Stock IV – Mega-edition

Another consequence of being too tired to cook or blog or generally do anything was that my veggie scraps really started piling up. By early this week most of my fridge’s top shelf seemed to be devoted to scraps, waiting like pining lovers for the transformative kiss of the stock pot. So when I finally started to have a bit more energy, it was time to brew up some stock and get that shelf cleared.

I ended up having enough material to make two pots of stock, ending up with 13 cups of rich, savory broth, tinged a beautiful pink from the beet scraps. My freezer is truly well stocked now, which saves me from treating the stock like it is a scarce commodity.

Two pots of scrap stock

In this mega-edition of scrap stock:

Spinach crowns
Garlic peels and trim
Carrot trim and tops
Chard stem
Kale stem
Asparagus trim
Red cabbage trim
Fennel stalks
Apple cores
Radish trim
Leek trim
Green garlic trim
Arugula trim
Sugar snap pea trim
Thyme stalks
Red onion peels and trim
Shallot peels and trim
Mustard green trim
Beet trim
Bay leaves

Hot potatoes!

Two boxes’ worth of sweet potatoes and a houseguest to feed. Pascal was stopping off here on his way to India, but we saw no reason to save Indian flavors for the journey ahead.

Turning to my trusty simple-but-delicious cookbook, 5 Spices, 50 Dishes, we cooked up all those sweet potatoes with serrano chiles, mustard seeds, and ginger and made ourselves a tender, burningly spicy, smoky extravaganza of beta-caroteney goodness. A simple quinoa pilaf, beautifully combining red and white quinoa, a lettuce and arugula salad with my beloved lemon oil, and a nice soupy dal courtesy of our friends at Tasty Bite, and we were ready for the kind of well-balanced, stunningly lovely, almost revoltingly healthy kind of meal I like my houseguests to think I eat all the time.

Sweet Potatoes with Chiles, Ginger, and Mustard Seeds

Spinach and Apples

I am head over heels in love with the cornmeal pizza crusts from Vicolo Pizza. They beckon to me like blank canvasses waiting to be filled by all manner of culinary artistry. Tonight I brushed lemon olive oil onto one shell before heaping it with spinach sauteed with garlic, grated parmesan cheese, and little clumps of caramelized onions. The other I lined with a thick coat of caramelized onions before layering on my beloved tempeh bacon and slices of Rome Beauty apple. Both pizzas were sublime, and I scarfed down slices alongside a salad of lettuce and arugula, drizzled with the fruitiest dressing made from lemon olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and just a hint of orange syrup.

Spinach, Parmesean, Carmelized Onion, and Lemon Oil & Tempeh Bacon, Apples, and Carmelized Onion

Carrots and Carrots and Carrots

I finally made good use of my serious stockpile of carrots. This afternoon I cooked up a delicious carrot soup that, in addition to two bunches of carrots, used a bunch of leeks and an onion as well as the carrot tops and trimmings in the stock I made for the soup. It’s so interesting to me that I can stare for weeks at an uninspiring collection of carrots getting progressively floppier in my fridge, but I’ve probably eaten at least a full bunch today alone in soup form.

Carrot Soup and Persimmon Arugula Salad with Walnut Oil

I think I’ve cracked the Salad Code, as well, although I don’t want to get too cocky just yet. I bought a deep, pleasing wooden salad bowl the other day, with these great bamboo hand-shaped salad servers. They are kind of like these, only shaped even better to make them super fun to use tossing the salad about.

So those go along way towards making salad time more fun. I was fretting about making a salad today, even though it was clearly the perfect accompaniment to my carrot soup, because I’m out of olive oil. And that is when, necessity ever being the mother of invention, I rediscovered a magical, secret ingredient I haven’t used in a long, long time.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… Toasted Walnut Grapeseed Oil. It’s so sweet, so incredibly flavored I can’t even describe the taste but my mouth is watering remembering it and I’m kinda wondering what would happen if I tried wearing it as perfume. I mixed the lovely pink leftover vinegar-sesame seed liquid from the radish salad with a touch of the walnut oil, threw together some lettuce, arugula, and a nice ripe persimmon, and voila! Salad I went back for seconds on!

Because I had a request for it, the carrot soup recipe is behind this cut… Continue reading