Pickle Porn

I mean like food porn. Geez, I say pickle and look where your mind goes!

I’ve been really into making refrigerator pickles these days. They’re easy and super gratifying.

I made dill pickles for the first time, with my friend Iris, and when they were finished we were so excited because they looked exactly like dill pickles! It was like making a cake that looks exactly like the one on the magazine cover. Only really, really easy to achieve.

As exciting as the dill-pickle-looking pickles were, my visual favorites this time around were the carrot pickles. Iris brought us beautiful carrots that were not only a variety of colors but also had rings of color going towards the core. Sliced in half and pressed up the side of a pickle jar they are gorgeous.

The recipes I used during this particular pickling session were for dilly beans, sweet and spicy daikon and carrot pickles, and dill pickles. We also threw some garlic and some cherry tomatoes into leftover brine. For the record: putting cherry tomatoes into a jar of brine does not lead to pickled tomatoes. Which might be for the best, because I’m not sure I’d like pickled tomatoes.

In terms of flavor my favorites are the carrot and daikon pickles. But that’s because the dilly beans and the dill pickles both have a strange, chemically aftertaste to them that Iris and I can taste but other people seem not to be able to discern. I used a super cheap gallon jug of white vinegar, on the assumption that all white vinegar is created equal, but I’m wondering if it was the culprit in the off flavor.

Anyways I am now always on the lookout for fridge pickle recipes to feed my new addiction. Any favorites?

In other news, I have a guest post up today at xgfx for Vegan MoFo!

Savoy Cabbage and Bartlett Pears ~ Week of December 9th

It has been really cold here. Really cold. And it’s not just me being a thin-blooded California wimp, either. It snowed in the Berkeley Hills a couple of days ago. Snow!

I know, I know. “Boo hoo, cry me a river,” you’re probably shivering at me from the middle of a Minnesota winter. We are spoiled here – even when it’s winter, it’s summer. Or something like that.

Nothing exemplifies a Bay Area winter meal more than what we had for dinner tonight: California Minestrone and Salade Nicoise. Lots of tummy warming goodness from the soup and stick-to-your-ribs heartiness from the potatoes in the salad, but the crazy thing is that it’s December and every single element of these two veggie-intensive meals came straight out of our CSA box. (Except for a couple things in the salad: olives – left over from Thanksgiving – and tomatoes – doubtlessly hothouse.)

I’ve been wanting to make California Minestrone ever since the weather started getting nippy. The recipe is from the fantastic cookbook Spa Food by Edward J. Safdie, chef of the venerable Sonoma Mission Inn. The plating and food design are entirely 80s (the cookbook was published in 1985) but the recipes for healthy, satisfying, sophisticated food featuring California flavors are timeless. I grew up eating from this cookbook (my mom and I have made nearly every recipe in it) and this soup in particular invokes for me both the chill and the bounty of a Bay Area winter.

I was lacking only a leek and some cabbage to make the soup (I often skip the green beans and spinach for my winter version), and when I opened our box today, there they were. Here’s the complete record of what came in today’s size “small” box:

Satsuma Mandarins (2 lb)
Bartlett Pears (1.5 lb)
Savoy Cabbage (2 lb)
Collard Greens (1 bunch)
Baby Bok Choy (1.5 lb)
Broccoli (1 lb)
Red Onions (0.5 lb)
Leeks (1 lb)
Yellow Onion (0.5 lb)

California Minestrone (from Spa Food by Edward J. Safdie)
This is a light but filling soup that can be made with a variety of vegetables, but I think the leek, carrot, cabbage, and tomatoes (I used canned whole tomatoes) are essential for giving it sweetness, acid, and depth. Serve it with a crusty loaf of rustic bread if you eat bread and with a hearty sprinkling of Parmesan cheese on top if you eat dairy.

1 T. unsalted butter or Earth Balance
1/2 an onion, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 leek (white part only), washed and cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 carrot, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 celery stalk, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 garlic clove, minced
3-4 canned plum tomatoes, drained or 2 unpeeled tomatoes, seeded and chopped
6 cabbage leaves, coarsely chopped
6 oz. fresh green beans, ends trimmed and cut on a slant into 1/2 inch pieces
2 quarts stock (I used our latest batch of scrap stock)
10 spinach leaves, washed, drained, and coarsely chopped
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Salt or vegetable seasoning to taste
1 t. pesto (I usually use more like 1-3 T. vegan pesto, which is often pretty mild)
1/4 C. grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese

In a 4-quart pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, leek, carrot, celery, garlic, tomatoes, cabbage, and green beans, and saute over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring often.

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes.

Add the spinach and simmer for 5 more minutes. Remove the pot from heat and stir in the pesto. Taste the finished soup and adjust the seasonings.

Serve in large heated soup bowls and sprinkle with 1 T. grated cheese over each portion.

If you follow the recipe exactly, this will make 4 servings, at 150 calories per serving.

Going Dutch on a vegan, gluten-free Menu Plan Monday

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but Duck is an amazing thrifter. He has amazing skill and amazing luck. Practically our entire house is furnished and decorated from thrifted or free furniture, artwork, cookware, appliances… I could go on and on. The best was when we needed a new sleeper-sofa. Duck picked out the exact one he thought would work best for us from the Ikea catalogue. Then he used his incredible powers of thrifting to find both pieces – the mattress and the frame – from separate people on craigslist, one for free and one for a fraction of the original cost.


His most recent conquest is our very shiny, very beautiful, very orange Le Creuset Dutch oven (well, according to them it’s a French oven, but I think they’re just being snobs). We’ve been wanting a Dutch oven for a long, long time, but even used they still sell for hundreds of dollars. I’m not even going to say how much (or little, rather) Duck found this one for, but I will say the woman we got it from was fully in her right mind and understood what a treasure she was bestowing on us, and when she showed us her stunning, brand-new set of cobalt blue Le Creuset cookware we felt quite equanimous about accepting from her our incredible bargain.

We lugged it home (they tell you and they tell you, but still nothing prepared me for how heavy this baby actually is) and thunked it proudly on the stove. Where it sat, admired, for several days.


“Do you remember why we wanted a Dutch oven?,” I finally asked Duck as we basked in the warm glow from our stovetop.

“I just like how they look,” he told me, gesturing to the vibrant enamel glaze that starts out fiery orange at the bottom of the pot and then fades up to almost sunrise yellow.

“But what did we want to cook in it?”

I remembered that at some point I decided I needed a Dutch oven, that there was something I just couldn’t cook without it, but now more than a year later I had no idea what that was.

Duck shrugged. His job was done. The prize had been attained. But as I wracked my brain and scoured the internet, I had to wonder – had we just gotten the world’s best deal on the world’s heaviest paperweight?

(Here’s the thing, in case you’re wondering if I’ve never cracked a cookbook in my life. I know what you use a Dutch oven for, but, you see, we’re vegetarians.)

Finally I came across a recipe online for Wine Braised Lentils over Toast, with credit given to Deborah Madison from her cookbook Vegetarian Suppers. This is one of my favorite cookbooks, and so when I saw that, memories clicked back into place. Debbie M. to the rescue again, this time incarnated as the Queen of the Meatless Dutch Oven.

So, without further ado, I present you with a meal plan designed for a week of glorious, vegan, gluten-free celebration of that enameled treasure of the stovetop, that weighty jewel of the kitchen, the Dutch oven.

Wine braised lentils over toast with Tuscan kale and pearl onions (Vegetarian Suppers)

Butternut squash green curry with mushrooms, eggplant, and tofu (Vegetarian Suppers)

Brussels sprouts and mushroom ragout with herbed vegan, GF dumplings (Vegetarian Suppers)

Braised fennel with saffron rice timbale (Vegetarian Suppers)

Grits and greens with spinach, chard, scallions, parsley and dill (Vegetarian Suppers)

Moroccan chickpea stew with harissa and apricots

Greek-style braised green beans
Gigantes in savory tomato sauce (using canned gigantes beans)

This week I have the honor of hosting the weekly Gluten-Free Menu Swap, and of course I self-servingly chose Dutch ovens as our theme! Check back as the day goes on for more wonderful gluten-free menu plans from all over the web.

Heather at Celiac Family is getting her Thanksgiving planning in gear (hmm, I should be doing that, shouldn’t I?) and on top of that she has a delicious, ambitious week planned. Butter chicken, boneless pork ribs, and GF pizza will all be new recipes this week, capped off by a Leftovers Buffet that’s sure to be gourmet if the rest of the menu is any indication of the contents of Heather’s fridge!

Kim at Gluten Free Is Life is enjoying glorious weather and a perfectly Fall menu. Bourbon chicken, honey-baked lentils, and sweet potato hash browns just conjure up crisp, clear days with lots of running around outside followed by tummy-warming suppers. She also just celebrated her anniversary – Happy Anniversary Kim & Aaron!

Deb at Green V-Neck is miserably hung-over but still managed to put together a fabulous vegetarian, gluten-free menu with international flair. A little visit to the British Isles with lentil and rice shepherd’s pie, all kinds of Indian goodness with rajma masala and bean curry, and some Mexican heat to banish that hangover for good with her taco salad and black bean soup with guacamole. Hope you feel better soon, Deb!

Cheryl at Gluten Free Goodness is still hampered by her kitchen remodel, but she pulls off a spectacular menu as well. (Maybe our theme this week should be “triumph through adversity”!) More fall flavors, with turkey and celery in chestnut sauce, rosemary salmon, and something I’d never heard of before that has now become the new object of my obsession – hazelnut butter cups. Yum!

Esther of The Lilac Kitchen is trying to get more veggies back into her meal plan, and she succeeds wildly this week with a mouth-watering menu that includes sweet potato rostis, bean and veg stew, and butternut squash gratin. And just so things don’t get too wholesome, there’s an amazing white wine and cream sauce in there as well…

For a huge compendium of menu plans (most not veg or GF), check out the Menu Plan Monday round-up over at OrgJunkie.

Oh! And if you’ve been meaning to share a favorite bean, lentil, or other pulse or legume recipe for the Steady Pulse event, it’s not too late! Just send it to me by tomorrow (Nov. 17th) and it will still make it into Wednesday’s round-up and of course into the final Recipes You Can Count On compendium.

Still crazy for pulses on a vegan, gluten-free Menu Plan Monday

This week’s menu plan is sort of half-retroactive and half-hopeful. We get our CSA box on Wednesday so we’ve been trying to make our menu plan then, but I didn’t make it to the store for the rest of the stuff we needed until Thursday, so the whole week’s plan got moved to Friday. So this is the ghost of menus past, present and future.

Tangy red lentils over salad greens

We have another menu that’s heavy on the beans and lentils. We just can’t get enough! So cheap, so filling, such good protein and nutrients. We’ll get bored soon with the recipes in our own repertoire, though, so I hope there will be some great recipes in the Steady Pulse beans & legume recipe round-up!

This week’s Gluten Free Menu Swap is hosted by the lovely Cheryl of Gluten-Free Goodness. The theme for the menu swap this week is apples, and I don’t have any in my dinner plans, but we’ve certainly been crunching along all week long on the delicious first-crop apples that arrived in our CSA box! For millions more menu plans, check out the giant Menu Plan Monday compendium over at Orgunkie.

I usually do a little “mash-up” photo of some of the food from the menu plan to act as a header, but this week, for fun and inspiration, I give you the full-size experience!

Nasu dengaku (broiled eggplant with miso)
Steamed bok choy with pickled ginger
Sloppy sushi with avocado

Nasu Dengaku - Broiled Japanese Eggplant with Miso Sauce

Nasu Dengaku - Broiled Japanese Eggplant with Miso Sauce


GF Mac and cheese (or “cheeze”) with green beans, tomatoes, and kidney beans

Cumin-crusted potatoes (5 Spices, 50 Dishes)
Punjabi creamed greens with kale and chard (5 Spices, 50 Dishes) (made with soy yogurt)

Creamed Greens (chard and spinach)

Punjabi Creamed Greens (kale and chard)


Lentil dal (5 Spices, 50 Dishes)
Home-cooked cranberry beans
Dandelion greens with walnuts and raisins
Chocolate pumpkin loaf (made without eggs)

Sweet potato and kale soup with fennel seeds
Pamela’s drop biscuits

Sweet Potato and Kale Soup with Fennel Seed

Sweet Potato and Kale Soup with Fennel Seed

Tangy red lentils
Roasted broccoli with pine nuts and lemon zest
Brown rice

Tinkyada brown rice spirals with vegan pesto, roast zucchini, tomatoes

Gluten-free spirals with vegan pesto, zucchini, and tomato

Gluten-free spirals with vegan pesto, zucchini, and tomato

Don’t forget to send in your favorite tried and true recipes for beans, lentils, and other legumes and pulses!


Rainbow Chard and Spinach

Tonight for Libby’s final meal I made a Chard, Spinach, and Onion Torta from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Suppers. For the first time I really experienced that feeling I’d hoped to find by getting the CSA box – that sense of spontaneous discovery and trying new things based on whatever arrives. I mentally reviewed which veggies I still had left (a mighty surplus, I’m sad to report, since my next box comes tomorrow!) and then flipped open a favorite cookbook. The first recipe I flipped to was this torta, which I’d never made before, and, by substituting a bag of spinach for one of the two bunches of chard the recipe called for, I was able to use my large bunch of rainbow chard, that bag of spinach, an onion, and some garlic.

It was a perfect recipe to make tonight because it calls for a bread crumb crust. I never have bread in the house, but tonight I had half a loaf of getting-stale Grace Baking rosemary-potato bread I’d bought for Libby as a must-try Bay Area favorite, and the flavor it added to this dish was phenomenal. It basically makes the whole thing shine. (Not to knock the “light cream” I invented out of a mixture of broth and kefir, of course! I took several creative liberties with the recipe, as is my habit.) This was basically a full-meal dish, but we accompanied it with a salad of lettuce, radishes, carrots, and green beans from previous weeks’ boxes.

(It’s not a stellar picture but we were more interested in eating and getting Libby to the airport than in lighting and styling.)

Chard, Spinach, and Onion Torta

Butternut Squash

Inspired by the huge bowl of pumpkin seeds we had left after carving jack o’ lanterns last weekend, Libby and I decided to take on a recipe for Pumpkin Ravioli with Pumpkin Seed Pesto someone had posted on grouprecipes.com. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves in for…

First off, each pumpkin seed had to be individually hulled. Our huge bowl of seeds amounted to a paltry 1/2 cup after we (mostly Libby, who invented a fabulous technique involving systematic tiny pinches between the teeth) spent hours hulling the damn things. We were so exhausted that we decided to postpone the project for another day.

Four days later, we finally had everything assembled – butternut squashes boiled, pureed, and sauteed with onions and Earth Balance (we decided to make the ravioli filling using the squash from Weeks 2 & 3 since the pumpkin meat was currently in the form of rotting jack-o-lantern), pumpkin seeds roasted and blended into pesto, filling prepared – and then finally we made our ravioli. We didn’t make our own pasta (Thank God – it would have been another week!) but used premade wonton wrappers instead (sold in the supermarket in the produce section with the tofu and the fresh Asian noodles) which worked beautifully.

It was, admittedly, incredibly delicious. And, honestly, in no way worth all that work. However, there are many ways this process could have been streamlined, and I loved the ease and the artistry of making tortellini and ravioli shapes with the wonton wrappers, so I’m sure some much-simplified form of this recipe will live on in my kitchen.

Boxwise, this recipe used butternut squash, onions, and garlic. We ate our ravioli with a green salad with lettuce and carrots and green beans and radishes from Week 2 or 3 (I have a serious lettuce backlog) and the entire bunch of arugula sauteed with garlic. (I wouldn’t do this again – I was worried about all the greens I got this week going bad before I could eat them, so I cooked up the giant bunch of arugula, but it was so much tastier raw… oh well, I’ve learned now.)

Just for fun, here are Libby and I posing with the parent pumpkins who donated their seeds and started this whole mess in the first place!Halloween with the vomiting punkin and the hand-eating punkin

Green Beans

Best. Side dish. Ever.

My mom and I used to always make this huge, beautiful, delicious Nicoise Salad from an old Sunset Magazine picnic-food cookbook. It’s fairly labor intensive as it involves a lot of ingredients which get prepared separately and then layered. At some point, trying to figure out a green-vegetable side-dish for Thanksgiving, I came up with the idea of just preparing the green bean portion of the salad – so basically blanched green beans in Nicoise dressing. This is a surefire crowd-pleaser, every time, and so easy to prepare.

Green Beans Nicoise

1-2 lbs. string beans
1/2 C. to 1 C. olive oil
1/3 C. red wine vinegar
2 T. capers
A squirt of anchovy paste (I leave this out now due to vegetarianism, but boy is it yummy!)
1 t. salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Dissolve the salt in the vinegar. Pour in the olive oil, slowly, stirring continuously. Add capers, anchovy paste, and pepper.

Blanch the beans in boiling water until barely tender. Drain and immediately plunge into a bowl of ice water, or run under cold water until cool. (Or for a warm dish you can prepare the dressing ahead, blanch the beans, drain them and throw the dressing on top and serve them hot before they have the chance to overcook.) Pour dressing over beans and let them marinate as long as you like.