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

Advertisements

Sweet potato and kale

When I think of sweet potato and kale soup, I think of winter, no question. It sounds like a healthy but still sturdy and comforting dish to make when the temperatures drop and just going outside seems to take more energy than usual. But one of the nice things about my box is that it keeps me truly seasonal. And this doesn’t just mean swearing off tomatoes for eight months of the year. It also means discovering that sweet potatoes and kale can be spring/summer seasonal vegetables. How do I know this? Well, there’s no hothouse at Eatwell, and it’s currently June, and there are the tenderest, most adorable sweet potatoes and a beautiful bunch of kale in my box.

Considering that I’m in San Francisco, summer is sadly often the time when you need a hearty, warming meal. Haven’t you heard the quote, widely attributed to Mark Twain? “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

Sweet Potato and Kale Soup with Fennel Seed and Ginger

In addition to the sweet potatoes and kale, my box this week also included a newsletter featuring a recipe for sweet potato and kale soup. Duck and I decided this wasn’t the best use of our gorgeous bunch of purple-tinged kale (we love it so much plain – no, we crave it plain – that the box can’t even keep up with our appetite for plain kale, much less have anything leftover to be sticking in soups) but then Duck went out of town before we could eat the kale and I just couldn’t stop thinking about this soup.

I decided to make a batch of it, and I am really, really glad I did. The recipe brings out perfectly the sweetness of both the kale and the sweet potatoes, and the fennel seed manages to be interesting without being overpowering. I slightly tweaked the original recipe, which seems to be a home-invented one from another Eatweller. I changed the proportions and only blended part of the soup, so the texture I ended up with may be rather different from the original intent, but I thought it was perfect. I also worked a little FASS magic and added a touch of lemon juice – the dish is already perfect on the sweet and salty, and the cheese or yogurt or cream at the end takes care of fat, but it needed just a hint of acid for my tastes.

The recipe follows… Continue reading

Bonus!

Secret bonus sweet potato recipe!

It’s a secret bonus recipe because I didn’t make it using things from my box. In fact, I didn’t make it at all! In fact, it doesn’t even have sweet potatoes in it!

So why am I even posting it? Because it is just so incredibly good. Duck wanted to make sweet potato fries for his birthday party. But the oven was full of vegan cupcakes and chocolate ginger torte, Spicy Sweet Potato Friesso he googled to find out if we could grill the fries instead. He came across this post, which reassured us that we could indeed grill our “fries.” But the true triumph was the aioli the post inspired. Although it was originally meant as a condiment for our grilled sweet potatoes, the party guests ended up dipping pretzels and chips, drizzling it on burritos, and licking it straight off their fingers. People could not get enough of this sauce, with good reason. And so I share it here. Pour it on everything from your box. You won’t be sorry.

Vegan Garlic Aioli (adapted from Kirsten’s Home Cooking blog)

1/2 cup Vegenaise (grapeseed oil-based vegan mayo)
2 large cloves garlic, mashed
Juice of 1 lemon
Dash of black pepper
Dash of cayenne pepper
Salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together, adjust seasonings to taste. Serve with everything!

Sweet Potatoes, Snack-style

The last few boxes of sweet potatoes have come with newsletter entries urging me to eat them as soon as possible. As usual, I have quite the backlog of vegetables piling up, and the sweet potatoes, as warned, are not exhibiting the kind of hardiness that I generally use as an excuse to leave my potatoes in the back of the cupboard for a month or more. I knew the smartest means to total sweet potato consumption would not be to transform them into a healthy and filling stew or casserole. No, if I was to save these fellows fromSpicy Sweet Potato Fries withering in upon themselves as they seemed inclined to do, they must become snack food as quickly as possible.

I found a delicious sounding recipe for Spicy Sweet Potato Fries online at an attractive food blog called Kalyn’s Kitchen and decided to give it a try. I usually fiddle at least a little with every recipe I try, but this one seemed to need no improvement, and I made it exactly as written. And YUM! was I glad I did. Those potatoes were gone in record time. I now have a little baggie of premixed seasoning in my spice drawer, waiting happily for the next round of sweet-potato-into-snack.

Having fries around even inspired me to do something I haven’t done in a long time: make a good old-fashioned all-American cheeseburger. The vegetarian, gluten-free version, of course, but it was still a kind of nostalgic treat. In addition to my spicy sweet potato fries my burger deluxe included daikon pickles and lettuce from my box.

Cheeseburger and Fries

 

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

Simple Pleasures

As winter closes in, I find myself really craving comfort food. This afternoon, as I walked home through the chilly fog, I got a yen I haven’t had in years. I wanted tuna casserole, that ultimate comfort food, the kind with the crusty broiled top and the simple-but-brilliant filling of macaroni, tuna, and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup all mushed together and seasoned with nothing but parsley, salt and pepper. I don’t eat tuna anymore, and I don’t eat wheat pasta, and I sure as hell don’t eat whatever craziness they put in a can of Campbell’s, so my casserole tonight was a bit of an adventure, but in the end it came out perfectly and filled my tummy with warm, gooey, winter coziness.

[For the rest of this post, which contains no photo, follow the “more” link below:]

Continue reading

Sweet Potatoes and Cabbages

Yum. Thai red curry with pillowy sushi rice. More winter comfort food, for a California girl raised on pan-Asian comfort food, that is.

Despite repeated okonomiyaki sessions, I still had a ton of napa cabbage. And an untouched Wakefield cabbage on top of that. What would I do with this festival of cabbage that wouldn’t require long periods of fermentation or the application of corned beef?

After mentally combining my many cabbages with what remained of my box – a few sweet potatoes and carrots – plus a tub of tofu and a couple cans of coconut milk from my recent trip to an actual grocery store, the direction dinner was heading in seemed clear.

Thai Red Curry with Sweet Potato, Cabbages, Carrots, and Tofu