An old nemesis revisited

So I had this eggplant. One medium-sized eggplant. And these zucchini, a whole bunch of them. And I wasn’t cooking them, and every day I’d poke them to see if they had developed the dreaded soft spots that those veggies get shortly before they turn into produce bags full of mush and slime. (Sorry, that’s a pretty gross way to start a food post.) Eggplant I’d normally make into baba ganoush, but if I’m going to wash the food processor I want to be making more than a spoonful; my usual recipe calls for three eggplants and only one had come in my box. Zucchini I’ve been roasting all summer, and it’s been excellent and easy, but I was starting to get a little bored.

So I went online to see what you could make with eggplant and zucchini. And mushrooms. I had this paper bag of mushrooms that I was also anxious to make use of before they left the edible zone. And the internet told me… ratatouille.

Ah, ratatouille. Years of choking you down at Mediterranean restaurants where you were the only vegetarian option on the menu. And these were the eggplant-hating years, even. I look at ratatouille the way soldiers in the field probably look at their MREs. Pure sustenance, nothing more.

Here are the problems I have with ratatouille: 1) It’s bland. It’s basically just a bunch of vegetables, cooked for a long time. Back in Provence in the 19th century or whenever it was invented, I bet that tasted amazing. But modern vegetables just don’t pack that kind of flavor wallop anymore, especially not tomatoes. 2) It’s usually served over couscous or, occasionally, rice. Because it’s bland, it doesn’t sauce up the grain, rather the grain pulls it even further into tastelessness. 3) The eggplant is ALWAYS undercooked, and therefore spongy, bitter, and unpalatable. Undercooked eggplant is the reason I hated eggplant. Now that I understand this I mostly only eat eggplant in three culinary situations: at home, where I control the cook time; in Chinese food, where they fry the heck out of tiny tender eggplants; in Indian food, where they cook the eggplant so long it’s barely recognizable as such by the end (mmm baingan bharta!).

But that got me to thinking. Here I was with eggplant, zucchini, tomato, onion, and mushrooms (I wouldn’t have thought of mushrooms in ratatouille ’til I came across a yummy-looking variant online). I’ve loved eggplant now in many forms when I’ve cooked it at home (click the eggplant tag at the end of this post to see) so who’s to say that being the author of the experience couldn’t transform ratatouille the same way?

Making the ratatouille took a long time because the each of the vegetables was first cooked separately so it could brown rather than steam. I believe the extra time is worthwhile in this case since that’s the very process that is going to transform your vegetables from bland, stewed mush to something more transcendent. It’s also important to me to make the distinction with recipes between difficult and time-consuming. This recipe is incredibly easy, just throw on an apron, turn on an audiobook, and chop and sauté and simmer your way to ratatouille bliss in a few hours.

And bliss it was indeed. This ratatouille was delicious. Deep rich caramelized flavors and a heartbreaking melting texture. I ate it for three meals straight and then I put the last remaining bit into tacos for a some fusion fun. I could go either way on the mushrooms – if I had them on hand I would include them again, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to get them for this recipe, which I think would be excellent without them as well.

I’m linking this recipe up to the weekly What’s In the Box linkup hosted by CSA blogger In Her Chucks. I love contributing my weekly CSA box-contents post to the linkup, but I also love when people post recipes they’ve made using their CSA veggies, so I thought I’d try out doing the same. Do check out the links – there are some seriously yummy things being made out there.

Non-Disgusting, Totally Not Bland Ratatouille (vegan, gluten-free eggplant, tomato, zucchini, onion, mushroom stew)
This is a lightly adapted version of a recipe from The Kitchn, which is definitely worth checking out since it’s a real recipe from a genuine Frenchman, as opposed to my perhaps inauthentic – but delicious! – version. I originally made half a recipe because I only had one eggplant, and it worked out fine, but if I was planning on sharing this yumminess with anyone else I would make a whole recipe’s worth.

2 eggplants
2 yellow onions
6-8 zucchini
1 pound cremini mushrooms
4 large tomatoes
1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
1 T. herbes de Provence, or more to taste
Red wine suitable for cooking, about 1 cup
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)
Salt and pepper

Begin by peeling the eggplants and chopping them into bite-sized cubes. Put them in a strainer set over a bowl (or in the sink) and toss with a tablespoon of salt. Let the eggplant sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Dice the onions. Warm a teaspoon of olive oil in a large (at least 5 1/2 quart) Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a generous pinch of salt. Sauté until the onions have softened and are just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

While the onions are cooking, you can cut up the rest of your vegetables. Keep them separate because you’ll be cooking in batches. chop the zucchini and tomato into bite-sized pieces, slice the mushrooms, and mince (or press) the garlic.
When they have softened and begun to brown, transfer the onions to a large bowl.

At this point The Kitchn offers some helpful advice which I followed liberally, using much red wine: During cooking, a brown glaze will gradually build on the bottom of the pan. If it looks like this glaze is beginning to turn black and burn, turn down the heat to medium. You can also dissolve the glaze between batches by pouring 1/4 cup of water or wine into the pan and scraping up the glaze. Pour the deglazing liquid into the bowl with the vegetables.

So after you move the onions, go ahead and deglaze with 1/4 cup of red wine and then pour that off into the bowl with the onions.

Add another teaspoon of oil to the pot and sauté the zucchini with a generous pinch of salt until the zucchini has softened and is beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer the zucchini to the bowl with the onions. Deglaze!

Add another teaspoon of oil to the pot and sauté the mushrooms with a generous pinch of salt until they have softened and released their juices, about 10 minutes. Put them in your big veggie bowl. You know the drill – it’s probably time to deglaze!

While the mushrooms are cooking, rinse the eggplant under running water and squeeze the cubes gently with your hands to remove as much moisture as possible.

Warm two teaspoons of oil in the pan and sauté the eggplant until it has softened and has begun to turn translucent, about 10-15 minutes. Don’t skimp on time here. A cube of eggplant should taste edible – maybe not scrumptious, but cooked enough to be edible – before you transfer the eggplant to the bowl with the other vegetables. (You’re about to add the tomatoes, which are acidic, like wine, so they will take care of the deglazing on this step.)

Warm another teaspoon of olive oil in the pan and sauté the garlic until it is fragrant and just starting to turn golden, which will only take a few seconds or a minute at most. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, and herbes de Provence. As the tomato juices begin to bubble, scrape up the brown glaze on the bottom of the pan.

Add all of the vegetables back into the pan and stir until everything is evenly mixed. Bring the stew to a simmer, then turn down the heat to low. Stirring occasionally, simmer for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 1/2 hours. Shorter cooking time will leave the vegetables in larger, more distinct pieces; longer cooking times will break the vegetables down into a silky stew.

Remove the bay leaf. Stir in some chopped parsley if you like, or sprinkle some over each bowl when you serve it. Enjoy ratatouille alone, as a stew – not as a topping for something else.

The Kitchn says: Leftovers can be refrigerated for a week or frozen for up to three months. Ratatouille is often better the second day, and it can be eaten cold, room temperature, or warmed.

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Let’s Turn Up the Heat

It’s summer! I love summer. Summer means gorgeous produce I only get a few months out of the year – corn and tomatoes and peaches and nectarines. Summer means it stays light until late and the days feel like they might go on forever. Summer means bundling up in my warmest scarf and wool socks, turning the oven up to 450, and huddling beside it in my unheated kitchen. Wait, what? Oh, I should have mentioned, this is summer in San Francisco. It is, in fact, colder here in the winter than it is in the summer. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get damn cold here ‘twixt May and September.

This has also been a very tired summer for me. Since finishing up my first year of grad school, there has been a distinct increase in bed days and rest days. No problem, that’s what that 450 degree oven is for.

Two ears of corn on a green plate, sprinkled with nutritional yeast, with a shaker of nutritional yeast next to the plate.

It started with the corn. I love corn. My favorite way to eat summer corn is in fresh corn polenta. But that requires me to shave the kernels off the cobs, which involves a bowl and a knife and stuff. Too tired. I could steam it, but I have a bad habit of putting things on to steam and then getting back into bed, having one of my famous memory blips, and coming back far too late to find a scorched, dry pot. Consulting my trusty copy of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (love that “what do I do with this vegetable?” section in the middle!), I learned that corn can be roasted. IN THE HUSK. Here are the steps: Turn oven to 450 degrees. Take corn ears out of CSA box. Lay corn ears onto oven rack. Come back in 15 minutes (give or take, if you space out it’s cool, they are far from burning). Give a little tug and all the husk and silk come gently off at once. WOW.

Two ears of corn sprinkled with nutritional yeast, with a grey cat sniffing at them while standing on a red and white checked tablecloth

As an experiment I tried sprinkling it with nutritional yeast. It was pretty great. And I wasn’t the only one thought so! Miss Violet went absolutely bananas. She’s usually pretty good about not being on the table. She might jump up to check something out, but if I say her name or give her tail a little whack she’ll jump down right away. She knows she’s not supposed to be up there. But this time I had to forcibly remove her, picking her up off the table, with her struggling the whole time to get back to the nutritional yeast-covered corn. A little internet research seems to indicate it’s okay for cats to have (or very good for them, depending on the source) so Miss Smushyface was ultimately distracted with a little saucer of her own so I could eat my corn in peace.

A white bowl with chunks of zucchini, roasted and thickly sprinkled with herbs.

I had such a good time with the corn that I tried some zucchini next. My favorite way to eat summer zucchini is Pan-Seared Summer Squash with Garlic and Mint but that requires slicing the zucchini thinly, searing it a few pieces at a time in a pan, flipping and searing more, then repeating until all the slices have been cooked. Mint must be chopped, lemons must be squeezed, garlic must be minced. My new method: Chop zucchini into chunks. Toss with a teaspoon of olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence. Put in a parchment-lined baking dish (or rimmed baking sheet) for ~45 minutes or until your desired texture. WOW.

I also tried this with some russet potatoes and cauliflower that came in my box. I don’t have a picture because we ate it too fast. Disher said it was one of the best things he’d ever put in his mouth. I have to concur. Roasted cauliflower is amazing.

So I have my new summer formula. And as an added bonus, it helps keep the house warm on those foggy damp summer nights.

Summer Roast Corn

Fresh corn, still in its husk

Preheat oven to 450. When oven is heated, lay corn on oven rack. Let roast for 15 minutes. Remove corn and, using some sort of heat protection on your hands, pull away the husk. All the silk and husk will just slide right off. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast if desired.

Summer Roast Zucchini

Fresh summer zucchini

Preheat oven to 450. Cut each zucchini lengthwise down the middle, then cut across into 1-inch chunks. Toss with a little olive oil (I use a 1 1/2 teaspoons for 4 zucchini), salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Roast zucchini 45 minutes to an hour, or until meltingly tender and browned.

Summer Roast Potatoes and Cauliflower

Potatoes (I’ve tried Russets and Yellow Finn)
Cauliflower

Preheat oven to 450. Cut veggies into small pieces. Cauliflower florets around 1 inch, potatoes around 1/2 inch. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Roast veggies 45 minutes to an hour, or longer, or until tender and browned.

I (heart) courgettes on a vegan, gluten-free Menu Plan Monday

Unbelievably, I haven’t gotten sick of zucchini and summer squash yet this summer. I think I’ve eaten more than usual, but I’ve managed to keep the recipes rolling. Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast has been especially helpful for this as many of the seasonal summer recipes call for squash. But I’m kind of nearing the end of my creativity with summer squash, so I am leveraging my position as organizer of this week’s Gluten Free Menu Swap to try to get all my fellow GF bloggers to feed me their favorite recipes.

Pan-Seared Summer Squash with Garlic and Mint

For those who are unfamiliar, the Gluten Free Menu Swap is a wonderful weekly event organized by Cheryl of Gluten Free Goodness. Gluten-free bloggers from all over the net (and the world!) get together to share our menu plans and our inspiration for the week.

This week I have a ton of tomatoes left from my box, four cucumbers (!) and of course a good amount of summer squash as well. I also have a bunch of lettuce I really, really should use up! The rest is kind of up to me as it is a farmer’s market week, rather than a CSA box week. Other considerations are a ton of plans (I hope I even have time to cook!) and a houseguest coming later in the week. I don’t know his tastes (we haven’t seen each other in almost ten years!) so I’ll likely end up switching things around.

Salad rolls with kitchari and tomato relish

For summer squash this week, I’ve got my new favorite summer recipe, Pan-seared summer squash with garlic and mint, plus an eggplant stew with zucchini and chick peas, and Korean noodles with zucchini and kale. I’m eager to see what other squash delights are on the menu this week in the gluten-free blogging world!

And of course don’t forget to check out OrgJunkie for a ginormous round-up of Menu Plan Mondays from all over the world!

Monday
Kitchari (red lentil and quinoa mixture) with tomato-basil relish (I’ll try to post the recipes later this week)
Cucumber salad made with lemon cucumbers and red onion (Fresh Food Fast, 89)

Tuesday
Chana masala (Vegan Express, 99)
Pan-seared summer squash with garlic and mint
Salad of chopped tomato, basil, and cucumber with Annie’s Goddess dressing

Wednesday
Spicy summer bean and chickpea salad with harissa vinaigrette (FFF, 125)
Fresh corn polenta with sauteed cherry tomatoes (FFF, 126)

Thursday
Middle Eastern eggplant, zucchini, and chickpea stew (manazilet badhinjan)
Tomato salad with marinated shallots
Gluten-free pita bread (this is totally overambitious, but I made hot pockets last week, so it could happen…)

Friday
Pasta with spicy vodka sauce, cherry tomatoes, and seasonal veggies
Green salad with citrus dressing

Saturday
leftovers

Sunday
Jap Chae (shiritaki noodles with carrot, zucchini, and kale)
Brown rice
Kim chee

Shopping list: 1 large/2 med ears of corn, 3 pint cherry tomatoes, 1/2 lb green beans, 1/2 lb wax beans, small red onion, med eggplant, 2 med zucchini, other veggies for pasta (whatever looks good), 1 bunch kale

As for my fellow GF menu planners? What tantalizing treats will they be concocting for themselves and their loved ones this week?

Renee of Beyond Rice and Tofu and I wish we were neighbors because we always want to gobble up what the other has planned! This week Renee solves the “what do I do with too many summer squashes” dilemma by just foregoing them entirely, and turning her attention instead to a weeklong feast of spicy tofu, red beans and rice, and two different cucumber salads that sound like summer personified! Renee is headed out of town this week – Bon Voyage!

Wendy at Celiacs in the House gives us some gorgeous farmer’s market eye candy and has frozen a brilliant assortment of summer bounty to keep her going through the winter (jealous! I totally want to do that but I never manage to…). She gets zucchini into a yummy quinoa salad and makes it into ribbons to accompany homemade gnocchi! Pasta salad and kale pizzas also have me salivating and planning a little “neighborly visit” in her direction. Wendy is also headed out of town – Bon Voyage to you as well!

Heather of Celiac Family makes a decadent-sounding chocolate chip zucchini bread (wow!) and likes her zucchini cooked simply, grilled or sauteed. Sounds good to me! Heather takes a trip around the world this week with chicken enchiladas, beef and broccoli stir fry, and a new recipe for lamb chops with garlic mashed potatoes. She also has sweet potato fries planned, which are one of my very favorite foods. I haven’t had them in ages – looks like Tuesday I’ll be popping by Heather’s house just to see how her week is going (and snag a few fries…).

Cali-Mex Feast

Last night, according to my menu plan, I was supposed to make Raw “Pasta” Puttanesca from The 30-Minute Vegan, using zuchinni strips as the “noodles.” But I’d had Salade Nicoise the night before, and Epic Salad the night before that, and I was beginning to feel the early warning signs of vegan, gluten-free crankiness. You know, the unsatisfied feeling you get when you haven’t had anything substantial pass between your lips in a few days? It’s not hard to eat satisfying, filling meals that are vegan and gluten-free, but it’s all too easy not to, as well.

Yesterday morning I went online to find out if Trader Joe’s sells brined olives of any sort (I had to make a Two-Buck Chuck run and figured I’d grab some olives for the Puttanesca at the same time) and came across a curious blog called Cooking with Trader Joe’s. As far as I can tell the women who write it are unaffiliated with Trader Joe’s, although they have also written two cookbooks about cooking using ingredients found at everyone’s favorite food emporium. I started scrolling through their recipes, fascinated, until my attention was arrested by a delicious-looking pile of goodness called Tamale Bake. The recipe for Tamale Bake called for three zucchini… the very zucchini I’d been planning to slice up into fake, raw, cold noodles. The idea of something hot, filling and gooey immediately trumped fake, raw, and cold. I jotted down the ingredients and took my list to TJs.

As promised, I was able to find all of the ingredients for Tamale Bake at Trader Joe’s, though I didn’t need zucchini since of course that was what I was trying to use up from my box. I bought the soy chorizo and the bottled enchilada sauce (WARNING: it contains FLOUR, as does, apparently, most traditional enchilada sauce – wtf?), found two cans of black beans and picked up some sliced mushrooms and a can of sliced black olives. But when it came time to get the two tubes of precooked polenta, I balked. It was FOUR dollars for two tubes. I can’t remember how much bulk polenta costs at Rainbow, but it’s certainly not four dollars for a couple of cups of dry polenta. Before I realized how easy it is to make polenta in the rice cooker, I might have treated myself to the convenience of the tubes, but I have no excuse now for not making it from scratch.

I assembled my Tamale Bake, which was both easy and convenient, and while it was in the oven I pondered proper accompaniments. I’d just received a beautiful little watermelon in my box, as well as some lovely peaches that needed to be eaten right away. I decided to start with the yummy Mexican snack of chile and melon, so I sprinkled slices of the watermelon with chili powder. I also made a gorgeous fruit salad with watermelon, peaches, and grapes from my box and strawberries and blueberries from TJs. I rounded out the meal with a salad of CSA lettuce, Persian cucumbers, green onions, and toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) with an avocado-lime-cilantro dressing. I improvised the dressing based on several others I found online and it ended up way too sweet (curse you, agave nectar!). I liked the concept a lot but I’ll need to keep working on the execution.

Nothing was authentic, of course, but as a native Californian who grew up eating California Mexican food, I do feel I have a certain amount of leeway in improvising “Cali-Mex”-style dishes. And what could be more Cali-Mex than a pseudo-Mexican meal involving locally, sustainably grown veggies and soy chorizo? When the timer went off and I pulled my tamale bake out of the oven, I felt I had a winner on my hands. And I was right – it was delicious, filling, a bit healthy, and very, very satisfying.

Tamale Bake
This recipe is slightly adapted from a recipe from the blog Cooking with Trader Joe’s. It would make a fabulous potluck contribution and makes wonderful leftovers.

2 cups dry polenta
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (I used a red onion)
4 zucchini, sliced
Sliced mushrooms (I used a “bag’s worth” from TJs)
1 can sliced olives
1 package Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo (unlike most meat subs, does not contain any gluten!)
2 (15 oz) cans black beans, drained
1 cup Enchilada Sauce (TJ’s contains flour – a nice thin red salsa, which they have at TJs, could be a good substitute)
1/4 cup cilantro (optional)

In a rice cooker, combine 2 cups dry polenta and 1 tsp salt with 6 cups water and cook on “white rice” setting. Test for doneness, and stir thoroughly when finished. (You can also cook polenta with the same proportions in a pot.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Saute onions for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute until they begin to soften, then add zucchini and cook 5 minutes longer, until zucchini is tender.
Lightly grease a 9″x13″ baking pan with Earth Balance. Spread half the polenta on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle on half of: the chorizo (remove it from its plastic casing!), black beans, sliced olives, onion/zucchini/mushroom mixture, and enchilada sauce or salsa. Spread another layer of polenta on top and then sprinkle on remaining half of ingredients.
Bake for 30 minutes until casserole is piping hot. Sprinkle cilantro evenly on top.

Back in the day, a Moosewood recipe for Tamale Pie used to be one of my staple recipes. It was great to bring to potlucks because it was vegetarian, filling, and always super popular. I’ve thought about it often over the years. First when I went gluten-free I thought about what a drag it would be to make the cornbread topping GF, and then once I went vegan it seemed impossible – the dish would just be too dry and not nearly gooey enough with no cheese added. But this recipe takes care of all of these dilemmas and more! Which makes it a perfect dish to submit to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays – all the indulgence of a favorite dish, with none of the ingredients I can’t or don’t want to eat. Check out the other great indulgences this week for more inspiration!

While I’m at it, this is a perfect and pretty submission for Tasty Tuesdays and Tuesdays at the Table! Tuesdays are a big day for food round-ups, it seems!

Summer bounty, or, my box runneth over

Week after week, my box brings the bounty of summer. Ripe tomatoes (so ripe they sometimes turn moldy within two days), fat green and yellow zucchini, paper bags full of small tender pink and yellow potatoes, and bunch after bunch of basil. All these vegetables happen to be ones that we don’t readily use so they’ve piled up as the weeks go on. We tend to go for things that can be easily steamed or sauteed, and these fellows don’t lend themselves particularly well to these techniques. (Yuck, steamed potatoes with steamed basil topping!)

Summer gratin of potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, and basil

But when I searched using my beloved Food Blog Search for recipes with potatoes, zucchini, and tomatoes, I couldn’t find anything combining these three. Has no one else been confronted by this particular food dilemma? I would clearly have to strike out on my own, which is never a bad thing as long as I have the energy for a little culinary adventure.

Inspired by my one of my favorite cookbooks, Vegetarian Suppers, and author Deborah Madison’s love of gratins, I decided to make a giant, summery gratin out of my collection of wayward vegetables. I found a recipe online for Classic Potato Gratin that sounded rich and filling, essential as I wanted this to be a full-meal dish. But this recipe was decidedly un-vegan, containing both butter and cream, so I searched high and low for vegan cream recipes, finally locating and adapting a recipe for a vegan creme fraiche that turned out very well.

The dish turned out delicious. The main flavoring was the garlic and basil, and the contrasting textures of the different vegetables, from chewy potato topping down into soft roasted tomato and tender zucchini and waxy interior potato, were quite wonderful. The gratin was filling but not too rich, and the colors, pink and yellow potatoes, red tomatoes, green and yellow squash, and dark green basil, were just gorgeous.

I’m pretty proud of myself for coming up with a fairly elaborate and very delicious solution to my produce conundrum, so I’m submitting the recipe to Culinarty’s Original Recipe blog event. This is also a perfect entry for this month’s Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten Free! event, hosted by Rachel over at The Crispy Cook. The theme for this round-up of gluten-free delights is Seasonal Vegetables and well, it doesn’t get any more seasonal than a neverending summer cascade of potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini and basil!

I’ve written out the recipe below (this blog is part of Food Blog Search, so now there will be at least one recipe featuring the potato-tomato-zucchini trifecta) but I have a few caveats and addenda, as usual, so be sure to read those first! Continue reading

Things are not what they seem

One of the things I miss most in my efforts to be gluten-free is pizza. Not because I love pizza so much, or ever get cravings for it. If I did, I would probably experiment with gluten-free pizza dough – the mix made by Gluten-Free Pantry is supposed to turn out quite a nice one. What I miss is the ease of it – whether it’s walking down to the corner for a slice until 2am, or picking up the phone for a pie any time at all (yes, there is 24 hour pizza delivery here in SF), or pulling one of my beloved Vicolo crusts from the freezer and filling it with caramelized onions and chard.

Zucchini-Crust Pizza with Cherry Tomatoes and Red Onions

Zucchini Crust Pizza with Cherry Tomatoes and Red Onions

I’ve heard rumors that Whole Foods, which has recently added an entire GF bakery section to some of its stores, carries pre-made GF pizza crusts, and maybe some day I’ll make a special trip there to check it out. (Or, since they’re threatening to put in a new Whole Foods four blocks from my house, maybe the pizza crusts will come to me!) But so far my food co-op doesn’t carry any easy GF pizza-like choices, so I figured this was one convenience food that was gone with the gluten.

Then the other day I was wandering around the internet and came across a recipe on the gluten-free vegetarian blog Book of Yum for Zucchini-crust Pizza. I’ve been getting a steady supply of zucchini in my box all summer, not enough to qualify as a backlog yet, but enough that I’ve been looking for new ways to use them up.

I modified the recipe a bit – it was a little heavy on the cheese for my tastes – and baked a pan of it. It didn’t come out crispy at all, so it wasn’t really crust-like, but it tasted good and made a nice, easy dish for breakfast or lunch, a sort of very flat, not overly rich quiche whose toppings I could vary each time. If I had used the amount of cheese called for in the original recipe it might have been crispier, but I don’t think I could have stomached a pan of it before it went bad. And of course, with any amount of cheese in it, I couldn’t count on assistance from Duck.

Here’s the recipe as I modified it. For the original, probably crispier version, check out Book of Yum. Continue reading

Summer soup

Ah, summer in San Francisco.

I arrived home last week after a long visit to New York. (My trip is one reason this blog has gotten hopelessly out of date!) After a couple of weeks of skirts and sandals and other wispy pieces of actual summer clothing, it was a shock to return to a Bay Area August, full of fog and the kind of grim cold that lingers in the corners of the apartment, even when I have the heater going full blast. It was such a nice surprise that my new flannel pajamas had arrived while I away. Flannel pajamas in August. Only in San Francisco.

But this interesting intersection of season and weather does have one terrific silver lining, and that’s Summer Soup. A nice warm bowl containing all the produce bounty of summer, and a nice chilly day to enjoy it on!

Summer Soup with Vegan Pesto

When I saw how full of produce the fridge and counter were when I got home, I defrosted my most delicious scrap stock as a base (the delicious batch IV stock that Duck couldn’t stop sipping straight), and put together some summer soup. I tend to have trouble making soup without a recipe, trouble that takes the form of lackluster flavor, but I wanted to make a soup that would use up all the veggies I had already, not the veggies a recipe wanted me to use.

I decided to wing it, using red onions, fresh corn, heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, pink potatoes, green cabbage, carrots, and some roasted garlic, and the results were very good. I’m not going to post the recipe here because it was so basic and pretty much all the flavor came from the stock, so this would have been a pretty dull pot of soup if I’d been using canned broth, or even one of my milder scrap stocks. Duck also used some CSA basil and some basil he’s been growing on our front porch to make a puree of basil, garlic, olive oil, and pine nuts (basically, vegan pesto) which we swirled into the bowls of soup individually. As a final touch we served the soup over heaps of steamed quinoa, and had our protein for the day as well.

And though we sat in our chilly kitchen, wrapping our frostbitten fingers around our steaming bowls, at least we could taste the warmth of summer’s goodness on our spoons.