Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sorrell soup

I think of sorrell as a tart lemony early spring green so I am delighted to see our little patch of sorrell rejuvenated by recent cooler nights. There could easily come a time in the next couple when the hard frost will banish that bright green for the winter. I broke off a couple good handfulls of leaves and headed for the kitchen with sorrell soup on my mind.  If you search for recipes you will find the French version and the Eastern European version, but every one calls for butter and/or cream. So here's my no oil, no dairy invention that was the centerpiece of a lovely lunch today and could easily be the start to a gourmet dinner. We ate this as a leftover with a heaping tablespoon of brown rice in the center, which was delicious and a bit more substantive.

SORRELL SOUP (serves 4)

2 handfuls (about 3 cups sliced) sorrell leaves
3 small potatoes with skins
1 medium red onion (I used half a huge torpedo onion)
1 medium green zucchini
4-5 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
dill sprigs (decoration & to eat)

1) Slice the onion very thinly and then chop it into bits. Cut the zucchini into small pieces (1/2 inch) and put all of this into a soup pot with about 1 cup of water. Let this simmer quietly with a little of the salt.

2) Cut the potatoes into slices and then rectangles and then little squares. Throw the potato pieces into the pot and add the rest of the water, deciding if you need a little more water in order to cook the potatoes and still have some broth. Cook this for about 10-15 minutes until everything is soft.

3) Wash the sorrell and break off the stem parts up
to the leaf --you can leave the stem part attached to the leafy part. Pile this up on a cutting board with the leaves all going longwise. Cut across into little ribbons.

4) JUST BEFORE SERVING, stir the sorrell into the hot soup, mixing and stirring until the sorrell begins to change color. Remove from heat and using a hand blender, puree the whole thing.

5) Salt to taste, serve into bowls, grind a little fresh pepper on top with a sprig or 3 of fresh dill leaves. This looks beautiful and tastes great. The subtle balance of substance from the potato with tang from the sorrell is blended with the sweetness of the zucchini and given depth by the onion. The dill gives a counterbalance to the zing of the sorrell. What could be simpler or more yummy Spring or Fall?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Brussels Sprout Balls

We bought a stalk of first of the season Brussels sprouts. When I steamed them to turn them into the main beautiful course for a dinner plan, it turned out that they just didn't have the flavor I hoped they would. They were immature, a little bitter, and quite plainly, not up to being the star of the show. I cooled them, put them in a bag in the fridge and regrouped dinner around spiced tempeh and quinoa. That all went fine but I was left contemplating what to do with a stalk's worth of young not-so-interesting Brussels sprouts. Today I came home from teaching and decided to just throw them in the blender, chop them into bits and turn them into something yummy. It would take lots of other ingredients with flavor to offset them, but they could definitely provide a texture that could make an interesting dinner. These are nice with any kind of sauce you like. They are good with both applesauce and kimchi!

Not expecting greatness, I didn't photograph the process -- but you can imagine how it looked.

BRUSSELS SPROUT BALLS (makes a dozen golf-ball sized crisp balls)

2 dozen (at least) small sprouts - a stalk's worth,
  chopped in a blender to make about 5 cups
3 small potatoes, grated
1 good sized carrot grated
1 small onion chopped fine (or several Vidalia slices)
3-4 sundried tomatoes chopped fine
3-4 garlic cloves smashed and chopped fine
2 tsp Bragg Liquid Aminos
1 tsp white Miso
1/3 cup buckwheat groats, ground fine
1/2 cup chick pea flour
1/8 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp cumin
salt to taste

1. Grate and chop all the veggies putting them all together in a good sized bowl.
2. Put the flour-like materials together with the spices and add to the bowl, mixing in the Bragg's and miso and combining until it is mostly uniformly mixed.
3. Heat oven to 375F, put a sheet of parchment paper in a baking pan (or use a silicone sheet).
4. Form 12 golf ball sized balls with your hands, and lay them out on the paper, lightly salting them. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until just as crisp and nice as you like!

Spicy Tempeh Quinoa & Apple Potato Salad

It is no longer as common as it once was that my little family gang has dinner together. It was our tradition the entire time the boys were in school, living with us, that we tried to settle at the table once a day for what has now become officially "Family Dinner." It was an important time to look each other in the eye, hear the tones of voice, check in with the states of mind and relationship. With the prospect of having a long day myself, my husband's first day back at school meetings, and my now 20-something sons assembling for dinner, I knew I had to figure things out before heading over to teach my evening class. This combination of garlicky quinoa with pieces of spicy tempeh really hit the mark for a main dish and was easy to put together ahead of time. I also made an apple-onion-potato salad in advance and put sliced fresh cukes in the fridge to absorb a tarragon-vinegar treatment. Dinner was completed by quickly chopping and assembling a room temperature tomato-peach-avocado-basil-balsamic vinegar salad and providing brilliant green on the table by quickly steaming garden fresh haricot verts and squeezing on fresh lemon juice with a splash ume plum vinegar.   Not surprisingly, there were no leftovers, though the spicy tempeh quinoa and the potato salad would have made a lovely lunch the next day.

Spicy Tempeh Quinoa

2 cups red quinoa
5-6 large garlic cloves
5-6 mushrooms (cremini, white, whatever)
1 slab of tempeh (I used flax tempeh but any will do)
1 cup frozen petite peas
3-4 tsp Bragg Liquid Amino
1-2 tsp Sriracha chili sauce

1. Cut the tempeh into 2 long halves, then into small rectangles. Put these in a shallow wide soup bowl and drizzle with 2 tsp Bragg's and the Sriracha.  Put in the fridge and let sit for at least an hour.
2. Meanwhile, dry roast the quinoa for about 5-10 minutes in a large flat pan, shifting the grains now and then to avoid any uneven heating. Add about 2 cups of water and chopped garlic. Cut the mushrooms into quarters and throw them into the quinoa as well. Cover the pan and let the quinoa cook for about 10-15 minutes, adding at least 1 tsp Bragg Liquid Amino to the quinoa.
3. As the quinoa is cooked, fluff it up, throw in the peas and add the spicy Tempeh. Stir this gently and serve!

Apple-Onion-Potato Salad

4-5 small potatoes (white and red)
half a Vidalia onion, or 1 medium sweet onion
1 large Honeycrisp apple (or whatever you like)
1/3 cup Tahini
1 Tblsp Tamari
3 Tblsp water
1 tsp agave syrup
1tsp finely grated carrot
1/4 tsp grated ginger
1-2 tsp Dijon mustard
1-2 tsp stone ground mustard
1-2 tsp cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt

Cut the small potatoes into bite-sized pieces -- about 4-6 per potato -- and boil for about 10-15 minutes until just softening.  Pour out into a colander. Chop up about half a Vidalia or sweet onion into little pieces though not minced.  Peel, core and chop one large Honeycrisp apple into small pieces.  In a cup or bowl, pour 1/3 cup tahini, add 1 Tablespoon tamari, 3 Tablespoons water, 1 tsp agave syrup, 1 tsp finely grated carrot, 1/4 tsp grated ginger, 1-2 tsp Dijon mustard and 1-2 tsp stone ground mustard. You can also add 1-2 tsp cider vinegar and 1/2 tsp salt. Mix well and pour over the chopped vegetables and apple and mix gently. Chill and serve!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Fresh Veggie Tortilla Lasagne

The heat of summer, the zucchinis are coming in, fresh onions and tomatoes sit on the kitchen counter and there's a package of old corn tortillas, drying and cracking in the fridge. It's hard for me to throw away good food, so I decided to use those tortillas and their cracked qualities to make a fresh lasagne without pasta. The fresh basil, garlic and tempeh layer added a wonderful pesto flavor, and the chickpea flour sauce not only bound things together but added an important element of creaminess. This is a good dinner for two plus salad or greens, with great lunch leftovers (hot or cold!).

Fresh Veggie Tortilla Lasagne

1 medium large zucchini
1-2 medium sweet onions
1 large potato
3-5 mushrooms (any will do)
1-2 large ripe tomatoes
1 package tempeh
1 medium sweet potato
1/2-1 loose cup fresh basil
3-4 big juicy garlic cloves or use a whole head!
2-4 drying old corn tortillas (ok, you can also use fresh ones)
1/4 cup roasted sesame seeds
salt and pepper

The sauce to hold it all together:

1/2-2/3 cup chick pea flour
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp tumeric
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 tsp ground mustard
1/4 cup soy milk

1. Slice the zucchini, onions, potatoes, mushrooms, and tomatoes in thin rounds. Tear the corn torillas into strips.
2. Layer in a wide (lidded) cast iron enamel casserole pan as follows:
1st: zucchini & onion & sweet potato
2nd: layer of corn tortilla strips (use about half)
3rd:chopped basil and garlic with crumbled tempeh (think pesto...) dash of salt and pepper
4th: potato and mushroom
5th: tomato
6th layer of corn tortilla strips -- leave a little space to bring out a little of the underneath layer of tomato
top: sunflower seeds

3. Make sauce by adding all the dry ingredients to a bowl first, then stir in the soy milk. You can add more soy and/or more chick pea flour if you want more sauce.

4. Pour the sauce over the top of the whole thing -- drizzling it so that you get it over most of the surface.

5. Bake with the lid on at 350F for about 30 minutes.  You can stop at this point and save this to finish later or tomorrow ... but if you want it soon, turn up the heat to 450F take off the lid and crisp for 10 minutes.  Serve hot and marvelous. This is yummy hot or cold the next day.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Minestrone Soup or Stew - Fresh Veggies

This is the season of garden abundance and even my little plot offers us whatever it can. Too much rain and many of the tomatoes split. Rain meant that I couldn't pick the beans either (terrible for the plants to handle them when wet) so my rejuvenated beans produced more succulent beans than expected.  Corn is best fresh off the cob, but it will taste nearly as marvelous if cut off immediately upon cooking and cooled, tossed in a freezer bag and frozen for mid winter.  What to do with a kitchen counter covered in harvested veggies? Make minestrone! When you add the al dente pasta it will absorb a good bit of the soup broth, so if you want it to stay soupy, add a little more water, and if you want to eat it more like a stew, cook down the broth a bit.

Here's my impromptu version.

Garden Plenty Minestrone - makes 2 quarts

2-3 cups of 1" green bean pieces
1 medium yellow squash cut into slices
1 large onion, cut fine or slices
1 can chick peas (or red kidney beans) or fresh cooked
2 small stalks celery chopped (with leaves if you like 'em)
3 cups chopped chunks of ripe tomatoes
2 carrots cut into pieces
1/2-1 cup corn kernels
3-5 cloves smashed and chopped garlic
1 Tablespoon dry oregano (or more if fresh)
1/2-3/4 cup fresh basil leaves chopped roughly
1 tsp Bragg Liquid Amino
Springs of fresh parsley for garnish
4-6 cups water for soup
4 ounces firm tofu cut into small pieces (optional)
black pepper, grated fresh
dash of salt
1 cup brown rice pasta of your choice & water to cook it

1. Cut up the veggies into pieces you want to find in your soup -- though squash and tomatoes will soften and some of it will become broth.
2. Add all the veggies to a good sized pot, with 4 cups of water and bring to a boil, then turn it down and simmer with a lid on at such an angle that steam can escape.
3. In a separate pot, boil up 4-5 cups of water and add the 1 cup of brown rice pasta, cooking at a boil for about 5 or 6 minutes, drain in a colander and set aside.
4. When veggies are nearly all softened, remove the lid, add the tofu and either add liquid if needed to keep it soupy, or let the liquid cook down a bit. Turn the whole thing off, add the pasta and stir. Salting to taste and adding fresh ground pepper and a sprig of parsley.

Two Dish Curry Dinner

Garlic scapes have their own timing and when it is the moment to cut them in order to promote the growth of the garlic bulb, well, something has to be done with them. They are sweet and subtle, but definitely with a garlic tendency. So I thought I'd make something sweet and subtle. It ended up with tofu, scallions (that come at the same time as the scapes it turns out) and spinach as one curry, and potatoes with scapes and red and poblano peppers as the base of the other. Since we had no chutney, I cut up an amazingly ripe plum, which served exactly the same purpose! I'm going to let the pictures tell this story -- you can use whatever curry spices you like. I soaked the little cubes of tofu in  paprika, cumin, Bragg Liquid Amino and tumeric before adding it to the tender young spinach leaves with a little water. The scapes and potato chunks had to cook a little on their own, separately, and then came together in their respective dishes, scapes with tofu and spinach, and potatoes with the peppers, some dissolved miso and a little water with a dash of cumin and coriander.  It's best to use non stick pans, but the tofu dish can be in a regular pan so that if you only have one, use it for the potatoes. This is lovely with rice, or applesauce, or a crisp lettuce salad on the side.

cut scapes into 1" pieces
adding curried tofu to scapes

add spinach to tofu/scape pan

combine parboiled potato, both peppers, onion

keep scraping and turning potatoes

Garden Rescue: Green Bean & Tomato Casserole

Away from our August garden for a whole week, I came back to take on the challenge of making something delicious from the wreckage. Our pretty "Black Prince" tomatoes all split in concentric circles from the rain, and the slugs had a feast. The "provider bush beans" had recovered from their mid-summer doldrums and produced an enormous amount of fresh and tasty overly large green beans. When asked what he might envision as a casserole with green beans, my husband said, "maybe millet? mushrooms? some kind of creamy sauce?"  And so it began. This dish doesn't require over-the-top garden materials, and could actually be made any time with a variety of tomatoes, green beans, millet, mushrooms, onion, garlic, corn, and a tahini-based "creamy" sauce. I threw sesame seeds on top for fun.

Green Bean & Tomato Summer Casserole
(easily serves 4)

4 cups of chunky cut up mixed tomatoes (green/red)
3 cups green beans, cut into 1-1.5inch pieces
1 cup corn kernels
4 large white mushrooms, sliced and then rough cut (or whatever you like)
2 medium onions, chopped fine (your choice, I used red tropea onions)
2 cloves fresh garlic or use powdered garlic
1 cup organic millet
2 cups water to cook the millet
2 cups water to blanche the beans
1/4-1/2 cup water for "creamy sauce"
2 tsp Braggs Liquid Amino
1 tsp dry tarragon
2 Tblsp tahini
1 Tblsp tamari
1/4 cup water
1/8 tsp tumeric
1/8 tsp mustard powder (or mustard)
2-4 Tblsp sesame seeds

1. Bring the millet to a boil in the water over medium heat and then turn to low for about 15 minutes, turning off and covering when it begins to look as though all the water is gone.

2. Wash and cut the tomatoes into 1-3" chunks of any size or slice you like. The chunkier it is the more likely it will retain some shape, slices will disintegrate (both nice). Wash, trim and cut the green beans into 1-1.5" pieces, and in a separate pot bring about 2 cups water to a boil, then toss in the bean pieces, stirring to be sure they all make good contact with the hot water, then turn down a bit and cover for just about 2-3 minutes NO MORE because you really don't want them turning to mush.

3. In a large non-stick saute pan, put the finely chopped onions, tomato chunks, corn (fresh or frozen), mushrooms, tarragon and Bragg's Liquid Amino. Cover and saute quietly for about 10 minutes while you rinse the beans in cold water in a colander, and turn off the millet.

4. Sauce: Mix together the tahini, tamari, water, tumeric, mustard powder, and dry powdered garlic or totally crushed/smashed fresh garlic. Beat until smooth - adding water if necessary to make about 1/2-2/3 cup in all.

5. Construction:  In a round or rectangular cast iron enamel lidded casserole, spread out the millet, put the green beans on top of that, pour the vegetable mixture on top and gently combine. Pour out the sauce onto this in a thin concentric drizzle starting around the outside edge and working your way until there is some on the whole surface. Sprinkle with sesame seeds - as much or as little as you like.

6. Bake at 350F with the lid on for about 20-25
minutes, then turning the oven up to 450F, crisp with the lid off for about 10 minutes. Great with applesauce, arugula salad or really anything you want! (Also good cold for breakfast if you like that sort of leftover to start your day.)

Kimchi for all seasons

My husband has discovered that he loves kimchi. We ate at a Korean restaurant and it was the most memorable part of the meal. Since then, I bought a couple different brands of kimchi at the food co-op, and then someone there said, It’s nuts to buy this stuff when it is so easy to make.”  Really?  Yes, actually, if you can get your hands on the authentic “red pepper powder” which comes in various sizes of flake (we used the smaller flakes imported by Hansung Sikpoom Trading Corp), kosher salt, a good sized head of Napa cabbage, radishes of almost any description, onions, carrots, garlic, ginger, and brown rice flour, miso (or you can use the real fish sauce but we don’t), add slant-cut scallions, and you’re all set! We now dream of an authentic ceramic kimchi pot … but that’s another story.

It takes time to make kimchi. The vegetables salt soak for at least 4 hours, and then the whole thing gets put together and sits out for 24-48 hours (we’ve always done at least 48), with occasional checking for bubbling. THEN it sits in the refrigerator for as long as it takes for you to eat it up. We’ve kept the tale end of a batch for 5- 6 weeks and it still tastes great, but sometimes it doesn’t last even 3 weeks because we love to share it.

Here’s how we make our kimchi – and be advised that the pepper glows slowly as it ferments. One recipe called for 1/2 cup, another for 4 cups (yes, 4 cups) of red pepper powder. Some use two medium heads of Napa cabbage, we like to either use one big one or one medium and 1/2 of a different cabbage for texture. 

You will need 2 chunks of time: the first is about an hour to get the vegetables organized into their salt bath. The second is at least an hour for the rinsing out, making the pudding/sauce, preparing the additional ingredients and then assembling the kimchi in its fermentation container. Don’t plan to leave town while you are fermenting kimchi, because it is also critical that after the first 24 hours you do check on it. Depending upon how much head space it has in your fermentation container, it can bubble up quite a bit once it gets started, and you will need to open it and compress it down – perhaps sticking a chopstick into the sides along the inner edges to release the bubble build-up. Your house will begin to smell like a kimchi batch at this point. Stick it out for another 24 hours and you will have a marvelous kimchi for weeks to come. (You can dole it out into smaller jars with good lids to store it or give it to friends, or to eat up a jar at a meal and still keep the others closed.)

Equipment to have on hand:
A medium saucepan to make the “sauce/pudding?
A large bowl (big enough to hold everything)
A large wide baking pan (enamel, ceramic or glass is good) to salt the cabbage
A good sized wide serving bowl to salt the radish/carrot mix
A colander (draining rinsed veggies)
A whisk (stirring sauce)
A fermentation container that closes tightly – either a cookie jar or flour contaner type thing, a large pasta storage container or other glass or ceramic tightly lidded container (not plastic)
A good knife or two (I use one large chopper and one paring)
Long handled wooden spoon
GLOVES – you can use dishwashing gloves
Measuring cups (1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup)

3/4 cup Kosher salt
1 large head Napa cabbage
8-10 big red radishes or 1 good chunk Daikon or Korean radish
4-6 carrots

“Pudding” SAUCE:
3 cups water
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup sugar

Add to Sauce Before Adding Veggies:
1/3 cup Korean red pepper powder (you can adjust this to taste)
1 cup onion chopped finely (2-3 slices of large Vidalia or 1 medium sized regular)
1/2 cup smashed garlic, chopped roughly
1/4 cup finely chopped ginger
1 cup white miso – (1 tablespoon miso in 1 cup water)
6-8 scallions slivered slantwise


Preparing the veggies:

Rinse the cabbage well, cutting off the biggest part of the stem but leaving part of it to hold the leaves together. Slice the whole head in half LONGWISE, through the stem core so it opens into two parts like a book. This way you can rinse between the leaf layers. If it is a huge head, you can slice it one more time though NOT through the core so the 1/4 parts stay connected. Then spread the kosher salt between the layers, carefully getting inbetween the leaves and let this sit in a large pan for 2 hours. (Use about 1/2 cup salt)

Once you have the cabbage organized, wash and peel the radishes and carrots, slicing them any way you want to run into them in your kimchi. We have made little cubes, and we have sliced in rounds and slants… We like all of this, so make your own choices. Put these peeled pieces (it will be about 2-3 cups of each) into a wide bowl and sprinkle and toss with kosher salt. Let sit 2 hours as well. (Use about 1/8 cup salt)

IN 2 HOURS: you will turn the cabbage pieces and add a little salt in between the layers making sure to get to the parts that are less softened or not salted from the first side. Also turn and stir the carrots/radishes and add a little fresh salt. (Use 1/8 cup salt for all of this or less)  LET SIT ANOTHER 2 HOURS.

At some point you can make the pudding/sauce and leave it quietly cooling – OR you can do this in 4 hours and set the bowl in a sink or bowl full of cold water to cool it faster while you prepare the other materials that go into the mixture.


Put 1/2 cup brown rice flour (or use sweet rice flour if you can find it) in a saucepan with 3 cups water. Turn on medium heat and stir with the whisk, calmly and continuously. When you first start to see bubbles, add the 1/2 cup sugar and cook, stirring, for another minute. This will really start to look like pudding!  Remove from heat, pour it into a large bowl (big enough for everything to fit into it) and let it cool.  YOU CAN ALSO COOL IT IN THE PAN, putting the pan into a larger pan of cold water.

While the pudding is cooling, finely chop the onion and ginger, measure out the pepper and smash and chop the garlic. You can sliver the scallions too if you are using them (these are optional). Dissolve a tablespoon of white miso into one cup of cool water.


Take the cabbage out of the pan, dumping out the salty water. Run cold water through the cabbage leaves, then leave it soak a few minutes in the pan with cold fresh water. Take the cabbage out of the pan, rinse it under cold water, then let it soak AGAIN for a few minutes in fresh cold water in the pan. While it is soaking, DO THE SAME THING with radish/carrot mixture.  Dumping them into the colander and run cold water on them, rinse the salty water out of their bowl and then let them soak in the bowl of fresh water. DO THIS TWICE TOO. After rinsing for a 3rd time, you can let the radish/carrots drain in the colander, while you RINSE THE CABBAGE a 3rd time. Then squeeze out the water from the cabbage (you can squeeze it like you would doing a handwash … it’s so limp!)
Shake all excess water off the radish/carrot mixture.

Add garlic, onion, ginger, miso, and pepper flakes to the cool pudding and stir it with a long wooden spoon until it is one strange red-flecked substance.

Take the cabbage and rough chop it into 2-4 inch chunks of various shapes. Add this to the bowl of spicy mix, then add the well shaken carrots and radishes, and scallions if you are using them.  Stir gently until everything is coated well.

Put your container in the sink and put on your gloves.
Handful by handful, stuff the spiced veggies into the jar, carefully pouring the last of the spicy juices in as well. Close the lid, and set this somewhere visible but out of the way for 24 hours. You will want to make note of how high the ingredients start out in the jar, making sure there are several inches of air space above that level when you leave it to ferment.

CHECK YOUR KIMCHI after 12 hours and push it down if it has started rising. CHECK YOUR KIMCHI every 3 hours after the first 24 hours. I’ve come home from teaching a class to find kimchi juice all over the kitchen counter and a hissing screw-top lid!! We left more head space for the next batch and used an even larger container. 

There’s every reason on earth to take a tiny sample taste after the first 12 hours just to taste what’s going on.  Remember, though, that all the flavor melds and changes as it ferments so it may be surprising in the end that you don’t taste the salt so salty or the pepper so distinctly. 

WARNING:  Making kimchi may be habit forming, and can lead to interesting experimentation! You might find yourself serving rice noodles smothered with kimchi to guests! (We do!)