Sunday, November 8, 2009

Bonus Days - Sicilian Style Greens

Today is one of those spectacular fall New England days. Frank calls them bonus days. He doesn't like to call them Indian Summer, so for a long time he called them Native Summer days, but that didn't ring quite right either. So now he calls them just what they are: bonus days. Bright, sunny, warm. I spent about three hours gardening. It felt like a matter of minutes. Weeding the asparagus bed, planting the garlic, harvesting greens, and HOORAY, digging out oregano. This is the story of long-term relationships, invasive plants and how quickly things change.

Once upon a time we planted an oregano plant along with sage and thyme and lemonbalm in a neat little circular herb garden within the greater veggie garden. We built a little rock sculpture in the center and had concentric circles out until it kind of squared off near the beds of vegetables growing around it. It was too fussy a plan and wasn't terribly successful. I have no idea what happened to the other herbs, but the oregano spread ... and spread . . . and spread, until it had taken over not only the little herb circle, but that whole area. In fact, that whole section of the garden has been pretty much fallow, taken over by oregano and a few other WEEDS for the last 10 years. Why? Because Frank likes it. He says he likes oregano (we rarely use it in cooking), he says he is going to dry it (we're still trying to use the container he dried 10 or more years ago), that maybe we should sell it (I keep explaining that no one wants to buy it. It isn't that useful culinarily and it is essentially a weed, anyone can grow it and anyone who does, has too much of it themselves). So he just shrugs and says he likes it, don't pull it. And I grumble. It is hard to take care of, the leaves gather in its stems in the fall and it is a pain to clean up in the spring. I suggest all kinds of ideas about using the space, no go. I try to compromise, I'll dig out this area and leave that area. He likes the flowers, he likes the smell. We don't need that space, lets just leave it. UGH. What is a girl to do? To tell the truth, I haven't just left it alone. I have mercilessly composted any new piece of oregano growing anywhere else in the garden so it doesn't continue to spread and have encroached on the oregano area whenever and wherever I thought he would not notice. But he knows I want it gone and I know he wants it there. Fast forward. A couple weeks ago we had a debate about buying seed garlic. I wanted to buy the usual 2#, Frank wanted to expand to 5#. We walked out to the garden to see if we had space. He has a point. Even though we harvested about 120 nice size heads this year, we'll go through that easy. So we still don't have enough to use as our own seed. It would be nice to make the investment just once more. But do we have the space? The most obvious space to fit all the garlic is the bed where we've been growing our vines: cucumber, pumpkin, winter squash. But if we use that space for garlic, where will the vines go so they can trail around without encroaching on the rest of the garlic? And just like that. As if the last 10 or 15 years of grumbling and rolled eyes and consternation had never been, Frank suggests. "Why don't we pull up all this oregano and we can put the vines here?" "Yeah," I say all nonchalant, "we could do that."

And then the orchestra in my head began to play and I was twirling around and around and around, in my head that is, finally the oregano will be gone. Outwardly I just nodded, "okay then, five pounds it is." And so today I was out there digging up the oregano (not an easy task let me just say). I didn't get it all up, but I made a good dent and the next two days are supposed to be nice so it could all be gone before the first snowfall. End of the oregano saga.

It was bliss out there. I'm very lucky that my kids have always loved hanging out in the garden, doing a task or two before heading off on their own journey. Climbing the plum trees, pushing brother down the hill on one of the baby scooters and then negotiating who pushes it back up the hill, picking flowers, digging, collecting, you name it. They were in their zone and so was I. Before today I was a skeptic of walking meditation. There is so much visual and auditory stimuli that I just doubted whether you (or I really) could empty my mind of all that I was experiencing externally. But today I know that it is only through being totally present in that experience that the mind can be sufficiently emptied. I was so engrossed, so present in my tasks that I was beyond thought. There was no "after this, then this." There was no planning, no lists, no judgment, no I wishes, or I should have or I am going to. It is only now that I am reflecting that I am happy that I was able to accomplish so much or that I am thinking about tomorrow and next year. While I was working, I was content. In the present. This is how I used to be in my studio. Usually I would go through frustration at how I had left the studio. Worked through that until it was workable. Then I would struggle to figure out where I had left off. All this was really just trying to get back to that moment when I could be totally present in the act of creating and when I could leave all past and future behind. That was the part of the process that was so fulfilling and the part that I miss not having a daily (or monthly) creative routine. Today in the garden was a reminder of all that. And having felt that reminder (along with several others this very week), I know I'll always seek out those endeavors that shed the ego and reveal my true self.

It is not always that way in the garden. There are times when the work at hand is overwhelming and I can't get past the list: as soon as I do this, then this, then this, then this. But today it was not so. True to the idea of the bonus day, whatever was accomplished was over and above and glorious just for itself.

Sicilian Style Greens

A big giant bunch of Spinach, Chard, Kale, Collard, Tat Soi, or any combination
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
handful golden raisins
handful pine nuts
shaved parmesan or romano cheese
Olive oil
Balsamic Vinegar

In a small dry pan, toast the pine nuts on medium until they start to brown, turning them often. Wash and pat dry the greens, but leave them damp. Heat olive oil in a saute pan or skillet. Add greens, then garlic. Saute until greens are tender, add a small splash of balsamic and the raisins. Let saute for one more minute. Take off the heat. Let them rest for a minute before putting them in a bowl. Add pinenuts and shaved cheese on top.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Soup. Who does not love soup? My family welcomes the fall with the reintroduction of soup. In fact, for years I've observed that just as all of our lovely garden produce comes in, I don't have the time or inclination to cook. And it occurred to me this summer that part of it is that much of my cold weather cooking goes by the wayside. We eat soup at least once a week if not twice a week from the early signs of fall until the spring. Soup, along with heavier meals - the pot pies, the beans and rice, stuffed pasta and all that - leave the menu. That's a lot to replace with peas and lettuce in June, beans, tomatoes and corn in July. But after a couple of awkward weeks, we settle into the simpler food routine. Don't worry about us, we find the groove and eat pretty well all summer long. When the nights get cool and the beach accoutrements are tucked away in the barn, however, we all get excited about soup again.

If I haven't said it before, I am super lucky to have a family who is enthusiastic about what I cook for dinner. Tonight, Jerry and Frank came down from the bath asking what smelled so good. And even though there is enthusiasm for much of my repertoire, there is a special excitement for soup. Over the years, I've developed quite the array. White bean and kale, lentil, potato leek, mushroom barley, miso, straight up veggie, minestrone, black bean, Hungarian mushroom, French onion, corn chowder, and the list goes on. I'm sure I'll blog about all of them before winter's over.

To me there are two keys to making good soup. First, saute your veggies first. If you are adding raw veggies into your broth and wondering why your soup lacks flavor or has only one note, that's why. Boiled veggies never have the depth that sauteed veggies do. Respect the cooking time of each. Add carrots first, they take the longest, then your onions, peppers, cauliflower, etc. Finish off with the greens. Season your veggies with salt and pepper before adding broth.

The second key to great soup is greens. I'm a little obsessed with greens, I admit. Now I'm not adding greens to the corn chowder or the french onion soup. Although . . . Truly, I add greens to nearly all my soups. Last night I added beet greens to the lentil soup. Chop them fine, wash them well, leave them a little wet and add them to your sauteeing veggies so they sort of braise. Spinach, chard, kale, beet greens, whatever you have, throw them in, they'll take your soup to the next level. I promise. I sauteed a bunch of greens with garlic this summer and froze them to add to soups this winter as part of my local/sustainable journey. I don't overdo though. If it were just me, I'd add handfuls, but I respect the rest of my family is not part goat as they affectionately claim I am.

Here's the recipe for lentil soup, one of the most simple soups I make, that disappeared last night.

Lentil Soup

Olive Oil
2 Medium Carrots sliced
1 Medium to Large Onion diced
4-5 cloves garlic diced small
3 medium potatoes or five or six red, purple, white fingerlings, my new favorite, grown right in Western Mass. diced
Handful chopped greens
1 Cup French Indigo Lentils
2 Quarts warm water
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Saute carrots, onion, garlic and potatoes until al dente. Add salt and pepper. Add greens and saute for another two minutes. Add lentils and stir to coat with oil. Saute for one minute and then add water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to low. Let the soup simmer until lentils are tender, not falling apart. Adjust seasonings. Serve with crusty bread and green salad.

Variation for Greek lentil soup. Omit the potatoes. Add 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar to each bowl when serving.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Frost is a comin' a reflection on this year's garden and eating locally

With the impending frost tonight, I can't help but look back at the growing season and make some observations. At the end of last year, and certainly at the beginning of this growing season, I set the goal of growing more and varied food that could be canned, frozen or otherwise preserved for the winter. Along with that, I wanted to make a concerted effort to grow as much food for the summer months as possible and whatever we couldn't grow, to get locally, at least produce-wise. And the more that we could grow and get locally, the less I wanted to supplement with all those snacks made in some faraway place with stuff grown in an even further place.

That was the goal. So the question is how did I do? Well, the June rains made it difficult. My lettuce was slow going and the farmers markets didn't sell lettuce. In fact, I'm thinking about going to our farmers market next summer with lettuce. I always have extra (once it comes in) and I can't quite understand why none of the farmers bring lettuce. It could be that it is too fragile, but I don't see why I can't even bag up mesclun mix and put it in a cooler with some ice. But that's for next summer. Anyway, without lettuce and peas and early carrots and all that, June was slim, so I don't think we were as local as I thought we'd be. One way I addressed it was to go to the Hadley Whole Foods because they always have lots of local producers from the Pioneer Vallley where it is warmer. That helped.

Once July hit though, we got into full swing, and between July 1 and today, I've only been shopping in ANY store (besides the downtown market for toilet paper and the other odd thing) maybe a dozen times or so and I bought no vegetables (save the odd avocado - but wait, are avocadoes veggie or a fruit?), just a little fruit, dairy and dried goods. I really did manage to either grow it or get it at the farmers markets. And once there were melons, peaches and nectarines at farmers market, I didn't buy anymore fruit from the store either. So woo hoo!!

Now for the winter. Here's the inventory. In the basement are about 95 jars of tomato puree; however, because of blight caused by the rain, none of these came from our own tomato plants that withered and died around August 1 before producing a single fruit. After mourning for about a week, I went on the hunt. I bought one bushel from Deerfield via the Ashburnham Farmers Market and then I bought two and half bushels grown at Lull Farm in Milford, New Hampshire. We also have a dozen jars of corn relish, several kinds of pickles including these really cool "end of season" pickles I found the recipe for that included cukes, peppers, onion, cabbage, carrots. Super colorful. I hope they are good. I also pickled beets, made plum preserves from our own Italian plums that didn't set so I have 25 jars of really yummy plum sauce. I hope we use it. So our gundina (that's Italian for the root cellar) is pretty full but with plenty of space for applesauce - next week's endeavor. The freezer is chalk full of zucchini muffins and cakes, squash muffins, grated zucchini, pesto, sauteed peppers, sauteed chard and garlic, beet greens and garlic and kale and garlic, veggie loaf, blueberries both home grown and from just down the street at Odd Pine Farm, strawberries from Concord, MA and Mason, NH, raspberries from Troy, NH and Peaches from Harvard, MA. We have a drawer that has a year's supply of garlic. We've been eating our storage onions since mid-July and have at least two more months of giant whites and medium reds. And the fridge is now full up with leeks, arugula, cucumbers, cabbage, peppers, eggplant, chard, kale, beet greens, lettuce, carrots, carrots, carrots and on it goes. Oh, and did I mention that we have six sugar pumpkins, ten butternut squash, a couple of acorns, a couple of delicatas and a dozen more zucchinis all sitting on the sideboard in the kitchen?

I think that constitutes a success. I've met my goal. How could I have done better? Next year we are going to grow our own corn. I bought a ton of corn, all from just down the street at our neighbor's who have a farm stand, but still, we could do our own. I didn't time my second crop of broccoli or both my second and third crops of lettuce very well. And in general, I think I could do more successive plantings. Plant more storage onions. I think I could get pretty well an entire year of onions, especially if we get a lot of rain. They love the rain. It goes on and on. And that's the wonderful thing about gardening. I've been gardening since I was a child and I still learn so much every year.

Now my challenge is to extend this consciousness about local, susstainable food to other things that we buy and use. To search out local and used things before running to Target. And to stop and ask myself if we really need whatever it is I'm thinking about buying at all. It isn't big news that our lifestyle is not sustainable. That a lot is going to have to change if our children, and our children's children have any hope of living a healthy, happy life not ravaged by climate change and all the associated sorrows that are currently predicted. And I realize that our government does not seem to have the will or the leadership to get us going. We can't wait for a mandate. But we don't have to. I remember my old professor and America legend, Howard Zinn, saying that any significant change ever achieved did not originate in government, but with a grassroots effort by the people. And that's what's brewing here. I'm seeing it everywhere and am trying to get on that bandwagon. That's what these efforts are about.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Carrots are In - Vegetable Loaf Starring Carrots

Two years ago I had an epiphany. For most of my gardening life I walked by the rows of tiny carrot seedlings with a sense of guilt. I knew I wasn't going to get the tweezers and thin them as I should and that the big carrots I harvested in the fall would be either a) a function of natural selection, pushing their neighbors out of the way, or 2) a result of poor planting, the ones that shook into the aisles or just out of the line of the rest. But just as I'm a wimpy pruner, I'm a wimpy thinner.

Then, after reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I began thinking about ways to extend the season so we could eat more local food for longer. (If you haven't had the pleasure of reading this terrific book, I'd highly suggest it. The premise is that Kingsolver and her family decide to eat local, not more than 60 miles from their home in West Viriginia, for a year). Back to my thoughts about extending my New England season. Mostly those thoughts revolved around extending beyond the frost. But what about harvesting earlier?

Oh yeah, the epiphany. It may seem obvious to many of you, but for me, I used to plant the carrots, weed the carrots (not thin the carrots), then harvest the carrots in October right around the first frost. That was it. So, when it occurred to me (please hold the no duhs) that I could thin by harvesting first baby carrots, then a little bigger carrots, and on up to great big giant carrots growing with nothing obscuring them. Ta Da. Epiphany. So, now we eat garden carrots from July 1 through sometime in February, about 2/3rds of the year.

BUT . . .

No matter how much we thin by harvesting in the summer, we have a ton of carrots in the fall, which we are starting to harvest now, one row at a time. Time for carrot cake, carrot soup and yes, this delicious veggie loaf whose main ingredient is, of course, carrots. And please take the word "loaf" as merely a suggestion. I've made this versatile recipe into patties for a July 4th barbeque with our first harvest, or into cupcake tins for individual servings, or even into a cake pan as well as the traditional loaf pan. Of course, if you make patties, you'll want to turn them after fifteen minutes or so and total bake time with be shortened to 30 minutes. You get the idea.

Vegetable Loaf

1 Heaping cup chopped onions
4 cloves garlic
5 cups grated carrots, packed
3 eggs, slighly beaten
1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
1 3/4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan or romano cheese
3/4 cup slivered almonds
2 Tbs. butter
Salt, pepper

Variations: handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped or 1/2 cup spinach chopped

Saute garlic and onions in the butter until soft. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a big bowl. Stir in the onions. Bake in a buttered loaf pan, covered with foil, for 50-60 minutes at 350 until sides are brown and top is really firm.

Slice and serve.

Serving ideas: Try serving with roasted brussel sprouts and garlicky mashed potatoes for an alternative traditional dinner. Oh, and homemade applesauce, my kids like to dip their veggie loaf in applesauce ala potato pancakes. If you make them into patties, serve them on a bun with a barbeque aoli, lettuce, tomato and onions.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Stuffed Patty Pan Squash

In case you don't know what a patty pan is, look for a cross between a bright yellow flower-shape and a flying saucer. A patty pan is really just a weird-shaped summer squash, so treat it like a zucchini, not like a winter squash.

With all the June (and July) rains, we've got a bumper crop. The shape lends itself perfectly to being stuffed, where the patty pan becomes the vessel. But I already served the traditional risotto stuffing, or was it quinoa? Whatever, it was, sure it was yummy, but we had it only a couple weeks ago. That's the kind of thing my family only wants to eat once in a great while, so I needed to come up with something totally different to use some of these patty pans piling up on my counter. I did a google search and without even clicking into any of the results, I saw the words sausage and breadcrumbs. That was enough for me. I had a plan.

WAIT WAIT WAIT. I know what you're thinking. Heidi? Sausage? NO WAY.

But here's the thing, last year I discovered this great SOY sausage, made by Lightlife (right in Turners Falls) and have used it in a number of traditional recipes that call for sausage. As a child growing up in a conservative Jewish family, we never ate sausage so I've never tried the actual thing, but Frank, growing up Italian, sure did. He loves being able to eat these grilled with peppers and onions, sauteed or roasted. And I put it in the Thanksgiving stuffing last year (I'll definitely blog this one when the time comes), with pecans and mushrooms. It was AWESOME. My favorite is grilled soy sausage, fresh garlic and broccoli on the pizza. So, there is a time and place for fake sausage.

For this one, I used the Italian Seasoning versus the Chorizo flavored. To let you know how yummy this was, I made it in the afternoon so I could take my kids to the park. They wanted a snack before we went and they wore me down to give them two earth balls (a little chocolate ball wrapped in foil colored like the earth). The extra filling was on the counter, still in the pan. Yarrow stood there taking handfuls of the filling in one hand, nibbling on her candy in the other. I asked which she liked more, she said without hesitation, the filling.

Here's how it goes:

4 Patty Pan Squash
Olive oil
One package Lightlife Soy Sausage, Italian Seasonings
Five cloves garlic, minced
One large onion, chopped small
One cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely grated romano cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Wash the patty pans and cut off the top to use as the lid of your vessel. Scoop out seeds and some flesh to create a "bowl" for your stuffing. You can also scoop a little flesh out of the tops to make additional room for filling. Leave a good 1/2 inch of the flesh to 1) give your vessel stability and 2) to eat with the filling. Place right side up in a roasting pan or pyrex dish with a little olive oil and cover with foil. Roast for 30-40 minutes. Let cool while you make your filling.

For filling:
Saute onion, garlic, soy sausage, salt and pepper to taste in olive oil until the soy sausage is nicely browning. Remove from heat. Let sit 10 minutes or so, then stir in breadcrumbs and cheese. Taste, check seasonings.

Spoon filling into squashes piling them slightly higher than each squash. Then put the lid on. Put them back in the pan you roasted them in. Add a 1/2 cup water to the bottom. Cover with foil again. Put them back in the oven for 45 minutes. Voila.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Canning Tomatoes and Classic Italian Tomato Sauce

Pretty much anything home grown is, no comparison, yummier than anything you can buy. But there is hardly anything that spans a greater chasm than a can of store bought tomatoes and a beautiful jar of stewed or pureed tomatoes grown in your garden or nearby farm. And it is so easy. I put up about a 100 jars a year, about 20 at a time. About 95 of those jars I puree. That way when I'm ready for sauce, my jars are ready. The other five, I roast the tomatoes with a little olive oil, sliced garlic and basil leaves in the oven, instead of cooking them down on the stove, then I jar the roasted tomatoes directly. These I'll use these in those dishes that I want a stewed tomato and not the puree. And the roasted tomatoes take on an unusually deep flavor. One year my blender broke and I had to put up 25 or so jars stewed while I replaced my blender. It was these jars that were left at the end of the year, because it was a pain to pull out the blender everytime I wanted to make sauce. So when people ask me why I spend the time the puree, that's it. I make a lot of sauce and I want my tomatoes to be ready to go.

Canning Tomatoes

1. Put tomatoes in sink filled with cool water to clean off any dirt.
2. Core and cut tomatoes into quarters, cutting out any bad spots. Put in a pot large enough for all your tomatoes with room to stir. (A note about skins. I'm always asked about taking off the skins and surely Grandma Gerarda did blanch and peel, but much of the tomatoes flavor and nutrition is in the skin and when you puree, you won't ever see or taste the skin anyway, so leave it on, and know that Grandma would do it this way if she were still around to try my sauce.)
3. Cook on low, stirring from the bottom every 10 or 15 minutes at the beginning, then every hour. It will start getting really soupy. Cook until tomatoes have completely lost their shape. For a lot of tomatoes, say a 1/2 bushel, I cook them for probably two to two and half hours. For less, like 20-30 tomatoes, it will go quicker.
4. Wash jars and make sure they're free of imperfections, especially along the edge.
5. The idea is to put hot liquid into a hot jar. So, put a pan with a couple inches of water on the stove on medium. Keep it simmering as you process your jars. Put the lids face down in the pan of simmering water. (Not the rims) Then put a few jars opening down in the simmering pan. Just scooch around the lids until you can fit the jars.
6. In batches, puree the stewed tomatoes, pour into hot jars (use a wide mouth funnel), wipe the rim with a paper napkin to remove any tomatoes that may interfere with the jars sealing properly, then using a tongs, place a lid on each jar, then tighten the rim around the top of the jar. I don't tighten mine too much or I end up having to wack it with a knife to get it open and then you can't use the rim again next year.
7. Place sealed jars of pureed tomatoes in a boiling canner so that the water comes up to the top of the jars, or within an inch (so that as it boils, the water will bubble up to the top of the jars). Boil the jars for 35 minutes.
8. Remove jars to cool on a dry cloth on the countertop. You can make sure that the jars are sealed by pressing on the middle of the lid. If it is firmly down, your good. If it gives at all, wait until the jars cool. If the lid still hasn't sucked down, take the rim off and check your seal. If it isn't sealed, simply wipe the edge of the jar, wide off the lid and dry thoroughly, put it back on the jar, put the rim back on and reboil it in the canner.

Now, what do I do with those 100 jars of tomatoes? Mostly, I make sauce. Here's how.

Classic Italian Tomato Sauce

1 Head fresh garlic, diced small or minced
1 large onion, diced
1 carrot cut into 2 inch spears, or four or five baby carrots cut in half
Olive Oil
Four quarts of canned pureed tomatoes

Saute garlic, onion and carrots in olive oil in large pot until the onions are transluscent before they begin to get brown. Add jars of tomatoes. Cook on low for several hours covered. Take cover off and continue to simmer on low for another 30 minutes to an hour until you achieve the desired consistency. You'll notice that I don't add salt or pepper. Don't do it. Tomatoes are super delicate and they absolutely DO NOT need salt and pepper to bring out their flavor. In my opinion, this ruins all those commercial sauces out there. Let this perfect blend of flavors work their magic. Add a little really good grated romano on top of the pasta and voila (whoops I don't speak Italian), you've got the perfect dinner.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake

First let me say that I often make these into muffins, loaf cakes, round cakes, sheet cakes, you name it. This recipe came from my dear friend Leslie Wales many many moons ago and has become my most often baked item. Thanks Les. I bake hundreds of muffins with my zucchini harvest every fall and freeze them. It works perfectly to take out one on a cold winter's day. Or take out a dozen and frost them for a little party.

I've adapted and reworked this recipe a number of ways. I've listed the original which is also delicious and noted my adaptations along the way, as much as I can. Because you see, this much requested recipe brings up a couple of issues with doing this kind of blog. The first is, I like to improvise and I don't always keep track of how much of this, that and the other thing I've added. And the second thing is that I never time my baking or cooking for that matter. Most of the time I just know how long it takes, or I smell it or I check. With these muffins, I swear, I open the oven when they are a minute or two away everytime. So while I have the time listed for making the loaf cakes, the muffins and sheets cakes are fairly good estimates. Furthermore, I cook on a Viking Professional Stove that is made for high heat cooking. I'm pretty sure that it cooks hotter than other gas stoves and I know that it cooks hotter than electric stoves. So please take these things under consideration, for baking don't change the temp, but just know that the cake may take a little longer in your oven and don't wander too far away. Disclaimer over. These are SUPER yummy.

Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake

3 Eggs
1 Cup Vegetable Oil (I often replace half of the oil with 1 1/2 cups Flax Seed Meal, this make them low fat and a little denser, but I really like the texture)
2 Cup Sugar (I've replaced the sugar with 1 1/2 cups of Agave Syrup because Agave is sweeter than sugar, and it's good too, but my family likes the ones with sugar better)
2 Cups grated zucchini (I go heavy on the zucchini)
2 1/2 Cups flour
1/2 Cup cocoa
1/4 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon (I never add cinnamon. I think cocoa and cinnamon is a strange combination, but don't tell the Mexicans I said so)
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 Cup nuts (optional – I always do one batch with pecans but my kids prefer them sans nuts)
1 Cup chocolate Chips (not part of the original recipe, and I often leave them out if I am making a sheet cake that will be frosted, but indispensable for the muffins and what gives them their name, as in "double.")
I've also added 1/2 cup raisins, cranberries or dried cherries which have all been yummy, but don't seem to be keepers, just once in a while changeups.

Combine all ingredients into mixing bowl, mixing after each addition just until incorporated. After everything has been added, mix for an additional 30 seconds until thoroughly combined.

Grease and flour loaf or cake pans or use paper liners for muffins. Muffins take approximately 20-22 minutes, loaf cakes take approximately 45 minutes and sheet cakes take approximately 30-35 minutes.

Note: I just made this recipe into sheet cakes for Jerry's birthday. It was a two-layer cake. I didn't add chocolate chips (or nuts), but I did make a simple ganache (bittersweet chocolate and heavy cream) and spread it between the layers. Then I frosted it with a vanilla buttercream. It was delicious.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Veggie Pancakes

These versatile pancakes/fritters have been adapted from Mollie Katzen's Sundays at Moosewood. I like to bake these instead of frying as Katzen calls for. First of all, you don't have to babysit them like you do in frying. Second, I always found that they weren't cooked in the middle when I fried them, so I'd end up finishing them in the oven anyway. It is way more healthy to bake than fry, as we all know. So much less fat. I like the texture better, they are fluffier. And if you need yet another reason, olive oil is costing upwards of $30 for a gallon, lets save the cash.

I'm listing the veggies I most often use, but feel free to use anything you have, potatoes, sweet potatoes, whatever can be grated. And quantities are approximate. If you have one carrot and a huge cabbage, do that. Visa versa, no worries (muchos carrots and a little cabbage). Small zucchini, giant zucchini, whatever.

You can serve these hot, at room temperature or cold. You can freeze the leftovers and they're delicious thawed months later. You can serve them as an appetizer, a lunch on the go, or sometimes I like to make veggie dim sum for dinner, with veggie eggrolls, seitan skewers, etc. and these are a great addition. I've included a new dipping sauce I developed recently, but you could serve them with applesauce or any Asian-style dipping sauce.

Veggie Pancakes

4-5 carrotts
1 small cabbage or thereabouts
medium onion
small sweet pepper
1 can waterchestnuts
1 Tbs. Tamari
1 Tbs. Toasted sesame seeds
3 eggs slightly beaten
1 Tbs. baking powder
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup flour, plus more as needed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grate carrotts, zucchini, cabbage, onion and pepper. Combine in a bowl. Chop waterchestnuts, add to bowl. Add everything else and mix thoroughly. Lightly oil two jelly roll pans or cookie sheets. Drop pancakes onto pans and slightly press down so they are about 2" in diameter. If your batter is soupy, stir in some flour.

Bake them for about 15-20 minutes on the first side, until they are golden brown, turn, bake for another 15-20 minutes. Voila.

Almond Dipping Sauce

1 Tbs. Almond Butter (you can use peanut, cashew, sun - whatever kind of butter)
1 Tbs. Rice Vinegar (cider vinegar works fine too)
1 tsp. Agave Syrup
Splash of tamari
pinch of minced ginger
pinch of minced garlic

All amounts are to taste. Mix together in the blender, food processor or my favorite, the hand-held blender, taste and adjust. If you like it sweeter, add Agave, if you like it more tangy, add a little more vinegar.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Everytime I bring a dish somewhere or have folks over or even talk about food or gardening, I am asked for recipes, tips, advice. I am always willing and eager to share and generally have good intentions, but it seems I never do pass along the requested information. Finally, after being reminded by a good friend, again, that I owe her a dozen or so recipes from the last year or so, I decided to do the only logical thing, the only modern thing. What you may ask, why of course, to blog.

I don't pretend that you'll find anything eloquent or profound, but I will try for delicious, wholesome, always vegetarian. Most often tried and true.

So welcome to my blog. I'm hoping to not only remember all those recipes that have been requested over the years, but to come up with some new ones too. And add some other interesting commentary about cooking, gardening, shopping locally and whatnot.

Before all that, here's a little background on my cooking.

I've been cooking, gardening and eating vegetarian for over twenty years. Just a few years after becoming a vegetarian, I met my partner, Frank, also a committed vegetarian and of Italian heritage. His family has a strong ethnic heritage, one centered around food. It was in the midst of becoming an adult and a householder that Frank's mother, Ellie, and his grandmother, Gerarda, one of my son's namesakes, taught me how to cook Italian food. I would say that my style of cooking, while having branched out to every corner of the globe, is still rooted in the mediterranean. Around my 30th birthday, I decided that while I was an accomplished cook, I was a reluctant baker. With our kitchen newly renovated and a fancy stove to work with, I embarked on becoming a better baker. Fifteen years later, or thereabouts, I can make a pie without consulting any recipe at all and can tackle even the most complicated of pastries. Kudos must go to my mom on this one since she is that kind of baker - not one to rely on a recipe, but certainly one to bake at every occasion and who sees baking as the answer to insomnia, even in the middle of the night. She invited me to bake with her from an early age and perhaps my insecurity stemmed from feeling like I had some big shoes to fill. And one last big influence. As I was getting to know myself as an artist, my dear friend and fellow artist, Roberta Theriault, would often refer to her pantry as her pallet and her process of making dinner akin to the process of making art - spontanteous, and free. And somehow this freed whatever inclination I may have had (if I did) to follow the recipe, the rule, especially for savory cooking, but more and more for baking too.

And yay to my family of adventurous eaters who so appreciate my cooking. They certainly give me the freedom to have fun in the kitchen.

Cheers. Heidi

Warm Potato Salad

Today I managed to slip away from the lake early, promising to return for my family around dinner time. It was lovely to come home to a quiet kitchen and a little time to create something yummy for dinner. Frank had said he felt like grinders (a Sunday evening family tradition when he was growing up, even though theirs followed a big midday pasta meal, which we did not do today).

As with all our meals this time of year, my dinner plan needed to center around the bounty of the garden and whatever does not come from our literal backyard, comes from our proverbial backyard – farmers markets or farm stands in our area.

I remembered that I had a bag of rainbow new potatoes, so I started there. The rest just built on itself . The coup de grace was a ladel full of roasted tomatoes and garlic that I had in the oven for about three hours today and tied it all together. If you don't have time to roast tomatoes, add some chopped fresh tomatoes or some sundried tomatoes in oil. I let my roasted tomatoes finish off by turning off the oven and leaving them inside for the rest of the day. They were still very warm when I added them into the potato salad.

Don't forget to be creative. This dish could be delicious with just about anything you have in your garden or in your fridgie. What follows below is merely what I made tonight, not exactly what I'll ever make again.

Here goes:

2# rainbow potatoes cut in a large dice
3-4 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium red onion, diced
1 purple pepper, diced
1 cup cauliflower cut into small flowerets
1 cup broccoli, cut into small flowerets
several leaves of beet greens, green and red, chopped
few basil flowerets finely chopped
1 cup tomatoes roasted in olive oil with garlic
salt and pepper

Parboil the potatoes. Saute garlic, onion and pepper in olive oil for 2 minutes; add cauliflower, saute for another 2-3 minutes; add the parboiled potates, salt and pepper, saute for another 2-3 minutes; add broccoli, saute anohter 2-3 minutes; add greens and basil and saute for another 2-3 minutes; add tomatoes, saute for another 2-3 minutes. Check seasoning, adjust if necessary.

While Frank had a traditional cheese grinder (lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles), I served the kids and I sandwiches of fresh tomatoes with an aged camembert-style cow's milk cheese from Capri cheeses of Hubbardston, Massahusetts. We all also enjoyed fresh green beans from the garden, boiled to tenderness then drizzled with olive oil and a little salt.