Archive for Recipes

My Good Friend, The Humble Lentil

Each season I take 21 days to eat an entirely plant based diet and remove common allergens and inflammatories from my food routine. Some foods I decide to take longer breaks from, and others I can’t wait to get back to, and these choices change every season. Why is this important for the context of this post? For a couple reasons.

So simple. So delicious.

The most important reason is that each time I do a Restoration, my test kitchen goes into overdrive to keep a constant sense of discovery within the practice and to bring a vital experience of creativity to my kitchen. Or just to wake me out of a rut I can tend to fall into. It’s been my experience that people assume since I am a health coach and I do this kind of work daily, that my relationships to food, cooking and creative practice are all locked down. Like I am a born-again kind of health nut after my years of questionable choices and that I arrive here beyond all the challenges that go with this body. The belief is that I kind of levitate through the kitchen, a blissful fountain of delicious ideas pouring forth out of a traditionally gorgeous figure, equipped with the kitchen skills of a chef. And I’m probably over here dispensing advice and silently judging those of you who don’t give a shit what a hemp heart is. Some assumptions sashay along the path that I’m sporting a healthy glow after an easy nine mile run through the countryside and I’m looking forward to my fresh pressed green juice as I sit and solve all the digestive problems of every client I meet and pluck magical solutions to each conundrum of every soul and hand them out benevolently each hour. I wrap each day on the foam roller applying a soothing self-massage to my shoulder, so sore from patting myself on the back for a wonderful day of saving people from themselves and their terrible habits.

The truth is, my struggles happen alongside everyone else’s. Seasonal restorations have become a deeply important practice for me to re-set not just my body, but my routine in the kitchen. To keep learning, and to stay fresh as a facilitator and a human being. I usually adopt a new cookbook, or a new-to-me cookbook to study each season (or several) and bring new flavor profiles and skills to the experience for myself and my fellow Restorers.

Green, red, and French lentils. The French tend to hold together the strongest, as do the unpictured black, or Beluga lentils. Green and Red are perfect for soups. Pottery by the talented Charlene Swift.

The other reason it’s important for me to tell you that I’m at the tail end of the Spring Restoration is that before I began this season, I had been on a serious coffee bender. I had to begin weaning myself off The Bean because I was not only having my morning cup, but indulging every mild yen along the way as well. I’ve noticed that as The Keurig rises to World Domination leaving a brand new trail of plastic for our oceans in its wake, local businesses have set them up all over the place as welcoming committees for all of us as we wait. There is one at the vet, the tax people’s office and the local farm supply place. There’s samples at the grocery store and a station at the farmer’s market. Even the 9th ring of hell at the state car inspection place has set up a friendly interlude with Maxwell House K cups and artificial creamer. The original impulse for me wasn’t even about the coffee, it’s that I am such a SUCKER for FRIENDLINESS in a world that may be heating up on the weather front, but is growing decidedly colder in the human interaction arena that I want to be a part of each and every act of public kindness I can find. Couple this with my love of coffee and WHOOP, there it is.

As you might be able to guess by the heroic and rambling length of the preamble to the lentil

I DRANK COFFEE TODAY FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THREE WEEKS AND I AM HIGH AS HELL.

It’s a little fucking slice of heaven, frankly. Half the reason I love quitting coffee four times a year is the total euphoria of the return of the first cup. I mean, I fucking LOVE IT. I’m sure after reading about my former enthusiasm for crystal meth, this comes as no surprise in the neighborhood of my proclivities, but OH, how the rock and roll lifestyle moves along. I could not be luckier or more deeply grateful that my big rush is now a stovetop espresso while wandering through the garden to see how much the parsley grew in one day of sun.  Ahem. Feel free to update your files about how health coaches only make perfect “healthy” choices. Or at least me. I will work on dismantling my suburban punk perfectionism one glorious cup of coffee at a time.

So. What about lentils?
Yes, the wonderful little lentil.

Many years ago, I think it was 1993 in Portland, OR at a vegan lesbian potluck, someone gave me a slice of lentil loaf. The offering arrived on my plate dense and brown and sad, dotted with specks of hopeful carrots and weighing about a full metric ton. SO depressing. Obviously, this not only put me off lentils for a solid decade, it filled me with an expansive dread that perhaps my love of butches might be doomed to arrive with a community hot girls but abysmal, flavorless, vegan food experiences. Now, I can’t stand by while both vegans and lesbians have to shoulder the atrocity of what transpired at so many similar potlucks from the 70s through the 90s. Not to mention the punishment the good name of the lentil has taken.

GODDESS BLESS THE HUMBLE LENTIL.

I got this recipe from my favorite cookbook of the season which I can’t shut the hell up about, Amy Chaplain’s At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen. The only thing I’ve changed is that she uses 3 cloves of garlic and I use 5 because when it comes to garlic, in our house, MORE IS BETTER.

Such satisfaction. And such a taste sensation.

Amy Chaplain’s Lemony Marinated French Lentils

1c French Lentils, sorted and washed
3c filtered water
3 bay leaves
5 whole garlic cloves, peeled
2 in piece kombu (cooked with legumes, this can help with gas later. You’re welcome.)
Zest of 1 lemon
2T lemon juice (1/2 a lemon)
3T olive oil
1/2t salt, more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh parsley to garnish

Soak your lentils. Amy says 12-24 hours but 4 will do. And if you forgot, just rinse and add 5 minutes to your cooking time. Drain the lentils and put them in your heavy pot with your kombu, bay leaves and garlic cloves. Bring everything to a boil, then turn your flame down to a simmer, cover and let cook for about 25 minutes (30 if you didn’t soak). You want your little lentils to be soft, but not coming apart into a mush.

While everything is cooking, combine the rest of your ingredients (except parsley) in a bowl and whisk together. Drain your lentils when they are ready and stir in your wet oil mixture.

Part of why I love this recipe so much has to do with what happens after. You can serve these on their own as a main if you like. They are bright tasting and zingy and filling and taste divine. You can also chill them and have them next day as a plant protein in a salad, or transform them into a salad of their own, adding diced tomatoes, red quinoa, radishes, cucumbers and carrots OR you can put them back on the stove with a cup of vegetable broth, bring to a boil and turn down to simmer once again and VOILA, you’ve got a killer lentil soup in 15 dang minutes.

 

 

Not Just for Hugging Trees: Cauliflower Millet Mashup

Like Birkenstocks, millet isn’t just for hippies anymore. If I can be any force for the reintroduction into the mainstream of the wonders of millet, let it be so. As far as grains go, it has a good amount of vegetarian protein (6 grams), it’s gluten free for people practicing an auto-immune protocol, or those who are sensitive to the gluten, AND it tastes relish.

One of the problems with millet is it’s gotten some pretty bad PR. But look, if Helen Mirren can proclaim her love of Crocs and still be so hot, then you can give millet a try.

Let’s start with my current food darling, Amy Chaplain, and cook up a version of her mash. I have made this stuff EVERY week for 3 weeks since I got the book. I’ve served garlic greens on it, eggs, stirred in mushroom medleys and stuff roasted squash with it. It’s divine. Not only do you get a kind of corn-like flavor profile, you also get the added nutrient dense benefits of cauliflower along with it. PLUS, for kids who love grains and stray from vegetables THIS IS WHERE YOU CAN MESS WITH YOUR KIDS!!! It all looks beige to them and goddess knows, children love boring beige food. Look, I’m not trying to insult your kids, but AM I WRONG??!?!?! No. So try this. They won’t suspect a thing.

It’s fast, it’s versatile, it’s great for a whole family and it’s so affordable as quinoa skyrockets and cauliflower comes into season.

Ingredients

1 medium head cauliflower
1c millet, soaked overnight
1 1/2t sea salt
1/2t ground black pepper
2 1/2c water or vegetable stock

Rinse off your soaked grains and put them in the pot with the florets from your cauliflower, the broth/water and the S&P. Which is to say, PUT EVERYTHING IN THE POT. Bring the mix to a boil, then turn down to simmer and cover for 20 minutes. Check to see if all the liquid has been absorbed right about now. Then mash everything together.

You can add sautéed mushrooms, crispy onions or leeks, top with tamarin, flax oil, walnut oil or any other flavor you’re going for. Stirring in fresh spinach is delicious. Adding hippie dust is great too. The render greens are flash-cooked just by the heat of the mash and it’s DELICIOUS. Top with a toasted seed and nut mixture for crunch or have it on seed toast. Experiment! Let me know your favorite concoctions.

YUM.

 

Winter Blizzard Chili for Everyone

There is really nothing better in a crazy winter storm than a bowl of phenomenal chili. I concocted this version based on a venison recipe by Hank Shaw. If you are not a vegetarian, his version is really scrumptious and I think you might like it. I mean, it has slab bacon in it so there’s that. But for me a truly lovely thing about a bowl of chili is sitting around with a ton of friends and digging in. Because I know so many vegetarians, vegans and gluten free eaters, I like to make big batches of things that everyone can partake in. This spicy treat does the trick. And you know what Hank offered in his that sold me?

It’s the coffee.

(A rich decaf works just as well as full tilt if your crowd is caffeine free as well) The rich and earthy taste of this chili grounds the heat of the peppers and it’s just a damn joy. This recipe has some time notes so read it through first before attempting.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1c kidney beans, soaked overnight
1c cannellini beans, soaked overnight
4 dried chipotle peppers
1 dried ancho chile
1 medium sweet potato
2 large onions, diced
1 diced shallot
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno, fresh, chopped
1 tablespoon caraway, ground
5 all spice pods, ground
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons cumin, ground
1 tablespoon coriander, ground
2 tablespoons unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1 small can tomato paste
2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped or one small can
1 cup of delicious coffee
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2c vegetable broth
2 tablespoons salt (you can use smoked salt here or chocolate salt if you have either. otherwise use seas salt or pink Himalayan. The pink is saltier so maybe start with 1 T and add to taste)
Cilantro to garnish
Get your beans and soak them in filtered water overnight. Alternately, use organic from a can in a pinch. I myself am in an Eden Foods boycott, but Westbrae carries great food. Pour 1c boiling water over the dried chiles and let them puff up (about an hour). Seed the chiles toss in the blender with their soaking water and the coffee.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

In a heavy lidded pot or Dutch oven, heat your olive oil. Add onion and shallots to the pot and cook until soft, stirring often. Now add your vampiric repellant garlic, and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Cut your sweet potato in half, then long quarters and slice thin. Add the quarter moons to the mix. Cook another 2 minutes and add your apple cider vinegar. Now add the beans, paprika, cumin, caraway, allspice, coriander and salt all together and stir to bring it all together like a show tune. You probably want to let all of this hang out for a few minutes to become family.

Add your blended chile mix and tomato paste, then the chopped tomatoes, maple syrup and cover everything with your vegetable broth. Bring it all home and then put the heavy lid on.
Pop it in the oven for 2 hours. Hank says you want to check to see if you need more salt and broth (I haven’t yet, but you never know), and to see how the beans are doing. If you have the jalapeño, this is its time to shine. Dice it and add it in. THEN WASH YOUR HANDS REALLY GOOD. And don’t rub your eyes or any other delicate areas on yourself or anyone you like a lot.

Pop it back in the oven for 30 minutes. Let rest for 15 minutes. Serve with your grain of choice, or bread, or chips and top with cilantro. Or if you are stuck in a storm and only have arugula like in this photo, use that.

ENJOY my little blizzard Amazons!

Also yummy with wild rice chips

Who Has the Energy to Cook, Dammit?

IMG_0464

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Welcome back to your regularly scheduled life! The holidays can be pretty draining. Even when they are the most fun and exciting and delightful. Plus there’s the possibility that the holiday season is extra awful for a person. So, a human can really grind the gears moving from extended holiday back to work. And what if on top of that, you had to do all the laundry and answer 11,846 emails and mop the floors and get groceries and follow the old dog around the yard in 19 degree weather because everything is covered in ice and he slips and falls and can’t get up. What if all that is happening and now it’s time for dinner and you just don’t have it in you to call up your inner domestic goddess.

IT’S COOL. You don’t have to resort to mac and cheese from a box. (But, of course if you want to, I get it, and I won’t stand in your way. I will say, however, that I find a little Cholula really helps it along.)

But it’s a brand new year! You want to keep your healthy intentions intact. You also want to eat pretty quick and you want something warm.

Here’s an easy dish that tastes delicious and is ready in about the same time as the dang mac and cheese. You need to have a few supplies on hand but I bet you do. This is the exact reason I always have a few cans of organic vittles around.

The Best Lazy Chickpea Stew

1 onion
1 clove mashed garlic
1/2 t sea salt
2T olive oil
1t dried oregano
1/2 t ground cumin
1/4 t cayenne
1/2 c vegetable broth
1 can organic diced tomatoes
1 can organic chickpeas

Throw that olive oil into a skillet and heat it up. Slice your onion into moons and cook it until it’s translucent. Then add your garlic and spices. When you see the oregano start to plump add the can of chickpeas and and cover with all the spices and oil. Stir for about 2 minutes. Then add in your veggie broth and bring to a boil. Once you’ve got your broth going add in your can of tomato goodness and stir. You can add salt to your liking.

BOO-YAH!!!

20 minutes later you have a healthy meal PLUS leftovers for lunch this week. So delish. When you’re not in a rush, you can make this from scratch in the summer with soaked chickpeas and fresh tomatoes from the garden. It’s just killer.

 

Lucky Devil Bread

I have gotten so many requests for this bread recipe, I’m gonna cut right to the chase.

NO GLUTEN.
NO REFINED SUGAR.
NO FLOUR.

I found the original recipe here and along with half the internet, could not believe my good fortune. After following the recipe spot on a few times, I wanted to make some changes to it for myself.

Then I got into making traditional bread and did a lot of reading from Josey Baker who taught me to always toast the nuts and seeds first. I do it for everything now. It’s an extra step, not nearly as much of a pain in the ass as everyone makes it out to be, and it increases the depth of taste like 42 times. So toast the seeds and the nuts.

This recipe is incredibly forgiving and you can make it your own a hundred different ways. The important things that you want to stick to are the psyllium husk and the chia. They hold the bread together. Plus they provide so much fiber. And I should say, this bread is a great comrade in the Getting Digestion Moving department and is more enjoyable than anything a doctor will give you. Plus, it wows guests. And it’s easier than falling off the sidewalk. Which, come to think of it, is sort of a challenge, so pick a new metaphor. Just like in this bread feel free to do swapping. You can use walnuts, dried cherries, cacao nibs… whatever. The important part is that you try it. The tough parts are the ones where you have to wait. DO THE WAITING. Even though, as Tom Petty has told you a million beautiful times, the waiting really is the hardest part.

Dry Ingredients

2c gluten free oats (make sure the package says GF!)
1/4 c psyllium husk
1/2 c raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 c raw sunflower seeds
2T + 1t chia seeds
1/2 c chopped raw almonds
1t sea salt
3/4 c flax seeds

Wet Ingredients
1T maple syrup
2T olive oil
1T melted coconut oil
2c warm filtered water

Preheat the oven to 350 and in a thin layer on a baking sheet, toast your sunflower, pumpkin, and flax seeds along with the chopped almonds for 12 minutes. Combine the toasted goodness with the other dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl whisk together your wet ingredients, then add the wet to the dry in the big bowl. Mix everything together. A LOT. You can use a rubber spatula or just your clean paws.

Put the mash into a loaf pan you have oiled well with coconut oil. Now chill the “dough” for AT LEAST two hours, but if you can chill it longer, do it. See? There’s The Waiting, Part 1. Now preheat oven at 375 and when it’s ready, move your loaf pan to the oven for one hour. Now. Here’s The Hard Part #2: let the loaf cool for 2 hours. I know it’ll be tough, but it helps the bread come together in a way that’s worth it.

I like to double toast my slices. My favorite is to double toast, smear a quarter avocado on the slice, add sliced radish and an egg over medium. DELISH! Other nice things: melted coconut oil with cinnamon. Slathered in butter, straight up. Topped with banana slices. Topped with sautéed mushrooms and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil.

Have at it people. DO YOUR THANG. And let me know how it goes!

 

 

Thrift Score Feelings: Sesame Creminis with Field Garlic

Ginger’s New Ride

I always want the expensive one. Especially if it’s a mushroom. I want the morel. I want the chanterelle. I want the porcini and the black trumpet. But sometimes, it’s really not in the budget to be blowing my wad on fungus. Let’s face it, sometimes there’s not even a wad to blow. And now is one of those times. And thankfully, instead of going into an infantile state of counting out all the scarcity smokescreens on my block, I find myself looking instead to the ways in which life isn’t about what I’m doing without, or the fungus I am daydreaming about, but rather what I have to work with. Now, as I wrap my head around a new set of living demands (for instance I’ve never had to budget for, say, a riding mower before), I’m also presented with a pile of new lenses through which to observe how my kitchen continues to be a perfect place to work it all out.

Enter the humble cremini mushroom (Agaricus bosporus), otherwise known as the Baby Bella. As a tender sweet young thing, this mushroom looks like a brown button mushroom. If left to its own devices, it will grow up to be a portobello mushroom, the vegetarian steak of fungus. Spring has been a slow time coming in these parts, teasing us in a calendar dotted with a couple seventy degree days and then a string of clouds and rain, with one staggering, and kind of bananas, Passover snowstorm. As such, my cravings for different foods has been a bit strange as the weather has changed and I’ve been easing off the Lucky Devil Spring reboot. While I am tending toward wanting lighter foods and smaller portions, my flavor cravings are still steadfastly earthy and umami.

Free from the wildNow, speaking of the mower, as the snow melted and life began popping up all over the yard, one thing I noticed was clumps of skinny green wispy things in gangs dotting the perimeter of the lawn. Holding court on the outskirts around the woods, I couldn’t help but investigate a hunch from working in a co-op for years. Sure enough, when I went and rolled one of those greens around in my fingers the scent pummeled me with joy: field garlic. My love of garlic pre-dates my love of vampires, although I do tend to like both in steady rotation. But this new life of finding it growing wild in my yard is really something special. After making sure there was plenty to harvest so I didn’t kill off the possibilities for years to come, I set out to incorporate the Little Darlings into my lunch with my modest mushrooms. I imagine that between the affordable mushrooms, the free garlic and the rice, this lunch would cost less than a dollar for anyone partaking, even including the exciting oils, seeds, and vinegar. Plus, it’s just divine tasting.

Sesame Crimini Mushrooms with Field Garlic

Handful of Field garlic
*If you don’t have that handy, substitute with Spring Garlic and greens OR 3 cloves diced garlic
3 crimini mushrooms, sliced thin
1t coconut aminos OR tamari
1t ume plum vinegar
2t olive oil
1t toasted sesame oil
black and white sesame seeds
1/2c cooked rice seasoned with rice vinegar

Make sure you have prepped rice ready to serve this one. I season a 1/2 cup with a drizzle of rice vinegar and sometimes and tiny bit of toasted sesame oil. Have it waiting in a bowl you really like.

Dice your garlic, whichever kind you are using for this. Then slice up your mushroom real skinny. You don’t need a ton of mushrooms because the little suckers pack a lot of flavor. Heat your olive oil in a skillet on medium/low and cook your mushrooms until they are floppy. Add your coconut aminos or tamari in here with the garlic. Continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes on low. Now turn off your heat and add the ume plum vinegar. Toss everything and serve over the rice with a sprinkle of sesame seeds on top.

When I sat myself down in front of the window and put this in my very favorite bowl, I got that same feeling I get when I get a perfect score at an estate sale or in a thrift store. I mean except it tastes better and is more nutritious. I really hope your enjoy it as much as I did.

Hippie Dust: How We Fell In Love

Throw some hippie dust on that!

And so, with that direction bellowed over an enormous bowl of popcorn one fateful evening about 12 years ago, began my love affair with nutritional yeast. Actually, the love began as many affairs do, in a state of acrimony and denial with undercurrent of a tug pulling me toward something inexplicable. My first taste resulted in a somewhat crumply face of disgust as compared to a popcorn bowl full of delicious melted butter and salt with fresh ground pepper. But something about the nuttiness of the unexpected yeast pulled me back. And in no time at all, I was all in.

Nutritional yeast has an enormous benefit to many people over its cousins brewer’s yeast and baker’s yeast. This yeast, grown mostly on beet sugar is an inactive yeast which means it can be incorporated into a nutritional arsenal of a system that is often challenged by other active yeasts. (Of course, ask your doctor or nutritionist their view on this for your health.) Hippie dust is a dynamo of benefits packed into a magic flourish over foods for a nutty, almost cheesy, flavor. Look here:

1. Vitamin B-12- This is a crucial nutrient for the body involved in the production of red blood cells and for producing and maintaining myelin, the protective insulation around your nerves. Most sources of Vitamin B-12 are animal based, so nutritional yeast is a major player in the nutritional well being of vegans and vegetarians. One tablespoon will provide an adult with a full day’s supply of B-12, if you can keep the tastiness to that!

2. Protein- 2 tablespoons of hippie dust contains 9 grams of protein. That’s more than in 1 cup of whole milk (8g), a large egg (6g), or one oz. of beef (7g). It’s a wonderful source of energy for your workout mornings.

3. Fiber- Fiber is one of my personal favorites in terms of gut health and functional digestion. It also helps our systems regulate blood sugar giving us a more sustainable even store of energy throughout our days and at higher levels. Nutritional yeast provides 3 grams of fiber per tiny serving.

4. Gluten Free- Not only a boon for the Vegans out there, but this treat is also gluten free providing all of this power with an anti-inflammatory ease.

5. Folic acid- Nutritional yeast is also a great source of folic acid. Especially important for women out there trying to get pregnant or carrying future citizens of the planet, folic acid is known to prevent spina bifida and other major birth defects. For those not planning to get pregnant, folic acid is still important for its role in cell maintenance and production.

Here’s one of the easiest recipes in the world and it’ll wow your dinner guests as well.

1 head cauliflower
1T olive oil
1t black sesame seeds
1/4c nutritional yeast
Sea Salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 350. Take all the ingredients and drop them in a mixing bowl. Toss it with your hands until all is coated. Spread on a cooking sheet with parchment paper or foil and cook for about 20-25 minutes. Cauliflower should be a golden light brown. THAT’S IT!

*Originally, I wrote this article for a wellness site here on the web that I’ve decided not to write for anymore. As it has grown to a pretty impressive size, the site continues to insist on not paying its writers for their work. (COMMON PRACTICE) Not even a dollar. Not with coupons or anything, just “Since we do not compensate contributors for posts, we’re more than happy to include a byline and your brief bio containing links to your website, Facebook, Twitter accounts, which we will promote when your post goes live.” I suppose I got lulled into this belief that I had to continue, after many years as a professional writer, to work for free to promote someone else’s content. In the agreement I found myself also letting my voice be compromised, which is actually my favorite part of writing. When I inquired to the editors about when they planned compensation, fiscal or otherwise, for the writers that wholly drive their content, I got no reply at all.  So I decided to simply write here on my own site and accept that I may stay small, but whatever. At least I’ll stay true. 
This text has been edited from its original form to be reprinted here.

Goodbye San Francisco, Notes on Ex-Lovers, and Welcome Home with Chana Masala.

It’s been nearly three weeks since I got here to my new home across the country from my beloved San Francisco. It’s not that all its digital money boom entirely obscured its charms from me with the Google busses and the wall to wall boutique donuts. It would take more than that. I love that town. I will always love that town. The way in which I remember some of the women who have come and gone. I can always recall how that one smelled so good right behind the neck like pomade and a campfire, or the other one, how she read me Raymond Chandler while I soaked in the bath. There was the first real true love who I somehow convinced, in true lesbian fashion, to stay on as my favorite abiding and loyal friend and that one who I don’t remember much about except how good she looked in those work-worn Levi’s every time she left. I always remember her leaving, which, as it turns out, is probably how the memory should go. I Hate to See You Leaving, But I Love to Watch You Go. All of those connections, like the city, are still easy in these ways to love. And with San Francisco, my favorite metropolis so far in which to live, I look forward to seeing her again, I know the exact angle of the sun going down on the bay in the Spring when I walk myself to a day game on a Wednesday clad in black and orange. I know the way the light starts to shimmy like a gown at the Oscars and the remainders of the old wood docks jut up out of the water right through the sequins. I know the way North Beach smells and which blocks off of Market used the sparkly concrete on the sidewalks so when you run over it, it hurts a little bit less at 8 miles. I love that city. But I am no longer right for city life itself and it really wore me the fuck down.

We moved to a town with a population of 711. There is no post office. No traffic light. Not one state route passes through the whole dang thing. No store and, well, no baseball stadium. But in this town, you can watch the bats come out when the sun trades places with the moon at dusk, the sky turns pink, then violet, then lazes its way to navy and finally black. It’s so dark, you look up and it’s like somebody powdered the canopy of night with sugar. A car rolls by maybe every 45 minutes. Maybe. We take the trash to the dump because no one comes to get it and the old dog can lumber around the back with me and no leash. He seems mad we waited until he was 15 to tote him out to paradise, but when the Spring comes, he won’t be mad about anything at all.

Plus, Elizabeth Warren is my Senator.
FUCK, YES to that.

I unpacked like a marine. Up before five and I just kept going until it was done. I always feel weird if the boxes are around. Since I left my home at 17 for college, I have changed domiciles 19 times. I have some ideas about what works for me. And the thing I have always known, is the kitchen comes first. Even before I really gave a shit about how I ate, something about the kitchen had to settle first. It’s where I always feel closest to some kind of connection to my foremothers. I’m not exactly sure why because Gramma Eva I don’t remember cooking very much and Nanny Bert cooked, but never seemed to love it. She loved to smoke these Parliament lights at the breakfast table with the glass top over a bagel and coffee. By the time I was six and old enough to get shipped to Jewish Grandparent Utopia on the gulf coast of Florida, she mostly seemed like she was waiting for the sun to drop from the hot sky so she could pour the Sapphire gin into a rough tumbler, squeeze in a lime, splash out some tonic and listen to the ice clink around as if Bach was conducting.

I remember my mother as a wonderful cook, but she always says I’m wrong. Meh, she says. But no matter what, we all ate together. All five of us. Every night there was a feast on the table for 5 effing people. That seems like such a feat to me when I think about it today. Keeping a house for a family, stitching them all together with brisket and clean laundry and floors so spotless, you might as well eat off of them. I remember this insane shiny wallpaper we had in the kitchen in Pittsburgh with massive cartoony flowers all on it and my mom tan from tennis, pushing her hair back from her forehead with the back of her wrist while she diced things. Something about my mom in the kitchen is the crux of what makes me feel, well, powerful.

I know. I’m as surprised about it as you are.

But that’s how it turned out. Nothing makes me feel more kick ass than inviting over a handful of favorite people and fanning out a spread of divine tastes for everyone. The more food restrictions, the better. I love a puzzle. I’ll try anything new. I like to listen to Sam Cooke, Aretha, Ray Charles and Leonard Cohen. I like cello when I cook or the sounds of a Giants game with Jon Miller calling it. I like them better when we win, but, fuck it, I’ll take any of it. And I will cook my ass off.

Anyhow, all of that to tell you, we had our first handful of incredible people over last week. In honor of our vegetarian, there was a salad, a mujadara, and a chana masala based on the Gingered Chickpeas recipe from the wonderful book 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer. I wanted something warming and cozy and this recipe was perfect. It also happens to be good for vegetarians, vegans, plus the wheat and gluten challenged. I served it over brown basmati rice. I’m sharing my variation with you here.

 

Welcome Home Chana Masala

1 Large tomato. (if you don’t have one, use a small can of diced)
1 small red onion, chopped
8 lengthwise slices of peeled ginger (each 2 in. long, 1 in. wide and
1/8 in. thick) Chop 4 of the pieces coarsely, and chop 4 into matchsticks.
1 dried serrano pepper, soaked in 3/4c water, liquid reserved
8 cloves of chopped garlic
1T coriander seeds
1T cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
2T sunflower oil
2t hot paprika
1t turmeric
1/2c chopped fresh cilantro
3 cups cooked chickpeas (I cooked mine the day before with an onion)
1t garam masala
1t sea salt
1c vegetable broth
Juice of one lime. I like a big fat lime, myself.
First get your dried pepper in warm water to soak and get all puffy. While that happens, you can put your basmati rice on to cook. When the pepper is all puffy again, put it in a blender with its attending water, the tomato, onion, chopped ginger (not the matchsticks), half the garlic, coriander, cumin, salt and the cinnamon stick, busted up. Puree it all together and you should get a speckled dark red sauce.

After that, heat the sunflower oil in a pan and put in the ginger sticks. Let it sizzle for about 30 seconds and then add the rest of the garlic. Cook for another minute. Everything should turn light brown. When that happens, pour in the sauce from the blender. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the paprika, turmeric and 1/4c of the cilantro. Let the sauce come to a simmer again and sit for 5-10 minutes.

Now you get to add your chickpeas and a cup of vegetable broth (or water). Bring the whole shebang to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, covered, and go stir it once in a while. Cook for about a half hour. The sauce should thicken and the chickpeas will get good and soft.

Now stir in the garam masala and the lime juice. Serve over rice with the remaining fresh cilantro used to garnish each bowl.

Welcome home.

 

Old School Potato Leek Soup

One of the things I love about winter is the angle of the light. It’s not good for driving and it flees from the low perch too quickly each day, but the way it hitches sideways, a smirking dandy with a walking cane. Handsome, and a little bit lazy. I grew up on the east coast before we were melting the ice caps so rapidly and my life revolved in four real seasons. Year in and year out. Roughly every three months, something changed, and with winter, along with the light, I loved the frost.

Weirdly, here in San Francisco, there’s been frost on the ground every morning for a week straight. That’s more mornings than the rest of the 14 years I’ve lived here all together. In addition to providing shiny surfaces for a sunrise to ping around on, it makes a lady want stews and soups. And this old soup is one of my very favorites. I had a few potatoes and leeks left over from Hanukkah and whipped this up in no time.

The first thing I did was pull all the ends of squashes and celery and onions and garlic out from the freezer and make a vegetable broth. This one was sweet from the squash and so my soup turned out extra comforting.

For the broth, I keep a ziplock bag of all the ends of my vegetables to go in as I cook during the week: ends of scallions, squash hats, onion skins, broccoli stalks, cauliflower cores, kale spines… all of it. By the weekend the bag is full and I add 8 cups of water and bring it all to a boil then reduce and simmer for 30-60 minutes. Voila. Broth.

4-6 leeks, sliced
1 small onion, diced
2 yellow potatoes
1t celery salt
1t fresh ground black pepper
2T olive oil
6c vegetable broth or water
2T half and half (optional)
cilantro or parsley to garnish

I like to prep everything before I start. I slice the leeks into coin and soak them in a bowl to get the grit and dirt out.  I peel my potatoes (I used yukon golds here, but I actually think the humble russet works better in this soup. It comes apart easier.) and slice them into quarters, then into 1/4 inch discs. The onion gets taken care of.

In a heavy bottomed pot I throw in the olive oil, and heat it up. Then go the leeks and the onions for about 5-7 minutes, until soft. Then I put in the potatoes, the salt and the pepper. I like mine to have kick. when everything is good and soft, add your broth or water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce and let cook for an hour. You can mash up your potatoes or let them fall apart. I like to leave some hearty chunks in mine. If you like, near the end of cooking stir in the half and half. Then you’re ready for your warm soup!!

Some options: do it with sweet potatoes. Swap the half and half for a hunk of coconut butter to keep it vegan. Take out the onion and use extra leeks. Add garlic. Add a dried chipotle pepper for a smokey taste. You could use a turnip too if you like.

Maple Miso Delicata Squash with Chickpeas and Kale

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sliced my hand open working with butternut squash. And don’t even get me started on the kabocha. I’ve since found a U-shaped peeler that makes these endeavors quicker, easier, and a whole lot less bloody, but before I made that discovery, there was the: (angels singing) Delicata squash.

I love this squash because you can bake the skin and eat it. Plus the edges come out like scalloped moons, lacy little things that look fancy. I suppose you’ve gathered by now that I really go for low-investment, high-yield kitchen work. I want a lot of flavor, pretty plates, and solid nutrition without breaking my back about it. Unless I’m throwing a party. Then I love to fuss. But just for the day-in, day-out kind of cooking, I like it fast and easy. I won’t make jokes about myself in college, but it’s tempting.

ANYHOW!!! Roasting a delicata squash is so easy. It’s delicious. It’s good looking. It’s cheap as hell, and it’s good for you. Great. Let’s cook some. I got this idea originally from this recipe over at Sprouted Kitchen. The original recipe is QUITE different from this and you can try that one next!

1c cooked chickpeas
1/2 bunch dino kale
1 delicata squash
1t chickpea miso
2t pure maple syrup
3T olive oil, separated
juice of 1 lemon, separated
1t toasted sesame oil
1T pumpkin seeds
1T crushed walnuts
crushed black peppercorns

Preheat your over to 400 degrees. Slice the squash open the long way and run a spoon along the inside to get rid of the seeds. Make 1/4 inch moons from both halves and toss them into a small mixing bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the miso, the syrup 2T olive oil and half the lemon juice. When the miso smoothes out, and the sauce to the squash and toss with your hands until covered. Turn out onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with black pepper. Cook at 400 for about 30 minutes. Toss it around once at about 20.

Meanwhile, slice your kale up into ribbons and put in a mixing bowl with the chickpeas, a dash of sea salt, a teaspoon of the olive oil that’s left and the rest of the lemon juice. Mix everything until it’s all covered with the liquid. Let it sit and the kale will soften.

In a skillet, use the rest of the olive oil and the toasted sesame oil to warm the seeds and the walnuts. Use a low heat and just until the sesame oil is fragrant. If you begin to hear sizzling, turn it down.

As soon as your squash is ready, add it to the kale and chickpeas and mix it all up. Then toss the warm seeds and walnuts in and mix again. Enjoy!!!