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Posts tagged ‘vegetable’

a soup to carry you through winter

What’s to like about winter? A low-slung sun. A bluer sky than blue. The last golden leaves to cling. Grass  that crunches under foot. Children’s boots and mittens.  Hot cocoa. The glow of candles near your bath. Longer hugs. And soup.

This is winter’s version of pistou, a Provençal vegetable soup, and I believe it is very possibly the finest winter soup I’ve ever made. It is, in fact, so fine a soup I’m going to be adapting it to different  kitchens and circumstances. (Slow-cooker and pressure cooker versions will follow before winter’s done with us.) It’s gob-full of vegetables, heavenly hearty, and will warm you to your chilly toes.

This makes an enormous potful. We took half out to our mom and the half we have remaining is enough to feed a table full. There’s quite a bit of chopping involved, but sharpen your knife and trust me…it will be so worth your time.

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Provençal Vegetable Soup

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Extra-virgin Olive Oil – 5 Tablespoons

3 plump, moist Garlic cloves

Onions - 4 medium, cut in ½ – 1-inch pieces

Leeks - 3 medium, white & tender green parts only, rinsed, quartered & thinly sliced

Bouquet Garni: several fresh or dried bay leaves, fresh celery leaves, thyme sprigs & parsley - either tie together or put in a wire mesh tea strainer

sea salt

Carrots - 8 medium, scrubbed & cut into thin wheels

firm, yellow-fleshed Potatoes (Yukon Gold) – 1 lb. (500 g)  peeled & cubed

Celery ribs - 4 ribs with leaves, cut into thin pieces

Butternut Squash or raw Pumpkin – 2 lbs. (1 kg), peeled & cubed (yield: 1 qt. or 4 c.)

Farro or Spelt – or substitute Barley - 1 cup, rinsed & drained

can peeled Italian plum Tomatoes in their Juice - 28-ounce (750 g) can

Tomato Paste – 2 Tablespoons

small White Beans – such as navy or flageolet (see NOTE)

Cranberry Beans (such as Borlotti) (see NOTE)

mixture chopped Kale & Spinach *

freshly-ground coarse Pepper

freshly-grated Pecorino Romano cheese – ¾ cup

freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese - ¾ cup

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NOTE: If using fresh beans, 1 pound of each in their shells. If using dried beans, 8 ounces (250 g) of each  - pick them over, making sure you have no little pebbles, rinse the beans, place in a large bowl & cover with boiling water;  allow to soak for 1 to 2 hours. Please note the different instructions – step 2 below – based on whether fresh or dried beans are used.

* – a bag of frozen chopped kale & spinach works great for this. Add as you’re ready to serve – each time you heat up a new potful of soup, add a handful or 2 of this mixture and you’ll have bright green in each bowl.

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1. In a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot, combine the oil, onions, leeks, bouquet garni and salt to taste,  then stir to coat. On low heat, sweat the onions & garlic mixture – cooking with the lid on for several minutes until what’s in the pot is softened and fragrant. Drop in the carrots, celery, squash, potatoes, farro (or spelt or barley), the tomatoes with their juice, along with the tomato paste. Add four quarts (4 liters) cold water. If you are using DRIED BEANS – add only 3 quarts cold water at this time. Cover the stock pot and bring to a simmer. Gently simmer for 30 minutes. Taste for salt & add as needed.

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what? another take on hummus?

We have this favorite little Japanese maple out back. This past week, its finely pointed leaves began to wave then drop in sweet clusters of beet red.

It was quite impossible to say no to the urge that hit me…so,  with that…Wegetable Vednesday makes a comeback!

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With the crimson and scarlet, burnt orange, rust and gingko gold of fall flying,  suddenly I craved the taste of color.

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I’m in school and everything I do in the  kitchen for months will need to be simple. So, for a while simple is all I have to offer you.

…and a hope and a toast to your very good health!

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(Though the following recipe calls for black beluga lentils, they may be somewhat difficult to find. You can order on line if you like, or substitute with small, dark green Puy Lentils. Both these varieties will make a more luxuriously textured and  dramatically colored hummus.)

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Red Beet & (Black Beluga) Lentil Hummus

 Black  Beluga Lentils, rinsed - ½ cup

2 medium Beets or 3 small – peeled and cut into chunks

garlic – 2 cloves, peeled

Tahini Paste – 2 Tablespoons

Olive Oil – 2 Tablespoons

Fresh Lemon Juice – 2 Tablespoons

Lemon Zest – 2 teaspoons grated (minimum)

sea salt – 1 teaspoon (to start)

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NOTE: Sometimes lentils off the shelf are rather old and will benefit from a little soaking. Nothing extravagant here, but it wouldn’t hurt to allow them to soak an hour or two before draining and cooking. If your package says no need to soak, then no need to soak.)

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Rinse the lentils and add to a medium size pot. Peel the beets and cut into chunks about 1½ inches in size. Add to the pot with the lentils and add 1 cup of water. Bring to boil and reduce temperature to simmer. The beets should be fork tender and the lentils soft when done.  (About 20 minutes or so.) Read more

Hummus – stuffing our pockets

Hummus was one of the first things I learned to make as a 20-something year old bent on eating well, while not making life difficult on relatives of cows I’d grown to love as a girl. The hummus of those days has morphed a number of times over, as we ourselves tend to do.

Back then I used canned chickpeas. I prefer to cook my own these days, but I’d much rather use canned chickpeas than face the dreadful plight of hummus-lessness when the mood for hummus-in-a-hurry strikes. I’m not at all a fanatic about cooking my own and  always have canned chickpeas on hand. BUT, I do think home-cooked beans are noticably better-textured and flavored and if you want to consider giving it a gohere are some reasons why you might consider it too -

You’ll cook them with no preservatives, no gross amounts of salt in the canning liquid – (though not all canned beans come loaded this way.) You can use some of your own cooking liquid to puree in with the beans. (Much better than plain water.) I won’t use the liquid if they’re canned. A batch of your own fresh-cooked chickpeas is a fraction of the cost of canned. There’s less to throw away (or recycle.) And then, there’s the taste.

One of the changes to my hummus has come about quite recently – only since developing a mad crush on Ottolenghi (I mean, his recipes!) It would seem that the skins of the chickpeas, even when the beans are cooked to softness, retain a bit of their toughness unless measures are taken to further soften them. Ottolenghi adds baking soda to both the soaking water, and then again to the cooking pot. This addition and sufficient cooking time are  probably THE keys to THE creamiest, most velvety hummus your mouth will ever taste. I’d like to compare it to ambrosia’s savory cousin, but having never tasted ambrosia…Anyway…

Another measure which I’ve read about recently – in several places – seems awfully tedious at first. – but perhaps especially in the case when canned beans are used, worth the extra effort. You squeeze each and every little chickpea between thumb and forefinger, easily slipping them out of their filmy skins. This happens all the more easily with the addition of baking soda to the cooking water. (It’s as if they were itching to shed them, and you came along, right place, right time.) What’s left, once these naked beans are pureed with garlic and fresh lemon juice and tahini (the “butter” of sesame seeds”) is exquisitely smooth.

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The pita-pocket sandwich is just about whatever you’d like it to be. What I’d like it to be goes something like this:

Home-baked pita, sliced in half. A good slathering of lemony hummus, topped with thinly-sliced tomatoes and English cucumbers (the kind with the very small seeds); perhaps some sprouts or pea-shoots or micro-greens; maybe some delicate leaves of Spring lettuce, or any other lettuce shredded; perhaps some shredded carrot; a little feta; thin slices of red onion; perhaps some marinated & grilled kabobs of fish or chicken (or you decide); definitely some Greek-style yogurt or tzatziki. And maybe an extra drizzle of olive oil. And because each half is fairly small and because life comes with SO many choices, and choosing is sometimes very hard, make them every which way.

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But DO start with the hummus:

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The Hummus

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1¼ cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (See NOTE)

1½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

Juice of 2 to 2½ lemons, or to taste

2 or 3 cloves garlic, crushed

salt to taste

4 – 5 Tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)

a pinch (or several) of ground cumin

extra virgin olive oil

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OPTIONAL: see below for optional garnishes & serving suggestions

Hummus becomes a personal thing over the years. You find what you like – more garlicky or lemony, or less? – more tahini, less tahini? – more herbs or none at all? It pays to taste a little as you go. Taste your tahini before you start. Is it bitter? Then go with far less than what’s shown above. (I ruined a batch once with tahini far different than what I was used to.) Add most of the lemon and 2 cloves of garlic to start. It won’t be the right consistency yet, but Taste. If it’s tasting about right, don’t add the rest until closer to the end if at all. You’ll develop your own perfect proportions. With that out of the way, here’s the method -

NOTE: 1¼ cups dried chickpeas will equal about 3¾ cups cooked - if you use canned chickpeas you can give them a little extra cooking time in fresh water to soften them further, and then if you like, remove the skins from them as well.

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creamy carrot soup & preserved lemons

On a winter’s afternoon, weeks still before Christmas, a good friend Carolyn and I came together in my kitchen. We’d amassed on the counter several bags of organic lemons, sea salt, a few herbs and spices, and a collection of pretty jars.  We washed, sliced and stuffed the lemons with salt. We packed them tight into their jars. Then tighter still. We dropped bay leaves and pink peppercorns and allspice berries in behind them, and then squeezed juice enough from other lemons to cover them. We talked about what we’d do with them and who we’d give them to as gifts for Christmas. In six weeks they’d be ready. Carolyn hadn’t tasted them before, so she could hardly wait.CarrotSoup-1Some time – too long ago – I posted on how to preserve lemons. I (kind of) promised that I’d share recipes that used these indescribably delectable “preserves”. (In all truth, though, you don’t really need a recipe in order to use them. You can strew them on a salad or in the salad’s vinaigrette; or in with roasted or steamed vegetables; make a simple sauce sort of extraordinary; add them to stews or soups; flavor grilled or poached fish with them. I reach for them several times a week, at least!) Over the next couple months I’ll share a good handful of really good recipes. One of them will be from my friend Carolyn who invented it on the spot (she does that sort of thing, and created herself a beautiful shrimp dinner in about 15 minutes.) She told me about it and I made it and we loved it. (Expect to see more from Ottolenghi too.)

This one today is from Mike – Mike, married to my daughter, is a good good cook. They received a jar of Preserved Lemons for Christmas. One day my girl and I were on an outing and she raved about the dinner Mike had made the other night. By that afternoon, I was texting Mike…

He generously shares his soup:

Creamy Carrot Soup with Preserved Lemons

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 -3 Tablespoons butter or olive oil

 2 cloves of garlic, minced

1½ teaspoons finely minced ginger root

 2 cups chicken stock (or good vegetable stock)

2 Tablespoons dry sherry or white wine

8 to 10 medium carrots, sliced thinly

1 to 2 sections of preserved lemon, diced finely (See NOTE)

1 to 1¼ cups milk (from whole milk to 1% to your preferred milk alternative)

Salt & Pepper (white if you have it) to taste

NOTE on preserved lemons. By “sections” we mean quarters of lemon. After soaking in a briny liquid for 6 weeks, the flesh of the lemon has given over much of its juice to the jar. The rinds of the lemon have softened, and in a way quite impossible to describe, have mellowed, given up their acidic bite and become more roundly-flavored, very lemony still, but not mouth-puckeringly so. To use them, you remove the flesh (either discard it or toss it back in the jar) and use only the rind, which you rinse well first and then (generally) finely dice. If you cook with it, it will impart its lemony-ness to the dish but in a way you can’t quite put your finger on. If you use it fresh, without cooking first, you get little lemony bursts.

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If you don’t want to make them yourself, you can find them in many markets. That said, they’re easy and (we think) fun to make…especially with a friend.

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on sweet eats

Only once as a child was I made to strongly urged to eat my dessert. Our family of five,  plus my uncle and his new wife were gathered around our maple dining table. Each of our wintry faces was warmed and brightened by the candle’s winking light. Mom, in her fancy apron, her hair pulled back in a thick high ponytail, was beaming. She’d worked hard on this dessert.

Christmas pudding.

Sounds innocuous enough. To some it might even sound a tad romantic.  A dessert of a time past when people cooked in black pots placed on grates in large fireplaces, when people wiped their mouths with their sleeves or aprons, and hunting dogs curled around the legs of the table and caught the scraps that fell.  Everyone basked in the glow of candlelight back then. Christmas pudding….

Ahhh! Lovely, dear!

At first whiff I knew this was going to be nasty. I declined as politely as I could by pushing it away and making a face. “You haven’t even tried it.”   “But I don’t need to, I know I won’t like it!”   “Well, you’re going to try it.”   “See, I told you I wouldn’t like it!”   “Maybe you just need another bite to be sure.”

The story doesn’t end well. I had several bites that night, and then lost a good portion of the dinner I had liked. I had a very weak stomach back then, a nose that could sniff green pepper or alcohol a room away, and a very – discerning – palate for a seven-year-old.

(Don’t think a single dark thought about our Mom. She’s a sweetheart and a mighty fine cook, and I’ve got plenty of stories and recipes to prove it!)

Why are we here then, you ask. Certainly not to share in Mom’s recipe for Christmas Pudding!? (No, our smarter-than-average Mom never made that ghastly thing again.)

 I’m here (once more) to strongly urge you to eat your vegetables – AS your dessert this time! Fortune smiles!

AND you ‘re going to love it – at first bite! (So will seven-year-olds.)

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WHY will you love it? (Good of you to ask.) It’s aromatic, tender, light, flavorful, not-dry (I know some people despise the word moist), it’s soft in the mouth, sweet on the tongue – and what? good for you! Warmed for breakfast, packed in a kid’s lunch, a little pick-me-up in the afternoon, a light bit of sweet after dinner. This makes 2 loaves, and you only add ½ cup of sugar – yet it’s delicately sweet. (It does have some fruit butter which has a bit of its own sugar, but we’re not going to hold that against it.) We do like this – ever so much – around our house!

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Carrot-Parsnip-Zucchini Bread

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1½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup whole wheat flour (the white variety of whole wheat works best for tender baked goods like this but any will do)

2 Tablespoons hulled Hemp Seeds (Optional – but so packed nutritionally and with a delicious nutty flavor)

½ cup sugar

1½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground  cloves

1 medium carrot shredded

1 medium parsnip, shredded

1 small zucchini, shredded

3 large eggs

¾ cup apple butter or pumpkin butter (I’ve only made this with pumpkin butter, but either would be equally good)

3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract (yes, that much)

2 Tablespoons pumpkins seeds for the top

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Preheat the oven to 375°F (180°C) Either oil two 8½ x 4½ inch loaf pans with olive oil or line with parchment paper. (Loaves will lift right out of the pan, cleanly, with parchment paper.)

Wash, peel and grate your vegetables.

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about 2-1/2 cups total shredded vegetables will be perfect

In a large bowl, combine the flours, hemp seed, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Stir to combine well. Add the shredded carrots, zucchini and parsnip. Stir to coat the shreds evenly.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, fruit butter of your choice, the olive oil and vanilla extract.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until well combined, but be careful not to over-mix which would toughen the loaves.

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so liberating to make a mess – as any seven-year-old knows – and it comes easier with practice

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curried cauliflower soup

Here’s a soup to warm the cockles of your heart.  No idea what I mean by “cockles”, but by soup I mean silky and warm, subtly complex, aromatic spoonfuls. If you think you’re not a fan of cauliflower, but are feeling up for a small culinary adventure, I think you’ll be surprised – the cauliflower just lends itself to the overall  creaminess of this soup and never brags about its starring role (which I respect in a vegetable.)  When we seek a warm refuge from winter’s chill, it’s nice to know we’ve got…..

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Curried Cauliflower Soup

(makes about 2 quarts)

3 Tablespoons coconut oil (see NOTE)

1 large yellow onion

2 teaspoon sugar

2 to 3 teaspoon green curry paste

 2 teaspoons (or more) garam masala (see NOTE 2)

¼ teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon cumin powder (or 1¼ t. seeds, dry roasted & ground)

Sea Salt as you go

1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets 

2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed

5 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable stock or broth

1 medium green apple, peeled, pared and chopped

1 can coconut milk

1 fresh lime

 Garnish: ¼ cup plain whole milk yogurt + 3 Tbl. chopped cilantro (+ lime wedges)

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Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C) Wash the cauliflower and cut into florets. Melt 1 Tablespoon coconut oil, and drop into a medium-sized bowl along with the cauliflower and a good sprinkle of sea salt. Tumble onto a baking sheet or a roasting pan, sprinkle with a few pinches of the  garam masala and roast until tender and lightly browned.CurriedCauliflowerSoup-5

While the cauliflower is roasting, gently sauté the onion in 2 Tablespoons coconut oil until translucent. Add 2 teaspoons of green curry paste to start. Later you can add another teaspoon if you decide you like the warmth and want more. (I use 3 and don’t find it overly spicy at all.) Add the sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, and the remaining spices and continue sauteing for one minute. Add the cubed potatoes and chopped apple and stir over the heat for another couple minutes.

Add the broth and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer. After 15 minutes, add the roasted cauliflower and continue cooking until the vegetables are very tender.

Remove the pan’s contents in several batches and puree in a blender until completely smooth. (Be careful not to overfill the blender, and put a folded towel on the top to ensure hot contents don’t sputter up.) Return pureed soup to the pot . Check for salt and add to taste. Stir in a can of coconut milk and reheat the soup.  Again check for salt. Squeeze in the juice of one-half lime, and cut the remainder in wedges for serving.

Mix together the yogurt and chopped cilantro. Ladle soup into bowls, put a dollop of the yogurt/cilantro mixture on top, a little sprinkle of cilantro bits for extra color and serve with lime.

{ to print the recipe, click }

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NOTE:  Coconut oil comes in a jar, usually in the vegetable oil section at your market. It’s solid at room temperature. It comes in either refined or unrefined form….the unrefined has  more of a coconut aroma and a somewhat lower smoking point than the refined. If you do the research, you’ll find that coconut oil and coconut milk have a variety of healthful properties  I keep both on hand, but like the unrefined for this and most dishes. Read more

roasted sweet potatoes & fresh figs

You thought I’d forgotten Wegetable Vednesdays?  I’ve taken quite the break – but all along the way I’ve been gathering inspiration. I’ll try to make up for a little lost time with the next two installments. And then we’re back on track…

New things to do with the same old vegetables every Wednesday around here.

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It’s nearly Thanksgiving so let’s talk turkey. So to speak. 

You’ve noticed…getting a feast on the table is no small fete.  The most challenging part of the entire undertaking is getting all things to the table either as steamy hot or icy cold as you want them.

Maybe you’ve got your own methods for ensuring this happens as we idealize it should – maybe it’s one well-orchestrated movement at your house, with ten experienced helping hands, moving seamlessly in your commercial-sized kitchen while your great uncle plays Mozart on the concertina and your kids play board games on the rug. But if that’s not you (and it sure isn’t me)…

here’s a thought…

What if a couple delicious side dishes were meant to appear

- utterly perfect -

at room temperature?

“room temperature, on purpose!”

that is a thought…

One such dish might look like this:

And with the next post (tomorrow or Friday) I’ll show you another. (No feast will get the best of us!)

I’ve spoken raved about Yotam Ottolenghi before. (See Marinated Turkey Breast,  Cauliflower & Cumin Fritters… or a favorite Roasted Chicken with Sumac, Za’atar & Lemon, or  Roasted Eggplant with Pomegranates & a Buttermilk Sauce …. if you missed the raves.) This dish comes straight out of his latest (and glorious) cookbook, Jerusalem.

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~ serves 4 ~

~ or 8 if two or more vegetable side dishes are served ~

Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Fresh Figs

4 small Sweet Potatoes (2¼ lbs. 1 kg)

5 T. Olive Oil

scant 3 T. Balsamic Vinegar *

1½ T. Superfine Sugar

12 Green Onions, sliced in half lengthwise, then 1½” segments

1 Red Chile, thinly sliced

6 Ripe Figs, quartered **

5 oz. (150 g) soft Goat’s Milk Cheese (optional)

Flaky Sea Salt & Freshly-ground Pepper

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*no need to use a premium grade balsamic for this one

**A note on the figs – Ottolenghi suggests here to go for a plump fruit with an irregular shape and a slightly split bottom…some resistance but not much…

Try to smell the sweetness. 

(How to pick a fig, or how to live a life?)

Preheat the oven to 475°F (240°C) – yes very hot – not a typo.

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crispy potato cakes

I’m aiming to set a new personal record here folks. My shortest post (which, by no accident, follows my  l o n g e s t  of yesterday.)

This has to be THE simplest recipe. And THE crispiest little tater cake you ever bit into. Not fatty, not greasy, not complicated, not messy. (4 ingredients, if you count salt and pepper.) Just what a (German) potato cake ought to be (even if it did come straight out of my favorite little French cookbook.)

Cream takes the place of butter here and holds everything together (no eggs, no flour) and is less greasy than butter would be. These are BAKED in the oven, not fried…imagine the clean-up you won’t be doing.

Crispy Potato Cakes

makes about 8 potato cakes

1 pound (450 g) potatoes, such as Yukon Gold (or russets) peeled and grated

¼ cup (60 mL) heavy cream

Salt & Pepper

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NOTE: If you like a lacy cake, it works best to grate the potato on a box grater, holding the potato lengthwise so you get long shreds. Using a food processor will be faster, but you’ll have short shreds which will form a more compact cake.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). If you have a non-stick baking sheet, use that, lightly oiled: otherwise generously oil a regular baking sheet. Drop the shredded potatoes into the center of a clean kitchen towel. Wring the towel tightly over a sink to remove as much moisture as practical. Spill the potatoes into a bowl and pour in the cream and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Stir with a fork til blended. Spoon the mixture into about 8 small pancakes onto the baking sheet.

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going green & getting crabby

Wegetable Vednesday - featuring fresh & local fruits & vegetables

from our farmers’ markets

Our local paper featured several gazpacho recipes in the most recent Food Day section and this one sounded especially intriguing. Fresh, green, light and refreshing soup served chilled with lumps of Dungeness crabmeat piled on top.

Remembering what we learned in art class on color theory – red + green = brown, there’s to be no tomatoes in this one. (I’ve yet to meet a cold brown soup my lips would touch. It may be the same for you.)

Savoring these last luscious moments of summer,

a light dinner:

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Green Gaspacho with Fresh Crab,

crackly garlicky crostini,

and a good beer in a tall frosted glass 

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and we’ll not come back inside until the last rays of sun are gone

and our skin has turned to cool.

Green Gazpacho with Crab*

Makes 6 servings as an appetizer, 4 medium portions as a main course with bread

  • 3 cups peeled, seeded & coarsely chopped cucumbers
  • 1½ cups chopped romaine lettuce (plus about ¾ cups thinly sliced for serving)
  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped green bell pepper
  • 1⁄3 cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 3 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1½ Tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1½ Tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 small cloves garlic, or 1 large
  • ¾ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1½ cup cubed crustless white bread (3 oz.)
  • 1 cup water (maybe less)
  • 1 cup Dungeness crab meat (* or grilled seafood such as shrimp, calamari, etc.)
  • 3 Tablespoons minced fresh chives

In a food processor, purée the cucumber, the 1½ cups of lettuce, bell pepper, onion, olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, cilantro, garlic and salt.

Add the bread and allow to stand until soggy, a couple minutes. Purée until smooth. Mix in 3/4 cup water. (Add a bit more to suit your preference.) Taste for seasoning. Transfer gazpacho to a large glass or ceramic bowl. Cover and refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Gazpacho can be made up to 2 days ahead of time, and kept refrigerated. Read more

green beans in summer

Keeping it simple, keeping it cool.

Fresh, crisp green beans, lightly and barely cooked then chilled. Drizzled with walnut oil. Scattered with toasted walnuts and fresh thyme leaves. Sprinkled with crunchy salt & crumbles of blue cheese. Served with anything off the grill or as one of a trio of summer salads. Simple and cool, like lemonade and a run through the sprinkler, just what we need, just as we need it.

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A few secrets to beautifully cooked green beans: 

Lots and lots of water…a big pot full of roiling, boiling water.

Lots of salt…way more than you think you’d need.

quick cooking.

And, unless you’re serving immediately, a good ice-cold bath & toweling off. (the beans, I mean … but it might be just what you need too.)

Why so much water? Because when you drop the beans in, the temperature will naturally drop and will need to return to a boil…that takes far less time the more water you have. Why so much salt? It helps lock in the color AND salted water boils at a higher temperature. (Don’t worry – very little of it will be left on the beans.) As quick a cooking as possible because the longer they’re in hot water the limper and paler they become and the more of their vitamins and minerals they’ll lose. Why the quick ice bath? If you don’t cool them immediately, they’ll continue cooking outside the pot, well beyond their perfect doneness. (Thank you Julia Childs – how to cook good green beans, one of the first things I learned from you as a young cook.)

As usual when presenting vegetables, I’ll leave quantities safely in your own able hands. Here are just a list of ingredients & a few guidelines.

Green Beans in Summer with Walnut Oil, Walnuts & Blue Cheese

Fresh, crisp brightly colored green beans

Walnut oil (so delicious! You won’t be sorry you picked some up if you haven’t already)

Walnuts

Coarse, crunchy salt (like Fleur gris or Maldon) – (See NOTE)

Blue cheese

a few sprigs of fresh thyme

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NOTE on salt – if you enjoy salt, you’ll much prefer the crunchy little bits of a coarser, slower-dissolving kind in a dish like this. It adds another element & a distinctive texture to this simple dish.

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