Archive for March, 2011

March 24, 2011

Chard and tomato sauce

This week we got our first chard, which was really really exciting. Usually we just eat it straight on pasta, but this time we decided to really shake things up by making a tomato sauce to go with the chard and pasta!

It was like this, but delicious, rather than wordy:

1 large can of diced tomatoes (this would be so much better in the summer, when we could have fresh)

1 head of garlic

1 very large shallot

balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon red wine

1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil

1/2 teaspoon sugar


salt & pepper to taste


1. Chop the garlic and shallot and cook them in a small amount of oil.  Add the dried basil, red wine, and a capful of balsamic vinegar.  Cook for a couple minutes.

2. Add the canned tomatoes, turn down the heat, and cook for at least half-an-hour.

3. Add 1/2 teaspoon sugar, cook for a few minutes and taste.  season with salt, pepper, & basil.  Add more sugar if the tomatoes still taste tinny (I suppose if you are using fresh tomatoes you could leave the sugar out altogether, although it is good to balance the basil).

4. Put water on to boil for spaghetti.  Meanwhile, cut the stems off the chard and chop it into very small pieces, about 1 inch x 1 inch and set aside.  If you’re saving veggie scraps for stock, you can save the stems for that.

5.  Once the spaghetti is done, throw the chard into the sauce and stir continually until it is all nicely mixed together and the chard is starting to wilt a little bit.  Turn off the heat and eat right away.  It remains great the second day as well.

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March 22, 2011

Portobello-Layered Mashed Potatoes

Whilst constructing a futon (care of our closet-dweller’s generous aunt), we also made this wonderful supper: Portobello-Layered Mashed Potatoes. This recipe was distributed by the folks who run our local farmers’ market and originally written by


6 medium German butterball potatoes (or Yukon Golds – but baking potatoes will work, too)
¾ cup milk
At least 1 teaspoon salt
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 ½ tablespoons butter
4 shallots (or 2 onions)
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
About 6 portobello mushrooms (appx 3 cups), chopped
2 tablespoons dried basil
At least 1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon paprika
A sprinkling of fresh (frozen) parsley










Place potatoes in a saucepan, and cover with water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until tender; drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Mash the potatoes with a fork – keep some texture. Add reserved cooking liquid, milk, 3/4 teaspoon salt, nutmeg, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and stir it around until just mixed.

Melt butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, and sauté 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook 2 minutes, without stirring. Cook until liquid almost evaporates (about 4 minutes), stirring frequently. Remove from heat, and stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and basil.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Spread one-third of potato mixture in bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish or 2-quart casserole dish coated with olive oil. Spread half of the mushroom mixture over potato mixture; repeat layers, ending with potato mixture. Sprinkle top with cheese and paprika; drizzle with oil. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes.

We found that it needed extra salt and pepper, along with a bit of butter stirred into our individual portions.

March 22, 2011

Purim Part 2: Hamentashen recipe

And now, my mother’s hamentashen recipe:

1 cup sugar

1 cup shortening

1 orange

1 lemon rind

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 1/4-3 1/2 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

3 eggs



lemon rind

matzo meal (you can use flour if you like)

ground walnuts

jam of choice ( lekvar/prune butter and apricot are traditional; I did apricot and then nutella for the second batch)


  1. Cream the sugar and shortening then add the eggs.
  2. Add the rind and juice of one orange.
  3. Add the lemon rind, then the vanilla.
  4. Combine the flour and the baking powder separately (I like to use a whisk to mix dry ingredients together)
  5. Add the flour and baking powder mix.
  6. Make sure everything is smooth and not too sticky.  You can add flour by the tablespoon until you have a smooth, slightly sticky ball.  Now wrap it in a plastic back or something similar and put it in the fridge overnight.


  1. Mix all the ingredients together until you have a slightly stiff but very sticky mixture.  I did the following quantities:       1 10 oz jar of apricot jam, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, 1 1/2 tablespoons matzo meal.
  2. Grind the walnuts in a small cuisineart and then add them to the jam.  Mix until evenly combined.
  3. Add matzo meal in small increments and mix thoroughly.
  4. For Nutella: do just under 1 tablespoon matzo meal and do about 3/4 cup of nutella.  Still use 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.

Now the fun part, putting it all together:

  1. Take the dough out of the fridge and put it on a very heavily floured surface.  You want to work with cold dough and with tons of flour.  Your first few tries may not work out perfectly and you might need to just mix the dough back into itself until you get the rolling correct.  To avoid the dough becoming too warm I cut off chunks and left the rest in the fridge while I worked.  But I have never seen my mother do this.
  2. Gently roll out the dough, flipping often and re-flouring every few moments, until it is about an eight of an inch thick, maybe a little thicker.
  3. Use the top of  a cup to press through the dough making circles.  Peel away the extra dough between the circles.  
  4. Now, place a teaspoon of filling in the center of each circle and fold three side inward.  You should have a triangle with the filling tucked inside.  Here is my very basic diagram for shaping hamentashen.
  5. Pinch the edges of the flaps so that they stick together well and make sure the corners and pinched shut so the filling doesn’t run out.
  6. Place all your cookies on a very lightly greased baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes at 375.  They should be just starting to turn golden-brown.
  7. This recipe makes a ton: give them away freely, mail them to your friends and family!  They are best within the first few hours, but usually stay very good for at least a week.

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March 21, 2011


In honor of Purim, a Jewish holiday about Queen Esther and the saving of the Jews of Persia, I made hamentashen cookies (they’re supposed to be either the hat or the pocket of the story’s bad guy Hamen).  The recipe is in another post.  I used my mother’s recipe and I will here recount my rough version of the Purim story.  Stick with it, there is a lot of build-up and back story before you get to the real action.

Also, a quick note: traditionally you’re supposed to get dressed up as the characters and then get so drunk you can’t tell Hamen from Mordechai.  It’s a little bit like a Jewish Halloween, with more alcohol.

The Story of Purim (more or less, with all the feminist leanings of my upbringing and education):

A long time ago the King Ahashverosh of Persia had a wife named Vashti.  Now Vashit was a proud and beautiful woman.  In some versions of this story Queen Vashti has leprosy, in others something else judgmental and terrible thing has happened to her to anger the king, but in the feminist version Vashti refused to dance naked for the King and his friends at a feast.  So, Vashti, unwilling to debase herself for the king was either killed or sent away.

Which, or course, leaves us with a single king of Persia.  So Ahashverosh held a beauty contest and chose the sweetest, smartest, and most beautiful of the young women to his new wife.  That young woman was Esther, a Jew.  Esther had lost both her parents and had been raised in the capital city by her uncle Mordechai.  When Esther was chosen to be the queen, Mordechai cautioned her not to let Ahashverosh or anyone else in the palace know that she was Jewish.  And so Esther, keeping her identity a secret, became the queen of Persia.

Now, every week, sometimes more than once a week, Mordechai would go visit Esther, so he was always walking by the palace walls and one day he heard two men plotting to assassinate Ahashverosh.  Mordechai immediately told Esther, who told Ahashverosh, who was able to avoid the plot and kill the conspiring men.  Next Ahashverosh went to his chief adviser, a man named Hamen, to ask how to best honor Mordechai.  It went like this:

“Hamen, how should I honor someone to whom I am grateful and who I love?”

Hamen, being conceited, assumed the person in question was himself and answered, “You should dress him in the king’s robes and mount him on the kings horse, and one of your officials will walk with him and proclaim through the city: ‘behold the man the kings loves!’”

“Why Hamen,” said Ahashverosh, who, it seems, took every idea to heart, “that’s a great idea!  Do you want to know who that man is?”

“Yes!” (me) said Hamen.

“It’s Mordechai; he saved my life.  And since I respect you so much, Hamen, you can lead him through the city on my horse, in my robes, calling out how much I love him.”

Hamen was not pleased.  He developed a massive grudge against Mordechai and, once he found out that Mordechai was a Jew, against all Jews.  So over the years Hamen kept conniving and scheming how to punish Mordechai and the Jews.  And finally he came to it:  Hamen met him in the street and told Mordechai to bow because he was chief adviser to the king.  But Mordechai refused, saying he would bow only to god.  Hamen was pissed, angrier than ever, and ready to put his scheme into action.

Hamen went to Ahashverosh and had a nasty manipulative conversation something like this:

“Hey Ahashverosh, shouldn’t all your subjects love you and bow to you?”


“Well, what if I told you there was a group of people who loved someone more than you?”

“That’s terrible!  Who are these people?”

“The Jews!  The Jews love their god more than they love you.”

“And what should I do?”

“Kill them, kill them all!”

“Okay, let’s pick a date.” Again with the not thinking for himself.  Ahashverosh is remarkably un-discerning for a king.

So Ahashverosh and Hamen drew lots (I think that’s literally what Purim means) and picked 13th of Adar to be the date on which all the Jews of Persia would be killed.  He put it into law and Hamen was really happy.

Mordechai, however heard and was heartbroken.  He tore his clothing, wept, and laid in the streets.  Then he went to see Esther and told her about the plan.  Esther, seeing that she had the power to prevent this massacre, knew she had to take action.  She decided, given the limited social roles available to women in her time and position, to use her feminine wiles.  She started by fasting for three days and Mordechai organized all the Jews to fast a well and pray for her.  Then Esther faced the challenge of going before Ahashverosh.  To go to the king unannounced and unasked was punishable by death, but Esther knew she had to nonetheless.

She put on her finest clothes and went to the court of King Ahashverosh.  She walked by the open door once, slowly, hoping the king would see her and invite her in, but he did not.  She walked by a second time, and again he didn’t see her.  So a third time she passed by the door.  A third time he did not see her.  And so Esther took a breath and stepped into the court.

At once guards ran to her, pulling out their spears.  But Ahashverosh finally saw her and called out to let her go.  And so Esther came and sat with the king all afternoon and at the end of the day she asked the King to join her for a banquet in her personal chambers.  The king came and had a great feast with Esther.  And she asked him to come back the next night and to bring his adviser and friend Hamen.  Again, they all had a great time.  And Esther asked them both back for one more banquet.

At the end of the third banquet Ahashverosh said to Esther, “Thank you my dear for these banquets, they have been so wonderful.  Please, how can I reward and thank you?  Be it up to half my kingdom, what can I give you?”

And Esther, finally having her moment proceeded carefully, “What would you say, my king, if I told you someone wanted to kill me?”

“What!” Cried the king.


“Who? Kill him!” Cried Hamen.

And Ester stood. “Him,” she said, pointing to Hamen.  “Hamen wants to kill all the Jews and I am a Jew.”

Ahashverosh jumped up as well and called for the guards, who took Hamen away and hung him on the gallows he had prepared for the Jews.   But, Ahashverosh still had a problem because he’d already passed a decree to kill all the Jews on the 13th of Adar.  He brought Mordechai into the court and made him an adviser and the two of them put out a decree that the Jews could defend themselves and their neighbors could defend the Jews.  And so Esther saved the Jews of Persia.


March 20, 2011


Faced with cans of chickpeas and little fresh food, I opened up one of my favorite cookbooks:  Crescent Dragonwagon’s Passionate Vegetarian.  This was my first vegetarian cookbook and I’ve been finding lots of great recipes in it now that I have consistent access to a real kitchen – it comes highly recommended!  I came across her recipe for baked falafel, which at first glance seemed atrocious.  Then I thought about the time and mess created by frying and decided to give the baked recipe a try.  It was surprisingly tasty.  Not at all the same as regular fried falafel, but worthwhile in its own right.

(Serves 3-4 people with stuff on the side; takes about 15 minutes to prepare, 30 minutes+ waiting, and about 25-30 minutes baking – all in all, little over an hour)

1/4 cup bulghur (cheap & great for soups; check the bulk bins at a natural foods store or co-op)
1/2 cup water
1 (15-16 ounce) can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
3 decently-sized cloves of garlic (more if you’re a big garlic fan) – coarsley chopped, as they’ll be going in the food processor
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt + extra at the end
1/2 teaspoon cumin + extra at the end
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground tumeric
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
Pinch of cayenne
At least 2 tablespoons coarsley chopped parsley (we use about 4 tbsps of frozen parsley for this & it worked fine)
1/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
(DIY Breadcrumbs:  Toast bread until it’s very dry.  Be careful not to let it burn; if parts burn, cut them off.  Chop it up.)

1. Boil about a cup of water.  Pour the water over the bulghur and cover the bowl.  Set aside to soak for at least 20 minutes.  (This is a very imprecise thing, so no need to get fussy with the details.  Bulghur is forgiving, tasty, filling, and cheap – what more could you ask from a grain?)

2. Place half of the chickpeas in a medium-sized bowl and mash slightly with a fork, potato masher, or your hands.  (I used a round ladle to mash it at first, then finished off with my hands.)  They should still have some texture when you’re done.

3. Place the other half of the chickpeas in a food processor with the garlic, egg, salt, cumin, pepper, tumeric, coriander, and cayenne.  Process until smooth, pausing several times to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the parsley and breadcrumbs, then process until it’s smooth.

4. Combine the mixture from the food processor with the mashed chickpeas and the soaked bulghur. Stir it around until it’s evenly mixed.  Taste and add more spices as you like.  Stick the bowl in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, more if you have the time to wait.  This allows the mixture to firm up a bit and will make your life easier vis a vis shaping the falafel.

This waiting period is a great time to whip up some tahini sauce (see below), tdzaki, or whatever you like to eat with falafel.  Plain yogurt works fine!  Also, five minutes before pulling out the batter from the fridge, turn on the oven and preheat to 350F.

5. Remove the falafel mix from the fridge and grease a baking sheet.  Shape the falafel mix into slightly flattened disks.  We made about 25 that were about 1-1/2″ in diameter.  Bake for about 25 minutes (we found that it took about 35, even with our usually hyperactive oven), then flip the falafel over and bake for about 5-10 minutes.  They should be nice and golden brown.

Coconut Tahini Sauce

Thanks to Mark Bittman for the recipe!  Excellent with falafel, or greens, or pretty much anything.

1/2 cup tahini
Juice of 1 lemon (I used a lemon that had already been squeezed once for tea, and it worked fine.)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup coconut milk (about half a can)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and black pepper

1. Put the tahini, coconut milk, lemon juice, garlic, and cumin into a food processor.  Add some salt and pepper.  Process until smooth.

2. Taste and add more spices, lemon, coconut, etc. until you like how it tastes.  Serve immediately or cover tightly and refrigerate.

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March 19, 2011

Spring is here!

Come and join hands together friends,

let us work and sing,

for there will never be a winter that cannot end in spring.

(folk song we used to sing as children)


This week:

1 lb of spinach

1 lb of portobello mushrooms

6 carrots

8 heads of garlic

2 1/2 lbs of potatoes (red and fingerlings)

1 1/ lbs shallots

1 bunch swiss chard


At the market we also saw, but didn’t get for this week, micro-claytonia greens, lots of different asian greens mixes, and arugula.

March 18, 2011

Nice variation on Greens and Pasta

This week, rushing out to a screening of The Greenhorns film, we threw together this variation on our beloved greens and pasta:


Asian greens

1 head of garlic

2 shallots

a dash of balsamic vinegar

On pasta!

Yummy, fast, and not quite the same on Asian greens and pasta

March 15, 2011

Saffron Rice

Faced with minimal veggies and a need for dinner, I looked through our cookbook collection and came across this recipe in Veganomicon.  Since we happen to be lucky enough to have a lot of saffron around–A’s mother works in Afghanistan and brought some back for us–this seemed like a good choice.


Saffron Garlic Rice

1 3/4 cup water

1 veggie bouillon cube (I used 1 can veggie broth-which is actually only 1 3/4 cup of broth, even though the can label says it is 2 cups)

pinch of saffron threads (5-6 threads)

2 tablespoons olive oil

5 cloves minced garlic

1 small yellow onion

1 cup white rice

Pinch of ground coriander (I used a large pinch)

Salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup sliced toasted almonds


  1. In a medium sauce, boil the water/stock (if you’re using of bouillon dissolve it now).  Turn off the heat, add the saffron and set aside.
  2. Preheat a pot over medium heat.  Saute the garlic in the oil just until it starts to turn golden and softens.  About 3-4 minutes.  Next, add the onion and continue to saute until the onion is translucent, about 5-6 minutes.  Add the rice (uncooked) and stir for a minute.  This helps the rice adsorb the flavors.
  3. Now add the saffron broth water and boil it.  Stir the rice once and turn down heat and cover.  Let simmer 20-25 minutes until the rice is nice and tender and the liquid is gone.
  4. Let the rice stand for 10 minutes off the heat, then fluff it up with a fork and serve.


We ate this with black beans and “Spanish” seasonings and hot sauce (oregano, cumin, Spanish paprika, lots of black pepper)



March 14, 2011

Winter Soup

Here’s a yummy and filling soup.  It’s a good recipe for this time of year: it uses most any veggie you can get locally, and it has plenty of room for variation.  It’s so nice, after all the work of the summer, to have kale in the soup.  It’s a tasty reminder of why freezing food in the summer is worth.  While spring may be only a week away, it could be May or later before we get much more variety in our veggies and the garlic supply is dwindling.

But, all of that said, I feel optimistic for the next few months.  In the last two weeks we’ve really begun to feel a change.  Certainly the days are noticeably longer now than they were a month ago, and the temperatures are rising to the mid-twenties and thirties, even giving us occasional days in the forties and fifties. But most of all there is the feeling of spring returning.  The hillsides are turning red with buds on trees and there are sap lines out for maple syrup.  Everything feels a little lighter, a little easier than it did in the darkest part of the winter.

And our supply of veggies remains good.  Despite growing some legs, the potatoes are holding up well.  We’ve started buying diced tomatoes but we haven’t yet broken down and bought non-local fresh produce.  It feels good to remember what food belongs to which season.  It marks the calendar, fills out the details of these days.  How good that will feel when the garlic finally runs out is up for debate however.  In the meantime, we still have frozen pesto and a few jars of homemade tomato sauce, as well as corn, peppers, kale, broccoli, and parsley in the freezer.

Now, enough rambling.  A recipe for an easy root-veggie soup:

1 sweet potato

3 leeks

1 onion

1 head of garlic, roughly chopped

4 potatoes

six small carrots

1 bunch of kale (we used frozen kale)

mixed veggie stock

dried parsley and basil

  1. Chop all of the veggies and put everything except the garlic and the kale in a pot with a tablespoon of butter.  Cook lightly for ten-fifteen minutes then add six-eight cups of liquid.
  2. Simmer until the potatoes begin to soften, then add the roughly chopped garlic.
  3. Season with dried parsley and basil.
  4. Finally, about ten minute before serving, add the frozen kale and mix it in.
  5. Eat!  Very good with cheddar slivers on top.

March 10, 2011

Hipster Hippy wine in an antique mason jar (and how we got there)

A guest entry, from our closet-dweller’s twin:

Once upon a time, three young friends went to school.

They left the school, and after frolicking among the roads and woods and farms, they settled in upstate New York.

As protection against the cold and dismaying winter, they stockpiled red wine, whiskey, lemons (for the scurvy), and other foodstuffs.

One March evening, so close to the end of their struggle, three lovely friends from near said school came to rescue them from the doldrums, traveling by dragon and werewolf, to pitch in for frivolity.

Babe, said one, let’s open that wine .

In a fit of hilarity and unknown strength, the cork was popped with a forceful sound into the bottle of 9.99.

The most resourceful among them, despite her flying-cork-wounded knuckle, scampered to the magical drawer of magical cloths. She withdrew a simple yet refined white straining cloth and a large and graceful mason jar. Together with the help of the less patient and more skeptical, the community rigged a device.

And the cork strained from the wine, and the people rejoiced, and all were merry.