Saturday, March 27, 2010

Unbaked Almond Butter and Sesame Power Bars

Satiating, almond buttery goodness mixed with flax and sesame has quickly made these my favorite post-salad treat at lunch. The recipe is quite flexible to suit your tastes. I've thought of using sunflower seed butter with dark chocolate and coconut oil, but these are just so good I can't yet make alterations.

1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup almond flour (I think I added a bit more at the end...maybe closer to 3/4 cup?)
1/2 cup gluten free oats
1/2 cup ground flax meal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips (still on my easter kick, I used white. judge me if you want to)

Mix altogether in a mixer or by hand. Press into an 8X8 glass baking pan (greased). Shower the pan with sesame seeds, pressing them in with the back of a spoon.

Cover and freeze for a few hours. I stored these in the refrigerator, cutting them and wrapping them in plastic wrap to go when I needed to.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Homemade Ravioli (Featuring Ricotta, Smoked Mozzarella, Spinach, and Green Garlic)

After learning how to create homemade ravioli in this guest post, and about papaya salads and chayote quesadillas in her last posts, I think you'll agree with me that my friend H should really be vying for a spot in Phoenix's growing restaurant scene. Or at least that she knows how to create some epic meals.

NOTE: Firstly, apologies to K for this gluten-heavy post. She very nicely invited me to talk about cooking, and I barge in dropping G-bombs all over the place, which is not proper guest behavior. I will endeavor in the future to not gloat about how awesome foods with gluten are.

Secondly, this post is LONG. Pasta making is not for the faint of heart, nor the faint of kitchen, nor the faint of reading long blog posts.

So, make-your-own pasta. It's actually fairly painless, should you have the following:

1. Plenty of time
2. The right equipment

Time becomes less of an issue if you're just making flat pasta, but ravioli won't stuff themselves, so be prepared to spend some time filling and sealing lots of little packets of cheesy goodness.

The equipment is more important, and by equipment, I basically mean a pasta roller. As I am about to demonstrate, you can do this completely by hand (with just a rolling pin, some elbow grease, and an almost masochistic need to finish what you've started), but it's not easy and my hands are still a little sore.


1 1/4 c. flour + 1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs

The Proper Method (taken from Mario Batalli's Molto Italiano)
Mound flour/salt in the center of a large wooden board. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the eggs. Using a fork, beat the eggs and incorporate the flour, starting with the inner rim of the mound. When half the flour is incorporated and you have a lump of dough, use your hands to knead and mix in the rest of the flour. Once you have a cohesive mass, scrape up and discard any dried, unused dough.

My Method
Mound flour/salt in the center of table. Make a well in the center of the flour and add one egg. Get concerned that well is not deep enough to contain both eggs. Try to make a deeper well by pushing the flour into a larger pile. Add second egg and watch as it slides down the edge of the flour pile and on to the table. Grab fork and frantically try to beat flour and rogue eggs together. Give up on fork and use hands to mush flour and egg bits into ball, then use said ball to sop up rapidly escaping egg matter. Mix in flour, adding water to make up for the missing egg moisture. Upon creating semi-cohesive mass, discard dried dough and egg remains.

Once you have your ball of dough (however it was attained), lightly flour your work area and start kneading. It will be hard at first, but once the gluten starts breaking down, it will become much softer and easier to work with. Continue kneading for 10 minutes or so, adding flour as needed, until the dough is elastic and tacky (but not sticky). If you've ever made bread, you'll know what I'm talking about. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside for at least 30 minutes.

Mine was a ricotta, smoked mozzarella, spinach and green garlic mixture. You can basically make any filling you'd like (just make sure that if you used any other vegetables/meats, that they are cut small enough to fit inside your ravioli).

Once the pasta dough has rested for 30 minutes, you can start the rolling. If you paid attention earlier and acquired a pasta roller before embarking on this little adventure, follow the instructions for the roller and roll the dough out to the thinnest setting.

Otherwise, I separated the dough into four pieces (keeping the unused pieces covered until I needed them). The dough should have soften considerably; if not, let it rest a bit longer. Roll each 1/4 of the dough into a short rope (like if you were making a snake out of clay), and, using a rolling pin, roll out lengthwise. Continue to roll until the dough is as long and thin as you can get it; if the dough starts to resist, let it rest for a minute or two before trying again. Once it is rolled to your liking, hang the piece of dough to slightly dry (over the back of a chair works) and proceed to do the same to the other three pieces.

After your hands have gone numb, but everything is rolled out, use a pizza cutter or knife to cut the dough. Ideally, if they are rolled into rectangles, you can cut the dough into squares. Mine dough was more...abstract, so I cut it into 1.5-2 inch wide strips. With a wet finger, moisten the along the edges of the dough strip and add a small spoonful of filling to the center (this amount will change depending on the the size of your ravioli). Fold the dough strip in half lengthwise, and press the edges together to seal the filling in. If filling started spilling out, use the spoon to scoop out some of the excess and try again. Fortunately, you'll have lots of raviolis to practice on, and you'll soon figure out what comprises an acceptable amount. Place finished ravioli on a kitchen towel or plate that has been dusted with flour.

After all the raviolis are stuffed, heat a well-salted pot of water to a boil and add the raviolis (just don't overcrowd the pot). Return the water to a gentle simmer (a rollicking boil could cause the raviolis to burst) and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Drain and serve with the sauce of your choice (ours was a simple San Marzano tomato sauce with basil, oregano, parsley and marjoram). Leftover ravioli should be cooked shortly after making, but can be kept in the fridge (add either some sauce or a bit of olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking together).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Roasted Squash Soup

I took a quick (and overdue) trip to see family in the Northwest last weekend and gave my aunt's shiny new kitchen a spin. A wiser cook would have checked the exact equipment in said kitchen before planning a blended soup (no blender/food processor was to be found). I'll take a leaf from Katelyn's book and call the result "rustic." ;)

This was kind of an absurd quantity of soup, btw---there were 6 of us eating it as a first course and we barely made a dent---but why make soup and not fill the pot?

1. Start by roasting the following in salt and oil in a 350 degree oven for an hour or more:
4 acorn squash, halved, seeds removed, brushed with oil and roasted facedown in a pan
1 large or 2 small onions
4 large carrots
2 apples, halved and deseeded
1 head garlic cloves

2. If you don't have a way to blend it later, mash these once they're roasted. The apples, garlic, and squash will mash up no problem. For the onions and carrots, fine chopping might be necessary.

3. Heat 6 cups broth and add the veggies. (If you do have a blender, blend about half the soup now.) Then add about 2 TB finely chopped fresh sage and several handfuls of golden raisins. Season with salt and white pepper. Boil awhile to blend flavors. That's it!

(And yes, this is kinda just a soup version of this, and I've been wanted to turn more squashes into soups ever since this. Not only that, but I served it with this and this - a shitake/sweet white wine/nutmeg version to be exact. Nothing new under the sun...)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Basil White Bean Citrus Salad

After two days full of bratwursts, canned soup, s'mores, peanut butter, beer, prickly pear ice cream (!!) and tortilla chips, P and I needed something light for a post-camping dinner.

Flecked with basil and lightly dressed with white balsamic, olive oil, agave, salt, and mustard powder shaken and poured from a mason jar, the beans, torn spinach, grapefruits, and oranges made a perfect spring salad.

Several large handfuls of spinach, torn
3 ruby red grapefruits, thinly sliced into rounds
3 oranges, thinly sliced into rounds
1 can white beans, rinsed well & drained
Several basil leaves, torn

Toss & dress. I served with hunks of warm cornbread.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"Burmese" Green Papaya Salad

Guest post number two from our favorite bread-bakin', scone creatin' vegetarian! This time she brings us a crispy crunchy citrusy salad delight. I'm personally excited about the prospect of incorporating deep fried chickpea flour batter or fermented tea leaves!! Thanks Heather!

In DC (or, more accurately, Silver Spring, MD), there is a delightful little Burmese restaurant called Mandalay that figured prominently as a date night location while The Husband and I were courting. All the food is delish, but I was always most impressed with the salads, which were huge and tasty and crunchy. While doing my weekly-ish gigantic Asian grocery store run, I spied a bag of pre-sliced green papaya, which in turn lead to this dish. It's nice and fresh and crisp, perfect for summer (or an Arizona winter). I added tofu to make it more of a main dish sort of salad; other things that would make nice additions include sliced tomatoes, gram fritters (essentially deep fried chickpea flour batter), fermented tea leaves, ginger, bean sprouts, etc. And because it's (mostly) raw, it comes together quickly once all the ingredients are assembled!

Ingredients - Salad
green papaya, sliced into thin strips (I honestly have no idea how to purchase papayas, underripe or otherwise. If you can find the pre-sliced variety, so much the better.) I ended up using two or three handfuls, but adjust based on personal preference.
cabbage (green or red is fine), thinly sliced (I used about 1/4 a head for a two-person salad)
thinly sliced carrot (or just take a peeler to it) - I used roughly half a carrot
thinly sliced daikon (see carrot) - about the same amount as the carrots
thinly sliced (sensing a pattern, here?) red onion - about 1/4 onion
pan-fried crispy tofu, cooked with a little garlic

Ingredients - Dressing
juice from four limes or one lemon (technically, it should be lime juice. But if you screw up the first batch of dressing and find yourself out of limes, a lemon makes a good enough substitute)
a couple of splashes of soy sauce
4 tbsp. of raw sugar (or, to taste)
a 1-2 inch piece of peeled ginger, grated
crushed red pepper (optional)

To make the salad, fry up some tofu. You can add other Asian-inspired flavors if you'd like - I tossed in a bit of soy sauce at the end. While the tofu is cooling, mix together the rest of the ingredients.

For the dressing, whisk together the citrus juice and sugar, adjusting the sugar amounts as necessary to get a slightly sweet, but still tart, blend. Add the soy sauce and the juice from the ginger (just squeeze the ginger over the bowl). For an extra kick, add some crushed red pepper.

Add the tofu to the raw veg, then mix the dressing with the salad, letting the whole shebang sit in the fridge for an hour or so to let the flavors meld. Or eat it right away if you are hungry and impatient.

*"Burmese" is in quotation marks because I don't actually know what goes into a real green papaya salad, and the dressing was pinched from a Vietnamese Green Mango salad; consider this an homage to my bygone salad days.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

White Chocolate Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

March sings of Easter candy, of white chocolate bunnies and peanut butter eggs. I loved Easter as a kid, probably, as Mommy Blogger pointed out today, because a typical nasty Wyoming snowstorm makes pastel bunnies perched on a typical Wyoming Walmart shelf seem more darling than they really are.

To avoid artificial crap and get the most out of my sugar highs, I decided to do some Easter candy makin' myself, inspired by Averie's sweets on loveveggiesandyoga. This is not fancy, and doesn't even really count as homemade since I still relied on store-bought white chocolate. It does eliminate the weird non-peanut butter stuff in peanut butter fillings, though. Averie's base recipe with slight modifications below.

Melt 1 bag of white chocolate chips (I lurve Trader Joe's variety). Line a six tin muffin pan with muffin liners. Pour white chocolate into the liners, coating the bottom. Set aside the rest of the chocolate; you may have to heat it up again.

Mix 1/4 cup natural peanut butter with a scant 1 T of dark chocolate cocoa powder, 2 Ts of maple syrup or agave, and vanilla extract + sea salt to taste.

Spoon filling into the muffin tins, then pour more white chocolate over the top. Make sure the filling doesn't touch the edges of its chocolate base, you want the two layers of white chocolate to meet and meld and crinkle.

Freeze to set the chocolate, then store at room temperature.

Coconut Almond Flour Pancakes

To me, these were a dense coconutty-almondy dream, but P's gluten-adjusted palate was less pleased. If serving to those looking for typical pancakes, I would sweeten a bit more, add a banana to the batter, and go a little heavier on the almond flour.

Part of the reason I love them so is because of the nutritious nature of coconut and almond flours. Coconut flour is very high in fiber and protein, and almond flour is very high in protein and good fats. Perfect pre-hike or pre-bike ride meal.

3 eggs
3 T melted butter
4 to 5 T milk or milk substitute (I used almond milk...but was wishing I had heavy cream on hand!)
1.5 T raw sugar
3 T coconut flour
2 T almond flour
drizzle of maple syrup

Whip the eggs thoroughly before mixing the rest of the batter. Cook in 1 T butter. I served traditionally with maple syrup and real butter, but they would have been wonderful with jam, granola, yogurt, or almond butter. These are very, very filling -- Peter and I could barely finish the batch, which made 4 mid-sized cakes.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Brothy Tomato Pesto White Bean Soup

Gluten free broth is expensive and gluten free stock is near impossible to find, so I make all of my soups without either of those flavor-helpers. This is by far the best broth base I have ever created.

Cover the bottom of a large pan with a generous pour of olive oil. Thinly slice 1/2 of a red onion, mince 5 cloves of garlic, and add to olive oil with a generous--no wait, enormous--sprinkle of Italian spices, salt, and pepper.

While the onion and garlic soften, halve cherry tomatoes. Toss in after onions and garlic are transparent.

After cooking for a few more minutes, add 3 8 oz. cans of basic tomato sauce. Stir in several tablespoons of pesto and 2 15 oz. cans of canellini or other white beans, with their liquid.

After a few more minutes, add water, tasting the broth until you hit that sweet spot of slurpy goodness. Add more seasonings as needed, and let simmer. After awhile, stir in several large handfuls of spinach.

Serve with an extra drizzle of olive oil.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Roasted Beets & Carrots with Cumin Chickpea Puree

More having people over, more racking my brains at the store, not having planned ahead, for a recipe I've made enough times to remember everything I need. Luckily, my memory scan hit upon this slightly quirky duo that I dug up some time ago on Epicurious. As usual, I've tweaked (also as usual, mostly by upping spices and simplifying steps), so here it is. There are 3 components so getting it all to be done at the same time is mildly challenging. Also, you'll almost surely have leftover puree, and that is a glorious thing for future snacking - I make it by itself all the time.

Ingredients - roasted beets & carrots:
6-10 beets (some golden if available)
Baggie of baby carrots
Thyme, salt, pepper
1/2 c olive oil

Ingredients - vinaigrette:
1/2 c olive oil
3 TB red wine vinegar
1.5 tsp toasted cumin seeds
.5 tsp ground cumin
4 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 of a red onion, or 3 shallots, very thinly sliced (if no mandolin use veggie peeler!)
large handful chopped cilantro

Ingredients - chickpea puree:
1 can chickpeas
1 can kidney or pinto beans
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne chili powder
1.5 tsp toasted cumin seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 c olive oil

1. Get your beets and carrots roasting.
Trim and wash your beets and maybe chop the big ones in half. Throw em in a baking pan with 1/4 cup olive oil, cover with foil, and stick in a 400 degree oven. (They need 45 minutes or so to get good and soft.) Throw the carrots in a second baking pan with the other 1/4 cup, plus salt, pepper, and thyme. (They need 20 minutes, so add them after beets have been in for 25.) This recipe is REALLY amazing if you have fresh beets and carrots from the summer farmer's market, especially if you can get those really deep red carrots. Mmmmmm.

2. Get your puree simmering.
After you toast the cumin, heat 1/4 cup of oil and throw 1.5 tsp cumin seeds and the chopped garlic in there for about a minute. Then add the chickpeas and beans, reserving their liquid in a bowl. Throw in spices and stir till the chickpeas start to darken. Then, add the liquid from the can back in - just enough to reach the level of the tops of the chickpeas/beans. Turn down to medium and simmer. We'll come back to this in a bit.

3. Make your vinaigrette.
Put the vinegar, lemon juice, and cumin in a bowl. Whisk in the olive oil till it emulsifies. Toss in the paper-thin onion and the cilantro so they'll soak a bit.

4. Puree the puree.
When the beans seem totally soft - nearly ready to fall apart - and the cooking liquid is getting thick, pour the beans in a strainer and again, retain the cooking liquid in a bowl underneath. Put them in a blender or food processor with 1/4 c olive oil and 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid and puree like crazy. You want this thick, velvety, and totally smooth.

5. Veggies in vinaigrette.
After all this frenzied activity, your beets and carrots should be good to go. Peel the beets (when I do this, I inevitably burn my fingers and turn them red, so you're on your own as to technique) and cut into chunks of comparable size to the carrots. Then toss beets and carrots into vinaigrette.

6. Serve.
I sometimes serve the veggies over a base (tonight, acini di pepe - cute!) - it will turn charmingly/frighteningly purple, as so many things do when beets are introduced. Put a dollop of chickpea puree on the side and serve with some store-brought crispy flatbreads or crackers (a rosemary flavor goes nicely). Oh, and cross your fingers that your guests like beets, since you forgot to ask, you jerk.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Risotto Again! ....With Barley

Just a quick note. As often happens, I ran late on planning dinner for some folks last week and figured I'd just make a risotto. Didn't realize until too late that I was nearly out of arborio, so I threw in a cup of quick-cooking barley with the cup of rice I did have. Score! Cheaper material, same result.

Guest Post: Monastery Vegetables

Hey readers, meet Kay, a wizard with veggies and parentheses:

Hello, all! My name is Kay. I live in England (though I am an American, in case you start wondering where all my extra letter "u"s have gone), and I'm in a constant battle to Lose Weight (cue the Cathy comic strip sweat beads), and I'm madly in love with my veg box (which is this lovely thing they do here where they deliver organic vegetables directly from the local farm to your doorstep--with the dirt still on them!--be still my pretentiously beating heart). Thus, my cooking is pretty much oriented to the following goals:

1) Use up the 987872983767689576234 pounds of vegetables that arrived in the veg box this week.
2) DO NOT GET ANY FATTER! (i.e., eat food that is low-fat yet still tasty enough to help me abstain from the delicious and DEADLY takeaway curry)

Here's something I've made twice now, and I think it is my new favorite. I'll call it Monastery Vegetables, because it is inspired by a recipe for Monastery Lentils in the 1971 cookbook "Diet for a Small Planet" by Francis Moore Lappe. The beauty of this recipe is that, as long as you adjust the seasonings to avoid blandness, it can take as many root vegetables (and probably any other kind of vegetables) as you care to throw at it--so it's a great way to use up extras. It makes a nice chunky stew, especially delicious if you make sure not to cook it to the point of mushiness. It's also very low-fat, especially if you go lightly on the cheese.


THE VEG, which is very flexible and can include some or all of the following:
Carrots (sliced into large-ish bite-sized chunks)
Turnips, Swede/Rutabaga, Parsnips, Jerusalem Artichokes, Celeriac (peeled and diced)
Onions, chopped
Zucchini/Courgette, quartered and sliced into large-ish chunks
Kale, stringy ribs removed and sliced into thin strips

Chicken or vegetable stock (3 - 4 cubes or to taste)
Chopped tomatoes (3 cans)
Marjoram (1 Tbsp. or to taste)
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Very dry sherry (about 1 cup)
Minced fresh parsley (a good-sized bunch)
Emmental cheese, shredded (to taste)

Put the onions and the hard root vegetables in a large stock pot with just enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil and then simmer until soft, topping up water if necessary. After 10 - 20 minutes when the root vegetables are about halfway cooked (depending on the size of your dicing) add the stock cubes, tomatoes, marjoram, salt and pepper, and start adding the faster-cooking veg, beginning with the zucchini/courgettes and moving on to the kale and mushrooms. The goal is to wind up with all the vegetables tender but not mushy. Simmer until kale is tender, and adjust seasoning to taste if necessary. Remove from heat, stir in sherry and parsley, and serve in bowls with little piles of emmental cheese on top. Goes great with crusty brown bread.

Variation: add cooked lentils for a more hearty stew.

Toasted Maple Quinoa

I can't eat yogurt without a crunchy topping. The plain greek variety is a staple at our house--mixed in equal parts with pumpkin to spread it out because it's pricey! For the last several weeks I've been nibbling away at some amazing gluten free granola that my father sweetly bought me, but it's gone and doesn't have a place in the weekly grocery budget. I tried to make my own this weekend, but got distracted and burned it.

Luckily for both of us, I have a slight addiction to fitness blogs written by twenty-somethings devoted to healthy living. It's like my version of suscribing to Runner's World or Women's Health. Anyway, I ran across this gem this morning, created by Caitlin of I'm happily crunching on some now, and am thinking it would be excellent on salads, or on top of a creamy asparagus or cauliflower soup, or a cookie?

Rinse 1/3 a cup of quinoa. I never rinse quinoa, I'm lazy. But because this isn't cooked, I did rinse it and my guess is that it was a good idea to do so.

Spread onto a cookie sheet with 2 T flax seeds and 1 T maple syrup.

Add cinnamon or other spices to taste.

Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, stirring once.

Crunch. Crunch.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

White Chocolatey Almond Flour Cookies

These wonderful cookies are fluffy even though they have no gluten, hold together well even though they have no eggies, and are buttery even though they have no butter. I'm like a magician. If you want a vegan cookie, trade the white chocolate for vegan dark.

2 1/2 cups almond flour--Despite blog-world insistence that blanched almond flour is the only kind that works, I use regular almond meal for $$ reasons. It's fine.
1/3 to 1/2 cup coconut flour--Start with 1/3 and add more if the dough is too wet.
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix dry ingredients and add the following wet ingredients:

1/2 cup olive oil--Any light cooking oil would work.
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk--Any type of milk or milk substitute will do.

Add 1/2 cup of your chip, nut, seed, or dried fruit of choice. The dough base is rich and buttery but not too sweet, so a sweet addition will pair well.

Bake at 350 for 12 minutes.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Greek Phyllo Pizza

I've made variations on this crispy "pizza" for years, starting from a recipe in one of Mollie Katzen's cookbooks, but I feel like tonight's version (cooked in a friend's kitchen) kinda hit the nail on the head. Or maybe it just looked extra pretty on her red and yellow plates. At any rate, here it is:

1. Chop a small red onion and a small, waxy red or purple potato into small dice and sautee in olive oil, a generous dose of lemon juice, and a bit of balsamic. When they've softened, add a bunch of kale torn into small pieces (or chard, or spinach). Season with Italian herbs, salt and pepper.

2. In the meantime, grease a cookie sheet with olive oil. Then begin layering your (already-thawed, I hope!) phyllo dough leaf by leaf, brushing each leaf lightly with olive oil, to make your "crust." Layer it roughly up to the edge of the cookie sheet - too thick and it will be hard to get it crispy in the oven. Ballpark a thickness of 10 sheets (?).

3. Spread the onion/potato/greens mixture evenly over your crust. You want plenty of crust showing through - don't let the toppings overwhelm the phyllo or it will stay soft and mushy and not crisp up.

4. Add a sprinkling of shredded mozzarella and high-quality sheep's milk feta. Follow this layer with chopped Kalamata olives and halved cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with pine nuts and perhaps more herbs.

5. Bake at 350 for about half an hour. It's done when you can poke the center with a knife and it crackles. (The edges may be pretty brown by this point - all the better).

I wish I'd taken a picture of the bright confetti of veggies atop the pretty, curly-edged pastry crust, but make it yourself and see!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

North African Couscous Soup

Another Bittman adaptation, though I have seriously adjusted his levels of flavoring and used my own veggie additions, so hopefully I'm justified in reposting. Warmly spiced, deeply comforting, colorful soup for a not-quite-spring evening.

You'll need:

2 quarts veggie stock
1 cup uncooked couscous
1 small, finely chopped onion
1 baked and chopped sweet potato
2 cups finely chopped green veggies: Mine were green beans and purple kale.*
1 6 oz can tomato paste
3 TBSP za'atar**
olive oil, salt, pepper.

Just soften your onions in some olive oil in your soup pot, then add the za'atar and chopped greens and soften those a bit as well. Throw the couscous in and cook for a few minutes till it darkens, then add the tomato paste (I used a little less than the whole can). Add the stock and sweet potatoes, get 'er boiling, and season to taste - I added salt, pepper, and more sumac (on top of what was in the za'atar blend).

Boil until you get a thick, creamy-textured soup with fully softened veggie bits, deep red spiked with green. Serve with bread and perhaps some strong, sweet mint tea.

*Note: If you don't happen to have an Alaskan relative who can pick you up an ulu knife for all your fine choppin' needs, get one here posthaste.
**Za'atar is a blend of sesame seeds, sumac, and thyme. I mixed some up long ago; not sure of my proportions but it's probably advisable to decide that for yourself anyway!

Seaweed Chips

Cleaning out the kitchen cupboards today, I found a forgotten packet of nori sheets. When faced with excess nori, there is only one thing to do, people: Toast in a heated skillet till they shrivel and lighten in color, to a shimmery translucent green like a mermaid's tail. Then cut into squares with a pair of kitchen scissors.

This will leave you with crispy, melt-in-your-mouth bites that you will barely see on account of how fast you will gobble them. (Even better, toss in a plastic bag with a little sesame oil and sea salt.) Eat your sea vegetables!!

(By the way, I think I stole this idea from Mark Bittman a long time back, but it's become such a habit that I can't be sure....)

Carmelized Polenta Quiche

This would make a wonderful brunch dish. For P and I, it was just a nice dinner.

Boil 2 and 1/2 cups of water, and stir in 1 cup of polenta (actually, I just used basic Quaker's fine grain cornmeal. It's degerminated, and thus not super fibrous/nutrious, but it is also quite cheap). Stir until water is absorbed.

While the water is boiling, saute your veggies of choice in olive oil. I'd recommend kale, garlic, red peppers, and red onions.

Season the polenta generously with salt and pepper, and stir with 1/2 cup of a grated hard salty cheese. Spread this "dough" into a greased pie pan.

Break 4 eggs over the sauteed veggies, add 1/2 cup of milk, season with salt and pepper, and whisk vigorously. Pour over polenta-based pie crust.

Cook at 400 for 45 minutes.