Miso Sweet Potato and Broccoli Bowl

During my recent visit at Downtown Abbey, Mrs. Hughes proposed for dinner this recipe from Deb Perelman’s blog, “The Smitten Kitchen,” – it’s delicious! The complete recipe is here, but you could make a fine variation using Perelman’s ingredients list in the bowl below.

I followed Perelman’s suggestions for preparing the vegetables – first coating the baking tray with “a thin slick of olive oil” and roasting one-inch chunks of sweet potatoes for 20 minutes. Then I flipped the sweet potatoes and piled on the broccoli florets to cook.

The dressing makes this dish, and Mrs. Hughes whipped it together (while I played a “helicopter rescue and take patient to the hospital” game). She layered our bowls with a mix of wild and brown rice, lots of the vegetables, and topped with the sauce.

Something comforts about warm food in a bowl – each bite different. Maybe not so comforting as a helicopter airlift – but good!

Sweet Potato and Broc

 

 

Moments of Joy

On the day we made an apple pie during Lady Baby’s visit over Labor Day, I saw pure happiness. Not stated, not “Oh I loved making this pie,” (as we might say) but a glow of pride and triumph.

Her parents came home just as we took the pie bubbling with brown sugar, apples, and cinnamon out of the oven, and sitting in the garden in the sunshine we all ate pie. Both parents and her Poppa Jim said, “I’m pretty sure this is best apple pie I’ve ever eaten!” Still, Lady Baby didn’t say much. She ate her own slice with relish, then headed to the Buffalo for a nap.

With the whole family here, we had a busy few days. Lady Baby delighted in Sweet Baby, played games with Uncle Tutu, and spent much time with both her parents (including a backpacking adventure that ended in an overnight deluge of all the rain we missed for months).

But earlier on the day of the apple pie, we walked up the driveway in our aimless, purposeless way doing what we do best, just being together without any particular agenda. Lady Baby wheeled her little red wheelbarrow and picked up fir cones and rocks (“keepers” she said).

While I sliced apples (picked by Lady Baby and her dad from our columnar tree), she played the ever-popular “farm” game with her Poppa Jim. Our younger son had assembled a dollhouse (inherited from my young friend complete with people and furniture), and I could hear some discussion about whether animals belonged in the barn or the house.

But not until later did I realize the importance of the pie. After her nap, she still seemed so pleased. She insisted on sitting next to Granna Katy, and I received unsolicited hugs (the best kind to get from a grandchild, though it’s hard not to request them). I loved these moments of gladness – for her, for me.

Not minding the sudden wind and rainstorm that welcomed them and changed our summer weather abruptly to autumn, the L.A. contingent stayed a record 10 days. They walked often with Sweet Baby in the front carrier – she’d stare up at trees and sky till her eyes closed and she slept against her dad.

Completely wordless in expression, Sweet Baby provided moments of pure joy. When Lady Baby would focus on her (which she did a lot), getting down to Sweet Baby’s level face-to-face close with toys to encourage her movements on the rug, Sweet Baby would beam. We all think that Sweet Baby smiles specially at us – but we get nothing like the long-lasting, eye-crinkling grins Sweet Baby gave her cousin. A blissful look, her dad said.

On departure day, Lady Baby came over in the morning from the Buffalo, crossing the garden by herself to open the door and declare: “I love you Granna Katy!” I said “oh and I love you!” tears popping. She asked if I would miss her when she left, I said “more than you know!” She replied calmly with that agreeable head nod she gives when wanting you to go along with what she’s saying: “But you have Frances, right?”

And that’s true.

Opal apples 1

Dinner with the Sweet Baby

At Downtown Abbey, Mr. Carson suggested he make Jamie Oliver’s “Vegan Lentil Sloppy Joes, and I said, “Oh I love sloppy Joes.” I admit the ground beef version is not my usual fare, but deep-seated fond memories stir. Our younger son replied the same way when I proposed them at his house. They are deliciously sloppy and nurturing.

By my second visit (after a week away) Sweet Baby had gained 10 ounces and grown an inch! She begins to fill out – with a hint of the double chin and chub to come.

Most days, after my treasured early mornings with her, I’d walk in the California hot sun up the nearby hill in Eagle Rock – a well-worn knob above Occidental College. From the top it provides a 360° view of Los Angeles: downtown, the Hollywood hills and Griffith Observatory, the San Gabriel Mountains behind Pasadena, freeways – and Sweet Baby’s house a speck in the distance.

She is so tiny to live in such a huge city! But her small world comforts and protects her. She spends time on her parents in a Solly Baby wrap – pale pink with polka dots. She peeks up at their faces, and you can see the outline of her little form within the wrap. During “tummy time,” she turns her head from side to side, staring at the black and white and red books favored by the very young.

In a very happy event, the Sweet Bride’s mom and a cousin are coming for a month from Thailand to meet the Sweet Baby. Perhaps they will try this all-American fare:

Sauté a small, diced onion, diced red or yellow pepper, and two sticks of celery (also diced) in a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until soft. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of ground cumin and one of chili powder.

Add a cup of French lentils, three cups of water, a 28-ounce can of tomatoes (sauce or crushed), three tablespoons of tomato paste, and one of Sriracha sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered until the lentils are soft (a while – at least half an hour). When tender, add a teaspoon of salt and two teaspoons of balsamic vinegar.

Serve the lentils in sloppy Joe fashion, over or in a buttered and toasted whole-wheat bun. Add toppings – big scoops of avocado for sure. (Oliver suggests homemade zucchini relish, but that’s for another time.)

What used to be happy hour in Eagle Rock with chips and beer on the veranda now coincides with the ill-famed “witching hour,” when babies need most to move and be comforted by contact. I loved watching the Sweet Baby in the front wrap on her dad, as he paced his garden and shushed her gently.

Sloppy Joes can wait, ready when you are.

pepper

 

Blistered Tomato and Lentil Salad

Fresh tomatoes and squash sit side by side on the kitchen counter this time of year – bounty that encourages cooking after a summer of flagging interest.

Our CSA arrived with beautiful tomatoes and a recipe for using them. And tomatoes padded in my carry-on, I headed north to Anchorage earlier this month.

And very glad I was to see Lady Baby! We did all our usual things – playgrounds and much, much reading – she knows many books by heart, but is quick to point to text and request “say these words” when she doesn’t.

I attended her music class, and observed with her and her mom at a preschool. We met the bunnies, Lefty and Righty (named for their cage alignment), watched children raking patterns in fallen leaves, sliding, running, digging potatoes, and pulling carrots and washing them to make soup (feeding the tops to the bunnies). It looked like great fun for next fall.

Before I arrived, Mr. Carson had cooked lentils, and a batch of Deborah Madison’s “White Bean Soup with Pasta.” (The soup provided dinner, warming lunch many days, and a reminder that soup matters in autumn. The trick to that soup is to cook for a long time.)

If you haven’t lentils already prepared, the recipe for “Blistered Tomato and Lentil Salad,” adapted from honestcooking.com, says to soak half a cup of rinsed brown lentils in three cups of water (for at least three hours to shorten cooking time), then rinse and cook with dash of salt and three cups of water for about 15 minutes.

Blister a cup of halved or roughly chopped tomatoes by cooking on high heat with a garlic clove, tablespoon of olive oil, and salt in a sauté pan (about five to seven minutes).

Combine the cooked and drained lentils with the tomato mixture in a large bowl. Add a cup of thinly sliced kale (I’ve used all kinds in this) and quarter cup of chopped red onion.

Dressing puts the zing in the lentils and kale. Combine one tablespoon each of Dijon mustard and white rice vinegar, half tablespoon of tahini, two tablespoons of olive oil, and half teaspoon of cumin powder. Whisk. Dress the salad and serve right away or refrigerate.

I got almost this far, salad ready to dress, Hassleback potatoes in the oven, when Mrs. Hughes came home and took over while I read more books with Lady Baby. (Such a treat to have help with cooking from the other staff at Downtown Abbey.)

Mrs. Hughes sautéed zucchini (a Lady Baby favorite), roasted cut-up purple carrots with olive oil and salt, and in the perfect finishing touch to the lentil salad – fried an egg to top each serving.

Hearty autumn meal (and great leftovers the next day). I’m inspired to cook again!

Fried egg - paper

A Bungalow in Eagle Rock – and a Spring Salad

Flying from Anchorage and arriving in Southern California for the weekend felt such a treat – similar cloudless blue skies, but much warmer temperatures and no late March ice underfoot! We visited gardens in bloom, worked in our son’s garden, and ate great meals.

Our son and his sweet bride have made their classic California bungalow, in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles, so welcoming. One-story with a garage on a fairly busy street, it has commonalities with Downtown Abbey and our house in Washington – white walls and fir floors, books and pictures – but it invites one outdoors.

A few steps up from the garden, a large, veranda-like covered porch stretches across the back of the house. With newly dark-stained wood floors, an old blue-cotton covered loveseat, cushioned wicker chairs and a hammock, everything about this porch makes you want to linger with a book. The guest room opens onto the porch (all the back doors are sliding doors, no snow or wind to keep out), and I love to step straight out in bare feet.

The young couple has transformed their barren back yard, a rectangle of scrubby grass, into a city oasis. Just a small square of spring-green grass remains and around it, in generous garden beds, grow a pomegranate, persimmon, olive, lemon, orange, and banana tree. (It astounds me to write that list.)

A tall wooden spirit house from Thailand occupies one corner, surrounded by shrubby drought-resistant plants, and St. Francis stands in another corner amongst rosemary, lavender, and blooming sweet william. A row of closely planted podocarpus screen the near neighbors.

The winter kale was ready to be pulled and replaced by zucchini, pepper plants, and tomatoes (later in the season they might come north to Alaska and Washington). After planting, watering, and weeding it’s March bliss to a Northwesterner to have a beer under a sun umbrella on the brick patio – and to eat breakfast outdoors as well.

The new kitchen is brightened by tubular skylights, white walls and cupboards, and made colorful by open and glass-fronted shelving full of pottery and travel treasures. An eating counter with stools replaced the wall between kitchen and dining room. It’s great place to perch and watch a fabulous meal come together, thanks to the sweet bride!

She served “Vegetables and Brown Rice Salad,” and later sent her recipe. (It seems like you could easily vary both the vegetables used and the quantities.)

In a large bowl mix together a couple of diced carrots, a cup of white beans, a couple of chopped tomatoes, a tablespoon of sliced shallots, a zucchini (cut in half and sliced), finely sliced kale, and kalamata olives. To dress this mix, the sweet bride recommended regular oil and balsamic vinegar salad dressing, suggesting I add a little soy sauce or sesame oil. She warned me to add the dressing sparingly.

Mix in a cup of cooked brown rice, combined well with a tablespoon of lime juice, and season with salt and pepper.

Rice and white beans and real spring – treats!

Wm:T house

Fried Rice With Vegetables

When the sweet bride made fried rice with kale, it was delicious! “Oh sure, I will send you my recipe,” she said. Sounded simple.

Sauté minced garlic with olive oil in a pre-heated wok or skillet on medium high heat. After the garlic is golden brown, add diced carrots, and stir for five to six minutes until the carrots are soft. Add one or two diced tomatoes. Stir. Cook for a few minutes more, then add cooked rice and combine.

Make a hole by pushing the mixture to the sides of the pan, add two or three eggs, let them stand for a few minutes and stir as you would scrambled eggs. Then finish by mixing the eggs into the rice. (Add the kale at this point.)

There are pitfalls for the inexperienced: the threat of gooey rice, the risk of eggs not mixing in well. One voice of caution suggested that in the hands of a non-expert, things might get mushy.

Some cooks suggest beginning with cold (even frozen leftover rice). And Frugal Feeding recently posted (here) about cooking the eggs separately as a little omelette, then rolling it up and cutting it into pieces before adding. Foolproof he says, and the bites of egg stay separate and taste great.

I also happened on Post Punk Kitchen’s recipe for “Brussels Sprout Fried Rice” (here). She cooks the sprouts (trimmed and quartered) with the carrots (and outlines some other possibilities).

I asked the sweet bride if she thought that would work – “Of course,” she said, “that would be delicious!”

kale

Ottolenghi’s Chickpea Sauté with Greek Yogurt

The sweet bride chose this recipe from Ottolenghi’s cookbook “Plenty,” and typically of what she cooks, it’s full of surprising flavors.

Ottolenghi’s recipe (here) calls for chard, but the sweet bride, using available greens, substituted kale with good results. Home cooked chickpeas might taste chewier and better, but using canned chickpeas makes this a quick, pretty much pull-out-of-the-cupboard recipe.

Pull the leaves from stems of the greens, and blanch (stems for five minutes, leaves for two), then chop both into half-inch dice.

Next, sauté diced carrots (maybe two carrots or what’s needed to balance your chickpeas and greens) with a teaspoon of caraway seeds for five minutes. Add the chickpeas and the chard or kale.

Sauté this mixture for about six minutes, then add a crushed garlic clove, the juice of half a lemon, a tablespoon each of fresh mint and coriander, salt and pepper. Let cool a little.

As a topping, Ottolenghi mixes a tablespoon of olive oil with a cup of Greek yogurt (he recommends the higher fat kind for taste). The sweet bride added pepper to the yogurt mix, and served rice alongside.

Tasty! A feast for happy diners – coriander, mint, lemon – a Mediterranean treat on a winter night – with hints of the warm months ahead!

Carrots

Yotam Ottolenghi Dresses My Fridge

The great strength of our London flat was location. From a bus stop at the top of our street, we could ride for five minutes, hop off at Notting Hill Gate Tube station, and be transported to royal London, business London, theatre London.

And just a short walk from our flat, making it easy to bring home boxes of delicious food, we found the famous chef Yotem Ottolenghi’s Notting Hill establishment, on Ledbury Aveue. It’s a tiny skinny place with just one big communal table at the back for eating there, but in the front space, which can’t be more than 10 feet across, huge platters of salads and meats are on offer each day. In a display window on the street, delicious desserts vie for attention.

Thanks to Ottolenghi’s cookbooks, you can do it all at home with your own fresh, seasonal ingredients. I have his book “Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi,” and, most cherished in a recipe book, it’s full of inspiration. (The links here are from his Guardian newspaper recipe column.) Ottolenghi’s meal-making salads combine unexpected ingredients and dressings. The wordsmith recently made “Sweet Winter Slaw”( http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2008/jan/12/recipe.foodanddrink) using green cabbage and substituting kale for savoy cabbage – so good!

I read his recipe “Roasted parsnips and Sweet Potatoes with Caper Vinaigrette” (http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2008/jan/19/weekend7.weekend4) before tackling the motley, approaching antique, vegetables I found in my fridge when we got home. An investigation of the crisper drawer revealed parsnips, turnips, some of which turned out to be very large radishes, and some mature beets. I also had a big sweet potato, several shallots, a garlic bulb, sprigs of rosemary from the garden and thyme from a pot on the porch. Ottolenghi magic transformed this bunch into an amazing winter meal!

His hints about the order and time for roasting make this work. To begin he mixes olive oil, parsnips, red onions in a bowl (I used the shallots and the other vegetables I had). He roasts these (at 350°) for about 20 minutes. Then adds the sweet potato, chopped into wedges to the mixture, and stirs to coat.

After another 40 or 50 minutes, he adds halved cherry tomatoes. (I didn’t have those.)

I had to make substitutions in the dressing – I didn’t have the called for lemon, so squeezed a little tangerine juice into two tablespoons of olive oil, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, capers, and salt. Ottolenghi also calls for roasted sesame seeds.

Lately watching “Downton Abbey,” I think how we certainly don’t dress for dinner. But we should dress the vegetables, giving then a new life out of the drawer, a dressier life. Delicious.

Parsnips with Hats - cropped

Pasta Alla Puttanesca

It used to be that food was not a reason to go to England. That’s so different now in London. We had an easy time of that dangerous-to-travelers early evening period, when hunger sets in along with restaurant uncertainty. By happenstance, we twice ate at restaurants belonging to the chef Jamie Oliver.

Near the flat we rented in Notting Hill, Oliver’s Recipease is a cook’s store and a restaurant where chefs teach partygoer groups how to make a dish. We sat at a big wooden table, watched the chef and his students, and ate the best guacamole ever, along with other delicious things.

But my favorite Oliver night came in Covent Garden. We approached Oliver’s Italian restaurant to find a huge line at 5 p.m. We stood in it – more out of indecision and fatigue than anything – and were rewarded as people as people quickly disappeared into a surprisingly commodious, bustling place smelling like garlic and fresh bread.

The special board listed spaghetti alla puttanesca and it was terrific. A Jamie Oliver recipe for Gennaro’s spaghetti alla puttanesca is (here), and I was surprised to read that it contained anchovies!

     I came home reminded of that favorite and so easy dish, and will make it this weekend for company. I’ll leave the anchovies out, so it won’t be the same, but capers and olives seem the trademark ingredients. I’ll sauté onions in olive oil, add garlic, red chilies or our Rome spices, and canned tomatoes. Then toss in olives, capers, and cherry tomatoes.

     It will be fun to spoon it over strozzapreti, serve it with crusty bread and wine, and talk to friends about trips. For sure we’ll have London weather – wet and very dark – but the memories will be bright!

ingredient - pasta puttanesca

Squash and Sage Soup

“Frugal Feeding” posted a Pumpkin and Sage recipe I’ve made several times with pumpkin, but I’ve also used a big green Kabocha squash. It’s delicious soup – savory and filling!

Frugal Feeding begins by peeling and cutting the squash into pieces to roast. I just cut it in half, scooped out the seeds, brushed on a little olive oil inside and out, and roasted the squash face down on a tray until a fork pierced it easily.

If you do this ahead, you can use the skin and seeds in stock – a nuisance but a wonderful thing. Flavorful stock does make a difference in this soup.

Saute two roughly chopped onions in a little olive oil, and while they cook, boil two halved potatoes until they are tender. (I add another potato if the squash is really big.)

The recipe calls for three bay leaves, and two or three whole sage leaves plus two tablespoons of finely chopped sage. Frugal Feeding adds the whole leaves and three bay leaves along with the roasted pumpkin to the onions. (I misread and added the chopped sage he intended as a garnish – which worked for me – but he might consider that too much sage.)

Stir in a quart of the vegetable stock, and salt and pepper to taste.

Simmer for 30-40 minutes, remove the bay leaves, and use an immersion blender to blend till smooth. If you still have them, put the finely chopped sage on top of the soup as a garnish. (My old friend who lives on Bainbridge brought turkey dressing decorated with sage leaves she’d cooked in olive oil with a little salt to Thanksgiving dinner – they were fabulous and would be perfect atop this soup!)

If you live in a chilly climate like Washington this month – where cupboards are cold and pottery very cold – it’s good to warm the bowls with a little boiling water before serving the soup.

Orange is a happy color in December’s red and green!

Paddington at ease

Thumbprint Cookies (Vegan)

Thumbprint cookies might be my perfect Christmas cookie (and a fair number have been consumed with no holiday excuse). Tasha Tudor’s thumbprints used to be my favorite, made with white flour, lots of butter, and dollops of sugary strawberry jam.

But recently I found this recipe made with barley flour, which adds to the nuttiness, and oil rather than butter. I printed it, used it, but didn’t attribute my paper copy. Wandering websites looking for the exact recipe, I finally found Blythe Danner’s (she makes them often for her grandchildren). Thank you Blythe Danner!

These are a one-bowl cookie (a big bowl, though I have cut the recipe in half very successfully): combine all the ingredients: four cups of barley flour, three cups of raw whole almonds (crush in a food processor in about 10 two-second pulses), one teaspoon fine salt, one teaspoon ground cinnamon, one cup of canola oil, and one cup of real Vermont maple syrup.

Stir. Form into balls (about tablespoon size) and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Make the signature indents with a digit and fill with a spoonful of jam.

They are so good these cookies, and a perfect way to use up any bits of jam in the fridge (or the really beautiful blueberry jam made with honey by my friend who lives down the bluff). The jam with honey gets a little sticky and chewy, but it sets off the nutty dough just perfectly. (Some blogs I read in my tracing-the-recipe search suggested using ganache, if you like a chocolate-filled thumbprint.)

It takes about 20 minutes for the cookies to be evenly browned. Cool. Eat. Enjoy.

Let holiday cooking begin!

Joanna plate with thumbprint cookie-1

Pumpkin Muffins – Prescribed

At my annual checkup, my doctor suggested I try the muffins she makes for her family’s breakfast, and scribbled the recipe on her prescription pad. The muffins are delicious and satisfying – no added sugar – just real food in the fun form of a muffin. Tasty, nurturing, and nutritious.

I took the last of a batch to Downtown Abbey, planning to eat a muffin with my oatmeal while Lady Baby ate toast with her oatmeal. No. Lady Baby pointed at the muffin. I said, “Well maybe try a little bit?” That piece gone, she pointed again and again, saying politely each time, “More pease!” A hit.

To make the muffins you combine two cups of almond flour with one-half teaspoon of salt and two teaspoons of baking powder in a large bowl. Set aside. (At this point I add powdered ginger, cinnamon, and a little grated nutmeg.)

Blend in the food processor a half-can of pumpkin, two or more whisked eggs, two ripe bananas (approximately a cup), and a half-cup of olive or coconut oil. (I’ve only used olive oil but suspect coconut would be good.)

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk. Fold in blueberries, and nuts if you like. (Pecans add a good crunch.)

This single batch of batter fills a tray of 12 muffins. (I often double the recipe and freeze the muffins in foil-wrapped packets of three, then warm them up in the toaster oven before eating.)

To allow the muffins to come out of the pan more easily, I’ve learned to cut a little parchment paper circle for the bottom of each oiled muffin compartment. (Cupcake papers leave too much muffin on the paper for me.)

Bake at 400° for approximately 22 minutes (my oven takes a little longer). Let cool before gently removing the muffins.

If any bits break off in the process, eat immediately, and gladly – after all, doctor’s orders!

Pumpkin cropped

Fabulous Fingerlings

After reading the Vedge cookbook on the plane, we stopped on the way from the airport in Seattle’s International District to buy some recommended condiments.

Most often I’m an olive oil, salt and pepper sort of “vegetable wrangler” (as Mrs. Hughes refers to a person preparing vegetables), but it seemed like some of the book’s interesting sauces would spice up the gathering autumn.

If only I could describe for you the interior of Big John’s Pacific Food Importers! (A quick Google declared it “a holy land for food lovers.”) Creaky wooden floors, and old olive oil cans full of flowers and herbs on the front porch of a warehouse building certainly charmed me. But the power was out – the interior dark. No scales. No cash register.

By the light of the proprietor’s cell phone and a tiny flashlight on my key chain, we found some of the things from my list. The place is a wonderland of jars and bottles from around the world – with power I might have also secured porcini powder or nigella seeds!

Then we walked a block away to Uwajimaya – the huge Seattle Asian grocery store and bought an interesting looking tamari and sriracha hot chile sauce.

It took searching further afield for the recommended Wizard’s vegan Worcestershire Sauce, but worth it, because Vedge’s “Fingerling Potatoes with Creamy Worcestershire Sauce” are sublime.

Using a pound of fingerling potatoes, whole if small, cut in half if bigger, toss with olive oil and salt and pepper, and roast until tender.

While that’s happening, combine half a cup of vegan mayo, two tablespoons of vegan Worcestershire sauce, a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, two teaspoons of sherry or malt vinegar, a teaspoon of sugar, and salt and pepper. Pulse this mixture till smooth.

(A favorite thing about the Vedge cookbook is that it inspires cooking the bounty of this season, with or without specific ingredients. While eating at the restaurant with their perfect preparation was bliss, substitutions I’ve made also work out.)

The Vedge chef says he based this recipe on traditional and comforting “pub fare.” So, top the warm potatoes with the sauce, and picture yourself in an English pub, in a tall wooden booth by a roaring fire while fall rains lash the windows – and enjoy!

Bottles

Vedge – A Vegetable Restaurant

On the visit back East, we stayed in Center City – what Philadelphians call the heart of their city – full of historic sites, shopping, a broad thoroughfare with world-class museum offerings – and restaurants!

And I discovered maybe my favorite-ever restaurant! Located in an elegant townhouse on Locust Street, Vedge has a lively atmosphere, an attentive, enthusiastic wait staff, good lighting, and comfy seats. To eat in such a beautiful, “hip” restaurant and be able to eat everything was such a treat for me.

While Vedge’s chef/owners, husband and wife team Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, use no animal products in their kitchen, they choose to call Vedge “a vegetable restaurant.” The title reflects the stars of the show, “vegetables at the forefront,” not an after thought or side dish. Vegetables dominate the menu – the starters, the hot dishes and, of course, “The Dirt List.” Seasonal and local goes without saying.

On our night The Dirt List included Brussels sprouts, broccolini, beets, green beans, zucchini, mushrooms, and fingerling fries. The plates are small, a little like tapas, providing multiple opportunities for taste adventures. From the saffron cauliflower soup to the über chunk chocolate dessert – it was all beautifully presented and so flavorful!

Two nights later we returned to Vedge with an old friend who lives nearby (I love repeating a known pleasure on a trip, and it’s fun to become a little bit of a “regular”). It was Restaurant Week in Philadelphia and no reservations available, but we were invited to show up in hopes of nabbing one of the unreserved tables overlooking the open kitchen.

No luck – but – the creative seater at the front desk found us a little velvet couch in a corner with three stools – one for sitting and two for plates of food – a cozy spot on a rain-splattered night to catch up with our old friend and explore more Vedge dishes!

On the plane back to the West Coast I read all of the chefs’ newly published cookbook: “Vedge: 100 Plates Large and Small That Redefine Vegetable Cooking.” I heartily recommend this book – a great treat for the cook at your house (that would probably be you!). The chefs travel the world seeking ways to adapt traditional flavors to their vegetable-centric menu.

The book is inspiring. The second night home I made their Portobello frites (an adaptation of Steak frites you’d find in a French bistro) featuring “a juicy red wine reduction that sings with tarragon and a touch of Dijon” – terrific! (And quicker and easier than it sounds.)

I’ll be revisiting Vedge’s cookbook in the blog – and dreaming of revisiting Vedge!

Brussels sprouts