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



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

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!”


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

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

Cards for Sale

You might recognize these images:

Summer cards

Or these fruits:

Fruit cards

Or Frances:

Frances cards

from illustrations that accompanied a post here on “Her spirits rose….” And now they are blank cards, available on my website (www.katygilmore.com). They come in groups of five different images for $22.50, which includes shipping. (More images on the website.)

I’ve only had a few of each group printed – this is an experiment – but I wanted you loyal readers to know just in case!

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!


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

Summer Meals

Mark Bittman, in his new cookbook, “VB6: Eat Vegan Before Six to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health,” writes about his successful weight loss – achieved by eating vegan on a part-time basis. Bittman increased his eating of fruits and vegetables and eliminated processed and animal foods during the day, but could be indulgent and eat whatever he wanted after 6 p.m.

The recipes in the book are mainly vegan, and his ratatouille has become my go-to dish for this time of year. The CSA and farmers’ markets provide green goodness by the armful, and this recipe wants to include all that zucchini and broccoli, all those green beans.

Summer cooking should be easy, and this good dish has such easy prep! At Downtown Abbey we made a version of the ratatouille by roasting the vegetables first – delicious! But at home I cooked the vegetables on the top of the stove – a little quicker this way:

Combine onions and one or more of the green vegetables above (what you have on hand) with a goodly amount of olive oil, also peppers or eggplant if you want. Cook gently for a while. Add a can of drained and rinsed garbanzo beans and canned tomatoes (I used two cans of diced tomatoes, but fresh would be great). Bittman suggests including thyme or marjoram for herbs. Rice is nice along side.

Another summer meal comes from the wordsmith, and I’m going to share her email, because this dish sounds so unusual, so easy and delicious (and a good way to use the broccoli bounty!):

“Yesterday I made a chilled broccoli soup with the CSA produce. Chopped up the broccoli and braised it (without stirring) for 5 minutes in olive oil. Removed it from the pot and then sautéed an onion. Put the broccoli back in the pot with the onion and added 2 cups of water, simmered for half an hour until the broccoli was fork-tender, then used an immersion blender to moosh it all. Added 1/4 cup of fresh, chopped dill and the juice of a lemon, some sea salt. Put it in the fridge till it was cold. No dairy, no stock. Wow was it ever good, and so filling!”

Thanks wordsmith – I’m trying this!

green beans

Saag Aloo

The Website “Frugal Feeding” recently wrote about the spinach and potato dish called saag aloo. (Saag aloo sounds a little like a line from one of Lady Baby’s songs, “saag a-loo my darlin’.” But not.) So, because I had new potatoes, some spinach, and much kale raab from the CSA, I tried a variation.

Begin by toasting spices in a large pan (half teaspoon turmeric, one teaspoon garam masala, and a teaspoon of black onion seeds – called for but I couldn’t find). This smells terrific as it warms. Then add oil, and begin to cook a finely chopped onion.

Continue cooking the onions until translucent, then add three cloves of garlic mashed, one or two chopped chili peppers, seven or eight cherry tomatoes cut in half, and 300 grams or 10 ounces of potatoes cut into one-inch chunks.

Frugal Feeding is a Brit, so his recipes always call for a little interpretation by Yank readers – his grams to our ounces. He says to add a “splash” of water after a few minutes – but he quantifies his splash as 50 to 60 milliliters – around a quarter-cup by my trusty Pyrex measuring cup.

With the lid on, continue to simmer until the potatoes are tender.

The original recipe calls for 160 grams of fresh spinach (about five ounces of spinach or in this case leaves and flowers of raab) blanched in hot water, then blended in a food processor until paste-like.

Stir the greens into the pan once the potatoes are cooked and serve with rice or chapitis. I remembered to mold the rice using a cup (as the sweet bride taught me), and the saag aloo looked colorful around the rice.

How did it taste? Both bland and spicy – maybe it needed more salt than I added – maybe I shouldn’t have added another splash of water (to prevent too much sticking). The potatoes tasted great, but maybe the black onion seeds were crucial. And I substituted the raab, so not really a fair test, though it made a very green paste. It was warming and used up the raab, and leftovers the next day tasted way better.

Maybe saag aloo another time!

Cherry tomato pattern

Beautiful Squash and Kale

It’s so easy this time of year to grab a fresh and sturdy, rubber-banded bouquet of kale at the grocery store (actually in Washington that’s true any time of year), so I almost always do. Usually the kale goes into soup (any soup here seems to accept kale), but these winter months I’ve often made Louise Langsner’s “Slow-Sauté of Squash with Greens.”

The Langsner home must be a tasty place to eat – lately she’s focused on spices and available winter vegetables. (Have a look at her site – she’s a masterful gardener and cook: http://louiselangsner.wordpress.com/ . I’m about to try “Squash and White Bean Soup with Sage” or maybe “Thai Coconut Curry Soup.”)

In spite of “slow” in the title, her squash and kale recipe is quick and really delicious. I’ve made it with both acorn and butternut squash – and once with sweet potatoes. I haven’t paid a lot of attention to the quantities, just balanced the orange and green – in truth just using the kale and squash on hand.

To begin, cut an onion into half and slice thinly. While the onion cooks over a medium heat in two tablespoons of olive oil, peel, seed, and cut four-and-a-half to five cups of winter squash and chop into half-inch cubes.

In four or five minutes, when the onions are soft, add a sliced garlic clove and one-quarter teaspoon of red pepper flakes or a small hot chile, minced.

Put the cubes of squash in the pan, stirring “to coat well with oil.” Langsner increases the heat to medium-high at this point, and cooks “stirring occasionally” for four or five minutes.

In between all this, pull the leaves from the kale’s mid-rib and slice. After adding the greens, sprinkle a half-teaspoon of salt and two tablespoons of water (when I make this in non-non-stick pans, it does get a little crusty – but the water loosens things up).

Continue to cook until the squash and kale are tender – Langsner says four or five minutes, but my stove takes a little longer.

She recommends using this as a “filling for tacos or wraps, or a topping for pasta, pilaf, or polenta.” For the first meal for us, rice along side works well, and the leftovers taste great in great black bean tacos a day or so later.

The sweet bride recently sent me a photo of the variation she prepared – adding black beans and using chard rather than kale. Our younger son looks most pleased in the photo, with his colorful plate of chard and squash nestled beside a shapely mound of brown rice!

Chile Peppers

Carrots, Chocolate, and Red Pepper Flakes

Just before New Year’s Eve, I made a huge pot of white bean and rosemary soup, and wish I’d thrown in a handful of black-eyed peas for New Year luck. Along with the lucky number 13, I’m hoping that putting them in the header will suffice!

Cooking cooking – lots of cooking over the holidays – and new cookbooks! Our younger son and his sweet bride were here over Christmas, and cooking seemed simple because I had her wonderful, companionable help. More to come about the cookbooks, but for now I wanted to pass along two recipes we made with much pleasure – both from the same blog: http://frugalfeeding.com/.

The site is full of interesting recipes and photos by a young man who writes about “making good food on a relatively small budget.” He writes from the UK with a lively good humor. Sometimes ingredient conversions are necessary – Google does for you quickly.

For a Christmas Eve gathering, we made his “Carrot and Coriander Hummus”: Roast 300 grams of chopped carrots (that’s about 10 ounces) with three unpeeled cloves of garlic in olive oil, salt, and pepper, until tender, just turning brown. Toast coriander seeds (I did this in the toaster oven). You need two teaspoons after “bashing” the seeds up a bit.

Put the carrots, the garlic squeezed out of its skin, two teaspoons of peanut butter (the mystery ingredient, nobody guessed peanut butter), a small handful of fresh coriander (didn’t have this), one teaspoon of chilli flakes (that’s a British-ism, I used red pepper flakes, pretty hot ones), and the juice of one lemon into a food processor. Then add one tablespoon of olive oil at a time (recipe says four) until the consistency is right for dip or spread.

FrugalFeeder says to serve with pita bread, but we substituted crackers. And, because we doubled the recipe, we were able to spread this on bread for several days after the party – really tasty.

Those same red pepper flakes (a sweet bride favorite) appear in another FrugalFeeding recipe “Chilli and Nutmeg Dark Chocolate Bark,” which is easy and looks festive. Start with good chocolate for this – we used 80% – three bars come close to the 300 grams called for.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. (I don’t have one, so we used a bowl inside a steamer basket.) Begin by breaking the chocolate and melting three-quarters of it. Remove the bowl from heat and add the rest of the chocolate and let it soften. Then put the chocolate back over the water until it reaches pouring consistency.

The sweet bride carefully poured the melted mixture onto a piece of parchment paper atop a baking tray – making a thin chocolate puddle. She’d earlier grated a nutmeg with a microplane grater (a new activity to us but perfect for a Christmas task, and I put the leftovers in Christmas pudding the next day), added a quarter teaspoon of the grated nutmeg to one teaspoon of pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt (coarse sea salt if you have it). She sprinkled this mixture over the still soft chocolate.

We went on to make red beans and rice and ginger cookies while the chocolate set up – then packed the broken bark into little bags – a quick, easy present! A recipient called the chocolate “not sweet and bitey hot!”

Carrots, chocolate, nutmeg, coriander, pepper flakes, family and friends – was a great holiday!

Paper palette carrot

Pumpkin Orange

On the day after Thanksgiving, my clever friend is giving a shower for the sweet bride. She’s asked guests to bring a little gift, a “favorite thing that makes regular life happier when you are seriously cooking, puttering in the kitchen or setting the table,” a picture of you on your wedding day (if appropriate), and a favorite recipe.

It sounds like fun for sure – a treat to honor the bride with this American tradition, a gathering of women who care about her. It will also be a chance to see a variety of wedding dresses – all very different from her pale-pink silk dress for next January’s wedding in Thailand!

I wrote out a version of Molly Bartlett’s “Cranberry Pumpkin Squash” for my recipe. We’ve had it once made with tiny pumpkins and once with acorn squash. It’s cheerful, seasonal, and tasty – and the sweet bride loves squash.

The recipe calls for two small pumpkins or acorn squash, cut in half lengthwise, with seeds removed. Place the halves in an ovenproof dish with a lid.

In a saucepan, combine one-half cup of fresh cranberries, one small flavorful apple (cored and chopped into pieces), a quarter cup of currants, one-half cup orange juice, a tablespoon and half of honey or maple syrup, a tablespoon of melted butter, and a pinch of salt. Heat until the berries and apple are just tender.

Fill the squashes with the berry and apple mixture, (I added chopped pecans), cover the dish, and bake till the squash is tender, about 35-40 minutes. Pumpkin orange and cranberry red – festive and delicious.

And the wedding dress picture: our wedding was late September 1969, and a judge flew his small plane to a lake cabin in Alaska to marry us. Those facts surely explain my homemade, pumpkin-orange wool dress!

Curly Kale Chips

The young writer expressed incredulity that I had never made kale chips. So, faced with a huge bunch of very curly kale from the CSA, and armed with two recipes, I made kale chips. Why hadn’t I done this before?

My Alaska daughter-in-law described my proclivity (we share it): I’m a savory-preferring, chips and salsa sort of person. Sweets I can almost always resist (with some exceptions), but tortilla chips are my weakness. Chips get you through that premeal dinnertime when hunger depletes energy for cooking. Chips make going out for Mexican food such fun. Nestled in the pack with the sandwiches, chips get you to the top of a mountain.

I try to make rules – don’t open the bag being the most effective – but at Downtown Abbey I’m a goner. I don’t even fight it there. So this recipe is an opportunity for legal chips, approved chips, chips as part of your five-a-day (the potatoes in potato chips don’t make the cut.)

It’s a simple recipe: wash and shake a big bunch of curly kale, remove the midrib, cut into quarter-inch strips, and place in a large bowl.

The young writer’s recipe, from a nutritionist named Kathy Abascal, calls for drizzling two tablespoons of olive oil over the kale and tossing to coat. (Karyn from Red Dog Farm suggests a tablespoon of olive oil and one of soy sauce.)

Make sure the kale is well-coated, then arrange in a single layer on baking sheets. Abascal warns that piling the kale leads to soggy kale – it steams rather than crisps. I made two batches, spread thinly on rimmed sheets.

Place in a heated oven (350°) for five minutes, then turn the kale and bake for six or seven more minutes until the kale is crisp. Keep a close watch – don’t burn – but you want crisp.

Crisp is delicious! Sprinkled with salt these have the melt-in-your mouth satisfaction of a decadent, very good potato chip – but virtuous, no guilt.

They can be a popcorn substitute for television viewing of the debates and election ahead. I hope Michelle makes some chips from the White House garden’s kale. (And I hope she keeps that garden!)

Enjoy – and go ahead – eat the whole bowl – it’s kale!