Saturday, 9 June 2007


We have a new, cool restaurant in our neighborhood! Okay, technically it's in the next neighborhood over, but just barely. We walked to Trebol, a Oaxacan restaurant, last night, on a gorgeous June evening, past the beautiful rose garden (which we stopped to browse after). We found Trebol to be a place that's more spendy than we'd like to go to frequently, but for a once-in-awhile treat, it's marvelous.

We started out with the guacamole and fresh corn tortillas. We all thought we'd died and gone to heaven. It's studded with carmelized garlic, and is just fabulous! They also bring out a plate of corn tortillas and two kinds of sauces--tamarind and serrano chile.

Paul and I both had the enchilada with spinach and mushrooms and is topped with an over-easy egg--delicious! They made a special dinner for Zac, because nothing on the menu appealed to him. They made him a black bean and cheese burrito. Hibi ordered a vegan soup but didn't like it, so they took it off the bill and brought another order of guacamole for her. She was happy! I had a tamarind margarita, and the kids both had a lavender lemonade. They had all kinds of flavors of lemonade--tamarind, mango, lavender....I can't remember them all.

We enjoyed our meal very much. But we'd really like them to offer a greater choice for vegetarians, especially vegans. The owner/chef is a former chef at Higgins, and he is following the tradition there of using only fresh, seasonal, local ingredients, which is wonderful! However, Higgins also only offers limited dishes for vegetarians. We've never brought Hibi there, so I don't know what they have for vegans.

I do hope they're able to settle into the neighborhood, and provide what this neighborhood needs. I think Trebol has great potential!

Friday, 8 June 2007

Giant Crusty and Creamy White Beans with Greens

I recently saw this book at a friend's house and I knew instantly that I had to have it. But I decided to take the prudent approach: I first got it out of the library. After it has to go back, *then* I will buy it. ;-)

Super Natural Cooking is written by a San Francisco author. And it is visually so appealing, as well as having wonderful recipes and information about the virtues of different ingredients.
Today I am taking dinner to a friend from church who is ailing. This dish seems to purr lovingly, "comfort food" to me. It came out so scrumptious! (Yes, of course I had to taste it! I had to make sure it's good, didn't I?) 1/2 pound medium or large dried white beans, cooked
3 tablespoons clarified butter or olive oil (since I wasn't cooking for a vegan, I used the butter! And I used more than 3 tablespoons...)
Fine-grain sea salt
1 onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
6 or 7 big leaves chard, preferably rainbow chard, cut into wide ribbons
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for topping
Drain the beans, then heat the butter over medium-high heat in the widest skillet you've got. Add the beans to the hot pan in a single layer. Stir to coat the beans with butter, then let them sit long enough to brown on one side, about 3 or 4 minutes. The beans should be golden and a bit crunchy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. Salt to taste, then add the onion and garlic and cook for 1 or 2 minutes, until the onion softens. Stir in the chard and cook until just beginning to wilt. Remove from the heat and season to taste with a generous dose of salt and pepper. Drizzle with a bit of top-quality extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan.
I'll bring it over with a loaf of bread from Di Prima Dolci.

Garden Stir-Fry

I made a meal with vegetables completely from my garden last night! It was a simple stir-fry with peas--the edible pod kind, radishes, and broccoli rabe. I even added some fresh oregano though that doesn't seem very authentically Asian! In not too long I can add cilantro, as that's about ready to cut. I used sesame oil to stir-fry and started out by frying cubes of tofu. Then I took out the tofu and fried the veggies. Next came a couple of tablespoons of bean paste, and then 16 oz. of cooked soba noodles, then the tofu came back in. It was delicious!

Thursday, 7 June 2007

What the World Eats

I found the link to this interesting photo gallery on my cousin's blog. It is an interesting look at what families eat all around the world. I found it fascinating to look at the amount of junk food compared to vegetables, processed foods compared to primary-source foods, and how much each family spends on food per week. And how much soda some families consume! Wow. I'm thinking of doing the same for our family, but I'd have to carefully document what we ate in a week to get an honest picture. Now that we don't live way out I can just run to the store that's just a mile away to pick up ice cream, or a forgotten ingredient, or whatever.,29307,1626519_1373664,00.html

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Gratin of Cherry Tomatoes with Ricotta and Basil

Cherry tomatoes are in the farmer's market now! Whoohoo! My own tomato plants are still weeks away from producing ripe, delicious tomatoes (some of which are cherry tomatoes) but they somehow have them in the market. On the upside: some of my plants have little tomatoes on them, and one has a tomato the size of a small egg!

This dish is one of my favorite summer dishes. But then I have so many favorite summer dishes! Summer is my favorite time to cook, because the ripe, flavorful vegetables of summer need so little in the way of preparation to be absolutely wonderful.

This is not veganizable. So I used the rest of the bunch of basil to make pesto for Hibi, and she ate cherry tomatoes along with ciabatta, which I served alongside the gratin to sop up the yummy juices, and pesto. She was happy! You could, I suppose, make it with a vegan ricotta, but I think you'd have to make it yourself because I know of no commercial vegan ricotta. Or just bake tomatoes with the other ingredients.

Gratin of Cherry Tomatoes with Ricotta and Basil

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds cherry tomatoes, preferably a mix of red and yellow
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup ricotta
2 eggs
2 tabelspoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 425.
Choose a shallow baking dish that is just large enough to hold the tomatoes snugly packed in a single layer. (I used a 9X13 pan.) Using 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, grease the bottom and sides of the dish. Add the tomatoes, rolling them around to coat with oil.
In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, garlic, 5 tablespoons of the basil, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper. Sprinkle half of the mixture over the oiled tomatoes.
In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, the remaining 3 tablespoons basil and 1/2 teaspoon salt, the eggs, flour, and cream. Stir until well blended and creamy. Pour this mixture over the crumb-topped tomatoes. Sprinkle with the remaining bread crumb mixture and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Place in the oven and bake until the cheese is slightly browned and the tomatoes have not yet burst, about 15 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature, spooned onto individual plates.

This served the three of us non-vegans with just a smidge left over, and I'll bet when I go back to the kitchen I'll find that it's gone. :-) It would, of course, serve more if it was served as a side-dish.

From The Vegetarian Table: France by Georganne Brennan

Friday, 1 June 2007

Scandinavian Comfort Food

This is one of my favorite recipes from Laurel's Kitchen, excluding their bread recipes, of course. I am part Swedish, and my Swedish grandmother used to make Swedish Meatballs for us. That was the only Swedish food I remember eating....ever! So, after I went veg and I found this recipe, I had to try it.

This recipe is not veganizable. Though I did try. I made Hibi some bean balls, without any gravy. She took one bite and said "yuck." So I won't tell you how I made those--if you want to try, let me know how it goes, and the recipe if it's good!

I almost always serve these with mashed potatoes, though noodles are good too (and easier). Serve alongside a green salad, or cooked kale or chard.

Swedish Bean Balls

1 1/2 cups cooked, well-drained beans (you could buy canned, but they're *so* much better if you cook them yourself! You can even cook them the day before and then put them in the fridge, which is what I did this week)
1 cup chopped onion
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 slice whole wheat bread, soaked in milk or water
1 egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon thyme
dash nutmeg
dash cardamom
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

1/4 cup dry whole wheat bread crumbs or cooked brown rice, if needed

1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups milk
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350.

Mash beans with potato masher, processor, or meat grinder. Saute onion and bay leaf in oil in a large skillet until the onion is golden. Remove about 1/4 cup of the sauteed onion with a slotted spoon and add it to the beans along with lemon peel and lemon juice. Squeeze all the liquid out of the bread (save it for the gravy) and work the bread into the mashed beans along with egg, thyme, spices, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. (Omit salt if beans were already salted.)

If you have time, chill the mixture; it's easier to shape the balls when cold. If it seems too loose, add the dry bread crumbs or rice to stiffen it. Form 1 1/2 inch balls and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes, until balls are dry and firm.

Meanwhile, make the gravy. Stir flour into reserved sauteed onions and cook, stirring, until flour starts to brown. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and milk and water. Cook over medium-high flame, stirring frequently, until mixture begins to boil and thickens. Reduce heat to low and simmer another 7 or 8 minutes, stirring frequently.

Remove bean balls from baking sheet and place in the skillet, spooning gravy over them. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes before serving; they need time to soak up some gravy. Serve with mashed potatoes or ribbon noodles.

Makes 12 balls, to serve 4.