The Vegetarian Guy

read… eat… live…

  • Jul 26

    We are in the midst of a great American food revolution. Farmers markets around the country are the front lines of this cultural awakening directly connecting urban dwellers with regional farm and food producers.  Chefs have discovered farm-fresh produce as the secret to fine cuisine which has led to an increase in their patron’s culinary awareness and high expectations.

    Community and markets go hand in hand. Farmers markets are places to learn about food, regions, farms and community events.  One of the simple pleasures in my life is discussing local foods and agricultural trends with small farmers who have a direct connection to the earth.

    The communities of the ancient world situated their markets in town squares and city centers since this was where people gathered–these markets tended to be the seat of government as well.  Famously, democracy was created in the Agora (marketplace) of ancient Athens.

    I shop two or three farmers markets weekly buying an exciting variety of seasonal produce.  Nature provides the nutritive balance with different plants maturing each week during the growing season. Traditional cultures around the world synchronized their lives around the cycles of indigenous growth and harvests.

    However, in today’s markets, farmers have a tendency to grow what sells.  While this may make good business sense, the unfortunate result is that the educational aspects of the markets are lessened.  So, when I see unusual offerings, such as green amaranth, bitter melon or, one of my favorite culinary treasures, purslane, my mind begins to conjure up different ways to prepare dishes with the fresh delicacies before me.

     

    Purslane is a nutritional powerhouse savored by most of the great food cultures of the world.  It is one of the highest plant sources in Omega 3 fatty acids and rich in vitamins A, C, Potassium and Alpha-Linoleic acid.  It was well known to ancient cultures in the Mideast and Asia and used in traditional Chinese medicine for bee stings and snake bites. Pliny advised wearing the plant as an amulet to expel all evil.

    Here in a America, purslane was relegated to the status of a weed. Crop rows and sidewalks across the country are sprayed with herbicides to eradicate this perceived nuisance.  It thrives in harsh, dry climates and, as a companion plant, enables less hardy plants to survive by helping the root systems reach greater depths.  It also helps create a beneficial microclimate and stabilize moisture levels–not to mention, it is delicious!

    This recipe takes about 30 minutes.  The sauteed purslane and lacinato kale rolls may be prepared individually, but I chose to combine them for complimentary flavor and drama of presentation.

    Lacinato Kale Roll with Sautéed Purslane

    Makes 8 rolls, serves 4 to 8

    Sauteed Purslane

    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

    2 teaspoons minced garlic

    1 ½ teaspoons crushed red pepper

    1 cup spring onions, sliced

    2 bunches, or 6 cups, purslane, washed, thick stems removed and coarsely chopped

    ½ teaspoon sea salt

    In a 12 inch skillet on medium-high heat, cook the olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper for 5 to 10 seconds or until the garlic and chiles sizzle. Add the onion, purslane and sea salt. Cook for 30 seconds, cover and turn down to a simmer.

    Sauce

    1/2 cup Vegenaise, vegan mayonnaise

    2 1/2 tablespoons roasted red pepper

    2 teaspoons organic tomato paste

    1/4 teaspoon sea salt

    In a separate bowl, whisk together all sauce ingredients.

    Filling and assembly

    1/2 cup chopped basil leaves

    1/2 cup blanched almond flour

    1/4 teaspoon sea salt

    1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

    1 1/2 teaspoons dijon mustard

    In another thoroughly fold together all filling ingredients.

    Assembly

    8 large lacinato kale leaves, stemmed

    Place 1 heaping tablespoon at the top of the kale leaf and, while folding the

    side edges in, roll the leaf into a stuffed grape leaf shape.  Steam for 12 minutes on medium high heat.  Place 1 cup purslane on plate, place one roll on top and top with 1 ½ tablespoons sauce.

    Serve while hot.

     

  • Mar 25

    I love spring in Michigan. During the first warm days, it seems that all of us are happy and celebrating the arrival of the earth’s transition as it awakes from its long winter slumber. Delicate flowering buds suddenly appear on trees which looked dormant only days earlier and bright green shoots begin to push through the soil as they reach for the sunlight.

    For those of us who love to cook, these signs of spring let us know that soon the farmers are beginning to show up at the markets with the first of many tender harvests.

    Like precious gems, the first baby greens, sweet and succulent, are quickly snatched up by those of us who treasure the flavors and textures which only occur this time of year.

    Certified Organic Farmer Don Cinzori of Cinzori Farms in Ceresco, Michigan, has become a good friend over the years. This Spring Equinox week, his booth is my first stop at the Royal Oak Farmers Market, where I quickly survey his stall which is full of baby greens and a variety of potatoes, radishes and onions from the root cellar.

    He directs me toward his wheat grass and soil-grown sweet pea sprouts–a sign that Michigan pea season is almost here

    There are three kinds of peas commonly found in the local markets:  Sugar Snaps, Snow Peas and English Sweet Peas.  Sadly, the English peas are grown less because it is inconvenient to shell them and it seems to take forever to get enough for one or two people.  Thus, most of our experiences are canned, frozen or dried split peas.  To add insult to injury, when we finely muster up the courage to shell some peas, they come from a grocery store and were harvested at least a week or two before.

    To appreciate the magnificience of fresh peas, grow your own or buy them from a local farmer, like Don Cinzori (Know your farmer, know your food!), who has brought them ripe and fresh to market that morning.  Cook as soon as possible, as the the sugars in peas turn into starch only hours after they have been picked.

    This versatile legume can be prepared in so many ways that there is no possibility for boredom: fresh pea soups, in salads, sauteed with other vegetables, in whole grain pilafs and pulaos as well as in pasta dishes.  The recipe below is a little different and highlights the green flavor of the peas with fresh Indian spices and rich flavor of Lacinato kale.  Easy to prepare with simple spicing, a sure crowd pleaser!

    Kale Wrapped English Peas

    Serves 4

    1 teaspoon coconut oil

    ½  teaspoon cumin seeds

    2 teaspoons ginger root, minced

    1 teaspoon green chile, minced

    1 tablespoon cilantro, minced

    ½ cup sweet onions, minced

    ½ teaspoon curry powder

    1 tablespoon lime juice

    2 tablespoons water

    1 ¼ cups English peas, podded

    ¼ teaspoon sea salt

    8 large Lacinato kale leaves, stemmed

    ½ teaspoon ume plum vinegar

    In a small sauce pan, heat the coconut oil on medium high and cook the cumin seeds until they start to brown,  Add ginger, chile, cilantro, onions and curry powder.  Turn down to a simmer, add the lime juice, water, peas and sea salt.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring periodically then check to see if the peas are soft.  When soft, mash the peas and onions.  Separate into eight portions, place a portion on a kale leaf and roll until the entire leaf is wrapped around.  Carefully place in a steamer and cook for 5 minutes, or until the kale is tender.   Place 2 to 3 drops ume vinegar on top of each. Serve hot.

  • Feb 14

    A Lifestyle of Romance

    This is the time of year to shake off the dust of distraction, polish our manners and look for creative ways to express ourselves romantically.   Often the centerpieces of these endeavors are built around sensual foods and, when wooing our loved ones on Valentines Day, chocolate rules supreme.

    The roots of St Valentines Day lay in Rome with February marking the beginning of Spring on the Roman Calendar.  At that time, every household was swept out and  sprinkled with salt and spelt berries. The fertility festival, Lupercalia, began on the Ides of February (15th) and was celebrated throughout Rome by pairing unmarried youths until the following February, often resulted in marriages.

    Roman culture had a great appreciation for earth’s beauty and those who inhabited it.  They celebrated the gifts of the land and the power of attraction which is intimately intertwined like a grape vine in an arbor. One could reason this had something to do with the word romance being derived from Roman.

    In 485 A.D., the Catholic church sought to Christianize the Lupercalia festival by celebrating Saint Valentine, thought to be a martyred priest from two centuries prior.  As a result, the romantic aspect of the celebration does not appear again until the Middle Ages.  It was the mid 19th century when it began to resemble the phenomena it is today.

    On Valentine’s Day, when the meal is emotionally charged, there is one ingredient that is a “must” on the menu–chocolate.  Chocolate has long been known as an all around sensual ingredient.  The Aztecs called it “Nourishment of the Gods.”  Not only does it enchant us with its dark seductive flavor, but it contains compounds which have an immediate sensual effect as well as long lasting health benefits.

    This dessert, Hazelnut Love Bites, is a combination of three luscious flavors and textures–hazelnut, raspberry and chocolate–all making for a passionate dessert experience.

    Love Bites

    Makes 24 Love Bites

    Bites

    1/3 cup ground hazelnuts
    1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached wheat flour
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 cup evaporated cane juice (organic sugar)
    1 1/2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
    2/3 cups plain soy milk
    1/4 block (3 ounces) firm silken-style tofu
    1/8 cup raw cashew nuts, ground to a meal
    2 tablespoons canola oil
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Preheat oven to 350º F. Using a 24 cup mini cupcake pan, line each cup with unbleached baking cups. Put hazelnuts, flour, baking powder, evaporated cane juice and arrowroot into a large bowl and whisk together with a French whip. In a blender, puree soy milk, tofu and cashews to a smooth consistency. Transfer to another large bowl and stir in canola oil and vanilla. Combine the two mixtures and stir vigorously for one minute to develop the gluten in the flour. Fill each cup to just below the rim and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean(a little sticky is Ok).  Allow to cool.

    Raspberry Sauce

    1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
    2 tablespoons maple syrup
    1 tablespoon evaporated cane juice
    1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Heat a saucepan on medium heat. Add all ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes. Then strain by pushing through a fine wire strainer with a rubber spatula until only the seeds are left–really work it. Discard seeds. Return strained raspberries to pan and simmer for another 5 minutes. Reserve.

    Chocolate Ganache

    3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
    1/4 cup evaporated cane juice
    1/2 cup plain soy milk
    1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

    In a double boiler on medium heat, add all chocolate ganache ingredients. Stir periodically and cook for about 30 minutes until chocolate is melted and smooth. Test a drop on a cold plate, it should set up to a frosting consistency.  Allow to cool and reserve.

    Assembly

    When the cupcakes are cool, use a small pointed-tip knife to create a crater in the center of each cake, then pour in a small amount of raspberry sauce.  To frost, either use a flat knife to frost each cupcake or put frosting into a pastry bag and pipe.
    Ready to serve.

    Note:

    I only use organic and unadulterated ingredients

    Through personal example, my father inspired me to respect beauty and romance on a daily basis–one never knows when they will be encountered, often by chance.   He often expressed his inspirations through poetry.

     

     

     

     

    Beauty

     

     

     

     

     

    With the kindness of its weather,

    San Diego has developed multiple forms of beauty.


    (My words of enthusiasm are difficult to restrain.)


    The soil harbors and embraces plants which give birth

    to hundreds of varieties of flowers.


    Their creative method of procreation is:

    they make their flowers so fragrant and colorful

    that the bees and other pertinent species

    are attracted to visit,


    To collect their nectar, and thereby leave tracks

    from gathering visits to neighboring flowers.


    The plants then “eat”, and become happily pregnant.


    This is the intelligence of beauty!


    Now the plants we call ‘trees’ reach high for the sky

    and its sunshine.


    Each family has its own leaf formation, and height,

    their arms lissome to the winds,

    as their hair of leaves is tousled.


    And we humans too enjoy our views of them.

    ~Spyros Vutetakis 2007

    Happy Valentines Day!

     

     


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  • Sep 9

    Market Flowers

    If it’s Saturday morning, odds are I’m at the Royal Oak Farmers Market. Back in the days when I was chef and proprietor of Inn Season Cafe, the market was our main source of seasonal produce. Three days a week I rolled flatbed carts stacked with produce through the aisles and into my truck for the short journey to the restaurant. Sometimes at the end of the market day, farmer friends would pull up to our back door with their extra corn, squash, pumpkins and zucchini which we gave to customers and local soup kitchens.  Sharing this connection with the farmers who work the land was a foundation of what we did at Inn Season Cafe. The Cafe was farm to table from its inception in 1981. The current owners remain committed to this now-popular approach to food in restaurants and homes.

    Market Flowers and people

    Since its establishment in 1929, the Royal Oak Farmers Market has played a key role in the community. Like the venerable Eastern Market in Detroit, it supplies chefs, serious cooks and canners with a wide variety of local produce and agricultural products. Anchors such as Cinzori Farms, Hampshire Farms and Nature’s Pace Organics make it the best market for certified organic produce in Metro Detroit.

    Cinzori booth with beans

    Today, each visit to this bustling market continues to fuel my culinary passions as they did during those Inn Season Cafe years. Every Saturday exciting discoveries await me on the rows of tables that stretch from one end of the market to the other–fresh produce picked only hours before:  Jimmy Nardello peppers, okra, corn, beans and heirloom tomatoes–just to name a few.

    Organic Yellow Watermelon

    September is the final hurrah of the Michigan summer harvest and watermelons of all kinds are plentiful providing an opportunity to squeeze in refreshing beverages–ok, pun intended. Remembering the Agua Frescas I enjoyed so much last year in San Diego, I felt inspired to make a local Michigan version with a Cuban Mojito accent. This week, Don Cinzori helped me pick a beautiful yellow watermelon which I used along with the abundant mint growing in our kitchen garden to make my version of Agua Frescas for dinner guests that evening.

    Agua Fresca with almonds

    In hotter climates, tradition has long embraced a variety of fruits and spices for thirst-quenching drinks.  Like the limonatas of Italy and the Sharbats of India, the Agua Frescas help balance the intense flavors in the often fiery cuisine of Mexico, but this drink is so refreshing, it goes well with any food any time of the year.

    Chin chin!

    Yellow Watermelon Agua Fresca

    Serves four to six

    Watermelon

    Cut rind off yellow seeded or seedless watermelon.  Cut into large chunks, place in blender and grind until smooth on slow speed without breaking seeds.  Strain into a bowl using a coarse wire strainer with holes large enough to stop seeds. A juicer will also work for this.  Yield depends on size of melon-10 inch diameter will yield 4 to 6 cups of strained juice.

    Simple lime syrup

    1 cup water

    1 cup organic cane sugar

    ¼ cup fresh squeezed lime

    In a 2 quart sauce pan, simmer sugar and water until sugar is dissolved. Cool and then add lime juice.

    Option: Substitute sugar syrup with organic light agave syrup.

    Mixing

    1 cup mint leaves

    2 cups ice

    Place 2 cups watermelon juice, 2 tablespoons fresh mint (8 large leaves), 2/3 cup ice and 2 tablespoons lime syrup in blender. Pulse until ice and mint leaves are crushed.  Pour into two 8 ounce glasses, garnish with a fresh mint leaf and serve. Repeat as desired.

     

     

  • Oct 26

    Imperial Beach Farmers Market

    As I step through the sliding doors of the San Diego Airport, the intense heat of the fall sun reminds me that San Diego is indeed a desert despite the numerous efforts to turn the ecosystem into one that is temperate and green. This is readily visible in any patch of land left to fend for itself without the aid of water and it plays into the seasonal abundance, or sometimes lack thereof, at the local Farmers Markets. Wherever I travel, I practice the burgeoning art of farmers market tourism.  Each market reflects the pulse and flavor of the neighborhood it is in. Markets are places where people bond over food with spontaneous discussions and interactions without pretense.  I’ve arrived in San Diego at the peak of the late summer harvest.

    Frog Skinned Honeydew Melon From JR Organics

    Thursday

    My first market is the North Park Farmers Market. It reflects a neighborhood which has become a trendy destination and boasts the most vegan restaurants per capita in San Diego. Goyo Rodriguez of JR Organics has a table teeming with produce. I purchase some tender wax beans, candy sweet strawberries and a provocative Frog Skin honeydew melon.

    Goyo Rodriguez of JR Organics

    Next stop is Moncai Vegan. Donald Moncai tells me about the new vegan restaurant they are about to open around the corner as he plies me with samples of his vegan donuts and a thirst-quenching hibiscus iced tea.

    Moncai Vegan

    Friday 

    Mel Lions, Wild Willow Farm mastermind and fearless leader, told me last time I was in town that they were selling produce from the community farm at the Imperial Beach Farmers Market.  It was the only all vegetarian market I was aware of, abundant with plant-based vendors offering prepared foods.  Since then, market management has changed and the direction with it.  While the vendors who offered vegan foods are gone, there is now a significant organic produce presence anchored by the Wild Willow Farm.  I am immediately drawn to the bright reddish-purple bunches of amaranth.

    Red amaranth leaves from Wild Willow Farm

    The location of this market is magical.  It is on Imperial Beach right next to the pier.  Whenever I’m here, I walk to the end of it where I frequently see schools of dolphins swimming and playing nearby.

    Imperial Beach Pier

    Saturday

    The Little Italy Mercato is a must-visit market–a treasure trove of culinary gems located in one of the liveliest districts in downtown San Diego. The first farmer I speak with is Jeff Alves of Terra Bella Ranch, the go-to stall for fresh organic almonds, walnuts and ever-enticing red walnuts.  It is easy to become spoiled by the quality of his nuts, I have never found anything that comes close. The news from Jeff is their new mail-order and Farm-to-Office service for their products.  I am thrilled!  This is a great way for me to get his extraordinary organic nuts and fruits in Michigan.  Terra Bella also grows and prepares delicious unsulphured organic apricots, tangy sun dried tomatoes, fresh figs, avocados and a number of other crops.

    Jeff Alves of Terra Bella Ranch

    I continue through the market keenly aware of  the shimmering San Diego bay, swaying palm trees and nothing but blue skies smiling at me, not to mention the many wagging and sniffing dogs who are always welcome here.  Mark of Happy Pantry: T.G.I.F. Thank God Its Fermented stops me to offer samples of raw krauts, pickles and kimchi.  I opt for the Power Krautage, a super-green-food infused kraut with subtle notes and great flavor.

    Happy Pantry Sauer Kraut

    Suzie’s Farm can be found in markets throughout San Diego–always presenting a cornucopia of what the season is offering.  Today’s stall is full of micro greens, peppers, beans, zucchini and an abundance of heirloom tomatoes.

    Indigo Rose Tomatoes from Suzie's Farm

    The star of the day is their Indigo Rose tomato with a spicy plum-like flavor and a provocative dark color.  To my delight, they also have Shishito peppers, a mild Japanese sauteing pepper with tender skin and the wonderful flavor of spicier chiles.

    Shishito Chiles

    With my remarkable bounty in tow, I head over to the Wild Willow Farm in the the heart of the Tijuana estuary between the Mexican border and Imperial Beach. I have been visiting the farm and participating in events since its 2009 inception (see video here).  I’ve enjoyed watching their progress over the years as the people of this community are dedicated and full of energy. I arrive just as a fundraising 5k fun run ends and the volunteers are making their way through the fields to attend to the farm’s needs.

    Amaranth at Wild Willow Farm

    It is a pastoral scene with goats being fed, roosters crowing and amaranth swaying with the cool ocean breeze. The Wild Willow Farm & Education Center works with five school systems throughout San Diego County to help children understand the connections between the land and the food they eat.  San Diego is very fortunate to have them.

    Wheel barrows for volunteers at Wild Willow Farm

    From here, I drive down the dusty lane to Suzie’s Farm on Sunset,  a single 140 acre parcel.  Suzie’s has been instrumental in bringing the culture of local organic food to the people of San Diego County.  Ideally situated near Wild Willow Farm, Suzie’s has a stand selling produce picked that day from their fields.  I stop by, chat and pick up some green beans, a small watermelon and a bottle of Jackie’s Cherry Bomb Jam created from the farm’s spicy cherry peppers–a delicious combination of sweet and hot!

    Suzie's Organic Farm Stan

    Sunday

    This is the big farmer’s market day in San Diego County with lots of great ones to choose from. I decide on three of my favorites: Rancho Santa Fe Farmers Market, La Jolla Open Aire Farmers Market and Hillcrest Farmers Market.  The Rancho Santa Fe Farmers Market is sponsored by the Helen Woodward Animal Shelter.  Volunteers from the organization walk adorable and adoptable dogs through the market each week.  It is a mellow market with understated elegance.

    San Diego 03 04 2012-9

    Market master Raquel Pena has assembled a foodie’s paradise of vendors.  Akram Attie of Thyme of Essence makes fresh Manoushe sandwiches.  He deftly toasts flatbread on a Mongolian-style grill and fills each sandwich with slices of Persian cucumbers, vine-ripened local tomatoes, his personal brand of za’atar and a touch of his self-harvested California extra virgin olive oil.  I follow this culinary treat with Emilio’s Andalusian blended gazpacho.  It is bursting with a rich tomato flavor and has undertones of olive oil and spicy garlic–one or two spoonfuls will not do as it is deliciously addictive.

    Akram Attie at the Rancho Santa Fe Farmers Market

    I pick up a loaf of naturally fermented whole grain bread from the Prager Brothers Artisanal Bakery stall.  Handcrafted the way bread is supposed to be, this alone would be worth the drive to the market.

    At Torrey Pines

    From here, I drive down the coast past the vista of surf rolling against the bluffs of Torrey Pines to the La Jolla Open Aire Farmers Market.  This market has greatly expanded since my cooking-demo days here. Nicolina Alves has nurtured the market into a wonderful community center full of dedicated farmers and delicious food from a variety of vendors.  I find amazing Barhi dates from Futterman Farm which are dried right on the palm and taste like juicy caramel candy.  Dennis Stowell of Tom King Farms is selling large, succulent figs and giant bulbs of strong and spicy Georgian garlic which are begging to be sautéed.

    Tom King Farm Stall at the La Jolla Open Aire Market

    Next stop is the Hillcrest Farmers Market, which is the closest market to our home in Mission Hills and widely considered the go-to market in San Diego. People commonly  compare it to the Santa Monica market and those of San Francisco.  One of my favorite farmers, and certainly the liveliest, is Barry Koral of Koral’s Tropical Fruit Farm.  This week the sweet-incense of guavas and vibrant deep red pomegranates attract people to his small, but formidable, stall.

    Pomegranates in San Diego

    The market is open from 9 to 2 and he talks the entire time with passion about the health and vitality his fruits and raw foods provide.  I buy some Fallbrook macadamia nuts and set up a mail order shipment of his unparalleled Reed avocados.

    Barry Koral's Reed Avocados

    The farmer’s markets of San Diego are festive and full.  They are the new town centers, combining people and food into social sustenance.  The market energy is transferred home because market day meals are the best and most inspired meal of the week.

    Soba noodles with amaranth, indigo rose tomatoes and

    Wild Yam Soba Noodles with Indigo Rose Tomatoes, Amaranth and Walnuts

    Serves 2

    1 cup yellow wax beans, cut in 1/2 inch pieces

    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

    1/2 pimiento pepper, finely diced

    1 clove garlic, minced

    1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

    2 cups red amaranth leaves, coarsely chopped

    4 cups Indigo Rose tomatoes, cut in half

    1 teaspoon sea salt

    2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

    1 teaspoon dried oregano

    1/2 package (4 ounces) Eden Foods Wild Yam Soba noodles, cooked per instructions and drained

    In a medium-sized sauce pan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil.  Add wax beans and cook for approximately 30 seconds.  Drain in strainer then rinse beans with cold water.  Reserve. Heat large skillet on medium-high heat, add olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper.  When sizzling, add the wax beans, amaranth, tomatoes and sea salt.  Saute until the tomatoes are tender and beginning to break down, then balsamic vinegar and oregano.

    Place the noodles into a large serving bowl and gently stir in the tomato mixture.  Serve immediately.

    Sauteed Shishito Chiles

    Shishito Peppers

    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

    4 cups Shishito chiles, wash but don’t remove stems

    1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

    Heat a 6 to 9 inch skillet on medium high heat (a cast iron skillet works well).  Add the oil, chiles and salt.  Saute and turn the chiles until blistered.  Serve immediately

    Japanese Cucumber and Fresh Fig Salad

    Japanese Cucumber Salad

    1 cup Japanese cucumber, sliced into thin half moons

    1/2 cup tomatoes, diced

    1/2 cup fresh figs, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

    2 teaspoons red onion, finely minced

    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

    2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar

    1/4 teaspoon sea salt

    Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.

     

  • Sep 7

    Royal Oak Farmers Market

    Every fall at harvest time, I write about the Michigan farmers markets which are bursting with colorful fruits and vegetables.  Throngs of people converge on the markets to join in the harvest bonanza. The vibrant orange, red and yellow heirloom tomatoes, pure green zucchini, bright yellow summer squash and deep green kales, collards and chards entice the eye like a Jackson Pollock art exhibit.  My readers know how much I admire and respect the men and women who work so hard to grow this food as free from adulteration as possible.

    Cinzori Farms Certified Organic Farm Okra

    I’m never sure what I’ll find this time of the year at the market. The ripening of each vegetable is totally up to the predictably unpredictable Michigan weather. There are always pleasant surprises–tender young okra from Cinzori Farms one week, baby fennel from Nature’s Pace Organics the next. I realized early on in my cooking career that planning the week’s meals around seasonal crops is how life was lived before modern commercial farming–a rewarding and healthy way to nourish body and soul.

    Natures Pace Organics

    For me, shopping is only the beginning of the journey.  Upon arriving home, it is a pleasure to prepare dishes from vegetables harvested within twenty-four hours of reaching the market.  I then embellish the creations with tender herbs and greens right from my kitchen garden.

    Kale after a Summer Rain

    My dishes are prepared using simple techniques to allow the incredible flavor of each ingredient to speak for itself.  The meal reflects the colors and textures of the market and is contemplative and energizing to consume.

    Heirloom Tomatoes at the Royal Oak Farmers Market

    Below is a recipe good at any time of year, but best during the peak harvest of tomatoes and corn. It is a whole grain corn cake made in the style of a South Indian Uttapam or a Gujarati Poodla.

    untitled-4

    Freshly Harvested Corn, Hemp and Chia Cakes with Fresh Tomato Relish

    Serves 6

    Corn Cakes

    1 cup ground whole cornmeal with the germ

    1/2 cup hulled hemp seeds

    1/4 cup chia seeds

    1 1/2 cups water

    2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

    1 cup corn off the cob

    1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced

    1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped fine

    1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

    1 teaspoon sea salt

    2 teaspoons baking powder

    Coconut oil for cooking

    For best results, mix the cornmeal, hemp, chia and water, let stand for at least one hour.   Then, mix remaining ingredients, except oil, in with cornmeal mixture.  In a preheated cast iron skillet on medium-high heat, add 2 teaspoons coconut oil and 1/2 cup batter.  Using a spatula, push in the sides to form a 4 inch disc. Cook until nicely browned and carefully turn over.  When other side is brown, remove from the pan and repeat until all are cooked. Serve hot.

    Fresh Tomato Relish

    Fresh Tomato Relish

    1 cup yellow pear tomatoes, halved

    1 cup candy red cherry tomatoes, halved

    1 cup San Marzano tomatoes, diced in 1/2 inch cubes

    1/2 cup tropea red onions, finely diced

    1 clove garlic, minced

    1 red serrano chile, seeded and minced

    2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

    1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

    1 teaspoon sea salt

    Mix all ingredients in a bowl and allow the flavors to meld for at least 30 minutes.

    Note:  Cornmeal, hemp and chia mixture can be made the day before.

    Once all ingredients are mixed together, immediately begin cooking in skillet.

    Best to make Fresh Tomato Relish before making the corn cakes.

    I recommend Hampshire Farms certified organic cornmeal, fresh ground, whole and fresh ground.

  • Jul 14

    As my readers know, I love to frequent farmers markets to shop for vegetables, talk to the farmers and participate in the age-old traditions of  community marketplaces.

    Jacob Bach, Nature's Pace Organics

    Here in Michigan, the heavy June rains have delayed the summer harvest.  So, in a recent visit to one of my favorite markets, the Royal Oak Farmers Market, I was delighted to see the abundance of produce.  Jacob Bach, of Nature’s Pace Organics, had young lacinato kale, hearty green kale, a variety of radishes with beautiful green tops and purslane–rich with omega-3s.  Don Cinzori of Cinzori Certified Organic Farms had a profuse selection of arugula, young collard greens, kale, young zucchini, english peas and the first broccoli shoots.

    Farmer Don Cinzori and George Vutetakis

    I made my way around the market juggling the heavy bags bursting with the treasures of the earth and musing over what to prepare with this wonderful bounty.   It came to me when a elderly woman brushed past me with her arms full of produce.  She reminded me of my Greek relatives, bringing back wonderful memories of eating traditionally prepared greens with them on the island of Crete.

    Kefala village, Crete

    Aunts and cousins would harvest their kitchen gardens to prepare Horta –freshly picked greens simply cooked.  Some nights it seemed as though they invited the entire village to join us for dinner; for those large events, they journeyed into town to the agora in Chania, an early 20th century structure built to resemble the ancient Greek marketplaces.  They filled their baskets with dandelion greens, lambs quarters, spinach, escarole–just to mention a few.  Back in the busy kitchen, they dressed the greens with sea salts harvested from coastal deposits, homemade olive oil and lemons from their own trees.

    Great Aunt Georgia Serving Horta

    Horta (also Horta Vrasta) can pertain to any green vegetable which is boiled in its own juices and dressed with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice. The Cretan tradition of eating wild greens may be one of the longevity secrets in the Mediterranean diet.  In Greece, picking the greens is almost a national pastime which my grandparents brought with them when they came to America.  They often took me along to pick dandelion greens in their favorite spots around Canton, Ohio.  (I recently read about a Greek who was arrested in Chicago for picking them on someone’s property!)

    Purslane

    The key to making good horta is to use just enough water to cook the greens while ensuring a small amount for bread dipping.  This way, all the nutrients in the vegetables are consumed.

    Italian red sorrel

    Also, do not feel restricted by one or two greens, it’s fine to mix and match a number of them, but, keep in mind the various cooking times.  Collard greens take much longer than most greens and arugula cooks almost instantly.

    Collard Leaf

    The right choice of olive oil can make a significant difference to the taste of the horta.  I prefer extra virgin oils made with Greek Koroneiki olives.  One organic brand which stands out is from Theo Rallis’ family farm,  Rallis Olive Oil.  Theo has developed a method for ice pressing the oil which preserves the nutritional integrity, often degraded by the naturally hot environments of traditional olive pressing

     

    Horta Vrasta

    This recipe is from my book, Vegetarian Traditions.  Feel free to adapt it to other greens.

    Swiss Chard Horta

    Serves 4

    6 cups, or 1 bunch red, multi-colored or white chard, stemmed, washed and coarsely chopped

    1/2 cup water

    In a large saucepan on medium-low heat, cover and simmer chard until stems are soft.

    Dressing

    1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

    1/2 teaspoon sea salt

    In a serving bowl, mix together all dressing ingredients.  Add cooked greens and broth.  Gently mix the greens into the dressing and serve.

    Serve warm, room temperature or cold.

    Cretan Horta Video:

    Cretan Horta Video

     

  • May 5

    Superfoods for better living!

    I prepare food based on culinary traditions from around the world. The dishes are healthy, full of flavor and enriched with the vitality of the freshest local ingredients. This is an encore post celebrating this year’s wonderful asparagus harvest.


    Springtime is an ideal time to jump start your health by adding the wonders of the early Spring “super foods” to your diet. At local markets across the country, the farmers are bringing in their bounties–a reflection of the powerful, regenerative energy of the earth. Every Sunday I marvel at the variety of freshly harvested produce at my local farmer’s market in San Diego–the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market. One of my spring favorites, organic asparagus, disappears early, so I try to arrive before the large crowds and am always thrilled to find I haven’t missed them.

    Asparagus, one of the healthiest vegetables, acts as a diuretic and is full of vitamin K and folates. It helps to lower blood pressure, reduces arthritic inflamation, promotes cellular rejuvenation and has anti-cancer properties. The perfect resume for a vegetable.

    Otherwise known as “baked-in-parchment,” en papillote is a wonderful method for cooking vegetables quickly while infusing flavor and retaining nutrients. I thought we would cook my treasured asparagus en papillote for a quick lunch. The entire process took 30 minutes and that included preheating my Wolf oven to 400 degrees convection. If you do not have a convection oven, preheat it to 425 degrees.

  • Apr 4

    Springtime at the Royal oak Farmers Market

    Going to the Royal Oak Farmers market at the first sign of spring is an annual tradition for fresh-food enthusiasts. We emerge from our winter cocoons to feel the warmth of the sun, marvel at the first crocus blooms and head to the market to share a collective exuberance with the other sun-starved Michiganders. The mood is infectious and smiles are everywhere.

    Cinzori Farms Black Radish

    The market is exploding with colors, living plants and enthusiasm–shoppers and farmers feeling as though they have earned the right to feel good about the spring season. This year, farmer Don Cinzori returned to the market with organic starter plants as well as black radishes, rutabagas and cabbage from his root cellar. His flats of freshly sprouted wheat grass were quickly snapped up by the juicing crowd.

    Red Russian Kale

    Jacob Bach of Natures Pace Organics had sweet tender spinach, baby Red Russian kale and cellared sweet onions. It was a treasure trove for me and I thoroughly enjoyed creating healthy, plant-based dishes from this bounty– salads, slaws, ragouts and a Super Scramble, which I share below.

    Super Scramble

    Serves 4

    14 oz extra firm organic tofu

    1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

    1 teaspoon garlic, minced

    1/2 cup sweet onion, diced

    1 cup rutabaga, diced

    1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

    1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

    1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon

    1 teaspoon dried dill weed

    1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

    1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

    1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes

    1 teaspoon Nama Shoyu tamari (sub wheat free for gluten free)

    1/4 teaspoon sea salt

    6 ounces baby Red Russian kale, trimmed and coarsely chopped

    1 tablespoon chia seeds

    1/2 cup cooked quinoa

    1/2 cup cooked short grain brown rice

    Drain the water from the tofu and crumble into a medium sized bowl, using your hands. Add olive oil to a non-stick sauté pan (I prefer the titanium coated pans) on medium heat, then add garlic, onion, rutabaga and crushed red pepper. Cover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add tofu, Dijon, tarragon, dill, black pepper, turmeric, nutritional yeast, tamari and salt. Cover and cook another 10 minutes. Add kale and chia, cover and cook another 3 minutes or until the kale is tender. Stir in the quinoa and brown rice. Turn to low, cover and cook for three to five minutes. Serve hot.

     

     

  • Jan 27

    Snow flurries dance in the cold, crisp air and the settled snow squeaks under my feet as I climb the porch stairs with bags from the market.  Even during the cold months, the brave and hearty Michigan farmers make the long trek to the Royal Oak Farmers Market every Saturday.  During a recent visit I purchased sweet red onions from Nature’s Pace Organics,

    Siberian hardneck garlic from Green Organic Garlic  and Jim Burda of Burda’s Berry Farm brought huge, organic Brussels sprouts from his western Michigan neighbor Cinzori Farms.  Once inside my cozy kitchen, I began to prepare a simple dish which was sure to warm the body and the heart.

    To prepare this dish, I used one of my favorite new kitchen tools–a twelve inch Scan Pan Pro , which is a teflon-free, non-stick saute pan which accommodates metallic instruments without scratching.  It also allows me to sear without looking, sauté without burning and cook slowly in order to achieve perfection–practically cooks itself.  Slightly caramelized brussels sprouts infused with the spicy warmth of black pepper, onions, garlic and olive oil…doesn’t get much better than that!

    Black Pepper Brussels Sprouts and Red Onions

    Serves 4

    1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

    ½ teaspoon garlic, thinly sliced

    2 ½ cups red onions, sliced thin

    4 cups Brussels sprouts, stem trimmed and cut in half lengthwise

    1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

    ½ teaspoon sea salt

    Place all the ingredients in a twelve inch skillet on medium-low heat, cover and cook for 20 minutes or until the Brussels sprouts are tender.