Guaranteed to please meat lovers, Italians, and veggie-heads alike!
Lasagna-style zucchini noodles with fire roasted tomato sauce, meaty eggplant, fresh ricotta, and crispy mushrooms
Guaranteed to please meat lovers, Italians, and veggie-heads alike!
If you're a gardener or you know a gardener, you've probably found yourself with an abundance of overgrown zucchinis. I do a little harvest from the garden every couple of days and even though I swear I've picked all the zucchini there are to be picked, somehow there's always a gigantic one hiding out that I missed last time around. These massive zucchinis start to pile up in the fridge as I silently protest baking them into something. Don't get me wrong, I love baked goods, but I don't need to make dozen muffins each week for a household of two. And a dozen muffins doesn't even make a dent in the rapidly mounding pile of zucchini giants. Because, don't forget, I still have plenty of young zucchini, lovely and soft, ripe for the eating! So the giants sit and wait to be loved while I think desperately about ways to love them that don't involve sugar and flour. Such problems I have, huh? Well, fear not dear readers, for I have found a solution. A few weeks ago I made a pasta dish with zucchini noodles (a delicious little work in progress that I intend to post soon), and it got me thinking about the great potential these subtle little veggies have. I like the zucchini noodle concept, but I have a few qualms with the common zucchini noodle, the foremost of which is moisture. Pasta noodles, not watery. Zucchini noodles, way too watery. But not these zucchini noodles. No, no. These zucchini noodle are salted, squeezed, and baked until they retain just the right amount of moisture. And magnificent as they are, there is A LOT more to love of this lasagna. This is one of the best lasagnas I've ever eaten, and I say this as someone who grew up eating lasagna every other week from skilled Italian mamas and aunties and nanas.
Easy peasy zucchini popovers drizzled with lemon glaze and thyme
Last month I introduced a new post series, the "About" series, which spotlights a particular fruit, vegetable, or grain for botanical and culinary celebration. This month we're shining the spotlight on zucchini. The glorious zucchini. I've been bringing in armloads of zucchini this season and the constant supply has forced me to stretch the bounds of how I think about and cook with it. One can only have so much zucchini bread or ratatouille. I can assure you that the recipes featured this week will be the start of many more zucchini-based recipes to come, because these babies are prolific and I am determined to use them in new and interesting ways. I love zucchini and it's got a lot of potential, but it can be really underwhelming. I say this as a former vegan who's eaten my share of squeaky, flavorless zucchini stir fries and mushy veggie burritos. Zucchini isn't a particularly flavorful vegetable and the texture can be wonderful, but it's touchy. You've got to treat her right. The zucchini's culinary strength lies in it's versatility. It can easily sneak into sweets, adding a subtle note of savoriness (as in today's recipe). It can be consumed raw- crunchy and fresh. I can be tossed into a quiche, sauteed, or grilled. And if you take the time to remove a little moisture from it, it soaks up flavors miraculously well, making it an excellent choice for sauce-y dishes. You can also eat zucchini flowers, which have a similarly delicate flavor and really unique, almost creamy, texture. They're often served stuffed with some sort of cheese and herb mixture, lightly battered, and fried in a way that feels utterly luxurious.
A story about stillness, getting back in motion, and trying not to loose your shit
It was somehow nearly a month ago that Chris and I left for vacation. Until very recently, we've rarely taken vacation together for various reasons of impracticality, but we're trying to make it work because it's really so much more enjoyable. Our recent trip consisted of five days in South Carolina staying with Chris' mom and stepfather, followed by 5 days in New England with my family. It was a really lovely trip. The travel was not bad- we had audiobooks, good snacks, and each other's company. All of our flights were on time, miraculously, and no one got sick. In South Carolina we spent most of our days out and about with Chris' mom or exploring on our own. In the evenings we would meet up with friends for drinks and the kind of lively, exuberant conversations that can only occur between kindred spirits that haven't seen each other in far too long. It was wonderful. Soon after we arrived in Massachusetts, we headed down to my parent's beach cottage on Prudence Island. Prudence Island is a seven mile spec off the coast of Bristol. It's a very simple place with little in the way of entertainment. Activities on the Island consist mostly of laying on the beach, climbing rocks, reading books, photographing nature, and eating excessively. Places to go are mainly limited to other beaches, the roadside farm stand, and the new community garden. It's a magical places that gently forces you to relax. We stayed there with my parents and a fluctuating presence of sisters, brother-in-laws, and my sweet nephew for the rest of our stay. The whole trip was enjoyable and satisfying, and Chris and I both found ourselves feeling like we'd finally unwound in a very necessary way.
Hitting reset , a new post series, and an ode to fennel
Today was the summer solstice. Tomorrow the days will start getting shorter (they're already getting hotter). And 2015 is half-way over, startlingly so. The start of the year feels so fresh in my mind. I resolved to start my days more intentionally, to acknowledge my accomplishments as well as my shortcomings, to bring myself closer to a vegan diet again. I resolved to invest more in this blog. Some of these resolutions have stuck, others have slowly faded back into the background. That's just the nature of things- progressing somewhere, regressing elsewhere, and still elsewhere standing perfectly still. But it's good to set goals for yourself, to re-evaluate your priorities and approach to life. And there's something about feeling as though a new page has turned over, a fresh start has been given. Truly every moment of every day is a fresh start, but being aware of that doesn't necessarily make me zen enough to integrate it into my every day reality. So I take advantage of moments when I can remind myself of this with some external feeling of significance, like new years. But new years isn't enough. After a strong start to the year and yet another busy spring, I'm feeling a little puttered out. So how about some summer solstice resolutions? I have a lot already in mind, probably too many, and I know I ought to pair them down rather than overwhelm myself with unrealistic expectations (another of my new year's resolutions!). So I'll share with you just a few that I am very confident in, and that have to do with food, exercise, and this here little blog. Spoiler alert: one of these resolutions has to do with you learning all about the glories of fennel today (And this post is long! Sorry).
A lighter take on custard with homemade pistachio milk, a touch of honey, and cardamom
There have been a lot of soft foods in the house lately. Chris has been getting some dental work done and eating cautiously to avoid a toothache in the meantime. On day one he brought home some preserved fruits, applesauce, bunches of soup, and pudding. Dark chocolate Jello brand pudding- those powder packets that you whisk some milk into. And although at first it seemed like just another strange mutant food product from my childhood, I have to admit that it was pretty delicious. With the weather heating up fast here, I couldn't help but think how wonderful it would be to have a cold pudding or custard around the house more often. I was not, however, sold on the prospect of eating a whole bunch of milk and sugar granules all summer long. I thought perhaps a nut milk would serve as a healthier alternative and soon it became abundantly clear what I had to do. I had to make pistachio milk. I have distinct memories of eating Jello's lime green, ridiculously artificial pistachio pudding. I used to love it, long before I ever loved actual pistachios. So now as a pistachio-lover trying to avoid dairy and artificial flavors, everything has come full circle in this pistachio milk custard, lightly sweetened with honey and accented with a hint of cardamom. This custard came together like some kind of fated romantic encounter, leaving me completely and utterly in love. It's light and creamy, nutty and floral. It feels decadent, but it's high in protein, packed with healthy omegas, and low in sugar. Indulgence doesn't have to be bad for our bodies, my friends. And you can safely indulge away with this one.
Korean warn rice salad with bulgolgi-style tofu, raw and pickled vegetables, and a fried egg
I hold this dish near and dear to my heart. It has traveled with me through many years and places and grown and changed in that time. My first encounters with it were at Blue Cactus in Columbia, South Carolina. I was maybe 20 then and had never been exposed to Korean food in my life. In fact, I'm sure at the time I'd never eaten any authentic Asian cuisine of any kind. I was intimidated. I didn't know what to think of this strange bowl of hot rice, cold lettuce, and unidentifiable pickled things with a big old runny egg yolk sitting on top. What the heck is this thing? Who eats like this? It turns out, I do. Of course, you all probably know that by now, but I didn't know it then. This was totally uncharted food territory for me. The only pickled thing I'd ever eaten was pickled cucumber. This dish was one of the many that began opening doors for me- showing me new parts of food, new ingredients, new techniques. And it certainly didn't hurt that it was served at one of the best restaurants in town. A little hole in the wall place. The food takes forever and it's bring your own beer- but that's part of what made it great. We'd go and spend hours there, drinking some wine and waiting anxiously for our mouth-watering dishes to emerge from the kitchen. If you're ever in Columbia and have a few hours to spare, I highly recommend a visit. And I highly recommend the bibimbap.
Crispy tortillas stuffed with beans and cheese and topped with salsa and vegetables
Two weeks ago I was in Mexico. More specifically, in the Yucatan Peninsula- in and around Meirda. I went with a team of professors to host a soils workshop at the Autonomous University of the Yucatan (UADY) and to visit some sites for a new research project. I spent an entire day touring agroforestry systems, milpas, and Mayan home gardens. It was lovely. There was a gorgeous variety of fruits available and a host of native spices. Yucatecan cuisine is quite unique- punchy and flavorful, acidic, easy on the heat in the dish, heavy on the heat in the salsa. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was not like Meixcan food I've had before, yet reminiscent of it. This garden tortilla pizza is also reminiscent of Mexican food you've likely enjoyed before. And it too, calls upon a few native Mexican ingredients. However, unlike Yucatecan food, this dish could not be farther from traditional.
Crispy sweet potato chips smothered with peppers, carrots, and spicy peanut dressing
Lately things have been feeling weird. Up until the past few days I haven't really felt like myself. And although I have a list of reasons about a mile long why, all those reasons are just bits and pieces of the same driving force. Change. All summer long I worked carefully to achieve a delicate balance. I enlisted new routines, I tried many different approaches to working, I reflected and assessed the strengths and weakness of my days... But now things are just different. The morning routine I proudly settled on by the end of summer is no longer applicable to most of my week. My delicate balancing act of priorities has toppled into a giant mess as a slew of new responsibilities and obligations have been tossed into the mix. My initiative to maintain progress on all of the things most important to me has devolved into a simple system of "what do I have to do immediately, what do I have to do really soon, and what have I been putting off for so long that I can actually justify bumping it up on the to do list?". I won't say my summer of seeking balance was all for naught- it was an important exercise. But life isn't like some project were you work really hard, execute your plan, buffer out the imperfections, and presto: Balance! Contentment! Keep that on the shelf for later! Life is fluid and dynamic. It's always changing and you can try to hold on to your plans and schedules and ideals when the tides shift, or you can go with the flow. And this fall, the current is strong, the waves are massive, and after a few frustrated months of stubbornly trying to swim up stream, I just threw my hands up into the air and let the flow of the water do the navigating.
Wine poached apricot, shredded zucchini, oat, and flax seed muffins
Today I feel so satisfied. I woke up early this morning and went straight into the back yard. Chris joined me after not too long. He cleared all the dead trees and dried up leaves out of the banana tree bed while I dug out another large sunken bed in the side yard. Afterwards I got four fruit trees that desperately needed to be planted into their new homes in the yard. It was almost unbearably hot by the time I finished. I was absolutely soaked through with sweat and covered in dirt. It felt good. Of course, I was also exhausted. But then the best possible thing happened. Dark, heavy clouds started rolling in. The wind picked up. Big, heavy drops started to fall from the sky. Thunder started cracking loudly in the distance. In a matter of minutes the rain went from scattered showers to an absolute downpour. Forceful winds and rain, beating down on the ground with an intensity I have never witnessed in southern California. The electricity flickered out pretty soon after all that started up and stayed off for nearly 4 hours. Chaco waited out the storm in the garage, Sila hid under the bed, and poor Binx spent half of the storm hiding out outside before he hurried back to the house during a break in the rain. I spent the first half of the storm glued to the window (while intermittently calling out for Binx) before falling asleep to the sound of the wind and the rain. That's a sound I haven't been able to enjoy for quite some time.
A flavorful, authentic tomato sauce made with fresh roma tomatoes reduced for four hours
I can't wait for fall. I know that it's almost September, but fall doesn't really reach southern California until November, so I still have a couple more months of heat to survive. This week, however, we have been graced with a few cool, cloudy mornings and it's making me long for the outdoors in a serious way. Sunday morning I I finally got a solid four hours of gardening in. Weeding, pulling up some diseased Solanaceae, a bit of digging, planning a new fenced-in winter garden spot... it was so lovely. I know for most people yard work like this doesn't equate to tranquility and enjoyment, but if you've ever fallen in love with gardening, then you understand. Sometimes when I'm lazily sitting inside, I too grunt at the thought of going out back and pulling up invasive palm seedlings or trying to de-scale the banana trees. But once I get out there, it's an entirely different story- feeling the dirt under my fingertips, smelling the fragrant volatiles released by the herbs, watching butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees dance around the yard... Gardening makes me feel connected to the earth. It awakens me to reality of this truly incredible planet continuously gives rise to the intricate complexity of life in its vast multitude of forms. I'm not just planting a garden, I'm facilitating the beginnings of a thriving garden ecosystem. One that I hope will outlive me.
Hi there! I'm Cara- plant ecologist, gardening addict, and whole foods enthusiast. My whole life revolves around plants, including my kitchen. Join me here at LWM each week as I post local, seasonal, plant-based recipes and write about my never ending quest to find balance and tranquility in this crazy little world.