All posts by Leslie Cook

I am the mother of two sons, the mother-in-law of two daughters and the grandmother of one grandson. I raised a family, owned a farm and enjoyed tending a large organic garden and orchard 40 years ago. I restored a log cabin and enjoyed it as an energy conscious home way before energy consciousness was publicly conscious. I hold a number of advanced degrees focused on religion, literature and languages. I published a chapter in a book on women's rituals in Judaism. I have enjoyed a variety of careers including teaching, educational programming in the not-for-profit sector, technology and web management. For the last eight years I have owned a five-star (YELP) vegetarian cafe. This year we were voted best vegetarian dining experience in McHenry County by the readers of the Northwest Herald. I write articles on food for a local newspaper. My current task is to figure out how this all fits together and what to do with it.

A smoothie a day keeps the doctor away … a bowl a day keeps her further away

Published in Bob’s Fresh and Local newsletter, 9/20/2017

Pinterest reports that searches for Grain Bowls or Buddha Bowls are up over 200% in 2017, and there’s a very good reason for that! We’re paying more attention to health, and these bowls are an easy, creative and delicious way to do that.

The name “Buddha Bowl” is a contemporary creation, but it evokes the simple feasts of Buddhist monks, who historically began their days walking into town with begging bowls where householders would add to them what they had on hand and could afford. Coming before the days of processed foods, these bowls were likely both simple and healthy … and with the variety of foods provided by householders eager to fulfill their own spiritual responsibility, colorful.

Like smoothies packed with greens and seeds and nuts and fruits, frequent Buddha Bowls are another great way to ensure vibrantly good nutrition. People use a variety of schemes to build their bowls: one idea is starch-protein-veggies, another is grains’n’beans-veggies-nuts’n’seeds. Sometimes there is fruit in the mix. Bowls inevitably change color and texture with the season as available produce suggests new combinations. The main idea is to keep it simple, use what you have on hand, and make a great sauce to top it off.

Now about that protein: The average sedentary man requires 56 grams of protein per day and the average sedentary woman, 46 grams per day — 15-25% of the calories you eat depending on your activity level. If you’re eating a healthy, varied diet filled with things like smoothies and Buddha Bowls, you’ll meet that requirement easily.

Here’s how Buddha Bowls help you satisfy your protein requirement: protein is made of building blocks called amino acids. Of 21 amino acids, the human body synthesizes 12 of them. It cannot synthesize the other nine, and these are called essential amino acids. We have to consume these nine every day. Foods that have all nine essential amino acids include animal products like meat and chicken and fish and dairy — but also plant foods like soy beans and quinoa. You can also mix and match to create a complete protein by using foods with complimentary amino acids, for example, beans and grains. You don’t necessarily have to eat them at the same meal, just the same day.

So some of you may enjoy a bit of grilled chicken, a dollop of homemade yogurt or a hard-boiled egg with your bowl. But if you’re vegetarian or vegan, the grain and bean, seed and nut combinations in your Buddha Bowls make it easy for you too.

Here’s what I used in my bowl today: a mix of greens (lots of Asian greens and mizuna), chickpeas, wheat berries, zucchini, carrots, red onion and radishes. I even used some remaining fried eggplant as a last minute garnish. The peppers and tomatoes we’ll receive in our boxes this week will make nice additions to a Buddha Bowl as well. I topped it off with Tahina dressing. Here’s how I make that:

Tahina Dressing (sesame seed-based dressing)

Add the following to a blender, and blend until smooth.

  • 1-1/2 cups tahina (I like Ziyad brand, available in many stores in the Chicago area)
  • Juice of 1-1/2 – 2 lemons or at least 1/4 cup (I like a little more)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 TB salt
  • 1/2 TB cumin
  • pinch of hot paprika
  • 2 cups water (more or less for a good consistency)

So throw away the recipe book, get creative, use what you have and delight your family while you nourish them.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Summer days…driftin’ away

Published in Bob’s Fresh and Local Newsletter, 9/13/2017

I felt the first chill in the air while I was camping in Door County last week, and I thought with dismay that we’re closer to the end of summer than the beginning. Speaking of Door County, although I love outdoor cooking and would have loved to make some things with Bob’s beautiful veggies and get a few photos, it rained the entire time we were there. We managed a few hikes between the raindrops but no food photos. That means this first recipe comes to you without a photo.

MOROCCAN EGGPLANT PARMESAN

Slice eggplant into 1/8-1/4″ slices, salt and leave covered overnight in the refrigerator in a colander over a bowl to catch moisture. When you’re ready to make the dish, drain and pat the eggplant dry, then deep fry until golden brown and set aside. In a baking pan, layer the following in this order, at least two rounds:

  • Chickpeas
  • Fried eggplant
  • Tomatoes, sliced
  • Onions, sliced
  • Slivered spinach
  • Sliced green olives
  • Capers
  • Feta cheese (just with first set of layers)
  • Mozzarella (to top off after second set of layers)
  • Grated Parmesan

Bake the dish for 40 minutes in a conventional oven or until the mozzarella is bubbly and has brown spots. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Variations: You can spread whole sliced pita across the bottom of the pan before beginning the layers to absorb the juices if you wish, serving the pita along with the “slices” of Moroccan Eggplant Parmesan — or serve with garlic bread to soak up the juices. You can also leave off the cheese for a vegan version. The fried mozzarella makes the dish plenty “rich.”

ROASTED RADISHES

There are so many things to do with the humble radish, from vegetable art to pickles to salads to colorful salads of all kinds to creamy pink soups. One of the simplest things you can do is roast them for a colorful side dish or garnish to bring a platter of veggies to life.

STUFFED BELL PEPPER

I make stuffed peppers two ways: with the mushroom and rice filling I shared with you a few weeks back for cabbage rolls, my go-to stuffed veggie filling, or with Israeli couscous (pre-cooked) mixed with loads of (vegan) pesto. For the mushroom and rice filling (red and green bell peppers), I made a sauce with leftover tomato soup (pureed tomato, onion, a bit of fresh, peeled ginger, salt and hot paprika to taste). I pureed into the soup some cooked red bell pepper to brighten the color and create a more complex flavor. I made a straight tomato sauce for the couscous and pesto filled peppers (yellow). I always oil and roast the veggie I’m stuffing first until it’s almost as tender as I’d like it and perhaps just a bit browned. Then I add the filling to it — and set it on a bed of the sauce. Don’t those look pretty?

Here’s a hint: I’m not sure what color peppers we’ll get this week, but choose veggies for your soup/sauce that will compliment the color of the pepper.

So coming this week in addition to the eggplant, radishes and peppers, I hear we have sweet corn (can’t get enough of it at my house), Swiss chard, Mizuna, onions, tomatoes and maybe a little lettuce. Remember, any radishes you have left – or onions or greens make a great stir fry! Happy eating in these late summer days.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

CSA summer veggies…kinda like in the movies

Published in Bob’s Fresh and Local Farm Newsletter 9/6/2017.

Remember the Pixar movie, Ratatouille? My grandson showed it to me a couple of years ago as part of his educate grandma project. I loved it! This week I thought it might be fun to try out their special version of ratatouille, called “Confit Bayildi,” created by Chef Thomas Keller.

Confit Bayildi after cooking with extra sauce drizzled on top. Best to use a cast iron pan with vented lid. I was preparing three smaller portions so had to improvise.

The difference between Chef Keller’s recipe and the ratatouille I usually make is mostly about technique and presentation. Ratatouille is a savory veggie stew, and it’s a must at the peak of the growing season since it uses everything: tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, garlic, summer squash, zucchini, eggplant, basil and/or rosemary. This special version, though, includes arranging the veggies for cooking and serving in concentric circles on top of a rich sauce, making a beautiful, colorful dish.

ChefSteps has a Youtube video (https://youtu.be/iCMGPRiDXQg) that demonstrates the technique, which is great to know not just for Confit Bayildi but for other wonderful dishes like a crustless creamy apple tart. First select, wash and cut up your veggies, trying to choose veggies approximately the same circumference: zucchini, summer squash, plum or smallish tomatoes, eggplant. In the video, the chef peeled and cut the tomatoes by hand into thin, round slices, then used a mandolin for the rest. I cut them all by hand and didn’t peel the tomatoes since I know ours are organic, and I like eating the peel. Any parts of these veggies you don’t use should go into your blender along with lots of garlic, a cut up onion or two and a cut up red bell pepper or two.  Add some extra virgin olive oil, salt and rosemary or basil, and blend until you have a smooth, thick sauce. Check the seasoning, making certain it is strong enough to carry the veggies. I like adding a little crushed red pepper as well.

Spread the sauce at the bottom of a cast iron pan or other heavy dish, and arrange the cut up veggies rhythmically in concentric circles on top of the sauce: zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, tomato, then repeat. When the dish is filled, drizzle additional olive oil over the top, and sprinkle with salt. Cover with parchment with a steam hole so the veggies don’t stew, and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour. When finished, drizzle a little more extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with fresh chopped herbs — and I squeezed a few drops of lemon juice over the top as well, which always seems to me to brighten the flavor. Finally, I drizzled remaining sauce over the top.

Ratatouille soup…mmm mmm good.

I had some extra cut up veggies after I made this, so I made ratatouille soup, easy peasy. Just put lots of garlic and minced onion into a soup pot with extra virgin olive oil, and saute briefly. Add tomatoes and a little water, and simmer for a few moments. Add all the other cut up veggies and water to barely cover. I usually start with about 1 TB of salt to a gallon of soup and 1/2 tsp. hot paprika. I add chopped fresh herbs like parsley, basil or rosemary after the soup finishes cooking and I turn off the heat. Taste and reseason to your taste. Less or no water would, of course, give you the traditional ratatouille. Enjoy!

And a few memories of this week on the farm:

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

A Time of Plenty…CSA Veggies this week

A few things I made this week. No recipes really. Just use the pictures to inspire yourself. I’ll tell you what I used in the captions to the pictures:

Pan roasted summer squash with a vegan mayo/Tahina sauce and pine nuts with za’atar.
Black bean salad with black beans, red bell peppers, cilantro, red onion, extra virgin olive oil, white Balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper — and topped with pan roasted summer squash and those beautiful cherry tomatoes.
Zucchini dip Middle Eastern Style with garlic, fresh herbs (I used 1/4-1/2 cup parsley and mint here), fresh zucchini (1-1/2 lb.), lemon juice (1/8 cup), tahina (1/4 cup), Kosher salt (1/2 tsp), 1/4 – 1/2 tsp hot paprika, extra virgin olive oil garnish.

 

Such a beautiful place to work on a day like this …

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Simple is good…using those amazing greens — lots of them!

This summer, as I did last summer, I’m working on the farm for my CSA. I receive 3/4 bushel of beautiful, organically raised veggies for my efforts each and every week of the season. When I open my box each week, it’s like a gift. All those beautiful colors. My imagination starts to work overtime as I look forward to what I’ll make.

Gathering my ingredients and prepping the greens and onion…

Yet sometimes it’s challenging to use up those veggies, especially since Andy and I are just two.  On the other hand, after years feeding a family and friends, then operating a cafe, I never learned to make a small pot of food just for two…so I share. Or make lots of really simple things and graze my way through the day…like smoothies and soups and simple wraps or stir-fries. I add my scraps to a veggie waste bowl and throw it into my garden area, where it will enrich the soil for future veggies.

Prepping the Bok choy… As I did with the Asian greens, I start cutting at the stem end, cutting thin slices across the bunch until I get to the top of the greens. Then I separate the stem end since that will require a little more stir-fry time than the greens.

So I pretty much use my whole box every week and in the process find lots of interesting new things to make…and share. So it was all working nicely until…last week.  Here’s what happened:

Andy’s corporate office offers a wellness project.  It is an amazing benefit of working where he does, and there are a number of aspects to it, but the one I want to mention now is one they initiated this summer. They send home, with any employee who wants it, 3/4 bushel of produce every week for seven weeks. After the seven weeks, employees can continue to receive the boxes by paying half price for them.

All my greens and Bok choy prepped — and separated from the stem ends.

What an amazing project! I’m so impressed with this company for initiating this kind of effort. What better way is there to encourage vibrantly good health than to make certain that people have the opportunity to enjoy loads of fresh veggies and fruits?! Experience first-hand the wonderful variety of flavors and textures the earth offers us?

I believe that a 350 degree temp is when things brown. It’s a little hard to measure on a gas flame, so I used my electric induction burner this time, put in some extra virgin olive oil, then added the onions to saute. When they looked like this, I added in the stem ends of the Asian greens and Bok choy to stir-fry for a couple of minutes.

Admittedly the program helps the company as well since healthier employees mean reduced insurance premiums, reduced absenteeism and other cost reductions. But there is nothing at all wrong with gifts that give in more directions than one. And I certainly want to see how this great program works and support it — and let Andy experience the pleasure and pride of bringing home the proverbial (vegan) bacon.

And then I remembered this beautiful garlic that came in my CSA box this week. As a former associate used to say, you can never have too much garlic! These are big cloves, tho, so I just used one, smashed, peeled and minced it and threw it into the onion and stem mix in the pan.

So now I have a bushel and a half of veggies and fruits to figure out how to manage each week.  I must say that so far this week, I’m doing pretty well, although I didn’t get to some beautiful Asian green and Bok choy that were in his office box until a little too late to make them into a salad.

When lunch rolled around today and I went to get those greens for a salad, they didn’t look quite as perky as when I got them even though I stored them carefully when they came in — so here’s what I had for lunch instead: stir-fried garlic and onions and greens with some CSA-fresh tomatoes and delicious Field Roast (vegan) sausage.

The finished greens and onions! What I don’t eat for lunch will go into our rice and greens stir fry this evening. Check out my simple and delicious lunch in the featured picture with this post.

There were more than what I could eat, as usual, but that’s no problem! I knocked out two meals at once when I made those greens. I boxed up the extra and stuck them in the ‘fridge. Later today, closer to dinner, I’ll cook up a cup of brown Basmati rice, stir it and season it in a wok and add in those greens. Then even Andy, who doesn’t otherwise like greens, will eat them!

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Two Models to Feed the World: IFS & Torah

“Much have I learned from my teachers, more from my colleagues, but most from my students.” – Rav Hanina ( Talmud: Taanit, 7a)

I finished teaching a class at McHenry County Community College this past week called “Conscious Choices: Thinking About Food.” I taught the class last year, but each year it’s different as our food situation evolves (or devolves) and my own knowledge base grows.

My formal coursework has been in religion and Bible. I have enjoyed taking and teaching many classes. Informally, I read widely about food, the environment, sustainability and agriculture, in particular animal agriculture. I maintain a Twitter feed primarily for the purpose of following trends and picking up leads to interesting reading. This year I also enjoyed an online class in “The Ethics of Eating” from Cornell University. I fed myself and my family and friends for 50 years, operated a large organic garden, worked in the food industry, and now I work (very part-time) on a farm.

Finally, though, what most encourages me to constantly reshape these classes is student input. An aha moment for a student is an aha moment for me. In the last series I taught, that aha moment was hearing Alex Hershaft, Holocaust survivor and animal activist, speak. This time it was a comment from Michael Pollan’s 2008 “An Open Letter to the Farmer in Chief,” “But if taking the animals off farms made a certain kind of economic sense, it made no ecological sense whatever: their waste, formerly regarded as a precious source of fertility on the farm, became a pollutant — factory farms are now one of America’s biggest sources of pollution.”

He continues, “As Wendell Berry has tartly observed, to take animals off farms and put them on feedlots is to take an elegant solution — animals replenishing the fertility that crops deplete — and neatly divide it into two problems: a fertility problem on the farm and a pollution problem on the feed lot. The former problem is remedied with fossil-fuel fertilizer; the latter is remedied not at all.”

There is a lot of talk these days about 2050 and the need to feed a predicted world population of 10 billion. How will we accomplish that? Are there enough land and water resources? How do we bring true food security to the “food insecure?” As our world continues to change, will we perhaps all become food insecure? Can our current path make us healthier and happier?

As the class evolved, I realized that I was teaching two models for “feeding the world.” The first model is the one offered up by our American culture: the Industrial Food System (or IFS). The second is what I will call the biblical model. Each of these models utilizes different strategies to produce food, and each produces different results.

What I understood as I taught this year is that not only is each of these models a “system” in every sense of the word, but like any good system, each has a purpose or mission that defines its objectives, strategies and results.

Michael Pollan introduces his Open Letter this way: “The food and agriculture policies you’ve inherited — designed to maximize production at all costs and relying on cheap energy to do so — are in shambles, and the need to address the problems they have caused is acute.”

But if the IFS mission of maximizing production at all costs has failed, so has the biblical mission of expanding the realm of ethical consciousness. This mission has failed not so much because of a problem in the message but more from the dismissive attitude of a secular world toward sacred texts and wise teachers in human history.

We are not the first generation to sit on the edge of catastrophe, yet we reject ancient teachings before we even take time to know what they are. Their wisdom barely enters our consciousness as we struggle with problems that threaten our continued existence on the planet.

Yet just as there may be things of value to glean from the Industrial Food System before we reform it or throw it out, there are things of value to take from the Torah and other ancient teachings.

When I began my Torah Ecology project, my intention was to focus on food, animal rights and the environment. In this first year of my project, my interest isn’t so much on specifics like what people ate but more on what it meant to them — or at least what it was supposed to have meant to them according to the “Author”/authors of the Torah. Understanding this takes me on some thought journeys that seem far afield, but ultimately each week of close study contributes something to my ability to get inside the biblical worldview.

When I redesign the class for next year, I will organize it very specifically around these two models, the IFS and the biblical model, maximum production vs. maximum ethical consciousness. How does each of these models relate to human health, other species on the planet and the planet itself? What does each model say about our relationship to other species and to the planet? Specifically, what does each model say about animal agriculture, agricultural workers, health, waste and human consciousness?

One thing I know about our current food culture is that it encourages a total disconnect from the sources of our food. That disconnect in turn generates distortions in our relationship to transcendence, our environment, other human beings, other creatures, even our own bodies. Working in the fields planting and harvesting, sharing the fields with other animals and cooking with real food break down that disconnect, restoring satisfying, beneficial and meaningful relationships. The biblical model expresses that understanding of interconnectedness.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Tomatoes! Cucumbers! Green Beans! Basil! CSA riches of summer…

This post was published in Bob’s Fresh and Local newsletter 8/23/2017 under a different title. 

“The breakfast of champions is not cereal, it’s the opposition” …Nick Seitz

Hopefully you’ve had fun with “greenies” (smoothies with loads of greens) over the summer with all that gorgeous kale coming from Farmer Bob.

Here’s another way to think out of the box about breakfast. Put away that boxed cereal, and learn to make an Israeli-style breakfast! This is the perfect time of year to give it a try, when the cucumbers and tomatoes weigh down the vines and fill our CSA boxes.

Israeli breakfasts feature a salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, onion and perhaps cilantro or avocado, dressed with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Other typical components of the meal are soft cheeses, hard-boiled eggs, smoked fish, pickles, olives, bread and even hummus (a chickpea “dip” — I shared that recipe a few weeks back).

I love to make Israeli Salad. It’s “vegetative,” that is, a meditative exercise involving beautiful vegetables:

ISRAELI SALAD

Ingredients
Plum (or other small) tomatoes, 6 ripe but firm
Pickling cucumbers, 2-4, depending on size
Red onion, 1/4-1/2, to taste
Red bell peppers, 1
Avocado (opt.), 1 ripe but firm
Cilantro (opt.)
Extra virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper

Directions
Although not necessary if the salad is eaten immediately, deseeding tomatoes extends the time the salad will last without drowning in its own juices. To deseed, quarter the tomatoes, scoop out the seeds and pulp (set aside). Cut the tomato flesh, cucumbers, pepper and opt. avocado into a uniform 1/4″ dice. Chop the onions and cilantro. Add extra virgin olive oil, the juice of a lemon and salt and pepper to taste.

VIDEO #1: For a demo of the dice, see the fun video my son created of himself preparing Israeli Salad in my cafe (mandolin optional – I do it by hand): http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bzEcBa9bzu0.

TOMATO & SQUASH PULP SOUP

Hold onto that tomato pulp! I combined it with the pulp that I scooped out of the summer squash when I stuffed them and made this beautiful soup by cooking the pulp in a pot with a cut up onion, peeled ginger root, salt and hot paprika. When the veggies were soft, I pureed them in my VitaMix and at the last pulsed in some of that beautiful basil we received in our boxes (and which we’ll enjoy again this week. This is a variation of one of our favorite soups!!

Last but not least for this week, my favorite way to eat snap beans, Moroccan-style Beans, also using the tomatoes arriving to us straight from the fields of Farmer Bob. I shared this recipe last year but simplified it a little this year.

MOROCCAN-STYLE GREEN BEANS

Prepare a quart of beans by washing and cutting into 2″ pieces. Add extra virgin olive oil to a pot with a cover, and saute minced garlic — lots if you love it, scapes if you have any left. Add at least 1/2 minced onion and saute. Add prepared beans and 1-2 good size tomatoes, petite diced. Bring to simmer, turn down heat, cover and let cook until beans are tender. Check occasionally to be certain there is enough liquid in the pan from the tomatoes to cook the beans, adding a little water if necessary. Toward the end of cooking time, stir in 1-2 rounded TB tomato paste, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. cumin and 1/4-1/2 tsp. hot paprika. Cover again and simmer a while longer until flavors blend. When finished, squeeze in fresh lemon juice if you like. Enjoy!

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Too many zucchini from the CSA? Never!

Published this week in my CSA newsletter, Bob’s Fresh and Local.

Years ago I had a cookbook called, Too Many Tomatoes. I remember the chapter on zucchini that featured Zucchini Chocolate Cake. Wow, was it good!

Another thing I like to do with zucchini is stuff them…well, sort of. What I really like to do is halve the zucchini lengthwise, scoop out the middle and set aside, rub the halves with extra virgin olive oil, lightly salt and season them with the seasonings that will be in the filling, and roast them. Then I pile one or another delicious topping on the roasted zucchini halves.

Here are two of my favorite toppings: one Mexican influenced, the other Middle Eastern. Some parts are cooked, some raw — and I serve them either slightly warm when they’re freshly prepared or later, cold. I don’t like to roast the whole thing altogether but prefer a lighter summery “salad” approach.

MEXICAN-STYLE “STUFFED” ZUCCHINI

Ingredients

  • Brown Basmati rice, dried, one cup
  • Black beans, dried, one cup
  • Corn, 1 cup cut from ear
  • Red bell pepper, 1
  • Red onion, 1/4-1/2 large
  • Chard, ribs cut away and chopped, 2 cups
  • Avocados, 2 good size
  • Limes, 4 juicy
  • Salt, 1 slightly rounded tsp. plus 1/4-1/2 tsp. (for the avocado sauce)
  • Hot paprika, 1/4 – 1 tsp.
  • Cumin, 2 tsp.

Instructions

  1. Cook rice with extra virgin olive oil, 2-1/2 cups water and 1 tsp. salt. Set aside.
  2. In a separate pot, cook black beans until barely tender. Set aside.
  3. Lightly steam corn and set aside.
  4. Chop the chard, petite dice the red onion and red bell pepper.
  5. Toss the prepared veggies together with a tsp. of salt, 1/4-1 tsp. hot paprika (to taste), cumin, juice of two limes.
  6. Pile onto roasted zucchini halves and top with a dollop of avocado sauce (avocados, juice of two limes, salt and hot paprika to taste).

Here’s one more filling/topping from one of my favorite chefs, Yotam Ottolenghi, a Middle Eastern version. In his recipe he uses eggplant, but it works just as well with zucchini:

MIDDLE EASTERN-STYLE “STUFFED” ZUCCHINI

Chermoula Sauce Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp chili flakes (I used 1 tsp hot paprika)
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 2 TB finely chopped preserved lemon peel (If you can’t get preserved lemon, you can use the same amount of lemon peel)
  • 2/3 cups extra virgin olive oil

Bulgur “Filling” Ingredients

  • 1 cup fine bulgur (#1 cracked wheat)
  • 2/3 cups boiling water
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 3.5 TB warm water
  • 1/3 oz. (2 tsp) cilantro, chopped, plus extra to finish
  • 1/3 oz. (2 tsp) mint, chopped
  • 1/3 cup sliced pitted green olives
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1.5 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup tahini sauce
  • Salt

Instructions

  1. Add all the ingredients to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
  2. After hollowing out and rubbing the halved zucchini in extra virgin olive oil, brush the chermoula sauce on the cut halves. Roast halves until done.
  3. Add 2/3 cups boiling water to the cracked wheat, soak until tender, then drain and ring out the wheat.
  4. Soak the golden raisins in 3/5 TB warm water.
  5. Lightly toss the raisins, cilantro, mint, green olives, almonds, green onions and lemon juice into the cracked wheat. Add salt if needed.
  6. Pile topping/filling onto the hollowed and roasted zucchini.
  7. Drizzle tahini sauce over all (tahini, lemon juice, salt, cumin, water).

Have fun with this method! Try other versions like Italian or Asian. Oh, and the zucchini pulp you scoop out of the middle? Save it for later use in a pureed soup. I’m going to cook and blend mine with leftover tomato cores from another salad, some onion, a bit of ginger, salt and hot paprika. Yummm!

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

A delicious way to use mid-summer CSA veggies

Published this week in my CSA newsletter, Bob’s Fresh and Local.

My favorite recipes are healthy, colorful, beautiful, meals-in-themselves, easy and versatile. This week, I had some remaining red cabbage, and our boxes featured the first onions and green beans of the season as well as some carrots. Of course I thought of Pozole Soup (or Stew, if you like it thicker with veggies like I do!).

Pozole is corn — white hominy, to be specific. Since the kernels are large and grow even larger during cooking, one dried bean packager markets it in bags describing it as “Giant White Corn.” Along with a rich array of colorful veggies, pozole is the basis of this delicious Mexican-style soup. Although traditionally made with meat, my version is 100% plant-based, and the taste and texture of the pozole and variety of delicious veggies along with a little extra virgin olive oil and some avocado means no one will miss the meat at all!

Feel free to experiment with the veggies you add. I used some chard in mine this week along with the snap beans, carrots, cabbage and onions. If you have any garlic scapes left, they would also make a nice garnish.

Ingredients

  • Extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup
  • Red onion, 2-3 medium-large, finely diced
  • Garlic, 8 cloves, minced
  • Oregano, 1 TB
  • Salt, 1+ TB
  • Carrots, 6-8 small-medium, sliced on the bias
  • Snap beans, 16 oz., tipped and cut into 1″ pieces
  • Tomatoes, 8-10 medium, petite diced — or a 28 can of petite diced tomatoes
  • Pozole (whole hominy), 1 lb. dried
  • Water, 3-4 quarts, including hominy cooking water
  • Chipotle in adobo sauce, 1-2.5 TB, minced or blended
  • Avocado, Red Cabbage, Cilantro, Lime Slices (garnish)

Instructions

  1. Slow-cook the pozole until just tender, and set aside in cooking water.
  2. Add the extra virgin olive oil to a large soup pot.
  3. Dice and add the onions and garlic, followed by the green beans and petite diced tomatoes.
  4. Drain the pozole, reserving the cooking water. Add pozole to the pot, and measure the water, adding enough more to make 3-4 quarts depending on how veggie-filled you like it.
  5. Cook until all flavors blended and veggies are tender.
  6. Serve garnished with avocado, slivered raw red cabbage, chopped cilantro and lime slices.

You might like a little more salt — or a little less chipotle. This makes a slightly spicy soup.

This week I’m looking forward to receiving sweet corn, cantaloupe, more summer squash, chard and snap beans, green cabbage, leeks and kale. That sounds like some amazing meals!

There’s no question in my mind what I’ll do with that sweet corn. Last year Andy and I discovered a new taste treat, Mexican-style corn with mayonnaise instead of butter. I prepare the corn either in the husk on the grill or in the oven — or husked in simmering water. I use Just Mayo, a great vegan mayonnaise, flavored with dried chipotle seasoning to taste — and we slather it onto the ears when they’re done. Now that’s something delicious!

The cantaloupe is another easy one. I love cantaloupe, and it won’t last two seconds before I just spoon it out of the shell. As for the greens…can’t get enough of ’em! We stuff our smoothies full every morning, starting off our days with a health rush.

Last but not least, the scenes that remind me that all is still right with the world…

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Salads of Summer

The colors are coming, the colors of summer, sunshine on a plate, beautiful and strong…corn, summer squash, multi-colored beans, carrots, chard, fennel and more. But the most beautiful color of all, the deepest and richest…beets!

Beet Couscous. I didn’t get to this dish until a week after we got our beets in our boxes, but I can’t resist sharing this picture of couscous cooked up with matchstick beets and sweet onion, a bit of salt, cumin, hot paprika, some extra virgin olive oil and a splash of freshly squeezed lemon. I added Clementine wedges toward the end of the cooking time and a mint garnish — which could easily be minced and part of the seasoning. Oh, and some broken walnuts. Just as beets turn my pickled turnips into the most beautiful color, so with the couscous.

I use whole wheat couscous (a pasta), by the way. The one that I buy locally in the Middle Eastern section is called Maftoul, and they make a lovely whole wheat version that cooks up in no time according to the box directions to add to the beets and onions.

Navy Pea Bean Salad with Dill & Lemon. The beet salad contrasted nicely with another dish I took to a party this weekend, one of my favorite summer salads topped with roasted summer squash, Navy Pea Bean Salad with Dill and Lemon. I did treat myself to the luxury of getting some fresh dill to add to my cooked beans. That minced dill (lots) with freshly squeezed lemon juice (lots), some extra virgin olive oil, chopped red onion, salt and a bit of hot paprika make a simple but so delicious and nourishing entree for me — or one among several salads I’ll enjoy through the week. The trick is not to overcook the pea beans.

Moroccan-style Beans. This coming week, I’m going to make Moroccan-style Beans with the multi-colored beans we have coming. Here’s the recipe for those:

  • Green beans, 1 lb.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1/4 cup
  • Plum tomatoes, 4 petite diced
  • Tomato Paste, 4 TB
  • Garlic, 3-4 cloves minced
  • Turmeric, 1.5 tsp.
  • Cumin, 1.5 tsp.
  • Salt, 1.5 tsp.
  • Hot paprika, 1 tsp.
  • Lemon, juice of 1/2

Sauté the minced garlic in the olive oil, add the petite diced tomatoes, tomato paste and other seasonings and simmer for a short while. Add the prepared beans, stir, cover and cook for about 30 minutes, less for very fresh, tender beans. Then stir, replace the cover and cook another 30 minutes (or less if beans are tender), and adjust the seasonings to taste.

Mixed Greens Salad. Last but not least, my salad the day I get home from working at the farm. Our fresh greens with some remaining radish, red cabbage and cucumber dressed with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt and some crushed red pepper…sitting out on my deck enjoying the day and my simple meal, reminiscing about a beautiful (if hot) day out in the fields planting and weeding and harvesting. Oh my.

So I’ll end with calling your attention to these amazing colors once again. In the winter we have to look a little to find color. In the summer, our senses are flooded — not to mention the way these colors announce their healthy benefits in every bite.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.