Category Archives: Vegetarian

Tomato Sauce Seasoned with Lemongrass. Quick, Thick, and Easy!

demo ingredients FAI have really been enjoying doing cooking demos at the  Wakefield Farmers Market this summer.  I will hopefully get around to posting about the recipes I prepared earlier in the season, (some of which caused our farmer to sell out!)  but will start with this easy and really delicious (if I do say so myself!) tomato sauce that I prepared in the Market Kitchen Tent on August 6, 2016.

Since the goal of these demos is to encourage folks to try new types of produce and/or learn easy ways to use various veggies and fruits and then purchase them from our farmers, all the ingredients for the sauce except for the olive oil, salt, and black pepper were sourced from our farmers that market morning.

First, I got 5 pounds of  lovely tomatoes and basil, and I already had some garlic from Farmer Dave’s. I didn’t get a picture of it, but I got an awesome onion from Kelly’s Farm, and specific to this demo, I got the lemongrass from Flats Mentor Farm.



I had been wanting to make sauce for a farmers market demo so I could share a handy technique for making a thick sauce from fresh tomatoes without the day-long simmer that I previoulsy posted about HERE.  I also am always looking for ways to highlight less familiar Asian veggies, greens, and herbs available from Flats Mentor Farm. In wandering around the Internet, I came across a tomato sauce recipe calling for lemon zest. AHA! I thought, maybe lemon grass is an option. Having never used lemon grass, I needed to find out if it could, indeed, be used to bring a light, citrus boost to a cooked sauce. After some searching, I found this information:

Substitute 1 stalk lemongrass, chopped to make 1 TBSP for 1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated.

I also found a very helpful tutorial on preparing and using lemongrass HERE.

grated tomatoes before cooking

grated tomatoes before cooking

With this info, as well as ideas based on perusing a number of sauce recipes using a minimum of seasonings, I was ready, packing just olive oil, salt, and a pepper mill to use in addition to the produce from our farmers. (Disclaimer: Although I knew I would only need a few of the items, I actually always bring a small tote bag with what I consider pantry essentials so I will be prepared for anything: olive oil, rice vinegar, tamari, salt, a pepper mill, dried red pepper flakes, and honey. I should add some maple syrup, too.)

After I got all the ingredients from our farmers, I started with the five pounds of tomatoes. I cut them in half, cut out the stem/core, and then grated them  right into a big bowl, holding the cut side of the tomato along my box grater on the side with the biggest holes, which also saved peeling the tomatoes as the skin remained behind.

minced lemongrass and garlic

minced lemongrass and garlic

Next I prepped the lemongrass and garlic, using about two inches of  peeled lemongrass  and the equivalent of a smallish clove of garlic, both minced. I did not measure, but I am going to say two 2 teaspoons of minced lemongrass and 1 teaspoon of minced garlic. Or thereabouts.  Next time I will most likely use at least another teaspoon or two of minced lemongrass.

sauteed flavor base

sauteed flavor base

Next I chopped a medium size onion and added it, with the garlic and lemongrass, to the pan after I had heated a few tablespoons of olive oil, and cooked on medium heat until just soft. Then I added a handful of fresh basil, chopped, and a few grinds of black pepper, and sauteed for a few minutes before adding the grated tomatoes.

sauce before strain

sauce before strain

strained pulpOnce all had cooked for about five minutes, I poured the contents of the pan, via a few batches, through a big mesh strainer, making sure to get as much liquid separated out as I could. Then, reserving the pulp, I poured the liquid back into the pan and cooked it down until very thick, which took about 15 or 20 minutes.

liquid cooked downOnce the liquid was thick enough to stay apart so you could see the pan for a few moments after running a spoon along the bottom, (see photo) I added back the pulp, and a about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and simmered for a few minutes to reheat the pulp and meld the flavors. And that was it!

deanos pasta for demoFor the market demo, I had cooked up some Fresh Egg Fusilli from our vendor Deano’s Pasta, which was the perfect medium!

And, below, here is the sauce. Well, what was left of it when I remembered to take a picture of it. It was definitely thick. 🙂 And folks sure did like it. I had two people ask me if they could buy the sauce and then told me I should get someone to jar it for me so I could sell it! And, having a youngster say, with eyes wide, “This IS good!” is another indicator that using simple seasonings and easy techniques are the best way to let the wonderful flavors of freshly picked local veggies and herbs to shine.

thick sauceFor just the recipe without so much talk, see HERE.


Miso Soup with Soba Noodles, Nettles, and Daikon Radish

done 1 One of the many paths I’ve traveled is that of the vegan/macrobiotic herbalist, apparently for long enough that this soup is one of my comfort foods. Basically, all you have to do to make it is boil some water, add some soba or other noodles of your choice, along with whatever greens, veggies, and seasonings that you like. Once all is cooked, put a few teaspoons or more of your favorite type of miso paste in a soup bowl, add some of the hot broth to dissolve, and then ladle in a cup or two of the soup.  So easy!


the ingredients

Here is how I made it this time:

8 cups water
1 cup or more chopped daikon radish
3/4 cup or so chopped carrot
3/4 cup chopped zucchini
A handful or two of greens, chopped as needed (I used stinging nettles, parsley, and lambsquarters)
3 oz (when dry) soba noodles
1/2 cup cooked aduki beans*
1 cup chopped tofu
2 tsp miso

*The aduki beans were an after thought – I remembered I has some left over in the fridge. The zucchini was, too, now that I think of it. I had a 3 inch piece in the fridge that needed using.

soba noodle soup ready to cook

Ready to cook

To make: Bring water to a boil. Add everything except the miso and cook at least until the noodles are done, which would be about 6 minutes, and cook longer if desired.

With aduki beans added

After adding the aduki beans

To serve: dissolve the miso in a bowl in some hot broth, then add soup and season to taste or enjoy as is.

Suggestions: fresh garlic, tamari, rice vinegar, or even just some salt would be good, or really, anything that you like!. It’s a perfect venue for leftovers and experimental seasoning.


It was delicious!



Perfect Pesto Proportions

I am just dashing this post off to make sure I remember what turned out to be perfect proportions as to amounts of greens to olive oil, nuts, garlic, and Parmesan  cheese in a pesto. However, it also serves as a reminder that pesto is not just for basil. Many other greens or combination of greens also work well, especially if you are looking for a lighter but just as tasty pesto as when made with basil only.

pesto and greens

Never too much green

I made pesto today because I had way more pea tendrils and arugula than I was going to use in the next several days.  I had made a quick batch of pesto last week using a 1/3 basil to  2/3 the amount of pea tendrils, and loved it, so I figured I would continue along that line.

When making that quick batch last week, I had to use tahini for the nut part because I discovered I had no walnuts on hand.  You know what? Tahini worked just fine.  But for this batch, I went back to walnuts.

Here’s the recipe for 6 ounces of greens.  FYI, I doubled and used 12 ounces and the whole double batch fit in the food processor. I forgot how much the processing reduces the volume!

Anyway, here is the recipe:

  • 6 oz fresh greens (one or more of basil, arugula pea tendrils, etc. – the garden is the limit!)
  • 2 oz walnuts
  • 1.5 oz fresh peeled garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 oz grated Parmesan cheese, freshly grated if possible

Just for the record, for the 12 oz of greens, I used 3 oz basil, 4 oz pea tendrils, and 5 oz arugula in this particular batch.

When processing, I starting with 3 oz of the greens and 1/8 of the olive oil and process for a bit, then add another 3 oz (the rest if you are doing the 6 oz amount) and 2 ounces of walnuts,  1.5 oz garlic and the another 1/8 cup olive oil and process until well mixed, then, if doing a double batch, repeat the process. Once all is very well processed, add the Parmesan cheese and process as desired or stir the cheese in after removing from the processor.

NOTE: Especially if using finely powered store bought Parmasan cheese, you can stir it in after removing the pesto from the processor.  I hand-grated mine so I figured it could use a bit more breaking down.

The good news about using other greens with or instead of the basil is that the other greens don’t oxidize in the same way as basil, so the pesto stays bright green.

Although there is nothing so wonderfully rich yet healthily decadent as basil pesto, I often find that I prefer a pesto with other greens, and I am now totally hooked on using pea tendrils!  Just a lovely fresh flavor.

A note about the pea tendrils: I remove the very skinny strings are the ends of the tendrils.  They can end up introducing an unpleasant “stringy” component to recipes.  The stalks at the bottom, unless VERY tough, are fine to use in this any recipe or salad.

When making pesto, try experimenting with other greens and see what works for you.  It’s an easy way to get your greens, that’s for sure.


Easy Roots and Greens Saute

Start with beets, carrots, baby turnips, and greens:

root veggies and greens

All from Farmer Dave’s in Darcut!

Heat some olive oil in a pan, add root veggies, and saute:

root veggies in pan

Cook the roots first.

Turn heat to very low, cover, let cook until tender, then stir in greens, cover, and cook for a bit more.

Almost ready!

Almost ready!

Season with ground coriander, to taste, starting with 1/2 teaspoon.

That’s it!  Season further with salt and pepper if desired, and/or with whatever flavors strike your fancy.  🙂

So Simple Broccoli Soup

Why broccoli soup? Well, one reason is the two full bunches of broccoli (read: over three pounds) that Steve brought home instead of the 2-3 broccoli crowns I requested…They say necessity is the mother of invention but, in this case, too much of a good thing ended up inspiring a wonderful new favorite way to get our vegetables.

Soup was the logical way to use up that much fresh broccoli when the household is comprised of just two people, even two who love their veggies.  I have recently been making a lovely roasted cauliflower soup (I’ll post the recipe soon, I promise!) that is basically just roasted cauliflower and onion with stock and seasoning, so I was wondering if I could do something similar with the broccoli.  So…off to the Internet went I.

The short story is that, at least during my hasty search, I did not find any broccoli soup recipes that did not use something to thicken it, whether it be a flour roux, dairy, nuts, or soy or rice milk. I did, however, find one that added carrot and another that included apples.  Well….since I had plenty of broccoli to spare, I decided to just go with no thickener as see how it would turn out.  Of course, I knew I had the option of adding a roux or cream at the end if the texture was to0 thin for the taste.


The final product. Yum!

Here is what I used:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1/2 or a bit more dried thyme
  • fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 smallish apple, peeled and chopped
  • about one pound or 8 cups  of broccoli florets
  • 4 cups  stock – I used chicken*
broccoil florets

The 8 cups florets

First, I melted the butter and olive oil and added just the onions, cooking on low  until starting to soften, and then added the diced carrot and the dried thyme and ground pepper and continued cooking, now over medium, for a few more minutes.

Starting with the onions, carrot, and seasonings.

Starting with the onions, carrot, and seasonings.

I then added the chopped apple, stirring for a bit to coat it in the oil and seasoning, then stirred the broccoli to coat as well. Next, I added the 4 cups of stock, brought it all to just a boil and then simmered for about 15 minutes or so, until the broccoli was fork-soft.

*A Note about stock:  I used chicken stock, but if you want a totally vegetarian version, I am sure veggie stock, or even plain water will work, albeit you might want to add some tamari or better yet,  miso, and/or other seasonings to give a bit more depth to the flavor.  OR, keep it light and punch up the brightness with a dash of rice vinegar or lemon juice.

Cooked and reeady to blend!

Cooked and ready to blend!

The last step was to blend.  I used an immersion blender, but a regular blender would work, as well, as would just using a potato masher or food mill – whatever you have available.



It sure looked tasty, although it was not as thick as the typical “Cream of whatever” soup. But the taste was superb and Steve and I both agreed that the texture was perfect as is – no additional thickening needed.  In fact, I think any thickener would reduce the brightness of the flavor…hmmm, I bet a squeeze of lemon would be a nice touch, albeit perhaps not on a cold winter day…

I will add that I don’t think using a thickener would hurt the recipe – but the change in texture would probably inspire, and possibly necessitate, some additional seasoning.  But, it is all a matter of taste.  Adding a  1/2 cup of cream at the end, or adding a few tablespoons flour and cooking with the veggies before adding the stock are two options, as is adding a roux at the end.

But honestly this is great as is – and note that I added no salt.  AND, Steve didn’t even add any!  THAT’S saying something.  🙂

And that’s that!  I suspect Steve and I will eat this batch of soup in a day or so, but I’ll make another batch with my OTHER big bunch of broccoli and see how it freezes.  I’ll report back when I do.   In the meantime – take this recipe out for a spin and make it your own.  I will again say: YUM!

I froze some of the first batch and defrosted it the next day.  Still fabulous!  Make a big batch when you find nice fresh broccoli on sale. 🙂

Rice Pilaf – Small Effort for Something Special

Rice is good.  You can dress it up as little or as much as you would like.  And, dressing it up is an excellent way to get more flavor and a few more veggies into your meal, or even create a one-pot meal, albeit the latter is not the focus of this post.

I am planning a simple meal of sauteed salmon fillets, steamed broccoli, and rice.  I might create a post about the salmon in the future, but in the meantime, I am simply sauteing two 5 oz skinless fillets in olive oil (enough oil  so that the fish has a chance to get hot before hitting the pan directly and sticking to it!) for a few minutes per side and then brushing with a balsamic glaze, most likely using some store-bought balsamic cream (Pastene) that I have on hand, dressed up with a bit of  lemon juice and olive oil.

As to the broccoli – Steve and I like it well-steamed rather than the “healthier” more crisp style.  Actually, there are arguments for both sides: the more cooked, the more accessible many of the nutrients, albeit more cooking will reduce the amount of the heat-sensitive Vitamin C,  for example. But, in any case, here is a great way to keep broccoli crisp in your fridge, as well as perk up broccoli that was not quite as firm as one would like when purchased.

Just pop the broccoli in water and then pop into the fridge.

Just pop the broccoli in water and then pop into the fridge.

But, back to the rice.  I like using brown/whole grain rice for the added fiber.  I know there are issues these days with arsenic in rice and the whole grain version having more, but from my research, it looks like this is an issue with rice grown on former cotton fields on which arsenic-containing pesticides were used.  My solution is to buy my rice from the California-based Lundberg Family Farms.

ANYWAY – since the rest of the meal is quite simple, I thought I would make the rice more interesting.  And, truthfully, it does not take that much effort. Here is what I did:

Start with sauting onion until soft, and then add diced carrot and chopped fresh parsley.

Start with sauteing in olive oil to build a flavor base.

I started with sauteing a half a small onion until soft, and then added diced carrot, chopped fresh parsley, and freshly ground black pepper. I also tossed in a few dried red pepper flakes for fun.

Add rice and saute some more!

Add rice and saute some more!

Next, I added the rice (I used 1 cup) and sauteed until just a bit toasty – a few minutes while stirring.

I then added 2 cups liquid. I recommend using chicken broth or bouillon or other savory-flavored liquid, if available.  I make chicken stock and keep it in one-cup containers in the freezer.  Today I defrosted a cup of chicken stock and added water to make two cups liquid to the one cup of rice.

Add water and simmer on low for 45 minutes or more as needed.

Add water and simmer on low for 45 minutes or more as needed.

I am blessed to have a stovetop with a “simmer”  burner, so keeping the rice on a low simmer is easy for me.  When I have to use another burner, I watch the rice carefully and/or use a heat diffuser.  But, even at a more active simmer, rice comes out nicely after about 45 minutes. Just keep an eye out so it doesn’t dry out too much.  Although, if you get a bit of burning on the bottom, it can add to the complexity of the flavor and texture once you stir the rice up and serve.  🙂

All done and has passed the "quality control" tasting.  Yum!

All done – and  it has passed the “quality control” tasting. Yum!

And, there you have it.  For a one-pot meal, you can add shredded meat, tofu, tempeh, fish… ooo, salmon would be good!…or whatever strikes your fancy.  BUT, do remember that you can always make rice more interesting with just a little effort.


Perfect last-minute dip recipe! Quick, Tasty, AND Healthy!

In a matter of minutes, I made a really tasty dip with ingredients I always have on hand – canned beans, garlic, plain yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh parsley, this last ingredient being for optional garnishing.

Given I am writing this on the day before Christmas, I am thinking that there might be some folks out there panicking because they don’t know what to bring as a potluck offering to a family gathering or other sort of holiday get-together. WELL, look no further.  🙂

You can see the original recipe on (one of my favorite recipe sites) by clicking HERE.

And, here is my interpretation, which doubles the recipe, replaces curry powder with cumin, and has a few minor adjustments of the amounts of some ingredients upon the suggestions of some of the recipe reviews on the Allrecipes site.


Black Bean and Garbanzo Bean Dip

Black Bean and Garbanzo Bean Dip

1 14 or 15.5 oz can black beans, drained
1 14 or 15.5 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed high recommended
2 tablespoons plain nonfat yogurt
2 tablespoons water
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin powder
salt and pepper to taste
fresh parsley sprigs (optional)

Place black beans, garbanzo beans, olive oil, lemon juice, yogurt, water, and garlic into the bowl of a food processor or blender. Season with the cumin powder, salt, and pepper. Cover and puree until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with parsley sprigs, if desired.

While perhaps not the most attractive looking dip (as you can see, a sprig or two of parsley can help with that), it has a wonderfully bright and light yet satisfying flavor and a nice texture.  And, with no tahini and little oil, it provides a healthier option than much of the standard holiday fare.

I am thinking I might try adding a 1/4 cup or so each of chopped fresh parsley and grated carrot to the mix next time to further boost the healthy factor.  But, as is, it is already a winner in my book — and my kitchen!

Sauteed Red Cabbage Baked with Sweet Potato

Okay…this is a really amazing recipe.  A big thank you to Joan Nova of her Foodalogue blog.  Here is the scoop:  I had picked up a ham on sale [Click HERE for the great baked ham recipe I used with this dish!] that said to cook by February 5 and it was February 5.  In addition, it was cold and slushy out, so I didn’t want to walk to the local grocery. I had plenty of potatoes on hand but not much for other veggies besides frozen.  Along with celery and a green bell pepper, I had two yams/orange potatoes and 1/2 a head of red cabbage.   hmmmmmm. So, I do what I usually do when I have odd ingredients that I want to use up – I do an Internet search, and come across this link:

How amazing is that?  Plus, it was terrific!  THANK YOU, JOAN NOVA!

Here is my version:

1/2 or so red cabbage chopped fine
one medium to large onion sliced thin
2-3 cloves garlic minced
olive oil
1/4 cup raisins (I used golden)
10 or so almonds, chopped
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1/3 cup chicken broth to moisten
drizzle of balsamic vinegar
sweet potato sliced very thinly  longwise
1-2 Tbsp lemon juice – fresh squeezed if available


There's the cabbage 🙂

The original recipe called for shredded cabbage, but I figured just chopping it would do.  It came to between 4-5 cups chopped.

onion and garlic

no "clean up in between" pretty shots this post.

I sauteed the onion and garlic first, then added the cabbage and the chicken broth as the cabbage cooked down. I actually took a video of the process but have not uploaded it yet.  Basically, I used about 2 Tbsp of olive oil and cooked the onions and garlic until pretty soft, added the cabbage and stirred until coated with the oil, and then added the chicken broth and cooked it down until tender.

After adding a few drizzles of balsamic vinegar and cooking a bit more, I added the raisins and chopped almonds.

I'll use more, next time. And again, not a pretty shot. But cooking gets messy. <grin>

Next, I peeled and then sliced the sweet potatoes.  The original recipe called for using an mandolin for slicing, but I don’t own one.  Instead, I used this handy tool I got from the Pampered Chef representative at the Wakefield UU Church Holiday Craft Fair:

potato slicer

Along with my super sharp Rada knife, I was able to create acceptably thin slices.

Next, I spayed a casserole pan with olive oil (I use a Misto) and spread half the sweet potato slices on the bottom. I then added the sauteed cabbage mix, added salt, pepper, and dried parsley, and then covered with the rest of the sweet potato slices and put in the oven with the ham and yukon potatoes at 325 to start. …  Well, I had a bit of forgetfulness, as you will see if you check out the video, but that is the basic procedure.

Click HERE for my first ever cooking video documenting my five hundred millionth cooking blooper.  <grin>

Turns out that 325 was a bit low for this dish – also, after 20 minutes uncovered I decided to cover and boost the heat since I was just then taking out the ham and yukon potatoes.  But, best guess – I would bake these at 375 covered for 30-45 minutes and then finish off uncovered for 10-15 minutes.  But I need to make this recipe again to be sure of timing. However, this was a spectacular taste combo.  As usual, I forgot to take a picture fresh out of the oven, but here is a shot of what was left after Steve and I had our first servings:

The sweet potato and cabbage dish, with the roasted yukons and a bit of ham in the background.

All in all, a most wonderful recipe!  Steve and I really enjoyed it, and it went really well with the  ham, too.  And again, a big thank you to Joan Nova of Foodalogue who came up with this recipe in the first place.  Never be afraid to try something new!

How to EASILY Peel Raw Butternut Squash!

FINALLY, an easy way to peel butternut and other winter squash!

If I am going to mash the squash, I’ll halve it, remove the seeds, and roast face down in a shallow pan for about an hour at 400 degrees then cool a bit and scoop out the cooked squash.  (By the way, the roasting gives the squash a wonderfully intense flavor.) BUT, what if you want to cook cubes of squash?  Here is how to do it, courtesy of a person going by the  screen name chromadome-ga who posted on this Google Answers thread in 2006.

  1. Bring a pot of water big enough to hold the squash to a boil
  2. Put the whole squash into the pot of boiling water and simmer for a few minutes until you can easily pierce JUST the skin with a toothpick or folk.  If you start smelling an aroma of cooked squash, it will be ready.
  3. Cool for a bit, cut into a few pieces, and peel.

    peeling squash

    Note the small ring around the edge from parboiling briefly.

  4. Remove seeds and cut into cubes or chunks as needed, and cook as directed in recipe.

P.S. (If anyone knows who chromadome-ga is, let me know! I’d love to be able to thank him or her directly!)

Fiddleheads !

I LOVE fiddleheads.  You will too if you like Brussels  sprouts, asparagus, or brocolli. And, even if you don’t, you just might like fiddleheads the way I prepare them with olive oil and Parmigiano reggiano cheese.  🙂

only available in the spring!

If you live around Wakefield, go to the refrigerated section in the far right corner of Farmland and look for this package:

From my favorite neighborhood grocery

Some folks simmer and then saute and/or marinate.  But here is my favorite way of preparing fiddlehead ferns:

While bringing a pan of water to a boi, rinse the fiddleheads well, swirling around in cold waterl.  Add the fiddleheads to the boiling water and simmer (NOT a roaring boil!) for 15 minutes.  Drain.  While the fiddleheads are still hot, add a BIG handful(s) of grated cheese, with freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano my recommendation, and a tablespoon or two of olive oil as desired. Unbelieveably delicious.  Good served over pasta, too.

NOTE:  When simmering the fiddleheads, don’t be alarmed at all the brown flakes, etc. that end up in the water.  It is just part of the plant.

Remember, fiddleheads are only available in the spring, as far as I know.  So, if you are going to try them, do it now!