Vegetables Every Day

Vegetables Every Day
Carrot Tarator with Beets

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


I have made some progress on photographing more of my pots, and now have all of my masks posted on the web.  There are 30 in all (not counting the ones that just came out of the kiln).    Masks are one of the most fun things to make. I do 2 different styles.  One is very quick, where slabs of clay (often with some texture added with shoe treads or dollies) is placed over a plastic pillow of some sort (generally an old clay bag filled with packing peanuts), then eyes, ears,  and/or noses formed.  Then various appendages, such as eyebrows, tongues, or horns can be added.  That’s it.  Examples are the Elephant face, and most of the animals.  The other style is a bit more deliberate.  You start with 2 slabs of clay, roughly the same size and shape.   One piece is the back, they you build up “bones” in face with additional pieces of clay.  The top (front) piece is laid on top, and sealed on the edges.   The clay is press on and around the “bones” to form a face.  Examples are Firecooked and the Kiln Goddesses.

I started making masks in Auburn.  My real inspiration was Gillian Hodge, an artist that lived in Penn Valley (another small town in the foothills of the Sierra’s).  In addition to pottery, she also painted..  and overall had a very fascinating life.  She occasionally taught workshops, and I was fortunate enough to take the mask making class, as we well as a workshop on doing travel sketches.

Let me know which one(s) you like!    Next I will try to get photographs of my little people, hopefully that won’t take another 4 months.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Its always dangerous to have really high expectations.  I ordered Barbara Kingsolver's (my favorite author),  new book about food (my favorite subject) Animal, Vegetable, Miracle just knowing that it was done.   What a disappointment.   The book is non-fiction, about the Kingsolver family pulling up roots in Tucson and moving to southern Appalachia (where they had been spending summers).  There goal is to live closer to the land, to grow their own food or procure it locally.  This is what sucks you in. But most of the book is a soap box, about evil oil companies, genetically modified food, poor city planning in Tucson, high fructose corn syrup and global warming.  And I agree that all of this is bad it didn't make for good reading. And some of it was a bit overboard,  the first 100 things I would do to stop global warming would not include not buying organic banana's from Ecuador.

The book is written by Barbara (the main narrative), her husband (educational side bars that look like something in a magazine or text book), and Camille, her daughter (delightful essays and recipes).  It's pretty chopped up - not a great story I was hoping for.

The miracle is that 4 related people (including 2 kids) were happy to do this together.  I get the point of eating seasonal food, meat that has been raised sustainably.  But the reality: this is a lot of work.  I sometimes think that I'm some kind of weirdo because I cook from scratch most of the food that we eat (and enjoy it).  But growing the food is real work, with bugs, dirt, rain, injuries, and sweat.  And no one seems to complain.  It may be non-fiction, but its not reality. 

One side of me thinks so what, you fed yourself for a year.  For centuries villages all over the world have figured out how to feed themselves without the benefit of good transportation, high fructose corn syrup, and Monsanto.  We have had good stories about these villages, like The Good Earth, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Cane River.  The other side thinks our modern society has this huge desire to be entertained: TV, movies, books, shows, sporting events, golf, video games, shopping; completely losing the satisfaction of productive chore. It's more popular to meditate than to pull weeds.  Most of us are pretty happy to have Mexican citizens pull our weeds and harvest our vegetables (no matter whether here or in Mexico). I do think many of the topics are really important. We must maintain the diversity of our food crops and not lose our heirloom varieties.  We need to eat better, cut the crap that big oil and McDonalds makes easy to eat.

I don't have the answers, and I wish this book could of at least had a story that really stuck.  How do we set higher expectations on the food that we eat?

Let me know if you want to borrow the book.  I think its good for your to read even though its not good reading.. and the recipes are good!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Happy Mothers Day... and recipes from a Mediterranean-style lunch

Happy Mother's Day to all those Mom's among my blog fans ...  all 5 of you

We had a  nice Mother's day today.. we went to Tucson and did what has become somewhat of a tradition were I show up at a Mom's house and cook breakfast or lunch...   this year, we got together with my Mom for lunch at my brother's house, in their fabulous new kitchen (and I am jealous of their new induction cooktop... how did I miss this when I redid our kitchen?).  So we had two Mom's (my mom and my nieces mom), plus the puppy Chester (soooo cute).   Maybe next year I need to figure out how to do this with Mom in San Diego.. not a bad thought since it seems we are hitting 100+ for the last several days!

For lunch, I did a Mediterranean theme, starting with a Rosemary Bean Dip, then Grilled Lamb and 3 Salads... all the recipes follow.  To top if off, I did a Apricot Cobbler, which was quite wonderful due to a lucky find of fabulous Schnepf Farms organic apricots at AJ's.   Drop me a line if you would like the recipe... but get the good apricots first!

The Ingredient:  Christmas Tree Beans ... again.   I used both the bean dip and the Green Bean Salad instead of the canned white beans I normally use.  I do have to mention the color of the bean dip is a bit better with white beans, but I really do like these beans.  (I cooked the beans with just a bit of onion and no salt, you will need to salt the dishes a bit more than when using canned beans).

Rosemary White-Bean Puree

If you have the time and enthusiasm, cook the beans.  You can use any beans that you like, I did with Christmas Tree Beans for Mother’s Day Lunch, and it really came out extra yummy

¼ cup olive oil
2 3” rosemary sprigs
1-2 cloves of garlic, smashed
One 15-oz can cannelloni or other white bean, rinsed and drained
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoons chopped rosemary
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Salt to taste (~1/2 teaspoon)

Heat oil, rosemary sprigs, and garlic in small saucepan over medium heat until they start to sizzle and become fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.  Let cool some.  Pull out rosemary and garlic, discard
Place beans, oil, and remaining ingredients in food processor, puree until smooth.   Taste and adjust lemon juice and salt.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Keeps well for several days.
Serve with bread, pita, or crackers.

Grilled Herb-Crusted Leg of Lamp with Fresh Mint Sauce

The time and effort for this all goes to trimming the lamb of the fat.. which I think is the key to lamb that is not gamey or greasy.  But plan a good hour to get prep lamb and fix marinade.

1 6-7 lb leg of lamb (boneless roast)
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup Dijon mustard (I like Trader Joes’)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup water
1 cup chopped mint
¼ cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil

Untie and unfold lamb on a large cutting board.  Trim as much fat as possible.  A couple of notes:   The fat will run in between the mussels, you what to get this as much as possible, along with any silver skin (you will end up with quite a pile of fat).  Object is to end up with several large pieces (about 3 or 4).  Note:  the smaller pieces I just collect up, and freeze for later for stew or kabobs.  I did a 7 pound roast, ended up with a little over 1 lb of stew meat for the freezer, and 3 large pieces which fed 7 of us, with a nice amount of leftovers.    Once you have some nice pieces, place a piece between sheets of plastic wrap, and pound with meat mallet or heavy skillet to get a more uniform thickness… want ~ 1 – 2 inches with each piece as even as possible.

Mix all marinade ingredients together, and spear on the lamb.  Place in large zip-loc baggie, and refrigerate for a day or so.

Sauce: Whisk water with sugar, salt pepper, stir in remaining ingredients.  Best to do the same day as grilling.
To grill lamb:  Pull lamb out of the fridge when you start the grill (20 minutes or so before starting to cook).  Heat grill to hot, put lamb on and drop temp to low or medium low.  Flip after 5 minutes or so.  Total time will vary on thickness, expect 12 to 20 minutes.  Pull off pieces as they cook…  they will start to firm up (like steaks), or for medium rare, about 130F on an instant read thermometer.   Let sit for 10 minutes to rest, then slice across grain to serve.  Serve sauce separately to spoon over meat.

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

This salad goes great with chicken.  Salad keeps fairly well, and leftovers are great for lunch (mixed in left-over chicken is good). Don't worry about being exact on the vegetable quantities (adjust to taste). 

4 to 6 servings
45 minutes

2 cups chicken broth (I like the Pacific Free Range Organic…)
(or 1 14-oz can low salt chicken broth plus enough water to make 2 cups)
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking couscous
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped OR 1 red bell pepper, chopped
6 oz feta cheese, cut into 1/4" dice
1/4 cup minced parsley or watercress
1/2 cup minced green onion
1/2 cup olive oil
6 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
Black olives
Lettuce leaves

Bring broth and water to boil in medium saucepan.  Mix in couscous.  Cover and remove from heat.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Fluff couscous with fork.  Turn into large bowl.  Cool to room temperature.
Prepare vegetables.  When couscous is cool (or almost cool), mix in tomato, feta, parsley, and green onion.  Whisk together oil, lemon juice, and generous amount of pepper (1 teaspoon or more), mix into salad.  Refrigerate.

Just before serving, top with olives.  If being fancy, serve in bowl lined with lettuce leaves.

Grilled Red Onion and Bean Salad


1 pound fresh green beans
1 can (15 ounces) small white beans or flageolets
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon or basil
Salt, pepper, to taste
1 large, flattish red onion, 8 to 10 ounces

Trim the ends off the green beans and cut them into 1 1/2 inch lengths.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 2 teaspoons salt per quart, and boil the green beans five minutes.  Drain them well and cool them quickly under running cold water.

Drain and rinse the canned beans well.  In a large bowl, combine the green beans and white beans.  Toss with 1/4 cup of the oil and the remaining ingredients, except the onion, and let them marinate at least one hour. 

Peel the onion and cut off the stem and flower ends.  Cut it crosswise into 1/2-inch slices.  When the barbecue coals are just starting to ash over, brush the onion slices with some of the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and brown them lightly on both sides, about five minutes per side.  Cut the slices in quarters and toss them with the beans.

Greek Salad
This was the first time I did this recipe..  don't worry about being too exact!

4 tomatoes, chopped (or can use 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved)
½ cup chopped mint
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
½ teaspoon salt, more to taste
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
6 oz Feta cheese
1 lemon zested (about 1 tablespoon) and juiced (about ½ cup)
1 English cucumber, lightly peeled and chopped into ½ inch dice
4 scallions, chopped (about ½ cup)
~ 1 cup Kalamata olives (pitted).
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Mix together, let sit for an hour at room temperature before serving.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Summer’s just about here..

This weekend if felt like summer announced “I’m coming”…  mornings are warmer --  the a/c is on when I drive to work, shade is good.  I’m hoping my basil will start growing.   But we are still getting some reprieve, as it’s actually raining right now with a bit of thunder and lightening (as opposed to last weekend’s dust storm).

If you can stand more pasta recipe’s, here a favorite for summer:

Peanut Noodles
The peanut sauce is multi-purpose – can be used w/ satay or as a dip too.  Adjust chili to taste

2- 3 (main dish)  or 6 (side) Servings

½ lb linguine or spaghetti (whole wheat is good)
2-4 cups of vegetables..  Pick 2-3:
    Bean sprouts
    Snow peas
    Broccoli (cook for a couple of minutes with pasta)
    Carrots (can cook a bit too)
    Green onions

½ cup water
1/3 cup peanut butter  (I like the all natural)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce (low sodium)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon honey
1 clove mince garlic
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

    or  1 teaspoon chili-garlic paste instead of garlic and chili

For noodles: Bring large pot of salted water to boil, add spaghetti (break in half).   If using a hard vegetable, put into the pot the last couple of minutes to barely cook
Meanwhile, make sauce:  Bring water to boil in large bowl in microwave.  Add remaining ingredients, stir with whisk to combine.

Drain noodles and rinse with cold water.  Drain again and put into bowl with sauce. Add vegetables, toss to combine.