Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fresh from the Farm

Last night was the final session of my 4-week "Fresh from the Farm" West Hartford Adult Ed class.  It's been a hot and sticky summer, so it seemed only fitting that we should end with a cool note and raw foods.  I chose to do an Italian themed menu.

The first course was a vegan twist on the traditional Caprese Salad made with beefsteak tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil.  In this case, I substituted a lovely ripe avocado which, though not local and farm fresh, was delicious.  I also made an olive tapenade to go with the spread.  The gorgeous tomatoes were from my friends at Hindinger Farm in Hamden.

The entree was a Raw Zucchini Lasagna with Macadamia "Rawcotta" and Red Pepper Marinara.  I think this was a favorite for the flavors and surprisingly silky texture of the thin strips of zucchini which I ran through the mandoline.  And the zucchini were from my garden.

For dessert I made a super decadent Blueberry Tart with Cashew Cream and Orange Zest.  I think the layer of Almond Coconut Crust was a little thick, so next time I'm gonna have to cut back on the measurements.

So rich.  Or maybe it just needed even more blueberries.  I bet this would be good with fresh peaches, too.  Next time...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Garden flowers

This morning I picked a zucchini from my garden the size of a baseball bat.  Apparently I didn't notice it hidden underneath the knee-high weeds which sprung up over these past few rainy nights.  On the plus side, the flowers are blooming in profusion.

There's the row of sunflowers bordering the length of my garden.

Then the patch of Chleome at the end by the birdfeeder. 

And this curious little Zinnia sitting in the shade.

Plus more sunflowers. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

This week's menu

When the weather gets hot and sticky, it becomes a challenge cooking.  This week's menu reflects the theme of "Stay Cool in the Kitchen," with entrees that are just as delicious eaten cold as they are warm.

I don't know about you, but to me, leftover tofu straight from the fridge is really delicious.  I usually bake it with a simple marinade of tamari and toasted sesame oil.  If there's any left the next day, it makes a nice snack cold, or even cut up and tossed on a salad.  Another favorite eaten cold is barbeque tofu.  Sure, you can microwave it, or heat it up again in the oven, but again, I opt for keeping cool.

And it's sooooo good with a Dijon Green Bean and Red Potato Salad and some sliced cucumbers.

Also on the menu this week was an Indonesian Baked Tempeh with Peanut Sauce on Rice Noodles.  I love the richness of this sauce which, again, can be eaten heated or as a cold salad.  The third entree on this week's menu featured Black Bean and Brown Rice Stuffed Zucchini (fresh from my garden) with a luscious Roasted Red Pepper Sauce Garnished with Fresh Cilantro.  It's amazing the depth of flavors that can come from just a few simple ingredients.

A new discovery this week was provided by a client (and good friend!) who introduced me to the wonders of sorbet.  Now, I'm not a former ice cream addict and I don't really crave the vegan alternatives (other than the occasional trip to Sweet Claude's for a tofutti sundae treat).  But when temperatures hover in the 90s and I'm heating things up in the kitchen, it's really nice to cool off afterward.  Especially with a Blackberry Cabernet Sorbetto.  Yes, you heard me.  This has to be the most brilliant dessert concoction I've ever tasted!  It starts with that rich, tangy bite of cabernet then quickly takes over the tastebuds with the full berry blast of sweet and sour.  And the texture is smooth and silky, not icy and thin like some vegan sorbets.  The other surprise was the Green Tea Sorbet by Soy Delicious.  On its own I have to admit it's a little flat, but as a contrast with the Blackberry Cabernet, the subtle flavors really shined.  Plus, how can you go wrong with that lovely color combination?  Perfection in a cup!

Tomato Avocado

I just couldn't wait to pick this tomato. I had a perfectly ripe avocado that wanted to be eaten in a sandwich with it, so I had to do it.  Along with some fresh basil from the garden and romaine lettuce, it made for a rich and creamy lunch.  And even though the tomato wasn't yet a deep reddish orange, its flavor was fabulous, especially since it was still warm from the sun.  This is what summer is all about. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lunch in the Raw on CT Style

Had fun today on my 2nd appearance on "CT Style," this time with host Stephen Parker.  I demonstrated a cool and refreshing Green Gazpacho Soup with Basil Pistou in honor of Spain winning the World Cup and oh, yeah, because it's sooooooooo hot and sticky out!!  Who needs to cook when you can eat something as yummy as this.  And so easy to make, too.

Green Gazpacho on CT STyle

Sunday, July 11, 2010

From the garden

I'm so happy for last night's rain and the cooler weather, which seem to have perked up the garden.  I've got my eye on a zucchini and yellow squash which should be ready to pick by the end up the day.  They'll be perfect for a batch of Pasta Primavera with fresh basil pesto and maybe even a few ripe tomatoes.  Ahhh... summer.  

Finally, some color on my tomatoes

Hello there, Mr. Zucchini

Lovely Ms. Yellow Squash

What?  Who Me?

I'm just hangin' out on your bird feeder

Fresh from the Farm

I've got my eye on Zucchini #2 in my garden.  I think he will be a perfect addition to the Green Gazpacho I will be making for a cooking segment on WTNH this Tuesday.  I did a preview of it for the first course of the "Fresh from the Farm" class I'm teaching for West Hartford Adult Ed. It's ideal for a hot and sticky day of temperatures in the 90s.

The whole meal was pretty summer friendly since no oven was involved.  We started with the Green Gazpacho, a cool soup made with local produce supplied by the lovely people at Hindinger Farm just up the road from me in Hamden.

The entree was a recipe made with local sweet corn, Black-eyed Pea and Sweet Corn Croquettes.  I made these as patties and served them on a mesclun salad mix, but you can probably drop them freeform into a pan of hot oil and make fritters.  Either way, served with a dollop of Basil Pistou on top, they're delicious.

For dessert we made a simple Chocolate Pudding with Fresh Strawberry.  The secret ingredient in these is Mori Nu Silken Tofu, but no one has to know.  :)  I think everyone would agree it was a yummy treat at the end of the night.

Sweet Claude's

It wouldn't be summer without a trip to Sweet Claude's.  I don't know who it was that told me about this hidden little gem on Rt. 10 in Cheshire (Josh, maybe? if so, thank you!!), but I've been making the pilgrimage every year once the weather warms up.  Friday's visit was the perfect reward after a long week of painting, gardening, cooking, and teaching. 

How long has it been since you've had Pistachio ice cream?  If you're a vegan, you might only have distant memories of rides to Friendly's after dinner for a sugar cone topped with that glowing green goodness.  When you swear off dairy, this treat becomes a thing of the past.  Until now. 

On a recent visit to Sweet Claude's  I was excited to find four flavors of Tofutti ice cream, one of which was my childhood favorite, Pistachio.  I got it in a cup topped with their "wet walnuts", which I think are walnuts in corn syrup.

Totally decadent, unhealthy, but what the heck... so gooooood.  How often do I get to do this?  Next time I think I might try basic chocolate topped with their peanut butter sauce.  Yeah.  That's right.