Monday, October 30, 2006

Savory Cashew Cream Sauce

I must give credit where creidt is due. And this recipe is an adaptation of a recipe in the new book The Nut Gourmet by Zel Allen. The book is filled with nut recipes. If you are afraid of eating too much fat, take some comfort knowing that although nuts are high in fats, they contain all-natural fat and antioxidants. Since nuts are rich, they fill you up and then it's less likely that you will overeat. If you eat the sauce with lots of veggies, you are doing something that is good for you.

Enjoy this sauce over grains, veggies, beans and more. It freezes well and can be flavored in an almsot endless number of ways by varying the herbs and/or spices that you add -- curry poweder, smoked paprika, Italian herbs and more.

Savory Wine Cashew Cream Sauce
Makes about 2 cups
If you don't want to add wine, increase the amount of water or soy milk.
½ cup finely ground cashews
½ cup soy milk
1 cup water
4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
½ teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup white wine

Grind the cashews in a coffee grinder until they are powdered.
Combine the soy milk, water and nutritional yeast in a saucepan over medium
high heat. Bring to a boil, being careful not to let it boil over. Add the salt and
pepper. Whisk in the ground cashews. Continue whisking for a minute, until the
mixture thickens. Stir in the wine. Taste and adjust seasonings. If the mixture
seems too thick, add water, wine or more soy milk.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili
8 minutes at high pressure; natural pressure release; 5 minutes stovetop cooking
Serves 6 to 8
Inspired by a recipe in Simple Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin

The colors are reminiscent of Halloween but there's nothing scary about this dish.
The sweet potatoes provide an interesting taste and texture to this chili. The smokiness of the chipotle pepper adds a special dimension and flavor. If corn is in season, you can add at the end of cooking for another textural and flavor variation.

1 tablespoon canola oil
2 large onions, finely diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 red bell peppers, chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder or 1 chipotle chili, chopped, seeds removed
2 medium yams, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
2 cups black beans, presoaked
1 1/2 cups water

3 cups finely chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
Chopped cilantro for garnish

Heat the oil in the cooker over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 3 minutes. Add the garlic, red peppers and spices and cook another 2 minutes. Add the yams, black beans and water. Lock the lid in place and bring to high pressure over high heat. Reduce the heat to low to maintain high pressure.
After 8 minutes, remove from the heat and let the pressure come down naturally.
When the pressure is down, remove the lid tilting it away from you. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and salt. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the tomatoes have broken down into a sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve over rice, or other grain, garnished with cilantro.

Note: This is best imade int he pressue cooker and ifyou don't have one ask for one for a gift. In the meantime, just cook this on the stove top, using high quaility orgnaic canned beans such as Eden or Westbrae. Follow the directions, cooking the yams until partially done. Add 2 drained cans of black, or your favorite, beans. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste andsalt. Add extra liquid at any time, if you need it. This should be thick and delicious.

Veggie Stone Soup

Yesterday's meal in the field featured Stone Soup. Chef Eric Tucker from Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco made the vegan version and Chef Kevin McKenzie from Healdsburg made the chicken (rooster) version. Well, not to my surprise, the Posole, Marrow Fat Bean and Tomato-based veggie soup was the taste winner (even the meat-eaters said so). I cannot give you the recipe because I don't have it, and I am quite sure that Eric doesn't either since it was truly a stone soup. I know that it had squash, herbs, carrots and more, and the leftover soup made a great breakfast today.

In addition to the soup, there was a coleslaw, sauteed peppers and a cauliflower and broccoli dish plus fresh wood-fire oven baked bread from Lou Preston, red jug wine from Preston Vineyards and some wonderful Sky Saddle Zinfandel made from biodynamic grapes. The setting was amazing right there in the middle of the crops. the meal ended with pear and apple crisp. We celebrated 2 birthdays, community and good use of our open space land. Here's to Tierra Vegetables and all other farmers who work hard to give us great food.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Farmer's Market Joy

I like to be the fly-on-the-wall, so to speak, at the farmer's market. I hear a lot of interesting things while strolling through the market and doing my shopping. I am often shopping for around 25 people (in one of my Santa Rosa Junior College classes) so it takes me a long time. There's a lot to overhear. I certainly don't want to say that I eavesdrop.

This morning I heard a man talking to a woman (it may have been his partner, companion or wife). "I like to buy from this smaller stand since they almost always throw in an extra tomato." This was an important comment - one that many farmers ought to take seriously. People want a deal. They appreciate what the farmer is doing but really like being noticed and feeling like they are getting special treatment.

Ed from Twin Peaks Ranch which sells fruit does this quite often. This morning I got 2 Satsuma tangerines in my bag of Angelino plums (the latest of the season). Brenda from Hamlow Ranch asked me if she could put a couple more Fuyu persimmons in my bag and make it an even 6 dollars? And why would I argue since an extra persimmon could come in handy? I ended up eating one at the next place I went which was a beautiful new park of 1200+ acres in Petaluma, part of our open space district spending.

The second persimmon became part of my Bright Autumn Salad, a recipe from my book The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment, available on my website at It was a dish brought to a potluck Halloween party where I was one of the costume winners with my Evil Queen costume, the only packaged costume I have ever worn. Perhaps it was my Queenly persona that made it work so well, or the fact that it was purple and black, 2 of my favorite colors.

Tomorrow I go to Tierra Vegetables ( for an event in the field with fixings from the farm that is also on open space land. There's nothing like fresh and local food to help boost your mood -- on our first dreary day of the new time change.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Roasted Pepper Time

I like to gauge the season by what I can do at that time of year. Right now it's roasting peppers. There seem to be so many colored peppers available right now. I can never eat enough of them, unless they are green (and I don't consider that a good color for peppers as they are ripe and quite undigestible to me).

I also was invited to pick apples the other day so I am going to be creative in cooking them and supplying recipes for them. So far, most of that has been only in my mind, as we are having a warm spell here with temperatures in the 80s. It's hot and I am ready for turtlenecks, sweaters and some rain. (I know that it could be worse but...)

Friday, October 06, 2006

Brussels Sprouts and Hemp Milk

I'm in New York. My sister is getting married tomorrow, in lower upstate (not to be confused with places such as Utica, Rochester, Buffalo). It's very exciting. And it's also my father's birthday. So we'll have a double celebration. Heck, we can also toast to my anniversary which was less than a week ago.

I had planned to come east to go to the Natural Foods Product Expo in Baltimore anyway so it worked out great for me. Yesterday I saw a number of new products at the show. Perhaps the most interesting thing that I noticed was Hemp Milk. It has plenty of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, the kind of fat that we need, and it tastes good. I don't drink a lot of nondairy milk but when I do, I choose unsweetened soy or multigrain. I will likely switch to hemp when it arrives on the market.

There was also sprouted flax and hempseed, a soft hempseed (with all the shells removed), wonderful hempseed multigrain bagels from French Meadow, gluten-free tortillas from La Tortilla Factory made from teff, a new Flax Plus cereal from Nature's Path (my favorite morning cereal company) and lots of flavored waters, some with sweeteners and many without.

I had to speed through the show and still managed to stop and chat, seeing a number of surprised friends from Sonoma County. I mean, who would have expected to see me in Baltimore? It certainly is a long way to fly, just to check out new products. I was sorry that I couldn't have stayed longer. But it did leave me a day to rest in New York.

My mother took me to a local Italian deli where they prepare a variety of dishes from stuffed artichokes to eggplant florentine (which unfortunately contained proscuitto), lasagne, sausage and peppers and more. Although it is primarily meat-oriented they do have some beautiful vegetable and pasta dishes. I could have had a grilled veggie wrap but instead we got carrot and spinach cakes which were tasty. There was sauteed broccoli raab which we didn't get but we did buy the roasted Brussels sprouts. Oh my goodness -- those sprouts are almost as good as mine but much easier since someone else cooked them. So, if you're in New York and on Long Island, check out Iavarone Bros I was really surprised and pleased to get such tasty vegetable dishes there.

If you do any traveling, you know that eating well on the road isn't always easy. I'm glad that it has been this time. Still, just to be sure, I have my special trail mix, seaweed and Mary's Gone crackers crackers with me. On the plane coming, I had a salad and a large organic apple. I didn't go hungry although I do lament not being able to bring my own water on the plane (without the exorbitant $2.50 a bottle at the airport charge).

Please don't ask me about my cosmetics and what a nightmare that is, with quart ziploc bags and such. Have you ever heard of a mascara terrorist? You just might if the TSA keeps up the cosmetic nonsense. But that's another story.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

California Culinary Academy Class

Yesterday I taught my first class at the California Culinary Academy. I must say that it was an interesting day. It started out by my meeting up in the parking lot near the CCA with my sort-of former brother-in-law chef who was also wearing red clogs. He was judging a Pellegrino water cooking competition which actually sounded like more fun than what I was doing.

I hauled my butt and a box of books over to the school which is housed in an older San Francisco building near the Civic Center.

I met my class of 13 in the basement dining room and we all got into the elevator and went up to the 4th floor kitchen. It's always a bit strange to teach in a new kitchen but this one had even more eccentricities, it seemed. I had to ask for every piece of equipment which I didn't know so I kept my student assistant Kate, very busy. She did a great job.

My students consisted of a 13-year old who had taken 51 classes at the CCA, someone who had not really cooked at all (they worked together which was great), a few mother-daughter pairs and other repeat CCA students. We had a great time, or at least I did.

A young couple Hansa and Sami worked on the Tomato Basil Tart with a Toasted Pine Nut Crust. They made the dough, rolled it out and put in the refrigerator to chill. I was checking on their progress so walked over to the frig with them. "How long has the dough been in?", I questioned. Simultaneously I heard 3 minutes from Hansa and 6 to 7 minutes from Sami.

I laughed, hard. "I guess that you have a difference of opinion," I said. Hansa told me that they often have a different perspective. I told them that it's most likely because he has a Y chromosome and she doesn't. The scene was classic.

Upon further reflection, I realized that something as simple as how long an item has been refrigerated can be tested against reality with a tool such as a timer. That would eliminate any confusion. But still there are likely to be perspective differences between people that cannot be pasted against reality as a guideline. And that's why I can give large groups the same recipes to prepare and end up with varying results. There's individual variation, perception and the creative factor. I'll chalk most of the differences up to the latter, although some are far too creative for me. That's saying a lot.