Thursday, July 27, 2006

Too Much Zucchini? Try Summer Squash “Vichyssoise”

Summer Squash “Vichyssoise” by Jill Nussinow, MS, RD --The Veggie Queen
Serves 6
I like this soup because it tastes so fresh, is low in fat and can be served hot or cold.

2 teaspoons olive or canola oil (optional)
1 cup chopped onion
1 ½ cups diced new potatoes
3 ½ cups water

3 cloves garlic, minced
½ tablespoon chicken flavored or vegetable broth powder
4 cups sliced summer squash, use a mixture of pattypan, zucchini, scallopini, crookneck or Ronde de Nice
½ cup chopped basil
1 cup multigrain, rice or soy milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Basil sprigs, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onion and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Put in the potatoes and about ¼ cup water to keep the vegetables from sticking. Cook for about 10 minutes, adding more water if necessary. Add the remaining water, garlic, broth powder and squash. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the basil and cook another 5 minutes or until the squash is soft. Blend with an immersion blender or in the blender or food processor, in 2 batches, until smooth. Return to the pot, if using a blender or processor. Add the milk and heat through. Serve immediately or chill and serve cold. Garnish with basil sprigs.

If this soup is not flavorful enough for you, add lots more basil or your favorite herb or spice.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Fancy Food Show, NYC and then Mendocino

I have had many travels so far this year. I am now happy to be at home for a while.

After my sojourn to Vegetarian Summerfest I went directly to the Fancy Food Show in New York City with my mother. Good thing that I had bulked up on all kinds of fresh food because the Fancy Food Show is all about cheese, chocolate, salt, vinegar, salsa and other tasty items. One of the most intriguing was a fruit (vegetable) called Peppadew. It looks like a small red pickling pepper and it has a spicy and addictive kick to it. I also perused the specialty salts and ought to have them in stock by September. I viewed some wonderful looking spices from Spain that come in grinders but are not yet available here. (Maybe a trip is in order.). And I got to stop by the Dr. Kracker both and see the great new crackers and small packages that are available. George promised me at tie-dyed Dr. Kracker t-shirt and he delivered. Yippee.

At Family Camp in Mendocino, I got my cookng fix, helping to prepare vegan food for a small contingent of vegetarians and many other campers. I made meatless meatballs from a recipe straight from my head, and helped devise a decadent and delicious version of mango mousse as a way to use very ripe mangoes. My mushroom gravy quickly vanished. And I had a chance to be creative with vegan cobbler because someone at camp had some interesting "allergies". As always I had a great time in the kitchen. But a few days is all I can take of that. Somehow, though, because most of my other meals were prepared for me, and we had dishwashers, it seems like less work than making 3 meals a day at home.

I am actually thrilled, though, to be in the midst of summer produce and have been eating real tomatoes, including the first two ripe Green Zebra tomatoes from my garden. Oh, time to go water it now.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Vegetarian Summerfest 2006: Vegetarians on a MIssion

Johnstown, PA truly is pretty much in the middle-of-nowhere in western Pennsylvania. Getting there isn't easy. It's 2 hours east of Pittsburgh. Yet, 500 or so vegetarians, mostly the radical vegan kind (this is a joke which is a tough thing to tell in print), get there from all over the United States, plus Canada and perhaps even from other countries.

The speaker line up was impressive, not just because it included me, but Howard Lyman, Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D., Erik Marcus, and more took to the podium. If you want to see who was there so that you can plan your trip for next year, take a look at

In addition to lectures there are also cooking demonstrations, short talks, entertainment and exercise classes. I did make it to one (just one unfortunately) early morning yoga class and part of a wand exercise class. Just walking from the Living/Learning Center at The University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown to the cafeteria would seem like plenty of exercise were it not for the unlimited quanity of food served at each meal. While the non-veg among us (and there were some) didn't get their meat, egg or dairy fix, they did not go hungry.

In addition to 2 salad bars, there was fruit available at every meal, and at dinner there were 2 buffet lines of cooked foods, a stir-fry station and a raw food line. There was also dessert at both lunch and dinner. Usually I need to eat between meals but with exhibitors such as Primal Spirit and their Primal strips and Lara Bar with Lara bar samples, I was never hungry. There were only 4 hours between the end of lunch and the start of dinner. Although I usually like to eat early, dinner at 5:30 when lunch ended at 1:30 (perhaps with cooking demo tastes in between) was too much for me. Yet, I didn't skip a single meal except on the day that I arrived when I skipped both breakfast and lunch but not by choice. My next few days of eating got me back into balance (or I should say tipped the scales the other way).

If you have the time to attend Summerfest, look into it for next year. It's an amazing vegetarian/vegan experience - like summer camp for your mind and body.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Vegetarian Summerfest Here I Come

On the road again, almost. I will be heading to Vegetarian Summerfest in Johnstown, PA. It's 2 hours east of Pittsburgh. I'd been so busy until about a week ago that I actually had no idea where in PA I would be heading. Even though I won't be driving (I am going to take a shuttle if my plane isn't late), I do like to know where I am in time and space.

My topics at Summerfest are Spice It Up: For Flavor and Nutrition, and Mushroooms: Combining Taste, Culinary and Medicinal Uses. I will also be participating on a panel about careers in the culinary arena. I do hope that I can add something to that.

What I am most looking forward to is not cooking for a few days with the promise of vegetarian meals without having to search them out. I also hope to get to a yoga class or two but they begin at 6 a.m. and I will be in an altered sleep state so that remains to be seen.

I have devised a plan when traveling to be sure that I stay healthy. I take along a bag of sea palm fronds (yes, seaweed), a box of Mary's Gone Crackers crackers or Dr. Kracker crackers, plenty of water, a few packets of Emergen-C and some Rainbow Light Deep Defense tablets. Usually I have some dried fruit (this time some delectable Deglet Noor dates dried right on the stalk), a couple of Lara Bars, Clif Nectar bars or Luna bars in case I get stranded in an airport without food worth eating (which is most of them). It is much better to be prepared than to not eat and be cranky.

I'll report on my Summerfest experience when I return. I hope that I don't have too much to say about thunderstorms (which are predicted for Wednesday, July 5th) and lots to say about what I learned.

Blackberries, Tomatoes, Zucchini - It's Summer

You can call me a purist - please. This morning while walking my dog Bear, I picked my first ripe blackberry and ate it. While it wasn't the sweetest or tastiest blackberry I've ever eaten, it was remarkably delicious just because it was there for my picking.

A few days ago my friend Patrick picked 2 Costata Romanesco squash from his garden and gave them to me. What a wonderful gift. I took the smaller of the two and made a simple dish of it by cutting it into half-moon pieces with one half a sliced torpedo onion and adding it to my little packet of Thai Kitchen Garlic and Vegetable Instant Rice Noodle Soup in the last minute of cooking. A few shots of my sister Donna's hot sauce and it was an easy dinner. If I had some chopped cilantro and cubed tofu to add, it would have been even better but that's life. still yummy as it was.

Yesterday I bought my first of the season locally grown vine ripe tomatoes. It's still early here and if I am lucky I may have ripe tomatoes by mid-August but only if the weather heats up a bit.

The food that Mothe Nature provides is just the best. Last night my husband and I went to a store with an incredible salad bar (Oliver's market in Cotati, CA). Rick ordered a veggie burrito while I heaped the salad into one of their fancy paper-like containers. In addition to the usual salad bar options there were many others such as shredded Mexican chicken, marinated tofu, lentil salad, quinoa, Asian noodle salad, Creole potato salad and much more. About two thirds of what I took was greens, carrots, cucumbers, red and green onions and then I went for the adidtions. At $6.99 a pound, I managed to take almost a pound of salad. It cost more than the burrito but salad, especially the greens, is essential and delicious food which our bodies crave.

I have been reminded of this more and more as I travel. Because between my trips I have found it more difficult to get the oomph to shop and cook. This means more restaurant meals. In the past week I have eaten at Cafe Zazzle in Petaluma (CA) where they serve some incredibly tasty Zazzle slaw for $2 for a large bowl. I keep thinking that the cabbage and other veggies contained therein can make up for the creamy dressing. But the food at Zazzle if fresh, delicious and mostly less than $10. I recommend it.

A bit less successful was a trip to a new Middle Eastern restaurant, Pita Cafe, in Rohnert Park. My son Shane said that his rice pilaf was the best he'd ever had, and the salad served with his dish (lamb schwarma - YUCK) was plentiful and fresh. I had the mezze plate with whole wheat pita (for which they get extra credit) but nothing really was outstanding nor was it terrible. There was tabbouleh, hummus, dolma, felafel, mummarah, baba ganouj. I am not sure what didn't work but I was not wowed. It seemd like Middle Eastern food for the Mid-Western palate which isn't to my liking. I wanted to taste some exotic spices - sumac, zatar, cumin, a little cayenne. It was missing zing. Maybe the rice pilaf had it but Shane didn't offer any to me. I'd try the place again since they just opened but this time was just OK (which is about 2 stars out of 5).

I am excited by the foods of summer and I am anxiously awaiting my own cucumbers and tomatoes and more of Mother Nature's marvels.