corona bean salad with lemon, basil & garlic, haricot verts and yellow pepper


Having just returned from a lovely spring trip to Paris then Florence, I am enthused by all the incredibly delicious French and Italian food we enjoyed! I’m also eager to see how I could incorporate more of the wonderful ingredients and combinations of flavors in my home cooking.

First up was my determination to source big beautiful Italian Corona beans– so buttery in texture, and seemingly versatile! After I found them locally, of course I wanted fresh basil and garlic with my Corona beans… It’s a wet Spring here in the Pacific NW, so French green beans — haricot verts– were a logical choice too for this bean salad over hardy mixed greens. A bright Tuscan sun yellow pepper, black olives, and red onion rounded out the picture in my mind, with photo here now for posterity. So simple, and so good. (Having enjoyed so much good cheese on our trip, of course I was tempted to garnish this with Pecorino Romano– now in my fridge. I resisted the urge this time, acknowledging it would be tasty.)

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ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups dried Corona beans
  • 1 lb haricot verts, chopped 1 in long
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6-8 large leaves fresh basil
  • 1 t fresh lemon thyme, diced
  • 1 lemon
  • black olives, quartered
  • fresh ground green pepper to taste

instructions:

Cull then rinse beans, cover with fresh water and allow to soak for 24 hours. Rinse, cover with fresh water, bring to boil, then simmer uncovered for about 1 1/2-2 hours, until beans are soft. Turn off heat, allow to cool in water. Drain, set aside in casserole dish. Saute  garlic for 1 minute in olive oil, then add haricot verts and continue to saute, stirring over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add a couple tablespoons of water, cover, reduce heat and simmer until beans are bright green and just slightly softened, about 2-3 minutes. Remove haricot verts to casserole dish. Saute chopped yellow pepper with lemon thyme and basil for about 3 minutes, until bright yellow and slightly soft, add to casserole dish, together with chopped red onion and black olives, stirring all together well. Dress with lemon juice and pulp, a drizzle of olive oil, ground green pepper to taste.

 

why would a vegetarian eat fish, chicken, or dare I say, pork?


I’ve now been a vegetarian for over half my life, and over those many years I’ve read, thought, and discussed a lot about food, health and healing, cooking and eating well. During those years I was diagnosed as having a low-thyroid condition; I tried to address that through natural means of diet modification, and while that was supportive, I finally relented and accepted my allopathic doctor’s prescription for Synthroid. Concurrently I accepted my Acupuncturist’s advice to eat organic kelp, scallops, salmon, and white fish, trying for once or twice weekly, and to take Selenium supplements daily to support my thyroid. Thus I overcame my aversion to eating flesh by selecting fish whenever I was eating out on business meals; I can honestly say that for about 15 years I’ve enjoyed eating salmon.

Meanwhile I’ve forever been interested in other cultures, people and places, and now I’m at a stage in my life where I have more discretionary time and money, so I’m able to travel some. For over two years I’ve also enjoyed a loving partnership with a man who wants to travel with me, a man who enjoys tasty healthy food, and good spirits– by that I mean both good and happy people, also good wine, beer and liquor. When we traveled together to Ireland and Scotland a year ago, knowing we’d be staying as house guests part of that time, I decided it would be wise to add chicken breast to my diet too, to help me have more options when eating with others abroad. I’d enjoyed salmon and chicken in my mother’s home, and I recalled the flavors happily. My mind was willing, my gut easily survived. Culinary bonus points scored with discovery of draft Guinness beer!

I’ve been thinking about these things as I prepared to go on a wonderful vacation– we’ve just returned from Paris, Florence, and rural Tuscany. Ah, you say, French food! Oui! Oui! How fun that KLM/Delta aired the movie “Julie and Julia” (a comedy by Nora Ephron staring Meryl Streep as Julia Childs) on our flight to Paris! That was perfect, as my partner is a huge movie fan, and I, of course, love to cook.

Indeed we enjoyed the food in Paris– especially wonderful savory crepes, and quiche. Ah but yes, Quiche Lorraine has bacon in it. Oh, the restaurant menus– artichokes were in season, abundant, beautiful, and so delicious! Ah, pea soup! And oh, my, not just beef ragout in those lovely red individual serving sized enameled cast iron casseroles, but duck and rabbit as speciality menu items… The local markets were stellar, well stocked with beautiful produce. The artichokes, haricot verts, and so many types of beautiful greens! The bread, the cheese, oui, oui! And of course, the wonderful wines.

The food scene in Italy felt entirely different. There too the wonderful cheeses, wine, bread, and the olives! Best of all gelato! And my partner introduced me to Sambuca. Yum! I found the restaurant menus there were much more accessible to me as a vegetarian, even though I almost never eat pasta (having long ago given up gluten noodles.) I had lovely choices of fish, all beautifully prepared in delicious butter. The question for me on this trip though was pork. Did I want to eat pig meat after more than thirty years?? Thinly sliced prosciutto, on bruschetta with marinated artichoke hearts, thinly sliced pecorino romano, and a drizzle of olive oil, so perfectly Italian. I decided yes, when in Florence do as the Florentines do, and I was delighted.

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Antipasti of thick sliced cold salsiccia, with a cold Bierra? Hmmm, that Salsiccia just looked to be a bit much for me to stomach; the bierra was delicious. For breakfast in before a full day out adventuring in rural Tuscany, my partner made his awesome over-hard eggs that I have come to enjoy (I was vegan for many years), with fried tomato and yes, a little salsiccia sausage link cooked perfectly. Yum! And no gastric distress. Moderation is the key.

Now home again, I went to our County Master Gardener’s “Incredible Edibles” organic vegetable and herb start sale event last weekend, and I’m making progress turning and weeding my raised beds after a horrendously wet Spring. I’m thinking about eating with the changing seasons, and as the name of my blog reminds me, as a Conscious Vegetarian. Thinking about that now, I acknowledge that means for me also cooking salmon or chicken breast on occasion.

Last night I was really hungry, and knew I needed a generous serving of protein. I enjoyed braising 3 oz of salmon with garlic, dill, and lemon, then making a lovely salmon salad with mixed greens, radicchio, topped with black olives, sheep feta, walnuts, thin slices of red onion, and orange slices, dressed with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Yes, it was a perfect meal for me, a conscious vegetarian.

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vegetarian lentil soup- revisited


A cold rainy night and a potluck dinner with extended family, old friends and new – that calls for big pots of chile and vegetarian lentil soup. This lentil soup has been my favorite for as long as some of those childhood friendships! It’s healthy and satisfying, smells and tastes great, is inexpensive and easy to make, and a virtual “bottomless pot” as it’s delicious as a thick stew or as you add more water while it simmers to feed more people. Goes great with a glass of red wine or a chilled microbrew, a mixed green salad or a bowl of chips, depending on who shows up.

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ingredients:

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium red potato, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 red Serrano or red thai hot peppers, minced
  • 1 medium rutabaga, chopped
  • 1 medium turnip, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 cups lentils, culled and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup brown basmati rice
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2-3 T each oregano, basil, thyme, and sage to taste
  • 2-3 T red cider vinegar
  • 1 t salt and fresh black pepper to taste, added after soup is cooked
  • Parmesan cheese

instructions:

In large 5 quart soup pot with lid, saute chopped onions and red potato in 2-3 T olive oil. After 2-3 minutes add minced garlic and red peppers, chopped rutabaga, turnip, carrots, and celery, oregano, basil, thyme, and sage, continuing to saute for 2-3 minutes. Add carefully culled and rinsed lentils and basmati rice, stir well. Add canned tomatoes including juice and red cider vinegar. Put 8 cups water on the stove top to heat til near but not boiling, then add 6 cups to the soup pot and stir well. Cover and bring to simmer, then lower heat and cook with lid just slightly cracked open for 1 hour-1.5 hours or so, checking and stirring occasionally. Add more water as it cooks, getting all 8 cups in to create a thick stew, or yet more water to create a thick soup. Test rutabaga, carrots, and lentils for doneness. Once vegetables are soft, lentils and rice fully cooked, add 1 t salt and fresh black pepper to taste. Serve topped with Parmesan cheese. Tastes even better the next day. Freezes well.

yellow split pea dal over rainbow chard


When Autumn arrives and the leaves start to fall along with night temperatures, I feel the cold even when my house thermometer says I should be comfortably warm. It doesn’t matter that I’m active and put on a comfy smart wool shirt and light down sweater coat. Afternoons I start to crave Good Earth herbal tea and savory dinners…

A heavy rainstorm forecast and yellow leaves swirling in the wind this last weekend made me think to make a yellow split pea dal with a kick of Indian spices. Happily it turned out delicious, and I never lost my power.

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One of the many great things about yellow split pea dal is that dried split peas don’t require soaking before cooking, and they cook in 30 minutes, a much shorter time required than for dried beans. They’re high in protein and dietary fiber, satisfying and healthy; I did the math and calculated this recipe has 310 calories per cup served over a cup of rainbow chard. I made a large pot of the dal, and served it on a bed of rainbow chard leaves cut into ribbons topped with 1/4 cup of Bhutanese Red Rice for an easy “one bowl” meal. Leftovers taste great, and it freezes well.

ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup yellow split peas
  • 1 large jewel yam, chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 bunch rainbow chard
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium red Serrano pepper, diced with seeds
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1 t black mustard seeds
  • 3/4 t cardamom
  • 1 1/2 t cumin
  • 1 t turmeric
  • 1/4 t salt, black pepper to taste

instructions:

Cull through then rinse split peas well, cover with 4 cups fresh water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer covered for about 25 minutes, until quite soft.

Cut thick stems out of rainbow chard. Chop the stems and set aside. Cut the chard leaves into thin ribbons and set aside.

In a large soup pot with 1-2 T olive oil over medium heat, add the mustard seeds and allow them to heat up til they just start to pop. Add onions, garlic, and all spices, and stir until onions begin to turn translucent. Add the chopped yam, stir to coat well with spices, add a few tablespoons of water, reduce heat and cover to simmer until softened, about 4 minutes. Add yellow peppers, celery, and chopped chard stems, cover and simmer another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat. When split peas are soft, drain their water into a measuring cup to use later. Add split peas to large pot of spiced vegetables, stir to mix all together well, then add the cooking fluid from the split peas to obtain your desired consistency of dal.

Serve in a bowl over a lovely pile of chard cut into ribbons, and with Bhutanese red rice for a more substantial meal.

warming red lentil dal with ginger, yam & cauliflower


It’s the spring equinox today, a time to celebrate balance, warmth and hope. Today it’s also cool and wet, the sky dark gray, the earth and my garden muddy. Thinking about balance in our diet, and wanting to make a warming and bright meal to celebrate the equinox, I made this to share.

ingredients:

  • 1 cup red lentils IMG_1395
  • 2-3 shallots, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 t turmeric
  • 1-2 t curry powder
  • 1 t cumin
  • 2-3 t fresh ginger, finely minced
  • 1 jewel yam, cut into 1/4″rounds then pared, cut into chunks
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 head cauliflower
  • 6 oz coconut milk
  • 6 cups fresh spinach
  • 1/2 lemon, squeezed, for optional dressing

instructions:

Cull through and rinse lentils, then cover with 2 1/2 c fresh water. Add a dash of salt, bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until fully softened and water is mostly absorbed. Set aside uncovered. Saute shallots in 2T or so of olive oil in a large frying pan until they start to turn translucent, then add chopped yam, minced garlic, turmeric, curry powder, cumin, and black pepper; continue to saute for another 2 minutes until spices are fragrant and yam is well coated with spices. Add several tablespoons of water, cover and reduce heat to steam yam for about 12 minutes until softened (but not dissolved into mush). When yam is soft, remove from pan into large casserole dish with lid, then stir in cooked lentils. Using same frying pan, saute chopped celery and cauliflower with minced ginger for about 2-3 minutes, then add the coconut milk and yellow pepper, stir to combine well, cover and steam for about 3 minutes until peppers turn bright and begin to soften. Add this to casserole dish, stir everything together well. Serve over fresh raw spinach.

edamame, broccoli & cabbage basmatti salad with lemon & feta


Happy early Springtime greens and yellow, nourishing comfort food with bright flavors…

ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup brown Basmati rice IMG_1071
  • 12 oz shelled edamame
  • 3-4 shallots, diced
  • 1/2 Serrano pepper, diced
  • 1 T fresh ginger root, diced
  • 1-2 t dill and thyme
  • 1/4-1/2 small cabbage, chopped
  • 2-3 spears broccoli, chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 t salt, black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 4 oz feta cheese

instructions:

Rinse rice well, cover with 1 1/2 c fresh water and dash of salt, bring to boil, then simmer covered for about 45 minutes. Test for doneness, drain any remaining fluid then let rest uncovered. In a separate saucepan, cover frozen shelled edamame with fresh water, bring to boil then simmer covered for 4-6 minutes, until soft. Drain, rinse in cool water and set aside in large serving dish with lid.

Remove tough outer edges of broccoli stalks, then chop soft inner stalks and tops into bite size flowerets. Dice shallots, Serrano pepper and ginger root, chop cabbage and yellow pepper. Using large frying pan with lid, saute shallots and Serrano pepper including seeds in 2 T olive oil until the shallots are translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add ginger, dill, thyme, and chopped cabbage, and continue to stir over low heat until cabbage is bright and softened some but not mushy, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to serving dish with cooked edamame. Using same frying pan, saute diced broccoli stems for 1-2 minutes, then add 1-2 T water, cover and steam for 2 minutes until softened. Add broccoli flowerets and yellow pepper, cover and steam for about 2 minutes until bright and softened but not mushy. Mix cooked vegetables and rice well, add salt and pepper to taste, dress with freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon. Serve warm over bed of fresh spinach, topped with crumbled feta. This stores well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a couple days. It travels well and is good too served at room temp for a meal on the road or trail.

 

turnip, parsnip, red potato soup with roasted pumpkin seeds


The season is changing– I feel it when I tuck into bed at night, and when I watch sunrise these mornings. “Seasons changing I can smell it in the air I can see it in their paintings And I can hear it in the wind, hear it rise and descend Through the many colored trees, forms a many colored breeze Made of many colored leaves, departing ever so gracefully” (Elephant Revival, Ring Around the Moon)…  The Autumnal Equinox is next week, reminding me of work to be done timely, and of the need for balance. My thoughts turn to experimenting making chutney with a friend’s fresh figs (more on that in another post) and to making soup… for an Equinox Party! Thus this experiment with a new fall root soup that fits into a darkness and light/black and white color palette. Yum.

ingredients

  • 4 medium turnips, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium-large parship, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium-large red potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1-2t dried rosemary
  • 1/4t salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh lemon thyme from my garden (or 1/2t or so dried)
  • 1/2 cube Celfibr brand vegetable bouillon dissolved in 1c hot water
  • 3-4 additional c water
  • 1/2-1 c milk if desire creaminess

instructions:

Saute onion in large soup pot in 1-2T butter or olive oil for 2 min or so, then add red potato and saute for another 3-4 minutes before adding peeled and chopped turnips and parsnip, rosemary and lemon thyme. Stir well, then add 1c vegetable bouillon broth and 2c fresh water, cover and simmer until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Check for full softness, then remove from heat, add salt and black pepper. Allow to cool enough to then puree in blender. Adjust consistency with milk unless you’re serving this vegan so use fresh water or additional fresh vegetable broth if you happen to have some on hand. Garnish with roasted pumpkin seeds. Yum!