Monthly Archives: June 2010

Simple Cooking, Good Eating

Yesterday was my little Petunia’s birthday and it also marked the return of my neighbors from their trip to the Motherland–England. To honor the daughter and make the lives of jet lagged friends a little easier, we had an intimate gathering of 7 wild kids, four adults, dinner and cake.

Countertops go in tomorrow so all I have to work on is a sheet of pressure treated plywood. No faucets yet in the kitchen. Still, it is a thousand times better than what was previously in place. And that is an understatement. Nevertheless, kitchen stuff is still packed up. I purchased an Oster stick blender at Target Saturday for 20 bucks because I *really* wanted to make tomato soup (t’is the season!). Bought lots of veggies at Ward’s and even picked up some scary real looking fake shrimp from the local health food shop (more on that later).

Our fridges were full, my tofu pressed and stick blender unboxed and washed. I had a menu and a plan. The only thing I didn’t have was a bevy of spices. No matter. Simple cooking, good eating was the theme and I definitely pulled it off.

The Menu:

Braised Artichokes (vegan and butter versions)
Fresh Tomato Soup (vegan)
Vegetable Fried Rice with Tofu & Scary Real Looking Mock Shrimp (vegan)
Salad of Romaine Hearts & Red Leaf Lettuce w/Roasted Pears and Beets dressed in a Vinaigrette (vegan)
Chocolate Cake (vegan)

The cake was, as my daughter said, “from a factory.” Or, more accurately, from a local baker who happens to live about three blocks from us. Without countertops, I refuse to bake. Despite my intense craving for fresh bread.

Although I don’t have recipes to share since I was just kind of cooking on the fly, I will let you in on the simple ingredients that went a long way, allowing me to create a wonderful meal of varied flavors and textures while using the same basic spices and herbs over and over again. I do think the intense heat of my wonderfully majestic Fivestar Ranges helps a bit–I couldn’t have stir fried without it.

So, let me break it down for you….

Braised Artichokes

Vegan version was made with olive oil. Butter version made with…butter. Added a splash of balsamic to the vegan, along with a splash of Bragg’s. Other than that, straight forward salt, pepper, hing, paprika and a handful of fresh herbs (basil, dill, flat parsley). At the end, before serving, I added a generous amount of freshly squeezed lime juice to the sauce. Delicious.

Fresh Tomato Soup

I would have loved for this soup not to be vegan–the things I do for friendship! A chunk of butter and a splash of cream would have made my growing baby in my tummy happy. But to be honest, this soup rocked and I can’t stop eating it despite my gut feeling like it is going to split open and baby is going to slosh out. Okay, gross.

Soup was simple. Lots of big fat fresh tomatoes, red potatoes, water (duh), salt (much), pepper, hing, a spoonful of sugar and a dash of Braggs. After it was all cooked and blended I added lots of fresh herbs from our garden–oregano, basil, flat parsley, dill. See, I don’t care what herbs they are, just throw them i the pot and the effect is awesomeness.

Vegetable Fried Rice with Tofu & Scary Real Looking Mock Shrimp

I didn’t eat any of this the night of the dinner but plated some leftovers today and let me tell you, so good. The tofu. Mmmm, the tofu. I pressed the tofu, marinated for a few hours in balsamic and Braggs and then pan fried in a super hot cast iron skillet with a scant amount of oil. Smoky bliss.

The broccoli, celery, red pepper, mock shrimp and bean sprouts were stir fried at the highest heat I could muster and then tossed with the tofu and rice. The only spicing was fresh curry leaf (lots), pepper, hing, paprika, salt, Braggs, balsamic. That’s it. Are you starting to notice a trend?

Salad of Romaine Hearts & Red Leaf Lettuce w/Roasted Pears and Beets dressed in a Vinaigrette

Pears and beets were pan roasted (separately to avoid color bleeding) and then sprinkled with turbinado and splashed with balsamic and Braggs. Dressing was 1/2 balsamic vinegar, 1/4 olive oil, 1/4 flax oil, salt, black pepper, hing and italian seasoning. Simply good

Because I varied the produce from dish to dish and the cooking methods were also varied, I don’t think my guests had a clue that the same spices and herbs were used to flavor each preparation over and over and over again. I wanted to share the repetitive details of the menu with you to inspire your own table of colorful, healthy dishes. And notice that not a single preparation relied on the overpowering, lingering taste of onion or garlic.

vegan fried rice

salad of romaine hearts and red leaf lettuce with roasted pears and beets


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Gaudi’s Kitchen

My friend Lavanga just returned from a jaunt about Spain, where she and her renowned typographer husband looked at beautiful things, searched for vegan restaurants and basically set the cities aflame with Ken’s baffling lettering expertise.

From the looks of Lavanga’s Facebook photos, the two fell in love all over again at Casa Milà, an early 20th century building designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí–my new dead crush. And who wouldn’t? The place is a dream of organic curves and gothic grandeur.

Although I never get to go anywhere, I was touched that Lavanga thought of me while standing in Gaudi’s kitchen, surrounded by swathes of white marble, plain tile and simple spigots. What to speak of the charm of the bread box!

Lavanga’s pictures of La Pedrera, as Gaudi’s apartment building is more commonly known, are a great resource for anyone interested in seeing the beauty of old white marble countertops. Enjoy!

bread box

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The Big F-I-V-E

Today is my girlie’s fifth birthday! She was born at 6:56pm five years ago today at a birth center in Chapel Hill. We loved her from the start, although she definitely surprised us with her spunkittude.

Conceived in Philly, born in Chapel Hill, first year and a half in Hillsborough, NC, another two at Gita Nagari followed by our big move to Alachua almost two years back–this girl has seen her way around the east coast. She is the last vestige of our gypsy life. New baby will be stuck in Florida for at least a decade. Mm’s birthday is definitely a big deal–she starts kindergarten in the fall. But, as my girth grows and I look forward to hearing new baby’s heart beat in a few weeks, I realize my baby girl is soon to become a middle child.

*Sigh* She will make a great middle.

For her birthday, she has plans. Big plans. Mainly plans about directing plays. Plays adapted from coloring books. In all the plays, she’s Radharani. Even if Radharani isn’t in the coloring book. She has assigned roles to her friends, who have yet to be informed about their participation.

The plays, however, will have to wait. Although today is her birthday, we are unsure when the actual party will take place. I need countertops! Thankfully, we are able to purchase a vegan chocolate cake from Amaradha to celebrate this milestone.

Did I mention chocolate cake is part of Madhumati’s birthday plan?


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Apron Front Farm Sink Cabinet Modification Pics

Skip right over this post. Go on. It’s not for you. You will find this post boring. Blah. Blah blah blah.

But. If you are in the process of installing an apron front farm sink–Shaws, soapstone, stainless, whatever–well, then I know you are loving this. This is your post. You are the reason I snapped these pictures.

Modify. Reinforce. Words you know. Words you understand. Words you want hammered to the underside of your sink. But how? What is the best way? What is the neatest least ugly most tidy way to modify those sink base cabs.

Well, take a look. Mine were done fabulously.

The double base cabs (30″) that hold the almost 500 lb soapstone sink were reinforced along the sides while the white Porcher London fireclay sink had a little shelf built for the back of the sink to rest upon and sides were reinforced.

That’s it.

Twin 30" Schuler sink bases, modified with reinforced sides for 60" soapstone apron front farm sink.

Top view, modified sink base.


60" soapstone sink, installed.

Cabinet modified for fireclay sink.

Cabinet scribed for sink.

Lotus did an excellent job scribing to the curves of the sink.


Pride and joy--homegrown carrots.

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Artichokes & Countertops

Posting. Haven’t been doing it. Nausea. House mess. Kids. Summer. Hornet sting. Allergic reaction. Pregnancy. The usual.

But here I am! With a bunch of pictures from this week!

I did not want to cook in my kitch until all was said, done, and packed away–however, people are hungry. Myself included. And my ranges…my Fivestar superstar sexstar ranges just make me want to cook and cook and cook. It’s just so much easier cooking with access to 168,000 BT F’ing U’s! Okay, so I don’t have all 8 burners going at once. But I could if I wanted to.

Fast. Furious. That’s how my flame burns. Need wider pots. What’s that smell? No plastic handles! Haven’t cooked with this much heat in years. Loving it.

The highlight of the week, gastronomically speaking, was the braised artichokes inspired by this NYTimes Bittman recipe.

House is getting cleaned up. We can now see the floor and it is lovely. Yes, the boards are only 2&1/4 inches wide. Yes, it is red oak. But it sparkles. Red oak is the little black dress of our house.

Yesterday saw a sample of the honed marble. Sheer romance. Only the island will be honed. Perimeter cabinets are getting polished carrera. Lovely lovely white marble. We will seal the marble so my lips do not stain the surface from the mad rush of kisses I will smother upon it.

Waiting for it all to be over. We are running out of money. Counting the hours until the house is ours again. Is that Freedom Rock Man? Well, TURN IT OFF!

At the start of the week.

Kitchen in use, no countertops.

Dinner to be cooked. Ingredients scarce. Kitchen stuff still packed away. Sabjimata Ginger Jam, miso and peanut butter mixed for a pasta sauce.

The finished dish: pan fried tofu, macaronis and wilted spinach.

Artichokes, before choke removed.

Trying out a braised artichoke recipe, gleamed from a recent Mark Bittman NYTimes column.

Happy Father's Day!

Another day, another meal. Usually I make paneer (fresh cheese curds) with citric acid, but with my citric acid packed away, I went for lime juice. The lime juice imparted the most divinely subtle, grassy sweet flavor. Mmmm.

My BTU's rock! 21,000 BTU's per burner, eight burners total. Much can be accomplished in a short amount of time, provided the prep work is all done in advance. These pan fried potatoes, made with a scant amount of butter and olive oil, became nice and crusty, despite being desperately overcrowded in the skillet.

The meal: fresh paneer in tomato sauce, quinoa, pan roasted potatoes and skillet cooked brussel sprouts. *Sigh.* Noticed the pressure treated poison plywood countertops?

Pictures from today!

Loving my simple red oak prefinished flooring.

Boxes of tile stacked and waiting for the countertops to arrive.

Table in place.

View from dining room into living room. You can see where the old, stained red oak meets up with the new, unstained flooring.

Countertops coming Tuesday. There is not enough marble for the tabletop, so I am getting a granite. Blue pearl would have looked good, picking up the gray in the soapstone sink and the cool tones in the carrera marble, but Ted @ Magma Granite didn't have any slabs on hand.

So....the stone I chose for the table top is bianc noir. It is not a very popular granite but I love it for it's classic tombstoneness. Ted offered me kashmir white but I think it would simultaneously compete with the carrara and be too matchy matchy.


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Home Stretch

Just a few more weeks until all is done! The counter tops were templated Monday so we are just waiting on turn around from that job so the backsplash can go up. There is quite a bit of finish work that needs to be done before we can call the job complete, but happily I am back in the kitchen cooking, using my new Fivestar ranges.

Yes, I love them. BTU output: 21,000. Crazy good. Yesterday I pan fried tofu in literally two minutes flat. Okay. Not literally. I didn’t time it. And I made rice pudding in less than a half hour. My body and my baby are happy to have some rich sweets coming their way!

Here is the first food pic taken in our new kitchen. Enjoy!

Rice Pudding with Madagascar Vanilla Bean & Fresh Blueberries


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Just read an online article about charred veggies and carcinogens. Want to know if blackened plant products will kill you the same as blackened meat? Click here for the good news!


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