Sunday, June 29, 2008

Minted Chickpea Side Salad

Hi world.

Well, this is my first blog post ever. I guess welcome to me to the 21st century. Anyway, I was not sure when I was going to come up with a recipe that was shareable and that incorporated fresh, local, seasonal ingredients and then it happened. Our neighbor gave us a handful of basil from her garden so, of course, we decided to make the standard pasta with pesto. You know how to make that right? We make a vegan version with basil, pine nuts, olive oil, salt, a little garlic and I also add a little nutritional yeast to taste to add back in a hint of the Parmesan flavor. It also thickens it a bit. Blend with a hand blender and voila.

But we were talking about chick pea salad. So, I thought, if we are going to do pasta with pesto, and even though we add artichoke hearts and fresh cherry tomatoes to it, that would not quite be a meal. Where is the protein, right? All of a sudden I had a vision of a cool chickpea side salad, lemony in flavor. My husband said "got it" and came up with something really simple and delicious. Here is an approximate recipe. Proportions are always to taste, but this is reasonable accounting of what he did.

2 cans chick peas

½ red onion

Juice of one lemon

Three tablespoons of olive oil

A fistful of chopped fresh mint

A few pinches of salt

A pinch of cumin

OK, the main ingredient is canned chickpeas, but there is FRESH MINT! Very summery, very in season, local, farmer's marketish or backyard gardenish... right? Do I pass? Anyway, it was yummy and really hit the spot, so if it passes for you, try it!

Sorry, no photo! I ate it before I had the chance to photograph! Yum. Next time.



Saturday, June 28, 2008

Zucchini Soufflé

This week, we went to the Thursday farmers' market at Kendall Square. My husband Josh works near there, so we met up with him, did our shopping, and then had lunch together while listening to the summer concert series, which also happens every Thursday. The kids loved the music and were thrilled to see their dad in the middle of the day, so we'll probably make this our summer routine. The market was nice and had some interesting things other than vegetables, including bread, cheese, chocolate, and veggie/bread pockets we bought for lunch. There was even an ice cream stand from Christina's, but we managed to avoid that, since we knew we'd then face a whole summer of demands for ice cream.

The selection was much better this week, and we got some more chard, zucchini, broccoli, tomatoes, and peas (which we ate raw for lunch). The zucchini plants in our community garden plot are thriving, so I realized we will need a lot of good zucchini recipes this summer. Thankfully, I have The Classic Zucchini Cookbook which should give me a lot of good ideas. This week, I decided to try the Zucchini Soufflé. I've never made a soufflé before, and there was a warning on the side about how people consider soufflés challenging and likely to fail, but since part of the goal of this project is taking some culinary risks, I decided to give it a try. My brother and his girlfriend were planning to come to dinner, and the recipe is only supposed to serve 4, so I multiplied it by 1.5.

4 medium sized zucchini, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 cup grated Gruyére cheese
4 egg yolks, beaten
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
8 egg whites


1. Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and flour a 2-quart cooking dish or four ramekins.
2. Slice the zucchini into very thin rounds, toss with salt in a colander, and let it sit for 30 minutes.
3. Melt the butter, mix in the flour, add the milk, and then wait for the sauce to thicken and boil.
4. Mix everything but the egg whites in a large bowl.
5. Beat the eggs whites until they are stiff and fold into the large bowl.
6. Put the mixture in the floured cooking dish, and then put the cooking dish inside a larger pan (like a casserole dish). Put the whole thing in the oven, and then fill up the casserole dish with water until it reaches halfway up the smaller dish.
7. The soufflé is done when the top is golden brown and raised, and when a toothpick inserted comes out dry (and not wet). Cooking time is 15-45 minutes, depending on size of dish.

I had never heard of Gruyére cheese before, but I found it easily at Trader Joe's. The prep involved for the soufflé was pretty intense. Several of the smaller steps were time consuming, such as slicing the zucchini, separating all the eggs, prepping the pans, and grating the hard cheese. I did as much prep as I could in the early afternoon, and then started cooking the rest around 5:00. Thankfully, we have an electric mixer, since even with that it took a really long time to beat the eggs sufficiently. I had everything in the oven by 5:30, which I thought would work out perfectly for dinner at 6:15. I thought it might even be done earlier since I split it into two separate dishes.

I checked on it frequently, but by 6:15 it was still looking no where near done. At 6:30, the top was just starting to brown. We took one out of the oven to see if it was ready, and decided to let the other cook for 5-10 more minutes. It looked dry inside, so we took some out to cool for the kids, and then remembered to take a picture.

We served it with a loaf of bread and the roasted broccoli as a side dish. We all love roasted broccoli, and it's very easy to make. Just drizzle olive oil over the florets and put it in the oven at 400 degrees until they look ready (about 20 minutes, usually, depending on the size of the florets). The broccoli was really expensive at the market, so the $3 bunch I bought only made a small bowlful, but I did try to take a nice picture of it.

The meal was not a huge hit with the kids. They both ate a lot of candy and cake at a late afternoon birthday party, so despite starting dinner on the late side, they did not seem very hungry. The toddler ate a lot of broccoli and tried the soufflé, but didn't like the texture of the zucchini and spit it out. The 3-year-old mostly ate bread. Below is a picture of the what the kids' plates looked like.

The adults all thought the meal was good, but not overwhelmingly impressive. It seemed to have come out right, without any soufflé disasters, but it was pretty bland. The eggs were perfectly fluffy, but even with the strong cheese added in, the meal just lacked flavor overall. My brother's girlfriend seemed to like it the most, but she said she loved zucchini, and was meeting our family for the first time, so of course she was going to say that.

I'm pretty sure I won't be making this again. For the effort that was involved, I don't think the final result was really worth it. It has opened me up to the idea of soufflés, though, and there are many other great recipes in that cookbook I hope to try this summer.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lasagna with Chard, Ricotta and Walnuts

This recipe is based on one from Local Flavors, one of my current favorite cookbooks, with my own minor changes. I didn’t have enough chard so I used half chard, half mustard and collard greens, and while the recipe originally called for fresh mozzarella, due to a shopping list mishap, I ended up using the pre-shredded stuff my husband picked up at the corner store.
The chard actually came from the farm stand at Drumlin Farm, which we visited with friends (shout-out to Katie, founder of the blog), late last week.
This dish has a few special steps that makes it a bit unwieldy for a weeknight dinner, but it can be made in advance or on a weekend. I liked that it’s a pasta dish that’s appealing to children and uses healthy greens, and it’s unique enough that you could make it for guests. A great recipe to have in the repertoire since you can substitute almost any dark and flavorful greens -- basically, whatever looks good at the farmer’s market. For our family of three this made enough for two ample dinners, and the meal held up well as leftovers.
My husband and I both loved the how flavorful the greens and walnuts combination made the dish -- they add a depth that many vegetable lasagnas lack. Our three-year-old daughter picked out the walnuts but ate some of everything else.

1 cup chopped walnuts
salt and pepper
2 to three pounds of chard or other dark, flavorful greens
2 tablespoons olive oil plus more to oil the dish
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup white wine (you can substitute vegetable broth, if you like)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup grated parmesan
8 oz shredded mozzarella
1 and 1/4 cups milk
1 8 oz box lasagna noodles, precooked or uncooked, depending on your preference

1. Boil a large pot of water for the pasta. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and toast the walnuts on a baking pan until they are gold and fragrant, about 7 to ten minutes. Chop finely and set aside.
2. When the water boils, add one tablespoon salt and the chard or other greens. Cook until tender, about five minutes, even if the water doesn’t return to a full boil. Scoop the chard into a colander and press out most of the water. Reserve some of the cooking liquid. Finely chop the greens.
3. Heat the oil in a saute pan and add the garlic and then the greens. Cook over medium high heat, turning frequently, for a few minutes, then add the wine and allow it to cook down. Turn off the heat.
4.Combine the ricotta, parmesan, and about two thirds of the shredded mozzarella in a bowl. Stir in 1/3 cup of the cooking water, then add the chard. Mix together and add salt and pepper to taste.
5. If you are using no-boil pasta, you can reheat the remaining chard water to use to soften them. If you are using boiled pasta, bring the chard water back to a boil or use a new pot to cook them. Lightly oil a 8x10 or 9x13 inch baking pan. Drizzle 1/4 cup of milk over the bottom of the pan. It won’t go on evenly because of the oil, but that is all right.
6. Layer the lasagna noodles on the pan, sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the milk, a third of the cheese and greens mixture, and 1/4 cup of the walnuts. Repeat twice, then add a fourth layer of noodles and top with the remaining milk, mozzarella and walnuts. Cover with foil and cook at 350 for 35 minutes. Take the foil off for the last ten minutes if you like a crispy top on your mozzarella. Let sit for ten minutes after cooking to set and then cut and serve.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Swiss Chard with Beets, Goat Cheese, and Raisins

This is the first summer in many years we haven't joined a CSA. We've tried a couple different ones, but haven't found the right fit, so this season we decided to just shop at farmers' markets instead. When I go to a farmers' market, though, I mostly see vegetables I don't know how to cook, and tend not to buy much. I decided that this year, I need to see the market like a CSA share, where you just get what's there and then you figure out how to cook it.

I hadn't yet determined when I was going to fit farmers' market shopping into my summer schedule, but ended up making plans with fellow blogger Lee to go to Drumlin Farm with the kids. They have a farm stand right by the entrance, so I got to do my vegetable shopping and have a fun outing with the kids all at once. Being early in the season, there wasn't much there, but I left with two bunches of swiss chard, a bunch of beets, scallions, and basil.

I poked around a few cookbooks looking for a good recipe, but couldn't find many main dishes that involved swiss chard. Next, I turned to Google, and after searching for swiss chard and beets found this recipe for Swiss Chard with Beets, Goat Cheese, and Raisins.

Even though the ingredient list was simple, I was intimidated at first by all the steps involved, but it turned out to be fairly easy to cook. It was definitely time-consuming, since roasting the beets took an hour, but most of the time was spent waiting, and it was an easy recipe to start and stop while dealing with the continuous needs of young children.  It can also be served either cold or at room temperature, so it could easily be prepared ahead of time.

I'll admit that I didn't have very high hopes for this recipe. The first thing I started cooking in the pot were the chopped up stalks of chard, and it just didn't look very appetizing. It didn't necessarily look any more attractive as I added in the other ingredients. By the end, though, when I had topped it with the beets, goat cheese, and pine nuts, it looked a lot better, though I was still doubtful about how good it would taste.

The recipe didn't mention serving it with anything, but I thought it needed some starch to go with it, so I made a pot of quinoa and we also had a loaf of bread. The meal seemed to have minimal protein, so I added more pine nuts than the recipe suggested to boost that a bit.

My kids aren't too picky, but my oldest (age 3.5) will often reject entire meals if he doesn't like one ingredient, so I try to make minor accommodations when I'm serving a one-pot kind of meal. I gave the kids each two plates. One had the food we were eating, and the other had a selection of the ingredients separated: raisins, beets, goat cheese, and pine nuts.

The results were surprisingly good. My husband's first reaction, sounding very much like my preschooler, was that there were too many different things in it, but after a few bites he changed his mind and decided he really liked it. The dish was surprising sweet, probably because of the raisins, and the goat cheese added creaminess while the pine nuts added some crunch. The kids barely touched the plates of mixed food, but ate a good amount from their separated plates, although neither was very fond of the beets.

I definitely plan to make this recipe again, but would make a few changes. I felt like the beets didn't add too much to the final meal, so I'd probably leave that out next time. They were a pain to prepare since after they were roasted, I had to wait for them to cool and then peel and chop them, which was all very messy. I would probably also prepare a simple protein side dish, since I feel like the meal was weak on protein. Overall, though, it was a success and a great start to our summer of cooking with local vegetables.

Blogger Bios

Below are bios of some of the contributors of this blog. We welcome new writers who are also interested in cooking vegetarian meals for their families with local produce.  If you are interested in contributing to our blog, on a regular or occasional basis, please email theveggieproject AT gmail DOT com.


amy and moshe weitzman live in arlington, MA with their two daughters.  we belong to waltham community fields CSA this year. our favorite part of farm shares is the pick your own. i am always looking for yummy recipes with lots of vegetables in them.

We're a blended family of 6 with picky eaters, from 9-17! I am native New Englander with a passion for preserving regional farms by eating local. We've been members of Waltham Fields Community Farm CSA for 5 years, where I formerly served on the Board of Directors. Our favorite Summer tradition is to pack a picnic supper, bring along lots of friends, and go to our CSA farm for veggie pick-up night. I taught myself to can in order to preserve the multitude of veggies we get during the peak. Oh, and I'm a longtime vegetarian with hubby who likes steak!

I have been a vegetarian since I was an exchange student in Liberia, West Africa, in 1988. During my time in Africa, I felt much closer to my food sources – specifically, to the animals – than I ever had before that year. I realized that I was willing to eat meat only when I did not have to think about where it came from, and this made me uncomfortable. One of my favorite cookbooks is Mollie Katzen's "The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without," and I'm currently using it to help me incorporate more vegetables into the center of what we eat on a daily basis. I'm married to a meat (and vegetable) lover, and we have two kids who eat poultry and tofu (and vegetables, sometimes!) with equal gusto. One major challenge I face is that I have noticed that the flavors that I love are not always the ones that other family members love, and that our kids tend to like food that is less spicy (less tasty!) than we do. We try to make just one main meal each night for all of us – sometimes making one recipe but adding meat to half and beans to the other half – but we are constantly trying to simplify this process.

I became a vegetarian at age 9, when I looked down at the lamb I was eating for dinner and realized it was a dead lamb. My omnivorous husband Josh and I have two kids, born 10/04 and 10/06, and we are raising the kids as vegetarians until they are old enough to choose for themselves. We are committed to supporting small farms and eating locally, and try to always consider the environmental impact of our family. We have been a member of CSAs in the past, but this year will be shopping at the farmers' markets.

I spent most of my working life as a journalist in New York. Now I’m a stay-at-home-mom, occasional freelance writer, and would-be novelist in Cambridge, Ma.

I became a vegetarian after meeting my husband when we were both in our early 20s. I was an environmentalist but not vegetarian; he had been veg since he was a teenager. After about a year of dating I became a vegetarian as well. We even had a vegetarian wedding -- and our families and friends still talk about the food we served, almost eight years later.

But as much as I love animals my vegetarianism has always sprung from my feelings about the environment. It’s been a short-hand way for me to limit my own impact on the earth. Eating whole and local foods is a natural outgrowth of that, for me. I also love to bake my own bread and make my own cheese, and would probably grow a lot more of my own vegetables if my “farmlands” encompassed more than the patio of an urban townhouse.

We’re raising our daughter vegetarian, though we plan to give her the choice decide for herself when she reaches her preteen years. Even if she choses to eat meat I sincerely hope the she keeps hold of the things we’ve taught her about where her food comes from, and the effect of what she does on the world around her.

“Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.” Native American saying

I live in East Arlington with my partner, Todd Bearson, my five year old son, and my almost-toddling daughter. I've recently read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle and Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan so I'm quite jazzed to try to cook more using seasonal, locally grown produce. We're generally vegetarian, but not vegan, and occasionally give the kids chicken and fish. My son is so picky that I don't imagine he'll eat anything I make for the blog. Unless it's a dessert. =-) I've belonged to CSA's in the past, but got tired of all these beautiful vegetables going bad in my refrigerator while I didn't cook them. Now I'm trying to shop more at the farmer's market and hoping this blog experiment will expand my cooking repertoire.

My family, which includes myself, my husband, and my two boys (a 4 year old and a 14 month old), are members of the Waltham Fields Community Farm CSA for the 2nd year. We try to eat as locally as possible, especially in the summer when it is most easily accomplished. We tend to treat our vegetables very simply, and my 4 year old really just wants it all raw on a plate. We are trying to have fun with new recipes, though admittedly we do tend to fall back on a few tried and true favs. One of our goals for this summer's CSA experience is to let no vegetable die a wilty/moldy/withered death in the back of our fridge...last year there were a few casualties.

WhatACard, aka Sally, lives in the suburbs of Boston with her husband and twin boys who were born in July, 2005. While the whole family are omnivores, they're having a love affair with vegetables, new recipes, unusual ingredients, and local food. Or at least the adults are. The boys are devoted bread-and-cheese-atarians. They're all enjoying their first season as shareholders at Waltham Fields Community Farms and Sally also loves to shop the farmers' markets with her boys.