Moroccan Pickled Carrots

August 3, 2016

Moroccan Pickled Carrots

Moroccan Pickled Carrots

Rainbow carrots from Trader Joes

Rainbow carrots from Trader Joes


This summer is the first time I’ve experienced pickling anything.  I’ve already written about pickled red onions in my June 13th post.  After reading that, one of the patrons at the library thought I might like her recipe for Pickled Moroccan Carrots.  And I do!

I used colored carrots for interest and did not peel mine since they were organic. I did not have white balsamic vinegar, so I used a combination of regular balsamic vinegar and apple cider vinegar.  These carrots are a bit spicy!

Moroccan Pickled Carrots

Tightly pack into one quart jar:

1 lb carrots, peeled and thinly sliced thinly into sticks
1 lemon, sliced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

In saucepan over medium heat, lightly toast:

1-1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1-1/2 tsp cumin seeds

Then add:

2 tsp crushed pepper flakes
3 Tbsp sugar
1 c water
1 c white balsamic vinegar
1-1/8 tsp cinnamon

Bring to a boil.  Then slowly and carefully pour into jars.  Fill to 1/4-inch head space.  Seal and refrigerate.  Carrots are ready to eat in 3 – 5 days.  Keep up to one month in refrigerator.



The Poetry of Pears

July 23, 2016

The poetry of pears is in their flavor.



Watercolor, three pears

Watercolor, three pears

“Pears, it is truly said, are less poetic than apples.  They have neither the beauty nor fragrance of apple, but their flavor . . .”
_ Henry David Thoreau, journal entry, October 11, 1860



It’s that time of year when I can go a few steps out my front door and pick a bowlful of blackberries for breakfast.  Our yard is pretty much a wild mess, and I vow to someday cut back or get rid of the blackberry brambles, but now is when my procrastination pays off.   Every day there are a few more berries ripe for the picking.  A free serving of fruit!

Blackberries growing in my yard

Blackberries growing in my yard

This morning's breakfast

This morning’s breakfast

One morning this week I even gathered sufficient berries to make a small batch of jam.  I’ve written about my friend Shirley’s jam before (see link here) but I’ve never provided her recipe.  She was generous enough to give it to me before she retired.

Small batch of Shirley's blackberry jam

Small batch of Shirley’s blackberry jam


Shirley’s Blackberry Jam

In a large kettle mix together:
5 c mashed blackberries (no need to remove seeds)
1 box Sure-Jell
a little dab of margarine (I used butter)

Cook on high until the mixture is really boiling and then add about 5-1/2 c sugar.  Continue to cook on high until it comes to a full rolling boil that you can’t stir down.  Then cook for one minute more.  Remove from heat and ladle into jars.

I don’t worry about sealing my jars properly because I put my jam in the freezer.  But you can also do a water bath or follow the directions in the Sure-Jell box.


Red cabbage

Red cabbage

Here is another winning recipe.  It has been making the rounds among my sisters.  We all like it.  It uses red cabbage, which up until now I rarely bought.  The bacon is the secret ingredient that adds a lot of flavor.  I didn’t have much bacon on hand, so I added some ham as well.  Yummy.





Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

Cut 1/4 lb bacon into pieces and fry.

Add to the drippings a chopped onion and one small red cabbage, sliced thinly.

Saute until limp.  While the cabbage is cooking, mix together in a small bowl:

1/4 c. vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
1/4 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt and pepper

Pour over cabbage and cook for an additional 15 – 20 minutes.


Ink sketch of red cabbage

Ink sketch of red cabbage

Pickled Red Onions

June 13, 2016


Pickled red onions on a tuna sandwich

Pickled red onions on a tuna sandwich

I like getting recipe recommendations from friends and family.  My friend Bonnie passed along this super-simple recipe for Pickled Red Onions.  They seem like an appropriate addition to my repertoire of summer foods.  They add a crunchy, tasty bite to sandwiches, hamburgers and salads.

Bonnie says she reuses the brine, simply adding more onion or peppers as the jar empties.




Thinly slice one big red onion.

Bring to a boil:

1 c apple cider vinegar
1 c sugar
1 Tbsp salt

Cool a bit, then pour over sliced onion.  Store in refrigerator.

Cooking with Tofu

June 1, 2016

Thai Noodles with Almond Butter Tofu

Thai Noodles with Almond Butter Tofu

I have never cooked with tofu, so I really appreciated that my friend Carol arranged another cooking demonstration at her house — this time her good friend Don made Thai Noodle Bowls with Almond Butter Tofu.  He found the recipe online on the Minimalist Baker website.  I have copied that recipe below for your convenience.

I am now a tofu convert. I know I will make this recipe again.  It was so easy to make!  And flavorful (not too spicy).  I could easily eat the leftovers cold for lunch at work.

Brick of tofu

Brick of tofu

You can find tofu in the refrigerator section of most grocery stores.  Don buys”extra firm” tofu.  He removes the packaging, drains any liquid, and then sets the tofu on an absorbent towel under a cutting board for about 30 minutes to remove even more moisture.  Afterwards, the tofu feels slightly spongy, but firm.  He sliced the tofu into squares of roughly 1/2-inch.



The tofu would take only 10 or 15 minutes to cook, so before moving on to that step, Don assembled the salad and tossed it with the dressing.

Don added cashews to the list of salad ingredients below

Don added cashews to the list of salad ingredients below

The dressing had just the right amount of spicy bite

The dressing had just the right amount of spicy bite

Don also mixed up the almond butter sauce and had it ready to cook with the tofu.  He likes his tofu somewhat crisply browned on the outside, so he set a cast iron pan on high and heated the sesame oil.  He lowered the heat to medium-high and then added the tofu and cornstarch.  After browning about ten minutes on each side, he added the almond butter sauce and warmed through.





During the final minutes of cooking, Don put the rice noodles to boil in a large pot of water.  They were cooked in a couple of minutes.



In less than 30 minutes, it was time to eat.  Truly delicious!


Here’s the detailed recipe so you, too, can try this at home:

Author: Minimalist Baker
Recipe type: Entrée
Cuisine: Thai, Vegan, Gluten Free
Serves: 2
8 ounces (227 g) extra firm tofu
3 Tbsp (45 ml) sesame oil, divided
2 Tbsp (32 g) salted creamy almond, cashew or peanut butter
1 Tbsp (15 ml) tamari (or soy sauce if not GF)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) lime juice
1-2 Tbsp (15-30 ml) maple syrup or coconut sugar
1 birds eye chili, crushed (or sub 1/4 tsp red pepper flake)
3 Tbsp (21 g) cornstarch
2 cups (244 g) thinly sliced or ribboned* carrots (~2 carrots)
1 cup (104 g) cucumber, sliced on a bias, then halved (~1 small cucumber)
optional: 1/2 cup (75 g) chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup (50 g) thinly sliced diced green onion
1/2 cup (30 g) fresh cilantro or basil, torn/chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbsp or 6 g)
1 fresh or dried birds eye chili, crushed (more to taste), or sub 1/4 tsp red pepper flake
1 Tbsp (15 ml) maple syrup, plus more to taste
2 tsp tamari (or soy sauce if not gluten free)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) lime juice
2 Tbsp (30 ml) rice vinegar (or sub white or apple cider vinegar with varied results)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) sesame oil

5 ounces (141 g) very thin rice noodles, prepared according to package directions
Start by wrapping tofu in a clean towel and setting something heavy on top (like a cast iron skillet) to press out excess moisture for 10 minutes. Set aside.
Prepare the tofu sauce in a medium mixing bowl by whisking together 1 Tbsp sesame oil, almond butter, tamari, lime juice, maple syrup, and 1 crushed chili. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more tamari for saltiness, lime juice for acidity, chili pepper for heat, or maple syrup for sweetness. Set aside.
Next, prepare rice noodles according to package instructions, then rinse with cold water, drain thoroughly, and set aside.
Prep vegetables next. Set aside.
Prepare salad dressing by adding all ingredients to a small mixing bowl (or jar) and whisking (or shaking vigorously) to combine.
Taste and adjust flavors as needed, adding more chilies for heat, tamari for saltiness, lime juice for acidity, or maple syrup for sweetness. Set aside.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and cut pressed tofu into small rectangles. Toss in 3-4 Tbsp cornstarch (they should be well coated) and sauté in 2 remaining Tbsp sesame oil, flipping once browned on the underside to ensure even browning – about 5 minutes total.
Add the almond butter sauce and stir gently to combine. Cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring gently to ensure even cooking on all sides. Remove from heat and set aside.
To assemble, divide noodles, vegetables and tofu among serving bowls. Serve with dressing. For more heat, serve with sriracha or chili garlic sauce.
Best when fresh, though leftovers keep well when stored separately in the refrigerator up to 3 days.
* If you’re looking for an alternative to tofu, steamed edamame, roasted salted cashews, Curry Spiced Cashews, or roasted salted peanuts would work well here!
* To ribbon carrots, rinse, remove outer skin with a vegetable peeler, and then make “noodle ribbons” with the vegetable peeler by running along the edge of the carrot. Each carrot should make about 10 noodles!
* Salad dressing adapted from Thai Kitchen and my Vegan Papaya Salad.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 serving (of 2) Calories: 622 Fat: 34 g Saturated fat: 4.8 g Carbohydrates: 64.1 g Sugar: 22 g Sodium: 838 mg Fiber: 5.3 g Protein: 16.5 g


Sidewalk seating

Sidewalk seating

“Living in New Orleans is like drinking blubber through a straw.  Even the air is calories.  The atmosphere is permeated by rays of roux and bubbles of cornbread.  Gumbo gives off a cloud of cayenne-flavored fat that envelops the passerby.  Fish fries and shrimp are breaded all around the innocent.”
— Andrei Codrescu, “Fantastic Feast,” from New Orleans Mon Amour

Our last meal in New Orleans was lunch at the Ruby Slipper -- I ordered a pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw.

Our last meal in New Orleans was lunch at the Ruby Slipper — I ordered a pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw.

“This was the New Orleans we all knew and loved — the place where you talk about food in the rare moments when you don’t happen to be eating any.”
—  Julia Reed, The House on First Street

“Be a castaway in New Orleans.  Smell the coffee and creosote.  Do not sink into the everydayness of your life.  Fight despair.  Find treasure.”
— Billy Southern, “On a Strange Island,” from Unfathomable City

Finding treasure on your plate is easy in New Orleans.  Needless to say, the food was one of my favorite things about the city.  I came armed with a long list of iconic Southern foods I wanted to taste, and I managed to make quite a dent in my list before it was time to go:  po’ boy sandwich, muffuletta, grits, catfish, shrimp, barbecue, gumbo, pralines, chicory coffee, beignets, and even oysters (I ate one, and I learned I still don’t like them!).

“It had to be New Orleans, I believed.  In New Orleans, you walk on roads flecked with crushed oyster shells, and there is a whole culture of oysters, a mystique. . . . In New Orleans, oysters are almost an art form.  You eat them covered in spinach and garlic and bacon and cheese, eat them roasted, baked, even grilled over an open flame in their shells. . . . And, of course, all over town, I ate them in po’ boys and oyster loaves, dripping with hot sauce and tartar sauce, with cold root beer on the side.  I was not just eating food.  I was consuming culture, and as I came to love the city, I came to love its oysters.”
— Rick Bragg, My Southern Journey: True Stories from the Heart of the South

Cochon Butcher, where we picked up muffulettas to go

Cochon Butcher, where we picked up muffulettas to go

Yes, they were carving/butchering actual pigs behind the counter

Yes, they were carving/butchering actual pigs behind the counter



New Orleans offers the hungry traveler a wide array of places to satisfy hunger — from the Lucky Dog street cart to the white-tableclothed fancy restaurant, like Antoine’s.

“There can be only one Antoine’s.”
— Frances Parkinson Keyes, Dinner at Antoine’s


A peek into the window at Antoine's

A peek into the window at Antoine’s

Lucky Dog vendor, with flashbacks to A Confederacy of Dunces

Lucky Dog vendor, with flashbacks to A Confederacy of Dunces

We couldn’t leave New Orleans without tasting the beignets and chicory coffee at the Cafe du Monde.

“This Cafe du Monde couldn’t be anywhere except in New Orleans, like Antoine’s and Mardi Gras.  And it isn’t only unique.  It’s — it’s real.”
— Frances Parkinson Keyes, Dinner at Antoine’s