Anyone who knows me in real life or follows me on Facebook knows how proudly I support President Obama, but despite the fact that today is a special election day in Massachusetts (please vote!), this post isn't about politics. It's about chili. I found the recipe for the president's chili online, and I have to tell you, I have issues. Well, one issue. Mr. President, I hope you don't think it presumptuous that I've altered your recipe just a little bit. With all due respect, it needs more heat. The flavor is great, and really, I've never used turmeric in chili before, so that was fun. Now, you've got to spice it up! In the recipe, I've called for up to three teaspoons of hot sauce, but that's just a guideline. When it comes to chili, every cook has the right to choose.
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Have you had your fill of asparagus yet? Neither have I. However, I am a little bit over asparagus soup, asparagus frittata, and asparagus stir-fry, which is why this vegan brown rice salad with asparagus, avocado, pecans and basil pesto is such a welcome addition to the Spring repertoire. If you have pesto in your freezer from last summer -- any kind of pesto will do -- please use it here. I've tried kale pesto I froze last September, and red pepper pesto (which, I admit, improved the color of the finished dish), made from a jar of roasted peppers. And if you don't have your own pesto and don't want to make it from scratch, take some help from the grocery store and buy a good-quality pesto to make the dressing for this salad. There's no mayonnaise to spoil in the heat, which makes this salad perfect for picnics and summer potlucks.
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The Year I Learn to Love Cauliflower continues to challenge me, and nothing scares me more than the prospect of raw cauliflower, undisguised by potatoes or hot sauce. Recently I decided to take the plunge, with this salad that pairs the vegetable of the year with creamy white beans, salty feta and crunchy pine nuts. Not a disguise, exactly. More like a distraction, with so much texture that I really didn't concentrate on the cauliflower. If you're a cauliflower lover, adjust the proportion of ingredients to highlight the vegetable. If you're a cheese-a-holic, add more feta. The lemon vinaigrette wraps everything together. The longer it sits, the more tender the cauliflower becomes, thanks to the mustard in the dressing. My husband Ted approved this salad for you; I can't say I'm in love with raw cauliflower, yet, but I'm working on it.
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Until I moved to Rhode Island a decade ago, I'd never heard of johnnycakes (which are also spelled jonnycakes, so let's get that out of the way up front). Johnnycakes, made of cornmeal and gluten-free, are to Rhode Islanders what pancakes are to the rest of the world. Most often they're served just like pancakes, with butter and a glug of local maple syrup. These savory two-bite roasted red pepper, basil and parmesan johnnycakes fit nicely into the end of the day, as a cocktail party appetizer or snack at a barbecue. As with any recipe that has just a few ingredients, be sure to use the best cheese, basil and pepper you can find. Serve them hot off the griddle, and spell them whichever way you like.
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