Archive forJune, 2012

Garlic Scape Soup

Renae here with an other weather-inappropriate recipe. Actually, that’s not true. Although a nice hot bowl of soup is probably not the most tempting-sounding dish when it’s 100-freaking-degrees out, based on its ingredients – garlic scapes, fresh garlic, new potatoes – this soup is kind of late-spring-to-the-max. One year it’s impossible to find garlic scapes anywhere but the Korean grocery store (where they go by the name “garlic stems”), the next, all the farmers have them at the market, for week after week!

Garlic Scape Soup

1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 bunch garlic scapes, chopped
1 lb new potatoes, chopped
6 cups vegan broth or water + bouillon
1 Tbsp soy sauce
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
optional toppings: drizzle of a flavored oil you like, thinly sliced scallions, vegan cheese shreds, vegan bacon bits, croutons, fried onions or scallions, fresh herbs

My farmers market had fresh garlic – normal cloves of garlic that hadn’t yet been dried – which is what I used. It doesn’t keep as long as your standard dried head of garlic, but it’s an interesting change of pace. I can’t decide if it tastes more or less pungent than the freshest dried garlic, although it’s definitely more flavorful than garlic that has been around too long. It really just seems to taste “fresher” (some help I am, right?). The big difference is just that instead of peeling off thin, dry, papery layers to get to each clove, you peel off thicker, wetter layers until you get to the point you can squeeze each bulb out. You can use whatever kind of garlic strikes your fancy, however.

Heat some oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, then add the minced or pressed garlic and the garlic scapes and cook for another minute or two. If necessary and desired, you can deglaze the pot with a bit of white wine. Then add the potatoes, broth, and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Puree with an immersion blender. (Or let it cool a bit and puree in small batches in a regular blender. I, however, don’t trust hot liquids in blenders.) Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. If desired, top with some stuff. Pictured are Daiya cheddar “cheese” shreds, scallions, and vegan bacon bits.

Most of you probably can’t tell because I’ve never put nearly the amount of effort I should be into taking my food pictures, but today’s food pictures are even lower quality than usual. That’s because I took them at work with my phone. I devoured the soup too quickly when I made it for dinner Tuesday night to take a picture, so I took a picture of the leftovers when I had them for lunch at work today. The sad thing is I had my real camera with me – it generally goes wherever I go – but when I went to take the picture, I realized I’d left the battery in the charger at home. AND I’d left all the spare batteries in my other camera bag.

I’ll use this as an opportunity to proselytize about taking time out for lunch at work, though. I know you aren’t supposed to eat at your desk because it’s good to get up, get out, and enjoy a change of scenery somewhere you can’t be tempted to do work while you eat, but we’re a fairly small business without a cafeteria or other appropriate eating place. I could have gone outside, but did I mention it’s 100 degrees outside? Lugging a bowl of hot soup down 8 flights of stairs to eat it under the blazing sun just didn’t seem practical. There is a small table in the kitchen, but eating there just invites everyone who uses the kitchen to talk to you and I don’t like talking to people during my lunch. I like eating my lunch during my lunch. And reading books. So I do eat at my desk, but I log out of the computer, stick my nose in a book, and glare at anyone that happens to drop by to ask me something until they back off and agree to come back later. And I’m a huge fan of making my lunches as nice as I can as a little treat for myself. I usually eat leftovers, so sometimes my lunch is just not that pretty, but I try to dress them up when I can. Today right after lunch I had to do a demo for an application I wrote and I hate, hate, hate, hate, HATE public speaking. However, having a pleasant lunch with a nicely-topped bowl of soup (and, importantly, reading a book instead of freaking out) right before the demo chilled me out and guess what? I didn’t even have one of my usual public-speaking dry-throat choking spells!

In photography news, the other week I went to Red Rock Wilderness Overlook for the first time. I knew it was a small park but I was thinking maybe because it isn’t very popular, I’d run into more wildlife. I also thought it would have nice views of the Potomac. Unfortunately, I’ve been spoiled by the Potomac view at Great Falls so my expectations were set way too high. It was an easy fraction of a mile to the overlook, but all it overlooked was a very still, very brown, rather boring Potomac, partially obscured by a tall fence with lots of “NO ENTRY BEYOND THIS POINT” signs. No rushing falls, no rapids, no interesting rocks, no hawks flying overhead. No crowds of people, sure (mine was the only car in the parking lot), but also no signs of wildlife other than a squirrel or two.

It was kind of boring. What there were, however, were a few agreeable damselflies, who make much better photography sitters than dragonflies. The full size versions of these are much better so I’ve made these two pictures clickable if you are interested.

A slightly different variety. Their face are like robots! They’re fascinating. In real life, this damselfly was about an inch and a half from end to end. They are very tiny; these macro shots exaggerate their size. I think that’s why their little robot faces are so amazing to me – they are little bigger than the head of a pin.

Other than friendly damselflies, the one interesting thing about Red Rock is the ruins that surround the parking lot. They were part of the farm that used to be there 150 years ago. What I assume is the original farmhouse is also still there but it’s not in ruins and in fact is inhabited and private property. So you sort of have to walk through these people’s back yard to get to the trails.

This, I think, was the well house.

One room of the two-room granary:

Outside of the two-room granary:

The ice house is located away from the other ruins and is instead behind the farmhouse.

There was a man working in his garden behind the farmhouse while I was there, which made me feel a little tresspass-y, even though I wasn’t, but I didn’t feel so weird I was unable to grab a picture of his house because I love old houses.

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Sauerkraut Stew

Okay, I bet some of you are hoping I never go on vacation again. Good news: I have a recipe and a mere four pictures today! (Bad news: we have a week-long mountain escape planned in a few weeks, but I can’t imagine that will overtake my blog for a month afterwards.)

First of all, Happy Bloomsday! It’s mid June and although so far weather on the East Coast has been cycling from unbearably hot (Memorial Day weekend) and super-nice (this week), I decided the other night that I was making a stew for dinner. Honestly, it was a pretty wintry dish, but I eat soup year-round and I won’t apologize for it! Also, I had some sauerkraut that needed to be eaten. And I missed the farmers market last weekend so I didn’t have many vegetables and was totally lacking in inspiration. I suppose you could say my lack of inspiration inspired this stew.

Sauerkraut Stew

12 oz vegan “beef” (I used Gardein Beefless Tips, but TVP chunks or any seitan would work, and I think Soy Curls would have been excellent.)
1 medium onion, chopped (instead of this, I used pearl onions)
2 large carrots, chunked
2 stalks celery, chopped large on the bias
1 large or 2 small/medium potatoes, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4 cups vegan “beef” broth
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
2-3 cups sauerkraut
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat some oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat. If you are using regular onions cook them for a few minutes. (If you are using pearl onions, skip this step and just add them with the other vegetables.) Add whatever “beef” you are using and brown it, then add the garlic and fry for a minute or so. Then add the rest of the vegetables and fry for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes and use their juices to deglaze the pot if necessary. Add the “beef” broth, sauerkraut, and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about half an hour or until the carrots and potatoes are soft. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Mark and I top almost all our meals with some form of hot sauce, and I naturally assumed I’d add some to this stew, however, it was so delightfully perfectly sour, with a small kick of heat from the pepper, that I didn’t want to ruin it with hot sauce, especially a vinegar-based one. You’ll want to add the sauerkraut in accordance to your tastes, depending both on how sour your sauerkraut is and how sour you like your stew. Mark took one bite of his and said simply, “I approve.”

Guess what we haven’t had in a while? A raccoon update! We have, I think, 27 babies right now, and most of them are very healthy; several have overcome great hardships like being burned in a chimney and being chomped by some unknown predator. What we need is help! We really don’t have enough volunteers. Anyone in Northern Virginia interested in cleaning (or building) raccoon cages….and feeding little faces like this?!

Meet Tobias. He’s a real sweetie and one of my favorites.

This is not Ulysses; I believe it’s Unity, however we do have a Ulysses and I’m not telling whether or not I put Guinness in his formula today for Bloomsday! (Alright, I’ll tell: obviously I didn’t.)

Remember Emmy, the awesome surrogate mother who is raising five of our babies for us? Here she is during Memorial Day weekend trying to beat the heat by hiding under a deck. You never know where you might find a raccoon at the sanctuary! She was probably a lot cooler than me.

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What we did in Nice when we weren’t eating food

I actually have a couple of food posts lined up – I swear. In fact, I was going to do one tonight and combine it with my final vacation post, but the problem is I really loved Nice and therefore have a lot of pictures. The prospective food post will give me something to do this weekend – when I’m not celebrating Bloomsday!

So, Nice.


I planned nothing for Nice. I figured we’d just see what happened once we arrived. Of course, I also assumed we’d have internet access in our hotel which would help in that regard, but that turned out to be a lie. So the first day or two, we just did a lot of walking around and taking in the sights. I liked this plaza.

It inexplicably contains a statue that from the back, from far away, looks like a giant sea monkey.

Up close its a naked man wearing a crown of horses, which I think is actually more bizarre than the sea monkey theory I first put forth. There are also these tall poles with more naked – but horse-crownless – men kneeling on them. I was entranced by them.

At night they lit up different, cycling colors!

One night as we were wandering we came across this street artist who does these pretty amazing works with spray paint and the occasional blow torch. It takes him about 10-15 minutes to complete one. They mostly depict ethereal forest scenes or other worlds. He’s like the Bob Ross (aka God) of spray paint. Mark had in fact seen videos of his work before and thought it was cool, so it’s pretty awesome we just ran into him – Mark hadn’t even known he was French. It was fascinating to watch and I’m sorry we didn’t buy one of the paintings.

Not only are there bizarrely wonderful statues and crazy-cool street artists, but there’s also a little something called the Mediterranean Sea, which I had never seen before!

So blue, so painfully gorgeous. So different than the opaque greenish-brown Atlantic Ocean.

Mark managed to connect to the internet long enough to learn about Le Château, which is not a castle (any longer) but is a park atop a hill, accessible via many stairs or, for cheaters, a secret free elevator. There was apparently a huge Jewish mafia wedding reception going on in the park when we were there. Although a large part of the open space was roped off and patrolled by slightly menacing men in black, it was a charming park with beautiful views. The park is quite large but somehow we managed to run into Brad and April while we were there, completely unplanned.

Did I mention the views?

One day we found ourselves in Monaco, which was preparing for the Grand Prix, which was to take place that weekend. That’s a Ferrari going under the Grand Prix sign. My father is a Formula One enthusiast and I therefore tried to work up some vicarious excitement, but I have to report that Monaco wasn’t all that interesting. I mean, outside of being located in what is my new favorite part of the world, the Mediterranean.

The best day of the entire trip was the result of Brad’s planning. (If you’ve actually read any of these vacation posts, by now you’ll know I’m not a big planner.) Brad had learned about the nearby village of Èze, and that we could take a 20-minute bus ride to the top of its renowned hill, explore the medieval ruins, then hike down the Chemin de Nietzsche (Nietzsche’s path): crumbling, rocky steps that wind through woods down the hill, depositing you at the stop for a different bus back to Nice. Èze was magical. After stepping off the bus near the tourism bureau, you begin walking up lazy sets of stairs that meander through the remains of the old village, now filled with artists’ galleries, boutiques, cafes, and a couple of what-must-be-totally-fabulous hotels.

It’s completely charming.

There’s a very old church …

… near these stairs …

… that lead to what must be the greatest location in the world to be dead, a small cemetery of crypts overlooking this:

After eating lunch and falling in love with the village, it was time to begin our journey down the hill. Nietzsche’s path is so called because Nietzsche walked it several times when staying in Nice and found inspiration in it while writing Ecce Homo. At the top of the path, you can sidestep to admire Èze on the hilltop. It’s nearly impossible to see in the small version of this photo, but the large garden of one of the hotels contains numerous animal sculptures (as well as a human-sized chess set), which dot the terrain.

Brad had read that it should take about 45 minutes to walk down the path. It took us about two hours. I will admit up front that I was at least 95% responsible for the extra time. I’m afraid I amble more than hike and I photograph EVERYTHING. But surely you’ll understand why; it was probably the most breathtaking place I’d ever been.

Seriously – I want to move to the French Riviera. I felt right there. I liked Paris, I really did, loved it even. But the Cote d’Azur? I can picture myself living there until the end of my life (something I’ve never said about any location), the long days (boy, the days are long there) mingling into each other sun-drenched day after sea-dazzling day. Yes. Yes I will Yes.

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Transit of Venus

I know this is even way more off-topic than I usually am, but I’m so excited I was able to get these pictures I can’t help but share. This kind of makes up for the fact I missed the space shuttle being flown over us a couple of months ago. Everything was working against me today and I thought I’d miss the transit of Venus: I was on-call for transporting wildlife tonight and I often get home after dark when I’m on-call; the forecast for our area was cloudy and rainy; and I don’t have any of the proper equipment for directly viewing the sun. But I got the easiest possible transportation assignment and traffic was so minimal (which around here is nothing short of amazing) that I was home by 6:30. After I lugged my stuff into the house and stepped back out to survey the situation, the sun shone down directly upon me – there were clouds, but they weren’t obscuring the sun and there was no threat of rain. And I remembered the infrared filter I was using before I bought the infrared-converted camera – I had a hunch I could safely look at the sun through it. It worked beautifully! I snapped a couple of pictures with the 18-200mm lens that the filter was purchased to fit, then switched to the 400mm lens that it does not fit. But I was able to rig it to work anyway (so I feel like a genius :)). And here’s what I got:

I kept most of them exactly as they looked through the infrared filter because it seemed so appropriate, but I did convert one to B&W:

After shooting these images, I rushed inside to grab my tripod and set it up in case I wasn’t holding the big lens steady enough, but by the time I got the camera on the tripod, the clouds had rolled in and I never saw the sun again. Fortunately, the pictures I got turned out!

Was anyone else able to watch the transit?

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Garlic Scape Pesto, Roasted Purple Cauliflower, and nourriture à Nice

Just so you don’t think there will never be anything but vacation and animal pictures on this blog, first a couple sort-of recipes. Last weekend at the farmers market, in addition to my normal basket full of stuff, I scored both a beautiful purple cauliflower …

… and some garlic scapes. This is the first time I’ve ever found garlic scapes at the market! (I have bought them in Asian grocery stores, however.)

There aren’t any new farmers this year but the market seems better than last year; the farmers seem to have a wider variety of vegetables. Which is so very welcome, because believe me, after attending the farmers market in Nice, I was bracing for a big letdown once I got home and went to my own market, even if I had been missing it dearly all winter.

The cauliflower, I just cut up into florets, drizzled some olive oil and fresh lemon juice over them, and sprinkled them with some sel de provence I got in Nice (by the way, I’m going to say “Nice” about a million times in this post; I LOVED Nice) …

… then I roasted it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for a while – maybe half an hour? Until it was done. The magenta coloring on some stalks is from the lemon juice.

The garlic scapes I roughly chopped …

… then I put them in the VitaMix (a food processor would work, of course) with about 1/3 cup cashews (the only nuts I had in the house; I’d have used pine nuts or walnuts if I’d had them), 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, a little salt, a bit of lemon juice, and 1/2 cup olive oil …

… and processed until smooth.

I took some whole baby potatoes (also from the farmers market) and boiled them for about 5 minutes, then drained the water and banged them around in the pan a bit (a tip I read in another blog somewhere but I don’t remember where), then put them in a baker and drizzled with a bit of olive oil and baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes.

Then I took them out and stirred in some of the pesto, then returned them to the oven and baked another 10 minutes or so.

I served both with a rice and lentil pilaf, into which I stirred leftover pizza toppings from the night before, which included spinach, caramelized onions, and garlicky sun-dried tomatoes (which I’d made as a take on some amazing sun-dried tomatoes we bought in Nice.

I got more garlic scapes at the market this weekend – not one but two vendors were selling them! What are your favorite ways of using them? I’d love to hear. I’m thinking about pickling some.

Now, Nice Nice Nice. Nice is soooo nice. After a week in Paris, we hopped on a train to Nice, on which we met up with Brad and April, who you’ll recognize as our fabulous hosts in Amsterdam from prior posts and who had come to join us in splendid Nice. Situated in the French Riviera and very close to Italy, Nice has a huge Italian influence. As it’s right on the Mediterranean Sea, many of the restaurants predominately feature seafood. Neither seafood restaurants nor traditional French restaurants cater very well to vegans, but the good news is the heavy Italian influence means pasta abounds, and every Nicean restaurant we visited had a vegan pasta-and-tomato-sauce dish. Mark and I ate a lot of pasta in Nice, to the point of getting a little tired of it, although somehow we managed to go to various restaurants in such an order that the pasta-and-tomato-sauce dish in each one was better than the last, which helped.

Our first night we unloaded our bags in our terrible hotel, then walked to the boardwalk and wandered until we found a reasonably priced beachfront restaurant with outdoor seating and a pasta alla pomodoro on the menu. This was easy to find. After a long day of travel, with a bottle of wine, this simple meal was just right.

I’m a terrible food blogger and didn’t manage to record the names of any of the restaurants we visited in Nice…although you’ll find similar dishes anywhere you stop. Another dinner was in old town Nice (Vieux Nice), in one of the restaurants that turns the tents for the daily market into outdoor seating in the evening. Mark got the linguine with vegetables, which was really good.

And I got the risotto, which was made with olive oil and no cheese, to my surprise! It had mushrooms in it, which I hate, but they were easy enough to eat around and I was just so happy to be able to order risotto that I didn’t care. In fact, on very rare occasions, I am able to eat mushrooms without gagging, and I believe this risotto may have been one of those exceptions.

We found ourselves in Monaco one day (it’s strange how these things happen over there; you wander off and suddenly you’re in another country), where food seemed to be a bit limited, but soon another Italianesque restaurant saved the day and Mark and I got penne all’arribiata, which was surprisingly delicious. Well, I always think penne all’arribiata is delicious, but I was surprised by how delicious I found it after eating Italian food for several days in a row. Love the huge branch of rosemary it came with!

Brad and April had pizza in Monaco (you can see a bit of April’s in the picture above, and in fact, if you look really hard, you can see a bit of Carrie the poodle as well!) and I’ll be honest, I was quite jealous. It’s rare I’ll look enviously at someone’s non-vegan meal because meat and – it’s true – cheese gross me out. But pizza done right (I’m not talking about Dominos pizza, but GOOD pizza) is something I will covet. So the next day in Eze (oh, beautiful, beautiful Eze), when we stopped for lunch in a lovely outdoor cafe at the top of the hill, amongst the medieval ruins, I worked up the nerve to ask the waiter if it was at all possible to get the roasted vegetable pizza without the cheese, and guess what! He didn’t think it was a crazy request at all! He just said “certainly!” I would have preferred a “real” pizza crust (this was one kinda crunchy like toast), but IT WAS PIZZA AND IT WAS GLORIOUS.

I accompanied my pizza with a panache, which is apparently the French version of what I would call a shandy: lemonade + beer, where lemonade = Sprite-like beverage, as in British-English, not American lemonade. Refreshing!

If you are vegan and thinking by now that the French Riviera must be really boring to eat in – pasta, pasta, and more pasta, unless you work up the nerve to ask for cheeseless pizza – well, rest assured that like any other city, Nice has ethnic restaurants that will often have vegetarian options. For example, we found a Chinese restaurant that had several vegetarian dishes, including this Tofu Piquante …

… and sauteed noodles with legumes.

We also went to an Indian restaurant, which was quite good, but the pictures I took were blurry, probably because I was exhausted and starving at the time. But just know you’ll do fine as a vegan in Nice. You might have to pass more restaurants by than you would in, say, L.A., but there are plenty of options. It might be harder to be vegan AND gluten-free as a lot of those options are pasta-related, but I think gluten-free in general is probably harder in much of Europe than it is here in the States.

Nice and Eze were so incredibly beautiful I am going to have to do a final vacation post with a few breath-taking photos later this week, but I’ll finish up this food-related post with a bit about the market, and a traditional Nice snack that is – believe it or not! – vegan. The views were enough to make me want to move to Nice, but attending the market was what really put me over the edge. The open air market operates all morning six days a week (on Monday it is replaced with a flea market), in the old section of the city. At one end, there are many stalls with flowers, although their perfumes were a bit overwhelming and drove poor Mark out. Then you come to several stalls selling dried lavender in just about any form you can imagine, soaps, and some touristy-type things. Then there are a couple of stalls with an amazing array of bulk spices. This is a stall full of dried peppers and other chile-related products.

Finally you get to the produce. It’s all gorgeous. We bought some cherries and wandered around the market eating them and I’m pretty sure they were the best cherries I’ve ever had.

Nestled amongst the produce stalls is a socca station, where a socca-making lady is kept extremely busy. Socca is a Nice specialty made from chickpea flour and it’s generally vegan. I had to stand in line for quite some time to get some at the market (though the market is not the only place to get it). From my place in line, I watched a couple of batches being made. The final portion of this batch was sold before it was my turn.

Fortunately, she whisked up another batch and poured it onto the large cooking tray (under which there is a fire), then drizzled it with olive oil.

When it was finally my turn, I ordered the last three pieces from the batch above, to share with Mark, Brad, and April. Before being cut up, it was sprinkled with ground black pepper, which, combined with the texture, led me to think of the white part of fried eggs when I was eating it; I suppose my mother used to put ground pepper on our sunny side-up eggs when I was a kid. Socca was really good. I think Mark would like me to make it at home, but although I probably will try David Lebowitz’s recipe (linked to above) I think it’s one of those things that you’ve really got to get on location. If you go to Nice, it’s a must-try.

Oh, Nice. I miss you so. Here’s a teaser for what will be my final vacation post. One day I would like this to be home, not a vacation!

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